Romans 2:1-16 : 15/10/00 10.45 a.m.

This letter was first written to the people of the church at Rome (1:7), who were predominantly Gentile. Jews, however, must have constituted a substantial minority of the congregation (see 4:1; chs. 9-11;).

Paul's primary theme in Romans is the basic gospel, God's plan of salvation and righteousness for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike (1:16-17). It is "Righteousness from God" (1:17) includes justification by faith, but it also embraces such related ideas as guilt, sanctification and security.

Paul's purposes for writing this letter were varied:

1. He wrote to prepare the way for his coming visit to Rome and his proposed mission to Spain (1:10-15; 15:22-29).

2. He wrote to present the basic system of salvation to a church that had not received the teaching of an apostle before.

3. He sought to explain the relationship between Jew and Gentile in God's overall plan of redemption. The Jewish Christians were being rejected by the larger Gentile group in the church (14:1) because the Jewish believers still felt constrained to observe dietary laws and sacred days (14:2-6).

As we look at this we will see : True judgement; True faith; and True revelation.

True judgement, verses 1-5;

Towards the end of Chapter 1 Paul had been describing the judgement that will fall upon those who do not truly follow God. This includes a list of the sins that they display. From the start of Chapter 2 Paul has an imaginary conversation with someone, probably a Jewish Christian, who would condemn such actions.

There are three reasons why we are not equipped to judge others.

1) We are guilty.

We all fail to follow the way of Jesus. To love God with our whole being all of the time, and to love others as ourselves. So we have no right to condemn others.

"It takes one to know one." "The pot calls the kettle black." Or, as the Spanish say, "The donkey calls the pig 'long ears.' " All these proverbs echo Paul's point: we often criticize in others the very thing we ourselves say or do.

Or perhaps we criticise to distract from our own sins and to justify ourselves. Because of our sin it is very difficult for us to be impartial.

2) We do not know everything.

Have you ever heard someone make an unjust judgement about yourself, and thought, 'That is not the whole truth ? '

We do not know enough about things to even start to make a fair judgement. Perhaps the only person we do know enough about is ourselves, and we tend to excuse our own actions.

3) Our judgement is immediate, we tend to see something and condemn it, rather than think about is. To think about the reasons why someone would do such a thing. We may also fail to give them time to realise what they have done and to do something about it.

Therefore, because of these things we are unable to give a true judgement. This contrasts with someone who is qualified to judge.

God is perfect and impartial, verse 11. He knows everything, verse 2.

God is merciful in delaying his judgement to give people time to repent, verse 4.

This story illustrates God's mercy to us in Jesus.

"My time on earth came to an end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a courthouse. The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defence table.

As I looked around I saw the "prosecutor," he was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me, he definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen.

I sat down and looked to my left and there sat my lawyer, a kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed very familiar to me.

The corner door flew open and there appeared the judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence as he moved across the room and I couldn't take my eyes off of him.

As he took his seat behind the bench he said "Let us begin."

The prosecutor rose and said "My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this man belongs in hell." He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole and in the past when I cheated others.

Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't look at anyone, even my own lawyer, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about.

As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at my representative who sat there silently not offering any form of defence at all. I know I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life-couldn't that at least equal out part of the harm I've done?

Satan finished with a fury and said "This man belongs in hell, he is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise. Justice will finally be served this day."

When it was his turn, my lawyer first asked if he might approach the bench. The judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned him to come forward.

As he got up and started walking I was able to see him now in his full splendour and majesty. Now I realised why he seemed so familiar, this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Saviour.

He stopped at the bench and softly said to the judge "Dad" and then he turned to address the court. "Satan was correct in saying that this man had sinned, I won't deny any of these allegations. And yes the wages of sins is death and this man deserves to be punished"

Jesus took a deep breath and turned to his Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed "However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and he has accepted me as his Saviour, so he is mine." My Lord continued with "His name is written in the book of life and no one can snatch him from me. Satan still does not understand yet, this man is not to be given justice but rather mercy."

As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at his Father and replied "There is nothing else that needs to be done, I've done it all"

The Judge lifted his mighty hand and slammed the gavel down and the following words bellowed from his lips- "This man is free-the penalty for him has already been paid in full, case dismissed."

As my Lord lead me away I could hear Satan ranting and raving "I won't give up, I'll win the next one."

I asked Jesus, as he gave me my instructions where to go next, "Have you ever lost a case. "Christ lovingly smiled and said "Everyone that has come to me and asked me to represent them has received the same verdict as you, Paid in Full."

God's true judgement on sin was nailed to the cross with Jesus.

( True judgement; ) True faith verses 5-11;

Verse 6 says that ' God will give to each person according to what he has done'. Does this mean that we earn our salvation rather than receive is as a free gift ?

No, verses 4 and 5 show that receiving the free gift of Jesus involves repentance. A turning away from a self-centred life to a life lived God's way. So the sign that the of true faith is found in verse 7 which talks about persisting in doing good. Persisting refers to a continuing action, keeping going for God, having faith and actions. Profession without practice is presumptuous.

Verse 7 continues referring to seeking glory, honour and immortality. Good things can, sometimes be done for the wrong reasons, for example someone may be generous to try and create a good impression.

God looks at our motivations as well as our actions. If we are motivated by loving and serving him he will know this, even of other do not. He will reward those who try to follow him and show this in their lives by giving them 'eternal life', verse 7

I guess many of us saw some of the Olympics. One of the most heartening stories there was the swimmer who didn't really stand a chance of winning his heat until the other two contestants were disqualified for a false start. This one swimmer was left to complete the race, he started off at breakneck speed but, as time went on slowed down and just struggled to finish the race. But, although he was in a different league to the top swimmers, and was easily beaten in the next heat, he kept going and won his race.

Paul said that eternal life awaits each of us who finishes the race. But finishing is much harder than starting. Finishing means keeping going day in and day out. Finishing means training and self-denial and staying focused on the goal.

God has not put us here to start. God has put us here to finish. Keep

running the good race.

8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

God is just and will condemn those people who have not turned to him but have followed their own way.

( True judgement; True faith; and ) True revelation.

In verses 9 and 10 Paul refers to the Jews first, and the Gentiles second. He does this because of the revelation that God has given, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.

God revealed himself to the Jews through their history and, what we know of as the Old testament and, particularly 'The Law', the first five books of the Bible. Because of this privilege the Jews had the responsibility of responding to God's undeserved favour by living for him.

God revealed himself to the Gentiles in 2 different ways.

In 1:20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

In 2:15, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

We can deduce from this that even those who have not heard about Jesus will be fairly judged by God in the way that they have responded to his revelation. Whether that is through nature, through the conscience or through the Bible. Whatever"The Writing on the Wall," William Willimon tells of a funeral in a little country church in America.

"I had never been to a funeral like this one. They had the body out there. The casket was open, and the funeral consisted of a sermon by their preacher.

"The preacher pounded on the pulpit and looked over at the casket. He would say, 'It's too late for Joe. He might have wanted to get his life together. He might have wanted to spend more time with his family. He might have wanted to do that, but he's dead now. It is too late for him, but it is not too late for you. There is still time for you. You still can decide. You still are alive. It is not too late for you. Today is the day of decision.'

"Then the preacher told how a Greyhound bus had run into a funeral procession once on the way to the cemetery, and that could happen today. He said, 'You should decide today. Today is the day to get your life together. Too late for old Joe, but it's not too late for you.'

"I was so angry at that preacher. On the way home, I told my wife, 'Have you ever seen anything as manipulative and as insensitive to that poor family? I found it disgusting.'

"She said, 'I've never heard anything like that. It was manipulative. It was insensitive. Worst of all, it was also true.'"

It is through the 'gospel' that we see the ultimate revelation of God in Jesus. This gospel whilst it is good news involves the judgement of the living and the dead by God through Jesus , verse 16.

Let us be motivated to keep living lives devoted to Jesus, and to share that good news with those who, otherwise face an eternity without God.