This excerpt occurs in the middle of that depressing section from Romans 1:18-32. Considering all that Paul says in those verses, this seems like a relatively “minor” offense. Because of that, it’s one, I’m afraid, we give little thought to.
Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US, perhaps it would be good if we spent a few minutes thinking about why Paul included it. The “nor” connects it to what Paul just said, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…, v. 21. These go together. If one doesn’t want to acknowledge God, one probably won’t be thankful for His blessings.
A question. Who were these people? Paul doesn’t really identify them, although since the creation of the world indicates it happened pretty early. My own view is that it refers to that time before the call of Abraham in Genesis 12. God gave these people what they wanted. He let them go. And called one man to begin the process of reclaiming the whole race.
Another question. What does it mean when it says they knew God? There’s a school of thought that believes that between the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and the giving of the Law in Exodus 20 that men (and women) were left pretty much to the guiding of their own consciences. This is “the Dispensation of Conscience.” Is that accurate?
Though we have only incidental references to it, it seems to me that there was indeed a revelation of God of which we have no clear record. For example, just in the life of Abraham, God said of him, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, my statutes, and My laws,” Genesis 26:5. These seem to be references to a lot more than the record we have from Genesis 12 onward.
The Book of Job, thought to have been written before the time of Moses, is filled with references to God, righteousness and judgment. There are also amazing references to things not clearly revealed otherwise (to us) until the NT. See Job 14:14; 19:25-27. Where did these come from? Certainly not from the consciences of fallen men.
It seems to me, therefore, that when Paul wrote that they knew God, it wasn’t just some general, unspecified awareness of a “Higher Power,” but men actually “knew” the God of Heaven. That is, they were familiar with Him and His teachings and laws.
In spite of all this, they turned their backs on Him. They weren’t thankful, either. Thankful for what? Well, if nothing else, that God hadn’t destroyed the race completely, say, at the Flood. Or that He hadn’t just let Adam and Eve go after they turned away from Him and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Or at the tower of Babel, just left people to the confusion and disarray of their new languages.
But He didn’t.
They didn’t care.
What about Thanksgiving Day, 2013?
Do we care?
Or is it just “Turkey Day”?
This nation seems to be well on its way to being another example of people who have been greatly blessed by God, but have turned their backs on Him, with the results we see both in Romans and in our society.
Well on our way to the trash heap of history.
Do I care?
Am I thankful? Well, not for where we seem to headed as a nation, but for the blessings of God? Are you?
I’m thankful for the freedom we still have. Freedom to write this blog. Freedom to believe as I understand the Scriptures to teach. Freedom which still makes us one of the best places on earth to live. We don’t build fences to keep people in.
I’m thankful for the Scripture. It tells me that there is more to this life and this world than this life and this world. It tells me of a Savior Who laid aside His own interests, as it were, and made mine His. I’m thankful for the grace that brought salvation to mankind, and to me individually. To others, as well.
Further, I’m thankful for the lady who has shared my life and
my our home for the last 43 years. My wife. I’m thankful for the children God has given us, children whom we hope, the ones farther away, might surprise us tomorrow and be here. Although with the snow coming down, they might be better off staying home. I’m thankful for their children and the privilege of watching some of them grow from infancy. It won’t be that long, Lord willing, before Sharon and I are great-grandparents, though I tremble at the thought of the world they will enter.
Thankful for friends, for health, for so many blessings, so often overlooked.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His mercy endures forever, Psalm 107:6.