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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 1:21

 

 

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Adam Clarke Commentary

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.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/romans-1.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

(4)that they then began to doubt, to reason, to speculate, and wandered far into darkness.

This is substantially the process by which people wander away from God now. They have the knowledge of God, but they do not love him; and being dissatisfied with his character and government, they begin to speculate, fall into error, and then “find no end in wandering mazes lost,” and sink into the depths of heresy and of sin.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/romans-1.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

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.

Those Gentiles were not ignorant of God, nor was their information limited to that incomplete knowledge that came from the observance of natural phenomena and the existence of a conscience within man's moral constitution. The commentators are mistaken in so limiting the sources of Gentile light. As explained under Romans 1:18-20, above, God had manifested himself to the Gentiles repeatedly through many centuries; and their knowledge was more than sufficient to make their conduct inexcusable, and to justify the appalling retribution visited upon them through God's darkening of their senseless hearts.

This verse must be looked upon as the coffin and grave of any theory that the human race progressively worked its way upward in religion. The Bible teaches that paganism was not original, but was itself an apostasy from a more noble condition that preceded it. Meyer, as quoted by Murray, explains it thus:

Heathenism is not the primeval religion, from which man might gradually have risen to the knowledge of the true God, but is, on the contrary, the result of a falling away from the known original revelation of the true God in his works.[44]

It is a frightening and sober thought that all of the carnal debaucheries and gross vulgar conduct revealed a little later in this chapter, as marking the wickedness of those ancient Gentiles, should have begun with so mild and apparently innocuous a thing as neglect of worship and failure to :give thanks to God. What a powerful warning this speaks to countless Christians of the present generation who regard neglect of giving thanks as a very casual and minor omission of duty. All people should take this to heart; because forsaking worship or neglecting the giving of thanks might be compared to the pebble cast loose from the top of a mountain that becomes a roaring avalanche to crush a city or a civilization beneath it.

The refusal or neglect of worship and the thanksgiving properly due to Almighty God led at once to a flurry of "reasonings"; but human reason, cut off from the source of all true light, led quickly to innumerable vanities. R. C. Bell described such persons as those ancient Gentiles as people

Who close their two eyes (worship and praise) for seeing and knowing God, and turn their backs on the light to walk in their own shadow.[45]

An expressive change of voice is noted in the last clause, where the active voice records the negative action of the Gentiles in refusing to glorify God or give thanks, but the passive voice was used to describe what happened afterwards. "Their senseless .hearts were darkened." The soul which turns away from the knowledge of God is active in the turning away, but passive in the resultant descent into vanity and darkness, such a defector from the light becoming, in time, sub-human; because that part of his brain with which he should honor and glorify God becomes atrophied, hardened, insensible. This accounts for the otherwise incredible blindness which is the chief characteristic of many so-called intellectuals who have turned away from faith in Christ. Having closed the eyes of their minds with which they might have seen the invisible things of God, such persons eventually find themselves in a state of total disability in the perception of spiritual realities. How profoundly sad is the state of persons like that, with the highest academic degrees, perhaps, and occupying positions of trust and honor, it may be, and possibly considered by their contemporaries as the wisest and ablest of people, but from whose minds the light has gone out, and the knowledge of God has faded. Those, despite their worldly excellence, are the living dead!

[44] John Murray, op. cit., p. 41.

[45] R. C. Bell, op. cit., p. 12.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/romans-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Because that when they knew God,.... Though they had such a knowledge of the being and perfections of God, yet

they glorified him not as God. They neither thought nor spoke honourably of him; nor did they ascribe those perfections to him, which belonged to him; they did not adhere to him as the one and only God, nor honour him as the Creator of all things out of nothing, and as the sole Governor of the universe; they did not glorify him by the internal exercise of fear of him, love to him, or trust in him, nor by any external worship suitable to his nature, and their own notions of him, Seneca is an instance of this, of whom AustinF6De Civitate Dei, l. 6. c. 10. says,

"that he worshipped what he found fault with, did what he reproved, and adored that which he blamed.'

Neither were thankful; neither for the knowledge of things they had, which they ascribed to themselves; nor for their mercies, which they imputed to second causes:

but became vain in their imaginations; the vanity or their minds was the spring and source of their evil conduct; which may design the wickedness of their hearts, and the imaginations thereof, which were evil, and that continually; the pride of their natures the carnality and weakness of their reasonings, and the whole system of their vain philosophy; and hence they ran into polytheism, or the worshipping of many gods:

and their foolish heart was darkened; where they thought their great wisdom lay: darkness is natural to the hearts and understandings of all men, which is increased by personal iniquity; Satan is concerned in improving it, and God sometimes gives up the hearts of persons to judicial blindness, which was the case of these men.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-1.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(e) They did not honour him with that honour and service which was appropriate for his everlasting power and Godhead.

(f) As if he said, became so corrupt in themselves.


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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/romans-1.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Because that, when they knew God — that is, while still retaining some real knowledge of Him, and ere they sank down into the state next to be described.

they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful — neither yielded the adoration due to Himself, nor rendered the gratitude which His beneficence demanded.

but became vain — (compare Jeremiah 2:5).

in their imaginations — thoughts, notions, speculations, regarding God; compare Matthew 15:19; Luke 2:35; 1 Corinthians 3:20, Greek.

and their foolish — “senseless,” “stupid.”

heart — that is, their whole inner man.

was darkened — How instructively is the downward progress of the human soul here traced!


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/romans-1.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Because that (διοτιdioti). As in Romans 1:19.

Knowing God (γνοντες τον τεονgnontes ton theon). Second aorist active participle of γινωσκωginōskō to know by personal experience. Definite statement that originally men had some knowledge of God. No people, however degraded, have yet been found without some yearning after a god, a seeking to find the true God and get back to him as Paul said in Athens (Acts 17:27).

Glorified not as God (ουχ ως τεον εδοχασανouch hōs theon edoxasan). They knew more than they did. This is the reason for the condemnation of the heathen (Romans 2:12-16), the failure to do what they know.

Their senseless heart (η ασυνετος αυτων καρδιαhē asunetos autōn kardia). ΚαρδιαKardia is the most comprehensive term for all our faculties whether feeling (Romans 9:2), will (1 Corinthians 4:5), intellect (Romans 10:6). It may be the home of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) or of evil desires (Romans 1:24). See notes on Mark 7:21. for list of vices that come “out of the heart.” ΑσυνετοςAsunetos is a verbal adjective from συνιημιsuniēmi to put together, and αa privative, unintelligent, not able to put together the manifest evidence about God (Romans 1:20). So darkness settled down on their hearts (εσκοτιστηeskotisthē first aorist ingressive passive of σκοτιζωskotizō to darken).


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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/romans-1.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Knowing - glorified not

“I think it may be proved from facts that any given people, down to the lowest savages, has at any period of its life known far more than it has done: known quite enough to have enabled it to have got on comfortably, thriven and developed, if it had only done what no man does, all that it knew it ought to do and could do” (Charles Kingsley, “The Roman and the Teuton”).

Became vain ( ἐματαιώθησαν )

Vain things ( μάταια ) was the Jews' name for idols. Compare Acts 4:15. Their ideas and conceptions of God had no intrinsic value corresponding with the truth. “The understanding was reduced to work in vacuo. It rendered itself in a way futile ” (Godet).

Imaginations ( διαλογισμοῖς )

Rev., better, reasonings. See on Matthew 15:19; see on Mark 7:21; see on James 2:4.

Foolish ( ἀσύνετος )

See on συνετός prudent Matthew 11:25, and the kindred word σύνεσις understandingsee on Mark 12:33; see on Luke 2:47. They did not combine the facts which were patent to their observation.

Heart ( καρδία )

The heart is, first, the physical organ, the center of the circulation of the blood. Hence, the seat and center of physical life. In the former sense it does not occur in the New Testament. As denoting the vigor and sense of physical life, see Acts 14:17; James 5:5; Luke 21:34. It is used fifty-two times by Paul.

Never used like ψυχή , soul, to denote the individual subject of personal life, so that it can be exchanged with the personal pronoun (Acts 2:43; Acts 3:23; Romans 13:1); nor like πνεῦμα spiritto denote the divinely-given principle of life.

It is the central seat and organ of the personal life ( ψυχή ) of man regarded in and by himself. Hence it is commonly accompanied with the possessive pronouns, my, his, thy, etc.

Like our heart it denotes the seat of feeling as contrasted with intelligence. 2 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 9:2; Romans 10:1; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Philemon 1:7. But it is not limited to this. It is also the seat of mental action, feeling, thinking, willing. It is used -

1. Of intelligence, Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:18.

2. Of moral choice, 1 Corinthians 7:37; 2 Corinthians 9:7.

3. As giving impulse and character to action, Romans 6:17; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22. The work of the law is written on the heart, Romans 2:15. The Corinthian Church is inscribed as Christ's epistle on hearts of flesh, 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.

4. Specially, it is the seat of the divine Spirit, Galatians 4:6; Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:22. It is the sphere of His various operations, directing, comforting, establishing, etc., Philemon 4:7; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:5. It is the seat of faith, and the organ of spiritual praise, Romans 10:9; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.

It is equivalent to the inner man, Ephesians 3:16, Ephesians 3:17. Its characteristic is being hidden, Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 14:25.

It is contrasted with the face, 1 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:12; and with the mouth, Romans 10:8.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/romans-1.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

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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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/romans-1.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Knew God; had the means of knowing him.


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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/romans-1.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

21.For when they knew God, etc. He plainly testifies here, that God has presented to the minds of all the means of knowing him, having so manifested himself by his works, that they must necessarily see what of themselves they seek not to know — that there is some God; for the world does not by chance exist, nor could it have proceeded from itself. But we must ever bear in mind the degree of knowledge in which they continued; and this appears from what follows.

They glorified him not as God. No idea can be formed of God without including his eternity, power, wisdom, goodness, truth, righteousness, and mercy. His eternity appears evident, because he is the maker of all things — his power, because he holds all things in his hand and continues their existence — his wisdom, because he has arranged things in such an exquisite order — his goodness, for there is no other cause than himself, why he created all things, and no other reason, why he should be induced to preserve them — his justice, because in his government he punishes the guilty and defends the innocent — his mercy, because he bears with so much forbearance the perversity of men — and his truth, because he is unchangeable. He then who has a right notion of God ought to give him the praise due to his eternity, wisdom, goodness, and justice. Since men have not recognized these attributes in God, but have dreamt of him as though he were an empty phantom, they are justly said to have impiously robbed him of his own glory. Nor is it without reason that he adds, that they were not thankful, (48) for there is no one who is not indebted to him for numberless benefits: yea, even on this account alone, because he has been pleased to reveal himself to us, he has abundantly made us indebted to him. But they became vain, (49) etc.; that is, having forsaken the truth of God, they turned to the vanity of their own reason, all the acuteness of which is fading and passes away like vapor. And thus their foolish mind, being involved in darkness, could understand nothing aright but was carried away headlong, in various ways, into errors and delusions. Their unrighteousness was this — they quickly choked by their own depravity the seed of right knowledge, before it grew up to ripeness.

“Whatever the right reason within,” says [Pareus ], “or the frame of the world without, might have suggested respecting God, they indulged in pleasing speculations, specious reasonings, and in subtle and frivolous conclusions; some denied the existence of a God, as Epicurus and Democritus — others doubted, as Protagoras and Diagoras — others affirmed the existence of many gods, and these, as the Platonics, maintained that they are not corporeal, while the Greeks and Romans held them to be so, who worshipped dead men, impious, cruel, impure, and wicked. There were also the Egyptians, who worshipped as gods, brute animals, oxen, geese, birds, crocodiles, yea, what grew in their gardens, garlic’s and onions. A very few, such as Plato and Aristotle, acknowledged one Supreme Being; but even these deprived him of his providence. These, and the like, were the monstrous opinions which the Gentiles deduced from their reasonings. They became vain, foolish, senseless.”

“And darkened became their foolish heart ,” — ἡ ἀσύνετος αὐτῶν καρδία; Corinthians eorum intelligentia carens — their heart void of understanding;” “their unintelligent heart,” [Doddridge ]. Perhaps “undiscerning heart” would be the most suitable. See Matthew 15:16. Heart, after the manner of the Hebrews, is to be taken here for the whole soul, especially the mind. — Ed.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-1.html. 1840-57.

Vv. 21. "Seeing that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither gave Him thanks; but were struck with vanity in their reasonings, and their foolish heart was darkened."

The because that bears on the idea of inexcusableness, which closes Romans 1:20, and reproduces the feeling of indignation which had dictated the ἐν ἀδικίᾳ, hurtfully and maliciously, of Romans 1:18 : "Yes, inexcusable, because of the fact that"...How can the apostle say of the Gentiles that they knew God? Is it a simple possibility to which he is referring! The words do not allow this idea. Romans 1:19 declared that the light was really put within them. Paganism itself is the proof that the human mind had really conceived the notion of God; for this notion appears at the root of all the varied forms of paganism. Only this is what happened: the revelation did not pass from the passive to the active form. Man confined himself to receiving it. He did not set himself to grasp it and to develop it spontaneously. He would have been thus raised from light to light; it would have been that way of knowing God by wisdom of which Paul speaks, 1 Corinthians 1:21. Instead of opening himself to the action of the light, man withdrew from it his heart and will; instead of developing the truth, he quenched it. No doubt acts of worship and thanksgiving addressed to the gods were not wanting in paganism; but it is not without meaning that the apostle takes care to put the words in front: as God. The task of the heart and understanding would have been to draw from the contemplation of the work the distinct view of the divine worker, then, in the way of adoration, to invest this sublime being with all the perfections which He displayed in His creation. Such a course would have been to glorify God as God. For the highest task of the understanding is to assert God freely, as He asserts Himself in His revelation. But if this act of reason failed, the heart at least had another task to fulfil: to give thanks. Does not a child even say thanks to its benefactor? This homage failed like the other. The word , or, must be understood here, as it often is, in the sense of: or at least. The words as God also depend logically on were thankful, which we have not been able to express in French [nor in English].

Now man could not remain stationary. Not walking forwards in the way of active religion, he could only stray into a false path, that of impiety, spoken of Romans 1:18. Having neglected to set God before it as the supreme object of its activity, the understanding was reduced to work in vacuo; it was in some sort made futile ( ἐματαιώθησαν); it peopled the universe with fictions and chimeras. So Paul designates the vain creations of mythology. The term ἐματαιώθησαν, were struck with vanity, evidently alludes to μάταια, vain things, which was the name given by the Jews to idols (comp. Acts 14:15; Leviticus 17:7; Jeremiah 2:5; 2 Kings 17:15). The term διαλογισμοί, reasonings, is always taken by the writers of the New Testament in an unfavorable sense; it denotes the unregulated activity of the νοῦς, understanding, in the service of a corrupt heart. The corruption of the heart is mentioned in the following words: it went side by side with the errors of reason, of which it is at once the cause and the effect. The heart, καρδία, is in the New Testament as in the Old (leb), the central seat of personal life, what we call feeling (sentiment), that inner power which determines at once the activity of the understanding and the direction of the will. Destitute of its true object, through its refusal to be thankful to God as God, the heart of man is filled with inspirations of darkness; these are the guilty lusts inspired by the egoistic love of the creature and self. The epithet ἀσύνετος, without understanding, is often explained as anticipating what the heart was to become in this course: "in such a way as to become foolish." But was there not already something senseless in the ingratitude described in Romans 1:21? Thus the want of understanding existed from the beginning. In the form of the first aorist passive ἐσκοτίσθη, was darkened (as well as in the preceding aorist ἐματαιώθησαν), there is expressed the conviction of a divine dispensation, though still under the form of a natural law, whose penal application has fallen on them.

To this first stage, which is rather of an inward kind, there has succeeded a second and more external one.


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Bibliography
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Frédéric Louis Godet - Commentary on Selected Books". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsc/romans-1.html.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

21 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.

Ver. 21. Neither were thankful] How then shall we answer to God our hateful unthankfulness, which is (saith one) "a monster in nature, a solecism in manners, a paradox in divinity, a parching wind to dam up the fountain of divine favours." Woe be to our Solifugae that abuse gospel light; these put not light "under a bushel" (as the poor Paynims did) but under a dunghill; Gravis est lux conscientiae, Heavy is the light of conscience, saith Seneca; but heavier is the light of the gospel, gravior est lux Evangelii, say we. A heavy account will they give that abuse the light of nature; but much heavier they that "receive the grace of God in vain."

But became vain in their imaginations] Gr. διαλογισμοις, in their reasonings, disputations, discourses upon serious deliberation. They stood not to their own principles (as, that there is one God only, that this God is to be worshipped, &c.), but were atheists by night that worshipped the sun, and atheists by day that worshipped the moon, as Cyril saith wittily.


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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-1.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Romans 1:21. Neither were thankful It is worthy our observation, that gratitude to God is here put for the whole of religion; and as no principle can be nobler, so none can be stronger or more extensive. Mr. Locke illustrates the next clause by the stupid folly and vanity of their idolatry. See 2 Kings 17:15-17. Acts 14:15. But the word διαλογισμοις, imaginations, or rather reasonings, seems more properly to refer to the sophistry of the philosophers. They did violence to their judgments, and became void of judgment: they lost their understanding, because they would not follow its direction. They put the candle of the Lord under a bushel, and the candle went out. The case is unhappily the same under any, even the clearest dispensation. The word ασυνετος, rendered foolish, signifies inconsiderate, in the highest and most culpable degree, as opposed to a sincere use of what means and knowledge of God they had. Their heart was inconsiderate: that is, they made no serious, conscientious use of their understanding. See Locke, Sykes's Connection, chap. 14: p. 364 and Cudworth's Intellectual System, ch. 4. sect. 10-31.


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/romans-1.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

From this verse to the end of the chapter, we have a large and black catalogue of the sins which the old Heathens or Gentiles were guilty of; some of which they voluntarily committed, and others were judiciously delivered up unto (for God, without any impeachment of his holiness, often punishes sin with sin.) Their sins voluntarily committed, are here recited, and the first of them is their sinning against light and knowledge. They had some natural notices of God implanted and imprinted in their minds, and such an additional knowledge of his being and attribute, as might be gained by an attentive study in the book of the creatures; but they rebelled against this light, and thereby contracted an aggravated guilt.

Learn thence, that to sin against light and knowledge, either in the omission of duty, or commission of sin, is the highest aggravation of sinfulness: As ignorance lesseneth, so knowledge aggravateth the malignity of sin.

The next sin charged upon them was, they did not glorify that God whom they had the knowledge of: That is, they did not conceive of him, and worship him as became his divine perfections and excellencies; they did not esteem so high of him as they ought, and pay that homage and honour, to the Deity which they should.

Learn thence, That the knowledge which we have of God and his attributes, if it do not engage us to honour, glorify, and worship him, suitable to his adorable perfections, it is vain and useless in God's account, and will but expose us to a more dreadful condemnation.

Another sin mentioned in this verse, which the Heathens were guilty of, was the sin of unthankfulness. They glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful: That is, they had not a due sense of the favours and benefits of God conferred upon them; but, ascribing the blessings of heaven to chance and fortune, to fate and destiny, to the influence of the stars and planets, to their own prudence and providence, they paid their thanks to blind fortune, for a favour which the eye of providence had bestowed upon them: It is impossible that God should receive the tribute of thankfulness, if we do not see all our mercies flowing from him.

Observe farther, the sad effect, fruit and consequence of the fore-mentioned sins. The Heathens which committed them, it is said,

1. That they became vain in their imaginations. That is, they had various opinions and vain conceptions of the Godhead. Some of them denied that there was a God, others doubted whether there was a God or no; some affirmed there was but one God, others owned a plurality, yea, a multiplicity of gods. Some acknowledge God's being, but denied his providence; others owned his providence, but confined it, in its exercise to secondary causes. Thus vain in their imaginations, thus absorbed in their notions, and thus sottish in their reasonings, were the Heathens concerning God, his nature and worship. Well might our apostle say, They became vain in their imaginations.

And, 2. That their foolish hearts were darkened: That is, for rebelling against the light received, their minds and understanding were more and more darkened; their natural reason obscured, but because not improved.

Lord, how dangerous is it not to improve our knowledge! how fatal to rebel against the light and convictions of our own minds! it provokes thee to deliver us up to he power of spiritual darkness on earth, and consigns us over to eternal darkness in hell, where is reserved the blackness of darkness forever, as the punishment and portion of those that rebel against the light, and sin against knowledge.


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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/romans-1.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

21. διότι] expands ἀναπολογήτους—‘without excuse, because …’

γνόντες] ‘with the knowledge above stated.’ This participle testifies plainly that matter of fact, and not of possibility, has been the subject of the foregoing verses. From this point, we take up what they MIGHT HAVE DONE, but DID NOT.

οὐχ ὡς θεὸν ἐδόξ.] They did not give Him glory ( δοξάζω here principally of recognition by worship) AS GOD, i.e. as the great Creator of all, distinct from and infinitely superior to all His works. Bengel well divides ἐδόξασαν and ηὐχαρίστησαν—“Gratias agere debemus ob beneficia: glorificare ob ipsas virtutes divinas.” They did neither: in their religion, they deposed God from His place as Creator,—in their lives, they were ungrateful by the abuse of His gifts.

ἐματαιώθησαν] הָבַל, vanus fuit, is used of worshipping idols, 2 Kings 17:15; Jeremiah 2:5, and הֶבֶל, vanitas, of an idol. Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Kings 16:26 al.: and hence probably the word ματαιόω was here chosen.

διαλογισμοῖς] their thoughts: but generally in N.T. in a bad sense: they became vain (idle, foolish) in their speculations.

ἐσκοτίσθη ἡ ἀσύν. αὐτ. καρδ.] ἀσύνετος is not the result of ἐσκοτ.,—‘became darkened so as to lose its understanding,’—but the converse,—their heart ( καρδία of the whole inner man,—the seat of knowledge and feeling) being foolish (unintelligent, not retaining God in its knowledge) became dark (lost the little light it had, and wandered blindly in the mazes of folly).


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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/romans-1.html. 1863-1878.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Romans 1:21. διὁτι. This διότι is resumed from Romans 1:19. They did not sin in ignorance, but knowingly.— θεὸν ὡς θεὸν, God as God). This is ἀλήθεια, the truth [of God, Romans 1:25], the perfection of conformity with nature,(14) where worship corresponds to the divine nature. Comp. in contrast with this, Galatians 4:8 [when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which] by nature are no Gods.— θεὸν, God). [They glorified Him not as the God] eternal, almighty, and to be continually honoured by showing forth His glory, and by thanksgiving.— ἐδόξασαν ἐυχαρίστησαν, they glorified or were thankful) We ought to render thanks for benefits; and to glorify Him on account of the divine perfections themselves, contrary to the opinion of Hobbes. If it were possible for a mind to exist extraneous to God, and not created by God, still that mind would be bound to praise God.— ), or, at least.— ἐματαιώθησαν) This verb and ἐσκοτίσθη have a reciprocal force. הבל, μάταια, ματαιο ͂ υσθαι are frequently applied to idols, and to their worship and worshippers, 2 Kings 17:15; Jeremiah 2:5; for the mind is conformed [becomes and is assimilated] to its object [of worship], Psalms 115:8. ΄αταιότης is opposed to τῷ δοξάζειν; ἀσύνετος καρδία to τῷ εὐχαριστεῖν.— δισλογισμοῖς [“imaginations,” Eng. vers.], thoughts) Variable, uncertain, and foolish.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/romans-1.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Because; either this must be referred to the words immediately foregoing, and then it is a reason why the Gentiles are inexcusable,

because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, &c.; or else it refers to Romans 1:18, and then it is a proof of their withholding the truth in unrighteousness, because, & c.

They knew God; they had a natural knowledge of God, it was taught them, as before, by the light of natnre, and by the book of the creatures. Though this was not sufficient to save them, yet it was sufficient to save them without excuse.

They glorified him not as God; they did not conceive of him and worship him as became his Divine excellencies and perfections; see Psalms 29:2.

Neither were thankful; they did not own God to be the Author and Giver of all the good things they enjoyed, and return him thanks accordingly; but referred all to chance and fortune, their own prudence and providence, the influence of the stars, &c.

But became vain in their imaginations, or reasonings. This hath chief respect to the conception and opinions that the heathen framed to themselves of the Divine Being. For though some denied there was a God, and others doubted thereof, yet generally it was acknowledged by them; yea, some owned a multiplicity of gods, and those either corporeal or incorporeal. Others acknowledged but one God, as Plato, Aristotle, &c.; but then they either denied his providence, as the Peripatetics, or tied him to second or inferior causes, as the Stoics. This is the vanity which the apostle here speaketh of. Note also, that idols, the frame of idle brains, are called vanities: see Deuteronomy 32:21 Jeremiah 10:15 Acts 14:15.

And their foolish heart was darkened: by the heart is meant the mind, their very understandings were darkened, the natural reason in them was obscured. This was a just judgment upon them for their abuse of knowledge, and pride, of which in the next verse. {see Romans 1:22}


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 1:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/romans-1.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Knew God; knew so much of him as to know that they ought to worship and serve him.

Glorified him not; did not honor and obey him as God.

Vain in their imaginations; senseless and wicked in their thoughts and reasonings about the proper object of worship.

Foolish heart; their perverse, wicked mind.

Was darkened; blinded as to the spiritual nature and perfections of God.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Family Bible New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/romans-1.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

21. διότι picks up and expands the theme of Romans 1:19.

γνόντες, aor. = having received or gained knowledge of GOD. |[73] τὴν ἀλ. κατέχοντες.

ἐδόξασαν = did not ascribe the due honour to GOD for what they knew to be His acts; cf. Acts 11:18; Matthew 15:31, alibi

ηὐχαρίστησαν. They lacked the temper which should have led them δοξάζειν.

ἐματαιώθησαν. V[75] only here; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20 f., Romans 3:20, and esp. Ephesians 4:17. The adjective implies absence of purpose or object, futility: so = they became μάταιοι, turning from the true object of all thought they invented vain and meaningless objects for themselves.

διαλογισμοί in S. Paul always in a bad sense; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:20, which perhaps gives the source of the use. It seems to imply the working of the intellect without correction by facts; cf. Romans 14:1. ἐν perhaps instrumental—they lost the true thread by their speculations.

καὶ ἐσκοτίσθη κ.τ.λ. Cf. Ephesians 4:17 f., missing the true aim, they lost the true light.

καρδία more nearly corresponds to ‘mind’ than to ‘heart.’ So here ἀσύνετος, unintelligent; cf. Romans 10:6; Romans 10:8. Associated with thought and will (Romans 1:24; 1 Corinthians 4:5) more usually than with feeling (Romans 9:2), see S. H. There is the same tragic irony here as in 1 Corinthians 1:20 f.; cf. Wisdom of Solomon 11:15.


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"Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/romans-1.html. 1896.

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

21. “Therefore knowing God, they did not glorify him as God nor were they thankful, but they became vain in their reasonings, and their foolish heart was darkened.” All the heathens in the world are but the apostasy of the Patriarchical church, having the true light in the days of Noah; the Mohammedans and Jews, the apostasy of the Mosaic church, and the Roman Catholics, the fallen Apostolic church; while the great Protestant denominations are going at racehorse speed the same downward trend into spiritual darkness, formality, hypocrisy, legalism and idolatry. Paul in this verse describes the first stage of apostasy from God, i. e., landing them in intellectualism; the second stage subsequently described, putting them in idolatry, and the third and last in brutality. The heathens are now in the last stage, i. e., brutality, and the Romanists in idolatry, and the Protestants in intellectualism, seeking the power of natural talent and education instead of the spiritual dynamite which constitutes the only definition of gospel in the Bible.


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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/romans-1.html.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, nor gave thanks, but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.’

Note that it was not that men did not ‘know’ God. There was something within them which made them aware of Him. That is why there is so much religion in the world. But what they did not want was to be controlled by Him in their activities and behaviour. Thus they closed their minds to the knowledge of God as He is, and refused to glorify Him as God. Note that it is seen as deliberate. True knowledge of God was not seen as convenient. Nor did they render Him thanks. Note the emphasis on the fact that they were ungrateful. They took what He provided for granted, but would not acknowledge it. So instead they became vain and empty in their thinking and in their reasonings as they sought to find ways to satisfy the emptiness within, without recourse to God. But the result of rejecting the light was that their senseless heart was darkened. They found themselves struggling in the dark and sought to come up with a solution which would satisfy their desires and the desires of the masses, without having to face up to the truth.

The word for ‘vain’ is used elsewhere to indicate a ‘corrupt’ manner of living (1 Peter 1:18), while ‘vanity of mind’ results in men being hardened and giving themselves up to various types of sin (Ephesians 4:17-19). So their vain reasonings were not just empty or futile reasonings, they were positively sinful. A related word is constantly used in the Old Testament in connection with idolatry. Such sin led to idolatry.


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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/romans-1.html. 2013.

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans

Verse 21 Because that, where they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Knew God . — Besides the manifestation of God in the works of creation, the heathens had still some internal lights, some principles and natural notions, which are spoken of, ch. 2:12, 15, from which they had, in a measure, the knowledge of the existence and authority of God. There may be here, besides, a reference to the knowledge of God which He communicated in the first promise after the fall, and again after the flood, but which, not liking to retain God in their knowledge, and being ‘haters of God,’ mankind had lost. Elsewhere, Paul says that the Gentiles were without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12; yet here he says they knew God. On this it may be observed, that they had very confused ideas of the Godhead, but that they further corrupted them by an almost infinite number of errors. Respecting their general notions of deity, these represented the true God; but respecting their erroneous notions, these only represented the phantoms of their imagination. In this way they knew God, yet nevertheless they were without God. They knew his existence and some of His perfections; but they had so entirely bewildered their minds, and added so many errors to the truth, that they were in reality living without God. They might be said to know God when they confessed Him as the Creator of the world, and had some conception of His unity, wisdom, and power. The Apostle may particularly refer to the wise men among the heathen, but the same truth applies to all. They all knew more than they practiced, and the most ignorant might have discovered God in His works, had not enmity against Him remained in their hearts. But when Paul says, Ephesians 2:12, that they were without God, he has respect to their worship and their practice. For all their superstitions were exclusively those of impiety, which could only serve to alienate them from the love and the communion of the true God.

They were therefore, in reality, without God in the world, inasmuch as they set up devils, whom, under the name of gods, they served with the most abominable rites. They glorified Him not as God. — Paul here marks what ought to be the true and just knowledge of God, namely, that knowledge which leads men to serve and worship Him in a manner agreeable to His sovereign will, and worthy of His holy character. To glorify God signifies to acknowledge and worship Him with ascriptions of praise, because of His glorious attributes.

Now the heathens, though in their speculations they might speak of God in a certain way consistent with some of His attributes, as His unity, spirituality, power, wisdom, and goodness, yet never reduced this to practice. The objects of their professed worship were either the works of God, or idols. To these they gave the glory that belonged to God; to these they felt and expressed gratitude for the blessings which God bestowed on them. God left them not without a witness of His existence and goodness, in that He gave them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons; but the glory for these things, and for all other blessings, they rendered to the objects of their false worship. It appears also that the Apostle had in view the fact, that the philosophers in their schools entertained some proper ideas of God, but in their worship conformed to the popular errors. Men often justify their neglect of God by alleging that He has no need of their service, and that it cannot be profitable to Him; but we here see that He is to be glorified for His perfections, and thanked for His blessings. Neither were thankful. — We should constantly remember that God is the source of all that we are, and of all that we possess. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. From this it follows that He ought to be our last end. Consequently, one of the principal parts of our worship is to acknowledge our dependence, and to magnify Him in all things by consecrating ourselves to His service. The opposite of this is what is meant by the expression, ‘neither were thankful;’ and this is what the heathens were not, for they ascribed one part of what they possessed to the stars, another part to fortune, and another to their own wisdom. But became vain in their imaginations, or rather in their reasonings, that is, speculations. — Paul calls all their philosophy reasonings, because they related to words and notions, divested of use or efficacy. Some apply this expression, ‘became vain in their reasonings,’ to the attempts of the heathen philosophers to explore, in a physical sense, the things which the poets ascribed to the gods. Dr. Macknight supposes that the object of the wise men was to show that the religion of the vulgar, though untrue, was the fittest for them. Many explanations, equally fanciful, have been given of these words. The language itself, in connection with the writings of the wise men to whom the Apostle refers, leaves no good reason to doubt that he speaks of those speculations of the Grecian philosophers in which they have manifested the most profound subtlety and the most extravagant folly. Their reasonings diverged very far from that truth which they might have discovered by the contemplation of the works of creation; and, besides, produced nothing for the glory of God, in which they ought to have issued. In fact, all their reasonings were to no purpose, so far as regarded their sanctification, or the peace of their conscience. The whole of what the Apostle here says aptly describes, and will equally apply to, vain speculations of modern times. It suits not only modern schools of philosophy, but also some of theology; not only the vain interpretations of Neologians, but of all who explain away the distinguishing doctrines of revelation. Without being carried away with the learning and research of such persons, every one who loves the Scriptures and the souls of men, should lift up his voice against such degradations of the oracles of God. Their foolish heart was darkened. — ’Imprudent heart,’ as Dr. Macknight translates this, comes not up to the amount of the phrase. It designates the heart, or understanding, as void of spiritual discernment and wisdom — unintelligent in Divine things, though subtle and perspicacious as to the things of the world. Their speculations, instead of leading them to the truth, or nearer to God, were the means of darkening their minds, and blinding them still more than they were naturally. The Apostle here marks two evils: the one, that they were destitute of the knowledge of the truth; and the other, that they were filled with error, for here their darkness does not simply signify ignorance, but a knowledge false and depraved. These two things are joined together.


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Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hal/romans-1.html. 1835.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

21. Glorified him not—The intuitions by which God is known are largely the moral. Not to recognise or believe in God is not, like the ignoring a person in history or a fact in science, purely an intellectual defect, but also a moral. In his unfallen state man deeply and perfectly knew his God with a knowledge of holy love. And by that knowledge and love of the Holy One, man’s whole nature was regulated in harmony with itself and with God. By the fall that knowledge and love became primitively dim and feeble. Then man, historically not liking the holy God, nor glorifying him, nor feeling thankful, the regulator was lost, and so by apostasy from God man’s whole nature went into moral ruin, and all the depravities resulted described by the apostle in the present chapter.

Vain in their imaginations—Rather, their reasonings. God being dim to their perceptions, their reasonings in regard to him became foolish and wicked.

Heart was darkened—So that the twilight of pantheism first came on, and then the midnight of atheism or idolatry. In pantheism God became as a universal mist, losing his true personality and his moral attributes. Then the universal pantheistic mist was separated into parts, and the figures of finite nature-gods and goddesses emerged, and so idolatry arose.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-1.html. 1874-1909.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 1:21. Because. The fact which renders them inexcusable is now stated.

Though knowing God. Although they had the knowledge indicated in Romans 1:20.

Did not glorify him as God. What worship they rendered was not in accordance with the knowledge they had. ‘Glorify’ refers to praising God for what He is.

Nor give thanks; i.e., did not praise Him for all his benefits.

Became vain in their thoughts. ‘Imaginations’ is inexact; ‘thoughts,’ discussions, reasonings, are meant (comp. chap. Romans 2:15).’ The conceptions, ideas, and reflections, which they formed for themselves regarding the Deity, were wholly devoid of any intrinsic value corresponding with the truth’ (Meyer.) ‘Vanity’ is a characteristic term for idol-worship; Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Kings 17:5; Jeremiah 2:5; Acts 14:15.

Senseless, or, ‘without understanding,’ as the word is translated in Romans 1:31.

Heart. Here, as so often in the Bible, this refers to the whole inner man.

Was darkened. (Comp. Ephesians 4:18.) This is the culmination of the process: not worshipping and thanking God, although they knew Him, they became vain in their reasonings; this made their heart senseless, and thus it was darkened, deprived of the truth which it might have had (formerly had) from the light of nature.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/romans-1.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Romans 1:21 ff. εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους would naturally express purpose: to make men inexcusable is one, though not the only or the ultimate, intention of God in giving this revelation. But the διότι almost forces us to take the εἰς τὸ as expressing result: so that they are inexcusable, because, etc. (see Burton’s Moods and Tenses, § 411). In Romans 1:21-23 the wrong course taken by humanity is described. Nature shows us that God is to be glorified and thanked, i.e., nature reveals Him to be great and good. But men were not content to accept the impression made on them by nature; they fell to reasoning upon it, and in their reasonings ( διαλογισμοί, “perverse self-willed reasonings or speculations,” S. and H.) were made vain ( ἐματαιώθησαν); the result stultified the process; their instinctive perception of God became confused and uncertain; their unintelligent heart, the seat of the moral consciousness, was darkened. In asserting their wisdom they became fools, and showed it conspicuously in their idolatries. They resigned the glory of the incorruptible God (i.e., the incorruptible God, all glorious as He was, and as He was seen in nature to be), and took instead of Him some image of a corruptible, even of a vile creature. The expression ἤλλαξαν τὴν δόξαν κ. τ. λ. is borrowed in part from Psalms 105:20 (LXX): ἠλλάξαντο τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν ἐν ὁμοιώματι μόσχου ἔσθοντος χόρτον. The reduplication of the same idea in ἐν ὁμοιώματι εἰκόνος shows the indignant contempt with which the Apostle looked on this empty and abject religion in which God had been lost. The birds, quadrupeds and reptiles could all be illustrated from Egypt.

With Romans 1:24 the Apostle turns from this sin to its punishment. Because of it ( διὸ) God gave them up. To lose God is to lose everything: to lose the connection with Him involved in constantly glorifying and giving Him thanks, is to sink into an abyss of darkness, intellectual and moral. It is to become fitted for wrath at last, under the pressure of wrath all the time. Such, in idea, is the history of humanity to Paul, as interpreted by its issue in the moral condition of the pagan world when he wrote. Exceptions are allowed for (Romans 2:10), but this is the position as a whole. παρέδωκεν in all three places (Romans 1:24, εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν; Romans 1:26, εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας; Romans 1:28, εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν) expresses the judicial action of God. The sensual impurity of religions in which the incorruptible God had been resigned for the image of an animal, that could not but creep into the imagination of the worshippers and debase it, was a Divine judgment. τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς, in accordance with the conception of a judicial act, expresses the Divine purpose—that their bodies might be dishonoured among them. For gen of purpose, see Winer, 408 ff. (where, however, a different construction is given for this passage, τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι being made to depend immediately on ἁκαθαρσίαν).


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-1.html. 1897-1910.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

Romans 1:21 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.

"Because that" -"For even though" (NASV)

"Knowing God" -a point that Paul doesn"t let us forget (,28).

"Glorified him not as God"-They knew more than they did. They didn"t hold God in the high esteem that He deserves. Demonstrated in lowering the concept of God () "They did not honor him as God" (RSV).

"I think it may be proved from facts that any given people, down to the lowest savages, has at any period of its life KNOWN FAR MORE THAN IT HAS DONE."

"neither gave thanks"-ingratitude and human pride the root of false religion-just take a good look at the Humanist Manifesto.

"Vain in their reasonings"-"all their thinking has ended in futility" (NEB); "their thoughts turned to worthless things" (Beck); "they busied themselves with silly speculations" (Nor). Reasonings that fail to arrive at any purposeful goal.

"Senseless" -"foolish". This is the result of abandoning God"s truth and engaging in human speculation, you end up with a head full of silly theories, comprehension and understanding are darkened. The "ignorance" that one needs to worry about, is ignorance of the will of God. When Paul was sent to the Gentiles, they were in self-caused ignorance (Acts 26:18).


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Bibliography
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/romans-1.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

knew. Greek. ginosko. App-132.

glorified. Seep. 1511.

but. Emphatic.

became vain. Greek. mataioomai. Only here. Compare Acts 14:15.

imaginations = reasonings. See Matthew 15:19.

foolish. Greek. asunetos, as Romans 1:31.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/romans-1.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Because that, when they knew God (in the sense of Romans 1:19) - even while still retaining some real knowledge of God, and before they sank down into the state next to be described,

They glorified him not as God, neither were thankful - neither yielding Him the adoration due to Himself, nor rendering the gratitude which His beneficence demanded,

But became vain in their imaginations , [ en (Greek #1722) tois (Greek #3588) dialogismois (Greek #1261)] - 'in their reasonings,' 'thoughts,' 'speculations' about God, The word rendered, "became vain" [ emataiootheesan (Greek #3154)], and the corresponding word, 'vanity' [ mataiotees (Greek #3153)], almost always refer to the idolatrous tendencies and practices of men (Jeremiah 2:5; 2 Kings 17:15; Acts 14:15). The word rendered "imaginations" is mostly used in a bad sense, and here refers to men's proud and restless dissatisfaction with the simple verities regarding God, which are "manifest in them," their cravings after something more satisfactory, and the thoughts, reasonings, or speculations to which these gave rise.

And their foolish heart , [ asunetos (Greek #801)] - 'their senseless,' 'stupid heart;' meaning their whole inner man,

Was darkened. How instructively is the downward progress of the human soul here traced! When once darkness is suffered to overspread the mind, an impotent stupidity of all the active powers of the soul is the result; and thus the truth which God left with and in men, instead of having free scope to acquire strength and develop itself, came by degrees to be lost, and the still, small voice of conscience, first disregarded, was next thwarted, and at length systematically disregarded.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-1.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(21) They knew enough of God to know that thanks and praise were due to Him; but neither of these did they offer. They put aside the natural instinct of adoration, and fell to speculations, which only led them farther and farther from the truth. The new knowledge of which they went in quest proved to be fiction; the old knowledge that they had was obscured and lost by their folly. Starting with two things—a portion of enlightenment on the one hand, and the natural tendency of the human mind to error on the other, the latter prevailed, and the former became eclipsed.

But became vain in their imaginations.—They were frustrated—reached no good and sound result with their speculations.

Their foolish heart.—Not the same word as “fools,” in the next verse. Their unintelligent heart; their heart which, by itself, was endowed with no special faculty of discernment such as to enable them to dispense with the enlightenment from above.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/romans-1.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
when
19,28; John 3:19
they glorified
15:9; Psalms 50:23; 86:9; Hosea 2:8; Habakkuk 1:15,16; Luke 17:15-18; 2 Timothy 3:2; Revelation 14:7; 15:4
but became
Genesis 6:5; 8:21; 2 Kings 17:15; Psalms 81:12; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 10:3-8,14,15; 16:19; Ephesians 4:17,18; 1 Peter 1:18
their foolish
11:10; Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 60:2; Acts 26:18; 1 Peter 2:9

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/romans-1.html.

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians

Since knowing God. The most natural and obvious connection of this verse is with the last clause of the preceding, ‘Men are without excuse, since, although they knew God, they worshipped him not as God.' This connection, moreover, is in accordance with the apostle's manner, who often establishes a proposition, which is itself an inference, by a new process of argument. Thus in the present instance, in Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20, he proved that the heathen had a knowledge of God which rendered them inexcusable, and then the fact that they were without excuse, is proved by showing that they did not act in accordance with the truth. Rückert, however, who is followed by Tholuck, considering that the apostle's object is to show that the heathen wickedly oppose the truth, as stated in Romans 1:18; and that this proof consists of two parts — first, the heathen had the knowledge of the truth, Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20; and secondly, that they did not act according to it, Romans 1:21-23; assumes that the connection is rather with the last clause of Romans 1:18, and that something is implied here which is not expressed, and that the logical reference of διότι is to this omitted thought. ‘The heathen are without excuse, and wickedly oppose the truth, since, although they knew God, they glorified him not as God.' This sense is good enough, but it is a forced and unnatural interpretation.

The apostle having shown in Romans 1:19, that the knowledge of God was revealed to men, has no hesitation in saying that the heathen knew God; which does not mean merely that they had the opportunity of knowing him, but that in the constitution of their own nature, and in the works of creation, they actually possessed an intelligible revelation of the Divine existence and perfections. This revelation was indeed generally so neglected, that men knew not what it taught. Still they had the knowledge, in the same sense that those who have the Bible are said to have the knowledge of the will of God, however much they may neglect and disregard it. In both cases there is knowledge presented, and a revelation made, and in both ignorance is without excuse. As there is no apology for the impiety of the heathen to be found in any unavoidable ignorance, their idolatry was the fruit of depravity. The apostle therefore says, that although they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful to him. δοξάζειν is to ascribe honor to any one, to praise, and also to honor, to make glorious, or cause that others should honor any one. Men are said to glorify God either when they ascribe glory to him, or when they so act as to lead others to honor him. In the present case, the former idea is expressed by the word. They did not reverence and worship God as their God; neither did they refer to him the blessings which they daily received at his hands.

Instead of thus rendering unto God the homage and gratitude which are his due, they became vain in their imaginations. Vain ( ἐματαιώθησαν) that is, according to constant scriptural usage, became both foolish and wicked. Vain conversation is corrupt conversation, 1 Peter 1:18; and vanity is wickedness, Ephesians 4:17. These words are all frequently used in reference to idolatry, as idols are in the Bible often called, μάταια, vanities. In their imaginations, διαλογισμοῖς properly thoughts; but usually, in the New Testament, with the implication of evil; evil thoughts or machinations. Here the word also has a bad sense. The thoughts of the heathen concerning God were perverted and corrupt thoughts. The whole clause therefore means, that the heathen, in refusing to recognize the true God, entertained foolish and wicked thoughts of the Divine Being; that is, they sank into the folly and sin of idolatry. And their, foolish heart was darkened; they lost the light of divine knowledge; ἀσύνετος, destitute of σύνεσις, understanding, insight into the nature of divine things. The consequence of this want of divine knowledge was darkness. The word καρδία, heart stands for the whole soul. Hence men are said to understand with the heart, Matthew 13:15; to believe with the heart, Romans 10:10; the heart is said to be enlightened with knowledge 2 Corinthians 4:6; and the eyes of the heart are said to be opened, Ephesians 1:8. The word διανοία, mind, is used with the same latitude, not only for the intellect, but also for the seat of the affections, as in Ephesians 2:3 we read of the desires of the mind. It is not merely intellectual darkness or ignorance which the apostle describes in this verse, but the whole moral state. We find throughout the Scriptures the idea of foolishness and sin, of wisdom and piety, intimately connected. In the language of the Bible, a fool is an impious man; the wise are the pious, those who fear God; foolishness is sin; understanding is religion. The folly and darkness of which the apostle here speaks are therefore expressive of want of divine knowledge, which is both the effect and cause of moral depravity.


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Bibliography
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/romans-1.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

They know God. MacKnight says: "The writings of Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, Cicero, and other philosophers . . . prove that the learned heathens, though ignorant of the way of salvation, were acquainted with the unity and spirituality of God, and had just notions of his perfections, of the creation and government of the world, and of the duties which men owe to God and to one another." When men in their pride deliberately blind themselves to Truth, they plunge deeper into the darkness of evil. [Heart = mind.]


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/romans-1.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

: 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.

Paul again made it plain that in the past people knew about God. The kind of knowledge Paul had in mind, in my judgment, is both natural and supernatural. When the world was young the human race had an excellent opportunity to access both types of knowledge. Though this information was available, numerous people did not want it. Even though people in the past "knew" God, they chose to not follow Him. God was not "glorified," and He was "not thanked" (eucharisteo). This word was often used by Bible characters to express thankfulness ( Matthew 15:36; Matthew 26:26; John 11:41; Romans 1:8; Colossians 1:3). Anyone who wants to be a true servant of God must glorify and thank God.

The Gentiles turned their backs to God and became "vain in their reasonings." The word vain (mataioo) is found only here, and it means worthless, purposeless. The thoughts of the people were foolish or empty. The term is in contrast to the word thankful and to the revelation God gave (verse19). The hearts of these people became "senseless" and "darkened." On the word senseless (asunetos), see verse31 ("without understanding"). Here the word darkened (skotizomai) means "the mental and spiritual incapacity of perverse people to understand divine truth" (CBL, GED, ). This term has this same meaning in11:10 and Ephesians 4:18.


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Bibliography
Price, Brad "Commentary on Romans 1:21". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bpc/romans-1.html.

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