God’s Righteous Judgment, Rom. 2:1-16
Those who are caught in wrongdoing and are reprimanded frequently say, “Don’t judge me.” They sometimes point awkwardly at the Bible and say that Jesus forbids us to judge others. That is not accurate. Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). What Jesus forbids is unnecessary and hypocritical judgment. We could not restore the erring without the sort of judgment that recognizes sin (Gal. 6:1-2). However, Paul also cautions, “But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:2). Jesus warned, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24).
In today’s text, Paul addresses the hypocritical position of the Jews. The Gentiles sinned apart from the Law and the Jews sinned against the Law. Though ancient Israel was the chosen, covenant nation of God, they sinned. The Law was their standard, not their savior. And they constantly broke the Law while looking down their self-righteous nose at the Gentiles. By addressing the sins of the Jews as well as the Gentiles, Paul sets up the universal need for the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. Certainly now, but even before the cross, the Jews were equally sinful. The book of Romans masterfully points out that the Law was never intended to a checklist by which the Jews could justify themselves. Righteousness (right-standing) before God could not be attained either by Gentile or Jew before God sent his Son to die for us. The Jews certainly could have done a better job of living by the covenant stipulations, but they would still need the Lamb of God. They knew what God expected of them but excused themselves as God’s favorites. The Jews expected God to be lenient toward them, but God actually expected more of them.
Paul discusses the principles of God’s judgment toward all men. God judges according to truth, not by opinion or favoritism. He is the moral standard of the universe and he does not make mistakes or exercise prejudice in judgment. When judgment day comes at the end of time, God will dispense reward and punishment without flaw and without favor (2 Cor. 5:10). God judges according to deeds, according to what people do, say, and think. Eternal life will be granted to those who persist in doing his will. God’s wrath will be poured out upon all who have rejected him. Throughout time, God’s wrath is being stored up for judgment day. Donald Guthrie wrote, “Hard impenitence is an investment in divine wrath at compound interest to be realized on the day of wrath.” God judges according to the light of revelation that each one has. The Jews had the Law and failed. The Gentiles had a God-given sense of morality without the concrete Law. Both sinned against the light they had. Paul does not suggest the Gentiles could have been saved merely by having a good conscience. His point is that they sinned against even that moral alarm system. Let us beware of thinking ignorance is bliss. Hosea wrote, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). The more we know, the better we can prepare to live for God and to stand before him in judgment.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.