(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 8/26/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's read Romans 2:1-3:
Romans 2: (1) Therefore, O man, you are without excuse, everyone who judges, for in that in which you judge the other, you condemn yourself; for you, those judging, practice the same things. (2) But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth on those that practice such things. (3) And, O man, the [one] judging those practicing such things, and doing them, do you think that you will escape the judgment of God?
Last week, we saw what verse 1 does NOT mean. Verse 1 does NOT forbid all judgment. We saw many verses that show that Christians ARE to judge, and if one does NOT judge, one is not a Christian. Let's now focus our attention on what verse 1 means, in the context of verses 2 and 3.
To whom is this passage addressed? Is it addressed to everyone without exception who judges? The passage does say, "everyone who judges." But we saw last week that it cannot mean everyone without exception who judges. And we see right in verse 1 a qualifier: "for you, those judging, practice the same things." NOW we see who Paul is addressing here. It is everyone who judges the Gentiles lost yet who do the same things the Gentiles do. We saw at the end of chapter 1 that the Gentiles engaged in all kinds of horrible sins. Paul then turns around and addresses those -- namely, the Jews -- who look at these sins of the Gentiles and say, "Yes, the Gentiles are lost, based on these sins," and yet they themselves - the ones who judge the Gentiles to be lost - are committing the same things. Paul says that they are condemning themselves. How so? Because if they say that a person is condemned because of these sins, and yet they practice the same thing as the person they condemn, then, by logical inference, they are condemning THEMSELVES. For example, suppose someone says that all liars and adulterers and idolaters are unregenerate. Is this a true statement? It certainly is. But then suppose that that person who SAYS that all liars and adulterers and idolaters are unregenerate is HIMSELF a liar and an adulterer and an idolater. What has he just said about HIMSELF? He said that he himself is unregenerate. The ones who judge people lost but who commit the same sins by which they judge the other person lost are called HYPOCRITES. Paul is forbidding HYPOCRITICAL judgment.
Let's turn over to Matthew 7 and read verses 1 through 5:
Matthew 7: (1) Do not judge, that you may not be judged; (2) for with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured again to you. (3) But why do you look on the twig that [is] in the eye of your brother, but do not see the log in your eye? (4) Or how will you say to your brother, Allow me to cast out the twig from your eye; and behold, the log [is] in your eye! (5) Hypocrite, first cast the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to cast the twig out of the eye of your brother.
Here again, God is forbidding HYPOCRITICAL judgment. To whom is this command not to judge addressed? Well, we see in verse 5, he calls such a person a HYPOCRITE. In verses 3 and 4, he illustrates hypocrisy. A person sees a twig in his brother's eye, meaning that he sees his brother's sin and condemns him for it, but he doesn't see the log in his OWN eye, meaning that he has an even WORSE sin than his brother's, but he hypocritically judges himself to be okay. In verse 2, God says that whatever judgment or measure THEY use to judge someone, they will be judged themselves. What was the standard the Pharisees used to judge people lost? It was a standard of their own making. If people didn't measure up to THEIR standard, then they judged that person lost. God exposes them to be hypocrites, because they didn't even measure up to THEIR OWN standard! They were outwardly moral and zealous and religious, but what about their hearts? Let's turn over to Matthew 23 and read verses 13 through 33:
Matthew 23: (13) But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of Heaven before men; for you do not enter, nor do you allow those entering to go in. (14) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour the houses of widows, and pray at length as a pretext. Because of this you will receive more abundant judgment. (15) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you go about the sea and the dry [land] to make one proselyte; and when he has become so, you make him twofold more a son of Hell than yourselves. (16) Woe to you, blind guides, who say, Whoever swears by the Holy Place, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the Holy Place is a debtor. (17) Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold, or the Holy Place that sanctifies the gold? (18) And [you say], Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift on it, [he is] a debtor. (19) Fools and blind! For which [is] greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? (20) Then the [one] swearing by the altar swears by it, and by all things on it. (21) And the [one] swearing by the Holy Place swears by it, and by the One dwelling in it. (22) And the [one] swearing by Heaven swears by the throne of God, and by the [One] sitting on it. (23) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and you have left aside the weightier [matters] of the Law: judgment, and mercy, and faith. It was right to do these, and not to have left those aside. (24) Blind guides, straining out the gnat, but swallowing the camel! (25) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within they are full of robbery and excess. (26) Blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside of them may become clean also. (27) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened graves which outwardly indeed appear beautiful, but within are full of bones of [the] dead, and of all uncleanness. (28) So you also indeed outwardly appear righteous to men, but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (29) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and adorn the tombs of the righteous. (30) And you say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. (31) So you witness to yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets. (32) And you fill up the measure of your fathers. (33) Serpents! Offspring of vipers! How shall you escape the judgment of Hell?
Quite a picture of the most highly esteemed religious people of the day, isn't it? Outwardly, they were moral, religious, and zealous. But inwardly, they were full of lawlessness.
Turn back over to Romans 2, and let's read verse 2:
Romans 2: (2) But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth on those that practice such things.
Paul is tying this paragraph and what he said previously together. In Romans 1:18, we see that God's wrath is shown on all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In Romans 1:32, we see that those practicing such lawless deeds are worthy of death. Then, in the verse we just read, he again says that the judgment of God is on those who practice such things. But what's different about this verse as compared to the others? In this verse, Paul is talking to the ones who judge the Gentiles to be lost but who practice the same things! Paul is saying here that God is consistent. Yes, the Gentiles who practice such things are under the wrath of God. But what of the Jews who practice such things, even though they condemn the Gentiles who practice such things? It's the same - they are under the wrath of God. There is no difference, as verse 11 shows us. There is no special standard for the Jews. As verse 2 says, God's judgment is ACCORDING TO TRUTH. It is not according to standards men set for themselves; it is according to OBJECTIVE, UNCHANGING TRUTH. God doesn't use a sliding scale. He uses ONE scale and that scale is ACCORDING TO TRUTH. Paul asks a rhetorical question in verse 3:
Romans 2: (3) And, O man, the [one] judging those practicing such things, and doing them, do you think that you will escape the judgment of God?
Paul is saying, Do you think you have some special status by which God will give you a break for committing the same sins that you condemn others for? Of course not. God is HOLY. It matters not whether unholiness comes from the ignorant pagans or religious Jews. God, in His holiness, MUST show wrath toward those who commit such sins. The Jews are not exempt.
Here we get into the heart of the matter. These religious Jews had a different standard for themselves than they had for the Gentiles. And in setting a standard for themselves that was not according to God's Word, they showed that they believed a false gospel. They believed that their works formed at least some part of their ground of acceptance before God. Now listen closely to this. It was not wrong in and of itself to judge the Gentiles lost. The Gentiles WERE lost. But what they did was to set a standard of works for THEMSELVES by which they judged themselves to be SAVED. Okay, did you get that? The idolatrous and immoral heathens WERE lost, no doubt about it. But these Jews were WICKED in their judgment, because, in comparing themselves to the Gentiles, they thought they were SAVED based on their works. Even though these Jews practiced the same thing as the Gentiles, they still twisted this fact in their minds until it came out that they were better than the Gentiles and could recommend themselves to God while the Gentiles could not. One of the ways to do this is to think that God weighs the good deeds and the bad deeds, and if the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds, then that person has favor with God or will enter heaven. So, even though the Jews practiced the same wicked things as the Gentiles, they still had more GOOD deeds than the Gentiles had, so the GOOD deeds outweighed the wicked deeds they had in common with the Gentiles. The carnal mind can come up with ALL SORTS of reasons why one person is more in favor with God than another. And it is all based on a WRONG STANDARD. The question that these Jews NEEDED to ask is, "Do I have a righteousness that equals the righteousness of God?" And anyone who would agree with us that the Gentiles were lost should ask this question to themselves as well. But asking the question is only the beginning. If the answer is "NO," then they need to ask themselves, "What is the state of all who do not have a righteousness that equals the righteousness of God?" The answer is that they are under the wrath of God. So if they are honest with themselves, they would have to say, "Yes, the Gentiles are under the wrath of God. But because MY OWN character and conduct does not meet up to the standard of perfect righteousness, I, TOO, am under the wrath of God." No one is exempt.
Now apparently, some of the Jews thought they were. After all, they had the Word of God and the Ordinances. But the Word of God and the Ordinances were meaningless if they did not BELIEVE the Word of God and did not BELIEVE in the Christ to which the Ordinances pointed. This leads to verse 4:
Romans 2: (4) Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, and the forbearance and the long-suffering, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Here is another rhetorical question. The answer to it is YES, they DID despise the riches of His kindness and the forbearance and the longsuffering. "Riches" means "abundance." Now what is Paul talking about when he talks of God's kindness and forbearance and longsuffering? The Greek words for "kindness" in this verse come from a word that means "to furnish what is needed" or "to give an oracle." The KJV gives a better translation, which is "goodness," although that still doesn't give the reader the full sense of the word. So God's "kindness" or "goodness" here is specifically talking about giving the Jews what they needed, and even more specifically, giving them God's Word and the ordinances, including the sacrifices. God gave these good things to the Jews. The Greek word for "forbearance" comes from a word that means "to bear with" or "to endure." So God's "forbearance here is talking about God's continuing to bear with the wickedness of the Jews, continuing to give them what they needed. The Greek word for "longsuffering" denotes more of a long expanse of time in which the enduring occurred, through generation after generation. And what does the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul say was the design of God's goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering? Their design was to lead the Jews to repentance. The oracles of God and the sacrifices were entrusted to the Jews. These were to show the Jews that they needed a righteousness they could not produce and that this righteousness was by imputation. These were to show the Jews that the wages of sin is death and to lead them to repent of their dead works and idolatry. Yet what did most of the Jews use these for? They used them to concoct a false gospel of salvation by law-keeping. They used them to form vain imaginations that they were in God's favor just because of these gifts that God had given the nation. What about God's forbearance and longsuffering? These were to show that God's promise is unconditional. How many times have we seen in the Old Testament where the people and the kings were so wicked, but God always remembered His promise and did not forsake His covenant? Just last week in our Scripture reading in 2 Kings, we read, "And he did that which was evil in the eyes of Jehovah. And Jehovah was not willing to destroy Judah, for His servant David's sake, as He said to give him a lamp to his sons forever." God bore with the Jews with much forbearance and patience and longsuffering, because He is a God who is a Covenant God. He does not go back on His covenant because of what the people do; instead, he bears with the wicked people that His promise will be fulfilled. Yet what did most of the Jews use God's forbearance and longsuffering for? They used them to keep on sinning. They had the proud notion that since God did not immediately destroy them because of their sins, then they must have had some special standard all to themselves. This is probably why some of these Jews who were doing the same thing as the Gentiles counted the Gentiles lost but not themselves. They looked at all the wickedness that the Jews had done and saw that God still preserved the nation, and they used it to believe that God does not apply the same standard to Jews as He does to Gentiles. So, while they should have been humbled by the goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering of God, they used these instead as instruments of pride. They used God's goodness for evil.
Verse 5 is another rhetorical question:
Romans 2: (5) But according to your hardness and your impenitent heart, do you treasure up to yourself wrath in a day of wrath, and revelation of a righteous judgment of God?
"Hardness" means "callousness" or "stubbornness." It is the opposite of submissiveness or compliance. The Jews, despising the riches of God's kindness, forbearance, and longsuffering, were stubborn. God called them "stiff-necked," meaning "obstinate." They did not submit to the Word that they were given. They did not see the sacrifices as showing that salvation is by the atonement of the Messiah alone. The next phrase is "your impenitent heart." This is again talking about their lack of repentance. They were not ashamed of their wickedness. They did not count all of their works as wicked. They thought they recommended themselves to God. But what does God say in the next phrase? He says that they treasure up to themselves wrath in a day of wrath. To "treasure up" means to "store up." Every wicked thing that the Jews did stored up more and more of God's wrath. And when is the day of wrath? It is when these people are punished in hell for their wicked deeds. When they were on the earth, they piled up wickedness upon wickedness, and each act of wickedness put more wrath of God in storage. Then comes the day when they die, and the stored wrath of God is unleashed in all its fury and revenge when they are punished eternally in hell. In the last phrase, Paul also says that this day of wrath is a revelation of the righteous judgment of God. This parallels chapter 1 verse 18, where Paul says that God's wrath is revealed on all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. So not only are the unrepentant PAGANS to be punished forever, but the unrepentant JEWS are to be punished forever. Because God is HOLY, God MUST punish sin. And when He punishes sin, it is a revelation of the righteous judgment of God. A god who does not punish every single sin according to what it deserves is not a righteous God. A god who relaxes the requirements of the law in order to accept less than perfection is not a righteous God. A god who accepts faith in the place of perfect obedience to his law is not a righteous God. The one and only true and living God accepts nothing less than perfection. And when someone dies without a righteousness that equals his perfect righteousness, he is good and just and righteous to punish that person with everlasting torment in the lake of fire.
Is there then any hope for anyone? Yes - there is a sure and certain hope for a certain fixed number of people whom God has chosen from before the foundation of the world. Does that mean that God relaxed His requirement of perfect righteousness for these people? By no means. A god who chose some people before the foundation of the world but then saved them by relaxing the requirements or by enabling them to meet the conditions for salvation is a false god. Thus, predestination alone, without the effectual substitutionary atonement, is just another false doctrine of lost religionists. The truth is this: God sent His Son, the God-man mediator, Jesus Christ the Lord, to live a perfect life and to suffer the penalty of the sins of His people. Were the requirements of perfect righteousness relaxed? No. The sins of the elect people were charged to Christ at the cross, and He paid the penalty for them in full, which was to endure the just wrath of God that these sins deserved. And the perfect righteousness of Christ is charged to the account of His people. This makes God's people perfectly righteous, without even one single stain or blemish, in the eyes of God's law and justice. God's requirement of perfect obedience to the law and eternal punishment for sin was met in Jesus Christ. Those for whom Jesus Christ did NOT live and die will NEVER be able to meet the requirements of God's law and justice. They will NEVER be able to be perfectly righteous, and they will NEVER be able to pay for their sins. Thus, God righteously and justly sends them to hell, where they will suffer an eternity of unspeakable agony and torment for their wickedness.
Are you one of those people who is yet trying to establish a righteousness of your own? Do you think you're meeting up to God's relaxed requirements? Do you think that God will accept your best efforts to be good? Well, our desire and prayer for you is that you be saved. The only ones who are saved are the ones who believe that salvation is based on the efficacious atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. Everyone else is lost. Now some of you might be thinking, "I still don't believe. This must mean that Jesus didn't die for me." This is not necessarily true. There are many lost people for whom Jesus HAS died who are still going about to establish a righteousness of their own. Every single one of them will be saved in time. Then you might say, "Well, then, if Jesus died for me, I don't have to repent and believe right now; I'll just do it further on down the line." But lost people CANNOT KNOW if Jesus died for them. The only ones who DO KNOW are the ones who believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. So, if you wait further on down the line assuming that Christ died for you, you could be sliding into eternal destruction. Your rejection of the gospel today could be treasuring up to yourself wrath for the day of wrath. You are commanded, NOW, to repent of ever thinking that salvation is conditioned on yourself, and you are commanded to believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ ALONE. Certain eternal punishment awaits those who will not repent and believe. Certain everlasting life awaits those who do repent and believe. Do not go any further in your life without repenting and believing. It's life and death. I don't have the power to save you, and you don't have the power to save you, but perhaps today God will give you the gifts of faith and repentance, and you will see all your past religion and life as what it is: just a bunch of dung. I pray that God will use His gospel to bring His lost sheep to faith in Christ. Amen.