January 30, 2011

Romans 2:1-16

Let me say only a few words to bring us up to chapter 2.

Chapter 1 shows the evil inclinations of the natural man. Those desires can only be changed through Christ.

Paul shows us that what he is presenting is not new, but is spelled out in the Old Testament. At least 18 times, he quotes the Old Testament with it is written.

Paul calls all nations to obedience to the word of God, for obedience is the fruit of faith—the just shall live by faith, 1:17.

1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: (15:18, 16:19)

The just shall live by faith is misunderstood by those who say, the just shall live, that is have eternal life, by faith. That is not at all what Paul is saying. He says that those who have been justified by faith will live a life of faithfulness, or righteousness.

Romans 2:1-8. V. 5 tells us that Paul is dealing with the heart. Paul is dealing with the religious and their false hope in the law, and is showing them that the law condemns them. They will only make it to heaven through faith.

V. 1, Therefor...

The Jews were exalted in their own eyes, and they considered the Gentiles wicked and abandoned by God. In condemning the Gentiles, they considered themselves superior on the ground that they were special in God's eyes because the law had been given to them.

So Paul addresses the Jews, proving they are no less guilty of the things of chapter 1 than are the Gentiles. They needed the same salvation as the Gentiles need.

In chapter 1, Paul pointed out that the Gentiles are without excuse. And now he tells the Jews that because of the greater light they were given through the law, they are more accountable than the Gentiles. They also are clearly without excuse, even more than the Gentiles were without excuse.

O man. Rather than singling out the Jews, he uses a general statement to include them.

Paul says, What makes you think you will escape the judgment you know those evil deeds bring about. The Lord sees the heart, and you are just as guilty.

The Christian will have a lot to answer for, because he not only has the law written in his heart as does the unsaved, but he also has the written law in a completely understandable form, yet he disregards it.

How many hope that God will not judge them according truth but according to their race, their circumcision, their baptism, their church membership, their good works apart from Christ? The list is endless.

Solomon gives us an insight into the situation.

Ecc. 8:11, because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times (and gets away with it), and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him.

Paul reminds us that God in his goodness and mercy gives plenty of time to repent, yet because of his patience hoping for repentance, even his people think he has forgotten, or that he has overlooked sin.

Rather than the sins being swept under the rug, wrath and judgement is being stored up.


We took a train trip a few years ago, across country and up the west coast. One of the families we stopped to see, took us to Mt St. Helens.

Remember how it spurred a little and bulged up, waiting to blow? There was an old man who lived at the base of the mountain. The rangers went to him and urged him to move, but he refused saying, "I've lived here for many years and I'm not leaving now. The mountain and I are friends and it wouldn't do anything to hurt me.

He stayed, the mountain "stored up" pressure giving him a chance to move. The old man mistook the putting off of the explosion as a sign that he was right and the mountain would not hurt him.

The mountain could not keep the pressure any longer and the "day of wrath" came and revealed the righteous judgment against the man who got caught in the sin if presumption.

He presumed the mountain wouldn't hurt him because it was holding back, and the mountain buried him under 15 ft of mud.

We are the same way. "I'm in Christ now, I'm saved, God won't hurt me even if I go ahead and do these things that I know are against him and his word."

God in his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering holds back the explosion—his righteous judgment, as long as he can. The hope is that the person will flee, repent and run for his life.

The wrath against all unrighteousness will come, though it may be long delayed.

Vv. 4, 5, man misunderstands and misapplies God's goodness, patience and mercy. He sees those things as God's "understanding" of our failures. But those things store up against the day of judgment.

I had a 'pusher' on the job when I worked out of the Fitters on the Franklin Indiana Hospital. He was about to retire and would tell about putting his money in a savings account. He said, 'the girl at the window will smile just as much for 50 cents as she will for $50.00, so put in even if it's $.50.'

V. 5, notice the problem here. It is the heart, not the actions. The actions were pleasant on the outside, but the heart was heard and unrepentant. Throughout history, God's charge against his people has been over the heart.

Ezekiel 8:7 ¶ And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. 8 Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. 9 And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. 10 So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.

Treasurest... A treasure is something hidden away. Though the thoughts and intents of the heart are hidden away from public view, the Lord says that they are being applied to the sinner's account. That account will be opened in that day of the Lord.

Revelation 6:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

There is indignation against sin being stored up. Just a little bit, 50 cents, adds up when it is not covered by the blood of Christ.

The wrath of God against sinners is many times concealed in the prosperity and success of sinners, but when that great day comes, it will be revealed for all to see. Everything will be set right, and the heavens will declare his righteousness.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

V. 6, each person, saved and unsaved, will be rewarded according to his deeds.

Vv. 7, 10, God delights in mercy.

Well doing... worketh good...

It is not enough to know well, speak well, profess well, promise well, or have good intentions. We must do well. Christianity results in Christian actions.

Continuance in well doing... How many start off with grand and great ideas and deeds, yet they soon fizzle out. Perseverance in good works will win the praise of well done thou good and faithful servant.

Patient continuance. That means not only sticking with the well doing, but it implies a difficult road, with many oppositions and hardships.

Glory, honor and peace... The joys of heaven. Obviously well doing does not earn heaven, and Paul will make that very clear. But it does result in rewards in that day.

Vv. 8, 9. Contentious and do not obey the truth... Wilful sin contends or strives with our Maker, Isaiah 45:9. It is rebellion against the light that shines in every man.

Obeys unrighteousness... Rather than obeying truth, they obey unrighteousness.

We see all around us that those who refuse to be servants of truth soon become slaves of unrighteousness.

Most of the time, God's wages of sin are indignation, wrath, tribulation and anguish in this life, and certainly in the life to come. Everlasting tribulation and anguish in the lake of fire.

Vv. 9, 10, to the Jew first. The Jews expected greater privilege before God, but Paul tells them they are sadly mistaken. They will be judged on the same grounds as will be the Gentiles. They are all on equal footing before God.

V. 11. God's respect is concerning the spiritual condition of a person. His respect has nothing to do with Jew or Gentile, which is the problem being dealt with by Paul here. Men respect wealth and the power wealth brings, or political power. But God counts those things as nothing.

God is no respecter of persons. Sin is sin, whether openly or hidden in the heart. There is wrath against sin in this life and in the life to come. Christ can free us from the root of sin and the eternal results of sin, but he does not free us from the results of sin that come to pass in this life.

Vv. 12-16.

Now Paul explains his position that Jews and Gentiles are equally guilty under the law.

V. 13 cannot mean justified for salvation. Paul is speaking to those who pride themselves in knowing the law, yet do not do it. So he is pointing out that God's approval is not based in Jew or Gentile, but in those who do what is contained in the law.

First, the Gentiles have the light of nature, by which they will be judged.

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law:

V. 15. The unbelieving Gentiles had no other guide except their built in conscience. Though they were not given the law of Moses, their conscience told them that women with women was wrong, as well as the other evils mentioned in chapter 1.

They sinned without the law, though the law was not delivered to them by Moses. Their own "built in" law condemns them as sinners.

Not having the law of Moses, as did the Jews, their judgment will not be as harsh as the judgment against those who have the law.

V. 15, they had the work of the law. They did not have the obedience that leads to live. Rather, they had their conscience that dirrectred their works according to what the law says. They did by nature the things contained in the law; they had a sense of justice, equality, honour, purity and love.

I have known many men who had never made a profession nor even been in Church, yet they had a better understanding of how the law worked than most of the Christians I have known. They did by nature the things contained in the law, never knowing the law, nor the Lawgiver.


There was a retired Air Force man in Louisiana, Tom Stewart. Providence brought him to the church, and he was converted. However, as we got to know him, we found that even as an unconverted and unchurched man, he had lived and raised his children in strict obedience to the law of God. They were probably the best example of a Christian family in the church, though he never knew about the law of God, and how it worked out in the family.

He was unchurched with no religious background, but he certainly had a military background, so how could they be such a good example of Christianity?

Paul tells us here that he knew in his heart what was right to do and he set out to do it even as an unsaved man. The Lord revealed to him that he could not do all that was required by God for eternal life.

If he had died and stood before God even before he was saved and not knowing what the written word of God demanded of him, he would still have had to admit he was a sinner without any reference to the law of Moses at all.

The conscience is called the candle of the Lord, and man must work at keeping it put out.

V. 15, One another. The same light and law of nature that witnesses against sin in the Gentiles, witnesses against sin in others. The Gentiles are left without excuse, and God is justified in condemning them. Neither the Gentiles, nor the Jews, can plead ignorance.

Second, the light of the law. The Jews had the law of Moses. They not only sinned having the law, but sinned in the law. They were surrounded by the law; they lived in a society that was built on Moses. Therefore, their judgment will be much harsher.

Matthew 11:16 ¶ But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. 20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Luke 12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

More tolerable... Many stripes, vs. few stripes... I do not know how these two percepts play out in the end, but that is what the Lord said.

The Jews prided themselves in having, hearing and knowing the law. The Jewish doctors assured their followers that all Jews, no matter how bad they lived here, had a place in the world to come.

According to Charles Hodge, here is what Paul confronted:

It is obvious that the Jews regarded circumcision as in some way securing their salvation. That they did so regard it, may be proved not only from such passages of the New Testament where the sentiment is implied, but also by the direct assertion of their own writers. Such assertions have been gathered in abundance from their works by Eisenmenger, Schoettgen, and others. For example, the Rabbi Menachem, in his Commentary on the Books of Moses, Fol. 43, col. 3, says, "Our Rabbins have said, that no circumcised man will see hell." In the Jalkut Rubeni, num, 1. it is taught, "Circumcision saves from hell." In the Medrasch Tillim, fol. 7, col 2, it is said, "God swore to Abraham, that no one who was circumcised should be sent to hell." In the book Akedath Jizehak, fol. 54, col. 2, it is taught that "Abraham sits before the gate of hell, and does not allow that any circumcised Israelite should enter there." The apostle considers circumcision under two different aspects. First, as a rite supposed to possess some inherent virtue or merit of its own; and secondly, as a sign and seal of God s covenant. (A Commentary on Romans, p 63. 1853. 1973 reprint by Banner of Truth Trust, PO Box 652, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This writer has dealt thoroughly with circumcision in his book, "Padobaptism and the Word of God.")

We know there was a very strong public attitude among the Jews in Paul's day toward false assurance about keeping the Jewish law, particularly the law concerning circumcision. Paul had to confront this attitude in all his books. He is especially bold in Galatians and in Romans.

Though the Jews had great privilege with the law, Paul assures them that that privilege was not a saving privilege. Regardless of their attitudes and even actions according to Moses, they were just as lost as were the Gentiles without repentance and conversion.

V. 16, Paul assures those who were proud of Moses that there is a day coming when all secrets of all men will be brought to light. Those secrets will be judged by the Lord and Savour Jesus Christ according to the gospel presented through Paul.


In this section, we have a description of those who know exactly how others should act. They seem to think that their God-given gift is correcting others, and telling them how they should live. They see their responsibility is to remove the mote from the eye of others.

Often that mote is seen in the preacher, and there is a responsibility to straighten out the preacher–a responsibility they gladly take on.

Throughout Scripture, we are warned against harshness against others over the same things we are guilty of in our own hearts.

Luke 6:42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

I like to cut my own wood. Though I have safety glasses, there are times when a piece of that saw dust may get in my eye. As a young teenager, I worked on farms. It was not unusual at all for a piece of dust or chaff to get in my eye. That piece of dust defines a mote. I have found that if I maybe wipe my eye and not rub it, the tears will wash that mote away. It will sort of take care of itself.

Beam has a more detailed meaning. It means beam. A beam supports a heavy load of some kind. At about 9 years old, I remember my dad on his dad's farm putting up hay. He put it up loose, and had to stack it in the hay loft in a barn. The way they got it up was with hooks. The hooks were on ropes, which dropped the hooks down and allowed the hooks to grab a good bit of hay. A tractor was be tied to the other end of the rope that traveled through the barn on the ridge beam. When the tractor pulled pull the rope, the hooks would grab the hay, lift the hay up to what they called the trolley. The hooks would catch in the trolley, and the trolley would travel a track to the back of the barn until another rope was pulled, and the load was dropped in the stack. I drove the tractor.

Beam defines the ridge beam that supported the roof of the barn, and upon which the hay trolley traveled.

Let me quickly mention this:

There is a basic problem shown to us in this passage. That is, we evaluate others based on our strong points. We judge others based on their weak points. We compare their weaknesses to our strengths, and conclude, "They aren't as good as I am, so they need my help".

We can say here that Paul is writing to the outward Jew (the church member) saying, "It's easy to look down your nose at the heathen but you are doing the same thing in your heart. You are just as guilty".

Here we see Christians pointing the finger of harsh condemnation at those outside of the covenant of Grace and saying, "Look how wicked they are". Yet they completely overlook their own evil hearts.

Those whom Paul describes in these first verses are not living in a loose manner as described in chapter 1. Yet when they confront those who are living a loose life, they make a speciality of harshly condemning them.

Yet they never stop to think that in harshly condemnation of others, they are condemning themselves, for they have the same things in their own hearts.

Paul says, "Don't think you can escape the judgment of God that you are harshly condemning others with, when you have the same sort of sins in your own heart".

Remember the woman caught in the very act of adultery, John 8:1-11. When the Lord answered in v. 7,

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
They all left, for they all knew that they were not guiltless.

Certainly, none of us are guiltless, but that must not prevent us from confronting the sinner with his sin. But it must be done remembering that we are sinners, and guilty of the same things in our own heart.

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Again, those who are harsh against the sins of others, though they live an upright and moral life, are guilty of the same things in their hearts. Sinners must be confronted over their sins, but that confrontation must be done remembering that in that day "when God will judge the secrets of men," we will not escape the judgment of God for the thoughts and intents of our own hearts. V. 16.

That is why Paul said in Galatians 6:1,

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Paul warns many times against hypocrisy.

Vv. 4-8.

Here we have the other view of the matter. There is the mercy of God which is given by God to bring the sinner to repentance.

In God's goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, he did not want us to continue on the road to ruin. So he met us, and showed us we were sinning, and on our way to everlasting destruction. Our conscience was made alive, and we acknowledged that God's judgment was righteous, and would strike us. We saw ourselves as God sees us, and humbled ourselves under the mighty hand of God, repented and turned to his righteousness alone through Christ Jesus.

In and by God's mercy, we were given a new life, and we desire to learn more and more about him and how to please him.

Then there are those with heard and unrepentant hearts. They are confident that their deeds will allow them to appear before the righteous judge in his day of wrath.

God gives eternal life according to what each has done with Christ. And Scripture is clear; faith results in righteous deeds.

God wrath is upon those who follow the natural desires of their hard and impenitent hearts.

In both situations, vv. 7, 8, each person reveals his heart by what he pursues in life. Christ is revealed by well doing, but well doing is useless before God without Christ.

Vv. 9-16

Paul continues with the topic, showing that before God, the Jews and Gentiles are equally sinners.

Today. There are those who have grown up in Christian homes, and those who have not. Regardless, God does not show partiality or favoritism to either in the future judgment. The wrong-doer will receive tribulation and anguish from God. Those who live a righteous life will receive glory, honour and peace.

The difference is not whether one grew up in a Christian home or not, but whether his doings were good or bad.

Those who have never been exposed to the God of the Bible still know it is wrong to steal, though they have never been told. Stealing results in a troubled conscience, as it speaks to them. The result is that they show the work of the law as written in their hearts, Thou shall not steal.

God looks past the deeds to the source of the deeds. We can mislead others with our deeds, but we cannot mislead God.