“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. 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. 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. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1: 18-23 NIV).
A Law Unto Themselves
In the very act of wickedness, we are suppressing the moral authority that the existence of God demands of us, according to Paul. We may not be aware of it always, but it is still true. At least in terms of our relationship with God. That is a horrible thought, isn’t it? That we are so dulled in our thinking that we aren’t even aware of the effect of our actions on ourselves or our future? It reminds me of addiction behavior. People are so addicted to certain behavior and find it so enticing that they give no thought to the future.
In Romans 2:14, Paul has a little side thought that is worth bringing up right now. He says, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”
What an interesting passage! So, even if a godless person does not know God or anything about God’s law in the OT, he is still a law unto himself. He still has a conscience and, sometimes at least, that conscience will reflect some of the law of God in some instances. Certainly a conscience is influenced by the society and the parents you grew up with and, to a degree, the education you received. But there is still some sort of witness of what is right and what is wrong in every society. Perhaps there is no such thing as a universal moral code in all of the details, but the general idea of what is love, what is good and what is bad is mostly there.
But I think this passage goes deeper than that. I think that what Paul is saying is that it isn’t only about individual, specific laws that a person breaks but rather about the whole concept of law in a person’s life. Let’s call it INTEGRITY. When your actions match your words, you have integrity. When you live out what you believe to be right and good, you have integrity. What Paul is saying is that the human soul is always in rebellion against any outward authority that tries to be limits on it. Any moral code is a limit to our will. It says do this and don’t do that whether or not we like it. And that is exactly the problem with the human condition.
We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it even if it isn’t good for us or the people around us. That is the truth. Sometimes we can control that impulse but sometimes we can’t. And the very fact that nobody, not even one person, can claim to have his integrity intact is a silent but powerful witness to the fact that we are all guilty of breaking our own laws, our own moral code, much less the moral code of God.
The problem is that we are godless and we are wicked and that one flows from the other and that everyone on earth suppresses the truth that we are lawbreakers from the getgo. That we do not love, care for or respect the other people around us and that that is the heart of the problem. This affects those who know about God, the Bible and Jesus Christ as well as those who do not. Our natures as human beings have been affected. We are broken. We are not whole.
This is the message of the gospel. We have a choice to believe it or not. Are we broken? Or is this world normal the way it is? Is each person valuable? Or are we all dust in the wind? Is our wickedness really just a lack of love, care and respect for the other taking on a multitude of forms, or do we only consider extreme acts of violence or genecide to be acts of wickedness? Will we agree with Paul (and God) or will we insist on our view of the world? Which worldview best fits the facts as we experience them each day? These are the questions that the gospel makes us ask. Paul has answers for us if we care to listen.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, I don’t want to be a godless person who leaves a wake of dead bodies and broken relationships behind me. I want to be whole. Your view of the world seems to fit the facts much better than mine. I believe your truth and I will not suppress it any longer with my rebellion and wickedness. I know that my relationship with you is the first thing that must be fixed. Thank you for your solution in Jesus Christ. In your name I pray. Amen.