“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead …” Romans 1:20
In our last study in Romans we looked at the purpose for God’s wrath.
In this study we will look at how God has made His existence clear to people.
τα γαρ αορατα αυτου απο κτισεως κοσμου τοις ποιημασιν νοουμενα καθοραται η τε αιδιος αυτου δυναμις και θειοτης
A literal translation of this Scripture would be – “the indeed invisible qualities of Him from creation of world by the things made being understood are clearly seen the both eternal of Him power and divinity.”
We begin with the “invisibility” of God. The Greek word is ἀόρατα –
- Moses reminded Israel that “the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice” (Deuteronomy 4:12).
- John wrote that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18).
- Paul reminded the Colossians that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15).
- Paul told Timothy about God being “eternal, immortal, invisible … who alone is wise” (1 Timothy 1:17).
- The author of Hebrews wrote concerning Moses that “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
- Moses asked God to see His glory and God replied “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). Though God is invisible, He allowed Moses to see His “goodness.”
“I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:19
The “goodness” of God is a primary attribute or “quality” of God. That’s what Paul addressed in Romans 1:20 – “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen.” God mentioned His “goodness,” His being “gracious,” and His having “compassion” as what He would show Moses –
“Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7
The invisible God “proclaimed” that He is –
- abounding in goodness and truth
- keeping mercy for thousands
- forgiving iniquity, and transgressions and sin
- by no means clearing the guilty
- visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation
God made His invisible qualities/attributes known to Moses in an unusual way. I say unusual because that is not how God “usually” shows His invisible qualities to people. The usual way, Paul wrote, is “understood by the things that are made.” That statement is part of the larger statement Paul made to the Romans – “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made …”
The words “creation” and “made” connect in this sentence.
ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου – from creation of world
τοῖς ποιήμασιν – by the things made
The word κτίσεως is a noun from the verb κτίζω, which means “create, form, make.” It was always used of something God had done.
The word ποιήμασιν is a noun from the verb ποιέω, which means “make, manufacture, cause, act.”
“even His eternal power and Godhead”
η τε αιδιος αυτου δυναμις και θειοτης
Paul makes it clear in this statement that two of God’s “invisible” qualities/attributes that have been “clearly seen” since the “creation of the world” and “understood” by the “things that are made” are His “eternal power” and “Godhead.”
What are the “things” that God made during “creation”?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
As we read through Genesis 1 we see that God made space (the universe), then filled that space. He created the heavens and the earth, then filled both with things animate and inanimate. God’s act of creating the universe and everything in it, Paul wrote, was a visible demonstration of God’s “eternal power and Godhead.”
King David wrote –
“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3
The prophet Isaiah wrote –
“To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.” Isaiah 40:25-26
“For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18
The Apostle John wrote –
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:1-3
“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11
The Apostle Paul wrote –
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” Colossians 1:15-17
“eternal power” comes from the Greek words ἀΐδιος δύναμις. ἀΐδιος is an adjective that means “eternal, everlasting.” It comes from the adverb ἀεί which means “always, without ceasing, perpetually.” δύναμις is a noun that means “physical power, force, might, ability, energy.”
Because God is Eternal and All Powerful He was able to make everlasting covenants with Noah, Abraham, Jacob and King David.
“The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:16
“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7
“Then Jacob said to Joseph: ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’” Genesis 48:3-4
“Although my house is not so with God, Yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things and secure.” 2 Samuel 23:5
“Godhead” comes from the Greek noun θειότης and means “divinity, divine nature.” It comes from the adjective θεῖος which comes from the noun θεός (God, deity). Several other English translations of the Bible use the terms “divine nature” to translate θειότης.
The Greeks and Romans had a long history of believing in gods and goddesses. One of the oldest writings about divines in Greek culture is from the 8th century BC –
“Hail, children of Zeus! Grant lovely song and celebrate the holy race of the deathless gods who are for ever, those that were born of Earth and starry Heaven and gloomy Night and them that briny Sea did rear. Tell how at the first gods and earth came to be, and rivers, and the boundless sea with its raging swell, and the gleaming stars, and the wide heaven above, and the gods who were born of them, givers of good things, and how they divided their wealth, and how they shared their honours amongst them, and also how at the first they took many-folded Olympus. These things declare to me from the beginning, ye Muses who dwell in the house of Olympus, and tell me which of them first came to be.” The Theogony of Hesiod, ll. 104-115, translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White
The oldest writings about “divines” (gods) may be the Sumerians and date to the early 3rd millennium BC. These ancient people believed there were multiple gods and goddesses. Where did that belief originate? One possibility is found in Genesis 10 –
“Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).” Genesis 10:8-12
Here’s more about Nimrod’s kingdom and the Sumerian/Mesopotamian religions that came from it –
“Human history is filled with thousands of ‘heroes’ who were leaders of millions of people through the ages. Kings and other leaders were deified as ‘mighty men’ of old (ancestor worship). Nimrod was mentioned as one of the first after the Flood. Even as Noah taught the existence of only one supreme God (monotheism) Who created and ruled the universe and everything in it, Nimrod taught the belief system of many gods (polytheism), many of whom were part human and part god, ‘heroes’ of the earth and sky. Nimrod has been connected with many “mighty men” through the ages including those of Gilgamesh, Bel, Belus, Titan, Hercules and Melcarth.
Nimrod began his rebel kingdom at Babel. That is possibly the location where Nimrod believed the Garden of Eden had stood before the flood. His purpose for building a tower that would reach ‘unto heaven’ may have been because he saw the location as a direct gateway to the gods that could make humans immortal again or as a way to attain godhood himself. The ancient Assyrian-Babylonian name for the city was Babili (‘gate of god’). That’s where God confused human language. ‘Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.’ The Hebrew word for the city is Babhel and came from the word ‘balal’ (to confound). Many scholars believed the ‘Tower of Babel’ was located somewhere in Babylon, though its exact location was not known for sure. Some of the places archaeologists and other researchers believed the tower was built included the ruins of Babil, the temple of Borsippa, the ruins of Tell-Amram and the ruins of the Birs-Nimrud in Borsippa. The ruins were located about 60 miles south of Bagdhad, Iraq along the Euphrates River. Ancient descriptions of the tower were of a terraced pyramid known as a ziggurat (similar to the stepped pyramids of Egypt). The word ‘ziggurat’ came from the ancient Assyrian name for ‘mountaintop.’ Nimrod may have been the architect for the ziggurat-pyramid which became the earliest temples of worship of the gods. Since the entire human race was involved in building the first stepped pyramid at Babel, it’s no wonder that many of the ancient civilizations built them. Even though the language was confounded and people were scattered across the earth, they carried with them a desire to touch heaven and find immortality again. Those who were scattered would have remembered Nimrod’s design and what he taught them about how to reach heaven and immortality. The tower and city were not finished at that time because of the confusion caused when people could not understand each other. Possible genetic changes in physical features would have also caused great panic and fear among the people. God’s confounding of the language was an immediate and devastating blow to the human race and to Nimrod’s plans to regain the immortality Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden.
Babel was just the beginning of Nimrod’s kingdom. He apparently left Babel after God confounded human language and moved miles away to build the ancient cities of Erech (later known as Urak), Accad (also spelled Akkad and Agade) and Calneh (also known as Nippur in Sumer, modern day Niffer or Niffar, Iraq – Nippur was the home of the god Enlil and a center of spiritual worship in ancient Sumer) in the land of Shinar. If Nimrod’s lifespan was similar to that of his cousins from Shem’s lineage, he would have lived more than 400 years. That was plenty of time to build a powerful empire and he may have still been in power during the time of Abram. The Hebrew prophet Micah, who lived during the 8th century B.C., called the land of ancient Mesopotamia ‘the land of Nimrod.’ (Micah 5:6) That’s how much power and influence Nimrod had during his reign as king of the first civilization following the Flood. Ancient Mesopotamia was the land of Nimrod. He left the mark of his ideas, beliefs and philosophy on the people of many generations. What Nimrod believed and did still affects the spiritual quest of billions of people to this day (the belief in the ‘god’ inside every human being – the potential to become a god or like the gods – and the ‘many gods’ in the earth and sky).
The cities Nimrod built became the centers of worship for many gods (Annunaki) and Nimrod may have been the first ‘god’ of ancient Mesopotamia. Many scholars believed King Nimrod was the model for the ancient god Nimrod of the Assyrian Palace of Khorsabad (located in Iraq). The ancient Babylonian god Bel Marduk was the patron god of Babylon and may have also been modeled after Nimrod. Ancient city-state kings were viewed as leaders, priests and representatives of the chief god of the community. Some scholars believed the ancient Sumerian gods Enki and Enlil were modeled after Nimrod as well as the Philistine god Dagon. The gods were immortal, but had human features and emotions. The belief in and search for immortality was possibly Nimrod’s largest legacy to the human race along with the development of the city states. Nimrod’s Mesopotamian kingdom eventually grew to include the Sumerian, Babylonian and Akkadian empires (modern day Syria and Iraq).” A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality, Mark McGee, Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007, pp. 481-483
How Many gods?
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead …” Romans 1:20
The Apostle Paul specified the time frame he was addressing in his letter to the Romans – “For since the creation of the world …” As we look back to the early chapters of Genesis, we find the first grouping of human beings (Genesis 1 – 6) either worshiping one God or rebelling against one God. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Every intent of the thoughts of human beings was “evil continually,” but we don’t see that the evil included worshiping multiple gods.
What we do see in Genesis 4 is rebellion against God on the part of Cain and his descendants and worship of God on the part of Seth and his descendants. Enoch, who was seventh from Adam through the line of Seth, walked with God and was “taken” by God (Genesis 5:21-24). We learn in Hebrews 11 that by faith “Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5)
Noah, who is first mentioned in Genesis 5, was tenth from Adam through the line of Seth and it was during his lifetime that God saw “that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” God determined to destroy the human race, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).
It’s important to see that the first group of human beings (Genesis 1 – 6) either worshiped God or rebelled against God, but there’s no evidence that polytheism (belief in multiple gods) had begun prior to Genesis 6. We know that the events of Genesis 7 – 9 (the Great Flood) brought humanity back to a position of worshiping the one true God, so when did the belief in many “gods” begin?
Nimrod was Noah’s great-grandson and, based on the number of years given for his cousins in Genesis 11, was probably born about 40 years after the flood. Based on the genealogies of Noah’s sons in Genesis 10 – 11, we see that the dispersion of families from Babel led to the worship of many gods in various cities, city-states and nations. Archaeological finds from the ancient civilizations started by the descendants of Noah’s sons demonstrate a belief in multiple gods. Why?
“Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” Genesis 11:1-9
It may be that the experience of the human race at the Tower of Babel shook people to their physical, emotional and spiritual core. The idea of an Almighty God who confused their languages (and possibly their physical features) and drove them away from accomplishing their desire to build a tower to the heavens and make a name for themselves so they wouldn’t be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth, may have been a reason for early family groups to create their own gods that they could manipulate by appealing to natures similar to their own. No longer would they have to deal with an Almighty and Perfect God who they could not control. They created gods that were more like them, that they could control and that would give them what they wanted.
[I go into more depth about ancient religions, their myths and gods in A History of Man’s Quest for Immorality.]
In the next part of our study in Romans, we will look at six of the most powerful words in the Bible.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”