Sunday, October 9, 2011

Romans 2 - Judgment for the Self-Righteous

Romans 2:1-16

As we study Romans keep in mind the theme is that righteousness comes from God. In these early chapters we are seeing different examples of people who failed to understand that concept.

First we had the wise fools of Romans 1 who ignore God revealed in creation, and suppress the truth about God. To them, God declares their ignorance will not be excused.

Last week we looked at the morally depraved, who believed the lie which Satan has told from the beginning, "be your own god", decide for yourself what is good and evil. These sinners God has given over to their own wicked desires, to destroy themselves with corrupt behavior. This is called the wrath of abandonment.

The other forms of wrath we listed last week:

  1. Eternal wrath – separation from God and the torment of Hell
  2. Apocalyptic wrath – the judgments poured out against mankind in the day of the Lord
  3. Cataclysmic wrath – like Noah's flood or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
  4. Consequential wrath – natural results of sin (the law of sowing and reaping)
  5. Wrath of abandonment – when God withdraws from the rebellious soul

This week Paul turns his attention to the self righteous. These are Hypocrites who judge others not for how they might offend God, but for how others offend their own standard of right and wrong. These are "respectable sinners" who are seen as good people within their own circle of like-minded companions. Even though they look good on the outside they are judged because of the sin they harbor in their hearts.

1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.

The Hypocrite feels that other men's sins are worse than his own. He compares himself with the alcoholic, the drug addict, the hooker, the homosexual, the murderer and the child molester; then prides himself in his church membership, "morality", and respectability. The comparison is, of course, very flattering to him. This common mistake is exposed by a very simple truth; he is judging himself by the wrong standard.

When God grades man He does not use a curve; with Mother Theresa at the top of the scale and Hitler at the bottom. If that were the case, most of us would land comfortably in the middle of the pack or perhaps maybe even a little ahead. In fact, if you were to take a survey among your friends, you would probably uncover this "bell curve" belief in their conversation. "Well, I may not be perfect, but I'm no child molester!" "I may not be Billy Graham, but I'm better than Jeffry Dahmer!" The truth of the matter is that men will not be judged by the standards they choose; they will be judged by God's. His holy standard is the law; as explained and amplified by the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus not only explained the law in His teaching, but He also amplified it with His famous words, "but I say unto you." Following are a few examples:

Matthew 5:21-22 (NKJV)

21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire".

Matthew 5:27-28 (NKJV)
27 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart".

Matthew 5:33-35 (NKJV)
33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne;
35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King".

Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."

[To the self-righteous who say "I have not killed" God says "what about the anger in your heart?". To the self-righteous who says "I have not committed adultery" God says "what about the lust in your heart?". We judge the oath-breaker, God will judge the oath-taker. We try to love our neighbor, but who has loved their enemy? Jesus did; He loved us while we were still enemies of God.]

If people are going to measure themselves by somebody else, then they must measure themselves alongside Christ; when they do that, all grounds for hypocrisy and smugness will be swept away. Jesus was the only One on planet earth who completely fulfilled God's law with a perfectly sinless life. He is the standard; from which we fall dismally short.

We are experts at self justification. David had to hear about his own sin with Bathsheba, by Nathan's story about a sheep, before he repented. (2 Sam. 12:5-6).

At that moment, Nathan exposed the king's hypocrisy by declaring, "Thou, art the man!"

Paul says to the Hypocrite, "for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things" Romans 2:1 NKJV).

The word "hypocrite" comes from a word that means "to act a part as if on stage". The Hypocrite is an actor. He puts on a show for the benefit of others, but he cannot fool God; as Paul declares, "But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things" (Romans 2:2 NKJV).

3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?

Everyone who commits a crime thinks they will get away with it, but Paul says "Really….You think you can actually behave this way and escape God's notice"?

In another Scriptural example of hypocrisy we remember the older brother in the parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:29-30). He was so angry that his repentant younger brother had been received back fully forgiven into his family that he refused to have any part in the celebration that followed. When the father came out to urge him to join them, the older brother made a speech that was oozing with self-righteousness. He said, "Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him" (Luke 15:29-30 NKJV).

Notice the "I", "me", and "my" in that speech. Notice also how he refused to be identified as the prodigal's brother – "this son of yours". Notice also how he had the far country in his own deceitful, hypocritical heart all the time. He wanted to "make merry" too! He wanted to sow his wild oats as well! The only difference between the two boys was that the younger brother had more courage and was no hypocrite. The younger son was guilty of the sins of the flesh, but the older brother was guilty of pride, stubbornness, bitterness, and hypocrisy – the sins of the spirit. He was just as much a rebel against his father as the younger brother, and much harder to win.

Another story, told by the Lord Himself, exposes man's hypocrisy with unmistakable clarity. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells us of two men – a tax collector and a Pharisee – going down to pray. The tax collector, conscience of his deep depravation, beat his chest and cried out to God in desperation. But the Pharisee, proceeded to tell God what an exemplary man he was. He said, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke 18:11-12 NKJV). And what did Jesus say about this smug and prideful Pharisee? He said that only the tax collector's prayer was heard by God that day, "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14 NKJV).

4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Sometimes we mistake God's delay for a "hall pass" to continue in sin. In reality God's "forbearance and longsuffering" is our opportunity to repent!

Because God doesn't exact immediate judgment, we imagine that He never will. What's even worse is that we persuade ourselves that God has nothing to avenge; so that when wars and famines and personal tragedies do come we throw up our hands and say "why me Lord"?

5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds":

I've talked to some who challenge the New Testament view of judgment and Hell saying they Old Testament did have the same ideas.

"For You render to each one according to his work." (Psalm 62:12)

"And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:12)

Now compare this to Revelation 20.

"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works." (Rev. 20:12-13)

The hypocrite faces certain judgment. "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath ". This refusal to repent, is the fire under the pressure-cooker of God's wrath getting hotter and hotter until it one day explodes in final judgment; when we are judged for our works who's righteousness do you want to stand on; Christ's or your own?

7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Taken out of context it looks like this passage teaches that salvation is by works; that salvation can be earned by patiently doing good. But such an interpretation is foreign to the entirety of Scripture. So, we must remember that this passage deals with God's basis of judgment. In the Bible judgment is according to our works; SALVATION IS BY FAITH. Remember Chapter 1 taught that the righteousness of God is revealed when those who are justified by faith, live by faith. Good works are the evidence of faith; not the source of salvation. I have to think believing Jew's like always being mentioned firs t as recipients of salvation; but verse 9 says that will also be first in line for "tribulation and anguish", for all those who refuse to repent.

11 For there is no partiality with God. 12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law

Those who have the law have much more light than those without it. The possession of an open Bible on your lap increases your opportunity to know God's will. But light is light regardless of how dim or bright it might happen to be.
If a person were lost in a dark forest at night, the least glimmer of light would attract him; and if he desired deliverance from the darkness, he would move toward that light. However, if he had some guilt to hide, he would not respond to the light, except to hide or run from it, regardless of its dimness or brightness. Judgment awaits all who reject the light; but for those who have had a greater advantage, there is even a greater guilt.

13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

The law which the Gentiles had was not in code but in conscience. Remember we discussed in chapter 1 that having a moral conscience is a part of being created in the "Image of God". God's general laws have been written into the innate consciousness of the soul. Conscience is God's watchdog in the soul; but it can be silenced and even seared. In fact, it is quite possible to obtain the approval of conscience on a wrong act. Conscience must be educated and monitored by the Word of God. The more conscience is ignored, the more it is desensitized and eventually silenced in one's life.

16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

The secrets of men! What a fearful day that will be when God begins to call to light the hidden works of darkness! It is this fear that originally lead me to salvation in my youth.

The problem with self-righteousness is that true righteousness comes from God and thus is only valid for His purpose not our own. The same is true for conviction; God uses it to bring us to redemption, not to make one man feel superior to another. Hypocrites do not escape because God sees what is in our hearts!

Questions for discussion:

1. What group of people did Jesus rebuke more than any other during His time on earth; and why?

2. How are we so often like the Pharisees in Jesus day?

3. Is there hope for the "Hypocrite"? What should a person, who is relying on his own righteousness, do to get right with God and avoid the coming wrath?

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