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The Jews would readily admit these charges against the pagan nations; and though they themselves incurred the same guilt, more or less openly, yet they considered themselves as protected from the divine displeasure by their strict adherence to the Mosaic ceremonial. Thus, while open iniquity characterized the pagan, secret corruption, coupled with a malignant censoriousness, was the type of Jewish sin. The object of the apostle, therefore, now, after having exhibited the wretched condition of the pagan world, is to show the Jews, without, however, at first distinctly naming them, that, notwithstanding their self-satisfaction and censoriousness, they were involved substantially in the same guilt and danger, and that their ceremonial observances would have no efficacy in saving them, since God will judge men by their inward character, and not by the outward rites which they perform. This, the general meaning and design of the chapter, is clear. The logical connection of it with what precedes, as indicated by the first word, Therefore, is obscure; for what is said in this chapter does not appear to be at all of the nature of an inference from the statements of the former one. The word Moreover would seem to express the kind of connection which actually exists between the two sections of the discourse.
The riches of his goodness, &c. The Jews always regarded themselves as the special objects of the divine compassion and favor.
According to his deeds; and not according to the rites and ceremonies which he may have observed or neglected. The intention of this and of the Romans 2:6-16 was to show the Jew, what is still more pointedly expressed in the Romans 2:17-29 of the chapter, that his condition in the sight of God, and his hopes of final salvation, would depend upon his personal character, and not upon any outward relations which he might sustain to the Mosaic system.
Eternal life; he will render to them eternal life.
Contentious; that is, against God, refusing to obey his law.--Indignation and wrath; that is, he will render to them indignation and wrath.
Of the Jew first, &c.; meaning that with the priority in respect to privilege and honor, which the Jew enjoyed, there was connected the priority in punishment if he disobeyed.
As have sinned without law; without the revealed law.--Shall perish without law; shall be condemned, without, however, being held amenable to the requirements of revelation.
The hearers of the law; that is, those to whom the written law of God was communicated, viz., the Jewish nation. The meaning is, that the Jews must not, as they were prone to do, depend upon their acceptance with God, on the ground of their being the favored people, to whom were committed the written records of his will.
Having not the law; having not the written law.--Do by nature; that is, under the influence of the natural conscience.
The work of the law; the work or duty required by the law.--Their conscience also bearing witness. All the writings of the ancient pagans show, most decisively, that, notwithstanding the great prevalence of practical iniquity, there was a clear and universal understanding among them of the great distinctions between right and wrong. The vices and crimes enumerated by the apostle, though every where practised, were still every where understood to be vices and crimes. As such, they were denounced by the philosophers, satirized by poets, and forbidden by the laws; and thus there is abundant evidence that when the people committed such iniquity themselves, or encouraged it in others, they did or encouraged what they distinctly and certainly knew to be wrong.
In the day, &c.; referring back, apparently, to the last clause of Romans 2:12, the intervening verses being parenthetical.--The secrets of men; their secret and real characters.--My gospel; the gospel which I preach.
The apostle having introduced, in a gentle and cautious manner, the principles which show the impossibility that there can be any saving efficacy in a mere ecclesiastical position, now proceeds to give these principles a more direct application to the ideas of the Jews.--Called a Jew; a designation considered by themselves as highly honorable. In modern times, very different associations have become connected with the name.--In the law; in the Mosaic law.--Boast of God; boast of the favor of God.
The form of knowledge, and of the truth; that is, knowledge of the truth distinctly and systematically conveyed.
Sacrilege; spiritual sacrilege, committed by withholding from God the spiritual worship which is his due.
The name of God, &c.; that is, Your notorious depravity makes Jehovah, whom you profess to serve, the object of reproach and contumely among the Gentiles.
Circumcision; the symbol and token of membership of the Jewish church. The meaning is, that to be a descendant of Abraham, and one of God's chosen people, is an advantage, provided the heart and conduct correspond with the privileges enjoyed.
Which is one outwardly; that is, merely outwardly.
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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Romans 2". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent