The kindness of God leads you to repentance. Grace leads to righteousness
Romans 2:1-24 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
The Impartiality of God
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God,18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
It is important to remember that Paul’s letters to the churches are just that. They are written to believers, with exhortation, instruction and at times discipline or correction to believers. That does not mean that unbelievers are exempt from the truth and the principles of God’s word. It means that as believers, we need to apply Paul’s words and the words of scripture of scripture to ourselves and not as a weapon against the world. In Psalm 139:123-124, the psalmist says: Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. That is the kind of inspection and introspection that we should seek from scripture.
In today’s text, Paul says: Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? … you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? Paul’s exhortation speaks to believers who are on two different sides of human doctrine. Paul was speaking primarily to those who were relying on the law rather than on God’s grace given to us through the cross. In that regard, it is important that we remember what Jesus said; what His standards of righteousness are. In Matthew 5:21-30 Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said to those [d]of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire… You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Those are examples of the Lord’s standards of righteousness. Those who judge others by standards of righteousness, will be judged by standards of righteousness. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Paul’s warning and Jesus words and standards also though speak to those who would presume on God’s grace as opposed to having God’s grace work in them. Some people go too far with the idea that as a Christian we are not perfect, we are forgiven. They presume on God’s grace and the truth that Jesus died for our sins, once for all, and conclude that sin no longer matters because it was and is forgiven. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” While we will never achieve perfection as long as we have these bodies of flesh, we should not be comfortable with our imperfections and sin. Paul says: Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds. God’s grace, the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience are not so that we would remain in sin. It is so that we would repent of our sin. Repentance is more than just acknowledging and being sorry about our sin. Repentance is changing the way we think and act. It is turning from our sin. That we will never be perfect, is not an excuse to continue in sin. In Matthew 5, before Jesus laid our His higher standards of righeousness, in verses 17-20 He says: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
We, as believers need to recognize both the high calling of God’s grace and righteousness in our own lives, and the high calling we have to be examples of both His grace and righteousness in and to the world. Paul says: You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written. May it never be that as believers we would bring shame to the name of God. In Matthew 5 again, in verses 13-16 Jesus says: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We should bring glory to the Father, not shame. Again in Matthew 7, after instructing us regarding judgment, in verses 21-23, Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” In Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul sums up how grace and righteousness should work together in our lives, saying: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Grace should work in us that righteousness shows through us.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; thank You for Your grace and Your righteousness that work together in and through my life. While I may never be perfect, may I continue to be perfected in You. Amen.