Rom 2: The question is asked: How can justification take place
without the works of the law, even though James says: 'Faith without works is
dead'? In answer, the apostle distinguishes between the law and faith, the
letter and grace. "The 'works of the law' are works done without faith and
grace, by the law, which forces them to be done through fear or the enticing
promise of temporal advantages. But 'works of faith' are those done in the
spirit of liberty, purely out of love to God. And they can be done only by those
who are justified by faith... Paul does not say that faith is without its
characteristic works, but that it justifies without the works of the law.
Therefore justification does not require the works of the law; but it does
require a living faith, which performs its works" (ML).
YOU, THEREFORE, HAVE NO EXCUSE...: The implication in
the opening verse is that a Jewish listener, heartily endorsing the verdict
rendered concerning the Gentiles, fails to realize his own plight. True judgment
rests on the ability to discern the facts in a given case. If one is able to see
the sin and hopelessness of the Gentile, he should logically be able to see
himself as being in the same predicament. But he is so taken up with the faults
of others that he does not consider his own failures (cf Mat 7:2,3). The charge
that he who passes judgment does the same things he sees in others is enlarged
in Rom 2:17-24.
WHO PASS JUDGMENT: Which is contrary to Christ's
commandments: Mat 7:1; Luk 6:37; Rom 14:3,10,13; 1Co 4:3,5.
"Hypocrisy is a real killer. Often it seems not nearly so
obvious to the hypocrite themselves, yet others (and especially children and
teenagers) can spot it a mile off. Hypocrisy happens when our word and actions
don't match. There are two ways we are shown in this chapter that warn us
against having mismatched words and actions.
"The first is by passing judgement on someone else when we
ourselves do the same thing. It is important to look at ourselves critically as
we look at other people, because if we do that we will become much more humble
and realize that we too, all too often, fall under the same condemnation as we
dish out to them.
"The second concerns our teaching. Paul put it best: 'You
then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against
stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do
you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about
the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?' Let us always be sure that
our words and our actions go hand in hand so that God's name is not blasphemed"
GOD'S JUDGMENT: Gr "krima" = the great and terrible
"day of the LORD", when Christ shall be the righteous judge of the world, on
behalf of the Father (Act 17:31). Cp v 5n.
DO YOU SHOW CONTEMPT: "Kataphroneo": the think lightly
of. The KJV has "despisest", but the Jew did not despise His God; he rather
treated Him lightly, or disesteemed Him.
THE RICHES OF HIS KINDNESS: Cp "RICHES of his glory"
(Rom 9:23), and "the depth of the RICHES of the wisdom and knowledge of God"
The kindness, or goodness, of God is revealed in the Hope of
Israel: the gospel of salvation. Isa 63:7 describes His goodness to a rebellious
house of Israel.
TOLERANCE: Demonstrated in 400 years, more or less, of
tolerance until the sin of the Amorites reached its full measure (Gen 15:16),
and the 40 further years He waited while Israel filled up "the measure of the
sin of your forefathers" (Mat 23:32).
But God's tolerance, or forbearance, can actually produce a
scornful attitude with his people Israel, as though that forbearance were but a
confirmation of their security, if not a sign of weakness on God's part.
"Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of
the sons of men is fully set to do evil" (Ecc 8:11).
PATIENCE: "Macrothumia", slowness in avenging wrongs.
As in the time of Noah (1Pe 3:20).
LEADS YOU TOWARD REPENTANCE: God desires repentance and
not (only) sacrifice (1Sa 15:22). Repentance ("metanoia") sig a change, a
reversal -- the sorrow for sins committed in a secondary aspect of true
"repentance"; there must be a desertion of the past way of life.
STUBBORNNESS: "Sklerotes": callous, hard. Stubbornness
was a natural characteristic of Israel (Isa 30:8,9). See Exo 14:12; Act
UNREPENTANT: Gr "ametanoetos": lit, without change (in
ct v 4).
Hard-heartedness is first seen in Pharaoh (Exo 4:21; 7:3,13;
8:15,32; 9:12,34; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8). So when this description is used
of anyone in Israel, it is very pointed: 'You are being like the oppressing
Egyptians from whom I have delivered you!' Cp Deu 15:7; 2Ch 36:13; Psa 95:8; Isa
63:17; Mark 10:5; 16:14; John 12:40; Rom 2:5.
YOU ARE STORING UP: "Thesaurizo", from a root meaning a
"treasure" (cp AV translation). There is an intended irony: the only "treasure"
such men and women will have is the wrath of God. The faithful, on the other
hand, store up treasures of wisdom and spiritual riches (Mat 6:20).
WHEN HIS RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT WILL BE REVEALED: The theme
of condemnation, running through Romans, and esp Rom 1:16 to Rom 3:20, is
directed against the Judaizers. This condemnation falls upon all that cling to
Law as a means of justification from sin; both Israel after the flesh and Israel
after the Spirit.
The future day of judgment: 2Pe 3:7,10.
// Mat 16:24-28; Rev 22:12.
PERSISTENCE IN DOING GOOD: "All progress begins one
step at a time. There is no sudden leap to greatness. Good work done little by
little becomes a great work. The house of success is built brick by brick.
"You can do what you want to do, achieve what you want to
achieve, attain any reasonable objective you may have in mind. Not all of a
sudden, nor in one sweeping act of achievement. You will do it gradually, day by
day and play by play. If you want to do it, if you work to do it, you will
accomplish your goal over a sufficient period of time.
"Your big accomplishments will be a series of little
accomplishments. Many strokes overthrow the tallest oak" (MT).
PERSISTENCE: Gr "hupomone": a remaining under, hence a
bearing up under hardship. Note the patience and persistence of Christ: 2Th 3:5;
1Th 1:3; Heb 12:1,2; Mat 24:13; Heb 10:36; Jam 5:7-11. Consider also Jam 5:11
and Heb 6:15.
Can one EARN eternal life? "At the very least, it is safe to
say that [Paul] is not contradicting what he says later about the impossibility
of having salvation by means of the works of the law (Rom 3:20). Far from
teaching a system of salvation by works, the statement of v 7, rightly
understood, teaches the opposite. 'The reward of eternal life... is promised to
those who do not regard their good works as an end in themselves, but see them
as marks not of human achievement but of hope in God. Their trust is not in
their good works, but in God, the only source of glory, honor, and incorruption'
(Barrett). Paul is simply portraying the motivation and the tenor of the life
that will culminate in eternal fellowship with God... The good works the
believer performs do not bring him salvation, but they attest the salvation he
has received by faith (Rom 6:22), and therefore have an essential function (cf
Eph 2:8-10)" (EBC).
REJECT: "Apeitheo": to be disobedient: cp 1Pe 3:1;
4:17. The opposite of "peitheo", to be persuaded or won over, signifying a
habitual course of action. One who knows the Truth, but knowingly and willingly
refuses to act upon it.
AND FOLLOW EVIL: Cp Rom 1:18.
WRATH AND ANGER: "Thumos" and "orge": hot anger of
passion, and a settled, lasting emotion.
TROUBLE: "Thlipsis": affliction, a pressing or
pressure, that which burdens the spirit. Hence the English "depression". Cp 2Th
DISTRESS: "Stenochoria", lit narrowness of place. No
possibility of escape.
DOES: Gr "prasso", to practice or perform habitually:
cp 1Jo 3:4,9; John 3:20,21; 5:29.
EVIL: Gr "kakos", generically bad. It embraces every
form of evil whether moral and physical, and denotes that which is useless,
incapable or bad.
PEACE: "Eirene": rest in ct to strife. As influenced by
the Heb "shalom", sig a state of health or wellbeing, a peace with God (Phi
4:6-9). Yahweh is the God of peace: Rom 15:33; 16:20p; 1Th 5:23; Heb 13:20.
FIRST FOR THE JEW, THEN FOR THE GENTILE: Cp Rom
FOR GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM: This is the truth
that Peter learned in the Cornelius incident (Acts 10:34; see also 1Pe 1:17; Eph
6:9; Col 3:2; Jam 2:1). Paul explains this in the following verses.
"As many as have sinned (in disobeying the truth, v 8) outside
covenant relationship, will perish when Christ comes. Their doom is sealed. But
as many as have sinned in covenant relationship will be judged, for they have
stood related to a possible reception of glory, honor and immortality" (CRom
APART FROM LAW: Or "without law": that is, those
outside covenant relationship but possessing a knowledge of the Truth (cp v 8:
"reject the truth").
UNDER THE LAW: This is better than the KJV "in the
law". "Under" here points to those who came within the scope of the privileges,
responsibilities and judgments of a Law.
Vv 13-15 are parenthetical. V 12 may be followed by v 16 for
continuity of argument.
We have a reminder in Jam 1:22-24 of the ease with which the
Jew could hear the law read and still go away without any effect on his life and
conduct. Those who will be "declared righteous" are the doers of the law (v 13).
This is the first occurrence in Romans of the important expression "be declared
righteous", which will be elaborated in Rom 3.
NOT THOSE WHO HEAR THE LAW: See Mat 7:15-21; Act 10:35;
1Jo 2:29; 3:7,10.
THOSE WHO OBEY THE LAW: See Jam 2:22-24.
DO BY NATURE: No one by nature is righteous (see Rom
1:18-32). This passage relates to CONVERTED Gentiles, whose minds have taken on
the teaching of God. Such Gentiles keep God's law, not by any outward show of
formalism, but by a new nature which is begotten by the gospel which enlightened
THEY ARE A LAW FOR THEMSELVES: That is, the law is a
part of them. They are the embodiment of God's law. Now, when they sin, their
consciences can accuse and correct their actions (v 15). A believing Gentile,
then, is more "righteous" than a natural Israelite because the former absorbs
into his conscience the things which he hears, whereas the Israelite has paid no
THEIR THOUGHTS NOW ACCUSING, NOW EVEN DEFENDING THEM:
Their IMMEDIATE judge (the enlightened conscience) can inform them as to what
their ULTIMATE judge will say about their actions -- giving them an opportunity
for self-correction before it is too late.
ON THE DAY WHEN GOD WILL JUDGE MEN'S SECRETS THROUGH JESUS
CHRIST: "We commend to the serious consideration of everyone interested, the
sobering fact that there is a day appointed when God shall judge the secrets of
men by Jesus Christ, justifying the righteous and condemning the wicked. It is a
fact that will encourage, strengthen, and sustain every person who, having been
enlightened and joined the brotherhood of Christ, is working with a single eye,
as seeing him who is invisible: and it is a fact that, vividly realized, will
correct and purify those who, in a similar position, may be suffering themselves
to be diverted from the path of truth and duty by considerations of a temporal
nature. The record of the judgement seat is written now in the lives of those
who will appear there" (XdmAst 87).
THE DAY: Psa 75:2; Ecc 12:14; Heb 9:27; 2Ti 4:1; Mat
12:36; Joh 12:48; 1Co 4:5.
SECRETS: 1Co 4:5; Ecc 12;14; Heb 4:13. Many an act that
seems entirely praiseworthy to those who observe it may actually be wrongly
motivated, and contrariwise some things that seem to men to merit stern
disapproval may pass muster in this supreme court because the intention behind
the deed was praiseworthy.
Vv 17-24: Here Paul begins to engage in dialogue with a
representative Jew, and his razor-sharp irony is superb for its deftness. He
proceeds to build up the Jew, citing his various distinctions and appearing to
appreciate them (vv 17-20), only to swing abruptly into a frontal assault by
exposing the inconsistency between his claims and his conduct (vv 21-24). The
Jew was characterized by his reliance on the law, given by God through Moses. It
came as the result of a relationship with God enjoyed by no other people. In
Paul's time some of the leaders of Judaism were making such extravagant
statements about the law as to put it virtually in the place of God. Many Jews
were trying to keep the law for its own sake, to honor the law rather than its
giver. This tendency was even more developed after the fall of Jerusalem, when
the law became the rallying point for a nation that had lost its holy city and
Paul concedes that the use of the law will bring knowledge of
God's will and a recognition of its superior teaching. But this is not all, for
the Jew thinks that this advantage makes him superior to the Gentile. To
paraphrase Paul: 'You come to the Gentile and propose yourself as a guide for
his blindness (when, as a matter of fact, as I have already shown, he has a
light and a law as well as you). You come to the Gentile as though he were dumb
and childish, giving you the whip hand, which you thoroughly relish. To you they
are mere infants, knowing next to nothing.' By employing terms actually used by
the Jews for the Gentiles, one after the other, not once suggesting that the
Gentile has anything to his credit, but invariably magnifying the Jew, Paul has
succeeded in exposing Jewish pride and boasting as utterly ridiculous.
IF YOU CALL YOURSELF A JEW: With all the heritage and
exclusiveness which that name carried.
IF YOU RELY ON THE LAW: "In the Law the Jew saw the
Magna Carta which gave him his assurance of salvation" (Meyer).
AND BRAG ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD: As though that
gave him an exclusive claim to His favor. Cp Deu 4:7; Psa 135:4; Isa 48:1; Jer
APPROVE OF WHAT IS SUPERIOR: AV mg has "triest the
things that differ". Being able to discriminate between good and evil (cp Phi
1:10), they could intelligently reject the vain philosophy of the
YOU ARE INSTRUCTED BY THE LAW: "Katecheo", orally
instructed, taught by word of mouth. By the constant reading and hearing of the
law in the synagogues (and some homes) the Jew was more familiar with its
A GUIDE TO THE BLIND: But it was not always so (Mat
15:14), and of course that was the point!
A LIGHT: Psa 119:105; Isa 49:6,9,10.
A TEACHER OF INFANTS: Those young in understanding (1Co
3:1; Heb 5:13; 1Pe 2:2). But, again, this is ironic!
THE EMBODIMENT OF KNOWLEDGE AND TRUTH: But if the Jew
failed to see Christ in the words of Scripture, then he would have only the FORM
of godliness whilst denying the POWER (2Ti 3:5).
Vv 21-24: Abruptly the shadow-boxing turns aggressive and the
blows become lethal as the Jew is confronted by the disparity between what he
teaches others as the will of God and his own manner of life. The thrust loses
nothing of its forthrightness by being posed in a series of questions, for the
effect is to turn the complacent Jew back on himself to search his own soul.
The indictment is summarized by the general charge of breaking
the very law the Jew boasts of (v 23). In fact, the failure is so notorious that
even non-Israelites notice the discrepancy. At this point Paul introduces a
quotation from Isa 52:5. God has been obliged to chasten his disobedient people
by permitting them to go into captivity, where their captors make sport of their
God who was apparently unable to prevent their deportation (cf Eze 36:20,21).
But there also the fault lay not with God but with his people who had refused to
take His law seriously.
YOU, THEN, WHO TEACH OTHERS, DO YOU NOT TEACH
YOURSELF?: Thus showing, by your own actions, your hypocrisy: Mat 7:3;
DO YOU STEAL?: By withholding from God what was
rightfully His (Mal 1:8; 3:8; Mar 11:17).
DO YOU COMMIT ADULTERY?: The Jew was so quick to seek
out and condemn the adulterous woman (John 8:3-11), and yet he could secretly
(Mat 5:27,28) and hard-heartedly (Mat 19:8) commit with impunity the same
offence (Mat 5:31,32).
DO YOU ROB TEMPLES: "A cognate of the same word occurs
in Acts 19:37, where it covers sacrilege in the general sense of desecrating
sacred things. But in this passage in Romans a precise, strong contrast is
intended. The Jew who has been taught to abhor idols is charged with laying
hands on them for the sake of profit. This may sound inconceivable, but if the
robbery was directed at the offerings brought to the idol, this was tantamount
to robbing the idol and thereby desecrating the temple. Ancient temples were
repositories of treasure and were therefore a source of temptation to the
avaricious (cf Jos Ant 4:207)" (EBC).
A statement of summary to the previous verses. " 'How can you
say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen
of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will
be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what
kind of wisdom do they have?" (Jer 8:8,9).
Paul quotes from Isa 52:5, where, on account of Israel's
continual sins against Yahweh's Law, the nations were caused to blaspheme
Israel's God. David's sin against Uriah brought the same result: "By doing this
you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt -- or blaspheme!" (2Sa
"Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised
that he is obligated to obey the whole law" (Gal 5:3).
BUT IF YOU BREAK THE LAW: And ALL did! Rom
AS THOUGH YOU HAD NOT BEEN CIRCUMCISED: Because cursed
by the very law that established circumcision (Gen 17:14).
"Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.
Keeping God's commands is what counts" (1Co 7:19). "For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is
faith expressing itself through love" (Gal 5:6). "Neither circumcision nor
uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation" (Gal 6:15).
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the
new has come!" (2Co 5:17).
CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART: Cf Deu 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4;
PRAISE: The word Jew, coming from the Heb "Judah", sig
"praise" (Gen 49:8). But the Jew loved the praise of men more than the praise of
God (John 12:43). To them circumcision was the occasion for glorying in their
own flesh (Gal 6:12,13)... in direct contrast to the principle of the gospel of
Christ: "so that no one may boast before him" (1Co 1:29).