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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 1
ROMANS Chapter 2
Verse 1. Therefore. dio. The force of this word here has been the subject of much discussion. The design of this and the following chapter is to show that the Jews were no less guilty than the Gentiles, and that they needed the benefit of the same salvation. This the apostle does by showing that they had greater light than the Gentiles, and yet that they did the same things. Still they were in the habit of accusing and condemning the Gentiles as wicked and abandoned; while they excused themselves on the ground that they possessed the law and oracles of God, and were his favourite people. The apostle here affirms that they were inexcusable in theft sins, that they must be condemned in the sight of God, on the same ground on which they condemned the Gentiles; to wit, that they had light, and yet committed wickedness. If the Gentiles were without excuse Ro 1:20 in their sins, much more would the Jew, who condemned them, be without excuse on the same ground. The word therefore, I suppose, refers not to any particular word in the previous chapter, or to any particular verse, but to the general considerations which were suggested by a view of the whole case. And its sense might be thus expressed: "Since you Jews condemn the Gentiles for their sins, on the ground that they have the means of knowing their duty, THEREFORE YOU, who are far more favoured than they, are entirely without an excuse for the same things."
Thou art inexcusable. This does not mean that they were inexcusable for judging others; but that they had no excuse for their sins before God; or that they were under condemnation for their crimes, and needed the benefits of another plan of justification. As the Gentiles whom they judged were condemned, and were without excuse, Ro 1:20, so were the Jews who condemned them without excuse, on the same principle and in a still greater degree.
O man. This address is general to any man who should do this. But it is plain, from the connexion, that he means especially the Jews. The use of this word is an instance of the apostle's skill in argument. If he had openly named the Jews here, it would have been likely to have excited opposition from them. He therefore approaches the subject gradually, affirms it of man in general, and then makes a particular application to the Jews. This he does not do, however, until he has advanced so far in the general principles of his argument that it would be impossible for them to evade his conclusions; and then he does it in the most tender, and kind, as well as convincing manner, Ro 2:17, etc.
Whosoever thou art that judgest. The word judgest—krineiv — here is used in the sense of condemning. It is not a word of equal strength with that which is rendered "condemnest"—katakrineiv. It implies, however, that they were accustomed to express themselves freely and severely of the character and doom of the Gentiles. And from the New Testament, as well as from their own writings, there can be no doubt that such was the fact; that they regarded the entire Gentile world with abhorrence, considered them as shut out from the favour of God, and applied to them terms expressive of the utmost contempt. Comp. Mt 15:27.
For wherein. For in the same thing. This implies that substantially the same crimes which were committed among the heathen were also committed among the Jews.
Thou judgest another. The meaning of this clearly is, "for the same thing for which you condemn the heathen, you condemn yourselves."
Thou that judgest. You Jews who condemn other nations.
Doest the same things. It is clearly implied here, that they were guilty of offences similar to those practised by the Gentiles. It would not be a just principle of interpretation to press this declaration as implying that precisely the same offences, and to the same extent, were chargeable on them. Thus they were not guilty, in the time of the apostle, of idolatry; but of the other crimes enumerated in the first chapter, the Jews might be guilty. The character of the nation, as given in the New Testament, is that they were "an evil and adulterous generation," Mt 12:39; Joh 8:7; that they were a "generation of vipers," Mt 3:7; 12:34; that they were wicked, Mt 12:45 that they were sinful, Mr 8:38; that they were proud, haughty, hypocritical, etc., Mt 23:1. If such was the character of the Jewish nation in general, there is no improbability in supposing that they practised most of the crimes specified in ch 1. On this verse we may remark,
(1.) that men are prone to be severe judges of others.
(2.) This is often, perhaps commonly, done when the accusers themselves are guilty of the same offences. It often happens, too, that men are remarkably zealous in opposing those offences which they themselves secretly practise. A remarkable instance of this occurs in Joh 8:1, etc. Thus David readily condemned the supposed act of injustice mentioned by Nathan, 2 Sa 12:1-6. Thus also kings and emperors have enacted severe laws against the very crimes which they have constantly committed themselves. Nero executed the laws of the Roman empire against the very crimes which he was constantly committing; and it was a common practice for Roman masters to commit offences which they punished with death in their slaves. (See instances in Grotius on this place.)
(3.) Remarkable zeal against sin may be no proof of innocence. Comp. Mt 7:3. The zeal of persecutors, and often of pretended reformers, may be far from proof that they are free from the very offences which they are condemning in others. It may all be the work of the hypocrite to conceal some base design; or of the man who seeks to show his hostility to one kind of sin, in order to be a salvo to his conscience for committing some other.
(4.) The heart is deceitful. When we judge others we should make it a rule to examine ourselves on that very point. Such an examination might greatly mitigate the severity of our judgment; or might turn the whole of our indignation against ourselves.
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