Truth For a Lie
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter in AD 56-57 from Corinth, Greece. He stayed in Corinth for three months, December, AD 56-February, AD 57, the winter months on the Mediterranean Sea. He was waiting for Spring, when the waterways would be reopened and he could sail back to Jerusalem.
Paul was writing this letter to the Christians in Rome, with the expectation that it would be distributed to all of the first century churches. Rome was the famous capitol of the ancient world.
Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome, Gentiles and Jews, all of whom had converted to Christianity. The believers were not mature believers, not having the benefit of Paul’s teachings.
The context of this letter is that it comes upon the heels of Paul’s issue with the Corinthians as expressed in Second Corinthians. The Corinthians had fallen under the spell of false teachers.
Paul did not want this to happen to the less mature believers in Rome. So, this letter is very doctrinal in its nature, along the lines of systematic theology.
Paul began this letter in the previous passage with three introductions. He introduced himself, the Gospel, and Jesus Christ, in that order.
He introduced the Gospel as that which God “promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (v.2). The Old Testament attested to the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Jewish Messiah written of in the Old Testament.
After the introductions, Paul begins the letter, as was the custom in ancient times, by offering a prayer. This prayer begins in the previous passage (vv. 8-17) and ends with this passage.
In the previous passage Paul prays for his coming visit to Rome. He prays for safe travel, the visit itself and gives us the essence of the Gospel, the good news that “the just will live by faith” (v. 17)
In this passage, Paul completes his prayer. He gives us the other side of the coin, the unjust, those who reject the Gospel, who reject Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The unjust, or non-Christians, will experience “the wrath of God (which) is revealed from heaven”, from God Himself (v. 18a). This wrath is unleashed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18b).
This wrath will come because the non-Christians know better. This wrath will come because “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (v. 19).
We have evidence of God through our conscience, our innate desire for religion, and the creation itself. “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (v. 20). Non-Christians have no excuse for rejecting God.
Even though “they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21). As these non-Christians continue to reject God, over time it will become harder for them to accept God.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools” (v. 22). These non-Christians claim to be smarter than everyone else, but in reality, they are just fools.
They “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (v. 23). These non-Christians worship idols, they worship created things, not the Creator.
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (vv. 24-25).
At some point, as non-Christians continue to reject God, He will give them what they want. He will give them over to their sinful hearts resulting in all kinds of lusts, including sexual immorality, because they have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They have worshiped and served the created things rather than the Creator.
Some people do not take responsibility for their actions. They always look to blame someone, or something, else. God has them all figured out and, in this passage, He has told us His thoughts on the subject.
We live in an age where anything goes. Some people live as if there is no God. They do exactly what they want to do when they want to do it without regard for the consequences. They try to convince us that their actions are perfectly normal. Failing that, they make excuses and blame others.
However, God’s not buying it. God made them and knows exactly what the problem is. It is a spiritual matter, not a physical matter. No one is born to sin. Sin, by its own definition, is done willingly.
Paul says here that people are without excuse. He says that 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.
These people know what they are doing is wrong; they just have no fear of God’s judgment upon them. Paul said these people exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.
God does not feel sorry for them; He holds them accountable for their actions, and His judgment will most certainly follow. Those who support them in their sin will also be held accountable by God. He does not buy their excuses, and neither should we.
Online Bible Commentary