In Romans chapter 1 the apostle tells us that humanity is ‘without excuse’. There has been much discussion on this post relative to what and how this could be. I thought it might be better to take this text insert it in another post and make some comments relative to the verse. Hopefully this serves as helpful.
In Romans 1 God is clearly angry as “the wrath of God” is being revealed from heaven. Notice the object of this justified anger: “men”. Humanity is in the cross hairs of divine wrath.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness /18
And why? It is because they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. Notice that the immediate reason given for unleashing heaven’s judgment upon man is that they are actively suppressing the truth. God is angry because of humanity’s rejection and suppression of his revelation (much more could and probably should be said here…).
Paul goes on to demonstrate how this revelation has been given and the persistent and dedicated truth suppression or rebellion that ensues:
because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them /19
It was God who has acted to implant his truth within his creation. The kindness and grace of God are expressed here in his loving creative act, even revealing his character within his creation.
Well God states even further the nature of his gracious self-disclosure:
For since the creation of the world
>His invisible attributes
>His eternal power and divine nature,
:have been clearly seen,
:being understood through what has been made
I broke it out a bit here for effect, but notice the full force of these statements. God has revealed his invisible attributes, his eternal power and his divine nature; these things have been ‘clearly seen’. There is no problem with the transmission or the clarity of the revelation but rather with the reception.
To recap this far:
1) God is very angry and is showing it
2) God’s anger is rooted in the active suppression (denial, rejection, devaluing) of his revealed truth
3) God has graciously revealed this truth to man in creation
4) This revelation of God has been ‘clearly seen’ and ‘understood’.
God has, without compulsion or obligation, revealed himself clearly in and through creation only to have this truth rejected and suppressed. It is this fact that has God so angry and man without excuse.
so that they are without excuse /20c
Further enhancing the indictment the apostle goes on to write in verses 21-23:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man
It is not as if humanity is passive in their sin, somehow afflicted with some type of medical ‘condition’ but instead we see the fruit of active truth suppression coming out. God is ‘de-godded’ in the sinner’s mind, he is not just marginalized but rather he is assinated, stripped of all his power, glory and splendor. Further as unregenerate sinners we do not give him thanks. God has been overly kind and his gracious providence continues to supply life and enjoyment, however, he is not thanked. Man also claims wisdom in this atheistic worldview of truth suppressing God assignation and as God would have it, they become fools (cf. Ps. 14.1). And in the ultimate bad trade, they exchange the glory of God for the glory of man. This really is what strikes at the core of God. God is replaced. The eternally glorious and infinitely beautiful God is devalued and replaced by a comparatively temporal, aging, corrupting, decaying, devalued creation. It is worse that trading a Lexis for a used band-aid.
In a grand summary fashion the Apostle concludes in verse 25:
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Election is not mentioned in this passage. As we have seen the passage deals with God’s wrath being revealed against sin and this wrath being justified. Mankind is without excuse because it is not only sinful but is actively sinning. God has been more than kind in revealing himself to humanity and humanity has repaid God by rejecting his truth and smudging his glory. The lack of excuse deals with the culpability of man in their offense against God. The image bearer has de-godded God while actively suppressing the revelation and turning around to worship himself at the expense of God. This truly offends and angers God.
There is no indication that man would ever stop suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, for it is the pattern and product of his life. So to say that anyone would actually choose God is ridiculous in this passage. For God is being suppressed by the unbeliever at every turn not chosen.
It is with this theological backdrop that the Apostle turns to chapters 2 & 3. In chapter 2 concluding that moralists cannot earn God’s favor, and in chapters 2 & 3 that religious folks cannot extricate themselves from the bonds of sin. So we then come to the 3rd chapter and find a text like this:
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; /10
no one understands; no one seeks for God. /11
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless /12
no one does good, not even one. /12
There is no fear of God before their eyes./18
In this light it is who we are that is depraved, not just what we do. There is nothing inside of us that seeks for God (v.11), there is nothing good (v.12), we are in fact ‘dead’ in sin (Eph. 2.1). You are more likely to find a Wi-Fi signal in the middle of a cornfield in Nebraska than you will find a heart that is ‘seeking’ God. You can ping all day long and into eternity and find no connection, mankind is dead spiritually.
God has not changed his dealings with man; he has always said ‘walk with me’ instead mankind has chopped off his legs in sin. So not only is he unable, but he is unwilling. This inability must not be taken to cancel out responsibility; we are all responsible to respond to God and his call to walk with him, however it is the active suppression of truth and fascination with the glory of ourselves at the expense of God and his glory that pervades our affections and pursuits. Therefore, it is necessary that God employ divine grace to rescue sinners from themselves. God acts independent of human will to crush that will and then regenerate them by his power and grace unto new life.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Election is not in the equation in Romans 1-3 instead it is the sinful suppression of clear and gracious divine revelation. Election however, is the gracious means by which God solves the humanly unsolvable equation. So I stick by the original title, ‘Election is not the problem, sin is’.