Living in Grace and Faith
Introduction – In this Session, we will explore Romans 2:2-20. In the last 5 Sessions, we moved through Romans Chapter 1 and looked at God’s indictment of the Roman pagan culture that Paul lived in, for their gross immorality. In Romans 1, we also see the moral slide of cultures and societies that abandon the knowledge of God and suffer in progressive degrees of unrighteousness being expressed in the people. In the context of Romans, Paul’s target was the common Roman culture and pantheon of its idols.
However, in Romans 2, Paul takes on the religious sinner, whose sin is not overt, but hidden in the heart, or sin that is seems of small consequence when compared to others. At the time of Paul’s writing he would have been targeting the observant Jew and moral philosopher. We could say Paul is taking on the religious spirit that condemns others, while excusing itself. See Luke 18:10-14. (Pharisee versus the Tax Collector)
In Romans 2:12-20, we see 4 movements in the text.
1 – All people are accountable for their sins.
2 – The human conscience God’s governor of the soul.
3 – Jesus Christ is the agent of God’s judgment on humanity.
4 – Spiritual pride married to knowing God’s Law does not make us righteous.
a) Paul continues to make the case that all people are accountable for their sin. In the context of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, the religious sinner may have been thinking that because he knew the Law of God, his sin was judged differently than the Gentile sinner of the Roman Empire. It was a common thought in Rabbinic teaching that God would judge the Gentiles with one measure and use another measure when judging the sons and daughters of Israel.
b) It is dangerous to justify our sin because we are Christians. This is the genesis for religious pride that comes before a fall. Additionally, this is an open door to searing our conscience to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. See 1 Timothy 4:1-2.
c) Hebrews 4:13 – Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
a) What is in view here in the text is the subject of ultimate accountability to God for the things we have done during our lifetimes. Hearing the Law is of no value, unless one does the Law. We must keep in mind that Paul is building a theological case that one cannot keep the Law, and therefore is dependent on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the leading of the Holy Spirit who gives us the grace to walk out God’s desires for our lives. All of us have violated God’s Law and all of us have kept God’s Law at times. However, none of has ever lived God’s Law in perfection, except for Jesus Christ, the Living Torah.
a) It is important to note that Paul points out that the human conscience is from God and is the internal governor that either conforms that we have done right or convicts us that we have done wrong. Just based on this truth, no person is ever not accountable to their actions in the sight of God.
b) Paul points our that the Laws of God are present within individuals, whether they are codified or not.
c) Every human culture in history has a set of ethics and morals that govern the social structures of their societies. These all vary in degrees of righteousness. However, there are basic acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in all people groups. The schools of Greek philosophy in Paul’s time proposed that all people had an unwritten law in them that pointed them to the “right way”.
d) Notice that Paul did not say that Gentiles could fulfill the Law based on following their consciences, but they could do the Law, meaning a general way of doing right, however still imperfect.
a) Notice that no one can claim exemption from the judgment of God because they did know His revealed Word. Just the act of violating our inner revelation of right and wrong is enough to be brought to account for our sins.
b) Paul injects the judgment coming through Messiah. This is so fitting, because Jesus was the One who died for sin, who took on sin, endured the punishment for sin, activated the restorative justice of God by delivering humanity from sin, sickness, and torment. Jesus is the One qualified to know the human heart and judge the human heart because of who He is; a God-Man.
c) Hebrews 2:11 – Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. d) Notice that Paul says, “my gospel”. Has the message of Jesus Christ so penetrated our hearts, that it lives in us, and it becomes our life?
a) Paul addresses the common cultural position of the Jews in the First Century, which is their boast that because they have the Law of God, they are superior to the other people groups in the world around them. This mindset was a major issue in the Early Church. See Acts 11:1-2. See Acts 15. See 2:11-13.
b) Paul is making the case that just because one possesses the Law, that in its self does not make them righteous before a holy God. The only way to approach God is in humility on our part and mercy on His part through Jesus Christ.
c) Jesus’ hardest rebukes were reserved for the self-righteous religious sinners of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
d) As Christians we possess the Word of God in its totality. We have the responsibility to not only know the Word of God, align our lives to the Word of God, and present the love, mercy and grace of God that forgives, heals and restores people back to God. See 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.