“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” Romans 1:28
We are continuing our study in the section of Romans 1 that addresses God’s “wrath” and why He is so angry. If you have not read our previous studies from this section, you may want to look at them before continuing to read. The first part in the series is here.
We have most recently looked at what happened when God gave people up to “uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” –
“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Romans 1:26-27
We move now to verse 28 to see what else we can learn about the righteousness of God, the unrighteousness of mankind, and God’s wrath outpoured on them.
και καθως ουκ εδοκιμασαν τον θεον εχειν εν επιγνωσει παρεδωκεν αυτους ο θεος εις αδοκιμον νουν ποιειν τα μη καθηκοντα
This continues the thought Paul presented in verses 24 & 26 –
- “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness” v 24
- “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions” v 26
Now we have God doing this in verse 28 –
- “God gave them over to a debased mind”
What does that mean and what results from it?
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge …”
This is a familiar idea in Paul’s presentation so far –
- “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”
- “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
- “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead”
- “so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened”
- “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:18-21
God gave people up to “uncleanness” and “vile passions” because even though they “knew” God, they did not glorify Him as God and were not thankful to Him for all He had given them. The people thought themselves wise, but they became fools. They knew the truth, but suppressed the truth “in unrighteousness.”
God In Their Knowledge
In verse 28, Paul wrote that the people “did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” One important note here is that we again see people “rejecting” God. They didn’t make a mistake, they didn’t miss something they should have caught; they made a conscious decision to reject God. They “suppressed” truth. They “knew” God but didn’t glorify Him as God. They were not thankful to God even though they “knew” God existed and had created life for them. They became fools because they rejected God.
Here are some insights from the Greek:
Καὶ καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν – “And as not they did see fit”
The word ἐδοκίμασαν (edokimasan) means “to put to the test, prove, examine” and carries the idea of approving after testing. Conclusions can be reached based on the testing. What was it that people “did not see fit” to approve?
τον θεον εχειν εν επιγνωσει – “God to have in their knowledge”
People did NOT want to acknowledge God. They didn’t see fit to have God in their knowledge. That goes back to verses 18 and 19 –
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.“
People “suppressed” the truth about God because of their “ungodliness and unrighteousness.” They did not want to have God “in their knowledge.”
The Greek words translated “in their knowledge” are εχειν εν επιγνωσει.
εχειν (echein) is a verb that means “to have, hold, possess”
επιγνωσει (epignōsei) is a noun that means “knowledge, discernment, recognition, perception”
They did not want to “possess” the “knowing recognition” of God, so they “suppressed” what they knew to be true. What did God do about that?
“God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”
The Greek is παρεδωκεν αυτους ο θεος εις αδοκιμον νουν ποιειν τα μη καθηκοντα – “gave them up God to a depraved mind to do things not being proper.”
παρεδωκεν (paredōken) is a verb that means “hand over, deliver, abandon”
αδοκιμον (adokimon) is an adjective that means “failing to pass the test, unapproved, counterfeit, depraved”
νουν (noun) is a noun that means “the mind, reasoning faculty, intellect”
ποιειν (poieon) is a verb that means “do, construct, make”
μη (mē) is an article that means “not”
καθηκοντα (kathēkonta) is a verb that means “to be proper or fitting”
God gave people over to a “depraved, debased, unapproved, counterfeit, failing” “mind, reasoning faculty, intellect,” to “do, make, construct” things that were “not proper or fitting.”
Stop for a minute and take a look at the picture Paul has painted for us of what happened because of people’s ungodliness and unrighteousness:
- God gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves
- God gave them up to vile passions
- God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting
Let’s remember that what God did was give people up or over to what came from their own choices. God did not force people to make the bad choices they made. He gave them over to what they wanted to do.
The first thing on Paul’s list is homosexuality –
“For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
The next things on the list are –
“… being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:29-32
Including homosexuality, Paul lists a total of 25 sinful activities –
- filled with all unrighteousness
- sexual immorality
- full of envy
- haters of God
- inventors of evil things
- disobedient to parents
- approve of those who practice them
This is quite a list! Here are the Greek words for each and their definitions –
- μετήλλαξαν τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν εἰς τὴν παρὰ φύσιν – “changed the natural use into that contrary to nature” (homosexuality)
- πεπληρωμένους πάσῃ ἀδικίᾳ – being filled with all unrighteousness
- πορνεια – fornication
- πονηρίᾳ – wickedness
- πλεονεξίᾳ – covetousness
- κακίᾳ, – malice
- μεστοὺς φθόνου – full of envy
- φόνου – murder
- ἔριδος – strife
- δόλου – deceit
- κακοηθείας – maliciousness
- ψιθυριστάς – gossips
- καταλάλους – slanderers
- θεοστυγεῖς – hateful to God
- ὑβριστάς – insolent
- ὑπερηφάνους – arrogant
- ἀλαζόνας – boastful
- ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν – inventors of evil things
- γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς – to parents disobedient
- ἀσυνέτους – foolish
- ἀσυνθέτους – untrustworthy
- ἀστόργους – heartless
- ασπονδους – truce breaker
- ἀνελεήμονας – unmerciful
- συνευδοκοῦσιν τοῖς πράσσουσιν – are approving of those practicing them
Do the items on this list look familiar? It reads like something out of the nightly news and a local gossip column. It’s a sad picture of human nature and the society in which we live.
We will take a closer look at Paul’s list in the next part of our study on Romans.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.