Tuesday, June 30, 2009

False Conclusions about the Gospel

In Romans 2:1-29, Paul had indicted the Jews for their sinfulness and destroyed their unreliable indicators that gave them a false assurance of salvation. After having demolished the false assurances on which most of the Jews relied, Paul anticipated through the Holy Spirit some strong objections that some of his Jewish readers would make based on their false conclusions about the Gospel.

Paul did not teach that Jewish heritage and their possession of the Law were not important. Because these things were God-given they had significant and tremendous importance. But these things were not, never had been, nor ever would be the means of satisfying God’s divine standard of righteousness. These things offered the Jews great spiritual advantages but they did not provide any spiritual assurances.

No outward realities have any saving benefits that will cause a person to become right with God. And when these outward realities are shown to be just a form of godliness without the power of godliness as an inner reality of faith in Jesus Christ, then the people who are holding firmly to these unreliable indicators that give them a false assurance, will accuse the man who is setting them straight of preaching against God’s people and against God’s Law and against God (Acts 21:27-28).

It is these three objections that the apostle Paul refutes from his would be Jewish debaters in Romans 3:1-8. These three objections by the Jewish debaters were based on what Paul said in Romans 2:17.

First, the objection that the Gospel Paul preached was against God’s people (3:1-2).

The Jews were offended by Paul’s preaching that their heritage couldn’t save them and so they believed that he was preaching against the people. In attempting to take Paul’s message to what they believed to be its logical conclusion, the Jews wrongly concluded that if religious heritage cannot save then Paul is preaching against the people by saying that there is no advantage to being Jewish and no benefit of circumcision.

Most Jews wrongly believed and wrongly assumed that the Scriptures taught that simply because they were Jewish, physical descendants of Abraham, that they were saved. And for Paul to come along and preach that salvation is by faith in Christ alone and that heritage cannot save, they were sure that Paul was preaching against the people if he held to and continued to preach such a message contrary to what they believed.

So for the Jews, the Gospel couldn’t be from God because it was seen as message against God’s people. If the Gospel was true then being Jewish had no advantages and therefore Paul was preaching against the people. However, Paul answered and showed them that the Gospel did not remove the advantage of having God’s Word and therefore having one of the greatest advantages ever for coming to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Jews wanted all the promises and all the privileges without any of the responsibilities that come with it. For example, in Amos 3:2 the Word of God says, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth [this is the part that all Jews wanted to claim]; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities [this is the part that the Jews didn’t want to claim].” It is a very dangerous thing to only want the positive side of God’s Word and ignore the negative side of it as though it is for someone else and not oneself.

Having the Word of God was a great advantage that the Jewish people (Deuteronomy 4:8) had over the rest of the world to such an extent that the Gospel was to the Jew first and then to the Greek. Because they had God’s Word the Jews were near – not all the way there but near (Deuteronomy 4:7) – and the rest of the world was far off. It is the Word of God that is able to give the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. It is the Word of God that testifies about Jesus and therefore those who have it do indeed have an advantage – although with that advantage and privilege comes responsibility.

Second, the objection that the Gospel Paul preached was against God’s Law/promises (3:3-4).

Because the Jews believed that Paul was preaching against God’s people, they also believed that Paul was preaching against God’s promises as found in God’s Law. This however was due to the fact that the Jews were quick to claim God’s promises and quick to deny God’s punishment.

God’s promises to His chosen people are numerous and found all throughout God’s Word. How then could Paul possibly be in keeping with God’s Word when the Gospel he preached showed that it was possible for a Jew not to be secure in those promises? Will God not be true to His promises because some did not believe?

In other words, the Jews were saying that if any Jew went to hell then God was a liar and wasn’t true to His promises. However, God had never promised that any individual Jew could claim security in God’s promises just because He was a Jew. On the contrary, only those who had the faith of Abraham and therefore the works of Abraham were secure in the promises of God for Abraham and his believing descendants.

Most of Israel denied their Christ and were therefore denying God’s promise as found in both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants as found in God’s Law. So the Jews would maintain that if the Gospel Paul was preaching was true then God’s Word had failed and was false. But the problem was not that the Gospel was false and not that it contradicted the Word of God, the problem was the Jews didn’t understand what God was saying either in His Word or in the Gospel. Paul went on in Romans 9:6-8 to further establish this truth – “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘through Isaac your descendants will be named.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.’”

So the unfaithfulness and unbelief of some of the nation would not nullify the faithfulness of God to the faithful and believing part of the nation – which was the only part that God ever made any promises to. The Jews misinterpreted God’s promises as guaranteed salvation for every single Jew when God was only promising salvation for the believing remnant.

God will never fail to keep His promises and He will never lie. So to the accusation that the Gospel Paul preached was against God’s Law and promises and made God into a liar, Paul said, “May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in Your words, and prevail when You are judged’” (Romans 3:4). Here Paul was saying that God’s Word would be found true and that when others accused Him of being unfaithful to His promises, God would prevail and would be shown to be absolutely true. Therefore the unbelieving Jew cannot stand in God’s presence and accuse Him of not fulfilling His promises when He sends him to hell but will see and know for sure that God hasn’t lied but has done only what He has always said.

Third, the objection that the Gospel Paul preached was against God/His purity (3:5-8).

Through Paul’s preaching of the Gospel the Jews interpreted him as saying that since salvation is by grace through faith and not by works of the Law then man’s unrighteousness demonstrates God’s righteousness. And so they reasoned that if it was their sin that highlighted God’s righteousness and made it dazzle as a diamond against a dark backdrop then their sin had served a good purpose and if their sin served a good purpose and brought about a good result, then how could God inflict wrath on something good (5).

This is the fallacy that the end justifies the means and that methods don’t matter. In other words, the Jews thought that since the apostle Paul was teaching that man’s sin magnified God’s grace that God couldn’t hold them accountable for their sin because it had produced something good – namely the magnifying of God’s grace. However, the end never justifies the means. This would be the same as saying that because of the crucifixion of Jesus for the salvation of sinners, those who crucified Him did a good thing because of the end result – hogwash! They did an evil thing and God is right to inflict wrath because He is a righteous judge.

Also the Jews came to the wrong conclusion about the Gospel by believing that since the end (bringing about something good) justifies the means (the bad done to bring about the good) that more bad should be done to bring about more good (7-8). This is a very severe illogical conclusion to the Gospel. The Jews were accusing Paul of licentiousness for preaching the Gospel and accusing him of preaching against God’s purity. Their condemnation is just!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Needed: A Circumcised Heart

Romans 2:25-29 is still part of the Scriptures dealing with the charge that the Jews are under sin and in need of a Savior even with all their religious rites and ceremonies. In Romans 2:1-5 we have seen that the Jews were guilty of hypocrisy with their self-righteous judgmental attitude towards the Gentiles (2:1-3), being able to see the sins of the Gentiles and able to pronounce judgment on them but being unwilling to see their own sins and pronounce judgment on themselves. We also saw that the Jews were guilty of presumption (2:4), presuming upon God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience as evidence of their supposed privileged standing with God and that He would excuse their sins because they were Jews. And we saw that the Jews were guilty of being unrepentant (2:5) and hard-hearted believing that they were pleasing to God in their flesh and were not in need of a Savior.

In Romans 2:6-10 we have seen the truth that God is going to render a righteous judgment to every man based on his or her deeds. The Jews were further indicted as sinners in this section by believing that God was going to show them partiality while overlooking their selfishly ambitious and disobedient lifestyles. What a tragedy that men can believe that they can seek for glory and honor from men for themselves and believe that God is going to show them some sort of partiality because of their supposed relationship to Him.

Then in Romans 2:11-16 we saw the truth of the impartial judgment of God for everyman – the heathen who have sinned without the law will perish without the law and the Hebrew who has sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. The Jews were hearers of the Law and not doers of the Law and this should have been enough to convict them of their sin and lead them to Christ – however they thought that because they had the Law and heard the Law that God would show them partiality. Wrong!

And finally in Romans 2:17-24 we saw that the Jews had a false assurance of salvation based on some very unreliable indicators: (1) they trusted their heritage – that they were Jews and the covenant people of God (2:17a), (2) they trusted their possession – that they had God’s Law (2:17b), (3) they trusted their profession – that they knew God and boasted in knowing God (2:17c), (4) they trusted in their ability to know the difference between right and wrong based on God’s Law (2:18), (5) they trusted that because they were teachers of right and wrong to the Gentiles that they were right with God (2:19-20), and (6) they trusted that they were exempt from the Law because they knew and taught the Law (2:21-24). The Jews equated all these things as fulfilling the Law when in reality they were law-breakers.

Now we come to Romans 2:25-29 and here we will see one more unreliable indicator that only gives a false assurance of salvation – the sign of circumcision. As we look at this section of Scripture and to guard against anyone having a false assurance of salvation, I want us to look at the heart of the problem which is the problem of the heart and see what is needed: a circumcised heart.

Before we delve into our text we need to ask and answer a couple of questions so that we can properly expose the meaning of it: (1) what is a circumcised heart, and (2) what was the purpose of physical circumcision?

One, what is a circumcised heart? Our text says, “Circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter…” (2:29). Immediately we see that circumcision of the heart is a spiritual operation performed by the Holy Spirit and cannot be accomplished by the letter of the Law. But what is this spiritual operation that is performed by the Holy Spirit?

First, a circumcised heart is a Lord loving heart because the Lord hating flesh has been removed.Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). Anyone who doesn’t have a circumcised heart and doesn’t love the Lord because of His love for him as seen in the Gospel will perish. “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22).

Second, a circumcised heart is a Lord obeying heart because the Lord disobeying flesh has been removed.Circumcision [physical] is nothing, and uncircumcision [physical] is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19). The flesh cannot and will not obey God – “Because the mind set on flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).

Loving God and obeying God go hand in hand. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And in regard to the circumcised heart we read, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Isn’t this the same thing that the apostle Paul said was the result of the Gospel even in the Gentiles who believe – “To bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake” (Romans 1:5)? Since it is true that the flesh does not subject itself to the law of God and that it is not even able to do so, then when a person is circumcised of heart so that he will both love and obey, then he is a brand new person – a new creature. “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

Third, a circumcised heart is a Lord glorying heart because the self-glorying flesh has been removed.Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard to you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-3). Why is it that we put no confidence in the flesh? Because we have seen its sinfulness, ugliness, and ungodliness and we now know that no good thing dwells in our flesh.

People who see and understand this are more than glad to have their hearts circumcised and their flesh removed. But how is it that the Holy Spirit removes our sinful flesh and causes us to become new creations? “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:11-14).

Two, what was the purpose of physical circumcision? Physical circumcision was to repudiate the flesh by picturing its removal and not its renovation. The flesh cannot be renovated so it must be removed and God does this through putting our flesh to death in Jesus Christ. If we have responded correctly to the true Gospel then our flesh is put to death in Christ, buried with Christ, and then as brand new creatures we are raised to walk in newness of life loving and obeying the Lord (see Romans 6:1-14). So just as physical circumcision for the Jews was to picture the death of the flesh then baptism today is to picture the death and burial of the flesh and the resurrection of a brand new creature.

Now what does all this have to do with our text? Everything!

First, circumcision without obedience was useless (2:25). This amounts to ritual without reality. This is having a form of godliness but denying its power. There is grave danger in having confidence in one’s outward form of religion because confidence in form leads to confidence in the flesh.

Second, obedience without circumcision was useful (2:26). The obedient but uncircumcised Gentile proved by his deeds that he was saved by God’s grace and obeying from a heart of love which fulfills the spirit of the Law and not just the letter.

Third, those who have repented and received a circumcised heart although physically uncircumcised will stand up as witnesses at the judgment against those who were physically circumcised but uncircumcised in heart (2:27)

Fourth, it is not the ritual which counts but the reality (2:28-29).

So in making application today baptism is a repudiation of the flesh by picturing its removal by death and burial so that we can love and serve God in the Spirit rather than in the flesh by being raised to walk in newness of life with Jesus as our Lord. Many have been baptized without the knowledge of the wickedness of their flesh and are confident that they are saved even though their flesh remains uncrucified and their hearts uncircumcised.

Needed: A circumcised heart! Do you have one?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

False Assurance

As we read this section we may be inclined to believe that the apostle Paul was an unloving, unkind, cruel, and insensitive preacher of God’s Word by giving such a negative characterization of people who thought that they were pleasing to God. We may ponder why the apostle Paul would dare tell people who were sure that they were pleasing to God and boasting in their relationship to Him that their assurance was false and eternally destructive. So we have to ask as we look into this section of Scripture, “Was Paul unloving and robbing people of assurance or was he loving and destroying people’s false assurance?”

Many a preacher has been accused of being unloving and unkind for destroying the false assurance of men. These preachers are perceived as destroyers of men’s faith. However, if a man has a type of faith that cannot and does not save, the most loving thing that another person could do is destroy that false faith by showing the futility of it. It is actually through showing the futility of a false faith and destroying false assurance that the glory and blessed assurance of true faith is established. Convincing a man who thinks he is saved but who is actually lost that he is not saved is far more loving than to allow him to go on in his deception to eternal destruction.

As we read and study our Bibles we see that all through it warnings are given to people who think that they are saved but are actually lost. We also see that the prophets, apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself all stripped men of their false assurance. To the religious leaders of his day, John the Baptist removed their false assurance (Matthew 3:7-10). The Lord Jesus Christ did the same thing to the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 23). The apostle Paul also removed the false assurance of the people of his day (Romans 2:17-29).

So let’s look at the inaccurate and unreliable indicators that give false assurance (Romans 2:17-24).

The first unreliable indicator that gives false assurance is heritage (2:17a) – “But if you bear the name Jew….”

Many of the Jews wrongly assumed that because they were Jews that they were automatically right with God. After all they were physical descendants of a man who was right with God – Abraham. What many of the Jews didn’t realize is that in order to be justified like Abraham they had to have faith like Abraham. The Lord Jesus told the Jews of His day, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father” (John 8:39-41). The Lord went on to say concerning Abraham’s faith, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

Paul knew what it was like to have false assurance by relying upon his heritage. “Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). However Paul discovered that all the things he was trusting in only gave him false assurance because he was the chief of sinners headed for hell – even with his immaculate heritage.

Many today bear the name Christian and are trusting in their heritage and external religious practices but are not trusting in Christ. When confronted with the truth of their lostness they will speak of their long time participation in the church, their baptism, their knowledge of God’s Word, and so forth but they do not speak of their saving relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The second unreliable indicator that give false assurance is possession of God's Word (2:17b) – “And rely upon the Law….”

The Jews were relying upon or resting in the Law. Because they had God’s Word and knew God’s Word they were falsely assured that they were right with God. God’s Law has never been given as a means of making men right with God but for showing that men are not right with God. The very thing that should have caused the Jews to be weary and heavy laden leading them to rely upon and rest in Christ was the very thing that they were relying upon and resting in. The Law was given to weary us and wear us out so that we would see our need for Christ. The Lord said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

However, many of the Jews were relying upon and resting in the Law. The Law demands perfect and continuous obedience if one is going to be right with God through the Law and any point of disobedience means death and destruction from God. The Law itself says, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law to perform them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). The Law should have led the Jews to Christ but instead they trusted in the Law. Jesus said to the Jews, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39).

Many today in the Christian church are relying upon and resting in their possession of God’s Word rather than in Christ.

The third unreliable indicator that gives false assurance is profession of a right relationship with God (2:17c) – “And boast in God.”

The Jews boasted in their supposed relationship to God. Because they had a Jewish heritage and possessed the Law of God they supposed they were rightly related to God and that everyone else wasn’t. Many of the Jews were loud in their profession of knowing God. Some of them told the Lord Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” Jesus said to them,If God were your Father you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come of My own initiative, but He sent Me…. He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God’” (John 8:41-42, 47).

The same was true throughout Israel’s history – many claimed to know God and boast in God when in reality they did not. Through Hosea the prophet we read of apostate Israel’s profession and boast of knowing God, “They cry out to Me, ‘My God, we of Israel know You'” (Hosea 8:2)!

Many today boast that they know God and others don’t. However, because one boasts in knowing God doesn’t mean that he actually does. Knowing God rightly means that we know Jesus Christ rightly and therefore we know ourselves rightly – we are sinners who cannot be made right with God except through faith in Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf.

The fourth unreliable indicator that gives false assurance is knowledge of right and wrong (2:18) – “And know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law.”

Knowing the difference between right and wrong because you have been instructed out of God’s Law and approving the rightness of God’s Law doesn’t make you a doer of God’s Law. Many Jews had false assurance of acceptance with God because they knew and approved of God’s Law.

Approving God’s Law isn’t the same as applying God’s Law. Hearing God’s Law isn’t the same as heeding God’s Law. Many today have a false assurance of salvation because they “know” God’s Word. Many know the will of God but don’t live up to His will and think that just because they know it they have done it – not true!

The fifth unreliable indicator that gives false assurance is being teachers of right and wrong (2:19-20)

The Jews were confident that they could see and that others were blind and saw themselves as guides to the blind. Because they taught God’s Law to others they thought it was proof of their right relationship to God. They thought for sure that God would be proud of them for instructing and correcting others. However, teaching, instructing, and correcting without applying those very teachings, instructions, and corrections to oneself is hypocrisy and self-deception. That is why we read, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

Many today are confident that they can see and that others can’t. Because they preach sermons, teach Sunday-School classes, or instruct others they believe that they are saved – even while they don’t practice what they preach and teach.

The sixth unreliable indicator that gives false assurance is seeing oneself as exempt from the Law (2:21-24)

Most of the Jews thought that because they knew the Law and taught the Law that they were doing the Law. However, they were not practicing what they were preaching and that should have caused them to realize that they were law-breakers and not law-keepers and therefore they needed a Savior.

The problem with knowing the Law and teaching the Law without doing the Law is that one exempts himself from the Law by applying the Law to everyone but himself. When this happens the life of the person teaching the Law is no different than the lives of the people to whom he is preaching. People see the hypocrisy of this and then the name of God is blasphemed because of those claiming to know Him and to represent Him.

When we believe that God’s Word is for those people out there and apply it to them without applying it to ourselves we are self-deluded fools. We are to practice what we preach so that we don’t deceive ourselves and so that God’s name is not blasphemed.

Many of the Gentiles who had dealings with the Jews knew that their preaching and teaching of the Law was hypocrisy. The Jews would lie, cheat, steal, rob, and commit adultery just like the Gentiles would. In their supposed keeping of the Law they would break the Law – dishonest business practices were legalized as God’s will for them to succeed; adultery was legalized by divorce; robbing temples was legalized under the pretense of abhorring idols. Isn’t it interesting that when there was a riot in Ephesus because of Paul’s preaching and people turning away from idolatry that the town clerk who quieted down the crowd said, “For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess” (Acts 19:37)?

Many today who claim to be preachers and teachers of God’s Word exempt themselves from God’s Word by applying it to everyone else but themselves. The very sins they preach against they practice and God is dishonored and His name is blasphemed among unbelievers.

Naming the name Christian; possessing the Word of God; professing to know God; knowing the difference between right and wrong; preaching and teaching the difference between right and wrong; and applying the Law to everyone else while exempting oneself from the Law by legalizing disobedience only gives a false assurance of salvation.

Is there any difference between your lifestyle and that of the lost other than a hypocritical and judgmental attitude? Let’s not be fooled! “The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness’” (2 Timothy 2:19). We may fool ourselves and most everyone else – but we will not and cannot fool God!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Impartial Judgment of God

We have already been studying and learning about the righteous judgment of God based on the deeds of men. How God will render a righteous and accurate judgment based on a person’s lifestyle. We saw how this truth does not establish salvation by works but establishes the truth that those who are saved practice righteousness because of the work of the gospel in their lives. We are saved by faith alone but saving faith is not alone! If we have been saved by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ then we keep His commandments because of our love for Him as a result of His love for us. We love and obey Him because He first loved us and gave Himself up for us.

Now we come to this next portion in our studies and arrive at the truth that not only is God’s judgment righteous, it is also impartial. Now we must consider the truth that if God’s judgment is righteous that it must also be impartial. How can any judgment be righteous that shows partiality?

This is why in the book of James we read, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:1-9).

Partiality means literally “to receive face,” that is to give consideration to a person because of who he is. So partiality is giving a favorable bias based on some prejudiced motive. God’s judgment is righteous and therefore will be impartial. God isn’t going to give anyone an advantage because of his or her intellectual insight, social standing, economic efficiency, ruling reputation, or highborn heritage. That is why we read this sobering truth – “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:11-12).

Since there is no partiality with God then neither heathen nor Hebrew will be shown any favoritism in either salvation or condemnation. God isn’t going to let the heathen slide because he did not have the Law and neither is He going to let the Hebrew slide because he did have the Law. Now this would come as a shock to many of Paul’s Jewish readers because they would have considered themselves deserving of special treatment because they were God’s chosen people entrusted with special revelation of God’s holy nature as revealed in God’s holy Law given to Moses.

Also to many of Paul’s Gentile readers the news that they would still be guilty before God without having had God’s special revelation of His Law would have come as a shock. They might have wondered how God could hold them responsible and not show them special treatment because of their ignorance of God’s written Law. However, the apostle Paul has already established the truth that all men everywhere are without excuse because they have knowledge of God’s holy character through both what has been created and through the inner conscience.

So let’s take a look at the impartial judgment of God on both groups – the heathen and the Hebrew.

First of all, the heathen who have sinned without the Law will perish without the Law (2:12a).

Paul here was appealing to the truth that the heathen have enough revelation of the Holy character of God through creation as well as the witness of right and wrong in their hearts and consciences and therefore are able to sin and know that it is sin without having God’s written Law. This is the truth that Paul established in 2:14-15 – “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively/by nature the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their consciences bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”

Not being able to live up to what they know is right but instead doing that which they know to be wrong makes those without God’s written Law accountable and guilty before God. Wherever you go you find people with an inner sense of right and wrong and a sense of sin because of not always living up to that which is right. Therefore, because of the light that they do have, the heathen who have sinned without the Law will perish without the Law.

The word “perish” pertains to destruction. It is referring to that which is ruined and no longer usable for its intended purpose. Therefore there is only one place suitable for such an object – the garbage dump. This garbage dump was referred to by the Lord Jesus Christ as Hell and the term He used was Gehenna (the garbage dump of Jerusalem where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched –Mark 9:48). It is the place of everlasting ruin, eternal torment, and unending death.

All sinners, whether sinning against a little or a lot of knowledge of God, must be saved through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ or else perish in their sins. This is why we must proclaim the Gospel for it and it alone is the only remedy for sinful mankind.

Next we read, “And all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law” (2:12b).

The Hebrew who had God’s written Law and sinned knowing God’s righteous character and standards will be judged by the Law. Those who have and know God’s written Law are under greater responsibility and therefore greater condemnation for their greater knowledge. God does not show partiality and therefore those with greater privileges have greater responsibility and will incur a stricter judgment. Though all unbelieving and unrepentant sinners will be in hell, the hottest part of hell will be reserved for those who have wasted the greatest opportunity.

The Hebrews supposed that because they had God’s Law and were hearers of God’s Law listening to it proclaimed and explained that they were better off than their heathen counterparts and that God would show them special favor because of it. However, the apostle made it clear that it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified (2:13). Now don’t let this verse throw you for a loop! Paul is not saying that we are justified by works of the Law – he is establishing the truth that no one can live up to the Law and therefore those who have God’s Law and are under God’s Law will be judged by the Law. This truth should immediately bring anyone who knows God’s Law to know that he or she cannot keep God’s Law and therefore he or she needs a Savior. Therefore the doers of the Law are those who come to God in repentance and faith, realizing that His Law is impossible for them to keep but that His Son did keep it and died to pay our penalty of not keeping it so that we could be justified by faith in His blood.

This is the purpose of God’s Law - to define sin and show that we are sinners and cannot do good because we are not good. If righteousness comes through the Law then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21). And if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed be based on law (Galatians 3:21). So those who have the Law and know the Law should also know beyond any shadow of doubt that they are sinners and in need of a Savior. The Law is to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

And finally we read, “On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (2:16).

Some men may be outwardly moral for the most part but still inwardly immoral. Many do not commit certain sins for fear of the consequences although they would have committed those sins if there had been no consequences. We are told that we are going to be judged by the law of liberty (James 2:12) – what we would have done that our hearts wanted to do if we had been at liberty to do them. God knows our secret intentions and will judge us accordingly.

Do we need a Savior who has never sinned in thought or deed to pay our debt and free us from sin’s penalty?