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STUDIES ON ROMANS
Romans 1:1 “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle separated unto the gospel of God.”
This writer’s name was originally Saul, (Acts 7:58), but, as was common with Jews, he chose a second name by which he was known among the Gentiles. He is first called by this name in Acts 13:9. “It is the transliteration of the Latin paulus or paulles meaning ‘little.’ Some think it had reference to his diminutive stature, (2 Cor. 10:1, 10),” [Wuest]. There are several Greek words used for “servant” all of which, except the one used here, signify free service. The one used here means a “bond slave;” it suggests lifetime service and absolute submission to the will of the master. “Apostle” means one that is sent on a mission, a missionary, and is used in the New Testament in both a technical sense of the twelve and Paul, and in a general sense of others. He was “a called apostle,” (note “to be” is italicized—not in the original text). “This word called means here not merely to be invited, but has the sense of appointed. It indicates that he had not assumed the office himself, but that he was set apart to it by the authority of Christ himself,” [Barnes]. “Every qualification of an Apostle centered in Paul, as he shows in various places. He had seen the Lord after His resurrection, (1 Cor. 9:1). He had received his commission directly from Jesus Christ and God the Father, (Gal. 1:1). He possessed the signs of an Apostle, (2 Cor. 12:12),” [Haldane]. “Separated” means “to mark off from others by boundaries, to appoint, set one apart for some purpose.” Paul was formerly a Pharisee, (Phil. 3:5), which means one separated, but now he is separated in a higher, grander sense. He was separated not by men, but by God, (Gal. 1:1, 15). There were three stages in Paul’s separation: (1) At his birth, (Gal. 1:15). (2) Unto the gospel, (Rom. 1:1). (3) Unto the work to which he was called, (Acts 13:2). His original call embodies this, (Acts 26:16 18). “Gospel” means good news, and was commonly used throughout the Roman Empire. But the Good News here is that which originated with God Himself. The gospel is defined in Romans 1:16; 10:15 and 1 Corinthians 15:1 4.
Romans 1:2 “(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,”
“The gospel is not in principle a new thing, a subversion of the true religion as it has hitherto been known to the people of God. On the contrary, God promised it before, through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,” [Denney]. Three things are said of the gospel in verses 2 3a: (1) It was promised beforehand, for it was preached to Abraham, (Gal. 3:8), and thus it was not some scheme cooked up by Paul as some had charged. (2) It was by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures. There were certainly some Jews who were members at Rome, and probably some of the Gentiles had been Jewish proselytes, and so these were familiar with the Old Testament. (3) It was concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He is the great subject of the gospel, (1 Cor. 15:1 4). Some preached a gospel which was not really a gospel (good news) but was “another gospel,” (of a different kind, as the word signifies), (Gal. 1:6 7). “He teaches that we ought always to resort to the Scriptures; for that, in religion, whatever they do not contain is really novel, although it may have passed current for ages; while all that is found there is really ancient, although it may have been lost sight of for a long period,” [Haldane].
Romans 1:3 “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,”
This speaks of Jesus’ humanity and of His Messiahship, and the phrase “Son of David,” which was often used of Him, was so understood, but it was an enigma to many how He could be at the same time, both David’s Son and his Lord, (Matthew 22:42 46). Jesus was “made” several things, but here it refers to His being made flesh, as in John 1:14, and indeed, when reference is made to His being made something, it always refers to His human nature, for on the Divine side He is eternal and unchangeable. “Made” frequently means to become, as in Acts 4:11. It means to enter into a new state or condition. “This implies, of course, that he had another nature besides his human, or that while he was a man he was also something else; that there was a nature in which he was not descended from David,” [Barnes]. “According to the flesh” limits the way in which He is the Son of David.
Romans 1:4 “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
The resurrection of Jesus did not make Him to be the Son of God: it only showed Him to be what He had always been, and what He claimed to be. He was mightily declared to be God’s Son. It was God’s power that made it impossible that He should be held by death, (Acts 2:24). The “spirit of holiness” refers not to the Holy Spirit, although it is certain that the Holy Spirit had a part in raising Jesus, (Rom. 8:11), yet here the phrase evidently refers to Jesus’ own spiritual nature in which he eternally subsisted before His incarnation. “As God is spirit, the divine nature of Christ is spirit, and its characteristic quality is holiness,” [Vincent]. Beginning early in His ministry, (John 2:18 22), Jesus made the resurrection the great proof that He was what He claimed to be. “When God raised him up, therefore, it was not an ordinary event. It was a public attestation, in the face of the universe, of the truth of his claims to be the Son of God. God would not sanction the doings and doctrines of an impostor,” [Barnes].
Romans 1:5 “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.”
Grace has its source in Jesus, (John 1:17). Everything Paul had received in his life that was good had come by grace. Even his conversion and commission was a manifestation of grace, (1 Tim. 1:12 14). But we miss the whole point in salvation if we think the whole purpose of it is so that we will not go to hell. This is but an incidental blessing. Like Paul we are saved “for obedience to the faith.” We are given grace and individual responsibility that we may glorify God by leading others to obey Him by faith. “The obedience, then, here referred to, signifies submission to the doctrine of the Gospel. This is quite in accordance with those passages in which the expression is elsewhere found, as in Acts 6:7; Romans 6:17; 16:26; Galatians 3:1; 2 Thessalonians. 1:8; 1 Peter 1:22,” [Haldane]. The “name” of the Lord frequently refers to God as He is revealed in His different names. All that professed to be Christians do reflect either honor or dishonor upon Him whose name they bear.
Romans 1:6 “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.”
He acknowledges that the Romans had also partaken of these great blessings. They were not called “to be saints,” but rather they were saints by calling. The word is an adjective, not a verb. One is not a saint by nature, by attainment, nor by canonization, but one is a saint because of the divine work of calling and regeneration, and therefore every saved person is a saint, though some do not act like saints. There are two kinds of calls: a general call that comes by the gospel, to which none respond; and the effectual call of the Spirit, to which all respond that hear it. The latter is what is referred to in Romans 8:30, for all who hear this call are both justified and glorified.
Romans 1:7 “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul continues to dwell on this calling and he goes back another step or two from the actual time of their salvation, and brings out the source of it. “They were saints because they were called, and they were called because they were beloved of God, (Jer. 31:3). Their character as saints, then, was not the cause, but the effect, of their being beloved of God. . .The first outward effect of election, or of the love of God to His people, is His calling them, not merely by the word, which is common to many, but by the Holy Spirit, which is limited to few, (Matthew 22:14; Jer. 31:3),” [Haldane]. These called saints are beloved of God, which is a great comfort, for if this is true, then what can be lacking to them, (Rom. 8: 28, 31 32). “Grace to you and peace” is the common apostolic greeting. It is at once a wish, a prayer and a prophecy. “From God our Father, and Lord Jesus Christ.” The many times that Christ is intimately associated with God the Father shows how He is considered equally divine, for all true grace comes from God, (1 Pet. 5:10), yet it is also by Christ Jesus, (John 1:17). These first seven verses are one long connected sentence, which is one of the characteristics of Paul, to make a long, involved statement with no break in it.
Romans 1:8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of through the whole world.”
Here begins the body of this epistle. Paul generally begins his epistles by finding something to thank God for in those whom he addresses. This is one of Paul’s numerous prayers. As many as he prayed for, he must have kept a regular prayer list. His thanksgiving is “through Jesus Christ” for He alone is the mediator between God and men, (1 Tim. 2:5). None can approach God the Father in any way except through the merits of Christ. He thanks God for their faith, for faith is one of the most important things in anyone’s life. “If God is thanked for the distinguished faith of Christians, then not only their faith is His gift, but also its measure and advancement,” [Haldane]. The word “world” is generally used in a limited sense as here, where it refers to the Roman or civilized world as opposed to the barbarian world. To have such wide reputation suggests that this church was established very early. In Romans 16:7, Paul speaks of some of his kin who were saved before he was. Possibly they may have been among those who believed at Pentecost. That may account for his original rage against Christians: he may have felt that they had deceived some of his own family and led them into heresy.
Romans 1:9 “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing, I make mention of you always in my prayers.”
“These words are an appeal to God, and carry in them the nature and form of an oath; the reason of the apostle’s using it was, because he was personally unknown to the Romans, and they to him, and so might doubt of his affectionate regard unto them,” [Gill]. “This is substantially an oath; and refutes the erroneous and mischievous nation of some who maintain, from a misapprehension of what is said by our Lord and the Apostle James, that all oaths are unlawful,” [Haldane]. “Serve” always indicates a religious service of some sort. It was used of the Jewish priests’ service. Paul’s service was rendered in his spirit where all true service must begin, (John 4:23 24). All service rendered not in the spirit is hypocritical and mere formalism. Paul was a great man of prayer, and felt a concern for all the churches he knew, and so he prayed for their spiritual prosperity, (2 Cor. 11:28). How negligent we are to pray for our own church and fellow believers, much less for others hundreds of miles away, as Paul did.
Romans 1:10 “Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.”
Paul had long cherished the desire to come to Rome and meet this church, yet he submitted to God’s providence in this matter. “This teaches us that God, by His providence, regulates all that takes place. There is nothing with which Christians should be more habitually impressed, than that God is the disposer of all events,” [Haldane]. Little did Paul realize by what means he would be brought to Rome, but he was satisfied to come “by any means” if it was but God’s will. When he said “at length” he probably had no idea that two long years he would have to wait. But he was sure that this was God’s will, and he held firmly to this through all the time he was falsely accused, jailed, sent in chains, and finally shipwrecked before arriving in Rome.
Romans 1:11 “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.’
Paul’s ambition was not just to take a vacation, or to see new country, but he desired to impart something to them that would establish them more firmly in the truth of God. Too many Christians only want to make a profit off their brethren, but Paul was willing to be spent for them, (2 Cor. 12:15). “Spiritual gift” means literally “a gift of grace” and refers to a favor received totally apart from merit on the recipient’s part, [Vincent]. Several of these are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:4¬-11, and the fact that they are “gifts of grace” shows that they are not earned in any way, nor are they even received upon demand. They come wholly by the sovereign will of the Spirit. These were never promised to all believers, but were only for selected persons, some of them were only given for a limited time.
Romans 1:12 “That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
Paul does not want to give unnecessary offence by implying that they came short in some area, but he shows that not only did he expect to be a blessing to them, but he also expected them to be a blessing to him as well. “Comfort” is literally “to strengthen with others,” [Wuest]. This is one reason why the Lord set His churches in this world so that individual believers can be together to mutually help and strengthen one another. This is also why believers differ from one another, that one’s ability may be a supply for another’s needs, and all believers have some talent that will help others, as Calvin says: “There is none so poor in the church of Christ, that he cannot make some addition of importance to our stores.” “Mutual faith both of you and me” shows that there is but one faith (system of doctrinal truth), (Eph. 4:5), and the ministerial gifts to the churches is for the purpose of developing the saints in it, (Eph. 4:11 16). Paul desired to establish these saints at Rome in this truth.
Romans 1:13 “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, but was let hitherto, that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.”
They might think that he had never come to them because of unconcern, but he denies this. His often purposing to do so is evidence to the contrary. One such instance of purposing to come is in Acts 19:21. But Paul was an ordinary, fallible man, and his purposes were not those of the Lord in every instance, and so his will had to always be secondary to the will of the Lord. “Let” is archaic English for hindered. He was frequently hindered, but by whom he does not here state. Probably it was Satanic, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:18. Satan continually seeks to hinder the truth. “Fruit” is a common figure of speech for service in Scripture, (John 15:1 8, 16; Rom. 7:4 5; Gal. 5:22). The professed saint who is without fruit, is manifestly a spiritually dead saint, and is deceiving only himself if he thinks himself to be safe from the wrath of God. “Gentiles” here indicates that the majority of this church was Gentile.
Romans 1:14 “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.”
Because of the great grace that Paul had received in salvation and being called to preach, put him under an obligation to take the message of this same grace to others as well. So ought believers today to feel a similar obligation to make the grace of God known to all mankind. Ancient writers considered all who were not Greeks to be barbarians. “This term barbarian properly denotes one who speaks a foreign language—a foreigner; and the Greeks applied it to all who did not use their tongue,” [Barnes]. 1 Corinthians 14:11 illustrates this meaning. “Wise” corresponds with “Greeks” since they considered themselves to be very wise, (1 Cor. 1: 22). And the “unwise” corresponded to “barbarians.” The extent of Christian duty is shown in Matthew 28:18 20.
Romans 1:15 “So, as much as is in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.”
This showed the responsibility of Paul, but it also showed the limit of his duty. No one is responsible beyond his ability, but let no one deceive himself about his ability; everyone can do what God calls him to do, if he uses the God given means. What is the gospel that Paul was to preach? “The gospel is the whole story of Christ’s mediatorial work as prophet, sacrifice, priest, king, leader and judge, addressed to the whole human race, whatever the nationality, sex, or social condition, on the terms of simple faith in Jesus as he is offered in the gospel, the power of which is God himself, i.e., God the Holy Spirit,” [B. H. Carroll]. The gospel has always been man’s only hope, and it has been preached from earliest times, (Rom 1:2; Gal. 3:8; Gen. 3:15). It will be the basis of judgment in the last day, (Rom. 2:16).
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
The positive side of this would be “I glory in the gospel,” (Gal. 6:14), and we see this attitude constantly reflected in Paul. Even in Rome, the capitol of the civilized world, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. “I reckon him a Christian indeed, that is neither ashamed of the gospel, nor a shame to it,” [M. Henry]. “Power of God unto salvation” implies (1) Its divine origin. (2) Its divine fittedness for its end. (3) Its divine efficacy. What is salvation? “Salvation is the final, complete, and everlasting deliverance of the sinner’s entire soul and body from the guilt of sin, from the defilement of sin, from the dominion of sin, from the bondage of Satan, and the deliverance of man’s habitat—this old world—from the curse upon it” [Carroll]. “Believeth” is the limitation upon this, for the best remedy for the worst disease is of no value at all if it is not taken. Faith is not selfinduced, but it “comes,” (Gal. 3:23, 25), and comes only by the Word of God, (Rom. 10:17). This is why people cannot be saved so long as they keep away from where the Word is preached in its purity. “To the Jew first” is the proper order, for the Savior came of the Jews, and to them should the first opportunity be presented to hear and believe. This was Paul’s constant practice (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:28).
Romans 1:17 “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
God reveals His righteousness in the gospel, for thereby He declares His righteousness, imputed to the sinner for his justification when he believes in Christ, (Rom. 3:24 26). Three revelations are mentioned in Romans: (1) God’s Righteousness, (Rom . 1:17). (2) God’s wrath, (Rom. 1:18). (3) God’s glory, (Rom. 8:18). What is the meaning of the righteousness of God? It includes both justification and sanctification. The former is the declaring of one just in God’s sight because of Jesus’ redemptive work, while the latter is the practical outworking, or living of a righteous life as one is strengthened and led by the Spirit. “From faith unto faith” shows a progression. Saving faith is momentary and instantaneous, but the righteousness of God does not involve only a momentary trust in Him, but it entails a lifetime of trust. At the moment of initial faith, one is saved and justified, but he has a lifetime before him to live by faith and thereby to be sanctified—set apart for holy purposes and holy living. It is from saving faith to living faith. Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted here, as it is also in Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. Anyone can say that he has believed, but the proof of it is in a daily living faith.
Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness”
The rest of the verses in this chapter form one paragraph, and sketches the moral history of man as seen through God’s eye. Man’s view is distorted by selfish prejudice. God has revealed His wrath by His declarations and threats against all sin. Almost every message “from heaven” had something of a warning either express or implied. Ungodliness is irreverence toward God, while unrighteousness is lack of right conduct toward men, but which grows out of irreverence toward God [Robertson]. These two things are thus related to the two tables of the law, (Matthew 22:37 40). “Who keep down the truth by the wickedness wherein they live,” [Conybeare]. Bad living does more to restrain the truth than anything else, but practiced truth is an irresistible sword of testimony. “The same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes His glory, also proves that He is the enemy of sin and the avenger of the crimes of men. So that this revelation of wrath is universal throughout the world, and none can plead ignorance of it,” [Haldane].
Romans 1:19 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.”
“God is not unknowable, as the agnostic says, for all men have an innate sense of the existence of God. This relates only to such knowledge of God’s existence and man’s duty to worship Him as makes man without excuse. Man’s reasoning upon the basis of the law of cause and effect, which law requires an adequate cause for every effect, is forced to the conclusion that such a tremendous effect as the universe, demands a Being of eternal power and of divine attributes. That Being must be the Deity who should be worshipped,” [Wuest]. Man has a spiritual light in him, (Prov. 20:27), but in his fallen state it is darkness, (Matthew 6:22 23). Man was created to worship God, and so he is a worshipper by nature, but because of his fall, his nature is to worship falsely. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven because He has revealed enough truth to man to make them without excuse before Him. It is because of their love of sin that they continue to hold down the truth.
Romans 1:20 “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
God, being a Spirit, (John 4:24), cannot be seen with eyes of flesh, but the invisible God is known by his visible works. Some pagan philosophers, such as Aristotle, understood this. Creation proves God’s existence, (Ps. 19:1 4), for it requires omnipotent power, intelligence and law, so that men are rendered inexcusable. This verse, coupled with 2:14 15 shows that men have three universal witnesses to God’s existence: (1) Creation, (Rom 1:20). (2) The Commandments written in all men’s hearts. (3) The Conscience in all men. Two or three witnesses are sufficient to convict men in God’s court of law. “Godhead” here is different from “Godhead” in Colossians 2:9. Here it refers to “the sum total of the divine attributes,” [Vincent].
Romans 1:21 “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
All men once had the knowledge of God, but because they disliked the restraints and obligations that knowledge of God imposed, “they became vain in their imaginations,” and so they willfully neglected to honor and give Him thanks. “They all knew more than they practiced, and the most ignorant might have discovered God in His works, had not enmity against Him reigned in their hearts” [Haldane]. They began to speculate and formulate their own ideas about God until they had created in their own minds the kind of gods that pleased them. “Heart” is a Scriptural term for man’s inward being, including feelings, will and intellect. Thus he is completely darkened spiritually, (Eph. 4:18). Unsaved man is both without understanding (foolish) and what understanding he has is darkened.
Romans 1:22 “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
The verb “professing” is used of unfounded assertion. Proud egotism is the cause of the rejection of the gospel, (1 Cor 1:26 29). The natural man is not only self¬-righteous, but also self sufficient, and these both take away God’s glory. The more worldly wisdom man has the harder it is for him to be saved, for the gospel is foolishness to him, (1 Cor. 1:23). “Became fools” is the Greek word from which our English word “moron” comes. The beginning of true wisdom is a reverential fear of God, (Prov. 9:10). All worldly wisdom is nothing if the one who has it ends up in hell.
Romans 1:23 “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”
Psalm 106:20. Evolutionists boast of the “ascent of man,” and say that if there was a fall it must have been upward, but here we see God’s view: it is a spiritual descent. Man is inventive, but turns all to evil, (Eccl. 7:29). Man’s pride causes him to rebel against God’s demands for all the glory and honor, and man would rather steal the glory that is due to God alone, (Is. 42:8), and give it rather to the lowest creature than that God should get it. Note the descending scale: “Man, birds, beasts, creeping things.” Nothing is too low for man to worship in his darkness. Idolatry is always degrading, and the more man is involved in it, the more corrupt he becomes. This especially stands out in those “Christian denominations” which use idols: their members are generally more immoral than many who attend no church at all. There is much “Christian” paganism.
Romans 1:24 “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.”
The direct result of man’s rejection of the knowledge of God and the restraints He imposes on man is further corruption. God did not compel man to sin: He only removed the providential restraints, which is all that is necessary for man to plunge to the depths of sin. Wrong worship always results in wrong living. God gave them up to wrong living (Rom. 1:24), to wrong loving, (Rom. 1:26), and to wrong thinking (Rom 1:28), [Coltman]. One of the tragic consequences of rebellion is that those who desert God are deserted by Him. “The words sound to us like clods on the coffin as God leaves men to work their own wicked will,” [Robertson]. By nature man is an unholy being. The source of the problem is his heart, (Matthew 15:19), and one of the most horrible judgments that can come upon man is for God to remove His restraints and leave man to his own wicked ways. “To dishonor... themselves” is explained in the verses that follow.
Romans 1:25 “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”
This is another way of stating the truth of verse 23. They changed the truth about the nature of God into the lie of idolatry. Often in the Old Testament the idol is called a lie or falsehood because they are not true representations of God, (Jer. 10:14; Isa. 28:15). Often men begin to worship the true God through, or by means of, the creature, but they always end up worshipping the creature instead of the Creator. This is always the tendency of idols. “‘Whenever religious worship is offered to the creature in any manner whatever, it is forsaking God, whose will it is, not only that His creatures should serve Him; but that they should serve Him alone, on which account He calls Himself a Jealous God,” [Haldane]. This is why God forbade the use of any idols in worshipping Him, [Ex. 20:4 5]. Paul often interjects a doxology or ascription of praise to God in his writings, (Rom. 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:5).
Romans 1:26 “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.”
Again, the cause of this sin is within man, who, being a fallen creature, as naturally desires to sin as water flows downward. He is without excuse because he is not compelled to sin. And there comes a time in the sinner’s life when God ceases to hold him back from his natural bent to sin. “Vile affections” means shameless passion and is explained in verses 26 27. This refers to homosexuality both in men and women, for which the cities of the plain were destroyed, (Gen. 18:20; 19:24 25). Most sin goes through six stages before God responds in judgment: (1) Shock at it. (2) Joking about it. (3) Curiosity about it. (4) Indulgence in it. (5) Excuses made for it. (6) Stoutly defended as right. Classical writers of old tell how this was a very common and accepted sin among the pagans. Modern attitudes toward this sin are already in the fifth or sixth stage. Has America become so idolatrous that God has given it up as He did the nations of old? Only the saved, as the salt of the earth, (Matthew 5:13), now prevent the utter corruption of the earth.
Romans 1:27 “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”
From the chief city that was destroyed for this sin, it is sometimes called sodomy. Men call this “an alternate lifestyle” but the Bible is clear that it is sin of an especially shameful nature. All sin has a natural recompense or payment in kind, and this sin is no exception. Many have tried to deny that AIDS, the disease peculiar to homosexuals, is a Divine retribution, but they are fooling only themselves. However, not all homosexuals get AIDS, but they all receive the reward of their sins “in themselves.” No one profits by any sin, but here, sin has a direct effect upon the minds of those who practice it. Warped morals make for warped characters and personalities because the mind is affected by their rebellion against God. Homosexuals can be saved, (1 Cor. 6:9 11), but not many are, and those who are, cease to commit this.
Romans 1:28 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”
Here is an explanation of what that recompense was. Paul engages in a play on words: “Because they reprobated the knowledge of God, God gave them over to a reprobate mind,” [Alford], or: “As they thought fit to cast out the acknowledgment of God, God gave them over to an outcast mind,” [Conybeare]. A “reprobate mind” is a mind void of right judgment. “It denotes a mind judicially blinded, so as not to discern the difference between things distinguished even by the light of nature,” [Haldane]. They did not like to retain a full knowledge of God, (so the Greek means); they had but a dim memory, and that was a caricature, [Robertson], and so God gave them over to their own desires to have an incorrect knowledge of moral and spiritual truth. “Not convenient” means not fitting or suitable to rational and moral beings. In the following verses, Paul gives examples of what he means. Sin, like cancer, is a progressive evil: it never travels alone, and it never gets better except by grace.
Romans 1:29 “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers.”
This and the following verses list twenty one distinct sins with which men are filled, and continue to be filled, (so the tense implies), so that it is not a mere tendency to do these things. “Every heart by nature has in it the seed and spawn of all these sins,” [Matthew Henry]. It was such a state that led to the Flood, [Gen. 6:5 6]. “Unrighteousness” is a general term for injustice or iniquity as in verse 18. “Fornication” refers to any sexual intercourse with anyone other than one’s legitimate mate. It is a general term of which adultery is a more specific form. “Wickedness” is another general term for evil. “Covetousness” is literally the desire of having more, and is usually exercised without scruple as to how it is obtained, (1 Tim. 6:9 10). “Maliciousness” is inward viciousness or revengefulness of disposition. “Full of envy” is discontent and jealousy at the prosperity and well being of others. “Murder” is any form of manslaughter which is done maliciously or from selfish reasons. “Debate” is strife or argument, often involving anger. Some pastors like to debate, thinking they are thereby defending the faith, but this word is never used in a good sense in Scripture. “Deceit” is fraud or falsehood. “Malignity” is rancor, or putting the worst possible interpretation on words and conduct of others. “Whisperers” refers to gossip or the secret slander of men.
Romans 1:30 “Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents.”
“Backbiters” is the public slander of others as whisperers had to do with secret slander. “Haters of God” is taken by many in a passive sense: “hated of God,” which is certainly His attitude toward all slanderers, (Ps. 15:1 3; 101:5; Prov. 8:13). But the active “haters” is also true of all unsaved people. “Despiteful” refers to insolence, insulting or abusive conduct. “Proud” refers to egotism, excessive self esteem and conceit. “Boasters” is the vocal claim to this supposed superiority over others. “Inventors of evil things” is characteristic of fallen man, (Eccl. 7:29). Every good that man invents he turns to an evil use. “Disobedient to parents” is characteristic of all rebels. It is one of the quickest ways to shorten one’s life (Eph. 6:1 3).
Romans 1:31 “Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.”
The same Greek word as “foolish” in verse 21. Probably in reference to ignorance in spiritual things as in 1 Corinthians 2:14. Spiritual understanding is to be desired, (Col. 1:9). “Covenant breakers” refers to those who are not true to their contracts and commitments. Today we see this commonly in nations violating their covenants, and in the breaking of marriage covenants, as well as in business. “Without natural affection” is seen most commonly today in the desertion and destruction of children by their parents, and in the neglecting of elderly parents by their children. “Implacable” is the refusal to be reconciled to one when an offence has been committed, or holding an unyielding desire for revenge. “Unmerciful” is destitution of compassion. The last four words have been tersely translated: “senseless, faithless, heartless, pitiless,” [Green].
Romans 1:32 “Who knowing the judgment 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.”
Paul returns to the fact that these are fully accountable because of the universal witnesses of God’s existence. “Judgment” is literally “ordinance,” and “commit” has to do with the practice of these things. In the last analysis, death refers to spiritual death, but man’s spiritual conceptions often do not come up to this, but the word death always implies something fearful to any unsaved person. One’s guilt is heightened when he not only sins himself, but encourages others to do so as well. Often men encourage others to join them in sin by way of trying to justify their own sins, as if numbers would justify it, or cause God to moderate the punishment of it.
A Chinese once denied that Paul wrote this chapter, but accused a missionary of coming in among them and writing down all their sins, and then reading them before all. So up to date is this chapter. The things here set forth manifest that if a man is ever to be saved, it must be upon a different plan than by human works, for all are proven to be corrupt and rebels against God. Behold the great danger of rebelling against the knowledge of God: it leads inevitably to one being judicially blinded and falling into more and worse sin.
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