Impartial Judgment

Impartial Judgment

Reigns with you in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. Chapter 2, beginning in verse 1. Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges, or in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man, you who judge those who practice such things, and yet you do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 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? But because of your hard and your penitent heart, your storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, and God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works, to those who, by patience in welldoing, seek for glory and honor and immortality he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking, do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

For God shows no partiality. The word of the Lord. Imagine, if you will, that you’re floating around in the North Sea in little wooden lifeboats, and you notice the passengers in another boat with drills in hand drilling into the hole. You might think, What a bunch of morons. Who would be so stupid as to drill into their boat? And all the while, your boat is vigorously using good old fashioned chisels and hammers to punch holes in the bottom. Because it’s fallen human nature, one group would argue that what they’re doing is totally different. Now, what they’re doing is really wrong. Anybody can see that a drill is not the same as a chisel. And while both of those boats are sinking, another boat would be going by, shaking their heads in disapproval, warming themselves by the fire they started in the bottom of theirs. And on it goes. There are lots of ways to sink a boat. And Paul’s point here is that being disappointed or looking down on the behavior of others doesn’t make your way good. It doesn’t make you righteous if somebody else is seemingly worse than you. If someone breaks God’s law with a particular sin and you break another one, it’s still broken.

Both stand guilty before God because the same God who said, Don’t lie, all said, Don’t covet. Because God is Holy and just, he will judge our sins impartially. And we must not presume upon his kindness as an excuse for more sin. And we must not excuse our own sin because we think that somebody else. This is worse. Paul has already told us about the salvation that comes through Jesus. That’s the good news. It’s absolutely necessary because we have rejected God. We have suppressed his truth. And this is what requires. We need Jesus. We see the breakdown of the created order through the sins of a disordered passions and base thinking. We looked at that last week. The Lord really does have a right to judge humanity, and we really do need to repent. He’s just given a one, two punch to a whole list of sins that probably best describes the Gentile world of his day. Paul, he’s been ministering now for about 20 years by the time he’s writing a letter to the Romans. And no doubt Paul, he’s anticipating either what people are thinking or what they’re about to say. Because there are either some Jewish people or some upright Gentiles that are going to be thinking that they are in good standing with God because they look down on and they disapprove of the kinds of sins that he’s mentioned.

Like, Yeah, Paul, you tell them. It’s about time. Finally, we’re getting somebody to talk about some good old fashioned family values. Let them have it. Paul cast out his line, set the hook. Oh, you are without excuse. Therefore, you have no excuse, oh man, every one of you who judges. Now, Paul has been talking in the third person, they do these things, and now he shifts to second person, you. You do these things. It’s a rhetorical style that’s meant to address unspoken attitudes, but the who’s the you? It’s those who are morally upright, likely Jews, could include moral Gentiles. It includes all those who think that they are a bunch that are above these bad people that Paul has been talking about. And he says, Why? For in passing judgment on another, you condemn yourself because you, the judge, practice the very same things. Now, Paul is not saying that they’re identical sins, but they’re the same in kind. I might be a murderer, but at least I’m not an adulterer. Well, I might be immoral, but at least I’m not a thief. Wrong. They’re all guilty of sinning against God. You’re no better because you think that they’re worse.

Paul goes on, We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man, you who judge those who practice such things and do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? The rhetorical answer is no. Now, Paul has already highlighted a morally chaotic and disordered society, particularly through the example of homosexuality. Now, that was more of a pagan sin than it was a Jewish sin. But he concluded with a long list that would pretty much cover everyone. At the end of chapter one, he mentions coverage, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slanders, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boathful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. That hits pretty wide. It doesn’t leave a lot of people standing. But just because you disapprove of someone else’s sinful life, it doesn’t make you righteous. Judgment is coming to everyone because everyone is sinned. Standing before the Lord and giving account of your life, you are going to be more than, I think I look bad. Look at him. That’s not going to carry the day. Because God is going to judge impartially each one according to what we have done, not in comparison to somebody else.

Paul continues in verse 4, Do you presume upon his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness meant to lead you to repentance? Now, in Israel’s history, particularly in the Old Testament, we see they’re constantly thinking that God would be merciful to them because of their special status as his covenant people. Well, it wasn’t their special status that kept them from being judged. It was God’s kindness and mercy. Verse 11 reminds them, For God shows no partiality. Now, it was true, the Jewish people did look down on the Gentiles because they thought they were morally better. We see in the Book of Acts, particularly, the disciples initially really struggled with Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. There’s It’s just distance between them. They had to understand that God’s kindness and patience was extended to everyone, including them. Again, Paul is a long-time minister. He knows that people are thinking. And some people go, Well, it really doesn’t seem like God’s doing anything but letting them get away with it. Now, what I’m doing is way better than that, so I shouldn’t be worried about it. He said, No, no, no, don’t be presumptuous.

God God is patient. He’s kind. If you try to use his mercy to get bold in sinning, watch out. You have completely misunderstood mercy because God, despite what we like to think, he is under no obligation to forgive you. He is a debtor to no one. It is God’s kindness to change your heart. That we are without excuse and we are without works. Verse 5, But because of your hard and penitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to His works. Now, Paul is quoting scripture. It’s probably either out of the Psalms or the Proverbs. Proverbs 62 says, For you will render to a man according to his work. Proverbs 24, Will he not repay man according to his work? Either one of those is very clear. God will judge. For those who can’t stand the thought of God judging anyone and refusing to believe it, you also have to disregard the clear teaching of scripture and the clear teaching of Jesus himself, who speaks about judgment a great deal. There’s always someone who says, A loving God would ever do this or that.

Or, I worship a God of love and not a God of hate. Okay. Where did you get the idea of the God of love from? Where did that come from? God is love. It’s not by looking at the world around you. Author Annie Dillard in her Pilgrim at Pinker Creek, she lived for several years in near solitude near this creek in Virginia. And she wrote on her Reflections About Nature. She referred her book as a Book of Theology. And this is what she wrote. She was struggling as she was watching coming to terms, particularly with the cruelty of nature. And in one graphic paragraph, she described how this giant water bug came and sucked the life out of this little frog in a horrific way. And that’s just what she wrote. Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me. Cock Robin may die the most gruesome of slow deaths, and nature is no less pleased. The sun comes up, the creek rolls on. The survivor is still same. I cannot feel that way about your death, nor you about mine, nor neither of us about the robins. Although it’s true that we are moral creatures in an immoral world, the world’s amorality does not make it a monster.

Rather, I am the freak. She’s contemplating what’s in front of her, and what she sees is the hardness, the cruelness of nature. Because she’s observing a world broken by sin. That observation is not going to give you personal insight about God. It’ll give you some true ideas, but it won’t speak to you relationally about who he is. Where do you get the idea that God is loving? It comes from God’s revelation of himself in his word. God is the one who reveals that he’s loving to us. He is also the one who reveals that he will judge the living and the dead. If you want to remove one, you remove the other because they both hang together on God’s revelation of himself. Scripture speaks of both. Now, for others, the idea of God judging is actually good news, especially if you’ve been on the receiving end of terrible sin. Scripture tells us, the Lord says, Vengeance is mine, I will repay. And he’s saying, Nobody is going to get away with anything. A day of vindication is coming. You do not have to uphold your own justice. I will do that for you. But to be clear, that is a day of justice coming that should make us all very aware of our failing to meet his standard.

And in verses 7-9, there are two groups of people he’s addressing. They’re defined by what they seek after, by what is obeyed or not obeyed. He says in verse 7, To those who, by patience and well-doing, seek after glory and honor and immortality, who will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking, do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, they will be a wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil for the Jew first and then the Greek or the Gentile. But glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first, and then for the Gentile. Now, when you hear that as good Christians, you should be, wait a minute. That’s a little confusing. It seems like Paul is talking about being saved by works right after he just got done telling us we’re saved by faith alone. Romans 3 is coming. None is righteous, no, not one. ‘ ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift. ‘ That’s coming. No one’s justified by their works. So What’s he saying?

Well, verse 7, again, to those who, by patience and welldoing, seek for glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. Glory, and honor, and peace for everyone who does good. Verse 10. There have been two different approaches to solving this. Both are taught in scripture, so whichever way you go, you’re still Orthodox. The first one, they say, Well, Paul is just talking hypothetically. He’s setting up his argument like this. Only those who are righteous will be saved. All those who can stand before the Lord with a perfect record will make it. Then he goes on to show that nobody’s got a perfect record. So the righteous here are purely hypothetical righteous because there aren’t any. Therefore, you need Christ It’s righteousness. It’s like an impossible food challenge. I will give you a million dollars if you can eat a hundred-pound burger, two pounds of fries, drink a gallon milkshake in one hour. No one’s cashing that check. It’s impossible. Now, the other way to see this is Paul is simply giving a true picture of the judgment to come. And by that, I mean that those who are truly good in Christ will be saved, and those who are wicked apart from him will not.

He’s not saying those who are perfect who’ve never sinned. He’s speaking of those whose lives have been transformed by being united to Jesus. Salvation comes only by doing good. The power of sin keeps both Jews and Gentiles from doing good, so none are saved by doing good. Testament scholar Douglas Muh, he summarized it well. He said, Paul is not preaching, do this and you will live. He’s preaching about having a saving relationship with God that comes through faith. Just think back in Chapter 1:5, when Paul says, Through Jesus, we have received grace and apostelship to bring about the obedience of faith. The obedience of faith. The wonderful gift of grace is transformative. Our works, what we do, how we live, it flows through faith. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, We’re saved by grace and not by works. For by grace, you have saved through faith. This is not of your own doing. It’s a gift of God, not a result of work so that anyone will boast. We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them. See, faith is never empty. When Jesus forgives sins, we hear him repeatedly say, Go and sin no more.

We’re not saved by him so that we can escape the consequences of our sins. We are saved by him so that we can be what we’ve been created to be, holy and righteous people in him. Christopher Asch, he said, The context in verses 4 and 5 is not sin versus sinlessness, but repentance versus hard and impenitent hearts. If you have been truly justified, your heart demonstrates this. It cannot remain hardened to sin. I think I think this second understanding makes better sense of what Paul is saying, but both are supported by scripture. Repeatedly, we are called to live holy lives. How we live in public is evidence of our faith. We’re not to be presumptuous. We’re saying, I said the sinner prayer, I got my get out of free jail card. It’s like having diplomatic immunity. I can go over there and do whatever I want. They can’t touch me. That’s not the life of a believer. Look at me. I can sin boldly, do anything because this will get me out of trouble. Don’t presume upon God’s kindness. Real justification gets lived out with real sanctification. At the same time, because of this, we cannot look down on others and feel superior because our sins are more acceptable in our circles.

Think about it, how easy it is to think or to say. I’m so glad I’m not a Democrat, a Republican, a Communist, a Socialist, a capitalist, for my political affiliation is so much more righteous than theirs. That thought occurred to anybody in the last while? Haven’t seen that anywhere in a bumper sticker. And even we get very perverse with this. We can sit there and go, I mean, look at straight heterosexual illicit websites. Not like those freaks. Immorality is immorality. Go this way, go that way, you’re still breaking God’s law. There isn’t a better form of sin. It’s sin. And when you’ve been pardoned by God, the response is not to, look at those people. It’s, I can’t believe God has forgiven me of my sins. Because the day is coming when he will judge all of us by our deeds, and he will judge with impartiality. We’re not to be complacent and avoid the hard work of subduing our sinful desires. And yet we know that this is not a work produced apart from faith and grace. It flows from our relationship with Jesus. I now care about my life and my Holiness because I belong to him.

That’s that relational piece that has to be there. Because if you’re just living for yourself and you just want to get out of free jail card, you are not understanding who God is and what you’ve been made to be. You have been made for something so much better. God is not there just waiting to whack you because you got out of line. In his kindness and his patience, he’s leading us along saying, I have such a better way of life for you. Swimming in a cesspool is not good for you. You reek and you think it’s a spa. It’s not. That’s how blinded you are to sin. Let me open your to the work of my son, who is innocent and spotless, who paid your penalty so that you could be clean. And That cleanness then is a response of grace and goodness to God. Nowhere in there should there be a, I am superior to those people who are still in the muck. Rather, a heart filled with desire to say, Brother, let me pull you out. Sister, this is not what’s good for you. That’s what the Lord wants with us. And we work against that human tendency of superiority.

It wasn’t just the Jews looking down on the Gentiles, that was true enough. The morally upright Gentiles looking down on the other Gentiles, that was true enough. Take your pick. Whatever position you are in, it’s so easy to find someone lower than you. And the point is we’re all leveled at the cross. We’re all looking up. It’s the Lord who pulls us out of the miry clay, and it should be a heart of gratitude of thanksgiving and rejoicing. Not that somebody’s going to get theirs or, Man, if I get online, God’s going to whack me. No, God in his kindness is saying, I want you to be better than that because you’re made in my image. And what I’ve made is wonderful and amazing. It wasn’t made for those debased things. And that’s the society of the saints that God has called us to be in the church, to live this out, not presuming upon his goodness, reflecting upon all that went into our salvation that we now have an opportunity to live out now what is a foretaste of heaven, imperfectly to be sure. But that is what is before us. The God who has revealed himself as loving, compassionate, and kind has also said, I will not abide sin and unrighteousness, and I have done something for it.

And if you choose to go separate from that, you will incur my just and righteous anger and rath. But you do so on your own, apart from me. Brothers and sisters, cling to Jesus. Put down the drill, put down the chisel, cling to Jesus, his Holiness, his righteousness. We don’t have to live like this any longer. Praise be to God, he has set us free. Pray with me. Father, as we come before you, we first and foremost, confess we judge people. We do it all the time. We ask that you would forgive us. Lord, we look down on others because we think we’re better. And Father, we confess this is a sin, and we pray that you would remove this from our hearts. And Father, in the midst of this, we that by your spirit, you would continue to open our eyes to the wonder and the joy, the magnanomy of Christ himself. Transform us. Give us a boldness for wholeness, for purity, for righteousness, for joy. And Father, we thank you that you have not left us to ourselves, that you indeed are a kind God who’s patient, leading us to repentance. We bless you and give you all praise, glory, and honor through Jesus, our Lord.

Amen. Please stand, and can it be?

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.