Part 1 of this series started at the end of ‘Romans’ chapter 2, with the apostle Paul stating to the believers in Rome something that they had forgotten, (something that 99.9% of today’s Christians have never been taught). Paul chastised them for forgetting that having a ‘circumcised heart’ has been the will of God for his set-apart people since the time of Moses; please read ‘Romans Chapter 2, Part 1: Circumcision of the Heart‘.
In this ‘Part 2’, we’ll be investigating how and why Paul came to make that statement to those believers in Rome; the ‘context‘ of his discourse.
Before we do that though, I recommend that you take the time to read ‘What is Truth?’, before going any further in this study. It will explain the context of the last 14 verses of Romans chapter 1, and the first 12 verses of chapter 2. In those verses, Paul teaches how God feels about unrighteousness, and how at the end of days he will judge the unrighteous according to ‘truth’. He then warns the believers in Rome that they should be mindful of their own deeds because they also know “that the judgment of God is according to truth”. Paul teaches that God will recompense to each one according to their works; for good deeds the reward is eternal life, and for those who do not obey the ‘truth’, wrath and fury (Rom. 2:6-10).
Having that understanding regarding the forthcoming judgement of God, we now continue with this ‘Part 2’. Paul proceeds to expose the hypocrisy of those Christians in Rome. This is the context of Romans Chapter 2; Paul rebuking the believers in Rome who were brought up with an understanding of the Law of Moses but were not practicing what they preached.
What does the text say?
Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (NKJV)
Paul is claiming that those who have sinned without having possession/knowledge of the Law are going to just simply “perish”. He then states that those who have sinned in the knowledge of the Law are going to be judged by the Law.
If this were not so, why would Paul be stating this to these “Christians”? What are the only 2 options available to sinners, stated by the apostle Paul? He said, ‘you are either going to be judged by the Law if you have knowledge of the Law, or if you are living without the Law you will just simply perish!’ Therefore, I ask you, how can anyone at the end of days “be judged by the Law” if it has been abolished or done away with???
Next verse ~
Romans 2:13 for not the hearers of the law [are] righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be declared righteous (YLT)
The apostle Paul states that it is not the hearers of the Law, but the doers of the Law who will be righteous before God! This is Future Tense in the Greek!! There is no possible way the Law of God had been abolished if Paul states that in the future those who ‘do the Law’ will be righteous before God; very simple logic. Unless you believe that the Almighty Creator is going say on Judgement Day, “you know that law I abolished and did away with 2000 years ago? Well, I’m going to pull it back out ‘today’, reinstate it as current and valid, and see how you measured up against it!”
Where is Paul getting this notion that ‘doing’ the Law produces righteousness?
What does the text say?
Deuteronomy 6:25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.
Psalm 37:30-31 30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. 31The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.
Isaiah 51:7a Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law;
Then, in verses 14-24 of Romans Chapter 2 Paul states that the ‘new converts from among the nations/gentiles’, who were not raised in the Law of Moses, now “do what the Law requires“. Even though the Law was given to Israel, these new converts show that the Law is written on their hearts (the circumcised heart; see Romans Chapter 2, Part 1: Circumcision of the Heart).
Paul is telling us that these new converts who have the Law written on their hearts, prove it by doing what the Law requires ~
What does the text say?
Romans 2:14-15a 14For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts,
How do these converts show that the law is written on their hearts? They “do what the law requires”, and the apostle Paul does not rebuke them for observing and keeping it!
He then proceeds to discuss that the Law of God is how we can ‘approve that which is excellent’, and more important, that the Law shows us what the ‘will of God’ is. Both verses are Present Tense in the Greek.
What does the text say?
Romans 2:17-18 17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18and know his will and approve what is excellent, “because” you are instructed from the law;
What did Paul just say? “Because” you are instructed from the Law you know the will of God and what is excellent???
Where did Paul get that idea from?
Deuteronomy 5:29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!
Psalm 40:8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
John 7:16-19 16So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law.
Are not all of these quotes given under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit? Is not God the same yesterday, today and forever? Paul is emphatically telling us here in ‘Romans’ that the Law of God declares what the ‘will of God’ is for us, and this lines up perfectly with the Scriptures you just read.
In Romans 2:18 above, not only does Paul say the Law of God tell us what His will for us is, he also says it is what we are supposed to use as a guide to ‘test what is good and evil’ or “approve what is excellent”.
The English words “approve what is excellent” in the Greek is:
δοκιμάζεις τὰ διαφέροντα
dokimazeis ta diapheronta
approve what is excellent.
‘Dokimazeis’ is Strong’s G1381, to the test, prove, examine; approve after testing. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this word to mean: to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing be genuine or not).
‘Ta’ is G3588 and is one of the Greek ‘definite articles’ and is most commonly translated as ‘those’ or ‘what’.
‘Diapheronta’ is G1308, separating (distinguishing from) the one element in a comparison (its value) from another. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states this to mean: to test, prove, the things that differ, i.e. to distinguish between good and evil, lawful and unlawful, Romans 2:18.
Paul is telling those in Rome that the Law of God given through Moses, not only shows us what the ‘Will of God’ is, but that it also tells us how to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, and what is lawful from the unlawful.
This leads perfectly into verse 20 where Paul claims (in the Present Tense again) that the Law is the “embodiment of Knowledge and Truth”, and he emphatically states that those who break the Law “dishonor God” in verse 23.
What does the text say?
Romans 2:17-24 17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? 23You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
In verses 21-24 Paul is confronting those who preach the Law but they themselves are breaking it, and he condemns them for not keeping it. He goes so far as to quote the Prophets, to say they are fulfilling the prophecy of ‘God being dishonored’ by their breaking of the Law. Paul does not ask them, “why are you teaching an abolished Law?” He does not say to them, “Great job guys! The Law has been fulfilled and no longer needed, so I’m glad to see that you’re not keeping it.” He does not tell them to stop teaching the Law; He condemns them for breaking it!
Why in the world is he condemning these “believers” for breaking the Law if it’s been abolished???
If the Law has been abolished how could Paul possibly think God is dishonored by breaking it?; and in the Present Tense, again!
It’s very apparent that Paul doesn’t like that these Romans are breaking the Law and thereby, dishonoring God.
Paul is actually referring to, and quoting from Ezekiel ~
Ezekiel 36:19-20 19I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20But when they came to the nations (Rome), wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’
Paul is referring to these “believers” in Rome as ‘the scattered House of Israel’ [Please read ‘Are You Grafted In? Part 1: Not My People‘ for further study on this topic]. The House of Israel was scattered among the nations/gentiles because they rebelled against God by disobeying the Law of God given through Moses, they broke covenant with God, and they did not repent, thereby “profaning” the holy name of God.
What does the text say in the Present Tense in the Greek?
Romans 2:20-24 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
And if anyone is still assuming that Paul is referencing only the “Ten” commandments and not the Law of Moses as a whole, he immediately reassures us in the very next verse that he is most definitely not discussing just the “Ten” Commandments, but is in fact referring to the ‘Law of God given through Moses’.
Romans 2:25 for circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the Law, but if you break the Law your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.
The apostle Paul is verbally chastising these believers in Rome for not obeying the Law of God given through Moses, and at the same time he is praising circumcision as having value, ‘in his’ Present Tense‘, and not condemning it!
He then comes right back at them in verse 26-27, proclaiming that those believers who were by nature uncircumcised, but now keep the Law (thereby showing the Law is written on their hearts, v.15) will be in a position to condemn those who are by nature circumcised but disobey the Law.
What does the text say?
Romans 2:25-27 25For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
Paul is unequivocally praising the one who “keeps the precepts of the Law”, as well as, criticizing and rebuking those who break the Law of God.
We have been taught false doctrine about Paul. He is not the anti-Law nor the anti-circumcision apostle that we have been led to believe. ( please see Hypocrite or Hard to Understand and Zealous for the Law)
Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, what facts has Paul stated, all in the ‘Future or Present Tense’ here in Romans 2:13-27:
- ‘Doers’ of the Law will be righteous before God. (v.13; see Justification vs Righteousness)
- Believers in Jesus prove the Law is written on their hearts by “doing what the Law requires”. (v.14-15)
- The Law reveals to us the ‘will of God’. (v.18)
- The Law reveals to us the difference between right and wrong, what is lawful and what is unlawful. (v.18)
- The Law is the embodiment of ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Truth’. (v.20; see What is Truth?)
- Breaking the Law dishonors and blasphemes God. (v.23-24)
- Circumcision is of value. (v.26)
- Those that ‘keep the Law’ will condemn those who don’t keep it.
Paul is not talking about justification or salvation. He is telling these Romans (and us) what his understanding of the Law of God is. In the last 14 verses of chapter 1 through verse 27 of chapter 2 Paul is stating that ‘The Law of God given through Moses’ is the instructions in righteous living before his God. He is telling them, and us, that living out these Instructions/Laws are to be done from the heart. If He is our God and redeemed us, shouldn’t we want to do the “will of God”, shouldn’t we want to obey Him?
Just like the four verses listed above from Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and John, the apostle Paul is stating that God wants us to keep the Law from the desire our hearts. Yet this is the exact opposite of what contemporary theology teaches. Today’s mainstream teachers tell us that we should not keep the Law, but we have just read from the apostle Paul himself that not keeping the Law dishonors God.
Final thought: “For I delight in the Law of God, in my inner being” (Present Tense in the Greek, again) | Romans 7:22. Why in the world would Paul delight in the Law of God if it’s bondage and a terrible curse that’s been done away with?
- For further study of Paul’s teachings, as well as the original Greek, please see the blog posts at the bottom of this page. Be a Berean, and test Paul’s doctrines to the “Scriptures”. Please ‘share’ this study. Thank you for your time!