A Journey Through Romans (4) – Romans 2:1-16

This section continues to address the third reason for not being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men:” We noticed in Romans 1:19-32 that the guilt of the heathen is proven by their ungodliness, uncleanness and unrighteousness, and God’s wrath is revealed in giving them up to uncleanness.

Chap 2:1-16 – The Cultured Greek and Pharisee are also Guilty 

Often the self-righteous person looks critically down on others, who indulge openly in such sins, and thereby feels justified in his own deeds. His own sins are covered with a sham of culture and elegance. The Lord’s parable of the Pharisee and Publican (Luke 18: 9-14) is an example.

In this section the apostle unmasks the cultured sinner with three direct charges below, and an awesome presentation of the judgment of God stating the conclusion up front. ‘Therefore thou art inexcusable, 0 man, whosoever thou art that judgest” (2:1). Notice the reverse moral order in these charges:

v.1 – the judges of others did the same things.
v.4 – they despised the riches of God’s goodness and longsuffering.
v.5 – they have a hard and impenitent heart.

The apostle then proceeds, in response to their faulty pride-based judgment, to expound the righteous judgment of God, which will uncover everything hidden “in that day”. The eternal (Rev 14:11, 20:10) judgment of God is described governmentally and morally with seven features of each.

God’s Governmental Judgment is: 

v.1 – UNIVERSAL. The word “whosoever”, that is used in John 3:16 establishes the universal grace of God to every believer in the Son, here it establishes the universal judgment of God upon ALL who practice “such things” This is the ungodliness, uncleanness and unrighteousness of chapter 1.

vs.6, 9, 10 – INDIVIDUAL. This individuality in judgment is repeated in these three verses, “every man” and “every soul of man,” and confirms the OT principle of law in Deuteronomy 24:16, “Every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” So although the judgment is universal, every person will be judged for his own sin.

v.3 – INESCAPABLE. How foolish to think, that by judging others and doing the same, that one could escape the judgment of God. But rather, such have already condemned themselves by judging others (v 1). How powerful is this logic. If they have condemned themselves, why think that an omnipresent and omniscient God would fail to condemn them?

v.4 – RESTRAINED. The only reason God’s judgment, final and eternal, has not fallen upon the sinner, is that it is restrained by His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering. What a three-part definition of God’s mercy, holding back judgment that is righteously deserved.

v.5 – CUMULATIVE. The “treasuring up unto thyself” of “wrath against the day of wrath” is a shuddering thought indeed, since the “treasuring” is done in the mind of God who sees all and never forgets. It transcends our ability to grasp, and calls for the sinner to repent and flee from the wrath to come.

vs.5, 16 – APPOINTED. The terms “the day of wrath” and “the day”, reminds us that God “has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31).

v.16 – PREACHED. This verse reminds us that the Gospel that is “good news” includes the warning of a day when “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel”. Paul is here looking at the warning objectively, not subjectively. It is not “good news” for the sinner that a day of wrath has been appointed. But the objective of the warning is to cause him to turn and flee for refuge to the Saviour now, but who will in future be the judge.

God’s Judgment Morally is: 

v.2 – FACTUAL. “The judgment of God is according to truth” (aleuthia). This Greek word has a preceding negative and means “not forgetting” or “not escaping notice”. How many earthly judges and juries could have wished that witnesses “forgot nothing” and that “nothing escaped their notice”. The best that erring men can do is to seek proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Before the eternal throne of righteousness nothing is forgotten – nothing escapes God’s notice – the facts are manifested.

v.5 – RIGHTEOUS, “The righteous judgment of God”. Abraham, the friend of God. pleaded with God: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25). Paul asks and answers, “Is there unrighteousness with God? By no means” (Rom 9:14). God’s righteousness in judgment is displayed in the following points, presented in an inverted parallelism (vs 6-11).

vs.6, 11 – OBJECTIVE. “According to his deeds” and “no respect of persons” shows a beautiful objectivity without partiality in judgment. There will be no favoritism shown by God in judgment, only an inerrant examination of deeds committed. “They were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13). The apostle enjoins objectively upon elder brethren in the local assembly who must sit in judgment on certain matters that arise. “Without preferring one before another” (1 Tim 5:21) means without prejudice, and “doing nothing by partiality” means not leaning towards favorites. The requirement for two or three witnesses (1 Tim 5:19), safeguards objectivity, and agrees with Matthew 18:16 and Deuteronomy 17:1-7.

vs.17, 10 – FAIR. These two verses have been a difficulty, and have been abused by many who isolate them from the rest of scripture to teach salvation by works. Rather they show two things: (1) perfect equity in God’s dealings with men, (2) an impossible standard to achieve. As if God said (Psa 14:2), “Show Me the person who does well and makes a consistent effort to be good – in patient continuance – and does well and good out of pure motive, seeking for glory, honor and immortality – and I will reward him with eternal life, glory, honor and peace.” But the weight of evidence in chapters 1, 2 and 3 of Romans, plus the whole record of Scripture is the opposite. In every dispensational period of testing, and even in Eden, an ideal environment for doing the will of God, the whole human family, with only one glorious exception, has failed. “All have sinned”. “All we like sheep have gone astray,” and therefore stand condemned. But the statements in these verses show the longing in the heart of God for a perfect person. Oh what satisfaction then He received when our blessed Lord walked before Him and in patient continuance, with a pure motive, did well and good, continually honoring His Father.

vs.8, 9 – SEVERE AND PENAL. God will render: Indignation (thumos + outbursts of anger from agitated feelings) and Wrath (orge = calculated revenge), causing Tribulation (thlipsis = pressure) and Anguish (stenochoria = restricted place) upon every person who is contentious and disobedient (ungodly) to the truth, and who obeys unrighteousness, producing evil in their lives. These verses, at the heart of this inverted parallelism of judgment, express in full measure this large section – the wrath of God ultimately “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” They define so well the word “perish” in (v 12).

vs.12-15 – IN DEGREES. Not all will suffer equally. Eternal punishment will be administered according to light received. “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). In law perish accordingly. Jews sinning in law shall be judged by law. Verses 14, 15 expand on the degrees of light given: Gentiles may do what is in the law naturally and so prove they have been made in God’s image and likeness, with a conscience that would guide them. Therefore they are responsible to follow that guide and will be judged accordingly.

v.16 – INCLUSIVE Not one ungodly attitude or one unrighteous act will be hidden in the day of judgment. “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” Well might we sing:

“O the blood of Jesus, the precious blood of Jesus!
O the blood of Jesus, it cleanses from ALL sin.”