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Nov 03, 2019

Judges, Judmenatilsm and Judgment

Passage: Romans 2:1-16

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Romans

Keywords: truth, judgment, repentance, judge, kindness, hypocrites, judgmental, playing favorites


Being critical and judgmental, playing favorites, being hypocritical...those are just a few of the things the unchurched or "nones" think of the church. This message looks at those important issues and why they may be right in their criticism of us...and what God has to say about how much our tendency towards all those things is so different from the way he deals with sin, ours and the worlds.


Judges, Judgment and Judgmentalism

Romans 2:1-16

November 3, 2019

INTRO:  You know, every now and then things happen that make you feel just plain OLD!  This week was one of those weeks. I realized this week that I’ve personally lived through 3 of the 4 Presidential impeachment inquiries in the 243 years of our nation’s history!  Either…

  • I’m getting very old or…
  • Presidents are getting very naughty or…
  • Impeachment is getting very over-used or…
  • A combination of all of the above is happening! 

            The passage we are studying in Romans 2 today, while not talking directly about political impeachment, does have quite a bit to say about the tendency we all have towards our own personal impeachment accusations that are often running in our hearts.

            So just to help us see how very relevant and practical today's Scripture is to our daily experience, I’d like to ask everyone to find some paper and pen/pencil and make a little “score card” about your thoughts, words and actions in the past month towards the following people.  Use your fingers and toes…or make a little hash-mark on your paper… if you have thought, said or felt something critical about one of the following people or groups of people in, oh, just the past month.  25 is a “perfect” score, so start counting!  Since we already mentioned them, let’s start with…

  1. Politicians?
  2. One of the 22 million local, state or federal government employees in America? (Postal employees, SS employees, City meter maids, military, elected officials, non-elected officials, etc.)
  3. A school teacher, school board member or other school or educational employee?
  4. A classmate?
  5. A neighbor?
  6. Someone at church?
  7. Someone you saw on the street?
  8. Someone you experienced on the road while driving?
  9. A spouse?
  10. A sibling?
  11. A child?
  12. A parent or grandparent?
  13. An extended family member?
  14. An in-law?
  15. An out-law…someone in the news because of crime they committed? 
  16. A fellow employee?
  17. A boss/employer?
  18. A service-industry worker (like medical person, waiter, bank teller, grocery checker, etc.)
  19. Someone you heard or read about in the news?
  20. The news reporter/commentator/talk or late-night-show personality, etc?
  21. A pastor, priest, TV preacher or religious leader?
  22. A world leader?
  23. A friend?
  24. An enemy?
  25. Somebody who’s dead?

We are ALL guilty of passing judgment on others, right?  The only question really is, “Am I guilty of the same shortcomings, failings and sins that I’m so critical of others about?”  Because if I am, I’ve also just joined that ranks of people everyone hates—hypocrites.

            As we saw last week in Romans 1, every human being having ever lived and alive today (with the exception of Jesus Christ), is guilty of sin.  There is a downward slippery slide when it comes to sin that brings with every sin its own punishment.  And all of us sin in thought and deed, word and wish.  As we also saw last week, many of those 24 or 25 sins listed out in Romans 1, have direct impact on someone around us and they all have direct impact on us the sinner.

So now we come to Romans, chapter 2, verse 1.  “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”  (NIV)

ILL:  I heard recently about a man who was a Republican 

Party chairman of a county in Florida somewhere.  He ended up suing a former GOP county executive committee member for defamation because this man had sent out a letter to state party officials accusing the chairman of having been married six times. The chairman called that charge “unconscionable,” and stated that the correct number of marriages was actually only five. He boldly declared, “I be?lieve in family values” (in FlagstaffLive, 12/29/05-1/4/06).

            There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to this word “judging.”  Is God condemning outright any act of judging in a discerning way?  Are we to treat everyone exactly the same regardless of their speech or behavior or motives?  Because if you aren’t going to engage in any “judgment” about a person, there is absolutely no reason to have laws or prisons or locks on the doors of our houses.  There is no reason to be drawn to some people because of their kindness but repelled by others because of their meanness.  So it is very evident that God gave us minds and intuitions and common sense in order to protectively discern or “judge”, if you will, between one kind of character and another.

The problem with judging others, says Paul and God, is when we are secretly or unknowingly engaging in the same behavior that we openly condemn.

  • When a pastor takes a strong stand against sexual immorality from the pulpit, but then it comes out that he secretly looks at porn, he’s engaged in hypocritical judgment.
  • When a politician postures himself as a fiscal conservative, but it comes out that he’s got a gambling problem and is half a million dollars in debt with credit debt, that’s a problem.

Probably one of the most frequently used, but misapplied, verses in the Bible about judging is Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” If people would just keep reading, they would see that in verse 6 Jesus tells us not to give what is holy to dogs or to cast our pearls before swine. He was not talking about literal dogs and swine, but rather about people who act like dogs in that they tear up everything they can get their paws on OR act like swine in that they run roughshod over and try to destroy anything/anyone who doesn’t agree with their agenda of slop-feeding and mud-wallowing. To even obey that verse, you have to judge whether a person is acting like “a dog or a swine”.

Then, in verse 15, Jesus warns about false prophets who come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. You have to judge carefully to conclude, “This person isn’t a sheep.  They’re not safe.  In fact, this man or woman is a ‘wolf masquerading as a sheep’!” The point is clear: if you don’t make correct judgments about people, you’ll be eaten alive at some point!  Even Jesus modeled making plenty of judgments about hypocritical religious leaders and legalists.  Granted, Jesus was sinless and thus not practicing the same sins he was preaching against. But His call not to judge was clearly not a blanket statement about all discerning judgment.     

[See 1 Cor. 5:9-13 for Paul’s call to judge specific sins (sexual immorality, greed, idolaters, drunkard, swindler) IN the church but not in the culture/world.]

So in Romans 2:1, Paul is not saying that it is always wrong to judge others. Rather, he is saying that it is wrong to self-righteously pass judgement on others, thinking all the while that we are free of that or similar sins. 

Principle:  Being judgmental of others is a self-blinding, self-condemning sin.

We laugh at how stupid that sounds, but didn’t our little opening exercise just prove that we all engage in that practice far too often?  For instance…

  • Don’t family members who are a lot alike often have the most conflict?
  • How many of us shake our heads when we see the news about some act of violence in our city…and then go pay good money to watch movies that make entertainment out of violence?
  • How many of us bemoan the moral decline of our culture yet choose an evening of entertainment that may be filled with profanity, violence and immorality to an evening of worship or prayer or ministry to a family in need or people with no family around the at all?

This bent towards criticism of others while being blind to our own failings is one of the most common problems I encounter when couples are struggling in their marriages. It seems so easy to be preoccupied with your spouse’s failings that we simply cannot see the gravity and enormity of our own failings in a family. 

So Paul’s point is quite practical: we are prone to judge others for sins when we are just as sinful in similar ways.

Romans 2 continues:

Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

One biblical commentator, James Boice (Romans, Baker, 1:220) pictures the sin talked about in this passage as a miser who for years stores his horde of gold coins in the attic safe above his bed. It’s his treasure of what he believes to be his own goodness and others lack of the same. But then one night, the weight of all that gold breaks through the ceiling and comes crashing on his head, killing him. He thought he was storing up treasure, but he was only adding to his own judgment.

            God uses the rather strong word in verse 4 for what we are actually doing when we focus on the failings of others rather than on the patience, forbearance and kindness of God towards US in the midst of our own failings.  He calls it “contempt”.  It’s the idea of “despising or looking down on someone on account of something.”  Focusing on the failings of others is really a way of despising the goodness of God. 

It seems that this word in the original is always presenting us with a choice.  Take Matthew 6:24, for example.  No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 

In this passage in Romans 2 we could say that, “You cannot enjoy the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance and patience while passing judgment on others.  You will either love being judgmental and despise God’s kindness OR you will love God’s kindness towards you and despise being judgmental.”   

            This passage is one of contrasts between humans and God.   We’ve seen what we humans are like:  judgmental.  Now God’s going to show us how different He is from us.  So let’s move on to see what it is about God and His judgment that is so different from us and our judgments of people.  Take a look at all the contrasts here.

Vs. 2—God judges people based on absolute truth, not appearance or conjecture.

This is THE most important first step in holy judgment:  it must be based in 100% truth about both the offense, the offender and the offended.  This is what juries and judges try to determine when there is a trial:  what actually happened to whom when?  Simply determining those facts of history is hard enough in human relations.  [Note: it is being made impossibly difficult now with the notion of “hate crimes” that add the component of “What was the perpetrator thinking when they committed said crime?” It’s hard enough to get the facts about actions without muddying the waters with what might or might not have been going on in someone’s head when they engaged in that action. 

            But God, seeing and knowing ALL things perfectly (from actions to thoughts), and being Truth Himself and thus knowing where truth ends and where evil and sin begin, is really the only Being with the capability of passing judgment that is based in 100% truth. 

ILL:  Ever walked into a room with two kids crying bloody murder and both claiming that the other one stole their toy first…or pushed them first… or pulled their hair first?  You weren’t there.  You didn’t see it.  One of them might have more of a reputation for instigating something like that.  But you don’t know!  How nice it would be to always know the TRUTH about who was responsible…and then be able to meet out justice with the heart of God in it.

Which brings us to the next contrast between God’s judging and ours:

Vs. 4--Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

God not only knows “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”; He deals with the truth differently than we naturally and normally do. 

Do you ever cry out to God for justice?  Do you ever see or experience or even just read about some horrible injustice in this world that causes something in you to rise up and shout, “God, how long?  God, smite those evil people!  End their evil deeds!  Hear the cries of defenseless people…your people…tortured and killed simply for doing what is right and good!” 

ILL:  It seems that at our weekly prayer gatherings on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, we seem to be praying against more and more evil in our world and for more changes in world governments that are oppressing millions and millions of people.  Just this past week I read several different accounts of horrendous torture, rape, abuse and murder of fellow human beings in countries like China, N. Korea, Algiers, Saudi Arabia, Syria and India.  Why does God not meat out justice more quickly…right in the moment when some evil person is torturing or raping or killing some defenseless and powerless human being? 

            The answer is in vs. 4.  God’s kindness, forbearance/ tolerance, and patience overlap somewhat, but have different nuances of meaning.

  • His kindnesspoints to the many good gifts that He bestows on this rebellious human race. He gives us air to breathe, food to eat, homes to live in, families that love us, beautiful scenery to enjoy, and bodies and minds that (for the most part) function as they are supposed to. He treats us far better than we deserve.  And that kindness is poured out on every human being.
  • God’s toleranceor forbearance points to the fact that He does not strike us dead instantly when we defiantly sin against Him, abusing ourselves and the people near us. How many times have we known what is right and deliberately disobeyed? God could have struck us dead on hundreds of occasions and He would have been perfectly just, but He did not. He is tolerant.
  • God’s patienceis similar to His tolerance but over time. The word literally means “long on wrath,” or slow to anger. He gives us opportunity after opportunity to repent, without inflicting judgment.

This is one more reason why God IS the perfect judge of all the earth.  No one will be able to charge God with being too hasty to judgment, with not giving them enough time or enough opportunities to turn from sin and run for refuge into His arms of grace.  There is no being in this universe who can lay claim to the kind of kindness, tolerance and patience our God demonstrates daily.  We may wish he was quicker to anger, less kind to people daily engaging in evil and eager to strike down those hurting others.  BUT were He that way, how many of us would be sitting here today?  How many of us would have been kept alive long enough to repent?  Probably none!

Let us remember this when we are tempted to hate the evil and the evil people around us.  Just as it is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance, so it is our kindness in the midst of evil that will catch people’s attention for the Gospel.  Kindness is a much more powerful attractant to sinners than swift and immediate justice. That is another reason why God deserves to be Judge, not us. 

The next paragraph of verses 6-11 speak to us further of the nature of God and why HE is the only right one to engage in judgment of human beings.  They also inform us that every human being will face the judgment of God one day—saved and lost, redeemed and Christ-rejecting. But before we talk about that, let’s read the text.

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

            So before we look briefly at the judgment of God, notice that last statement about God our Judge: “For God does not show favoritism.”  Here is a reality we have rarely, if ever, experienced in our world.  We live in a world of favoritism.

  • Doesn’t the whole issue of race relations revolve around our propensity to “play favorites” with some people but not others? Whether it’s the Asian students suing Harvard University for discrimination against them or the Marshallese high school students at L.C. on the bottom of the social pecking order a block from us, it’s all about favoritism.
  • Doesn’t political corruption revolve around favoritism—someone with political power being favored with gifts or speaking fees or book deals over far more gifted, talented, interesting and worthy regular citizens?
  • Even in family relationships, favoritism plays a huge role in the hurts and wounds that billions of people on this earth live with every day of their lives.

Fact is, ALL of US wrestle with crucifying our tendency towards favoritism in the church!  Do we really treat every member of the body of Christ equally? 

  • Do we see the mentally challenged older adult who lives in poverty and filth with the same eyes we see the beautiful little child growing up in a healthy, clean and well-cared for family?
  • For that matter, do we not play favorites with adults over children when we choose to spend our limited time together weekly in fellowship with other adults instead of in investing in the hearts of the few little children God has entrusted to our care for a few hours a week in our gatherings?

My point is not to make us all feel guilty for engaging with one group when we gather to be the church rather than another.  I trust my point is God’s point here:  we ALL engage in favoritism every day and multiple times a day.  Which is WHY we are not fit to be the judges of other people.  Only our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, is.

            This paragraph also lets us in on the cosmic reality that every person who has ever lived will be judged based upon “what they have done” (vs. 6).  Did you hear that?  Hopefully most of you are saying to yourself at this moment, “Wait a minute, Pastor. I thought you’re always teaching us that salvation is by faith, not by my own works?”  Yes, and this passage doesn’t contradict that.  We are all sinners who cannot save ourselves nor ingratiate ourselves to God by trying to have our good deeds outweigh our bad.  Salvation must be by faith in Christ’s work on my behalf, not my work on His behalf.

But that reality does nothing to negate the fact that Jesus himself will be the Judge of two groups of people:

1.)  Those who have rejected God’s offer of relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, i.e. the spiritual rebellious and lost, and…

2.)  Those who have accepted the free gift of eternal life in Jesus and are headed to eternity together with God in heaven. 

The good and evil individuals in BOTH of those groups do will be judged by God without favoritism. 

            The first group Paul mentions are those who have trusted in Jesus and, as a result, have a new heart that longs to live righteously.  . God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”  This is simply another description of true followers of Jesus:  the persist in doing good, in seeking the glory and honor of God and in living for what is immortal, not the flesh and what will pass away.  This passage does NOT address the process by which a person is saved but rather the results of salvation in the life of the saved. 

            Scripture is very clear that the righteous, the saved, the born-again in Christ will face a judgment at the end of time.  It isn’t about whether your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life but it will be about what every saved person does with that life of Christ in them after they are saved.  If you want to study more extensively about that judgment of believers called “the judgment seat of Christ,” go to

  • 2 Cor. 5:10—Speaking to saints/believers in Corinth, Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
  • Romans 14:10-12—10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

This is why it matters deeply how we live out our lives in Christ after we have received Christ.  This is why every day, every hour and every decision matters in the life of a Christ-follower.  This is why WE need a judge who understand our weakness and walked in our broken world—Jesus, the judge of all the earth (Rm. 2:16).

            Likewise, those without Christ will be judged by their works, NOT as to whether they will spend eternity with God, but how they will spend eternity away from the God they do not want to serve.  Hell will not be the same for every person.  It will be very different for the nice, kind neighbor who has rejected Christ than it will be for the abusive, violent, selfish neighbor who has rejected Christ. 

But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile….”   

            This “first Jew, then Gentile” wording is simply a reminder that people with the clear, written Law of Moses (the Jews) will be responsible for sinning despite the fact they know what God clearly requires AND the Gentiles who have never seen, heard or known that Law of Moses will also be responsible for sinning against their Creator because their own consciences convict them whenever they violate the law God has written on them/their hearts.  Listen to how Paul states it in our last paragraph for today.  

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

            Even though our consciences fail us and can become seared and soiled, the fact is, EVERY human being has the “law of the conscience” in them, even if they have never heard the law of God.  Just study anthropology and you will see that while the specifics of that law may vary slightly, the basics of that law are common across cultures and time. 

  • While people may define rape slightly differently, they all know it is wrong.
  • While a culture may define murder slightly differently, every human knows deep inside that the taking of another person’s life without cause is wrong.
  • The same can be said for lying and cheating others, for stealing what is not yours, for greed of what belongs to others.

We can try to smother and paper over our consciences.  Deeply evil people do that pretty well.  But they will NEVER be able to stand before God himself, who knows their every thought, feeling, word and action, and claim that they did not know deep inside their soul that what they did was wrong or right, depending on the incident, the thought, the word or the deed. 

            16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Either we will stand before Jesus Christ as the Savior whom we love or as the Judge whom we hate.  We will either hear, “Well done, you good and faithful servant,” or we will hear from His lips, “Depart from me forever, you who loved your sin more than God.” 

            As we bring our worship to a close today, we are going to celebrate the sacrifice of Christ for all of us through Communion. 

1.)  If you are a follower of Jesus, this is an opportunity to worship in deep gratitude the Judge of all humankind who gave His life on the cross for you.  Worship in gratitude for the forgiveness of all your sin, for the free gift of Christ who died for you and will present you faultless before the Father as His beloved bride. 

2.)  If you have not yet said “Yes” to Jesus Christ by admitting your sinfulness before His holiness, by receiving Him as God’s free and perfect gift of salvation for you, please use this time to tell God why you reject Him.  OR use this experience of communion to tell God you want to stop being His enemy and want to start being His son or daughter through faith in Jesus.