Romans 2 v 17 – 22
Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans Chapter 2. I want to look at the final part of that chapter this morning. But what I also want to do is once again just give you an overview of the entire chapter to tie things together. I want to begin by just orientating us again concerning the whole outline of the book of Romans. You know, when we go through a series like this, as we go along people tend to forget the framework of the book and it’s important that you remember each part that you are reading and considering; that you remember where it fits in the whole framework of the book; what part of that book are we be busy with. What is the subject matter? What is the mind of God in that particular part of his Word? So that you’re rooted there and you know, that’s the topic at hand – that’s what God is talking about in this particular portion of Scripture – in the context of the whole book. You always, when you read any book in the Bible, need to try to keep in mind the whole framework of the entire book so that you know when you read that portion of Scripture where it fits in the flow of thought. And that’s important, because it’s the flow of thought of God! And increasingly people don’t care about the thought of God. Maurice Roberts wrote a beautiful little book called ‘The thought of God.’ I love that book. We need to think like God thinks, but we don’t. Even this past week, I believe the Pope was in Assisi in Italy where Francis of Assisi came from with an international Catholic Youth convention. You know what this man said? ’The Bible is an outdated book, the church needs to write a new one.’ That’s not some atheist on the street corner. That’s the man who calls himself the Vicar of Christ on earth: ‘Vicarius Filli Dei’ when he gets smart in Latin and battles to understand Greek and Hebrew and gets paid a lot of money and made to live a lucrative lifetime for that. I’m a little Pastor in the capital of my beloved country. I’m no big deal, but I want to say to the Pope this morning: ‘Shame on you sir!’ We need to follow the thought of God, not the thought of men.
So let’s follow the thought of God with regard to the book of Romans as we begin to dip back into it. ‘The just shall live by faith’: probably the best summary that you can find of the book. We find in the Book of Romans the introduction in chapter 1 verses 1 to 17, and there are two parts to that. There is a salutation; the greeting in the first seven verses and then an explanation as to why he is writing the letter. And then the book has six parts. It speaks about Sin, it speaks about Salvation, it speaks about Sanctification, it speaks about Sovereignty, it speaks about Service, and then there is a conclusion. And we’re in the first part of this book where he is still speaking about sin. He is telling the world about sin and he’s doing this: he is saying in the first chapter from verse 18 to the third chapter verse 20, what the Apostle is doing, is he is telling us that righteousness is needed because we’re all under sin. That’s the part of the book that we’re in. Righteousness is needed because we are all under sin. And he tells us first of all from verses 18 to 32 of chapter 1 that the Gentiles are under sin. Then in chapter 2:1 to 3:8 he tells us that the Jews are under sin and we’re still in that part even this morning. Then he is going to tell us in chapter 3:9-20 that the whole world is under sin, and therefore righteousness is needed. Then he speaks about salvation from chapter 3:21 on – that great ‘But God’ verse, where he tells us that righteousness; that righteousness that is needed is imputed to us on the merits of Christ on the cross. You cannot earn it, you cannot attain to it for yourself, but it’s imputed to you by God. Then in chapter 6 – 8 and note this: he speaks about sanctification. And he says that righteousness that is needed and that righteousness that is imputed is also imparted to those whom God saves through sanctification. Then in those terrible chapters from chapter 9 to 11 he indicts us and he tells us about Israel and he says that righteousness that was needed, imputed and imparted was rejected by Israel and then he gets to chapter 12 through to chapter 15 and he tells us that righteousness that was needed, that is imputed, that is imparted, that was rejected – that righteousness needs to be practiced – we need to live it. And then he concludes his letter from chapter 15:14 through to chapter 16:27.
That’s the flow of thought; the thought of God. We don’t need to write a new book. We’ll read this old one; we’ll read it; we’ll seek the mind of God in the power of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Word and we’ll call upon the world to do that. Let’s read it now from chapter 2 and we’re going to read together some verses. I want you to look at the whole chapter as we read it. He’s been speaking about judgment – how God is going to judge this rejection of the Gospel. And in verses 1-5, we’ve looked at last week. We saw that judgment is according to God’s truth. So keep those verses in mind because I’m going to return to them in a moment. In verses 6-16 that we saw last week he says that judgment is according to a person’s deeds. He’s speaking about judgement. He says it’s going to be according to God’s truth. Whatever new book the Pope may want to write in whatever language, for whatever reason you and I need to know this morning that judgment will be according to God’s truth (chapter 2:1-5). Not only will it be according to God’s truth, it will be according to every person’s deeds (verses 6 -16). And then he speaks beautifully in verses 17 to 29. He says it is according to the Gospel of Christ. Judgement is according to the Gospel of Christ. So that’s what we see in this chapter that we’re in. Judgment is according to God’s truth, judgment is according to a person’s deeds. And now we’re going to read from verse 17 on – judgment is according to the Gospel of Christ.
17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18and know His will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– 21you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?
22You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the law dishonour God by breaking the law. 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
28For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (ESV)
I’ve asked you to keep the entire chapter two in mind, because we need to bind it together from Chapter 2:1 to chapter 3:8, Paul turns the searchlight on his own people the Jews and shows that they are equally condemned as sinners before God. In chapter 1:20 he tells us that the Gentiles are without excuse and in chapter 2:1 he continues on and he tells us that this news ought to come to us as a thunderbolt! To the Jews who consider themselves privileged it’s a thunderbolt! They thought they were so okay, and now he tells them that they are also without excuse. Surely God will deal with them they thought – these Jews – surely God would deal with them differently from the Gentiles. We often say that as evangelicals: surely God is going to deal differently with us as evangelicals than He deals with the rest of the world. The Jews thought that! Paul says NO; the Jews are under the condemnation and wrath of God because God’s principles of judgment are fair. And in this chapter, he points out three Divine principles of judgment which prove the Jew is equally condemned with the Gentiles. So let’s look at the entire chapter now. Judgment is first of all:
- Judgement is according to God’s Truth
That’s the first principle of judgment. What I’m teaching you this morning from this entire second chapter is the principles of God’s judgment. What principles does God follow in judgment? God will judge God does judge. What principles does He follow? The first principle of judgment is that judgment is according to God’s truth, and we learn that from verses 1 to 5 of Romans 2. As the Jew read Paul’s indictment of the Heathen in the first chapter, I’m sure they had big smiles on their faces as God told the Heathen what He was going to do with them. And they smiled and they probably thought that serves them right and they repeat it that oft-repeated little phrase. ‘We told them so!’ Their attitude was that of the Pharisee in Luke chapter 18: “I thank You that I am not as other men…” That was their attitude, but Paul turns the Jews’ judgment of the Gentiles right back upon themselves and he says to them you do the same things the Gentiles do so you are just as guilty. God’s judgment is not according to hearsay, not according to gossip, not according to man’s own good opinions or man’s evaluations or whatever new book he writes. It’s according to truth. He says in verse 2 of that chapter: ‘We know that the Judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.’ It’s according to truth. Someone has said we hate our own faults, especially when we see them in others. Amen? We hate their own faults, especially when we see our own faults in others. How easy it is for people today–as in Paul’s day– to condemn others, but we have the very same sins in our own lives. Now the Jews may have argued back and say: ‘surely God won’t judge us with the same truth He applies to the Gentiles?’ Just see how good God has been to Israel. Surely He won’t judge us the same as them, but they were ignorant of the purpose of God that God had in mind when he poured out His goodness on Israel and waited patiently for His people for so long to obey Him. His goodness was supposed to lead them to repentance that we read about this morning, but instead what did they do? They hardened their hearts and what was the effect? They stored up more wrath for the day when Christ will judge the lost. That’s what they did. I’ve heard some sinners say I have heard them say: ‘I’m sure God isn’t going to send me to hell. The God I serve will not send me to hell. The God I believe in will not send me to hell; He’s done so many things for me in my life. Why would he do so many good things for me in my life just to send me to hell at the end of it? Have some of you heard that argument? It’s becoming more prevalent, but little do they realize that God’s goodness is the preparation for God’s grace. God’s goodness is always the preparation for God’s grace and instead of bowing in humble gratitude to God, people harden their heart and they commit more sin, thinking that God loves them too much to condemn them and these same two excuses that the Jews used in Paul’s day are still heard today.’ I’m better than others, so I don’t need Christ.’ Or secondly: ‘God has been good to me and He will certainly never condemn me.’ But we know that God’s final judgment will not be according to our opinions and our evaluations. It will be according to truth! And that’s what Paul has now been teaching us in the first 15 verses of chapter 2. First principle of judgment: Judgment is according to God’s truth, not according to: ‘are you better than other people’ and ‘God has done so many good things for you.’ That was the wrong thinking of the Jews.
The second principle of judgment, we find in verses 6 to 16. And here it is:
- Judgement is according to a Person’s Deeds
We saw last week that God will judge fiercely, God will judge fully, God will judge fairly according to our deeds. You see the problem with the Jews, that’s Paul’s argument in Chapter 2 is they thought that they held the highest status among God’s people and they didn’t realize that it’s one thing to be a hearer of the law and another to be a doer of the law (verse 30). Now you need to keep in mind that these verses don’t tell us how to be saved. They describe how God judges mankind according to the deeds performed in the course of life. The things; the stuff we do in our lives, we will be judged according to that whatever comes out of our mouths. We will be judged according to our deeds and that is a terrifying thing, because the Lord tells us you don’t even have to do the thing. You just need to think about doing it. You just need to look at the woman in undue desire and you’re guilty of adultery. You just I need to say to a man: ‘you fool; you moron’ and you’re a murderer! You just need to think about taking what is not yours and you’re already a thief; it’s already your deeds. And God will judge us according to our deeds. He teaches us in verses 6 to 16. They don’t tell us out of he saved those verses. They just describe how God judges us according to the deeds performed in the course of our lives. How are you living your life? You think we’re just going to get away with it? We’re not. God will judge us accordingly. And verses 7 to 8 of chapter 2. Let’s read them: “…to those who by patience in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” You see that? They’re not talking about our occasional actions; they are talking about the total purpose and drive and warp and woof and thrust of your whole life. The way you think, the way you feel, the way you act, the way you fail to act. It’s talking about that in verses 7 and 8. It’s the life choice. It’s talking about your life choices, one man put it. People don’t get eternal life by patiently seeking it, but if they are seeking for life, they will find it in Christ Alone. Look at verse 6 ‘every man’ verse 9 ‘every soul’ verse 10 ‘every man’ and those phrases show us that God is no respecter of persons, but judges all mankind; every man, woman, boy and child. He judges them on the basis of the lives that they lived! And you may ask but is God just in judging us this way? Is He right in doing that? After all the Jews have had the Law and the Gentiles didn’t have the Law. So it’s not fair. We didn’t even know that it was wrong. But that’s the wrong argument because God is just as verses 12 to 15 explain. All who sin without the Law will also perish without the Law. So you can’t use that argument and say unlike the Jews, we did not have the Law. God will judge people according to the light they have received and you must never think that the Gentiles who were unaware of Moses lived apart from the Law. Why not? Because the moral Law of God was written on their hearts. There was a missionary called Dan Crawford many, many years back. A veteran missionary to Africa and when he came back out of the jungles, you know what he said about people who had never seen a Bible in their lives? You know what Dan Crawford said? The heathen are sinning against the flood of light; the heavens declare the glory of God. We are without excuse, whether you had the Law or you didn’t have the Law. When you hear the ‘Piet-my-vrou’, you know that God is alive; He made that and when you want to ‘skiet hom gou’ (shoot him quick), you know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You don’t need a Bible for that. Your heart tells you that! You’re without excuse. ‘The heathen are sinning against a flood of light’ Crawford said. And is most evident from Scripture – this flood of light. Someone said that men will be judged according to the knowledge of God, which they possess and never according to any higher standard that they do not possess. Listen to that again. I think it was Roy Lauren who said ‘men will be judged according to the knowledge of God which they possess and never according to any higher standard that they do not possess.’ God is just. We must not sin against the flood of light. The Jews heard the Law, but they refused to do it and they’ll be judged more severely. The same will happen to sinners who hear God’s Word today, but will not heed it. Listen to me: when we are caught in something that is wrong, we need to acknowledge that and walk away from it – that’s the light that we have. So those two principles of Judgment. Verses 1-5: Judgment is according to God’s truth, verses 6 to 17: Judgment is according to a person’s deeds and light and then lastly verses 17 to 29 – the third principle of God’s judgment:
- Judgement is according to the Gospel of Christ
Twice now Paul has told us about a Day of Judgment (verses 5 and 16). Now he states that this judgment will be of the heart when God will reveal all secrets. Christ will be the Judge and the issue will be this: ‘What did you do with the Gospel of Christ?’ The Jews boasted of their racial and their religious privileges. Because God had given them His Word, they knew His will. And they had a finer and more sophisticated sense of values and they looked upon the Gentiles as blind, in the dark, as fools and babes (read verses 19 and 20). They considered themselves to be God’s exclusive favourites. I love that Afrikaans word: ‘witbroodjies’ (favoured ones). They thought they were ‘witbroodjies’ but what they fail to see was that these very privileges obligated than to live holy lives. They disobeyed themselves, the very Law that they preached to the Gentiles and the result was that even the wicked Gentiles blasphemed God’s Name, because of the sins of the Jews. That’s what Paul is saying and he’s perhaps referring to Isaiah 52:5 or Ezekiel 36 or even perhaps to Nathan’s words to David in second Samuel 12:14: ‘You are the man.’ God will reveal the secrets of the heart.
You see, if any people had religion it was the Jews, but their religion was a matter of outward ceremony and not inward reality and it’s easy to get people to do that. Look at the whole ceremony of the mass, how easy it was to get people to do that for generations. Look, I’m for liturgy. I don’t believe in this willy-nilly and just- come as you go; come and your tekkies and just unscrew the light bulbs while the band plays out of tune. I’m not into that stuff. I’m into set liturgy, set according to the Word of God, but the Jews had lapsed into this ceremonialism. And just as an aside: People tell us they don’t like that. Go into any shop; go to any Medi-Cross today and see how easily a virus gets them to comply with that. That order, they will take. When it comes to whether you’re going to cough or not or die or not, they will take it when it comes to the body. When it comes to the worship of the Almighty God, they will not take it. They want the freedom. See the inconsistency, people of God. Your life; your soul is more important than your lungs!! But the Jews thought that ceremony would save them, which of course it won’t. That religion; that outward ceremony and pomp and circumstance and they boast that of their rite of circumcision – a ceremony that identified them with the living God. Yet what good is a physical rite if there is no obedience to God’s Word? That’s Paul’s argument in the last part of this chapter. He even goes so far as to say that the uncircumcised Gentile who obeyed God’s word was better off than the circumcised Jew who disobeyed it (in verse 27). And the circumcised Jew who disobeyed God was looked upon as uncircumcised by God. The true Jew is one who has faith inwardly Paul says – whose heart has been changed, and not one who merely follows outwards ceremonies in the flesh. And in verse 27 he boldly says that the Gentiles, who by nature, even though they are uncircumcised, fulfill the Law, are going to judge the Jews who transgress God’s standards. It’s a terrifying thing. You see judgment is according to the Gospel of Christ, because the Gospel of Christ demands an inward change. You must be born again (John 3:7). It’s not obedience to a religious system that will allow us to pass the test when Christ judges the secrets of the heart; it’s not that; it’s the Gospel of Christ that is God’s power unto salvation, both to the Gentile and to the Jew (Romans 1:16). If a person has never believed the Gospel and [hasn’t] received Christ, then he or she stands condemned. The Jews with all their religion and legalism were and are just as much under sin as the Gentiles and more so because to them were given the greater privileges and opportunities to know the truth. How many people today are on their way to hell because they think God is going to judge them according to their own good opinions of themselves, their status or their religion or their deluded belief that they can write a better book than God! In chapter 1 Paul proves that the Gentiles are without excuse and here in chapter 2 that the Jews are without excuse. In chapter 3 he will prove that the whole world is under sin and condemnation, desperately needing the grace of God.
So my brothers and sisters, he is telling us righteousness is needed. Why is it needed? Because the Gentiles are under sin as the Jews are under sin and as we will see next week, the whole world is under sin. Have you seen that? Can you see? And people tell me – and just the other day a man told me – every generation of Christian preachers say that. Can you see that things are worse now than they have been at least in my living memory? Can you see that? We live in a world where we have our teenagers walking around with sophisticated electronic devices in their hands and they have Google and they have YouTube and they have – what is this other thing called – Twitter or something – a guy with a long beard with a nose ring that’s been tagged by the Wildlife Society. And they’re getting their information from them and they’re having information withheld from them. You need to proclaim God’s truth to your children, to yourself because Judgment will be according to God’s truth and not how many hits somebody gets on Facebook. You will not be judged according to the thumbs down or thumbs up on your Facebook page – you will be judged according to the truth of God and you will be judged according to your deeds. How you live, matters.
Let me say something to you this morning, whatever your sin – inwardly or outwardly. As long as you have breath, it may just be a Covid infested gasp through a ventilator. But as long as you have breath, it’s never too late to say: ‘Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned.’ It’s never too late to confess in deep contrition and to turn and you will be judged according to your deeds. And lastly and most importantly judgment is according to the Gospel of Christ (verses 17 to 29). And what is that Gospel? And I close with it. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died and rose again, according to the Old and New Testament and He reigns as Lord and Saviour and he promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all those who repent and believe. That’s the Gospel and you will be judged according to it. Do you this morning know that – just like the Jews and the Gentiles – you too are under sin? Will you this morning repent and believe?
 Please refer to the evening service, where the statement regarding the Pope was explained more clearly.