20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Verses 19 and 20 explain why God reveals His wrath. God provides sufficient evidence of Himself to hold people accountable to revelation. Verse 20 shows how we can perceive God’s “invisible attributes.”
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen,
God is a spirit (Jn 4:24) and that makes His attributes invisible. We can see something of the effects of God’s invisible attributes in creation.
Since God is the Creator, we can see those marks of His work “clearly.” What we can see is the reality of His divine essence in general revelation. “Clearly” leaves no doubt about its reality; there is no equivocation here but rather certainty of knowing. Creation cannot show us His love, but it can clearly show His power and order.
being understood by the things that are made [material creation],
We can understand some of God’s attributes by creation—a source of our knowledge, albeit this understanding is limited because it does not give specific information about the gospel. This general revelation not special revelation.
The word “understood” means perceived or comprehended by the intellect. This understanding is the result of the thinking process.
even His eternal power and Godhead,
Two things we can understand about God are His “eternal power” and His “Godhead.” The word “eternal” occurs only here and in Jude 6. God is everlasting, along with all His attributes. Creation is limited, perishable, and contingent. God is not limited, perishable, or contingent.
We can translate “Godhead” as divine nature. This is the only occurrence of the Greek word in the New Testament. His divine nature is what makes up what we call God; this includes His personality. God’s essence is the sum of all His attributes.
There is a difference between “divinity” and “deity.” Divinity is that which pertains to God. Deity is the state of being God. We can know divinity by perceiving creation. Those who know special revelation (such as the Bible) can know His deity. Divinity does not specify an attribute but the sum of His invisible attributes.
Revelation of God in creation is more than a pantheistic “spirit in nature”; it is, rather, God’s divine nature.
so that they are without excuse,
People can see God in creation so clearly that to ignore it is indefensible. They are culpable to the light they see in nature. People have no defense for unwillingness to believe.
The Greek word for “without excuse” suggests legal culpability. No one has a defense against the justice of God. There is no exception to this culpability because it is impossible for anyone to look at creation and not see God’s creative power and attributes manifest in creation. No one can plead ignorance of God. They have no apologetic against God. This is stronger than “without excuse.” The idea is that people have no legal defense to justify rejecting the God of creation. All people of all time are defenseless in their argument for atheism or agnosticism.
All people, not only those who know the Bible, are culpable before God.
All people have a revelation in nature. For every effect, there must be an adequate cause. We are forced to conclude that the tremendous effect of the universe demands a Creator of eternal power and divine attributes. We can trace God from the world around us; we can see His power and majesty in creation. God is justified to deliver His wrath on those with culpability to revelation.
Ps 19: 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. 6 Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Western philosophical reductionism shuts out God, purpose, meaning, and value from the “real” world. There is no defense for this if we look at creation. Every effect must have an adequate cause greater than the effect itself.