Mankind is Without Excuse (Part 4)

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Denying God Leads to Foolishness

What does God’s Word say about the outcome of worldly and godless wisdom? Paul writes:

Romans 1:22-23 (ESV)
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Many of these godless Gentiles made much of their worldly wisdom and learning. They had become experts in this or that field of learning or knowledge. But all their worldly wisdom and learning could not aid them in relation to moral and spiritual realities, or to the ultimate purpose of their lives, or of the creation of the universe in which they lived. Unable and unwilling to see the hand of God in the lives of all mankind, they became ‘fools’.

In the Bible, the word translated ‘fool’ often signifies one who is morally deficient, or lacking in the knowledge of God. (1 Cor. 1:19-21; 3:18-20)

Today, such a person often sees himself as a product of evolutionary processes alone, and not as one originally created in the image of God. Often, this is because he fears the judgment of God in his life, and thus tries to deny God’s existence by denying the need of a Sovereign Creator. However, where does this attitude lead him? Verse 23 tells us that—in their extreme folly—they,

23a …exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… (ESV)

They exchange the glory of God Most High for images… They forget that they themselves have been created in the true image of God, and they fall down and worship images of wood and stone! (Cf. Ps. 106:20-21; Jer. 2:11) Only a mind distorted by sin could turn from the glory of the immortal God to the shame of sensual idolatry. Nevertheless, such is the way of sinful mankind.

This demonstrates very clearly that mankind did not evolve or ascend from a lower to a higher state of existence. On the contrary, Scripture, experience, and history itself shows unmistakably that man has descended—or fallen—from a state of original righteousness to a state of moral and spiritual depravity. This has happened as a result of mankind’s sinfulness, godlessness and folly.

They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… However, of what kind of images is Paul speaking?

Verse 23 continues:

23b … images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (ESV)

The Gentiles refused to believe in the reality, power and divine nature of the one true God. Yet, in their folly, they believed in the reality, power and supposed divinity of their man-made idols! By their own hands, they had carved out these images in the form of men and women, or in the form of birds, animals, reptiles or other creatures. Furthermore, they sacrificed before these images, they worshipped before them, they prayed to them for assistance in their daily lives and in their work. (Isa. 44:9-20)

Others, in their foolishness, looked to the stars for help. They set their hopes in the sun, moon and other planetary bodies, and in the signs of the constellations. They sought guidance in all significant matters from these sources. (Jer. 8:2)

All these things were utterly powerless to act on mankind’s behalf—yet these were the gods that mankind, in his wisdom, saw fit to worship.

Not everyone resorted to such extreme forms of superstition, paganism or idolatry. Then, as well as now, sizeable segments of the Gentile world thought themselves above such things. However, even these more sophisticated Gentiles worshipped gods of their own making. For some, this was the humanistic philosophies of the ages. For others, it was the pursuit of knowledge as the key to answering life’s entire question and satisfying every human need and desire.

Thus, mankind exalted the ideas and philosophies of men above the truth of God. They gloried not in God, but in men and in mankind’s achievements. They set their hopes not on the Rock of Ages, but on the shifting sands of idealism, humanism, secularism, and theoretical science.

These represent just a few of the more sophisticated false gods which mankind cherishes in his heart. Others include materialism (greed) and the virtual glorification and worship of sex. These represent some of the ‘gods’ of this age and of this present generation. This is what happens to a person when he exchanges the glory of the immortal God for man’s ungodly ideals, theories, and standards of human behaviour.

(To be continued)

[Excerpt from Expository Notes: Romans (chapter 1 verses 22-23). To read or download the full version of these Notes, click on the NT Commentaries menu tab above.]

 

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