Sin's Condemnation The Guilt of the Self-Righteous
Jews Are Judged by Their Works
2:1 Therefore you are without excuse, O man, whoever you are who
For in that which you judge another, you condemn
For you who judge practice the same things.
2:2 We know that the judgment of God is according to truth against
those who practice such things.
2:3 Do you think this, O man who judges those who practice such
and do the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?
2:4 Or do you despise the riches of his goodness,
and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to
2:5 But according to your hardness and unrepentant heart you
are treasuring up
for yourself wrath in the day of wrath, revelation, and of the
righteous judgment of God;
2:6 who "will pay back to everyone according to their works:"
2:7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for
glory and honor and incorruptibility, eternal life;
2:8 but to those who are self-seeking, and don't obey the
but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation,
2:9 oppression and anguish, on every soul of man who works
on the Jew first, and also on the Greek.
2:10 But glory and honor and peace to every man who works good,
to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Jews Are Judged with Impartiality
2:11 For there is no partiality with God.
2:12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish
without the law.
As many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
2:13 For it isn't the hearers of the law who are righteous before
but the doers of the law will be justified
2:14 (for when Gentiles who don't have the law do by nature the
things of the law,
these, not having the law, are a law to themselves,
2:15 in that they show the work of the law written in
their conscience testifying with them,
and their thoughts among themselves accusing or else excusing
2:16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of
according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.
What excuses do you have for not living up to God's perfect
What types of sin do you get most angry at?
Do you find that you are struggling with a similar form of that sin
How might people think that they can escape the judgment of God by
In vs 4, how does God's kindness lead us to repentance? What sort of
What does it mean to "persist" in doing good? And have you always
persisted in doing good?
Do you find that at times you are self-seeking and that at times,
when people tell you the truth, that you reject it because it
conflicts with your chosen lifestyle?
Would you characterize yourself as a "good" person? (Compare with
What about people who never read the Bible, who were not aware of
God's standards? Can they be excused? How will God judge them?
Hypocrisy Characteristic of "Good" People
Rom 2:1Therefore 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.
In chapter one Paul spoke of people's outward sinfulness of which
all would agree is bad. But here in this chapter he'll speak of sins
such as the religious elite and self-righteous commit. Jesus'
parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector starts, "To some who were confident of
their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus
told this parable:"Luke
18:9 Likewise there are those today, particularly among
religious people who look down on everyone else. While the hypocrisy
that Jesus pointed out of the Pharisee in that parable and of the
religious elite in Matthew chapter 23, it is even more tragically
amusing to hear of the religious hypocrisy of inherent in the Muslim
community which should be obvious to all. Fact is, as this chapter
will show, all are guilty and therefore all need to be saved, be it
the homosexual or the imam.
Here the apostle confidently makes this claim because it is so
characteristic of human nature to be sensitive to those areas of
which oneself is guilty, though it be secretly. Though it may not be
the particular sin of which one is guity, but rather the category of
sin. Thus in being outraged at hearing of rape, one may nonetheless
themselves be involved in some form of sexual immorality, such as
As an example consider King David, who had committed adultery with
Bathseba and then had her husband secretly killed.
2Samuel 12:1-5 The LORD sent Nathan to David.
When he came to him, he said,
"There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other
poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,
but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had
bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children.
It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his
arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the
rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own
sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come
to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor
man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." David
and said to Nathan, "As surely
as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!"
2Samuel 12:7aThen Nathan said to David, "You are
Rom 2:2,3Now we know that God’s judgment
against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a
mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you
think you will escape God’s judgment?
He is not discouraging people from scrutinizing another. For isn't
he himself doing so in these very sections? And doesn't he teach
that Christians should judge another, as he asks rhetorically, "Are you not to judge those inside
(the church)?" 1Cor 5:12b
Now there are those who frequently misapply the saying, "Judge not and you shall not be
judged". Luke 6:37
in order to condemn others who scrutinize them, which itself is a
violation of their own interpretation of the saying. But many in
this post-modernistic society would like to believe they can get
away with anything so long as they don't scrutinize others. Jesus
was actually speaking in a proverbial sense of that which is human
nature, namely that if you scrutinize others, they will scrutinize
you, which is a truisim. Try it. When you judge others, they will
almost immediately turn around and judge you.
Such is one of the expression of self-righteousness - to try and
envade scrutiny by putting the spotlight on others. It started in
the garden where Adam, being accused by God, accused Eve in return,
who then turned the spotlight on the serpent. Pointing fingers is
not going to help on the judgement day, where each must give an
account of themselves to God. And much as there are those of a
liberal or libertarian mindset who may claim there are no absolute
moral standards, such show their hypocrisy when someone does
something bad to them.
Now consider incidents in which you've thought or pointed out
something wrong about someone else, and consider whether in some way
you had likewise been guilty.
Why Good Things Happen to Bad People
Rom 2:4,5 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his
kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s
kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your
stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath
against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous
judgment will be revealed.
Some ask as to why bad things happen to good people. But shouldn't
one also ask as to why good things happen to bad people? This was
the queston Asaph expressed in
Psalm 73 saying, "I
envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They
have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are
free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human
ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves
with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil
conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with
malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths
lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the
earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in
abundance. They say, "How can God know? Does the Most High have
knowledge?" This is what the wicked are like— always carefree,
they increase in wealth." Ps
But when he thought further on this matter, this is what he
concluded, "When I tried to
understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the
sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny."Ps
God is gracious to the wicked so that they may turned from their
wickedness and repent. He gives them grace - leeway for a time - and
time itself for them to reflect on the matter. And it is for this
reason the Lord delays his return, just as the judgement against
Caanan was delayed 400 years (Gen
15:13-16) But "The
Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand
slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance."2Peter 3:9
However the more grace, the more accountability. Thus for example
Paul spoke of those who oppose the propagation of the gospel with
hostility and said of them,
"They displease God and are hostile to all men in their
effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may
be saved. In this way they
always heap up their sins to the limit." 1Th 2:15b-16a
The Judgement of Works
Rom 2:6-8 God "will give to each person according to what he has
done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek
glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for
those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow
evil, there will be wrath and anger.
The quote Paul is using is found in a number of places, both in the
Old and New Testaments.
32:19b You reward
everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.
Proverbs 24:11,12Rescue those being led away to
death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say,
"But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the
heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each
person according to what he has done?"
Mt 16:27 For the Son of Man is
going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he
will reward each person according to what he has done.
Re 20:12bThe dead were judged according to
what they had done as recorded in the books.
Now there are those who ignore the rest of Romans and simply take
these verses out of context preaching a different gospel. They claim
that apart from faith in Christ, just seeking God, seeking eternal
life, that itself is sufficient to qualify a person for eternal
life. Though in the gospel there is grace is of which Paul
will speak of later, here Paul is just speaking of Law, namely that
God is judicially obligated to give eternal life to those who do
good, and wrath to those who do evil. He's not talking about
salvation by faith yet. He's not talking about grace yet.
Likewise on one occasion when a man who considered himself good (Mr 10:17), and on another
occasion when a lawyer ask, "What
must I do to inherit eternal life?", Jesus didn't answer
with the gospel of grace, but rather with the Law. He said, "What is written in the Law?"Luke 10:26 Such is the
response to those who think they are good enough to be saved. Such
people don't seek grace in view of their guilt. And so the gospel of
grace is irrelevant and inapplicable to them, until they come to
conviction of sin, which is Paul and Jesus' purpose in speaking to
the self-righteous in such a manner. To them Jesus says, "There is no one good but God alone." Mk
But if a person persistently only does good, never committing sin,
that person will have earned eternal life. That's the Law. They earn
eternal life simply because there is no basis upon which God could
judicially condemn them. And those who do evil, will of course
suffer God's wrath in accordance with God's judicial nature. What
Paul is about to show is that all have sinned and come short of the
glory of God, and as such are not qualified to earn eternal life by
This is not to say that those who have been justified by grace
through faith can then live a lifestyle of sin. But again - in
reality, due to the nature of regeneration, there exists no such
person (1John 3:9), just as
"There is not a righteous man
on earth who does what is right and never sins."Ecc 7:20
A Judgement of Jew and Gentile Alike
Rom 2:9,10There will be trouble and distress
for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for
the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does
good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Good news for those who do good. But Jesus said, "No one is good— except God alone."Luke 18:19b That being the
case, only the bad news is left.
As for the Jew being first, he mentioned this also in Rom 1:16, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is
the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first
for the Jew, then for the Gentile." The earliest Christians
were Jews. Such Jews didn't "convert" to Christianity, for one can
be both a Jew and a Christian, as these were not incompatible with
each other. Futhermore Jesus was Jewish. He was the Jewish Messiah
prophesied in such places as Isaiah
53. And his apostles and the writers of the New Testament
were Jewish. Paul himself came from the strictest sect of Judaism,
being a Pharisee. But the gospel of Christ also extends beyond
Judaism to embrace all nations. However as the more you know, the
more you will be held responsible, so also with the Jews. In
chapter 3 Paul will speak of the advantage of being a Jew, but with
advantages come responsibility and consequently accountability. Thus
Jesus said, "That servant who
knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what
his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who
does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten
with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will
be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked." Luke
God is Impartial in Judgement
Rom 2:11-13 For there is no partiality with
God. 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 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight
of God, but the doers of the law will be justified
Issues of favoritism and prejudice is a theme in the New Testament
primarily with regards to the prejudice the Jews had towards the
Gentiles. Remember he has yet to present the gospel of grace, which
is apart from works. But apart from grace there is a performance
based salvation available for "good" people. As for why those who
don't have the law will nonetheless be judged, he will speak on
With regards to the Jews, that is, those who have explicitly heard
the law of God, his point is that there is no virtue in merely
hearing the law if one does not practice it. It is vain for a Jew to
rely upon his Jewishness to save him. "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it
is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do
everything written in the Book of the Law.'" Gal 3:10
A Judgement of the Conscience
Rom 2:14-16 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, 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) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men
by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
For this reason those who have never read the scriptures will
nonetheless be held accountable, for each is accountable to act in
accordance with their conscience. And "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and
doesn‘t do it, sins."Jas 4:17
And not only with regards to outward behavior. For God will also
judge the secrets of the heart. For example, "anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has
already committed adultery with her in his heart."Mt 5:28 and "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and
you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."1John 3:15
Now while religious people worldwide may agree with his points so
far, here we see something they may not have known. Namely the Jesus
Christ will be the judge. "For
God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the
man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by
raising him from the dead."Acts 17:31
A Judgement of the Religious Elite
Rom 2:17-20 Now you, if you call yourself a
Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to
God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because
you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a
guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an
instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have
in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—
Jesus and here Paul speak of two classes of people - those who
consider themselves right with God based upon being "good" and those
who disregard God. Both need to be saved. But the common approach to
preparing "good" people for the gospel is to show that they are
sinners and thus need to be saved. Here Paul starts to really focus
on the religious elite, the self-righteous with the same kind of
tone Jesus used with regards to the religious elite to convict them
Today such is the case not only regards to Jews or Muslims, and even
among Christians there are those who rely upon the law to justify
them. That is today we could just as well replace the word "Jew"
here with "Muslim" or "Christian".
However here he is not saying that these attributes are bad. For
example with regards to bragging about one's relationship with God
it says, "Let not the wise man
boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the
rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about
this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who
exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in
these I delight." Jer
With respect to God's will it says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able
to test and approve what God‘s will is— his good, pleasing and
perfect will." Rom 12:2
With respect to being a light it says, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,'
made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."2Cor 4:6
With regards to teaching it says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are
worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching
So all these activities of which he is speaking are commendable.