(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 9/30/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans 2. We'll read verses 11 through 16:
Romans 2: (11) For there is no respect of persons with God. (12) For as many as sinned without Law will also perish without Law. And as many as sinned within Law will be judged through Law. (13) For not the hearers of the Law are just with God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified. (14) For when nations not having Law do by nature the things of the Law, they not having Law are a law to themselves, (15) who show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience witnessing with [them], and the thoughts between one another accusing or even excusing, (16) in a day when God judges the hidden things of men, according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ.
Last week, we went over verses 6 through 10 and saw that God will give to each according to his works, both to Jew and to Greek. The Jew does not have a special lower standard by which God judges, and the Greek does not have a special higher standard by which God judges. God judges all the same, as verse 11 shows. God is no respecter of persons. The Greek word for "respect" is pross-op-o-lape-SEE-a. The Greek word for "respecter" is pross-op-o-lape-TACE. And the Greek word for "to respect" is pross-op-o-lape-THE-oh. The roots that make up these words are very interesting and very informative. PROSS means "toward." OPS means "visage" The word PROS-op-on means "face" or "appearance." So we're talking about an acceptor of a face. We're talking about judging by outward appearance. Turn to Acts 10:34-35:
Acts 10: (34) And opening [his] mouth, Peter said, Truly I see that God is not a respecter of faces, (35) but in every nation the [one] fearing Him and working righteousness is acceptable to Him.
Peter first says that God is not an acceptor of faces, meaning that the outward appearance of a man is not what is or is not acceptable to God. Peter is talking specifically about Jews and Gentiles. Earlier in this chapter, God showed Peter the vision of the animals that were unclean according to Jewish law in which God commanded Peter to eat, because those things that used to be unclean were now clean. This is a picture of the Gentiles being brought into the kingdom. Whereas before, the Gentiles were by and large EXCLUDED from the kingdom, they are now PARTAKERS of the kingdom. There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. God does not accept a man by his nationality or color of his skin. Verse 35 shows what is acceptable to God: fear of God and working righteousness. And he prefaces this by saying that this is true in EVERY nation. The Jews are not accepted for their Jewishness, and the Gentiles are not rejected for their Gentile-ness. God does not show favor or accept someone based on his face.
Let's turn to some other passages that address this truth. Let's turn to Ephesians 6:9:
Ephesians 6: (9) And lords, do the same things toward them, forbearing threatening, knowing that the Lord of you and of them is in Heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Paul is here writing to masters of slaves and tells them that the God of the masters is also the God of the slaves, and God does not show partiality or favoritism toward the masters as opposed to the slaves. In the eyes of God, the master is equal to the slave. The master is no more holy or acceptable or closer to God than the slave is. The slave is no less of a human being than the master is. There are not different standards for the two of them. If a slave has been saved, the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to him, and he is just as holy, just as sanctified, just as acceptable, and just as entitled to heaven as the master who has been saved. They are both saints. They are both on equal footing in the eyes of God's law and justice. And if both slave and master are lost, both are void of a righteousness that God accepts. They, too, are both on equal footing in the eyes of God's law and justice. God is no respecter of persons.
Let's turn to Colossians 3:22-25:
Colossians 3: (22) Slaves, obey the lords according to flesh in all respects, not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God. (23) And whatever you may do, work from the soul as to the Lord and not to men, (24) knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve [the] Lord Christ. (25) But the [one] doing wrong will receive what he did wrong, and there is no partiality.
This time, Paul addressed the slaves. Paul says that the slaves are to do their work not as unto men but as unto God, meaning that even when they're working out of sight of the masters, they are to do a good job. He says that the one doing wrong will be punished, even if this wrong was done in secret, for God is no respecter of persons. Even if the master thinks the slave is doing a good job when the master is watching, God sees everything, including when the master is not watching. God doesn't say, "Well, since the master liked his work, I like his work, too." Men look at the appearance, but God looks at the heart.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:
1 Corinthians 12: (12) Even as the body is one, and has many members, but all the members of the one body, being many, [are] one body, so also [is] Christ. (13) For also we all were baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, even all were given to drink into one Spirit.
One's origin or status in society makes no difference in the body of Christ. EVERY CHRISTIAN WITHOUT EXCEPTION has been baptized by and is a partaker of the Holy Spirit. God does not show favoritism. Now over to Galatians 3:26-29:
Galatians 3: (26) for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many as were baptized into Christ, you put on Christ. (28) There cannot be Jew nor Greek, there is no slave nor freeman, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you [are] of Christ, then you are a seed of Abraham, even heirs according to promise.
This verse expands the concept to male and female. Not only are Jew and Gentile and slave and free equal when it comes to salvation, but MALE AND FEMALE are equal when it comes to salvation. God does not show favoritism toward males in salvation. Female believers are just as holy, just as sanctified, just as acceptable, and just as entitled to heaven as male believers. Just because they have a different role in the family and in the church, just because they are not allowed to teach or have authority over a man does NOT mean that they are second-class saints. They are on EQUAL FOOTING in the eyes of God's law and justice. Males and females, slaves and free, Jews and Gentiles, are all on equal footing. And, as Galatians says, if they are believers, they are all sons of God, they are all baptized into Christ, they all put on Christ, they are all one in Christ, they are all a seed of Abraham, and they are all heirs according to promise.
Let's go back to Romans 2:12 and apply this precept of equality in the eyes of God's law and justice, in this case, for those who do not believe:
Romans 2: (12) For as many as sinned without Law will also perish without Law. And as many as sinned within Law will be judged through Law.
Let's first look at the first half of this sentence. Paul is talking about those without Law. About whom is he speaking? He is speaking about the GENTILES, who did not have the Law given to them like the Jews did. The Jews had specific do's and don't's from God written down for them. The Gentiles, on the other hand, had no such privilege. They were pagans. They were heathens. But does God excuse their ignorance? From what we hear in liberal Christendom today, the pagans can't be held accountable, because they don't have anything concrete to give them guidance as to what's right and what's wrong. They say it would be mean of God to leave the pagans in ignorance and send them to hell for sins they didn't know were wrong. They even say that since they've never heard the gospel, then God would be mean to send them to hell for unbelief when they were never presented with what to believe. But what does God say? God says that they PERISH WITHOUT LAW. God is no respecter of persons. A wicked person will be condemned to hell with or without law. It makes no difference.
But were the Gentiles totally without any law whatsoever? Look down at verses 14 and 15:
Romans 2: (14) For when nations not having Law do by nature the things of the Law, they not having Law are a law to themselves, (15) who show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience witnessing with [them], and the thoughts between one another accusing or even excusing,
Even the Gentiles had some idea of what's right and what's wrong. They showed this by following to some degree the Law that was given exclusively to the Jews. They, too, had their do's and don't's. If they didn't, then there would be no society; it would be just chaos. And we know that many of the Gentiles had very orderly societies. They had laws, and they punished those who broke those laws. Some of their societal laws were the same as the Ten Commandments, such as the commandments not to kill or to steal. In following these laws, they showed that they were a law to themselves. And God says that they showed that the work of the law is written on their hearts - in particular, their consciences. When Man fell, he did not totally lose his conscience. He still had a sense of what is right and wrong. This is borne out every day as we interact with people. People know that murder and rape and stealing and lying and hurting and cheating are wrong. And what does the next part of the sentence say? It says that their conscience witnesses what is right and wrong and accuses and excuses them. So the Gentiles, even though they were not in possession of the Ten Commandments, had guilt and relief. When they did something against their conscience, they had thoughts of guilt. When they did something according to their conscience, they had thoughts of doing well. There were even societal consequences for good and bad deeds. Some good deeds were rewarded. Some bad deeds were punished.
But you know what? Even though they knew some of God's law, they could never obey it perfectly. These people were a law to themselves, but they couldn't even meet up to their own standards. None of them could obey this law all the time in every way. And they even had a sense of this! What do we find in the majority of pagan religions? We find a god or gods who need to be appeased. Why would these gods need to be appeased? Because of the people's sense of sin. How many totally benevolent gods are out there? You won't find many. But since they were ignorant of the gospel, their good works and their attempts to appease their gods were nothing but a stench in God's nostrils. They did not believe that acceptance with God was based on the substitutionary work of the God-man. They did not believe in an imputed righteousness. They did not believe in a once-for-all sacrifice for sins. They were void of a righteousness that equals the righteousness of God. And every single one of them, both in the past and in the present, who have never heard God's gospel, are lost. No exceptions. God doesn't give them a break because they've never read a Bible or heard the gospel. His holiness demands that they be His enemies. This includes adults and children, even infants. To say that the children of pagans who die in infancy go to heaven is to say that God is a respecter of persons. It is to say that the gospel is not the power of God unto salvation.
So these pagans are shown to be without excuse. But the second half of verse 12 shows that the Jews, who possessed the Word of God, were also without excuse. Paul describes them as "within Law," meaning that they, as God's covenant nation, were given the very words of God. So if the Gentiles were without excuse, how much more without excuse were the Jews? They were infinitely more without excuse. Paul says that those who sinned within Law will be judged through Law. The Jews had the Law. The Jews had the word of God that said, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things having been written in the book of the Law, to do them." And, as we read in verse 13:
Romans 2: (13) For not the hearers of the Law are just with God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified.
So how many of these Jews continued unfailingly to do all the things written in the Law? And how many of these Jews were perfect doers of the Law? None of them. So every Jew who relied on their Law-keeping to have acceptance before God were under God's curse. They were judged by that very Law on which they were relying to get them to heaven. They were diligent to keep the do's and the don't's of the Law, but they disregarded an important part, and that is that all who seek favor with God by their Law-keeping who do not PERFECTLY and CONSTANTLY keep the do's and don't's of the Law are under the wrath of God. PERFECTION is the only thing that God accepts, because God is holy, and he cannot fellowship with anything less. So the Jews are in the same boat as the Gentiles. God is no respecter of persons.
Let's now read verse 16:
Romans 2: (16) in a day when God judges the hidden things of men, according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ.
Verse 16 flows from verse 12:
Romans 2: (12) For as many as sinned without Law will also perish without Law. And as many as sinned within Law will be judged through Law. ... (16) in a day when God judges the hidden things of men, according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ.
First, Paul talks about a DAY when God judges. This is not to say that God does not judge every day, but this is specifically talking about FINAL judgment. And what does God do at final judgment? He judges the hidden things of men. Paul just got through saying that there is no respecter of persons, no respecter of faces, with God. God does not judge based on outward appearance. He judges the HIDDEN things. What are the HIDDEN things? The HIDDEN things are in the HEART. They are not manifest by a person's outward appearance. So what are the hidden things that are in the heart that God will judge? How will God judge these hidden things? Now mark this and mark it well. Look at verse 16. How does God judge the hidden things in the heart? He does it ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL. After Paul talks about good and evil works and law-breaking and law-keeping, he then says that God will judge the hidden things of men ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL. He calls it "MY gospel" to distinguish the gospel HE was preaching from all other false gospels. In Galatians 1:8, Paul says that if any should preach a gospel DIFFERENT than what HE AND THE APOSTLES preached, let them be accursed. So he establishes that God will judge according to the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. How will God judge according to this gospel? Well, the gospel shows that only those whose sins have been paid for, who have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, are entitled to final glory. And it shows that those whose sins have NOT been paid for, who do NOT have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, must be punished according to God's perfect justice. Now think about the Arminian who comes to this verse. He believes that his god judges by his gospel. And what is his gospel? It is the false gospel of universal atonement. So think about a god who judges by universal atonement. In this false gospel, Christ paid the price for the sin of everyone without exception and appeased God's wrath towards everyone without exception. So if Christ paid the debt and God's wrath is appeased, then this god would have to bring everyone without exception to heaven, right? Well, that would only be if this god were a just god and a savior. But this god is neither a just god nor a savior. He SAYS he judges by the gospel, but, in fact, he judges by whether or not the sinner did his part. The atonement doesn't matter, other than giving everyone without exception a chance to work their way into heaven. This god is not a just god, because he does not bring to heaven all whose debt has been paid. This god is not a savior, because the work of this christ did not save anyone in and of itself. Who is the savior here? It is man who ultimately saves himself from the wrath of God. Those who believe that Christ died for everyone without exception are going to be judged by the TRUE gospel and are going to be found wanting. They will take their place in the lake of fire with the devil, the demons, the self-righteous religionists, the murderers, the fornicators, and all who die without a righteousness that equals the righteousness of God.
The last part of verse 16 says that God will judge through Christ. This means that God has ordained Christ to be the judge. Acts 17:31 is the clearest verse as to the relationship between God the Father and God the Son at final judgment. Let's turn over there:
Acts 17: (31) because He set a day in which "He is going to judge the habitable world in righteousness," by a Man whom He appointed; having given proof to all [by] raising Him from [the] dead.
Other passages that show Jesus Christ to be the judge are Matthew 19:28, Matthew 25:31, Romans 14:10, and 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Christ will judge according to the true gospel. Christ will see to it that He alone will be glorified. Anyone who comes to Him on that day and says, "Lord, I thank you that you made it possible for me to be saved," believing that it was not His work alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation, will be told the awful words, "Depart from me, I never knew you." In contrast, those whose sins have been paid for, who have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, will plead the work of Christ alone as the only ground of their salvation. They are the ones who believe that the work of Christ alone ensures their salvation. They believe that it is the work of Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. This is what glorifies Christ and leaves the sinner in the dust. And those who have a righteousness that equals God's righteousness, which can only come by imputation, will hear those blessed words, "Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world." Amen.