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Commentary on Romans

by Michael Bugg

Chapter 2

Judgment and the Golden Rule

Rom 2:1  Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, passing judgment; for when you judge someone else, you are passing judgment against yourself; since you who are judging do the same things he does.

Rom 2:2  We know that God's judgment lands impartially on those who do such things;

Rom 2:3  do you think that you, a mere man passing judgment on others who do such things, yet doing them yourself, will escape the judgment of God?

Rom 2:4  Or perhaps you despise the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience; because you don't realize that God's kindness is intended to lead you to turn from your sins.

  1. “whoever you are”
    1. Speaking to both Jew and Gentile

                                                              i.      Jews – condemning Gentile for their pagan pasts, knowing Israel’s own unfaithful past

                                                            ii.      Gentiles – condemning anyone else, knowing their own sins (see below)

  1. The Golden Rule
    1. Mat 7:1-5 - "Don't judge, so that you won't be judged.  For the way you judge others is how you will be judged -- the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you.  Why do you see the splinter in your brother's eye but not notice the log in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the splinter out of your eye,' when you have the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother's eye!”
    2. Mat 7:12 - "Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets.”

                                                              i.      The literal translation of Lev. 19:18, “V’havta l’rayacha chamocha,” literally means, “Love to your neighbor as yourself.”

                                                            ii.      When asked by a potential proselyte to sum up the Torah while standing on one foot, R. Hillel said, “‘What is hateful to you, to your fellow don’t do.’ That’s the entirety of the Torah; everything else is elaboration. So go, study.” (Shabbat 31a)

    1. Rom 13:8-10 - Don't owe anyone anything - except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow human being has fulfilled Torah.  For the commandments, "Don't commit adultery," "Don't murder," "Don't steal," "Don't covet," and any others are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of Torah.
    2. Jas 2:8, 12-13 - If you truly attain the goal of Kingdom Torah, in conformity with the passage that says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. . .  Keep speaking and acting like people who will be judged by a Torah which gives freedom.  For judgment will be without mercy toward one who doesn't show mercy; but mercy wins out over judgment.
  1. The two key sins here are pride and a double-standard

Judgment According to Our Deeds

Rom 2:5  But by your stubbornness, by your unrepentant heart, you are storing up anger for yourself on the Day of Anger, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed;

Rom 2:6  for he will pay back each one according to his deeds.

Rom 2:7  To those who seek glory, honor and immortality by perseverance in doing good, he will pay back eternal life.

Rom 2:8  But to those who are self-seeking, who disobey the truth and obey evil, he will pay back wrath and anger.

Rom 2:9  Yes, he will pay back misery and anguish to every human being who does evil, to the Jew first, then to the Gentile;

Rom 2:10  but glory and honor and shalom to everyone who keeps doing what is good, to the Jew first, then to the Gentile.

Rom 2:11  For God does not show favoritism.

  1. “the Day of Anger,” or “. . . Wrath,” aka the Day of the Lord
    1. Isa. 2:10-12 - Come into the rock, hide in the dust to escape the terror of ADONAI and the glory of his majesty.  The proud looks of man will be humiliated; the arrogance of men will be bowed down; and when that day comes, ADONAI alone will be exalted. Yes, ADONAI-Tzva'ot has a day in store for all who are proud and lofty, for all who are lifted high to be humiliated . . .
    2. Zep 3:11 - When that day comes, you will not be ashamed of everything you have done, committing wrongs against me; for then I will remove from among you those of you who take joy in arrogance; you will no longer be full of pride on my holy mountain.
  2. “pay back each according to his deeds”
    1. The wicked are condemned on the basis of their deeds, their pride, and their hypocrisy

                                                              i.      2Ti 4:14 - Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm; the Lord will render to him according to his works.  (Handed over to Satan in 1Ti 1:20.)

    1. The righteous

                                                              i.      are saved on the basis of their trust in God’s Atonement, provided in the person of Yeshua HaMashiach,

                                                            ii.      but are rewarded on the basis of their deeds.

The Parable of the Talents (Mat. 25:14ff)

1Co 3:11-15 - For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Yeshua the Messiah.  Some will use gold, silver or precious stones in building on this foundation; while others will use wood, grass or straw.  But each one's work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire - the fire will test the quality of each one's work.  If the work someone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward; if it is burned up, he will have to bear the loss: he will still escape with his life, but it will be like escaping through a fire.

  1. “to the Jew first, then to the Gentile”

Within and Without the Torah

Rom 2:12  All who have sinned outside the framework of Torah will die outside the framework of Torah; and all who have sinned within the framework of Torah will be judged by Torah.

  1. Those who do not have the Torah—and by extension, the Word of God—will be judged by the Golden Rule and the violation of their own sense of right and wrong.

a.       We are judged by the light we are given.

An antithesis between the two

b.      Those outside of the framework of the Torah “die”

                                                              i.      Gen 2:16-17 - ADONAI, God, gave the person this order: "You may freely eat from every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You are not to eat from it, because on the day that you eat from it, it will become certain that you will die."

1.      Adam and Chavah did die that day—they were separated from God, their bodies succumbing to entropy.

                                                            ii.      Eph 2:11-13 - Therefore, remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth - called the Uncircumcised by those who, merely because of an operation on their flesh, are called the Circumcised - at that time had no Messiah. You were estranged from the national life of Isra'el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God's promise. You were in this world without hope and without God.  But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah's blood.

c.       Those within “are judged”

                                                              i.      Torah provides an escape for the sinner who repents

1.      Justification by trust in God’s promises (Gen. 15:6)—the centerpiece of Sha’ul’s soteriology

2.      A way to “cover” (atone for) sins in the sacrificial system

3.      The promise of a complete redemption from sins in the Messiah

                                                            ii.      Torah also provides no redemption for he who sins “with a high hand,” intentionally, proudly, and flagrantly—“That person will be cut off from his people.” (Num. 15:30)

1.      “Cut off” = removed from God’s covenant people Israel—not by man, but by the Holy One Himself.

2.      Israel as a whole had “sinned with a high hand,” falling repeatedly into idolatry throughout its history. 

a.       This will become the focus of chapters 9-11.

b.      Here, this fact serves to prove Sha’ul’s point in this chapter and the next that the Jewish people can no more claim righteousness before God on their own merits than can the Gentiles.

Hearers and Doers

Rom 2:13  For it is not merely the hearers of Torah whom God considers righteous; rather, it is the doers of what Torah says who will be made righteous in God's sight.

  1. It does no good to hear God’s Word—or even hear it and “believe”—if that hearing and believing does not result in the fruit of action.
    1. Jas 1:22-25 - Don't deceive yourselves by only hearing what the Word says, but do it!  For whoever hears the Word but doesn't do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.
    2. Eph 2:8-10  For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God's gift.  You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast. For we are of God's making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.

The Torah On the Hearts of Even the Gentiles

Rom 2:14  For whenever Gentiles, who have no Torah, do naturally what the Torah requires, then these, even though they don't have Torah, for themselves are Torah!

Rom 2:15  For their lives show that the conduct the Torah dictates is written in their hearts.  Their consciences also bear witness to this, for their conflicting thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them

Rom 2:16  on a day when God passes judgment on people's inmost secrets. (According to the Good News as I proclaim it, he does this through the Messiah Yeshua.)

  1. Two types of Gentiles
    1. The sinful pagan who refuses to acknowledge the true Creator, and as a result is given over to his/her dishonorable passions.
    2. The former pagan who has put his/her trust in Israel’s King and has been grafted into the greater commonwealth of Israel (Rom. 11, Eph. 2) by being adopted under the New Covenant.

                                                              i.      Jer 31:33 - "For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days," says ADONAI: "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

1.      Notice that the Covenant is first of all with Israel, “to the Jew first,” and that Gentiles are the beneficiaries of God’s extended grace (“and also to the Gentiles”)

2.      How is Torah written on our hearts? 

Eze 36:27 - I will put my Spirit inside you and cause you to live by my laws, respect my rulings and obey them.

                                                            ii.      This is why the fact that the Gentiles had received the Holy Breath, and its accompanying signs, was so radical and important (Acts 10-11). 

1.      The most important sign is not tongues, or prophecy, or miracles, but the evidence of a changed life, of doing the righteous deeds of the Torah even before receiving full instruction in it.

2.      It was the expectation that the Spirit would complete what He had started in the lives of the Gentiles which prompted the Beit Din’s decision in Acts 15 (cf. vv. 8ff). 

  1. “Conscience” = συνείδησις, from συνείδω (“to see completely”), can be translated “self-perception,” or “the judgment of the mind,” not exactly “guilt” as in the modern sense, but an awareness of right and wrong by which one judges one’s self
    1. May be a “new” idea borrowed from Greek thought; only used one place in the LXX, Ecc. 10:20 – “Indeed, in your consciousness (inward thoughts/judgment) do not curse the king . . .”

                                                              i.      Ecclesiastes is thought to be an extremely late addition to the LXX, perhaps as late as 120 ce.  (NETS 649)

    1. 90% of the people alive today and 99% of the people who have ever lived have ordered their life according to an honor/shame system rather than on personal conscience.

                                                              i.      Honor/shame: What the group says is right is right. 

1.      Do right, and people know it = honor

2.      Do wrong, and people know it = shame

3.      Do wrong, and people think you’ve done right = honor

4.      Do right, but people think you have done wrong = shame

                                                            ii.      Guilt system: What I believe to be right is right

1.      Do right, and people know it = honor

2.      Do wrong, and people know it = guilt and shame

3.      Do wrong, and people think you’ve done right = guilt

4.      Do right, but people think you have done wrong = possible shame, but no guilt

    1. Development of a “guilty conscience” seems to mostly arise among the intellectual elite in philosophically-minded cultures—and in the Christian West
    2. The spread of an emphasis of the conscience/guilt in moral decisions is probably a reflection of the work of the Spirit in spreading a “universal honor/shame”—one cannot hide one’s deeds from God, and therefore, one who knows Him is always shamed by his sins.

Hypocrisy in Israel

Rom 2:17  But if you call yourself a Jew and rest on Torah and boast about God

Rom 2:18  and know his will and give your approval to what is right, because you have been instructed from the Torah;

Rom 2:19  and if you have persuaded yourself that you are a guide to the blind, a light in the darkness,

Rom 2:20  an instructor for the spiritually unaware and a teacher of children, since in the Torah you have the embodiment of knowledge and truth;

Rom 2:21  then, you who teach others, don't you teach yourself? Preaching, "Thou shalt not steal," do you steal?

Rom 2:22  Saying, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? Detesting idols, do you commit idolatrous acts?

  1. “You” in v. 17 is singular, elsewhere is inferred by conjugation – Sha’ul is making a challenge to the individual, not speaking to the nation as a whole
    1. Substitute “Christian” for “Jew” and “Bible” for “Torah,” and his message is just as true for the latter nineteen centuries as it was for the first
  2. Teaching without doing is worthless
    1. Luke 12:1-3 - Meanwhile, as a crowd in the tens of thousands gathered so closely as to trample each other down, Yeshua began to say to his talmidim first, "Guard yourselves from the hametz of the P'rushim, by which I mean their hypocrisy. There is nothing covered up that will not be uncovered, or hidden that will not become known. What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.

                                                              i.      Hypocrisy (ὑπόκρισις) – literally, “to act” (as in a play), “to pretend”

    1. Learning and teaching without doing is condemned in Judaism

                                                              i.      “Shammai said, Make thy Torah an ordinance; say little and do much; and receive every man with a pleasant expression of countenance.”  (Avot 1:15)

                                                            ii.      “Rabbi Yishmael bar Rabbi Yose said: One who studies Torah in order to teach, is given the means to study and teach; and one who studies in order to practice, is given the means to study and to teach, to observe and to practice.”  (Avot 4:6)

                                                          iii.      “The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not bear (so lit.) the name of the Lord thy God in vain’ (Exod. xx. 7), was interpreted: ‘Do no put on the phylacteries, bearing God’s name, and then go and sin’ (Peskia, 111b).”  (Cohen, Talmud 153)

                                                          iv.      “In the hour when an individual is brought before the heavenly court for judgment, the person is asked:  Did you conduct your [business] affairs honestly?  Did you set aside regular time for Torah study?  Did you work at having children?  Did you look forward to the world’s redemption?” (Shabbat 31a)

1.      “Note that the first question asked in heaven is not ‘Did you believe in God?’ or ‘Did you observe all the rituals’ but ‘Were you honest in business?” . . . The above passage unequivocally asserts that ethics is at Judaism’s core; God’s first concern is with a person’s decency.”  (Telushkin, Wisdom 3)

                                                            v.      “Said King Jannaeus to his daughter, ‘Do not fear the Pharisees nor those who are not Pharisees, but only the ones who are hypocrites, who appear like Pharisees, but whose deeds are the deeds of Zimri, while they seek the reward of Phineas [Num. 25:11ff.].’”  (Sotah 22b)

1.      The “seven types of Pharisees” passage immediately precedes this

  1. A call for self-examination and self-honesty
    1. Sha’ul’s list of commandments and their violations is not meant to be exhaustive – if someone answered, “Of course not!” he would just continue down the list of the 613 until he saw them squirm.
    2. Even if we don’t commit the outward sin, a desire to commit it restrained only by the fear of being caught is still sin

                                                              i.      “Thou shalt not covet . . .”

                                                            ii.      Mat 5:27f - "You have heard that our fathers were told, `Do not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that a man who even looks at a woman with the purpose of lusting after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” etc.

                                                          iii.      Psa 51:6 - Still, you want truth in the inner person; so make me know wisdom in my inmost heart.

  1. “commit idolatrous acts” – two possible meanings
    1. lit. “rob temples”; ἱεροσυλεῖς, i.e., commit sacrilege on the level of robbing a temple

                                                              i.      Profaning holy things was a great sin (cf. Lev. 22:14f)

    1. Thayer’s:  “thou who abhorrest idols and their contamination, doest yet not hesitate to plunder their shrines,” receiving benefit from idol-worship

                                                              i.      The sin of Achan, who brought judgment on Israel when he plundered goods from the pagan Canaanites and brought them into the camp (Jos. 7).

                                                            ii.      The sin of King Saul, who likewise plundered the Amalekites and took King Agag prisoner (likely to ransom him) instead of destroying everything as the Torah instructs (2Sa 15)

Slandering God

Rom 2:23  You who take such pride in Torah, do you, by disobeying the Torah, dishonor God? -

Rom 2:24  as it says in the Tanakh, "For it is because of you that God's name is blasphemed by the Goyim."

  1. References two passages
    1. Isaiah 52:5 - So now, what should I do here," asks ADONAI, "since my people were carried off for nothing? Their oppressors are howling," says ADONAI, "and my name is always being insulted, daily.”
    2. Ezekiel 36:22 - Therefore tell the house of Isra'el that Adonai ELOHIM says this: 'I am not going to do this for your sake, house of Isra'el, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have been profaning among the nations where you went.’
  2. Speaks of God’s anger at having to use pagan peoples to punish Israel, giving them the chance to boast that their gods had conquered the true God.
    1. Once again, the Church has no place to boast, having committed the same sins almost point-for-point

True Jewishness

Rom 2:25  For circumcision is indeed of value if you do what Torah says. But if you are a transgressor of Torah, your circumcision has become uncircumcision!

Rom 2:26  Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, won't his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?

Rom 2:27  Indeed, the man who is physically uncircumcised but obeys the Torah will stand as a judgment on you who have had a b'rit-milah and have Torah written out but violate it!

Rom 2:28  For the real Jew is not merely Jewish outwardly: true circumcision is not only external and physical.

Rom 2:29  On the contrary, the real Jew is one inwardly; and true circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; so that his praise comes not from other people but from God.

  1. Inclusion in the nation of Israel required keeping four positive mitzvot and several negative mitzvot – violation of these would result in “cutting off”
    1. Positive

                                                              i.      Circumcision (Gen 17:9ff)

1.      This was not just to be external, but a circumcision of the heart (Deu. 10:16, 30:6; Jer. 4:4)

                                                            ii.      Keeping Passover (Exo 12:15ff, Num. 9:13)

                                                          iii.      Keeping Sabbath (Exo 31:14) – this is keeping a covenant with God; v. 16)

1.      “More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.” – Ahad HaAm (Asher Hirsch Ginsberg)

                                                          iv.      Keeping Yom Kippur (Lev. 23:29)

    1. Negative

                                                              i.      Consuming blood (Lev. 7:27, 17:10ff)

                                                            ii.      The “abomination” sins

1.      sexual sins (Lev. 18-20), including cross-dressing (Deu. 22:5)

2.      idolatry (Deu. 7:25) and human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Deu. 12:31)

3.      impure sacrifice to the Holy One (Deu. 17:1)

4.      occultism, astrology, séances (Deu. 18:9-12)

5.      dishonest business practices (Deu. 25:14-16)

                                                            ii.      Profaning the Lord’s sacrifice (Lev. 7:20ff, 19:7f)

                                                          iii.      Profaning the Lord’s implements, such as the incense, oil, sanctuary, or other implements (Exo. 30:22-38, Lev. 22:3, Num. 19:13)

                                                          iv.      Offering sacrifices outside of God’s ordained location (Lev. 17:3ff)

                                                            v.      Sinning “with a high hand” (Num. 15:30-31)

  1. What Sha’ul is saying:
    1. If you are a transgressor of Torah, your Jewishness has become paganism!  True Jewishness comes from within, from the Spirit, not merely as a benefit of birth – as Moshe himself taught!
    2. Conversely, if a former Gentile/pagan keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, he will be counted as good as a Jew – in fact, he will judge (rule over) the Jew who violates the Torah!
    3. This does not mean that Christians are now the “true” Israel.

                                                              i.      First, Sha’ul does not refer to “Christians” becoming Jews, though he does indicate that they are “annexed,” “grafted in,” or “adopted” into greater Israel.

1.      On the contrary, he works very hard to take away the stigma of being a “gentile” (a non-Jew, not a pagan)

                                                            ii.      Secondly, it can hardly be argued that the Church, as a body, has kept the righteous requirements of the Torah!

  1. As he will hammer home in the next section, all – Jew and Gentile alike – have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so nobody gets to boast.  We all need the Salvation provided in God’s Anointed Salvation (Messiah Yeshua).



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