The Jew under Like Condemnation with the
From those without, the apostle now turns to
those within the pale of revealed religion, the self-righteous
Jews, who looked down upon the uncovenanted heathen as beyond the pale
of God's mercies, within which they deemed themselves secure, however
inconsistent their life may be. Alas! what multitudes wrap themselves
up in like fatal confidence, who occupy the corresponding position in
the Christian Church!
4. the goodness of God leadeth thee to
repentance—that is, is designed and adapted to do so.
5. treasurest up unto thyself wrath
the day of wrath—that is wrath to come
on thee in the day of wrath. What an awful idea is here
expressed—that the sinner himself is amassing, like hoarded
treasure, an ever accumulating stock of divine wrath, to burst upon him
in "the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God!" And
this is said not of the reckless, but of those who boasted of their
purity of faith and life.
7-10. To them who, &c.—The substance
of these verses is that the final judgment will turn upon
by patient continuance in well-doing,
&c.—Compare Lu 8:15:
"That on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart,
having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with
patience"; denoting the enduring and progressive
character of the new life.
8. But unto them that are contentious, and do not
obey the truth, &c.—referring to such keen and determined
resistance to the Gospel as he himself had too painfully witnessed on
the part of his own countrymen. (See Ac 13:44-46; 17:5, 13;
18:6, 12; and compare 1Th 2:15,
indignation and wrath—in the bosom of
a sin-avenging God.
9. Tribulation and anguish—the
effect of these in the sinner himself.
10. to the Jew first—first in perdition
if unfaithful; but if obedient to the truth, first in salvation (Ro 2:10).
12. For as many as have sinned—not "as
many as have sinned at all," but, "as many as are found in
sin" at the judgment of the great day (as the whole context
without law—that is, without the
advantage of a positive Revelation.
shall also perish without law—exempt
from the charge of rejecting or disregarding it.
and as many as have sinned in the
law—within the pale of a positive, written Revelation.
shall be judged by the law—tried and
condemned by the higher standard of that written Revelation.
13-15. For not the hearers, &c.—As
touching the Jews, in whose ears the written law is continually
resounding, the condemnation of as many of them as are found sinners at
the last involves no difficulty; but even as respects the heathen, who
are strangers to the law in its positive and written form—since
they show how deeply it is engraven on their moral nature, which
witnesses within them for righteousness and against iniquity, accusing
or condemning them according as they violate or obey its stern
dictates—their condemnation also for all the sin in which they
live and die will carry its dreadful echo in their own breasts.
15. their thoughts the meanwhile accusing
or else excusing—that is, perhaps by turns doing both.
16. In the day, &c.—Here the
unfinished statement of Ro 2:12 is
resumed and closed.
shall judge the secrets of men—here
specially referring to the unfathomed depths of hypocrisy in the
self-righteous whom the apostle had to deal with. (See Ec 12:14; 1Co
according to my gospel—to my teaching
as a preacher of the Gospel.
17-24. Behold—"But if" is, beyond doubt,
the true reading here. (It differs but in a single letter from the
received reading, and the sense is the same).
18. approvest the things that are
excellent—"triest the things that differ" (Margin).
Both senses are good, and indeed the former is but the result of the
latter action. (See on Php 1:10).
20. hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in
the law—not being left, as the heathen are, to vague
conjecture on divine things, but favored with definite and precise
information from heaven.
22. thou that abhorrest idols—as the
Jews did ever after their captivity, though bent on them before.
dost thou commit sacrilege?—not, as
some excellent interpreters, "dost thou rob idol temples?" but more
generally, as we take it, "dost thou profane holy things?" (as in Mt 21:12,
13, and in other ways).
24. as it is written—(See Isa 52:5, Marginal reference).
25-29. For circumcision—that is, One's
being within the covenant of which circumcision was the outward sign
verily profiteth, if thou keep the
law—if the inward reality correspond to the outward sign.
but if, &c.—that is, "Otherwise,
thou art no better than the uncircumcised heathen."
26. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the
… law, &c.—Two mistaken interpretations, we think,
are given of these words: First, that the case here supposed is
an impossible one, and put merely for illustration [Haldane, Chalmers,
Hodge]; second that it is the
case of the heathen who may and do please God when they act, as has
been and is done, up to the light of nature [Grotius, Olshausen,
&c.]. The first interpretation is, in our judgment, unnatural; the
second, opposed to the apostle's own teaching. But the case here put
is, we think, such as that of Cornelius (Ac 10:1-48), who, though outside the
external pale of God's covenant, yet having come to the
knowledge of the truths contained in it, do manifest the grace of the
covenant without the seal of it, and exemplify the character and walk
of Abraham's children, though not called by the name of Abraham. Thus,
this is but another way of announcing that God was about to show the
insufficiency of the mere badge of the Abrahamic covenant, by calling
from among the Gentiles a seed of Abraham that had never received the
seal of circumcision (see on Ga 5:6); and this
interpretation is confirmed by all that follows.
28. he is not a Jew which is one outwardly,
&c.—In other words, the name of "Jew" and the rite of
"circumcision" were designed but as outward symbols of a separation
from the irreligious and ungodly world unto holy devotedness in heart
and life to the God of salvation. Where this is realized, the signs are
full of significance; but where it is not, they are worse than
Note, (1) It is a sad mark of depravity when
all that is designed and fitted to melt only hardens the heart (Ro 2:4, and compare 2Pe 3:9; Ec
8:11). (2) Amidst all the
inequalities of religious opportunity measured out to men, and the
mysterious bearing of this upon their character and destiny for
eternity, the same great principles of judgment, in a form suited to
their respective discipline, will be applied to all, and perfect equity
will be seen to reign throughout every stage of the divine
administration (Ro 2:11-16). (3) "The law written on the heart"
15)—or the Ethics of
Natural Theology—may be said to be the one deep foundation on
which all revealed religion reposes; and see on Ro
1:19, 20, where we have what we may call its other
foundation—the Physics and Metaphysics of Natural Theology. The
testimony of these two passages is to the theologian invaluable, while
in the breast of every teachable Christian it wakens such deep echoes
as are inexpressibly solemn and precious. (4) High religious
professions are a fearful aggravation of the inconsistencies of such as
make them (Ro 2:17-24). See 2Sa 12:14. (5) As no external privileges, or badge
of discipleship, will shield the unholy from the wrath of God, so
neither will the want of them shut out from the kingdom of heaven such
as have experienced without them that change of heart which the seals
of God's covenant were designed to mark. In the sight of the great
Searcher of hearts, the Judge of quick and dead, the renovation of the
character in heart and life is all in all. In view of this, have not
all baptized, sacramented disciples of the Lord Jesus, who "profess
that they know God, but in works deny Him," need to tremble—who,
under the guise of friends, are "the enemies of the cross of