Filled with Wickedness
The English writer G K Chesterton said, "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing ... they believe in anything". Paul observed life in the ancient Roman Empire; and while there were many idol temples, 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. In their hearts the remains of conscience tell them they are wrong, but instead they applaud others who think the same way and create a hellish society in which nobody is safe.
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. And 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 God's message which contains the solution. So let's tell it to everybody and pray that they will believe it - when they do, their behaviour will change!
© Dr Paul Adams