What is sin and what does it do?
The laundry list of sins is found in Romans 1:28-31. The passage starts off with the reason we get into sin, the reprobate mind that chooses to rebel and exchange God's wonderful truth for the cheap lies of our mind and flesh. Thus, God burns with anger, just as a loving parent gets angry when his child disobeys. This is especially evident when the child is in danger, the parent knows it, and the child refuses to acknowledge, listen, or change his mind and ways. If God did not care or love, why would He be angry?
God is not some kind of killjoywho has a perverse since of humor, desiring to see us suffer. He does not just come up with a list of rules and regulations that we could not possibly follow just to amuse Himself. No, God is pure, just, and loving. We, as humans, chose to fall away from God and His perfection. God desires us to live the best way possible, and experience the most out of life with happiness and joy.
Yet, we live in a world corrupted by sin, so everything is degraded from what it was meant to do. Man, the land, animals, plants, the air, everything is touched. Thus, the consequences of that fallen nature impact everything. Even in this corrupted, tainted world, including our sinful selves, we have a God who is offering His love and grace, if only we will reach out and respond. However, we cannot, so His Son, the Christ lived, as we should have. In our place, He took our sins to the grave, and arose to give us eternal hope and life. Even with the grace option offered to us, which is written upon our hearts, we still choose to rebel. We choose to take His wonder, love, and truth, and trade it in for lies. We desire to suppress His truth and love, and when it all falls apart, we blame God and others, refusing to take the responsibility for ourselves! We have no excuse! His revelation is clear; it is filled with our best in mind, and powered by His desire to see us saved. Let us turn from our evil ways, less we end up given up to our desires that will be fun for a short while, but will lead to everlasting regret and torment. It is like a parent letting his kid eat all he wants in a candy store until it makes him sick, times a thousand. With sin, we have the choice to realize it makes us sick, thus, it is meaningless. Therefore, we can stop, or keep at it until it kills us. Remember, we do not deserve His love and grace, yet He gives it to us anyway.The laundry list of sins: (From the Greek words as they appear in their English forms in the KJV, NKJV and NIV) Verse 28: The Theme is pagan activities. We must be willing to look to God, He is worthwhile for us to know and follow in faith and in practice. If not, our lives and relationships will have dire consequences. Who are the models and heroes we look up too will say a lot of who we are and who we want to be! As the Greek and Roman god's in the myth stories were petty and often behaved as amoral or immoral beings who were mean and connived with no regard to truth or consequence. As people worshiped them, they too would act as they did; the god's were the examples of people's wicked behaviors. Paul's point is, do not act as the pagans did or their corrupt god's, but act as Christ modeled for us to act.
· Reprobate, debased, or depraved mind: This means being a degenerate, which is just "plain ole' good-for-nothing" to God or to those around them. It is the direct opposite of being pure and holy. The "heathen" is a term from the Greek to exchange a truth for a lie and means people who are vile and so corrupted they have no hope. It means people who refuse to believe or bow to God, even though they do, in fact, know who God is. It is written in their hearts and revealed by creation, but they do not wish to uphold that knowledge of who God is, and who they are NOT, which is, God. Consequently, God also gave them up to sin. It represents a mind that is blinded by pride and arrogance, so they choose not to recognize the difference between their will and what God reveals, or between their presumptions and the facts. This is why there are so many opinions by individuals and even in science, which is supposed to be fact! This is the effect of the separation from God because of the Fall, and their punishment is to "let them be." This passage clearly demonstrates that all that remains of morality and virtue between God and humanity is the Holy Spirit, who restrains and sets boundaries. Still, our choices prevailing will produce consequences, and will accumulate with us as well as all those around us. When God gives people up, the Holy Spirit will even force their perversity, just as God did with Pharaoh, to make a point for others as a sign post: Do not sin!
· Not convenient, not fitting, or ought not to be done: This is the "my will or else" mentality! This word means what is suitable to the nature of humanity as a rational and moral being (secular humanism). "I will not move my will!" "Do not bother me with the facts, for I have already made up my mind," or "I will not summit to man or God!" To do things that are not convenient is not allowing anyone or anything to upset my comfort zone, such as anything contrary and opposite to my thinking, even in the light of logic and reason.Verse 29: If our view of God ad His character is distorted, so will the virtue and morality in which we engage in. How we see God will dramatically influence how we live our lives. The character to which we look too in others will be the character in which we conduct ourselves to others.
· Being filled: This means that the sin(s) are uncontrolled and are dwelling in the heart and mind so there is no room for anything else, such as "good." This mentality then overflows to everyone else (peer pressure, dares, thinking solely what's good for me, extreme excess and my pleasures, and how can I infect others).
· Unrighteousness, or every kind of wickedness: This word in the original Greek implies injustice, but not just injustice. It is often used for general wickedness and disorder (1:18). This is a general word, which sets a tone to include all the various sins that follow in this laundry list such as evil, greed, envy, depravity, strife, deceit, and malice (NIV). However, in the context of this passage, it indicates judicial injustice. This was the popular crime of the Roman government, who built their empire on jealously and pride.
· Fornication, or sexual immorality: (this is one of the few places that the NIV translation messes up and omits this word Fornication - a key sin! The publisher's response to why it is omitted is because it is interned (assumed) to be tied with the term every kind of wickedness.) This is any kind of sexual function outside of a husband and wife. The world sees this as "un-blamable," an obsession to be freely and universally allowed and practiced. Today we make excuses saying it is genetics and in the ancient world creative excuses were fathomed too, "I was made that way." I guess the genetics excuse is nothing new! This is the violation of the seventh commandment.
· Wickedness: This refers to the general inclination to do evil and be happy and glad in it. This person will take enjoyment from the cruel and nasty actions they do to others. They seek to destroy what is good and what would last, from buildings, to people, to God Himself if they were able.
· Covetousness: The Greek word strictly signifies taking advantage of a situation is the motive for evil's sake. It can be going too far in bargaining in a market to having more than what is just in any dealings with others. This is common from rich to poor, taking advantage, not seeking to get a good deal. Taken too far, it hurts and takes advantage of the weaker, less fortunate person.
· Maliciousness, or Malice represents the character of malice, which is to injure others out of spite, meanness, or revenge.
· Full of envy is the usual vice of the villages, towns, and cities of the ancient world and is alive and well today. It is jealousy in action and the desire to take what is not ours from others (the 10th commandment!).
· Murder is nothing new. In this context, it mainly refers not just to murder in general, but how slave owners treated their slaves, as they were put to death for the slightest of offenses. Now it is how we treat others. Murder is the viperous offence in our treatment to others!
· Debate, or strife: This is not the debate of a good challenge of logic or rhetoric, but how we use words for vainglory, to deliberately slander, malign, and not to seek the truth.
· Deceit is dishonest treachery that embodies our conduct and conversations (Romans 3:13).
· Malignity, or evil-minded means slander, as custom or disposition. It is the desire to hurt others without any other reason other than to get pleasure from doing evil to others, and causing their sufferings in the worst sense.
· Whisperer or gossiper signifies people who secretly speak evil of others when they are present: GOSSIP! This evil is in the same category as murder and sexual immorality, so take heed of this! It is called whispering, not because of the tone of the voice, but from the secrecy that gossip breeds. It refers to sowing divisions, injury, calamity, and slander. The whisperer thinks because their voice is low and the person cannot defend himself, they escape prosecution and harm. Wrong!
Verse 30: If we have a faulty concept of God, we will have faulty relationships and be engaged in heinous sins! Be aware, God will allow us to dam ourselves! This is called "Penal Blindness," the natural consequences of sin, just as a sharp knife can be used to prepare food as it can be used to harm, the user chooses how it is to be used.Never forget personal responsibility and that God is just in His wrath against sin (Psalm 81:12; Isa. 6:9-11; 29:9-12; Jer. 44:25-27).
· Backbiters/ slanderers (revilers): The original word is improperly translated in the NKJV into backbiters. Its proper translation, according to Greek dictionaries and in context is "revilers," distinguishing it from whisperers/gossipers, as these people speak evil of others to their face (not their back). Backbiters also meant open slandering in the 16th century at the time of the KJV, whereas today it means in secret. It means making slanderous remarks publicly with opprobrious language and name-calling. The word can include evil speaking in general. This also means people who take pleasure in scandalizing others and seeking to cause divisions and chaos as speakers of evil, speaking nothing but lies. The word "whisperers" refers to a secret, and the word backbiters or slanderers, to an open slander.
· Haters of God: People seeking to blame their self-made problems on God, and deny any kind of personal responsibility or accepting the providence of God. Superstition can also play a big role here, as with refusing to acknowledge God's sovereignty. This also applies to a carnal mind that is hostile against God, His holiness, His justice, His sovereignty, and even His mercy and grace. This was quickly put into practice by governing offices under the influence of the philosophers and the whole body of the Roman and Jewish people. It included rich and poor, educated and uneducated to produce the persecutions of the early Christians. The Christian character of goodness is the direct opposite of a world of God haters.
· Despiteful, violent, or insolent: These terms do not express the full meaning of the Greek. We can translate them as injurious, as being so prideful, so filled with contempt, and so judgmental they are causing injury to others with extreme impertinence and insult. It is tearing others down by slanderous, abusive, passionate statements.
· Proud, or arrogant refers to feeling they are better than anyone else to an extreme, such as the Nazis' persecution of anyone different from them. This happens when people are so puffed up with a high opinion of themselves they become consumed with arrogance, insolence, haughtiness, and regarding others with contempt, as if they were unworthy of any contact with them.
· Boasters, or arrogant designates pretentious and flamboyant people who extend their self-image and self-determination over and against anyone or anything.
· Inventors of evil things is the creative thinking and inventing of evil, then conspiring to do it with accomplices and causing others not with them to stumble into such illicit pleasures.
· Disobedient to parents may seem benign, but when we forsake good instruction, we embark upon a path of self-destruction. In OT times, obedience to parents was considered a duty, taught by the Torah, and is the fifth commandment. Thus, is very important. Too many people take it too lightly then they fall into sin and other harm. When people disregarded this responsibility, they will leave the God induced love of children for their parents, and follow lies and malice.Verse 31: These sins in Paul's time were not controversial in their definition or scope, as they were considered bad and reprehensible by educated Greeks and pious Jews. However, they were rarely condemned and often tolerated as the "just" looked the other away.
· Without understanding, undiscerning, or senseless refers to the reckless management of our life and affairs. This will cause long-term consequences to us as well as those around us! It does not mean people are stupid or have some kind of developmental disorder, but is refusing to yield to logic, reason, and what is best for our situation and for us. It also applies to the highly educated who are the most intelligent and enlightened in society; yet, reject the things and character of God or anything that respects the things of God.
· Covenant-breakers or untrustworthy or faithless refers to breaking of agreements and covenants. It applies to every agreement or bargain one makes, from business, to individual relationships, to contracts between nations.
· Without natural attention, or unloving, or heartless: It seems Paul has the Stoic philosophy in mind. This applies to parents neglecting their children, causing them to be in harm or the potential of harm. The Stoics were famous for being unconcerned and uncaring, letting people find their own ways, doing as they pleased and having no regrets or emotions to others. If you see a child that is hungry, let him starve. This of course is the opposite of Biblical instruction, yet the practice of many people.
· Implacable, unforgiving, or ruthless signify people who are callous and are relentlessly savage and hardhearted in their dealing with others, and who break solemn engagements. These people will breach the most sacred of engagements, such as oaths and religious rites, including marriage. In Paul's time, this applied to mostly to the rudest and most uncivilized barbaric nations who violated treaties.
· Unmerciful usually refers to those who are unmerciful to the poor. However, it also means people, who are without compassion, who do not feel for the distresses of others and those who cause these distresses.Verse 32: Sin then as it is today is measured by its popularity. The more people doing it, means I can feel it is OK and thus rationalize that it is OK that I do it too. This illogical reasoning ignores truth and responsibility, no matter how many people you see or know who engage in sin, the sin's impact and significance remains the same as our consequence and God's condemnation of it.
· Knowing the judgment or righteousness of God: This chapter already tells us that God's ordinances are written in our hearts and in creation; thus, we have no excuse to reject Him, even if the gospel is never told to us! The heathens already knew, yet they chose to subdue themselves from God's most precious love and grace. This also implies that God's dictates are written in our conscience, from how to know Him to how to conduct our lives. At the same time, we have to be careful. If you are not a Christian, your conscience will not be reliable as your will forces and overpowers its way and noise over God's righteousness unless you listen. In addition, your conscience, your sense of right and wrong, is like a computer. God installs its operating system. Yet, you can still send in corrupt programming and get corrupt thinking. Only prayer and the Word will install good programming. Garbage in will equal garbage out!
· Worthy or deserving of death is what most scholars say is literal or figurative death because it is referring to future punishment and whether Paul is accusing all heathens, or if they are actually committing the sin, or just capable of committing the sin. This gets complicated in the Greek, but, nonetheless, if one persists in sinning, the sin itself can kill. Just look at all of the deadly communicable diseases, not to mention other perils sin causes. In addition, there is the final death of our separation from God in eternity, which is Hell, for rejecting Him.
· Not only do the same, but have pleasure or approve in them that do means that their corruption has become so entrenched, so entirely abandoned to sin, that they will conspire to push others into it also. They will approve and support others in their sin. Just look at all of the special interest groups propagating sin, such as Planned Parenthood, ACLU, NOW, and pro-gay groups, to name a few. They group tightly together, and rationalize and approve such things as abortion or homosexual sin as good and beneficial! They hate those who are just and righteous!
In summary Paul substantiates his charge in Romans 1:18 of immorality in the world that Jew, Gentile, nor anyone else is immune from. He starts out with ungodliness as the beginning and cause of sin, after which it turns into unrighteousness, which becomes the consequence that causes the evil against others. Theological decay will turn into moral decay. When we lose sight of God, we venture into all kinds of heinous actions and corruptions. This is what brings on the wrath of God, because it hurts too many of His children, whom He loves (Titus 2:12).
As we can see from this passage, nothing can be more horrifying than what happens when we venture into unrepentant continual sin and conspire others into it. This is clearly given to us by the Holy Spirit, who is very familiar with our sinful nature, our superficial actions, and our covert motives. We cannot see this as an exaggeration nor conclude these are just things that are caused by genetics or our environment. They do contribute, but we still have the final say with our actions! We may not be able to control our environment, but we can control our attitudes, behaviors, and choices! Rather, we choose these things freely and first, before we choose God. Thus, justification by works is impossible. Our only means to God is by His grace alone, by what Christ did for us!
Did you notice that sin is disorderly, reckless, seeks to destroy, and is hard to point out because people do not want to be reminded they have it. They are too busy using it! God's revelation is clear; it is filled with our best in mind, powered by His Love and desire to see us saved. Let us turn from our evil ways, lest we end up given up to our desires that may be "fun" for a short while, but then brings everlasting regret and torment. (More lists of sin: Mark 7:20-23; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:2-5)
1. When you do your laundry, you take your dirty clothes and wash them clean. How well do you like to wear dirty clothes? How much more do you prefer your clothes clean? How is this like sin?
2. Did you ever have a period in your life where you went wild, like college youth on spring break? If so, did you ever see God as a "killjoy" to your fun? Why?
3. Can you think of any good excuses to sin? Why, or why not?
4. Why do some people see God as one who gives us rules because He has a perverse since of humor and desires to see us suffer?
5. Did you see any of your faults/sins listed? If so, how did you feel?
6. Were there any surprise sins that you never considered heinous?
7. What is the reason we get into sin?
8. Have you ever considered that God's wrath is a form of love? If God did not care, or did not love us, why would He be angry?
9. We live in a world totally corrupted by sin. Why then are most people unable to see it?
10. What is Christ's role in dealing with our sin?
11. Why would people choose to take His wonder, love, and truth and trade it for lies?
12. Go through each of this laundry list of sins and ask yourself:
- Have I done this? If so, how, and why?
- Can I see myself doing this? If so, what would cause me to?
- What can I do to prevent such thoughts and actions from encroaching upon me?
This is our final study in the book of Romans. Final? Yes. Last? We hope not. The book of Romans has so much in it we cannot help but to revisit it now and then!
Remember we do not deserve His love and grace, yet it is given to us anyway.
© 2002, Rev. R. J. Krejcir, Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/