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What the Whole World Already Knows

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 1:19–20

The revelation of God in His creation speaks for itself, and it speaks eloquently to all humanity of His existence and power. Salvation, however, comes through the revelation of the gospel message of the Bible, and that is something we must deliver to unbelievers.


When American leaders crafted The Declaration of Independence of the United States, they wrote this interesting statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

The authors of the declaration were affirming that certain truths are universal and undeniable. In fact, they are recognizable to everyone—everyone just inwardly, consciously knows these truths are indeed true.

So, what are they? The declaration continues, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” This is a declaration of self-evident, undeniable truth that everyone knows to be true—that there is a Creator and human dignity flows from Him as a part of His creation. 

That is a stunning proclamation, isn’t it? The whole world of humanity already knows there is a Creator. These Founding Fathers, however, were not the first people to come up with the idea of self-evident truths. They were actually relying on the Bible and, more specifically, what the apostle Paul said in Romans 1.

In verse 18 Paul informs us that mankind is not all that happy about these undeniable truths. In fact, he writes that unrighteous mankind suppresses the truth. That is, they collectively suppress the truth about God’s justice and power. They push it away; they try to cover it up. Why? They love their sin, so they have to try to silence the truth of God.

The trouble is, the truth of God’s existence is self-evident. Everybody knows it down deep in their heart, even as they deny it and fight against it.

Now here in verse 19, the apostle Paul continues, writing, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” But in what sense has the truth of God’s existence been revealed to mankind? Not everybody has a copy of the Bible.

Well, the answer is that God has revealed certain truths about Himself to all of humanity, and He has done that through general revelation. In our last study together, we talked about general revelation, which comes through physical creation and the human conscience. In other words, general revelation reveals the existence of the Creator, and the Creator has given everyone a conscience—a moral compass for what is right and wrong.

You might remember in the last chapter of the book of Acts, Paul’s ship was wrecked in a storm. Everybody survived that shipwreck as they swam to shore there on the island of Malta. Then we read this:

The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” (Acts 28:2-4)

Paul, of course, does not die, proving, at least in the eyes of these pagan people, that he was not a murderer. Well then, he must be a god!

Here is my point. This island is filled with unbelievers who have never heard the gospel; they have no record of Scripture, and they are all idolaters. And even though some of their assumptions are wrong, they are right about one thing. They have this intuitive moral standard that murder is wrong and that murderers ought to be punished.

Where did they get that? It is self-evident truth. Like everybody else on Planet Earth, they knew that murder is wrong. They even knew there was some kind of god of justice out there, who punishes wrong.

That has not changed over time, no matter how much people deny the existence of God and absolute moral truth. Just watch how those people who reject God’s existence and moral standards respond when they are deceived by a financial adviser, or when their car is damaged by a careless driver, or the neighbor’s dog rips up their flowerbed. Well, all of a sudden, they seem to believe there is a standard of right and wrong; and I assure you, they want to make sure other people do them right. Their own conscience affirms what they outwardly deny!

Paul also points out here that God has revealed Himself, not only in this intuitive sense of morality, but also in the beauty of creation. This is another aspect of general revelation, which is available to everyone.

God’s creation invites you to just look around. Take a walk outside, and look at the birds and trees; enjoy the seasons, the mountains, and the ocean; get out your telescope and watch the stars. Learn about the orbits of planets and the complexity and immensity of creation. That design points to a Designer—a Creator.

Here is the way the apostle Paul puts it in Romans 1:20:

For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

One author points out that the word for “clearly perceived” includes the idea of reflection—drawing a conclusion about the Creator.[1]

It is self-evident from the creation that it has a Creator. Paul writes here that it is also clear this Creator possesses the attributes of “eternal power” and a “divine nature.” Only the God who possesses unlimited power could create and control all that we see in nature.

Paul writes that those who stubbornly defy and suppress the truth are “without excuse.” Literally, they are guilty and without any logical or legal defense. Their rejection of God’s general revelation is enough to condemn them forever, no matter who they are: rich or poor, educated or illiterate, civilized or primitive.

But here is the wonderful truth Paul will go on to elaborate in this great book of Romans: God can save all these people too. His general revelation gives convicting evidence of His existence. And I believe the individual who senses that there must be a Creator is the person God is going to send a missionary to in order to deliver the special revelation in Scripture, which proclaims that this Creator is none other than Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps you have heard of Helen Keller, the blind and deaf girl who learned to communicate through the help of Anne Sullivan. Anne took this rather angry, frustrated little girl and patiently taught her by spelling words into the palm of her hand. Eventually, Helen understood the connection between the letters drawn on her hand and the objects in the world around her.

As soon as Helen’s vocabulary was developed sufficiently, Anne, who was a Christian, invited a local pastor to come over and give the gospel to little seven-year-old Helen Keller. After the truth was given to her, Helen trusted in Christ for salvation. Later, Helen made this remarkable statement to Anne Sullivan: “I always knew there was a God . . . now I know His name.” In those words are revealed the work of both general revelation, declaring there is a Creator, and special revelation—the Bible—telling us our Creator’s name.

Well, let me add these words written by Helen Keller later in life:

I thank God for three things: that He gave me knowledge of His creation; that He set in my darkness the lamp of faith; and that I have another life to look forward to—a joyous life filled with light and flowers and heavenly song.[2]

And so, we thank Him, beloved, for all who look around at creation and give praise to our Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Everett F. Harrison, “Romans,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 10, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Zondervan, 1976), 23.

[2] Quoted in Randy Alcorn, Heaven, (Crossway, 2004), 417.

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