The Justness of God’s Judgment
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:5-16)
This is a vital passage in Romans, as it answers the age-old question: by what standards will God judge the unbeliever who does not have the law of God?
We’ve seen already that God will judge according to truth (Romans 2:4). This means that God will judge by the objective standard of absolute truth that comes from Him, that is reflected in the moral law, and later made specific in Biblical commandments.
God’s standards are further clarified in the remainder of this section:
- God judges according to a person’s deeds.
This means that God is willing to judge a person by what he/she does, not just by what they say. To put it another way: if a person insists on being evaluated by God based upon the way they have lived (many say, “I’m a good person”), then God will allow that. He will judge them on that basis. Of course, He knows exactly how each person has lived.
- God judges without partiality.
He does not concern Himself with whether or not a person is a Jew, or a Gentile. He judges all human beings by the same standards. A Jew will be judged as a sinner, as will a Gentile.
- God judges according to one’s conscience.
No matter how strong, or how weak, a person’s conscience is, no one lives up to the light that they have. No one lives up to the standard they believe that they (or others) should live by. Everyone fails to completely, 100% of the time, obey their own conscience.
- God judges according to the secrets of men.
God, who is infinite in knowledge, who knows everything that can be known (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Isaiah 29:15; Acts 15:18). This is the proverbial icing on the cake. Imagine God … he knows every thought we’ve ever thought, every word we’ve ever spoken (Matthew 12:36), everything we’ve ever done. Therefore, when the self-righteous moralist begs for mercy and stands on his own record as proof that he deserves to be forgiven, all God has to do is recite some of the secrets He knows about him. The moralist will be shown to be a sinner, just like everyone else.
The indictments of God are meant to be convictions of sin, leading to surrender to Jesus and belief in His finished work at Calvary. The self-righteous man cannot be saved. Salvation is reserved for those who see their need for it, humble themselves, and receive it as God’s free gift.
For Further Review
1. How does this section help a person understand the justness of God’s judgments?
2. How would you stack up if God were to judge you today, right now, according to all of your secrets? Read Psalm 130:3,4 and Isaiah 43:25 after you formulate your response.
3. Why is it merciful for God to show any human being the depth of his/her sin?