Study Notes on Romans 2
Here are my study notes from Romans chapter 2 with a video that goes over the notes. Enjoy!
Now Paul is gradually turning a corner from focusing mostly on Gentiles and their sins to the Jews which becomes clear later in the chapter.
William Burkitt says, “Lest the Jews should swell and be puffed up with pride, by hearing what the apostle said in the former chapter, of the detestable wickedness of the Gentiles, and the heavy displeasure of God against them for the same; St. Paul in this chapter pronounces the Jews to be guilty of the same sins of which he had accused the Gentiles, affirming, that the Jews had offended as much against the law of Moses, as the Gentiles had offended against the law of nature; and consequently, their censuring and judging others, when they did the same things themselves, would render them totally inexcusable at God's tribunal.” That’s a great summary.
1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
When I read this I immediately think of Matthew 7 and what Jesus said there. If there’s ONE VERSE that atheists “know” it’s “Judge not” and of course they don’t consider the context at all because they’ve never actually read that chapter or any of the Bible. They use “judge not” to excuse any kind of sin, even though we just got done reading in Romans 1 a list of awful sins that God hates and that all Christians should hate.
The meaning here is the same as in Matthew 7: Don’t be a hypocrite; don’t judge hypocritically. That’s exactly what Matthew 7:5 says, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” That’s the same idea we see here in Romans 2.
2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
God will judge the wicked. Of this we can be certain.
3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
So this is a big reason God tells us on why He delays judgment. It’s to show mercy and give people more time to repent. Eventually that time will run out though. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God is very patient.
5 but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 who will render to every man according to his deeds:
Of course, all people can be hardhearted. But the hardheartedness of the Jews is specifically mentioned many times in Scripture. One example of this is Ezekiel 3:4-7 "And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted." Impudent is defined as contemptuous or cocky boldness or disregard of others.
Back to Romans 2. It talks about storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath in the day when God reveals His judgment. Jesus tells us to store up treasures in Heaven, but the opposite is storing up wrath. There is no neutrality with God. Adam Clarke says, “The punishment shall be proportioned to the mercy thou hast abused.”
7 to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
Paul is speaking generally here says Henry Alford, and pointing out that fact that “every where, and in all, God punishes evil, and rewards good” as a rule.
God will judge the wicked. Revelation 20:12-15 talks about those that will be judged according to their works (and this is AFTER the millennial kingdom talking specifically about unbelievers).
Christians experience salvation in a moment when we call upon Jesus Christ, but we will receive rewards for the good works we do after salvation. 1 Corinthians 3 talks about this as well as many other places in the bible.
But don’t take this verse in Romans to think that Paul’s talking about a works-based salvation. That is obviously not the case because in the very next chapter we read (as well as many other places in the Bible), “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
Guess who seeks for “glory, and honor, and immortality”? Only believers.
8 but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
Again, no neutrality with God. Reward to those that love God, punishment to them that reject Him.
9 tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 for there is no respect of persons with God.
Pretty clear right? Let’s not be content with our salvation but let’s get involved in working for Him, sharing the gospel, volunteering at church.
Why “the Jew first”? William Burkitt says, “The Jew first, that is principally and especially; because the light and mercy which the Jews abused and sinned against, was far greater than that bestowed upon the Gentiles.”
But God will judge ALL according to the terms of faith that He has set. You are not born closer to God or farther away from God because of your heritage.
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Again, this isn’t teaching a works salvation, but the Jews thought they were special simply because they had received the law, their father was Abraham, and they really boasted in this. But nobody is saved by simply hearing the law, you’d have to actually follow it and obey it (which nobody ever did but Jesus). Just like with the gospel: You aren’t saved by being aware of it, you’re saved by receiving and accepting it.
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Verse 15 is really cool here and a great apologetic. The law of right and wrong, good and evil, justice, mercy, is written on our hearts. Without God the words “right” and “wrong” wouldn’t even exist, they wouldn’t make sense unless there was a higher moral standard. An atheist can do kind things but they have no reason to, but when they do they show the work of the law written in their hearts.
Just for clarity, the Berean Study Bible translates verse 15 like this: “So they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts either accusing or defending them.”
17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
Just like what I was saying before, right? The Jews HAD the law and were quite proud of that. But HAVING the law, and DOING it, are very different things.
Remember the law was given by Moses but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ
18 and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
The Jews have this conceit that they know the things of God and they can teach this knowledge. However…
21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
Paul is bringing the beginning of this chapter in full circle to talk about the hypocrisy he’s condemning. You tell others not to commit these sins but you do them yourselves!
24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
When I read this I think of Matthew 23:15 that reads, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” And really, a lot of Matthew 23 could be read alongside Romans 2. In Matthew 23 Jesus calls them “blind guides” which, looking back up to verse 19 here in Romans 2, the Jews considered themselves guides to the blind, yet they were blind themselves.
Also look at Ezekiel 36:22-23 which may be the Scripture Paul is referring to here in Romans 2:24.
25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
The Jews placed HUGE emphasis on circumcision. It’s mentioned in the book of Acts, Galatians, here, and other places that this was a big deal to them. I suppose it still is. Circumcision was kinda like baptism is for us: an outward sign of inner transformation.
IF someone were to keep the whole law, which nobody can, THEN circumcision would count for something. But like it says twice in Galatians, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision.”
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
The meaning of “Jew” in these verses doesn’t mean that a Christian becomes a Jew somehow, but that a person circumcised in the heart is someone belonging to the true Church of God.
This isn’t just a New Testament concept but was mentioned in the Old Testament as well. For one quick example, Jeremiah 4:4 says, “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”
We could apply these verses to baptism. It’s not the outward motion that saves us, but it’s the inward transformation of our hearts, by putting our faith in Christ Jesus.