Bible penngrovechurchofchristorgThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as cited below).

Romans 2:1-5

God’s Righteous Judgment

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment 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 judgment 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 judgment will be revealed.

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My posts on Romans 1 are here and here. The second one, covering verses 16 to 32, is particularly important.

Both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur say that Paul addressed Romans 1 to the Gentile world.

In Romans 2, Paul turns his attention to the Jewish world. As Christianity was still in its infancy at that time, AD 56, the Jews were the predominant believers in God.

As such, they upheld the standard for religious morality and believed they were exempt from judgement because of the covenant God made with them. Yet, Paul tells them that they, too, are imperfect and sinful, guilty of the same things they condemn in others (verse 1).

MacArthur says that Paul addresses six types of judgement in Romans 2 (emphases mine below):

the first three – knowledge, truth and guilt, and the last three: deeds, impartiality, and motive. God judges on the basis of those six things. He judges men on the basis of their knowledge, He judges them on the basis of the truth, He judges them on the basis of their guilt, He judges them on the basis of their deeds, He judges them with impartiality, and He judges their motives. Those are the six elements that come together to show how God judges.

Knowledge comes in the first verse.

MacArthur explains the point Paul makes and discusses ‘Therefore’, the first word of that verse:

… let’s look at the first one in verse 1, knowledge. “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.” Now, let’s see what this is saying – fascinating verse. It begins with “therefore.” What he’s saying is this – and the “therefore” ties us, doesn’t it, backwards to the previous chapter? Some people have been confused by that “therefore” but there’s really no reason to be. Listen: Because what was true of those in 1:18-32 is also true of you, you are also without excuse. That’s the connection. If you go back to verse 18 – watch, here it is: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth.” Verse 19, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them.”

In other words, because they know the truth, the end of verse 20 says, they are without what? Excuse. Now, go right to verse 1 of chapter 2: “Therefore you also are inexcusable, O man.” Why? Implication: because you also know the truth. And you know how you prove that you know the truth? You prove it because you are judging others, and if you have a criterion by which to judge others, you prove that you must know the truth. You’re just as inexcusable.

Now, they knew the truth. Obviously, they knew the truth. It was clear that all men knew the truth from chapter 1, and what was true of those people is also true of the Jew in chapter 2. They knew not only from external natural revelation, they knew from conscience.

Paul, referring to his previous verses on immorality (Romans 1:16-32), says that God will judge anyone who is guilty of those sins, Gentile — and Jew — alike (verse 2).

Therefore, Paul reasons, how can the Jew escape judgement if he is guilty of such sins (verse 3)? The Jew already knows God, so, as MacArthur puts it:

you have the knowledge. In fact, you have a more complete knowledge so you’re even more inexcusable.

Paul poses another question, asking if the Jew believes God’s kindness extends to him in all circumstances, misunderstanding that His kindness is meant to lead His people to repentance not relieve them from His judgement (verse 4).

Then Paul lays down the spiritual hammer, warning the Jews of his day that they are laying up God’s wrath against themselves for their collective ‘hard and impenitent heart’ (verse 5).

MacArthur ties together the end of Romans 1 and these first five verses of Romans 2 as follows:

Look at verse 32 at the end of chapter 1. It says even the pagans know the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death. Even the pagans know what is right and wrong. Even the pagans can apply God’s standard to their own life if they chose, much more you who have received His revelation, and you who sit in judgment on the pagans give evidence that you know. This would be like a judge who condemns a criminal by applying the law. He, therefore, makes himself responsible, obviously, to keep that same law if he’s going to sit in judgment on somebody else.

And then he goes to the next statement – powerful: “For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.” Now, when you show the law of God as applied to somebody else, you prove that you know that law, and in knowing that law you condemn yourself. A pretty powerful statement. You condemn yourself. And this is really what Jesus said. If you look for a moment in Matthew 7, you can see where Paul got this whole thing: through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was really restating what our Lord said in Matthew 7 verse 1, “Judge not that you be not judged.”

Now, what this means is not don’t make a proper evaluation, you’re supposed to make a proper evaluation of things. It even tells you to do that later on in the same chapter when it gets down into verses 15 to 20 and tells you to examine and make a decision based upon the fruit that you see in someone’s life. But what it means here is stop criticizing, stop being condemning and censorious and critical and fault-finding and self-righteous. Stop playing God. Stop trying to impugn people’s motives when you can’t even read their hearts. Stop pushing your criticism to the point where you’re playing God because in verse 2, with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you again.

In other words, if you show that you can judge everybody else, then you show that you ought to be judged by that same standard. If you know it so well to apply it to other people, you better make sure it isn’t going to be applied to you. That’s why James 3:1 says stop being so many teachers for theirs is a greater condemnation. Why is a teacher’s condemnation greater? Because the more he knows, the more he therefore condemns himself. And then the Lord goes on in chapter 7 to talk about before you get a splinter out of another guy’s eye, why don’t you get a two-by-four out of your own eye? It’s a fatal tendency – isn’t it? – to exaggerate the faults of others and minimize our own. And this was the classic line of the Jew who sat in judgment on everybody and thought he himself was exempt, and God says, “You’re not exempt. Not only are you not exempt, you’re even more inexcusable, and you prove it because you are applying the law to somebody else, which proves you know it, and it’s going to condemn you, too.”

As to misinterpreting God’s kindness in verse 4, MacArthur says — note, quoting Matthew Henry:

Matthew Henry, that commentator of old who has so many helpful thoughts in his commentary on the Scripture said, “There is in every willful sin a contempt of the goodness of God.” And that’s right. Whenever you sin or whenever I sin, we show contempt for God’s goodness.

Let me read you just two verses, and you need not turn to them, but in Hosea – Hosea, of course, records for us God’s love for wayward Israel, and in the 11th chapter and the first verse, God says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him,” and that sort of sets the tone for the thoughts in the chapter, and verse 4: “I drew them with cords of a man with bands of love and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws and I laid food before them.” In other words, I didn’t have a bit in their mouth, I fed them and I led them gently and I drew them with love. And verse 7 says, “And My people are bent to backsliding away from Me.” I mean here was God with love and tenderness and graciousness and kindness and mercy, reaching out to draw Israel and they were just sliding away from Him.

Now, let’s go back to verses 4 and 5 and look at the several parts that make up these thoughts. The word “despisest” in the Authorized is a very strong word. It means basically to grossly underestimate the value of something, to grossly underestimate the significance of something. It is a failure to assess true worth. It is making light of the riches of the goodness of God, and this is the blackest of sins, by the way. The worst sin is not rights violated, the worst sin is mercy despised.

Let’s look at what happened. They failed to really evaluate, they failed to see the true worth of the riches of God’s goodness. They didn’t know how valuable it was, and men still don’t know. I mean everybody alive in the world today has experienced the goodness of God. I’ll say that again. Everybody alive in the world today has personally experienced the goodness of God and experiences it every breath they takein many, many ways, not the least of which is that the Lord makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust and the Lord gives them food to eat and the Lord gives them a fire to keep them warm and the Lord gives them water to refresh their thirst and the Lord gives them food to fill their hungry stomach and the Lord gives them a blue sky and a warm sun and the Lord gives them green grass and beautiful mountains and whatever it is, and the Lord gives them people to love. In every way, God has demonstrated His goodness.

And by the way, the word “goodness” is a very important word, chrstots. The idea is really kindness. It’s translated kindness in Galatians 5 in the list of elements of the fruit of the Spirit. It speaks of God’s benefits, His kindnesses to men, and then the word “forbearance” – anoch – is the word for truce. It’s the word for the cessation of a hostility. It’s the word for the withholding of judgment. So God pours out blessing and He holds back judgment. He is forbearing; that is, He says, “Okay, a truce, no hostility, I’ll just be kind to you and I’ll withhold My judgment.” And the word “long-suffering” – makrothumia – means patience. It is a word that signifies one who has the power to avenge but doesn’t use it. It’s a great characteristic of God, He’s so patient. Over and over again in the Scripture, we read about the patience of God, the patience of God. God is not willing that any should perish. God is long suffering because of that toward us because He’s not willing that we should perish.

In closing, Matthew Henry has this to say about God’s kindness and mercy, designed to bring about our repentance:

See here what method God takes to bring sinners to repentance. He leads them, not drives them like beasts, but leads them like rational creatures, allures them (Hosea 2:14); and it is goodness that leads, bands of love, Hosea 11:4. Compare Jeremiah 31:3. The consideration of the goodness of God, his common goodness to all (the goodness of his providence, of his patience, and of his offers), should be effectual to bring us all to repentance; and the reason why so many continue in impenitency is because they do not know and consider this.

How true.

I cannot add anything more other than to ask that all of us think about that in the days ahead, while we are cooped up at home because of coronavirus lockdowns.

Next time — Romans 2:6-11