Denying the Truth of God’s Existence
As has been suggested in Part 1 of this article, the fact that these impious and evil individuals suppressed the truth about God clearly intimates that they had some prior knowledge of God and of what he required. The apostle Paul confirms this when he writes:
Romans 1:19 (ESV)
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Yes, they knew about God. They knew what they were doing when they suppressed the truth about God—the truth concerning his power and divine nature, which God reveals in his creation. They knew also what they were doing when they sought to prevent others from seeing God’s power and glory in the natural creation. Again, they knew what they were doing when they denied that God was the Creator of the universe—preferring instead to worship idols or ideals of their own making.
In the same way, those people today who attempt to discredit or belittle the teachings of the Bible know what they are doing. God, however, will judge them accordingly.
These people knew—because, as verse 19 says,
19a For what can be known about God is plain to them… (ESV)
Who had made it plain to them? God had made it plain to them. None other than the Almighty God himself had made plain to the minds and hearts of these people everything that was necessary to know concerning his existence, power and glory. (Ps. 19:1-6; Isa. 40:26)
To this end, the apostle adds:
Romans 1:20 (ESV)
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
God reveals himself to all mankind through his natural creation (natural revelation). Ever since the creation of the world, the LORD God has been revealing something of his existence, and of his eternal power and divine nature, in the things he has made.
From observing the created world, therefore, all mankind knew that God existed. They knew that he possessed almighty power and glory. This much God clearly revealed to them through his natural creation. It was folly indeed, then, and wilful rebellion, to deny that God had created the universe, or to attempt to attribute its origin to natural causes alone. This was the very sin of which these people were guilty—godlessness or a denial of God’s existence, and a turning to alternative ideals or objects of worship. In other words, by rejecting the truth about God, they became committed to various forms of delusions or lying vanities—lying vanities that led them to idolatry.
This, however, is the very class of sin that humanity is repeating today. When men and women cling to a philosophy, theory or idea that denies the involvement of a Sovereign Creator, Provider and Redeemer, they are rejecting God and committing themselves to idols. In this case, they are turning to the worship of fallen, sinful mankind and his humanistic philosophies or ideas. However, by so doing, these people are wilfully refusing to acknowledge that the creation of the universe is a demonstration of God’s existence and of his sovereign power and glory.
What does God’s Word say of such people?
First, it repudiates any professed denials of God’s existence, power and glory, or any pretended claims to ignorance in these matters (e.g. by taking refuge in atheism, agnosticism or pseudo-science). Rather, God’s Word firmly declares that all nations clearly understood the truths concerning God’s invisible qualities: i.e. his eternal power and divine nature. This is because God displayed that truth unmistakably in his creation.
Except by a wilful closing of his mind to the truth of God and his Word, a person could not fail to understand these realities. However, this is precisely what he did. In deliberate rebellion against God’s revelation of himself in the natural creation—or against the testimony of God’s Word (the Bible)—sinful mankind refused to acknowledge the very truths that God had made plain to them. Instead, they set about trying to invent new ‘truths’ which their sinful minds would find more acceptable, and more comfortable to live with.
However, what does God’s Word say of those who clearly understand—and yet reject—God’s truths? Again, in verse 20, it says that,
20b… they are without excuse. (ESV)
They have no excuse for their actions or attitudes. However, by departing from God’s truths, and seeking to establish their own distorted form of truth, they justly incur God’s wrath and judgment. In addition, or as part of this punishment, God allows their mind to become increasingly confused or confounded, so that they are no longer capable of comprehending real truth. Such a situation prevails, unless and until they are prepared to acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and his truth in their hearts and lives.
(To be continued)
[Excerpt from Expository Notes: Romans (chapter 1 verses 19-20). To read or download the full version of these Notes, click on the NT Commentaries menu tab above.]Follow @gordon_lyons