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2-6 How will God Judge men

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MBC - 9/19/2004 - Pastor Doug Thompson

“How Will God Judge Men?”

Romans 2:6-16

ROM 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

ROM 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

ROM 2:6 who will render to each person according to his deeds:

ROM 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;

ROM 2:8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

ROM 2:9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,

ROM 2:10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

ROM 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.

ROM 2:12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;

ROM 2:13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

ROM 2:14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,

ROM 2:15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

ROM 2:16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

Explain the problem in this section. . .

In Romans, Paul is giving a systematic presentation of the Gospel--how sinful people can be forgiven of their sins, have a relationship with a holy God, and know that they are going to heaven when they die.

And he begins by showing that no person can ever be good enough to go to heaven. We’ve all been watching over the last few weeks as the prosecution in the Laci Peterson murder trial put together their argument for Scott Peterson’s guilt, piece by piece, and disproving his innocence. Paul is doing the same thing here, like the consummate prosecuting attorney, bringing forth a mountain of evidence of our guilt, and demolishing every defense and excuse and alibi that we could possibly bring up.

Ø      He has to get us convicted before he can get us acquitted! You see once the Word of God brings us to see our utter guilt and sinfulness before God, so that we throw ourselves at the mercy of the court, then we are ready for the good news of the Gospel: There is an Advocate--a divine defense attorney for sinners--Jesus Christ the Righteous. He will obtain forgiveness and eternal life for all who come to Him, broken and repentant. He has never lost a case because--the Judge is His Father!

Ø      But you only get this Advocate when you plead guilty. As long as you are holding on to even a shred of your own innocence, or hanging on to one little piece of goodness that you want to show the Judge--Jesus won’t represent you! How can He when you seek to represent yourself?

In ch.1, he showed that Gentiles, non-Jews stand guilty and condemned and need Jesus Christ to represent them. That wasn’t a hard sell--especially to the Jews! They were cheering Paul on, but when he turns his attention to the Jews, good, moral, lawkeeping people, and tries to show that they need divine representation before the court of heaven, they begin to howl!

“We are sinners like the Gentiles? Are you kidding? God won’t accept us on our own merits--and you used to be a Pharisee, Paul?”

So in ch.2, I believe Paul is taking on these imaginary Jewish challengers, and I believe he is saying, “So are you saying that you want to be judged by God on your own merit? Is that what you want--to stand before God and be judged on the basis of the good that you have done? Because if that is what you want, God will oblige you! He will judge you on the basis you choose, but I need to remind you how you will be judged. I need to tell you what the standard is that He will be using.

 

Now please try to keep in mind all that I have just said as we look at this passage this morning, because this chapter is one of the most difficult chapters to interpret in the NT. And this is going to be a different type of message because we are going to spend our time this morning looking at how to interpret it. Some of you noticed some strange sounding phrases in what we just read. Here we are, in the middle of Paul’s argument that all are hopeless sinners who desperately Christ and His righteousness in order to stand before God, and we read statements like this:

Ø      ROM 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, [God gives] eternal life;

Ø      ROM 2:9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,

Ø      ROM 2:10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Ø      ROM 2:13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

This sounds like the opposite of what I just explained. And how does it jive with what Paul says--

Ø      ROM 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; [how do you reconcile all being under sin with some who persevere in doing good, seek for glory, honor, etc.?]

Ø      ROM 3:12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one." [Again, who is left to persevere in doing good and find eternal life?]

Ø      ROM 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. [Then who are the doers of the law who are justified??]

Do you see the dilemma?

The truth is, if you just picked up your Bible, and read Romans 2, all by itself, you would probably walk away saying, “It’s very clear. We are saved by being good, doing good and keeping the Law. God judges people based upon whether they have been good enough to go to heaven!”

Now before I tell you how I resolve this dilemma, let me give three other approaches:  

1.) Paul is not speaking of how we are saved, he is speaking about the evidence of our salvation.

Look again at v.7: “those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, [will receive] eternal life.” This view says, “They aren’t earning salvation through doing good, but this will be true of every truly saved person.” So Paul is not talking in vv.7,10,13 about how a person is justified, but about sanctification--the changes--that will be evident in the life of a justified person. And what we read in vv.7,10, and 13 is not perfection, but pursuit.

Now this is the view of John MacArthur, John Piper, and many other great Bible scholars. They say, “We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but the God who justifies also sanctifies, so there will be evidence--fruit--good deeds--in the life of every true believer. So that when a Christian stands before God, he is already just before God through faith in Christ, and his works will be the evidence that he belongs to Christ.”

They would go on to say that when Paul says in v.13 that it is not the hearers of the law but the doers who will be justified, he isn’t saying that we are justified by our works, but that those who are justified by grace alone through faith alone, will be doers of the law--not perfectly--but that is the new direction of their lives. They would say that Paul is just saying what James says in Jms.2:

Ø      JAM 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

Ø      JAM 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

Ø      JAM 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;

Now I don’t think James and Paul are talking about the same thing at all, but if you know your Bibles, you can see that what these men are saying is biblical! We are going to see this truth when we get to Romans 6: those who are justified will also be sanctified! We are going to see it as Jim opens up 1 John to us. And I believe that it is true that when we stand before God on the day of judgment, our works will be judged:

Ø      2CO 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

This includes Christians! Their salvation is not in question at the last judgment, but their works will be judged and those that were done out of faith and in the Spirit will be rewarded, and yes, they will serve as a testimony to all creation that God was truly at work in all of His children--

Ø      1CO 3:13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.

Ø      1CO 3:14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.

Ø      1CO 3:15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Now get what I’m going to say here: The question is not whether or not these truths are in the Bible, the question is: “Is that what Paul is teaching here in Romans 2?” I don’t think so, but let me give you another interpretation.

2.) Paul is speaking about the basis of our future justification.

I.e. vv.7,10,13 are not just evidence of the way a justified person lives, they are the basis for justification. It’s not just that when God justifies a person He also sanctifies that person so that they do good things. This view says that it’s because a person does good things that God justifies that person. We are saved by faith and works. God justifies, not the ungodly, but the godly.

This is the way cults and false religions would interpret this passage: “Good people go to heaven, of course! If you want to go to heaven, you had better be really good!” For example, 7th Day Adventists appeal to verse 13 as proof that we must keep the law to be saved--even though the whole book of Romans and Galatians teach exactly the opposite!

Ø      Our 25th celebration is coming up. Some folks remember our big 15 year celebration with the tent. After one of our evening meetings, we found that the local Adventist Church had canvasses our parking lot and put a booklet on each windshield. In that book it said that anyone who fails to keep the Saturday Sabbath will go to hell, and anyone who violates the OT dietary laws and eats unclean animals will go to hell. It says, “Anyone who eats the flesh of swine or the mouse will be sent to hell.” Now when is the last time you ate a mouse?

This is the antithesis of the gospel, but it is at the heart of every false gospel: works-righteousness. It might include faith in Christ, but it always couples that with your own good works. That is the devil’s gospel, and anyone who is trusting in any way in their own good works cannot also hope to be saved by grace!

But a version of this view, that our own good works are the basis for our justification, is being preached and proclaimed today from evangelical seminaries and pulpits. And as your shepherd, I need to warn the flock about this dangerous teaching. It’s hard to put one label on it, but when you hear the term “New Perspectives,” or “New Perspectives on Paul,” beware!

Ø      N.T Wright: (on Rom.2:13) “Justification, at the last will be on the basis of performance.”

Ø      Rich Lusk: “Future justification is according to works. Final justification is to the (faithful) doers of the law (Rom. 2:1ff) and by those good works which make faith complete (Jas. 2:14ff). Justification will not be fully realized until the resurrection.”(Of Jms.2): James is not telling his readers how to “justify their justification” or how to “give evidence of a true and lively faith” [2]. Instead he says their persons will not be justified by faith alone, but also by good works of obedience they have done. The use of the preposition “by” is important since it indicates a sort of dual instrumentality in justification. In other words, in some sense, James is speaking of a justification in which faith and works combine together to justify [3].

Ø      Norm Shepherd: (on Rom.2:13) “Faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ will be justified.” He also says that justification ultimately takes place at the final judgment and that the obedient believer may lose his or her justification by failing to continue in faithful obedience. (See “Covenant Confusion” p.12)

Ø      Thom Smith: “Every reference to the Last Judgment in the NT makes works the basis of the final outcome.” . . . In this sense, these things are evidences of faith, and they are not. . . They are more than evidences in that they are realities, and they are the basis of this final justification.”

Ø      Don Garlington: “The future tense, appearing in this setting of last judgment, serves to underscore that there is a phase of justification yet to be.”

Ø      Douglas Wilson: “We also have to say, using biblical language, that we are justified by good works.”

Now don’t drift off on me here! If what these men are saying is true, then you are not yet justified, the verdict is still out, you can’t have assurance of your salvation--as the one man said, you could lose what you have, and you do not--I repeat--you do not have peace with God right now through being justified by faith (Rom.5:1). And what is your hope for salvation? Is it in the once-for-all completed work of Christ on the cross and a once-for-all, past tense, done deal justification that happened when you believed? Or is your hope in your own good works, being enough of a “doer of the law” (however much that is) to be justified at the final judgment? There is no peace in that, there is no good news in that.

We will be talking more about the New Perspectives view, but let me give you what I believe is the correct interpretation--

3.) Paul is simply giving the impossible standard the law demands of one who would be justified by it.

So look again at v.7: Yes, those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality will receive eternal life--but does anyone do that--perfectly? No. How about v.10: yes, those who do good will receive glory, honor, and peace. But according to Paul just a few vss. later, who does good? No one.

V.13. yes doers of the law will be justified--but what is God’s standard for being a doer of the Law--trying real hard? No--perfection, so no one will be justified by this standard.

Do you see what I am saying? Some people call this the hypothetical view because Paul is saying, “Sure, go ahead and try to get saved by your own efforts--it can be done--if you are perfect, but what do the Scriptures say?”

Ø      JAM 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

Ø      ECC 7:20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Now I want to tell you why I believe this is what Paul is saying here--

Let’s remember our context here: All are under sin, whether Jew or Gentile. No one measures up to God’s perfect holiness, not the Gentile who sins against the light of nature and his own conscience, and not the person who has God’s Word. All fall short. In v.19, Paul is giving the closing argument of the prosecution--

Ø      ROM 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; [i.e., every person stands convicted--guilty on all counts]

Ø      ROM 3:20 because by the works of the Law [or by “doing the Law”] no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. [The law is not a way to be saved, it is simply the holy standard. No one can keep it perfectly, it just shows that to be true!]

End of the Law section, and the next verse begins the Gospel section--

Ø      ROM 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

Ø      ROM 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

Ø      ROM 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Ø      ROM 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

There are none righteous, there are none who have obeyed the law perfectly to be justified by it. But there is good news, God has provided a way of justification for those whom the law condemns, and it is apart from your law-keeping. Now I say “your” lawkeeping, because it is not apart from Christ’s lawkeeping. The Gospel doesn’t come along and say, “God’s law, nah, that doesn’t have to be kept, God has changed the rules.”

No! The gospel says, the law must be kept--you can’t keep it--but Christ has kept it for all who trust in Him--

Ø      ROM 5:19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. [Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded! Jesus is the One who fulfilled Romans 2:7,10, and 13--Jesus was the perfect “doer of the Law”]

So back to Romans 2: Paul isn’t even ready yet to talk about the Gospel solution, he is still dealing with the Law-problem; the impossible standard that no man can keep! And I don’t believe he is ready to talk about the evidence of our salvation--he will do that in chs.6ff.

The best way to see Romans 2 is this: It is directed to people who are ready to take on the works challenge--they are determined to stand before God with all their good works and see if He will accept them on that basis. And Paul is saying, “Fine, as long as you do it perfectly. But you can’t!” This is what he says a few chapters later--

Ø      ROM 9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;

Ø      ROM 9:31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.

Ø      ROM 9:32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,

Ø      ROM 9:33 just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."

Do you see what he is saying? The Jews missed salvation because they were trying to earn it by their good works, not through simply trusting in Christ. They stumbled over the stumbling stone--Christ--why? The same reason every unbeliever stumbles over Jesus Christ: They didn’t want to give up their own good works and simply trust in Him.

And they had the wrong idea--which is being put forth again by the New Perspectives people, that God doesn’t really demand perfection when it comes to lawkeeping, just giving it your best shot. So you could be classified as a “doer of the law” if you did your best--but how much is enough??

Remember what we saw a couple of weeks ago: God demands absolute perfection when it comes to obeying His law--

Ø      GAL 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the Law  [as many as are trying to earn salvation by lawkeeping] are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them."

So the OT said, “You can’t be saved by law-keeping, because you have to keep it perfectly--and no one does.”

But the OT also said that salvation was never by law-keeping, it was always through trusting God--

Ø      GAL 3:11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith." [He goes on--]

Ø      GAL 3:12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them."

I.e., Those who are trying to be saved by lawkeeping, aren’t living by faith in God, they are living by faith in themselves.

So how does this apply to what Paul says about the Gentiles in vv.14-16? Let’s read it again:

Ø      ROM 2:14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,

Ø      ROM 2:15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

Ø      ROM 2:16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

Paul has just shown that those who have the Law of God can never be saved by keeping that Law because the standard is perfection. Well what about Gentiles who don’t have the law--wouldn’t it be unfair for God to judge them by a law they don’t have?

Yes. And He won’t. He will judge them by the law they do have, the one written in their hearts. And they show that because every culture has a moral standard--it is inescapable. And this is proven by the fact that every man knows that sometimes he keeps his standard and sometimes he doesn’t.

{Read from C.S. Lewis in Boice, 237}

Will any people who have never heard of Christ be saved by living up to their own standards? No, because the don’t. We already saw that in ch.1. Here is the key to understanding this whole section:

Ø      ROM 2:12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;

That settles it, doesn’t it? We all need divine representation. “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” We all need to raise our hands and say, yes, that’s me--busted, flat broke, give me Jesus!”

* * *

? - Do you have peace with God because you are a doer of the Law--or because you are trusting in Jesus Christ as a doer of the law in your place? When you have those quiet moments when you ask yourself, “Am I going to heaven?” Do you look at yourself and ask, “Have I done enough?” or do you look at Christ and say, “He has done enough for me!”

? - Do you choose to be judged by your works, or Christ’s?

Beloved, no man has a right to criticize God! Because in the end, God gives people what they want. If a person wants to be judged by his or her works, God will judge that person by their works. And every person who is judged on that basis will be condemned. But if I trust in Christ I will be pardoned because God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”

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