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22Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

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22. While they were thinking, etc. It is commonly inferred from this passage, that Paul alludes here to those philosophers, who assumed to themselves in a peculiar manner the reputation of wisdom; and it is thought that the design of his discourse is to show, that when the superiority of the great is brought down to nothing, the common people would have no reason to suppose that they had any thing worthy of being commended: but they seem to me to have been guided by too slender a reason; for it was not peculiar to the philosophers to suppose themselves wise in the knowledge of God, but it was equally common to all nations, and to all ranks of men. There were indeed none who sought not to form some ideas of the majesty of God, and to make him such a God as they could conceive him to be according to their own reason. This presumption I hold is not learned in the schools, but is innate, and comes with us, so to speak, from the womb. It is indeed evident, that it is an evil which has prevailed in all ages — that men have allowed themselves every liberty in coining superstitions. The arrogance then which is condemned here is this — that men sought to be of themselves wise, and to draw God down to a level with their own low condition, when they ought humbly to have given him his own glory. For Paul holds this principle, that none, except through their own fault, are unacquainted with the worship due to God; as though he said, “As they have proudly exalted themselves, they have become infatuated through the righteous judgment of God.” There is an obvious reason, which contravenes the interpretation which I reject; for the error of forming an image of God did not originate with the philosophers; but they, by their consent, approved of it as received from others. 5050     Calvin is peculiar in his exposition of this verse. Most critics agree in thinking that those referred to here were those reputed learned among all nations, as Beza says, “Such as the Druids of the Gauls, the soothsayers of the Tuscans, the philosophers of the Greeks, the priests of the Egyptians, the magi of the Persians, the gymnosophists of the Indians, and the Rabbins of the Jews.” He considers that the Apostle refers especially to such as these, though he speaks of all men as appearing to themselves very wise in their insane devices as to the worship of God. The wiser they thought themselves, the more foolish they became. See Jeremiah 8:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 1:19-22.
   “This is the greatest unhappiness of man, not only not to feel his malady, but to extract matter of pride from what ought to be his shame. What they deemed to be their wisdom was truly their folly.” — Haldane.

   It is a just remark of Hodge, “That the higher the advancement of the nations in refinement and philosophy, the greater, as a general rule, the degradation and folly of their systems of religion.” As a proof he mentions the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, as compared with the aborigines of America. — Ed.

23. And changed, etc. Having feigned such a God as they could comprehend according to their carnal reason, they were very far from acknowledging the true God: but devised a fictitious and a new god, or rather a phantom. And what he says is, that they changed the glory of God; for as though one substituted a strange child, so they departed from the true God. Nor are they to be excused for this pretense, that they believe that God dwells in heaven, and that they count not the wood to be God, but his image; for it is a high indignity to God, to form so gross an idea of his majesty as to dare to make an image of him. But from the wickedness of such a presumption none were exempt, neither priests, nor statesmen, nor philosophers, of whom the most sound-minded, even Plato himself, sought to find out some likeness of God.

The madness then here noticed, is, that all attempted to make for themselves an image of God; which was a certain proof that their notions of God were gross and absurd. And, first, they befouled the majesty of God by forming him in the likeness of a corruptible man: for I prefer this rendering to that of mortal man, which is adopted by Erasmus; for Paul sets not the immortality of God in opposition to the mortality of man, but that glory, which is subject to no defects, to the most wretched condition of man. And then, being not satisfied with so great a crime, they descended even to beasts and to those of the most filthy kind; by which their stupidity appeared still more evident. You may see an account of these abominations in Lactantius, in Eusebius, and in Augustine in his book on the city of God.

24. God therefore gave them up, etc. As impiety is a hidden evil, lest they should still find an evasion, he shows, by a more palpable demonstration, that, they cannot escape, but must be held fast by a just condemnation, since such fruits have followed this impiety as cannot be viewed otherwise than manifest evidences of the Lord’s wrath. As the Lord’s wrath is always just, it follows, that what has exposed them to condemnation, must have preceded it. By these evidences then he now proves the apostasy and defection of men: for the Lord indeed does so punish those, who alienate themselves from his goodness, that he casts them headlong into various courses which lead to perdition and ruin. And by comparing the vices, of which they were guilty, with the impiety, of which he had before accused them, he shows that they suffered punishment through the just judgment of God: for since nothing is dearer to us than our own honor, it is extreme blindness, when we fear not to bring disgrace on ourselves; and it is the most suitable punishment for a reproach done to the Divine Majesty. This is the very thing which he treats of to the end of the chapter; but he handles it in various ways, for the subject required ample illustration.

What then, in short, he proves to us is this, — that the ingratitude of men to God is incapable of being excused; for it is manifest, by unequivocal evidences, that the wrath of God rages against them: they would have never rolled themselves in lusts so filthy, after the manner of beasts, had not the majesty of God been provoked and incensed against them. Since, then, the worst abominations abounded everywhere, he concludes that there existed among them evidences of divine vengeance. Now, as this never rages without reason, or unjustly, but ever keeps within the limits of what is right, he intimates that it hence appears that perdition, not less certain than just, impended over all.

As to the manner in which God gives up or delivers men to wickedness, it is by no means necessary in this place to discuss a question so intricate, (longam — tedious.) It is indeed certain, that he not only permits men to fall into sin, by allowing them to do so, and by conniving at them; but that he also, by his equitable judgment, so arranges things, that they are led and carried into such madness by their own lusts, as well as by the devil. He therefore adopts the word, give up, according to the constant usage of Scripture; which word they forcibly wrest, who think that we are led into sin only by the permission of God: for as Satan is the minister of God’s wrath, and as it were the executioner, so he is armed against us, not through the connivance, but by the command of his judge. God, however, is not on this account cruel, nor are we innocent, inasmuch as Paul plainly shows, that we are not delivered up into his power, except when we deserve such a punishment. Only we must make this exception, that the cause of sin is not from God, the roots of which ever abide in the sinner himself; for this must be true,

“Thine is perdition, O Israel; in me only is thy help.”
(Hosea 13:9) 5151     On this subject Augustine, as quoted by Poole, uses a stronger language than which we find here: — Tradidit non solum per patientiam et permissionem, sed per potentiam et quasi actionem; non faciendo voluntates malas, sed eis jam malis utendo ut voluerit; multa et intra ipsos et exrtra ipsos operando, a quibus illi occasionem capiunt gravius peccandi; largiendo illis admonitiones, flagella, beneficia, etc., quibus quoque eos scivit Deus ad suam perniciem abusuros — “He delivered them up, not only by sufferance and permission, but by power, and as it were by an efficient operation; not by making evil their wills, but by using them, being already evil, as he pleased; by working many things both within and without them, from which they take occasion to sin more grievously, by giving them warnings, scourges, benefits, etc., which God knew they would abuse to their own destruction.” — This is an awful view of God’s proceedings towards those who willfully resist the truth, but no doubt a true one. Let all who have the opportunity of knowing the truth tremble at the thought of making light of it.
   The preposition ἐν before desires or lusts, is used after the Hebrew manner, in the sense of to or into; for ב beth, means in, and to, and also by or through; and such is the import of ἐν as frequently used by the Apostle. It is so used in the preceding verse — ἐν ὁμοιώματι — into the likeness, etc. Then the verse would be, as Calvin in sense renders it, —

   God also on this account delivered them up to the lusts of their own hearts to work uncleanness, that they might dishonor their bodies among themselves.

   The import of εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν, in order to uncleanness, is no doubt, to work uncleanness; the Apostle frequently uses this kind of expression. Stuart labors here unnecessarily to show, that God gave them up, being in their lusts, etc., taking the clause as a description of those who were given up; but the plainest meaning is that which Calvin gives. — Ed.

By connecting the desires or lusts of man’s heart with uncleanness, he indirectly intimates what sort of progeny our heart generates, when left to itself. The expression, among themselves, is not without its force; for it significantly expresses how deep and indelible are the marks of infamy imprinted on our bodies.

25. Who changed, etc. He repeats what he had said before, though in different words, in order to fix it deeper in our minds. When the truth of God is turned to a lie, his glory is obliterated. It is then but just, that they should be besprinkled with every kind of infamy, who strive to take away from God his honor, and also to reproach his name. —

And worshipped, etc. That I might include two words in one, I have given this rendering. He points out especially the sin of idolatry; for religious honor cannot be given to a creature, without taking it away, in a disgraceful and sacrilegious manner, from God: and vain is the excuse that images are worshipped on God’s account, since God acknowledges no such worship, nor regards it as acceptable; and the true God is not then worshipped at all, but a fictitious God, whom the flesh has devised for itself. 5252     The words, “the truth of God,” and “falsehood,” or, a lie, are Hebraistic in their meaning, signifying “the true God,” and “an idol.” The word, which means a lie, is often in Hebrew applied to any thing made to be worshipped. See Isaiah 44:17, compared with 20; Jeremiah 13:25 Stuart renders the sentence, “Who exchanged the true God for a false one.” Wolfius objects to this view, and says, “I prefer to take ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ, for the truth made known by God to the Gentiles, of which see Romans 1:18, and the following verses: they changed this into a lie, i.e., into those insane and absurd notions, into which they were led by their διαλογισμοῖς — reasonings, Romans 1:21.” The expression — παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα has been rendered by Erasmus, “above the creator,” by Luther, “rather than the Creator;” by Beza, “to the neglect of the Creator — præterito conditore;” and by Grotius, “in the place of the Creator.” The two last are more consonant with the general tenor of the context; for the persons here spoken of, according to the description given them, did not worship God at all; παρὰ is evidently used in the sense of exclusion and opposition παρὰ τὸν νόμον — contrary to the law, Acts 18:13; παρὰ φύσιν — contrary to nature, Romans 1: 26. See Galatians 1:8Ed. What is added, Who is blessed for ever, I explain as having been said for the purpose of exposing idolaters to greater reproach, and in this way, “He is one whom they ought alone to have honored and worshipped, and from whom it was not right to take away any thing, no, not even the least.”

26. God therefore gave them up, etc. After having introduced as it were an intervening clause, he returns to what he had before stated respecting the judgment of God: and he brings, as the first example, the dreadful crime of unnatural lust; and it hence appears that they not only abandoned themselves to beastly lusts, but became degraded beyond the beasts, since they reversed the whole order of nature. He then enumerates a long catalogue of vices which had existed in all ages, and then prevailed everywhere without any restraint.

It is not to the purpose to say, that every one was not laden with so great a mass of vices; for in arraigning the common baseness of men, it is proof enough if all to a man are constrained to acknowledge some faults. So then we must consider, that Paul here records those abominations which had been common in all ages, and were at that time especially prevalent everywhere; for it is marvelous how common then was that filthiness which even brute beasts abhor; and some of these vices were even popular. And he recites a catalogue of vices, in some of which the whole race of man were involved; for though all were not murderers, or thieves, or adulterers, yet there were none who were not found polluted by some vice or another. He calls those disgraceful passions, which are shameful even in the estimation of men, and redound to the dishonoring of God.

27. Such a reward for their error as was meet. They indeed deserved to be blinded, so as to forget themselves, and not to see any thing befitting them, who, through their own malignity, closed their eyes against the light offered them by God, that they might not behold his glory: in short, they who were not ashamed to extinguish, as much as they could, the glory of God, which alone gives us light, deserved to become blind at noonday.

28. And as they chose not, etc. There is an evident comparison to be observed in these words, by which is strikingly set forth the just relation between sin and punishment. As they chose not to continue in the knowledge of God, which alone guides our minds to true wisdom, the Lord gave them a perverted mind, which can choose nothing that is right. 5353     There is a correspondence between the words οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν — they did not approve, or think worthy, and ἀδόκιμον — unapproved, or worthless, which is connected with νοῦν, mind. The verb means to try or prove a thing, as metal by fire, then to distinguish between what is genuine or otherwise, and also to approve of what is good and valuable. To approve or think fit or worthy seems to be the meaning here. Derived from this verb is ἀδόκιμος, which is applied to unapproved or adulterated money, — to men unsound, not able to bear the test, not genuine as Christians, 2 Corinthians 13:5, — to the earth that is unfit to produce fruits, Hebrews 6:8. The nearest alliteration that can perhaps be presented is the following, “And as they did not deem it worth while to acknowledge God, God delivered them up to a worthless mind,” that is, a mind unfit to discern between right and wrong. Beza gives this meaning, “Mentem omnis judicii expertem — a mind void of all judgment.” Locke’s “unsearching mind,” and Macknight’s “unapproving mind,” and Doddridge’s “undiscerning mind,” do not exactly convey the right idea, though the last comes nearest to it. It is an unattesting mind, not capable of bringing things to the test — δοκίμιον not able to distinguish between things of the most obvious nature.
   “To acknowledge God” is literally “to have God in recognition τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει.” Venema says, that this is a purely Greek idiom, and adduces passages from Herodotus and Xenophon; from the first, the following phrase, ἐν αλογίῃ ἔχειν — to have in contempt, i.e., to contemn or despise. — Ed.
And by saying, that they chose not, (non probasse - approved not,) it is the same as though he had said, that they pursued not after the knowledge of God with the attention they ought to have done, but, on the contrary, turned away their thoughts resignedly from God. He then intimates, that they, making a depraved choice, preferred their own vanities to the true God; and thus the error, by which they were deceived, was voluntary.

To do those things which were not meet As he had hitherto referred only to one instance of abomination, which prevailed indeed among many, but was not common to all, he begins here to enumerate vices from which none could be found free: for though every vice, as it has been said, did not appear in each individual, yet all were guilty of some vices, so that every one might separately be accused of manifest depravity. As he calls them in the first instance not meet, understand him as saying, that they were inconsistent with every decision of reason, and alien to the duties of men: for he mentions it as an evidence of a perverted mind, that men addicted themselves, without any reflection, to those vices, which common sense ought to have led them to renounce.

But it is labor in vain so to connect these vices, as to make them dependent one on another, since this was not Paul’s design; but he set them down as they occurred to his mind. What each of them signifies, we shall very briefly explain.

29. Understand by unrighteousness, the violation of justice among men, by not rendering to each his due. I have rendered πονηρίαν, according to the opinion of Ammonium, wickedness; for he teaches us that πονηρον, the wicked, is δραστίκον κακου, the doer of evil. The word (nequitia) then means practiced wickedness, or licentiousness in doing mischief: but maliciousness (malitia) is that depravity and obliquity of mind which leads us to do harm to our neighbour. 5454     The two words are πονηρία and κακία Doddridge renders them “mischief and malignity.” Pareus says that κακία is vice, opposed to τη αρετη — virtue. — Ed. For the word πορνείαν, which Paul uses, I have put lust, (libidinem.) I do not, however, object, if one prefers to render it fornication; but he means the inward passion as well as the outward act. 5555     “Πορνεία has an extended sense, comprehending all illicit intercourse, whether fornication, adultery, incest, or any other venus illicita.” —Stuart The words avarice, envy, and murder, have nothing doubtful in their meaning. Under the word strife, (contentione,) 5656     Improperly rendered “debate” in our version — ἔριδος, “strife”, by Macknight, and “contention,” by Doddridge. — Ed. he includes quarrels, fightings, and seditions. We have rendered κακοηθείαν, perversity, (perversitatem;) 5757     In our versions “malignity;” by Macknight, “bad disposition;” and by Doddridge, “inveteracy of evil habits.” Schleusner thinks that it means here “malevolence.” — Ed. which is a notorious and uncommon wickedness; that is, when a man, covered over, as it were, with hardness, has become hardened in a corrupt course of life by custom and evil habit.

30. The word θεοστυγεῖς, means, no doubt, haters of God; for there is no reason to take it in a passive sense, (hated of God,) since Paul here proves men to be guilty by manifest vices. Those, then, are designated, who hate God, whose justice they seem to resist by doing wrong. Whisperers (susurrones) and slanderers (obtrectatores) 5858     Καταλάλους, literally gainsayers, or those who speak against others, — defamers, calumniators; rendered “revilers,” by Macknight. — Ed. are to be thus distinguished; the former, by secret accusations, break off the friendships of good men, inflame their minds with anger, defame the innocent, and sow discords; and the latter through an innate malignity, spare the reputation of no one, and, as though they were instigated by the fury of evilspeaking, they revile the deserving as well as the undeserving We have translated ὑβριστὰς, villanous, (maleficos;) for the Latin authors are wont to call notable injuries villanies, such as plunders, thefts, burnings, and sorceries; and these where the vices which Paul meant to point out here. 5959     The three words, ὑβιστὰς ὑπερηφάνους, and ἀλαζόνας seem to designate three properties of a proud spirit — disdainful or insolent, haughty and vainglorious. The ὑβρισται are those who treat others petulantly, contumeliously, or insultingly “Insolent,” as given by Macknight, is the most suitable word. The ὑπερηφάνος is one who sets himself to view above others, the high and elevated, who exhibits himself as superior to others. The αλαζων is the boaster, who assumes more than what belongs to him, or promises more than what he can perform. These three forms of pride are often seen in the world. — Ed. I have rendered the word ὑπερήφανους, used by Paul, insolent, (contumeliosos;) for this is the meaning of the Greek word: and the reason for the word is this, — because such being raised, as it were, on high, look down on those who are, as it were, below them with contempt, and they cannot bear to look on their equals. Haughty are they who swell with the empty wind of overweeningness. Unsociable 6060     Unsociabiles — ἀσυνθετους. “Faithless,” perhaps, would be the most suitable word. “Who adhere not to compacts,” is the explanation of Hesychius
   To preserve the same negative according to what is done in Greek, we may render Romans 1:31 as follows: —

   31. Unintelligent, unfaithful, unnatural, unappeasable, unmerciful. — Ed.
are those who, by their iniquities, unloose the bands of society, or those in whom there is no sincerity or constancy of faith, who may be called truce-breakers.

31. Without the feelings of humanity are they who have put off the first affections of nature towards their own relations. As he mentions the want of mercy as an evidence of human nature being depraved, Augustine, in arguing against the Stoics, concludes, that mercy is a Christian virtue.