Calvary Road Baptist Church


Roman 1.19-20


In this day in which we live, everyone is a victim, and nothing is ever anyone’s fault. However, such an approach to life interferes with a proper understanding of God’s Word. How so? If you see yourself a victim, you find it impossible to imagine yourself to be responsible for anything. God holds each sinner responsible for his sinful condition. This is because each and every human being has the means and helps necessary to come to the knowledge of God. This is not to say that Gentiles knew as much divine truth as the children of Israel had been given.[1] “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness,” Acts 14.17.

In Romans 1.14 the Apostle Paul declared that he was a debtor to all men. Because he possessed the Gospel message, he had a moral obligation to preach the Gospel. So do we. And in verse 15 he informs the recipients of his letter that he stood ready to discharge that obligation by preaching the Gospel even to those who were in Rome. So should we. He stood ready because he was not ashamed of the Gospel. Why not be ashamed? Not ashamed because the power of God unto salvation is unleashed by preaching the Gospel. Not ashamed because using Gospel preaching the righteousness of God is revealed. It is a wonderful thing that God’s righteousness is revealed by preaching the Gospel, because of what else has been revealed since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden; the wrath of God. Yes, the wrath of God has been and is being “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” In verse 18 Paul accuses Gentiles of having and suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness.[2]

Thus, the Apostle Paul has declared to his readers what is happening, what is happening when the Gospel is preached and what has been happening since Adam and Eve sinned. But now comes the time in his letter to the Romans to explain the why that lies back of the what. Why is the wrath of God being revealed? And why must the righteousness of God be revealed through Gospel preaching? In Romans 1.19-20 the Apostle Paul begins to tell his readers. I invite you to stand when you find that passage:


19    Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20    For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.


Observe three declarations that are made by Paul in Romans 1.19-20:




To be sure, Paul is referring primarily to the Gentile people here, who despite the fact that they were not dealt with as personally by God as were the Jewish people, they had at their disposal the means to know about God.

Notice the first phrase of verse 19:


“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them.”


This word manifest translates a Greek word meaning to make something clear.[3] What does this mean? It means God has made it clear to people. What has God made clear to people? The truth that is held by them in unrighteousness mentioned at the end of the previous verse. How has God made it clear to people? Some scholars think Paul here refers to man’s conscience and religious consciousness. More scholars think Paul is alluding to natural revelation, what can be seen in nature that reasonably leads observers to conclude that all of this was made by a Creator.[4]

Back up, if you would, to the words “that which may be known.” This suggests that while some things about God may be known because God has made it clear to people in some way, there is a great deal about God which may not be known. Matthew Henry rightly observed, “The being of God may be apprehended, but cannot be comprehended. We cannot by searching find him out, Job 11:7-9.” Limited beings can in limited ways understand certain things about an infinite being. Thus, praise God, there are things about God which may be known by observation and investigation. Certainly not an observation of God, and certainly not enough observation for salvation, but enough to lead us onward in our quest to glorify and enjoy Him. That said, Deuteronomy 29.29 tells us in no uncertain terms that


“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”


This being true of the Jewish nation in covenant with God and having been given the Mosaic Law; it is even more true for Gentiles which have not the Law that there are secret things about God that cannot be discovered but which must be revealed, while other things must be taken on faith. Hebrews 11.6:


“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”





The final phrase of Romans 1.19 reads,


“for God hath shewed it unto them.”


Interestingly, the two words in this verse, manifest and shewed, translate the same Greek word. What does this suggest to us? It suggests that the reason what may be known of God is clearly seen is because God made it clearly seen, for if He had not made it clearly seen it would not be seen at all.

Allow me to bring up here what Paul builds upon in the next verse, the invisibility of God. The Old Testament saints clearly understood that to look upon God’s glory was to die. God is one of such terrible majesty and glory that no one should expect to survive who has seen His glory. It was a testament to their unique relationships with God that He chose to display His glory to Abraham and Moses.[5] It is in the New Testament that clearer revelations of God’s nature are provided. Specifically, God is declared to be invisible.[6] Thus, awareness of God’s existence is the direct result of God’s intentional revelation of Himself to His Creatures, for unless God specifically chose to reveal Himself to us by means of natural revelation, by means of the human conscience, or by means of our awareness that we bear God’s image, we would not otherwise know He is.




“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”


First, observe what people know. Despite their denials, people know the invisible things of God, even his eternal power, and Godhead. And the evidence of God whereby people know has existed from the creation of the world. We grant that God is invisible, meaning that not only can He not be seen, but He also cannot be perceived using any other senses. That being true, He has nevertheless made Himself known by other means. The power and Godhead of God are invisible things, yet are clearly seen in their effects on the natural universe. God works in secret. Job said in Job 23.8-9 that he could not perceive, behold, or see God. In Ecclesiastes 11.5 Solomon admitted that the works of God cannot be known, even though He makes everything. Nevertheless, though God cannot be seen, yet He makes use of what He has created to make His power and reality known. That which exists must have a Maker. Beauty demands an Artist. An elaborate architecture demands an Architect. A watch must have a watchmaker.

Second, observe how people know it. One need not be a scientist to understand the foundational reality that every effect has a cause and that every reaction is the consequence of an initial action. It takes no genius to admit that the watch exists only because of the actions of the watchmaker. Everyone knows this. Look into the midnight sky and deny that God is. Look into a microscope to observe the life in a drop of pond water and deny that God is. Observe the development of a baby in a mother’s womb and deny that God is. Look at the magnified activity in a plant’s leaf on a summer day and then insist to me that what you marveled at was an accident, the fortuitous concurrence of atoms. One person wrote, “The workman is known by his work. The variety, multitude, order, beauty, harmony, different nature, and excellent contrivance, of the things that are made, the direction of them to certain ends, and the concurrence of all the parts to the good and beauty of the whole, do abundantly prove a Creator and his eternal power and Godhead. Thus did the light shine in the darkness. And this from the creation of the world.”

Third, conclusions people draw from what they observe. The conclusions that people ought to draw from what they observe, the conclusions that are natural, normal, and logical from what they observe, make the existence of an infinitely powerful Creator and Sustainer clear to a thinking person. Therefore, despite the denials, despite the obfuscations, despite the intellectual trickery, despite the machinations of scientists going off the reservation to engage in wild philosophical speculation, God’s eternal power, and Godhead are clearly seen.

Finally, despite what is clearly seen, despite what is obviously known, despite what is incontrovertible evidence that cannot be denied by anyone who is intellectually honest, the truths about God that He has revealed are denied. The vastness of space is evidence of God’s infinite power, of God’s intelligence, of God’s wisdom, and of God’s immensity. Gentile man has taken the evidence left by God for our study and concluded from that evidence that there are many gods and not one, that they are gods who are limited in their power and not omnipotent, that they are foolish rather than wise, and that they are small and petty rather than enormous. Thus, evidence that God placed before our eyes pointing to His greatness and glory, pointing to His power and intelligence, was distorted and perverted to justify gods made after man’s image and likeness rather than man made after God’s image and likeness, and was used to justify a multiplicity of gods to worship instead of worshiping the one true and living God.


Paul’s conclusion about unsaved Gentile mankind, stated at the beginning of his long and detailed letter? “so that they are without excuse.” Thus, Paul’s letter is not written in the form of dramatic literature that builds suspense toward and unexpected outcome. Not at all. He lets his readers know at the very beginning what inspired opinion of mankind forms the basis for everything he will write.

There is not a single person who has ever lived who had an excuse for his denial of God and the things of God, his rejection of the Gospel and the true worship and service of God. Therefore, let us prepare for the inevitable conclusion that Paul will eventually draw about the reason one is a Christian, and the other is not, one is a believer, and the other is without belief. The difference between belief and unbelief, life and death, boils down to one word: grace.


[1] Psalm 147.20

[2] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle To The Romans - NICNT, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), page 103.

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 349.

[4] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, General Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), page 442.

[5] Acts 7.2; Exodus 33.18-23

[6] Romans 1.20; Colossians 1.15; 1 Timothy 1.17; Hebrews 11.27

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