Excuses are like elbows, everyone’s got two Romans 2:1-11
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
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. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
In the book of Romans Paul is writing to people he had never met before, except for the few he mentions in the last chapter; so, we might wonder, why was he blasting the Gentiles in chapter one and then doing the same to the Jews in chapter two.
One thing to consider is that the early church was made up of Jews and Gentiles and this particular church was in a very Gentile dominated world. So, in chapter one he’s addressing the Gentiles and reminding them that the way in which they had been raised in Rome was totally depraved; and their lives had been immersed in every kind of sin imaginable.
And then, in chapter two he’s speaking to the Jewish members and he’s reminding them that those who were so quick to condemn the Gentiles for their background were just as guilty of sin as they were.
Keep in mind that the Jews were quite proud of the fact that they had known the scriptures; but they were just as sinful as the Gentiles from God’s perspective.
We tend to classify sinners as the very bad and those who are trying to be good; but God doesn’t see any difference between an unsaved pervert or an unsaved church member. They’re both lost and on their way to hell.
So, he’s addressing believers and the first thing he says in verse one is, you have no excuse and my question is, why would they even need one? But he says, “you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
I want to build this message around three points and the first is, the excuses people think they have, the second is, judging as a Christian pastime and the third is, the rewards for those who think they’re saved but aren’t. I like to use alliteration because it sounds good but I couldn’t think of any, and besides most people will forget the points before they leave their seats.
I The excuses people think they have
He begins by telling the Jews that they have no excuse when it comes to judging others because they are guilty of the very things, they’re condemning others for. And this applies not only to the Jews but to the rest of us as well.
We say, I wasn’t judging anyone, I was just making an observation. I wasn’t judging I was just sharing about their sin so others could pray for this person. Or the really spiritual say, I wasn’t judging I was just inspecting spiritual fruit. Listen, judging isn’t simply evaluating someone but underneath our spiritualizing we’re condemning, passing sentence and then announcing a verdict. As much as we might hate to admit it, it makes us feel better to put someone else down.
As one writer said, “The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets.”
Paul tells these believers; you have no excuse. Did you know that the three most common excuses are: “I forgot, no one told me ahead of time and I just didn’t think it was that important?” What all three have in common is they saying, what was so important to you; wasn’t to me.
There are several people in the Bible who were well known for their excuses. I think the most memorable one in Old Testament was Saul. The passage that summarizes his attitude is found in 1 Samuel 15.
Saul was told by the prophet Samuel in verse three ‘to go and attack Amalek, and to utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” Obviously, God was extremely angry with these people and He intended to wipe them off the earth.
So, Saul and his people attack Amalek and then in verse 8 it says, he kept Agag king of the Amalekites alive and then in verse 9 he blames the people when he says, “ the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”
And when Samuel confronts Saul about his sin of disobedience Saul responds by saying in verse 15, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” But when Samuel pointed out that he had done wrong, we see his response in verses 18-20 where it says, “And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” In other words, you’ve got it all wrong, I am the hero of this battle and even though everyone else messed up, they had good intentions because they weren’t going to keep these animals, they were going to use them to sacrifice to God.
And then in verse 24 Samuel announces that God has rejected him from being king and it says, “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.”
There he says, I did wrong and the reason I did it was because I was afraid of the people and listened to them. Basically, it wasn’t his fault and he said, I said I’m sorry, now let’s all just go to church like nothing ever happened.
Listen, there was no real confession and no real repentance just alright I said I was wrong, so, let’s forget it and move on, but he was done.
In the New Testament we see Jesus dealing with those who were making excuses for their lack of service. In Luke 9:57-62, “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The first man says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” After all, it had been exciting to follow Jesus, amazing things had been happening, food had been provided, people had been cured of anything and everything and a few had even been raised from the dead. Who wouldn’t want to be part of an exciting ministry like that?
Jesus responds to his offer by pointing out something he didn’t seem to notice when He said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” What He was telling him was, ministry isn’t all fun and enjoying yourself but if you hand around long enough there will be times when the animals are better off than you. The Christian life is a life of joy but that doesn’t mean the crowds will always be on our side.
I remember when I was a Youth Pastor many, many years ago, my wife and I had run a very successful youth program and kids were being saved and every thing was going great. A young couple asked if they could help and they came out for a couple of weeks but one day they said, “We don’t think we’re going to continue with the youth group. It just isn’t as much fun as it looked like. What they didn’t realize was all the prep work and clean-up afterward that made a good program. All they saw and wanted to be part of was the fun.
So, Jesus told this guy, ministry has a price and if you’re not willing to pay it, ministry is not for you.
The second guy says, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” I always thought this one sounds kind of harsh, you know skip the funeral and head for the mission field. But obviously, this man’s father hadn’t died, he wasn’t even sick, but he was very concerned with his relationship with his father or maybe he was more concerned with the inheritance than he was with following Jesus. In either case, Jesus told him to focus on preaching and forget about everything else.
The third guy said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” It sounds like he just wanted to go home and say good-bye, but by Jesus response it seems as though he wanted to go home and announce his intentions where they knew they’d talk him out of it.
Jesus used an interesting illustration when He said “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Imagine if you were plowing a field and kept looking over you’re your shoulder to see where you’ve been or how far you’ve gone; you wouldn’t be plowing a very straight line. You need to focus on where you’re going not where you’ve been.
The first man wanted the fame that goes with ministry, not the discomfort or inconvenience, the second wanted to look like he was willing to serve but was too focused on what he was leaving behind, and the third wasn’t really sure he was called to the ministry and needed a good excuse to stay home.
They all wanted to serve but they all had their excuses. And did you notice that Jesus doesn’t beg them to stay or try to change their mind. He knew the first guy would quit as soon as things got rough. He knew the second was too pre-occupied with all he was leaving behind and the third had his priorities mixed up and was more connected to his family then he was to the Lord. Notice that none of them had chosen anything sinful, but they were just committed to themselves and their own plans.
Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
I’ve heard a lot of really good excuses why people said they wouldn’t get saved. One man said, “I was in the war and I saw things that no one should ever see and then he said, “It’s easy for people like you to talk about heaven because you’ve never come face to face with hell itself.” And somehow, he seemed to think that God was in his debt for all the things he had gone through.
Another man said, “I was raised in a Christian home where you went to church every time the doors were opened but when we got home, we were beat within an inch of our life for any little thing that made my father mad.” And he was convinced that every Christian was nothing more than a hypocrite.
And many more had been turned off by someone somewhere who had claimed to be a Christian but didn’t live it.
Another said, “I just can’t seem to live the Christian life.” Well, the fact is, none of us can; but when we receive Jesus as our Savior, He puts His Holy Spirit in our hearts and enables us to live the way we should.
I think one of the best excuses I’ve ever heard was, “I intend to accept the Lord someday, but not right now.” And I always say, the Bible says, “Today is the day of salvation.” And if God has spoken to your heart then you had better not put it off.
Listen, there are more excuses then there are people, but when we stand before God’s throne we won’t be compared with one another but we’ll stand face to face with Jesus Christ Himself and we’ll be compared in our sinfulness to His glory and we’ll realize that all of our excuses are just that, they’re excuses for why we didn’t serve Him the way we knew we should have.
At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952 there were special invitations sent and on them were the words: “All excuses cease!” There was no RSVP’s but everyone who got an invitation was expected to be there and the same is true with the kingdom of God.
And then he warns them in verses 2-4, “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
God’s judgement refers to the time of His eternal evaluation of you and I and it’s based on His omniscient (All knowing) and omnipotent (All powerful) truth which means He knows everything and can anything. So, everyone will be without excuse. And then verse 3 says that when you and I are so busy judging one another, how can we escape the judgement of God.
And then in verse 4 Paul seems to sense an objection because some might assume that since they’re enjoying wealth and prosperity without any consequences, that somehow, they have escaped the judgement of God. He’s warning those who think this way that what they’re doing is demonstrating contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.
I think he’s speaking here to both the Gentiles who see themselves above all the idolaters of their society as well as the Jews who see themselves above the Gentiles and he’s warning both that God’s goodness to us is intended to lead us to repentance.
II Judging as a Christian pastime
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”
So, Paul mentions the reason they had no excuse and this was because while they were busy judging others, they were actually condemning themselves. Most of us wrestle with this concept because we tend to look down our nose at those we think we’re better than but when God looks down all He sees are two sinners both of which need to be forgiven.
When we are told not to stand in judgement of others, what does this mean? If I’m on a bus and I notice that the guy beside me has his hand in my pocket is it wrong for me to assume, he’s trying to steal something; am I standing in judgment on him if I tell him he’s a thief.
Judging others is the idea of assuming things we don’t know and there are three things we need to avoid.
First, we need to avoid a self-righteous attitude.
In other words, it’s not our job to look down on anyone who is trapped in sin because we’re all sinners and even though our sin might be sociably acceptable, it’s still sin.
Second, we can not judge anyone else’s motives.
It’s easy to assume someone else’s thoughts or intentions when something negative happens but there are times when we don’t see the whole picture and other times when others see something from a completely different perspective and either way, we’ve assumed their wrong when we didn’t know all the facts. The fact is, we can’t see into someone else’s heart.
In Job 1:8-11 it says, “Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 "Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"
Satan was suggesting that the only reason Job was serving God was for what he got in return and from this we can see that to judge someone else’s motives is satanic!
Third, and here’s the danger of judging others.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:2, "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” If you want to judge others you will be judged by the exact same standard you use and since God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart, we need to realize that we are not God.
So, Paul was warning the Jews and us about hypocrisy and the tendency to judge those who appear to be more sinful than we are. I think to an extent, we all do this because we tend to use the way we see ourselves as the baseline for good or bad. Anyone who is better than us is good and anyone who is worse than us is evil.
I read about a psychology experiment where two people were given control to an electric shock machine and they were told to ask a question and if the other person answered wrong, they were to give that person a shock. This went on for a short time but eventually each felt they had been shocked more than the other and so the level of shocks escalated. I’m not sure what this experiment intended to prove but it showed me that any thing that happens to me will always be seen as worse than anything that happens to you. And so it is, “When we judge one another, we don’t define them, we define ourselves.”
Listen God saved and used a lot of people we might have questions about. I mean, stop and think about who some of the heroes of our faith were in the Bible.
Noah seemed to have a drinking problem which led to immorality; Abraham was too old to have kids and yet he did, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused and rejected by his brothers, Moses had a speech impediment of some kind or at least he said he did, Gideon was fearful, Samson was a womanizer, Rehab was a prostitute, Jeremiah and Timothy both complained that they were too young, David had an affair and then had the woman’s husband killed, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran away, Job went bankrupt, John the Baptist ate bugs, Peter denied Christ, the disciples all fell asleep when they were supposed to be praying, Martha worried about everything, the Samaritan woman was divorced at least four if not five times, Zacchaeus was too short, Paul was too religious and Lazarus, well, he was dead. And yet, God used them all.
But people say, ‘You don’t know the things I’ve done’ and I always say ‘no’ but God knew us before He created us and He knew where each of us would fail even before He saved us.
So, Paul was saying that the Jews were hypocritical if they were judging others while they were just as guilty themselves.
III The rewards for those who just think they’re saved
In verses 3-5 Paul says, “If you think you can pass judgement on others or show contempt for the mercy of God you are simply storing up wrath for the day of judgement.
3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 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.
What he’s warning about are the many who think they’re saved but they’re lost, and not only are they lost but for some reason they think they’re saved.
We see an example of this in Matthew 7:21–23 where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
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, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Notice that the people who were condemned as unbelievers had been actively involved in most likely an evangelical church, but they weren’t genuine believers. They professed to know the Lord, they were preaching, driving out demons and performing many miracles and yet, they had no relationship with Jesus. Some might say, “Wait a minute, how could they do all these miraculous things if they didn’t know the Lord? Some would claim it was demonic power and others have said God may have empowered them to do these miracles just like He did with Judas who we assume worked miracles just like the other disciples and then there are some who think they convinced others they were doing the miraculous when if fact they were simply faking it. In any case Jesus said, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
So, they weren’t saved and then lost their salvation but He says, “I never knew you.” In other words, they were never saved to begin with.
And again, in Matthew 13 we have the parable of the sower and this parable is meant to demonstrate the various responses people have to the gospel. Look at the first two responses in verses 5–7 where it says “some seed fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” So, both of these seeds showed some signs of life, maybe they respond publicly to an invitation or they had given a huge financial gift for the ministry and yet, they had never come to any level of spiritual maturity. These people weren’t saved and then lost but they were never saved to begin with.
Now, why does Jesus tell us over and over again about people who think they saved but are not? Obviously, because it’s a major problem in the church. And the bigger the church is, the more reason people join other than the fact that they’re saved.
Some of the unsaved may have been raised to avoid the sins of the flesh and they enjoy fellowshipping with people live like they do. Some of them might marry a believer and then join the church to keep peace in the family. Some of them join because they like the programs they have for their children. Some join for business reasons, either their boss goes there or maybe they hope to make contacts to sell something. There are even some who know they don’t believe; but they go because they enjoy both the music and the message. Some may have always gone to church and they’re keeping up a family tradition. And there are some whose friends are members and they go to be part of the crowd.
I’ve seen people come to church, attend baptism and membership classes, get baptized and give a good testimony, then be accepted into membership and never come back again. They believed that in order to go to heaven you had to be member of an evangelical church and as far as they were concerned, they had done all that was expected and that made them both saved and safe.
I was visiting in a home one night where the lady had been on our membership role but had never actually been to church as long as anyone could remember. She had a very negative attitude toward the church and me and during our visit she told me about her son and she said, “He’s an awful drunk who left his wife a few years back and he doesn’t even support his kids but at least I know he’s saved because when he was six years old, he gave his life to Jesus at a Bible camp. As our Pastor back then used to say, once you’re saved, you’re always saved.”
I knew there was no sense in arguing with her but I thought, if he had been saved, he certainly would have lived a different kind of life. Listen, Ephesians 2:8 says, “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” And then James 2:17 adds, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” In other words, those who saved are going to live it.
There was a dramatic scene in a movie about the life of Martin Luther where Luther was defending his position that we are saved by grace through faith. He is lecturing to students who have been raised on the notion that we are saved by faith and works. A student stands up to protest Luther’s ideas concerning salvation by faith alone. And says, "It can’t be that easy!"
"Do you think faith is easy?" quips back Luther. Faith is not easy! The very powers of hell, spiritual hosts with intellect and resources beyond our imagination, are trying to destroy our faith. Dark forces want to keep us away from the Word of God. Dark forces want us to neglect worship. Dark forces minimize the importance of prayer and Bible study. Dark forces seek to keep us from the very stuff that creates and builds faith.
And why do they seek to destroy our faith in the genuine, living, biblical Christ? So, they can substitute an imposter and then feast upon us and lead us into hell.”
So, some think they’ll be excused from judgement based on their birth rather than the new birth, others feel they have the right to be judge and jury of everyone else while excusing their own sin, and third, some think they’ll be rewarded when in fact they’re going to be facing the judgement of God.
Ronald Reagan once had an aunt who took him to a shoe maker for a new pair of shoes. The shoe maker asked young Reagan, “Do you want square toes or round toes?” Unable to decide, Reagan didn’t answer, so the shoe maker gave him a few days.
Several days later the shoe maker saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes do you want on the shoes. Reagan still couldn’t decide, so the shoemaker said, “Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready.” When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! “This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you,” the shoe maker said to his indecisive customer.
“I learned right then and there,” Reagan said later, “If you don’t make your own decisions, someone else will do it for you.”
When all is said and done, what difference does it make if we drive a luxury car, eat vitamin-enriched foods, wear expensive designer clothing, sleep on a name-brand mattress, live in a mansion with acres of land, and are buried in a mahogany casket in a cemetery as lovely as a botanical garden ... only to rise up in judgment to meet a God we never knew?
The Bible talks in terms of two categories for all mankind: there are believers or unbelievers, sheep or goats, wheat or tares, those who are in Christ or those who are in Adam, we are either in the Spirit or in the flesh, there’s the good tree or the bad tree, the narrow road or the broad road and heaven or hell. Where do you fit?
Listen, we are all sinners and none of us are saved and on our way to heaven until we confess our sin and receive His forgiveness by His grace. This is the decision we all must make.
J.B. Philips wrote, “The gospel message is meant to grip the mind, stab the conscience, warm the heart, save the soul, and sanctify the life. It makes drunks sober, crooked people straight and perverted people pure. It’s a message sufficient to transform the life of all who believe.”
The gospel is a message with purpose and its purpose is not to comfort people in sin or even to challenge them to live above sin but it’s a message of hope that will save them from their sin.