Amplified: Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Behind a facade of "wisdom" they became just fools (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Asserting themselves to be wise, they became fools (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: professing to be wise, they were made fools,
|Romans — 3:21-5:21||Romans — 6:1-8:39||Romans — 9:1-11:36||Romans — 12:1-16:27|
Jew and Gentile
|Demonstration of Salvation|
|Power Given||Promises Fulfilled||Paths Pursued|
Restored to Israel
|Slaves to Sin||Slaves to God||Slaves Serving God|
|Life by Faith||Service by Faith|
Modified from Irving L. Jensen's excellent work "Jensen's Survey of the NT"
PROFESSING (alleging, asserting, affirming) TO BE WISE: phaskontes (PAPMPN) einai (PAN) sophoi: (Ro 11:25; Pr 25:14; 26:12; Is 47:10; Jer 8:8,9; 10:14; Mt 6:23; 1Co 1:19, 20, 21; 3:18,19)
Professing (5335) (phasko from phemi = to say or affirm) means to affirm, allege, pretend, profess. The idea conveyed by this verb is that one is speaking with an air of certainty, stating something with a high degree of confidence. The NAS translates phasko with the English word assert which means to affirm or declare positively or with assurance and often even forcefully or aggressively. The idea of assert implies stating confidently without need for proof or regard for evidence.
Marvin Vincent writes that phasko "is used of unfounded assertion."
Thinking they are wise, they have become fools because their own speculations cannot replace the revelation they reject.
Here are the three NT uses of phasko -- Acts 24:9; 25:19; Ro 1:22
Vine adds this pithy comment:
Man rationalizes his sin and proves his utter foolishness by devising and believing his own philosophies about God, the universe, and himself. The next stage of downfall consists, as in Orwell’s novel, 1984, in asserting as truth its opposite—darkness is really light, futility is really wisdom.
God warned faithless Israel and by way of application all of sinful mankind in Isaiah 5:20, 21...
Frederick Louis Godet writes that ...
Sinners are fools for they think they are "safe" and there is no Holy One to judge them. Isaiah records these words to foolish, idol worshipping Babylon...
Spurgeon - The way to be a fool is to pretend to be wise. A shortcut to wisdom is the confession of folly. The near way to folly is the profession of wisdom.
THEY BECAME FOOLS: emoranthesan (3PAPI):
They became fools - Compare Psalm 14:1 (note)
All of creation screams in glorious harmony the resounding chorus...
And yet despite overwhelming evidence, men had made a choice of their will to deny the irrefutable, indescribably glorious truth of natural revelation, not to mention the special revelation found in God's love letter (Ro 5:8-note, cp 1Jn 3:16, 4:10, 11, 19, Ep 5:1, 2-note), the Holy Scriptures.
Became fools (3471) (moraino from morós = foolish and root of our English moron = very stupid person) can refer to physical sloth or dullness, but mainly is a reference (and especially in the present context) to one's intellectual life. It means to cause content of certain thoughts to become devoid of meaning or even to cause them to become nonsense.
Moraino is used only 4 times in the NT- Mt 5:13; Lk. 14:34; Ro 1:22; 1Co. 1:20. Below are all the uses in the non-apocryphal Septuagint and the NT...
2 Samuel 24:10 Now David's heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have acted very foolishly."
Isaiah 19:11 The princes of Zoan are mere fools; The advice of Pharaoh's wisest advisers has become stupid. How can you men say to Pharaoh, "I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings "?
Jeremiah 10:14 Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them.
Jeremiah 51:17 All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them.
Matthew 5:13-note "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. (Ed: What an interesting use of moraino by our Lord! See further discussion below)
Luke 14:34 "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?
Romans 1:22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world (even as He did those here in Romans who professed to be wise)? (Comment: Keep the context in mind for Paul was writing to the Corinthian saints in one of the intellectual centers of the ancient world!)
The greatest fool in all the world is the person who exchanges God’s wisdom of truth and light for man’s wisdom of deceit and darkness. (See the tragic example of the "brilliant" fool Voltaire)
Moraino has a variety of secular Greek uses depending on the context. And so moraino can mean “insipid” in reference to insufficiently seasoned foods. Jesus used moraino in this sense declaring to His audience that
The lexicographer Photius bears witness to this secular use of moraino in the sense of meaning "insipid", documenting this use in writings of both physicians and comedians. Thus the physician Dioscurides Medicus, who was a contemporary of Paul and also from Cilicia, speaks of insipid roots (medicinal). Elsewhere in medicine moraino is used of the slackness, fatigue or dulling of the nerves. Moraino is also used in respect of the sluggishness of animals in winter. With reference to men the use of moraino is predominantly psychological. In this context, moraino implies censure on man himself; his acts, thoughts, counsels, and words are not as they should be. The weakness may be due to a specific failure in judgment or decision, but a general deficiency of intellectual and spiritual capacities may also be asserted. The charge of folly does not have to be a definitive judgment. In many cases it is more in the nature of an admonition or warning, or it expresses the impossibility of understanding or following the thinking or acts of someone. But the judgment of one as a fool can also imply condemnation of their whole personality. In other cases it is implied that there is not just a deficiency, a mere stupidity or irrationality, which would not occur if there were better mental equipment, but that man is controlled by a power which confuses his understanding, causes him to do mad things, and hides the right path from him.
ILLUSTRATION: For a modern example of men professing to be wise but really being fools, see the September 1976 National Geographic article entitled "The Awesome Worlds Within a Cell" . On page 358 the authors describe the utter complexity of the cell. There is no such thing as a "simple one-celled organism"! Even the simplest cell has turned out to be "a micro-universe" (p.358). Then on p.388 we read, "...this really is the major problem of biology. How did this complexity arise?...biologists still confront the deep, basic mystery of science: How did it all begin?" Then on page 390 the "experts" answer this by crediting it all to CHANCE and saying that given enough time even the IMPOSSIBLE can happen! With time, chance and evolution all things are possible! "They have become fools" -- Romans 1:21, 22. (Middletown Bible Church)
Godet writes their...
Those who deny the God of creation are fools and "without a defense" (Ro 1:20) Yet they come to such a foolish decision in the belief that they are scientific in trying to explain the infinitely complex, majestic, beautiful creation without a Creator. The ancient pagans did this, with immeasurably tragic results in the history of the human race. Modern evangelicals, compromising with evolutionism and increasingly flirting with New Age pantheism, feminism and occultism, are in serious danger of starting down that same slippery slope (2Ti 3:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13-note).
The fact is, once a man rejects the truth of God in Christ, he will fall for anything foolish, and trust far more tenuous and fanciful systems (eg look at evolution, mythology, etc) that what he has rejected from God. This futility of thinking, darkening of the heart, and folly must be seen as one manifestation of God's righteous wrath against those who have rejected His revelation
J C Philpot has a brief note entitled "Utter fools!"...
The famous (infamous) French philosopher (infidel) Voltaire (note - interestingly this reference has no record of his horrible last days!) is a tragic example of a "brilliant fool"...
I cannot help but pause after writing these somber notes on Voltaire and be reminded of Paul's great truth that even the intractably rebellious infidel Voltaire will one day bow before the precious Lamb of God and proclaim that Jesus is Lord...
Consider another man who professed to be wise, Thomas Paine (note), the renowned American author and enemy of Christianity who exerted considerable influence against belief in God and the Scriptures. And yet Paine, like Voltaire, came to his last hour (June 8,1809), a disillusioned and unhappy man and during his final moments on earth said...
The world's theology by James Montgomery Boice
John Newton writes in his treatise (note)
Through Jeremiah God declares that...
Jesus speaking in the context of not placing one's trust in earthly treasures declared that...
Paul writes to the "wise" Corinthians warning them...
Charles Churchill, who died in 1764, was the English poet and satirist given to every kind of loose living, and whose literary productions were rough, ironical and insolent in tone. In his last hours, conscience-stricken, he regretted his lost life and the prostitution of his craft and died saying:
William Newell writes that
Here is an illustration from Middletown Bible...
Dr. Stephen Jay Gould wrote the following futile foolish rumination...
As another evolutionist logically but sadly concluded
No evidence for evolution led to disbelief in God
The French Mathematician, Lecompte de Nouy, examined the laws of probability for a single molecule of high dissymmetry to be formed by the action of chance. De Nouy found that, on an average, the time needed to form one such molecule of our terrestrial globe would be about 10 to the 253 power billions of years.
G. K. Chesterton wrote that...:
Foolish Knowledge - In the past few years, millions of people have discovered a fascinating new world of communication. By linking their computers to the electronic web known as the Internet, they now have at their fingertips vast resources of information and entertainment. No wonder Internet addicts are perhaps the fastest-growing segment of our culture.
But as we zoom into the Information Age, let's not lose our perspective. A glut of factual data and visual experiences doesn't guarantee an increase in wisdom.
A century ago, British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson lamented, "Knowledge grows but wisdom lingers." The Bible highlights this crucial difference between mere knowledge and authentic wisdom. The book of Proverbs emphasizes that it's not enough to acquire information; we need to gain the understanding that is based on a healthy respect of the Lord (Pr 1:7). The apostle Paul pointed out that some people are always learning, yet never coming to a grasp of truth that really matters (2Ti 3:7-note).
Information and technology can be wonderful tools. But don't get so caught up in gaining knowledge that you fail to put it to good use. Only the Book that tells us about Jesus Christ brings ultimate wisdom (Col 2:3-note). — Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
O Word of God incarnate,
The Main Goal in Life - In 1636, a group of Puritans founded Harvard University. Its motto was Christo et Ecclesiae, which means "For Christ and the Church." One of the school's guiding principles was this: "Everyone shall consider the main end of his life and studies, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. John 17:3."
That prestigious center of learning and culture has long since abandoned its original spiritual intent. Even many Harvard Divinity School faculty members now regard its Christ-centered goal as narrow-minded and outdated. In fact, not long ago a group of Harvard students staged a mock funeral procession through the Divinity School. They carried a coffin and proclaimed, "Our God, the Father, is dead."
Those students were as far from the truth as east is from west. The everlasting Father, who has created all life (including those who mock Him), is as immune to death as He is to sin.
Three hundred fifty years after the establishment of Harvard, the chief purpose of life is still and always will be, in the words of those colonial Puritans, "to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life." Let us make that the main goal of our lives. — Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
My heart's desire is to know You, Lord,
Lewis Thomas in Harvard Magazine, 1981:
Romans 1:23 and exchanged (3PAAI) the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Click Wayne Barber's Sermon) (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: fools who would exchange the glory of the eternal God for an imitation image of a mortal man, or of creatures that run or fly or crawl. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for a likeness of an image of corruptible man and of birds and of quadrupeds and of snakes. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of fowls, and of quadrupeds, and of reptiles.
|AND EXCHANGED THE GLORY OF THE INCORRUPTIBLE GOD:kai ellaxan (3PAAI) ten doxan tou aphthartou theou: (Ro 1:25; Psalms 106:20; Jeremiah 2:11, 12, 13)
From Paul's divinely inspired "pattern of moral/ethical devolution" here in Romans 1, notice how suppression and rejection of the knowledge of the true God [Ro 1:18, 19-note, Ro 1:20, 21-note, Ro 1:22-note] naturally "devolves" into worship of false gods and how this false worship in turn is intimately associated with the practice of sexual immorality in all forms! [Ro 1:24, 25-note, Ro 1:26, 27-note, Ro 1:28, 29, 30, 31-note, Ro 1:32-note] Upshot? Knowledge of the one true and living God and growing intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit [2Pe 3:18-note; Gal 5:16-see notes] in daily quiet times of worshipful fellowship (including memorization and meditation on His Word, Ps 119:9, 10, 11-note , But Caution: Beware of these "spiritual" disciplines becoming "legalistic" tendencies) are the BEST preventative measures and cures for so-called addiction to sexual immorality, better than all the Christian books and programs that are flooding the marketplace! Let us return to the "ancient paths" (Jer 6:16, 18:15), the "highway of holiness" and as Christian men begin to experience a freedom in this area that heretofore we never even thought was possible in light of the pervasive permeation of American culture by sensuality and sexual seduction.
In first Thessalonians Paul teaches that "knowing God" is vital for countering our natural, instinctual, flesh driven "lustful passion" as he writes...
Exchanged (236) (allasso from állos = other, another) has the literally meaning of to make otherwise. The basic sense is “to make other than it is." It means to to change, to cause one thing to cease and another to take its place, to exchange one thing for another. To make something different. To alter.
Allasso is used 6 times in the NT - Acts 6:14 (changing the customs of the law); Ro 1:23-note; 1Co 15:51, 52 (speaking of our future "change" of our bodies, exchanging "earth suits" for "heavenly suits"! = glorification); Gal 4:20 (change tone of speaking); Heb 1:12-note (speaking of changing of creation as we now know it).
Allasso is translated in the NAS - alter(1), change(1), changed(3), exchanged(1)
Allasso is used 28 times in the Septuagint (LXX) - Ge. 31:7; 35:2; 41:14; Ex 13:13; Lev. 27:10, 27, 33; Jdg 14:13; 2Sa 12:20; 1Ki. 5:14; 20:25; 2Ki. 5:5, 22, 23; Ezra 6:11, 12; Neh 9:26; Ps 102:26; 106:20; Is 24:5; 40:31; 41:1; Je 2:11; 13:23; 52:33; Da 4:16, 25, 32
Notice the fallen flesh never improves, for ancient Israel (cp 1Cor 10:6, 11), chosen by God and privileged to have access to His holiness (Shekinah glory cloud would or should have been an ever present reminder of His holy presence) and His holy Word fell prey to the wooing of the corrupt nature that is opposed to God and ever seeks us to make this "bad exchange"...
Webster says that exchange is
The aorist tense indicates that this is a historical fact, a past completed action. The active voice indicates that men volitionally or willfully choose to make this unspeakably tragic exchange. God did not force men into this act. It did not happen by accident but by choice.
Men could not actually change the glory of God into anything. His glory is immutable. They made an exchange like Israel at Mt Horeb (while Moses was on the mountain)
Notice that this exchange does not bring about evolution, but devolution (degeneration, a passing onwards or downwards from one stage to another). Man is not progressing but regressing, going backwards, not forwards. The direction is not man going up, up up, but it is man going down, down, down. Man is not man getting better and better but getting worse and worse. Man is not man reaching the heights, but is plummeting to the depths.
Glory (1391) doxa from dokeo = to think) in simple terms means to give a proper opinion or estimate of something and thus the glory of God expresses all that He is in His Being and in His nature, character, power and acts. He is glorified when He is allowed to be seen as He really is. To be where God is will be glory. To be what God intended will be glory. To do what God purposed will be glory. Charles Ryrie says that the glory of God "is the manifestation of any or all of His attributes. In other words, it is the displaying of God to the world. Thus, things which glorify God are things which show the characteristics of His being to the world."
I like the way Puritan writer Thomas Watson described God's glory "Glory is the sparkling of the Deity... We may see God's glory blazing in the sun and twinkling in the stars (Ps 19:1)...A sight of God's glory humbles. The stars vanish when the sun appears."
Incorruptible (862) (aphthartos from a = not, + phtheiro = to shrivel or wither, spoil, ruin , deprave, to destroy by corrupting and so to bring into a worse state) is an adjective which describes that which is not subject or liable to decay and death and thus is in a sense immortal. Aphthartos is that which is not corruptible or not liable to corruption or decay. It describes that which is impervious to corruption.
Synonyms include immortal, incorruptible, imperishable.
God is not liable to corruption or decay, especially when compared to man-made idols which are liable to decay and corruption.
Aphthartos is used 8 times in the NT - Mark 16:8; Ro 1:23; 1Co 9:25; 15:52; 1Ti 1:17; 1Pe 1:4, 23; 3:4
The words incorruptible and corruptible are inserted in order to expose more vividly in the contrast the folly of the exchange. Incorruptibility is of the essence of God’s being Who is not liable to corruption or decay, but is imperishable in dramatic contrast to the man-made idols which are liable to decay and corruption. From the beginning less eternity past to the endless eternity to come, He is the glorious self-existent One. Now came the high insult: having rejected knowledge of God, but unable to escape the consciousness that He exists, men, like Israel later, (Ps 106:20). The more you reflect upon the infinite glory and majesty of the eternal God, the more hideous will the unspeakable insult to Him of any kind of idolatry appear to you! Men first likened God to man; but, being given over, they rushed rapidly downwards: a bird, a quadruped; and finally, a reptile!
It is a dangerous thing to change the glory of the incorruptible God for an eikon (image) of your own choosing. It is absolutely essential that we constantly compare our own concept of God against the reality of Who God is as revealed in His Word lest we become guilty of worshipping a self-made "god".
Because man is incurably "religious", if he will not worship God, he will find (or make) something to worship. When man makes this exchange and turns away from God, he creates an "image" to worship. First the images look human, then the images begin to degrade into those of birds, then four-footed animals and finally images of snakes and bugs. When man exchanges the truth about God, he begins by worshiping himself, but he doesn’t stay there. The course is always downward. There is a practical point here for all of us to remember: When you turn away from God, you always turn to something else. No man lives in a vacuum. You either worship God or replace him with a god of your own making!
It cannot be denied that even some believers treat images as idols or magical amulets—superstition, like any other sin, unless guarded against, can find its way into God’s people. In the same way, Jewish customs such as touching the Torah scroll as it is carried around the synagogue or kissing the mezuzah on the doorpost can be subjectively converted from reminders of God into superstitious practices. And so believers still have the latent propensity to worship idols and have the need to constantly
Man cannot seem to resist the temptation to create God into his own corrupt image, or even in an image beneath himself. The great tragedy in this is that we inescapably become like the "god" (or God) we serve.
Although the present passage is referring primarily to the heathens or pagans, it is clearly applicable to those who should know better as exemplified by Israel who had been set free from Egyptian bondage and were awaiting Moses' return from Mt Sinai. What did they do while they waited? They came to Aaron and said to him
How quickly Israel played the fool and exchanged the glory of Jehovah for that of a lifeless golden calf?
Religion is really just another system devised by man to replace the truth and the worship of the One God. Empiric evidence supports the statement that man is not naturally godly, but he is naturally religious! Witness for example the fact that most people in the world claim to be religious.
Hindus have 330 million gods.
Millions of Buddhists revere a tooth said to have belonged to Buddha.
The development of religion is not evidence of man’s progress but of his depravity and rejection of God. Fallen man wants and need a god but one they like better than the one True God.
The Gentiles substituted the worship of idols for the worship of the true God.
Historians report that many ancient gentile cultures did not originally have idols. For example, Persia (Herodotus; The Histories, 1:31), Rome (Varro in Augustine; The City of God, 4:31), even Greece and Egypt (Lucian; The Syrian Goddess, 34) had no idolatry at their founding!
The fourth-century a.d. historian Eusebius reported that the oldest civilizations had no idols. The earliest biblical record of idolatry was among Abram’s family in Ur (Joshua 24:2). The first commandment forbids it (Ex 20:3, 4, 5), and the prophets continually ridiculed those who foolishly practiced it (Isa 44:13; cf. 2Ki 17:13, 14, 15, 16). Although the false gods which men worship do not exist, demons often impersonate them (1Co 10:20).
Today it seems that many even in the Church have exchanged God's glory for an image in the form of corruptible man. What little "g" god are they worshipping? The god of self (unbiblical self-esteem...self image...self, self, self!)
FOR AN IMAGE IN THE FORM (likeness) OF CORRUPTIBLE MAN: en homoiomati eikonos phthartou anthropou: (Dt 4:15, 16, 17, 18; 5:8; Ps 115:5, 6, 7, 8; 135:15, 16, 17, 18; Is 40:18,26; 44:13; Ezek 8:10; Ac 17:29; 1Co 12:2; 1Pe 4:3; Re 9:20)
Image (1504) (eikon) is an artistic representation, as one might see on a coin or statue (an image or a likeness, as in Mt 22.20). Eikon can also refer to a visible manifestation of an invisible and heavenly reality form (see note Hebrews 10:1) As used here in Colossians eikon speaks of an embodiment or living manifestation of God.
Here are the 23 uses of eikon in the NT - Matt. 22:20; Mark. 12:16; Lk. 20:24; Rom. 1:23; 8:29; 1 Co. 11:7; 15:49; 2 Co. 3:18; 4:4; Col. 1:15; 3:10; Heb. 10:1; Rev. 13:14f; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4
Eikon is in the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, the Septuagint (LXX) in Genesis where
The story is told of the slave who saluted General George Washington and to whom Washington returned the salute. When ask about this seemingly unusual behavior, Washington answered that the slave bore the image of God, and thus was worthy of respect.
Paul in fact confirmed that man
Paul went on to add that
Eikon is the basis for such English terms as icon ( a conventional religious image typically painted or engraved on a small wooden panel and venerated in Eastern Orthodox Churches), "iconography" (the illustration of a subject by drawing), or "iconoclast" (the medieval zealots who broke up religious statues and then anyone who attacks cherished beliefs or practices).
Wayne Detzler explains that...
In early Greek the eikon was an engraving of the Emperor's head on a coin but soon was also attached to a statue or a metal image. Likewise eikon was the copy of a picture or the embodiment of a certain virtue. This idea is seen in English phrases such as, "She is the `image' of loveliness."
The Jews rejected all images of God. The Ten Commandments forbade any casting of images, which was the sin into which Aaron fell at the foot of Sinai. In fact, the only image of God which is depicted in Scripture is man (Genesis 1:26). In this connection the New Testament uses the word eikon.
Eikon expresses two ideas. First, likeness, as in the image on a coin or the reflection in a mirror. Second, manifestation, with the sense that God is fully revealed in Jesus. Eikon does not denote mere likeness or resemblance. Eikon conveys the meaning that Christ is whatever God is--spiritual, omnipotent, omniscient, holy--all the attributes of the eternal God.
Eikon is used in Revelation in multiple references to the Antichrist or beast who will demand worship from non-believing earth dwellers during Daniel's Seventieth Week, the seven year period preceding the return of Christ to defeat the Antichrist and set up His 1000 year millennial kingdom on earth. An image (eikon) of the beast will be erected as the object of idolatrous worship (Rev 13:14-note). Participation in the society of the day will be limited to those who worship the image of the beast (Rev 14:9-note, Rev 14:11-note). God will summarily condemn those who have bowed before the beast's image (Rev 16:2-note, Re 19:20-note). On the other hand, God's eternal glory will be reserved for those who do not fall down before the beast's image (Rev 20:4-note).
Likeness (3667)(homoíoma from homoios = similar) means resemblance or similitude (correspondence in kind or quality = a visible likeness, a thing or sometimes a person that is like or the counterpart of another). Correspondence in details.
Notice that the first creature man substitutes for God is himself! Man is the first false god! This exchange fulfilled Satan’s purpose when he told Eve “Ye shall be as God!” (Ge 3:5) which is like saying “Glory to man in the highest!”. Extreme examples are Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, the Caesars, Hitler, Jim Jones, etc. Voltaire sarcastically observed that “God made man in His own image and man returned the favor!"
Harry Ironside calls the reader to...
Man is essentially constituted to be a worshiper. If he abandons the worship of God, some other object will be found to take the place of the Creator. If man will not worship the true God, he will worship a false god, even if he has to manufacture it himself! This fact about man accounts for his propensity to idolatry. Instead of man being made in God’s image, man made gods in his own image—and then descended so low as to worship birds, beasts, and bugs! And remember that from idolatry to immorality is just one short step. If man is his own god, then he can do whatever he pleases and fulfill his desires without fear of judgment. The result of this self-deification was self-indulgence. And modern man has not outgrown or become too sophisticated. Astrology, wealth, health, pleasure, sex, sports, entertainment, celebrities, all at an all time high!
Early in Israel's history God warned the chosen people who had seen even more than "natural revelation" but had seen first hand His great and mighty deeds in delivering them from Egyptian bondage:
In the Old Testament the voices of the prophets are continually raised against the folly of idolatry, for God is remonstrating with His own people for turning from Him and falling to the level of the nations around them. The Gentiles, though originally turning from the worship of the Creator, were not guilty of folly to the same extent as Israel. Gentiles are brought up in idolatry. Hence sarcasm is not used in appeal to, or remonstrance with, them.
How far did Israel wander from the light and God's revelation and His clear warning? Ezekiel describes an incredible scene in the confines of God's Holy Temple in Jerusalem (where His glory was still manifest as the "shekinah" glory cloud over the Temple!) just prior to the final destruction by Babylon writing...
Romans 1:18ff gives ample proof that the heathen are lost. Dan Crawford, British missionary to Africa, phrased it this way:
There is a desperate need for us to carry the Gospel to all men, for this is the only way they can be saved. The ultimate irony in humanity’s refusal to glorify the true God is the insanity or stupidity of idolatry. Isaiah speaks of this "insanity" writing that...
Man cannot seem to resist the temptation to create God into his own corrupt image, or even in an image beneath himself; the great tragedy in this is that we inescapably become like the God we serve. The Greeks made their gods like men. Many statues still exist that were taken from old Greek or Roman temples. The Egyptians worshiped the bull Apis, the ibis, the cat, the crocodile, etc. At first, idols were probably designed as only representations, but they finally became objects of worship.
It is absolutely essential that we constantly compare our own concept of God against the reality of who God is as revealed in His Word; we can also be guilty of worshipping a self-made God.
Paul on Mars Hill declares...
Writing to the Corinthian Christians Paul reminded them...
John in the Revelation makes it clear that man's propensity toward idolatry will persist until the very end writing that in context of horrible plagues (read Revelation 9)...
John MacArthur explains that...
AND OF BIRDS AND FOUR-FOOTED ANIMALS AND CRAWLING CREATURES: kai peteinon kai tetrapodon kai herpeton:
Notice the downward progression — man, birds, animals, creeping things. Instead of evolving from lower forms, “early man” was of a high moral order. By refusing to acknowledge the true, infinite, incorruptible God, he devolved to the stupidity & emptiness of idol worship. This whole passage gives the lie to evolution. Man is instinctively religious. He must have some object to worship. When he refused to worship the living God, he made his own gods of wood and stone.
Godet adds an interesting note...
Charles Hodge adds that
John MacArthur elaborating on creature idolatry writes that...
As his concept of deity degenerates, his morals degenerate also. If his god is a reptile, then he feels free to live as he pleases. Remember too that a worshiper generally considers himself inferior to the object of worship. Created in the image and after the likeness of God, man here takes a place lower than that of serpents! When man worships idols, he worships demons. Paul states clearly that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice to idols they sacrifice to demons and not to God (1Cor 10:20).
The result was an empty mind and a darkened heart. Man the worshiper became man the philosopher, but his empty wisdom only revealed his foolishness. Paul summarized all of Greek history in one dramatic statement: “the times of this ignorance” (Acts 17:30, cp 1Co 1:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31)
Though herpeton is often interpreted as referring only to snakes, it also includes in biblical contexts (as the result of the influence of classifications based on Hebrew terminology, as in Ge 1.25, 26, 30) a number of small four-footed animals as well as snakes, for example, rats, mice, frogs, toads, salamanders, and lizards. However, in various NT contexts it does appear to refer primarily to snakes.
Mahatma Gandhi, he of the horrible, toothless, diabolical grin of conceited folly; having been educated in England, and having heard the gospel and read the Scriptures, and rejected their light: sits on the deck of the steamer returning from India—doing what? Forming mud images with his own hands! A self-advertising illustration of the idolater’s heart-conception (deception) of the glorious incorruptible God.
Read Hosea 4:1. Why are people without the knowledge of the true God? Did they never have this knowledge or did they have it and reject it? See Hosea 4:6 for the answer. And just as this was true of Israel the same principle is brought out in Romans 1:19, 20, 21, 22.
Compare Romans 1:23 with Psalm 106:20 and Jeremiah 2:11 -- It is no surprise that they "became fools"-- Ro 1:22.