God’s Righteous Judgment
2 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. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.3 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? 4 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? 5 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.
6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
God’s Judgment and the Law
12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[b] as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically[c] uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code[d] and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
God’s Righteous Judgment (vs 1-11)
Paul has just finished building his case against humanity, and now he turns from the natural man to the Jewish man, still considering their natural condition, and asking, are the Jews better off? He begins by obliterating the “Religiousism” and nationalism that was embraced by the Jewish people against all non-Jewish people. Paul does this by appealing to their understanding of God’s nature, by saying, who are you, one who commits the same sins, to judge another man for committing those sins. (John 8:7); (Mt. 7:3)
Paul explains that God’s kindness, long-suffering nature, and gentleness are meant to lead us to repentance, and that by being hypocritical, we are presuming on these attributes. Our presumption, while not dealt with immediately in our time-space, is storing up wrath for the day of judgement.
On the other hand, God will reward each, with no respect to nation, or lineage, according to their deeds; as described in verses 6-11. It is important to remember here that it is not our deeds which save us (Eph. 2:4-6), as Paul explains later on in this book, and also in Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, and just about everything he wrote! We are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ Jesus; however, Paul is still dealing with the natural man, not yet with the Christ follower in these passages.
God’s Judgment and the Law (vs 12-29)
Paul begins his dealing with the law as it was handed by God to the Israelites. The Jewish people would often claim special status in God’s sight because they were of the lineage of Abraham (John 8:39-59), which Paul dealt with in 1 -11, and because they had been given the law. Now Paul turns his steely gaze to this claim.
He sets out that all who sin without having been given the law, have been condemned apart from it, and all who sinned with the law have been condemned by the law. He’s pointing out that not having the law does not absolve the gentile any more than having the law absolves the Jew. Condemnation is the result for sinners regardless of whether or not they had the law.
Hearing the law does nothing for the hearer unless they actually perform the law, and Paul states that if one who has not heard the law keeps the law, then that person is a law unto themselves. In other words, it was not the ten commandments physically handed to Moses that were the law, but rather the actions that were acceptable to God were the law. It shows that the law of God has been written upon their hearts, their conscience is clean, and their thoughts, or motivations, will accuse or excuse them in the day of judgement.
Paul now turns from the Gentile who keeps the law, to the Jew who claims the law. He first gives descriptors for the person he’s talking to, the one who claims the law in all its fullness (17-20). This person leans on the law, proclaims the law, claims to be a light in the darkness, a teacher of children, an instructor of fools, and then Paul pulls the rug out from underneath them! (21-23). The consequence of their hypocrisy is that the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them! (Mt. 15)
Now Paul turns to the last sacred cow in the room, circumcision. He posits that circumcision is only of value if you keep the law. What exactly was circumcision? Well, in Genesis 17 God tells Abraham to circumcise himself and all his men as a sign of the covenant that was made between God and Abraham. The Jewish people circumcise to this day as a sign of the covenant they claim through Abraham. So, Paul tells them that if they do not keep the law, their circumcision is of no value, and if one who is not a Jew keeps the law, it is as if he is circumcised. For true circumcision is a circumcision of the heart by the spirit of God, not by the ‘letter’ as Paul states. God is one who praises the truly circumcised of heart.
Luke 8:15 “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
John 5:39 “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,”
John 5:45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.”
John 9:28 “Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!”
John 9:40 “Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Matthew 23:3 “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
John 8:39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did.”
John 5:44 “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
John 12:43 “for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”
How would you describe your heart’s condition before God? Is it circumcised by the spirit, or are you relying on tradition, rituals, or lineage for salvation? Paul states that God is the one who praises the circumcised of heart, does God praise you? How do you live your life? What does that indicate about your relationship with Christ?
What doctrines of the church are taught here:
Sola Fide – Salvation through faith alone. Paul defines this concept in Chapter 3, which we will be studying more fully next week.
Destruction of Antinomianism (Carnal Christianity) – Paul lays waste to the idea that one may be saved without an outward expression of that salvation by appealing to the common-sense of his readers, that if one appeals to the Law for salvation, but one breaks the Law, then the Law is of no use to you. This mirrors James’ exposition on faith without works in James 2:14-26, if one appeals to faith in Christ for salvation, but one does not have any inclination to follow Jesus as evidenced by your actions (works, deeds), then your faith is worthless and dead.