A Reprobate Mind:
Its Nature

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 7a of 83


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, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:  32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:28-32)

In the sixth part of our study of the book of Romans, we saw that sin is an instrument of God’s wrath. By the wisdom and wrath of God, sin pulls sinners lower and lower down into sin. We saw that sin is like a slippery drain.

The sinner,—and indeed the world,—which falls into it slides down willingly.

The world that is holding down the truth in unrighteousness, ends up indulging in idolatry to appease its conscience. But those who commit idolatry will not be satisfied with idolatry. They will lower themselves to the levels of animals in terms of morals. They will engage in uncleanness of fornication. And they will not halt there. They will descend lower than animals and indulge in vile affections of homosexuality. And that is not the end, for they will be given up to a reprobate mind.

Now, bear in mind that Paul is not saying that every single person who indulges in idolatry will land up a homosexual. What he is saying is that this is how sin progresses in the world. And he is also saying that as a general principle, anyone who holds down the truth will slide lower and lower into sin. The descent into fornication and homosexuality is just one of the more shocking manifestations of this downward slide. Others may go down a different path, and fall into other sins.

This seems to be what the apostle is saying in our text. For he lists a long catalogue of sin that those who suppress the truth will fall into. We looked into this text very briefly in our previous study. In our current study, we must relook into the text to draw out a few important lessons.

In particular, we want to do three things: First, we must consider again what is a reprobate mind (v. 28, 32). Secondly, we must consider what a reprobate mind produces (v. 29-31). Thirdly, we must consider the cure for a reprobate mind.

Let’s consider first…

1. What is a Reprobate Mind?

What is a “reprobate mind”? The word “reprobate” (ἀδόκιμος, adokimos), literally means “unapproved” or “rejected.” In Hebrews 6:8, we read that “that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected.” The word “rejected” is the same word as that translated “reprobate” in our text. So a “reprobate mind” is a “rejected mind.” It is a mind that when tested is found to be a failure. It is a mind that does not function, as it should.

How should our mind function? To understand how our mind functions, we must remember that there are two departments in our souls. One is the intelligence department known as the ‘mind.’ The other is the action department known as the ‘will.’ Now, it is the duty of the mind to tell the will what it ought to do.

So, for example, if you are hungry than your mind will tell your will that you ought to get some food. But suppose you are fasting before the election of church officers. Your stomach tells you that are hungry. Your mind looks at the situation. It decides that you are not starving, and you do not have gastric problem. So it decides that it is more important to maintain the fast. So it tells the will not to listen to the stomach!

Or suppose you are going to sit for an exam. Your mind will look at the situation, and it will tell the will, “Get on with it and study hard.” But suppose it is the Sabbath day. Then if your mind is functioning properly, it will tell the will, instead: “This day belongs to the Lord. Worship God today. Study tomorrow.”

Or suppose you are a young man, and a young lady catches your attention. Your mind will look at the situation, and it may tell the will, “Go ahead, give her a call. Court her.” But suppose this girl is an unbeliever. Then if your mind is functioning properly, it will tell the will, instead: “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers. Give up the thought.”

This is how our mind works. It makes the decision and it tells the will what to do.

A mind that is functioning well, distinguishes between good and evil, right and wrong. And it tells the will to do the good. But the reprobate mind does not function like that.

The reprobate mind knows what is good. It knows “the judgment of God,” says Paul in verse 32. But instead of telling the WILL to do the good, it invents many excuses and it persuades the WILL to do that which is sinful.

Paul speaks about doing “those things which are not convenient.” That is, doing those things which are unbecoming, or simply things which should not be done.

So, instead of telling you to maintain the fast, the reprobate mind says: “It OK to take a bite. No one is going to tell. And it is a silly idea in the first place, anyway. Go ahead and eat.”

So, instead of telling you to keep the Sabbath holy, the reprobate mind says: “You have already done your duty by going to church. Don’t be an ascetic. And besides if you don’t study today, you will fail and you will bring a bad name to Christ. So go ahead and study.”

So, instead of telling you not to court an unbelieving girl, the reprobate mind says: “There are very few Christian ladies available. And besides who know if she may be won over to the Lord if you pursue her.”

A reprobate mind is a mind that is a failure in God’s eyes. It is a mind that is weighed on the balance of God, and found wanting. It is a mind that is full of excuses and self-justification. It is a mind that leads the will astray.

Is your mind, dearly beloved, an approved MIND or is it functioning more like a reprobate mind?

A reprobate mind is a danger to its owner and to those around him. It is a danger because of what it produces.

─JJ Lim

… to be continued next issue