20 For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
Although I was not raised in the church, I always had a sense that there was a God. I would walk in my backyard in Nashville, or look at the stars, and I had the impression of a divine presence through what was made (creation) and through an inner sense of right and wrong. I felt God was both “out there” and “near me.”
The Bible teaches that God has revealed Himself to humanity in a general way through creation, the human conscience, and other ways. That is why Paul writes in this passage that God’s “eternal power and divine nature . . . have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood by what was made.”
Even though this “natural revelation” is available to everyone, we human beings turn away and seek to make our own gods and idols, sometimes through carved images, but often through possessions, power, achievements, and other things we seek to give us value and meaning. The root sin is our failure to value God supremely above all things and to worship “lesser gods.” This includes our commitment to autonomy, which is a rejection of God’s rule in our lives. After all, we want to be king of our own kingdom.
But beyond the general revelation taught in this passage, the Bible also teaches that God has revealed Himself to us in a particular way. This special revelation took the form of a human being born about 2,000 years ago: Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact expression of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “‘Lord,’ said Philip, ‘show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8-9).
How can you know God? Yes, take a look at the beauty of creation, the wonder of our universe, the complexity of the human body, and the sense of justice and morality we carry within. But do not stop there. Open the pages of Scripture to discover how God has loved us so much that He revealed Himself to us in a very special way. There you will see the “glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). And in surrendering yourself to Jesus Christ, you will find the ultimate meaning and purpose of life which no other person or pursuit can provide.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- How (or where) have you experienced God in creation?
- How are you tempted to worship and seek fulfillment in things (or people) other than God?
- Do you ever wish you could see God? How does Jesus reveal to us who God is?