Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Condemnation of the Heathen Man (Part IV)

"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;" (Romans 1:28)

This is the third and last time that God gave these people over. At this point, these people are beyond all hope of reconciliation as later verses shall reveal. A play on words is being utilized in the Greek text. This phenomenon is not visible in the English translation. The phrase "...they did not like to retain...." has the idea of putting something to the test and counting it worthless. The people put the Almighty to the test and proceeded to count Him and His ways worthless. The word translated reprobate means not standing the test, worthless, of no value. Since these people counted God worthless, He gave them over once and for all to a worthless mind. The results are frightening.

"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:" (Romans 1:29-31)

These individuals were then filled up to the max with the various vices mentioned. It is interesting to note that the seeds of each sin listed are alive and well in the heart of every human. As Christ pointed out in the book of Matthew, a man only need lust in his heart to be guilty of sexual impurity. Covetousness is consistently warned against in Paul's epistles. Hatred of a brother is equal to murder according to the book of First John. These people had spiraled down to the point that they were wholly given over to these things; however, let every man beware of his vile heart, for it is "...deceitful above all things and desperately wicked....(Jer. 17:9)." The next to the last vice mentioned requires some comment. It is translated implacable. It means irreconcilable, or literally unsalvageable. The word is used only one other place in the New Testament. This is in II Timothy 3:3 where it is translated trucebreakers. The context of this last example is the moral decline of man in the last days. Having reached a point of no spiritual response like the multitudes who will gather themselves together at Armageddon to attack the Lord Jesus Christ, so this group here in Romans had found themselves in a place of no return. Repentance was no longer an option, and, as the next verse declares, they no longer felt the prick of a guilty conscience.

"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 1:32)

This discourse on the condemnation of the heathen man ends with an air of chilling callousness towards anything good. These people were no longer sinning without full knowledge of their actions; they had reached the point of disregard for God and His judgment. They now began to call good evil and evil good and fully consented with those who love evil. This is a frightening place to be.

On both ends of the scale, an injustice has been committed to this discourse on the heathen man and his demise. On the one end, some believe that anyone who engages in the sin of homosexuality is irreconcilable. An examination of I Corinthians 6:9-11 proves this to be false, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators...nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind...shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

On the other end, some believe that these people were not beyond hope and that they could have been redeemed had they repented. This view ignores the powerful wording of the text, neither does it explain how these people could be declared irreconcilable.

A balanced and biblical view may be reached by allowing the passage to speak for itself and by examining other passages as well. From the beginning, this group of people made a conscious decision not to glorify God as their Creator. This put in motion their speedy decline which led to them being thrice given over by God to their own hearts' desires. If a man continues to refuse the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he will eventually find himself in a place of hopelessness. This is illustrated in Matthew 12 when the Pharisees accused Christ of casting out devils by the spirit of devils. They were resisting and blaspheming their only source of true conviction, the Holy Ghost. Christ warned them that such things would not be forgiven. How can a man be forgiven and find eternal life when He blasphemes the very one who leads him to that life? These people mentioned here are an example of how far sin and rebellion can take a man. It is not excluding all people who are engaged in perversion from finding eternal life. Some people are raised in perversion and abuse and have never heard of the love and righteousness of God. Many lost souls have responded to the gospel and have forsaken such lifestyles. Such people are not beyond hope. Only God truly knows when a man has crossed over the line into a condition of spiritual hopelessness.

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