Donald Grey Barnhouse (c. 1895 to 1960)
Concerning impartiality/favoritism: “He [God] is righteous and impartial, looking not at the person, but at the conduct of those whom he judges. This is the basis of the assurance that he will judge Jews and Gentiles according to their works. That is, God is impartial, for he will judge men according to the light which they have enjoyed.
“He [Paul] is not speaking about the method of justification available for sinners, as revealed in the Gospel, but about the principles of justice which will be applied to all who look to the law for justification. If men rely on deeds, they must perform deeds. They must be doers of the law and must satisfy its demands if they are to be justified by it. Since God is just and impartial, he will, as a judge administering the law, judge every man, not according to his privileges, but according to his deeds and the knowledge of duty which he has possessed. On these principle sits his purpose to show that no living person can be justified.”
Concerning conscience/motivation: “Conscience joins its testimony with the moral acts of the heathen, and they jointly testify to the fact that the heathen are a law unto themselves. The apostle appeals not only to their external conduct but to the inner work of their moral nature. Conscience is the inner judge… the inner monitor [which] acquits or condemns, as the case demands.”[i]
This is the final discussion of Dr. Barnhouse’s principles of God’s judgment as found in the Romans 2:1-16. His focus here is on the judgment of men who are without the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first two principles we discussed were (1) man has the knowledge of sin, and thus he is without excuse, and (2) men are not qualified to judge others or their own sins because only God’s judgment is true and righteous. Last week we dealt with real guilt and works of human effort. This week we will concern ourselves with God’s impartiality and the motivations of man’s conscience.
Monday: Read Romans 2:11-15
The above passage is an indictment of God’s people and seem to anticipate man’s injustice to man. What injustice have you been a part of or have you witnessed as men deal with other men? Do you see a contrast in these passages as you weigh God’s justice and impartiality against man’s injustice and partiality? If there is no contrast why would God deal with the issue of justice? Why does God abhor injustice?
Tuesday: Read Romans 2:11; 1 Samuel 16:7
Paul is addressing how God will judge those outside of Christ, those who are not redeemed by the blood of the cross. This verse says plainly, God does not show favoritism when He judges mankind. Then what will be the basis of God’s judgment? When God looks at man, where does He look to see the real person? Do you see an eternal problem for those God judges? What are some ways in which you see man judging man with prejudice?
Wednesday: Read Acts 10; Galatians 2:6; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17
As you read these passages, is there anyone whom God judges with some sort of partiality? Romans 2:1: God says we are without excuse when we sin; how does this parallel with verse 11, where He says he will judge impartially? Partiality is a human failure and Peter was no exception. Read Acts 10 and make note of how Peter was prejudicial. How did God influence Peter so as to remove his partiality? Contrast Peter’s initial response to God with his ultimate response. How did Peter act out his impartiality?
Thursday: Read Romans 2:16
The verse tells us God is able to judge the secrets of men, what lies in the heart and can only be known by God. Explain how the secrets of a man’s heart is the basis for God’s judgment of a man’s motivation.
Friday: Read 1 Chronicles 28:9
This verse is the first of four councils David gives his son Solomon as he prepares him to take over the throne of Israel. What does David mean by “know the God of your father”? How did he tell Solomon to serve God? He then tells Solomon how God evaluates the works of men; what two points does he make? What does he means by “searches the heart” and “intent of the thoughts”?
Saturday: Read Psalm 139
David’s advice to Solomon comes through personal experience. As you read this Psalm make a list of all the ways God knows us. In verses 17-24 David responds to God. Do you see a connection between what David knows about God and how David relates to others who don’t know God?
Sunday: Read Jeremiah 17:5-10; Matthew 6:4, 6, 18
Lesson for the week
In the Jeremiah passage, what is the difference in attitude when we place our trust in man or our trust in God? How does this reflect the motivations of our hearts? Where does sin begin in man? How does the Lord respond to the sins of the heart? What we keep secret in our hearts and what we do in secret God knows; how does he respond to our secrets? Read Hebrews 4:13; does God fail see what goes on in our lives? Will we be held accountable for the things we do in secret?
The greatest failing a human can have is the belief that he or she can find salvation through human effort. Hell will be filled with people who failed to put their trust in Christ as their Redeemer. Unfortunately saved believers often participate in the unsaved misunderstandings about the promise and assurance of salvation when we demonstrate the wrong attitudes towards God and salvation principles which Paul dealt with in Romans 2:1-16. If you are an unbeliever you need to reflect on Paul’s words to the Jews and Gentiles and come to grips with your personal need for the Savior before it is too late. Believers need to understand that we cannot live out the faith we profess by being legalistic, partial, wrongly motivated, doing works for personal glory, living in the guilt of un-repentance, and failing to live by God’s truth.
[i] Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1995), pp. 52-54.