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Romans 2:9

ESV There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
NIV There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile;
NASB There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of mankind who does evil, for the Jew first and also for the Greek,
CSB There will be affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek;
NLT There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil — for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.
KJV Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
NKJV tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;

What does Romans 2:9 mean?

God will, in fact, judge every person according to what he or she has done. If a person is depending on their own good works to be saved—to enter into heaven—they are doomed, since their sin can never be undone or overcome by good deeds. If, on the other hand, a person is saved, judgment for their works involves heavenly rewards, instead (2 Corinthians 5:10). Paul has written that if someone were able to lead a life of consistent and ongoing good works in the pursuit of glory, honor, and immortality, God would give that person eternal life. Paul will later show that none of us are able to live that way (Romans 3:23).

By contrast, God will give His "wrath and fury" to every person who lives in selfishness and disobedience to His truth. What form will God's wrath and fury take? Paul now describes it as tribulation and distress. In other words, this judgment of God on everyone who does evil will be hard and stressful.

Notice that Paul has defined our selfish sinfulness as evil. He will go on to show that all of us are guilty of this evil. According to this universal truth that God will judge us according to our works, each of us will deserve the tribulation and distress He will deliver.

Paul adds that God's judgment will be delivered first to the Jew and then to the Greek. In this context, "the Greek" means the same thing as "Gentile:" those who are not Jewish. Paul used this same phrase in Romans 1:16 when describing how the gospel, not our good works, brings salvation to every believer, "first to the Jew, then to the Gentile" (NIV). In other words, the good news of salvation by faith in Christ was first presented to the Jews, God's chosen people. In the same way, Paul shows that God's judgment for sinfulness will also fall first on the Jews, and then on everyone else.

Paul's purpose in saying this will be restated in verse 11: "For God shows no partiality." In other words, when it comes to judgment for personal sin, God regards each one of us individually, no matter our race or any other consideration.
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