You’re just as bad as they are
Don’t get uppity1 Listen, it doesn’t matter who you are, you don’t have any right to pass judgment on any of these people I’ve been talking about. You’d be condemning yourself, too, because you do the same things they do. 2 God knows the truth about all of us. He’s the one who will pass judgment on everyone who does this kind of stuff.
3 Do you really think you can get away with judging these people when you do the same things they do? Come on now, do you honestly think God will give you a pass on that? 4 Aren’t you taking for granted that God is loaded with kindness, tolerance, and patience? Don’t you realize there’s a reason for his kindness? He wants you to respond by rejecting your sinful way of living.
Warning, you need a change of heart5 I’m warning you. If you keep stubbornly refusing to have a change of heart, you’re going to keep stockpiling anger for Judgment Day. That’s when we’ll know the judgment God makes. It’ll be a good judgment, we can count on that. 6 God’s going to judge us all for what we’ve done.
7 I want to say this to everyone who keeps patiently plugging along doing good, and hoping for the glory and honor of immortality. Eternal life is waiting for you.
8 I have a different message for the selfish, me-first people who ignore the truth but admire despicable behavior. Anger is waiting for you. Count on rage. 9 All toxic people who hurt themselves and others by the terrible things they do are headed to hard times and pain. Jews got a taste of it first. But it’s coming for everyone else, too. 10 Respect, high honors, and peace of mind are coming for everyone who does good. Jews discovered that first. But now everyone can experience God's reward.
It doesn’t matter to God if you’re Jewish11 God doesn’t play favorites. 12 God will destroy everyone who sins. Jews who knew God’s law will face God’s judgment according to that law. Non-Jews who never had the law will face judgment anyhow. 13 God isn’t going to accept people just because they’ve heard the Jewish law. He’s going to accept the people who do what the law teaches.
14 People who aren’t Jews have their own good law. It’s a law of nature. Doing the right thing, which the Jewish law teaches, is something that can come naturally to anyone. 15 You can see it in the way they live their lives. God has written his law onto their hearts. They know this in their heads, too. That’s because the quiet voice of their conscience defends them when they do right and accuses them when they do wrong. 16 Listen, this is my message to you. The day is coming when God will pass judgment on all the secrets we keep to ourselves. He’s going to do this through Christ Jesus.
Follow the law, get judged by the law17 I have a question for you if you call yourself a Jew. I’m talking about people who put their faith in the Jewish law and who brag about their special relationship with God.
18 I’m talking about Jews who not only know what God wants them to do, they agree that the law is critically important. 19 I'm talking about Jews who are convinced that they are spiritual guides. These are people who think of themselves as a light in the darkness for people blind to religion. 20 And I’m talking about Jews who think they have all the answers when it comes to God’s law. They correct the clueless. They teach children about the law. They think they know the law so well.
21 Here’s my question. It’s for those of you Jews who go around teaching others. When are you going to start teaching yourselves? Here’s what I mean. You preach that it’s wrong to steal. Do you steal? 22 You tell others that it’s wrong to commit adultery. Do you sleep around? You say you detest idols. But do you use stuff stolen from pagan temples? 23 You brag about the law. You break the law. You dishonor God.
24 Our Bible says it well. “You are the reason non-Jewish people badmouth the name of God.” 25 Getting circumcised is a great idea if you live by the Jewish law. But if you don’t respect the law and live like it, your circumcision means a big fat nothing.
26 On the other hand, if an uncircumcised man honors God’s law by the way he lives, he’s as circumcised as it gets. 27 Don’t you realize that the uncircumcised man who keeps the law will judge you circumcised guys who know the law but who don’t keep it? 28 You’re not a Jew just because you were born Jewish and you’ve had some flesh cut off in the ritual of circumcision.
29 People are true Jews because of what’s inside them. Circumcision doesn’t have anything to do with flesh and blood. It’s a matter of the heart. And it’s a life driven by the Spirit, not by some set of rules. Some folks don’t think kindly of people who follow the Spirit. But God does. God’s praise is what matters.
Bible experts say Paul might be indicating that since God blessed the Jews first by selecting them to become his people and to get insights into what he expects of his people, God will judge them first. They got bumped to the front of the line in blessing. And they will get bumped to the front of the line in judgment.
Paul’s question is more literally translated, “Do you rob temples?” Bible experts say it’s not clear what Paul is talking about. In a broad sense, he could be talking about somehow dishonoring the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. That’s because the Greek word translated as robbery, hierosyleō, can also refer to “committing sacrilege.” But many Bible experts say Paul is more likely talking about people who use objects that have been taken from pagan temples, perhaps a bit like folks today stealing napkins or silverware from a restaurant…not that we want to give anyone a bad idea.
Paraphrase of Isaiah 52:5.
After making a long laundry list of sins in Romans 1:29-31, Paul almost immediately tells Christians in Rome, “You don’t have any right to pass judgment on any of these people I’ve been talking about. You’d be condemning yourself, too, because you do the same things they do” (2:1). Yet in the letter that he wrote to the church in Corinth, he told Christians there to excommunicate a man who had been sleeping with what seems to have been his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). How do you think Paul might defend himself on what appears to be a flip-flop?
For someone who tells people they shouldn’t judge others, Paul does a pretty fine job himself of judging others. When he tells Christians in Rome to leave the judging to God, he says the reason they should do that is because they commit the same kind of sins he just listed in Romans 1:29-31. What right does he have to say something like that to people he has never met?
Paul warns that “All toxic people who hurt themselves and others by the terrible things they do are headed to hard times and pain” (2:9). Do you think Paul is talking about pain coming in this life or in the next life? In either case, what kind of hard times and pain do you think he’s talking about?
Several times in this chapter Paul talks about Jews being first and everyone else coming later. Then he says, “God doesn’t play favorites” (2:11). It’s unclear exactly what Paul means when he refers to the Jews being first. Some of the more scholarly Bible translations phrase it this way: “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (2:10 New American Standard Bible). Given the context and the way other Bible translations phrase it, do you think Paul is talking about Jews being first on the timeline of history or first in importance to God?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul says, “People who aren’t Jews have their own good law. It’s a law of nature. Doing the right thing, which the Jewish law teaches, is something that can come naturally to anyone” (2:14). Paul seems to be saying that the Jews have their law to guide them but that people who are not Jews seem to have a law programmed right into them—a law that helps them know the difference between right and wrong. If that’s so, what’s the point of missionaries, mission teams, and even local churches with a pastor telling people the rules God expects them to obey?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul says God’s law is not only written into the hearts of nonbelievers, it’s expressed in the way those people live: “You can see it in the way they live their lives…. That’s because the quiet voice of their conscience defends them when they do right and accuses them when they do wrong” (2:15). If that’s true, prove it. How have you seen nonbelievers act like Christians are supposed to act?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul wrote to what sounds like Jewish Christians in the church at Rome and said, “I have a question for you if you call yourself a Jew. I’m talking about people who put their faith in the Jewish law and brag about their special relationship with God” (2:17). Could he just as easily be talking to Christians, as in, “I’m talking about people who put their faith in the Bible and their church and who brag about their special relationship with Jesus”?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul is not subtle at all when he indicts Jewish people for hypocrisy. “You preach that it’s wrong to steal. Do you steal? You tell others that it’s wrong to commit adultery. Do you sleep around?” (2:21-22). Then he says that by bragging about their religion while living in blatant hypocrisy, “You break the law. You dishonor God.” (2:23). Do you think that applies to Christians today as well? If so, in what ways do Christians act like hypocrites? And how do people outside the faith watching this react?