We ended last time by saying that Paul put a stronger emphasis on sins of the heart rather than sins of the flesh. We also mentioned in brief the story of Jesus dealing with the people who accused a woman of adultery who were equally guilty even though their sins were not as easily exposed as the woman’s. Paul goes into this idea here at the beginning of chapter 2, when he states,
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2:1 ESV)
I think Paul is saying something truly profound here, and something we would do well to take to heart in this day and age. It looks as though Paul is dealing with a dynamic that we see all too often in our churches. The general Christian position is that homosexuality is a sin. We have ample Scripture to back this up. Even here, Paul doesn’t deny that it is not what God intends for His people. When it comes down to it, though, Paul isn’t so much concerned with this one sin as he is with the sins of those passing judgment. It almost looks like we have a bunch of Christians in Rome who have a real problem with homosexuality, particularly the Jewish Christians in this church, and Paul is saying, very clearly, “You have no reason to judge them when you yourselves are equally as guilty. You ‘practice the very same things.'”
This is striking on many counts, and what Paul continues to say points us to why.
We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. (v. 2)
Paul begins by affirming that God is not happy with what those being judged are practicing. God’s judgment “rightly” falls on them. But that isn’t Paul’s concern.
Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment 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? (vv. 3, 4)
Paul is concerned with the judgers, not the judged. God’s judgment has already befallen those who are practicing an outward showing of their fallenness. They have received in their bodies “the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27). But the one’s passing judgment are willfully ignorant of their own sin. They are choosing to ignore it, presuming that, since God hasn’t judged them yet, they are safe. But this is not at all the case.
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (v. 5)
Are we there? Is Paul talking to you? Is he talking to me? Are we just as guilty as “them” and “storing up wrath” for ourselves?
Notice something else. While Paul says that those practicing the “obvious sin” received in themselves the penalty for their error, those with the “hard and impenitent heart” are storing up the “wrath,” or violent passion, of God against themselves. Here’s the scary thing: God’s greatest judgment is reserved for those who claim to be His people and yet do not give up their own hidden sins. God judges more harshly those who can change but choose not to than He does those who have no choice in the matter.
[God] will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor 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 honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (vv. 6-11)
Let us take a moment before continuing in this passage and reflect on our own lives. Are we guilty of judging others but ignoring our own secret sins? Are we holding up signs, symbolically or literally, stating how much God hates someone else while we look out for ourselves and refuse to obey the truth? Are we storing up wrath for ourselves? Remember: God’s judgment is righteous. He will always do what is right in handing out rewards and punishment. “For God shows no partiality.”