Filled with Wickedness
The English writer G K Chesterton said, ‘When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything’. Paul observed life in the ancient Roman Empire; and while there were many idol temples (Acts 17:22-27), the vast majority of people did not believe in the One and Only God - so they believed they could do whatever they liked. They believed they were not morally accountable to anybody except themselves, and they behaved accordingly.
Behaviour always follows on from belief. When people reject godliness, they create a spiritual vacuum which inevitably becomes filled with godlessness. Not only do they displace God from His throne, but they also scorn everything He says is good. Their hearts, minds, tongues and actions are all filled with vandalism against God, society and the world.
Paul describes the consequences of a selfish life which denies accountability to God. It is a horrible picture from disordered families to violent societies. The scene is one of unending dysfunctional relationships without love, truth, mercy or restraint; as each pursues their chosen lusts and seeks to destroy whoever gets in their way. It is hell on earth, a foretaste of eternal hell in hell. Although they have some awareness that their ways are not godly, they not only refuse to repent, they encourage other people into the same lifestyles that forfeit heaven (Revelation 21:8).
What is the answer? Paul is using his observations to show how much the gospel is needed. Whatever laws are brought in to deal with society-wrecking behaviour, none of them can ever change people's hearts so that they love God. A radical internal change is needed. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to transform hate into love, violence into peace, and disobedience into service. So do not despair when you see society in auto-destruct mode because the gospel is still God's message which contains the solution. So, let's tell it to everybody and pray that they will believe it and start a whole new way of relating when they welcome Jesus as Lord - when they do, their behaviour will change!
© Dr Paul Adams