Meditations on Romans 1:28-31 (Sermon Notes)

Romans 1:28 – The debased mind.


Let’s start with a poem

Thought in the mind hath made us. What we are
By thought we wrought and built. If a man’s mind
Hath evil thoughts, pain comes on him as comes
The wheel the ox behind . . . If one endure in purity
of thought joy follows him as his own shadow – sure.

28 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; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; 32 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.

Unrighteous or Evil – the word her is Adikia and is this exact opposite of dikaisune which means justice. The Greeks defined justice as giving to God and to men their due.

The evil man therefore is the man who robs both man and God of their rights.

He has so erected an altar to himself in the centre of things that he worships himself to the exclusion of God and man

Villainy – In Greek, this word means badness or the desire to do harm. It is the active, deliberate will to corrupt and inflict injury. The word here describes the man who is not only bad but wants to make everyone bad as himself. Its destructive badness.

The Lust to get. Pleonexia – The accursed love of having. It is an aggressive vice.

Theodoret, the Christian writer, describes it as the spirit that aims at more, the spirit which grasps at things which is has no right to take. It may operate in every sphere of life. It if operates in the material sphere, its means grasping at money and goods, regardless of honour and honesty. If it operates in the ethical sphere, it means the ambition which tramples on others to gain something which is not properly meant for. If it operates in the moral sphere it means the unbridled lust which takes its pleasure where it has no right to take.

Pleonexia is the desire which knows no law.

Viciousness: The Greek word here describes the person who is destitute of every quality which would make him good. Its essential viciousness which includes all vice and is seen as the forerunner for all other sins. It is the degeneracy out of which all sins grow and in which all sins flourish.

Envy: Envy which is essentially a grudging thing. It looks at a fine person and is not so much moved to aspire to that fineness as to resent it. It is the most warped and twisted human emotions.

Murder: Phonos. It should always be remembered that Jesus immeasurably widened the scope of this word . He insisted that not only the deed of violence but the spirit of anger and hatred must be eliminated. He insisted that it is not enough to keep from being angry and related savage action. It is enough only when the desire and the anger are banished from the heart.

Thomas Aquinas said – Man regards the deed but God sees the intention.

Strife:- Its meaning is the contention that is born of envy, ambition, the desire for prestige and place for prominence. It comes from a heart in which there is jealousy. If a man is cleansed of jealousy, he has gone far to being cleansed of all that arouses contention and strife. It is a God given gift to be able to take as much pleasure in the success of others as in one’s own.

Deceit: This describes the quality of the man who has a tortuous and twisted mind who cannot act in a straightforward way, who stoops to devious and underhanded methods to get his way, who never does anything except with some kind of ulterior motive.

Evil Mindness. The spirit behind this word is the mind which always supposes the worst of other people. Pliny called it the “malignity of interpretation”. James Taylor describes it as a baseness of nature by which we take things by the wrong handle and expound things always in the worst sense. It may well be that this is one of the most commonest of sins. If there are two possible constructions to be put upon the action of any man, human nature will choose the worst. It is terrifying to think how many reputations have been murdered in gossip over a coffee, with people maliciously putting a wrong interpretation upon a completely innocent action.

Whisperers and Slanderers. A slanderer describes a man who trumpets his slanders abroad. He quite openly makes his accusations and tells his tales. Whisperers whisper their malicious stories into the listeners ear, who takes a man aside and whispers a character destroying story. Both are bad but the whisperer is the worst. A man can at least defend himself against an open slander, but he is helpless against the secret whisperer who delights in destroying reputations.

Haters of God. This describes the man who hates God because he knows that he is defying him. God is the barrier between him and his pleasure: he is the chain which keeps him from doing exactly as he likes. He would gladly eliminate God if he could, for him a godless world would be one where he would have not licence but liberty.

Insolent Men. Hubris was to Greek the vice which supremely courted destruction at the hand of the gods.

It describes the spirit of the man who is so proud that he defies God. It is the man that forgets that he is the creature

It is also describing a man who is wantonly and sadistic cruel and insulting. Aristotle describes it as the man which harms and grieves someone else, not for the sake of revenge and not for any advantage that may be gained from it, but simply for the sheer pleasure of hurting.

Arrogant Men. A certain contempt for everyone except oneself. He delights in making others feel small.

Boasters: Braggarts: The literal mean of this word is one who wanders about.

It was used of travelling doctors who would sprout of their cures.

Used also for con men – who boast of the excellency of their wares.

It came to mean – the man that pretends to have what he has not.

Inventors of evil: This phrase describes the man who, so to speak is not content with the usual ordinary ways of sinning, but who seeks out new and recondite vices because he has grown blasé and seeks a new thrill in some new sin.

Disobedient to their parents. Both Jews and Romans set obedience to parents very high in the list of virtures. It was one of the ten commandments that parents should be honoured. In the early days of the Roman Republic, the fathers power was so absolute that he had the power of life and death over his family. William Barclay made an interesting comment in his commentary around this sin. He said the reason for including this sin here is that once the bonds of the family are loosened, wholesale degeneracy must necessarily follow.

Undiscerning. The word here describes the man who is a fool, who cannot learn the lesson from experience and who will not use the mind and brain that God has given him

Untrustworthy – or breakers of agreements. This word would come with particular force to Paul’s Roman audience. In the great days of Rome, Roman honesty was a wonderful things. A man’s word was as good as his bond.

Unloving; The break down of the natural bonds of human affection had been destroyed

Pitiless: There was never a time when human life was so cheap. A slave could be killed or tortured by his master for he was only a thing and the law gave his master unlimited power over him. It was a pitiless age in its very pleasures, for it was the great age of the gladiatorial games where people found their delight in seeing men kill each other. It was an age when the quality of mercy was gone.

What’s the key thought in this verse?

V 28 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

The mind is where this all initiates. How much emphasis should we as Christians place on our thinking.

Romans 12:1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The Message Paraphrase

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Constant renewing of the mind.

The word renew means Renovation:- Taking the old out and putting the new in.

2 Corinthians 10:5

5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

Best Picture of this is in the Garden of Eden where the devil asked – Has God really said. He was getting into the thinking faculties of Eve and Challenging the word of God.

How different would the world be if Eve had of take captive that thought.

What thoughts in your mind do you wrestle with that you need to take captive?

What thoughts do you know produce harm in your life?

Psycologists say that you think at 1300 words per minute

What self talk is you self image generating and who gave you that image?

In a new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychologists Christopher Davoli and Richard Abrams from Washington University conclude that their present study confirms “an idea that has long been espoused by motivational speakers, sports psychologists, that you become like your dominate thought.

Proverbs 23:7 As a man thinks in his heart so is he

Some thoughts on thoughts from a Blog by James Allen.

The aphorism, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he,” not only embraces the whole of a man’s being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life. A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.

As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them. This applies equally to those acts called “spontaneous” and “unpremeditated” as to those which are deliberately executed.

Act is the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruits; thus does a man garner in the sweet and bitter fruitage of his own husbandry.

Thought in the mind hath made us. What we are
By thought we wrought and built. If a man’s mind
Hath evil thoughts, pain comes on him as comes
The wheel the ox behind . . . If one endure in purity
of thought joy follows him as his own shadow – sure.

Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. By the right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to the Divine Perfection; by the abuse and wrong application of thought, he descends below the level of the beast. Between these two extremes are all the grades of character and man is their maker and master.

Hope these sermon notes have blessed you.


You may also want to check out my:-

Sermon Notes on Romans 1:1-17

Categories: Nowra City Church, Sermon Notes

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1 reply

  1. Thank you for a great analysis of all the evils of our world. I would like to ask if you think war is ever justified and whether it is wrong to be cynical. I just feel that there are so many false prophets and false philosophies in our world that one has to be cynical to see through them.

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