Paul repeats words from Isaiah 59:7-8 to show the effect of sin (evil thoughts, words and deeds) upon human society. Evil thoughts and words can be truly terrible, of course; but it is people’s evil deeds that especially destroy human society.
In the passage from Isaiah, wrong behaviour had spread across the nation. Everyone was acting for their own benefit. Nobody cared about what was right and proper.
That was why there was so much cruelty. People were behaving like the fierce wild animals that move quickly in order to kill. Important and powerful people were behaving like the worst thieves, who do not hesitate to murder. People were causing so much pain and trouble. “Peace” refers to the calm and content attitude that comes from a right relationship with God. Without God, people did not know how to be calm and content. They did not have a right relationship either with God, or with anyone else.
Perhaps we do not live in such a bad society as Isaiah did. However, we can all recognise the troubles that Isaiah describes. We can see many of the same attitudes in our own nations, and even in our own lives. That is because the effects of sin have not changed. Sin still causes the same troubles; and it is in everyone’s lives.
Paul ends his list of verses about sin with Psalm 36:1. People do not fear God; in other words, they do not respect God. If they did, they would give him the proper place in their lives. They would truly love him (Mark 12:30); they would gladly obey his law. When people do not give God his proper place in their lives, that is sin - and that is the state of people everywhere.
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© 2017, Keith Simons.