Commentary | Romans 1:21-23

Romans 1:21-23 (NIV): 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.


Commentary

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” – God has made himself known. His existence is only denied by those who suppress the truth that has been clearly revealed to them. Their wickedness disqualifies them from glorifying Him and thanking Him. By suppressing the truth, foolishness begins to thrive. For if truth is denied, then lies are accepted. The truth is what softens our hearts and sets us free. Thinking in a godless way is futile and it turns our hearts hard and dark. This leads to conceitedness and self-sufficiency (prideful thinking); the claiming to be wise, but there is no wisdom without God. For without God the truth cannot be known, only foolishness and giving into deception.

and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” –  Mankind still expresses the belief in the Higher Being and the Divine, for they “exchanged” the glory of God for other images, ideologies, and beliefs. All of mankind is incapable of denying the “higher calling.” They can only “suppress” and/or “exchange” it. The law (the objective moral law) is written on all of our hearts. Mankind gives credence to God’s nature but denies its source. In the context of this passage Paul would be alluding to all of the false beliefs and philosophies that were prevalent at the time (Acts 16-17). Particularly Pantheism and Gnosticism that was made evident through their erection of many statues of different gods. These people didn’t deny the Divine, they only “exchanged” it for false beliefs, especially the beliefs that suited themselves. This type of belief system can still be clearly seen in the modern age.

  • God’s divine nature cannot be denied, for it is He who makes it known. But mankind can choose to “suppress” or “exchange” it.

Feel free to use the discussion questions below for a group Bible study and if you would like, the commentary above to help facilitate the discussion.


Discussion Questions

  1. How is it that mankind can know God and yet not acknowledge Him?

  1. What is the difference between mankind’s wisdom and God’s wisdom?

  1. What are reasons that people suppress and exchange the truth about God?

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