Romans Chapter 1:20

Hi peeps, I was reading on this portion of God’s wrath of Mankind starting Romans from 1:18-32

I believe there is a post about this and i have actually read about how sometimes we as humans suppress the truth that has been made known to us, That our hearts will still not accept what is said in the bible and that in a sense our hearts has been “hardened” and hence we will fall and into the evil ways and be very far from God.

The below Romans 1:20:

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 people are without excuse.

For this verse i have a few questions

  1. His eternal power and divine nature has clearly been seen - Other than the bible which is an important source for knowing about Jesus and God, but for someone who has never heard or read the bible, how can a normal human being see God’s power and his divine nature other than the bible (asking this on the assumption that we are human beings and that just “seeing” God power and nature is impossible with our current physical state and laws) ? I mean what’s it’s like for them, are they just going to incur the wrath of God as per my previous question where they can’t even see?

2.Being understood from what has been made - In this phrase, from what has been made ? Can somebody give me an illustration or example ? Is it to mean understanding what God has created in general or was it referring to events such as Jesus’s Crucifixion or the apostle’s testimony ?

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Bible Hub

The link above will take you to a source for the inter linear reference material, which can be really helpful.

Barra (Hebrew) creation (ex nihilo creation - something from nothing) is the type of creation the universe represents. It didn’t come from recycling what was already there. And, man has no ability to create something out of nothing - to speak something into existence where previously there existed nothing. At best, man can fashion or combine things that already exist to make new things. As such, the fact that a being can do this speaks of a different type of being and one of immense power. So, the fact that the universe exists points to a creator - the universe cannot explain itself. Man has never seen nor been able to create any method to create something from nothing, so it is illogical to assert that as a sufficient explanation for the universe we can apprehend. The verse presents this idea. Although it is true that creation does not deliver the more extensive revelation we have in the scriptures or the even more personal relational knowledge we come to have through direct communion with God, it is a patently obvious proof of the existence of an extremely powerful being that isn’t like us.

Because we live in the creation as created beings with minds that can reason, the Bible states that some basic aspects of God are knowable to everyone and that the issue isn’t that God is undiscernible but that some people choose to hold that innate truth they have inside of themselves hidden/covered over by acts of unrighteousness. As such, no one will stand before God and say, “where were you? I looked and couldn’t find you.” or, “I would have believed in you, if you’d just given me enough evidence.” The Bible tells us that, “the fool has said in his heart that there is no God” and this passage speaks to this truth also. Notice the P subscript included with several of the verbs - the P stands for passive meaning received action (something done to them) versus A for active meaning they do the action themselves.

Help any?

Kevin

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Verses 21 and 22 have the Passive notation I mentioned above.

In rejecting those foundational truths, they were made futile and their hearts darkened (v. 21)

In v. 22, by professing wisdom by rejecting those foundational truths, they were made to become fools.

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@Samuel_95, when it comes to how God has revealed Himself to us, it is typically understood under two categories -

  1. General or natural revelation that is available for everybody and tells us about general nature of God

  2. Special or supernatural revelation that comes through scripture and is more specific about our sin/salvation/Jesus etc.

General revelation is what can be known through Creation/nature, providence, moral law written in the hearts of mankind/conscience or history. He provides food and sends rain on both the godly and the ungodly (Acts 14:17). Paul in the book of Romans 10:18 preaches from Psalm 19 of how the voice of God has gone all over the world through the heavens and earth He has created. Kevin Stophel in the response above has summarized well how creation points to God. The fact that spiritual hunger is a universal hunger points to the truth of what Paul is saying about the knowability of divine power. So, when people who have not been given the specific revelation go their own way, they are still without excuse.

Rom 2:12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.

So, we can say general revelation is enough to make us accountable before God, it is a step towards knowing God, but it is not sufficient for our salvation. We might feel it unfair that God is showing wrath without even giving people an opportunity to hear the gospel. I think the words of Abraham in the account of the ‘Rich man and Lazarus’ in Luke 16 may be an answer to this.

Luke 16: 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

So, basically it’s not the access but the condition of our heart that seems to be a greater factor in determining our salvation. Though debatable, the way I see this is - if we are not faithful with general revelation, we would not be faithful with special revelation. He who is not faithful with little will also be unfaithful with much ( Luke 16:10). Supporting this line of thought, we see how Cornelius who was a seeker of God was given the opportunity for special revelation about Jesus (Acts 10). We are also promised in Matt 7: 7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Also, God is just and will do right. God does not owe anyone salvation and it would be just for each one of us to suffer for own sin but in His mercy, God has extended grace in Jesus.

Gen 18: 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

To answer your second question, I think "being understood from what has been made " is referring to general revelation and not special revelation in Rom 1:20. However, I do want to add an alternative uncommon explanation here that I heard in a sermon by bible teacher Steve Gregg. Paul here may be saying that the Jews who were given special revelation are guilty just as the Gentiles by doing the same things Gentiles did.

If you read Romans 1 and 2 together, we see that the letter is being addressed to Jews. Consider verses from Romans 2-

Rom 2:17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

All of the things that are described in Romans 1 in terms of exchanging glory of God for creation and God’s wrath being revealed as a result of that are even true for the Israelites in the Old testament. So, its possible that Paul is saying, the Jews not only rejected general revelation like the Gentiles but also the special revelation given to the Jews through the Old testament prophets. We get a sense of this alternative idea in -Rom 1:32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

You may also be interested in other threads along this topic:

I hope this helps address your question some. I have purposely not gotten into the role of man vs. God in determining the condition of the heart as that can be yet another extensive discussion and has been discussed in detail on other posts. It’s indeed a mystery how God chooses to spread the gospel. Thanks for the great question!

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Hello Samuel @Samuel_95
Thank you for starting a great topic! On your first comment:
“1. His eternal power and divine nature has clearly been seen - Other than the bible which is an important source for knowing about Jesus and God, but for someone who has never heard or read the bible, how can a normal human being see God’s power and his divine nature other than the bible (asking this on the assumption that we are human beings and that just “seeing” God power and nature is impossible with our current physical state and laws) ? I mean what’s it’s like for them, are they just going to incur the wrath of God as per my previous question where they can’t even see?”

You are correct, the Bible is extremely important source for knowing God in Christ. But God being the definition of love, omniscience, grace, power and relationship does not reveal Himself exclusively there. He has infinite power at His disposal to reveal His existence and He does this in so many ways, we would not be able to document them all. I recall years ago reading the biography of Samuel Morris and being amazed at God’s working in the lives of those who are in remote places. He does reveal Himself in nature, design, or special and general revelation (as @Lakshmismehta mentions also).

This leads into your second question:
“2. Being understood from what has been made - In this phrase, from what has been made ? Can somebody give me an illustration or example ?”
Observe the complexity of a leaf, see a newborn child, the blinking of our eyes and breath in our lungs,the heart that beats without us having anything to do with it, the faithful sunrise, the order of the universe that sustains planets in orbit and cycles the life of stars, order of the constellations by seasons, etc.

Or better yet, look at yourself in the mirror. Everything about you is precious. Your physical assignments (eyes, skin, hair, stature, time of birth, place on this earth) reflect His design and image (Genesis 1:26-28) He wants to be known, and in His incredible Goodness He provides what we need. And He calls us to look at one another with this value He has placed upon us.

We would have to have His mind and searched all eternity and all that has been or will be to conclude He has been unfair in the ways He deals with mankind.

“Hear this, O Job;
stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
Do you know how God lays his command upon them
and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
Do you know the balancings of the clouds,
the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge, Job 37:14-16

As He is also the definition of Just, we can rest in that His character provides a means for all mankind to come to Him even if they don’t have a Bible. See Acts 17:24-31. This is all intentional that we may find Him.

“2b. Is it to mean understanding what God has created in general or was it referring to events such as Jesus’s Crucifixion or the apostle’s testimony?”
Yes to all of that. He also revealed Himself in the Person of Christ, God incarnate, Who lived a perfect, sinless life, drew men and women to Himself before laying down His life to pay for our sins. Being God and the Lamb of God only Jesus can do that! He conquered death and made it possible for us to dwell in the Presence of God of all creation for eternity! Amazing, complex and beautiful!

Have a beautiful day, Samuel, knowing you are much loved by the God of all Creation.

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@BloomHere, Samuel Morris’s testimony is such a great example! Only a couple weeks ago, I happened to watch a children’s movie about his life with our kids. In his story, we see the progression from general to special revelation in an astounding way. God used ordinary means of obedience of His children in combination with special revelation in Samuel Morris’s life. I was very moved and convicted by it. God has His ways of reaching out to people in the most unexpected way!

Here’s a link to the movie.

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I love it! God’s at work again.:laughing: I didn’t know about the movie. I’ll have to check it out.
Thank you, Lakshmi for post!

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@Samuel_95, there are two very insightful responses from @Lakshmismehta & @BloomHere (hello April!), to which I would like to add a thought. I know you are struggling with the thought of God revealing Himself in a definite way to people, so that they are without excuse as Romans 1:20 states. Paul’s answer is actually in the remainder of Chapter One.

The first point is that God has revealed two basic aspects of Himself: His eternal power & His divine nature. Now, eternal power means that He CANNOT be usurped from His position of power. His divinity means He is of a higher order that humans. The point is that humans have a greater power to whom they must answer.

Verse 21 says, that humans have handled this revealed information foolishly and have accepted lower level created beings as gods. The point here is that such lower level beings assert no power or authority over humans. Humans have authority over them! So even if a person does not actively worship lower level creatures, they still deny God’s authority over them. This is a big point: the denial of God’s existence is really a denial of His authority.

Non-believers would love the discussion to stop here, but it does not. The foolishness of denying God’s existence manifests itself in twisted thinking. Verses 27 & 28, show how the same twisted thinking about God’s nature causes twisted thinking about such things as sexual nature. The verses don’t say that all people practice such behavior, but such behavior is an example of how twisted thinking views the natural world and refuses a standard of behavior regarding what is found in nature.

This is not the end of Paul’s treatment of the topic. He then points out a list of sinful practices, all of which are the result of self-determinism, not inadvertent error. The climactic point is that people who deny God’s authority in their lives end up committing unlawful practices and even approving those who do so as well.

My point in writing all this is to say that we cannot simply focus on Romans 1:20. We need to include the discussion of the entire section. This because the evidence for God’s existence &, more importantly, His authority over humans, is seen in the corrupt conduct of those who deny God’s existence.

Morality is commonly a difficulty for those who deny God’s existence. The whole point of such a denial is to live however they desire, answering only to themselves.

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A good question and good answers. Let me suggest this as a possible first read, by that I mean if I were there and I heard Phoebe read the letter to the church. (We don’t know that she read it but she likely delivered it to church in Rome)

It’s important to remember that the context of these verses is important, and I believe better understood if we read Romans 1-4 as a complete thought. But because you have narrowed it down to a single part of a more complex thought let us look at "For although they knew God" it is fair to ask what was meant by this statement? Today we use this verse to support the idea that God in knowable and visible in his creation. We call this Natural theology. The best treatment of this subject that I am aware of today is the NT Wright Gifford lectures, Discerning the Dawn: History, Eschatology and New Creation *. You can find those lectures here. It might interest you to know that this is an ongoing lecture that has been going on for 100 years, courtesy Lord Gifford and have included a long list of notables. You can find the complete list of lectures Here

Back to "For although they knew God". Paul is launching this point off the story of Israel and their God (complete the read through chapter 4 I think you will connect this thought). A God who chose Abraham, who freed his people from bondage, who gave them the law, took them to the promised land, gave them a King, a temple and a kingdom only to lose it all again to the sin of idolatry. All this culminating in the ultimate act of Love demonstrated on the cross by his death and consummated by God in the resurrection of his Son as the victory of God.

It was these people, the enlighten Jew , who were without excuse and were given over to a reprobate mind.

Let me quote NT Wright at this point. Keep in mind that this comment is not specifically about your verse but it does include it as Paul dives deeper into his thought process about Israel and their God.

Paul simultaneously affirms that the vocation of Israel was true, and has not been abandoned, and denies that it can be carried out through ethnic Israel as it stands.

Wright, N. T. (2013). Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Vol. 4, p. 497). Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Having said that I would not want you to think that the Gentiles got off scot-free because of not being enlighten by the law (it’s important to think Torah when you hear Paul speak of the Law) but they could and should see the work of God in the Cosmos. The idea of god was not a foreign idea even to the pagans of Paul’s day. There were plenty of gods to go around, plenty of temple, and plenty of like mind cult members. I think that the link below will be helpful in your journey. Please give us your thoughts.

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Hey Mark! Great to hear from you! Thank you for “finishing” the section in Paul’s writing! That’s epic, and so needed in all interesting discussions about what God is saying.

@kumquat
@Lakshmismehta
@BloomHere
@MarkThunder
@Jimmy_Sellers

Thank you all for the answers you have posted in this thread. I am taking some time to read,review and think about the answers i have receive.

For your information, i actually have read Roman Chapter 1 till 4, but just this verse just make me ask more, and i saw that some of the answers here are closely linked to the others verses that i read later in Roman Chapter 2 and 3 and some of the answers kinda help me understand the relation that this verse has with the following verses especially in chapter 2 and 3. It’s going good so far, im reading and just yeah reading. Should i have any questions i will ask further in this thread.

Thank you for your time and reply.

Thanks for the reply

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Will look forward to your comments and questions. Good studies.