Summary: God's judgement is according to truth.
I never grow tired of the story of the man who came down from the North Carolina Mountains. He was all dressed up and carrying his Bible. A friend saw him and asked, “Elias, what’s happening? Where are you going all dressed up like that?” Elias said, “I’ve been hearing about New Orleans. I hear that there is a lot of free-runnin’ liquor and a lot of gamblin’ and a lot of real good naughty shows.” The friend looked him over and said, “But Elias, why are you carrying your Bible under your arm?” And Elias replied, “Well, if it’s as good as they say it is, I might stay over until Sunday.”
In his commentary on Romans, John Calvin, the reformer of old, introduces this section of Scripture this way: “This reproof is directed against hypocrites, who dazzle the eyes of men by displays of outward sanctity, and even think themselves to be accepted before God, as though they had given him full satisfaction. Hence Paul, after having stated the grosser vices, that he might prove that none are just before God, now attacks saintlings (sanctulos) of this kind, who could not have been included in the first catalogue.”
The central theme of Romans chapter 2 is that God alone is judge. That is, accordingly, the central theme of this message. God alone is qualified and justified to be the judge of sinful humanity.
Remember I told you last week that the church at Rome was made up of a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers. Throughout the book of Romans we will see that major reason for Paul’s writing this letter to the Romans was to deal with tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers.
There is a great deal of evidence in the text to suggest that there were tensions between these two groups of believers within the church. There is even solid evidence to suggest that there was much of tension within the city of Rome between Christian and non-Christian Jews.
The ancient Roman historian Suetonius writes that Emperor Claudius “expelled all the Jews from Rome because they were constantly rioting at the instigation of Chrestus.” Chrestus is likely a corruption of the word “Christ.” It is most likely that the rioting on the part of the Jews was between Orthodox Jews and Jewish Christians, with perhaps even Gentile Christians involved.
Added to the tension outside of the church between Christian and non-Christian Jews, was the tension which seems to have existed between Gentile and Jewish Christians within the church. The expulsion of the Jews in A.D. 49 is well attested in the Bible as well, as it fits the account found in Acts 18:2.
“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them.” (Acts 18:2 NIV)
After the Jews, all Jews were forced to leave Rome because of the tensions between Christian and non-Christian Jewish people, they no doubt began to trickle back in after Claudius death in A.D. 54. In the time that they were away it is certain that the Church at Rome had become less and less Jewish in nature.