The Inevitability of Judgment
“So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v. 3). - Romans 2:1–16
Having pointed out that God’s character is manifested as wrath against the wickedness of humanity, Paul in Romans 1:24–32 explains that God punishes sin by allowing men to commit more sin. They rejected Him and created idols in their own image, committing spiritual adultery, so God gave them over to sexual distortions that matched their spiritual harlotry. Such social aberrations led to every kind of depravity and violence. Men were glad to do such things, for in doing so they sought to block God’s righteousness out of their minds, and they were active in soliciting others to join with them in their depravity.
Yet, people don’t like it when they are on the receiving end of violence and betrayal. They condemn others for doing such things, cloaking themselves in self-righteousness. Paul points out that by passing such judgments, men admit that judgment must be passed. When others hurt us and we condemn them, we admit that there are standards of right and wrong, and that evil actions should be repaid. But now we are caught, says Paul, because we have admitted that there must be a judgment of all human deeds, and this will include our deeds as well. We’d better get right with God or own up to the fact that we also will be judged.
God’s judgment will not be based on mere appearance but on truth (Romans 2:2). God’s judgment will also take into account our knowledge and privilege. The Jew of Paul’s day, having more knowledge and greater access to the truth, will be judged by the stricter standard of the revealed law. The Gentiles will be judged according to their inner knowledge of God, a knowledge all men possess, as we have seen. The same is true today. Americans have great access to the Gospel. Those who reject it will be judged accordingly.
Since all men do evil, all men are under the condemnation of God. Being a Jew and having the law avails nothing if you do not keep it in an attitude of faithfulness. Paul indicts the Jews for their hypocrisy, for they study and glory in the law, but blatantly disobey it (Romans 2:17–24). By doing this, they show that their circumcision means nothing, because circumcision is a sign of covenant with God, yet they are not being loyal to Him (Romans 2:25–29).
Obedience means submission. If we obey the law because it is God’s law, we are showing trust in Him. If we “do what is right,” ignoring the element of submission, we are acting in pride. Such “good deeds” are faithless and sinful. True obedience is a sign of faith, and only those who trust and obey will be saved.
Passages for Further Study
- Ezekiel 18:1–32
- Galatians 6:5–10
- Ephesians 6:6–8
- Hebrews 10:26–30
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