They Are Without Excuse Rom. 1:17-21 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
According to Rom 1:18-21 all men have some knowledge of God. Therefore, they will be without excuse at their judgment. There is not a person on the planet who will be able to claim that he didn’t know God, because God makes himself known in a variety of ways. God makes himself known through:
The revealed wrath of God – Rom 1:17 – the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The rainbow is a perfect example of this revelation. It is a reminder of the time when God destroyed the earth with a flood because of the wickedness of men [Gen 7:11, 8:2, 9:11-16]. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was also from heaven [Gen 19:24].
The written truth of God – Rom 1:18 – they hold the truth, but when they do, they hold it in unrighteousness. The knowledge of God is written in the Bible where men can hold it. A man who rejects the truth of God in the Bible holds that truth in unrighteousness; he doesn’t believe that it is true. Jason Hines, missionary to Quebec, Canada, discussed the Bible with an atheist who was an evolutionist. After two lengthy discussions regarding the revelation of God in scripture, the man admitted, “I guess I just don’t want to believe. I don’t want to believe any of that is true.”
The trouble with holding the truth in unrighteousness is that when you refuse to believe the truth God takes away the truth that he has revealed to you [Mk 4:24-25]. And he doesn’t only take it away from individuals, he takes it away from countries, as well. In Europe, for instance, where the written truth of God had such a profound effect centuries ago, you see a pervasive rejection of that truth today and a universal hardness against the gospel of Christ.
The manifest knowledge of God – Rom 1:19 – the knowledge of God is manifest in them. There is a knowledge of God inside of every man. This knowledge is manifest in his conscience [Rom 2:15]. When he refuses to believe, his mind and his conscience are defiled [Titus 1:15].
The visible understanding of God – Rom 1:20 – the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Like Dr. Ruckman said, “The Author of Nature is the Author of the Bible.” If you want to know something about him just look around you [Job 12:7-10] or look up [Ps 19:1-6]. In Job 38-41 God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and asked him myriad questions about the things He had made. Job’s reply was, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee,” [Job 42:5]. He had “seen” him “by the things that are made.” The sun and the triple point of water, for example, are two excellent natural testimonies of the Godhead [Col 2:9, the trinity]. The visible reveals the invisible. That’s why God uses so many natural things to describe supernatural things. We are like sheep, lost men are like dogs, lost women are like pigs, Pharisees are like wolves and serpents, Herod was like a fox and the antichrist will be like a beast.
They are without excuse because, when they knew God from the things above:
They glorified him not as God – Rom 1:21 – God, who made everything and provides us with everything we need in order to live temporally and eternally, deserves glory because we are not worthy of all of his benefits [Acts 17:24-28]. Men don’t glorify God when they turn the glory of God into idols or when they deny the glory of God by rejecting the truth of creation in favor of “science falsely so called,” [1 Tim 6:20].
They weren’t thankful – Rom 1:21 – the lack of gratitude is what characterizes this generation. We have so much for which to be thankful. Everything we have comes from God. We should be thankful for rain, which is sent by God; food, which reproduces by the design of God; breath, which is the supply of God; light, which is the ordinance of God; sound minds, which are the gift of God; salvation, which is the ultimate gift of God; and on and on the list goes.
As a result of their lack of honor and gratitude:
They became vain in their imaginations – Rom 1:21 – the imagination of man is evil. It was before the flood [Gen 6:5] and it was after the flood [Gen 8:21]. Man’s imagination exalts itself against the knowledge of God [2 Cor 10:5]. When men refuse to hear God’s words, they walk in the imagination of their own hearts [Jer 13:10]. And these imaginations, like evolution, are vain.
Their foolish heart was darkened – Rom 1:21 – they consider themselves to be wise in their imaginations but they are fools [1 Cor 1:19-21]. And their hearts are darkened so that they reject the truth of God, the revelation of God, the manifest knowledge of God and the visible understanding of God. And, sadly, they love this darkness [Jn 3:19].
Conclusion: In the next lesson, we will see that when entire countries and even continents become steeped in vanity because they have rejected the revelation and truth of God, they turn to idolatry, perversion, and all unrighteousness. It is very difficult to lead them to the revealed righteousness of God in the gospel when their foolish hearts are this darkened.