Escaping the Judgment of God? – Part 2
Introduction: It is absolutely necessary that in examining any portion of this epistle we keep always in our minds the purpose Paul had in his mind when he first penned a particular passage.[i] You can easily lose your way going through Romans if this is not done. In this section of the epistle Paul expressly tells us in verse 3:9 that he is striving to convince both Gentiles and Jews that they are guilty in the eyes of God for their particular sins. Chapter one focuses on the sins of the Gentile world and chapter two undertakes to demonstrate to the Jews that they too are guilty before God and, therefore, likewise subject to judgment. There are four variations of this theme in 2:1-16, but the essential message is the same.
I. God’s Judgment is According to Reality (2:1-4): Romans 2:1 in the Greek text begins with “Therefore”—DIO. It is the strongest inferential conjunction the Apostle had at his disposal. It links what Paul is about to declare with what he has already stated. The Jews knew the sins of the Gentiles deserved God’s wrath—but this did not alleviate their guilt. “Our own share of evil is not removed by condemning evil in others.”[ii] In 2:2, the first variation of the principle of righteous judgment is introduced. God judges according to truth. The judgment of God concerns itself with the reality of the matter (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7). Therefore, NO escape is possible (2:3). God’s goodness and patience does not mean He is indifferent to sin. To treat God so only shows contempt. Do you really think you can do this and escape God’s judgment? The Apostle frames the question so that the answer is obvious. “The verb translated think (which comes first in the Greek) is quite Pauline. It is properly an arithmetical word and means ‘to count’, ‘to reckon’. But it is often used metaphorically, where numbers are not in question, with a meaning like ‘take into account’, ‘reckon’, ‘consider’. It is a word that invites to reasoning, which may be why it turns up so often in Romans. It is suited to the argumentative style that Paul adopts throughout this letter.”[iii]
II. God’s Judgment is According to Works (2:5-11): The second variation of Paul’s theme is now developed. The Jews by refusing the Gospel are, in fact, storing up wrath for themselves on the day that God will render to each person exactly what his deeds deserve. Remember, Paul is expounding the Law—which can only condemn. “God’s judgment is not according to one’s special privileges, but according to one’s deeds, as the Mosaic Law itself teaches.”[iv] Some Christians have a difficult time understanding this verse in light of the doctrine that we are saved by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8). But there is no contradiction. Christian faith is a doing faith. It produces good works. It bears fruit.
III. God’s Judgment is According to Impartiality (2:12-15): The third variation is introduced. God’s judgment is just. He deals with all as they deserve whether Jew or Gentile. Each is judged by the light he possesses whether it is the light of the Mosaic Law, the moral law, or conscience. Note carefully that the light men possess by nature (general revelation) is not sufficient to bring salvation. God will deal with individuals according to the knowledge they have—but mere knowledge of God’s being and expectations will not satisfy divine justice. “The only virtue in hearing the law lies in hearing to do. This is exceedingly simple. A child might hear his parent’s command, might admire the clearness of his voice and the perspicuity of his words, but what of his approval if he did not obey and do as told?”[v] The point Paul is making is this: all men stand accused by the law of nature, the conscience and the memory. These three witnesses for prosecution will render everyone without excuse when they stand before God’s tribunal.
IV. God’s Judgment is According to the Gospel (2:16): Paul is seeking to drive people from their false hopes. This section of the epistle has been described as “a general statement of divine principles of judgment, made in order to destroy the refuge of lies.”[vi] God’s judgment will deal with outward conduct but also secret or hidden things. This is a reference to the secret motions and motives of the heart (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139:1-2; Jeremiah 17:10). This is clearly stated as well by Jesus (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18). This will occur on the appointed Day of Judgment. Note the role Paul gives the Gospel. Some think this awkward or strange. But the Gospel does not preclude the thought of judgment, as Morris has written, it demands it. “Unless judgment is a stern reality, there is nothing from which sinners need to be saved and accordingly no ‘good news’, no gospel.”[vii]
Conclusion: There will be no escaping the day of God’s judgment. It is coming, and with each passing moment it draws closer. God must judge sin—all sin. He can do no other. He is holy and righteous in all that He does. How will you fare before Him? What will you do when He calls you to account? The Gospel message declares that Jesus Christ, God’s own dear Son, died for sinners. He was judged in their stead. He atoned for their sins. Heed the words from Augustus Toplady’s famous hymn: “When I soar to worlds unknown, See Thee on Thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”
[i] We are experiencing in the culture at large and within the ranks of evangelicalism, a hermeneutical crisis. Stanley Grenz, a professing evangelical theologian who teaches at Regent College, urges Evangelicals to develop a new paradigm for understanding the Christian faith. Evangelicals, Grenz says, must shift from a creed-based-propositional understanding of their faith to one that is more in touch with the Post-modern world. Part of this Post-modern approach would entail revamping our definition of truth and require us to locate authority in the “community of faith” rather than in the Bible. Among other things this new hermeneutic tells us that the meaning of any particular passage depends not on what the Biblical author meant but on how the text functions for the reader. Thus the text may not be objectively and universally authoritative but is culturally conditioned. For a critique, cf. D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Zondervan, 1996), pp.443-489 and R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Contending for the Truth in an Age of Anti-Truth” in Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, eds. J.M. Boice and B.E. Sasse (Baker, 1996), pp.63-68.
[ii] Adolf Schlatter, Romans: The Righteousness of God (Hendrickson, 1995), p.48.
[iii] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (IVP, 1988), p.111.
[iv] S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Romans: Believers Bible Bulletin (Believers Chapel, 1980), p.4.
[v] James Stifler, The Epistle to the Romans (Revell, 1949), p.31
[vi] W.H. Griffith-Thomas, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (rpt. Eerdmans, 1962), p.81.
[vii] L. Morris, op. Cit., p.129.
In John, the second volume in the St. Andrews Expositional Commentary series, Dr. Sproul deals with major themes in his easily understandable style. Readers will find invaluable insights into the goals John had in writing his Gospel, the background for Jesus time, and the meanings of some of Johns most difficult passages. This introduction to the Gospel of John is packed with insights and exhortations that will draw the reader closer to the Savior and encourage him or her to a greater depth of love and devotion to Him.
John presents the fruits of Dr. R. C. Sprouls lifetime of biblical study as expressed in his most recent calling. After a long and distinguished ministry as a teacher in various settings, Dr. Sproul accepted a call in 1997 to preach at St. Andrews in Sanford, Florida. There, he adopted the ancient practice of preaching through books of the Bible, eventually working his way through several of them. He has now begun to adapt those sermon series in book form, and the result is the St. Andrews Expositional Commentary series.
Dr. Sproul confesses that he attained a new depth of understanding of the Gospel when he preached through the book. Nevertheless, he came to the Gospel after much study of it, and that familiarity is readily apparent from the first chapter on the Prologue of John’s Gospel to the final chapter on Peter’s restoration.
John includes fifty-seven chapters, each of which began as a St. Andrew’s sermon. Dr. Sproul deals with major themes as he moves through the book passage by passage. Though the book is an “expositional commentary” that is, it does not deal with each and every verse, it unpacks major themes in Dr. Sproul’s easily understandable style. Readers will find invaluable insights into the goals John had in writing his Gospel, the background for Jesus’ time, and the meanings of some of John’s most difficult passages. It is an easily readable introduction to this unique record of Jesus’ life, packed with insights and exhortations that will draw the reader closer to the Savior and encourage him or her to a greater depth of love and devotion to Him.