Monday, October 30, 2006

Romans 2:1-4

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

You who pass judgment on someone else have no excuse, for you are condemning yourself, because you do the same things. Paul spends the second half of chapter 1 writing against the “bad” pagans, those who do not even claim to worship the Judeo-Christian God of the Old Testament, those who are outwardly immoral and impious. Then he turns his attention to the “good” pagans, those who are outwardly moral and pious folks who are inwardly immoral and impious. Paul here addresses the non-Messianic Jews, and even professing believers to whom this letter was written. He has separated the world into 2 groups: those without the law, addressed in chapter 1, and those with the law, now addressed in chapter 2. And what Paul does is show that both groups are condemned. He’ll drive home that point in chapter 3. Now, Paul’s audience was likely shocked upon reading this first sentence of chapter 2. The beginning words, “You, therefore,” don’t seem to follow, but Paul is offering his conclusion in v.1a (there is no excuse) before he sets the stage in v. 1b-3. “You, therefore, have no excuse,” implies that the Jews are just as guilty of the things listed in Romans 1:18-32 as the pagan gentiles he was talking about.

All of us could very easily feel superior to some of the very sinful folks out there in the world. We’re not murderers (in the strict sense), we’ve not embezzled millions of dollars from our companies, and we’re not promiscuous homosexuals. We’re probably not habitual liars. So it’s easy to see ourselves as morally superior to those kinds of folks. But Paul’s point here is that everyone who is not in Christ, everyone who has not experienced the grace of Christ, no matter how nice they are, no matter how outwardly moral they are, they are guilty of the same kind of sin that we often criticize in others. That’s what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Paul is saying that the outwardly moral folks who have not embraced Christ are self-condemned hypocrites. Paul here attacks the hypocrites.

We often forget the powerful message of James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” This is truth. And Paul says that God’s judgment is based on truth. God’s judgment is just. He will acquit the innocent; He will condemn those who are guilty. Don’t forget the words of Luke 17:10 “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’.” Keeping the law merits nothing.

Do you ever wonder, “How could God allow that to happen?” Do you ever say to God, “You should not have let that happen”? That’s idolatrous vanity. You think your definition of justice and righteousness is better than God’s. And that wrong. Paul’s point here is that God’s judgment, His righteous condemnation of sin is just. It’s perfect. And this is tough for us to handle. Just knowing that something is wrong doesn’t spare us from condemnation. It is not the possession of the truth that saves us from condemnation, it is the action of righteousness; and if we are unrighteous people (which we are), then the only thing that can save us from condemnation is the righteous action of another imputed to us. Praise God for Jesus Christ!

It’s ironic that the only escape from God’s judgment is to accept God’s judgment. The only escape from God’s judgment is to acknowledge that His judgment is right, to embrace that judgment and say, “Lord, You are right about me. I do deserve condemnation.” That is the beginning of repentance. Paul says that unless we have had that experience of seeing our sin and then seeing the Savior, then we are in no different situation than the immoral, openly godless pagan, who sees his life ongoing to the logical conclusion of rebellion against God.

Do you show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that His kindness leads you toward repentance? Paul asks here, “Do you think lightly of God’s mercy?” Do you think that just because God has been kind to you and has not handed you over to sin like the folks in chapter 1 that He is in fact pleased with you, and that you are at peace with Him? If so, then you have a false sense of security. His forbearance of your sins is in order to bring you to repentance. All you have to do to prove to yourself and others that you think lightly of God’s mercy is avoid repentance and refuse to live a life of constant repentance.

Paul here is asking his audience if they really understand Who God is. He’s asking the Jewish people of his own time to go back and reflect upon the mercies of God, heaped upon them in His covenant. Paul tells us in v.4 a little bit about the character of God. Paul is showing us Who God is and what He’s like, and why He does what He does. We’ve seen that God is just; God is also kind. Paul points us to God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience. Those 3 characteristics of God are to lead us to repentance. And if we do not repent, then we’re really not seeing God as He is. God’s mercy and patience have a purpose, and when we do not appreciate that purpose, we are despising God’s mercy; we are thinking lightly of His kindness.

No comments: