God's Warning to Unrepentant Hypocrites: What Are You Storing Up? (Romans Sermon 9 of 120)
March 05, 2000 | Andrew Davis
Works of the Flesh, Judgement Day, Kindness of God
Paul has been describing a Gospel which is the supernatural power from God for the salvation of all kinds of people. Romans 1:16-17 is a summary of this Gospel message. Paul says, "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is from faith to faith. Just as it is written, the righteous will live by faith." The Gospel holds out a cloak of righteousness, which is the only garment which will successfully cover anyone on Judgement Day. And Paul moves on from there in verses 18 of Chapter One through verse 32 to explain just how much every single person on the face of the Earth needs that grace. He talks about the wrath of God, which is being revealed from Heaven against Godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth, push it down in their unrighteousness, twist it, they push it away.
There is evidence every day in creation that there is a God, and yet despite that evidence they suppress it and they exchange, in verse 23, they exchange the glory of the immortal God for images, for something created, for something lesser. They exchange what should be the center of their lives, the glory of God, for something created. And out of that very exchange comes all manner of evil. Homosexuality discussed in the middle of Chapter One. And also a river of evils, 21 of them that we looked at last week in verses 29-32. A Pandora's box, all the evil flowing from this central exchange, the glory of God for something else.
I. Warning to the Self-Righteous Hypocrite
Now, as Paul has been expounding this, opening it up, he does something here that you will find he does consistently in Romans, and that is to anticipate arguments against what he's saying. And one of the arguments he's anticipating is that, "Yeah, that's fine for them, but that's not me. That doesn't describe me. I'm better than that. I don't need that." And if anything, they're saying, "Right on, Paul. Preach it, Paul. Glad to hear it." And so, they're urging Paul on to proclaim the judgement of God and the wrath of God against all that category of sinners there.
See the poignancy of the song we just listened to. Grace is as much for me as for any of them. And Paul knows that, and that kind of attitude of condemning other people while excusing your own sin leads people to hell. And Paul is concerned about all people who are reading his word, and he's addressing, therefore, the self-righteous judger, in Chapter 2:1-6. Let's read it together. "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else. For at whatever point you judge the other, you're condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. Now, we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think that you will escape God's judgement? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that god's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you're storing up wrath against yourself, for the day of God's wrath when his righteous judgement will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done."
I mentioned a little while ago a new phenomenon, perhaps, a new career in politics called that of the "spin doctor." You remember what we talked about? The spin doctor, that individual that comes on after the candidate has done poorly in a debate and twists the whole thing around so that it looks like the candidate meant to do all those things and that this gaffe that was made was actually a shrewd strategy to do X, Y, and Z. Have you heard spin doctors before? They're everywhere. I don't know how much they make, but I think it's a good profession in Washington and in other places too, that twisting of the truth, rearranging, to take what seems obvious and make it not so obvious. And we talked about it in terms of Romans 1, the suppression of the truth inside. But the fact of the matter is, every single one of us plays this role from time to time, don't we? Because we have inside us this thing called the conscience, and the conscience points the finger at us, doesn't it? But we also have this thing called the judicial instinct, which points the finger at other people too, you see?
Essence of hypocrisy: judging in others what you excuse in yourself
And the twisting, the spin doctoring, occurs when you minimize the one and enhance the other, you make much of other people's sins and minimize your own. And that's a very dangerous thing to do, because then you excuse yourself from grace, you don't need it. And so, Paul's addressing this directly, and here he's dealing with the scourge of hypocrisy, the scourge of hypocrisy. Now the essence of hypocrisy is judging in other people what you excuse in yourself. Judging in other people harshly what you excuse in yourself, that's hypocrisy, isn't it? Now, have you heard this when you're going out to witness? "I don't want to go to church. The church is full of just a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites." Have you ever heard of that before? Self-righteous hypocrites. Well, you know it's funny. I've been witnessing long enough that I've begin to come up with answers to these kinds of things. And as I thought about it, I thought, is it true? I think probably it is true, but the number one place I'd want a hypocrite to be is at church. If it's a good church. Where do you get cured of your hypocrisy? By hearing Romans 2:1-6 preached, By understanding grace. That's how the cure comes.
And what's so interesting is that the very phenomenon that's going on when you're talking to somebody and talking to them and they're saying, "I don't want to go to church. It's full of a bunch of hypocrites." What are they doing? They're judging people, aren't they? They're judging people and they're saying, "I'm better than that. I'm not going to go to that place 'cause I'm better than that. I'm not going to be a self-righteous hypocrite." What are they doing? Being hypocrites. So what I've done now is I just invite them to come, say, "You should come too and you could be cured of the same hypocrisy. We all have it. We all judge other people and excuse sin in ourselves." It hasn't worked too much yet but I'm praying that at some point, someone will come.
Hypocrisy. And Paul deals with it directly here in Verse 1, "You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else. For at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement, you do the very same things." See what's happening here in Verse 1 is, he's trying to get a self righteous judger to look inward and find the same sins there. And why? So that he can look outward to Christ and to the cross and to grace, and not excuse themselves from grace and thus miss salvation. He's very serious, isn't it? He's trying to get them to look inwards here in Verse 1. You do the same things.
I love what Jonathan Edwards does with this whole idea. He had a series of resolutions that are so challenging, wrote them when he was 19 years old, and they challenge me today. And I read through them and I say, "Wow! What a life." What a life he wanted to live, and what goals he set for himself. Listen to this one. This is resolution number eight. "Resolved. I will let the knowledge of the failings of other people promote nothing but shame in myself and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God." Wow! When I see somebody else failing, somebody else sinning, I'm not going to point the finger and judge. Instead, I'm going to say, "That same thing's in me too. I do the same thing. And I'm going to take it as an occasion not to judge but instead to confess my own sin, and my need for God's grace." That's maturity, isn't it? That's real, that's wisdom.
It's wisdom. I know. But a hypocritical judge stands in God's place. He judges in God's place. He's more righteous than God, in effect. He's going to step in and bring the judgement, right there in that moment. Have any of you ever been driving down the road and done something that another driver deemed irresponsible, and you have received a punishing horn honk? Has that ever happened to you? I call it the "punitive horn honk." There is the warning horn honk, okay? The ball rolls out in the street and the child, oblivious, starts running out? You sound your horn. Good thing. The incident hasn't occurred yet and you're trying to prevent danger. Somebody doesn't see you, they're about to turn into you, the horn is sounded to warn, okay? But then there's that punitive horn honk that comes after. There's no danger, it's all over, but that individual wants you to know something. Have you ever received a horn honk like that? Have you ever given one? Have you ever given one? You see, in that way, what we're doing is, we're saying, "I would never have done that. What he or she just did, I'd never do it. I'm better than that. I'm taking God's place." Now usually, not all the time but usually, when we judge another person for a wrongdoing, they're wrong aren't they? Usually we're right. They are wrong. Not every time because every time that I've received one of those punitive horn honks, I haven't done anything wrong.
So I don't understand it, alright. But usually, when the judgement comes it's right. Some transgression has occurred. The question is, what business are you doing sitting in the judgement seat as though you yourself aren't under the same judgement? And that's exactly what Paul's getting at here in Romans 2 isn't it? "Now we know," Verse 2, "That God's judgement against those who do such things is based on truth." It's based on truth. But what about you? What about you as judge? What's your judgement based on? Verse 3, "So when you a mere man, pass judgement on them, and yet do the same things. Do you think you will escape God's judgement?" Now, let's unravel that.
What he's saying is, you're just a man. You're a mere man. You're just a human being. You've got two eyes. You're only at one place at one time. You've got a limited perspective. And yet, you have the ability to judge, to discern right from wrong and to execute that judgement. Okay, now let's think about God. His eyes. They range to and fro over the surface of the Earth. Job said, "Does He not see my every way and count my every step." He sees it all. There's nothing hidden from God. So you're acting like, God, okay, something was done wrong and you're right. It was wrong. But what about you? Do you think that you're going to escape that same judgement from a God who is holy and perfect and has seen everything you've ever done? What about you?
You see what Paul's doing? He's bring it, "What about you, what about you?" You see because when you're sitting in that judgment seat, you're not thinking of yourself as somebody who needs grace. You're thinking of yourself as beyond that. I'm not that bad. Romans 1:18-32, "Oh how dismal. That's not me." It is you. Yes it is, and it's me too. It's all of us. That's the message. You notice the sins of others and you're only a mere man. God sees everything. How do you think you'll escape? And the real problem here is the destruction of the principle of grace, isn't it? How does that horn honker (or others) judges? How do they act toward the guilty party? Is there any grace? Oh, absolutely not. Off with their heads, you see. No grace, just judgment, you see. But what about my own sin? Oh, well you know, I'm only human. That's just a little thing, we all do it. We see, we minimize our own sin, maximize the sins of others and twist it. We're spin doctors on this. And so we excuse ourselves from grace. We don't give it to the others, and we don't receive it ourselves because we don't need it.
Now, some commentators believe that in Romans 1, the end of the chapter, Paul is dealing with idolatrous pagans, idolatrous pagans. And in Romans 2, he's dealing with Jews who have received the law and yet who do not obey it. And I think that's a worthy distinction. We'll see it as we go more in chapter two. But I think there's a category of people, whether they're Jewish or not, that does this self-righteous judging. And Paul is getting at this, "Jew or Gentile, there is no difference, for all have sinned and lack the glory of God." You see, that's where he's heading. We're all under sin and we all need God's grace, every one of us. So Romans 2, usually seen as Paul's word to the Jews. Now what were the Jews thinking about that time? They're thinking, "Well, we have the law of Moses. We have circumcision. We're okay. We have the Book, you see. Here it is, the Book. We've got the Book. We're okay. We've got circumcision too. And therefore were fine. We're good people of God. We'll be okay on Judgment Day."
Tertullian writing, very early history of the church, was having a debate with a Jewish man named Trypho. And he was going back and forth and debating over Jewish theology and over Christian theology, and he summarized, Tertullian summarized Trypho's position. And this is what Trypho was saying about Jews, "They who are the seed of Abraham, according to the flesh, shall in any case, even if they be sinners and unbelieving and disobedient towards God, share in the kingdom."
Is that true? Absolutely not. Just because you're a Jew, you're going to Heaven? "Brothers, my prayer and hearts desire for the Israelites is that they may be saved," Paul says. They need saving just like we do. They need grace. And he has to work harder on the Jews here, doesn't he? He's got to work harder on them. And it's the same spirit here in Romans 2 that we get in John's gospel and other places in the New Testament.
Remember John the Baptist? What was John the Baptist doing to Jews who were coming to him? What was he doing to them? He was baptizing them. Do you know what baptism was? It was a right of cleansing and ritual purification from all those Gentiles sins, He's saying, "You Jews need it too. You need to become Jews. You need to become a child of Abraham." Same spirit here in chapter two. Jesus did the same thing. He commanded Jewish people, "Repent or perish." And when He entered the world, the principle of judgment came into the world on those who were self-righteous. Remember, John chapter nine, Jesus heals a man born blind. Remember that story? And at the end, the self-righteous judges stand there and they're very upset and angry, and Jesus says, "For judgment, I've come into the world so that those who are blind, may be able to see, and also those who see, will become blind." What? "Are we blind too?" the Jewish leaders said. Jesus said, "If you claim to be blind, you would be able to see now, but since you claim to see, your sin remains." If you excuse yourself from grace you will receive none. If you are self-righteous and stand apart and say, 'I see, I am righteous, I am holy,' then you will not need the gospel.
II. God’s Response to Hypocrisy
Well, what is God's response to hypocrisy? God has two responses. Number one, God is just. Judgment will come. In verse 3 Paul says, "When you, a mere man pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgement?" No. Judgement will come.
Response number two, God is kind, judgement hasn't come yet. Judgement hasn't come yet. Verse 4, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience not realizing that God's kindness leads you towards repentance." Every day life is evidence of the grace of God. And Paul's language here, "The riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience." points toward the wealth of God in dealing with sinners. In the 20th century a new way of thinking about time has entered in. Thanks to Albert Einstein. Einstein taught with relativity, that if you have a clock moving near the speed of light, the clock moves slower than one that's stationary.
Can you explain that to me? I don't understand it, but it's true apparently, people who are physicists tell us it's true. So we have done a lot of work on time, we've come to a new understanding of time but the manner and mode and the function of time, that's the purview of physics. The purpose of time, is the purview of this book here. Why are there seconds? Why are there minutes? Why are there hours and days, and weeks and months and years? This verse tells you, God is patient not wanting you to perish, but to come to what? Repentance. That's what time is for. To bring you to repentance and that you may have time to bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance. That's the purpose of time. And God is gracious to us, isn't he? He's rich towards sinful people. Did you see how rich He was this morning? Did you get up and see the sunshine and feel the warmth? That's the riches of God's kindness, tolerance and patience. Remember what Jesus said in the sermon of the mountain, Matthew 5:45, "God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." That's the riches of God's kindness, He's not just waiting. He's giving blessings to people who are rebelling against Him. He's giving them the sunshine, and He's giving them the rain and many other things besides.
The riches of God's kindness, tolerance, and patience, our God is a kind God. And He's a tolerant and a patient God. Do you know that at any given time, I did a little research on this, there's an average of 1,800 storms in operation in the world. In almost 2,000 places around the world, rain is coming down, isn't that amazing? The average farmer in the state of Minnesota gets over 400,000 gallons of rainwater per acre per year, free of charge, of course. Just comes, just the gift of God. Do all of them walk in repentance and newness of life? Of course not. He just pours it out, that's God. The riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience. And what is God's tolerance and patience? Psalm 103:10 says it beautifully, "He does not treat us as our sins deserve." I've become allergic to the word deserve, "I deserve this and I deserve that." I hope you become allergic to it too. Meditate on what you deserve and you'll have an appreciation for the grace of God.
III. God’s Kindness is Purposeful: Leading You to Repentance
He does not treat us as our sins deserve. And God's kindness is purposeful. It leads you in a direction, it leads you toward repentance. Now what is repentance? Repentance is a changing of the mind, a changing of the thinking. It's a new way of thinking about yourself and about sin and about God. It's a deep understanding that Romans 1 relates to you too. You're in there, that's you. And not only that, repentance involves hating sin. And not only that, but it involves turning away from it, and turning to Jesus Christ, who alone can save you from sin. That's repentance. And that's what time is for. That's what these seconds are for. They're ticking by, ticking by. And the time is for repentance and for nothing else. It's for repentance.
I've told the story to some of you before, of a Scottish atheist that went around in the 19th century. Remember the story? He went from church to church debating on the existence of God. He was bringing the relatively new theories of Darwinism home to roost. And he was taking on country ministers and city ones too. He was a great debater, very skillful. And he would do all kinds of tricks and twist all kinds of phrases and do some things, and crowds were large, and he was quite entertaining. And he would culminate his presentation on atheism by taking out a little pocket watch from his breast pocket and clicking it open, and saying, "If there is a Holy God, He should strike me dead for the things I've said today. What I'm going to do is I'm going to give Him five minutes to do so." And then he would tie the thing and hang the watch down, with the little door open and then just wait silently. And you could even hear the ticking. Very dramatic, five minutes is a long time. If I wait five minutes now, you'd see how long a time it is. It's a long time.
And at the end of the five minutes, he'd reach down and he'd click the thing shut and just turn to his debating partner, in this case it was a Presbyterian minister, and say, "There is no God." And he'd sit down. And that minister got up, and with a look of compassion on his face, he turned to that man, and said, "And did my esteemed colleague really think that he could exhaust the patience of the infinite God in a mere five minutes?" That's powerful. That's what this text is saying. The five minutes, the five days, the five weeks and months and years and decades, are God's measure of patience, kindness, tolerance toward you. Waiting for you to repent. Giving you time. But the time does not last forever, does it? There comes a time when it runs out, that man is dead isn't he?
He's dead, 19th century. He's dead, he's gone. God's patience ran out at a certain point. What does it mean then to show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience? Some people resent His kindness, tolerance and patience deeply. You may wonder who this is, I've been reading a book recently by Elie Wiesel, called, "Night". It's an incredibly powerful book about the experiences of Jews in the holocaust. It's just an account, I mean he doesn't go into theology or anything, he just lays it out. And it's gruesome, it's disturbing, it's horrible, and there are some theologians that take these facts and say, "Where is God in all this? Why didn't He strike those Nazis dead? Why did He give Hitler 14 years or 15 years of ruling over Germany? Why?" And so they show contempt for God in that He did not intervene immediately and strike these SS troopers down. They're angry about it.
There's other ways to show contempt for God's kindness, tolerance and patience, some people trivialize it generally. One German philosopher, Hein said, "God will forgive, after all it's his trade. It's his business. It's like a hobby. That's what God does." That's trivializing God's kindness, tolerance and patience. Some people minimize it personally, "I deserve a long life after all my sins really aren't that bad. I don't really do all those biggies." They minimize it for themselves personally. They even presume on a daily, they even don't think about it, just wake up, another day, another dollar. They'll never consider the fact that their lives are in God's hands. And that He's the one that's giving them day after day. I love Isaiah 56:12 on this, "Come each one cries, let me get wine, let us drink beer and tomorrow will be like today or even far better." You see the attitude. "We'll have another party tomorrow, it'll be even better." Presuming on it and then ultimately squandering it sinfully. "God will forgive this sin too. He's forgiven all the others. I never saw the judgment of God in any of those. He'll forgive this one too." And so he just squanders him. Matthew Henry says this, "There is in every willful sin, a contempt for the goodness of God." Every time you sin, knowing full well that what you're doing is wrong, you're showing contempt for the goodness of God.
But someday the time runs out. In due time their foot will slip and judgment comes. There is therefore folks a day of salvation. Today is one of them, did you notice that, today is one of them. Second Corinthians 6:2, "I tell you now is the time of God's favor. Today is the day of salvation." Take advantage of it. I'm preaching to you directly on the patience, and the kindness and the tolerance of God. Leading you to repentance, to turning away from sin and turning to God in faith. But some people stubbornly resist day after day.
IV. Principles of God’s Righteous Judgment (verses 5-6)
Verse 5 says that, "Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart you're storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed." God's kindness, is supposed to lead you to repentance, but unbelievers will not repent. So it talks about the stubbornness of heart. The word in the Greek means "stubbornness" or "hardness" or "stubborn resistance to persuasion." We get "arteriosclerosis" from it, a hardening, a hardening of the heart. You listen to the word of God, but don't do anything about it and gradually there's a hardening that occurs. If you resist the grace of God and the Gospel, if you resist, if you push it aside and continue to live in that hardness of heart, Paul says here in verse 5 that you're actually storing up wrath, storing up wrath every day, more wrath, every day more and more. That's a terrible thing.
When you think about the stock market…People who own stocks or mutual funds they look and see the progress. It's their growth, it's their income, it's their interest, right? But there's no newspaper relating this storing up, is there? It's happening but it's not in front of us, so it's hard to believe. I look on it somewhat like a Van de Graaff generator, which is this big static electricity machine and the belts go round and the electrons are stored up and stored up and there comes a point when the discharge occurs. Don't know when it is, God holds that day, but it comes. Jesus encouraged us instead to come to personal faith in Him and store something else up, you remember? Matthew 6:20, store up treasure in Heaven, store up treasure day after day by obediently walking in the law and doing the good works of God as laid out ahead of you, that you should do. Coming to personal faith in Christ and then saying, "Lord here I am. What will you want me to do today?" And so you're storing something else up. Therefore, I categorize all human beings on the face of the Earth in two categories, those that are storing up wrath and those that are storing up treasure in Heaven. There's no other category, you're doing one or the other right now.
The wrath of God is not open. It's hidden. It will be revealed later. Talk about arteriosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. They call it the silent killer. 'Cause you don't feel it, you don't feel anything. Do you feel the storing up of God's wrath? No, you don't see it, but it's there because the Scripture says so. It will be revealed later. In verse 6, "God will give to each person according to what he has done." Now, we're going to talk more next week about judgment according to deeds. We're not saved by works, but we will be judged by our works and God will give to each of us according to what we have done. And God's judgment will be perfect. Everything will be perfectly weighed in the balance and tested on Judgment Day. And no one will be able on that day to talk back to God and say, "Why did you judge me like this?" In Romans 3:19, it says, "Every mouth will be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." What I'm urging you to do is to take advantage of the day of salvation. Take advantage of today. Think about what time is for.
V. An Urgent Word to All Categories of People
You came here today to worship God, and you came here today to understand God's Scripture. Make the most of this time. Make the most of this day. I want to say a word to each category of person that's listening to me today. First I want to speak to children. I've got three children of my own. You were created by God. God made you, created in His image. God sent his son to die on the cross for children like you, and for adults too. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Everybody that's alive, when they die, will either go to Heaven or hell. Before you go to bed tonight. Will you ask your mommy and daddy to talk to you about these things. Be sure that you know Jesus. You don't need to be scared, Jesus came to save you, from these things. Talk to your parents about it. If I can say a word to youth going through your disciple now this weekend. I'm glad. I'm glad you're considering these things. I'm going to take a word from Ecclesiastes chapter 12. It says, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the days draw nigh, when you say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'"
Now I remember when I was young, I used to think that life would go on forever. But time moves quickly, it moves on and youth do die. It is true, there are some that die in their youth. We don't know how long life is. God doesn't promise us tomorrow. But even more dangerous or more likely, statistically, is that some youth will hear the word of God, they'll feel a pull on their heart to follow Jesus with everything they have and they'll harden it. They'll put it away. They'll put it aside for reasons unknown. Maybe their friends won't like it or maybe there's other reasons that I don't know. But they don't follow the leading of the spirit and they harden their heart. And so they have learned a new talent. Hearing the word of God and not responding to it. And so the heart just got a little bit harder. And then down the road the years will come when you will say, "I have no pleasure in the things of God. No pleasure in scripture, no pleasure in sermons, no pleasure in worship, no pleasure in witnessing or prayer, no pleasure in thinking about Heaven and no fear of hell." None of these things, just a hard heart out. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of adults living like that. They surround us every day.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Fear God, walk with him. Follow Christ. And to those who are in the prime of your life, to you adults, raising your children, having your careers, remember what's really important in life. Realize that this text shows very plainly that there is a day coming when everyone will be moved into two categories, eternal wrath, eternal life, forever. And it's so easy, I know it myself, to get into a cycle of working hard, secular job day after day, five days a week, just living for the weekend. And then the weekend comes and you just grab at whatever pleasure and entertainment you can find. Go to church on Sunday morning, we do that and then we're back at work again Monday morning.
And along the way, because you lose your taste for the things of God, you become a connoisseur of things. Connoisseur of fine foods, oriental rugs, audiovisual equipment, basketball teams, who knows? Connoisseur of all kinds of things. Those are not bad things but they're not meant to be the center of your life. The glory of God and Him alone. Remember your Creator. And to the aging, very soon the central thoughts of my text will not be academic disputes to you. They'll not be scholarly ideas. They will be reality very soon. Be sure you know Jesus. Be sure you know Him. And be sure you're storing up treasure day after day after day, walking in obedience and in repentance. Come to Christ. Come to Him crucified, who poured out His blood on the cross that you might have eternal life. Come to Him. Let's pray.