The theology of the Apostle Paul emphasizes that mankind possesses the vestiges of an instinctive awareness of God, an innate realization that humanity owes an obligation to Him; an awareness that has been incorporated within man at creation. Moreover, the Apostle writes in chapter one of his letter to the Romans, since earliest times, men were able to discern God's existence and eternal power by the things He created. Though aware of these things, they refused to retain the true knowledge of God in their minds or admit their obligation to Him, preferring instead, to invent ridicules ideas of what God was like and how they should serve Him.
Mankind deliberately refused to acknowledge God as He really is, Paul said. They knew the reality about Him, but refused to worship Him in truth. Because they chose to believe lies, God released them to their own corrupt devices. He permitted humanity to reap the results of its own reprobate thinking. Men created and worshiped their own gods; gods made to resemble birds, animals, snakes and humans; the things God, himself, created. As a result, Paul states, at the Judgment Day, when men stand before God, they will have no valid excuse for not having followed the truth, since they once knew it and deliberately chose not to follow it.
I. Men find it impossible to divest themselves of the need to worship something. The awareness of the spiritual realm is universal to mankind; it has always been a part of the human psyche. While some do not recognize its lesser manifestations, the need to worship is a part of us all. In his book, "Primitive Religions," published in 1891, Professor G. T. Bettany recorded that, though some tribes may be without a higher sense of religion, few, if any, do not believe in spiritual beings of some kind.
Charles Darwin in his "Descent of Man," (vol i; p. 143) also noted this tendency in the human race. He wrote: "If . . . we include in the term 'religion' the belief in unseen or spiritual agencies . . . this belief seems to be universal with the less civilized races."
The animist's fear that spiritual beings inhabit natural objects and must be appeased, the dread that the spirits of the dead must be worshiped to prevent them from harming the living, the worship of the spirits in the powers of nature, the belief of totemism that certain animals and plants must be respected to refrain them from injuring humans, the rituals of sorcery, shamanism, witchcraft and numerous other formulas are religious practices utilized by primitives seeking to control the gods before whom they feel a sense of guilt. These practices bear witness that even remote tribes possess vestiges of an awareness of the existence of God, and sense that mankind has offended Him; therefore an obligation is due Him. True, this perception of a deity whom men have offended is corrupted, but it is nevertheless real.
This deep-rooted fear in the human soul that the gods are displeased with men and must be appeased was dramatically illustrated by the physician Luke during his travels with the Apostle Paul. While in Athens, he and the Apostle noticed idols everywhere. Their attention was caught by an altar bearing the plaintive inscription, "To the unknown god." The Athenians feared that, in their ignorance, they may have neglected to appease a god unknown to them. In an effort to diminish the risks of incurring his wrath - should such a god exist - they fashioned an altar. No doubt suitable ritual practices were concocted. It was a pathetic attempt to control the unknown god and bend him to their will, though the Athenians could never be sure they had succeeded. The account is a classic example of the insecurity felt by those who have not learned the revealed nature of the true God. And, it is precisely this lack of understanding that generates profound terror. Men do not know God, but have a deep-rooted sense of guilt toward Him; so they fear Him; in their fear they attempt to manipulate Him.
"A formula is something that worked once, and keeps trying to do it again." (Henry S. Haskins; "Family Word Finder," Readers Digest, page 322.)
Since the beginning, men have invented practices by which they attempt to place human boundaries around God. Our society has fallen heir to this propensity in our race. As a result the field of religion in our generation has become a hot-bed of religious formulas that endeavor to shrink God to human dimensions. Whole cults have proliferated around such formulas. In Christianity, denominations have split over them. In the past few generations, the American church has been devastated by such tactics.
Originally, with humanity's rejection of truth in the infancy of our race, the fulfillment of men's need to worship took simple forms - the worship of idols, animals, potentates, sun, moon, and planets, etc, that they endeavored to control or manipulate by inventing religious formulas for that purpose. Although this rudimentary idolatry is still practiced in some communities, among "civilized" peoples, the modern endeavor to control the true God manifests a more sophisticated expression. Until their fall from grace, televangelist pervaded the screen with their name-it-and-claim ballyhoos, which is nothing more than the proclamation that men can control God and bend Him to their will by simply naming their desires and claiming it to be already accomplished. By their doing this, God was compelled to grant these desires.
However, God is not an infinite vending machine; we cannot insert a claimed desire, say we believe it to be so and out pops that which is claimed. Neither will God consent to being controlled by men - formulas not withstanding.
"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).
This is the only "formula" necessary for a right relationship with the true God.
To read more articles, stories and poems by Josprel, log on to:
Powerful truths! I think I might have gained more wisdom through this piece than anything I have read from you thus far. Not to take away from the excellence of anything you've written before... it's just that this piece, in my opinion, is something that we all need to read. It truly provokes a heart check.
I enjoyed your teaching and thought I would leave a few thoughts of my own.
I believe you hit the root of the problem when you said men refuse to retain the knowledge of God.
The name it and claim it preaching has always bothered me for this simple reason, If you really know God your desires will be to seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.
The problem is everyone wants the name it and claim it without the relationship with God.
The teaching was not first built upon the solid rock, which of course is Jesus.
I always say if you live the life the blessing will follow but you cannot control God simply desiring only the things of the flesh and spending little or no time at all with the one who gives all good things to His children.