Romans 2

Romans 2: God’s Righteous Judgment

We must realize what Paul is accomplishing in the first three chapters of Romans. He is systematically presenting the evidence in the courtroom over which God, the Judge rules and reigns. Paul, acting as prosecutor brings the charges against not only the Gentiles, but the Jews also, until the conclusion is clear- all have sinned, none are righteous.

As believers we can speak of God as our Heavenly Father, we can sing of ‘ what a friend we have in Jesus’, our Helper, our Strong Tower, a Mighty Bulwark.  But we must not forget the reality of His role as Judge. He is the Judge of all the earth. He judged Adam and Eve expelling them from the Garden and sentencing them to death. God judged the whole earth once before sending a flood in the day of Noah and destroying all of mankind except for 8 souls. It was if, God judged the world so filthy, He washed it of the stench of sin. He likewise judged Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as the Egypt and the taskmasters and Pharaoh’s army in Exodus. He judged the Israelites in the wilderness who worshipped the golden calf. And if you think God judged only in Old Testament days, you must consider the consequences of Ananias and Sapphira whom He struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit in the early church in the book of Acts. Read carefully in Corinthians and you will discover believers were afflicted with illness, some were fatal  because of the nature of their sin and sinfulness. And we cannot ignore what will occur at the end of time in the universal judgment at the Great White Throne.

Therefore through the study of God’s Word and the experiences of life, we come as believers to know God. We know Him in the manner a son/daughter knows their father; a wife knows her husband; a subject knows their king; as a sheep knows their shepherd. Now we see in Romans we will know Him not only as Savior, Provider, Redeemer we will know Him as judge.

Now what will be made clear in the New Testament is Jesus will be God’s agent of judgment. He will sit on His throne and all the nations will be brought before Him.

Probably we all read of these categories of sinners that God ‘ gave over to sinful desires, shameful lusts and a depraved mind filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.’ We were nodding our heads in agreement and giving our thumbs up for God’s judgment as we read Paul’s opening comments in Romans 1.

We  need to understand two things: first why God gave them over and second why we are not to be so quick to agree and judge others. First what is God’s purpose in giving them over to their sinful desires?  Is God writing them off, forsaking them and forgetting about them? Well let me ask you this:  was the Prodigal Son’s father wrong in allowing his son to go off to a far country and squander his inheritance? Sometimes the only way for someone to come to their senses is to allow them to experience the consequences of their sinful desires. Don’t want to live by your father’s rules- then discover what life is like when you can sin, disobey them all you want. The father lets go of the leash, releases his grip and then waits for the prodigal to consummate his lusts only to find these things do not satisfy. Sin is pleasurable for a season. I discovered that truth with drinking alcohol, as many of you have discovered in different areas of your life. God’s motive is clearly seen in the nation of Israel, in Numbers 11 where the people are once again grumbling about meat to eat. Do you remember what God did?  He said I will give you meat, not for a day, or 5 days or 20 days , but for a whole month until meat runs out of your nostrils.  In other words, until you are sick and tired of it.  Does this apply to Christians as well as unbelievers? In Matthew 18, the Lord instructs the church how we are to discipline a believer who is in sin, who will not listen, and will not repent. We are to treat him/her as an unbeliever and in effect turn them over to their sin.

When God gives someone over to sin it is not passive neglect, but an active decision on God’s part to bring the person to repentance. In other words, God’s love, like the love of the father of the Prodigal Son knows sometimes, the path to redemption requires a person to sink to the bottom of the miry pit before they want to be lifted out. It is the ‘ coming to his senses’ moment for the prodigal that created the desire to return to his father’s house. This was accomplished only by finding himself in the pig pen.

Now I have said all of this, so we might better understand the next portion of Scripture. The Jews or any reader who was reading Paul’s letter was reading the judgment of God and thinking the ‘ them and they’ Paul was the pagan unbelievers, not them. But now Paul turns our pointed fingers toward us. (For most of us were viewing these sins as those being done by others and not us.) Paul warns us who pass judgment on others are condemning ourselves because we have done the same things.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Judge not or you too will be judged. For in the same manner you judge others, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ ( Matthew 7)

Me? Commit those sins?  And maybe you are not guilty of some of these more vile sins, but let me ask you: have you ever been envious? Greedy? Deceitful? A gossip? How about arrogant? Boastful? Faithless?  And remember what Jesus said about our righteousness- it must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees . In fact we must be perfect as God is perfect.

When we show such condemnation for these sinners and these sins, we show contempt for God’s patience, His tolerance, the richness of His kindness. He waited for me for 32 years. He tolerated my behavior as a pagan, a drunkard for 14 years  and for my prayerlessness, my lack of fear of His judgment.  His kindness led me to repentance. In His Wisdom,He let me go to the far country. His love gave me over to my sinful desires until I came to my senses which led me to my Father’s house. All that time He waited on me, was patient with me, not wanting me to perish but come to repentance. He knew what it would take.

Here is a key verse in understanding God as He has revealed Himself as Judge. “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth…” You cannot read that list of sins and not find one or more you have committed.  And remember there are sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. There are prodigal sons and elder brothers.  God judges according to truth; according to deeds, works. Have you become an ‘elder brother’?

Now Paul deals with those who are stubborn and unrepentant and says they are storing up wrath against themselves. In other words, the charges are piling up against them. Paul is speaking now at the end of days, in what will be the most terrifying courtroom scene ever in the history of mankind.  Here is the picture of the scales of justice.  And it is for judgment of works.  As it was said of Belshazzar in the book of Daniel: “ you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” ( Daniel 5:27)

If you are a believer who has been justified by the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus – you will not face the wrath of God nor face Him at the Great White Throne of Judgment at the end of time. You will however face the judgment of your works for rewards. And many of the principles of judgment we read of here – will apply to us at the Bema.

Let’s consider human laws and those who break them. If you break the law, you hope you will not be discovered. ( Like when you speed down the interstate because you are in a hurry.) Or you hope if you break the law, your lawyer can find some technicality that will allow you to escape judgment. And of course if you are imprisoned, you might find away to escape and stay hidden.  But when it comes to divine judgment, be sure your sins will find you out. “ How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? “ ( Hebrews 2) {Again- if you have not neglected this greatest of all gifts- salvation, you will not face this divine judgment, but you will face discipline for your sin, which can be severe.}

When the works, deeds of the stubborn, self seeking, unrepentant who rejected the truth and followed evil are laid on the scales- they are weighed against the righteousness of God, against the perfection of God not against other peoples’ righteousness, but against Christ’s righteousness. The only way the scales can be tipped and one avoid this terrifying scene before the Great White Throne is if we have received the righteousness that is from God, Christ’s own righteousness which is for everyone who believes, a righteousness that is by faith, not works.

Those who believe their good works will tip the scales in their favor are deceived or stubborn or both. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, there is a way that seems right to man, but it leads to destruction. And everyone has received enough light, enough knowledge from God, so they are without excuse , in other words cannot claim ignorance of the law as reason not to be sentenced.  Tell the judge you did not know it was against the law and he will tell you ignorance of the law is no defense. Now his sentence may be more lenient, as the Lord tells in the parable of the servant in Luke 12- that the servant who knows his master’s will and does not do it will be beaten with many blows, but the one who does not know will be beaten with fewer blows- but both are punished. And the Lord adds, to those whom much is given, much is demanded.

Now there is a startling statement made by Paul, which would have shocked the Jews: ‘For there is no respect of persons with God.’ God does not show favoritism. All men are alike before Him. Justice is blindfolded. This statement represents a principle of God, the Judge. It reveals how God is going to judge not only for punishment for sins, but also how He will judge our works. For God will look at heart, the inward attitude rather than the outward works.

Many unbelievers want to wear their good works like a Scout’s Merit Badges to show what a good person they are-but God says your merit badges of self righteousness are like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Now as believers we will not suffer God’s wrath or appear before the Great White Throne judgment for eternal punishment. However, the principles of God’s judgment will apply to our rewards for our deeds. Paul writes in Romans 14:10- “ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” In Revelation 22:12, the Lord Jesus tells us: “ Behold I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what  he has done.” And in I Corinthians 3 we read of this judging of our works or deeds for reward: “ …because the Day will bring it to light.(The Day the Lord returns) “ It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved , but only as one escaping through the flames.” The Lord will judge the motives of our heart. Did we do this for self glory or to glorify the Lord?

Paul states : “ All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” ( Romans 2:12)  Here is what we must realize: the heathen is not lost because he has not heard of Christ; the heathen is lost for the same reason a person living in the Bible belt is lost- they are lost because they are sinners. And the only payment for sin is death. Sin qualifies the soul for the wrath of God. Only those who have accepted Christ as their Savior will be saved for we are in Him, as surely and safely as Noah was in the Ark.

But Paul is also in this section addressing not only the lost heathen without the law, he is addressing the lost religious person.  Both are lost, their sins not paid for, and therefore they fall under the judgment of God at the Great White Throne and their punishment will be meted out according to the light they have received. But be sure of this- both are lost, both will be punished and God is just.

So far, Paul has set up two groups of lost people, both facing God’s wrath for sins that come from an unrepentant heart. For the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. There are the pagans, which we read about in Romans 1 who have the external witness of creation and in Romans 2, we see they have the internal witness of their conscience.  But we also see those in Romans 2- those who call themselves Jews.  We could substitute ‘Christians’ for the word Jews or  Baptists,or Methodists, or Catholics.  These outward titles we call ourselves are simply that- outward titles if there is no corresponding inward change that accompanies being born again.  Nicodemus was a lost religious person. The profession of a religion, even a divinely revealed religion such as Christianity is not enough if it does not result in the inward transformation. And behaving correctly on the outside will do nothing to cleanse the inside.  A lost religious person has much outward activity, as did the Pharisees. “ Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord,did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers.: ( the Lord Jesus speaking in Matthew 7: 22,23)

Paul makes the case for the lost religious person in the following verses: “ A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit; not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”   Substitute Christian for Jew and baptism for circumcision and you see the application for those who call themselves Christians who rely on their outward activities of  membership and baptism and not the inward work of the Holy Spirit. “ You must be born again.”

The Jews were proud of their heritage, their being God’s Chosen People, the people group through whom God would send the Messiah, the ones who had received God’s Word and covenant and yet all of these assets had become liabilities, hadn’t they? The ceremonies that pointed to the truths, the law that was given to show man’s sinfulness had become rituals in which they took pride, works of the flesh which became their merit badges of self righteousness. They became boastful of their position as a religious people and bragged about the law while breaking the law. And as a result God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles.

We look at the Jews of the Bible and we wonder how they could have become so prideful in their religion.

So we call ourselves- Christians. A label which says we are a people who have the same responsibility as the Jews of the Bible did- to protect Gods’Word and like Abraham we are told to bless all the nations.  We have been given the Great Commission. If we believe we have these privileges then we have the same responsibilities the Jews of the Bible did. Even more so- we have the Spirit of the Almighty Creator living within us. Something the Old Testament saints could not have imagined.

Believing the Bible to be God’s Word and His Revealed Will, then we must understand it is God’s will to reclaim His creation from evil and fill it with His Righteousness. And Scripture tells us we are now living in the time between His first coming and His second coming.

In the meanwhile we are to go and make disciples of all the nations, or as Paul said to the religious Jew of his day- to be a ‘ guide for the blind, a light for those in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth- you then, who teach others, do you not teach yourselves?’(Romans 2:19-20)

Now Paul goes on to say preaching about not stealing, not committing adultery, and yet breaking those laws we dishonor the law and God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.  Does Christianity  hit people over the head with Gods’ written law, and yet the Word of God is not seen in our actions?  Our lives are a testimony – they are the Gospel written in our actions.

Do not confuse Christianity with religion. Christianity is a relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Jews had a title. The Jews had the law. The Jews had a unique relationship with God. They had knowledge of God’s will. They knew their responsibility was to instruct the nations. As Christians in the 21st century, we have all these same privileges. The Jews turned their relationship into a religion. A religion is a system of beliefs that adheres to a specific set of doctrine and practices which it claims to be unique to other religions. Religion is a system. Christianity is a relationship.  Have we done the same thing as the Jews did?

So the question is how to be a Christian without being religious.

Well the Jews turned a relationship into a religion by placing works on the altar as how one becomes right with God. They placed ‘keeping the law’ as a way of earning salvation by adding to God’s law an endless list of activities that if adhered to would enable one to earn salvation and right standing. No wonder Jesus came to set the record straight and tell them one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and must be perfect as God is perfect. In other words- this practice of religion would not work and none are righteous- no not one. Only a righteousness that comes from God by faith not works is the message of the Gospel, the message of Grace.  It is when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and righteousness, and we realize God wants to give us the righteousness that we do not deserve and can never obtain on our own that we accept the Lord’s gracious invitation to ‘ come unto Him, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Only then we discover that most important relationship in the universe that comes by grace through faith and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God,not of works, lest any man should boast. ( Ephesians 2:8,9)

It is this relationship which will lead to good works, that God has ordained we should walk in. We are not saved by works, we are saved by grace through faith unto good works.  That is a result of our relationship, of saving faith.

Religion emphasizes the physical over the spiritual. Religion emphasizes secondary  matters while ignoring those of primary importance. This is why symbols, traditions and rituals become more important than the Gospel. Outward appearances and programs become the focus of attention, when what every church and believer should be concerned with is the lost, those dying and headed for the Great White Throne of Gods’ judgment of their sins.

When Christianity behaves as a religion, the unbelieving world declares us to be the problem rather than the solution. Our hatred of certain sins and our loud voices tinged with anger seem to fall on deaf ears. The only Bible these people will ever read is those of us who call ourselves Christians.  “ You, yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. Yu show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not wit ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”( 2 Corinthians 3)

Two themes emerged in this lesson for me:  God’s Judgment and how it works and what happened to the Jews who were given so much and the similarity to Christians in today’s society.
Let’s review up to this point what Paul is revealing about God’s judgment:

*God’s judgment is according to truth. *God’s judgment for the lost for level of punishment is based on their works. As the books of each person’s deeds, works will be opened at the Great White  Throne.* God is no respecter of persons.  In our flawed judicial system, the rich man gets off more than the poor man. Race may  also be a consideration. *God’s judgment is according to men’s secret thoughts.

Secondly- we must examine ourselves and see if we are becoming like those who called themselves Jews who were Jews outwardly and physically but not inwardly.