THE REPROBATE MINDS OF 2020 (ROMANS 1) – PART 1

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In Christian theology, REPROBATION is a doctrine of the Bible found in many passages of scripture such as Romans 1:18-32, Proverbs 1:23-33, John 12:37-41, Hebrews 6:4-8 etc. which teaches that a person can reject the gospel to a point where God in turn rejects them and curses their conscience to do unnatural and abominable things. We do not have to look very far to realize that this is the lot of many in 2020.

In this study, we are focusing on Romans 1:18-32.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in ungodliness, because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (1:18-20)

First of all God is justified in His wrath against sinners because of the revelation of Himself to all mankind. Paul’s point here is that, even apart from His written revelation, that which is known about God is evident within everyone of us, for God made it evident to us. The Lord testifies through Paul that His outward, visible manifestation of Himself is universally known by man. All men have evidence of God, and what their physical senses can perceive of Him their inner senses can understand to some extent.

The characteristics of God that are reflected in His creation give unmistakable testimony to Him. Paul specifies the content of the revelation of Himself that God makes known to all mankind. Since the creation of the world, he declares, God has made His invisible attributes visible. The particular attributes that man can perceive in part through his natural senses are God’s eternal power and His divine nature. God’s eternal power refers to His never-failing omnipotence, which is reflected in the awesome creation which that power both brought into being and sustains. God’s divine nature of kindness and graciousness is reflected, as Paul told the Lystrans, in the “rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). We are responsible for a proper response to that revelation. Any wrong response is “inexcusable.”

Unregenerate man has “no help and [is] without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12), not because he has no knowledge of God but because he naturally rebels against the knowledge of God that he has. No person can rightly claim ignorance of God, and therefore no person can rightly claim that God’s wrath against him is unjust.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (1:21)

God is also justified in His wrath and judgment because of man’s wilful rejection of Him. Though they knew God through this natural, general revelation, unbelieving men still rejected Him. Man is just as innately and wickedly inclined to reject that knowledge. The natural tendency of unregenerate mankind is to “proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). As Paul reminds believers, “We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

In verse 21, Paul mentions four ways in which men exhibit their rejection of God: by dishonouring Him, by being thankless to Him, by being futile in their speculations concerning Him, and by being darkened in their hearts about Him.

Refusing to recognize God and to have His truth guide their minds, sinful men are doomed to futile quests for wisdom through various human speculations that lead only to falsehood and therefore to still greater unbelief and wickedness. The term speculation embraces all man’s godless reasonings.

Spiritual darkness and moral perversity are inseparable. When man forfeits God, he forfeits virtue. The godless philosophy of the world inescapably leads to moral perversion, because unbelief and immorality are inextricably intertwined.

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (1:22–23)

The mind devoid of God’s truth has no way to discriminate between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong, between the significant and the trivial, between the truly beautiful and the monstrous, or between the ephemeral and the eternal. Intimidated by the everchanging and mutually-conflicting theories of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, they foolishly modify or exchange the truths of God’s revelation about man in favour of man’s absurd conjectures about himself.

The greatest fool in all the world is the person who exchanges God’s wisdom of truth and light for man’s wisdom of deceit and darkness. In their spiritual blindness, intellectual darkness, and moral depravity, men are by nature inclined to reject the Holy Creator for the unholy creature. Because something even in their fallenness demands a god, but one they like better than the true God, they devise deities of their own making.

The first creature man substitutes for God is himself, an image in the form of corruptible man. The epitome of human self-worship will be that of Antichrist, who will demand that all the world worship him in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:3–4). As Satan’s supreme emissary on earth in the last days, Antichrist’s demand of worship will also testify that, despite his self-glorification, his real god will be Satan.

A ludicrous form of idolatry noted by Paul is the worship of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. There have also always been people who worship the idols of wealth, health, pleasure, prestige, sex, sports, education, entertainment, celebrities, success, and power. And at no time in history have those forms of idolatry been more pervasive and corrupting than in our own day. Moral and spiritual pollution is pandemic in modern society and is a degenerative and addictive form of idolatry.

When man rejects God’s revelation, whatever the form of that revelation might be, he regresses through rationalization and false religion ultimately to reprobation, which, in Romans 1:24–32, Paul proceeds to relate. The major point of Romans 1:24–32 is that when men persistently abandon God, God will abandon them.

When God abandons men to their own devices, His divine protection is withdrawn. When that occurs, men not only become more vulnerable to the destructive wiles of Satan but also suffer the destruction that their own sin works in and through them.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (1:24–25)

God abandoned men—He gave them over. First, in an indirect sense God gave them over simply by withdrawing His restraining and protective hand, allowing the consequences of sin to take their inevitable, destructive course. Sin degrades man, debases the image of God in which he is made, and strips him of dignity, peace of mind, and a clear conscience. Sin destroys personal relationships, marriages, families, cities, and nations. It also destroys churches.

Fallen men are not concerned about their sin but only about the pain from the unpleasant consequences sin brings. Many people, for example, are greatly concerned about venereal disease but resent the suggestion of avoiding it by restraining sexual promiscuity and perversions. Instead of adhering to God’s standards of moral purity, they attempt to remove the consequences of their impurity. They turn to counseling, to medicine, to psychoanalysis, to drugs, or to alcohol.

Not all of God’s wrath is future. In the case of sexual promiscuity—perhaps more specifically and severely than in any other area of morality—God has continually poured out His divine wrath by means of venereal disease. In regard to countless other manifestations of godlessness, He pours out His wrath in the forms of the loneliness, frustration, meaninglessness, anxiety, and despair that are so characteristic of modern society. As sophisticated, self-sufficient mankind draws further and further away from God, God gives them over to the consequences of their spiritual and moral rebellion against Him.

The divine abandonment of men to their sin about which Paul speaks here is not eternal abandonment. As long as sinful men are alive, God provides opportunity for their salvation. Despite His righteous wrath against sin, God is patient toward sinners, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

In a second, direct sense God gave … over rebellious mankind by specific acts of judgment. The Bible is replete with accounts of divine wrath being directly and supernaturally poured out on sinful men. The flood of Noah’s day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, were not indirect natural consequences of sin but were overt supernatural expressions of God’s judgment on gross and unrepented sin.

God often allows men to go deeper and deeper into sin in order to drive them to despair and to show them their need of Him. Often He punishes men in order to heal and restore (Isa. 19:22).

It was because the lusts of their hearts were for impurity that God abandoned men to their sin. Men’s lostness is not determined by the outward circumstances of their lives but by the inner condition of their hearts.

The effect of men’s rebellious, self-willed impurity was that their bodies might be dishonoured. When men seek to glorify their own ways and to satisfy their bodies through shameful indulgence in sexual and other sins, their bodies, along with their souls, are instead dishonoured. When man seeks to elevate himself for his own purposes and by his own standards, he inevitably does the opposite. The way of fallen mankind is always downward, never upward. The more he exalts himself, the more he declines. The more he magnifies himself the more he diminishes. The more he honours himself, the more he becomes dishonoured.

Because they reject the God who made them and would redeem them, “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Eccles. 9:3).

When men turned from God and His truth, Paul goes on to say, they then worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.

To be continued in Part 2

(Main Source: John MacArthur – New Testament Commentary – Romans)

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