Romansby David Cook
Although Paul doesn’t mention the legalistic Jew specifically until Romans 2:17, he probably has such a person in mind as he addresses the hypocritical, self-righteous attitude of the moralist in 2:1.
God does not show favouritism (v. 11). When judgment comes, it will be impartial (v. 6). In these verses, Paul echoes Peter’s conviction about God’s impartiality at the time of Cornelius’ conversion (Acts 10:34–35). Paul stresses God’s impartiality in verses 9 to 10 with his repetition of the phrase, “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”.
So, those whose hearts are set for glory, honour, and immortality (v. 7) will be given eternal life, whether they are Jew or non-Jew. Similarly, those who live for self, reject truth, and follow evil will know wrath, trouble, and distress (v. 9).
In verses 12 to 16, Paul shows that God will judge people by their actions. They will also be held accountable for the truth they possessed. All people (Jew or non-Jew) know something of God (1:19–20) and therefore all people have a sense of right and wrong. Such truth as people possess will provide their definition of sin. People will be judged for sin, either sin as defined by Moses’ law, or sin as defined by conscience. Paul shows that an inner morality is evident in the Gentiles who, without having Moses‘ law, often naturally do the things required by that law (vv. 14–15). On Judgment Day (as Paul indicated in verse 16), their thoughts will accuse and excuse them when they realise it was God’s law they were disobeying and obeying.
Remember, Paul is showing here how people are lost, not how they are saved. We will be judged by what we do in the light of what we know, whether it is the law of Moses (as in the case of the Jew) or the law of conscience (as in the case of the Gentile). Universally, we will be found to be sinners who have acted contrary to the standard we possess.
Only the gospel, which Paul comes to in 3:21, will be able to give relief to all of us who are under the threat of God’s wrath because of our sin.
There are those who say that a pagan is better off without the gospel. Let the pagan stand before God to be judged in the light of what he or she knew, for if the pagan hears and rejects the gospel, he or she will be condemned for that. Do you agree?
What part are you playing in seeing the gospel taken to the world? How does it affect the way you give, pray, and live?