A Word to the Self-Righteous

Rom 2:1-5

A stylistic change occurs here as the apostle enters into dialogue with an imagined interlocutor who has absorbed what was said up to this point and shows by his attitude that he is in hearty agreement with the exposure of Gentile wickedness. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

In this Paul takes to task those who pride themselves on their religiousness. Like the young ruler they have always kept all the commandments. Luke 18:18-21 (NKJV) 18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 19 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother.' " 21 And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth."

Most Jews of Paul’s day believed in the idea that performing certain moral and religious works produced righteousness. Specifically, they could earn God’s special favor and therefore eternal life by keeping the Mosaic law and the traditions of the rabbis. Many even believed that if they failed in the works effort, they might forfeit some earthly reward but were still exempt from God’s judgment simply because they were Jews, God’s chosen people. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

Paul is here primarily addressing the Jewish people but his descriptions will work well with a self-righteous America.


I.         Therefore you are inexcusable, O man,

            A.        Therefore refers to what Paul has just said in the last half of chapter 1, and specifically to the introductory statement: “For the wrath of God is revealed MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

            B.        Human inadequacy in the light of divine standards continues to characterize the discussion (cf. 2:1, “no excuse,” with 1:20, “without excuse”). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

            C.        Paul is not discussing whether some sins are worse than others. Any sin should cause us to depend on Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life. We have all sinned repeatedly; salvation comes only through faith in Christ. Life Application Bible Commentary

            D.        whoever you are who judge,

                        1.         Human judgment is based on prejudice and partial perception; God’s judgment is based on the truth—he judges on the basis of the facts about what we do. We only know in part, but God knows fully. Whereas our judgment of others is imperfect and partial, his is perfect and impartial. Life Application Bible Commentary

                        2.         Though human beings pass judgments, their judgments are judged by God. Life Application Bible Commentary

            E.        for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself;

                        1.         You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment. (NIV) Paul’s style, as mentioned above, is diatribal—words are placed in the mouth of an imagined person who asks questions or raises objections, only to be refuted. Life Application Bible Commentary

            F.        for you who judge practice the same things.

                        1.         the critic assumes that he is free from such vices, and thus free from their well-deserved judgment. But then Paul says that he has no right to pass judgment, because he is just as guilty. Life Application Bible Commentary

                        2.         Often the sins we notice most clearly in others are the ones that have taken root in us. Life Application Bible Commentary

II.        But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth

            A.        for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

            B.        against those who practice such things.

III.       And do you think this, O man,

            A.        you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same,

                        1.         That you will escape the judgment of God?

                                    a.         “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” Two words are emphatic here, “think” and “you.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

                                    b.         The very fact that we can see the sins in others leaves us with no excuse before God. Those Jews, who were guilty of the same sins for which God was condemning the Gentiles, would not escape God’s judgment. Their national heritage could do nothing to save them, even though many Jews thought their privilege of birth ensured entrance into God’s kingdom (Matthew 3:8-9). All people, Jews and Gentiles, have sinned, and all stand condemned before God. Paul repeats this theme over and over. Life Application Bible Commentary

                                    c.         If a man cannot escape his own judgment, how can he escape divine judgment? MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

                                    d.          It seemed that the more gracious God was to Israel, the more she presumed upon or spurned His grace. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

IV.      Or do you despise the riches of His

            A.        goodness,

            B.        forbearance,

                        1.         Forbearance comes from anoche̅ ; which means “to hold back,” as of judgment. It was sometimes used to designate a truce, which involves cessation of hostilities between warring parties. God’s forbearance with mankind is a kind of temporary divine truce He has graciously proclaimed. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

            C.        and longsuffering,

            D.        Kindness refers to the benefits God gives, forbearance refers to the judgment He withholds, and patience to the duration of both. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

            E.        Without exception, every person who has ever lived has experienced the kindness and forbearance and patience of God. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

            F.        The reason is that God “endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,… in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom. 9:22-23). MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

V.        Not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

            A.        Men are so used to God’s blessings and mercy that they take them for granted, not realizing that they receive those things purely because of God’s long-suffering and grace. God would be perfectly just to blot out any person or all persons. But human nature trades on God’s grace, believing that everything will work out all right in the end because God is too good and merciful to send anyone to hell. MacArthur's New Testament Commentary

VI.      But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart

            A.        you are treasuring up for yourself wrath

                        1.         in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,


How Can We Escape?

We cannot escape God’s righteous judgment by avoiding or resisting it. We find our only hope in submitting to his verdict. If God says we have sinned, we must agree. When we agree with his judgment, we obtain his mercy. When we agree that we are lost, we find a savior. We escape God’s judgment by accepting it and claiming God’s mercy and grace that wait for us. Life Application Bible Commentary

As a result, those who have experienced God’s forgiveness overlook the faults in others while they recognize their own faults. On the other hand, those who have not yet received forgiveness are prone to excuse themselves while condemning and blaming others. This last group of people have not escaped God’s judgment. Life Application Bible Commentary