Ok – so this verse is an interesting verse since context lets me think of a couple scenarios.
Let me explain.
The issue in my mind is the identification of the “O man” in verse 1.
Most of my Christian life, I have considered the one Paul refers to as “O man” in Romans 2:1 to be that of the lost person- the one who has no knowledge of God, alienated from God in his works and thoughts.
Consider Paul’s larger context of the book of Roman’s. This is a church that is split down the middle with the Jew and the Gentile being at odds with one another. Consider Chapter 14, for an extended discussion on the two groups and Paul’s concern over their co-existence. The church was experiencing turf wars over food and holidays!
It seems to be a bit of a thing for Paul, a topic that could destroy the work of God, and allow for condemnation to be introduced into the discussion.
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats,
Is Paul writing Romans as a full blown description of the gospel in order to give an argument for “One Church” with no division?
Is Paul’s message to the Romans the destructive nature of two bodies with a “church”?
Does Paul supply a teaching that extends the full breath of the gospel in order to make an argument for unity within a body?
Consider the following structure for the opening chapters.
Chapter 1 – Introduction and Condemnation on “them”
This “them” within the first chapter is usually considered to be referring to the lost. The passage under consideration begins with verse 18, describing “them” as suppressing the truth.
Who is suppressing the truth? The lost? Is this accurate? Consider
- Vs 21-23 states
- “They” knew God, but did not honor Him
- Could this be the lost being referred to?
- When did the lost ever know God?
- “They” became futile in his thinking
- Could this be the lost being referred to?
- When did the lost “become” futile – they have always lived in futility until salvation is recieved
- “Their” foolish heart became darkened
- The heart of the lost is darkened, not became darkened?
- “They” claimed to be wise
- I see this as applicable to the lost. Claiming wisdom seems to be a favorite past time of the lost!
- “They” exchanged the glory of God for images
- This is what got me thinking. When have the “lost” had the glory of God in their possession to exchange? The lost are under condemnation.
- Vs 24-27 – Paul uses the pronoun “them” through out this passage. Is Paul describing the lost when referring to “them”?
- This is very possible, and yet it could be describing any group of people since the fall also.
- Vs 32 is interesting though
- “They” know God righteous decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die
- Adam performed one act of sin and died. He didn’t practice sin, resulting in death. He experienced death upon his first sin.
- Could the one command “not to eat” be considered God’s righteous decree?
- They give approval to those who practice sin.
Who is the “they”, the apostle is describing?
Chapter 2 begins with a summary statement about judging. Remember there are no chapter divisions in the original text!
The conclusion of the previous verses is that “they” and “O man”, perform the same sinful actions. So who are the “they”?
Let me ask you a general question. Considering Paul’s audience…
- Who liked to judge others?
- Who knew the judgement of God best?
- Who claimed the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience?
- Who would have the hardest and most impenitent heart in Paul’s thinking?
Check out the following. Paul continues with a passage describing a level playing field. Judgement and glory will not be based on ethnicity! (There may have been some in the church that relied on this thinking!)
The passage describes the factor of judgement as works, not ethnicity.
As an aside, Jesus and John the Baptist spent oodles of time comparing the dirty gentiles with the self righteous Jews, always lifting those filthy gentiles up, in comparison to the good good Jews.
So, if I am following Paul’s thoughts, “they” are the historic Jewish nation, and “O man” is the Jew in the Roman church.
The Jewish nation knew the righteous decree of God. They exchanged the glory of God for idols. Reread the first chapter, starting in verse 18, and consider.
So why not just say it Paul?
He did a Nathan!
Nathan set King David up by describing an event, and asking for judgement, little knowing that David would be judging himself.
David would never have judged himself as harshly as he did that stranger.
The Jewish population within the church, while this passage is being read, are condemning these awful folks, not unlike David, until it is too late and then they realize they are guilty.
Who needed to realize they were sinners like the rest of the church population? Sure they had privilege (chapter 9 – 11) but their heart was in worse shape than their brothers in the Lord.
So long story short, I think “O man” in chapter 2 verse 1 is the Jewish folk in the church, If so, then Paul’s use of the strengthened term for judgement makes sense, since the group that would know the commands, deserved the greatest / most righteous judgement.
Wow – that was a long post.
Judgement shows up a lot in Romans 2, with various Greek words being used. We shall return to this passage in the near future, but for now (or in the near future) when you read Romans, take a fresh look at the first three chapters.
Thanks for joining me in this study. Hope to visit with you in our next post as we look at the Greek term δικαίωμα which is commonly translated righteousness, ordinance, judgment, justification in the New Testament.
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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.