What does it mean in Romans 1 that God gave people up to a reprobate mind?
THOMAS: This is the first chapter of Romans, and it extends after the introductory prologue that is, in some ways, a summary of the whole book of Romans. Paul begins his exposition of sin, which will lead all the way through to the middle of the third chapter. He talks about sin both in Jews and Gentiles so that none is without excuse.
As a result of Adam’s fall and rebellion, he lost his native ability to will that which is good. “Giving over to a reprobate mind” means that God consigns mankind to live in a condition that can only be undone by the gospel. It can only be undone by a powerful, regenerative work of the Holy Spirit to renew the will, to renew the affections, and to give a new heart.
The natural man only does evil all the time from the point of view of God’s holiness. This doesn’t mean that every reprobate is as reprobate as he possibly can be; there are gradations of sin. But all of mankind is fallen. All of mankind is in a state of sin and inability, and only the gospel can liberate them from that condition.
BINGHAM: So we’re not to understand “giving over to a reprobate mind” to suggest that there are certain sins that render one hopeless? For example, if you know a friend or family member that may have certain sins in their life or be living a certain lifestyle, we’re not to think: “Well, there’s no hope for them in the gospel. Let’s not evangelize them, because clearly God has given them over to a reprobate mind.” We should always be preaching the gospel and praying for their salvation.
THOMAS: I think that Paul is saying in Romans 1:28 that all of mankind have been given over to a reprobate mind. If the interpretation you mentioned were true, then there would be no hope for anyone. But the gospel is the good news that God so loves sinners that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Derek Thomas and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.