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Bible Commentaries
Romans 2

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-29


We saw in the last lesson that man if he would be saved must become righteous before God, and the righteousness which alone satisfies Him is that which he Himself supplies. We now learn what man’s condition is which makes this a necessity. In other words this lesson, constituting the second general division of the epistle, (1) gives us a Divine declaration about sin (Romans 1:18-21 ); (2) shows it to be punitive and degenerative in its effects (Romans 1:22-23 ); and (3) teaches the universality of its extent (2:1-3:20).

As to the Divine declaration about sin, we perceive that not only is there a righteousness from God revealed from heaven, but “a wrath of God” as well. The first gives the remedy, the second the penalty if the remedy is not applied. “Who hold the truth,” might be rendered “who hold down the truth.” That is, the truth of God, whose saving power might be known to men, is held down, does not get a chance to be known, because of man’s unrighteousness (Romans 1:18 ). This truth might be known by the facts of creation. Not that the Gospel of redemption is revealed in nature, but sufficient of God is thus revealed, i.e., His eternal power and Godhead, “to have kept men true to Him essentially,” so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20 ). This is seen in what follows: Man once knew God, the story of Eden shows this; but he is now fallen from God, through his own ingratitude and conceited reasonings. The fall is moral, rather than intellectual, for his “foolish [senseless] heart” is “darkened” (Romans 1:18-21 ).

Sin at once becomes punitive and degenerative. Observe the downgrade: failure to glorify God; ingratitude; vain reasonings; darkened moral nature; turned into fools; worshipping natural objects, men, birds, beasts, reptiles; given over to uncleanness in the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves (Romans 1:22-25 ff.). The horrible details of this indictment against the Gentile world is established by the “classics” of Greek and Latin literature, showing that these things were true not merely of the low and ignorant, but the high and cultured of Paul’s day.

This thought is now elaborated, which shows the philosophers and moralizers of Greece and Rome to be no better than the others (Romans 2:1-3 ). They were incapable of judging others; only God could do that, Who is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:6-11 ). His judgment would be just both as against the Gentiles and .Jews. The former had not the revealed law as did the latter, i.e., they did not have the Old Testament scriptures, but would be judged by the law written in their hearts (Romans 2:12-16 ).

Special attention is now given the Jews because they had the Old Testament scriptures, and while equally sinful with the pagan Gentiles, were yet trusting in their knowledge of the letter of the law as making them better than they (Romans 2:17-20 ). The answer assumed in the case of each question in Romans 2:21-23 is affirmative, proven by the concluding verses of the chapter.

Did this mean then, that the Jew had no advantage whatever over the pagan Gentile? No, for the reason in Romans 3:1-2 . It was an advantage for the Jew to have the Scriptures even though some did not believe them (Romans 3:3-4 ). Romans 3:5-8 are parenthetical, with the main question taken up again at 9. The Jews are morally no better as a class than the pagans, proven by the facts of history just alluded to (Romans 3:21-24 ), and by their own Scriptures (Romans 3:10-18 with Psalms 14:1-3 ; Psalms 53:1 ; Psalms 5:9 ; Psalms 10:7 ; Psalms 36:1 ). These were the things which their own “law” said, and said to them as Jews, because the Gentiles did not know the law. Therefore the “mouth,” i.e., the boasting of the Jew was stopped as well as that of the Gentiles, and “all the world.” Jew and Gentile, was “guilty before God” (Romans 3:19 ). This proved that as the result of the works of the law no man could be accounted righteous before God, for the clearer one apprehended the law the more condemned as a sinner he became (Romans 3:20 ).


1. What did the previous lesson teach us?

2. What are we to learn from this lesson?

3. Divide this lesson into three general parts.

4. What two great things are revealed from heaven?

5. Why are men without excuse for their ignorance of God?

6. Name some of the steps in the downgrade of sin.

7. What is the bearing of contemporaneous literature on Paul’s indictment of the pagan world?

8. By what two lines of proof are the Jews proven as guilty as the Gentiles?

9. How would you interpret Romans 3:20 ?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Romans 2". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/romans-2.html. 1897-1910.
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