#6 God Justified in the Punishment of the Wicked
The object of today’s lesson is to demonstrate the rightness of God’s judgment on the wicked. I’d like to begin this morning’s message with a short review of the points we covered in chapter 1 to bring us up to speed in our text today. Paul opens his letter declaring to be Christ’s bondservant (literally a love slave) and then an apostle; one who had been specifically set apart to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God. He gives a short prophetic history lesson concerning the identity of Jesus Christ: that He was the prophesied descendent of David and demonstrated His deity by means of miraculous signs which even a Pharisee (Nicodemus) couldn’t dismiss. He identifies Jesus as the resurrected Lord of life and the Author of salvation and closes with a pre-benediction upon the Christians who reside in Rome.
He then speaks of his God ordained ministry to the gentiles and declares to these brethren the God infused love that he has for them and his desire to serve them in the name of Jesus Christ. Next he makes that bold declaration of faith; what should be the doxology of every Christian alive, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ…Oh that we were such a people. Unfortunately we are like those who would rather hide than stand firm in the faith, fully clothed in the armor of God and ready to defend the cause of Christ!
Where are the fierce warriors of the Gospel? Where are the Elijah’s of God? I actually see a greater similarity between us and Adam after the fall than Elijah. Now I know that we are fallen sinners but if we are truly born again, haven’t we received a new heart and a new life in Jesus Christ? Aren’t our sins covered by the blood of the Lamb of God?
Remember that Adam used to walk with God in the garden openly. He enjoyed unbroken fellowship with the Father. But when he sinned he hid himself and God came looking for him. It wasn’t that God didn’t know where Adam was but He was calling the man out to stand up, and own up to what he had done!
When God called us from darkness to light, He washed away our sins and restored the broken relationship between us and Himself. We can once again walk with God and enjoy the light of His smile! We can once again enjoy unbroken fellowship with our Father who art in Heaven.
And so the question must be asked; where are you? Whom do you best compare to? Are you hiding your light under a basket? Indeed, are you an under-cover Christian? Or are you as bold as a lion for the sake of the Gospel? Are you hiding like Adam or bold like Elijah? Now you may not be cowering in the bushes or hiding behind closed doors but when you hide your love for Jesus behind a veil of sin in whatever form, that’s the same thing! You see, there is a huge problem in the Church in our land today and that problem is cold hearted believers, lazy Christians, and lukewarm disciples whose lives are characterized by trying to live with one foot in the world and one foot on the narrow path that leads to life. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: IT DOESN’T WORK!!!!!!!!! In fact, it is impossible! Jesus said in (Lu 11:23) “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters. Notice that there is no grey area here, no loophole for us to claim ignorance. You are either for Jesus or against Him! Now consider the implications of Jesus’ words. If you are not His, then you are not His! And if you are not living for Him, then you are living for yourself and the world and the devil. If you are not engaged in witnessing by your life and by your words of the grace of God through Jesus Christ then you are scattering. That means that you are turning people away from the path that leads to life and causing some of His little ones to stumble. Are you prepared for the millstone necklace?
Do you understand the implications of your unchristian behavior? If you see yourself here then you must realize that you are one of those people who give the name ‘Christian’ a black eye. It means that you are one of those responsible for causing sinners to lobby Congress to turn the preaching of the Gospel in to a hate crime.
You are scattering, sending people running for cover while they mutter ‘if that’s Christianity, I don’t want any part of it!” Like it or not, you are a witness for something! You need to ask yourself what you are witnessing for! You are either for Him or against Him. Which is it?
Paul openly declared himself to be on the Lord’s side! He was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel was His life’s blood. The word of God pumped through his veins and it oozed out of his pores and gushed out of his belly like a river of living water as he followed His Lord by proclaiming liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. He wasn’t afraid for God was with him, His rod and His staff they comforted him.
Centuries later when Martin Luther took his stand against Popes and Emperors, principalities and powers and rulers in high places, he too placed his trust in the Almighty One and in His strength stood firm. David Brainerd poured out his life in the howling wilderness of Pennsylvania; persevering in the work God called him to. Even though his physical body was being consumed by tuberculosis, he remained faithful to the task God had given him; he was faithful in little things and in due time God wrought a harvest of souls to the praise of His glorious Name!
Now I want to tell you something about these people; their bibles weren’t any bigger or any better than ours. We have the same word they had. We worship the same God they worshiped. The question we must ask ourselves is this; do we have the same faith they had? What is your answer before God? Are you for Him or against Him? Are you devoted to God or are you ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Who is on the Lord’s side, let him say so. Let the redeemed of the Lord says so! God has laid out in His word example after inspirational example of how we ought to live! Paul is one such example from God to us as to how we are to conduct our lives. Listen to these several passages and examine your own life to see if there is any want of conformity to the Word of God. For here God, through the words of this man Paul, calls us to take to heart the example of His godly servants and as we read these verses remember that the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth to strongly support those whose hearts are truly his!
(Php 3:17) “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”
(Php 4:9) “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
(1Co 4:16) “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
(1Co 11:1) “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
Have you taken these words to heart or are you secretly saying, not under law but grace? There’s no need to suffer, to exert myself. God has done it all. Paul said that the just shall live by faith. And faith is an action word. He didn’t say that we should sleep or lounge or dawdle but live. The Greek word zao means to be lively to be in full vigor, to be fresh, strong, efficient, active, powerful, efficacious…
The Christian life is not some armchair affair where we daydream our lives away. We have been called to a life of trusting obedience to the God we call Lord? Jesus meant for His commands to be obeyed, not humored. This is the attitude of the lost. And the litany of sins that make up the rest of chapter 1 are the result of their ‘faith.’
This is why the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Rather than devoted obedience to the commands of God they suppress the truth in unrighteousness and seek to justify themselves at the same time. They are full of judgmentalism.
And as we enter chapter 2 we see Paul dealing with the harsh critical spirit that pervades the hearts of men; both saved and unsaved. We must understand that it is of utmost importance that we reign in our lusts that wage war in our members. Part of those lusts includes the insatiable desire to criticize others, TO MAKE OURSELVES LOOK GOOD!
If we know ourselves aright then we know we are filthy rotten sinners who deserve hell and even that is too good for us. We have no business exalting ourselves and belittling others. This is a wicked evil that must be conquered! If we refused to do so then we are no better than those with a pharisaical spirit which is displayed in their judgmental attitude toward those other people who break the law of God. And Paul does not cut them any slack in (Rom 2:1) when he says “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.
This is where the ‘do as I say and not as I do crowd’ lives and moves and has its being. They are like today’s politicians; talking out of both sides of their mouths, using different accents when speaking before different ethnic groups, and saying whatever pollsters have garnered as representing the latest public opinion. Christians are not out to win popularity contests. Our business is to be about our Father’s business. And that includes persuading men of the grace of God extended to sinners who in reality only deserve wrath. Sinners are a gullible lot. They are always looking for someone to follow, some leader who can take them to the next level, or the next evolutionary step. They don’t care where as long as its not here. Men say ‘I hate this place’ referring to their jobs or their family lives or whatever. They are like the men of Athens always trying to find a new thing to see or hear or touch or taste or smell.
They are a fickle lot who don’t care about quality. Their motto is ‘Go Cheap!’ If someone comes along and promises them the moon and makes it look affordable (consider the lease crowd) they jump on it. The problem with this is that when the lease is up you’ve got to give it back. You’ve paid all this money and have nothing to show for it. In other words, YOU’VE BEEN HAD!!!!!!!
The leaders that the lost are looking for won’t give them what they want for these leaders (like most politicians) are liars at best and antichrists at worst; whose sole desire is to lead men and women down the road to ruin and death. They have come not to help but to kill, steal and destroy. If you’d take the time to look closer you’d find out that their lives are characterized by the practice of sin 2 “And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.” Look with me at the 1st Epistle of John and see what the Lord has to say about this.
6 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
4 “The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
4 “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. What is the characteristic that stands out in bold highlights? It is the characteristic of the practice of sin!
While the child of God is not perfect, he longs for and strives for personal holiness: not for the purpose of scoring points with God but because Christians love God and the burning desire of their redeemed hearts is to live in such a way that will please our Father in heaven. The believer in Christ knows that he or she has been called to be a living witness of the grace of God in Christ Jesus and therefore takes life very seriously. As an illustration of contrast, I have a friend who, though in his sixties, doesn’t want to grow up. Now is this right? Should we remain immature children all our lives? I don’t think so. This is especially true for the Christian. The scriptures call us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are called to stop acting like babies who can only drink milk but we are to grow up and eat of the meat of the Word.
Understand that being mature doesn’t mean you have to walk around with a scowl on your face and give up having any fun. What it does mean is that you no longer have fun at someone else’s expense. It means that you weigh all your actions in light of the question; will this please and glorify God or will it cast a shadow over the gospel of Jesus Christ? As Finney said “You really do live for the good of the world.” We have a huge responsibility to live in such a way that God will be glorified and men will be delivered from their sins.
Now if we walk around displaying a harsh critical, pharisaical spirit in our dealings with the world or with the people of God our ‘ministry’ will be worthless. We will be building with wood, hay and straw rather than with materials that last. Worse still, we are putting a large neon question mark at the end of our profession of faith. And Paul says this; 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?”
Here is where personal holiness comes in. Here is where maturity shines forth. Now the obvious first point we must address is this; the life that is characterized by the practice of sin is an illustration of false faith; a false profession of faith. You can’t be a Christian and practice sin. As I have said in other sermons, God and sin are eternal opposites just as light and darkness are opposites. And if God has given you a new heart then you will not practice sin. You will sin but it will not be the practice of your life.
The one who practices sin is in danger of judgment by God. Indeed Paul says, 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? You see, Paul has rightly identified such a person. And he pleads with such an one as this, calling them to be reconciled to God.
In verse 5 Paul reveals the heart of the natural man saying, “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, Here is where we must warn sinners. It is not this sin or that sin but all sin. While there are worse sins than others, the smallest sin is enough to damn! And should a sinner stand before the judgment seat of Christ he will stand naked before the Judge of all the earth 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:
Now as we delve into verse 7 there are those who don’t know God and His word who would say that this is a contradiction. They would say, “You tell us that good works won’t get us into heaven but what have we here.
Why here is a list of good works that will get us into heaven.” Let’s see what God is saying here. We read, “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.
Now this could be construed as a list of virtues by which if a man practices them he will enter into life. But what is God’s standard? Isn’t it perfection? And then who is it that wants to practice all of these virtues continually? What Paul is showing us here the difference between a saved man who seeks to live a life of obedience to the word of God and the lost man whose sole purpose in life is to sin! The “patient continuance in well-doing” is not at all set forth as the means of their procuring eternal life, but as a description of those to whom God does render life eternal.
Consider this statement by the commentator Newell who said; “Well-doing is subjection to and obedience to the light God has vouchsafed. To Abel, “well-doing” meant approaching God by a sacrifice, as a sinner, as he had been taught to do. To Noah, “continuance in well-doing” meant building an ark to save his house and preserve life upon the earth, involving years of labor, and the ridicule of man. To Abraham, it meant leaving his country, his relatives, and his father’s house, and becoming a stranger and pilgrim on earth.
To Job, it meant his God-fearing, evil-rejecting life; and afterwards, in the midst of his great affliction, bowing before the presence of God in dust and ashes. To Matthew the publican, it meant rising from his business and following the Lord Jesus; to Cornelius the centurion, a life of patient prayer and generosity, —and then believing the gospel at Peter’s lips. To Lydia, it meant humble and faithful attendance at “the place of prayer” till Paul came and “her heart was opened” to give heed to the gospel of grace spoken by the apostle, —whence followed her “obedience of faith.”
In every age since man sinned there have been those like Jabez, who was “more honorable than his brethren, and called upon God” (1Chr 4:9-10); and like Joseph, who was “separate from his brethren.” There always have been choosers of God and rejecters of God.”
To those who follow God and live to His glory there will be the blessing of heaven. But to the wicked who live for themselves and for the gratification of their own lusts… 9 “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil,” this is what sinful men and women have to look forward to if they continue in unbelief! God, the righteous ruler, is displeased and indignant, and therefore sends the sore punishment of “tribulation and anguish.” “One refers to the external weight of affliction; the other to the inward sense of that weight.”
Now consider what Paul says next…he says of the Jew first and also of the Greek, this is an interesting statement. So what does he mean? The Jew stood first in opportunity (Ro 1:16); hence is first in responsibility. Greek refers to the whole gentile world. In other words, there is no one left out in the eyes of God. He will deal with all men! Paul continues in verse 10 saying “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. 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; In either case judgment is certain upon wicked men who refuse to bow before the God who has revealed Himself in such an unmistakable way.
God has declared that there is a day coming when He will deal with His creation. As Creator He has sole right over the clay and does as He wills among all of His creatures. One day the longsuffering of God will be at an end. He will say ENOUGH! The world will be spoken out of existence and all men will be drawn up before the Exalted Throne of God. He will separate the sheep from the goats and will grant entrance in to the eternal kingdom to those for whom it was prepared.
The goats will be driven away from His presence for all eternity. Jonathan Edwards said, “You might not be sensible of this right now.” They feel alright, everything is going smoothly. What could go wrong! Bad things only happen to other people.
But consider; there are many sinners who are dying and going off into a Christ-less eternity every moment. Before death I would venture to guess that there are probably hopes that they will just cease to exist. Their loved ones gather around the bedside and say that they are going to a better place!
But then death comes and all such hopes vanish as he steps through the veil and into eternity. Here reality strikes its object. The false peace of his hardened, impenitent earth-life is now horribly broken up by direct visitation from God in vengeance. Finally, anguish: which sets forth the result of that tribulation which meets the lost directly from an angry, indignant Creator and Judge. “I am in anguish in this flame,” cried the lost rich man in Jesus Parable. He was in Hades (God’s prison for the lost until the Day of Judgment).
The Day of Judgment is coming and God the righteous judge will be fully justified in sentencing wicked men and women to the terrible eternal prison of the lake of fire. They have spent their lives practicing evil, indeed flaunting it before a Holy God. They have more than earned it!
But do not gloat over this! If it were not for the mercy of God bestowed upon us, we too would have nothing to look forward to but hell! We have no business glorying in anything other than in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we rejoice at all it is in the fact that by the wonderful mercy and grace of God, our names have been written in the Lambs book of life!