Good for Nothing
(2:1-16) Introduction: this is one of the passages that covers several subjects and can be studied from the viewpoint of any one of them. It is an excellent study on judging, criticizing others, the judgment of God, self-righteousness, the moralist, and the legalist. It also deals with the judgment of the heathen, and answers the question so often asked: "What will happen to the heathen, to the person who never hears about Jesus Christ?" (Romans 2:11-15). The present study is entitled: "God's Case Against the Moralist."
Romans 2:11-15 (KJV)
11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
1. (2:1) Moralist— Judging Others— Criticism: the moralist. In the eyes of Scripture a moralist is a person who lives a moral and clean life, but he judges others because they do not live as he thinks they should. He is moral, upright, just, good, decent, and honorable. The moralist has strong values, standards, and principles. He is well disciplined and able to control his life. He lives just as everyone thinks he should. He knows right from wrong and he lives it. He knows how to behave and he does it. In the eyes of society he is just what a person should be. He is a good neighbor, an excellent worker and provider, and an ideal citizen. But note three things.
1. The moralist judges others. The word "judge" (krino) means to criticize, to find fault, to condemn. This is the terrible flaw of the moralist. Note: any person becomes a moralist when he sets himself up as a judge of others. Any time we judge another person, we are declaring that we...
· are living by some rule that another person is not living by.
· are more moral than someone else.
· are better than someone else.
· are superior to someone else.
· are more righteous than someone else.
· are more acceptable to God than someone else.
Judging others says, "I am right, and he is not; I succeed, but he fails." Therefore...
· "Look at me, but ignore him."
· "Draw near to me, but shun him."
· "Esteem me, but put him down."
· "Approve me, but condemn him."
· "Be my friend, but withdraw from him."
Very simply, judging others raises self and lowers others, exalts self and debases others; and in the eyes of God this is wrong. It is sin. It is being full of self-righteousness, pride, and arrogance. It sets self up as a moralist, and it makes a person judgmental and critical.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1).
"Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).
"Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way" (Romans 14:13).
"There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" (James 4:12).
2. The moralist is inexcusable, and he condemns himself because he does the very same things. He fails just as the man whom he judges fails. Scripture says...
"Thou that judgest doest the same things" (Romans 2:1).
"[All] temptation is common to man" (1 Cor. 10:13).
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22).
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28).
In God's eyes, sin is a matter of the heart and mind, not just an act. The thought and desire makes a person just as guilty as the act itself. God knows that many would carry out their thoughts if they had the courage or opportunity. God knows the heart, the mind, and the thoughts. Sin, whether thoughts in the mind or acts in public, comes short of God's glory. All stand guilty before God; therefore, the moralist, the person who judges, is as guilty as the one judged. It is for this reason that we are not to judge, criticize, and find fault with others.
"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:3).
"Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?" (Romans 2:21-22).
"But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Galatians 2:14).
"They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:16).
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2).
"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations [to criticize and judge]" (Romans 14:1).
"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1).
"To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor. 9:22).
"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thes. 5:14).
"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James 2:15-16).
"Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (James 3:10).
2. (2:2-5) Judgment— God, Misconceptions of— Man: the judgment of God—of the only living and true God—is according to truth. God's judgment will be executed in perfect justice. The word "truth" (alētheian PWS: 4085) means true as opposed to false. It means what really is; what actually exists; what exactly takes place. God's judgment is perfectly just, exactly what it should be, nothing more and nothing less. His judgment is based upon...
· what really happens.
· what the facts are.
· what actually takes place.
· what a person really is within his heart and what the person actually did.
"The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
God knows the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; therefore, He will judge according to truth. His judgment will be perfect, conforming exactly to our deeds. It will match our deeds perfectly.
Note four points.
1. The moralist thinks he will escape. His offense is much greater, for he is like all other men: sinful and short of God's glory. Yet he criticizes and judges those whose failures are discovered and exposed, and he thinks he will escape. He forgets that God sees the inner recesses of the human heart, and that God will judge men not only for their deeds but for their thoughts...
· for the lust of the flesh.
· for the lust of the eyes.
· for the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16).
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33).
"For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known" (Luke 12:2).
"And [Jesus] needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man" (John 2:25).
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor. 4:5).
"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" (1 Thes. 5:3).
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him" (Hebrews 2:3).
"But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23).
"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccles. 12:14).
2. The moralist thinks God is too good to punish. When he thinks of God, he thinks of the riches...
· of God's goodness (chrēston PWS: 1762): His kindness and grace and love.
· of God's forbearance (anochē PWS: 1568): His refraining, holding back, abstaining and controlling His justice.
· of God's longsuffering: His suffering a long time, being patient and slow in judging sin.
God, of course, is all this and much more. What the moralist fails to see is that God's goodness...
· is not a blank check for sin.
· does not give license to sin.
· does not condone sin.
· does not indulge sin.
· does not overlook sin.
God's goodness is to lead men to repentance, not to sin. The fact that God will forgive sin should stir men to seek forgiveness and to please God. If a man goes out and sins, thinking that God will just overlook and forgive his sin, he is despising God's goodness. He is taking God's goodness and making it a sham, a mockery, a joke, a thing of indulgence. The man who despises God's goodness—who sins thinking God will just overlook and forgive his sin—is wrong. He is mistaken. God does not just overlook and forgive his sin; He does not condone, indulge, nor give license to his sin. God will judge him and the judgment will be according to the truth.
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
"Be not deceived: evil communications [company] corrupt good manners [morals]. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame" (1 Cor. 15:33-34).
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
"Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience" (Ephes. 5:6).
"Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:7-8).
3. The moralist thinks man is basically good. He thinks that man can be good enough for God to accept. He thinks God looks for the good in man and that within each man is enough good for God to accept. The moralist thinks that God's goodness accepts man's...
|· good works· good thoughts· good behavior||· good feelings· good nature· good tendencies|
God, of course, is pleased with whatever good is in man. But what the moralist fails to see is that God's goodness is perfect. It cannot accept...
|· any imperfect work· any foul thoughts· any evil behavior||· any ugly feelings· any corruptible nature· any sinful urges|
God can only accept perfection. No man is perfect: not in nature, thought, or behavior. Therefore, all men are unacceptable to God. No man is good enough to be acceptable to God, no matter how good he is. The goodness of God is to lead men to repentance: to turn men to God for righteousness, not to declare man's self-righteousness. The fact that God allows men to repent should stir men...
· to confess their imperfection and self-righteousness.
· to seek God's righteousness which is in Christ Jesus the Lord. (See note—§Romans 4:1-3; Deeper Study #1—Romans 4:22; Deeper Study #2—Romans 4:22; and note—§Romans 5:1 for more discussion.)
"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22).
"For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2 Cor. 10:12).
"For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself" (Galatians 6:3).
"Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?" (Proverbs 20:6).
"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him" (Proverbs 26:12).
"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).
"There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness" (Proverbs 30:12).
"For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me" (Isaiah 47:10).
"The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD" (Obadiah 3-4).
4. The moralist hardens his heart against the judgment of God. He refuses to repent. He just cannot accept the fact...
· that he is not good enough for God to accept.
· that God's goodness and love would ever condemn him.
But note the term "righteous judgment" (dikaiokrisias PWS: 3325), which means just, fair, impartial, correct, exact. God's judgment is a judgment that should be, that should and will take place. In fact, God must judge, for God is love. As love, He must straighten out all the injustices on earth. He must right the wrongs and correct all the injustices of men. He must judge men with a perfect and "righteous judgment."
Note also the term "treasurest up" (thēsaurizō PWS: 4041), which means to store up, to heap up, to lay up. The man who hardens his heart and refuses to repent stores up more and more wrath against himself in the day of judgment. The fact is clearly seen. Just think how terrible it is for a man to rebel against God's goodness. He has the glorious privilege of knowing God's goodness, of hearing His goodness proclaimed day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. Yet he despises God's goodness, refusing to repent and rejecting God's goodness time and time again. His rejection is bound to store up wrath against himself. His judgment is bound to be greater than the judgment upon a person who has never had the privilege of hearing about the goodness of God.
"I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?" (Luke 12:49).
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).
"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience" (Ephes. 5:3-6).
"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to the punished" (2 Peter 2:9).
"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Peter 3:7).
"He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1).