The Early Church had believers from two different backgrounds: Jews who knew God's law, and Gentiles who had little knowledge of what displeased God. The Jews were tempted to look down on Gentiles, but Paul says that they were wrong to do so. Knowledge does not make people holy but repentance which leads to transformed behaviour does. And anyway, hidden evil desires are as bad as visible sins (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28).
It is easy to criticise others when we see their obviously bad behaviour; but it is hard to see inside our own hearts. That is why we need God's help. Kind David prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24). Paul is preparing his readers to understand the full scope of the gospel: it is not just for socially bad people but also for well informed religious people. God is not looking for people to have more knowledge about right and wrong; He wants to see what they do with it - does it lead to repentance?
Religious arrogance is still a problem among believers. God is patient as He calls us to repentance, not bringing His wrath upon us earlier. But if we think that our Bible knowledge or spiritual experiences make us superior we will be 'puffed up' (1 Corinthians 8:1, Colossians 2:18). Such people are spiritually useless and even dangerous. They avoid the whole point of the gospel - admitting sin, believing in Jesus the Saviour, repenting and receiving His life (www.crosscheck.org.uk). So is your lifestyle one of repentance and trust or are you spiritually arrogant? Today is the day to repent.
© Dr Paul Adams