Church on Trial
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 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? 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, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 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? 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, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. 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; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 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, 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, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
INTRO: Last week, we took a look at the “Human Condition” in . This condition is one in which unrighteousness is displayed in all sorts of sinful acts and it all stems from suppressing the truth about WHO God is. And we wrapped up our time together by acknowledging our obligation to share the Gospel - which, BTW, should be coupled with an eagerness because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for ALL who believe! ()
Today, we move into Chapter 2, and I’ve titled the message “Church on Trial.” Some of you are already uncomfortable. That is not a bad thing.
How many of you like watching trials? Some of you were glued to the TV during the OJ Simpson trial. Others may have watched intently during the uni-bomber trial or others. Or maybe you just like watching TV shows that are based on lawyers and trials- Matlock & Perry Mason for some of you, maybe Law & Order for others… we tend to be entertained or at least intrigued when it comes to trials.
Perhaps this is because we have an innate desire to see justice prevail. Or maybe because we like to try to play detective and figure out the puzzle. Some of you simply like to argue and watch these shows so that you can learn new techniques...
Well, similarly to a trial at the local courthouse, in , we see Paul bring forth a case and argument against the church in Rome. Now, before we get into this, let me say that this was not done vindictively or with the intention to beat down the Christians there. Nor was it a display of self-righteousness where we might imagine Paul looking down upon them.
No, if we remember rightly, Paul sees what God has done in the church already - he is grateful for them and their faith which is proclaimed throughout the whole world () and he can see what God wants to do in the church, so this ‘trial’ as I call it, is an act of love as Paul is seeking God’s best for the church in Rome.
So, let us begin to look at this together:
What is the charge that Paul is bringing against the church? Let’s read verses 1-2 together.
The indictment/ charge is that they were passing judgment on people for their sins, yet their lives were filled with the same kind of practices.
This can be called HYPOCRISY
Now, before we get too far, we must recognize what was going on.
This was NOT those in the church calling sin “sin”. I believe Scripture is clear that we are to call sin what it is and we are to encourage one another to live in a manner that resists sin and pursues righteousness.
What Paul is talking about is an attitude by which those in Rome were looking down upon those who were not saved.
They equated their sin with their value
They placed ‘unrighteous people’ as enemies and pushed them away
They counted them unworthy of time or effort- perhaps beyond the reach of God’s mercies
They saw themselves as worthy, ignoring personal sin.
So, here is what is happening- the church in Rome was professing Jesus and yet their lives and actions were pushing away those who were in need of the Gospel. The ones who were in their community who were lost and on their way to hell could not come to the church because the church would condemn them. They didn’t tell the message of love, hope, and forgiveness through Christ. They didn’t preach repentance and belief, but rather they pushed these people away, perhaps scoffing at the very idea that these unrighteous folks would ever belong to that church. After all, they were sinners. They were liars, drunks, and idolators. They were adulterers and fornicators. They were homosexuals and abortion advocates.
This was the situation in Rome… I fear it might be the situation in our churches today as well.
Friends, what Paul is saying in this charge is this: We deserve hell as much as they do. BUT JESUS!! It is by GRACE we have been saved through faith not of our own so that none should boast...
It’s the belief that we can blame others and excuse ourselves. I want you to imagine that you are driving down I-26 and you are going 70 MPH in a 60 MPH zone. You get pulled over. But instead of admitting that you were indeed breaking the law, you instead insist that you are innocent because there are a hundred other people who are speeding and going 71 MPH. Why should you be pulled over? You weren’t the fastest car...
That’s the same deflection that Adam used in the Garden when God questioned him about eating the fruit… It was that woman you gave me!!!
That would be like telling the officer who pulled you over to write the ticket for your spouse sitting in the passenger seat because they were the ones nagging you about how slow you were going,
If you are spending your time pointing your finger instead of reaching out your hand; if you are pronouncing curses instead of proclaiming Christ, you are condemning yourself in your hypocrisy (1).
We point to the people who miss church but yet we refuse to apply the teaching. In our homes, we excuse our lack of compassion or our laziness while complaining that you do everything and she’s never in the mood....
The indictment is hypocrisy. Next Paul asks a series of questions that we might see as the Interrogation.
Interrogations are like interviews. It’s when a person is asked a series of questions in order to reveal the truth. We see this on the police dramas… Of course there’s usually this whole “good cop/ bad cop” thing, right? You have one guy throwing chairs- he’s loud and kind of slobbers when he speaks… he might seem a little unstable. And then this other guy who is calm and nice… We don’t have that here. It’s just Paul.
The first question Paul asks is in v. 3 (read)
In other words, who do you think you are?
If you pass judgment- again this is the act of condemning a person, not identifying sin… if you pass judgment and are doing the same things, do you not think that you too will be judged?
So, if you believe that these people are hopelessly lost and deserve hell, yet you too are a sinner who deserves hell, how do you pass the judgment of hell upon them without also condemning yourself to the same fate?
God is just. He does not grade on a curve. So Paul asks, Who do you think you are?
Now, you might wonder HOW they passed this judgment so that we can evaluate ourselves here, so let’s look at a couple possibilities:
By refusing to share the Good News.
They proclaim forgiveness and cleansing for themselves, but do not believe that God’s mercy is for that person or ‘those people.”
Here, we try to play God and choose who we do and do not want to come into God’s Kingdom. (Danger!!!)
Yes, I am a forgiven sinner, but they are much worse than I, so...
By requiring others to obtain a level of holiness BEFORE they can come into fellowship.
So, this is where we expect someone to be sanctified before we are willing to play nice.
It’s saying that the grace of God is not enough- they may struggle with this sin or that sin for some time after salvation- you do too. It might mean that they are still working through how to give up a certain vice or lifestyle. They need Christians around them to model love and forgiveness, but instead they receive a cold shoulder and condemnation.
The next question is a hard to swallow as the first (Read verse 4)
Do you think lightly of God’s mercy? Do you think that God somehow CAN’T forgive and save these people?
Or do you think that God did not have to do as much to save you?
These questions are meant to make us evaluate our understanding of our own depravity. We too were DEAD in our trespasses! God had to reach down just as far to save me as He does to save a murderer, rapist, a thief, an adulterer, an LGBTQ person, etc.
And look at the last part of verse 4- Do you not know that it is God’s kindness and patience towards sinners that leads to repentance?
I think about the Roman church and wonder if they thought the best approach to making those unrighteous people in their community come to faith in God was by berating them, shaming them, shunning them, spitting on them.
I wonder if they ever tried to form a relationship with one of these folks and show them love, pray for them, and share the hope of Jesus.
So, let is ask these questions of ourselves too. Let us sit on the stand and answer these questions and consider what Paul has to say next as he highlights the implications of this trial.
As you can imagine, the charge of hypocrisy and the questions we’ve reviewed are not without consequence. So, what does Paul have to say about this- let’s read together (23-24)
Here’s what Paul is saying: “Through your hypocrisy, you are dishonoring God. Your words and actions against the unbelievers cause them to hate God.”
In fact, I’d say that the message being sent to the unbelievers in Rome must have been something like, “You do not have a place here. You do not belong in God’s house or His Kingdom.”
And this is pretty serious. This indicates that the people around the church who were broken and drowning in sin - who had no hope were told that there was NO HOPE! They are being pushed away from the only ONE who can save them! So, they are told that their sin is too BIG, that their failures are too great, and that God has no use for them.
Yet, the HOPE OF JESUS is supposed to be available through the church. Our whole mission is to “Go and make disciples of ALL nations...”
That is the REASON Christ created the church!!!
So the implications are that through the hypocrisy of the church- through our condemnation of those who are unrighteous, we hold ransom the forgiveness and freedom that Christ offers. And because we push them away, we become catalysts / spring boards for the increase of animosity towards God and His people.
Why don’t people come to church? Because through these actions we are telling them that there is no place for them here.
Why do so many choose to deny God? Because what they see is not the kindness and patience of Christ, but the angry condemnation of the church.
Friends, this is a difficult lesson for us. And though we might have the tendency to deny this charge, I want to encourage us to examine our hearts.
Let’s choose to extend our hand and heart to those who think differently than we do.
Let’s choose to lovingly share and model the Good News of Jesus to those who are broken.
Jimmy Scroggins pointed out once that we are all beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. That bread is the Bread of Life.
Maybe it’s the teenager who has chosen to pursue their sexual lusts
Maybe it’s the woman who has chosen to have an abortion
or the couple living together
Maybe it’s the person who sits on the opposite political party
Jimmy Scroggins pointed out once that we are all beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. That bread is the Bread of Life.
Hey, maybe that’s you this morning. Maybe you are living in brokenness and you have tried to fix it on your own through drugs or sex or money… listen, there is Good News for you.
The price has been paid for your sins. You must simply repent and believe. If that’s you this morning, I’d love to share with you how to make that next step.
Let ‘s pray.
Let me show you something- maybe you’ve seen this before- we shared this with the youth last year at our D-NOW event. Actually, this past week, I was at a conference where Jimmy Scroggins, the pastor at FBC West Palm Beach FL spoke. He is the guy who came up with the visual known as 3 circles. I think it’s relevant and helpful here too.
If you’d like to talk with someone about how you can pursue a relationship with Jesus, you come during this time.