You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. Romans 2:1-2
The apostle Paul is reiterating what Jesus told His disciples about passing judgment on someone else. First, you need to realize that for in the same way you judge others, you will also be judged—and with the same measure you use, it will be measured against you too (Matt. 7:2). Therefore, to avoid hypocrisy, first take the log out of your own eye so you can see well enough to take the speck from another believer’s eye.
As believers, it’s vital to grow in our Christian walk so that we are able to help others who are entangled by sin. This doesn’t mean we will reach perfection or entire sanctification, but there should be a level of maturity to aim for. Otherwise, how are we able to give sound counsel and advice? Proverbs 11:14 states, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” For these reasons, let’s strive to cultivate the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22) in our own lives so we can be effective in equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.
3 “So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” -Romans 2:3-4
All of us will stand before the throne of God to give an account of our lives—whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10). There is no escaping this day because the omnipresent Lord has preordained it. The good news is that God is patient with creation. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance and faith (2 Pet. 3:9). His kindness and grace is what leads believers to repentance. Moreover, God has given us His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3:16).
5But 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. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.9 -Romans 2:5-9
In Romans 1, we learned that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men. A stubborn and unrepentant heart will surely be met with strict judgment from God. For an unbeliever, this is a terrible day. Revelation 6:16 reveals this dreadful experience for unbelievers who ask the rocks to fall on them because they are afraid to stand before the throne of God and the wrath of the lamb. If you are unrepentant now, I implore you, be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).”
God will repay each person according to what they have done. For those who seek glory, honor, and immortality by trusting in Jesus to wipe away their sins, they will be given eternal life. Believers will be clothed with the imperishable robe of Christ and put on immortality. This is the glorious news for those who have been born again by the Spirit of God.
However, for those who are self-focused, reject the truth of God, and enjoy lawlessness, the wrath and anger of God is pointed towards them. Unfortunately, many choose this broad way that leads to destruction rather than the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13). Just think about Noah’s flood. People were mocking him and not heeding to the warning of a potential flood. And just as it was like in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of Man returns (Lk. 17:26). That’s why it’s vital for Christians to urge the world to repent now and accept the free gift of eternal life before it’s too late.
“There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.11 For God does not show favoritism.” -Romans 2:10-11
Scripture mentions here that the Jews will be accountable first before the Gentiles, whether they do good by honoring the Lord, or whether they disobey His righteous decrees. As stated in Romans 1, God doesn’t show preference or favoritism from one ethnic group over the other. For Scripture makes it clear in Galatians 3:28 that all are equal in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Consequently, all of us will have to give an account for our actions.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. -Romans 2:12-13
The law convicts us all as guilty. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:19 further adds: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.” Consequently, the purpose of the law is to lead us to confession of our wrongdoing and crime against the Lord so we can seek reconciliation in the forgiveness found from Christ.
Paul further articulates that it’s not those who hear the law that are righteous in God’s sight. As James 2:24 expresses, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” Therefore, God requires repentance not only to be a change of mind or intellectual assent to the gospel; for even the demons believe and yet tremble. Rather, those who hear God’s righteous statutes and chooses to obey through action are considered righteous in God’s sight. Their works have demonstrated saving faith.
This does not mean salvation is through works; we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). As noted before, all have sinned and fall short of God’s perfect standards. Therefore, we stand guilty before God. Nevertheless, the Son of God—who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that we might receive the righteousness of God. And this imputation stirs in us a faith that leads to action and obedience.
14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. -Romans 2:14-16
This passage declares that God’s law is intuitive or innate for both Jews and Gentiles. In Romans 1, Paul argues that God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen through nature so that skeptics are without excuse. Here, the author goes even further—stating that not only does the created order reveal the majesty of God, but even our conscience knows the law; for it is written on our hearts. This is even before the Gentiles were introduced to the law through Christ.
Moreover, this passage is an indictment for all of creation. For our consciences bear witness and even accuse us of disobeying the Lord. For example, unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness because they love darkness more than light. However, on the day of judgment, they will no longer be able to suppress this truth. God will judge the hearts of men through Jesus Christ. This sober reality should beckon all of us to live holy and upright for the advancement of God’s kingdom here on earth.
17Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” -Romans 2:17-24
The apostle Paul sternly warned the Jews not to be hypocrites. He had the authority to make this indictment, considering that He himself was a Jew. As He stated in Philippians 3:4-6 that he can boast of his Jewishness: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee who zealously persecuted the church and eagerly followed the law of God.
Therefore, Paul reiterates that when the natural branches—God’s chosen people, oppose and insulted him for sharing the prophetic fulfillment of the messiah in Christ, he shook out his garments and told them that from now on He will go to the Gentiles (Acts 18:6). This is because they refused to believe in Jesus and trust in Him for redemption. He wanted them to know he was not to be at fault for them refusing to believe in the gospel.
Thankfully, there is a prophecy at the end of the age in Romans 11:26 where “all Israel will be saved.” I believe there will be a huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the final days on the Jewish people scattered throughout the world. This will be one of the signs of the end times before Jesus returns to set up his heavenly kingdom. I believe messianic Judaism has a special task of bridging the gap between evangelicals and the orthodox Jews concerning the Messiah.
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. -Romans 2:25-27
The apostle Paul is attempting to get at the heart of the matter. He is addressing this notion of inward conversion being of greater value than outward signs. For instance, circumcision and keeping the Law externally shows your commitment to Yahweh. However, if you are inwardly rebellious towards the Law by not loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, then the outward sign is only to please man, not to please God. Otherwise, you would be devoted to God when no one else is observing.
This is what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6:6. He told them not to be like the Pharisees—who enjoyed praying in the public so others could see how holy and righteous they are. Rather, Jesus says: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. This idea is what Scripture is trying to get across in Romans 2:25-27.
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. -Romans 2:28-29
The nation of Israel marked themselves as followers of Yahweh by being circumcised—unlike the pagan nations around them. According to the Torah, they were being obedient to the commands of God. This was a good thing. However, it also caused some observant Jews to focus too much on the external rather than the internal obedience that mattered to God.
For instance, in Hosea 6:6, Almighty God said, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” The prophets in the Old Testament were warning the Jewish nation that God cared more about what was going on in their hearts than going through rituals and burnt offerings just because they had to.
The apostle Paul concludes with stating that a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Consequently, a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. It’s not to show people around how devoted or religious you can be. God looks inside and knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Commentary written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)