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Romans Chapter 2 Commentary

Tod Kennedy

Romans Chapter 2

Romans Chapter 2, self righteous judging, God judges all people, religious hypocrisy

Argument. Paul then warns those with moral pride who, in their self righteousness, judge other people. They think they are better because they do not sin so grossly, but they are still guilty. God will judge them, too. God is the absolute and impartial judge of all people. Both those under the Law and those without the Law will be judged on whatever standard they have, whether by the Law or the conscience. Those without the law are still guilty because they have the law written in their hearts. Many Jews have religious pride because they have the law and circumcision, but they do not follow the law nor understand circumcision. They are religious hypocrites. They too are guilty and do not understand that the Jew whom God praises is the one who practices the law from the heart. So far Paul has demonstrated that the immoral sinner, the self righteous moral sinner, and the religious sinner are all guilty before God.

Outline

Self righteous judging, God judges all people, religious hypocrisy

Short Outline

  1. Self righteous judging (Romans 2:1-5)
  2. God judges all people (Romans 2:6-16
  3. Religious hypocrisy (Romans 2:17-29)

Expanded Outline

  1. Self righteous judging. Moral self righteousness is sin, and this person tends to judge others which is wrong because they also sin. They are so focused on their own self righteousness that they disregard and scorn God’s graciousness to them. They refuse God’s call to repentance, and so they build up more reason for God to judge them (Romans 2:1-5)
  2. God judges all people. Paul presents the general principle that God judges all people. For one to be accepted by God, one must meet all of God’s standards. Paul writes in Romans 3 and other places that no one can do that. God is the absolute and impartial judge and will judge those who persevere in doing good and those who do evil. He judges both Jew and Greek according to their deeds. The Jew has the law as a guide and the Gentile has the law in their conscience (Romans 2:6-16).
  3. Religious hypocrisy. The religious pride of the Jew dulls him to the fact that though he talks about the superiority of the law, he does not keep the law. He brags about circumcision but does not understand circumcision. The Gentile who obeys the law of conscience is better off than the Jew who places misapplied ritual over religious reality and rejects the true nature of being Jewish—that it is inward, not simply outward. From his condemnation of these religiously proud and self righteous Jews Paul reasons that in practical application the Law is of no value unless one applies the law in one’s life (Romans 2:17-29).

Commentary

Self righteousness judging, God judges all people, religious hypocrisy

Outline

  1. Self righteous judging (Romans 2:1-5)
  2. God judges all people (Romans 2:6-11)
  3. Religious hypocrisy (Romans 2:17-29)

Introduction

  1. Introduction. Romans 1:1-17 present Paul’s ministry for the gospel, and how the gospel reveals God’s righteousness to those who believe God. Now, who needs God’s righteousness? All Mankind. Beginning with Romans 1:18-32 Paul demonstrates all mankind is guilty and needs salvation.
  2. Romans 1:18-32 shows that no one has an excuse against God, and all are guilty because God and God’s truth are revealed in nature and the conscience.
  3. Romans 2 shows that all self righteous moral and religious people are guilty by expanding on the truth that God and God’s truth are revealed in the conscience and the Law (the ethical man and the religious man). Romans 2:1-16 shows that the self-righteous moral person is guilty—an ethical point of view. Romans 2:17-29 shows that the religious person is guilty—a religious point of view, and in this Paul uses the Jew as the example.
  4. Justification by faith in not an issue in this chapter. He is not talking about who goes to heaven or to hell and why? He is taking a broad look about how God deals with right and wrong, righteousness and sin. The conclusion is that all people sin—the self righteous person and the religious person. All people are under God’s condemnation. Does Paul say that mankind can gain salvation by works? No, and we see this from other Pauline writings (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9) and specifically in our context (Romans 3.9-23). See Luke 18:18-30 for illustration of Romans 2:6-11.

Exposition

  1. Romans 2:1-5. Self righteous judging. Moral self righteousness is sin, and this person tends to judge others which is wrong because they also sin. They are so focused on their own self righteousness that they disregard and scorn God’s graciousness to them. They refuse God’s call to repentance, and so they build up more reason for God to judge them. Paul addresses the person who thinks he is morally better than other people—in context, those of Romans 1:32. This is an ethical argument. These think that they are morally superior. Furthermore, they have no excuse because they have revelation and conscience within themselves and they still sin. God holds them accountable. God is the only righteous judge and he holds everyone accountable to himself. Notice, also, that when someone judges someone else, they base their judgment on some kind of standard. The standard may or may not be right, but it shows that this person has a standard for right and wrong. All people have a conscience.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, "As the Jew read Paul’s indictment of the “heathen” in the first chapter, he must have smiled and said, “Serves them right!” Their attitude would have been that of the Pharisee in Luke 18:9–14—“I thank Thee that I am not as other men!” But Paul turns the Jew’s judgment of the Gentile right back upon him: “You do the same things the Gentiles do, so you are just as guilty!” God’s judgment of men is not according to hearsay, gossip, our own good opinions, or man’s evaluations; it is “according to truth” (v. 2). Someone has said, “We hate our own faults, especially when we see them in others.” How easy it is for people today, as in Paul’s day, to condemn others, yet have the very same sins in their own lives."[1]

    1. Romans 2:1.We have no reason to self righteously judge (κρινω krino, pres act participle in simple apposition to the subject "you"; to select, find fault with, criticize, express and opinion, pass judgment) another person whom you think is sinning. The context indicates that the one judging is self righteous. He thinks he is quite moral, while others are below him, when in fact, he also sins. The person who judges (κρινω krino pres act indic 2 singular, gnomic or durative), also condemns himself (κατακρινω katakrino pres act indic 2nd singular to pronounce a sentence after determining guilt, gnomic or durative) because he also sins.
    • To judge means
      1. To evaluate someone and find them guilty or to criticize another for something when we have neither the knowledge, the authority, or moral strength to do so (John 7:24; Romans 14:3,5,10,13; 1 Corinthians 4:4-5; Colossians 2:16). It usually means to express this judgment to another. It begins in the thinking and may show up in expression, words, or action. This verse means personal judgment, not legal judgment. The word is κρινω krino, to make a selection, opinion, pass judgment.
      2. When we criticize and judge, we are admitting to a standard in our conscience; and we often break that standard which condemns us. "You condemn yourself" is the verb katakrino κατακρίνω, to pass sentence after determining guilt. It has a stronger meaning.
      3. To recognize wrong is not judging. We are instructed to know the difference between right and wrong (Hebrews 5:14; Matthew 7:6, 15; 1 Corinthians 10:15,29; 11:13; Acts 16:15; 1 John 4:1). But we are not to act as a prosecutor and judge of someone else unless we have the authority and knowledge, though this is not referred to in Romans 2 (Luke 19:22; John 7:51; Acts 26:6).
      4. The point is that we are not to be critical or judgmental of others without proper reason. When we do we are condemning ourselves or putting greater judgment on ourselves.
    1. Romans 2.2. God judges according to truth. "Rightly falls" is according to truth in the Greek (κατὰ ἀλήθειαν kata aletheian), which means according to facts. God is always right. He does not judge according to gossip, or jealousy, meanness. God judges sin correctly, no matter who commits sin. When this self righteous person sins, God, the one righteous and impartial judge, will judge according that person’s sins.
    2. Romans 2:3. The question, do you think they will escape God’s judgment? No one escapes. God has his standard (Romans 2:2,5,6,11,16). See God’s nature-attributes.
    3. Romans 2:4. God is holding back judgment on the self righteous person in an effort to lead him to repentance (μετνοια metanoia, Romans 2:4). God wants people to change their thinking about him and about sin and about themselves. He desires people to be in right relationship with him. God is kind (χρηστότης chrestotes goodness, kindness, generosity), waiting (ἀνοχή anoche pause), and patient (μακροθυμία makrothumia). He wants people to repent (2 Peter 3:9). But these self righteous people think lightly or disregard (καταφρονεω kataphroneo, to look down with contempt, to scorn, to disregard) God’s graciousness to them. They do not know that God’s kindness (χρηστός quality of loving goodness) is behind his treatment of them. Comment about repentance.
      1. Repentance is about harmony and fellowship with God. It means to change one’s mind about God, self, or sin. The verb is μετανοεω, metanoeo; the noun is μετανοια, metanoia. In summary, the command to repent is a call to harmony and fellowship with God by changing one’s mind or thinking. When one believes in Jesus Christ that one has changed his mind about Jesus Christ. He has repented.
    4. Romans 2.5.These moral sinners are storing up (treasuring up, thesaurizo θησαυρίζω like our word thesaurus) judgment on ourselves. God will, in the future judgment, judge those having a hard and unrepentant heart.
    5. Summary of Romans 2.1-5.
      1. No one should self righteously criticize or judge another.
      2. Everyone sins and is under God’s righteous judgment.
      3. God wants people to repent—to change their thinking about him, about self, and about sin—and is patiently waiting for people to repent.
      4. Those who reject God’s grace scorn his kindness.
      5. They also are storing up God’s judgment on themselves and this judgment will be brought to bear on them.
      6. Doctrine of repentance in the NT. When taught Note when taught?
    6. Applications or so what?
      1. Do not criticize or pronounce judgment on someone unless you have the authority, know all the facts, and morally capable to do it correctly.
      2. Change your thinking to match biblical principles.
  1. Romans 2:6-16. God judges all people. Paul presents the general principle that God judges all people. God is an impartial judge and will judge those who persevere in doing good and those who do evil. He judges both Jew and Greek according to their deeds. The Jew has the law as a guide and the Gentile has the law in their conscience. Paul seems to be setting up a hypothetical situation within the overall principle that God judges all people. The impartial judge sets of the rules beforehand. Do good and the reward is eternal life; obey unrighteousness and the reward is tribulation and distress; sin with or without the law is judged. He is not talking about justification (eternal salvation). Henry Alford, The Greek New Testament. "This retribution must be carefully kept in its place in the argument. The Apostle is here speaking generally, of the general system of God in governing the world,—the judging according to each man’s works—punishing the evil, and rewarding the righteous. No question at present arises, how this righteousness in God’s sight is to be obtained—but the truth is only stated broadly at present, to be further specified by and by, when it is clearly shewn that by ἔργα νόμου no flesh can be justified before God. The neglect to observe this has occasioned two mistakes: (1) an idea that by this passage it is proved that not faith only, but works also in some measure, justify before God (so Toletus in Pool’s Syn.), and (2) an idea (Tholuck 1st edn. and Köllner) that by ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ here is meant faith in Christ. However true it be, so much is certainly not meant here, but merely the fact, that every where, and in all, God punishes evil, and rewards good."[2]
    1. Romans 2:6. God rewards (ἀποδίδωμι apodidomi, future active indicative, give out, pay out, recompense, reward) each what his works have earned.
    2. Romans 2.7. Some seek glory, honor, and immortality. To these he gives eternal life.
    3. Romans 2.8. To those who who reject truth and obey unrighteousness, he rewards wrath and anger.
    4. Romans 2.9-10. both Jew and Gentile who do evil are judged on the same basis: tribulation and distress or glory, honor, and peace.
    5. Romans 12.11. God is not partial to either Jew or Gentile when it comes to righteousness or sin (Προσωπολημψία prosopolempsia, partiality, Ephesians 6.9; James 2.1; Colossians 3.25).
    6. Romans 2.12-16. Verses 12, 13, and 14 begin with for (γαρ gar) which introduces an explanation or a reason why everyone is guilty before God, the impartial judge. The Gentiles do have a law, a law in their hearts. The Jews have the Mosaic Law. Romans 2:15-16 continue with why judgment of the Gentiles is just.
      1. Romans 12.12. God will judge everyone who sins—not having the Law will not exempt someone.
      2. Romans 12.13. And if one has the Law, that one is responsible to obey it. Knowing the Law is not enough.
      3. Romans 2.14. Gentiles instinctively have moral values. Instinctively (φύσις phusis, a condition or circumstance by birth, probably dative of manner indicating the way they do things) means the Gentiles had within themselves a moral compass.
      4. Romans 2.15 continues from 2:14 The Gentiles (and all those without the Mosaic Law) have an innate set of values, law written in their hearts (καρδια kardia, the center or seat of life, especially the inner life). The conscience (συνείδησις suneidesis, the inner faculty for distinguishing right and wrong) then evaluates one’s response to the law in the heart. This conscience must be taught. The law written in their hearts comes from God. See the doctrine of the conscience.
      5. Romans 2.16. The great white throne judgment of Revelation 20:12-15 is when God will finally and completely judge people. See Romans 2.5 for the same judgment. When Paul says "according to my gospel" he means that he included judgment when he preached the gospel. Jesus Christ will be the personal judge (Acts 17:31; John 5:22-29).
    7. Question for thought. Is Paul teaching eternal salvation by works in Romans 2? No. Since Paul writes in this same epistle that all have sinned and that no one will be justified by works (Romans 3:10-23 and Romans 4), I think a better understanding is that Romans 2, and especially Romans 2:6-16, refers to the general principle that obedience to God is rewarded and sin is judged, while justification for eternal life is only by faith apart from works. With man eternal salvation is impossible.
      1. Recall that Isaiah 64:6 indicts all people; people sin and their good works are not good enough.
      2. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:20 that no one is sinless.
      3. Furthermore, one sin makes a person guilty of all (James 2:10).
      4. Paul wrote in Romans 3:19, 20, 27, 28, 4:2, 13-15; Galatians 2:16, 3:10-12; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; and Philippians 3:9 that eternal salvation can only be gained by faith in Jesus Christ, the one who took our place in payment of our sins. Paul says in Acts 13:26-41 that the Law of Moses cannot free man from sin; only faith in Jesus brings forgiveness. Either Paul was contradicting himself in Romans 2:6-16 or he is saying something else—stating a principle that God punishes sin and rewards righteousness to show that God is the absolute and final judge of mankind. God’s judgment for sin then fell on Jesus Christ, who was judged in our place.
      5. Peter at the house of Cornelius, recorded in Acts 10:34-36, makes these same points. “God does not show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which he sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ…” Then in Acts 10:43, “through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”. Also, see 1 Peter 2:22-25.
      6. John is also clear that eternal salvation is only by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18, 36; 1 John 5:11-12).
      7. The writer to the Hebrews also stress the theme that obeying the law cannot provide eternal salvation. Examples include Hebrews 2:14-18; 9:25-28; 10:19-21.
      8. Compare the account of the rich young ruler found in Matthew 19:16-26, Mark 10:17-27, and Luke 18:1-30. Each account makes the point that no one keeps God’s law perfectly. Everyone misses God’s standard in some way. Each account ends with the same statement: eternal salvation is impossible with people, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19.25-26, Mark 10.26-27, and Luke 18.26-27). See the handout God judges, works, rich young ruler (Sept 29, 2013) for summary of this section and comments from the rich young ruler account.
      9. So, Paul is not saying that one gains eternal life by good works. What he is saying is that if you are sinless, God will reward you. But no one is sinless, so try as one may, one cannot gain life by works. He may gain reward or judgment.
    8. Summary of Romans 2.6-16. See Doctrine God Judges, Works, Rich Young Ruler.
      1. This passage is not discussing justification for everlasting life.
      2. This passage explains that God is the absolute, final, and impartial judge. He judges sin and rewards righteousness.
      3. Those who have the Mosaic Law and those without the Mosaic Law are guilty before God’s righteous standard. Both have a standard and are responsible.
      4. The Gentile without the Law by nature know certain demands of the law and are responsible.
      5. The conscience stores up moral values and these values accuse or defend the actions and thoughts of people—even those without the Mosaic Law. Therefore we need to teach our conscience.
      6. There is a future day when God will judge mankind. Paul included this judgment in his gospel presentation. Jesus will be God’s judge.
      7. Eternal salvation is not by human works but by faith in Jesus Christ who God the Father judged in our place.
      8. Doctrines of God righteously judges and rich young ruler, judgments in the Bible, judging in Scripture, judging others, repentance. Date when taught.
    9. Applications or so what from Romans 2.6-16?
      1. Tell people that no one is good enough for God to justify them and give eternal life. Everyone sins to a greater or lesser degree and everyone is guilty before God.
      2. God will judge all of us. Believers may be disciplined for sin in order to correct and bless us. We can anticipate some reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ for our Christian life service. We should warn unbelievers that they must face God’s judgment at the Great White Throne Judgment if they reject Jesus Christ as their substitute sin bearer.
      3. Jesus Christ was judged in mankind’s place so that we do not need to face the final judgment. But to benefit a person must believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and everlasting life.
  2. Romans 2:17-29. Religious hypocrisy. The religious pride of the Jew dulls him to the fact that though he talks about the superiority of the law, he does not keep the law. He brags about circumcision but does not understand circumcision. The Gentile who obeys the law of conscience is better off than the Jew who places misapplied ritual over religious reality and rejects the true nature of being Jewish—that it is inward, not simply outward. From his condemnation of these religiously proud and self righteous Jews, Paul reasons that in practical application the Law is of no value unless one applies the law in one’s life Romans 2:17-24. They think they are guides with flashlights.
    1. Romans 2:17-20. Paul now moves from the ethical argument to the religious argument. He speaks of Jews who because of their heritage of the Law think they are superior to others when they do not even keep the Law themselves. They say that they 1. "rely upon the Law," 2. "boast in God," 3. "know his will," 4. know what is important, and 5. think they can guide, enlighten, correct, and teach others.
    2. Romans 2:21-24. Paul questions them because they say one thing and do another. They are proud and apparently do not obey Law themselves and have brought dishonor on God’s name (Luke 18.11; John 9.28; James 4.16-17). They commit adultery (Ezekiel 22.11), they rob temples (Malachi 3.8)
    3. Romans 2:25-29. From his condemnation of these hypocritical, arrogant, and self righteous Jews Paul reasons that in practical application the Law is of no value unless one applies the law in one’s life.
    4. Romans 2:25-27. He uses circumcision as the illustration. The ritual of circumcision is meaningless if one disobeys the Law which prescribed circumcision. Empty ritual was a weakness of the Hebrew people (e.g. Isaiah 1:11-15; Zechariah 7:1-7). The point he emphasizes is obedience to the Law. Lip service is of no value. Saying one is a Jew without observing the Law is without value. The Law does not help that person. Protestant, Catholic, and Jews often think the same way about their outward ritual.
    5. Romans 2:28-29. Paul then writes that Jewish heritage is only meaningful if the Jew genuinely believes and applies what the Law says. He is not saying that there is no such thing as a racial Jew. He is saying that there is more to being a Jew than just genetic heritage and claiming the heritage of the Law. The racial Jew should have the Law in his heart so that he pleases God. Matthew 23:27 describes the one who emphasizes the outward over the inner.
      1. True circumcision today is in the heart and by the Holy Spirit (Philippians 3.3).
    6. What Paul has done in Romans 1-2 is to set up the problem that mankind is lost and helpless by himself. Romans 3 draws the conclusion that all people, Jew and Gentile, are sinners and that justification and redemption are only by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:9-11, 21-24).
    7. Summary of Romans 2.17-29.
  • Religious hypocrisy. The religious pride of the Jew dulls him to the fact that though he talks about the superiority of the law, he does not keep the law. He brags about circumcision but does not understand circumcision. The Gentile who obeys the law of conscience is better off than the Jew who places misapplied ritual over religious reality and rejects the true nature of being Jewish—that it is inward, not simply outward. From his condemnation of these religiously proud and self righteous Jews. Paul reasons that in practical application the Law is of no value unless one applies the law in one’s life Romans 2:17-24.
    1. So What? Applications Romans 2.17-29
      1. Do not brag when you thank God for what you think he is doing through you.
      2. Guard against being critical of other people’s motives.
      3. Do not judge and condemn other people, even if they are wrong. That is God’s responsibility or the person he has authorized to decide and judge.
      4. We can be religious without relationship to God and God’s will. We can even be religious without fellowship with God. The outward must be an expression of the inner.
      5. We have two rituals in the church. Are they meaningful or simply empty rituals? We observe communion often. Do not allow it to be "a going through the motions."
  1. Select doctrines or principles in chapter 2.
  • Biblical Jew is inward first, then outward (Romans 2:28-29)
  • Circumcision (Romans 2:25-29)
  • Conscience (Romans 2:15)
  • Faith application of God’s word (Romans 2:13
  • God has revealed himself in creation (Romans 1.20), in the conscience (Romans 1.19; Romans 2.1,15), and in the Law (Romans 2.17).
  • God judges all (Romans 2:6-11)
  • Judging others (Romans 2:1-5)
  • Judging others, Select Scripture
  • Judgment in the NT (Romans 2:2-6, 16)
  • Judgments in the Bible (Romans 2:3)
  • Lordship of Christ Scripture from a prominent church do not teach Lordship Salvation
  • Meaningless ritual (Romans 2:25-29)
  • Mosaic Law (Romans 2:12-27)
  • Pride (Romans 2:1-5, 17-23)
  • Religious hypocrisy (Romans 2:17-29)
  • Repentance (Romans 2:4)
  • Salvation by works—is Paul teaching this in Romans 2?
  • Salvation not by works—Rich Young Ruler (Romans 2:6-11; Matthew 19.16-26, Mark 10.17-27, and Luke 18.1-30)
  • Self-righteousness (Romans 2:1, 17-24)
  1. Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992) 366.

  2. Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010) 329.