28 August, 2016

Romans 1:19-20—“… that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them …”

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 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 (Rom. 1:19-20).


In creation, God reveals “His eternal power and Godhead” and writes “the work of the law” in the hearts of all men (cf. Rom. 2:14-15), so that the consciences of all men bear witness to the truth. Thus all men possess the knowledge of God and of God’s law. This knowledge of God and of His law is graciously given. Without such revelation, those outside the preaching of the gospel would not even know God, nor would they possess any knowledge of His law. They would be totally ignorant of God and of His will. They would live like beasts without any consciousness of God or His holy will. But God graciously gives them, through creation, such a knowledge that they still may know Him and what He has willed for them.
This knowledge of God, though not saving knowledge in Jesus Christ, is the means God uses to restrain sin in them. Knowing something of God, they retain some knowledge of the truth. Knowing the law of God, they retain some regard for virtue and good order in societyas the Canons of Dort express it in 3–4.4. And this knowledge which they possess is God’s grace to them. It is grace for different reasons. 1) It is grace because it is an act of grace that such knowledge is given at all. 2) It is grace because this knowledge, though not saving knowledge, gives them a possession which is a good gift of God. 3) It is grace, because, by means of this knowledge, they are restrained in their sin, and are, in fact, enabled to do some good. Hence, general revelation is grace.


Prof. Herman C. Hanko


[Source: Another Look at Common Grace (2019 edition), p. 150]

God reveals all His power and Godhead to them “so that they may be without excuse.” In the Greek, this appears as a purpose clause. It is a definition of God’s purpose in making Himself known to all men. Very clearly this means that God has His own sovereign purpose in making Himself known. In the judgment day, no one in all the world will be able to say that the reason why he did not worship and serve God was because he was ignorant of Him. God will tell him: “You knew. You knew Me. I told you of Myself. You have no excuse. When I now send you to everlasting hell, I do so justly.” And every wicked man will have to admit, before the great white throne of Christ, that that is indeed true.


[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), p. 183]

Romans 1 speaks of the fact that God does make Himself known through creation, not to show His love and grace to all men, but to reveal His wrath to them and to leave them without excuse (Rom. 1:18-20).  The clause, “so that they are without excuse,” is a purpose clause and defines the purpose of God in making known the truth concerning Himself through the things that are made.
There is obviously no grace involved if God’s sole purpose in making Himself known to the wicked is to leave wicked men without excuse. In the judgment day, when Christ sentences the heathen to hell, Christ will do this in complete justice. For they changed the glory of the invisible God into an image make like unto the corruptible creature. They will never be able to say, as an excuse for their sin, “We did not know that we were called to worship God,” or, “We did not know there was a God who demanded that we serve Him. Our ignorance is our excuse.” If such a plea were correct, Christ would indeed do injustice to them in sending them to hell. But such is not the case.
Further, there is here no common grace because God punishes the suppression of the knowledge of Him, which He gives with the further sin of homosexuality. It is impossible to find any grace in that.



Prof. David J. Engelsma

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 68, no. 21 (September 15, 1992), p. 466]

Verse 18 [with which the passage begins] expressly attributes the revelation of God to the unregenerated heathen in creation, not to a common grace of God but to His common wrath: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven …”  The immediate and exclusive reaction of the heathen (whether in the jungle of Africa or in the jungle of the University of Chicago) to this knowledge of God as regards His eternal power and Godhead is that they “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18); change “the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image …” (v. 23); and change “the truth of God into a lie” (v. 25), not liking “to retain God in their knowledge” (v. 28). The sole purpose of God with this manifestation of Himself is “that they are without excuse” (v. 20).

In this general revelation is no grace of God but only wrath burning from heaven. Its effect upon the individual and society is not good, but gross evil—the evil of their perversion of the truth of God and the evil of God’s avenging Himself by giving them up to ethical perversions.  The purpose behind it is not divine favor, but awful divine justice: “in order that they be without excuse.”

In all of the dreadful passage, Romans 1:18-32, there is no “grace” of God, only wrath; no “blessing,” only curse; no “goodness” of men, only evil.  He who runs may read.  This is why the apostle is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (vv. 16-17) and is ready to preach it also to the Gentiles (v. 15). Grace, blessing, life, and goodness come only through the gospel.



More to come! (DV)

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