Series on Romans, II The Gospel and Man’s Need, A The Predicament, Text: 1:18-21, Title: The Truth Revealed


In 1:16 and 17 Paul had given us the basic gist of this letter. It is about the gospel which is the message of God’s righteousness for our salvation. Beginning at verse 18 we are introduced to the formal argument which is devoted first to demonstrating everyone’s desperate need for salvation, and then proceeds to acquaint us with the remedy in Christ Jesus. In 1:18-3:20 the aim is to show that there is no way out for Jew or Gentile apart from Jesus. There is no exit, and no hope apart from Him. In  other words we need to hear the bad news and believe it before we can appreciate the good news. You know the old joke where the person says I bring news, which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? I think most people want the bad news first and that is exactly what Paul is giving his readers. In this first section, verses 18-21, the Apostle is exposing the unbelief of the sinful world as inexcusable. Many are astonished by this because they have been taught that unless a man hears the gospel he is not responsible. Paul punctures that hot air balloon of wishful thinking. All are responsible because they already have enough information. And so we look at the rage, the reason and the result.

I The Rage

We see the rage in verse 18,  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. As Hebrews 10:31 declares,  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and in 12:29 the author adds, For our “God is a consuming fire.” If these passages do not fill our hearts with fear and awe, it is only because we do not appreciate who God is. God is angry and He is angry with all of Adam’s children. They have all refused to acknowledge the Lord. Sinners are by nature “godless” and unbelieving. As a consequence they are wicked. And it is their fault because they are suppressing truth they already have. The Greek word for suppressing literally means “holding down.” He is reminding us of something that happens daily in our lives, but of which we are largely unaware. We do not go around consciously suppressing the innate knowledge of God, and yet we are surrounded by a thousand times ten thousand pressures that enable this. The world is a dark and dangerous place and the god of this age, Satan, has innumerable ways to blind us to the truth. Sadly, we succumb.

II The Reason

The reason for God’s anger is expressed in verses 19 and 20, Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. There is an enormous pressure of data around us that testify to who God is. Our sinful minds and hearts are like a huge concrete dam, hundreds of feet high located in a deep natural watercourse in the mountains. The dam has millions of gallons of water pressing against it, but it is holding back, and bottling up that water. We call this force general or natural revelation. The message is perfectly clear, but if you are down hill from the dam you can be totally unaware of that force. If however it breaks upon you, you will know. This is how it is in conversion. You are blind and then you see. All of a sudden, every flower and every blade of grass declares your maker’s praise, but you have not seen it until the Holy Spirit opened your eyes. Then it is in the words of the Apostle "clearly seen" which is in the original Greek, literally: manifest, evident, clear, plain, open, visible, and easily seen. It was there all the time waiting for you to see it. And precisely what is it that you see? Paul calls it God’s eternal power and divine nature. The power is easy to understand because it is the primary thing revealed in God’s creation of the universe. Divine nature is actually the translation of a Greek word which means, the sum of all the characteristics or perfections of deity, in other words, all the attributes we usually associate with God: “the sum of all God’s glorious attributes” These include among other things  his glory (Ps 19:1) and his goodness (Acts 14:17), as well as his righteous judgment (Romans 1:32). Sometimes we watch nature shows on the TV learning channel. I watched one on the complex and fabulous arrangement of the society of bees. Moody Bible Institute also has a Sermon from Science on the subject. On TV the presupposition is always evolution. But the Christian watches the same show and declares with astonishment, how can men still be atheists?

III The Result

The result of all this is darkness and confusion as Paul says in verse 21, For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. I think of one of my favorite stories of someone who was in darkness. Helen Keller became deaf and blind through disease at the age of nineteen months. Her parents despaired of ever communicating with their beloved child. Then came a teacher, Annie Sullivan.  By touch to the throat she taught Helen to say words, but it didn’t do any good because they were just sounds. Then one day at the pump Helen was playing in the water and Annie held Helen’s hand to her throat and said water. Suddenly the connection was made. Words meant things. It was a connection and Helen learned to speak, attended schools for the blind and deaf, and ultimately in 1904, at the age of 24, Helen graduated from Radcliffe College, becoming the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. A whole universe had opened to Helen Keller. My point is simply that what happened to her happens spiritually to every Christian when the Holy Spirit gives us life from above. Then we see and hear what we have never seen or heard before. We awaken to a whole universe. As long as we do not see the eternal power and divine nature our thinking is futile and our foolish hearts are darkened.  But when we see these things we glorify God, and this is the chief end of man.