The Inexcusable Judge:
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 8a of 83

“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.” (Romans 2:1)

We have been studying the book of Romans. Thus far, most of our messages seem to weigh heavily on guilt and sin. This is so because the apostle is seeking to prove that the whole world is guilty before God. He is seeking to convince us that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin (See Rom 3:9b). In chapter 1, he shows us that the Gentiles are guilty. In chapter 2, he shows us that the Jews are also guilty. Chapter 3 is kind of a climax where he pronounces that all are guilty before God!

Does this mean that chapter 2 is irrelevant to us? No, that is not the case. In fact, as we shall see, it is especially applicable to us.

Let us begin our study of this chapter by looking at verse 1.

This verse invites us to ask three questions: First, who is he that judges? Secondly, Why is the judge inexcusable? Thirdly, what shall we do?

1. Who is he that judges?

a.  We pointed out that chapter is about the Jew. So the immediate answer as to “who is he that judges?” is “The Jew.”

The Jews thought themselves to be a righteous people. Outwardly, they did not behave as the Gentiles. They were not idolaters the way that the pagans were. They were a moral people generally. They were used to judging and condemning other people. During the Lord’s earthly ministry, the Lord and His disciples were loudly criticised by the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees for associating with people of seemingly lower morals. “Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” They demanded (Lk 5:30).

But were they righteous? No, no; Paul should know. He was “an Hebrew of the Hebrews; [and] as touching the law, a Pharisee” (Phil 3:5). But he tells us that his good works and good morals in those days,—far from being righteousness,—were useless dung. The righteousness of the unconverted Jew is one of works. It is filthy rags and dung in the sight of God.

Who is he that judges? The unrighteous Jew is he.

b.  But now, none of us are Jews. Does this mean that the passage is not applicable to us? No, in fact, it is especially applicable to us. When Paul speaks of the Gentiles, he is referring to those outside the covenant community. He is speaking about unbelievers. We were all Gentiles. In the words of Paul to the Ephesians, We were…

“in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision… [we] were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:11-12).

In that sense, we are no longer Gentiles. We are Jews. We are spiritual Jews. We are the true Jews. We are the Israel of God. In fact, twice in His letters to the Churches, the Lord indicates that the unbelieving Jews ought no longer to be called Jews. He speaks of them “which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9; 3:9). The true Jew is the Christian. The Israel of God is the Church.

Who is he that judges? Not just the Jew in the flesh, but all of us who are Christian! We share with the Jews of old the privilege of having the Law of God. We share with them too the privilege of being God’s covenant people; and of having moral instruction and upbringing.

c.  But take careful note that Paul is not addressing the church corporately. He is not saying that as a body we tend to judge. Neither is he saying that as Christians we tend to judge, nor even that some Christians tend to be judgemental.

He says: “thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest.” Notice that he is addressing his readers to a man. He was talking about men in the plural. Now, he is speaking to man in the singular. He is speaking to you and I, individually.

Who is he that judges? It is you and I, individually! “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest” says Paul.

We all have a tendency to judge. We tend to see the faults of others much more clearly than we see our own faults. Our Lord warns us against this: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Mt 7:3).

Now, think about this carefully. The nature of this sin is that you and I would not be prepared to own it. We are prepared to see that other people are judgemental, but we get angry when others tell us that we are judgemental. You are not angry now because I am speaking to the church as a whole. But if I were to name your name; or I come up to you and point my finger at you and say “You have a judgemental and critical spirit,” you are bound to get upset or angry. I would be too! But that does not mean that we are not judgemental.

Paul is suggesting that we are all judgemental. You can as well replace the word ‘man’, with your own name: “thou art inexcusable, O Tom,” “thou art inexcusable, O Jane…” You are judgemental and inexcusable whether you admit it or not.

A man who has bad breath, is disgusted by the bad breath of another, but not by his own. So he goes about having bad breath until someone is kind enough to tell him. Or until he gets married and his wife tells him so.

But being judgemental is far worse than having bad breath. The danger that comes with being judgemental is that we tend to forget that we are guilty and inexcusable. While the pot is calling the kettle black, he forgets that he himself is black. Is that not a common experience? The man who speaks most vehemently against pride is often the proudest. The man who speaks most loudly against immorality is often blinded by his own immorality.

It is so important that we realise that we are individually guilty and without excuse. As long as we do not see that we are guilty and inexcusable, we have no hope!

This is what Paul wants to drill into our hearts. He spoke about how the wrath of God is revealed against all who hold down the truth in unrighteousness. God’s wrath is not reserved for His children. But unless we see and acknowledge that we deserve God’s wrath, we are doomed!

And so we are doomed and the Word of God is useless to us, unless we see that Paul is writing to us individually. Yes, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and to me individually. “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest,” He says.

As long as you think you can stand by passively and enjoy God’s condemnation of the world, you are without hope. The world is in your heart. Paul wants us to know that we are as guilty as the world. He wants us to know that you and I are individually guilty. We are inexcusable.

JJ Lim

To be continued next issue