I. God’s Judgment On Sin (continued)
A. It may seem Paul belabors the subject of God’s judgment, but spending some time on this matter and establishing a firm footing in this area magnifies the grace of God as well as helps us remember there is a divine person we must answer to.
B. In verse 6, Paul reminds us God will judge all people.
C. Those who have no relationship with God go about their everyday activities with little or no thought of having to answer to God. A part of God’s judgment will be meted out on sinners.
1. Since they have not committed their life to him, and he is therefore not part of their daily thoughts, they live with reckless abandon.
2. Life is about them, enhancing their image, getting ahead, accumulating possessions, investing wisely for the future and having a family.
3. Unlike the believer, all of these and other activities are carried out with self in mind.
4. This is not to say a thought of God or some responsibility factor never enters their mind, but they do not let such thoughts govern their actions-they do not consult God about decisions they make.
5. At the end of their lives or at the end of time at the Great White Throne Judgment (depending on one’s view of when we actually stand before God), they will be given the opportunity to defend their actions.
6. Jesus himself warned about such a lifestyle when he spoke of gaining the whole world but losing one’s soul. This statement was followed by the warning of his coming, along with his angels, to judge all people according to their deeds. (Matthew 16:24-28)
7. The judgment of unbelievers will be according to their works, for there is nothing else for God to judge them by since they have rejected the gift of his Son and the forgiveness that comes through that relationship.
8. Every society has knowledge of an existent moral law. If they did not, they would not establish laws that bring punishment when violated.
9. Since these people do not appear before God in a faith relationship (which would remove the judgment), they must appear on the basis of their good works.
10. Their fate, however, is sealed for they can never live up to God’s ideal which is perfect obedience to his law.
11. Paul will deal later with the fact that no person can be justified by the law even if he could perfectly obey it. (3:20)
12. We are not told how all elements of this judgment scene will play out, but if given the chance, surely these individuals will begin to enumerate all the good things they did in life, hoping they will be sufficient to gain them entrance into heaven. However, such a philosophy-as popular as it is, is destined to fail and represents a huge misunderstanding of how God operates.
D. Believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
1. This judgment is quite different for God will not judge us for sin but rather on our deeds.
2. God’s judgment on sinners relegates them to eternal separation from him. They failed to receive his gift.
3. Believers, however, are not under condemnation, though our actions will be considered. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (8:1)
4. God’s gift of salvation does not free us from faithful obedience to him.
5. Our rewards-the amount or dearth of them, will be determined by this judgment.
6. This judgment has nothing to do with whether we enter heaven or hell-that was settled when we decided to follow Christ.
E. Having examined the above two aspects of judgment, we agree with Paul’s line of thought-God will judge all people according to what they have done.
1. All people will stand before God on one of two foundations.
2. They either stand on the foundation of grace or works. The first is secure while the last will crumble.
F. Another aspect of God’s judgment is that the punishment will not be equal for all who have failed to believe-though it will be fair.
1. The eternal destiny will be identical, but the punishment will vary.
2. Those who had great opportunity to trust Christ yet chose to live in open rebellion will receive the greater punishment, while those who had less light will be given fewer stripes.
3. Jesus explains this aspect of judgment when telling the parable of the servants who were left in charge of their master’s household while he was away.
4. The faithful servant will be rewarded, but the servant who acts wickedly because he thinks his master will be gone a long time will be punished.
5. He will be severely punished because he knew what he was supposed to do and did not do it. (Luke 12:47-48)
G. The justice of God meted out in the judgment will be fair.
1. Some judges can be paid off to let a criminal either go free or receive less punishment than deserved.
2. Family heritage, culture, creed or anything else will not color God’s judgment.
3. He judges based on what we did with Christ. If we refused him, then the degree of our punishment will be determined by the light we had.
4. This will not be a time for negotiation with God or bargaining. Nor will it be a time when faith can be exercised. Once life is over, all opportunity to believe has passed.
H. This same verse seems to imply, however, that our deeds do have something to do with the outcome of the judgment.
1. Paul says that God will judge people according to what they have done.
2. The explanation is really simple when coupled with what Scripture teaches as a whole.
3. The unsaved are judged by what they have done, but their deeds-no matter how commendable, will never be enough to place God under obligation to accept them into heaven.
4. Believers will also be judged by what they have or have not done, but it will have no bearing on their eternal security. The deeds only concern rewards.
5. Our faith and God’s grace secures our eternity with God.
II. Further Explanations Concerning Faith and Works
A. Eternal life is given to those who persist in doing good. (v. 7)
1. Again it bears mentioning that eternal life is given to all, just in two different places.
2. The eternal life Paul has in mind refers to what believers will enjoy.
3. This is similar to what Jesus says when he states that those who endure to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)
4. How does this mesh with the doctrine of eternal security (a doctrine most Baptists adhere to)? If we are saved and do good for a while but stop doing good, is our salvation lost?
5. This is not a contradiction of what Paul has previously said-that salvation is by faith. We are not saved by good deeds, but when we commit our lives to Christ, the pattern of our actions will be toward that end. If it is not, we have reason to question the reality of the relationship.
6. Committing our life to Christ gives us the desire to please him and do his will.
7. Our deeds are not the reason for our salvation but rather the result of it.
8. This is the same message Paul gave to the Ephesians. It is by grace that we are saved through faith and this is not of works lest we have reason to boast. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
9. We cannot hold God at arm’s length and still expect him to welcome us into heaven, but this is the way many people want it. They want their cake and the ability to eat it too.
10. God’s wrath and anger will be doled out to those who refuse his Son. (v. 8)
B. God’s wrath and anger are fair even as his justice is.
1. Those who live for themselves and pursue a lifestyle of wickedness can expect the wrath and fury of God.
2. This punishment will extend to the Jew just as it will to the Gentile.
3. An example of selfish living can be seen in the employee who adamantly vows for his own rights and benefits. The company owes this to him. However, his work habits reveal he has no concern for the company. His job-though provided by the company, is all for his benefit.
4. Heritage will not protect the Jew from God’s judgment, nor will the diminished light shown to the Gentiles shield them from the same.
5. Glory, honor and peace come to those who follow Christ and do good. (v.10)
6. The full measure of this is reserved for heaven, but we can enjoy some aspects of it while on earth.
7. Again, God’s judgment is not based on where we came from, who we are, our good intentions or anything else. It is based on what we did with the light God gave us.
C. God does not show favoritism (v. 11)
1. We can think of many examples of favoritism in our world.
2. People in positions of authority often are shown favoritism and in turn show it themselves.
3. We are reminded of the phrase, “It’s not what you know but who you know.”
4. Not only does God not show favoritism toward the Jew over the Gentile-though many of the Jews thought they deserved it, neither does he show favoritism within the same group.
5. God does not grade on the curve.
6. Nothing in us deserves God’s goodness, and there is nothing that can help us span the chasm that separates us from God except faith in him.
7. The Gentiles did not have the written law of God, but it was written in their hearts, and that made them responsible. God will judge them based on that light.
8. The Jews had God’s written law but still disobeyed it. The very law they took pride in would be their judge. (v. 12)
9. Condemnation does not come for what we do not know but rather for what we do with what we know.
10. God can never be accused of being unfair, for he has given a conscience to all people. The conscience is a moral compass that steers us in the right direction when fed godly things. It is the part that speaks when we have done something wrong.
D. God’s judgment will deal with the secret matters of our heart.
1. Jesus often warned the religious leaders about their inner motives.
2. The “why” of what we do is more important than the “what” of what we do.
3. We view good things others do, but we do not have the capability to look deep inside and know their motivation.
4. God has the ability to look inside, just as when Jesus knew the real need Nicodemus had was to be born again.
5. This is an added reason for knowing God’s judgment is just-he has the ability to know perfectly.
6. Not only does he know the action but also the motive.
A. God’s judgment is fair and impartial even though it will be an awful experience to face his wrath and fury.
B. But for the believer we do not have to fear condemnation. Christ has paid the penalty for our sin. We will stand before God forgiven and clean.