Why the World Acts like the World
“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.” (Romans 1:18-19)
I wanted to pass on to others the gleanings of our Men’s Bible study last night, going through Romans 1, because of lessons too important for any of us to miss! Paul is about to explain the gospel in this most magnificent of theological expositions, but he begins by giving a “State of the World Address”. How did we get to this place? How do we see this state of secular affairs from God’s perspective?
Paul is consistent with Jesus (the Creator) who used the term “world” as those who were opposed to His eternal, spiritual realities, particularly in relation to the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
So Paul is explaining the condition of the world in this chapter as being due to two factors: Mankind’s failure to fear God and be grateful to Him for all we have, and God’s righteous, judicial act in “giving them over” to their sin! We must understand that it is the Bible’s position that humanity is lost in sin, both fully responsible for it due to their rejection of God, and incapable of getting out of the hole that we dug for ourselves! Paul explains why we are fully responsible for our behavior continuing in Romans 1:20, “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.”
Contrary to popular atheistic positions, evidence of God is observable and abundant! It is called God’s “General Revelation”, when the Designer has left evidence of Himself through His Design. (“Special Revelation” refers to God going above and beyond to reveal Himself, such as in Scripture, and in Christ.) We “see” Him through the intrinsic “language” He has embedded into creation: Mathematical laws of physics, complex cellular structures, and DNA. We see His care through ecosystems, solar systems, and nervous systems! We see evidence of God’s personhood through our own personalities and social systems that are in every country on earth! Human longings for meaning, order, peace, alleviation from suffering, and love: ALL point to something greater than ourselves, and something that really exists! The more I think about it, I am amazed to even contemplate that which is involved in communicating thoughts to another, by encoding it on to paper or screen, then decoding it to another person’s mind! Indeed, there is really no excuse for not praising our Creator for life, and all else we’ve been given.
And yet, Paul goes on, (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.” There is a natural degradation that takes place when we do not live out the very design in our blueprints; when we ignore the manual. We were made for glorifying God and given thanks to Him Perfection was illustrated in the relationship Adam and Eve had with God in the Garden of Eden, before the corruption. So Paul explains what corruption accomplishes: futile thinking and darkened hearts. It gets worse; it leads to increasingly shameful behavior. The objects of our worship determine how low we will go: (22) “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”
Paul then explains how God’s “general wrath” works. He is fully just and right in snuffing out our lives in a moment for what we’ve done, a “specifically-directed wrath” as seen in the global flood during the time of Noah. But what Paul describes in Romans 1 is a removal of God’s gracious sustaining Hand, which would prevent us from destroying ourselves! Left to ourselves, there is no hope for survival. In the latter half of this chapter, Paul thrice utilizes a phrase also found in the Old Testament: “God gave them over…”, (to the increase of evil) in verses 24, 26, and 28. In this short segment, Paul both describes the history of Israel, periods of time when God had not intervened with a mighty infusion of spiritual power (God the Son, & God the Holy Spirit), and also the declining condition of Rome! (Though seemingly invincible at the time, they would soon fall apart from their abandonment of normal relationships and institutions).
Does this sound familiar to us? In our “modern” day and age, we should not be surprised when a nation that has abandoned their Judeo-Christian roots and God-given institutions of government, marriage, family, and Church, would begin to crumble! God has every right to “give our society over” to her wishes, and her own destruction! Get away from the Manual, and you will soon see that we were not made to create our own definitions for sex, gender, marriage, family, and church. Before we crumble completely, like Rome, our only hope is in turning back to God in Repentance, Revival & Restoration. That means humbling ourselves before He fully humbles us. Though we deserve destruction, perhaps God will see fit, as He did in Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s time, to withhold His wrath for a future generation. Let Him hear your heartfelt prayers, both individually and corporately, as we cry out as intercessors for our nation.