“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. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 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 2:1-3
After having told us of God’s just wrath revealed from heaven against sin (Romans 1:18), explaining the radical depravity of sinful, fallen man (Romans 1:18-27), and listing sins generated from the depraved, reprobate mind of the God-hating sinner (Romans 1:28-32), the Holy Spirit, through the apostle, directs His discourse to the congregation of believers in Rome.
Some commentators would suggest that Paul is addressing those who have come from a background of Greek philosophy, of people who desire to do good deeds among men. Others suggest that because the Law of Moses is mentioned (Romans 2:12), and that the Jews were specifically mentioned (Romans 2:9), that Romans 2:1 is addressing the Jews who might have a tendency to think that they are not as bad as the heathen because, after all, they had the venerated Law of Moses.
I tend to believe that the general addressee from this opening, “…O man…” (Romans 2:1, 3), coupled the implication of Paul’s remark with regard to his apostleship to the Gentiles (Romans 1:13), suggests that he is speaking to anyone of a religious inclination, whether of that person be of Jewish origin or non-Jewish. This general address to everyone also asserts a timelessness concerning the Word of God. This means that the whole Bible (and Romans 2 in particular) is as relevant to us today as a church, as it was to the believers at Rome two thousand years ago.
Romans 2:1-2 begins with a statement of truth concerning the judgment of God in order that we might ponder the questions posed in Romans 2:3-4. What statement, then, is made in vv1-2? It tells us that, apart from the grace of God in the righteous Christ, even the most religious observer is guilty of the same sins as those idolaters mentioned in Romans 1:18-32.
“And [Jesus] spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 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. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” —Luke 18:9-14
This parable of the Lord gives us meaningful insights to Romans 2:1-3. Stephen Charnock says, “A proud faith is as much a contradiction as a humble devil.”
Matthew 7:1-5 also provides us meaningful insights,
1. “Do not judge lest you be judged. 2. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4. Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (NASB).
Matthew 7:1-5 has been very abused, misused and misinterpreted too very often— probably because vv3-5 are neglected. Matthew 7:1-5 speaks of the same hypocritical judgment of Romans 2:1-3. It is not a warning to us against judging those who are professing the name of Christ while at the same time proclaiming and promoting false doctrine or Biblical compromise; Romans 2:2 makes that clear when it says that the judgment of God is according to truth. In fact, here is the incredible irony: for me, as a pastor, not to tell my congregation about sin, not to teach them about God’s wrath and judgment, would be against the truth and will bring judgment upon me. For me not to expose false doctrine and not to point out error taught by others that could cause them to stray or stumble will bring judgment upon me because God has given me the responsibility to care for, feed, and nurture souls.
Again, in Romans 2:2, it doesn’t imply IF we commit these sins; it states matter-of-factly that we DO commit such things; and this is an inclusive WE because v1 says, “whosover thou art”; and Romans 2:6 speaks of “every man,” whether good or bad; while Romans 2:9 likewise speaks of “every soul” that does evil. This message is to all of us.
Romans 2:3 presents the very sobering, very somber question: “Since we do the same things (as presented in our previous article, “Things Not Proper”), do we think we will escape the judgment of God?” This question should cause us to tremble with reverence before a holy God.
There are certainly several kinds of judgments in the Bible; and in the New Testament especially. 1 Corinthians 6 speaks of judging matters within the church of God. 1 Peter 4:17 speaks of the judgment of God upon the house of God for our discipline to make us holy before Him, and for our chastisement to correct us when we err; 1 Corinthians 11:31 speaks of judging ourselves through self-examination as believers that profess to be in fellowship with Christ and with one another. Now, we make our application to this text with and in every one of these different judgments, however, the judgment spoken of primarily in Romans 2:1-16 is the future judgment of God’s wrath against sinners who commit the sins listed in Romans 1; of that judgment to come, that final judgment: “In that day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ…”
LISTEN TO THE SERMON preached on this text on August 16, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.
CLICK HERE to read the previous article in this series, “Things Not Proper” (Romans 1:29-32).