Man's Shocking Response to God (Part 2)

Romans 1:21-23

Tom Pennington  •  December 7, 2014
Audio
  • Share:

I've already decided that on the Sunday before Christmas, the 21st, and on the Sunday after Christmas, the 28th, we're going to be looking at one of the classic New Testament passages on the birth of Christ, not Luke 2, but another, and I'm very excited about it. I've already enjoyed being into it myself, and I look forward to our study of it together. But leading up to that time, the next two Sundays, that is, this Sunday and next Sunday, I want to finish the paragraph that we've been studying in Romans 1. So I invite you to turn there with me. Let me read this paragraph for you again, 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, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Paul sets out in verse 18 of chapter 1 to indict all of mankind and to show that every human being needs the gospel. He begins this indictment in chapter 1:18, and runs all the way through chapter 3:20. But the group that he takes on first, that he indicts first, is the immoral pagan. These are people who do not profess to worship the true God of the Bible, and of them, notice he says, verse 18 (and really of all humanity), "…the wrath of God is revealed [literally, is being revealed] from heaven…." In other words, he's talking here about the reality, not of eschatological wrath, not of the wrath of God that's coming in the last days, but rather, a kind of wrath being demonstrated by God right here, right now.

Now the rest of chapter 1 answers two questions about this wrath of God against immoral pagans. This entire chapter from verse 18 to the end is the indictment of the immoral pagan, and he answers two questions about this wrath. First of all: why is God's wrath being revealed? He answers this in verses 18 to 23. And secondly he answers the question: how is God's wrath being revealed today against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men? And that's in verses 24 to 32, the end of the chapter.

So, we're answering the question, "why"? Why is God's wrath being revealed against immoral pagans, against those who do not claim to worship the true God of the Bible? And we've discovered here in this paragraph there are two reasons. First of all, his willful rebellion against God's Law. In verse 18 he says, "…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…." That is the sinner's refusal to fear God, love God, and worship God. It is a refusal to build one's life centered in God, to give God glory. That is ungodliness, and this is what's required of all human beings. So it is ultimately a rebellion against what God has revealed. Also, "…unrighteousness of men…." This has to do with all lack of conformity to the law of God, both the things required of us in relationship to God, and the things required of us in relationship to each other. So this is willful rebellion against God's law. That's why God's wrath is being revealed.

Now beginning in the end of verse 18, and running down through verse 23, Paul gives us a second reason God's wrath is being revealed: it is man's willful ignorance of God's person. He not only willfully rebels against God's Law, he is willfully ignorant of God. Now at the end of verse 18, he gives us a brief summary of this. Notice how he describes man. He says they "…suppress the truth in unrighteous…." They hold down, they stifle, the truth they know about God, because they love unrighteous, because they love their sin.

That's the summary, and beginning in verse 19, and running down through verse 23, Paul gives us a detailed explanation of this willful ignorance of God's person. First of all, he makes it clear to us, as he explains this, of the fact that God has in fact revealed Himself. Verse 19: "…because that which is known about God [and he's going to tell us what that is in a moment] is evident [it's clear, it's visible, it's plain] within them; [why? because] God made it evident to them." Every single human being on the planet understands certain things about God. That's what Paul is saying. It is a fact that God has revealed Himself. We noticed in verse 20 when God revealed Himself: "For since the creation of the world…." This revelation of God has been ongoing since He made everything, since He spoke the world into existence. Verse 20 goes on to record what God has revealed about Himself: "…His invisible attributes…." There are qualities and characteristics of God that cannot be seen with the eye, that He has manifested. Specifically, "…His eternal power…." There Paul means both the fact that God is eternal, (we see that in the fact that one generation goes down to another, into the grave, and yet the world continues, sustained by the Being who made them. There is a sense of which God is eternal built into the creation.), and he sees His eternal power in what has been made. He sees His "…divine nature…", that He is God, that He is the Supreme Being. All of this, notice, has "…been clearly seen…." How has God revealed Himself? What mechanism, what means, did He use to display these invisible attributes? Well notice, verse 20 goes on to say, they've "…been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…." Man looks at the creation and he understands the truth of these invisible attributes of God. Everywhere he looks, he sees His eternal power and the reality of a divine being. What results from God's revelation in creation? Well, the end of verse 20 puts it this way: in light of all of that, "…they are without excuse." There is not one person, who has ever lived or will ever live, who will stand before God on the day of judgment and have an excuse. You say, "Well, what about the person who's never heard the gospel?" No excuse. Why? Because they have rebelled against what they knew, and so they would have clearly rebelled against more if they had known more. No excuse.

Now last time we left off in looking at how man responds to God's revelation in creation, and it is a shocking response. We see this in verses 21 to 23. Man's shocking response to God's general revelation in His creation comes in two ways. We started to examine the first way man responds to God last time. Now, let me just stop here and say that I am exercising a prerogative of a teacher. If you take notes, what I'm about to share with you is going to be slightly altered from last week, because I was struggling with the next section in terms of how to understand the flow of Paul's thought. And as it became clear to me this week, I've slightly changed the structure. It's not radically different, but you'll see it.

So, the first way that man responds to God's revelation is hard-hearted rebellion against the true God, hard-hearted rebellion against the true God. Here's where man's rejection of the true God begins. Look at verse 21, and by the way, this hard-hearted rebellion is seen, as I've noted there, in verses 21 and 22 that we'll be looking at today. Verse 21 tells us where this rebellion begins: "For even though they knew God…," that is, they knew these things about Him. They knew through the creation, His invisible attributes of eternity, of power, of divine nature. "Even though they knew God, [here's the first hard-hearted rebellion], they did not honor Him as God…." They refused. Even though they knew these things about God, they refused to honor Him as God. It was hard-hearted rebellion. The second part of their hard-hearted rebellion is "…they did not… give thanks…." This is man's rebellion. He knows. He knows there is a God, and he knows these things about God, and yet in his rebellion he refuses to acknowledge God, and he refuses to give God thanks.

Now, before Paul leaves this point, he explains the consequences of this rebellion against the true God, and this is where I had to work through in my own mind. I've come to an understanding of it based on the grammar, and I hope to give you an understanding of it as well. So I want you to notice the verbs in verses 21 to 23 that are active; that is, man is doing something. The first one is in verse 21: "…they did not honor Him as God…." The second one is also in verse 21: "…they did not… give thanks…." The next active verb is in verse 23: they "…exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God…." Do you see that? Those are all active verbs: man is doing something.

But the three verbs in the middle are all passive. You can see this in English; you can also see it even more clearly in Greek. Notice verse 21. It says, "…they became futile…." That's passive: something is happening to them. Verse 21 goes on to say, "…their… heart was darkened…." Again, this is happening to them. Verse 22: "…they became fools…." In the case of those passive verbs, man doesn't do these things, these things happen to him. So the question is, who's doing these things to him? Well, I don't think it's God, because God doesn't begin to act till verse 24. Notice verse 24: "…God gave them over…"; verse 26: "…God gave them over…"; verse 28: "…God gave them over…." There is no indication in verses 21 to 23 that God is yet actively producing these things in their heart.

So instead, these three passive verbs describe the natural consequences of man's rebellion against the true God. This is what happens when man refuses to honor God as God, and when he refuses to give Him thanks. These are the natural consequences. Number one, flawed thinking. Look at verse 21: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…." There's their rebellion. And the consequence of that rebellion is "…they became futile in their speculations…." When someone refuses to glorify the true God, he has effectively denied reality, and when you deny reality, folks, there's only one place to go. Suppressing the truth about God in general revelation, and refusing to glorify God or give Him thanks, man is left with only one thing: futile speculations. The word "futile" means "useless," and therefore "worthless". "Speculations," the Greek word, is the word from which we get the English word "dialogue". In first-century Greek, this word can refer to one of three things: it can refer to the process of thinking; it can refer to the conclusions you reach in your thinking; or thirdly, it can refer to the verbal exchange you have with others about your thinking. That's where the word "dialogue" comes in, in English. Here, I think Paul means the first two: both the process of their thinking and the results of their thinking are worthless.

Now, what's he talking about? Well in context, he's going to deal with idolatry. In verse 23, it's clear that he's thinking about idolatry. But I think in verses 21 and 22 Paul has more in mind than just idolatry. He's commenting on what happens to man's thinking when he doesn't respond rightly to God his Creator. When you refuse to acknowledge God, the ultimate foundation of all logic and reason, the process of your thinking will be worthless. It will be terribly flawed, and, therefore, the fruit of your thinking, the conclusions to which you come, will be worthless as well. He's talking here, in this "futile speculations", he's talking not about necessarily the day-to-day thoughts of what car you're going to buy or what job you're going to take, he's talking about worldviews; he's talking about philosophies. All of the worldviews, the grids through which unbelievers see the world, are without exception, futile. They lack meaning. They lack purpose. You see, when people reject God, it profoundly affects their thinking and their conclusions.

One commentator, Cranfield, puts it this way: "All their thinking suffers from the fatal flaw, the basic disconnection from reality, involved in their failure to recognize and to glorify the true God." Lloyd-Jones puts it on a more philosophical level. He says,

Instead of accepting revelation, they become philosophers. And what is a philosopher? A man who claims that he starts by being skeptical about everything, that he is an agnostic. "I'm going to have all the data," he says, "And then I'm going to apply my mind to it. I'm going to reason it out, and I'm going to work it out." [And that is exactly what such men have done. They became foolish and wicked in their reasonings, in their thoughts, in their conjectures and speculations.]

You remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:20: "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless."

You see, when you remove the epistemological foundation of any subject, you make it impossible to accurately understand that subject. Take for example mathematics. Let's say, you decided to study mathematics. Only God knows why you would want to do that, but let's just assume for a moment that you decided on that course. No, I'm grateful for those who love math. I'm just grateful not to be one of them. But if you're going to study mathematics, imagine how far you would get if you rejected the basic laws of logic. Or, think of studying matter while denying that atoms exists. Or think about understanding the human body, but laughing at the idea that the body is made up of individual cells. Or, try to understand the universe if you don't believe in the concept of space. In each case, your conclusions will be worthless, because you have denied the foundation of knowledge in each of those spheres. In the same way, if you turn from the one true God, you refuse to start with Him as the foundation of your knowledge, you may arrive in your study at some correct facts about the human body and matter and the universe, but your overarching system will be inherently flawed. The grid through which you see it all has to be, because you have denied the cornerstone of knowledge, which is God Himself. This is so important to understand, because it means of all of the greatest human minds, those who have denied God's existence have ended up creating systems and worldviews that are futile. They are worthless. They are foolish.

Now you understand, I think, that there aren't an unlimited number of worldviews out there. In fact, if you take all of the worldviews at present, current on this planet, depending on how you divide them, there are somewhere between 7 and 11 possible worldviews. That's it. In his excellent book (which I highly recommend to you), The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, James Sire lists 8 worldviews. Here are your choices. Here is the cafeteria line of worldviews you can choose from: number one, Christian theism; number two, deism; number three, naturalism; number four, nihilism; number five, existentialism; number six, eastern pantheistic monism; number seven, new age thought; and number eight, post modernism. That's it. Those are your choices.

Now let me ask you, which of those worldviews is the prevailing pagan worldview and mindset in our culture? It's naturalism. Without question, it's naturalism. It permeates everything you read, everything you watch, the music you listen to. It is everywhere. What does naturalism teach? Sire has done a very good job in his book of summarizing the basic beliefs of naturalism. I'm just going to give them to you, because I want you to listen and see how much of this you see permeating everything in our culture. Here's naturalism. Number one: matter is all that exists, and it has existed eternally. Number two: the cosmos is a closed system. In other words, there's no one outside the cosmos; there's nothing miraculous; there's no supernatural, no spirit beings; this is it; it's a closed system. Number three: human beings are not body and soul; instead, they are merely complex machines. They are simply another version of animals. Number four: death is extinction. There's nothing after death. Now, if you believe that, what does that lead you to do with your life, by and large? It teaches you that life is all about self-fulfillment: just get what you can, because this is all there is. Number five: naturalism says life and history are random. There is no overarching purpose, it's all random. Number six: morality is determined solely by the individual and the circumstances. Therefore truth is relative; there's no absolute truth; it's all determined by you. It's a closed system. There's no one on the outside who set the standard; it's up to me.

Now folks, if you've read anything in our culture, you know that that is the mindset of our time, the worldview that rules our culture. It's important for you to understand. I think sometimes Christians are a little naive. They think that we are waging these distinct wars in the culture on different levels. You know, there's the war over evolution, and there's the war over abortion, and there's the war over same-sex marriage. No, we are not waging different wars. We are instead fighting the same war on different fronts. The push for these things are all the product of one worldview: naturalism. Every single one of them goes back to the undergirding philosophy of naturalism. And that worldview of naturalism that rules our culture, and all the other worldviews that are contrary to God's revelation, Paul says, are futile speculations. They're worthless. They lead nowhere. They're a dead end street. Rebellion against the true God always leads to flawed thinking and worthless speculations.

From God's perspective as revealed in the Bible, there is only one correct worldview, and it's Christian theism. But our world is filled, in fact our lives are filled, with people who have rejected, at least in part, that worldview, and who have embraced a different mindset, a different philosophy. They have come to hold a substitute for reality. And as Christians, we must not follow their example. We must not think as the pagans around us think. Turn to Ephesians 4. Paul makes this very clear in this text. In fact, you'll note a lot of similarities, a lot of parallelism, between this text and the one in Romans 1. Ephesians 4: 17:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.

You can see the similarities, but notice what he says in verse 17. He says [that] I say, and it's not just me, the Lord says this together with me, that you should no longer walk as the pagans, specifically, in the futility of their thinking. In their futile speculations is what he's talking about. Now this is especially interesting in light of the context of Ephesians. Hold your finger there and go back to chapter 2. As you know, this is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. Ephesians 2:1: "…you were dead…." This is us before Christ, and all unbelievers. "…You were dead [because of] your trespasses and sins [and in those sins] you formerly walked [and specifically, you walked in lockstep with, in slavery to] the course of this world…," or literally, "the age of this cosmos." It's an unusual expression. The way we could translate it is this way: the spirit of the age. In other words, when you were before Christ, you were in lockstep with the thinking and value system of the world in which you lived. You were enslaved to it; but what happened to us? Verse 5: "Even when [you] were dead in [your trespasses and sins, God] made us alive…." We're new in Christ. Look at 4:1: "Therefore [live in keeping with that new person that you are] walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…." And part of that, verse 17, is stop thinking like you used to think, stop embracing the worldviews that you used to embrace, and stop thinking like the pagans around you. Instead, embrace God's revelation.

So hard-hearted rebellion, then, leads to flawed thinking. Go back to Romans 1, because there's a second consequence of man's rebellion, his refusal to glorify God, his refusal to give thanks: not only flawed thinking, but a darkened heart. Verse 21 goes on to say: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened."

Now when you see the word "heart" in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, don't think of the way we use the English word "heart". That's not it at all. In biblical terms, the heart describes the real you, the center and source of your inner life. It is the hub of man's spiritual existence. Your heart is the fountain from which all of your thoughts, your words, your deeds flow. It is where you perceive, where you reflect, where you deliberate, where you assess, where you conclude. In fact, let's put it this way: the heart is where you think. Turn to Romans chapter 10. As Paul deals with the gospel that he preaches in verse 8, he says this message that I preach is "…near you [it's] in your heart…." And specifically, verse 9, "…if you [will] believe in your heart that…." So, he's talking about facts. You have to believe facts about Jesus Christ. Your heart is where you think. But your heart is also where you experience emotions. Turn over to chapter 9:2. As he thinks about the lostness of Israel, he says, "…I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart." You experience emotions in your heart; you make decisions in your heart. Turn back to chapter 2:5. As he talks about the unrepentant religionist, he says, "…because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart…." Your heart is where you make a decision not to repent, to be stubborn against what you know. So understand, then, your heart is all of that: it's where you think, it's where you experience emotions, it's where you decide.

Now, look at how Paul describes the pagan's heart. He says first of all, "…their foolish heart…." The Greek word for foolish is literally "without understanding." In fact, the exact same Greek word is used down in verse 21. Notice how it's translated there: "without understanding." Their "without understanding" heart. Now wait a minute, verse 20 says they "understood." No, they did understand, but they did what to that understanding? They suppressed it, they refused it, so now they have a self-imposed lack of understanding. And notice how Paul continues to describe them. He says, "Their foolish heart was darkened." The sinner's self-imposed lack of understanding of the world and reality produces a darkened soul.

Folks, when someone decides to walk away from the light of God's revelation, I don't care who it is, darkness descends: over the mind, over the emotions, over the will. His mind cannot think accurately. His emotions cannot function properly. His will operates in total rebellion against God. His soul is characterized by darkness, the absence of light. What does that mean? Well in Scripture, light and darkness are always used of two different realities. Light speaks of truth and moral purity. Truth and moral purity. Therefore, darkness speaks of error and falsehood and moral impurity. I think the emphasis here in this text on thinking has primarily to do with the absence of truth and the embracing of error and falsehood. This is the darkness that fills the pagan's heart. Now the irony in this is profound. Do you see it? I mean, think about this. When the sinner rejects God's light in revelation and turns to his own way, to some other way, what does he always claim to have found: enlightenment. It's enlightenment. That's what the secularist claims. That's what the humanist claims. That's what the evolutionist claims. That's what the one involved in naturalism claims. But from God's perspective, abandoning God and His revelation never produces light, but always darkness.

Now, darkness has a defining quality, and that is it destroys, always destroys, our sense of reality. Guys, let me give you a little clue about something you can do. If your man space at home, your shop or your office or whatever it might be, is kind of cluttered and dirty, and your wife is troubled by that, just turn down or out the light, because that will hide everything. It changes the perception of reality. Paul's point is that every sinner at the very center of his person has a settled darkness. Paul makes a similar point in Ephesians 4:18, as we saw a moment ago. There he describes, not the hearts, but the minds of unbelievers as darkened. He uses a Greek word that speaks of complete darkness, not simply dimmed, but blacked out. The light is completely gone. There's a complete absence of light in the thinking process of man. By the way, that's why we can't trust human reason. As brilliant as man can be, his reasoning power has been darkened. His intellect apart from God will never lead him to a full and complete understanding of anything.

Currently, I'm in the middle of a lot of books. In fact, the stack on my end table in my bedroom is looking pretty precarious at this point. I've got to finish one or two of them before someone dies. But one of the books I'm reading is Kevin Swanson's book, Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West. Swanson documents how the leading thinkers and philosophers of Western Civilization have all been apostates, in biblical terms. They have all known and claimed the truth of Christianity, at least to some degree, and then they have abandoned that to pursue their sin. Without exception, this is true of the leading philosophers who have influenced Western Culture. I'm thinking of men like René Descartes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Jean-Paul Sartre. All of these men were apostates. They claimed some form of Christianity, but they abandoned it to pursue their sin. And eventually their rebellion against God led to darkened minds that generated worthless worldviews and philosophies. And their influence has permeated Western Civilization, and the darkness has grown deeper. It's crucial that you understand that every aspect of the unbeliever's heart has been darkened. His mind is dark, he cannot think accurately and correctly. His emotions are dark and don't function properly. His will is dark and operates in total rebellion against God's Law.

There's a third consequence of man's rebellion against the true God, and this one's surprising: self-confident foolishness, self-confident foolishness. Look at verse 22: "Professing to be wise, they became fools…." The Greek word "professing" means "to state something with confidence, to assert, to claim." And what do these people claim with great confidence: to be wise. You know the Greek word. It's "sophos", from which we get English words like "sophisticated", "philosophy", and so forth. It means "wise." In the first-century this word was often connected, as it is in English, to philosophy. You see, Paul's point is that those with darkened minds confidently claim that they are highly intelligent and have profound insight into the world and into reality. You see why Romans is so practical? Folks, this is our newspaper. This is the comments after an article on the internet. This is the article itself, as it makes these postulates and affirmations which give the pretense of human wisdom, profundity.

But notice what Paul says: in claiming to be wise, they have become "moros" is the Greek word, from which we get the word "moronic". By claiming to be intelligent and philosophically profound, having cut themselves off from God their Creator, they have made themselves out to be "moros". There's great irony in this as well, because the product of hard-hearted rebellion, of willful ignorance, of flawed thinking, of darkened minds, leads to a proud, self-confident foolishness. This is the story of our times. Proverbs 26:12 says, "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." I love the insight of Isaiah. In Isaiah 47:10, he's talking about the Babylonians. Listen to their worldview and how it crashed in on them. Isaiah 47:10: "You felt secure in your wickedness and said, 'No one sees me,' [it's a closed system] your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; for you have said in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me.'"

Turn to Jeremiah 8. Jeremiah's dealing with Judah's sin, and he makes a remarkable comment here. Jeremiah 8:8: he's dealing with, specifically, the spiritual leaders of the nation. "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us?' But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie." Here are people who attach themselves to the truth, but they take the truth and distort it so that the result is the opposite of the truth. It's a lie. Boy, does this go on today in supposed Christianity. Verse 9: "The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord…." Did you notice that? To distort the Word of God, to claim it but to distort it as the scribes were in Jeremiah's time, was ultimately and truly to reject it. And therefore, verse 9 says, "…what kind of wisdom do they have?" The answer is, none at all. None at all.

Paul makes this same point in 1 Corinthians 3. The Corinthians were enamored with first-century, Greek philosophy. They loved the wisdom of the world. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:18, "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise." The only way you'll ultimately be truly wise is to acknowledge your foolishness. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, 'He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness;' [God's not enamored with the intelligentsia of our age] and again, 'The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.'"

So even though the views they hold are irrational, they don't get it. They are utterly convinced of their own perspective. And at the very point of their greatest blindness and darkness, they boast about their intelligence. They're like the Peanuts cartoon where Lucy says, "I've never made a mistake. I thought I did once, but I was wrong." That's how they think about their view of the world.

So man's first response to general revelation is hard-hearted rebellion against the true God, and that rebellion has far-reaching consequences. It leads inexorably to flawed thinking, a darkened mind, and self-confident foolishness. The result of that is a profound darkness that permeates the soul of every pagan. And there's only one hope for that darkness. It's the light of the gospel. Paul makes that point here in Romans. We're going to see that unfold, but let me show you a condensed version.

Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:1. Paul's talking about his ministry of the gospel. He says, "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame…." In other words, Paul says listen, I don't have a secret life of shame. I'm not like the false teachers who are driven by money and sexual favors from women. I don't have a secret life of shame. And, he says, we don't walk "in craftiness." In other words, I'm not trying to manipulate you, deceive you. Nor am I adulterating the Word of God. I'm not like the scribes in Jeremiah's time who are twisting it to make it say what I want it to say, but here's what I'm doing. He says I am manifesting the truth, I'm putting the truth on display, commending the truth "…to every man's conscience in the sight of God." He says I simply take the truth and lay it out in front of man. Now have you ever asked yourself, why don't more people believe the gospel? I mean, it's amazing. Why wouldn't someone respond in a affirmation of the gospel and want what the gospel offers? Well, part of the reason. Verse 3: it's because "…our gospel is veiled [it's hidden from view] it is veiled to those who are perishing…" to the lost. How did this happen? "…in whose case the god of this world [that's Satan; the god of this world's system in which we live] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light…" And where is the light? It's in "…the gospel of the glory of Christ…."

We live in a world of darkness, but God sent His Son; He sent the Light, as we read in John 1. He sent the Light into the world in the incarnation, and the Light lived among us, and He shed that light around. He taught us the truth about everything. He became. The eternal God became man, and He lived on this planet as a perfect man. He lived exactly as God had stipulated man should live, as you should have lived. And then He suffered the justice of God on the cross, enduring the penalty in the place of all those who would ever believe, and then God raised Him from the dead. That's the light, and that's the only light that expels the darkness that's in the human soul.

So, how do you deal with this? What do you do with this light? Verse 5: you just preach it. You just share it with others: "…we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord…." You proclaim the truth. You say, " Well, but, that's not enough. Not everyone's going to respond. No one's going to respond, left to themselves, to that message." So, what happens? Look at verse 6: "For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness….'" He's taking us back here to the creation, back to the physical creation of light. You remember how God did it? "God said, 'Let there be light;' and there was light." He spoke light into existence. Verse 6 says, "For {the} God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of [Jesus] Christ." Here's how it works. You take the truth of the gospel, and like Paul you preach it. You share it with others. You lay it out there before them. You bring the light of Jesus Christ before them. And then when God is pleased, He steps into that life and into that heart, and He says, "Let there be light.", and the light turns on, and the darkness is gone. This is the only hope for the darkness.

Now go back to Romans 1, and very briefly I just want you to think with me about a couple of practical applications to what we've studied together. I was asking myself this week, why is Paul taking so much time to explain the response of the immoral pagan to God? Why is he doing that? Why was he doing it for the first-century Roman believers, and why is he doing it for us? There are a number of reasons, but let me give you three to think about.

Number one, to exalt the work of Jesus Christ and to increase our praise and adoration. Paul's always about this: he wants to exalt Christ. He says, "Believer, this is you. This is who you were until God intervened. Until He said let there be light in your soul, this was who you were. You lived in the darkness, and the darkness lived in you. This is what God saved you from. This is what Christ came to accomplish."

In this Christmas season, we celebrate that God has sent the Light into this world of darkness. Let me ask you, are you truly grateful for that? Are you really grateful? Then don't let the busyness of this season and all of the traditions crowd out a celebration of Jesus Christ. Don't walk through this season mindlessly.

Number two: I think Paul includes this detailed explanation to help us understand unbelievers around us, to be more concerned about them, and to share the gospel with them. Listen folks, the people in your life who aren't in Christ, they live in the darkness, and the darkness lives in them. And they have no hope unless someone like you and like me, unless we take the light of the gospel to them; so that if at some point God, the sovereign God, chooses, He can take that light that has been shared with them and speak into their hearts, "Let there be light."

I think there's a third reason Paul takes so much time here, and that is to show all unbelievers their true condition and drive them to Christ. I think many of the passages like this we read in the Scripture are not only for us, but I think they're for the person who isn't really in Christ, who reads and begins to understand something of the seriousness of their situation. Listen, if you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, it doesn't matter whether you are a brilliant academic, or whether you're a tribesman in some forgotten jungle somewhere, or whether you're simply an educated citizen of North Dallas. It doesn't matter. You live in the darkness, and the darkness lives in you. This is the reality. And there's only one thing you can do, and that's come to Jesus Christ. The only way out of the darkness is through Jesus Christ.

In fact, let me just share with you. If you're here this morning and you're not a follower of Christ, let me tell you something Christ Himself would say if He were here this morning, because He said it when He was here the first time. When there was a crowded celebration on the Temple Mount during one of the Jewish festivals, Jesus stood up, and in John 8:12 He said this: "…I am the Light of the world…." "…I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." That's Jesus' invitation to you this morning. He says, "I am the Light," come to Me, and you'll leave the darkness, and the darkness will leave you: "…he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." That's Jesus' invitation to you this morning. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this amazing indictment, and Lord, even though many of us grew up in Christian homes and surroundings, this still describes us so well in so many ways. Father, thank You for Your grace. Thank You that You didn't leave us like that, but that You spoke light into the darkness of our souls; You drew us to Yourself; You've made us Your own. Father, help us to live this Christmas season in true adoration of You and of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May we celebrate Him. May we celebrate the fact that the Light has stepped down into darkness, opened our eyes, made us see. And Father, I pray for the person here this morning, and I'm confident that there are some who still live in the darkness, Father, may this be the day when they respond to Jesus' gracious invitation, that the one who follows Him will not walk in the darkness but have the Light of life. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.