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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Romans 2

 

 

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Verse 1

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

From those without, the apostle now turns to those within, the pale of Revealed Religion-the self-righteous Jews, who looked down upon the uncovenanted pagan as beyond the pale of God's mercies-deeming themselves, as the chosen people, secure, however inconsistent their life might be. Alas! what multitudes wrap themselves up in like fatal confidence who occupy the corresponding position in the Christian Church.

Expostulation with the Jew for Condemning and Contemning the Gentiles-The Final Judgment will Turn on Character alone, there being no Respect of Persons with God (Romans 2:1-11)

Therefore , [ dio (Greek #1352)]. The connection is not with the immediately preceding verse (as Grotius, Tholuck, Hodge, etc.), but with the whole preceding argument, and particularly the sweeping statement of Romans 1:18 - q.d., 'If the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, the Jew has no more any righteous standing before God than the Gentile, on whom, therefore, it ill becomes him to look down with contempt.' (So Meyer, etc.)

Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. It is quite unnatural to suppose that the apostle is here still treating of the Gentiles-inveighing against the better class of them for condemning the more vicious (as Calvin), or against their magistrates (as Grotius) - and equally so to suppose that he has neither the Jew nor the Gentile particularly in view, but self-righteous condemners and despisers of others in general (as Beza). Nothing can well be more evident than that, having finished his description of the "ungodliness and unrighteousness" of the Gentiles-against which he had said that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven" (Romans 1:18) - he is now proceeding to deal with the other great division of mankind-the Jews. (So Bengel, Fritzsche, and all the best expositor.) And it has been well observed, as justifying this view of a complete change in the party addressed, that whereas in describing the character of the Gentiles the apostle uses the third person plural ("they"), he uses throughout all this chapter (except in the digression of Romans 2:12-16), the second person singular ("thou") in dealing with those who looked down upon the Gentiles.

For wherein , [ en (Greek #1722) hoo (Greek #3739)]. This may either mean simply, 'in that' [ en (Greek #1722) toutoo (Greek #5129) hoti (Greek #3754)], 'inasmuch as' (so Erasmus, Beza, Mehring, etc.), or, as in our version, 'in that wherein,' as in Romans 14:22. (So the Vulgate and Calvin [in quo], Luther, and other good interpreters.) Probably the former is the right shade of signification, since the Jews are not charged with precisely the same sins as the Gentiles, but with being condemners of others, while themselves stood chargeable with sins equally offensive to God.

Thou judgst another , [ ton (Greek #3588) heteron (Greek #2087)] - 'the other;' meaning, the other party referred to, the Gentiles,

Thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. Beyond doubt the apostle, in penning this verse, had our Lord's precept in view, "Judge not, that ye be not judged ... And why beholdest thou the mote," etc. (Matthew 7:1-3).


Verse 2

But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

But we are sure , [ oidamen (Greek #1492) de (Greek #1161)] - 'But we know;' it is a recognized principle of all true religion,

That the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things - whether they be Jews or Gentiles.


Verse 3

And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

And thinkest [ logizee (Greek #3049)] - 'reckonest'

Thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Compare Matthew 3:9, "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father," etc.


Verse 4

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and ('his') forbearance and ('his') long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth (or 'is leading') thee to repentance - is designed, as it is adapted, to do so. It is a sad mark of depravity when all that is designed and fitted to melt, only hardens the heart (cf. 2 Peter 3:9; Ecclesiastes 8:11).


Verse 5

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up. Several critics follow Lachmann's punctuation here, making this to be but a continuation of the preceding sentence-thus, 'not knowing that the goodness of God is leading thee to repentance, and that after thy hardness and impenitent heart thou art treasuring up,' etc. But this seems to us no improvement.

Unto thyself wrath against [ en (Greek #1722)] - rather, 'in,'

The day of wrath - i:e., 'to come on thee in the day of wrath.'

And ('of the') revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The awful idea here expressed is, that the sinner is amassing, like hoarded treasure, an ever-accumulating stock of divine wrath, to burst upon him in the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. And of whom is this said? Not of monstrous sinners, but of those who boasted of their purity of faith and life.


Verse 6

Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

Who will render to every man according to his deeds. This great truth (taken from Proverbs 24:12, as in the Septuagint), which is the key to the whole reasoning of this chapter, is in the next four verses applied to the two classes into which all mankind will at the great day be found to have ranged themselves, showing that the final judgment will turn upon character alone.


Verse 7

To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

To them who by patient continuance in (or 'patience in') well-doing - referring to the enduring character of a truly holy life: cf. Luke 8:15, "That on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word of God, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."

Seek for glory and honour and immortality , [ aftharsian (Greek #861)] - 'incorruption.' "eternal life."


Verse 8

But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

But unto them that are contentious , [ tois (Greek #3588) de (Greek #1161) ex (Greek #1537) eritheias (Greek #2052)] - 'But to the men of strife,' or 'contention' (compare John 18:37, "Everyone that is of the truth, heareth my voice.") The reference is to the acrimony with which the Gospel had been resisted by the ruling party among the Jews, and this as springing from a deep-rooted enmity to the truth; of which the apostle could speak from bitter experience (see Acts 13:44-46; Acts 17:5; Acts 17:13; Acts 18:6; Acts 18:12; and cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16).

And do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness , [ apeithousin (Greek #544) men (Greek #3303) tee (Greek #3588) aleetheia (Greek #225), peithomenois (Greek #3982) de (Greek #1161) tee (Greek #3588) adikia (Greek #93)]. The grammatical form of these two clauses shows that they are but the negative and positive sides of out statement-`But to the men of strife, and who, instead of obeying the truth, obey unrighteousness;'

Indignation and wrath. The right order of these two words is beyond doubt the reverse of this, 'wrath and indignation' [ thumos (Greek #2372) kai (Greek #2532) orgee (Greek #3709), is only in D***-a corrector of the 9th or 10th century-K L, and several cursives, in the Peshito Syriac, and in Chrysostom and Theodoret. But orgee (Greek #3709) kai (Greek #2532) thumos (Greek #2372) in 'Aleph (') A B (C is defective here) D* EG, and some cursives; several versions, and most fathers-Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles rightly adopt this latter reading].


Verse 9

Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

Tribulation and anguish. The first of these pairs, 'wrath and indignation,' are in the bosom of a sin-avenging God-the former expressing God's 'settled displeasure' against evil-doers, the latter, the uprising of this; the next pair, "Tribulation and anguish," are the effects of those awful affections of the Divine Mind on and in the sinner himself.

Upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first - first in perdition, if unfaithful; but, if obedient to the truth, first in salvation; as in the next verse is expressed.


Verse 10

But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.


Verse 11

For there is no respect of persons with God.

For there is no respect of persons with God.

But how, might the Jew ask, can Jew and Gentile be judged by the same standard of character alone, when the one has a written Revelation of duty, and the other wants it? The following digression is intended to meet this.

Jew and Gentile will be Judged by the Standard of Duty which they Respectively Possess (Romans 2:12-16)


Verse 12

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

For as many as have sinned , [ heemarton (Greek #264)] - 'For as many as sinned' here below; not 'that sinned at all,' but 'that are found in sin' (as Bengel rightly notes) at the judgment of the great day. That this is the sense, the whole context clearly shows.

Without law - that is, without the advantage of a positive revelation;

Shall also perish without law - exempt from the charge of rejecting or disregarding it. Their character will meet with its appropriate award, and on nothing else will the judgment of such turn.

And as many as have sinned ('as sinned') in the law - within the pale of a positive, written Revelation,

Shall be judged by the law - tried and treated by the higher standard of that written Revelation.


Verse 13

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

For not the hearers of the law - that is, the mere possessors of it, "are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified."


Verse 14

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

For when the Gentiles ... - q.d., 'As touching the Jews, in whose ears the written law is continually resounding, the condemnation of as many of them as are found sinners at the last involves no difficulty; but even as respects the pagan, when they

Which have not the law - who are strangers to the law in its positive and written form,

Do by nature the things contained in the law - abstaining from some of the things which are condemned, and practicing some of the things enjoined by universal morality, "these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:"


Verse 15

Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Which show the work of the law written in their hearts - deeply engraven on their moral nature,

Their conscience also bearing witness , [ summarturousees (Greek #4828) autoon (Greek #846) tees (Greek #3588) suneideeseoos (Greek #4893)] - 'their conscience blending its witness,' i:e., with the law,

And their thoughts the mean while , [ metaxu (Greek #3342) alleeloon (Greek #240): cf. Acts 15:9] - rather, 'and their thoughts between themselves' (as in margin), or, 'one with another,'

Accusing or else excusing ('them'). Since there is a voice within the breasts even of the pagan which witnesses for righteousness and against iniquity, condemning or commending them by turns, according as they violate or obey its stern dictates, their final condemnation for all the sin in which they live and die will carry its dreadful echo in their own breasts.


Verse 16

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

In the day when , [the received reading, hote (Greek #3753), is better than hee (Greek #3588), which Lachmann adopts]

God shall judge the secrets of men (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:5); here specially referring to the unfathomed depths of hypocrisy in the self-righteous, whom the apostle had to deal with.

By Jesus Christ according to my gospel - my teaching as a preacher of the Gospel (cf. Acts 17:31). This whole verse seems clearly to be the conclusion of the unfinished statement of Romans 2:12.

Expostulation with the Jew Resumed and Concluded (Romans 2:17-29)


Verse 17

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

Behold , [ ide (Greek #2396)] - but the true reading is beyond doubt, 'But if,' [ ei (Greek #1487) de (Greek #1161). Such Itacisms are common in ancient manuscripts.]


Verse 18

And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

And knowest his will, and approvest the things that see more excellent , [ dokimazeis (Greek #1381) ta (Greek #3588) diaferonta (Greek #1308)] - or (as in margin), 'triest the things that differ,' (see Philippians 1:10, and margin.) But as the former is the natural result of the latter action, it probably is the thought intended.


Verse 19

And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 20

An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which, hast the form , [ teen (Greek #3588) morfoosin (Greek #3446)] - or 'shaping out,'

Of knowledge and of the truth in the law - not being left, like the pagan, to vague conjecture of divine things, but favoured with definite and precise information from heaven.


Verse 21

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?


Verse 22

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols - as the Jews certainly did, even after their captivity, though bent on them before,

Dost thou commit sacrilege? [ hierosuleis (Greek #2416)] - not, as some excellent interpreters, 'dost thou rob idol temples?' (which the word would naturally mean in Pagan usage,) but 'dost thou profane sacred things?' The other the Jews did not, but this they too frequently committed (see Nehemiah 13:10-12; Malachi 1:13-14; Malachi 3:8-9; Matthew 21:12-13).


Verse 23

Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 24

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written - in your own Scriptures. (See 2 Samuel 12:14; Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel 36:20; Ezekiel 36:23.)


Verse 25

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

For circumcision verily profiteth. To be a circumcised Jew, born within the pale of revealed Religion, overshadowed from infancy by divine ordinances, and daily familiarized with the most quickening, elevating, and sanctifying truths-this is an advantage not to be overestimated (Romans 3:1-2; Romans 9:4-5).

If thou keep the law - if thou yield thyself to these gracious influences, and the light that shines around thee be reflected in thy character and walk.

But if thou be a breaker of the law - if thy Judaism be all outside,

Thy circumcision is made uncircumcision - in that case thou art in the sight of God an uncircumcised pagan.


Verse 26

Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law , [ ta (Greek #3588) dikaioomata (Greek #1345) (see the note at Romans 5:16)] - 'the righteous precepts of the law.'

Shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? The general principle here expressed is clear enough, that as circumcision will not protect the unrighteous from the consequences of their bad life, so the want of it will not invalidate the claims of true righteousness. But whether the apostle is here putting a real or only a hypothetical case, is a question of some difficulty, on which critics are not agreed. Those who take the apostle to mean such a keeping of the law as justifies before God-a complete and perfect obedience to the requirements of the moral law-pronounce the case here supposed a purely hypothetical one. (So Alford, Hodge, etc.) But as that impossibility was just as true of Jews as of Gentiles, it seems wide of the mark. To us it appears that it is reality in personal religion which the apostle has here in view; and that what he affirms is, that as circumcision-considered as the mere external badge of the true Religion-will not compensate for the want of subjection in heart and life to the law of God, so neither will the absence of circumcision invalidate the standing before God of the man whose heart and life are in conformity with the spirit of His law.

But this suggests another question. Is such conformity in heart and life to the law of God-or such personal religion as He will recognize-possible without the pale of revealed religion? Now, though the apostle probably had no one class of mankind in view while penning this verse, it is scarcely natural to suppose that he was putting a case which he knew could never be realized. What sort of case, then, would sufficiently meet his statement? That he was thinking of pagan men who 'act up to the light of nature,' as people speak-and as Grotius, Olshausen, and others suppose here-we cannot think; for this is plainly inconsistent with the apostle's own teaching. But just as in the days of Melchizedek and Job men were found beyond the pale of the Abrahamic covenant, yet not without a measure of revealed light, so might there occur innumerable cases of pagans-especially after the Babylonian captivity-benefiting so far by the dispersed Jews as to attain, though but in rude outline, to right views of God and of His service, even though not open proselytes to the Jewish Religion. Such class-without referring to that of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48), who, outside the external pale of God's covenant, had come to the knowledge of the truths contained in it, manifested the race of the covenant without the seal of it, and exemplified the character and walk of Abraham's children, though not called by the name of Abraham-such cases seem sufficient to warrant and explain all that the apostle here says, without resorting to the supposition of a purely hypothetical case.


Verse 27

And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

And shall [not] uncircumcision which is by nature - or, 'the natural uncircumcision,'

If it fulfill the law, judge thee. If this verse is but a continuation of the question in the preceding verse (which the Greek most naturally suggests, and which several good critics prefer), the whole question will run thus: 'shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision, and the natural uncircumcision, fulfilling the law, judge thee,' etc. But it is fully more agreeable to New Testament usage to regard them (with our version) as two distinct questions, of which the latter is certainly an advance upon the former.

Who by (or 'through') the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law - that is, in spite of those two fences, "the letter" of Revelation, "and circumcision," the badge of it, dost break 'through' both, and live inconsistently.


Verse 28

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

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


Verse 29

But he is a Jew, which 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. But he is a Jew which 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. The name of "Jew," and the rite of "circumcision," were designed as outward symbols of a separation from the irreligious and ungodly world unto holy devotedness in heart and life to the God of salvation. Where this is realized, the signs are full of significance; but where it is not, they are worse than useless.

Remarks:

(1) Amidst all the inequalities of religious opportunity measured out to men, and the mysterious bearing of this upon their character and destiny for eternity, the same great principles of judgment, in a form suited to their respective discipline, will be applied to all, and perfect equity will be seen to reign throughout every stage of the divine administration.

(2) Of the three deep foundations on which all revealed religion reposes, we had two in the first chapter of this Epistle-the Physics and the Metaphysics of Natural Theology (Romans 1:19-20). Here we have the third-the Ethics of Natural Theology. The testimony of these two passages is to the theologian invaluable, while in the breast of every teachable Christian it wakens such deep echoes as are inexpressibly solemn and precious.

(3) High religious professions are a fearful aggravation of the inconsistencies of such as make them; and the instinctive disgust which they beget in those who flatter themselves that because they make no religious profession they cannot at least be charged with hypocrisy-though that affords no excuse for shameless irreligion-is but an echo of the divine abhorrence of those who "have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof."

(4) As no external privileges or badges of discipleship will shield the unholy from the wrath of God, so neither will the lack of them shut out from the kingdom of heaven such as have experienced without them that change of heart which the seals of God's covenant were designed to mark. In the sight of the great Searcher of hearts, the Judge of quick and dead, the renovation of the character in heart and life is all in all. In view of this, have not all baptized, sacramented disciples of the Lord Jesus, who "profess that they know God, but in works deny Him," need to tremble-who, under the guise of friends, are "the enemies of the cross of Christ?"

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-2.html. 1871-8.

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Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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