1. TRUTHFULNESS (2:1-4)
2:1. In any generalization such as the preceding blanket indictment of pagan humanity (1:18-32) exceptions to the rule always exist. Obviously some pagans had high ethical standards and moral lifestyles and condemned the widespread moral corruption of their contemporaries. In addition the Jews morally stood in sharp contrast with the pagan world around them and freely condemned the Gentiles. Both groups of moralists might conclude that God's condemnation did not apply to them because of their higher planes of living. But Paul insisted that they also stood condemned because they were doing the same things for which they judged others.
Therefore, Paul declared, at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself. Everyone in the entire human race has turned away from God and commits sins even though there are differences of frequency, extent, and degree. In addition the entire human race, especially moral pagans and the Jews, stood condemned before God (and have no excuse [cf. 1:20]) because God's judgment is based on three divine standards - truth (2:2-4), impartiality (vv. 5-11), and Jesus Christ Himself (vv. 12-16) - which are absolute and infinite, condemning every person.
2:2-3. The first divine standard of judgment is truth. Nowhere in Scripture is God identified as "Truth" as He is as "Spirit" (John 4:24), "Light" (1 John 1:5) and "Love" (1 John 4:8,16), though Jesus did call Himself "the Truth" (John 14:6). But God is called "the God of truth" (Psalms 31:5; Isaiah 65:16). Truth - absolute, infinite truth - is unquestionably one of God's essential attributes. As a result when God's judgment of people is declared to be based on (lit. "according to") "truth," no escape from that judgment is possible for anyone. All are without "excuse" (Romans 2:1) and without "escape." One may be moral and he may even judge his contemporaries as totally enmeshed in a depraved lifestyle, but yet he is judged by God because he does the same things (cf. v. 1).
2:4. By not exacting His divine penalty on sinful humanity immediately, God is displaying the riches of His kindness (chrestotetos, "benevolence in action," also used of God in 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4), tolerance, and patience (cf. Acts 14:16; 17:30; Romans 3:25). God's purpose is to lead people toward repentance - a return to Him - through His kindness. (This word for "kindness" is chrestos, a synonym of chrestotetos, also trans. "kindness," used earlier in the verse.) Both words mean "what is suitable or fitting to a need." Chrestos is used of God in Luke 6:35 and 1 Peter 2:3 and of people in Ephesians 4:32. Not realizing (lit., "being ignorant of") God's purpose, people showed contempt for (kataphroneis, "you thought down on") God's attributes and actions (cf. "suppress the truth," Romans 1:18). People knew of God's Being through natural revelation (1:19-21,28), but did not know the purpose of His kindness.
2. IMPARTIALITY (2:5-11)
2:5-6. Why are people ignorant of God's intention to be kind? (v. 4) And why do they despise it? It is because of their stubbornness (lit., "hardness"; skleroteta, whence the Eng. "sclerosis") and their unrepentant heart(s). So God's wrath against people's sins is being stored up like a great reservoir until the day when it will all be poured forth in His righteous judgment. On that day God will give to each person according to what He has done (quotation of Psalms 62:12 and Proverbs 24:12). God's judging will be based on the standard of truth (Romans 2:2) and it will be impartial (v. 11).
2:7-11. God will bestow eternal life on those who by persistence in doing good seek (pres. tense, "keep on seeking") glory, honor, and immortality. On the other hand wrath and anger will be the portion of the self-seeking... who reject (lit., "keep on disobeying") the truth and follow (pres. tense, "keep on obeying") evil (adikia, "unrighteousness"; cf. 1:18). Each one who does ("keeps on producing") evil will receive trouble and distress, whereas each one who does ("keeps on working") good will have glory, honor (cf. "glory and honor" in 2:7), and peace. This just recompense by God is without regard to ethnic background or any other consideration except what each person has done.