Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judge: for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself…
The great object of St. Paul, in these opening chapters of Romans, is to show the world's need of a Saviour. In the first chapter he has shown the inexcusableness of the heathen, and their fallen and lost condition. But he remembers that he is writing to Jews and Jewish Christians at Rome as well as to Gentiles. He knows well the human heart. He can imagine some of his Jewish readers saying to himself, "Yes, indeed; those heathen are certainly without excuse." But St. Paul does not allow him to cherish this complacent spirit of self-righteousness very long. He seeks to bring home the truth to himself. "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou condemnest another, thou judgest also thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things" (ver. 1). As if he said, "It is quite true that the heathen are inexcusable. So are you. It is quite true that they have not lived up to the light they got. But have you lived up to the light you have got? Have you not come short of the Law of Moses just as much as they came short of the law of nature?" Thus the Divine Word ever seeks to turn us in upon ourselves. Thus it puts its searching questions, and lays down its searching tests. The Gentile is guilty; so is the Jew. The Jew needs repentance as well as the Gentile. It is this, as we have seen above, that makes the gospel a message for every man. It comes to our fallen humanity everywhere, and, with its message of the goodness and mercy of God, seeks to win us from the paths of sin and death to the way that leadeth to everlasting life. Hence St. Paul emphasizes here the goodness of God.
I. THE GOODNESS OF GOD, AND HOW IT IS SHOWN. The goodness of God is no new idea. It is as old as the rainbow, as old as the seasons, as old as the sunshine. So strong and deep is the conviction of the human heart about the goodness of the Supreme Being, that when our Anglo-Saxon forefathers were framing words to express their ideas, the word they chose to describe the Almighty was this very word "God," which simply means "The Good," "The Good One." So even in that early age he was regarded as the personification of goodness. Let us consider how God's goodness is shown to us. Think of what temporal blessings he bestows upon us. Think of his goodness to our souls. He has not left us, here on earth, to wander in the dark places of sin and sorrow, of uncertainty and despair. He has not left us, alone and helpless, to meet the king of terrors, and to step out from the darkness of a hopeless life into the darkness of an unavoidable eternity. If, on the one hand, he has given us the light of conscience and the moral law to show us our guilt, on the other hand he has given us the light of the gospel, the light of the cross of Jesus, to reveal to us our hope of safety and peace. And, then, how much he has done for each of us personally! How very mercifully God has dealt with us! We are ashamed of many things in our own lives. The memory of them haunts us like an unbidden guest, like a ghost out of the guilty past. Yet God did not cast us away from his presence, nor take his Holy Spirit from us. "He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." Surely he must have an inexhaustible store of patience, of compassion, of mercy. Ah, yes! Paul was right when he spoke of "the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering."
"I know that blessings undeserved
Have marked my erring track;
That wheresoe'er my feet have swerved,
His chastening turned me hack.
"That more and more a providence
Of love is understood,
Making the springs of time and sense
Sweet with eternal good.
"That death seems but a covered way
Which opens into light,
Wherein no blinded child can stray
Beyond the Father's sight.
"That care and trial seem at last,
Through memory's sunset air.
Like mountain-ranges overpast,
In purple distance fair.
"That all the jarring notes of life
Seem blending in a psalm,
And all the angles of its strife
Slow rounding into calm." Yes, "the good hand of God," as the old Hebrews loved to call it, is shown in every circumstance and event of life. "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
II. THE GOODNESS OF GOD, AND HOW IT IS RECEIVED. "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering?" (ver. 4). There are few professing Christians who would admit that the goodness of God is thus received by them. They would not like it to be said that they despise God's goodness. Yet must we not all admit that we do not think as much of God's goodness as we might? We take much of it as a matter of course. We forget that we have no claim on these bounties of God's providence and gifts of his grace, but rather the contrary. How little we praise him compared with what we might! How poor a return we make for his goodness by any effort or service of our lives! How poor are the offerings we make of our wealth and substance for God's cause! What is all this but in a sense to despise God's goodness? It is treating God's goodness with indifference; it is making light of it; it is looking down upon it. How indifferent we are even to Jesus Christ, God's own Son! What an evidence of God's goodness was the coming of Christ into the world - his life, his sufferings, his death I "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Yet with what amazing indifference and coolness this message of Divine mercy, this message of redeeming love, is received! How cold and apathetic our hearts are to the love of Jesus! "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." From Jesus, the Crucified One, the King, who stands with outstretched hands waiting to receive and bless us, we turn away our hearts after the world and the things of it. Deaf to his loving voice, we turn our back upon our Saviour. We stretch forth our hands after money, and we say to it, "I will follow thee." We stretch out our hands after pleasure, and we say to it, "I will follow thee." We stretch out our hands after popular applause and the favour of men, and we say to them, "I will follow you." But, alas! how few have the gratitude and the courage to say, "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest"!
III. THE GOODNESS OF GOD, AND HOW IT IS MEANT. "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (ver. 4). God's goodness is intended to lead us to repentance. And what more potent influence could he use than the influence of mercy and of love? What influence is so likely to make us repent of a wrong we have done to any person than the kindness of that person toward us? If you have injured a neighbour or a friend by word or deed, and he meets you with angry words, this only tends to make you more stubborn, more hostile, than before. But if, on the contrary, you see him bear with patience your attacks, your unkind remarks, does it not tend to make you sorry for the wrong you have done him? Or perhaps he heaps coals of fire on your head, and melts down, by deeds of kindness and a foraying spirit, the hardness of your heart. Is it not a picture of how God deals with men? We have sinned. He has berne with us. We have stood condemned as guilty sinners in the presence of a broken Law. He has sent his own Son to redeem, to justify, to save our souls. All this God has done that he might draw our hearts from sin, that by all his overflowing goodness be might lead us to repentance. He puts before us the guilt of sin and the danger of it, the terrors of the judgment and the agony of the lost. But over and above all he puts the message of mercy. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It is this, the story of a heavenly Father's mercy; it is this, the story of a Saviour's love; it is this, the story of the cross, - that has touched the blunted conscience and melted the hardest heart, and won the most hardened sinners to repentance. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, for he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.