Romans chapter 2

Show Notes for Romans 2:1-26

Study Notes

2.1  Romans 2:1-16 (page 4)
2.2  Romans 2:17-26 (page 12)


2.1 God’s Judgment of Sin (2:1-16)


2:1  Equally Sinful
2:1, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” NIV

Definition: “pass judgment”
Jesus and Paul both urge us to discern when someone’s teaching or behaviour is ungodly.  We may even rebuke a sinner gently, if necessary, with a loving eye to repentance, but all feelings of scorn, superiority, condescension, or self-righteousness are to be confessed as sin before we confront the person.

I.  We are all equally bad
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment” NIV

II.  A judging attitude reveals a sinful and hardened heart
“In whatever you judge one another you condemn yourself” NKJV

III.  We must not overlook our own sins and mistakenly think we’re better and can make others better
“You, the judge, are doing the very same things” NRSV


2:2  Perfect Judgment
2:2, “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.” NIV

I.  God’s judgment is perfect, but ours is partial, incomplete, and based on prejudices


2:3  We Will be Judged
2:3, “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?” NIV

I.  Our judgments are judged by the highest court

II.  Recognizing the signs of sin in others leaves us with no excuse for not seeing the sin in ourselves
“Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” NIV


2:4  A Judge’s Status
2:4, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” NIV

I.  We give up our benefits of God’s grace, tolerance and patience by judging others

II.  There is no special status (as a Jew or a Christian) which overcomes the need of repentance


2:5  God’s Unavoidable Judgment
2:5, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” NIV

I.  It is difficult for self-righteous people to repent
“Hard and impenitent heart” NRSV

II.  All sin will be judged, including the sin of the “faithful Christians”
“Storing up wrath for yourself” NRSV

III.  Live with Jesus’ return & our final judgment in mind
“The day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” NIV


2:6  Content of Judgment
2:6, “God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”” NIV

I.  We will be judged according to what we did with the truth available to us

II.  We will be judged according to what we have actually done


2:7  Working Toward Closeness
2:7, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” NIV

I.  Good works do not lead to salvation – they are generated by real faith
“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality” NIV

II.  We will get what we want: closeness or separation from God
“He will give eternal life” NRSV


2:8  The Danger of Self-Claimed Goodness
2:8, “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” NIV

I.  Self-seeking people have misplaced their confidence for salvation
“For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil” NIV

II.  Self-seeking people will get what they believe others deserve
“Wrath and fury” NRSV


2:9  Rejection of Self Proclaimed Spirituality
2:9, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” NIV

I.  “I” [every individual] must recognize that “I” am a sinner in need of the gospel no matter how spiritual “I” think I am, because if “I” fail to respond to “my” own sin the way God wants me to “I” will be judged
“Anguish and distress for everyone who does evil” NRSV

II.  God rejects self-proclaimed spirituality from everyone
“First for the Jews, then for the Gentile” NIV


2:10  God Rewards
2:10, “but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” NIV

I.  There are benefits to a right relationship with God

II.  God has no “gray area” of right and wrong


2:11  Exclusive Acceptance
2:11, “For God does not show favoritism.”

I.  Religious lineage is not accepted

II.  Good works without Christ not accepted

III. Salvation and reward comes exclusively from personal faith in Jesus


2:12  Standards of Judgment
2:12, “ All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” NIV

Definition:  “Law”
The Law of Moses.  Most Jews were proud of knowing God’s Word and despised Gentiles who did now know it.  Many Jews believed that God would give them eternal life just because they were born into Jewish families or because they knew God’s Word.

It was extremely hard for Jews and Gentiles to overcome their prejudices enough to live and worship together as Christians.

I.  People are judged because of sin
“All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law” NRSV

II.  Because the Jews were familiar with the law, they would be judged according to it
“All who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” NRSV

III.  We are judged on what we do with the truth we know



2:13  Response to God’s Standard
2:13, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” NIV

Definition: “declared righteous”
“Justified” in RSV, KJV, and NASB.  On the Judgment Day, God will pronounce obedient people legally “not guilty” of the charges against them and “in the right” before Him.  Righteousness or justification (the same word in Greek) is essentially a legal concept.

I.  Knowing the law but not obeying it is not enough
“it is not those who hear the law who are righteous” NIV

II.  God requires obedience
“it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” NIV


2:14  Capacity for Good
2:14, “(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,” NIV

Definition: “When Gentiles, who do not have the law…” (2:14-16)
Paul is giving an example of people who do what the Law says, even though they have not been brought up with it as Jews.  At least two interpretations have been offered for these verses.

1.  Gentile pagans sometimes do what God’s Law requires in obedience to an innate or learned moral law inside them.  On Judgment Day, their consciences will witness to both the good and the bad they have done according to the law they know.  Of course, even the best people will turn out to fall short of the law within them, but they will be judged by that standard.

2.  Gentile Christian converts now have God’s Law on their hearts, although they do not have the Law by upbringing.  On Judgment Day, their consciences will witness that although they have fallen short in every area, their deeds have begun to show the fruit of their faith in Christ.  God will justify them because of their faith in Jesus, demonstrated by deeds done by His strength for His glory.

I.  People have a law of conscience

II.  Unfortunately, no one is capable of perfect goodness


2:15  The Law of Conscience
2:15, “since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)” NIV

I.  Our moral sensitivity matches what God’s law requires
“The requirements of the law are written on their hearts” NIV

II.  Our moral sensitivity makes us aware of the wrong we do
“Their conscience also bearing witness” NKJV

III.  Our moral sensitivity functions as the law
“Their thought now accusing, now even defending them” NIV


2:16  Judgment Through Christ
2:16, “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

I.  God’s judgment will be based on His perfect knowledge [no explanation needed]
“The day… when God… will judge the secret thoughts of all” NRSV

II.  God’s judgment will be conducted through Christ’s mediation [where righteousness will be declared instead of judged]
“Through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares”



We are all equally sinful, whether we consider ourselves Christians or not.  God’s judgment is perfect – ours is not.  When we judge the sins of others, our judgments are immediately appealed to the highest court and judged.  Unfortunately, our judgment indicates that we recognize the signs of sin because we are sinners.  When we choose to judge we lose the benefit that comes with repentance.  Instead of judging we need to be reflective of our own sin and repent.

A judgmental attitude is difficult to deal with because it typically indicates self-righteousness.  If we think we are more good then others we see around us we will be surprised when we receive the judgment we feel they deserve.  God rejects self-declared spirituality.  Salvation comes exclusively through Jesus, and not through merit, heritage, lineage, length of time attending a church, etc.  Because judgment is unavoidable we should be living with Jesus’ return in mind rather then being preoccupied with the sin we see in others.

People will be judged because of sin, failing to live up to God’s standards.  Whether we are a Jew who has been given God’s written law, or a Gentile who has been given the law of conscience, God will judge us on what we have done with the truth He as given us.  Unfortunately, no one is capable of being good all the time.  Thankfully, God’s judgment is conducted through Christ’s mediation, so that all of us who have faith in Jesus will be spared God’s wrath and punishment.


2.2 God’s Law is Broken (2:17-29)


2:17  Claiming Knowledge of God
2:17, “Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God;”

I.  Knowledge is dead without action
“If you call yourself a Jew” NRSV

II.  Lifestyle needs to reflect knowledge
“Boast of your relation to God” NRSV


2:18  Using Biblical Instruction
2:18, “if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law;”

I.  God’s Word is the tool [that should be used] to determine the best course of action
“Know his will and determine what is best” NRSV


2:19  Conflicting Lifestyle
2:19, “if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark,”

I.  We are in danger when our lifestyle does not reflect our claim of knowing God
“Are confident” NKJV


2:20  The Teacher’s True Test
2:20, “an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth”

Practicing what is taught is the true test [and requirement] of a teacher
“An instructor… a teacher” NKJV


2:21  Personal Application
2:21, “you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?”

I.  We need to examine ourselves frequently and never pride ourselves in our spiritual background

II.  We need to apply God’s Word to ourselves first


2:22  Hypocrites
2:22, “You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? NIV

Definition: “rob temples”
Quantities of wealth were often kept in pagan temples.  The town clerk of Ephesus defended Paul by pointing out that this Jew had not robbed any temples, so some people have inferred that Jews actually did this.  God’s Law commanded Israel to destroy pagan temples in Canaan, and zealous Jews sometimes acted on this statute.  They often broke the Law by confiscating the temples’ treasures.

I.  Paul continues to criticize hypocrites
“You who say that people should not… do you?” NIV

II.  Paul is perhaps criticizing the secret sins of hypocrites
“Do you rob temples”


2:23  Arrogance
2:23, “You who brag about the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law?”

I.  Basing a claim to God on anything else but the gospel leads to a very dangerous spiritual path

II.  Each of us should submit ourselves to the spotlight of God’s correction regularly


2:24  Negative Witness
2:24, “As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

I.  God’s people who live in [public] disobedience give unbelievers a negative impression of God [and the gospel]


2:25  Signs & Symbols
2:25, “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.”

Definition: “circumcision”
A ritual cutting away of the foreskin, which signified that a man was a Jew.  It was supposed to demonstrate that a man had committed himself to obey the Lord; it invited God to cut off the man and his heirs if he rebelled against God.  However, many Jews came to think that the mere rite guaranteed their membership among God’s people.  Moses and the prophets warned Israel that the ritual was meaningless unless it accompanied “circumcision of the heart.”

I.  Circumcision is a sign of identity and obedience, but it did not replace faith

II.  Obedience is more then simply fitting into the spiritual environment

III.  Symbols without reality are empty
“If you break the law, you have become just as though you had not been circumcised” NIV


2:26  The Real Objective
2:26, “If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?” NIV

Definition: “those who are not circumcised” (2:26-27)
Paul has in mind either: 1.  Gentile pagans who do what the Law requires.  2. Gentile Christians who obey God but are not circumcised.

I.  God want’s obedience, not symbols


2:27  Absolute Obedience
2:27, “The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.” NIV

I.  The law was meant to be obeyed, not enforced

II.  Obedience is a matter of absolutes – we have either obeyed or we have not


2:28  Appearances
2:28, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.”

I.  Our appearance is not what pleases God


2:29  Seeking to Please God
2:29, “No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”

I.  God wants people who want to please Him
“A person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart – it is spiritual and not literal” NRSV

II.  A person seeking to please God receives praise from God
“Such a person receives praise not from others but from God” NRSV



It is pointless to claim to know God without actually following biblical instruction.  Our lifestyle must not conflict with who we claim to be.  Our true test of character is to live what we learn, and especially what we teach.  Personal application far outweighs any need of teaching others a static knowledge of what is true.  We need to be living as a true believer.  And, the need of this is so great that our failure effects more then ourselves.  The unfortunate outcome of a lifestyle that does not please God is a negative view of the gospel for the unbeliever.  If we claim connection to God for any reason other then an ongoing and growing faith in Jesus, we’re fooling ourselves with appearance.  God has never wanted signs and symbols and great outward appearances, He wants people who want to please Him.  And, since absolute obedience is impossible, he wants people who by faith in Christ live obedient lives.