Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Rom. 2:12-13 “For as many as have sinned without law shall also
perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the
law shall be judged by the law; For not the hearers of the
law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be
In judgment, responsibility is determined according to privilege enjoyed. The greater one’s privilege, the greater the responsibility. Those who have the Law, God’s written revelation of right and wrong, will undergo a much severer judgment than will those who never heard the Law.
Knowledge will not be an advantage on Judgment day. Knowing God’s Word, without obedience, will yield no privilege. In fact, it will make one even guiltier. The scribes of Israel were the greatest Bible scholars who ever lived. They knew more about the Bible than anyone else, but Jesus said of them, “These shall receive greater damnation” (MK 12:40).
The fact one is surrounded by Christianity will not protect him. And, on the other hand, the fact many do not hear the revelation of Christianity will not excuse them. Those who live in distant lands and do not have opportunity to hear the Gospel will not be punished as severely as those who had greater opportunity, but are nevertheless lost and will “perish.”
“Perish” does not mean annihilation or unconscious existence. It rather means they are ruined beyond remedy. All men apart from Christ will exist forever in Hell, and even the easiest grade of condemnation will be a terrible load to bear.
In pondering an existence in Hell for those who never heard the Gospel, we may be tempted to think, “Unfair! Unfair!” But, dear friend, if we care so deeply about them, why have we not gone to tell them the message of Jesus?
Of one thing we can be absolutely certain: God is fair. He who sent His Son to die will do right by all men. A clergyman was once asked if any of the heathen who never heard the Gospel message would be in Heaven. He wisely replied, “I am not appointed Judge of the world, and consequently I cannot tell; but if ever you get to Heaven, you shall either find some of them there or a good reason why they are not there.”
Rom. 2:14-15a “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do
by nature the things contained in the law, these, having
not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the
work of the law written in their hearts. . . .”
Those who never hear the Gospel are not altogether innocent. They may not know about Jesus, but they have God-implanted standards which they do not live up to. All men have a concept of right below which they fall. David Livingstone said he found the rudest tribes of Africa ready to admit they were sinners. One of the wisest heathens confessed, “I know and approve the better, and yet follow the worse.” Socrates marvelled that certain laws were honored almost universally. He concluded they were given to man by God. Sophocles spoke of “the unwritten and indelible laws of the gods in the hearts of man.” Plutarch wrote of “a law which is not outwardly written in books, but implanted in the heart of man.”
Even pagans knew men have a God-given sense of right and wrong. This gift from God to the race allows mankind to live in Community.
Jesus upgrades our concept of morality and helps us do right, but a basic knowledge of duty is in all men. It is written in their hearts.
Then why is there so much evil in men? How can so many bad things be done and yet be viewed by the doers as good?. . .
Rom. 2:15b “. . .their conscience also bearing witness, and their
thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one
Because the conscience can be twisted and perverted by repeated abuse. A man can twist his thoughts to overcome the cries of conscience. It can be muted in its cries of right and wrong. Hence, conscience is not always an accurate guide as to what is right or wrong. A perpetrator in the St. Bartholomew massacre said, “God was obliged to me that day.”
People have free will in regard to accepting or rejecting Christ, and have free will in regard to hearing or rejecting the mandates of God through the conscience. Every man, whether an enlightened American or a primitive aborigine, has sinned against right. Therefore, they are all guilty. And only the Lord can know the level of their guilt.
Conscience plays a significant role in the life of a believer. It is a vehicle used by God to convince us of error. Conscience may be dethroned and mutilated, but cannot be killed. No matter how long it is suppressed, it continues to bubble up. In moments of quiet thought, it suddenly appears and thunders away. Like the fabled ghost of a murdered man, conscience will haunt the heart that was once its domain.
Allow your conscience to do its proper work. It is a precious gift from God, and serves as an early warning system against the dangers of sin.
On the other hand, do not let conscience drive you to despair. Once you have repented of a sin, quit carrying the load of guilt. The Devil can give a counterfeit sense of guilt which leads to quitting and despair. Watch out for this pitfall.
Merely be sensitive to the inner warnings of conscience. A watchdog once gave loud notice of impending danger to the inhabitants of a log hut. Annoyed by the barking, they silenced the disturbing barks. Soon, intruders were upon them, the hut was burned, and the inhabitants killed. Heed the warnings of conscience.
Romans 2:16 “In the day when God shall judge the secrets
of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”
Verse 16 picks up the thought of verse 12. Hidden deeds and thoughts are the surest criteria of character, and they will be judged by God. Secret good deeds will be rewarded; secret sins will be punished. Keep the inner shrine as clean as possible. Someday its inherent secrets shall be revealed.
God knows our secrets of ambition. Self-glory is a powerful motivation for us. It is rare to find someone who does things only for the glory of God. Much of what we do is done with ulterior motives. Many of our best and kindest deeds are wrapped around motives of pride and self-love.
God knows our secrets of covetousness. He knows when we compromise principles in order to increase our own personal withholdings. He sees us flaunting a religious exterior, but also knows when we withhold tithes and offerings.
God knows our secrets of envy. We are in honor to prefer one another (RM 12:10). Each of us should “esteem other better than themselves” (PH 2:3), but instead there is dislike. There are pains in the heart when others are praised. We suffer emotional heartburn over the triumphs of others.
Look deep in your heart. Find and remove all your secret contaminations. The word “secrets” is the Greek word krupta, the basis of our word “crypt.” It referred to vaults and cellars, and the things concealed in them. In other words, on that day no vault will be able to protect hidden sins.
The hidden sins you have buried in the crypt of your heart are the ones you value most. They are your treasures and bespeak the real you.
You can conceal those secret things from man, but nothing is hidden from the all-seeing and all-searching eye of God. He “shall raid the cellars, plunder the vaults, disclose the hidden, and reveal the secret things of life –for judgment” (McBeth).
And what shall be the final criterion of judgment? Paul’s “gospel,” the message he proclaimed. The Apostles’s message was a mixture of tenderness and terror: tenderness to repentants, terror to the obstinates. There is grace for any who desire release from sin, but wrath and anguish for all who cling to evil.
To flatter sinners is treachery. We do not have the right to let them live in a fool’s paradise. It is no kindness to lull men into a soft slumber from which they will awake in Hell.
But praise God! A way has been made available for men to pass from terror to tenderness. A path to safety has been opened due to the death of God’s own Son.
The Highlanders of Scotland have told a story for centuries to illustrate their high code of honor. One night at an inn on the moors of Glenorchy, the son of a chieftain of the MacGregors was killed in a scuffle. The manslayer, a young gentleman named Lamont, mounted his horse and fled, hotly pursued by the friends of the young MacGregor. Through the darkness of the night he raced and succeeded in reaching a house. It happened to be the house of MacGregor himself.
Lamont, not knowing who the homeowner was, frantically cried, “Save my life! Men are after me to take it away.”
MacGregor, not knowing the lad or what had happened, replied, “Whoever you are, while you are under my roof, you are safe.”
Right away the pursuers arrived and asked, “Has a stranger just entered your house?”
“He has, and what may be your business with him?”
“The man has killed your son! Give him up to our vengeance!”
The chief was overwhelmed with grief and began to weep, but even in his sorrow was able to say, “No, you cannot have the youth, for he has MacGregor’s word for his safety, and as God lives, while he is in my house, he shall stay secure” (B. I., Numbers, p. 342).
Now hear an even older story of honor. God gave His Son to men. We rejected and killed Him. Nevertheless, pardon and peace are offered to any and all who come confessing sin and seeking forgiveness. Your sin helped crucify God the Son, but God the Father will still allow you refuge.