It is our duty and privilege to give God glory as well as our gratitude for His blessings. To fail in this is to identify with those who reject God and sink into their own corrupt and foolish speculations and godless idolatry.
Some years ago, the journal Scientific American ran a story titled, “Scientists Probe Human Nature—and Discover We Are Good, After All.” Well, that is a message the average person today wants to believe. The problem is, deep in the heart of every person is a sense that they are not good enough.
David Livingston, the famous missionary and explorer of Africa reported 200 years ago that he found primitive tribes, completely out of touch with each other and with civilization and possessing no knowledge of Scripture or civilized morality, who were still conscious of being sinners.
Where did mankind get that sense of wrongdoing? And where did mankind get that sense of a divine being? Leith Samuel, a pastor and student of missions, wrote,
There has never been discovered upon earth a tribe of people . . . which has not believed in some kind of god or had some system of worship. . . . They know that sin must be atoned for, and they seek ways of appeasing their [gods].”
That is exactly what the apostle Paul is recording here in Romans 1. People are incurably religious. They know intuitively that there is guilt for sin and a Creator out there. But although mankind is incurably religious, mankind is also incurably rebellious. So, all around the world today, there are people who would rather worship a tree, an eagle, or an evil spirit, than the one, true, creator God.
Now as we come today to verse 21, Paul continues to reveal the guilt of humanity. He writes, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God.”
He’s not saying that everyone has a personal, life-changing, saving knowledge of God. Rather, they all know “about” God. No matter where you go in the world, everyone has an intuitive awareness of the existence of a divine being and their own sinful hearts.
That is what the apostle Paul says here. In fact, the first response of unbelievers toward this intuitive knowledge of a creator is a refusal to give Him glory.
To “honor” God, or give Him glory, means to praise Him for who He is. The word “honor” here translates the Greek word doxazō. From it we get our word doxology. Mankind should be singing the doxology around the world today. Your congregation might sing a version of it that says:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Unbelieving men and women refuse to give God glory as the almighty Creator. They refuse, as it were, to sing the doxology!
But here is a question for all of us who believe in God today: How do we give glory to God? Besides singing in church or in private, how do we worship God and thank Him as our Creator?
Well, I can list a number of ways:
- Acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life.
- Confess your sin daily.
- Trust Him with the details of your life—good or bad, pleasant or painful.
- Pray for His will to be done in the lives of those you know.
- Serve the church in some physical, tangible way.
- Respect the Word of God, and spend time listening to God speak through His Word.
- Live a morally pure life.
- Introduce unbelievers to your Savior.
- Thank God for the ministry of other believers around the world today.
Let me tell you, these are things an unbeliever cannot and will not do. They cannot thank God for anything or give Him glory.
That is exactly what Paul goes on to say here in verse 21: “Although they knew God [about God], they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” Unbelievers are just ungrateful. Has it ever occurred to you that one of the key characteristics that distinguishes a believer from an unbeliever is the desire to say “Thank you” to God—and mean it?
So, just how distinctive is your life, Christian? Do you register your complaints before God like ornery hotel patrons who do not like the towels or the mattress or the food or the view out their hotel window, so they demand to see the manager? That is the world’s attitude toward everything.
Now Paul describes another characteristic of the unbeliever when he writes here in verse 21: “They became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
They reject the truth they know, because they do not want a God to whom they are accountable. They do not want to give up their sin, so their solution is to just close the shades on their hearts—they are going to pull the curtains to block out the light. The trouble is, they are now left to wander through a confusing maze of religious ideas that offers no hope and no escape.
I have stood in a Hindu temple and read their directions for finding peace, and frankly, it is all up to human effort. There is no god there that can save anybody. It is as hopeless as the wheel of life taught in a Buddhist monastery; it is as confused as a Protestant denomination that announced some new hymns have been written depicting God as a woman—a divine mother. One author put it so well when he wrote, “When truth is rejected, the ability to recognize truth is impaired.”
It is only going to get more confusing for unbelievers, for in their rebellion against God, they become trapped in the darkness of their self-deception. Here in verse 22, Paul writes, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”
In other words, they are going to congratulate themselves on coming up with ways to avoid God and accountability for their sin. They are going to shower on one another awards and graduate degrees for coming up with some new speculations about life and the universe apart from a creator God.
And the irony here is that they see themselves as wise, when God sees them as foolish. In fact, the Greek expression here for “they became fools” comes from the verb mōrainō, which gives us our word moron. Humanity is claiming to be all-wise, but God says they are morons. That’s not very flattering, is it?
Now Paul gives us the evidence of their foolishness; he writes this in verse 23:
[They] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
If people do not worship God and give glory to Him, they are going come up with substitute gods. It might be superheroes or birds or beetles; the sun, the moon, or stars. Today, millions of people believe the universe itself dictates their well-being. They have made the universe divine. No, beloved, what they have done is choose to embrace the darkness.
When Jesus stepped out onto the darkened stage of world history, the Gospel of John describes Him as “the true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). That is, God sent His Son to earth to turn on the light.
Let me tell you, the entire world today is singing some form of a doxology. They are singing praise to someone. The question is not, “Do you believe?” The question is, “What do you believe?” Or better yet, “In whom do you believe?”
The Bible tells us that one day all who believe in Jesus Christ will sing a doxology of praise to our Creator and Redeemer. The lyrics go like this: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
Our lives today should be a rehearsal for that glorious day when we worship the Father and the Lamb face to face before the heavenly throne and we sing the doxology of praise to the glory and honor of God.
So, let’s practice that attitude and that perspective today.
 Adrian F. Ward, “Scientists Probe Human Nature—and Discover We Are Good, After All,” Scientific American, November 20, 2012, scientificamerican.com.
 Roy Laurin, Romans: Where Life Begins (Kregel Publications, 1988), 36.
 Cited in John Phillips, Exploring Romans (Moody Press, 1969), 24.
 John A. Witmer, “Romans,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, ed. John. F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Victor Books, 1985), 443.