UPDATED 05/31/2023 Online Sunday School.
Romans, a Letter for Today – Chapter 2
1. In Romans Chapter Two, Paul says “2 Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth. 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life, 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but injustice, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be affliction and distress for everyone who does evil, both the Jew first and the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, both the Jew first and the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged in accordance with the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When gentiles, who do not possess the law, by nature do what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, as their own conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God through Christ Jesus judges the secret thoughts of all.”
2. The relationship between Jew and non-Jews, also known as Gentiles, “the Nations,” Greeks or Greek speakers, or Hellenists was crucial to the spread of the message and works of Jesus. Paul was born and raised in Tarsus, a bustling commercial Mediterranean port at the crossroads of East and West. In this lively intellectual and commercial center, he learned his primary language, Greek, which was then spoken throughout the Mediterranean world. In the Jewish community he was schooled in the Jewish traditions; there he studied the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was schooled by the Pharisees. Acts says he studied under the well known Rabbi Gamaliel. He also learned the conventions of letter writing and some important ideas from Hellenistic philosophy. Paul inhabited two worlds—one Jewish and the other Greek. With one foot in each of these two arenas, he was ideally equipped to translate a gospel with Jewish roots for a Gentile world.
3. People who are culturally different from each other are often very judgmental toward each other. Paul points out that they are often doing the same things they are judging others for doing. Blaming others is reminiscent of Adam and Eve’s responses when confronted with disobeying God about eating the fruit in the garden. They find someone to blame. Paul says that God’s kindness is meant to lead them to repentance but that hard and impenitent hearts will lead to God’s wrath. While those who patiently do good will be rewarded, those who are self seeking and do evil will receive wrath and fury, distress and evil, whether they were Jews or Greeks.
4. People can be judgmental toward each other within families, churches and any other cultural setting where there are expectations. Often this may seem a natural and necessary response to expectations, and a way to maintain their value. Still we do not want to admit that we all fall short. Judging others also contributes to conflicts that destroy communities. This quickly became the case in the attempt to put together a community between Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles. How can this seemingly human tendency be changed?
5. While the Jews of the Old Testament came to see themselves as the especially chosen people of God, there are hints there that God’s plan will be to include the Gentiles ( “gowyim” in Hebrew, usually translated as “nations”) as well. Isaiah 2:1–4. Says “ 2 In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3 Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.”
Isaiah 49:6, says “my God has become my strength— 6 he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Jeremiah 1:4–5, 4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6. Paul says in Romans 2, 11, that God shows no partiality between Jew and Greek. For what other groups of diversity in today’s society does God not show partiality for or against? What gets in the way for us to do the same?
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