By Jon Cardwell, pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama

“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” —Romans 1:29-32

Preaching Christ CrucifiedNOTE: Though I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, I might make a prediction that these things will happen with regard to this article: (1) because it is more than 1,700 words, that it would not be read, or would not be read very closely; (2) that because it deals with very specific sins, it will be read by men and women of clay with great discomfort; (3) that because it deals with very specific sins, it will not be read at all by many; and (4) this blog article will offend many and put them on the defensive. If you are Christian, I ask you to read this article carefully and prayerfully.

Because the apostle already informed the Christians in Rome twice that depraved souls, abandoned to their sinfulness, were abandoned by God (Romans 1:24, 26), he further tells them that since sinful men have even abandoned the knowledge of God, “God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:28); or as the NASB translates it, to do those things which are not convenient.” Then the apostle presents a list of sins which are not proper, or convenient. In v29 the list begins with:

“…being filled with all unrighteousness.” Unrighteousness is exactly the same word used in Romans 1:18. It can be translated “injustice.” Have you ever been unjust? That is, have you ever withheld justice or shown partiality in judgment?

“…being filled with all fornication.” Fornication is not in some of the earliest manuscripts so it is not found in the NASB or ESV; however, we should cover it briefly. It means illicit sexual relations and is any sexual sin outside of God-honoring marriage. The Greek word translated “fornication” is where we get our English word, “pornography.”

“…being filled with all wickedness.” This is a desire to do harm to others. Have you ever had thoughts or any desires to hurt someone? e.g., “in the heat of an argument…”

“…all covetousness.” Greed (NASB). Have you ever desired something belonging to someone else? It’s that kind of desire that is never satisfied, never fulfilled, or never content.

“…all maliciousness.” Evil (NASB). This is the act of doing wrong, rather than merely its desire in “wickedness” expressed earlier.

“…full of envy.” If we weren’t full of envy, we wouldn’t have any TV commercials, billboard ads, flyers in the mail. “I want what they have.” “Lord, how come they have that and we don’t.”

“…murder.” What did Jesus say about murder? “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22).

“…debate.” Strife (NASB). These are arguments over words with a desire for selfish victory over truth.

“…deceit.” It means trickery or using a decoy. This is a term used of philosophers (Colossians 2:8) and of false prophets (2 Corinthians 11:13). Have you ever wanted to convince people that you were holier than you really are?

“…malignity.” Malice (NASB). Albert Barnes’ Commentary says that this is a particular species of malignity “which consists in misinterpreting the words or actions of others, or putting the worst construction on their conduct.” Consider Romans 15:2“Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.”

“…whisperers.” Gossips (NASB). This is not one who openly slanders others, but one who hints of the evil in others, generating mischief and suspicion among friends. As Christians though, we’re very slick about it: we say, “We’ve got to pray for so-and-so because…”

The list continues in v30 with “Backbiters.” Slanderers (NASB). This is one who openly defames another.

“…haters of God.” Here, the Word of God declares that people, by nature since the fall of Adam, hate God.

“…despiteful.” Insolent (NAS). This is abusing others with unkindness; treating them with disdain.

“…proud.” Arrogant (NASB). We pay football coaches huge salaries to do this, don’t we? We pay to see NASCAR drivers filled with pride down at the speedway, don’t we? to drive their cars in a circle on Sunday! Those who are proud and arrogant are those whom God opposes: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jamess 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

“…boasters.” Boastful (NASB, NIV). This goes on among those calling themselves the church of Jesus Christ all the time. “How big is your church?” we ask.

“…inventors of evil things.” These are they which are not satisfied with the present mischief; they need new experiences and new thrills.

“…disobedient to parents.” This sin is placed in the same list as idolatry, homosexuality and murder. God places such a high value on the family that it is the fifth commandment written with the very finger of God on tables of stone, right in the middle of His moral law.

The Greek for this v31 is actually quite poetic; and both NIV and NASB seem to maintain the poetry of the original Greek: “they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (NIV); and in the NASB, “without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;”

As we continue, the verse begins: “…without understanding.” (NIV) Senseless. You say to someone, “Here’s the truth of God’s Word: you’re a sinner and an enemy of God.” Their answer: “So.” The Greek word literally means “without prudence” or “without caution or discernment.”

“…covenantbreakers.” Untrustworthy (NASB). This means that there is no regard for public or private contracts. Men, do you love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it? Is your eye upon her only, without wandering to another, protecting her and cherishing her? Wives, are you submissive to your own husbands as unto the Lord, honoring your husband as the head of the home, and being a blessing to him through your quiet and pure behavior?

“…without natural affection.” Unloving (NASB). We know there are different Greek words for love: agapeo is a submissive, giving-over love; phileo is fondness among friends; these being the most familiar from our Bible studies; but there is also eros, a romantic love; and the root word used here, storgeo, meaning a familial love; the love parents have for their own children. Here is a word that defines one who has abandoned that love of family. We all know dads that have run off, but a father doesn’t have to even leave home to commit this sin; he can work 12 to 16 hours a day to buy his family things, but never spend a moment of time with his children raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If we as parents are giving our children reason to believe that something else is more important, or as important, as them, besides God and our spouses, we have committed or do commit this unloving sin. Church, let me EMPHASIZE this very clearly: as important as evangelizing the lost is in our obedience to the commandment of God, and as important as missions are to the fulfilling the Lord’s Great Commission, if we give our children any reason to suspect that they must compete for our love and attention, then we are unloving, unfaithful stewards of God’s treasures, and our evangelization of the lost is IN THE FLESH and A WORK OF THE FLESH. We must be faithful in the immediate before we can be faithful in those things outside our very own doors.

“…implacable.” This word is not in NIV or NAS as it is not found in older Greek manuscripts; however, it is the word “trucebreakers” found in 2 Timothy 3:3. It is someone who refuses to be reconciled with another when forgiveness is sought. This would be similar to holding a grudge.

“…unmerciful.” This word means to have no pity or compassion upon those in distress.

“…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” (Romans 1:32).

That although these knew about God, knew the revelation of God’s judgment in His wrath against sin, and that these sins are worthy of death, they also heartily approve of and take pleasure in those who do these very sins. You and I know this to be true, though we have been saved by God’s grace… because every time we turn on a TV program or watch a movie, we applaud the hero of the story when he takes ungodly actions to overcome the bad guy. “Well, the bad guy deserved it,” we say, justifying ourselves. Look, the hero deserves eternal punishment apart from the free grace of God!

We needed to take a real good and close look at these sins because it makes us increasingly thankful for the free grace of God that justifies sinners through faith. Every time we come to a passage with a list of sins, such as these, don’t just rush to read over them. Ask the Lord, “How have I committed this sin against your holy goodness, Lord?” Then confess that sin in your heart before the Cross of Christ and see the joy and thanksgiving that pours forth through spontaneous praise.

A general and cursory understanding of sin does not have the teeth to really bite into the truth, so to speak. We hear many people quote Romans 3:23, but we hear so very few of them quoting Romans 1:26-32. The fall of man through original sin stained every area of man’s life with sin, and did it so very completely, that when we hear about sin, it does not convict us because it is so general; the general truth doesn’t penetrate us.

To casually read over the portions of Scripture that expose sin, is as sinful as suggesting that we don’t need to preach about sin when proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To be the good news that the Gospel is, God’s wrath is revealed against SIN, and man’s SIN is exposed in all its wickedness against a holy God. Through the preaching of the Word of God, the Holy Spirit convicts the soul of sin, righteousness, and judgment (God’s wrath), and by God’s grace, a sinner is effectually called unto salvation because of God’s declaration of justice in having faith in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered the fury of God’s holy wrath for sin.

LISTEN TO THE SERMON preached on this text on August 9, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.

CLICK HERE to read the previous article in this series, “A Reprobate Mind” (Romans 1:28).


The original appears here.

Further reading