Arguments for the proposition, 1:18-5:21
Argument #1: The impartial nature of God's righteous condemnation of universal sin, 1:18-3:20;
Part 3: God's righteous judgment upon sin is complete and impartial, such that even the morally superior stand condemned.
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 exhibit 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.
i] Context: See 1:1-7. Having established the universality of human sin, 1:18-32, Paul now, in 2:1-3:20, focuses on those committed to the Torah, the Law of Moses, those who would "judge others", 2:1. They, as with the rest of humanity, exist in a state of sin, and, with the rest of humanity, face judgment under the Law.
ii] Background: The Nomist heresy, 1:8-15.
iii] Structure: The righteous judgment of God:
The unrepentant are condemned, v1-5;
Judgment is according to works, v6-11
As is the case for all humanity, the self-righteous, the law-bound, are controlled by the sinful nature, and therefore face the righteousness of God (his setting all things right) in his impartial judgment of sin, v1-5. When it comes to divine judgment, God is no respecter of persons and will judge people according to their deeds, whether good or evil. v6-11.
Does Paul now focus on the Jews? This passage has traditionally been handled as an exposition of God's great indictment on the sin of the Jews, cf., Cranfield. Having established the sin of the Gentiles, Paul now turns to the Jews and declares that they too are no less guilty. "There is a day of judgment coming - one based on works - and on that day God will have no favourites", Hunter. "Obedience, or disobedience to Law, decide a man's destiny, ... nationality is of no account in God's sight", Black.
New perspective commentators generally say much the same; "the context of Romans 1:18-3:20 is the equality of Jew and Gentile in sin", Dumbrell. Yet, subtle differences emerge because of different underlying assumptions. Reformed commentators handle Romans as a treatise on how an individual is justified in the sight of God, while new perspective commentators argue that the epistle is a treatise on how both Jew and Gentile, in Christ, stand equally as members of the new covenant. Whereas reformed commentators see the law as an instrument of God's condemnation, exposing sin, new perspective commentators see it as a gracious blessing of the covenant, designed to maintain covenant status through direction and atoning sacrifices, although now, superseded in the new covenant by the ministry of the Spirit.
Yet, is this passage all about the Jews? It seems more likely that when Paul speaks about those who "judge others" he is pointing to the morally superior, the righteous, cf., Barrett. It is likely that Paul has in mind those believers who are committed to the Mosaic law (many, of course, would be Jewish believers). It is unlikely that he has in mind Jews in general, or even Pharisees in particular, even though they can rightly be described as morally superior.
The issue of law-obedience was central to the early church. The "judaizers", believers committed to God's law, were demanding that Paul's Gentile converts submit to the Mosaic law to move their Christian life forward and so fully appropriate God's promised blessings. For Paul, such nomism (rather than legalism), undermines the substance of the gospel. It was this issue which was central to the Jerusalem Conference, Acts 15, and which fired Paul's letter to the Galatians.
So, in confronting these nomistic believers, Paul, having established the universality of sin, now reminds his them that the self-righteous are also infected by the stain of sin, 2:1-5, the consequence of which is divine condemnation - "wrath and fury", 2:6-11.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 2:1
Argument #1, Part 3: God's righteous judgment upon sin is complete and impartial, such that even the morally superior, the righteous, stand condemned, v1-11: i] The universality of sin applies to the righteous as well as the unrighteous, v1-5. In the face of universal sin, Paul reminds his pietist brothers and sisters that their perceived moral superiority evidences their own damnation - a point often made by Jesus to the Pharisees.
ei\ "you" - you, It is no longer "they", but 2nd person singular, introducing an imaginary representative of a group with whom Paul will now debate.
dio "therefore" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion. Those who hold that Paul has just been addressing Gentiles and that he now turns his attention to the Jews (eg., Mounce, Moo, ...), have difficulties with this marker of logical result, "for this reason therefore." Barrett suggests a way around by tying it to 1:32a as a parenthesis, but is inclined to the view that "whoever you are" is a Jew, Gentile, moral philosopher.... It seems better to take the view that Paul, who up to this point has been addressing all mankind, now turns his attention to law-bound believers ("Jewish believers", Dumbrell, also Davies, but more likely nomist believers). Paul is well able to draw the conclusion, given that all humanity is in a state of sin, that "therefore" law-bound believers have no ground to judge others. "That means", Barrett.
w\ voc. "-" - o [man]. The interjection + the vocative of address. Note the argumentative style: question / answer. Paul poses / imagines the question, here imagined. The interlocutor roundly condemns the evil of mankind and Paul responds by pointing out that he, the "man", is part of the problem. "So then, my friend", Barclay.
anapologhtoV adj. "[you .. have] no excuse" - [you are] without excuse. The word has a legal sense.
oJ krinwn (krinw) pres. part. "you who pass judgment on" - [all = everyone] the one judging. The adjective paV, "all", serves as a substantive standing in apposition to the vocative "man" and limited by the adjectival participle "judging", "everyone who judges"; "O man, every one of you who judges", ESV. The present tense probably expresses ongoing judging, although the tense of a participle doesn't always express aspect.
gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal explaining why "everyone who judges has not excuse" before God.
en w|/ "at whatever point [you judge]" - in what [you judge the other, yourself you condemn]. This construction is debated. It is possibly temporal, "while"; "when you judge others. It may be short for en toutw/ en w| "in that in which", Denny, or en toutw/, "in this act of judging", Harvey. Turner argues for a causal sense. "For, in judging someone else you judge yourself", Barrett.
gar "for" - for [the same things you practice, the one judging]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why judging others is reciprocal; "since you, the judge, commit the same sins", Phillips.
God will judge people according to what they have done and therefore none have excuse before him. 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", v2-3.
de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, as NIV.
oJti "that" - [we know] that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception, expressing the content of what "we know."
tou qeou (oV) "God's [judgment]" - [the judgment] of god [is according to truth]. The genitive is usually classified as verbal, subjective, God is the one who enacts the judging, but it could also be classified as ablative, source / origin, adjectival, possessive. The preposition kata, "according to", in "is in accordance with truth", NRSV, expresses a standard. Possibly "impartial", Phillips; "rightly falls on", Barclay, RSV
epi + acc. "against" - upon. Spatial, "upon", or "to, up to" = "against".
toiV ... prassontaV (prassw) pres. part. "those who do" - the ones practicing [such things]. The participle serves as a substantive. "People who do the kind of things I have just been talking about", Barclay.
de "so when" - but/and. Here probably copulative; "having the force of concluding something", Betz.
oJ krinwn (krinw) pres. part. "you, [a mere man], pass judgment on" - [do you reckon this, o man,] the one passing judgment on. The participle, along with poiwn, "doing", serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "O man"; "Do you imagine, O man, you who judge those who practice such vices and do the same yourself", Moffatt.
ta ... prassontaV (prassw) pres. part. "them" - the ones accomplishing, practicing [such things]. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative direct object of the participle "judging".
kai "and yet" - Here adversative / contrastive; judges and yet does.
oJ ... poiwn (poiew) pres. part. "do [the same things]" - doing [them]. The participle serves as a substantive; see oJ krinwn above. The nomist / pietist believers Paul addresses are into speck removal, a methodology used by the righteous to hide their own sin (eg. the rather lateral saying "A person who has done you wrong will never forgive you"). Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, exposes the lie when he "fulfils / completes" the law. Even the two commands which most pietists feel supports their righteousness, namely, murder and adultery (they rest secure in a 2 out of 10 record), Jesus shows that even these they have broken. "You do them yourself", TNT.
oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what "you imagine, think." "Do you imagine ....... that you will escape God's judgment?"
su "you" - you [will escape the judgment of god]. Emphatic by use and position. "Judgment of God" as in v2.
The argument is a little obtuse at this point, but nicely identified by Moo. Having a judgmental attitude and a blind spot with regard our own sins, "shows contempt for God" for it ignores his gracious mercy freely prompted by repentance.
h] "or" - or [do you despise]. This disjunctive is not posing an alternative action to judging, but rather posing a rhetorical question. "You don't think much of God's mercy do you?" "Do you presume on", ESV.
tou ploutou (oV) gen. "the riches" - the riches. Genitive of direct object after the kata prefix verb "to despise." As Harvey notes, the genitive can also be viewed as adjectival, idiomatic / content, "full of ..."
thV crhstothtoV (hV htoV) gen. "of [his] kindness" - of the kindness [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "riches", "his kindly riches", but possibly attributed, "his rich benevolence." "God's gracious attitude and acts toward sinners", Weiss.
thV anochV (h) gen. "tolerance" - [and] the forbearance [and the long-suffering do you scorn]. As with thV makroqumiaV, "endurance, patience", this genitive stands with "riches" as a genitive of direct object of the verb katafronew, "despise, show contempt." "The forbearance which suspends punishment", Denny.
agnown (agnoew) pres. part. "not realising" - being ignorant. The participle is adverbial, possibly modal, expressing manner, or instrumental, expressing means, "by ignoring God's kindness", or temporal, "when you are unmindful of the fact that ....", or even causal, "because of ..."
oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they are not mindful of.
tou qeou (oV) "God's [kindness]" - [the kindness] of god. Often classified as a subjective genitive, but better just adjectival, possessive.
agei (agw) pres. "leads [you] toward" - drives, leads, brings [you]. Note how the NIV takes the edge off the simple "leads", as if taken to this point by the divine will. The present tense is possibly conative, expressing attempted action, so "tending to lead", "seeking to lead", Moo; "he wants you to repent", CEV.
eiV + acc. "to" - to [repentance]? Spatial, of movement toward / direction, or arrival at.
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. Possibly a new paragraph, NIV, CEV, Morris, ... but Moo, Davies .... makes the break at v6 which seems more appropriate. Paul's point is that the end of the pietist-road is judgment.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument to a contrasting point - God's kindness as opposed to the human response and its consequence.
kata + acc. "because of" - according to = because of. Usually expressing a standard, "according to / in accordance with", but sometimes leaning toward a causal sense, reason / basis; "because of, as a result of, on the basis of", BAGD. "Because of your hard and impenitent heart", ESV.
thn sklhrothta (hV htoV) "[your] stubbornness" - the hardness [of you and unrepentant heart]. Often used of Israel, of "spiritual obduracy and rebellion", Moo.
seautw/ dat. pro. "against yourself" - [you store up] for yourselves. Dative of interest, disadvantage, so Moo.
en + dat. "for [the day]" - [wrath] in / on [a day]. Temporal use of the preposition, "on a day"; "you are storing up against yourself wrath, which will fall on the day of wrath", Moo.
orghV (h) gen. "of [God's] wrath" - of wrath, anger. This genitive, as with "of revelation", is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / temporal, limiting the noun "day", so "the day when wrath / divine punishment and revelation of ...... takes place." Harvey classifies them simply as attributive.
kai "-" - and. Here most likely epexegetic such that the phrase "of revelation of righteous judgment of God" explains "the day of wrath."
dikaiokrisiaV (a) gen. "when [his] righteous judgment" - [revelation] of righteous judgment [of god]. The genitive is adjectival, possibly verbal objective when translated as "of a just verdict", but again it may be idiomatic / temporal, "when ...." None-the-less, it is likely that both "revelation" and "righteous judgment" stand in apposition, both serving to explain "wrath", such that "the day of wrath" = "the day of revelation" = "the day of God's righteous judgment." All refer to the last judgment, not chastisement in the present. "You are storing up for yourselves wrath which will break forth in (on) the day of wrath, the day when God's just judgment is revealed", Barrett. As for the genitive tou qeou, "of God", it is usually classified as adjectival, verbal, subjective; the judgment being enacted by God.
ii] God's condemnation of sin is impartial, v6-11. Paul examines the "righteous judgment of God" and makes the point that it will be fair and impartial, such that, irrespective of persons, the good will gain life, and the evil will suffer wrath. Paul establishes the impartial nature of God's righteous judgment with a quote, v6 (numerous sources are suggested, eg., Ps.62:12), followed by exposition, v7-11.
This passage seems to imply that salvation by works, apart from Christ, is possible. Numerous theories are proposed, for example, that "doing good", v7, is the natural product of faith in Christ, or that the good deed is itself faith. See Cranfield for all the proposed theories. Yet, Paul is not arguing that salvation is possible apart from the work of Christ, rather, he is proposing the impartial judgment of God - God is no respecter of persons. Covenant obedience can indeed facilitate the promised covenant blessings, but the requirements of the Sinai covenant expose the impossibility of law-obedience, and so reinforce the Abrahamic covenant which revealed a covenant compliance that rested on faith, rather than works. So, the attendant law of the Sinai covenant functions to remind Israel that the promised Abrahamic blessings are appropriated on the basis of promise / grace through faith, not works of the law, for the doing of the law is beyond sinful humanity.
apodwsei (apodidwmi) fut. "will give / will repay" - [who] will repay, give back, recompense. As of a recompense, a repayment of a debt, a due payment made.
eJkastw/ dat. adj. "to each person" - to each man. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object / interest, disadvantage.
kata + acc. "according to" - according to. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with their works."
ta erga (on) "what [he] had done" - the works. Used of human conduct, often covering both good and bad behaviour, although the word is not just limited to ethical conduct. Covenant obedience is probably intended here, cf., Jewett. It is most likely that the person referred to here is a believer, so Black, Cranfield, Moo, ... and that the possibility of seeking "glory and honour and immortality" via works is but a theoretical possibility, so Murray, ...
autou gen. pro. "he" - of him. Usually taken a verbal genitive, subjective, as NIV.
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, v7-8.
men ..... de ".......... but " - on the one hand ..... (v8) but on the other. An adversative comparative construction covering v7 and 8.
toiV .... zhtousin (zhtew) pres. part. dat. "to those who ........ seek" - to the ones [according to = by means of endurance of good work] seeking [glory and honour and incorruptibility, he will bestow life eternal]. The participle serves as a substantive, standing in apposition to ekastw, "to each person", v7; "God will recompense to each person ......(v7) to those who seek ..... he will give eternal life (v8)." "To those who by perseverance in well-doing, strive to obtain glory, honour, and immortality, he will award eternal life", Cassirer.
kaq (kata) + acc. "by" - according to. Possibly expressing a standard; "in accordance with", but as above, this preposition may take the unusual causal sense here, so Moo; "because of, as a result of, on the basis of", BAGD.
ergou (on) gen. "in doing [good]" - of [good] work. The genitive is usually taken as adjectival, verbal, objective, as NIV; "perseverance that produces a good work", Harvey. "Perseverance in doing what is right", BAGD.
As noted above, "doing / working good" may refer to the good deed of "faith", so Cranfield, cf. 1:5. There is also much to commend the view that the work in mind is a work that God regards as good, namely, a work which entails reliance on the faithfulness of Christ. None-the-less, it seems likely that the work is an ethical "good", roughly interchangeable in meaning with "deeds / works", v6, so Jewett. This ethical good work (covenant compliance) is driven by three motivations, "glory and honour and incorruptibility". These three accusative nouns "define aspiration in terms of the highest reaches of the Christian hope", Murray. The consequent end of covenant compliance is "life", qualitatively "eternal life", the fullness of God's promised blessings. Yet, Paul's overall point is that the universality of sin condemns even the man of good deeds, and thus even he must face the impartial judgment of God.
As noted above, there are other proposed meanings: Barrett suggests the translation "those who with patient endurance look beyond their own well-doing" (an example of turning a passage on its head!!); Bruce suggests that Paul is trying to underline God's impartial dealings with Jew and Gentile; New Perspective commentators argue that, prior to the inauguration of the new covenant in Christ, it was possible to maintain covenant status through a law-obedience that "operates within a context of grace", Dumbrell. We are best to take Paul's words at face value, ie., he is positing a theoretical possibility which, due to the universal corruption of the human race, is achieved by only one man, Jesus Christ.
"But on the other hand, those who, from a flawed nature (sin), reject the truth and do evil, [will face God's] burning anger." Of course, all of Paul's readers are bound to recognise that it is this verse which best describes their standing in the "doing good" stakes.
de "but" - but/and. See men v7; "but on the other hand."
toiV dat. art. "for those who" - to the ones. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the prepositional phrase ex eriqeiaV, "out of selfishness", and the participles apeiqousi, "disobeying [the truth]", and peiqomenoiV, "being obedient to [unrighteousness]", into substantives, standing in apposition to the dative ekastw/, "to each person", v6, dative in agreement. "He will render to each person ....... (v6) to those who are selfish and to those who do not obey the truth, and to those who serve unrighteousness, wrath and fury."
ex + gen. "are self-seeking" - out of [a hostile, resentful nature / selfish nature. This preposition, expressing source / origin, serves to introduce a nominal prepositional phrase; "those who are rooted in selfishness", Morris.
apeiqousi (apeiqew) dat. pres. part. "who reject [the truth]" - [and] disbelieving, disobeying [the truth]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative as above. The righteous, Godly men and women, yes, even believers, even though they understand something of the revealed will of God, still flout it.
peiqomenoiV (peiqw) dat. pres. mid. part. "follow" - [but/and] being obedient to, believing in. The participle serves as a substantive, dative as above; "those who serve unrighteousness."
th/ adikia/ (a) dat. "evil" - unrighteousness. Dative of direct object after the the verbal aspect of the participle "being obedient to." "Who rejects the truth and wants to do evil", CEV.
orgh kai qumoV "wrath and anger" - wrath and fury. Possibly a hendiadys, "burning anger." The main verb in v6, "will recompense / give" still applies, so we would expect "wrath and anger" to be accusative, rather than nominative. "There will be the retribution of his anger."
Commentators make much of the Jew / Gentile dichotomy here, although note that Paul uses the word "Greek", not "Gentile." In this verse Paul is arguing that God is impartial in judgment, although with the proviso that judgment begins with the household of God. Israel's privileged status always applies, in the giving of the gospel and in the application of divine judgment. The same principle applies for the church - judgment always begins with the household of God. So, it cannot be deduced from this verse that those "having the law", those who "judge others", are unconverted Jews. 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, God's special people, and then to the rest of humanity, v9-11.
qliyiV (iV ewV) [There will be] trouble" - [there will be] tribulation [and distress]. The verb to-be is assumed. Again, the main verb from v6, "God will recompense / give", is probably in mind, although a verb to-be is proper syntax. Given the context, "tribulation and distress", the nominative subject of the assumed verb to-be, refer to the day of tribulation, the last day, although the word is often used of troubles in the present. These "troubles" are to be viewed in an objective sense, so Moo. "There will be extreme affliction", Morris.
epi + acc. "for" - upon, on. Spatial, of movement "down upon."
anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[every] human being" - [every soul] of man. Used here in a generic sense; "every single person", Jewett. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "the soul possessed of man" = "human person." The adjective pasan, "every", indicates again God's impartiality ("universality", Morris) - all humanity must stand before the living God.
tou katergazomenou gen. pres. part. "who does [evil]" - the one working [the evil]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "of man", genitive in agreement; "Any man who does evil will have trouble and hardship for his reward", TNT.
te .... kai "[first for the Jew] then" - both ..... and. A coordinate construction in a close relationship; "both to Jews first and then Gentiles."
Ioudaiou te prwton gen. "first for the Jew" - of [both] jew first [and of greek]. The nominal phrase "the Jew first and also the Greek", ESV, stands in apposition to "the one working evil", genitive in agreement. Throughout the scriptures the principle remains true, that the more we have, the more is expected of us.
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 syntax repeats much of v7 and 9.
de "but" - but/and [glory and honour and peace]. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point.
tw/ ergazomenw/ (ergazomai) dat. pres. mid. part. "for [everyone] who does [good]" - to [everyone] working [the good, both to jew first and to greek]. Taking the adjective panti, "every", as a substantive, "everyone", the participle is adjectival, limiting "everyone", dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; "there will be glory, honour and peace to / for everyone who does good." For the phrase "working good", see v7.
gar "for" - for [is not respect of persons]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why it is both wrath and blessing to Jew and Greek, "because ......" "God has no preferences, favouring one person or another", Junkins.
para + dat. "[God]" - with [god]. Spatial, "beside" = "with"; when Jews and Greeks / people of whatever culture and religion, are lined up beside God, it is quickly discovered that he shows no favouritism, for he is an impartial God.