Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 1:30 “Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud,
boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient
XI. BACKBITERS (katalalos)
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. Negative words are not to be whispered or trumpeted, but are to be spoken directly to the person involved, one-on-one, in private.
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.
XII. HATERS OF GOD (theostngeis)
God-haters. This is the Devil in his true colors. It is sin dressed like sin. Is it imaginable that rational creatures should hate the highest good, and dependent creatures scorn the foundation of their being? It is unthinkable, but it happens. In fact, every sin has in it an element of hatred for God. Hatred toward God is the essence of sin as love toward God is the essence of holiness.
Men who hate God do so because they defy God. They know that if there is a God, 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. That would give them more than liberty; it would give them license.
XIII. DESPITEFUL (hubristes)
Insolent. Describes the person who takes pleasure in insulting and humiliating others, especially those who are not powerful enough to retaliate. It is a cruelty which enjoys seeing someone wince at a cruel saying.
Aristotle defined it 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 that likes to hurt others simply for the sake of watching people hurt.
XIV. 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.”
XV. BOASTERS (alazon)
Braggarts who want to impress others. It is 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 that 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 leaned 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.
XVI. 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.
XVII. DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS (goneusin apeitheis)
The fact that 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).
Romans 1:31 “Without understanding, covenantbreakers,
without natural affection, implacable,
XVIII. 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.
Even 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 has given 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’.
XIX. COVENANT-BREAKERS (asunthetos)
Untrustworthy, faithless. Not bound by promise or contract. Wickedness that 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.” We see it in the way Russia violates treaties without a whim (???? on a whim, at a whim????). And we demonstrated it 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 that 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.
XX. WITHOUT NATURAL AFFECTION (astorgos)
Without family love. Parents unkind and cruel to their 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.
When Paul wrote this, the life of a child was very precarious. Children were often considered a misfortune. A newborn child 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 30 or 40 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 okayed abortion on demand in the early 1970’s we have killed over 15 million of our own babies. It is legal and condoned, but God will rain judgment upon us because of it.
XXI. 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.
During this time period, a slave dropped a glass of crystal and it shattered. His master immediately had him flung alive into a fish pond in the courtyard. There savage lampreys tore him limb from limb and devoured his living flesh.
It was this society that saw the great age of the gladiatorial games where men were entertained by seeing men kill each other. It is said that Nero as a child amused himself by pulling the legs and wings from insects.
Cruelty is written on every page of human history. Some peoples have been so savage that their names became synonymous with cruelty: Tartars, Huns, Vandals, Mongols, Nazis, Communists, Klansmen. Schopenhaur has written that “man is little inferior to the tiger and hyena in cruelty and savagery.”
Romans 1:32 “Who knowing the judgement 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 sins. The approver can be just 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 involved and it has to be an acceptable sin.”
A man has to serve a long apprenticeship to Satan before he reaches this stage. When a man becomes this reconciled to sin, he is in the suburbs of Hell.
The man who has reached 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.
Conclusion: This permissiveness becomes the characteristic sin of a degenerating society. The vices listed here by Paul 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;
A beer producer can be viewed as an upstanding and respectable
Rather than exonerating transgressors as heroes, we need to label them for what they really are: the spawning ground of a leprous infection that plagues our society.
Any society that 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).