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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Romans 2

 

 

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Verse 1

ATTITUDE OF THE CHURCH MEMBERS

1. “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, every one that judgest; for in whatsoever thou judgest another thou condemneth thyself; for thou that judgest art doing the same things.” How vividly this verse not only describes the formalistic pew, but the iceberg church member of the present day! The popular preacher stands in the pulpit condemning the outsiders, calling them to repent and join the church; while in the same discourse he confesses that he and his people sin every day in thought, word and deed, and denounces the holiness people as heretics for preaching and professing a religion that saves from all sin, actual and original. Do you not see he is the very man in the text who confesses judgment against himself? True religion in Paul’s day was just what it is now, and so is the counterfeit identical with itself in all ages.


Verse 2

2. “For we know that the judgment of God, according to truth, is against those doing such things,” i. e., all who commit sin are under the same condemnation, whether church members or outsiders.


Verse 3

3. “But O man, that condemneth those doing such things and art doing the same thyself, do you consider this, that you shall escape the condemnation of God?” The answer is an awful negative. The church member by his very attitude condemns the worldlian for sin, at the same time actually making a profession of a sinning religion. The inconsistency literally makes him a laughing-stock for devils, because his very attitude as a sinning Christian puts him under the same condemnation along with the sinful world, and sends him to the same hell.


Verse 5

5. “Pursuant to thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” The great Judgment Day will know no difference between the infidel and the sinning church member. They will all be sent down to hell together when they meet the righteous judgment of God, here contrasted with the false, pusillanimous judgments of men in the pulpit and in the pews, “who will give to each one according to his works,” not according to his profession. In that awful day every tub will stand on its own bottom. God receives no man’s face (Galatians 2:6). No clerical dignities and offices there. The worldly preacher and officer will go down with all worldly people, as you know none but the church will stand, and that means the ecclesia, from ek, “out,” and kaleoo, “call.” Hence none are members of God’s church but those who have responded to the call of the Holy Ghost, come out of the world and separated themselves unto God for time and eternity.


Verse 7

7. “To those who according to patience of good work, seek honor, glory and immortality, eternal life.” This world is probationary. We must decide between the animal and the angel. If we live for the angelic element of our nature, we will go up and live with the angels when we go out of this world. If we live for the animal of our nature, we will go down and live with the demonized animals in the world of woe; we will all reap what we sow.


Verse 8

8. “To those who from self-seeking, and who obey not the truth but obey unrighteousness, there will be indignation and wrath.” These rewards and retributions have nothing whatever to do with church membership or its absence, but simply the character of each individual. You either become like God or Satan in this life. In the final judgment, all who truly and inwardly are like God, will go up and live with Him forever, while those who have lived for the world, Satan will claim as his own, since he is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).


Verse 9

9. “Tribulation and anguish upon every soul, that worketh out the evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.” Jew here represents the whole world who claim to be godly; the Greek, the non-professors. “Worketh out the evil” has a final signification, i. e., indicating the ultimate destiny of every soul. As you observe the people within the circle of your acquaintance, you will find the general trend either to the good or the bad developing a finale, one way or the other, before they leave the world. All wind up this life confirmed either in holiness and God or this world and Satan. The church means “the called out of the world,” while sanctification means taking the world out of you and thus perfecting your separation from the world and Satan, who is its god. One way or the other there is in every case a “working out” of the problem for salvation or damnation.


Verse 11

11. “For there is no respect of persons with God.” He only knows character. The fact that you have been a great churchman or an elegant preacher will be neither known nor mentioned in the Judgment Day. Many who have lived and died unknown to the great of church and state will be called to the front, while multitudes who have been very great and honorable, standing at the front, will be relegated to the rear. There is but one question, “Are you like God?” If not, all the good you think you did is sunk in the sloughs of Satan’s kingdom.


Verse 12

12. “For so many as sinned without law, shall also perish without law; while those who sinned under the law, shall be judged by the law.” From this verse we find there will be three distinct varieties of judgment in the great day. The heathens will not be judged by the Bible, but simply by the laws of nature, the light of conscience and the Holy Ghost. The old Jews will be judged by the Old Testament only, while all who have enjoyed the light of Christendom will be judged by the whole Bible. Hence many heathens will be acquitted and saved whose moral lives have not measured up to the stature of many nominal Christians who will go down under condemnation, because the former walked in all the light they had and the latter did not. Hence we see an infinite diversity of judgments in that great and notable day of the Lord.


Verse 13

13. “For not the hearers of the law shall be just with God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” This does not teach legal justification, but the fact that God’s true people are always obedient. A beautiful emphasis is here laid on doing, confirmatory of the significant fact that obedience to the law of God is the normal fruit of true faith in every case, invariably as the shadow follows the substance. “Make the tree good and the fruit will be good; make the tree evil and the fruit will be evil” (Jesus).


Verse 14

14. “For when the heathens, not having the law, do by nature the things of the law, they not having the law, are a law unto themselves.” This confirms the gracious possibility for the heathens, through the light of nature, conscience and the Holy Spirit, actually to do the things of the divine law and be saved, as doubtless millions have done who are now in heaven. Gentile in E. V. is the very same word translated heathen. Hence, remember they are synonymous.


Verse 14-15

14, 15. The Holy Spirit is everywhere substantially revealing the will of God.

“He is the true Light, who lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).

Here is a beautiful allusion to heathen conscience, “their conscience bearing them witness, their thoughts accusing or excusing either with other.” How wonderfully the Holy Spirit, through human conscience in all the earth, is constantly speaking to every immortal soul, saying, “This is right, that is wrong,” et cetera. Where Paul speaks of the seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2) it does not mean the conscience of men, but of devils. That is a reason why the demons can not be saved. When a human soul passes the dead line and is abandoned by the Holy Ghost, having committed the unpardonable sin, so that He ceases to strive, then that soul becomes demonized, the conscience being cauterized. As the Holy Spirit deals with every human spirit, whether heathen or Christian, speaking through His telephone, the conscience, He will witness to the condemnation or acquittal in the Judgment Day.


Verse 17

17. The Jew in Paul’s day stood precisely where all of the fallen churches do to-day. They were God’s normal people till they rejected Christ. So all the churches are right so long as they are true to the Holy Ghost, who is none other than the spiritual Christ on earth (John 14:16).


Verse 18

18. “Thou knowest us well, and discriminatest the things which differ, making thy boast from the law.” We are in a mixed world; soul-poison on all sides, the spiritually dead feeding on it. Though a dead man has eyes, he sees not; ears, he hears not; a nose, he smells not; a tongue, he tastes not; nerves, he feels not. Satan has his poison greeting us on all sides. If you eat, you die. Spiritual resurrection alone can open eyes, ears, olfactory, gustatory, and sentient organs, while sanctification gives them healthy and efficient activity.


Verse 19

19. “Thou hast confidence that thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of those in darkness,


Verse 20

20. “A teacher of the ignorant, an instructor of the juveniles; having the form of knowledge of the truth in the law.” If you follow through this prolix sentence, including seven verses, you find this boastful character all a delusion and a cheat. As in case of the fallen Jew, it is equally true with the counterfeit Christian of the present day. How grand these achievements if they were only real! Yet where you will find a genuine case, Satan has a score of counterfeits to counteract the heavenly influence, and wrap the blind multitude in a still darker delusion.


Verse 21

21. “Wherefore thou that teachest another, doest thou not teach thyself?”

What a vivid picture of the preacher in the pulpit and the member in the pew, like the sign-boards, pointing out a road they never travel! “Thou who preachest not to steal, doest thou steal?” How significant this arraignment of the counterfeit professors. If you ever cheated a man out of a dollar, you stole a dollar. We send to the penitentiary the little rogues who steal a few dollars, while great thieves who have stolen their thousands serve as jurors, plead at the bar, or even encumber the judicial bench. Many serious people believe our public is now ruled by thieves who have stolen princely fortunes and risen to the dignity of mammon kings. “Thou that sayest not to commit adultery, doest thou commit adultery?” Aside from the consideration of the actual sin, in millions of cases secretly committed, when we hear Jesus say, “He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery in his heart,” what a multitude are guilty of this dark crime! “Man looks on the outside, but God looketh on the heart.”

Glory to God for sanctification, whose consuming fires alone can exterminate heart adultery! Awful revelations and terrible ordeals await the guilty in the Judgment Day. “Thou that abominatest idolatry, doest thou rob temples?” Rome was full of costly heathen temples, adorned with gold, silver, and precious stones. The Jews were so avaricious, doubtless this accusation is not without foundation, especially if we consider the probability of their defrauding the heathens out of the offerings due their gods.


Verse 23

23. “Who boastest in the law, and through the transgression of the law dishonorest God.” I have that all round me till I turn heart-sick, e. g., people claiming to be paragon saints, boasting over their legal obedience in outward ordinances and churchisms, loudly condemning others, and at the same time showing by their unspiritual, carnal and frequently even profligate lives, their own utter ignorance of God and His salvation.


Verse 24

24. “For the name of God is blasphemed on account of you among the heathens, as has been written.” The unworthy lives of professors have always been the greatest impediment to religion, not only among the heathens, but in Christian lands. This arises from the fact that carnal people can not see spirituality (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). Satan is always showing his counterfeits and passing them for true saints. In Asia and Africa all people dressed in European and American costumes are recognized as Christians; even those who are there to sell whisky, and perpetrate the blackest crimes. The heathens find them worse rascals than themselves and are utterly disgusted with the name “Christian,” regarding it as synonymous with the crimes they see the people whom they call “Christians” commit. Years ago a Hindu priest that got hold of a New Testament, and was perfectly charmed with the character of Jesus Christ. As he read on he found He had gone away from Mt. Olivet up to heaven. So he concluded that he could never reach Him. Then he fell on the plan of finding some of His disciples, and receiving light and help from them. Upon inquiry, he was introduced to a number of English merchants in Bombay as disciples of Christ. When he found them bigger rascals than the heathens, he turned away with disgust, giving up the Christian altogether and serving the Hindu gods more faithfully than ever. Finally Bishop Taylor arrived there about twenty five years ago; preached four years, and built up the South India Conference. This priest happened to attend his meetings. Among many at the altar, seeking earnestly, he discovered these identical English merchants who had been introduced to him as disciples of Christ, and with whom he had become so disgusted. Then he said to himself, “I will watch and give them another chance; perhaps there was a mistake in the matter some way.” He saw them weep and mourn and seek long and earnestly at the altar. Then they rose with bright faces, testifying that they had found Jesus Christ and He had saved them. Then he said to himself, “Now I will watch them and give them another chance.” This time he found them all right, exemplifying the same beautiful characters he had read about in the New Testament. Consequently he sought and found the Lord Jesus Christ, became a witness to His wonderful salvation, turned preacher, and is now standing at the front of Immanuel’s army in India.


Verse 25

25. “For truly circumcision profiteth if you keep the law; but if you are a transgressor of the law your circumcision has become uncircumcision.” We see from this verse the condemnatory verdict of the ordinances when uncorroborated by a true and irreproachable Christian character. In that case they become witnesses against us in the Judgment Day.


Verse 26

26. “Therefore, if the uncircumcision may keep the commandments of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” “Man looks upon the outside, but God looketh on the heart,” and sees our intrinsical character and estimates us accordingly. He can not be deceived.


Verse 27

27. “Truly that which is uncircumcision by nature, keeping the law, will condemn thee who, through the letter of the circumcision, art a transgressor of the law.” From this clear statement of the Holy Ghost we see how God will put the non-ritualistic holy Quakers on the witness block in the Day of Judgment to testify against the millions who have received the ordinances and lived unworthily.


Verse 28

28. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh:


Verse 29

29. “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God.” This beautiful and momentous affirmation of the Holy Ghost modernized would read: “He is no Christian who is one outwardly; neither is baptism that which is outward on the flesh: but he is a Christian who is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart in the spirit and not in the letter whose praise is not of men but of God.” From these Scriptures we see most unequivocally the pure spirituality of the gracious economy; no mere temporality like water baptism, eucharist or church rites having anything to do with it. When your heart and life are right in the sight of God, you are all right every way without the slightest reference to the external marks of a Christian profession. When I was a boy my father marked his sheep by cutting their ears. Now it is customary simply to mark them with paint. So God marked His sheep during the former dispensation by circumcision, a bloody and painful operation. Nowadays He marks them by the simple rite of water baptism, the recognition perpetuated in the eucharist received ever and anon. Yet this marking never did make a sheep. Neither do the ordinances have anything to do with making Christians, any more than cutting the ears or branding with paint has to do with making sheep. God makes the sheep and the people mark them. So God makes the Christian and the preacher marks him. The sheep unmarked is worth quite as much as after he has received the mark. So is the true Christian in the divine estimation worth as much without the mark as with it. Satan is always putting God’s sheep-mark on his hogs, covering them with sheepskins and passing them for sheep. They are readily detected, because they plunge into the first mud-hole they come to, perfectly delighted to wallow in the mire; whereas a sheep will actually die before it will pollute itself in the mud.

Shall we never wake up to the fond trickery of the devil, fooling the poor, blind, carnal people by the wholesale, bamboozling them with the nonsensical delusion that the Christian religion consists in outward ordinances, external manifestations, shams and hoaxes? These Scriptures clearly reveal not only the utter emptiness of all external forms, ceremonies and professions, uncorroborated by the internal spiritual transformation wrought by the Holy Ghost in the heart; but the awful reality that all of these things will only expedite the condemnation in the Judgment Day and augment the damnation in eternity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/romans-2.html.

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