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Romans 1:21

    Romans 1:21 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    American King James Version (AKJV)

    Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    Because, having the knowledge of God, they did not give glory to God as God, and did not give praise, but their minds were full of foolish things, and their hearts, being without sense, were made dark.

    Webster's Revision

    because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.

    World English Bible

    Because, knowing God, they didn't glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.

    Definitions for Romans 1:21

    Became - Was exactly suited for; was fitting.
    Vain - Empty; foolish; useless.

    Clarke's Commentary on Romans 1:21

    Because that when they knew God - When they thus acquired a general knowledge of the unity and perfections of the Divine nature, they glorified him not as God - they did not proclaim him to the people, but shut up his glory (as Bishop Warburton expresses it) in their mysteries, and gave the people, in exchange for an incorruptible God, an image made like to corruptible man. Wherefore God, in punishment for their sins, thus turning his truth into a lie, suffered even their mysteries, which they had erected for a school of virtue, to degenerate into an odious sink of vice and immorality; giving them up unto all uncleanness and vile affections.

    They glorified him not - They did not give him that worship which his perfections required.

    Neither were thankful - They manifested no gratitude for the blessings they received from his providence, but became vain in their imaginations, διαλογισμοις, in their reasonings. This certainly refers to the foolish manner in which even the wisest of their philosophers discoursed about the Divine nature, not excepting Socrates, Plato, or Seneca. Who can read their works without being struck with the vanity of their reasonings, as well as with the stupidity of their nonsense, when speaking about God? I might crowd my page with proofs of this; but it is not necessary to those who are acquainted with their writings, and to others it would not be useful. In short, their foolish, darkened minds sought God no where but in the place in which he is never to be found; viz. the vile, corrupted, and corrupting passions of their own hearts. As they did not discover him there, they scarcely sought him any where else.

    Barnes' Notes on Romans 1:21

    Because that - The apostle here is showing that it was right to condemn people for their sins. To do this it was needful to show them that they had the knowledge of God, and the means of knowing what was right; and that the true source of their sins and idolatries was a corrupt and evil heart.

    When they knew God - Greek, "knowing God." That is, they had an acquaintance with the existence and many of the perfections of one God. That many of the philosophers of Greece and Rome had a knowledge of one God, there can be no doubt. This was undoubtedly the case with Pythagoras, who had traveled extensively in Egypt, and even in Palestine; and also with Plato and his disciples. This point is clearly shown by Cudworth in his Intellectual System, and by Dr. Warburton in the Divine Legation of Moses. Yet the knowledge of this great truth was not communicated to the people. It was confined to the philosophers; and not improbably one design of the mysteries celebrated throughout Greece was to keep up the knowledge of the one true God. Gibbon has remarked that "the philosophers regarded all the popular superstitions as equally false: the common people as equally true; and the politicians as equally useful." This was probably a correct account of the prevalent feelings among the ancients. A single extract from "Cicero" (de Natura Deorum, lib. ii. c. 6) will show that they had the knowledge of one God. "There is something in the nature of things, which the mind of man, which reason, which human power cannot effect; and certainly what produces this must be better than man. What can this be called but "God?" Again (c. 2), "What can be so plain and manifest, when we look at heaven, and contemplate heavenly things, as that there is some divinity of most excellent mind, by which these things are governed?"

    They glorified him not as God - They did not "honor" him as God. This was the true source of their abominations. To glorify him "as God" is to regard with proper reverence all his perfections and laws; to venerate his name, his power, his holiness, and presence, etc. As they were not inclined to do this, so they were given over to their own vain and wicked desires. Sinners are not willing to give honor to God, as God. They are not pleased with his perfections; and therefore the mind becomes fixed on other objects, and the heart gives free indulgence to its own sinful desires. A willingness to honor God as God - to reverence, love, and obey him, would effectually restrain people from sin.

    Neither were thankful - The obligation to be "thankful" to God for his mercies, for the goodness which we experience, is plain and obvious. Thus, we judge of favors received of our fellow-men. the apostle here clearly regards this unwillingness to render gratitude to God for his mercies as one of the causes of their subsequent corruption and idolatry. The reasons of this are the following.

    (1) the effect of ingratitude is to render the heart hard and insensible.

    (2) people seek to forget the Being to whom they are unwilling to exercise gratitude.

    (3) to do this, they fix their affections on other things; and hence, the pagan expressed their gratitude not to God, but to the sun, and moon, and stars, etc., the mediums by which God bestows his favors upon people. And we may here learn that an unwillingness to thank God for his mercies is one of the most certain causes of alienation and hardness of heart.

    But became vain - To "become vain," with us, means to be elated, or to be self-conceited, or to seek praise from others. The meaning here seems to be, they became foolish, frivolous in their thoughts and reasonings. They acted foolishly; they employed themselves in useless and frivolous questions, the effect of which was to lead the mind further and further from the truth respecting God.

    Imaginations - This word means properly "thoughts," then "reasonings," and also "disputations." Perhaps our word, "speculations," would convey its meaning here. It implies that they were unwilling to honor God, and being unwilling to honor him, they commenced those speculations which resulted in all their vain and foolish opinions about idols, and the various rites of idolatrous worship. Many of the speculations and inquiries of the ancients were among the most vain and senseless which the mind can conceive.

    And their foolish heart - The word "heart" is not infrequently used to denote the mind, or the understanding. We apply it to denote the affections. But such was not its common use, among the Hebrews. We speak of the head when we refer to the understanding, but this was not the case with the Hebrews. They spoke of the heart in this manner, and in this sense it is clearly used in this place; see Ephesians 1:18; Romans 2:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Peter 1:19. The word "foolish" means literally what is without "understanding;" Matthew 15:16.

    Was darkened - Was rendered obscure, so that they did not perceive and comprehend the truth. The process which is stated in this verse is,

    (1) That people had the knowledge of God.

    (2) that they refused to honor him when they knew him, and were opposed to his character and government.

    (3) that they were ungrateful.


    Wesley's Notes on Romans 1:21

    1:21 Because, knowing God - For the wiser heathens did know that there was one supreme God; yet from low and base considerations they conformed to the idolatry of the vulgar. They did not glorify him as God, neither were thankful - They neither thanked him for his benefits, nor glorified him for his divine perfection. But became vain - Like the idols they worshipped. In their reasonings - Various, uncertain, foolish. What a terrible instance have we of this in the writings of Lucretius! What vain reasonings, and how dark a heart, amidst so pompous professions of wisdom!

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