The Appointment – Romans 2:1-16

 
How happy would you be, if I told you your favorite author or preacher was scheduled to come to our church? I would hope that you’d be pretty excited. But what if I didn’t tell you the day that he’d be here, just that it would be sometime in the next six months. I’d guess that you’d still be happy about the visit, but that you’d probably not be too happy with me. Most of us would want some specifics about something that important. Would it make any difference if I was talking about a favorite loved one – whom you hadn’t seen in a while?

I suppose that we could be talking about the return of the Lord Jesus in just this way. I am absolutely convinced that the Christ Jesus is going to return to earth soon. I am reasonably convinced that it will be during my lifetime, even though I know that Paul thought the same thing about his lifetime. I hope that you’re not too upset with me, if I don’t give you a date for the Lord’s return. There have been teachers, both false and true, who have tried to do exactly that. They have all been foolish, but some were true servants of God and some were servants of Satan. Not only don’t we have enough information revealed to us to mark our calendars about the date of the Lord’s return, but I believe that we are specifically commanded not to even try. The Christian should be looking for, and living for, the Lord’s coming each and every day. We should be looking for the Lord right now, and if He doesn’t come right now, then we should expect him five minutes from now, and so on, and so on, and so on. We should live every moment of every day in the light of the imminent coming of our Saviour.

But let’s change our “what if” question once again. What if your doctor said that you desperately needed some sort of surgery in order to save your life? Let’s say that he checked his calendar, checked with the hospital, checked with your insurance and your bank, checked with his colleagues and told you that everything was ready for this critical surgery. But, in order to save you the stress and bother of marking up your calendar, he decided not to tell you the chosen date. His plan was to call you in the morning of the surgery telling you that you had an hour to get to the hospital. Wouldn’t you start looking for a new doctor?

Here in the Book of Romans, Paul is in the early stages of explaining the gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Paul started at the beginning – as all good teachers and logicians should do. That means that he began with the fact that we are all in desperate need of the Gospel and God’s salvation. We are sinners; we are rebels; we have transgressed the eternal and righteous will of God. “When they (WE) knew God, (we) glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in (our) imaginations, and (our) foolish heart was darkened. Professing (ourselves) to be wise, (we) became fools.” And to prove how foolish mankind has become, Paul described a couple dozen of the terrible, terrible sins that we commit against ourselves, against our neighbors and against our Creator. These things are a result of our sin nature, and as a result of the withdrawal of God’s restraining grace.

But knowing that not everyone has committed all these ungodly and unseemly sins that he had just specified, Paul went on to point out that hypocrites were just as guilty as felons; actors in masks and makeup are just as guilty as rapists in their masks. “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” At that point the Apostle could have quoted his Master. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”

I hope that I didn’t confuse anyone last week about Romans 2. Clearly, the last part of the chapter, which we haven’t yet read, exposes the wickedness of the Jews. And the people of the first verse of the chapter sound like they might have been Jews. They apparently had never bowed before an idol god, just like the Jews in Paul’s day. They weren’t murderers and had never committed any homosexual acts. Certainly the Jewish nation might fit under that blanket. But at the same time so would millions of professing Christians, and even millions of atheists, agnostics, and heathen of all varieties. People don’t have to live in debauchery to be wicked and sinful in the eyes of God. And anyone who has ever received the slightest blessing from God – every soul ever to have lived – Anyone who has received the Lord’s blessings, but who has never cast himself down before the throne of Jehovah and before the cross of Christ, stands on the threshold of God’s palace. The door is slowly opening and the royal, divine guards are on the other side ready to slay the arrogant and unrepentant sinner standing on that porch waiting for another handout from their Lord.

“Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” We despise the riches of God’s goodness, when we eat His food, enjoy His beauty, and live under His peace, but we don’t worship Him according to the pattern of His Word. We despise His goodness, forbearance and patience, when we refuse to acknowledge that we are sinners just like the others that Paul had just described. And to what do all of us sinners have to look forward? Verse 5 – “After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds.”

Now here is where I return to my opening illustrations. There is a word used twice in our scripture, which we need to carefully understand. Is it to be understood literally, or figuratively? Should we look at it editorially, or specifically? Is it a metaphor or should we understand it as matter of fact? Both verse 5 and verse 16 speak about a DAY when God will judge the people of this world. Verse 4 once again: “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the DAY of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Now skip down to verse 14: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the DAY when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

Just as Jehovah has not published the date of our Saviour’s return from Heaven, He has not told us the date of the judgment which will follow. But that in no means means that there aren’t specific dates chosen by God for both of these events. You, me, your neighbor, and everyone else who has ever lived in this world is one day going to stand before God as Judge. Since you don’t know what day to mark on your calendar, why don’t you mark it for two days from now. Write it in red magic marker; circle it in blue and put stars all around it, because it is that certain. The judgment of God is absolutely sure, it is just that we don’t know the day that it will take place. Just about every book in the Bible speaks about it, but some speak more loudly than others.

And it’s this judgment that lays underneath the gospel. This why the gospel is so important – it is the only adequate or sufficient preparation for that judgment. “For therein (in the gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed.” In the Christ of the gospel is salvation and deliverance from the penalty of sin, which is to what the judgment relates.

Now at this point, I’m going to turn to a very common, and often preached outline about this judgment. This outline isn’t mine, and probably has been preached 10s of 1000s of times over the last 2,000 years. Paul gives us several great principles which will apply in this judgment. Not only should everyone of us have these principles memorized, but for the man who lives and dies in his sins, without repentance, without Christ, and without hope, that man needs to make special consideration of these five things. Very briefly,

God’s judgment will cover EVERY single ACT of SIN ever committed – large or small.

Verse 6 – “Who will render to every man according to his deeds.” O.J. Simpson is in the news once again, this time accused of another, not quite so hideous, crime. The murder of Simpson’s wife several years ago, was the biggest judicial circus since the Scopes trial. The fact that a civil court found him guilty, confirmed what most everyone else already believed – He did it. That he wrote a book and in interviews he has essentially confessed, confirms what most people believe. But because the American judicial system is so corrupt and convoluted, the criminal court released him, freeing that man to commit more crime and continue to laugh at justice.

But I’m not going to loose any sleep over O.J. Simpson, because there is a God on the throne, who will render to every man according to his deeds. It doesn’t matter if that man is famous, or rich, a setter of records, or a breaker of records. And it doesn’t matter if his sin be murder, or theft; harassment, or arrogance, or deceit – even a tiny lie. Jeremiah 17:10 – “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give EVERY MAN according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Matthew 16:27 – “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward EVERY MAN according to his works.” Galatians 6:7 – “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

The thing to remember here, is not to be side-tracked by the name and history of O.J. Simpson. The point is that YOU will be judged as severely and as minutely as that man. True, your sins may not be as terrible, but your smaller sins are just as damning. A lie and a petty theft is just as revealing of your sinful nature, as homosexuality or murder. Al Capone was a wicked, evil man, who was responsible for murders of dozens, if not hundreds of men. But it was for tax evasion that he went to prison. The same principle applies to God’s judgment – the size of your sin, doesn’t really matter. The wages of sin (no matter what kind or what size) – the wages of sin is eternal death. You are worthy of Hell whether or not you are a fornicator, murderer or homosexual.

Second, God’s judgment is according to TRUTH – verse 2.

“But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.” How often do criminals go free because of legal technicalities? Despite being obvious and conclusive, some piece of evidence was tainted and so cannot be used. A confession is inadmissible in court because the confessor didn’t have a lawyer present. The police didn’t have a legal search warrant so the finger prints on the gun that was in the garbage outside the house of the man who threatened to kill the poor murdered woman can not be used in trial. Such things are ridiculous.

But these things will never hinder the divine due-process under God’s judgment. The Lord sees the facts behind every act ever committed by man. In fact, the omniscient God sees the motives behind those facts, and the state of the heart – even if those actions weren’t carried to fruition. This is why the hypocrite is inexcusable, because unlike human courts, the Lord isn’t limited to judging actions, but He judges intent, wishes and even unfulfilled plans. The woman on the witness stand may say, “I didn’t kill him, but I wish that I did.” She may walk away a free woman, while another person is found guilty of the actual murder. But at the Great White Throne of God, both will be declared guilty of hatred and sentence to death. God’s judgment will be based on absolute, unadulterated, and deep-in-the-heart truth. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

Another principle, which we’ve already considered is man’s ACCUMULATED GUILT – verse 5.

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds.”

Isn’t it funny that everyone treasures different sorts of things. Some of my treasures are tiny pieces of paper, which most of you think are ridiculous. I was holding the other day, a thin piece of paper half the size of the average postage stamp. The catalogue says that it is worth about $2,000 – Canadian. Someone might think that I’d be better off trading my treasures for bigger pieces of paper like stock certificates – now there is something to treasure someone says. And yet another might talk about treasuring up old coins, or books, or porcelain dolls or something else. Some people actually collect and treasure ugly, terrible disgusting things. And almost everyone collects things that they don’t even know that they are collecting. It’s not until they get ready to move that they realize that they have a ton of these things.

The words “treasurest up” in verse 5 are more often in the Bible rendered “lay up.” The Lord Jesus pointed out two kinds of vaults, in contrast to Paul’s third kind. Matthew 6: 19-20 – “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” Paul says that if the goodness of God towards us is not leading us to repentance and surrender to Him, then in every day and every hour that we live another piece of God’s wrath is being added to our safety deposit box ready to be opened on Judgment Day. Every blessing of the Lord which doesn’t result in humble thanksgiving and worship is another scorpion added to the pit which we are digging for ourselves.

Verse 11 adds that God’s judgment is WITHOUT RESPECT of persons.

Why was the murder trial of O.J. Simpson such a news-worthy event? It was because that man was rich and famous. Thousands of young people had previously wanted to be like O.J. – big football stars. Thousands of men wished that they could be married to a woman as beautiful as Nichol. Thousands of adults wished that they could have a tenth of the money Simpson threw away every year. The Simpson trial was a circus because of all the money that was being spent to defend and convict him. And he is a free man today because of who he is, despite the truth, the facts and the acts.

But when we stand before God, it will be without any kind of varnish or veneer. Just to the south of us here there is a hill that many people call “Signal Mountain.” It can’t be much taller than 3,500 feet. It shouldn’t be compared to Mt. Rainier, which is over 14,000 feet. And in the shadow of Mt. Everest, it’s nothing more than a blister of dirt. When mankind stands before the righteous God, the very biggest of men, will be tiny dirt-piles before Him. In the magnitude and majesty of the Almighty, the difference between men will be so minuscule as to be unrecognizable. Not one of us will look any bigger than any other. So God won’t look at any of us as anything more or less than worms in His sight. And it won’t matter if we are wearing bath robes or royal robes, we will be judged as equals in sin. In God’s judgment our sins and the truth will be compared, not the titles and the color of our hair.

The fifth principle in God’s judgment we might call PERFORMANCE not PLANS.

Verse 13 – “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Now we begin to see that Paul is thinking about the Jews in contrast to the heathen. But this applies just as much to professing Christians as it does to Israel.

It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do or don’t do. So you know that you shouldn’t try to deceive people. Excellent, but the question is: ARE you a liar or not.” And you know that adultery and fornication are sins – that is good and useful knowledge. But how often does your computer turn to pornography sites?

I won’t say that God doesn’t care what you know and don’t know, because I’m sure that He does. But it doesn’t matter what you know, if you don’t properly implement what you know. And furthermore, it’s not a matter of what you know in your head, because there are things that your heart knows, and you are responsible for them as well. This is why the non-Bibled, Heathen is just as guilty before God as the highly religious Jew or Christian. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.”

This leads to the remainder of the chapter. From verse 17 forward, Paul points out that the religious nature of the Jew doesn’t afford him any protection whatsoever from the wrath of an angry God. Your religiosity is a travesty, a mockery and hypocrisy. Verse 23 – “Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” The more religious that we are, the more Biblically savvy that we are, the more quickly we treasure up the wrath of God against ourselves, while we refuse to repent before God. Although I want all our babies to attend church every Sunday and every Wednesday for the rest of their lives, there is a danger in church attendance. There is a responsibility which comes with exposure to the Word of the Lord. The Jews forgot their responsibilities, and Paul did his best to remind them of them.

Paul says here, there is a day coming – a judgment day coming – at which every child of Adam will be judged. Yes, I am aware that wicked and righteous will be judged on different days, but that doesn’t alter the point. You are going to be judged, on a specific day, by the holy and all-knowing God.

But there is a decidedly wonderful twist to this otherwise dark thought. Verse 16 says, “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ ACCORDING TO MY GOSPEL.” And what exactly was Paul’s gospel? It was and still is the good news that God sent His only begotten son to bear judgment for us. That is why repentance, and faith in Christ Jesus, is so essential. As long as we remain in our sins, we are doomed to bear the punishment of that judgment for our sins, but to those who repent and turn to the Saviour in faith and love, there is deliverance and eternal life. There is a day coming in which every man, woman and child will be judged by the eternal God. But for thousands that judgment took place at Calvary about 2,000 years ago.

Are you absolutely sure that you are a child of God? Are you absolutely sure that Jesus took your place on the cross – dying for your sins? Without that you will have no hope in the Day of Judgment.