Judgment and Patience in the Right Context of Salvation
Rom 2:1 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.
Rom. 2:2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.
Rom. 2:3 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?
Rom. 2:4 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?
Judgment is a really hard thing. What the Bible says about judgment is a lot more complex than the oft-stated “The Bible says not to judge!”
Does that count for gunmen that storm into a Mosque or the mom screaming at her kids at the grocery store? What about the felon or the divorced woman or the Cubs fan or that cranky person you can’t stand to be around? Where does it stop?
The trick is, judgment is a real thing and throughout the Bible evil deeds are judged by God and sometimes punished. Sometimes the punishment is immediate, sometimes it’s in the distant future, sometimes it’s put onto another. Paul will write later in Romans 6 that the wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. There is a time where evil will be ultimately shown to be evil and everything that is untrue will be undone forever.
Even now we go through life with discernment and judgment in our decisions. We judge this to be a wise decision or this to be a bad decision. That kind of judgment is encouraged on almost every page of the book of Proverbs. Being a good judge of character is an honorable and desirable trait.
The judgment that Paul is talking about here, and he’ll develop the idea more deeply later, is that we should not condemn people with our judgment. It’s one thing to say someone is doing something foolish, or even that they are not acting in a way that glorifies God, but when we decide who is going to Hell based on this or that activity, we judge ourselves as well.
Here is how it works.
If you judge someone as lost and doomed by God because of something they do, you must never ever do the spiritually or sin-equivalent of that thing. If a person murders and you judge them as hell-bound, you judge yourself if you ever hated someone in your heart, which is the root of that murder. If you condemn someone to Hell because they had an affair, you judge yourself if you ever lusted after someone because that is the active root of the same thing they did.
Paul is setting us up to see that we are all in need of grace for salvation no matter how pure and holy we think we are. There are sinners and there are lost people and Hell is real, but you only escape it by the gift of God’s grace. His work is the work in which we boast, not our own.
That is why Paul brings up God’s kindness and forbearance. That’s what got you saved, you who are tempted to judge. If we spent more time talking about the goodness and patience of God that leads us to repentance instead of screaming repentance out of people, we might make better progress. Paul asks us, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness?” which is another way of saying “Are you working against God’s kindness? Are you taking God’s kindness for granted?”
God is so good and patient with us. He even watches as we get this wrong and try to understand it over and over again.