God the Creator or God the Created?

“You thought that I was altogether like you” (Psalm 50:21).

The psalmist identifies the greatest sin of humanity – idolatry.  Idolatry is turning God the Creator into God the created.  It is men and women creating God in the image of humanity – limited in all ways, angry, arrogant, impatient, jealous, and so on.  Estrangement from God over time due to rebellion from Him lends to people viewing the created order as somehow resembling the image of God.  The psalmist claims that this estrangement begins in the mind with disordered thoughts.  It is natural for us to think this way in our rebellion from God.  In fact, the greater the distance humanity is from God, the more individuals shake off the truth of God and form Him into the image of the creature.  Idolatry has no bounds in its creativity.  It takes that which exist in the created order and converts it into a god.  In doing so, certain consequences occur.

Love turns into hatred, and embracing God becomes rejection. Raising up other gods demonstrates hatred for God’s instruction, especially the first of the 10 Commandments,

“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

This instruction is not simply something in writing but the instruction of humanity’s design – created in the image of God.  If men and women are created in God’s image, then we bear the image of the one and only true God.  No other gods exist, for they are fictions risen from the minds of individuals.  Since God is righteous (50:6), His imprint of righteousness is on everyone.  It is an objective imprint that God stamps as good because it is the essence of His being and character; that is, He is internally consistent and faithful with all He is.  God is good and love and righteousness and truth.  Therefore, there is an objective good and rightness, and it resides in God.

Just as we create gods from that which exists in the created order, we think we can create our own good and rightness and make it our own truth.  When each person does this, goodness and rightness multiply by as many people that exist, and each person does what it right in one’s own eyes.  We develop our own “truth” after we have rejected God and the truth that He is.  We view ourselves righteous in our own eyes and claim, “Your truth may not be the same as my truth” and live in that fantasy world.  This is one of the major consequences of rejecting God’s instruction.  We take a path contrary to the way God created us – His design for our lives.  The world is a sad commentary of everyone doing what is right in one’s eyes.  Paul the Apostle gives a list of consequences that results from this action:

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies †among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:22-29).

The above is a vicious cycle of destruction, a destruction arising from a lie and rejection of the one true God.

However, the psalmist claims another way,

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).

Praising God turns negatives and the cycle of destruction into life – eternal life.  Praise accepts God and His way for us.  It returns the good and brings order back to us.  God restores that good within us by faith in Him in recognizing Him as both God the Creator and Redeemer and rejects a god created in the image of a replica that exist in our minds.

Ten Obstacles to Saving Faith: Introduction and Obstacle One

In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul sets out to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of that defense of the gospel is faith. Throughout this letter, Paul gives meaning to faith by association with the contents of the gospel. The center of that gospel is Jesus Christ. He associates faith with the following:

  • grace (Romans 1:5; 5:2; 12:3)
  • righteousness (1:17)
  • Christ’s sacrificial death (3:25),
  • justification (3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1)
  • righteousness (4:11-13; 9:30-32; 10:6-8)
  • God’s promises and inheritance (4:13-20)
  • obedience (1:5; 16:26)

All of these comprise the meaning of God’s saving act toward us. They stand in contrast to our alienation from God and unbelief resulting in rebellion against and rejection of Him. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul sets out ten obstacles to saving faith, which prevent people from coming into relationship with God both in our existing life and in the life to come of eternity. These obstacles resist the above listed benefits from God and reflect unbelief. This article addresses the first obstacle with subsequent articles taking up each of the others. While Paul writes of these obstacles from the perspective of those who reject God and fail to believe Him, Christians can also stand in the way of enjoying relating to God and enjoying His presence in life through not believing God in the benefits He offers.  This is not to say that Christians do not possess these benefits.  Rather, believers can doubt them and fall into a similar life as someone who does not believe the gospel and the benefits it brings them.

In laying out the condition of all humanity in Romans 1-2, Paul sets forth a heavy indictment of those who reject God. Among the first of these indictments include ungodliness and unrighteousness. He writes,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Notice that ungodliness and unrighteousness begin a downward spiral. The first of their acts is the suppression of truth. Once this suppression occurs, indignity toward God results in dishonoring him. That follows with lack of gratitude leading to futile thinking and a dark heart. Once rejection of God and His glory thrusts Him down through dishonor and ingratitude, it leads to lifting up a claim to wisdom and ultimately full-blown idolatry.  A claim to the wisdom of which Paul notes, is really a claim of being wiser than God for recognizing what is best for ourselves.  The wisdom of which Paul speaks leads to idolatry (1:23), that is corrupting the image of God and setting up images gods unworthy of Him.

Rejection of God takes many forms:

  • Embracing God and then turning away (apostasy)
  • Claiming that one cannot know God (agnosticism)
  • Denying that God actually exists (atheism)
  • Worshiping of other gods (polytheism) made in the image of man (idolatry)
  • Defying outright God although one knows Him (rebellion)
  • Practicing the occult and cultism (Satanism)
  • Making excuses for not embracing God by faith (self-will)

Regardless of the form, they all add up to unbelief and rejection of God. Paul makes known that unbelief is the key ingredient leading to ultimate idolatry and all of its trappings: uncleanness, lust, and dishonorable treatment of self. The list Paul makes provides a summary of the type of people who typify unbelief (Romans 1:29-31), among which consist of sexual immorality, envy, murder, strife, violence, lack of trust and love.  Idolatry is the act of the worship of gods made in the image of those things in the created order including humanity.  It is the enshrinement and placement of anything in the created order as first place before God.  All of the above listed rejections of God are idolatrous practices.

Notice that their progression begins with ungodliness and unrighteousness. These two characteristics describe the natural bent of humanity. The first term, ungodliness, refers to a lack of respect or irreverence. It is a failure to render honor. It is the negation of a bent toward the goodness that characterizes God. The second term suggests unfaithfulness or disloyalty and not imperfection. It could also describe faithlessness that exhibits wrongdoing, injustice, and wickedness. Unrighteousness is a force for all other evils, especially those that Paul sums up at the conclusion of the chapter (1:29-31).

In listing the irrational and hostile traits at the conclusion of chapter one, Paul illustrates an undeniable truth. Those who exhibit ungodliness and unrighteousness toward God conduct themselves in like manner toward their fellow humans. If they demonstrate unrighteousness toward God, they will do so toward others. If they display acts counter to the sexual design for which God created them, they will perpetrate sexual immorality as described in the Bible toward others (1:29). If they are haters of God (1:30), they will be malicious, envious, deceptive, evil-minded, violent, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful toward others (1:29-31). Dishonor and irreverence only perpetuates the results of these characteristics toward others. The empirical evidence is obvious worldwide where we witness conflicts and wars over the material goods of the world and the desire to deprive others not only of their property but also of their lives either on an individual level or on the level of a society or nation.

Faith in God cannot stand when such turmoil and maliciousness exist. They exist or have existed within each person on the earth and in every person who has ever lived who never turned to God. For faith to exist and thrive, all individuals must recognize, admit to, and turn away from ungodliness and unrighteousness. The Bible calls this repentance. Repentance and faith must come together, and they do so only through God’s activity within the individual in turning a person from his or her own self-oriented condition toward Jesus Christ to recognize Him as the Redeemer of one’s soul.

Copyright (c) 2014 Action Faith  Books Press.  All rights reserved.  Cannot be used or stored in any form without expressed written permission from Action Faith Books Press.