Whew! After two-thirds of a semester spent on the first chapter of Romans, we have reached chapter two. Last week’s post was a heavy one, but it really allowed my mind to ruminate on the verses I studied this week. The tone is much the same, as is the message. We are all sinners. It is humbling to be reminded by God through His word that I exist only through him, humbling and incredible. So I hope as we dive into a few more difficult passages that you will be able to see the beauty in the bleakness. Let us carry on!
As always, we must begin with the hermeneutics. The author of Romans is Paul, the audience is the Jews and Greeks of the Roman church, and the purpose is Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith.” In addition to this reminder, I would also like to say again we need to keep in our minds that the word of God was written for us, not to us.
Now for chapter two. “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things” (Rom 2:1-2). Whenever a passage begins with the word “therefore” it is important to look back to what it is referring to. As we know from the previous section, this “therefore” refers to Paul’s commentary on God giving up those He chose not to save. God giving them up displayed His wrath, and here we get into His judgment. Like I’ve mentioned time and time again, we are all sinners; no one has the right to judge another, because one is just as dead in their trespasses against God as everyone else in this world. The second half of verse one can be used as a direct application. So you have sinned? Okay. You should not judge others because in doing so you are not revealing their sins, but the spite in your own heart. As Paul states, anyone who does judge others should fear the ultimate judgment— God’s wrath.
“Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself— that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:3-5). Here Paul’s tone takes on a very edgy, mocking feel, but for very good reason. These people who Paul is speaking to have judged others out of pride, and Paul is trying to take them down a notch so that they can see their misdoings. It is like this; the only person who has the power to judge is God. When we attempt to judge others out of our own pettiness, we are putting ourselves above God. How sinful is that? Paul is darn right in saying that unless He has opened our heart and allowed us to accept Jesus, on judgment day His wrath will flame. I would also like to point out here that it is important to note the attributes of God. In my color-coding, “kindness” and “forbearance” and “patience” are all boxed in brown pen to signify that they are specifically describing God. Here’s some of that beauty I mentioned before. Although Paul mentions these attributes while blasting those at the Roman church, it does not make God any less kind, any less tolerant, and any less patient. He is good, even in anger.
“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality” (Rom 2:6-11). This passage is easy to take out of context. On its own, people can misconstrue it to try to show that works can save you. This is utterly false. The only thing that has the power to save the human heart, giving it eternal life in heaven, is believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again. What Paul is saying here is that once a person is saved they should be living their life in accordance with God’s word, emulating Jesus. Doing good works glorifies God, but it is not you who does those good works. On a person’s own, they will not choose to do good because they are a sinner. Only through God’s control a person can do good, and He allows it for His own good. Here Paul lays it out flat; those who are saved will go to heaven, and those who are not will go to hell. It doesn’t matter where you are from or who you are, that is His truth.
I’m going to go ahead and stop here. Eleven verses might not seem like a lot, but there is quite a bit of important information, and it would be wise for us to take the time to chew on it. Again, I realize this is heavy stuff, but just like I said last week we all need to hear it and take it to heart. Remember, there is beauty in the bleakness. God works everything out for His glory. Next week we will tackle part two of chapter two!