Although the person Paul is addressing has changed,
the argument is still continuing underneath the same thought flow. The
thought-flow being how God is found just, in this particular case, by
the fact that He judges. God’s righteousness, it said in chapter one
was seen in the fact that He judges all unrighteousness.
In the previous chapter, Paul showed God’s progressive judgment of men
who suppress the knowledge of God within them, ultimately reveling in
their own darkness and rejecting the light. This sink into depravity
was so bad, that ultimately these unbelievers would uphold and admire
those who did these wicked things and taught others to do the same.
Mind you, this depraved man is not so bad that he can’t do “good” as if
he’s incapable of it. This depraved man knows that he can do “good” but
won’t! This depraved man is guilty, not because of something outside of
himself but out of his own choosing.
This chapter then starts to address a different individual in light of
the previous “sinful” individual. Paul starts off with “therefore” as
if to say, “because of these things” a certain kind of person is found
“without excuse”. Why are these certain persons found inexcusable? Not
because of the practice of the gross sins at the close of the previous
chapter…but because they judge others and yet practice the same exact
suppression and rejection of God as those others who participate in
those gross sins. The hypocrisy is not found in the area of the
moralist participating in the lying, wrath, sexual sins and beyond but
rather in their willful and repeated rejection of God.
These specific people would agree that God’s judgment of those sinners
in the previous chapter is a proper and right thing. They would stand
in the cosmic courtroom on the side of God agreeing with the Holy One
that these sinners should be judged…and yet, by the very fact that
they point out this need for judgment, they are in effect saying they
should be judged because they practice the same exact rejection. What
makes these moralists think they will escape God’s judgment?
Well, God hasn’t judged the moralist so this moralist would
likely think that he or she is okay. In fact, this moralist would very
likely think they’re going to heaven on account of their general
goodness–the Jewish authorities were particularly guilty of this
sin…those Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes.
Then again, there are many moralists in this day and age who stand on
the side of God and point out many sins that are being done and they’re
in the same situation as those Jewish Authorities of Jesus’ Day. How
many in Christendom condemn Sin X and yet allow sin Y or Z? How many in
Christendom reject the singular nature of Jesus’ Gospel and embrace the
“many roads” approach to reaching heaven. “Ah,” some of these may say
“Jesus, Ghandi, Buddha, Mohammed…all the same group. Great men, all
believers in God.”
These people, like this moralist in Paul’s letter, is not
receiving immediate judgment in the sense of being given over to the
sins of the heart, but (in their trampling over God’s patience,
kindness and forbearance) they store up wrath for later. They ignore
that God’s kindness is there to lead them to repentance and they wind
up storing up wrath for the day when God’s righteous (unlike the
moralist’s hypocritical and unrighteous) judgment is revealed.
This Day of Judgment will be a day where a person’s works are judged.
The example Paul offers here is a hypothetical one because later on he
goes on to prove how none are capable of their own accord to achieve
salvation. But, if it were possible, hypothetically speaking, the day
of judgment will question if a person’s works have made them possible
to earn eternal life by perseverance (constantly, unstopping) in doing
good seeking glory, honor and immortality. This is, Paul will later
conclude, is utterly impossible. What he is doing here is illustrating
the point that all men are sinners, both the heathen and the moralist
and that both are guilty sinners.
For this day of wrath is on those who follow their own selfish
ambition and do not obey the truth and follow after unrighteousness.
This affliction will be first for the Jew and also for the Greek or, if
you wish, supplant this with Gentiles.
Which truth is? It is the truth of the Gospel of which Paul
spoke of earlier. This obedience is that obedience that results in a
person realizing their own shortcomings and accepting what the Lord has
done in their place. An obedience to the gospel of salvation!
The verses then go on to state that there is no partiality with
God and yet, there seems to be partiality in the way He is judging. He
judges the Jew first and then the Gentile…why?
Note the flow of the argument in this chapter…the Jew, or
moralist, should know better. We will discover in later chapters that
the Jews were given the prophets, the scriptures, the glory and so on.
With all this evidence, the Jews should know better and yet they
rejected the Gospel of God. God has revealed himself to the Jews so
that they would be a means to reach the entire world yet they
suppressed God’s revelation…repeatedly. God is no respecter of
persons in that these Jews, who think because they have been the
Oracles of God, have nothing to worry about, are seriously mistaken.
But Paul is not speaking specifically of the Jews just yet,
he’ll refer to them in later verses. He is speaking here of moralists
(although the Jews happen to be moralists as well)
Do these moralists think that they are not sinners? Do they
believe that they are not like those heathens? They are EXACTLY like
those heathens in that they have sinned. The heathen has sinned without
a Law (as in the given Law yet against their own internal meter of
conscience and morality) and the moralist, or Jew, has sinned with a
given Law (by either obeying their conscience or obeying the given
Oh philosophers and moralists with your good works and
righteous upstanding, repent of your hardened heart! Oh man who stands
on the side of God and pointing out the wickedness of the world and yet
do not repent of the wickedness of your repeated rejection of God,
realize your sin!
The grossest sinner and unbeliever is in the same exact boat as the moral and upright unbeliever!