Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 1:31a “Without understanding (asunetos),. . .”
Senseless. A lack of moral discernment. No understanding of spiritual things. This man thinks evil is good, and good is evil. All moral distinctions are blurred. “Asunetos” is perfectly pictured by the Beatles singing of the sex act, “Why can’t we do it in the road?”
The most brilliant minds of earth, apart from the Spirit of God and the new birth, are spiritual morons. They refuse to use rightfully the brain God gave them. The destructiveness and tragic consequences of sin are obvious and highly visible, but men refuse to acknowledge them. They look but do not see. This man does not learn from experience, his or others’.
Romans 1:31b “. . .covenant-breakers (asunthetos),. . .”
Untrustworthy, faithless. Not bound by promise or contract. Wickedness which does not intend to carry out its pledged word, except for selfish reasons. We see it daily in broken promises, violated confidences, broken treaties, dishonored contracts, refusal to pay borrowed money.
World War I was precipitated by an Emperor who called a solemn treaty a “scrap of paper.” America demonstrated “asunthetos” in the way we dealt with the American Indians.
In the great days of Rome, Roman honesty was proverbial and prized. A man’s word was as good as his bond. A Roman magistrate could deal with thousands of talents on his own, and never a farthing went astray. However, the Romans eventually began to imitate the Greeks. The Greeks themselves said if one of their officials was entrusted with money, he would succeed in embezzling some of it even if ten clerks checked up on him.
Stand by your word. Be faithful to your agreements, not because it is “the best policy” but rather because it is what God expects you to do. Those who choose honesty only because it is the best policy will choose dishonesty when it looks like the best policy.
Romans 1:31c “. . .without natural affection (astorgos),. . .”
Without family love–parents unkind and cruel to children; spouses at enmity with one another; children scorning parents and hating each other.
The ties of family should be the strongest on earth. Family relationships are vital, and any aberration in them wreaks havoc not only at home, but also causes breakdowns in other relationships. When family bonds loosen, wholesale degeneracy follows.
In Paul’s day, a child’s life was precarious. Children were often considered a misfortune. A newborn was taken to his father, who decided whether the child should be kept or thrown out. There was never a night when there were not thirty or forty abandoned children left in the Roman forum. Seneca proudly boasted, “Children who are born weakly and deformed we drown.”
No society in the history of the world has demonstrated this vice any more than has our own. Since the Supreme Court approved abortion on demand in 1973 we have killed over 30 million of our own babies. It is legal and condoned, but God will rain judgment upon us because of it.
Romans 1:31d “. . .unmerciful (aneleemon):. . .”
Pitiless. Ruthless. Human life was cheap in Paul’s day. Slaves could be tortured or killed at their master’s will. The slave was only a thing, controlled by a master’s unlimited power over him.
In this era, a slave dropped a glass of crystal, which shattered. His master at once had him flung alive into a fish pond in the courtyard, where savage lampreys tore him limb from limb and devoured his living flesh.
It was this society which saw the great age of the gladiatorial games where men were entertained by seeing men kill each other. It is said Nero as a child amused himself by pulling the legs and wings from insects.
Cruelty is written on every page of human history. Some have been so savage that their names are synonymous with cruelty: Tartars, Huns, Vandals, Mongols, Nazis, Communists, Klansmen. Schopenhaur has written, “man is little inferior to the tiger and hyena in cruelty and savagery.”
Romans 1:32 “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which
commit such things are worthy of death, not only do
the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
Men sin not only by their own wicked deeds, but also by any approval which they display to the transgressions of others. It is a sin to defend, justify, endorse, encourage, or condone the sins of others. Often the test of a man’s character is not so much what a man indulges in as what he enjoys seeing others indulge in. You may have never had a chance to cheat on your spouse, but enjoy watching others do it on TV. You may not curse, but you enjoy watching programs where a “macho he-man” displays his manliness through vulgarity. Your enjoyment of such things is sin. God is displeased with all who are pleased with sin.
The difference between the pleasure a man takes in his own sins, and that which he takes in other men’s, is the difference between the wickedness of a man and the wickedness of a devil. We all struggle against intense temptations to gratify our desires with pleasure. However, to be pleased with other people’s sins is to love sin for sin’s sake; it is the same as joining in a confederacy with the devil himself.
The man who can condone and enjoy the sins of others becomes guilty for those sins in addition to his own. The approver can be as guilty and criminal as the actor. The act can be another’s, but the guilt can be ours. While some confine their pleasure in the sins of others to a “passive” role, others carry it to an “active” role. Some delight in others sinning to the extent that they actually encourage and help them to sin.
Sin loves company; sinners love to recruit. Some men choose a life of sin for themselves, and then throw away every vestige of decency or compassion. They delight in watching others follow their same path to ruin.
Wicked men feel safe, and enjoy themselves most, in the midst of a likeminded crowd. The more people involved in a particular sin, the more a sinner thinks it abates the odium of the deed. With such a warped sense of reasoning, one could justify rape, murder, burglary, assault, drunk driving, child abuse, and abortion, because more and more people are doing them. In other words, “Don’t repent, recruit! Get more and more people involved and it has to be an acceptable sin.”
One serves a long apprenticeship to Satan before reaching this stage. When one becomes this reconciled to sin, he is in the suburbs of Hell.
One who reaches this stage will find it difficult to repent, for the first step in repentance is sorrow over one’s own sin. But it is difficult for a man to dislike his own sins when he loves them plus the sins of others.
Permissiveness is the characteristic sin of a degenerating society. The vices listed in vv. 29-31 are not only deeds actually committed by members of a dying society, but also things condoned by the majority of that society.
A major test of any society is how it reacts to the overt sinners in its midst. A loose attitude toward sin is one of the final death knells of any society. Something is desperately wrong when:
A drunk driver can be responsible for a young lady’s death
and yet still be a possible choice for President;
A movie star whose private life is debauched can be a hero
and role model;
An avowed homosexual can be elected to a political position
or appointed to a judgeship or installed in a pastorate;
A beer producer can be viewed as a respectable citizen;
In the last Congressional election my only options were to vote for an
avowed whoremonger or an abortionist. Since won’t vote for the
latter, I held my nose and voted for the stinking whoremonger.
Rather than exonerating transgressors as heroes, we need to label them for what they really are: the spawning ground of a leprous infection which plagues our society.
Any society which loses its moral bearings will crumble under the weight of its own evil corruption. The world cries, “You can’t legislate morality.” That is a blatant lie. Every society, in order to survive, must do so and does do so.
Every law is an attempt to uphold morality (don’t kill, don’t rape, don’t speed). The issue is how much morality the people will allow. The burden rests upon their shoulders.
We need an Awakening. Our land needs a fresh love for God and a renewed hatred for sin. We need to learn again, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (PS 127:1).