“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? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:3-4
In earlier studies we saw that God’s wrath (anger) had been “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). God had judicially given the human race up to “uncleanness” and “vile passions” and over to “a debased mind” (Romans 1:24-28). People did what they wanted to do and God would judge them for that (Romans 2:2).
Paul was a brilliant tactician in helping people understand the Gospel of God’s Grace. Jewish believers reading Romans 1, especially the last half, would have been in solid agreement with Paul about God’s righteousness in judging the Gentiles for their sinful ways. However, as Paul so masterfully presents in chapter two, people who judged other people (e.g. Jews judging Gentiles) were “inexcusable” for judging – “for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1). The Jews were guilty of doing the same things and by judging others they actually condemned themselves.
Paul continues to make his point in verse 3 by asking this question – “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?”
λογιζη δε τουτο ω ανθρωπε ο κρινων τους τα τοιαυτα πρασσοντας και ποιων αυτα οτι συ εκφευξη το κριμα του θεου
Is a person who practices the same things as other sinners in a position to judge those people? The obvious answer is “no.” So, since that is true, can a person who practices the same things as other sinners and judges them “escape the judgment of God?” Again, the obvious answer is “no.”
A literal translation of Romans 2:3 is – “suppose you moreover this o man judging those such things practicing and doing them that you will escape the judgment of God?”
κρίνωv (krinón) means “to separate, distinguish, judge”
πρασσοντας (prassóntas) means “perform, accomplish, do”
ἐκφεύγω (ekpheugó) means “flee away, escape something”
κρίμα του θεου (krima tou theou) means “judgment, verdict, condemnation of God”
Paul already pointed out in verse two that “we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.” The Jews, who were well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures, knew that God always judged according to truth and that His judgments were both good and fair. So, why would they think they would escape God’s judgment when they judged the Gentiles for practicing the same disobedience that they (Jews) practiced?
We might imagine at this point that Jews in Rome who read or heard Paul’s letter would be feeling a bit nervous and anxious about what was coming next.
Paul pressed his point powerfully in verse four –
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
η του πλουτου της χρηστοτητος αυτου και της ανοχης και της μακροθυμιας καταφρονεις αγνοων οτι το χρηστον του θεου εις μετανοιαν σε αγει
This is something the Jews should have known well from their Holy Book and history – God is very good and long-suffering.
A literal translation of Romans 2:4 is – “or the riches of the kindness of him and forebearance and the patience despising you not knowing that the kindness of God to repentance you leads?
πλοῦτοu (ploutou) means “riches, wealth, abundance”
χρηστοτητος (chréstotétos) means “goodness, kindness, gentleness”
ανοχης (anochés) means “delay of punishment, patience, forebearance”
μακροθυμιας (makrothumias) means “patience, forbearance, longsuffering” .. it comes from μακρός and θυμός which means “long passion” .. the idea being that God waits a long, long time before expressing His wrath
καταφρονεις (kataphroneis) means “despise, scorn”
αγνοων (agnoón) means “be ignorant, not know”
χρηστον (chréston) means “kind, gentle, pleasant”
μετανοιαν (metanoian) means “change of mind, repentance”
Keep in mind as we study together here that Paul was a member of the elite Jewish legal system known as the Pharisees. The name came from an Aramaic word that means “separated, divided.” The Pharisees were the conservatives of Judaism in the 1st century AD. Paul said that he studied under the famous Jewish leader and teacher, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Gamaliel was the son of Simeon ben Hillel and grandson of Hillel the Elder. Gamaliel was the head of the famous House of Hillel and a respected member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34). Paul learned how to be a teacher and enforcer of the Law from Gamaliel and used his vast knowledge and understanding of Judaism and the Law as he wrote to the Romans.
The Jews, of all people, should have understood what Paul meant when he wrote – “the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” God’s goodness that leads to repentance was deeply embedded in the Hebrew Bible. God called His people to “repent” of their sinful ways and return to Him over a period of hundreds of years. Here are some examples:
King David cried out for God’s forgiveness when Nathan the prophet exposed the king’s sin –
“Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.” Psalm 51:1-3
The prophet Jeremiah warned the people of Judah before they were taken into captivity, but the people would not listen –
“And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.’” Jeremiah 25:4-6
The prophet Ezekiel warned the people who had gone into captivity of the hope that God offered them –
“Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, ‘that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.’ ‘Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 14:4-8
We could also speak of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Zephaniah and Zechariah where God offered to forgive His people if they would repent of their sinful ways –
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.” Hosea 6:1
“Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12
“For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live.” Amos 5:4
“Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, Before the decree is issued, Or the day passes like chaff, Before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the Lord’s anger.” Zephaniah 2:1-3
“In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, ‘The Lordhas been very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 1:1-3
In the next part of our study, we will watch as Paul penetrates the hearts and minds of his Jewish audience with the power of the promise of God’s judgment on both Gentile and Jew.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.