I. God’s Judgment On Sin
A. There is a psychological defense mechanism called projection.
1. Defined, it refers to our tendency to project or attribute to others unpleasant or sinful issues we deal with.
2. For example, someone may have the habit of nosiness. (I think of Mrs. Gladys Cravitz of Bewitched)
3. Yet this same person speaks negatively of people they know who are nosy.
4. There is one Andy Griffith episode where Barney is speaking negatively about people who gossip and then begins to do the same thing.
B. As Paul begins to speak about God’s judgment on sin, he starts with an imaginary conversation with a moralist-someone who assumes themselves much better than the heathens Paul has just went to great pains to describe. The form Paul uses was common and called a diatribe. He anticipates questions that might be proposed and then answers them. (v. 1)
1. Sin should disturb us, and it should disturb us when we see others involved in sinful actions we know are ruining their lives and will ruin them eternally if they do not accept Christ.
2. But we must be careful when speaking about those who are in the grasps of sin. We can find ourselves speaking down to them, referring to them with an UnChristlike spirit.
3. Rather than looking at them with an uppity attitude, we should say, “There but by the grace of God am I.”
4. When speaking out against sin and those in its grasp, we should do so with a spirit of humility.
5. As mentioned above when referencing the defense mechanism of projection, if we were honest with ourselves, we would have to admit we tend to notice the sins in others that we have the most trouble with.
6. We can imagine this letter from Paul being read in one of the churches in Rome. We can see the saints nodding their heads as the catalogue of sins that characterized the heathen was read. Imagine the surprise when it came to the part that in effect said; “You are just as bad as them.”
7. He no doubt had Jewish saints in mind since he had just catalogued the awful sins of the Gentile heathen world.
8. The Jews in the church would have heartedly agreed with Paul’s assessment of the Gentiles.
9. Gentiles were dogs, outside the Abrahamic covenant and aliens to the commonwealth of Israel.
10. God’s judgment on them was just since they were enemies of God and enemies of his people.
11. This scenario can be compared to a preacher getting up and giving a survey of those who live in the ghetto and then listing the sinful practices associated with that segment of a city.
12. Then turning to the congregation of religious folks, he says, “And you are just as bad as them.” Imagine the looks of surprise he would receive, or the glares of anger. This is what Paul did. He turned the tables on the moralists-those who thought they were better because the types of sinful actions he had catalogued were not characteristic of them.
13. While they may not have actually committed some of the acts he had listed, there is the heart matter to consider-the spirit of the law that Jesus addressed.
14. We can be just as guilty because of what is going on in the inside. Adultery is not just the act itself. One is guilty of it if lust is felt and no action results.
15. The issue is not whether some sins are worse than others-sin is sin in God’s sight, though some sins have more far reaching consequences.
C. Paul’s conclusion and teaching is that we are all sinners, whether or not we have committed particular sins. We are sinners because we are born with a sinful nature.
1. Since Paul is speaking to a moralist, let’s define moralist. A moralist is one who lives a clean and pure life as well as one who lives by a certain set of standards, values and principles.
2. You could not ask for a better neighbor. If they work for you, you would never have to worry about them slacking on their job, and if this person is a parent, they will do a wonderful job of providing for their children.
3. The moralist makes a couple of mistakes; the first is his tendency to judge others. They criticize, find fault and condemn.
4. The moralist places himself on a pedestal, thinking he is superior to others because they have flaws that he doesn’t. It may not be something sinful. It may be he looks down on a person simply because they come from the wrong side of the tracks. They were not born with the privileges he was.
5. Nor is his judgment between right and wrong necessarily fair. He thinks he is better than others, more righteous (like the religious leaders) and therefore judges in an unjust manner, which is the type of judgment Jesus condemns. (Matthew 7:1)
6. Though the moralist does not recognize it, in his endeavor of judging, he actually condemns himself for doing the things he judges others for.
7. Satan has no special temptations for some. We are subject to the same temptations, just in different forms, and according to the weaknesses or strengths he knows we have. He uses the same methods he used in the beginning.
8. Sin in the heart and mind is just as serious as sin in action. Some fail to act out of fear or lack of opportunity, but the sin desire resides on their inside nevertheless.
9. Judging others is dangerous and sinful. It is not wrong to judge sin, but it is not our responsibility to judge others. God reminds us that vengeance is his. (Hebrews 10:30)
II. Misconceptions About God’s Judgment (vv. 2-4)
A. We have that human tendency to imagine God’s judgment as identical to ours.
1. All who refuse to repent and receive God’s forgiveness will face God’s judgment. It matters not whether they are Jew or Gentile. Sin must be punished. God’s holy nature will not tolerate it.
2. God’s judgment is equal and fair. It may not always seem so, but we trust by faith it is. For example, the thief crucified by Christ who accepted him on his “death bed” was assured of the same eternal existence as the one who had served Christ all their life. The murderer receives the same grace as the one who has been good all their life. This is not unfair when we understand God’s grace. We have the inclination to put good works in the mix, but they have nothing to do with our salvation.
3. God’s judgment can appear unfair or slow in coming, but this is because God is kind, tolerant and patient. We want those who have committed horrendous crimes to receive swift justice-and often do not care whether it is fair or not. God takes no joy when the wicked perish. He wants them to repent and enjoy what he has in store for them.
4. If God’s judgment was as swift as we often think it should be, probably only a few would live long enough to repent.
5. Even as those hearing this letter had been given time to repent, so God acted in this same manner with all people.
B. The moralist has a misunderstanding of God’s judgment.
1. He looks at others whose sins have been exposed and thinks to himself how much better he is (think of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus for condemnation).
2. The moralist forgets God looks at the inner recesses of the heart.
3. The moralist thinks God is too benevolent to punish. This has led to ideas of God that are not biblical, such as viewing him as a grandfatherly type who sees his children’s sin but will overlook it.
4. While God is longsuffering, he will not overlook, condone or rubber stamp sin.
5. The moralist believes humanity is basically good and is corrupted by his environment or circumstances. We will learn as we move forward that sin haunts us from birth. How this sin nature is inherent at birth and transferred from one person to another is a matter of conjecture that biblical scholars have discussed for years, but experience reveals it is there nevertheless.
6. We are not basically good. Rather, we are sinful with good tendencies. We are not as bad as we could be, but we can never be good enough for God to accept. God’s standard is perfection, and we can never achieve this.
C. The moralist takes the matter a step farther. He hardens his heart against the judgment of God. (vv. 5-6)
1. He will not repent because he will not accept God’s judgment of him-that he is a sinner who has no hope apart from God’s grace.
2. It is very difficult for the person who believes he is good enough to realize he isn’t. (Proverbs 26:12)
3. He somehow thinks he is good enough or that his good deeds will be plentiful enough to warrant God’s acceptance.
4. He also may think God is too good to condemn anyone.
5. While God will judge sin, the degrees of punishment will vary depending on a person’s closeness to the gospel.
6. The person who has had many opportunities to hear will be distinguished from the one who has never heard the gospel proclaimed clearly. (Luke 12:42-48)
A. While God’s judgment is on specific sins, these sins result from our sinful nature which must be changed to find acceptance by God.
B. God’s judgment may not always seem fair to us, but this is because he is kind and patient, not wanting any to perish.
C. We are not the judges, nor are we any better than anyone else. God is the judge. Vengeance belongs to him.