Romans 2 Commentary

The Jewish world (2:1-29)

Not only are pagan Gentiles under God’s condemnation, Jews are also. Jews find fault with their Gentile neighbours, yet they do the same things themselves (2:1). They know that God is just and that he punishes sin. Therefore, when they suffer no immediate punishment for their behaviour, they think that God approves of them and will not punish them. They do not realize that in his kindness and patience he is giving them time to repent (2-4).

Those who increase their sin also increase their punishment, because God judges people according to what they do. They deceive themselves if they think they can live as they please and still claim eternal life. By contrast those who have eternal life, the life of the age to come, will show it by the way they live now (5-8). This applies to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. God will show no favouritism on the day of judgment (9-11).

The Jews’ knowledge of the law of Moses is of no benefit to them if they do not obey it. In fact, if people know the law and disobey it, they will be punished more severely than those who have never heard of it. God will judge the Jews according to the law of Moses, but not the Gentiles, for he did not give the law of Moses to the Gentiles (12-13). Nevertheless, Gentiles have a conscience, which, though not as clearcut a standard as the law, gives them at least some knowledge of right and wrong. The conscience is like a law within their own hearts, and God judges them according to their obedience or disobedience to that ‘law’ (14-16).


Jews were proud of the blessings they enjoyed as God’s people. They boasted that they knew God’s law, and thought that they could teach it to others (17-20). But they themselves did not practise what they taught, and so brought shame on the name of God (21-24).

Paul reminds the Jews that religious rites such as circumcision are of no value unless the person’s life is in keeping with the meaning of the rite. Circumcision was a sign God gave to Israel that spoke of cleansing and holiness; but an uncircumcised person with a pure life is more acceptable to God than a circumcised person with an impure life (25-27). The true Jews, the true people of God, are not those who have the mark of circumcision, but those who have pure hearts (28-29). (Circumcision was a minor surgical operation performed on Jewish boys when they were eight days old. It was a rite that God gave to the father of the race, Abraham, and it passed on to all male descendants as a physical sign that Israel was God’s covenant people; see Gen. 17:9-14.)

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