Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 22, 2017
Let us begin today with our monthly memory verse Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Open your Bibles to Romans 2:1-11. For the last two weeks we have been unpacking the wrath of God. We saw in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” We saw that this wrath, as explained by Paul, is God handing men over to the lusts of their hearts. The punishment for sin is more sin and more sin, which produces more brokenness and more brokenness and more brokenness.
Last week we saw Paul use the very explicit example of homosexuality to prove his point. And we saw God handing people over to the lusts of their hearts, to impurity. And this handing them over to these dishonorable, unnatural, shameless, impure act of homosexuality is an act of God’s wrath. And as we saw in Romans 1:27, they receive in themselves the due penalty for their error. This due penalty includes mental disorders, substance abuse, homelessness, sexually transmitted diseases, and an average life expectancy that is approximately 30 years lower than the average male who is married to one single female his entire life.
Then in Romans 1:29 Paul begins listing different forms of unrighteous behavior, “envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
And as this list is read, not only does the specific sin come to your mind, but also specific sinners. There is a desire to think of a person or a group of person and look down upon them as if they are beneath you, and you are morally superior to the homosexuals, murderers, and the ruthless. Which brings us to our text for this morning.
You Condemn Yourself
During the time that Jesus walked the earth, there were a group of people named the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a sect of Jews who put a premium on morality. They are what we would call today, the legalist. They strove to uphold the law at all cost, and they viewed themselves as morally superior to everyone else.
To say that Jesus had problems with the Pharisees would be a vast understatement. In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces seven woes against the Pharisees and calls them blind fools, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, and brood of vipers.
Why did the sinless Son of God call the Pharisees these names? It was true. This group of self-righteous people, the Pharisees, spent their days with their fingers pointed out, telling all the people how sinful they were. They were critical towards everyone. If they were members of Cornerstone they would spend all their time criticizing and tearing down the people of God instead of speaking truth in love.
Many of you are probably most familiar with Jesus addressing this issue of judgmental hypocrisy in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5. Turn their with me and lets look at it briefly.
Jesus, when he said “judge not, that you be not judged”, is not saying to turn a blind eye to sin in other peoples lives. Just look at verse 5 when Jesus says “you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” The speck in your brother’s eye is sin that Christ wants you to help your brother with. What Jesus is railing against is the hypocrisy of pharisical judgments. He is teaching against criticism that is void of humility and self awareness of your own sin; self-righteous superiority within the Jewish religion. AW Tozer wrote, “A Pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself.”
And as we see from today’s text out of Romans 2, pharisaical legalism did not end when Christ was crucified. Self-righteous, judgmental, hypocrisy is alive and well in church in Rome, and the Apostle Paul knows that it must be addressed. Head on.
In verse 1 of Romans 2, Paul says, ““Therefore 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.” Why does Paul say this hear at the beginning of Chapter 2? Because of what he just said at the end of chapter 1.
When we hear a list of sins, as we did in Chapter 1, it is our human nature to think about other people, not ourselves. We think about the Hitlers, the Stalins, those who fill the prisons, perhaps someone wretched person you work with, or perhaps even someone at Church. How many times have you been sitting in a sermon and thought, “I sure hope so and so is listening. They really need to take this message to heart.” My guess is all of you. In fact, some of you have done it this morning.
You Practice the Very Same Things
Now, what is important to see here in our text, is that the condemnation that Paul speaks of in verse 1 is not because they are passing judgment. The condemnation is “because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” The blood on their hands is not the judgment, the blood on their hands is their hypocrisy.
Let’s just go back and look at the list that Paul gives in Romans 1:29-31 and pick a couple. Let’s look at strife. What is strife? Strife means to quarrel, to be contentious. These are people who want to argue and fight about everything. This was a major sin in the New Testament Church and still is a major sin in today's Church. The Apostle Paul addresses the sin of strife in Titus 3:10, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” So as you can see, Paul encourages Church discipline against the person who is always looking for reasons to fight against his brothers and sisters.
It is easy to point fingers at sexual immorality such as homosexuality, but what about your divisive spirit.
Let’s look at another one, haughty. What does haughty mean? It means to be arrogant, to be proud. Pride is something that is really easy to see within others, but hard to see within yourself. The reason for this is because we think our opinions are right, therefore we see our pride as righteousness. Jonathan Edwards wrote these stinging words, “The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints. . . . The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.” I have to admit, for me, that one stung. I confess I wrestle with pride versus Pastoral obligation. I want to fulfill my role that Christ has given me, but all to often I question what is my motivation, the glory of God or the glory of Phil.
Let’s look at one more, heartless. What does it mean to be heartless? It means to be without love; to have no affection for others. This is a major problem for the moralist, for the legalist. His complaints do not come from a desire to love his fellow brother, he is more concerned with the outside of the cup, not the sanctification of their life. Their is no love behind his or her complaints.
So what does speaking the truth in love consist of? 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
I don’t know how many times I hear Christians complain about other Christians and 1 Corinthians 13 flashes into my mind. Is this complaint driven by their love for their brother and sister in Christ, or is it heartless?
So what do we make of all of this? There is no excuse. Everyone is a sinner according to God's standards of what is right and what is wrong. Everyone has a log in their eye, and we must first remove that log before we can help them with their speck.
Many scholars believe that this text in Romans 2 is directed to the Jews who were in the Church at Rome. The reason they believe this is that it was not uncommon for Jewish Christians to have prejudices against the Christians gentiles, against the pagans lifestyles that they were saved from. Generally speaking Jews at that time, viewed themselves as better than all other people. The gentiles were dogs to them. However, with the coming of Christ, that should have changed. Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” The Church of Christ consisted of both Jews and Greeks, both religious and the irreligious, both the pagan and the proud.
He Will Render According to Your Works
Because the bottom line is found in verse 6, “He will render to each one according to his works.” This is the basis of God's righteous judgment. It does not matter if you are a Jew or a Greek, a man or a women, black or white, rich or poor, young or old, as it says in verse 11, “God shows no partiality.” It is not about who you are, or what you know, it is about what you have done. And this is bad news, for what we have all done, is not good.
This works based judgment is reiterated in Revelation 20:12. Revelation 20 depicts the final day of Judgment, when all humanity, you and I included, will stand before the Creator of the Universe to determine our eternal destiny. Revelation 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
So as I said earlier, the bottom line is that we are judged by our works; our haughtiness, our strife, our heartlessness, our homosexuality, our sexual immorality. God is acutely aware of every single thing you have done and everything that you have failed to do. God knows your sins better that you know your sins.
And for those who do not obey the truth, those who sin, we are told in verse 8 there will be wrath and fury. What is Paul thinking about when he says wrath and fury? At this point, Paul is no longer thinking about the present tense of God's wrath that we saw in chapter 1, he is now thinking about the future wrath of God. The wrath of God that is being stored up and is waiting for sinners. The wrath of God that was described as the Lake of Fire in Revelation 20.
Therefore God does not only hand the ungodly over to their sin and the natural consequences of those sins that we talked about in Romans 1, but He also judges all men according to their works and will send them to hell as punishment. Therefore, there is a current wrath and a future wrath.
And this future wrath is real. Jesus, who knows better than anyone about this future wrath of God, talks about Hell more than anyone. Speaking of the day of judgment, Jesus says in Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” In Mark 9:47-49 Jesus says, “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”
Hell is the name of the place where all evil doers will experience the wrath and fury of God forever. This means that after 10 billion years in Hell, you will not be closer to the end then when you first began. This is why Jesus says, Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Too many of us do not fear the God who created Hell, and puts people there. We fall prey to that problem Paul speaks about in verse 4, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Too many people do not believe God will throw them into Hell. To bottom line is yes he will, and this is exactly what all of us deserve, both the homsexual and gossip, and everything in between. And there is only one way to avoid the wrath of God? The Gospel.
Is Your Name in the Book of the Lamb?
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, first for the Jew and then for the greek.” Remember, the book of Romans can be summed up in one word, the Gospel. Believing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the only way to avoid the wrath and fury of God that all of us deserve.
If you recall, in Revelation 20, there was only one way not to be thrown in the lake of fire, if you name was written in the book of life. The full title of that book is the book of life of the lamb that was slain. The reason that the lamb was slain is because of the wrath and fury of God. We have a choice, we can either choose to receive God's fury, or we can repent and believe in Jesus Christ and allow him to receive God's fury in our place. All that matters in this world, is whose name is in that book. Is yours?