Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 2:3 Introduction
It is easy for us to condemn the deeds listed in 1:29-31, but Paul reminds us we are all sinners. We are all created by God, for God, and shall answer to God. Daniel Webster was once asked, “What is the greatest thought that ever entered your mind?” He immediately replied, “My responsibility to my Maker!” Notice how Webster personalized it–“My responsibility.” He knew he had a personal responsibility to God.
Why are we told by the prophet Amos (4:12), “Prepare to meet thy God”? Because everyone of us will someday meet God face to face. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (HB 9:27). “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (RM 14:10, see also 2 Cor. 5:10). It is a sobering, awe-inspiring, and even frightening thought.
At Caesarea Paul was imprisoned, but had occasional access with Felix the Governor. This relationship continued until one day Paul”reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” Then Felix trembled and said, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (AC 24:25). Accountability was too painful for sinful Felix to consider. The “convenient season” never came, but rest assured the judgment did.
Rom. 2:3 “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which
do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt
escape the judgment of God?”
No escape! Allow me to emphasize this fact by contrasting God’s judicial system with man’s. A man guilty of breaking human law has at least seven ways by which he can escape human punishment:
1. He may be convicted but then escape from prison.
It might be possible to escape Hell if the Devil were the keeper, but when we remember it is God who orders and controls, it is evident no one shall escape. If a dog can use its sense of smell to track down a fugitive, would anyone dare think God can be evaded? Is a dog better qualified to find men than God is? NO ESCAPE!
2. He may benefit from a breakdown in the legal process.
He may get off due to a technicality, a gifted lawyer, a lenient judge, an incapable prosecutor, an indecisive jury, or a bribe. However, God will by no means clear the guilty (NB 14:18). When Rabbi Ben Zachai was sick, his disciples found him weeping, and asked, “Rabbi, the light of Israel, the right-hand pillar, the strong hammer, wherefore dost thou weep?”
He answered, “If they were carrying me before a king of flesh and blood, who is here today and tomorrow in the grave, who, if he were angry with me, his anger would not last forever; if he put me in prison, his prison would not be everlasting; if he condemned me to death, that death would not be eternal; whom I could soothe with words or bribe with riches; yet even in such circumstances I should weep. But now I am going before the King of Kings, the holy and blessed God, who liveth and endureth; who, if he be angry with me, His anger will last forever; if He put me in prison, His bondage will be everlasting; if He condemn me to death, that death will be eternal; whom I cannot soothe with words nor bribe with riches. When, further, there are before me two ways, the one to Hell and the other to Paradise, and I know not into which they are carrying me, shall I not weep?” (Talmud–Bib. Ill.).
Yes, you might soothe or bribe an earthly judge, but not God. NO ESCAPE!
3. He may reach the statute of limitations.
Laws often stipulate a time limit in which legal action may be taken against certain crimes. The longer a man gets away with a crime, the better–especially if he reaches the statute of limitations. Then nothing can be done to him. He is past retribution and judgment in the human realm.
I fear some people think God has a statute of limitations. They think He will forget deeds done long ago. Life has continued to go on; therefore, they think God has overlooked their past evils.
Cardinal Richelieu was determined to strengthen his own France by weakening Austria. Anne of Austria, Queen of France at the time, understandably disliked Richelieu and once told him, “My lord Cardinal, there is one fact which you seem to have entirely forgotten. God is a sure paymaster. He may not pay at the end of every week or month or year; but I charge you, remember that He pays in the end.”
The hand on the clock of justice may move slowly, but does not stop. Though its movements are imperceptible, by and by it reaches the 10th, 11th, and 12th hours. Then the bell strikes, and judgment is rendered for actions all the way back to the first sin of your life. NO ESCAPE!
4. He may never be discovered.
Donald Barnhouse once listened to the confession of a 60-year-old godly lady who said she had murdered a man 38 years earlier. My dad has a friend who cruelly killed a German youth during the time U.S. troops occupied Germany. I know a man who helped perform a lynching many years ago in Mississippi. Each man present was required to fire a bullet into the body so none could ever plead innocent if one informed on the others. Many, many are never apprehended in human courts because the facts are never known, but on Judgment Day all shall be known. Nothing will be left undiscovered.
God knows not only all our deeds, but also all our thoughts and intentions. “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man” (PS 94:11). God will judge not only outward deeds, but inner motives and secret desires. He even knows the sins one would commit if given the opportunity. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 SM 16:7). All will be discovered. NO ESCAPE!
5. He may escape beyond the bounds of jurisdiction.
Bani Sadr escaped the Ayatollah of Iran and enjoyed refuge in France. Christian Pentecostals stayed in the American embassy in Moscow for years to escape Russian authorities. But who can escape from the jurisdiction of God? Do you think you can escape? Paul inserted “O man” in our text to remind us of our frail humanity. We are merely created beings. We have no recourse, no place to hide.
On Judgment Day men will “. . .go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:20). The scene will be similar to the one described by John in Revelation 6:15b-16; men ” . . .hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Unfortunately, men will learn what David knew: there is no escape from God. Whether in Heaven or in Hell, God can follow. If you have wings and fly to the uttermost part of the sea, God follows. If you try to hide in darkness, God merely lights the darkness (PS 139:7-12). NO ESCAPE!
6. He may die.
Hitler died before the courts could reach him; as did John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. But death cannot keep one from divine judgment. In fact, death is merely the entrance to ultimate judgment. For the lost, “death after death” would be a relief. Annihilation would be a blessing. The hour of retribution will be like the scene of Revelation 9:6, “In those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”
Physical death does not mean the end of existence. Every one is going to live forever, either in Heaven or Hell. You shall either join Lazarus the beggar in Abraham’s bosom, or shall join the rich man, who lifted up his eyes in Hell (LK 16). Not even death stays the march of judgment.
The pagans themselves knew there was an ongoing principle of retribution in this Universe. Greek and Roman mythology provided for goddesses of vengeance. These terrible creatures were called the Furies. They had snakes in their hair and about their body, along with wings made of scales of brass. The Furies punished people for every kind of crime. They were relentless. Not even death could stop them. They could chase a man even into the Lower World and drive him mad. Death is no escape. NO ESCAPE!
7. He may be pardoned.
Now we come to a similarity between God’s judicial system and man’s. There is no escape from judgment! But there is a way to receive a pardon. There can be a stay of execution.
But even here there is a difference. In man’s system, the pardon usually comes after the public trial; but in God’s system the pardon must be accepted before the Day of Judgment.
Judgment Day will prove all men are unworthy. We will all have the same verdict pronounced, “Guilty sinners.” But before the sentence is pronounced, those who received their pardon in this life will hear, “Debt paid in full; enter ye the joy of the Lord.” Everyone else will hear, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting damnation.”
Judgment Day will show none of us deserves heaven. After this fact is made clear, then all will see that believers are saved due to their Substitute. It will be obvious salvation was of grace, all of grace.
The everlasting punishment for sin can be placed on a substitute. Otherwise, it must be borne by the sinner. Jesus stands ready to save. The pardon is available. “Thou art a God ready to pardon” (NH 9:17). “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (IS 55:7). “I (YHWH) will pardon all their iniquities” (JR 33:8).