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(Romans 2:1-3) Hiding Behind Your Halo

(Romans 2:1-3) Hiding Behind Your Halo

by Stephen Davey Ref: Romans 2:1–3

Self-righteousness is what condemned the Pharisees, and it is what will condemn millions of people one day before God. People think they're pretty good. God will show them otherwise.



Romans 2:1-3

It gives me great pleasure to invite you to take your Bibles and return with me to that inspired letter written by Paul to the believers in Rome.  The Book of Romans, and, if you can believe it, chapter 2.

There isn’t any doubt that first impressions can last a long time.  Whether your interviewing for a job or showing up in class or moving into the neighborhood, first impressions are hard to live down.

I remember reading about a new Holiday Inn that was interviewing for its entire staff – from custodians to clerks to maids.  Those doing the interviews were given a very unusual instruction by Headquarters.  Any prospective employee who smiled less than 4 times during the interview was to be automatically eliminated from the running.  I thought that was intriguing.  If a person didn’t smile at least 4 times during that 20 minute interview, they were not asked to come back. 

Wouldn’t it be great to do that in the church?  Why not?  If it’s good enough for Holiday Inn, it’s good enough for the church?  Any guy who comes to church and smiles less than 4 times gets a note in the mail – “Find another church – grouch.”  Might just solve our space problems!

Sociologists have studied the entire subject of first impressions and one study concluded that a first impression is solidified in the first 4 minutes of a conversation.  They say that if your first 4 minutes are positive, that person you’re talking with will most likely view positively everything about you that they don’t even know anything about.  Such as your professional skills, your morals, even your intelligence.  Why?  Because you made a good first impression.   Sociologists call this the “halo effect.”  In other words, if you can put your best foot forward and come out looking and sounding impressive, you’ll create a halo effect about you that will last a long time. 

Trouble is, this plays into our culture where reputation carries more weight than character.  Where image is more important than substance.   

We live in a world consumed with creating halos and shining them at every opportunity! 

It’s true in the church as well.

In fact, during the days of the Apostle Paul, the Pharisees were professionals at polishing their halos.


They made sure that they arrived at some street corner in the market place right at 9:00am; 12:00 noon and 3:00 where the dedicated Jew would stop everything and pray.  And the Bible says in Matthew 6 that somehow they always managed to be on a street corner at just those times where they could be viewed from all 4 directions. 

The very first church in Jerusalem had a couple who were so passionate about making a good impression that they attempted to deceive the church.  They brought a large gift of money and claimed it was the sale amount of some land they owned, when it was only a portion of the sale.  Peter said to both of them, although they arrived a few minutes apart;  “Why has Satan so filled your hearts to lie to the Holy Spirit.”  Both of them had a heart attack and died on the spot.

Halos and hypocrisy have a lot more in common than the fact that they both start with the letter “H”.

They both have to do with making a good impression.

And so far, throughout the first chapter of Romans, halos have never been brighter.  All the while Paul has been exposing the pagan world and their sins and their perversion and their hatred for God and their love of evil, all the good people and all the upstanding people were saying, “Amen Paul!  Go get ‘em. . . . It’s about time someone gave those pagans a thing or two.”

But suddenly, with the stroke of an inspired pen, Paul changes his focus.

If you look back at chapter 1 and pay attention to the pronouns you’ll notice the shift that takes place in chapter 2. 

For instance, in chapter 1:22 – “Professing to be wise, they became fools . . .24.  therefore God gave them over . . . 25.  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie . .. 28.  And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God an longer, God gave themover . . .again back in the middle part of verse 20.  His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

They, those other sinners . . . it’s all about them!

And the reader is saying in his heart, “You’re absolutely right Paul – those people are without excuse – they deserve all the judgment they can get!”

But suddenly, in the first verse of chapter 2, Paul changes the pronoun from them and he begins to write about us.

“Therefore, you [Paul writes] . . . you are without excuse.”

Typically the word “Therefore” is used by Paul to begin a conclusion based upon the preceding verses.

In this instance, therefore doesn’t look backward, but forward with anticipation.  You could translate it, “For the following reasons, you are without excuse.”

Donald Grey Barnhouse Romans,Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 1953, p. 2

You must understand that Paul has changed his audience:

In chapter 1 Paul has declared the immoral man to be without excuse.

In chapter 3 Paul will declare the religious man to be without excuse.

Here in chapter 2 Paul declares the moral man to be without excuse.

The upstanding member of the community; the provider; the person with a good reputation; the person who’s never been seen in jail but has probably been seen in church. 

Paul is writing to all the people with halos. 

The people who read chapter 1 about the perversions of the immoral man and the degradation of depraved society and said to themselves, “I may not be perfect, but I’m not that bad – these people in chapter one need saving, but not me – I’m a pretty good person; surely God appreciates the fact that I live by the golden rule and I’m sure he notices that I’m in church too.” 

Paul says, “Oh no, you’re as guilty before the perfect Judge as all the people in chapter 1 who are guilty of greed and evil and deceit and malice and arrogance and murder and the inventions of evil.”

How can that be?

Let’s read on Romans 2:1  “Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself. . .

Now I need to pause for several minutes and make an important clarification here. 

There are many today in the community and in the church who misunderstand what Paul is saying by simply putting a period where a period does not belong.  They go to verse 1 and read it this way, “Therefore you are without excuse every man of you who passes judgment for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself – period.”

But there’s not a period there.

What God is condemning is the fact that a person is judging others for committing sins that they themselves are in the process of practicing. 

Romans 2:1b.  for you who judge practice the same things.

But our society at large has stopped judging anything as right or wrong and the church has followed suit.  They would say, “No, no, you shouldn’t judge that person.”  The church today has confused gossip with godly judgment.

And should you dare to judge someone as wrong you will most likely hear “Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah – Don’t judge, lest you be judged.”

Would it surprise you to discover that the Bible actually tells the believer there are certain times and situations when they must judge and pass judgment?

Let me give you several situations where it is absolutely right and necessary to judge – it is so important in order to correctly interpret Romans chapter 2 verse 1.

1)  It is right to judge when you judge yourself as it relates to personal holiness

1 Cor. 11:28 introduces the repentant and godly attitude of a person about to partake in communion; “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  29.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.  30.  For this reason many among you are weak and sick and a number sleep.  31.  But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged.”

You get the idea that communion is a time of personal judgment – evaluation and confession of sin.

We are to evaluate our walk with the Lord – frankly, there is far too little evaluation going on in our own lives – we don’t like it because it requires humility and confession.

But we are to judge ourselves.

Secondly, it is right to judge when you judge sinning believers as it relates to their repentance.

The church in Corinth had in its membership a man guilty of immorality.  He was sexually involved with his stepmother and refused to repent of it.  The church had taken a position much like the church today – arrogant of their tolerance of sin and so-called sophistication.  They refused to deal with the man and remove him from their fellowship in an act of discipline and godly judgment.  Paul wrote to them in I Corinthians 5:1 and said, “And you have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.  3.  For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as thought I were present.   v. 9  I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world . . . but actually I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.  v. 13.   [So] . . . remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”

This is a painful experience – to remove a disobedient, unrepentant member of the body and then withhold fellowship from that person – Paul says here, not even eating a meal with them.  Why go to such painful lengths?   We, the church, are to let them feel the effects of the loss of fellowship – to cause them, if they are indeed true believers, to yearn for intimacy with Christ and the church once again.

The truth is, we do not help people by ignoring or justifying or accepting their sin, we hurt them – and we hurt the cause of Christ and the honor of His holy name.

3.  Third, it’s right to judge when you judge teachers as it relates to doctrine.

Romans 16:17  Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hinderances contrary to the teaching (the doctrine) which you learned; turn away from them. 

The Apostle John adds his own warning, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”  (2 John 1:10, 11)

Obviously a greeting here in this culture referred to hospitality – feeding, clothing, housing.   I wonder how popular John would be today for identifying some false preacher or priest saying, “That man is teaching error – stay away from him, don’t even greet him and whatever you do, don’t feed him!”

4.  The fourth occasion when it is right to judge is when you judge everything as it relates to scripture.

In I Corinthians 2:15 Paul wrote, “He who is spiritual . . .” Do you want to be spiritual?  Then listen, “He who is spiritual, judges all things.”

That covers it all.

The Christian community today would say, “That person who is spiritual never judges anything or anybody.”  Paul says a person who is spiritual thinks critically and appraises right from wrong and passes judgment on those people things and activities and trends and fads and says, “That’s wrong and that is right.”

You say, “But that might not make a good impression out there . . . that might tarnish our halo!”

Ladies and Gentlemen, the church today might have a halo, but it doesn’t have a spine.

According to the word of God, for those with enough spiritual backbone:

  • It is right to judge yourself as it relates to personal holiness.
  • It is right to judge a sinning believer as it relates to their repentance.
  • It is right to judge a teacher as it relates to doctrine and
  • It is right to judge everything in light of what scripture says is right and wrong; evil and holy; unnecessary and excellent.

Well, the question might be asked, “Just when is it wrong to judge?

1)  When you don’t know all the facts. 

That more than likely means you’re not part of the problem or part of the solution.  That’s where judging gives way to gossiping.

In John 7:51 Jesus Christ validated the law which states “[It] does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing...”

Furthermore, it’s wrong to judge when you pass judgment on what you think a person’s motive is.


In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul said there are some issues where we will simply have to wait until the Lord comes, “. . .who will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” (I Corinthians 4:5)

Finally, it’s wrong to judge when it’s merely an attempt to look better than the person you’re judging.

In Matthew 7 our Lord said, “Do not judge lest you be judged.”  Most people stop there and say, “See – don’t judge anything or anybody.”  Well, we’ve already seen passages where we’re actually told to judge others – what did the Lord mean here.  All you have to do is keep reading.

Matthew 7:2.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

The Lord pulls an illustration out of His construction background – He used to be a carpenter.  The word for speck is karphos or splinter of wood.  The word for log is the word used in reference to a support beam of wood or a rafter for a house. 

Notice that a splinter and a rafter are made out of the same material.  Just different sizes.

Both of these men have the same problem.   One is just deeper in the sin than the other one.   The one with the rafter sticking out of his eye runs over and says, “Hey, you’ve got a splinter in your eye – I need to get it out.”

‘Course, he knocks the guy off his feet with that beam of wood. 

The Lord goes on to say these interesting words that are usually overlooked in verse 5.  “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

He doesn’t say, “Get the log out of your eye and then ignore your brother’s splinter – no – He says, “Confess your own sin and clean up your own life and then, with clear spiritual vision, help your brother clean up his!”

We are not, however to attempt to make our huge plank seem smaller by pointing out the problems of others.

I think this entire issue of judging others for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way is a rather revealing issue.

There are at least 4 revelations about our nature and character that emerge from our attitude toward others.

1)  First, there is a natural tendency to condemn sin in others and minimize that same sin in our own lives.

You say, “That man has a terrible temper” – but, your mother’s Irish; that’s the way you were born.

That person is so stubborn – you just have strong convictions.

You’ve seen that person steal things from work – you just sort of absentmindedly borrow things.

That person is defensive – you’re just sensitive to stand up for what’s right.

That guy’s a liar – you can’t trust what he says;  you just stretch the truth a little, here and there.

We tend to exxagerate the faults of others and minimize our own.

It’s an issue of pride.  How wise is the person who has a small view of themselves and is satisfied!

I love the story of Winston Churchill who was sitting on a platform waiting to speak to a huge crowd gathered to hear him.  The chairman of the event leaned over and said, “You must be so proud Mr. Churchill that all these people came just to hear you speak.”  Churchill responded,  “Whenever I am tempted to be so excited about something like that, I always try to remember that if instead of giving a political speech I was instead being hanged by the neck, the crowd would be twice as big.”

2)  The second revelation of ourselves in judging others for the wrong reasons is this: We are remarkably discerning about the sins of others and remarkably dense about our own.

David is the classic example. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and then, under his direct orders to General Joab, he had her husband placed on the front lines and then abandoned so he would be killed.

David then married Bathsheba and life went on as usual.

God sent Nathan to confront David and Nathan did so by telling David a story about a poor shepherd who’s only lamb had been taken, killed and eaten by a wealthy man who was entertaining guests and didn’t want to kill one of his own lambs for the feast.  And David said, “What?  We’ve got a sheep stealer in the kingdom . . . put him to death.  Nathan said in effect, “We’ve got a wife stealer in the kingdom too.  Same problem.  The only difference is the magnitude of the stolen object.  You, David are the greater thief . . . if that wealthy man should die for stealing a lamb, what should happen to you?”

Third, we have an intuitive knowledge of a perfect standard for right and wrong.

Notice what Paul said in Romans 2:2.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.

And we know . . . he uses the same thought in chapter 1 verse 21.  Even though they knew [about] God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.

Verse 32.  And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Now in chapter 2 Paul speaks of the moral man having an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong and the rightness of judgment upon that which is wrong.

Some rapist or child molester or murderer will get killed in some prison riot and the moral man will say, “He got what he deserved.”

Fourth and final revelation; we condemn ourselves by applying a holy standard to other people and not keeping the same standard ourselves.

3.  And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

Listen carefully – here’s Paul primary point!

He says to his reader, Mr. Moral Man;  you have put yourself in the place of a judge – condemning the sins of others – have you forgotten that by applying the law to that other person, a law you instinctively know is true; you are now responsible to keep that same law? 

You’ve created and imposed a standard on others - have you forgotten that you yourself will one day stand before the standard of the Perfect Judge.

The moral man counters and says, “Yea that may be true, but I’ve passed judgment on the murderer and the adulterer and the blasphemer and the thief.  I’ve never done those things!


Jesus Christ, the perfect judge said in Matthew 5:21 – Your rabbis taught you not to kill – but I say unto you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause will be judged.  No you haven’t picked up the sword, but in your heart you have wished them dead – God said, that’s as good as murder.

Jesus Christ, the perfect judge said in Matthew 5:27, You’ve heard it taught that you shouldn’t commit adultery; but I say unto you that whoever looks on a woman with lust commits adultery with her in his heart.

Have you ever withheld your will from God and refused to obey Him?  Then you’re a thief because your life belongs to Him.

We could work our way through the entire 10 commandments and discover we are guilty of them all.

Paul writes in verse 3 of Romans 2, “And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

The great preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, preached to his large downtown Presbyterian congregation 50 years ago in Philadelphia and he paraphrased this verse to read, “And do you suppose this, you dummy, (which must have shocked his audience awake) You dummy, do you really figure that you have an angle that will let you go up against God and get away with it?  You don’t have a ghost of a chance.  There is no escape.  Do you understand?  No escape – ever.  And this means you – the respectable person, sitting in judgment upon another person and remaining unrepentant yourself.”

Donald Grey Barnhouse Romans,Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan; 1953, p. 18, 22

Paul ends verse 3 with a serious warning.

A warning echoed in the Book of Hebrews that says, “It is appointed unto man, once to die and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

There will be no hiding behind halos then.  There will be no need for good impressions.  The first four minutes standing before God won’t make any differencer.

It is possible, one commentator illustrated, for a criminal to get away with his crime several different ways;

  1. his crime can go undetected – like the man on that news documentary last night who killed a woman and put her body in a steel barrel and for the next 32 years, no one ever looked inside it.
  2. if he is arrested, his lawyer might find some loophole and he will be let go
  3. or, he can flee to another country and not pay the penalty
  4. if he is found guilty and put into prison, he can escape and live a life on the run

Adapted from Donald Grey Barnhouse, ibid, p. 18

Paul says in verse 3, “Do you think that you will escape the judgment of God?!

  • You can’t escape because God is omniscient.  He knows everything.  In other words, no sin will go undetected – he knows every deed you’ve ever done.  In fact in verse 16 Paul writes, “God will judge the secrets of men.”
  • Because God is omnipresent, that is He is everywhere, no sin can be denied.

He was there when you stole – He was there when you committed adultery; He watched you steal – He heard you lie and deceive.  He saw the hatred in your heart; He knew the pride in your actions; He saw you lust; He was there when you cheated.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, He is not only the judge and jury, God is the eyewitness. He saw it all.

  • You can’t escape his judgment because God is also omnipotent or all powerful.  No one is smart enough or strong enough or clever enough to escape His prison house of punishment called.

There is no escape – the moral man is without excuse – guilty of sin and in danger of coming judgment.

There is only one hope – before the day of judgment arrives – before the passing of that awful sentence by that perfect judge – settle out of court.

Settle out of court!  Meet the Judge before your court date comes – for then it will be too late.  Fall upon the mercy of the Judge and claim the payment of His Son’s death for your sin as your only escape.

Donald Grey Barnhouse p. 22

The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 6:23)

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