Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 1.28-31


Turn in your Bible and stand for the reading of God’s Word, please. 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.


Sometimes, when you examine a passage of God’s Word for several weeks in a row, as we are in the process of doing, you can overlook or forget certain features of what the Apostle Paul wrote. You may overlook, for example, the fact that when this letter arrived in Rome, it was read to the various congregations there from beginning to end without interruption. And when it was read from beginning to end without interruption, it was read to people who spoke and understood the language the letter was written in. But for you and me it is a different story altogether. Rarely in our time will a congregation sit still while one or two men take turns reading the text of an entire book of the Bible without interruption. In our culture, people are just not trained to sit still or to be attentive for that amount of time. And in addition to that, we have to take the time to explain the meanings of the words in the Bible, something that was necessary for Paul’s day only when dealing with the Hebrew Scriptures. And finally, we are 2000 years in time, half a planet in space, and countless cultures removed from both the human author and the original human readers of this book. These are factors that need to be considered.

Do you realize, without the help of the Holy Spirit of God to bring these words alive to us and to give us their meanings and applications to our lives, how helpless we would be? We would never be able to make sense of God’s Word apart from the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. But thanks be to God, Who illuminates our understanding and Who enables us to bridge a span of two millennia of time, thousand miles of space, and Who knows how many iterations of culture and experience, to learn God’s Word.

Examining the evidence Paul cites to illustrate the wickedness of unsaved mankind, and to show what has happened to mankind as a result of God’s judgment of mankind for rebelling against God by judging God to be unworthy of our attention and our adoration, we have embarked upon an analysis of a lengthy list of 23 separate kinds of sin that are prevalent in the human race. I have divided these 23 sins into four subgroups. There is filled, stuffed, puffed and snuffed. Having looked at the first two categories, we now take up the subgroup of vices that I have labeled “Puffed.” This subgroup contains six vices. And as we journey through these words, one at a time, it will become quite apparent to you why I have entitled this subgroup “Puffed.”




This word is one of the very few instances in the Bible in which both the original Greek word and the English word that translates it are onomatopoeic. Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds very much like what it represents.[1] For example: The word “buzz” is onomatopoeia, in that the word “buzz” sounds very much like what it names. The word “hiss” and “rush” are some other examples. Even if you had no idea what the word “whisper” meant if you were told that it was onomatopoeia you might guess its meaning once you heard the word pronounced. “Whisper.” Sounds evil, doesn’t it?

What are whisperers? They are people who whisper, who gossip in secret, who say things that are not true. The latter because the Greek word for “whisperers” greatly resembles the Greek word for liar. So, what is wrong with whispering? Plenty. Whispering is rude, for one thing. It is the sharing of information in front of others while denying them the opportunity to participate. It is almost like children eating candy in front of their friends and not letting them have any of it. Very bad manners. Good mothers teach their kids better. Amen? If you have something private to say, say it in a private setting. Do not whisper. Here is another thing. When we speak, we generally speak audibly, unless we are saying something we should not say. Too often, whispering takes place to prevent parents or those in authority or to prevent those who are spiritual, from hearing either the manner of speech or the subject matter. And why is that? To prevent rebuke.

Whisperers say things they should not say. And they whisper so others will not hear and rebuke them. Whispering is also the way someone who is rebellious, but cowardly, will speak against authority without greatly risking a response. And regarding human feelings, how very cruel is a whispering campaign that’s directed against someone. You can hear the occasional comment. You can see it in their eyes as they lean toward the ears of their co-conspirators. They’re talking about you. The mocking look that so often accompanies whisperers is there, as well. But what can you do? Nothing. Only feel the pain.




These are evil speakers, backbiters. They are people who defame and detract from others. As with whisperers, Paul, by using the word in this list of vices, is showing us that this is behavior typical of unsaved people, of people who do not know the Lord, of people who are unregenerate. But Paul also indicates that Christians are sadly very capable of committing this sin. Indeed, Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 12.20 that he was afraid that the Corinthians would demonstrate this awful kind of behavior when he came to visit them.


“For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.”


And as has been my painful experience, backbiting is sometimes a frequent sin committed by preachers.

And how are backbiters to be compared with whisperers? The subject matter of their conversations is probably similar, but the backbiter is a more flagrant sinner. He is not concerned that people hear what he has to say. As a matter of fact, he will probably go to lengths to make sure that people hear the bad things he has to say about a person. And what kind of damage can a backbiter do? Imagine the kind of damage that can be done by simply raising certain issues in our culture in which the seriousness of the accusation is tantamount to guilt. “When was the last time you beat your wife?” “Do you still do drugs?” “Was that you I saw buying wine at the grocery store the other day?” “This guy is a MacArthurite.” “This guy is a Ruckmanite.” “This guy has certain tendencies.”

The backbiter will not ask those questions or say hurtful things into the air. He wants others to be around. And don’t think that because this word is translated into our English word “backbiter” that such sinners will not commit their sin to your face. They will. Whatever it takes to achieve maximum damage the backbiter will say. And if there is an audience, so much the better. Want to know what backbiters are? They are character assassins. Is this not what is being done to Brad Pitt by Angelina Jolie’s attorney and press agents? Whether the accusations are true or not, they are destroying his reputation to force him into a divorce settlement before his acting career is ruined.

It is pretty easy to see that the backbiter is a far more brazen person than the whisperer, although there is no reason why a person could not practice both sins. It is just a matter of style. Do you assassinate someone’s character openly? You are a backbiter. Do you do your dirty business quietly? You are a whisperer. “But Pastor, what if the person I talk about is a nasty guy?” You are still a backbiter or a whisperer. The Bible has plenty of provision for dealing with people who are doing wrong without the Christian having to resort to character assassination. Amen? I mean, God has His Own way of doing things without copying lost men. Do you hear me?




This translates a single word found nowhere else in the New Testament. In ancient Greece, this word referred only to those who were, themselves, hated by the gods. It was “god hated.” As time went on the word came to refer to being forsaken by the gods. The context in which Paul uses the word would indicate since this word is right in the middle of a list of sins that men commit, that this word refers, not to God’s attitude toward men, but men’s attitude toward God.[2]

What is a God hater? Is hating God the same thing as being angry at God? We know that when God takes a loved one or chastises a brother or sister severely for sin, Christians sometimes become angry because they do not understand what or why God is doing what He is doing. I don’t think anger with God is the same thing as hatred of God, but it can probably lead in that direction. If you are angry with God for making you the way you are, for giving you the parents you have, for giving you what you think is a raw deal in life, brooding on that can probably lead from a passive anger to an active hatred of God.

There is so little spoken of in the Bible concerning this idea of hating God. The idea of hating God is, at once, so repugnant and so dangerous, that I wonder how a Christian could actively hate God . . . and how long he could hate God without chastisement unto death from God. I would think that this is a particular sin that would almost entirely lie within the realm of the unregenerate.




Despiteful people are those who are violent and insolent. That is people who, by their actions, manifest a complete disregard for the customs, feelings, concerns, and welfare of others. We see a great deal of that in our country of late, I am afraid, as well as in Europe and the Middle East.

The Apostle Paul describes himself before his conversion using this particular word, in First Timothy 1.13, where the same Greek word is translated injurious:


“Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”


Revealing the essential nature of someone who is despiteful is the way Paul uses the root word in Acts 27.10 and 21:


10    And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.

21    But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.


On his way to Rome in the custody of a Roman centurion when they encounter a storm at sea, Paul uses the word translated “despiteful” in these two verses. In Acts 27.10, the word is translated “hurt,” and in Acts 27.21 the word is translated “harm.” Thus, the despiteful are those who wreak havoc and cause harm in the lives of others for whatever reason. And while it is true that the first two words we examined result in much pain and suffering, there is not with whispering and backbiting the violence associated with being despiteful. So that even when there is no physical violence there is emotional violence that results from the despiteful person.

Sadly, this sin, too, is found in Second Corinthians 12.10 translated reproaches, where Paul expresses his anticipation that Christians might behave this way toward him:


“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”


An additional comment before we move on to the next word. There are too many Christians who end up being despiteful when they think they are spiritual. They think they are doing right when in fact, there is a callous disregard for others. May I say that the Lord Jesus Christ was meek and lowly even while purging the Temple of the moneychangers? And until we learn how to express zeal with meekness, we need to be extremely careful, lest our zeal ends up being despiteful. There are too many unsaved people who are bruised by Christians who think themselves to be zealously spiritual when in fact, they are simply despiteful. Let us always remember that God has called us to minister grace to people, not wrath or rage or fury. I must distance myself from Christians who are despiteful and too stupid to respond to rebukes.




This word is easy for everyone to understand. Arrogance and haughtiness would be synonyms. But the interesting thing about these folks is that this wicked world we live in actually believes that pride is a good thing and that these people are right in being proud. How many times have we heard it said that the key to a person’s recovery or a person’s improvement in life was the development of pride in himself and his accomplishments? The world believes that pride is a good thing, a virtue, an asset.

And, if a man is to be self-sufficient, pride is thought to be a crucial component to his success. But what if the guy needs God’s help? What if success is dependent upon grace from the Lord? Then it is a different story. You see, both James 4.6 and First Peter 5.5 quote Proverbs 3.34 in saying that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” You think you can manage life by yourself? That is pride. God will not simply draw back from you and allow you to discover for yourself how unsuccessful you are without His help. He will actively oppose you in your pride.

But if a person will humble himself in sight of the Lord, admitting his great need of God and God’s help through the various means of grace He provides, then God will intervene and exalt that person in due time. “But Pastor, exactly what is pride?” Pride is a wrong estimation of yourself and your abilities and capacities. It is not pride for a smart man to know that he is smart. But it is pride for that man to think that his intellect will give him any advantage in spiritual matters. It won’t. Neither will athletic ability, or personality, or good looks, or anything else that is merely natural.

Another factor in pride is the recognition of the source of your personal assets. Are you smart? Are you a good singer? Are you diligent? Recognize those as personal assets, but also recognize that you don’t have anything that you did not receive from God. If Bo takes credit for what Bo can do on a diamond or a gridiron, then Bo is proud. Humility is the recognition that God gave Bo what Bo has, and God can take it away, too. Do you hear me, this evening? God took it all away from Bo in a single stroke.




This word is very close in meaning to Paul’s previous word, with this difference: Whereas a proud person can be proud without the pride being extremely obvious all the time, the boaster is openly pretentious and braggadocios. Remember the old story of Babe Ruth standing at the plate, with two strikes against him? As the story goes, Ruth pointed to center field with his bat and indicated that he was going to hit a home run on the next pitch. You know what he was? He was a boaster. “But Pastor, he did hit the next pitch for a home run.” That doesn’t alter the fact that what he did was boast.

Want to know God’s attitude toward boasting? Turn to James 4.16:


“But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.”


But why would God say that all such boasting is evil? First John 2.16:


“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”


Translated here by the word “pride,” boasting is not of the Father but is of this world. And since this wicked world is entirely dominated and controlled by the god of this world, Satan, everything that is of this world is ultimately from Satan. That’s why boasting is wrong, and that’s why God hates it. It is the product of God’s avowed enemy, Satan.


The subgroup I have identified as Puffed are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, and boasters. Do you realize that each of these vices is related to the one? The other five are all related to pride. Somehow and in some way the sin of pride is manifested, either as pure pride, or as whispering, or as backbiting, or as being despiteful, or as thinking you can hate God and get away with it.

I grow very weary of going through this list of 23 separate vices listed by Paul to prove what bad shape the human race is in. I want to dwell on more cheerful subjects than such sins as these. And we will dwell on more cheerful subjects than these when we consider God’s remedy for these sins, the precious blood of Jesus Christ.


[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1250.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 351.

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