Romans 2:16

God, as the Judge, is utterly impartial. But how, then, shall the differences between Jew and Gentile, especially in respect of the Law, be dealt with in that day? Sin shall be judged, condemned, in Jew or Gentile. The Gentile shall perish according to the measure of his sin; the Jew according to the measure of his. For law must pass into life, otherwise it is void and useless, save for condemnation. We have here - the Gentiles and the Jews in their respective relations to Law; and the supreme sin of the Jews.

I. THE GENTILES AND THE JEWS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE RELATIONS TO LAW. The Gentile might have pleaded that his ignorance should save him; the Jew certainly did assume that his knowledge would save him. Paul will lay to their charge "that they are all under sin" (Romans 3:9), and to this end he now shows that they are all under law before God.

1. Gentiles.

(1) The law of instinctive impulse: "by nature;" "a law unto themselves." A correct and complete philosophy of the religious nature and relations of man seems almost impossible to us now; but doubtless we must recognize here the fact that man has still, more or less, the native impulses of righteousness moving in the heart, which but for the Fall would have been perfect and all-containing in us, and but for the redemption would have been altogether lost. This, then, is one part of man's primal constitution as a moral and religious being; he is moved to love and serve God, and to work righteousness, by an original instinct of his nature. Hence heroism, generosity, etc., in ancient and modern world. God works in man, and so far forth man does not suppress God's working.

(2) The law of reflective consciousness: "their conscience bearing witness therewith;" "their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them." Man does not show his true moral nature till the instinct of the heart is obeyed with the intelligent approbation of the reflective consciousness. The instincts of the heart, so far as they approach completeness, afford the essential contents of the moral law; but it is for man to discern, embrace, and obey. And, till righteousness is wrought thus of deliberate choice, it may scarcely be called righteousness. For there are other impulses, which may lead to wrong; and, till the discerning judgment has checked the native impulse, there is hardly moral worth in the one more than in the other. The "thoughts" must excuse or accuse; then the will may act.

2. Jews. But man's heart is corrupt and man's mind is dark by reason of hereditary sin; therefore to the Jews God gave, in trust for the world, a Law, to correct and confirm the law of the heart and mind. The coincidence of the Law of Sinai with the true law of the heart and mind; the convincing authority of that Law, in its Divine power of awakening and purifying the law within. Hence to the Jew there was added the Law of revelation. He was doubly taught his duty.

II. THE SUPREME SIN OF THE JEWS. But to what end was the Law given, whether of nature or of revelation? To teach righteousness. And therefore the man who wrought unrighteousness, according to his knowledge of the Law, whether Jew or Gentile, frustrated the purpose of God, was under condemnation, and would "perish. Yet the Jew gloried in his enlightenment, oblivious of its purport and intent!

1. The Boast.

(1) Personal.

(a) His name - a Jew." Called by God, indeed, but for work rather than privilege. He perverted his call by a narrow, selfish exclusion.

(b) Resting upon the Law. Knowledge was safety, he thought; whereas knowledge was duty (see vers. 18, 20).

(c) Glorying in God: a merely national God to him, and One who would merely "save."

(2) Relative.

(a) Guide of the blind.

(b) Light of them that are in darkness.

(c) Corrector of the foolish.

(d) Teacher of babes.

2. The shame.

(1) Inconsistency (vers. 21-23).

(2) Crime (vers. 21-23).

(3) Blasphemy (ver. 24). Their God indeed; what must he be! Our higher privilege, in the matter of law: Christ, and the Spirit. Our graver peril: orthodoxy, and the name of Christian. "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). - T.F.L.

In the day when God shall Judge the secrets of men.
I. THE GRAND SUBJECT OF INQUIRY. "The secrets of men." A phrase to be understood in its utmost latitude, including not only matters known only to God and our own consciences, but also things which escape ourselves, or the nature of which may be undiscovered. The hypocrite, who either deceived others or deluded himself, shall then be laid open. And the good actions of the sincere Christian, uncharitably mistaken by the world, or unreasonably censured by his own conscience, shall be vindicated. The expression does not exclude public actions (Ecclesiastes 12:14), which are, in a sense, a secret as to their nature, motives and consequences. Our secret sufferings will also be judged; what we have endured, and in what spirit, whether with resignation toward God, and with gentleness towards men; all which is difficult to determine now.


1. God who alone —(1) Has a right to judge them; it is His law that is broken.(2) Can judge them; none other has power to assemble the living and the dead; wisdom, to know all the individuals and their actions, words, thoughts, etc.; holiness to hate sin; justice to pass an equitable sentence.

2. By Jesus Christ (John 5:22; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:18; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31; Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).(1) This appointment is reasonable, as a reward of His obedience and sufferings. If He reward us for ours, how much more is He, who was "made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death," worthy to be "crowned with glory and honour" (Philippians 2:6-10).(2) This perfect honour is appropriate to Him. The powers of hell employed their force and fraud in opposing the kingdom of Christ, and it is fit He should pass sentence upon them (Revelation 17:13, 14).(3) With respect to His followers also, it is fit that He should acquit them, who bore their sins; that He should determine their happiness, who purchased heaven for them with its various mansions; that He should present them faultless, who preserved them from falling; that He should judge those who were under His government while on earth.

(Joseph Benson.)


1. A judgment is going on daily. Every deed is recorded in the register of doom.(1) This session of the heavenly court is like the daily sessions of our local magistrates, and does not prevent but rather necessitates the holding of an ultimate great assize.(2) As each man passes into another world an immediate judgment is passed upon him; but this is only the foreshadowing of the final judgment.(3) There is a judgment also passing upon nations, for as nations will not exist as nations in another world, they have to be judged now, and history shows how sternly justice has dealt with empire after empire, when they have become corrupt. Where is Assyria, Babylon, Rome, etc.? The world is full of monuments of the mercy and justice of God: the very monuments of His justice being proofs of His goodness; for it is mercy to put an end to evil systems when, like a nightmare, they weigh heavily upon mankind. We have often laughed at the idea of the New Zealander sitting on the broken arch of London Bridge sketching the ruins of St. Paul's. But is it quite so ridiculous as it looks? What is there about London that it should be more enduring than Rome? If we rebel, God will not hold us guiltless.

2. Though such judgments proceed every day, yet there is to be a day in which more distinctly and finally God will judge men. We might have guessed this by the light of nature and of reason. Even heathen peoples have had a dim notion of a day of doom; but we are solemnly assured of it in Holy Scripture.(1) By judging is here meant all that concerns the proceedings of trial and award.(a) There will be a session of majesty, and the appearing of a great white throne, surrounded with pomp of angels and glorified beings.(b) Then a summons will be issued, bidding all men come to judgment.(c) Then the indictment will be read, and each one examined.(d) Then the books shall be opened, and everything recorded there read.(e) Then the great Judge shall give the decision, pronounce sentence and execute it.(2) This will be so, and it ought to be so: God should judge the world, because He is the universal ruler and sovereign.(a) There has been a day for sinning, there ought to be a day for punishing.(b) It ought to be so for the sake of the righteous. The best have had the worst of it, and there ought to be a judgment to set these things right. Besides, the festering iniquities of each age cry out to God that He should deal with them.(3) Why doth it not come at once? And when will it come? It is idle and profane to guess at it, since even the Son of Man, as such, knoweth not the time. It is sufficient that it will surely come; sufficient also to believe that it is postponed.(a) To give space for repentance.(b) That the Church may be completed. The Lord keeps the scaffold standing till He hath built up the fabric. Not yet are all the redeemed with blood redeemed with power and brought forth into the holiness in which they walk with God. But do not deceive yourselves. The great day of His wrath cometh on apace, and days of reprieve are numbered.


1. By these are meant —(1) Those secret crimes which hide themselves away by their own infamy, which are too vile to be spoken of.(2) The hidden motives of every action; for a man may do that which is right from a wrong motive, and so the deed may be evil in the sight of God, though it seem right in the sight of men. Oh, think what it will be to have it proven that you were godly for the sake of gain, that you were generous out of ostentation, or for love of praise, etc.(3) The sensual desires and imaginings.(4) Secrets, that were secrets even to the sinners themselves, for there is sin in us which we have never yet discovered.

2. Why God should judge the secrets of men. Because —(1) There is really nothing secret from God; for all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.(2) Often the greatest of moral acts are done in secret. The brightest deeds that God delights in are those that are done by His servants when they have no motive but to please Him, and when they studiously avoid publicity. It were a pity that such deeds should be left out at the great audit. Thus, too, secret vices are also of the very blackest kind, and to exempt them were to let the worst of sinners go unpunished.(3) Besides, the secret things of men enter into the very essence of their actions. An action is, after all, good or bad very much according to its motive. So, if God did not judge the secret part of the action He would not judge righteously.(4) The secret thing is the best evidence of the man's condition. Many a man will not do in public that which would bring him shame. That which a man does when he thinks that he is entirely by himself is the best revelation of the man.


1. For the display of His glory. What a difference there will be then between the Babe of Bethlehem's manger and the King of kings and Lord of lords; between the weary man and full of woes, and He that shall then be girt with glory, sitting on a throne encircled with a rainbow! From the derision of men to the throne of the universal judgment, what an ascent! This, too, will finally settle the controversy about our Lord's Deity.

2. Because men have been under His mediatorial sway, and He is their King. We have been placed by an act of Divine clemency, not under the immediate government of an offended God, but under the reconciling rule of the Prince of Peace.

3. That there may never be a cavil raised concerning that judgment. Men shall not be able to say, Vie were judged by a superior being who did not know our weaknesses and temptations, and therefore judged us without a generous consideration of our condition. The Judge was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. He is our brother, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, partaker of our humanity, and therefore understands and knows what is in men.

4. This judgment by Christ puts beyond possibility all hope of any after-interposition. If the Saviour condemns, and such a Saviour, who can plead for us? If He that bled to save men at last comes to this conclusion, that there is no more to be done, but they must be driven from His presence, then farewell hope.

5. Does not this also show how certain the sentence will be? for this Christ of God is too much in earnest to play with men. If He says, "Come, ye blessed," He will not fail to bring them to their inheritance. If He be driven to say, "Depart, ye cursed," He will see it done, and into the everlasting punishment they must go.

6. It seems as if God in this intended to give a display of the unity of all His perfections. In Christ you behold justice and love, mercy and righteousness, combined in equal measure. He turns to the right, and says, "Come, ye blessed," and with the same lip, as He glances to the left, He says, "Depart, ye cursed,"

IV. ALL THIS IS ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL. There is nothing in the gospel contrary to this solemn teaching. Men gather to hear us preach of infinite mercy, and our task is joyful; but oh, remember that nothing in our message makes light of sin! There is grace for the man who quits his sin, but there is tribulation and wrath upon every man that doeth evil. The gospel is all tenderness to the repenting, but all terror to the obstinate offender. The background of the Cross is the judgment seat of Christ. "According to my gospel," saith Paul; and he meant that the judgment is an essential part of the gospel creed, and in times of righteous indignation its terrible significance seems a very gospel to the pure in heart. I have read this and that concerning oppression, slavery, the treading down of the poor, and the shedding of blood, and I have rejoiced that there is a righteous Judge. Thousands of men have been hanged for much less crimes than those which now disgrace gentlemen whose names are on the lips of rank and beauty. Where this is not preached, I am bold to say the gospel is not preached. It is absolutely necessary to the preaching of the gospel that men be warned as to what will happen if they continue in their sins. Surgeon, you hope to heal the sick without their knowing it. You therefore flatter them; and they die! Your delicacy is cruelty; you are a murderer. Shall we keep men in a fool's paradise? Shall we lull them into soft slumbers from which they will awake in hell?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Secrets of —

I. CONDUCT. Those actions we concealed from friendship and from man, proclaimed on the housetop. How many secrets are now in progress in the world! Secrets of —

1. Ambition, where the man is sacrificing all for it.

2. Covetousness; call them secrets of trade if you like, but there are many practices countenanced which cannot bear the light. How have you held back from the widow, and passed by the orphan?

3. Sensuality. In darkness, not to be named in public. Look in your closets; how have your consciences been contaminated.

4. Envy: I cannot go into your closets; but what has God seen there!

II. CHARACTER. Character is formed by principle. Now this can only be known to Him who searches the heart. I know not the springs of your conduct, nor the principles on which your character is formed. Though Jesus says we may know the tree by the fruit, yet there is not always a faithful correspondence between principles and practice. How few seek only the glory of God. Self is a subtle principle. In private a man will blush at his own hypocrisy; and Satan, helping him, may make him a self-deceiver. But every motive will then start up! How many actions now under the garb of humility will then be seen to have originated in pride! How many blazoned deeds from self-love! How many actions, which seem under the motive of zeal to God, like those of Jehu, are prompted by interest!

III. INATTENTION. A large portion of our actions are thought to be venial, trifling, etc. "For every idle word which men shall speak, they shall give account in the day of judgment."

IV. INFLUENCE. We are members one of another. We are always, when in society, doing either good or harm.

1. Little do we know how many are they on whom we have in some way exerted an unhallowed influence. In that day the author of blasphemous works will answer for all the evil he has done.

2. At the same time, many secrets of prayer will then be found, many tears, etc.Conclusion:

1. This subject requires deep self-examination. What secrets will this night conceal!

2. What will be the effects of this judgment?(1) The shame of exposure. What would you not give here to avoid exposure?(2) Besides shame, the agony of remorse, the horror of despair. "Some shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt."

(J. Summerfield, A. M.)

1. Thoughts are amongst the secrets of men. They are what men cannot be sure of in each other. They are what men often seem to imagine that even God cannot behold.

2. Whence is it that the thoughts arise which will be called to account? "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts" (Matthew 15:19). Out of the heart also it is that good thoughts, by God's good grace, spring up.

3. And this make it so needful for them to be judged hereafter. They prove what is the inward disposition of the soul, what there is of good or evil there.

4. But though it is easy to see why the thoughts must be judged; yet it is not easy to think as if they would be. How few think continually such thoughts as they would wish to have entirely laid open unto those amongst whom they live! How few such as are fit to be beholden by Him to whom all thoughts are open! How few that God will judge them!


1. Selfish thoughts. For what are the thoughts which God commands us to cherish towards each other? (see Matthew 19:19; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:4). Consider how far are your thoughts guided by these rules?

2. Proud thoughts. The pattern set before it Christian is as follows: "Learn of My, for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29). The rule laid down for his thoughts of others is, "In lowliness of mind," etc. (Philippians 2:3). How often is this rule violated; how seldom this pattern followed! There is, indeed, a great variety in rank, ability, etc., and it would be but a pretence to humility for a man to profess himself inferior in a point where he cannot help to know his own advantages. But whatsoever be his comparative advantages, let him fix his attention rather on his own actual defects — his sins, wasted opportunities — and he will scarcely think highly of himself.

3. Angry thoughts. These are closely connected with pride and selfishness. He that thinks highly of himself covets largely for himself, and must, therefore, often be disappointed and affronted. Thus spring up angry thoughts; and though neither unkind words or actions follow, the thoughts alone are sinful, and will be judged. The most secret thoughts Christ would have to be now gentle and charitable.

4. Impure thoughts (Matthew 5:27, 28). Let no one imagine himself innocent, merely because his conduct is respectable. The fear of shame, the lack of opportunity, may preserve the outward character, but they cannot secure the favourable judgment of Him who sees the heart to be sensual. Thus not only he who follows after strong drink in excess, but he also who fain would do so if he could is a drunkard in the sight of the Almighty. Thus in another sin, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15).

5. Worldly thoughts. We learn that a Christian should set his affections on things above (Colossians 3:2), and not be anxious for this world's morrow (Matthew 6:25-34). How, then, can they answer for it hereafter, whose whole minds are occupied with the business of the world they live in; with scarcely one reflection in the day on the world which they so soon must enter? Are not these things among those secrets of men which God will judge?


1. Besides the times which you set apart for prayer, etc., you must endeavour to cherish thoughts of heaven in the midst of your attention to the business of earth. Say you are engaged in work. Why should you not relieve your toil by thinking of what awaits you when life shall end?

2. Set before yourselves your Christian calling. Keep in view the condemnation from which you have been delivered, and the dealings of Him who has delivered you (Philippians 4:8). And think further of what God has yet in store for us in the world which now we see not. Let us more stedfastly believe that we shall dwell in heaven, and we shall think more frequently of dwelling there. Let us believe more firmly that Christ died for our sins, and we shall think of Him both more often and more thankfully. Then shall we less fear to have our secrets judged, when we have not a thought which is not beforehand submitted to our Judge, suggested by His Spirit, guided by His Word, or devoutly surrendered to His will.

(C. Girdlestone, M. A.)


1. If any one of us were asked to relate his own life, he might relate two lives which would seem all but independent of each other. He might tell when he was born, where he had lived, what he had done, etc. He might anticipate the future, calculate what were his chances of success, and how he expected to end his days. Or, again, he might tell quite a different story. What he remembered of his own early character; what were his real affections; what did he secretly like, and pursue, and hope for; what changes had passed over him; what events had influenced the general current of his thoughts; what struggles he had been engaged in, and their issue. He might tell of the very beginnings, unknown to all save himself, of habits of sin never since quite shaken off; of deeds done in darkness; why some names, associations, memories make him uncomfortable without any visible reason; why he wishes, in his secret heart, some subjects to be forbidden, and is always conscious of an effort to seem indifferent when they are mentioned.

2. Now how different these two lives would often be! How events of the highest importance, and persons who play a large part in the one would disappear in the other! How strange it would be to see that a man who had succeeded in the eyes of his friends in a particular path had meanwhile been cherishing within him quite foreign thoughts and other longings! How strange to find that a fair character was only fair outwardly! Those who had been praised would, in many cases, win pity; and some few who now suffer from showing ill would be found to rank far above the level at which they had always been placed. Often the recital of a man's secret life would completely change our opinion of him. But still more often we should be astonished to see how these two lives seemed to run side by side almost without mingling.


1. Neither tells the whole man.(1) The outer life only tells what we are under all the influences of the eyes of others, which eyes call into use a completely different set of faculties and motives — the desire to be thought well of, to please, to win popularity or love, then begin to act. Our consciences, too, are strengthened in some ways by the sight of each other; and there are some duties which we see much more clearly.(2) On the other hand, the inner life tells what we are when quite left to ourselves, but no man is complete when alone. There is a large part of his nature which is made to fit into the society of his fellows; and if this part of him does not find its proper complement, the nature of the man is not all called out. Moreover, what goes on in our secret lives is, to a great extent, the very consequence of our believing that it will end where it begins. Many a man indulges passing thoughts, who would not put them into deeds even if tempted by the certainty of perpetual concealment. It would not be possible, therefore, to judge a man either by the secret life or by the public. But Christ will unveil them both, and we shall see and feel the justice of His decision.

2. Now we can see why God has thus shut up a large and important part of our lives in this absolute secrecy. God has made us to be members one of another; but He will not have us to be nothing but members one of another. Every soul shall have an individual life, with an individual history, and shall come at last to an individual judgment. God requires that each soul shall have a separate strength supplied by Himself alone. The Church is much. But the Church shall not be everything. You shall, if you are to call yourself a servant of Christ, give something which you and you alone can give, which you and you alone can know whether you give or not. From this responsibility you cannot escape. Another may ask you whether you have done it, but he must depend for his answer on what you tell him, and he cannot know whether your answer is the whole truth. God alone can tell that; and between yourself and God the secret must remain till the judgment day.

3. God has hidden a part of our lives; and this concealment we can cast over much more than He has hidden. But again and again are we warned against it. It is the man whose deeds are evil that loves darkness rather than light. And what is the voice of God's Word is also the voice of natural feeling. The man who is fair outside and foul within is condemned of all men as a hypocrite. Men reserve all their strongest terms of reprobation for the dark, reserved, and secret sinner. Men refuse their love to the reserved and secret character. Nature and revelation both warn us against the danger we run if we pollute our inner and secret life with what we dare not tell.

4. In view of this awful coming judgment let us determine to force all our faults outwards. At whatever cost let us keep sacred to God that inner shrine which He has thus hidden with a secrecy of His own making. Let us avoid a secret sin with a hundred times more eager avoidance, just because it is secret. If we can be fair anywhere let it be in that which God has reserved for Himself, and where Christ is willing to dwell.

(Bp. Temple.)

According to my gospel.
It is impossible to tell what it cost Paul to write Chapter

1. It is a shame even to speak of the things, but Paul felt that it was necessary to break through his shame, and to speak out concerning the hideous vices of the heathen. Monsters that revel in darkness must be dragged into the open, that they may be withered up by the light. After Paul has thus written in anguish he bethought himself of his chief comfort. He clings to the gospel with a greater tenacity than ever. Here he did not speak of it as "the gospel," but as "my gospel." He felt that he could not live in the midst of so depraved a people without holding the gospel with both hands, and grasping it as his very own. "My gospel." Not that Paul was the author of it, not that Paul had an exclusive monopoly of its blessings, but that he had so received it from Christ Himself, and so fully taken it into himself that he could not do less than call it "my gospel." In another place he speaks of "our gospel"; to show how believers identify themselves with the truth which they preach.

1. He had a definite form of truth, and he believed in it beyond all doubt; and therefore he spoke of it as "my gospel." Herein we hear the voice of faith, which seems to say, "Though others reject it, I am sure of it," "Should all the forms that men devise," etc.

2. Is not this word "my gospel" the voice of love? Does he not by this word embrace the gospel as the only love of his soul — for the sake of which he had suffered the loss of all things, and for the sake of which he was willing to proclaim, even in Caesar's palace, the message from heaven? Though each word should cost him a life, he was willing to die a thousand deaths for the holy cause.

3. Does not this show his courage! As much as to say, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ."

4. There is a touch of discrimination about the expression. Paul perceives that there are other gospels, and he makes short work with them.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Twice in this epistle the apostle uses this remarkable expression; here and in Romans 16:25. Now, it would be obviously arrogant for any ordinary preacher to use such an expression. We dare not speak of it so as to imply that it has acquired some distinctive character from our way of putting it. But in Paul's case we may feel sure that this expression was not used presumptuously.

1. Not only was he a chosen apostle, but there was given to him such excellency of knowledge in the mystery of Christ, that it is impossible to see how Christianity could have become the religion of all men but for Paul. Peter may have been qualified to open the door of faith to the Gentiles, and may have struck the first blow at the middle wall of partition, but it was through Paul's preaching that this middle wall was broken down effectually and finally, and the last trace of the long inferiority of the Gentile to the Jew completely effaced.

2. Then, again, it is Paul who has shaped all our formal theology as such, and given the life of Christ in the soul that articulate form without which it would soon die away into a vague and bodiless sentiment. It is Paul who has opened up the types, and linked Old Testament and New together.

3. All philosophy and all history may be said to stream out of the teaching of this the greatest of the apostles, like those rivers which flowed out of Eden and parted into four heads. As for the philosophy of history, it may be said to take its rise from the Epistle to the Romans, in the same way as it has been said that history itself was born on the night of the Exodus.

4. I dare not make use of this expression. And yet I feel irresistibly attracted to use it, though in a much lower sense. My justification for preaching at all is, that there is a sense in which any true teacher has a message from God which may be said to be distinctively his own. Every man must be fully persuaded in his own mind, and then declare his own mind to others.

(J. B. Heard, M. A.)

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