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The Righteous Judgment Of God

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;” (Romans 2:5)

We all say that we wish that justice was perfect, but we don’t really mean that. We are appalled when a guilty criminal fails to receive the punishment that he is due because of some technicality or soft judge lets him off with a “slap on the wrist” and, in our hot indignation, we complain that the criminal should have been punished more severely. In those moments of anger and frustration, we long for a world where justice is swift, impartial and consistent; a world where every wrong-doer gets what they deserve. We all have a sense deep within us that everyone should be held accountable for their actions and that nobody should be able to get by with any misdeed…that is, nobody except ourselves.

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” (Luke 18:11)

The evangelist Ravi Zacharias was once sharing the Gospel with a man who frankly told him that he had no interest in becoming a Christian or serving God. “How can a loving God allow murderers, thieves, evil dictators, child abusers, rapists, and all sorts of other wicked people to do the things they do and not punish them for it? If that is how God is, then I want no part of Him!”, the man declared. Ravi Zacharias listened to the man’s objections and calmly replied, “I wonder if you are as concerned with your own sins as the sins of others?”

It is the inherent tendency of man to judge sin and immorality on a sliding scale, and that slide on the scale usually ends right at the point where our own personal shortcomings begin. Morality, for most people, is a relative sort of thing whose boundaries always seem to be drawn right at the edge of our own distastes. If someone else engages in behavior that we personally find deplorable, if someone else commits a transgression that we ourselves might have never been tempted to commit (or at least have yet to give in to that temptation), then what they have done is wrong. Romans Chapter 1 described some very graphic abominations that most people in polite society, both devout and irreligious alike, have never fully descended into. Most people are going to agree that many of the things listed are wrong. Most people are going to be able to think of specific examples of others, both famous and individuals whom they have personally encountered, who are guilty of many of these wicked deeds. Unfortunately, most people are going to fail to recognize their own guilt at any of these points.

One of the greatest obstacles in the Apostle Paul’s day standing in the way of people receiving the Gospel was the hypocrisy of those to whom he witnessed. They simply rejected the Good News of a Savior because they failed to recognize their own need for One. Oh, they could think of many other people who sure needed One, but not them. They could tell you about their neighbor who had committed adultery, or their brother who had stolen money from the man he worked for — indeed, these miscreants were in dire need of a Savior — but they themselves had no need of forgiveness. Things have changed little in our own day. The sad truth is that most people in this world will never receive the forgiveness and Salvation that is in Christ because they will never admit their need for it. Some of the hardest people to reach with the Message of the Gospel are those who are the most outstanding members of the community. They run businesses, donate to charity, help their neighbors, and even attend church regularly. Some are even serving in positions within the church. All of these things have done little more than give them an acute perception of the mote in the eyes of others while blinding them to the beam in their own (Matt. 7:3-5).

Without Excuse

“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” (Romans 2:1)

Paul told the atheist back in Rom. 1:20 that they are without excuse who deny God’s existence; he tells the moralist that they are without excuse here in Rom. 2:1. Without excuse, anapologetos; without an “apology”, without an “explanation” or “defense.” The excuse is taken away, not because the judgments that are made are inaccurate or inappropriate, but because they are accurate. It is not the act of judging that condemns, but the recognition in the judgment that the sin is sin. When we acknowledge that theft is wrong and they who do so are thieves, we are acknowledging that we ourselves are thieves when we steal. Granted, we may have been pointing our finger at someone who robbed a bank or embezzled funds from their employer and not ourselves for swiping a couple of office supplies or “stealing” from our own employers by taking an extra long break. But in God’s eyes, stealing is wrong regardless of the severity of it. By accusing others of their own sins, we are acknowledging that we can distinguish right from wrong and, therefore, will never be able to invoke ignorance of God’s moral expectations on man as an excuse.

God’s Perfect Judgment

“But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.” (Romans 2:2)

As we looked at earlier, we all have that inward desire for perfect justice to be carried out and for everyone to get what they deserve. The bad news is that is exactly what will happen one day. God’s perfect judgment will be made according to truth; not according to our excuses, not according to our standards, but according to His. God will judge all of those people guilty of the terrible crimes that we find so appalling, but He isn’t going to stop there. His judgment will continue right on against all sin and unrighteousness, even our own.

That Means Everyone

“And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3)

Or, to put it another way, “You don’t really suppose that God is going to give everyone else what they deserve and let you off the hook, do you?” I have worked in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice and it is has always amazed me how few convicted criminals believe that they have done anything wrong. I have looked into the eyes of people who have committed some of the most heinous crimes imaginable and listened in amazement as they complained how there were others out there walking free who were much worse people than they were! They always had some sort of explanation or excuse for what they did and felt that, because of it, they should not be serving time in prison. Oh, they could tell you how a lot of other people in the prison deserved to be there, but not them.

The Day Will Come

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;” (Romans 2:4-5)

Many people feel that they will ultimately escape the righteous judgment of God because they have not yet experienced any signs of His judgment. People even jokingly comment, “I must be doing something right” or “ God must be really looking out for me” when something good happens to them or something potentially disastrous is avoided. But God’s goodness toward us does not always mean that everything is all right between Him and us. Sometimes, it’s just the opposite.

We tend to think that God will make it clear that He is displeased with us by bringing curses and havoc into our lives. We erroneously use our circumstances as a measuring stick of our condition with God. What we fail to realize is that, very often, God will draw us to Himself and to repentance by His goodness.

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken;” (Luke 5:8-9 NKJV*)

Simon Peter had the good sense to realize that he in no way deserved such a wonderful blessing from the Lord. In the presence of God’s awesome power and goodness, Peter was keenly aware of his own shortcomings and it put him on his knees before the Lord. This was a case where God’s goodness led a person to repentance. But most people take God’s blessings in their life as a sign that everything is just fine as it is or, worse yet, that God is blessing them because they deserve to be blessed. God doesn’t bless us because we are good, He blesses us because He is good. The Day will come when God’s blessings will cease for those who have despised His goodness and nothing but His wrath will remain. No matter how good we think we are, if we reject the Salvation available through the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be judged and stand condemned.

*Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,
   Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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10 responses

  1. Loren,

    How very well put!…. We cannot honestly accept Christ as our Savior until we recognize our need for a Savior…. All of our puny good works and church going are worthless…. We need to honestly see ourselves in “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

    Many years ago at a hymn sing, someone wanted to sing “Amazing Grace”….. Another commented with a look of disdain, “I don’t like that song…. I’m NOT a wretch!”….. Still another said, “I am…. Let’s sing it.”…. Except for one, we sang with open hearts and tears.

    Thank you for this post.

    Margaret

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  2. Loren, I am quite happy that God will not give us what we deserve if only we accept the gift of salvation in Jesus. You did a great job of describing our need for a savior and the problem so many people have of thinking they don’t need one.

    Margaret, How can anyone not love “Amazing Grace?” That is unbelievable! I love that song.

    Peace, Linda

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  3. I’m happy with Linda at not getting what I deserve. And, though it’s not really funny, I’m laughing some Margaret, just seeing in my mind someone saying ,”I’m NOT a wretch!” Too much!
    Thank you Loren for this great study. I just feel like a sponge when I come here. I liked being reminded that God can draw us through hard circumstances but also through good ones. I pray that more and more we see Him in all circumstances and give Him our hearts. I do see in many of my family that lack of feeling a need for Him. It does make it hard. I have the privilege of knowing a missionary couple. They always said it was so much easier witnessing and reaching the people in Burkina Faso (West Africa) than here in America.
    God bless you and the ministry of this blog to reach others with the Good News of Jesus!

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  4. Thank you, Loren

    I continue to learn much from what God has deposited inside you. Grateful for your gifts and the way you use them for His glory.

    Because of His love and grace and mercy and compassion and so much more, I stand justified before Him. Thankful that my name is no longer written as ‘they’ and ‘them’ Romans 1 but as ‘those’ in Romans 8:1 !! I am saved to the uttermost! ( Thanks, Margaret http://123hallelujah.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/to-the-uttermost/)

    “Simon Peter had the good sense to realize that he in no way deserved such a wonderful blessing from the Lord. In the presence of God’s awesome power and goodness, Peter was keenly aware of his own shortcomings and it put him on his knees before the Lord. This was a case where God’s goodness led a person to repentance.”
    It took me a while to get here. I always said I came to God through a ‘back door’ having been born and raised in a Christian environment. Although I started walking with God at an early age, I didn’t get the concept of relationship until years later. It was God’s goodness that led me to a deeper understanding of who He is. I’m so thankful I didn’t try to justify *my* goodness but instead throw myself at His feet and thank Him for sparing me my just reward. How great is our God!!

    “We tend to think that God will make it clear that He is displeased with us by bringing curses and havoc into our lives. We erroneously use our circumstances as a measuring stick of our condition with God. What we fail to realize is that, very often, God will draw us to Himself and to repentance by His goodness.”
    My sins would most certainly have weighed me down by now had it not been for the redemption He offered. And He would have been most justified in cutting me off at the knees for all the wrong I’ve done. I too am thankful I did not get what I deserve!!

    I LOVE Amazing Grace. The concept gets my wheels a-turning. Redeemed at zero cost to me. I can’t now call myself a wretch – only because of Him. Was I once a wretch? Oh most definitely! I may have been the most wretched of wretches if I may say so myself but the blood of Christ has given me a new reason to live and a reason to hope.

    God bless you, Loren. May your relationship with Him deepen and grow even more as you make yourself available to be His hands and feet. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Blessings
    ann

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  5. this was a wonderful post to read filled with great reflection for the reader. i can’t help but get internal here and discover that indeed God’s judgment…His judgment and His mercy are so very deeply personal. He knows each one of us so well and so much better than we could ever begin to understand our own selves. When you think of it that way, to judge anyone based on their mistakes in this life seems obsurdly shallow and ignorant. We know nothing of the details of that person’s life and who they are deep down inside,…the things that God can only see…. we just don’t have the eyes for the justice of others.

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  6. “We cannot honestly accept Christ as our Savior until we recognize our need for a Savior”

    I believe that this is exactly the reason that so much space is devoted to demonstrating this need in the first few chapters of Romans. Sadly, a lot of preaching omits sections such as these entirely; or else skims quickly over them. Consequently, we have Christians like the person you mentioned here that are offended that anyone would suggest that they are a wretch. I have heard a lot of Christians who take issue with even calling themselves a sinner (“I used to be a sinner, but I’m not anymore!”). I understand why some people use the term sinner to differentiate unbelievers from believers (referring to non-Christians as “sinners”), but I personally have never felt comfortable using that kind of terminology. There are unsaved sinners and there are saved sinners, but there is only One Who could be called a “non-sinner.”

    If the Apostle Paul could call himself a sinner (1 Tim. 1:15) and a wretch (Rom. 7:24) — even after he was saved — then surely the rest of us can.

    Thanks for the great comments, Margaret, God bless you! (by the way, I love “Amazing Grace”, too, what a powerful hymn!)

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  7. Amen. All I can say is that the Lord has been so good to me :) I am grateful that He does not give to us what we deserve!

    Thanks for the encouraging comments, Linda, God bless you!

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  8. I laughed when I read Margaret’s comments, too :) There are some hymns where I might not quite agree with the theology but, come on, how can anyone take issue with “Amazing Grace?”

    I remember reading a few years ago about how there are churches in Africa, Asia, and South America that are actually now sending missionaries to the United States and Western Europe. How ironic! The United States and Great Britain were the two greatest sources of missionaries up until a hundred years ago or so. Now they have become two of the most needful nations for missionaries to come to them. And like you said, it seems that our affluent, technology-driven societies are filled with folks who are much, much harder to reach with the Gospel.

    Thanks, Deb, for the encouraging comments, God bless you!

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  9. “I stand justified before Him. Thankful that my name is no longer written as ‘they’ and ‘them’ Romans 1 but as ‘those’ in Romans 8:1 !!”

    Ann, your comments always give me much to chew on :) I was thinking as I read through this about a lot of the comments people have written on these posts in Romans. It really struck me how many times people have referenced later verses in the Book of Romans in their remarks, and understandably so. For those of us who love the Lord and have been redeemed by His precious Blood, it is definitely uncomfortable to contemplate these first passages in Romans without our minds seeking out the refuge of the subsequent sections that give us our blessed assurance in Christ. Yes, all of these charges against man listed in Romans 1:18-3:20 are true; but praise be to God that we have been saved from the penalty of our actions!! The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18), but blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered (Rom. 4:8).

    As I thought about this, I considered what it would be like if Romans 3:20 was the end of the story. God told Adam that the day he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would die (Gen. 2:17). We read in Ezekiel that the “Soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20). The Apostle Paul will tell us later in Romans that the “Wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Imagine if that were the sum of revelation from God? Imagine that there existed no hope beyond this predicament and that an irrevocable sentence of eternal death hung over the head of every person without any hope of Redemption? Would God not be justified even if this were so? Praise God that He is not only just, but He is loving and merciful. Praise God that this is not the end of the story and that God has made a Way whereby we can be saved! Praise God that He has not left us in this mire of filth of man’s own design that is described in the initial chapters of Romans. Sadly, for those who reject Christ — this is the end of the story.

    “I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.” Because of what God has done for us, we are no longer lost and blind. And, amazingly, God is not looking at us as wretched sinners anymore. When we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, He remembers our sins no more (Psalm 103:12, Heb. 10:17)…Wow.

    Thanks for the encouraging comments, Ann, God bless you!

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  10. Absolutely, Sarah, what beautiful thoughts :)

    I think this is exactly why the Lord does not want us to take matters into our own hands when we are wronged (Rom. 12:19).

    Thanks for visiting and taking the time to share your comments…look forward to hearing from you again!

    In Christ,

    Loren

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