Romans 2:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
We saw last week three things that happen with the unrighteous truth suppressors who are without excuse:
- (1) Spiritual Corruption – they become idolaters.
- Possibly the root problem of all sin for Paul.
- (2) Physical (created order) Corruption – homosexuality.
- (3) Fellowship Corruption – covetousness, envy, murder, disobedience to parents, etc.
With these, Paul was giving further reason why all are under God’s wrath.
- In other words…
- Why the unrighteous are and will be under God’s judging righteousness.
- The unrighteous being those that “refuse to give God his proper sovereignty in one’s life” – Tom Schreiner.
- Wrath/judging righteousness being the “establishment of a divine rule of holiness” – TDNT.
Romans 2:1a (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.
Suddenly, Paul has switched from the third person plural – them and they – to the second person singular – you.
- It seems he has now switched his attention to the Roman church – you guys in Rome.
- The readers of Paul’s letter.
And yet, our commentators all reject this on textual grounds.
- They do so for at least two reasons.
- (1) Paul would have switched to the second person plural to address the Roman church – Douglas Moo.
- Not “you” but “you all”.
- But in our text the Greek words are in second person singular.
- (2) Paul is using literary technique called diatribe.
- Diatribe is “an imaginary dialogue with a student or opponent” – Moo.
- Schreiner adds, “in which one anticipates possible objections to one’s argument”.
- In this case the imaginary opponents are those who judge.
Another interesting question involves the religious identity of Paul’s imaginary opponent.
- The natural reading would seem to suggest we are still dealing with Gentiles.
- And yet the majority of our commentators – Murray, Moo, Schreiner, Mohrlang, Heiser, ESV Study Bible – all suggest that we are now dealing with Jews.
N.T. Wright’s Take:
However, N.T. Wright argues that we are still dealing with Gentiles.
- He suggests that, reflecting on verses 18-32, Paul starts Romans 2 with a question in mind.
- “How could it be that you might know what was the right thing to do and yet fail to do it?” – N.T. Wright.
- Then with respect to 2:1 says the answer is found in, “The present passage”.
- Where Paul exposes the “elevated pagan moralist” and his problem – N.T. Wright.
- Their problem is that they have become judge in place of God.
We know this because Paul says he is answering this question in 1a – “Therefore [or here is the answer] you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges”.
- An allusion to 1:20, “So therefore they are without excuse”.
Who are both the “they” from 1:20 and the “O man, every one of you who judges” from our text?
- The unrighteous truth suppressors that reject the Creator’s rightful status – the “pagan moralist”.
I am inclined to agree with N.T. Wright.
- Go door-to-door for one afternoon and you will see our text played out in spades.
Romans 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the two main themes of these 3 verses are…
- (1) Judgment
- (2) “Practice”
- “you who judges” (vs. 1)
- “passing judgment” (vs. 1)
- “judgment of God” (vs. 2)
- “you who judge” (vs. 3)
- “escape the judgment of God?” (vs. 3)
How are we to understand all this “judging” language?
- We have to establish immediately that there are two kinds going on here.
- The judging of the unrighteous.
- The judging of God.
(A) The judging of the unrighteous seems to be simply this:
- A judging that seeks to judge in the place of God’s judgment.
- “Not in the sense of evaluating objectively, but in the sense of condemning” – Roger Mohrlong.
Paul makes this connection implicitly in verse 1.
- “in passing judgment…you condemn yourself”.
- In other words, in trying to condemn others, you condemn yourself.
The picture here, again, is the person who is unrighteous – on the throne that is God’s.
- From this context they compare themselves with others.
- Ultimately deciding that others must be worse – and thus worthy of condemnation.
But, in fact, by assuming the place of authority required to condemn, they do the very same things!
- “You have no excuse—because, even while you sit in judgment on these poor benighted souls you so despise, you are secretly doing the same things yourself!” – N.T. Wright.
- They reject God and suppress the truth, yet act as God and as if they know a truth.
- Again, this is why they are without excuse.
So the judgment contained in the idea of to “evaluate objectively” is not the problem.
- Indeed, Paul’s very words here are this very form of judgment.
- As Tom Schreiner says, “Judging itself is not condemned, for Paul expects Jews to agree that Gentiles who engage in such behavior are deserving of wrath” – Schreiner.
(B) Facing the judgment of God is part of what it means to be under God’s wrath.
- It is the divine activity of God against the unrighteousness of men.
- As we have said before, this is God’s judging righteousness.
- It comes against those who assume the authority of God.
- Something that is demonstrated by their “practice” of “such things”.
- “practice the very same things” (vs. 1)
- “who practice such things” (vs. 2)
- “who practice such things” (vs. 3)
- And lets not for get last weeks text.
- “those who practice such things” (1:32)
- “those who practice them” (1:32)
How are we to understand this “practice” language?
- The Greek word means “to bring about or accomplish something through activity” – BDAG.
The activity is last weeks lesson.
- The spiritual corruption.
- The physical corruption.
- The fellowship corruption.
- It must also be unrighteousness and truth suppression.
What is the thing brought about and accomplished?
- Paul seems to be implying that the thing brought about or accomplished by this activity is…
- The judgment of God – His wrath – His judging righteousness.
- This is why he asks, do you think, “You will escape the judgment of God?” (vs. 3).
There is an important implication here for the sin of the believer.
- We too engage in spiritual, physical and fellowship corruption.
But the question is what is brought about or accomplished by our activity of sin?
- Do we incur the judging righteousness of God?
- Or because of our Union with Christ, do we incur the saving righteousness of God?
- This is really worth exploring further, but not now.
Romans 2:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
God has every right to pour out his future, eschatological wrath right now.
- And yet He is actively withholding it.
- This is an “expression of God’s goodness in his patient withholding of the judgment that is rightfully due the sinner” – Douglas Moo.
Why is He witholding?
- “God is patient. Again and again he gives people the chance to get it together, to turn to him in repentance and trust, and to find their lives coming back into shape” – N.T. Wright.
- In context, this repentance for Paul is a self-dethroning ceremony.
- It is a restoration of the Creator-creature distinction.
- It is a submission to God and His preeminence and all that goes with this.
But God’s patience will come to an end.
- “storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (vs. 5)
- This is future wrath.
- Like our resurrection and new creation, even God’s future wrath is stored up.
- Presumably, stored up in Heaven with Christ.
N.T. Wright sums up for us.
“But if people insist on rejecting God’s love—and part of the logic of love is that it can always be rejected—there is nothing else for it. God is committed, precisely as the good and loving creator, to putting the world to rights. That includes human beings. Those who live in the dehumanizing ways described in the previous passages are courting disaster. Those who persist in wickedness, despite having every chance to turn back, are positively asking for it. There is no other alternative” – N.T. Wright.