By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. – Romans 1:28 (KJV)
In Romans 1, Paul refers to something known as a reprobate mind. If you're not familiar with the term reprobate, the literal definition in the Greek is failing to pass the test, unapproved, counterfeit. How does this play out in the lives of men and women? And maybe even more importantly, what should your response be? Within this article, I am going to share with you five warning signs of someone with a reprobate mind and what I believe is the best way to approach this.
Does the Bible Explain the Meaning of a Reprobate Mind?
If you use the definition of the word in the Greek, then the imagery is of someone who has taken the test according to God’s standard and has by their own choice come up short. When confronted with the truth of who God is, and the reality of his existence, they reject that truth to follow after their own heart's desires.
In essence, they exchange the truth of God for a lie. And by their choice will come up short of God’s standard.
As you can see this is something that is very serious. This is not something you should play with. However, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to go around trying to decipher who has a reprobate mind, because this is not something you can tell anyway. However, if you are close to someone then I believe there can be some potential warning signs. Here are five warning signs of someone with a reprobate mind.
5 Warning Signs of a Reprobate Mind
I want to caution you because it is very difficult to prove that someone has a reprobate mind beyond a shadow of a doubt. Also, if you think about it too much, it can lead you to become judgmental and write people off. That is not our responsibility. If you remember Romans 1:28...it is God who gave them over. That is his doing, not ours. With that in mind, here are the signs:
1. Suppressing truth with wickedness.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness – Romans 1:18
This person has knowledge of the truth but chooses to reject it by their wicked actions.
2. Willfully rejecting God.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him – Romans 1:21
The person with a reprobate mind is aware of God’s existence; they just choose to operate as if he doesn’t exist.
3. Offering redirected worship.
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – Romans 1:2
This person has switched their object of affection. In their foolishness, they choose to worship the things they see which are created, instead of the one who made them, who is the Creator.
4. Having no limits or restrictions on sinful behavior.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. – Romans 1:29-31
The person who possesses a reprobate mind has taken the restrictions off their sinful boundaries. Nothing is off-limits.
5. Demonstrating no desire for change.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. – Romans 1:32
This person not only will hold on and continue in their wicked behavior, they will encourage others to follow suit. In fact, they will applaud those who follow after them in their degradation.
I want to strongly reiterate that none of these things taken individually means a person has a reprobate mind. At the same time, even if you take them all collectively, it doesn’t mean you can make that evaluation, either. Remember, God is the one who turns them over; therefore, only he can determine who actually has a reprobate mind.
What Are the Consequences of a Reprobate Mind?
I just shared with you warning signs of someone with a reprobate mind...but are there any consequences to this? Ultimately, we know that a person who dies in their sin without knowing Jesus as their personal savior is eternally separated from God. That is punishment enough, yet the reality of this person’s eventual condemnation begins before that. It actually can begin now. In Romans 1:18 we see that God’s wrath is against this person already. The wrath is often played out by God allowing the consequences of sinful actions to take its natural course. Notice Romans 1:26-27:
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. – Romans 1:26-27 (emphasis added)
Sometimes judgment is not a result of God doing anything but simply letting things come to their natural end. If you live in sin and continue in sin you will experience the consequence of sin. God can just let the consequences play out and by doing so it can be a form of judgment.
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Can a Reprobate Mind Be Redeemed by God?
Here's the real reason to be careful with assessing a reprobate mind. If you're not careful you may declare someone to have a reprobate mind who God has not declared. This can cause you to possibly give up on someone that God has not given up on. In fact, I will take it a step further:
Don’t ever declare anyone to have a reprobate mind or consider anyone beyond the ability to be redeemed by God.
God’s grace is too rich and his love too expansive (and let’s be honest, hell is too real) to declare someone beyond the ability to be redeemed. Our job is to plant, water, and pray. Plant the seed. Water the seed and then pray for God to cause the seed to produce life in a person’s heart.
Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. – Isaiah 1:18
There is no heart or mind that God will not change if that person comes in repentance. Granted, the person with a reprobate mind may be the extreme case—but let God decide if that person is beyond reach. We can’t make that call.
A Prayer to Guard Your Mind
Obviously, a reprobate mind is not a place someone gets to overnight. There is a gradual drifting, shifting, and twisting of thinking that moves people in that direction. That’s why later in Romans, Paul encourages you not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:1-2). Be careful to guard your mind. Here is a simple prayer to help you.
Keep my mind stayed on you. Let me be quick to conform to your word and not the patterns of this world. Help me to never reject your prompting if my heart is becoming drawn to sin. Lead me to repent quickly and find forgiveness and freedom in you. Amen.
As you can see, a reprobate mind is serious business. I hope you see we are not in a position to judge who is reprobate and who is not. I guess the wisdom here would be to follow Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5
Let’s focus the attention inward our hearts first and foremost. If you do that, you will always see with clarity and have compassion on those who may be rejecting the truth and love of God. Our primary focus needs to be on preaching the gospel. Let’s do that—and allow God to figure out who is reprobate and who is not.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.