Monday, July 13, 2009
Romans 2: 1-16
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares." (Romans 2:1-16)
Verse 1: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else..."
This is similar to Matthew 7:1-5: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
These verses are condemning hypocritical or self-righteous judgment of others. Jews tended to look down on Gentiles and saw them as pagans.
Today, an equivalent might be a white person saying that black people are all criminals, just because they are black, or saying that Mexicans are all lazy, just because they are Mexican. This same self-righteous hypocrisy is attributed to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13-39.
However, people will often misuse these verses to say, "You can't judge," when someone else says something like "Homosexuality is a sin." This is a wrong interpretation, because, for example, Matthew 7:6 says "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs." We must use judgment to determine who are "dogs" or "pigs."
(BTW, I believe "dogs" and "pigs" refer to those who reject the gospel after it is presented to them. If they don't want to hear the gospel, then you are wasting the words of Life on them if you continue trying to force it upon them.)
Another example of how we must use judgment is 1 Corinthians 5:9, which tells us not to associate with sexually immoral people. We must use judgment in order to determine who is sexually immoral. And 2 Corinthians 7:14 says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, so we must use judgment and discernment to guard against this. Philippians 3:2 says "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh," referring to Paul's opponents who were opposed to the gospel and had distorted the meaning of circumcision. They had to use judgment and discernment to determine who those people were. 1 John 4:1 exhorts us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits, because there have been many false prophets. Again, we have to use judgment and discernment to do so. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 also tells us to test everything.
1 Corinthians 6:3 says, "Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!"
1 Corinthians 5:3 states, "Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present."
1 Corinthians 5:12 asks, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?"
So we must judge between what is right and what is wrong (sin), and between true doctrine and false doctrine. And we must call sin what it is, because God calls it sin. However, we cannot hypocritically look down on others, and say that they are more evil than we are, because we are sinners as well.
Vs. 5. "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6. God "will give to each person according to what he has done."
Everyone will be judged according to their works. The lost will be judged (at the Great White Throne Judgment) and found wanting, because even one "tiny" sin (though in reality, no sin is tiny) will keep a person out of Heaven. God does not judge on a curve, as some people think. Neither does God weigh a person's good deeds against their bad deeds on a scale. Instead, God judges us against the standard of His own holiness.
Verse 6 suggests that there will be different levels of punishment in Hell. A person who lived a relatively moral life (at least, in comparison with other people) will not suffer the same as a mass murderer. Rev. 20:12-13 also talks about the dead being judged according to what they had done.
"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:47-48) This suggests different levels of punishment. "Entrusted with much" may refer to the amount of spiritual truth they were exposed to; also compare Luke 12:47-48 to Romans 2:12-16.
But the saved will also be judged according to works. However, their sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ, and the righteousness of Christ has been attributed to them (Jesus' perfect, sinless life on earth apparently serves as a substitution for our sinful lives on earth; He lived as the Second Adam, living the perfect life which Adam failed to do). So, just as God looked down at the broken tablets containing the Ten Commandments in the Ark of the Covenant, and saw them covered by the Atonement Cover (the Mercy Seat, which was the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant) sprinkled with the blood of the spotless lamb, so God sees the believer as covered by the blood of Jesus the Spotless Lamb. God sees the ransomed elect as holy and righteous. So the Great White Throne Judgment will not be an issue for the saved.
However, the works of the saved will be judged at the Bema Seat, also referred to as the Judgment Seat of Christ. But they will not be judged as to their salvation. Heaven is already promised to them. Rather, their good works will be judged to see how much of a reward (if any) they are to receive. Those things that were not done for the sake of Christ (in other words, those 'good works' that were done for selfish reasons) will be burned up. For whatever remains, they will be rewarded. However, they will later cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus, because, without Jesus (and the power of the Holy Spirit), they wouldn't be able to do anything at all, and without Jesus, they wouldn't even make it into Heaven.
"12. All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law..."
This helps answer the question, "What about the people who have never heard the gospel?" God judges according to the light available to people. Gentiles will not be condemned for not obeying a law they did not possess. However, they still have a God-given conscience---by the conscience, God has written His law on their hearts, because they still basically know the difference between right and wrong, and our conscience accuses us of those things we know are wrong.