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Commentary on Romans
by Michael Bugg
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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”)
How is Torah written on our hearts?
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).
i. Ecclesiastes is thought to be an extremely late addition to the LXX, perhaps as late as 120 ce. (NETS 649)
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
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?
i. Hypocrisy (ὑπόκρισις) – literally, “to act” (as in a play), “to pretend”
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
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.
i. Profaning holy things was a great sin (cf. Lev. 22:14f)
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)
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."
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.
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)
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)
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!
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