Romans 2 questions

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arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Apparently a lot of ink has been spilled with differing conclusions on Romans 2 in NT scholarship today, so I thought I would ask a couple of questions. Is Romans 2 condemning the doer/moralist or the Jew who thinks he is secure via election?
Is verse 7 hypothetical or speaking of the judgment even for believers? In verses 14-16, does Paul have in mind the virtuous unbelieving gentile or the believing Gentile?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It helps the overall picture to see Paul's literary design.

Rom.1:16-17, thesis
Rom 1:18-3:20 the Bad News
Rom. 3:21ff... the Gospel (Good News)

So, ch.2 is smack in the middle of the bad news. Paul is busy issuing an indictment against all mankind, every group, every individual in this portion. This helps us in an interpretation of a v7, where we can see how in the context of a full indictment of all men: vv7 & 10 are "foils," statements that say what God would do for such persons were there any.

vv14-16 are offered as proof that the Gentiles also have functioning ethical equipment. They may not have THE Law, the one delivered to Moses and the children of Israel at Sinai; but they do have the work of the law, and so are a law unto themselves. Suppose the Gentile has two taboos. In the one, he thinks it is evil to see his face in a mirror; in the other, he thinks it's evil to kill his brother. If he breaks both of them, perhaps God will not serve justice on him for the first; but in the case of the second, there is clear and unambiguous overlap with the natural/moral law of God. The man will be confronted with his conscience now and on Judgment Day; when God holds him accountable for that murder.

So, from the start in ch.1, Paul is bringing especially the godless and idolatrous heathen to the bar of Justice. When ch.2 begins, we start getting this sort of thing:
The Skeptic: one who doubts Paul's blanket judgment. What does this man say? “I deny the accusation that I think with a debased mind; I deny having vile passions, let alone being controlled by them; I deny I am in any way polluted. Don't lump me in with such people.” He disassociates from all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. “Paul, I totally agree with you; such men are worthy of death​

He's just a moralist, any kind of moralist. The Gentiles had moralists; the Roman, Seneca, is a famous one. Greek schools of philosophy, Cynics and Stoics, were typical. And of course, the Jews had their moralists and moralism. Some of them would taste the bitterness of this indictment, as expressed from 2:1-16.

But others would again raise the protest, like the man between chs.1&2. At v17 Paul addresses him:
The Sanctimonious Phony: labeled “you, the one called 'Jew'” (v17). Remember a couple things, 1) Paul is ethnically a Jew himself, so he's not racially baiting anyone; and 2) up to this moment Paul has been confronting mainly Gentiles. They are the 1C idolaters, and are characterized by immorality of all kinds, and the worst kinds.​
Just as the moralist defended himself against being lumped into the sinful mass of humanity, even so now certain members of the purest religion on earth protest the indictment to separate themselves from those other moralists. “Paul, what you have to condemn regarding their failure to keep the law: We. Could. Not. Agree. More! We're with you. We're on your side when it comes to revealed truth. So, we hope you understand why we find it offensive that you (it seems) indiscriminately put us under the same judgment as those not in covenant with God.”​

Ch.3 begins with some "Old Covenant comebacks," which Paul answers. Then, in v9, as the prosecutor begins to sum up he pauses to address "us." In this, he takes a second to speak to his fellow Christians (he's not addressing ethnic Jews). "Are we better than they? No." The apostle is challenging an implicit Christian "triumphalism" in those words. Paul is writing to the 1C church in Rome, and by extension to all Christians in all times and places including us. And to put it simply: his demonstration should convince you, who claim to agree with the Christian gospel. You agree with Paul, not because you are outside of these categories by nature; but only by grace are you saved from this damnation.

And from there, he launches into his scriptural summation, taking down everyone, both Jew and Gentile. Then, vv19-20 close the case. Thus the stage has been set for the relief that can come only through the gospel, from v21ff.

So then, if we recognize what is happening in that whole section, and particular to the question about the first half of ch.2, it seems obvious to me that Paul is merely suggesting that the moralist doesn't live up to his ideal--the ideal of someone who "by patient continuance in well doing seeks for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life." Rather, he is better described by vv5 & 8.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
It helps the overall picture to see Paul's literary design.

Rom.1:16-17, thesis
Rom 1:18-3:20 the Bad News
Rom. 3:21ff... the Gospel (Good News)

So, ch.2 is smack in the middle of the bad news. Paul is busy issuing an indictment against all mankind, every group, every individual in this portion. This helps us in an interpretation of a v7, where we can see how in the context of a full indictment of all men: vv7 & 10 are "foils," statements that say what God would do for such persons were there any.

vv14-16 are offered as proof that the Gentiles also have functioning ethical equipment. They may not have THE Law, the one delivered to Moses and the children of Israel at Sinai; but they do have the work of the law, and so are a law unto themselves. Suppose the Gentile has two taboos. In the one, he thinks it is evil to see his face in a mirror; in the other, he thinks it's evil to kill his brother. If he breaks both of them, perhaps God will not serve justice on him for the first; but in the case of the second, there is clear and unambiguous overlap with the natural/moral law of God. The man will be confronted with his conscience now and on Judgment Day; when God holds him accountable for that murder.

So, from the start in ch.1, Paul is bringing especially the godless and idolatrous heathen to the bar of Justice. When ch.2 begins, we start getting this sort of thing:
The Skeptic: one who doubts Paul's blanket judgment. What does this man say? “I deny the accusation that I think with a debased mind; I deny having vile passions, let alone being controlled by them; I deny I am in any way polluted. Don't lump me in with such people.” He disassociates from all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. “Paul, I totally agree with you; such men are worthy of death​

He's just a moralist, any kind of moralist. The Gentiles had moralists; the Roman, Seneca, is a famous one. Greek schools of philosophy, Cynics and Stoics, were typical. And of course, the Jews had their moralists and moralism. Some of them would taste the bitterness of this indictment, as expressed from 2:1-16.

But others would again raise the protest, like the man between chs.1&2. At v17 Paul addresses him:
The Sanctimonious Phony: labeled “you, the one called 'Jew'” (v17). Remember a couple things, 1) Paul is ethnically a Jew himself, so he's not racially baiting anyone; and 2) up to this moment Paul has been confronting mainly Gentiles. They are the 1C idolaters, and are characterized by immorality of all kinds, and the worst kinds.​
Just as the moralist defended himself against being lumped into the sinful mass of humanity, even so now certain members of the purest religion on earth protest the indictment to separate themselves from those other moralists. “Paul, what you have to condemn regarding their failure to keep the law: We. Could. Not. Agree. More! We're with you. We're on your side when it comes to revealed truth. So, we hope you understand why we find it offensive that you (it seems) indiscriminately put us under the same judgment as those not in covenant with God.”​

Ch.3 begins with some "Old Covenant comebacks," which Paul answers. Then, in v9, as the prosecutor begins to sum up he pauses to address "us." In this, he takes a second to speak to his fellow Christians (he's not addressing ethnic Jews). "Are we better than they? No." The apostle is challenging an implicit Christian "triumphalism" in those words. Paul is writing to the 1C church in Rome, and by extension to all Christians in all times and places including us. And to put it simply: his demonstration should convince you, who claim to agree with the Christian gospel. You agree with Paul, not because you are outside of these categories by nature; but only by grace are you saved from this damnation.

And from there, he launches into his scriptural summation, taking down everyone, both Jew and Gentile. Then, vv19-20 close the case. Thus the stage has been set for the relief that can come only through the gospel, from v21ff.

So then, if we recognize what is happening in that whole section, and particular to the question about the first half of ch.2, it seems obvious to me that Paul is merely suggesting that the moralist doesn't live up to his ideal--the ideal of someone who "by patient continuance in well doing seeks for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life." Rather, he is better described by vv5 & 8.
I’ve often struggled with understanding the latter part of verse 15. “...their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” Is Paul asserting they (unregenerate) are excusing themselves? Or will God excuse them based on providential grace (they may not have heard the true Gospel as presented in Scripture, but have comprehended it indirectly)?

(I believe the former, when all other scripture is taken into account... but this has always been hard for me to nail down, when read in isolation.)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The words refer to the actual functioning of the conscience. Everyone has a "moral code," even if that moral code is so narcissistic, it amounts to: "Never do yourself any harm." The man who believes he should not do X, or must do Y, nevertheless violates his own code. He is morally inconsistent.

The power of conscience tells every man to "stop doing that violation," or "keep maintaining your lane." In the latter case, the conscience "excuses" the man, meaning that he feels his conscience validating his behavior. "Yes, you are doing the right thing." Even atheists feel moral outrage, when they see someone else doing something that offends their sensibilities, or especially when they are falsely accused by another of doing something "evil" (by their own standard).
 
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