Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom the just God has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are inventors of evil things.”

Louw-Nida’s Greek-English lexicon describes the phrase as follows – an inventor of evil things is “one who thinks up schemes or plans of action—‘contriver, inventor, one who thinks up.’ φευρετς κακν ‘they think up ways of doing evil.” They scheme and plot and determine how to do evil.

Consider the case of Queen Jezebel. Ahab was grieved that Naboth would not sell his vineyard to him. So what did Jezebel do? She plotted to do evil. She called a day for public fasting, sat two disreputable men beside Naboth, and then had them accuse Naboth of blasphemy. An accusation of guilt was the same as proof in Jezebel’s kingdom. Naboth was given a shame trial and then summarily executed. Ahab now had his vineyard. Jezebel was an inventor of evil things.

Likewise, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees were inventors of evil things. When many believed in Jesus because of the witness of Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead, they “plotted to put Lazarus to death” (Jn 12:10). They also plotted against the Lord Jesus Himself. “When morning came,” Matthew tells us, “all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death” (Mt 27:1). Not content to oppose His teaching, they determined to destroy Him. They were inventors of evil things.

Paul too was no stranger to this sin. Angered by those who professed faith in Christ and who preached the Way, he plotted against them. He traveled from city to city, trapping God’s people in their words and persecuting them from house to house. Paul himself had been an inventor of evil things.

But thanks be to God, Paul was delivered from this sin. And the same is true for all those who turn in faith to Jesus Christ and cease rebelling against their Rightful King. When we are in rebellion against Him, we plot and plan and scheme to do evil. We look for occasions to break God’s law or even injure others, to steal their property, seduce their spouse, or damage their reputation. But when God confronts us in our sin and grants us the grace of repentance, then He turns us from being inventors of evil things and transforms us into inventors of good things. We no longer plot to do evil; we plan to do good.

So Joseph of Arimethea orchestrated with Nicodemus to care for Jesus’ body and lay it in his own tomb. Paul coordinated with Barnabas to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor and bring the Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ. St. Augustine no longer stole pears from his neighbor but fed food to the poor. The grace of God transforms us from inventors of evil into doers of good.

So what of you? Have you been plotting and planning and scheming to do evil? Or have you been meditating and planning to do good? Reminded that God would have us to delight in what is good and to plan to put that good into action, let us confess that we often invent evil things and let us seek His forgiveness through Christ. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.