Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
Book of Romans: Chapter 2 P1 - The judgement and reward of God

by Fraser Gordon
 

Last time we looked at the “wrath of abandonment” in Romans chapter 1. We saw that God has given revelation concerning His existence through creation and also through the conscience that people are born with. Whenever that is rejected the wrath of abandonment can occur where nations and people are given over to unclean living and, as we saw through that whole list in chapter 1, the end result of that is they are given over to unnatural things. So we looked at homosexuality and how that has radically increased within western cultures who once had the light of the gospel as their moral base. When that is pushed away other things come in and that is certainly so in our culture. So that is the wrath of abandonment where God takes His hand away and allows the wickedness of people's hearts to actually rule in societies. Today we will look at chapter 2. Most all of the first three chapters of Romans are all heading towards one direction where all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So Paul is attacking this from all different angles as he wants to tell the bad news first before he can actually bring out the good news.

Avoid self righteousness and hypocritical judging

Romans 2:1-2 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. (2) But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.

Here Paul is talking to a group of people who think they are not the same as others. They are people that have a moral standard; both Jew and gentile here, they are the moralist’s of Paul's day. People that judge the morals of others but don't see themselves as falling short in any way. Paul may be addressing people like moralist Seneca, who was really esteemed as a moral teacher and who would condemn people for their behavior morally but at the same time he would accept the fact that Nero murdered his mother..

So here Paul is saying – look whoever you are you are inexcusable. In other words all people who judge are not isolated here and churches can be some of the worst places for judging. As Christians we need to be careful not to look at others and say “well they are like that, and doing that” but we ourselves have become self righteous and don't realize that we are capable of the selfsame thing. Nobody lives up to their own ideals 100% because we are all fallen, and we all have sin running through our veins. Sometimes we can judge people by saying “this one is doing this and that which is wrong” but we could be compromising in the same way ourselves. I remember that when I first started to go to church there would be the odd person who was having a cigarette outside. Some Christians would look at that and condemn that person. They would say that that person cannot be saved. At the same time they would be gossiping; and so this is what Paul is saying “whoever you are, you are inexcusable.” You judge a person but there will be something wrong in yourself. Yes, you may have an issue with smoking, which is wrong, but it is just one issue that can be seen, there are many unseen issues which we all have, but they are largely unknown to others.

I remember two great evangelists and preachers, D. L. Moody and Spurgeon. Spurgeon was probably one of the greatest preachers of his time. Spurgeon loved smoking, especially a cigar. Great man of God that he was, it was just something he loved to do. In the culture of the day it was pretty much acceptable. One day D. L. Moody said to Spurgeon “What do you think God says about that sin brother?” Spurgeon leaned across to D. L. Moody and patted him on the stomach, and asked him the same question. In the Philippines they have something called a beetle nut. The people used to chew it because it has a numbing effect. We used to go into the villages with the Pilipino missionaries and they would ask us to preach about the sin of chewing on beetle nut, which could be a health problem, but not a moral one.

So here Paul is addressing those who make moral judgments, and Jesus said the same thing “Don't look at the speck in your brother's eye when you have got a plank in your own”. It is really easy to point the finger, and you know that old saying which says that when you point one finger you have three pointing back at yourself. It is very easy to make judgments but it can easily come back on the one making the judgment because no one really lives up to their own ideals.

Even moralists will stand before God

Romans 2:3 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?

Both the sinner and the self righteous are all going to face judgment. Many moral people look at those who have done horrendous things and they say “well, I am not like that”. In other words, look at what Hitler did, look at what Stalin did, look at what some of those really bad people have done, but “I am not like that”. They expect God to judge those people but they themselves don't expect to be judged because they don't see themselves as quite as bad. Paul is saying that we are all going to be judged and he says, “And do you think, O man, you who judges others who practice such things, and are doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God”. Every one of us will actually have to give an account for our lives. You may think that you are morally above everybody else, but all men including the Hitler’s and the moralists will stand before a righteous God to be judged.

Romans 2:4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

Here Paul speaks of the riches of His goodness, by giving two words which explain it; they are forbearance and long suffering. Forbearance is an old word, and some bibles may say tolerance. Both of these words are closely aligned. Forbearance really means holding back punishment for wrong doing. Paul looks at these two words and says “they are the riches of His goodness”. These two qualities of God are showing something of the riches of His goodness towards mankind. So He is tolerant, or holds back punishment of wrong doing.

You get the same thing in Luke 13 where a certain man came to his fig tree expecting there to be figs on it but there wasn't. He had been waiting for fruit for three years, and now he wanted to cut it down. The keeper of the vineyard said “No, don't cut it down, I will dig around it, I will fertilize it and we will try and get some fruit from it”. This is same principle of forbearance that punishment is withheld for a time with the purpose that life may come, that fruit may come from repentance.

The second word that he uses is “long suffering” It means long patience or slow to boil. These are two qualities of God's nature that Paul says are the riches of His goodness towards mankind. So “long suffering” means that God does not judge people straight away; however some people look at this word “long suffering” and they see it as a weakness of God. Quite often you will hear “why doesn't God just judge all the wicked”? David himself had to deal with this question of “why do the wicked prosper”. Why do I see the wicked prosper and why doesn't God just deal with sin and the wickedness in this world? It is because of these two words, ‘forbearance and long suffering’ that He actually deals really, really slowly in the world. If He was to remove all sin, suffering and iniquity out of the world He would have to remove anything that causes such things, which means He would have to remove everyone, because we all have the ability to cause suffering, harm, sin, destruction. He shows long suffering in all of these things.

There is a lot in the Bible about long suffering, especially toward Christians. It's a fruit of the Spirit, it's numbered among one of the fruits. Ephesians 4: 1-2, Colossians 1:11, Colossians 3:12-13, show that this is to be a part of our character that we are to be long suffering. How many times do you come home from work and say, “I am so slacked off with this person I work with”! This person did this and you are ready to write them off in a second. You have got to think about how God is so long suffering regarding all the sin, wickedness and iniquity that is going on and delays the judgment which is deserved. We are called to do the same towards people that really hurt us, and slack us off. We are to be slow to boil; we are to have long patience with people. It is not something that we have of ourselves. It is something that the living Lord Jesus in our lives can produce so that we become patient with people; to be long suffering toward those that don't know Him, and to those in the church, because both groups can affect us.

This forbearance and long suffering has a purpose and Paul goes on to say: “not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance”. So the whole purpose of why God is holding back punishment is to lead each and every one of us to an acknowledgment of sin in our lives, and bring us toward repentance. God always leads and never drives people.
The shepherd always leads his sheep; he calls them by name and leads them out. It's a butcher that drives the sheep.

An example from the life of Manasseh

I know I have spoken about this before, but I love this story about Manasseh who was a King of Israel in the Old Testament. You would have thought that he was somebody who deserved to be cut down and moved on because he was very wicked. However God had long suffering and forbearance towards him. In 2 Chronicles chapter 33 you are introduced to Manasseh who is Hezekiah's son. Hezekiah was a righteous man of God but Manasseh profaned God’s temple, and consulted mediums. He was even into child sacrifice and he put his own children through that. So he was a really depraved man, and humanly speaking you would think that he did not deserve any grace being shown to him.

2 Chronicles 33:11 Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.

When you read in the Word of something that is bronze, it is always a picture of judgment. Everything to do with the Old Testament temple, the lava and all of those things that are of bronze, they speak of judgment. So here Manasseh is fettered with bronze chains and carried off into captivity.

2 Chronicles 33:12-13 Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, (13) and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

God allowed all of these things to happen to him, but somewhere in him there was a kernel of faith left. There was something that was left in this man's life that when he was at rock bottom, which he hit, Manasseh cried out to the true God again. After all that he had done you would think that there would be no forgiveness for this guy, he had done too much evil. But there was a kernel of wheat which sprang forth into life and he humbled himself and implored the Lord his God. He humbled himself greatly. He truly repented. And this is the whole purpose of the Romans passage to show that God gives people time so that they can come to themselves and actually turn toward the Lord and receive life. You always know when there is true repentance; people will always seek to do what is right. They will seek to put right things that they have done wrong.

2 Chronicles 33:14-16 After this he built a wall outside the City of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate; and it enclosed Ophel, and he raised it to a very great height. Then he put military captains in all the fortified cities of Judah. (15) He took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. (16) He also repaired the altar of the Lord, sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.

It is amazing to read what happened to Manasseh after he repented and how the Lord brought him back to his throne in Jerusalem. Straightway he set about to put right all the wrongs that he had done.

2 Chronicles 33:21-24 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. (22) But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done; for Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them. (23) And he did not humble himself before the Lord, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more. (24) Then his servants conspired against him, and killed him in his own house.

Yet there is a stark contrast between Manasseh and his son Amon. Both did the same evil things, but one actually humbled himself and repented, but the other remained in wickedness.
When you think about it God is incredibly gracious with mankind. With all that is happening in this world He is long suffering towards man. We all receive the benefits, we have air to breathe, sunshine to receive. We all have families, things that we all enjoy in this life, whether it is pleasures or pursuits. And God puts up with all the sin in the world in the hope that one day people might turn toward Him.

Everything will be judged

Romans 2:5-6 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (6) who "will render to each one according to his deeds"

Paul is talking to those who despise these things about God. Most people think that they have all the time in the world. We expect that our lives are going to last forever but it is appointed unto man to die once and then face judgment. We don't know when we are going to take our last breath or even when our last day is going to come. A lot of people live their life in this world thinking that they may make a change at the end. There are no guarantees; you don't know when that day may come. And he says that people despise this goodness of God. Their hearts are hard and they are, unknown to themselves, treasuring up wrath for the day of revelation of the righteousness judgment of God. There is a day coming when everything will be judged, even though God is dealing with the world at the moment through long suffering, and He is putting up with our deeds, but at some point there will be a judgment of all man’s works and deeds.

I want to finish this by looking at Revelation 20, because I was reading this the other day and I thought “It is so sobering, but it’s true”.

Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (12) And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, [109] and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. (14) Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (15) And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Here we read here of a great event where John saw the dead small and great standing before God. Here you have everybody, the people that are important and those that are not; there is no respecter of persons and it appears to be a great public event. All are standing before this Man who is going to judge them. The books are opened and only one enquiry is actually made “is your name written in the book of life”? That’s of the utmost of most importance. Anyone on that day whose name is not already in the book of life will come under judgment. Your name has to be written in the Lamb's book of life during your time on earth and cannot be added to it by this time.

All the books will be opened and you won't be able to explain yourself away because everything is recorded. It is frightening. It is a very solemn. So it is so important that when you look at the Lord's long suffering toward us that you repent of your ways. In Acts it says “He is not far from us”. God sets boundaries in the hope that men will grope for Him and find Him. By the way, true Christians won't be in this judgment. They will have their own judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. Believer's names are in the Lamb's book of life! They are there already because we have given our lives to Him and so they are recorded the moment we believe. This judgment that Paul is speaking of here is for all the unsaved. There are many books but there is only one book that really counts and that is the Lamb's book of life. But men are all judged according to their deeds or works. So there seems to be levels of as punishment according to what they have done.

As we close all I can say is make sure you will among the saints in the Judgment seat of Christ and not at this great white throne of judgment. Make sure you believe and trust in the person and work of the Lord Jesus for your salvation. You do not want to be among those that stand in this Revelation 20 judgment!