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In many ways, graceless moralism is further removed from God’s kingdom than outright immorality. That’s because moralists often see no need for God’s grace in themselves.
To the upright pagan moralist, Paul argues in Romans 2:1 that such a person who judges another is actually more guilty than those they presume to condemn.
Then Paul uses a direct form of speech: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man…”
In this Greek form of argument known as a diatribe, Paul seems to be talking to people who are closer to his own circles of life… these are moral pagans, religious Gentile moralists, and it also includes the unsaved Jews.
In Romans 2:3 he asks, “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Paul is not saying that the moralist has necessarily committed the specific sins they’re condemning, but that such a person is nonetheless guilty because by judging other sinners, he proves that he has an informed moral conscience.
The moralist further demonstrates that he has a standard of righteousness that is something other than God’s standard. His false standard allows him to condemn others while acquitting himself.
And added to this blindness and hypocrisy is the greater sin of pride.
Self-righteousness is the spiritual manifestation of pride. The moralist feels superior to other sinners because God is not his standard. He measures himself by other sinners.
And speaking of hypocrisy, notice that the sin of hypocrisy isn’t once listed among the catalogue of Gentile sins back in Romans 1, verses 18-32.
That’s a very interesting observation.
The outright pagans in that group are presented as openly depraved and openly wicked, but they don’t usually pretend to be virtuous or better than other people.
However, the Gentile moralist in chapter 2 is guilty of the same sins he condemns in others to one degree or another, but then he adds the sin of hypocrisy by pretending to be more virtuous. He thinks the gospel is for bad people, but not for him.
Hypocrisy tends to be more easily committed by moralists than by outright pagans. That’s because there’s something inherently hypocritical about moralism.
In Romans 2:2-5, this pagan moralist argues that God should judge vile sinners, but not him because he’s better than those people. These are the self-conscious pagans.
He insists on being saved by his own good works; he thinks that’s a fair trade, not realizing that his most righteous deeds are but filthy rags in God’s sight.
If this describes any aspect of your present life, confess it to God as sin and repent of it today. Repentant moralists and hypocrities will be forgiven.
But do it today before it’s too late.
With love in the Truth,