Without Excuse

by Pastor Don Hosfeld

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“Excuses are the cradle…that Satan rocks men off to sleep in.” – Dwight L. Moody

“When it comes to excuses, law enforcement officers tend to have heard them all. But recently two drivers came up with some novel excuses. When a driver in Western Australia was pulled over for driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, he told police, ‘The wind was pushing me.’ The comment didn’t amuse the officer, or prevent him from writing a $150 ticket.

“Then in the Chicago area, a 25-year-old woman was pulled over by police around 4:15 a.m. after officers watched her vehicle cross the center lane and the double yellow line. When officers pulled the vehicle over, the woman told them she was coming from a bar and ‘was doing nothing wrong,’ according to authorities. Then she told police she was driving to White Castle so she could ‘sober up.’”1

A common question we Christians receive is, “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” or maybe it is worded differently, like, “How could God condemn people who have never heard?”

Granted, sometimes these questions come from a sincere interest or desire to know the answer, but often they come from those looking to make excuses for themselves or others who they suspect or know never believed the gospel or feel as if God has not sufficiently revealed His existence. Though the person asking may not intend to suggest this, these questions and those like them have at least two underlying false premises: that it is God’s responsibility to do something more than He has already done, and two, mankind cannot or should not be guilty as long as they are in a place of ignorance.

In reality, not only do unsaved men and women have no excuses for rejecting God and His Word, regardless of what time period they lived in, but God has made this fact abundantly clear. Thus, mankind is once again without excuse!

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 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. 1:18-20).

Good News or Bad News First

My wife and I have a running joke because I routinely ask her, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” Making the situation even funnier (at least to me) is that sometimes I say this even if I have no good news, only bad.

When one considers the manner in which Paul introduces the gospel and other doctrines to the church in Rome, it is interesting to see that he doesn’t follow the pattern or flow that many may think or often employ themselves: Paul brings the bad news first, and he does so very bluntly.

Today, we often see a desire to “spare people” the harsh realities of the doctrines of Scripture without first making them feel good or comfortable. After all, “we don’t want to scare them away, right?” is the usual logic behind this approach. This was not the apostle Paul’s method, though.

Before getting to the wonderful news that Christ “was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” in Romans 4:25, or that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” in chapter 5, Paul chooses to explain instead the bad news and harsh realities of man’s situation: God’s wrath is upon all mankind because of man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness (1:18).

In fact, verse 18 marks the beginning of a long section in which Paul will spend the rest of chapters one and two and the majority of chapter three laying the whole ugly truth on the table before ever giving the good news about a means to receive God’s righteousness in place of ours. There was no attempt to sugarcoat the situation or tone it down. There was no beating around the bush. There were no apologies, no carefully crafted illustrations to make a connection with those he was trying to share the truth with.

In essence, one might say Paul’s approach was, “I have great news, but first, let’s be clear about the bad news.” He then proceeds to prove that regardless of who you are (Jew or Gentile), “There is none righteous, no, not one” (3:10). This is very bad news indeed when one realizes that God will be judging man for unrighteousness.

It is not until Romans 3:21 that Paul changes direction by using those two beloved words, “But now,” and points out that God’s righteousness is upon all who believe. We, mankind, have no righteousness and are thus under God’s wrath, but we can have God’s righteousness if we believe the gospel, the right gospel specifically. It doesn’t get better than that because it doesn’t get more secure than that.

If salvation depends on my righteousness, then I am lost and always left in a state of wonder and insecurity. But by having God’s righteousness in place of mine, nothing can diminish my standing with Him, which is why Paul later concludes that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). Being “in Christ Jesus” means we are secure (eternally saved).

However, the means by which we can acquire God’s righteousness is up to God and not man. As much as mankind would like to impose or demand that God forgive and save all, no such reality exists.

The Justifiable Wrath of God

When Paul says the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” and “the just shall live by faith” (1:16-17) he has dispelled any idea that believing the gospel is optional. He has removed any notion that the gospel is okay for some, but it’s alright to conclude, “I’m okay right where I am.” A person may choose to reject the gospel, but they most certainly are not okay where they are. They are lost, and as Paul lays out in these first three chapters of Romans, God is rightfully angry at man’s pride and arrogance.

Not the kind of anger that we so often demonstrate. God is not bad-tempered, mean-spirited, fitful, or irritable. God is not like man in that He becomes so offended that He becomes biased and does not think clearly. No, He simply warns mankind of the natural consequences of their actions, all the while desiring for “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).

Though He is offended and will someday bring His wrath upon those who, by their own choosing, remain alienated from Him and refuse to acknowledge the truth, He welcomes all who humble themselves, become thankful, and approach Him in faith. Of course, that faith must be in what God has said and is applicable to us and not in what we choose. In other words, we don’t dictate to God what we are willing to have faith in and expect Him to comply, even though many act as though they can. Faith is not enough if that faith is not in the right thing.

God is rightfully angered at man’s repeated rejection of Him, what He has said, and man’s refusal to be thankful to Him. His anger is the inevitable reaction of a righteous Almighty God toward sin. It is the proper reaction to the “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18).

His is not an emotional reaction but a rational one. Four times in the Book of Acts, Luke tells us that Paul “reasoned” with people when confronting them with the truth. God’s words and expectations are valid and reasonable, and man’s rightful response is to say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (cf. Acts 9:6).

To the Roman governor, Felix, Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” causing him to tremble (Acts 24:25). Felix is the regrettable example of so many who have been exposed to the truth, but because it is not a “convenient season” (v. 25) and because they “mind earthly things,” they reject and turn aside even though that end is destruction (cf. Phil. 3:19). This includes both general and special revelation.

The Fool

He who thinks half-heartedly will not belive in God; but he who really thinks has to believe in God.” – Sir Isaac Newton

Mankind has continually rejected God’s rule and authority and instead lives as though God does not exist. This is not a case of ignorance, for all mankind has the knowledge of God, “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (Rom. 1:19), even “the invisible things” of God (v. 20). Not only has God revealed Himself to all, we read in verse 20 that His “eternal power and Godhead” are “clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.”

Man chose to forget God, as stated in verse 21: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations.” Man moved from knowing God to rejecting God to vain imaginations. They replaced God with vain or worthless and empty thoughts. This was in the form of idolatry. Making matters worse, they did this while professing to be wise.

Instead of acknowledging God as God, man chose to change “the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (v. 23).

The people didn’t stop worshiping when they chose to forget God; they merely changed what they worshiped (cf. v. 25). They gave the glory that should only be given to God to themselves and other created things. The world ooh’s and aah’s at Egyptian pyramids and Myan temples as symbols of man’s intelligence; in truth, they are nothing more than the testimony and evidence of people “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (v. 22).

Interestingly, the Greek word used for fools in verse 22 (maraino) is the word we derive the word moron from. Refusing to acknowledge God as God leads to becoming a moron; it makes you a fool (Psa. 14:1; 53:1). Consider the question and answer posed by Job: “Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12), it is not “found in the land of the living” (mankind or creation) (v. 13), but rather it is found in God because “God understandeth the way thereof, and He knoweth the place thereof” (v. 23).

The Invisible Things of God are Clearly Seen

“Acknowledging the Creator is the first step in trusting the Redeemer.” – Warren Wiersbe

How can “invisible things” of God be “clearly seen” (Rom. 1:20)? God’s power and divinity are clear and on full display through creation. It is commonly taught that we do not need to try and prove God’s existence because God Himself doesn’t do so. This is technically not true. God did set out to prove His existence through creation, which is why it says, “God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them” (v. 19). Creation is a public announcement that there is a Creator.

Why does this matter? God’s eternal power and authority are fully displayed for all to see “so that they [all who reject this truth] are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). The fact is, God has made Himself known to all. There is no one to whom God has not made Himself known. Atheism is a choice and is inexcusable because of the testimony provided through creation.

We are all stamped with an awareness of God, and rather than acknowledging the obvious, men and women suppress the truth. Those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of God are refusing to accept what they know to be true, regardless of what they admit.

It’s been said that agnosticism is worse than atheism because it says there isn’t sufficient evidence for God to come to a conclusion. This belief does no less than call God a liar, and that is precisely how we should look at it.

Christianity and creation are not based on emotions, superstitions, or groundless belief. God does not ask us to believe the unbelievable or to check our brains at the door. The evidence for God through the study of creation can be easily verified using the tool of science. The sheer complexity and perfection required for life to exist demands there be a creator.

The amount of information in DNA, as well as the perfection of its structure, leaves no room for chance development. According to information scientist Dr. Werner Gitt, “From an engineering point of view…the code system used in living organisms…is the best of all possible codes….This testifies to purposeful design.”2 Dr. Gitt gives the following examples to illustrate this efficiency:

  • DNA the size of a pinhead contains as much information as 25 trillion 189-page paperback books. A pile of these books would stretch 920 times the distance from the earth to the moon.
  • If you were to stretch out one milligram of a double helix strand of DNA material, it would almost stretch from the earth to the moon.3

He further states, “The basic flaw of all evolutionary views is the origin of the information in living beings. It has never been shown that a coding system and semantic information could originate by itself [through matter]…. The information theorems predict that this will never be possible. A purely material origin of life is thus [ruled out].”4

In other words, the information necessary for life to exist does not allow for evolution and proves beyond any doubt that there must be a Creator. Information can only come from pre-existing information. This is a fact that any adult and most children can recognize. Nobody looks at a painting or a computer and thinks it happened by chance and without a maker.

The Wrath of God is Revealed

As Romans 1 describes the devolving of the human race, we should know that creation is not the only example of God making the truth known so that man has no excuse. It is noteworthy that Romans 1:18 doesn’t say the wrath of God was “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” It says it “is” revealed.

Though creation still testifies to God’s power and authority, so, too, do other things. While in Lystra, Paul said that God “left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).

But when it comes to a witness to God’s wrath upon ungodly men, nothing compares to the Flood. When honest men and women look at the scars upon this earth, it is undeniable that what God said He did, He did. From the carving of the Grand Canyon to the ocean life found atop the earth’s tallest mountains, the evidence for a global flood is everywhere.

Another less thought-of example of God’s wrath still being openly displayed for the world to witness is Sodom and Gomorrah. According to Peter, “turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:6).

Jude verse 7 says, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

The first-century Christian Apologist Justin Martyr speaks of the witness of Sodom and Gomorrah being still evident in his day when he says, “Those who so desire may view their whole countryside even now desolate, scorched, and sterile.”5

Even today, the destruction of these cities acts as a witness to God’s wrath against ungodliness. The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah have been discovered in the region south of the Dead Sea and visitors today can see the evidence of their destruction for themselves. The destroyed buildings are “clearly seen” (cf. Rom. 1:20), and so, too, is the remaining brimstone in the form of balls of sulfur still capable of being lit on fire. Remarkably, the sulfur found here has been scientifically determined to be some of the purest on the planet.

While the world imagines every excuse possible for denying God His due recognition, the truth is that mankind has been justly denied any and every excuse. God has clearly demonstrated His existence, divine attributes, and His complete and total authority “so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

1. https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2017/february/2021317.html
2. Without Excuse, 2011, p. 211.
3. Without Excuse, 2011, p. 288.
4. In the Beginning Was Information, 2005, p. 123.
5. First Apology; p. 54.

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