In the last section on Romans Paul had given us a theme of his epistle. Jews and Gentiles were to be a part of the Kingdom of God. He ended by saying that the "just shall live by faith," which refers to both the righteousness that God grants to the person of faith as well as the righteousness that the person of faith demonstrates in his or her own living. Paul then went on explain.
Romans 1:18-25 (KJV)
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:
Because that, 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.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Because of God's holy and righteous character, the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind is met with God's wrath (verse 18). Although Christianity today seems bent on highlighting only God's love and mercy, God must deal with mankind's sin. There will be a final judgment one day, but this passage indicates that God's wrath towards sin is being revealed throughout history. Paul's phrase "who hold the truth in unrighteousness" declares that mankind sins even though it knows the truth.
But how is this possible? Without reading Scripture or without hearing from someone, how could Paul say that EVERYONE knows the truth about God and sin? Verse 19 states that what may be known of God is within man, for God has shown that knowledge to him.
In verse 20, Paul made the bold claim that by seeing the created, visible world, the invisible things of God are clearly understood, even His eternal power and divinity. Therefore, mankind stands guilty of rebellion towards God in the sin that is committed.
This is a difficult truth! No one can claim any kind of excuse, like "I didn't know", or "I've never even heard of this Yeshua/Jesus." When man sees the created world, he or she knows deep down that there is a Creator, worthy of worship. The knowledge is not complete, but it is enough that should cause mankind to acknowledge God.
Verse 21 reveals the sad truth of mankind. Although, creation should cause mankind to worship the Creator, it simply doesn't. Mankind doesn't glorify God as God, nor is mankind thankful to Him. Instead the mind of mankind becomes vain, or futile, in its imaginings and its heart becomes darkened. Paul was saying that when mankind turns away from the inner knowledge of God, the consequence of that action causes the heart and mind of mankind to go even further astray.
Although mankind thinks that it is wise, it becomes a fool (verse 22). Instead of worshipping the immortal Creator, it worships images of mortal man, birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things (verse 23).
Because of mankind's turning true worship on its head, God allowed the consequences of its sins to take over. He gave man up to the uncleanness that resulted from the lusts of his heart and the defiling of his body (verse 24).
Verse 25 is a summary statement. Mankind has changed the truth of God into a lie and worshipped and served created beings rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever!
In this passage Paul captured the condition of mankind, what should have been and what happened instead. No wonder mankind needs God's redemption and a restoration to the truth of God and His worship.