“There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. But there will be glory and honour and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. For God does not show favouritism.”
Romans 2:9-11 NLT
Paul continues his letter to the Roman Christians about the dangers of sin, evil and wickedness. Words that really have the same connotations and, as we would expect, they will have the same consequences. Perhaps there are some today, reading these verses in Romans, who are getting the impression that in Paul’s day, life was riven with overt and disgraceful displays of pure evil. We would be misguided should we believe that, because, as we read Paul’s list of misdemeanours, we find that much of the evil he describes is hidden from public view. It applies to attitudes of heart, and deeds committed behind closed doors.
In our society today, much of the evil Paul was so dismayed about has come out into the open, with, for example, marches and events promoting and celebrating evil behaviour, with legislation helping to ease restrictions on laws and precepts originally established by God, and pressure on society to conform to a new morality which has no place in the Kingdom of God.
Paul therefore warns his readers that for those who continue to practice evil acts will end up in bother, or, as he wrote, “trouble and calamity“. But why did Paul highlight that Jews would experience “trouble and calamity” in advance of the Gentiles? After all, as it says in Romans 2:11, “God does not show favouritism“. Paul himself was a Jew, so perhaps that influenced his thoughts. After all, his nation, the Jews, were God’s chosen people, so they should have been well aware of what constitutes evil behaviour.
Notice the words that Paul uses – “ keeps on doing”. Paul was highlighting constant bad behaviour. A lifestyle of evil. Paul wrote about the consequences of this in his letter to the Galatian church. We read in Galatians 6:8, “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit“. “Trouble and calamity” and “decay and death” all result from sinful behaviour. Perhaps some have already made the connection between evil practices and avoidable diseases, or liver, heart or lung failure. But that will not be the only result of evil. Paul’s thoughts also extend into what is going on in people’s minds, and ultimately, what impact evil behaviour will have when people encounter that terrible day when they stand before God’s white throne?
What is the remedy for an evil lifestyle? We read in 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness“. But that was a Scripture written for the benefit of Christians, so it is unlikely that people who live in an ungodly way would read it and make the connection. God in His wisdom has given us some guidelines for drawing people away from a life of sin. People preached a tremendous sermon on the Day of Pentecost. We read in Acts 2:37-38, “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“”. But how did Peter’s words “pierce their hearts”? I’m sure the people who heard his sermon could have let his words flow over their heads. It is the Holy Spirit who brings conviction of sin, as we read in John 16:8, “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment“. As believers, we only have to deliver the message of the Good News. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Notice that Peter’s sermon included the message of repentance and turning to God. Sometimes I think we evangelical pilgrims forget that message when we are talking to people about God’s love and grace. The only remedy for an evil lifestyle is repentance, turning away from their evil behaviour and instead towards a life living God’s way. Confessing sins on their own, important though that is, is not enough.
We pilgrims continue to preach the Gospel at every opportunity. Spreading the word of God’s love and kindness. Telling people that the time is short. And praying that God will touch them and draw them into His eternal presence.
Dear Father God. We are so grateful for Your words of instruction. Please help us to heed them ourselves, as well as share them with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.