Many Jews may have replied to Paul’s description of the pagan world by saying “We agree these are guilty and worthy of punishment. But we are not like them. We know what is good and right, for we have been entrusted with the law of God.” No man, Jew or not, can defend himself for judging others when he is guilty before God himself. God did not give his law so that men could judge others, but that men might obey it. God is the only lawgiver and judge, who will judge all men impartially, according to their deeds.
2:3 And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God's judgment?
If a Jew thinks that the heathen should be punished because of their sins, then he is right. But how does he suppose he will escape the judgment of God when he does the same things they do?
2:4 Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God's kindness leads you to repentance?
At the present time God has not poured out his punishment for sin. He is patient, not willing that anyone should perish. Though men deserve judgment, God has withheld it for a time so that he may give men opportunity to repent and be saved by faith in Jesus Christ.
2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment is revealed!
Those who despise this offer of mercy and harden their hearts by continuing in sin will inevitably suffer eternal punishment when the day of grace is over and God’s anger is revealed.
2:6 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment is revealed! He will reward each one according to his works :
This is true for both Jew and Gentile. God will judge every man according to his works, not according to his nationality. But if God puts no difference between Jew and Gentile in announcing their condemnation, neither does he put a difference between them in offering them all salvation.
2:7-10 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek.
It is those who trust Jesus Christ as their Saviour who receive the gift of eternal life. Paul describes the Christian as one who perseveres in living a good life in hope of the glory, honor and peace that will be his when Christ appears. By contrast, those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ are described as fighting against God, hostile to the truth, choosing to obey their sinful hearts rather than the gospel which leads to righteousness. For these are reserved God’s anger and punishment. Eternal trouble and anguish will be for everyone who refuses to repent and receive Christ as Saviour, whether Gentiles or Jew for it is the rejection of Jesus Christ that brings condemnation. John 3:36
Paul has said that the gospel was “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” The gospel came first to the Jews because they were already in possession of the scriptures that revealed God’s plan and made Christ known. They were in the best position to hear and understand the gospel. Because of this privilege, they should have known that Christ would come, and how he would come. The Jews should not boast about this. It was God’s plan to give the gospel first to the Jew so that those converted should bring his message of salvation to the Gentiles. The first disciples were all Jews. They were the first to receive the commission “Go into all the world.” Greater privilege brings greater responsibility. Those who were entrusted with the scriptures yet failed to hear and obey the gospel are even more guilty than those who did not have the scripture, but only the light of creation and conscience. That is why, solemnly, Paul asserts that if salvation was “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” Then judgment will also be “to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”
2:11 For there is no partiality with God.
Whilst Paul regarded this as God’s way, he insists that this does not imply partiality with God. Any Jew or any Gentile who receives Christ as Savior will be saved and have eternal life. Any Jew or Gentile who rejects Jesus Christ as Savior who will be lost eternally. John 8.24
Reliance on Receiving the Law
2:12 For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
Many Jews rested their confidence in the fact that they had received the law of God. But it is not receiving or knowing the law that will make a man right in the sight of God - it is obeying the law.
Those who know God’s requirements in the law will have their lives judged in the light of that law. Those who did not know the law will, if they do not know Christ as their Saviour, perish without law, for we have already seen that the evidence of creation and conscience are sufficient to condemn a man as guilty before God.
2:13-15 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them,
Paul makes clear that it is the keeping of the law, not the knowledge of it that makes a man right with God. For even those without law have the witness of conscience to tell them right from wrong. Paul is not suggesting that some Gentiles have kept God’s law, for all have sinned Rom 3.23. Rather that the written law given to Moses on Sinai is fully in accord with the God created conscience of man. Men know they are guilty before God even if they have never read the ten commandments, for the spirit of the law is preprogrammed into their God-given conscience.
2:16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.
According to the gospel Paul preached, all men will be judged before the all seeing, all knowing eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 17.31 ; Hebrews 4.13
2:17-20 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relationship to God and know his will and approve the superior things because you receive instruction from the law, and if you are convinced that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the essential features of knowledge and of the truth —
Another error made by many Jews was to put their confidence on their ancestral relationship with God. Since God had called Israel out of Egypt to be his special people and gave them the law through Moses, they boasted that God was their God and that he had made himself known to them. They were instructed through that law in the knowledge of God. Because of this they considered themselves superior, teachers of those who did not know right from wrong.
2:20-21an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the essential features of knowledge and of the truth —therefore you who teach someone else, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?
It is not scholarly knowledge that the law demands, but obedience. The hypocrisy of those who taught others to keep the demands of the law without keeping it themselves was denounced by Jesus, as it is here in Romans. Matt. 23:2-4
2:23-24 You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! For just as it is written, "the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
Paul concludes that although the Jewish nation boasted in receiving the law, they did not keep it. In fact the behaviour of God’s people led the Gentiles to conclude that their God was not up to much.
Reliance on the Rite of Circumcision
2:25 For circumcision has its value if you practice the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
In addition to the law, the Jews put confidence in the rite of circumcision. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant which God had made with them. It was a pledge that they were to keep his laws. In their failure to keep God’s law, the covenant was broken and the circumcision rendered ineffective.
2:26-27 Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised man who keeps the law judge you who, despite the written code and circumcision, transgress the law?
To illustrate the logic of his argument, Paul says that if an uncircumcised person kept the law, their obedience would be counted by God as circumcision. In this way, an uncircumcised person who kept the law would condemn the circumcised who had not kept the law. It is not circumcision but the keeping of God’s commands that counts. 1 Cor 7:19
2:28-29 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person's praise is not from people but from God.
The outward ritual of circumcision cannot justify a man. What man needs is a circumcision of the spirit or a new spiritual nature. Such circumcision is spoken of in the OT. Deut 10:16 This circumcision of the heart is spoken of in Scripture as the circumcision performed by Christ, through faith in his death and resurrection. Col 2:11 This equates with the new birth spoken of by Jesus. Only those who have a new nature, the nature of Christ created within them by the Holy Spirit who are to be considered the children of God. John 1:12-13
FF Bruce says, “The word Jew means “praise”, and the true Jew is the man whose life is praiseworthy in God’s sight, whose circumcision is the inward circumcision of the heart...and his praise is not a matter of human applause, but of divine approval.”” This divine approval is received only as we receive the gift of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.
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