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The Righteous Judgment of God


Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.

12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

The Jews and the Law

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

6. Who will render to every one, etc. As he had to do with blind saintlings, who thought that the wickedness of their hearts was well covered, provided it was spread over with some disguises, I know not what, of empty works, he pointed out the true character of the righteousness of works, even that which is of account before God; and he did this, lest they should feel confident that it was enough to pacify him, if they brought words and trifles, or leaves only. But there is not so much difficulty in this verse, as it is commonly thought. For the Lord, by visiting the wickedness of the reprobate with just vengeance, will recompense them with what they have deserved: and as he sanctifies those whom he has previously resolved to glorify, he will also crown their good works, but not on account of any merit: nor can this be proved from this verse; for though it declares what reward good works are to have, it does yet by no means show what they are worth, or what price is due to them. And it is an absurd inference, to deduce merit from reward.

7. To them indeed, who by perseverance, etc.; literally, patience; by which word something more is expressed. For it is perseverance, when one is not wearied in constantly doing good; but patience also is required in the saints, by which they may continue firm, though oppressed with various trials. For Satan suffers them not by a free course to come to the Lord; but he strives by numberless hinderances to impede them, and to turn them aside from the right way. And when he says, that the faithful, by continuing in good works, seek glory and honour, he does not mean that they aspire after any thing else but the favor of God, or that they strive to attain any thing higher, or more excellent: but they can not seek him, without striving, at the same time, for the blessedness of his kingdom, the description of which is contained in the paraphrase given in these words. The meaning then is, — that the Lord will give eternal life to those who, by attention to good works, strive to attain immortality. 6666     It has appeared to some difficult to reconcile this language with the free salvation which the gospel offers, and to obviate the conclusion which many are disposed to draw from this passage — that salvation is by works as well as by faith.
   To this objection Pareus answers, that the Apostle speaks here of salvation by the works of the law, not indeed as a thing possible, which he subsequently denies, but as a declaration of what it is, that he might thereby show the necessity of a gratuitous salvation which is by faith only. And this is the view which Mr. Haldane takes.

   But there is no need of having recourse to this hypothesis: for whenever judgment is spoken of even in the New Testament, it is ever represented in the same way, as being regulated in righteousness, according to the works of every individual. See Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:24, 25; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12.

   It will be a judgment, conducted according to the perfect rule of justice, with no respect of persons, with no regard to individuals as such, whether high or low, much or little favored as to outward privileges, but according to what their conduct has been, under the circumstances of their case. The rule, if heathens, will be the law of nature; if Jews, the law which had been given them. Judgment, as to its character, will be still the same to those under the gospel; it will be according to what the gospel requires. — Ed.

8. But to those who are contentious, etc. There is some irregularity in the passage; first, on account of its tenor being interrupted, for the thread of the discourse required, that the second clause of the contrast should be thus connected, — “The Lord will render to them, who by perseverance in good works, seek glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life; but to the contentious and the disobedient, eternal death.” Then the conclusion might be joined, — “That for the former are prepared glory, and honor, and incorruption; and that for the latter are laid up wrath and misery.” There is another thing, — These words, indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish, are joined to two clauses in the context. However, the meaning of the passage is by no means obscure; and with this we must be satisfied in the Apostolic writings. From other writings must eloquence be learnt: here spiritual wisdom is to be sought, conveyed in a plain and simple style. 6767     With regard to the construction of this passage, 6-10, it may be observed, that it is formed according to the mode of Hebrew parallelism, many instances of which we meet with even in the prose writings of the New Testament. None of the ancients, nor any of the moderns, before the time of Bishop Lowth, understood much of the peculiar character of the Hebrew style. All the anomalies, noticed by Calvin, instantly vanish, when the passage is so arranged, as to exhibit the correspondence of its different parts. It consists of two general portions; the first includes three verses, Romans 2:6, 7, and 8; the other, the remaining three verses. The same things are mainly included in both portions, only in the latter there are some things additional, and explanatory, and the order is reversed, so that the passage ends with what corresponds with its beginning. To see the whole in a connected form, it is necessary to set it down in lines, in the following manner —
   6. Who will render to each according to his works, —

   7. To those indeed, who, by perseverance in well — doing, Seek glory and honor and immortality, — Eternal life

   8. But there shall be to them who are contentious And obey not the truth, but obey iniquity, —Indignation and wrath:

    Then follow the same things, the order being reversed —

   9. Distress and anguish shall be on every soul of man that worketh evil, — On the Jew first, and then on the Greek;

   10. But glory and honor and peace, To every one who worketh good, — To the Jew first and then to the Greek;

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

   The idea in the last and the first line is essentially the same. This repetition is for the sake of producing an impression. The character of the righteous, in the first part, is, that by persevering in doing good they seek glory, honor, and immortality, and their reward is to be eternal life: the character of the wicked is that of being contentious, disobedient to the truth, and obedient to unrighteousness, and their reward is to be indignation and wrath. The character of the first, in the second part, is, that they work good; and of the other, that they work evil: and the reward of the first is glory, honor, and peace, and the reward of the other, distress and anguish; which are the effects of indignation and wrath, as glory honor, and peace are the fruits or the constituent parts of eternal life. It is to be observed that priority in happiness, as well as priority in misery, is ascribed to the Jew. — Ed.

Contention is mentioned here for rebellion and stubbornness; for Paul was contending with hypocrites who, by their gross and supine self-indulgence, trifled with God. By the word truth, is simply meant the revealed will of God, which alone is the light of truth: for it is what belongs to all the ungodly, that they ever prefer to be in bondage to iniquity, rather than to receive the yoke of God; and whatever obedience they may pretend, yet they never cease perversely to clamor and struggle against God’s word. For as they who are openly wicked scoff at the truth, so hypocrites fear not to set up in opposition to it their artificial modes of worship. The Apostle further adds, that such disobedient persons obey or serve iniquity; for there is no middle course, which those who are unwilling to be in subjection to the law of the Lord can take, so as to be kept from falling immediately into the service of sin. And it is the just reward of outrageous licentiousness, that those become the bondslaves of sin who cannot endure the service of God. Indignation and wrath, so the character of the words induces me to render them; for θυμος in Greek means what the Latins call excandescentia — indignation, as Cicero teaches us, (Tusc. 4,) even a sudden burning of anger. As to the other words I follow Erasmus. But observe, that of the four which are mentioned, the two last are, as it were, the effects of the two first; for they who perceive that God is displeased and angry with them are immediately filled with confusion.

We may add, that though he might have briefly described, even in two words, the blessedness of the godly and also the misery of the reprobate, he yet enlarges on both subjects, and for this end — that he might more effectually strike men with the fear of God’s wrath, and sharpen their desire for obtaining grace through Christ: for we never fear God’s judgment as we ought, except it be set as it were by a lively description before our eyes; nor do we really burn with desire for future life, except when roused by strong incentives, (multis flabellis incitati — incited by many fans.)

9. To the Jew first, etc. He simply places, I have no doubt, the Jew in opposition to the Gentile; for those whom he calls Greeks he will presently call Gentiles. But the Jews take the precedence in this case, for they had, in preference to others, both the promises and the threatenings of the law; as though he had said, “This is the universal rule of the divine judgment; it shall begin with the Jews, and it shall include the whole world.”

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. 6868     The word προσωποληψία, 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 προσωπολήπτης, a respecter of persons, and as a verb in James 2:9. The full phrase is πρόσωπον λαμβάνω, 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, נשא פנים. 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.
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.

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