The First Excuse: Morality

Church discipline should never be used as a weapon to destroy, but should be used as a tool to restore the sinner.

Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 2:1-3

1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.2Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

This, at first glance, may seem redundant. In the previous chapter Paul talks about men having no excuse to know God. At the beginning of Chapter 2 Paul seems to repeat himself as he says “You, therefore, have no excuse…” What Paul is doing is continuing to build a case that all persons, no matter what they have done or not done, are under God’s judgement. Even if Paul were being redundant it would be for a reason. Redundancy is often used as a tool to drive home a point, to bring emphasis to an idea. Here Paul uses repetition to dramatize the fact that human beings never seem able to fully admit to their wrongdoing and never tire of making excuses for their bad behavior. People habitually attempt to excuse their wrong behavior.

Jew or Gentile

  1. Who is Paul speaking to in Chapter 2?
    1. Some say Paul is addressing the “virtuous heathen”.
    2. Some say Paul is addressing the Jewish people. There is evidence for this in verse 17.
  2. The question is who is Paul addressing a the beginning of Chapter 2, before verse 17. Three distinct people.
    1. He is addressing the Pagans as he does in Chapter 1
    2. He is addressing moral or virtuous people
    3. He is addressing the Jewish people.
  3. Today most contemporaries think Paul’s main focus was on the Jewish People. John Murray finds 4 reasons for this position.
    1. The propensity by the Jewish people to judge the Gentiles for the religous and moral perversity.
    2. The person being address is the participant of “the riches of God’s goodness and forbearance and longsuffering.” This applies to Jews more than Gentiles.
    3. The arguement of Paul is that special privilege or advantage does not exempt from the judgment of God. This fits the Jewish people particularly.
    4. The express address to the Jew in verse 17 would be rathe abrupt if now for the first time the Jew is directely in view.
  4. Dr. Boice disagrees with Murray.
    1. Althougth Jews were particulary prone to judge Gentiles, it is nonetheless a basic human characteristic.
    2. As far as the “riches of God’s goodness and forbearance” argument, it is due to God’s longsuffering that the people on Chapter 1 are still alive.
    3. As far as “special privilege” Murray refers to, that arguement does not come in until the Jews have already been mention in verse 17.
    4. The abrupt change argument is contradicted by Boice by pointing out the abrupt introduction of those “wo pass judgement” in verse 1.
  5. The final conclusion of Boice is that it doesn’t matter who Paul is addressing in Romans 2:1-16.
    1. If Paul is addressing Jews, he is at least thinking of them in regard to their morally superior attitude, from which we are not exempt as Gentiles.
    2. If he is thinking of Gentiles, he is at least embracing Jews at the point at which they might indulge in similarly wrong thinking.

What’s Wrong with Morality?

  1. Previously Paul has given us a list of 21 items that man is being “filled with”.
  2. What Paul did was give us is a picture of the depths to which our rebellion against God has led us.
  3. We say that those things listed is what others do, but “I am not like this.”
  4. Paul still answers that person by asking them, “do you measure up to the perfect standard of God?”
  5. God, being perfect, cannot accept anything less than perfection.
  6. This standard means that none can live up to it, we all fall short and deserve judgement.
  7. Paul doesn’t answer the “perfect” person that way. Paul argues that the “perfect” person is more guilty than the pagan.
    1. Paul argues that the objector is guilty of the very same things. Perhaps even more guilty
    2. The fact this person is objecting shows that he/she has some form of moral conscience.
    3. He/She is passing judgement on another person, declaring the other person’s actions bad while declaring his/her own actions as good.
    4. By passing judgement in this way and not passing judgement on self, the objector is blind to his or her own sin.

Condemned by Any Standard

  1. What are the standards by which you or I might judge sin in orthers?
    1. The Ten Commandments
      1. Much of civil law is based on the Ten Commandments.
      2. You may say that we aren’t like the heathen Paul is addressing. Aren’t you?
      3. You may not have murdered, breaking the 6th commandment, but remember God looks at the heart and judges by thoughts and wishes as well as actions.
      4. If you say that the Ten Commandments by which I judge morality, then you are condemned by that very standard.
    2. The Sermon on the Mount
      1. Some may say that the Ten Commandments are from a time gone by. We live in the Christian era and my standard are the gentle teachings of Christ.
      2. If you say this, then you know very little about Jesus’ teachings.
      3. The Sermon on the Mount doesn’t weaken the Ten Commandments, but only strengthens them.
      4. Most “moral” people see themselves in the light of the Beatitudes. Meek, merciful, pure, peacemakers thirsting after righteousness and sometimes persecuted by it.
      5. Is there really a person you know who posseses those qualities perfectly. The only one who has done that is Christ.
      6. If Jesus has shown what it means to keep the standards of the Sermon on the Munth, then none of us has done it.
      7. If we use the Sermon on the Mount as the standard and put ourselves above others, we condemn ourselves.
    3. The Golden Rule
      1. You may use the Golden Rule and even believe you have kept that one perfectly.
      2. Have you always treated others the way you have wanted them to treat you?
      3. Have you never been impatient with someone? Gotten angry with someone unjustly? Never accused them falsly?
      4. The Golden Rule accuses you, as it must if it is truly the summation of the law.
    4. Fair Play
      1. What about the “Englishman’s virture”?
      2. Again, have we at all times treated people fairly?
  2. I think what most people forget is that when we are judged by God, His standard is perfection, 100% perfection.
  3. Can you live up to 100% perfection? Only one person in history has done that, it was Christ the Saviour.

Calling Sinners to Repentance

  1. A number of years ago Thomas A. Harris wote a pop psychology book titled “I’m O.K., You’re O.K.”
  2. The message early in Romans 2 is “I am not O.K. You are not O.K. No one is O.K.”
  3. The sooner we admit that we are not Okay and turn to the One who knows that we are not, but who offers us a way of salvation anyway, the better off we will be.
  4. Jesus does not excuse us; he forgives us.
  5. The most important thing in life is to know that Jesus is able to save you from sin.
  6. The second most important thing is to know that you require saving.

Personal Reflection

I’d like to make just a passing note in reference to who Paul is speaking to at the beginning of Romans Chapter 2. As mentioned above in the outline there is much disagreement as to whether Paul is addressing Gentiles or Jews in the first 16 verses of Chapter 2. I do agree with Boice that in the end it doesn’t matter who Paul is addressing, the main point remains intact. We should notice a change in language as Paul goes from using “they” in chapter 1 to using “you” in chapter 2. Does this mean Paul when using “they” is referring to the Gentiles and the switch to “you” is addressing the Jews? We know the church in Rome was predominately Gentile, although there were probably a large number of Jewish members. We can also think about the idea that when Paul uses they/them in chapter 1 he is referring to the unsaved as a whole. Paul could be referring to those outside of the church. The switch to using “you” then is an address to those within the church, the saved. We do know one thing is certain, in verse 17 of Chapter 2 Paul does begin to address the Jewish people directly.

So what is the main point of verses 1-3? Those inside the church are judging those outside the church for the same things that those inside the church do. Paul makes a point to include that those who think they will escape God’s judgement just because they are God’s chosen, are sadly mistaken. We should not get in the habit of judging those outside the church as that is not our function as Christians. God will judge all people inside the church as well as those outside of the church. There is an article from “Church Leaders” written by Carey Nieuwhof titled “Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians off the Moral Hook”. If you get time please read it as he lays out a convincing argument why Christians should refrain judging the non-Christian for acting like a non-Christian. What he also does is give sound advice for how Christians should act towards non-Christians. Nieuwhof points to 1 Corinthians 5:12 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside the church?” as a final argument for not judging those outside the church. What we are to be concerned about is those inside the church and the purity of the church.

We who make up the body of the church must be concerned with the practice of church discipline. This is not a request, but is a must. It has been overlooked far too long and as a result we have allowed for the church to become weak, corrupt, and ineffective. One of the better articles I have found dealing with church discipline was written by Steven J. Cole title “Dealing With Sinning Christians: An Overview of Church Discipline” from I can attest personally that church discipline is not easy. Church discipline can cause a rift in the membership in the church as the congregation must make a decision if the discipline is ever brought before the congregation. Many cases are resolved before it gets to that point either between the two people, or between the ruling leadership of the church and the offending person. As uncomfortable as church discipline might be, it is something that cannot be overlooked. Church discipline is something that is used to preserve the purity of the church. When church discipline is not practiced it is in essence allowing wickedness to remain in the body of the church. Can God reside where wickedness is present? I think not. It must be clear that church discipline is there to bring the offender back to the path of righteousness and never used to humiliate on purpose. Church discipline should never be used as a weapon to destroy, but should be used as a tool to restore the sinner.

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