Darkened Hearts- Romans 1:21-23

In our previous post, we saw how God’s wrath is not just expressed in a future judgment but is expressed here and now in the lives of those who reject Him. We will now continue in Romans 1 and see how that wrath is being revealed. We resume our study in verse 21, which begins with the Greek dioti- because. This links this passage to what immediately precedes it and continues discussing the same topic. Paul tells us here wrath comes because they know God but don’t glorify Him or give thanks to Him. He has just told us that God makes Himself known through creation and conscience, that all know in their heads that God exists, but this head knowledge is not enough. They are not only to know Him but also to glorify Him. The word glorify is the Greek doxazo, which is used here to express the Hebrew concept of chabod, which means that which is weighty, which leaves an impression. We find here that those who do this fail to give God his proper weight, fail to see Him as He really is and act accordingly, knowing He is God but not acting like He is God. They should have done so but did not, and because of this their thinking becomes futile. The word futile here is metaioo, a word used only here in the New Testament, taken directly from the Hebrew and meaning “vain”. There are two ideas in this word vain here, vain as futility and vain as pride, and both are included here. Proud thinking is futile thinking. The Greek word thinking here is dialogismos, literally to “think through”, to ponder, to look for meaning in all we think and reflect upon, and this search for meaning is futile apart from God, for only He can give true meaning to our lives. This is the practice of exalting human reason above the revelation of Scripture, and it is proud in that man is exalted above God, and it is futile because human reason cannot answer life’s most important questions, such as Who am I? Why am I here?, etc. This vain thinking then produces a darkened heart, further described as foolish. A fool is one who acts without wisdom, which is the proper use of knowledge. These people know God exists, but do not respond properly to that knowledge, for “the fool says in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 53:1). A foolish heart, then, is one which acts as though God does not exist or does not matter. In the Scripture, the heart is seen as the source of emotion, intellect and volition. We feel with our hearts, we think with our hearts and we behave with our hearts. Our hearts are what make us feel what we feel, think how we think and do what we do, and here foolish hearts are said to be “darkened”, separated from the source of light; feeling, thinking and acting as though God does not exist or does not matter, when the fact is that God does exist and He does matter. This is reality, and to act in contradiction with reality truly is vain, foolish and futile. Even though their hearts are darkened in this way, they still claim to be wise, and in this claim demonstrate their true foolishness. The claim to “be” wise asserts that wisdom is a fundamental characteristic of their existence, when clearly it is not, for claiming to be wise by denying a God they know exists is the height of foolishness and also the height of pride. Because they deny the true God, they then “exchange” the glory of the true God for false gods. We must make special note of Paul’s use of the term exchange here, to exchange means to trade one thing for another, and in this case, they exchange the true God for a false one. Every human being will worship and serve someone or something, and those who choose not to serve the true God will end up serving a false one. They refuse to worship the true God and in His place they worship “the likeness of an image of corruptible man”, referred to throughout the Bible as idolatry, the worship of a God of one’s own making, the worship of a god subject to human control and manipulation. The issue with all of this is that this kind of god is not the God of the Bible. So by means of summary, we find in these verses that the rejection of the God of the Bible is the height of foolishness and arrogance and results ultimately in the worship of self, the worship of a god we have created and a god of our own making, a god we can manipulate, and their hearts grow darker and darker, further and further from the true light, become ever more foolish, their thinking being more and more distorted and their behavior according leas and less with the truth of the Scriptures.

No Comments Biblical Psychology  //  Epistles  //  Judgment  //  Nature of Man

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