By Andrew E. Courtis
After reading the previous passage (Rom. 1:18-32), it would be very easy for a moralistic individual to agree that such people are under God’s judgment. This is why Paul now moves from the heathen to the hypocrite. Some believe that Paul is talking about moral Gentiles, whereas others believe that it is the religious Jew in view. I tend to think that the focus in this whole section (Rom. 2:1-3:8) is on the Jew, but moral Gentiles are included in this particular passage (Rom. 2:1-16; esp. 2:9-16). The point Paul makes in this section is that God’s wrath is also revealed against moralists and He is just in doing this.
1. GOD’S JUDGMENT IS JUST BECAUSE OF ITS CONSISTENCY (2:1-5)
The first principle that reveals why God’s judgment of moralists is just is because His judgment is consistent. After revealing how the moralist is inexcusable (2:1), Paul reveals the consistency of God’s judgment, “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things” (2:2). God doesn’t unleash His wrath on the pagans and then winks at the sins of the pious (2:3). Regardless of their external morality, both the irreligious and the religious are sinful and therefore are deserving of judgment. The moralist is not to think that because they experience God’s “kindness and forbearance and patience” that they are immune to judgment. Instead, they are to see these blessings as gracious opportunities to repent (2:4). Regardless of your moral condition, if you do not repent from your “your hard and impenitent heart”, you will be judged by God (2:5).
2. GOD’S JUDGMENT IS JUST BECAUSE OF ITS STANDARD (2:6-11)
The second principle that reveals why God’s judgment of moralists is just is because of His judgments standard. In these verses Paul shows that being a religious Jew (or being externally moral) doesn’t make you immune to God’s judgment. In-fact, your religious status exposes you to greater judgment. Salvation is not by works, but God’s judgment according to works (2:6). Whether it is a Jew or Gentile, God will judge them both according to their deeds (2:9) without partiality (2:11).
3. GOD’S JUDGMENT IS JUST BECAUSE OF IT IMPARTIALITY (2:12-16)
The third principle that reveals why God’s judgment of moralists is just is because His judgment is impartial. Both the religious Jew who had the Law (2:12) and the Gentile who did not (2:12; cf. 1:10-20) will both be judged according to the knowledge they received – there is no favourtism.
- How is the group of people in these verses (2:1-16) different from the group in the previous passage (1:18-32)?
- If a religious Jew was to agree with Paul’s appraisal of the Gentile’s sinfulness in 1:18-32, what does 2:1-4 say concerning God’s consistent judgment?
- In 2:5 Paul wrote that God’s just judgment would be revealed. Read Rev. 20:11-15 and describe what this will look like.
- What is the principle Paul is describing in 2:6-11? Discuss the relationship between works, judgment and justice?
- Discuss why God’s judgment is just when it comes to judging both Gentiles who didn’t have the Law and the Jews who did have the Law (2:12-16)