Holding Down The Truth:
Consequence & Conclusion

In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services by Ps JJ Lim, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 5c of 83


“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.  20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:  21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:18-23).

[God is not apathetic about what goes on in the world. He informs us in His Word that He is angry against the ungodly and the unrighteous, and especially so because they hold down the truth in unrighteousness. What is this truth? We saw in the first instalment of the present study that this truth is essentially what may be known of God; and what God has revealed concerning himself in His creation. In the second instalment, we considered how the wicked hold down the truth. The wicked is not ignorant of the truth. Rather he chooses to ignore the truth and to disbelieve the truth. In this final instalment, must wrap up the study by discussing the consequence of holding down the truth.]

 

3.  Consequences of Holding Down the Truth

a.   The apostle Paul mentions a number of consequences in this short passage. Let’s look at each of them.

  •  First, those who hold down the truth are guilty.

   They are guilty of perversity and rebellion against God. To be “without excuse” (v. 20) is to be guilty. The truth does not change just because we do not like it. Sin is not ignorance. Sin is rebellion and corruption by which a man refuses to acknowledge God because he loves unrighteousness. In other words, if a man fails to seek and worship God because he does not like the truth, it does not make him any less guilty.

There are many people in the world today who are holding down the truth in unrighteousness and hoping against hope that if it is true that God exists, they would be spared for not believing in him. They say: “God has not shown us clearly enough that He exists.” But this is a lie.  “That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” And they have clearly seen and understood. But they refused to believe. They are, therefore, guilty and without excuse. Guilt is the first and foremost consequence of holding down the truth about God.

  •    Secondly, those who hold down the truth live meaningless lives. Man is created by the living and true God to glorify and enjoy Him. But those who suppress the truth about God, would not glorify Him as God, nor live gratefully with right relationship with God. The man who holds down the truth is, therefore, ultimately aimless in his life. He continues to live only because he enjoys some bodily pleasures from day to day. So he is constantly seeking new ways of pleasuring himself—he experiments with drugs, with immoral activities, extreme sports, false religions and even violence. His life is filled with misery and complaints. Because he refuses to acknowledge God, he is full of grumbling and complaining in his heart when things do not happen the way he wants. Meaningless and frustrating lives is the second consequence of suppressing the truth.
  •    Thirdly, those who hold down the truth become “vain in their imaginations” and darkened in their foolish heart (v. 22). Their thought lives become meaningless. Their hearts are shrouded in darkness. Instead of using their minds to serve their Creator, they use their minds to invent things that have no eternal value. Instead of using their hearts to love their Creator, their hearts are filled with things of this world that they cannot bring with them when they leave the present world. Thus the third consequence of suppressing the truth is foolishness and vanity in the heart and mind.
  •     Fourthly, those who hold down the truth will indulge in idolatry (v. 23). In a sense, idolatry is both a means of holding down the truth and a consequence of holding down the truth. Idolatry is not only wicked. It is foolish, demeaning and pitiful. As I mentioned, idolatry arises because the human heart cannot get rid of the knowledge of God’s existence. This is why there is no race or people in the world that is without religion. But fallen man by nature hates the truth about God. He cannot help being aware that God exists, but he would rather that God be limited in His power, in His glory and in His holiness, and is changeable according to the fancies of His owners. But how foolish and sad that man should worship his own creation.

In the 44th chapter of Isaiah, there is a very poignant passage on idolatry. Isaiah  speaks about a man who cuts down a tree. He uses part of the wood to cook, part of it to warm himself, and then with the remainder, he makes an idol. Then he falls down and worships it and prays unto it: “Deliver me, for thou art my God.” When I first read this passage many years ago, I thought it was very funny. But I no longer think so. I think it is sad. What can be sadder than to behold man created in the image of God; man, the highest of God’s creation, bowing down to dumb idols of wood, or stone or metal. The idols cannot see, cannot hear, cannot move. It has absolutely no power; and yet man, to satisfy his conscience that God exists, would pray to it. What a poor substitute!

And lest anyone thinks that I am referring only to those religions that use graven images, let me hasten to add that all the gods of this world (apart from Jehovah) are idols. As it is pitiful that man should bow down to worship dumb idols, so it is pitiful that man should worship the vivid imaginations of fellow sinners.

Idolatry, moreover, is the device of the wicked one to blind the world that they may not seek after the living and true God. If there were no idolatry, man may be shut up by their conscience to seek God. But idolatry channels man away from the truth. Thus idolatry is one of the most terrible consequences of suppressing the truth.

  •    But finally, the most frightening consequence of suppressing the truth is abandonment by God. “God also gave them up,” “God gave them up;” “God gave them over” Paul reiterates (v. 24, 26, 28). We will consider this thought in our next study. But for now, realise that the abandonment of God is the judicial consequence of suppressing the truth. Those who continue to suppress the truth need not wait until the last day to experience the justice of God. They will begin to experience the trickles of God’s wrath against them even in this life.

Conclusion

What do we say to these things?

a.   First, as God has revealed himself in His creation, let us take time to be filled with awe by His creation. I am often amazed by little things. If you come to my flat you will see a collection of beetles, of sea shells, of rocks and of other natural things. Why do I keep these things? Because I am fascinated by them. I am fascinated by how God made them. Each one of them is intricately beautiful. So long as it has not been tampered by human hands, it is beautiful. Each piece I have in my collection bears silent testimony of God wisdom and power.

But not only these little things: big things bear testimony of God’s glory and power too. When I was preparing this message I took a break. I looked out of the window. What do I see? I see trees and buildings. I am not an architect, but when I look at any building, it would almost always cross my mind how certain parts of it could be designed or built better. There is always something ugly about buildings. But when I look at the trees; unless the tree is diseased; it always looks beautiful. You cannot add to the beauty of a tree. They are always beautiful, because they are copies of God’s original creation. Nature testifies of the glory and power of God.

Take time, dearly beloved, to enjoy God’s creation. Take time to teach your children about God’s creation. Teach them to read the book of nature. But first, you must learn to enjoy nature again. Do not remain as a dweller in the concrete jungle without any interest in nature. You are missing out on enjoying one of God’s most beautiful books. Look at the trees, hear the birds and the insects, observe the fish in the canals, touch a sea slug, smell the flowers. And praise God and the Lord Jesus Christ who upholds all things by the Word of His power.

b.   Secondly, let us take heed that we do not hold down the truth. If the truth of God revealed in nature is sufficient to condemn people who refuse to believe and obey it; how much more terrible and awful it would be for those who have the privilege of reading God’s special revelation. If unbelievers have no excuse for not serving and worshipping the living and true God, much less do we have any excuse for not loving Him and living for Him.

I speak to you especially, covenant children, boys and girls; and anyone who is still unconverted. You are of all men in the world most privilege! You not only have God’s creation to testify about Himself; you have His Word. You have His Word read to you daily and preached to you weekly. If the unbelieving people of the world have no excuse for not worshipping and serving God; you must know that you have absolutely no excuse. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Heb 2:3a) asks the apostle to the Hebrews. You must live for Christ, beloved children! Learn from your parents how you may do so. This is far, far more important to you than the education you can get in school.

c.   Finally, let me warn you again of the foolishness of idolatry. We saw one kind of idolatry in this study. This is the idolatry that involves graven images. It is the most basic form of idolatry. But it is not the only kind. We are guilty of idolatry whenever we substitute anything for the living and true God. So all false religion is idolatry.

But so is covetousness! The apostle Paul says it twice. Writing to the Ephesians, he says: “Ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:5). Writing to the Colossians, he says: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

What Paul is saying is that God deserves our highest affection. We must therefore not allow anything to come between our love for God. As we consider how the world hold down the truth by idolatry; let us consider how easily we can slip into idolatry—by covetousness in regard to the things of the world, or by too much self-love and self-gratification. Let us, therefore, resolve to spend time daily to meditate about Christ and His love for us, that we may be ravished with His love—lest we forget Him and seek to fill the void in our hearts with idols. Amen.

JJ Lim