Romans 2:12-29

Gentile sinners. Don’t just hear, do. A false sense of righteousness. Law 101.

(Bấm vào đây để đọc tiếng Việt)


"12For 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 by the law (Romans 2:12)."
While the Jews have the Ten Commandments and Moses' Law, the Gentiles have an even older law that was given to them when they attained the ability to distinguish between good and evil in the Garden of Eden. But both laws will sentence them to death.


13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. 14For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. 15They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, 16on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:13-16)

Those who uphold the law are susceptible to the psychological fallacy that simply having the law’s book beneath their pillows or listening to it to fall asleep at night will make them morally upright. No, it is insufficient. The same holds true for the Gentiles who did not receive the law. It is insufficient to merely express regret for your deeds or to make amends to show how contrite your hearts are. They have to “do the law.” And carry them out to the standard of excellence required to qualify as righteous.

Does Paul advocate following the law as a way of life for Christians? No, he is merely demonstrating to the people that neither Jews nor Gentiles can fully uphold the Scriptures, making it impossible for them to claim righteousness. Paul is utilizing the greatest standard of the law to force people to realize that righteousness can only come through Christ, as we will show in arguments in later chapters.

Verse 16 relates to the day when Christ returns to judge the world, “on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts.” However, if we quickly jump to Romans 8:1, we would see that this judgment is only reserved for those who would be discovered to be without faith in Christ.


17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relationship to God 18and know his will and approve the superior things because you receive instruction from the law, 19and if you are convinced that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20an educator of the senseless, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the essential features of knowledge and of the truth - 21therefore you who teach someone else, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who boast in the law dishonor God by transgressing the law! 24For just as it is written, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”” (Romans 2:17-24)

There’s so much to cover here.


Those who rely on the law almost always take pride in themselves (Eph 2:8-9, Rom 3:26-28). According to Matthew 6:5, the Pharisees like flaunting their religiosity in public to get others’ admiration.


Paul’s criticism of the religious hypocrites is nothing new. Even in the time of Jesus, it occurred. He states as follows in Matthew 23:3–4: 3But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them.”

It appears that the more someone extols a particular virtue, the less likely they are to practice it themselves. Maybe if they at least gave something they teach others a shot, they would be humbled by the experience.

God’s name blasphemed

Here, we are once more reassured that the sin of blasphemy involves claiming to be a representative of God while disobeying his laws. It is not about using profanity in reference to God or attributing Jesus’ miracles to the devil. In this sense, an unbeliever cannot blaspheme God because he will not use his name and possibly does not even want to. But a Jew or a Christian would seek to invoke God’s name to increase the legitimacy of their position.

The law-keeping church leaders at the Romans church believe they are on God’s good side by shouting out loudly and constantly about what people should and shouldn’t do. They feel fine while not doing anything to put what they teach into practice. They have been in such a state of denial for so long that they do not even believe they are worse sinners than others who are listening to them.


25For circumcision has its value if you practice the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26Therefore if the uncircumcised man obeys the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27And will not the physically uncircumcised man who keeps the law judge you who, despite the written code and circumcision, transgress the law? 28For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, 29but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person’s praise is not from people but from God.” (Romans 2:25-29)

The circumcision of the flesh simply serves as a pointer to the true circumcision of the removal of the sin nature (which won’t actually take place until Christ’s second coming to give us immortality) by Christ’s death on the cross, like many other symbols of the Old Covenant that are shadows of the real things to come under the New Covenant. Even if someone follows the law in its entirety, all they accomplish is the superficial affirmation of their earthly status in their relationship with God. The truth is that everyone’s “circumcision has become uncircumcision” because they all breach the law.

Though Paul uses the argument “if the uncircumcised man obeys the righteous requirements of the law” to illustrate his point, in reality, no one can obey the righteous requirements of the law because of their sin nature. Therefore, whether a Jew or a non-Jew, everyone is a condemned sinner until they are justified by faith in Christ.

Therefore, the real circumcision is “of the heart by the Spirit.” God is responsible for it through the Holy Spirit’s rebirthing power. Through your fleshly attempts to fulfill the “written code”, you cannot obtain true heart circumcision. Another point worth mentioning for those who live by the law is the flesh’s propensity to receive “praise” from others. Since you made an effort, you might as well benefit from it. However, if God freely gave you your circumcision, which is your ticket to heaven, you have nothing to boast about.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

Filed under: , and