“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; 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 1:28-32
Paul’s letter to the Romans is made up of more than seven-thousand words. We learn in Romans 16 that a man named Tertius wrote the letter as Paul dictated it to him. Given that letters from the same time period averaged less than one-hundred words, we see that Paul’s Roman epistle carried a tremendous weight of importance – literally as well as spiritually.
Paul took great time at possibly great expense [the cost of paying a scribe for his time along with the cost of purchasing the materials for a letter as long as Romans would be very high] to share his thoughts with Christians living in Rome. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had much to say and was careful in preparing his readers to receive the impact of what God wanted them to know.
Bible students have been outlining Paul’s letter to the Romans for centuries to help understand this magnificent document’s purpose. Here are some examples of how the current section we’re studying has been outlined:
A. Gentiles and sin (Chapter 1)
B. The Condemnation of the Gentile (1:18-32)
C. The Guilt of the Gentiles (1:18-32)
D. Results of Gentile World Unbelief (1:24-32)
E. All Gentiles are sinners (1:18-32)
F. The Wrath of God (1:18–32)
G. The Need Of The Gentiles (1:18-2:16)
H. Righteousness needed by sinful men (1:17 — 3:20)
I. The Gentiles are sinful and have earned God’s wrath (1:18-32)
J. God reveals His righteousness through wrath because the Gentiles practice unrighteousness (1:24-32)
Paul’s timeframe for this section began with “since the creation of the world” (1:20), which was long before there were Jews in the world. Paul gave his readers a unique look at what happened to the human soul beginning with the sin of Adam and Eve and moving out to the world through their descendants.
In our most recent study we saw that God gave humans over to a “debased mind” since they did not like to “retain God in their knowledge.” Humans became “filled with all unrighteousness” and committed sexual sins (homosexuality and heterosexuality outside of marriage), along with wickedness, covetousness, malice, envy, and murder.
We now move to the next part of the list of sins, beginning with strife and deceit.
ἔριδος (eris) means “contention, quarrel, strife” and was used for people who had a readiness to quarrel.
δόλου (dolos) means “bait” and was used figuratively for using a bait or hook to trick (deceive) people based on their own greed.
κακοηθείας (kakoétheia) comes from κακός (evil, bad) and ἦθος (customs, manners, morals) and means being evil-minded and malevolent.
ψιθυριστάς (psithuristés) means being a “whisperer,” a “back-stabber,” someone who secretly hurt someone’s character.
καταλάλους (katalalos) comes from κατά (down, against) and λαλέω (talk, chatter). It’s the idea of speaking down or against another person in a hostile, mocking manner, hurting someone’s reputation (defamation, slander).
Hateful to God
θεοστυγεῖς (theostugés) comes from θεός (God) and stygeō (abhor). The idea was of someone who abhorred or hated God’s will and turned against Him completely.
ὑβριστάς (hubristés) comes from ὑβρίζω (insult, treat with insolence) and describes someone who is a violent, insolent person.
ὑπερηφάνους (huperephanos) comes from ὑπέρ (above) and φαίνω (shine, appear, seem) and means to “over-shine” someone.
ἀλαζόνας (alazón) was a wandering vagabond who boasted about himself wherever he went, making claims that were either not true or only partially true, thus they had to keep moving to find new people to listen to them.
Inventors of Evil Things
ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν (epheuretés kakon)… ἐφευρετὰς comes from ἐπί (on, against) and εὑρίσκω (discover, find, learn), meaning “an inventor, discoverer.” κακῶν comes from κακία (evil, wicked) and means “evil, bad.” The idea is of someone who is a continual inventor of things that are evil.
Disobedient To Parents
γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς (goneus apeithés) .. γονεῦσιν was used for a begetter, a father, parents .. ἀπειθεῖς means someone who will not be persuaded, unbelieving, disobedient.
ἀσυνέτους (asunetos) comes from ἀ (no, not) and συνετός (wise, discerning, intelligent) and means someone who is not wise or discerning.
ἀσυνθέτους (asunthetos) comes from ἄ (no, not) and συντίθημι (agree, make an agreement) and means someone who does not keep an agreement. It carries the idea of treachery in not keeping the agreement (covenant).
ἀστόργους (astorgos) comes from ἄ (no, not) and storgé (family affection) and means “unloving, devoid of affection.”
ασπονδους (aspondous) comes from ἄ (no, not) and spondē (libation sacrifice used for making covenants and other agreements) and means someone who doesn’t keep agreements, someone who is not bound by a truce they make (truce breaker).
ἀνελεήμονας (aneleemonas) means someone who is without compassion, cruel, without pity, unmerciful.
[not included in some translations because ἀνελεήμονας does not appear in some Greek texts]
Approving of Those Practicing Them
οιτινες το δικαιωμα του θεου επιγνοντες οτι οι τα τοιαυτα πρασσοντες αξιοι θανατου εισιν ου μονον αυτα ποιουσιν αλλα και συνευδοκουσιν τοις πρασσουσιν
“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.”
Paul adds a powerful claim to his list of sins. These people, who God gave over to a debased mind, “know” the righteous judgment of God and “know” that people who practice such things are deserving of death, but not only “do the same” but also “approve of those who practice them”!
Paul is making a case for the total depravity of the human race. Not only do they know God, not only do they know the righteous judgment of God, not only do they know that people who practice disobedience to God are deserving of death, not only do they practice those sins, but they also “approve” of people who practice them.
In other words, the human race is all in for sin. They’re all in. They love to sin and love to see other people sin. They have a deep, passionate love for sinning against God. That, Paul wrote, is just how bad it is.
In the words of Robert Mounce –
“Willful rejection of divine revelation hardens the heart to the point where the rebel takes delight in the sinfulness of others. At this point wickedness has sunk to its lowest level.” Robert Mounce, Romans: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary), Holman Reference, 1995
συνευδοκουσιν (suneudokousin) comes from σύν (with, identify with) and εὐδοκέω (to think well of, well-pleased) and means “consenting with, agreeing with, one mind with.” Sinful people practicing sin saw other sinful people practicing sin and were of one mind with them. They consented, agreed with, approved of their sinfulness. They not only approved, but also participated with them in mutual sinfulness. Their delight is in sin.
What Paul described in Romans 1:28-32 was a despicable state of affairs that began at the beginning with Adam and Eve and their descendants. Here are some insights from a variety of commentators.
“This is set last, as worst of all; it is the highest degree of wickedness: such come nearest the devil, who take pleasure in evil because it is evil.” Matthew Poole’s Commentary
“In the horrid depravity of the heathen, the truth of our Lord’s words was shown: Light was come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil; for he that doeth evil hateth the light. The truth was not to their taste. And we all know how soon a man will contrive, against the strongest evidence, to reason himself out of the belief of what he dislikes. But a man cannot be brought to greater slavery than to be given up to his own lusts. As the Gentiles did not like to keep God in their knowledge, they committed crimes wholly against reason and their own welfare. The nature of man, whether pagan or Christian, is still the same; and the charges of the apostle apply more or less to the state and character of men at all times, till they are brought to full submission to the faith of Christ, and renewed by Divine power. There never yet was a man, who had not reason to lament his strong corruptions, and his secret dislike to the will of God. Therefore this chapter is a call to self-examination, the end of which should be, a deep conviction of sin, and of the necessity of deliverance from a state of condemnation.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
“not only do the same—which they might do under the pressure of temptation and in the heat of passion … but have pleasure in them that do them—deliberately set their seal to such actions by encouraging and applauding the doing of them in others. This is the climax of our apostle’s charges against the heathen; and certainly, if the things are in themselves as black as possible, this settled and unblushing satisfaction at the practice of them, apart from all the blinding effects of present passion, must be regarded as the darkest feature of human depravity.” Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
“They show that it is no mere momentary yielding to the force of temptation or of passion, but a radical perversion of conscience and reason, by the fact that they not only practise such things themselves, but in cold blood commend and applaud those who practise them.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
“They delight in those who commit sin; and hence, encourage them in it, and excite them to it. This was a grievous aggravation of the offence. It greatly heightens guilt when we excite others to do it, and seduce them from the ways of innocence. That this was the case with the pagan there can be no doubt. People do not commit sin often alone. They need the countenance of others. They “join hand in hand,” and become confederate in iniquity. All social sins are of this class; and most of those which the apostle mentioned were sins of this character.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
We have now completed our study of the first chapter of the Book of Romans. We have seen the depths of human sinfulness and the breadth of God’s anger. Fortunately for all of us, Paul’s letter to the Romans does not stop there. It’s good to remember some of the earlier words of Paul in this chapter:
- “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
- “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”
- “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.”
We have HOPE in Jesus Christ!
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”