What does Romans 2:11 mean?
ESV: For God shows no partiality.
NIV: For God does not show favoritism.
NASB: For there is no partiality with God.
CSB: For there is no favoritism with God.
NLT: For God does not show favoritism.
KJV: For there is no respect of persons with God.
This verse refers to what Paul has written several times so far in this letter. The good news of the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus was given first to the Jewish people and then to all others (Romans 1:16). In the same way, God's judgment on sin and the potential reward for good living will be given first to the Jews and then to all others (Romans 2:9–10). In spite of both things being given first to the Jews, they will also be extended equally to all of mankind, and under the exact same conditions.
In that way, God does not show partiality even to His chosen people of Israel. When it comes to His judgment on human sin, God holds the same standard for all.
Paul's words likely infuriated the Jewish religious leaders who opposed him all around the known world. They held as sacred truth the idea that they were protected from God's wrath because of the law and their special relationship with God as a nation. Paul will insist, though, that salvation for any one person is available only through personal faith in Jesus Christ and not through following the law of Moses.
Romans 2:1–11 springs a trap, of sorts, for every reader who thought that Paul's devastating list of sins at the end of Romans 1 was about other people. In truth, everyone is guilty of sin. Those who judge others are guilty, also, of hypocrisy. Nobody will escape God's judgment for personal sin, including religious Jews and Gentiles. God will absolutely judge each person according to what he or she has done. If someone has lived sinlessly, doing only good, he will receive rewards and eternal life. If not, he deserves wrath and fury. This point sets up Paul's explanation of how we can, in fact, obtain salvation: by grace through faith.
Romans 2 springs a trap on any religious person who read Paul's lists of sins at the end of Romans 1 and thought it wasn't about them. Paul calls them out for making themselves judges when they are also guilty. He shows that God will judge everyone, including those under the law, based on their works. This prefaces this letter's theme of salvation by grace, through faith, rather than by works. Many benefits come with having the law, but only if those under the law keep it. Jewishness—circumcision—must be an inner state, not just an outer one. Paul will show in the following chapter that none of us really meets those conditions.
Having just concluded a list of terrible sins humanity indulges in as a result of rejecting God, Paul turns to religious people and says, ''This applies to you, too.'' Nobody can judge arrogantly, because we are all guilty. Even God's people the Jews will stand before Him in judgment based on their works. Having the law only matters if someone can keep the law. Paul asks his Jewish readers why they don't and shows that they must be Jewish and circumcised in their hearts for it to matter. In the following chapter, he will show that nobody can keep the law.
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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