We all must repent. We must admit that we have been wrong, God is right and then appeal to His mercy for salvation. This is what we learn from this passage.
Romans 2:1 says:
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Romans 2:1 ESV)
We all judge others.
We know instinctively that murder is bad, that we ought not to lie or steal or cheat.
We saw in Romans chapter one the terrible state humanity has fallen into because of their/our rejection of God. Chapter one ends with a list of things humanity has become. When we look at the list of things that God says we have become, we say, “Oh my, yes, these are bad things and I am glad I am not like that. The list is as follows:
“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31 ESV)
When we say, “Oh my, yes...” we agree with God’s righteous judgment that these things ought not to be done. Romans 1:32 says that we “know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die.”
As Romans 2:1 points out, when we agree with God’s judgment, we condemn ourselves. It is no use saying, “I have not done all of these things.” The question is not have you done all of these things, but have you done any of these things? Have you ever gossiped or spoken ill of another person? Have you ever boasted? Did you ever disobey your parents? Have you always acted with pure motives?
James 2:10-11 explains:
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” (James 2:10-11 ESV)
One may say, “Wait a minute; that is an impossible standard!” However, the point we started with is that when we condemn the behavior of another person, we agree with the righteous judgment of God that these things should not be done; and therefore, condemn ourselves. We cannot escape without applying a different standard to ourselves. This is why verse three takes us to the question of whether or not we think we will escape God’s judgment. It says:
“Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3 ESV)
The implied answer is “Of course you won’t.” In the course of discussing judgment, Romans 2:11 says, “For God shows no partiality.” We are talking about God’s judgment. God is absolutely perfect. The Bible teaches this in many different ways. 1 John 1:5 says:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5 ESV)
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 ESV)
Because of God’s perfection, He will leave no wrong deed unrecompensed. Perfect justice will be meted out. However, it does not seem like this to us. This is where verses four and five come in. There is a process of presumption that happens in our hearts.
This process is seen in verse 4. Romans 2:4 says:
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 ESV)
The process of presumption starts with God’s kindness and forbearance. God is kind and forbearing toward all of us. His purpose in this is to lead each person to repentance. Where this translation says “the riches of his kindness,” the word “riches” means “abundance.” In other words, the verse is pointing out that God pours out benevolent kindness on us in an abundant manner. He is kind in countless ways. Second, where it says “forbearance,” it is pointing out the fact that God does not immediately deal with us as our behavior and attitude deserves, but instead “forbears.” He holds back. The problem is that since God continues to be kind and does not strike us when we sin, we presume that we will not be judged. We presume that there are no consequences with God. However, if God dealt with our sins immediately, we would all be dead because as the Bible says, “those who practice such things are worthy of death.” Dead people cannot repent or change their minds. Therefore, God forbears, and in response, we presume.
The result of this process is seen in verse 5, which says:
“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5 ESV)
The hard heart mentioned in this passage is referring to the heart that, although it receives God’s kindness, is not moved by this kindness nor does it respond. This heart is also described as “impenitent.” This means that this heart admits no change of mind. To change one’s mind is the definition of repentance. God is forbearing and kind, but He is also just and holy. Every sin will be paid for. Every unkind, malicious or unrighteous deed will be accounted for. Forbearance does not mean He will not act. Therefore, Romans 2:5 says, “...you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day or wrath.”
God’s wrath is stored up and a day is coming when God will judge all unrighteousness. The hard, impenitent heart stores up wrath for itself on the day of judgment.
There is no escape. God is not one to forget or overlook our misdeeds. However, along with our presumption we think of ourselves as separate from others.
It is only natural that we see the world through our own eyes. Because of this, there is one person whose faults you will overlook. There is one person who you will always make an excuse for. That is, of course, yourself. However, God sees every single person as he or she actually is. Not what we want Him to see, but as the Scripture says, “He examines the heart.” (Jeremiah 17:10, Proverbs 21:2). He sees us as we are.
Therefore, Romans 2:6 says:
“He will render to each one according to his works:” (Romans 2:6 ESV)
This is something that each of us knows instinctively. Each of us will be judged according to what we have done. This is testified to in several places in the Bible. Jeremiah 17:10 says:
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10 ESV)
The principle of how this works is straightforward and is explained in verses seven through ten:
“to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (Romans 2:7-10 ESV)
The ancient Hebrews serve as our example here. The nation of Israel received God’s law through Moses. This law included the Ten Commandments as well as all the civil and religious regulations that were to control the nation. If a person could keep the law, they could be saved. The catch was, like we saw in James, even one transgression of the law made one a law breaker. The lesson learned was:
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20 ESV)
The world has a picture of a balance. On this balance are weighted a person’s good deeds against his or her bad deeds. If the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds, then that person gets to go to heaven. However, that is not the picture the Bible presents. First, there is the phrase, “patience in well-doing.” This could also be translated endures in well-doing.” In other words, if I am doing good deeds and then get tired and kick the dog, have I endured? Second, there is the phrase, “every human being who does evil.” Now, we are back to where the chapter started. We have already established that we who judge, practice the same things. By the standard presented here, we are all condemned. We have all done things that Romans has classified as evil.
The ancient Hebrews were blessed to have the law and the prophets and to know the Word of God. Because of this blessing, many of them thought that they had eternal life. They went to the temple of God, offered sacrifices to God and lived in a very religious society and community. They were educated in a religious system and even their clothing was shaped to a large degree by their religion. They worshiped the One true God. However, according to Romans 2:9 and 10, God’s judgment will fall on the Jew first and then in the same way on the Greek. The Bible is clear.
“For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:11 ESV)
The standard is found in what happens in the heart. Because of this, Romans 2:12 says:
“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” (Romans 2:12 ESV)
This is explained in the operation of the conscience. We all judge others, because we know that some things are wrong. We make excuses for ourselves and are blind to our own faults and view ourselves as special or exceptions, but inside, our conscience condemns us when we are wrong. We can ignore our conscience. We can sear our conscience so that what once bothered us no longer bothers us, but there is one truth taught here that becomes inescapable. God knows our secrets. He knows our innermost thoughts, the workings of our hearts. Romans 2:16 says:
“on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:16 ESV)
The key phrase here is “...God judges the secrets of men...”
Hebrews 4:13 develops this thought when it says:
“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.” (Hebrews 4:13 NIV)
God’s judgment is right. We show that we agree with it when we judge.
God’s judgment is impartial.
God’s judgment is fair. He knows all of our secrets.
This is why we need the gospel. The gospel is given as the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16). Romans is a book about God’s righteousness. It can be outlined as follows:
Romans 1-3:20 - Sin (We are unrighteous.)
Romans 3:21-5 - Salvation (We are made righteous.)
Romans 6-8 - Sanctification (We become righteous.)
Romans 9-11 - Sovereignty (God’s righteous works.)
Romans 12-16 - Service (Our righteous works.)
We are in the section that speaks of sin and our need for salvation. The gospel is good news because God took all of our sins and nailed them to the cross with Jesus. We are saved from the judgment of God that we spoke about today, by accepting Jesus as our Savior. However, if one chooses not to accept the price Jesus paid, then that person chooses to pay for their own sins, and the wages of sin is death. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, please do not let another day go by without making sure of your salvation. Otherwise, because of God’s kindness and forbearance, you are storing up wrath for yourself. The point of Romans 2:1-16 is that we all need to repent, change our mind about God and how we are made righteous.