Romans Chapter 1, 18 to 23
Romans Chapter 1, 18 to 23
The plain truth of God, rejected Many unbelievers, when asked about whether God is real or not, bring out incredibly complex philosophical arguments, or very seemingly intricate arguments from evolution etc to show that it is “all so impossible.” Other kinds of unbelievers, perhaps not as intellectual as the first, when asked if they have sinned, often respond with a “not really. I may not have been perfect in my life, but I am basically a decent person. I am no sinner, as the Bible tries to say.” Paul here, quite forcefully and powerfully, in verses 1:18-23 lays out both such objections bare with the truth of the gospel. Let’s take a look at how he does this, by examining first how he handles the second objection of many unbelievers: 1. Sin is not primarily some moral action, but rather, it is a denial of the plain truth of God which is clear to anyone, if they desire to look seriously. Verse 18 shows us clearly that sin is related to truth (that, is something that can be known which people reject). It is not primarily some bad moral action. Of course, Paul will deal with bad moral actions and all kinds of bad and evil thinking from verse 24 onwards, but that is not the root of the issue. The problem with all people who have turned from God is that they have rejected truth. Truth, just as in there is gravity on this planet. You wouldn’t hear people say, “I don’t like gravity, and so I will decide to reject it!” That would be absurd! No, everyone accepts the gravity as a given. It is the same with God. There is a truth about him that is a given, and yet... though the truth is as plain as the gravity that operates over the planet, people in their pride reject it. If, on natural terms you were to reject gravity, there would be something forcefully pushing back against you. And yet...people don’t think that rejecting Him is like rejecting gravity. Of COURSE things will go wrong if one does this, it is just that people hate to admit it! Look at Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 4:17-19, and Romans 8:7-8 and Paul says the same thing, the same dark results occur when you reject His “gravity.” But what exactly is the truth that everyone rejects? 2. This truth is that God and his amazing glory can be clearly seen by anyone, in the very nature of the physical world (1:19-20) This now addresses the first point. Many unbelievers, because of their intellect or technical knowledge, have created elaborate theories to try and explain that God somehow did not make this world. It all sounds so “impressive”, with tons of technical vocabulary written by PhD graduates. But God through Paul is saying this: “you don’t need some PhD to know the obvious.” Look around you! Look at the beautiful mountains and rivers and birds. Look at the vast blue of the sky! Look at all these amazingly diverse animals that you meet, cute and majestic at the same time! (Jesus makes a similar point in Matthew 6:25 and following, and the Psalmist uses all of Psalm 104 to elaborate Paul’s message here). But then, Paul goes on to argue , “from the things made”( verse 20 ) that beyond that, you should be able to see man himself as the very crowning achievement of a Creator God. Men who can make vast civilisations. Men like Shakespeare who can write stunning English, or Beethoven who can write a great symphony, or Bach a great fugue, or Rembrandt a stunningly heartfelt portrait (and though all these came after Paul, there were many like men in Paul’s day too!). When you look at or read or listen to the works of these men, Paul implies, what should your true reaction be? It should be “Amazing. The work itself is beautiful, but all was given by the even more beautiful Creator and God who gave such amazing thoughts to these men, and also the skills by which to execute them! Praise the Lord!” That, says Paul, is what every person on earth should be doing everyday as they see all the things made surrounding them, from the flowers they touch to the people they encounter. Everything should move us to praise of the God and Father who made this spectacular world. Instead....men throw this glorious truth into the garbage and say instead, “No, it is these men alone. Only these men are gods. Praise men and nothing else. And this world was made by random forces, or by some strange spirit, or who knows what. We have no help, and so have only ourselves to rely on.” Paul would say to such a man, “a humble 5 year old could admit what you don’t want to. You men have rejected the most obvious and amazing truth in the world. “ And with that, as Paul later concludes in Chapter 3:8 , “their condemnation is just.” Yes, every mouth should be stopped, everybody in the world is accountable to God who rejects this simple and glorious truth. Paul here in Romans 1 with analytical precision lays out the plight of all humanity, with a diagnosis that is both penetrating and correct (being Scripture, of course it is, but the more we think and study these verses, we see how accurate Paul’s words describe today’s world). If we would all admit that we have done this, have had these thoughts, and then, turn back to Him, the source of all our life, then He would gladly welcome us home, showering us with the grace he has provided us in his Son.
Main point summary
God is angry at all humanity because they deny the truth about him , that is, that his reality can be readily seen in all of the created world.
For k the wrath of God l is revealed from heaven
(The gospel of Christ is needed) because God is showing even now his anger from heaven,
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
and that is because men have sinned in their hearts against him, as well as committing acts of sin in the mind, as well as sins against others.
who by their unrighteousness
The greatest of all of their sins
suppress the truth.
is that they have denied the truth about God.
For what can be m known about God is plain to them,
What is this truth about God? It is that God can be clearly known by every person on this planet,
because God has shown it to them.
and the reason why this is known clearly is because God told everyone about it in their hearts and minds.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, n have been clearly perceived,
To explain why it is so clear : All of God’s invisible yet fully real characteristics and qualities: his majesty, his imagination, his ingenuity, and his glorious power are available for any man to see, any time.
ever since the creation of the world, 1
since the very beginning of time and throughout time since then.
in the things that have been made.
And how can all people see it? By looking into this created physical world, full of mountains, oceans, beautiful landscapes, and of course full of people, those unique and special beings who not only have been given incredible minds with which to think, and hearts with which to feel, but also the ability to create such incredibly amazing and diverse things: from large buildings to new technology to beautiful literature and paintings and music, and also to giant, advanced, complex civilisations throughout history. All these, yes every single one of these, show the invisible yet fully real and evident stamp of a glorious Creator God.
So they are without excuse.
And because of this, what would rejection of what is so plain and clear mean? It means something so sad, so tragic, so terrible, and so horrible in the sight of God. He has every right to be angry at them for doing this.
For although they knew God,
Let’s explain humanity’s tragic rejection in more detail: although all men could clearly see the marks of the Glorious Creator in this physical world,
they did not honor him as God
men chose not to love and obey Him with their lives,
or give thanks to him,
as well as not having deep gratitude and joy in their hearts for all of this, every day of their lives.
but they o became futile in their thinking,
And what was the result of this tragic choice? Their minds, their minds which are able to have a true spiritual understanding of their Maker, became utterly ineffective and stopped working.
and their foolish hearts were darkened.
As well as that , their hearts, that is their affections and desires, became perverted and no longer desired to seek him every day of their lives.
p Claiming to be wise,
To speak slightly more generally, although they thought this choice was a very good one,
they became fools,
instead , quite ironically, they became utter foolish, not knowing anything.
and q exchanged the glory of r the immortal God
And you could see their utter foolishness in what they did: instead of living and worshipping the Glorious God,
for images resembling mortal man
they preferred a cheap and useless fake copy. They made cheap replicas of statues of men (oh how foolish!)
and the same of birds
and other animals that walk,
and creeping things.
and of other animals that crawl. They called all these cheap fake things “God”, and yet, they knew they were fooling themselves. They knew very well that such cheap copies are not God at all, but they just didn’t want to repent of their mistake that they made.
Romans 1:18-23 ESV
God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness 18 For k the wrath of God l is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be m known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, n have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, 1 in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they o became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 p Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and q exchanged the glory of r the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.