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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 11
Verse 11. For. This particle is used here to confirm what is said before, particularly that this punishment should be experienced by the Jew as well as the Gentile. For God would deal with both on the principles of justice.
Respect of persons. The word thus rendered means partiality, in pronouncing judgment, in favouring one party or individual more than another, not because his cause is more just, but on account of something personal—on account of his wealth, or rank, or office, or influence, or by personal friendship, or by the fear of him. It has special reference to a judge who pronounces judgment between parties at law. The exercise of such partiality was strictly and often forbidden to the Jewish magistrates, Le 19:15; De 1:17; Pr 24:23; Jas 2:1,3,9.
In his capacity as a Judge, it is applied often to God. It means that he will not be influenced in awarding the retributions of eternity, in actually pronouncing and executing sentence, by any partiality, or by regard to the wealth, office, rank, or appearance of men. He will judge righteous judgment; he will judge men as they ought to be judged; according to their character and deserts; and not contrary to theft character, or by partiality. The connexion here demands that this affirmation should be limited solely to his dealing with men As THEIR JUDGE. And in this sense, and this only, this is affirmed often of God in the Scriptures, De 10:17; 2 Ch 19:7 Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; Gal 6:7,8; 1 Pe 1:17; Ac 10:34.
It does not affirm that he must make all his creatures equal in talent, health, wealth, or privilege; it does not imply that, as a sovereign, he may not make a difference in their endowments, their beauty, strength, or graces; it does not imply that he may not bestow his favours where he pleases where all are undeserving, or that he may not make a difference in the characters of men by his providence, and by the agency of his Spirit. All these are actually done, done not out of any respect to their persons, to their rank, office, or wealth, but according to his own sovereign good pleasure, Eph 1. To deny that this is done, would be to deny the manifest arrangement of things everywhere on the earth. To deny that God had a right to do it, would be
(1.) to maintain that sinners had a claim on his favours;
(2.) that he might not do what he willed with his own; or
(3.) to affirm that God was under obligation to make all men with just the same talents and privileges; that is, that all creatures must be, in all respects, just alike. This passage, therefore, is very improperly brought to disprove the doctrine of decrees, or election, or sovereignty. It has respect to a different thing, to the actual exercise of the office of the Judge of the world; and whatever may be the truth about God's decrees, or his electing love, this passage teaches nothing in relation to either. It may be added, that this passage contains a most alarming truth for guilty men. It is that God will not be influenced by partiality, but will treat them just as they deserve. He will not be won or awed by their rank or office; by their wealth or endowments; by their numbers, their power, or their robes of royalty and splendour. Every man should tremble at the prospect of falling into the hands of a just God, who will treat him just as he deserves; and should, without delay, seek a refuge in the Saviour and Advocate provided for the guilty, Joh 2:1,2.
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