The Human Heart and the Knowledge of God.
Romans 1: 16 – 32.
Who we imagine God to be is perhaps the most important piece of information in life, as it inevitably impacts who we are and how we relate to everything else around us. This fellowship with God is never in a void without knowledge, but is always contingent on our appreciation of His Word. However, the human capacity to appreciate the eternal and the infinite is atrociously limited, and this would explain our typical blasé attitude towards the sacred. In this passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul introduced the Roman believers to aspects of God’s attributes, quite unlike the gods they were more familiar with beforehand – whether it be Caesar or some other idol. Paul was seeking to transform their perception, and therefore, their attitude and approach to the personal Creator God. Was Paul being presumptuous in assuming that the believers did not know God?
Many of us know what we believe, and yet we are notorious in not translating what we apparently faithfully believe into obedience; this was the reason for Paul’s upbraiding of the Roman church. In fact, he bluntly laid out in logical sequence the basis they ought to be absolutely cognisant of God’s existence and presence in themselves, like any living human, and if they were bent on their present course of disobedience, their nominal, uncommitted and defiant attitude made them fools, thereby dishonouring God in their Christian testimony (Rom 1:20-23).
Firstly, man is instinctively aware of a righteous God, and yet he chooses to suppress this truth within himself (Rom 1:18-19). This instructive realisation of the imago Dei runs counter to our widely held perception of the fallen man. What Paul concluded was that man’s capacity to discern right from wrong and his concern for justice implies God’s existence; if that were not so, then our conscious awareness of these values and need for order would otherwise be meaningless.
Secondly, it would be the height of incredulity for humans to not purposefully plan and order events with a desired establish outcome in mind, as none of us would just sit back and let chance takes it course and be totally satisfied with any consequential result! All of creation speaks of God’s attributes and power (Rom 1:20). The pre-existent One fashioned everything within our cosmological worlds: the seen and the unseen realms, and prearranged everything to move and coordinate together in some orderly way. Nothing was left to chance in the hands of the wise Creator.
Thirdly, despite the evidence of God’s existence and our inward witness to that fact, we are in denial, and would rather put our trust elsewhere. Paul maintained that we gravitate towards other gods and they take their place in our divided heart (Rom 1:21-32). The underlying issue is that we unconsciously bring our ‘other gods’ with us when we become Christians, and they complicate our obedience towards God; these idols include the tangibles and the intangibles – encompassing our work, our hearts, emotions, and body. To be freed to serve God with a single mind requires our discernment, identification, and surrender of these impediments, and to continue to walk in His light (c.f., 2 Cor 5:17). Our struggles, after all, are not that different from the Roman believers in Paul’s days (Rom 1:28-32). To know and appreciate someone well, is to know the complexities of their persona, identity or character; humanly speaking, to know their strengths as well as weaknesses, and to be able to love them nevertheless. To know God, is to humanly and spiritually, as best as we are able, to grasp His revealed attributes through His Word, to comprehend what He had done for us, as we draw closer in following Him faithfully (James 4:8).