“What’s WRONG with the world today?” Ask that question 100 times on the streets of Blacktown, and I reckon you’d get a hundred different answers.
Fix the financial crisis. We need more jobs. We need more welfare. There’s TOO MANY immigrants. Or NOT ENOUGH. We’ve got to start with THE CHILDREN. Fix the education system.
Get the environment right. Fix the hospitals.
Get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Get TOUGHER on crime. Better rehabilitation of criminals.
The problem is globalisation. Or consumerism. Or preservatives. Or fossil fuels
The answer is religion. Or meditation. Or sport. Or solar energy.
All sorts of answers. From all sorts of assumptions and philosophies. But here in Romans 1 and 2 God spells out what the problem is. And it’s much more fundamental than our behaviour, or how we treat each other, or the world. Rom 1:18
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all THE GODLESSNESS AND WICKEDNESS OF MEN WHO SUPPRESS THE TRUTH BY THEIR WICKEDNESS,
GODLESSNESS AND WICKEDNESS. That’s what’s wrong with the world. And God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against them.
And as we read on we find out what those two ideas mean. Godlessness is about AN ATTITUDE. An attitude of wanting to construct a world WITHOUT GOD. A desire for a GODLESS EXISTENCE. A decision to SUPPRESS the truth of God. To pretend he doesn’t exist. See it there from v19?
They suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is PLAIN to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine re-have been CLEARLY SEEN, being understood FROM WHAT HAS BEEN MADE, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, THEY NEITHER GLORIFIED HIM AS GOD NOR GAVE THANKS TO HIM, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
God is there to be seen. To be comprehended and understood. His fingerprints are all over his world. But people consciously choose to IGNORE him. To remake the world in THEIR image. With themselves at the centre.
And it’s what plenty of Aussies do. Whatever their MORALS are like. No matter how law-abiding they are. And how well they treat their families.
Refusing to recognise God. They may have some vague belief he EXISTS. But it doesn’t make any DIFFERENCE IN THEIR LIVES. Refusing to glorify him and give him thanks – that’s GODLESSNESS.
And WICKEDNESS is similar. It’s literally unrighteousness. The OPPOSITE of righteousness. And in the previous verse, v17, we’ve seen how God offers a righteousness to people in the gospel. A right standing with him. An innocence that comes by faith. A righteousness from God because HE is righteous.
But in the very next verse we read about people who want the OPPOSITE. UNrighteousness. Behaviour and a status the REVERSE of what God desires.
So both words carry the idea of an attitude about God, as well as the sorts of things you do. Godlessness and wickedness.
(pause) And when you’ve removed God from his world. Then you replace him with something ELSE to worship. Because we all worship SOMETHING. That’s the way we’re made. V22.
22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and EXCHANGED THE GLORY OF THE IMMORTAL GOD FOR IMAGES made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
In THOSE DAYS it might have been statues set up in shrines or temples. Saw it last night watching Gladiator. Russell Crowe as Maximus worshipping little statues of ancestors.
But that’s less likely to happen THESE days. But there’s still just as many IDOLS. Australian idols. Perhaps even MORE. Musicians and singers, sportsmen, houses, success, wealth, fashion, body image, pleasure, approval, leisure, intimacy, clothes, jewellery, equipment, cars, boats.
Images made to look like MORTAL THINGS. PERISHING things.
People exchange GIVING glory to the TRULY glorious God. (The one who DESERVES it). And instead, give glory, and honour, and attention and energy and time to FADING, RUSTING, fallible, insignificant things.
And v18 says it’s against THAT attitude and THAT behaviour that God’s WRATH is being revealed from heaven.
And that’s where we get to the topic of today’s talk. JUDGMENT. God’s wrath is his RIGHTEOUS JUSTICE. It’s not about an arbitrary meanness, or random display of bad temper.
When WE think of wrath, it’s the way HUMANS display it. We see a SELF-INTERESTED VENGEANCE. We see OUT-OF-CONTROL RETALIATION AND GETTING EVEN.
But that’s not God’s wrath. His justice flows out of his RIGHTEOUSNESS. His quality of always DOING right and BEING right. Of always acting in a way that’s consistent with his character, and true to his word.
It’s BECAUSE he’s righteous. It’s BECAUES he’s committed to the best for his people, that he’s INDIGNANT at the way his world’s been corrupted. And his JUDGMENT and WRATH is about SETTING THINGS RIGHT.
Rom 1:24-32 God’s wrath now
And in Ch 1, we see ONE aspect of how God’s wrath is displayed. NOW. God actually GIVES PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.
From v24 there’s a phrase that’s repeated again and again. God HANDS PEOPLE OVER. He ALLOWS them to do what they want. And then they BEAR THE CONSEQUENCES of their wicked choices.
24 Therefore God GAVE THEM OVER in the sinful desires of their hearts to ual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
26 Because of this, God GAVE THEM OVER to shameful lusts.
he GAVE THEM OVER to A DEPRAVED MIND, to do what ought not to be done.
Because they’re GODLESS, God HANDS THEM OVER to WICKEDNESS.
They WANTED to worship created things rather than God, so he LET THEM. He loosens the chains, and gives them free rein. Thoughts and desires led to ACTIONS. The desire for pleasure, self-satisfaction, greed. Leads to actions that are CORRUPT AND DEGENERATE AND INFECTIOUS AND DESTRUCTIVE AND POISONOUS AND DEFECTIVE. And that’s judgment enough.
impurity of thought. Becomes impurity in body. Which leads to the degrading of their bodies. Which leads to broken relationships and broken lives.
Greed and envy leads to , theft, lies, revenge.
The judgment of God, at least in THIS life, is that people BEAR THE CONSEQUENCES for their choices. It’s a big reason why the world IS the way it IS.
Following v28, we get a long, tragic list of the sorts of things people will ly do when they choose to worship created things rather than God.
(28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done). 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, , strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
And it’s not even the case that IGNORANCE might be an excuse. This is brazen, deliberate rejection of God. V32.
32 Although they KNOW God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve , they not only continue to DO these very things but also APPROVE of those who practice them.
People KNOW what God wants. But choose to do the OPPOSITE ANYWAY.
And they’re PROUD of it. Haven’t you heard something like this? “What a LIBERATED society we have! No restraints. There’s freedom of expression! Do what you like with whoever you like. Isn’t it GOOD how far we’ve moved from the prudish Victorian morality of generations past?”
The message of ch 1 is that God’s wrath against godlessness is seen in his HANDING PEOPLE OVER to the very wickedness they CHOOSE. Godlessness and wickedness that leads nowhere. Satisfies nothing. Achieves nothing. It’s pointless and futile and destructive.
It’s WRATH. But there’s also an aspect of GRACE to it. Because God’s handing over/ happens in THIS life. While there’s still the chance to CHANGE. It serves as A WARNING. It’s not a permanent state. At any time people can recognise where their life’s headed. And do a U-turn. Before it’s too late. Because if things are bad NOW, HOW MUCH WORSE will they be on the DAY of God’s wrath? When there’s NO chance to change.
Rom 2:1-15: God’s wrath then
That’s God’s wrath as it’s seen NOW. But perhaps you heard the list there in v29, and you were CHEERING. “Yes! That’s just the sort of stuff people out THERE get up to! No wonder they’re headed for judgment. No wonder their life’s a mess. Just getting their just desserts.
But not US. We’re DIFFERENT! WE’LL be safe! We haven’t rejected God. We’re MATES with God.” Our life doesn’t look like THAT.
It’s those complacent, confident words Paul imagines forming on the lips of THE JEWS listening to his letter. All the sorts of racial stereotypes they’ve put forward for centuries against the filthy Gentiles. Those without the law.
And, from their side, there was a SELF-CONFIDENCE that they were doing all right because of their HERITAGE. Because they knew the law. Israel was God’s nation. THEY weren’t in the firing line. The guns were pointed in ANOTHER direction.
But Paul has a message for them too. Those who are quick to judge others. And quick to assume that they’re safe. As we move into ch 2. v1.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who PASS JUDGMENT ON SOMEONE ELSE, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment DO THE SAME THINGS.
Passing judgment on someone else won’t guarantee your own acquittal. It’s no defence to say “But I’m not as bad as HE is”. You can’t deflect God’s gaze by pointing the finger in another direction. Because YOU DO THE SAME THINGS. V3 repeats it.
You see, the Jews thought the fact they had THE LAW was their get-out-of-jail-free card. But Paul says it’s not like that. They thought God’s delay in sending judgment meant everything was fine. That God’s wrath wasn’t directed at them.
But they’d got it the wrong way around. God’s delay was designed to lead them to CHANGE. To turn their life around. Not to make them complacent. They DID deserve punishment, but God was holding off, so they’d recognise it. See there in v4?
4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward REPENTANCE?
Yes, God is righteous and just. Yes, he demands that people recognise and honour him. Yes, he demands their obedience and allegiance. Yes, rebels rightly deserve judgment.
And one day it WILL HAPPEN.
But, at the moment, he’s holding back his hand. Delaying his righteous JUDGMENT. Because of his righteous MERCY, LOVE AND PATIENCE.
And we need to make sure we keep hold of THAT side of God’s character when we think about this topic of JUDGMENT. Too often people focus on the punishment and wrath. But forget that God is holding back his hand, giving people as much time as he can, because he LONGS to save people, to declare them innocent. To win them back through the of Jesus.
1 Tim 2:4 says this
God our Savior, 4 WANTS ALL MEN TO BE SAVED and to come to a knowledge of the truth . 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men
And 2 Peter 3:9. Puts it the other way around
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, NOT WANTING ANYONE TO PERISH, BUT EVERYONE TO COME TO REPENTANCE.
That’s what God WANTS. Everyone to recognise him and turn to him. But for those who PRESUME on God’s patience, and who REFUSE to turn around. Judgment is sure and certain. V5 of Rom 2.
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are STORING UP WRATH AGAINST YOURSELF FOR THE DAY OF GOD’S WRATH, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
Doesn’t matter whether you’re someone who DOESN’T know God’s law. Someone who’s exchanged knowledge of the true God for false Gods. Or whether you’re someone who KNOWS God’s law, and PRESUMES you’re ok. God’s judgment will find you GUILTY.
Unless you REPENT. And trust in God’s forgiveness through Jesus.
God’s judgment will be
And from v5 we find out what God’s judgment will be LIKE.
First up, v5, it will be PERFECTLY JUST. “the day of God’s wrath, when his RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT will be revealed.” No mistakes, no miscarriages of justice. Everything carried out according to TRUTH and consistency.
Secondly, it will be PERSONAL. V6
6 God “will give to EACH PERSON according to what he has done.”
No one will be able to sneak through behind someone else. It won’t matter who you’re related to, or who you’re connected to. EACH person will have to stand on their own.
And third, it will be ACCORDING TO WHAT THEY’VE DONE. The FRUIT OF ONE’S LIFE will be the criteria. The Jews won’t be able to trust in their heritage, or their knowledge of the law. Notice IN PARTICULAR what fruit God will notice. V7.
7 To those who BY PERSISTENCE IN DOING GOOD SEEK GLORY, HONOR AND IMMORTALITY, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are SELF-seeking and who REJECT the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
God will look for those who persistently DO GOOD, and give them eternal life.
Which, on the surface, sounds like THE OPPOSITE of what we NORMALLY say salvation is about. That we’re not saved because of the things we do, but by God’s grace, by trusting in what Jesus has done FOR us. Like Eph 2:8-9
8 For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through FAITH-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast.
So what’s going on? Is the Bible contradictory? Is Paul confused?
No, Paul’s consistent. Go back to the start of Romans. Ch 1 v5. Talking about Jesus.
5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to THE OBEDIENCE THAT COMES FROM FAITH.
Faith is the BEGINNING. In v17 of Rom 1 we see that the gospel is about a righteousness that comes from God to everyone who BELIEVES. Trusting is how you’re saved.
But Obedience is the FRUIT THAT COMES FROM FAITH. From a commitment to honouring and serving God. That sort of DESIRE will be SEEN in the things you do.
Not that you’ll be PERFECT. But the GENERAL DIRECTION AND TREND in your life will be a commitment to doing good. See it there in Ch 2 v7? What is it God’s looking for? What evidence will result in eternal life? A PERSISTENCE in doing good. SEEKING glory, honour and immortality. Not perfection, but a fundamental and consistent orientation to the good. That COMES FROM FAITH.
We get that idea when we look at what people like that SEEK. V7. They SEEK glory, honour and immortality. Which are the very characteristics of GOD HIMSELF. Ch 1:20 God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine re – are clearly seen in creation. And v21, people refuse to GLORIFY him or give THANKS to him.
So, seeking glory, honour and immortality is about seeking God himself. And the things to do with him. Or as Jesus put it SEEKING FIRST THE KOINGDOM OF GOD. And THAT ATTITUDE is what God looks for.
And the opposite of seeking that is there in v8.
8 But for those who are SELF-seeking and who REJECT the truth and follow evil, there will be WRATH AND ANGER.
Seeking self, instead of God. Rejecting the truth, and replacing it with lies. Replacing the glory of God with the glory of created things. Seeking THOSE things will result in God’s wrath and anger.
So the things we’ll be judged according to/ will be the FRUIT of our faith. Or LACK of it. The things we DO are the EVIDENCE – the PROOF – of belonging to God. Not what MAKES us God’s. That’s FAITH.
(pause) That’s the THIRD thing we see about God’s judgment. That it will be according to what people have DONE.
Fourth, God’s judgment will be COMPLETE. All-encompassing. V9.
9 There will be trouble and distress for EVERY human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for EVERYONE who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
EVERY human will be called to account. From every corner of the world. From every age. And every culture. Big countries can’t escape. Small ones won’t be overlooked.
What’s more, FIVE, it will be IMPARTIAL. V11.
11 For God does not show favoritism.
Unlike the way WE decide things. There’ll be no special deals, or back door passes. ANYONE is eligible. And NO ONE is guaranteed.
Six. No exceptions. That’s in v12-15. In v13, Paul answers some who might argue that KNOWING the law is enough. That’s the Jewish complacency. No WAY! He says.
It’s no good saying when you’re accused of a speeding ticket, but I’m a judge, I know the law!” It’s irrelevant. You’ve got to OBEY it, to be found innocent. That’s the key.
And v14-15 talk about how NOT KNOWING won’t excuse you either. The argument’s a bit complicated. But Paul’s answering the objection that since Gentiles don’t have the law to reject, perhaps God will go easier on them. “But officer, I didn’t KNOW it was a 40 zone!”
But THAT’S no excuse EITHER. Gentiles may not have God’s law spelled out to them. But they still have a conscience that tells them what’s right and wrong. Sometimes they FOLLOW their conscience. Sometimes they DON’T. But they’re still GUILTY. They’ve done what THEY KNOW isn’t right.
That’s SIX. There’ll be NO EXCEPTIONS with God’s judgment.
And finally, v16, it will be THOROUGH.
16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s SECRETS through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
There’ll be nothing hidden. Every corner of your life will be examined. You can hide SOME things from SOME people SOME of the time. But it will ALL be there for God to see. Every thought. Every secret deed. Every opportunity to do good you IGNORED.
(pause) That’s pretty daunting isn’t it? So what do you DO with all that information?
The obvious thing is to let the full weight of its significance SINK IN. And make sure you AVOID it. Make sure you’re on Jesus’ side. That by persistence in doing good, you seek glory, honor and immortality.
Listen to how Jesus himself puts it in Jn 3:16-18
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
God’s IS going to judge. But he’s also done everything to provide a WAY OUT. To ESCAPE that. For our good, and for his glory.
Believe in the Son. Trust him for your life. He was punished so we could be set free. Found guilty so we could be acquitted.
(pause) But perhaps you KNOW Jesus. Perhaps you’re a Christian, but still there’s a nagging doubt. An uneasiness about whether you’ve done the RIGHT things. Or whether God can be TRUSTED. Whether you really WILL escape his wrath on that day.
Then listen carefully to the logic of Rom 5:9-10
9 Since we have now been justified by his , how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
If you’re worried about the judgment seat, remember the cross.
If you’ve turned from your sin. If you’ve accepted God’s offer of forgiveness through Jesus, then God has changed you from being his ENEMY to being his FRIEND.
That’s the difficult thing. Now that you’re HIS FRIEND, then SAVING you on judgment day is the SMALL thing.
If you’re worried about the judgment seat, remember the cross. That’s the key.