Romans 2: What is Righteous Judgment?

As Paul continues his letter to the Christians in Rome, he delves into the themes of judgment, hypocrisy and circumcision. Since God’s wrath is turned on unrighteousness, His judgment is predicated on the presence of righteousness. Make no mistake, it is God’s responsibility and solely His responsibility to judge. We are without excuse if we choose to judge our fellow man. The reason is because we ourselves are guilty of the same sins, whether it is apparent to us, and whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not.

God is better suited to judge because He judges according to truth. Our judgment can be very often tainted by self-seeking motives and an inadequate understanding of truth (only seeing things one way rather than in totality).

If we relent from judging others and instead meditate on how the grace of God can cover their sins, we are left with a healthier spiritual state than if we were to remain in judgment. Thinking on how “the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering” will help those whom we judge as well as ourselves leaves us thinking about God’s grace and leads us to humility. Compare that with the self-serving feeling of superiority we receive when standing in judgment of others. Which is better for your soul?

Much better not to dwell in judgment of others and instead to patiently do good and by so doing seek glory, honor and immortality. The text is unkind to selfish people that do not obey the truth: “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil.”

It follows logic and more importantly is aligned with God’s guidance to decide to restrain from judging others because God, who is truth and has full knowledge of truth, is best equipped to administer judgment. In fact, we do our souls and our eternal future a disservice when we judge others: “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” For more enlightening discourse on this type of judgment, see the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Paul goes on to describe how the law of God is written in the heart of man. Within verses 12-16 is a tangle of mystery addressing the conscience of man, the knowledge man has of the law of God without having read it, and how “God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (“my gospel” meaning the gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul was preaching)

We conclude this first section of chapter two by recognizing that judgment ought to be solely the domain of God. We are not properly suited for truly righteous judgment. Our perspective and ability to judge are corrupted by micro and macro prejudices, which opens us up to further judgment ourselves in the face of God’s commandment to not only love our neighbors but also our enemies. While we may not fully understand how God’s judgment is applied to those that have not heard or read His law, we believe Him when He says it is written in their hearts and we also trust in God, that He will exact righteous judgment upon each and every man and woman.

For the Jews in Rome, Paul has a special message in verses 17-24. In the context of judgment from the previous verses, Paul warns against hypocrisy. The Jews had the reputation of not practicing what they preached. Paul is exhorting them to be worthy of the knowledge of God that they had, because “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” This is a theme that Paul could expound readily, having been a high caste Jew himself, formerly persecuting and killing Christians. The warning is one that should not be lost on us today, for it is so terribly easy to judge and equally as easy to look the other way when we practice that which we judge.

The final section of this chapter discusses circumcision. The practice of circumcision was meant to identify God’s people as part of the old law, but Paul argues now that circumcision is useless if it is done in physical practice only. Under the new law and the gospel of Jesus Christ, the true test is what is in our heart. The outward sign has lost its meaning in the new law under Jesus Christ.

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