In the last part of our last lesson, Paul began to point out the sins of the Gentiles. In Chapter 2, Paul will focus his message on the Jews. The Jews are not specifically named until verse 17, but if you notice that when you read the latter part of Chapter one, Paul refers to the Gentiles as Ďtheyí and Ďthemí but starting in verse one, he uses the word Ďyouí. We can also know that Paul was speaking against the sins of the Jews and Gentiles because in Romans 3:9 he says:
Romans 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
So, letís begin with.
Romans 2:1 Therefore 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. †
Though we have a chapter break here, the word Ďthereforeí links this to the verses before about the Gentiles, but now he is telling the Jews they also are without excuse for their sins. We all know that many of the Jews were very judgmental. So, Paul is pointing out their practice of judging others while being guilty of doing the same thing themselves. Paul was not condemning all judgment because Jesus said:
John 7:24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."
So, we can make judgments based on the Word of God, but like Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7:3 "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? †4 "Or how can you say to your brother,`Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? †5 "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
You will notice that while Jesus says you need to get that plank out of your eye before you start making a judgment call on your brother with a speck in his eye, He also said once you do get that plank taken care of, then you can make that judgment call on that brother in order to help him with his speck. So, righteous judgment is encouraged in Scripture, but making judgment calls based on appearance, opinion, or doing so when you are doing the same thing is not encouraged.†
Next Paul writes:
2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. †3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? †4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? †5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, †6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds": †7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; †8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness-- indignation and wrath, †9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; †10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. †11 For there is no partiality with God.
Paul is letting the Jews know that just as the Gentiles will face the judgment of God, so will they. The Jews had an inflated ego. They thought that since they were Godís chosen people and that Abraham was their father, they would not be judged in the same ways as the Gentiles. †They felt like they would get a free pass even if they did some of the same sins as others. John the Baptist rebuked them for such an attitude (Mt. 3:7-9).
These Jews and many today have forgotten just how loving and patient our God is as He waits for us to love Him enough to repent of our sins. As verse 5 says, these Jews and many today have a hard heart and refuse to recognize the sin in their lives, but that stubbornness will get you in the end because as you continue to do your own thing regardless of what Godís Word says, you are storing up sin after sin like a person stores up their riches, except your reward is going to be the wrath of God on the Day of Judgement.
Many today seem to think that the works you do donít matter since your works can never earn your salvation because we cannot ever work our way into heaven. However, what they seem to misunderstand is that your works can keep you out of heaven because we will all be judged by how lived for God and what we did in His kingdom (2 Cor. 5:10). So, when you do nothing or you are lukewarm, Jesus will vomit you out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16). Donít forget about that one talent man who did nothing with what the Lord gave him because when he returned, his talent was taken from him and he was cast out into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 22).
However, for those who seek out God and want to see His Glory and want to be honored by Him and want to spend eternity with Him, they will get exactly what they want. All the unrighteous, whether they be Jew or Gentile, will spend eternity in hell because God does not show partiality. Just because God chose the children of Israel to be His people long ago, they will not receive any special treatment because we will all be judged by the Word of God because He is a just God.
Next, Paul is going to talk about how God dealt with the Jews and Gentiles before the cross.
Romans 2:12 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 †13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; †14 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, †15 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) †16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
When you just read these verses, it can be a little bit confusing, but itís not that hard to understand when you break it down. Paul starts out talking about the Gentiles because they were not under the law. When it says the law, it is not referring to all law, but Mosesí Law. If it were true that the Gentiles were not under any law, then they could never sin because if there is no law for them to follow, then there is no law for them to break. So, what law were the Gentiles under? We will talk about that in minute. †
Paul also talks to the Jews and says that those who have sinned in the law, will be judged by the law. Of course, this is talking about the Law of Moses. The point is this, all those Gentiles who lived under the law they were under, will be judged by that law. All Jews who lived under the Law of Moses until the cross will be judged by that law, and everyone after the cross will be judged by the New Covenant or we could say the law of Christ.
Of course, without Jesusí sacrifice on the cross, there would be no forgiveness of sins, but the power of Jesusí blood goes backwards and forwards for all no matter which law we are judged by.
ESV Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Next Paul says:
13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; †
Many of these Jews could go and hear the Law of Moses proclaimed every Sabbath, and they could know the Law of Moses like the back of their hands, but Paul says thatís not good enough because you also have to be doers of the Law, which some of the Jews were not. In fact, Jesus rebuked the Scribes and the Pharisees for this very thing in Matthew 23. This same message applies to us today. You cannot just come to church, hear the lessons, and then go home and be pleasing to God. No, you must be a doer of the Word as James said:
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Now letís look at our text again in:
14 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, †15 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) †16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
When you look at any law in the Bible, there are some common principles that can be found in them all. Since Godís laws are pure and righteous, it is only natural for people to follow them even if they donít see these laws written down. Even though the Gentiles were not under the Law of Moses, they still kept some of the basic laws you would find in the Law of Moses. While these Gentiles didnít have a written law, like the Jews, they still had a law to go by, and God will judge them by that law on the judgment day. So, what law were they under? Well, thatís a question I canít answer emphatically, but one point of view is that they were under the Patriarchal Law because it applied to everyone in the beginning. So, it makes sense that after the Law of Moses was in place for the Jews that everyone else would still be held by the Patriarchal Law until the cross.
Letís dig a little deeper about this term Patriarchal Law. You don't actually find this term in the Bible anywhere. It is simply a term that is used to describe the moral law that was in place before the Law of Moses. This time span is often called the Patriarchal Age. We donít know a lot about this particular age or the laws given, but we do know that man was under this moral law. Some of the commands we find under this Patriarchal Age came to the Patriarchs directly from God through men such as Adam, Abraham, Noah, etc. We are privy to some of these things, but there is much we donít know. As I already pointed out, most believe that this Patriarchal law, continued on for the Gentiles after the Law of Moses, but the Law of Moses and this moral law the Gentiles were under, all ended at the cross.
In his commentary on Romans, Robertson Whiteside observed:
The Gentiles never had the law of Moses, but there are certain
fundamental principles that inhere in the nature of our existence and in our
relations to one another. Some things are right, and some things are wrong,
within themselves. If a man never had revelation from God, he would know that
it was wrong to murder his fellow man, or to rob him of his possessions, or in
any way to infringe on his rights. Cain sinned in killing his brother and felt
his guilt, though we have no record that God had told him not to kill. Godís
moral law is the same to all nationsÖ. [T]hey [the GentilesóEL] did have an
idea of right and wrong (1988, p. 57).
When we look at our text in Romans, it gives us some insight to this law that these Gentiles were under whether you call it the Patriarchal law, moral law, or natural law. †It says the Gentiles were keeping some of the laws found in the Law of Moses by nature. In other words, some laws such as not murdering, stealing, lying, etc would naturally be seen as wrong without a written law. Even though they did not have a written law, those moral natural things they lived by became their law.
Based on our text in verse 14, these things are described as a ďlaw to themselves.Ē These moral laws, that seem to be ingrained in mankind and written on their hearts. are the laws they would be judged by. God has given everyone a conscience and we should not go against it, but we need to realize that the conscience is not a failsafe because a conscience can be seared with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2) or it can be ignored. One thing we know for sure is that the Gentiles, before the cross, had a law they will be judged by that wasnít the Law of Moses, but after the cross, everyone is judged by the gospel regardless of who they are.
Godís judgment will be fair. There will not be any misunderstanding or lawyers getting you off for a technicality because God knows all our secrets. As Christians, we know what we are going to be judged by. So, if we want to be ready, we better study the Book.
Next, Paul is going to bring the Jews down a few more notches since they thought they were better than the Gentiles.
Romans 2:17 Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, †18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, †19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, †20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.
At this point, Paul seems to be saying some good things about the Jews and how they had an advantage because of their heritage. The term Jews was used for the first time in 2 Kings 16:6 (KJV). It was used to refer to those living in the southern kingdom of Judah, but after their Babylonian captivity, it was a name that all the Israelites went by. They were proud to be called Jews just as we should be proud to be called Christians.
Paul said they rest on the law, but a better way to say this is that they relied on the law. One of the greatest blessing the Jew received was the Word of God, just like us today who are Christians. Godís Word gives us instructions on how to live for God and be pleasing to Him. Paul said they make their boast in God. Now, this could be a good thing. The Lord explains it this way:
Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; †24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.†
When we keep our boast about God and not about ourselves, this is a good thing, but we all know that many of the Jews were not doing this. Instead, they boasted about themselves and how great they were because they were Jews, which is why they looked down on the Gentiles.
There is no doubt that that they well-versed with the Law of Moses, and they approved of the things that are excellent, but we know from the N.T. that they neglected to be doers of the Law even though had been instructed by it. When Paul said, ďbeing instructed out of the lawĒ the Greek behind this tells us that the instruction was a verbal instruction, which makes sense because they had to go to the synagogue or other places they gathered to hear the law read because it wasnít like today where everyone has a Bible. So, they had to go to these gatherings to get their knowledge. They had to remember what was read.
Since they had access to the Word of God, they could learn it and then be a shining light to the dark world. They could guide anyone willing to listen to the truth of God, but unfortunately, they became blind guides as Jesus said in Mt. 23:16. They started adding to the Law of Moses with their traditions, and they tried to force their Law and traditions on others while not following the Law themselves. They felt like they were above the Law.
At this point, the Jews probably agreed with what Paul wrote, but now comes the zinger.
Romans 2:21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? †22 You who say, "Do not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? †23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?
These questions are the kind that would make the Jews squirm because these questions would remind them of their hypocrisy because they were really good at telling people what they are supposed to do, but they were not good at following their own teachings. I canít think of any better illustration than the one Jesus gave that we looked at earlier:
Matthew 7:3"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? †4 "Or how can you say to your brother,`Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? †5 "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Also, these questions donít just apply to these Jews because they apply to us today as well. We have to be careful that we donít become like these Jews who know the truth and teach others about the truth, but donít keep the truth ourselves. We need to have the attitude that Paul expressed in:
1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Itís easy to tell others what they should do, but if we want to be pleasing to God and lead by example, then we must be a doer of Godís Word. If we fail in this area, then we are going to repeat the mistakes of these hypocritical Jews. The end result will be this:
Romans 2:24 For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,"
If you are trying to teach others about how great our God is and how we need to keep His commands and treat others, as His Word teaches, and you turn around and do just the opposite of what you have been teaching, then the people you are teaching are not going to believe you. If you are not keeping the Word of God, then why should they? They could easily say, ďyou are just trying to make me do what you want, because if you really had a God like you say, you would be practicing what you preach. Since, you donít, your God must be a fake.Ē
We can do great damage to the kingdom by following the example of the Jews. If we donít stand out and be different than the world, then others are going to lose interest in what you are teaching. In fact, some are just waiting for you to mess up so they can say, ďsee, he is no different than us, look at what he did.Ē
However, when we do our best to live for God every day, Jesus says this:
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. †15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. †16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
I hope all of us will continue to be that shining light in this dark world.
We all know that circumcision was a big deal under the Law of Moses, and the Jews really struggled with physical circumcision no longer being a requirement of the new covenant. So, in the last part of this chapter, Paul begins to explain how circumcision of the heart is what is important.
Ö as it is written. †25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. †26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? †27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? †28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; †29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
What Paul just said would have been hard for the Jews to process because circumcision was a practice that began with Abraham. If a Jew did not circumcise his son at day 8, he and his family could be kicked out of the camp. Paul is trying to get through their thick heads that just because they had the privilege of receiving the Law of Moses and were given circumcision as a sign of the covenant between them and God, circumcision by itself was not good enough because you also had to be faithful to Godís Law. If you failed to keep the Law, then your circumcision was no different than being uncircumcised.
Please understand that under the Law of Moses Jews had to be circumcised, but the Gentiles did not because they were not under the Law. Paul is drawing a contrast between the Jew and Gentile under the Law of Moses. So, in verse 26, he starts talking about the Gentiles.
He makes the point that if a Gentile follows those righteous requirements of the Law, which I believe is referring to those common principles that can be found in any of Godís laws, then their uncircumcision because as if they are circumcised because they have an obedient faith.
Verse 27 would have really made many of the Jews gasp because the Jews felt like they were superior and that they would be the ones judging the Gentiles, but Paul just said that those Gentiles who keep the righteous requirement of the law, though being uncircumcised, will judge the Jews who have the Law of Moses and circumcision if they break the Law. A great example of this can be seen in what Jesus said:
Matthew 12:41 "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. †42 "The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. ††
The men of Nineveh were Gentiles who repented, and the Queen of the South was Queen Sheba, who was willing to listen carefully to the wisdom of God through Solomon. She was a Gentile. So, the idea is that these Jews, who were unfaithful to God, will be judged by these faithful Gentiles even though they did not have the Law of Moses or circumcision.
The final two verses show how one truly becomes a Jew.
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; †29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
The point is this, having the Law or being circumcised is not what truly makes a person a Jew. Instead, itís only when the heart is circumcised, which brings about true change within the person, that they truly become a Jew. Ever under the O.T., you had to do more than just the physical acts to be pleasing to God because your heart had to be right too. Otherwise, you are just going through the motions.
The same thing can be said about the new covenant. Paul explained it this way:
Colossians 2:11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, †12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. †13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
Every person who wants to become a child of God must obey Godís plan of salvation, but as Paul points out, itís at the point of your baptism that the circumcision of the heart happens, which is also the point our old sinful self is cut off. Then we are raised up as a new creature in Christ. Paul said this:
Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. †28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. †29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
At the point of our baptism, when we put our faith in the working of God, we become spiritual Jews if you will, and we are considered as being Abrahamís seed. However, we need to be careful and not repeat the same mistake the Jews made and think that just because we became a Christian that we have arrived and that there is nothing else we can do but teach others because that it is far from the truth. Our journey has just begun, and we must continue to live faithful lives for God based on His Word. Otherwise, we can lose our salvation and make our baptism become as if it never happened. So, may we never stop being faithful to God and His Word.