We like to think that anything is possible in life. We tell one another that whatever you want to do is possible as long as you are willing to work hard and stay at it. That is the predominant idea that we hear so much about when we are kids. The truth of the matter is that this idea is not totally true. There are limitations that each and every one of us faces in life. Life is not fair. Let me give you a few examples of what I am talking about.
If you are 5’6, weigh 155 lbs., and run a 5.2 forty yard dash then the possibility of you being a linebacker in the NFL is somewhere between slim and none, and slim left town. It just isn’t going to happen. If your desire in life is to be a NASA astronaut and fly to the moon on a space mission, but your parents have to constantly stay on you about keeping your grades above a “C” and you can’t stand heights, then the prospects of you ever becoming an astronaut are highly unlikely. If you were one of my friends who came to me one day and told me that you heard the beats of Toby Mac and Kanye West, great rap artists for those of you who don’t recognize the names, and you had decided to leave your job as an investment banker with Smith Barney, leave your home in Nichols Hills, and move your family to Compton, California. I would have a tough time encouraging you to pursue your dream. There is probably a greater likelihood of you flying without the aid of an airplane than you inking a deal with Jay Z and Roc-A-Fella Records. I could go on and on painting scenarios of the limitations we face in life.
Some of the limitations we face in life are self-imposed and others are imposed on us by society. Regardless of what some may believe there is still racism running amuck in our world today, there is still gender discrimination, and I’m learning that there is age discrimination in our society as well. I heard there were auditions for the new American Idol and I got so excited! My kids informed me that I was too old. I couldn’t believe it! I thought about calling the ACLU.
Along with the barriers I’ve already mentioned there is also favoritism that affects us in life. How can one man commit a crime and face such a stiff penalty when another man commits the same crime and gets off with a slap on the wrist? How can two people apply for a job and the person who is obviously less qualified is chosen over the person who is much better suited for the job? Favoritism. The “good-ol-boy” way of doing things is still alive in the United States of America today.
What do you do? How can we overcome these obstacles that have always been around and which show no signs of ever being eradicated from our society? That’s a great question and I don’t have any answers for you concerning how to rid society of these ills, but I do want to give you some good news this morning. There is a place where we can go where there is no favoritism, where the playing field is level, and where partiality is as extinct as Tyrannosaurus Rex. In the last verse of our Scripture for today we read, 11 For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11 NIV) God doesn’t take into account the things that make us desirable according to society’s standards–He has a totally different method of evaluation that He uses. Let me give you an example.
When God was choosing a replacement for King Saul for the nation of Israel He told the prophet Samuel to go to Jesse’s house. The next king of Israel would be chosen from one of Jesse’s sons. When Jesse and his sons showed up for the sacrifice, Samuel saw Jesse’s son, Eliab, and thought to himself, “Now there is a young man who looks presidential!” God’s response to Samuel is found in 1 Samuel 16:7. Read along with me.
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV)
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” There you have it, God’s method of evaluation, is totally, absolutely different than our way of evaluating people. This strikes at the heart of our Scripture for today. Let’s read from Romans 2:5-11.
5 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. 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:5-11 NIV)
In Romans 2:5 Paul tells us that God’s wrath is being “stored up” because of our “stubbornness” and “unrepentant hearts.” The Greek word that is used here literally means, “treasure chest” or “storing up.” Jesus uses the word in Matthew 6:19-21.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)
Paul uses the same Greek word when he writes to the folks in Corinth and lets them know that he is not after their money, but their hearts. Paul writes,
14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12:14 NIV)
Paul says that children should not have to “save up,” or build up their treasure chests for their parents, but parents are supposed to put away for their children.
In our Scripture for today Paul tells us that God is filling His treasure chest for those who are hard-headed, stubborn, and unrepentant. It is not good gifts or blessings that await these folks, but it is God’s wrath. Why? Because God is angry? Because God wants nothing more than to get us? You’ve got to be kidding! We learned last week that God has demonstrated His kindness towards us so that we might be moved to repentance. God’s wrath is being stored up because we are hard-headed and stiff-necked. He has offered us forgiveness, He has offered us life, and we have chosen to walk away from His glorious grace. We’ve chosen death and destruction.
Romans 2:6 has been used by some Bible teachers to teach “salvation by works,” but if that were the case then this verse would contradict everything else that Paul, and the rest of the biblical writers, ever taught. In Romans 2:6 we read, 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” (Romans 2:6 NIV) This section of God”s Word is about God’s judgment. God’s judgment is different than God’s salvation. Throughout Scripture we are taught that salvation is the work of God, completely the work of God. At the same time, Scripture is replete with reference after reference that tells us that judgment is based upon deeds. Let me give you a few examples. In Psalm 62:12 we read,
(12) “Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (Psalm 62:12 NIV)
In Jeremiah 17:10, God says,
10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10 NIV)
Some may think that this is merely an Old Testament teaching, but I want to caution you in this because the Old Testament doesn’t contradict the New Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus said,
27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27 NIV)
Jesus spoke about God’s judgment once again in John 5:28-29. Take a look at this passage and let’s read together.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out– those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28-29 NIV)
So we see throughout God’s Word that God’s judgment is based upon works. You have to ask the question, “If God’s salvation is based solely upon grace, it is God’s work, then are we saying that our lack of works trump the grace of God?” Absolutely not! Our works are evidence of the salvation of God at work in our lives. James wrote,
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:14-18 NIV)
A godly life, overflowing with godly deeds, is evidence of God’s saving power at work in our life. John MacArthur writes about the relationship of God’s saving power and good deeds present in our lives when he writes,
Outward godly works are the evidence of inner faith. Salvation is not by works, but it will assuredly produce works. The presence of genuinely good deeds in a person’s life reveals that he has truly been saved, and in God’s infallible eyes those deeds are a perfectly reliable indicator of saving faith. In the same way, the absence of genuinely good deeds reveals the absence of salvation. In both cases, deeds become a trustworthy basis for God’s judgment. When God sees works that manifest righteousness, He knows if they have come from a regenerated heart. And when He sees works that manifest unrighteousness, He knows if they come from an unregenerated heart. (MacArthur, John. MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. Moody Press: Chicago, IL.)
When we began our study I asked you the question, “Which path will you choose?” In verses 7-10 we see the two paths I was referring to. Let’s read together.
7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 2:7-10 NIV)
I love the word Paul uses for “persistence” in verse 7. It means, “steadfastness, constancy, or endurance.” It means to bear up under, to dig in, to stay at it, to be relentlessly committed to the task at hand. The old Bible teachers who are long gone, men like Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Calvin, taught what was known as the “perseverance of the saints.” What they meant by the phrase was that you and I can’t know whether a person is saved or not by simply looking at them in the moment, but those who are truly made right with God will walk faithfully with Him over the long haul.
As we take a look at the “deeds” of those described in verses 7-10 I have to remind us that Paul is not talking about earning our salvation, but that he is describing the life of a true believer and a non-believer. John MacArthur writes,
Paul is not discussing how a person comes to salvation or how God produces Christlikeness in him. He is describing what the life of a true believer is like, pointing out that those divinely-bestowed qualities will eventuate in the final glory of the divinely-bestowed eternal life. (MacArthur, John. MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. Moody Press: Chicago, IL.)
Paul says that the lives of true believers, those who will receive eternal life, are characterized by some definite qualities. Those whom Paul says God will give eternal life are those who are persistent in doing good. The Greek word means, “work, an act, deed, or thing done.” What is it they are working for? That’s a great question. You can find the answer in verse 7, “glory, honor, and immortality.” Those who will receive eternal life are those who seek glory, but not for themselves. They seek the glory of God, their highest aim in life is to bring glory and honor to the Father. A little further into Paul’s letter to the Romans we read,
22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath– prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:22-24 NIV)
Paul says that God’s patience with us and our wayward, sinful ways is for a purpose. The purpose is to display the riches of His glory to us who are the objects of His mercy. Wow! Last of all, in Paul’s letter to the folks in Corinth, he writes,
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV)
When God’s grace breaks through and He saves us by His mercy, a transformation begins to take place. Our way of doing life is replaced by a desire to live for the glory of God. Our lives, our lifestyle, our speech and actions are to reflect God’s character. Paul writes,
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)
Secondly, true believers live a life of honor. We are to seek honor–the honor of Almighty God. When Stephen was being stoned to death for his faith, Scripture tells us that he looked up and saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55) Jesus was honoring Stephen for his faithfulness. As we live our lives each day we should desire to look up and see Jesus standing at the right hand of God, honoring us for our faithfulness to His calling upon our lives.
There is a second application of this verse and that is our honoring God. We should seek to honor God for who He is and for all that He has done for each of us. When we value God’s Word so much that we read it before we read the morning paper, we are honoring God. When we tell the truth when it would be easier to tell a lie, we are honoring God. When we reach out to those who are hurting and love them like they are Jesus Himself, we are honoring God. Oh, our highest aim should not be our pleasure, our comfort, or our will, but God’s honor.
Last of all, Paul says that true believers seek immortality. A true believer looks forward to the day when this corruptible body will be clothed in incorruptibility. A true believer looks forward to the day when he or she will stand before the throne of the Father in all of His glorious radiance.
In verses 8-9 we see the characteristics of another kind of person, a person, Jew or Gentile, who shuns the grace of God and rejects the truth. Paul writes,
8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; (Romans 2:8-9 NIV)
Verse 8 demonstrates for us that the recipients of God’s wrath and anger are those who are the antithesis of those we have just taken a look at in verse 7. Instead of seeking to glorify and honor God, to share in the glory of God, and to live a life worthy of the honor of God, these folks are self-seeking. Instead of seeking to be clothed in immortality these folks want theirs now.
In verse 5 Paul told us that God’s wrath is being stored up for the stubborn and unrepentant. For those who are seeking glory, honor, and immortality there is a willingness to be taught and corrected by the Lord. For those who are seeking to honor God with their lives there is deep remorse and sorrow, followed by repentance, when they sin. They desire for the truth of God to shape their lives, not what they want out of life.
Which path will you choose this morning? Will you choose to surrender your life to Almighty God, accept His mercy and grace offered to you through the life of His Son Jesus, and live for His glory and honor? Or will you reject the truth of God and continue to pursue what you want in life above all else?
There are consequences for our choices in life. Paul says that if we reject the truth of God and continue to be self-seeking then the road ahead is going to lead to trouble and great distress, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. On the other hand, Paul says that those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, who walk with Him day-in and day-out, their path will be paved with glory, honor, and peace.
Did you notice that two of the three words that were used in verse 7 are the same? Only the last word is different. Verse 7 tells us that those who are walking with God will seek “glory, honor, and immortality.” Paul tells us in verse 10 that God will give those who walk with Him, “glory, honor, and peace.” The Greek word used by Paul, is “eirene.” The word is rooted in the Hebrew word, “Shalom,” or “peace.” The biblical understanding of peace is broader than our understanding today. I’ll give you one way where our understanding of the word reflects the biblical understanding. The “Shalom” or peace of the nation was desired by all of its people. What nation desires war? I know that we, as Americans, look forward to the day when our war will come to an end and all of our young men and women can come home. We pray for the peace of our nation.
The biblical definition goes far beyond this type of peace. In Strong’s Concordance we read that the word used in regards to faith means,
Completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, safety, soundness (in body), prosperity, quiet, tranquility, with God in covenant relationship. (Strong’s Concordance, “Shalom.”)
There is a great story in the Old Testament that illustrates the beauty and power of the word, “peace,” for us. In Judges 6, the Israelites are having a tough time because the Midianites were destroying their crops and wreaking havoc with the people of the nation. God’s people were discouraged, they were despondent, they didn’t know what to do.
One day the angel of the LORD came and met Gideon. He said to him, “The LORD is with you mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12) Gideon said, “Oh yea, if that is the case then why is all of this trouble happening? Where are all of the miracles our fathers have told us about?” The angel of the LORD said, “I will be with you and you will strike down the Midianites.” Gideon said, “If the LORD is really with me then give me a sign.” God gave Gideon a sign and then we read in Judges 6:22-24.
22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!” 23 But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” 24 So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (Judges 6:22-24 NIV)
Gideon called his altar, “The LORD is Peace.” In Hebrew it is, “YHWH shalom.” You know how I would translate the Hebrew phrase, knowing Gideon’s situation and the experience he had just had with God? I would translate it, “It’s gonna to be alright.” The Midianites are still in the fields destroying our crops, but God is with us so it’s gonna to be alright. I don’t feel like a mighty warrior, I’m the least of the least, but God is with me so it’s gonna to be alright. Where does that kind of peace come from? It only comes from God and it is given to those who walk with Him through life. Who is this peace for? It is for you. Remember Romans 2:11, 11 For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11 NIV)
When you walked into this sanctuary this morning you may have been heading down the road of trouble with a stiff-neck and a hard-head. Your family and friends have tried to share God’s love and mercy with you, but you wouldn’t listen. You want to live your life and you want to live it how you want to live it. But now, you hear the voice of God speaking to you through His Word and you know that He is calling you to turn around. If you will choose to heed His voice, He will give you this peace that we have been talking about.
It doesn’t matter who you are. You may have walked here this morning from a crack house in this neighborhood where you spent the night getting high or you may have driven here this morning from your nice home in the suburbs. Remember God does not show favoritism. You may get your food from the Britvil Food Pantry or you may eat in the nicest of restaurants in Oklahoma. It doesn’t matter this morning because God does not show favoritism. He is standing with His arms open wide inviting you to come into His arms of grace and mercy this very morning. Which path will you choose? Won’t you choose Jesus and come to realize that He has already chosen you?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 18, 2013