God’s Righteous Judgment Part 1 – Romans 2:1-5
Pastor Mark Hardy January 8, 2012
A man named Bishop Potter was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see the accommodations and meeting his roommate, he decided that he was going to have his gold watch and other valuables stored in the ship’s safe. When he arrived there he explained to the ship official that ordinarily he never availed himself of that privilege, but judging from the appearance of his roommate, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person. The official took his valuables, checked them in, and then remarked, “That’s fine Mr. Potter, I’ll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has alreadybeen up here and left his valuables for the same reason!”
Man’s judgment of one another is often based on appearances or false assumptions, but God’s judgment of man never is. We will see that this morning as we continue on in our study of Romans. Turn with me in your Bibles to Romans 2.
In Romans 2:1-16 we see six principles of God’s righteous judgment on all non-Christians who consider themselves to be good “moral” people. This morning we are going to look at only the first three principles in vv. 1-5.
The first principle of God’s righteous judgment is this:
I. God Judges according to the Knowledge people Have
A.Look at v. 1: Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which youjudge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
1. In 1:18-32 Paul has just finished describing in a general sensethe deplorablecondition of the entire human race, and specifically those who have already abandoned God by immersing themselves in idolatrous sexual immorality(vv. 24-25),shameful homosexuality( vv. 26-27), and shocking depravity(vv. 28-32),so that God has abandoned them.
2. However,in any generalization there are always exceptions to the rule. Paul knows that there are unbelievers who do not fit into that blatantly sinful category of humanity.
3. These people strive to have high ethical standards and moral lifestyles and are often very religious. Listening to Paul’s indictment of those he has just described in chapter 1 they would cheerfully agree with him and would say a hearty “AMEN.”
4. Now who exactly are these people that Paul begins talking about as we come to 2:1?Last time we saw that many commentators outline 1:18-32 as the condemnation of the Gentiles and 2:1-3:20 as the condemnation of the Jews.
5. However,it is not that neat and simple since there is condemnation of both peoples in both sections. Therefore, it is best to see 1:18-32 as the condemnation of all mankind viewed generally, and 2:1-3:20 as the condemnation of all mankind viewed ethnically, where Jew and Gentile are specifically challenged regarding their accountability before God.
6. In 2:1-16 God’s condemnation still remains general, but will shift specifically to the accountability of the Jew in 2:17-3:8, and then will shift again to both Jew and Gentile in 3:9-20. Although the focus shifts throughout these verses,both peoples in both sections are condemned by the righteous Judge of the universe.
7. Therefore, the people Paul is now turning the spotlight on here in 2:1 is any moral or moralistic person who strives to lead a good and moral life, whether Jew or Gentile.In other words, if the shoe fits wear it.
8. In our day there are many moral non-Christians who see themselves as “good” people and attempt to hold to the basic Judeo-Christian ethic of morality. If God Himself were to ask them the question, “Why should I let you into My heaven,” these people would appeal to such things as their outwardly moral life or good deeds or religious involvements as the basis of earning God’s favor and eternal life in heaven.
9. But these good works can never merit salvation. And often these people are the most difficult in coming to Jesus Christ because they don’t see themselves as hopeless and helpless sinners who are in desperate need a Savior.
10. Notice how Paul right from the start establishes this person’s guilt before God in v. 1 saying, “…you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment…”Paul will use a combination of the words “you,” “your,” and “yourself,”14 times in vv. 1-5, five of which are here in v. 1.
11. He is adopting a literary style known as “diatribe” whereby he has a conversation with an imaginary opponent, anticipates his objections, and then proceeds to answer them. In essence this imaginary person that Paul refers to as “you” and “O man” in v. 3 says, “Paul that was a heavy-duty indictment you gave to those despicable sinners in chapter 1. I totally agree with your assessment of them and I’m glad I’m better than that because I don’t do those kinds of deplorable things.”
12. But Paul wants this moral person to know that he too stands guilty and condemned before the holy Judge of the universe.
Just as we saw back in 1:20, the moralist also has “no excuse,” literally is “defenseless.”
13. Paul then explains the reason for his guilt—because he “passes judgment” on others. The word “judgment,”“judge,” or“judged” occurs nine times in one form or another, three of which in v. 1, and is the key word in vv. 1-16.
14. Now for the moral person to “pass judgment”on others means that he criticizes and finds fault with them. Since this person’s strives to live a good and moral life himself he has a judgmental, “better-than-thou”attitude toward those who don’t and sees himself as morally superior to them.
15. And since this word “judgment” (krinon) is in the present tense in the Greek,it indicates that this person has this attitude consistently and habitually as a pattern of life.
B. But Paul says, “…for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself…”
1. Here we see that the moral critics of other sinners actually condemn themselves because their criticism reveals that they have some knowledge of God’s truth and what is right from wrong.And if this moral person has enough knowledge to judge others, he is thus self-condemned because he has enough knowledge to judge his own sinful condition.
2. However, he is spiritual blind and fails to see his own self-condemnation in the condemnation he pronounces on others. People are held accountable before God for the knowledge of the truth they have, not the knowledge they don’t have.
C. Paul goes on to further show why this person condemns himself, “…for you who judge practice the same things.”
1. The word “practice” (prasseis—present tense) here speaks of a consistent, unbroken lifestyle. Not only is the moralist spiritually blind to his own self-condemnation, but he is also hypocritical though he may not even know it.
2. Paul says that the moral critic does the “same things” as those they are criticizing.Now the one Greek word translated “same things” (auta) does not mean that he is necessarily doing the exact same sins but that he is just as much a sinner that has broken God’s law as those who have violated it more blatantly.
3. You see, the moralist doesn’t understand the holiness of God’s character or the depth of his own sinfulness. God’s standard of righteousness encompasses both the inner life as well as the outer life.
4. Since non-Christian people, whether moral or not,lack the Holy Spirit and spiritual resources to maintain God’s standard of morality in their lives they will be unable to restrain sin in their hearts though they might control it in their behavior. They may think that since they do not commit one of the “big sins,” such as murder or adultery they are beyond God’s judgment, but in His Sermon on the Mount Jesus put anger and lust into the very same category (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28).
5. Jesus said in Matthew 23:27-28, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white washed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
6. This is how God sees the heart of the moral person. Everyone is guilty at some point of at least one of the sins listed in 1:29-32.
7. And behind all these sins lies the sin of idolatry, whereby a person puts himself in the place of God to be one’s own Lord, which again everyone is guilty of!
8. Therefore, the moral person who passes judgment on others is as guilty of being a sinner as those he judges. Any sin is enough to desperately need Jesus Christ to be saved from sin’s consequences.
9. For James 2:10 makes it clear that, “…whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
10. Now we as born-again believers have been saved from and are not characterized by this kind of judgmental, “better-than-thou” attitude, but this is still a sin that we can easily fall into if we are not careful.
11. For it is a natural sinful tendency to be critical of everybody except ourselves. To judge others harshly by their actions, while we judge ourselves leniently by our intentions.
12. Whereas this attitude is always wrong, this doesn’t mean that we are never to make moral and spiritual evaluations of others, because we are commanded to be wise and discerning and to lovingly and humbly pursue those who are in sin (Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:2). Jesus only says in Matthew 7:5 that believers “…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
13. The second principle of God’s righteous judgment is this:
II. God Judges according to the Facts He Knows
A. Look at v. 2: And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.
1. The word “know” (oidamen) here caries the idea of awareness of an incontestable truth that is commonly known by everyone and accepted as a maxim. In other words, no one can claim ignorance!
2. And the incontestable truth is this:“…the judgment of God(i.e. His condemnatory sentence) rightly falls upon those who practice such things.”
3. Now the words“rightly falls” literally mean “according to truth” (kata aletheian).In Scripture God is called the “God of truth” (Ps. 31:5; Isa. 65:16).
4. And as the omniscient, all-knowing God, He sees everything. He has all the facts of every person constantly before Him and so He needs no jury to help Him in His judgments.
5. Hebrews 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
6. However, even the best of man’s judgment of one another is not like this. Often it is based on appearances or false assumptions.
7. Chuck Swindoll gave a good example of this at a pastor’s conference years ago in Spokane. He told the story of being at a California Christian camp when a man approached him on the first day and said how greatly he had looked forward to hearing Dr. Swindoll speak and his delight at now finally being able to realize that desire. That evening Swindoll noticed the man sitting near the front. But only a few minutes into the message the man was sound asleep. Swindoll thought to himself that perhaps he was tired after a long day’s drive and couldn’t help himself. But the same thing happened the next few nights, and Swindoll found his exasperation with the man growing, for he was judging the man. On the last night the man’s wife came up and apologized for her husband’s inattention to the messages. She then explained that he had recently been diagnosed as having terminal cancer and the medication he was taking to ease the pain made him extremely sleepy. But it had been one of his life-long ambitions to hear Dr. Swindoll speak before he died, and now he had fulfilled that goal. Obviously Chuck Swindol felt terrible about his wrong judgment.
8. But God’s judgment of man is never like that! Since His knowledge of the facts is perfect His judgment is also perfect.
9. Therefore, it is absolutely foolish for moral people to believe that God will judge other sinners but not them who also “practice such things.”
B. Notice how Paul invites the moral person to reason along with him when he says in v. 3:But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
1. The word “suppose” (logize) carries the idea of calculating or estimating. The moralist falsely calculates his own sinfulness before God.
2. Paul makes it very clear that those who criticize others but do similar things will not “escape the judgment of God.” And since God’s judgment is according to truth with all the facts before Him, then there is no excuse and no escape for the moral person or anyone else for that matter!
3. God Himself has provided only one way of escape from His judgment and that is by putting your faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross and receiving Him as your personal Savior and Lord.This is what the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about!
4. The third principle of God’s righteous judgment is this:
III. God Judges according to people’s Accumulation of Guilt
A. Paul expands the accountability of the moralist through a rhetorical question inv. 4: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
1. The one Greek word translated “think lightly of” (kataphroneis) means “to look down on, show contempt for, and despise.”Not only do moral people not escape God’s judgment, but they also despise“…the riches (or abundant supply) of His kindness and tolerance and patience…”
2. God’s “kindness”(chrestotetos) refers to His goodness and benevolence towards people. Since God Himself is the only Source of goodness, and there is no one who is truly good except God alone (Lk. 18:19), everything good and worthwhile a person has is from His gracious hand.
3. Tolerance and patience seem to be explanatory of God’s kindness, which is repeated as the governing thought.
4. God’s “tolerance”(anoche) refers to His forbearance and self-restraint.In classical Greek this term is used of a temporary truce.
5. God’s tolerance with mankind is a kind of temporary truce whereby in mercy He often does not punish the sinner immediately after he sins, but holds back and delays His judgment to give him time to repent and turn to God.However, since the truce is temporary and implies a limit.
6. Before God destroyed the world in the Flood, He waited 120 years for men to repent while Noah was building the ark and calling them to repentance. And despite His many warnings to rebellious Israel, the Lord waited some 800 years before sending His people into captivity.
7. Even today it is only because of the tolerance or forbearance of the perfectly holy God that He does not strike down people down immediately when they sin, including us as Christians, as He did in the early church with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10).
8. God’s “patience” (makrothumias) is almost a synonym of tolerance and speaks of God being longsuffering,long-tempered, and slow to anger. It specifically refers to patience toward people not circumstances, and is the ability to bear long in the face of constant disappointment and opposition.
9. The fact that God’s punishment often does not immediately follow sin is not a proof of His powerlessness, but of His patience. And if it were not for these qualities of God there would be no one left alive today, no matter how moral a person might think they are!
B. Notice that Paul states the purpose of God’s kindness at the end of v. 4, “…not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance.”
1. The purpose of God’s kindness is not to excuse people of their sin, but to convict them of it and lead them to repentance. But in taking God’s place and judging others the moralist completely misses this purpose.
2. “Not knowing” (agnoon) here has the meaning of “not considering” and speaks of the moral person’s culpable ignorance.
3. However, when God’s “kindness”(chreston) is properly assessed (because of God’s effectual work in his heart— Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25) it continuously “leads”(present tense) people to repentance.
4. True “repentance”(metanoian) is a gift of God and is far more than merely acknowledging one’s sinful behavior but continuing to do it. It is also not remorse, which is a deep sorrowwhich may or may not produce repentance.
5. According to 2 Corinthians 7:10 there is a godly sorrow that produces repentance and a worldly repentance that produces death.Hosea 7:14 also describes these two different kinds of sorrow as “crying to God from your heart” (godly sorrow) and “wailing on your bed” (worldly sorrow).
6. True repentance is a radical change of mind that turns a person away from sin and toward the Lord in faith and obedience that is demonstrated or evidenced by righteous fruit in his life.Since repentance is part and parcel of what faith is,you can’t have one without the other.
C. Paul then states why this moral person despises God’s kindness inv. 5: But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
1. The word “stubbornness” (skleroteta) here refers to “hardness”and is the word from which we get our English medical term “sclerosis.”Here it speaks of the hardness of a person’s spiritual heart (Deut. 9:27; 10:16; 31:27; Jer. 4:4; Matt. 19:8; Acts 7:51; 19:9; Rom. 9:18; Heb. 3:8, 13, 15; 4:7).
2. Whereas the hardening of the arteries(known as Arteriosclerosis) may take a person’s life, the hardening of his spiritual heart will send him to hell.
3. This person also has an “unrepentant heart.”By despising God’s kindness the “heart” (kardian) or whole inner life, the mission control center, of the moral person is directed away from God not toward Him.
4. As a result, Paul says this person is “…storing up wrath for yourself.” The Greek word translated “storing up” (thesaurizeis) literally means “to lay up treasure.”
5. Instead of continuously storing up (present tense) or accumulating for themselves eternal rewards, every day the moral person is accumulating more and more guilt and thus storing up for himself divine wrath.
6. William R. Newell said it well, “…if the goodness of God toward you in not leading you to repentance, then every day, every hour, you live, drops another drop into the terrible ‘treasure’ of indignation which will burst the great dam of God’s long-suffering—in the great Day of Wrath, when God shall reveal His righteous judgment!” (pg. 57)
7. Instead of meriting God’s favor, the accumulated guilt of the moral person is actually storing up in heaven God’s wrathlike a reservoir that will one day be poured out upon him. What a tragic and terrifying stockpile the moral person is laying aside for himself.
8. Although he may have not sinned in the deplorable ways as others have, yet he too stands guilty before God and his judgment will be certain.
9. Paul then says when this judgment will come, “…in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” This “day of wrath and revelation” refers to God’s final judgment.
10. For unbelievers this will take place at the Great White Throne Judgment when all of the wicked of all times will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). (Ps. 110:5; Eccl. 12:14; Zeph. 1:14-15, 18; 2:2-3; ; Matt. 12:36; 13:41-42; Rom. 13:12;1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; 2 Pet. 3:7; Jude 6; Rev. 16:17).
11. And notice that this is called “the righteous judgment of God.” It is “righteous” (dikaiokrisias) because it is just and right for the righteous God to judge all those who have sinned against His holy standards and refused to accept His only way of escape in Jesus Christ.
In closing, it doesn’t matter how good or moral a person may be because absolutely no one is perfect and therefore good enough to earn God’s favor and eternal life in heaven.God’s judgment is certain upon all mankind because all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). But out of love God Himself has provided the only way to escape His judgment by sending His Son to die on the cross as our Substitute, who bore in His own body God’s holy wrath against sin that we deserved.
The hymn writer penned this beautifully in the words, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” Have you escaped God’s righteous judgment by receiving Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord? If not, you can! I encourage you to do today what you will one day be glad you did when you stand before the righteous Judge of the universe.