Natural Revelation

All creation, all knowledge, all science, all history, everything past and present speaks to the existence of God.

Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 1:18-20

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

We never like to talk about the “wrath” of God, but when we do we usually find ourselves reacting in one of two ways. Either (1) we argue that “wrath” is unworthy of God. “Wrath” is a blotch on God’s character. “Wrath” is a notion that should be abandoned by all people in their right mind; or (2) we try to justify ourselves and justify us not meriting God’s “wrath”. It is the second reaction that is the worse of the two and is the one Paul tackles in his argument for why we all have need of the gospel. Romans 1:18-20 contains three important concepts, which together explain why the wrath of God against men and women is justified: (1) Wrath itself is being revealed from heaven against the ungodly (2) men are suppressing the truth about God and (3) God has given prior revelation of himself to all people, even those who suppress the truth. These things need to be studied in reverse order; revelation, suppression and wrath. These three concepts teach that God has given revelation of himself through his creation, but men and women suppress this revelation. This revelation is suppressed so that they do not have to follow where it leads them. Because of this willful suppression of truth God’s wrath is being/will be poured out on them.

  1. Revelation of God in Nature

    1. What is Natural Revelation

      1. Natural Revelation is namely the revelation of God in nature.
      2. Natural Revelation is sometimes referred to as general revelation because it is available to everyone.
      3. Natural Revelation is distinguished from Special Revelation.
      4. When Paul talks about a knowledge of God being made plain to man he is talking about Natural Revelation
    2. This theory says that preaching should begin with meeting the “felt needs” of the listener, because this alone establishes a point of contact with a listener and wins a hearing.

      1. In other words, when you preach, preach to fill whatever void the listener is experiencing even at the expense of preaching the truth.
      2. People want to hear positive preaching so preach positive messages that make them feel good about themselves.
      3. This type of preaching leaves no room for the topic of God’s wrath.
    3. A second concept that needs to be defined is “knowledge of God”. This is necessary because we can use “knowledge” in different ways.
      1. Awareness: Lowest level of knowing. We can say we know something, but only be aware of its existence. It is a knowledge which affects very little and does not involve us personally.
      2. Knowing about: A knowledge that goes a step further. This knowledge can be more detailed, extensive and important. It is a kind of knowledge a physicist would have of physics. A theologian can have knowledge of God and still not be saved.
      3. Experience: “To know” can also mean knowledge gained by experience.
      4. Personal: This is the highest form of knowledge we can have of a person. It is the most important knowledge we can possess. It is the only knowledge we can have of God, of ourselves, or of another human being. When we know God in a saving way this is the knowledge being spoken of.
    4. Nature reveals God in such a way that even without special revelation of God we all are at least aware that God exists and that we should worship God. It is not a saving knowledge, but it is a knowledge which should lead people to seek out God.
  2. Eternal Power and Divine Nature

    1. Natural revelation involved two elements
      1. God’s eternal power
      2. God’s divine nature
    2. God’s divine nature simple means that there is a God and people have no excuse for being atheists.
    3. God’s eternal power means that God, whom they know to exists, is all powerful.
    4. People know that god is all powerful, because a god that is not all powerful is not God.
    5. This can be expressed by two words “Supreme Being”
      1. Supreme denotes his ultimate power
      2. Being refers to GOd’s existence
    6. Paul is saying that nature provides ample and convincing evidence for the existence of a Supreme Being. God exists, and we know it.

      1. “Therefore, when people subsequently refuse to acknowledge and worship God (as we do), the problem is not in God or in a lack of evidence for his existence, but in our irrational and resolute determination not to know him.”
      2. Two Old Testament sections that give strong evidence for the natural revelation of God are Psalm 19:1-6 and Job 38:4-11.
    7. Two concepts to be familiar with.
      1. Kindness in Nature: God also reveals his kindness in nature. Theologians call this common grace. Instead of sending us all to hell, God takes care of us in a general way so that we have food, clothes, and homes.
      2. Awareness Within: God’s revelation of himself in nature does not stop with the external evidence for his existence. We have an internal innate knowledge of God.
        1. “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them,” and “God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (vv. 19-20)
        2. There is a sign. It is God’s revelation of himself in nature.
        3. Even though you are blind to much, you can nevertheless see the revelation. If you choose to ignore it, as well all do apart from the grace of God, the troubles that follow will be your own fault.
        4. The signs for the existence of God are not hidden and do not have to be looked for, the signs are plain for everyone one to see. No one can be excused for missing the natural signs for the existence of God.
  3. Suppressing the Truth

    1. Paul’s second argument in this section points to and justifies God’s wrath against mankind. It is human rejection of the revelation God has given.
    2. “Who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (v. 18) is Paul’s description of what people have done in regards to natural revelation.
    3. Greek word for “suppress” is “katechein” which means “take,” hold,” “hold fast,” “hold back,” “keep,” “restrain,” or “repress.” This can be used two ways.
      1. In a positive sense the word can be used to mean holding to something that is good, as when Paul speaks of holding on to the word of life.>
      2. In a negative sense it means wrongly to suppress something or hold it down. This is the way Paul is using it here. “Keep truth imprisoned in their wickedness”
    4. Robert Haldan has this to say: “The wrath of God..was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterward by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven, but especially by the reign of death throughout the world……..But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in his sufferings and death in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of his displeasure against sin.

      1. Paul develops this argument in Romans 1.
    5. It is our preference to sin, so we hold the truth down, we suppress the truth. This is an answer for why natural revelation alone is not going to save us. Natural revelation alone is not enough to bring us to God.
    6. Next lesson will be about what R.C. Sproul calls “The Psychology of Atheism”

Personal Reflection

Every morning I get up and go through the same routine of getting ready for work. I walk out the door and take the same route to work using public transportation. I enter the building I work in and take the elevator up to the 5th floor where my office is. I don’t really think about it because it has become second nature for me. I don’t think about the world around me as I’ve insulated myself in a world of 1’s and 0’s as a software developer. Except now as I reflect upon this lesson covering natural revelation it is forcing me to take a different look at the world and my surroundings. I notice other people and ponder about what their lives are like. I think about the world and everything in it. My head begins to hurt when I think about the universe and everything that’s needed to keep it running with precision. From the 1’s and 0’s I deal with daily to the expanse of the universe and everything in between I see the evidence and wonder of God. All creation, all knowledge, all science, all history, everything past and present speaks to the existence of God. Henry Morris, Ph.D. did the mathematical work for the probability for evolution to work. The probability of a 200 part system evolving by chance alone is 1 out of 10^60, that’s a ten with 60 zeros behind it. That’s a mahoosive number! The truth also remains that not a piece of scientific evidence will cause people to turn their heart toward God. Science and the world we live in speak loudly to the existence of God and none of it will persuade any man, woman, or child to believe in God. The human race would rather suppress the truth of God, trade the truth in for a lie. It is a lie that attempts to dissuade ourselves from accepting the existence of God, but God will not accept that as an excuse in the end. There will be no excuse for man not to believe in God when proof of his existence is all around us. Even though natural revelation is not a revelation that will bring us to a knowledge of Christ and his righteousness, it is a revelation nevertheless that should cause us to seek out God. The belief of the existence of God as seen through natural revelation is a 1 or a 0 to me. Either you see it and know that there is a God or you suppress this evidence and reject the idea of God’s existence. It’s my hope that we open our eyes to absorb what God has created followed by opening our hearts to accept what God is speaking to us through his creation and be blessed with supernatural revelation.


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