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©John Yerkes

Chapter 2:1-11 (ESV)

Posted on December 11, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 2:1-11 (ESV) - Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

Question to consider: Why is it harder for us to see our own sin than the sins of others?

I’ll never understand why a chapter would begin with the word “therefore” because this means that the translators chose to put a hard break right in the middle of an important thought. Paul was not ashamed of the good news that Christ had paid for his sin and clothed him in righteousness in order to be reconciled to God because everyone needs what Christ has provided. As someone who was a Pharisee of Pharisees, Paul would have appeared to have every reason to boast in his own righteousness. Sure he persecuted and killed Christians before encountering Christ on the road to Damascus, but he did it out of a plain reading of Deuteronomy 13 which said to pursue those who taught others to worship after another God— even if they performed miraculous signs. It wasn’t until he was forced to realize Jesus really was God-made-flesh that he repented.

Paul’s blindness to the mercy of God and the work of Christ for the world was a byproduct of the debased mind which all of us possess after generations of worshiping the creation rather than the creator. Paul’s point in the first chapter is that none of us has room to condemn people for their particular sins because we are guilty of our own. If we think people should be held accountable to the Law without mercy, then we will be held accountable without mercy for our own sins.

Have you ever listened to one of those convicting sermons where you said to yourself, man if only Bob were here this morning because he really needed to hear this? Given that God sovereignly allowed you to be a witness to that message and not Bob should tell you otherwise. We have a tendency to see sin in others while turning a blind eye to our own, or as Jesus put it, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4) If you haven’t already read it, I recommend my Apologia article on the question of judgment.

The Law cannot save us. It only shows us the demands of righteousness, and when we fall short, it leaves us condemned. Paul’s message at the end of today’s passage was that if we think we’re going to be judged by our own works, those works better be perfect. If we’ve done evil— transgressed the Law at any point— we deserve the judgment given to us whether Jew or Greek. 

Paul says “first for the Jew” because the Jews were given the Law whereas Greeks (read Gentiles) were not. I think he phrased it that way because in the church at Rome, the Jewish Christians may have been arguing that they should be the ones in authority since they were the circumcised and experts in the Law. However, Paul emphasized that God showed no partiality in judgment because both Jew and Gentile stood equally condemned. If this sounds bleak, it is because it is intended to. Paul will get to the glorious good news of Christ in the coming chapters, but this part of his letter was meant to let everyone know with certainty that there is no hope outside of Christ.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for Your Law which shows us our need for Christ. Let it do its work in our hearts so that we may cling ever more tightly to Jesus. May we deal mercifully with others so that they can see the work of Christ in us. Amen.