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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Greatest Sermon Ever Written: The Judgement
Text:Romans 2:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Justice
 
Added:2023-01-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Isaiah 6

Text: Romans 2:1-11

 

THE GREATEST SERMON EVER WRITTEN: THE JUDGEMENT

  1. Our Hypocritical Judgement

  2. His Long-Suffering Mercy

  3. His Righteous Judgement

 

  1. Psalm 68: 1, 2, 12

  2. Psalm 119:10-12

  3. Psalm 77: 5-7

  4. Psalm 62: 4, 7

  5. Psalm 85: 1, 3

  6. Hymn 5:1, 3

 

Words to Listen For: slam-dunk, pricked, sarcastically, Florida, unpack

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is your Judge like? (use the imagery in Isaiah 6)

  2. Define:

    1. Hypocritical:

    2. Judgement:

  3. Why might we want to be the judge instead of God?

  4. What happened in Florida 33 years ago that made the pastor lose sleep this week?

  5. Are we judged on our works?  If not, then what do verses 6-10 mean?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

Have you ever heard anyone say: “Only God can judge me!”

Maybe you’ve seen someone with a hat that says this.  Or a hoodie.  Or a tattoo.

Maybe you’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to hear the Tupac song of the same name.

Only God can judge me

Only God can judge me now

Nobody else (Nobody else)

All you other  ___________ get out my business (Really)

Only God can judge me now

The song goes on to lament how black people are treated in society, and then excuse them for how they react because every single one of them is trapped.  Even in Heaven, apparently the black people will be relegated the the Ghetto.  Only God can judge me - and He’s a racist too.

What a horrible, blasphemous, and dangerous song.

“Only God can judge me!” - these words are said in an attempt to shut down any kind of conversation that feels too personal.  Any kind of conversation that feels too judgemental.

HOW DARE YOU TELL ME THAT I’M DOING SOMETHING IMMORAL - ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME!

And we wrinkle our brow at this…they aren’t RIGHT…are they?

But…what if they are?  In making any moral pronouncement, are we judging others?  Isn’t this what is forbidden by our text this morning?

 

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.

Does this verse end every discussion of morality?  Do we, as human beings, as anyone who isn’t GOD HIMSELF…do we have any right to talk about right and wrong?

But before we get there, before we find a scriptural answer to this problem in which we find ourselves…before we try to dismantle the argument…let’s take it at face value.

When we hear: Only God can judge me!  Let’s first assume that this is exactly and completely right, without any qualifiers.  How should we respond?  How about: Doesn’t that terrify you?

Only God can judge me!

    Doesn’t that terrify you?

As we continue our series on The Greatest Sermon Ever Written, join me this morning as we dive into the ever relevant topic of 

(THE) JUDGEMENT.  We will examine, first 

  1. Our Hypocritical Judgement, then

  2. His Long-Suffering Mercy, and finally

  3. His Righteous Judgement

 

THE JUDGEMENT: Our Hypocritical Judgement

On the one hand, only God can judge me IS TERRIFYING.  It really is.  This isn’t the slam-dunk that non-believers think it is.

Only God can judge me…okay…well…have you ever heard about God?  About the judgement that He brings in His stead?

Do you really know your judge?

Let me introduce Him to you.  We heard a little about Him in our reading.  Let me refresh your memory:

 

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up

Human kings come and go, but the Lord reigns forever.  High and lifted up.  Our God, our King, our Judge HAS AUTHORITY.

 

The Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up;

This is not a description of someone you can be casual around.  This isn’t a comfortable living room with your grandpa sitting in an easychair.  This is a throne room of a God whose glory and splendour and majesty fill heaven and earth.

 

The train of His robe filled the temple

The TRAIN…or the HEM of His robe filled the temple.  It would be one thing if God Himself filled the temple.  An enormous holy building of gold and precious wood and stone.  But it’s not God who fills the temple.  It would be one thing if this holy, glorious, powerful God filled the temple with His robe.  But it’s not even the whole robe that fills the temple.  It’s just the HEM.  The EDGE.  There’s more robe left.  A lot more robe left.  Not to mention that there is so much more GOD left.

 

Above Him stood the seraphim…one called to another and said: Holy holy holy is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house filled with smoke.

This is not the reaction to GOD’S VOICE, this is not the result of the Almighty speaking…this is what happens when one of His SERVANTS speaks.  So how much more the power of the King on the throne!!

 

And I said, “Woe is me!  For I am lost!”

This is the only appropriate response from Isaiah.  Even though he was a prophet.  Specially chosen, specially set apart and called to serve God…this is what we must declare in the presence of God.

It doesn’t matter that for the previous 5 chapters, Isaiah had been condemning the sins of Judah and Jerusalem as God’s holy prophet.  His status as an Old Testament office-bearer doesn’t help him here.  When he is confronted with the glory of THE HEM OF GOD’S ROBE and the glory of God’s servants…he identifies himself with his sinful, wicked nation.  He does not only say “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” thinking that the sins of others have corrupted him, but rather he begins with himself: “I am a man of unclean lips.”  In the presence of God different degrees of sin become irrelevant.

In the presence of God different degrees of sin become irrelevant.  Is Isaiah better than the wicked nation around him?  Absolutely he is.  He listens to and obeys God to the best of his ability.  But does it matter?  In the presence of God…do Isaiah’s “small sins” mean that he’s off the hook?  Not for a second!  Being confronted with the holiness of God reveals our true condition.  And what matters most is is not how we stack up to OTHERS…how we are compared to those around us…but rather…who we are in the intense holiness of God.

 

Only God can judge me should TERRIFY YOU.

By in large, those who say this do not believe in God.  At least, they do not believe in God as judge.  That judgement day is real.  That judgement day is coming.

We’ll get to God’s righteous judgement later in the sermon…but what about OUR JUDGEMENT?

Only God can judge me is another way of saying, Don’t you judge me!  Don’t judge me!  Who are you to judge me?  Let me do whatever I want to do!

And…on first glance…they seem to have a point.

Didn’t Jesus say once “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” - Matthew 7.

And then the Apostle here saying: Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgement on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

So what do we do with these words? How do we take our Lord seriously?  

How do we take the Apostle Paul seriously…but still make pronouncements on morality?

How can we stand up for what is right and not be hypocritical judges?

 

First, we must place ourselves in the book of Romans, and then we must define our terms.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgement on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

This we heard hints of last time.

In the list of offensive sins that we examined last time at the end of Romans 1, I told you to look for yourself.  Look for yourself in that list.

Here’s that list again: Verse 29 - They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Is that you?

If last time you were skeptical that this applies to you…then Romans 2 is addressed to you.  To those who feel really good after reading Romans 1.

THEREFORE you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.

 

If in Romans 1, your conscience was not pricked…Romans 2 is for you.

You have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgement on another, you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

Have you ever, even once, coveted something that didn’t belong to you?

Have you ever, even once, committed murder of the heart?  Hated someone?  Even once?

Have you ever, even once, gossipped?  Have you disobeyed your parents?

Yes but that’s different!  I might have done the same things…but I’m not as bad as she is!  I may have murdered in my heart, but he actually stabbed that guy in the face!

And that may be very true…but remember Isaiah.  I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.  Before the throne of God, degrees of sin DO NOT MATTER.  When you stand before the judgement seat of the Almighty, you stand there alone.  You don’t get to bring in your atheist neighbour to make you look better by comparison.  You don’t get to stand beside a serial killer to take all of God’s wrath, so that none is left for you.  That’s not how it works.

Each and every one of us stands condemned.  And until we recognize that…until our eyes are opened to our sins, and how hopeless we really are…then we will never truly love our Saviour.

But we’re not going to get into the good news just yet.  We have to sit with this bad news a little longer.

 

You have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.

Isn’t this a little…ironic?  Isn’t the Apostle Paul judging others for judging others?

But maybe we can excuse for the Apostle because he was inspired to write this…so instead, let’s use me for the example.

When I stand up here, week after week, bringing the gospel, and part of that requires calling out sin…am I guilty of this kind of hypocritical judgement?

Well, to determine my guilt or my innocence here, we have to define our terms.

Just what is “hypocrisy” and what is “judgement” ?

 

Hypocrisy, as you may or may not know is a word that initially referred to actors.  Actors on stage.  In the Greek and Roman theatre, actors would be required to play multiple roles, and so they would wear various theatre masks.  Wood, or stiffened linen would be fashioned into a caricature of an old man or a young woman, a hero or a villain, and would cover the face of the actor.

The actor would be concealing his or her own identity and pretending to be someone else completely.  A different face, a different voice, a different walk.  This is hypocrisy.  Presenting a different picture to the world than you truly are.  Lying and deceiving others about your identity.

So, am I guilty or innocent here?  I suppose that’s for you to judge, but I never preach as a perfect man, lording it over you sinners.  I too am a sinner.  I too am riddled with sin.

 

And now judgement…what exactly is this?

Well, we think we know the word, but how is it used here?  In this place?

Here judgement is not used to refer to a statement of morality, judgement is not used for a declaration of Christian ethics - worship the One True God and Him only - but rather, in speaking of judgement, Paul is condemning those who put themselves in the position of God.

We see that at the end of verse 1 - Because you, THE JUDGE practice the very same things.

Paul is writing sarcastically here.  You - THE JUDGE - you can almost see the air quotes.  You, “the judge” practice the very same things.

The Apostle has already made it clear in chapter 1, what comes up later in our text as well… there is only one judge.  GOD HIMSELF IS THE JUDGE.  THE ONE AND ONLY JUDGE.

When you take the place of God…when you not only make declarations about right and wrong…but you make declarations of the eternal destiny of others, based on your own wisdom.  Your own opinion.  This is foolish, this is blasphemous, and it WILL NOT STAND.  Do not judge can be understood as do not condemn.

When I preach the Word of God…I am not condemning anyone.  I am not pointing to individuals and saying: “ETERNAL DAMNATION” or “ETERNAL SALVATION.”  I condemn no one.  I don’t have the wisdom.  I don’t have the power.  I don’t have the audacity to try to remove the Almighty from His throne.

When I preach the Word  of God, I am not preaching my own opinion.  I am proclaiming, in the authority God has give me, what God Himself has said about what God Himself will do.

We must be so careful, that when we speak of right and wrong, we are leaving the definition of these things to God, and the punishment of these things to God.

Leave the judgement to The Judge.  It’s so simple.  And yet we tend to intrude.  We blur the lines between God and us because of our pride…and we blur the lines between God and us because, so often we are infuriated by His mercy.  Our second point.

A few months ago we heard the gospel in the book of Jonah.  Week after week after week of the final point of each sermon being: “God’s Infuriating Grace.”

  • Why would God show grace to Jonah after his rebellion?  After his blindness?  After his racism?  After his blasphemy?

  • Why would God show grace to the pagan sailors?

  • Why would God show grace to the wicked Ninevites?

We discovered, that for all the talk of God’s amazing grace…we aren’t actually such big fans of it.  We love God’s grace when it’s shown to US…but to other people…none of THEM deserve God’s grace!

But the real question should be: “Do ANY OF US deserve God’s grace?”  Of course not!  If we deserved it, it wouldn’t be grace!

And this is the same argument the Apostle Paul is bringing up here.  The blind distaste for God’s grace.  The foolish frustration at His mercy.

Do you suppose, O man - you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself - that you will escape the judgement of God?  Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

You who call out for justice without mercy to be shown…are you sure this is what you want?

Are you so blind, are you so forgetful, are you so hard of heart that you don’t remember when God has shown YOU mercy, and grace, and love?  Would you deny this to your fellow sinners?

And, what is more, we must understand that God’s kindness, His forbearance, His patience…they do not compromise His justice.  Not for a second.  God IS JUST.  Each and every sin WILL BE PUNISHED.

But instead we think: maybe I SHOULD BE the judge…because THIS ONE is too lenient.  Why aren’t sinners being punished RIGHT NOW?  If it was up to me, straight to hell.  Eternal damnation.

But what you have accomplished here is not JUSTICE in the place of NEGLIGENCE…but HATRED in the place of LOVE.

It is out of love, while not compromising justice, that God chooses to show kindness, forbearance and patience.

And however much that hurts you, to see evil not IMMEDIATELY PUNISHED, be sure that it hurts God far more.  Far more than you can ever imagine.

“Patience” here can be also translated as “long-suffering” and that is what it is for God when He is patient with us.  Our sins HURT HIM.  Each and every sin committed is an affront to God’s justice.

Each and every sin infinitely offends His infinite holiness, and He would be well within His rights to immediately wipe out each and every sinner, leaving the earth completely empty of humanity.

But He doesn’t.  At great cost to Himself, He continues to show mercy.

And what do we do?  We despise it.  We turn up our noses at it.

“That mercy that you’re offering?  Thanks but no thanks, I don’t need it.  Maybe someone else needs it…but not me!  And the ones who need it…they don’t deserve it.”

If you think I’m being too harsh here, if you think I’m being too hard on you, including you in this group…let me tell you a story.  A true story that I heard for the first time this week.  A story that made me re-evaluate and question how unconditionally I love God’s grace.

The year was 1989, and Dr. James Dobson visited the Florida State Prison.  It wasn’t his first time visiting a prisoner and it wouldn’t be his last.  But this visit was unique.  Dr. Dobson visited perhaps the most infamous serial killer to have ever existed: Ted Bundy.  Bundy was convicted of raping and killing over 30 women, including young girls.  30 of them…but it is likely there were far more.

During his time in prison, Bundy claims that he became a Christian.  This he said very clearly to Dr. Dobson the night before his execution.

Now, Bundy was a manipulative, murderous sociopath, and it could very well be that this was his last manipulation.  Manipulating a famous Christian pastor into speaking well of him after his death.  This is possible, if not likely.

But what if.

What if Bundy’s conversion was true?  God certainly has the power to heal the mind of a sociopath.  He certainly can forgive a murderer.  He can forgive rapists too.

It is possible that one day we will see Ted Bundy in Heaven.  Even if it is 1% likely, it is possible.

How do we feel about that?

Can we accept God’s grace shown to a man like that?

To say it’s not easy is an understatement.  I actually lost sleep this week over this question.  Can I accept the possibility that God showed grace to a serial killer?

If I see myself and my sins clearly, if I can have the eyes of Isaiah and say “woe is me” and recognize that I deserve nothing but death and eternal damnation in hell for what I’ve done…if grace is the only thing standing between me and fire and brimstone, I have to accept and love that grace.  I have to accept and love and worship the only wise judge.

Who am I to choose who to dispense God’s grace to?  It is available for all, no matter how distasteful it might seem to me with my limited vision and my limited heart.

The good news is that God is loving.

The good news is that God is merciful.

The good news is that God is kind and forbearing and patient.

But the bad news is that if that love and mercy do not lead you to repentance, then they lead you to a fearsome and righteous judgement.  Our final point.

Just who is this judge of ours?

He is PERFECTLY…He is INFINITELY holy and just.  This means that each and every sin EVER COMMITTED will be punished.  Without exception.

This is the reality with a God who is infinitely knowledgeable, infinitely holy and just.  Nothing escapes His sight.

He will render to each one according to his works

This means that nobody will ever get away with anything.  You simply do not have the power to break God’s perfect law, you don’t have the power to twist or distort God’s good creation without it snapping back at you.

God is a sure paymaster.  We will receive our just reward for everything that we do.  The bill might not come in the mail at the end of every day or at the end of every month, but be sure that it is coming.

Nobody will get away with anything.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, He will give eternal life

At first we might be confused at this.  Surely it would be more clear if Paul had written something along the lines of: To those who by faith bind themselves to Jesus Christ, seeking His glory above all else, He will give eternal life.

This is TRUE, this is ABSOLUTELY something that Paul might say…but that’s not what he says here.

What he says seems to be quite confusing, especially since Paul is famous for his “grace alone” and “faith alone” theology.  It’s NOT about works.  But here it is?

 

Let’s examine this further.

 

And we must do so by looking at verses 6-10, because, in this greatest of all sermons, Paul uses the Hebrew style of a CHIASM.  For those who are into that kind of thing, it’s technically a chiasm of intensification.

Simply put, Paul says the same thing twice, the second building off the first, but in reverse order.  AB-BA.

Paul explains the two outcomes of God’s righteous judgement, first in verses 7 and 8 - eternal life on the one hand, wrath and fury on the other.

Then, in verses 9 and 10, he builds the argument further, telling us the same two outcomes of judgement - tribulation and distress on the one hand, glory, honour and peace on the other.

Let’s read.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, He will give eternal life,

but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,

but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

Let’s unpack these two groups according to the three areas the judgement is focused on: attitude towards God and the things of God, the direction of living, and the actual conduct in life.

First of all, those who are judged to be RIGHTEOUS.  Those who will receive a positive judgement on judgement day and will be told: Well done, good and faithful servant, join in your Master’s happiness.

What is their attitude towards God and the things of God?

This we find in verse 7 - they seek for glory and honour and immortality.

This is not a self-seeking desire, but rather they seek the glory of God, they seek for Him to be glorified through Jesus Christ.  True and proper glory, not the cheap imitation that comes from pride.  They seek honour - the honour that comes from being one of the children of God, and they seek immortality - translated elsewhere as incorruptibility.  The desire is to be holy and unstained, to belong to God, and to glorify Him.

Secondly, what is the direction of their life?

Verse 7 - patience in well-doing

These are those who persist, who fight, who desire for their lives to be ones in accordance with true goodness, with the law of God.  They are not perfect, but they are patient.  Every time they fall off the horse, they get back on it again, knowing that one day their determination will be rewarded.

And thirdly, what is their conduct in life?

Verse 10 - they are those who do good.

Not only do they think on what is good - glory, honour, and immortality…not only do they DESIRE what is good - well doing - but they DO good.  They are devoted to God with head, heart, and hands.

 

But as for the other group.  Those who, on judgement day will be thrown outside into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth…what of them?  How do they fare in these three areas of judgement?

As for their attitude to God and the things of God…they are, verse 8 says, self-seeking.  They pay no mind to the things of God.  When they get up in the morning they think of their stomach.  They think of their pleasure.  They think of what they want to do, with no thought for God, or His Kingdom.

As for the direction of their life, they do not obey the truth, but unrighteousness.  Verse 8.   They have no interest in the law of God, refusing to listen or obey what is true, but surrounding themselves with those who tell them what their itching ears want to hear.

You can’t judge me!  Don’t judge me!  Only God can judge me…and He doesn’t even exist, so I’m good to go.

And their conduct…their conduct is, as verse 9 simply says: EVIL.

These are the two groups who will be there on judgement day before that great white throne.

 

Now, one of you will say to me: this sounds like works-righteousness!  How can this be?  From Paul the one who said: The righteous shall live by faith?  Where does faith come in?  Where does Jesus come in?

And you’re exactly right.  We desperately need Jesus…because we have a problem here.  We have a problem with these two groups as outlined here.  Can you find it?  Can you determine it?  What’s wrong here?

The first group, the righteous, who aren’t perfect, and the unrighteous, who are evil.

That first group who, after fighting against their sin, sometimes give in…and the second group who refuse to fight and love to sin.

What’s the problem here?

 

Well for the problem, we have to return to what we heard at the beginning.  The lesson we learned from the prophet Isaiah in the heavenly throne room.  There we turn for both the problem and the solution.

The problem is this: the two groups…how are they different?  They are different in DEGREES OF SIN.  The first group sins.  The second group sins.  The second group sins worse and more frequently, and more freely than the first group, but both the righteous and the wicked sin.

Before the righteous judgement of God, degrees of sin do not matter, and every single sin will be punished.

The question is not: how much have you sinned, how much have you loved your sin…what we have been accused of is sin.

Your honour, the accused is a sinner.

It’s that simple.

 

You stand before this holy court, accused of sin against God.  How do you plead?

Like Isaiah, we must plead guilty.  It’s so obvious.  Our sins are before us.  Whatever shall we do?

We could use the words of Isaiah, they’re true.  They’re fitting: “WOE IS ME!  FOR I AM LOST!  I AM A MAN OF UNCLEAN LIPS!”

Every word, gospel truth.

We could use the words of the Apostle Paul, later in Romans: “WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM WHO WILL DELIVER ME FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH?”

Every word, truer than true.

So what is our hope in that courtroom - before the Judge?

In a word: Jesus.

Jesus is our hope.

For Isaiah, he was purified…his sinful lips were purified with a coal from the heavenly altar.

But for us…we are purified with something far better.  Our lives, our bodies and our souls are redeemed, not with a coal from the altar, but with Jesus Christ.  The Holy One who came down from heaven to be sacrificed on the altar of the cross.

Our sins have been taken away, nailed to the cross, and they are no more.  We have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb.

How do you plead?

On that last day, how will you plead?

You will plead: not “innocent” not “guilty” but instead, on that last day, you will plead “REDEEMED.”  Redeemed by the blood of the lamb.

Only God can judge me - absolutely true.  Only God can judge you, and that judge…

As we confess:

    In all my sorrow and persecution

    I lift up my head 

    And eagerly await

    As judge from heaven

    The very same person

    Who before has submitted Himself

    To the judgement of God

    For my sake,

    And has removed all the curse from me.

 

Look to the Judge’s bench.  Who is the One sitting there?  It is your Saviour, your Messiah, your friend, your brother.  And on the hands holding the gavel are the marks of the nails that bound your sin to Him.  Those marks will last for eternity and tell us one WORD.  One JUDGEMENT.  One DECLARATION: REDEEMED.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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