“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, so that they are without excuse …” Romans 1:20
At the end of the last part of our study in Romans I said we would look at six of the most powerful words in the Bible. Those words are “so that they are without excuse.” Who are “they” and what did Paul mean when he wrote that “they are without excuse”?
εις το ειναι αυτους αναπολογητους
The literal reads –
“for to be them without excuse”
The Greek word for “excuse” is αναπολογητους (anapologétos). The word is made up of the first letter of the Greek alphabet, ἄλφα (alpha), and ἀπολογέομαι (apologeomai – “give a defense”). The combination leads to the translation of “without defense, indefensible, inexcusable.” Someone who is αναπολογητους is someone who has no grounds for a defense and is therefore indefensible, inexcusable. They are “without excuse.”
The word ἀπολογία (apologia) was used in Ancient Greece for “a speech in defense,” usually presented by someone charged with a crime, the person presenting a legal defense. Plato’s Apology of Socrates is an example of how a defendant presented his apologia in a legal forum.
Paul used the term in that legal sense. All of humanity is “without excuse” (αναπολογητου) before the Eternal Judge. It is what we see in these references –
“But the Lord shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.” Psalm 9:7-8
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” Acts 17:30-31
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” Matthew 25:31-32
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:21-23
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15
Make no mistake .. Jesus Christ will judge the world and anyone not found written in the Book of Life will be αναπολογητους – without excuse.
The context of this part of Paul’s letter to the Romans concerns –
- The wrath of God being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men
- Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them
- For since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are seen clearly being understood by the that things that are made, even God’s eternal power and Godhead
It is in that context Paul wrote “so that they are without excuse.”
First question – who are “they”?
Paul began his timeframe with the words – “For since the creation of the world.” What human beings were alive in that timeframe? Genesis 1 contains the history of creation –
“ Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28
Genesis 2 has more details about God’s creation of “man” –
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being … And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:7, 21-22
Adam and Eve, the first human beings, knew God personally. They walked and talked with Him in the Garden of Eden. They were eyewitnesses of what God had created. They saw the sky and rivers, forests and meadows, plants and animals. God told them that if they disobeyed Him concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. They ate of the fruit of that tree and God revealed His wrath.
God said to Eve –
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16
God said to Adam –
“Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19
Adam and Eve were “without excuse.” Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve for what happened, but they were all without excuse before God. As we will see later in Romans, sin entered the world through Adam and death through sin, “and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Something we must not miss here is that even though Adam and Eve were without excuse before God, He had a plan to redeem them and others through His Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. God hinted at it when He cursed the serpent (Satan) –
“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15
As Paul wrote the Corinthians, our redemption and restoration comes through Christ!
“For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:21-22
Cain Without Excuse
Cain was the first-born son of Adam and Eve. He had a younger brother named Abel.
“Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’ Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” Genesis 4:2-12
Cain was jealous of his brother and God warned him about his anger and the danger of sin. Cain did not heed God’s warning and killed his brother, then lied about it. God didn’t accept Cain’s lying excuse and cursed him. Cain, the first person born on earth, was without excuse.
Humanity Without Excuse
Several hundred years after Cain killed Abel we see that humanity is intent on wickedness and evil.
“Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. 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. And the Lordwas sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”
The entire human race was without excuse before God and was deserving of His wrath, but God was gracious and blessed one person and his family. This pattern has been repeated throughout history. People are deserving of God’s wrath, but He demonstrates mercy through His grace.
Here are some other Bible examples of humanity without excuse –
- Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)
- Egypt (Exodus 4 – 14)
- Israel (2 Kings 17)
- Judah (2 Kings 25)
- All People (Romans 1:20; Revelation 20:11-15)
Six powerful words in Paul’s letter to the Romans – “so that they are without excuse.” However, even though all of humanity is without excuse before God, we have hope through Jesus Christ –
“To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:17
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope …” 1 Timothy 1:1
“… looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13-14
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5
Thank God for our Lord Jesus!
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”