In verse 1, Paul says that anybody participating even in some of the more easily mastered practices of human nature is putting himself on dangerous spiritual quicksand. Today, in the wake of the breakup of the Worldwide Church of God, a common judgment is to call Herbert Armstrong into account yet say at the end, "But I loved him." Those who do this have overlooked how vulnerable and subject to God's judgment this makes them.
Verse 2 carries Paul's warning a step further by reminding us that God judges according to truth. Those who judge and act as Paul describes in verse 1 have precious little truth. However, this major element gives God the right to judge. He alone knows all the facts and can arrange them all in the light of perfect righteousness.
He reveals in verse 3 the weak position of those judging: They are guilty of committing the same sins, or ones just as bad, as those they are judging! Paul is saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones! In fact, their judgment of others may be one of those sins! In verse 4, he counsels them to lay aside their pride and concentrate on making the best use of God's patience by repenting of their sins.
In verse 5, the apostle plays on the word "riches" in the previous verse. Physical wealth is something one normally sets aside and treasures, but those who persist in evil works are "treasuring up" judgment for themselves! Verses 6 through 11 are a classic argument for the doing of good works after justification from the mind and pen of the very man most often accused of saying no works are necessary.
Within the context of the entire book, Paul is saying here that, while a person is justified by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, establishing a relationship with God that because of sin never before existed, good works should result from justification. Good works are the concrete, open, and public expression of the reality of our relationship with God. They are its witness.
Just as surely as day follows night, if our faith truly is in God, the works that follow will be according to God's will. Living by God's will should be the natural consequence of faith in God. Though we are justified by faith, II Corinthians 5:10 spells out that we are judged according to our works. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Is it not logical, then, for a person, knowing he will be judged according to his works, to want at least some clearly stated absolutes to show him what is expected of him rather than a fuzzy and vague statement about loving one another? Would not such a person want to know more specifically what constitutes love?
In Romans 2:7, Paul is not saying using one's faith will be easy, but that those who have that faith will use it to work. "Patient continuance" presupposes a measure of hardship, and "seek" implies pursuing something not yet attained. Together, they indicate a persistent quest of God's righteousness. In verse 10, the apostle uses the phrase "to everyone who works what is good." He does not define what "good" is at this point, but whatever it is, work is necessary to accomplish it. In verses 11-12, he reiterates that we will be judged, introducing a word that many seem to find so repulsive: law!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation
The apostle Paul comments on the hypocrisy that often occurs when judging others. This is a clear explanation of Jesus' illustration of a man with a plank in his eye critically pointing out the speck in someone else's (Matthew 7:3-5)!
In the original Greek, "inexcusable" in Romans 2:1 is literally "defenseless." In the spiritual court of law, there is no defense for the actions of a person who commits the same sin of which he accuses another. An interesting aspect of this appears when we understand a more thorough meaning of the word "practice" (prassoo) that occurs later in the verse. It means to perform repeatedly or habitually, to do exactly. We can infer from this that Paul means these accusers have not only committed the particular sin before but are also continuing to commit it!
We cannot properly assess what a righteous standard is if we use others or ourselves—fallible human beings—as the standard. True judgment is according to the truth of God. Paul makes this very point in the next verse: "But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things" (Romans 2:2).
God's righteous judgment is based on truth. This means that His decisions are reached based on reality, on the facts of the case, not on appearances or intentions. It also means He judges without partiality to rank, wealth, station, or position. Finally, it means that He judges against an authoritative and unchanging standard: His own character as revealed in His Word.
Judging our lives according to how others live is a sure way to neglect and ignore serious problems in our own lives. Continuing in verse 3, Paul writes, "And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?" God pronounces judgment on those who make a practice of indulging in sin. The apostle makes it quite certain that all sin will be judged. No one will "get away with it."
Some, indulging in self-praise, write their own testimonials to promote themselves because they are full of impatient pride, unable to wait for the acknowledgment and praise of others for their accomplishments. In their own foolishness, these people try to establish their own conduct as the norm and then find great satisfaction in always measuring up to the standard that they have set.
Martin G. Collins
Comparing Ourselves Among Ourselves
We can often see our faults more clearly in other people, yet we usually fail to apply them to ourselves. Because our reaction is so often to criticize negatively, we usually do not see that we are guilty of the same things. If we find a certain type of behavior especially irritating in others, we may have the same problem!
To illustrate this blindness to our own sins, recall David's sin, recorded for all the world to see in II Samuel 12:1-5, when God sent Nathan to show David his sin with Bathsheba. Nathan told of a case in which a rich man who owned many sheep had stolen a poor man's pet lamb and killed it to eat for dinner. King David was outraged that anyone would be so greedy and selfish, so he pronounced the death penalty on this man. Then Nathan quietly pointed out that David had done the exact same thing when he stole Uriah's wife and sent Uriah to his death.
David was a man who, when he recognized his sin, would deeply repent. So how far his heart fell at that time, we can only imagine. He must have been devastated.
What angers us about others in God's church? Consider this carefully, since in the answer may be a clue to our secret sins. "For you who judge practice the same things."
Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Romans 2:1: