Monday, October 16, 2006

Romans 1:19-22

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 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. 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. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...

God has made it plain to see from creation that He exists, and also that He has invisible qualities: eternal power and divine nature. Paul says that God is known by all of mankind. God is evidenced by creation. Again, there is no excuse. No one on Judgment Day can say, “I didn’t know!” or “No one told me!” Everyone knows clearly Who God is. Unbelievers will stand defenseless before God.

So what about the person who has never heard the gospel? They still know. They understand; it’s just that they suppress the truth by impiety or irreverence and immorality or unrighteousness. So those who have not heard the gospel are still condemned—whether unbelieving scientists in university labs or tribal people groups unreached with the gospel. And rightly so, as we learn from Paul here. How do feel abou that? We’ve already seen that everyone intellectually knows God and about God. The reason we share the Gospel to the nations, is not because they don’t know, but because they do know; they suppressed that truth. And only the Gospel can savingly liberate them from that self-imposed bondage. If it was true that people are only condemned by hearing the gospel and rejecting it, then the best way to make sure that people got to heaven would be not to tell anybody the gospel. And that way, they couldn’t reject it; they could get to heaven by ignorance of God. But Paul says no; the problem is not that people don’t know. The problem is that they do know, and they still reject God. That is why we need the Gospel.

Paul here is not just saying that when you look at the universe, you will see a designer. He takes it farther. Paul says you see Who the Designer is. By the universe, you see that God is divine and eternal. You see His power, His wisdom, His goodness, and even His judgment. Paul says that God is not just seen, but clearly seen and even understood. We don’t just see His power and wisdom, as we might see a tree off in the distance; we understand it. We know the texture of the bark and see the veins on the leaves. We see Who God is, and we understand, just by our existence as God’s creatures in His creation. Do you agree?

They failed to glorify God as God and failed to thank Him. Their thinking became futile. Their hearts were darkened. They claimed wisdom, but were fools. Paul continues with the theme: When we know God and understand that He is God, and then fail to glorify Him as God, by worshipping Him and thanking Him for His kindness and loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we are suppressing the truth. Mankind fails to glorify Him and fails to thank Him. And there are consequences of suppressing the truth, in addition to the judgment day wrath of God. It is the Judgment Day wrath that should cause unbelievers to tremble, but as we will see in Romans 3:18, quoting Psalm 36:1, “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” How sad! Paul mentions 3 specific effects of suppressing the truth:

Thinking becomes futile; speculations become empty and vain. Generally speaking, the more intelligent a person, the less likely that they will embrace Christianity. 1 Corinthians 1:19-31 “For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. …Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus…’”

“Smart” people like to think of God as… you fill in the blank… something other than Who He really is. Where do you think other religions, besides Judaism and Christianity come from? It’s from smart people, as their thinking becomes futile. Their minds wonder away from the truth about God and into new realms of blasphemy against God, and they come up with totem poles, Karma, Scientology, Feng Shui, Bahai, etc.

Hearts are darkened. The truth is represented by light, and the more darkness there is, the farther from the light the heart is said to be. The heart is the deepest, most important part of a person. The heart is what controls us; decisions come from the heart of man. Proverbs 16:1, 9 “To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. …In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Proverbs 27:19 “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Matthew 15:18 “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’” Luke 6:45 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” We make decisions from the heart. And the more we suppress the truth, the more evil, the more sinful our hearts gets.

Now, the Calvinist idea of Total Depravity is formed here at the heart, the core of a person’s being. Isaiah 6:10 (Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27) “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” A Calvinist points out that man’s heart (and therefore his entire being) is totally depraved and both unwilling and unable to change, unwilling and unable to incline itself towards the things of God. The heart of man cannot incline itself, regardless of the amount of wooing, to spiritual good. It’s like trying to woo a thief into a police station, or like trying to woo water out of a well. This is laid out here in Romans, and elsewhere. We have seen that God’s righteousness is revealed in the Gospel and that God’s wrath is revealed against unrighteousness. Unrighteousness is simply, from the heart, loving sin more than God and His truth. We see the same thing in John 3:19-20 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” We’ll discuss this idea more as we go. Do you agree?

Foolishness is displayed while professing wisdom. Have you ever heard on radio or television or read a headline about some hi-tech, in-depth study of something, and the conclusion is something a child would have known without even looking into it? How about this one: “Million-dollar study shows that fathers are important in the lives of children.” Do you ever watch Leno on The Late Show with his stupid newspaper headlines? This is the type of thing Paul is talking about here. Proclaiming wisdom, they show their foolishness. Proclaiming a vast intellect, these suppressors of the truth show how truly ridiculous and worthless their knowledge has become. How foolish is it to declare Darwinian evolution a proven fact? Psalm 14:1; 53:1 “The fool (one who is morally deficient [because he says it in his heart]) says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Knowledge comes from God, and when it is not used to glorify Him and thank Him, it is utterly worthless. Romans 14:23 “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Go even farther here—back to the garden before there was sin. What did the serpent say in the garden to get Eve to eat the fruit? Genesis 3:5-6 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Here the quest for wisdom apart from God is where idolatry begins…

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