Romans 2:1-16 (CSB) Therefore, every one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. Do you think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and anger to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness. There will be affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For there is no favoritism with God.
For all who sin without the law will also perish without the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified. So, when Gentiles, who do not by nature have the law, do what the law demands, you are a law to themselves even though you do not have the law. you show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.
We are not to judge others in their sin and where we think they are at
Matthew 7:1–6 (CSB) “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or you will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.
Judge ourselves by the fruit we produce with our lives according to the word of God and not the world
Matthew 12:33-37 (CSB) Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word you speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Ours is to proclaim the gospel–it is the gospel command by God to repent of sins and trust in Christ
Go and read Matthew 23. It is the summation of our gospel ministry in light of Matthew 7. It is where Christ points out the hypocrisy of the super religious people of the day. And for the chief reason: all the undue and back-breaking weight of self-righteousness that they put on the people of God.
The end of Romans 1 exposes our hearts' bent towards license–that is, somehow we have fooled ourselves in thinking that God allows us to sin. But God is not like that.
The beginning of Romans 2 exposes our hearts to legalism–that is, earning righteousness by what we do. But God is not like that.
Where do you see God in the text? What does the text say about God?
What is God like?
God is kind.
We clearly see the heart of God towards wickedness and sin: the gospel of Christ who takes away our sin on the cross and gives us his righteousness.
But we also clearly see the heart of God towards legalism and self-righteousness. Most of us agree that it is bad. And we might all pass that theological pop quiz–self-righteous is bad. Check. Legalism is bad. Double check.
What is legalism? It is when we are so focus on the law of God and obeying God to the point that you end up believing what you do makes you good with God versus trusting all that God has done is what makes the people of God good and right-standing with God.
And you can tell when people struggle with legalism because you are dying to ask you, “But what about…?” For example, “So what you are saying that we don’t have to obey God? We just need to believe?”
So to answer that, no. You are never going have me or any church that I attend or all of orthodox Christianity ever suggest that we don’t have to obey God that much. In fact, spoiler alert: Romans 6, 7, and 8 dismantles those types of questions. I will save that argument for when we get there.
Here is the struggle of the legalist: it is self-righteousness.
Here is the truth of God: only God is righteous.
All who were born of Adam have no righteousness within us. We are born to die and perish and be under the wrath of the Almighty God.
Matthew 23:37-39 (CSB) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’!”
The day of judgment, reckoning and the wrath of God is soon coming. And Jesus Christ both in the Gospels and in his Revelation makes it painfully clear: the wrath of God that remains on those who do not trust and obey comes from the Son of God himself.
In all of my conversations with unbelievers and perhaps well-intentioned Christians are sometimes too focus on humanity. What I mean by that is that you are so fixated on trying to save people who want nothing to do with God but do not want to perish and suffer in hell.
One solution: all are saved by God
But read the Bible and you know that is not true. You are free to cherry-pick some verses to make your argument and you would still be damningly wrong.
Another solution: something between God and not God.
In other words, there is something between Heaven and Hell and good people who might not know God get to go there. One, the Bible doesn’t teach that. Two, that is not a way of saving anybody. Three, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
(One thing that is particularly interesting is that religions that particularly struggle with legalism have implemented some sort of grey area between Heaven and Hell such as Roman Catholic teaching on purgatory or Latter-Day Saints' teaching on the three kingdoms of glory.)
But what does the Bible say? Perhaps we speak as Christians who have put their faith, trust, and obedience into Jesus Christ and we have the assurance that we are saved to God forever. Then there is some of us who are not sure or we don’t think we are good enough. Finally, what about our neighbor, or our relative, or our gay friend? What about them? How can you be saved? Where is God’s heart in all of this?
I say to you all: those who are sick of your own heart. You know the thoughts you think deep down inside. With your mouths you say one thing but you really know what you believe. And it is gross. You have regret all of your wrongdoing and you are just sick of it. You can’t stand it. And it is (literally) too damn difficult to keep trying to do the right thing and you keep messing up. And you keep going back to your addictions and vices.You keep picking the wrong lovers. You keep doing the marriage thing over and over until you get it right. You are a dad or a mom who totally jacked up your chances with your kids and now they will have nothing to do with you. You know you are not righteous. You know you have tried and your best wasn’t nearly good enough.
If that is you, then take a few seconds to listen how the Almighty, Wrathful, Just, Righteous, and Holy God responds to you right now and every second of your life:
Matthew 11:28-30 (CSB) “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Hear that? Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose again is asking you to come to him. You carrying around slogs of crap around? Give it to him. He will take it. What about that wickedness? What about that sin? What about my anxiety? What about struggles? What about my addictions?
Believe in God. And now that stuff belongs to Him. For all of your mess and disease and crap and sin and wickedness, he is going to give you the lightest and greatest gift of all:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
You see that?
Our original parents, Adam & Eve, and every human born, exchanged God for sin. Jesus Christ came to earth and exchanged our sin for his righteousness.
Trust in Him and take him at his word. When you do so, you shall be saved.
All of my wickedness, immorality, perversion, treasonous acts, foolishness, and sin now belong to you.
Give me your righteousness so I can be with you forever.
Today’s episode at The Study