Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 1:29g “. . .debate (eris),. . .”
Our word “debate” implies orderly discussion, but the Greek word “eris” refers to strife, quarreling, contention, wrangling. It is verbal discord which springs from envy, jealousy, ambition, the desire for prestige, etc. If we could cleanse jealousy, and the drive for prominence, from our hearts, we would be far along the road to freeing ourselves of contentions and strife. “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves” (PH 2:3).
Romans 1:29h “. . .deceit (dolos),. . .”
This word, based on “fish bait,” came to mean to lure, to ensnare, to beguile, to deceive. It describes the man who cannot act in a straightforward way. This man always stoops to underhand methods to get his own way. His life is characterized by ulterior motives.
“Deceit” is pictured perfectly by Jacob, dressed in Esau’s clothes and goat skins, taking his mother’s savory meat to Isaac to steal Esau’s blessing. We see “dolos” in Laban, who deceitfully gave Leah rather than Rachel to Jacob first, and stole seven extra years of labor.
Unfortunately, “deceit” describes much of the world’s business life. May God make us like Nathanael (JN 1:47), whom Jesus described as being a man in whom there is no deceit (KJV “guile”).
Romans 1:29i “. . .malignity (kakoetheia),. . .”
Aristotle defined “malignity” as “the spirit which always supposes the worst about other people.” This person puts the worst construction on everything, and interprets all things in an evil sense.
Israel accused God of delivering them from Egypt in order to slay them and their children in the wilderness (NB 14:3). Dathan and Abiram accused Moses of delivering Israel that he might be a dictator over them (NB 16:13).
This is a common vice among us. Human nature tends to put a negative construction on any action of man, no matter how good the deed. “He preaches for the money.” “All your church wants is my money.” “Every one in your church is a hypocrite.” “He gives money only to get a tax break.” We often put wrong interpretations on even the most innocent actions.
Romans 1:29j “. . .whisperers (psithuristes),. . .”
“Whisperers” refers to the private defamation of character. This person whispers slanderous stories in a listener’s ear. He will take a man’s character into a corner and rip it to shreds with whispers.
One can defend himself against an open frontal verbal assault, but is helpless against quiet whisperers who delight in destroying reputations. Jeremy Taylor said, “Slander makes an evil man party and witness, and judge and executioner of the innocent.” Chrysotom said, “Slander is worse than cannibalism.”
Solomon said, “The serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better” (EC 10:11). In other words, gossip is a form of “snake-bite.” The Greek word for whisperers makes a hissing sound, and is based on a Hebrew word which referred to a snake-charmer’s mesmerizing chant. Secret slanderers excel at “charming” others into believing their slanders.
Romans 1:30a “. . .backbiters (katalalos),. . .”
“Backbiters” refers to the public defamation of character. This describes the man who trumpets a slander aloud. He makes open accusations and publicly voices his stories, but usually in the absence of the one being disparaged. The one being defamed is almost always a much better person than the backbiter.
This crime is especially hideous because it can destroy a person’s usefulness for Christ. A man must have a clean name if he would do anything for God. The loss of a good reputation destroys any degree of effective spiritual service.
Negative words are not to be whispered or trumpeted. They are to be spoken directly to the person involved, one-on-one, in private.
Romans 1:30b “. . .haters of God (theostngeis),. . .”
God-haters. This is the Devil in his true colors–sin dressed like sin. Could rational creatures possibly hate the highest good, and dependent creatures scorn the foundation of their being? It is unthinkable, but happens.
In fact, every sin has in it an element of hatred for God. Hatred toward God is the essence of sin as love for God is the essence of holiness.
Men who hate God do so because they defy God. They know if God exists, they are in big trouble. The possible existence of a Holy God is to them a chain which keeps them from doing exactly as they like. To many men, a Godless world would be Heaven. It would give them more than liberty; it would give them license.
Romans 1:30c “. . .despiteful (hubristes),. . .”
“Despiteful” describes the insolent person who takes pleasure in insulting and humiliating others, especially those not powerful enough to retaliate. It is a cruelty which enjoys seeing someone wince at a cruel saying.
Aristotle defined “despiteful” as the spirit which hurts, harms, or grieves others simply for the sheer pleasure of hurting. Neither revenge nor advantage prompts it. It is sheer sadism which likes to hurt others simply for the sake of watching people hurt.
Romans 1:30d “. . .proud (huperephanos),. . .”
Haughty. Arrogant. Loves to make others feel small. One Greek writer called it “a certain contempt for everyone except oneself.”
This attitude is contemptible. Men feel they can match God Himself. The Lord especially disdains this vice: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Theophylact wisely pronounced it “the summit of all sins.”
Romans 1:30e “. . .boasters (alazon),. . .”
“Boasters” are braggarts who want to impress others. They exude a spirit which pretends to have what it has not, and to be more than it really is. In Acts 19:13-16, vagabond Jewish exorcists took upon themselves the claim they could cast out devils “by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” But when they tried to do so, the evil spirit said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” The evil spirit then leaped on them, overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Boasters put crowns upon their own heads which should rightfully be cast before God’s throne. They are empty pretenders. It is the empty wagon that rattles.
Romans 1:30f “. . .inventors of evil things (epheuretas kakon),. . .”
Ingenious in evil. How sad! Men are ignorant in how to do good, yet brilliant in how to do evil. From the days of Cain, men have progressed in evil. Their minds teem with diabolical inventions and new kinds of mischief.
People are not content with the usual, ordinary ways of sinning. They seek out new and unusual vices because they have become bored with the ordinary. They need stronger and stronger thrills to be thrilled, and are ever seeking new nerve-endings to stimulate.
Romans 1:30g “. . .disobedient to parents (goneusin apeitheis). . .”
The fact this deed is included in this dreadful list shows how serious a crime the Bible regards it. “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it” (PR 30:17).