Commentary: Romans 2:1–16

This post is part of a series of essays based on my study of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. They are simply drafts and not intended to be well-polished essays. I would appreciate any constructive feedback.


Romans 2:1–16

Click here to read the passage.

After dealing with the sinfulness of the Gentiles, Paul then turns to the ones who judge—the Jews (See v. 17). They were hypocritical in that they judged the Gentiles for their sins, but yet they too were just as sinful (Matt. 7:1–5). They believed that they would not be held accountable for their actions because of their heritage and status of being God’s people. They took for granted the riches of God: goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering. Instead of living a life of repentance because of how good God was towards them, they continued to practice sin. Many today do not realize that the goodness of God is manifested in that he is patient with us—waiting for us to change our lives before he returns. He does not wish that anyone perish (2 Pet. 3:9,15), and therefore, he is waiting for all to repent (Rev. 2:21).

The Jews had hardened their hearts like the Gentiles, and they were storing up wrath for themselves. Their punishment would be justifiable because God had been merciful and gracious towards them. He renders to us according to the things we have done (Job 34:11; Ps. 62:12; Matt. 16:27). If we do good by seeking for glory, honor, and immortality, we will receive eternal life. If we are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, we will receive death. This warning is for everyone—Jews and Gentiles—because God shows no partiality.

He justifies those who do the law, not those who just hear it (Jas. 1:22,25). Although the Gentiles were not under the Law of Moses, they still fulfilled some of the requirements of the law instinctively, because these requirements were written on their hearts (See Genesis 12:14–20). Their conscience told them what was right and wrong according to God’s moral standard. Verses 12–15 indicate that Gentiles were able to sin, because there was a law that governed their thoughts and actions. We learn from the Scriptures that where there is a law, there is sin. However, where there is not a law, sin is not imputed (Rom. 5:13). Since all are under God’s law, Christ will judge all according to that law, which is the gospel.

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False Knowledge

We are living in a time in which people are so smart that their intelligence has become foolishness. Even in so-called Christendom, some have begun to deny basic truths that have been established since ancient times and have been laid out clearly in the Scriptures. For example, in the name of their earthly agenda, people deny the biblical conceptualization of the body-soul distinction and the after-life. If they cannot completely negate certain doctrines, they will twist God’s word around to create foreign theologies and then claim that there are multiple truths. They also deceive others in efforts to achieve their ultimate goal of fame and personal gain. This behavior is not new. Paul warned Timothy about times like these. He told him, “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20). The Scriptures teach that the work of the deceivers and the deceived will finally be made manifest, and as God’s people, we must resist their deception by continuing in the doctrine of Christ.

In 2 Timothy 3:1–9, Paul describes how people would be during the times of apostasy. He says that they would love themselves and their money (vv. 1–2). They would be blasphemers and would disobey their parents (v. 2). They would also be ungrateful, unholy, unloving, and unforgiving (vv. 2–3). Paul also describes them as being slanderers and despisers of good without self-control (v. 3). The apostates would love pleasure instead of loving God (v. 4). They would appear to be pious, professing to know God, but denying him in their works by being detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing good works (v. 5; Titus 1:16). Furthermore, Paul points out that the people whom apostates deceive would be sinful and gullible, easily led astray by their passions—constantly seeking knowledge but never learning truth (vv. 6–7).

Notice in verse 8 the reference to the sorcerers Jannes and Jambres during the time of the Exodus. When Moses demanded the liberation of the Israelites, Aaron performed miracles to confirm their authority received from God (Exod. 7:1–7). Pharaoh, in response, appointed the sorcerers to perform similar miracles (Exod. 7:11–12). Although they were successful at replicating some (cf. Exod. 8:18), Aaron’s works always overcame the deception of the magicians’ enchantments (Exod. 9:11). The same will happen to the deceivers of our times. We should find comfort in that they will not be able to continue any further with their lies and manipulation of the truth and that their evil works eventually will be reveal (2 Tim. 3:9). Until then we must continue to devote ourselves to the truth of God’s word, knowing that, not some, but the entirety of his word is inspired and is necessary for teaching, persuading, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:15–17).

Death in Baptism is Freedom from Sin

For he who has died has been freed from sin.
-Romans 6:7

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans in chapter 6, verse 7 that the one who has died has been freed from sin. We understand from Luke 1:77 that being freed from sin—that is, the forgiveness of sin—is equivalent to receiving salvation from God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must understand and teach others the manner in which they must die in order to be freed from sin, as this act will bring about the salvation of their souls. The answer to the way in which we die to sin is given in Romans 6.

After explaining to these Christians that grace abounded much more through Christ where sin abounded (Rom. 5:20–21), Paul poses the following question: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1) He then responds in verses 2 and 3: “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:2–3) What we observe in these verses is that the death we must experience is a death to sin, and once we die to sin, we must no longer live in it. Additionally, this death is realized in baptism and is related to the death of Christ. Paul is telling the Christians that their baptism into Christ, which was a baptism into his death, was the way in which they died to sin. Notice verses 4–6:

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

Baptism—an act of immersion into water—unites us with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, and the purpose of it is so “that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin,” but rather “should walk in newness of life.” This operation is only possible by the glory of the Father that raised Christ from the dead. Now, we arrive back at verse 7, where Paul says, “for”—that is, because—“he who has died has been freed from sin.” Clearly Paul has connected baptism with forgiveness of sin, which in turn, is the gift of salvation. In baptism and by the grace of God, we are saved from our sins, and we never die again. However, just as Christ, we must live to God, not giving ourselves over to sin once again, but rather allowing ourselves to be his instruments of righteousness (vv. 8–12). This lifestyle is accomplished only after we have submitted ourselves to Christ’s commandment of becoming his disciples through baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 28:18–20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

A Review of “Misread Text: Isaiah 41:10”

The five-point Calvinist doctrine has permeated several denominations. According to Jonathan Merritt’s article “The troubling trends in America’s ‘Calvinist revival’”, there appears to be a resurgence of Calvinism in America, and the adherents to this doctrine have been called “neo-Calvinists.” The five points of Calvinism are represented with the mnemonic device TULIP: T –Total Hereditary Depravity, U – Unconditional Election, L – Limited Atonement, I – Irresistible Grace, and P – Perseverance of the Saints. I have been working on a series of posts in which I refute the Calvinist approach to the concepts of predestination and election, showing that the doctrine conflicts with basic truths found in the Bible concerning God’s righteousness and man’s free will. Reformed Baptist James Smetanin, an author at The Reformed Alliance, recently published an article titled “Misread Text: Isaiah 41:10.” It is part of a series in which the author explains the true interpretation of particular texts that are often pulled out of context in order to accommodate a personal experience or theological belief. I believe it’s a great idea because, as the author rightly points out, all too often Christians are not aware of the implications of a verse when the surrounding context is considered. However, the problem is that the conclusion of the essay is meaningless within the framework of Calvinism.

The text discussed is Isaiah 41:10 (ESV): “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Smetanin argues that, although one may find comfort in this passage in times of fear, the context reveals that the intent of the verse is not to console, but rather to warn all people of the judgment of God. A fear concerning one’s soul is what is of concern, not the fears of this world. The author gives an interpretation of the passage beginning at verse one and ending at verse nine. My intention is not to comment on his exegesis of the text. What I take issue with is the exhortation that follows. He points out that the verses deal with sin, redemption, and judgment, and that there is urgency for people to repent and to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. A person that believes in the five points of Calvinism have the understanding that God has predestined certain individuals to be saved and others to be lost. There is nothing that one can do to change their condition, as it has been determined before the foundation of the world. The author affirms his belief in this doctrine in warning those who oppose God and his people: “They will have no chance of redemption, as God has already determined their fate.”

Smetanin (and any Calvinist for that matter) has no room to make an exhortation of repentance to any man, since they believe that their fate has been determined and sealed even before God created the earth. What is the sense, then, of calling people to repent if they have no chance of salvation? Aren’t they depraved to the point that God himself has to call them personally to turn from their wickedness? If an alien sinner studied the Bible from a Calvinist perspective and believed it, they would come to the conclusion that they have two options: repent or remain a sinner. However, the problem is that the decision really isn’t theirs, it’s God’s. If they realized this, then what exactly would they have to do? Nothing! They would just need to wait until God does the calling, and he may never call because it just probably wasn’t meant to be. Sorry.

That is not the plan of salvation that is taught in God’s word. Christ came to this earth as the Incarnate Word of God (John 1:14) to die for the sins of all mankind (John 3:16). His gift of eternal salvation is not limited to a select group of people; it is for all those who obey him (Heb. 5:8-10). You must hear the gospel of Christ (Rom. 10:17); that he was crucified, buried, and raised by God on the third day (Matt. 27:37 – 28:6). After you hear the gospel, you must believe it (Acts 16:30-31) and repent of your sins (Acts 2:38). Then you have to confess before men that Christ is the Son of the living God (Matt. 10:32; Matt. 16:16) and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). We are not the ones who work in baptism (Titus 3:5), but rather it is God who works to make us new creatures in Christ (Gal. 6:15; Col. 2:12). He forgives us of our sins, gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and adds us to the church of Christ (Acts 2:38,47). Once you have come into a covenant relationship with God, you must continue to live faithfully, and at the end, you receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). There is no one aspect of this plan that is more important than the others. The sum of his words is truth (Ps. 119:160), not faith alone, not grace alone, not baptism alone. Every single part of God’s plan to save mankind is essential.

God bless you.

Let The Truth Set You Free

This week we celebrate the freedom of this nation. However, this country is full of people who are in spiritual captivity because their religious leaders have lied to them concerning the word of God, feeding them false doctrines that are contrary to truth. In fact, this problem is not prevalent only in the United States; it is a worldwide epidemic. Many people do not realize that they are still under the bondage of sin (Jn. 8:34), which is the work of the devil (Jn. 8:44; 1 Jn. 3:8):

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The only way to be freed from sin is by truth (Jn. 8:31), which comes from Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). If you are following false doctrines and are being led astray by the traditions of men, you are being held captive by the devil (cf. Col. 2:8 ESV):

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

I exhort you to pick up your Bible and examine (not just read) the Scriptures as the noble Bereans did (Acts 17:11) to see if what your religious leaders or your spiritual gurus are saying is indeed the truth. If their teachings do not align with the doctrine of Christ, it is a lie from the devil.