A. One day a company inspection was taking place at the Redstone Arsenal, the U.S. Army’s guided missile school in Huntsville, Alabama.
1. The inspection was being conducted by a full colonel.
2. The inspection was going smoothly until the colonel came to a certain soldier.
3. The colonel stopped, looked the soldier up and down, and snapped: “Button that pocket, trooper.”
4. The rattled soldier stammered, “Right now, sir?”
5. “Of course, right now,” barked the colonel.
6. The soldier slowly and carefully reached out and buttoned the flap on the colonel’s shirt pocket.
B. Isn’t it amazing, how for some reason that is peculiar to our human nature, it is always easier to see the unbuttoned pockets of others than it is to see our own?
1. Splinters in other people’s eyes seem to be more obvious than planks in our own eyes.
2. That is why God is the only one who is worthy and able to be the righteous judge.
C. Today, we continue our sermon series on Romans called “Pursuing Righteousness from God.”
1. So far in our series, we have determined that Paul was writing the church in Rome to help them resolve a conflict between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.
2. Part of the solution for that conflict is a proper understanding of salvation by grace through faith.
3. When a person is saved, they are brought into a state of justification because the righteousness of Christ is transferred into their spiritual account, so to speak.
4. No person is righteousness enough to save himself or herself – all people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by grace because of the sacrifice of Christ.
5. Before Paul can drive home this truth of the good news of the gospel about salvation by grace through faith, he must first paint a picture of the bad news of the unrighteousness of all people.
D. In our sermon last week, we explored the depressing and depraved world of Romans 1:18-32.
1. In those verses, Paul paints a picture of the world as it progressively turns away from God.
2. We see that each stage is worse than the one before, and the final stage is deeply troubling.
3. Paul’s focus in those verses was the depravity of the Gentile world of that time.
E. But as chapter 2 begins, Paul shifts his focus from one group to another.
1. That shift is signaled by changing from using third person plural verbs throughout 1:18-32 (“they knew God”; “they exchanged”; “they know God’s righteous decree”), to using the second person singular (“you, therefore, have no excuse”).
2. This change suggests Paul is now turning his attention to a different group of people.
3. There are several possibilities as to whom this new group might be: the Roman Christians in general, or moral Gentiles, or Jewish people in general, or Jewish Christians.
4. Paul does not specifically address the Jewish audience until 2:17, but I think the language he uses in verses 1-16 points toward Jewish people in order to get the attention of Jewish Christians.
F. Those Jewish Christians in Rome who had been listening to Paul’s letter and who had likely been “amen-ing” him through 1:18-32, needed a wake-up call of their own.
1. Certainly the Jews in his audience would have applauded Paul’s condemnation of the Gentiles in Romans 1:18-32.
1. In fact, Jewish national and religious pride encouraged them to despise the “Gentile dogs” (as they called them) and caused them to have nothing to do with them.
3. Paul’s main point throughout the section we will explore today is that the Jews are really no better than the Gentiles.
4. Paul will explain that the Jews also suppress the truth God has given them and that they, too, are “without excuse.”
5. Paul will expose as false the Jews’ presumption of superiority over the Gentile.
6. Paul will lay out a clear understanding that God is the only one who is worthy and able to be the righteous judge.
G. At the beginning of our study of Romans, I told you that I had my apprehensions and concerns about trying to preach through Romans, and that’s why I postponed doing so up until now.
1. Some of those concerns have to do with the deep theological arguments that Paul lays out as he tries to deal with the situation in Rome.
2. It’s very easy to get lost in those detailed and well developed arguments, and become confused.
3. One of the things I want to encourage us to keep in mind as we work through today’s text is the difference between the basis of our salvation and the assessment of our spiritual condition.
4. The basis of our salvation is God’s grace, but the assessment of our spiritual condition is our works.
5. There is a difference between being saved by works and being measured or judged by works.
6. This can be very confusing, but it is a very important distinction that we must keep in mind.
H. With that introduction, let’s dig into the text for today: 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? (Rom. 2:1-3)
1. Just as Paul had declared that Gentiles are without excuse, so here he concludes that Jews are also without excuse.
2. So how are the Jews doing the “same things” as the Gentiles whom they are judging?
a. Those “same things” were certainly not the idol worship of the Gentiles or the homosexual behavior that was rampant in Roman society, but they did commit many of the sins Paul listed in 1:29-31.
b. There are sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit; there are “prodigal sons” and there are “elder brothers,” but all are sinners in one way or another.
c. In condemning the Gentiles for their sins, the Jews were really condemning themselves.
d. As the old saying goes: “When you point your finger at somebody else, the other three are pointing back at you.”
e. We are often too quick to condemn in others what we excuse in ourselves.
f. We see the specks in others and overlook the planks in ourselves.
3. But in contrast to the way we judge, God’s judgment is truthful and righteous and right.
a. God’s judgment is according to the truth and in accordance with the facts.
b. God’s judgment is not based on incomplete, inaccurate, or circumstantial evidence, like our judgment often if.
4. Paul asks the rhetorical question: “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”
a. The answer is obviously “no,” and yet how often do we think we will escape God’s judgment – we have the “it won’t happen to me” mindset – or the “others will get caught, but I won’t” thinking.
b. Our capacity to judge others doesn’t insulate ourselves from being judged, in fact it actually increases our own condemnation.
I. Paul continues: 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:4-5)
1. Paul points out that their judgmental attitudes stood in stark contrast to the goodness of God.
2. God had shown abundant kindness and patience to the Jewish people, despite their nation’s persistent rebellion and disobedience.
a. God’s judgment had only been postponed, not overlooked.
b. The Jews had wrongly reasoned that because they were God’s chosen people, they were immune from His judgment.
3. In the end, it is not God’s judgment that leads people to repentance, rather it is the goodness and kindness of God that leads to repentance.
a. God’s patience with us doesn’t mean He is pleased with us.
b. God’s patience with us means He is willing to give us more time to come to our senses.
c. God waits because He wants us to repent and turn to Him.
4. But when repentance doesn’t come, a person’s sins build into a stockpile of God’s wrath.
5. A god who does not judge is a god of our own imagination – because God’s judgment is an expression of the reaction of His holiness and righteousness to evil and unrighteousness.
a. A judge who does not judge is a mockery.
b. The Bible salutes God’s judgments as righteous and true, impartial, perfect and complete.
c. God’s righteous judgment will be revealed in God’s time – on the day of wrath.
J. Let’s look at the next section: 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Rom. 2:6-11)
1. Paul’s main over all point is bookended by verses 6 and 11 – God will impartially judge a person by their works.
2. In this paragraph, Paul uses a writing style called a “chiasm” which uses a unique repetition pattern for clarification and emphasis.
a. It is a literary form that is used throughout the Bible and is often called a chiastic approach or a chiastic structure.
b. Chiasms are structured in a repeating A-B-C…C-B-A pattern.
c. Here is how it shows up in these verses:
A – God will judge everyone according to his works (v. 6)
B – People who do good will attain eternal life (v. 7)
C – People who do evil will suffer wrath (v. 8)
C – Wrath for those who do evil (v. 9)
B – Glory for those who do good (v. 10)
A – God judges impartially (v. 11)
d. Sometimes in a chiasm, the main point is at the center, but in this case, the main point is at the outer edges – the bookends.
3. Did you notice the way Paul twice emphasized that this applies to “the Jew first and also the Greek”?
a. Since God doesn’t show favoritism, the Jews don’t have an advantage over the Gentiles.
b. And since God’s judgment is based on works then anyone can end up in the good category or in the bad category (the naughty list), simply based on what they do.
4. If these were the only verses in the Bible about salvation and judgment, then we could easily conclude that we are saved by works.
a. But the rest of the teachings of Paul and other NT writers present the fact that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works.
b. So as I said earlier in this lesson, there is a difference between the basis of our salvation and the assessment of our spiritual condition.
c. The basis of our salvation is God’s grace, but the assessment of our spiritual condition is our works.
d. There is a big difference between being saved by works and being measured or judged by works.
5. Paul is trying to put forward God’s ability to distinguish between hypocrisy and reality.
a. In other words, God is interested in more than what we think, He measures what we do.
b. In the end, what we do reveals what is truly in our hearts and our minds.
c. God looks for the consistent actions of a person’s life, their overall character and conduct.
d. For example, King David committed some terrible sins, but the total emphasis of his life was on obedience to God, such that he is described as a man after God’s own heart.
e. True saving faith results in obedience and godly living, even though there may be occasional falls and failures of sin.
6. But, Paul’s primary point is to reveal that when God measured the deeds of the Jews, He found them to be as wicked as those of the Gentiles.
K. Paul has one more thing to say about God’s righteous judgment – God judges according to light.
1. 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:12-16)
2. The fact that God does not show favoritism was not good news for the Jews who deeply believed in the favoritism of God.
a. They wanted and expected special treatment from God.
3. Yet here Paul explains that the Jewish Law actually made the guilt of Israel much greater.
a. God did not give the Law to the Gentiles, so they would not be judged by the Law.
4. So God measured or judged the Jews according to the Law, but He judged everyone else according to their conscience.
a. The Law that Paul is talking about is the 10 Commandments and the Law of Moses.
b. The Jews took pride in the fact that God had chosen them and had given them the Law.
c. But Paul made it clear that it was not the possession of the Law that counted, but the practice of the Law is what mattered.
5. Paul explains that the Gentiles are judged by the law that is written on their hearts.
a. God has written on the heart of every person a basic moral code that is similar to the 10 Commandments.
b. Wherever humans have been and are today you find an inner sense of right and wrong.
c. Among all cultures across time there has been a sense of sin, a fear of judgment, and an attempt to atone for sins and to appease whatever gods are feared.
d. It is hard to find a culture anywhere in the world where basic moral values are not honored, like: do not cheat, tell the truth, honor your parents, and do not kill.
e. This is not a new idea, the Greek poet Sophocles spoke of “the unwritten and indelible laws of the gods” and the Platonic philosopher Plutarch called it “a law which is not written in books, but implanted in the heart of man.”
6. What we have to keep in mind is Paul’s overall argument that he is building to address the needs of the church there in Rome.
a. He is trying to show that everyone is in the same awful state before God – guilty.
b. Jews are guilty and Gentiles are guilty, which means that everyone is guilty.
c. But there is a way for our guilt to be removed and for us to stand justified and righteous.
7. In the meantime, Paul is trying to show that there is no advantage or disadvantage to being a Jew or a Gentile.
a. The issue is God’s equitable judgment for both Jew and Gentile.
b. No one will be treated unfairly by God.
c. No one will be cheated, but everyone will receive exactly what they deserve.
d. People will be judged by the light they have received, and no one will be found innocent.
e. God sees all, knows all, judges according to reality, according to works and according to light.
f. So, Paul’s message is clear: the whole world is guilty before God – everyone is guilty in God’s sight, even the most moral or spiritual Jew or Gentile.
g. All are sinners and are in need of God’s mercy and God’s righteousness.
L. So what personal applications can we be working on from this sermon? Let me offer three.
M. First, we can realize that there are different kinds of sinners, but all of them are absolutely lost without Jesus.
1. It’s easy to point fingers at the “happy hedonists” because they don’t pretend to obey God and are devoted to their indulgence – certainly they stand guilty before God.
2. But the sins of religious folks who consider themselves “critical commentators” or the “rightly righteous” may not be quite as obvious, but they are just as condemning.
3. Ultimately, all of us are sinners and are utterly helpless before the judgment of God.
4. We cannot save ourselves, so there is no room for any kind of self-righteousness.
N. A second lesson we can learn is that if we are hung up on the sins of other people, then maybe we are not taking our own sins seriously enough.
1. The problem with being preoccupied with picking out the shortcomings of others, is we don’t usually get around to noticing our own.
2. If I find myself getting irritated with “those sinners,” and if I secretly or not-so-secretly, wish God would exercise His judgment on them right now, I had better watch out, because if God starts hurling His thunderbolts at sinners, I, myself, might have to duck!
O. The final lesson we can learn is that God is the righteous Judge and God’s judgment is real and is coming, so we had better take cover and be prepared.
1. In April of 1991, shortly before 7 PM, a series of tornadoes ripped through Andover, Kansas.
a. When it was all over, 13 people were dead.
b. The sad part about it was that the local storm shelter wasn’t even full.
c. The local news gave this account of the tragedy: “When police and fire officials, TV forecasters and the weather service began telling people to take cover, some waited too long to respond. Other apparently ignored the warnings. At the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park, where more than 225 homes were destroyed, many people never even left their homes. Between 150 and 200 of the park’s 700 residents headed into its storm shelter, which could have held 100 more. All 13 victims were killed at the trailer park.
For 40 years, Andover has warned its residents of tornadoes by sending police and fire vehicles into the streets, lights flashing and sirens wailing. The vehicles were out even before the weather service told people to take cover 20 minutes before the tornado hit. Ten minutes before that warning, a local TV meteorologist had advised Andover residents to head for shelters. Despite the warnings, a dash-mounted video camera on one patrol car showed people casually walking along the street.”
The news piece concluded: “This was one more example of people’s refusing to believe that tragedy can really strike them. Why don’t people leave the beaches when a hurricane is coming? Why don’t people leave when a volcano is about to erupt? I guess they just think it won’t happen to them.”
d. Hebrews 9:27-28 says: And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
e. People in our day and age laugh at the thought of the judgment of God, but it is no laughing matter.
f. God has a right to judge us and we will appear before His judgement seat.
g. Thankfully, God has provided a way of salvation through Jesus and those of us who believe in Him and have devoted ourselves to Him eagerly await His return.
h. If you have not yet responded to God’s warning and received the gift of salvation through Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, I would implore you to do so immediately.
i. And for all of us who have already answered God’s call, let us be living lives of holiness and godliness as we wait for and hasten the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Romans: Be Right, The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren Wiersbe
Romans, The NIV Application Commentary, by Douglas Moo
Romans, Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Paul Achtemeier
GOD’S GOOD NEWS, Part 7: “You Who Judge Others,” sermon by Dan Williams
“Mr. I.M. Okay Meets His Maker,” sermon by Ray Pritchard.
“Revelation of the Sin of Good People,” sermon by John Lowe, SermonCentral.com