Romans 2:1-16

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 28, 2008


In the previous chapter we had this description of what happens to man when he chooses not to acknowledge God as his Creator.

(Rom 1:28-32 NKJV)  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; {29} being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, {30} backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, {31} undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; {32} who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Now while he’s pointing his finger at these horrible, pagan Gentiles, the person who is reading the letter is nodding his head and saying, “Yes, yes, they are despicable people!”

I think that you could make a case that Paul is speaking here to unbelievers.

:1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

inexcusableanapologetos (“no” + “apology”) – without defense or excuse; that which cannot be defended

judgekrino – to separate, to approve; to be of opinion, think

It’s a word that has to do with thinking, with forming an opinion, with making decisions about people.

condemnkatakrino – to give judgment against. This word is about making an opinion about someone, but the opinion is that they deserve punishment.

Paul is saying that if you are looking at the person doing some of the things in the list in chapter 1, and you are forming your opinions about those sinners, yet you yourself do some of the same things, you are going to have a problem when you meet God.

When we judge other people of things that we’re guilty of ourselves, we are without a defense.  There’s nothing we can say.  When we look down at others, we are slamming the gavel down upon ourselves and judging ourselves as “GUILTY!”


My sins look worse on you

We have to be careful when we make judgments or form opinions about people. Jesus gives an example about a person who is forming a judgment against another person concerning having something in their eye:
(Mat 7:1-5 NKJV)  "Judge not, that you be not judged. {2} "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. {3} "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? {4} "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? {5} "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
When I see a splinter in your eye, it’s probably because I have so much of the same material, an entire log, in my own eye.  I’ve got a lot of experience with the thing you have problems with.
We become sensitive toward others who struggle with the same things we do.  When we’ve been struggling, and we see another person doing it, we get upset.  Yet we’re just as guilty.
Do you find yourself being critical of others?  What are you critical about?
Jesus doesn’t say that we shouldn’t judge at all.  He is saying that we need to be careful when we judge others.
It’s not until you remove the problem from your own life that you become useful to help other people deal with their problems.

:2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.

judgmentkrima – a decree, judgments; based on the word “judge” (krino) in verse 1.

:3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?

thinklogizomai – to reckon, compute, calculate

escapeekpheugo – to flee out of, flee away; you won’t be able to run fast enough to get away from the judgment of God.

This is what Paul meant by “without excuse” in 2:1. They will not be able to “flee” from God’s judgment.


Don’t be quick to judge others

When we set ourselves up as judge and jury over people, and yet we too are guilty, we cannot escape God’s judgment.
Listen to these quotes:
“Yes, the president should resign. He has lied to the American people, time and time again, and betrayed their trust. Since he has admitted guilt, there is no reason to put the American people through an impeachment. He will serve absolutely no purpose in finishing out his term, the only possible solution is for the president to save some dignity and resign.”

From 12th Congressional District Hopeful William Jefferson Clinton (Bill Clinton) During the Nixon investigations, 1972.

In 1974, a young female attorney helped draw up the rules under which Richard M. Nixon would be tried by the Congress for impeachment.

“Impeachment,” she wrote, “does not have to be for criminal offenses, but only for a ‘course of conduct’ that, while not particularly criminal, might be of such a nature that it destroys trust, discourages allegiance, and demands action by the Congress.” She wrote that “The Office of the President is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than expected from the average citizen in the United States.”

The young female attorney?  Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Source: LA Times, Sept. 8, 1998

My point?  It’s not to turn around and be judgmental of the Clintons.
When you’re caught in your sin, do you want instant judgment or mercy?

Don’t be quick to judge.  Be quick to have mercy.

:4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

forbearanceanoche – toleration, forbearance

despisekataphroneo (“against” + “to think”) – disdain, think little or nothing of

longsufferingmakrothumia – patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs; always used to describe patience with people, not circumstances.

repentancemetanoia – a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done

It seems that Paul is saying that we despise God’s goodness and patience when we start judging people for their sins.

And yet it was God’s patience that led us to repentance.

(Rom 2:4 NLT)  Don't you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don't you care? Can't you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin?


Don’t be confused with God’s patience.

We may have a hard time when the wicked seem to do well.  We don’t understand why God doesn’t just smash them.  In truth, He’s giving them a chance to come back to Him.
On Jesus’ last night on earth (John 13), He kept reaching out to Judas, even though He knew Judas would betray Him.  At dinner, Jesus offered Judas a sign of friendship, a piece of bread dipped in the sauce.  Even to the end He was reaching out to Judas.  I think He was giving Judas a chance to repent.
Don’t be confused with God’s kindness.
It’s not that He’s letting people get away with evil, it’s that He’s giving them a chance to repent.

(2 Pet 3:9 NLT)  The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.

An Atheist farmer often taunted and made fun of people who believed in God. He wrote the following letter to the editor of a local newspaper: “I plowed on Sunday, planted on Sunday, cultivated on Sunday, and hauled in my crops on Sunday; but I never went to church on Sunday. Yet I harvested more bushels per acre than anyone else, even those who are God-fearing and never miss a service.” The editor printed the man’s letter and then added this remark: “God doesn’t always settle His accounts in October.”


Imitate God – be patient

Perhaps another lesson to learn is for us to do the same.  It’s often my own impatience that wants to bring down the hammer of judgment.
I think there is plenty to learn about the value of patience and kindness.

:5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

Remember that Paul is talking to unbelieving, judgmental people.

hardnesssklerotes (“arteriosclerosis” – hardening of the arteries) – hardness; stubbornness

impenitentametanoetos (“not” + “repentant”) – admitting no change of mind, unrepented, impenitent

treasuring upthesaurizo – to gather and lay up, to heap up, store up; to accumulate riches;

It’s like the person who is adding to their IRA each year until they retire.  But here the thing that you are adding to is the wrath in your account from God.  There is such a thing as a “Roth IRA”, this is a “Wrath IRA”.

When it’s time to cash in the IRA, the person will face all that they’ve stored up and everyone is going to know that God’s judgment was well deserved.

The angels in heaven, who are sitting on the sidelines, will proclaim
(Rev 19:2 NKJV)  For true and righteous are His judgments …

:6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds":

renderapodidomi – to deliver; to pay off, discharge what is due

Paul is quoting from the Old Testament:

Pr 24:12 … And will He [not] render to [each] man according to his deeds?

:7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;

:8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; indignation and wrath,

:9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;

:10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

:7 patient continuancehupomone (“under” + “to remain”) – steadfastness, constancy, endurance; the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

:8 self-seekingeritheia – electioneering or intriguing for office (an interesting concept considering the presidential elections coming up); a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts; This word is found before NT times only in Aristotle where it denotes a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means.

:8 indignationthumos – passion, heat, anger boiling up and quickly subsiding again

:8 wrathorge – anger exhibited in punishment

:9 tribulationthlipsis – a pressing together, oppression, affliction, distress

:9 anguishstenochoria (“narrow” + “place”) – narrowness of place, a narrow place; it speaks of extreme affliction; think of the walls closing in.

Tribulation and anguish don’t only come as a result of our doing evil, in fact they will also affect the faithful believer as well:

Ro 5:3 And not only [that], but we also glory in tribulations (thlipsis), knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
2Co 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses (stenochoria), for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

But they certainly can be caused by a man doing evil.

If you pay attention to what Paul is saying, he is giving you an idea of how judgment works with God.

How does a person get rewarded with eternal life? (be careful with your answer!)

By choosing to live their life by doing good things all the time, despite any difficult circumstances.

How does a person end up facing the wrath of God?

By choosing to live their life by doing evil things, being self seeking and doing unlawful things.


The basis for salvation

If you stop reading Romans at this point, you are going to get the wrong idea.  You might begin to think that salvation comes from our doing good works.
The problem with stopping too early in the book is that in the next chapter Paul is going to show us that no one does these kinds of good works.
When you are sharing Christ with someone and you ask them, “How does a person get to heaven?” it is not uncommon to hear a person reply, “By being good” or “by obeying the Ten Commandments”.
We tend to jump all over the person and correct them by telling them that you are only saved by faith in Christ.
The truth is – there is nothing incorrect about their response.  The thing that is incorrect is their assumption that they qualify.
Paul’s going to make that point pretty clearly in the next chapter.

(Rom 3:10 NKJV)  As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;

(Rom 3:23 NKJV)  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Paul will make salvation clearer later:
(Rom 3:22 NLT)  We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

:11 For there is no partiality with God.

Paul is saying that these outcomes, eternal life or eternal hell, will come to both Jews and Greeks because God does not show partiality.

partialityprosopolepsia (“the face” + “to receive”) – respect of persons; it’s making your judgments about people based on what you see on the outside and not what’s on the inside – by looking at their “face” – so the pretty, wealthy, and powerful make out better before the person making the judgment.


Impartiality of God

You can count on the fact that when God judges you, He will judge you solely upon the truth, not upon your ability to impress Him.
When it came time to choose a new king, God sent the prophet Samuel to the house of a man named Jesse, a man with lots of sons.
(1 Sam 16:4-13 NKJV)  So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" {5} And he said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. {6} So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him." {7} But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." {8} So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." {9} Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." {10} Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." {11} And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Then he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here." {12} So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!" {13} Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

God knew who He wanted to be king.  God wanted David to be king.

But for David to become king, Samuel had to make a choice as well, and part of the process of Samuel picking out the new king was in God’s instructions not to look at the “appearance”.

Samuel was learning to make choices, to make judgments the way that God does.

We need to reflect the impartiality of God.  People will see that God is impartial when they see that we are impartial.
(James 2:1-4 NKJV)  My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. {2} For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, {3} and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," {4} have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

Partiality, judging according to appearance is wrong.

{5} Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? {6} But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? {7} Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? {8} If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; {9} but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

Loving your neighbor as yourself involves impartiality.

{10} For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. {11} For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. {12} So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. {13} For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

I think it’s interesting that James links impartiality with mercy.  Our passage is also dealing with mercy (not judging others) and impartiality.

John Barrier didn’t like the way a bank manager in Spokane, WA, looked at him—like he’d “crawled out from under a rock” because of his dirty construction clothes.  So Barrier, who just wanted a parking slip validated, took his money and left -- $1 million at the time.  It began when Barrier, 59, went to Old National Bank to cash a $100 check.  When he tried to validate the slip to save 60 cents, a receptionist refused, saying he hadn’t conducted a transaction.  “She said you have to make a deposit,” he says.  “I told her I’m considered a substantial depositor and she looked at me like... well.”  He asked to see the manager, who also refused to stamp the ticket.  Barrier went to bank headquarters vowing to withdraw his $2 million plus unless the manager apologized.  No call came.  “So the next day I went over and the first amount I took out was $1 million.”  “But if you have $100 in a bank or $1 million,” he says, “I think they owe you the courtesy of stamping your parking ticket.”  -- Elisa Tinsley, USA Today

:12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law

The Gentiles are the ones “without” law, without the Law of Moses.  But they will still perish when they sin against the Law.

Let’s say that two people jump off the top of the Empire State Building.  One person completely understands the law of gravity.  The other person doesn’t understand the law of gravity.  Which one will die by transgressing the law of gravity?  Both will.

Robertson:  “The heathen who sin are lost, because they do not keep the law which they have, not because they do not have the Mosaic Law or Christianity.”

:13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;


Don’t just listen, obey.

This isn’t just a warning for unbelievers, as a Christian, the same principle applies.  Exposure to the teachings of Jesus isn’t going to help you at all.  It’s when you get the teachings of Jesus translated into real changes in your life that you will see the blessings of following Him.
(Mat 7:24-27 NKJV)  "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: {25} "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. {26} "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: {27} "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
When the Coalinga quake occurred a couple of years ago, a lot of things were discovered. Houses that were built and were bolted to their foundation withstood that 8.2-on-the-Richter-Scale quake. The structure would sway, but if it was bolted to the foundation, it withstood. Now on the other hand, the houses that were built in a period when they did not bolt them to the foundation--again, a perfectly good house--when the horizontal earth movement occurred, the house moved maybe six or seven inches off its foundation. And that's what caused the house to collapse. And so that was a great discovery made at Coalinga: Houses should be bolted to their foundation.

It’s your obedience to what Jesus says that bolts you to the foundation, to Jesus.

Don’t be deceived by getting a “good feeling” by going to Bible Study.  The real, solid benefits aren’t going to come until you put what you’ve learned into practice.
What have you been learning tonight?  Are there things you need to put into practice?

:14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,

:15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

When an aborigine in Australia has a sense of right and wrong and lives by that sense, they show that God has written something in their hearts.

They will face judgment from God because their own conscience will show that they knew they were disobeying God.

The unbeliever might think that they will be able to stand before God and object and say, “But I didn’t know”.  And God will ask the angels to play the “conscience” tape, and their own conscience will declare that they knew they were doing wrong.

This is what Jesus died for – to pay for our sins and cleanse our conscience.

(Heb 9:13-14 NLT)  Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people's bodies from ritual defilement. {14} Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

To the extent that their conscience is not too seared or callused, a pagan person’s conscience is going to either make them feel good about doing good, or feel guilty about doing wrong.

Paul isn’t saying that it’s possible for a pagan person’s conscience to always be telling them they’re doing the right thing.  For a person to be right with God, they would have to always do what their conscience says, and never be condemned by it.  That is impossible.  This is what Jesus died for, to pay the price of our condemnation, to cleanse our consciences.

:16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

judgekrino – to separate, to approve; to be of opinion, think

We’re back to the word that we started the chapter with.

We started off with Paul talking about us having the nerve to judge other people.

We end tonight with the truth that the only “opinion” that counts, the only “judgment” that counts, is God’s.

secretskruptos – hidden, concealed, secret


No secrets with God.

He’s going to judge everything, including the hidden things.
Charles Spurgeon wrote,
Coals of fire cannot be concealed beneath the most sumptuous apparel, they will betray themselves with smoke and flame. Neither can pet sins be long hidden beneath the most ostentatious profession of faith; they will sooner or later discover themselves, and burn sad holes in a person's reputation. Sin needs quenching in the Savior's blood, not concealing under the garb of religion.
I still do things that I try and hide from others.
I think one measure of my maturity is how much of my life I can live out in the open, unashamed by anything I do.
As Americans we cry hard when someone interrupts our “privacy”.  We don’t want the government spying on us.
Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not advocating “Big Brother” – but shouldn’t we as Christians have the kinds of lives that if someone knew what we were doing we’d be unashamed?
A son, who had gone to military service, wrote to his father: “I am sending you all my keys except the front-door key; some day when I get leave, I may walk in unexpectedly and give you a surprise.” When the parents read the letter, they thought, “This is a good son. He has no secrets from us, nothing to hide, no bluebeard chamber that must not be entered, no forgotten corner where old shameful things lie. He knows himself and he trusts us. He gives us the run of all his affairs. He sends us all his keys. He knows us, too . He knows he will always be welcome; that he can always walk in without waiting; that he has full right of entry into his father’s house. Our house is open to him, and his heart is open to us.”  Give God all your keys, and He will always give you access to Himself and all blessing.  

-- Donald Grey Barnhouse, Let Me Illustrate (Revell, 1967), p. 16.