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Bible Commentaries
Romans 2

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Verse 1

Romans 2:1

2:1–16 In this chapter, Paul shifts his focus from the guilt of the Gentiles to the guilt of the Jews. Paul now describes God’s judgment on those who have the law (vv. 12–16). God will judge both Jews and Gentiles according to their works (v. 6).

Therefore -- Διὸ. The force of this word here has been the subject of much discussion. - BN

Therefore --Therefore” seems more logically to relate back to Romans 1:18-19 than to Romans 1:21-32. - Constable

you -- Singular in Greek. Paul uses an ancient literary style called the diatribe, in which writers use a fictional dialogue between themselves and the proponent of another viewpoint - NIVZSB

you -- The referent of “you” is somewhat ambiguous at this point. In Romans 2:17, it becomes clear that Paul is referring specifically to Jews. - FSB

you -- You is singular in the Greek. Here, the you is a hypothetical complacent Jew, who feels superior to Gentiles and in no danger of judgment. - NLTSB

inexcusable -- This is literally “no legal defense” (Romans 1:20). It was placed first in the Greek sentence to magnify its significance.- Utley

All people are without excuse because all, without exception, have sinned against God. - ESVSB

O man -- This address is general to any man who should do this. But it is plain, from the connection, that he means especially the Jews. - BN

O man” (not translated in the NIV).

passes judgment -- The Greek word used here, krinō, refers to condemning someone. Those who judge inappropriately assume a role that belongs to God. Later, Paul will warn Gentile Christians not to pass judgment upon Jewish Christians who feel compelled to maintain certain dietary customs (Romans 14:1-4). - FSB

judge another -- The "other” refers to the Gentiles.

condemn yourself -- If someone has sufficient knowledge to judge others, he condemns himself, because he shows he has the knowledge to evaluate his own condition. - MSB

the same things -- Refers to the sins listed in Romans 1:28-31. Paul criticizes self-righteous Jews because of their hypocrisy and self-deception. Ironically, when such people pass judgment on others, they also pass judgment upon themselves because they do the same things. - FSB

The problem is not just that the Jews were passing judgment as such, but they were doing so hypocritically. Even if there is some sense in which condemning someone else is legitimate (e.g., such as condemning his “fruit” [Matthew 7:16], or deeds, in the light of the Word of God), it is never right to do so when we are guilty of the very same sins. See Matthew 7:1-5. - CPNIV

Verse 2

Romans 2:2

But we know -- "we are sure" This is spoken as by the Apostle, not as by the Jew. He solemnly repeats the thought that man knows that judgment is to come. - CBSC

The phrase “we know that” is used several times in Romans (cf. Romans 2:2; Romans 3:19; Romans 7:14; Romans 8:22, Romans 8:28). Paul assumes his hearers have some degree of knowledge, unlike the immoral pagans of chapter 1. - Utley

we -- This PRONOUN probably referred to fellow Jews although it could possibly refer to Christians.

In Romans 2:2-4, Paul returns to his common technique of a question and answer format, called diatribe, which was a presentation of truth by means of a supposed objector. It was also used by Habakkuk, Malachi, and the rabbis as well as the Greek philosophers (such as Socrates and the Stoics). - Utley

the judgment of God -- The word for “judgment” is κρίμα (krima), which refers not to the act of judging as such but to the verdict of a judge in the context of a court of law. - CPNIV

Both the OT (e.g., Jeremiah 7:1-29) and NT (e.g., Matthew 3:7-10) condemn the tendency of Jews to think that their special relationship with God will shield them from judgment. - NIVZSB

according to truth -- The meaning is “right.” Whatever God does is by nature right (cf. Romans 3:4; Romans 9:14; Psalms 9:4, Psalms 9:8; Psalms 96:13; Psalms 145:17; Isaiah 45:19). - MSB

against those -- "Those" would be both Jews and Gentiles.

That is, against every man, no matter of what age or nation.

who practice such things -- The crimes enumerated in chap. 1. The apostle is not to be understood as affirming that each and every individual among the Jews was guilty of the specific crimes charged on the heathen, but that they were as a people inclined to the same things. - BN

Paul’s point is that Jews, like Gentiles, turn from God’s revelation to go their own way. - NLTSB

Verse 3

Romans 2:3

do you think -- The grammatical form of Paul’s rhetorical question expects a “no” answer. - Utley

The NIV changes the word order a bit. The verse actually begins as the NASB puts it.

And thinkest thou, &c -- This is an appeal to their common sense, to their deep and instinctive conviction of what was right. - BN

O man -- This matches the same idiom in Romans 2:1. In Romans 9:20 it refers to Jews

.The NIV translates the vocative, “O man,” as “a mere man,” as if Paul’s purpose were to compare the judging Jew’s fallible humanity with God’s omniscience and infallibility. This is probably not the point, though. The same vocative expression is used in Romans 2:1; it is part of the diatribe style of writing. - CPNIV

you [thou] --Thou” is, of course, emphatic.

We must remember how often the Jews of that age clung to national privilege as if it were personal immunity. It was a saying, that to live in Palestine was “equal to the observance of all the commandments.”

“He that hath his permanent abode in Palestine,” so taught the Talmud, “is sure of the life to come.” (Edersheim’s Sketches of Jewish Life, p. 5.) - CBSC

pass judgment -- [NIV] -- is again krinō, as in v. 1, and means “condemn.” ... The repetition of these thoughts, already set forth in v. 1, is meant to help the Jews honestly see the naked truth about themselves: you are condemning the Gentiles, and you are doing the same things for which you condemn them. - CPNIV

that you will escape -- The Jews Paul addresses might feel that they will not experience God’s judgment because they have the law and are in a covenant with God. - FSB

Actually, the Jews had drawn a conclusion that was not based on truth or facts, for this is exactly what they thought: that they were going to escape God’s wrath and condemnation (krima). Ignoring their sins, they trusted in their special status as God’s chosen people to deliver them from wrath on the day of judgment. - CPNIV

Both the OT (e.g., Jeremiah 7:1-29) and NT (e.g., Matthew 3:7-10) condemn the tendency of Jews to think that their special relationship with God will shield them from judgment. - NIVZSB

Verse 4

Romans 2:4

despise -- Lit. “to think down on,” thus to underestimate someone’s or something’s value, and even to treat with contempt. - MSB

This word properly means to contemn, or to treat with neglect.

the riches -- A frequent word with St Paul, in reference to Divine goodness and glory. See Romans 9:23, Romans 10:12, Romans 11:33; Ephesians 1:7-8, Ephesians 2:7, Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:17, Colossians 2:2. - CBSC

the riches of his goodness. This is a Hebrew mode of speaking, for his rich goodness,i.e. for his abundant or great goodness. Riches denote superfluity, or that which abounds, or which exceeds a man’s present wants; and hence the word in the New Testament is used to denote abundance; or that which is very great and valuable; see Romans 9:23; Romans 11:12, Romans 11:33; 2 Corinthians 8:2; Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:8, Ephesians 3:16; Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 2:4. The word is used here to qualify each of the words which follow it, his rich goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering. - BN

kindness [goodness] -- The “kindness” or goodness of God, represented here by two related words, χρηστοτής (chrēstotēs) (Romans 11:22) and χρηστός (chrēstos). This kindness of God is expressed especially in his “tolerance” (νοχή, anochē) and “patience” (μακροθυμία, makrothumia), concepts not significantly different in this context. The essence of God’s patience is delay and restraint in the execution of his wrath, the holding back of his righteous judgment. - CPNIV

goodness [kindness] -- Refers to the Jewish people’s experience of God’s goodness. Paul also refers to God’s kindness in Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; and Titus 3:4. The term is used in the Septuagint translation of several psalms including Psalms 25:17 and Psalms 145:7. - FSB

forbearance -- This word, which means “to hold back,” was sometimes used of a truce between warring parties. Rather than destroying every person the moment he or she sins, God graciously holds back His judgment (cf. Romans 3:25). - MSB

forbearance, and longsuffering [patience] -- Describes God’s patience in delaying judgment and punishment of people who sin and break the law. Paul cautions against the Jewish assumption that the experience of God’s goodness and mercy would exclude them from God’s righteous judgment. - FSB

They thought such blessings showed that they were right with God and had no need to trust in Christ, but Paul says the opposite is true: God’s blessings should have led them to repent of their sins. - ESVSB

longsuffering -- This word indicates the duration for which God demonstrates His goodness and forbearance—for long periods of time (cf. 2 Peter 2:5). [cf 2 Peter 3:9] Together these 3 words speak of God’s common grace—the way He demonstrates His grace to all mankind (cf. Job 12:10; Psalms 119:68; Psalms 145:9). - MSB

This word denotes his slowness to anger; or his suffering them to commit sins long without punishing them. - BN

not knowing -- Not considering. The word used here, γνοῶν, means not merely to he ignorant of, but it denotes such a degree of inattention as to result in ignorance. Comp. Hosea 2:8. In this sense it denotes a voluntary, and therefore a criminal ignorance. - BN

They not only refused to take God’s sternness and severity seriously; they also took for granted his kindness (Romans 11:22). - CPNIV

The purpose of such patience, of course, “is not to excuse sin but to stimulate repentance” (Moo, I:133). See 2 Peter 3:9. The Jews, however, continued to misinterpret it as God’s indifference toward their sin. What was in fact intended to lead them to repentance was taken as proof that they would not be punished for their sin. - CPNIV

repentance -- The Gr. of “repentance,” here as elsewhere in N. T., means far more than alarm or grief; rather, a change of thought and will. See especially 2 Corinthians 7:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:25. - CBSC

The term in Hebrew meant a change of actions, while in Greek it meant a change of mind. Repentance is a willingness to change from one’s self-centered existence to a life informed and directed by God. - Utley

repentance -- The Greek word used here, metanoia, describes a change in mindset about sin and God. The purpose behind God’s display of kindness, forbearance, and patience is not assurance, but repentance. - FSB

The act of turning from sin to Christ for forgiveness and salvation. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11. - MSB


Verse 5

Romans 2:5

2:5 This verse is directly related to v. 4; the paragraph break should come after v. 5 and not before it as in the NIV. - CPNIV

after [according to] -- in a way traceable to. The word “after” here (κατὰ) means in respect to.

hardness -- The Eng. word “sclerosis” (as in arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries) comes from this Greek word. But here the danger is not physical, but spiritual hardness (Ezekiel 36:26; Matthew 19:8; Mark 3:5; Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17; John 12:40; Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7). - MSB

The Jews’ sinfulness is described as “stubbornness,” an attitude within Israel that had tried God’s patience from the beginning (Exodus 33:3-5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 9:27; Ezekiel 3:7). - CPNIV

impenitent heart. A refusal to repent (cf. Romans 2:4).

A soft and repentant heart is needed to avert God’s wrath on the day of wrath, the final judgment. Such repentance would express itself in trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Paul disagrees with much of the Jewish teaching of his day, according to which the Jews were not storing up wrath but were in good standing with God through their covenant relationship, - ESVSB

treasurest up -- Possibly this word alludes to the “riches” of ver. 4; q. d., “the Divine store of loving-kindness is exchanged by the sinner for the Divine store of holy wrath”. - CBSC

The word for “storing up” is θησαυρίζω (thēsaurizō), which means “to treasure, to heap up, to lay up treasure.” Since we usually associate treasure and laying up treasure with something very valuable and desirable (see Matthew 6:19-20), it is a note of tragic irony that some choose to lay up the “treasure” of God’s wrath. Perhaps by using this word Paul intends to highlight the foolishness of repudiating the riches of God’s kindness (v. 4) and opting instead for the treasure of his wrath. - CPNIV

treasuring up ... wrath -- The idea of storing up wrath is an ironic twist on the usual metaphor of storing up blessings or treasures (compare Genesis 41:49; 1 Timothy 6:19). See note on Romans 1:18. - FSB

for yourself -- Emphatic; more than merely “for thee.” The wrath is pure retribution, the result of sin. The sinner is the cause of his own doom. - CBSC

against the day -- Lit. in the day of wrath; a pregnant phrase; “which will take effect in the day.” On “wrath,” see note on Romans 1:18: “The day:”—i.e. the definite time of the Lord’s Appearing, to raise the dead (John 6:39-40, John 6:44, John 6:54, John 11:24); to judge the world (John 12:48; Acts 17:31); and to receive the saints to final glory (2 Timothy 4:8). In one remarkable passage (1 Corinthians 4:3) the Greek of the word “judgment” (in E. V.) is lit. “day;” and a probable account of this use of the word is the inseparable connexion of thought, in the early church, between the day and the judgment of the Lord. - CBSC

in the day of wrath -- This was called “The Day of the Lord” in the OT (cf. Joel, Amos). This is the concept of Judgment Day, or for believers, Resurrection Day. Mankind will give an account to God for His gift of life (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15).

Notice that it is the sinners themselves (“you” and “yourself”) that store up wrath. God simply, at some point, allows this stored wrath to become evident and run its full course. - Utley

“The day of God’s wrath” is the general eschatological day of judgment, not the intermediate judgment of a.d. 70, when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. This is seen in the fact that in this context the “day of wrath” involves the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Romans 5:8-9, Romans 5:12, Romans 5:16). Revelation 6:17 describes it as “the great day of their wrath.” - CPNIV [However, Revelation 6:17 does refer to the intermediate judgment of AD 70 upon Israel for rejecting Christ. - WG]

day of wrath -- An ot expression synonymous with the Day of Yahweh (e.g., Isaiah 13:6-9; Joel 2:1-11). In the nt, it is also referred to as the Day of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6)—the second coming of Jesus. On this day of final judgment, God will pour out His wrath against the wicked and deliver His people from evil (1 Thessalonians 5:2 and note). - FSB

revelation of the righteous judgment of God -- The “wrath” is as pure, just, and Divine as the mercy. Its “revelation” will be only the revelation of the absolute equity of “the Judge of all the earth.” This deep righteousness of the Divine anger is its most awful element. - CBSC

And revelation -- On the day when the righteous judgment of God will be revealed, or made known. Here we learn, (1.) That the punishment of the wicked will be just. It will not be a judgment of caprice or tyranny, but a righteous judgment, that is, such a judgment as it will be right to render, or as ought to be rendered, and therefore such as God will render, for he will do right; 2 Thessalonians 1:6. (2.) The punishment of the wicked is future. It is not exhausted in this life. It is treasured up for a future day, and that day is a day of wrath. How contrary to this text are the pretences of those who maintain that all punishment is executed in this life. (3.) How foolish as well as wicked is it to lay up such a treasure for the future; to have the only inheritance in the eternal world, an inheritance of wrath and wo! - BN

This “day of wrath” is also called a “day of revelation” (ποκάλυψις, apokalypsis). This word is often associated with the end times and Christ’s second coming (Romans 8:19; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:13). Many things will be revealed or totally uncovered on that day, but here Paul specifies that the thing to be revealed is God’s “righteous judgment.” - CPNIV

Verse 6

Romans 2:6

This is a quote from Psalms 62:12. It is a universal principle that humans are responsible for their actions and will give an account to God (cf. Job 34:11; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12). - Utley

render to each one -- According to the promise, Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12. (Note that the very phrase used here of the Father, is used there of Himself by the Son). - CBSC

who will render -- That is, who will make retribution as a righteous Judge; or who will give to every man as he deserves. - BN

To every man -- To each one. This is a general principle, and it is clear that in this respect God would deal with the Jew as he does with the Gentile. - BN

according to his works [deeds] -- Paul emphasizes that God judges fairly and righteously (Romans 2:2). Similar statements are found throughout the ot (see Psalms 62:12; Job 34:11; Proverbs 24:12; Jeremiah 17:10). Paul wants his fellow Jews to understand that they must not elevate their ethnicity over good works. - FSB Romans 14:12

God’s judgment is always on the basis of a man’s deeds (Isaiah 3:10-11; Jeremiah 17:10; John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-9; cf. Romans 14:12). - MSB

The second principle of God’s judgment is that it will deal with what every person really did (v. 6). It will not deal with what we intended or hoped or wanted to do (cf. Psalms 62:12; Matthew 16:27; et al.).- Constable

works [deeds] -- For some questionable reason the NIV has decided not to translate the word ργον (ergon; pl., erga) as “work” or “works” here or anywhere else in Romans 1–3 (see Romans 2:7, Romans 2:15; Romans 3:20, Romans 2:27-28). “According to what he has done” should read “according to his works.” - CPNIV

2:6–11 Paul uses a chiasm (“X” arrangement) to make his point:

A God judges everyone the same (2:6)

B Life is the reward for doing good (2:7)

C Wrath is the penalty for evil (2:8)

C’ Wrath for doing evil (2:9)

B’ Life for doing good (2:10)

A’ God shows no favoritism (2:11) (NLTSB; ESVSB, NIVZSB)

Verse 7

Romans 2:7

2:7–11 Paul emphasizes that God is a fair and just judge (Romans 2:6). Those who do good will receive glory, honor, and eternal life (Romans 2:7; Romans 2:10). In contrast, those who do evil will receive wrath and affliction (Romans 2:8-9). This applies to both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jewish people), since God does not show partiality (Romans 2:11). - FSB

2:7-11 Summary of the principles: “Keep the commandments, and therefore escape the penalty; break the commandments, and therefore suffer the penalty.” - CPNIV

eternal life -- "Eternal" expresses not only the duration of life , because even unbelievers will live forever (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 14:11), but also the quality of life (i.e. with God). - MSB

Many Greeks believed that only the gods were immortal. For this reason, some Greeks were attracted to mystery cults, which promised union with a god and immortality through the completion of secret rituals. Paul affirmed the immortal nature of God alone (Romans 1:23; Romans 6:23) - FSB

eternal life -- (1) Life” in this context means more than bare existence. Joh. 6:53; Eph. 2:1. In this sense “life,” must contain happiness and holiness, whether in the germ (as here), or in maturity (as hereafter). (2) Eternal aionios. The N. T. usage in this respect, see e.g. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. the clear idea is its duration unending in respect of the period referred to.

It equals naturally with “everlasting” and is arbitrary equivalent for it, for both words have the same consistent elasticity of meaning.

Daniel in the OT uses the phrase also Daniel 12:2 (Titus 1:2; Titus 3:7; Galatians 6:8; 1 Timothy 1:16; Romans 5:21; Romans 6:22-23)

Other OT references to the resurrection of the faithful (cp Daniel 12:13; Job 19:26; Psalms 17:15; Isaiah 26:19; cp. Ezekiel 37:11-13; see also 2 Samuel 12:23;

patient continuance --Patience” here, as often in N. T., practically means active patience, perseverance. (Cp. Luke 8:15; Hebrews 10:36, Hebrews 12:1). - CBSC

Patient continuance -- Who by perseverance in well doing, or in good work.

in doing good . .[well doing; good work] --Work” is here, as often, used in the singular as a summary of the Christian’s whole course of obedience. - CBSC

It is very remarkable to find here ... the distinct mention of the blessed result of “good work.” - CBSC

“Work” is singular; the expression means “good conduct, good behavior, commandment keeping.” - CPNIV

Eternal life (salvation) is not earned but comes to us through God’s mercy and love for us, Titus 3:5. One must come to God in faith (trust) which is trusting God and obeying Him. Hebrews 11:6; Hebrews 5:9; (As the old song says, "Trust and Obey") One cannot separate a faith that saves from obedience to God’s word.

seek -- As a traveller on his homeward road seeks for (aims at, moves toward) his home. Cp. Hebrews 13:14. - CBSC

glory and honour and immortality -- The three words used here, denote the happiness of the heavenly world. - BN

glory -- The heavenly state, on its side of exaltation; the dignity of the vision and the likeness of God. See ch. 5:2 for its deep connexion with His presence: it is “the glory of God.” - CBSC

Glory” refers to living in the light and reflection of God’s own glory, as the result of dwelling in the very personal presence of God (Revelation 21:3; Revelation 22:4-5). - CPNIV

honor -- The Greek word used here, timē, may refer to approval from God. This honor stands in contrast to the wrath that unbelievers will experience on the Day of the Lord - FSB

immortality -- Lit. incorruptibility. Same word as 1 Corinthians 15:42, 1 Corinthians 15:50; 2 Timothy 1:10. - CBSC

"Immortality” is the state in which our bodies and spirits will never again be destroyed and see death. (CPNIV)

immortality -- Life without end or not subject to decay.

The notion of immortality was popular in Greek thought and literature (as reflected in the deuterocanonical work Wisdom of Solomon Wisdom of Solomon 8:13, Wisdom of Solomon 8:17 RSVA). For Paul, immortality is an aspect of eternal life reserved for believers when God raises the dead to the resurrected life (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-54; 2 Timothy 1:10).

Verse 8

Romans 2:8

self-seeking -- [selfish ambitious; contentious; factious] -- This word may have originally been used to describe a hireling or mercenary; someone who does what he does for money regardless of how his actions affect others. - MSB

To be selfish or self-seeking means to pursue our own desires and agendas rather than those God has planned for us. - CPNIV

contentious -- Lit. out of partisanship, or factiousness; The phrase implies connexion and attachment; as here, “those who belong to, can be classed under the character of, the factious.” The “faction” in question is that of the sinful soul against the humbling terms of the Divine peace and love. See Romans 10:3 for a special example of this in the case of the Jews. - CBSC

The term originally meant “work for hire.”

Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 2, p. 104, list two usages of this term.

1. “selfish ambition,” using Romans 2:8 noting “wanting to be better than someone else,” which fits this context

2. “hostility,” using Philippians 1:17 noting “rivalry” as a translation option (see also 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 2:3; James 3:14, James 3:16) - Utley

live for themselves -- translates a rare Greek word (eritheia) that seems to convey the idea of selfish ambition or strife. Using this word, Aristotle scolded the politicians of his day for seeking public office for selfish gain rather than from a desire to serve the people (Aristotle, Politics 5.3; see also 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; Philippians 2:3; James 3:14, James 3:16). - NLtSB

Further, those who are infatuated with themselves, and engrossed in self-centred goals, inevitably reject the truth and follow evil (8b). Indeed, they ‘suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Romans 1:18). - MR (Stott)

do not obey the truth -- Truth is something to be obeyed. cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 see Romans 1:5, the faith is something to be obeyed. cf. Romans 16:26

truth -- Probably refers to the gospel message or the truth about God (see Romans 1:18 and note). - FSB

unrighteousness -- Refers to the sins that Paul listed in Romans 1:28-31. [2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; John 8:32]

obey unrighteousness -- Yielding the will to the impulse of sin; “having pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Romans 6:6, Romans 6:16, &c.; Titus 3:3.

Unrighteousness” here, as often, means sin in its largest sense. All wrong, civil, social, moral, personal, overt, secret, violates the eternal rights, even when it least seems to touch temporal and human interests. -CBSC

wrath and anger -- The use of these words together intensifies the idea of God’s punishment of the wicked. This punishment stands in contrast to the “eternal life” granted to those who obey God (v. 7). - FSB

The word translated “wrath” (ὀργή, orgē) refers more to God’s constant and controlled indignation toward sin, while the word for “anger” (θυμός, thymos) refers more to a passionate and destructive outburst of rage. Except for here (which is clearly eschatological in reference) this latter word is used for God’s wrath only in Revelation (Revelation 14:10, Revelation 14:19; Revelation 15:1, Revelation 15:7; Revelation 16:1, Revelation 16:19; Revelation 19:15). - CPNIV

Verse 9

Romans 2:9

Tribulation -- This word commonly denotes affliction, or the situation of being pressed down by a burden, as of trials, calamities, etc.; and hence, to be pressed down by punishment or pain inflicted for sins. - BN

And anguish -- [distress] -- στενοχωρία stenochōria. This noun is used in but three other places in the New Testament; Romans 8:35; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 12:10. The verb is used in 2 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 6:12. It means literally narrowness of place, lack of room, and then the anxiety and distress of mind which a man experiences who is pressed on every side by afflictions, and trials, and want, or by punishment, - BN

soul -- In Hebrew the word “soul” often denotes the man himself. But the apostles use of this word here meant perhaps to signify that the punishment should not be corporeal, but afflicting the soul. It should be a spiritual punishment, a punishment of mind.

Jew first -- And the apostle now shows that it was applicable to the Jew as well as the Greek, and to the Jew pre-eminently. It was applicable first, or in an eminent degree, to the Jew, because,

(1) He had been especially favored with light and knowledge on all these subjects.

(2) These principles were fully stated in his own Law, and were in strict accordance with all the teaching of the prophets; see the note at Romans 2:6; also Psalms 7:11; Psalms 9:17; Psalms 139:19; Proverbs 14:32.

also ... Greek -- [Gentiles] -- That is, of all who were not Jews. On what principles God will inflict punishment on them, he states in Romans 2:12-16. It is clear that this refers to the future punishment of the wicked, - BN

Verse 10

Romans 2:10

Verse 11

Romans 2:11

For -- The Greek [γάρ] particle is used here to confirm what is said before, particularly that this punishment should be experienced by the Jew as well as the Gentile. For God would deal with both on the principles of justice. - BN

partiality -- The word prosōpolēmpsia describes making unfair distinctions between people and treating some better than others. God does not show partiality (see Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34-35);

Verse 12

Romans 2:12

For as many as have sinned without law -- Refers to the Gentiles. They are not sinless merely because they do not know the requirements of God’s law.

...its main purpose is to teach the awful truth that even without the revealed law there is yet real sin and real doom. CBSC

Have sinned -- is literally in the Greek sinned; an aorist, not a perfect... But the aorist, if taken strictly, would here point to the time when earthly life is closed, and judgment is come; to the sinner’s actions as looked back upon from that point. - CBSC

The verb here is actually a past tense (aorist), “all who sinned or who have sinned.” It is past tense from the perspective of Judgment Day, when one’s past life will be considered - CPNIV

law -- Refers to the law of Moses—the commandments that God gave to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exod 20–22). Paul refers to this law throughout Romans 2:12-16. - FSB

There is no definite article (“the” law) in the original, but this is irrelevant. The presence or absence of the article is unrelated to whether “law” means the Law of Moses or the law in a more general sense. This can and must be determined by context alone; - CPNIV

... in Romans Paul uses “the law” to refer to several different things (1) Roman Law; (2) Mosaic Law; or (3) the concept of human societal mores in general. Context, not the ARTICLE, must reveal which one. This context emphasized that all humans have some knowledge of God’s natural revelation of Himself in their hearts (cf. Romans 2:15). - Utley

sinned without law -- One can sin without law; we know by nature that certain things are wrong, cf. Romans 2:14-15.

perish -- The Greek word used here, πόλλυμι apollymi, refers to suffering the wrath of God and therefore experiencing eternal separation from God. Paul contrasts those who “perish,” despite not having the law, with those who experience “eternal life” (v. 7). - FSB

The Gr. word, which some have held to imply annihilation of being, by no means does so. Its true import is rather ruin and loss in regard of condition. The Latin perditio exactly renders the idea. - CBSC

See also John 3:15-16; John 10:28; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Peter 3:9; and (active voice) Matthew 10:28. This word does not have the connotation of annihilation in this context, contrary to the assumption of many. - CPNIV

Shall also perish -- πολοῦνται. The Greek word used here occurs frequently in the New Testament. It means to destroy, to lose, or to corrupt, and is applied to life, (Matthew 10:39); to a reward of labour, (Matthew 10:42); to wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:19); to bottles, (Matthew 9:17). It is also used to denote future punishment, or the destruction of soul and body in hell, (Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:14; John 3:15), where it is opposed to eternal life, and therefore denotes eternal death; Romans 14:15; John 17:12. In this sense the word is evidently used in this verse. - BN

as many as have sinned under the law -- Refers to Jews who know the requirements of the law and orient their lives around it.

judged by the law -- The Jews and many Gentiles who had access to God’s moral law will be accountable for their greater knowledge (cf. Matthew 11:20-23; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-31). - MSB

Two things in this verse are quite clear. First, “law” means the Law of Moses, given to the Jews by special revelation. Second, those who are “apart from the law” are the Gentiles, and those “under the law” are the Jews. - CPNIV

Verse 13

Rom 2.13

For not the hearers -- The same sentiment is implied in James 1:22; Matthew 7:21, Matthew 7:24; Luke 6:47. The apostle here doubtless designed to meet an objection of the Jews; to wit, that they had the Law, that they manifested great deference for it, that they heard it read with attention. BN

are just -- Are justified before God, or are personally holy. Or, in other words, simply hearing the Law is not meeting all its requirements, and making people holy.

but the doers of the law -- They who comply entirely with its demands and give continued obedience. This was the plain demand, not only of common sense, but of the Jewish Law itself; Deuteronomy 4:1; Leviticus 18:5; compare Romans 10:9. James made the same point (James 1:22-25).

will be justified -- This expression is evidently synonymous with that in Leviticus 18:5, where it is said that “he shall live in them.”

justified (dikaiōthēsontai) -- Future passive indicative of dikaioō, to declare righteous, to set right. “Shall be declared righteous.” Like James 1:22-25.

Verse 14

Romans 2:14

For when -- The word “when” ὅταν hotan does not imply that the thing shall certainly take place, but is one form of introducing a supposition; or of stating the connection of one thing with another, Matthew 5:11; Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5-6, Matthew 6:16; Matthew 10:19. It is, however, true that the main things contained in this verse, and the next, actually occurred, that the Gentiles did many things which the Law of God required. - BN

Gentiles -- - All who were not Jews.

which have not the law -- Who have net a revelation, or the written word of God. In the Greek the article is omitted, “who have not law,” that is, any revealed law.

do by nature -- NASB "instinctively" The expression means clearly by the light of conscience and reason.

contained in the law -- The things which the Law requires.

are a law to themselves -- Although God did not give the law to the Gentiles, some of them do what God requires in the law. This suggests that people have a natural moral sense or conscience. - FSB

Their moral reasoning was correct only insofar as it coincided with revelation. Paul’s point here is that they had violated their own sense of right. They were therefore justly condemned as sinners -- violators of their own moral reasoning (nature, instinct). But the Jews had the advantage of revelation and they had not lived up to that either.

Verse 15

Romans 2:15

work of the law -- While they didn’t have the revelation of law they had its moral right and wrong in their "heart" or conscience. Revelation goes further than "natural reasoning" by shedding light on new duties and doctrines.

written in their hearts -- The revealed Law of God for the Jews was written on tables of stone, and then recorded in the books of the Old Testament. The Gentiles had only obtained their knowledge of God’s requirements through natural revelation and their conscience.

Paul borrows the language of Jeremiah 31:33 to assert that Gentiles have a sense of right and wrong. Although they do not possess knowledge of God’s will in the law, the Gentiles have a natural sense of morality that functions as an internal “law.” At the same time, Paul insists that the human conscience is weak and prone to corruption (see 1 Corinthians 8:7, 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 10:29; 1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:15). - FSB

their conscience -- This word properly means the judgment of the mind respecting right and wrong; or the judgment which the mind passes on the morality or immorality of its own actions, when it instantly approves or condemns them.

conscience -- Lit. “with knowledge.” That instinctive sense of right and wrong that produces guilt when violated. - MSB

This innate sense of "rightness" written on the heart seems to stem from the fact that mankind is made in the image of God. Ephesians 4:23-24; Colossians 3:9-10. - WG

bearing witness -- Their own conscience furnished testimony to whether their conduct provided pain or pleasure with their moral reasoning of right and wrong.

between themselves [among] -- The perceptions of their own conduct and their perception of the conduction of others in their society.

accusing -- If the actions were evil.

excusing -- [defending] That is, justifying themselves if their actions were good.

Verse 16

Romans 2:16

in the day -- This verse is connected with rom 2.12 and implies that the Gentile world as well as the Jews will be arraigned at the bar of judgment before God. At that time God will judge all in righteousness, the Jew by the Law which he had, and the pagan by the Law which he had.

when God shall judge -- God is often represented as the Judge of mankind; Deuteronomy 32:36; Psalms 50:4; 1 Samuel 2:10; Ecclesiastes 3:17; Romans 3:6; Hebrews 13:4. But this does not militate against the fact that he will do it by Jesus Christ. God has appointed his Son to administer judgment Acts 17:31.

the secrets of men -- See Luke 8:17; Ecclesiastes 12:14, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,” etc., Matthew 10:26; 1 Corinthians 4:5. The expression denotes the hidden desires, lusts, passions, and motives of people; the thoughts of the heart, as well as the outward actions of the life.

of men -- The passage teaches that all people, whether Jew or Gentile, infidel or Christian, will stand before God in judgment at the last day.

by Jesus Christ - The fact that Jesus Christ is appointed to judge the world is abundantly taught in the Bible, Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5; John 5:22, John 5:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; Matthew 25:31-46.

my gospel -- Not his own personal message, [or one unique to him] but the divinely-revealed message of Jesus Christ (see note on 1:1), which is “good news” in light of the bad news of judgment. - MSB

according to my gospel -- According to the gospel which Paul preached. Compare Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:8. Paul preached there was a coming day of judgment.

This does not mean that the gospel which he preached would be the rule by which God would judge all mankind, for he had just said that the pagan world would be judged by a different rule, Romans 2:12. But no man (except Christ, Hebrews 4:15 ) has lived perfectly without sin, Romans 3:23.

Salvation in the Christian dispensation can only come through Jesus Christ, Acts 4:12. Forgiveness of our sins can only come through the blood of Christ our Savior, Ephesians 1:7.

Verse 17

Romans 2:17

Indeed [Behold; But; lo] -- ιδε [Εἰ δὲ] Paul now calls attention to his important subject.

you -- Here Paul clarifies the "you" to whom he has been speaking are "Jews."

you are called -- Implying the name was of high honor.

a Jew -- The Hebrews were known as the children of Israel until the time of Rehoboam and the divided kingdom. The name "Jews" was evidently given to denote those of the tribe of Judah which was more prominent than the tribe of Benjamin and from which tribe came the southern kings. By NT time the name became applied to all Israelites.

Paul calls himself a “Jew” in Acts 21:39 but “an Israelite” in Romans 11:1 and “a Hebrew” in Philippians 3:5.

rest in the law -- The word "rest" is used in the sense of trusting to, or leaning upon.

the law -- The Law here means the entire Mosaic economy, all that which was given through Moses and the Prophets, the whole of the Old Testament.

make your boast [glory; brag] in God -- Felt himself elevated above all others because God has chosen them to reveal His Word and had declared Himself to be their God, , Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalms 147:19-20; but this was not a ground for boasting, but for gratitude.

The phrase seems to be borrowed from Isaiah 45:25. [Galatians 6:13]

Verse 18

Romans 2:18

know His will -- They knew and boasted in their knowledge of God obtain from the Scriptures.

approve -- The word may mean to distinguish or to approve. It is usually used of the process of testing or trying metals by fire. The general sense is to try or distinguish anything by it nature or quality, Luke 12:56.

Thus one view is that the clause means, “You know how to discern what differs from God’s will, you know how to tell right from wrong.” This is the basis for the NEB’s “You are aware of moral distinctions.” Another view is that it means, “You know how to discern the superior elements within God’s will, the things that matter, the essentials” (Cranfield, I:166; Philippians 1:10, NIV). - CPNIVRo

excellent -- τὰ διαφέροντα = the things that are better, the better courses of conduct; cf. the same wording in Philippians 1:10, and for the verb 1 Corinthians 15:41; Galatians 4:1.

being instructed [being taught] -- κατηχούμενος (orally instructed, as the word literally means,) = being taught—all teaching at this time being oral; cf. Luke 1:4; Galatians 6:6.

Verse 19

Romans 2:19

confident --

Notice the parallel phrases related to their confidence (cf. Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:16; Matthew 23:24; Luke 6:39).

1. a guide to the blind, Romans 2:19 [Matthew 15:14]

2. a light to those in darkness, Romans 2:19

3. a corrector of the foolish, Romans 2:20

4. a teacher of the immature, Romans 2:20

5. having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, Romans 2:20. - Utley

the blind … babes -- Because they possessed the law, the Jews were confident that they were spiritually superior teachers: guides to blind pagans (cf. Matthew 23:24-28), light (cf. Isaiah 42:6), wise in God’s ways, and able to teach babes (probably a reference to Gentile proselytes to Judaism). - MSB

a guide to the blind -- (hodēgon tuphlōn) from hodos, way, and hēgeomai, to lead, one who leads the way. Tuphlōn is objective genitive plural. The Jews were meant by God to be guides for the Gentiles, for salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22).

a light (phōs) -- “A light for those in darkness” (tōn en skotei, objective genitive again). But this intention of God about the Jews had resulted in conceited arrogance on their part. - RWP

Verse 20

Romans 2:20

instructor [corrector] -- (paideutēn ). Old word (from paideuō) for instructor, in Plato, and probably so here, though corrector or chastiser in Hebrews 12:9 (the only N.T. instances).

foolish -- Aphronōn is a hard word for Gentiles, but it is the Jewish standpoint that Paul gives. Use in the sense of being void of understanding.

teacher -- The Jewish leaders asserted this prerogative to themselves, of being qualified to be guides and teachers of others. Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:2, Matthew 23:16, Matthew 23:24.

babes -- (nēpiōn). Novitiates or proselytes to Judaism just as in Galatians 4:1. Paul used it of those not of legal age. - RWP

the form -- (tēn morphōsin). Rare word, (here and 2 Timothy 3:5). Pallis regards it as a Stoical term for education. Lightfoot considers the morphōsis as “the rough-sketch, the pencilling of the morphē,” the outline or framework, and in 2 Timothy 3:5 “the outline without the substance.” This is Paul’s picture of the Jew as he sees himself drawn with consummate skill and subtle irony.

of knowledge and truth -- (the Gr. has the definite article “the” with both nouns: “the knowledge and the truth”).

truth of the law -- [in the law] -- The Law of Moses.

Verse 21

Romans 2:21

2:21, 23 A series of questions designed to contrast most Jews’ practice with what they knew and taught (cf Psalms 50:16-20; Matthew 23:3-4; James 3:1). - MSB

There are five rhetorical questions in Romans 2:21-24.

do you not teach yourself -- A central point of Paul’s critique is that Jews, who possess the law, fail to faithfully heed its commands—thereby undermining the law’s purpose. - FSB

who preach -- Lit. proclaimest: e.g. in synagogue-discourses. - CBSC

do you steal? -- Exodus 20:15;

George Ladd in A Theology of the New Testament, says “Paul must be referring to robbing God of the honor due him, spiritual adultery, and profaning the devotion due God alone by exalting themselves as judge and lord over their fellow creatures.” p. 505. (Utley)

The Jews’ Gentile neighbors saw their inconsistency and despised Yahweh because of it (Romans 2:24). - Constable

Verse 22

Romans 2:22

Do you commit adultery? -- This was a crime very common among the Jewish leaders, and apparently well known; see the Matthew 12:39 note; John 8:1-11 notes. The Jewish Talmud accuses some of the most celebrated of their Rabbies, by name, of this vice. (Grotius.) Josephus also gives the same account of the nation. - (BN)

Undoubtedly Paul did not mean that every single Jew practiced these sins, but these sins represented the contradiction between claim and conduct that marked Judaism.

abhor idols -- Exodus 20:4;

do you rob temples -- May refer to fraudulently skimming funds from money given to the temple or withholding part of their temple tax or offerings (cf. Malachi 3:8-10). More likely, however, it refers to the common practice—in direct violation of God’s command (Deuteronomy 7:25)—of looting pagan temples and selling the idols and vessels for personal profit (cf. Acts 19:37) under the pretext of religion. - MSB

The half shekel was used to pay the temple tax, and not paying it may have been considered “robbing” the temple (Romans 2:22). - NIVZSB

commit sacrilege -- Lit. plunder sacred things, or plunder from sacred places. The Gr. word is the same as that translated “robbers of churches,” Acts 19:37. The idea of plunder is not necessary in the word, however; other forms of sacrilege may be included. Thus the reference may be to such profanations as that of the traders in the Temple (John 2:14, &c.), and the appeal will be, “Thou, who art so jealous for God against idolaters, dost thou worship self and mammon in His presence?” - CBSC

do you use items stolen from pagan temples? -- (literally do you steal from temples?): OT law prohibited Jews from having anything to do with pagan idols (see Deut 7:26), but first-century Jews did not strictly follow this law. Sometimes they stole idols and used or sold the precious metals. - NLTSB

rob temples -- Robbing temples was a common crime in the ancient world because temples housed expensive articles that could be sold for profit. Since the law taught that temples were idolatrous and Jews should not be in them or treasuring things from them (see Deut. 7:25–26), the Jewish plundering of pagan temples would involve not just stealing but self-defilement as well. - ESVSB

do you rob temples” It is uncertain historically to what this referred but it was somehow related to idolatry. - Utley

do you rob temples -- Several views have been suggested, and it is difficult to be dogmatic about any one of them.

1) referring to literal theft of idols from temple - Acts 19:37 and selling them, Deuteronomy 7:25

2) referring to robbing the temple of God - by misappropriation of tithes brought to the temple for the service of God and used instead for personal purposes.

3) A third view takes the word to mean “commit sacrilege” against the true God in some general, unspecified sense, without any literal temple theft being involved . (CPNIV)

Verse 23

Romans 2:23

dishonor God [disgrace] -- The crimes of Jews made their Lord’s “name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles” Romans 2:24; Isaiah 52:5; as, alas, the name of Christ is, for exactly similar reasons, often blasphemed among the heathen now.

One’s practice may do far more to disgrace his faith than his profession does to honor it.

through breaking the law -- Paul concludes that Jews do the very thing that the ungodly do: dishonor God (see Romans 1:21). Just "having" the law doesn’t exempt Jews from judgment.

Verse 24

Romans 2:24

blasphemed -- The quotes is from the Septuagint of Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel 36:20 ff. In Ezekiel 36:20-23 the special reference is to the evil example of the dispersed Jews of the captivity.

as it is written -- The common introduction to OT quotations (cf. Romans 1:17; Romans 2:24; Romans 3:4; Romans 3:10; Matthew 4:4, Matthew 4:6-7, Matthew 4:10). The tense of the Gr. verb stresses continuity and permanence, and implies its divine authority. - MSB

Verse 25

Romans 2:25

circumcision -- The Jews were inclined to believe that they would be spared at the last judgment by virtue of their circumcision.

Circumcision was required of all Jewish males for entrance into the covenant (Genesis 17:9-14; Leviticus 12:3), and hence it was likely viewed as a form of covenant protection. - ESVSB John 7:22; Acts 7:8.

profitable if you keep the law -- Circumcision would be of value (Gk. ōpheleō) for salvation if the circumcised would obey the law perfectly, but loses its value for those who disobey the rest of the law.

Paul takes up the issue of circumcision again in Romans 4:9-16; Galatians 2:3-5; Galatians 5:2-12; Galatians 6:12-15. -

uncircumcision -- Paul argues, however, that those who violate the law are counted before God as uncircumcised. In other words, they are outside the covenant and therefore destined for judgment. = ESVSB

Verse 26

Romans 2:26

an uncircumcised man -- A gentile, heathen.

keeps -- the law -- Paul’s reference is not to the ceremonial law, but to the moral law given by God through Moses and the prophets.

his uncircumcision be counted -- Will he not be accepted by God as if he were a Jew? The apostle teaches the doctrine that acceptance with God does not depend on a man’s external privileges, but on the state of the heart and life.

counted as circumcision -- God will regard the believing Gentile as favorably as a circumcised, believing Jew. - MSB

Paul might be speaking of Gentile Christians who are God’s people because they obey God’s law, - NLTSB

The only possible biblical example of this would be Cornelius of Acts 10. Yet he does not quite fit this verse because he was a God-fearer and worshiped at the local synagogue. - Utley

Verse 27

Romans 2:27

physically uncircumcised -- [by nature] -- A Gentile. One without Jewish heritage and privileges. The natural state of man before he is admitted to any of the peculiar rites of the Jewish religion.

fulfills the law -- The fact that no one is above sin (Romans 1:18-32; Romans 3:9-11) does not affect Paul’s point.

judge you -- cf. Romans 2:1; A return to the main subject of "judging".

judge -- criticize and condemn. Perhaps the phrase arises from the solemn words of the Saviour Himself, Matthew 12:41-42. A stronger Gr. verb is used in that passage, however. - CBSC

And those (uncircumcised) Gentiles who keep the law will stand at the judgment and condemn (either literally or by the testimony of their good deeds) the Jews who had the covenantal advantages of the law (the written code) and circumcision. - ESVSB

written code -- the Law of Moses, written down.

the written code -- Or “letter” (Greek gramma). Refers to the law of Moses, exemplified by the Ten Commandments, “written” in letters on the stone tablets that Moses received from God (Romans 7:6; Exodus 31:18; cf. especially 2 Corinthians 3:3). - NIVZSB

The word letter properly means the mark or character from which syllables and words are formed. It is also used in the sense of writing of any kind (Luke 16:6-7; Acts 28:21; Galatians 6:11), particularly the writings of Moses, denoting, by way of eminence, the letter, or the writing; Romans 7:6; 2 Timothy 3:15. - BN

transgressor of the law -- A Gentile’s humble obedience to the law should serve as a stern rebuke to a Jew who, in spite of his great advantages, lives in disobedience. - MSB

Verse 28

Romans 2:28

Vs 28 and 29 together. see note Romans 2:29

Verse 29

Romans 2:29

a Jew is one inwardly -- Who is the real Israel today?

Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:12-14; Romans 9:4-8; Galatians 6:16; Galatians 3:27-29; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9; 1 Corinthians 10:18

God’s Israel today is not that nation in Palestine called by that name, but His people who live by faith in Him and His Son Jesus Christ.

And circumcision is that of the heart -- That is, that circumcision which is acceptable to God. and t is attended with holiness of heart; with the cutting off of sins; and with a pure life. Jeremiah 4:4; Deuteronomy 30:6.

Whose praise -- Whose object is not to secure the praise of human beings.

But of God -- The praise of God can be bestowed only on those who conform in heart and in spirit, and not externally only, to his requirements. 1 Samuel 16:7.

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Romans 2". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/romans-2.html. 2021.
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