Romans 1:18-25: The General Revelation Cannot Save

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

Considering Religions – Part 3 Religions are shallow

INTRODUCTION. This is the third post in a series of articles about “religions.” I had planned to have this third post be about the threats posed to the true church from pagan religions and from “Christian” religions and also about the biblical warnings against these false systems, but I have decided to defer those subjects and, instead, to consider the shallowness of religions. Shallowness is another mark of “religions.”

OUR DEFINITION OF RELIGION. We have been considering the subject of religions in the last few posts. Remember that we are defining “religions” functionally, knowing that these systems of thought do not innocently spring up as someone’s helpful ideas, but are Satanically conceived and designed to prevent the adherents from hearing about Jesus Christ and thus being saved. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Thus, I am defining a “religion” as “any worldview, philosophy, ideology, or system of thought which exists for the purpose of intentionally obscuring the gospel of Jesus Christ so that people remain trapped away from salvation in a godless, Christless, hopeless religious system.”

CHARACTERISTICS OF RELIGION. Last time we had also talked about the characteristics of religions so that we could better identify them. The definition above contains the most prominent characteristic of religions; namely, that the purpose of “religions” is keeping people away from Jesus Christ and away from His salvation. But as I was thinking and praying about this topic this morning, another distinguishing mark came to mind: Religions are shallow.


Religious thought is marked by shallowness. They intentionally avoid the immense and complex questions which occur to every human being. God has built into every human heart a longing to know the answers to obvious questions about their own existence and He has displayed His creation for all to see His handiwork and to give undeniable evidence of His existence (Romans 1:19-20). But as you examine religions, you will see that they do not answer the obvious questions. Religions do not answer these questions because religions cannot answer these questions. If you have ever spoken to someone who is a religious adherent and have tried to move the conversation to deeper things, you have probably been frustrated by your inability to get much traction with them. That is because of how religions operate. Religions typically seek the young and the gullible and the simple-minded. These they ensnare in their religious system with its simple answers to complex questions and then they gradually smother any curiosity about the inadequate, unsatisfying answers they provide. Thus, as Paul said, they “blind the minds of the unbelieving.” So, religions are marked not only by shallow answers to life’s complex questions, but also by vigorously discouraging clear thinking or challenging questions. The attitude is, “Do what we tell you and do not ask questions!”

I have claimed that religions are shallow because they do not answer the basic questions of life. But what are the “immense and complex” questions that we are considering? What are the deep questions that we would like religious adherents to think about as precursors to possibly coming to faith in Jesus?


I maintain that every sentient human being asks these questions at some point in life. We all have questions about our existence like:

  • “Where did the world (and universe) come from?” How is it that the infinite complexity and order and beauty that I see all around me came into being? Has it always existed or was it made by someone? These questions plant the fact of our own smallness and finiteness in the front of our mind. Whoever created all this must be extremely powerful and immensely wise.
  • “Who created me?” When I consider my own body and the phenomenal complexity it has, I must ask, “Who made me?” I have a heart and lungs and eyes and ears and bones and a brain, and these all function perfectly well without my conscious will. Who could have designed and created me like this?
  • “Why do I exist?” Man is made to search for meaning because he needs a purpose for his life. Once a person loses a purpose for their life, they begin to die. But the question is, “Where do I find my purpose?” Who supplies me with my purpose? Since all other people are seeking an answer to this same question, then the answer cannot lie with people. But if why I exist is something that cannot be answered by man, who can answer the question?
  • “Why do people die?” As we gain years in life, we begin to notice that people die. One day the person is laughing and smiling, and they can hug you and talk with you, and the next day they lie still and cold and will never laugh or talk again. What happened? Why did they die? Where are they now? Is death the end, or is there something beyond death? If something is beyond, what is it?
  • “What happens to me when I die?” The previous question leads inevitably to this question. As I think about that person’s death, since I also am a person, I have to think about my own death. The same questions now take on vastly more significance. Where do I go when I die? Is death the end, or is there something beyond? Some claim that my death will be followed by nothingness, but if that is true, why am I so afraid of death?

These are universal questions which all people consider simply because they are human beings. As we search for these answers, we would naturally turn to our religion. “Surely,” we think, “my religion will give me the answers to these deep questions.” Unfortunately, the shallowness of religions is borne out by the lack of satisfying answers they provide for these most basic of human questions.


But human beings are also moral creatures with a God-given conscience. Yes, we are fallen creatures stained by sin and our moral faculties have been warped by the fall, but we are still all moral creatures with a built-in sense of right and wrong and a sense of guilt earned from our own transgressions of God’s holy Law. And so, after wrestling with the universal questions of existence, we turn to moral questions which lead to God and His justice. Now we are asking questions like:

  • “Why is there so much evil in the world?” If God is good, then why is there so much evil? Where did the evil come from?
  • “What do I do with my sense of guilt?” I see that I do many evil things and I feel guilty. How do I get rid of this guilt?
  • “How can I be forgiven of the evil things that I have done?” I do not think that my good will ever outweigh my bad. In fact, I am not even sure I can think of an example of doing a “good thing.” What I need is a new start. What I need is forgiveness of all my sins.
  • “Does God exist?” Even though man knows that God exists, this question still needs to be asked. Some religions would get this one wrong.
  • “What is God like?” Is there one God or many gods? Is God personal or impersonal? Is God good or evil? Does God care about me or about anything that I do? For that matter, is God involved in this world at all?
  • “How can I know anything about God?” Has God ever communicated with man in any way? Is there anyway that I can find out about God? Is there anyway that I can communicate with God, like one-on-one? What are God’s thoughts? What does God think about evil? What has God ever done about evil?
  • “What is the Bible?” The Bible stands alone as by far the most famous and most read book in human history. This amazing book is God’s written communication to man. There are religious books that are clumsily written counterfeits, but the Bible is evidently God-breathed. There is no book like the Bible.
  • “Who is Jesus?” While religions may have their religious heroes like Mohammed or Buddha, Jesus towers above them as Mount Everest towers above a sand dune. Religions offer evil founders with their sinful systems of wicked worship and useless works, but Jesus shines as incarnate deity, the Son of God and God the Son, who performed countless miracles as He lived a sinless life. Then He submitted to the agony and humiliation of His atoning death on the cross, rising from the dead three days later in glorious resurrection and coming soon in power and glory to judge all the earth.

Take any of these metaphysical questions to any religion and the answers will either be shallow or silent. If religions have no answers about the immense questions of life, they certainly offer no hope regarding moral answers.

But there is one more area that should fall into this discussion and that points out the shallowness and hollowness of religions.


In Christianity, our God is personal, and He invites us into a personal, intimate relationship with Him that continues to grow deeper the longer we walk with Him. He declares He is with us and will never leave us or forsake us. He invites us to cry out to Him and to commune with Him because, in Christ, we are His children.

By contrast, in religions whether pagan or “Christian,” the gods are impersonal, and God is distant. An identifying characteristic of a religion is that the one who is worshiped is emotionally distant. Religions are marked by an absence of intimacy.

SDG                 rmb                 3/6/2022                     #498

The God who creates spiders and welcomes sinners

“For 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 through what has been made so that men are without excuse.” – Romans 1:19-20

This morning I noticed that the spider, whose web is in the corner of our kitchen window, had captured a rather large bug in its web and appeared to be feeding on that captured bug.

And I again marveled. God designed and created insects of a certain size with an exoskeleton that keeps all of their vital fluids within that hard case. And God designed and created the spider of a certain size who creates a web that is sticky and allows the insect to be caught in the web. The spider who created the web can run back and forth on the same web that traps the spider’s prey in a sticky tomb. But also, not only did God design and create the spider to produce the material for its web, but He also designed and created the spider with the ability to create webs with the web material its body continuously produces, webs of the perfect shape to capture the spider’s prey. And God designed and created the spider to build the same web repeatedly. And God designed and created each species of spider with its own unique web design, such that, if you see the web, you can know the species of spider. But also, God designed and created the spider such that its mouth can penetrate the exoskeleton of the insects which are captured by its perfectly created web and thus feed on its prey.

And there are myriad other details of this infinitely complex drama of spider and prey, this drama that unfolds in the corners of kitchen windows all over the world every morning. And this drama of spider and prey, in all its infinite complexity, has gone on virtually unnoticed since God designed and created the heavens and the earth.

But this infinitely complex drama of spider and prey is an infinitely minute and insignificant component of an uncountable number of similarly infinitely complex dramas that interact with one another in perfect unison day after day and year after year. Such is the nature of God’s creation.

And it all began with nothing.

Our God created all this infinite beauty and complexity “ex nihilo.”

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” from nothing.

God spoke, and nothing became everything.

Try to grasp that with your finite mind and you will quickly be driven to overload.

But there is something more mind-bending than that.

This same Creator-God has put on human flesh and has visited this planet that He created. Earth is the visited planet. Jesus Christ has visited this planet. The God-Man has come down to dwell with the people He created.

And this God has made a way for the very humans who have disobeyed Him and who have killed His Son, Jesus, whom He sent, and who have broken His laws and have disobeyed His commands, to be reconciled to Him and to be rescued from His holy, righteous wrath by trusting His Son Jesus for eternal life.

This is the God whom I serve and love and worship, the one true and living God, who has created the world out of nothing and who now invites every sinner to come to His throne and receive eternal life.

“For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.” Isaiah 64:4

God is worthy of all praise!

SDG                 rmb                 9/2/2021                     #430