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?
Chapter two begins with certain conclusions
being drawn from what has been affirmed in chapter one. This is the significance
of the term "therefore," sometimes "wherefore." The affirmation of chapter
one was the condemnation of those who should have known better but persisted
in going their own way and living in ways rebellious to and alienated from
the moral truth God has always required of men under various systems. Chapter
one affirmed the tremendous need of salvation for these people. This had
special reference to the Gentile world. The Jewish world, though guilty
of sin in many ways and even the same ways, did have a knowledge of God
and were not given over to idolatry as were the Gentiles. The Jews had
received a written revelation from God and had more than the "things that
were made." The first chapter is speaking of the Gentile world, the degeneracy
of the Gentile world, and the need of salvation in the Gentile world.
In chapter two Paul begins by addressing some who took it upon themselves to condemn the evil described in chapter one. Condemnation of the evil of chapter one was proper and justified. But the ones who were doing the condemning were not the ones to do so since they were also guilty of the same things. One of the overall themes of the book of Romans is the condemnation of sin of all men whether Jew or Gentile, and that salvation is now offered to all whether Jew or Gentile. The Gentiles had received no written law from God and were the ones under consideration in chapter one. The people now being addressed (as seen in verse seventeen) were Jews who had received a written law and who had, in one sense, been God's chosen people for centuries prior to the Christian Age and the authority of the gospel. It seems the Jews considered themselves qualified to condemn the Gentile sins because they had in times past enjoyed a special relationship with God. But Paul shows how they did not have such a right because of their own transgressions. They, by condemning the Gentiles, were also condemning themselves as well because, as Paul said, "thou... doest the same things."
Of the two, Gentiles and Jews, one might feel disposed to reject the Jews here even more than the Gentiles even though both were worthy of rejection. The reason would be that the Jews had greater opportunity, having received this written code from God and had enjoyed a special association with God, whereas the Gentiles had no similar things. However, both knew better than to do as they had done. Neither had excuse for their sins.
Some have wrested and distorted this passage, along with Matthew 7:1-5, by suggesting no one should ever condemn anybody for anything inasmuch as no one is perfect. While it is correct that no man ought to attempt to "play God" and attempt to judge in those realms reserved for God, such as the heart and motive, but that man is to render no judgments regarding others is as false as could be (John 7:24). So often people want to do whatever they want to do, teach whatever they want to teach, even things that are contrary to the will of God, but take a portion of His will and twist it and misuse it to justify their error and forbid anybody from doing or saying anything against their error. It is sinful to so abuse and misuse Scripture. But such has been done and is being done, especially by those who would liberalize the will of the Lord to conform with the will of man. God knows the heart and shall judge the heart and actions. But man must make judgments also, even judgments regarding others (Matthew 7:20). His judgment must be made by comparing God's will with man's behavior. It is never wrong to recognize the judgments God has already made and revealed. It is improper to refuse to accept and obey the judgments God has made and revealed. For one to fail to commend what God commends or fail to condemn what God condemns is to stand in judgment of the will of God himself and in essence declare His will null and void (Romans 3:4).
The folly committed by the Jews that Paul condemned was not the mere fact of making judgments, but making judgments of condemnation against the very things of which they were guilty themselves. They were wrong as well as inconsistent. It might be simply stated, it was not judging Paul condemned, but sinning.
Paul asserts that man can be confident, very "sure," that God will judge things properly and He will measure with the standard of truth against those who lived as the Gentiles lived (as noted in chapter one) whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
In verse three Paul shows God will make proper judgment of those who are inconsistent as well. Paul explodes the idea many Jews held that they were still special in God's sight just because they were Jews. No longer was or is that the case. The way one lives and responds to the truth of the gospel of God is the standard to be considered by both Jews and Gentiles. Paul asks two questions. The question of verse three goes without specific answer as does the question in verse four because the answers are so obvious. They were asked to emphasize the obvious answers.
Actually the question asked in verse four drives home the same point as the question of verse three. The word translated "or" sometimes implies a contrast such as right or wrong, up or down. But at other times it suggests the idea of putting the same things another way. It is the last use here. Paul in essence is saying, "Do you think you can commit sin and get away with it? Or to put it another way, do you think you can take advantage of God's goodness, forbearance and longsuffering and go ahead and sin without God judging you?" He will judge you and condemn you just as much as those you think you have a right to condemn. Are you not aware that the great qualities of God that you think will allow you to get away with evil are the qualities God uses to lead you from your wickedness rather than indulge you in it?"
To "despise" means to hold in contempt. To hold a thing in contempt means to lack the proper respect. To take advantage, or even to attempt to take advantage, of a quality of God that is designed to produce salvation and turn that quality into an excuse for sinning or a basis for divine favoritism is the height of contempt.
The last phrase of verse four is much like the suggestion by Peter in Second Peter 3:9. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Indeed, God is longsuffering, but that longsuffering is not to be considered as toleration of sin or that God pays no attention to sin. The postponement of punishment might lead some to confuse the purpose of the longsuffering of God. God's longsuffering, His goodness and forbearance is to allow men greater opportunity to repent of their sins and be saved, and return God's love. It in no way is God's expression of permissiveness toward sin. So the Jews who would condemn the Gentiles should look to themselves because they stood in a similar condemnation because of their own sins.
Paul has now made two very significant points regarding God's relationship with men already in this epistle. (1) All men sin and need salvation and God offers salvation to both Jew and Gentile on the same terms. (2) God will judge both Jew and Gentile on the same terms. Both before the gospel and after the gospel, God will judge the Jew and Gentile on the same terms in one sense. This is not to say God will judge by the same law, because as we have noticed and mentioned quite adequately the Jew and Gentile lived under different systems before the gospel. This is to say that God will judge each one according to the law under which he lived. Therein exists the sameness. It further seems apparent that Paul has laid the groundwork to show the universality and equality of the commands, promises and judgments of the gospel, the system under which all men now live.
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.
Verse five refers again to what the Jews
had done and were doing to themselves. They had hardened their hearts.
They were not penitent for sins as they should have been. The inevitable
result was the wrath of God against them when God executes His judgment.
His judgment shall embrace the measuring of that which men have done. Here
we find a statement akin to Second Corinthians
5:10, "For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things
done in the body , according to that he hath done, whether it be good or
bad." The judgment seat of Christ is the same as God's judgment inasmuch
as God shall judge through Christ (Acts
17:31; Second Timothy
As far as those to be judged are concerned, there are two groups. The judgment rendered will be in two parts also according to the groups involved. For those who "by patient continuance in well doing," (and there is no better definition of faithfulness than this), who have sought for glory, honor and immortality, their reward will be eternal life. To those (verse ten) who "worketh good," their reward is glory, honor and peace. This is the first group mentioned. It matters not whether one be a Jew or Gentile, if he qualifies he receives the same reward. The same qualifications are applicable to both and the same rewards shall be given both.
But to those who have been contentious against the truth, refused to obey the truth, but obeyed unrighteousness, they shall receive the indignation and wrath of a just God. This is the second group. They shall suffer tribulation and anguish. Such shall be the lot of every soul of man that doeth evil and is not forgiven. Again, it matters not whether one be a Jew or a Gentile, God will deal with each man separately but alike. There will not be a respect of persons with God, especially because of race, but each shall be judged by the standard of righteousness and manner of life.
While all this might seem to be a lowering of the Jew, it really is not. It is rather God's way of placing all men on equal footing before Him regarding responsibility and reward. Whereas Gentiles had served differently from Jews before Christ, now all serve God through the gospel, God's plan of salvation. The great theme of the universality of Christianity, which is quite a contrast to the tribal, national, sectional religions of that day and this, is heavily stressed in the book of Romans.
It may be well to call the attention of the reader to the conversion of the household of Cornelius just here; the first Gentile recorded in the inspired book as a convert to Christ. In Acts ten you will recall that Peter, having learned this very lesson being emphasized in these Roman chapters, made almost precisely the same statement as recorded in verse eleven of chapter two of Romans. Acts 10:34,35, "Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." The universality of the gospel is the theme.
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 verse twelve Paul is guided to elaborate
further on the affirmation of verse eleven. He refers to that period of
time when the Jews and Gentiles had different relationships with God. The
Jews had a written law revealed by the Lord and given into Israel through
Moses. The Gentiles had no written law. This difference made it obvious
that they would not be judged except by the law under which they lived.
It is necessary to note that Paul assumes the reader accepts the fact that
both Jew and Gentile were guilty of sin and this he had proved. The Gentile
sinned without a written law and the Jew sinned with one. Regardless of
what kind of law they had, all had a law and all stood condemned of sin.
But some may say the text says some had no law at all. This is to take the teaching out of context as well as make the grave error of attempting to understand a thing even when such "understanding" makes the Scriptures contradict themselves. Paul infers both Jew and Gentile were under law of some kind; one with and one without a written law. Each shall be judged accordingly. Jew or Gentile will be judged by the law under which they lived and were accountable.
Notice further, John said, First John 3:4, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law for sin is the transgression of the law." This inspired definition of sin tells us it is a violation of law, obviously referring to God's law whether written or unwritten. It follows that if there was no law of any kind there could be no sin, for one cannot violate what does not exist. Yet, the Gentiles are accused of sin. We are not to suppose the Gentiles lived without any law whatever. The contrast under discussion is not between law versus no law, but different laws under which Jew and Gentile lived. Both sinned because both had violated the law applicable to them. Each would be so judged. This is leading to the point where Paul shows conclusively that both needed a Savior from sin.
To get the main sentence one must go from verse twelve to verse sixteen and return to the parenthetical phrase in verses thirteen through fifteen for a more complete explanation of the subject being discussed. So we go to verse sixteen from verse twelve. This judgment, noted in the earlier passages regarding Jews and Gentiles before Christ, would take place in the day when God shall judge even the secrets of men. Take note of the One by whom the judgment was to be administered. It would be accomplished by Jesus Christ. This is in complete harmony with other statements regarding Christ and the judgment. Acts 17:31, "Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead." This unquestionably refers to Christ. Second Timothy 4:1, "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom..." Both passages affirm Christ will be the actual administrator at the judgment.
We are not to understand that the gospel will be the standard of judgment for all men at the judgment day. This verse does not so teach, even though the gospel is the standard for all men since Pentecost. The phrase, "according to my gospel," refers to the fact that the gospel teaches Christ will be the One through whom Deity judges. But it does not teach that the gospel of Christ is the measure for men who lived before the gospel.
Returning now to verses thirteen through fifteen, having shown the Jews and Gentiles to be judged by Christ according to the law under which they lived, whether written or unwritten, Paul dispelled any idea that mere possession of a law like the Jews had made a significant difference. This is not to say the Jewish law was not of great advantage, as noted later. It is to say that what counted with God was whether one obeyed the law under which he lived; whether they were doers or merely hearers. Note the statement from James 1:22, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." This principle has been applicable in every age and in every system regardless of which law one considers. Obedience to the law of God has always been the determining factor in God's pleasure or displeasure with man. The doers are the ones who shall be justified.
When the Gentiles, without a written law, did "by nature" (according to the natural sense of propriety, according to the moral truth that had been given them, according to their repeated habit of conduct) what was found in the written law, they demonstrated there was a law which was in them. It also showed the law (the rule of right) for the Gentiles was not written like the law for the Jews, but was "written" in their hearts and consciences. Their own heart and conscience bore witness of right and wrong, accusing or excusing their behavior. The reason their heart and conscience could do this is because of training received according to the law revealed unto them.
The word "mean" (verse fifteen) refers to the standard by which they will be judged. The law written in their hearts is the law or standard by which they shall be judged.
We make a serious mistake if we conclude that the law by which the Gentiles lived before Christ shall be the standard simply because they themselves decided what was right and wrong. We must keep in mind Paul has already stated that God had showed them the truth (chapter one, verse nineteen). It was not a case of something being right or wrong simply because they had decided it was right or wrong. It was rather a case of something being right or wrong because God had showed it to them to be right or wrong. But inasmuch as the standard of right and wrong for the Gentile had not been committed to writing as with the Jews, the law was written in their hearts and that served as the "mean" for judgment.
Although we may agree that these words present some difficulty to fully comprehend and explain, some very obvious and unmistakable conclusions can and must be drawn:
All men have always lived subject to some law of God.
All men have been guilty of violating the law under which they lived.
All men shall be judged according to the law under which they lived.
Some lived under a written law like the law of Moses for the Jews while others lived under an unwritten law but a law " written" in their hearts. Both laws had been given by the Lord.
Whether one was a Jew or Gentile, all were accountable before God and shall be judged by the administrator of judgement, Jesus Christ, because the gospel says Christ shall be the judge.
Even though Jews and Gentiles formerly lived under different laws, now all are subject to the gospel, God's power to save.
17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
It is clear that the preceding and following
words are addressed to Jews, those who had been God's chosen people under
the law given through Moses. It seems also clear that there was much pride
on the part of the Jew because he was a Jew. He thought himself above and
beyond others because he was a Jew with a written law from God. His ancestors
had received promises from God. The Jew trusted in the law. Note the phrase
"resteth in the law," meaning he leaned on it simply because Jews had received
it. He was boastful of his physical ancestry. He "approvest," meaning he
had tested the things of the law, and there was no doubt but the things
of the written law excelled in many ways the things of the unwritten law
and it was considered far better. All of these things caused the Jew to
be confident even to the point of sinful pride. He looked on himself as
one capable of guiding others. He was the one who ought to have the say-so
in matters religious rather than a lowly Gentile who could not even produce
a written law nor had lived very closely to the one "written" on their
hearts. Whereas others were "foolish" in the sense of being untaught and
uninformed, he, a Jew, could instruct them. He was the teacher and had
the image of knowledge and truth. In all this, he was, in his own mind,
far superior to the Gentile who had been so scathingly rebuked in the first
chapter because of their transgressions. Considering the historical facts,
one might say the Jew may well have been able to guide others and be their
teacher if they had not been so filled with pride and actually misunderstood
the nature of his being "special" with God.
But Paul turns the spotlight of investigation upon the Jew who considered himself so superior. The questions asked were obviously designed to show the inconsistency and inadequacy of such a person as the Jew for he taught one thing but practiced another.
Take note that the Jewish teaching was not condemned, but was correct. It is true one should not steal, commit adultery or be guilty of idolatry. The law was something for which the Jew could be grateful and proud. But to teach these things correctly then turn right around and commit the very things condemned was to produce blasphemy against God. Such is always the result of this kind of overt hypocrisy. Many times the behavior of the Israelite people had caused the name of God to be reproached among the Gentiles (Isaiah 52:5; Second Samuel 12:14; and other passages).
It is no less true under the gospel system of Christ. When Christians do that which is inconsistent with the doctrine of Christ it produces in the mind of the non-Christian a blasphemous attitude toward God (Titus 2:5).
In spite of having the law and a special relationship with God, the Jews stood in condemnation just like the Gentiles and in need of a Savior as much as the Gentiles. They stood condemned for their sins just like the Gentiles stood condemned for the sins they had committed. In a way, because the Jews had enjoyed a closer fellowship with God, their sins were a more serious breach by virtue of the influence they would have as God's people. Whereas the Gentiles had rejected God and the moral truth God had given them, and had turned to idols and the worst forms of degenerate human conduct, the Jews had claimed to have God but often did just as bad and brought reproach on the name of the Lord they claimed to serve.
25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Paul continues to show how both Jew and
Gentile need a Savior and how the special privilege the Jews formerly had
enjoyed really meant nothing anymore as far as being acceptable to God.
It never had meant as much as the Jews had attributed to it. In this series
of verses (twenty-six through twenty-seven) the terms "circumcision" and
"uncircumcision" have reference to Jews and Gentiles. In verses twenty-eight
and twenty-nine they refer to a relationship, or lack of one, with God.
Being a Jew was of profit if the Jew kept the law under which he lived. If he was a Jew and violated that law, the mere fact he was a Jew and had the law would not be sufficient to set aside his sins. He had just as soon not been a Jew if he was going to live like a sinful Gentile. On the other hand, if a Gentile kept the law under which he lived, he was just as well off before God as was a Jew. It was, after all, not the normal thing for the Gentile to be circumcised. But even though he was not circumcised (a sign of the relationship between God and the Jews), but kept the law to which he was amenable, he stood in a position to judge and condemn the Jew rather than the Jew being in a position to judge and condemn the Gentile. (Of course, now that the gospel has been revealed, living according to any previous system would be inadequate).
In all this Paul is discussing the situation of the Jew and Gentile before the gospel had come. He has already asserted that the gospel is the way of salvation now, but before the gospel the Jew and Gentile served under different systems. It seems that the Gentiles had been given a way to walk that would have pleased God, although what all that way may have included we are not informed. Occasional contacts of Gentiles had been made through the ages, however, such as when Jonah went to Nineveh. Probably they lived under the Patriarchal system that pre-dated the Mosaic law.
While noting how the Gentiles lived under a moral law, we are not to suppose that Paul is teaching that one can be saved now by following moral truth alone. The Jews could not please God by merely following moral truth prior to the gospel because their law required additional things, such as sacrifices, feast observances, etc. Nor can men be pleasing to God today by merely being moral, as important as that is, because men are accountable before God today according to the gospel and the gospel includes more than morality. Paul is not showing that obedience to the law of moral truth was or is sufficient for those who were supposed to be obedient to a law that included more than moral truth. He was showing that the Gentiles lived under a law of moral truth. They would be judged according to the law under which they lived and if found obedient thereto they were in a relationship to God as acceptable as the Jew who had kept the law given to him. If there was more to the law under which Gentiles lived than morality, we are not informed and should not speculate regarding it. Therefore, the Jews really were not superior. They really did not have reason to boast over the Gentiles. They had misunderstood their "specialness."
This same point is stressed in the closing two verses. Here the term "Jew" does not refer to a nationality or being a descendant of Abraham, but one who is in the right relationship with God. Paul says in essence, "A person is not right with God merely because he has obeyed some outward form alone, like circumcision, "the letter." Physical circumcision was a sign denoting for the Jews their special calling, but that is not all that was necessary to be right with God then, and since that law of circumcision has nothing whatever to do with Christianity, it certainly is not what makes one right with God now (Galatians 5:5,6; 6:15). There must be the inward relationship with God, a "circumcision" of the heart and spirit.
The circumcision of the heart is further discussed in Colossians 2:11-14. It was a "cutting away" of sins that was accomplished by forgiveness of sins. This circumcision of the heart was "without hands," which meant it was an "operation of God." By this operation sins were cut away, forgiven, put away. The heart was brought into covenant relationship with God. God performed this "circumcision" by the process of forgiveness when they had been buried in baptism. Baptism was not the "circumcision" but the "circumcision" was accomplished when baptism took place.
Take note that Paul is not saying that circumcision was unimportant for the Jew during the time when it was required of the Jew. When it was commanded of the Jew, if he ignored this act of obedience, he would not be pleasing to God. Paul is emphasizing that there was more to being right with God than simply being circumcised, even when circumcision was required. Circumcision was unimportant to the Gentile because the Gentile had never been commanded to be cumcised. To be sure, if a Gentile became a Jew religiously, a proselyte, he had to undergo circumcision according to the Jewish law. However, it was important for the Gentile to live according to the unwritten law of moral truth in the heart that God had required of him. If the heart of the Jew or the Gentile was truly given to God, whatever was required of him he would strive to do.
This expressed the principle Paul established. Obedience to God is an inseparable matter with a converted heart. A converted heart is essential to the right relationship with God. In the case of the Jews or the Gentiles, whatever was expected of them, they were to do, even before the gospel age. When they obeyed, God was pleased as much with one as the other. When they disobeyed, God was displeased with one as much as the other. Where the giving of the law through Moses to the Jews seemed to place them as very special before God (they were special in the sense they were to serve, and that through them the promised Messiah would come to the benefit of all nations), there actually had existed all along the ages an equality of sorts with Jews and Gentiles in the mind of God. Both had to obey truth given them.
It seems that these first two chapters have produced a level of thinking regarding Jews and Gentiles that the Jews certainly needed to learn because they had misunderstood their special mission and relationship to God and had concluded they were superior. The Gentiles needed to learn this lesson also because they had not received a written law and might have considered themselves inferior. They needed to learn they had to obey whatever law they had, which neither had done historically. They both needed to learn that "all have sinned" and all needed salvation. The absence of superiority and inferiority becomes evident in the gospel plan of salvation for all men now. Whereas formerly the Jews and Gentiles had different systems and laws, everyone now is accountable to God through the same system, the gospel, God's power unto salvation.
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