In my Greek exegesis course this fall at Denver Seminary, we are translating several passages from Romans 1-8. The first two passages included vs. 16-32 of chapter 1. This is a very convicting passage and theologically rich. It involves humans sinning and God actively responding by handing (giving) them over toward greater sin and destruction.
Here are a few key exegetical details I picked up on:
(Confession: a little knowledge of Greek is a dangerous thing, thus I confess these are only my understandings as of today and I admit they are elementary at best):
vs. 16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
- The gospel is God's power!
vs. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
- God's righteousness is revealed (made known, appears, arrives) in the gospel
vs. 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
- God's wrath is revealed (same Greek word, tense, etc.) against all the godlessness and wickedness of humans (unlike many English translations the Greek word anthropon is usually , and definitely in this usage, an all inclusive term for both genders).
vs. 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
- Knowledge of God is not just knowable, but known to all men. That is God himself makes it known to them. Plainly!
vs. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
- This knowledge makes all humans accountable to God.
vs.21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
- The proper response to God is worship and thanks. To not respond appropriately leads to God (the active agent) darkening the minds of humans (passive, receiving agent).
vs.22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
- Professing wisdom falls very short of the real thing . . . again humans are receiving action upon them from God . . . God makes humans fools.
vs 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
- This is the first of several uses of the expression that one party "exchanges" something valuable and true for something dishonorable, wicked and foolish
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
- God's first response to humans exchanging His glory for earthly idols is him actively giving them over to impurity, a dishonoring of their earthly bodies. Makes sense doesn't it. If we fail to use earthly objects correctly (make them the object of our worship), they will become a snare for us. Who wouldn't agree that must of the Western world in the 21st Century made the human body an idol, and subsequently, we have brought degradation to the use of the body?
25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
- The second exchange: give up God's truth for lies!
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
- God responds again by actively handing humans over toward shameful living! *Key issue: almost every well-respected English translation fails to fully express some of the following words. For the remainder of this passage, when Paul speaks of men/women, the better English translation is male/female. Vs. 26 should read, "Both their females exchanged . . ." Paul is using the same words the LXX used to translated Gen. 1:27, "God created them male and female." Paul is talking about the difference between anatomies in regards to gender!
27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
- "In the same way the males abandoned natural relations with females . . . " Again Paul is stressing that gender confusion has occurred; gender lines have seriously been crossed. This IS a passage about homosexual sin/perversion.
28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
- This exchange involves humans not thinking it fitting to have knowledge in God; thus, God gives them "unfit" minds. There's a play on words with the English equivalents "worthwhile" and "depraved" having common word stems in the Greek language.
29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
- This sentence (actually verses 28-31 is all one sentence in the Greek) relates back to humans not approving knowledge about God; they have been people marked by such vices. Many conservatives skip right past this verse thinking it's a description of homosexuals. NO! This verse condemns every human of sin. We are all slanderers, insolent, arrogant, heartless . . . we did not see it fitting to cling to our knowledge of God! Guilty.
32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
- Humans do such practices, even though they know better. Most honest people will admit that they accept that fact that evil actions are worthy of punishment. Very few people in the world remain relativistic when you steal their car.
Translation used from New International Version.