Romans 1:21
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
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.

King James Bible
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.

Darby Bible Translation
Because, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but fell into folly in their thoughts, and their heart without understanding was darkened:

World English Bible
Because, knowing God, they didn't glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.

Young's Literal Translation
because, having known God they did not glorify Him as God, nor gave thanks, but were made vain in their reasonings, and their unintelligent heart was darkened,

Romans 1:21 Parallel
Commentary
Barnes' Notes on the 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.

continued...

Romans 1:21 Parallel Commentaries

Library
Third Sunday after Easter
Text: First Peter 2, 11-20. 11 Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles; that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to the king, as supreme; 14 or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. II

The Gospel the Power of God
'I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.'--ROMANS i. 16. To preach the Gospel in Rome had long been the goal of Paul's hopes. He wished to do in the centre of power what he had done in Athens, the home of wisdom; and with superb confidence, not in himself, but in his message, to try conclusions with the strongest thing in the world. He knew its power well, and was not appalled. The danger was an attraction to his chivalrous
Alexander Maclaren—Romans, Corinthians (To II Corinthians, Chap. V)

The Holy Spirit in the Glorified Christ.
"Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."--Rom. i. 4. From the foregoing studies it appears that the Holy Spirit performed a work in the human nature of Christ as He descended the several steps of His humiliation to the death of the cross. The question now arises, whether He had also a work in the several steps of Christ's exaltation to the excellent glory, i.e., in His resurrection, ascension, royal dignity, and second coming.
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

Proposition Though the Necessity and Indispensableness of all the Great and Moral Obligations of Natural Religion,
and also the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, be thus in general deducible, even demonstrably, by a chain of clear and undeniable reasoning; yet (in the present state of the world, by what means soever it came originally to be so corrupted, the particular circumstances whereof could not now be certainly known but by revelation,) such is the carelessness, inconsiderateness, and want of attention of the greater part of mankind; so many the prejudices and false notions taken up
Samuel Clarke—A Discourse Concerning the Being and Attributes of God

Cross References
Genesis 8:21
The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

1 Kings 20:23
Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, "Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they.

2 Kings 17:15
They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the LORD had commanded them not to do like them.

Isaiah 44:20
He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

Jeremiah 2:5
Thus says the LORD, "What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty?

Jeremiah 9:14
but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them,"

Jeremiah 17:9
"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

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