In Romans chapter 1, Paul provided an argument that everyone should be able to comprehend the existence of God from the creation.

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

The Epistle of Romans was written to both Gentiles and Jews.

There are two questions;

  1. How do we expect the Gentiles and Jews could have the same knowledge of God at that time?
  2. When the Gentiles perceive idols as God, did they justify to receive the same punishment as the Jews did the same thing.
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    The text itself indicates that there is a knowledge of God to be gained through the things which he has created. I cannot see the point of questioning this. It is not the full revelation of God, that is most obvious. Israel was privileged, but that knowledge was not hidden, rather it was transmitted throughout the known world. My view is that the question lacks focus.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 11, 2022 at 19:11
  • @Nigel - If I never knew about Christianity and my parents told me this idol is our true God. Am I punished being having the wrong knowledge of God? The righteousness of God must be within the "knowledge of God". Please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting God is not fair, I am inviting answers that can best explain the fairness of God is indeed within the context that Paul was written. Sep 11, 2022 at 19:45
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    Your question does not mention Jesus Christ. Your question speaks of Deity, as such. So, also, does the text under consideration. The propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is another matter. The comment, as well as the question (in my view) lacks focus.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 11, 2022 at 19:48
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    @VincentWong asks "Am I punished being having the wrong knowledge of God?". There is nothing in the question related to punishment. The quoted scripture explains how anyone can look at the universe and realize that it requires a creator. I.e. there is no excuse for not believing in the existence of God. This has nothing to do with any specific religious beliefs or practices. Questions about such things should be asked in Christianity.SE, not here, and certainly not as a discussion in the comments. Sep 12, 2022 at 0:28

4 Answers 4


It is the general knowledge for God's existence. Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God. The expanse shows his handiwork. Teleological Argument:

The teleological argument (from τέλος, telos, 'end, aim, goal'; also known as physico-theological argument, argument from design, or intelligent design argument) is an argument for the existence of God or, more generally, that complex functionality in the natural world which looks designed is evidence of an intelligent creator.

The argument is that the whole world (especially a good man or a seeker of God) knows God's existence by looking at the creation itself, however the men of the nations (Gentiles) chose to deny the creator and worshipped idols and creation. But God overlooked at their ignorance, letting them live in their depravity and godlessness, Acts 17:30; (some righteous Gentiles however obey the laws of God heeding to their conscience, Rom 2:6-16). Every man is judged impartially according to his life and situation, so there is no impartiality to the Gentiles who die without knowing God, nor there was any special favour to the Jews for having the religion of God.

  • No impartiality with God, correct, good answer. +1
    – Cork88
    Sep 11, 2022 at 17:06
  • @Michael - thank you for your answer. A consideration is the true God revealed Himself only to the Israelites. Other nations, without a proper "knowledge of God", took an idol as their creators (some other religions still are and they all teaching people to do good deed, but good deed is not a guarantee of salvation). So the justification to the Jews and the Gentiles may have a different starting point in order to rationalize the righteousness of God, which is part of the knowledge of God. Would you be able to further enlighten us? Sep 11, 2022 at 20:16
  • The Pagans are essentially sinners for NOT doing good works of God. Those who do are called righteous. Pagan religions do Not teach good works. Their "good works" are actually murders, envy, worship of sex & greed, the opposite of good works. A good pagan goes to heaven and a bad believer goes to hell. Study the parables of Christ. Faith alone is demonic. God judges all equally impartially. biblescan.com/search.php?q=judge+according+works
    – Michael16
    Sep 12, 2022 at 8:13

It is significant that Paul expands on his argument about belief in God in Rom 1 by stating in Rom 2:

14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 So they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts either accusing or defending them 16 on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Christ Jesus, as proclaimed by my gospel.

Famously, C S Lewis took up this theme in the first part of his much-quoted book, "Mere Christianity". That is, the classic teleological argument for existence of God can be mounted on two fronts:

  • the extreme order and functioning of the universe, including irreducible complexity and the impossibility of the natural formation of some structures (eg, the cell)
  • The existence of morality (as in Mere Christianity by Lewis) and altruism as expounded in Rom 2:14-16 quoted above
  • Some apologists also suggest another, much debated basis which is really a sub-set of the first above, namely, the apparent anthropic principle.

Now it is true, that in the absence of God's specific revelation of the Bible, many more questions about the nature of God, etc, would exist; nevertheless, Paul in Rom 1 is indisputably true that some information can still be understood about God, namely:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse.

This passage is significant for several reasons because it says the following:

  • every person receives some revelation of God, in some form (this presumably varies widely)
  • this revelation of God is plain to all people, despite the efforts of some to resist it
  • this revelation of God is often by the visible universe around us, ie, His "workmanship".
  • the revelation of God includes God's eternal power and divine nature
  • all people are without excuse

This statement of Paul's is reinforced by other in the NT such as:

  • John 1:9 - The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world.

See the appendix below for more information.

This raised the much-debated question about why the Bible revelation and Christ's personal revelation of God was necessary? The answer is simple - while general revelation of God provides some information, specific revelation about God adds much, much, more. This makes those of us, who are thus privileged, responsible for spreading "The Word."

APPENDIX - Pagans who understood God

For the sake of the following discussion, we will define “Pagan” as a person who is neither Christian nor Jewish. Here are some examples of people who did not have the Bible nor Jewish/Israelite teaching but still understood that God exists AND that we must live by moral requirements:

  • Pharaoh rebukes Abram after a vision from God. Gen 12:17-20
  • Abimelech rebukes Abraham after a vision from God. Gen 20:3-6
  • Abimelech rebukes Isaac about Rebekah. Gen 26:8-11
  • The Philistine king Achish appeared to recognize YHWH, the LORD, in 1 Sam 29:6, 7.
  • King Necho of Egypt rebukes Josiah’s foolishness. 2 Chron 35:20-22
  • Jonah was the divine agent in saving the pagan city of Nineveh without the need for them becoming Jews. Jonah 3:4-10
  • The magi (“wise men”) of the east were avid students of Scripture. Matt 2:1, 2, 11, 12.
  • Several Roman Centurions were obviously saved. Matt 8:5-12, Luke 23:47, Acts 10:30-35.
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    @Vincent Wong(THEY KNOW) A wise scholar once said, "Atheists know God exists, they just don't want to serve Him." To get around the obvious cosmological argument implications, modern atheist insist on spelling God with "two 'o's". But they back themselves into a corner, because to have knowledge of 'good' they must have 'evil' to explain it. But "GOOD AND EVIL" imply a Moral Law. But there must be a Transcendent Source for such a Law. Man is not the source because he is obligated (under the law). Got God?
    – ray grant
    Jun 4, 2023 at 21:33

In Romans 1:18 – 3:8 Paul uses the Socratic method to show the lack of logic in the teaching of the judaizers. The three quoted verses are allusions to The Book of Wisdom chapters 13 and 14. That was the way the Jews saw the pagans back then. At the same time thinking highly about themselves. But if the argument from nature was true, there would be no need for the judaizing teachers to be in Rome to begin with. In Acts 17 Paul in his speech to the Athenians says:

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for "'In him we live and move and have our being';as even some of your own poets have said, "'For we are indeed his offspring.' 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

If Paul called the gentiles blind in verse 26 (feel their way) and ignorant in verse 30 he couldn't contradict himself in Romans 1.

Then in chapter two, Paul shows that the Jews despite having the law are as sinful as the gentiles. Next he addresses the circumcision. In the end he tells judaizers that they have no advantage over the pagans since all men are sinful and all need salvation (Romans 3:9-11). Next from 3:21 Paul returns to his original though with which he opened with in 1:16-17 about salvation through faith because of the faithfulness of Jesus.


To Whom Much is Given Much is Required The point of Romans 1,2 is that there is sufficient knowledge for all ethnic groups to have a realization that a God exists...a creation implies a Creator...a design implies a Designer.

Those nations that migrated away from Eden (Babel) became isolated, and did not have the revelation given to Abraham and his descendants (Mosaic Law). They did not have "full knowledge" of the God who is. And as such they will be judged accordingly, for God is a just God. To whom much is given, much is required. And conversely, to whom little is given, not as much will be held to their account.

But this in no way excuses the "heathen" for "living like the devil." Paul mentioned the "conscience" which all ethnic groups have. Everyone knows what it is like to be treated good or treated badly. They know right from wrong. This "Light" is given to all men. They certainly will be judged if they numb their conscience, however.

Mankind is without excuse if they decide to let witch-doctors, or gurus, or a priestly clan, turn the God of creation into a wooden idol covered with silver or gold, that cannot talk, feel, or think. It goes against Reason which is another universal gift from God the Creator.

But a worship of God, in whose image we all are created (thinking, feeling, communicative) has been acceptable to God even though the worshippers don't have the "full knowledge" of Jehovah, or Jesus. As Paul, said in Acts 17, "these are the times of ignorance." But with the spread of the Gospel, men have a greater responsibility to acknowledge and worship according to the Gospel.

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