Romans 2:1-16 – Missing the point of God’s wrath

The Bible Text

Romans 2:1-16

Things that can be plainly seen from the text

  • Paul uses the word ‘you’ in these verses instead of ‘they’ of verses 1:18-32
  • ‘You’ have no excuse – this draws the previous condemnation passage into the life of the reader (1:20 ‘people are without excuse’)
  • The logic of vv1-4 seem to be: notice how easy it is for you to judge others – and notice how you actually fail in the same areas where you judge others – and notice how God is a judge who will judge perfectly (based on truth) – therefore you are not going to dodge God’s judgement yourself!
  • Here is a clear piece of text: v6 “God will repay each person according to what they have done.”
  • Verse 8 identifies that the judgement of God on the wicked is with wrath and anger – in contrast to the present condition of kindness and forbearance mentioned in verse 4. Also verse 9 describes it as trouble and distress.
  • Knowing the law (or indeed having access to church and a bible) is not what makes us righteous – it is obeying the law – living out the law of God.
  • Paul argues in verses 12-16 that it’s not just the Jews who will be given a pass/fail test on the day of judgement but the whole human race who demonstrate an awareness of justice.
  • There will be a day when God judges people (v16)
  • God will judge what is obvious to all and also what has been kept secret from all (v16)


  • Does verse 7 indicate that it is possible to actually receive eternal life by always doing good? Answer: that is true logically in the context of Paul’s argument. But he is trying to make a more firmer point her – that this is impossible and therefore all will be judged as unrighteous/sinners.
  • Does this leave everybody guilty and unable to pass the test of judgement on the last day? Where is the hope in this passage? Is it there? ANSWER: v16 and verse 4 provide the hope of this passage but the weight of judgement day must be felt in these paragraphs because this is the point of the passage.

Repetitive themes

  • The wrath of God
  • The judgement of God
  • Jew and Gentile
  • Law

Other bible passages related to this text

  • Psalm 62:12 is quoted in verse 6 – it is worth reading that quote and comparing how it is used in the Psalm verses Paul’s conclusion in Romans. Also Prov 24:10-12.
  • Romans 1:16-17 describe the importance of the gospel to Pauls theme in this whole letter. Speaking of God’s judgement is part of this gospel (2:16).
  • Romans 3:25-26 – Although none of us will stand before God righteous by our own merits on the day of judgement, God has provided righteousness for us through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His atoning sacrifice means that God can justify the unrighteous and yet remain just as he judges!


  • Be on our knees in repentance
  • Don’t show contempt for God’s kindness and patience – know that he is holding off judgement so that we and the rest of humanity may have a chance to hear the gospel and live!
  • Pray for more full-time workers to go and tell the good news! (Romans 1:15-16)
  • Learn how to share the gospel with others


Father God, we give you thanks and praise you for your patience and kindness toward us. We thank you for the gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ and for our opportunity to repent of our wickedness. We are truly sorry for thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Thank you for your forgiveness. Help us, we pray, to know your gospel and to share it with those around us. Amen.

More Questions

  1. What does righteousness mean?
  2. How does this passage impact our approach to social work – eg, charity, health care, etc
  3. Should repentance be on everyone’s bucket list?