Meditations in Romans : 29 : The Day of the Lord
Rom 2:16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
“It will never happen!” I think that is a response of many people to warnings that are given in life. The smoker is warned that smoking brings cancer and the individual thinks, “It might in others but it won’t in me.” The young person is told that sexual promiscuity brings a high risk of STD’s but thinks, “But not for me!” And so it is in so many ways in life, our self-centred and protective inner systems deny risk. “It will be all right!” It is just the same as when Satan whispered to Eve, “You will not surely die.” (Gen 3:4). When it comes to sin we may warn people that God will hold them accountable and they say “Yes” but think “No, not me.” We may actually quote Paul saying, “A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal 6:7) and the blindness of sin thinks, “Others, but not me. I’ll be all right.” Well, no, you won’t!
There are two particular outworkings of this that involve us in long-term thinking. We warn, “You’re not going to live for ever, you never know when you might die and then you’ll face God,” and the person thinks, “Yes, but that won’t be for many years,” and yet a lot of people don’t reach old age, but we all think we will. Or the preacher speaks about the day when the Lord will wind up all things and there will be a universal accounting, and the person thinks, “Yes, well that won’t be for hundreds of years yet.” We don’t know!
There is yet another ‘escape route’ that people use when we say these things: “It’ll be all right, no one knows about my sin,” as if their sin being hidden from human eyes means they will not be accountable to God. Nevertheless the belief that what we have been doing has been in secret leads many people to foolishly think they are safe. No you are not because God sees everything!
We say all this because of where Paul has got to now. “This will take place…” What will take place? Well if you look at the verses in the paragraph from which the above verse comes, you will see that verses 14 and 15 are an aside in brackets. So the ‘this’ refers back to what was said in verses 12 and 13: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” i.e. there is coming a time of judgment when we have to account for what we have done or not done. That is the starting place.
Now something else is then made clear: “on the day when….” This isn’t something general, which could happen any time. There is coming a day, a specific time and day, when God has decided that this will happen. It won’t be an accident and it won’t be forced by circumstances but it is a day that God has decided upon before anything else happened. It is part of His sovereign plan, so it WILL happen.
So what will happen? “God will judge men’s secrets.” This is going to be a sovereign act of God. It won’t be that circumstances will pile up against us, but that on this appointed day, God Himself will step forward and He will hold a court case against us and the evidence will be put forward and our lives displayed – everything about us, even the things we thought were secret that no one else knew about – and God will pronounce judgment on these lives of ours. Already we are starting to feel uncomfortable. How can we possibly hope for a good outcome? Perhaps we can make excuses? I didn’t know. Yes, you did; your conscience told you. Or maybe, well I’m no worse than anyone else. So what? You’re still talking about your sin. Or perhaps, it wasn’t my fault? You mean you are unable to make your own choices in life? You didn’t choose to do those things? No, the outlook is not good!
But on what measure or standard will God judge us? “Through Jesus Christ.” What does that mean? I suggest there are two applications. First, He will measure us against the standard of the life that Christ lived. How do we stand up to that test? That’s unfair, we cry, he was the Son of God. Yes, but he was still living in a human body with human feelings and human free will. Oh dear, we’re going to fail that one!
But there is yet, fortunately, a further possibility. I say fortunately because I hope the answer to what is coming is positive. The other way that God will assess us, is how we have responded to Jesus. That is what the gospel is all about that Paul then refers to. Jesus came and lived on the earth and we saw all of his goodness and the love of God displayed through him. How do our hearts respond to that? If it leaves us cold we condemn ourselves. But then he died on the Cross to take the punishment for our sins. How do we respond to that?
If it is with indifference we condemn ourselves. If we receive his salvation gladly we are not only saved today, but we will be saved on that day when we have to stand before God and account for our lives. We will surely fail when we are measured on the basis of our personal goodness, but when it comes to how we responded to Jesus, that is much easier if we can say, I heard, I responded and I took him as my personal saviour and was born again. THAT and that only is the only way we will be able to stand with any confidence before God on that last day.