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Romans 2:1-5 -- God's Impartial Judgment - Part 1

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Romans 2:1-5

Introduction

Hypocrisy – It comes from the Greek word - ὑπόκρισις - indicating an actor playing someone else rather than himself.   Our word is a literal translation of the Greek.  One dictionary defines it this way:  Pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have.  When you think of hypocrisy, you might conjure up some political or religious person in the news who has held a firm “belief or conviction” only to be caught doing the opposite.  Jesse Jackson is a prime example.  He was the “spiritual” adviser to Bill Clinton during the Monika Lewinski scandal, only to committed adultery and to have fathered his own child out of wedlock.  Another instance is when Kramer from the Seinfield show used a very disparaging word in reference to black people at a comedy show.  Jackson went on to advocate a boycott of Seinfield and a host of other entertainment avenues of movies, books, and other t.v. shows that used a particular word, what we call the N-word.  Only this time, Jackson was caught on t.v. using the same word about other black people.  Or what about the hypocrisy of the religious televangelists?  Jimmy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, or Ted Haggard.  Ted Haggard is the most recent, so lets take a brief look at him.  He was a popular pastor of a well known church in Colorado.  He was head of an the National Evangelical Association and a public figure against the gays rights for marriage movement in Colorado who also preached against homosexuality as sin.  Yet he was found to be a practicing homosexual.  If we really wanted, we could spend hours thinking of public figures who are exposed as hypocrites, yet rarely look at our own lives as hypocritical.

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Out text before us today does not use the word hypocrisy, but the idea drips from every word of our passage.  God is angry at sin, is judging it and as Romans 1:18 states, God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.  This wrath is deserved.  Paul will focus on the Gentiles sinfulness in Romans 1:18-32.  Now he will move into the just condemnation of the Jew.  Ultimately, he will set up that both Jew and Gentile are condemned justly and in fact, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being in need of a redeemer. 

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Chapter two is devoted primarily to the just condemnation of the Jew regardless of his special position as “God’s chosen nation.”  Jews are not exempt from wrath.  In Romans 2:1-16, Paul will show that God judges both Jew and Gentile impartially.  In Romans 2:17-24, Paul shows that this judgment will come even though they have the Jewish heritage and the Law given them.  In Romans 2:25-29, Paul will show that this judgment will come even if one does so called “good works”.  This will set up the need for both Jew and Gentile to be saved by faith in Christ.  In our section today, we will see that God rightly judges the hypocritical heart that is 1) blinded to sin (Romans 2:1-3) and 2) hardened to repentance (Romans 2:4-5).

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GOD RIGHTLY JUDGES:

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1.  The Hypocritical heart that is blinded to sin        (Romans 2:1-3)

  • For a Jew, you didn’t need to convince him that the Gentiles were sinful and in need of salvation, for it was commonly held that Gentiles were sinners.
  • What Paul needed to show was that Jews were sinners too, that Jews who possessed the Law and had a covenant with God shown by circumcision were not saved based on these things.
  • The argument is carefully crafted to show that Gentiles are charged with sin and that Jews are no different in being sinners even though they may appear moral.
  • These two chapters are structured so that it has an element of surprise, that the moral man can nod his head and agree that these morally and mentally perverted people deserved God’s wrath.
  • In fact, these two chapters are very similar to Amos 1-2.  Amos goes to Israel and brings a message of judgment to the surrounding nations for their heinous sins.  Each nation is condemned for particular sins against others.  Each time you can picture the Israelite nodding with approval.  Then in chapter two, Amos brings a message of judgment to Judah and Israel for being sinful like the surrounding nations.
  • The previous sections in Romans have dealt with the rejection of God.  It is focused primarily against Gentiles, who reject the knowledge and worship of God for a lie (Romans 1:18-23). 
  • This rejection of God not only brings wrath, but also consequences currently. These consequences which we looked at last week are moral and mental perversion.  Man “exchanges” – God “hands over”.  These consequences are a dishonoring of the body and a depraved mind that does sinful deeds. 
  • At the end of the section, we saw that not only is homosexuality and in general all immorality sinful, but other sins like being unloving, unmerciful, untrustworthy and even disobedient brings one under condemnation. 
  • The chapter ends with the thought in Romans 1:32 that they knew God’s commands yet practiced such things worthy of death.  Not only this, they also encouraged or gave hearty approval for others to practice such things.
  • So while the issue in Rom 1:32 is approving of such ungodly and unrighteous acts, the contrary is seen in Romans 2:1-3.
  • Here, the issue is judging these things as sinful and wrong.  Yet the core issue is that of hypocrisy, of calling these things sin, and rightfully so, but also of participating in the same things.
  • There is a natural tendency to justify ourselves for the wrong we do by condemning people who do other sins as worse than us.
  • Notice a few repetitions in these verses.  Notice that the concept of judging is used in each verse, along with “practice”. 
  • It goes something like this – You judge yet you practice the same things you judge. Yet those who practice such sins are rightly judged – However, when you practice the same things you judge others by, you will be judged.
  • In the previous section, Paul has used third plural – They, them.  Now he switches to the second person singular – You, singular.  They are rightly judged – But You, Individual, are rightly judged also.
  • You can just imagine, much like the crowd Amos preached too, the Gentiles will be judged for their godlessness, their wickedness, their unrighteousness – And the Jew would be cheering on.
  • They are guilty of sin…..but SO ARE YOU (singular).
  • Paul’s use of the singular forces one to look inward, to the individual rather than the whole group.
  • It should make even us ponder our own hypocrisy, not that of the politicians or televangelists, but ourselves.
  • There are so many links with chapter one, but one that is most notable is that of excuse.
  • In Romans 1:20 – The knowledge of God – Limited knowledge – General Revelation leaves the Gentiles “without excuse”
  • Yet here, in Romans 2:1, Paul helps the Jew understand that just like the Gentile, He is without excuse.
  • He is without excuse because he has the knowledge – the special revelation of God Himself contained in the Old Testament, yet he sins “willfully and with knowledge”
  • What Paul is going to emphasize is not that judging is wrong, but judging while also doing the same things – hypocrisy.
  • Note Romans 2:2, “we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.”  There is nothing wrong with the judgment per say.  It rightly falls – literally – According to the truth.
  • Paul is saying that those who know God’s Word, who has God’s Word knows that sinful actions are rightfully judged or judged according to God’s truth.
  • So the issue is not that the Jew is judging.  The issue is that Jews who judge Gentile transgressions will be condemned not because of judging Gentiles, but because they practice the very evils they criticize.
  • The same thought is seen in Jesus’ sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5.  The issue here is not of judging because in Matt 7:15 and following he warns people of false teachers.  One has to “judge” the fruit.
  • The issue is hypocrisy – Don’t Judge because you will be held to the same standard you judge.  Yet, in the same context, Jesus includes the whole log and speck in the eye illustration that points to some type of “judging” and helping that includes internal inspection first.
  • Note that in Matthew 7, Jesus deals with internal inspection than addresses external inspection of fruit for “false teachers” in Matt 7:15-20.
  • Similarly, Paul is showing that the judgments might be right on, in line with God’s Word, but at stake is a hypocritical heart that is blinded to its own sin.
  • The argument goes like this – The Gentiles deserve wrath because they have rejected God, refusing to worship and give God Glory.  So God hands them over to moral and mental perversion. 
  • Yet you who judge are also guilty because though you judge rightly about the sins of others, you do the same things.
  • In verse one, it literally says, “O man, each one who judges.”  Paul is inviting anyone who might judge to think and consider.
  • You judge but you practice the same things.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they were doing all of the sins listed in chapter one like homosexuality.  They may have, but Paul is clear to include other sins that deserve wrath like immorality, murder, lack of love and mercy, disobedience, slander, gossips, greed, pride, boasting.
  • We also know biblically that to think about sinful desires is just as wrong as doing them.  To hate is as wrong as murder.  To lust is as wrong as sexual immorality.
  • The Jews judged but “practiced” the same things – The idea is they practiced the same things this “continually.”
  • In verse 3, Paul is questioning the idea that the Jew, who prided himself on being moral and having the Law, would escape judgment having done the same things the Gentiles would be judged for.
  • The correct moral judgments that were uttered against the Gentiles ironically turned out to be indictments of themselves.
  • Paul again using the singular “You” and “O man” like in verse 1 points to the individual to take into consideration what he is stating.
  • Do you “suppose” “count” “reckon” or “consider” – It points to reasoning – think carefully on this.
  • Look at Paul’s logic in Romans 2:3 – “Think about this” – If you pass judgment on those who practice ungodliness and unrighteousness and do the same yourself – Then what do you think will happen?
  • If God rightly judges the Gentiles for sinning – and you judge them for it, won’t God judge you for the same sins?
  • This must have been eye opening for the Jew, who’s hypocritical heart was blinded to their own sin.
  • Paul uses an emphatic “You” – That you – yourself – will escape judgment?
  • If you sin like the Gentiles sin, how is it that you think YOU will escape God’s judgment?
  • He has powerfully set up his argument that even Jews are sinners deserving judgment.  He will continue later in the chapter to develop this thought.  In Romans 2:13 – It is not just the hearers but those who do the law – Look at Romans 2:17-24.
  • It is so easy for those who are hypocritically blinded to their own sinfulness to judge others without looking to ourselves first.
  • This was a major issue with Israel, yet it is still an issue for believers.
  • We are much like David, condemning the rich man who stole the one sheep from the poor man – Yet are surprised when Nathan says – You the Man!
  • We are much like the Pharisee that looks at the sinfulness of others and thanks God for not being like all the other sinners and boast in our own supposed godliness.
  • It is easy for me to point out Jesse Jackson or Ted Haggard, but what about my own hypocrisy?
  • Where do I hold people to standards that I am not willing to humbly apply?  Where am I blinded to my own sin?
  • I often find myself getting angry at other people’s pride – yet fail to see that is my pride.
  • I am often quick to want forgiveness but slow to give it.
  • We are too often too quick to point out issues without even thinking through where we are on this.
  • Often times, when I counsel – I am reminded to apply the very things that I am telling others to do.
  • The application here is not about judging – It is about hypocrisy.  Do we took at the log in our own eye?  Are we applying Galatians 6 – That when we restore, we look to our own selves realizing that we too could stumble in that sin?
  • When I preach on immorality – homosexuality – that I realize that were it not for the kindness and grace of God – I would be there and that I could be there if I walk away from God. 
  • We need to realize that as Christians, even though we are saved – we are capable of committing any sin when we live in the flesh.

 

GOD RIGHTLY JUDGES:

 

! 2.  The Hypocritical heart that is hardened to repentance                        (Romans 2:4-5)

  • Another indictment brought up is that by the hypocrisy of hearts blinded to sin, that they were taking lightly the riches of God
  • The person who is hypocritical and thinks they will escape the judgment of God based on works or heritage like the Jews is actually showing contempt for God’s mercy.
  • The Jews were blessed with so much.  They had a relationship with God through the Mosaic Covenant.  They were His chosen people.  They had the Law.  Yet they failed to realize that even they were sinners.
  • It was through the “riches” of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience that they were not immediately judged.
  • Kindness emphasizes the gracious acts of God.
  • Tolerance points to God not immediately judging.  It is a temporary suspension of punishment – that God is not going to immediately strike in most cases.
  • Patience points to “long suffering” – that God suffers a long time with those who sin against Him.
  • Paul says that when one hypocritically judges but does the same things and thinks they are okay with God – that in fact, that person thinks little – literally thinks down on them - καταφρονέω – despises or scorns is another way to translate this.
  • That is a serious statement.  Don’t you realize that your hypocritical involvement in the very sins you condemn in others really is despising or showing contempt for the very mercy of God.
  • The more grace is given, the more it is thought lightly of in most people.  Israel’s history, contained in the Old Testament shows that time after time, God was gracious to Israel and yet she spurned that grace – looked down on it.
  • In fact, every sin – whether it is done by those who don’t know God or those who do – Every sin shows contempt for God’s kindness, tolerance and patience.
  • Yet another issue is not only despising grace, but also not realizing the purpose behind God’s kindness, tolerance and patience.
  • Don’t you realize that the very withholding of judgment is for the purpose of leading you to repentance?
  • The purpose of God’s kindness is not to excuse people from their sin but to convict them of it and lead them to repentance.
  • Yet they failed to repent.  Romans 2:5 – But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart.
  • The word for stubbornness is – σκληρότης -which we get our word sclerosis – a hardening of something like an artery.  They had a hard heart.  The Gentiles had a Foolish and darkened heart (Romans 1:21) and even a lustful heart (Romans 1:24)
  • The Jews had a hard and unrepentant heart.  No doubt Paul is linking this idea with the book of Deuteronomy – which talks about the stubbornness of the heart and the need for the heart to be circumcised.  This will be talked about at the end of the chapter, this idea of a circumcised heart.
  • This foreshadows that the heart is hard and unrepentant and it is only by the work of the Spirit, something that will be developed later in Romans.
  • Yet the result of a stubborn and unrepentant heart is that a person is “storing up wrath”
  • The idea of storing up refers to gaining treasures, gathering wealth.  Ironically, Paul states that the hypocritical heart that is blind to sin also shows contempt for the “riches” of God’s kindness.
  • It is this hypocritical heart that will “store up” wrath rather than treasures.  Instead of storing up eternal reward, which a Jew thought he was doing, he was actually storing up wrath.
  • This wrath will come in the day of wrath – The final outpouring of God’s entire wrath.

APPLICATION

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—  Pray for understanding of your own sinfulness

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;  And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

 

—  Deal with your own sinfulness before looking to others

Matthew 7:1-5

Galatians 6:1-4

 

—  Understand that sometimes God’s kindness in your life and tolerance of your sin is to give you time to repent – Know there is coming a time to give an account

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