In our study Romans chapter two, we will look at God's righteous judgment and the self-righteous man. A self-righteous man is one that is overly proud (even boastful) of their own right relationship with God. They are those that are quick to point out the sin of others but forget that they sin against God themselves.
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are also condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." NIV translation
The first thing that we have to understand in this chapter is that the judgment that is being spoken of is not the judgment of salvation. Salvation is a personal thing between a person and God and the only way to be saved is through faith in Jesus Christ. When you are truly saved, you are a child of God and a co-heir of Christ. That does not change and Jesus is the judge not man. This judgment is talking about the recognition of sin as what it is (disobedience to God). We have the ability to recognize sin because of the very word of God which He has given us but we tend to see the sin in others while ignoring our own. In chapter one, we saw how people turned away from God's word and so became filled with sin. Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Rome to remind them that, instead of just pointing the finger at the sinners, they needed to tell them about Jesus and give them the power to overcome sin. This is the same thing that Jesus was talking about, in Luke 11:46, when He was talking to the self-righteous religious leaders. This verse also says that we are condemning ourselves when we judge the sins of others because you "do the same things". We may quickly jump up to say that we are not guilty of the sins that were listed in the first chapter but this is not talking about doing the same type of sin but is talking about the fact that we are all sinners. Most people tend to rank sin based on our own view of one sin being worse than another but this is not of God. In Matthew 7:1-5, we see Jesus' own words on this subject and He reminds us to deal with our own sin and then we can help others.
"Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth." NIV translation
God's judgment is based on His Word. We are not to try to be the judge and condemn people but we are called to proclaim His Word. That means we stand up and identify sin but we do so understanding that we all require God's mercy.
"So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" NIV translation
We are not in the business of judging people (that's God's right as He created them and owns them). We are to lovingly share the Word of God with people and let God do His thing in their lives. Sharing the Word will point out sin and bring people to repentance because that is the job of The Law.
"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." NIV translation
In the previous verses we saw that we are not to judge people but, as we see here, God will judge. Repentance is a changing of our minds and our direction to be conformed to the mind of God. Without this change, we will be judged by God.
"God 'will give to each person according to what he has done.'" NIV translation
Paul is using the words of David (from Psalm 62:12) and Solomon (from Proverbs 24:12) to remind the Roman Christians (and us as well) that God will judge all people including His saints. This is what Peter was also saying in 1 Peter 4:17 when he explained that judgment will begin with "the family of God". This is also shown to us by John in Revelation chapter 20 when the books are opened. The judgment that they all are talking about is not a judgment of salvation but a judgment of what we have done with the new life that God has given us. In Ephesians chapter two, we are told that God has prepared works "in advance for us to do" and this judgment is going to give us rewards based on how we did on the works that God prepared for us.
"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." NIV translation
These verses present two groups of people: The first group are God's children and we know so because of their "persistence in doing good". This "persistence" is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22) and we know that the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come which is eternal life. This group is walking the talk and are focused on the things of God. The second group might include some of God's children that are not obeying Him and not listening to the Holy spirit. We cannot tell whether they are His children or not because they are not acting like it. They are focused on the temporary things of this world and, just as God is the ultimate parent, He is not happy with His disobedient children.
"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." NIV translation
This passage expands on the previous verses and describes how God is an impartial judge. We see that even the Jews, which are God's chosen people, are not immune and getting a free pass. There are many today that try to look like more than they are by hanging around important people. We see here that it does not matter who your family or friends are because we are each going to be judged individually on our own actions. You cannot "ride on the coat tails" of someone else's faith. Ours is an individual walk with God.
"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." NIV translation
You may have heard the old saying "ignorance is no excuse", well that is what is being said here.
"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." NIV translation
aul is explaining to the people that having the law (being God's chosen people) didn't mean that you were righteous. Jesus said that none come to the Father except through Him and that includes the Jews.
"(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, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)" NIV translation
Paul goes on to explain here that Gentiles (those that weren't the chosen people) were actually obeying the law that they didn't even have. This is a reminder to us that God has placed inside each and every one of us something that governs our actions (a conscience). Therefore, even though we may not have all of the word in our hearts, we have a sense of what is right and wrong. As Christians, we study God's word so that we know His standard for everything. Our consciences are then conformed to the mind of God and can be used by the Holy Spirit to guide and correct our every action. That, my friends, is what is meant by walking in the Spirit.
"This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares." NIV translation
aul reminds the believers that it is Jesus Christ that has been appointed to judge the actions of His people. We can point out what God's Word (the Law) says but we do not have the authority to condemn people in Jesus' name. Jesus gave us an example and it is recorded in John 8:1-11. Here, a bunch of so-called experts in the Law brought a woman that they wanted to punish but Jesus gave them a lesson in pointing their fingers.
"Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law;" NIV translation
Salvation is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and Paul is reminding the people that it is not a group thing. This not only goes for the Jews but for all of us as there are many people who attend a "church" because their family always has and assume that they are then automatically Christians. That is like attending a soccer match and then saying you are automatically a professional football player. God's will for our lives and everything else is for Jesus to be the head and in control. (see Ephesians 1) As the head, Jesus is in control of every part of our lives. What He desires for each part of our lives is found in the Word of God as this passage says that the law is superior to our own wants and will.
"if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth - you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?" NIV translation
Now, Paul is basically asking the Jews if they know it all just because they have the law. There are many that act as if, just because they know a few verses of the Bible, they are Bible scholars. Paul is reminding them as well as us that we don't know it all no matter how much we think we know about God's Word. We never stop learning more about God and much of the learning comes through study of the Word.
"You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: 'God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" NIV translation
God is not honored only by talk; our actions need to match. If they don't match, then others are not brought to worship the name of God and that is our goal.
"Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised." NIV translation
Paul is reminding them that, if you put your hope in obedience to the law, you must keep all of the law perfectly. They could not pick and choose what they wanted to follow. We do not have to keep the law to be saved but when we obey God's commands it demonstrates our love and glorifies His name.
"If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?" NIV translation
Paul is reminding them that the Gentiles ("those who are not circumcised") are God's people too. Because of their relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, they are listening and following Him. Because of this, God will treat them as if they were Jews (God's people, the circumcised).
"The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker." NIV translation
These are strong words for the Jew but they apply to us today as well. If we rely on our rituals, rules, and traditions, then we are missing the point of grace and mercy. Obedience to the law, demonstrates our love for God but salvation is a gift.
"A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." NIV translation
Paul is summing it up by explaining that being a child of God (being a Jew) is not because of physical actions or birth. He tells us that we are God's children when our hearts are changed by the working of the Holy Spirit.