A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS Romans 2 Everybody knows about their own sin from their conscience Dr. Jerry A. Collins
In chapter 1, Paul said people are without excuse because God revealed Himself through nature, and they worshiped the creation instead of the Creator and pursued degrading passions (with a focus on homosexuality). Therefore, God gave them over to the consequences of their own sin.
In chapter 2, Paul looks internally and says people are sinners without excuse, whether they had the Law or not.
GOD’S JUDGMENT IS DUE TO OUR SIN
Sin is a universal problem of the entire human race. No one is exempt from the guilt of sin. Since sin is a violation of Gods character, sinners, all sinners will be judged by God. No one escapes this reality.
Verse 1: Therefore, connects us with what was said previously. You might think you are free from God’s wrath because you are not guilty of practicing the sins mentioned in chapter one, but nothing could be farther from the truth. You are without excuse. You are not off the hook. The fact is, that while you are passing judgment against others, at whatever point you are doing that, you are also condemning yourself. Most people accuse people of doing what they are doing. We all pass judgment because we are moral/spiritual creatures. When I pass judgment (if I say: “Joe is selfish”), I reveal the fact that I recognize sin. But I commit the same sin, or the same sort of sin, or I wouldn’t be passing judgment for you who judge practice the same things (I recognize Joe’s selfishness because of my own selfishness). It’s like the lady who said: “This church is full of gossips,” or the politician who says his opponent is “just being political.
Verses 2-3: But sin requires the judgment of a holy God, or He wouldn’t be a holy God. The self-righteous person wants to judge degrees of sin and by doing so think he is better off than others and free from guilt before God. However, everyone has turned away from God and practice sin even though there are differences of frequency, extent and degree. Consequently, those practicing the same sin, though not in the same ways, should not think that you will escape the judgment of God?
Verse 4: Rather than acting as judges of the immoral they should view themselves as sinners who will by judged by God. Don’t misinterpret God’s delay of judgment assuming you are okay compared to so and so. God is simply giving time to repent due to the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience. God does not wink at any sin. The point is that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Verse 5: Our personal sin brings its own consequences into our lives. If you don’t recognize your sin and repent of your sin, you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. God’s wrath is increasing against sinners while He waits.
Verse 6: The basis of judgment is good or bad deeds. Salvation is always based on faith, but judgment is always based on works. Both the unbeliever and believer will be judged according to their works. The unbeliever to reveal his/her just condemnation and level of eternal punishment. The believer to determine his/her qualified works for eternal reward. In both cases God will render to each person according to his deeds. God’s judgment will deal with what every person really did. It will not deal with what we intended or hoped or wanted to do.
Verses 7-9: Those pursuing what’s in their best self-interest in this life seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life. Paul probably meant that if a person obeys God perfectly, he or she will receive eternal life. The point is that God rewards complete obedience to his law with eternal life. Later he would clarify that no one can obey God perfectly, so all are under His wrath. It is those who are selfishly ambitious (the word means rivalry, ambitious, strife, or selfish) that are the ones who do not obey the truth. It’s those who serve themselves, by taking from others. Seek what is in your own self-interest as God defines that. God has ordered things in this life so that tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil.
PT: Proverbs illustrates the outcome of evil and foolish behavior. You can never get ahead with God by means of evil and foolishness. The fool ignores wisdom by cutting corners to gain an advantage. This leads to a life of damage control due to tribulation and distress of the soul.
Verse 10: Paul also said there will be glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good. This means that man is capable of doing good. It is true that what ‘good’ man does will never erase his sin. It is true that whatever ‘good’ man does is always mixed with evil. It is true that man is not capable of doing enough ‘good’ to reach God. But it is not true that man is incapable of doing good. Man is not totally depraved as Calvinists want you to believe.
PT: The natural mans spiritual nature is stained by sin, making him unacceptable to a Holy God. His goodness is always polluted with evil. The natural man can do good, but he cannot be good. That is, he cannot be holy. It is only through the cross of Christ that he is able to have his sins wiped away and be holy, and thus have a relationship with God. This principle is now applied to the entire human race. But glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good. That is how God has designed life this side of the grave. In both cases, whether doing evil or good, this would be true of the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Verses 11-12: No one escapes sins consequences in life for there is no partiality with God. Life deals its goods to all of us. No one is exempt. Accordingly, the Law will not be an issue in the final judgment for those who did not live under it for all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law. By contrast, the Jew who has sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law.
God holds men accountable in accordance with the responsibilities they have, not those they don’t have. God will deal differently with sinners inside His law and those outside of it.
Verse 13: Those who were merely hearers of the Law will not be accounted righteous before God. On the contrary, in the Day of Judgment it is only the doers of the Law will be justified. The fact is, judgment will be based upon what one actually does in this life. There is no judgment for what you merely hoped to do or planned to do. There is no merit with God for wanting what he wanted. Your works will tell it like it actually was. You cannot hide behind your intentions in judgment.
Verses 14-15: But what about judgment without the law? Although the law of Moses will not be used against gentiles in the day of judgment, nevertheless their conscience will be a witness against them. When Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves. Their conscience is a witness against them in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness. Their discussions and moralizing will come into play. The standards they used to evaluate one another’s conduct will become the standards God uses to judge them. A pagan might say “I think you are wrong to deceive like that.” Yet, he/she employs the same kind of deception in another realm. Those very words will condemn him as Jesus said that they would. So, with the law or without, each person’s actual acts will be sufficient for judgment.
Verse 16: What Paul has been describing will take place on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. If all of the words men have spoken on moral matters will be made known at the judgment—no matter how much the speakers might wish those words to be unknown or undisclosed—God knows all about every man. Men’s secrets, however embarrassing or shameful, will be under scrutiny at the final judgment for nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light (Luke 8:17). This will be entirely impartial. Gods judgment of us is due to our sin.
THE SELF RIGHTEOUS, LIKE THE JEW, WILL BE VULNERABLE FOR JUDGMENT
People enjoy boasting about their supposed privileged status before God. Today they may measure that status by the baptism they have received. Or the good works they have done. Or the money they have given.
Verse 17: Here is one who proudly bears the designation “Jew” precisely because he possessed God’s special revelation, the law. In fact, he could openly boast in God since it was his racial group that God gave the law.
Verses 18-20: This Jew claims to know God’s will revealed in the law and so can approve the things that are essential. Since the self righteous, such as this Jew, are instructed out of the Law and can discern the things that really matter, he is confident in his own capacity to help others to escape their ignorant blindness confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind. He himself thinks he is a light to those who are in darkness. This Jewish sense of superiority to his gentile counterparts makes him believe he is a corrector of the foolish, and a teacher of the immature. Paul highlights how such a person builds his prideful self esteem through information he finds in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth. Such are the self righteous.
Then Paul asks the Jews:
Verses 21-23: You might teach another person, Paul said, but do you not teach yourself? Have the commands that you preach that one shall not steal and you who say that one should not commit adultery have also taught you not to do these things? True, this Jew claimed to abhor idols by never bowing down to one, but gains financial profit from the false worship of the gentiles? Do you rob temples, refers to receiving property stolen from temples to resell for profit. These self righteous Jews had participated in the theft.
PT: The bottom line was despite their boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law they disgraced God. The final question do you dishonor God exposes their claim of special privilege before God to be a complete sham. God sees right through that.
Verse 24: With an emphatic affirmative, this Jewish conduct has led the name of God [to be] blasphemed among the gentiles because of you. What an indictment. The Jewish pride in possessing the Law of God was their undoing.
Verse 25: It was not just the law they possessed but the practice of circumcision had set them apart in a special way to God. The idea of circumcision could stand for the Jews commitment to the entire law for indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law. But [what] if you are a transgressor of the Law? In that case circumcision’s profitability vanishes too your circumcision has become uncircumcision. In other words, the Jew is reduced to the level of the Gentiles who have sinned without the law or circumcision.
Verses 26-27: Thus if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, he could expect to be justified before God. In that case, his uncircumcision [would be] be regarded as circumcision. Paul’s supposition here is that the Jew who assumed superiority by mere fact of physical circumcision and possession of Gods law would be in the untenable position, as the circumcised person, of being judged by the physically uncircumcised person. The very ones they looked down upon. Will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? What irony.
PT: This is another way of affirming the utter impartiality of God, that however much the self righteous Jew or any person might imagine that God would be partial to him or her in the judgment is a mistake with eternal consequences. No one has an advantage when it comes to God judging sin.
Verses 28-29: What it really means to be a Jew is not determined by who is one outwardly. Nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. On the contrary, he is a Jew who is one inwardly and true circumcision is that which is of the heart in the Spirit. Judaism in its spiritual reality is an inward religion and not an outward one. What ultimately matters are that one’s praise is not from men, but from God. Ultimately, everyone of us is accountable only to the Lord.
PT: The Jews constantly sought recognition from men. We are guilty of the same motivation. Jesus said
beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1).
THOUGHTS AND APPLICATIONS
• Understanding that you are a sinner is the first part of the Gospel. It is absolutely essential. It is right here, at the beginning of the Gospel, where the secular liberals and the emerging global community reject God. They don’t care if Christians talk about Jesus, or if they say Jesus died for our sins. But they will absolutely not agree that man is a hopeless sinner incapable of solving his problem by, say, self-determination and social change, or some other religion. Educated intelligent secular liberals come up with foolish ideas (like what?), because they refuse to recognize sin.
• Paul says: Therefore, you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things (2:1). Notice that’s not true of God. He passes judgment but without being guilty of the same thing. God’s recognition of sin is different from ours. God identifies sin by contrast. He is holy, meaning He is totally separated from sin. So sin is anything contrary to what He is. We can’t do that because we are not holy. Even if we do good, it is not from holiness. So we recognize sin not by contrast but by familiarity. Even if we haven’t committed the exact same sin, we have committed something similar (Matthew 5:21ff). I may not have murdered anyone, but I have been angry, etc. So when I pass judgment on someone, it tells me I am guilty of the same sort of thing.
• In 2:15, Paul says Gentiles (that would be unbelievers unfamiliar with the Bible) show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them. But, of course, our conscience can become so hardened, that we are no longer sensitive to sin. Then God gives us over to that sin (1:18-32). So, apparently, we will be judged not just by our response to our conscience (because it may be hardened and rendered ineffective) but by what our conscience is capable of, given our revelation (general revelation through nature, or special revelation through the Scripture).