What might make you uncomfortable:Religious and "good" people are not exempt from the judgment of God.
In boxing, there is a phrase called the "one-two punch." The Free Dictionary defines the term as "a combination of two blows delivered in rapid succession."
Romans 2 is the second punch in a one-two combination. Readers get no breathing room from heavy topics as Paul dives headfirst into this rebuke of the religious with Romans 2.
Today's reading begins with the words "You, therefore." Therefore is a term used to introduce a logical conclusion, meaning that Romans 2:1-16 is the logical conclusion to yesterday's devotional in Romans 1 - the second punch in a one-two series.
Recall that yesterday's devotion focused on the "bad news" of God's judgment, meaning that all people are accountable to God for their sin. Romans 1:20 stated that men are "without excuse" before God.
And here in Romans 2, Paul writes, "You, therefore, have no excuse..."
The purpose of today's reading is to personalize this news of God's judgment. Paul knew that religious readers of his letter would have the tendency to judge the actions of others (2:3).
It can be easy as churchgoing people to rejoice that God will judge sin. Our desire for righteousness, however, can sometimes slip into self-righteousness. We can forget that we "do the same things" (2:3) that the world does at times, if not in person, then in our "stubborn and unrepentant" hearts (2:5).
Paul says, "it is not those who hear the law that are righteous in God's sight but those that do the law" (Romans 2:13). The Jewish readers of Romans still lived under a religious atmosphere of performance. They assumed that if they continued to try hard to obey God's laws that God would show them mercy. The problem is, however, no one can obey God's laws all the time.
Some readers may struggle with the theoretical points Paul makes in verses 5 through 15. Here Paul is setting up his argument for our need for a Savior (found later in Romans). Paul's point is that only those who totally obey the law will be declared righteous (2:13)... which we know from Scripture and experience that no one can do. No one is good enough to match God's standard without Jesus.
For us today, we must remember it's not enough to simply count ourselves as some of God's chosen people, sit in church, and hear the Bible. Simply being a part of cultural Christianity does not exempt one from judgment. We must remember the joy of our salvation.
When we become self-righetous in our religious performance and neglect our own need for God's mercy we "presume on the riches of His kindness" (Romans 2:4).
Paul rebukes the religious Romans for their self-righteousness in hopes of showing them their need for the mercy of Christ. Regardless of our cultural religion and our family heritage, we have no excuse before God. We are all imperfect sinners in need of a Savior.
Paul tells the Romans that they have "no excuse" for their sin before God. What excuses are you giving God for your own sin? Do you hide your sin behind a veneer of religious judgment towards others? Do you try to re-pay God for your sin through religious performance and church attendance?
In prayer today, bring your sin before God and take ownership of it. "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up" (James 4:10).