Paul, in his explanation of why the power of God and a righteousness from God are essential for our salvation, has drawn our attention to the wrath of God against all human godlessness and wickedness (Romans 1:18). He continues his explanation in verses 19 to 32, where he focuses on human godlessness out of which human wickedness arises.

Paul makes some very strong, and currently very relevant, statements about the history of human godlessness and wickedness.

We suppress the truth (1:18).

In this suppression of the truth we are without excuse, because ever since God created the world his invisible qualities, his eternal power, his divine nature, have been clearly seen and understood in the things he created (1:19 – 20).

[About this deliberate denial of the truth evident in the created universe, Peter comments: ‘... they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water’ (2Peter 3:5).]

Because of this clear testimony of the created universe, we knew God; but we did not glorify him as God, nor did we thank him. Rather, our thoughts became futile, and our foolish hearts were darkened (1:21).

We thought we were wise, but we actually became fools, exchanging the glorious and ever-living God for idols made by our own hands (1:22, 23).

We exchanged the truth about God for a lie; we worshipped and served created things, rather than the One who created all things (1:25).

We did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God (1:28).

These words of Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God, could well be a comment on our world today. They were true when he wrote them. They are clearly true today. And this should not surprise us. But it does. Particularly if we belong to the older generation who can remember a time when a veneer of belief in ‘God’ hid the true inclination of human hearts. Now that veneer has been ripped away. Now people do not pretend to believe in God. Now people are very up-front and unapologetic about their atheism and their agnosticism.

How readily people have accepted the uniformitarianism promoted by Charles Lyell in the mid eighteen hundreds, which he wrote with the deliberate intention of removing ‘Moses’ (six-day creation and global flood) from how we understand geology!

How happily people have embraced as fact the various evolutionary theories of origins proposed by Charles Darwin and those who have followed him!

How quick people are to condemn anyone who affirms the absolutist and exclusive mindset of the Bible that says there is only one God and only one way, Jesus, that leads to God!

God knows what the human heart is like. And here he lays it before us in Paul’s words. God knows that people will believe anything and everything that, in their opinion, excuses them from believing in him.

In Romans 3:9 – 18 Paul quotes from Psalms 14 and 53. He says: ‘there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away ... There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

In other places Paul points to this same deliberately godless mindset:

‘... the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts’ (Ephesians 4:17 – 18).

‘For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear’ (2Timothy 4:3).

But there is a deeper cause of this ignorance of God. A cause from which it all originated: the deception of the evil one, which we, the humans, willingly embraced (Genesis 3). About this deception Paul says, ‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2Corinthians 4:4).

Only the power of God can break through this willing human ignorance of God, and reverse this fatal human rejection of God.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2019