Can you imagine what the world would be like, if there were no judges? What good is a peace officer if he doesn’t have someone to approve of his interpretation of the law? In fact, there might as well be no law – because there wouldn’t be any enforcement of those laws. And there might as well be no threat of punishment for breaking those laws. Despite the existence of conscience and some restraint, I don’t think that I’d like to live in such a world. If a judge-less world wasn’t complete chaos, it would be close enough to it to make life miserable. We need judges – good judges – righteous judges to go along with righteous laws and practical justice.
On the other hand, I don’t think that I’d like to be a judge in our secular world. I think that would be a terribly difficult office. The problem is that the modern legal system has become so technical and overgrown with judicial weeds that it is very difficult to properly interpret and apply. And I’m not sure that any modern judge can ever render a verdict in any case which pleases everyone. If it is according to Biblical principles, then he will be despised by the liberal majority. If his decision leans toward leniency, he will be criticized by the hardliners. He has to please his peers, his superiors, those who appointed him or those who elected him. Maybe judges should only serve for a single term and never worry about re-election or re-appointment. Why aren’t juries elected or appointed to sit for four years and paid enormous salaries for doing so? Why are most people reluctant to sit a jurors? For the same reason that they don’t want to be judges?
Despite the fact that most people would not really like to sit behind the bench and render a judgment which will affect the rest of someone’s life. Most of us are delighted to do it when we don’t have to face the consequences of our decisions. We pass judgments on others all the time – usually way down in the depths of our hearts. Sometimes we share our verdicts with others, but most of the time, we keep our opinions to ourselves. And yet, they aren’t exactly secret, because the omniscient God knows every one of them. And that is the theme of the first part of Romans 2.
Paul told the people in Rome that he was looking forward to the day that he could minister there. He felt a responsibility to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Greeks, Romans, Jews and Barbarians. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who receives it no matter what their background is. For only in the gospel is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. But the wrath of God is also revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. At that point Paul began to describe what happens when people reject their innate knowledge of God. And clearly, he was thinking about the heathen – the idolater, the people who reject the knowledge that Jehovah is the God of all the Universe.
But with chapter 2, his attention was turned to the sanctimonious, self-righteous people who look down their noses at the people that he had just described. It isn’t obvious right away, but he was thinking primarily of the Jews. Those people never rejected the knowledge of God, or so they said. Those people despised the haters of God, homosexuals and inventors of evil things, or so they said. Like the average Christian today, they considered themselves to be without the need of God’s judgment. If they aren’t above the law, they are certainly above the Gentile, above the heathen and above sin. But Paul’s point was that weren’t, aren’t, and never will be. “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.”
Generally speaking, most of our judgment of others is sin on our part.
This sin, like all sins, should be avoided in order to please and glorify God. It is a sin, because to be a judge is an office which hasn’t been given to us. I’m not talking about Judge Clarence Thomas on the United States Supreme Court. I’m not talking about the judges across this country who try accused car thieves and murderers. I’m not talking about the office of elected and appointed judges. I’m talking about you and me.
There is a tendency in every one of us to sit in judgment over the lives and actions of our neighbors. Perhaps it comes from the fact we were once children, under the good and proper judgment of our parents. We were watched, corrected and disciplined, and we automatically think that it’s our duty to do it too. The matter gets even worse for Christians with a little of the knowledge of God’s law under their belts. It’s like the person who once read a book on communicable diseases, and now he feels that he’s an expert in diagnosing SARS, bird flu, and leprosy. It’s like the old spinster, who is an expert on child-rearing, although she’s never actually raised a child. Just because the Lord has put His law into our hands or our hearts, doesn’t mean that He has also given us an open license to apply it to everyone around us. When it comes to the clear declaration of God about sin, there ought to be no confusion. But that doesn’t mean that we have been appointed to be God’s judges and executioners. And when it comes to things not too clear – remember who you are & the office that you have been given. Romans 14:1 – “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.” James 4:10 – “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”
Practicing medicine without a license is against the law. Practicing the law without a licence is against the law. And according to the Word of the Lord, we have not been put into the office of judges, either. That, too, is against the law – God’s law.
Besides, when it comes to the average judgmental situation, we aren’t capable of being really accurate. In a courtroom situation, there is supposed to be the presentation and examination of all the facts that relate to the incident in question. But usually, outside the courtroom, very few people have all the facts. Judgments are usually made instantaneously on insufficient evidence. Not only don’t we know the crime well enough, we often don’t know the law as well as we think. Only the Lord has the knowledge and wisdom sufficient to judge all things. And He will judge, so unless that situation directly affects us right now, we are usually better off, waiting for God’s perfect timing and judgment.
Third, judging others is a sin to be avoided, because of the motivation that usually lies under it. Why is it that, generally speaking, the last person that we ever judge is ourselves? Why is it that what we do is rarely sinful in our own minds? But when someone else does the same thing, then it’s a terrible crime? Isn’t it because we have a love for ourselves that is greater than our love for others? If its not love for ourselves, then because of our love for our family or specific friends, we overlook their sins and misdeeds, but we’d never think of doing the same for a stranger or a mere acquaintance. Why do we judge others? Sometimes it’s because we are uncharitable people. There are people whom we don’t like, and so no matter what they do, we criticize them. And then sometimes we are just mean-spirited people, enjoying discovering some indiscretion in others.
Another attitude which usually arises in these people’s hearts is pride. If I accused you of being uncharitable, what am I saying about myself? I can criticize you for being uncharitable, because I am ordinarily a charitable person. Talk about a conflict of ideas – we have one right here. I suppose that anyone could be proud about anything. But there is a special pride that goes with this office, or presumed office, of judge. I am better than you, or I would never even think about criticizing or condemning you; but I am better. But let’s assume only for the sake of argument that I really am. That may not be the case, but if it is, there is only one reason that it might be true. The grace of God.
The Lord Jesus once told a particularly heart-rending story. A king had servant who owed him 10,000 talents – a ridiculously large sum of money. When the debt became due, the man was unable to pay, and he plead for the king’s patience. The king not only didn’t punish the man, or increase the interest, but forgave the debt completely. Almost inexplicably, that forgiven man then went to someone who owed him a hundred pence. He grabbed the man by the throat and demanded his dollar, but like himself the poor man couldn’t pay. Then this man cast his debtor into prison until he could come up with the money. Fortunately the king heard about what his servant did, and he dealt with him accordingly. Those who have experienced grace, should be the first to be gracious toward others. Those to whom the Lord has been merciful, should be merciful to others. And that means just the opposite to being judgmental.
And in addition to these things, the Lord has directly charged us about this matter. Our Saviour commanded: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” “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.”
What happens when we become judgmental toward others?
First, we admit that we have some knowledge of the law. Let’s say that I reprimand you for judging people. Let’s say that I publically rake you over the coals in front of the whole church, because I think that you have unjustly criticized one of the brethren. In doing that, I have to admit that I know that the Bible condemns publically judging people. There is the possibility that in which I am doing, I am becoming as guilty as you.
Notice Romans 2:1 once again: “Therefore 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.” Of what is Paul accusing these people? Yes, I know that he’s saying that they are guilty of the same things as the heathen, but what exactly? Is he saying that the Jews had “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, birds, beasts and” creepy things? Not necessarily. Is he accusing them of homosexuality? Not likely. Were any of the Jews guilty of fornication, envy, murder, pride and disobedience to parents? Undoubtedly there were thousands in Judah guilty of many of this dirty two dozen. But he wasn’t addressing specific, individual hypocrites; he was thinking of the entire nation.
What the unbelieving gentiles had done was forsake their knowledge of God and corrupt their memory of Him. And then when the Lord continued to shower His showers upon them – filling them with blessings, “they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.” They refused to repent before the Lord, and give Him the worship that He deserves. This was the same sin of which Israel was guilty. Verse 4 – “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” There has probably been no more religiously proud people than the Jews in the days of Paul and Christ. They considered themselves better than every other nation and tribe of people on the earth. For the most part there was no need for them to ever consider repenting before the holy God. Or so they thought.
That was precisely the point that Paul wanted to attack here. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”
What judges often forget is that there is another Judge – a Supreme Judge.
Just for fun I ran a search of the Bible for the words “the judgment of God,” and I was surprised by the results. Despite the fact that it is a universal Bible theme, those words are found only five times. And three times they come up in our text this morning, and once in the last verse of the first chapter. What Paul wants all of us to know – Christian, Jew, Roman and Barbarian – is that there is a true Judge. “We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.” “Thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” “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.”
Except where the sins of others directly affect us or our loved ones, there usually isn’t any need for us to judge the fellow next to us. In God’s perfect time, just as we will be judged, so will he. The Lord “will render to every man according to his deeds” – verse 6. And “there is no respect of persons with God” – verse 11. For the heathen, “as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law,” and for the Jew and the professing Christian ” as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” Verse 16 – there is a day coming “when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” according to the gospel that Paul preached.
Earlier I quoted the Lord Jesus, as He preached His Sermon on the Mount. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” These verses are often used to try to silence someone for criticizing that person’s sin. But the emphasis of our Saviour’s words is not “judge not,” but on the rest of the sentence. And the meaning was essentially the lesson of Paul here in Romans 2. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
You and I haven’t been ordained as judges of the Lord – we are actually the guilty ones. So we need to be especially slow and careful when necessity requires that we judge another person. Because, assuming that we know the law at all, we shall be judged by that same law. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
What I would like our lesson to be this morning is this: You are going to soon stand before the all-knowing Judge, to be thoroughly examined by Him. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” – Romans 2:4? We need to be more concerned with our own humble, repentant relationship to God than with the sinful relationship that other people have with Him. Are you inexcusable, or have you been forgiven by the grace and mercy of God? Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?