Changing Times, Changeless God: God Is Judge
Pastor Russell Scoggins
Sermon Date: 9/15/2019
Bible Reference: Romans 2:1-11; 28-29
2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Imagine you’re on the board of a foundation that gives out money. You regularly receive and evaluate grant applications. As you might expect, most of the applications are upbeat and positive. What if, one day, you open up and begin to read a grant application… and the person applying has nothing but negative things to say? Whoever this weasel asking for money is has the guts to tear apart the very foundation you’re apart of—the foundation from which they’re asking for money. They have the guts to point the finger at you and the rest of the board members: “You! You’re part of the problem! You’re evil—every single one of you! You’re all a bunch of sinners! You’re all judgmental—the whole lot of you! Now give me money.” That’s just nonsensical. You wouldn’t even consider a grant application like that.
We do something rather similar here in church. Every week, I stand up and I imply that all of you (and myself) we’re all a bunch of sinners. I tell you we need to confess our sins. We continue our service. We sing a few songs, read from God’s Word…. But then I stand up and start preaching. I take a text from God’s Word and help us apply it to our lives. And typically, somewhere in that 20-25 minute message I again talk about how you are a sinner. I speak about the things that you do wrong—the things that I do wrong as a sinner. Then, not long after we’ve wrapped the message up, I walk up to the altar, grab the offering plates, and you place your money in them. It’s somewhat similar to that bizarre grant application scenario…. And it’s actually somewhat similar to what we see Paul do here today.
Paul had never been to see the Christian community in Rome. The Christians there met in one another’s houses—not in a church building. That’s why I said “Christian community.” So, Paul writes a letter to the Christian community in Rome. There were several reasons he wrote the letter: He wanted to encourage them. He wanted to let them know that he was hoping to come see them soon. Certainly he was looking to instruct them and build their faith. And one more reason he wrote the letter might be found in chapter 15. Paul says, “23 Now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.” Paul was hoping to get money from them so that he could continue his mission work!
He’s hoping to get money from them, and yet he follows that same template that we’ve spoken about twice now: “You’re all a bunch of sinners, the whole lot of you. Also, please give me money so I can go tell other people that they’re sinners as well.” Whether it’s a grant application, or here in church, or Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Rome… it’s kind of a strange way of doing things.
After a very kind and warm introduction—that section we had last week—Paul launches into what is one of the most extensive and comprehensive “law” sections of Scripture. For a chapter and a half—for 44 verses, Paul brutally attacks sin, sinners, and those who wrongly judge sinners. We find ourselves in the middle of it today. By way of simplifying this section before we get into it, let’s say this: there are 3 types of people. We’re going to talk about 2 of those 3 types of people right now. 2 types of people: There are sinners, and those who wrongly judge sinners. We’ll talk about the 3rd type of person a little later.
If you feel like opening up your Bible today, by all means, please do. There are Bibles in the pew in front of you, or if you have a Bible on your phone, please feel free to use that one as well. Open up to Romans 1. Now, about half way through the chapter starting in verse 18—after Paul has finished all his warm and fuzzy opening words—Paul just goes off. His tune changes very quickly. Chapter 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people.” In this first section, Paul talks about type of person #1 - The sinner who rejects God. If you scan that section, you can see some of the harsh things Paul has to say about sinners that reject God. Listen to how he ends his rant against sin and sinners in verse 29, “29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
In a strange way, when you read the last half of Romans 1, you start to feel good about yourself. “I’m a Christian…. I’ve never even thought about doing 90% of the things Paul mentions here. You know what? I must be a pretty good person. If more people followed my example, the world would be a better place.” Paul was anticipating a prideful reaction like that, so he continues with Chapter 2. He says, “Now hold on just a minute. Maybe you’re not type of person #1—maybe you don’t reject God. But be careful that you’re not type of person #2—someone who wrongly judges sinners and considers yourself better than them. Chapter 2:1 once again, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” “Quit lying to yourself and telling yourself that your moral life makes you a good person. You are just as much of a sinner as every other sinner on the face of the earth. You struggle with some of the very same sins as the people you judge.” It’s like Paul is leaving no survivors. As Christians it’s very easy for us to struggle with the very thing Paul is speaking about here—wrongly judging those who reject Jesus.” Paul’s not telling us to turn a blind eye to sin. But he is saying, as he says in 1 Cor 5, it’s God’s business to judge those outside the church. For those inside it’s a different story—we are to lovingly work with one another and encourage one another to flee from sin.
Paul keeps talking about type of person # 2 for the rest of chapter 2. I’ll summarize what he says in chapter 2, then we’ll focus on those last couple verses (28-29). Paul says to type of person number 2…. If you live by the law, you will die by the law. If you live life and convince yourself that what you do here on earth will help you get into heaven, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed when this life is over because the good you do in this life isn’t worth a pile of pennies when you stand in front of the holy and perfect God on judgement day.
Paul shows us that doing good—living a so called good life—is a matter of the heart. You can show up to church every Sunday of your life, but if your heart’s not in the right place, you won’t be on good terms with God—you won’t be going to heaven. You can live a life that is more holy than anyone who’s ever walked the face of the earth, but if your heart’s not in the right place, you won’t be righteous—you won't be going to heaven. You can do your best to uphold and live out every one of God’s commands in the Bible, but if your heart’s not in the right place, you won’t be right with God—you won’t be going to heaven.
There are 3 types of people: Sinners who reject God, moralistic sinners who judge less moral sinners, and finally, sinners who rely fully on God’s grace. Why do we show up to church week after week and think about how we are sinners? Because we need constant reminders. If we aren’t constantly reminded of our sinfulness, we gradually start to look more and more like those first two individuals we spoke about today: (1) Sinners that don’t care what God has to say, or (2) a moralistic sinner who judges less moral sinners. Only when we’re repeatedly reminded that we are sinners, and then repeatedly reminded that we are forgiven in Christ, only then, by the grace of God, do we steadfastly live like type of person #3. Type of person #3 is who you are in Christ. “28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”
Many of the Jews in Jesus day falsely believed that salvation was dependent on their actions. They thought that if they did everything God commanded in the Old Testament, they would be God’s true children and heirs of eternal life. Circumcision was an example of that wrong way of thinking. They thought that because they were circumcised like God instructed them to be, that made them children of God. Paul says, no… no one is a jew because of what they do to their bodies. No one is a Jew (or a child of God) because of the rules they follow or don’t follow. A person is a jew—a person is a child of God—because of what Paul calls a spiritual circumcision of the heart. What’s he talking about? He’s talking about faith. By faith, you are a sinner that relies entirely on the grace of God. By faith, you humbly recognize that you are just as much of a mess as every other individual you pass on the street. By faith, you recognize that even though you are a completely sinful mess of an individual, you’re a forgiven individual—you’re a sinful mess for whom Jesus died.