Sermon Manuscript: Romans 2:6 (Part 3)
(This is a section of a manuscript of the first prepared sermon I ever preached, which was in 2009 at the Evangelical Church of Fairport.)
Romans 2:6, “He will render to each one according to his works…”
Tonight, I will respond briefly to the objections of believer and unbeliever by attempting to bring the full weight of the Scripture to bear upon the concepts of judgment and justification. Then we will look at three different, but common, formulations of justification: two of them are false and one is true. Which of them you believe is something for which you are permanently responsible.
So Christopher Hitchens accuses God of being a cosmic voyeur and that the idea that God will judge us for our thoughts is, to him, repulsive. Like many of the assertions of the so-called “New Atheists,” this barely deserves a response. It’s not an argument, so it can’t really be refuted. If he and I were to have a discussion or debate on the matter, and he were to raise this objection I might simply reply, “Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, dude.” Hitchens, like many atheists, gets thing precisely backwards, assuming that he is the judge and God is the one on trial. Nothing could be further out of touch with reality. However, his assertion does raise the question, why does God judge even the secrets of men? After all, no court on earth does such a thing.
The answer is a simple one. Our distinction between public and private sins does not exist for God. He is everywhere present and all-knowing. Every instant he is everywhere, seeing and evaluating everything. We live every moment of our lives as though performed on a stage before him. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Heb. 4:13). As I said, everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do.
God will judge men’s thoughts – ” Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5); He will judge men’s words – ” I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt. 12:36-37); and he will judge men’s deeds – “And then will (Christ) declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Mt. 7:23). “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’” (Mt. 25:41-43).
The secret things will be judged because perfect justice demands it. Some of the most heinously wicked acts in all of history have been done in secret. All sins will be laid bare. Secret offenses will be brought into judgment. This includes the hidden motives of every action; for we may do that which is right from a wrong motive, and so the deed may be evil in the sight of God, though it seems right in the sight of others. The secret things are of the very essence of our actions. Whether or not an action is good or bad very much depends on the motives behind it. It may seem good, but the motive may tarnish it; and so, if God did not judge the secret part of the action he would not judge righteously.
Think what it will be to have your motives all brought to light, to have it proven that you were godly for the sake of gain, that you were generous as a mere exhibition, or zealous simply for the love of praise, that you spoke carefully in public to maintain a good reputation, but that all the while everything was done for self, and self only. Indeed, on that day God will reveal all secrets, even secrets that were secrets to the sinners themselves, for there is sin in us which we have never seen, and iniquity in us which we have never yet discovered. We have managed for our own comfort’s sake to blind our eyes somewhat, and we take care to look away from the things about ourselves which it is inconvenient to see; but we shall be compelled to see everything in that day, when the Lord judges the secrets of men. The deeds of the night. The sins hidden behind closed doors. Even sins hidden from husband or wife. If a professing Christian is living in dishonesty, untruthfulness, fornication, adultery, uncleanness or idolatry it will all be made known on that day. For “the sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later (or trail behind them NIV).” (1 Tim. 5:24). All hypocrisy will come to an end on that day. Hypocrites will have an eternity to ponder their foolishness and shame.