The Moralist and the Mercy of God.

God's charge against humanity continues in the divine courtroom. He is answering the question, Is all the world lost? The answer is yes, all are guilty before God. In Romans 2:1-16, we learn the moralist is just as guilty as the immoral person. It's important to remind do-gooders that they need Jesus just as much as the wicked. None of us have an excuse before God (Romans 1:20).

People can invest plenty of money in their safety, from vehicle safety features to home security systems, but none of these things can promise physical safety. They definitely cannot guarantee eternal safety. Neither can we invest enough in good deeds to earn eternal safety.

Moralists can sound so Christianized that we wonder if they are believers. The Roman philosopher Seneca, who advised Nero and tempered the young emperor's depravity, preached moral integrity according to Stoic values. Paul reminded the Romans not to assume someone who promotes good morals has actually trusted Christ as Lord.

Whether an obviously immoral person or a moralist, no one likes to admit they are wrong. Anyone created in the image of God can do good things, but no one can keep God's law perfectly.

In Romans 2:1, the moralist brings his or her own self-condemnation.


The people discussed in this section are immediately identified as those who judge. There is no criticism for exercising discernment. Standing for God's morals is a good thing. But we must judge rightly according to God's standard, and moralists fail that test.


Moralists' skills in judgment are uni-directional. They are great at evaluating others, but they always judge themselves last, if ever. Like David before Nathan, they are condemned by their own judgment (2 Samuel 12:1-15).


The moralist is actually more wicked than the obviously immoral person. Though their sins are not as public, moral people are still guilty in their thoughts (Proverbs 23:7a). They too know the truth but refuse to honor God (Romans 1:19-21). Their guilt is compounded by a heightened pride in their own morality and approval of those who live immorally, though they would never do the same (Romans 1:32).

"Moralists' guilt is heightened by their own morality, by their own ability to judge. Both kinds of sinners described in this passage are guilty of the same things even though they don't commit the same sins."

Application Points

  • Never assume you can do life better than God says. There is no way you can earn salvation by doing good things.
  • Do you want to avoid being condemned as a moralist? Humble yourself about your own sin before you ever pass judgment on another person. None of us is as wicked as we could be, but we are learning the depths to which we can be tempted.
  • Don't pervert the Gospel in your embrace of moralists. Not all who talk morally know Christ, and we compromise God's Word when we embrace them as fellow believers.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Philippians 3:2-6 – Do not place confidence in what you can do.
  • Matthew 5-7 – Christ repeated moral aspects of the Mosaic Law in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:1-2, 1 Corinthians 11:31 – The balance of using judgment: Do not pass judgment on another unless you can judge rightly.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know"

Ask ye what great thing I know,
that delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

Who defeats my fiercest foes?
Who consoles my saddest woes?
Who revives my fainting heart,
healing all its hidden smart?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

Who is life in life to me?
Who the death of death will be?
Who will place me on his right,
with the countless hosts of light?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

This is that great thing I know;
this delights and stirs me so:
faith in him who died to save,
him who triumphed o'er the grave:
Jesus Christ, the crucified.