How Does God Judge Sinful Men?
Following 12 Principles of God's Judgment
Paul has clearly and convincingly shown that the HEATHEN man is lost and without excuse before God (Romans 1:17-32). Now in the first part of chapter 2 he will show that the
MORAL man is lost and without excuse. Later in chapter 2 and in chapter 3 he will show that the
RELIGIOUS man (the Jew) is lost and without excuse.
There is a KEY WORD found in the first 16 verses of chapter 2. It is the word "JUDGE" or "JUDGMENT" (see verses 1,2,3,5,12,16). In verse 1 we have man sitting in judgment, but starting in verse 2 we have God on the throne of judgment which is proper and right. God is the perfect and righteous JUDGE, and in these first 16 verses we will discover several PRINCIPLES OF JUDGMENT. These important principles will help us to understand what kind of a Judge God is and how He carries out and exercises His judgment.
|Principle of Judgment #1: The moral man is rendered inexcusable before God the righteous Judge|
Inexcusable means "without any defense" (compare Rom. 1:20). He has nothing to say, he is silenced (compare Romans 3:19); he is guilty and he knows it!
This verse is talking about a person who is passing judgment on another, condemning the actions of another. Hence, it is talking about the moral person (the person with moral discernment, the person who passes a moral judgment on someone). There is a difference between the moral man and the heathen man. In Romans 1:32 the heathen man APPROVES and APPLAUDS sinful conduct but in Romans 2:1 the moral man DISAPPROVES and JUDGES sinful conduct.
The moral man condemns another for sinful conduct but since he himself is guilty of the same thing he is in effect condemning himself. This principle can be illustrated in three ways:
|Principle of Judgment #2: God’s Judgment is according to truth.|
We are sure = we know
A human judge is limited when it comes to knowing the truth and ascertaining the true facts of any case. He must depend upon the testimony of men, many of whom will lie even under oath. People may fail to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but this is no problem to God. The true facts of every case are naked and open before Him. He needs no witnesses and no jury because He has personally witnessed every crime and every sin that has ever been committed. He knows all the facts (see Hebrews 4:12-13). He never misrepresents a person’s case! We can be sure that God’s judgment is always according to truth.
Principle of Judgment #3: God’s judgment is inescapable!
The answer to the question of this verse is obvious: NO! There is no escape! If any person thinks that he will escape God’s judgment, he is thinking wrong! There is no such thing as "the perfect crime." Men may escape human justice but they will never escape divine justice (compare Amos 9:1-3).
|Principle of Judgment #4: Men should not run away from God (v.3--"escape" is impossible) but they should run to God (v.4--"repentance" is essential).|
Goodness = kindness, generosity. God’s goodness extends to all men (see Matthew 5:45 and Acts 14:17).
Forbearance = holding back. God holds back His Judgment; God delays His punishment; He does not judge sin immediately.
Longsuffering = long time before getting angry, slow to anger. This does not mean that God never gets angry, but it does mean that He is slow to anger. His longsuffering will not last forever.
The fact that God is good and forbearing and longsuffering ought to lead men to repentance! Men ought to run to God seeking His mercy! But instead men despise God, harden their hearts and refuse to repent! Today, during this age of grace God's goodness and grace and mercy abound towards all men, but men still refuse to repent. In the tribulation period, God's severity and judgment and plagues will abound towards all men, but men will still refuse to repent (see Rev. 9:20-21). However, when a sinner does repent, whether now or then, there is great joy in heaven (Luke 15:7,10).
|Principle of Judgment #5: There will be a final day of judgment for the ungodly.|
This day of judgment is described as "the day of wrath and revelation (unveiling) of the righteous judgment of God." This final day of judgment for the ungodly is also described in 2 Peter 3:7 ("the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men") and Revelation 20:11-15.
Hardness: the hearts of men get harder and harder as they refuse to respond to God’s goodness and forbearance and longsuffering.
Impenitent: describing a person who refuses to repent (compare the two criminals on the cross -- one was penitent or repentant and the other was impenitent).
Treasurest up unto (for) thyself wrath = treasuring up wrath, misers of wrath. Instead of laying up treasures for heaven (Matthew 6:19-20), they were treasuring up wrath from heaven (storing it up for that final day).
|Principle of Judgment #6: God’s Judgment is perfectly righteous!|
It is called the "righteous judgment of God." God the righteous Judge makes no mistakes! See Genesis 18:25 and Romans 9:14. When the divine Judge arrives at a verdict, it must be RIGHT. The punishment (penalty) must be right also. God makes no mistakes. The Judge of all the earth will do right. He cannot do wrong. Every occupant of hell will be fully deserving.
|Principle of Judgment #7: God’s judgment is just -- every man will get exactly what he deserves.|
"(God) will render (give back) to every (each) man according to his deeds (works)." Here we have perfect justice at work. God evaluates a man’s works and judges accordingly. The penalty will perfectly fit the crime. Every man will get his due reward, whether good or bad.
This same teaching is found in the following passages: Matthew 12:36-37 (men will be judged according to their words); Matthew 16:27 (every man will be rewarded according to his works); Romans 12:19 (God will repay men for the evil they have done); 2 Timothy 4:14 (God will reward this evil man according to his works); Revelation 18:4-6, Judges 1:7 ("as I have done, so God hath requited me"); 2 Samuel 3:39; Psalm 28:4; Psalm 62:12; Psalm 94:1-2; Proverbs 22:12; Lamentations 3:64 and Jeremiah 17:10.
Thankfully, God is not only a God of JUSTICE but He is also a God of GRACE. According to JUSTICE sin must be judged and punished. According to GRACE sin can be pardoned and forgiven (see Psalm 103:3 and Ephesians 1:7). God is a God of judgment but He is also a God of grace (Psalm 103:8). Psalm 103:10 is true only because of the GRACE OF GOD. The wonderful truth of the gospel is that God can be gracious to sinful men WITHOUT COMPROMISING HIS JUSTICE. The Lord Jesus died for our sins, and thus God has dealt with Christ after our sins and God has rewarded Christ according to our iniquities (compare Psalm 103:10)! God remains JUST (because He poured out His judgment and wrath upon Christ) and at the same time He is able to graciously JUSTIFY the sinner who trusts in His Son (Romans 3:26; 4:5)! Praise God!
|Principle of Judgment #8: God punishes those who do evil and rewards those who do good.|
Notice the structure of these verses (chiasm or inverted parallelism):
Verse 7 -- this is how God will reward those who do good A1
Verse 8 -- this is how God will reward those who do evil B1
Verse 9 -- this is how God will reward those who do evil B2
Verse 10 -- this is how God will reward those who do good A2
[For a lengthy discussion of inverted parallelism, see our studies entitled ENGLISHMAN'S GREEK].
Here is some help with some of the words:
"Render" (v.6) = give back, pay back, reward (give a person just what he has earned)
"Contentious" (v.8 ) = selfish, self-seeking
"To the Jew first" (v.9) -- Why were the Jews "first" in judgment? Because according to Luke 12:48, "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." The Jews had been given much (see Rom. 3:1-2 and Romans 9:1-5). Those who have been given much will be held more accountable. It is not unreasonable for the Judge to ask, "What have you done with all the light and truth which I have given you?" Example: An unsaved person who lives next door to a Bible believing church in America is much more accountable than an unsaved person who lives in a jungle tribe where there is no gospel testimony. This does not mean that the tribesman will not be judged, but God's judgment will be more severe toward the person who had such opportunity and privilege. Concerning the question: Are the heathen lost? See our notes of Romans 1.
It might seem that Paul is saying that A PERSON EARNS eternal life BY DOING GOOD. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" At first glance Paul’s answer seems to be, "to earn eternal life you must patiently continue in well doing" (v.7) or "to earn eternal life you must do good" (v.10). In order to solve this theological problem, consider the following points:
Compare John 5:29 which also sets forth two classes: 1) those that have done good (LIFE); 2) those that have done evil (DAMNATION).
Therefore we must conclude from these passages that CLASS 1 (see above) is made up of born again believers and CLASS 2 (see above) is made up of those who are unbelievers and who have refused to come to Christ.
CONCLUSION: Paul is setting forth the simple principle of judgment that God rewards the good and punishes the evil. Paul is dealing here with how people are judged, not how people are saved. In Romans chapters 3 and 4 Paul will proclaim the good news that God is able to save wicked people by His grace. We will then learn how men are saved.
"Respect of persons" = literally, "to receive (a person’s) face." God does not deal with a person on the basis of his "face" (surface considerations such as nationality, race, color of skin, wealth, etc.). God looks deeper than the surface. The goddess of Justice in the Greek system had a bandage over her eyes so that she could not see the person who came before her for judgment!
|Principle of Judgment #9 -- There is no partiality with God.|
This continues the thought of verse 11. God is not partial in judgment. In His judgment God does not favor the Jews (His chosen people) over the Gentiles. Both Jews and Gentiles will be judged fairly.
Those who are "without law" (see Romans 2:14) are the Gentiles. Those who had the law (compare Romans 2:17-20) are the Jews. God never gave the law to the other nations (such as Egypt, Assyria, etc.). The law was given exclusively to the nation Israel (see Exodus 19:3-5; 20:2; 34:27 and compare Deuteronomy 4:1-8 and
According to the first part of verse 12, what will happen to the Gentiles (heathen people) who have sinned without law? (This sheds light on the question, "Are the heathen lost?") According to the last part of verse 12, what will happen to the Jews who sinned even though they had the law? Notice the expression "as many as have sinned." How many have sinned (see Romans 3:23 and 3:9)?
Paul’s point, simply stated is this:
IGNORANCE OF THE LAW WILL NOT SAVE THE GENTILE.
POSSESSION OF THE LAW WILL NOT SAVE THE JEW.
Both are condemned before God the righteous Judge!
|Principle of Judgment #10 -- A Person is judged according to the light which he has.|
To whom much is given, much also is required (see Luke 12:48). The Jew had been given much light. The Jew possessed the law of God in written form (the Ten Commandments, etc.). The Jew will be judged by that law which he has. The Gentile who does not have the law will not be judged by that law. He will not be held accountable for what he does not have. But the Gentile does have something. He has been given some light and he will be judged according to the light which he does have. The Gentiles did not have the law of Moses but there was another law which they did have (as we will see in verse 15).
Verses 13-15 are parenthetical (to see this, read verse 12 and then go directly to verse 16). The structure here is that of inverted parallelism (also known as CHIASM) and can be simply explained as follows:
Al Verse 12a -- refers to the Gentiles (who do not have the law)
Bl Verse 12b -- refers to the Jews (who have the law)
B2 Verse 13 -- refers to the Jews
A2 Verses 14-15 -- refers to the Gentiles
[For other examples of chiasmus or inverted parallelism see our notes entitled Englishman's Greek. There is chiasmus in Philemon 5 and in Acts 20:32. Can you identify these grammatical structures?]
Verse 13 -- This verse refers to the Jews who had the law and who heard the law. It is not enough just to have the law. It is not enough just to hear the law. A person must DO (keep, obey) the law. Paul’s argument is very simple: The Jews had the law (possessed it), they heard the law, but they did not do the law, and therefore the Jews are condemned!
|Consider the expression: "THE DOERS OF THE LAW SHALL BE JUSTIFIED" (v.13). Does this mean that a person can get to heaven by keeping God’s law? Consider the following facts:
Thus, Paul’s argument: "Listen my Jewish brothers, it is not enough to hear the law. You must obey the law perfectly or else you are under the curse and condemnation of God!" Those who wish to be justified by the law must keep the entire law and must keep it perfectly.
The Gentiles do not have the written law of God. They do not have the law of Moses. But according to these verses they have God’s law WITHIN THEM, "written in their hearts." Although they have never seen a copy of the Ten Commandments, they know that it is wrong to murder, steal, lie, etc. And their conscience condemns them when they do such things. Here are two examples: 1) Acts 28:3-4. These barbarians never saw the Ten Commandments but somehow they knew that murder was wrong and that it was punishable by death! 2) Genesis 26:6-11. This heathen king had never seen the Ten Commandments yet he knew that adultery was wrong.
"Accusing" = "You’re guilty! What you did is wrong!"
"Excusing" = "You’re not guilty! What you did is right!"
When they do RIGHT their conscience applauds and cheers. When they do WRONG their conscience condemns them and says "You are guilty!"
Thus, the Jew sinned by failing to do what the law of Moses commanded him to do. The Gentile sinned by failing to do what his conscience told him to do. Both Jew and Gentile failed to live up to the light God had given. Both are condemned before God.
(This sentence is continued from verse 12)
"In the day" See verse 5 which also describes this day.
"Secrets" = hidden things
|Principle of Judgment #11 -- Nothing is hidden or kept secret from the Judge.|
Compare Hebrews 4:12-13 and Matthew 10:26. In Revelation 20:12 we learn that the books will be opened and all secrets will be revealed. God keeps accurate records of everything that we have ever thought, said or done!
"By Jesus Christ" = the final Judge of men will be none other than Jesus Christ Himself (see John 5:22,27). God the Father has committed all judgment to His Son.
|Principle of Judgment #12 -- Jesus Christ will be the final Judge before whom all men shall stand.|
"According to my gospel" -- the gospel which Paul preached included the JUDGMENT OF GOD (compare Romans 1:16-18 and Acts 17:31). The gospel is not presented correctly if nothing it said about the judgment of God.