This chapter’s review is provided by Eric, a former Evangelical and current Mormon.
Summary/analysis: Romans 2 is middle of a larger section, ending at 3:20, in which Paul lays out his thesis that both Jews and gentiles have sinned and are subject to the judgment of God. This section cannot be fully understood out of that context.
In 2:1-11, Paul suggests that when we judge others we are also judging ourselves. He speaks of a coming day of judgment and wrath (2:5) in which people, both Jew and gentile, will be repaid for their deeds, with those who did good receiving eternal life (v 7) and those who were self-seeking receiving wrath (v 8). This judgment of glory for the good and distress for the evil applies to all, as God shows no favoritism (v 11).
In vv 12-16, Paul teaches that those who are living under the law (presumably referring to the Old Testament law of the Jews) will be judged by the law, and those under the law who don’t follow the law severely dishonor God (vv 23-24). And for those who aren’t living under the Law, they have a “law to themselves” that they can sense inwardly, and they will be judged accordingly. In other words, the judgment applies to Jews and gentiles alike, even though they receive instruction in different ways.
In vv 25-29, Paul emphasizes that, at least for Jews, it isn’t just outward conformity that matters. In fact, he suggests in v 27 that those who are uncircumcised and follow the law they know are better off than those who are circumcised yet don’t follow the law. The real circumcision is something of the heart and spirit, Paul says, not an outward physical condition.
Reflection and comment: The section of this chapter that speaks to me the most are Paul’s words at the end of the chapter where he emphasizes one’s inward condition. He basically says it doesn’t matter what outward good I do if my heart isn’t in the right place. So it is important not only to seek to do good, but to seek to do good for the right reasons.
Paul also sets a high standard for those who know the law. Although it isn’t clear from this section how the law applies to believers today, in a sense that doesn’t matter, for all of us have consciences that are meant to direct us. While Paul doesn’t say so directly in this section of his letter, he hints (not saying so explicitly until 3:23) that all of us, Jew and Gentile alike, fall short.
LDS application: Somewhat surprisingly, my searches showed few instances where this section has been quoted by LDS authorities. That may be partly because Paul is using a complex argument in which a few verses here and there can’t be isolated well. Romans 2:13 is sometimes taken somewhat out of context to point out that merely hearing the law is insufficient, and the final two verses are often used to point to the necessity of inward conversion. More interesting, I found several references to 2:15 as teaching that at the time of judgment our own consciences bear a record of how we have lived our lives.
The final two verses of the chapter dovetail nicely with the LDS teaching about the importance of “real intent” when praying, repenting or seeking answers from God.