Romans 2:1-5: How to convince good religious people that they are sinful and in danger
“Two men were walking through the jungle in Africa, when a leopard that had been waiting for prey in one of the trees pounced on them. One of the men was grabbed by the arm and wrestled to the ground, and the leopard began to maul him. His friends tried to fend the leopard off; finally using a stick he was able to drive the leopard away. The man who suffered being bitten by the leopard was rushed to the missionary hospital, he suffered deep bite marks and scratches in various places. The other man only suffered a few scratches on his arm. The man with the worse injuries was submitted to hospital and treated with all manner of medicines, the other man refused any treatment, not thinking that it was very serious. Several weeks later, the man who had received the more serious wounds was alive and well, and the other, who had only incurred minor injuries died from infection from the bacteria carried around on the leopard’s claws.
This true story illustrates for us the major problem we encounter when we want to convince ‘good’ religious people, that they are sinful and in danger of judgement. Paul had a very hard time trying to convince his own people, the Jews, the OT people of God, that they were sinners who needed the righteousness that God provided by faith, through Christ, in the Gospel. They were not as sinful as the other nations Paul has just described in Rom 1:24-32, they are not idolaters, but worshippers of the true God; they do not have the pervasive depravity and debased morality that Greek and Roman culture were suffering under. They did not have all the external wounds that the Gentiles showed. Paul is working out his overarching argument of showing that, all are sinners, therefore all need to be saved by faith in Christ, receiving a righteousness from God, not trying to work up a righteousness of our own. He has shown how the Gentile nations are sinful and under God’s wrath and needing the righteousness only God can provide; Paul now has the hard task of trying to convince the Jews that they are in the same boat as the Gentiles, the same sinful sinking ship. And so they need the same solution. From 2:1-3:8, Paul is going to put forward arguments that will show that the Jews are sinners, and that they are therefore under the judgement of God, and in need of the Gospel that he is preaching. Paul has many things to say we will look at the first 5 verses. He will expose the hypocrisy of the Jews; the false religious security they have; he will show them how they have been abusing God’s goodness, much like the Gentiles have been doing; and he will speak of the final judgement upon those who sin. “