Romans 2 – A Paraphrase

Now someone might like to think that this divine justice does not pertain to them. To such a person, whether a Roman moralist like Seneca who writes ethical treatises or even a rock star Rabbi like Shammai with an encyclopedia knowledge of all things kosher, let me say this. You, oh pious one, who likes to sit in judgment on others, you in fact have no excuse for your own behaviour. You’re a hypocritical critter who does the very things that you criticize others for doing.  We know full well that God’s verdict against those people who do such wicked things is based on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But in case you haven’t noticed, you are not God! So when you, a mere morsel of a mortal man, sit in judgment of others, and yet you do the same things which you criticize, do you really think that you’ll be able to get out of dodge before God’s verdict against your hypocrisy catches up with you? Or do you trash talk the glittering gold of God’s goodness, leniency, and tolerance? Are you so utterly oblivious to the fact that it is God’s goodness, which you are inadvertently trashing, that leads you to a new and contrite perspective on life?

Remember that God gives everyone the just desserts for their actions. To those who keep plugging away in good deeds and pursue a glorious and immortal world, he will give them an everlasting life in his everlasting world. But to those who are engrossed in their own self-love and who jettison the truth and ferment injustice, he will give them the full weight of his fury and the full measure of his retributive justice. There will be strife and struggle for every person who perpetuates evil; first for the Jews and then also for the Greeks. For God is not one to play favourites! Whoever commits evil without knowledge of the Jewish Law, then apart from that Law they will be condemned. And those Jews who commit evil under the jurisdiction of their own Law, in that Law they will be condemned. The reason why God is impartial is because it is not those who merely hear the legislation of the Law who are right and just, but those who actually get down to the business of obeying the Law will be declared in the right.

Consider this. When the pork-eating pagan-living Gentiles, who did not as it goes receive God’s Law as the Jewish people did, behave as the Law commands, then these Gentiles become legally competent in their own way. These Gentile folks show by their behaviour that the deeds that the Law requires have been inscribed with invisible ink onto their hearts. On the day of judgement, their consciences will bear witness that they acted rightly, though on such a day the unmasking of their thoughts will probably oscillate between indicting them and defending them. That unmasking will take place on the day when God judges the things that people hide in the recess of their minds or in the caverns of their hearts, and it will happen through the appointed judge being none other than King Jesus, just as I teach in my account of the gospel.

If you are recognized as a Jew, rest in the promises and precepts of the Law, brag about God, and claim to know God’s will; if you feel competent to decide what is or is not kosher (because you’ve evidently been rightly instructed in the Law), if you consider yourself to be a guide for the blind, think of yourself as a light in the darkness, a professor for the simple, a teacher of children, and possess full account of the knowledge and truth found in the Law, if you are all that, then let me ask you a few questions. In your own teaching syllabus for your students, do you ever get around to sitting under your own teachings? As one who sermonizes against stealing, do you steal? As who speaks against adultery, do you have a mistress on the side?  If you oppose the worship of idols, do you pilfer precious trinkets from temples? You who brag about the way of the Law, you bring God’s name into disrepute when you fail to do what the Law commands. For it is written in Scripture: “The name of God being trashed among the Gentiles because of your behaviour.”

Circumcision only has value if you practice what the Law commands. But if you violate the Law’s commands, then your circumcision will make you effective uncircumcised. Yet the reverse also holds true. If someone who is uncircumcised keeps the just requirements of the Law, then will not his uncircumcised state be reckoned by God to be as good as a circumcised covenant keeper? Of course it will! That means that we are led logically to the following scenario: A person who is physically uncircumcised and yet fulfils the Law’s teachings will condemn you as a lawbreaker, even if you possess a copy of the Law and even if you are circumcised. For being a Jew is not something that is merely external in appearance, nor is circumcision merely physical and outward. For there are those who are Jewish on the inside and circumcision is not according to the letter, but something wrought in the heart and performed by the Spirit. So, whether you’re Seneca or Shammai, remember this: Praise does not come from people, but from God!

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