The other day, I was looking for verses that had to do with discernment, and I came across Romans 1:28.
At first I thought I must have made a mistake somewhere in my studying and accidentally clicked on the wrong verse or clicked on the wrong word, because I didn’t see where Romans 1:28 had anything to do with discernment. Discernment has to do with the ability to tell the difference between one thing and another. Spiritually or morally speaking, it’s the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong, or between good and evil. And at first glance, I didn’t see where this verse had anything to do with discernment.
But I started studying a little closer, and here’s what I found.
Romans 1:28 (BSB)
“Furthermore, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, He gave them up to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.”
(Link to the Greek text analysis: http://biblehub.com/text/romans/1-28.htm)
1. The phrase “did not see fit” is the Greek word “edokimasan,” a form of the word “dokimazo.” (See: Strong’s Greek 1381.)
Dokimazo is a verb that means: “I put to the test, prove, examine; I distinguish by testing, approve after testing; I am fit.”
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains that it means: “to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy,” and in the context of Romans 1:28, it’s clear that the subject of the verses did not do this.
It’s not clear (at least, not clear in my mind) if the initial problem was that they did not examine at all; or if it’s that they did examine, but simply did not recognize God as being genuine. Greek scholars, feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section if you have anything to add that can help explain this 🙂 But at any rate, a study of the next word, “acknowledge” (knowledge), adds onto this thought and makes more clear the problem that is being described.
2. The word “knowledge” in Romans 1:28 is the Greek word “epignósis.” (See: Strong’s Greek 1922.) It means: “knowledge of a particular point (directed towards a particular object); perception, discernment, recognition, intuition.”
HELPS Word Studies explains that this knowledge is “knowledge gained through first-hand relationship.”
And Thayer’s Greek Lexicon further expounds by saying that in the context of Romans 1:28, this knowledge is “precise and correct knowledge… i.e., to keep the knowledge of the one true God which has illumined the soul.”
So when taken all together, this verse seems to be saying:
“Since they did not have precise and correct knowledge of God through a first-hand relationship, they had no discernment and did not recognize God as being genuine. Therefore, God gave them up to a depraved mind (a morally worthless and reprobate mind) to do what should not be done (what is shameful and forbidden).”
(Follow the links to study the meaning of “depraved” and “to do what should not be done.”)
In other words, the lack of a personal relationship with God rendered them either incapable of examining (testing, proving), or incapable of seeing the results as being true.
There’s some things that come to mind when I ponder this verse and the meanings of the words and phrases.
First, there are obviously different meanings to “testing” God, as there are verses that tell us we are not to test God, such as Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7, and 1 Corinthians 10:9. This is a whole other Bible study, but without getting into too much detail, this type of “testing, trying, or tempting” in the Greek means:
“test out, i.e. with the outcome of testing to an extreme (unwarranted) degree; “hyper-test,” going to improper measures which exceed appropriate boundaries and pushing the one tested beyond reasonable (proper) limits.”
I liken the difference to be similar to a child asking their parent questions because they are seeking truth and understanding, and a child questioning the authority of the parent because they are in rebellion. This is just based on my own frame of reference as a mother, however. You might have a better example that you can relate to.
The main thing I found out, though, is that this type of unreasonable testing or tempting God is different from the type of testing or proving that is being talked about in verses such as Romans 1:28. Romans 1:28 is not talking about questioning God simply for the sake of questioning Him, or questioning His authority, or anything like that. It’s talking about questioning (testing, proving) to come to the truth of the matter and to build discernment.
The second thing I think about when I study Romans 1:28, is that I have found having a personal relationship with God isn’t complicated, but it is hard.
Here’s why I say this:
Most obviously, it can be hard because I can’t see God. I can’t experience Him with my five physical senses (and when I tried, I found a different god… a capricious and fickle god whom I came to abhor… which is another story altogether…). But even at my worst, when I was so angry at God that I couldn’t think straight (or, rather, angry at who I thought was God), I couldn’t believe that my Creator does not exist. Why? Because if God doesn’t exist, then who is Satan and the demonic fighting against? And I know the demonic exist because not only have I seen and experienced them, even with my physical senses, but I’ve also had the unfortunate experiences of having close encounters and relationships with people who are being used by the demonic. So at the least, if evil exists, then good exists, too. There can’t be one without the other. This explanation won’t be good enough for those who don’t believe the demonic exist, nor for those who don’t believe in the existence of either evil or good. But I’m not trying to explain to everyone else why God exists. I can’t persuade the unpersuadable, so I won’t even try. I am simply sharing my own experiences and how my own thought processes go in this regard, and sharing why it’s proof enough for me.
But not being able to see God right now doesn’t bother me. That part isn’t at all the hardest part of serving and having a relationship with my Heavenly Father. The hardest part for me is putting aside my own will for His. No, it’s not complicated. But it is hard to lay aside my will, my flesh, my desires, and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
I think it gets easier with time. Maybe. Ask me in 50 years or so. 🙂 But whether it gets easier with time or not, I do know that constantly fighting against God’s will is tiring, and there’s certainly more peace and joy in submitting to His will! If I’m ever able to find adequate words, maybe one day I’ll share my journey in this regards.
But another thought that comes to my mind when I study Romans 1:28 is that my Heavenly Father wants me to ask questions. He wants me to try Him, to test Him, to prove Him. But not just for the sake of questioning. Questioning simply for the sake of questioning leads to no answers, but can instead lead to the sort of “tempting God” that is warned against in Scripture. But God wants me to question and try Him for the purpose of finding the answers. To find truth. How can I be “filled with the knowledge of God” if I don’t first ask questions and seek the answers?
Perhaps this verse best sums up what I’m trying to say:
Faith that can’t be questioned is not faith but a religious cult, and a “god” who can’t survive honest questions is not all-powerful, but weak and not worth serving after all.
The truth you ultimately find in the Word of God will result in peace and surety that comes with discernment and the intimate knowledge of truth. So don’t take other people’s word for what the Bible says, of who God is, of what His will is for your life. But do what is hard: ask questions with the intent to find the truth.
God is big enough to handle it. 🙂