Moral and Spiritual Decay Destroys a Nation
In our previous study of Romans chapter 1, the apostle Paul began to catalogue the kind of sins that characterise fallen mankind, and for which they are abiding under God’s judgment. In the following verses of Romans chapter 1, Paul lists some other sins of which men and women may be guilty:
Romans 1:29c-30 ESV
1:29c …They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
Gossips: they whisper evil accusations against other people, very often distorting the truth in the process—or, even worse, without any shred of real evidence for their malicious reports. Thus, gossip can cause unfounded rumours to be spread, and these rumours can be extremely hurtful and harmful to innocent parties. Such is the evil of idle gossip. (Prov. 16:28; 26:20)
Slanderers: slanderers are those who speak openly against someone. They accuse them falsely of some wrongdoing, or they attempt to discredit a person’s character or reputation by making evil or scurrilous remarks against him or her. When it appears in written or printed form, slander is known as libel. When evil remarks are directed against God, slander is known as blasphemy.
God-haters: Not surprisingly, those who speak evil of God’s creation (mankind) speak evil of God himself. In their wickedness and depravity, they not only accuse God of injustice and wrongdoing, but they hate him in their hearts. This, at least, is a clear admission on their part that—despite their denials to the contrary—they concede that God exists, and that he will one day judge them. For a person cannot hate a non-existent being. Nor, having accepted the reality of God’s existence, can a person deny that God will one day judge him in righteousness on account of his sins and iniquities.
Insolent: many of these people are characterised by an insolent and proud nature. They know nothing of humility. Rather, they assert themselves—often using forceful or verbally abusive language in an attempt to gain their objectives, or to achieve their own selfish ambitions.
Arrogant (haughty): The arrogant or haughty person is very closely related to the insolent individual, and indeed both characteristics are frequently combined. He employs many of the same tactics as the insolent person, but—in addition—he may be more loud-mouthed or boastful.
Boastful: The boastful person is often both insolent and arrogant—but not invariably so. Frequently, a boastful person is one who likes to glory in his or her own achievements. They like to take pride in their own attainments or their own sinful conquests. The boastful person wants everyone else to know how successful they have been, thus they boast of their selfish achievements or their evil deeds.
They invent ways of doing evil: Not content with practising all the usual forms of evil behaviour, these depraved people set about trying to discover or invent new ways of committing sinful acts. They practice their evil deeds from a different angle, or they indulge themselves in yet more depraved activities—encouraging others to join them in their new-found perversions.
Society reaches such a state of moral and spiritual decadence and depravity when it rejects God and teaches godless philosophies to its children. Men and women exacerbate the situation further when they disregard and despise family values, or when governments enact and implement ungodly and iniquitous laws. No nation can continue to stand when it endeavours to stand against God, or ignore his existence. Ultimately, it must fall—and fall it certainly will, unless it repents and turns back to God.
One of the outcomes of godlessness and indiscipline within a family and nation is disrespect shown by children to their parents. Thus, in verse 30, the apostle Paul says of such children,
They disobey their parents: They refuse to accept their parent’s instructions and discipline. They rebel against parental authority. In course of time, some of these same children—now grown to adulthood—refuse to accept authority and discipline as expressed in the laws of the land. They despise the rule of law or the enactments of the civil government. This is one of the factors that may contribute toward the ultimate breakdown of society, together with its laws and institutions. It may even lead to the collapse of national unity—unless steps are taken in time to restore caring love and godly discipline in the home, and throughout society.
In verse 31, Paul lists some further effects in the lives of those people whom God abandons to their sins and its consequences:
Romans 1:31 ESV
…foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Senseless (foolish): They behave foolishly or mindlessly. They fail to exercise common sense or rational judgment, but respond principally to their emotions and especially to the thoughts and desires of their carnal or fleshly nature. They lack understanding and discretion. They are insensitive to the needs and sensitivities of others. In its extreme form, senselessness may imply a moronic state of mind. (Prov. 18:2; Jer. 4:22)
Faithless: They are unfaithful to one another, untrustworthy or disloyal. They may be treacherous, unreliable and undependable. In relation to God, faithlessness includes unbelief, lack of faith, scepticism and wilful spiritual adultery or apostasy from God. This involves a turning to irreligious and impious ways.
Heartless: Those who are heartless are unfeeling, uncaring and unkind. Heartlessness also includes those who are cold- or hard-hearted, or who are untouched or unmoved by human suffering and distress. It includes those who are stern and pitiless. They lack natural affection, and they stifle normal human emotions.
Ruthless: Those who are ruthless lack mercy and compassion. They can be unforgiving and unsparing in their attitude toward others. In its more extreme form, ruthlessness can be exhibited by a cruel, vicious or brutal nature. In its most extreme form, ruthlessness may result in savagery and other forms of extreme violence.
Sinful Mankind Approves of Evil
Such, then, is the most dreadful state of those whom God abandons to the consequences of their own sins—because they refused to acknowledge God or give him the glory. Not everyone reaches the more extreme forms of moral and spiritual depravity, but everyone without exception is guilty of at least several of the sins listed above (Rom. 3:9-18; 2 Tim. 3:1-8).
However, does fallen and rebellious mankind acknowledge his sin and guilt, or the fact that God has justly condemned him for his unbelief and iniquity? By no means! On the contrary, fallen mankind increases their sin and guilt by inciting others to follow their evil example of godlessness and unrighteousness. Thus, Paul writes:
Romans 1:32 ESV
…Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Here we see the real truth of the matter: Although these sinful individuals have denied God’s existence, yet—in their hearts—they know full well that God exists. They know too that God’s righteous decrees condemn their evil behaviour. Even without the written Word of God, they are fully aware—from the constitution of their nature—that a holy and righteous God must judge their iniquitous behaviour and pronounce the death sentence upon them. (Even those who worship idols believe this much concerning their false gods!) (Verses 19-21)
In this context, the fact that they deserve death does not refer exclusively or even principally to physical death—although this is included. Rather, it refers to spiritual death or alienation from God in this life (a sentence already implemented upon the ungodly). It refers also to eternal death or final separation from God forever in the lake of fire (a sentence to be implemented in the future). Between these two conditions comes physical death or the death of the body—at least until its resurrection for final judgment. (2 Thess. 1:8-9; cf. 2 Thess. 2:10-12)
Yet, although they are fully aware that they deserve death in all its forms, they continue to practice their sins. They do so without the slightest inclination to seek true repentance, and without any real sense of shame or guilt for their wicked deeds. Even worse, they encourage others to indulge in the same wicked attitudes and practises—and then commend them when they do. It is hard to imagine a more corrupt and degraded state of humanity. Yet, even in this state of degradation and ruin, it is not yet beyond redemption.
However, because of mankind’s inherent depravity, he is in no fit condition either to earn or to contribute toward his own salvation. Thus, if he is to be saved, he must be saved by the sovereign grace and undeserved mercy of God. Fallen and spiritually dead mankind cannot earn his righteousness. Therefore, his only hope of salvation is to receive the righteousness that comes to him as a gift of God’s grace.
A person can receive God’s gift only through faith in Christ and his atoning work on the sinner’s behalf (verses 16-17) All who acknowledge their sin and call upon the Lord for mercy and forgiveness will find that the Lord Jesus is abundantly able and willing to save—and this includes even the vilest offender who repents and turns to God, as the Holy Spirit enables him.
[Excerpt from Expository Notes: Romans (chapter 1 verses 29c-32). To read or download the full version of these Notes, click on the NT Commentaries menu tab above.]Follow @gordon_lyons