All scripture taken from “The King James Version, 1769.”
1Therefore 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.
The pot calling the kettle black? God wants to strip away the excuses made by the select over the rest. What does that mean? For the Jew who came to Christ, it means judging the Gentile Christians and thinking less of them because they do not follow “the law” as given to Moses and expanded by those who sit in “Moses’ seat.” To the Gentile convert to Christ, it means judging the unsaved Gentiles because they do not follow the teaching of the apostles. Even those who are outside of a covenant relationship have no excuse, for they readily condemn those who have done them wrong. The key point is that at whatever point they judge another, it is likely, that they have committed a similar act.
2But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
God alone judges according to truth. This truth is much broader than it first appears to man. We judge the outward actions. God judges the motives of the heart. God judges the thoughts of the mind. Think of the words of Jesus, Matthew 5.28 “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
God’s judgment does not rely of the witness of men. We hear of a wrong done to another. It is a story which may or may not be true. The facts may be right or wrong. With God there is no false witness. Every fact is true right down to the thoughts and intents o f the heart.
3And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
The Jew had the sacrifices of the temple to deal with sin. The Christian has the blood of Jesus to deal with sin. The blood of Christ is better than the blood of bulls. Remember 1st Corinthians chapter five? The man who had sex with his father’s wife. Only one example of the sin within the church. That had to be dealt with. People of the church do sin... Paul is writing that God will judge the sinner.
We often think that because of our relationship to God we are immune from judgment. Not so! 1 Peter 4. “17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
So we see that God does judge the church and its individual members. The question that arises is this, “is it appropriate for someone other than God to judge the church or any of its individuals?” Who is qualified? No one! *note: Yet in other letters some provision for correction of the church or individual has been made and/or examples given.
4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
This is an interesting verse. It presupposes that you understand the grace of God. The unmerited favour he extends to people regardless of their position or condition. For the individual, this grace begins at birth and extends to the end of that person’s life. We cannot earn it. It is the gift of God to the righteous, to the ungodly and to the sinner. If you understand this, then you will be able to understand the meaning of this verse.
God is good, and he extends that goodness to all people. He seeks for their very best. He does not seek their harm. When dealing with people God first extends this goodness, because it is a part of his character, and he can do no differently. In everything that God does, goodness lies at its base.
But are we good? Do we do what is right? Of course not, for the Scripture says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God’s goodness should draw us closer to him but if we sin, we try to stay out of the light so that our deeds will not become known to others. It is at these moments that God’s forbearance becomes evident. Judgment can become swift yet he does not want to see anyone harmed. So he’s patient, he is waiting for the sinner to repent.
How far will God go? How long will he hold back his judgment? God is long-suffering! It pains God to see his people, or an individual, to continue in sin knowing that sin brings death. It enslaves the soul and traps it. One only needs to look at old testament Israel to see an example of God’s long-suffering. His goodness was not enough to keep them in their place by his side. His written word, too often, did not change the heart of the people as he tried to lead them back by repentance. When his name was being blasphemed by the Gentiles for the corrupt behaviour of the Israelites, even then he sent prophets to warn them of impending judgment.
God is asking the believer not to look down, to feel contempt for, or scorn his riches. And these riches are goodness, forbearance and long-suffering. In this verse God finishes asking his rhetorical question with this, “not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” God’s goodness is evident in his forbearance and long-suffering. We should be as good when dealing with our neighbours, reflecting the heart of God.
5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
For those who are eager to judge, for those who are not willing to show goodness, forbearance, long-suffering to their fellow man, in the end, God will judge you with the same harshness you showed to others. Why? Because your own heart is hard and you are unwilling to repent of your own sins. If you are fortunate and have a listening heart you will receive correction from the Lord and you will repent. You will not be storing up wrath against yourself to suffer at some future judgment. And make no mistake, everyone is judged but not all are forgiven.
6Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11For there is no respect of persons with God.
God here is talking about the direction of a person’s soul. The Scripture says itself, “you shall know them by their fruits.” Because of the good that is in some men’s hearts, their good fruit and good works will manifest themselves and show that they are destined for eternal life. The others, through their dark hearts and black deeds show that they too are destined, but for wrath. It does not matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, God looks on their heart and on their works. Everyone will be judged accordingly. It does not matter whether you are rich or poor, royalty or a commoner, connected or alone. What matters is this, does your heart reflect the heart of God? If it does you have life. If it doesn’t…
12For 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;
The bottom line is whether or not you have sinned. It is not whether you have a copy of the law.
13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14For 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: 15Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
These paragraphs are talking about a basic knowledge of good and evil. It is the conscience of a man or woman before they get corrupted by sin. It is especially talking about the Gentile believer in God who are given a sense of right or wrong by the Spirit of God. Again, it is a basic goodness that reflects the heart of God. If we are not careful, we can lose this perception of what is good by making excuses for when we are wrong. It is only those who can confront their wrong behavior that can repent. Others will use this knowledge to accuse others or make excuses for their behaviour. This is not good.
16In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Let us take this one step further. You can be aware of the acts of men and women but you may remain clueless as to their motives. God on the other hand knows the thoughts and intents of a person’s heart and mind. This is why we should be slow to judge. Better still, to leave the judgment in God’s hands. He is the only one who truly knows the truth. We can only but guess.
This chapter begins with the assumption, or is it the assertion, that if you sit to judge any person on any act it is likely that the person judging has committed a similar offense. To accuse or make excuses, that is what we are good at. To confront our own faults and repent, that is where we are weak. Let God be the judge, for he is the only one who can be fair, in fact, he is the only person who is fair.
Website administrator: Joseph A Raymond
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada