A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Moral World Under Sentence of Condemnation (Romans 2:1-16)
In the latter part of the previous chapter, the apostle drew a terrible picture of the sin of the heathen world and its awful condemnation and punishment. All the time Paul was talking about that heathen world and telling about their descent into idolatry, he was conscious that there was a class of men in the world who could say amen to everything he was saying. They would say, "Yes, Paul, is right. We know the heathen world has fallen into those sins, and in our judgment they deserve all they got." They were standing right beside him and approving his condemnation of the heathen world.
Now Paul turns to those very fellows and says to them, "Wherefore thou art without excuse, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest dost practice the same things" (2:1).
Precisely to whom is the apostle referring, and who falls beneath the ban of this judgment? Some commentators and expositors declare that the apostle is talking to the Jew here, but they say that Paul was approaching the subject very carefully and therefore does not name the Jew until the seventeenth verse. Let the Word settle the identity of those to whom God is speaking here through Paul: "O man, whosoever thou art that judgest." Then to whom is he talking? Any man (it does not matter who he is) who judges. To finish it, look at the latter part of the ninth and tenth verses. What two classes are mentioned both times? Jew and Gentile. Then this passage is addressed to any man, whoever he may be (Jew or Gentile) in the whole world that judges. It is sufficient to say that this is a man who knows right from wrong, who has moral discernment. Paul is talking to him right here.
The key word of this section is the word "judgest" (or "judgment"). Nine times that particular word occurs, and it sums up everything in this passage. The first and the last verses of this section provide a contrast: "O man, whosoever thou art that judgest"; and later, "In the day when God shall judge." This section starts out with man on the throne of judgment and ends with God on the throne of judgment, which is proper and right. Judgment is the keynote of the section.
There are two great divisions of thought in the whole section: 1. in the first verse, the moral man (for that is the man under consideration) is condemned by his own judgment; 2. the rest of the section (2-16) shows the moral man condemned by God's judgment. Condemned by his own judgment, condemned by God's judgment: those are the two main divisions and everything in the passage falls under those two heads.
The Moral Man Condemned According to His Own Judgment
At the very beginning in the first verse is the key word that will analyse the verse. It is the word "thou"; it occurs five times in the first verse. Four of these fit into an analysis of the passage:
1. "Thou ... that judgest" - the identification of the man.
2. "Thou condemnest thyself" - the endorsement of the man.
3. "Thou ... dost ... the same things" - the inclination of the man.
4. "Thou art without excuse" - the indictment of the man.
"Thou That Judgest"
What does it mean? On the negative side it does not mean what we have often thought - that is, a mere condemnation of somebody else; but on the positive side it means the faculty of moral discrimination that every man has to a more or less degree. Let me illustrate: I see a man steal something, and I say in evaluating that deed, "That is wrong." This means I have judged. I have exercised the faculty of judging right from wrong. That is precisely the significance of the words, "Thou ... that judgest." I can conceive of the fact that some men might fall so low that they could almost lost that faculty - for instance, those men in the first chapter. But even these men had that faculty to a degree. They could look and say, "This is right; or that is wrong."
"Thou Condemnest Thyself"
I have heard sermons which say, "It is wrong to judge somebody else. If a person does that, God will judge him." The thing that this man is condemned for here is his act of judging. But nothing could be more wrong than this conclusion. The faculty of moral judgment is right. God approves it. Every man ought to have it. Everyone ought to be able to look at another man and say, "That is wrong" or "That is right." This man was not condemned because he condemned others. He was condemned because while he was condemning others, he was doing the same thing and therefore condemned himself for his own sins.
A wonderful illustration comes from the Old Testament. David committed murder because he wanted a man's wife. David have many wives. This man had only one, but the king desired her. He then had one of his officers take her husband and place him in front of the army to be killed. Then David took his wife! Nathan came to him. (David had the faculty of moral discrimination.) Nathan told him the story of a man who had many herds and flocks. He had a neighbor who had one little lamb. Instead of taking one of his own flock to entertain a stranger, the man with many flocks took the neighbor's lamb. David became very angry. He said, "Show me that man!" Then Nathan said: "Thou art the man!" In other words, "You who judge are condemning yourself because you do the same thing."
Never let anybody tell you that it is wrong to judge things in the lives of others. It is right. If we did not have the faculty of moral discrimination, think where we would be. However, God wants us first to judge the same things in our own lives.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 20 - "Thou ... Doest .. The Same Things")