Summary: Many people have a hard time understanding or accepting the idea of God as a judge. We learn about judgment and the nature of God in this section. The news actually is good!
There’s probably one question I get more than any other from those who do not yet know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior: “How can a loving God send anyone to hell. How can a loving God judge anyone? Didn’t Jesus say ‘judge not lest ye be judged’?”
Judgment is a very difficult subject to talk about. Many Christians think of it as one of the 7 dirty words you can’t say outside of church. (Okay, there isn’t any such thing, but aren’t there words and subjects we don’t broach outside of the company of believers?)
We just want to talk about God’s love and mercy, and those are wonderful things. But we do no one a favor by avoiding the truth. We don’t have to beat people over the head with it, but to understand judgment makes God’s love and mercy so much sweeter and more appealing.
Chapter 2 follows right on the heals of chapter 1, where we learn that humans fall far short of the character of God in many ways. It all goes back to the Garden of Eden, where we decided to trust Satan instead of God and have belonged to him every since. His sin of wanting to be God infected us.
Ezekiel 28:11-19 tells us about the beginning of sin and the final judgment against evil, which is deciding you want to be God instead of the Lord. Satan will be judged, and rightly. Though a gorgeous creature, he is evil through and through. Jesus said you can tell when Satan is telling a lie when his lips are moving (John 8:44). If God didn’t put restraints on Satan no one would become a Christian and everyone would be dead. The problem is, Satan will get a just reward for his deeds—but so will everyone who belongs to him.
Fine, you say, I declare my independence from Satan. That’d be great, if you could do it. And even if you could, you can’t stand before a holy God with your life stained by sin. We actually deserve judgment for what we have done. And in this section of Romans, Paul explains God’s judgment and why it is both fair and just.
In chapter 1 we talked about two ways people avoid having to deal with being accountable to God. One way is to deny He is there, a second is to throw ourselves into sin, and a third, here, is to make ourselves good so we don’t need God.
We love to play the comparison game. “I’m not as bad as Hitler, so there’s got to be a point where my good outweighs the bad.” Perhaps we just feel like God grades on a curve and if we can just find the break point we can be okay. The problem is that even as we judge we condemn ourselves because we are not perfect. No one can be, except God Himself.
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Judgment, a decision (which is what “judgment” means) by God whether someone can exist in His presence, is based not on appearances but on reality. God alone is able to rightly judge, to know for certain the difference between good and evil. I’m going to give you two pictures of that—one from Jesus, and one from Revelation. I don’t mean this to be harsh, only to be truthful.
Matthew 12:35-37 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
This is where we see that it is really Satan’s judgment that we receive if we don’t escape because we belong to Satan at birth and our names are not written in the book of Life unless we change owners to Jesus Christ.