Part 8 For All Have Sinned (d) The God Despisers
In presenting his argument that the world’s depravity renders the Gospel absolutely necessary, Paul now turns his attention away from the pagan Romans to the religious Jews. While ch2v1 does not specifically state that it is the Jews he has in mind v17 does, “Behold, thou art called a Jew…”. Prior to this particular reference Paul appears to imply in v. 7-11 that it is these people whom he is addressing. Even in v 1 where Paul refers to a people who judge others there is a subtle reference to the Jew because this was the very sin that they were guilty of. Paul’s aim is to teach that “all have sinned”. This was a message for the religious Jews also. It was appropriate for the Apostle to deal with this issue because the division between Jew and Gentile was the most acute religious divide in the ancient world. If the Gospel was for the Jew (1:16) then it was absolutely necessary that he focused upon the need of these people. Within Rome there existed a substantial Jewish community making these remarks most relevant for the Christians in their evangelism. This part of Romans is for people everywhere who are moral and God-fearing but like the Jews are in need of grace. While the pagans in their atheism suppressed God (1:18) the Jews with their religion despised God (2:4). Overall it amounted to the same sin because “…all have sinned.”
1: The Charade of the God Despisers
As Paul plumbed the depths and the darkness of pagan Roman society he could in his heart hear loud cries of “Amen”. As one schooled in the ways of the Pharisees the Apostle knew quite well that the Jews would wholeheartedly agree with his portrait of the world in ch. 1. The Jews considered themselves so much better because they did not live in the wretched manner of the pagans. Therefore Paul stated that those who judged others were also without excuse. Under the veneer of religion and morality the Jews however, were labouring under a misapprehension. Their definition of sin was what others were doing and they miserably failed to observe their own wrongs. Many today are guilty of the same charade. They attend church, they live a moral life and they consider sin to be what others do. To such the Bible says, “…thou art inexcusable”.
2: The Corruption of the God Despisers
Dr Lloyd-Jones described ch2 as being Paul’s account of the “subtlety of sin”. With all their religion the Jews who considered the Gentiles as dogs committed the same sins, therefore by their own judgement they condemned themselves. The Jews may have committed the same sins privately while appearing to fear God publicly. These sins may have been committed in their hearts, which still rendered them guilty of breaking the law. Christ dealt with these issues most graphically in his treatment of the woman taken in adultery (John 8). Using the illustration of the washing of the cup and plate the Saviour pin pointed the failure of the Pharisees to consider their own hearts (Luke 11:39). Paul, however, taught that all men would be judged according to truth (v2). His eyes perceive what man attempts to hide and not even the righteous Jew will escape his judgement (v3).
3: Contempt of the God Despisers
In not considering their own sin the moral self righteous Jews were holding God in contempt, whom they pretended to fear. Those who refuse the Gospel despise three of God’s attributes which Paul here sets before us (v4). •
Goodness – This is the word from which the word God is derived. The Anglo Saxons described him as “The Good” as well as being “The Greatest” and “The Best”. The goodness of God is defined by his kindness towards mankind. •
Forbearance – This is God’s tolerance of sinners. He holds back and does not unleash his fury that men deserve to experience. •
Longsuffering – This is God’s patience with men and women over a protracted period. • God’s goodness is designed to draw men to repentance yet tragically men and women everywhere will not repent and learn these lessons and in so doing despise God.