ďTHE GOODNESS OF GODĒ
1. In Paulís letter to the Romans, written just before he delivered the special offering for the beleaguered Christians in Judea to purchase food with, we possess a wonderful missionary letter that was written to show the Christians in Rome that Paul was well qualified, both doctrinally and by virtue of his experience in the ministry, to receive their prayers and their financial support so he could evangelize Spain to the west.
2. Written to people who only knew him by reputation, Paulís inspired communiquť also served to tighten up the understanding of the Roman Christians on what may be the single most crucial issue that faces Bible believing people, the doctrine of justification by faith.
3. Justification by faith is what I call the ďnexus doctrineĒ of the Christian faith, in that it brings together and focuses all of the crucial doctrines which are essential to New Testament Christianity. Be it the deity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the doctrine of the trinity, the doctrine of Godís sovereignty, the doctrine of manís depravity, and numerous others, these vital truths find their greatest expression as they relate to the doctrine of justification by faith.
4. But what is the doctrine of justification by faith? Though a thorough explanation of the doctrine would take up a good-sized book, justification essentially refers to that act of God whereby He gives to that one who embraces Jesus Christ with saving faith the standing of a righteous man in His sight. Justification has to do with what is done by Jesus Christ for the sinner now become a saint, not what is done by Jesus Christ to the sinner now become a saint.
5. Though justification is one of more than twenty separate works of Godís grace in the life of one who comes to Christ (with such works as regeneration, pardon, indwelling, and adoption being among them), it is the only doctrine that merits an entire book of the New Testament, unless you include the Revelation as that book in the New Testament given over to the doctrine of Christís second coming.
6. As for the content of Paulís letter to the Romans, following a rather lengthy introduction the letter is obviously divided under four major headings, which are the need for justification, the nature of justification, the nation of Israelís relationship to this grand topic, and the kind of behavior that one should expect to see in the lives of those who are justified.
7. Throughout Romans, we benefit from Paulís debate in a dispute with an imagined opponent, clearly resulting from his years of ministry in which he would seek to persuade both Jewish and Gentile audiences that justification is the sinnerís only possible solution to his problem of sin.
8. It is during the course of Paulís effort to prove to his audience that every sinner, both those who are Gentiles and those who are Jews, need to be justified that we come to our text for today. However, do not think that the Romans being written to did not already grasp Paulís doctrine, in the main. Rather, it is likely that his goal was, first, to clarify the doctrine of justification to them in a way they had not seen previously, and, #2, to convince them that he was a missionary who was orthodox according to their understanding of this vital subject.
9. Because he is a depraved sinner, every man stands in need of being justified in the sight of God. That is, since no sinner has any ability to perform good deeds by Godís standards, truly righteous deeds, religious deeds that would satisfy Godís demands for establishing a righteous standing, each and every sinner desperately needs to be justified, desperately needs to be declared righteous in Godís sight.
10. Paul first informs his readers in Romans 1.18 that mankind has a desperate need, where he writes, ďFor the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.Ē But how does sinful man respond to this revelation of Godís wrath? At this point, Paul divides the human race into two groups, the Gentiles and the Jews.
11. In the second half of Romans chapter one Paul illustrates Gentile wickedness by means of three cycles of manís rebellion against God followed by Godís response to manís rebellion. Now, having clearly established to the satisfaction of all, the sinfulness of the Gentiles in Romans chapter 1, Paul turns to the prosecution of the Jew.
12. Remembering that all through Romans 1.20-32 the imagined Jewish reader was in agreement with every word Paul said about the wickedness and horror of Gentile sin, 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 reader and shows him that he, too, stands condemned before God for his response to Godís revelation.
In verses 1-5 of Romans chapter 2 we see three reasons 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.
1A. ďTHEREFORE THOU ART INEXCUSABLE, O MAN,Ē 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.
1B. In verse 1, note their condemnation
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.Ē
1C. My goodness, what an ingrate Paul is. Here, they are on his side on this issue and he comes back at them like that. But are they on his side on this issue just because they oppose what he opposes? I do not think so.
2C. Paul says that they are inexcusable, the same thing he wrote regarding the Gentiles in Romans 1.20, the only other place in the Bible he uses this word. But why would Paul say that Jews are without excuse?
3C. Because they were guilty themselves of what they condemned in others. Does that mean they were idolaters, like the others, or that they were disobedient to their parents, or that they hate God, or that they fornicated, or that they were sodomites? Not at all.
4C. Paul was not accusing them of having the same symptoms as the Gentiles, only of having the same problem. What they did, you see, is only symptomatic of what the problem is.
5C. They were condemning people for rebellion against God, for failing to respond properly to Godís revelation of Himself. But that is exactly what they had done in their own lives.
2B. In verse 2, note Paulís confidence
we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them
which commit such things.Ē
1C. Paul seems rather sure of himself in this pronouncement, doesnít he? The ďwe are sureĒ indicates that he expects absolutely no opposition to the statement he is about to make. And what is that statement?
2C. Godís judgment is according to truth. Thatís first. God does not judge according to what anyone thinks, 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.
3C. Secondly, Godís judgment is against them which commit such things. Different than what people want to think about God. Amen? Godís judgment is actually against people.
3B. Now, note your conceit in verse 3
thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and
doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?Ē
1C. And where is the conceit? It was in thinking that they would escape the judgment of God, even though they deserved the judgment of God.
2C. You see, these people that Paul is now dealing with did not deny that they were sinful. They were not deceived into thinking they had no sin, as First John 1.8 says some are deceived to think. Where they are deceived is in thinking that because they sided with morality, because they agreed 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 they presumed to judge those who had the same root
sin problem they themselves had, differing only in some of the outward
symptoms, indicates that they were condemned themselves.
2A. Next, ďTHOU ART INEXCUSABLE, O MAN,Ē BECAUSE OF THE ATTITUDE OF YOUR DESPISING (2.4)
despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and
longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to
When a Jewish person observed that because Godís judgment has already begun to fall upon the Gentiles, as we have seen in Romans chapter 1, but not on him, and when he falsely concluded from that that he was somehow right with God, he revealed an attitude of despising.
1B. And what is despised?
1C. Paulís unconverted Jewish readers were guilty of despising the richness of Godís goodness, of despising Godís forbearance, and of despising Godís long-suffering.
2C. They despised the richness of Godís goodness by thinking that He was satisfied with their lives, and that He was pleased with their lifestyles, ignoring the obvious reality that God was just being good to them, not because they deserved it, but because goodness is one of Godís attributes. Itís just the way He is.
3C. They despised Godís forbearance because they did not recognize that forbearance does not mean that judgment is not going to fall, just that itís not going to fall yet.
4C. And they despised Godís long-suffering for not realizing that it has taken this wonderful attribute of Godís personality to explain Godís willingness to give them time to repent when they deserved immediate judgment.
5C. You see, something is despised whenever you think you deserve it, when actually you donít; when you treat it as common, when actually it isnít; when you think it is guaranteed, when actually itís not.
2B. With this understood, what is disclosed with these things despised?
There are two things disclosed:
1C. First, there is a disclosure related to knowledge. When a man despises Godís goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, the only thing that man is showing is his ignorance, his lack of knowledge.
2C. People who condemn others, people who are so self-righteous in their lost condition, these Jewish readers 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 great misunderstanding of what God is doing and why.
3C. Which brings me to the second disclosure. Itís a disclosure of need. Not only do these people misunderstand what God was doing, and despise His goodness as a result, but they also misunderstood why He was doing it.
Though they didnít 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 the Jewish people
time to repent, not because they were good enough.
3A. Finally, ďTHOU ART INEXCUSABLE, O MAN,Ē BECAUSE OF YOUR ACCUMULATION TOWARD HIS DAY (2.5)
after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath
against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of
People who are religious but unregenerate actually 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 itís not going to be exactly as they have imagined it. In reality they are storing up for their own destruction.
1B. Notice why there is such an accumulation as we see in this verse
1C. Two descriptions here. Hardness and impenitent heart. See that word ďhardness?Ē Donít picture a rock, when you imagine this word ďhardness.Ē 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 actually is is dead, dry, and brittle. Apply force to bend it, it doesnít bend. It breaks. Paul has in mind people who donít 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.
2C. The second description is ďimpenitent heart.Ē This is a heart that refuses to repent. And why? Itís anybodyís guess what the logic would be, but I am of the opinion that the Jewish reader, that religious but lost person Paul imagines to be reading at this point, is of the opinion that repentance is for those described in Romans chapter 1, not him.
3C. 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 literally means.
2B. But what kind of treasure is being laid up?
1C. Here is the irony. The person who is so confident because of his superior lifestyle that he is laying up treasures is actually 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 Godís cup of
wrath for him will be full on judgment day.
And he is guaranteeing that Godís righteous judgment will, on
him, be revealed.
1. Do you see how Paul did it? Having already shown his readers that the uncivilized Gentiles were obviously guilty of wretched sinfulness, he turned his attention on the Jewish sinner.
2. Folks, if you want to draw a parallel between the Gentile sinners and the Jewish sinners, think about the difference between a man who robs a gas station and Bernie Ebbers, the CEO who was recently convicted of fraud in the debacle and bankruptcy of Fortune 500 company WorldCom.
3. The gas station robber is functionally illiterate, he is uncouth, he has bad breath and doesnít bathe very often, and he was probably a high school dropout. He stole $27 and change.
4. Bernie Ebbers, on other hand, is extremely wealthy, dresses impeccably, and is well educated. But he, too, is a thief. Only his theft resulted in thousands of retirees no longer having pensions and thousands of employees losing their jobs.
5. The difference between the Jews and the Gentiles is not a difference in sinfulness, just as the difference between Bernie Ebbers and the common thief is not a difference in honesty. The Jews 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 committed.
Now brother Isenberger comes to lead us before this morningís
message from Godís Word.
1. My text is Romans 2.4. When you find that verse, stand for the reading of Godís Word: ďOr despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?Ē
2. I speak for a few minutes to you here today who are more similar to Paulís Jewish readers who are addressed in Romans chapter two than to the Gentiles he described in the second half of Romans chapter one.
Pay careful attention while I show you how you
have despised Godís goodness:
1A. First, BY SHOWING YOU WHAT GODíS GOODNESS IS
1B. Godís goodness is one of His divine attributes. It is a part of His very nature as God. Therefore, being good, showing His goodness, is as much what God is as what God does.
2B. What this means is that God cannot ever be not good. It is not possible for Him to be bad, but always and only good. Thus, everything God has ever and will ever do must be good, because God is good.
3B. This is where some of you have gone terribly wrong. I spoke to someone at camp who called into question the very goodness of God. Perhaps you are guilty of the same sin. It may be that you are one of those individuals who thinks that God is only good when things go your way, or when you get what you want, and that whenever you experience difficulties God is not being good to you.
Of course, such thinking is very much off course.
Because God is good He can only do good, even when you might think
2A. Next, BY SHOWING YOU WHAT GODíS GOODNESS DOES
Keep in mind that I am showing you how you have despised the riches of Godís goodness.
1B. Paul informs us that Godís goodness is abundant. He writes of ďthe riches of his goodness.Ē But what does Godís goodness do? Ultimately, in the case of sinners like you, the goodness of God leads to repentance. That is, the goodness of God works to direct people to, to bring people to, repentance.
2B. Think about your situation as compared to the Jews. They had the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). They had the Law (given to Moses on Mount Sinai). They had the prophets. They had the promises. To them were committed the oracles of God.
3B. And in like manner, what has God given you? The gospel, this church, Christian parents and adult Christian role models, a Christian school for some of you, a serious and effective summer camp ministry for those who take advantage of it, well prepared Bible sermons.
Understand, the purpose of Godís many goodnesses toward you is
the same as Godís many goodnesses toward the Jewish people, to lead you
to repentance. Godís desire
has been for you to see your sinfulness, to benefit from the many prayers
offered up for you, and temptations that loving parents have spared you
from, so that you would come to Christ at an early age and amount to
something for God as an adult.
3A. BUT WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH GODíS GOODNESS INSTEAD OF REPENTING?
1B. Understand that by repent I am talking about the other side of coming to Christ. When a sinner repents of his sins, he only really does so by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. And when a sinner comes to Christ, really comes to Christ, he has repented of his sins.
2B. But what have you done while God, in His goodness, has held back judgment and wrath? What have you done with the benefit that God gave you of having a Christian mother, or a Christian father, or a gospel preaching church full of people who pray for you?
Do you look at yourself and think, ďOh, Lord, I am unworthy of
the many blessings you pour out on me.
Who am I to receive such blessings from God?Ē
No. What you do
instead of repenting of your sins, what you do instead of coming to
Christ, is use your many opportunities and blessings to commit yet more
1. The Lord Jesus Christ left heavenís glory to suffer, and bleed, and die for sinners. He was buried and rose from the dead on the third day in a glorified body, and now sits at His Fatherís right hand on high.
2. It has been Godís goodness that has placed you in a position to hear the wonderful message of salvation, to be told that you can be forgiven all your sins if you will come to Jesus Christ, and that the God you have sinned against loves you enough to make all of this possible.
3. To turn your back on the Lord Jesus Christ, to ignore the opportunities God has given you, to continue on in your lost condition is far worse than simply not coming to Christ. It is active opposition to God by despising the riches of His goodness.
4. When you do that, as was pointed out in Romans 2.5 in my exposition, you are actually storing up wrath for yourself against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. In other words, you are shoveling the coal into the furnace that will be your place of eternal torment.
5. Are you sure you want to do that? Are you sure you want to despise the goodness of God?