Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Romans 2:1-16

Therefore, every one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?

4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. 6 He will repay each one according to his works: 7 eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but wrath and anger to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness. 9 There will be affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no favoritism with God.

12 For all who sin without the law will also perish without the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified. 14 So, when Gentiles, who do not by nature have the law, do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them 16 on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

The Original Intent

1) According to this passage, why must we stop judging others? (verses 1-5)

In chapter 1, starting at verse 18, Paul gave his argument concerning the sin of the Gentiles (non-Jews). For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21-22) As a result, “God delivered them over in the desires of their heart..” (Romans 1:24)

One significant statement, which is later repeated, related to knowing God and righteousness yet choosing to reject His ways is, “[…] people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) Paul knew “the moralists” among the Jews, would equate “people” solely with Gentiles. Moralists would be “congratulating themselves that they are not like the people described in Romans 1.” (David Guzik) But cue chapter 2.

Paul begins with, “Therefore, every one of you who judges is without excuse.” (Romans 2:1) Why? Because many of them manifested the same rebellion against God, while still presenting themselves as moral. (verse 1) Paul reasons, if God judges “those sinful Gentiles”, would you, a favored Jew, escape His judgment? (verse 2) “God has one standard He judges by and that is truth.” (Precept Austin)

While the moralists would point out Gentile sin, they should be thinking about the judgment they were incurring for themselves. Jesus spoke of this hypocrisy in Matthew 23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

God has “kindness, restraint, and patience” (verse 3), but it’s not to be taken for granted. (verses 4-5) His kindness does not mean He will excuse us from judgment, including the sin of hypocrisy. (Matthew 7:3-5) When we judge, we’re worshiping ourselves. But there is only One worthy of worship, God.

The Everyday Application

1) According to this passage, why must we stop judging others? (verses 1-5)

It is surprisingly easy to judge others; if you’re like most, you even find pleasure in the judging as you press another lower while inflating yourself. We look at one external aspect of someone’s life and start making extrapolations about their life motivations and choices.

But the not so funny thing is, people are also doing the same to us. We are not so perfect to be able to condemn others. I know this is true because God has convicted me of it many times. I have heard people comment, “They need Jesus”, perhaps with a bit of an eye roll of condescending sting to their tone, but let it be known, we all need Him.

“No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.” (Christine Wood) That person we are judging might be someone God intends to use in the future, or is already using, for His glorious purposes, one of which may be to remind us we aren’t perfect either.

Matthew 7 instructs us well in this matter, “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?” . How can we judge another’s sin, or appearance of sin, when we ourselves sin? Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” So, if no one is righteous, then no one can judge. God is the only true judge. We should leave judgment to Him.

*Note that this discussion focuses on the type of judgment where we elevate ourselves and look down on another’s sin or appearance of sin, which is condemned in Scripture. This is not the same type of judgment that holds fellow believing brothers and sisters accountable to walking according to the ways of the Lord. This type of judgment is condoned and commanded by the Lord for the health and unity of the global Church.

The Original Intent

2) How do our heart motives, and connected behaviors, affect God’s judgment of us? (verses 6-10)

Verse 6 sets the stage by reminding us the Lord is the righteous Judge, “He will repay each one according to his works.” The “works” are distinguished by the heart motivation behind them. “Those who are others seeking (glory of God which is what we were created for) or those who are self-seeking seeking their own glory” (Imago Dei Church)

The first group will receive eternal life and the second group, God’s wrath. (verses 7-8) But, “There will be affliction and distress for every human being who does evil.” (verse 9) Jesus taught on this in Matthew 25:31-46 where the sheep, who had done good to “the least of these” were rewarded, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (verse 34)

Meanwhile the goats, who had only looked out for themselves, were told, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!” . (Matthew 25:41) Each was rewarded based on the works they had done, whether good or evil, seen or unseen.

To be extremely clear, no one can do truly “good works” (remember Romans 3:10?!) unless their hearts have been remade to come alive by the Holy Spirit of God living within them. And we can’t get access to the Spirit unless we come to the Father through Jesus, confessing our sin, turning away from it, and trusting in Christ for our salvation.

The Everyday Application

2) How do our heart motives, and connected behaviors, affect God’s judgment of us? (verses 6-10)

In college when you write papers and do projects, the teacher provides a rubric. For each graded area, they list the points available ranging from least to most. Students can choose how much work to put into each area in order to gain the cumulative grade they desire. For example, if your paper included 3 references, but you only wrote 3 pages it’s a C. If you included 6 references and had at least 7 pages, then it’s an A.

While we don’t have a rubric per se for being Christians, God has given us His Word to instruct us on how to live. He gives everyone opportunities to either honor Him or love ourselves in everyday life. For every circumstance we find ourselves, we get to choose whether we will live a life of worship to Christ or worship to ourselves. Adrian Rogers said, “You’re not saved by works, but you will be judged by works.”

But not just doing the works, having the right attitude and motivations matter as well, not to mention the aforementioned requirement of salvation by faith alone through Christ alone as the base foundation. This admonition from West Palm Beach Church of Christ says it well, “The Scriptures are full of admonitions to make every effort, strive, seek, fight the good fight, press on to the goal, work out your salvation, and the like. There are no Scriptures telling us to coast to eternal life. There are no passages instructing us to float our way to Heaven. There is no floating, coasting, resting, sitting, or relaxing our way to eternal life. Eternal life is given to those who seek.”

When we seek the Lord and align our desires and motivations with His (Proverbs 3:5-6), we will do good deeds by the inner work of the Spirit of God at work in us, and they will be done with the right motivation!

The Original Intent

3) When God judges man, does anyone have an advantage over another? (verses 11-16)

For there is no favoritism with God”. (verse 11) Blue Letter Bible says, “Jews and Gentiles stand upon the same level before God.” God will judge, not according to your family of origin, your nationality, or anything else besides His own righteous and just criteria.

This was an important distinction for the first audience because “Some ancient rabbis taught that God showed partiality towards the Jews.” (David Guzik) It was necessary for Paul to refute this false teaching. Paul further explains that God does not give an exception or advantage simply because you heard the law. You will be condemned if you heard the law but did not obey it. (verses 12-13)

If you did not hear the law, such as the Gentiles, God can still condemn them because “they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts.” (verse 15) So if they do not follow that “hidden law” they will be condemned. But if they follow it they will be rewarded. This was the same criteria as the Jews.

Verse 16 reminds us that Jesus is the final judge who will bring to light and judge the seen and the secret. This can feel depressing, because it seems hard to measure up. Why did God give Paul this message? “He tells us how hopeless is our condition in order that we might see how hopeful is the condition in Jesus Christ — and here He has once for all revealed the utter folly of attempting any other approach.” (Precept Austin)

God, through Paul’s words, was offering a way to pay for the sin they all had surely committed. Jesus was that payment plan for sin. Christ alone was their only advantage, not their heritage. Christ alone was their completed good work to gain salvation, and every fruitful action after salvation, proved the authenticity of their salvation because it is done in accordance to their faith as they submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit within them.

The Everyday Application

3) When God judges man, does anyone have an advantage over another? (verses 11-16)

“God deals with the Christian and non-Christian alike based on principles in creation. God will “render” judgment according to those principles.” (Verse by Verse Commentary)

Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, you will be subject to judgment just like neither Jew nor Gentile made a difference. In the end, not one of us can have an advantage with God based on our works “report card”. Because even the best of us have a moment or several where we did a good work, but for selfish reasons.

But fear not! Paul is leading us to a glorious solution for our depravity found in later chapters. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) “The person who has faith in Christ has already had judgment rendered. That person has been justified—that is, declared righteous—by God on the basis of Christ’s perfect work on his behalf.” (Got Questions)

Our victory in judgment comes from Christ. He is “our hearts’ missing piece”. He is the one who can right our motivations, spur us on to good deeds and fully pay for our sins.

There is no way around Jesus in terms of judgment. He is the payment for our debt and either we have Him or we don’t. With Him we become heirs. Without Him we face God’s wrath and pay for our sins with an eternity of death that never dies.

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