Romans 2

The righteous judgment of God upon the Jews.

Romans 2:1-5

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. 3Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or 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? 5But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

One can nearly see the heads of the Jews shaking approvingly as Paul condemns the actions of the idol-worshiping pagan world.  However, when he turns to the Jews he says that they have “no excuse” either because they who are condemning the pagans (that is the Jews) are practicing “the very same things” (Romans 2:1).

The guilt of the Jews stems from the fact that, while they condemned the pagan lifestyle, the Jews were guilty of doing the very same things (Romans 2:3).  Paul reminds them that God had shown kindness, forbearance and patience toward them to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4).  However, they did not repent and their impenitent attitude was having the effect of “storing up [God’s] wrath” (Romans 2:5), which would be unleashed upon them when the time of God’s judgment takes place.   For further study on repentance, the student should read passages such as Matthew 3:2 and 4:17; Luke 13:3 and 5; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31 and 17:30.  For further study of the subject of judgment, the student should read passages such as John 5:29-30; Acts 24:25; I Corinthians 4:5; II Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27; II Peter 3:7 and Revelation 20:11-15.

Romans 1:8-15

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Even though Paul had never been to Rome, they were a part of his life through thankfulness (Romans 1:8) and prayer (Romans 1:10).  He wanted to come to Rome so that they and he could be mutually encouraged (Romans 1:12) and that he could “reap some harvest” among them (Romans 1:13).  One of the things Christians do for each other is provide encouragement.  While the world declares, “Come follow me; eat, drink and be merry!” Christians encourage one another to “Remain faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).  The harvest that Paul was hoping to reap was the salvation of souls (see Jesus’ statements in Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23, Luke 10:2 and John 4:37).  Paul felt an obligation to teach everyone he could so that he was “eager to preach the gospel” to them (Romans 1:15). 

Romans 2:6-11

He will render to each one according to his works: 7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.

In Romans 2:6, it is stated that God “will render to each one according to his works.”   To one group, which practices “well-doing, he will give “eternal life” (Romans 2:7).  This group is described as a group that seeks “glory and honor and immortality” (Romans 2:7).  To the other, which is described as “self-seeking and do not obey the truth,” there will be “wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8) with its resultant “tribulation and distress” (Romans 2:9).  In all this, “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11).  What is true for Jews is also true for Gentiles (Romans 2:9-10).

Romans 2:12-16

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

16on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

When it comes to God’s judgment and the Law, it is not the “hearers” who are righteous before God, but the “doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13).  In other words, God will be looking at the “the secrets of men” i.e. the hearts of men, when He judges the world (Romans 2:16).  Therefore, the ones “who by nature do what the law requires” and thus show that “the law is written on their hearts” (Romans 2:14-15) have a judge who knows their hearts and will judge them showing no partiality (see Romans 2:11).  Paul’s gospel included teaching about the judgment (Romans 2:16; see also II Corinthians 5:10 and II Thessalonians 1:5-10). 

Romans 2:17-29

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

In Romans 2:17-29, Paul points out that the problem for the Jews was that they were relying on their relationship with the law (of Moses) to save them.  Twice in Romans 2:17 and 19 the word “if” is used, followed by several conditions.  In the original language of the New Testament (Greek) the structure is called a “first class conditional sentence.”  The importance of this is not quite as clear in the English, but what Paul is saying is in actuality similar to our use of the word “since.”  Thus, Paul is saying in verses 17-20 that these things are true and then tops off the statement by asking, “You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself” (Romans 2:21).   This and the other questions (Romans 2:21-22) expect an answer of “yes.”  The problem with this was that while they boasted in the law, they dishonored the law by breaking it (Romans 2:23).   The effect was that God was blasphemed among the Gentiles (Romans 2:24).   The law could show their status before God; however, it took a change of heart to be right with God (Romans 2:28-29).  This message is very similar to that of James (James 1:22-25).  See also Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:4.

Review Questions:

  1. How can Paul say that the Jews “practice the very same things” when their response would be, “but we don’t do those things you just described?
  1. What was the purpose of God showing the Jews “kindness, forbearance and patience?” (see Romans 2:4).
  1. In Romans 2:6-11, Paul describes two different groups.  How would you describe the difference in the two groups?
    1. Eternal life group:
    1. Wrath and fury group:
  1. What do the following scriptures by the apostle Paul contribute to our understanding of the judgment?
    1. I Corinthians 15:35-38; 42-44; 50:
    2. Acts 17:30-31:
    3. II Thessalonians 1:6-10:
    4. Philippians 2:9-13:
  1. Reread Romans 2:17-24.  Consider what Paul says in Romans 2:13, Jesus’ statement in John 13:17, and James’ statement in James 1:22-25.  What is the message for us today?

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