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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 2:15

in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Conscience;   Conviction;   Doer;   Gentiles;   God Continued...;   Heart;   Judgment;   Law;   Scofield Reference Index - Law of Moses;   Life;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible, the;   Conscience;   Law;   Light, Spiritual;   Seven;   Universal;   The Topic Concordance - Conscience;   Judges;   Law;   Witness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Conscience;   Heathen, the;   Judgment, the;   Law of God, the;   Man;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Conscience;   Law;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Conscience;   Ethics;   Gentile;   God;   Judgment;   Justice;   Law;   Paul;   Providence;   Revelation;   Sin;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Amos, Theology of;   Condemnation;   Conscience;   Judgment, Day of;   Motives;   Requirement;   Works of the Law;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Existence of God;   Heathen;   Judgment, Last;   Law;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Conscience;   Heart;   Judgment, the Final;   Law;   Resurrection of the Dead;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Incense;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Gentiles;   Heart;   Judgment Day;   Proverbs, Book of;   Revelation of God;   Romans, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Christianity;   Heart;   James, Epistle of;   Law;   Man;   Psychology;   Romans, Epistle to the;   Sin;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Commandment;   Conscience ;   Dependence;   Guilt (2);   Judging (by Men);   Judgment Damnation;   Justification;   Law;   Man;   Romans Epistle to the;   Sacrifices ;   Sin;   Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs;   Unity;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Conscience;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Law;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Conscience;   Convict;   Fall, the;   Galatians, Epistle to the;   Heart;   Justice;   Mean;  
Devotionals:
Today's Word from Skip Moen - Devotion for June 11;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Romans 2:15. Which show the work of the law — In acting according to justice, mercy, temperance, and truth, they show that the great object of the law, which was to bring men from injustice, cruelty, intemperance, and falsity, is accomplished so far in them: their conscience also bearing witness - that faculty of the soul, where that Divine light dwells and works, shows them that they are right; and thus they have a comfortable testimony in their own souls of their own integrity: their thoughts, the mean while, accusing, or else excusing one another; or rather, their reasonings between one another accusing or answering for themselves. As if the apostle had said: - And this point, that they have a law and act according to it, is farther proved from their conduct in civil affairs; and from that correct sense which they have of natural justice in their debates, either in their courts of law, or in their treatises on morality. All these are ample proofs that God has not left them without light; and that, seeing they have such correct notions of right and wrong, they are accountable to God for their conduct in reference to these notions and principles. These seems to be the true meaning of this difficult clause. See below.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/romans-2.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


The Jewish world (2:1-29)

Not only are pagan Gentiles under God’s condemnation, Jews are also. Jews find fault with their Gentile neighbours, yet they do the same things themselves (2:1). They know that God is just and that he punishes sin. Therefore, when they suffer no immediate punishment for their behaviour, they think that God approves of them and will not punish them. They do not realize that in his kindness and patience he is giving them time to repent (2-4).
Those who increase their sin also increase their punishment, because God judges people according to what they do. They deceive themselves if they think they can live as they please and still claim eternal life. By contrast those who have eternal life, the life of the age to come, will show it by the way they live now (5-8). This applies to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. God will show no favouritism on the day of judgment (9-11).
The Jews’ knowledge of the law of Moses is of no benefit to them if they do not obey it. In fact, if people know the law and disobey it, they will be punished more severely than those who have never heard of it. God will judge the Jews according to the law of Moses, but not the Gentiles, for he did not give the law of Moses to the Gentiles (12-13). Nevertheless, Gentiles have a conscience, which, though not as clearcut a standard as the law, gives them at least some knowledge of right and wrong. The conscience is like a law within their own hearts, and God judges them according to their obedience or disobedience to that ‘law’ (14-16).
Jews were proud of the blessings they enjoyed as God’s people. They boasted that they knew God’s law, and thought that they could teach it to others (17-20). But they themselves did not practise what they taught, and so brought shame on the name of God (21-24).

Paul reminds the Jews that religious rites such as circumcision are of no value unless the person’s life is in keeping with the meaning of the rite. Circumcision was a sign God gave to Israel that spoke of cleansing and holiness; but an uncircumcised person with a pure life is more acceptable to God than a circumcised person with an impure life (25-27). The true Jews, the true people of God, are not those who have the mark of circumcision, but those who have pure hearts (28-29). (Circumcision was a minor surgical operation performed on Jewish boys when they were eight days old. It was a rite that God gave to the father of the race, Abraham, and it passed on to all male descendants as a physical sign that Israel was God’s covenant people; see Genesis 17:9-14.)

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/romans-2.html. 2005.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Which show - Who thus evince or show.

The work of the law - The design, purpose, or object which is contemplated by the revealed Law; that is, to make known to man his duty, and to enforce the obligation to perform it. This does not mean, by any means, that they had all the knowledge which the Law would impart, for then there would have been no need of a revelation, but that, as far as it went, as far as they had a knowledge of right and wrong, they coincided with the revealed will of God. In other words, the will of God, whether made known by reason or revelation, will be the same so far as reason goes. The difference is that revelation goes further than reason; sheds light on new duties and doctrines; as the information given by the naked eye and the telescope is the same, except, that the telescope carries the sight forward, and reveals new worlds to the sight of man.

Written in their hearts - The revealed Law of God was written on tables of stone, and then recorded in the books of the Old Testament. This law the Gentiles did not possess, but, to a certain extent, the same requirements were written on their hearts. Though not revealed to them as to the Jews, yet they had obtained the knowledge of them by the tight of nature. The word “hearts” here denotes the mind itself, as it does also frequently in the Sacred Scriptures; not the heart, as the seat of the affections. It does not mean that they loved or even approved of the Law, but that they had knowledge of it; and that that knowledge was deeply engraved on their minds.

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. It has usually been termed the moral sense, and is a very important principle in a moral government. Its design is to answer the purposes of an ever attendant witness of a man’s conduct; to compel him to pronounce on his own doings, and thus to excite him to virtuous deeds, to give comfort and peace when he does right, to deter from evil actions by making him, whether he will or no, his own executioner: see John 8:9; Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; Romans 9:1; 1 Timothy 1:5. By nature every man thus approves or condemns his own acts; and there is not a profounder principle of the divine administration, than thus compelling every man to pronounce on the moral character of his own conduct. Conscience may be enlightened or unenlightened; and its use may be greatly perverted by false opinions. Its province is not to communicate any new truth, it is simply to express judgment, and to impart pleasure or inflict pain for a man’s own good or evil conduct. The apostle’s argument, does not require him to say that conscience revealed any truth, or any knowledge of duty, to the Gentiles, but that its actual exercise proved that they had a knowledge of the Law of God. Thus, it was a witness simply of that fact.

Bearing witness - To bear witness is to furnish testimony, or proof. And the exercise of the conscience here showed or proved that they had a knowledge of the Law. The expression does not mean that the exercise of their conscience bore witness of anything to them, but that its exercise may be alleged as a proof that they were not without some knowledge of the Law.

And their thoughts - The word “thoughts” (λογισμῶν logismōn) means properly reasonings, or opinions, sentiments, etc. Its meaning here may be expressed by the word “reflections.” Their reflections on their own conduct would be attended with pain or pleasure. It differs from conscience, inasmuch as the decisions of conscience are instantaneous, and without any process of reasoning. This supposes subsequent reflection, and it means that such reflections would only deepen and confirm the decisions of conscience.

The mean while - Margin, “Between themselves.” The rendering in the margin is more in accordance with the Greek. The expression sometimes means, in the mean time, or at the same time; and sometimes afterward, or subsequently. The Syriac and Latin Vulgate render this mutually. They seem to have understood this as affirming that the pagan among themselves, by their writings, accused or acquitted one another.

Accusing - If the actions were evil.

Excusing - That is, if their actions were good.

One another - The margin renders this expression in connection with the adverb, translated “in the mean while,” “between themselves.” This view is also taken by many commentators, and this is its probable meaning. If so, it denotes the fact that in their reflections, or their reasonings, or discussions, they accused each other of crime, or acquitted one another; they showed that they had a law; that they acted on the supposition that they had. To show this was the design of the apostle; and there was no further proof of it needed than what he here adduced.

  1. They had a conscience, pronouncing on their own acts; and,
  2. Their reasonings, based on the supposition of some such common and acknowledged standard of accusing or acquitting, supposed the same thing. If, therefore, they condemned or acquitted themselves; if in these reasonings and reflections, they proceeded on the principle that they had some rule of right and wrong, then the proposition of the apostle was made out that it was right for God to judge them, and to destroy them; Romans 2:8-12.



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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/romans-2.html. 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

2:14-15: These two verses are best explained by the following diagram.

Romans 2:14-15 says for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; (15) in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them

The Gentiles à did not have a law.

Thus, the Gentiles à were a law unto themselves.

Because the Gentiles were a law unto themselves à their thoughts excused or accused them.

Their condemnation or justification was based upon à the things of the law.

The Gentiles did “not have a law.” Thus, they “were a law unto themselves.” What does this mean? It means God allowed the “thoughts” of the Gentiles to “excuse or accuse them.” The thoughts which justified or condemned these people were based on “the things of the law.” Those who were not Hebrews either observed basic principles of the law (thou shall not steal, murder, etc.) or they did not. The Gentiles did not have a law as such, but they were able to profit from the one given to the Jews.

The earlier material in this book showed how the Jews looked down on the Gentiles. Part of the reason the Jews were so hateful was that they had received written revelation from God. This revelation made them proud and prone to boasting. Paul now deals with this boasting. He smashed the Jewish pride by saying the Gentiles did have a law, and at least to a certain degree, it was the same law the Jews had.

Though the Gentiles did not have written law, they were able to abide by the “nature” of the law (the Law of Moses). The word nature (phusis) means “guided by their natural sense of what is right and proper” (Thayer, p. 660). By using their instincts, the Gentiles were able to fulfill the moral obligations which had been imposed upon the Jews. The Gentiles also had a sense of what was proper because the Jews were a recognized people, and many moral laws had existed since the time of Adam and Eve. Societies need laws to survive. It is only reasonable to believe that some of God’s laws (such as the prohibitions against murder and robbery) were accepted in all societies even though a proper knowledge of God was lost.

The knowledge the Gentiles had was connected to the “conscience” (verse 15). The conscience, which is explained more fully in the commentary on Romans 13:5 and 1 Timothy 1:5, is a tool which helps humanity judge between right and wrong. In the case of the Gentiles, the conscience excused or condemned them. It appears that on the Day of Judgment some Gentiles will be justified or condemned based upon their conscience. The conscience, plus some knowledge of the law, will form a standard for those who lived prior to the cross. The thoughts people had and the knowledge of what they did will “accuse/reproach or defend them” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:272).

The human conscience is the faculty which evaluates our actions along with our thoughts, and then either approves or condemns what we have done (Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 446). Scripture speaks of our conscience in different ways. It is referred to as being good (Acts 23:1); clear (“void of offense,” ASV, Acts 24:16); evil (Hebrews 10:22); corrupted (“defiled,” ASV, Titus 1:15); weak (1 Corinthians 8:7); seared (1 Timothy 4:2); and cleansed (Hebrews 9:14). In light of what Paul said no one can rightly affirm the Gentiles were without law.

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Price, Brad "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bpc/romans-2.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

15. Who show the work of the law (73) written, etc.; that is, they prove that there is imprinted on their hearts a discrimination and judgment by which they distinguish between what is just and unjust, between what is honest and dishonest. He means not that it was so engraven on their will, that they sought and diligently pursued it, but that they were so mastered by the power of truth, that they could not disapprove of it. For why did they institute religious rites, except that they were convinced that God ought to be worshipped? Why were they ashamed of adultery and theft, except that they deemed them evils?

Without reason then is the power of the will deduced from this passage, as though Paul had said, that the keeping of the law is within our power; for he speaks not of the power to fulfill the law, but of the knowledge of it. Nor is the word heart to be taken for the seat of the affections, but only for the understanding, as it is found in Deuteronomy 29:4,

The Lord hath not given thee a heart to understand;”

and in Luke 24:25,

O foolish men, and slow in heart to believe.”

Nor can we conclude from this passage, that there is in men a full knowledge of the law, but that there are only some seeds of what is right implanted in their nature, evidenced by such acts as these — All the Gentiles alike instituted religious rites, they made laws to punish adultery, and theft, and murder, they commended good faith in bargains and contracts. They have thus indeed proved, that God ought to be worshipped, that adultery, and theft, and murder are evils, that honesty is commendable. It is not to our purpose to inquire what sort of God they imagined him to be, or how many gods they devised; it is enough to know, that they thought that there is a God, and that honor and worship are due to him. It matters not whether they permitted the coveting of another man’s wife, or of his possessions, or of any thing which was his, — whether they connived at wrath and hatred; inasmuch as it was not right for them to covet what they knew to be evil when done.

Their conscience at the same time attesting, etc. He could not have more forcibly urged them than by the testimony of their own conscience, which is equal to a thousand witnesses. By the consciousness of having done good, men sustain and comfort themselves; those who are conscious of having done evil, are inwardly harassed and tormented. Hence came these sayings of the heathens — “A good conscience is the widest sphere; but a bad one is the cruelest executioner, and more fiercely torments the ungodly than any furies can do.” There is then a certain knowledge of the law by nature, which says, “This is good and worthy of being desired; that ought to be abhorred.”

But observe how intelligently he defines conscience: he says, that reasons come to our minds, by which we defend what is rightly done, and that there are those which accuse and reprove us for our vices; (74) and he refers this process of accusation and defense to the day of the Lord; not that it will then first commence, for it is now continually carried on, but that it will then also be in operation; and he says this, that no one should disregard this process, as though it were vain and evanescent. And he has put, in the day, instead of, at the day, — a similar instance to what we have already observed.

(73) By the work of the law, τὸ ἔργον τοῦ νόμου, is to be understood what the law requires. The “work of God,” in John 6:29, is of the same import, that is, the work which God requires or demands; and the same word is plural in the former verse, τὰ ἔργα — “the works of God.” So here, in the former verse, it is τὰ τοῦ νόμου — “the things of the law,” where we may suppose ἔργα to be understood. The common expression, “the works of the law,” has the same meaning, that is, such works as the law prescribes and requires. — Ed.

(74) [ Calvin ] seems to consider that the latter part of the verse is only a expansion or an exposition of the preceding clause respecting “conscience:” but it seems to contain a distinct idea. The testimony of conscience is one thing, which is instantaneous, without reflection: and the thoughts or the reasonings — λογισμῶν, which alternately or mutually accuse or excuse, seem to refer to a process carried on by the mind, by which the innate voice of conscience is confirmed. This is the view taken by [ Stuart ] and [ Barnes ], and to which [ Hodge ] is inclined.

Another view of the latter clause is given by [ Doddridge ] , [ Macknight ] , [ Haldane ] , and [ Chalmers ] The last gives this paraphrase of the whole verse, — “For they show that the matter of the law is written in their hearts — both from their conscience testifying what is right and wrong in their own conduct, and from their reasonings in which they either accuse or vindicate one another.”

But to regard the two clauses as referring to conscience and the inward workings of the mind, appears more consistent with the context. The Gentiles are those spoken of: God gave them no outward law, but the law of nature which is inward. Hence in the following verse he speaks of God as judging “the secrets of men,” as the inward law will be the rule of judgment to the Gentiles — Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-2.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 2

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judges ( Romans 2:1 ):

You see, I read this list and I say, "Oh, yes, it is horrible. My, I just don't know what we are going to do, the world is going so terrible, bad. Terrible that people would do those kind of things, terrible that people would live like that." Well, you are inexcusable O man whoever you are that judges.

for wherein you judge another, you are condemning yourself; for you that judge are doing the same things ( Romans 2:1 ).

We have got to be careful of this judgment bit. Because if I have the capacity to judge someone else and say, "That is wrong, he should not be doing that." Then I am condemning myself, because I know it is wrong and if I do it, it is doubly wrong, because I know it is wrong because I said it was wrong. You know, it is amazing how horrible our sins look when someone else is doing them. Let someone else commit my sins, and I can get just all kind of righteous indignation. I can tell you why I did it, I can justify it. But it is horrible when someone else does it. It is terrible. Be careful, O man, whoever you are who judges, you are only condemning yourself because you are testifying to the fact that you know better, when you have done those things yourself.

But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. [God will have true judgment.] And you think, O man, that judges those who do such things, and that you are doing the same, that you're going to escape the judgment of God? ( Romans 2:2-3 )

I Corinthians, chapter 5, Paul tells us that we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things that we have done in our bodies, whether they be good or evil, knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we seek to persuade men. Do you think that you are going to escape the judgment of God? Do you think that you have got some kind of an immunity or a divine dispensation that you can get by with it?

Or do you despise the riches of God's goodness and forbearance and longsuffering ( Romans 2:4 );

You see, the mistake that many people so often make is the misinterpreting of the long-suffering and the patience of God. God is so forbearing with us. God is so patient with us. God is so long-suffering. He doesn't immediately smite us and cut us off when we do evil. God has great patience with evildoers. I wouldn't have that much patience. I would rather God didn't. I would rather God just wipe them out. When I read of some of these things and I read the guy murders his family up in Chino and you see him in court and you know it will be months of court appearances and you think, "Oh, God. Quick justice, Lord." But when it is me, "Oh, patience, Lord. I am working on it now and I hope one of these days, Lord, I am going to conquer." But sometimes I misinterpret that patience of God and that long-suffering as approval or that God really doesn't or it doesn't matter to God. Or people actually become so deceived that they believe that God is approving the things they do because they say, "I still have such blessing upon my life." You know, "If God wasn't pleased with the way I was doing, then He surely would have taken away the blessings and all from my life." And because their lives continue to be blessed, they say, "Well, God is approving the things that I am doing." Not so. Do you think you are going to escape the judgment of God?

Do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering?

Don't you know that the goodness of God is intended to lead you to repentance? But, after the hardness and impenitent heart, you are actually treasuring up for yourself wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God ( Romans 2:4-5 );

Actually, it is just like a dam holding back this judgment of God, and you are just storing up as you continue in your ways of sin and unrighteousness. It is just storing up and one day the dam is going to be released and the flood of judgment is going to carry you away. Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitors of the earth by reason of the three trumpets which are yet to sound. Then we are reading of the angels warning of the wrath of God that is coming as He pours out the cup of His wrath and fury upon man. Let me tell you something, the earth in which we live is ripening for judgment. In fact, as I look at the world today and the things in the world today, I wonder just how much longer God can wait before He judges. The Bible tells us that God waited a long time while Noah was building the ark, but the judgment did come.

God's judgment is going to come again, and it is just being treasured up, or stored up against the day of the wrath of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, [God will grant to them] eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [they will receive the] indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that's doing evil; the Jew first, and also the Gentile; but glory, and honor, and peace, to every man that is working good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God ( Romans 2:6-11 ).

It doesn't matter if you are a Jew or Gentile, God doesn't respect your person. It is what you are that God acknowledges, and what you are doing.

For as many as have sinned without law will perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law ( Romans 2:12 );

Now the Gentiles without the law, they are going to be judged without the law. There is the law that God has written in our own hearts, the conscience, the Jews have the law, God will judge them by that law.

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile either accusing or else excusing one another;) ( Romans 2:13-15 )

God has written His law in every man's heart. There is that consciousness and awareness of good and evil. It is innate--written in my heart by God, and my conscience either excuses or accuses me.

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. Behold ( Romans 2:16-17 ),

Now he is addressing himself to the Jews in Rome,

you are called a Jew, and you are resting in the law, and you make your boast of God, that you know his will, you approve the things that are more excellent, because you have been instructed out of the law; and you are confident that you are a guide of the blind, a light to those which are in darkness, you are an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, you have a form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. [How about it, though,] you that are teaching others, do you not teach yourself? You that are preaching that a man should not steal, do you steal? You that say that a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhorrest idols, do you commit sacrilege? Thou that makes thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? ( Romans 2:17-23 )

Paul is now talking to the Jews. They had this position of spiritual superiority over other men, "God has revealed His will to the Jews, God has given a law to the Jews. We are a guide to the blind, and we are light to those in darkness. We are an instructor of the foolish." But Paul said, "Look, in teaching others don't you listen to yourself, aren't you learning yourself?"

Now Jesus said to His disciples, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you're not going to enter the kingdom of heaven." As He began to illustrate that statement, He shows that the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees was totally related to outward observances of the law, when inwardly they were violating the law. The law says, thou shalt not kill, but you hate that man so much you would love to kill him. As far as Jesus is concerned, you are guilty of violating the law "thou shall not kill." Thou shall not commit adultery, and yet you have such great lust and desire for that gal. God says, "Hey, you have committed adultery in your heart. The law is spiritual. So Paul is saying, "Hey, you teach you shouldn't commit adultery, do you commit adultery? Do you say you shouldn't have idols, do you commit sacrilege? Is there some idol in your life? Something that you hold up to be more important than God. Some goal or ambition or desire that supercedes your love for God?

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if you keep the law: but if you be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision ( Romans 2:24-25 ).

Now the idea of circumcision. There is a spiritual concept behind it and it is the cutting away of the flesh, which means I am to live after the Spirit and not after the flesh. That was the spiritual symbolism of circumcision, a race of people who would live after the Spirit, who would walk after God, not walking after the flesh. But the people began to take the physical rite and deny the spiritual application. Though physically they were circumcised, spiritually they walked after the flesh. Paul said, "I don't care if you have been physically circumcised, if you are still walking after the flesh, your physical circumcision is meaningless."

Because it isn't the circumcision of the flesh that really counts before God, it is the circumcision of the heart. In the same token as Christians, water baptism symbolizes the death and the end of the old life after the flesh, and coming up out of the water symbolizes the new resurrected life in Jesus Christ. If I have been baptized forward, backwards and three times in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and I am still walking after the flesh, that baptism is totally meaningless. For it is the baptism of the heart that counts, the circumcision of the heart that counts. God wants me to be walking after the Spirit, to be desiring in my heart the walk of the Spirit.

Therefore, if the uncircumcision [that is, the Gentile uncircumcised] keeps the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? ( Romans 2:26 )

Now this is also true in baptism. If a person has never gone through the physical rite of baptism, if he is indeed alive unto God in the Spirit and living and walking after the Spirit, his faith in God and walk after the Spirit counts for his not being baptized in water. I disagree with these people who place a tremendous emphasis upon getting them down to the water and baptizing them in order that they might be saved. For the true baptism is of the heart, a clear conscience before God. It isn't the washing away of the filth of the flesh according to Peter. And Paul the apostle himself said, "I thank God I didn't baptize any of you but Crispus and Gaius," as he wrote to the Corinthian church. He said, "God didn't call me to baptize, but to preach the gospel."

Therefore, God is looking at the man's heart. God is looking at your heart. What is it that you desire? "One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after." Am I really seeking after the Lord, to dwell in His presence, to live and fellowship, continual fellowship with Him? Or do I pay Him service on Sunday and then the rest of the week devote my life to my pursuit after my fleshly, worldly desires, goals, and ambitions?

Shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision are transgressing the law? For he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 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 ( Romans 2:27-29 ).

Not seeking the approval of men, but seeking the approval of God, walking after God in the Spirit. It isn't the life in the flesh that man sees that is important, it is the life in the Spirit that God sees which is important--my heart and the position of my heart before God.

Now Paul has in the first two chapters successfully made us all guilty. The Gentile world in its degraded state, reprobate mind, guilty before God, because not only are they doing these unspeakable things, but they are taking pleasure in those that do them. But also the Jew who judges the Gentile and says, "Oh, isn't it terrible that they are doing those things and living that way?" He is also guilty before God, because though he is giving God lip service, perhaps making outward observances of the law within his heart, there is defilement. He judges others for what they are doing, but he is guilty of doing the same himself. So he also is guilty before God. The man who has never heard is guilty because God has written His law in his heart, and he will be judged without the law. God has revealed Himself in nature and that which can be known of God is plainly, clearly displayed in nature but is ignored. The message of God through nature, because he didn't want to retain God in his heart, and thus, he looked at nature with a presuppositional base that God does not exist. The whole world is now guilty before God.

Terrible place to leave you. When we come back we'll find God's solution in chapters 3-4 with a guilty world. We will see God's provision for sinful man as Paul begins to unfold for us the glorious grace of God revealed through Jesus Christ. Paul loves to paint pictures; he loves to paint pictures of the grace of God, but in order that we might enjoy all of the beauties and the brilliance of the grace of God, the colors, it is important, first of all, to paint a background for the picture. So he takes his canvas and he dips his brush in cold black paint, and he paints the background, in chapters 1 and 2 of Romans. He is giving you this background that he might now splash upon the canvas the brilliance of the glory of the grace of God that He has revealed to us through Jesus Christ. We, the sinning world, deserving that wrath of God, and yet, being offered a glorious place of fellowship and life with God, living and walking after the Spirit, that eternal life of God being offered to man. So we'll get into the glorious grace of God, God's solution for sinning man. So you can move ahead. There is no rule against reading chapters 3 and 4 in advance, discovering what God has done, provide for us His glorious grace.

May the Lord be with you and bless you as you walk with Him. May the Lord clean up your T.V. viewing, your magazine reading. God help us not to be caught in that trap of living after the flesh, that is death. Not to enjoy the things of the flesh, taking pleasure in those that do them. May we take pleasure in walking with God, fellowshipping with Him, experiencing His presence, His love, His power in our lives. May you come into a deeper, richer, fuller appreciation of God's love and grace for you. In Jesus' name. "



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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/romans-2.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1. God’s principles of judgment 2:1-16

Before showing the guilt of moral and religious people before God (Romans 2:17-29), Paul set forth the principles by which God will judge everyone (Romans 2:1-16). By so doing, he warned the self-righteous.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/romans-2.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The Gentiles do not have the Mosaic Law in the sense that God did not give it to them. Therefore He will not judge them by that Law. The Jews in Paul’s day did have it, and God would judge them by it (Romans 2:12). [Note: See Jeffrey S. Lamp, "Paul, the Law, Jews, and Gentiles: A Contextual and Exegetical Reading of Romans 2:12-16," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42:1 (March 1999):37-51.]

It is not hearing the Law that makes a person acceptable to God, but doing what it commands (Romans 2:13). "Justified" is a legal term that is suitable in this discussion of law observance. Justification is a legal verdict. It reflects a person’s position under the law. The justified person is one whom God sees as righteous in relation to His law (cf. Deuteronomy 25:1). The justified person is not necessarily blameless; he may have done things that are wrong. Nevertheless in the eyes of the law he is not culpable (blameworthy). He does not have to pay for his crimes. Paul said in Romans 2:13 that God would declare righteous the person who did not just listen to the Mosaic Law but did what it required. The Law warned that anything short of perfect obedience to it, even reading or studying it or hearing it preached and taught, which Jews relied on, made a person guilty before God (Deuteronomy 27:26; cf. Galatians 3:10). Moses therefore urged the Israelites to accept and believe in the promised Messiah (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:15).

Even Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic Law know that they should do things that are right and not do things that are wrong (Romans 2:14). Right and wrong are the basic elements of the Mosaic Law. Paul did not mean that Gentiles are indifferent to any law except what they invent in their own self-interest. He meant that they have a law that is instinctive, namely, an intuitive perception of what is right and what is wrong. All people have this. One writer sought to explain what Paul did not, namely, how human beings can and do know God’s moral law apart from special revelation. [Note: See Mark D. Mathewson, "Moral Intuitionism and the Law Inscribed on Our Hearts," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42:4 (December 1999):629-43.]

In addition to this innate sense of morality, Gentiles also have consciences (Romans 2:15). The New Testament presents the human conscience as a computer-like faculty. It has no pre-programmed data in it, but whatever a person experiences programs his or her conscience. If he learns that lying is wrong, for example, his conscience will from then on bring that information to his mind in appropriate situations. Therefore some individuals who grow up in cultures that value a particular practice that other cultures abhor, such as deception or treachery, have no conscience about being deceptive or practicing treachery. All people grow up learning that some things that are truly bad are bad and other things that are truly good are good. Thus our conscience, while not a completely reliable guide, is helpful as we seek to live life morally. [Note: See C. A. Pierce, Conscience in the New Testament; and Roy B. Zuck, "The Doctrine of Conscience," Bibliotheca Sacra 126:504 (October-December 1969):329-40.] The New Testament speaks of a good conscience (Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19), a clear conscience (Acts 24:16; 1 Timothy 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 13:18), a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22), a corrupt conscience (Titus 1:15), a weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 8:12), and a seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).

Romans 2:16 completes Paul’s earlier statement that God will judge impartially (Romans 2:11-13) and forms the end of an inclusio dealing with judgment that began with Romans 2:1-5. Romans 2:14-15 are somewhat parenthetical in the flow of his argument. They qualify his statement that the Gentiles have no law (Romans 2:12). In Romans 2:16 his point is that God’s impartial judgment will include people’s secret thoughts as well as their overt acts. Both thoughts and actions constitute deeds (Romans 2:6). Christ Jesus will be God’s agent of judgment (cf. Acts 17:31). "According to my gospel" means that the gospel Paul preached included the prospect of judgment. Throughout this section (Romans 2:1-16) the judgment of unbelievers (i.e., the great white throne judgment, Revelation 20:11-15) is in view.

In summary, to convict any self-righteous person of his guilt before God, Paul reminded his readers of three principles by which God will evaluate all people. He will judge righteously, in terms of reality, not just appearance (Romans 2:2). He will judge people because of their deeds, what they actually do both covertly and overtly (Romans 2:6). Moreover He will judge impartially, not because of how much or how little privilege they enjoyed but how they responded to the truth they had (Romans 2:11).

This last principle has raised a question for many people. Will God condemn someone who has never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ if he or she responds appropriately to the limited truth that he or she has? Paul later showed that no one responds appropriately to the truth that he or she has (Romans 3:23). All fail so all stand condemned. He also made it very clear that it is impossible to enjoy salvation without trusting in Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17; Romans 10:9; cf. John 14:6). That is why Jesus gave the Great Commission and why the gospel is so important (Romans 1:16-17).

". . . Paul agreed with the Jewish belief that justification could, in theory, be secured through works. Where Paul disagreed with Judaism was in his belief that the power of sin prevents any person, even the Jew who depends on his or her covenant status, from actually achieving justification in that manner. While, therefore, one could be justified by doing the law in theory, in practice it is impossible . . ." [Note: Moo, p. 155.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/romans-2.html. 2012.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

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.

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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/romans-2.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Which show the work of the law written in their hearts,.... Though the Gentiles had not the law in form, written on tables, or in a book, yet they had "the work", the matter, the sum and substance of it in their minds; as appears by the practices of many of them, in their external conversation. The moral law, in its purity and perfection, was written on the heart of Adam in his first creation; was sadly obliterated by his sin and fall; upon several accounts, and to answer various purposes, a system of laws was written on tables of stone for the use of the Israelites; and in regeneration the law is reinscribed on the hearts of God's people; and even among the Gentiles, and in their hearts, there are some remains of the old law and light of nature, which as by their outward conduct appears, so by the inward motions of their minds,

their conscience also bearing witness; for, as the Jews say r

נשמתו של אדם מעידה בו, "the soul of a man witnesses in him"; for, or against him:

and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another; and this the Heathens themselves acknowledge, when they s speak of

"tameion dikasthrion kai krithrion thv suneidhsewv, "the conclave, tribunal and judgment of conscience"; and which they call δικαστην δικαιοτατον, "the most righteous judge": whose judgment reason receives, and gives its suffrage to, whether worthy of approbation or reproof; when it reads in the memory as if written on a table the things that are done, and then beholding the law as an exemplar, pronounces itself either worthy of honour or dishonour.''

r T. Bab. Chagigah, fol. 16. 1. & Taanith, fol. 11. 1. s Hierocles in Carmina Pythagor. p. 81, 206, 209, 213, 214.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-2.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Equity of the Divine Government. A. D. 58.

      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.   2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.   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?   4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?   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;   6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:   7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:   8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,   9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;   10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:   11 For there is no respect of persons with God.   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;   13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.   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:   15 Which show 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;)   16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

      In the former chapter the apostle had represented the state of the Gentile world to be as bad and black as the Jews were ready enough to pronounce it. And now, designing to show that the state of the Jews was very bad too, and their sin in many respects more aggravated, to prepare his way he sets himself in this part of the chapter to show that God would proceed upon equal terms of justice with Jews and Gentiles; and now with such a partial hand as the Jews were apt to think he would use in their favour.

      I. He arraigns them for their censoriousness and self-conceit (Romans 2:1; Romans 2:1): Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. As he expresses himself in general terms, the admonition may reach those many masters (James 3:1), of whatever nation or profession they are, that assume to themselves a power to censure, control, and condemn others. But he intends especially the Jews, and to them particularly he applies this general charge (Romans 2:21; Romans 2:21), Thou who teachest another teachest thou not thyself? The Jews were generally a proud sort of people, that looked with a great deal of scorn and contempt upon the poor Gentiles, as not worthy to be set with the dogs of their flock; while in the mean time they were themselves as bad and immoral--though not idolaters, as the Gentiles, yet sacrilegious, Romans 2:22; Romans 2:22. Therefore thou art inexcusable. If the Gentiles, who had but the light of nature, were inexcusable (Romans 1:20; Romans 1:20), much more the Jews, who had the light of the law, the revealed will of God, and so had greater helps than the Gentiles.

      II. He asserts the invariable justice of the divine government, Romans 2:2; Romans 2:3. To drive home the conviction, he here shows what a righteous God that is with whom we have to do, and how just in his proceedings. It is usual with the apostle Paul, in his writings, upon mention of some material point, to make large digressions upon it; as here concerning the justice of God (Romans 2:2; Romans 2:2), That the judgment of God is according to truth,--according to the eternal rules of justice and equity,--according to the heart, and not according to the outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7),--according to the works, and not with respect to persons, is a doctrine which we are all sure of, for he would not be God if he were not just; but it behoves those especially to consider it who condemn others for those things which they themselves are guilty of, and so, while they practise sin and persist in that practice, think to bribe the divine justice by protesting against sin and exclaiming loudly upon others that are guilty, as if preaching against sin would atone for the guilt of it. But observe how he puts it to the sinner's conscience (Romans 2:3; Romans 2:3): Thinkest thou this, O man? O man, a rational creature, a dependent creature, made by God, subject under him, and accountable to him. The case is so plain that we may venture to appeal to the sinner's own thoughts: "Canst thou think that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Can the heart-searching God be imposed upon by formal pretences, the righteous Judge of all so bribed and put off?" The most plausible politic sinners, who acquit themselves before men with the greatest confidence, cannot escape the judgment of God, cannot avoid being judged and condemned.

      III. He draws up a charge against them (Romans 2:4; Romans 2:5) consisting of two branches:--

      1. Slighting the goodness of God (Romans 2:4; Romans 2:4), the riches of his goodness. This is especially applicable to the Jews, who had singular tokens of the divine favour. Means are mercies, and the more light we sin against the more love we sin against. Low and mean thoughts of the divine goodness are at the bottom of a great deal of sin. There is in every wilful sin an interpretative contempt of the goodness of God; it is spurning at his bowels, particularly the goodness of his patience, his forbearance and long-suffering, taking occasion thence to be so much the more bold in sin, Ecclesiastes 8:11. Not knowing, that is, not considering, not knowing practically and with application, that the goodness of God leadeth thee, the design of it is to lead thee, to repentance. It is not enough for us to know that God's goodness leads to repentance, but we must know that it leads us--thee in particular. See here what method God takes to bring sinners to repentance. He leads them, not drives them like beasts, but leads them like rational creatures, allures them (Hosea 2:14); and it is goodness that leads, bands of love, Hosea 11:4. Compare Jeremiah 31:3. The consideration of the goodness of God, his common goodness to all (the goodness of his providence, of his patience, and of his offers), should be effectual to bring us all to repentance; and the reason why so many continue in impenitency is because they do not know and consider this.

      2. Provoking the wrath of God, Romans 2:5; Romans 2:5. The rise of this provocation is a hard and impenitent heart; and the ruin of sinners is their walking after such a heart, being led by it. To sin is to walk in the way of the heart; and when that is a hard and impenitent heart (contracted hardness by long custom, besides that which is natural), how desperate must the course needs be! The provocation is expressed by treasuring up wrath. Those that go on in a course of sin are treasuring up unto themselves wrath. A treasure denotes abundance. It is a treasure that will be spending to eternity, and yet never exhausted; and yet sinners are still adding to it as to a treasure. Every wilful sin adds to the score, and will inflame the reckoning; it brings a branch to their wrath, as some read that (Ezekiel 8:17), they put the branch to their nose. A treasure denotes secrecy. The treasury or magazine of wrath is the heart of God himself, in which it lies hid, as treasures in some secret place sealed up; see Deuteronomy 32:34; Job 14:17. But withal it denotes reservation to some further occasion; as the treasures of the hail are reserved against the day of battle and war, Job 38:22; Job 38:23. These treasures will be broken open like the fountains of the great deep, Genesis 7:11. They are treasured up against the day of wrath, when they will be dispensed by the wholesale, poured out by full vials. Though the present day be a day of patience and forbearance towards sinners, yet there is a day of wrath coming--wrath, and nothing but wrath. Indeed, every day is to sinners a day of wrath, for God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalms 7:11), but there is the great day of wrath coming, Revelation 6:17. And that day of wrath will be the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The wrath of God is not like our wrath, a heat and passion; no, fury is not in him (Isaiah 27:4): but it is a righteous judgment, his will to punish sin, because he hates it as contrary to his nature. This righteous judgment of God is now many times concealed in the prosperity and success of sinners, but shortly it will be manifested before all the world, these seeming disorders set to rights, and the heavens shall declare his righteousness, Psalms 50:6. Therefore judge nothing before the time.

      IV. He describes the measures by which God proceeds in his judgment. Having mentioned the righteous judgment of God in Romans 2:5; Romans 2:5, he here illustrates that judgment, and the righteousness of it, and shows what we may expect from God, and by what rule he will judge the world. The equity of distributive justice is the dispensing of frowns and favours with respect to deserts and without respect to persons: such is the righteous judgment of God.

      1. He will render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:6; Romans 2:6), a truth often mentioned in scripture, to prove that the Judge of all the earth does right.

      (1.) In dispensing his favours; and this is mentioned twice here, both in Romans 2:7; Romans 2:10. For he delights to show mercy. Observe,

      [1.] The objects of his favour: Those who by patient continuance, c. By this we may try our interest in the divine favour, and may hence be directed what course to take, that we may obtain it. Those whom the righteous God will reward are, First, Such as fix to themselves the right end, that seek for glory, and honour, and immortality that is, the glory and honour which are immortal-acceptance with God here and for ever. There is a holy ambition which is at the bottom of all practical religion. This is seeking the kingdom of God, looking in our desires and aims as high as heaven, and resolved to take up with nothing short of it. This seeking implies a loss, sense of that loss, desire to retrieve it, and pursuits and endeavours consonant to those desires. Secondly, Such as, having fixed the right end, adhere to the right way: A patient continuance in well-doing. 1. There must be well-doing, working good, Romans 2:10; Romans 2:10. It is not enough to know well, and speak well, and profess well, and promise well, but we must do well: do that which is good, not only for the matter of it, but for the manner of it. We must do it well. 2. A continuance in well-doing. Not for a fit and a start, like the morning cloud and the early dew; but we must endure to the end: it is perseverance that wins the crown. 3. A patient continuance. This patience respects not only the length of the work, but the difficulties of it and the oppositions and hardships we may meet with in it. Those that will do well and continue in it must put on a great deal of patience.

      [2.] The product of his favour. He will render to such eternal life. Heaven is life, eternal life, and it is the reward of those that patiently continue in well-doing; and it is called (Romans 2:10; Romans 2:10) glory, honour, and peace. Those that seek for glory and honour (Romans 2:7; Romans 2:7) shall have them. Those that seek for the vain glory and honour of this world often miss of them, and are disappointed; but those that seek for immortal glory and honour shall have them, and not only glory and honour, but peace. Worldly glory and honour are commonly attended with trouble; but heavenly glory and honour have peace with them, undisturbed everlasting peace.

      (2.) In dispensing his frowns (Romans 2:8; Romans 2:9). Observe, [1.] The objects of his frowns. In general those that do evil, more particularly described to be such as are contentious and do not obey the truth. Contentious against God. Every wilful sin is a quarrel with God, it is striving with our Maker (Isaiah 45:9), the most desperate contention. The Spirit of God strives with sinners (Genesis 6:3), and impenitent sinners strive against the Spirit, rebel against the light (Job 24:13), hold fast deceit, strive to retain that sin which the Spirit strives to part them from. Contentious, and do not obey the truth. The truths of religion are not only to be known, but to be obeyed; they are directing, ruling, commanding; truths relating to practice. Disobedience to the truth is interpreted a striving against it. But obey unrighteousness--do what unrighteousness bids them do. Those that refuse to be the servants of truth will soon be the slaves of unrighteousness. [2.] The products or instances of these frowns: Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. These are the wages of sin. Indignation and wrath the causes--tribulation and anguish the necessary and unavoidable effects. And this upon the soul; souls are the vessels of that wrath, the subjects of that tribulation and anguish. Sin qualifies the soul for this wrath. The soul is that in or of man which is alone immediately capable of this indignation, and the impressions or effects of anguish therefrom. Hell is eternal tribulation and anguish, the product of wrath and indignation. This comes of contending with God, of setting briers and thorns before a consuming fire, Isaiah 27:4. Those that will not bow to his golden sceptre will certainly be broken by his iron rod. Thus will God render to every man according to his deeds.

      2. There is no respect of persons with God,Romans 2:11; Romans 2:11. As to the spiritual state, there is a respect of persons; but not as to outward relation or condition. Jews and Gentiles stand upon the same level before God. This was Peter's remark upon the first taking down of the partition-wall (Acts 10:34), that God is no respecter of persons; and it is explained in the next words, that in every nation he that fears God, and works righteousness, is accepted of him. God does not save men with respect to their external privileges or their barren knowledge and profession of the truth, but according as their state and disposition really are. In dispensing both his frowns and favours it is both to Jew and Gentile. If to the Jews first, who had greater privileges, and made a greater profession, yet also to the Gentiles, whose want of such privileges will neither excuse them from the punishment of their ill-doing nor bar them out from the reward of their well-doing (see Colossians 3:11); for shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

      V. He proves the equity of his proceedings with all, when he shall actually come to Judge them (Romans 2:12-16; Romans 2:12-16), upon this principle, that that which is the rule of man's obedience is the rule of God's judgment. Three degrees of light are revealed to the children of men:--

      1. The light of nature. This the Gentiles have, and by this they shall be judged: As many as have sinned without law shall perish without law; that is, the unbelieving Gentiles, who had no other guide but natural conscience, no other motive but common mercies, and had not the law of Moses nor any supernatural revelation, shall not be reckoned with for the transgression of the law they never had, nor come under the aggravation of the Jews' sin against and judgment by the written law; but they shall be judged by, as they sin against, the law of nature, not only as it is in their hearts, corrupted, defaced, and imprisoned in unrighteousness, but as in the uncorrupt original the Judge keeps by him. Further to clear this (Romans 2:14; Romans 2:15), in a parenthesis, he evinces that the light of nature was to the Gentiles instead of a written law. He had said (Romans 2:12; Romans 2:12) they had sinned without law, which looks like a contradiction; for where there is no law there is no transgression. But, says he, though they had not the written law (Psalms 147:20), they had that which was equivalent, not to the ceremonial, but to the moral law. They had the work of the law. He does not mean that work which the law commands, as if they could produce a perfect obedience; but that work which the law does. The work of the law is to direct us what to do, and to examine us what we have done. Now, (1.) They had that which directed them what to do by the light of nature: by the force and tendency of their natural notions and dictates they apprehended a clear and vast difference between good and evil. They did by nature the things contained in the law. They had a sense of justice and equity, honour and purity, love and charity; the light of nature taught obedience to parents, pity to the miserable, conservation of public peace and order, forbade murder, stealing, lying, perjury, c. Thus they were a law unto themselves. (2.) They had that which examined them as to what they had done: Their conscience also bearing witness. They had that within them which approved and commended what was well done and which reproached them for what was done amiss. Conscience is a witness, and first or last will bear witness, though for a time it may be bribed or brow-beaten. It is instead of a thousand witnesses, testifying of that which is most secret and their thoughts accusing or excusing, passing a judgment upon the testimony of conscience by applying the law to the fact. Conscience is that candle of the Lord which was not quite put out, no, not in the Gentile world. The heathen have witnessed to the comfort of a good conscience.

--------Hic murus ahoncus esto, Nil conscire sibi--------
Be this thy brazen bulwark of defence, Still to preserve thy conscious innocence.--HOR.

and to the terror of a bad one:

--------Quos diri consein facti Mens habet attonitos, et surdo verbere cædit--
No lash is heard, and yet the guilty heart Is tortur'd with a self-inflicted smart--JUV. Sat. 13.

Their thoughts the meanwhile, metaxy allelon--among themselves, or one with another. The same light and law of nature that witnesses against sin in them, and witnessed against it in others, accused or excused one another. Vicissim, so some read it, by turns; according as they observed or broke these natural laws and dictates, their consciences did either acquit or condemn them. All this did evince that they had that which was to them instead of a law, which they might have been governed by, and which will condemn them, because they were not so guided and governed by it. So that the guilty Gentiles are left without excuse. God is justified in condemning them. They cannot plead ignorance, and therefore are likely to perish if they have not something else to plead.

      2. The light of the law. This the Jews had, and by this they shall be judged (Romans 2:12; Romans 2:12): As many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law. They sinned, not only having the law, but en nomo--in the law, in the midst of so much law, in the face and light of so pure and clear a law, the directions of which were so very full and particular, and the sanctions of it so very cogent and enforcing. These shall be judged by the law; their punishment shall be, as their sin is, so much the greater for their having the law. The Jew first,Romans 2:9; Romans 2:9. It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon. Thus Moses did accuse them (John 5:45), and they fell under the many stripes of him that knew his master's will, and did it not, Luke 12:47. The Jews prided themselves very much in the law; but, to confirm what he had said, the apostle shows (Romans 2:13; Romans 2:13) that their having, and hearing, and knowing the law, would not justify them, but their doing it. The Jewish doctors bolstered up their followers with an opinion that all that were Jews, how bad soever they lived, should have a place in the world to come. This the apostle here opposes: it was a great privilege that they had the law, but not a saving privilege, unless they lived up to the law they had, which it is certain the Jews did not, and therefore they had need of a righteousness wherein to appear before God. We may apply it to the gospel: it is not hearing, but doing that will save us, John 13:17; James 1:22.

      3. The light of the gospel: and according to this those that enjoyed the gospel shall be judge (Romans 2:16; Romans 2:16): According to my gospel; not meant of any fifth gospel written by Paul, as some conceit; or of the gospel written by Luke, as Paul's amanuensis (Euseb. Hist. lib 3, cap. 8), but the gospel in general, called Paul's because he was a preacher of it. As many as are under that dispensation shall be judged according to that dispensation, Mark 16:16. Some refer those words, according to my gospel, to what he says of the day of judgment: "There will come a day of judgment, according as I have in my preaching often told you; and that will be the day of the final judgment both of Jews and Gentiles." It is good for us to get acquainted with what is revealed concerning that day. (1.) There is a day set for a general judgment. The day, the great day, his day that is coming, Psalms 37:13. (2.) The judgment of that day will be put into the hands of Jesus Christ. God shall judge by Jesus Christ, Acts 17:31. It will be part of the reward of his humiliation. Nothing speaks more terror to sinners, or more comfort to saints, than this, that Christ shall be the Judge. (3.) The secrets of men shall then be judged. Secret services shall be then rewarded, secret sins shall be then punished, hidden things shall be brought to light. That will be the great discovering day, when that which is now done in corners shall be proclaimed to all the world.

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Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Romans 2:15". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/romans-2.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The circumstances under which the epistle to the Romans was written gave occasion to the most thorough and comprehensive unfolding, not of the church, but of Christianity. No apostle had ever yet visited Rome. There was somewhat as yet lacking to the saints there; but even this was ordered of God to call forth from the Holy Ghost an epistle which more than any other approaches a complete treatise on the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, and especially as to righteousness.

Would we follow up the heights of heavenly truth, would we sound the depths of Christian experience, would we survey the workings of the Spirit of God in the Church, would we bow before the glories of the person of Christ, or learn His manifold offices, we must look elsewhere in the writings of the New Testament no doubt, but elsewhere rather than here.

The condition of the Roman saints called for a setting forth of the gospel of God; but this object, in order to be rightly understood and appreciated, leads the apostle into a display of the condition of man. We have God and man in presence, so to speak. Nothing can be more simple and essential. Although there is undoubtedly that profoundness which must accompany every revelation of God, and especially in connection with Christ as now manifested, still we have God adapting Himself to the very first wants of a renewed soul nay, even to the wretchedness of souls without God, without any real knowledge either of themselves or of Him. Not, of course, that the Roman saints were in this condition; but that God, writing by the apostle to them, seizes the opportunity to lay bare man's state as well as His own grace.

Romans 1:1-32. From the very first we have these characteristics of the epistle disclosing themselves. The apostle writes with the full assertion of his own apostolic dignity, but as a servant also. "Paul, a bondman of Jesus Christ" an apostle "called," not born, still less as educated or appointed of man, but an apostle "called," as he says "separated unto the gospel of God, which he had promised afore by his prophets." The connection is fully owned with that which had been from God of old. No fresh revelations from God can nullify those which preceded them; but as the prophets looked onward to what was coming, so is the gospel already come, supported by the past. There is mutual confirmation. Nevertheless, what is in nowise the same as what was or what will be. The past prepared the way, as it is said here, "which God had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, [here we have the great central object of God's gospel, even the person of Christ, God's Son,] which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (ver. 3). This last relation was the direct subject of the prophetic testimony, and Jesus had come accordingly. He was the promised Messiah, born King of the Jews.

But there was far more in Jesus. He was "declared," says the apostle, "to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" ( ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν , ver. 4). It was the Son of God not merely as dealing with the powers of the earth, Jehovah's King on the holy hill of Zion, but after a far deeper manner. For, essentially associated as He is with the glory of God the Father, the full deliverance of souls from the realm of death was His also. In this too we have the blessed connection of the Spirit (here peculiarly designated, for special reasons, "the Spirit of holiness"). That same energy of the Holy Ghost which had displayed itself in Jesus, when He walked in holiness here below, was demonstrated in resurrection; and not merely in His own rising from the dead, but in raising such at any time no doubt, though most signally and triumphantly displayed in His own resurrection.

The bearing of this on the contents and main doctrine of the epistle will appear abundantly by-and-by. Let me refer in passing to a few points more in the introduction, in order to link them together with that which the Spirit was furnishing to the Roman saints, as well as to show the admirable perfectness of every word that inspiration has given us. I do not mean by this its truth merely, but its exquisite suitability; so that the opening address commences the theme in hand, and insinuates that particular line of truth which the Holy Spirit sees fit to pursue throughout. To this then the apostle comes, after having spoken of the divine favour shown himself, both when a sinner, and now in his own special place of serving the Lord Jesus. "By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith." This was no question of legal obedience, although the law came from Jehovah. Paul's joy and boast were in the gospel of God. So therefore it addressed itself to the obedience of faith; not by this meaning practice, still less according to the measure of a man's duty, but that which is at the root of all practice faith-obedience obedience of heart and will, renewed by divine grace, which accepts the truth of God. To man this is the hardest of all obedience; but when once secured, it leads peacefully into the obedience of every day. If slurred over, as it too often is in souls, it invariably leaves practical obedience lame, and halt, and blind.

It was for this then that Paul describes himself as apostle. And as it is for obedience of faith, it was not in anywise restricted to the Jewish people "among all nations, for his (Christ's) name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ" (verses 5, 6). He loved even here at the threshold to show the breadth of God's grace. If he was called, so were they he an apostle, they not apostles but saints; but still, for them as for him, all flowed out of the same mighty love, of God. "To all that be at Rome, beloved of God, called saints" (ver. 7). To these then he wishes, as was his wont, the fresh flow of that source and stream of divine blessing which Christ has made to be household bread to us: "Grace and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (ver. 7). Then, from ver. 8, after thanking God through Jesus for their faith spoken of everywhere, and telling them of his prayers for them, he briefly discloses the desire of his heart about them his long-cherished hope according to the grace of the gospel to reach Rome his confidence in the love of God that through him some spiritual gift would be imparted to them, that they might be established, and, according to the spirit of grace which filled his own heart, that he too might be comforted together with them "by the mutual faith both of you and me" (vv. 11, 12). There is nothing like the grace of God for producing the truest humility, the humility that not only descends to the lowest level of sinners to do them good, but which is itself the fruit of deliverance from that self-love which puffs itself or lowers others. Witness the common joy that grace gives an apostle with saints be had never seen, so that even he should be comforted as well as they by their mutual faith. He would not therefore have them ignorant how they had lain on his heart for a visit (ver. 13). He was debtor both to the Greeks and the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise; he was ready, as far as he was concerned, to preach the gospel to those that were at Rome also (ver. 14, 15). Even the saints there would have been all the better for the gospel. It was not merely "to those at Rome," but "to you that be at Rome." Thus it is a mistake to suppose that saints may not be benefited by a better understanding of the gospel, at least as Paul preached it. Accordingly he tells them now what reason he had to speak thus strongly, not of the more advanced truths, but of the good news. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (ver. 16).

Observe, the gospel is not simply remission of sins, nor is it only peace with God, but "the power of God unto salvation." Now I take this opportunity of pressing on all that are here to beware of contracted views of "salvation." Beware that you do not confound it with souls being quickened, or even brought into joy. Salvation supposes not this only, but a great deal more. There is hardly any phraseology that tends to more injury of souls in these matters than a loose way of talking of salvation. "At any rate he is a saved soul," we hear. "The man has not got anything like settled peace with God; perhaps he hardly knows his sins forgiven; but at least he is a saved soul." Here is an instance of what is so reprehensible. This is precisely what salvation does not mean; and I would strongly press it on all that hear me, more particularly on those that have to do with the work of the Lord, and of course ardently desire to labour intelligently; and this not alone for the conversion, but for the establishment and deliverance of souls. Nothing less, I am persuaded, than this full blessing is the line that God has given to those who have followed Christ without the camp, and who, having been set free from the contracted ways of men, desire to enter into the largeness and at the same time the profound wisdom of every word of God. Let us not stumble at the starting-point, but leave room for the due extent and depth of "salvation" in the gospel.

There is no need of dwelling now on "salvation" as employed in the Old Testament, and in some parts of the New, as the gospels and Revelation particularly, where it is used for deliverance in power or even providence and present things. I confine myself to its doctrinal import, and the full Christian sense of the word; and I maintain that salvation signifies that deliverance for the believer which is the full consequence of the mighty work of Christ, apprehended not, of course, necessarily according to all its depth in God's eyes, but at any rate applied to the soul in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is not the awakening of conscience, however real; neither is it the attraction of heart by the grace of Christ, however blessed this may be. We ought therefore to bear in mind, that if a soul be not brought into conscious deliverance as the fruit of divine teaching, and founded on the work of Christ, we are very far from presenting the gospel as the apostle Paul glories in it, and delights that it should go forth. "I am not ashamed," etc.

And he gives his reason: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith." That is, it is the power of God unto salvation, not because it is victory (which at the beginning of the soul's career would only give importance to man even if possible, which it is not), but because it is "the righteousness of God." It is not God seeking, or man bringing righteousness. In the gospel there is revealed God's righteousness. Thus the introduction opened with Christ's person, and closes with God's righteousness. The law demanded, but could never receive righteousness from man. Christ is come, and has changed all. God is revealing a righteousness of His own in the gospel. It is God who now makes known a righteousness to man, instead of looking for any from man. Undoubtedly there are fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, and God values them I will not say from man, but from His saints; but here it is what, according to the apostle, God has for man. It is for the saints to learn, of course; but it is that which goes out in its own force and necessary aim to the need of man a divine righteousness, which justifies instead of condemning him who believes. It is "the power of God unto salvation." It is for the lost, therefore; for they it is who need salvation; and it is to save not merely to quicken, but to save; and this because in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed.

Hence it is, as he says, herein revealed "from faith," or by faith. It is the same form of expression exactly as in the beginning of Romans 5:1-21 "being justified by faith" ( ἐκ πίστεως ). But besides this he adds "to faith." The first of these phrases, "from faith," excludes the law; the second, "to faith," includes every one that has faith within the scope of God's righteousness. Justification is not from works of law. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith; and consequently, if there be faith in any soul, to this it is revealed, to faith wherever it may be. Hence, therefore, it was in no way limited to any particular nation, such as those that had already been under the law and government of God. It was a message that went out from God to sinners as such. Let man be what he might, or where he might, God's good news was for man. And to this agreed the testimony of the prophet. "The just shall live by faith" (not by law). Even where the law was, not by it but by faith the just lived. Did Gentiles believe? They too should live. Without faith there is neither justice nor life that God owns; where faith is, the rest will surely follow.

This accordingly leads the apostle into the earlier portion of his great argument, and first of all in a preparatory way. Here we pass out of the introduction of the epistle. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (ver. 18). This is what made the gospel to be so sweet and precious, and, what is more, absolutely necessary, if he would escape certain and eternal ruin. There is no hope for man otherwise; for the gospel is not all that is now made known. Not only is God's righteousness revealed, but also His wrath. It is not said to be revealed in the gospel. The gospel means His glad tidings for man. The wrath of God could not possibly be glad tidings. It is true, it is needful for man to learn; but in nowise is it good news. There is then the solemn truth also of divine wrath. It is not yet executed. It is "revealed," and this too "from heaven." There is no question of a people on earth, and of God's wrath breaking out in one form or another against human evil in this life. The earth, or, at least, the Jewish nation, had been familiar with such dealings of God in times past. But now it is "the wrath of God from heaven;" and consequently it is in view of eternal things, and not of those that touch present life on the earth.

Hence, as God's wrath is revealed from heaven, it is against every form of impiety "against all ungodliness." Besides this, which seems to be a most comprehensive expression for embracing every sort and degree of human iniquity, we have one very specifically named. It is against the "unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." To hold the truth in unrighteousness would be no security. Alas! we know how this was in Israel, how it might be, and has been, in Christendom. God pronounces against the unrighteousness of such; for if the knowledge, however exact, of God's revealed mind was accompanied by no renewal of the heart, if it was without life towards God, all must be vain. Man is only so much the worse for knowing the truth, if he holds it ever so fast with unrighteousness. There are some that find a difficulty here, because the expression "to hold" means holding firmly. But it is quite possible for the unconverted to be tenacious of the truth, yet unrighteous in their ways; and so much the worse for them. Not thus does God deal with souls. If His grace attract, His truth humbles, and leaves no room for vain boasting and self-confidence. What He does is to pierce and penetrate the man's conscience. If one may so say, He thus holds the man, instead of letting the man presume that he is holding fast the truth. The inner man is dealt with, and searched through and through.

Nothing of this is intended in the class that is here brought before us. They are merely persons who plume themselves on their orthodoxy, but in a wholly unrenewed condition. Such men have never been wanting since the truth has shone on this world; still less are they now. But the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against them pre-eminently. The judgments of God will fall on man as man, but the heaviest blows are reserved for Christendom. There the truth is held, and apparently with firmness too. This, however, will be put to the test by-and-by. But for the time it is held fast, though in unrighteousness. Thus the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against (not only the open ungodliness of men, but) the orthodox unrighteousness of those that hold the truth in unrighteousness.

And this leads the apostle into the moral history of man the proof both of his inexcusable guilt, and of his extreme need of redemption. He begins with the great epoch of the dispensations of God (that is, the ages since the flood). We cannot speak of the state of things before the flood as a dispensation. There was a most important trial of man in the person of Adam; but after this, what dispensation was there? What were the principles of it? No man can tell. The truth is, those are altogether mistaken who call it so. But after the flood man as such was put under certain conditions the whole race. Man became the object, first, of general dealings of God under Noah; next, of His special ways in the calling of Abraham and of his family. And what led to the call of Abraham, of whom we hear much in the epistle to the Romans as elsewhere, was the departure of man into idolatry. Man despised at first the outward testimony of God, His eternal power and Godhead, in the creation above and around him (verses 19, 20). Moreover, He gave up the knowledge of God that had been handed down from father to son (ver. 21). The downfall of man, when he thus abandoned God, was most rapid and profound; and the Holy Spirit traces this solemnly to the end ofRomans 1:1-32; Romans 1:1-32 with no needless words, in a few energetic strokes summing up that which is abundantly confirmed (but in how different a manner!) by all that remains of the ancient world. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man," etc. (verses 22-32.) Thus corruption not only overspread morals, but became an integral part of the religion of men, and had thus a quasi-divine sanction. Hence the depravity of the heathen found little or no cheek from conscience, because it was bound up with all that took the shape of God before their mind. There was no part of heathenism practically viewed now, so corrupting as that which had to do with the objects of its worship. Thus, the true God being lost, all was lost, and man's downward career becomes the most painful and humiliating object, unless it be, indeed, that which we have to feel where men, without renewal of heart, espouse in pride of mind the truth with nothing but unrighteousness.

In the beginning ofRomans 2:1-29; Romans 2:1-29 we have man pretending to righteousness. Still, it is "man" not yet exactly the Jew, but man who had profited, it might be, by whatever the Jew had; at the least, by the workings of natural conscience. But natural conscience, although it may detect evil, never leads one into the inward possession and enjoyment of good never brings the soul to God. Accordingly, in chapter 2 the Holy Spirit shows us man satisfying himself with pronouncing on what is right and wrong moralizing for others, but nothing more. Now God must have reality in the man himself. The gospel, instead of treating this as a light matter, alone vindicates God in these eternal ways of His, in that which must be in him who stands in relationship with God. Hence therefore, the apostle, with divine wisdom, opens this to us before the blessed relief and deliverance which the gospel reveals to us. In the most solemn way he appeals to man with the demand, whether he thinks that God will look complacently on that which barely judges another, but which allows the practice of evil in the man himself (Romans 2:1-3). Such moral judgments will, no doubt, be used to leave man without excuse; they can never suit or satisfy God.

Then the apostle introduces the ground, certainty, and character of God's judgment (verses 4-16). He "will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first and also of the Gentile."

It is not here a question of how a man is to be saved, but of God's indispensable moral judgment, which the gospel, instead of weakening asserts according to the holiness and truth of God. It will be observed therefore, that in this connection the apostle shows the place both of conscience and of the law, that God in judging will take into full consideration the circumstances and condition of every soul of man. At the same time he connects, in a singularly interesting manner, this disclosure of the principles of the eternal judgment of God with what he calls "my gospel." This also is a most important truth, my brethren, to bear in mind. The gospel at its height in no wise weakens but maintains the moral manifestation of what God is. The legal institutions were associated with temporal judgment. The gospel, as now revealed in the New Testament, has linked with it, though not contained in it, the revelation of divine wrath from heaven, and this, you will observe, according to Paul's gospel. It is evident, therefore, that dispensational position will not suffice for God, who holds to His own unchangeable estimate of good and evil, and who judges the more stringently according to the measure of advantage possessed.

But thus the way is now clear for bringing the Jew into the discussion. "But if [for so it should be read] thou art named a Jew," etc. (ver. 17.) It was not merely, that he had better light. He had this, of course, in a revelation that was from God; he had law; he had prophets; he had divine institutions. It was not merely better light in the conscience, which might be elsewhere, as is supposed in the early verses of our chapter; but the Jew's position was directly and unquestionably one of divine tests applied to man's estate. Alas! the Jew was none the better for this, unless there were the submission of his conscience to God. Increase of privileges can never avail without the soul's self-judgment before the mercy of God. Rather does it add to his guilt: such is man's evil state and will. Accordingly, in the end of the chapter, he shows that this is most true as applied to the moral judgment of the Jew; that uone so much dishonoured God as wicked Jews, their own Scripture attesting it; that position went for nothing in such, while the lack of it would not annul the Gentile's righteousness, which would indeed condemn the more unfaithful Israel; in short, that one must be a Jew inwardly to avail, and circumcision be of the heart, in spirit, not in letter, whose praise is of God, and not of men.

The question then is raised in the beginning ofRomans 3:1-31; Romans 3:1-31, If this be so, what is the superiority of the Jew? Where lies the value of belonging to the circumcised people of God? The apostle allows this privilege to be great, specially in having the Scriptures, but turns the argument against the boasters. We need not here enter into the details; but on the surface we see how the apostle brings all down to that which is of the deepest interest to every soul. He deals with the Jew from his own Scripture (verses 9-19). Did the Jews take the ground of exclusively having that word of God the law? Granted that it is so, at once and fully. To whom, then, did the law address itself? To those that were under it, to be sure. It pronounced on the Jew then. It was the boast of the Jews that the law spoke about them; that the Gentiles had no right to it, and were but presuming on what belonged to God's chosen people. The apostle applies this according to divine wisdom. Then your principle is your condemnation. What the law says, it speaks to those under it. What, then, is its voice? That there is none righteous, none that doeth good, none that understandeth. Of whom does it declare all this? Of the Jew by his own confession. Every mouth was stopped; the Jew by his own oracles, as the Gentile by their evident abominations, shown already. All the world was guilty before God.

Thus, having shown the Gentile in Romans 1:1-32 manifestly wrong, and hopelessly degraded to the last degree having laid bare the moral dilettantism of the philosophers, not one whit better in the sight of God, but rather the reverse having shown the Jew overwhelmed by the condemnation of the divine oracles in which he chiefly boasted, without real righteousness, and so much the more guilty for his special privileges, all now lies clear for bringing in the proper Christian message, the. gospel of God. "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets" (verses 20, 21).

Here, again, the apostle takes up what he had but announced in chapter 1 the righteousness of God. Let me call your attention again to its force. It is not the mercy of God., Many have contended that so it is, and to their own great loss, as well as to the weakening of the word of God. "Righteousness" never means mercy, not even the "righteousness of God." The meaning is not what was executed on Christ, but what is in virtue. of it. Undoubtedly divine judgment fell on Him; but this is not "the righteousness of God," as the apostle employs it in any part of his writings any more than here, though we know there could be no such thing as God's righteousness justifying the believer, if Christ had not borne the judgment of God. The expression means that righteousness which God can afford to display because of Christ's atonement. In short, it is what the words say "the righteousness of God," and this "by faith of Jesus Christ."

Hence it is wholly apart from the law, whilst witnessed to by the law and prophets; for the law with its types had looked onward to this new kind of righteousness; and the prophets had borne their testimony that it was at hand, but not then come. Now it was manifested, and not promised or predicted merely. Jesus had come and died; Jesus had been a propitiatory sacrifice; Jesus had borne the judgment of God because of the sins He bore. The righteousness of God, then, could now go forth in virtue of His blood. God was not satisfied alone. There is satisfaction; but the work of Christ goes a great deal farther. Therein God is both vindicated and glorified. By the cross God has a deeper moral glory than ever a glory that He thus acquired, if I may so say. He is, of course, the same absolutely perfect and unchangeable God of goodness; but His perfection has displayed itself in new and more glorious ways in Christ's death, in Him who humbled Himself, and was obedient even to the death of the cross.

God, therefore, having not the least hindrance to the manifestation of what He can be and is in merciful intervention on behalf of the worst of sinners, manifests it is His righteousness "by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (ver. 22). The former is the direction, and the latter the application. The direction is "unto all;" the application is, of course, only to "them that believe;" but it is to all them that believe. As far as persons are concerned, there is no hindrance; Jew or Gentile makes no difference, as is expressly said, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the [passing over or praeter-mission, not] remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (verses 23-26). There is no simple mind that can evade the plain force of this last expression. The righteousness of God means that God is just, while at the same time He justifies the believer in Christ Jesus. It is His righteousness, or, in other words, His perfect consistency with Himself, which is always involved in the notion of righteousness. He is consistent with Himself when He is justifying sinners, or, more strictly, all those who believe in Jesus. He can meet the sinner, but He justifies the believer; and in this, instead of trenching on His glory, there is a deeper revelation and maintenance of it than if there never had been sin or a sinner.

Horribly offensive as sin is to God, and inexcusable in the creature, it is sin which has given occasion to the astonishing display of divine righteousness in justifying believers. It is not a question of His mercy merely; for this weakens the truth immensely, and perverts its character wholly. The righteousness of God flows from His mercy, of course; but its character and basis is righteousness. Christ's work of redemption deserves that God should act as He does in the gospel. Observe again, it is not victory here; for that would give place to human pride. It is not a soul's overcoming its difficulties, but a sinner's submission to the righteousness of God. It is God Himself who, infinitely glorified in the Lord that expiated our sins by His one sacrifice, remits them now, not looking for our victory, nor as yet even in leading us on to victory, but by faith in Jesus and His blood. God is proved thus divinely consistent with Himself in Christ Jesus, whom He has set forth a mercy-seat through faith in His blood.

Accordingly the apostle says that boast and works are completely set aside by this principle which affirms faith, apart from deeds of law, to be the means of relationship with God (verses 27, 28). Consequently the door is as open to the Gentile as to the Jew. The ground taken by a Jew for supposing God exclusively for Israel was, that they had the law, which was the measure of what God claimed from man; and this the Gentile had not. But such thoughts altogether vanish now, because, as the Gentile was unquestionably wicked and abominable, so from the law's express denunciation the Jew was universally guilty before God. Consequently all turned, not on what man should be for God, but what God can be and is, as revealed in the gospel, to man. This maintains both the glory and the moral universality of Him who will justify the circumcision by faith, not law, and the uncircumcision through their faith, if they believe the gospel. Nor does this in the slightest degree weaken the principle of law. On the contrary, the doctrine of faith establishes law as nothing else can; and for this simple reason, that if one who is guilty hopes to be saved spite of the broken law, it must be at the expense of the law that condemns his guilt; whereas the gospel shows no sparing of sin, but the most complete condemnation of it all, as charged on Him who shed His blood in atonement. The doctrine of faith therefore, which reposes on the cross, establishes law, instead of making it void, as every other principle must (verses 27-31).

But this is not the full extent of salvation. Accordingly we do not hear of salvation as such in Romans 3:1-31. There is laid down the most essential of all truths as a groundwork of salvation; namely, expiation. There is the vindication of God in His ways with the Old Testament believers. Their sins had been passed by. He could not have remitted heretofore. This would not have been just. And the blessedness of the gospel is, that it is (not merely an exercise of mercy, but also) divinely just. It would not have been righteous in any sense to have remitted the sins, until they were actually borne by One who could and did suffer for them. But now they were; and thus God vindicated Himself perfectly as to the past. But this great work of Christ was not and could not be a mere vindication of God; and we may find it otherwise developed in various parts of Scripture, which I here mention by the way to show the point at which we are arrived. God's righteousness was now manifested as to the past sins He had not brought into judgment through His forbearance, and yet more conspicuously in the present time, when He displayed His justice in justifying the believer.

But this is not all; and the objection of the Jew gives occasion for the apostle to bring out a fuller display of what God is. Did they fall back on Abraham? "What shall we then say that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." Did the Jew fancy that the gospel makes very light of Abraham, and of the then dealings of God? Not so, says the apostle. Abraham is the proof of the value of faith in justification before God. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. There was no law there or then; for Abraham died long before God spoke from Sinai. He believed God and His word, with special approval on God's part; and his faith was counted as righteousness (ver. 3). And this was powerfully corroborated by the testimony of another great name in Israel (David), in Psalms 32:1-11. "For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye."

In the same way the apostle disposes of all pretence on the score of ordinances, especially circumcision. Not only was Abraham justified without law, but apart from that great sign of mortification of the flesh. Although circumcision began with Abraham, manifestly it had nothing to do with his righteousness, and at best was but the seal of the righteousness of faith which he had in an uncircumcised state. It could not therefore be the source or means of his righteousness. All then that believe, though uncircumcised, might claim him as father, assured that righteousness will be reckoned to them too. And he is father of circumcision in the best sense, not to Jews, but to believing Gentiles. Thus the discussion of Abraham strengthens the case in behalf of the uncircumcised who believe, to the overthrow of the greatest boast of the Jew. The appeal to their own inspired account of Abraham turned into a proof of the consistency of God's ways in justifying by faith, and hence in justifying the uncircumcised no less than the circumcision.

But there is more than this in Romans 4:1-25 He takes up a third feature of Abraham's case; that is, the connection of the promise with resurrection. Here it is not merely the negation of law and of circumcision, but we have the positive side. Law works wrath because it provokes transgression; grace makes the promise sure to all the seed, not only because faith is open to the Gentile and Jew alike, but because God is looked to as a quickener of the dead. What gives glory to God like this? Abraham believed God when, according to nature, it was impossible for him or for Sarah to have a child. The quickening power of God therefore was here set forth, of course historically in a way connected with this life and a posterity on earth, but nevertheless a very just and true sign of God's power for the believer the quickening energy of God after a still more blessed sort. And this leads us to see not only where there was an analogy with those who believe in a promised Saviour, but also to a weighty difference. And this lies in the fact that Abraham believed God before he had the son, being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able to perform. and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. But we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. It is done. already. It is not here believing on Jesus, but on God who has proved what He is to us in raisin, from among the dead Him who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification (verses 13-25).

This brings out a most emphatic truth and special side of Christianity. Christianity is not a system of promise, but rather of promise accomplished in Christ. Hence it is essentially founded on the gift not only of a Saviour who would interpose, in the mercy of God, to bear our sins, but of One who is already revealed, and the work done and accepted, and this known in the fact that God Himself has interposed to raise Him from among the dead a bright and momentous thing to press on souls, as indeed we find the apostles insisting on it throughout the Acts. Were it merely Romans 3:1-31 there could not be full peace with God as there is. One might know a most real clinging to Jesus; but this would not set the heart at ease with God. The soul may feel the blood of Jesus to be a yet deeper want; but this alone does not give peace with God. In such a condition what has been found in Jesus is too often misused to make a kind of difference, so to speak, between the Saviour on the one hand, and God on the other ruinous always to the enjoyment of the full blessing of the gospel. Now there is no way in which God could lay a basis for peace with Himself more blessed than as He has done it. No longer does the question exist of requiring an expiation. That is the first necessity for the sinner with God. But we have had it fully in Romans 3:1-31. Now it is the positive power of God in raising up from the dead Him that was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justifying. The whole work is done.

The soul therefore now is represented for the first time as already justified and in possession of peace with God. This is a state of mind, and not the necessary or immediate fruit of Romans 3:1-31, but is based on the truth of Romans 4:1-25 as well as 3. There never can be solid peace with God without both. A soul may as truly, no doubt, be put into relationship with God be made very happy, it may be; but it is not what Scripture calls "peace with God." Therefore it is here for the first time that we find salvation spoken of in the grand results that are now brought before us in Romans 5:1-11. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." There is entrance into favour, and nothing but favour. The believer is not put under law, you will observe, but under grace, which is the precise reverse of law. The soul is brought into peace with God, as it finds its standing in the grace of God, and, more than that, rejoices in hope of the glory of God. Such is the doctrine and the fact. It is not merely a call then; but as we have by our Lord Jesus Christ our access into the favour wherein we stand, so there is positive boasting in the hope of the glory of God. For it may have been noticed from chapter 3 to chapter 5, that nothing but fitness for the glory of God will do now. It is not a question of creature-standing. This passed away with man when he sinned. Now that God has revealed Himself in the gospel, it is not what will suit man on earth, but what is worthy of the presence of the glory of God. Nevertheless the apostle does not expressly mention heaven here. This was not suitable to the character of the epistle; but the glory of God he does. We all know where it is and must be for the Christian.

The consequences are thus pursued; first, the general place of the believer now, in all respects, in relation to the past, the present, and the future. His pathway follows; and he shows that the very troubles of the road become a distinct matter of boast. This was not a direct and intrinsic effect, of course, but the result of spiritual dealing for the soul. It was the Lord giving us the profit of sorrow, and ourselves bowing to the way and end of God in it, so that the result of tribulation should be rich and fruitful experience.

Then there is another and crowning part of the blessing: "And not only so, but also boasting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation." It is not only a blessing in its own direct character, or in indirect though real effects, but the Giver Himself is our joy, and boast, and glory. The consequences spiritually are blessed to the soul; how much more is it to Teach the source from which all flows! This, accordingly, is the essential spring of worship. The fruits of it are not expanded here; but, in point of fact, to joy in God is necessarily that which makes praise and adoration to be the simple and spontaneous exercise of the heart. In heaven it will fill us perfectly; but there is no more perfect joy there, nor anything. higher, if so high, in this epistle.

At this point we enter upon a most important part of the epistle, on which we must dwell for a little. It is no longer a question of man's guilt, but of his nature. Hence the apostle does not, as in the early chapters of this epistle, take up our sins, except as proofs and symptoms of sin. Accordingly, for the first time, the Spirit of God fromRomans 5:12; Romans 5:12 traces the mature of man to the head of the race. This brings in the contrast with the other Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we have here not as One bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, but as the spring and chief of a new family. Hence, as is shown later in the chapter, Adam is a head characterized by disobedience, who brought in death, the just penalty of sin; as on the other hand we have Him of whom he was the type, Christ, the obedient man, who has brought in righteousness, and this after a singularly blessed sort and style "justification of life." Of it nothing has been heard till now. We have had justification, both by blood and also in virtue of Christ's resurrection. But "justification of life" goes farther, though involved in the latter, than the end of Romans 4:1-25; for now we learn that in the gospel there is not only a dealing with the guilt of those that are addressed in it; there is also a mighty work of God in the presenting the man in a new place before God, and in fact, too, for his faith, clearing him from all the consequences in which he finds himself as a man in the flesh here below.

It is here that you will find a great failure of Christendom as to this. Not that any part of the truth has escaped: it is the fatal brand of that "great house" that even the most elementary truth suffers the deepest injury; but as to this truth, it seems unknown altogether. I hope that brethren in Christ will bear with me if I press on them the importance of taking good heed to it that their souls are thoroughly grounded in this, the proper place of the Christian by Christ's death and resurrection. It must not be, assumed too readily. There is a disposition continually to imagine that what is frequently spoken of must be understood; but experience will soon show that this is not the case. Even those that seek a place of separation to the Lord outside that which is now hurrying on souls to destruction are, nevertheless, deeply affected by the condition of that Christendom in which we find ourselves.

Here, then, it is not a question at all of pardon or remission. First of all the apostle points out that death has come in, and that this was no consequence of law, but before it. Sin was in the world between Adam and Moses, when the law was not. This clearly takes in man, it will be observed; and this is his grand point now. The contrast of Christ with Adam takes in man universally as well as the Christian; and man in sin, alas! was true, accordingly, before the law, right through the law, and ever since the law. The apostle is therefore plainly in presence of the broadest possible grounds of comparison, though we shall find more too.

But the Jew might argue that it was an unjust thing in principle this gospel, these tidings of which the apostle was so full; for why should one man affect many, yea, all? "Not so," replies the apostle. Why should this be so strange and incredible to you? for on your own showing, according to that word to which we all bow, you must admit that one man's sin brought in universal moral ruin and death. Proud as you may be of that which distinguishes you, it is hard to make sin and death peculiar to you, nor can you connect them even with the law particularly: the race of man is in question, and not Israel alone. There is nothing that proves this so convincingly as the book of Genesis; and the apostle, by the Spirit of God, calmly but triumphantly summons the Jewish Scriptures to demonstrate that which the Jews were so strenuously denying. Their own Scriptures maintained, as nothing else could, that all the wretchedness which is now found in the world, and the condemnation which hangs over the race, is the fruit of one man, and indeed of one act.

Now, if it was righteous in God (and who will gainsay it?) to deal with the whole posterity of Adam as involved in death because of one, their common father, who could deny the consistency of one man's saving? who would defraud God of that which He delights in the blessedness of bringing in deliverance by that One man, of whom Adam was the image? Accordingly, then, he confronts the unquestionable truth, admitted by every Israelite, of the universal havoc by one man everywhere with the One man who has brought in (not pardon only, but, as we shall find) eternal life and liberty liberty now in the free gift of life, but a liberty that will never cease for the soul's enjoyment until it has embraced the very body that still groans, and this because of the Holy Ghost who dwells in it.

Here, then, it is a comparison of the two great heads Adam and Christ, and the immeasurable superiority of the second man is shown. That is, it is not merely pardon of past sins, but deliverance from sin, and in due time from all its consequences. The apostle has come now to the nature. This is the essential point. It is the thing which troubles a renewed conscientious soul above all, because of his surprise at finding the deep evil of the flesh and its mind after having proved the great grace of God in the gift of Christ. If I am thus pitied of God, if so truly and completely a justified man, if I am really an object of God's eternal favour, how can I have such a sense of continual evil? why am I still under bondage and misery from the constant evil of my nature, over which I seem to have no power whatever? Has God then no delivering power from this? The answer is found in this portion of our epistle (that is, from the middle of chapter 5).

Having shown first, then, the sources and the character of the blessing in general as far as regards deliverance, the apostle sums up the result in the end of the chapter: "That as sin hath reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life," the point being justification of life now through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is applied in the two chapters that follow. There are two things that might make insuperable difficulty: the one is the obstacle of sin in the nature to practical holiness; the other is the provocation and condemnation of the law. Now the doctrine which we saw asserted in the latter part ofRomans 5:1-21; Romans 5:1-21 is applied to both. First, as to practical holiness, it is not merely that Christ has died for my sins, but that even in the initiatory act of baptism the truth set forth there is that I am dead. It is not, as in Ephesians 2:1-22, dead in sins, which would be nothing to the purpose. This is all perfectly true true of a Jew as of a pagan true of any unrenewed man that never heard of a Saviour. But what is testified by Christian baptism is Christ's death. "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized unto Jesus Christ were baptized unto his death?" Thereby is identification with His death. "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." The man who, being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, or Christian baptism, would assert any license to sin because it is in his nature, as if it were therefore an inevitable necessity, denies the real and evident meaning of his baptism. That act denoted not even the washing away of our sins by the blood of Jesus, which would not apply to the case, nor in any adequate way meet the question of nature. What baptism sets forth is more than that, and is justly found, not in Romans 3:1-31, but inRomans 6:1-23; Romans 6:1-23. There is no inconsistency in Ananias's word to the apostle Paul "wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." There is water as well as blood, and to that, not to this, the washing here refers. But there is more, which Paul afterwards insisted on. That was said to Paul, rather than what was taught by Paul. What the apostle had given him in fulness was the great truth, however fundamental it may be, that I am entitled, and even called on in the name of the Lord Jesus, to know that I am dead to sin; not that I must die, but that I am dead that my baptism means nothing less than this, and is shorn of its most emphatic point if limited merely to Christ's dying for my sins. It is not so alone; but in His death, unto which I am baptized, I am dead to sin. And "how shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" Hence, then, we find that the whole chapter is founded on this truth. "Shall we sin," says he, proceeding yet farther (ver. 15), "because we are not under the law, but under grace?" This were indeed to deny the value of His death, and of that newness of life we have in Him risen, and a return to bondage of the worst description.

In Romans 7:1-25 we have the subject of the law discussed for practice as well as in principle, and there again meet with the same weapon of tried and unfailing temper. It is no longer blood, but death Christ's death and resurrection. The figure of the relationship of husband and wife is introduced in order to make the matter plain. Death, and nothing short of it, rightly dissolves the bond. We accordingly are dead, says he, to the law; not (as no doubt almost all of us know) that the law dies, but that we are dead to the law in the death of Christ. Compare verse 6 (where the margin, not the text, is substantially correct) with verse 4. Such is the principle. The rest of the chapter (7-25) is an instructive episode, in which the impotence and the misery of the renewed mind which attempts practice under law are fully argued out, till deliverance (not pardon) is found in Christ.

Thus the latter portion of the chapter is not doctrine exactly, but the proof of the difficulties of a soul who has not realised death to the law by the body of Christ. Did this seem to treat the law that condemned as an evil thing? Not so, says the apostle; it is because of the evil of the nature, not of the law. The law never delivers; it condemns and kills us. It was meant to make sin exceeding sinful. Hence, what he is here discussing is not remission of sins, but deliverance from sin. No wonder, if souls confound the two things together, that they never know deliverance in practice. Conscious deliverance, to be solid according to God, must be in the line of His truth. In vain will you preach Romans 3:1-31, or even 4 alone, for souls to know themselves consciously and holily set free.

From verse 14 there is an advance. There we find Christian knowledge as to the matter introduced; but still it is the knowledge of one who is not in this state pronouncing on one who is. You must carefully guard against the notion of its being a question of Paul's own experience, because he says, "I had not known," "I was alive," etc. There is no good reason for such an assumption, but much against it. It might be more or less any man's lot to learn. It is not meant that Paul knew nothing of this; but that the ground of inference, and the general theory built up, are alike mistaken. We have Paul informing us that he transfers sometimes in a figure to himself that which was in no wise necessarily his own experience, and perhaps had not been so at any time. But this may be comparatively a light question. The great point is to note the true picture given us of a soul quickened, but labouring and miserable under law, not at all consciously delivered. The last verses of the chapter, however, bring in the deliverance not yet the fulness of it, but the hinge, so to speak. The discovery is made that the source of the internal misery was that the mind, though renewed, was occupied with the law as a means of dealing with, flesh. Hence the very fact of being renewed makes one sensible of a far more intense misery than ever, while there is no power until the soul looks right outside self to Him who is dead and risen, who has anticipated the difficulty, and alone gives the full answer to all wants.

Romans 8:1-39 displays this comforting truth in its fulness. From the first verse we have the application of the dead and risen Christ to the soul, till in verse 11 we see the power of the Holy Ghost, which brings the soul into this liberty now, applied by-and-by to the body, when there will be the complete deliverance. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." A wondrous way, but most blessed! And there (for such was the point) it was the complete condemnation of this evil thing, the nature in its present state, so as, nevertheless, to set the believer as before God's judgment free from itself as well as its consequences. This God has wrought in Christ. It is not in any degree settled as to itself by His blood. The shedding of His blood was absolutely necessary: without that precious expiation all else had been vain and impossible. But there is much more in Christ than that to which too many souls restrict themselves, not less to their own loss than to His dishonour. God has condemned the flesh. And here it may be repeated that it is no question of pardoning the sinner, but of condemning the fallen nature; and this so as to give the soul both power and a righteous immunity from all internal anguish about it. For the truth is that God has in Christ condemned sin, and this for sin definitely; so that He has nothing more to do in condemnation of that root of evil. What a title, then, God gives me now in beholding Christ, no longer dead but risen, to have it settled before my soul that I am in Him as He now is, where all questions are closed in peace and joy! For what remains unsolved by and in Christ? Once it was far otherwise. Before the cross there hung out the gravest question that ever was raised, and it needed settlement in this world; but in Christ sin is for ever abolished for the believer; and this not only in respect of what He has done, but in what He is. Till the cross, well might a converted soul be found groaning in misery at each fresh discovery of evil in himself. But now to faith all this is gone not lightly, but truly in the sight of God; so that he may live on a Saviour that is risen from the dead as his new life.

Accordingly Romans 8:1-39 pursues in the most practical manner the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. First of all, the groundwork of it is laid in the first four verses, the last of them leading into every-day walk. And it is well for those ignorant of it to know that here, in verse 4, the apostle speaks first of "walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The latter clause in the first verse of the authorised version mars the sense. In the fourth verse this could not be absent; in the first verse it ought not to be present. Thus the deliverance is not merely for the joy of the soul, but also for strength in our walking after the Spirit, who has given and found a nature in which He delights, communicating withal His own delight in Christ, and making obedience to be the joyful service of the believer. The believer, therefore, unwittingly though really, dishonours the Saviour, if he be content to walk short of this standard and power; he is entitled and called to walk according to his place, and in the confidence of his deliverance in Christ Jesus before God.

Then the domains of flesh and Spirit are brought before us: the one characterized by sin and death practically now; the other by life, righteousness, and peace, which is, as we saw, to be crowned finally by the resurrection of these bodies of ours. The Holy Ghost, who now gives the soul its consciousness of deliverance from its place in Christ, is also the witness that the body too, the mortal body, shall be delivered in its time. "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by [or because of] his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

Next, he enters upon another branch of the truth the Spirit not as a condition contrasted with flesh (these two, as we know, being always contrasted in Scripture), but as a power, a divine person that dwells in and bears His witness to the believer. His witness to our spirit is this, that we are children of God. But if children, we are His heirs. This accordingly leads, as connected with the deliverance of the body, to the inheritance we are to possess. The extent is what God Himself, so to speak, possesses the universe of God, whatever will be under Christ: and what will not? As He has made all, so He is heir of all. We are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.

Hence the action of the Spirit of God in a double point of view comes before us. As He is the spring of our joy, He is the power of sympathy in our sorrows, and the believer knows both. The faith of Christ has brought divine joy into his soul; but, in point of fact, he is traversing a world of infirmity, suffering, and grief. Wonderful to think the Spirit of God associates Himself with us in it all, deigning to give us divine feelings even in our poor and narrow hearts. This occupies the central part of the chapter, which then closes with the unfailing and faithful power of God for us in all our experiences here below. As He has given us through the blood of Jesus full remission, as we shall be saved by this life, as He has made us know even now nothing short of present conscious deliverance from every whit of evil that belongs to our very nature, as we have the Spirit the earnest of the glory to which we are destined, as we are the vessels of gracious sorrow in the midst of that from which we are not yet delivered but shall be, so now we have the certainty that, whatever betide, God is for us, and that nothing shall separate us from His love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Then, in Romans 9:1-33; Romans 10:1-21; Romans 11:1-36, the apostle handles a difficulty serious to any mind, especially to the Jew, who might readily feel that all this display of grace in Christ to the Gentile as much as to the Jew by the gospel seems to make very cheap the distinctive place of Israel as given of God. If the good news of God goes out to man, entirely blotting out the difference between a Jew and a Gentile, what becomes of His special promises to Abraham and to his seed? What about His word passed and sworn to the fathers? The apostle shows them with astonishing force at the starting-point that he was far from slighting their privileges. He lays down such a summary as no Jew ever gave since they were a nation. He brings out the peculiar glories of Israel according to the depth of the gospel as he knew and preached it; at least, of His person who is the object of faith now revealed. Far from denying or obscuring what they boasted of, he goes beyond them "Who are Israelites," says he, "to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all God blessed for ever." Here was the very truth that every Jew, as such, denied. What blindness! Their crowning glory was precisely what they would not hear of. What glory so rich as that of the Christ Himself duly appreciated? He was God over all blessed for ever, as well as their Messiah. Him who came in humiliation, according to their prophets, they might despise; but it was vain to deny that the same prophets bore witness to His divine glory. He was Emmanuel, yea, the Jehovah, God of Israel. Thus then, if Paul gave his own sense of Jewish privileges, there was no unbelieving Jew that rose up to his estimate of them.

But now, to meet the question that was raised, they pleaded the distinguishing promises to Israel. Upon what ground? Because they were sons of Abraham. But how, argues he, could this stand, seeing that Abraham had another son, just as much his child as Isaac? What did they say to Ishmaelites as joint-heirs? They would not hear of it. No, they cry, it is in Isaac's seed that the Jew was called. Yes, but this is another principle. If in Isaac only, it is a question of the seed, not that was born, but that was called. Consequently the call of God, and not the birth simply makes the real difference. Did they venture to plead that it must be not only the same father, but the same mother? The answer is, that this will not do one whit better; for when we come down to the next generation, it is apparent that the two sons of Isaac were sons of the same mother; nay, they were twins. What could be conceived closer or more even than this? Surely if equal birth-tie could ensure community of blessing if a charter from God depended on being sprung from the same father and mother, there was no case so strong, no claim so evident, as that of Esau to take the same rights as Jacob. Why would they not allow such a pretension? Was it not sure and evident that Israel could not take the promise on the ground of mere connection after the flesh? Birthright from the same father would let in Ishmael on the one hand, as from both parents it would secure the title of Esau on the other. Clearly, then, such ground is untenable. In point of fact, as he had hinted before, their true tenure was the call of God, who was free, if He pleased, to bring in other people. It became simply a question whether, in fact, God did call Gentiles, or whether He had revealed such intentions.

But he meets their proud exclusiveness in another way. He shows that, on the responsible ground of being His nation, they were wholly ruined. If the first book in the Bible showed that it was only the call of God that made Israel what they were, its second book as clearly proved that all was over with the called people, had it not been for the mercy of God. They set up the golden calf, and thus cast off the true God, their God, even in the desert. Did the call of God. then, go out to Gentiles? Has He mercy only for guilty Israel? Is there no call, no mercy, of God for any besides?

Hereupon he enters upon the direct proofs, and first cites Hosea as a witness. That early prophet tells Israel, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, and Lo-ammi were of awful import for Israel; but, in presence of circumstances so disastrous, there should be not merely a people but sons of the living God, and then should Judah and Israel be gathered as one people under one head. The application of this was more evident to the Gentile than to the Jew. Compare Peter's use in1 Peter 2:10; 1 Peter 2:10. Finally he brings in Isaiah, showing that, far from retaining their blessing as an unbroken people, a remnant alone would be saved. Thus one could not fail to see these two weighty inferences: the bringing in to be God's sons of those that had not been His people, and the judgment and destruction of the great mass of His undoubted people. Of these only a remnant would be saved. On both sides therefore the apostle is meeting the grand points he had at heart to demonstrate from their own Scriptures.

For all this, as he presses further, there was the weightiest reason possible. God is gracious, but holy; He is faithful, but righteous. The apostle refers to Isaiah to show that God would "lay in Zion a stumbling-stone." It is in Zion that He lays it. It is not among the Gentiles, but in the honoured centre of the polity of Israel. There would be found a stumblingstone there. What was to be the stumbling-stone? Of course, it could hardly be the law: that was the boast of Israel. What was it? There could be but one satisfactory answer. The stumbling-stone was their despised and rejected Messiah. This was the key to their difficulties this alone, and fully explains their coming ruin as well as God's solemn warnings.

In the next chapter (Romans 10:1-21) he carries on the subject, showing in the most touching manner his affection for the people. He at the same time unfolds the essential difference between the righteousness of faith and that of law. He takes their own books, and proves from one of them (Deuteronomy) that in the ruin of Israel the resource is not going into the depths, nor going up to heaven. Christ indeed did both; and so the word was nigh them, in their mouth and in their heart. It is not doing, but believing; therefore it is what is proclaimed to them, and what they receive and believe. Along with this he gathers testimonies from more than one prophet. He quotes from Joel, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. He quotes also from Isaiah "Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed." And mark the force of it whosoever." The believer, whosoever he might be, should not be ashamed. Was it possible to limit this to Israel? But more than this "Whosoever shall call." There. is the double prophecy. Whosoever believed should not be ashamed; whosoever called should be saved. In both parts, as it may be observed, the door is opened to the Gentile.

But then again he intimates that the nature of the gospel is involved in the publishing of the glad tidings. It is not God having an earthly centre, and the peoples doming up to worship the Lord in Jerusalem. It is the going forth of His richest blessing. And where? How far? To the limits of the holy land? Far beyond. Psalms 19:1-14 is used in the most beautiful manner to insinuate that the limits are the world. Just as the sun in the heavens is not for one people or land alone, no more is the gospel. There is no language where their voice is not heard. "Yea verily, their sound went forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." The gospel goes forth universally. Jewish pretensions were therefore disposed of; not here by new and fuller revelations, but by this divinely skilful employment of their own Old Testament Scriptures.

Finally he comes to two other witnesses; as from the Psalms, so now from the law and the prophets. The first is Moses himself. Moses saith, "I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people," etc. How could the Jews say that this meant themselves? On the contrary, it was the Jew provoked by the Gentiles "By them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you." Did they deny that they were a foolish nation? Be it so then; it was a foolish nation by which Moses declared they should be angered. But this does not content the apostle, or rather the Spirit of God; for he goes on to point out that Isaiah "is very bold" in a similar way; that is, there is no concealing the truth of the matter. Isaiah says: "I was found of them who sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me." The Jews were the last in the world to take such ground as this. It was undeniable that the Gentiles did not seek the Lord, nor ask after Him; and the prophet says that Jehovah was found of them that sought Him not, and was made manifest to them that asked not after Him. Nor is there only the manifest call of the Gentiles in this, but with no less clearness there is the rejection, at any rate for a time, of proud Israel. "But unto Israel he saith, All day long have I stretched out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people."

Thus the proof was complete. The Gentiles the despised heathen were to be brought in; the self-satisfied Jews are left behind, justly and beyond question, if they believed the law and the prophets.

But did this satisfy the apostle? It was undoubtedly enough for present purposes. The past history of Israel was sketched inRomans 9:1-33; Romans 9:1-33; the present more immediately is before us inRomans 10:1-21; Romans 10:1-21. The future must be brought in by the grace of God; and this he accordingly gives us at the close of Romans 11:1-36. First, he raises the question, "Has God cast away his people?" Let it not be! Was he not himself, says Paul, a proof to the contrary? Then he enlarges, and points out that there is a remnant of grace in the worst of times. If God had absolutely cast away His people, would there be such mercy? There would be no remnant if justice took its course. The remnant proves, then, that even under judgment the rejection of Israel is not complete, but rather a pledge of future favour. This is the first ground.

The second plea is not that the rejection of Israel is only partial, however extensive, but that it is also temporary, and not definitive. This is to fall back on a principle he had already used. God was rather provoking Israel to jealousy by the call of the Gentiles. But if it were so, He had not done with them. Thus the first argument shows that the rejection was not total; the second, that it was but for a season.

But there is a third. Following up with the teaching of the olive-tree, he carries out the same thought of a remnant that abides on their own stock, and points to a re-instatement of the nation, And I would just observe by the way, that the Gentile cry that no Jew ever accepts the gospel in truth is a falsehood. Israel is indeed the only people of whom there is always a portion that believe. Time was when none of the English, nor French, nor of any other nation believed in the Saviour. There never was an hour since Israel's existence as a nation that God has not had His remnant of them. Such has been their singular fruit of promise; such even in the midst of all their misery it is at present. And as that little remnant is ever sustained by the grace of God, it is the standing pledge of their final blessedness through His mercy, whereon the apostle breaks out into raptures of thanksgiving to God. The day hastens when the Redeemer shall come to Zion. He shall come, says one Testament, out of Zion. He shall come to Zion, says the other. In both Old and New it is the same substantial testimony. Thither He shall come, and thence, go forth. He shall own that once glorious seat of royalty in Israel. Zion shall yet behold her mighty, divine, but once despised Deliverer; and when He thus comes, there will be a deliverance suited to His glory. All Israel shall be saved. God, therefore, had not cast off His people, but was employing the interval of their slip from their place, in consequence of their rejection of Christ, to call the Gentiles in sovereign mercy, after which Israel as a whole should be saved. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first liven to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever."

The rest of the epistle takes up the practical consequences of the great doctrine of God's righteousness, which had been now shown to be supported by, and in no wise inconsistent with, His promises to Israel. The whole history of Israel, past, present, and future falls in with, although quite distinct from, that which he had been expounding. Here I shall be very brief.

Romans 12:1-21 looks at the mutual duties of the saints. Romans 13:1-14; Romans 13:1-14 urges their duties towards what was outside them, more particularly to the powers that be, but also to men in general. Love is the great debt that we owe, which never can be paid, but which we should always be paying. The chapter closes with the day of the Lord in its practical force on the Christian walk. In Romans 14:1-23 and the beginning ofRomans 15:1-33; Romans 15:1-33 we have the delicate theme of Christian forbearance in its limits and largeness. The weak are not to judge the strong, and the strong are not to despise the weak. These things are matters of conscience, and depend much for their solution on the degree to which souls have attained. The subject terminates with the grand truth which must never be obscured by details that we are to receive, one another, as Christ has received us, to the glory of God. In the rest of chapter 15 the apostle dwells on the extent of his apostleship, renews his expression of the thought and hope of visiting Rome, and at the same time shows how well he remembered the need of the poor at Jerusalem. Romans 16:1-27; Romans 16:1-27 brings before us in the most. instructive and interesting manner the links that grace practically forms and maintains between the saints of God. Though he had never visited Rome, many of them were known personally. It is exquisite the delicate love with which he singles out distinctive features in each of the saints, men and women, that come before him. Would that the Lord would give us hearts to remember, as well as eyes to see, according to His own grace! Then follows a warning against those who bring in stumbling-blocks and offences. There is evil at work, and grace does not close the eye to danger; at the same time it is never under the pressure of the enemy, and there is the fullest confidence that the God of peace will break the power of Satan under the feet of the saints shortly.

Last of all, the apostle links up this fundamental treatise of divine righteousness in its doctrine, its dispensational bearings, and its exhortations to the walk of Christians, with higher truth, which it would not have been suitable then to bring out; for grace considers the state and the need of the saints. True ministry gives out not merely truth, but suited truth to the saints. At the same time the apostle does allude to that mystery which was not yet divulged at least, in this epistle; but he points from the foundations of eternal truth to those heavenly heights that were reserved for other communications in due time.

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Romans 2:15". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/romans-2.html. 1860-1890.