Romans 2 - Outline of Romans (Book Notes menu page)
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.
The apostle continues speaking about our need for Righteousness -
In 1:18-32, he demonstrated that mankind in general (eg., the godless gentile) is condemned for his unrighteousness, and inexcusable for his rejection of God's truth (revealed through creation).
In 2:1-16, he demonstrates that 'good' and 'religious' people are condemned in their self-righteousness, and inexcusable because they also violate the standards which condemn sinners.
O man - This term is all inclusive, applying to Jew and Gentile, alike.
whosoever thou art that judgest {ie., condemns} another - This term is more specific,
applying to any man who sees himself as more righteous than those described in ch.1 (eg., Luk 18:11).
thou condemnest thyself... thou... doest the same things.-
It is not that our sins are identical to theirs, but that they are just as bad in God's sight.
By our standards, we may be better than the heathen. But God judges by His standards.
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
{ie., kindness}
and forbearance
{ie., temporary withholding of judgment due}
and longsuffering
{GK=makrothumia, lit., 'long temper', ie., self-restraint in the face of provocation};
not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent
{ie., unrepentant} heart
treasurest up unto thyself wrath
against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
Principles by which God judges men- There are four basic principles given in v.2-16.
(Note the lines in bold font, lettered A.-D.)
A. God judges according to truth (v.2).-
  1. The Judge is true.- God's judgment reveals His righteous nature.
    cp. v.5; Gen 18:25; Deu 32:4; Acts 17:31
  2. His standard is true.- God tests each man against the standard of His Righteousness.
    Most people expect God to condemn a Hitler and a Stalin, while exempting 'good' people like themselves. But before God, all fall short. Rom 3:10,23
  3. His justice is true (v.3).- Man's justice is often perverted. The guilty may escape detection, escape the jurisdiction of authorities, escape penalty due to technicalities, or escape from prison after conviction. God's judgment is not like that.
  4. His grace is true (v.4,5).- He offers righteousness to the guilty.
    The mercies of God should bring us to our knees before Him (2Pet 3:9,10). Instead, when punishment is not swift, men often become hardened in their sinful ways and calloused toward Him, ignoring the coming judgment. Psa 10:11 (also see whole Psalms: Psa 10; Psa 73)
    In His mercy, God has provided righteousness for the believing sinner. It is the only escape from judgment. Rom 1:16-18; Heb 2:3
2:6 Who will render {ie., recompense} 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:
B. God judges every man according to his deeds (v.6).-
  • The word 'deeds' {GK=ergon, works} covers more than external actions.
    cp. Prov 24:12; Jer 17:10; eg. Mat 5:27,28
    Since God judges the thoughts & intents of the heart, everyman is condemned before Him.
  • Though some may 'seek' eternal life through 'well doing' (v.7), in truth, no man is unswerving in his thoughts & deeds. No one will enter the realm of God's 'glory and honor' on his own merits (Rom 3:10-12,23; James 2:10,11).
    Therefore, when the dead are judged according to the record of their works, not one will escape hell on that basis (Rev 20:12,15; 1Joh 5:11,12).
    For this reason, even a 'just' and 'good' man (for example, Cornelius, Acts 10:1-6,22) must come to Christ for salvation from sin (Acts 11:13,14; 10:42,43).
  • As it is God who metes out indignation and wrath against the sinner (v.8,9),
    so, it is His prerogative to share His glory (Joh 17:5,24), honor (Joh 12:26), peace (Rom 5:1), and eternal life (Joh 3:16) with those who are worthy (v.7,10). But none are worthy on the basis of their works. These things belong to those who have received (by faith) the gift of 'righteousness from God' (Joh 6:28,29; Rom 1:16,17; Titus 3:5-7).
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;
2:13 (For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God,
but the doers of the law shall be justified.
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
{GK=summartureo, lit., 'bearing witness with'},
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.
C. God judges without respect of persons (v.11).- cp. Deu 10:17; Acts 10:34,35
  1. All men are judged for what they are before God, not for what they seem to be before men.
    There is no merit or advantage in position, rank, popularity, or religious affiliation.
    Both Jew and Gentile will be judged by One who sees the heart. 1Sam 16:7; Heb 4:13
  2. All men will be judged according to the light they have. (v.12)
    The Jew will be judged according to the Mosaic Law. Lev 18:5
    The Gentile will be judged according to the law written in his conscience.
        The Jews had received the "Special Revelation" of God's written Word. The Gentiles had only the "General Revelation" of God in His Creation. Through the Creation, things about the power and Person of God were manifest 'to them' and 'in them' (Rom 1:19,20). Here is another aspect of what was 'manifest in them': God created man with a moral 'conscience' {GK=suneidesis, an innate 'perception with' God of His requirements} which continually 'bears witness with' God, as to whether those requirements have been fulfilled (v.14,15).
    • Although the law of conscience is incomplete, it is sufficient that every man has a sense of right and wrong. This innate sense is adequate to prosecute civil crimes. Ignorance of the law does not make one immune from prosecution, although it may moderate the penalty.
    • Those, who have received greater light, have greater responsibility. Therefore, Gentiles who have a Christian heritage will also be judged more severely than those who have never heard God's Word. cp. Mat 11:21-24; Luk 12:46-48
  3. All men are condemned as sinners by their failure to obey the light they have.
    All sinners will perish {GK=apollumi, be destroyed} under the wrath of God.-
    • The Jew is condemned, because he does not obey the Law. v.13; Gal 3:12; Jam 2:10,11
      The doers of the Law shall be 'justified' {ie., 'declared righteous'} because the full keeping of the Law demonstrates that they are 'good.' However, a partial keeping of the Law cannot 'make good' that which the broken Law declares to be 'not good.'
    • The Gentile is condemned, because he does not obey what he knows to be right.
      Hypothetically (v.14,15), if a gentile were to fulfill the law of his conscience, he would be justified apart from the Law. However, even the best intentioned man finds his conscience 'accusing or excusing' him for his unrighteousness.
      Note: 'The law written in the heart' of the natural (unsaved) man is not to be confused with the New Covenant blessing of Heb 8:10. The law of the conscience 'accuses and excuses' the sinner whose fleshly nature cannot please God. But for born-again believers, the 'laws of God written in their minds and hearts' (of their new nature) gives them an inherent desire to live in righteousness as His children.
D. God judges according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (v.16).-
Note that v.13-15 form a parenthesis which amplifies v.12. The flow of thought in v.12 connects directly to v.16.
  1. Jesus Christ is the standard of righteousness.- 1Pet 2:22,23; Heb 4:15; Mat 5:17-32
  2. Jesus Christ is the Judge.- Joh 5:22-29; Acts 17:31
  3. Jesus Christ is the Lamb (whose sacrifice paid the penalty for sin).-
    By faith in Him, a believer is declared righteous, is included in the Book of Life, and escapes eternal condemnation. Joh 1:29; Rom 1:16,17; 1Pet 2:24,25; Rev 20:12-15
    (The Book of Life contains the names of those identified with the Lamb. Rev 13:8).
Summary of v.1-16: "The judgment is of such a character
that sinners, no matter who they are, Jew or Gentile, cannot stand in it." [Stifler]

In 2:17- 3:8, the apostle demonstrates that the Jew also is under condemnation for sin.
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.
The Jew boasts of his privileged position.-
A. his godly heritage, v.17,18
  • The name: Jew {GK=Ioudaios, from or belonging to Judah}. The name, as originally given, reflected the praise of their God ('Judah' means 'praise,' Gen 29:35).
  • The Law- Deu 4:8
  • The more excellent {ie., better} things, which flow from the knowledge of God's Word, and which differentiate Israel from the world. Deu 4:6-8; Psa 135:4; 147:19,20
B. his godly service, v.19,20; cp. Isa 43:10-12
The Jew's greater privilege increases his responsibility.
  • They had "the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law" (v.20).
    But the word 'form' {GK=morphosis, 'shape'} can refer to the fully formed 'real thing,' or to an empty semblance without substance. cp. 2Tim 3:5
  • The question is: 'Do you practise what you preach?'
2:21 Thou therefore which teachest another,
teachest thou not thyself?
{cp. v.19; Joh 9:39-41; Mat 15:14}
thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
{ie., By dishonesty and deceit, do you take that which belongs to another? eg., by misrepresenting an item that you want to sell, by hiding income when reporting taxes, by taking unfair advantage of another person's distress... cp. Mat 23:14}
2:22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery,
dost thou commit adultery?
{cp. Mat 5:27,28; Joh 8:3-9}
thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege
{lit., 'rob temples'}?
{'Do you take a spoil from their shrines?' eg., by profiting financially from trade supporting the idolatry of others.}
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.
{cp. Isa 52:5; Eze 36:20-23}
dishonorest thou God?...-
''Men around think less of God because this man lives among them and calls himself a disciple of God. It were more for the glory of God, and therefore for the good of those who know this man, if he were a professed heathen.'' [Stifler, quoting J.A.Beet]
The argument is that: the confidence of the Jew is misplaced.-
He claims righteousness by the Law, but he fails to keep the Law.
He boasts of his religious privileges (v.17-20), but his unrighteous life...
  • voids his supposed exemption from judgment.
    (All who sin will be judged. cp. v.21,22 with v.2)
  • voids God's good name before others. v.23,24
  • voids the reality of his religious rites. v.25,26
  • voids his privileged position. v.27-29 [CEMason]
(The above accusations also apply to the spiritually privileged gentile [ie., the 'churched' as opposed to the 'unchurched'] who is confident in his own religiosity.)
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
{ie., with} 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.
circumcision... -
  • In this passage, the writer uses this word interchangeably in reference to:
    1. the rite of circumcision itself (eg., v.25),
    2. those marked (or unmarked) by the rite (ie., Jews versus Gentiles; eg. v.26a).
  • Circumcision is a token (or 'badge') of the Abrahamic (and Mosaic) covenants (Gen 17:10-14).
    The token indicates that a man belongs to the Covenant people.
    The intended purpose of circumcision (by which it would prove profitable) was as an incentive for right living (as a reminder of the requirements of the Covenant). Circumcision cannot profit the law breaker, since it provides no atonement for wrong living.
  • There is no merit in the rite itself.
    The Jew, who bears the badge, but breaks the Law, brings the badge into disrepute (v.25).
    Conversely, a gentile, who keeps the Law, honors the Covenant principles in his heart (v.26,27).
    ''Bullion is gold, though it has no government stamp upon it. In the scales of judgment, whose principles have been so clearly laid down [cp. v.2,6,11-12,16], will he who has the rite without the righteousness outweigh him who has righteousness without the rite? This question needs no answer.'' [Stifler]
circumcision is that of the heart...- This is an OT concept. cp. Deu 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 9:24-26
As the external rite cuts off a piece of flesh to symbolically identify a man with the Lord's Covenant, so, 'circumcision of the heart' involves the removal of fleshly motivations and attitudes in order that he might truly serve the Lord.
The spiritual significance of circumcision will be discussed further in Romans ch. 4.
he is not a Jew who is one outwardly... he is a Jew who is one inwardly...-
  • Note: This passage does not teach that the Church has become spiritual Israel.
    In fact, the same thoughts can be applied to those who call themselves 'Christians' and who practise the church sacraments (eg., baptism & the Lord's supper). For example, Baptism is meant to be an outward sign of God's working within the heart. It is a badge of faith in Christ. But, if a baptized person gives no evidence of salvation (by righteous living), his baptism becomes a mockery.
  • This passage teaches that physical membership in the nation of Israel (through birth and participation in religious rites) does not excuse the Jew from judgment (cp. v.1-3).
    To be accepted before God, the Jew (like the gentile) must 'continue in well doing' (v.6,7), living in a continual heart attitude of obedience to the Law.
    With the privilege of knowing 'the letter' of the Covenant, and of wearing the mark of the Covenant, the Jew is under greater obligation (than the gentile) to fulfill the commands of the Covenant. cp. 1Cor 7:19.

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