What Is A Reprobate Mind?

by Mike Ratliff<

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32 ESV)

28 Καὶ καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει, παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν, ποιεῖν τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα, 29 πεπληρωμένους πάσῃ ἀδικίᾳ πονηρίᾳ πλεονεξίᾳ κακίᾳ, μεστοὺς φθόνου φόνου ἔριδος δόλου κακοηθείας, ψιθυριστὰς 30 καταλάλους θεοστυγεῖς ὑβριστὰς ὑπερηφάνους ἀλαζόνας, ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, 31 ἀσυνέτους ἀσυνθέτους ἀστόργους ἀνελεήμονας· 32 οἵτινες τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντες ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν, οὐ μόνον αὐτὰ ποιοῦσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ συνευδοκοῦσιν τοῖς πράσσουσιν. (Romans 1:28-32 NA28)

The word translated as “debased” in the ESV rendering of Romans 1:28 is the Greek word ἀδόκιμον. This anarthrous adjective means, “unapproved, unworthy, spurious, or worthless.” In the context of Romans 1:28 it is speaking of those who do not have a sense of pending judgment. They have a reprobate, abominable mind that is abhorred by God and men who do know God’s truth. The word “mind” here is νοῦν. This anarthrous noun is the intellectual faculty of the natural man, applicable to God or Christ (Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16), employed in practical judgment, capable of being good or evil, and of being regenerated, the mind, the reason, the reasoning faculty.

What does the grammatical form called anarthrous mean? It is a word or group of words which appear without definite article. Anarthrous constructions are most often intended to point out the quality of something. Therefore, when we see this we should dig even deeper for this could be a marker of a definitive point in the God-inspired text to which those who do not have an ἀδόκιμον νοῦν should pay close attention because God is teaching us something vital.

Notice the cause of a person having an ἀδόκιμον νοῦν. Those who have this horrible condition got it because they did not (οὐκ) see fit (ἐδοκίμασαν) to acknowledge (ἔχειν) God (θεὸν). Here is an alternate rendering of this phrase, “And as they tried not to hold God in full knowledge.” The word rendered here as “in full knowledge” and “to acknowledge” in the ESV and “to hold in full knowledge” in the KJV, is ἔχειν, which is a verb in aorist tense, indicative mood, and active voice. This means that the action described here is not continuous nor does it indicate the relative time of the action to the time of speaking or writing. It describes “the action of having, holding, holding on, counting, considering, regarding, or wearing.” However, remember those being described here, “tried NOT to hold God in full knowledge.” That is their crime. In other words, they are guilty of pushing all true knowledge of God out of their minds which God then allowed that truth to be replaced with something else. God delivered them up (παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς) unto a debased mind (ἀδόκιμον νοῦν). The word παρέδωκεν describes God handing over or giving up or yielding up these people to the very thing they were seeking. He allowed them to no longer consider His truth. Instead, His truth was seen as false and what was really false was seen as true in these people’s minds. This caused them to be seen in God’s eyes as completely worthless. Those who sought full rebellion against God and the incarnation of Christ for their sins, were given over to that rebellion so that what they sought seemed perfectly right to them while the truth of the Gospel is seen as foolishness, et cetera. This is what the reprobate mind is. It does not hold any of God’s truth in it and sees no need to be concerned about the coming judgment.

18 ἐσκοτωμένοι τῇ διανοίᾳ ὄντες, ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ θεοῦ διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς, διὰ τὴν πώρωσιν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, (Ephesians 4:18 NA28)

18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:18 ESV)

Those with reprobate or debased minds are darkened (ἐσκοτωμένοι) in their understanding (διανοίᾳ). Those who reject the knowledge of God think of themselves as “enlightened” (cf. Hebrews 10:32). Their ignorance here is not due to a lack of general education, some are brilliant in their own way, but such brilliance is all wasted and futile in the end when combined with hardness of heart toward the truth of the gospel in Christ (cf. Matthew 13:14-15; John 12:40; Acts 28:26-27; Romans 11:8). These unbelievers are intellectually unproductive. As far as spiritual and moral issues are concerned, their rational processess are distorted and inadequate, inevitably failing to produce godly understanding or moral living. Their lives are empty, vain, and without meaning (cf Romans 1:21-28; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 2:18). They are also spiritually separated from God, thus ignorant of God’s truth (1 Corinthians 2:14), and their willing spiritual darkness and moral blindness are the results (Romans 1:21-24; 2 Timothy 3:7). They are blind, “hard” like a rock.

Now my brethren, consider what we have just seen in these passages. Those separated from God and His truth are so because of their own rebellion. They attempted to push God and His truth from their minds so He gave them over to their rebellion and they got what they were after which is what God is going to use to condemn them to the Lake of Fire at the Final Judgment. That is, unless He has mercy on them and draws them into the light via the washing of regeneration. However, when God gives people over to this full rebellion it is accompanied by a heart hardening that is purposeful and will keep these people from ever being affected by the preaching of the Gospel. Only God is able to break through it.

I read today that many in other countries see the United States as a once Christian nation whose leaders have caused it to descend into a godless, moral sewer. If the shoe fits…

Soli Deo Gloria!

7 thoughts on “What Is A Reprobate Mind?

  1. Hi Mike, thanks for the article.
    Just commenting on the last sentence.

    The people here choose the leaders and therefore are the leaders. The leaders are just a reflection of the people and their morality. I’m not surprised at the condition of this land…the Remnant didn’t get a name like that for their large size and large influence.
    This has always been a ‘diety’ (god) nation. How times have you ever heard one of our many ‘representatives’ ( reflections ) say the actual name of our Lord? ( Either Yeshua or Jesus ? )
    Maybe several times in historical records? Surely very rarely.
    Google the term:
    American Civil Religion.
    That is the name and practice of this country’s religion. It isn’t ‘Christian’.

    His love-
    brent

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  2. Amen to both ya’ll. Those national Christians remind me of the first century Jews who failed to understand their nation was primarily a copy or type of the heavenly things that will not perish. Temporal security and value are temporary. Hence we are told to keep our focus on things above – as Abraham who was looking for the city whose builder and maker was God. He is building the new Jerusalem – one redeemed sinner at a time. Praise His name!

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  3. It all lays at our feet as followers of Christ. We do not seek Him enough, we do not pray enough, we do not repent enough nor trust enough; we do not proclaim enough. God works through means, and we are it. If Israel is any lesson, hardship will bring us back to our knees. Either way, we rejoice as He remains our surety in all things. As one who experienced oppression I’m not looking forward to it. However, times of refreshing will accompany us in the midst of reprobate darkness. He is faithful and we are invariably blessed.

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  4. Very well said Mike, excellent post.

    I just finished reading John Owen’s ‘National Sins and National Judgments’.
    It is somewhat similar – “When God takes away the good, the sober, the understanding part of a nation, and leaves a nation very thin of such kind of persons: – Verses Isaiah 3: 1–3, “Behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.” – When God makes a nation thin of such persons, it is a preparation and disposition to their ruin. There are spiritual judgments also; and they are found among us, — (1.) In God’s taking from us so many faithful labourers in the dispensation of the gospel, in the midst of their days and strength, as he hath done of late years in this nation. (2.) And in driving the remnant of his faithful ministers, many of them, into corners, where they are not able to serve the interest of Christ and the nation by promoting and furthering its return unto God.” This was directed at England, but could very well be for modern day America.

    I appreciate your teachings, to God be the glory!

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