Romans – Week 4: The wrath of God (part 2)

The wrath of God – (1:18 – 3:20)

Part 2: The Jews are accountable to God for their sin (2:1-16)

Historical context

We must remember that the notes on historical context described in the introduction and last week are as relevant to this section as the previous one.

In addition to this, we must have some appreciation for the Jewish view of salvation. The general belief of the Jew at that time was that because he was born into the covenant community (Israel was God’s people and He their God …) they were automatically saved. The reason for keeping the law was to remain in the covenant community, but salvation was already assured (there are some holes in this argument, but that is the way the thinking worked). The Jews were therefore quite self-righteous, believing that they are better than other people because they formed part of the nation specifically chosen by God.

This ties into the argument of some Jewish Christians that in order to be saved, you must first become a Jew (i.e. convert to Judaism that would involve circumcision, Sabbath and dietary laws). It is this “backdrop that Paul is using to explain the concept of salvation by faith.

Literary context

After stating that we are saved through faith by God’s grace (1:16-17), Paul immediately addresses the atrocious behaviour of some Gentiles. This does not necessarily mean that he is referring to Gentile Christians, but rather to the “nations” in contrast to the Jewish Nation (remember that Paul is busy with a larger argument here – first stating the problem in the world, and then leading on to God’s solution.

Once he dealt with the Gentiles, he sharply turns to the Jews (there is some dispute as to whether he is addressing the Jews here or simply pious Jewish AND Gentile Christians, but I believe this distinction is not that relevant to the point Paul is making – I am dealing with this as if Paul is speaking to Jews, but applying it to pious, modern-day Christians). In dealing with the Jews, Paul makes use of the literary style called “diatribe”. This is when he asks a question to an imaginary opponent, and then answering that question.

From 2:17-3:8 Paul continuous to deal with the Jewish problem of self-righteousness, specifically addressing the issue of what it means to be a true Jew (2:20-29) referred to in the historical context above. In chapter 3 he continues the argument asking what the value is of being a Jew (he digresses slightly from his main argument here, but this is where the diatribe style of writing inevitably leads you), and he answers that by saying that it was a great privilege receiving the full revelation from God.

3:9-20 is a summary of the fact that both Gentile and Jew is a sinner before God and is in need of salvation. Here Paul makes the statement that no one can be made right with God through works (by obeying the law – 3:20). This is slightly confusing given the earlier point made (in 2:13), but the subtle difference in meaning is lost in translation. We cannot be saved by works of the law as no one is able to fulfil the requirements of the law in full. It is interesting to note that Paul here refers to everyone being subject (or in bondage) to the power of sin (3:9). This is primarily what we are freed from when we become Christians – we are freed from the power that sin has over our lives and then it’s obvious consequences.

Analysis

1: You who judge (condemnation vs objective evaluation) are subject to the same judgment because you too are a sinner: “it takes one to see one”; [MAIN POINT]

2-5 God is just/fair and verse 4 emphasises His mercy/kindness/tolerance and verse 5 His justice; [ELABORATION ON MAIN POINT: GOD’S LOVE AND GOD’S JUSTICE]

6-7: Paul stating the theory – those who do good (i.e. live perfectly obedient lives) will receive eternal life (salvation). Note that Paul is talking about seeking glory, honour, immortality that God offers. [BUT #1: THEORERTICAL ALTERNATIVE 1]

8-9: Paul stating the theory – those who do evil will face trouble and calamity. Note Paul is talking about seeking self-interest/own desires. [BUT #2: THEORETICAL ALTERNATIVE 2]

10-11: Paul returning to theoretical alternative 1 [BUT #3: THEORETICAL ALTERNATIVE 1 REPEATED]

12-16: Paul makes a lengthy conclusion stating that whether you are Gentile or Jew, both are subject to the same judgment – arguing that whereas the Jews received full revelation (argued more fully in next section) the Gentiles also received revelation, instinctively knowing right from wrong. [GOD’S JUSTICE]

Reflection

God will reward those who do good and punish those who are disobedient.

Application

  • How do you feel about “judging” others? Is it ever allowed?
  • How do you feel about being judged by God? Is this allowed?
  • What is your view of God? It could be a God of wrath or it could be a kind and gentle God of love – or could it be both?
  • Do you think that there is truth in the statement: “modern society has an inflated view of humankind and a deflated view of God”?
  • Do you think that you have a chance of receiving salvation/eternal life based on what you do or what you have done?
  • What are the chances of being condemned based on what you do or what you have done?
  • What does this section point us to?

Christian business principles, based on Biblical Truth