"It is not historical scholarship which is wanted for the
understanding of Paul, and neither is it the insight of genius. It is despair.
Paul did not preach for scholars, not even for philosophers; he preached for
sinners. He had no gospel except for men whose mouths were stopped, and who were
standing condemned at the bar of God" (Denney, "Christian Doctrine of
SERVANT: "Doulos" = bond-slaves. This description
emphasizes submission and dependence on their Lord. It is not a technical
reference to a specific office, but characterizes their willing service of
Christ, their divine Master. The same designation appears in the letters of
James, 2 Peter, and Jude.
Man's slave becomes free in Christ, and a freeman (like Paul)
becomes Christ's slave (1Co 7:22).
The use of the term "slaves" also suggests the "redemptive"
work of God in Christ: the Israelites were "slaves" in Egypt, who were "bought"
or "redeemed" out of their slavery to become the "purchased possession" of the
Father (Exo 15:16). (See Lesson, Redemption.)
CALLED TO BE AN APOSTLE: As the twelve were called (Mar
1:17), and apostles (Luk 6:13), so Paul was "sent" by Christ (Acts
SET APART: From his mother's womb (Gal 1:15), by
conversion (Acts 9:15), and by a specific call (Acts 13:2).
FOR: A positive call, not a negative one! He was not
set apart from all that was evil, at least not specifically so. He was set apart
UNTO that which was positive: the work of the gospel. As a Pharisee he had been
set apart to a life of strict observance of Jewish law and custom. Now his life
work is to further the gospel, the good news that God has for man.
The gospel was not some new thing: it was a renewal and
restatement of the OT hope (cp Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:6,7; 28:20; Rom
WHO AS TO HIS HUMAN NATURE: The AV is better:
"according to the flesh."
A DESCENDANT OF DAVID: And thus the heir and the
fulfillment of God's promises to David: 2Sa 7:12-16; Isa 9:6,7; Acts 2:30,31;
13:22,23; Luk 1:30-34.
SPIRIT OF HOLINESS: A unique expression generally
regarded as a Semitism conveying the same concept as "Holy Spirit". There may be
a suggestion here that Jesus, anointed and sustained by the Holy Spirit in the
days of his flesh, was acknowledged by the fact of resurrection to have
successfully endured the tests and trials of his earthly life, having been
obedient even to death.
Or, poss, "a spirit of holiness", as ref to character of
Christ. Cp other usages: ie, "a spirit of fear" (2Ti 1:7), "a spirit of
meekness" (1Co 4:21).
WITH POWER: "With power" may belong with "declared",
but may with greater warrant be joined with "Son of God", indicating the new
quality of life Jesus had after his resurrection (Phi 3:10; Col 1:29).
BY HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD: By resurrection he
has become a life-giving spirit (1Co 15:45). His rising was indeed "from the
dead". But Paul says more, namely, "of the dead", suggesting that Christ is the
forerunner of others in this transformation (cf 1Co 15:20,21). See VL, Christ's resurrection, reality.
OUR LORD: Appropriately, Jesus Christ is now described
as "our Lord". Though the title was fitting during his earthly ministry, it
attained more frequent use and greater meaning following the resurrection (Acts
THROUGH HIM AND FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE... TO CALL PEOPLE FROM
AMONG ALL THE GENTILES: It was the purpose of Yahweh to take out of the
nations a people FOR HIS NAME: Act 15:14-17; Phi 2:9,10. This purpose was
manifested in His Son as an individual (2Co 5:19; John 17:6,11,26), then in the
"Body of Christ" (Rev 14:1; 1Th 1:1; 2Co 6:16), and finally in all the world
(1Co 15:28; Num 14:21).
WE RECEIVED GRACE AND APOSTLESHIP: It was by the grace
of God that Paul was called to be an apostle (v 1). Grace was the cause and
source of his apostleship.
TO THE OBEDIENCE THAT COMES FROM FAITH: The desired
response to the gospel message is "obedience that comes from faith". (For
obedience, see Rom 15:18; 16:26 and for faith, Rom 1:16,17; 10:17.)
Vv 6,7: Paul's readers were not called, as he was, to
apostleship; they were called "to belong to Jesus Christ" (v 6) and to be
"saints" (v 7), the common term designating believers. This term has almost the
same force as the expression Paul uses for himself -- "set apart" (v
SAINTS: Gr "hagios", the holy ones! (Always appears in
the plural in the NT: no individual is spoken of as a "saint", singular; but all
believers are "saints", collectively, in Christ!) As God "set apart" or
"sanctified" or "made holy" His people in Egypt (Exo 13:2; Lev 11:44), so NT
believers were "made holy" in Christ.
All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with
Christ, a fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1,2;
Eph 2:6,10,13; 3:6) or "in Christ" (Rom 12:5; 2Co 5:17). This use of the term
emphasizes not so much personal holiness, though the believer's conduct should
correspond increasingly to his standing (2Co 7:1; 2Th 5:23), but the objective
"set apart" status each believer possesses because of the grace conferred upon
him or her through Christ.
GRACE: "Charis" -- a gift or favor -- any and all of
God's blessings and gifts to men. "Grace" in some contexts refers to the gifts
of the Holy Spirit, but the word means much more than that. Grace is the
favorable attention, care, and comfort from God toward us. To know grace is to
come within the scope of His glorious light -- to be accepted as part of His
chosen family, constantly overshadowed by His angelic protection.
This grace is extended without partiality to everyone who, in
truth, yields himself entirely to Him -- this means placing himself in His
hands, allowing His word to work in him. We must allow the Truth to overshadow
and dominate everything in our lives -- endeavoring to give our all to Him,
holding nothing back, in hope of the day when we will be "filled with the
fullness of God". Just holding certain beliefs, attending the meetings of
believers and being technically 'in the Truth' is not enough to guarantee God's
grace. We must be receptive to Him and be moved to activity. Then and only then
may we enter into the glory of the grace of God.
PEACE: Peace is the basic blessing we all need most. It
only comes through the grace and mercy of God. Peace is an impervious mental
shield against all fear and disquiet. Peace is perfect, relaxed harmony and
tranquility of mind. Peace is primarily "peace with God" -- "We have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5:1).
To have peace with God makes all other conflict harmless and
unimportant. It can only come with complete, undivided dedication to one supreme
object of life, for peace is essentially oneness. It is not freedom from
external conflict: that is not important. It is freedom from internal conflict.
Jesus said, just before the terrible suffering of his crucifixion: "Peace I
leave with you: my peace I give unto you... In the world ye shall have
tribulation; but in me ye shall have peace... Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
And Paul, chained and in prison for the sake of the glorious
gospel tells the Philippian brethren to take everything to God in prayer, and he
assures them that in so doing -- "The peace of God, which passeth all
understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ" (Phi
FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND FROM THE LORD JESUS CHRIST: The
true order from which all blessings flow. All gifts come from God. But the
greatest gift of God to man is the hope of eternal life which was first revealed
in Christ -- "the firstfruits... " (1Co 15:23) -- and then offered to us as
well, through Christ, our Saviour, mediator, and Lord.
First of all, Paul must express his thanks to God for his
readers. This was customary, and he omitted an expression of thanks only in
writing the Galatians. His thanksgiving for the Roman believers is based on
their faith (cf Eph 1:15,16; Col 1:3,4; 1Th 1:3).
ALL OVER THE WORLD: The "kosmos" = the whole
(ecclesial) world (cp 1Th 1:8).
GOD... IS MY WITNESS: Cp 2Co 1:23; Phi 1:8.
SERVE: "Latreuo" = to serve as a worshiper, in joy --
not as a slave or bond-servant, in obligation.
WITH MY WHOLE HEART: "With my spirit" (pneuma). That
is, with the heart and mind, and not just in physical, outward obedience: cp
John 4:23; Phi 3:3.
I REMEMBER YOU: "In my prayers" (v 10): cp Eph 1:16;
Phi 1:3,4; Col 1:9.
IN MY PRAYERS AT ALL TIMES: But why should Paul find it
necessary to summon God as his witness that he had been faithful in praying for
the Roman believers? There are two reasons. For one thing, he had been praying
"constantly" (v 9). The Greek word denotes "repeatedly", meaning that there is
no great length of time between prayers. This seems almost too much to expect of
a man who did not know most of these people. Furthermore, as he will tell his
readers later (Rom 15:25), he is about to leave for Jerusalem, and this could
give the appearance of his not putting the Roman believers first in his plans.
Here, as elsewhere, when Paul calls God as his witness (v 9), it is because the
thing he is claiming seems difficult to believe.
I LONG TO SEE YOU: "Long" is Gr "epipotheo", earnest
desire. The sw in 2Co 5:2 expresses his desire for immortality, as though to see
the Lord was no more his desire than to see them! Cp sw Phi 1:8.
SOME SPIRITUAL GIFT: By "spiritual gift" we are
probably not to understand something charismatic (the purpose, "to make you
strong", is not favorable to such a view), since Paul does not specify any
particular gift and avoids the plural (ct 1Co 12:1). The word of God, its
teaching, exhortation, encouragement (see v 12), comfort: these are all examples
of the sort of spiritual "gift" which the apostle might impart.
But no sooner has this sentiment (v 11) been expressed than it
is halfway recalled, being revised because it seems to suggest that blessing
will flow only one way, from Paul to the believers. So he alters his language to
make room for mutual encouragement and upbuilding. Faith is basically the same,
wherever it be found, but to see it at work in one individual after another, in
various ways, adds zest to Christian fellowship. Paul himself needed this, as
much as did they.
I PLANNED MANY TIMES TO COME TO YOU: "I have been
longing for many years to see you" (Rom 15:23).
BUT HAVE BEEN PREVENTED FROM DOING SO: "This is why I
have often been hindered from coming to you" (Rom 15:22), because of other
preaching work -- that is, because Paul went where the Holy Spirit led him (cp
Acts 16:7). There is no intimation of external opposition as in the case of the
Thessalonians (1Th 2:18), so we are left with the supposition that his work in
the East had involved him so completely that he did not see his way clear to
break away for the projected trip to Rome.
IN ORDER THAT I MIGHT HAVE A HARVEST AMONG YOU: "Fruit
bearing" might take two forms: (1) new converts to the gospel "among the other
Gentiles", and (2) development of spiritual character and qualities among those
who already believed (cp Gal 5:22,23; Rom 6:22).
I AM OBLIGATED: Paul was urged on in his work by an
overwhelming sense of duty and responsibility. This perhaps would first be
incited by feelings of guilt from his earlier life -- where as a zealous young
Pharisee he ignorantly suppressed the Truth, finally persecuting and slaying the
Christians. Being forgiven this, Paul knew that he could never repay the Lord
for such kindness, and thus saw himself as a permanent debtor to him whose blood
he had once helped to spill (Act 9;14).
NON-GREEKS: Gr "barbaroi". In classical and even in
early Hellenistic times, the Greeks were prone to include the Latins among the
"barbarians". But by the time of Paul this was no longer the case. The Romans
had become the caretakers of Hellenic civilization. This being so, it is
probable that in using "barbarians" Paul had in mind the territory beyond Rome
to the West, where he hoped to go. At the same time, when v 15 is taken into
account, it should be granted that he would not have to look beyond Rome itself
with its diverse population to find representatives of both groups.
THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH: The "wise" are not being
equated with the Greeks, for this would mean that all non-Greeks are being
dubbed "foolish", which would be unwarranted. The wise are perishing in the
midst of their worldly wisdom (1Co 1:18-21), and the foolish in their abject
simplicity. Both need the gospel.
How heartwarming is the apostle's attitude toward his
obligation! Instead of considering it a burden he must bear, a duty he must
carry out, he is "eager" to fulfill it. If one has the finest intellectual and
formal preparation for preaching but is lacking in zeal, he cannot hope for much
success. The call to preach and the need for the message together constitute the
preacher's compelling incentive to proclaim the message of salvation.
I AM NOT ASHAMED: Having confessed his fervent desire
to preach the gospel at Rome, Paul goes on to give a reason for his zeal. He has
no sense of reserve about his mission. He does not in any way consider his task
unworthy or one that will prove to be illusory. He is ready to challenge the
philosophies and religions in Rome that vie for the attention of men, because he
knows on the basis of his experience in the East that God's power at work in the
proclamation of the good news is able to transform lives. See Paul's
exhortations to Timothy (2Ti 1:6), where he sets himself forth as an example
THE GOSPEL: See v 1.
POWER OF GOD FOR THE SALVATION: The Greek word for
"power" ('dynamis') has sometimes elicited the reaction that the gospel is
dynamite! This is quite out of place, for the emphasis is not on blowing false
religions out of the way or blasting a trail of success for the true faith, or
even on delivering people from habits they have been unable to shake off. Paul
himself goes on to explain in what sense "power" is to be understood. The stress
falls not on its mode of operation but on its intrinsic efficacy. It offers
something not to be found anywhere else -- a righteousness from God.
Closer at hand is the linkage between power and salvation.
Judaism was prone to think of the law as power, but this is not affirmed in
Scripture. As for salvation, the OT is clear in its teaching that whether it is
conceived of physically as deliverance (Exo 14:13) or spiritually (Psa 51:12),
it comes from the LORD. This is maintained in the NT as well, and is affirmed in
Paul's statement that the gospel is "the power of God" for salvation. So if the
apostle permits himself to say that if he himself saves anyone (1Co 9:22), it is
only in the sense that he is Christ's representative who is able to point out
the way to his fellowmen.
Paul elsewhere writes of those who profess the name of Christ,
but deny the "power" of the gospel (2Ti 3:5) -- that is, they reject the
transforming power of the Bible's message (Col 3:10; 1Co 1:4; Eph
SALVATION: Salvation is a broad concept. It includes
the forgiveness of sins, but involves much more, because its basic meaning is
soundness or wholeness. It promises the restoration of all that sin has marred
or destroyed. It is the general term that unites in itself the particular
aspects of truth suggested by justification, reconciliation, sanctification, and
redemption. But its efficacy depends on man's willingness to receive the
FIRST FOR THE JEW, THEN FOR THE GENTILE: To the Jew
first, that is, in point of national precedence and privilege (Rom 3:1,2). God,
after having dealt in a special way with the Jew in OT days and having followed
this by sending his Son to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, could not pass
by this people. To them was given the first opportunity to receive the Lord
Jesus, both during his ministry John 1:11) and in the Christian era (Acts 1:8;
3:26). Paul himself followed this pattern (Acts 13:45, 46:28:25,28).
The opportunity of salvation was first to the Jew (John 4:22),
but tribulation is also to Israel first, for their rejection of Yahweh's ways
(Rom 2:9,10). Israel has turned their back to Him, yet because of the promises
Yahweh has made to the patriarchs concerning His people, He will never forsake
them (1Sa 12:22; Jer 31:37; Hos 14:4). Paul expounds this principle at length in
A RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM GOD: The reason given is that this
salvation discloses "a righteousness from God." Paul is dependent here on the OT
(Isa 46:12,13; 61:10). God's "righteousness" does not mean simply a sinless
character; that is of course true, but it is here beside the point. In the
Hebrew tradition, God's "righteousness" is the way He acts, and the absolute
faithfulness with which He remembers and maintains His covenants of promise to
man. Such an idea was quite foreign to Greek thought. Clearly, the character of
God is involved in the sense that what He does and provides must be in keeping
with His nature (Rom 3:26). But just as clearly, the expression must go beyond
this to include the activity of God. The gospel would not be the good news if it
simply disclosed the righteous character of God. Such a message would scarcely
demand faith. In view of man's sinful state, it could well create fear. But if
salvation as God provides it and offers it is fully in keeping with His
righteous character, then it has integrity. If it satisfies God, man can be
content with it -- for it is not only right; it is the ONLY right!
This verse is prelude to Rom 3:21-25, where Paul, dealing with
the sacrifice of Christ, shows that God's righteousness is demonstrated in
setting forth His Son as a covering, or mercy seat, for sins. Thus God may be
seen to be at the same righteous and merciful: righteous in His character and
promises, and merciful in providing a way for sinful man to find his way back to
In Phi 3:9, Paul contrasts his pre-Christian state, in which
he had a righteousness based on observance of the law, with his present
situation, in which he rests on a righteousness which is of (from) God, based on
faith. In summary, God's righteousness in this context, while it has an implied
reference to his character, stresses divine provision. What this entails will be
unfolded by Paul in due course. Paul had already taught that Christ was the
medium for the bringing of righteousness from God to sinful man (1Co 1:30; 2Co
BY FAITH FROM FIRST TO LAST: Or, better, as AV and NIV
mg: "from faith to faith". More literally, "out of" faith "unto" faith. A
recognition of the righteousness of God (in His character, AND His plan) springs
"out of" faith, once it has heard the word of God (Rom 10:17). This
righteousness is made available "through" faith in Jesus Christ (ie Rom 3:22).
And thus is begun, and continued, a life of faith -- so that the initial act of
faith, in belief and baptism, leads "unto" a deeper and more lasting faith in
daily life. And thus "the righteous will LIVE by faith!" (Hab 2:4). Or, as James
puts it, "You see that his [Abraham's] faith and his actions were working
together, and his faith was made complete by what he did" (Jam 2:22).
The central affirmation of Habakkuk is the last part of Hab
2:4: 'the righteous will live by his faith.' There are three key words in this
affirmation: righteous, live, and faith. It is interesting that in the three
places where this verse is quoted in the NT, in each case a different word
receives the emphasis: (1) In Rom 1:17, the emphasis is on 'righteous.' Paul's
concern in Romans was with the righteousness of God and how people can obtain
it. (2) In Gal 3:11, the emphasis is on 'faith.' Paul contrasted salvation by
works and salvation by faith in Galatians. (3) And in Heb 10:38, the emphasis is
on 'live.' The writer to the Hebrews stressed the importance of living by faith
as a way of life rather than turning back to Judaism and living by the Law.
Thus we can see that this statement is packed with meaning. In
fact, many people believe that this verse expresses the central theme of the
This verse may be amplified thusly: "The righteous (ie, those
who are justified and declared righteous by God -- being absolved of their sins)
shall live (ie, NOW, in their daily lives of faith, and in the FUTURE, in the
day of resurrection and glory) by their faith (ie, by acknowledging their utter
dependence upon the LORD)."
Vv 18-32: Instead of plunging at once into an exposition of
the gospel, Paul launches into a lengthy exposure of the sinfulness of man. The
"good news" must be preceded by the "bad news"; else, who would know how "good"
the "good news" was!? This is sound procedure, for until men are persuaded of
their lost condition they are not likely to be concerned about deliverance. So
Paul undertakes to demonstrate in the human situation a grievous lack of the
righteousness God requires.
Vv 18,32: These two verses are joined together in thought, and
vv 19-31 are parenthetical. Vv 19,20 explain and qualify v 18, while vv 21-31
describe the abominable degradation that followed the rejection of God.
THE WRATH OF GOD: "Wrath" = "orge", meaning "a slowly
developing of heat and fire until it consumes".
REVEALED: "Apokalupto" = to uncover, unveil. In v 17
the "righteousness" of God was revealed, and now here the "wrath" of God is
GODLESSNESS: "Asebeia": the opposite of "eusebeia";
related to the mind: a lack of reverence, an impiety that arrays man against
God, not simply in terms of neglect but also of rebellion
WICKEDNESS: "Adikia": unrighteous ACTIONS; injustice,
relating to man's conduct toward his fellows. The two together (godlessness and
wickedness) serve to denote the failure of mankind in terms of the requirements
of the two tables of the Decalogue. No distinction is made here between Jews and
Gentiles, since "men" is broad enough to include the human race. These are the
very areas in which the prophets found fault with Israel. But as the thought
unfolds, the culprit appears much more sharply in terms of Gentiles than of
WHO SUPPRESS THE TRUTH: Whenever the truth starts to
exert itself and makes them feel uneasy in their moral nature, they hold it
down, or suppress it. Some drown its voice by rushing into their immoralities;
others strangle the disturbing voice by argument and by denial.
THE TRUTH: Gr "alethia": "The manifested, veritable
essence of the matter", or the very existence of God Himself.
PLAIN: Gr "phaneros" = open to sight.
"A simple consideration of the activities in which the power
of the universe is engaged provides satisfactory witness of the working of God;
for we are led to contemplate the wide range of ordered operations, each
directed to its own end, and duly controlled within that end. We observe, in
spite of human ignorance in so many details, how operations coordinate, and
represent one magnificent harmony of purpose for beneficent ends. Every example
of design would be pertinent. We shall content ourselves with citing just one
obvious case which all can observe and admire. We refer to a common flowering
plant. It usually begins from a seed planted in the ground. This sends out roots
growing downwards and a shoot growing upwards into the air. From the shoot come
leaves and flowers, and these flowers comprise a fascinating combination of
contrivances for the production of fertile seeds, with which not only the earth
with its supply of nourishment through the roots is associated, but also the sun
and rain and air and insects play their part in so marvelous and admirable a
manner as to compel an acknowledgment of the working of God. Wisdom must
recognize in these ordained processes which produce and preserve each species
the compelling evidence of eternal power infallibly guided by God Himself.
Eternal power and Godhead are thus seen from things that are made" (WW, Xdn 113:
"Tell a man that man's most intricate computer 'just happened'
by a heap of nuts and bolts falling into a pile yesterday, and he'll say you are
mad; and he will be right. Tell a man that a worm's brain (which is infinitely
more intricate and wonderful than man's most advanced computer) 'just happened'
by a few bits of nothing falling together one hundred billion years or so ago,
and he'll say you are an educated modern scientist; and he will be right again.
Tell him that, if he can believe that, he is 'safely' over the hump out of
rationality and reality into evolutionary fantasy and superstition... 'His
eternal power and divinity are clearly seen from the Creation of the world, by
the things that are made, so that they are WITHOUT EXCUSE.' That's God's
viewpoint, and it's preeminently reasonable" (GVG).
NOR GAVE THANKS TO HIM: "Thanks" is Gr "charis", that
which causes joy. Not only had men refused to glorify Yahweh, having had a
knowledge of Him, but they were not even thankful for the fact that He had
provided a way of approach to Him.
THEIR THINKING BECAME FUTILE: Cp the men of Noah's day:
Gen 6:5; 8:21. The suggestion is that mythology and idolatry grew out of man's
insistent need to recognize some power in the universe greater than himself,
coupled with his refusal to give God the place of supremacy. He had to make a
substitution. It is highly suggestive that the verb "to become futile" yields a
noun form that was used for idols (Acts 14:15). Idols are unreal and
unprofitable, and their service can only lead to futility and further
estrangement from the true and living God. Cp Daniel's rebuke of Belshazzar (Dan
THEIR FOOLISH HEARTS: Cp Psa 14:1.
DARKENED: Darkness is the absence of light, and can
only be remedied by an application of light: cp Joh 1:5,9; 8:12;
Man is constitutionally a worshiper. If he gives up God, then
he will take something else. Paul shows the folly of this (Acts 17:29-31). Note
the degrading order of objects worshiped. And so man got so low that eventually
"God gave them over" (v 24).
Language particularly suited to Jews, contrasting what they
were ("wise", v 22; the "glory" of God) with what they have become ("fools", v
22; "exchanged" for "images").
This abandonment of God in favor of inferior objects of
worship is traced in a descending scale. "Mortal man" is the first substitution.
The Creator is forsaken in preference for the creature. Scripture shows us the
deification of man in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. The colossus that appeared in
his dream was interpreted by Daniel as pointing to the king himself so far as
the head of gold was concerned (Dan 2:38). Wasting no time, the monarch erected
an immense statue of gold and compelled his subjects to prostrate themselves
before it (Dan 3:1). In Paul's day the cult of Caesar had spread throughout the
empire. Before long, Caesar and Christ would be competing for the homage of
society. In modern times the western world has outgrown crass idolatry, but
humanism has subtly injected the worship of man without the trappings. God is
quietly ruled out and man is placed on the throne.
The next stage is worship of the animal kingdom. V 23 owes its
wording largely to Psa 106:20. The immediate context refers to the sin of Israel
in making a calf at Horeb and bowing down to this molten image. Paul makes one
change in the text of the psalm, which reads: "And they changed their glory for
the likeness of an ox that eats grass." To the psalmist God is the glory of the
Israelites. Paul seems to make the glory of God his spirituality, in contrast to
any attempt to express his excellence in physical terms. God's majesty may well
be included here. Whereas Paul is dealing with a characteristic sin of paganism,
he resorts to OT history for an illustration. God did not and could not condone
idolatry in the people He had chosen. His judgment fell heavily when there was
no repentance, even to the point of desolation and deportation from the land he
had given Israel.
According to the prophetic word, the worship of man and beast
will merge during the Last Days: "If anyone has insight, let him calculate the
number of the beast, for it is man's number" (Rev 13:18).
GOD GAVE THEM OVER: This becomes a refrain (vv
24,26,28). For a nuance of the term, see 1Co 5:5; 1Ti 1:20. The same expression
is used of God's judgment on Israel for idolatry (Acts 7:42). In our passage the
reference is principally to Gentiles (Israel was largely purged of this sin by
means of the captivity in Babylon). We are not told how this giving over was
implemented, but most likely we are to think of it in negative terms -- ie, that
God simply took his hands off and let willful rejection of himself produce its
ugly results in human life. There is no suggestion here of direct intervention
such as was granted to Israel by sending prophets to plead with God's people
concerning their unfaithfulness.
SEXUAL IMPURITY: "Uncleanness" in AV: Gr "akatharsia",
a moral condition: Eph 4:18,19; 1Th 2:3. Not "simple" sexual immorality, but
ritual immorality: a ref to cultic prostitution, as in Corinthian
temple/brothels, and elsewhere in the Roman Empire. Also borrowed from the
Canaanite peoples in OT times. Why? Because it was part of the process by which
"they exchanged the truth of God for a lie" -- ie, false gods (v 25)!
DEGRADING: "Atimazo": disgrace, reproach, insult: cp
Mar 12:4; Luk 20:11.
A LIE: Better, "THE lie": a false religion, accepted in
place of the worship of the true God.
AND WORSHIPED AND SERVED CREATED THINGS RATHER THAN THE
CREATOR: To substitute the worship of a creature for the Creator is the
height of perversity and folly, meriting the retribution mentioned (cp 2Ti 3:4).
Today's worldly pleasures are a parallel, as they are designed to serve the
creature -- hence "creature comforts"!
DEPRAVED: The word "adokimos" is translated "reprobate"
(Rom 1:28; 2Co 13:5-7, 2Ti 3:8; Tit 1:16), "castaway" (1Co 9:27), and "rejected"
(Heb 6:8). It is used to describe a counterfeit coin, deficient as to weight or
quality of metal. It is also used, figuratively, to describe a cowardly soldier
who fails the test of battle; a candidate rejected for office; and a stone
rejected by the builders. In each case, that which is "reprobate" has promised
something by its outward appearance that it cannot deliver! It has, perhaps, a
"name to live", but it is dead -- like clouds that promise rain, but give none;
like stars in the heavens that appear fixed, but prove to be "wandering stars",
WHAT OUGHT NOT TO BE DONE: What is "not fitting" (RSV),
or "not becoming" (Roth).
EVERY KIND OF WICKEDNESS: Scholars have found it
difficult to detect any satisfactory classification in the long list of offenses
included here, which only confirms the fact that sin is irrational in itself and
disorderly in its effects.
In fact, there are 22 kinds of wickedness -- the same as the
letters in the Hebrew alphabet! Sins "from A to Z"!
GREED: "Pleonexia": a desire for more. It can be either
a desire for good or evil. Here, of course, it is evil. In 1Co 12:31, it is that
which is good. Associated with wickedness in Mar 7:22; and compared with
idolatry in Col 3:5.
DEPRAVITY: "Maliciousness" (AV): "kakia", a
comprehensive term for all evil, esp immorality (cp 1Pe 2:1), the vicious
disposition and desires, rather than the active exercise of them.
ENVY: "Phthonos", jealousy: cp Mat 27:18.
STRIFE: Debate, rivalry, contention.
GOSSIPS: "Psithristes": liars, secret
SLANDERERS: "Katalalos": open slanderers (cp
"whisperers" in AV, v 29).
BUT ALSO APPROVE OF THOSE WHO PRACTICE THEM: To
deliberately pursue a wrong course is bad, but to find delight in others doing
the same things is the ultimate in moral corruption.