When a society continues to defy God He may choose to render it incapable of straight thinking, resulting in its own self-implosion. Such is a means of God’s judicial retribution as revealed in Romans 1. God calls such punitive action as being turned over to a “debased” (NKJV) or “reprobate mind” (KJV) (v. 28).
The term “reprobate” literally could be translated “rejected.” The original term was used with reference to metallurgy when a metal was tested as to its integrity. If it was full of dross, it was labelled adokimos; that is, “to be rejected.” The term was also applied to pottery that contained cracks. Since it was not fit to fulfil its purpose it was rejected and treated as “reprobate.”
When Paul used this term in Romans 1, he was saying that a society that worships the creature rather than the Creator is no longer a society that is able to form right judgements. And such a condition is evidence of divine judicial reprobation.
The issue here is not that a few individuals are under this retribution, but rather that the general society is. This is clearly the condition of much of the so-called “Western” world. Many such nations, who at one time were the recipient of gospel blessings, have turned away from God and His Word. They have chosen to worship the creature rather than the Creator, and so God has turned them over to a reprobate mind. One evidence of this condemnation is the prevalence of calling evil good, and esteeming that which is good as evil. Clearly many of these societies can no longer think straight; they are unable to form right judgements. And though a postmodern world applauds such nonsense, those whose minds have been graciously transformed are baffled that anyone could make such incoherent judgements. Consider some examples from the news in recent days.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria.” These are the recent words of US President Barack Obama. In his call for military actions, he went on and said, “Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again . . . and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons.” He has also said that we cannot sit by and watch as children are being gassed to death. I agree. But that coming from him smacks of hypocrisy—hypocrisy stemming from a reprobate mind.
Consider that this same world leader endorses a woman’s “right” to have her unborn baby torn to pieces by surgical instruments; or if more convenient, burned to death by caustic—yes, chemical—solutions. He endorses RU-486 and methotrexate and misoprostol as a means to kill the unborn. Yes, by any definition he endorses the use of these chemicals to bring about an abortion. He is opposed to chemical warfare in Syria on those outside of the womb; but he is all for chemical warfare upon those inside the womb. Listen to his fairly recent statement which he made at a meeting of representatives of Planned Parenthood: “As long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you, fighting every step of the way. Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.” In other words, “God bless you as you kill the unborn.”
Perhaps taking the cue from President Obama, some candidates in the state of Iowa (USA) recently joined with abortion activists to pray for increased abortion access. Note these blasphemously evil words:
“We give thanks, O Lord, for the doctors, both current and future, who provide quality abortion care.”
“We pray for increased financial support for low-income women to access contraception, abortion and childcare.”
“Today, we pray for women in developing nations, that they may know the power of self-determination. May they have access to employment, education, birth control, and abortion.”
“Today we pray for the families who have chosen. May they know the blessing of choice.”
“Reprobate” is certainly a fitting description of this “prayer”—a prayer that must have delighted the devil, who is the murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
Consider one more example of a society that has been judicially reprobated. In a recent court case in Florida (USA), a young man pleaded guilty to charges of killing an unborn baby. After impregnating his girlfriend, she was ecstatic at the news; he was not. They visited a clinic, run by his father, where she had a sonogram and a routine blood test. The boyfriend informed his girlfriend a few days later that she had a blood infection and that she needed to take three tablets a day to treat the problem. He claimed that it was merely an antibiotic (amoxicillin) but actually the boyfriend bought and gave her Cytotec, a drug that causes contractions. He told her to take three pills a day. She trusted him. After she took only one pill, the woman was rushed to the hospital with abdominal pain and bleeding. She subsequently miscarried and the man was tried for the crime of killing an unborn child. He will be sentenced this week. Good. According to biblical law he should receive the death penalty. But consider the anomaly, for abortion is legal in Florida. Do you see a problem here? If the woman had agreed to kill their baby in the womb then they would have paid the fee and would have been protected by the law of the land as they did so. How then can this man be tried for murder when at the same time it is perfectly legal for a woman to kill her unborn child? Now I am aware of the argument that, in this case, it was not the woman’s choice to have her unborn child killed. But fundamentally, this incident highlights the reality of skewed, twisted and reprobate thinking. It is so inconsistent that it baffles a sound mind.
It is clear that American society has lost its ability to form right (righteous) judgements. It calls that which is evil good, and that which God calls good it now calls evil. The whole “gay marriage” issue is a case in point. Such twisted thinking and perverse value judgements are, according to Romans 1, a display of the righteous and wrathful judgement of God. And South Africa is not very far behind.
I am disgusted at President Assad, who is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in Syria, many of whom were children. I am disgusted that this evil ruler was most likely behind the recent chemical attacks upon the citizens of his own country; an attack in which almost five hundred children are estimated to have been killed. If he is indeed guilty, then he should be hanged by those with the authority to do so. But what is the difference between this thug and a paid professional who surgically does the same thing—if not worse—to the unborn? That professional should likewise face a just death penalty for the crime of murder. Hypocrisy stinks and hypocrisy causes suffering.
To highlight the moral absurdity further, abortion is against the law in Syria while it is legally sanctioned in the USA. For President Assad, it is perfectly alright to use chemicals to kill children outside of the womb while it is immoral to do so to children within the womb. On the other hand, President Obama is repulsed by the use of chemicals to kill children outside of the womb while he applauds the efforts of Planned Parenthood to use chemicals to kill children within the womb. In fact, he has asked God’s blessing upon those who do so. Reprobate indeed.
I find it equally hypocritical that our own government in South Africa also condemns the chemical attacks while at the same time supporting the chemical attacks upon babies in their mother’s wombs; attacks which occur daily in South Africa—all with legislative sanction! May God help us—please.
Such a society needs help. It needs a new mind, one enabled to think straight, one enabled to think God’s thoughts after Him. Individuals in such a society need a new heart. They need the gospel.
Though Romans commences with the negative revelation of God’s judicial reprobation, the book does not end that way. No, the theme of Romans is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” and this power is found in the gospel (1:16).
After Paul has fully expounded the gospel (in the first eleven chapters), he begins to apply it in chapter 12. He exhorts those who have experienced its power to continue to experience the effects of the gospel, beginning with the mind. He writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2). For as one thinks, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). In other words, God expects, and has equipped believers to think, righteously, to think clearly, to think rationally, and to think consistently. We have been delivered from skewed thinking unto the ability to form righteous judgements. So don’t be swayed by the politically correct but morally defunct hypocrisies. Further, let us be zealous to confront a twisted world with the truth of God’s Word and “shine as lights” in a very dark, because reprobate world (Philippians 2:15). Let us hold firm to the biblical truth that only the gospel has the ability to enable a person to think straight about God and about man. And let us labour as though we are truly persuaded that the Lord Jesus Christ can still cause the blind to see and still put people into a right frame of mind. May we see, in our day, such miracles of grace like those in the region of Galilee where one who had been so reprobate one day sat “in his right mind” (Mark 5:15).