All persons everywhere have a deep, inner sense that God exists, that they are his creatures, and that he is their Creator. Paul says that even Gentile unbelievers "knew God" but did not honor him as God or give thanks to him (Rom. 1:21). He says that wicked unbelievers have "exchanged the truth about God for a lie" (Rom. 1:25), implying that they actively or willfully rejected some truth about God's existence and character that they knew. Paul says that "what can be known about God is plain to them," and adds that this is "because God has shown it to them" (Rom. 1:19).
Yet Scripture also recognizes that some people deny this inner sense of God and even deny that God exists. It is "thefool" who says in his heart, "There is no God" (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). It is the wicked person who first "curses and renounces the Lord" and then in pride repeatedly thinks "there is no God" (Ps. 10:3-4). These passages indicate both that sin leads people to think irrationally and to deny God's existence, and that it is someone who is thinking irrationally or who has been deceived who will say, "There is no God."
Paul also recognizes that sin will cause people to deny their knowledge of God: he speaks of those who "by their wickedness suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18) and says that those who do this are "without excuse" for this denial of God (Rom. 1:20). A series of active verbs indicates that this is a willful suppression of the truth (Rom. 1:23, 25, 28, 32).1
In the life of a Christian this inner awareness of God becomes stronger and more distinct. We begin to know God as our loving Father in heaven (Rom. 8:15), the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), and we come to know Jesus Christ living within our hearts (Eph. 3:17; Phil. 3:8, 10; Col. 1:27; John 14:23). The intensity of this awareness for a Christian is such that though we have not seen our Lord Jesus Christ, we indeed love him (1 Peter 1:8).
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