Getting What We Deserve (Part 2)

Romans 2:6-10

Tom Pennington  •  April 19, 2015
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I want you to turn with me this morning, as we begin our study of God's word, to Matthew's Gospel, Matthew's Gospel chapter 19. Here in this account we're introduced to a most remarkable man. Matthew 19:16, "someone came to Jesus and said." Now, the other gospels tell us much about who this man was. We're told he was a young man, a word usually used for someone who is not yet married. We're also told that he was a very wealthy young man, in real estate and property. And in addition, we're told that he was already, at his young age, a ruler in the local synagogue, a man of power, influence, wealth, prosperity, but a man who understood something of spiritual things. If ever there was a man who was a seeker, it was this man.

The other gospels tell us he ran through town to Jesus. He wanted to catch Jesus, who had spent the night there in that town, before He left and he runs to Him. And then we're told, "and he fell down before Him." This wasn't done before a rabbi. Neither of those things were done by a wealthy, powerful, influential man. So there is something in this man's heart that makes him long for an answer from Jesus and he says in verse 16, "Teacher," Rabbi, "what good things shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" Notice, he is thinking in categories that are right. He wants eternal life, but he is also thinking in categories that are wrong, "what can I do that I may obtain eternal life?"

Jesus sets him straight, He says, "'Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good.'" Jesus here corrects his view of man. This man still believes that man, in and of himself, can be good enough. Jesus says there is no mere man who is good. There is not one. Only God is good and, of course, Jesus as God was in that category as well. But He's setting this man's thinking straight. And then He says to him, okay, you want to obtain eternal life? "'If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.'"

Now, that is a very unusual thing for Jesus to say. Is Jesus now teaching salvation by works? Of course not, but notice what he says to Him, verse 18, "he said to Him, 'Which ones?'" Okay, if I'm going to enter into life and I need to keep the commandments, tell me which ones I need to keep and I'll do that.

And Jesus said to him, "You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

He basically gives most of the second half of the Ten Commandments, that have to do with our responsibility to others, and then He summarizes it by saying, and what that means is "love your neighbor as yourself." "The young man said to Him, 'All these things I have kept.'" He believes he has kept the Ten Commandments because he's thinking of them merely externally.

"What am I still lacking?" You know here he really is confident in his own self righteousness on the one hand, I've kept all these things, but on the other hand there is still this nagging in his conscience. He knows he still hasn't earned his way to heaven, and so there must be something else I need to do. What is it? Jesus's response to him calls him to genuine repentance and to faith. Look at verse 21, "'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.'"

What's going on here? I mean Jesus doesn't call everyone who comes to Him, to follow Him, to sell everything they have. What's He doing with this young man? He is still trying to convince him of his need for a savior. He is putting His finger on his sin. He's saying to him, listen, you think you've kept the Law? You haven't kept the Law. There is something you have put next to God. There is an idol in your life and that idol is your wealth. You want to come to eternal life? Then you've got to stop worshiping your idol. Go sell everything you have. Let's see how that works out. And give it to the poor.

Not only have you not kept the first half of the Ten Commandments, you haven't kept the second half either. Your wealth has been all about you. You haven't loved your neighbor as yourself. You haven't been generous like you ought to be generous. And so Jesus is saying not only have you not kept the Ten Commandments, the second half, you haven't kept either half. So repent of your idolatry and of your failing to love others. And then He calls him to faith, "and come, follow Me." Stake your life and your eternity on Me, come be My disciple.

So you see here, Jesus calls him to repentance and faith. Verse 22, "when the young man heard the statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property." The cost was just too high. His idol was too precious. His love for himself was just too great. He couldn't do it. Now what's Jesus doing here? Jesus is putting the Law before this man to show him how impossible self-salvation is.

That is exactly Paul's same approach in Romans 2. Turn there with me, Romans 2. We're in a section that begins in chapter 2 verse 1 and runs to chapter 3 verse 8, where Paul is indicting the Jews and he's indicting not only the Jews but all of those who claim a connection to the true God but are, in fact, lost in self righteousness. Paul is demonstrating that every human being is a sinner and therefore every human being needs the gospel. In chapter 2 Paul points out that the Jews and all moral religious people need the gospel for three reasons.

We're looking at the first of those reasons, found in chapter 2 verses 1 to 16. Knowing what is sinful and condemning it in others will not allow you to escape God's wrath. This is how the Jews thought. Although they were committing the same sins as those they were condemning, the pagans they were condemning in chapter 1, they had concluded, according to chapter 2 verse 3, that they would escape the judgment of God. And the reason they came to that conclusion is because they had these terribly flawed views about who God really was. And so Paul is correcting their flawed views to bring them to true repentance.

First he pointed out their flawed view of God's justice, in verses 1 through 3. God's judgment, verse 2 says, "is according to truth." So don't think you're going to escape. They also had a flawed view of God's common grace, in verses 4 through 5. They thought because of the blessings they enjoyed from God, that meant that they and God were okay. But Paul says no, you've misunderstood, the blessings you enjoy are, in fact, God's way to lead you to repentance.

They had a flawed view, as we saw last week, of God's judgment, in verses 6 through 16. They had a flawed view of what the future judgment would be like and so Paul sets out to correct that skewed perspective on the coming judgment of unbelievers. And to do so Paul lays out several foundational principles of God's judgment.

The first principle of God's judgment is that it will be according to our deeds. This is the point of verses 6 through 10, where we find ourselves. Let's read it again, Romans 2:6-10. Verse 6 begins, "who," he's talking about God here,

God will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Now, here in this passage we noted last time that Paul begins with the principle of God's judgment he's teaching here in verse 6. "God will render to each person according to his deeds." He quotes from the Old Testament and he says, this is an inviolable principle of God's judgment.

Now, I noted for you that Paul makes several points in that brief verse about the coming judgment of unbelievers that aren't his main point, but they're still important. We noted that Paul teaches in verse 6 that the judgment is certain, "God will render to each person." We noted that the judgment will be individual. "God will render to each person." The judgment will be universal. If God renders to each person, He renders to every person, to all persons. And then Paul's main point in verse 6 about the future judgment is that the judgment will be evidential. That is, it will be based on the evidence. "God will render to each person according to his deeds." God will look at the evidence of the life before He pronounces His verdict. It will be based on deeds. So that's the principle stated, there in verse 6.

Now, last time we began to consider verses 7 through 10 where Paul develops and explains this a little more. He states the principle in verse 6, but then he explains it and develops it in verses 7 through 10. Now I noted for you, in verses 7 through 10 there are two groups of people. First of all there is group one. Let me just remind you of how they're described. Notice verses 7 and 10. This is group one, "to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." Verse 10, "glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." There's group one.

Now notice group two in verses 8 and 9,

but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.

Now, even as I read that, it's obvious to you that group two that I just read, this group consists of unbelievers. There's no question about that. They sin and they receive God's judgment, unbelievers. But the crucial question is, who is group one? To whom does God promise eternal life in exchange for their good works? That's an important question.

And for our study last time I simplified for you and reduced the various options, to three basic explanations. Here are the three explanations that are offered as to who is in group one, to whom God is promising eternal life in exchange for their works. One explanation is that Paul is here genuinely offering salvation by works to all unbelievers. Now on the face of it, this is obviously not true. This flies in the face of the rest of the Scripture. In addition, as I showed you last time, even in this letter Paul makes it clear that this is not what he means. So that is impossible, although there are people who read this text and come to that conclusion. If, by the way, if you weren't here last week, I'm not going to reargue all of this, you can go and listen and you can catch up to speed; I'm just sort of reviewing here.

The second explanation about who group one is, is that Paul is referring in group one to God's reward of the obedience of those who have already been saved by grace through faith. In other words, this group is made up, according to this view, of true believers who have already been saved by grace alone through faith alone, but at the judgment their works will be the evidence that they have actually believed in Christ and they have been saved by grace alone through faith alone. In addition, this view says, to their works being the evidence that they've been saved by grace, their works will determine their reward.

Now, it is possible that group one is, in fact, explained and described by this second option. It is possible this is what Paul means because this is taught, what this view holds, is taught in other places in Scripture. There's no question about that. This option two is true. It's taught elsewhere in Scripture, but the question is, is this what Paul means here in Romans 2? And I noted for you last week that I don't believe it is.

There's a third option which best fits the flow of Paul's argument in the context. And this is what I believe Paul is saying. Paul, here in group one, is laying out the impossible condition for salvation by works apart from Christ. He's saying, okay, you want to be saved by your own efforts, and this is where the Jews were that he was sharing the gospel with, here's the standard. Meet this standard, you get eternal life. You don't meet it and you don't.

So Paul is using then, the law here, just like Jesus did with the rich young ruler, to show the impossible standard of trying to gain eternal life by your own efforts. Ultimately then, Paul's point is to drive people to Christ and to the gospel. So, that's the grid through which we interpret group one. Having that grid now, I want us to walk through verses 7 through 10 together.

So we're looking then at the principle of judgment according to works explained, here in verses 7 through 10. Let's look initially at group one and we'll call group one, those who seek salvation by human effort. If that's going to be true of you, if you're going to try to pursue heaven by your own work, by your own effort, by your own merit, here's what has to be true of you.

Notice, first of all, their direction, the direction of those in group one. Verse 7, "to those who by perseverance in doing good." Now grammatically, the words that begin this verse, "to those," refer back to the expression in verse 6, He gives to each one, "to those," in verse 7. But there is a change between verse 6 and verse 7. Did you see it? In verse 6 Paul speaks of God's judging people based on their deeds, plural. But here in verse 7, for those who hope to gain eternal life by their own efforts, all their deeds collectively must be able to be described as good, as doing good.

In other words, it's not enough that just a few deeds here and there pop up during their life that can be called good. Instead, their entire life, together, collectively, must be able to be described as characterized by doing good deeds. And notice not just that, but they must "persevere in doing good." The Greek word that's translated persevere literally means to remain under. The best word picture of this word persevere is a weight lifter who picks up this massive amount of weight and for it to be a valid lift, has to remain under that weight for a specified period of time while his whole body shakes and his muscles tremble. He remains under. That's perseverance.

And notice, in this case, anyone who hopes to gain eternal life by his own efforts must remain under the weight of doing good his entire life. And it can't just be doing good in the eyes of the people around you. Their standard of goodness doesn't matter. The standard that matters is God's standard of is it good or not. So in other words, what Paul is saying here is that for a person to earn heaven, all of his deeds collectively must be able to be identified as "doing good." In other words, the direction of his life must be continually toward doing that which is good. He perseveres in it. That's the standard and that is absolutely impossible.

I want you to turn over to Romans 3. This is where Paul is driving. Remember, he's indicting all of humanity, pagans and the Jews, and he's driving to this part of chapter 3. Here's where the indictment comes fully to bear. Verse 9, "What then? Are we," Jews, "better than they," the Gentiles, the pagans? "Not at all; for we have already charged that both the Jews and the Greeks," and Greeks here is just, in this sense, Gentiles, "are all under sin." It doesn't matter whether you're a Jew or a Gentile, they're "all under sin." And then he launches into this record of Old Testament texts to say this is exactly what the Old Testament scriptures teach.

Now notice verse 10, "as it is written, 'There is no one righteous, not even one.'" There is no one whose life collectively can be said to be righteous, good. Nobody meets that standard. Verse 12, "'All have turned aside, together they have become useless.'" You want to know the direction of all of humanity without exception, Jews and Gentiles, they're not on God's path, they've turned aside, their direction isn't good.

Notice verses 16 and 17, he's still using this image of direction and he uses it, he talks of paths, "Destruction and misery are in their paths." Fallen humanity, all humanity, you and me apart from Christ, we destroy and make misery with everything we touch. That's our path. That's our direction. "'And the path of peace they have not known.'" We sow discord and strife wherever we go. We are at enmity with God. We're at enmity with the people around us. That's our direction.

You see how impossible the standard is? You have to have a life that perseveres in doing good, whose direction is and collectively whose works are good, and Paul says there isn't anyone, even religious people. Paul makes this point in Titus 1:16 about professing Christians. He says, "They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed." It's an impossible standard, if that's got to be your direction.

So, go back to chapter 2 and notice group one's ambition, their ambition. Not only, to earn eternal life, must you persist in doing good, but you must also do so for a particular reason, with a particular motive. Verse 7, "to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality." In other words, to meet this standard you've got to persist in doing good because there are specific things you're seeking. The word seek means to pursue and in the Greek text it's in the present tense implying that this is an ongoing continual practice. This is the habit of your life. You continually seek these things.

Notice first of all, glory. You long to see and to reflect God's glory. The implication is, if you're going to be in group one you've got to find God's glory excites you more than your own glory. You long to manifest, to exhibit, to reflect the glory of God. And you seek honor, verse 7 says. In other words, you seek to be honored not by the people around you but by God. And you seek immortality. In other words, you have to live for the hope of the resurrection and for the joys of the life to come and not for this life. What John Stott calls, "the unfading joy of God's presence."

So do you see it? To earn eternal life, if that's what you want to do, then your focus must be consistently on the life to come and on God and not on the things of this earth. That's the standard. That has to be what drives you. You must be, in the end, a true God seeker. This too is an absolutely impossible standard. Look again at chapter 3 verse 11, "There is not one who understands. There is none," not one, "who seeks for God." Nobody continually seeks for God and for His honor and for the things of the life to come, apart from the work of Christ. Left to ourselves as we're born in a state of fallenness, we don't seek that.

You say, what about those religious people, you know, in false religions as we saw in chapter 1? Religion is not a way to seek the true God, it's a way to run from the true God, who's made Himself known in the creation. Look at verse 18. "There is," this is all of humanity now remember, Greeks, Gentiles, and Jews, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." They don't live for God's honor and God's glory and to see and manifest the glory of God and for the things that matter. And then look at verse 23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the standard of the glory of God," an impossible standard in both direction and ambition.

But notice their behavior, group one's behavior, verse 10, "glory and honor and peace," here's their behavior, "to everyone who does good," literally, to everyone working good or practicing good. The verb tense again implies this is their ongoing pattern, their ongoing habit of life. In other words, their day-to-day behavior is characterized by doing what is good in the eyes of God. Again, impossible. Look back at chapter 3 verse 12, "There is not one who does," or who practices on a day to day basis, "good, there is not even one." You're not the exception. I'm not the exception. In God's eyes, nobody has behavior that meets His standard. He goes on, by the way, in verses 13 to 17 to talk about the behavior of all of us in our words and in our actions, and it certainly isn't good.

Now, notice the destiny of group one, back in chapter 2, the destiny of group one. If those who seek to earn eternal life by their own efforts could actually meet the standard of perfect obedience to God's Law, which they can't, but if they could they would receive, notice verse 7, "to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." The verb is understood from verse 6, God renders or God gives eternal life "to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality." Eternal life, God would give it if you could meet the standard. As Jesus defines it, eternal life is this, in John 17, "that they may know You, the only true God, and that they may know Jesus Christ whom You've sent."

In verse 10 Paul explains more about the destiny of group one. Not only will they enjoy eternal life, but verse 10 says, "glory and honor and peace." Here Paul says that two of the ambitions they had in verse 7, they'll achieve, glory and honor. In other words, if a person were to meet the standard of the Law, which no one ever has or will, he would receive not only eternal life but he would share the glory of God and he would be honored by God. And in addition, Paul adds in verse 10, "peace." Paul undoubtedly here has the Hebrew word shalom in mind. It's a word that speaks of reconciled relationships both with God and others as Paul uses it in Ephesians 2. Wow, that's the destiny of those in group one.

Now, at the end of verse 10 Paul adds an important caveat. Notice what he says, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Now, in that expression Paul makes two important points. First of all, he says the Jews will be the first priority God has in judging them according to their deeds and rewarding them with eternal life, if they meet the perfect standard of perfect obedience. But, he also says, there at the end of verse 10, that deeds will also be the standard God uses for the Greek, here used in the sense of Gentiles. So do you see? When he speaks of the Jews and Gentiles, or Jews and Greeks, he's referring to every human, or all humanity. So don't miss what he's saying here. He's saying, the perfect obedience to the law is the universal standard for everyone who wants to try to earn eternal life.

Now theoretically, if someone could meet this standard, he would earn eternal life. But no one ever has or ever will meet this standard except our Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who has perfectly obeyed God's Law. Because God didn't intend the Law to save. He intended the Law to do what Jesus did in using it with the rich young ruler. He intended this standard to crush all hope of one's own merit, of one's own effort saving us, and to drive us to the gospel, to drive us to Jesus Christ. You see, no one actually qualifies to be in group one except Jesus Christ. Nobody's ever lived that life. That's Paul's point. When the moral religious person fails to meet the Law's standard, he's not in group one, he's in group two. This means that everyone outside of Jesus Christ is in group two.

So let's look at group two together. Let's call group two, those who do not obey the truth. Here then is Paul's description of all humanity. But remember, we're in a section where Paul's focus is specifically on those who are moral and religious. Those who have attached themselves to the true God, who believe, however, that they can earn their own way into the true God's presence, into heaven, and in the first century that would have been exclusively the Jews and the Gentile proselytes to Judaism. Today that funnel is a little wider; it also includes professing Christians who are pursuing heaven by their own merit and efforts.

Let's see what Paul has to say about this group. Notice, first of all, their ambition. Again, Paul is picking up on the principle of verse 6, "God will render to each person according to his deeds." Verse 8, "to those," here's group two, "who are selfishly ambitious." Here's their ambition. It's characterized as "selfish ambition." The Greek word translated "selfishly ambitious" is an interesting word because before the New Testament it occurs only in the writings of Aristotle. And Aristotle used this word to refer to a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means.

Now, of course, that doesn't happen today, but in Aristotle's time apparently it did. So he uses this, this word "selfish ambition," to describe a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. It means to be seeking your own agenda, your own cause, your own goal, your own self promotion. It is to be utterly selfish. It's a word that speaks of motive. According to Galatians 5, selfish ambition is part of our fallenness, it's part of the works of the flesh. All of us struggle and are guilty of selfish ambition.

Paul's point here is that all sinners fail to meet the standard of God's Law because they don't live with the right motive. By the way, this becomes very important. A lot of people say, well, you know, there seem to be a lot of good people on this planet. There are a lot of good people that live around me. You know, they seem to love their wives and love their kids and seem to do mostly the right thing. Why don't they measure to God's standard of goodness? Here's the reason, because it's done for the wrong reason, done with the wrong motive. It's selfishly ambitious. Instead of loving God and truly loving others, we love ourselves.

By nature we are selflessly ambitious. We are not driven to glorify God, but ourselves. We are not driven to seek honor from God, but from the people around us. We are not driven to think of immortality and eternity, but fleshly and earthly things. All sinners are, in the words of one commentator, "infatuated with themselves and engrossed in self-centered goals." That's where all of us were before Christ and that's where every unbeliever is today. That's their ambition, "selfish ambition."

Notice their direction in verse 8, "to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness." Not only are we naturally driven by self-love but also the direction of our lives is away from God, away from obedience to Him, it's disobedience. In Romans 11:30 Paul describes those who are now believers in Rome this way, he says, "you once were disobedient to God." That's the characteristic of unbelievers. Ephesians 2:2, Paul calls us "sons of disobedience." Titus 3:3, "For we also once were disobedient."

We were disobedient to God, but we were still obedient. Notice what it says, instead of obeying the truth, they "obey unrighteousness." What does that mean? It means what Paul says later in Romans 6, that before Christ and all men apart from Christ are "slaves of sin." You know, they think they're free, they think, I'm doing what I want, nobody's restricting me. The truth is they're slaves, "slaves of sin." This was their direction; this was our direction before Christ.

Notice the behavior of group two, the behavior. Look at verse 9, "every soul of man who does evil." The Greek word for does means to achieve or to accomplish or to produce. What do we naturally produce, achieve, or accomplish as sinners? Notice the word, "evil." All of those thoughts and attitudes and words and actions which are the opposite, the antithesis of good, the antithesis of the character of God.

The Jews were guilty of sins even though they were religious. In fact, in chapter 2 verse 1 he says, "you practice the same things" as the Gentiles. Look at the sins in chapter 1, he says, that's what you do, that's the evil you do. Maybe you do it differently, maybe you do it only internally, but you do it.

It's interesting what John says in 3 John 11, he says, "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good." Now listen to this, "The one who does good is of God," not good by man's standard, by God's standard. The one who does what God demands and requires of us. That person knows God, he's of God, he's been born of God, but "the one who does evil," the one whose behavior is characterized by evil, "has not seen God."

Notice the destiny of group two in verse 8, "but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness," God will render, "wrath and indignation." Two words that describe the destiny. Now Paul has already introduced us to the first of these words, the word wrath. Go back to chapter 1 verse 18, "for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." This is in the present tense, by the way. God's wrath is now being revealed and he goes on to describe how it's being revealed; it's being revealed in the wrath of abandonment as God abandons people to their sin.

But the same word wrath is used not merely of the wrath of abandonment that's happening now, but of the future judgment that's coming. In chapter 2 verse 5, "because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up God's wrath for yourself." When? "In the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." In the coming day of judgment there will be wrath.

But go back to chapter 2 verse 8 and notice the second word, indignation. This word is a less common word in the New Testament, but it is often translated in both the Septuagint and in the Greek New Testament as rage. You know, God doesn't experience emotions like we do because our emotions are reactions. God doesn't react. He knows what's going to happen. He causes the things that happen to happen. So He doesn't experience emotion as we experience emotion. But when the writers of Scripture, when God Himself wants to help us understand His reaction, it's not truly a reaction as ours is but His response, they use the language of emotion and this word means rage. It speaks of the intensity and the violence of God's response to those in group two.

This word, by the way, is a synonym for the word wrath. If we were to try to discern some nuance of difference between these two words, wrath and indignation, we could say that wrath describes the, sort of, growing displeasure within God toward human sinfulness and indignation describes the outpouring of that displeasure upon the sinner. That's possible, but I don't think that's how Paul is using these words here. I think he is using these two words together in the same way that these two words are used together in the Old Testament, in the Septuagint, in the Greek Bible that Paul and the others in the first century used.

These two words often occur together in the Old Testament and when they occur together in the Septuagint our translators have often translated the Hebrew for that as "the fierce anger of God." Putting the two words together makes God's response more intense. It is a fierce anger. By the way, it's expressed this way in the New Testament in Revelation 19:15 at the second coming of Christ. We read, "Christ treads the wine press of the," and these two Greek words occur together and it's translated, "the fierce wrath of God," the raging anger of God. That is a frightening thought, a being of the majesty and power of God. And to help us understand just how violent His response is to those in group two, it's described as rage, a fierce anger. So the destiny of all "who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness" is not going to be eternal life, but instead "the fierce wrath of God" in judgment forever.

Notice in verse 9 Paul adds concerning their destiny, "There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil." Wrath and indignation, those refer to God's response to the sinner, tribulation and distress looks at the same thing from the sinner's side, what he experiences. It's how God's judgment affects the sinner. Tribulation refers, literally, it's pressure. In its literal sense the word means to press or to squash, as in the treading of grapes. Paul uses this word to describe severe outward trouble. It's the kind of trouble that comes into your life that crushes you. Distress is literally, narrowness. It's being cramped for space. It's when your external circumstances produce extreme distress in your spirit.

Together, these two words point out the intensity of the distress and trouble that man will experience forever under the fierce rage of God. This is the destiny that God will give or render to every unbeliever and notice, it will be in perfect keeping with his deeds. God's verdict will be a perfect reflection of the evidence.

Now, at the end of verse 9 Paul adds, "for every soul of man." That's an emphatic way to say, every person. This is God's response to every unbeliever. And notice, He will pronounce this sentence to "the Jew first and also to the Greek." This is God's universal response to every unbeliever whether that unbeliever is a Jew or whether he's a Gentile, doesn't matter.

In fact, notice God's judgment will come first and with greater intensity for the Jew, Paul says. Why is that? Because he had greater privilege. Paul's going to argue that later in Romans. It's what our Lord said in Luke 12:48, "the one who did not know his master's will and committed deeds worthy of a flogging will receive only a few lashes, but from everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." You see, the gospel came first to the Jews. Look back to chapter 1 verse 16, salvation was announced "to the Jew first." And just as the Jews were the first to receive the gospel, so they will be the first to be judged if they reject this gospel.

Let me tell you, the Jews listening to Paul in the synagogue would have been shocked at this statement because they really believed that God would judge the Gentiles, but that they would get a pass. And Paul says that's just not true, yours will be the greater condemnation and you'll be the first to get what you deserve.

Let me just say, there's a sober reminder here. I know there are people who attend our church every week who are not in Christ and you know you're not in Christ. I often pray for you. I want you to know that. Every week I pray for you. If you know that you're not in Christ you are putting yourself in a very dangerous position to connect to the people of God, to be here every week, because Christ says, and Paul says here, that your judgment will be worse because of all that you know and all that you hear.

But did you get Paul's main point? Verse 6, "God will render to each person according to his deeds." And when God passes His verdict on every life there are only two possible fates that await every person, either eternal life or eternal punishment under God's fierce wrath.

And if you want to earn the verdict of eternal life. If you say, yes, I think I can be good enough. I think my good works are able to get me into heaven. I think my good works will outweigh my bad. If that's what you want, then here's the standard. You see the standard in group one. The collective deeds of your life must be able to be described by God as good and that can't be just for a time, just for a day or two here or there, a month, can't be in fits and starts.

Instead, you must persevere your entire life in doing what is good by God's standard. And the motive, the ambition for doing that, must not be your own pride to make yourself look good in the eyes of others, to inflate yourself with the people around you, or for selfishness, for something you get from God, but rather, your motive must be the eternal motives of God's glory, of receiving God's honor, and seeking the things of eternity.

In other words, you must be driven every moment by a passionate love for God above all things and a passionate love for people more than yourself. In addition, your behavior day in and day out must be characterized consistently by doing what God requires and doing it perfectly. Only if those things are true of you do you have any hope of earning eternal life.

Now do you understand how impossible this really is? It's impossible. There's no one like that. There is no one in group one except Jesus Christ. What Paul has done here is to show us that every one of us by birth and by choice are actually in group two. We have been driven by a love for ourselves, by the pursuit of our own selfish ambitions. We have not consistently obeyed God's truth, rather we have obeyed our sin. We are slaves to our sin and our day to day behavior is characterized by doing what is evil. Therefore, our destiny will be the fierce anger of God's eternal punishment. It will produce for us an eternity of what Paul calls "tribulation and distress." Paul leaves us utterly hopeless of ourselves, but our hope comes in the gospel.

Notice chapter 5, chapter 5 verse 8. In spite of all of that reality, go back to verse 6,

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [that's us]. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; although perhaps for the good man someone would dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The only one ever in group one died for all of us who are in group two, died in our place. Verse 9, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood," being declared right with God by the work of Christ, by His death, "we will be rescued from the wrath of God" we deserve, His fierce anger, "through Jesus." There's our hope. It's in Christ and Him alone.

Look over at chapter 6 verse 23, "For the wages of sin," what we earned by our sin, "is death," physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death suffering God's fierce anger, "but the free gift of God is eternal life," and it comes to us, "in Christ Jesus our Lord." Look at chapter 8 verse 1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation," no guilty verdict, the verdict we deserve, "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

You see why it's so important to understand the bad news? Because when you understand the bad news, the good news is really good news. We can never be in group one, but Jesus was, and the only one who ever met the perfect demands of God's Law then laid down His life in our place, to reconcile us to God, to make it possible. So we could be reconciled to God our Creator. So our sins could be forgiven. So the guilty verdict we deserve doesn't fall on us, but on Christ. And we get the verdict of righteous, the verdict He deserves. That's the gospel and that's what Paul wants us to see, in Romans 2, that we need. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You, that You have demolished all of our hope in ourselves, because that moves us then to find our hope in You, that You are a savior and that You have sent the Savior, Your Son, to live the life we should have lived, to actually be in group one, to manifest those things that are beyond us, and then to offer His perfect life in death as a substitute to satisfy Your wrath against us.

Father, those of us who come to You in Christ, fill our hearts with joy and praise. Father, help us to see that our bad news has become the best news. Father, may we live in the light of that reality. Fill our hearts with joy, our mouths with singing and praise, and help us to share this good news with others.

And Father, I pray for those here this morning who are still in group two. Father, may this be the day when they are reconciled to You their Creator through Your Son, the one You sent. May they repent of their sins and follow Christ, even as Christ called the rich young ruler to do. We pray in Jesus's name, amen.