Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s summer Bible study series, and tonight’s study will be study #40 of Romans 1, and we will pick up where we left off last year. I will read Romans 1:19-23:
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
I will stop reading there. Now we are actually going to pick up our study in verse 21. I believe our study last summer concluded with verse 20, where we discussed that Scripture in Romans 1:20:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are :
And to be “without excuse” is a translation of a Greek word that means “no defense.” There is no legal defense, Biblically, because the Bible is the Law book of God. It is the Supreme Law that is in existence. There is no argument or defense for the sinner to say there is no God, or to believe there is no God, or even to doubt that there is a God. There is no excuse for the atheist or agnostic, and that is really the point God is making.
Then in the verse we are going to pick up with tonight, it says in Romans 1:21:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful…
We are going to focus on this part of the verse at this time. It is a continuation of the thought from verse 20, and it actually relates back to what we read in verse 19. Our current verse starts with, “Because that, when they knew God,” and our first question is, “When did mankind know God?” Yes – it is true that man knew God in a right way when he was created in the Garden of Eden before man sinned. But the context is indicating that it is not referring to that point in time. It says, “they glorified him not as God,” and prior to the fall, they did glorify God as God before they disobeyed and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So it must be something else, and what is in view is what is being discussed in the earlier verses, where it says, in Romans 1:19:
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
That which may be known of God is “manifest.” It is revealed. It is shown forth in them. And we spent a good deal of time on this.
And I would recommend that if anyone is listening to this series in the book of Romans for the first time, go back and review them. You can find the studies we did last summer. I believe there were 39 of them, and they are on our website at ebiblefellowship.org. You can click on the studies and see some of the studies listed. Click on my name, and it will show the various study series I have done. Select Romans, and you should see all the prior studies. You can just go back and listen to the last few, or listen to the whole thing, whatever you want, but it will help to catch you up. We spent a good deal of time and went into some detail showing how God has made Himself known to the unsaved people of the world. We know God has made Himself known to His people and even to those that identified themselves as His people, like Old Testament Israel and the New Testament churches and congregations. They were entrusted with the Word of God, and the Word of God is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is the revelation of God, and that means it reveals Him, making Him known. So, yes, of course the churches knew God and Israel knew God, to varying degrees.
But, here, God is speaking of man in general, and most people were not in the churches, but they have also known God through the Law that was written upon their hearts. We read in Romans 2:14-15:
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
So the statement is made, “the word of the law written in their hearts,” and we have talked about this. We went into detail last year, and on other occasions we have discussed that it has been shown that there have been tribes of people that have lived far removed from contact with civilization or any kind of Bible influence. They have never heard the Bible. Their ancestors never heard the Bible. These people have been found, and as they are studied, what becomes evident is that they have a system of law that the tribe lives by. It is very interesting that these tribes will set up laws concerning taking another man’s wife (adultery), stealing, or murdering. They include some of the basic laws we find in the Ten Commandments, which are laws that practically every society operates under as basic moral principles. We have to ask the question, “Why is that? How did that happen?” They had no Christian influence or Jewish influence. They did not have any part of the Word of God. They were out in the Pacific Ocean somewhere. They could have been cannibals, but even cannibals had certain laws that were very similar to the laws we find written in the Bible, the Law of God.
The answer is that it is because God wrote His Law upon the hearts of man, and every human being is someone God wrote His Law upon. And it is that Law, along with the Spirit of God, that constrains sin in man, and God has done that over the course of human history, until recently. Actually, God is still restraining some sin, but less and less, because He has lifted His hand of restraint, which has basically allowed the sinner to have his fill of his own sin, which is the wrath of God and the judgment of God. We are all becoming very much familiar in these days after the Tribulation that it is not a pleasant thing to see men cast off the Law of God and try to substitute their own law. The man, the creature, just does not measure up to the Creator. Man needs laws placed upon him. In other words, man is not the law giver. God is the Law giver. The Epistle of James says there is one law giver. There is one God (who reveals Himself as three Persons) and one Law giver, and God is outstanding and excellent and perfect in giving Law, stipulating commandments that are good, beneficial and a blessing to use. They bring peace and joy and happiness. They bring the highest bliss possible to mankind if we follow the Law of God.
But, of course, all through history, man has always cast off and usurped God’s Law, and they thought they knew better than the Laws that God gave, and we see that, especially, in institutions like Israel and the churches that were the outward representation of God’s kingdom of earth. And, again, that was because they were given the Word of God. We are told that Israel was the caretaker of the Oracles, the Word that God had spoken. This is where we see much casting away, perverting, distorting, and twisting of God’s Law, with man substituting his wisdom and what he thinks is best, and it always results in disaster. It always destroys when men try to enact their own law, their own doctrines, and their own teachings, and then cause others to follow them. It always ends in disaster because there is only one Law giver, one God, and one Creator, and man is not that God and not that Law giver. We do not have the ability. We are not equipped to do it. We do not have the wisdom, the intelligence, or anything else that is required to make good laws, so we are seeing the catastrophes that are taking place today as the world is at the time of the end.
First, it is God’s action because it is Judgment Day. Man could not do this unless God was the “first mover.” God the Holy Spirit was operating according to the will of God upon the hearts of men, even though man has always been “desperately wicked” since their fall in the Garden of Eden. And, yet, man managed to live somewhat decent, moral lives, comparatively speaking, and societies in many nations had basically good behavior. Of course, every now and then there would be “break outs,” which is always a reminder when there is some terrible war and some evil man murders millions. And that is a reminder of the Bible’s truth (about man), but God kept things in check, for the most part, in towns and cities and nations, and the world benefited and reaped the blessings of God acting upon them as the Holy Spirit was instrumental in their lives to hold back various sins. We can look back at past generations, and they were blessed in that regard.
But now we are at the time of the end, and because God has lifted His hand of restraint, people are doing what comes naturally to their wicked hearts, and what comes naturally is to flee from the Law of God, and to go away from the light, as the Law is light. And they go to their own rebellious ideas and erect their own commandments and statutes, and that is why we read in Romans 1 that God would give man up, and then we read of all the horrible sins listed, and there seems to be a “feature” sin that God has set up as a “sign post” or signal (to all who have eyes to see) of the end time, and that we will see this sin come to the forefront and the world running after it, and that is the sin of homosexuality. In practically all nations throughout history, this sin had been “in the closet,” and it was a shameful thing, and people did not want anyone to know about. It was spoken of in whispers, and it was certainly not brought to the public eye in any way. If there were some public official, entertainer or ball player, and there were reports that he might be “homosexual,” that person would deny it, or that person’s career would be ruined. It is odd because there seemed to be no other sin like that particular sin in that way, although all sin is evil and wicked. All sin is transgression of the Law of God and brings down the wrath of God. But why was this sin so separated to stand out in the way that it did over the course of human history? And I think the answer is that God selected it to highlight it as key information for the time when everything turns upside down: “When the world rejoices over this sin, you will know that I have given man up, and you will also know that it is Judgment Day.” It is the time of the world’s judgment.
But we are kind of jumping ahead. We do not want to go that far ahead, as we are still in verse 21, but I just mentioned that because in Romans 2 God says that He wrote His Law upon the hearts of men. And, therefore, man “knew” Him in that sense.
Then there is also the testimony of the heavens, as we read in Psalm 19, “declare the glory of God.” Let us turn to Psalm 19:1-2:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
The word “speech” relates to the Word of God. The heavens (the creation) are testifying and “speaking” to all below that live on the earth and have knowledge of its existence that there is a God. God may be known by the Law that He personally wrote on each individual’s heart and by the testimony of the entire creation. You know, I guess the grandest and most glorious part of that creation are the lights that are in the celestial heavens above, where we see the sun, moon and stars as their lights shine back to us. It is all revealing that there is a God, which means there is a Creator. You and I are not “free agents.” There is that term used in sports where someone is no longer under contract, and now they can go where they want and do what they please. They are their own representatives. They are free agents. But, no, we are not free agents from God. What man has done is open rebellion against God. God owns us. He created us, and He has bought certain ones with the price of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has bought the churches and congregations. Actually, He has bought the whole world, according to the parable that Christ spoke. When a “man” found a treasure in a field, he went and bought the field in order to own the treasure, and the field is the world. So God has purchased the entire world. Jesus purchased it at the foundation of the world. It is God’s, and all people are obligated and responsible to serve God our Creator and owner. We are to do service to Him, which means we are to obey His Word, or keep His commandments.
Yet, here, in Romans 1:21, it says, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God,” and that is a fact, and we see it everywhere we look. Man has the testimony of the Law on his heart and the heavens above and all creation and, yet, despite that testimony, he does not glorify God as God. He does not bow the knee. He does not do what is his duty to do and what he should do. It would be proper and right and good and just, and it would be a thing that a creature should be obligated to do to His Creator, and that is to serve Him. And in serving Him, He would be glorifying Him, but he does not do it.
First, let us look at this word “glorified.” Let us go to Luke 5:18-26:
And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, God. And they were all amazed, and they God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
In this true historical account, we find that the Lord Jesus cured a man with palsy. His friends let the man down on a couch through the tiling on a roof, and when Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” You know, when someone has a physical disability, and you are in ill health, I am sure it was a little disappointing to have your sins forgiven. That was not the reason why the men let him down to Jesus. This was a man with the palsy. So the scribes and pharisees picked up on what Jesus said, and they said, “Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” They knew the people wanted to see a miracle, and just to say that someone’s sins are forgiven, they could not “see” that. Sins caused the death of the soul, and to have one’s sins forgiven is all a spiritual matter. To have one’s sins forgiven and the soul cleansed and made new, there is no “drama” or excitement in that. So I am sure the Pharisees thought it was a good point for them – He is forgiving sins, so He is trying to act like God because only God can forgive sin. And they were right that only God can forgive sin, but they were wrong in their application because they were ignorant that Jesus is God in the flesh and, therefore, had the full capability to forgive sins. So it says in Luke 5:22-25:
But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them…
You see, the Lord actually did the “lesser” thing in healing the man physically. It is far more tremendous that He forgave his sins, but in order to show He had the power to forgive sins, He healed him in his physical body. And that also helps us to understand that all the healings Jesus performed were all types and figures pointing to the forgiveness of sins.