Standards For Righteous Judgement
Romans 1 describes both the gross nature of man's sinful perversions and the beautiful character of God's holiness. The God of Romans 1 is the God who loves; that is, He initiates the plan for man's salvation. He is the God who exercises mercy to undeserving sinners; that is, He invites the sinner to accept the plan for human salvation. But the God who initiates and who invites, is also the God who evaluates man's response to God's merciful offers. Thus, the justice of God is necessarily revealed in Romans 1 also.
There can be no initiation and no invitation without also the exercise of evaluation. To ask for a God of love and mercy is to ask also for a God of justice. And to accept a God of justice is necessarily to accept the divine action of judgement. There can be no justice without judgement.
Romans 2 describes the standards for righteous judgement. The rationale for judgement is described in Romans 1. The standards for judgement are described in Romans 2.
God is never arbitrary in judgement. "God's judgement… is based on Truth." (Romans 2:2) It is important to understand the principles that form the basis for righteous judgement. Romans 2 outlines the standards for righteous judgement.
PRINICIPLE 1: Genuine Possession, Not Shallow Profession (verses 1-3). Our Scripture reading today shows that the profession of the Jews was high, but the actual practice of righteousness was low. Profession and performance were miles apart!
"You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?" (Romans 2:21-23 NIV)
"Do as I say, not as I do"–that describes a great contradiction between profession and performance. What one professes ought to be an accurate reflection of what one possesses. One may not always live up to his high profession at every point, but there is always in the life of a sincere believer an attempt to close the gap between the high profession and the low performance. Hypocrisy, or deceptive role-playing, has no place in the life of an earnest believer. In the end, God will evaluate one's possession, not merely one's profession.
"I am naked and open before the One who created me and knows me! O God, you see me as I really am, not what others think I am! I confess that often I profess more than I possess. Fill me within and I shall be authentic without! Amen!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God will help me to close the gap between my profession and my possession! My life and my lips will combine in one harmonious praise to God!
"God's Kindness Should Lead To Repentance!"
PRINCIPLE 2: Repentant Response, Not Contemptible Rejection (verses 4-5). Our Scripture reading today teaches us that God's kindness, tolerance, patience, (in bestowing material blessings and spiritual knowledge) are meant to provide evidence of God's love and mercy, to incite man to heart-felt repentance. But too often the material blessings and spiritual blessings are looked at by man as evidence of man's independent genius and self-earned achievements. Instead of God's blessings inciting a repentant response, too often the blessings are attributed to man's achievements. Such a response equals a contemptible rejection of God's mercy. How a man responds to God's acts of kindness will provide the basis for God's judgement of that man.
Failure to repent is contemptible and tragic. Failure to repent assumes that God overlooks sin and sin's consequences. Failure to repent is taking advantage of God's forbearance. There are those who think that, because God's judgement has not immediately descended upon them after they have sinned, they are safe. However, God's forbearance in restraining immediate judgement is man's opportunity to repent and to amend his ways. Failure to repent is failure to understand the purpose of God's forbearance.
Paul, in effect, is saying, "Do you think that the fact that God does not punish you is a sign that he cannot punish you? The fact that his punishment does not immediately follow sin is not a proof of his powerlessness; it is proof of his patience. You owe your lives to the patience of God". (Daily Study Bible, Romans, William Barclay, p. 42)
God's kindness is meant to lead man to true repentance. Repentance means genuine sorrow over sin. It means turning one's back on sin and renouncing a life of sin. For instance, suppose a young girl breaks the heart of her parents through her sin. But suppose the parents of the girl genuinely forgive her. The forgiven daughter can either take advantage of that mercy and repeat the sin or she can be moved to wondering gratitude by the free forgiveness and spend the rest of her life seeking to be worthy of that forgiveness.
Heine, who had no worry about the future world, was asked why he was so confident. He answered, "God will forgive". When asked why he was so sure, he replied, "It is his trade". What a tragic presumption on God's mercy and love! Such a person is storing up wrath against himself for the day of God's wrath, when God's judgement will be revealed (verse 5).
"O God, let me never presume upon your love and mercy! Let me be gripped by the costliness of your forgiveness. So costly that the most beautiful life in the universe had to be nailed to a tree to make my forgiveness possible!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Christ is tender to those who repent, terrible to those who reject! I resolve always to maintain an attitude of repentance.
Romans 2:6-8, James 2:14-24
Faith And Works Are Twin Sisters!
We are 1ooking at the standards for righteous judgement as revealed in a study of Romans 2.
PRINICPLE 3: Goodly Persistence, Not Self-Seeking Pleasure (verses 6-8). It is not enough initially to repent of sin, but it is also necessary to persist in righteousness. Persistence in a life of righteous deeds ("doing good") and in a life with righteous goals ("seeking glory, honor, and immorality") will form the basis for God's righteous judgement. Romans 2:6-8 reveal two important points regarding the determination of one's eternal destiny: (l) It is not mere knowing, but doing that determines one's eternal destiny. (2) It is not mere starting, but finishing that determines one's eternal destiny.
In considering principle three (as stated above), first note that it is not mere knowing, but doing that determines one's eternal destiny. Religious knowledge without righteous practice is futile. Paul applied this truth to the Jews who were very knowledgeable of the Law, but who were disobedient to the Law. Writes Paul, "Being a Jew is worth something if you obey God's laws; but if you don't, then you are no better off than the heathen. And if the heathen obey God's laws, won't God give them all the rights and honors he planned to give the Jews? In fact, those heathen will be much better off than you Jews who know so much about God and have his promises, but don't obey his laws". (Romans 2:25-27, Living Bible) This passage emphasizes the importance of performance, of 'doing'. However, it does not declare that man is saved by performance of good works.
Man is not saved by works. That is the declaration of all of Scripture, especially of Romans. It is impossible to get into Heaven on the basis of one's good deeds. Why? Because "at your finest, you are an unprofitable servant. There is something to be forgiven in the best things you ever do. If you put all your service into one scale–all your good turns and all your kind thoughts–and, in the other scale, your mean thoughts, your unkind words, your shabby motives, your gross self-centeredness and all your bad turns (which you have probably forgotten) can you doubt which way the scale would or down? Can you hear the righteous sentence 'Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting?'." (Sangster's Daily Readings, p, 359)
What this passage does teach is this: While no man is saved by good works, man is saved for good works. Man is saved by grace through faith, for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Works are important to God. The Bible says so (Revelation 20:12-13, Titus 2:7, Matthew 5:16, Hebrew 10:24, 1 Peter 2:12).
"O God, I now understand that a saving faith is a working faith. Faith that does not issue forth in a 1ife of holy actions is dead and useless! Help me to prove my faith by my good works!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I cannot be saved by good works, but neither can I be saved without good works!
Romans 2:6-8, Luke 12:42-46
Starting, Perserving, Finishing!
We continue to look at Principle 3 in our study of God's Standards for Righteous Judgement. We saw yesterday that is not mere knowing, but doing that determines one's eternal destiny. We saw that the Scriptures teach that a saving faith is a working faith. "Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds." (Titus 2:7 RSV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:24 NIV)
In considering Principle 3, we must also say that it is not mere starting, but finishing that determines one's eternal destiny. It is only those who persist in doing good that will reap eternal life. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." It is only he "who works out to a finish that which is good" (Romans 2:10, Wuest), that will ultimately be saved. (Note: The present tense verbs are used in Romans 2:7-10, thus showing the importance of continuation in good works in order to guarantee a good verdict at the final Judgement of God).
It is not the starter of a race who will be rewarded, but the finisher of a race! "He that endures to the end will be saved."
Among those who will be found in the Lake of Fire (according to Revelation 21:8) will be "cowards who turn back from following me, and those who are unfaithful to me". (Living Bible)
"It may be that a righteous man turns away and does wrong; he will die for his sin; the righteous deeds he has done will not be taken into account." (Ezekiel 3:20) Does this sound like there is no security for the believer? There is plenty of security for the believer–but only for the believer, i.e., the one who persistently trusts the Saviour!
Jesus' parable in Luke 12:42-46 emphasizes the importance of faith-fullness to the end. He who is not found faithfully performing his God-given task when the Master returns, is subject to severe judgement.
So, any who practice self-seeking pursuits rather than godly pursuits are in for trouble. (Read Romans 2:8) Starting in the faith must eventuate in finishing in the faith. Jesus is the author and the finisher of our Faith; therefore, He will enable us both to begin and to finish our 1ife-time pilgrimage of faith, To such a person, the Master will say at the Judgement, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant".
"O God, Thou art the author and the finisher of my faith! Thou who hast begun a good work of faith in me, wilt thou faithfully continue that work until it is complete? Then I will be ready for heaven! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's faithfulness cannot avail for my unfaithfulness! Only as I persevere in faith will I be saved in the end!
Romans 2:9-11, Acts 10:34-38
God Has No Favorities!
Romans 2:9-11 reveals another of God's standards for righteous judgement of mankind.
PRINCIPLE 4: Equalitarian Justice, Not Racial Favoritism (verses 9-11) "There will be sorrow and suffering for Jews and Gentiles alike who keep on sinning. But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who obey him, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. For God treats everyone the same." (Romans 2:9-11, Living Bible)
Jesus is the Universal Christ–the Christ of all the nations, regardless of cultural, social or political differences. Christ does not destroy legitimate cultural practices. Christ is universally adaptable to men of all nations. There is no favorite race of people. Red, yellow, black, brown, and white–Jesus loves them equally. "God is no respecter of nations". He created all peoples, therefore all are responsible to Him and will be judged by Him. (Acts 17:24, Acts 17:26, Acts 17:29-31)
God created all nations. Nations differ in the degree of light they have received. All nations are urged to leave behind idolatrous practices and serve the true God. All nations will be judged justly and righteously by the resurrected Christ at the end of the world.
Not the color of one's skin, but the condition of one's heart–that will be the thing that God will look at during the Great Judgement. "For you are not real Jews just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish initiation ceremony of circumcision, but he is looking for those with changed hearts and minds. Whoever has that kind of change in his life will get his praise from God, even if not from you." (Romans 2:28-29, Living Bible) God has no favored race of people and no nation has special privileges. One's national descent does not guarantee a special badge of honor.
But many Americans feel that they are God's 'favorites'. Many Americans feel that they are not only superior in terms of geographical location, natural resources, political system, and way of life, but that they are superior because they are God's specially chosen people, the objects of God's special purposes, privileges, and destiny. But the Scriptures declare to both the Jewish nation and to the American nation–'Equalitarian Justice, Not Racial Favoritism'. "For God treats everyone the same", whether American or Asian or African!
"O God, you are just and righteous in all your judgements! You do not show favoritism, but accept men from every nation who fear you and do what is right." (Acts 10:34-35)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God judges me, not by the color of my skin, but by the condition of my heart!
Romans 2:12-15, Luke 12:47-48
Judgement According To Opportunity
PRINCIPLE 5: Relative Opportunity, Not Absolute Uniformity (verses 12-15). There are differing degrees of rewards and there are differing degrees of punishment. There are differing degrees of spiritual light of truth given to humanity. Also there will be different standards for judgement at the end of the world. Says James, "When we teachers of religion, who should know better, do wrong, our punishment will be greater than it would be for others". (James 3:1, Living Bible)
"God will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God's written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God's laws are written within them; their conscience accuses them or sometimes excuses them. And God will punish the Jews for sinning because they have his written laws, but don't obey them. They know what is right, but don't do it. After all, salvation is not given to those who know what to do, unless they do it." (Romans 2:12-15, Living Bible)
The light of Truth comes in different degrees, and each man will be judged according to the degree of response to the light that he has personally received.
The knowledge of the Truth of God is communicated through a variety of means–orderly nature, individual conscience, witness of the Church, printed Word of the Bible. All men are not fortunate enough to have available to them all of these forms of Revelation.
The degree to which one obediently responds to the revealed truth that he has received will determine the degree of one's reward or punishment. "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:47-48 NIV)
These truths help provide the answer to those who wonder what standard of judgement will be applied to those who lived before Jesus entered the world or to those millions in our present-day world who have never had the opportunity to even hear the name of 'Jesus'.
Jesus is a just and fair judge. Much will be taken into account and consideration by the Lord at the Final Day of Reckoning. Judgement will be based on 'Relative Opportunity, Not Absolute Uniformity'.
"O God, help me to live with a sense of accountability, always realizing that I am accountable for all the light of Truth which you have allowed me to receive. Help me to be true to the highest that I know!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I resolve to walk in all the light of Truth which God shines on my pathway today! (I John 1: 7)
Romans 2:16, Psalms 139:23-24
God Looks On The Heart!
PRINCIPLE 6: Hidden Motive–Not Outward Appearances (verse 16). Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart. The words of a popular song express this: "People often see you as you are outside; Jesus really sees you as you are inside. How about your heart, is it right with God? That's the thing that really counts!"
It is possible to imitate the real thing. It is possible to know the right terminology without experiencing the reality which that terminology describes. It is possible to be religious without being converted. It is possible, as Paul reminded the Jews, to be outwardly circumcised on the body without being inwardly circumcised in the heart. It is possible to affect an outward change of reformation without experiencing an inward change of transformation. It is possible for the head to be trained without the heart being changed.
Religious observance without religious conversion is not enough. Nicodemus appeared to all to be religiously adequate and orthodox, but appearances are deceiving. Only he who is born again can enter heaven!
It is not enough to be a religious spectator; one must be a personal participant in the grace of God! Religious analysis is not enough; there must be religious appropriation. Going through the motions of Christianity without experiencing the reality of a personal relationship with Christ, is a tragedy indeed. It is not outward adherence to moral laws, but inward obedience to spiritual truth that is evidence of a genuine Christian.
It is possible to fool others by outward appearances, and worse yet, even to fool oneself. One can rationalize his behavior to the extent that his hidden motives become buried in his deep subconscious. Self-deception is a peril to be avoided by heart searching and repentant prayer.
Jesus penetrated the surface of outward pretenses and discerned the hidden corruptions of the heart. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matthew 23:27-28) In one of Jesus' parables he talked about wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30). The wheat and tares look alike as they are growing, but Jesus will harvest both and separate them at the end of the world.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalms 139:23-24)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is possible to be proper without and polluted within! I resolve to be pure within that I may be productive without!
Luke 12:2-3, Matthew 7:21-23
"Everybody Talkin' About Heaven, Ain't Goin' There!"
We must spend another day looking at the sixth principle for God's righteous judgement of mankind: "Hidden motive–Not outward appearances'. Romans 2:16 says that "God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ". (NIV)
Jeremiah declared that the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9) Yet the Psalmist declares that God "knoweth the secrets of the heart". (Psalms 44:21) God alone can truly and accurately discern the thoughts, motives, and intents of the human heart. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:13)
Jesus alone is qualified to be the judge of mankind, for he alone knows all and can judge all without prejudice or distortion. "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of man." (John 5: 26-27)
Said Jesus, in warning against the hypocrisy and secrecy of the Pharisees: "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops". (Luke 12:2-3 NIV)
It is possible to perform great outward works of religion, and at the same time have inward concealed sin in one's life. The tragic story is told of a woman who confessed her deep sin to an evangelist. She had shamefully been the partner in an adulterous affair with her preacher! When the evangelist confronted the preacher with this sordid revelation, the pastor rather shrugged off the whole thing, and replied, "Well, even though I have engaged in adultery, I have preached greater sermons than ever before!"
We shudder at the very thought of such a hypocritical life! But let us remember that Jesus said there would be religious wonder-workers who would stand guilty before the Final Judgement Bar of God! The Negro spiritual says "Everybody talkin' about heaven, ain't goin' there!". Said Jesus, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven". (Matthew 7:21) "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
"O God, outward appearances can deceive, but you know the secrets of a man's heart. 'Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me'." (Psalms 19:12-13)
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I want to live so authentically that what I am in secret can shamelessly "be proclaimed from the housetops". (Luke 12:3)
2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 9:27
Today Is The Day Of Salvation!
We have carefully looked at the six standards for righteous judgement, as outlined in Romans 2. (1) Genuine Possession, Not Shallow Profession (verses 1-3); (2) Repentant Response, Not Contemptible Rejection (verses 4-5); (3) Godly Persistence, Not Self-Seeking Pursuance (verses 6-8); (4) Equalitarian Justice, Not Racial Favoritism (verses 9-11); (5) Relative Opportunity, Not Absolute Uniformity (verses 12-15); (6) Hidden Motive, Not Outward Appearances (verse 16).
Life is but a dressing room for heaven. life on earth is life on probation, that is, life on trail. Who we go after here in this life will determine where we go hereafter. Man is given the awesome responsibility of choosing his own eternal destiny! There is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. The Judgement of damnation for the sinner; the judgement of evaluation for the saint!
Choose ye this day whom you will serve, and choose carefully! For who you choose to serve in life will determine where you will live in eternity! To serve the Saviour means Heaven. To serve Satan means Hell.
Christ has already judged your sins on His cross. He now offers eternal life and hope to you. Come to him now! "Today is the day of salvation; now is the acceptable time."
The story is told of a young man who was considered by all of his friends to be a most dedicated Christian. He was raised in a godly home. He rigidly adhered to religious discipline, attending church regularly, memorizing Scripture, and living a clean life. This young man was very interested in missions. In fact, so interested in missions that he learned to prepare meager meals for himself so that he would have extra money to give away to missions! From all outward appearances, he was the epitome of Christian devotion and discipline. But one day, this young man heard of the Gospel plan of salvation presented in a very simple and compelling way. When learning of God's grace and love, the young man melted. He realized that during his years of religious training as a child, he had learned about Christ, but had never truly given his life to Christ. His outward life of religious respectability could never suffice for the inward corruption of his heart. He needed inward cleansing which only Christ could give!
Once when I was cutting firewood, I noticed a fallen tree. The tree outwardly appeared heal thy and strong, but I was dismayed to observe that the inner core of the tree was hollow–the result of inner rotting! How is your inner life? Are you healthy within or are you spiritually rotting within?
"O God, I realize that it is not all of life to live nor all of death to die, but after death comes the Final Judgement. Help me always to be so prepared to die that I might be ready to live–here and hereafter! Through Jesus' atonement! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: All will be judged, none expected! The sinner–the judgement of damnation; the saint–the judgement of evaluation! I resolve to live only for the latter!
Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1, Matthew 7:13-14
Remember Now Thy Creator!
Ecclesiastes 12:1 tells you to "remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'". The Bible tells us that there is pleasure in sin only "for a season". Short lived! One is never too young to make a choice to serve Christ! In his autobiography, E. Stanley Jones tells about the wrong choice of his boyhood friend. "I must pause long enough to tell about my chum who did not see any 'treasure' in what I saw. He looked elsewhere. When I said, 'Ras, I'm going to give myself to Jesus Christ. Will you?' and he replied, 'No, I'm going to see life first', we parted. He was to see life through his own desires; I was to see life through the desires of Christ. After thirty years we met again: 'Do you remember the night we parted? You said you were going to see life, and I said I was going to see Life. We've had thirty years in which to test our ways. How did you come out? 'His eyes dropped, he looked confused, and then said: 'You wouldn't approve of the way I'm living'. And when he told what he was doing (following the races), I replied, 'No, I'm sorry I can't". 'But', he added, 'it looks as though you've found Life'. 'Yes, I have", I replied, 'And I found it the night I found Christ'. 'Well, I'd better come over on your way', he added. 'You should have come over thirty years ago. You've worse than wasted thirty good creative years'. He took the way of chance, and I took the will of Christ. He came out at dissatisfaction, and I came out at satisfaction, the deepest that Life can know. And conversion made the difference." (Song of Ascents, p. 30-31)
Many talk about the high cost in serving Christ, but have you ever considered the high cost in NOT serving Christ? The way of the transgressor is hard! There is no peace unto the wicked! "The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble." (Proverbs 4:19) "The years of the wicked will be short." (Proverbs 10:27) "Fret not yourself because of evil doers, and be not envious of the wicked; for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out." (Proverbs 24:19-20)
Romans, Chapter three, describes the Christless life and the high cost in living that kind of life. The benefits in serving Christ must always be seen in contrast to the tragic consequences of not serving Christ.
"O God, ever save me from wrong moral choices. There is the broad road which seems easy at first to travel, but that road becomes rough and finally ends in perdition. Help me to take the narrow road which seems difficult at first to travel, but which leads to an abundant life here and an eternal life hereafter!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Every person is offered a choice–either the 'low' road or the 'high' road. I resolve to travel the 'high' road!
The High Cost Of Not Serving Christ!
We have said that Romans 3 describes the Christless life and the high cost in living that kind of life. Romans 3:1-20 relates at least three spiritual laws: (1) Special privilege equals special responsibility; (2) Opportunity shunned equals condemnation earned; (3) Christless choices equa1 Christless consequences. During the next few days we must look at these three principles.
First, Special Privilege Equals Special Responsibility (Romans 3:1-4). God established a covenant With Abraham that the descendants of Abraham would be blessed beyond measure. To Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, God gave the rite of circumcision which is a sign and seal of God's choice of the Jewish nation for divine purposes. The Jews rested comfortable in this covenant relationship and believed themselves automatically to be favored by God because they descended racially from Abraham. The Jews failed to realize that God's blessing on Israel depended upon Israel's maintenance of the faith of Abraham. Those who did not nurture the faith of Abraham, forfeited their rights to claim the covenant promises. 'Faith' not "race", was the criterion to judge the privileged people–the people of God!
God further demonstrated His favored treatment of the Jewish people, because "God trusted them with his laws". (Romans 3:2)
The covenant at Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, was a conditional covenant. God's promises were given conditionally. God promised to be faithful in fulfilling His promises, if man would be faithful in obeying His commands. With promises to be fulfilled always comes commands to be obeyed! God's faithfulness is never in question. Man's faithfulness is always in question. "True, some of them were unfaithful, but just because they broke their promises to God, does that mean God will break his promises? Of course not! Though everyone else in the world is a liar, God is not." (Romans 3:3-4 a, Living Bible)
God gave special privileges to the Jews. God spoke directly to them through Moses and through the prophets. They had a special privilege to know and to do God's revealed will.
However, the Jews who knew so much rejected so much. They who saw God's steadfastness, failed themselves to be steadfast and faithful to God. They failed to see that special privilege always means special responsibility! They failed to see that special choice means special duty!
"O God, I see that you are perfectly just and yet tenderly merciful! The greater my opportunities, the greater my condemnation if I reject those opportunities! Help me to accept my 'golden' opportunities!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God elects to save all, but only those who respond to God's grace-offer, become in reality elected! I choose to respond to God's love call!
Opportunity Shunned Equals Condemnation Earned!
We have seen that special privilege equals special responsibility. (Romans 3:1-4) God is faithful to the promises of His covenant. God fulfills to the extent that man obeys. God is also true to the warnings of His covenant. God executes judgement to the extent that man is unfaithful to the covenant. God's faithfulness and God's justice are not to be questioned. It is man's faithfulness and disobedience that renders God's promises sterile! Not to meet the conditions of the covenant is to reap the judgements of the covenant. God is faithful in punishing the disobedient as well as faithful in rewarding the obedient. To reject the opportunities of great privilege is to reap the penalties of great judgement! To reject light is to reap darkness! To reject life is to reap death!
Second, Opportunity Shunned Equals Condemnation Earned (Romans 3:5-8). The high cost in not serving Christ is a low estimate of sin's seriousness, sin's nature, and sin's consequences. He who is rejecting Christ is he who is perverted in his understanding of sin. Such a man sees sin as a virtue! "They will be condemned, as they should be." (Romans 3:8, Today's English Version)
There are those, according to Romans 3:5-8, who would pervert the justice and the mercy of God through their sinful practices. There are those who would like to indulge in sin without taking the consequences of their sins. There are even those who would minimize the seriousness of sin by seeking to maximize the mercy of God.
Strange and perverted is the argument which says: "It is a good thing to break a parent's heart, because it gives the parent a chance to show how much he loves the child!"
Say those who want to make sin a virtue: "It is a good thing to sin, because it gives God a chance to forgive. It is a good thing for man to be bad for, by contrast, God's goodness is seen to be that much greater! It is a good thing for man to be wicked for this simply advertises the goodness of God! It is a good thing for man to engage in falsehood for this gives opportunity of the truth of God to receive greater honor!" But such reasoning is the reasoning of perverted man who wishes to sin and, at the same time, wishes to escape God's judgement and wrath!
God is not motivated by pride. God is motivated by holiness! God is a holy God, and thus, He hates sin! Sin is not a virtue! God has no desire to show His great righteousness in contrast to man's great sins!
"O God, help me always to see the seriousness of sin–sin's pollution, sin's power, and sin's consequences! Save me not only from sin, but from sinning! In Jesus' powerful name! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I must take sin most seriously if I am to take the Saviour most seriously!
1 Samuel 1:21-28
The Preventing Grace Of God
"What kind of God would he be to overlook sin?" (Romans 3:6, Living Bible) If sin is really a virtue because it enables God's righteousness to stand out in bolder colors by contrast, then how could God ever condemn anyone for sinning? "For he could not judge and condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty brought him glory by pointing up his honesty in contrast to my lies. If you follow through with that idea you come to this: the worse we are, the better God likes it! But the damnation of those who say such things is just." (Romans 3:6-8, Living Bible)
Yes, God will always forgive, but that fact does not reduce the seriousness and tragedy of sin. Those who lightly view sin and see sin as a virtuous opportunity to demonstrate the power of God's grace and mercy and righteousness, have no conception of the damnableness of sin or of the holiness of God! The Bible never encourages man to become a great sinner to prove that God is a great Saviour!
A young man who was raised in a Christian home and who early in his life had accepted Christ as Saviour, heard a famous evangelist vividly describe the marvellous transformation of dope addicts and other great sinners. The Christian youth began to bemoan the fact that he was not saved from such a terrible life of sin. The Christian youth, as it were, felt that God's grace in saving him from sin was not as greatly or dramatically demonstrated as when God saved the drug addicts.
It is true that God's grace is marvelously demonstrated when sin abounds. When sin abounds, God's grace much more abounds! Praise God! God can save the foulest! There is no stain of sin that has gone so deep, but what Christ's blood can go deeper yet! But let us also remember that the grace that prevents one from becoming a great sinner is as great as the grace that saves a great sinner. Sin is never a virtue. We need not become a great sinner to prove that there is a great Saviour!
I have never heard an individual say that he regretted that he was a Christian, but I have heard scores say that they regretted that they did not become a Christian earlier in life! God forgives sin, but the scars of sin (sin's consequences) often remain long after the sin has been forgiven! The preventing grace of God is as great as the healing grace of God!
"O God, I cannot come to you soon enough! To know you is to experience happiness, health, and holiness! Save me not only from sin, but also from sin's telling consequences!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My payoff in serving Christ early in my life will be greatly received late in my life. The longer I serve Him, the Sweeter are His blessings!
Christless Choices Equal Christless Consequences
One of the universal spiritual laws is this: Whatever a man sows, that also shall he reap! Romans 3:9-18 is a description of human nature in its Christless state. It is a description of the universality of human sin. All are sinners–both Jews and Gentiles. "There is none righteous, not even one", (verse 10)
This passage describes what in theology is called 'original sin'. Man is a sinner because he is born in sin. What is original sin? "It is that evil tendency with which every individual is born, a tendency which disposes him to do wrong and thus to become not only by nature, but by personal choice a sinner. This is explained by the universal law of natural generation that like begets like. Adam, by the personal exercise of his own free will fell into sin, thus becoming a sinner. The son born to him was like him not only in physical structure, but in his moral image as well. From Cain to the present all his descendants have inherited from him a nature depraved and prone to sin like his own… By his separation from God, man is first of all deprived of the life of God in the soul. The deprivation leads naturally to his being depraved to the point that every part of his nature is affected. It is very much like a child who is first of all deprived of nourishments necessary to the building of strong bones. The result of his being deprived of these substances is that his skeletal structure becomes twisted and out of natural shape. Man is sufficiently far gone from righteousness as to be 'inclined to evil and that continually'." (The Mature Church Member, Donald Bastian, p. 31-32)
Human nature is corrupted at the core. "All human nature is self-centered–even the nature of 'nice' and 'decent' people. Education makes no difference to this self-centeredness–except to put a veneer over it and make it less obvious. An observant man can see this self-centeredness every day–in himself, as well as in other people." (Questions People Ask About Religion, William Sangster, p. 57-58)
Does a small child need to be taught to be selfish? No, for he is selfish by nature. The patient parent painstakingly teaches the child to be unselfish, but nothing less than conversion will cure the problem. Adults, as well as children, manifest selfish traits, evidence of a nature uncleansed of original sin. All mankind is inflicted with the universal disease–self-centeredness! We choose sin because we are sinners by nature!
"Am I a sinner because I sin or do I sin because I am a sinner? Now I see! There is something deeply wrong with my human nature. I am a sinner by nature! I choose wrongly because I am inclined towards the wrong! O, God, give me both forgiveness and deliverance!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: MY first (physical) birth gives me an inclination to do wrong; my second (spiritual) birth gives me an inclination to do right. I will live in the power of the second birth!
Manifestations Of Original Sin!
We have said that Romans 3:1-20 relates at least three spiritual laws: (1) Special privilege equals special responsibility; (2) Opportunity shunned equals condemnation earned; (3) Christless choices equal Christless consequences. It is this last principle that we are now studying.
Third, Christless Choices Equal Christless Consequences. We have said that Romans 3:9-18 declares the Universality of sin. Every man is born in sin. David declared in Psalms 51:5, "I have been evil from the time I was born; from the day of my birth I have been sinful." (Good News Bible)
However, while the Bible teaches the doctrine of original sin, the Bible does not teach the doctrine of original guilt. The human race is not guilty for Adam's sin, even though the human race has inherited the moral pollution as a result of being born to Adam's race. Guilt is the result of the wrong exercise of choice. An infant is incapable of exercising intelligent moral choice.
Original sin untreated becomes sin manifested outwardly. The roots of sin (original sin) produce the fruits of sin (acts of transgression). Sin which is allowed to become the master makes the sinner its slave.
Look at the manifestations of original sin–the corrupt fruits of an unregenerate life:
- Corruption In The Character
Ignorance–"There is no one who understands." (verse 11)
Crookedness–"All have swerved out of the way." (verse 12)
Indifference–"There is none who seeks the Lord." (verse 11)
Unprofitableness–"All together have gone bad (sour)." (verse 12)
- Corruption Of The Tongue
Destructive–"They practice fraud with their tongues." (verse 13, Barclay)
Deceitful–"The poison of asps (snakes) is under their lips." (verse 13, Barclay)
Malignant–"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." (verse 14, Living Bible)
- Corruption Of Conduct
Oppression–"Their feet are swift to shed blood." (verse 15)Injuriousness–"Wherever they go they leave misery and trouble behind then." (verse 16, Living Bible)
Restlessness–"They have not known the way of peace." (verse 17, Barclay)
"O God, I see that the ultimate cause of human suffering is rejection of Christ and Christ's powerful provision for man's sin problem! Why should I continue to suffer in sin when you have provided a solution to sin? The blood, the blood of Christ is my healing and my health!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My double need has a double solution in Christ–forgiveness and cleansing. (I John 1:7) Glory!
2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Now Is The Day Of Salvation!
Let us briefly retrace our steps which we have taken during the last few days. Romans 3:9-18 declares certain facts about man and his sin. Every man is born in sin. Every man is involved in the moral ruin caused by Adam's sin. Original sin left untreated manifests itself in outward (and many times, violent) sinful practices. We have noted the corruption of human character, speech, and conduct–the outward expression of original sin.
Further, we learn from studying Romans 3:18 what the root difficulty of mankind is: "There is no reverential respect and worship (fear) of God." Those who don't give to Christ the place in their hearts which he already enjoys in His universe–Sovereign place as Lord of all–are those who fall into sin's hurtful trap. Wrong choices result in wrong consequences. The wages of sin is death!
Sin has consequences for both time and eternity. I once had the joy of leading a middle-aged man to Christ–a man who earlier in his life was a heavy I drinker' and a heavy user of tobacco. After surrendering his life to Christ, he lived radiantly. He was an inspiration to all who knew him. Nevertheless, only a few years after he was converted, I had the sad experience of burying him. He died from lung cancer, apparently caused by years of cigarette smoking.
It is never too early to come to Christ! Sin soon takes its evil toll on the body, mind, and spirit. The atonement of Christ provides for both forgiveness of overt sins and also for cleansing from original sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all righteousness." (1 John 1:7)
Man may be bad, but man is never too bad to be saved. It is never too late to be saved. Sin may leave scars, but the redeeming God can turn the scars into stars! The description of man's sinful nature is not given to lead us to despair, but it is given to show us man's need for a great Saviour and a great Cleanser! Sin may abound, but grace always super abounds! "Now God says he will accept and acquit us–declare us "not guilty'–if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we can all be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious ideal; yet now God declares us 'not guilty' of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins." (Romans 3:22-24, Living Bible)
"O God, it is never too early and never to late to come to thee. As long as there is physical breath, there is hope of receiving eternal life. Today is your day of salvation. Tomorrow may be too late! I place my full trust in Christ's atoning blood to save me from the guilt of my sins and to deliver me from the pollution of my sinful nature."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's grace is all-sufficient–to resolve my guilt, to cleanse my nature, and to redeem my scars!
"But Now" — God's 'Nevertheless'
The key phrase which introduces God's one and only plan for man's salvation is the phrase "But Now'. "But now the righteousness of "God has been manifested apart from law." (Romans 3:21 a) Man is sinful, helpless, and hopeless–But Now–God provides a hope and a righteousness for man. The phrase 'But Now' is 'God's Nevertheless'. It is saying that, in spite of man's terrible predicament (as outlined in the first three chapters of Romans), God has an answer and hope for sinful mankind!
Let us spend some time looking at this important phrase 'But Now'. When can it be said? Why can it be said? By whom can it be said?
First, 'But Now'–When can it be said? When you are speechless before the Law. "Now we know that Whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:19-20) Only when you are hushed, and speechless, and stand guilty before a just God can you sense the importance of the words 'But Now'.
Why is it that no person can be justified in God's sight by the works of the law? For several reasons. One, because the Law is perfect and mankind is imperfect. Romans 8:3 tells us that man is weak and sinful to keep the perfect law. Two, because possession of the Law without performance of the Law is a curse. The Jews prided themselves in possessing the Law. "You Jews think all is well between yourselves and God because he gave his laws to you… You are so proud of knowing God's laws, but you dishonor him by breaking them." (Romans 2:17, Romans 2:23, Living Bible) No fault is to be found in God's perfect Law. The fault is found in the weakness of sinful humanity which is unable to keep the Law. The Law reveals God's perfect standards and man's consequent failure to keep those standards. Three, because breaking some of the Laws is to be totally guilty as a Law-breaker. Mistaken are those who, like the Jews, think that if they keep the majority of the Law, they will be acceptable to God. James wrote," "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all". (James 2:10) Four, because attention to the letter of the law without obedience to the spirit of the law is useless. Even if it were possible to keep the external requirements of the Law, the internal spirit of the Law could still be broken. The spirit of man needs cleansing before he can keep the spirit of the Law!
"A mirror can reveal dirt, but a mirror cannot remove dirt. Your Law, O God, is like a mirror. It reveals my sin, but it cannot remove my sin. For by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20), but only by the Son is the knowledge of sins forgiven!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My speechlessness before my sin and before God's holiness shall give way to shouting before God's mercy and before God's forgiveness!
1 Timothy 2:3-6, 1 Peter 1:18-19
A Bright Picture Against A Dark Background!
The universality of sin (Romans 3:9-18) among all humanity is the dark, hopeless, and sombre background against which Paul begins to paint a bright picture of hope (Romans 3:19-26). Conviction of sin is necessary for conversion to God. Until one senses his desperate plight in sin, he does not sense his desperate need for a Saviour.
'But Now'–when can it be said? When one senses his need for God. When one is speechless before God. When one recognizes his guilt before God and senses his need for a Saviour. When one realizes that the Law can diagnose sin, but it cannot destroy sin.
'But Now'–this phrase introduces the subject of God's marvelous plan of salvation, against the background of man's miserable failure–the failure of the Gentiles without the Law and the failure of the Jews with the Law.
'But Now'–these two words introduce God's ingenious plan to save the fallen race of mankind!
Second, 'But Now'–Why can it be said? Because God has provided an answer to man's helplessness. 'But Now' is the 'Nevertheless' of God. 'Nevertheless', in spite of man's predicament in sin, God took the initiative to put man right with God! God's plan to save mankind is found in Jesus.
One, Jesus provides for man's justification (verse 24). God treats the sinner 'just-as-if-he-had-never-sinned'. Justification is a term that paints a picture of one who is guilty before a judge. Justification means that the Judge treats (reckons or accounts) the guilty one–the sinner-as if the had never sinned. The kind of love which treats a sinner as if he were innocent is the kind of love that changes the total relationship of a sinner to God. Sinners "are justified by his grace as a gift". (Romans 3:24 a)
Two, Jesus provides the sacrifice for mankind. "God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God's anger against us. He used Christ's blood and our faith as a means of saving us from his wrath." (Romans 3:25, Living Bible)
Three, Jesus provides for mankind's deliverance (redemption). The sinner is saved through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (verse 24). Common to the idea of redemption is freedom–the result of paying the ransom price. When a ransom was given for a slave, the slave was freed. The Bible defines man as a slave to sin, and it describes Christ's death as a death to ransom man, to free him from the bondage of sin.
"My sin is like quicksand. The more I struggle to get out of my sin, the deeper I sink into its mire! Thou, O Christ, art the extended hand of God! Thou alone canst save me from my sinking death! Taking your hand, I take Salvation and Life!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "On Christ the Solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand!"
Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 11:6
'Faith' — The Upward Reach Of Man's Hand!
Romans 3:19-26 describes man's needs and also outlines Christ's provisions in terms of justification, sacrifice, and deliverance. It is now left for man to respond. Self-righteousness cannot gain God's favor. Only the righteousness which comes through faith is sufficient–"The righteousness of God through faith in Christ for all who believe." (Romans 3:22)
Here is the answer–faith in Jesus! It is Jesus who saves us. It is not our faith which saves us, but it is Jesus who saves us! However, without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) It is impossible to be saved without the exercise of faith. Faith is the upward reach of man's hand toward the downward reach of God's saving hand! The man who is sinking in the quicksand is saved by the man who is on the solid rock nearby. However, the sinking man cannot be saved without extending his hand to the strong hand of the man on the rock. It is not the extension of the hand which saves, although one in such a state could not be saved automatically without cooperating with the man on the rock. Christ is our Saviour, but He cannot save us automatically. We must reach out with the hand clasp of faith!
All this is brought out strikingly in Mason's well-known hymn:
Lord, I was blind; I could not see In Thy marred visage any grace; But now the beauty of Thy face In radiant vision dawns on me.
Lord, I was deaf; I could not hear The thrilling music of Thy voice; But now I hear Thee and rejoice, And all Thine uttered words are dear.
Lord, I was dumb; I could not speak Thy grace and glory of Thy name; But now, as touched with living flame, My lips Thine eager praises wake.
Lord, I was dead; I could not stir My lifeless soul to come to Thee; But now, since Thou has quickened me, I rise from sin's dark sepulcher.
Lord, Thou hast made the blind to see, The deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, The dead to live; and lo, I break The chains of my captivity.
"Faith is being sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) O Lord, in thee my hope for deliverance from sin finds fulfillment! In thee my vision for new life finds realization! Faith tells me that the best is yet to be–full redemption in Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The downward reach of God's steadfast hand of mercy is always longer than the upward reach of my struggling hand!
Discussion Questions On 'Standards For Righteous Judgement'
Tell why (from a study of Romans 1) you agree or disagree with the following statement: "There can be no initiation of love by God and no invitation to salvation from God, without the exercise of evaluation of human response by God". (Why is it impossible to ask for a God of love and of mercy without also asking for a God of justice?)
In seeking to understand God's standards for righteous judgement, will God judge a person on the basis of his high profession of faith or on the basis of his actual performance of faith? What will a sincere believer do when he recognizes that there is a gap between his high profession of faith and his lower performance in faith? What is the Biblical definition of hypocrisy, as this term relates to this discussion?
For what main purpose does God bestow material and spiritual blessings upon sinners (according to Romans 2:4)? How do sinners too often respond to the blessings they receive from God?
Man's continuing failure to repent reveals what wrong attitudes in man, and incites what ultimate reaction from God? (Romans 2:4-11)
What does it mean to presume upon God's mercy and love?
According to Romans 2:6-8, what (in addition to man's exercise of initial faith in the saving power of Christ) is necessary if a person is ultimately to enjoy eternal life hereafter?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "While no man is saved by good works, man is saved for good works; man is saved by grace through faith, for good works". (Ephesians 2:8-10)
How important are good works to God? (Note Revelation 2:12-13, Titus 2:7, Matthew 5:16, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Peter 2:12) What is meant by the statement: "It is not mere knowing, but doing that determines one's eternal destiny".
Why is it impossible to get into heaven on the basis of one's good deeds? Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "I cannot be saved by good works, but neither can I be saved without good works!"
What is the significance of the use of the 'present tense' verbs in Romans 2:7-10, as these relate to an understanding of the conditions for final salvation in heaven? (Also note Revelation 21:8, Ezekiel 3:20, Luke 12:42-46) From a study of these Scriptures (and many others) would you conclude that the Bible teaches conditional or unconditionally 'eternal security'?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God's faithfulness cannot avail for my unfaithfulness. Only as I persevere in faith will I be saved in the end!"
Discussion Questions (continued)
What does Romans 2:9-11 reveal regarding God's standards for righteous judgement?
What Scriptural basis can you give (especially in the second chapter of Romans) for supporting the following statement: "The Light of Truth comes in different degrees, and each man will be judged according to the degree of response to the light that he has personally received". (Is there a Scriptural basis to say that there will be degrees of punishment and degrees of rewards, based upon the degree or response by mankind to the various kinds of revelation given by God?)
What are several ways by which the knowledge of God's Truth is communicated to mankind?
On what basis will God judge a human being at the Final Judgement, according to Romans 2:16? (Note Hebrews 4:13, Matthew 13:24-30, Luke 12:2-3)
Is it true that every human being will be judged? If so, what kind of judgement will sinner and saint experience? (Note 2 Corinthians 5:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
What Scriptures can you cite that indicates that there is a higher cost in NOT serving Christ than there is in serving Christ.
Was God's covenant at Mount Sinai with His people (the Israelites) a conditional or an unconditional covenant? Before God's promises to mankind can be fulfilled, are there always commands to be obeyed? While God's faithfulness and sovereignty are never in question, is man's faithfulness (in his probationary state on earth) always in question?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God is faithful, both to the promises and to the warnings of His covenant. God fulfills His promises to the extent that man obeys His commands; God executes His judgement to the extent that man is unfaithful to God's covenant requirements".
What arguments do people use (according to Romans 3:5-8) when they wish to turn sin into a virtue?
Give your interpretation of the following statement (as it relates to Romans 3:6-8): "The preventing grace of God is as great as the healing grace of God!
Can you cite illustrations, either from your own life or from observations of others, to show the truthfulness of the following statement: "God forgives sin, but the scars of sin (sin's consequences) often remain long after the sin has been forgiven!"
Discussion Questions (continued)
What is meant by the term 'Original Sin'? What evidence, from common everyday life, is there that demonstrates the reality of Original Sin? Do you agree with the following statement: "We humans choose to sin because we are sinners by nature!"
Because a man is a sinner by nature and by choice, what is God's two-fold cure for man's two-fold sin problem? (Note 1 John 1:7)
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The atonement of Christ provides for both forgiveness of overt sins and also for cleansing from original sin".
In light of the fact of man's moral predicament, what is God's answer, according to Romans 3:22-24?
Can you share a personal testimony to document the truth of the following statement: "God's grace is all-sufficient–to resolve my guilt, to cleanse my nature, and to redeem my scars!"
Give four reasons why no person can be justified in God's sight by the works of the Law.
In light of man's helplessness, name three things (according to Romans 3:24-25) that God, through Christ, has provided for mankind.
What is your definition or description of 'saving faith' (as the latter is given as God's required condition for salvation from sin)?