1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.  2 You say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth."

3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.  6 For he will repay according to each one's deeds:  7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;  8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.  9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God's sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.  15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them  16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law,  19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth,  21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples?  23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law.  28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.  29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart -- it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.



  • Paul has reasoned (in chapter 1) that the Gentiles, having rejected the knowledge of God, are lost. In this chapter he will charge the covenant people of God (the Jews) with hypocrisy.
  • Since God does shows no favoritism -- just being a member of the covenant does not exempt you from the requirement to live righteously -- even the religious will face judgment if they sin.
    • Hypocritical judging is wrong, as Jesus insisted in Matthew 7:1-4. (Not that all other forms of judging are forbidden, as we have earlier seen, in the article linked to our study of Matthew 7.)
    • Though the Gentiles are lost (vv.12-13) -- no one will be saved without the law and without obedience, even if his conscience is good -- they put the Jews to shame when the Jews (the people of God) are disobedient.
  • In v. 17 Paul returns to his theme. Hypocrisy is even less excusable when those guilty presume to teach others!  See also James 3:1.
  • Paul quotes the passage in Isaiah that says God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of the sin of the people of God (v.24).
  • Finally, in vv.25-29 Paul approaches the seriousness of the issue -- the lostness of those who should know better -- from one more angle.
    • In the O.T., circumcision was the point of entry into the covenant (Genesis 17; Leviticus 12:3).
      • And yet even under the old covenant, one's heart had to be pure if one was to be pleasing to God (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4).
      • It is simply not true that under the old covenant, people were justified by works. They were justified by faith! See Genesis 15:6, a key verse in Paul's argument in Romans 4.
    • How does God look at the heart? He prefers someone with the right heart, but missing some of the externals, to the religious person just going through the motions, but whose heart is in the wrong place.


  • Eternal life is a reward for the righteous (v.7). Note: nowhere in scripture is eternal life promised for the unrighteous. For more on this, see the paper on Terminal Punishment.
  • "The Greek" (v.10) is synonymous with "the Gentile," since most Gentiles spoke Greek, the lingua franca of the ancient (Mediterranean) world.
  • Judgment day (v.11) will be fair. Many unbelievers instinctively know that if there is a God, all rights must be rewarded and all wrongs requited. In our outreach, we must emphasize the justice (and mercy) of God. We reap what we sow. No one receives "special treatment."
  • Nowhere does Paul say that those who never heard the message can be saved, or will be "judged by their conscience." For more, click here
  • For the broader historical context of v.24 (6th century BC Israel in captivity), see Isaiah 52. The specific citation is from verse 5.

Thought questions:

  • Is there in any area of my life in which I know I am acting hypocritically? Do I criticize others for things I know I myself am doing?
  • Does my reputation at work/school/in the community bring credit and glory to Christ, or does it make outsiders less likely to want to become Christians?
  • Do I exert myself more to perform certain actions that make me appear righteous or feel better about myself, or to cultivate my inner spiritual life?