Chapter 2 Part 1
Scripture taken from the NRSV translation
So Paul finishes his introduction on unrighteousness, now he will add fuel to the fire. Does being a Gentile or being a Jew give either one an advantage in the question of who is righteous?
Romans 2: 1-4
1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
2 You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’
3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?
4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Man has no excuse for their sin before God. And Paul says that we who pass judgment on others condemn ourselves, so when we point fingers at who deserves God’s punishment for the things that they have done, we are also pointing fingers at ourselves. What might a person say if someone tells them that they might face God’s wrath for their sin. Some would say, as Paul repeats verse 3, that somehow it won’t apply to me, that I have improved a lot plus I know people who are a lot worse than me. God will understand, He will see me for who I tried to be and He will overlook my failures. As Paul says, do you suppose that we will escape God’s judgment? Maybe we assume that everything will work out because we think “so far, so good.” Paul says that we are thinking lightly of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience. Are we taking something for granted? We have an opportunity to repent of our sin.
2 Peter 3: 8-10
8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.
9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Peter repeats Paul’s words. As the world waits for God’s judgment to happen as promised it hasn’t minimized God’s plan to carry it through. Judgment day hasn’t arrived yet, plus we shouldn’t take some comfort in the fact the we haven’t faced our own personal reckoning, both are coming. You could say that God’s delay is his patience and kindness towards sinners.
Romans 2: 5-8
5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.
6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds:
7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
The time God has given us to repent of our disobedience and rebellion actually becomes our opportunity to increase God’s wrath, His anger against us. God renders to each according to their deeds (Psalm 62:12). God doesn’t show favoritism, and He doesn’t change the rules, you could say we each will get what we deserve. For those who seek to do good and glory and honor, they will receive eternal life. For those who seek for themselves, those who obey unrighteousness will receive God’s wrath. This moment is described in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 20: 11-15
11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.
13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done.
14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;
15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
On one hand in verse 8 Paul says all men are guilty and are under the same sentence of condemnation. But then Paul just said that God deals with people according to their deeds. Well the answer is found in those verses in Revelation. So in Revelation for those who were not found in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire, in other words eternal punishment, and all those who are in the book of life, survive. So Paul says God is fair to judge men according to their deeds, and so He does.
Now Paul is ready to deal with the issue of Gentile vs Jew.
Romans 2: 9-13
9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
11 For God shows no partiality.
12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Paul says that judgment falls equally for the Jews as to the Gentiles, God does not play favorites. We want to see this from a positive perspective of God being an equal opportunity savior. But Paul is speaking from a negative perspective of God being an equal opportunity punisher. Whether reward or punishment it does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, Gentile or Jew.
Then Paul begins a comparison between what the Jews knew and received from God in terms of knowledge, as compared to the Gentiles and what they received and knew. For example, the Jews received instructions from God called the Law. But the Gentiles received no such instructions. Because of this Law does this make the Jews more guilty and the Gentiles less guilty? Or maybe it works the opposite way. Paul explores those possibilities and he begins with the Gentiles. Paul says that all who have sinned without the Law also perish without the Law, so those without the Law are Gentiles. Those under the Law, Jews, will find themselves judged by the Law, they will be held accountable for their inability to keep the Law. What about if the Gentiles play the “claim of ignorance” card?
Romans 2: 14-16
14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.
15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them
16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.
Our conscience betrays us. As Gentiles, we still have a sense of right and wrong. Paul suggest that when the Gentile is doing the work of the Law, then they show evidence that God’s expectations have been revealed to them, and that the Gentile are showing obedience to God in their action. Paul’s saying that God reveals Himself to men apart from the Law given through Moses. So when the Gentiles feel a sense of guilt over their mistakes, they are bearing witness to the fact that they knew better.
To be continued