Part 1 of series: creation reveals the Creator, so says Romans 1.
July-August 2016 – God speaks. The Bible is clear on this point. From the very first “Then God said” in Genesis 1, to the final promise of Christ’s return in Revelation 22, God is speaking.
In Hebrews 1:1-2, the writer says, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.”
Jesus Christ reveals God the Father to mankind, and the church makes this revelation plain through the preaching of the gospel. It is this gospel – and the entirety of the divine revelation contained in Scripture – that leads people to salvation.
God also speaks through nature, however, and although this voice is not the gospel it still reveals the Creator in ways that are meant to help mankind order its life here on earth.
There is perhaps no clearer statement of this truth in the Bible than the one penned by the apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-21. He says:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
In this passage, Paul lays out a four-part argument:
1. God reveals Himself in nature.
Romans 1 says that creation (“what has been made”) reveals “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature.” That chapter also instructs men and women about how they should live as beings that bear the divine image.
The Bible contains countless examples of God speaking through nature. Sometimes it is in the form of a metaphor or simile, as in Psalm 1. In that chapter, the righteous man is portrayed as one who delights himself in the Lord and meditates upon the word of God. He will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2-3).
On other occasions, we are commanded to observe nature itself – how it behaves – and to emulate it. “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). Since God is the One who created ants to behave in this manner, observing their activities can instruct us.
Sometimes even the natural behavior of human beings reveals aspects of God’s nature, as in the love of a mother for her children. “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).
Like an artist who discloses his heart through the work he fashions, God has manifested certain aspects of His nature through creation. It reveals the Artist of all artists.
2. God’s revelation in nature can be understood.
Paul says these truths about God can be “clearly seen” and “understood through what has been made.” It is “made evident to them” (Romans 1:20) – that is, the revelation of God is clear and unmistakable.
However, this revelation is not simply something that is external to human beings, for Paul says these truths are “evident within them.” There is an internal recognition of God’s existence.
This cognizance even extends to morality. For example, in Romans 2:14-15, Paul speaks of Gentiles (non-Jews) who do not have the Law of God but nevertheless “do instinctively the things of the Law … in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts.”
3. Men and women repress this testimony.
Of course, not everyone who recognizes this “natural” sense of right and wrong heeds it. In Romans 1:18-32, after Paul discusses how men and women suppress the knowledge of God, he proceeds to list the sinful things they do as a result. He concludes the chapter by stating that sinners know they are doing wrong: “although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
When they understand God’s voice in nature, Paul says most people “suppress the truth.” In fact, this entire passage, right through the end of Romans 1:32, presents a series of dark choices made by people who see and understand the truth about God yet willfully reject it.
Why did they reject the truth seen in nature? Paul says they suppressed it “in unrighteousness.” Truth convicts the conscience of sin, and conviction is painful. Rather than repent, however, people find the easiest cure for the pain of conviction is to suppress what caused it in the first place – in this case, the testimony of nature.
This tendency of people to reject what nature reveals about God runs deep in humanity, for Jesus taught that even when He came to testify about God in undeniable clarity, men and women turned away:
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
Again we see the pattern: People loved their sin and did not want it exposed to the Light. Therefore they rejected the truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ and preferred to hide in the darkness where, in their minds at least, the Light could not penetrate.
4. The clarity of God’s voice in nature condemns man’s rebellion.
Romans 1 says the wrath of God comes, and it is poured out against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” because they are “without excuse.”
It must be stressed again that men and women cannot be saved by God’s voice in nature – they can only be saved through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14). However, Paul makes clear that mankind’s rebellion against the testimony of nature is sufficient grounds for their damnation.
In fact, Romans 1:18 says that the wrath of God is not only of an eternal nature, it is temporal too. It is revealed – now, in this age and not only in the age to come.
This passage, then, is ominous news for our America. What the Supreme Court has decided regarding the nature of marriage, for example, demonstrates the veracity of Paul’s teaching. It is terrifying to see national leaders embrace an ideology that is clearly suppressing the truth.
Our Founding Fathers also understood that creation revealed the will of God, both in regard to morality and the concept of human rights. Not only are our current leaders turning their backs on God, but they are also overthrowing the wisdom of those who laid the foundations upon which our Republic exists.
It might well be that God’s judgment will take the form of the forfeiture of liberty. That would be enough to make our founders – and the apostle Paul – weep.
All references are from the New American Standard Bible.