In View of Mercy? - Romans 2
Reading: [Rom 2:1-11 NASB] 1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same [yourself,] that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 [There will be] tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
Message: What are we doing in view of God's mercy? What are we doing in view of the mercy that exchanged our sin for the righteousness of Christ? Are we, as the Apostle Paul commands in Romans 12:1-2, presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice? Are we becoming like the Holy One we claim to worship (as we learned last week we're supposed to do)? Or are we thinking lightly of the riches of God's kindness, continuing to dabble in sin that grace might abound?...
Scripture tells us "to whom much is given, much is expected." As Christians, you and I have been given the greatest gift ever: life from the dead. As I see it, if we truly recognize the depth of our brokenness, the depth of our sin, and just how much mercy God has bestowed on us we ought to have no choice but to honor Him. And yet every day a choice is set before us. Maybe this is why the Lord's prayer contains the line "lead us not into temptation."
There are two types of post-cross people, 1. Those who in view of mercy persevere, who hold fast, who stand firm and 2. those who don't. There are those who do good and those who are selfishly ambitious. Those who seek for glory and honor and immortality through Christ, and those who reject the truth and return to their unrighteousness.
There are those who fearlessly await eternal life (after all, perfect love does cast out fear), although they "work out their salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12) and they "live in reverent fear during their temporary stay on earth" (1 Peter 1:17) and then there are those who also fearlessly (when they ought to fearfully) await Jesus' return only to incur wrath and indignation; those who say, "but Lord, Lord, didn't we do this or that in your name?" to which Jesus responds, "depart from me, I never knew you."
So the question still remains for each of us, what are we doing in view of mercy?
My hope is that our answer will be threefold: 1. That we humbly walk in righteousness vs. hypocritically walk in unrighteousness. 2. That we do not just hear God's word but do it. And 3. That our lives show the covenant promise of God - a circumcised heart.
So today as we continue our journey through the book of Romans transitioning from chapter 1 into chapter 2, I have some specific insights as to how we live in view of mercy.
The first insight has to do with judgment; specifically judgment from a place of hypocrisy. (BTW this is the only judgment we are prohibited from practicing in the scriptures.) The second area is in being 'doers' of God's word and not merely hearers. Which fits it neatly with how we are to live in view of mercy. And finally, the circumcision of the heart; the true sign of our covenant promise with God. So let's jump in...
Although it should go without saying Paul is writing his letter to the Christians in Rome. In verses 6 and 7 of chapter 1, He refers to them as Christians in four different ways. 1. "the called of Jesus Christ," 2. "beloved of God," 3. "called as saints" and 4. he says, "grace and peace to you from God OUR Father" identifying himself as one of them.
After greeting them and telling them how much he longs to finally meet them Paul shares a piece of doctrine that had to be challenging. It's a truth that many people today don't like to acknowledge.
Paul says, [Rom 1:18 NASB] 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
What a way to kick things off...
What Paul goes on to say from verse 18-32 was our lesson from last week. We become like what we worship. Worshiping anything but God makes us unrighteous and consequently, God's wrath is going to be poured out on all such unrighteousness (mind you this is Paul in the NT).
Also peppered throughout his dissertation Paul makes sure that we know that God has removed any excuse of mankind. He says things like "that which is known about God is evident to them" because "he made it evident" or "His divine attributes have been clearly seen." Then he ends this bleak picture of the human condition that has rejected God with verse 32.
[Rom 1:32 NASB] 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Paul's point is that the wrath of God awaits unrighteousness, people are not only practicing unrighteousness they are promoting it. Now with that setup, we turn to chapter 2 where we read,
"Therefore you have no excuse..."
Who's the "you?" The Christians in Rome. He's talking to people like you and me. And what he teaches here should serve as a loving wakeup call to anyone who wants to live in view of mercy. And the first idea up has to do with judgment! Let's read on,
[Rom 2:1-4 NASB] 1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same [yourself,] that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Although Paul is talking to Christians and judgment is the action on display, it's the kind of judgment or the attitude behind it that Paul is really addressing.
Paul doesn't stop with "Everyone who passes judgment." Instead he goes on and says there's no excuse for those who pass judgement while doing the same things that they judge. Paul is addressing hypocrisy.
According to the text, what excuse is the hypocrite without? Avoiding judgment. Paul declares that these Roman Christians, hypocrite or not, know that according to verse 2 the judgment of God is going to fall on the unrighteous.
Church, a judgment in hypocrisy is dangerous! It's unrighteousness. This is not fitting for those who live in view of mercy.
As a matter of fact, Paul says that thinking lightly of the riches of God's kindness and tolerance and patience is what people do when they continue to sin all the while banking on God's grace.
[Rom 2:4 NASB] 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Notice that this passage, so often quoted by Christians today, is a warning passage.
I want to take a few seconds to offer some clarification on this verse. The modern manmade doctrine says something like, "Be kind to all people and that will lead them to want to know who Jesus is. It will lead them to repentance." Not true! It's also not at all what is being said here!
If you go out into our world and you're simply kind to a stranger, nothing happens whatever (at least not for the Gospel). They may express their appreciation if they're kind themselves. But if they're not, they just take for granted your kindness and go on about their business.
Let me ask you a question: If the Christan and the Muslim both participate in "random acts of kindness" and they do, who's God leads them to repentance?
This may stir the pot a little but God's word does not say that 'kindness leads to repentance.' Paul is also not saying in any way that God's kindness led us to repentance, therefore, we should never judge others as a display of kindness. Instead, Paul reminds Christians who are being hypocrites that GOD'S kindness led them to repentance and that they should, therefore, stop sinning! He warns them to think hard about their hypocrisy.
Church, God's judgment is going to fall on the unrighteous. But God's kindness is this: His righteous judgment fell upon His Son. Jesus became sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. God's kindness is a fixed thing. It's not to be understood in the modern perversion of some kind of 'eternal niceness.' That's not what God's kindness is. He gave his Son for you and me. That's His kindness, full stop!
So what are we doing in view of mercy? Hopefully judging righteously. Hopefully, we are participating in humble righteousness. (Matthew 7 - The log in your eye.)
2. Being doers and not just hearers.
After reinforcing that God is impartial Paul says,
[Rom 2:12-13 NASB] 12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for [it is] not the hearers of the Law [who] are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.
In Jewish circles, they were taught a kind of preference due to having received the Law. Paul is saying it doesn't work that way. Being a child of Abraham wasn't the guarantee, being a child of promise, of Isaac, of faith was the what was real.
We struggle with this in the Church in many ways too. We are raised in church, our families taught us religious things, we've even been baptized. But are we anything like the One who redeemed us? Are we hearers, or practicers of religious duties or are we doers? James the brother of Jesus says this to his Christain audience:
[Jas 1:21-22 NASB] 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and [all] that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
So what are we doing in view of mercy? Hopefully becoming doers of God's word every day!
3. Circumcision of the heart. (A life that displays the true covenant sign of God's promise)
[Rom 2:28-29 NASB] 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
Scripture tells us that out of the heart the mouth speaks and also that we are to guard our hearts, for out of them flow the issues of life. With the heart being the epicenter in some way it's no wonder true circumcison (the true sign of God's covenant) is a new heart.
Some people have really sophisticated filters in life which allow them to play a good religious game but we all know what it's like to see obedience when it's from the heart. Obedience that is completely willing. This obedience serves as an identifier of true circumcision.
So in view of mercy what does this look like? It's a true life of faith. (briefly parallel the old covenant and the new)
Conclusion: So what are we doing in view of God's mercy? Are we taking it for granted? If so God has called us to repent. He promises that He is faithful and just and will forgive us. Hopefully, the actions of our lives are those of 1. humble righteousness (not hypocritical unrighteousness), 2. being doers of God's word and not merely hearers, and 3. displaying that our hearts have truly been transformed.