As we move into the next verse of our study on “the wrath of God” in Romans chapter one, we will see how the knowledge of God is paramount here. And as we go on, we will see just how God has shown to us who He really is.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:20-21, emphasis added).
Earth. Creation. It is in a fallen condition, no doubt; but even so, it still reveals who God is. The underlying principles of creation as a whole are still present, even though sin and sinners have marred everything.
Life itself, along with everything needed for the sustenance of life—sunshine, air, water, food, love, beauty, joy—all of these and more have been “clearly seen” “since the creation of the world.” God created us to survive disease, tragedy, pain, sorrow; and the proof is that we are still here after six thousand years of Satan’s reign of fear, disease, pain and terror.
God’s “invisible attributes”—the attributes of His character—can be understood by the things that He has made to keep us healthy, happy, and alive. “His invisible attributes are clearly seen.” What are His invisible attributes? They are the attributes of His character—they are “clearly seen” by the things that God has created. They are “clearly seen” by how He provided for us as a loving parent would provide for his or her children, and by how He has been protecting us from complete annihilation.
As believers, we know that the things God created for our well-being did not spring up on their own through zillions of years of evolution. They were lovingly planned out, carefully engineered to suit our physical and spiritual needs. According to this verse then, those who suffer “the wrath of God” have no “excuse”—they knew Him or should have known Him because “His invisible attributes are clearly seen.”
The picture we are getting here is that those who receive “the wrath of God” were given the truth about God through creation. Everything God creates is an expression of His mind, His heart, His Spirit, His character. Therefore, God’s mind, heart, Spirit, and character can be clearly seen by the things that He made.
Creation tells us first and foremost, that God is the Creator. Think of the endless life forms on earth—many now already extinct—and the diversity of sizes, shapes, textures, colors, tastes, smells, both in the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms. This immense variety is the work of a master Creator, not a hot-headed Destroyer. Not only that, but God sent His Son, “His eternal power and Godhead”—to show us His eternal power of life as seen through Christ’s creation and resurrection:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For through Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:15-17).
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live (John 11:25).
All things were created “through” Jesus Christ. Period. Visible and invisible, it was all done “through” Christ and “for” Christ. Regardless of whatever pre-conceived ideas we may have had about God, Christ debunks them all. Christ does not show us a wrathful, vindictive, or destructive God. Rather, He shows the Creator back at work healing and putting back together what the enemy had damaged and broken. Through His entire ministry Christ showed to us a “living God”—a God of life and life only, who was putting back together people’s lives.
Thus, those who reject the God of life “are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God.” Although they knew Him to be the Giver of life, they chose to believe that He was the Destroyer of life. They did not listen to the life Giver, did not pay attention to Him and did not take to heart His nonviolent character. His pure goodness—His meek, gentle, humble, and loving ways, they rejected. Instead, they chose a god of force, violence, retribution, revenge; a god that looks more like what we have become under Satan’s Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We have made Him into our own image. And this is basically what the next verses say:
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things (Romans 1:22-23, emphasis added).
“Professing to be wise.” The reader will recall how, when Eve saw that the Tree was good to make one “wise,” then she ate the fruit. What this verse is really saying is that Satan’s so-called “wisdom” of Good and Evil is really foolishness. And “professing to be wise” through the so-called wisdom of Good and Evil, we have broken the first four commandments by corrupting God’s glory, which is His character. We corrupted His character by making Him into something that He is not. As a consequence, we cannot help but break the other six Commandments as well.
Most of us know from the Bible what God’s glory is. When asked by Moses, “please show me Your glory,” the Lord responded:
I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Exodus 33:18-19, emphasis added).
God’s glory is His unchanging goodness, His grace, His love, and His compassion. Those who profess to be wise but who think God’s goodness is like the goodness of mankind, have become “fools,” according to the Apostle Paul.
The word “fool” is an interesting choice of words in this context. Paul, a student of the Old Testament, was not using this word flippantly, or using it to attack or insult his readers. No, he chose this word very carefully and used it in the same way as the prophets of the Old Testament did. Notice how Jeremiah uses the word “foolish”:
For My people are foolish, They have not known Me. They are silly children, And they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge (Jeremiah 4:22, emphasis added).
Therefore I said, “Surely these are poor. They are foolish; For they do not know the way of the Lord, The judgment of their God (Jeremiah 5:4, emphasis added).
‘Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not (Jeremiah 5:21, emphasis added).
To Jeremiah, foolishness seems to mean not knowing God, having no understanding of who He really is. The “wisdom” of the people Jeremiah is addressing only lead them to do evil and not good because they were modeling themselves after an evil god—the god of Good and Evil. These foolish people “do not know the way of the Lord, the judgment of their God.” They have eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear.
Paul is essentially saying the same thing about those who eventually suffer “the wrath of God”; they don’t know God because they have done something to Him. That “something” is that “they have changed the glory of the incorruptible God.”
Now, we need to understand what “incorruptible” means. How does the Bible use it? What is the meaning of the Hebrew word that Paul was referring to? Moses used this word, and not surprisingly, also in the context of worshipping idols, false gods:
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. (Deuteronomy 4:15-20, KJV, emphasis added).
Moses’ warning was this: if you start worshipping these gods which look like people, animals, birds, creeping things, sun, moon, stars, etc, you will become corrupted—“lest ye corrupt yourselves.”
But it is that word “corrupt” that will help us understand what this really means. It is no coincidence that Paul uses the word “corrupt” in the context of “the wrath of God.” Moses used the same word to describe the same situation in the Deuteronomy passage we quoted above. The Hebrew word for “corrupt” is shâchath, and according to the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon, it means “to destroy, corrupt, mar, destroyer, corrupter, waster, spoiler, batter, corruptly, fault.”
The idea here is that if something is corrupted from its original pure form, it becomes destroyed, marred, spoiled. So, what was God really trying to tell the children of Israel? He was telling them that if they started worshipping these gods of Good and Evil who were corrupted from their original pure form, they would be entering the jurisdiction of the Destroyer, and as a natural consequence, they themselves would become corrupt, and would indeed be destroyed by the Destroyer.
God even said to the children of Israel: “Look, I took you out of Egypt, where you were slaves to a people who treated you cruelly and harshly, because they followed the gods of Good and Evil. “I brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even Egypt.” “And now, if you go back to the gods, you will be jumping from the furnace into the frying pan! Stop! Don’t do it!”
The real question we have to ask is this: why is Satan the destroyer? The answer is again in the word “corrupt.” Satan operates by a corrupted system, that is, a system that is “mixed.” The mixture in Satan’s system is the Good and Evil principle—a dual, contradictory system, which supposedly is both Good and Evil at the same time. He has a “divided” kingdom, which Jesus said could never last because it destroys itself—“it will be brought to desolation”:
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand (Matthew 12:25).
God, on the other hand, is not corrupted by the mixture of Good and Evil. There is “no darkness in Him at all”—only light. There is no duality in God. God is only good:
No one is good but One, that is, God (Mark 10:18).
God only is good because He is always good. His goodness is absolute, unchanging and everlasting. God’s goodness does not sway back and forth between kindness and cruelty, between love and hate, patience and impatience, love and wrath. God does not vacillate between peacefulness and violence, creation and destruction, healing and harm, reward and punishment. As the Psalmist repeats twenty-six times in Psalm 136, to drive the point home: “His mercy endures forever.” And James puts it plainly like this:
Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus, no spring yields both salt water and fresh (James 3:11-12).
God does not “send forth” both “fresh water and bitter water.” He does not “send forth” both blessings and curses. God, who is the spring of all life, does not yield “both salt water and fresh water.” He does not give us life and then take it away. We may interpret the Scriptures that way, but when we do so, we are getting confused with the warning. Often God is warning us of danger, and just as often we interpret the warning to be a threat. God’s warnings are not threats—they are warnings.
Like Lucifer, those that suffer “the wrath of God” have rejected God’s “oneness”—His singleness of agape love. They see God’s principles of love as being weak and foolish, and as a consequence, they themselves “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
For the message of the cross [GOD’S NONVIOLENT AGAPE LOVE] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
Where is the wise [WISDOM OF THE WORLD]? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age [SATAN]? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world [THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL]? For since, in the wisdom of God [AGAPE LOVE], the world through wisdom [GOOD AND EVIL] did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message [AGAPE LOVE] preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified [AGAPE LOVE], to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:18-20, emphasis added).
God’s agape love is seen by many as foolishness and weakness. But God’s love is the only power that God exercises. Those who see God’s unconditional love as foolish and weak show that they prefer violence and force rather than peace, destruction rather than life, injury rather than healing, and punishment rather than mercy. This will be seen even more clearly as we progress with the study of Romans chapter one.
Those who corrupt the glory—the goodness—of the incorruptible God may profess to be wise, but they do not have the wisdom of God, which is revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, they have the wisdom of Good and Evil, and hold it as something superior to God’s wisdom of agape love. Thus, they become fools and change “the glory of the incorruptible God”—His incorruptible, unchanging character—into a corruptible character like that of man’s and Satan’s—a dual mixed character of Good and Evil.
and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things (Romans 1:23).
The Book of Genesis says that when God created Adam, He created him in His own image:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis added).
What is the image of God? Certainly, this passage is not talking about a physical image. Rather, this is talking about character. God created us with the same character as His—with a character of agape love. When Adam ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that image or character was changed into the image of the serpent—his characters was no longer agape love but Good and Evil. Thus, when Paul says that we “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man,” He is saying that we have ascribed to God our own fallen mixed characters of Good and Evil.
The incorruptible God has a single, pure, unmixed character of agape love. His character is not divided in any way. But these wise “fools” “changed the glory” of the unchanging God “into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”
Mankind became corrupt from the moment Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam’s character was no longer pure because he internalized the corrupt moral law of Good and Evil right away. God has shown us that we make a grave mistake in thinking He is like us:
These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes (Psalm 50:21).
Mankind is clearly Good and Evil—corrupt. But what are these “birds and four-footed animals and creeping things?” What do animals have to do with all of this?
Nothing really, unless they are being used here as symbols. This is symbolic language pointing to the gods. A “great red dragon” is a “bird.” So is a fallen angel— according to the pattern of Moses’ sanctuary, a covering cherub has wings. A Gold Calf is a “four-footed animal;” and a serpent is a “creeping thing.” Who, then, is Paul referring to through these symbols?
These symbols used in idol worship all point to Satan and his angels—the gods. Paul equates them to man’s fallen nature—it is demonic, dualistic. Those who suffer “the wrath of God” have exchanged God’s single, pure, holy character of love and grace for the schizoid dual character of Satan—an arbitrary ruler who forcefully brings order through a forceful moral law of reward and punishment.
Thus, “the wrath of God” is revealed against those that choose Satan’s jurisdiction of Good and Evil over the Creator God’s jurisdiction of agape love. In fact, if we search the Bible for the word “wrath,” we will soon realize that most verses about “the wrath of God” have the same theme: the people had left the true Creator God for the gods.
Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read— because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched’ (2 Kings 22:16-17, emphasis added).
Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass (2 Chronicles 24:18, emphasis added).
Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, child and infant, out of Judah, leaving none to remain, in that you provoke Me to wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have gone to dwell, that you may cut yourselves off and be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth (Jeremiah 44:7-8, emphasis added)?
Who are the gods after all? What do we know about them? Is it possible that we are worshipping them—following their teachings—without realizing that we are doing so? We are going to take a look at these gods next, especially Baal and the gods of Egypt. Why? Because God Himself keeps bringing them up.
Egypt is highly symbolic in the Bible: it is a type of Satan’s kingdom, of his system of ethics, his laws, his societal order that is run through the principle of Good and Evil. And we are in luck, because through the recent work of many Egyptologists, the world has a wealth of information about the gods of Egypt.