Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgement of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

We didn’t touch the last phrase Paul used last week when talking about the characteristics of those who reject God and ‘suppress’ the knowledge of Him in their lives, So I want to go back and start at Romans 1v32 which says …
‘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.’

Notice that not only acting in such a way as was described last week, APPROVAL of those actions is also something which Paul sees as deserving of death.

In 2v1 and the following verses, Paul shifts his attention away from the people who live immoral lives and those who approve of them TO those people who disapprove of those actions, who presumes to pass moral judgements on others. Most commentators suggest Paul is turning his attention to the Jews, that he is describing the unbelieving (or Gentile) world at the end of chapter 1, and at this point switches to addressing Jews. There are a few who don’t buy into this, and I am one of them, because…

Firstly, not all those who discard the knowledge of God live in wickedness or depravity. In fact many unbelievers (I’d go so far as to suggest most unbelievers) abhor such behaviour, and their silence about the immoral culture of our age is not driven by approval of it, but fear of the repercussions of speaking against it. In addition, we all know (I am sure), unbelievers who are moral, caring people. Who do good works, live honest lives and to all outward appearances are no different to those who are of Christ. It is the existence of these people which causes some to claim God is being capricious by (in their words) “sending them to hell” just because they are not believers. Sadly, belief that what we DO will get us into heaven is not the gospel. It is another gospel, a perverted gospel, which Paul says in Galatians is actually ‘no gospel at all’ (Galatians 1v7).

Secondly, we note that twice Paul uses the phrase ‘O man’ (in v1 and v3). This doesn’t come out at all in the NIV which omits the phrase entirely in v1, but in v3 translates it as “human being’. After all, if Paul is addressing Jews only, he is giving everyone else who judges other people (even hypocritically), a free pass. Paul does turn to addressing the Jews specifically in 2v17 which we will get to in due course, Paul may well be addressing Jews in this section, but he is by no means only doing that, I believe he is addressing ALL believers in the church in Rome, not just the Jewish ones.

Paul does, however, shift in emphasis in 2v1, but I believe the shift in Paul’s letter here is not from Gentile to Jew, but from shameless immorality to pious moralism (which may be epitomised by those two groups, but is not restricted to them). Paul is very blunt. The bottom line is this: a pious, moral, judgemental person is in as much jeopardy as the most hedonistic sinner.

We tend to default to Jesus’ words about planks and splinters when we think of judgementalism, just to remind you of them, I will read Matthew 7v1-5 …

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Far too frequently, people fall into the trap of thinking that it is only Christians who are judgemental. But EVERYONE makes judgements, you’ve only gat to watch the broadcast of social media to see how judgemental our society has become, although ever has it been thus (interestingly, this statement is, itself, a judgement!).

What does the Bible say about or to those who pass judgement on one another? This is the stuff of this morning’s message.

Who has the right to judge who?

Romans 2v1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

Paul is pointing out the fact that no one really should be judging anyone else.

James says something pretty identical …
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticise and judge each other, then you are criticising and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbour? (James 4v11-12)

Note that James here says it is GOD who is the judge, and the Bible is FULL of hints and references that it is GOD who is the ultimate judge, so for example,

  • Abraham says, will not the judge of all the earth do what is right? (Genesis 18v25)
  • Proverbs talks of man’s ways, but determines his motives are weighed by the Lord (e.g. Proverbs 16v2)
  • 1 Peter 1v17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners(fn) here in reverent fear.
  • 1 Corinthians 4v4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
  • Hebrews 10:30,31 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people”. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
  • Hebrews 12:22-24 you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Although God is spoken of as judge in these and other texts, it is also clear in the Bible that He delegates this authority to Jesus:

In John, Jesus says: the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son then He goes on to say God has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man (John 5:26-27).

Peter tells Cornelius that Jesus Christ is the one ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42)

In Acts 17, Paul tells the people in Athens that God has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and He makes it clear that this man is Jesus by carrying on — of this He has given assurance to all men by raising Him from the dead. He also tells the Corinthians that We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).

2 Timothy 4:1 says that Christ will judge the living and the dead.

The bottom line, I think we should understand, is this: When we take it on ourselves to make judgements about other people, we are usurping God himself. We are claiming for ourselves something which is not a human, but a divine prerogative.

In His grace, God does give us the privilege of being involved in judging the world (and we don’t really know how or what it will look like), but believers will share in the judging. In Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:28-30, Jesus suggests that the disciples will judge the twelve tribes of Israel. We are also told in 1 Corinthians that believers will judge the world: 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

But, the judgement we make must ALWAYS be subservient to God’s rule and judgement. We have to understand how authority works. Any authority we have or we exercise is delegated to us by God, and if we take that authority before it is released to us, or if we move outside of that authority, we are acting ultra-vires and we will be held to account for it.

Hypocrisy and Integrity

We must also be sure that when (or if) we DO judge, we must be careful that we stay within that authority and that we have the right character. That we do not do those things, that we are not full of hypocrisy.

This is the main key. Right at the start, in 2v1 is the concept of integrity. Paul says very clearly that those who judge were guilty of hypocrisy: Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

I think, interestingly, that this is one of the key reasons why people find the teachings of Christianity so hard to stomach. We all have an inbuilt hypocrisy radar. It is very clearly seen at the moment in all of the furore around the news about parties in Downing Street. The anger and criticism is overwhelmingly driven by a sense that the government was being hypocritical, that at a time when it was saying one thing, it was doing another.

Hypocrisy and integrity are, in my opinion, some of the main indicators of whether your faith is legitimate or bogus, and for sure, integrity is the main currency of church leadership. I cannot say this strongly enough. This is more important than all the training and gifting in the world, it doesn’t matter if a leader can preach or if he is a great worship leader, or fabulous pastorally, DO NOT attend any church where the leader has no integrity.

IF our faith is legitimate, then our lives will accord with it and as Jesus says, our fruit will match our claims: make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit (Matthew 12v33). James says, can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water (James 3:11-12).

The fruit, Jesus says, of the pharisee is hypocrisy, so He says of them The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach (Matthew 23:2-3). There are loads of references to their hypocrisy in the gospels, just keep your eyes open and you will see them.

My point here is this, when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus and the crowd was baying to stone her, Jesus cuts right to the heart of this issue: he who is without sin – let him cast the first stone. In other words, before you judge someone, make sure you are not guilty of the same crime!

A secular proverb says this, ‘those who live in glass houses are ill-advised to throw stones’.

We are called to make right judgements about all sorts of things, we have to guard the church, we have a responsibility to protect one another from sin. Most of the New Testament (if you think about it) is Paul or John or another writer calling out one false teaching or another — in other words, he’s making a judgement.

My last point here is that the thing we have to do is always be aware of whom we are representing, and ensure that our judgement, such as it is, leaves room for God’s mercy. Both towards us, AND towards those we are making judgement about.

It’s all back to Integrity. Integrity. Integrity.

Judgement we should all be aware of.

Nowadays, the understanding and concept of judgement is almost entirely negative and, it seems, focused on morality. People say “How dare you judge me!” As something entirely negative. Remember that praising someone for a good deed is making a judgement about them just as much as criticising someone for lying or cheating is.

We all make judgements about each other, and Paul is talking to people who are making judgements right here. Jesus says to the pharisees (probably the most judgemental group in Jesus’ day) you judge by human standards, I pass judgement on no-one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I stand with the Father who sent me (John 8v15,16). Jesus judges the judger!

It is, however, not man’s judgement, but God’s judgement which we should all be concerned about. God’s judgement is so VERY different to man’s judgement.

Paul writes here, God’s judgement against those who do such things (the things he has been describing) is based on truth

Human judgement

Is based in hypocrisy and places burdens on people.

This is the nub of many of Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees, whether it is about sabbath laws, or something else. He said to the teachers of the law And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them (Luke 11:46).

Rarely, if ever, does human judgement offer any chance of forgiveness or a way to make amends for wrongdoing. Human judgement (almost) always looks to punishment and to revenge. I’d even go so far as to suggest it ALWAYS does.

God’s judgement

On the other hand, the judgement of God is completely unlike human judgement. For a start, it is based in truth (2v2). It is also kind, tolerant and patient, and leads to repentance.

2v4 says 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? which really reminds me of what Peter writes … The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The knowledge of the judgement of God which IS coming should lead us to the cross, it should lead us to repentance and as a result, will lead us into eternal life.

We will ALL stand before the judgement seat of Christ, and every man we are told will be judged according to what they have done. Paul says ‘first for the Jew and then for the Gentile’ (in fact he says it twice).

Ultimately, of course, those who have responded to the gospel, who have died to their old lives and been born again in to a new life in Jesus. Those who are a new creation do not need to fear this, they have eternal life in Christ. Our names are written in the book of life, and we have a glorious future to look forward to …

John’s vision of the heavenly city includes this description … The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:23-27).

IF you are a Christian, you have no reason at all to fear judgement day.

What gets judged?

V6 tells us that we are all judged according to the deeds we do in this life…

This accords with everything we see elsewhere in Scripture, David says, You, O God, are strong, and … you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (Psalm 62v11,12)

Job 34v10,11 says, So listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves.

2 Corinthians 5v10, says: we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

And we read about that judgement on the final day when the books are opened in Revelation 20v12,13: I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

We are told that nations will be judged, so for example in Joel 3:12 we have Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.

And Psalm 110:6 (a Messianic Psalm incidentally) says: The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

Christians believe that in the final analysis, however God judges people will be righteous. Whatever our eventual fate is, no-one will be able to complain ‘that’s not fair!’

Matthew 25 which I think is one of the most sobering passages in the Scriptures which shows quite clearly that BOTH “sheep” and “goats” will be judged – in fact it is the judgement which SEPARATES the sheep from the goats:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

This leads me on to my next point which is that in Romans 2v5-11 Paul paints a picture of two types of person and what they can expect when God’s judgement falls …

The first group he describes as … stubborn and unrepentant (v5), self-seeking, rejecting truth and following evil (v8), they DO evil. Paul’s assessment is that they will reap wrath and anger (v8), trouble and distress (v9).

The second group, he describes as … those who do good (v7,10), seeking honour, glory, and immortality (v7). Paul says that they will receive eternal life (v7), and glory, honour, and peace (v10).

Note that although people create a distinction between people, God does not, as Paul says, show favouritism. In Romans he is addressing the distinction the Jews were concerned about which is between the Jew (one of God’s special, chose, people) and Gentile. Paul says God’s judgement will fall on you whatever category you fall into – in the same way. First for the Jew and then for the Gentile. This accords with his statement in Galatians 3v28 where Paul declares that in Christ Jesus our arbitrary human distinctions are irrelevant when it comes down to it … There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Don’t think because you have a particular ethnic, gender, or even socio-economic identity, that you will either be favoured or that you will escape the day of God’s judgement.