Romans 2:5-16

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, February 16, 2015 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.
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 2:5-16)

Last week, I wrote about judgment and why it’s important to not judge others for their sins, especially when you are committing those sins yourself. This week’s passage re-emphasizes why we should not judge others.

If we are stubborn and unrepentant (that is, we aren’t sorry for the wrongs we’ve committed), we’re storing up God’s wrath. I’m not a big fan of anyone’s wrath, but can you imagine the magnitude of the wrath of the Creator of the universe? That’s bad on a level that I definitely don’t want to even try and picture!

But, fortunately here we at least see a brief glimpse of the positive side: if we seek to do good, we will be given eternal life. Note that this does not mean we’re saved by what we do; Paul is writing to Christ followers here and emphasizing moral character, not salvation.

Then, however, Paul goes back to writing about the negative consequences. He points out that God does not show favoritism; ALL will be judged equally.

This point is important because of Paul’s audience, which is mixed of Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). Back in the Old Testament, God gave the Jews His law. It wasn’t meant for the Gentiles then, only the Jews. But, Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), and because of that the law now applies to all people, both Jews and Gentiles. The playing field has been leveled; all people will now be judged equally.

As Paul says in verse 15, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.” Every human being has a conscience, and the law is written on it; we all have a basic sense of right and wrong. Whether we choose to follow that sense of right and wrong is a different topic altogether. Simply knowing the law doesn’t really get us anywhere; we must obey it!

In the midst of this passage is a literary structure called a chiasm (pronounced KEY-as-m) that helps make this point more succinctly. Think of a chiasm like a hill or steps; you go up one side, reach the top, then down the other. The steps on each side parallel each other.

This literary device helps emphasize the points that Paul is making, since there is repetition of them within the structure, forwards and backwards so to speak. And it makes for a neat looking diagram.

Paul sums up his thoughts here with verse 12: “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.” A person “apart from the law” is one who doesn’t know God’s laws, presumably because they have not been taught. Those of us who do know God’s laws are considered to be “under the law.” If you never knew God’s laws, you’ll still die, and you’ll be judged by the law or moral standard that you knew. If you do know God’s law, you’ll be judged by God’s standards. Regardless of which applies to you, total perfection is required of all of us.

How are you doing at living up to the standard of God’s law? I’m guessing not very well; that’s the boat I’m in. But fortunately for us, the law is not the end of the story. God has given us the law, but God also extends to us His grace - forgiveness we don’t deserve, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.