So then everyone who passes judgment, whoever you are, has no defense. For by judging another you condemn
yourself, because you practice the same things.
We know that the judgment
of God is based on truth against those who practice such things.
imagine, whoever you are, when you judge those who do such things
and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience,
failing to understand that the kindness of God is meant to lead you to repentance?
because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up for
yourselves anger for the day of anger, the day of the revelation of God’s
6 He will repay everyone according to their
7 Those who by perseverance in doing what is good seek glory, honor,
and immortality, will receive the Life of the Age to Come.
 8 But those who
are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will
receive anger and fury.
 9 There will be affliction and suffering for everyone
who does what is evil, the Jew first and also the Gentile,
10 but glory, honor and peace
for everyone who does what is good, the Jew first and also the Gentile. 11 For with
God there is no favoritism.
12 For all who have sinned
outside the Law will also perish without the
Law, while those who have sinned under the Law will be judged by it. 13 For it is not
the hearers of the Law who are right before God, but the doers of the Law
will be declared right.
 14 For when Gentiles
who do not have the Law
do by nature
the things of the Law, these who do not have the Law are a law to themselves.
15 They show the demands of the Law written in
their hearts, as their consciences bear witness and their thoughts either accuse
or excuse them,
16 on the day when God will judge the secrets of mankind
through Messiah Jesus, according to my Gospel.
 17 If you bear the name “Jew,” rest on the Law, boast in God,
18 know His
will, and approve the things that are important, being instructed from the Law —
19 and if you are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to
those in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of “children,”
because you have in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and truth — 21 you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who proclaim that
people must not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that people must not
commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob
23 You who boast about the Law, do you dishonor God by disobeying
the Law? 24 As it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the
Gentiles because of you.” 25 For circumcision has value if you practice the Law.
But if you break the
Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26 So then if the
uncircumcised keep the requirements of the Law, will they not be regarded as circumcised?
 27 And those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the Law will judge you who, though having the letter of the Law and circumcision, break the Law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who
is one on the outside, and true circumcision is not external and physical, 29 but a person is a Jew who is one on the inside, and true circumcision is of the heart — in the spirit, not in the letter.
This person’s praise comes not from
people but from God.
Acts 17:31 is a definitive text, telling us that God has planned to judge the world using His
agent and Son Jesus, and God has proven that He intends to do this by raising His Son from the dead.
This is the biblical definition of the Christian destiny. The Bible has not a word to say about
“going to heaven when you die.” “‘Heaven’ is never in fact used in the Bible for the destination of the
dying” (Dr. J.A.T. Robinson, In the End God, p. 104).
This foundational truth of the Gospel was expressed often by Jesus, notably in John 3:36; 12:44ff.
I.e. without any of the redeeming features of those Gentiles who do at least some of the things
of the law by nature. They have a sense of God and His demands by recognizing God in creation. They
do “what is fitting,” and not what is “against nature.”
In the light of the rest of Paul’s teaching, he does not mean that Christianity is just a repeat of
the Law of Moses. In Galatians he says that no one is made right by the law. Paul in fact distinguishes
the Law of Moses from the Law of Messiah (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2), summed up as love. The law in the
spirit is the basis of Christianity and this excludes observance of the calendar of Israel (Col. 2:16-17),
food laws (Rom. 14:14, 20; Mk. 7:19) and physical circumcision. Paul warns against being physically
circumcised, lest one then be obligated to keep the whole law! (Gal. 5:3). In Genesis 17 by comparison
every Jew and Gentile wanting to be in covenant with God had to be circumcised. This illustrates the
sharp difference between the covenants. Paul teaches that mixing the law in the letter, of Moses, with
the law in the spirit of Messiah is fatal. “If I still preached circumcision, why am I being persecuted?”
That is, Gentiles, not “the Gentiles” as a whole but some Gentiles, what Jews knew as pious
By nature, guided by conscience. These are positively not Christians of whom it would never
be said that they are operating “by nature.” These are people who had no contact with Israel, but lived
up to such light as they had. This is a highly significant part of Paul’s Gospel, and bears on the second
resurrection, which is not just a mass destruction of the wicked! (see Rev. 20:12-15). Paul speaks of the
wicked as acting “against nature” when they practice homosexuality. There are some Gentiles however
who do have a high ethical standard, without being exposed to the true faith. “God wants all to be saved
and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4) and He did not mean just people who happened to
live after the coming of Jesus! This implies logically that there must be a way for the “righteous
Gentile” to be saved. To burn people up for not knowing and obeying Jesus when they clearly had no
opportunity of knowing Jesus would present God as a cruel monster, rather like the appalling popular
doctrine of “eternal torture” for the wicked. Those whose names are written in the book of life at the
second resurrection are certainly not confined to those who become converted during the millennium.
Of these it would never be said that they were doing good things just “by nature.” In fact they will have
had the Torah of Messiah operating in them during the millennial reign.
Acts 17:30-31 is the classic statement of God’s intention to judge the world through the man
Messiah Jesus. The proof that this is going to happen is the historical fact that God brought Jesus back
to life after his crucifixion, and Peter and others “ate with him after he rose from death” (Acts 10:41).
Failure to believe this witness is the culpable failure of faith in reliable testimony. Paul said that if we
fail to believe in the resurrection we are implying that God and the Apostles were false witnesses, liars
(1 Cor. 15:15). Zacharias was struck dumb for 9 months when he failed to believe what the angel said
Paul’s definition of Law must be understood from all he writes on that subject. He is against
the Torah in the letter and tried to move people forward to a spiritual understanding of Torah — Torah
in the spirit and not the letter. Circumcision and other Jewish ways of life, sabbath, holy days and food
laws, are replaced by “the law of Messiah” appropriate to the New Covenant. Paul struggled to get
Jews especially to see that the New Covenant is not just a repeat of the Old. Rom. 7:6 announces the
new principle of spirit as distinct from the letter.
One of the great Pauline themes of the New Covenant is to show that the law of Messiah is in
the spirit and not the letter. Gen. 17 mandates obligatory physical circumcision equally for both Jews
and Gentiles. Paul reverses that by making circumcision a matter of the heart, not in the letter and the
flesh. Paul spoke as the Apostolic emissary of Jesus.
The distinction between the spirit of the Law and the letter of the Law is the essential key to understanding how Paul can appear to be both pro-Law and anti-Law. The same distinction appears in
7:6. Sabbath and the whole calendar in the letter are a mere shadow of the Messiah who has come (Col.
2:16-17). In the same context in Col. 2:11 circumcision in the letter has been replaced by circumcision
in the spirit, of the heart.