In this passage, we see two problems concerning the grace of God.
The first problem is pride. It’s an attitude of, “I don’t need God’s grace. I’m good enough. The people around me on the other hand…”
Paul addresses this attitude in verses 1-3, saying,
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
Here you see the judgmental attitude some people have. They look around at the people around them, and judge them as “sinners.” But at the same time, they are blind to their own sin. They are so proud, thinking, “Other people may be messed up, but I’m not.” Yet Paul asks them, “What right do you have to judge others when you do the same things?”
We condemn others for being stubborn and thick-headed, for example, but we can’t see our own pride that causes us to be just as stubborn and thick-headed when relating to them.
Or we look at murderers in the news and are horrified. We demand punishment for them. But in our hearts we cut people off for the hurts they’ve caused us. In our hearts, we murder them, and they are dead to us.
And so Paul says, you have no room to judge others. You have no room to look down on others as “sinners” when you do the same things as they do. You need God’s grace just as much as they do. And without it, you’re lost.
Paul then addresses another problem. Those who presume upon God’s grace, and say, “Well, since God will forgive me anyway, I’ll just live as I want and ‘repent’ later.”
But Paul tells such people,
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (4)
I like the wording of the ESV here.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
In other words, God’s grace is not given to us in order for us to indulge in sin. God’s grace is given to us in order that we might repent and turn away from our sin.
Yet so many people presume on the grace of God, living as they please, hurting both God and the people around them.
So Paul says to both types of people,
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (5-11)
In short, no one’s going to get away with anything. If we in our pride, think we are above God’s grace because we are so much better than others, we will be judged, and shown to be just as bad as those we judge.
If in our insolence we abuse the grace of God, we also will be punished.
How about you? Do you think you’re above the grace of God? Or do you think that God’s grace is something to be despised?
Such attitudes will lead to judgment. So let us come humbly before God, admitting our need, and marveling at the love and grace he gives us. There is no room for pride or insolence in the kingdom of God.