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Andy and Melissa Beshore

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Exposition of Romans - Chapter 2

Exposition of Romans
written by Andy (edited and organized by Melissa)


When we read Romans chapter two, it becomes important to read it in light of chapter one, otherwise chapter two won’t make sense. Chapter one finished by talking about man’s unrighteousness and the things that characterize that unrighteous lifestyle. See verses 18 to 32. Chapter two starts by making a case for God’s righteous judgment of sinners, which is quite reasonable when taken in lieu of chapter one. Let’s begin.

God’s Righteous Judgment – Romans 2:1-16

Romans 2:1 says, “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.” Who is there who is reading this who can honestly say that they are completely innocent in the sight of God? That they have not broken any of God’s commands themselves? There is not a single person (Romans 3:9-18 explains this principle in greater detail). Romans 1:18-32 shows the specific things Paul listed to show us our guilt. They are defined in the previous blog. Paul is saying that if we are going to point out others’ sins, according to that standard, we must realize that we are guilty ourselves of violating the same commands. It goes back to the principle that Jesus outlined in Matthew 7:1-5 about “judge not, lest ye be judged”. We should not think ourselves to be morally superior to other Christians or non Christians. If we are going to look at others as sinful, we need to be willing to look at ourselves in the same way. If we justify ourselves by saying things like, “My sins are nowhere near as serious as that person’s,” I feel we miss Paul’s point. In Romans 2:3, Paul clearly states that we all will be judged by the same standard, so we had better be willing to look at ourselves.

Paul points out this truth on which I have just commented in Romans 2:2 where he says, “But we know that the judgment of God is according to the truth against those who practice such things.” “Truth” in this verse refers to what is right. In other words, God is going to judge all humanity according to what He deems as right, whether we agree with His standard or not. In addition, God is going to condemn those who make their lifestyle practice match up with the sins listed in 1:18-32 (see Romans ch.1 exposition).

Non Christians live their lives consistently in a way that does not grow in conformity to God’s standards. That said, verse two says God’s judgment is against them. Also this principle can be applied to church-goers who do not “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4) like those John refers to in 1 John 1:6. These people ignore the constant warnings of the Spirit, and eventually God leaves them alone. Jude and Hebrews talk about the unpardonable state. When they ignore God, they ignore the common grace of God, briefly described by Paul in Romans 2:4. God blesses non Christians to a point so that they can see His goodness and His patience with them in their sin for an extended period of time. This is in the hope that sinners will realize these attributes of God’s character, see how patient God is being with them while they continue to live in rebellion toward Him, and eventually lead them to repentance. The response to God all boils down to repentance (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30-31). If there is no repentance, there is no salvation.

Paul clearly explains in verse five that unrepentant hearts earn God’s wrath and judgment. Having our sins shown to us is actually a tremendous blessing from God, even though it is not all that pleasant. If we have to repent from our sins in order to be saved from God’s wrath and eternity in hell, and to continue to repent to have a sign that we actually have been saved (1 John 1:9), we need to know how sinful we are. So, when we consistently try to mask our sins, this truth is nearly impossible to realize. When we remove all references to sin like most American Christian churches these days, this has a devastating effect on sinners. They cannot be saved if they do not realize what they need to be saved from.

Verse six explains that all peoples, whether in Christ or not will be judged or rewarded based on their deeds. Those who are in Christ will be rewarded in proportion to their deeds. The greater the amount of deeds, the greater the reward in heaven. The lesser the amount of deeds, the lesser the reward in heaven. It must be stated that deeds DO NOT earn salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” However, the good deeds should be an overflowing of our hearts that represent the work God has done in us. Our deeds will show the evidence of our true hearts.

Romans 2:7-8 goes on to say, “eternal life to those who…doing good (deeds) seek for (God’s)glory, (God’s) honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth (1 John 1:6), but obey unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-32) – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil…” (in parentheses added) If we consistently seek God’s glory, honor, and an increasingly Godly lifestyle, we will be saved in the end. If, however, we live unrighteously and lacking conformity to the Word of God, then we deserve God’s indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish.

The Greek meaning for “glory” in the verse 7 can mean splendor, brilliance, or giving God the highest status. The Greek meaning for “honor” in this passage refers to value, respect, nobility, or specialness. The Greek meaning for “immortality” refers to imperishableness and incorruption. In verse 8, the Greek meaning for “indignation” refers to wrath, fury, anger, rage, a state of intense displeasure based in some real or perceived wrong. In verse 9, the Greek meaning for “tribulation” refers to trouble, distress, and oppression. The Greek meaning for “anguish” refers to hardship and difficulty. Romans 2:11 says, “For there is no partiality with God.” God does not show preferential treatment based on any circumstances. So, from all this, we reasonably conclude that faith and deeds go hand in hand. Anyone who says any differently is terribly mistaken. James 2:14-26 is an important passage which is summed up in the statement, “Faith without works is dead.”

Some of us do not have as much knowledge about God as do others. The next section illustrates how we all will be judged based on what we do know. Later on, we will see that this fact still leaves us all guilty. Verse 12 says, “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.” Chapter one explained how we have things like creation that surround us that tells us enough about God to leave us “without excuse” (1:20).

Next comes a statement that supports the thesis of the previous paragraph: “doers of the law will be justified” (2:13). If we have limited knowledge, then, why are we still without excuse? Verse fifteen answers this question. Despite the fact that we might not know a great deal, the law is still “written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men…” (2:15-16). So, since God has written His law on our hearts, we know when we do wrong. We know when we lie, steal, blaspheme, or break any of the other Ten Commandments that it is wrong. Despite the fact that we know it is wrong, we still do it anyway. This shows our blatant disregard for God at times. When we think of it this way, it is remarkable that God remains patient with us. Every day, many times without realizing it, we violate God’s standard in our thoughts, attitudes, and deeds, yet we still get the chance to live, because God remains patient with us (2:4). This should make God’s common grace to us amazing and lead us to continuous confession of our sins. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The Jews Guilty as Gentiles – Romans 2:17-24

Paul goes on to address the Jews in Rome. The Jews had the Law and were taught the effect the Law should have (2:15-16). Since the Jews knew the Law they knew more about God’s will, which meant that they were accountable for more. It has already been stated that we will be judged based on what we already know, not what we do not know. This principle meant that the Jews in Rome were in danger of harsher judgment if they chose to spurn God. Verses 19 and 20 show that they had become conceited since they knew more about God than the Gentiles. They taught those who appeared to be younger and weaker in the faith the Law. The problem is, they failed to look at themselves (2:21-24). Isn’t it funny how we are quick to point out others’ faults yet have difficulty looking at our own sins? Even as I write this, I see areas in which I am sinning. Jesus talked about hypocritical behavior like this in Matthew 7:1-5.

Circumcision to No Avail – Romans 2:25-29

Paul concludes the second chapter by talking about how Jewish circumcision is meaningless if there is no inward reality of the Christian life. I liken Jewish circumcision to contemporary baptism. Across most Baptist schools of thought with which I am familiar, it seems that it is not baptism that saves you, rather it is the changed heart and lifestyle. The act of baptism is looked at as an outward public expression of the changed life. If there is no inward reality (2:29) of a changed heart as a result of God having saved someone, then no salvation took place, even if a ritual like circumcision or baptism took place. If there is little to no difference in style of life after someone says they have been saved compared to before they say they got saved, chances are, nothing actually happened. No salvation took place. It is the obedient lifestyle that grows over time with respect to God’s Word that shows evidence that salvation occurred. 1 John talks a great deal about evidences of salvation. Paul makes the case that if someone does not even get circumcised but lives an obedient lifestyle, God will look at them as if they had been circumcised and count them righteous (2:26). What’s more, if someone does get circumcised, but are a perpetual law breaker, their circumcision is worthless (2:25).

Again, it is the inward reality, not the external observance of religious rituals that shows someone is saved. I have heard of people trusting in “having made their decision” or having been baptized, but these people miss Paul’s point here at the end of Romans 2. These people did their rituals, yet they continue to live as immorally as ever. No salvation took place in these people. At least no salvation can take place until God shows people their sin, so they can look to Jesus on the cross and see how He took the punishment they deserve for all their unrighteousness. They need to repent (turn from sin), trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross, and grow in the things of God over a long time. This will show whether God has done a work of saving grace in someone’s life, not whether they got circumcised or baptized.

This concludes my exposition on chapter two. Keep a look out for chapter three. Please leave me comments sharing what you agree or disagree with. The purpose of these is to impart what I am learning, and to learn more myself. Thank you for reading this. If God is convicting you, please let Him. Humble yourself and repent of your sins. You may not have tomorrow! God bless!

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