THE REPROBATE MINDS OF 2020 (ROMANS 1) – PART 2

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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.

This is the second and last part of our study, where we focus on Romans 1:18-32.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (1:26–27)

Paul declares that because of man’s rejecting the true God for false gods of his own making, and for worshiping the creature rather than the Creator, God gave them over to degrading passions. For the second time (see v. 24) the apostle mentions God’s abandonment of sinful mankind. He abandoned them not only to idolatry, the ultimate sexual expression of man’s spiritual degeneracy, but also to degrading passions, which he identifies in these two verses as homosexuality, the ultimate expression of man’s moral degeneracy.

To illustrate the degrading passions that rise out of the fallen human heart, Paul uses homosexuality, the most degrading and repulsive of all passions. In their freedom from God’s truth, men turned to perversion and even inversion of the created order. In the end their humanism resulted in the dehumanization of each of them. Perversion is the illicit and twisted expression of that which is God-given and natural. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is inversion, the expression of that which is neither God-given nor natural. When man forsakes the Author of nature, he inevitably forsakes the order of nature.

Some women of ancient times and throughout history have exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural. In most cultures women have been more reluctant than men to become involved either in sexual promiscuity or homosexuality. Perhaps Paul mentions women first because their practice of homosexuality is especially shocking and dismaying.

Chrēsis (function) was commonly used of sexual intercourse, and in this context the term could refer to nothing other than intimate sexual relations. Even most pagan societies have recognized the clearly obvious fact that homosexuality is abnormal and unnatural. It is also an abnormality that is unique to man.

The males, says Paul, abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts. There is a burning level of lust among homosexuals that beggs description and is rarely known among heterosexuals. The homosexuals of Sodom were so passionately consumed with their lust that they ignored the fact that they had been made blind and “wearied themselves trying to find the doorway” into Lot’s house in order to pursue their vile passion (Gen. 19:11).

Those ancient people were so morally perverse that in Scripture the name Sodom became a byword for immoral godlessness, and sodomy, a term derived from that name, became throughout history a synonym for homosexuality and other forms of sexual deviation.

Unimaginably, many church denominations in the United States and elsewhere have ordained homosexuals to the ministry and even established special congregations for homosexuals.

Instead of trying to help their children become free of sexual deviation, many parents of homosexuals have banded together to defend their children and to coerce society, government, and churches to recognize and accept homosexuality as normal. In many cases, religions that hold homosexuality to be a sin are blamed for the tragic results that homosexuals bring on themselves and on their families and friends. Evangelical Christianity in particular is often made the culprit and is accused of persecuting innocent people who cannot help being what they are.

But in both testaments God’s Word condemns homosexuality in the strongest of terms. Under the Old Covenant it was punishable by death. Paul declares unequivocally that, although homosexuality can be forgiven and cleansed just as any other sin, no unrepentant homosexual will enter heaven, just as will no unrepentant fornicator, idolater, adulterer, effeminate person, thief, covetous person, drunkard, reviler, or swindler (1 Cor. 6:9–11; cf. Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 5:3–5; 1 Tim. 1:9–10; Jude 7).

Any attempt at all to justify homosexuality is both futile and wicked, but to attempt to justify it on biblical grounds, as do many misguided church leaders, is even more futile and vile. To do that is to make God a liar and to love what He hates and justify what He condemns.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (1:28–32)

Because fallen mankind did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over in still another way, in this case to a depraved mind. The godless mind is a depraved mind, whose predetermined and inevitable disposition is to do those things which are not proper.

The basic meaning of adokimos (depraved) is that of not standing the test, and the term was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and adokimos therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. In relation to God, the rejecting mind becomes a rejected mind and thereby becomes spiritually depraved, worthless and useless. Of unbelievers, Jeremiah wrote, “They call them rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them” (Jer. 6:30).

The mind that finds God worthless becomes worthless itself. It is debauched, deceived, and deserving only of God’s divine wrath.

The sinful, depraved mind says to God, “Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Thy ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?” (Job 21:14–15). Although godless people think they are wise, they are supremely foolish (Rom. 1:22).

Regardless of their natural intelligence and their learning in the physical realm, in the things of God they are devoid even of “the beginning of knowledge,” because they lack reverential fear of Him. They are merely “fools [who] despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7; cf. v. 29).

Even God’s chosen people, the Jews, fell into that foolishness when they rejected or neglected the revelation and blessings He had showered on them so uniquely and abundantly “For My people are foolish, they know Me not,” the Lord declared through Jeremiah; “they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know” (Jer. 4:22; cf. 9:6). Those who reject the true God are wholly vulnerable to “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The catalogue of sins Paul proceeds to mention in Romans 1:29–31 is not exhaustive, but it is representative of the virtually endless number of vices with which the natural man is filled.

The first two terms in the NASB text, all unrighteousness and wickedness, are comprehensive and general, synonyms that encompass the entire range of the particular sins that follow. Some versions include fornication between those first two terms, but that word is not found in the best Greek manuscripts. The idea is certainly not inappropriate to the context, however, because fornication is universally condemned in Scripture and is frequently included by Paul in lists of vices (see 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5). Fornication is implied in the sin of impurity, which has already been mentioned in the present passage (1:24).

The sins mentioned in the rest of the list are basically self-explanatory: greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.

The Greek term behind untrustworthy means literally to break a covenant, as reflected in some translations. Unloving relates especially to unnatural family relationships, such as that of a parent who abandons a young child or a grown child who abandons his aging parents.

Reiterating the fact that rebellious, ungodly men are without excuse, Paul declares that they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death. The apostle has already established that, since the creation of the world, God has made Himself known to every human being (vv. 19–21). People do not recognize God because they do not want to recognize Him, because they willingly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18).

“This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19–20).

Whether they recognize it or not, even those who have never been exposed to the revelation of God’s Word are instinctively aware of His existence and of His basic standards of righteousness. “They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15).

In most societies of the world, even in those considered uncivilized, most of the sins Paul lists here are considered wrong, and many are held to be crimes. Men inherently know that such things as greed, envy, murder, deceit, arrogance, disobedience, and mercilessness are wrong.

The absolute pit of wickedness is reached, Paul says, when those who are themselves involved in evils also give hearty approval to others who practice them. To justify one’s own sin is wicked enough, but to approve and encourage others to sin is immeasurably worse. Even the best of societies have had those within them who were blatantly wicked and perverse. But a society that openly condones and defends such evils as sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, abortion and the rest has reached the deepest level of corruption. Many of the most socially advanced societies of our own day are in that category. Sexually promiscuous celebrities are glamorized and the rights of homosexuals are ardently defended.

These acts of sin are in direct contradiction to the revealed will of God.

A certain species of ants in Africa builds its nests in deep subterranean tunnels, where its young and its queen live. Although they may be great distances from the nest foraging for food, worker ants of that species are able to sense when the queen is being molested and they become extremely nervous and uncoordinated. If she is killed, they become frantic and rush around aimlessly until they die.

What better illustration could there be of fallen man. Even in his sinful rejection and rebellion, he cannot function properly apart from God and is destined only for death.

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

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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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