8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
There are people in this world who do not receive Jesus Christ and His righteousness. They give a whole host of reasons: religious reasons, intellectual reaons, reasons regarding the defects in Christians, reasons to do with their sophistication or reasons to do with their anger.
You have heard some of these reasons and so have I:
“There are too many hypocrites in the church”
“Where did Cain’s wife come from?”
“If there is a God why is there pain and suffering in the world?”
“If there is a God why is there pain and suffering in my life?”
“Religion is for wimps”
“Evolution has proved there is no God”
“I am a Muslim / Hindu/ Jehovah’s Witness, etc…”
But this verse is clear: the reason why people do not obey the truth of the gospel is that they are contentious. The word here translated contentious is eritheia,which means partisanship or putting yourself first. This word is normally translated strife in the New Testament and is found in the list of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5.20); James tells us that where eritheia is there is every evil work (James 3.16); and Php. 2.3 says to do nothing out of an attitude to eritheia. It is clear that eritheia is bad news!
The Bauer/Danker Greek-English Lexicon has an interesting comment about this word. It says that the word is only used in ancient Greek outside of the Bible by Aristotle. According to the BDAG Aristotle uses the word to “denote a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means”. The picture is one of a politician doing everything he can to gain power and influence, not caring about other people, not listening to other people – on the outside he may look sophisticated, intelligent and sympathetic, but it is all an act! Inside all they are doing is selfish – no wonder they cause strife and grief wherever they go.
The fact is it is this self-promoting attitude why people do not become Christians. It is not the intellectual excuses, it is not the fault of Christians – it is their own self-promoting attitude why they are not obeying the truth. It is their attitude that they know more than God Himself that is the cause for them rejecting Him. No one on judgment day will stand before God and say “it was those hypocritcal Christians”. They will fall on their face, aware of their selfish, strifeful, self-promoting lifestyle that rejected the gospel because they could not bear the implications that they needed the grace and mercy of Jesus.
The more you hold on to this self-promoting attitude, the more three things develop in your life: unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. Unirghteousness in this context means injustice – you treat some people different from others. This could manefest as racism or sexism, or it could be someone that judges and shuns someone for a sin that they commit themselves.
Indignation means a bubbling passionate anger. One of the hallmarks of someone who has rejected Christ is that they end up out of control of their temper.
Wrath is where your anger leads you to hurt people, either with your words or with your actions.
Now, what happens when you step into this self-serving, unfair, angry attitude and reject the goodness of God? The NIV translation of v.9 is stark: There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.
Now, that is actually not – in context – talking about in this life. If you go and read vv. 5-6 you will see that this verse is referring to judgment day. If you reject the goodness and mercy of God, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, then when you die you will suffer trouble and distress. Every human who is not born again when they die will suffer trouble and distress.
The word trouble is the word normally used for tribulations and means pressure. The word for distress literally means a narrow place. The Greek says that this pressure and this narrow place are going to be brought into our soul: our mind, will and emotions.
There is a hell and hell is real. If you reject Jesus you will be eternally in a place where your mind is under pressure and afflicted. You will be in a narrow place – in other words you will never be able to turn around and change direction. Hell will be a place where your emotions, your thoughts, every part of your personality will be in pain. You will regret your self-promoting attitude, you will endure the pain of knowing that at any time you could have turned to Christ.
Hell is a real place. Do not end up in hell – turn to Christ and ask for His mercy. Believe in what He did on the cross to take your sin and death so that you can have righteousness and life.
The other thing I want you to know is that there are parts of hell that are worse than others. Just like in heaven some people have better rewards, in hell some people have worse punishment. v. 6 says that God will give to each people according to what they have done. If you have been more proud, more self-seeking and destroyed more people in life then you will have a greater punishment in hell. You will experience more anguish, more distress, more pain from the fire.
However, the good news is that Jesus descended into hell and suffered the agony of hell (Acts 2.42) so that you do not have to. You can call on the name of the Lord and be saved, no matter how many sins you have committed, no matter how bad you are. You could be a thief and a robber nailed to a cross and simply call His name and when you die you will be with the Lord in heaven. Praise Him for His grace forever!