What does Romans 2:3 mean?
ESV: Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
NIV: So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?
NASB: But do you suppose this, you foolish person who passes judgment on those who practice such things, and yet does them as well, that you will escape the judgment of God?
CSB: Do you think--anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same--that you will escape God's judgment?
NLT: Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things?
KJV: And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
In the previous verse, Paul declared what he assumes his readers know and understand: God judges people for practicing sin. Now Paul asks a direct question: Do you think you are exempt from God's judgment for sin?
Why would anyone think they could escape God's judgment? As Paul showed in Romans 1, Gentiles may think this because they have rejected the very idea of God. He insists they are wrong. Now he comes to his Jewish readers. They may make the mistake of thinking God won't judge them for their sin either because they don't think themselves sinful or because they think He won't judge Jewish people. Paul will show they are wrong on both counts.
God will judge everyone one of us, Jewish or not, for our sinful practices. And we all commit sins, a point Paul will make later in this letter (Romans 3:23). All of this supports the central idea of this letter: that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
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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