Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 1.28-31


More than twenty-five years ago there were somewhat more than 20 members of Calvary Road Baptist Church who regularly participated in our Church’s organized soul-winning program. That is, there were 20+ men and women who were willing to spend their time seeking to reach lost folks in the San Gabriel Valley for Jesus Christ and make disciples of them. Those were in our decisionist days when our evangelism was predicated on some unfounded assumptions about the spiritual state of the unsaved and the role each Person of the Trinity plays in the salvation of an eternal and undying soul.[1] Oh, we knew sinners without Christ were doomed. However, we did not at that time recognize some of the implications of unsaved man’s depravity or God’s glorious sovereignty.

It was assumed by us in those days (and everyone has assumptions, even if they are unrecognized assumptions) that the Gospel was thought to have been presented just because sin and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were mentioned to a lost person. Excuse me, Jerry, but the mere mention of Gospel facts is not the same thing as preaching the Gospel.[2] Real Gospel preaching produces from time to time negative reactions from sinners, and no negative reaction ever suggests no real Gospel preaching. It was assumed by us back in the day that while the Gospel was being presented the Spirit of God would necessarily and at the same time we were witnessing convict the sinner of his sins. Though the Word of God does promise that God’s Word will not return to Him void, there is no promise made in the Bible that the Spirit’s work must occur while the Christian is engaged in witnessing and presenting the Gospel.[3] In many cases considerable time passes before the Spirit of God presses home to a sinner’s heart the truth of the Gospel and his need for Christ. Correspondingly, it is assumed that when the witness completes his presentation of the Gospel, or concludes reading a Gospel tract to the sinner, the Spirit of God will also have completed His convicting work in the sinner’s life and that the sinner simply must then be ready to pray the sinner’s prayer to be saved. I find no Scriptural basis for such an assumption, yet it is held almost universally among decisionists to be true. For that matter, I find no such thing as a sinner’s prayer in the Bible. As well, please show me any passage in the New Testament where a sinner asks Jesus Christ to save him.

Here is another one. Decisionists assume that while the Christian is witnessing to an unsaved person, God the Father is simultaneously drawing that sinner to Christ, John 6.44. Quite apart from any consideration of a sinner’s response to the Father’s drawing him to Christ is the lack of any evidence in Scripture that the Father must draw sinners to His Son while they are being witnessed to. The decisionist’s approach assumes that such is the case without any supporting evidence from the Bible and despite much contradictory testimonial evidence from longtime Christians.

The reality in these last days before our Lord’s return is that evangelism is a very tough business and reaching most individuals for Christ is a more drawn-out and time-consuming process than most people committed to reaching the lost realize. This is borne out by the fact that the Spirit’s dealings with a sinner are often not simultaneous with that sinner being preached to or witnessed to. Sometimes days, weeks, or even months pass before the Spirit of God begins to probe the sinner’s conscience and heart. And does this not follow from the Savior’s comment in John 3.8 about the unpredictability of the Holy Spirit in His ministry of regenerating the spiritually dead?


“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”


This is also predicted by the desperate spiritual condition of those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, who are dead in trespasses and sins, and whose natural sinful inclinations are to turn away from God and His truth whenever possible.[4] You may be inclined to doubt what I assert. Doubt all you want so long as you are open to what the Bible declares to be true.

I want to show you Biblical evidence to convince you, if you are convincible, that those people out there need your efforts to reach them with the truth that Jesus Christ saves sinners. They need the ministry that you are called to conduct. They need the message that you are charged carry. But most of all, they need the Savior that you claim to represent. Why do “they” need the Savior? Because “they” have a problem. That “they” have a problem is evident for two reasons: First, God has revealed Himself to “them,” Romans 1.18-19:


18    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19    Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.


But it is the second reason that Paul goes into real detail to describe. The second reason is “their” response to God’s revelation of Himself. Exactly what is it “they” did when God revealed to “them” both His righteousness and His wrath? In Romans 1.21-24 we saw that “they” refused to glorify Him as God or to be thankful to Him for the blessings He bestowed. God responded to that in a way we have already seen:


21    Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23    And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

24    Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.


In Romans 1.25-27 we saw that “they” swapped God’s truth for a lie, which resulted in even greater sin. It was last week that we saw God’s response to that:


25    Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

26    For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27    And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.


At this time we will examine the third account of man’s response to God given to us by the Apostle Paul. And when we have run out of time we will have seen, once again, God’s response. . . . showing ever more conclusively that those people out there have a problem, and also some of you in this room, have a problem. I invite you to stand with me once you have found Romans 1.28-31:


28    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;

29    Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30    Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31    Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.


We saw in verse 24 that “God gave them up to uncleanness.” We saw that “God gave them up unto vile affections” again in verse 26. Now, for the third time, we see in verse 28 that “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” As we consider this portion of God’s Word, I would like to ask your consideration of a troubling development. Does it not appear to you that the world around us is presently exhibiting the characteristics of people who have been turned by God over to a reprobate mind?

Just as we have seen in Paul’s two previous descriptions of “them,” there is a definite sequence of events that trace mankind’s downward plunge into the dark pit of depravity. Perhaps you have your explanation of what is happening to the human race in its rapid descent into increasingly irrational and self-destructive conduct, but my explanation, or rather Paul’s explanation, is two thousand years old and is time-tested. I suggest you consider Paul’s explanation of the spiritual insanity we see all around us.

Two main points for you:




Verse 28 begins, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”


Though word studies are something that most of you can do on your own with the aid of a concordance, it will be necessary to spend some portion of this message studying the meanings of certain words to draw attention to some things Paul has written in this letter to the Romans. In this first phrase, I want to draw your attention to two words. The first word is “retain” and the second word is “knowledge.”

The word “retain” comes from a word that we have seen in some other familiar passages of God’s Word. In Romans 12.2 we see the word used in connection with


“that ye may ‘prove’ what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”


In First Corinthians 16.3 Paul indicates that when they gave their offering, the Corinthian congregation could also assign men to accompany Paul with the offering that was, ‘approved,’ by them. Ephesians 5.10,


“proving what is acceptable to the Lord.”


And in First John 4.1 the word is translated “try.” We are to


“try the spirits whether they are of God.”


The word means to subject something or someone to a test and then to pass judgment on its quality as a consequence of that test. Think about the implications of that for a moment.[5]

Now look at the second word, the word “knowledge.” These people referred to,


“they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”


What does “knowledge” mean? Surely you cannot unknow something that you have known. And we saw in verse 21 that “they” knew God in some sense. What this means is that “they” refused to keep God in their consciousness. “They” refused to allow God to have a part in the ordering of their daily lives. They refused to allow God to influence their personal philosophy of living. It means that although mankind has not become a race of atheists, “they” have become a race of practical atheists. Though God is, “they” behave as though there is no God. Am I right in pointing out that you and I have some loved ones who have so pushed God out of their lives that they barely acknowledge His existence, and that He plays no significant part in their lives?

At this point, we should ask ourselves a question. “How can it be that mankind came to the place that he refused to allow God to have a part in his life and his thinking and his existence?” Simple. He judged God for whatever reason and found Him wanting. He tested God. He proved God and God came up short. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine someone evaluating God and deciding that God does not measure up? But isn’t that what a person does who considers the claims of Christ and then decides not to repent of his or her sins? Isn’t that what a person does who grows up in a home where God is honored and in a Church where Christ is preached, but who decides as an adult that Christianity is just not for him? What do you suppose God’s response to something like this would be? That is my next point.




28    . . . God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

29    Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30    Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31    Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.


Notice, first, the concept of God’s response.


“God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”


Here is where our word study begins to pay real dividends. See the phrase “gave them over”? It is the same word that is translated “gave them up” in verses 24 and 27. Perhaps you should circle those words in all three verses. This is further evidence that God did not respond to man’s sin in three different ways but in only one way. What Paul is doing throughout this second half of Romans chapter one is looking at three different aspects of this single judicial decree of God, handed down by God in response to “their” rejection of God. Now look at the word “reprobate.” Just so happens that the word “reprobate” is an adjective that translates the same root word that the verb “retain” translates in the first part of this verse. This is what happened. Mankind sinfully disapproved of God, so God responded by giving to mankind a disapproved mind. Mankind tested God (by who knows what criteria) and found Him wanting, so God gave to mankind a mind that would, in turn, flunk any test of quality. This Biblical principle holds true in every area of life:


“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”


Mankind flunked God on a test that God should have been passed on. My friends, whatever the test and evaluation of quality, God passes the test of quality. Amen? His glorious Person is not to be called into question. Therefore, in response to this travesty, God gave “them” a mind that cannot pass any legitimate test of quality.

Now, let’s take note of the conduct that arises from God’s response in Romans 1.28c-31:


28    . . . to do those things which are not convenient;

29    Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30    Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31    Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.


Obviously, verses 29-31 expand on what is said in the last portion of verse 28. There seem to be four categories of sinful deeds, practices, and habits here: I have designated them filled, stuffed, puffed, and snuffed. First, filled, verse 29:


“Being filled with all . . . .”


This word “filled” is what is called a perfect participle. That is, what is described here is the state of humanity as a result of a previous action taken by God. As a result of God’s judgment against man, because of man’s rejection of God, the following five words describe mankind’s present state of being:



Five descriptions of the state of mankind that has resulted from God giving to man what man gave to God . . . disapproval.


As predicted, we have run out of time and haven’t even begun to make real progress through this list of sins Paul has given us. But you get an idea of the state mankind is in from just these first five descriptions Paul has put forth. Is it becoming more obvious, my friends, that mankind is, indeed, suffering grievously from his rejection of the only true and living God? I think so. Consider people you know guilty of some or all of these five types of sins. Indeed, they are filled with them. The question, of course, is why.

The answer is that man has weighed God in the balance and, by the most perverse logic imaginable, has found God wanting, disapproved. So God turned man over to what man had judged God to be . . . disapproved. The result? We have plunged ever deeper into the mire. From just this brief list that we have examined today we see the desperate straits of the human race.

Filled with unrighteousness. Absolutely without relationship to God of any kind if you know not Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Fornication. Jesus Christ informed us that this sin is not only a sin of action but a sin of the thought life as well.[6]

Wickedness. Being vicious. Even when you are vicious to right what you think is a wrong done to you, it is still wickedness.

Then there is covetousness. Hunger for more. More money. More vacation. More clothes. More property. More collectibles. More shoes. More, more, more, more . . . even if it harms others. Hey, that one is close to home. Another label for covetousness according to Paul in Colossians 3.5? Idolatry. Look it up.

And then there is maliciousness. Just being a nasty guy.

Do you think that people like this have any hope of changing their minds about God and repenting of their sin on their own? Not according to God’s Word. Their minds and hearts are now darkened. Their logic is now faulty. Their spirit is now dead. And like Adam in the Garden of Eden, man hides from the only One Who can help him.

How will the ministry that we are a part of reach “them,” if “they” will not come to us? We must go to “them.” We go to them using Saturday night evangelism and door hangers. We go to them using Vacation Bible School. We go to them using celebrating someone’s 50th wedding anniversary and inviting people to the celebration. If you play no part with us as we go to them, then you need to ask yourself why you are here. We are either striving to reach you, or you should be striving with us to reach “them.” For the most part, they will not come to us. We must go to them. We go to them using a Church web site. We go to them using social media. We go to them at work. We go to them by inviting them to a pancake breakfast or a Ladies Tea or a Women’s Retreat. Won’t you join us in this effort? There is a need.

And if we win them? Then their lives will be characterized by righteousness instead of unrighteousness, moral purity instead of fornication, meekness instead of wickedness, contentment instead of covetousness, and holiness instead of maliciousness. And let us not forget. If we win them to the Savior they also go to heaven when they die instead of Hell.


[1] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

[2] Compare the response to Gospel preaching faced by the apostles in the book of Acts with the so-called Gospel presentations Jerry Falwell was so famous for during television interviews that never produced outrage, indignation, or conviction in the lives of those he spoke to. Why the difference in reactions? The mere mention of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection apart from personal application to the sinner of his own guilt and deadness in the sight of God is not real Gospel preaching.

[3] Isaiah 55.11

[4] Ephesians 2.1; Romans 3.11

[5] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 350.

[6] Matthew 5.28

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