Wow. There is so much here that I can’t do it all justice in such a short amount of space, but I’ll do my best.
Paul warns those who might feel a bit self righteous at this point to watch out: we often do the things that we accuse others of (2:1). And don’t think that God hasn’t noticed! If you’ve escaped judgment so far it’s not because you have a free pass, it’s because God is giving you time to repent (2:4):
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.“
Paul also reminds us that God doesn’t show partiality (2:11). Judgment and grace come in response to what we do, regardless of our race or ethnicity. But in reality, the more you know means the more you are responsible for. Yes, judgment and grace come to all, but there is an order: the Jew first and then the Greek (2:9-10). To quote Spider-Man, “With great privilege comes great responsibility.”
And that means that hearing and knowing the law isn’t enough (2:23). The only way to please God is by doing right: “those who do the law will be declared righteous” (2:13). Being Jewish doesn’t give you a pass! Here Paul echo’s the prophets message from the past:
1 Samuel 15:22 “Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obedience? Certainly, obedience is better than sacrifice; paying attention is better than the fat of rams.“
Is Paul teaching works/righteousness here? Sure, but there is a dirty little secret that he’s going to let us in on in chapter 3. Works can’t make anyone righteous. All have sinned. That’s why we need Jesus!
In Paul’s comments on circumcision (2:25-29) he reminds us of a very important truth: spirituality starts from within. It starts in the heart. If our hearts are right, if we love God and want to follow Him, then we’re ok. Going to church doesn’t mean we have a right relationship with God. Giving money doesn’t mean we have a right relationship with God. Even outward obedience doesn’t mean we have a right relationship with God. It has to start on the inside. It has to be from the heart. And it has to start with Jesus.