Meditations in Romans : 26 : Get what you deserve
Rom 2:5,6 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”
Paul has been warning all self-righteous, religious people (possibly there in Rome, but generally as well) against feeling smug and secure when they look down on others for being less than perfect, when they themselves are similarly less than perfect. More than that, when we are in that position we tend to feel we are all right and that God will overlook our failings, our ungodliness and even our unrighteousness – because God doesn’t seem to be doing anything in respect of us! But that is a misunderstanding, he has been saying, because God is simply giving you space to come to your senses and to realise your position and your need, so that you then come to repentance.
It hinges about this who thing of God holding back but, says Paul, you may think you get away with it but in reality you are stubborn and unrepentant if you just carry on like that and there IS going to come a day of reckoning for you! In the previous meditation we noted Peter’s words: “the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Pet 3:7). There IS coming a day when God will wind everything up and everyone will have to account to Him. Don’t be under any illusions; this is coming and you need to be ready for it.
When that day comes, says Paul, “his righteous judgment will be revealed.” When God judges all men and women, when he assesses their lives, His assessment will be right, or accurate, or perfect. We will not be able to question anything He says for He will know everything there is to know about us, and if today we tend to shrug off our ‘minor imperfections’ they will be truly seen for what they are – Sin! There will be no excuse making.
Now in your Bible at the end of verse 6 you will probably see a reference to a footnote that tells us that Paul is simply quoting the Old Testament when he speaks about this: “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” (Psa 62:11) When the psalmist spoke about God being loving, he meant that God would never be biased against someone or be unkind to them; He would always reward people according to what they had done.
Now we’ll see Paul unpack this some more in the verses ahead but we’ll leave that to the next meditation. For the moment we simply focus on the overall principle. Solomon reiterated it in the Proverbs: “If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Prov 24:12). There the same thing comes over, that we may make excuses but God weighs our hearts and sees and hears and knows everything there is to know about us and so He will repay according to what He sees, hears and knows. The message in this chapter should come over loud and clear: NONE of us has any room to make excuses; we are all sinners and we all fall short of perfection, and if we carry on in a self-satisfied way, without doing anything about it, then we are in for big trouble when we come face to face with God and have to account for every detail of our lives to Him.
Now there are usually three responses to this. The first rejects the whole thing and unbelief denies all that has been said. That person simply reveals the hardness and stubbornness of their heart, and simply confirms what Paul has been saying. The second response is to strive harder to be good. This person recognises the truth that they are less than perfect but believes that with a bit more effort they can reach the target, but when tomorrow comes, the target is still just as far away despite all the efforts of today. No, this person has embarked on a fruitless task!
The third response is to turn to God in desperation. This person recognises the truth of their own hopelessness and helplessness and also that without God’s mercy and grace they are doomed. If there is an answer, God has to provide it, for we cannot.
And that, of course, is what the Gospel is all about. That is why Paul is taking so much time to lay out the awful state of the human race, to show us our terrible state, and to show us our helplessness, so that we may see our need of the Gospel.
To the church at Corinth he declared, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor 1:23). To the religious, self-righteous Jews, Jesus dying on a cross for them was a stumbling block that they could not cope with. For the intellectual Gentiles, talk of the Cross as a means of salvation was shear folly. In fact before that he had said, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18) To the person who is still in the place where they are perishing (before coming to Christ) the Cross seems crazy. It is only when we come in repentance to God, convicted by the Spirit of our sins and our terrible state, that suddenly that all changes and the cross becomes the means and the power by which we are saved and delivered from his hopeless and helpless plight. Hallelujah!