POST OVERVIEW. An article considering how the creation clearly reveals the existence of a powerful creating God but does not present the gospel so that man can be saved.
After declaring that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16), Paul launches into the prosecution of all mankind because of their sin and unrighteousness. Romans 1:18 declares that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and then Paul talks about “general revelation,” which is the term for what creation reveals to us about God.
“Because that which may be known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them. 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, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:19-20
But while the creation “declares the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1-6), and while what has been made by the creative hand of God gives anyone but a fool (Psalm 14:1) overwhelming evidence of a supreme Creator (Romans 1:19-20), the creation and general revelation will never bring a sinner to repentance and faith, and this for many reasons.
First, for the fallen and unredeemed man, the creation does not reveal the one true God, but merely evidences some power much greater than the creature. That this is true is displayed by pantheism and polytheism and even through the foolishness of evolution, in which modern man denies what his senses and his intellect make unambiguously clear to him. To move a sinner to salvation, the sinner must be pointed to the one true God, indeed, must be pointed to the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the gospel. The sinner must encounter the God who saves sinners.
Second, the creation does not reveal the fallenness and the wickedness of every human heart and does not reveal that man is by nature sinful. Through the creation alone any man and every man is free to behave as he pleases, because the creation is not moral. It displays God’s power, but it does not proclaim His holiness. Without the Law there is no concept of sin (Romans 3:20; etc.), and so there is no awareness of how wicked we are. The Law was given to display God’s holiness and our unholiness.
Third, the creation does not make clear that God’s holy wrath is directed against my sin and that my sin deserves to be judged. Only the gospel declares to the sinner that their sin deserves the judgment of death and presents to the sinner the certainty of hell for those who will not respond to the gospel message.
Fourth, there is nothing in the natural creation that would point to the Lord Jesus Christ and would declare Him to be the Savior of sinners. The Lord is not presented through what has been made, but rather through those who have been chosen to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8, etc.). Paul declares in Romans that the Lord Jesus must be presented or no one can ever believe (Romans 10:14-15). The gospel is where the Lord Jesus is proclaimed.
Fifth, the creation does not tell the sinner what to do in order to be saved. It must be acknowledged that the plan of salvation wrought through the Incarnation and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is completely unlikely and would never be conceived by the mind of man. But even if there was history that told of Jesus, nowhere would man know of the significance of that life and what to do to respond to Jesus. Only the gospel tells us that we must respond by believing on Christ as Lord and Savior to be saved.
Sixth, the creation brings no conviction of sin, because the creation is not empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that brings conviction of sin (John 16:8ff) and without His power, the man does not experience conviction. By contrast, the Holy Spirit is empowered to bring about conviction of sin.
Seventh and finally, the creation gives the sinner no power to repent and believe. The creation is powerless to move the sinner to repentance and faith. Without the Holy Spirit’s moving through the gospel the sinner is left dead in transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1-7). But the gospel brings with it the power to stir the dead heart of the sinner and to remove the heart of stone and to create a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36).
Thus we must conclude that there is no way that “the native in Africa” who has never heard the gospel can come to faith in Christ and be saved, for there is nothing in their experience that can bring them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. All of this information and all of these steps listed are necessary for salvation, but it is “the gospel that is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). Without the gospel being preached and understood and without the response of faith no one is saved. Thus the person holding a Bible in a stadium in Houston who has never been convicted of their personal sin and who therefore has never come to repentance and faith is no better off than “the native in Africa” who has never been exposed to one word of the gospel. Both are equally lost.
In our next post, we will consider the implications of these ideas about the creation for our evangelism and for our apologetics.
Soli Deo gloria rmb 3/6/2023 #630