Robert Jeffress - What Every Atheist Knows - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Perhaps you've heard this question before, how could a just and loving God condemn people to hell if they've never heard about Jesus Christ? That's a question I get asked by unbelievers and believers alike. And from our perspective, I can understand how the idea might seem unfair. Well, today I'll take us to several key passages in Romans to explain why every person is rightfully held responsible for their decision to either accept or reject Jesus Christ. My message is titled: What Every Atheist Knows, on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I read this week about a college professor who had designed an elaborate model, a planetary model of the solar system. It had the sun, it had all of the planets and the relative distance from one another, a very intricate model. And a student walked in, he saw the model and he said, prof, who made that? The professor said, well, nobody made it. He said, no, wait a minute. Who made this? He said, didn't you hear me? I said, nobody made it. It just appeared. And the student became angry. And the professor said, son, if you can walk out of this classroom and look at nature and all that it entails and believes that just happened without a designer, then you shouldn't have any problem believing this model could have happened by chance. The fact is the atheist, the person who has rejected God has rejected him not because of a lack of evidence that God exist. The atheist rejects God because of his lack of desire to know and obey that God. And that's why the Word of God says, he is without excuse and deserving of God's judgment.
That's the theme of the passage we're going to look at today in our study of the book of Romans. If you have your Bibles, turn to Romans chapter one as we discover what it is that every atheist knows. Romans chapter one. The last time we began looking at the first major division of Romans 1:18 to 3:20. In this section talks about the problem of righteousness. What is the problem of righteousness? Simply put is it's that we don't have any of it. Not one of us is in a right standing with God in and of ourselves. Paul says, we're all guilty before God. The great climax to this section will be Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". But to make his case, just like a lawyer makes his case to the jury. And Paul is going to take three representative groups of human beings. People, we would say, well, surely they're not guilty. He says, oh yes, they are. To prove that, in fact, all humanity is guilty.
Next time, we're going to look at what he says about the gentile. But non-Jew, who is a good moral person. Surely, this person is okay with God. He's in a right standing with God. No, Paul says. He is guilty. And then we're going to look at what he says about the Jew. The Jewish person who keeps the Old Testament law. Surely, he's in a right standing with God. He's one of God's own people. Guilty, says the apostle Paul. But Paul begins this section by looking at the one group of people. Quite honestly, we all have a hard time believing would be condemned by God. And that is the person who has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Surely, that person gets a pass. Surely, that person is in a right standing with God. Guilty, says Paul. Even the person who has never heard the Gospel stands condemned before God.
Look at verse 18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress strifeful the truth and unrighteousness". How is it that that unbeliever who has never heard the Gospel is condemned before God? I want you to notice beginning in verse 20 with the three statements Paul makes about this unbeliever we think would be innocent, but in fact, God says is guilty. First of all, Paul says, the unbeliever has received a knowledge of God. We just touched on these three points last time. We're looking in-depth now at how Paul develops them. He says the unbeliever has received the knowledge of God. Look at verse 20, "For since the creation of the world, God's invisible attributes," that is, "His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through that which has been made, so that they," that is the unbeliever who hasn't heard the Gospel, "They are without excuse".
Now this verse, verse 20 is one of the key passages in the Bible that support the doctrine of what we call natural revelation. What is the natural revelation? Well, in theology, we say natural revelation is that knowledge about God that is available to anybody. That is there are some things you can know about God without a Bible, without a pastor, without a missionary, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is some information that is available to everyone. And that's what he's talking about here. You don't have to have a Bible to understand that there is a God. That is natural revelation and it comes through creation. Anybody can know that there is a God. Now remember, acknowledge of God, a belief in God is not sufficient to get you to heaven. Remember in James 2:19, what James says very sarcastically. He says, you believe that God is one? Bravo! Wonderful! Congratulations! The demons believe that as well and they shudder. Believing in God does not get a person to heaven, okay? Anybody can know there is a God.
The Psalmist said, "The fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God'". That word fool in Hebrew is literally the word we get moron from. It is a moron, an imbecile who says there is no God. Look at all of the evidence for God. That that general knowledge about God won't get you to heaven. But as I quoted, dr. Rory is saying last week, this knowledge about God is not sufficient to save you, but it is efficient if rejected to condemn you. That's natural revelation. Well, how do we receive that natural revelation? Again, he says, it's primarily through creation.
Look at verse 20, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible attributes have been clearly seen". If you go to the Old Testament, the passage we read just a moment ago, Psalm 19 that is the key Old Testament passage about general revelation. Remember what the Psalmist said, "For the heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals knowledge". No pastor is necessary. The heavens themselves, the stars, the planets are screaming out day and night that God exists.
Do you remember the story of Napoleon Bonaparte? He was crossing the Mediterranean sea and a ship with his troops. And as he was walking up and down the deck, he saw a group of his men over in a corner and they were mocking the idea that God exists. Napoleon stopped and sweeping his hand toward the stars, he says, gentlemen, you must first get rid of these. Well, you can't get rid of them. The heavens continually declare the glory of God. I mean, consider the vastness of this creation in which we live.
Do you realize that there are astronomers now who are able to see things in our universe 4 billion light years away. That is 25 septillion miles. And that's not the edge of the universe that's just the edge that we can see right now. How did all of this happen? How do you explain the vastness of creation? You know what the unbeliever says? He says, wait, it doesn't need a Creator. It happened by chance. By chance. But listen to me, one writer is very smart when he says chance is no explanation for anything. Chance is not a power. It is a mathematical probability. Big difference in the two.
For example, if I were to take a penny out of here and I were to flip it and I would say, what is the chance the probability that this will land heads up? What would you say? 50/50. And so if I flip the coin and it landed on heads, you'd ask the question, well, what made it land with heads up? Well, it wasn't chance that made it do it. It would have been the force by which I flipped the penny. It would have been the atmospheric pressure where I was. It would have been the heights to which the penny went up. All kinds of factors determined which way that penny was going to turn. Chance was simply the mathematical calculation of what was going to happen. It's the same way when we get to the universe. What is the chance that this universe just happened? Somebody said one in 10 billion would be the best estimate of this universe coming into existence by chance. That's no chance at all. But the real question is, what is it that made this earth and this universe come into being? There has to be a power behind it to explain it. What is it the creation tells us about God?
First of all, in Romans 1:20 Paul says in natural revelation, we first of all see God's eternal power. That's the first thing he mentioned. God's eternal power. Now there are many illustrations I could give you about the power within this universe. But I want you to just to consider this. I came across this week from pastor and writer, John MacArthur. Listen to this. The earth is 25.000 miles in circumference and weighs six septillion, 588 sextillion tons and hangs without any support in space. The earth expands out 1.000 miles an hour and travels through space at 1.000 miles per minute in an orbit, 580 million miles. Now considered this. The earth is 93 million miles from the sun. The sun burns at a temperature of 12.000 degrees. Why doesn't it burn at 24.000 degrees or 5.000 degrees? If it did, the earth would either burn up or become a frozen ball of ice. Or consider this.
The U.S. Natural Museum has determined that there are at least 10 million species of insects, 9 million live in Texas. No, it doesn't say. 10 million species of insects including some 2.500 varieties of ants. There were about 5 million birds in the United States among which some species are able to fly 500 miles nonstop across the gulf of Mexico. Now, closer to home think about this. The heart in your body, the human heart is the size of our fist. An adult heart weighs less than half a pound and yet, it can do enough work in 12 hours to lift 65 tons one inch off the ground. Well, think about a water molecule. It is composed of only three atoms, but if all of the molecules in just one drop of water were the size of a grain of sand, they could make a road one foot thick and half a mile wide that would stretch from New York to Los Angeles. How do you explain the intricacy, the design, the complexity, the vastness of the universe? Chance didn't do this. Chance has no power. It is the power of God. It is through creation that first of all we see a testimony of God's eternal power. But secondly, Paul says, through creation we can learn of God's divine nature.
Now I'm not sure I have a handle on this completely. We know that when God came in human form in Jesus Christ, we learned from Jesus many things about God, the father. "He who has seen me has seen the father," Jesus said. But even apart from Jesus, apart from this book there are some things we can know about the nature, the character of God. Do you know one thing we can know about God's character just from nature? We can know of his kindness. That universe is a testimony to the kindness of God. Let me give you an illustration of that. Hold your place there and turn over to acts chapter 14. Do you remember the story of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey? And they came to Lystra and they began to perform miracles to prove their apostleship. And because they were able to work miracles, the people started bow down and worship Paul and Barnabas and call them Zeus and Hermes. Paul quickly corrected them and pointed them toward the true God.
Look at what he says in beginning in verse 15 of acts 14, "Men, why are you doing these things"? That is why are you worshiping us? "'we're also men of the same nature as you and we preach the Gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them'. And in the generations gone by God permitted all nations to go their own way and yet God did not leave himself without a witness, in that he did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness". What Paul was saying is, even though you wandered away from God, God still left a witness for himself. Everyone in this universe can know of the kindness of God. You say, well, how do you know God is kind? Look at what he does. He gives you rain for example, so that you can have a harvest and you can have food to eat.
I read a study this week that said the average farmer in Minnesota receives 407.000 gallons of rainwater every year for every acre that he has. Now, where does that 407.000 gallons of water come from? It is a gift from the hand of God. We ask the question all the time. I bet you've heard it before. Why do bad things happen to good people? You know what a bigger question is? Why do good things happen to bad people? Because we're all bad. We've all wandered away from God and yet God continues to bless everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike with his gifts, whether it be rain, or food, or family, or friendships, or health. God does that as a witness to himself, as we're going to see next time. It is the grace, the gifts of God that should lead us to repentance. The Bible says we can know from creation all about the goodness of God.
When people ask the question, well, what about the haven in Africa who have never heard the Gospel? What about the haven across the street from me who has never heard the Gospel? It's just not fair. It's not fair that God would send them to hell, just because they've never heard the Gospel. Hear me this morning. No one will go to hell for rejecting a Christ they've never heard of. No one goes to hell for rejecting a Christ they've never heard of. Those who go to hell who have not heard the Gospel will go to hell, because they have rejected the limited knowledge of God that God has sent through creation. That is what Paul is saying here. Everyone has received the knowledge of God. And again, that knowledge isn't sufficient to save us, but it is sufficient if rejected to condemn us. And that leads to a second proof Paul explains in this passage. Not only has the unbeliever received the knowledge of God, secondly, he has rejected his knowledge of God.
Look at verse 21 of Romans one, "For even though these people knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened". This unbeliever received the knowledge of God. What did he do with it? He rejected it. And instead, he engaged in his own futile and dark speculations about who runs this universe. A great example of that is in the theory of evolution. Now I want to be fair here. Not all evolutionists are atheist, most of them are. But not all evolutionists are atheist. They believe in some kind of God, he's an impotent, namby-pamby, can't get anything done kind of God. But they believe in some kind of God, but they don't believe he played an active role in creation. Not all evolutionists are atheist, but without a doubt, every atheist is an evolutionist. You can't point to one atheist who is not an evolutionist. And why is he an evolutionist? Not because the evidence has led him there, he is an evolutionist by default.
You see the evolutionist, the liberal would have us believe that those of us who are creationist are really uneducated rubes who are unsophisticated and ignorant and we can't possibly make a sound argument for creationism, because in fact, we have all of these presuppositions about God that blind us to the evidence for evolution. They say, we can't be trusted to tell, to find out the truth, because we have all of these presuppositions about God. Now, there's a certain amount of truth to that. When we come to the debate about evolution, we do come with our own presuppositions. We come with a presupposition that this book is the Word of God. We come with a presupposition that there is a God. And in the beginning, God did create the heaven and the earth.
So it's fair to say, we have our presuppositions in the debate about evolution. But what the evolutionist won't tell you is, he is just as non-objective as we are, because he comes to the debate about evolution with his own preconceived ideas and he starts out with a presupposition, there is no God, there is no explanation for the beginning of the universe that allows to get for God. Because you see the evolutionist is by definition a naturalist. You know what it means to be a naturalist? Science is built on naturalism. Naturalism says nature is all that there is. That is the only thing that is real is that which I can see or measure or what I can repeat a nature. There is no allowance for the supernatural. That is any explanation that goes above nature. So he comes to the evolution debate with the presupposition is there is no such thing as the supernatural. I must have a natural explanation for the things. And that's why I say the evolutionist takes his position by default.
Now, if you think that is preacher hyperbole, I want to quote from a Harvard biologist, Richard Lewontin, who in his article in the New York review of books says this, I mean, talk about a smoking gun. I want you to read the words on the screen while I read them. This is a Harvard biologist. He said, "We are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations. Materialism, naturalism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door". Now, how's that for admission? We are open to any possibility for the origin of the universe, except one that leads us to a divine Creator and we reject that. We are not going to allow God in the door no matter how much evidence there is to prove the existence of God. And that's why I say to you, he comes to this debate with the same set of predispositions and presuppositions that we do. We believe there is a God. He starts with the idea there is no God.