Romans - Lesson 9

Romans 2:1-11

This lesson on Romans 2:1-11 focuses on the theme of judgment and righteousness. The lesson provides insights into the use of a diatribe device, where Paul addresses a singular person to emphasize his point. The primary audience in this section is believed to be the Jews. It highlights their sense of special privilege as the chosen people of God and how they may have believed themselves exempt from judgment because of their status. Paul challenges this belief, asserting that God's judgment is impartial and based on one's actions. 

Lesson 9
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Romans 2:1-11

II. The Heart of the Gospel: Justification by Faith (1:18–4:25)

A. The Universal Reign of Sin (1:18–3:20)

1. All Persons Are Accountable to God for Sin (1:18-32)

2. Jews Are Accountable to God for Sin (2:1–3:8)

a. The Jews and the Judgment of God (2:1-16)

b. The Limitations of the Covenant (2:17-29)

c. God's Faithfulness and the Judgment of Jews (3:1-8)

3. The Guilt of All Humanity (3:9-20)

B. Justification by Faith (3:21–4:25)

1. Justification and the Righteousness of God (3:21-26)

2. "By Faith Alone" (3:27–4:25)

a. "By Faith Alone": Initial Statement (3:27-31)

b. "By Faith Alone": Elaboration with Respect to Abraham (4:1-25)

  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.
  • In Romans 14:1-15:13, you learn about the division in the Roman Christian community, the concept of adiaphora, the balance between liberty and love, and Paul's emphasis on mutual acceptance and avoiding spiritual harm through personal conviction and respect for others' practices.
  • In Romans 15:14-16:27, you explore Paul's extended conclusion, his ministry to the Gentiles, his request for prayers regarding his journey to Jerusalem, the roles of Phoebe and Junias in ministry, and the diversity of the early Christian community.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 2:1-11  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 2:1-11

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.


A. The Diatribe:

So, we have been looking at chapter 1 and I think we have come to an end to what needed to be said about that chapter, focusing again, to go back to our overview, on the “people who are  apart from special revelation”, Jews, but especially Gentiles who have not had the opportunity of having God’s law given to them, who don’t have prophets to preach to them, but nevertheless who have information about God available to them in nature.

Remember that we are now moving in chapter 2, into a section that I have entitled, “people who rely on their birthright.”  What Paul does here is interesting; he addresses a person, and he uses the singular, ‘you have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else.’

First of all, note that this is a singular form here. In most forms of English these days, you normally can’t distinguish between the singular and plural “you”. This is a singular here. 

Paul for the first time in Romans, is using a device we will see him using quite a lot. It is called a diatribe device, popular in the Greek of his day.  It is kind of a teaching device in which you sort of address a single person with whom you are in conversation. Sometimes it can be an opponent with whom you are debating, and sometimes more of a teacher/pupil kind of atmosphere. It is a way of letting other people hear a kind of dialogue you are presenting in order to teach them. So, the ‘you’ here that we have in 2:1 is not an audience member in the Roman Church. Paul is not directly addressing the Roman Christians here. The singular form shows that he is using this device of a dialogue to help the Roman Christians understand a point that he wants to make.


B. You, Refers to the Jews:

The second interesting thing that Paul does here is that it is a fairly vague reference. You, whoever you are, who pass judgment on someone else.  I think it is fairly clear that Paul has the Jew in mind here. He is already making that transition from a focus mainly on Gentiles to mainly on Jews. But rhetorically, by not identifying his opponent as it were specifically, he in a sense, invites that person to discover themselves in what he is saying.

It is almost like you picture Paul himself preaching out in the open air somewhere and Paul has been preaching the Gospel a long time by the time he writes Romans. So, he is preaching out in the open air, and beginning his sermon talking about the Gentiles, and their sin, and criticizing their idolatry, and homosexual sin. And he begins noticing that as he does that, some of the audience, Jews, are sort of saying to Paul, “great preaching; give it to those Gentiles! Amen, brother!  Aren’t those Gentiles terrible?!” Noticing that, Paul then sort of makes the transition, now, you, whoever you are, who is standing in judgement over the Gentiles; let me talk about you for a moment. It is probably the Jews that he is referring to even though he doesn’t name them as such.

One reason to think that it is Jews he has in mind, is the background. I have a passage from a Jewish intertestamental book called the Wisdom of Solomon which kind of reflects very general tendencies among Jews in Paul’s day. It begins talking about Gentile sin: they “celebrate child-slaying sacrifices, clandestine mysteries, frenzied carousals and unheard of rites.” You can see how they talk about sexual sin, adultery, and a whole list of things here. In verse 27 “the worship of infamous idols”. They “go mad with enjoyment, live lawlessly”, and so forth. Idols in verse 30. There is a list of wickedness that typifies the Gentile world. But then you have a transition in chapter 15- “but You, our God, are good and true, slow to anger and governing all with mercy”. It continues, “for even if we,” according to the Jews, “sin, we are Yours and know Your might but we will not sin knowing that we belong to You.”

There is an attitude of complacency among Jews in Paul’s day; there is the sense that you have the Gentiles that are by definition, outside the people of God, wicked and depraved, deserving all the judgment that is coming to them. But we are the people of Israel! We are the ones whom God entered into covenant with; we are His people. We in effect are immune from God’s judgment, even if we sin, because we are the people of God.

It was this sense of special privilege; a kind of most favored nation idea that the Jews in Paul’s day were operating with. It is that attitude that Paul is addressing in chapter 2namely, the Jewish tendency to think that simply because they were the people of God, they were immune from judgment and did not have to worry about their sin.  Obviously, Paul’s purpose here then, is to say to them in effect that they are not that different than the Gentiles they are condemning. He begins then by saying you are doing the same things in verse 1.  Yes, God is merciful, but His mercy is designed to lead to repentance, verse 4. But you, because you are not repenting, verse 5, are storing up wrath against yourself for the Day of Wrath. So, again you have this issue here of the Jewish sense of being special.


C. Typical Chiastic Structure:

In verses 6-11, we have a very typical chiastic structure.   This is a form that we often have in Scripture called a chiasm from the Greek letter chi.  It has this A B then B A basic kind of sequence. Paul engages in that broadly chiastic structure here in verses 6-11. So, in both verses 6 and 11, at the outside of the chiasm, we have the A’s containing a basic statement about God’s impartiality. In verse 6, God “will repay each person according to what they have done;” God treats everyone the same. The point he is making here is that you Jews are wrong to sort of put yourselves in this exclusive category. Verse 11 has the same point written somewhat differently. “God does not show favoritism.”

Then in verse 7, Paul talks about the positive side of God’s repayment, ‘to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.’ Go down to verse 10, ‘glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first for the Jew then for the Gentile.’ The same point is stressed as in verse 7.

Then in verse 8, but on the other hand, ‘those who are self-seeking, who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger’.. This is the negative side of the judgment which Paul repeats in verse 9, ‘there will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil

So, we have a very neat and clear structure in which we have the so-called chiasm of an A B C and C B A arrangement. Broadly, the point is that God is going to be judging human beings according to what they actually do and that the Jews have misunderstood God’s relationship with them as if they are going to be automatically saved simply because they are Jews. Paul’s point is, no, God is looking at what human beings actually do in response to His word. This is similar to James 1; it is not those who have the Word but those who do the Word that will receive God’s commendation.


D. Eternal Life Through Faith or Through Doing Good Things:

Paul says some things that are somewhat challenging for us, for example verse 7, “to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality He will give eternal life”

The question we are raising here and that comes up several times in Romans 2 is what Paul has in mind here. Who is he thinking about, who are the people that persist in doing good and gain eternal life by it? Doesn’t Paul say elsewhere that we gain eternal life only by faith in Christ? How can he now say that people gain eternal life by faithfulness or persistence in doing good things?

I talk about the options in the commentary and explain them here again.  Basically, the statement we have here in verse 7 is a statement of principle. Paul is not describing actual humans who do good and so receive eternal life. He is setting forth here the standard by which God evaluates everybody. To me, that fits the context best and makes the best sense of the way Paul is arguing here.

But I do have to acknowledge that the view Paul is talking about Christians is also a very popular view. You will be familiar with N.T. Wright; you are reading his book on justification.  Wright also wrote a commentary on Romans in the New Interpreter’s Bible series, a very valuable piece of work indeed, where he argues this case and many others have followed him. He says that Paul is describing a principle of God rewarding those who do good with eternal life, explaining later on in Romans that those are people who have faith in Christ. Wright thinks that they are sort of a movement within the letter in which Paul first sort of introduces the principle but then explains the people who actually meet that principle later on. It is important for me to mention that other view because it is very popular and a lot of good interpreters are arguing it.

I still have a bit of a problem with it to be honest because of the way Paul puts it here; it is the persistence of doing good that leads to eternal life. Paul certainly wants to say that Christians are people who, because they are Christians and are indwelt by God’s Spirit, do good things. But I don’t think that ever he wants to say that doing good things leads to eternal life. It sort of results from eternal life rather than leads to it.

Is he saying that the phrase “You, oh man” in chapter 2 is referring to a Christian?


E. It is the Christian who are Law Obedient: 

No.  In verse 7 and again in verse 10, verse 13, and verses 26 to 27 when Paul talks about a human being who is doing good and receives honor, eternal life, justification by doing good. Here he  is talking about a Christian. Quite a few people take this view. Tom Schreiner takes that view in his commentary on Romans. Simon Gathercole has argued that recently in an article. It is a widespread, popular view. 

Any more comments on that here?  

Are you saying that he is saying they endure because they want honor, and that then they are going to be given that? Those who want to persist and do good?  And that the only people who are going to meet that standard are going to be Christians?

Dr. Moo:
Let me elaborate a little further. Maybe looking at verse 13 would be helpful. Paul makes a similar point there. Verse 13: For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight. It is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” 

Wright argues that as the letter moves along, we realize that the people who truly obey the Law are Christians as seen in Romans 8:4, “the righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled by us, who walk by the Spirit.” So, Paul throws out the category here, yes, it is those who are truly Law obedient, who are justified. Bu, the people who are truly Law obedient, as Paul is going to argue, are Christians.  Those who walk by the Spirit fulfill God’s law by walking by the Spirit. Ultimately, the category Paul is talking about here, we realize as the letter moves along, is a category of Christian believers.

But he does like what he usually does, he is saying when Paul introduces something he doesn’t develop it, but eventually he encounters it later on.

Dr. Moo:
Which Paul does a lot, and Wright is correct about that.  Paul throws out little ideas and then leaves for a moment to come back to them, to develop them at a later point.

Is this a passage you can use to say that some people who consider themselves to be Christians are not going to be vindicated in the last day because they really haven’t maintained this, they haven’t persisted in good?

Dr. Moo:
Wright has not always been clear about that, and we’re going to get into the Piper/Wright discussion later on.  . One of the challenges about Tom Wright is that he has expressed himself in slightly different ways  over time. It is a little bit of a moving target which presents a challenge then. The other problem with Wright, and I’m sure you’ve seen this if you have read his book, is that he is a very effective arguer, a very effective debater. He loves the rhetoric and sometimes the rhetoric can run away with him, and I think that can be a problem as well.

But on this point at least in terms of his most recent writings, the latest thing he has written on this is a 2011 article in the Journal of Evangelical Theological Society.  He is pretty clear there in saying that those who have come to faith in Christ will fulfill the Law and be justified on the Last Day. I will take that as his latest and clearest statement on the subject in which he would want to say the doers of the Law will be justified, means that Christians and only Christians who fulfill the Law in Christ and by the Spirit,will be vindicated and saved on the Last Day of Judgment.

(couldn’t understand the first part of the statement) So, the just requirements of the Law for him would be the spirit of the Law?

Dr. Moo:
That is exactly right. What does it mean now to fulfill the Law in the Christian era? It doesn’t mean to observe all the details and stipulations of the Law of Moses, it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, it means to love your neighbors as yourself. In Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law, he has explained what true Law fulfillment looks like and that is what Christians are involved in by the power of the Spirit.

Generally, I don’t have much of a problem with what Wright is arguing at that point, I think what he says is true, but I still – stubbornly maybe - don’t think that it makes as much sense in the sequence of the argument here in Romans 2. I still prefer what I’m calling the principial statement of what the situation is with human beings apart from the Gospel. Well, Paul says that God is going to look at your doing. God is going to look at what actually you do, whether you are Jew or Gentile. If you are doing evil, then you are going to be judged, and if you are doing good sufficiently, you will be given life. But Paul goes on to say that there is no one who meets that criterion. He is going to go on to say that because of sin’s power, all people stand under sin, and they are unable to do what God requires in a way that will bring them eternal life. Therefore, only faith in Christ is going to be adequate to bring them into that relationship.