In Romans 1:18, what is the relationship between men’s unrighteousness and their suppression of the truth?
Paul further explains the point that he makes in Romans 1:18 as you continue through the paragraph. Romans 1:18-23 gives the complete thought of the apostle Paul concerning the suppression of truth and wickedness of humanity.
He lays out the main point he is making in Romans 1:18. The focus is on God’s wrath. God’s wrath is coming because of the unrighteousness of humanity. But how are they righteous? They suppress the truth about God.
Suppressing the truth about God is the unrighteousness of humanity. The two are one and the same. Humans know that God exists because they can see the evidence of his existence (Romans 1:19-20).
God’s invisible qualities that cannot be seen (his eternal power and divine nature) are seen through what he has made (Romans 1:20). Creation itself shows God’s eternal power. It took his power, only the word of his mouth, to speak everything we see into existence.
Creation is the first witness of God’s existence to humanity. But instead we turn to things like chance and evolution to explain got away, suppressing the truth of God’s existence. Romans 1:21 expresses the idea that it is not that humans don’t realize God exists from what they see. It is that they do not want to recognize him as God and honor him.
Atheists are not necessarily saying that there isn’t a God. Philosophically, to be an atheist, you are saying that there is no God. But to say this, you have to have infinite knowledge of all things to be able to declare this as a fact. Instead, most atheists reject God’s rule over their lives in favor of doing their own thing.
Instead of recognizing the truth of the light of God’s existence, humanity chose to become futile in thinking which resulted in darkened hearts (Romans 1:21). By suppressing the truth about God and returning to their own ways of thinking, humanity made a bleak way ahead for itself.
Part of this may be Paul’s own commentary on Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They in a sense became their own gods, making their own moral decisions for themselves. They chose to rewrite history in that moment and ignore God as Creator.
Instead of seeing the big picture of God as Creator and Lord of heaven, they chose their own narrative instead and became their own arbiters of reality (Romans 1:22-23). Just to suppress the truth and be their own gods, they gave up the glory of the God outside of creation, the immortal God, for the images they could make on their own.
The problem with idolatry is that we are the ones who make the images that we then turn and bow down to. Yet as the creator of the idol, we relinquish our status as Creator to worship something we made with her own hands.
In the same way, we as the creation of God try to become God. But it doesn’t work both ways. While we can give up our status as creator of an idol we made, we cannot give up our status as the creation of a greater being like God.
The idols we make can only become our gods if we give them that status. But because we are the lesser thing God, created, rather than the Creator, we cannot choose our own status over him. We can deny the Creator his place, but we cannot change reality except in our own minds.
The true wickedness of humanity can be seen in our suppression of the truth because we allow ourselves to believe through deception that we can flip the script and make ourselves greater than we are. We can keep this deception up until we meet our Maker.