From Wisdom to Foolishness: Progression and the Diabolical Nature of Sin Romans 1:18-32

By David Brown

A couple of years ago there was a commercial on TV advertising Las Vegas. And the catch phrase the commercial used was a phrase that was quite common in our society. The phrase was “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” And essentially what was being advocated was that we could dabble in sin and no one would find out. Because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

From a Christian perspective NOTHING could be more damaging to the Christian faith than advocating that believers can dabble in sin. And I would advocate that this is one of Satan’s great lies to the believer that a little sin in life is ok. This is a passage that teaches us about the diabolical nature of sin.

It is a passage that teaches us that because sin is progressive by its nature NOTHING could be farther from the truth than claiming that it’s ok for Christians to dabble in sin. Paul is going to teach us that once sin enters into our lives, if we do not make a conscience effort to repent of that sin it will destroy our lives.

This is a passage that applies to everyone because in the opening chapters Paul teaches of mankind’s need for a Savior

.Structure of the Passage

* Mankind’s need for a Savior (1:18-3:20)

  • All Gentiles are Sinners (1:18-32)
  • All Jews are Sinners (2:1-3:8
  • All People are Sinners (3:9-20)

So while the passage talks generally about mankind’s need for a Savior it is also teaches we cannot dabble in sin.

As we look at this passage we also need to notice that this passage is framed by the same root word.

Framing the Passage

* The passage opens with the unrighteousness (adikia) of man in verse 18 and closes with the righteousness (dikia) of God being ignored in verse 32.

* The passage is framed by the same root word translated as righteousness (dikia)/unrighteousness (adikia)

In the Greek language when you have a noun that describes something you can describe the opposite by inserting the letter alpha at the beginning of the noun.

So the opposite of righteousness (dikia) is unrighteousness (adikia). But the passage also teaches about the progressive nature of sin    and its coming about through rejection of God and His divine qualities.

 Let’s take a look at some of the literary devices that Paul uses to show us the progressive nature of sin.

Literary Progression

* Professing to be wise, they became fools

Romans 1:22

Notice the literary movement here from wisdom to foolishness. In fact, the Greek word for fool is  “moros.” We get our English word moron from this word.

There is also another literary progression that teaches believers about the diabolical and progressive nature of sin.

Staircase of Degeneration

    1. Holy God
    2. Corruptible man
    3. birds
    4. four-footed animals
    5. crawling creature

Again, notice the movement from a Holy to unholy. Paul is using all of these literary devices to teach us that we cannot dabble in sin because sin is progressive by nature. It enters quietly into our lives and if we do not make a conscience effort to repent of that sin it takes us farther than we would ever image. And along the way it destroys our lives and those around us.

Main Point

* Unrepentant human beings who refuse to stand for truth will be corrupted by the progressive and diabolical nature of sin and left in a state of total depravity.

First Point: God’s wrath is Revealed by Suppressing The Truth 

Read Romans 1:18

Alliteration & Unrighteousness

* Revealed (apocalupto)

* Ungodliness (asebeia)

* Unrighteousness (adikia)

* Man or mankind (anthropos)

* Truth (aletheia)

* Unrighteousness (adikia)

The purpose of alliteration is to create a pattern that catches the eye and focuses the attention of the reader unto a particular point or emphasis. In this context Paul is trying to focus the Christian readers attention of the diabolical nature of sin. So he lists a series of words, mostly nouns, that all begin with the first letter of the Greek alphabet (the alpha) which is equivalent to the English “a.” And so as sin is introduced/revealed into our lives it sets about a course of corruption/devastation that does not stop until our lives are destroyed.

Dr. David Brown (PhD, New Orleans) is pastor of Roseland Park Baptist Church in Picayune, Mississippi. You can follow him on Twitter @daviddwb



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