Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
We have here in vs. 18 the great declaration of wrath against all the ungodly and unrighteous. It isn’t simply the fact that all these people are unrighteous that provokes God’s wrath upon them. The Spirit points out here that they hold the truth in their state of unrighteousness. They possess the truth within themselves. They know, intimately within themselves, that God exists.
Not only do they know that God exists, but they also know about His eternal power and Godhead, and they suppress that truth within themselves so they may keep living in their state of unrighteousness. These truths about God’s existence and His power and Godhead is manifest within every human being. Paul said that which may be known of God is manifest in them.
How is that possible? How is it that unregenerate man could possibly know about God’s existence and His eternal power and Godhead? Because God says in vs. 19 that He has shown it unto them, which is why everyone is without excuse before the eyes of God and subject to His wrath for their state of unrighteousness. They are accountable to God for the things that God Himself has revealed to them. Paul said that the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Fascinating to me that the witness of creation appeals to man’s spirituality and reason. The witness of creation moves us to not only acknowledge the existence of God and His power and deity but that we must also worship our brilliant, all-powerful Creator. But most won’t. Men know within themselves more truth than they’re willing to accept and to properly respond to that truth. They hold down that truth within themselves. They suppress that truth. They imprison that truth in their hearts to rationalize their decision to carry on in their state of unrighteousness without properly worshipping their Creator. They willfully ignore the truth so they can continue fulfilling the lusts of their flesh.
We have in 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, perhaps talking about the time of Babel or the time before the great flood when the Spirit was striving with men daily to bring them back into a loving relationship with God. But this was a time when men literally knew God and still refused to glorify Him as God. Paul may be speaking of time past here, but this is still a timeless principle because even today, when people know of God within themselves, they still refuse to act upon that knowledge. They consciously suppress that knowledge within themselves so they may choose to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
Since mankind cannot escape the knowledge that God exists and he’s unwilling to enter a proper relationship with Him to worship Him as he should, we learn in verses 23-25 of Romans 1 about the beginnings of idolatry. Man “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” Having rejected the one, true, living God but unable to escape from within themselves the conscious knowledge that God exists, men turned to idolatry. The point here, and this is true even today, is that when God is rejected, He is always replaced with something else, whether it’s a false god, a false sense of gratification for the flesh, a false religion, a false philosophy, or a science falsely so-called (1 Tim. 6:20), all of which are types of idolatry.
What did God tell us about atheism?
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (Psa. 14:1).
The Spirit reveals that the Lord Himself, who “searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts” (1 Chron. 28:9), has determined the atheist to be a corrupt fool who has done abominable works. God calls him a fool because he became an atheist not through reason but the abandonment of reason. The very thing championed by atheists is the very thing they’ve rejected. They’re not incapable of reason, but they’re not willing to truly reason within himself about what he knows is truth. In fact, they abuse their God-given ability to reason.
“The fool hath said in his heart…” We have again here another example of the thinking heart. The blind thinking heart working in close collaboration with the corrupt mind. When one is in a state of alienation from the life of God because of their willful ignorance, the heart becomes darkened being cut off from His light, which leads to a corruption of your emotional life, and as a result, the corruption of all your understanding also follows. The corruption of the heart leads to a corruption of the mind because the two operate so closely together. The mind is ignorant because the heart is blind being cut off from God’s light, and the mind soon becomes darkened and blind as well. So here the corrupt mind and the blind heart work together to embrace an irrational idea, the abandonment of reason, the suppression of truth within themselves, by declaring that there is no God at all, which God declares to us here as the height of foolishness. The corrupted mind has lied to himself in close collaboration with his heart, which was a willing accomplice because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).
I once read an article in science20.com that said, “Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke.” They said that “Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged… This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that ‘atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,’ says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. ‘They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul…’” Later in the article, they pointed out that even “Charles Darwin, in a meeting with a campaigner for atheism in September 1881, distanced himself from the views of his guest, finding them too ‘aggressive’. In the latter years of his life, [Charles Darwin] offered his premises for the use of the local church minister and changed his family schedule to enable his children to attend services.” Isn’t that amazing? They concluded by saying “it might be wise for religious folks to refrain from teasing atheist friends who accidentally say something about their souls. And it might be equally smart for the more militant of today’s atheists to stop teasing religious people at all. We might all be a little more spiritual than we think.”
Consider the fact that in the history of mankind, there has never existed a purely atheist nation, where you have a group of people living their lives somewhere never entertaining the notion of God, where they’d say, “God? What’s a God? The thought never even occurred to us that there could be a God of some kind.” There is no nation that has not possessed some kind of religion. Nations in history may have been centered around false gods but they always believed in something proving true every word of Paul’s in Romans 1. Why? Because people consciously know that God exists and since they cannot escape the knowledge of His existence and they’re unwilling to enter into a proper relationship with Him, they usually turn to idolatry of some kind as a compromise with their conscience.
Even the devil himself, when we first encounter him in the Bible deemed it impossible to root out the notion of the existence of God and instead, he merely tried to pervert His Word. “Hath God said?” he told Adam and Eve. He owned the fact that God exists and tried to draw them into coveting something they didn’t have with this notion that they could become gods themselves. No where does the devil ever try to dissuade anyone from God’s existence, but rather, he confuses the populace with many gods and many religions filled with legalism to blind the minds of people from accepting the true gospel of Christ. After the Rapture happens and we’re all gone, this isn’t going to turn into a world of atheists, but all will be swept up into the devil’s one world religion to worship him.
The Evidence of Scripture
Just consider the words of Scripture about the existence of God and the witness of creation itself. Job said, “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?” (Job 12:7-9). Who has ever looked at a magnificent work of art without admiring the mastery of the artist? Who has ever marveled at a great structure and not thought of the architect who designed it and the builders who constructed it? Who has ever heard gorgeous music and not appreciated the skill of the musician? None of these things ever come into being on their own. They are conceived, designed, and brought to life through human abilities for a purpose. So how can we not look at this vast creation, the brilliance of it, the harmony of it, the purpose of it, the variety, the creativity, the elegance, and the beauty of it all, and not be utterly awestruck by the wisdom and power of almighty God?
Isaiah wrote, “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18). I’ve heard it said that God is found in nature, that He’s in the trees, the rocks, the waters, etc., but according to Scripture, God is not in nature. Nature is in Him. “By him all things consist” (Col. 1:17), who is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). He is so great that even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27). What can be found in nature is the testimony of His existence, as well as His eternal wisdom, power, and deity, but to find His life one must turn to His Word, the Word of Life (Phil. 2:16), which is capable of dividing asunder soul and spirit, which is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12), and which was once made flesh (John 1:14).
David said, “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chronicles 29:11). How could this great universe and all things herein be brought into being unless God Himself created it? Every plant, every atom, every star, and every creature, whispers into our ears, “I have a creator. I am a witness to God.” Stephen Charnock, in his amazing book, “The Existence and Attributes of God,” wrote, “It is a folly to deny or doubt of a Sovereign Being, incomprehensible in his nature, infinite in his essence and perfections, independent in his operations, who hath given being to the whole frame of sensible and intelligible creatures, and governs them according to their several natures, by an unconceivable wisdom; who fills the heavens with the glory of his majesty, and the earth with the influences of his goodness.”
David also wrote, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9). Consider the brilliance of the human body’s design. “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:15). All the organs, veins, arteries, bones, like an intricately woven tapestry, were created by God with deliberation. We know that DNA molecules contain all the genetic instructions to form a living being. How can genetic instructions about how to create living beings come by chance and not from God? How can physical atoms and molecules create on their own human consciousness, which has no physical existence? Animals have a law in their nature but no ability to reason the morality of what they do. They do what they do by the laws stamped upon their spirits from a higher power. But we humans have a conscience, a moral compass. Why is that? Is not a conscience evidence of the morality and holiness of God?
What came first – the chicken or the egg? God came first. He created the chicken who laid the egg.
No nation ever existed in which all the people were natural atheists, because we all instinctively know God exists just as we know that all motion has a beginning, that there is no effect without a cause, and that order does not spring from chance. Every life is born. Every life dies. So from whence came our beginning? We have always known: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1)