Romans 2
People's New Testament
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
2:1 The Sinfulness of the Jews; Their Need of the Gospel


He Who Condemns Others Condemns Himself. God's Judgments According to Truth, Without Respects of Persons. of Race. Having the Law Does Not Justify Without Obedience to the Law. The Jews Condemned by Their Own Law. Circumcision Cannot Save. The True Circumcision, That of the Heart.

Therefore thou art inexcusable. Paul has just shown that the Gentiles are great sinner, and are without excuse before God (Ro 1:32). The Jew, however, would pronounce that conclusion just, but would excuse himself. Hence Paul makes the application to them also.

Whosoever thou art. Ro 2:17 shows that the Jews are in the apostle's mind. Besides, the Jews, filled with spiritual pride, were greatly given to judging others.

Another. The Greek says the other; the other division of the world, the Gentiles.

Thou condemnest thyself. Because he practices the very thing he condemns in others.

But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
2:2 The judgment of God is according to truth. According to the facts, to character. God does not show partiality (Ac 10:34,35 Jas 3:17). All guilty persons are under condemnation alike, whether Jew or Gentile.
And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
2:3 Thinkest thou. It seems to us strange folly for the Jew to regard Gentile sinners under condemnation, but fancy that he might do the same things, and yet

escape the judgment of God. Still this error is not confined to the Jews. Many a sinner persuades himself that his own sins, the very sins he condemns in others, will go unpunished.

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
2:4 Or despisest thou? Dost thou go further still, and not only expect to escape God's wrath for sin, but dost thou even abuse his love?

The riches. The overflowing abundance.

Longsuffering. Shown in long bearing with the sinner.

Leadeth thee to repentance. The purpose of God's goodness and forbearance is not to encourage sin, but to appeal to man's better nature, give him further opportunity and lead him to repentance.

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
2:5 But. Instead of being led to repentance by God's mercy, the sinner has abused it with a hard and impenitent heart, and thus has aggravated his sin.

Treasurest up... wrath. By continuing in sin he has made his guilt and condemnation greater.

Against the day of wrath. The day, surely to come, when God's judgments will be inflicted.

Revelation of the righteous judgment. This will only be fully revealed at the day of judgment. That day is meant.

Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
2:6 Who will render. Sinners escape punishment for a time, and hence think they will escape altogether, but God will render, at the final day of judgment,

to every man according to his works, whether he be sinner or saint, Jew or Gentile.

To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
2:7 To them. First, the apostle speaks of the reward that shall be given to those that live holy lives.

By patient continuance. No one can please God who only lives a holy life at times. The Christian life is not spasmodic. There must be constant effort, patient perseverance, a constant seeking. Jesus, in the parable of the sower, says the good ground represents those who have the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience (Lu 8:15).

Seek. Future salvation is thus described as an object of pursuit. It is glory, because of a glorious life; honor, because it is a reward.

Immortality. Incorruption (ASV); it is not subject to decay.

Eternal life. This sums up what God bestows on those who seek glory, etc. by a patient continuance in well doing.

But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
2:8 But to them. God rewards the righteous according to their works as described in the previous verse; so also the wicked, as this verse describes.

Contentious. Who seek their own way, instead of God's way, and contend against God.

Do not obey the truth. God's law is truth. Sinners fight against God and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness. This verse describes the character of the wicked. Ro 2:9 declares God's judgment upon them.

Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
2:9 Tribulation and anguish. God, the righteous ruler, is displeased and indignant, and hence sends the sore punishment of tribulation and anguish. One refers to the external weight of affliction; the other to the inward sense of that weight.

Upon every soul. Upon every evil doer, whether Jew or Gentile.

Of the Jew first. The Jew stood first in opportunity (Ro 1:16), hence is first in responsibility.

And of the Greek. The whole Gentile world is meant, as in Ro 1:16, the great race whose culture had spread over the world being taken as the representative of all but the Jews. The emphatic thought is that the Jew, as well as the Gentile, shall be rendered unto according to his works.

But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
2:10 Glory, honour, and peace. The blessed reward of those who

worketh good, in contrast with him that worketh evil, is presented in these terms. See PNT Ro 2:7.

Peace. Full content. He whose cup of blessing is full enjoys peace in its fullest sense.

For there is no respect of persons with God.
2:11 There is no respect of persons. Greek, as well as Jew, if he works good, shall have the same blessed rewards. Compare Ac 10:34,35. God is impartial in the blessings conferred (see Mt 5:45), as well as in his punishments.
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;
2:12 For as many as have sinned without law. As many as shall be found in sin, at the judgment, without a special revelation of the law of God. While the Mosaic law is in the mind of the apostle, the statement is general. The principle is one of universal application. Those have sinned who have not lived up to their light.

Shall also perish without law. They shall be judged and condemned without reference to the standards of revealed law. Law, in this verse, has no article in the Greek. When so used it means law in general. When, as occurs so often in Romans, it has the Greek definite article before it, the Mosaic law is meant. Observe that the Revised Version omits the article the in this verse.

As many as have sinned in the law. Under a revelation of God's will. These

shall be judged by the law, and condemned for disobedience to its commands.

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
2:13 For not the hearers of the law. Not the law, but a law, as in the Revised Version. The possession of a revelation will not save, but obedience to it. While a general statement is made, Paul has an eye upon the Jews. Their law could not make them righteous unless it was obeyed.

Justified. Accounted righteous; not held to be guilty. The word justify, which Paul uses so frequently, should be clearly apprehended. To be justified is to be counted righteous, or guiltless, before God. He who has one sin recorded against him is not justified. He whose sins are all blotted out is justified. The sinner who believes upon Jesus Christ, clings to the mercy seat by an obedient, trusting faith, and finds mercy through Christ's redeeming blood, is justified. As no man could keep the law perfectly, no man could be justified by the works of the law. As we obtain God's mercy, the righteousness God bestows in Christ, by faith in Christ Jesus, so we are justified by a faith that leads us to Christ.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
2:14 When Gentiles, which have not the law. No revelation, such as the Jews had. They had a law of nature (Ro 1:18,32).

Do by nature the things contained in the law. Paul has shown how the general principle that God will render to every man according to his works (Pr 24:12 Mt 16:27 2Ti 4:14) applies to the Jews; they will be judged by law, and only law-doers will be justified. He now shows that the same principle applies to the Gentiles. They have no revealed and written law like the Jews, but in case Gentiles, without it, should keep the things contained in the law, the moral principles of the law of Moses, they

are a law to themselves. Their consciences and moral sense are a law. The apostle does not say that this was the rule among the Gentiles, but applies the principle to the very rare instances of Gentiles of pure character.

Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
2:15 Which shew. Such Gentiles, not having the law, are a law to themselves, for they show forth in their lives that the essential principles of the law are

written in their hearts. Not only do their outward acts testify, but

their conscience, which condemn or approve their own acts, or those of others. That is, their consciences testify as to distinctions between right and wrong. They have a moral sense.

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
2:16 In the day. These principles of judgment shall prevail in the day when God shall judge the world.

The secrets of men. Men's lives are often hidden from their fellow-men, but at the judgment every secret shall be made manifest. He now adds that this judgment, which all are ready to admit, will be through

Jesus Christ. He shall be the Judge; and it will be

according to my gospel. According to the gospel which Paul preached. The gospel will save or condemn men. By the words of Christ shall men be judged.

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
2:17 Behold, thou art called a Jew. Already, Paul has shown that all men, Jew or Gentile, will be judged according to their deeds, whether they have the law or not (Ro 2:1-16). Now he applies the argument directly to the Jew, in order to show his need of the gospel as well as the Gentile. Ro 2:17-20 state what the Jew claimed for himself.

Called a Jew. To Paul the word Jew had a meaning much like Christian to us. It meant to him one of God's people.

Rested upon the law. There is no article before law in the Greek. The Jew had law, in this case the law, for his foundation.

Makest thy boast of God. Boasted of God's favor to his race.

And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
2:18 Knowest his will. As revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures in the hands of the Jews.

Approvest the things that are more excellent. Instructed in the law, the Jew approved by word its excellent moral principles.

And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
2:19 A guide of the blind. It was God's purpose that in choosing Israel the Israelites should become teachers of the truth; but their sin was that while they boasted of this privilege they failed to do their duty. See Mt 15:14. Such a boast as this was current among the Jews of Paul's time. He heaps phrase on phrase to exalt their claims, in order to show in what follows how far short their lives fell of their professions.
An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
2:20 Which hast the form of knowledge. In the law they had the form, the pattern, of knowledge and of the truth. The truth in its fullness came with Jesus Christ (Joh 1:17), but the law was the pattern, the typical form, of this truth.
Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
2:21 Thou therefore who teachest another. Having just described the proud claims of the Jews, he next inquires how their practice corresponds.

Teachest thou not thyself? He who teaches others how to live, does he teach himself how to live?

Dost thou steal? Some of the essential principles of the law which the Jews supposed to teach to others. The decalogue forbade stealing (Ex 20:15), but the Jews were already proverbial for their tricky methods of trade.

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
2:22 Commit adultery. In spite of the strictness of their Decalogue and moral code, the lax divorce practices of the Jews permitted adultery (Mt 19:8,9), and the Talmud says that some of the most celebrated rabbis were guilty of the same sin. Also see PNT Joh 4:18.

Dost thou commit sacrilege? This question has caused much discussion. The best rendering is, Dost thou rob temples ? (Revised Version). Or, Are you a temple robber? Schaff suggests that the meaning is as follows:

Dost thou abhor idols, according to thy law, and yet engage in traffic whereby thou makest gain off the temples where this idol worship is practiced?''

Macknight says that the reference is to robbing the temple at Jerusalem of what was due it. I think not. The apostles refers to practices which dishonor God among the Gentiles.

Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
2:23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law. The first part of this verse is a summary of the claims of the Jews as given in Ro 2:17-20.

Through breaking the law dishonourest God? The last part is a decisive answer, in an interrogative form, of the four reproachful questions just asked (Ro 2:21,22). Through the whole passage privilege and practice are contrasted.

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
2:24 For the name of God. The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles on account of the vices of the Jews. They make the religion which God has revealed contemptible among the heathen. They judged their religion by the scandalous conduct. Outsiders always judge a religion by the conduct of its votaries.

As it is written. The passage to which Paul refers is found in Isa 52:5.

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth. The Jew was wont to fall back on his circumcision, as some still do on some outward ordinance. His answer to Paul is, Are we not the circumcised? Are not the circumcised the people of the covenant? He replied, I admit that circumcision availeth, if one keeps law. The outward observance profits if one be a law-doer; that is, complies with its moral commandments. But if he fails to do this, his circumcision is as worthless as though he was uncircumcised. The effect of habitual transgression is to annul the covenant.
Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
2:26 Therefore. The converse of this is also true. If the Jewish law-breaker can annul his circumcision thus, then

if the uncircumcision, the Gentiles,

keepeth the righteousness of the law, his uncircumcised state will not be counted against him.

Shall not his uncircumcision we counted for circumcision? He supposes the possible case of a Gentile who might render such an obedience to the moral precepts of the law as a pious Jews could render, and argues that his uncircumcision would not make the obedience less acceptable. Circumcision is not, then, the thing that the Gentile needs, but righteousness. The disobedient Jew virtually becomes a Gentile, and the obedient Gentile virtually becomes a Jew.

And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
2:27 Uncircumcision which is by nature. The Gentiles, who are of uncircumcised races. If such an one keeps the essential principles of the law, his obedience is a rebuke to the Jewish transgressor who has covenanted to keep the law.
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
2:28 For he is not a Jew. He is not a Jew, in the religious sense of one of God's chosen people, who is one outwardly alone.

Neither is that circumcision, the true circumcision, that which makes one a member of God's covenanted church, which is outward in the flesh.

But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
2:29 But he is a Jew, such a Jew as just described,

which is one inwardly, whose heart is given to God;

and circumcision is that of the heart. Circumcision of the heart is a figurative expression for inward purity, as old as the book of Deuteronomy. See De 10:16 30:06:00 Jer 9:26. This circumcision is not an outward mark in the flesh of the body, but is

in the spirit. The spirit of man is under the influence of the Spirit.

Not in the letter. Not literal.

Whose praise is not from men. The Jew, as we have seen, made his boasts, and praised his privileges, but though the true Jew, such as Paul describes, shall be ill-spoken of by men, but shall have praise of God.

The whole section shows that religious privileges, resulting from birth, the revelation of God's will, ritual observances and knowledge, increase the guilt of those whose morality does not correspond. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, were very eager for the praise of men, but the true Jew, the real child of Abraham's by faith, will have what is infinitely better, the praise of God.

The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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