and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Truth to Learn
We tend to worship corruptible things that we can see, rather than our eternal God who we can’t see.
Behind the Words
“Incorruptible” is translated from the Greek word aphthartos, which is made up of the privative a, meaning “not” and a form of phtheirō, which means “to waste away, to spoil, or to corrupt.” Hence, aphthartos means “that which does not waste away, spoil, or corrupt.” Later in this verse the word phthartos is translated “corruptible.” Man is corruptible and wasting away (dying, if you will), but God remains the same forever.
The word translated “image” is the Greek word eikōn, from which we get our English word icon. It means “a likeness, representation, or image of something else.” And, the word “like” is from homoiōma, meaning “a form or a resemblance.” Because of the order and case of these two words, a more accurate translation would be “and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the form of an image of corruptible man…”
Paul is talking about those men (and women) who suppress the truth about God. They deny His power and His very existence even though God has made Himself known to them through his creation. And because they refused to thank Him or to glorify Him, He gives them up to foolish reasoning, though they think themselves to be wise.
Paul continues on in today’s verse to describe some of their actions after the light of truth has been removed from them. Instead of worshipping the true God, these ungodly people choose to worship the creatures instead of the creator. The Old and New Testaments are filled with examples of animals and their images that have been worshipped throughout the ages. The Greek gods were nearly always in the form of humans with supernatural abilities. The Egyptian Gods, on the other hand, were in the form of birds, animals, and reptiles. Rome had adopted all of these as acceptable deities to worship. Secular history records the numerous creatures that have been the focus of man’s religion, and it continues on to the present day.
Today, one of the most prevalent forms of image worship is secular humanism. Though they would claim to not worship any god, it is themselves that they make to be the gods. In order to do this they claim that there is no God, so, instead, God turns them into fools believing in such things as “the big bang” and “evolution,” all the while promoting the supremacy of mankind.
Let me repeat what I said a few days ago. God is not mocked! Just because these unbelievers claim there is no God does not make it so, and Paul will continue in the next verse to describe what God’s response to their “wisdom” has been, and continues to be.
It is easy for us to put our faith, trust, hope, and comfort in things other than God. It could be money, a job, a home, family, a worthy cause, even our church. Keep in mind that if it’s not the eternal, unchanging God of creation, it’s an idol. And … our God is a jealous God!
In God’s service, for His glory,
Copyright © 2009 Will Krause. All rights reserved.
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