“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?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:1-5 NIV).
Reality is the Ultimate Judge
It seems that Paul is changing direction a bit in this next section. He is talking about God’s righteous judgment but he does so in the context of the sin of Jonah, the arrogance of the Jews in judging the Gentiles, even within the church in Rome. It was a big problem and getting worse.
Paul is not trying to create some sort of political peace. He is making it clear that the judgmental attitude is a sin that God will not stand for and that he is exceedingly angry about. In fact, in vs. 5, he says “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” Strong words indeed.
Can you imagine sitting in the congregation on Sunday morning and hearing the letter of Romans read aloud? After all, you haven’t exactly been subtle about your opposition to the Gentiles in the church, treating them like second-class citizens, insisting that they get circumcised in order to become true Christians. They refused, of course, citing other letters from Paul saying that they didn’t need to be circumcised. But what did you expect? Of course Paul was going to take the side of the Gentiles. He was practically a Gentile himself. He’s given up almost all of his Jewish culture and heritage and even eats with Gentiles, Christians and non-believers like.
Well, whether you liked it or not. Paul has laid down the guantlet. He has made it clear in no uncertain terms that this was not the Gospel, circumcision was not an option, and God was extremely angry about the whole thing. In fact, Paul would spend a good part of the letter to the Romans explaining his point of view on the whole matter and claiming that what he said came directly from God and was the gospel truth. Take that.
But let’s explore these verses in a little more detail because there are a few gold nuggets still to uncover. Start with verse 5 which we quoted above. Doesn’t it strike you as a bit odd that Paul says here that there is coming “a day of God’s wrath” and that God’s “righteous judgment will be revealed” on that future day? How does that fit with chapter 1:18 where Paul says that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven” right now. I add the words “right now” because that is what the greek word “revealed” is telling us. That it is happening right now on a continuous basis.
Remember that we said that the wickedness we see around us that continues without immediate punishment in a world belonging to God (and we complain about it) is a revelation of the wrath of God. That God would NOT stop evil in its tracks is both a sign of his patience (vs. 4) as well as his wrath, “giving them over” to the punishment and consequences of their own evil. We also said that the wrath of God against sin is revealed in the incredible measures that had to be taken to deal with it, namely, the death of the Son of God on the cross. The cross is a symbol of the reality of sin transformed by the love of God into a resurrection of hope in a lost and dangerous world. But what that means is that we can’t take sin lightly. It took the torture and excruciatingly painful death of the Holy Son of God to free us from the judgment to come.
Now we find out that there still is a future “day of God’s wrath” as well. And it makes sense. We know that this world is living in an uneasy truce with God, sin going unpunished for a while, evil going unchecked. Good and evil in constant struggle and battle as God implements His plan to rescue people from the clutches of the Evil One. But at some point it will come to an end and judgment will come for all mankind. In a sense, each one of us enters into judgment on the day of our death but it is also true that an end will come to this world and the day of judgment will come to all mankind. That is “the day of wrath” that Paul is talking about here.
I have shared previously that I often tell people that they are taking a huge risk with their lives. If they are right and God doesn’t exist, then so be it. They will die at some point and probably just cease to exist (we don’t really know). But if God exists and the Bible message is true, then they will continue to exist whether they like it or not and they will face judgment from a God who is angry with their godlessness and wickedness. And they will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is in the right and they are in the wrong. They will be full of fear and they will be cast out of his presence and all of the blessings of this world will be denied to them and they will face an agony in hell for all eternity. Judgment is real. The question is whether or not we are ready. And protected.
Not an easy message to give people but it is true. It is real. And that is the thing, Paul says, about God. You can play all of the games you like but God deals in realities and in truth. “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth” (Romans 2:2 NIV). Reality is truth.
If you were wondering whether God’s judgment would be fair (righteous), Paul answers that question in these verses. In my words, he is saying that “Reality is the Ultimate Judge” and that “Obedience is the Ultimate Goal” and that the “Heart is the Ultimate Standard.” In this post we are dealing with the first of these three. Reality is the Ultimate Judge.
God isn’t playing games. He is deadly serious. Our sin and wickedness is no picnic. The worst the world has to offer is war, famine, genocide, child molesting, murder, adultery, destruction. The list goes on. We all abhor these kinds of things. But God doesn’t stop there. He continues to talk about gossip, slander, disobedience to parents and the developing character of becoming “senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (1:31). We all want to excuse ourselves but if we are honest, we find ourselves to one degree or another on that list. In any event, God says, it all comes from the same source of godlessness and that is the real crime.
So, don’t come around trying to say that God isn’t fair. God will not be mocked. He deals in facts, in realities, in truth. There will be no question of whether or not you are guilty. In fact, you will agree. Your knee will bow and you will confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11 NIV). Not out of coercion but out of the acknowledgment of simple truth and reality.
We tried to live out the lie that God is dead and that we are free to do what we want. That will be shown to be a lie and we will be held accountable for our actions. We will be judged and we will be found wanting. And we will agree that His judgment is true because it will be based on reality, not lies, not interpretation, not perspective. Truth. If God exists, then we are godless. Because we are godless (or gods unto ourselves) we decided what was good or bad for ourselves. We didn’t do a great job. We will be judged. It isn’t rocket science.
The whole point of this first section of chapter two is to connect it to the end of chapter one and point out that the Jews (and many of us today) are judgmental towards others thinking that it is only about morality when morality is a symptom of a greater evil. The evil of godlessness. A willfully broken relationship with God. We want to be in charge of our own lives. We don’t trust God (or anybody else) telling us what to do. We make the final decisions. That is the real sin, the real rebellion. Breaking the law, living immorally, wickedness and evil is simply the result. And we are all godless. Even if we differ in our morality.
So, the first thing Paul tells us is that God’s righteous judgment is always based on truth. The truth of godlessness. Therefore no one, neither Jew nor Gentile, can be judgmental with another person’s morality as if they are somehow worse than you. That is sure to get God angry because, once again, we miss the point. The Devil is good at mudding up the waters but he who preaches the gospel, starting with godlessness and wickedness, as Paul does, will cut through the lies and deciet and reveal the truth.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, I know that your judgment is always right and holy and I already agree that I deserve anything that you give me. Thank you that Jesus is my substitute and that I am free from condemnation because I know that I could never stand before you on my own. Teach me not to be judgmental towards others but work hard to restore them to their relationship with you and with me. In your name I pray. Amen.