Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: After enumerating the catalogue of terrible indictments (1:29-31), Paul turns to the religious and moral man. He now confronts the man who would have smugly enjoyed reading the previous list. Even those who think the list in 1:29-31 does not apply to them are still under the fiat of Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
Rom. 2:1 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou
art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another,
thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest
the same things.”
This verse says all people have no excuse. It would be easy for the Jews or any moral man to point a condemning finger at the people described in 1:29-31, but such an attitude is dangerous. Even the kindest man who speaks against a dictator has at some time or another been guilty of being dictatorial and arrogant. We all at times have desires to dominate others. Even the most honest man who criticizes another for lying has at some time shaded the truth. Even the most loving man who speaks against a murderer has on occasion harbored ill-will toward another in his heart.
Often the sins we criticize in others are different from our own only in degree, not in kind. We can easily be critical when looking at the outward deeds of others, yet lenient to the point of blindness when we look at the seeds of those same sins within ourselves.
Opportunity must also be taken into account. It is easy for one who has never had an opportunity to commit a particular sin to point his finger at another who did have the opportunity and yielded to temptation.
Do not occupy yourself too much about others. Rather, take heed to yourself. Making yourself a judge of others shoves God off His rightful throne. He alone has the right of ultimate judgment.
May God help us to be careful in our thoughts toward others. The only judgment permissible for believers is not one which springs from a gossipy or critical nature, but rather one which springs from a desire to hold up the Word of God as a mirror to reflect men’s sins, and as a light to guide their steps to Jesus.
When we preach and share aright from the Word, our judgment does not spring from any possession of self-righteousness. It rather springs from a love which knows all are sinners, all are equally undone, and all are welcome at the cross.
Proper judgment springs from a heart recognizing its own unworthiness and loving the sinner. Any other judgment is an arrogant sin that will one day itself be brought into judgment. The “whosoever” in this passage is just as broad as the “whosoever” of John 3:16. Whosoever believeth shall have everlasting life, and whosoever judgest shall be judged.
Be careful when evaluating the lives of others. Often our harsh criticisms of others are attempts to pacify our own consciences. We know we do wrong, and think we can buy off God by putting forth a strong and pious stand against the sins of others. People sometimes act as if speaking loudly against the sins of others can atone for the guilt of their own sin. But the smoke screen does not work. It does not help lessen guilt.
Man often tries to get out of being judged by becoming a judge. When pressured about his own shortcomings, he tries to divert attention to others by saying things like, “I am as good as you are”; “Clean up your own back yard”; “Look at how bad others are”; “At least I do not murder.”
The very fact one person is able to criticize another proves every person has the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Since everyone is competent to determine another’s duty, everyone is competent to determine his own duty. This is exactly what we all had best do. Examine yourself. Do not worry too much about others. We are all guilty without excuse.
Rom. 2:2 “But we are sure that the judgment of God is according
to truth against them which commit such things.”
Verse one leaves all men without excuse. Verse two reminds us God makes no errors. It may seem unfair to group the moral lost man in the same category as the immoral lost person.
The outward wickedness of the debauched Gentiles was not exactly the same as that of the Jews and moral Gentiles, but their basic sin was the same: all sinned against light. All are without excuse, and possibly the Jew and moral Gentile much more, especially if they have sinned against greater light. Privilege brings added responsibility. One who sins against the most light sins the greatest. This may seem unfair to us, but God makes no errors in judgment.
Paul is desperately trying to shake all men out of their complacency. He wants everyone to know the lost “good” man and the lost “bad” man are equally lost. He wants everyone to realize their tremendous need for a Savior.
The only way to avoid more wrath is to avoid more sin, and the only way to avoid sin is to flee to a Savior. God makes no errors; all men are judged fairly, according to truth, reality; and reality is that all men need a Substitute, a Savior.
God does not judge as we do. He has a different and better perspective. We compare ourselves to ourselves at “street level,” easily distinguishing between people who are five feet tall and those who are six feet tall. But go to the top of the Gateway Arch and then look down on the same crowd. It would be impossible to distinguish heights. Everyone looks equally small. Ours is a “street level” game of determining relative worth and goodness, but God looks down and sees one height: all are sinners.
A man standing on Mt. Everest is higher than a man standing beside the Dead Sea. But is the man on Everest any closer to reaching the moon than the other man? NO! Likewise, we know some men are ethically and morally better than others, but even the best are no nearer to earning heaven than are the worst. In fact, the worse man may be better off. The good man, up on Everest, might not want to lose his favored position. He might simply think he is all right. But the poor fellow down by the Dead Sea might realize his hopelessness, walk over to a spaceship to help in his quest for the moon, and thereby surpass the “good” man.
This is exactly what often happens in the spiritual realm. Many “good” men feel they have arrived. They sense no need for a Savior, but many broken sinners forsake themselves to find Christ.
We had best judge ourselves from God’s perspective, and cease judging ourselves and others from man’s perspective. All are sinners. All must gain forgiveness. All must flee to Jesus.