Why The Jews Were Also Guilty (vs. 1-16)
Because they Judged and Criticized Others (vs. 1)
At the end of Chapter 1 we learned why the wrath of God was coming upon the Gentiles (anyone other than a Jew). In chapter 2 Paul tells us why God’s wrath will also come upon the Jews.
The Gentiles were going to experience the wrath of God because they had suppressed the basic truth of God’s existence, as revealed through the creation.
He says in verse 20, "They are without excuse." Creation declares that there is a God, that He is awesome, that He is mighty, that He is powerful, and that He is wise. Anyone can get this revelation simply by looking at God’s creation.
Now Paul begins chapter 2 the same way, "Therefore you are inexcusable O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever way you judge another, you condemn yourself -- for you who judge, practice the same things." Now what man is he describing here? He doesn't specifically identify this man as a Jew until verse 17. "Indeed, you are called a Jew, and rest in the law, and make your boast in God; you know His will, and you approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the Law."
The Jew boasted that he knew the truth, because God has given him the Law. This was something the Gentiles didn't have. Ultimately, it caused them to become very self-righteous, and judge others. When a Jew read the first chapter, he might have said, "That’s right, the Gentiles are sinners, they are without excuse."
But now Paul turns right around and declares to the Jew, "Wait a minute, you are not excused just because you know the truth, just because you have the law. "You are equally as guilty." Why were they equally as guilty? Because they also suppressed the truth. The Gentiles suppressed the truth of creation, which revealed God’s existence, but the Jews suppressed the truth, by not obeying it.
Why does Paul deal with this issue of judging at this point? Because when you judge another you are suppressing the truth for yourself. You’re concentrating on what’s wrong with someone else, and thus blinding yourself to your own faults. That’s the nature of judgementalism. He declares, "You judge others, yet you don’t see that you do the same things yourself." This is something all of us need to be careful of in our own lives. Every time you judge another, you are suppressing the truth in your own life.
The word judge means to discern, determine, or condemn depending on the context. To judge a person means you make a determination about that person and their behavior. Judging to condemn another is when your determination is done in self-righteousness as a put down of that person.
Judgmentalism is best illustrated by the story of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee came to pray and said, "Lord, I thank you that I am not like other men." In the context you can see that this is a self-righteous condemnation of this publican. This Pharisee is obviously blind to his own sinfulness. In reality, we are just like other men!
Notice also that Jesus coupled this idea of judging and condemning in Luke 6:37. "Judge not lest you be judged," and in the next phrase, "Condemn not, lest you be condemned." Jesus defines for us what we shouldn't be doing -- taking that step from determining what’s right and wrong, and going on to condemning someone, as though we don’t do the same thing.
When we judge others, we ultimately blind ourselves. Jesus told the Pharisees, You've become blind guides (Matt. 23:24). If you condemn others you have blinded yourself to the truth because of your self-righteous attitude. Therefore, concentrate on yourself and your own personal relationship with Christ. Ask the Lord to show you mercy to enable you to see your need.
This is why the Jews were inexcusable. They knew better. They judged others, which proved they knew better. Every time you make a judgment you are saying, "I know what’s right." Ultimately, that is your own condemnation, when you turn around and do the same thing.
The right manner to judge is revealed in making only a determination of what is right or wrong without condemning another. See John 7:24, Luke 12:57, Luke 7:43, John 8:15.
Why won’t the Jews escape God’s Judgment? (vs. 2-16)
Second, the Jews were just as guilty and inexcusable before God because of God’s superior method of judgment. Paul reveals in these verses four basic principles of how God will judge men. You don’t want to forget these four principles because they are the same ones He uses for all men, including you.
According to Truth (vs. 2-5)
The first principle of judgment: "But we know the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things."
God always judges according to truth. Why? Because God is the only One who can see the heart of man. He could see the heart attitude within the Jews that exalted themselves and condemned others. Do you realize that all things are naked and open to the eyes of God (Heb. 4:13). In 1 Samuel 16:7, it says that the Lord sees not as man sees; man sees the outward appearance, God sees the heart. With God there is nothing hidden or secret. Therefore, He can judge righteously and justly every time.
Paul also teaches in verse 4 that this arrogant judgmental attitude revealed that the Jews were despising the goodness of God. Do you see judgementalism this way? You are not only despising an individual for their sin, but you are also despising the goodness and the long-suffering of God that you've received. You want the goodness and longsuffering of God for your sin, but you don’t want to give it to others for theirs. What a double standard!
In addition, this same goodness that God has extended on your behalf has given you the opportunity to repent and find salvation. Therefore, be longsuffering with others and allow them the same grace you have received.
What causes such hardness of heart? (vs. 5)
How does a person get such a hard heart that condemns others like this? From unrepentance. In verse 5, notice that Paul declares that their hearts were hard and impenitent. That’s what hardens a person’s heart.
How about your heart? Do you sense a hardness and dryness inside? It’s the result of unrepentance. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you (1 John 1:9). This will bring the flood of God’s Spirit and the times of refreshing that you long for (Acts 3:19).
According to Deeds (vs. 6-10)
The second principle of God’s judgement is that He judges according to deeds. Why is this so important? Because my deeds are the truth. It’s not what I say, it’s what I do, that reveals the truth of any matter. God is not concerned with my talk, he is concerned about my walk, and he is going to judge me on that basis.
In Titus 1: 16, Paul said, "Many profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him." Therefore, a person’s deeds can deny their profession. James taught the same thing. If faith is without works, then it is a dead or worthless faith (James 2:14-17). Consequently, there must be action that follows your faith. God judges on the basis of what you are doing, because that’s the truth of what you believe. Remember, it’s not what you profess to believe, but it’s what you live every day, that reveals what you really believe.
By an Impartial God (vs. 11-15)
The third basis of judgment is found in the statement, "For there is no partiality with God" (vs. 11). God is an impartial God, One who shows no respect of persons. It makes no difference to Him if you are rich or poor, black or white, bond or free. He deals with every man alike.
Is God fair? The natural objection which Paul deals with in this passage is, how can God be impartial? It doesn't seem like He was impartial with the Jews and Gentiles. It looks like He was very partial because He gave the Jews His law and commandments, but He gave nothing like that to the Gentiles.
How can God judge them both the same? Paul explains that God will judge every man on the basis of what he knows, by their hearts, according to truth, and on the basis of what they have done. This is truly the fairest basis of judgment for mankind. To the Jew who knew the Law, if he sins, then he will be judged by the Law. But for the Gentile who didn't have the Law, God deals with him on the basis of his conscience. Did he obey his conscience? Notice that the conscience of man is the proof that the Law of God is written on every man’s heart. That’s what your conscience is there to do. The tribesman in the midst of the jungles of Borneo has a conscience. The Law of God is written upon his heart, just as it is with someone born right here in the United States. We all are alike in this respect.
Why is it that we felt bad about certain sins before we ever heard the gospel? That was the conviction of conscience. Yet, we violated our conscience anyway and did whatever we pleased. The conscience was given to man to either accuse him for sinful actions, or excuse him for doing what’s right (vs. 15).
Therefore, God is fair in His judgment because He sees man’s heart, his conscience, the deeds he does, which enables the Father to judge righteously and according to truth.
By Jesus Christ and the Gospel (vs. 16)
The last basis upon which God will judge mankind is by Jesus and according to His Word as given in the gospel. He is the One to whom all judgment was committed (John 5:22). Jesus said the word that I have spoken to you will judge you in the last days (John 12:48). The most impartial Man who ever lived will deal fairly with all mankind. He dealt with everyone impartially and individually when He walked this earth. The gospels are a clear testimony to this fact. To the woman taken in the very act of adultery, He was gentle and forgiving. But to the self-righteous Pharisees He revealed their condemning attitude (John 8:1-11). To King Herod whose only interest in Jesus was to see Him do a miracle, Jesus wouldn't even speak (Luke 23:8-9). Jesus dealt impartially with each one of them according to their need.
The Three Means of Light
In these two chapters God has revealed three means of light that He has given to mankind. To the unbelieving Gentile He has given the light of creation, and the light of conscience that men might come to repentance. To the Jew He has given the Law that they might walk in repentance with their heavenly Father. And to the Christian, He has given the light of Christ and the gospel message to guide us. He will fairly judge each man according to the light that he received. Are you being obedient to the light you have received?
Paul exhorts the Jews to Self-examination (vs. 17-29)
Paul tells his Jewish readers the hard cold facts and exhorts them to self-examination. Paul first rehearses for them all the blessings they have received being instructed out of the Law. They taught others not to violate God’s commands, but then he questions them as to whether they have broken these same commandments. His conclusion is that if they are breaking these commands then they are causing the Gentiles to blaspheme God because of their inconsistency (vs. 17-24).
He explains to them that circumcision is indeed profitable if they keep the Law (v 25). But if they break the Law, their circumcision has become uncircumcision. This would be hard for a Jew to swallow. In other words, he is telling them: you are no different than a Gentile if you don’t obey the light you have been given.
In verses 26-27, Paul further explains that if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? What does this mean? In other words, if a Gentile, an uncircumcised man, keeps the righteous requirements of the Law, isn't he really acting like a Jew? Isn't this Gentile living like a Jew in his commitment to God’s Word?
The best example of this principle is Cornelius, the Roman Centurion. He was a devout man, one who feared God, who always prayed to God, who gave alms. This man was fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law even though he was not a Jew, and was not circumcised. Cornelius was living in harmony with the light that God had given him (Acts 10).
Knowing that his good works could obviously not save him, God sent Peter to explain the way of salvation to Cornelius. And Peter later said, "In truth I perceive that God has no partiality" (Acts 10:34-36). Peter realized that the Gentiles could be accepted by God if they came to faith in Christ. Peter also came to understand that God would accept Cornelius, because this man had fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law, although having no knowledge of the Law. What are the righteous requirements? Notice, that it doesn't say that any man can fulfill the Law, he fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law (vs. 26). What are these righteous requirements? They are to fear God, to reverence God which Cornelius did. It is clearly a heart issue.
This man prayed continually to God. Obviously, this man realized his own faults and believed God could help him. He also sought to give to others demonstrating his love for people. John says, "And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another" (1 John 3:23). These are the righteous requirements of the Law. James also teaches that we must fulfill the royal law, which is to love (James 2:8). To love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul -- that’s the righteous requirement of the Law. This is what God is after in all of our lives.
In verses 27-28, Paul explains what circumcision is all about. He declares that it is really a matter of the heart. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. He is a Jew who is one inwardly; who has a circumcision of the heart, in the spirit. Paul ends this whole message by saying to these Jews, You know what a real Jew is? A real Jew is one that is one inwardly, not outwardly, not just having the flesh circumcised, but the heart circumcised.
This rite was to teach them that they needed to cut away the fleshly part of their life, and become spiritual men.
You can see this clearly through the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses told the Jews, circumcise your hearts, that you might love the Lord with all your heart, and mind and soul. This is the intent of circumcision.
Many times as Christians we go through the outward right of baptism, and think that the outward rite assures us of salvation. That idea is just as wrong as what the Jews believed. Baptism is an outward sign of something that should already have gone on inside your heart. Baptism is also of the heart.
Paul said, You were baptized into Him -- into His death and into His burial, and His resurrection when you believed in the operation of God (Col. 2:11-12).
As Christians, we need to be very sure that we’re not trying to put our faith in external rites, because they do no good at all. Our faith and our relationship with Him has got to be inward.
God wants to circumcise your heart. He wants to transform your life, He wants to deal with the fleshly areas in your life. Will you give Him that opportunity? We have to also do this self-examination. If we preach to others: don’t do that, then we must be sure we aren't doing that same thing. You may fool me, and I may fool you, but God sees our hearts and He will judge in truth. Remember, you have the truth of the gospel, and you need to act on that truth.