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.
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. I am convinced that when God wants to judge a nation he causes godless, evil men to become its leaders thereby exacerbating the slide into spiritual darkness. Of course God, thankfully, always keeps a remnant who do not bow the knee to pagan gods or worship their own flesh denying God’s truth in order to feed it. Let us pray that God preserves us, His remnant, within this godless culture as well as our loved ones.
Soli Deo Gloria!