Romans 2


Romans 2:4

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

(a) The riches of His kindness are synonymous with the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness (Eph. 2:7).

(b) His kindness… the kindness of God. It is not the anger of God that leads us to repentance, but a revelation of his goodness or kindness. God’s kindness woos us from the prison of distrust.

The prophet Hosea spoke of a day when the wayward sons of Israel would “come trembling to the Lord and to his goodness” (Hos. 3:5). The sons of Israel do not come crawling on their knees begging for forgiveness, but they come trembling in awe of the Lord’s goodness. Hosea was describing the new covenant of grace and the awesome goodness of God that leads men to repentance.

(c) Repentance is the ability to receive the truth that sets us free. It’s a change of mind that causes us to see as God sees and think as God thinks. Repentance isn’t doing something about your sin. Repentance is responding positively to God’s kindness and grace. Our repentance does not move God to forgive us. Rather, our repentance is a response to the love and forgiveness he has already shown us through his Son.

See entry for Repentance.


Romans 2:6-8

Who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

(a) Will render. There are consequences to rejecting God’s kindness. Paul is talking about stubborn and unrepentant people who reject the grace of God (see Rom. 2:2-5). He’s saying, “If you won’t accept what God freely offers (grace), then you will reap what you sow.”

Paul is offering a counterpoint to what Jesus says in John 5:28-29. Jesus tells us what we should do (hear and believe) and Paul tells us what we shouldn’t (be stubborn and unrepentant). The rewards for getting it right are the same in both cases, and it’s eternal life. Jesus: “Those who have done good will rise to live.” Paul: “To those who by perseverance in doing good, he will give eternal life.”

(b) Perseverance in doing good. Some twist Paul’s words into a mixed message of faith plus works. “You have to believe but you also have to persist in doing good every day until you die.” Such a message is 180 degrees opposed to Paul’s message. We are saved by grace alone (Rom 11:6). Paul does not say “work hard and you’ll be rewarded with eternal life,” because that would contradict what he’s just said about the righteous life being “by faith from first to last” (Rom 1:17). If eternal life is a reward for good works, then it can’t be the gift of God (Rom 6:23).

So why does Paul tell the stubborn and unrepentant to “persist in good works and you’ll get eternal life”? He’s setting them up to fail. No one does good, not even one (Rom 3:12). And the sooner these hypocrites fail, the sooner they will realize their need for grace.

Romans 2 is bad news for the self-righteous and those working to earn God’s favor, but it’s bad news that leads to the good news: Righteousness is a gift (Rom 5:17). Eternal life is a gift (Rom 6:23, 8:11). God’s favor is a gift (Rom 5:16).

Further reading: “Rewarded for doing good?

(c) Immortality and eternal life are things we all seek. It is a mistake to think that humanity is immortal, for we are all born under the sentence of death (Rom. 5:12). Death is a curse so it is natural to seek immortality and eternal life. Eternal life is found in Jesus Christ (John 5:40).

(d) Eternal life is living forever in union with Jesus; see entry for John 3:15.


Romans 2:12

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;

The Law refers to the old covenant laws of Moses including the Ten Commandments (Jos. 8:31, John 1:17). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.


Romans 2:13

For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

(a) Doers of the Law. Paul is not saying, “Try and keep the law and you will justify yourself before God,” for that would contradict what he says elsewhere about being justified by faith (Rom. 3:28, 5:1, Gal. 2:16, 21). He is saying, “hearing the law is not enough, you have to keep it – and none of you can!” It is impossible for imperfect man to deliver a lifetime of perfect performance. Paul is not calling us to attempt the impossible; he’s trying to get us to admit defeat (Rom. 3:20).

The Jews had the law, but they failed to keep it and this should have been their undoing. Keeping the law is an impossible challenge. Only One person ever did it, and that Person became our righteousness from God.

Further reading: “Doers of the law will be justified?

(b) The Law; see previous verse.

(c) Justified. To be justified, is to be made right with God. No one is justified or made right with God by doing good works or keeping the law (see entry for Rom. 3:20). Rather, our justification is paid for with the blood of Jesus (Rom. 5:9) and comes to us as a gift of grace (Rom. 3:24, Tit. 3:7) that is received by faith (Rom. 3:28, 5:1, Gal. 3:24).


Romans 2:14

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,

We all have an innate knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong. This knowledges comes from our conscience.


Romans 2:15

In that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

(a) The Law written in their hearts is the conscience. Paul is talking about unregenerate Gentiles (see previous verse). He is not referring to the law that the Lord writes onto the hearts of those who love him (Heb. 10:16). Further reading: “What is the law written on our hearts?

(b) Conscience loosely means “with knowledge.” The conscience is that inner sense that lets us know whether we are walking in the will of God or whether we have departed from it. The same God who gave the Law to the Jews, taught all of us how to live in accordance with his will. When we miss the mark, our consciences bear witness and accuse us. When we live in accord with God’s will, our consciences will defend us against anything (Acts 23:1). See entry for Conscience.


Romans 2:16

on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

My gospel. Alternatively, “the gospel that I preach.” Paul did not preach a different gospel from Jesus or any of the other apostles (see Gal. 1:8).

The gospel that was sometimes known as the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:19) or the gospel of God (Rom 15:16) or the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23), was the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24) that Paul referred to as “my gospel” (Rom. 16:25, 2 Tim. 2:8) and “our gospel” (2 Cor. 4:3, 1 Th. 1:5, 2 Th. 2:14).


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