“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).
“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.