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. 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. —Romans 1:18-20 ESV
Now today we see the apostle Paul answering an objection. The objection is this: “You say, Paul, that the wrath of God is being revealed in history against humankind because the truth of God is suppressed by the human heart. Well, what about those who don’t have the truth of God? Don’t they have a legitimate excuse to protest God’s anger? How can it be right for God to be angry at people, and punish people for suppressing a truth that they never had?” That’s the objection that Paul is answering here, in verses 19-21.
It’s a question that many of you have asked. What about people who have not yet been reached by the gospel of Christ? How are they held accountable before God? Paul will deal with this question again in chapter two (verses 11-16). For example, in Romans 2:11-12 he says, “There is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law.” You see that this is the same question he is answering in chapter one. How does God deal with people who have different levels of exposure to divine truth?
In Romans 1:19-21, there are four steps in Paul’s argument. We can either start at his conclusion and work our way backward to his reasoning, or we can start with his reasoning and work our way forward to his conclusion. I think it would be good to do it both ways to make sure that we see the argument clearly. So let me start first with his conclusion and work backward with you through the other three steps, and then we will turn around and move the other direction with a very special, relevant application.
Conclusion: They Are Without Excuse . . .