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Who Do You Think You Are?

When a writer transitions from the third to first person, one of two things is about to happen. The person reading this letter or note is about to receive a compliment or be rebuked. After a series of generalizations in chapter 1, the apostle Paul changes the topic of conversation in Romans 2. Paul stops beating around the bush and gets straight to the point. A modern interpretation/translation would sound something like “who do you think you are?”

Therefore you have no excuse or defense or justification, O man, whoever you are who judges and condemns another. For in posing as judge and passing sentence on another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge are habitually practicing the very same things [that you censure and denounce]. [But] we know that the judgment (adverse verdict, sentence) of God falls justly and in accordance with truth upon those who practice such things, Romans 2:1-2.

Paul even uses the expression “O man,” to point out his disappointment with Christian leaders in the church of Rome. Paul eludes to those in power elevating themselves above other citizens to sit as judge and jury. It’s obvious that many of these Romans either forgot or never heard of the account of Jesus and a woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11. Apparently, Jesus began writing in the sand with his finger as members of a community were in the process of stoning this woman to death. Some scholars have suggested that Jesus writes down the secret sins of the people holding stones, about to condemn this woman for her actions.

3 And do you think or imagine, O man, when you judge and condemn those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment and elude His sentence and adverse verdict? 4 Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will)? – Romans 2:3-4

Unlike Jesus who addressed a crowd of condemning men with a simple question, “let he who is without sin be the first to throw their stone,” Paul is blunt. Without thinking about feelings, Paul calls his audience hypocrites, doing that which they accuse others of doing. Whether amoral or immoral, the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 was not being implemented. Instead of removing the plank from their own eyes, these teetotalers were blinded from their own hypocrisy. Romans 2 provides a teachable moment for anyone lives by the motto do as I say, not as I do. May this passage convict those who need to be humbled and brought back down to earth, reality.

by Jay Mankus

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