Sermon on Romans 2:1-4 – "The Hypocrite and the Just Judge"

The Hypocrite and the Just Judge
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Scripture reading: Romans 1:26 — 2:1-4
Sermon text: Romans 2:1-4
[Rom 1:26 — 2:1-4 ESV] 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
1 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. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 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? 4 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?
“Judge not lest ye be judged.”
This statement of Jesus in the Gospels is perhaps the most frequently mis-applied quote from the New Testament.
The person defending their own sins resorts to mis-applying this quote in an attempt to get his accuser off his back. “You can’t tell me what to do!” “You’re judging me!” “Didn’t Jesus say not to do that!?”
Even if one has hardly read any of the Bible, they seems to know this retort, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
In today’s passage, Paul, like Jesus, speaks out against judging. And it is important on this subject that we do not misunderstand Paul just as is it important that we do not misunderstand Jesus.
Paul has much the same message as Jesus when it comes to judging. We want to understand what this message is. This message from God’s Word. And so, in doing so, we will look at two main points from the text:
1: Man’s judgments are hypocritical. (REPEAT)
2: God’s judgments are just. (REPEAT)
The text today, from Romans 2:1-4, continues Paul’s longer argument that all men are unrighteous; all men are sinners. In the last section Paul listed particular sins (envy, murder, strife, deceit, etc.) And he contended that these sins reveal God’s wrath upon the unrighteous. But here in our passage today he transitions from condemning those who blatantly practice such sins outwardly (the Gentiles) to those who judge the Gentiles while committing the same sins (that is, the Jews / early Christians).
A Jewish reader of Paul’s letter might be nodding his head in agreement with Paul against all those sins listed. But, if the reader thinks he himself is perfect, he is quite mistaken.
Point 1: Man’s judgments are hypocritical. (vs. 1)
So Paul writes,
“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.”
In seminary, we were trained, whenever we read the word “therefore” in the Bible we should ask “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?”
Usually, in standard argument form you list your premises first and then your conclusion which follows. And in between your premises and you conclusion you say “therefore,” connecting the two.
But Paul here appears to reverse the order; he lists his conclusion first and then his premise. Working backwards like this, John Calvin says is a Hebraicism, a Hebrew way of saying things. Paul, of course, was a Hebrew so it is not surprising that even in this letter written in Greek that he would think like a Hebrew.
So what is the “therefore” there for? What is Paul’s argument? What is Paul connecting when he says “therefore”?
Paul’s conclusion is “everyone who judges has no excuse.” The premise, which actually follows his conclusion, is “when you judge others, you judge yourself, because you sin in the same ways.”
So, if we are reverse this order, to straighten out Paul’s words so that they are not in a reverse Hebraicism, but in a regular way of speaking, we’d get a more standard argument form. Paul’s meaning straightened out is “when you judge others, you judge yourself because you sin in the same ways” and THEREFORE “everyone who judges has no excuse.” Or, to say it another way, the judge is no better than the accused because the judge is also guilty of sin.
So, this is our first point of the sermon, “Man’s judgments are hypocritical.” (REPEAT) Man is the hypocrite.
To be hypocritical is “to pretend to have virtues that you do not actually possess.” The word itself, “hypocrite” comes from the Greek, ὑποκρίνομαι (hupokrínomai) meaning “to play a part on stage.” So a hypocrite is an actor, a pretender. But, as Paul is pointing out, we cannot pretend to be without sin when we are in fact sinners. Rather, because we are sinners, if we then condemn others for being sinners, we are only condemning ourselves who also sin.
A. Does this mean we should make no judgments at all?
But does this mean that we should make no judgments at all? Is it wrong always and everyone to judge?
By the nature of things we have to make general judgments all of the time. We judge a particular car to be a better choice for us than another car when we purchase it. We judge what we put on our plate at the buffet. We judge what work we undertake and how to use our free time. We make judgements every day. These are unavoidable and these are obviously not what Paul is arguing against. Judging, in the very broadest sense, is not universally wrong.
We also, especially as Christians, JUDGE SIN TO BE SIN.
Is it wrong to make this kind of judgment? To judge sin to be sin? Surely not. We must raise our children to judge sins to be sins. If anything, we need to be better tuned in to what God tells us in the Bible about what is sinful. We need to be better at judging sin to be sin so that we can avoid it; so we can use that judgment to help lead us not to sin.
If we didn’t judge sin to be sin, we would harm ourselves in that sin. Only a fool would oppose judging dangerous things as dangerous.
So, we may and we must judge sin to be sin.
Paul, in fact, in this very text judges some things to be sinful. That is, he has already listed some visible outward sins in chapter 1, and continues here in chapter 2 to condemn — to judge — this behavior currently under question. Paul judges (rightly) that some other type of judging is wrong. So what is this wrong type of judgment?
It is not judging in general that is wrong. Nor is it judging sin to be sin that Paul is opposing. What type of “judging” then does he oppose?
The “judging” Paul is speaking against is “passing judgment on one another”; that is, he is speaking against wrongly judging yourself to be better than another. (REPEAT)
It is wrong to think that others are sinful and you are without sin.
B. The Jews judging the Gentiles.
In the passage there is a transition in the pronouns. In the last section Paul was speaking about “them.” “They” commit sins. “They,” “other people” are sinners. But now, Paul speaks about “You.” It is not just others that are sinful, but it is you also! (What a hard message to hear! But what a necessary message to hear)
If this passage is referring primarily to the Jews, which most commentators believe it is, then Paul is saying that the Jews judge the Gentiles for their sinfulness, but do so hypocritically because they also sin. Paul is saying, “we Jews (for Paul himself was a Jew) are no better than the Gentiles.”
Judging others for their sins, when you are a sinner, is like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. Or like a sewer worker calling a garbageman stinky.
Or, even better, this is perhaps a bit like sitting on a large tree branch, while cutting the base of the branch with a saw. In fact, the safety manual that came with my chainsaw has such a picture on it showing a person sitting on a tree branch and cutting the thick side of the branch. And over this picture is a circle and a diagonal line indicating “don’t do this.” In cutting off the branch you are going to fall. Desiring the branch to fall, while sitting on that same plane, you cause yourself to fall.
Many of the first century Jews did not see themselves as sinners. Sinners were those outside of Israel, those who didn’t attempt to follow the Torah, the Old Testament laws. And since these Jews didn’t see themselves as sinful, they were not on the lookout for a moral messiah. They didn’t think they needed a Christ to die for their sins if they didn’t have any sins for someone to die for. Rather, the Jews were looking for a political messiah. The enemy, in their eyes, was not their own sins. The enemy, they thought, was the oppression of the Romans. So a messiah, some of them thought, would save them from the Romans.
Paul explains, however, how everyone — even the Jews, or especially the Jews — is sinful and in need of a moral messiah; in need of Jesus.
C. Condemning themselves.
When the Jews condemned the Gentiles for being sinners, they were condemning themselves as well because they too are sinners. They were cutting the very branch they were sitting on, condemning themselves to the same fall as the branch.
But not only were the Jews also sinners, but they were sinning again when judging themselves not to be sinners! They were guilty of a double wickedness – not only doing those same things, but passing judgment on those who do. If we want to keep our analogy with the tree branch, we might say “they are not only going to fall with the branch” and break a leg on the fall, they are going to be scolded for (by their employer) for not following safety directions.”
There is an irony here in that the judgment of hypocrites is in fact a just judgment. That is, they rightly judge sin to be sin, but they fail to realize that they are condemning themselves in the process.
There is an instructive story in the Old Testament about this topic; condemning oneself.
It comes from 2 Samuel 12:1-7
[2Sa 12:1-7 ESV] 1 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man!
The text then explains:
Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
So David was the rich man in Nathan’s story, unsatisfied with his own gifts from the Lord and taking Bathsheba as his wife after arranging for her first husband Uriah the Hittite to be killed. David’s anger is greatly kindled against the rich man in Nathan’s story, not realizing that HE IS THAT MAN.
How can we apply this today?
Are you that man?
Do you rage in anger against others who have sinned, not recognizing your own sins?
The example that comes immediately to mind is homosexuality and other deviant sexual practices. It is right, as I noted previously, to judge THAT these practices are sins, for God himself makes that judgment revealed in Scripture.
But, to apply the text today,
Do not think that you are better than they are. For what sexual sins have you committed? And what others sins have you committed?
Or do you think what you have done is not as bad?
In the Gospels, Jesus (with so much power behind his words) emphasizes that all are sinners. He sets the bar higher than man can achieve.
His words are,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
So even if you haven’t committed grossly immoral sexual sins in action, you have certainly committed sexual sins in your mind; in your lust.
Realizing your own sinfulness in areas such as this, it is important that you do not think yourself better than those who practice homosexuality or prostitution, or other sinful sexual practices. You, like them, are sinners in the need of God’s forgiveness.
The Scripture readings today, both from Romans and from 2 Samuel are there, at least in part, to humble your pride.
D. Paul and Jesus
The parallels between Paul’s teaching and Jesus’ teaching are evident. Both Paul and Jesus speak against the hypocritical judge.
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 1-5, Jesus says,
[Mat 7:1-5 ESV] 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
As I noted earlier, it hard to imagine that any Scriptural passage has been more misused than this one. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
This statement should NEVER be used to defend a sin, as if to say “YOU can’t judge my sin to be a sin, because you too are a sinner.” This is not the intent of Jesus. And it is not the intent of Paul either. Those things which God has revealed to us in the Scriptures to be sinful are things which we can, and should, rightly judge to be sinful. But, again, we should never judge that only others commit these sins, and not ourselves. That is why both Paul and Jesus refer to the judge as a hypocrite; the one who judges himself to be better when in fact he, like all men everywhere, is a sinner.
Though men’s judgments, apart from God’s revealed will, are hypocritical, God’s judgments are always just. (Repeat) And so this is our second point, God’s judgments are always just.
Point 2: God’s judgments are just. (vs 2.)
Paul writes, “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.”
Man judges hypocritically because man commits the same sins that he condemns. But God judges justly, committing no sins, and being and setting the very standard by which man is to live.
God’s judgment falls rightly. His judgments are just.
There is not some higher level of justice to which God looks to. He doesn’t consult someone else. He sets the standard for right and wrong, and tells us in His Word.
The punishment for sin is always separation from God. It is death and hell, for God is most holy and cannot tolerate wickedness in His presence. All men deserve this judgment, for all men have sinned.
Paul writes with his mind to possible objections that might come up against these points. (That man is a hypocrite, but God is a just judge) He then answers his imagined critic. He typically introduces one of the objections of the critic by saying “What shall we say then?”And he answers in his own words with the response, “By no means.”
A. Rhetorical Question 1
The first of two rhetorical questions set up against his teaching is this:
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? (vs. 3)
He seems to be referring to the false security that some Jews had. That is, some Jews thought they would escape God’s judgment just because they were Jews. (REPEAT)
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? (vs. 3)
By no means! By no means is the right answer. You should not expect to escape God’s judgment just because of your status.
This should be a warning to you, not to think your status in life saves you.
There are statuses that people falsely hang on to, hoping in them for salvation.
Do you think you are saved because you are baptized? By no means!
Do you think you are a saved because you attend church? By no means!
Do you elevate yourself saying “I have good doctrine?” Will you learning save you? By no means!
Being baptized will not allow you to escape the just judgment of God. Attending church will not allow you to escape the just judgement of God. And having good doctrine will not allow you to escape the just judgement of God.
I especially want to focus on this last point. We have great doctrine here in the Reformed Presbyterian church. Pastor Hicks is one of the most learned scholars of the Faith I have come across. But don’t let this be a crutch to you. Do not think that you are saved because you have good doctrine, or a good pastor, or good elders, or good deacons.
Good doctrine is extremely important, but you are not saved by your doctrine. You are saved by God’s grace through Faith in Jesus Christ. And those in churches with less emphasis on doctrine are also only saved by God’s grace through Faith in Jesus Christ.
One pastor has said, “The secret hope of the hypocrite is that God will judge by the hypocrites perspective.” (REPEAT)
Like the first century Jews, there are all manner of people today who think they are better than others based on the family in which they were born, the country in which they live, or their ethnic origin.
These groups include racists, kinists, and elitists. They judge others on standards they have invented. Standards that are sinful in the eyes of God. Stay far away from these sinful mindsets. Your status will not save you. By no means!
B. Rhetorical Question 2
Paul then moves on to the second rhetorical question:
“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?” (vs. 4) (REPEAT)
This is much like his rhetorical question in Romans 6:1 where Paul asks – “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”
Of course not. We should never presume on the riches of God’s kindness. We should never sin thinking “Oh, God will forgive me anyways.”
So Paul is telling his audience, you are not off the hook just by being a Jew, nor are you off the hook because God is so kind as to forgive you regardless of what your response is to him. God’s forgiveness is not a license to sin as you please.
Rather, God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. God doesn’t pronounce his judgment and carry out the sentence right now because he is using his kindness to lead His people to repentance; turning away from their sins and following Christ in faith.
Paul’s arguments are not merely made for the Jews of the first 1st century, but are the Word of God to you and me today.
Consider this: We have the tendency to judge the sins of others severely and judge our own sins gently. We ask for forgiveness, but do we forgive others?
The Gospel
The Jews sought outward holiness. They wanted to be seen as holy, devout. Calvin says of this, “God will take an account, not only of their disguised righteousness, but also of their secret motives and feelings.”
Remember also Jesus said that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
And so all are guilty. Paul extends his point about sinners from the outward sins to inward sins like false judgment. This is in order help support his main point which ranges over multiple chapters. That is, “all men are sinners.” You included!
So what then? So I’m a sinner even if I haven’t sinned outwardly?
What hope then do I have?
There is a solution. There is hope. Not in yourselves, but in Christ.
Despite how heinous your sins are. Even if you are a hypocrite like many 1st century Jews. Even though all people sin, and even though the judgment of God is justly upon you. Even despite all of this, we have hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your sins are forgiven! You must repent and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe that he died on the cross for your sins.
What was David’s response when Nathan told him, “You are the man!”? David rightly admitted “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Repent and believe. For it is through faith that the grace of God is given to you and the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to your account, so that God sees you as pure and holy regardless of any sins you have committed.
And because we have been forgiven in Christ, all the more should we forgive those who have sinned against us, and all the more, knowing that we were saved despite all being sinners, we should not judge ourselves better than anyone else but praise God for his pardon and his great salvation.
So, we will conclude with this.
You are the man. You are the sinner, like David.
God is the just judge, and Christ is our savior.
Trust in him alone for your salvation. Not in your own self, nor in your status.
And through this coming week do not, like hypocrites, look to judge others yourself as superior to others, but be merciful and kind to others as God has been merciful and kind to us.
We thank God for His mercy and His kindness in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

1 thought on “Sermon on Romans 2:1-4 – "The Hypocrite and the Just Judge"”

  1. “As the vicarious or substitutionary nature of the old sacrifices is clear, so the New Testament shows the substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrifice: “If one died for all then, all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14), and “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Here we have the ver central and most essential part of the Gospel. This is indeed the Good News, and there is no Good News without it. When this idea is absent from preaching, the preaching is no longer Christian.” – Gordon H. Clark, “New Heavens, New Earth,” p. 125

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