When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it. For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It’s obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.
You, who call yourselves Jews, are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth. Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”
Let’s look at this for a moment (Romans 2:12 – 24)
- The Law of Moses = for the Jew
- The Law of Conscience = for the Gentile
I think the confusion comes in if we look at this passage as though it’s talking about salvation – who will be saved – but it’s not. It’s actually talking about judgment and how we’ll all be judged.
The Jews are under the Law of Moses, and those who hear it are not righteous in God’s sight, but those who obey it, are. So God will judge the Jews in the end, not by how they heard the Law, but by how well they obeyed it. The Gentiles, on the other hand, are not bound by the Law of Moses, for the Law was for the Jews. And since Christ had already risen, the Law was fulfilled by the time the Gentiles were offered salvation. However, Gentile Christians DO have to follow Christ, thus take on His character and holiness, so this is NOT an excuse to continue in old behaviors or idleness.
Paul also mentioned those who don’t belong to Christ, yet are morally sensitive and responsible. Today, the world might call them “Good people.” But again, Paul’s not saying they’ll be saved, for salvation is only through Christ (as his Gospel declares). These “good people” still fall short of God’s requirements for righteousness if they’re not in Christ (for righteousness is only obtained by faith in Christ).
Again, it’s to be remembered that here, Paul’s not talking about who will be saved – he’s talking about the measuring stick of judgment.
- People know the Law, yet reject it in their actions and behaviors
- People judge others (unrighteously) as they commit the same sins themselves
- Jews are under the Law, Gentiles are under their conscience
- Righteousness is only available through Christ.
It’s also an introduction to Paul’s next descriptive explanations.
But now, beginning with verse 17, Paul bullet-points the Jews:
- ‘You consider yourselves righteous because you’re a Jew, a member of the People of God.
- You teach righteousness and obedience of the Law, yet you don’t follow it yourself…’
So Paul now puts them right up there with those described in Chapter 1 (see “The unnaturalness of sin” – it’s not scheduled to publish until 4/10/17 though, so it may not be accessible until then)
They know the Law, yet they don’t follow it. They even teach the Law to others and hold them accountable by it, yet they themselves break the same points that they hold others so strongly to. Why does God let them do this? According to Paul, it’s so that one day they might repent and return (or first turn) to Him.
“The Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Will they get away with this? No way, for they’ll be judged by the same measuring stick (the same Law) that they hold others to, “For it’s not the hearers of the Law who are righteous in God’s sight, but those who obey the Law who will be justified.”
Again, this is something we should all take notice to and use as a reminder to regularly examine ourselves (the post for this link won’t be published until 3/5/2018, so it may not be viewable until then). When you tell others not to indulge in pre-marital sex, are you indulging in it yourself? When you tell people not to behave as those who don’t know Jesus, are you behaving as such yourself?
For myself, I realized that I’m always encouraging friends and family to make time to read the Bible (a chapter daily at most) daily. I’ll sometimes even get upset at them when they continue to put it off due to busyness. But then the Lord convicted me when He made me realize that I wasn’t keeping to it either, due to my own busyness. So hence, this study is from my daily reading.
“Many Jews, though possessing God’s written Law, fall short of even ordinary morality.” (NRSV notes). This is also a common problem among Christians today.
- Do you teach not to steal from others, yet, do you not steal from God in your (lack of?) tithing?
- Do you acknowledge Jesus with your lips, yet not with your actions?
- Do you say “Jesus is Lord”, yet judge what the Bible says in response to the culture or what you want to believe?
The Word became flesh: Jesus is God’s Words, God’s means of communicating with us, God’s selfie.
If you can’t acknowledge the Bible as Truth and choose not to obey it, then you really can’t say that you fully believe or accept Jesus as Lord (nor your Lord). For if we say we know the Word of God, have a close relationship with Jesus and teach people about Him and with what we know, then we really need to be keeping up with what we’re saying (even if you’re not teaching or telling others, you should be keeping up with Bible study and prayer, and yes, sharing with others). We should be praying continuously, reading Scripture daily, obeying always, teaching and discussing with others what we learn and know, and backing it all up by our own obedience to Him. So that we may actually be righteous in God’s sight (through our faith in Christ), we won’t have to worry about what will be judged against us, and so that God’s Name won’t be blasphemed because of us.