Daily Archives: October 26, 2013


Jesus Friend of sinners we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus friend of sinners the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours


Jesus friend of sinners the one who’s writing in the sand
Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we’re for only against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they’re the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me a grateful leper at Your feet

‘Cause You are good, You are good And Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks Yours

And I was the lost cause and I was the outcast
You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

Questions about the Church: What Does the Bible Say about Church-Hopping?

Technically, the Bible does not address the issue of church-hopping. The early church consisted of small groups of Christians meeting in homes or in public places. There is no indication in Scripture that towns or cities had more than one group of believers meeting there. So church-hopping is relatively new. However, the author of Hebrews does address the issue of church attendance. In Hebrews 10:25 we read, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Sometimes people church-hop to avoid getting too deeply involved with any one congregation, but that defeats the purpose of the body of Christ which is, as Hebrews notes, to “encourage one another.” We can’t encourage those we don’t spend time getting to know, nor can we be encouraged by other Christians if they are essentially strangers to us.

In addition, the church is where the members of the body of Christ exercise their spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11; 1 Peter 4:10–11), given by the Spirit “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). When Christians spend only minimal time with other Christians, as is the inevitable result of church-hopping, there is little or no opportunity to exercise their gifts. As the writer to the Hebrews notes, meeting together provides the opportunity for us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24), a practice that is nearly impossible for the church-hopper. Conversely, attending a different church each week limits our accountability to the leadership of any one church and our ability to confess our sins to one another and seek prayer for our spiritual edification (James 5:16). Sadly, this is the very reason many people do church-hop—to avoid being held accountable for their lifestyle.

There is no doubt that it is wise to be selective in which church body we choose to attend. This may require attending different churches for a while so that we can best decide which church home God may be calling us to. The goal is to find a church that teaches that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and affirms all of the essentials of the Christian faith. This may take some time and might technically be called church-hopping. However, after having found a solid church, we must commit to remaining there.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: Why Did the Sacrificial System Require a Blood Sacrifice?

The whole of the Old Testament, every book, points toward the Great Sacrifice that was to come—that of Jesus’ sacrificial giving of His own life on our behalf. Leviticus 17:11 is the Old Testament’s central statement about the significance of blood in the sacrificial system. God, speaking to Moses, declares: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

A “sacrifice” is defined as the offering up of something precious for a cause or a reason. Making atonement is satisfying someone or something for an offense committed. The Leviticus verse can be read more clearly now: God said “I have given it to you (the creature’s life, which is in its blood) to make atonement for yourselves (covering the offense you have committed against Me).” In other words, those who are covered by the blood sacrifice are set free from the consequences of sin.

Of course the Israelites did not know of Jesus per se, or how He would die on their behalf and then rise again, but they did believe God would be sending them a Savior. All of the many, many blood sacrifices seen throughout the Old Testament were foreshadows of the true, once-for-all-time sacrifice to come so that the Israelites would never forget that without the blood, there is no sacrifice. This shedding of blood is a substitutionary act. Therefore the last clause of Leviticus 17:11 could be read either “the blood ‘makes atonement’ at the cost of the life” (i.e. the animal’s life) or “makes atonement in the place of the life,” i.e. the sinner’s life, with Jesus Christ being the One giving life through His shed blood.

Hebrews 9:11–18 confirms in the New Testament the symbolism of blood as life and applies Leviticus 17:11 to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 12 states clearly that the Old Testament blood sacrifices were temporary and only atoned for sin partially and for a short time, hence the need to repeat the sacrifices yearly. But when Christ entered the holy place, He did so to offer His own blood once for all time, making future sacrifices unnecessary. This is what Jesus meant by His dying words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Never again would the blood of bulls and goats cleanse men from their sin. Only by accepting Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for the remission of sins, can we stand before God covered in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Topical Bible Questions: Does the Bible Say “Come as You Are”?

While the concept of “come as you are,” if understood correctly, is biblical, the precise phrase “come as you are” is not found in Scripture. But, again, the Bible does have a variety of verses that imply the same message, based on God’s amazing grace.

In Joel 2:32, where the prophet is declaring the terrible judgments of the Day of the Lord, God’s offer of deliverance is open to “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord.” In Isaiah 1:18, God offers the invitation to come, though your sins are as scarlet, and He will make them white as snow. Revelation 22:17 is the invitation in the new Heaven, which says “Come! Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” In these and other verses, the clear implication is that, even though we are sinners, God desires us to come to Him as we are, so that He can cleanse us.

As for the meaning and application of the phrase, we can go to the examples of how Jesus dealt with the sinners He encountered. Sometimes well-meaning Christians tell people that they have to “clean up their lives” before God will accept them, but that is not what we see in Scripture. When speaking to the woman at the well who was living with a man she was not married to (John 4:1–26), Jesus addressed the fact of her sin, then offered her the salvation she needed. Again, when the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11) was brought before Jesus, he told her “go, and sin no more.” The sin was never excused or ignored, but forgiveness was offered to anyone who recognized the truth of their sin and was willing to confess and forsake it. While God certainly expects us to leave our sin, that comes as a part of our salvation, not as a prerequisite. We are not able to clean ourselves up without God’s help.

“Come as you are” is sometimes misunderstood and misapplied in today’s church. Those churches which are identified with the Emerging/Emergent Church or Hipster movements, among others, sometimes take the grace of God and turn it into licentiousness (Jude 4) by teaching that it makes no difference how you live, as long as you believe. If you come to Christ in an illicit relationship, they say Christ will accept you just as you are and sanctify that relationship. If you come to Christ as someone who enjoys the night life, you can continue those things, and use them to “reach others for Christ.” This may be a popular message, but it directly contradicts Scripture which clearly says that these things from our past lives should be left behind and that our former friends will think us strange for doing so (1 Peter 4:3–4). Romans 13:13 commands us to walk honestly, or decently, no longer participating in the licentious lifestyle of the world. Galatians 5:13 says that we are called to liberty, but that we cannot use liberty “for an occasion to the flesh,” excusing our continued sins.

God is amazing, gracious, loving, and forgiving, so He calls us to salvation, even though we don’t deserve it. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), making it possible for us to receive forgiveness. He requires us to confess and forsake our sins when we come to Him, but He receives us just as we are, then begins to change us as we submit to Him in obedience.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Base Ingratitude (Romans 1:21)

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.

In many Bibles the twenty-first verse of Romans 1 begins a new paragraph, and rightly so. In the previous verses Paul has explained the fearful state of men and women as exposed to the wrath of Almighty God, and he has explained why this is our condition. We are objects of God’s wrath because we have rejected the knowledge of God, which all persons possess as a result of God’s extensive disclosure of himself in the works of nature. Now Paul is going to take that description of the human race further by showing the sad results for man of this rejection.

Yet the paragraphs are also tied together. This is because Paul does not immediately speak of the results of our rejection of God, which is his ultimate purpose. Instead he first cites two more things of which sinful men and women are guilty. This means that there are three failures in all, one of which we have already studied and two additional ones added here. First, we have suppressed the truth about God, being unwilling to come to God to whom the revelation in nature leads. (This is the sin studied in detail in the last chapter.) Second, we have refused to glorify (or worship) God. This is in spite of our genuine knowledge of him. Third, we have forgotten to be thankful. To know God is to know ourselves as his creatures and thus to know that all we have and enjoy is from him. Yet, because we willingly block the knowledge of God from our minds, we thus obviously also refuse to glorify God as God and are ungrateful.

Ungrateful! John Milton spoke of “base ingratitude” (Comus, line 776). William Shakespeare wrote, “Blow, blow thou winter wind; thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude” (As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7). The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky said of man, “If he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful! Phenomenally ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.”

No Praise, No Glory

There is a connection between these three human failures, however. So to understand the nature of our ingratitude to God, we need first to understand that we have not “gloried him as God,” which is how Paul states it.

The word glory, from which the words glorify and glorification derive, is quite interesting. In the Greek language the original words are dokeo (the verb) and doxa (the noun), from which we get our word doxology. Originally the verb meant “to appear” or “to seem,” and the noun that came from this then meant an “opinion.” A person’s opinion of someone or something is how that person or thing appears to the one observing it. From doxa we get our English words orthodox (which means a “straight or correct opinion”), heterodox (which means a “different or wrong opinion”) and paradox (which means a “contrary or irreconcilable opinion”). At one time doxa and dokeo were concerned with either a good opinion or a bad opinion about someone. But eventually they came to refer to a good opinion only. At this point the noun came to mean the “praise” or “honor” due to one about whom such good opinions were held, and the verb referred to rendering an individual such honor. Kings possessed “glory” because they merited the praise of their subjects. The word is used in this sense in Psalm 24, which speaks of God as the King of glory: “Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory” (v. 10).

At this point it is easy to see the effect of using the word glory or glorify of God. Who can “glorify” God? Obviously, only one who has a right opinion about him, that is, one who knows and properly appreciates God’s attributes. The one who knows God as sovereign, holy, omniscient, immutable, loving, merciful, and so on—and who praises the Almighty for these things—glorifies him.

And there is this, too: The English language has another entirely different word that means almost the same thing as “glory” and that might well have been used for it had not the French word gloire superseded it in everyday speech. This is the Anglo-Saxon word worth, which also refers to a person’s intrinsic merit or character. Man’s worth is man’s character. God’s worth is God’s glory. Now, using this term, what happens when you acknowledge God’s character as he himself reveals it? Well, you acknowledge his “worth-ship,” or, as we say, you “worship” him. “Worth-ship” is hard for us to say. So either we shorten it and speak of “worshiping” God, or we abandon the Anglo-Saxon term and switch to the Latin word and speak of “glorifying” God instead.

The point I am making is that each of these three ideas is the same. Linguistically, the worship of God, the praise of God, and the giving of glory to God are identical.

Of course, this is precisely what Paul says the human race has not done. Moreover, its failure to worship or glorify God follows naturally from its willful suppression of the truth about God, which God has revealed to us in nature. We have already seen that we reject the things God has revealed because we do not like the God to which the truth about God leads us. We do not like him for his sovereignty; God’s sovereignty negates our autonomy. We do not like him for his holiness; God’s holiness opposes and condemns our sin. We do not like him for his omniscience; his omniscience terrifies us because we fear exposure. We do not like God for his immutability, because immutability means that God will never be other than he is in all his other attributes. We cannot stand these truths. So we repress them, denying their existence. It is obvious that if we do this, we are not going to praise God for these same characteristics.

On the contrary, we do what the Jews did when they had been brought out of Egypt but had rebelled against God by making the golden calf. We take the attributes that belong to God only and ascribe them to idols, saying, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Exod. 32:8). We are going to examine how we do that in greater detail as we study the latter half of Romans 1.

Not Thankful

There are times in my study of the major Bible commentators when I am seriously disappointed, and this is one of them. For the third great failure for which Paul cites the human race is ingratitude—“nor gave thanks,” he says—and yet this important idea receives very little treatment by these commentators. Haldane, great in nearly all respects as a commentator, gives just nine lines to this matter. Godet has five lines.3 Even John Calvin says only, “It is not without reason that Paul adds that neither gave they thanks, for there is no one who is not indebted to God’s infinite kindnesses, and even on this account alone he has abundantly put us in his debt by condescending to reveal himself to us.”

In working on this idea I was therefore pleased to discover that in his book on “doubt,” entitled In Two Minds, the British writer Os Guinness (now living in America) devotes an entire chapter to ingratitude, viewing it rightly, I believe, as a major cause for doubt and thus as a step away from faith toward failure.

Guinness’s thesis is that doubt is not unbelief but rather a middle place between faith and unbelief, hence his title. But that middle position is an unstable one. If we are doubting, we will not merely doubt for long. Either we will move from doubt in the direction of a stronger faith, or we will move from doubt in the direction of unbelief. And whether we do one or the other depends on how we deal with what causes us to be unsettled. Guinness sees the causes of our unsettling as: ingratitude, a faulty view of God, weak foundations, lack of commitment, lack of growth, unruly emotions, and fearing to believe. He calls them “seven families of doubt.” Ingratitude is the cause of doubt he starts with.

Why is ingratitude so dangerous? Because it is based upon a willful unawareness of the most basic facts about God and upon our lack of a proper relationship to him. In other words, it is because of the very problem about which Paul is teaching.

Romans 1:18–20 teaches that the existence of God is abundantly disclosed in nature. This means, of course, not merely that God exists but also that all we are, see, and have has been brought into being by him. He is the Creator of everything. So if we have life, it is from God. If we have health, it is from God. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the friends we share—everything good is from God. If we fail to be grateful for this, it is because we are not really acknowledging him or are rejecting a proper relationship to him. Someone may say, “But we sometimes experience bad things, too. We suffer pain and hunger. We get sick. Eventually we die.” But even here we show our ingratitude. For we deny the fact that if we got what we deserve, we would all be in hell, sinners that we are. Our very existence, as sinners, should cause us to praise God not only for his sovereignty, holiness, omniscience, and all the other attributes I have mentioned, but for his abundant mercy, too. But we are not conscious of this. So we erect a great mass of ingratitude upon our earlier sins of suppressing the truth and refusing God worship.

Guinness refers to Romans 1:21 as a sober reminder that “rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom ‘thank you’ is redundant.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who spends a little more time on ingratitude than the other commentators, writes:

Man does not thank God for his mercy, for his goodness, for his dealings with us in providence. We take the sunshine for granted; we are annoyed if we do not get it. We take the rain for granted. How often do we thank God for all these gifts and blessings! … God is “the giver of every good and perfect gift”; he is “the Father of mercies.” Yet people go through the whole of their lives in this world and they never thank him; they ignore him completely. That is how they show their attitude toward God. In this way they suppress the truth that has been revealed concerning [him].

Remember and Give Thanks

Guinness’s chapter on ingratitude makes another important contribution, and that is its emphasis on the biblical theme of “remembering to give thanks.” This has “tremendous emphasis,” he says. “The man or woman of faith is the one who gives thanks. Unbelief, on the other hand, has a short and ungrateful memory.”

When the people of Israel left Egypt to travel to the Promised Land, they were the recipients of many great blessings. They had been delivered from slavery, protected from Pharaoh’s pursuing armies, provided with water to drink and manna to eat, and they were given guidance in the form of the great cloud that covered them by day to protect them from the sun’s fierce heat and turned into a pillar of fire by night to provide both light and warmth. If ever a people should have been fervently grateful to God, it was this people. Yet they were not grateful. They had asked for freedom. But when they received it and found that it was not precisely to their liking, they wanted to lynch Moses, turn around, and go back to Egypt. When they were given manna, they cried out for a different diet. No matter what God did, there was always something else they wanted.

Moses knew where such ingratitude would lead. He knew they would be made rebellious by ingratitude. So this great leader constantly reminded the Jewish people of their past, of God’s blessings to them, and of their need to be thankful. After they had been delivered from Pharaoh’s pursuing armies, Moses composed a song that said:

I will sing to the Lord,

for he is highly exalted.

The horse and its rider

he has hurled into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song;

he has become my salvation.

He is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.…

Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?

Who is like you—

majestic in holiness,

awesome in glory,

working wonders?

Exodus 15:1–2, 11

Moses wanted Israel to remember God’s past blessings. Later when God gave the Ten Commandments and other portions of the law, Moses said, “Be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deut. 6:12).

David, too, was strong on the need to be thankful, and he wrote much about it. After the ark of the covenant had been brought back to Jerusalem, David wrote a psalm beginning: “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (1 Chron. 16:8; cf. Ps. 105:1). David also said, “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you” (Ps. 35:18). In the same way, Psalms 106, 107, 118, and 136 begin with thanksgiving: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Psalm 100, titled “A Psalm. For giving thanks,” says:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.

What was true for those living in the time of the Old Testament is true also for those living in New Testament times. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one of them came back, after showing himself to the priests, and thanked Jesus. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17–18). Jesus seemed to be bothered by the others’ ingratitude. Similarly, Paul emphasized thanksgiving in his commands to the Philippians about prayer, saying, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7, italics mine). Paul was concerned that in making new requests of God (which is proper) we nevertheless remember to thank him for what we have already received.

The point I am making is that thankfulness is a mark of those who truly know God—even though we sometimes forget to be thankful. Ingratitude, by contrast, is the mark of those who repress the truth about him.

Are We Thankful?

Although this section is a study of the psychology and acts of those who are in rebellion against God—the focus of Romans 1:18–32—all of it clearly has bearing on those who profess to know God. There are two pertinent questions: Are we who know God thankful? and Do we express our thanks verbally?

It is interesting to note that in many of the world’s languages “giving thanks” is the basic meaning of at least one word for prayer. A very important Greek word for prayer is eucharisteo, from which is derived the liturgical word Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper, and it refers to that aspect of the communion service that involves thanksgiving to God for Christ’s atoning death. Eucharisteō means “to give thanks.” One of the most important Latin words for prayer is gratia, from which we have derived the French and English words grace. It has two meanings. On the one hand, it means God’s “unmerited favor.” That is the most common meaning of the word in English. It is the meaning in the hymn “Amazing Grace.” But gratia also means “thanksgiving,” the meaning we retain when we speak of saying “grace” before a meal. Isn’t it interesting that so many of these words for prayer mean thanksgiving? Isn’t it significant that the chief element in the opening of the heart of man to God in prayer should be gratitude?

Yet how little this is actually the case! We pray, but our prayers are often only versions of “God bless me and my wife, my son John and his wife, us four and no more. Amen.”

Or they are strings of requests: “Give me this, give me that; do it quickly, and that’s that.”

Our prayers should follow the order of that little prayer acrostic ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and (only then) Supplication. We should ask for things only after we have already thanked God for what he has given.

What a difference it would make if we would all actually learn to glorify and worship God and be thankful! I think Reuben A. Torrey wrote wisely when he said:

Returning thanks for blessings already received increases our faith and enables us to approach God with new boldness and new assurance. Doubtless the reason so many have so little faith when they pray is because they take so little time to meditate upon and thank God for blessings already received. As one meditates upon the answers to prayers already granted, faith waxes bolder and bolder, and we come to feel in the very depths of our souls that there is nothing too hard for the Lord.

This is what Os Guinness is saying, too! Doubt is the middle position between faith and unbelief. But if we learn to thank God for who he is and for his many blessings, we inevitably move from doubt to faith, rather than from doubt to even greater rebellion.[1]


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 161–168). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Without Excuse (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 men are without excuse.

No human being is infinite. Infinitude belongs exclusively to God. Yet, in spite of our finite nature, human beings do seem to have an almost infinite capacity for some things. One of them is for making excuses for reprehensible behavior. Accuse a person of something, and regardless of how obvious the fault may be, the individual immediately begins to make self-serving declarations: “It wasn’t my fault,” “Nobody told me,” “My intentions were good,” “You shouldn’t be so critical.” The two least spoken sentences in the English language are probably “I was wrong” and “I am sorry.”

Some people try to brazen things out by denying the need to make excuses. Walt Whitman once wrote, “I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood.” The French have a saying that has a similar intent: “Qui s’excuse, s’accuse” (”He who excuses himself, accuses himself”). But that is an excuse itself, since it means that the person involved is too great to need to make apologies.

Our text says that in spite of our almost infinite capacity to make excuses, we are all “without excuse” for our failure to seek out, worship, and thank the living God.

“I Didn’t Know God Existed”

The first of our excuses is that we do not know that God exists or at least that we do not know for sure. Every era has had its characteristic excuses for failure to seek and worship God, but in our “scientific age,” this is certainly a very common rationalization. We remember that when the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin returned to earth from his short time in space, he said with typical atheistic arrogance, “I did not see God.” The fact that he could not see God was supposed to be proof of God’s nonexistence. Unfortunately, what Gagarin said is typical of many millions of people in our time, both in the communist East and the capitalistic West. It is the argument that science either has disproved God or else has been unable to give adequate evidence for affirming his existence.

It should be clear by this point, however, that if the Bible is from God, as Christians claim, then whatever we may think about the matter, God at least does not agree with our assessment.

We say, “There is no evidence for God.” Or, “There is insufficient evidence for God.”

God says that quite the contrary is the case. God says that nature supplies evidence that is not only extensive but is also “clearly seen” and fully “understood.” In other words, there is no excuse for atheism.

The alternative put forward today is that the universe is eternal because matter is eternal, and that all we see has come about over a long period of time as the result of chance or random occurrences. This is the view of Carl Sagan, who affirms the eternity of matter. “In the beginning was the cosmos,” cries Sagan. But think through the problems. Suppose everything we see did evolve over long periods of time from mere matter. Suppose our complex universe came from something less complex, and that less complex something from something still less complex. Suppose we push everything back until we come to “mere matter,” which is supposed to be eternal. Have we solved our problem? Not at all! We are trying to explain the complex forms of matter as we know them today, but where did those forms come from? Some would say that the form or purpose we see was somehow in matter to begin with. But, if that is the case, then the matter we are talking about is no longer “mere matter.” It already has purpose, organization, and form, and we need to ask how these very significant elements got there. At some point we must inevitably find ourselves looking for the Purposer, Organizer, or Former.

Moreover, it is not just form that confronts us. There are personalities in the cosmos. We are personalities. We are not mere matter, even complex matter. We have life, and we know ourselves to be entities possessing a sense of self-identity, feelings, and a will. Where could those things come from in an originally impersonal universe? Francis Schaeffer has written, “The assumption of an impersonal beginning can never adequately explain the personal beings we see around us, and when men try to explain man on the basis of an original impersonal, man soon disappears.”

Until recently, the most popular fallback from these truths has been the argument that whatever the difficulties may be for supposing an evolution of what we see from mere matter, such is nevertheless possible, given an infinite amount of time and chance occurrence. But there are two problems here.

First, what is chance? People talk as if chance were an entity that could bring about the universe. But chance is merely a mathematical abstraction with no real existence. Suppose you are about to flip a coin and were to ask, “What are the chances of its coming up heads?” The answer is fifty percent (ignoring the possibility that it may stick in the mud on its side). Suppose further that you do flip the coin and that it comes up heads. What made it come up heads? Did chance do it? Of course not. What made it come up heads was the force of your thumb on the coin, the weight of the coin, the resistance of the air, the distance from your hand to the ground, and other variables. If you knew and could plot every one of those variables, you would be able to tell exactly what would happen—whether the coin would land either heads or tails. You do not know the variables. So you say, “Chances are that it will come up heads fifty percent of the time.” But the point I am making is that chance didn’t do it. Chance is nothing. So to say that the universe was created by chance is to say that the universe was created by nothing, which is a meaningless statement.

What about there being an infinite amount of time? As I have pointed out, even with an infinite amount of time nothing with form or purpose comes into being apart from an original Former or Purposer. But supposing it could. Even this does not explain the universe, for the simple reason that the universe has not been around for an infinite amount of time. Science itself tells us that the universe is in the nature of fifteen to twenty billion years old. It speaks of an original beginning known popularly as the Big Bang. True, fifteen to twenty billion years is a long time, more time than we can adequately comprehend. But such time is not infinite! That is the point. And if it is not infinite, then an appeal to infinity does not explain the existence of our very complex universe.

“I didn’t know God existed”? Can anyone really affirm that in face of the evidence for the existence of God in nature? The Bible says we cannot, and even a secular analysis of the options supports the Bible’s statement. Ignorance is no excuse for failing to seek and worship God, because we are not ignorant.

“I Have Too Many Questions”

There are people who might follow what I have said to this point and even agree with most of it but who would nevertheless excuse themselves on the ground that they still have too many questions about Christianity. They recognize that the God we are talking about is not just “any god” but the God who has revealed himself in Scripture. And when they think about that they have a host of questions. They suppose that these are valid excuses for their rejection of the deity. For example:

1. What about the poor innocent native in Africa who has never heard of Christ? Every preacher gets asked this question. In fact, it is probably the question most asked by Christians and non-Christians alike. But it is also true that Romans 1:18–20, the text we have been studying, answers it. The implication behind this question is that the “innocent” native is going to be sent to hell for failing to do something he has never had an opportunity to do, namely, believe on Jesus Christ as his Savior, and that a God who would be so unjust as to condemn the “innocent” native cannot be God. And that is true! God must be just, and God would be unjust if he condemned a person for failing to do what he or she obviously did not have the opportunity of doing.

But that is not the case in regard to the so-called innocent in Africa. To be sure, the native is innocent of failing to believe on Jesus if he or she has never heard of Jesus. But it is not for this that the native or anyone else who has not heard of Jesus is condemned. As Romans 1 tells us, the native is condemned for failing to do what he or she actually knows he or she should do, that is, seek out, worship, and give thanks to the God revealed in nature. Everyone falls short there. A person might argue that the native actually does seek God, offering in proof the widespread phenomenon of religion in the world. Man has rightly been called homo religiosus. But that is no excuse either, for the universality of religion, as Paul is going to show in the next verses, is actually evidence of man’s godlessness. Why? Because the religions that man creates are actually attempts to escape having to face the true God. We invent religion—not because we are seeking God, but because we are running away from him.

To repeat what we have seen in the last two studies: (1) all human beings know God as a result of God’s revelation of himself to us through nature, but (2) instead of allowing that revelation to lead us to God, we repress the revelation and instead set up false gods of our own imaginations to take the true God’s place. The reason, as we have also seen, is that (3) we do not like the God to which this natural revelation leads us.

2. Isn’t the Bible full of contradictions? This is an excuse we also often hear, but it is as unsubstantial as the first one. We are told that as the data from science has come in, so many errors have been found in the Bible that no rational person could possibly believe that it is God’s true revelation. It follows that at best the Bible is a collection of insightful human writings, so no one can intelligently buy into Christianity on the basis of the biblical “revelation.”

The problem with this argument is its premise. It assumes that the accumulation of historical and scientific facts has uncovered an increasing number of textual and other problems, but actually the opposite is the case. As the data has come in over the decades, particularly over the last few decades, the tendency is for the Bible to be vindicated. Time magazine recognized this in a cover story in the December 30, 1974, issue. The story was captioned “How True Is the Bible?” In this essay the magazine’s editors examined the chief radical critics of the recent past—Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann, Martin Dibelius, and others—but concluded:

The breadth, sophistication and diversity of all this biblical investigation are impressive, but it begs a question: Has it made the Bible more credible or less? Literalists who feel the ground move when a verse is challenged would have to say that credibility has suffered. Doubt has been sown, faith is in jeopardy. But believers who expect something else from the Bible may well conclude that its credibility has been enhanced. After more than two centuries of facing the heaviest scientific guns that could be brought to bear, the Bible has survived—and is perhaps the better for the siege.

Even on the critics’ own terms—historical fact—the scriptures seem more acceptable now than they did when the rationalists began the attack.

It is hard to see how anyone can use the alleged “contradictions” in the Bible to justify a failure to seek out and worship the Bible’s God, especially after he or she has investigated the evidence thoroughly.

3. If there is a God and the God who exists is a good God, why does he tolerate evil? The argument has two forms. One form is philosophical, asking how evil could have entered a world created and ruled by a benevolent God. The other is personal and practical, asking why things happen to me that I do not like or why God does not give me what I ask him for or do what I tell him in my prayers I want him to do.

The philosophical problem is difficult. If we ask how evil could originate in an originally perfect world, there is no one, so far as I know, who has ever answered that puzzle adequately. If God made all things good, including Adam and Eve, so that nothing within them naturally inclined toward evil in any way, then it is difficult (if not impossible) to see how Adam or Eve or any other perfect being could do evil. But I must point out that although Christians may not have an adequate explanation for the origin of evil (at least at this point in the history of theological thought), our difficulty here is at least only half as great as that of the unbeliever. For the unbeliever has the problem not only of explaining the origin of evil; he has the problem of explaining the origin of the good as well. In any case, our failure to understand how evil came about does not disprove its existence any more than it disproves the existence of God.

The second form of this problem is personal and practical. It is the form of the question that probably troubles most people: “Why does God tolerate evil, particularly in my life? Why do bad things happen to me? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers as I would like?”

Part of the answer to this problem is that if we got what we deserved, we would be suffering not merely the evils we now know but rather those eternal torments that are to be the lot of the unregenerate in hell. In other words, instead of saying, “Why do bad things happen to me?” we should be saying, “Why do good things happen to me?” All we deserve is evil. If our life has any good in it, that good (however minimal) should point us to the God from whom all good comes. That we do not follow that leading, but instead complain about God’s treatment, only increases our guilt. It shows us to be precisely what Paul declares we are in Romans 1:18: godless and wicked.

Let me illustrate how this works. After I had preached the sermon that is printed as chapter 16 of this volume (“The Psychology of Atheism”), I received an unsigned note in which someone objected to my comments about the natural man’s hatred of God’s sovereignty. He (or she) said, “Preach sermons to your congregation, not to the radio audience. Deal with the hard questions. The difficulty is not that I am not sovereign but that the sovereignty of God does not seem good. When the answers to my prayers seem to make no sense, what then am I to think of God? Deal with that one.”

The tone of this note was a bit insulting, as you can see. But the problem is not that it was insulting to me. The problem is that it was insulting to God. Moreover, it was itself a refutation of the point it was making. The questioner was saying that he or she had no difficulty with the concept of God’s sovereignty, only with what God does—if God exists. But, of course, what is that if not a challenge to God’s sovereignty? It is a way of saying, “God, I am not going to believe in you unless you come down from your lofty throne, stand here before little me and submit to my interrogation. I will not acknowledge you unless you explain yourself to me.” Could anything be more arrogant than that? To demand that God justify his ways to us? Or even to think that we could understand him if he did? Job was not challenging God’s sovereignty. He was only seeking understanding. But when God interrogated him, asking if he could explain how God created and sustains the universe, poor Job was reduced to near stammering. He said, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

It is interesting that the same week in which I got this note, demanding that God explain himself on our level before we believe on him, I got another letter that was quite different. This person described a particularly horrible week that he had just gone through. But then he said, “Seeing the situation in the light of God’s sovereignty made it possible for me to ask forgiveness for my anger and open my eyes to what God wants me to see, namely, that my life will frequently be ‘disordered,’ but he will never let it get out of control.” Do you see the difference?

Is it right to have questions about why God acts as he does? Of course! Who has not had them? It is right to believe and then seek understanding. But to use an inability to understand some things as an excuse for failing to respond to what we do know is that deliberate repression of the truth about which Paul was speaking in our text.

“I Didn’t Think It Was Important”

The weakest excuse that anyone can muster is the statement that “I just didn’t think it was important.” That is obviously faulty—if God exists and we are all destined to meet him and give an account of our actions some day. Nothing can be as important as getting the most basic of our relationships right: the relationship of ourselves to God. And yet, for one reason or another—perhaps just because the press of life’s many demands seems more important—we push this greatest of all issues aside.

How do you think that is going to sound when you appear before God at the last day?

“I didn’t think it was important”?

“I didn’t think you were important”?

“I didn’t think my repression of the truth about you mattered”?

A little later on in Romans, Paul tells what is going to happen in that last day. Men and women are going to appear before God with their excuses, but when they do, says Paul, “Every mouth [will] be silenced and the whole world [will be] held accountable to God” (Rom. 3:20). Even in this day there are no valid excuses, as Paul declares in Romans 1:20. But in that day the excuses will not even be spoken, so obvious will it be that all human beings—from the smallest to the greatest—are guilty of godlessness.

Since today is not yet that final day, there is still time to turn from the arrogance that pits finite minds and sinful wills against God.

Do you remember Methuselah? He lived longer than any other man—969 years. His name means “When he is gone it shall come.” “It” was the great flood of God’s judgment. That flood destroyed the antediluvian world. But the reason I refer to Methuselah and his longevity is that he is a picture of God’s great patience with those who sin against him. During the early years of Methuselah’s life God sent a preacher named Enoch to turn the race from its sin. Enoch preached that judgment was coming: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14–15). After Enoch died, Noah continued the preaching. For the entire lifetime of Methuselah, all 969 years, the flood did not come. God was gracious, “patient … not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). But, though patient, God was not indifferent to sin, and at last Methuselah died, and wrath did indeed come.

We live in a similar age today. Today is the day of God’s grace. But wrath is gathering. We see it about us like the rising waters of the flood. Do not wait to be overtaken by it. Do not make excuses. Admit that you are “without excuse” in God’s sight and quickly take refuge in the Savior.[1]


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 153–160). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

The Psychology of Atheism (Romans 1:18–20)

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.

In 1974 theologian R. C. Sproul produced a book from which I have drawn the title of this study: The Psychology of Atheism. Sproul’s book (later reissued as If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists?) is an attempt to understand why people reject God either philosophically, becoming philosophical atheists, or practically, becoming practical atheists. (Practical atheists may say that they believe in God, but they “act as if” God does not exist.) Sproul’s answer is that atheism has nothing to do with man’s supposed ignorance of God—since all people know God, according to Romans 1—but rather with mankind’s dislike of him. People do not “know” God, because they do not want to know him.

Sproul writes:

The New Testament maintains that unbelief is generated not so much by intellectual causes as by moral and psychological ones. The problem is not that there is insufficient evidence to convince rational beings that there is a God, but that rational beings have a natural antipathy to the being of God. In a word, the nature of God (at least the Christian God) is repugnant to man and is not the focus of desire or wish projection. Man’s desire is not that Yahweh exists, but that he doesn’t.

The Sovereign God

But why are people so determined to reject God? Up to this point we have looked at three great ideas in our study of Romans 1:18–20: (1) the wrath of God, which is directed against all the godlessness and wickedness of men; (2) the suppression by human beings of the truth about God revealed in nature; and (3) the prior revelation of God’s eternal power and divine nature through what God has made. But we have seen that the historical sequence of these ideas is the reverse of the above listing. First, God has revealed himself. Second, people have rejected the truth thus revealed. Third, the wrath of God is released upon them because of this rejection.

Still, the question remains: Why do so-called rational beings react in what is clearly such an irrational manner? If the truth about God is as plainly understood as Romans 1:18–20 maintains it is, why should anyone suppress it? The answer, of course, is what I began to talk about in the previous chapter and am now to carry further in terms of Sproul’s thesis. Men and women reject God because they do not like him. They may like a god of their own imagining, a god like themselves, and therefore say that they like God. But the truth is that they do not like the God who really is.

Paul’s words for this universal dislike of God are “godlessness” and “wickedness” (v. 18). “Godlessness” means that people are opposed to God. They are not like God and do not like him. “Wickedness” refers to what people do because of this determined opposition. They reject the truth about God, thereby trying to force God away.

What is it that people do not like about God? The answer is, nearly everything. Let me show this by a look at some of the most important of God’s attributes.

The first thing men and women dislike about God is his sovereignty, his most basic attribute. For if God is not sovereign, God is not God. Sovereignty refers to rule; in the case of God, it refers to the Being who is ruler over all. Sovereignty is what David was speaking about in his great prayer recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:10–13.

Praise be to you, O Lord,

God of our father Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power

and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,

for everything in heaven and earth is yours.

Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom;

you are exalted as head over all.

Wealth and honor come from you;

you are the ruler of all things.

In your hands are strength and power

to exalt and give strength to all.

Now, our God, we give you thanks,

and praise your glorious name.

God shows his sovereignty over the material order by creating it and ruling it according to his own fixed laws. Sometimes he shows his sovereignty by miracles. God shows his sovereignty over the human will and therefore also over human actions by controlling them. Thus, he hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh refuses to let the people of Israel leave Egypt; and then God judges him. In a contrary way, God melts the hearts of some individuals and draws them to Jesus.

But why should the sovereignty of God be so objectionable to human beings? If we look at matters superficially, we might think that all people would quite naturally welcome God’s sovereignty. “After all,” we might argue, “what could be better than knowing that everything in the world is really under control in spite of appearances and that God is going to work all things out eventually?” But it is only when we look at externalities that we can think like that. When we peer below the surface we discover that we are all in rebellion against God because of our desire for autonomy.

This was Adam’s problem. It was the root sin. God had told Adam that he was to be as free as any creature in the universe could be. Adam was to rule the world for God. Moreover, he was free to go where he wished and do as he wished. He could eat whatever he wished, with one condition: As a symbol of the fact that he was not autonomous, that he was still God’s creature and owed his life, health, fortune, and ultimate allegiance to God, Adam was forbidden to eat of a tree that stood in the midst of the Garden of Eden. He could eat of all the trees north of that tree, all the trees east of that tree, all the trees south of that tree, all the trees west of that tree. But the fruit of that one tree was forbidden to him, upon penalty of death. “When you eat of it you will surely die,” was God’s warning.

Nothing could have been more irrational than for Adam to eat of that tree. God had never lied to him, so he could believe God. Moreover, Adam owed God utter and unquestioning obedience in this and every other matter. Besides, he had been warned that if he ate he would die. There was nothing to be gained from eating! There was everything to lose! Still, as Adam looked at the tree it was a great offense to him. The tree stood for a limitation on his personal desires. It represented something he was not allowed to do. So Adam said in effect, “That tree is an offense to my autonomy. I do not care if I can eat of all the trees north of here, east of here, south of here, and west of here. As long as I allow that tree to remain untouched, I feel less than human. I feel diminished. Therefore, I am going to eat of it and die, whatever that may mean.”

So Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and death, the punishment for sin, came upon the race.

That is the condition of every human heart. We hate God’s sovereignty because we want to be sovereign ourselves. We want to run our own lives. We want to roam free, to know no boundaries. When we discover that there are boundaries, we hate God for the discovery.

We react like the rulers of the nations in Psalm 2: “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters’ ” (vv. 2–3).

We say, “We will not have this God to rule over us.”

The Holy God

It is not only the sovereignty of God that is repugnant to us in our natural, sinful state, however. We oppose God for his holiness as well. One reason is obvious: We hate holiness because we are not holy. God’s holiness exposes our sin, and we do not like exposure. But there is more to it than that. Let me explain.

Holiness is one of the greatest of all God’s attributes, the only one that is properly repeated three times over in worship statements (“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty …” [Isa. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8]). We think of holiness as utter righteousness, that God does no wrong. But although holiness includes righteousness, holiness is much more than this and is not basically an ethical term at all. The basic idea of holiness is “separation.” For example, the Bible is called holy (the Holy Bible), not because it is without sin, though it is inerrant, but because it is set apart and different from all other books. Religious objects are holy because they have been set apart for worship. In reference to God, holiness is the attribute that sets him apart from his creation. It has at least four elements.

1. Majesty. Majesty means “dignity,” “authority of sovereign power,” “stateliness” or “grandeur.” It is the characteristic of strong rulers and of God, who is ruler over all. Majesty links holiness to sovereignty.

2. Will. A second element in holiness is will, the will of a sovereign personality. This makes holiness personal and active, rather than abstract and passive. Moreover, if we ask what the will of God is primarily set on, the answer is on proclaiming himself as the “Wholly Other,” whose glory must not be diminished by the disobedience or arrogance of men. This element of holiness comes close to what the Bible is speaking of when it refers to God’s proper “jealousy” for his own honor. “Will” means that God is not indifferent to how men and women regard him.

3. Wrath. Wrath is part of holiness because it is the natural and proper stance of the holy God against all that opposes him. It means that God takes the business of being God so seriously that he will permit no other to usurp his place.

4. Righteousness. This is the matter mentioned earlier. It is involved in holiness not because it is the term by which holiness may most fully be understood but because it is what the holy God wills in moral areas.

Here is our problem. Precisely because holiness is not an abstract or passive concept, but is instead the active, dynamic character of God at work to punish rebellion and establish righteousness, the experience of confronting the holy God is profoundly threatening. Holiness intrigues us, as the unknown always does. We are drawn to it. But at the same time we are in danger of being undone, and we fear being undone, by the resulting confrontation. When Isaiah had his encounter with the holy God in the passage referred to above, he reacted in terror, crying, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isa. 6:5).

When God revealed himself to Habakkuk, the prophet described the experience by saying, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled …” (Hab. 3:16).

Job said, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Peter exclaimed when he caught only a brief glimpse of Jesus’ holiness, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).

The point I am making is this: If confrontation with the holy God is an unpleasant and threatening experience for the best of people—for the saints and prophets of biblical history, for example—how much more threatening must the holiness of God be for outright and unregenerate sinners. For them the experience must be totally overwhelming. No wonder they resist God, make light of him, or deny his existence. A. W. Tozer has written, “The moral shock suffered by us through our mighty break with the high will of heaven has left us all with a permanent trauma affecting every part of our nature.” Tozer is right. Therefore, the holiness of God as well as God’s sovereignty drive us from him.

The Omniscient God

In his study of atheism, Sproul has a particularly good chapter on God’s “omniscience.” This term means that God knows everything, including ourselves and everything about us. We do not like this, as Sproul indicates. He proves his point by looking at four modern treatments of the fear of being known, even by other human beings.

The first is by Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist. Sartre has analyzed the fear of being beneath the gaze of someone else in a number of places, but the best known is in his play No Exit. In this play four characters are confined in a room with nothing to do but talk to and stare at each other. It is a symbol of hell. In the last lines of the play this becomes quite clear as Garcin, one of the characters, stands at the mantelpiece, stroking a bronze bust. He says:

Yes, now’s the moment: I’m looking at this thing on the mantelpiece, and I understand that I’m in hell. I tell you, everything’s been thought out beforehand. They knew I’d stand at the fireplace stroking this thing of bronze, with all those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. (He swings around abruptly.) What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. (Laughs.) So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is—other people!

The final stage directive says that the characters slump down onto their respective sofas, the laughter dies away, and they “gaze” at each other.

The second modern treatment of the fear of being known by others is from Julius Fast’s Body Language. This book is a study of nonverbal communication, how we express ourselves by various body positions, nods, winks, arm motions, and so forth. There is a discussion of staring, and the point is made that although it is allowable to stare at objects or animals, even for long periods of time, it is not acceptable to stare at human beings. If we do, we provoke embarrassment or hostility or both. Why? Because we associate staring with prying, and we do not want anybody prying into what we think or are.

The third modern study of the significance of the human fear of exposure is Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape. The naked ape is, of course, the human being, the only animal who has no hair or other covering.

The fourth person whose works Sproul studies is the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. He wrote of a human need for hiddenness or solitude.

What emerges from these studies of modern attitudes toward exposure is a strange ambivalence. On the one hand, we want people to look at us, to notice us. If they ignore us, we feel diminished or hurt. At the same time, if they look too long or too intently, we are embarrassed and upset, because we are ashamed of who we are and do not want others to know us very well. If this is the case in our reaction to other human beings, who never really know us deeply even when they pry, and who are in any case sinners like ourselves, how much more traumatic is it to be known by the omniscient God, before whom all hearts are open, all desires known?

Exposure like this is intolerable. So human beings suppress their knowledge of God—because of his omniscience as well as because of his other attributes.

The Immutable God

At the very end of Sproul’s book there is a short “conclusion” in which the author tells how, after he had written the bulk of his study, he remembered a sermon by the great New England preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards, entitled “Men [Are] Naturally God’s Enemies.” Sproul wondered how Edwards handled the subject he had been dealing with. So he hunted up the sermon and found Edwards saying that human beings hate God as “an infinitely holy, pure and righteous Being.” They hate him because his omniscience is a “holy omniscience” and his omnipotence is a “holy omnipotence.”5 So far, Edwards seemed to be making the same points Sproul was making.

Then Edwards said, “They do not like his immutability.”

Immutability? thought Sproul. Why immutability?

Immutability means that God does not change. But why should human beings dislike that about God? Edwards explained that it is “because by this he never will be otherwise than he is, an infinitely holy God.” As he thought about this, Sproul began to understand what the great theologian was saying. Men and women hate God for his immutability because it means that he will never be other than he is in all his other attributes.

If the time could come when God might cease to be sovereign, like a retiring chairman of the board, then his sovereignty would not seem particularly bad to us. We are eternal creatures. We could wait him out. When he retires, we could take over.

Again, the holiness of God would not be so offensive to us if the time might come when God would cease to be holy. What God forbids now he might someday condone. Tomorrow or next week or next month he might begin to think differently and change his mind. We could wait to do our sinning.

Omniscience? The time might come when God’s memory would begin to fail and he would forget bad things he knows about us. We could live with that.

But not if God is immutable! If God is immutable, not only is God sovereign today; God will be sovereign tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. God will always be sovereign. In the same way, not only is God holy today. God will always be holy. And not only is God omniscient today. God will always be omniscient. God will never change in any of these great attributes. He is the sovereign, holy, omniscient, and immutable God. He always will be, and there is nothing you or I or anyone else can do about it.

We may suppress the truth about God out of a wicked rejection of his sovereignty, saying, “We will not have this God to rule over us.” But whether we appreciate his rule or not, God’s sovereignty is precisely what we need. We need a God who is able to rule over our unruly passions, control our destructive instincts, and save us. We may hate God for his holiness. But hate him or not, we need a holy God. We need an upright standard, and we need one who will not cease from working with us until we attain it. We may hate God for his omniscience. But we need a God who knows us thoroughly, from top to bottom, and who loves us anyway. We need a God who knows what we need. We may hate God for his immutability, since he does not change in any of his other attributes. But we need a God we can count on.[1]


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 145–152). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Natural Revelation (Romans 1:18–20)

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.

No one likes to talk about the wrath of God, particularly if it is thought of in relation to ourselves. But if we have to think about it, as our study of Romans 1:18–20 obviously forces us to do, we find ourselves reacting generally in one of two ways. Either (1) we argue that wrath is somehow unworthy of God, a blotch on his character, and therefore a mistaken notion that should be abandoned at once by all right-thinking people; or (2) we reply by denying that we merit God’s wrath, that we do not deserve it.

The second reaction is the more serious of the two. So it is the one Paul tackles in the development of his argument for the need we all have of the Christian gospel.

Romans 1:18–20 contains three important concepts, which together explain why the wrath of God against men and women is justified. The first is wrath itself. It is being revealed from heaven against the ungodly, Paul says. The second is the suppression of the truth about God by human beings, a point picked up and developed more fully in verses 21–23. The third idea is God’s prior revelation of himself to those very people who suppress the truth about him. These concepts need to be studied in inverse order, however. For when they are considered in that order—revelation, suppression, and wrath—they teach that God has given a revelation of himself in nature sufficient to lead any right-thinking man or woman to seek him out and worship him, but that, instead of doing this, people suppress this revelation. They deny it so they do not have to follow where it leads them. It is because of this willful and immoral suppression of the truth about God by human beings that the wrath of God comes upon them.

Revelation of God in Nature

There has been so much debate about what theologians call “natural revelation” that it is important to begin a discussion of this subject with some important definitions and distinctions. First, a definition: natural revelation means what it sounds like, namely, the revelation of God in nature. It is sometimes called “general revelation,” because it is available to everybody. Natural revelation is distinguished from “special revelation,” which goes beyond it and is the kind of revelation we find in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the revelation of the Bible’s meaning to the minds of those who read it by the Holy Spirit.

When Paul talks about a knowledge of God made plain to human beings, as he does in this text, it is the general or natural revelation, not a specific scriptural revelation, that he has in mind.

The second concept that needs to be defined here is “knowledge of God.” This is necessary because we can use the words know or knowledge in different ways.

1. Awareness. To begin on the lowest level, when we say that we know something we can be saying only that we are aware of its existence. In this sense we can say that we know where somebody lives or that we know certain things are happening somewhere in the world. This is true knowledge, but it is not extensive knowledge. It is knowledge that affects us very little. It does not involve us personally.

2. Knowing about. Knowing about something goes a step further, because knowledge in this sense may be detailed, extensive, and important. This is the kind of knowledge a physicist would have of physics or a doctor of medical facts. To come more to the point, a theologian can have knowledge about God, a theology by which he might be called a very learned man—and still not be saved.

3. Experience. The word know can also be used to refer to knowledge acquired by experience. To go back to the two previous categories, we could have this kind of knowledge of where a person lives if, for example, we had actually lived in his or her home ourselves. Again, a doctor could have knowledge like this if he were actually to experience the diseases he treats or undergo the operations he performs. Knowledge of a disease by having it is obviously quite different from merely having read of its causes and symptoms and how to treat the ailment.

4. Personal. The last kind of knowledge is the highest and most important level. It is what we would call personal knowledge, the kind of knowing we can only have of God, of ourselves, or of another human being. When the Bible speaks of knowing God in a saving way, this is what it has in mind. It involves the knowledge of ourselves in our sin and of God in his holiness and grace. It involves the knowledge of what he has done for us in Christ for our salvation and an actual coming to know and love God through knowing Jesus Christ. It involves head knowledge, but it also involves heart knowledge. It expresses itself in piety, worship, and devotion. It is what Jesus was speaking of when he prayed, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Some people grow impatient with definitions of this sort and wish that the teachers making them would just get on with explaining the Bible. But distinctions are necessary in this case, since they alone isolate the particular kind of knowledge of God available to men and women in nature for which God holds them accountable.

In the context of our text, this is not knowledge in the last of the four senses mentioned; if it were, all persons would be saved. Nor is it even (except in a very limited sense) knowledge about God or knowledge by experience. It is basically awareness. Nature reveals God is such a way that, even without the special revelation of God that we have in the Bible, all men and women are at least aware that God exists and that they should worship him. This awareness of God will not save them. But it is sufficient to condemn them if they fail to follow nature’s leading, as they could and should do, and seek out the true God so revealed.

Eternal Power and Divine Nature

The apostle is precise here as he explains what the natural revelation involves. It consists of two elements: first, “God’s eternal power” and, second, God’s “divine nature” (v. 20). The second means quite simply that there is a God. In other words, people have no excuse for being atheists. The first means that the God, whom they know to exist, is all-powerful. People know this by definition, since a god who is not all-powerful is not really God. We can express these two ideas philosophically by the term “Supreme Being.” “Being” (with a capital “B”) refers to God’s existence. “Supreme” denotes his ultimate power. What Paul is saying is that nature contains ample and entirely convincing evidence of the existence of a Supreme Being. God exists, and we know it. That is his argument. Therefore, when people subsequently refuse to acknowledge and worship God (as we do), the problem is not in God or in a lack of evidence for his existence but in our own irrational and resolute determination not to know him.

I need to add several more important things at this point, and the first concerns the extensiveness of this nevertheless incomplete revelation. I have pointed out that the revelation of God in nature is the limited disclosure of God’s existence and supreme power. There is no revelation of his mercy, holiness, grace, love, or the many other things necessary for us to learn if we are to know God savingly. Still, we are not to think of this limited revelation as minimal, as if somehow its limited quality alone can excuse us. According to the Bible, this natural revelation of God, though limited, is nevertheless extensive and overwhelming in its force.

In the Old Testament the great counterpart to Romans 1:18–20 is the first half of Psalm 19 (vv. 1–6). It speaks of the revelation of God in the heavens:

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,

like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens

and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is hidden from its heat.

In these verses it is the “glory” or majesty of God that is said to be revealed in nature. But the emphasis here is on the universal nature of the revelation rather than on its content. It is heard in every human “speech” and “language.” It is known in “all the earth” and “to the ends of the world.”

Another classic Old Testament passage about natural revelation is the interrogation of Job recorded in chapters 38 and 39 of that book. God is the interrogator, and his point is that Job is far too ignorant even to question God or presume to evaluate his ways. In the context of that negative argument—“See how little you know”—God unfolds an overwhelming list of evidences for his wisdom, power, and great glory, which Job (like all people everywhere) should know and before which he should marvel:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set,

or who laid its cornerstone—

while the morning stars sang together

and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors

when it burst forth from the womb,

when I made the clouds its garment

and wrapped it in thick darkness,

when I fixed limits for it

and set its doors and bars in place,

when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;

here is where your proud waves halt’?”

Job 38:4–11

God’s interrogation of Job goes on in that fashion for two chapters. Then, after Job responds by a confession of his own ignorance, God launches into the same type of questioning for one chapter more. These chapters stress that God is all-powerful and all-wise, and the evidence they present for these divine attributes is nature.

Kindness in Nature

There may be one other matter to be mentioned, though I must be careful not to claim too much for it here. When Paul and Barnabas came to Lystra in Lycaonia on their first missionary journey, the people wanted to worship them because they thought they were gods as a result of a miracle they did. Paul rebuked their error and began to teach them better, in one place speaking of God’s revelation of himself in nature in these words: “God … made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:15b–17).

If these words are to be taken at their face value—and why should we not take them that way?—they say that God has also revealed his kindness in nature. Theologians call this common grace. Instead of sending us all to hell at this instant, as he has every right to do, God takes care of us in a common, general way so that most of us have food to eat, clothes to wear, and places to live. True, the evidence for common grace is not unambiguous. There are bad things in this world, too: hurricanes, terrible diseases, and so on. But generally the world is a reasonably pleasant place. So it is not only God’s glory, power, and wisdom that we see in nature, according to the Bible. We see God’s goodness or kindness as well, and this attribute especially increases our guilt when we refuse to seek God so that we may thank and worship him.

Awareness Within

The second idea I need to add here is that God’s revelation of himself in nature does not stop with the external evidence for his existence, power, wisdom, and kindness—the attributes I have mentioned—but it has what can be called an internal or subjective element as well. That is, not only has God given evidence for his existence; he has also given us the capacity to comprehend or receive it—though we refuse to do so. The text says, “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them,” and “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (vv. 19–20, italics mine).

Charles Hodge writes of these verses, “It is not of a mere external revelation of which the apostle is speaking, but of that evidence of the being and perfections of God which every man has in the constitution of his own nature, and in virtue of which he is competent to apprehend the manifestation of God in his works.”

John Calvin says that we are “blind” to God’s revelation but “not so blind that we can plead ignorance without being convicted of perversity.”

Let me use an illustration. Suppose you are driving down the street and come to a sign that says, “Detour—Turn Left.” But you ignore this and drive on. It happens that there is a police officer present, who stops you and begins to write out a ticket. What excuse might you have? You might argue that you didn’t see the sign. But that would carry very little weight if the sign was well placed and in bright colors. Besides, it makes no difference. As long as you are driving the car, the responsibility for seeing the sign and obeying it is yours. What is more, you are accountable if, having ignored the sign, you recklessly race on and either harm yourself and your passengers or destroy property.

Paul’s teaching fits this illustration. He is saying, first, that there is a sign. It is God’s revelation of himself in nature. Second, you have “vision.” Although blind to much, you can nevertheless see the revelation. Therefore, if you choose to ignore it, as we all do apart from the grace of God, the disaster that follows is your own fault. Your feelings of guilt are well founded.

Let me try this again. Paul is not saying that there is enough evidence about God in nature so that the scientist, who carefully probes nature’s mysteries, can be aware of him. (Carl Sagan has done this as well as anybody, but he acknowledges no Supreme Being.) Paul is not saying that the sign is there but hidden, that we are only able to find it if we look carefully. He is saying that the sign is plain. It is a billboard. In fact, it is a world of billboards. No one, no matter how weak-minded or insignificant, can be excused for missing it.

There is enough evidence of God in a flower to lead a child as well as a scientist to worship him. There is sufficient evidence in a tree, a pebble, a grain of sand, a fingerprint, to make us glorify God and thank him. This is the way to true knowledge. But people will not do this. They reject the revelation, substitute nature itself or parts of nature for God, and thereby find their hearts increasingly darkened.

John Calvin gives this just conclusion: “But although we lack the natural ability to mount up unto the pure and clear knowledge of God, all excuse is cut off because the fault of dullness is within us. And, indeed, we are not allowed thus to pretend ignorance without our conscience itself always convicting us of both baseness and ingratitude.”

Suppressing the Truth

When Calvin speaks of baseness and ingratitude, he brings us to the second point of Paul’s argument in this section of Romans, the point that justifies and leads to God’s wrath. We have already been talking about this. It is human rejection of the revelation God has given.

Paul’s description of what people have done in regard to natural revelation is in the phrase “who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (v. 18). In Greek the word translated “suppress” is katechein, which means “take,” “hold,” “hold fast,” “hold back,” “keep,” “restrain,” or “repress.” In a positive sense the word can be used to mean holding to something that is good, as when Paul speaks of holding on to the word of life (cf. Phil. 2:16). In a negative sense it means wrongly to suppress something or hold it down. This is the way Paul is using it here. Thus, the newer translations of the Bible speak in Romans 1:18 of those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (nasb), “keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness” (Jerusalem Bible) or “stifle” truth (neb). Why do we do this? It is because of our wickedness, because we prefer sin to that to which the revelation of God would take us.

This leads to the matter we are going to study in the next chapter, what R. C. Sproul has called “the psychology of atheism.” It leads to an explanation of why natural revelation by itself does not work, in the sense of actually bringing us to God.

But before we turn to that topic, I need to say that if, as Paul maintains, the revelation of God in nature is fully adequate to condemn people who do not allow it to bring them to worship and serve this true God, how much more terrible and awful is the case of the vast numbers of people, particularly in our country, who have not only the natural revelation to lead them to God but also have the Bible and the proclamation of its truths in virtually every town and hamlet of our land and (by means of radio and television) at almost any hour. “Without excuse”? The people of Rome were without excuse, and they had nothing but nature. No Bible! No churches! No preachers! What about us who have everything? If we reject what God tells us, we are a thousand times more guilty.

No excuse! “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).[1]


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 137–144). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.


It may be difficult to truly define the idea of God being spirit. Let us look at some thoughts.


Pardington mentions, “There is no evidence that spirit fills any part of space, or that the Infinite Spirit is dependant on space.” (Pardington, Revelation George P. Ph.D.; “Outline Studies In Christian Doctrine”; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 84)


Bancroft mentions that “God is not only Spirit, but He is pure Spirit. He is not only not matter, but He has no necessary connection with matter.” (Taken from the book, Christian Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Second revised edition Copyright 1976 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. p 71)


The Old Testament statements contain no direct statement, but always assumes the fact. Spirit in the Old Testament may be referring to the entire trinity.


Let us look at some references to see what we can learn.


John 4:24, “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Does this maybe relate to the Old Testament texts that speak of rent hearts not rent clothes (Joel 2:12,13)? I’d say so — inward worship not outward. Idolatry is outward. He wants inward change, not outward change. This also relates to worship in our day. He wants worship within, not outward manifestations or antics of the body.


What did Christ mean when He said God is a Spirit? It describes His being and existence however it is not something that we can examine. We can experience the work of the Spirit, yet not the Spirit itself. He can be experienced only in the heart.


Acts 19:21 Paul desired to go to Jerusalem. He “purposed in the spirit”. There seems to be a commitment to the Spirits leading in this desire to go to Jerusalem from later information. He was experiencing something that was leading him toward Jerusalem. (Acts 21)


Matthew 10:20, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaketh in you.” Christ was telling them that they would experience the Lord speaking through them.


Luke 1:47, “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” This was Mary the mother of the Lord speaking. She had experienced the Lord. Something within her had touched the Lord. She had been changed because of Him. The spirit is our contact with God. We can mentally and emotionally think of and experience God, but the spirit is our actual consciousness of the creator.


Romans 15:30,


“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for Me:”


Love of the Spirit, striving in prayer, and praying together — all part of experiencing the Lord even though we do not see Him.


Romans 8:26,27 tells us that the Spirit makes intervention when we do not know how to pray. There have been times when things were coming down around me so fast that I would just sit down and tell the Lord I didn’t have any idea how to pray and that I was trusting that the Spirit would intercede for me. If I can have God praying for me I think that I can trust Him to do a really good job of praying for me.


Philippians 2:1 The Spirit of God can have fellowship with the believer. We can indeed experience the Lord.


John 4:24, “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We may worship God.


Spirit is the name given to that which is the metaphysical center of a being whether it is God or man. Metaphysical means something that can’t be perceived by the senses. Thus spirit is the name given to that which we cannot perceive by touch, sight, hearing or smell, which is the center of a being.



This is the God that we serve. He is a being that has no mass, has no visibility, has no content, thought He is everything there is in the way of worship. He is a complete being that we cannot examine. Maybe that is why salvation is by faith, why we should walk by faith, why we must have faith in Him.


Luke 24:39,


“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”


Christ drew attention to the fact that He was a physical being in this text, while elsewhere He draws attention to the fact that He is God as well.


If no one has ever seen a spirit how do we know they exist? We can experience the effects within us. We can’t see electricity, but we see the effect and can also feel the effect.


John 3:8,


“The wind bloweth where it willeth, and thou hearest the sound of it, but canst not tell from where it cometh, and where it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”


Since God is spirit and spirits can’t be seen then we need to deal with those times in the Scripture where men have seen God.


Exodus 24:10,11 mentions that some saw God. Isaiah 6:1-5 Isaiah saw the throne of the Lord. Luke 3:22 mentions the Spirit as a dove. Daniel 7:9 tells us that Daniel saw the Ancient of Days. Acts 7:56 Stephen saw Christ on the right hand of the throne.


God doesn’t have a form that is visible. He does take on forms at times for purposes of His own. These appearances are always the Lord Jesus and not the Father. The Holy Spirit manifests himself at times but usually in some form other than man. (The dove of the baptism or the tongues of flame at Pentecost.)


1 Timothy 6:16,



“Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.”


Paul shows that the Father has not been seen. The Old Testament contains many occasions when the Lord Jesus appeared in the form of man, of fire, of smoke, etc. The Holy Spirit appears in other forms as well. Paul teaches that we cannot view God in His original form. He must cloak Himself in other forms for us to see and withstand His glory.


At the times that man has seen God it has been what we have termed Theophanies. We have also mentioned anthropormorphisms. This is when Scripture pictures God with hands, eyes, ears, arms etc.


God’s appearance in other than His actual form is for two reasons. His glory would be too much for us to stand. When Moses saw God he was hidden and what Moses saw, from the terms used, may have been just what was left after the glory of God passed by. He is an infinite Being trying to reveal Himself to finite beings and the Theophanies are a good way to accomplish this.




1. God, the perfect and pure spirit, which is unhindered by the things that so easily draw our attention, is always and perfectly attuned to us and our needs. Might we ask the question, “Is God always attuned to our needs?” Might we ask the question, “Are His emotions always aimed our direction?” YES to both questions, Unless Sin Hinders It.


To answer these questions, we might consider the fact that sin hinders our fellowship with him. We must assume that His emotions, though still acting on our behalf, may not have effect, or at least full effect, if we are not walking with Him. What an encouragement to walk with Him closely.


2. When we want a perfect friend that fully understands, and one that will fully support us, why do we go looking among men to find one? We have one fully capable and perfectly qualified, IN RESIDENCE, if you will. Indeed, man cannot be the comfort that God can.


May we learn to allow God to be all that He desires to be in our life.[1]



New article: Government Revenue, Budget & Debt Simplified

* U.S. Tax revenue: $ 2,170,000,000,000.00
* Fed budget: $ 3,820,000,000,000.00
* New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000.00
* National debt: $ 16,271,000,000,000.00
* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000.00

Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it’s a household budget:

* Annual family income: $ 21,700.00
* Money the family spent: $ 38,200.00
* New debt on the credit card: $ 16,500.00
* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $ 162,710.00
* Total budget cuts so far: $ 38.50

Got It ???

Read More Here