Are People Really Without Excuse?

A Look at Romans 1:20

By Dillon Burroughs

Romans 1:20 teaches, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." What does it mean that people are without excuse?

Paul's argument is one that begins in verses Romans 1:18-19: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them." After speaking of his boldness to share the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16), Paul notes that God's wrath is against the sins of people. Why? Those things that people know to be wrong were being committed on a regular basis. In other words, people were not sinning out of ignorance but were active participants in what Paul described as sinful behavior.

To strengthen his argument, Paul mentions God's invisible attributes. These attributes include His eternal power and divine nature, two aspects of God available to every person since the creation of the world. How were these attributes seen? Paul taught it was "in the things that have been made." In other words, the created world or created universe reveals there is a Creator and a sense of right and wrong.

Based on this information, Paul concludes that all people are without excuse, but without excuse from what? Referring to the beginning of the verse, all people are without excuse concerning God's wrath. Paul would later further teach that all have sinned and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

The good news in this passage is that the natural world (what theologians call "general revelation") gives access to all people that there is a Creator who is all-powerful and worthy of worship. The bad news is that general revelation alone is not sufficient for salvation. This is why Paul was "not ashamed of the gospel" (Romans 1:16), because it "it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Paul even included the phrase "to the Jew first and also for the Gentile" to make clear his intent to share the gospel with every person possible.

The implications of this verse are profound. First, God has made Himself known to some degree to all people. Second, every person without Christ is condemned to God's wrath. Therefore, it is essential that Christians share the gospel message with a sense of urgency to every person possible. We are to encourage one another as believers (Hebrews 10:23-25), yet one of our major reasons for continued existence in this world as Christians is to share the good news of Jesus with all who will listen.

Image credit: Inkspiks

comments powered by Disqus
Published 3-6-13