The Gospel’s Promise About God's Judgment

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Sermon Preached on July 3, 2005
From Selected Texts
Introduction

The God-ordained afflictions that my wife and I have undergone in recent days is only another chapter in a much larger one we have endured for some time now. And in times like these, when God is pounding and chipping and hammering away at my own heart harder than at other times, I think it’s best to break away from the ordinary and use these sovereign ‘teachable moments.’

God has taught me a great lesson this past week and a half, a great lesson about the gospel which I formerly did not know, nor make the connection to. And it is in light of this most recent trial that I want to break away from our exposition of Philemon and examine closely this gospel-centered doctrine of God’s judgment. Pray for me as I preach it to you, because I need it preached to my own soul more than I have preached it to myself this past week and a half.

The Gospel and God’s Judgment

One of the aims of the letter to the Romans, as I’ve told you many times before, was the level the playing field for Jews and Gentiles. Paul knows that if he levels the playing field – convincing both races that they are sinners before God – then they both will stand in need of the same God and the same alien righteousness. Paul does a marvelous job - as if he needs our ‘kudos’ – in chapter one for making the case about the Gentiles. He then moves to chapter two, striking the Jews with the same message.

The First Text: Romans 2:3-11

Romans 2 is Paul’s inspired denunciation against the hypocrisy of the Jews. He opens the chapter with these fearsome words.

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:1-3, ESV).
The Jews were a God-fearing group who had been privileged to receive the very revelation of God Himself in what we now call the Old Testament. But the reception of this revelation didn’t cause the humility inherent in its message. Instead, Israel looked only at the surface, at the fact that they had been given this revelation, and they used it to judge and condemn the rest of the world (the Gentiles).

The problem was, however, that they missed the heart of the Old Testament. For in those many books are found the truths propounded over and again regarding the inherent sinfulness of all mankind. The Jews’ own history should have taught them that. Therefore, when they judge and condemn others for sinning, while they themselves commit the very same sins, how can they escape the same judgment others will get? They cannot, and that is part of Paul’s point in chapter two.

Twice in these few verses Paul makes reference to something very important, something which every Jew would have understood. I want you to notice these references. The first is found in verse 5 where Paul speaks of, “the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” The context of the entire verse reveals that Paul is speaking about the impenitent, hard-heartedness that Jews were evincing. The true condition of their heart is revealed when they think that the reason they have not experienced judgment like the Gentiles already have and will in the future is because they are God’s special people. No, Paul answers that the only reason they haven’t experienced judgment yet is because God is kind and patient and forbearing, and is giving them an opportunity to repent from their impenitent, hard-heartedness.

It is at that day of judgment when God will, according to the text,

“…render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal
life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.” (Rom.2:6-11).
The point of this text is this, beloved. Just because the Jews had not yet experienced God’s judgment was no reason to believe that He winked His divine eye at their sin and hypocrisy. Nor would He look past their hard-heartedness either. Every single Jew who would be rewarded by God according to every single deed they had performed. If they performed deeds which were disobedient to the truth, deeds which were unrighteous and evil, then they would be rewarded with God’s wrath and fury. And if they had performed deeds which sought glory and honor for God and immortality for their souls, they would be rewarded with eternal life. God does not show partiality between sinners. No one’s nationality will ever be an excuse before God.

The Second Text: Romans 2:12-15-16

To prove that point, Paul then moves to the Gentiles. He wrote,

“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law
who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…” (Rom. 2:12-15).
Paul’s goal here is to communicate first that there is no partiality with God, and second, God would use whatever standard of right and wrong a person already possessed when judgment time does come. For Gentiles, who weren’t given the Law of God, they would be judged apart from the Law. That said, each Gentile does have a conscience, which in and of itself is a sort of divine built-in law of God. Whenever they do what is right or wrong, they do so based on the law of God already written in each of their hearts. That is called the conscience, and it is that within each Gentile which will bear witness against each one when the day of judgment comes.

It is in this context that the second reference I wanted to point your attention toward appears in Romans 2. It is found at the end of verse 15 on into verse 16. The conscience of each Gentile will bear witness against him or her,

“…and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:15b-16).
Here is the second reference to a day of judgment. The first reference in verses 3 and 5 referred to the Jews and their sins. The second reference here in verses 15-16 refers to the Gentiles and their sins. At bottom of these references is the bedrock of the gospel, Paul’s gospel, my gospel, and your gospel, which all teach the same thing: God will judge the secrets of men’s hearts and reward them accordingly through His Son, Christ Jesus.

I cannot tell you how comforting this little piece of the gospel has been to my wife and I in recent days. We thought we were on the brink of seeing repentance from a member of my family, one who has been in sin for many, many years and has been impenitent toward confessing it and making things right. This person has stored this sin deep within his heart where supposedly no one but he and God know the real truth. But the evidence pointing to the sin is evidence enough that sin is present and that it is being hidden. Moons, asteroid belts, and satellites of lies orbit the planet of this sin. And on the brink of hoping to see it resolved, that planet was quickly surrounded with another layer of debris.

To add to the already deplorable handling of this sin is the fact that this debris which orbits the sin slams into many people’s lives, hurting them, injuring them, offending them, slandering them, gossiping about them, and even ruining them. I and my wife are just two of those who seem to be constantly hit everywhere we turn by all this debris and garbage which surrounds and protects this sin.

I don’t think my wife would mind me sharing with you her response this past Wednesday night as she was laboring over the stove frying up some burgers for dinner. She melted into tears, bracing herself on the corners of the stove, answering my reply as to what was wrong with her. She stated, “I’m so frustrated because the righteous never seem to be vindicated, while the unrighteous seem to always get away with their sin.”

We’ve been deeply injured by various persons – some family, some friends, and some of neither. Some are believers and some are not. But I think this is where the truth of Paul’s gospel and my gospel comforts us. God does not show partiality when it comes to doling out His righteous judgment. If it doesn’t matter whether you are Jew or Gentile, then it doesn’t matter if you are family or friend, professing Christian or not. If one has sinned, one will pay the price.

I mention this phrase, “professing Christian,” primarily because it seems that the ones who hurt us the most are those who profess to follow Christ. This seems especially true for the pastor. And of the office of pastor, Martin Luther, who concurred with this assessment, wrote,

“Those who are in the teaching office should teach with the greatest faithfulness and expect no other remuneration than to be killed by the world, trampled under foot, and despised by their own…”

Did you hear that? Despised by their own! The kingdom of God seems filled with people who hurt and despise each other constantly. And while I as a pastor, nor you as a member of the kingdom of God, may judge with absolutely certainty whether or not so and so is a true believer, my point here is that if they are not true believers, then they will come under God’s just judgment.

And I also want to comfort you with the words of 2 Corinthians 5:10, that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” What this means, in relation to our subject at hand, is that even if the person hurting and injuring you is in fact a true believer, they will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for what they have done to you. Now it is not my purpose in this sermon to give you a theology of this judgment seat of Christ, but I will say here that at this judgment the true believer will not be the recipient of God’s wrath or fury in hell. But what we can be assured of is that at some future time, on a certain day in time, Christ will sort out these differences we have with others, regardless of how painful they may be to us today.

Think of a time in your life when you were seriously, emotionally, or perhaps physically or otherwise injured or offended. Think of a time when it could be said of you that you were truly being persecuted for doing what was right. Perhaps your mind goes back to our current lot in this lawsuit. That is justifiable. Or perhaps you are thinking of a more recent encounter with someone who hurt you in order to protect or further themselves as I and my wife are. You are no stranger to pain, especially emotional pain. And neither were many of the writers of Scripture.

The Plights of David

Think of David and the plights he experienced for those many, many years in between the time he was promised the throne and anointed by Samuel the prophet, and the time when he actually took that throne. Many of the Psalms are filled with laments and complaints from this time period. And almost a quarter of the Psalms, as a whole, are classified as “Laments of the Individual,” or complaints from individuals themselves (Introducing the Psalms, Klaus Seybold, p. 116).. For example, In Psalm 2:1-2, David begged the Lord for answers to his time of distress.

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed…”
At other times, David prayed in the midst of his own experiences with injustice,

“Why, O LORD, do you stand afar off? Why do you hide yourself in times of
trouble? In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised…His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them…The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might….” (Psa. 10:1, 2, 5, 10).


Undoubtedly you remember the famous words of David in Psalm 22:1 in which he cried out,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not
answer, and by night, but I find no rest…But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads…Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet- I can count all my bones- they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to
my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!” (Psa. 22:1, 2, 6, 7, 11-21).


Can any of you relate to this kind of talk? My wife and I sure can. This last text is a prophecy about the suffering of Jesus Christ at the hands of unjust wicked men. And friends, the beauty of the gospel of that same Jesus Christ is that it teaches us about a day in which Jesus Christ Himself, personally and without any representative, will appear before all mankind to judge those unjust, wicked men. On that day and time He will reveal the secrets of all hearts and judge them accordingly. There is no partiality with God with regards to persons and there is no partiality with regards to sins. For those who do evil, who are impenitent, whose hearts are hard, and who practice unrighteousness, God will meet them with His wrath and fury. And that is a gospel promise, one which every one of us here today must stand upon with all the faith that is within us.

The Promises of ‘My Gospel’

It is in the midst of such times, when you wonder whether or not there is any justice in the land, that we must fall back on the promise of the gospel and wait upon God to establish us. Paul spoke of his gospel again, in this very manner, in Romans 16:25. He gave glory, “to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel.” Only God can strengthen us in such times of despair, depression, discouragement, and disparagement. Only He can strengthen and establish us because only His gospel promises justice.

Paul made another reference to his gospel in 1 Timothy 1:10, 11.

“…the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to
sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”

What he means by this in the end is this. The Law and the Gospel are one on the fact that, “Sin has dishonored God, and robbed him of his glory; the Gospel provides for the total destruction of sin, even in this world, and thus brings back to God his glory” (Adam Clarke, Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:11).

He referred to his gospel once more in 2 Timothy 2:7,8 when, in his last letter to his most beloved disciple, he wrote,

“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in
everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of
David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as
a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!”

Here Paul is, sitting imprisoned, awaiting execution, having been charged falsely by hateful, impenitent, hard-hearted Jews on the basis of twisted, manipulated, exaggerated facts and information, as well as outright lies. He is indeed suffering, being persecuted, bound with chains as a criminal. But look at his response to it all. “The word of God is not bound!” Do you know why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and He is not bound either! With the knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus Christ comes the knowledge that justice is not dead just because we are. Justice and righteousness do not suffer just because we do. God’s righteous and vengeful judgment is not thwarted in anyway just because we may be. This, then, is the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ: the doctrine of the resurrection points toward the doctrine of imminent judgment.

No other place in Scripture, that I know of personally, is this truth expounded with more force by Paul than in Acts 17. In verses 16 through the end of the chapter, we see a man severely and emotionally disturbed with him because of the legions of idols that surrounded him everywhere he went. This stirred him to preach in the synagogues and in the market places, everywhere he could all around him. There were some local philosophers who heard him preaching and invited him to attend the Aeropagus, a place where Luke parenthetically records for us was a place where, “all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (v. 21). So Paul gladly took this opportunity to publicly proclaim the gospel to these people, and here’s how he ended it.

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people
everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (vv. 31-32).

His gospel, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the gospel you and I say we believe, is the gospel because it is based on the historical fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. And in raising Jesus Christ from the dead God was testifying to the fact that Jesus was in His very person God. And it is because He is God resurrected from the dead that He is appointed by God to be the judge of all men in all the world throughout all history.

Paul preaches to those present that day that there has already been fixed at some point in time and space and history a day and time at which God will judge the world in righteousness, in justice, in truth. And He will do so by and through the Man He appointed. Then look how Paul ends this explanation of his gospel. “He has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” In other words, God has given assurance of this fixed day of judgment against all unrighteousness by raising Jesus Christ from the dead. Therefore, the day of judgment against all the unrighteousness you and I suffer is as certain as the day God raised Jesus from the dead. These two historical truths – the one rooted in the past and the one rooted in the future - are as inseparable as the members of the Trinity.

What to Think About Those Who Sin Against Us

So what should we think of those who have seemingly gotten away with their injustices, lies, and wickedness? There are several things that we must think based on the truth of my gospel and your gospel.

These are the things we must say to our selves, think to ourselves. It’s okay to talk to yourselves, by the way! David did it a lot in the Psalms. If we listen to ourselves, we’ll hear complaining and grumbling deep within our souls about the mess we are in. That drives us into depression. But when we talk to ourselves, we prevent that sort of thing from happening to us. And when we talk to ourselves, we must tell ourselves the truth, and more importantly the gospel truths which Christ died to give us. For it is these truths which help establish and strengthen us, giving us the endurance we need to stand strong.

1. First, We Must Believe the Gospel!

If the gospel teaches us that the day and time of the future judgment is as fixed and certain as the day and time Jesus rose from the dead, then we must believe it. We must believe the truth about the judgment as firmly as we believe the truth about Christ’s resurrection. Again, they are inseparable. The resurrection of Jesus Christ ought to be a mental bookmark to which our minds return readily and constantly anyway, and not just in time of injury. It being the historical act in space and time in which God proved the deity of His Son, the resurrection is the bedrock of Christianity. It shows us many truths, not the least of which is the fact that in rising from the dead, Jesus defeated death and sin forever. This has profound and serious implications for our lives, many of which we have yet to discover and apply.

But here is one to discover and apply. Let your mind wander back to the bookmark of the resurrection of Jesus when your mind wanders to the injustice you experience. And while you’re at the bookmark, let your mind then wander to that future day and time, fixed by God in history, in which He will judge those who have harmed you, and those who previously “got away with” what they did wrong.

2. Second, Comfort Yourself With God’s Wrath.

That sounds like a strange thing to say, doesn’t it? But when we consider that God’s wrath is associated with God’s judgment in Romans 2, when our minds think of judgment upon those who have treated us unjustly, our minds should also think of its connection with God’s wrath and fury.

Oh it is so difficult isn’t it, to pray for those who persecute us and to love our enemies. The more they hurt us, the harder it is to love them. And our depraved hearts lay open to temptation time and again to take vengeance into our own hands and bring about some justice right here and now!

But what does Paul tell us in Romans 12? He tells us,

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If
possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:14, 17-21).

This is just what Jesus did, isn’t it? And He was God! Peter tells us,

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

How amazing is that text! Jesus is God, and yet even while He was God on this earth, yes even He didn’t take matters into His own hands. He is the epitome of Paul’s counsel in Romans 12. Jesus did not pay back evil for evil. He did not revile when He was reviled. He didn’t lie when He was treated wrongly. He didn’t make threats when He suffered. But instead, Jesus Christ, God Himself, “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Jesus entrusted Himself to God who judges men justly.

The catch here is that now, God has handed that just judgment over to His Son Jesus Christ. While He was on this earth, He responded in love to unjust suffering. And that is the example He left for us to follow in His footsteps. But beloved, oh how we need to take comfort also in the other fact, namely, that now He is risen and ascended from this earth, He will respond to unjust suffering with vengeance and wrath! What He met with love while He was on this earth, He will meet with fury and wrath now that He is in heaven. And likewise, what we meet with love while we are on this earth, will be met with Christ’s vengeance when He comes again from heaven. Both set of truths are true, and we must walk carefully that razor’s edge with love for our enemies on the one side, but expectant hope for Christ’s judgment against them on the other. Fall to the one side and you’ll find yourself without hope. Fall to the other side and you’ll find yourself without love.

Paul used this very theology to comfort one group of people who were experiencing unjust suffering and persecution at the hands of their own countrymen. To the Thessalonian believers, he wrote,

“For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from
speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved- so as always to fill up the
measure of their sins. But God's wrath has come upon them at last!” (1 Thess.
2:14-16).

Notice that Paul’s comfort came in two forms. He encouraged them because, despite the persecution, they became imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ! And He further encouraged them with the promise that God’s wrath was as good as sealed upon those who were persecuting them.

You see, these were God’s people here, His church, undergoing immense persecution. And Paul undoubtedly remembered the gospel-promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, in which God promised,

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse…”

God will not tolerate forever the injustice done against His people, and especially against the bride of His Son, Jesus Christ. Take comfort in that as well.

3. Third, Repentance is the Reason Why God’s Judgment Has Not Yet Come.

This brings me to the third word of counsel for you this morning. God’s wrath, His day of just judgment, has not yet come, as you well know. And there is a reason for this. It is found in such texts as the very one with which we began, Romans 2. Let me remind you of verse 4. God’s riches are found in His kindness and patience and forbearance, and in these are to be found the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Since the day of judgment is not yet here, there is yet time. There is time to repent. Remember, that was the very message Paul preached to the Athenians at the Aeropagus. God, “commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness.” Repentance is necessary because Jesus Christ is coming to judge the world.

Peter echoed this same message to his flock, scattered throughout the world because of persecution and unjust suffering. He wrote,

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should
reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

This verse stands in the context of one subject: the certainty of God’s judgment. Listen to the whole passage.

“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you
should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the
Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this
one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:1-9).

Those who have injured you, or hurt you, or mocked you, or lie about you, or persecute you, or do any other manner of evil against you will not escape God’s judgment, friends. The predictions about the end of the world and God’s judgment are just as true as the predictions and fulfillment about the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If those words came true, don’t doubt the other ones. By the same word which God used to create the heavens and the earth, God will pour out His judgment and destruction upon the earth and the ungodly in it.

But Peter’s point is that we not overlook God’s time table. What seems like slowness to take vengeance to us is not slowness to God. No, God’s timetable includes His desire that everyone who does the things they do to us should repent and not perish when He comes to judge the world.

This ought to give us hope! It should give us hope that those who hurt us continually may come see the light as it is revealed to them by God’s graciousness in Christ. As Paul told Timothy in his last letter,

“God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

This should be our hope and prayer if our hearts are truly with Christ. And this should be the standard by which we measure our expectation for God’s judgment upon them. If we wait expectantly without extending the hope of salvation, then our expectation may be motivated more by hatred than by love. It is a difficult balance to maintain, I readily admit, and it is not one that I walk perfectly to be honest. But it is a razor’s edge we must walk nonetheless: taking comfort in God’s certain judgment and vengeance against them, but seeking their repentance through prayer in love so that they would not perish.

4. Fourth, Avoid the Sin of Hypocrisy.

The fourth and final word of counsel also comes from the spirit and heart of Paul in Romans 2. And that word of counsel, very simply put, is to avoid the sin of hypocrisy. Take comfort in the truth that God has a fixed day and time in which those who hurt you and do not repent will be judged in return. But take no comfort in that truth if you, like the Jews in Romans 2, knowingly commit the very same sins that you are complaining about in others. That’s hypocrisy and God will judge you just the same as He will judge the others.

There is this theme, however small it may seem, running through the Scriptures which sounds like this:

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

You remember this text well. Jesus spoke it to the disciples before He went off to pray. Why did He tell them to stay away and pray? Because He feared just what would happen, that His name and message may be shamed by the impetuous acts of men who say they love and follow Jesus. How hypocritical was it to claim to follow Jesus and yet attack one of the guards like Peter did? Perhaps had he watched and prayed, guarding his heart against such temptations, he may not have sinned in this way.

Then there are other texts like,

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

If you encounter another professing believer in sin, it is your job to help them. But in your help you are to do so with gentleness, watching your own heart, lest you too be tempted. Tempted with what? At least with hypocrisy, because you may find yourself trying to help someone get out of a hole which you yourself are standing in at the very same point in time. How hypocritical is that?

When some of the Corinthian believers had either fallen sick or had died because they handled the Lord’s Supper with such flippancy, Paul taught them,

“…if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged” (1 Cor. 11:31).

In other words, if they had judged themselves with discernment, with truth, with honesty, God wouldn’t have had to judge them with sickness and death. This is something that is only brought about because of hypocrisy.

What we are to be careful of, then, is wishing judgment on others while we are not careful to judge our own hearts closely and carefully. We often apply a different standard to those who treat us unjustly, looking more carefully with deeper analysis at their sins and actions than we do our own. Such hypocrisy will certainly not escape God’s judgment either!

Conclusion

In closing, I offer you the hope of 1 Timothy 5:24, which has been offered to me time and again with respect to my personal trial in recent days and years. There Paul wrote,

“The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.”

There are some sins which people commit against us that are conspicuous, apparent, readily visible to everyone. And these are sins which will roll out the red carpet of God’s judgment in front of them. But there are some people whose sins will never be apparent now, but only later, and that is at the final judgment. In the end, the hope we carry with us that whether now, before the judgment day, or later on at the time of judgment, the sins of those who have sinned against us will be brought to light. God will reveal the secret sins of men’s hearts on that day.

It is a day fixed in space and time and history, one that cannot be changed. It is as fixed in history as is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It is a day and time in which God will once and for all bring darkness out into the light and judge it for what it is. At that day and time, we will enter the presence and joy of Christ for eternity. But until that time, let us pray that those who are headed for judgment will be turned to head for eternity with us.

And until that time, let us trust in the Just Judge of the universe, just like Jesus did in 1 Peter 2. Let us leave the sorting out of the messes we find ourselves in to the Lord on His day of judgment when everything will be brought to light and sorted out. Sort out the ones you can while you are here, but leave the others to God and believe the gospel’s promise that God’s just judgment on all sin is just as fixed as the resurrection of His dear Son.

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