Romans 2: Not Just Religion

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Romans 2: Not Just Religion

March 3, 2023


Numbers 5-6Psalm 50Matthew 22:1-14Romans 2

Romans 2:

There’s a lot in this chapter—far too much to analyze in any depth in one short devotional! But let us summarize first, again, what Paul is arguing here in this chapter, and then what lessons we can learn from what he says.

First, Paul is here basically arguing the following. He is saying that having described the great and prevalent sins of Roman (pagan) society at the time—in terms that would have been familiar to his religious Jewish audience—he now turns the tables, as it were, and says basically we all also do the same sort of thing. We also all fail in various ways. The law, whether the law written on our heart or the law as revealed by God in the Bible, shows us that we don’t keep the law. And circumcision, the outward sign of God’s people in the Old Testament, is only “real” if it is accompanied by internal heart circumcision, that is true repentance and faith and being what we could call “born again.” In other words, don’t point fingers at other people without also realizing that we too fail morally and do not keep God’s law. That is basically what Paul is arguing in summary.

What lessons do we learn from it? The following four come to mind:

First, do not exclude other people from God’s grace based upon their sins, without also realizing that we too are sinners. It is all too easy in church circles to have an unwritten list of “acceptable sins” without realizing that no sins are acceptable to God! We don’t excuse sexual immorality of one kind or another, but brush to the side jealousy about someone else for how well they are doing or how good they look. That is not to say that all sins are the same—for some sins have a bigger impact on us and other people. But it is to say that all sins are sin and equally separate us from God. So the first impact of this teaching should be humble religious people!

Second, it should also cause us to be wary of mere external signs. External signs (like circumcision, or in our day baptism and communion) are good things. Indeed, they are appointed by God! But it is possible to begin to rely merely on the external signs and thereby not ask ourselves whether we truly know God personally ourselves.

Third, the teaching in this chapter also helps us to distinguish the Christian faith from mere religiosity. Many people think Christianity is just “another religion.” But the Christian is fundamentally different from mere religiosity. And that difference starts with a far more radical diagnosis of the problem. We are far more sinful than culture and other religions would want us to believe. The problem is far worse, and the solution is far better!

Fourth, it should drive us therefore to grace and to God’s sovereign mercy and to joy and thanksgiving for all that he has done for us in Christ!


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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