Romans 12:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable[1] and perfect.

If one were to ponder the marvelous achievements of humans over the past century into the 21st century, he would be quite amazed. We think of electricity, the automobile, the airplane, computers, phones, the internet, medicine, and space exploration, to name just a few. However, this is but one piece of sand, as compared to all the sand on the planet, when we think of the Creator of life, and what he knows. He designed flying creatures, sea animals with jet propulsion, insects that can communicate with one another mentally, bats with radar, and fish with internal lighting, and the rest.

We find the same intelligent mind when it comes to written literature as well. Modern science has brought this disrespect and disregard on the Bible as it is outdated, and all we know, or will ever know will come from the scientific community.  The irony is that the modern day science has only served to bring about the possible destruction of humankind. The Bible projects a future where the Creator will finally remove the wickedness from this planet, to replace it with his original intentions. He designed man and woman to live here on earth. He gave them perfection, and the satisfying work of transforming a paradise garden into a paradise earth, filled with tens of billions of perfect humans, enjoying life to the fullest. Where are we now, because man chose to abuse his free will, rebel, and seek independence? We are on the brink of destroying ourselves.

However, while we are fast tracking ourselves toward self-destruction, the author of the Bible has other plans. He has allowed man to answer the questions raised by the rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Can man walk on his own without his Creator? Is man better off outside of the sovereignty of God? Was God really hiding knowledge and freedom from man? What has history shown? Is it not self-evident that we can answer “no” to each of those questions? What we do know is that humankind is going to walk up to the brink of self-destruction, as we play out this grand object lesson.

We know from Scripture that Jesus Christ will step in just before we annihilate ourselves. We know that he will then carry out the will of his Father for humanity and the earth, as the issues raised in Eden will have been resolved. However, in the meantime, we must live in this wicked system of things. Thankfully, God his also provided us another life-saving gift within his book, the Bible. We can take off the old person of this world and put on the new person that is laid out in Scripture, as well as acquiring the mind of Christ.

The mind gives humans the capacity to think, understand, and reason. It is the center of consciousness, which generates thoughts, feelings, ideas, and perceptions, and store knowledge and memories. This was a gift from God, which was abused by Adam’s choice to rebel, and as a result, it functions imperfectly as well. Even still, the depth of what we possess is only more glorified by the fact that we are operating on a minuscule percentage of that initial perfect gift. Truly, we have abused our gift even more in our imperfect state. We seem to find ourselves improving life conditions as we engineer new things, but also find ways to use that ingenuity to destroy more and more fellow humans. Those alienated from God, choosing still to rebel are very confused by this last century.

We could use the example of World War I and World War II, and the fact that we have not only killed hundreds of millions in wars, genocides, starvation, torture, among so many other despicable crimes on humanity. However, let us just keep it simple of how we work in our imperfection. A company creates a product that sells to the point of making them billions of dollars. They discover that an aspect of one of their products has a safety issue, and it is going to kill people when it malfunctions. Do they rush to get it off the market? No, they call in a person known as “the bean counter.” He is going to calculate how many people will likely die from the product, let us say 2,000. He will then determine how much the families will earn in a lawsuit, as opposed to doing a recall. If the number of the lawsuit is far below the cost of the recall, he will just let things play out.

This is just one of the mentally bent factors of our imperfection, and the more we enter into the scientific era, the closer we enter into the kill switch of humankind. The unbeliever cannot see where he is going, but those of us, who understand God’s Word, know what is coming in a general way. We have hope. We know that, as things grow worse on the world scene; we are getting ever closer to our rescue from man’s defective thinking. This may seem like extremist talk, but it is nothing more than truth, as the world of imperfect humanity is not in alignment with the mind of Christ, so it must go, and go it will.

Isaiah 55:8-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares Jehovah.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it

It would seem that the logical thing to do is to seek out God’s thoughts on the situation, in which, we find ourselves. However, most of humankind is moving in the opposite direction. Certainly, for those of us, moving in the direction of God, the words of Paul are of paramount importance. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2, ESV) We need to renew our minds, to be in alignment with the will of God. The flood that was brought on the ancient world of Noah was a direct result of the wickedness of the world, i.e., mankind, and no measure of science can escape the wickedness of humankind. Thus, we are heading for another destruction of wickedness, one that will be far greater than the former.

Genesis 6:5 The American Translation (AT)

5 When the LORD saw that the wickedness of man on the earth was great, and that the whole bent of his thinking was never anything but evil, the LORD regretted that he had ever made man on the earth.

Genesis 8:21 The American Translation (AT)

21 I will never again curse the soil, though the bent of man’s mind may be evil from his very youth; nor ever again will I ever again destroy all life creature as I have just done.

Paul J. Kissling writes. “This text expresses in a powerful way just how pervasive and damaging human sinfulness can become. Humanity’s wickedness had become great and humanity’s inmost thoughts were continually thoughts of evil. This must be paired with 8:21 which is worded in a remarkably similar way but evaluates humanity after the cleansing through Noah’s election. There God concludes that man’s nature will not change. Even the Flood will not drive evil from the heart of mankind.”[2]

Kissling says of 8:21b, “essentially the same thing is being said as in 6:5; every human thought from its inception tends toward evil (cf. the chart below). Wenham notices: ‘But it is put more gently the second time to explain God’s mercy towards human sin, whereas on the first occasion it was explaining his determination to destroy mankind.’16 Humanity has not been fundamentally changed by the Flood as the story of Noah’s fall makes clear. In 6:5 even the thoughts of humanity’s hearts were evil whereas in 8:21b it is only his heart. In 6:5 the thoughts of the human heart were only evil; in 8:21b they are simply evil. In 6:5 humanity’s evil was ‘all the time’ whereas in 8:21b it is only ‘from his youth.’[3]

Matt 24:37 The American Translation (AT)

37 For just as it was in the time of Noah, it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Just before Paul told the Roman congregation of his day, not to be conformed to the world of his day, he described their debased mind, moral and spiritual distress. Listen in, and see if the last 2,000 years has improved things,

Romans 1:22-32 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.[4]

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.[5] Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged natural relations[6] for those that are contrary to nature, 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males committing the shameless deed, and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give wholehearted approval to those who practice them.

1:22–23. This exchange of glory is the theft of glory in no uncertain terms, and could not be more “foolish” (v. 21). Humans began ascribing “wordship” to other humans, or to birds and animals and reptiles, when “their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21). Literally, they became fools and became idolaters. If “stupid is as stupid does,” then “foolish is as foolish does” as well. Idolatry is a sign of moral and spiritual depravity (the baseline of foolishness), a sign of the rejection of the glory and prominence of God.

For such foolishness the wrath of God is revealed, Paul says. The glory of God is the “heaviest” thing in the universe. To assign, through worship, the glory of the Creator to a part of the creation is to turn moral and spiritual sensitivity upside down. And such upsetting of the spiritual order of things has dreadful repercussions.

C. Results of the Wrath of God (1:24–32)

SUPPORTING IDEA: Because immorality springs from idolatry, a holy God is justified in revealing his wrath against the unholy practices of the human race.

So far, Paul has said that the wrath of God is revealed against humanity in light of the suppression of the truth about God. When people act as if they do not know the truth about God (“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” Pss. 14:1; 53:1), then their hearts become increasingly dark and they move to idolatry. And because idols cannot speak or write, and there is no revelation to govern the people, idolatry always results in immorality (“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint,” Prov. 29:18). The sin of the human race is getting ever more specific: first, the suppression of truth. Then, the specific sin of idolatry.

Now, Paul will catalog the specific sins that characterize the lives of those who suppress the truth about God and exchange his glory for the glory of a part of the creation. (Note: as you go through this last section, think about Rome and the people Paul was writing to. Also, think of where you live and what you observe about mankind’s descent away from God into sin. See if you think Paul’s assessment of the human tendency to sin is accurate and provides justification for his saying that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven.)

We said above that the wrath of God that Paul discusses here is not the judgment-type wrath that will come at the end of human history. Rather, there is an ongoing, dual manifestation of his wrath, revealed in their bodies (vv. 24–27) and in their souls, or minds (vv. 28–32). It becomes obvious that what begins as a willful choice in the realm of the spirit (idolatry, vv. 21–23) ultimately manifests itself in body and soul as well.

1:24–27. Some commentators make much of the threefold occurrence of God gave them over (vv. 24, 26, 28) to construct a three-part outline of the remainder of Romans 1. However, this seems forced in light of the clear unity of verses 24–27 and its topic of sexual immorality compared against the catalog of additional sins in verses 28–32. Therefore, rather than listing three distinct ways or reasons by which God gave them over, it is more natural to see the first two occurrences (vv. 24, 26) as being repetitive for emphasis, with the final “giving over” standing by itself as indicative of a different category.

Both in the present verses, and in verses 28–32, it is important to understand what it means that God gave them over. First, note the causality indicated in both verses 24 and 26. Verse 24 begins with Therefore (dio) and verse 26 with Because of this (dia touto). Verse 24 follows Paul’s statement that human beings have exchanged the glory of God for the “glory” of created beings, and verse 26 follows his assertion that the truth of God has been exchanged for a lie.

Rather than fine-tuning the differences between these two exchanges and their resulting, respective retributions, a more general conclusion is acceptable: humankind has, as an act of the will, chosen to replace the glory of God and the truth of God with lies that justify idol worship and unbridled moral license. As a result of these choices, God has given the human race over to the pursuit of a life based on idol worship (whether outright or subtle) and philosophies built on their own moral and speculative preferences.

When God “gives them over,” is it passive or active? That is, does he merely step out of people’s way and allow them to pursue those things which depravity dictates (“He [God] ceased to hold the boat as it was dragged by the current of the river” [Frederick Godet, in loc, cited by Moo, p. 111].), or does he take an active role in moving them deeper into a downward cycle of sin “like a judge who hands over a prisoner to the punishment his crime has earned”? (Moo, p. 111). Certainly, both the human and divine elements are present in Scripture.

In the Old Testament, God handed over Israel’s enemies to her for their intentional destruction (Exod. 23:31; Deut. 7:23–24) and reversed the situation at other times by handing over Israel to her enemies (Lev. 26:25; Josh. 7:7; Judg. 2:14; 6:1, 13). These military examples are particularly instructive since God’s passively stepping out of the way and allowing war to take its inevitable result might or might not have accomplished his will or purpose. In fact, examples exist of the exact opposite of what one might have expected to happen militarily. In these cases, the active “giving over” of God is the only explanation (see, for example, the defeat of 185,000 Assyrians [2 Kgs. 19:35], and the victory of Ai over Israel [Josh. 7:3–5]). The case of Job being given into the hands of Satan is another example of God’s active involvement (though in this case not for purposes of retribution; Job 1:12; 2:6).

Another clear picture arises from Paul’s use of the same word (paradidomi) that he uses in Romans 1. In 1 Corinthians 5:5 Paul decides that a believer in the church at Corinth needs to be delivered over to Satan “so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” This involved not a passive standing aside by Paul and the leaders of the church (allowing the man to remain a part of the fellowship), but the action of expelling him from the fellowship, delivering him to the realm of the devil. In the closest parallel found to Paul’s words in Romans 1, Ephesians 4:17–19 discusses Gentiles who have arrived at the same depraved state as Paul describes in Romans. But in Ephesians, he says that they “have given themselves over to sensuality” (paradidomi, Eph. 4:19), which certainly involves active, not passive choices on their parts.

It is best to conclude that God takes an active involvement in giving people over to the desires of their hearts. Certainly, they are responsible for their choices, and in some sense, God may be viewed as allowing sin to take its normal course. But in the end, God’s giving those who bear his image over to sin is an active process on his part, whether for reform or for retribution or both. As has been well stated, “the punishment of sin is death.”

And to what did God give them over? To sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Note that the giving over was in the context of the sinful desires of their hearts. The sin was present in the heart before it was manifested in the body. Paul’s reference in verse 24 is a general statement of sexual immorality that resulted from idolatry, amplified in verse 26. One of the most shocking discoveries of modern archaeology has been the evidence of unbridled immorality associated with pagan worship practices. In any culture, the character of worshipers is a good indicator of the character of the worshiped. When gods are created with connections to sexual activity (such as fertility gods and goddesses), then sexual activity by worshipers is what is deemed necessary to placate the god. In general, Paul says, idolatry will ultimately lead to immorality.

But then Paul moves to the most graphic evidence of the complete inversion of the spiritual and therefore moral compass of the human species. It is not just sexual immorality to which God has given them over; it is sexual inversion and perversion. Homosexuality was rampant in the Roman Empire (fourteen of the first fifteen emperors practiced homosexuality; Hughes, Romans, p. 44), and represented perhaps the greatest offense to Jewish sensibilities. As Jewish and Gentile believers in the church in Rome looked around their society, they would have seen homosexuality practiced and encouraged at every turn.

It seems that Paul has chosen homosexuality as the nadir of sinful expression because of its complete reversal of God’s natural order. Some forms of sexual immorality (perhaps that referred to in v. 24?) at least falls within the natural order of male-female relations. But homosexuality (vv. 26–27) so totally moves out of the realm of what is natural that it indicates a total throwing off of the revealed will and design of God. It is as if those practicing it have said, “There is no order, reason, or logic associated with anything. We are free to experiment and create at will. We have become as gods, creating new orders and practices of our own.”

Homosexuality, while perhaps not the most hurtful of sins (as say, compared to murder), is certainly the ultimate in arrogance and sinful rebellion against the order of God. It is frightful to consider what happened to the Roman Empire after reaching a point of immorality, which championed homosexuality (not tolerated, but championed), and then to look at modern cultures which have devolved to a similar place morally.

Paul’s last words in verse 27—received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion—are the most frightful of all. What is the penalty? Is that penalty delivered culturally as well as individually? How many innocents suffer as a result of the error of others? And yet the penalty for homosexuality is not inevitable. Paul says that practicing homosexuals (along with some others) will not inherit the kingdom of God, but former homosexuals can (1 Cor. 6:9–11). When homosexuals, or any other person, is washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11), then they are freed, at least eternally, from the penalty for their perversion.

1:28–32. Finally, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind. Knowledge is retained in the mind, and sinful humankind has decided it is not worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. This must refer to thoughts about God, the function of the conscience, the mental evaluations that even a pagan goes through about who and where God is and how one may know him. When people do not pursue these God-given internal and external evidences (see Eccl. 3:11; Acts 17:23–31), they gradually develop minds characterized continually by depravity—as in the days of Noah: “Every inclination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). It is characteristic of a depraved mind to reverse the importance of everything, including evil and its origin.

Jesus Christ had this discussion with his disciples after talking to the religious leaders in his day. The Pharisees thought if they kept the exterior of their lives “clean” through the religious ritual that the inner condition of their heart would be hidden. But Jesus said that it was their heart (the inner man) that actually determined what would appear on the outside and that it was impossible to stop it. The heart, he said, is the source of all evil thoughts and actions (Mark 7:20–23).

Paul is saying essentially the same thing here. The inner motivations of humanity are depraved and result in outward behavior. The list of depraved behaviors and practices defies certain categorization as did most “vice lists” common in the moral literature of Paul’s day (see similar lists in the New Testament in Matt. 15:19; 1 Cor. 5:10–11; 6:9–10; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 4:31; 5:3–4; Col. 3:5, 8; 1 Tim. 1:9–10; 2 Tim 3:2–4; 1 Pet. 2:1; 4:3). But Moo has found what logical and linguistic handles do exist, translating them as follows:

1.   The first four are general in focus: “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, greed, wickedness.”

2.  The next five revolve around envy and its consequences: “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice.”

3.  The last twelve cover slander (two), arrogance (four), and then six related by form more than by content: “gossips, maligners, haters of God, proud, arrogant, overbearing, devisers of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, without faithfulness, without affection, without mercy” (Moo, pp. 118–119).

Paul, writing to those who undoubtedly knew of his past as a persecutor of Christian believers, concludes with what must have been a difficult thing to write (except that Paul never had any difficulty in exulting in the grace of God that saved a sinner like himself). He points out that those who act with depraved indifference are worthy of death—and know they deserve to die (Rom. 6:23). Yet they continue! And not only do they continue in the same acts, but also approve of those who practice them (1:32).

It was Paul, the zealot, who had stood by and watched the stoning of Stephen, the church’s first martyr, in Jerusalem. He did not watch passively, rather he “was there, giving approval to his death” (Acts 8:1), “guarding the clothes of those who were killing him” (Acts 22:20). Granted, Paul’s “approval” was small. He was only one person on that day who approved of the murder of a man. But as a result of his small piece of the puzzle being added to all the other pieces of the puzzle of persecution that day, “a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). It is possible that giving approval to sin can, in the long run, result in even greater condemnation.

Consider the attitude toward members of the black race in the post-emancipation Southern United States. How many lynch mobs were made up of people who would never have committed the sin of murder themselves individually, but by standing on the edge of the crowd gave tacit approval to what was taking place? By being there, they were helping to foment an environment of intolerance and racism and hatred. Had they been evil enough to commit the murder themselves, that would have been sinful. But to help create an environment where others are emboldened to sin, resulting in the deaths of many more, may even deserve greater condemnation.

One can only cringe at the “wrath of God” that awaits those public officials in government who, by passing legislation which not only does not restrain evil but in fact encourages it, have made it possible for millions to yield to the temptation to sin. It is true that many, weak in conviction, conscience, and caring, will not sin when they think that public sentiment is against them. But remove the restraints of moral imperatives, and sin multiplies. One of the responsibilities of leadership is to encourage righteousness and thereby restrain sin (see Rom. 13:1–7).

Paul concludes this section with a point to which he adds a counterpoint beginning with 2:1. Those who sin and approve others who do are obviously guilty and deserving of the wrath of God. But what about those who do not approve of the sin of others, those who make moral judgments about the sins they see around them? Are they as deserving of the wrath of God? Paul will answer that question next.[7]

The Mental Bent of Humankind

The natural inclination of Adam and Eve was toward doing good. However, after the fall, and the inheritance of sin, this all changed. The offspring of Adam has that natural inclination or leaning toward bad. Then, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that our heart, inner person, is treacherous, to the point that we cannot even truly know it. When you couple this with the fact that Satan, the god of this world at present, has set it up so that it caters to our fleshly instincts; we are weighed down even more with the internal battle of right and wrong. One might ask, ‘if all of this is against us, why is there an internal battle over good and bad, why do we not just do bad? This is because God placed a moral compass in us, a conscience that is designed to lean toward good, based on his value system. When imperfection hit us, it still worked to a degree to help humanity determine the difference between right and wrong. However, if it is ignored, or not cultivated properly, it can become callused, unfeeling, meaning it will not lean toward good, or warn us when we are heading into wrongdoing.

Again, the mind is the center of consciousness that generates thoughts, feelings, ideas, and perceptions, and stores knowledge and memories. It also has the capacity to think, understand, and reason. If our conscience grows calloused through repeated violations, the mind is free to lean toward the fleshly side of things, all the badness that Satan’s world offers. The mind will wade into this wicked old world, and nothing will seem as though it is wrong. The one blessing that we possess is that the Creator of the mind and conscience has authored a book through some 40 plus writers. Within this book, God reveals all that has been written here, as well as the solutions to the problem.

How can We Renew Our Mind?

At the outset, we read the Apostle Paul’s words, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” How can we renew our mind? We have already said that the mind is the center of consciousness, which stores knowledge and can think, understand, and reason. Well, if it is the mindset of the world that can get us askew, we must take in knowledge from another source, creating a different mindset. Paul made this very clear to the Ephesians, when he gave them instructions for Christian living, how to create a new life. Paul said, ‘As a follower of the Lord, I order you to stop living like stupid, godless people. Their minds are in the dark, and they are stubborn and ignorant and have missed out on the life that comes from God. They no longer have any feelings about what is right, and they are so greedy that they do all kinds of indecent things.’ (Eph. 4:17-19, CEV) Because of their callused hearts, the god of this world blinds these, so that the truth cannot get through.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,[8] to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

John MacArthur writes, “the god of this age. Satan (cf. Matt. 4:8; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Eph. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:26; 1 John 5:19). this age. The current world mindset expressed by the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes, and views of the majority of people. It encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce … has blinded. Satan blinds people to God’s truth through the world system he has created. Without a godly influence, man left to himself will follow that system, which panders to the depravity of unbelievers and deepens their moral darkness (cf. Matt. 13:19). Ultimately, it is God who allows such blindness (John 12:40). image of God. Jesus Christ is the exact representation of God Himself (see notes on Col. 1:15; 2:9; Heb. 1:3).”[9]

Clearly, we need to seek out a better source of knowledge. Jesus said, ‘this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the One You have sent, Jesus Christ.’ (John 17:3, HCSB) We need to take in knowledge, develop a relationship with the Father and the Son, to replace the mindset of the world that surrounds us. Jesus further stated in this same chapter of John, in prayer, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, ESV) The Bible will educate us in the way in which we should walk, setting us apart from the world of humankind that is alienated from God. How do we help others or ourselves maybe to tear away the veil of Satan?

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 but whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

When we turn with a receptive heart the Word of God, our eyes will be opened to the truth. We need to come to an accurate understanding of the Bible, seeing it as the most significant influence on our lives, so that we will apply what we learn without hesitation. This is the only source of information that will be able to transform us from a fleshly person into a spiritual person, renewing our minds. The power of Holy Spirit is to be found in the written Word of God. “What God has said isn’t only alive and active! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts.” – Hebrews 4:12.

Titus 3:3-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

3 For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 5 he saved us, not by deeds of righteousness that we have done, but because of his mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for men.

1. Natural man (3:3)

3:3. At one time we were not anything like the person described in verses 1 and 2. Paul made two points in remembering our past: it forms a basis for humility and compassion in the present, and it emphasizes the change that Christ has brought.

In the past, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived. Paul included himself in this description. Without Christ, all people follow this type of lifestyle and thinking. Like all people everywhere, we belonged to the fallen system and lived according to our fallen nature. Being foolish is obstinacy, a dig-in-your-heels refusal to admit the truth. The fool willfully goes his own, headstrong way. Being disobedient involves choice. It refers to a decision to reject God’s ways. As a person becomes seduced either by twisted Christian doctrines or man-made philosophies, he becomes deceived regarding the truth. This fuels both foolishness and disobedience, resulting in a life marked by sin: enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.

Paul painted a picture of bondage. Having succumbed to the illusions of this world, unbelievers participate in unrestrained passions and pleasures. This leads to a loss of will. People eventually become prisoner to their urges and cannot break away. These may even be socially acceptable pursuits like materialism, or they may involve the lowest sorts of degradation. Either way, the heart is captivated and cannot free itself.

Our relationships with others proved no better in the past as we lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. It is common practice to destroy others in order to preserve one’s self. Without Christ we cannot understand ourselves, nor can we comprehend our place in the world. In an effort to make sense in a violent, threatening environment, people often protect themselves by striking out at others. Malice seeks to harm others; envy betrays our discontent and restlessness. Our self-protection results in hatred toward others, and they return the favor. It is a vicious cycle from which we need to be freed, but we remain enslaved, unable to cast off the shackles.

2. The work of salvation (3:4–6)

3:4. “At one time” we were enslaved to depravity (v. 3). Then Paul wrote But when and introduced a seismic shift. Something crucial happened through a dramatic, historical event that challenges our imprisonment to sin: the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared. This is the incarnation, the appearance (epiphany) of Christ among men. God’s kindness and love compelled Christ’s appearance at Bethlehem, his exemplary life, and his substitutionary death and resurrection.

3:5–6. Jesus, in these actual events, gained salvation for all people who believe. Rescuing us from the grip of corruption, he saved us.

The work of salvation comes solely from God’s mercy, not because of righteous things we had done. As Isaiah 64:6 states, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We can contrive no goodness by which to attain the favor or forgiveness of God. Salvation comes independent of human effort or desire. God initiates, acts, and pursues because of his mercy.

Salvation comes through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. These terms explain, in part, the complex activities which faith in Christ generates. The washing of rebirth refers to the cleansing from sin which results from trust in Jesus Christ. This purification of the sound spirit brings life. No longer living on a purely natural or physical level, believers are transformed from spirit-death to spirit-life. They count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Renewal carries the same idea, that a person has come into a new existence, both in this life and for eternity. The Holy Spirit participates in Salvador, establishing his presence in the soul and enabling each person to act in true righteousness.

God has poured out this Holy Spirit on us generously. God always acts in extravagance, and his gift of the Spirit to those who believe demonstrates his greatest liberality. Not only has he rescued us from the frustrations and enslavements of sin; he has assured a spiritual power and development that would lie beyond us without his personal interaction. The Spirit enables us to follow in the ways of Christ.

3. Salvation’s result (3:7–8)

3:7. Paul told us God’s purpose in providing salvation: so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs. Some people claim that justification means “just as if I’d never sinned.” That may be cute, or clever, but it does not do salvation justice. Actually, “salvation” is a legal term describing a guilty person before the bar who is then pronounced blameless by the judge. This does not mean the individual has been found guiltless. Instead, it means that the person has been released from guilt, his offense paid for. All of this is by God’s grace, apart from human merit.

Christ purchased our soul’s freedom through his death and resurrection. In this way, God pardons those who trust in Jesus, bestowing upon them Christ’s righteousness. Romans 3:22–26 states, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe … God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood … he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

God cannot tolerate or excuse sin, but he can give his own Son as the substitute payment that justice must extract. Personal trust identifies us with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the same way that we share in his death, we share in his victory over death. He grants us his righteousness through faith.

Having received pardon and been given his righteousness, we share in his glory. We become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Those who rely upon the salvation work of Jesus are adopted by God into his family. He extends to us an inheritance. Each family member receives equally from the goodness of the Father. There is no favoritism with God. The riches of God become our inheritance—eternal life, full righteousness and holiness, uninterrupted fellowship, and unhindered fulfillment of our creative intent “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom. 8:17).

The historical appearance, life, death, and resurrection of Christ and the gift of his Holy Spirit are guarantees of our future inheritance. God has acted, and his promises stand.

3:8. All that Paul has written is trustworthy; it is unfailing because was given by God. Salvation, righteousness, faith and hope are indisputable facts of Christian belief. Paul wanted Titus to teach these truths to the Cretan believers.

If we can agree that Paul’s statements are true, we conclude that:

•   Christians are called to a high standard of thinking, attitudes and conduct.

•   Every believer comes with a background of disobedience toward God and with selfish drives which alienate him from God and others.

•   God has provided a way for people to reestablish a pure and honest relationship with him through Jesus Christ.

•   Faith in Christ’s death and resurrection results in God’s pardoning our corrupted lives and spirits.

•   Our future holds a glorious existence with God in eternity.

If we can hold to these conclusions, then we must also reason that the life which Paul commended to Titus is an attainable and worthy pursuit. But Christian growth does not occur automatically: we must be careful to devote [ourselves] to doing what is good.

New life in Christ comes to those who determine to act upon their professions of belief. They do not “give it a shot” now and again; they resolve to obey constantly and continuously.

In Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof wrote, “Sanctification is that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which he delivers the justified sinner from the foolishness of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works.” God does enable us. But we must partner with his Spirit to produce the goodness he intends, putting faith into practice through the commitment of our wills.

Committing to God’s truth and to righteous behavior through God’s enablement proves excellent and profitable for everyone. Good deeds always bring good results. Paul’s reference to “everyone” probably referred primarily to unbelievers (as “all men” of Titus 3:2). Good actions by Christians spread positive benefits to those outside the faith by drawing them toward the truth of God in Christ. Certainly this is profitable. More people will enter into a trusting relationship with the Lord.[10]

1 Corinthians 2:10-12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

Where many Christians get off course is by two long-held myths, (1) the Spirit is going to renew your mind miraculously, and (2) help us to understand the Word of God. It took us many years to become who we are, and it will take much study and biblical application to overcome that old person. It may take months as a new Christian, to start to see this transformation. If we put fifty percent of ourselves into it, we will get fifty percent back. Are we able to miraculously understanding God’s Word, because of the Holy Spirit? We need to have the tools of interpretation, to be able to have the correct mental grasp of God’s Word. We need to understand the rules and principles of biblical interpretation, as well as how we are to apply those in a balanced way.[11] For a complete understanding of how the Holy Spirit works, please see Appendix A and B. On 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, we quote Richard L. Pratt Jr. below. He too is mistaken in his view of how the Holy Spirit works. If the Holy Spirit miraculously inundated us with wisdom, there would be no reason to read God’s Word. Let us quote a couple of his comments before we read the full quote below. Pratt writes, “Although the world cannot perceive the wisdom of God.” It is not that the world (i.e., unbelievers) cannot perceive or understand the Word of God; rather it is that they see it as foolish. In other words, they understand but refuse to accept, i.e., reject. If they did not understand, what would be the point of sharing the Bible with them, or giving them a book on our beliefs?

Pratt writes, “Paul explained how the Holy Spirit imparts true wisdom to the mature.” The problem with Bible scholars making open-ended comments is; they do not allow the reader to know what they mean specifically. In addition, they can also mislead the reader into thinking they mean one thing, when they meant something completely different. Just how does God impart true wisdom? Well if we look at all of the wisdom literature within the Bible, it tells us. The Psalmist writes,

Psalm 1:1-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of Jehovah,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The psalmist goes on to say, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97) “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, And for them there is no stumbling block.” (Psalm 119:165) The man of wisdom himself, Solomon tells us where wisdom comes from and what effort must be put forth to acquire it,

Proverbs 2:1-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The Value of Wisdom

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to discernment;[12]
For if you cry for discernment[13]
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of Jehovah
and find the knowledge of God.
For Jehovah gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

While Moses was miraculously given the first five books of the Bible, moved along by Holy Spirit, was this true of the other three million Israelites he was leading through forty years in the wilderness?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

“Hear, O Israel! Jehovah our God is one Jehovah! You shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets bands between your eyes.[14] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

God himself gives guiding counsel to Joshua to lead over three million Israelites after the death of Moses. Where is this wise counsel to come from? What kind of effort was Joshua to put into acquiring this wisdom? Was it miraculously implanted into his mind?

Joshua 1:7-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid, and do not be dismayed, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.”

Pratt writes, “The Spirit of God comes upon all who believe in Christ (Rom. 8:9) and reveals to them the mind of God.” Is this miraculously done? No. It is accomplished over time as Christians read and study the Word of God. Otherwise, why give us the Bible in the first place if it is just going to be miraculously superimposed in our mind. Why would Jesus command us to teach, proclaim and make disciples? (Matt. 28:19-20) What are we to teach? Yes, we are to teach the Bible itself. Well, why would we teach something that the student is going to have miraculously implanted in their mind? Well, one might comment that we must read the Bible for the Holy Spirit to implant what God meant by his Word miraculously into our minds. Here again, why would we need Bible dictionaries, Bible encyclopedias, Bible commentaries, or any of the other Bible study tools, like Bible background books? If this was to take place miraculously, why do we even need Bible translators? Should we not just be able to read the original Hebrew and Greek ourselves? Therefore, please read Pratt’s comments and take them with a grain of salt until you read Appendix A and B. You may want to go and read those appendices right after reading his comments below.

2:9–10a. Paul here contrasted the belief that the rulers of this world understood wisdom with the reality that they did not understand. To draw out this contrast, he alluded to Isaiah 64:4, and added elements from Isaiah 52:15; 65:17 and Jeremiah 3:16. He pointed out how the prophets occasionally indicated that God’s wise plan remained hidden from all but those who loved him. The ordinary ways of understanding (eye, ear, mind) cannot perceive the mysteries of God. The rulers of the world may be adept at these means of perception, but these senses cannot discern the wisdom of God. God must reveal wisdom in a special way.

To drive home his main point, Paul applied the prophetic word directly to the Corinthians. Although the world cannot perceive the wisdom of God, God has revealed it. It has come in a supernatural way directly from God. Moreover, this word came not to the world but to us, to Paul and other followers of Christ.

Many in Corinth relied on pretentious human reason in their struggles within the church, so Paul reminded them that they did not perceive the gospel of Christ by human ingenuity. It was foolish for the Corinthian believers to turn to human insight when they had discovered the ways of Christ through divine revelation by his Spirit. Paul affirmed as before that the wisdom of God comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church (1:4–5; 2:4).

Supporting Idea: Paul explained how the Holy Spirit imparts true wisdom to the mature. Through this argument, Paul undermined the Corinthians’ claim to spirituality—another source of their wrongful pride and divisions. True spirituality would not have led to their human wisdom. To be truly spiritual, they would have to turn from human wisdom to the pure wisdom of the gospel.

2:10b. Paul began with a bold statement, proclaiming that the Spirit searches not only all things of this world, but also fathoms the deep things of God. Nothing is hidden from the Spirit of God; he shares in the divine attribute of omniscience. Although an infinite number of things about God will always remain hidden from the human mind, even these hidden thoughts of God are evident to the Holy Spirit. For this reason, he is the reliable source of all human insight into the wisdom of God. None of this insight comes from the human wisdom of which the Corinthians boasted and over which they divided, so their divisions and quarrels were unjustified.

2:11. To lend support to his assertion, Paul drew upon an analogy between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. He began by acknowledging that many things about a person’s thoughts remain hidden to other people. Yet, the person’s own spirit knows these thoughts. No one can get inside the minds of other people as deeply as they can understand themselves.

The comparison with the Holy Spirit is evident. We are not able to peer into the mind of God from the outside by human wisdom. In this sense, no one knows the thoughts of God. At the same time, however, the Spirit of God knows and can reveal the wisdom of God to us. The Corinthians, of course, took credit for their understanding of the gospel and other spiritual things, thinking they had attained them through human wisdom. By correcting this error, Paul removed the basis for the quarrels and divisions that existed among them.

2:12. The importance of Paul’s analogy becomes clear in his affirmation that he and the Corinthian believers had not come to Christ under the influence of the spirit of the world. No mere earthly wisdom brought the Corinthians to the gospel of Christ. The Spirit who is from God did this for them. The Spirit of God comes upon all who believe in Christ (Rom. 8:9) and reveals to them the mind of God.

For what purpose does the Spirit of God come to those who believe? He comes in order that they may understand what God has freely given. Christians cannot understand the wonder of all they have received from God by observing things with their natural eyes. God freely gives the salvation that culminates in their blessings with Christ in the new heavens and new earth. The Holy Spirit enables them to see the wonder of this gift as well as the wisdom that leads to it.[15]

God’s Word is Alive

As we grow in Bible knowledge, we will apply it more and more fully as we go, causing us to have faith in what it say, motivating us to an even deeper study, producing a new way of thinking and a new way of life. We will have God’s Word deeply ingrained in our head and heart, creating this powerful influence that will tell us which way we should go. ‘Thus says Jehovah, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am Jehovah thy God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way that you should go.’ Isaiah 48:17

Colossians 3:9-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man[16] with its practices 10 and have put on the new man[17] who is being renewed through accurate knowledge[18] according to the image of the one who created him, 11 where there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Perverted passions, hot tempers, and sharp tongues are to be removed as part of the life-transformation process. These things, along with [lying] to each other, are not appropriate behavior for our new life in Christ. The remnants of the former lifestyle are to be discarded since [we] have taken off [our] old self with its practices. What are the old self (literally “old man”) and the new self (literally “the new”)? The “old man” refers to more than an individual condition (“sinful nature”) and also has a corporate aspect. The corporate aspect of “the new” (man) is unmistakably seen in verse 11. What has been put off and what has been put on? Our past associations, the old humanity, has been put off, and we now have a new association, the new community. As members of the new community, we are to conduct ourselves in ways which will enhance harmony in the community. Notice how the sins mentioned in the previous verses disrupt community and damage human relationships.

As individuals, and as believing communities, our objective is to be a part of the transformation process of being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Christ). Within the new community, all barriers are abolished. Distinctions which normally divide people, racial (Greek or Jew); religious (circumcised or uncircumcised); cultural (barbarian or Scythian); social (slave or free), no longer have significance. The reason human categories no longer matter is that Christ is all, which means Christ is central and supreme. Our relationship with him is really all that matters. Unity within the community is based on the fact that Christ is in all. He indwells all believers and permeates all our relationships. This does not mean that people cease to be Jew or Greek, slave or free, etc. It does mean that within the new community those distinctions don’t matter. The false teachers at Colosse were fond of dividing people into categories, elite versus ordinary, spiritual versus not so spiritual. The truth is, all believers are equal; all believers are to discard any and all behaviors and attitudes which are inappropriate for our new life. (Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary: vol. 8, Galatians-Colossians 1999, 331)

Science has indeed taken us a long way in our understanding of how the mind works, but it is only a grain of sand on the beach of sand in comparison to what we do not know. We have enough in these basics to understand some fundamental processes. When we open our eyes to the light of a new morning, it is altered into and electrical charge by the time it arrives at the gray matter of our brain’s cerebral cortex. As the sound of the morning birds reaches our gray matter, it comes as electrical impulses. The rest of our senses (smell, taste, and touch) arrive as electrical currents in the brain’s cortex as well. The white matter of our brain lies within the cortex of gray matter, used as a tool to send electrical messages to other cells in other parts of the gray matter. Thus, when anyone of our five senses detects danger, at the speed of light, a message is sent to the motor section, to prepare us for the needed action of either fight or flight.

Here lies the key to altering our way of thinking. Every single thought, whether it is conscious or subconscious makes an electrical path through the white matter of our brain, with a record of the thought and event. This holds true with our actions as well. If it is a repeated way of thinking or acting, it has no need to form a new path; it only digs a deeper, ingrained, established path.

This would explain how a factory worker who has been on the job for some time, gives little thought as he performs his repetitive functions each day; it becomes unthinking, automatic, mechanical. These repeated actions become habitual. There is yet another facet to be considered; the habits, repeated thoughts, and actions become simple and effortless to repeat. Any new thoughts and actions are harder to perform, as there need to be new pathways opened up.

The human baby starts with a blank slate, with a minimal amount of stable paths built in to survive those first few crucial years. As the boy grows into childhood, there is a flood of pathways established, more than all of the internet connections worldwide.

Our five senses are continuously adding to the maze. Ps. 139:14: “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . .” (NASB) So, it could never be overstated as to the importance of the foundational thinking and behavior that should be established in our children from infancy forward.

Review Questions

  • The person who has truly sacrificed himself or herself to God will be distinguished by what overriding characteristic?
  • What defines the age in which humans live at any time in human history?
  • Why should we become fools, as to this age in which we live?
  • Why do we not want to be conformed to this world?
  • What offensive measure keeps the believer from being conformed to this present evil age?
  • In what must our minds be renewed (include footnote)?
  • In reference to the renewal of our mind, what does the Greek word metamorphoo mean?
  • In what sense are the believers to be transformed into the image of God?
  • How are we being made “like Christ”?
  • Why is the knowledge of the modern man not even comparable to the knowledge of his Creator?
  • What questions have been answered by human history?
  • What gift has God given us, which helps us to main a renewed mind throughout the wicked system in which we live?
  • How have we abused the mind, the gift that God has given us?
  • What is one example of how humans, who are alienated from God, operated in their imperfection?
  • Where is humanity heading?
  • Humanities mind id bent toward what?
  • What has God handed sinful humanity over to?
  • What had God placed within the first human couple, and is it still effective in our human imperfection?
  • How can our conscience become callused?
  • How can we renew our mind?
  • What has Satan placed over the eyes of the unbeliever, so that they cannot see the light, and what did Jesus say in John 17, which would offset this?
  • How do we help others or ourselves to tear away the veil of Satan?

FOOTNOTES

[1] Or well-pleasing

[2] Paul J. Kissling, Genesis, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 2004–), 269.

16 Wenham, Torah as Story, p. 35.

[3] Paul J. Kissling, Genesis, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 2004–), 317.

[4] Or reptiles

[5] Lit into the ages

[6] Or natural sexual relations; Lit natural use

[7] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 52–57.

[8] A sort of mental blindness where one sees what others see and even understands the meaning but their mind is beyond repentance, unreceptive, closed, so they see it as foolish.

[9] MacArthur, John (2005-05-09). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 54980-54985). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[10] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 382–385.

[11] INTERPRETING THE BIBLE: Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Edward D. Andrews (July 30, 2016) [ISBN-13: 978-1-945757-07-5]

http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/7044598

[12] The Hebrew word rendered here as “discernment” (tevunah) is related to the word binah, translated “understanding.” Both appear at Proverbs 2:3.

[13] See 2.2 ftn.

[14] I.e. on your forehead

[15] Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 35–37.

[16] Or old person

[17] Or new person

[18] Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.