To understand the early verses of this chapter, one must read the whole chapter and determine to whom the apostle speaks. In the preceding chapter Paul had described the state of idolatrous pagans. He now passes to the Jews, who (while they rejected the righteousness of God in Christ to which the law and the prophets bore witness) looked for salvation in their relation with Abraham, their observance of the ceremonial law, and their outward morality. Paul shows that the just judgment of God is the same against Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned. Verses 17, 23, and 28 give us evidence that Paul here addressed the religious Jews and not the heathen philosophers.
(Vs. 1) The religious Jews passed judgment upon and condemned the Gentiles, and Paul censures them (not for their judging and condemning sin and idolatry, but for their being guilty in their hearts and oftentimes in their deeds of the same things for which they condemned others). Paul says that the law declares all men to be guilty before God (Rom. 3:19, 23). He has already proved the inexcusableness of the Gentiles, and in these verses he does the same in regard to the Jews. When you condemn the sins of others and are guilty of the same transgression, you condemn yourself and are inexcusable (Matt. 5:21-22; Matt. 5:27-28).
(Vs. 2) God's judgment is according to TRUTHnot appearance, works, nation, or profession. God will punish sin without respect of persons in whomsoever it is found! "The soul that sinneth shall surely die." "God will by no means clear the guilty." The true believer is free from condemnation because he is righteous. He has fulfilled the law and suffered its just penalty in the obedience and death of Jesus Christ, with whom he is one (Rom. 5:19; II Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:25-26).
(Vs. 3) Since God's judgments are true and righteous, since God looks on the heart and not on the outward appearance, since all men are sinners and guilty before God, how can anyone who has not a perfect righteousness and a sufficient atonement hope to escape? (Job 25:4-6.) All must be judged according to their works, and all who are not in Christ shall perish (Rom. 8:1, 33-34).
(Vs. 4) Are you Jews so blind as to trifle with, presume upon, and despise the wealth of God's goodness, forbearance, and patience toward you? Do you not know that the goodness of God to you is intended to lead you to repentance and faith in Him? GOODNESS denotes God's benefits and blessings on them. FORBEARANCE denotes God's bearing with them and not immediately executing vengeance. LONG-SUFFERING signifies the extent of His forbearance. They concluded from their position as Abraham's seed, their prosperity under God's goodness, and the delay of His judgment that they would escape condemnation. These mercies and benefits which should have turned them to God in true repentance and faith served only to harden them in their presumption and false profession.
(Vs. 5) But by your stubbornness and impenitence of heart, trusting in your works, traditions, and claims to righteousness, you are storing up wrath and indignation for yourselves on the day of judgment. You are the authors of your own destruction. The benefits and special favor of God which these Jews enjoyed INCREASED their condemnation, for an account of them all shall be required (Rom. 3:1-2; Luke 12:47-48). There is no judgment of God which is not according to strict justice! Mercy and judgment are irreconcilable except in Christ, in Whom mercy is exercised consistently with judgment. Righteous and strict judgment admits no mercy! The acquittal of a believer in Christ in that day will be as just as the condemnation of the ungodly! (Acts 17:31.)
(Vs. 6) In that day of judgment God (Who is righteous, holy, just, and true) will deal justly with every person according to his deeds. Every man will answer for himself in all that he thought, said, and did. Punishment shall be universal but not equal, for it is a just judgment (Matt. 11:22-23).
(Vs. 7) These words are descriptive of one sort of personthose who have in faith and perseverance sought the GLORY of God in Christ, the HONOR which abides in Christ, and IMMORTALITY in Christ or the resurrection of life (Phil. 3:10-11). God will render to them eternal life!
(Vs. 8) But to those who are self-seeking, self-willed, self-righteous, and disobedient to the gospel of truth, there will be indignation and wrath.
(Vs. 9-11) The wrath of God will be poured out upon all men who are guilty of sin (whether Jew or Gentile), and the mercy of God will be upon all men in Christ (whether Jew or Gentile); for there is not respect of persons with God (Rom. 3:22-23; Rom. 10:12-13; Col. 3:11).