In the following verses, 29 to 32, three things are seen: first, some nine phases or developments of human sin (verse 29); second, the kind of people it makes (verses 29 to 31); and third, the fearful human conspiracy or agreement of wickedness of man against God (verse 32). Let us mark each carefully.
Romans 1: 28-32 And just as they did not approve to have God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a mind disapproved of Him,—to practice things not befitting His creatures;
-having become filled with all injustice, destructiveness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, guile, malignant subtlety; secret slanderers, open slanderers, hateful to God, insolent, arrogant, boasters, inventors of bad things; without obedience to parents, without moral understanding, without good faith, without affection for kindred, without consent to truce, without mercy:
-who, conscious of the righteous decree of God that those practicing such things are worthy of the sentence of death, not only keep on practicing the same, but also are pleased with those that are practicing them.
Verses 29 to 31 expounded:
1. all injustice—Selfishness, enthroned against all rights of others.
2. destructiveness—The same word is used to describe Satan and his hosts: “the evil one,” “hosts of wickedness,” in Eph 6:12, 16. It denotes wickedness in hostile activity.
3. covetousness—literally, the itch for more. “(a) Claiming more than one’s due, greedy, grasping; (b) making gain from others’ losses; (c) the act of over-reaching by selfish tricks. To take advantage of another’s simplicity, to over-reach, defraud.” – Liddell and Scott. Lightfoot says, “Impurity and covetousness may be said to divide between them nearly the whole domain of selfishness and vice.” Vincent distinguishes between covetousness and avarice: “The one is the desire of getting, the other of keeping.” Paul constantly defines covetousness as idolatry, worship of another object than God; and associates it with the vilest sins (I Cor. 5:11; Eph 5:3; Col. 3:5). Many professing Christians are withering in a blight because of this unjudged sin.
4. malice—“malignity, maliciousness, desire to injure” (Thayer).
5. full of envy—The apostle takes another full breath here, beginning anew this hell-meat catalog. Envy is the hate that arises in the heart toward one who is above us, who is what we are not, or possesses that, which we cannot have, or do not choose the path to attain. “Pilate knew that for envy they had delivered Him.” He was holy and good, which they pretended to be, and knew they were not,—nor really chose to be.
6. murder—How strikingly the Holy Spirit brings these words, envy, murder, which sound so alike in the Greek,—phthonou, phonou—into the order and connection which they constantly sustain in life.
7. strife—Literally, beating down in wrangling and contention. How “full of strife,” indeed, is this human race!
8. guile—Jesus called Nathaniel “an Israelite in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). The Greek word means “a bait for fish,” and so, to catch with a bait, to beguile. So in what is called “business” today, men are baited and lured: and “society” lives by it! This is the human heart.
9. malignant subtlety—The Genevan New Testament renders it, “Taking all things in an evil sense.”
10. secret slanderers—By this Greek word of hissing sound (psithuristas), the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) renders the Hebrew lahash: “a snake-charmer’s ‘magical murmuring.’” Let those privately peddling evil reports, remember that God views their tongue as the slithering of the adder! It is remarkable how secret slanderers can “charm” others (fitted thereto by their evil nature) into believing their slanders. We heard of a modest, excellent young woman secretly slandered by a jealous rival. She could not overcome the falsehood, and died within a year.
11. open slanderers—Literally, those who speak against, incriminate, traduce. See its use in I Peter 2:12. Many openly rail at others—especially if their own lives are condemned by theirs.
12. hateful to God—Hateful toward God, because haters of God. The word means to show as well as to feel such hatred: “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God.”
13. insolent—People taking pleasure in insulting others.
14. arrogant—Full of haughty pride toward others.
15. boasters—The very contrary of Him Who said: “Come unto Me—I am meek, and lowly of heart.”
16. inventors of bad things—From the days of Cain’s city onward (Gen. 4:16-22), men have progressed in evil; until Jehovah said Israel did evil that “came not into His mind” (Jer 19:5).
17. without obedience to parents—literally, not able to be persuaded by parents. What a photograph of the “youth” of our day! This appalling rejection of parental control is developing amazingly in these last days, just as God said it would (2 Tim. 3:1-2). It brings a curse upon whole families, whole communities, and whole lands. Obedience to parents brings promised blessing: “Honor your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with promise), that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2-3).
“The eye that mocks at his father, And despises to obey his mother, The ravens of the valley shall pick it out, And the young eagles shall eat it.” —Prov. 30:17.
This explains many an early death! Yes; and terrible deaths long delayed.
18. without moral understanding—The verb is used in Scripture only of moral and spiritual understanding (Matt. 13:14, 15, 19, 23, 51). This adjective (Rom. 1:31) means, without any understanding of Divine things; having no proper moral discernment. That is the awful condition of the human race; and, remember, you and I were born in it.
19. without good faith—Faithless, bound by no promise or covenant. This is a very heart-disease! The word denotes that wickedness that does not intend to carry out its pledged word, except for selfish ends. Broken business contracts, violated national treaties, light betrayal of personal confidences,—all have this hideous condition as their root.
20. without natural affection—Without affection for kindred. Even a third century pagan poet, Theocritus, calls these “the heartless ones.” How constantly we see, especially in the selfish lives of graceless “moderns,” utter disregard of the natural ties which a kind God has used in “setting the solitary in families.” Such are really moral morons; but the possibilities of all these things are in every one of us.
21. without [consent to] truce,—literally, not willing to consent to a truce, or cease hostilities. The present ruthless civil war in Spain, and the savagery of Japan in China, are examples. Indeed, only an “armistice,” not a peace, was concluded after the World War; and, despite all “treaties” since, there persists a sort of international suspicion; proving that men know, as by instinct, the implacability of human nature.
22. without mercy—It is said that Nero as a child amused himself in pulling the legs and wings from insects. Perhaps you cry out at this, saying, I have always been tender-hearted towards animals. Indeed? And how about people? Are you tender-hearted towards them? to all of them? Think deeply on this: God “delights in mercy”; but “man’s inhumanity to man makes countless millions mourn.” Consider: A merciful God! unmerciful creatures!
And now we come to the dark, willful conspiracy of evil of this whole human race. For, remember, what we have been reading is not an indictment of the heathen merely, but of the entire human race. It does indeed depict the progress of human wickedness, and how God gave the race over to those lusts that judicially followed their sin. Yet, as we shall find in the next chapter, it is humanity as such, as thus degraded, of which God is speaking.
Verse 32: Who, conscious that such things are worthy of death, not only keep practicing them but approve of others practicing them.
Here we are confronted with three terrible realities: (1) They have complete inner knowledge from God (Gr. epignontes) that their ways deserve and must have Divine condemnation and judgment; (2) they persist in their practices despite the witness of conscience; (3) they are in a fellowship of evil with other evil-doers!
The Greek word here (syneudokouso) which we have rendered “are pleased with,” “approve of”; the Revised Version renders “consent with”; Bagster’s Interlinear, “are consenting to”; Moule, “feel with and abet.” “Not only commit the sins, but delight in their fellowship with the sinner,” says Conybeare; “Not only practice them, but have fellow-delight in those that do them”—Darby; “Not only do the same, but applaud those that do them”—Godet; “They not only do these things, but are also (in their moral judgment) in agreement with others who so act” —Meyer.
What a description of this world of sinners, this race alienated from the life of God,—at enmity with Him, and at strife with one another! But all in a hellish unity of evil!
William Newell (Romans verse by verse)
-This is the human condition (gg)