The kindness of God is not like the kindness of man. It is infinitely greater. We call a person kind if they do nice things for us, if they say nice things to us, if they treat us with respect and listen to what we have to say. We think of the gentle old greeter at church or the sweet young elementary school teacher at school. But the kindness of God is so much more than that. God shows us His kindness in patiently enduring those who reject and hate Him, extending His love to anyone and everyone who will accept it. God’s kindness is rooted in His holy love that hates sin but loves sinners. It is a kindness that should lead us all to repentance (Romans 2:4).
We are unkind people. As we saw at the end of Romans 1, we know that the lost world lives in open rebellion against God and His holy and just commandments. Their sins against both God and other people are clearly many and awful. A walk through the mall, a trip to a sporting event, or an hour of streaming almost any recent television show prove this truth right away – this world around us does not know or love the God who created it. But as Romans 2 shows us today, the religious people are no better. We pride ourselves on having the Word of God, being called the people of God, knowing the name of God, and enjoying the blessings of a spiritual heritage. But in our hearts, we are guilty of many and perhaps almost all of the same sins that condemn our unchurched neighbors (Romans 2:1-2). We are quick to judge others, but do we ever allow God to examine our own hearts and show us our sin (Romans 2:3)? Or do our hearts remain hard, stubborn, and self-righteous, unwilling to come clean with God in honest admission that we have a great sin problem, too (Romans 2:5)?
For Paul’s original first-century Christian audience, Romans 2 was directed at the Jews, God’s people from the Old Testament. But for us living 2000 years later in the church era, this chapter would apply to those raised up in the church, Christian schools, and/or Christian homes. We have the knowledge of God, His Word, His Son, and His way of salvation clearly revealed and available to us. But knowledge is not enough to spare us the judgment we all deserve for our sins. What God wants from us is obedient hearts and lives. He doesn’t want us to be just hearers of His Word, but doers of His Word, both inwardly and outwardly (Romans 2:13). You see, the fairness of God is that one day He will repay everyone just as they deserve (Romans 2:6). People who live justly and humbly before Him will receive honor, glory, and life, while those who love only themselves and evil will receive His anger and wrath (Romans 2:7-10, 16). Simply being raised in a religious setting will not give anyone an exception from this just reality (Romans 2:11). More knowledge only makes us more accountable for how we have lived. In some ways, the totally unchurched person who never heard the name of Jesus may fare better in the end than the person who lived their whole life in the presence of God’s people but never gave their heart to Jesus (Romans 2:14-15).
“Wait,” you say, “I thought this was supposed to be a post about God’s kindness, not His judgment.” Yes, it is. You see, the kindness of God is seen in the fact that He has offered us free forgiveness and mercy for all of our sins. As long as people are still alive, God is graciously holding back His judgment, giving stubborn sinners space to turn away from their evil deeds and come to His Son Jesus for salvation. God’s great kindness is intended to lead people to repentance and faith (Romans 2:4). No human being would show the divine patience that our God has for His most beloved creation. Our sin problem is bad, but God’s goodness and grace are stronger. May we never stop rejoicing in the kindness of our God.
The Text (Romans 2:1-16)
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Questions to Think About
- Who are the kindest people you know? Why do you think that they are kind?
- How does today’s passage give you a greater appreciation for your salvation?
- In what specific ways have you seen God’s kindness toward you in the past two or three years?
- Have you ever talked with someone who just would not admit that they need Jesus? How did that make you feel? Now, how do you think their attitude makes God feel?
- Today’s passage is not teaching that we are saved by doing good works. Paul is actually saying quite the opposite. Because we have all sinned and fall short of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23), we all need to repent and come to Him for forgiveness and grace. His point in warning religious people that they will also give account for their lives just like the lost and that they will also not escape judgment for their sins is not that they need to do better, but that they too need Jesus! Again, the good news of salvation by grace through faith is coming up in chapters 4-8, so by all means read ahead if you want that encouragement now!
- Not all Christians agree on exactly what will happen to lost people who have never heard the gospel and had the chance to believe in Jesus and be saved. The Bible does make it clear that there is salvation in no other name than Jesus (Acts 4:12), and that we must urgently bring the gospel to the nations and the lost people in our country and communities (Matthew 28:18-20). More importantly, if you are reading or hearing this blog post, than you are not part of that group that has never had a chance to be saved! You have heard the gospel, and you are accountable for how you respond to the call of God on your life. My prayer for all us is that we would do God’s will and be found as good and faithful servants of Christ on the last day.