Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 1:28a “And even as they did not like to retain God in their
knowledge. . . .”
One of man’s most blatant sins is his presumption before God. Rather than accept a holy God’s verdict against us as sinners, we put Him on trial. Men often think of themselves as too high and mighty to acknowledge God as presented in Scriptures.
Men love sin. Thoughts of a Holy and Just God disturb them. They echo the Psalmist’s concern: “I remembered God, and was troubled” (PS 77:3). As a result, men often decide it is not worth the trouble to keep God in their thoughts.
Therefore, men adjust God to satisfy their specifications. Suddenly, God is the one on trial. The human race tries Him, and then passes a verdict. What a presumption–the creature judging the Creator!
The true and living God is often discarded, and replaced by a man-made caricature. Such activity may help a man feel more comfortable in his own conscience, but it also causes dreadful consequences:
Romans 1:28b “. . . God gave them over to a reprobate mind. . . .”
They cast out God, and He gave them up to an outcast mind. “Reprobate” describes a mind devoid of all sense and ability to discern things that differ, so that people can not distinguish their right from their left in spiritual things.
Apart from God, definite distinctions between good and evil become blurred and confused. Men think evil good, and good evil. A reprobate mind acts the fool in moral matters.
Apart from God, even the most brilliant minds of earth are spiritual morons. I know more about physics than any lost physicist knows of the living God. I know more about astronomy than any lost astronomer knows about the truths of God. I know more about atomic fusion than any lost scientist knows about being right with God. To be an “expert” on God, you must know God first. The smallest child who has met Jesus knows more about the Divine than did Albert Einstein.
Men claim to be knowledgeable about the things of God, but their error is made manifest by the kind of lives their thinking produces. . . .
Romans 1:28c “. .to do those things which are not convenient. .”
“Convenient” means becoming, fitting. In other words, reprobate thinking leads to improper conduct. Without God men lose their originally intended and proper use. They sink to being less than that for which God made them. The man who banishes God not only loses godliness; he also loses manhood. Such a one becomes like an old, abandoned house, built for people, but the haunt of bats, snakes, and mice.
Romans 1:29-31 Introduction
Without God, men sink. Verses 29-31 will describe how deeply they can slide into sin: wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, deceit, pride, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without natural affection, unmerciful, etc. This catalogue of wickedness lists the products of Hell to which men subscribe. There is enough here to humble us all, for in every heart, in the sense of our original corruption, is the seed and spawn of all these sins.
“It is just when a man is nearest God for himself that he sees what, but for God, he would be; what, taken apart from God, he is, potentially if not in act” (Bishop Moule). It was not pious rhetoric when the saintly John Bradford, seeing a murderer carried off to die, exclaimed, “There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.”
These deeds may not break forth in every member of the human race, but the seeds of them all are an inherent part of our natural make-up. Even receiving Christ does not remove these roots of sin. His presence does, however, thwart their progress. His living within us gives us power to have victory over our evil tendencies.
The hope of all men–all men–is to have an encounter with God. Men need to be born again. This is the desperate need of our race.
Men can be spared debauchery by living close to the Master. If you are lost, be saved. If you are saved, commune closely with the Lord. Otherwise, we can become so numb to the terribleness of sin that we not only indulge in it, but also encourage it.
Verses 29-31 provide the most formidable list of sins found in the Bible. The King James Version lists 23 vices, but two of these do not have adequate textual support. The one next to first and the one next to last should be omitted (fornication, implacable). Here we find 21 vices that spring from sinful man. “His name is Legion, for they are many.” The potential for these deeds can be found in the heart of every human being. They can sprout quickly whenever proper thinking about God is discarded.
The crimes listed here were not rare. Paul’s was an evil society. All these vices will become more and more common among our nation as we proceed farther and farther from proper thoughts of God.
What Seneca wrote of his day could almost be quoted as applying to us: “All is full of crime and vice; there is more committed than can be healed by punishment. A monstrous prize-contest of wickedness is going on. The desire to sin increases, and shame decreases day by day. Vice is no longer practiced secretly, but in open view. Vileness gains in every street and in every breast to such an extent that conscience has become not only rare but extinct.” Even more discouraging is the fact that these vices which plagued an ancient pagan society have a modern American ring to them. They are still with us.
Romans 1:29a “Being filled with all unrighteousness (adikia). . .”
This word means withholding what is due or perverting that which is right. It means doing as we would not be done by. This is listed first for it encompasses all the rest. Godless men become unrighteous men, and all kinds of evils are then spawned.
Romans 1:29b “. . .wickedness (poneria),. . .”
Denotes a wickedness which is hostile, a badness that is destructive. The word denotes villainy and evil. In Greek, another form of this word is a commonly used title for Satan (ho poneros). He is the evil one. The word describes him as one who deliberately assaults men, trying to destroy their innocence and goodness.
When applied to man, this word denotes one who wants to make everyone as bad as himself. He wants to drag others down to his own level. Sin loves company: Eve encouraged Adam to partake; Korah enlisted 250 followers; David’s lust craved an equally perverse response from Bathsheba.
Romans 1:29c “. . .covetousness (pleonexia),. . .”
Greeks defined this as “the accursed love of having.” It speaks of the lust to get, the itch for more. Many sins are committed to please physical desires; other sins are committed to satisfy our hyper-sense of self-preservation. Covetousness appeals to both categories. Selfishness and avarice are therefore quite common.
“Covetousness” is an aggressive vice which will do whatever is necessary to get what it wants. The rights of others are completely forgotten. The covetor has all privileges; others have no rights. It shows no consideration for others.
David wanted esteem in the eyes of men, and killed Uriah to have it. Achan lusted and took, and people died as a result. Paul constantly defined covetousness as idolatry, and listed it with the vilest of sins (I Cor. 5:11; EP 5:3-5; Col. 3:5).
Romans 1:29d “. . .maliciousness (kakia);. . .”
Viciousness. The desire to injure. No qualms at breaking laws and harming people. “Maliciousness” describes a man who lacks every quality needed to make him good. He loves to lean toward evil. The swing of his life is always toward the worse. It is well illustrated by Amnon, who raped Tamar and then discarded her. He did not care what pain he inflicted on her.
Romans 1:29e “. . .full of envy (phthonos),. . .”
Envy can be helpful or harmful. Envy can sometimes reveal to a man his own weakness and inadequacy; this in turn makes him eager to imitate someone and rise to greater heights. During high school, I tried to imitate the study habits of a brilliant young lady in several of my classes. By doing what she did, my own grades improved greatly.
But then there is envy that is a grudging thing. It looks at a good person and hates the goodness. It resents that the other person is fine. It is a warped and perverted attitude. Pilate “knew that the chief priests had delivered Him for envy” (MK 15:20). Jesus was what they pretended to be, but were not. We are all susceptible to this hate which can arise in the heart toward one who is above us.
Romans 1:29f “. . .murder (phonos),. . .”
It is appropriate murder follows envy in this list. The same is true of life itself. The two words are similar in the Greek; only a “th” sound distinguishes them. There is only a breath between envy and murder.
Remember that Jesus widened the scope of this word. Not only the overt act, but also the inner hatred, must be eliminated. Refraining from outward savagery is not enough. Ugliness within must also be banished. “We may have never struck a man in our lives, but who can say we never wanted to strike anyone?” (Barclay). Aquinas said it well, “Man regardeth the deed, but God seeth the intention.”