In the second chapter of Romans Paul gives his reader a constant barrage of contrasts. There is the contrast of having the law but not doing the law, not having the law but doing it anyway, failing at the law but teaching others about it, good works and bad works, eternal life and eternal wrath, circumcision and uncircumcision, secret Jew and the apparent Jew, and spirit and letter. If one dug harder a person could find more contrasts, I’m sure.
All of these contrasts serve the purpose of showing the reader how unsuccessful a life committed to Hebrew law is, and how judgment looms on the horizon for all human beings. Verse 6, in my opinion, takes its place alongside Job 1:8 and Hebrews 10:31 as some of the most frightening in all of scripture.
Translation Notes: Verses 1 and 3 have a vocative and that is rare. I think it sets a philosophical tone for the chapter. Verse 18 was a particularly sticky wicket for me. I think Paul is referring to the idea that Jews not only have the law, but that they know (they think they know?) what it means. He is talking about hermeneutics and application. I played with verse 27 quite a bit. The phrase “by nature” I take to be best connected to the idea of judging rather than the usually take that it modifies circumcision as a natural or physical (ESV) reality. It is possible that I am applying a modern idiomatic construct here, but I like the way I worded it.
1. Therefore, O Man, you are without excuse! For whoever judges someone else condemns himself, because he is doing the same kind of things as the person he judged.
2. We know that the judgment of God truly is upon those who practice these.
3. What do you think, O Man, that you who do these things, and yet judge those doing them, that somehow you will yourselves escape the judgment of God?
4. Or do you, in the light of his abundant goodness, tolerance, and patience, not know that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
5. But with your hard and unrepentant hearts you stored up for yourselves wrath on the day of the revelation of the just judgment of God,
6. who will give to each according to his works.
7. On the one hand, for those who seek perseverance in good works, glory, honor, and incorruption, there is eternal life.
8. But, on the other hand, for those who out of ambition and disobedience to the truth are persuaded by unrighteousness, there is wrath and rage.
9. Distress and anguish will be upon every person who works evil, to the Jew first and then the gentile.
10. In contrast, glory, honor, and peace will be upon all those working good, to the Jew first and then the gentile.
11. There are no favorites with God.
12. Those who sin without the law will be destroyed without it, and those who sin with the law will be judged by the law.
13. Hearers of the law are not made righteous by God, but those doing the law will be made righteous.
14. For when gentiles, who do not have the law, might naturally do the things of the law, even though they don’t have the law, they are a law to themselves.
15. Since these people show the work of the law to be written on their hearts, their conscience bears witness, reasoning within them—both accusing and defending them
16. on the day when God judges people’s secrets by my good news through Messiah Jesus.
17. Now, if you call yourself a Jew and rely upon law and boast in God,
18. and you know the will, and you determine the best understanding of the law,
19. and so you believe yourselves to be guides, leading the blind out of darkness into light,
20. an instructor of the stupid, a teacher of babies, having the formulas of knowledge and truth in the law.
21. Therefore, you who are teaching others, will you teach yourselves? Will you who preach “do not steal” steal?
22. Will you say, “Do not commit adultery,” but be an adulterer? Do you detest idols yet rob temples?
23. Those who boast in the law dishonor God by their transgressions of the law.
24. Just as it is written, “The name of God is being blasphemed among the gentiles because of you.”
25. Now then, circumcision only benefits you if you keep the law, but if you transgress the law your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26. So if an uncircumcised person observes the decrees of the law, will not his uncircumcison be counted as circumcision?
27. Naturally, the uncircumcised who keeps the law will judge you who have the letter and circumcision yet transgress the law.
28. It is not those who are apparent, neither is it those who are clearly circumcised in the flesh who are Jews.
29. But the secret Jew, who has a circumcision of heart in spirit, not letter, not the praise of people, but of God.