Bible Topics In The Christian Library
 
ROMANS CHAPTER 2

Paul has just finished showing how the Gentiles were lost and without hope because they did not retain the knowledge of God in their minds. In chapter two he will turn to the Jews. They will present a completely different problem. They had retained the knowledge of God in their minds and had the Old Testament law. But they were self-righteous and had chosen to reject Godís word concerning Jesus. They had become hypocrites, condemning the Gentiles but not realizing that the same law that condemned the Gentiles also condemned themselves.

I. Jewish Hypocrisy

Verses 1-3 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 - But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 - And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 

A. "Therefore you are inexcusable..."
1. As we shall see from the context, Paul now states that his own people are just as guilty before the judgement bar of God and the Gentiles. 
a. Reese says concerning the word therefore, "The theme running all through the condemnation of the Gentiles in 1:18ff, is that they have sinned in spite of better knowledge. A man who knows Godís ordinance, and willfully rejects them, is in danger whether he be Gentile or Jew."
2. He tells them that those who set themselves up as judges of others condemn themselves because they are guilty of the same kind of conduct. It is not the same sins, but it is rebellion against God. Rebellion against God does not take the form of gross moral perversion, such as that practiced by the Gentiles in chapter one, but it is rebellion against Godís law nonetheless. The Jews never reached the moral depths of the Gentiles nations, even though they were wicked at times. But they were, both in Paulís day and ourís, guilty of rebellion against Godís plan for them. By their rejection of Godís will they had shown a spirit of rebellion against the will of God.

3. Paul is not condemning all judging. It is completely false to hold that all judging is wrong. 

b. God condemns judging by standards different from His Word. This is the whole thrust of Matthew 7:1-5. We must be careful not to judge our brother harshly while we are make allowances for ourselves.

c. But the Lord also says that we must judge according to the truth found in His Word. See John 7:24.

d. In connection with this we are to judge their fruits. See Matthew 7:15-20.

B, "But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things."
1. They Jews stood condemned, because they had also been guilty of rebellion against God. 

2. They had placed their full confidence in the fact that they were physical Jews. In doing so they had chosen to forget that they must live righteous lives of submission to the will of God. They blind hatred of Godís will had caused they to practice wickedness themselves in Godís name.

3. Because they have also rebelled against God they will also not escape Godís judgement. The Jews believed that they would be excluded from the judgement of God simply on the basis of they physical relationship with Him. The Old Testament makes this abundantly clear. Physical contact is not sufficient to save. They Jews could not be saved because they had been entrusted with holy things, if they chose to continue to rebel against God. See Jeremiah 7:3-4. They had never learned from their mistakes. John the Baptist makes it clear that this is not the case. Physical relationship makes no difference, it is the spiritual condition of the heart that matters. See Matthew 3:9-10. They same is true today. We may "have the truth" on baptism, the Lordís Supper, etc. but this will never matter if we do not live holy submissive lives before God.

4. They were judged guilty by the Word of God. See John 17:17. The Greek word used here is oida, which carries the idea of awareness of that which is commonly known and obvious. The Jews, like the Gentiles, had no excuse for disobeying Godís law. They "made their boast in the law." But they were unwilling to accept what that law said.

II. Jewish Hardness of Heart

Verses 4-11 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? . 5 - But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 - who "will render to each one according to his deeds": 7 - eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 - but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; indignation and wrath, 9 - tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 - but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 - For there is no partiality with God

A. "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"
1. To despise mean to think lightly.

2. Godís patience at the sins of the Jews and their unbelief should not be considered indulgence but a desire for them to come to repentance. 

B. "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart..."
1. They had hardened they hearts to the teaching of God. This was seen in rejecting the truth given by God because it did not agree with their self-righteousness. See John 12:39-40.

2. These impenitent Jews were building up an account of wicked rebellion which could never be repaid by any earthly deeds of righteousness. Compare this to how a Christian is to "bank." (Matthew 6:19-21). 

C. "Who will render each one according to his deed"
1. There will be no judgement based on a relationship to others. Since all have sinned, it is pointless to compare ourselves to one another in relation to our standing before God. Today, many Christians will seek to justify themselves by saying, "Iím not as bad as those sinners outside the church." But we will not be measured by what others have done or not done. 
a. See 2 Corinthians 5:10; 10:12; 
2. There is another principle here stated that goes against the grain of the majority of the religious world. Most hold that Paul teaches that a personís deeds have absolutely nothing to do with their salvation. But here Paul states that God will reward each according to their deeds. Paul does not teach here, neither does he anywhere else teach, faith only salvation as taught by the Protestant world. Obedience to Godís will has always been necessary for salvation. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). 
D. "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality"
1. Eternal life was not based upon the physical standing a person had with the Father. It will be the personal attitudes and actions of the individual which will save him. It is also obvious that Paul had in mind the person who realizes their spiritual poverty and turns to God in obedience and remains faithful to Godís will. 

2. See Matthew 5:3; 25:34-40 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

E. "but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; indignation and wrath"
1. Notice the contrast. Those who have eternal life patiently continue to do good (i.e. Godís will) while those who are damned will be self-seeking (prideful) and refuse to obey the truth (Godís will as revealed in His Word).
F. "For there is no partiality with God"
1. In spite of what these prideful Jews thought, there was now no difference based upon race. Both Jew and Gentile were lost outside of Christ. Both Jew and Gentile could be justified within the body of Christ. See Ephesians 2:11-16.
II. THE BASIS OF SALVATION FOR JEW AND GENTILE

Paul will deal with the fact that the Jews had the written revelation of Godís will. Did that give them special standing for salvation? Paul is going to show that simply having the truth was not nearly as important as what one does with that truth. As Christians today, we "have" the truth. What are we doing with that truth?
 
 

Verses 12 -16 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 - (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 - for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 - who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 - in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

A. "For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law..."
1. The Gentiles did not have the Law of Moses. They were guilty of spurning the light that God had given them. 

2. The Jews had a written revelation from God. In this they had an advantage. But they spurned the light that they had been given, the Law of Moses, thus they were in the same condition before God.

B. for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified..."
1. The Jews had the written law and made their boast in it, but they did not obey it. It took more than just having the law, it took obeying the law.

2. Paul uses the principle that if the Gentile obeyed the unwritten law, "written in their hearts", they would be able to be justified in the sight of the Lord. Those Gentiles who lived according to the light they had would be justified on Judgement day. 

3. MacArthur uses the Greek word for hear here (akroates) and illustrates the point by referring to a student simply auditing a college course. He further states, "In many synagogues during Paulís time, teaching did not focus on Scripture but on the system of man-made traditions that the rabbis had developed over the centuries since the Exile. Frequently, Godís Word in the Old Testament was merely read and listened to, without explanation or application. Most Jews, therefore, were simply Ďauditing the course,í hearers of the Law and nothing more."

C. "in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."
1. Jesus will judge all mankind according to the gospel. That does not mean that those who lived and died before Christ came to earth will be condemned because they were not baptized into Christ. Jesus will judge all mankind, but men and women will be judged according to the law that they lived under. 

2. All sins will be brought to light at the Judgement. There will be no secret act that will not be brought out in the open. They are already known by God. See Hebrews 4:12.

3. All will be saved by the blood of Jesus. All who lived by faith will be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. See Hebrews 9:15.
 
 

Verses 17-24 Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 - and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 - and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 - an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 - You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 - You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 - You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 - For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," as it is written. 
 
 
A. "Indeed you are called a Jew"
1. They were proud of their fleshly inheritance as descendants of Abraham. They wore it as a badge of honor, but had lost sight of the fact that it was not through any special merit of their own that they were chosen out of the rest of the tribes of the earth. They had lost sight of the fact that the reason they were set apart was to be the means for spreading Godís saving message to the entire world. See Genesis 12:3
B. The Jews had been blessed.
1. They had the written revelation

2. They had a special relationship with God

3. They were instructors of the Law, being knowledgeable of it,

4. But for all these advantages, they had become hard-hearted and hypocritical.

C. "You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?"
1. They were happy to point out how the Gentiles did not live up to the high moral principles of the Law of Moses. They were good at condemning others.

2. But, they did some of the same things that they condemned the Gentiles for.

a. For example, the Jewish leadership lied and suborned perjury for the sake of having Jesus killed.

b. Jeremiah indicts the Jews of his day of adultery. - Jeremiah 5:7-8.

c. Theft and adultery were two of the most heinous things that a Jew could be found guilty of. Yet, they were being practiced by many in Paulís day. Jesus accused the Jews of making the temple a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:13).

d. Robbing temples - One possibility is that Paul is referring to the "robbing God" that Malachi talks about when he says that they did so by not giving him his proper tithe. See Malachi 3:8-10. Second it is possible that some Jews in Paulís day had do this act, i.e. plundering pagan temples. Taking heathen idols for mercenary reasons was strictly forbidden under the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 7:25). This was a charge that the Ephesian town clerk defended Paul against (Acts 19:37). It is possible that some of the Jews were involved in this crime and justifying it to themselves with the thought that they were actually doing Godís service.

D. "You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?"
1. Their lives were making a mockery of what they taught. 

2. These things must not be considered as isolated events in the lives of a normally pious people, but are the regular acts of a hypocritical people. This tells us that our lives must be exemplary examples of what we teach, or else we are simply playing the hypocrite.

3. They had no right to teach the Gentiles, for the were guilty of the same pattern of wickedness as them. See Psalm 50:16-20.

4. "When those who go by Godís name are openly sinful, or are exposed as being privately sinful, God and His Word are understandably ridiculed by the world. The unbeliever has no reason to repent of his sins and turn to God for salvation if he sees professed believers committing the same sins."

E. "For Ďthe name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,í as it is written."
1. Their teaching may have been sublime, but their lives repulsed thoughtful Gentiles.

2. Reese thinks that Paul is referring to either Isaiah 52:5 or Ezekiel 36:20-23. 
 
 

Verses 25-29 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 - Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 - And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 - For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 - but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
 
 
A. "For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision."
1. Circumcision was a token of the covenant between God and His people. It was a symbol, but it wasnít the covenant. The covenant was that Godís people would serve Him faithfully and live by His precepts. In turn God would bless them and be with them and claim them as His people. God kept his side of the covenant. The Jews had failed miserably in keeping their part.

2. They had developed into a people who kept the symbols but not the substance. They jealously guarded circumcision. No Jewish man would have been admitted to the fellowship of Jews. See Paul and Timothy in Acts 16:1-3. But they began to look on simply the keeping of the token as being all that God required and not the covenant that the token symbolized.

a. This can happen to us today. The Lordís Summer is a symbol of Godís communion with His people. Is it required that Christians keep the Lordís Supper? Without a doubt! But we cannot substitute Lordís Supper keeping for keeping the Law of Christ in our lives.
3. The Jewish Christians were even seeking to bind circumcision upon the Gentiles Christians (Acts 15:1). Such was the power of a symbol in the lives of the Jews of Paulís day

4. Because of the hypocritical lives they had turned their circumcision into a mockery and had made it useless as far as God was concerned.

B. "And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?"
1. Those who are uncircumcised judging the circumcised? Could this really be? Yes. These Gentiles who had lived according to the light that God had given them would be justified in Godís sight, while those circumcised Jews who were hypocrites would be lost. The righteous Gentiles would stand as an indictment of the Jews who put more stock in the outward appearance, rather than the condition of the heart before God. Even without all the advantages of the Jews which they made their boast in, these who obeyed the "law of the heart" would stand in better stead before God than those who were circumcised and yet hypocritical.

2. It is also the case that there would be thousands of uncircumcised Gentile Christians who would stand justified in Christ while many Jewish Christians of the day put their trust in circumcision and stand condemned before God. Coffman contends that the whole thrust of the section is the Gentile who has obeyed the gospel and has not been circumcised and those legalistic Jews who held onto circumcision and continued to make their boast in it.

C. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh"
1. Here is culmination of the chapter. Jewishness here in not a physical condition which can be confined to one race. It is the relationship of Godís chosen based on their spiritual condition. Circumcision has nothing to do with the heart.
2. Many seek to lump baptism into the same category as circumcision here. There is a fundamental difference. Circumcision was never intended to be the iniatory action which places a person in Godís family. Jews had been born into that relationship. It was intended as a token, or sign, of their relationship with God. Baptism, on the other hand, is the line which divides the world from Godís people and can be clearly shown as that action which puts us into a relationship with God. See Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; 1 Peter 3:21.

 

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