Roman Sevens: Hypocrites, Hypocrisy, and Holiness
Paul makes an astounding accusation in Romans 2.1-5. For any unbelieving Jews hearing it for the first time the accusation came as a massive surprise. Put yourself in the position of a 1st century Jew with knowledge and pride in all your connections to Abraham, the Old Testament scriptures and the promises they described. Now imagine yourself sitting in one of the gatherings of a local church in first century Rome. One of the brethren rises with Paul’s epistle in his hand and reads the first seven paragraphs, or what we now call chapter one. You would be able to say, “Sure, I can agree with that! That bit about the gentiles, worshipping idols, good on you, Paul, great work ... those gentile dogs are an inmoral bunch aren’t they!” The brother would then begin the next paragraph by reading the classic Pauline “Therefore” continuing the sentence and, in so doing, announcing the great accusation against the self- righteous and unbiblically judgmental man. “Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” Rom 2.1 (NASB).
You would be stunned. Much like David when he heard the divine accusation, “You are the man!” 2 Sam 12.7 (NASB). You might say, “Me? Without excuse? Condemned? Judgment? The Gentiles for sure but not me. The family connections, the covenants, It’s all there. What ́s this business about my practical life?” Seven times throughought these three verses words related to judgment are used. Three times the words refer to the hypocritical man who believed there could be a complete disconnect between his intellectual life and his practical life and still avoid judgment. Twice the words refer to this same person’s hypocritical judgment of the behaviour of others. In verse two the word refers to the basis of God’s judgments and lastly the inevitability of God’s judgment. In short, Paul uses the word seven times to describe the hypocrite, his hypocrisy, and God’s holiness.
Just one more detail. Have you noticed that Paul does not mention the Jews until verse 17? There is a lot of discussion about who exactly Paul’s imaginary opponent is in verses 1-5 but I think its clear that the silence is intentional. Considering the overall context of the section the unbelieving Jews are certainly in mind but don’t mistakenly think it only applies to them. We have reached a point in Christian history in which an unbeliever may consider themselves a member of the family of God due to family connections, possession of the scriptures, attendance to meetings, or the like. “Nominal Christians” abound and no body of true believers is immune to their presence. Do not compare yourself to others but let the Scriptures examine your life. Is your claim to eternal life based on an intellectual assent to a list of Biblical doctrines which have had no effect on your life whatsoever? The words of Romans are sobering but a sincere reminder that God is not partial and his future judgment of unbelievers will be according to truth (Rom 2.2; 3.20; 3.28; 4.16; 5.6; 8.38,39; 10.9,12) not bloodlines, genealogy, the signing of a card or the repetition of a prayer. Don’t be caught out as the hyprocrite. The true believer will heed his Lord’s command: “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour;” 1 Peter 1.15 (NASB).