Romans 2:1-16

These small group studies of Romans contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Romans 2:1-16 Inductive Bible Study

Paraphrase

1. None of you have an excuse. Because when you judge others you also condemn yourself since you practice the same things.

2. It is sure that God’s righteous judgment is on those who practice such things. James 3:1, Luke 6:37

3. Do you men think that if you pass judgment on others who practice such things, but do the same things yourselves, that you can escape God’s judgment? Proverbs 24:16,

4. Or do you not take seriously His kindness, tolerance, and patience, and do not know that His kindness leads you to repentance? 2 Peter 3:9

5. But since your hearts are stubborn and unrepentant you are storing up wrath for yourself, when God’s final judgment comes.

6. He will repay each person according to their deeds. Revelation 20:11-15, 2 Cor 5:10

7. He will give eternal life to those who by perseverance in doing good desire glory, honor, and immortality. (Perseverance and endurance is a key word used to describe believers. They run the marathon and continue to mature until death or the coming of Christ).

8. But He will deal out wrath and indignation to the selfishly ambitious people who disobey the truth and instead follow after unrighteousness.

9. Suffering and punishment will be experienced by every person who does evil, first to the Jew and also to the Greek, Matthew 13:50 (stark reality, described as furnace of fire, outer darkness, excruciating thirst, worm doesn’t die, separation)

10. but glory, honor, and peace to those who do good, first to the Jew and also to Greek.

11. God has no partiality. James 2:1-9 (no need to read)

12. Those who sinned without knowing the Law also perish without knowing the Law, and those who sinned while under the Law will be judged by it,

13. For hearing the Law does not make one just in God’s sight. Only doing it will. (Can you think of other verses about this?)

14. When Gentiles who don’t know the Law do by conscience the things of the Law, these, though they don’t have the Law, act as a Law to themselves, (tree of knowledge of good and evil)

15. Because they show that the Law is written in their hearts, their conscience leading them and their thoughts either accusing or defending them,

16. on the day when God fulfills my gospel by judging the secrets of men through Christ.

Outline

I. Judgment (1-16)

A. Judgment on hypocrites (1-4)

B. Judgment based on deeds (5-11)

C. Judgment is worldwide (12-16)

Discussion Questions

If last chapter, Paul expounded on the point of “sin” in the gospel, what is he expounding on here?

Why is it useful to learn of God’s judgment? How about in our gospel sharing?

In the last chapter, we saw that Creation keeps people from having an excuse to avoid God’s judgment. How about this chapter?

What does it mean to pass judgment? Does everyone pass judgments? What are some examples?

Does anyone keep all of their own standards? How can you tell what a person’s standards really are (often they offer excuses)?

What is the right word to describe someone who tells others what to do and then doesn’t do it himself? Do you think we fall into this category? Can you escape the judgment of God if you do these things?

Why would someone not take the way of escape God has provided?

We can either store up wrath or (reward)?

What does the “day of wrath” refer to?

What is the judgment based on (our deeds)? Who will face it?

Do verses 7-10 teach a works-based salvation? If not, what is taught in those verses (judgment is based on deeds)?

Why the phrase of the “Jew first…” in verse 9 (Because Jews were given more knowledge, they will be held to a higher standard and judged more harshly than Greeks without the law)?

How does verse 11 shed more light on God’s judgment? Do human judges show partiality? Is this just?

Explain the phrase “all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law.” If they didn’t have the Law, how can they be held responsible for their actions? Will they be held to the same standard of those who have received the Law?

Can a person justify themself by doing the Law (If they do all of it, yes. But no one can do all of it.)? What principle is taught in verse 13?

Do people sometimes follow the Law, or at least know what they should do, instinctively?

Do you think they can keep the basic “rights and wrongs”?

Where does our conscience come from?

Does your conscience ever accuse you?

What does he mean “my gospel”?

What applications can we get from this passage?

Teaching Points

Intro – This passage focuses on God’s judgment. Why is it important to understand God’s judgment? Firstly, it let’s us know that if we put our hope in ourselves, we have no nope. The only way of salvation is through God’s grace. Secondly, it reminds us that what we do is important and God is always watching. Jesus paid a great price so that we could be forgiven. Thirdly, it reminds us that when we share the gospel, we need to be clear about God’s judgment and make sure people understand that they won’t have an excuse.

1. We are hypocrites. Most people think they are pretty good. They say they don’t murder, commit crime, or hurt others. If you show them God’s standard, most would agree that they violate it. But they may think that God’s standard is too high. In any case, everyone, at one time or another violates even the low standards we set. How can we uncover a person’s values of right and wrong? You can see what a person believes is right by the standards they set for others. The passage calls it passing judgment. While a person may justify their own lying, cheating, bribery, etc, you can see their true values by what they demand of others. If a girl tells her boyfriend he shouldn’t lie to her this is passing judgment and then she cannot lie without violating her own standard. Someone tells their co-worker not to be late and then they are late; guilty. Someone tells their friend they should pay taxes and doesn’t do it himself; guilty. Taxi/bus example. We all violate the standards we set for others about what is right and wrong. We all violate not only God’s moral law, but also our own. This means we have no excuse. We are all sinners even if we go by our own definitions.

Although the main point of the passage is teaching us that we are guilty and deserve judgment, we can also get a couple of practical points from it. Firstly, always evaluate our own conduct. Don’t be in a hurry to tell others what they should. Remember to remove the forest in your own eye before the speck of dust in your brother’s eye. Pay more attention to your own actions than the actions of others. And be merciful towards the people that mistreat you, cut in line, and are rude to you because we have probably done the same thing.

When we share the gospel we can also share this point to make sure people understand that they are in fact sinners and will face judgment. Especially focus on this if they think they are not a sinner or a relatively good person.

2. These hypocrites will be judged by God – There is no escaping the judgment of God. Every thing we do is observed by Him. We can’t hide from God anymore than Jonah could flee from God’s presence. If a person says to themselves that God is not watching or doesn’t exist or doesn’t care, it doesn’t change the fact that God is watching, does exist, and does care. We are responsible and it is a certainty that we will face His judgment, Heb 9:27.

3. Our only hope is to accept the kindness He offers and repent, but most reject. – Even in the middle of his “thesis” on judgment, Paul mentions the kindness of God. Their is a way out, a way of salvation. In His great kindness God will listen to those who truly repent. He is patient and tolerant. He doesn’t just wipe out all sinners the moment they first sin. Why? Because He is longsuffering. He wants to give sinners more opportunities to repent. Unfortunately, even though God is full of mercy and grace and patience, most despise it (look down on it). They test God’s patience to the max seeing just how far they can go. They refuse to repent and turn to Him, instead indulging themselves because they hate the Light. They don’t value God’s patience as they should, much like a pig doesn’t value the pearls thrown to it. Most are like the prodigal son, who took for granted the father, and took advantage of the father, but unlike the prodigal son, they never return.

4. Continued sin stores up wrath for ourselves in much the same way that continued devoting ourselves to God builds up treasures for ourselves in heaven. – The result of this unrepentance is a storing up of wrath for themselves. In a sense, everybody has a bank account for their “afterlife”. They can never open it during their life, but they do make deposits to this account everyday. You can either devote yourself to God and by following Him deposit treasures into this bank account or you can reject God and deposit wrath for yourself. Deposit punishment. Obviously the application is for us to pay attention to our deeds and make sure we are making the right kind of deposits.

5. Judgment is based on our deeds. God’s judgment is fair. He doesn’t make up false accusations against us like the Jews did who wanted to condemn Jesus. He doesn’t execute without cause like the Jews did against Steven. He does everything “by the book.” Even in relatively just courts of law the prosecutors may exaggerate the crimes committed. But God never exaggerates. He will simply open the book of records, which records everything we have done and said and thought. Which one of you will be proud of the pages written inside? Maybe some, but I’m sure their are many very shameful things in every single one of our records. These are wicked and condemning. None of us will be able to stand. All of us will have to plea guilty. Thankfully God erases the record through Christ’s blood. All of us are in the book of deeds. Hopefully all of us are also in the Lamb’s book of life.

6. Salvation is not works based, but condemnation/judgment is. – Some Scriptures can be a bit confusing because they share bits and pieces of the story, but not the entire thing. Verse 7 is like this. Taken only by itself it appears to be teaching works based salvation. However, when weighed against the scores of passages (including some later in Romans) teaching justification by grace through faith, it clearly cannot mean that. It is only showing one piece of the puzzle and that is the works. The person doing good works will receive eternal life. But why can they do good works? Why can they actually please God? We know that no one can please God by themselves. This person can only do these things because He has already trusted in Christ and been saved. These are evidences of his salvation, not the cause. Salvation doesn’t depend on works because if it did no one could be good enough. Our works can’t save us, but they can condemn us.

Verses 8-10 make this very clear. All those who do evil, every single soul, will be judged. You reap what you sow. They will not only be judged after they die, but they will face tribulations and distress in their life. This goes back to what we discussed last week, of the general order of creation and natural built in consequences for breaking God’s moral law. Do not think that you can be the one exception.

8. The Jew (and all those who know more) will be held to a greater standard and therefore their judgment will be more serious. – God is just and a just judge will take into account all the circumstances including the knowledge level of the person who committed a crime. Not knowing the law doesn’t mean the convicted criminal will get off the hook, but his sentence will probably be less than somebody who knew the law and yet continued to break it over and over. God chose the Jews and blessed them in a very special way. He revealed a lot more to them than He did to most groups. They had a lot more opportunities to repent and follow Him than most groups did. This makes their rejection of Him even worse and their punishment for rejecting Him even more. Jesus alluded to this when He said that if Sodom and Gomorrah had seen the same signs that they would have repented and similar things about Tyre and other cities. Because the Jews saw Jesus and His miracles personally, their murdering Him was even more heinous. James says something similar in James 3:1. Matthew 11:20-24.

This doesn’t mean that those who didn’t know the law of God will get off with no punishment. Why? Because they still rejected general revelation including creation and their own moral conscience. But their punishment will be less severe.

9. God is not partial. His judgment is perfectly fair and not affected by a person’s wealth, color, age, race, position, or status. World judges can’t help but be biased. Lawyers in the US have a role in selecting juries. Explain the process of striking those they think may be biased and pushing for certain ones they think may be favorable to their cause. Many an innocent person have been condemned because of public opinion against them when they did nothing wrong, the most famous of which is Jesus. One hundred years ago, it would be virtually impossible for a black person in the US to get a fair trial by an impartial judge, especially in the South. Often times athletes and movie stars are almost given free passes because of their famous status. Rich people can bribe judges or use their guanxi to get off.

This world is not always fair, but God is. He is no respecter of persons. You can’t bribe Him. You don’t get a free pass because you are rich or famous or powerful. Neither is being poor an excuse. Every person will be held responsible for their own actions and dealt with accordingly. This is the apocalyptic reckoning, where God will finally repay every person who harmed others and got off with no consequences here on earth. But no one is innocent. There is only one way to get a “not guilty” verdict and you do actually need guanxi to get. What guanxi is this? You need a relationship with the Judge’s Son.

10. Those who haven’t received the law, will still be judged and perish because they didn’t keep their own low moral standards all the time. This is a clear answer for those who are unsure whether non-Israelites who didn’t have the Law (OT) are saved or not. If they sinned against their own conscience, then they will also perish. Perish refers to eternal separation from God. Many may blame God and hold Him responsible, but humans are responsible for their own actions. If they know what they should do, and do it not, it is sin. And unfortunately everyone breaks their own standards, so everyone is guilty. This should inspire us to take the great commission seriously so that everyone can have an opportunity to hear the gospel and repent.

11. Those with the law, will still be judged because they never did all of it (though if they did they could technically justify themselves). Those who did receive God’s commands through the Law are in the same boat. It has not how much you know, but how much you do. The Israelites as a country were given great blessings and grace. T hey were blessed with witnessing many miracles and receiving the Scripture. But although they knew what was right, they didn’t do it. This is the major point of the Old Testament. Man cannot solve his own problem of sin no matter what he knows (education) or how hard he tries (good deeds). Everyone needs a Savior.

12. Everyone has a conscience that tells us what is right and wrong. God has put the basic principles of His Law in our hearts. Somehow naturally people know what is right and wrong. This is supported by the fact that cultures around the world all have similar morals. Governments will forbid murder and lying and stealing and most individuals will recognize that lying and cheating is wrong. It doesn’t mean they will always follow it and the will also offer excuses for doing it, but they will hold the people around them to this standard. For example, parents and employers around the world will not want their children or employees to lie to them. Why? Because they know lying is bad. Same is true about many other sins. This conscience can be twisted or even seared by enough sinful input. But it is still a great blessing from God, especially when it is reinforced with Scriptural intake. It is like a spiritual warning system. Guilt is to the spiritual side like pain is to the physical. Our conscience will sound forth warning bells in our minds before we sin and make us feel guilty afterward. The purpose us to teach us to avoid it and if we fall into it, to repent.

13. “My gospel”. Paul preached the gospel he received directly from the Lord. Judgment was a key element of it and he was not skittish to mention it.

Key Words

Judgment- This is a fundamental aspect of the gospel Paul preaches (16). Others may be skittish of mentioning judgment, but not Paul. It is necessary that people be told we are responsible for our actions. We will have to give a report, an account, to God of our time on the earth.

Wrath- Related to judgment.

Practice- This is a key concept. Of course all people sin and make mistakes. But a righteous person falls seven times and rises again. But if one practices sin over a long period of time this person will be judged for it.

Law- The law is God’s standard to us. But it is not only revealed in the Bible. It is revealed in every individual’s heart through our conscience. Therefore even if someone doesn’t have the Law or hasn’t heard of Christ they know what is right and wrong and when they knowingly break the Law God put in their hearts judgment comes.

Key Cross-References

1. We all make judgments against others. We say that this or that person is doing wrong and they need to repent of it. This very act condemns us because we also do many of the same things we tell others they should not do. We have no excuse and can’t say we didn’t know it was wrong since we tell others it is wrong. Paul is establishing the basis that all of mankind, Jew and Greek, moral and immoral, with the Law and without the Law, are lost and deserve God’s righteous judgment. He has shown this from creation, from conscience, from the Law, from actions, and now from our opinions of others. It is perfectly just and fair for God to judge us and all the world for this. This judgment is a fundamental basis for the gospel.

6. God’s judgment is fair. There is a record of all of our deeds in heaven. To our shame these are wicked and condemning. Thankfully God erases the record through Christ’s blood. All of us are in the one kind of books with the deeds. But thankfully we are also in the Lamb’s book of life written before the world began.

Study Romans 2:17-29

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