Masterclass: Romans

Part 2: Romans 2

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We can’t confuse what’s always been viewed as Paul’s most theological work and most detailed gospel outline only as facts believers must know and ground on which we must agree. All theology must be lived theology and his letter to Rome isn’t any different. That means it’s a book full of opportunities for richer 1st century understanding and deeper modern day application. The goal is that we would know about Jesus and become like him. In John’s gospel, we’re reminded that God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it. Romans 2 reminds us that the world doesn’t need our condemnation either [not that we have any right to offer it] but only our diligence in pointing them to the One who saves. Are you spending more time evaluating or encouraging? Are you more focused on passing judgment or passing faith?

Some Judgment is Not Ours to Make

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. — Romans 2:1

When should we, as Christians, cast judgment? In our English language, we use the term “judge” differently than Scripture uses the word in its own language. 

For example, today we might simply say, “I had to make a judgment call, and I’ve decided that we should cater from the Italian restaurant.” This, of course, is not sinful.

Or, we might say that we are serving as the judges for an art contest, making evaluations of the quality of an artist’s work. There’s nothing sinful here either. 

In the first example, we are weighing options and trying to make the best choice for our situation. In the second example, we are judging the merit of people’s work, so that those who are talented or hard working can be recognized. 

It’s clear, then, that Christians can judge some things. But the Word of God says not to pass judgment on others. Why is it that we can make judgments about things, but we cannot judge other people? The key is not in the word judge, but in the word we. 

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. — 2 Corinthians 5:10

Our God alone is qualified to judge, because He alone is righteous. As Romans 3 states, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It’s not that we cannot judge others because judging others is inherently wrong — it’s that we’re inherently the wrong ones to be casting that kind of judgment. 

You Cannot Judge What is Not Complete

Even if we hadn’t ever sinned (and this is true of no one but Jesus) we would still be unable to judge because of our limitations as people. The scope of our God’s nature is incomprehensible to us, and it includes His existence outside of space and time. He knows everything, past, present, and future. He is omniscient, and knows you and I even better than we know ourselves. I cannot judge you because I do not know the inner workings of your heart.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” — 1 Samuel 16:7

Instead, like a baseball coach who works to inspire, motivate, and develop his players, we are called to spur one another onto finding Jesus and being sanctified in Him. We do not condemn a player as a bad player with no future because of one bad game. Until their career is over, we cannot say for sure what will become of them. 

The same holds true for our spiritual lives. We all need grace. We are called to build one another up, and leave judgment to the Lord, who loves us all more than we even love ourselves. 

But You Can (and Should) Be Discerning

Sometimes people read verses which tell Christians not to judge and take it to mean that Christians ought not to even notice the sins in the world around them, much less speak a word about them. But that would mean eliminating our gift of discernment, which comes from the Holy Spirit.

Judging others may be wrong, but we are called to discern what is going on in their lives. Discernment is to understand or have knowledge of something through the power of the Holy Spirit. When a Christian feels a tug at their heart or has the sense that something isn’t quite right, it may be the Spirit pointing him or her to truth. 

It is important for us to discern good teaching from false teaching. We need to “test the spirits” as 1 John 4 puts it. We are called to keep our brothers and sisters accountable with love. If we simply shut off our eyes and ears to the sin in us and around us, we will be ill-equipped to speak truth into the lives of others. 

If a loved one comes to you and seeks counseling on whether or not a behavior they’re engaging in is sinful in God’s eyes, it is right to open up Scripture and help them decide if they need to change this part of their life. We can do this with love because we know that eliminating sin helps us all to grow closer with God, and our sanctification pleases Him. 

Ultimately, if we seek to stamp out the sin as opposed to condemning the sinner, our heart is in a good place.


Words From the Mount // Part 4: Kingdom Heart // Jeff Simmons

A Beautiful Life // Part 6: Possess Discernment // Jason Hale

Next Steps // Hospitality // Rolling Hills Community Church

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