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Romans 1:18-32

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

A short commentary on Chapter 1:18-32

Romans 1:18-31 short commentary

Last time we in Chapter 1 as we studied verses 1-17, we saw that as Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome that he firstly laid out his credentials as an apostle before communicating to them that his message was about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul tells these Christians that although he never founded their church or indeed attended or participated in it, yet he felt a great love for them and longed to come and visit with them. The reason he gives for wanting to visit them is that he wanted to bless them, build them up in their character, impart a spiritual gift to them and get them moving in their gifting. Paul’s message was not dependent on their ethnic background or whether they were educated or uneducated but rather his gospel message for all people. His keynote point in a nutshell is that ‘the just (righteous) shall live by faith answering the burning question ‘what can a person do to become acceptable to God’. The Jews failed to achieve this ‘right standing’ with God by trying to keep the law. The churches of the day failed to achieve this ‘right standing’ by good works or penance or any other way. Paul tells them that the only way we can become righteous is simply by believing the gospel of Jesus Christ. From the new birth to death all the Christian life is lived by faith. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel message and neither should we because it is the only thing that can profoundly change a person’s life and give them salvation.

The next major sections of the letter are mainly about the wrath of God.

Chapter 1:18-32 God’s wrath against (mainly) the Gentiles

Chapter 2:1-29 God’s wrath against the Jews

Chapter 3:1-20 God’s wrath against all sinful men.

These passages give the bad news about sinful man before going on to the Good News about Jesus Christ.

1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

The wrath of God is His personal anger against sin. There is a connotation of vengeance here perhaps when it reflects when God has had enough. This is not a temper tantrum but rather God righteously expressing His indignation against sin. God’s wrath is made visible in the OT by acts such as Noah’s flood, the judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt and in the NT by the bowls of wrath in the book of Revelation. God’s wrath seems to be acted out in public view. Godlessness refers to those who break the first four commandments of the Decalogue (ten commandments) and unrighteousness to those who break the other six. Some translations include the idea that these people can only ‘try’ to suppress the truth about God rather than manage to do it. God’s truth will never ultimately be suppressed.

19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

God deliberately makes His nature plain through at least three things.

1. God actively reveals Himself through the Creation. Its beauty, complexity, order, design, and its usefulness to man.

2. God reveals Himself through the human conscience. Why do we have it?

3. God reveals Himself by giving sinners over to be even worse sinners.

How can man clearly see what is invisible? This is a paradox. What the eyes see affects the soul, but a darkened heart has not enough light to see the clues about God in His creation. The clues are there in abundance and to the extent that Paul says those who do not or will not see them really have no legitimate excuse. This process involves a cycle of suppressing or rejecting the things that somehow reveal God as is clearly displayed in the creation.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings and birds and animals and reptiles.

Deep down people know that God really exists from the clues He has set in creation, but most people prefer to suppress this knowledge about God rather openly admit that He exists and give glory to Him and express gratitude to their Creator. When people wilfully reject the knowledge of God a downward spiral engulfs them. Their thinking becomes useless. A fool biblically speaking is not an idiot or someone who cannot reason but rather is the person who says there is no God contrary to the evidence in creation resulting in their hearts or spirits becoming darkened (dull, despairing, and depraved). Their darkened hearts lead them from worshipping the glorious Creator to the heathen and idolatrous practices of worshipping created things such as men, birds, animals or even reptiles or insects. All such idolatrous worship was strictly forbidden in Deuteronomy 4:15-19 and 5:8-9.

As the downward spiral of those who reject God continues, we see that three times God give them over to even worse forms of degradation v24, v26 and v28.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

The sin of idolatry leads to the penalty of sexual immorality as God reluctantly begins to abandon those who reject Him. They exchanged the worship of created things for worship of the Creator who is the only being worthy of our praise, glory, and worship.

Truth Lie


Creature Creator [1]

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

The sin of exchanging worship of God with the worship of created things leads to the penalty of other things also being exchanged from the natural usage i.e. same sex relationships. This reminds me of the scripture in Deuteronomy 14:21 ‘...Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk’. The mother’s milk was given by God to nourish the kid, not to boil it. This would constitute an unnatural usage. That is why child abuse is so unnatural and parents were given by God to nurture and not to abuse their offspring.

Paul states that the practice of same sexuality is shameful and brings its own penalty in terms of the degradation and damage to the practitioners and this affects them spirit, soul, and body. The adverse effects of this practice on the human mind and body are well documented by some though denied by others.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.

Those who continue reject God giving no heed to the revelations that God has given of Himself and so for the third time God gives them over to depravity of mind so that there is no restraint in their pursuit of evil. Paul then goes on to list 21 Greek words describing evil actions that follow on from the depraved mindset. There are several lists of vices in the NT perhaps the other best-known list is in Galatians 5:19-21 where Paul describes the lusts of the flesh.

These sins specified in this list of 21 are more in the mind than in the body [2]. Please note that almost every term spring from a selfish life which exploits others for personal advantage. These sins are anti-relationship in nature and will drive people to an isolated existence and thus apart from any genuine love and fellowship. Another scholar [3] labelled the list as ‘a haphazard catalogue of sins of personality, and sins of personal relationships.

Some bible scholars [4] split the vices into groups of 4, 5 and 12 based on the headings ‘having been filled with...’, ‘Being full of...’ and the last subgroup of 12 whose English equivalent starts with, ‘un’ or ‘dis’ or finishes with ‘less’. We will now have a quick look at vices based on a Greek word study [5]

Wickedness is the generic term for all wrongdoing and human crimes. Evil; The Greek word ‘Poneriais also a general term and denotes "the unrestrained indulgence in the commission of vice or can also mean that state of mind which strives to produce injury to others. Greed: It comes from two Greek words which literally mean "I will have more." "It is the intense love or lust of gain; the determination to be rich; the principle of a dissatisfied and discontented soul. Depravity is viciousness and includes being sadistic and seeing everyone in the worst possible light.

They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice.

Envy begrudges anything good in the life of others and wants what they have at their expense. Murder the unlawful taking of a human life with malice aforethought. Strife means being quarrelsome, discordant, or contentious seeking a fight. Deceit is setting a trap or bait for the unsuspecting. Malice is spitefulness or bitterness and actively seeks to harm the intended victim.

They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Gossips secretly sow poison seeds into their hearer’s mind. Slanders are back stabbers who try to destroy people with words. God haters can mean those who hate God or alternatively those hated by God. The insolent person is the typical overbearing person and if you cross them in any way, beware! Arrogance makes a person see themselves as superior to other people and causes them to look down on them. Boastful means a braggart who really has nothing to brag about. Inventors of evil try to think up new ways of sinning! Those disobedient to their parents are disloyal and rebellious to those whom God has set in authority over them. Those who no longer have any understanding of the things of God and have seared consciences. They have no faith or faithfulness and are unscrupulous covenant breakers. They do not even have natural love for their families. They will not even broker a deal with you as they are unforgiving and implacable in their outlook. They are merciless and without pity or fellow feeling and will not cut you any slack. As if, these things that those who reject God are not bad enough they compound their sin by approving and promoting these wicked things in others.

[1] NT Commentary Romans page 76 W. Hendriksen Published by The Banner of Truth 1980 [2] R.A. Batey, the Living Word Commentary: The Letter of Paul to the Romans, p. 31). [3] The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 1391. [4] W Hendriksen Commentary on Romans pages 80-81. [5] ROMANS 1:28-32 A Greek Word Study by Al Maxey

Hebraic Notes v.18-20 Suppressing truth is one of the wrong behaviours of the unrighteous. If you don't know who God is then it is because you don't want to know. Disbelief in creation is a deception that influences what other things you believe about God (See Psalm 19:1-7).

Sexual morality is the most important issue in our modern times and has caused many divisions and disagreements within and between the churches.

We discern right from wrong by using God's word and especially His Torah.

When mankind rebels against God they enter into a process of moral degeneration.

God's anger is expressed against wickedness and godlessness.

v.21 The refusal of humans to recognise God and worship Him leads to futile thinking.

v.22-23 We must worship the Creator not the creation. In Hebrew thought 'to know' God means to worship Him.

v.24 Atheism is essentially self-worship. God says that he will give people up (paradidomi = give up, turn over, deliver) to their sins. God actively abandons people to their wickedness as a result of their rejection of Him.

v.29-32 Paul says that those whose lifestyle embraces the practice the vices described

in v. 29-31 are worthy of death.

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