Romans 1:20
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:
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(20) For, though there were parts of God’s being into which the eye could not penetrate, still they were easily to be inferred from the character of His visible creation, which bore throughout the stamp of Omnipotence and Divinity.

The invisible things of him.—His invisible attributes, afterwards explained as “His eternal power and Godhead.”

Are clearly seen . . . by the things that are made.—There is something of a play upon words here. “The unseen is seen—discerned by the eye of the mind—being inferred or perceived by the help of that which is made,” i.e., as we should say, by the phenomena of external nature.

Even His eternal power and Godhead.—A summary expression for those attributes which, apart from revelation, were embodied in the idea of God. Of these “power” is the most obvious. St. Paul does not go into the questions that have been raised in recent times as to the other qualities which are to be inferred as existing in the Author of nature; but he sums them up under a name that might be used as well by a Pagan philosopher as by a Christian—the attributes included in the one term “Godhead.” Divinity would be, perhaps, a more correct translation of the expression. What is meant is “divine nature,” rather than “divine personality.”

So that they are without excuse.—They could not plead ignorance.

1:18-25 The apostle begins to show that all mankind need the salvation of the gospel, because none could obtain the favour of God, or escape his wrath by their own works. For no man can plead that he has fulfilled all his obligations to God and to his neighbour; nor can any truly say that he has fully acted up to the light afforded him. The sinfulness of man is described as ungodliness against the laws of the first table, and unrighteousness against those of the second. The cause of that sinfulness is holding the truth in unrighteousness. All, more or less, do what they know to be wrong, and omit what they know to be right, so that the plea of ignorance cannot be allowed from any. Our Creator's invisible power and Godhead are so clearly shown in the works he has made, that even idolaters and wicked Gentiles are left without excuse. They foolishly followed idolatry; and rational creatures changed the worship of the glorious Creator, for that of brutes, reptiles, and senseless images. They wandered from God, till all traces of true religion must have been lost, had not the revelation of the gospel prevented it. For whatever may be pretended, as to the sufficiency of man's reason to discover Divine truth and moral obligation, or to govern the practice aright, facts cannot be denied. And these plainly show that men have dishonoured God by the most absurd idolatries and superstitions; and have degraded themselves by the vilest affections and most abominable deeds.For the invisible things of him - The expression "his invisible things" refers to those things which cannot be perceived by the senses. It does not imply that there are any things pertaining to the divine character which may be seen by the eye; but that there are things which may be known of him, though not discoverable by the eye. We judge of the objects around us by the senses, the sight, the touch, the ear, etc. Paul affirms, that though we cannot judge thus of God, yet there is a way by which we may come to the knowledge of him. What he means by the invisible things of God he specifies at the close of the verse, "his eternal power and Godhead." The affirmation extends only to that; and the argument implies that that was enough to leave them without any excuse for their sins.

From the creation of the world - The word "creation" may either mean the "act" of creating, or more commonly it means "the thing created," the world, the universe. In this sense it is commonly used in the New Testament; compare Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; Mark 16:5; Romans 1:25; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 4:13; Hebrews 9:11; 1 Peter 2:13; 2 Peter 3:4; Revelation 3:14. The word "from" may mean "since," or it may denote "by means of." And the expression here may denote that, as an historical fact, God "has been" "known" since the act of creation; or it may denote that he is known "by means of" the material universe which he has formed. The latter is doubtless the true meaning. For,

(1) This is the common meaning of the word "creation;" and,

(2) This accords with the design of the argument.

It is not to state an historical fact, but to show that they had the means of knowing their duty within their reach, and were without excuse. Those means were in the wisdom, power, and glory of the universe, by which they were surrounded.

Are clearly seen - Are made manifest; or may be perceived. The word used here does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.

Being understood - His perfections may be investigated, and comprehended by means of his works. They are the evidences submitted to our intellects, by which we may arrive at the true knowledge of God.

Things that are made - By his works; compare Hebrews 11:3. This means, not by the original "act" of creation, but by the continual operations of God in his Providence, by his doings, ποιήμασιν poiēmasin, by what he is continually producing and accomplishing in the displays of his power and goodness in the heavens and the earth. What they were capable of understanding, he immediately adds, and shows that he did not intend to affirm that everything could be known of God by his works; but so much as to free them from excuse for their sins.

His eternal power - Here are two things implied.

(1) that the universe contains an exhibition of his power, or a display of that attribute which we call "omnipotence;" and,

(2) That this power has existed from eternity, and of course implies an eternal existence in God.

It does not mean that this power has been exerted or put forth from eternity, for the very idea of creation supposes that it had not, but that there is proof, in the works of creation, of power which must have existed from eternity, or have belonged to an eternal being. The proof of this was clear, even to the pagan, with their imperfect views of creation and of astronomy; compare Psalm 19:1-14. The majesty and grandeur of the heavens would strike their eye, and be full demonstration that they were the work of an infinitely great and glorious God. But to us, under the full blaze of modern science, with our knowledge of the magnitude, and distances, and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, the proof of this power is much more grand and impressive. We may apply the remark of the apostle to the present state of the science, and his language will cover all the ground, and the proof to human view is continually rising of the amazing power of God, by every new discovery in science, and especially in astronomy. Those who wish to see this object presented in a most impressive view, may find it done in Chalmer's Astronomical Discourses, and in Dick's Christian Philosopher. Equally clear is the proof that this power must have been eternal. If it had not always existed, it could in no way have been produced. But it is not to be supposed that it was always exerted, any more than it is that God now puts forth all the power that he can, or than that we constantly put forth all the power which we possess. God's power was called forth at the creation. He showed his omnipotence; and gave, by that one great act, eternal demonstration that he was almighty; and we may survey the proof of that, as clearly as if we had seen the operation of his hand there. The proof is not weakened because we do not see the process of creation constantly going on. It is rather augmented by the fact that he sustains all things, and controls continually the vast masses of matter in the material worlds.

Godhead - His deity; divinity; divine nature, or essence. The word is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. Its meaning cannot therefore be fixed by any parallel passages. It proves the truth that the supremacy, or supreme divinity of God, was exhibited in the works of creation, or that he was exalted above all creatures and things. It would not be proper, however, to press this word as implying that all that we know of God by revelation was known to the pagan; but that so much was known as to show his supremacy; his right to their homage; and of course the folly and wickedness of idolatry. This is all that the argument of the apostle demands, and, of course, on this principle the expression is to be interpreted.

So that they are without excuse - God has given them so clear evidence of his existence and claims, that they have no excuse for their idolatry, and for hindering the truth by their iniquity. It is implied here that in order that people should be responsible, they should have the means of knowledge; and that he does not judge them when their ignorance is involuntary, and the means of knowing the truth have not been communicated. But where people have these means within their reach, and will not avail themselves of them, all excuse is taken away. This was the case with the Gentile world. They had the means of knowing so much of God, as to show the folly of worshipping dumb idols; compare Isaiah 44:8-10. They had also traditions respecting his perfections; and they could not plead for their crimes and folly that they had no means of knowing him. If this was true of the pagan world then, how much more is it true of the world now?


20. For the invisible things of him from—or "since"

the creation of the world are clearly seen—the mind brightly beholding what the eye cannot discern.

being understood by the things that are made—Thus, the outward creation is not the parent but the interpreter of our faith in God. That faith has its primary sources within our own breast (Ro 1:19); but it becomes an intelligible and articulate conviction only through what we observe around us ("by the things which are made," Ro 1:20). And thus are the inner and the outer revelation of God the complement of each other, making up between them one universal and immovable conviction that God is. (With this striking apostolic statement agree the latest conclusions of the most profound speculative students of Theism).

even his eternal power and Godhead—both that there is an Eternal Power, and that this is not a mere blind force, or pantheistic "spirit of nature," but the power of a living Godhead.

so that they are without excuse—all their degeneracy being a voluntary departure from truth thus brightly revealed to the unsophisticated spirit.

Because it might be further objected in behalf of the Gentiles, that the notions of God imprinted in their nature are so weak, that they may be well excused; therefore the apostle adds, that the certainty of them is further confirmed by the book of the creatures, which was written before them in capital letters, so that he that runs may read.

The invisible things of him: the apostle tells us afterwards himself what he means by the invisible things of God, viz. his being and his attributes, particularly his eternity and almighty power; to which we might add, his wisdom, goodness, &c. These, though invisible in themselves, yet are discernible by his works, and that ever since the creation of the world. By what they see created, they may easily collect or understand, that there is an eternal and almighty Creator; they may argue from the effects to the cause.

So that they are without excuse: some render it, that they may be without excuse; but it is better rendered in our translation: the meaning is not, that God gave them that knowledge for this end and purpose, that they might be inexcusable, for they might catch even at that for an excuse; but the plain sense is this, that God hath given all men such means of knowledge as sufficeth to leave them without excuse, there can be no pretence of ignorance.

For the invisible things of him,.... Not the angels, the invisible inhabitants of heaven: nor the unseen glories of another world; nor the decrees of God; nor the persons in the Godhead; but the perfections of God, or his "properties", as the Arabic version reads it; and which are explained by "his eternal power and Godhead": these,

from the creation of the world are clearly seen; this is no new discovery, but what men have had, and might, by the light of nature, have enjoyed ever since the world was created; these

being understood, in an intellectual way, by the discursive faculty of the understanding,

by the things that are made; the various works of creation; all which proclaim the being, unity, and perfections of God their Creator,

so that they are without excuse; the very Heathens, who have only the light of nature, and are destitute of a revelation, have no colour or pretext for their idolatrous practices, and vicious lives; nor have they, nor will they have anything to object to God's righteous judgment against them, or why they should not be condemned.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being {d} understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

(d) You do not see God, and yet you acknowledge him as God by his works; Cicero.

Romans 1:20 f. Τὰ γὰρ ἀόρατα.… θειότης] Giving a reason for, and explaining, the previous ὁ Θεὸς γὰρ αὐτοῖς ἐφανέρωσε.

τὰ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ] His invisible things, the manifold invisible attributes, that constitute His nature. Paul himself explains it afterwards by ἡ ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης; therefore it is not actiones Dei invisibiles (Fritzsche; comp Theodoret).

νοούμενα καθορᾶται] through the works are seen becoming discerned; νοούμενα defines the manner in which the καθορᾶται takes place, otherwise than through the senses (the νοεῖν, ἀλλʼ οὐκ ὄμμασι θεωρεῖν, Plat. Rep. p. 529 B), in so far as it is effected by means of mental discernment, by the agency of intelligent perception. The καθορᾶται forms with ἀόρατα a striking oxymoron, in which the compound selected for that purpose, but not elsewhere occurring in the N. T., heightens still further the idea conveyed by the simple form. Comp Xen. Cyr. iii. 3, 31.: εἰ γὰρ.… ἡμᾶς οἱ πολέμιοι θεάσονται.… πάλιν καθορῶντες ἡμῶν τὸ πλῆθος. Pind. Pyth. ix. 45.: οἶσθα.… εὖ καθορᾷς. On the oxymoron itself, comp Aristotle, de mundo, 6, p. 399, 21. Bekk: ἀθεώρητος ἀπʼ αὐτῶν τῶν ἔρων θεωρεῖται (ὁ θεός).

τοῖς ποιήμασι] embraces all that God as Creator has produced, but does not at the same time include His governing in the world of history, as Schneckenburger thinks, Beitr. p. 102 f.; for מַעַשֱׂה, with which ποίημα corresponds (LXX. Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 7:13, al[449]), is the formal expression for God’s works of creation; as also Paul himself, in Ephesians 2:10, describes the renewing of man as analogous to creation. It is only of the works of creation that the Apostle could assert what he here says, especially as he adds ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου. Since, moreover, ΤΟῖς ΠΟΙΉΜΑΣΙ, by means of the works, contains the instrumental definition appended to νοούμενα καθορᾶται,[450] ἀπὸ κτίσ. κόσμου cannot be taken in a causal sense (see Winer, p. 348 [E. T. 463]), as the medium cognoscendi (so Luther and many others, including Calovius, Pearson, Homberg, Wolf, Heumann, Morus and Reithmayr), but only in the sense of temporal beginning: since the creation of the world they are so perceived.

ἥ τε ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ δύν. κ. θειότης] A more precise definition of the previous ΤᾺ ἈΌΡΑΤΑ ΑὐΤΟῦ. ἈΐΔΙΟς, everlasting, belongs to both substantives; but καί annexes the general term, the category, of which the ΔΎΝΑΜΙς is a species. See Fritzsche a[451] Matth. p. 786. Its relation to the preceding ΤΈ consists in its completing the climax and cumulation, for which ΤΈ prepares the way. Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 98. Hofmann is unsupported by linguistic usage in inferring from the position of τέ, that ἈΐΔΙΟς is not meant to apply also to ΘΕΙΌΤΗς. It is just that position that makes ἈΐΔΙΟς the common property of both members (see especially Hartung, l.c[452] p. 116 f.), so that, in order to analyse the form of the conception, we may again supply ἡ ἀΐδιος αὐτοῦ after ΚΑῚ (Stallbaum, a[453] Plat. Crit. p. 43 B.; Schaefer, Poet. gnom. p. 73; Schoemann, a[454] Is. p. 325 f.; also Winer, p. 520 [E. T. 727]). The ΘΕΙΌΤΗς is the totality of that which God is as a Being possessed of divine attributes, as ΘΕῖΟΝ, the collective sum of the divine realities.[455] This comprehensive sense must by no means be limited. The eternal power—this aspect of His θειότης which comes into prominence at first and before all others—and the divinity of God in its collective aspect, are rationally perceived and discerned by means of His works. Arbitrary is the view of Reiche, who holds that Paul means especially wisdom and goodness, which latter Schneckenburger conceives to be intended; and also that of Hofmann (comparing Acts 17:29; 2 Peter 1:4), that the spiritual nature of the divine being is denoted. We may add that Rückert holds the strange view, that θειότης, which could not properly be predicated of God, is only used here by Paul for want of another expression. It might be and was necessarily said of God, as being the only adequate comprehensive expression for the conception that was to be denoted thereby. For analogous references to the physico-theological knowledge of God, see Wetstein, and Spiess, Logos spermaticos, 1871, p. 212. The suggestion of Philo as the Apostle’s source (Schneckenburger) is out of the question. Observe further how completely, in our passage, the transcendental relation of God to the world—the negation of all identity of the two—lies at the foundation of the Apostle’s view. It does not exclude the immanence of God in the world, but it excludes all pantheism. See the passages from the O. T. discussed in Umbreit.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολ.] has its logically correct reference to the immediately preceding ΤᾺ ΓᾺΡ ἈΌΡΑΤΑ.… ΘΕΙΌΤΗς, and therefore the parenthesis, in which Griesbach and others have placed τὰ γὰρ ἀόρ.… θειότης, must be expunged. The ΕἸς cannot be said of the result, as Luther, and many others, including Reiche, Köllner, de Wette, Rückert, Fritzsche, Reithmayr, Philippi, Ewald, following the Vulgate (ita ut sint inexcusabiles), have understood it; for the view, which takes it of the purpose, is not only required by the prevailing usage of εἰς with the infinitive[456] (see on 2 Corinthians 8:6), but is also more appropriate to the connection, because the καθορᾶται is conceived as a result effected through God’s revelation of Himself (Romans 1:19), and consequently the idea of the divine purpose in εἰς τὸ εἶναι κ.τ.λ[457] is not to be arbitrarily dismissed. Comp Erasmus (“ne quid haberent” etc.), Melancthon (“propter quas causas Deus” etc.), Beza, Calvin (“in hoc ut”), Bengel and others. But Chrysostom, even in his time, expressly opposes this view (comp also Oecumenius), and at a later period it became a subject of contention between the Lutherans and the Reformed, See Calovius. The view, which interprets it of the result, hesitates to admit the conception of a divine decree, under which Paul places the inexcusableness of men; and yet not only may this stand to the perception of God from His works which has existed since the beginning in the relation of result, but, in accordance with the thoroughly Scriptural idea of destiny (comp e.g. Romans 5:20), it must stand to it in the relation of that decree. In this connection, which inserts the results in the divine counsel, the inexcusableness of man appears as telically given with the self-manifestation of God. Romans 1:21, as in general even Romans 1:18, contains the perverse conduct of men manifesting itself in the course of human history, on account of which God, who foresaw it, has in His natural self-manifestation made their inexcusableness His aim. Inexcusable they are intended to be; and that indeed on account of the fact, that, although they had known God (namely from that natural revelation), they have not glorified Him as God.

διότι] as in Romans 1:19, only to be separated by a comma from what precedes: inexcusable on this account, because.

γνόντες] not: cum agnoscere potuissent (Flatt, Nielsen; also as early as Oecumenius); nor yet: although they knew God, so that it would be contemporaneous with οὐχ.… ἐδόξασαν. So Philippi and van Hengel; also Delitzsch, bibl. Psychol, p. 346. They had attained the knowledge from the revelation of nature (for to this, according to Romans 1:19-20, we must refer it, and not, with Rückert, to the history in Genesis of the original revelation), but only actu directo, so far as that same self-manifestation of God had presented itself objectively to their cognition; the actus reflexus remained absent (comp Delitzsch, p. 347), and with them who keep down the truth ἘΝ ἈΔΙΚΊᾼ, Romans 1:18, the issue was not to the praise of God, etc.; so that ΓΝΌΝΤΕς is thus previous to the οὐχ.… ἐδόξασαν. Paul sets forth the historical emergence of that for which they were inexcusable. They had known God, and yet it happened that they did not praise Him, etc.

οὐχ ὡς Θεὸν ἐδόξασαν ἢ ηὐχαρ.] It would have been becoming for them to have rendered to God as such, agreeably to His known nature, praise and thanks; but they did neither the one nor the other. Regarding Ὡς in the sense: according to the measure of His divine quality, comp on John 1:14. The praising and thanksgiving exhaust the notion of the adoration, which they should have offered to God.

ἀλλʼ ἐματ. ἐν τοῖς διαλ. αὐτῶν] but they were frustrated in their thoughts (comp 1 Corinthians 3:20), so that the conceptions, ideas, and reflections, which they formed for themselves regarding the Deity, were wholly devoid of any intrinsic value corresponding with the truth. Comp Ephesians 4:17. The ΜΑΤΑΙΌΤΗς is a specific attribute of heathenism. Jeremiah 2:5; 2 Kings 17:5; Psalm 94:11. Comp also Acts 14:15; Jdt 6:4.

ΚΑῚ ἘΣΚΟΤΊΣΘΗ Κ.Τ.Λ[466]] forms a climax to the foregoing. Comp Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 1:18. Their heart that had been rendered by the ἐματαιώθησαν unintelligent, incapable of discerning the true and right, became dark, completely deprived of the light of the divine ἀλήθεια that had come to them by the revelation of nature. καρδία, like לֵב, denotes the whole internal seat of life, the power which embraces all the activity of reason and will within the personal consciousness. Comp on Ephesians 1:18; Delitzsch, p. 250. To take ἈΣΎΝΕΤΟς here in a proleptic sense (see on Matthew 12:13) is quite inappropriate, because it destroys the climax. Comp moreover on ἈΣΎΝΕΤΟς, Wis 11:15; as also on the entire delineation of Gentile immorality, Romans 1:20 ff.; Wisdom 13-15. This passage as a whole, and in its details, presents unmistakeable reminiscences of this section of the book of Wisdom. See Nitzsch in the Deutsch. Zeitschr. 1850, p. 387; Bleek in the Stud. u. Krit. 1853, p. 340 f. Without reason Tholuck argues against this view.

[449] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[450] Not merely to νοούμενα (Hofmann), which is closely bound up with καθορᾶται as showing the manner of it, so that both together are defined instrumentally by τοῖς ποιήμασι. On νοεῖν, as denoting the intellectual animadvertere in seeing (Hom. Il. λ. 599, in the inverse position: τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ἐνοήσε), comp. Nägelsb. z. Ilias, p. 416, ed. 3; Duncan, ed. Rost, p. 787.

[451] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[452] .c. loco citato or laudato.

[453] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[454] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[455] On the difference between this word and θεότης (Colossians 2:9), which denotes Deitas, Godhead, the being God, see Elsner, Obss. p. 6, and Fritzsche in loc. Van Hengel has erroneously called in question the distinction. In Wis 18:9, namely, ὁ τῆς θειότητος νόμος is not the law of the Godhead, but the law whose nature and character is divinity,—of a divine kind; and in Lucian, de Calumn. 17, ἡ Ἡφαιστίωνος θειότης is the divinity of Hephaestion, his divine quality. In Plutarch θειότης very frequently occurs. Appropriately rendered in Vulgate by divinitas.

[456] Εἰς, with an infinitive having the article, is not used in a single passage, of the Epistle to the Romans in particular, in any other than a telic sense. See Romans 1:11, Romans 3:26, Romans 4:11; Romans 4:16; Romans 4:18, Romans 6:12, Romans 7:4-5, Romans 8:2920. from the creation of the world] i.e. “since the world was created.” The Gr. scarcely allows the interpretation “from the framework, or constitution, of the world.”—He means that ever since there was a universe to observe, and man to observe it, the being and will of a Divine Artificer have been discernible.

are clearly seen] The Gr. verb hardly gives the emphatic “clearly,” though it distinctly states that they “are under observation,” “in view.”

eternal] The Gr. word here (aïdios) is only found besides in N. T. in Judges 6. By derivation and usage it is connected with the Greek equivalent for “ever” or “always.” The point of the word here is that creation condemns the guilty vagaries of Idolatry by witnessing to a God everlastingly One and the Same.

Godhead] Lit. Divinity; character or capacity worthy of God.

so that they are without excuse] Better perhaps, (comparing similar constructions in this Epistle) so that they may, or might, be without excuse; to remove all cause of inevitable ignorance, and to throw the whole blame of declension from primeval truth on the perverted Will.

Romans 1:20. Ἀόρατα καθορᾶται, the invisible things are seen) An incomparable oxymoron[13] (a happy union of things opposite, as here invisible, yet seen). The invisible things of God, if ever at any time, would certainly have become visible at the creation; but even then they began to be seen, not otherwise, save by the understanding.—ἀπὸ κτίσεως, from the creation) Ἀπὸ here denotes either a proof, as ἀπὸ, in Matthew 24:32, so that the understanding [comp. Romans 1:20, “understood”] of the fathers [respecting God, as He, whose being and attributes are proved] from the creation of the world, may refute the apostasy of the Gentiles; or rather, ἀπό denotes time, so that it corresponds to the Hebrew preposition מ, and means, ever since the foundation of the world, and beyond it, reckoning backward; and thus the ἀΐδιος, eternal, presently after, agrees with it. In the former mode of interpretation, ἈΠῸ is connected with ΚΑΘΟΡᾶΤΑΙ, are seen from; in the second mode, with ἀόρατα, unseen ever since.—ΠΟΙΉΜΑΣΙ) [the things made], the works that have been produced by κτίσιν, creation. There are works; therefore there is a creation; therefore there is a Creator.—νοούμενα) Those alone, who use their understanding, νῷ, καθορῶσι, look closely into a subject.—καθορᾶται, are seen) for the works [which proceed from the invisible attributes of God] are discerned. The antithesis is, ἘΣΚΟΤΊΣΘΗ [Romans 1:21], was darkened.—ἥτεκαὶ) These words stand in apposition with ἀόρατα.—ἀΐδιος κ.τ.λ., eternal, etc.) The highest attribute of God, worthy of God—perfection in being and acting; in one word ΘΕΙΌΤΗς, which signifies divinity [not “Godhead,” as Engl. Vers.], as θεότης, Godhead.—ΔΎΝΑΜΙς, power) of all the attributes of God, this is the one, which was first revealed. His works, in a peculiar manner correspond to His several attributes [Isaiah 40:26]—εἰς τὸ) Paul not only speaks of some result ensuing, but directly takes away all excuse; and this clause, εἰς το,—is equivalent to a proposition, in relation to [to be handled more fully in] the following verses. Construe it with φανερόν ἐστιν [Romans 1:19. The fact of their knowing God, is manifest in, or among them].—ἀναπολογήτους, without excuse). So also in regard to the Jews, ch. Romans 2:1.

[13] See App. for the meaning of this figure.

Verse 20. - For the invisible things of him from (i.e. since, ἀπὸ) the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Divinity (θειότης, not θεότης); so that they are without excuse. The concluding clause is rendered in the Revised Version, "that they may be without excuse;" and it is true that εἰς τὸ αῖναι αὐτοὺς does not express the fact that they now are so, but the subjective result of the manifestation, if disregarded. "Paulus directe excusationem adimit, non solum de eventu aliquo loquitur" (Bengel). It is, however, a question of importance, which has been much discussed, whether (as the rendering of the Revised Version might be taken to imply) the idea of Divine purpose, and [not result only, is involved in εἰς τὸ εῖναι. The difference between the two conceptions is apparent from the Vulgate, ira at sint inexcusabiles, compared with Calvin's in hoc ut. The bearing of the distinction on the doctrine of predestination is obvious, and it was consequently a subject of contention between the Lutherans and Calvinists. Meyer among moderns contends strongly that "the view which takes it of the purpose is required by the prevailing use of εἰς with the infinitive," referring in this Epistle to Romans 1:11; Romans 3:26; Romans 4:11, 16, 18; Romans 6:12; Romans 7:4, 5; Romans 8:29; Romans 11:11; Romans 12:2, 3; Romans 15:8, 13, 16. A comparison, however, of these passages does not seem to bear out his contention, it being apparently dependent on the context in each case, rather than the phrase εἰς τὸ, whether the idea of purpose comes in. Chrysostom among the ancients expressly opposed this view, saying, Καίτοιγε οὐ διὰ τοῦτο ταῦτα ἐποίησεν,ὁ Θεὸς, εἰ καὶ τοῦτο ἐξέβη. Οὐ γὰρ ἵνα αὐτοὺς ἀπολογίας ἀποστερήση διδασκαλίαν τοσαύτην εἰς μέσον προὔθηκεν ἀλλ ἵνα αὐτὸν ἐπιγνῶσιν. So that they should be may be suggested as an adequate rendering, so as to avoid the idea of God's manifestation of himself to men hating been from the first delusive, having condemnation, and not enlightenment, for its purpose. These two verses, 19 and 20, carry out the thought of τὴμ ἀλήθειαν κατεχόντων in ver. 18, their purport being to show that the ἀσέβεια and ἀδικία of men have been in spite of knowledge, and therefore involve them all in sin. For sin implies knowledge of good and evil; it is not imputed to the brute beasts, who but follow their natural instincts, having no perception of God or a Divine law. Now, to man, even without any special revelation, God manifests himself in two ways - outwardly in nature, and inwardly in conscience. In these verses the outward manifestation is spoken of, the other being more especially noted in ch. 2:14, etc. But here, too, an inward manifestation is implied by the word νοούμενα, as before by ἐν αὐτοῖς. To the animals below us the phenomena of nature may be but a spectacle before their eyes, making no appeal to a mind within. But to man they have a language - they awake wonder, awe, admiration, a sense of infinite mysterious power, and, to the receptive of such impressions, of ideal beauty indefinable. To the psalmists of old they spoke irresistibly of God; of one infinite and eternal Being, above and beyond all; and their consciences, owning the supremacy of good in the moral sphere, concurred with their sense of the evidences of beneficence in nature, so as to convince them also of the righteousness of God. All men (the apostle would say) were originally endowed with a like capacity of knowing God; and their failure in this regard, shown in the various forms of idolatry prevalent throughout the world, he views as the first stage in the development of human sin. The next stage is general moral degradation, regarded as the judicial consequence of the dishonour done to God. It is, indeed, a necessary consequence; for low and unworthy conceptions of Deity bring with them moral deterioration; when man's Divine ideal becomes degraded, with it he becomes degraded too. Witness, for instance, the debauches and cruelties that so commonly accompanied idolatrous worship. Lastly, the final stage of this moral degradation is represented in an unveiled picture of the utter wickedness, and even unnatural vice, at that time prevalent and condoned in the heart of the boasted civilization of the heathen world. Such is the drift of the remainder of this first chapter. The argument suggests the following thoughts.

(1) There is no mention here of Adam s transgression as the origin of human sin. The reason is that the apostle is arguing from a philosophical rather than a theological point of view, having Gentile as well as Jewish thinkers in his view as readers. His appeal in this chapter is not to the Old Testament at all, but to facts by all acknowledged. He is offering the world a philosophy of human history to account for the present perplexing state of things - for the undoubted discord between conscience and performance, between ideal and practice, - his purpose being to show universal guilt on the part of man. But his position here is quite consistent with what he says elsewhere (as in ch. 5.) of Adam's original transgression. For his whole argument in this chapter involves the doctrine of the fall of man, who is conceived to have been originally endowed with Divine instincts, and to have forfeited his prerogative through sin; and this is the essential meaning of the picture given us in Genesis 3. of the original transgression.

(2) The entire drift of the chapter is against the view of the condemnation of mankind being due simply to the sin of the progenitor being imputed to the race. For all men are represented as guilty, in that all have sinned against light which they might have followed. This view does not, indeed, preclude that of an inherited infection of nature predisposing all to sin; nay, it rather necessitates it; for why should the sin have been so universal but for such predisposing cause? Still, the distinction between the two views is important in regard to our conception of the Divine justice. 3. It may, however, be said that the distinction is without a real difference in this regard; for that, if the inherited infection is such that sin becomes inevitable (as seems to be implied by its alleged universality), it may appear as inconsistent with the Divine justice to condemn men for it, as it would be to impute to them their progenitor's transgression. In reply to this difficulty, it may be said that Scripture nowhere says that men are finally condemned for it. On the contrary, the gospel reveals to us the atonement, preordained from the first, for the avoidance of such final condemnation; and this retrospective as well as prospective in its effects (Romans 3:25, 26), and as far-reaching as was the original transgression (Romans 4:12, etc.). And our apostle (Romans 2:7, 14, 15, 16) expressly asserts the salvation of all who, according to their light, have done what they could. The fact is, that in the argument before us (as in other passages of similar purport) it is only the principle, or the ground, of man's possible justification before God that is under review. The intention is to show that this cannot be man's own "works or deservings," as of debt, but is another which the gospel reveals. Be it observed, lastly, that a clear view of this position is important, not only for our apprehension of the truth of things and of the meaning of the gospel, but also for our right moral tone of mind and attitude before God. For not to be convinced of sin is to belie the true ideal of our conscience, and implies acquiescence in a moral standard below that of the Divine righteousness to which we are able to aspire. Romans 1:20The invisible things of Him

The attributes which constitute God's nature, afterward defined as "His eternal power and divinity."

From the creation (ἀπό)

From the time of. Rev., since.

Are clearly seen (καθορᾶται)

We have here an oxymoron, literally a pointedly foolish saying; a saying which is impressive or witty through sheer contradiction or paradox. Invisible things are clearly visible. See on Acts 5:41. Illustrations are sometimes furnished by single words, as γλυκύπικρος bittersweet; θρασύδειλος a bold coward. In English compare Shakespeare:

"Dove-feathered raven, fiend angelical;

Beautiful tyrant, wolfish-ravening lamb."


"Glad of such luck, the luckless lucky maid."

Godhead (θειότης)

Rev., better, divinity. Godhead expresses deity (θεότης). θειότης is godhood, not godhead. It signifies the sum-total of the divine attributes.

So that they are (εἰς τὸ εἶναι)

The A.V. expresses result; but the sense is rather purpose. The revelation of God's power and divinity is given, so that, if, after being enlightened, they fall into sin, they may be without defense.


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