Note: sorry for the delay, this week I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth removed.

This week, we're looking at the beginning of the second chapter of Romans. Paul continues to bring the Jews and Christians in Rome onto the same level and to show that they are all sinners in need of God's saving grace.

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:1-11 NASB)

First, let us discuss again the faith of the Jewish and Gentile Christians. The Jews were the people of God, by birth. They had both the history and the Law. The Gentiles did not have this inheritance, and therefore their faith looked a bit different. Paul paints a picture of these Jews very similar to what we see of the Pharisees in the gospels: outwards righteous, public followers of the law, but entitled, "unthankful, rebellious, and unrighteous" (3). Luther, in his commentary, sums up this attitude, rephrasing Paul's words to the Jews in Rome as:

"You live a fine outward life in the works of the law, and judge those who do not so live, and know how to teach everyone; you see the splinter in the other’s eye, but of the beam in your own eye you are not aware" (1).

So, what is the punch line? It's simple: don't be hypocritical, we're all sinners, both Jews and Gentiles. We're all sinners, both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians; no matter where you come from. Anyone who judges others and condemns them for what they've done wrong will not make the judger more righteous. In fact, Paul says that if you judge others, and especially if you commit the same sin, "you condemn yourself."

But all who act thus, of every nation, age, and description, must be reminded that the judgment of God will be according to their real character. The case is so plain, that we may appeal to the sinner's own thoughts. In every wilful sin, there is contempt of the goodness of God. And though the branches of man's disobedience are very various, all spring from the same root. But in true repentance, there must be hatred of former sinfulness, from a change wrought in the state of the mind, which disposes it to choose the good and to refuse the evil. (3)

How do we fix this? As Henry stated in the quote above, it is about the heart of the sinner. Paul calls us to repentance. This is the works vs faith argument, and Paul says here that "God will render to each person according to his deeds." Wait--deeds save? No, not exactly. The beginning of that sentence tells the whole story: it's about the heart. The unrepentant heart stores up for itself wrath and judgment. It doesn't produce good works! Those who by perseverance in doing good (aka, those that have faith and are pursuing God) seek for glory and honor and immortality will be given eternal life, since their faith produces good works. But those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, they will inherit wrath and indignation because of their lack of good-work-producing faith.

This end is for every person, regardless if they grew up in the Law or not, Jew or not, righteous in the eyes of man or not. That is Paul's point in these verses: we are all sinners and cannot fulfill all the commandments and the Law.

How much has Christianity today become like that of the Jews and Jewish Christians that Paul is addressing here? How many of us think we are righteous enough to earn salvation by keeping the law?

Jesus, in his conversation with Simon in Luke 7:36-50, also illustrates our sinfulness. A sinful woman, likely a prostitute, has come into the house of the pharisee to see Jesus. All the "righteous" are in shock as she comes in, weeps over Jesus' feet, washes them with her hair, then anoints them with perfume. When Simon condemns her (to himself), Jesus tells him this parable:

"A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:41, 42, 44-47 NASB)

Both Simon and the woman were sinners; he followed the law (at least outwardly, but perhaps with too much pride), while her sins were many. She had a repentant heart, and therefore sought forgiveness and was forgiven. Simon, who was following the law, lacked that faith we see in this woman, who risked a lot by entering the Pharisee's house to find Jesus.

So, from Bill Bray's sermon this morning at CCC (2) on Luke 7, are we going to have a religion response--characterized by a basis on pride in your good works, unawareness of your needs, and evidenced by activity apart from affections--or a repentant response--based on humility, aware of your needs, and evidenced by activity produced by affections?

Full text

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:1-11 NASB)

Resources

  1. Luther, Martin. Luther's Commentary on Selected Bible Passages. Public Domain.
  2. www.cvillechurch.org
  3. Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Public Domain.