Romans 2:1-29 3:1-8
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Romans 2:1-29 & 3:1-8 a short commentary
Last time in Chapter 1:18-32 we saw that the wrath of God will be revealed against those who continue to suppress the truth about God and reject the evidence that God has placed in the creation, in the human conscience and in the hardening in sin of those who continue to reject Him. God’s wrath is not fickle but rather builds up over a long period of time. Continual rejection of God produces a downward spiral into total depravity. The spiritual darkness in a person’s heart leads to a mental darkness which in turn leads them into various forms of idolatry and corruption. At this stage God gives up on them so that they can indulge themselves in sexual immorality and begin to believe lies. God then gives up on them again and they begin to indulge in more shameful lusts. God then gives up on them again for the third and final time and mental depravity sets in which then produces some or all the twenty-one manifestations of evil in their lives. The only other evil left at this stage is that those who practice these evil manifestations begin to take pleasure in seeing other people also dishonour God and themselves in the same way.
The major themes of the letter (chapters 1-3) focus on the wrath of God;
Chapter 1:18-32 God’s wrath against (mainly) the Gentiles.
Chapter 2:1-29 God’s wrath against the Jews
Chapter 3:1-20 God’s wrath against all sinful men.
God’s Righteous Judgment 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Whether we are a Jew or a Gentile we cannot take the higher moral ground if we are also committing some of the same 21 evils described in Chapter 1.
The Jews in the Roman Church might well be thinking that they can look down on those idolatrous Gentile practices but without realising they tended to idolise their race and their self-life. This is reminiscent of what Jesus said about not trying to take the splinter from your brother’s eye whilst you have a beam in your own eye. If we are going to judge sin, then the safe place to start is with your own sins. Remember God wants obedience not to sacrifice. Paul has in mind the unbelieving but self-righteous Jews whose heart has not been converted. The final day of judgement will surely come.
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay everyone according to what they have done.”  7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Paul is telling the unbelieving Jew’s that God’s wrath is in the pipeline and that day will surely come. God will repay everyone according to what they have done. This does not mean that those who have been saved by faith in Jesus Christ will lose their salvation but reminds us as believers that we have both responsibility and accountability to God for how we live during our lives.
Paul then describes two large groups of people.
Those who persist and persevere in doing what is right in God’s eyes will eventually receive a wonderful eternal reward and be in continual fellowship with Lord forever.
Those who are filled with selfish ambition who reject God’s truth will be cast from the Great White Throne Judgement into Gehenna the eternal lake of fire and brimstone for everlasting conscious punishment.
People in a sense choose which group they will finish up in.
9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favouritism.
In creation God has given all people a moral instinct which can be distorted by habitual sin or even by cultural norms. God will judge people by the light they do have i.e. for the Jews by the Law and for the pagans the ‘unwritten’ laws of conscience and nature. It is God’s view that will prevail in the final judgement and not our own self evaluations. No human being will escape God’s final judgements.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
Here Paul clarifies what he meant in verses 6-11.
Unrighteous Gentiles who did not know the Law will perish by ignoring the light they were given. He also makes it clear that the reading of hearing of the Mosaic Law by the Jews is not what counts but rather whether that Jew has endorsed and Law and tried to live by its precepts.
14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges everyone’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
The Gentiles have a sense of right and wrong in their consciences. When the Gentile does good things like treating his family with kindness, helps the poor and deals honestly then this shows his conscience is working properly to some degree. God has given all human minds such thoughts as are necessary to test our conscience. All these things such as men’s thoughts, words, actions, motives and what exactly God thinks of them will become clear on the day of judgement.
The Jews and the Law 17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God;18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 f you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—
The Jews were extremely privileged and more so than any other ethnic group but somehow, they did not seem to understand that having these privileges brought concomitant obligations. Many Jews simply wanted bragging rights about their position of privilege rather than using the scriptures to help the poor. They boasted because they were Jews and hence considered themselves better than anyone else. After all they were the chosen people!
Did God choose the Jews because they were the best ethnic group?
What Paul is saying and is probably ridiculing these Jews along the lines that if you call yourself a Jew and are instructed in the law of Moses and hence know God’s will and you are be able to clearly tell the difference between what matters and what is less important. Then you would also consider yourself a reliable guide to the spiritually blind, someone who could shed light to the spiritually darkened, someone who could instruct the unbelievers, and someone qualified to catechise children, and if you are so smart then why have you not realised that you need to begin to examine your own life.
21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?
Paul continues that they present themselves as a person living under God’s law and is even able to teach it to others encouraging others to be obedient to the law, then why is it that they do not practice what they preach? Their lives did not measure up to their doctrine.
24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
When Jews pretended to be a light to those in darkness then this led to the Gentiles mocking and blaspheming God since He is the God of Israel.
Paul now goes on to show who is a true Jew as opposed to a Jew in name only.
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
Circumcision does not justify the Jew any more than the hearing of the Law. What really counts is being obedient to God’s word. A parallel today would be for us being baptised and partaking of communion but living in disobedience to God’s word.
28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Paul shows that there are two different kinds of Jew; the ‘outward’ Jews who thought simply because they were circumcised, had heard the law and were of the seed of Abraham then these things would bring salvation to them. The ‘inward’ Jew is the true Jew whose heart has been circumcised (distances him from evil) and obeys God’s law. The outward Jew gets his praise from men. The inward Jew gets his approval from God.
Romans 3 God’s Faithfulness
1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. Paul now asks if there is any benefit at all in being born into Israel in a broad sense. He answers his own rhetorical question, you better believe it since God gave to Israel and to no other nation or race, the wonderful and unique privilege of being the stewards of God’s word, His commandments, His prophecies and promises. Israel was meant to receive the revelation of these things and receive and obey them by faith and to spread their message to the other nations.
3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.’’ 
Although some of the Jews will prove unfaithful God will always be faithful to His covenant promises to Israel. God is not a man that He should lie. Paul then quotes from Psalm 51 to prove his point. [3}
5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say— “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!
So if sinfulness shows God’s goodness in a better light, does this mean that God is being unfair for judging sinners who have in a sense ‘done Him a favour’? Why not just does all the evil you can so that God’s holiness will shine out even more? Perish the thought! People who say such perverse things do rightly deserve the punishment coming their way.
 Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward everyone according to what they have done.  Isaiah 52:5 “And now what do I have here?” declares the LORD. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock’’ declares the LORD. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.  Psalm 51:4b Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Full text for print and other chapters at