It is not a compliment when someone says we are acting “holier than thou.” They usually mean we are being a hypocrite. Romans 2:1–16 offers a case study in spiritual hypocrisy. It is part of Paul’s description of the nature of true righteousness and explains why it must come from a source other than the Law of God.
Sin has two aspects. It is both a matter of missing the mark and a condition. In other words, sin is not merely a matter of what we do. It is a result of what we are. The problem with those who “pass judgment on someone else” is not that they make judgments about the behavior of others (v. 1). There is an objective standard: “God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth” (v. 2). The problem comes when we fail to hold ourselves to that standard. We pass judgment yet do the same thing (v. 3).
On the surface, it may seem as if Paul is merely saying that we should not be hypocrites. But the problem is more serious. He is shining a light on our sin condition that goes beyond just being inconsistent. We sin because we are sinners. Because we suffer from the disorder of sin, the Law cannot make us righteous. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Paul explains, “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law” (v. 12). Those who do not have God’s Law perish without it. Those who possess God’s Law show by their inconsistency that they cannot keep it.
>> Verse 13 is not describing a path of salvation but giving us a standard. It is not enough to hear the Law or even agree with it. Only those who hit the mark are considered righteous. By this measure, we are all sinners. Sin makes hypocrites of us all.
We are sinful—helpless and hopeless without Your mercy. Remind us of this when we are tempted to condemn others. We thank You for salvation and ask You to help us show others the path to righteousness in Jesus.