Romans 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2:2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 2:3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Coming out of Chapter One, Paul demonstrated how Israel was given express knowledge of God but determined to worship themselves rather than God. Professing themselves to be wise in this endeavor, they became fools. It is easy to view their error and come to a judgmental conclusion about them. How could they be so foolish, we might protest!
We don’t have to look far to see man comparing himself with others in order to justify himself – to convince himself, in his mind, that he is just fine. It introduces relativism into the fabric of how we view ourselves and indeed others. Remember the Pharisee that was comparing himself to the publican and thanked God that he was not like the publican? But, it was the publican nonetheless that went home justified.
What about the Pharisees in Luke 16 that were justified in their own eyes, based on what man chooses to highly esteem? However, let us not forget 1Samuel 16 where Samuel is told to ignore the countenance and stature of Eliab because that is not who God had chosen to be king. Man looks upon the outward appearance but God looks up on the heart.
At the very human core is a single identity – an identity of sin. Regardless of how we might dress up the outside, we are all equal at the essence of our being.
Passing judgment on the erroneous ways of the past doesn’t preclude the judge from being found guilty of the very same things. Paul reminds us that God’s judgment is always according to truth, which stands in stark contrast to man’s, which is prone to a relativistic slant (usually designed to benefit the one who is doing the judging).
Paul said, at the end of Chapter One, that these people were carrying out things that were worthy of death, yet they took pleasure in doing them. Paul turns the tables on the reader as he seems to suspect that the reader’s judgment is that they would have God deal with these folks according to the wrath they deserved. However, in verse 4, Paul makes a very interesting statement.
Paul speaks of the riches of God’s goodness being the driving factor to lead us to repentance. The word repentance usually carries the traditional definitions of “turning from sin” or “sorrow for sin” or “turning to God”, but these are not very proper definitions of the word. “Repentance” simply means a “change of mind” or a “change in thinking.” These Romans were led to repentance (a change in thinking) not by the judgment of God or the wrath of God, but by the very goodness of God. These Romans weren’t scared into accepting God.
In other words, don’t get short-sighted, Romans. God did not work with you according to the wrath you deserved, being guilty of the very same things. God, however, through the manifest expression of His goodness, led these Romans to change their thinking about themselves and certainly God. It was God’s goodness that brought the Romans to be of that mutual faith Paul mentioned in Chapter One.
Romans 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 2:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 2:9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 2:10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
When it comes to the relative judgments of mankind, it is rare to find a more abused home for this than the religious mind. The religious mind wants to perform “for God” and use said performance as the standard that other believers must be measured against. Paul went on to essentially say that if you want to work with God on the basis of your performance, then God will render to every man according to his deeds. God will render eternal life to those who by patient CONTINUANCE seek for glory and immortality. But, to those who do not obey the truth, God will render tribulation and anguish – wrath and indignation.
Paul is showing the Romans that they should not desire to work with God according to their judgment. Do these Romans despise the riches of God’s goodness this much that they would rather God work with them on the basis of their faulty performance? God’s judgment is always according to truth – there is no wavering with God. No matter how subjective their view of themselves compared to someone else, it never measured up to God Himself.
Thankfully, God didn’t leave man to scramble aimlessly in his own deeds – God desires to render to every man according to the deeds of His Son, Jesus Christ. The relieving news of the gospel is that the ramifications of Christ’s deeds, through His death, burial, and resurrection, are made available to all who would simply believe on Him. God isn’t interested in working with you according to your deeds because that means one thing: that God will have to work with you according to indignation and wrath, but God is desperately interested in working with you according to the deeds of His Son, for therein is the manifestation of the riches of His goodness.
Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God. 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
In Chapter 2, Paul has been laying out some arguments to address anyone who might try to suggest that they are not worthy of the very same wrath of God that the folks of time past (from Chapter One) were worthy of; who were guilty of basically shrugging God off and decided they would be gods unto themselves, determining for themselves good and evil. Paul turned his attention to the Jewish element of the saints at Rome who might try to use their heritage, law, or circumcision as a trump card to be immune from wrath-worthiness.
Paul says there is no respecter of persons with God and that those who have sinned without (apart from) the law will perish (apart from the law) just as those who do within the law. In other words, Gentiles die at the same rate Jews do. We might say that insurance rates were no cheaper for Jews than Gentiles because the risk was common.
So, strike one for the Jews – in death, there is no partiality – you die at the very same rate as Gentiles.
2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Paul then addressed their law-keeping head on. He says in verse 13 that the doers of the law shall be justified, not just the hearers. At first glance, this verse may give us some pause. Is Paul really saying that doing the law will justify the law doer? Yes, that’s exactly what he says. But, remember what James wrote – if someone professes to keep the law but fail in one point, they are guilty of ALL of the law. There isn’t some system of line-item breaking of the law where they were still in good standing with 99% of the law and just had to get that 1% back on track. Anything less than 100% continual law-keeping amounts to 0% of it being kept – guilty of ALL.
If you could keep the law, never fail at any point of the law, and do so perpetually, then yes, God could justify you. But, what is Paul wanting these Jews to understand? The Jews were claiming some kind of special partiality with God because they HEARD (had) the law, but Paul says – not so, for it is the DOERS of the law that will be justified. Can a Jew keep the law? No – for the very first moment they fail, they are guilty of all. Paul wants them to realize that even though God would justify the law doer, they were unfortunately not law doers.
Strike two for the Jews – having the law profits you nothing because you can’t consistently keep it.
2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Then, to add insult to injury, Paul says, so what if Gentiles, who have NOT the law, do the things contained in the law? Is it not just the same for the Gentiles?
Strike two and a half for the Jews – the Gentiles can do the very same things that are in the law even though the law wasn’t officially given unto them by God. And, by doing so, the Gentiles show the work of the law written in their hearts.
Later in the chapter, Paul makes the very same claim about circumcision. If the Jew breaks the law, then his circumcision is counted for uncircumcision and likewise with the Gentile, if they keep the things of the law (even unknowingly so), then their uncircumcision would be counted for circumcision.
Strike three for the Jews.
None of these things gave the Jew any preferential treatment with God and they are just as worthy of wrath as everyone else.
Paul says that the secrets of men will be judged according to his gospel. When Paul says, “my gospel”, is it making a claim of express ownership to a particular set of information? Some take it to mean this, however, it seems that the context would have us understand this to simply mean, all men will be judged according to the good news I’m (Paul) giving you – you either stand worthy of wrath by trusting in yourselves or you stand in grace by trusting in Him, having come to repentance by realizing His goodness. And, as the judgment of God is always according to truth, you can rest assured that the judgment sentence will always be fitting. It’s either Works for wrath or Faith for favor.
2:17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 2:18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 2:19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 2:20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
|A Jew’s Boast|
|Rests in the Law|
|Boasts of God|
|Knows God’s will|
|Approves things more excellent|
|Instructed out of the Law|
|Guide of the blind/light to them in darkness|
|Instructor of foolish|
|Teacher of Babes|
|Has the form of knowledge and truth of the law|
This is a rather impressive and noteworthy list of things that the Jews were boasting about. Remember, the Jew fancied himself as God’s gift to the world. I can’t help but imagine Paul making these claims as he thinks of his own Pharisaical past. Let’s take note of the realities of this list. The Jews were resting in the LAW but boasting of God. The Jews were not resting in God and making their boast thereby. They were settled in their own performance and in that performance, they were boasting of God. In other words, they were advertising to the world that it was God who had given them special status and their law is the primary evidence.
Often, this very thing happens today. There are many believers who rest in a law they’ve created for themselves, while making their boast of God. They surround their time and effort with religious activity while believing it is their religious activity that allows them to embrace God. Galatians 6 is still poignant in regards to this type of mindset. Paul speaks of this as nothing more than making a fair show in the flesh for the simple reason of glorying in the flesh. In other words, it gives you or the one you are exercising religious dominion over the means to be a trophy of self. However, Paul said that he wanted to glory in nothing but Christ. We cannot rest in our own works while boasting or glorying in God. Israel did this and their very best performance under the law, while seeking their righteousness thereby, served to do nothing but blaspheme the name of God to the world. It advertised to the world a false notion about God and unfortunately, this has been one of the most perpetuated advertisements the world as ever witnessed.
2:21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 2:22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 2:23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 2:24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 2:27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
These verses are still in line with Paul dismantling these arguments from the Jews about the outward performance being what makes them special. Paul is trying to get them to realize that it is the inward circumcision of the heart what makes them a Jew that’s worth anything. And, a Jew worth his salts isn’t a Jew who looks to the outward performance as the means to please God. Paul shows that all of the outward focus the Jews gave mattered nothing because the true evidence of Jewishness is not in physical circumcision, but is of a circumcision of the heart.
1Samuel 16:6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him. 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.