Lifting The Lid On Hell

Psychiatrists say that if you scratch the surface and thus penetrate beneath the thin veneer of human culture and respectability, you “lift the lid of hell.”


Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 1:29-31

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, 30slanders, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.


Previously we have been looking at the most dreadful description of the sinful human race as given by Paul. It begins with the rejection of God by all people and proceeded to God’s abandonment of us, as a result of which human beings rapidly fall into a horrible pit of depravity, to their own hurt and the hurt of others. We now come to a list of vices as Paul continues his description of human sinfulness against God. It’s a long list of 21 items. How are we to handle such a reflection of ourselves? Some will not face it at all, even many preachers will not face that reflection. These vices are what many theologians call “total depravity” and no one wants to hear about them. Many preachers stay clear of mentioning these vices in order to sanitize their preaching for fear of driving people away. May preachers instead focus on our goodness, the potential for human betterment, the comfort of the gospel—without speaking of that for which the gospel is the cure. Psychiatrists say that if you scratch the surface and thus penetrate beneath the thin veneer of human culture and respectability, you “lift the lid of hell.”


All Kinds of Wickedness

  1. In verse 18 we read “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickednessof men who supress the truth by their wickedness.”
  2. We see “wickedness” being used twice in v18. The second use of “wickedness” refers to man’s suppression of the truth about God.
  3. In the first use of “wickedness” of verse 18 wickedness is distinguished from godlessness, they are words to designate two categories of human evil.
    1. Godlessness embraces all sins agaisnt God, that is, sins of the first table of the law.
    2. Wickedness embraces the sins of man agaisnt man, those of the second table of the law.
  4. We have been looking at the sins of “godlessness”, however, in these last verses Paul lists examples of man’s “wickedness”.
  5. Wickedness
    1. Used to indicate Paul is about to move to discussing laws from the second table.
    2. The word used for wickedness in verse 29 is the same word used for wickedness in verse 18.
    3. In Greek wickedness is a composite negative term.
      1. The positive word dikaios meaning “righteousness”.
      2. Preceded by the negative particle a, meaning “not”.
      3. The Greek word for wickedness literally means “not righteous”, or “unjust”.
    4. Since what is “right” is determined by the law of God, the term denotes everything that is opposed to that divine law or character. It is embracing what follows: Evil, Greed, and Depravity.
  6. Evil
    1. Greek word is poneria which is a general term for badness.
    2. Gerstner says, “This referes to the general inclination to evil that reigned among the heathen and made them practice and take pleasure in vicious and unprofitable actions.” (John H. Gerstner, “The Atonement and the Purpose of God”)
    3. Remember we are all evil, not just the unsaved.
  7. Greed
    1. This Greek word, pleonexia, is transaled “covetousness” in some places.
    2. It is what God prohibits in the 10th commandment, but many would say it is the basis of western economies.
    3. This term does not refer to the desire to improve oneself, particularly for the benefit of others.
    4. Greed, used here, is the passion for more, the lust to advance oneself even at the expense of others.
  8. Depravity
    1. Word that denotes a deliberate wickedness that delights in doing other people harm.
    2. The word “maliciousness” could also be used.

Hatred of One’s Fellowman

  1. Envy
    1. Envy is related to greed, but goes beyond greed.
    2. Envy shows that the chief factor in our greed is jealousy over the fact that other people have more.
    3. What is even worse is when we are jealous of people who have less.
  2. Murder
    1. Greek word for murder is phonou sounds like the Greek word for envy phthonou, which might be the reason they appear together so often.
    2. They appear together naturally also since murder often flows from envy.
    3. Cain’s murder of Abel is a prime example of murder flowing from envy.
    4. In Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus warns that murder is not only the outward act of taking a life. It is also the hatred in the heart that leads to it.
  3. Strife
    1. Root meaning of the word is “debate”.
    2. It also came to mean contention, quarreling, or wrangling.
  4. Deceit
    1. Denotes outright treachery by which words are used to ensnare the unware for the deceiver’s personal gain.
    2. Much of the business of the western world is carried on by this means.
  5. Malice
    1. Derived from two Greek Words:
      1. Kakos which means “bad”, “evil”, “worthless”, or “pernicious”.
      2. Ethos which means “hapit”, “custom”, or “usage”.
    2. The two words together projects the idea of customary or habitiual evil.
    3. The malicious person is one who is normally set against other people and is out to harm them.

The Central Sins

  1. Gossips
    1. The Greek word is psithuristas sound like whisper, and is, in fact, sometimes translated “whisperinegs”.
    2. This word referes to the slanderous gossip that is spread in secret and is so harmful to another’s repuations.
    3. The Hebrew word denotes the murmuring of a snake charmer as translated in the Septuagint: to whisper.
  2. Slanderers
    1. This carries gossip one step further, since gossip is done in secret, but slander is done openly.
    2. The Greek literally means “to speak against” or “defame” someone.
  3. God-haters
    1. This seems out of place as at first glance it would appear that this belongs in earlier verses since we are dealing with sins men commit against each other.
    2. Some have taken this to mean “hated by God” which is a term for hardened sinners.
    3. Does not answer why “hated by God” would fit in this category as sins man commits against each other.
    4. Upon further examination this fits perfectly between the sin of slander and the sin of pride.
    5. When we slander another, we are not only slander a person, but we are slandering God which is the essence of insolence and arrogance, the next items covered.
    6. Not many admit they hate God, but let something go wrong and see how fast their hatred for God boils over.
  4. Insolent
    1. Greek word is hubris which means pride.
    2. It is a pride that sets a human being against God.
    3. The Greeks considered this the greatest of mans flaws, one the gods wold not tolerate.
    4. No one word can carry the full weight of the meaning of this word, but “insolent” comes pretty close.
  5. Arrogant
    1. Some might consider this a virture as a belligerent attitude toward a hostile society. In this list it is still a vice.
    2. Arrogance rises from a feeling of personal superiority, regarding others with contempt.
  6. Boastful
    1. Bassed on pride.
    2. Seeks admiration by claiming to be or have what one actually is not or does not possess.

Creators of Evil

  1. They invent ways of doing evil.
    1. Real creativity belongs to God alone and we can only dimly imitate God’s creativity.
    2. The one area where we do excel is in inventing new ways to do evil.
    3. The old ways to commit evil is to slow, not productive enough, or too ineffective. We have to invent new ways to do evil.
    4. This is the invention that is spoken of in Psalms 106:29 – “provoked him[God] to anger with their inventions.”
  2. They disobey their parents.
    1. If anything chracterizes our day, it is children showing disrespect toward their parents.
    2. This must not have been a problem just in our time as it is spoken about so much in scripture.
    3. Honoring and respecting is so important to God that he included it in the ten commandments.
    4. Paul has respect for parents attached to a promise, “tha tit may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:21)

Senseless, Faithless, Hearless, Ruthless

  1. Senseless
    1. When talking about “senseless” here we are not talking about being unconscious.
    2. “Without understanding” is a fuller transaltion, but we need to make clear the kind of lack of understanding.
    3. Robert Haldane: “This well expresses the original; for although the persons so described were not destitute of understanding as to the
      things of this world, but as to these might be the most intelligent and
      enlightened, yet, in a moral sense, or as respects the things of God, they
      were unintelligent and stupid. This agrees with the usual signification of
      the word, and it perfectly coincides with universal experience. All men are
      by nature undiscerning as to the things of God, and to this there never was
      an exception.”
  2. Faithless
    1. Not based on the Greek word for faith pistis(belief or trust in God).
    2. The root of this word is tithemi(put or place).
    3. The term Paul uses actually has to do with breaking and appointment or covenant
    4. “Breaking Faith” is the idea being conveyed.
  3. Heartless
    1. Literally means “without natural affection”.
    2. Can be seen in the mother who intentionally aborts or abandons her child or the father who abandons his family.
  4. Ruthless
    1. Greek word means “without mercy”.
    2. Godet: “It calls up before the mind the entire population of the great cities flocking to the cirucus to behold the fights of gladiators, frantically applauding the effusion of human blood, and gloating over the dying agonies of the vanquished combatant. Such is an example of the unspeakable hardness of heart to which the whole society of the Gentile world descended.”
    3. Don’t believe for one second it was only the ancient world lacked mercy. Current day is just as guilty in lacking mercy.
    4. Cruelty is at the heart of even the most gentle human being.

The Road to Hell

  1. Not all people are guilty of commiting everyone one of these hellish vices, but they are there just below the surface and can easily present themselves.
  2. As horrible as these vices are they are only a foretaste of what hell is like.
  3. Martin Lloyed-Jones: “Hell is a condition in which life is lived away from God and all the restraints of God’s holiness.”
  4. The human race has chosen to go its own way without God. A result of this choice is that God has abandonded the race to the result of its own sinful choices.
  5. We should not dilute this message with niceties, to do so would be negligent to the human race.
  6. We should not think ourselves to be “OK”. Thanks be to God for the good news of the gospel.

Personal Reflection

21! That’s the number of vices Paul gives us in verses 29-31. These vices, as most theologians refer to them, were Paul’s analysis of his time, and nothing has changed. Those same vices afflicting the human race thousands of years ago are still the vices hammering away at society today. We can look around us and observe the social upheaval taking place and conclude we suffer from overindulgence in these vices. You want to know what the result is of our disobedience toward God, Paul gives us 21 results. The vices is what happens when God gives us up to our own desires. As quoted from Boyce, “We have made earth a hell! And we will carry that hell with us into hell, making hell even more hellish that it is already! We and hell itself will go on becoming more and more hell-like for eternity. Oh, the horror of our choice! Oh, the glory of the gospel!” I would encourage everyone to go through each one of these vices and doing a study of each one. We should ask ourselves two simple questions: 1) How am I guilty of any of these vices? (If you think you aren’t guilty, then run to your prayer spot and ask God to show you how you are guilty.) 2) What can I do to change? I’m going to pick just a couple of these vices and then expand on them. The first vice I want to cover is “Evil Inventors”.

The words used in the NIV is “…they invent ways of doing evil;…”. As Dr. Boice mentions above in the outline, there is only way man outdoes God, and this is in inventing evil. We aren’t happy with doing normal evil, we actually look for new ways to do evil. One of the most heinous acts that man has invented to do evil is through the act of abortion. How depraved must man be to think that ending the life of a child was not evil? The act itself is evil, and then we have taken abortion to a new level of evil. There are those who have lobbied and succeeded in making the act of abortion legal. Truly, only from the mind of Satan, could this come from. Previously we discussed the “depraved mind” as being the mind of Satan, and this is it. Another way man has invented evil is by intentionally taking the Holy Text out of context for the sole purpose of misleading. We see this happening in the progressive/liberal church. We see this when scripture is quoted to prove a point without paying attention to context and the entirety of the Holy Text. The “cherry picking” is used by the unsaved to try and convict the Christian or catch them in a “gotcha” moment. The non-Christian, I include liberal/progressive churches in this group, twist and confuse scripture to deny basic Christian tenets. There are churches who deny the deity of Christ, the virgin birth of Christ, the existence of heaven and hell, the authority of Christ, the authority of God, the wrath of God, and the list could go on. When I think that man has exhausted his mind in the invention of evil, I read the daily news and find that I am mistaken. We excel at this task, and there is no end in sight.

The grouping of gossips, slanders, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful is about pride. It is the God-haters which is the second area we are going to look at. Robert Haldane in his commentary on Romans say says this about God-haters, “…it is the highest manifestation of pride…” Haldane would go on to write in his Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, “The carnal mind is enmity against God. They hate His holiness, His justice, His sovereignty, and even His mercy in the way in which it is vouchsafed.” There is not a single person past, present, or future who naturally loves God. We all run away from God. Only by the work of the Holy Spirit are we drawn to God, and this is done only because of the mercy and grace of God. Those who pursue a disobedient life to God do so because there is a natural tendency to hate God. When we look at the world and come face to face with agnosticism, atheism, false idols, disobedience to God, we should do so with the understanding of the existence of the natural hate for God. What is the source of this hate? The desire to be autonomous is that source, which takes us all the way back to Adam and Eve. We hate God because we don’t want to live under the authority of God, we want the autonomy to do as we please. This desire to be autonomous fuels the hate for God, because we want to derive our own set of ethics. We don’t want our ethics to be set by God because it limits we want to do as we please, and that is to fulfill the appetites of the sinful nature.

How does our hate of God tie in with inventors of evil? In order to try and erase any sense of God in our lives, we have to numb, even kill, the conscience that speaks to us. In order to desensitize the conscience we commit acts of evil, inventing new acts of evil even. Once we start down this path God will hand us over to our desires. God in essence gives us up to our sinful desire, no longer constraining out hearts. The completely unconstrained heart is capable of unspeakable acts of horror. We’ve seen a few of these people throughout history; Hitler, Stalin, ISIS, Pol Pot, etc. We can certainly place those who vocally support and lobby for abortion in this list as over 50 million, now approaching 60 million, children have died needlessly. The agenda to redefine marriage and sexual identity is another way we show hate for God. We cannot separate hate for God from inventing new ways to commit acts of evil. Our hate for God is manifested through the evil we commit.


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