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A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #5 God’s Judgment of the Reformed Sinner – Romans 2:1-6

17 Jun

Righteous Judgement

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul looked at the man whom we have called the rational sinner. He is the man who wants to reason God out of his thoughts. He does not want God to control his life.

He suppresses the truth. He ignores the light that God has given. When man accepts the light that God gives him, God will give him more light, but if he rejects the light God has given, he abides in darkness.

The rational sinner rejects the voice of conscience within. He rejects the evidence of the created world that says God is.

In chapter 2, Paul abruptly switches his attention to a new audience. He shapes his next thoughts in a style used widely at that time, called the diatribe.

In a diatribe, the writer verbally attacks and attempts to destroy the ideas of the opposition. The anticipated questions or objections of the opposition are expressed or noted and then answered or refuted. (Paul probably did not have an individual, but a character type in mind as he began his diatribe.)

There may have been a single destination for Paul’s letter, but he knew that his readers would be quite varied: Roman citizens, transplanted Jews, slaves of various types, other races of Gentiles, former Jewish converts, and unbelievers.

When Paul’s letter was read in the Roman church, no doubt many heads nodded as he condemned idol worship, homosexual practices, and violence. But what surprise his listeners must have felt when he turned on them and said, in effect, “You have no excuse. You are just as bad!”

Paul’s emphasis was that nobody is good enough to save himself or herself. If we want to avoid punishment and live eternally with Christ, we must depend totally on God’s grace, whether we have been murderers and molesters or have been honest and hardworking citizens.

Paul is not discussing whether some sins are worse than others. Any sin should cause us to depend on Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life. We have all sinned repeatedly; salvation comes only through faith in Christ.

Paul is referring to what I call the reformed sinner. The reformed sinner is the man who recognizes that God is and tries to live a good life by his own power. He is the man who tries to be a good citizen and a good family man. He congratulates himself because of his personal goodness. “After all,” he reasons, “I am a good fellow.”

In the absolute sense there is only one who is good. In the absolute sense, then, no man is good because no man is perfect. Before one congratulates himself because he is good, he needs to understand that he is imperfect, even though he has tried to be good. That imperfection is the very reason he needs the gospel.

Having painted in large strokes the fate of humankind apart from God, Paul abruptly switches his attention to a new audience. He shapes his next thoughts in a style used widely at that time, called the diatribe.

In a diatribe, the writer verbally attacks and attempts to destroy the ideas of the opposition. The anticipated questions or objections of the opposition are expressed or noted and then answered or refuted. Paul probably did not have an individual, but a character type in mind as he began his diatribe.

There may have been a single destination for Paul’s letter, but he knew that his readers would be quite varied: Roman citizens, transplanted Jews, slaves of various types, other races of Gentiles, former Jewish converts, and unbelievers.

When Paul’s letter was read in the Roman church, no doubt many heads nodded as he condemned idol worship, homosexual practices, and violence. But what surprise his listeners must have felt when he turned on them and said, in effect, “You have no excuse. You are just as bad!”

Paul’s emphasis was that nobody is good enough to save himself or herself. If we want to avoid punishment and live eternally with Christ, we must depend totally on God’s grace, whether we have been murderers and molesters or have been honest and hardworking citizens.

Paul is not discussing whether some sins are worse than others. Any sin should cause us to depend on Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life. We have all sinned repeatedly; salvation comes only through faith in Christ.

The critic here is Jewish, for Paul is focusing primarily on Jews in his words you . . . have no excuse (see Romans 2:17 (ESV) But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God.

Paul had criticized the horrible evil of the Gentiles, their sins of idolatry and homosexuality and their general lifestyle. This Jewish critic nodded in agreement as Paul exclaimed that “those who do such things deserve death” (1:32), because the critic assumes that he is free from such vices, and thus free from their well-deserved judgment.

But then Paul says that he has no right to pass judgment, because he is just as guilty.

Notice how Paul introduces chapter 2: Romans 2:1 (ESV) 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.

A person may feel self-righteous because he is not guilty of the ‘terrible’ sins for which he judges others. But no one is guiltless—all have sinned.

By our very capacity to judge others we demonstrate that we are responsible to judge ourselves. To judge another is to presume that you have nothing to be judged in yourself—that attitude reveals a sinful and hardened heart.

Romans 2:5 (ESV) 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.

Judgment According to Truth

The judgment of God rightly falls even upon the man who tries to be good.

Romans 2:2-3 (ESV) 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?

Judgment is not according to man’s thoughts. A man reasons, “I am trying to be a good fellow, and in trying to be a good fellow, I am better than the one over there who is not trying at all to be good.” Granted.

But Paul wants every person to understand that whether he is trying to be good or not, he is in rebellion against God IF he is trying to save himself without God. Therefore, he will not escape the judgment of God which Paul says is according to truth. Judgment is according to reality.

What does this mean to me? I can think of all the reasons why God should accept me: I try to dress well; I try to provide a nice house for my family to live in; I treat people on my job right. I can convince myself that I am a good man. But the truth is the basis of judgment and not what I think about myself.

JUDGING OTHERS Paul’s accusation cannot be missed. Whenever we find ourselves feeling justifiably angry about someone’s sin, we should be careful. We need to speak out against sin, but we must do so with a spirit of humility.

Often the sins we notice most clearly in others are the ones that have taken root in us. If we look closely at ourselves, we may find that we are committing the same sin.

The unrighteous excuse themselves while condemning others. The truly righteous overlook faults in others but try to see their own faults.

HOW CAN WE ESCAPE? We cannot escape God’s righteous judgment by avoiding or resisting it. We find our only hope in submitting to his verdict.

If God says we have sinned, we must agree. When we agree with his judgment, we obtain his mercy. When we agree that we are lost, we find a savior. We escape God’s judgment by accepting it and claiming God’s mercy and grace that wait for us.

As a result, those who have experienced God’s forgiveness overlook the faults in others while they recognize their own faults. On the other hand, those who have not yet received forgiveness are prone to excuse themselves while condemning and blaming others. This last group of people have not escaped God’s judgment.

Notice what Paul says in 2:4: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, . . .”

God has been good to you because God is longsuffering. Consider the last line of verse 4: “Not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

Yes, God has been good to you, but that is not a sign that God is pleased with you. The fact that God has been good to you should have led you to repentance, but if you continue to trust in your own goodness you have not repented.

Consequently, Paul says in verse 5, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

Here is man who may be very pleased with himself, but he is a sinner. God is not pleased with him. He may believe that God is going to accept him because he tries to be good, but God is going to judge him according to truth. The truth says that he is a sinner and the wages of sin is death.

The goodness of God should have led him to repentance, but it did not. He hardened his heart, and he is treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath at the righteous judgment of God. The truth is that we are not what we ought to be. We need the gospel.

You, the judge, are doing the very same things.NRSV The critic, and Jews in general, were not guiltless. They were doing the same things but needed to be reminded or made aware of it (as is often the case with the examples given of greed, gossip, and arrogance).

Men commit different sins, but there is no difference in the fact that all men sin. That is what Paul means when he says, “You judge another, but when you judge another, you condemn yourself.”

Man likes to think that he is doing very well. He likes to think that he is better than most other people. But the fact remains that he is imperfect.

We try to be good, but the good person is imperfect and needs the gospel as surely as does the rational sinner who lives as though God does not exist.

Judgment According to His Works. Paul mentions a second element of judgment. He says that God will judge “He will render to each one according to his works (deeds)” (2:6).

Are you ready to meet God upon the basis of your works? Think about your life. As I think about mine, I remember things in the past that are embarrassing. I do not want to meet God based upon my works.

But God will judge men according to their works. If you are going to face God upon the basis of your good life, then you will meet God upon the basis of imperfection. The judgment of God is according to deeds.

Judgment According to Impartiality At 2:11 Paul says, “For there is no partiality with God.” God is going to judge without partiality. It will not matter that you are an American and live in the 21st century.

The judgment of God will be without respect of persons. According to verse 8, Paul says, “If one does not obey the truth, but obeys unrighteousness, there is indignation and wrath.”

No matter who you are, you need the gospel. Until you obey the truth you are not ready to stand in judgment. God will not say, “You tried to be a good fellow; therefore you are accepted.”

Judgment According to Jesus Christ

He also says, “On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (2:16).

Jesus Christ, the One who is being rejected by the reformed sinner, is the One who is to judge all men. He is the One before whom all men must stand. Did you notice that Paul says He will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ?

The thoughts of men will be brought out of secret into the open at judgment. One can be the rational sinner and live in the vilest way. He is lost. Or, one can try to be a good man and live a good moral life, but he, too, is a sinner and lost.

Paul is showing us in the opening chapters of Romans that every man, no matter who he is, is in desperate need of the gospel.

He has referred to the man who lives without giving a thought to God and the man who tries to be good. He pictures both under the judgment or wrath of God.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2021 in Romans

 

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