Romans 2: Salient Words for the Self-Righteous :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

Romans 2:1-16, John 15:22, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 20:6, Proverbs 21:2, 2 Corinthians 10:12, Revelation 3:17

Summary: The Apostle Paul has shown in the opening words of Romans that apart from Almighty God, humanity will sink into deep perversion and rebellion. He will also nail down the hard truth that none of us are exempt from God’s judgment, even if we think that we are “good.”

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul writes that the creation clearly shows the work of God Almighty (1:18-20). Even with this obvious evidence, people chose to turn their backs on Him and refused to acknowledge Him as Creator and Provider. They foolishly decided instead to worship everything but Him and go down the road of depravity, perverseness, and abnormal actions. Instead of stopping to see where this would lead them, they instead encouraged others to join them in their sins, resulting in certain judgment from God in the form of abandonment (1:28-32).

As Paul continues to present his case, he also puts the brakes on the readers of this letter who are thinking, “Good grief! These folks are atrocious! I see why God would judge them! Man, I’m glad (here come the expected response) I’M NOT AS BAD AS THEY ARE!!” We love to play that game, now, don’t we? We look at criminal acts, political intrigue, the overall rotten behavior of others, and then look at ourselves, feeling content that we certainly would not stoop to such levels of evil. We see ourselves as “too good” to go down the route of depravity and reprobation, yet apart from the grace and mercy of the LORD, we are heading to the same hell as they are, perhaps not for open crimes and actions, but for the hypocrisy in our souls and the self-righteous excuses we tend to flaunt when confronted with our sins.

We have no excuse for our sins and will be judged by the LORD for pronouncing our self-exalting, hypocritical verdict upon others (Romans 2:1-5). No one, except for the LORD God Almighty, who knows the thoughts of every person, has the complete story on why we do wrongful deeds and speak callous words (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 12:2; Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 3:11-5, 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; James 4:12; 1 Peter 4:4-5; Revelation 20:11-15).

Paul knew what he was talking about in penning this letter. At one time, he was the model of a self-righteous Pharisee who saw Jesus Christ as a threat to Judaism. Jesus’ death on the cross was viewed as a certain sign of being cursed by God for His claims of divinity (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). Paul deeply detested anything and everything to do with Jesus and His followers. He would do anything to stop the spread of the early church, even killing Jesus’ followers or at least seeing to it that they were thrown in jail and later sentenced to death, not sparing man, woman, or child (Acts 8:1, 9:1-6, 26:8-18; Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:3-6).

Many of the Pharisees who had encountered Jesus also displayed self-righteous acts that amounted to nothing more than a show of both personal and spiritual hypocrisy. Their teachings and public demonstrations of “piety” smothered the truth of Scripture, instead implementing stern adherence to the traditions and teachings of the past elders upon the people of Judea. Jesus rightly called them out and publicly condemned them for these atrocities (Matthew 23:2-36).

Saul, the self-righteous fanatical Pharisee who thought he was doing God a favor by viciously persecuting the followers of Jesus, was instead humbled and radically transformed into the apostle Paul, the living embodiment of a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) when the glorified Christ encountered him on the Damascus Road. He had judged Christians as sinners when he himself was sinning by his blasphemous acts against them (Romans 7:18-22; 1 Timothy 1:12-17).

Let us note something here in reading Paul’s letters, or any other portion of God’s Holy Word, for that matter. Every writer of Scripture lived in the real world and dealt with real people with real problems. None of them lived aloof from the conditions around them nor wrote from an ideal concept formed in their minds of how things should be. All of them, including the Lord Jesus, underwent periods of emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical turmoil that toughened their spiritual hides and also provided them the assurance that everything would come to its proper and great conclusion for God’s glory.

Paul knew what he was talking about in warning his fellow Jews and others not to look down with any kind of disdain or spiritual “snobbishness” towards anyone, for they were going to be held accountable before God on the Day of Judgment in the same manner as the garden variety pagan or “good” religious, moral person. There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). Although the Gentiles did not possess the Law, they were without excuse, as God placed within them a conscience that bore witness to their hearts as to know the difference between right and wrong (2:12-16).

Ignorance of God’s expectations of us, whether Jew or Gentile, is without excuse. No one at the end of their life can stand before Almighty God and pretend that they didn’t know Him, or about Him, or what He demanded from them. He also warned that no one can approach Him with the belief that their “religion” or “good works” or anything else they do or say is going to get them into God’s heaven (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

This principle applies to us today. None of us are “good” apart from God’s standards, which is holiness, without which we cannot see the LORD (Leviticus 11:45; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:16). We possess nothing in our flesh that will appease God or cleanse us of our iniquities (Romans 3:23, 6:23). That has already been accomplished for us by the sinless life and perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who willfully took our sins upon Himself and died on the cross in our place, paying a debt that we can never repay.

His resurrection was the sign that He is LORD and that His work satisfied the demands of God the Father. The work of our redemption was complete, and we cannot add anything to it (John 19:30; Ephesians 2:1-10). You do not have to do anything except to admit that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself, to believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is LORD, and that God has raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10), and to call upon Him to save you (Romans10:13). That works regardless of whether you are Jew or Gentile.

My new book, The Scope of Biblical Prophecy, is now available from Parsons Porch Publishers.

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Donald was born and reared in the authentic “Cajun Country” of southern Louisiana. He is a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education/ Biblical Studies, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. In Christian Education, 1994), and Andersonville Baptist Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, Biblical Exposition, 2000). He has been in the Gospel ministry since 1986, serving as an evangelist, interim and supply pastor, hospital and rescue mission chaplain, high school and college teacher, and pastor in churches in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

In 2018, he began to devote his time to the rich field of internet and social media evangelism and outreach. In 2021 he became a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, using his skills as a writer to contribute articles and sermons to websites such as Rapture Ready, Sermon Central, and Inspirational Christian Blogs. He also writes Bible studies and curricula for churches in southeast and central Asia and Africa, the locations of which are anonymous. He can be contacted at: for inquiries, information, and speaking/preaching engagements. A copy of his resume is also available upon request.