Summary: Thought that might get your attention. The debate about the goodness of man rages, as does the arguments for the existence of God. Paul takes on both in this very hard hitting section.
How can you know you are dying unless someone tells you ‘you have a terminal disease’? How do you know you need to be set free unless someone tells you ‘you are a captive’? How can you tell something is wrong unless someone tells you what is right? That’s the essence of the rest of Romans 1. Before Paul gives us the blessing of the gospel in detail, he must first tell us why we need it so badly.
What is wrath? Some translations use the word “anger”. But it’s not emotional anger like a human would use, wrath is the reaction of a holy God against evil. If you touch a hot stove you get burned. If pure holiness touches evil, it gets “wrathed.” The wrath of God comes now in the form of degrading sin and wickedness, and in the future in the form of eternal separation from God and all that is good.
It involves judgment of two things: godlessness (19-27) which is rejecting that there is a God, and wickedness (28-32) which means “injustice” and involves the things we do to other people.
These two failures of the human race show how we have failed to live up to the pure character of God as portrayed in the two parts of the Law:
(Mark 12:29-31) ’Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these."
(from Deut 6:4-5)
Notice there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile here. As Paul will say “All have sinned”
Suppressing the truth means first that you know the truth, but when you learn of our evil and God’s purity, we deny it or push it away by going further into sin.
We as humans like to think that if I don’t admit something exists, then it doesn’t exist. “Perception is reality” is the old saying. When it comes to knowledge of God, though, that doesn’t wash.
God has actually revealed Himself to mankind in two different ways, natural revelation and special revelation. Natural (or general) revelation is the creation, special revelation is the Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ. First, in verses 19-20, we see natural revelation.
19 – 20
Paul says that ever since the creation, the existence of God has been “plain” and “clearly perceived.” It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is a plan to the universe around us. The more we study, the more complicated and wondrous that plan is. Some scientists can and do try to put down anyone that accepts a God-created universe. That’s because science can only explain what it can study and replicate. They try to tell us that the universe simply obeys the laws of physics. But those laws are simply the way God decided the universe should operate. The more they study physics, especially quantum physics, the less they really know how the whole thing operates.
But Paul says there are two attributes of God that you can easily see just by looking around you—eternal power and divine nature. In other words, just look at what we see and it is easy to conclude that there is a master behind the machine, one with great power and not a human (limited) nature.
Psalms 19:1-3 The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
We like to think that it was some cosmic accident that created the universe. But I think it takes more faith to believe that than to believe in a Creator. We are not a lot different in our minds than the people Paul wrote about—mainly that men don’t want there to be a God because that might mean we would have to be accountable to a divine being.
21 – 23
There’s an old song that goes “you gotta serve somebody.” Jesus said “you cannot serve two masters.” You will have a god. If it isn’t God Almighty, then it might be yourself, or something else. Anything that takes the place of God is an idol, whether that’s a statue of wood or metal, or dollars and cents, or of human intellect.
Paul says they “became futile in their thinking.” “Futile” means “empty” or “profitless.” Since God is the only One who truly has and sustains life, ignoring or denying Him makes about as much sense as deciding you don’t need to breath.