Romans 1:18-23

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

October 14, 1998


Paul has just told us how he was ready to preach the gospel in Rome, and he then talks about the gospel.

(Rom 1:16-17 KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. {17} For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

If the good news of Jesus Christ is the power of God leading to salvation, then what are we saved from?

:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

ungodlinessasebeia – want of reverence towards God, impiety, ungodliness

unrighteousnessadikia – injustice; unrighteousness of heart and life

holdkatecho – to hold back, detain, retain

:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.

manifestphaneros – apparent, manifest, evident, known; to be plainly recognized or known

hath showedphaneroo – to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown (the root of the word "manifest")

We could translate this, "the made-evident-knowledge of God is in them because God has made it evident to them"

Paul is leading up to a point to show how justly God is going to be to judge the world.

It’s difficult to prosecute a person for disobeying the law of a land if they didn’t know there was a law, let alone whether or not there was even a government to create and enforce such a law.

There are going to be people who say that it’s not fair for God to be judging the world when there are people who don’t know that there is a God.

There’s some good logic there, but the problem with the argument is with the notion that people might not know if there is a God.

Paul is going to make the point that no one is excused because God has made Himself clearly known to EVERYBODY, as we’ll see in the next verses.


God will judge the world.

You can’t escape it.

Francis Thompson, "The Hound of Heaven,"

I fled down the nights and down the days,

I fled him down the arches of the years.

I fled him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind.

And in the midst of tears I hid from him,

And under running laughter.

Up the visited hopes I sped and shot

Precipitated down titanic glooms of chasm fears

From those strong feet that followed

Followed after.

But with hurrying chase and unperturbed pace

Deliberate speed

Majestic instancy

They beat.

And a voice beat more instant than the feet.

"All things betray thee,

Who betrayest me."

There are no excuses.

(Heb 9:27 KJV) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Everyone dies. Everyone must one day face God.

It is only those who have chosen ahead of time to ask God to pay the price of their sins, only those who have asked Jesus to take their place in judgement that will last.

:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made

invisibleaoratos – unseen, or that which can not be seen, e.g. invisible

Paul is going to give an idea of these unseen things at the end of the verse: His eternal power and Godhead.

creationktisis – the act of founding, establishing; the act of creating, creation

the things that are madepoiema ("poem") – that which has been made; a work

This is the same word used in

(Eph 2:10 KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We think of a "poem" as a work of beauty.

being understoodnoeo – to perceive with the mind, to understand, to have understanding; to think upon, heed, ponder, consider

are clearly seenkathorao – to look down; to see thoroughly, perceive clearly, understand

We could translate it this way, "For the unseen things of Him, by the act of creating the world, in the things that are made, when they are pondered on, are clearly seen"

In other words, as you study the creation around us, you ought to come to the understanding that there is a God.

(Psa 19:1-4 KJV) To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. {2} Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. {3} There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. {4} Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,


There is an Obvious Creator.

The problem is that we’ve become brainwashed by a society that refuses to acknowledge their Creator.

In secular education, we are taught that everything we see is a result of evolution and natural selection. This has entered into nearly every area of science, so that even the theories of the origin of the universe reflect this viewpoint.

Supposedly everything started 6 billion years ago when there was a tremendous explosion, a "Big Bang". Slowly energy began to coalesce, elements began to form, cells began to evolve, organisms began to form, and eventually mankind came to be.

But in reality, have we ever observed order coming from an explosion? Doesn’t an explosion result in chaos instead of order?

Last year when Disneyland bought and demolished the old Grand Hotel, they destroyed it with a series of explosions. Could you imagine a contractor coming to Disneyland and proposing to build their new hotels by setting off explosions? Yet that’s what the evolution model teaches.

One of the known laws of physics is known as the "Second Law of Thermodynamics". It states that things move from order to chaos. This is directly in opposition to evolution.

According to this law, the universe is "winding down". Stars decrease in temperature. Things slow down. If we were to wait long enough, everything would stop moving and everything would be a uniform temperature.

There is an exception to this law though. Things can move from chaos to order if there is an external power source introduced into a system.

My children have a room where they keep all their toys. It follows the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It always is moving from order to chaos. Unless there is an external power source introduced. That’s when a child is made to pick up and put away their toys!

In an indirect way, we see this in the things we have come to recognize as human creations.

If you were to dig through your backyard and come across a watch, would you even think it possible that it just came to exist out of random chance? Could it be possible that all the parts of this watch just happened to be accidentally formed in a way that produced an intricate device like a watch? How about the idea that there was an explosion, and as things settled, it just happened to form a watch? Does this make sense?

As the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies, the universe is winding down. And if it’s winding down, then there must have been a time when it was wound up.

Scientist Gordon Van Wylon, in his book Thermodynamics (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1959, pg.169) wrote,

"…the author has found that the Second Law tends to increase his conviction that there is a Creator who has the answer for the future destiny of man and the universe …"

:20 even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

eternalaidios – eternal, everlasting

powerdunamis – power, ability

Godheadtheiotes – divinity, divine nature

without excuseanapologetos – without defense or excuse; that which cannot be defended, inexcusable


No one has an excuse.

Even someone who was raised by an avowed atheist is without excuse.

The knowledge and understanding of God doesn’t come because you are taught it by your parents. It is evident in the Creation around us.

No one can say that they did not know God existed.


When the last tubes of the tunnels under the Hudson River for the Pennsylvania Railroad were about to be joined, the boring from the two shores meeting under the river, a young civil engineer, named Richardson, was chosen because of his marked ability to make the final survey that should bring the tube ends together perfectly. So accurate was the work that when the tubes were joined the two ends were less than one-eighth of an inch from being exact. But with God the accuracy is so complete that it can be foretold to the smallest fraction of a second as to what time a certain star will raise on a certain evening a century hence, and in that time it has traveled, not the few thousand feet of the length of the tunnel, but through space so vast as to be utterly beyond human thought; and at such speed as appalls us to describe.

The evidence of a designer is so clear.

: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.

glorifieddoxazo – to think; to praise; to honour

give thankseucharisteo – to be grateful, feel thankful; give thanks

became vainmataioo – to make empty, vain, foolish; from mataios – devoid of force, truth; useless

imaginationsdialogismos – the thinking of a man deliberating with himself; a thought, inward reasoning. This is the same word we’ve seen Luke use in Acts, how they would "dialogue" with the unbelievers.

The reasoning became useless, empty, without truth.

foolishasunetos – unintelligent, without understanding, stupid

darkenedskotizo – to cover with darkness, to darken


Corrie Ten Boom used to tell the story about a proud woodpecker who was tapping away at a dead tree when the sky unexpectedly turned black and the thunder began to roll. Undaunted, he went right on working. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the old tree, splintering it into hundreds of pieces. Startled but unhurt, the haughty bird flew off, screeching to his feathered friends, "Hey, everyone, look what I did! Look what I did!"

:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

professingphasko – to affirm, allege, portend or profess

became foolsmoraino ("moron") – to be foolish, to act foolishly

(Psa 14:1 KJV) To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. 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.

It is pure foolishness to close your eyes and try to pretend that the truth isn’t there.


But, here's the important point. Those strange forms still fit clearly within the same basic categories known today. Elephants were still elephants, reptiles were still reptiles. The same gaps exist in the fossil record that exist in the living world today.

Some paleontologists have faced the problem head on and come up with an alternative to Darwin's theory of slow, gradual change. Stephen J. Gould at Harvard suggests that evolution happened in sudden bursts, too fast to leave behind any fossil evidence. This theory, called punctuated equilibrium, places scientists in a very awkward position. If you ask why we don't see evolution happening today, they tell us it happens too slowly to be observed. If you ask why we don't see evidence in the fossil record, they tell us it happens too quickly to leave a trace in the rocks.

-- Charles Colson, Dangerous Grace (Word, 1994), p.93.

When the evidence doesn’t prove what they believe, do they follow the observable evidence? No. Just more unbelievable stuff.


Paleontologist Stephen J. Gould concluded: We are because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of million years ago, had managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a "higher" answer but none exists.

-- Stephen J. Gould, Quoted in Donald M. Culcough, The Trivialization of God (Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 1995), p. 16.


Many years ago, while on a visit to America, a wealthy Chinese businessman was fascinated by a powerful microscope. Looking through its lens to study crystals and the petals of flowers, he was amazed at their beauty and detail. So he decided to purchase one of these devices and take it back to China. He thoroughly enjoyed using it until one day he examined some rice he was planning to eat for dinner. Much to his dismay, he discovered that tiny living creatures were crawling in it. Since he was especially fond of this staple food in his daily diet, he wondered what to do. Finally he concluded that there was only one way out of his dilemma -- he would destroy the instrument that caused him to discover the distasteful fact! So he smashed the microscope to pieces. "How foolish!" you say. But many people do the same thing with the Word of God. They hate it and would like to get rid of it because it reveals their evil nature.

An interesting quote …

"A man who has no assured and ever-present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution or reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones." -- Charles Darwin, cited by Philip Yancey in Books & Culture, Vol. 4, no. 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.

changedallasso – to change, to exchange one thing for another, to transform

(Rom 12:1-2 KJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

uncorruptibleaphthartos – uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable

God does not change, He doesn’t wear down through time.

made likehomoioma – that which has been made after the likeness of something

imageeikon – an image, figure, likeness

corruptiblephthartos – corruptible, perishing

God doesn’t break down. We do.

"and exchanged the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made in the likeness of corruptible man …"


In whose image?

It’s a common thing to hear from your College professors that God is nothing more than the product of our imagination. We’ve made God in our own image.

There used to be a point when I got really upset at this. And this was rightly so, because they were claiming this of the God of the Bible.

But in a way they were unknowingly accurate.

The "god" that they so easily mock and tear down was never the real One, but always some straw image that they describe and then easily destroy.

Their observation was accurate in that for the most part, man tends to worship a god created after their own imaginations. What they ignore is the fact that the God who created them is far larger than they perceive.


Wisdom comes from worshipping God.

The smartest thing you can do is to recognize that there is Someone much bigger than you. You have a God who created you, and to whom you will one day be accountable to.

Why don’t you become a scientist? It’s not at odds with Christianity. True science compliments faith.


I used to struggle with [overconfident intelligentsia] while living in Boston. I would leave the town of Lexington, where my family and I lived, and I would drive past the towers of Harvard University. Another mile down the road, on the left, sits the campus of MIT, and to the right, the campus of Boston University. Straight ahead were the towering headquarters of many great multinational corporations.

There were moments when I was tempted to be intimidated by these unmitigated, unadulterated symbols of power. Here were great world leaders being trained in the business school at Harvard. Over at MIT, signals bounced off Mars every 30 seconds. In those towers, decisions were being made that created and destroyed the economies all over the world. And who was I? What was our congregation with this Christian gospel trying to preach?

That's what was happening in the Corinthian church. They were intimidated by all the talk of so-called intelligent people who said the Cross is silliness. Paul tells us not to buy it. It has never been true, and it's not true today. God is going to show the wisdom of men and women to be rank foolishness. For the wise, the Cross must be in its central place.

-- Gordon MacDonald, "The Centerpiece of the Gospel," Preaching Today, Tape No. 137.