In Romans 1:28-32 we see the third and last stage of divine abandonment. This comes as a result of ungodliness against others. When men choose to reject the knowledge and ways by the way they live God gives them up to a reprobate mind. When this happens God begins to remove His protection from them. The result is that men become vulnerable to the destructive wiles of Satan and also experience the consequences of their own behavior.
“You have forsaken Me and served other gods,” the Lord said to Israel. “Therefore I will deliver you no more” (Judges 10:13). When God’s Spirit came upon Azariah, He told Judah, “The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). Through “Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest,” God again said to Judah, “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord and do not prosper?
Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you” (2 Chronicles 24:20). Romans 2:1 – In light of the judgment of God on clear ungodliness it would be easy to think that if I am following God and know what is right and wrong and not involved in those kind of sins, that I am in good stead with God. Paul now shows that even those who may not have committed the sins described in chapter 1 are also guilty before God.
The religious man would agree with Paul that those people rightly are condemned and are receiving the consequences of their behavior. Religious people believe that their good works put them in favor with God and will receive eternal life because they are not as bad as others; this certainly was the case of the Orthodox Jewish community. They thought even if they did stumble in some areas they would still get to heaven based on the covenant relationship they enjoyed with God as being a part of Israel.
They believed that Abraham guarded the gates of hell preventing his offspring from slipping past him. This is also true of many professing Christians, who, based on their baptism or church membership believe that no matter what they do will go to heaven because of God’s covenant through the church that they have become members. Some believe because they partake in communion, or embrace ethics or even the Biblical doctrines of Christianity that they will go to heaven at their death.
But the only thing that will bring a person to heaven is acknowledgment of personal sin and the only provision for that sin is faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul proceeds with great force and clarity to show the moralist that, before God, he is equally guilty and condemned. All of us have turned away from God and commit sin even though there are differences of frequency, extent, and degree.
Romans 2:2-3 – God’s judgment is based first of all on truth. God is called “the God of truth” (Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16). Truth is one of God’s essential attributes. God’s judgment of men is not according to hearsay, gossip, our own opinions or evaluations; it is “according to truth”. Someone has said, “We hate our own faults, especially when we see them in others.” God’s covenant people saw clearly the sins of the nations because they knew His standards of righteousness.
They believed they were chosen and the Gentiles were not. But they were ignorant of the purpose God had in mind when He poured out His goodness on them waiting for them to produce the fruit of righteousness, justice and mercy. His goodness was supposed to lead them to repentance and humility, and dependence upon God. Instead, they hardened their hearts and became proud thinking that they were righteous of themselves. Israel thought that God loved them too much to condemn them. God’s judgment is according to truth. He does not have one standard for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. As the old saying puts it, “When you point your finger at somebody else, the other three are pointing at you.”
Romans 2:4-5 – In verse 4 he uses three key words. He asks them: “Are you treating with contempt the wealth of his kindness, and tolerance and patience?” God was kind to Israel in choosing them to be His ambassadors of His Word, Way, and Righteous Holiness, but they took advantage of it to promote their own agenda rather than Gods. The principal word used to express kindness in the Old Testament (hesed) was a loyal love which was demonstrated not so much in emotions but in actions. In the New Testament both love of humankind (Acts 28:2) and brotherly love (2 Peter 1:7) is translated as kindness. The kindness God has shown us through Jesus is equivalent to his grace and its action results in salvation (Ephesians 2:7). When we think of kindness it should be understood through the example of God’s redemptive love (2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12).
Tolerance comes from a word that means truce, which means a cessation of hostility, but it is a cessation that has a limit. Paul, in effect, is saying to His covenant people that cessation of hostility is to give them the opportunity to repent and turn to God and His ways. He provided a means of atonement but that was not a license to sin indefinitely without punishment. Patience here is defined as the characteristic of the man who has it in his power to avenge himself and deliberately does not use it.
Paul is, in effect, saying “Do not think that the fact that God does not punish you is a sign that he cannot punish you. You owe your lives to the patience of God.” The Covenant people of God thought that they were exempt from judgment. They were taking for granted His provision of atonement and thinking they could go on in sin believing that all they had to do was go to the Temple and offer the appropriate sacrifice and be forgiven (Isaiah 1:4-19; Jeremiah 7:4-8).