Romans Chapter 1:20 - No Excuses

  • We need to recapture, own, and share our conviction in the righteous wrath of God.



  • There is no excuse for atheism (Godlessness) Because God reveals himself to us. Both in Eternal Power and Divine Nature.



  • The suppression of God’s clear revelation leads to futile thinking and darkened hearts. Doughnuts with no jam!



  • Futile Thinking and darkened hearts leads to Jam replacement experiments. (Wickedness)



  • Salvation is God’s response to man’s rejection of Him.- WOW.





We live in a blame culture.  Where there’s blame there’s a claim.  The one person who is never to blame is of course ME! There are always a thousand reasons why something is not my fault.





We also live in a world that claims that God does not exist.  I was talking to someone in the Church yesterday and they told me that a relative described Christianity and the Churches as being on the way out and that in two years there would be no Churches left. –They are choosing to believe such nonsense, in the face of all the evidence.





It is into this climate of denial and a  failure to take responsibility  and Godlessness that Paul speaks to the Roman Church and to us.  This bit of Paul’s letter makes grim reading and it is certainly not the stuff of popular thinking.  Paul is not attempting to be politically correct here!





Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,



Ro 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.



Ro 1:20 For 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.



Ro 1:21 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.



Ro 1:22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools



Ro 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.





Excuses are designed to avoid blame. Here are some homework excuses.





  • I lost it fighting this kid who said you weren't the best teacher in the school


  • I was mugged on the way to school and the mugger took everything I had


  • Our puppy toilet trained on it


  • Some aliens from outer space borrowed it so they could study how the human brain worked


  • I put it in a safe, but lost the combination


  • I loaned it to a friend, but he suddenly moved away


  • Our boiler stopped working and we had to burn it to stop ourselves from freezing


  • I left it in my trouser pocket and my mother put it in the washing machine


  • I didn't do it because I didn't want to add to your already heavy workload


  • My little sister ate it



God says to us through Paul’s letter No excuses-  No excuses



No excuses for wickedness and Godlessness, no excuses for allowing yourselves to become blind to the truth.



In the 21st century it is easier to imagine that a man might claim that Science and reason and post modern spirituality had misled him, that the evidence was not clear enough.

 I am in the camp that says rubbish to this that Men know in their knower that God exists and do everything to suppress that knowledge-



This is why they subsequently try and stuff some roughly God shaped object into the the gaping dyke of their being.- Like some little dutch boy trying to hold back the flood.  Now I am quite happy to allow that this has become a learned and subconscious act , but I do not accept that this removes guilt. 



Rome was no different.  The fact that superstition prevailed over reason is no more excuse than if today reason prevails over superstition – both must give way to revelation






1. The Doughnuts



There is a children’s song I learned a few years ago that illustrates Paul’s point wonderfully.



Life without Jesus is like a doughnut



Life without Jesus is like a doughnut



Like a doughnut, Like a doughnut



Life without Jesus is like a doughnut



‘Cos there’s a hole in the middle of your heart.



I like ring doughnuts but they are not complete there is a bit missing. Now in the song it speaks of the hole.  In my experience of Doughnuts the bit missing is the jam!



Different kinds of doughnuts are sometimes filled with different kinds of filling but nothing quite works like the jam.



Man is the same.



Genesis 1:26-27 In the image of god he created them.



Imago dei’.



 You look in the mirror and there is God in there somewhere.



Those who deny it are involved in jam replacement experiments.- Some of them like religion get close in style substance and texture- others are blatant replacements which do not even attempt to get close.



There is also a wonderful verse in Eccl 3:11



Ecc 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.



God has placed eternity in the hearts of men.  It is hard wired in like a word on the tip of your tongue. We know in our know-  BUT men CHOOSE to suppress this and it is this suppression of truth in themselves that causes so much difficulty.





Eternal Power-  The natural world speaks of a massive design and maintenance programme



Divine Nature- Our whole being declares that there is more to life there is eternity something beyond



To deny this reality causes what Paul calls futile thinking and darkened hearts.



2. Natural and Spiritual Revelation.



Now lets be clear What Paul speaks of here is that God reveals aspects of himself in creation and within us- what is called natural revelation.  Some philosophers and theologians attempt to deny this position but hey I watched my children born the sun set over the Victoria Falls and I know God exists.



What God does not reveal in the same way to the ungodly world is the spiritual revelation that comes following a moment of encounter with God.



The revelation of the Grace of God is another matter entirely in which prayer, evangelism, the Church and most importantly the conviction of the Holy Spirit do their work.-  Thanks be to God!



The Natural Revelation – Brings Judgement -  Men Choose



The Supernatural Revelation brings Salvation. – Jesus Saves.



3. The Wrath of God



This is a classic example of a part of the Gospel we may feel ‘ashamed of’ The Wrath of God is neither fashionable, popular nor attractive. But God says



I AM That I AM





We all need to recognise that the Wrath of God is a real and present force.  It is important to understand the wrath of God





It is NOT vengeance, it is not retribution, it is powerful judgement it is NOT Hurricanes and landslides and earthquakes.  It is not the AIDs virus on homosexuals.  God’s wrath is the clear and righteous judgement that men call down upon themselves as a result of their wickedness in denying that which cannot be denied.





The lost wandering fallen Godlessness of our age and every age before is in itself a part of God’s judgement-  He chooses not to intervene in the present affairs of men, why because he has already intervened in the most powerful and meaningful way anyone could ever intervene.  He sent His one and only son to take upon Himself the wrath that should rightfully fall upon us.






Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!





4. What is our role in this ?



Paul is preparing the Roman Christians to hear the solution of Salvation by faith to this dire condition of men.  He needs to prepare both gentile and jewish believers alike and in doing so address a cultural divide.





We must realise that we face not only a Spiritual divide (if that were not enough,





But also a cultural divide, human beings choose to suppress the truth and engage in every kind of sin.





We are in a war- daily battles for the souls of men and in each battle, we bring the weapons of our warfare fully to bear.  The enemy cannot stand against the righteous wrath of God.  Satan has already been defeated.





We need to pray, we need to be confident and not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salvation.






Some other reading around this topic.





Zondervan NIV Commentary.





19-20 The creation bears clear witness to its Maker, and the evidence is "plain" to people. Here Paul enters upon a discussion of what is usually designated natural revelation in distinction from the special revelation that comes through the Scriptures. Four characteristics are noted. (1) It is a clear testimony set before human eyes. (2) The word "understood" (GK G3783) suggests that the revelation does not stop with perception, but is expected to include reflection, the drawing of a conclusion about the Creator. (3) It is a constant testimony, maintained "since the creation of the world" (cf. Ac 14:17). (4) It is a limited testimony in that it reflects God in certain aspects only--namely, "his eternal power and divine nature." One has to look elsewhere for the disclosure of his love and grace--i.e., to Scripture and especially to God's revelation in his Son (Jn 1:14). Natural revelation is sufficient to make human beings responsible (they are left "without excuse"), but is not by itself sufficient to accomplish their salvation.





Mike Taylor on Romans



Unfortunately, the rest of this study is pretty depressing: it's two straight chapters of God's just anger. But this is the necessary backdrop against which his grace must be understood: unless we first understand God's holiness, and his anger, and the justice of his anger, then we can never fully understand how great his grace is.



This is one of the key problems we face in evangelism: most people today are simply not aware of their sinfulness; they recognise neither their need to be saved, nor even that there is anything to be saved from. We - and they - must understand the bad news of God's anger for the good news of his grace to make any sense.



From Romans 1:18 to 2:29, Paul discusses God's anger against three groups of people: firstly, against immoral, hedonistic pagan Gentiles; then against hypocritical moralisers; and finally against self-satisfied Jews who think that because they know the Law of Moses, they will win God's approval. We'll concentrate of the first of these, since it's the most relevant to contemporary society.



In all three cases, God's anger is against those who deliberately suppress their own knowledge of him. It is clear that everyone has some knowledge of him (v20) and we are responsible to God for what we do with that knowledge.



Karl Barth was an influential liberal theologian in the first half of the 20th century. His reading of the book of Romans converted him to biblical evangelicalism. On verses 18 onwards, he wrote:



Our relation to God is ungodly ... We assume that ... we are able to arrange our relation to him as we arrange our other relationships ... We dare to deck ourselves out as his companions, patrons, advisers and commissioners ... This is the ungodliness of our relation to God.



v19-20 - God is visible in nature:



  • Natural beauty (landscapes, the Grand Canyon )


  • Huge things (dinosaurs, stars, galaxies)


  • Tiny things (the cell, quantum mechanics)


All these are expressions of God's creative character, and everyone is aware of this to a greater or lesser degree. It's wired into the Human Condition. It's a part of what it is to be made in the image of God. We catch echoes of eternity in the everyday.



v21-23 - The great folly of ``science'' is to love the creation (quite rightly) but to deny its creator. For many scientists, this is as much due to peer pressure - fear of being thought ``unscientific'' - as it is to do with the individual.



Matthew Henry



That which may be known, which implies that there is a great deal which may not be known. The being of God may be apprehended, but cannot be comprehended. We cannot by searching find him out, Job 11:7-9. Finite understandings cannot perfectly know an infinite being; but, blessed be God, there is that which may be known, enough to lead us to our chief end, the glorifying and enjoying of him; and these things revealed belong to us and to our children, while secret things are not to be pried into.



Astbury Commentary on V18-19



Most people are ashamed of their anger. Some scholars think that wrath is unworthy of God, and interpret the wrath of God as some kind of impersonal law of retribution (Dodd, 21-24). Yet Paul's use of from heaven (v. 18) seems to contradict this. The wrath of God is not an irrational emotional outburst. It is his personal reaction to sin based on his holy character. Its judicial character is intimated in 13:4-5. The wrath of God is radically different from human wrath. Human anger wants its objects to receive its full blow. But God provides the way for the objects of his wrath to avoid its effects. This kind of wrath is not unworthy of God.



Astbury Commentary



The wrath of God is being revealed (v. 18). It is manifested in the terrible corruption and perversion of human life. This, however, is only the beginning. There still is the Day of Judgment awaiting the sinner in the future (2:5).



Godet’s Commentary on Romans (1812)



“so that men are without excuse.”


Godet believes that the Greek would more accurately say “that they may be without excuse.”   Implication being that God ordained it so?



And the truth, if his thought is rightly understood, has nothing so very repulsive about it: in order that, he means, if after having been thus enlightened, they should fall into error as to God's existence and character, they may be without excuse. The first aim of the Creator was to make Himself known to His creature. But if, through his own fault, man came to turn away from this light, he should not be able to accuse God of the darkness into which he had plunged himself. One might translate somewhat coarsely: that in case of going astray, they might not be able to plead ignorance as a pretext. In these circumstances there is nothing to prevent the in order that from preserving its natural meaning.







Tim Blake, 09/10/2005