Summary: This sermon examines the principles of God’s judgment.
Let’s read Romans 2:12-15:
12 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. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) (Romans 2:12-15)
Every preacher has to answer the question: “What about the poor heathen in a far-off jungle who has never heard about Jesus Christ? Will God condemn him for failing to believe in a person about whom he has not even heard?”
I have touched on these questions earlier in my series on Romans. Today’s text once again addresses these questions. The text does not suggest that the heathen may somehow get to heaven in spite of their ignorance of the gospel, but rather that they will be condemned like others. Not for failing to believe in Jesus, of whom they have not heard, of course! But for failing to do what they knew they should do, even apart from God’s special revelation.
Romans 2:12 supports this view, using the powerful word “perish”: “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.”
Today I want to examine the principles of God’s judgment.
I. Principles of Judgment
Let’s begin by reviewing the principles of God’s judgment.
A. God’s Judgment Is According to Truth (2:2)
First, God’s judgment is according to truth.
Paul says in Romans 2:2: “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.” Human judgment tries to live up to this standard, that is, to judge according to truth. Witnesses in our courts are required to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” But obviously human judgment is at best according to partial truth, and it is often misled entirely when witnesses inadvertently misrepresent the facts or lie about them.
God’s judgment, however, is infinitely superior to human judgment at this point. It is according to full knowledge and perfect truth, because all secrets are known and all hearts are open to God. No one will be able to get away with lying or misrepresenting the truth in God’s court.
B. God’s Judgment Is Proportionate to Sin (2:5)
Second, God’s judgment is proportionate to sin.
Paul says in Romans 2:5: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” Paul speaks of unbelievers as “storing up wrath” for the day of God’s wrath. What Paul means is that those who sin much will be punished much and that those who sin less will be punished less—but all unbelievers will be punished.
C. God’s Judgment Is According to Righteousness (2:5)
Third, God’s judgment is according to righteousness.
In Romans 2:5 Paul says that God’s wrath will be poured out “when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” That is, there will be nothing wrong about God’s judgment. It will be according to a perfect standard and a faultless moral code. No sinner will be able to say on the Day of Judgment, “God, you were not fair in your judgment.”
D. God’s Judgment Is According to Impartiality (2:11)
Fourth, God’s judgment is according to impartiality.
Paul says in Romans 2:11: “For God does not show favoritism.” In human courts we often find the accused hoping to receive preferential treatment for one reason or another, and Judges sometimes comply. It will not be so with God. At the final judgment all will be judged according to the same impartial standards because “God does not show favoritism.”
E. God’s Judgment Is According to Deeds (2:6-10, 12-15)
And fifth, God’s judgment is according to deeds.
Considering the number of verses dealing with this principle, this must have been the most important point of all according to Paul’s way of thinking. In fact, this point is found throughout Romans 2, even in verses that seem to be making another point.
Take Romans 2:1, for example: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Paul is writing of people who try to excuse their wrongdoing by saying that they have a firmer sense of what is right and wrong than other people. Paul’s reply is that these people are nevertheless guilty, because they “do the same things.” That is, they are judged on the basis of their actual deeds. That phrase, “do the same things,” is also implied in verse 2 and repeated in verse 3. Finally, in verse 6, Paul says, “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’” It is not what we know or even what we say that matters. It is what we do that matters.