The Sin Of Passing Judgment
Re-Translated In October 1999
1. It's been about two months since I read to you from The Epistle To The Romans in our worship service. We will get into chapter two starting today. Well, after we read this passage of scripture, what thoughts come to everyone's [mind]? The text at the top of chapter two says the following, "Therefore, o all of you who pass judgment on others, you have no room for excuse. As you pass judgment on someone else, you are actually condemning yourself in sin; for, as you judge a person, you are doing the same things as well," (verse one). It's not infrequent that words like these might prick our hearts. I say that because we [tend to] be "judges" of others [so] frequently [and easily]. Also, when we read the words "you are doing the same things as well," perhaps the image of ourselves putting ourselves on a pedestal and passing judgment on others is visible. When we read a passage like this one, anyone familiar with the Bible will associate it with the words of the Lord Jesus, "Don't judge, so that you won't be judged either," (Matthew 7:1). Therefore, we think that "okay, this passage of scripture is teaching us 'don't be critical of others or put yourself on a pedestal.'"
2. However, what was he really saying originally when he said "Don't judge others?" As we begin to ponder this, we understand that this message itself which seems to be a command that is easy to comprehend at first glance was actually never so simple. If the message was simply just "you shouldn't go around blaming others," words like these might be used at times for self-defense or at other times for criticizing those who are too strict and stern. When the Lord said, "Don't judge a person," what did he really mean by that? Furthermore, why does [he] continue [with] the words, "so that you are not judged?" Is this passage really teaching us "don't criticize others or put yourself on a pedestal?" As we reflect upon this particular point, let's plow on in our reading of this epistle.
O All Of You Who Pass Judgment On Others
3. Well then, let's read verses one to three once more.
"Therefore, O all of you who pass judgment on others, you have no room for excuse. As you pass judgment on someone else, you are actually condemning yourself in sin; for, as you judge a person, you are doing the same things as well. We know that God will righteously judge those who practice this type of act. Do you think that while you judge those who do things like that that you, o person who does the same things yourself, can escape the judgment of God?," (verses one through three).
4. To begin with, why do the words appear here in the text "O all of you who pass judgment on others?" How is it connected to what it says in the text before it? At the end of chapter one an assortment of evils is recorded, in particular a list of evils which take place inside our hearts and then come into full view in our true every day lives.
5. Romans 1:29-31 [says],
"Filled with all kinds of unrighteousness, evil, lusts, malice and loaded with envy, murderous intentions, discord, deceit, sinister designs, [they] speak malicious gossip, slander others, hate God, despise others, are haughty, shoot out big talk, scheme evil deeds, disobey parents, and are ignorant, dishonest, apathetic, merciless."
6. What Paul has said so far means that these things are not just situations between one person and another but are deeply related to a relationship with God. Just before this text it reads as follows: "Since they would not recognize God, God delivered them over to worthless thoughts, therefore, they turned to doing what one should not do," (1:28). In other words, there is in a person the will to reject God. [A person] decides not to admit [the Lord] into his or her consciousness. Although they accept him as long as he is an idol god fashioned according to their own heart's choosing, they cannot accept him as an Absolute Supreme Being before whom persons must humble themselves. It is fine if he is a god that goes along with their way of thinking and they question God, but when they are held accountable before the presence of God they are not able to accept such a God. Why is that? It's because humanity is arrogant. As a consequence of that, a person is delivered over into worthless and vain thinking. All kinds of evils which I brought up earlier are born out of that. [The Bible] said that sin's source is actually at the point when one would not recognize God.
7. But, what is going on here?. Aren't people being divided up into two types by this passage which openly speaks on the evils of humankind? For example, some people might be reminded of their own position by this passage and hear this as [talking] about them. But then, I suppose there are other people who might be reminded of someone else's face by this passage. Paul knew some would hear what he had written at this point as about them. He knew that there were certainly persons who would hear this as someone else's problem. To put it more specifically, for example, there were Jews who would have said, "That's right, you said that right," for this applies to Gentiles. Paul wrote the following in verse thirty-two. "While they know the judgment of God in which a person who commits such things is worthy of death, they not only commit them themselves but approve the same acts by others." However, there will be people who will surely object to that. "No way. We don't approve any way whatsoever of their actions. Not all of us act as you described. Rather, we are angry about actions like that. We feel anger and mourn over the lack of morals and decadence in this age that has rebelled against God."
8. Then Paul begins to speak to those [same] persons again. "Therefore, o all of you who pass judgment on others, you have no room for excuse. As you pass judgment on someone else, you are actually condemning yourself in sin; for, as you judge a person, you are doing the same things as well," (verse one).
9. Did they do the same things? The [following] words appear in verses twenty-one through twenty-two, "Do you steal afterwards while preaching 'Don't steal?' Do you commit adultery while saying, "Don't commit adultery?'" It could very well possibly mean that those things were being committed among the Jews. But, when you look on the surface, a person of the life style of a strict Jewish adherent in particular must have been very high in morals. Paul wrote this epistle in the city of Corinth. That place was known for its decadence and immorality. I think a Jewish life style in a Gentile society in a town like that, at least in places visible upfront, must have been conspicuous as a fastidiousness for purity. But then, did what was written in the text beginning in verse twenty-nine not have a direct connection to them? Paul was saying it very much so had a connection to them. The things going on in their hearts, if they were illuminated by God's light, would not be any different from the corruption in Gentile society.
10. Going another step further, Paul is taking issue with [their] relationship with God even more than the very issue of their corruption. "We know that God will righteously judge the person who commits such things," (verse two). The word of God was certainly given to the Jews and the judgment of God was made plain and clear to them. However, in not taking the word of God as a message for themselves [but as for someone else] and when they pass judgment on others when it is the other person's responsibility and not theirs, they are already out of a righteous relationship with God. It may certainly be that they are not in outright rejection of God the creator or in worship of idols as they do in Gentile society. It may not be that "they would not recognize God" in the same manner as Gentiles. But, since they were not able to respond to the word of God as a message directed to them personally, they were only able to grasp the judgment of God as someone else's business, which put another way is to say it was nothing but the fact they have lost their fear long ago for the word of God and for God himself. Therefore, Paul says, "While you pass judgment on those who do these kinds of things, o you who do the same things yourself, do you think that you can escape the judgment of God?"
The Hardened And Unrepentant Heart
11. Let's continue by reading verses four to eleven.
"Wouldn't you possibly know that the mercy of God is guiding you to repentance and you are making light of his abundant loving kindness, forbearance, and patience? By your hardening and not wanting to change your heart you are laying up in store for yourself the wrath of God. This wrath will be revealed on the day of wrath on which God will perform his righteous judgment. God will reward according to each and every deed. That is, to the one who patiently commits good deeds and seeks for glory, praise, and immortality, he will bestow eternal life, but to the one who is driven by a rebellious heart and follows unrighteousness without truth, he will show wrath and anger. To all who commit evil, from the Jew first to the Greek, hardship and trouble will descend, but to all who do good, from the Jew first to the Greek, glory, praise, and peace will be bestowed. God does not exclude anyone [or show favoritism to anyone]," (2:4-11).
12. "God does not exclude anyone." --- Many people like words like that. They easily associate words like that with such words as "All persons are equal," and "Humankind is one family." And they stress "no matter who you are you should have equal rights." They say, "It's because God doesn't exclude anyone [i.e. show impartiality]." But stop a second and think carefully about this. Is his saying "God doesn't exclude anyone" all that pleasant of a message for the ear? The fact is what Paul is saying here is at the least very very harsh. What the phrase "God doesn't exclude anyone" means is [God] is holding us accountable only in our relationship with him and him alone. The general principle of the severe judgment of God surely speaks and asks us only whether we have lived our life in God's presence. It means that both we who pass judgment on others and the others who get judgment passed on them are equally placed before this principle. When you don't question yourself before that rigorous and severe truth and you just open your mouth frivolously only saying, "People ought to be equal," then that is exactly what making the word of God and judgment as someone else's business [and not our own] is. Wherein lies [true] equality? Equality lies before the judgment of God.
13. But, the Bible speaks on the mercy of God at that point. The mercy of God is shown even more so to us who have been placed before the great principle of God's impartial judgment. "His abundant loving kindness, forbearance, and patience" have been shown and we are made alive in them. The Jews ought to have known that abundance because they had to have sung the following song over and over again. Psalm 145:8 [says,] "The Lord is rich in grace, he is full of deep mercy, strong endurance, and compassion." That's right, they should have known more than anyone of his "abundant loving kindness, forbearance, and patience." But, they did not realize that the giving of that mercy was for the purpose of guiding them to repentance. The results of that was they made light of his "abundant loving kindness, forbearance, and patience." Why is that? Because they thought the judgment of God was other people's business [not theirs.] The ones making light of God's abundant loving kindness, forbearance, and patience were not the sinners of this world, but rather the righteous ones were making light [of them.] Moral, fine, sincere people were making light of God's abundant loving kindness, forbearance, and patience. We make ourselves out as righteous people [i.e. we justify ourselves], but when we make the word of God and God's judgment as something for other people to deal with and not us, then God's abundant loving kindness, forbearance and patience are being despised and made light of.
14. As we read this text, we understand that it is not making an issue in and of itself of "putting oneself on a pedestal and passing judgment on others." It is not just a lecture to us on "you shouldn't judge each other." [The Bible] is saying something much more serious. It is not merely a speech for us [to get along as] fellow human beings. The focus is on our relationship with God. It's about how we are with God. Please recall the words of the Lord Jesus I brought up shortly ago. The Lord said, "Don't judge a person." But, he continued and said, "it's so that you are not judged also." By whom will we "be judged?" We are not going to be judged by man or woman. It is by God. Unless we consider the judgment of God, it won't have great impact even if we say "don't pass judgment on someone." At most it will only have a meaning like "if you treat others harshly it will break down relationships among people." People will use phrases like that for their own convenience.
15. Make no mistake about it. The focus of the issue was not just relationships with fellow human beings. What is at issue here is "a hardened heart" in the presence of God. It is a heart that will not repent before God. When it says, "By your hardening and not wanting to change your heart you are laying up in store for yourself the wrath of God. This wrath will be revealed on the day of wrath on which God will perform his righteous judgment," it is surely not somebody else's business.
16. Beginning from chapter one and verse eighteen we have plowed on in our reading of the passage in which Paul has clarified the sins of humanity. The darkness of sin does not just lie in the degenerated life of humanity and in immorality. We have been informed that such darkness extends to the righteous people of this world, even to religious people. The gospel which is the power of God that brings salvation is needed among these people as well. [The righteous and the religious need the gospel too] because "the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes beginning with the Jews and also to the Greeks," (1:16).