The fallen human race is in need of God’s righteousness as is seen in these verses. It is rather easy to show and believe that the immoral persons of Romans 1:21-32 were destitute of righteousness, and that it was necessary for them to acquire the “righteousness of God” for salvation. (See: first study in this series.) But now another kind of person is in view in our text. He is the moral person. A person who mistakes respectability for righteousness. A person who compares himself with others and proudly judges them as inferiors and sinners. A person who has, perhaps, turned over a new leaf but knows nothing of a spiritual regeneration. A person who seeks to justify himself as being better than others (2 Cor. 10:12). However, this moral person is as destitute of righteousness before God as the immoral persons. To such a person this text comes as a direct message, another indictment, with several counts:
- They are without excuse and are condemned because they practice the very things they condemn in others (vs. 1). These things may not be practiced as openly as among the uncivilized and heathen peoples, but what about the envy, strife, deceit, pride, haughtiness, and boastfulness as seen in Chapter 1:29-30? Are not these things also found among the more civilized and cultured peoples? Yes! They are surely as guilty as the people referred to in Chapter 1?
- God judges not according to outward appearances but according to truth (vs. 2). He deals with realities, not professions, with actions, rather than words. Their outward conditions differ. Yes! But, guilty and condemned just the same.
- They ignore, neglect and reject His goodness in withholding punishment. They do not realize “the goodness of God,” was designed to lead people to a change of mind (“repentance”) about their sin, self and the Savior. Thus, they lay up for themselves a warehouse of “wrath” which God will reveal in the day of His righteous judgment. A day in which He will reveal the “secrets of men” and punish their sins (vss. 5-16). His goodness is an invitation to repentance. He who continues in evil despises that goodness and brings upon himself “the wrath of God.” There is no escape from His judgment. Some people foolishly think that is possible (vs. 3). Others abuse the long-suffering of God in bearing with them (vs. 4).
These sixteen verses, as seen in our text, do not represent God’s method of salvation, rather they manifest the principles of His judgment. Notice the repetition of the words “judges” and “judgment.” You will find them six times in the first five verses. The phrase “the judgment of God” occurs three times. This is precisely what the Apostle is writing about. The principles on which God’s judgments are based are these:
- It is according to truth, or reality (vs. 2).
- It is according to deeds, not good intentions (vs. 6).
- It is without respect of persons (vs. 11).
- It is according to advantages given (vs. 12).
- It is according to the secrets of man’s heart (vs. 16, cf., Mark 7:21-23).
- It is according to Paul’s gospel (vs. 16).
Judged according to these principles there is only one possible verdict. “All the world” is “guilty” (3:19-20)! So the moral man, too, needs this divine righteousness provided as a gift by the person of Christ and received by faith in Him.