A Reprobate Mind:
Its Product

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 7b 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, covenantbreakers, 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 last issue, we considered what a reprobate mind is. We noted that a reprobate mind is a rejected mind that leads to and justifies sin rather than righteousness.  This leads us to the second query upon the text.]

2. What does a Reprobate Mind

It produces a multitude of sin. We saw a couple of them. The apostle Paul,—inspired by the Holy Spirit,—gives a catalogue of them.

Now, it is tempting for me to gloss over them because they will make the study very dark and depressing. But I believe the Holy Spirit has a purpose in giving us this list. So it is good for us to consider it briefly. Perhaps you may be struggling with some of these sins.

The apostle Paul lists 20 instances of sins. These sins would fill, or pervade the world of reprobate minds. These may be divided into 4 groups of 5 each.

Let’s look through these 4 groups quickly.

i. First, there are sins of the heart. These are sins which may be hidden to others.

“Unrighteousness” is simply lawlessness or wickedness. This is precisely what the reprobate mind always leads to. It knows what is good, but it will choose the evil, and call the good, evil, and evil, good. And it has plenty of excuses for justifying evil. Are you unrighteous?

“Fornication” comes from the word πορνεία (porneia), from which the English word “pornography” is derived. It has to do with sexual immorality. The reprobate mind knows that it is wrong, but it finds some lame excuses to justify immediate gratification. Are you doing so?

“Wickedness” has to do with the exercise of evil, whether in thoughts, words or deeds. Again the reprobate mind knows it is wrong. A reprobate mind is a moral mind, not an animal mind. Animals do not know the meaning of wickedness. But humans always do. Yet the reprobate mind allows wickedness. Are you wicked?

“Covetousness” is a breaking of the 10th commandment. The reprobate mind knows that it must not crave for what God has not given. But it does not care about God. It lusts and craves, and manipulates till it gets what it wants. Are you covetous?

“Maliciousness” is like “wickedness.” It is a longing after that which is evil and wicked. I was reading a cartoon strip the other day. A father was about to read a bedtime story to his little child. The child asks if the story has any guns, violence, Satanism, profanity and lewd parts. The father says: “Of course not!” And the child says, “What makes you think I’ll like this?” Beloved, this is reality—in the world. The reprobate mind loves wickedness. Do you?

ii. Consider the second group. This has to do with sin of relationship. These are sins that break down relationships.

Full of envy” or overflowing with jealousy. There is a sense in which jealousy is good. But envy tears down relationships. The reprobate mind knows that we must not be envious, but it reasons that it is more important to get rid of competition. Envy has led to destruction of families and to murders. Has it filled your heart?

Murder” can take the form of physical harm. Or it can take the form of slander. Cannibals eat men when they are dead, slanderers eat men alive. The reprobate mind knows that we must love our neighbour. But it persuades the sinner to care more for himself rather than for others. Is that so with you?

“Debate” has to do with strife or quarrels of words. The reprobate mind cannot stand to lose. It must give the last word. Is that true of you?

“Deceit” has to do with guile and pretences. The reprobate mind knows that it should be honest and truthful. But it persuades the will that it is suicidal to be honest and truthful. So it teaches the will to deceive others with words and actions. This is what makes human relationship extremely difficult. Are you deceptive?

“Malignity” is like deceit. It is about subtlety and craftiness. The reprobate mind knows that we should always do good to our neighbours. So it pretends to be doing good when in actual fact it is doing evil. Have you ever been guilty of this sin?

iii.  Consider the next five sins. These have to do sins of life—or sins that make one’s life miserable.

“Whisperers” and “backbiters” are the same lot. They are murderers. The reprobate mind knows that we should never kill another men’s character behind his back. But it persuades itself that the victim will not know. So it seizes the opportunity to destroy by spreading rumours and wicked remarks. Are you such a gossiper?

“Haters of God” is clear enough. These are those who detest God and anything that is godly. How else can the name of the Lord Jesus become swear words in the wicked world, but through reprobate minds? Does it grieve you that this has happened?

“Despiteful, proud, boasters.” To be despiteful is to look down upon others. It is a result of pride. Boasting also arises from pride. The reprobate mind knows that he is a worm, but it persuades the will to act like whales. It does not like to be told it is wrong. It does not like to submit to authorities. It is anti-establishment and individualistic, and prides itself for being so. Are you proud?

“Inventors of evil thing.” This is what the reprobate mind delights in doing. Instead of seeking to please God, it clamours to be an instrument of Satan. Terrorism, cruelty, pornography, media violence, wicked philosophies, false religions, false science. These are but some of the inventions of the reprobate mind. Do you support these inventors?

“Disobedient to parents.” We know this well. Even children are not spared. Apart from a work of grace, children are by nature disobedient to parents. But disobedience is evidence of a reprobate mind.  Ask any of our children, and they will tell you it is right to obey their parents. But ask any of our parents, and you will not find a single child who is always obedient. Children take heed!

iv. Consider the final group of sins. These have to do sin of nature—or sin that dehumanises.

“Without understanding.” The purpose of the mind is to understand. But the reprobate mind refuses to understand. It foolishly tells the will that there is no God. It knows the truth, but suppresses the truth and refuses to understand it—because the truth often hurts. The truth often demand changes in one’s life. The truth demands submission to God rather than to self. Do you shut your mind so that you are without understanding?

“Covenantbreakers” are those who break their promises. God made man with a conscience that demands that he keeps his promises. But the reprobate mind has many excuses—“It is a small matter.” “He will understand.” “She does not deserve my faithfulness,” etc. Are you a covenantbreaker?

“Without natural affection” speaks of those who do not care about what happens to their children or parents. The reprobate mind knows that God will judge those who abandon their babies. But they do so anyway. The reprobate mind knows that God will judge if they abandon their parents in the hospitals, but they do so anyway. Have you been tempted of doing so?

“Implacable” speaks of those who are hostile and unforgiving. We see this happening in the Middle-East, but we need not go that far. Those who bear grudges are implacable. Are you?

“Unmerciful” speaks of those who are merciless. Again, one of the moral characteristics of man created in the image of God is mercy. But the reprobate mind cares not about showing mercy. In its mildest form, the reprobate mind misapplies the civil law of God: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It will not give in. In the worst form, the reprobate mind resorts to cruelty and cares not for the cries of the helpless.  Are you unmerciful?

These things, dearly beloved, are but some of the things produced by a reprobate mind. Is there evidence that your mind is functioning like a reprobate mind? Oh “Who can understand his errors?” Will you not cry to the Lord, “cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Ps 19:12).


JJ Lim

… to be continued next issue