Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHITE COLLAR SINNERS”

Romans 2.1-5

How many of you recognize an infamous name from the past, Marion Barry? Just raise your bands. Recall, if you are old enough to remember, that the Honorable Marion Barry used to be the director of the “Say Yes To Drugs Campaign” in Washington, D. C. back around 1990. Seriously, Marion Barry was once the mayor of Washington, D. C. who was arrested and tried for possession and use of cocaine while he was the mayor! And you will remember that the F. B. I. had video tapes in which he was shown smoking crack cocaine, back in the days before the F. B. I. was a thoroughly corrupt organization. Marion Barry was the American version of Toronto’s cocaine-addicted mayor, the late Rob Ford. When Mayor Barry was brought to trial in federal court, he was tried for some felonies and a misdemeanor but was found innocent of every charge except the single misdemeanor. Isn’t the jury system wonderful? So obvious and so clearly established was his guilt by the evidence during his trial, especially the video tapes showing everyone in the world his crack smoking on a number of different occasions and openly talking about his criminal activities, that the judge who presided over the trial strongly rebuked the jury for their bias when he was found not guilty of the felony charges.

But you know something? I never thought Marion Barry would be convicted of anything, whether or not he did anything illegal. And you want to know why? Because the prosecutor was foolish enough to think that establishing the fact of the mayor’s guilt was enough to bring about a verdict of guilty. Do we not see the same thing playing out in the political arena with the most criminally corrupt candidate for president in U. S. history? It is likely in our dying country and culture that she will nevertheless be elected president. There is a world of difference between actually being guilty and being found guilty in a court of law or the court of public opinion. We saw that back in the day when President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, was clearly guilty of numerous high crimes and misdemeanors, was stripped of his license to practice law, and yet was not convicted even back then by the corrupt United States Senate. Being guilty and being found guilty are not the same things, especially when you are being tried before a jury of twelve men and women who are extremely sympathetic to you, or by a jury of one hundred Senators who hope to someday curry your favor. No. If the prosecutor back in the day wanted to convict Marion Barry he should have gone about it in another way, entirely.

What he should have done was prosecute one of the numerous low life street criminals of the city, preferably someone who sold drugs to kids, someone who sold drugs to young prostitutes, and someone who certainly looked the part of a lowlife criminal. Prosecute that guy, establish beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is as guilty as sin, and since no jury would have any sympathy for such a man as that, they would quickly return a guilty verdict. Then what you do is show that the accused the jury has a natural sympathy for is guilty of the same crimes, and has in fact done the same things when you examine the crimes under the surface, that the common street criminal committed. Having brought a guilty verdict for the man they have no sympathy for, the prosecutor can then force a guilty verdict out of the jury against the person they tend to have sympathy for. Or, and this is even better, the jury now understands the seriousness of the latter’s crime and no longer has any sympathy for him whatsoever, and will find him appropriately guilty as charged. That is how the district attorney would have prosecuted Marion Barry in a perfect world if he thought he was guilty of felony drug use. And when you think of it, that is exactly what the Apostle Paul does in his letter to the Romans. He seeks to establish the fact of all mankind’s sinfulness so the Christians in Rome he is writing to will see the great need of lost men for his Gospel ministry. But realizing that he has an audience that might be somewhat sympathetic to the unsaved Jewish population given the fact that many Christians in Rome were themselves Jewish believers in Christ, Paul begins by prosecuting those for whom no sympathy would be felt by anyone, the wicked pagan Gentiles.

Having clearly established to the satisfaction of all the sinfulness of the Gentiles in Romans chapter 1, Paul now turns to the prosecution of the Jewish person, and perhaps also the unsaved moralist. Remembering that all through Romans 1.20-32 the imagined Jewish Christian (and likely even the unsaved Jewish person as well as the moral Gentile) reader would be agreeing with every word Paul said about the wickedness and horror of Gentile sins, and understanding that the Jewish man characteristically condemned the Gentiles around him for their ungodly lifestyle, it might come as a great shock and surprise to learn that Paul now turns to the Jewish person’s situation and shows him that he, too, stands condemned before God for his response to God’s revelation.

In verses 1-5 of Romans chapter 2 we see why Paul accuses the Jewish person of being in the same boat, spiritually, with the pagan Gentile whose lifestyle and sins he agreed with Paul in condemning:

 

1      Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

2      But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

3      And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

4      Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

5      But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

 

Consider the three reasons for Paul’s indictment with me:

 

First, “THEREFORE THOU ART INEXCUSABLE, O MAN,” BECAUSE OF THE ACTIONS OF YOUR DOING

 

Though you might think that in condemning the lifestyle of the pagan Gentile the Jewish person ought to be commended, we see in verses 1-3 that such is not the case with Paul. And to make this personal, place yourself in that Jewish person’s shoes. Let’s assume, for the moment, that you are in full agreement with what Paul wrote in Romans 1.20-32 and that, being a Jewish person, or even a Gentile of high morality, you have always been opposed to such Gentile wickedness as is commonly practiced. With that in mind, note what Paul writes to you:

In verse 1, note your condemnation:

 

“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”

 

My goodness, what an ingrate Paul might be thought by a Jewish person to be. Here you are on his side on this issue, and he comes back at you like that. But are you on his side on this issue just because you oppose what he opposes? I don’t think so. Paul writes that you are inexcusable, the same thing he wrote regarding the pagan Gentiles in Romans 1.20, the only other place in the Bible he uses this word. But why would Paul say that you are without excuse? Because you are guilty yourself of what you condemn in others. Does that mean you are an idolater like the others, or that you are disobedient to your parents, or that you hate God, or that you engage in sex sins? Not at all. Paul is not accusing you of having the same symptoms as the pagan Gentiles, only of having the same spiritual malady. What you do, you see, your personal conduct, is only symptomatic of what the actual problem is. You are condemning people for rebellion against God, for failing to respond properly to God’s revelation of Himself. But that’s exactly what you have done in your life.

In verse 2, note Paul’s confidence:

 

“But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.”

 

Paul seems rather sure of himself in this pronouncement, doesn’t he? The “we are sure” phrase indicates that he expects absolutely no opposition to the statement he is about to make. And what is that statement? God’s judgment is according to truth. That’s first. God does not judge according to what anyone thinks, or according to anyone’s feelings, but according to what is. He does not deal in fancy or facade, but in facts. That will shake up a great many people come Judgment Day who have fooled themselves and fooled other people, and who thought they fooled God. Secondly, God’s judgment is against them which commit such things. This is quite different than what people want to think about God, is it not? It will surprise many people who think they have a handle on God’s nature to realize too late that God’s judgment is actually against people.

Now, note your conceit in verse 3:

 

“And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”

 

And where is the conceit in this statement? It’s in the supposedly moral sinner thinking that he will escape the judgment of God, even though he deserves the judgment of God himself. You see, these people that Paul is now referring to do not deny that they are sinful. They are not deceived into thinking they have no sin, as First John 1.8 says some are deceived. Where they are deceived is in thinking that because they side with morality, because they agree with God that sin is sinful, that that will somehow enable them to escape the judgment of God. My friend, you do not escape the judgment of God just because there are some issues in which you and God are in agreement. The fact that you presume to judge those who have the same root sin problem you have, differing only in some of the outward symptoms, indicates that you are condemned yourself.

 

Next, “THOU ARE INEXCUSABLE, O MAN,” BECAUSE OF THE ATTITUDE OF YOUR DESPISING

 

Verse 4:

 

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”

 

When you, Jewish person or unsaved moralist, observe that because God’s judgment has already begun to fall upon the Gentiles (as we have seen in Romans chapter 1) but not on you, and when you falsely conclude from that that you are somehow right with God, you are revealing an attitude of despising.

And what is it you have despised? You are despising the riches of God’s goodness. You are despising God’s forbearance. And you are despising God’s long-suffering. You despise the richness of God’s goodness by thinking that God is satisfied with your life and that He is pleased with your lifestyle while ignoring the obvious reality that God is just good to you. Not because you deserve God’s goodness, but because goodness is one of God’s attributes. It’s just the way He is. You despise God’s forbearance because you don’t recognize that forbearance doesn’t mean that judgment isn’t going to fall, just that it’s not going to fall yet. You mistake your satisfaction with yourself for God’s satisfaction with you. And you despise God’s long-suffering for not realizing that it has taken this wonderful attribute of God’s personality to explain God’s willingness to give you time to repent when the fact remains that you deserve judgment now. You see, you despise something when you think you deserve it, when actually you don’t; when you treat it as common, when actually it isn’t; when you think it is guaranteed, when actually it’s not. Clearly, it is not a good thing to despise God’s attributes, for in despising God’s attributes you are despising God Himself.

With this understood, what is disclosed with these things despised? There are two things you disclose about yourself when you despise God’s goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering: First, there is a disclosure related to knowledge. When a man despises God’s goodness, God’s forbearance, and God’s long-suffering, the only thing that man is showing is his ignorance, his lack of knowledge, even though he erroneously thinks he is showing how cool he is or how sophisticated he thinks he is. People who condemn others, people who are so self-righteous in their lost condition, such as these Jewish people Paul refers to, who think they know so much about God. Or at least they think they know so much about the way God ought to be. The truth, however, is that they know nothing. They are profoundly ignorant about the things of God. And the result is a great misunderstanding of what God is doing and why. Which brings me to the second disclosure. It’s a disclosure of need. Not only do these people misunderstand what God is doing, and despise His goodness as a result, but they also misunderstand why He is doing it. Though they didn’t think they were good, they did think they were good enough. God, however, is not of that opinion. And God showed His goodness and His forbearance and His long-suffering for the express purpose of giving to the Jewish people not only time to repent but exposure to the truth that they needed to repent. Did God choose to communicate to the Gentile world any requirement for repentance? No. Review Romans chapter one and you will see no demand from God that they repent. Look through the Old Testament, and you will see only the prophet Jonah demanding that Gentiles repent. And it is in Acts 17.30 that Paul was led to declare to the Gentiles in Athens,

 

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.”

 

So you see, Gentiles of old did not typically know (because they typically were not told) of their need for repentance. It was different for the Jewish people, was it not? God showed His goodness to them more clearly by revealing to them their great need for repentance, yet still, they did not repent.

 

Finally, “THOU ART INEXCUSABLE, O MAN,” BECAUSE OF YOUR ACCUMULATION TOWARD HIS DAY

 

Verse 5:

 

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

 

People who are religious but unregenerate think that they are doing good things and that God will be so pleased with the treasures of good works that they store up that He will give them a nice eternity in heaven. But it’s not going to be quite as they have imagined it. In reality, they are storing up for their destruction.

Notice why there is such an accumulation as we see in this verse. Two descriptions here, hardness and impenitent heart: First, see that word “hardness?” Don’t picture a rock, when you imagine this word “hardness.” Instead, imagine a twig. What it ought to be is green and very flexible to stand against the strong wind without breaking. But what it is is dead, dry, and brittle. Apply force to bend it, it doesn’t bend. It breaks. Paul has in mind people who don’t commit the horrible sins of Romans chapter 1, but who are rigid and inflexible to the will of God, just the same. A synonym would be stubborn. The second description is “impenitent heart.” This is a heart that refuses to repent. And why? It’s anybody’s guess what the logic might be, but I am of the opinion that the Jewish person referred to here, or perhaps the religious or the moral but lost person, is of the opinion that repentance is for those described in Romans chapter 1, but not for him. And because this type of person refuses to be flexible to the will of God that would lead to repentance, because this person has a heart that refuses to acknowledge the need of repentance, there is an accumulation, there is a storing up, there is a laying up of treasure, which is what the Greek word here literally means.[1] What kind of heart does Paul refer to here? A heart that is a stranger to the New Covenant, the heart of one who is not born again.[2]

But what kind of treasure is being laid up? Here’s the irony. The person who is so confident because of his superior lifestyle that he is laying up treasures is laying up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. He is making sure, by his hypocritical piety, that God’s cup of wrath for him will be full on Judgment Day. And he is guaranteeing that God’s righteous judgment will, on him, be revealed.

 

Do you see how Paul did it? Having already shown his readers that the uncivilized pagan Gentiles were obviously guilty of wretched sinfulness, he has turned his attention to the Jewish sinner, and perhaps the unsaved moralist. If you want to draw a parallel between the Gentile sinners and the Jewish sinners, think about the difference between a man who jacks a car and the infamous billionaire George Soros. The car jacker is functionally illiterate, he is uncouth, he has bad breath and doesn’t bathe very often, and he was probably a high school dropout. He stole $27 and change and took someone’s car only to be arrested in thirty minutes after a high-speed chase on the freeway that will lead Mr. Brilliance to ten years in prison. George Soros, on the other hand, is extremely wealthy, dresses impeccably, is highly educated, travels the world in his private jet, and makes money by manipulating the currencies of entire nations. But if his reputation is anywhere close to reality, he, too, is a thief. A sophisticated thief, but a thief nevertheless.

The difference between the Jewish moralists and the Gentiles is not a difference in sinfulness, just as the difference between George Soros and the common thief is not a difference in honesty. The Jewish people just committed different kinds of sins. Therefore, they were just as sinful in the sight of God as the worst Gentile . . . differing only in what kind of sins were committed.

The same is true of you and me. Individually, we are somewhere between the worst and the best. But if both the worst and the best are guilty in the sight of God, as Paul has established, then we in the middle are also guilty and in need of the salvation from our sins that only Jesus Christ provides. Amen? How about you?

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[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 352.

[2] Ezekiel 36.26-27

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org