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God’s Righteous Judgment
 (ch. 2:1-16)   


The first word we see in Romans 2:1 is the pronoun "you".  We need to ask whom does "you" refer?  There are probably three possibilities that the context would allow.  In short, the verse speaks of hypocritical judgment.  By that I mean those whom Paul had in mind, as we will see, judge others when they commit the same sin.  So, the pronoun "you" can't refer to the sinners we saw in chapter 1.  "You" must refer to those who consider themselves not to be sinners.  That could mean those Gentiles or Jews who considered themselves to be morally upright.     


Next, we see the words “no excuse” again.  We saw these words in the last chapter.  Paul is now beginning to talk to, and about, a different group of people.  In the last chapter Paul was talking about man in general, or the none-religious man who forsook God.  Now, as I've said, he is narrowing his comments to the religious man who claims to know God, which also I have said, could well be Jews.  He says that these people, the religious people, have “no excuse”, or, "no legal leg to stand on".  They have no excuse because they commit the same sins they are judging others for committing, something Jesus tells us not to do in Matthew 7:1 to 6.  


In verse 1 Paul also says that when the religious man judges the non-religious man he is condemning himself because he sins just as much as the non-religious man.  It's all about hypocrisy.  You will remember that Jesus scolded the Jewish leaders for their hypocrisy, and that is what Paul is getting at in this section.  


Note the words "judge" and "judgment" in verse 1.  Some men judge others for what they do, but in so doing, they condemn themselves because they are no different than the one's they judge.  It is important to know that it is only when you judge hypocritically that you are condemned.  That is part of what Paul is saying here.  If you judge someone for a particular sin and you do not commit that sin, and, if you have Biblical motives for your judgment, you will not be condemned.  Your judgment is in fact both valid and righteous. This too is the point that Jesus is making in Matthew 7:1 to 6 that many Christians miss.


Many people, including Christians, don't understand Biblical judging.  They say that any kind of criticism is wrong, based on what Jesus said in the first few verses of Matthew 7.  When Jesus told His audience not to judge lest they themselves be judged, Jesus was not telling us that we should never judge.  The simple fact is that He was telling us not to judge in a hypocritical fashion.  He specifically said that before you judge you should remove the spec in your eye first.  That is to say, before you judge others, make sure you don't commit the same sin.  Once removing the spec, or, the sin, from your own eyes it is then right for us to judge, understanding that such judgment is to be redemptive and not in retaliation for an offense done towards you.


Many Christians don't know what Jesus told us in John 7:24.  He specifically told us on that occasion to judge, but, with righteous motives.  So there you go.  We are to judge, but we are to judge according to a righteous standard.  We are not to judge by mere appearance, as Jesus also said in John 7:24.       


In verse 2 Paul believes we all understand that God's judgment towards those "who do such things" is based on truth.  What exactly do the words "do such things" refer to?  They don't refer to the hypocritical one who judges the sinner.  These words refer to the sinner who is being judged by the hypocritical righteous person.  I believe the context proves that to be the case.  So, when God judges the sinner, His judgment is correct because it is based on truth.  This might imply that the hypocrite does not judge according to truth.  Of course, it's God's concept of truth that Paul is speaking of here, not man's concept of truth.  The two are often in conflict with each other.  


Verse 3 begins with the word "you", which refers to those who consider themselves righteous.  The pronoun "them" is in reference to those the righteous view as sinners.  Paul simply states that God will judge the hypocritical, so-called righteous man in the same way He will judge the sinner.  He does so because He is no respecter of people.  God does not play favourites, because as verse 2 states, He judges according to truth.     


Note Paul's sarcasm seen in the words "mere man".  Mere man is not capable judging according to the truth.  He will always fall short in his judgment.   


We note in verse 2 that God's judgment "is based on truth". That's His truth, which is, the only real truth.  God does not judge like man.  Neither does man judge like God.  God's judgment is pure, because it is based on the whole and full truth as He understands it, and He understands all things as they really are.  This should show us the importance of trying to understand God's truth.  Truth matters, but in this day in age, many people are forsaking the pursuit of truth.  


In much of the western world today truth is relevant.  That means it varies from person to person and place to place.  What is truth to you isn't truth to me, and that's okay, or so our world says.  It's not what the Bible says though.  


We should note that the way Paul makes his point in verse 3.  It is in the form of a question that has an obvious "no" answer.  Paul is making his readers admit that he is right.  No is the only possible answer to Paul's question.  This is one way in which he presents his arguments throughout the book of Romans.  It's, ask a question in such a way that there is only one possible answer that would support his position.  Paul is very skillful in the art of argument.  


In verse 4 we see if we make such judgments, like the non-religious, self righteous, man, we despise the rich kindness of God that should lead us to repentance.

Paul is contrasting love with justice in verse 4.  God is love.  There's no doubt about that, but, his love does not override the demand to be just.


Also in verse 4 we note that God's tolerance, patience, and kindness, should lead us to repentance.  This means that God gives us lots of time and opportunity to change our minds, and to repent.  That being said, there does come a day when His patience will end.  It will be too late to repent then. 


It has been said that only God's love and kindness can lead someone to repentance, and that is correct.  Yet at the same time, Paul came to repentance through discipline, as seen in Acts 9.  God struck Paul blind for three days.  It was this strike of blindness that woke him up to the need to repent.  In the book of Revelation you will note that even in the midst of God's severe judgment, many do not repent.  So, there is most likely a balance here.  In the end, God's love will lead us to repent, but sometimes His discipline gets us to a place where we can see His love.   


We need to understand the word "tolerant" here.  It is not used in the modern sense of the word.  Today tolerance means universal acceptance of every kind of thinking and behaviour.  We all can think what we want.  We are all right in our own way.  That's not God's idea of tolerance.  Tolerance in this verse is more like patience.  He gives us time to change, but change we must.  That is not the modern concept of tolerance.  Really, Biblical tolerance is just the opposite to our modern definition of tolerance.           


Again, we need to understand that the religious men that Paul is talking about here are Jews.  He’s in the process of stating that Jews are in the same boat as Gentiles when it comes to sin and separation from God.


Verse 5 states that there will be a day of “God’s wrath” when He pours out His wrath on the wicked.  Until then people are storing up this wrath for every evil deed they do.   It is a form of negatively investing in your future.  Each wrong thing you do will add to your punishment.  


We see the term "the day of God's wrath" in verse 5.  Many liberal people do not believe that God can be angry or show wrath, but that is far from the truth.  You might ask, "When is the day of God's wrath?"  Many Bible teachers believe the day of God's wrath is twofold.  It is the total sum of the Great Tribulation that occurs at the end of this age.  The word "day" in the Bible can be understood as one day, or a number of days.  In this sense, it is understood as many days, when God judges all nations and all people.  Of course, this day will end in one day, when God pronounces judgment and sends the guilty to the Lake of Fire .  This is the great and terrible day of the Lord.  We see this in what is called the Great White Throne Judgment that is found in Revelation 20.  At this judgment, those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are judged according to their evil deeds they have done in this life.  The simple Biblical fact is that if you don't choose to be judged by grace, you will be judged by works.         


Verse 6 says that “God will give to each person according to what he has done”. There's two ways of looking at this.  One is for the non-believer.  He will be judged for the things he has done.  There are levels of eternal punishment.  As I've stated above, this will take place at the White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20. On the other hand, the believer will be rewarded for the good deeds he has done.  This is what Paul speaks about in 1Corinthians 3:13.  The bad deeds will have been wiped out of God's record book.    


The phrase "give to each person according to what he has done" should not be understood in relation to faith and works as they relate to salvation.  Salvation is still, and always will be, by faith in the grace of God.  The point Paul is making in these first few chapters of Romans is that salvation is by faith, and not by works.  For those who are saved by faith, they will receive rewards according to their good works done from faith.  If their good works are done apart from faith in a humanistic fashion, they will not be rewarded for.  On the other hand, those who end up in the Lake of Fire will receive their punishment according to their evil deeds done in this life.      


Verse 7 is a difficult verse for some.  We must understand Paul's words in the context of the whole book of Romans.  This is a point of Biblical interpretation.  The verse says that God will give eternal life to those who do good.  If you take these words alone we loose our teaching of “salvation by faith alone”.  Salvation would become a thing of good works.  This verse must be understood in light of what Paul is going to clarify later, and that is salvation is by faith and not by works.  The good works here have to be those good works that are done as a result of your faith.  As Paul mentions in chapter 1, verse 5, “an obedience that comes by faith”.  Good works preceding faith mean nothing.  Good works as a result of your faith will reap an eternal reward for you.


We see that it is those who persistently seek glory, honor, and immortality, will receive eternal life.  We note that there is a persistence involved, as you see in the life of Paul.  Many obstacles were placed in front of Paul that would stop most from doing God's will. What I believe Paul is saying here is that as Christians who trust Jesus, we must forge on and persist through all of the things that come our way to destroy our faith.  Life for the Christian is really a fight to maintain one's faith.   


Note also the words, "glory, honor, and immortality".   Paul is speaking of godly glory and honour, not human glory or honor, and that is backed up by the word "immortality".  Only God gives immortality.    


In verse 8 we see those who are self seeking and reject the truth are recipients of God's anger and wrath.   Note here that God's anger and wrath are listed as two separate things.  That is because they are two separate things.  We can understand anger in the ordinary sense of anger.  Wrath is not simple anger.  Wrath, in Biblical terms, is an uncontrollable outburst of anger.  Wrath is an explosion of anger that can no longer be held back, but must vent itself.  This is what God's wrath is all about.  The day will come when He will no longer hold His anger back.  His anger will explode on all those who reject the truth in wrath. 


Note the words "self seeking" in verse 8.  Paul links self seeking with rejecting the truth of God.  That is a reasonable conclusion.  If you don't seek God's truth, you seek your own truth.  You put self before God.  All people battle with selfishness and that includes Christians.  If you are not batting with self, that tells me that you've given into self instead of the Lord.   


In verses 9 and 10 Paul states that for those who reject the truth of God there will be a day of great distress.  I believe that day begins in the Great Tribulation at the end of this age and ends in the Lake of Fire .  Note the words "great distress".  These are words that are often used in the New Testament to refer to the Great Tribulation, especially the last three and a half years of the tribulation period.  Jesus Himself used these very words in Matthew 24:21 and 22 to describe what I believe to be the Great Tribulation.  


On the other hand, Paul says that those who seek to do good based on faith will be rewarded.  They will be rewarded in the next life, and as many Prophetic Futurists believe, they will be rewarded by escaping God's wrath in the Great Tribulation via a pre-tribulation rapture. 


Paul uses the words "to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile".  This is a basic principle of Scripture.  Since God called Abraham to be the father of the great nation of Israel , Israel has always been special to God, and always will be, even into the next life on the new earth.  We should not understand this specialness in terms of the Jews being better liked by God than others.  This is not the case.  God is not a respecter of people.  He has no favourites.  Israel also isn't special because she is better or more godly than any other nation.  Israel 's special designation is based on her God appointed role as priest, or, representative, to Him for the nations.  See Exodus 19:6 and Isaiah 49:6.      


In verse 11 Paul says that God does not show favoritism.  I think those of us who have grown up in the Evangelical church world and have lived relatively good lives can easily feel that God may think better of us than others.  God does not show favouritism to anyone, not even to us.  I'm convinced that most people, including Christians, think more highly of themselves than they should.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are so wicked that we don't know how wicked they really are.  As good as you and I might think we are, in the core of who we are, we are wicked, and given the right circumstances this wickedness can escape into actions.


All of that I've said in the above paragraph being said, the specific context of verse 11 in my opinion is that Paul had the religious and non-religious, or, the Jews and the Gentiles, in mind.  Both groups are sinful.  God has no favourites when it comes to salvation.  Both Jews and Gentiles have equal access to salvation.  I remind you that even though the Jews are God's chosen people, this chosen designation has nothing to do with personal salvation.  It has everything to do with Israel 's role as the priest of God to the nations of the world.


Paul says in verse 12 that all who sin apart from the law will be punished apart from the law.  The first thing we need to ask is; "What law is Paul talking about here?"  This is somewhat of a debatable point but I believe law referred to here is the Law of Moses.  I think the Jew Gentle context of verse 12 would suggest that. 


So, if the Gentiles don't have the Law of Moses as their standard to live by, they will still perish in the end. The reason is seen in the White Throne judgment of Revelation 20.  If one chooses to not be saved by faith then he will be judged by his works, that is, evil works.  This is what the White Throne judgment is all about.  It's a day when the books are open and those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be judged according to their works.  In other words, everyone will be judged according to their works unless they have chosen to live a life of faith in God's grace.  Gentiles, who have lived apart from the law, and, sin apart from the law, will perish apart from the law.   


In verse 13 Paul says that simply hearing the law being read, as was the case every week with the Jews, doesn't make one righteous; doesn't make one right before God. Obedience to the law makes one righteous.  The Jews had the law, but for the most part did not obey it.  So, in reality, it was like they really didn't have the law, because they ignored it. 


Paul says that only those who obey the law are declared righteous by God.  We will see later that this is an impossibility.  No one can obey God's law, therefore we all deserve punishment.  Paul does not say that here.  He will later.  The point that Paul is making here is that righteousness comes by obeying the law.  He is building his case for righteousness by faith. 


I believe there a number of reasons stated in the Bible for the existence of the Law of Moses and this is one.  In Old Testament times, it provided the means to be declared by God as righteous. 


At this point I'd like to speak further about the Law of Moses.  It's my thinking that the written law was a shadow of what is in the heart of God.  I think it is impossible to define and put into human terms on paper, the righteous standards of God that are in His heart.  Jesus made that clear when He pointed out that adultery, for example, was more than having sex with someone that is not your spouse.  Lusting after someone in your heart, in the eyes of God is adultery.  So, the written law said, "don't commit adultery", but the law of God's heart is, "don't lust".  So, even if someone could obey the written laws, it is impossible for them to obey the laws found in God's heart.  This is so because at the core of who we are; in our hearts, we are wicked, as Jeremiah 17:9 states.        


In verses 14 and 15 Paul speaks of Gentiles who don't have the written law to obey.  He says that if they by their human nature actually obey the law, they are a law unto themselves.  Part of Paul's point here is what I've said above.  It's not hearing the law being read that makes one righteous, it's the obeying of the law that makes one righteous.  If by chance a Gentile could be obedient to the law then he would be declared righteous by God.  We will see later that no one, no Jew or no Gentile is capable of obeying the law.  That being said, I believe a non-believer can obey parts of the law of God.  I believe that is what Paul meant when he said that when Gentiles do "things required by the law".  The word "things" suggests parts of the law to me.  He just can't obey it all.  But, if one law is broken, then the whole law is broken.   


Verse 15 tells us that even the conscience of the non-believing Gentile is in accordance with the law that they by nature obey, without even knowing there is a law to obey.     


Verse 16 ends this section.  It begins with the words "this will happen".  What will happen?  Paul is talking about the White Throne judgment seen in Revelation 20 as I've mentioned above.  God will not only judge the evil deeds of those whose names are not found in the Book of Life, He will judge their thoughts as well.  That is a scary thought.   


Again, note that God will judge the thoughts of man.  Judgment is more than about works and actions.  God gets right to the heart of the matter, and that is our thoughts.  We may not kill someone, but we may think that we'd like to kill him.  God will judge that thought.  Paul makes this statement because he is in the process of explaining that all of us are worthy of damnation and punishment.  No one has ever had a perfect thought life.  We're all condemned in the sight of God.    


Note the words "my gospel".  In the present day Apostolic Movement, some make a big deal about these two words.  They say Paul had his gospel.  Peter had his gospel.  Each apostle had their own gospel.  I don't believe that for a minute.  All of the first apostles preached the gospel of Christ.  


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