Sunday, October 07, 2012

Who needs the Gospel?- The Moral World Needs the Gospel

This is Part two of the sermon series Who Needs the Gospel?

The moralist needs the gospel

Reading: Romans 2:1-16

In the later part of the previous chapter, the Apostle Paul drew a terrible picture of the sin of the heathen world and its awful condemnation and punishment. All the time Paul was talking about the heathen world and telling about their descent into idolatry; he was conscious that there was a class of men in the world who could say Amen to everything he was saying. They would say, “Yes, Paul, that is right. We know the heathen world has fallen into these sins, and in our judgment they deserve all they got”. They were standing right beside him and approving his condemnation of the heathen world.

Now Paul turns to those very fellows and says to them, “Wherefore, you are without excuse, O man, whosoever you are that judge: for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do practice the same thing" (2:1)

Precisely, to whom is the Apostle referring, and who falls beneath the ban of this judgment? The Jew or the Greek? Then Paul himself narrows down the speculation when he declared, “O man, whosoever you are that judges”. Then to whom is he talking? Any man (it does not matter who he is) who judges. To finish the identification, look at the later part of verses 9 and 10. It mentions the two classes by name – Jew and Gentile. Paul is therefore addressing this passage to any man, whoever he may be, (Jew or Gentile) in the world that judges. It is sufficient to say that this is a man who knows right from wrong, who has moral discernment. Paul is talking to him.

The key word in this section is “judges” or “judgment” Nine times that particular word occurs, and it sums up everything in this passage. The first and the last verses of this section provide a contrast: “O man, whosoever you are that judges”; and later. “in the day when God shall judge”. This section starts out with man on the throne of judgment, and it ends with God on the throne of judgment, which is proper and right.

Verse 1 describes the “moral man” – who is under consideration and condemns him. Verses 2 -16 – show the moral man condemned by God’s judgment. The moral man is condemned by his own judgment and also condemned by God’s judgment.

Moral Man Condemned According to His Own Judgment

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The key word in verse 1 is “you”. It occurs five times.
  • “You – that judge” – the identification of the man
  • “You condemn yourself” – the endorsement of the man
  • “You ... do the same thing” – the inclination of the man
  • “You are without excuse” – the indictment of the man

You that Judge: What does it mean? On the negative side, it does not mean what we have often thought – that a mere condemnation of somebody else; but on the positive side, it means the faculty of moral discrimination that every man has to a more or less degree. For instance; I see a man steal something, and I say in evaluating that deed, “That is wrong” This means I have judged. I have exercised the faculty of judging right from wrong. That is precisely the significance of the words “You ... that judge”

You Condemn Yourself: Sometimes, you hear some Christians say “It is wrong to judge somebody else. If a person does that, God will judge him. The thing that this man is condemned for here is his act of judging”. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The faculty of moral judgment is right. God expects every man to be able to distinguish the right from the wrong. The moral man was not condemned because he condemned others. He was condemned because while he was condemning others, he was doing the same thing and therefore condemned himself for his own sins.

A wonderful illustration is in the Old Testament. David committed murder because he wanted Bathsheba - the wife of Uriah; After Nathan’s confrontation, hear David visibly angry roar out “show me that man!” Nathan hit him hard on the face when he replied: “You are the man!” “You who judge is condemning yourself because you do the same thing” God wants us to judge others, but first, He wants us to judge things in our own lives. “First remove the beam in your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the mote in your neighbour’s eye”. Without moral judgment, the world would be a confusion.
You ... do the same thing: That may seem a little difficult to believe. We might be tempted to say – “If they do the same thing as the people they condemn, then they are not moral men” There are ways to explain it. First, they may not have done all the things, but only some of them. You will notice that they were covetous, envious, boastful, but may not have fallen before a graven image. He is as guilty as the one who worships idols. Then perhaps he may not do them outwardly but inwardly. Verse 16 seems to suggest this – when the Apostle declares “God shall judge the secrets of men”. Then again, and this is probably the greatest sin of all, what was the outstanding sin of the people in the first chapter – “they sinned against light; knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God” (1:21) these men were doing in their lives the very things they disapproved.

You are without excuse: This indictment is doubly true. If these men did the same things – they are without excuse. But their guilt is heightened by their own morality, by their own ability to judge. 1:32 the Pagan men not only do evil things; but they have pleasure in others that do them. They applauded what they knew was evil and brought death. We now see more clearly the difference between the two classes of people. Both kinds of men were sinners, both did the same things, but the pagans did something of which they approved, and the moralists did something of which they disapproved. The moralist is worse. The conclusion of verse 1 is “man is condemned by his own judgment”

The Moral Man is Condemned By God’s Judgment  

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Paul having now proved that the moral man is self-condemned is now going to show that he is also God-condemned. He shows in these verses how God’s judgment operates and how the moral man is condemned.

In v. 2 – God’s judgment is “According to truth” Truth is the first principle by which God is going to judge men.
In v. 6 – “According to his works” Practice is second.
In v. 11 – “There is no respect of persons” – When God judges men, there will be no partiality.
In v. 16 – “According to my Gospel” –There will be a searching judgment of the secrets of men.

As we study these verses, we shall find something hard to understand (Second Peter 3:16) Is Paul, for instance, saying “Salvation is by works?” It might look so, at first reading but remember that Paul is dealing with a crowd of men who stand off and say, “We are righteous in ourselves” He is trying to sweep away their refuge, to cut the foundation from beneath them, God is in judgment.

According to truth: It is the truth. Now in courts people swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”; but they do not do it, and so justice is according to evidence before me – and often miscarried. Paul is saying that when God sets Himself up to judge man, there is going to be the truth – “the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. In other words, the moral man will have to face the naked and awful truth when he comes before God – there will be no evasions. Both the Jews and the Gentiles know that God’s judgment is going to be according to the truth hence Paul includes them all here.

In verses 3-5, there are three key words. The first is in v.3 – “think”; in v.4 it is “despise”; and in v.5 it is “treasure”. These men knew that God’s judgment was according to the truth. How are you going to explain their attitudes in going on to sin? Paul says it is because of false reasoning “Did you think you are going to escape the judgment of God?” Any man who thinks so is a victim of false reasoning.

Suppose a man confronts Paul and says: “I did not think that way”, then Paul answers him back – “then you despised the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance”. Not knowing here means ignoring.

That God has not punished sinners for over 1900 years; that God has not broken through the heavens and struck men down; because God has not brought a judgment on the whole world since the flood, has led men to draw false conclusions from this delay. They are concluding that God will never punish sin because He is now silent. They ought to learn from this that God is long-suffering, that He is “not willing that any should perish” (Second Peter 3:9). That is what they ignore – “that the goodness of God should lead you to repentance”

In either event a man who reasons this way is treasuring up wrath for himself. He is like a man who goes to the bank every week and puts away some money. He is treasuring up his wealth. To think that, every thought, word, and deed of man out of Christ is laying up wrath is more than frightening. This is contrary to what Christ said we should do. “Lay up —- treasure in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) While the righteous is laying up treasure in heaven, the wicked, the moral man, is laying up wrath which shall be revealed.

According to his deeds: In v. 7 Paul is accused of teaching salvation by works. Is Paul saying, “If a man does a certain kind of work, he will have eternal life?” He could not for in 3:20 Paul asserts: “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight” and again in 4:5 he says: “But to him that does not work but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness” Paul never taught salvation or justification by works.

Then what is “well-doing” in verse 7? In every age of man, God has revealed certain truth, and obedience to that truth in that age constituted well-doing. Whether one lived in the age of law, the age of grace or another age, God’s principle of judgment shall be based on obedience to the truth of the age. “To them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and in-corruption, eternal life” Let us go back to the age of conscience and see well-doing. In Genesis 4:3-7, Abel and Cain had made their sacrifices to God – God said well to Abel and no to Cain. We see the expression; “If you do well... if you do not do well, sin crouches at the door” Well-doing in that age was bringing the appointed sacrifice. In First John 3:12 we read: “Cain is condemned, because his works were evil” The age of Law required that they keep God’s law, and if they broke it, bring a sacrifice.

What is well-doing in our own age? Well-doing in this age is believing on the name of the Son of God. In John 6:28-29 we read: “What must we do that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them; “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent”

When the end comes and God judges men, He will judge them by their life attitude, their heart attitude towards the truth in the age in which they lived. When God reveals a certain truth in a certain age there are two classes that emerge – One class is obedient to the truth, and the other is rebellious. For them that rebel there shall be “wrath and indignation” from God’s side (v.8); tribulation and anguish on man’s side (v. 9); whether he is Jew or Greek.

No Respect of Persons: God is absolutely and always impartial, and this is especially true in judgement.

Verses 12-15 are rather difficult to explain – the first word in verses 12, 13 and 14 is the key to the passage – the word is “for”. The principle is first stated in verse 11 “For there is no respect of persons with God” Why? “For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law; and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law” Ignorance of the law shall not save the Gentile. He will not be judged by the law, but he will perish. Possession of the law will not save the Jew. Both stand condemned.

Verse 12 has two parts – the first deals with the Gentiles and the second with the Jew. Verses 14 and 15 explain the two parts. The later part of v.12 says “As many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law” That explains why the Jew is condemned – because a man must do the things not simply hear them. (Leviticus 18:5) Then verse 14 should be read with the first part of verse 12. “For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law — for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves.” The Gentiles do not have the written law but by nature they do the things contained in the law. “You shall not kill” in the primitive culture of the Gentiles they observe it though there is no written law. God applies only one standard.

In verse 15, Paul gives a very searching analysis – the standard of righteousness is written in the very inner conscience of every moralist, whether he has the law or not. “They show the work of the law written in the hearts” – their consciences bearing witness therewith. “Their thoughts one with another accusing, or else excusing them” Hearts, consciences, thoughts, they all bore witness to the existence of this standard which shows itself in the man’s conduct. Both the Jew and Gentile are arrayed in the Court with a Judge, the law and the witness.

Every man passes through this experience – your desire leads you to do a thing, your conscience sits in judgment and your thoughts accusing you or excusing you.

Paul’s conclusion is this: “God will judge every man by the standard that man really has, not by standard he does not have. He will judge the Jew by the written law, the Gentile by the law in his heart”. He will perish: any Moralist can be judged by his own standards and he will be a lost man.

Now a pertinent question is “Will the heathen or the moralist be saved if he follows the light he has? The answer is “No one has ever lived up to the light he has!”

God will judge the secrets of men: Notice another phrase in v.16, “according to my Gospel, by Jesus Christ”. This phrase is the conclusion of the whole passage. It fits in with verses 2, 6, 11 and 16. Read it into them.

What is said here is that God is going to judge men according to Jesus Christ. We had earlier proved that Jesus Christ is the Gospel of 1:16-17. In Acts 17:31 Paul preached that Jesus is going to be the Judge.

The principle stated here is that God is going to judge the secrets of men. This means not only the secrets that are hidden from others but those also hidden from each man himself (Psalms 19:12). These secrets will be measured by the pattern of that pure Gospel which is centred in Christ and was exhibited at the Cross for sinners (First Corinthians 15:3-4)

From what we have so far considered in this passage:

a. Man is condemned by his own self judgment as a moralist
b. He will be condemned by the judgment of God because of four principles:
i. God will judge according to the truth
ii. God will judge according to works
iii. God will judge with impartiality and
iv. God will judge the secrets of men.
The best man in the world cannot stand before such principles of judgment.

Paul does not tell us here what the Gospel is, but we thank God for the Gospel. There is refuge in the Gospel. Today that Gospel is a message of deliverance; at the Great White Throne it will be a message of destruction. John 5:24 reminds us “He that hears My Word and believes Him that sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” The one who is in Christ cannot come into judgment.

Now there are moralists around us. We have the chance now to bring the Gospel to them, seeing the very dangerous situation in which they live. Can God depend on you? Can God depend on me? The moralist needs the Gospel.

For other sermons in the series visit Who Needs the Gospel?

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