The Shameful Sinful State of Humankind

 

ROMANS 2:1-29 – God’s Wrath on Religious Ritualists

 

When David sinned with Bathsheba and murdered Uriah, initially he thought he had effectively covered up his sin and gotten away with it (2 Samuel 11). But the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David with a story about a rich man who stole a precious lamb from a poor man. David was filled with indignation and ready to pronounce the death penalty until Nathan said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1-15). Paul is doing the same thing here, in Romans 1:18-32 he spells out the sinfulness of the Gentile world, then, as the Jews are probably ready to pronounce judgment on the Gentiles, Paul tells them, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” (Romans 2:1).

 

In Romans 1:18-32 Paul began to explain the revelation of God’s wrath by first showing how God’s wrath is revealed against the Gentile world. In Romans 2:1-29 while Paul’s inspired words apply to all mankind (as in 1:18-32), they focus primarily upon Judaism. In Romans 2 we will see God’s Wrath on Religious Ritualists.

 

You Are Inexcusable

 

Romans 2:1 – “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”  [1]

Paul turns to his Jewish audience. They are likely nodding their heads in judgment over the non-Jewish Gentile world that Paul described in chapter one of Romans as steeped in sin. But Paul puts the breaks on that self-righteous notion pretty quickly. He points out their hypocrisy because those who judge, while doing the same things as those who judge, are doubly guilty and deserving of the wrath of God. But what does it mean to “judge’ someone?

 

Judging

 

The word “judge” here is translated from the Greek term KRINO (Strong's # 2919 - krivnw krinoµ, kree´-no) which means, “to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially). KRINO is a legal term used to describe the process of trying someone in a court of law and then bringing a sentence of condemnation against them..[2]

There is proper and improper judging according to the Bible. No one is in a position to judge others in a way that tries them and condemns them in terms of salvation and their eternal destiny. God alone is the Judge who pronounces sentence on people (Psalm 75:7; Matthew 7:1Acts 10:42; Romans 2:16; Hebrews 4:13). Believers are to judge in terms of self-examination (Matthew 7:3-5; Galatians 6:3-4); identification of falsehoods (Matthew 7:6; Acts 20:28-31; Ephesians 5:5-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 timothy 4:1-2; Jude 3-4); prayerfully with God’s Word as the measure (Matthew 7:7-11; 24-27; 2 Timothy 3:16-17); aiming to restore people (Matthew 7:12; Galatians 6:1); not compromising God’s truth (Matthew 7:13-14; John 8:31-32; 14:6); and to inspect spiritual fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). 

 

But whatever judging a person enters into, whether right or wrong judging, if the person is hypocritical, they have no grounds to point out the splinter in another person’s eye when they have a plank in their own eye so to speak. The problem is that we tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt regarding sin. We tend to rationalize away our sin but hold others to a stricter standard. That is not right and true judgment. Such judgment brings us under the judgment of God.

 

“I’m Not That Bad”

 

Now you might look at Romans 1:18-32 and say, “I don’t do such things; I don’t take ‘pleasure’ or ‘approve’ of such things.” But what about for instance, movies, when people go to movies and “take pleasure” in those who kill, fornicate, destroy, etc., are they not in line with Romans 1:32? What about what we watch on TV or read in the paper or what we see around us? Do we take pleasure in it? How do we respond? What are our thoughts in such situations? I bet an honest self-appraisal of the things mentioned by Paul in Romans 1 concerning a debased mind would find an all too common presence in us, the saved. And if that is so, where does that leave us? Hmmm, that’s something to ponder.

 

The point here is that “whoever you are,” NO ONE IS IN ANY POSITION TO JUDGE OTHERS IN REGARDS TO GOD’S WRATH BECAUSE THOSE WHO JUDGE OTHERS, DO THE SAME THING AND ARE THEREFORE ALSO DESSERVING OF GOD’S WRATH.

 

We should never think that we are above or removed from Romans 1 or sin. We all fall short of God’s glory. Human inclination is to look at others as worse than ourselves; it just isn’t true. Furthermore, we think we know what is going on in a person’s heart, but we don’t. We should not judge others in a way that puts us in the seat of God who is Judge (see Matthew 7). (Note: This doesn’t mean we aren’t to assess fruit or falsehood in people. The Bible commands us to do so e.g. correct, rebuke, fruit inspect – Matthew 7; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

 

In Romans 2 Paul is taking aim at the false security of those who depend upon religious ritualism to make them right before God. Paul in this chapter is going to show how those who say one thing and do another are inexcusably guilty before God and His truth.

 

The True Judgment of God

 

Romans 2:2 – “But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”  [3]

God judges according to “truth.” God judges according to the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth. God will judge those who “practice” such things. God’s judgment is perfect and true and no one will be unjustly judged by God. Whatever God’s judgment will be concerning a person, it will be fair and just and no one will be able to walk away claiming not to have been given a fair deal. The word “practice” (Strong’s # 4238 - pravssw prassoµ, pras´-so) means, “ to “practice”, i.e. perform repeatedly or habitually as opposed to a single act.” [4]

The “truth” we see here is ORTHODOXY (RIGHT DOCTRINE – TRUE BELIEFS) MAKES A DIFFERENCE ONLY WHEN IT RESULTS IN ORTHOPRAXY (RIGHT LIVING – ACTING ON TRUE BELIEFS).

In Romans 2 Paul is aiming at the heart of the problem, at those who hypocritically pronounced judgment on others, while in their heart or even out in the open did the very same things. Paul was addressing a type of prejudice and rationalization of sin by those who depended on religious ritualism to justify them. What is religious ritualism?

Religious Ritualism

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

  • Matthew 5:20 - “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  [5]

The Jewish leaders of Jesus day were religious ritualists. They were religious because their focus was on what must a person do to be right before God. They were ritualists because they thought that religious ceremonial acts performed separate from a heart change or a heart connection was all that was needed to make one right before God. Therefore, one thing we will see toward the end of this chapter is Paul’s denunciation of the belief that all one needs to do to be right with God is to be circumcised outwardly. Today we see similar religious ritualism when people think that by merely being baptized or confirmed, or take communion that they are all right with God. The truth of the matter is that outward ritual separated from the heart faith of a person is dead and useless. Furthermore, salvation is not based upon what “I” must do, but upon what God has done for me in Christ and accepting that by faith (that He provides).

In another letter inspired by God, the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Colossae about the emptiness, powerlessness, and futility of religious ritualism. Let’s look at what God inspired him to write:

  • Colossians 2:6-23 - As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 11In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 16So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 20Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”   [6]

 

Notice in the verses above Paul emphasizes the personal relational aspect of relating to God by reminding the Colossians how they had “received Christ Jesus the Lord,” instructing the Colossians to “walk in Him,” be “rooted and built up in Him,” “established in the faith, as you have been taught,” and Paul ends by reminding the Colossians to have q thankful attitude toward the Lord (Colossians 2:6-7). This is what is involved in the real saving relationship that a person can have with God in Christ and that we will be learning more about as we study the epistle to the Romans. But in verses 8-23 Paul warns not to let anyone “cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles  of the world and , not according to Christ” (2:8). That last phrase, “according to Christ,” again emphasizes the personal and intimate relationship with God we have in Christ. It’s so important to understand that we relate to God “in Christ,” in a real living relationship with Jesus Christ and that we are, ”complete in Him” (2:9-10). This saving relationship is entered into by “faith” not our “flesh” (2:11-12). On the cross Jesus made a way for our sins to be wiped out, for us to receive spiritual life, and for Satan’s defeat (2:13-15). If we are “complete in Him,” then what can we add to our relationship? We can’t add anything, and if we can’t add anything, then the religious emphasis on what “I” or any person must do is ill-placed and out of proper focus. Our concentration must be on what Jesus has done, that His substitutionary work on the cross is put to our account by faith in Him and that any work we do is motivated by a loving appreciation and thankfulness for what He has done. If you are being taught anything other than that, you’re being cheated according to Paul.

 

What kinds of teaching lead us to be “cheated” of  what God wants for us? Paul describes the same empty, powerless, dead religious ritualism that we are seeing him address in Romans 2. In verse 2:16 Paul refers to ritualism about eating and drinking, “new moons,” “festivals,” and Sabbath day observances (2:16-17). Paul keys in on the reason religious ritualism is impotent to make anyone righteous, the “flesh.” All religious ritualism does is incite the flesh, it cause one to depend on perceived personal strengths which are incapable of pleasing God. Religious ritualism  leads to “false humility,” and one would be better off to simply cling to Jesus and depend on Him and what He has done for us (2:18-19).  “Regulations,” and trying to abide by them just doesn’t cut it (2:20-22). Paul concludes his remarks on religious ritualism by saying, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (2:23). That’s the problem, the poison of religious ritualism. 

 

No Excuses, No Escape For Those Who Should Know Better

Romans 2:3 – “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”  [7]

The implication is that those who know enough to judge and assess others in their sin, yet practice the same things, are worse because they should know better.

GOD WILL JUDGE PEOPLE ACCORDING TO WHAT THEY KNOW; THOSE WHO KNOW MORE AND STILL SIN WILL BE GUILTY OF A GREATER MORE SEVERE JUDGMENT. Knowledge brings obligation and responsibility before God. (In fact Romans 1:32 could be applied to the Jews as well as those in chapter one.) 

Jesus’ parable of the faithful servant points this out:

  • Luke 12:42-48 – “Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?”42 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?43 “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.44 “Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.45 “But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk,46 “the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.47 “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”  [8]

Those who stood in judgment in Romans 2:1 knew more and should have known enough to not participate in the same sins as the Gentiles, only they did not, they did the same sinful things. There is no escape for those who live in this way.

We may look at the sins listed in Romans 1 and think we are innocent of those which are severe, but others, like backbiting, disobedience to parents, etc. will be enough to convict all people and shut them up under sin. There is no escape, in our own strength.

Inexcusable in View of God’s Goodness

Romans 2:4 – “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”  [9]

We need to observe a few important things from this verse.

First, God is patient and longsuffering (i.e. suffer long) with the sinner in order to give them time to repent. It would be a mistake to interpret the good patience of God as condoning one’s sin. Some people say or think, “Well, I’ve been living in this sinful way and God hasn’t struck me down, therefore my sin must be alright and no big deal for Him.” But that is to “dispise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering.” GOD’S AIM AT SHOWERING PEOPLE WITH HIS GOODNESS IS TO LEAD THE SINNER TO REPENT, TO TURN FROM THEIR SIN TO RECEIVE THE GOSPEL OF CHIRST, NOT TO CONDONE THEIR SIN.

Second, the objective of God is for the sinner to repent. The word “repent” here is translated from the Greek term METANOIA (Strong’s # 3341 - metavnoia meátanoáia, met-an´-oy-ah) that literally means, “ reversal of decision; repentance; heart change.[10] God pours out blessing and goodness on sinners with the objective of getting the sinner to turn from their sinful ways and turn to God.

Thirdly, Paul says, IT IS GOD’S GOODNESS, NOT HIS WRATH THAT LEADS PEOPLE TO REPENT. Some preach God’s wrath, (e.g. “hell fire and brimstone”) in an effort to lead people to repent. But it is the preaching of God’s goodness, His good news Gospel in Christ that leads the sinner to repent.

Fourth, God appeals to our heart. He is so good and loving and gracious toward us that it serves as a deterrent to sin. It serves as a deterrent to sin because we see His love and wouldn’t want to do anything that would cause pain to One who loves us so much. Like a loving parent whose heart we would not want to break by getting in trouble, so God appeals to our heart to motivate us not to sin and to turn to Him (Romans 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). God loves us hoping we will repent and turn from sin to Him through faith in Christ.

Paul’s point here is that God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering is not something one should neglect or abuse, but it is something that should be responded to in a way that brings the sinner to repent. By hypocritically judging others a person is throwing God’s graciousness in the mud as though they “despised” it. When the one who doesn’t seem to give God a second or even first thought is blessed, we might question God’s strategy as the person goes on their merry way in seeming totally obliviousness to where the blessing came from. We might feel that it just isn’t fair that sinful people are blessed in life. But God is at work in that person’s life to bring them to repent and turn to Him. God’s works on people’s hearts by revealing to them that:

  • James 1:17-18 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”  [11]

Don’t neglect the goodness, patience and grace of God, repent and turn to Him!

God’s Wrath is on the Impenitent Heart of the Religious Ritualist

Romans 2:5 – “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,”  [12]

Israel had experienced the longsuffering and loving patience of God throughout their history and yet, when God sent His Son Israel rejected Him for the most part. In Christ was offered the opportunity for people to enter into a personal and real relationship with God. The gospel of Christ made it possible to live in the presence of Almighty God. But instead Israel clung to their dead religious ritualism and turned their back on Jesus. The result was a haughty pride in their religious identity whereby they saw themselves as better than others, (even though they were just as sinful). The same is true of religious ritualists today if they  put their faith in the tradition of men which is what is behind most religious ritualism.

The hypocrisy Paul refers to in this chapter (2:1) is the natural outgrowth of religius ritualism. Paul points to the root of such hypocrisy, “hardness and impenitent heart.” And such hardness is “treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath.” Such duplicity will be exposed and judged for what it really is, utter sinfulness. When you are able to overlook and callously be unresponsive to God’s love and grace, you have a hard and impenitent heart.

The word “hardness” here (SKLEROTES – Strong’s # 4643 - sklhrovth" skleµroáteµs, sklay-rot´-ace) means, “callousness, hardness.” [13] We get the English word sclerosis from this term which is used to describe the hardening of body organs. Arterial sclerosis is the hardening of the arteries of the heart, a condition that prevents the blood from circulating to the body.   In the same way, when our hearts become spiritually hardened so that the lifeblood of Christ doesn’t pass through them, we become dysfunctional spiritually. The result is impenitence.

The word “impenitent” here means literally unrepentant (AMETANOETOS – Strong’s # 279 ajmetanovhto" ameátanoáeµtoás, am-et-an-o´-ay-tos.” [14] Hard hearts lead to unrepentance toward God. Hard hearts also cloud and pervert a person’s view of himself or herself as they relate to others around them. Hardhearted people tend to judge others or put themselves in the judgment seat of God, where only God belongs.

The Truth at Heart

God’s judgment in truth extends to the thoughts of people as well. Paul will refer to this later on in the chapter (2:16). Jesus said that sin proceeds from the heart of people (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21). It is what is in the heart of a person that determines if a person is in line with God’s truth. God’s truth must be applied deep down in a person’s heart.

Jesus elevated the standard of judgment in the Sermon on the Mount when He repeatedly said, “but I say to you” and then spoke of the intents of a person’s heart. Jesus said for example:

  • Matthew 5:21-22 - “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”  [15]
  • Matthew 5:27-28 - “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  [16]

The issue is in the heart. We may not actually murder someone or commit adultery with someone, but if we are fantasizing or imagining it in our hearts, according to God’s standard, we are guilty. The truth of God was not limited in its application to outward actions, but also come s to bear on the inward attitudes of the heart and thoughts of the mind.

The Bible states that the attitudes of the heart will be exposed and judged:

  • Luke 8:17 -  “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.”  [17]
  • Ephesians 5:12-13 – “For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.”  [18]
  • Hebrews 4:12-13 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  [19]

God’s judgment will be totally just, fare and thorough; it will include the thoughts and intents of the human heart. No one will ever be able to accuse God of unfairness on judgment day.

The Truth About Judging

Paul’s Jewish audience apparently had no difficulty standing in judgment of those in the Gentile world who partook in the sins categorized in Romans 1. They had no problem pronouncing condemnation on “others” who they believed sinned. Those who judge others place themselves in what they think is a spiritually superior position. But in judging others a person is in reality bringing judgment upon themselves. We see this in the argument of Paul which logically shows this truth:

First, when you judge others, saying, “That’s wrong,” it reveals you have a knowledge of what is right and wrong, a conscience (2:1).

Second, if you can point out and judge sin in others, but do not do so in your own life, you are a hypocrite and inexcusably condemned (2:1 ).

Third, God judges by “truth,” both that revealed outwardly in “practice” and inwardly in thoughts (“know” and “heart” imply this)  (2:2).

Fourth, there is no excuse and no escape for those who do not respond to God’s grace (2:3,4).

Fifth, God’s objective is to draw people to repent by way of His grace and goodness; this is the only appropriate response of humans (2:4).

Sixth, when you know of God’s graciousness and goodness and do not repent, but practice sin, you reveal your hard and impenitent heart, are guilty before God, and place yourself in a position to receive God’s wrath  (2:5).

That is the truth about those who judge others.

The Sinner Judged By Their Works

Romans 2:6 – “who “will render to each one according to his deeds” [20]

What does it mean when Paul quotes Psalm 62:2 that God “will render to each one according to his deeds”? Does this mean we are saved by works? No, but works do play a role in judgment.

The KJV Bible Commentary states here:

“When unsaved men appear before the final judgment bar of God, the Great White Throne Judgment, salvation will not be the issue there. This is a judgment to determine the degree of punishment. Thus God will mete out punishment in relation to the evil deeds of the individual. By the same token, at the judgment seat of Christ, where only believers appear, God will reward us according to our deeds.”  [21]

The eternal destiny of people depends upon their acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior. Just as there will be degrees of rewards based on one’s works (1 Corinthians 3), there will be degrees of punishment according to the works of sin people have committed.

God-Seekers and Self-Seekers

Romans 2:7-8 – “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,” [22]

People are in either of two camps: GOD-SEEKERS or SELF-SEEKERS. If you refuse to receive God’s mercy, you will face His justice.

The KJV Bible Commentary states here regarding verse 7:

“Patient continuance in well doing does not mean that we are saved by doing good. Paul is expressing an eternal truth. Obedience to God does well in every dispensation. When Cain brought his fruit as an offering and God rejected it, God said, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” (Gen 4:7). Obedience to God in bringing the proper sacrifice would have been doing well. Today, in the age of grace, we do well by placing our faith in Christ Jesus as Saviour. Thus faith in Christ is patient continuance in well doing in this age. This is what will bring glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” [23]

The word “self-seeking” means literally to be governed by selfish ambition (Strong’s #2052 - ejriqeiva eáritheáia, er-ith-i´-ah). [24] There are those who live for God and there are those who live for themselves. This latter group even seeks God in a self-seeking way, not to enter into a personal saving relationship with Him but to get something out of God for themselves. This is unrighteous and God’s wrath is on such self-seekers.

The Consequence of Doing Evil

Romans 2:9-10 – “tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  [25]

The destiny of those who do evil is tribulation and anguish, regardless if they are Jews or Gentiles (“Greek”). God’s justice will be upon ALL people. On the Jew first because they were given greater revelation and therefore are held to a greater accountability.

“Tribulation” (Strong’s # 2347 - qlivyi" thlipsis, thlip´-sis) means literally, “ pressure; affliction; anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.” [26]Anguish” (Strong’s # 4730 - stenocwriva steánoáchoµria, sten-okh-o-ree´-ah) means, “ narrowness of room, calamity; anguish, distress.” [27] The world will seem to close in on the one who does evil because there will be no way out, no escape from the consequence of their sin and the righteous judgment of God.

The Impartiality of God

Romans 2:11 – “For there is no partiality with God.”  [28]

God is totally fair. God does not judge on the basis of prejudice or discrimination, but solely on the basis of a person’s relations to His Son Jesus. Jews should not feel superior to Gentiles. No one should feel superior to anyone as they stand before God. The words “no partiality” (Strong’s # 4382 - proswpolhyiva proásoµpoáleµpsia, pros-o-pol-ape-see´-ah) means that God shows no favoritism and is not a respecter of persons, He does not give preference to people based on who they are but is totally fair. [29]

When God judges people He doesn’t have one standard for Jews and another for Gentiles; on e for black people and another for white people; one for Americans and another for Russians. God judges by one standard for all.

Either a person accepts Jesus as their Savior or doesn’t, that is the bottom line determiner of eternal life or eternal damnation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). If a person doesn’t accept Jesus as their Savior they will be judged by God’s law and all fall short of the mark under that standard. We will see why this is true as we continue in Romans.

God’s Standard of Judgment – The Law

Romans 2:12-15 – “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)”  [30]

No one will escape the judgment of God. Both Jews and Gentiles have a law that they will be judged by. God creates human beings with an inherent knowledge of Him (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and a conscience, which gives people a sense of right and wrong. Gentiles have, “the law written in their hearts.” Jews have been given a written law. Each person will be judged based on the amount of revelation God has provided.

This answers the age-old question about what will happen to the person who lives in an isolated part of the world and who had not heard the gospel. How will God judge that person? The answer is that God will judge them according to what has been revealed to them and if that were mere conscience, or law, whatever the level of revelation, God’s judgment will be righteous and just.

Existentialists and liberal rationalists claim that there is no absolute universal law but that each person is a law unto themselves and ethics are determined on particular situations (i.e. Situation Ethics). The result is that each person is a judge to himself or herself and there is no right or wrong in and of itself. Each situation must be judged independent of any universal law.

This worldview has led to excusing criminals based on their environmental upbringing and has led to plea-bargaining and determinations that cut against a godly concept of justice.

This view breaks down in the practical outliving in society. Go up to a person with such a view and haul off and slug them in the mouth. If they are true to their philosophy, they cannot refuse or condemn your action because for you it is right to do. Such philosophies are illogical and absurd.

Law

In Romans 2:12 we have the first occurance of “law” in Romans. The word “Law” occurs 78 times in 52 verses of Romans. “Law” is translated from the Greek term NOMOS.  NOMOS is taken from the root word of NEMO (Strong’s #3551 novmo" noámoás, nom´-os; from nevmw neámoµ,),which means, “to divide out, distribute,” primarily meant “that which is assigned.” The use of the term in regard to a “law” developed as portions became custom in their uses. The fuller meaning of “law” developed as it became used as,  “law, law as prescribed by custom, or by statute”; (the word ethos, “custom,” was retained for unwritten “law,” while nomos became the established name for “law” as decreed by a state and set up as the standard for the administration of justice). 

While we will not go into an exhaustive use of the word “law”,” NOMOS is used in the New Testament generally in the following ways: Of “law” as a general principle (Romans 2:12-13; 3:27; 4:15; 5:13; 7:1,23; 8:2; 9:31; 13:8; Galatians 5:14; 6:2; James 1:25; 2:12); Of a force or influence impelling to action (Romans  7:21, 23); Of the Mosaic Law (Matt. 5:18; John 1:17; Rom. 2:15, 18, 20, 26, 27; 3:19; 4:15; 7:4, 7, 14, 16, 22; 8:3, 4, 7; Gal. 3:10, 12, 19, 21, 24; 5:3; Eph. 2:15; Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:8; Heb. 7:19; Jas. 2:9); and Of the books which contain the “law,” (Matt. 5:17; 12:5; Luke 16:16; 24:44; John 1:45; Rom. 3:21; Gal. 3:10).

 

God Will Judge the Heart

 

Romans 2:16 – “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”  [31]

God’s judgment is not only based on the external acts of people, but what is going on in their heart. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that righteousness must exceed the externals of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20) and must get to the heart, (Matthew 5-7 – “but I say to you, . . . in his heart” – Matthew 5:28). God’s judgment is comprehensive and includes outward acts and inward thoughts.

You cannot hide what is in your heart from God. Those things which only you know, will one day be judged by God, unless they are cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7,9). (See also Proverbs 10:9; 26:26; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Isaiah 28:17; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:13). God will judge the “secrets” (Strong’s # 2927kruptov" kruptoás, kroop-tos´) or that which is “concealed, private; hidden, inward, secret.” .[32] GOD’S JUDGMENT WILL BE THOROUGH, THROUGH AND THROUGH, NO STONE WILL BE LEFT UNTURNED AND NO CLOSET LEFT UNINSPECTED.

By Jesus Christ

GOD’S JUDGMENT IS NOT BASED ON HOW WE MEASURE UP TO OTHER PEOPLE. GOD’S JUDGMENT IS BASED ON HOW WE MEASURE UP TO JESUS – IF WE ARE GOING TO TRY TO GAIN ACCESS TO HEAVEN IN OUR OWN GOOD WORKS, OUR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, THEN WE WILL HAVE TO MATCH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS , WE WILL HAVE TO KEEP THE LAW AS PERFECTLY AS JESUS DID, AND THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE.  

Jesus spoke of this in His teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit when He said:

  • John 16:8-11 - “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”  [33]

Jesus spoke of the conviction of the Spirit, the message He would bring to the lost. Here we see that the sin that dams is determined according to whether or not a person does, “believe in Me.”  You must believe in Jesus to be given access to heaven. Furthermore, if a person wants to circumvent Jesus and rely on their own righteous works, the standard is Jesus, “because I go to My Father.” In other words, Jesus was able to ascend to His Father’s side because He was sinless, unblemished by sin and perfect on this earth. Can you match that kind of work? Lastly, judgment is according to Jesus because, “the ruler [Satan] of this world is judged.” Jesus defeated Satan and all his deceptions and falsehoods at the cross.

According to my gospel

The gospel Paul will explain further is a gospel of grace that can only be received by faith in Jesus who died in our place on the cross paying our penalty for sin. We can only be saved from our hopeless situation of sin through faith in Jesus who provides salvation as a gift of God’s grace. That is good news!

Falsehood Exposed

Romans 2:17-20 – “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God,18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law,19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.”  [34]

Paul says these people “are called a Jew.” By saying this Paul is implying that what is said about them is not true, he is bringing into question their claims of superior religious position. (He will define a true Jew further down in the discussion.) Paul is not going to show the inexcusability of the Jews regarding their sin. The Jews viewed themselves a spiritually superior to Gentiles based on:

  • 2:17 - Being given the law
  • 2:18a – knowing His will
  • 2:18b – approving the things that are excellent
  • 2:18c – instructed in the law
  • 2:19 – Viewing themselves as a guide and light to the spiritually blind
  • 2:20a – Instructors of the foolish
  • 2:20b – Teachers of babes
  • 2:20c – Having a form of knowledge and truth in the law

These are the things that Jews claimed of themselves. But as we have seen, to whom much is given much is required.

The Cross Examination

Romans 2:21-23 – “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?[35]

It is as though Paul has the Jew on a witness stand and is cross-examining them to get at the truth with deep probing questions.  Paul is going to expose the fallacy of a failure to apply the revelation of God. To have possession of God’s truth is not enough, it must be applied to life. What good is it to know it is wrong to steal, but then you go ahead and steal? (Do you make personal calls at your employers’ expense? Do you come back late for your lunch break?) What good is it to know adultery is wrong, and then go ahead and commit adultery? (What do you think when you see the babes or hunks on TV?) What good is it to know idolatry is sinful and yet you profit from them or “rob temples”? (Do you worship material things? Is your master passion something material? A car? A house? A job?) What good is it to boast in the law of God when you break it in so many ways?

The Shameful Defamation of God

Romans 2:24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.” 

The sad truth is that despite all the benefits given by God to the Jews, they did not apply them to their own lives and by not doing so, they served to work against God because the Gentiles who saw their hypocrisy ended up blaspheming the name of God. They didn’t walk their talk.

The word “blaspheme” (Strong’s # 987 - blasfhmevw blaspheµmeáoµ, blas-fay-meh´-o) means, “  to vilify; to speak impiously; speak  blaspheme;  defame, rail on, revile, speak evil.” [36] This is the result of saying one thing and doing another; this is what a contradictory life in those who claim to know god leads to, blaspheme and scorn on God.

It’s as though the Gentiles look at the Jews and think, “If the Jews have God’s law, and sin anyway, then God’s word is powerless to change them. Why should we therefore enter into something that is so clearly worthless based on what we see in the Jewish messengers?” Can unbelievers look at you and think the same? (See what Nathan had to say about David’s sin – 2 Samuel 12:14).

Ritualism Rejected

Romans 2:25 – “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.”  [37]

Circumcision was the badge of the covenant with God for the Jews. This was the Jews greatest spiritual emphasis. Jews taught a person could not be saved unless circumcised. And yet, they nullified their own circumcision by neglecting to keep the law. If you are going to depend on religious ritualism to save you, you must keep the entire law (Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10).

Paul is showing that the outward rite of circumcision (as is also true with baptism in the New Testament) is worthless unless it is in fact an outward expression of an inner actual truth and work of the Spirit in a person. You can’t rely on rituals to save you. You can’t rely on a past experience to justify you before God. Only a current, living relationship with Jesus by faith saves a person.

Religious Ritualism Not Necessary  

Romans 2:26-27 – “Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?”  [38]

Paul then says, if a Gentile (i.e. “uncircumcision”) keeps the law, then he is as though he or she is circumcised before God. Those who do not partake in the rituals but who live righteously will judge those who have all the benefits, but live by none of them.

External rituals and rites are not what is essential or important to salvation, but living and walking in Christ by faith in the Spirit! Emergency baptisms are not necessary for salvation. Giving your heart to Jesus is what counts.

Circumcision of the Heart

Romans 2:28-29 – “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”  [39]

These words couldn’t be more clear. To those who rely on the ritual of circumcision to establish their standing before God Paul says such outward ritual is meaningless unless it is accompanied by a heart effect. When Paul speaks of “a Jew,” here he speaks of the representative of God’s people. Therefore, being a child of God is not accomplished by any outward religious ritual; it involves the work of God in a person’s heart. “Circumcision” was not meant to be a dead outward ritual by God, but a symbol of an inner reality of the heart. Abraham was accounted righteous by faith before he was circumcised and circumcision was merely an outward sign of that inner reality in him.

In the Old Testament Abraham was pronounced righteous before he was circumcised and what led to him being credited as righteous before God was his faith not his circumcision (Genesis 15:6; 17:10-15). Circumcision, as a rite, is only as meaningful as it is connected to an actual heart reality. This is a truth in both Old and New Testaments. This is seen in the following verses:

  • Deuteronomy 10;16 – “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.”[40]
  • Deuteronomy 30:6 – ““And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”   [41]
  • Jeremiah 4:4 – “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.”[42]

 

  • Philippians 3:3-11 – “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  [43]

 

Circumcision is a symbol and is only of value, (as is true of all rituals) as it pertains to an inner reality of the heart.

 

And circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit,

What matters most is whether or not your heart is circumcised, i.e. whether or not you have left the reliance on your flesh (the “flesh” is a metaphor for self-reliance), and are relying on the Spirit (“in the Spirit”) by faith in Jesus. GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART OF PEOPLE, NOT OUTWARD RITUAL SHOWS.

FOR THE CHRISTIAN - TRUE BAPTISM IS NOT A MATTER OF IMMERSION IN WATER, BUT OF RECEIVNG THE HOLY SPIRIT INTO YOUR HEART, BY BEING BORN AGAIN (John 3:1-10; Romans 8:15).

Whose praise is not from men but from God.” 

The sign of one whose heart has been circumcised, whose baptism is authentic is that THEY LIVE TO PLEASE GOD NOT PEOPLE.

A JEW IS NOT A TRUE SPIRIUTAL JEW UNLESS THEY HAVE GIVEN THEIR HEART IN THE SPIRIT TO GOD. A CHRISITAN IS NOT A TRUE SPIRUTAL CHRISTIAN UNLESS THEY HAVE GIVNE THEIR HEART IN THE SPIRIT TO GOD.

OUTWARD RITUALS MEAN NOTHING UNLESS IT IS MATCHED BY ACTUAL HEART DECISION AND LIVING.

Conclusion

 

On Sunday January 14th, 2001 millions of Hindu pilgrims gathered on the shores of the Ganges River in Northern India to participate in a sacred ritual of the Hindu religion. It is estimated that on this day 7 million people gathered seeking inner purification by dipping into the River. This Royal Bath Day rite is the high point of the Kumbh Mela festival. Hindu holy men believe that

By dipping into the Ganges River on this day it is believed by Hindus that past sins can be washed away.

 

Interestingly, in the past rival sects vying for the water resulted in stampedes that led the death of many seeking to take the purifying plunge. Thousands of police have to be deployed to maintain order. On this Sunday no such problem occurred due to an agreement between the two rival sects.

 

The rite is started when their devotees protected by giant red and gold parasols carry Hindu high priests to the riverbanks and pilgrims throw garlands of flowers at the priests. Other priests stage noisy processions approaching the riverbank. People take water from the Ganges on this day and bring it back to their homes thinking it to be holy. Then, despite bitter cold and freezing waters, and pollution, pilgrims dive into the river to purify their souls.

It is estimated that nearly 70 million people will participate in the festival during it’s month long observance. Millions of dollars are spent to assure that the festival runs smoothly.

We might be tempted to look at these Hindu people and think how strange it is that they believe that jumping in a River of freezing cold water will cleanse their sin away, but how many religious “Christians” believe that ritual baptism of infants or ritual baptism of adults cleanses a person from sin? A ritual is only effective as a symbol of an inner reality in a person. A ritual is a means to witness to the world of an inner, deeper reality in the one performing the ritual. If the inner reality of the heart is detached from the ritual, it becomes meaningless and powerless.  

Jesus spoke of religious ritualism in the practices of the Pharisees of His day. Contrast this Hindu ritual and the rituals of baptism in the church with the words of Jesus Who said:

  • Matthew 23:25-28 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.26 “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.28 “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  [44]

It’s easy to clean dirt and filth on the outside by bathing, but cleansing the heart from sin is beyond the capacity of any earthly cleanser. There is only one way for hearts to be cleaned form sin that is through the blood of Jesus. The Bible says:

  • 1 John 1:7,9 – “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  [45]

Religious ritual without relationship with God, is dead religion; and dead ritualism accomplishes nothing unless there is a heart relationship with God. If you depend on the cold heartless act of a ritual to cleanse you from your sin, you remain in your sin. That is the shameful sinful state of many in the world today.

 

 

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[14]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[24]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[27]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.