Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with haters of God. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are haters of God.”
This is the only occurrence of this word, thĕŏstugēs, in the Greek New Testament. But though this is the only occurrence of this specific word, it is not the only occurrence of this thought. By nature, we are all estranged from God and at enmity with God, hating Him and hating His law. Paul writes later in Romans that the carnal mind, the mind guided not by the glory of God but by selfish desires, “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (8:7).
So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words in Romans 8. First, Paul insists that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” The carnal mind is the mind that has not yet been renewed by God’s grace. This is the unbelieving man or woman who puts the longings and desires of self or the longings and desires of some other god ahead of God Himself. For this person something holds preeminence in his life other than God. Consequently, the carnal mind hates God because God demands absolute and complete loyalty and obedience; He must be first in our minds and first in our hearts; He will brook no competitors nor opposition. The carnal mind despises such loyalty and views it not as the pathway to life, as it in fact is, but as an infringement on its freedom.
The carnal mind hates God, Paul writes second, because “it is not subject to the law of God.” Paul makes a simple statement of fact. God’s law is an expression of His will, His desires. This law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, requires us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law. Oh, it might pick and choose among them. But the carnal mind does so not because it recognizes God as its Lord and Ruler and wants to honor Him but because it claims to be its own lord and ruler and decides that such laws are helpful or advantageous. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law.
Paul then makes a startling comment: “nor indeed can be.” Here Paul proceeds from the actions of the carnal mind to its abilities. The man or woman with a carnal mind is not able to obey the law of God. So perverse is the human heart that we none of us, by nature, can choose to love God or to obey His law. We are not able. As Paul says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot [are not able to] please God.” Apart from Christ, we are all enslaved to our sin, possessed of a carnal mind, and haters of God.
Our only hope, therefore, is if the Spirit of God transforms our heart desires and frees us from our blindness and stubborn hatred of God. He must convict us of our sin and guilt; He must enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ; He must renew our wills so that we become able and willing to love God and to rejoice in His law. We all of us are completely dependent upon the grace of God for salvation.
If we would see a revival in our nation, therefore; that our neighbors turn from their hatred of God and begin to love Him, then we must seek it first and foremost from the Lord of Glory Himself. We must pray for God to have mercy upon us and rescue us from our stubborn rebellion and hatred of Him. He alone can deliver us.
And so reminded of our need for the grace of God, and that apart from the work of His Spirit we are not only unwilling to subject ourselves to the law of God but unable to do so, let us confess that we hate God by nature and seek His forgiving grace. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord.