Therefore you are inexcusable, o man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practise the same things.
Romans 2, 1.
Romans 1, 18 speaks of the wrath of God that is revealed with the gospel. Then the religious and moral declension of the heathen nations is described to the end of the chapter.
From ch.2, v. 17 the Jews are addressed. They had been entrusted with a special revelation of God in the law of Moses. Previous to this, however, in ch. 2, v. 1, Paul addresses “decent people”, who think themselves above such idolatrous and immoral “barbarians” (ch. 1, v. 14) and whose judgment already stands over them. They may themselves be pagans or philosophers or teachers of morals, such as there were in antiquity. They may also be Jews, who tell Paul, as it were, those pagans rightly come under God’s wrath. Whatever the case, God’s wrath is directed at all unrighteousness of men (ch.1,v.18).
Even the self-righteous can offer no defence. Though they may not “practise the same things” outwardly in every detail, nevertheless all comes under the classification of sin, for every form of wrongdoing can be traced to their heart and way of life. The Lord Jesus demonstrated this is in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5, 20-48; 7, 1-5).
The judgment anyone passes on others backfires on oneself. Therefore the description of the sins of the heathens must not make us into self-righteous judges. We, too, need the Saviour, just as they do! We have no righteousness of our own to show, but need God’s righteousness! This is the clear teaching of the first chapters of the epistle to the Romans.