No Excuse - Romans 1:19-23

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 (Romans 1:19-23).

 

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul is writing to the church in Rome in order to present his most profound case for the gospel. This is his magnum opus, his most extraordinary treatise for what the gospel is. In this theological argument, Paul begins with every person’s need for the gospel, which is, namely, the condemnation by God of the entire sinful human race. The apostle starts here because the good news of the gospel is never good news until you first know the bad news. So, he starts with the bad news, which establishes the necessity for the gospel.

 

Paul commences his presentation with the wrath of God, because the entire human race is under His fierce anger. Therefore, the entire human race desperately needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone that you and I meet today as we go to our places of business, everyone with whom you rub shoulders during the day, is in dire need of this gospel, because apart from it, they are under the wrath of Almighty God.

 

What is the wrath of God? The word wrath (orge) refers to a settled, determined indignation against sinful mankind. It is His holy vengeance that reacts in judgment against all that is unholy. It is His righteous indignation and fierce anger against all that does not conform to His perfect character. In the book of Romans, Paul pulls no punches, but repeatedly addresses this aspect of God’s perfect character (1:18; 2:5,8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19).

 

This is where Paul begins his argument for the gospel. In verse 18, he wrote, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." That is the present wrath of God that is presently being revealed against all unrighteousness, wherever it is on the earth. Apart from the gospel, all mankind is under divine condemnation.

 

This declaration of sinful mankind’s standing under condemnation is very graphic and grim. Paul certainly does not tell us what we want to hear, but rather what we need to hear. The Bible does not sugar coat the message, but tells it in a straightforward fashion. There is no fine print hidden at the end of the Bible. This truth is made known in large print at the beginning. I would remind you, this teaching is placed at the very beginning of the book of Romans. Paul does not hold back this news until the end because it is so unpalatable. Rather, he front-loads the subject of divine wrath at the very outset of the book of Romans. This mention of divine anger against sin is very direct, emphatic, and even abrupt. The apostle makes no apologies. There is no attempt to tone down this reality that threatens all who are without the gospel. This is the sheer, unvarnished truth from God coming through the pen of the apostle Paul.

 

To summarize, whether a person has heard the name of Christ or not, the entire human race is found guilty before God and is under His eternal condemnation. The human race has been weighed in the balances of divine justice and are found wanting. There is no excuse that any sinner can render to God to escape the judgment before Him. On the last day, Paul says that every mouth will be closed before God (Romans 3:19). No guilty sinner will be able to open his mouth to render a counter-argument against God.

 

As we come to our verses for this study, Paul establishes that God has made Himself known to every man (verses 19-20). However, every person has rejected this knowledge of God (verses 21-22) and replaced it with idolatrous thoughts of another god of their own making (1:23).

 

I. The Revelation of God (1:19)

 

Paul writes, "because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them" (verse 19). In this passage, Paul is describing God’s revelation of Himself to all people. This is what theologians call general revelation. To be clear, there are two different kinds of revelation by which God has made Himself known to man. These two categories are general revelation and special revelation. We have to keep those two categories distinct. Let us consider each.

 

Special Revelation

The special revelation is what we have in His written word. This revelation is often referred to as saving revelation because it is absolutely necessary for someone to receive in order to be converted to faith in Jesus Christ. Special revelation is a fuller disclosure that God makes of Himself to mankind that unveils the truth about the way to know Him. This saving revelation is found exclusively in the written word, which alone tells us about the living Word, Lord Jesus Christ. What we know of the person of Christ and the plan of salvation is found in the written word of God.

 

Paul will tell us later in Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." No one can be saved without the gospel that is found in special revelation. That is why we preach the gospel to the world. That is why we must send missionaries. That is why we must go to the ends of the earth to testify of the Lord Jesus Christ to people who have never heard of Him. No one can be saved merely by general revelation. They can only come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by the special revelation found in the Bible.

 

General Revelation

On the other hand, the general revelation is the self-disclosure of God in a general, non-saving way. It is called general because this knowledge about God is made known to the entire human race. There is no one on planet earth, on any continent, on any island, who has not received general revelation about God. General revelation reveals the existence of God and makes known His attributes. But it does not reveal the way to know God. This knowledge of God is sufficient to condemn, but it is not sufficient to save.

 

As Paul is speaking in verse 19, he is referring to general revelation. He is addressing what is generally revealed by God, about Himself, to all men. When Paul writes in verse 19, "that which is known about God," he is referring to the truth about His existence and attributes. When he explains that this knowledge "is evident," he means that this truth about God is clearly seen. It is obvious to all people. This divine self-disclosure is out in the open. The fact of God’s existence is not hidden from the human race. No matter where a person is on planet earth, the reality of the person of the person of God is glaringly obvious to all.

 

At the end of verse 19, Paul further explains, "for God made it evident to them." This is an important statement, because no man has ever found God on his own. God must take the initiative to reveal Himself to man. God must make the truth about Himself evident. If God is to be known, He must act first and disclose Himself to the human race.

 

No matter where a person is on planet earth, God is speaking to them. It is the very nature of God to be revealing Himself to mankind. Francis Schaeffer wrote a book many years ago entitled God is There and He is Not Silent. Schaeffer argues this very point, that God is a speaking God, who is always revealing Himself throughout the whole earth.

 

II. The Reality of God (1:20)

 

In verse 20, Paul enlarges upon what he has said when he writes, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen." This says that God has revealed Himself to man from the beginning of time. This divine self-disclosure started long before New Testament times. This started before the birth of the nation of Israel. This started before the Tower of Babel or the flood. This general revelation began at the creation of the world.

 

God is Omnipotent

The apostle explains that creation itself reveals "His invisible attributes." This means the character qualities that pertain to the divine nature of God. Paul will specifically enumerate one of these divine attributes when he next mentions, "His eternal power." Anyone can know about God’s eternal power by looking at creation. Anyone can observe creation and logically surmise that it was made by a Creator who is powerful beyond human comprehension. A person would have to be intellectually dishonest to deny the reality of the power of this Creator. Such a person would have to create an illogical explanation for the origin of the universe. Creation implies and even demands the reality of a Creator.  

 

You can look at creation and conclude how powerful the Creator is. You know that He must be very powerful to have filled the vast oceans, heaped up the towering mountains, laid the foundation for the continental masses, and hung the sun, the moon, and the planets in outer space. This Creator must be awesome in His power beyond our greatest imagination. His power far exceeds any power that human beings can conceive.

 

God is Eternal

General revelation also communicates God’s eternality, because Paul speaks of God’s “eternal power,” the emphasis here is upon eternal. The Creator must have preceded creation. There had to have been an initial first cause from which everything else is the subsequent effect. God Himself is this sole first cause for all that exists. If there was ever a time when there was no God, then there could never be anything. The fact that there is a creation demands logically, philosophically, and biblically the conclusion that there was a first cause that created everything ex nihilo, out of nothing. God is the only logical explanation for the creation of the universe. No scientific reaction of gases or chemicals could have created everything out of nothing. What would be the origin of those elements? There had to be an outside force who created.

 

God is All-Wise

Creation reveals that God is stunningly brilliant and all-wise. He is able to create with a perfection in His design that reveals His own perfection. Think of how the earth is tilted on its axis, spinning at the perfect rate of speed in 24-hour rotations. Think of the exact perfection in the distance of the earth from the sun. If the earth were any closer to the sun, it would burn up. If this planet was any further away, it would freeze. As the earth spins, it is perfectly exposed to the sun so that there can be the growth of plant life.

 

Think of the rivers flowing into the ocean, the evaporation of water into clouds, the moving of those clouds by the wind over the landmass, the rain that ensues, the dropping of the water back onto the landmass, the way that it runs off into streams, and the streams into the rivers, and the rivers back into the ocean. This is the brilliant design of God. As you look at creation, you see the sheer genius of the Creator.

 

My father was a professor in medical school for several decades. He once told me that he would be a Christian if the only proof of God he had was the human eye. He explained to me that the precision, the detail, and the expert craftsmanship of the human eye is beyond any explanation, except that there was a brilliant Designer who created it. And that is just one small part of our human body.

 

“Being Understood Through What Has Been Made”

We see the faithfulness of God in creation through the rotation of the seasons year after year. We see His faithfulness through the harvest every year, through God providing food for us day after day, year after year, as we live upon the earth. We see the power, wrath, and anger of God as we look at the hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis. We see something of the peace of God in the calm after the storm. God has made Himself known to every single person through what He has made and controls. To believe that all that exists merely happened by sheer chance, or that everything has been created by itself, is absolutely non-sense.

 

Paul adds that God’s being is “clearly seen" in creation. That is to say, His existence is not dimly revealed, nor faintly observed in creation. Rather, it is plainly witnessed in broad daylight. Paul contends that the truth of God’s existence and character is "understood through what has been made." This general revelation of the being and attributes of God, Paul says, has been made known to such an extent that every person is "without excuse." There is no person who will be able to stand before God on the last day and say that He did not reveal to them that He existed. By this, the entire world is rendered accountable to God.

 

IiI. The Rejection of God (1:21-22)

 

But tragically, men have rejected this general revelation from God. The world is not gladly receiving this truth about God and saying, "Give us more knowledge about God." Instead, the very opposite is occurring. Though God has revealed Himself, man has chosen to turn away from this truth and totally reject it. This refusal underscores the total depravity of the human heart. “There is none who understands, none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:11).

 

In verse 21, Paul says, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks." This does not mean they knew God personally in a saving relationship. Rather, it simply means that they knew about God. What they knew about God is the general revelation of Himself that is mentioned in verse 19. Paul says that even when they knew about God, “they did not honor Him as God.” That is, they did not give Him the glory He rightly deserves. They did not bow down before Him and call upon Him. They did not humble themselves beneath this God and seek to know Him.

 

Paul adds, neither did they “give thanks.” That is, they did not acknowledge God as the source of all good in their lives. They did not give thanks to Him for all that He had provided for them. They did not give thanks for the food they eat, nor for the rain they receive, nor for the breath they take. They did not give thanks for these many provisions that God gave them. And they certainly did not give thanks for the self-revelation that God had given them.

 

“Futile in their Speculations”

When a person rejects the truth about God, it puts him in a very dangerous place. We see the result of their rejection of God as Paul continues in verse 21, “They became futile in their speculations.” “Futile” (mataioo) means ‘useless, worthless, vain, foolish.’ They conjured up in their minds futile speculations about who God is. They began to have vain imaginations about God that have no basis in reality whatsoever. They began to create with their hands images of what they perceived God to be like. In doing so, these God-rejectors became idolaters who create gods of their own insane imagination. This idol-crafting is the result of rejecting the truth about God when it was made known to them.

 

Paul says, they became futile “in their speculations.” He uses the word “speculations” (dialogismos) in a degrading manner. Paul accuses them of inventing concept about God that are vain, useless, and base. They become plagued with empty thoughts about what they think God is like that are entirely false and even blasphemous.

 

Paul emphatically asserts that, "their foolish heart became darkened.” “Foolish” (moros) comes from the Greek word from which we derive the word ‘moron.’ He is saying that they became moronic, incapable of having rational thoughts about God. Simply put, sin makes you stupid. Sin has a devastating effect upon your thinking process. It short-circuits man’s rationality. Paul says, their foolish heart was “darkened." Rejecting the light, their hearts became darkened. This is because God blew out the candle and left them to grope in the dark about who God is and what He is like.

 

“Professing to be Wise”

In verse 22, Paul states, "Professing to be wise, they became fools." This profession by fallen man documents how boastful and arrogant mankind is without God in their life. They profess to be wise, beating their own chest and elevating themselves in their own eyes. They proclaim the greatness of their own intellect. They think they are wiser than Whoever made everything out of nothing. What is the result? Paul states, “they became fools.” Instead of being wise, they became absolute fools who are incapable of any sound thinking about God and the ultimate issues in life: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is life about? What is my purpose? How am I to live? What is death? What awaits me after death?

 

Here is the tragic picture of the human race. As we watch the news, who among us is not seeing our world unraveling before our eyes? What we are seeing before our very eyes is these verses in Romans 1. Our world is unraveling at mach speed, and we are seeing those verses lived out on a daily basis before us.

 

IV. The Replacement of God (1:23)

 

The end result of this rejection of God is found in verse 23. Please note this downward spiral that descends from the revelation of God in verses 19-20, to the rejection of God at the beginning of verse 21, to insanity before God at the end of verses 21-22. Where this ends in verse 23 is idolatry. Idolatry is not man spiraling up with higher thoughts about God. Idolatry is the total opposite. It is man spiraling down into a lower state of debased thinking and living.

 

The Terrible Exchange

The consequence of rejecting the truth about the existence and being of God is devastating. Paul writes that they "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." This replacement is a terrible substitution. This trade is giving up diamonds for dirt. This is buying high and selling low of the worst sort. They “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God” for what is worthless.

 

The word “incorruptible” (aphthartos) means that God is never decaying, never dying. They swap the “glory” (doxa) of God, which means the outshining radiance of this knowledge of God, “for an image in the form of corruptible man.” They trade the knowledge of the ever-living, all-powerful God for pieces of wood and metal and crafted an image of a man or animal as a replacement for the truth about God. They then bowed down before it and worshiped the product of their own hand. How insane can insane be? How base can a mind be? How low can the human mind sink to?

 

Then these God-rejectors devolve even lower into the gutter and worshiped images of “birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” This is exactly the foul dregs into which the Egyptian dynasty had sunk. This is exactly the spiritual darkness in which the Babylonian kingdom had submerged. This is exactly where the Assyrian kingdom had fallen. In fact, this is where Abraham was in Ur of the Chaldees. He was a moon-worshipper when God called him. Rather than worshipping the Creator, Abraham was worshipping the creation that God had made. How blind can blind be? How foolish can foolish be?

 

The Downward Spiral

In the verses that follow, we will see that this downward death spiral does not end with idolatry. There are yet even lower steps leading further down into grosser debauchery that go from worse to worse. In verse 24, Paul announces that God gives these God-rejectors over in judgment. When God gives them over, there are three lower rungs on the ladder as man is still moving further and further and further away from Him. You see, no one is actually seeking God. It is the very opposite. By nature of the doctrine of total depravity, men are running away from the knowledge of God. Their fingers are in their ears. Their eyes are covered.

 

In verse 24 we read, "God gave them over in the lusts of their heart to impurity." In verse 26, "God gave them over to degrading passions." Then in verse 28, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind," to a depraved mind. This downward descent of mankind to as low as we could possibly be ends in verse 32. Not only are people now involved in the grossest of sins, but verse 32 says that the world is actually giving approval to the grossest of sins. There is no shame. The approval ratings go up the more wicked and vile and depraved it becomes. This is a sobering picture of the downward decline of the human race.

 

The human race has started at a point of the knowledge of God, and then rejected the knowledge of God, and then exchanged the knowledge of God for their own handmade idols, and God has then given the human race over to its own degrading passions. It is the ultimate slippery slope. It starts with monotheism, the recognition that there is only one God. In this devolving, man begins to create his own gods and moves into polytheism, the creation of other gods according to man's vain imaginations.

 

What we have here is the history of the human race. We have the history of culture, the history of society, the history of nations. It starts with the knowledge of God. Then there is the rejection of that knowledge of God. When you reject the knowledge of God, you have gone into a free-fall in which you are going further and further away from God. There will come a point where God will, in essence, give those people a push in the direction that they have chosen to go. This is called abandonment. At that point, they cannot get back to God, apart from divine intervention.

 

Conclusion

So what does this passage say to us about our responsibility to God? What do these verses require of us? What positive application can there be from such negative statements?

 

Be A Worshiper of the True God

First, we must do the very opposite of what we see in these verses. It says in verse 21, “they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.” We must pursue the very antithesis of this. We must be those who give glory to God. We must be worshipers of God. We must bow down before this one true God and come to Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the only way we can find acceptance to come before His throne of grace with confidence.

 

You and I have been created to worship God. We are not to worship the creation, but the Creator. As you and I live our life, we must be those who give glory to God as a lifestyle. We must do this not just on Sunday mornings from 11 to 12, but every moment of every day. We must be giving glory to God on Monday morning, Tuesday afternoon, and Friday night.

 

The Westminster Catechism begins by asking that most important question: What is the chief end of man? What is your chief end? The answer: To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. This is our response. We must live contrary to what we see in Romans1:21-23. We must be those who give glory to God and worship Him.

 

Give Thanks to the True God

Second, we must be giving thanks to God in everything. If unbelievers withhold the giving of thanks to God, we must be those who give Him thanks for what He has down for us and what He is to us. Worshipers cannot be complainers. We cannot be whiners or grumblers. We must be those who are continually giving thanks to our God. Even on our deathbed, we should have an anthem of thanksgiving arising from our lips. We must give thanks to God for small things, for big things, for His provision for us, for His protection, for His care, for His providence in our lives, for His Son, for grace, for salvation. Let us rise up and give Him thanks.

 

The largest part of our gratitude arises from the fact that God has had mercy upon our once spiritually dead soul. We have been plucked as a brand out of the fire. That God would have set us apart, out of this corrupt world, is cause for great thanks to be given to God. The mere fact that you know God should cause a stream of thanksgiving to flow from your lips. Left to myself, these verses about rejecting the truth about God would be my spiritual biography. Apart from God’s grace, this would be the story of my life.

 

How humbling it is, that you and I know the Lord. Every one of us should say, "Why me, Lord? Why have I been singled out? Why did you even have me born in America? In a place where the gospel is preached. Why was I not born in North Korea? Why was I not born in China? Why was I not born in Siberia? Why was I not born in the Sudan? Why was I not born someplace where even the name of Christ is not known? Why was I born at the intersection of so many churches? With all these different churches and gospel witnesses flowing like Niagara Falls into my life?" Every one of us should be humbled at how merciful God has been to us that we are not sucked down into lower levels of depravity and ungodliness and unrighteousness.

 

Be A Witness of the True Gospel

Third, we must be actively involved in taking the special revelation of God to those who are in need of the knowledge of God. That involves everything from being a witness for Christ to supporting missions, to supporting ministries, to supporting your local church. It involves going on sort term missions. It involves encouraging those who are actively engaged in doing what they can to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. This requires us to do all that we can to be involved in reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Question and Answer

I am going to stop right here and open this up for discussion. Tell me what you think about these verses. What taps you on the shoulder and says something very specific to you?

 

Audience:  Is there reason we have to hope for those that have general revelation? Those who, through the course of their lives, are not reached with the gospel? That, as we cannot canvass the world, there are people who will live their lives and not be exposed to what we are talking about this morning? It is a sobering thought to think of those people and then think of the privilege that we have, by contrast, to be immersed in this. How are we to view that hard question?

 

Dr. Lawson:    Well, it is a hard question. Let me reaffirm that there is no way that they can be saved without special revelation. Which is mentioned in verses 1-17. For us to have any hope that they would be saved would require that, somehow, they had a handheld radio. Or that somehow there was a missionary, unknown to us, who brought the gospel to them. Or somehow there was a Bible in a language that they could read. That somehow there was this knowledge of God.

 

We read in Acts 8 of the Ethiopian eunuch. God had to reroute Phillip out of a revival meeting into the middle of nowhere, and providentially place him at the chariot of this man who was returning back to Africa. The man was lost and under the wrath of God, but had bought a copy of Isaiah 53 at a very high price. He has resources, because he was the treasurer for the nation. Then Phillip explains the written word of God to the Ethiopian eunuch. That was how he was brought into the kingdom. The written word of God and the explanation of the written word of God to him.

 

Then you read in Romans 9 of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Christ uniquely appeared to him because Saul was to be an apostle. There had to be an encounter with the living Christ. Then in Act 10, Cornelius and Peter had to bring the gospel. Starting in Act 13, Paul's first missionary journey, then his second, then his third. It required taking the gospel with great sacrifice and great effort. The Bible does not leave any other option or any other hope for someone to enter the kingdom of heaven apart from the special revelation of the message of the person and work of Christ. So that heightens our sense of urgency about the task of global evangelization.

 

That is a great question. It is a question that has to be asked. We cannot come up with an alternative answer from Scripture. Someone else?

 

Audience:        You know, Phillip was sent by the Lord. "You are going to go." Every missionary out there has been sent by the Lord. You just said he is the first, the cause of everything subsequent to that. So, just because we do not see God at work, that does not mean that He is not bringing His elect home. If He created the universe and everything in it, God reaching out to an anonymous guy in an anonymous place far away from what we know is not where we have a problem. They are chosen. If they are chosen, the Lord is going to bring them. It is not an excuse not to evangelize or not to go into missions. But it is also a comfort that for all those who we do not know, the Lord knows them by name. And if He decides that they are His, He is going to send Phillip to the middle of nowhere to bring him home.

 

Dr. Lawson:    Good answer. That is absolutely correct. God has appointed not only the end, but He has appointed all the means to accomplish the end. The end is the salvation of His elect. And He will accomplish all the means. The sending of missionaries. The providential meeting of a missionary with the elect sinner who needs Christ. The opening of the eyes of the one who is dead in sin. To bring about the conversion which will then lead to, prayerfully, the planting of a church and the spread of the witness in that part of the world so that more of the elect can be brought to faith in Christ. Thanks for that. That is so true. Someone else?

 

Audience: You said no man has ever found God by himself. This text screams of our total inability. But for sovereign grace, this is where each one of us once stood, in darkness. That is amazing. It is amazing.

 

Dr. Lawson:    It is. We have many reasons to be humble, do we not? This stands at the head of the list. It screams of where we once were when the Lord found us. We were contrary, in this downward pull. Absolutely. Someone else? How should we live?

 

Audience:        Can you reinforce how we would support to the outside world that the “outside force” is the Creator, God, that I worship and I know exists. How can I reinforce that this outside force is the Creator, God?

 

Dr. Lawson:    Sure. Well, it is the testimony of the Bible and the testimony of Scripture. There are many reasons why we believe that the Bible is the word of God.

 

The very first verse in the Bible says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Who is this God? Which God? Well, there is only one God. He has revealed Himself to us in His written word. There are objective reasons why we believe that the Bible is the word of God. I preached a sermon at Ligonier National Conference several years ago, “Ten Reasons Why We Believe the Bible is the Word of God.” I would refer anyone to that message. There are objective, tangible, hardcore reasons. It comes back to the authenticity of Scripture.

 

Audience:        I think you had a lot to say earlier too, about having to be intellectually dishonest to refute that. I think that is where he was going. Like, that argument getting fleshed out to say that nothing produced something. We have the word of God, but we also have science on our side, although people do not recognize that. It is hard to support, it is hard to get to the point of something coming from nothing.

           

Dr. Lawson:    You cannot get there. R.C. Sproul preached a message a couple of years ago at a Ligonier Conference, in which he belabored the point that if there has ever been a time in which there was nothing, then there could never be anything. Philosophically, logically, intellectually, that is a self-contained truism. It necessitates that there was God in order for there to be anything. Otherwise, it is intellectual suicide. You end up with what Paul says, speculations. That is all human philosophy is. It is just a blind man groping in the darkness searching for some rope to hang onto and trying to convince himself with his own little explanations that implode under their own reasoning.

 

Audience:        How would you help each of us to explain to others how and why God chooses? Why does God choose to reveal Himself to some and not to others?

 

Dr. Lawson:    Yes. Well, because God is God. God has a sovereign plan and a sovereign will. God has chosen to reveal Himself to some, so that they will be trophies of grace and give Him glory. He has chosen not to reveal Himself with special revelation to others. Ultimately, they are vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. God is also glorified in their destruction, as His wrath and His patience is made known in them. God has chosen to put His attributes of grace and mercy on display in some vessels. He has chosen to put other attributes, such as wrath and patience and power, on display in others. God is glorified in both. It is at the discretion of God.

 

Now, I realize that in a witnessing situation, that is probably not the place to start the argument. I would try to begin with the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man and the provision in Christ. Spurgeon used to give the illustration of the house that was on fire. On the fifth floor is a man who is trapped in the fire. The fire department comes with their nets and they are ready to catch the man. They say, "Jump," and the man says, "I must know if I am predestined to jump." They yell back, "Just jump! We will explain it later." Then the man says, "Well, I must know the origin of the fire." They yell back, "Just jump! We will explain the origin of the fire later." Spurgeon goes through a series of things that the man would put up as excuses, like he has to have all of his questions answered before he jumps.

 

That is a foolish place to be. You just need to jump and commit your life to Christ. We will explain what mysteries we can. If I am in a witnessing situation with someone, that is going to be my tact and approach. I am not going to want to end up in this cul-de-sac over here. Having said that, I have preached on the doctrine of reprobation and people have been saved. I have preached on sovereign election and people have been saved. So God can use any portion of Scripture to bring people to Himself.

 

That is a great question. Men, thank you for being here. I pray that this has been profitable for your soul and for your understanding of the truth of God. As you leave, may you go with verse 21 on your mind, that I must be one who gives glory to God today. I must be one who gives thanks to God today. We have so much for which to give glory to God and thanks to God. We will pick it up here next time. Let us pray.

 

Father in heaven, thank You for this study. Thank You that Your word is, as ever, true, and it speaks truth to us. As we now begin this day and live for You, may we be those who give You glory and who give thanks to You. Lord, we desire to clothe ourselves with humility this day. As a result of seeing this text, we see that we have every reason to be humble. I pray the knowledge and the truth that you have given to us of Yourself, that we would rightly respond to it and not exchange it for some humanistic philosophy or lie. May we would cling to the truth that You have made known to us. Bless these men now as they go about their day. In Jesus' name. Amen. 

Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is President and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. Dr. Lawson hosts The Institute for Expository Preaching in cities around the world. Dr. Lawson is also a Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries, where he serves on its board. Moreover, he is Professor of Preaching and oversees the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, where he also serves on its board. Dr. Lawson is also Professor in Residence for Truth Remains, a work designed to promote and proclaim God’s written Word. Further, Dr. Lawson serves as the Executive Editor for Expositor Magazine published by OnePassion Ministries.