Romans 2:11-13

11. For there is no respect of persons with God.

11. Siquidem non est acceptio personarum apud Deum.

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;

12. Quicunque enim sine Lege peccaverunt sine Lege etiam peribunt; quicunque vero in Lege peccaverunt per Legem judicabuntur.

13. (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

13. Non enim Legis auditores justi sunt apud Deum, sed qui Legem faciunt justificabuntur.

11. There is no respect of persons, etc. He has hitherto generally arraigned all mortals as guilty; but now he begins to bring home his accusation to the Jews and to the Gentiles separately: and at the same time he teaches us, that it is no objection that there is a difference between them, but that they are both without any distinction exposed to eternal death. The Gentiles pretended ignorance as their defense; the Jews gloried in the honor of having the law: from the former he takes away their subterfuge, and he deprives the latter of their false and empty boasting.

There is then a division of the whole human race into two classes; for God had separated the Jews from all the rest, but the condition of all the Gentiles was the same. He now teaches us, that this difference is no reason why both should not be involved in the same guilt. But the word person is taken in Scripture for all outward things, which are wont to be regarded as possessing any value or esteem. When therefore thou readest, that God is no respecter of persons, understand that what he regards is purity of heart or inward integrity; and that he hath no respect for those things which are wont to be highly valued by men, such as kindred, country, dignity, wealth, and similar things; so that respect of persons is to be here taken for the distinction or the difference there is between one nation and another. 1 But if any hence objects and says, "That then there is no such thing as the gratuitous election of God;" it may be answered, That there is a twofold acceptation of men before God; the first, when he chooses and calls us from nothing through gratuitous goodness, as there is nothing in our nature which can be approved by him; the second, when after having regenerated us, he confers on us his gifts, and shows favor to the image of his Son which he recognizes in us.

12. Whosoever have sinned without law, 2 etc. In the former part of this section he assails the Gentiles; though no Moses was given them to publish and to ratify a law from the Lord, he yet denies this omission to be a reason why they deserved not the just sentence of death for their sins; as though he had said -- that the knowledge of a written law was not necessary for the just condemnation of a sinner. See then what kind of advocacy they undertake, who through misplaced mercy, attempt, on the ground of ignorance, to exempt the nations who have not the light of the gospel from the judgment of God.

Whosoever have sinned under the law, etc. As the Gentiles, being led by the errors of their own reason, go headlong into ruin, so the Jews possess a law by which they are condemned; 3 for this sentence has been long ago pronounced,

"Cursed are all they who continue not in all its precepts." (Deuteronomy 27:26.)

A worse condition then awaits the Jewish sinners, since their condemnation is already pronounced in their own law.

13. For the hearers of the law, etc. This anticipates an objection which the Jews might have adduced. As they had heard that the law was the rule of righteousness, (Deuteronomy 4:1,) they gloried in the mere knowledge of it: to obviate this mistake, he declares that the hearing of the law or any knowledge of it is of no such consequence, that any one should on that account lay claim to righteousness, but that works must be produced, according to this saying, "He who will do these shall live in them." The import then of this verse is the following, -- "That if righteousness be sought from the law, the law must be fulfilled; for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works." They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law, -- That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfill the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law. 4

1 The word proswpolhyi>a, respect of persons, is found in three other places, Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; and James 2:1; and in these the reference is to conditions in life. In Acts 10:34, the word is in another form proswpolh>pthv, a respecter of persons, and as a verb in James 2:9. The full phrase is pro>swpon lamba>nw, as found in Luke 20:21, and Galatians 2:6. It is a phrase peculiar to the Hebrew language, and means literally, to lift up or regard faces, that is, persons, Mynp asn. See Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Chronicles 19:7.

An argument has been hence taken to oppose the doctrine of election; but this is to apply to a particular thing what belongs entirely and exclusively to another. This belongs to the administration of justice, but election is the exercise of mercy. Even Grotius admits, that God manifests a difference in bestowing benefits, but not in exercising Judgment. Indeed, in the present instance, with regard to the subject handled by the Apostle, there was a manifest difference; the Gentile had only the law of nature, but the Jew had a revealed law. Yet when brought to judgment there was to be no respect of persons, each was to be judged impartially according to the circumstances of his condition. And further, election does not proceed on the principle of showing respect of persons, that is, of regarding men according to their privileges or outward circumstances, or kindred or relation in life, or any thing in man; but its sole and exclusive ground or reason is the good pleasure of God. -- Ed.

2 Ano>mwv commonly means unlawfully, wickedly, lawlessly; but here, as it is evident from the context, it signifies to be without law. The adjective ajno>mov is also used once in this sense in 1 Corinthians 9:21. -- Ed.

3 The word "condemned" would be better in the text than "judged;" it would then more plainly Correspond with the former part, where the word "perished" is used: and that it means "condemned" is evident, for those who have "sinned" are the persons referred to. -- Ed.

4 On the expression "hearers of the law," Stuart has these remarks -- "The Apostle here speaks of oiJ ajkroatai< tou~ no>mou, because the Jews were accustomed to hear the Scriptures read in public; but many of them did not individually possess copies of the sacred volume which they could read."