A Voice in the
Therefore you are without excuse, O man, everyone who judges; for in what you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge do the same things." (vs.1)
Everybody judges. There are the "christian" legalists who hold to sets of laws and guidelines by which they order their lives. They will point to Scripture passages to support their views, and if someone else does not adhere to the same set of "dos and don'ts" they are considered as "heathens." On the other side of the spectrum are those who claim to have "no" guidelines. "Graeeeessss" is the rule. And yet, while they claim that "anything goes" and there are "no absolutes" because of all of Scripture's supposed "gray areas" they READILY RECOGNIZE the legalist, and "absolutely condemn" them as being "judgmental." Their "love and tolerance" and universal acceptance of all ideas does not extend to the legalist "list maker." While they condemn the legalist for being "judgmental", their very condemnation of the judgmental legalist [IS] an act of "judgmentalism".
Is one better than the other? Some of the staunchest preaching against immorality has been carried on by legalists, who ultimately get discovered and exposed for their own affairs. Those that they call "heathen" do the same, although not so secretly. They both have sinned. Sin is sin. God sees them both.
Paul asks the question; You with all your long list of pieties you claim to adhere to, and expect others to obey; do you think God will judge you any less than that "heathen", when you do the same things he does? (vs3) You must understand, God does not judge "according to sight" (what you've been sneaking around, thinking nobody knows about) but with "righteous judgment" (Jn7:24) because He knows the "truth." (vs2)
The legalist would [like to] call God's "fire" down upon the "heathen" to consume him. The legalist has no mercy on "carnality." "God should judge THEM! THEY are such terrible sinners!" Well...just hold on one moment, there! Who do you think you are? Do you not realize that it is God's "MERCY" ...His "forbearance and long-suffering" which leads to repentance? (vs4) God does not answer to YOU regarding judging THEM. But do you not realize that His mercy which leads to the sinner's (THEIR) repentance, is also the same long-suffering which gives YOU time to repent; but if you don't, you are storing up "wrath for yourself in a day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (vs5) unless you soften your heart?
What is the basis for God's judgment? Works. (vs6) If you notice the Great White Throne judgment (Rev20:12) the "dead" are judged and sent into the Lake of Fire "according to their works." They got to that judgment by not being found in the Book of Life. But the degree of the severity of their judgment is based on their works. For the Believer, his judgment and/or rewards are based on his works, how he "builds" on the foundation of Jesus Christ. (1Cor3:10-15) We all stand before the "judgment seat" of Christ (Rom14:10) to be judged according to what we've done while in these bodies. (2Cor5:10)
Well, "just a minute" someone will say; "are we not saved by grace...NOT of works"?(Eph2:8-9) That's right. But we are save "..[TO] good works" (vs10) James speaks of the works "showing [the] faith". (Jas2:18) How do we know we are looking at a duck? It waddles, swims and quacks. Thus, Paul speaks of "work out your salvation..." (Phil2:12 -nkjv/kjv) Which is why a more correct rendering is "cultivate your salvation." (mkjv)
Working out or cultivating (with care) that which is of value to our hearts. The legalist and heathen are on equal footing in God's sight. The legalist presumes he has an "advantage" because of his pious "list" he lives by. That "list" is his holy grail. Everything is compared to and judged by...that "list." But you see, it is not the "list" ...the "Law" that God judges. But what a person "does." Sinners are judged, whether they be legalists or heathen. (vs9) But "glory, honor and peace" will be accorded to "every man who works good", whether he be the legalist or heathen. (vs10)
Let us, at this point, label them as Paul does as we progress further. Jew and Greek. What we've just been comparing between legalists and heathen is the same as what was between Jew and Greek. The Jews had the Law, the Greeks (gentile/nations) did not. Jews rested upon and relied upon the Law (and Moses), while breaking it at every turn.
God does not look at "heritage" but at each "individual." (vs11) If a person's heritage is Moses and the Law, he is judged from that perspective. If he is a heathen "Greek", God judges him equally...individually.(vs12) You see, there is something greater than the Law which God has endowed each of us with. "CONSCIENCE." (vs15) While there is Moses' law, before Moses ever came along there was already a "law." This law is written "in their hearts." The heathen "by nature" know this law-of-the-heart. They reference it, even though they never heard of Moses. (vs14) By repeated disobedience, most people have "seared" their consciences. (1Ti4:2) When skin is tender and properly moisturized, it has the ability to sense and feel stimuli. Hot, cold, soft, rough. But if the skin becomes calloused, chapped, scabbed from burns or injury; it no longer has its original sensitivity. Same with conscience. When sin is first committed, the battle rages about doing it. But as a person explains it away enough times, and does it repeatedly...pretty soon it becomes "OK" and easier. Eventually, if the person knows Scripture, he has devised some sort of Scriptural explanation for why it is "condoned by God" and thus, he is righteous. To him it's an "explanation", but truth be told, it's an "excuse." (vs15b)
Well, a "day" is coming when "God shall judge the secrets of men..." (vs16)
For the legalist, if his heart is not right, his judgment is more severe. He "boast[s] in the Law" (vs23) but "dishonor[s] God through breaking the Law." As we see, every time another "man of God" is exposed for what he had hoped was a "secret sin" ..."the name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you.." (vs24) Jesus taught, "And that servant who knew his lord's will and did not...according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he not knowing, and doing things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For to whomever much is given, of him much shall be required. And to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." (Lk12:47-48) You see...in this case the Law actually brings greater judgment. He knew better, and yet disobeyed. For such a one, "..it would have been better for them not to have fully known the way of righteousness, than fully knowing it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2Pt2:21)
So, what about the "Law"? We'll discover in later studies that it was set up to be a "standard" ...a "plumb line" to God's holiness. But the Law, itself, does not save. A person, just because he claims to be a "Law-keeper", is not saved; because he breaks it and transgresses. On the other hand, a person not knowing that something called "the Law" exists, but based on his conscience, obeys the Law written in his heart, he is actually a true "Law-keeper." (vs26) A transgressor, by his transgression, becomes a "heathen." But a heathen, by his obedience, becomes a Law-keeper, even though he doesn't know its proper label.
While this obedience or transgression appears to be "outwardly in flesh" (vs28) ...this is what we humanly see; the True Nature is the "inward" one. When God had given the Law and Israel promised, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do.." (Ex19:8,24:3) God responded, "Oh that there were such a heart in them..." (Deu5:29)
But you see, as we began; in the end there is no excuse when we stand for judgment. The true matter is of the heart. The conscience God put within each one of us. This is separate from the Law. "..he is a Jew [Believer] who is one inwardly, ...of the heart; in spirit and not in letter, whose praise is not from men, but from God." (vs29) Because it is Jesus Christ who sees "even to the dividing apart of soul and spirit...and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (Heb4:12-13) And He "..will render to each according to his works..." (vs6)