God’s Judicial Philosophy (2:12-16)
In these verses, we begin to see how God will perform his judicial responsibility to render justice to all sinners. What is interesting here is that all sinners will be judged according to the “laws” under which they lived. “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” [v. 12]. One of the objections to God’s goodness has been this: How can God condemn to hell those who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus? I believe that Paul is speaking to this very thing when he tells the Romans that God will be just to all regardless of when they live or what they have or have not heard. He is bringing his understanding of the revelation of God’s character in Creation back to the minds of the Romans by saying that when men see the creation they would be introduced to the Glory of God and would be without excuse [Romans 1:19-20]. Paul wraps up this paragraph by saying, “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” [v.16]. Whatever this means, it does mean that God will be just.
The Jews Chastised (2:17-24)
Paul then switches gears and turns to his countrymen in the church and questions them regarding the example they are setting. In one sense the Jews could boast in God. They had been called out from among the nations. God had sent to them the Law and the prophets. But all of this did not appear to have the effect of changing the hearts of the people. The Jews had “in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth,” and still they failed to live according to God’s precepts. Paul understood that the image and example of the Jewish people had not served the purpose of God as it ought to have. As a result, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:5: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” The purpose for which the children of Israel were to be set apart – to spread the truth of God – had become distorted into a conceited nationalism.
We will look at the source of the distortion next time.