Some of the defendants in the court room disagree with the declaration that they are guilty in God’s sight. The defense attorney, as their spokesman, steps forward to plead mankind’s innocence, claiming first that the pagan world is innocent of God’s existence, and, secondly, that they cannot know his will.
A Ignorance of God’s Existence – The heathen nations, until a servant of the living God comes to them, live without the light of God’s special revelation.
1. The Plea Presented – The counsel for the defense, with the eye of every person in the courtroom fixed upon him, addresses the Judge, saying, “Your Honor, my clients are not guilty as charged. They are accused of ungodliness, but they cannot be held responsible for their failure to honor a God concerning whom they have never heard. None of their own prolphets has ever received a vision or direct communication from the Almighty. Therefore, Your honor, my clients – the uninformed heathen-cannot be held responsible for their ungodliness. In their behalf I enter a plea of not guilty.
2. The Plea Refuted – The Apostle Paul rises to his feet and asks for permission to speak. He is now ready to substantiate his previous statement that men are indeed responsible for having refused God’s truth. Even the heathen have rejected the revelation given them in the created world. Therefore, with a glow of Heavenly ligh on his face, he says, “Your Honor, the invisible attributes of “God-that is, his eteral power and deity – can be seen and understood through the things which He has made. Every person even the heathen to whom no special revelation has ever been given, has seen enough and understood enough about God to be rendered completely without excuse.”
The wwords of Paul, recorded in Romans 1:20, make a telling impact upon all present in the courtroom. A hush falls upon every person as the apostle calls for his first witness to corroborate his declaration taht God has revealed Himself in nature. An aged Jew with white hair and long flowing beard, a man highly respected for the godliness of his life steps to the witness chair, solemnly takes his oath, and, carefully unrolling his scroll, reads from the sacred Hebrew Scriptures:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and
the firmament showeth his handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night
unto night showeth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where
their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
his going forth is from the
end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends
of it; and there is nothing hidden from the heat thereof (Palm 19:1-4, 6).
Yes, the invisible attributes of God are revealed in the created world, and wvery person who possesses some ability to think or reason is responsible if he rejects that revelation.
B. Ignorance of God’s Will – The words of the prosecuting attorney and the aged witness have clearly demonstrated that men are guilty of rejecting the revelation of God readily observable in the created world. The defense attorney now seeds to prove that even though man may know something about God through nature, it is not enough to make him morally responsible for his conduct.
1. The Claim Submitted – Eager to show that a revelation of God in nature is too general to be of any value in regulating life, the defense counselor again addresses the Judge, “Your Honor, it may be true that the heathen world should de able to gather some facts about God through observing the created world. However, since this living and holy God has never spoken to them, it is impossible for them to know what He wants them to do. he has never told them how they should conduct themselves.”
2. The Claim Refuted – Once again the Apostle Paul stands up and says, ‘Your Honor, the defense attorney is overlooking something. Men every where have an inner consciousness of what is righ and what is wrong. Even though this quality has been dimmed because of deliberate wickedness, it still exists everywhere. your Honor, at one time all men knew God, but they refused to glorify him, and did not give Him thanks. They deliberately turned from the light, began to think wrongly and act fookishly, and plunged themselves more deeply into spiritual darkness.”
Because, when they knew God, they glorified
him not as God, neither were thankful, but
became vain in their imaginations, and their
foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21).
Thus Paul affirms that spiritual ignorance is not the cause of ungodliness, but its result. Men knew God, but they did not properly respond to this knowledge. The pleas “not guilty” advanced for the heathen people of the world cannot be justified. God has revealed Himself to them outwardly through the created world and inwardly through a universal consciousness of His moral law, but men have rejected that light.