By Terry Cheek
Romans 2:1-3 “1Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man— you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself— that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Studying this article, I discovered the story of a brilliant Christian apologist who argued so well during debates with his opponents that he reduced them to ashes, and afterward, it was said, he would dust off the spot where his adversaries had stood. That apologist reminded me of Paul in Romans chapter 2. Paul has just finished giving an indictment on all people. How long will he continue with the law and our sins before he gives us some relief?
Jonathan Edwards preached one of his stirring sermons on the judgment of God and the threat of eternal damnation in hell, someone in attendance cried out, “But, Mr. Edwards, is there no mercy with God?” Edwards reminded the people that they had to wait till the following Sunday before they got that part of the message.
The same is true here as we begin Romans chapter 2. If we hope to get that good news now, our hopes are in vain, because the apostle is not finished with the bad news yet. Before we get to the gospel, we must be brought before the holy standard of God’s law so that we might be convicted of our need for the gospel. Paul continues his indictment of our sinfulness: Therefore, you have no excuse, O man (v. 1). In light of all that he has just spread out before us of man’s rejection and suppression of God’s self-revelation, which everybody knows with clarity, and in light of God’s eternal power, deity, and holiness, the sins people practice is worthy of death. Yet, people not only continue to practice these sins, but they encourage others to do so. Therefore, man is without excuse in the presence of God.
Hypocrisy? Every one of you who judges, for any reason you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things (v. 1). The sin of hypocrisy is in view here. Paul is chastising his kinsmen for their judgmental attitude toward the Gentiles. He is basically saying, “Who do you think you are? You condemn the Gentiles yet practice the very same things they do.” That is the essence of hypocrisy. It is a particular threat to any preacher or teacher who dares to stand and correct sinners because he is also a sinner and risks the liability of condemning others for doing the very things that he does. Even though these words are addressed specifically to Jews, there is a universal application of the text. What was true for Israel is true for us today—if we condemn other people for doing the very things that we do, then, by our condemning them, we are showing our awareness of the wrongness of certain activities, and we are in effect condemning ourselves. Be sure to understand there is a difference between the sin of judging and the reality of calling out sin and God’s promise to judge it.
However, we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things (v. 2). R.C. Sproul said “We see judgments made and verdicts rendered in courtrooms, and we ask, “Was justice really done here, or was this simply a show of a titanic struggle between able attorneys, and to the victor go the spoils?” Somewhere, amid the argument between prosecution and defense, justice can and has become lost. People are persuaded by clever arguments; as a result, justice is not always served in the courtroom or in the decisions we make in our community and church and even in our family. The one thing we can be confident in is that the just judgment of God is always according to the truth. That is what Paul is saying when he writes that the judgment of God is according to the truth. Nobody can stand before the judgment seat of God with the complaint, “That’s not fair.” Our consciences tell us that every last person, at some point, will be held accountable before his Creator—believer and nonbeliever alike. Even though the believer passes from condemnation, he will still have to stand before God and be judged, and that judgment will harbor no secrets. It will be perfect and accurate because it will be according to the truth.
Every time we read biblical descriptions of judgment before the presence of God, we see the human response is always silent. Every mouth is stopped. Debate is futile. The discussion is over when God renders His verdict, for we know that His judgment will be according to the truth. 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? (v. 3). The deepest hope harbored in the hearts of corrupt humanity is that somehow, we will escape.
As W.C. Fields lay in his hospital room on his death bed, a friend came to see him and was shocked to find Fields reading the Bible. Fields was not known for his devotion to God. When Fields’s friend asked him why he was reading the Bible, Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.” Everyone thinks there is going to be a loophole, a way of escape from an omniscient, holy, righteous God, but there is no way to escape the judgment save through the way that the holy God has given to the world, which is the way of the cross. We do not want that way; we want to find a way to escape, yet there is none. With the image of the Cross, I will conclude June’s article. I urge you to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior. Christians we cannot be too close to God’s word or hold to the Cross too tightly. Until we meet again in person or in print may God bless you is my prayer.
Sproul, R.C.. Romans: An Expositional Commentary (p. 44). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Reformation Trust Publishing. ESV Reformation Study Bible (pp. 11124-11125). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.
Terry is the Executive Director and broadcaster of The Inspiring Word media ministry
You can contact Terry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by visiting www.theinspiringword.org
Read more from Terry Cheek here.