God's righteous judgement. 2:1-11
Following his thesis in 1:16-17, Paul sets out, in 1:18-2:11, to establish the universal condition of sin and the impartial nature of God's judgment on sin. In 2:1-5 Paul reminds his law-bound brothers and sisters in Christ that they have no right to point the finger at their less pious brothers and sisters, or anyone in fact. Such people may be uncircumcised, totally uneducated with regard to clean or unclean foods, and most likely exhibiting some rather obnoxious pagan habits, but sin is universal, such that we all stand under God's judgment. The person who has broken only eight of the ten commandments is no more secure before God than the person who has broken all ten, and as Jesus points out, in a sense we have all broken the ten. Paul then goes on to outline the impartial nature of God's judgment, 2:6-11. Irrespective of persons, under God's righteous judgment, the person who does what is evil before God is condemned, while the person who does what is right before God is blessed. Of course, Jesus is the only person who is right before God; as for the rest of humanity, we all face God's condemnation.
v1. Arguing against an imaginary person who has said "here, here", when it comes to the sin of others, Paul makes the point that this person has just condemned himself because sin is universal. "You condemn yourselves because you are guilty of doing the very same things", CEV. The person Paul is arguing against is most likely a self-righteous believer, a law-bound believer. Paul had no end of trouble in his missionary churches with those who argued that obedience to the law of Moses was a necessary requirement for the full appropriation of God's promised blessings. Like all self-righteous people, "speck removal", judging, helps affirm ones own righteousness.
v2-3. God will judge people according to what they have done. It is very dangerous, therefore, for a believer to pass judgement on the sin of another, as though they possess a superior righteousness, when in reality, they "do the same things." "God's judgement" is against all "who do such things." None have "excuse" before God, and therefore, none can "pass judgement."
v4. We all need to take care, because having a blind spot with regard to our own sins "shows contempt for God"; it ignores God's gracious mercy, his "kindness, tolerance and patience."
v5. Those who stubbornly seek a righteousness that rests on the Law, place themselves under the "wrath" of God, a "wrath" about to be revealed in the coming day of judgement.
v6-7. Paul goes on to make the point that God is impartial in judgment. God's promise is that he will give "eternal life" to all who are motivated by "glory, honor and incorruptibility" to "do good". Yes, if a person fully obeys God's law, whether it be the law of Moses, or the law of nature, they will gain eternal life. Of course, no one (other than Jesus) has fully obeyed God's law, 3:9-20. In fact, after reading 2:1-5, Paul's law-bound readers would be anything but confident in their good works.
v8. As God's righteous judgment works for the blessing of eternal life to those who obey the truth, so it works for the curse of wrath to those who are rooted in selfishness.
v9-11. In the end, God will show no partiality when judging sin. Everyone will be judged on the basis of what they have done. This is true for all humanity, first to the house of Israel as God's special people, and then to the rest of humanity.
The problem of the law-righteous
A very interesting problem is posed by the first few chapters in Romans, a problem which particularly comes to the fore in 2:1. Who is the "whoever you are" who "judges others"? Most commentators think that Paul is addressing Gentiles in 1:18-32, and then in chapter 2, he is addressing Jews. The point Paul makes in both chapters is that everyone has sinned and stands condemned. How true! but it is more than likely that Paul is making this point to law-bound believers who have failed to realize how cursed they are under the Law. These believers are most likely "the weak" referred to by Paul in chapters 14 and 15. That is, they are believers who feel that their submission to God's law (both Old Testament and New Testament law) progresses the full appropriation of God's promised blessings. Yet, the blessings of the Christian life rest on repentance and faith, not obedience.
The truth of the gospel is threatened by law-bound believers ("the weak") who see the Law as the means of appropriating God's promised blessings. In his letter to the Romans, Paul sets out to put to bed this heresy, a heresy which serves to undermine justification by grace through faith.
This same heresy is with us today. As children, many of us were taught that Jesus loves good little boys and girls and rewards them accordingly. So, it's only natural that many believers today think that God's blessings are had by a faithful attention to the law. Speck removal is the consequence of this type of thinking, yet, no one completely obeys the law, so what is the point of a law-abiding believer passing judgement on the lawless? The law serves only to expose sinfulness and thus lead us "toward repentance." To ignore this path is to "show contempt for the riches of God's kindness, tolerance and patience", and is to inevitably face "God's judgement".
So today, we churchies are reminded that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and as a consequence, deserve nothing from God. Thankfully, Jesus has come to our aid.
1. When Paul speaks of "you" in this passage, who is he speaking of?
2. Why is it unwise to "pass judgement on someone else"?
3. What part does the Law play in "realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance."
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