Through the Bible in One Year

Day 250

Romans 2:12-16

We concluded yesterday with Paul making this bold statement in verse 11, “For God does not show favoritism.”  And now for the rest of this section of Romans and to take it even further for the entire rest of Romans Paul is going to be writing and operating with the understanding that “God does not show favoritism.”  And Paul is now going to start to make the case for this being true in these five verses that end the first half of Romans chapter 2.

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.  Romans 2:12-16

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.—2:12-13

God does not show favoritism based on ethnicity or, indeed, on any other grounds.  Those whose lives are characterized fundamentally by sin will face God’s judgement, whether they are apart from the law (Gentiles) or under the law (Jews).  The Jews have received certain privileges (which Paul will emphasize in Romans 3:1-2 and 9:1-5), but merely to hear the law (2:13) every Sabbath is no guarantee of eternal security.

To put this a little more plainly: Paul does not use the term “law” in the sense of a system of rules and regulations that will allow us to obey and earn salvation.  Salvation cannot be received apart from God’s grace.  “Law” here stands for God’s will, his desires, directions and intentions, made known to the human race—even if only through his creation and the human conscience.  In a greater way, God’s purposes have been revealed through the life and message of Christ, the supreme example and expression of his will.  But only hearing God’s Word will not change an individual or bring spiritual salvation.  Hearing must be joined with faith, submission and “obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5 and 16:26), which expresses itself through devoted love for Christ.

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)—2:14-15

The Gentiles referred to in this passage could either be unbelievers or believers.  If Paul is referring to pagan Gentiles, then he is emphasizing that these Gentiles are in the same position as the Jews in verse 13.  Even though they do not have the written law (given to Moses on Mount Sinai) like the Jews, they do have God’s law in their hearts—the human conscience.  The second possibility is that Paul is referring to Christian Gentiles.  Even though they do not have the written law like the Jews, they obey the law because by grace it has been written on their hearts in fulfillment of the new covenant prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-33).  This second option closely parallels Romans 2:25-29.  Either option, however, accomplishes Paul’s purpose, which is to show that Jews and Gentiles are equally condemned by God’s law and in need of his grace.

Again to put this in plain terms: All who continue in sin (those who continue to oppose God and go their own way), even though they have little or no knowledge of God’s law, will be judged and condemned because they have an awareness of God and some knowledge of right and wrong.  God will not automatically save those who do not hear his message, nor will they have a second chance after death.  Though he will judge them according to the knowledge they had and the opportunity given them, they are still accountable to respond with faith to the one true God—depending on him for eternal life and purpose.  The eternal results for those who have not had an adequate chance to hear and receive the message of forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ should us as Christians to make every effort to take his message to every person in every nation.

This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.—2:16

God’s impartiality is further seen in the fact that he judges according to the secrets of the heart, not according to outward features like nationality, class or wealth.  This impartiality is an integral component of the Gospel for Paul.  When he writes “my gospel,” he merely means the Gospel of God (Romans 1:1), which is also Paul’s because he preaches it.  And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we continue on with the overall theme that Paul has developed that God shows favoritism.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Isaiah 1-2, 2 Corinthians 10, Psalm 52:1-9 and Proverbs 22:26-27

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