Romans 2J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Yet we cannot judge them, for we also are sinners: God is the only judge
2 1-4 Now if you feel inclined to set yourself up as a judge of those who sin, let me assure you, whoever you are, that you are in no position to do so. For at whatever point you condemn others you automatically condemn yourself, since you, the judge, commit the same sins. God’s judgment, we know, is utterly impartial in its action against such evil-doers. What makes you think that you who so readily judge the sins of others, can consider yourself beyond the judgment of God? Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God’s generosity and patient mercy towards you as weakness on his part? Don’t you realise that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
5 Or are you by your obstinate refusal to repent simply storing up for yourself an experience of the wrath of God in the day when, in his holy anger against evil, he shows his hand in righteous judgment?
6-9 There is no doubt at all that he will ‘render to every man according to his works’, and that means eternal life to those who, in patiently doing good, aim at the unseen (but real) glory and honour of the eternal world. It also means anger and wrath for those who rebel against God’s plan of life, and refuse to obey his rules, and who, in so doing, make themselves the very servants of evil. Yes, it means bitter pain and a fearful undoing for every human soul who works on the side of evil, for the Jew first and then the Greek.
10-11 But let me repeat, there is glory and honour and peace for every worker on the side of good, for the Jew first and then the Greek. For there is no preferential treatment with God.
God’s judgment is absolutely just
12-13 All who have sinned without knowledge of the Law will die without reference to the Law; and all who have sinned knowing the Law shall be judged according to the Law. It is not familiarity with the Law that justifies a man in the sight of God, but obedience to it.
14-15 When the Gentiles, who have no knowledge of the Law, act in accordance with it by the light of nature, they show that they have a law in themselves, for they demonstrate the effect of a law operating in their own hearts. Their own consciences endorse the existence of such a law, for there is something which condemns or commends their actions.
16 We may be sure that all this will be taken into account in the day of true judgment, when God will judge men’s secret lives by Jesus Christ, as my Gospel plainly states.
You Jews are privileged—do you live up to your privilege?
17-24 Now you, my reader, who bear the name of Jew, take your stand upon the Law, and are, so to speak, proud of your God. You know his plan, and are able through your knowledge of the Law truly to appreciate moral values. You can, therefore, confidently look upon yourself as a guide to those who do not know the way, and as a light to those who are groping in the dark. You can instruct those who have no spiritual wisdom: you can teach those who, spiritually speaking, are only just out of the cradle. You have a certain grasp of the basis of true knowledge. You have without doubt very great advantages. But, prepared as you are to instruct others, do you ever teach yourself anything? You preach against stealing, for example, but are you sure of your own honesty? You denounce the practice of adultery, but are you sure of your own purity? You loathe idolatry, but how honest are you towards the property of heathen temples? Everyone knows how proud you are of the Law, but that means a proportionate dishonour to God when men know that you break it! Don’t you know that: ‘the very name of God is cursed among the Gentiles because of the behaviour of Jews?’ There is, you know, a verse of scripture to that effect.
Being a true “Jew” is an inward not an outward matter
25-27 That most intimate sign of belonging to God that we call circumcision does indeed mean something if you keep the Law. But if you flout the Law you are to all intents and purposes uncircumcising yourself! Conversely, if an uncircumcised man keeps the Law’s commandments, does he not thereby “circumcise” himself? Moreover, is it not plain to you that those who are physically uncircumcised, and yet keep the Law, are a continual judgment upon you who, for all your circumcision and knowledge of the Law, break it?
28-29 I have come to the conclusion that a true Jew is not the man who is merely a Jew outwardly, and a real circumcision is not just a matter of the body. The true Jew is one who belongs to God in heart, a man whose circumcision is not just an outward physical affair but is a God-made sign upon the heart and soul, and results in a life lived not for the approval of man, but for the approval of God.