- Sunday: 9am & 11am
Over the past few weeks, our pastors have been preaching through the end of Romans 1 and beginning of Romans 2. These are tough passages – not because they are especially difficult to understand, but because they are difficult to hear. Paul is landing major blows on behalf of the truth and righteousness of God, and he’s landing them directly on every person who has ever rejected His authority, doubted His goodness, and defied His commands – and that’s me and you and everyone else.
But even as I was absorbing the sobering truth of God’s wrath being inflicted against stubborn and enthusiastic sinners, I found myself encouraged. For those of us who have believed the good news of the Gospel, we have experienced the power of God for our salvation. Specifically, we’ve been saved from the righteous and destructive anger (wrath) of God that we had coming to us, because it was diverted and inflicted on Jesus as He hung on the cross. That wrath is gone – we’ll never see an ounce of it. That means even as we continue to struggle with leftover sin, the worst we’ll experience as a result are “this-world consequences” that the Lord lovingly allows for our discipline and correction. But we are not being judged and handed over to them – we’ve been rescued from their true consequences, by the grace of God.
The same can’t be said of everyone else still enslaved by sin – still stuck with a false understanding of the world around them and how God created it (and them) to be. As Merritt said a couple weeks ago, we shouldn’t be surprised or appalled when the sinful world acts, well, sinful. Sinners sin – that’s what they do. We are called to compassion, and should feel all the more compelled to share the gospel and its hope of salvation.
But while proclaiming the truth about God’s salvation for sinners through Jesus is the most important truth the world needs to hear, it isn’t the ONLY truth Christians are in a position to share. We also can and should proclaim the truth of how God designed the world. There is some small, merciful benefit to encouraging even unsaved sinners to live in (some) ways that are more in keeping with God’s intent. In a fleeting, mortal sense, people will be better off and live more pleasant, less afflicted lives if they walk in ways consistent with God's design. There are lost people who, by virtue of being image bearers of God, reflect His kindness in how they lovingly deal with people. There are unbelieving couples married for 50 years who seem to have figured out that mutual submission and loving respect make for a healthy and reasonably fulfilling marriage. There are wise financial advisers who counsel against excessive debt and greed and covetousness - all without knowing that their "good advice" is only good because it is aligned to God's design.
As believers in all of God’s truth, we should encourage people to live wisely, as best they can. We should stand up for truth about God’s design for marriage, about His intent for parents and children, about His purpose for hard work and responsibility combined with generosity and kindness. But we cannot confuse wisdom-for-living and public morality with salvation. Because all who have yet to put their faith in Christ are worshiping creation rather than the creator, one way or another. It may not be equally obvious in all aspects of their lives. But all unbelievers – even the upstanding citizens and the good neighbors and the loving parents – have been given over to their sin and are doomed to death – even if the severity of their symptoms seems to vary in the meantime. That’s a tough truth, but it takes us right back to the good news that God has provided a way of rescue from that death, instead providing life – in this life and the next – to those who believe in the person and work of Jesus.