Wednesday

07 March 2012

"There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality." (vv. 9-11

Background

The downward spiral began in our reading yesterday reaches its depth at the beginning of today's passage. The writer, Paul, suggests that point had been reached where people even seemed confused about right and wrong.

The list of human wrongdoings in verses 29-31 are enough to break all of the Jewish commandments in Exodus 20 and they certainly opposed to the greatest commandment to love God and love your neighbour, given by Jesus (Matthew 22:34-40). The original readers would have recognised these wrongs in the Roman society around them, which was morally and ethically bankrupt. Theirs was a society that held entertainment shows for the applause of the masses, based on violence, humiliation and cruelty. Paul makes clear the seriousness of the situation that faced the readers, with death as the deserved result of wrongdoing.

The focus of the writing subtly changes here, perhaps aimed towards some of his more self-assured Jewish readers. Paul gives no 'get out' clause for anyone. It is God who judges and if any human being passes judgement on anyone else they condemn themselves. What is needed is repentance, ie a full turning around from wrongdoing to a life devoted back to God.

The phrase "day of wrath" (v. 5), brings to mind something different from the wrath of God revealed in verses 18-32. Paul uses this phrase to refer to some future date when God will judge everything that has happened. There is a simple equation made, doing good deeds receives a good reward, doing bad things exacts a terrible price. This principle of judgement according to deeds is the same for everyone whatever their religious or cultural background. Paul is setting out for the reader the reality of the human condition and its seriousness. As no one can live up to this moral and ethical standard of God, it leaves Paul and the readers with a question to answer: How can anyone pass God's standard?

To Ponder

When have you or your culture applauded other people's wrongdoing or the humiliation of others, perhaps in the name of entertainment?

How can you respond to Paul's challenge of repentance, especially when times are good?

Bible notes author: Dr Andy Dye

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