Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same…
I. SINNERS DO THINGS WHICH THEY KNOW ARE DISPLEASING TO GOD. The heathen do things which God has forbidden by the law of nature; the Jews those which are forbidden by the God of revelation: both, therefore, do things which they know must be displeasing to Him. And this is true of all men now. They know that God forbids them to love themselves and the world supremely; but they do both. God forbids them to disobey His commands; but they do disobey them. God forbids them to disbelieve and reject the gospel; but they do disbelieve and reject it. And they will persist in displeasing Him, notwithstanding death appears to be their certain doom.
II. THEY TAKE PLEASURE IN SEEING OTHERS TAKE THE SAME PATH TO RUIN. It will be easy to account for this if we consider —
1. That they love one another. They are all by nature possessed of the same selfish heart. And it is therefore reasonable to suppose that, notwithstanding the great diversity in their external conduct, they love one another because they are sinners, and not saints. Christ says repeatedly, "that sinners love those that love them." And He tells His disciples that this selfish spirit is essential to their character. "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own." Men of the world universally approve the spirit of the world, and are pleased to see one another act it out without the least reserve; though they know it is infinitely displeasing to God.
2. As sinners possess one and the same selfish and sinful heart, so they are heartily united in opposing one and the same holy and benevolent cause. The greatest nations have been, and still are, united in their views, and feelings, and conduct, towards the Church of Christ. As all sinners wish that God's gracious designs may be defeated; so they have pleasure in seeing any of their fellow men doing what they think has a tendency to frustrate them.
3. Those who do things which they know are displeasing to God, take pleasure in seeing others do the same. Those who disbelieve the existence of God are pleased to hear others say that they believe there is no God. Those who disbelieve the inspiration of the Bible are pleased to hear others say that they believe it is a cunningly devised fable. Those who disbelieve the doctrines of the Trinity, of atonement, of total depravity, of regeneration, etc., are always pleased to hear others say that they disbelieve all these doctrines. Those who disbelieve in the Sabbath, who practise tavern haunting, vain and sinful amusements, like others to do the same. Those who are ambitious love to see others ambitious. Those who are worldly minded love to see others worldly minded. Those who despise all religion love to see others despise it.
1. If sinners love to do things which they know are displeasing to God, then they never refrain from doing anything merely because they know it will be displeasing to Him. They know what is pleasing to themselves, and they mean to do what is pleasing to themselves, though they know it will be displeasing to God. They are like disobedient children and servants, who will always do what is agreeable to their own corrupt heart, though they know it will be disagreeable to their parents or masters, unless they fear their displeasure. It is the fear and not the love of God that restrains sinners from doing any evil action or pursuing any evil course.
2. If sinners love to do things which they know are displeasing to God, then, though they do a great many things which He has required, yet they never do anything merely for the sake of obeying or pleasing Him. They labour to please themselves, and not Him.
3. If sinners love to do things that they know are displeasing to God, and take pleasure in seeing others act from the same principle, then no external means nor motives are sufficient to restrain them from sin, and induce them to love and please God. They sin with their eyes wide open. They know what would please God, but they do not desire to please Him.
4. If sinners not only do things which they know are displeasing to God, but take pleasure in seeing others do the same things, then they are guilty not only of their own sins, but of all the sins of others, which they see and approve. And the approvers are often more guilty and criminal than the actors. Parents who allow their children to profane the Sabbath, to game, to attend balls and haunt taverns, are more guilty than their children that do these things. Executive officers, who see and approve of those who break the laws of the land, are more guilty than the actual transgressors. The reason is, that in all these cases the approvers know more than the actors, and are under stronger obligations to condemn and restrain those who are under their care, than the transgressors are to refrain from their evil courses.
5. If men are guilty of all the sins which they know and approve of, then we may see what it is to be guilty of national sins. It is to approve of those sins, which the majority of a nation commit and approve of. And, in this view, it is easy to see that one nation may be guilty of the sins of another nation.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
WEB: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.