God’s Righteous Judgment Rom. 2:1-16 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
The context of this passage is Rom 1:32, “the judgment of God.” Rom 1:32 says that men KNOW the judgment of God. They know that “they which commit such things are worthy of death.” Yet they do them.
So, when a man judges another, he has condemned himself, because he admits there is a judgment. Therefore, Paul reveals to the Romans God’s righteous judgment [Rom 2:5] so that they will understand true judgment [Rom 2:2]. With this they then have the right basis for judging themselves in preparation for their judgment before Jesus Christ [Rom 2:16]. He lays it out for them plainly so that whether they are Jew or Gentile, they will know how God judges. This is particularly important for Jews because they are inclined to judge a Gentile as a “sinner” since he doesn’t have the law [Gal 2:15]. Paul shows them that Gentiles have a conscience, which is a law to them. And if they follow their conscience they are better than a Jew who has the law but doesn’t follow it [Rom 2:14-15].
To teach them Paul contrasts man’s unrighteous judgment and God’s righteous judgment.
Man’s unrighteous judgment – Rom 2:1-5 self-righteous men judge others and when they do, they despise them [Lk 18:9-14]. They lift themselves up by putting others down. This is particularly true of religious people, like Jews, who think they are righteous because they have the law or a religious tradition which others whom they condemn don’t have [Jn 7:45-49]. Men who judge themselves this way are an abomination to God because they cannot see that they are guilty by the same judgment they use to condemn others [Lk 16:14-15; Jn 8:1-11].
A man who judges himself righteous by judging others is not judging according to truth. God, on the other hand, judges according to truth. And the truth is that a man who has judged himself righteous has not exempted himself from the judgment of God. As a matter of fact he is already under the judgment of God. The wrath of God [Rom 2:5] abides on him now [Jn 3:18-19, 36].
God’s goodness to him now [Rom 2:4] is not extended to him because he is righteous. God’s goodness [Matt 5:45; Lk 12:16-21], forbearance [Rom 3:25] and longsuffering [Ex 34:6-7] are extended to him to lead him to repentance [2 Pet 3:9]. You are not righteous because other men have suffered and you haven’t [Lk 13:1-5]. Everyone needs to repent.
Men who are determined that they are righteous by their own judgment are hardened against the gospel and they are impenitent. That is they are unrepentant. They believe that they can “make it” at the judgment of God and so they reject the gospel. Therefore, instead of receiving the mercy of God, they receive the wrath of God at the day of wrath [Rev 20:11-15]. What they don’t realize is that the wrath of God abides on them now [Jn 3:36]. The righteous judgment of God has already condemned them to an eternity in the lake of fire [Rev 21:8].
God’s righteous judgment – God doesn’t judge a man by what he thinks he is; God judges him by what he does. He renders to everyman “according to his deeds;” not those done in public to impress men [Matt 6:1-6; Matt 23:5], but those done in secret [Rom 2:16]. “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work is pure, and whether it be right,” [Prov 20:11].
When God sees a man by patient continuance in well doing seeking for glory and honour and immortality, he will “give” him eternal life. That is when he sees a man seeking for immortality by well doing, he will give him the gospel [Rom 2:16] whereby he can be saved and have eternal life.
Consider Cornelius [Acts 10]. He was devout, God-fearing, charitable, just and good and he prayed to God always [Acts 10:2, 22]. So, God sent him Peter to preach the gospel to him and he got saved. Consider the case of the centurion in Lk 7:2-10. The Jews who knew him, knew that he was worthy because “he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue,” [Lk 7:5]. By patient continuance in well doing they had set themselves up for the mercy of God.
Likewise, the Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia who feared God [Acts 13:16], who “besought Paul that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath,” [Acts 13:42], who continued “in the grace of God,” [Acts 13:43] and who “were glad and glorified the word of the Lord,” [Acts 13:48] were ordained to eternal life. That is God gave them eternal life through the gospel of Jesus Christ because, by their deeds, they were seeking for glory and honour and immortality.
But to the contentious Jews in Antioch [Rom 2:8; Acts 13:45] who would not obey the truth but obeyed unrighteousness, he gave “indignation and wrath” because by their deeds they judged themselves “unworthy of everlasting life,” [Acts 13:46].
With God, in his righteous judgment, there is no respect of persons [Rom 2:11]. Whether a man is a Jew or a Gentile makes no difference to God. Whether a Jew does evil by violating the law [Rom 2:12-13] or a Gentile does evil by violating his conscience [Rom 2:14-15; Jas 4:17] their judgment is the same [Rom 2:9].
Whether Jews are “doers of the law,” [Rom 2:13] and Gentiles “do by nature the things contained in the law,” [Rom 2:14] because the law is “written in their hearts,” [Rom 2:15] their judgment is the same [Rom 2:10]. God will direct them to eternal life through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ [Gal 3:24; Rom 2:16].
The trouble with Jews is that they use the law to justify themselves when in fact they are violating the law [Acts 23:3; Rom 2:19-23]. And the trouble with Gentiles is that they have seared their conscience [1 Tim 4:2] so that it no longer tells them that what they are doing is wrong, and they have defiled it [Titus 1:15] so that those things that are wrong are now desirable.
Conclusion: when the secrets of men are judged by Jesus Christ according to the gospel revealed to Paul, only those who received eternal life in Jesus Christ will pass God’s righteous judgment. Jews will be condemned for violating the law and Gentiles will be condemned for violating their conscience and both will be damned for rejecting Jesus Christ.