1.Therefore inexcusable art thou, O man. ]This reproof is directed against hypocrites, who dazzle the eyes of men by displays of outward sanctity, and even think themselves to be accepted before God, as though they had given him full satisfaction. Hence Paul, after having stated the grosser vices, that he might prove that none are just before God, now attacks saintlings (sanctulos ) of this kind, who could not have been included in the first catalogue. Now the inference is too simple and plain for any one to wonder how the Apostle derived his argument; for he makes them inexcusable, because they themselves knew the judgment of God, and yet transgressed the law; as though he said, “Though thou consented not to the vices of others, and seemest to be avowedly even an enemy and a reprover of vices; yet as thou art not free from them, if thou really examinest thyself, thou canst not bring forward any defense.”
For in what thou judgest another, etc. Besides the striking resemblance there is between the two Greek verbs, κρίνειν and κατακρίνειν (to judge and to condemn,) the enhancing of their sin ought to be noticed; for his mode of speaking is the same, as though he said, “Thou art doubly deserving of condemnation; for thou art guilty of the same vices which thou blamest and reprovest in others.” It is, indeed, a well-known saying, — that they who scrutinize the life of others lay claim themselves to innocence, temperance, and all virtues; and that those are not worthy of any indulgence who allow in themselves the same things which they undertake to correct in others.
For thou, judging, doest the same things: so it is literally; but the meaning is, “Though thou judgest, thou yet doest the same things.” And he says that they did them, because they were not in a right state of mind; for sin properly belongs to the mind. They then condemned themselves on this account, — because, in reproving a thief, or an adulterer, or a slanderer, they did not merely condemn the persons, but those very vices which adhered to themselves.
In order to appreciate the force of the apostle’s reasoning in this and the following verses, it should be remembered that the principal ground on which the Jews expected acceptance with God, was the covenant which he had made with their father Abraham, in which he promised to be a God to him and to his seed after him. They understood this promise to secure salvation for all who retained their connection with Abraham, by the observance of the law and the rite of circumcision. They expected, therefore, to be regarded and treated not so much as individuals, each being dealt with according to his personal character, but as a community to whom salvation was secured by the promise made to Abraham. Paul begins his argument at a distance; he states his principles in such general terms, that they could not fail to secure the assent of the Jew, before he was aware of their application to himself. That the Jews are addressed in this chapter is evident from the whole strain of the argument, and from the express application of the reasoning to the case of the Jews, from Rom_2:17 onward. This view of the passage is now generally adopted, though many of the earlier commentators supposed either that no particular class of persons is here addressed, or that the apostle has in view the better portion of the heathen, or at least those who did not seem to approve of the crimes mentioned in the preceding chapter, but rather condemned them.
The connection between this chapter and what precedes, as indicated by the particle διὸ, wherefore, is somewhat doubtful. Some suppose the inference to be drawn from the doctrine taught from Rom_2:18 of the preceding chapter. God is just, and determined to punish all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men; wherefore they are without excuse who commit the sins which they condemn in others. In this case, however, the conclusion is not exactly in the firm suited to the premises. It is not so much the inexcusableness of sinners as the exposure to punishment, that follows from the justice of God. Most commentators, therefore, consider the inference as drawn from the last verse of the preceding chapter. It is there said that all men knew that those who sin are worthy of death; and the inference is, that they which commit sin are without excuse, however censorious their self-conceit may render them towards others. Every one who judges. Though from what follows it is plain that the Jews are here intended, yet for the reasons above stated the proposition is made general. Κρίνων, judging; but by implication, condemning. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself. Wherein (ἐν ᾧ) either in the thing which, or thereby, i.e., in the same judgment, or whilst See Mar_2:19; Joh_5:7. The reason of this assertion is given in the following clause, for thou that judgest doest the same things. It is the thing done which is the ground of condemnation; and therefore he who condemns the act, condemns the agent, whether the agent be himself or someone else, whether he be a Jew or a Gentile.
Therefore – Διὸ Dio. The force of this word here has been the subject of much discussion. The design of this and the following chapter is to show that the Jews were no less guilty that the Gentiles, and that they needed the benefit of the same salvation. This the apostle does by showing that they had greater light than the Gentiles; and yet that they did the same things. Still they were in the habit of accusing and condemning the Gentiles as wicked and abandoned; while they excused themselves on the ground that they possessed the Law and the oracles of God, and were his favorite people. The apostle here affirms that they were inexcusable in their sins, that they must be condemned in the sight of God, on the same ground on which they condemned the Gentiles; to wit, that they had light and yet committed wickedness. If the Gentiles were without excuse Rom_1:20 in their sins, much more would the Jew, who condemned them, be without excuse on the same ground. The word therefore, I suppose, refers not to any particular word in the previous chapter, or to any particular verse, but to the general considerations which were suggested by a view of the whole case. And its sense might be thus expressed. “Since you Jews condemn the Gentiles for their sins, on the ground that they have the means of knowing their duty, therefore, you who are far more favored than they, are entirely without an excuse for the same things.”
Thou art inexcusable – This does not mean that they were inexcusable for judging others; but that they had no excuse for their sins before God; or that they were under condemnation for their crimes, and needed the benefits of another plan of justification. As the Gentiles whom they judged were condemned, and were without excuse Rom_1:20, so were the Jews who condemned them without excuse on the same principle; and in a still greater degree.
O man – This address is general to any man who should do this. But it is plain, from the connection, that he means especially the Jews. The use of this word is an instance of the apostle’s skill in argument. If he had openly named the Jews here, it would have been likely to have excited opposition from them. He therefore approaches the subject gradually, affirms it of man in general, and then makes a particular application to the Jews. This he does not do, however, until he has advanced so far in the general principles of his argument that it would be impossible for them to evade his conclusions; and then he does it in the most tender, and kind, as well as convincing manner, Rom_2:17, etc.
Whosoever thou art that judgest – The word “judgest” (κρίνεις krineis) here is used in the sense of condemning. It is not a word of equal strength with what is rendered “condemnest” (κατακρίνεις katakrineis). It implies, however, that they were accustomed to express themselves freely and severely of the character and doom of the Gentiles. And from the New Testament, as well as from their own writings, there can be no doubt that such was the fact; that they regarded the entire Gentile world with abhorrence, considered them as shut out from the favor of God, and applied to them terms expressive of the utmost contempt. Compare Mat_15:27.
For wherein – For in the “same thing.” This implies that substantially the same crimes which were committed among the pagan were also committed among the Jews.
Thou judgest another – The meaning of this clearly is, “for the same thing for which you condemn the pagan, you condemn yourselves.”
Thou that judgest – You Jews who condemn other nations.
Doest the same things – It is clearly implied here, that they were guilty of offences similar to those practiced by the Gentiles. It would not be a just principle of interpretation to press this declaration as implying that precisely the same offences, and to the same extent, were chargeable on them. Thus, they were not guilty, in the time of the apostle, of idolatry; but of the other crimes enumerated in the first chapter, the Jews might be guilty. The character of the nation, as given in the New Testament, is that they were “an evil and adulterous generation” (Mat_12:39; compare Joh_8:7); that they were a “generation of vipers” Mat_3:7; Mat_12:34; that; they were wicked Mat_12:45; that they were sinful Mar_8:38; that they were proud, haughty, hypocritical, etc.; Matt. 23. If such was the character of the Jewish nation in general, there is no improbability in supposing that they practiced most of the crimes specified in Rom. 1: On this verse we may remark,
(1) That people are prone to be severe judges of others.
(2) this is often, perhaps commonly, done when the accusers themselves are guilty of the same offences.
It often happens, too, that people are remarkably zealous in opposing those offences which they themselves secretly practice. A remarkable instance of this occurs in Joh_8:1, etc. Thus, David readily condemned the supposed act of injustice mentioned by Nathan; 2Sa_12:1-6. Thus, also kings and emperors have enacted severe laws against the very crimes which they have constantly committed themselves. Nero executed the laws of the Roman Empire against the very crimes which he was constantly committing; and it was a common practice for Roman masters to commit offences which they punished with death in their slaves. (See instances in Grotius on this place.)
(3) Remarkable zeal against sin may be no proof of innocence; compare Mat_7:3. The zeal of persecutors, and often of pretended reformers, may be far from proof that they are free from the very offences which they are condemning in others. It may all be the work of the hypocrite to conceal some base design; or of the man who seeks to show his hostility to one kind of sin, in order to be a salvo to his conscience for committing some other.
(4) the heart is deceitful. When we judge others we should make it a rule to examine ourselves on that very point. Such an examination might greatly mitigate the severity of our judgment; or might turn the whole of our indignation against ourselves.
2.But we know that the judgment of God, etc. The design of Paul is to shake off from hypocrites their self-complacencies, that they may not think that they can really gain any thing, though they be applauded by the world, and though they regard themselves guiltless; for a far different trial awaits them in heaven. But as he charges them with inward impurity, which, being hid from the eyes of men, cannot be proved and convicted by human testimonies, he summons them to the tribunal of God, to whom darkness itself is not hid, and by whose judgment the case of sinners, be they willing or unwilling, must be determined.
Moreover, the truth of judgment will in two ways appear, because God will punish sin without any respect of persons, in whomsoever it will be found; and he will not heed outward appearances, nor be satisfied with any outward work, except what has proceeded from real sincerity of heart. It hence follows, that the mask of feigned sanctity will not prevent him from visiting secret wickedness with judgment. It is, no doubt, a Hebrew idiom; for truth in Hebrew means often the inward integrity of the heart, and thus stands opposed not only to gross falsehood, but also to the outward appearance of good works. And then only are hypocrites awakened, when they are told that God will take an account, not only of their disguised righteousness, but also of their secret motives and feelings.
But we are sure – Greek, “We know.” That is, it is the common and admitted sentiment of mankind. It is known and believed by people generally that God will punish such crimes. It is implied in this declaration that this was known to the Jews, and it was particularly to the purpose of the apostle so to express himself as to include the Jews. They knew it because it was everywhere taught in the Old Testament, and it was the acknowledged doctrine of the nation. The design of the apostle here, says Calvin, is to take away the subterfuges of the hypocrite, lest he should pride himself if he obtained the praise of human beings, for a far more important trial awaited him at the bar of God. Outwardly he might appear well to people; but God searched the heart, and saw the secret as well as the open deeds of people, and they who practiced secretly what they condemned openly, could not expect to escape the righteous judgment of God. God, without respect of persons would punish wickedness, whether it was open, as among the Gentiles, or whether it was concealed under the guise of great regard for religion, as among the Jews.
The judgment of God – That God condemns it, and will punish it. He regards those who do these things as guilty, and will treat them accordingly.
According to truth – This expression is capable of two meanings. The Hebrews sometimes use it to denote truly or certainly. God will certainly judge and punish such deeds. Another meaning, which is probably the correct one here, is that God will judge those who are guilty of such things, not according to appearance, but in integrity, and with righteousness. He will judge people according to the real nature of their conduct, and not as their conduct may appear to people. The secret, as well as the open sinner therefore; the hypocrite, as well as the abandoned profligate, must expect to be judged according to their true character. This meaning comports with the design of the apostle, which is to show that the Jew, who secretly and hypocritically did the very things which he condemned in the Gentile, could not escape the righteous judgment of God.
Against him – That is, against every man, no matter of what age or nation.
Which commit such things – The crimes enumerated in Rom. 1. The apostle is not to be understood as affirming that each and every individual among the Jews was guilty of the specific crimes charged on the pagan, but that they were as a people inclined to the same things. Even where they might be externally moral, they might be guilty of cherishing evil desires in their hearts, and thus be guilty of the offence, Mat_5:28. When people desire to do evil, and are prevented by the providence of God, it is right to punish them for their evil intentions. The fact that God, prevents them from carrying their evil purposes into execution, does not constitute a difference between their real character and the character of those who are suffered to act out their wicked designs.
3.And thinkest thou, O man, etc. As rhetoricians teach us, that we ought not to proceed to give strong reproof before the crime be proved, Paul may seem to some to have acted unwisely here for having passed so severe a censure, when he had not yet proved the accusation which he had brought forward. But the fact is otherwise; for he adduced not his accusation before men, but appealed to the judgment of conscience; and thus he deemed that proved which he had in view — that they could not deny their iniquity, if they examined themselves and submitted to the scrutiny of God’s tribunal. And it was not without urgent necessity, that he with so much sharpness and severity rebuked their fictitious sanctity; for men of this class will with astonishing security trust in themselves, except their vain confidence be forcibly shaken from them. Let us then remember, that this is the best mode of dealing with hypocrisy, in order to awaken it from its inebriety, that is, to draw it forth to the light of God’s judgment.
That thou shalt escape, etc. This argument is drawn from the less; for since our sins are subject to the judgment of men, much more are they to that of God, who is the only true Judge of all. Men are indeed led by a divine instinct to condemn evil deeds; but this is only an obscure and faint resemblance of the divine judgment. They are then extremely besotted, who think that they can escape the judgment of God, though they allow not others to escape their own judgment. It is not without an emphatical meaning that he repeats the word man; it is for the purpose of presenting a comparison between man and God.
But thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest, etc. The truth that God’s judgment is just, and will fall on those who themselves commit the sins which they condemn in others, is so plain, that the apostle exclaims at the folly of those who seem to deny it. The emphasis lies on the word thou, in the middle of the verse. Dost thou think that thou, a Jew, and because a Jew, shalt escape the righteous judgment of God? Shalt escape, ἐκφεύξῃ. “Every one,” says Bengel, “who is arraigned, φεύγει, tries to escape; he who is acquitted, ἐκφεύγει, escapes.” In Rom_2:1, the apostle had shown that the man who did what he condemned in others, condemned himself. “If then,” as Theophylact says, “he cannot escape his own judgment, how can he escape the judgment of God? If forced to condemn ourselves, how much more will the infinitely Holy condemn us?” The ground on which this false and absurd expectation rested is mentioned in the following verse:
3. σύ emphatic; ‘thou, of all men.’ There is abundant illustration of the view current among the Jews that the Israelite was secure simply as such by virtue of his descent from Abraham and of his possession of the Law: cf. Mat_3:8, Mat_3:9 ‘Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father’; Joh_8:33; Gal_2:15; the passages quoted by Gif.; Weber, Altsyn. Theol. p. 69 f.
There may be an element of popular misunderstanding, there is certainly an element of inconsistency, in some of these passages. The story of Abraham sitting at the gate of Paradise and refusing to turn away even the wicked Israelite can hardly be a fair specimen of the teaching of the Rabbis, for we know that they insisted strenuously on the performance of the precepts of the Law, moral as well as ceremonial. But in any case there must have been a strong tendency to rest on supposed religious privileges apart from the attempt to make practice conform to them.
And thinkest thou … – This is an appeal to their common sense, to their deep and instinctive conviction of what was right. If they condemned those who practiced these things; if, imperfect and obscure as their sense of justice was; if, unholy as they were, they yet condemned those who were guffey of these offences, would not a holy and just God be far more likely to pronounce judgment? And could they escape who had themselves delivered a similar sentence? God is of “purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity, Hab_1:13. And if people condemned their fellow-men, how much more would a pure and holy God condemn iniquity. This appeal is evidently directed against the Jew. It was doubtless a prevalent sentiment among them, that provided they adhered to the rites of their religion, and observed the ceremonial law, God would not judge them with the same severity as he would the abandoned and idolatrous Gentiles: compare Mat_3:9; Joh_8:33. The apostle shows them that crime is crime, wherever committed: that sin does not lose its essential character by being committed in the midst of religious privileges; and that those who professed to be the people of God have no special license to sin. Antinomians in all ages, like the Jews, have supposed that they, being the friends of God, have a right to do many things which would not be proper in others; that what would be sin in others, they may commit with impunity; and that God will not be strict to mark the offences of his people. Against all this Paul is directly opposed, and the Bible uniformly teaches that the most aggravated sins among people are those committed by the professed people of God; compare Isa_1:11-17; Isa_65:2-5; Rev_3:16.
4.Dost thou despise the riches? etc. It does not seem to me, as some think, that there is here an argument, conclusive on two grounds, (dilemma ,) but an anticipation of an objection: for as hypocrites are commonly transported with prosperity, as though they had merited the Lord’s kindness by their good deeds, and become thus more hardened in their contempt of God, the Apostle anticipates their arrogance, and proves, by an argument taken from a reason of an opposite kind, that there is no ground for them to think that God, on account of their outward prosperity, is propitious to them, since the design of his benevolence is far different, and that is, to convert sinners to himself. Where then the fear of God does not rule, confidence, on account of prosperity, is a contempt and a mockery of his great goodness. It hence follows, that a heavier punishment will be inflicted on those whom God has in this life favored; because, in addition to their other wickedness, they have rejected the fatherly invitation of God. And though all the gifts of God are so many evidences of his paternal goodness, yet as he often has a different object in view, the ungodly absurdly congratulate themselves on their prosperity, as though they were dear to him, while he kindly and bountifully supports them.
Not knowing that the goodness of God, etc. For the Lord by his kindness shows to us, that it is he to whom we ought turn, if we desire to secure our wellbeing, and at the same time he strengthens our confidence in expecting mercy. If we use not God’s bounty for this end, we abuse it. But yet it is not to be viewed always in the same light; for when the Lord deals favorably with his servants and gives them earthly blessings, he makes known to them by symbols of this kind his own benevolence, and trains them up at the same time to seek the sum and substance of all good things in himself alone: when he treats the transgressors of his law with the same indulgence, his object is to soften by his kindness their perverseness; he yet does not testify that he is already propitious to them, but, on the contrary, invites them to repentance. But if any one brings this objection — that the Lord sings to the deaf as long as he does not touch inwardly their hearts; we must answer — that no fault can be found in this case except with our own depravity. But I prefer rendering the word which Paul here uses, leads, rather than invites, for it is more significant; I do not, however, take it in the sense of driving, but of leading as it were by the hand.
Slighting the goodness of God (Rom_2:4), the riches of his goodness. This is especially applicable to the Jews, who had singular tokens of the divine favour. Means are mercies, and the more light we sin against the more love we sin against. Low and mean thoughts of the divine goodness are at the bottom of a great deal of sin. There is in every wilful sin an interpretative contempt of the goodness of God; it is spurning at his bowels, particularly the goodness of his patience, his forbearance and long-suffering, taking occasion thence to be so much the more bold in sin, Ecc_8:11. Not knowing, that is, not considering, not knowing practically and with application, that the goodness of God leadeth thee, the design of it is to lead thee, to repentance. It is not enough for us to know that God’s goodness leads to repentance, but we must know that it leads us – thee in particular. See here what method God takes to bring sinners to repentance. He leads them, not drives them like beasts, but leads them like rational creatures, allures them (Hos_2:14); and it is goodness that leads, bands of love, Hos_11:4. Compare Jer_31:3. The consideration of the goodness of God, his common goodness to all (the goodness of his providence, of his patience, and of his offers), should be effectual to bring us all to repentance; and the reason why so many continue in impenitency is because they do not know and consider this.
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering? That is, admitting the general principle, that those who do what they condemn in others are themselves exposed to condemnation, do you expect exemption on the ground of the peculiar goodness of God? That this was the expectation of the Jews is plain from the apostle’s argument here and in the following chapter, and from Romans 9 and 11. Comp. also Mat_3:9, “Think not to say, We have Abraham to our father,” and Joh_8:33. Despisest. To despise, καταφρονεῖν, is to form a low estimate of. They despise the goodness of God, who form such a wrong estimate of it, as to suppose that it gives them a license to sin; who imagine that he will not punish, either because he long forbears, or because his goodness towards us is so great that we shall escape, though others perish. The words χρηστότητος, ἀνοχῆς, and μακροθυμίας, express the Divine goodness under different aspects. The first means kindness in general, as expressed in giving favors; the second, patience; the third, forbearance, slowness in the infliction of punishment. The reason why the Jews, as referred to by the apostle, and men in general, thus abuse the goodness of God, is expressed by the clause, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. Ἀγνοῶν, not knowing, not understanding; and here, not comprehending the true nature and design of. Men abuse the goodness of God, because they do not rightly apprehend that instead of indicating a purpose not to punish, it is designed to lead them to forsake their sins. The goodness of God leads us to repentance, because it allows us our duty towards a Being who is so kind, and because it gives us ground to hope for acceptance.
“The word ἄγει, leads,” says Dr. Wordsworth, Canon of Westminster, in his elegant and scholarly work on the Greek Testament, “intimates not only the will of God, but the will of man. God leads, but man may refuse to be led: ‘Deus ducit volentum duci’ as Bengel says, ‘Ducit suaviter non cogit.’” Very true; but who gives the will to be led? Is there no preventing grace? Does not God work in us to will, as well as to do. Surely there is such a thing as being made willing without being forced. There is a middle ground between moral suasion on and coercion. God supersedes the necessity of forcing, by making us willing in the day of his power. The apostle, however, is not here speaking of gracious influence, but of the moral tendencies of providential dispensations.
Repentance is the work of God in the soul on the moral side. It is inseparable from the new nature, and flows from the energy of the Spirit as faith in Jesus does; in no way the preparation for faith, but its accompaniment and fruit. Nevertheless, by this I do not mean faith exercised as to the infinite work of Christ. There may be as yet but a looking to Him longingly and hopefully; and, along with this expectation of good from Him according to God’s word, that word turns the eye of conscience inwardly, and the man now converted judges himself as well as his ways before God. This deepens also, instead of diminishing, as the soul grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There was always repentance as truly as faith wrought in souls; and though this may have assumed a legal shape under law, repentance is not in anywise done with now, but is wrought all the more profoundly under the gospel. Different schools of doctrine have drawn a wrong inference, one from Rom_2:4, the other from 2Co_7:10. On the one side it is thought that the perception of God’s goodness is repentance; on the other side that it is godly sorrow for sin. Scripture says nothing of the sort in either case, and intimates that, while repentance always supposes a change of mind, it goes much farther, and is a matter of conscience in the light of God, and not a purely intellectual process. As the goodness of God leads to repentance, so sorrow according to Him works repentance. There is such a thing as sorrowing unto repentance, as there is repentance unto salvation. It is thus a far deeper dealing with the soul than many suppose. Self is judged without reserve, and the will goes wholly with the new man. Sorrow according to God may still have a struggle: when one repents truly, the evil is disliked inwardly, and one has got free from it. “Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” (Jer_31:19.)
Here he taxeth such as thought God approved of their persons and courses, at least that he would not regard or punish their evil actions, because he had hitherto forborne them, and heaped up abundance of worldly blessings upon them, as he did upon the Romans especially, above other people. It is common for men to grow secure, and promise themselves impunity, when God forbears them, and gives them outward prosperity: see Psa_50:21 55:19 Ecc_8:11 Hos_12:8.
Despisest thou? the word signifies, to think amiss; he despiseth the goodness of God, who thinks otherwise of it than he should, that it is extended to him for other ends than it is: or, to despise the goodness of God, is, to turn it into wantonness.
The riches of his goodness; i.e. The abundance of his goodness: see Rom_9:23 Eph_1:7,18 2:4,7 3:8.
Forbearance and long-suffering; God’s long-suffering is a further degree of his forebearance: the Scripture speaks much of this attribute of God, and of his abounding therein, Exo_34:6 Num_14:11,18 Psa 86:15 Mat_23:37 Rom_9:22 1Ti_1:16 1Pe_3:20.
The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; that is one great end of God’s goodness and forbearance; see Hos_11:4 2Pe_3:9. God’s goodness is abused when it is not used and improved to this end.
Romans 2:4 Vers. 4-6. Long-suffering.
It is certain that we live under a moral government administered by a holy and righteous Ruler, of infinite knowledge and irresistible power. Yet there are sinful men who, while admitting this to be the case, live as if they believed that government and retribution had no reference to themselves. The apostle, in this passage, appeals to such persons, expostulates with them, and shows them the guilt and folly of disregarding the Divine Law and authority, and of presuming too far upon the Divine forbearance.
I THE FACT OF GOD”S LONG-SUFFERING. This may be traced:
1. In human history, which abounds with examples of Divine patience with the sins of nations.
2. In the Christian dispensation, which is certainly the crowning proof of the long-suffering of the Eternal.
3. In individual experience; for no man who will be candid with himself will question that such forbearance has been exercised towards him.
II THE ABUSE OF GOD”S LONG-SUFFERING. There are many who, instead of gratefully acknowledging Divine forbearance, and using aright the opportunity of repentance and reformation which they owe to it, despise the riches of God”s long-suffering and mercy.
1. The facts upon which this abuse is founded are these: God in his nature is kind and gracious, delighting in the exercise of clemency and compassion. God in his retributive action is slow and patient, often withholding the condemnation and penalty threatened and deserved.
2. The false inferences drawn from these facts may be thus stated: Either, God will not fulfil the threats which he has made, will not enforce by the awful sanctions of his justice the laws which he has promulgated; or, we are for some reason exempt from the operations of God”s judicial authority. This last seems to have been the belief of many of the Jews, who, because theirs was the chosen and favoured nation, believed themselves secure from the penalties which would befall the unbelieving and impenitent sinners of the Gentiles.
III THE EXHAUSTION OF GOD”S LONG-SUFFERING.
1. It must not be forgotten that what the apostle calls “wrath,” and righteous retribution, are facts in the government of the Eternal. They do not cease to be facts, because God is forbearing and kind. He can have no compromise with sin. He cannot overlook the distinction between the rebel and the loyal subject. He cannot admit to his favour and fellowship those who detest his laws and defy his authority.
2. And it is equally important to remember that the government of God is universal and impartial. It extends to all mankind. There is not one code for the Jew and another for the Gentile; one for the privileged and another for the unprivileged. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” But in this case it is vain for them to hope that they shall escape God”s just censure and condemnation. All alike are guilty; and all alike, if saved, must be saved upon the same terms terms honourable to God, and beneficial to human nature and human society.
IV THE PURPOSE AND USE OF GOD”S LONG-SUFFERING. After all that has been said, it must yet be insisted upon that the attribute of Deity here referred to by the apostle is a glorious and blessed attribute, and that we cannot be sufficiently grateful to God for its exercise towards us, who stand so sorely in need of it. How shall we so use it that it may be for our truest and eternal advantage?
1. Believe it, as a truth harmonizing with Divine righteousness.
2. Submit to it, as an influence inducing to repentance.
3. Act upon it, as affording opportunity for practical reformation.
Or despisest – This word properly means to contemn, or to treat with neglect. It does not mean here that they professedly treated God’s goodness with neglect or contempt; but that they perverted and abused it; they did not make a proper use of it; they did not regard it as suited to lead them to repentance; but they derived a practical impression, that because God had not come forth in judgment and cut them off, but had continued to follow them with blessings, that therefore he did not regard them as sinners, or they inferred that they were innocent and safe. This argument the Jews were accustomed to use (compare Luk_13:1-5; Joh_9:2); and thus sinners still continue to abuse the goodness and mercy of God.
The riches of his goodness – This is a Hebrew mode of speaking, for “his rich goodness,” that is, for his abundant or great goodness. Riches denote superfluity, or what abounds, or which exceeds a man’s present desires; and hence, the word in the New Testament is used to denote abundance; or what is very great and valuable; see the note at Rom_9:23; compare Rom_11:12, Rom_11:33; 2Co_8:2; Eph_1:7, Eph_1:18; Eph_3:8, Eph_3:16; Col_1:27; Eph_2:4. The word is used here to qualify each of the words which follow it, his rich goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering.
Goodness – Kindness, benignity.
Forbearance – ἀνοχῆς anochēs. Literally, his holding-in or restraining his indignation; or forbearing to manifest his displeasure against sin.
Long-suffering – This word denotes his slowness to anger; or his suffering them to commit sins long without punishing them. It does not differ essentially from forbearance. This is shown by his not coming forth, at the moment that sin is committed, to punish it. He might do it justly, but he spares people from day to day, and year to year, to give them opportunity to repent, and be saved. The way in which people despise or abuse the goodness of God is to infer that He does not intend to punish sin; that they may do it safely; and instead of turning from it, to go on in committing it more constantly, as if they were safe. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” Ecc_8:11. The same thing was true in the time of Peter; 2Pe_3:3-4. And the same thing is true of wicked people in every age; nor is there a more decisive proof of the wickedness of the human heart, than this disposition to abuse the goodness of God, and because he shows kindness and forbearance, to take occasion to plunge deeper into sin, to forget his mercy, and to provoke him to anger.
Not knowing – Not considering. The word used here, ἀγνοῶν agnoōn, means not merely to be ignorant of, but it denotes such a degree of inattention as to result in ignorance. Compare Hos_2:8. In this sense it denotes a voluntary, and therefore a criminal ignorance.
Leadeth thee … – Or the tendency, the design of the goodness of God is to induce people to repent of their sins, and not to lead them to deeper and more aggravated iniquity. The same sentiment is expressed in 2Pe_3:9, “The Lord is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” See also Isa_30:18, “And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you;” Hos_5:15; Eze_18:23, Eze_18:32.
Repentance – Change of mind, and purpose, and life. The word here evidently means, not merely sorrow, but a forsaking of sin, and turning from it. The tendency of God’s goodness and forbearance to lead people to repentance, is manifest in the following ways.
(1) it shows the evil of transgression when it is seen to be committed against so kind and merciful a Being.
(2) it is suited to melt and soften the heart. Judgments often harden the sinner’s heart, and make him obstinate. But if while he does evil God is as constantly doing him good; if the patience of God is seen from year to year, while the man is rebellious, it is adapted to melt and subdue the heart.
(3) the great mercy of God in this often appears to people to be overwhelming; and so it would to all, if they saw it as it is. God bears with people from childhood to youth; from youth to manhood; from manhood to old age; often while they violate every law, contemn his mercy, profane his name, and disgrace their species; and still, notwithstanding all this, his anger is turned away, and the sinner lives, and “riots in the beneficence of God.” If there is anything that can affect the heart of man, it is this; and when he is brought to see it, and contemplate it, it rushes over the soul and overwhelms it with bitter sorrow.
(4) the mercy and forbearance of God are constant. The manifestations of his goodness come in every form; in the sun, and light, and air; in the rain, the stream, the dew-drop; in food, and raiment, and home; in friends, and liberty, and protection; in health, and peace; and in the gospel of Christ, and the offers of life; and in all these ways God is appealing to his creatures each moment. and setting before them the evils of ingratitude, and beseeching them to turn and live.
And from this passage, we cannot but remark,
(1) That the most effectual preaching is what sets before people most of the goodness of God.
(2) every man is under obligation to forsake his sins, and turn to God. There is no man who has not seen repeated proofs of his mercy and love.
(3) sin is a stubborn and an amazing evil.
Where it can resist all the appeals of God’s mercy; where the sinner can make his way down to hell through all the proofs of God’s goodness; where he can refuse to hear God speaking to him each day, and each hour, it shows an amazing extent of depravity to resist all this, and still remain a sinner. Yet there are thousands and millions who do it; and who can be won by no exhibition of love or mercy to forsake their sins, and turn to God. Happy is the man who is melted into contrition by the goodness of God, and who sees and mourns over the evil of sinning against so good a Being as is the Creator and Parent of all.
5.But according to thy hardness, etc. When we become hardened against the admonitions of the Lord, impenitence follows; and they who are not anxious about repentance openly provoke the Lord.
This is a remarkable passage: we may hence learn what I have already referred to — that the ungodly not only accumulate for themselves daily a heavier weight of God’s judgments, as long as they live here, but that the gifts of God also, which they continually enjoy, shall increase their condemnation; for an account of them all will be required: and it will then be found, that it will be justly imputed to them as an extreme wickedness, that they had been made worse through God’s bounty, by which they ought surely to have been improved. Let us then take heed, lest by unlawful use of blessings we lay up for ourselves this cursed treasure.
For the day, etc.; literally, in the day; but it is put for εἰς ἡμέραν, for the day. The ungodly gather now the indignation of God against themselves, the stream of which shall then be poured on their heads: they accumulate hidden destruction, which then shall be drawn out from the treasures of God. The day of the last judgment is called the day of wrath, when a reference is made to the ungodly; but it will be a day of redemption to the faithful. And thus all other visitations of God are ever described as dreadful and full of terror to the ungodly; and on the contrary, as pleasant and joyful to the godly. Hence whenever the Scripture mentions the approach of the Lord, it bids the godly to exult with joy; but when it turns to the reprobate, it proclaims nothing but dread and terror.
“A day of wrath,” saith Zephaniah, “shall be that day, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and wretchedness, a day of darkness and of thick darkness, a day of mist and of whirlwind.” (Zep_1:15.)
You have a similar description in Joe_2:2, etc. And Amos exclaims, “Woe To You Who Desire The Day Of The Lord! What Will It Be To You? The Day Of The Lord Will Be Darkness, And Not Light.” (Amo_5:18.)
Farther, by adding the word revelation, Paul intimates what this day of wrath is to be, — that the Lord will then manifest his judgment: though he gives daily some indications of it, he yet suspends and holds back, till that day, the clear and full manifestation of it; for the books shall then be opened; the sheep shall then be separated the goats, and the wheat shall be cleansed from the tares.
The doctrine of a ‘day of the Lord’ as a day of judgement is taught by the Prophets from Amos onwards (Amo_5:18; Isa_2:12 ff.; Isa_13:6 ff.; Isa_24:21; Jer_46:10; Joe_2:1 ff.; Zep_1:7 ff.; Eze_7:7 ff.; Eze_30:3 ff.; Zec_14:1; Mal_3:2; Mal_4:1. It also enters largely into the pseudepigraphic literature: Enoch xlv. 2 ff. (and the passages collected in Charles’ Note); Ps. Sol. 15:13 ff.; 4 Ezr_6:18 ff., 77 ff. [7:102ff. ed. Bensly]; 12:34; Apoc. Baruch. Lev_1; Lev_6, &c.
But after thy hardness – The word “after” here κατά kata means in respect to, or you act according to the direct tendency of a hard heart in treasuring up wrath. The word “hardness” is used to denote insensibility of mind. It properly means what is insensible to the touch, or on which no impression is made by contact, as a stone, etc. Hence, it is applied to the mind, to denote a state where no motives make an impression; which is insensible to all the appeals made to it; see Mat_25:24; Mat_19:8; Act_19:9. And here it expresses a state of mind where the goodness and forbearance of God have no effect. The man still remains obdurate, to use a word which has precisely the meaning of the Greek in this place. It is implied in this expression that the direct tendency, or the inevitable result, of that state of mind was to treasure up wrath, etc.
Impenitent heart – A heart which is not affected with sorrow for sin, in view of the mercy and goodness of God. This is an explanation of what he meant by hardness.
Treasurest up – To treasure up, or to lay up treasure, commonly denotes a laying by in a place of security of property that may be of use to us at some future period. In this place it is used, however, in a more general sense, to accumulate, to increase. It still has the idea of hoarding up, carries the thought beautifully and impressively onward to future times. Wrath, like wealth treasured up, is not exhausted at present, and hence, the sinner becomes bolder in sin. But it exists, for future use; it is kept in store (compare 2Pe_3:7) against future times; and the man who commits sin is only increasing this by every act of transgression. The same sentiment is taught in a most solemn manner in Deu_32:34-35. It may be remarked here, that most people have an immense treasure of this kind in store, which eternal ages of pain will not exhaust or diminish! Stores of wrath are thus reserved for a guilty world, and in due time it “will come upon man to the uttermost,” 1Th_2:16.
Unto thyself – For thyself, and not for another; to be exhausted on thee, and not on your fellow-man. This is the case with every sinner, as really and as certainly as though he were the only solitary mortal in existence.
Wrath – Note, Rom_1:18.
Day of wrath – The day when God shall show or execute his wrath against sinners; compare Rev_6:17; 1Th_1:10; Joh_3:36; Eph_5:6.
And revelation – On the day when the righteous judgment of God will be revealed, or made known. Here we learn:
(1) That the punishment of the wicked will be just. It will not he a judgment of caprice or tyranny, but a righteous judgment, that is, such a judgment as it will be right to render, or as ought to be rendered, and therefore such as God will render, for he will do right; 2Th_1:6.
(2) the punishment of the wicked is future. It is not exhausted in this life. It is treasured up for a future day, and that day is a day of wrath. How contrary to this text are the pretences of those who maintain that all punishment is executed in this life.
(3) how foolish as well as wicked is it to lay up such a treasure for the future; to have the only inheritance in the eternal world, an inheritance of wrath and wo!
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.
Who will render to every man according to his works. This is the fourth important principle which the apostle teaches us regulates the judgment of God. He will judge men neither according to their professions nor their relations, but according to their works. The question at his bar will be, not whether a man is a Jew or a Gentile, whether he belongs to the chosen people or to the heathen world, but whether he has obeyed the law. This principle is amplified and applied in what follows, in Rom_2:7-11. The question has been asked, how the declaration that God will render to every man, whether Jew or Gentile, according to his works — to the good, eternal life, to the wicked, indignation and wrath — is to be reconciled with the apostle’s doctrine, that no man is justified by works, that righteousness and life are not by works, but by faith, and through grace. In answering this question, two things are to be born in mind. The first is, that notwithstanding the doctrine of gratuitous justification, and in perfect consistency with it, the apostle still teaches that the retributions of eternity are according to our works. The good only are saved, and the wicked only are condemned. “For we must all appeal before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, whether good or bad,” 2Co_5:10; Eph_6:8.
“Reproborum,” says Calvin, “malitiam justa ultione si puniet Dominus, rependet illis quod meriti sunt. Rursum quia sanctificat, quos olim statuit glorificare, in illis quoque bona opera coronabit, sed non pro merito.” With this accord the words of Bernard: “Bona opera sunt via regni, non causa regnandi.” The wicked will be punished on account of their works, and according to their works; the righteous will be rewarded, not on account of, but according to their works. Good works are to them the evidence of their belonging to that class to whom, for Christ’s sake, eternal life is graciously awarded; and they are, in some sense and to some extent, the measure of that reward.
But it is more pertinent to remark, in the second place, that the apostle is not here teaching the method of justification, but is laying down those general principles of justice, according to which, irrespective of the gospel, all men are to be judged. He is expounding the law, not the gospel. And as the law not only says that death is the stages of sin, but also that those who keep its precepts shall live by them, so the apostle says, that God will punish the wicked and reward the righteous. This is perfectly consistent with what he afterwards teaches, that there are none righteous; that there are none who so obey the law as to be entitled to the life which it promises; and that for such the gospel provides a plan of justification without works, a plan for saving those whom the law condemns. He is here combating the false hopes of the Jews, who, though trusting to the law, were, by the principles of the law, exposed to condemnation. This he does to drive them from this false dependence, and to show them that neither Jew nor Gentile can be justified before the bar of that God, who, while he promises eternal life to the obedient, has revealed his purpose to punish the disobedient. All, therefore, that this passage teaches is that, irrespective of the gospel, to those who either never heard of it, or who, having heard, reject it, the principle of judgment will be law.
6. ὃς ἀποδώσει: Pro_24:12 (LXX). The principle here laid down, though in full accord with the teaching of the N. T. generally (Mat_16:27; 2Co_5:10; Gal_6:7; Eph_6:8; Col_3:24, Col_3:25; Rev_2:23; Rev_20:12; Rev_22:12), may seem at first sight to conflict with St. Paul’s doctrine of Justification by Faith. But Justification is a past act, resulting in a present state: it belongs properly to the beginning, not to the end, of the Christian’s career (see on δικαιωθήσονται in ver. 13). Observe too that there is no real antithesis between Faith and Works in themselves. Works are the evidence of Faith, and Faith has its necessary outcome in Works. The true antithesis is between earning salvation and receiving it as a gift of God’s bounty. St. Paul himself would have allowed that there might have been a question of earning salvation if the Law were really kept (Rom_10:5; Gal_3:12). But as a matter of fact the Law was not kept, the works were not done.
Romans 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his works. This assertion is no contradiction of the main portion of the Epistle as it proceeds, as to justification being not of works; the phrase here being, not on account of his works, but according to them. “Nequaquam tamen quid valeant, sed quid illis debeatur pretii pronunciat” (Calvin). The ground of justification is not here involved. All that is asserted is what is essential to any true conception of God”s justice, viz. that he has regard to what men are in assigning reward or punishment; it is what is given in Heb_11:6 as a first principle of faith about God, “that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” It is further evident from ekastw , and still more from all that follows, that all such will be so rewarded, whether before Christ or after his coming, whether knowing him or not knowing him. Nor is the inclusion of the latter inconsistent with the doctrine that salvation is through Christ alone. For the effect of his atonement is represented as retrospective as well as prospective, and as availing virtually for all mankind. (cf. Rom_3:25 Rom_5:15, Rom_5:18, Rom_5:20) Hence the narrow doctrine of some divines, who would confine the possibility of salvation to those who have had in some way during life a conscious faith in the atonement, is evidently not the doctrine of St. Paul.
6, 7.] This retribution must be carefully kept in its place in the argument. The Apostle is here speaking generally, of the general system of God in governing the world,—the judging according to each man’s works—punishing the evil, and rewarding the righteous. No question at present arises, how this righteousness in God’s sight is to be obtained—but the truth is only stated broadly at present, to be further specified by and by, when it is clearly shewn that by ἔργα νόμου no flesh can be justified before God. The neglect to observe this has occasioned two mistakes:
(1) an idea that by this passage it is proved that not faith only, but works also in some measure, justify before God (so Toletus in Pool’s Syn.), and
(2) an idea (Tholuck 1st edn. and Köllner) that by ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ here is meant faith in Christ. However true it be, so much is certainly not meant here, but merely the fact, that every where, and in all, God punishes evil, and rewards good.
This proves what he had said, that the judgment of God, in that day, will be according to righteousness, or most righteous judgment. Parallel places you will find, Psa_62:12 Mat_16:27 2Co_5:10 Rev_22:12. The papists from hence infer the merit of works; but the reward to the godly is a reward of grace, and not of debt. The word apodounai imports not only a just retribution, but a free gift, as in Mat_20:8, and elsewhere. Good works are the rule of his proceeding, not the cause of his retribution: see Luk_17:10.
Who will render – That is, who will make retribution as a righteous Judge; or who will give to every man as he deserves.
To every man – To each one. This is a general principle, and it is clear that in this respect God would deal with the Jew as he does with the Gentile. This general principle the apostle is establishing, that he may bring it to bear on the Jew, and to show that he cannot escape simply because he is a Jew.
According to his deeds – That is, as he deserves; or God will be just, and will treat every man as he ought to be treated, or according to his character. The word “deeds” (ἔργα erga)is sometimes applied to the external conduct. But it is plain that this is not its meaning here. It denotes everything connected with conduct, including the acts of the mind, the motives, the principles, as well as the mere external act. Our word character more aptly expresses it than any single word. It is not true that God will treat people according to their external conduct: but the whole language of the Bible implies that he will judge people according to the whole of their conduct, including their thoughts, and principles, and motives; that is, as they deserve. The doctrine of this place is abundantly taught elsewhere in the Bible, Pro_24:12; Mat_16:27; Rev_20:12; Jer_32:19. It is to be observed here that the apostle does not say that people will be rewarded for their deeds, (compare Luk_17:10,) but according to κατά kata their deeds. Christians will be saved on account of the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, Tit_3:5, but still the rewards of heaven will be according to their works; that is, they who have labored most, and been most faithful, shall receive the highest reward, or their fidelity in their Master’s service shall be the measure or rule according to which the rewards of heaven shall be distributed, Mat. 25:14-29. Thus, the ground or reason why they are saved shall be the merits of the Lord Jesus. The measure of their happiness shall be according to their character and deeds. On what principle God will distribute his rewards the apostle proceeds immediately to state.
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.
1. He will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom_2:6), a truth often mentioned in scripture, to prove that the Judge of all the earth does right.
(1.) In dispensing his favours; and this is mentioned twice here, both in Rom_2:7 and Rom_2:10. For he delights to show mercy. Observe,
[1.] The objects of his favour: Those who by patient continuance, etc. By this we may try our interest in the divine favour, and may hence be directed what course to take, that we may obtain it. Those whom the righteous God will reward are, First, Such as fix to themselves the right end, that seek for glory, and honour, and immortality; that is, the glory and honour which are immortal – acceptance with God here and for ever. There is a holy ambition which is at the bottom of all practical religion. This is seeking the kingdom of God, looking in our desires and aims as high as heaven, and resolved to take up with nothing short of it. This seeking implies a loss, sense of that loss, desire to retrieve it, and pursuits and endeavours consonant to those desires. Secondly, Such as, having fixed the right end, adhere to the right way: A patient continuance in well-doing. 1. There must be well-doing, working good, Rom_2:10. It is not enough to know well, and speak well, and profess well, and promise well, but we must do well: do that which is good, not only for the matter of it, but for the manner of it. We must do it well. 2. A continuance in well-doing. Not for a fit and a start, like the morning cloud and the early dew; but we must endure to the end: it is perseverance that wins the crown. 3. A patient continuance. This patience respects not only the length of the work, but the difficulties of it and the oppositions and hardships we may meet with in it. Those that will do well and continue in it must put on a great deal of patience.
[2.] The product of his favour. He will render to such eternal life. Heaven is life, eternal life, and it is the reward of those that patiently continue in well-doing; and it is called (Rom_2:10) glory, honour, and peace. Those that seek for glory and honour (Rom_2:7) shall have them. Those that seek for the vain glory and honour of this world often miss of them, and are disappointed; but those that seek for immortal glory and honour shall have them, and not only glory and honour, but peace. Worldly glory and honour are commonly attended with trouble; but heavenly glory and honour have peace with them, undisturbed everlasting peace.
To them – Whoever they may be.
Patient continuance – Who by perseverance in well doing, or in a good work. It means that they who so continue, or persevere, in good works as to evince that they are disposed to obey the Law of God. It does not mean those who perform one single act, but those who so live as to show that this is their character to obey God. It is the uniform doctrine of the Bible that none will be saved but those who persevere in a life of holiness, Rev_2:10; Mat_10:22; Heb_10:38-39. No other conduct gives evidence of piety but what continues in the ways of righteousness. Nor has God ever promised eternal life to people unless they so persevere in a life of holiness as to show that this is their character, their settled and firm rule of action. The words well doing here denote such conduct as shall be conformed to the Law of God; not merely external conduct, but that which proceeds from a heart attached to God and his cause.
Seek for – This word properly denotes the act of endeavoring to find any thing that is lost, Mat_18:12; Luk_2:48-49. But it also denotes the act when one earnestly strives, or desires to obtain anything; when he puts forth his efforts to accomplish it. Thus, Mat_6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” etc. Act_16:10; 1Co_10:24; Luk_13:24. In this place it denotes an earnest and intense desire to obtain eternal life. It does not mean simply the desire of a sinner to be happy, or the efforts of those who are not willing to forsake their sins and yield to God, out the intense effort of those who are willing to forsake all their crimes, and submit to God and obey his laws.
Glory and honour and immortality – The three words used here, denote the happiness of the heavenly world. They vary somewhat in their meaning, and are each descriptive of something in heaven, that renders it an object of intense desire. The expressions are cumulative, or they are designed to express the happiness of heaven in the highest possible degree. The word “glory” δόξαν doxan denotes properly praise, celebrity, or anything distinguished for beauty, ornament, majesty, splendor, as of the sun, etc.; and then it is used to denote the highest happiness or felicity, as expressing everything that shall be splendid, rich, and grand. It denotes that there will be an absence of every thing mean, grovelling, obscure. The word “honor” (τιμὴν timēn) implies rather the idea of reward, or just retribution – the honor and reward which shall be conferred in heaven on the friends of God. It stands opposed to contempt, poverty, and want among people. Here they are despised by people; there, they shall be honored by God.
Immortality – That which is not corruptible or subject to decay. It is applied to heaven as a state where there shall be no decay or death, in strong contrast with our present condition, where all things are corruptible, and soon vanish away. These expressions are undoubtedly descriptive of a state of things beyond the grave. They are never applied in the Scriptures to any condition of things on the earth. This consideration proves, therefore, that the expressions in the next verse, indignation, etc. apply to the punishment of the wicked beyond the grave.
Eternal life – That is, God will “render” eternal life to those who seek it in this manner. This is a great principle; and this shows that the apostle means by “their deeds” Rom_2:6, not merely their external conduct, but their inward thoughts, and efforts evinced by their seeking for glory, etc. For the meaning of the expression “eternal life,” see the note at Joh_5:24.
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.
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.)
ἐριθεία,—not from ἔρις, from which it is distinguished 2Co_12:20; Gal_5:20, but from ἔρῑθος, a hired workman, whence ἐριθεύω or -ομαι, properly ‘to work for hire,’ but met. and generally, ‘ambitum exercere,’ used principally of official persons, who seek their own purposes in the exercise of their office, and (according to the analogy of παιδεία from παιδεύω, δουλεία from δουλεύω, ἀλαζονεία from ἀλαζονεύομαι) ἐριθεία, ‘ambitus,’ ‘self-seeking,’ ‘greed.’ It stands opposed to ὑπομονὴ ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ, which requires self-denial and forbearance. There seems to be no reason why this, the proper meaning, should not here apply, without seeking for a more far-fetched one, as ‘the party spirit of the Jews.’ Rückert.
The mistake of rendering it ‘contentiousness,’ and imagining a derivation from ἔρις prevailed universally (, Chrys., Theodoret, Theophyl., Œcum., (ἠριθεύετο, ἐφιλονείκει), Vulg., Erasm., Grot., &c., and even the more recent English Commentators, Bloomf., Slade, and Peile, τοῖς ἐξ ἐριθείας, i.e. τοῖς ἐρίζουσι) according to De Wette, down to Rückert, who first suggested the true derivation. It appears to have arisen from ἐρεθίζω being somewhat similar in sound. Aristotle uses it in the sense of ‘ambitus,’ canvassing for office, in Polit. v. 3,—μεταβάλλουσι δὲ αἱ πολιτεῖαι καὶ ἄνευ στάσεως διά τε τὰς ἐριθείας, ὥσπερ ἐν Ἡραίᾳ· ἐξ αἱρετῶν γὰρ διὰ τοῦτο ἐποίησαν κληρωτάς, ὅτι ᾑροῦντο τοὺς ἐριθευομένους. Fritzsche, who has an excursus on the word, renders οἱ ἐξ ἐριθ.,—‘malitiosi fraudum machinatores.’ Ignatius, ad Philad. § 8, p.704, opposes ἐριθ. to χριστομαθία. On the whole, self-seeking seems best to lay hold of the idea of the word: see note on Php_1:16, Php_1:17.
ἀπειθ. μ. τῇ ἀλ.] Hindering (see ch. 1:18) the truth which they possess from working, by self-abandonment to iniquity.
ὀργὴ κ. θυμός] According to this arrangement (see var. readd.) the former word denotes the abiding, settled mind of God towards them (ἡ ὀργὴ τ. θεοῦ μένει ἐπʼ αὐτόν, Joh_3:36),—and the latter, the outbreak of that anger at the great day of retribution. So the grammarians: θυμὸς μέν ἐστι πρόσκαιρος (excandescentia, as Cicero)· ὀργὴ δὲ πολυχρόνιος μνησικακία, Ammon. See the same further brought out by Tittmann, Syn. i. p. 131.
Who are contentious – This expression usually denotes those who are of a quarrelsome or litigious disposition; and generally has reference to controversies among people. But here it evidently denotes a disposition toward God, and is of the same signification as rebellious, or as opposing God. They who contend with the Almighty; who resist his claims, who rebel against his laws, and refuse to submit to his requirements, however made known. The Septuagint use the verb to translate the Hebrew word מרה maarah, in Deu_21:20. One striking characteristic of the sinner is, that he contends with God, that is, that he opposes and resists his claims. This is the case with all sinners; and it was particularly so with the Jews, and hence, the apostle used the expression here to characterize them particularly. His argument he intended to apply to the Jews, and hence he used such an expression as would exactly describe them. This character of being a rebellious people was one which was often charged on the Jewish nation, Deu_9:7, Deu_9:24; Deu_31:27; Isa_1:2; Isa_30:9; Isa_65:2; Jer_5:23; Eze_2:8, Eze_2:5.
Do not obey the truth – Compare Rom_1:18. The truth here denotes the divine will, which is alone the light of truth (Calvin). It means true doctrine in opposition to false opinions; and to refuse to obey it is to regard it as false, and to resist its influence. The truth here means all the correct representations which had been made of God, and his perfections, and law, and claims, whether by the light of nature or by revelation. The description thus included Gentiles and Jews, but particularly the latter, as they had been more signally favored with the light of truth. It had been an eminent characteristic of the Jews that they had refused to obey the commands of the true God, Jos_5:6; Jdg_2:2; Jdg_6:10; 2Ki_18:12; Jer_3:13, Jer_3:25; Jer_42:21; Jer_43:4, Jer_43:7; Jer_9:13.
But obey unrighteousness – The expression means that they yielded themselves to iniquity, and thus became the servants of sin, Rom_6:13, Rom_6:16-17, Rom_6:19. Iniquity thus may be said to reign over people, as they follow the dictates of evil, make no resistance to it, and implicitly obey all its hard requirements.
Indignation and wrath – That is, these shall be rendered to those who are contentious, etc. The difference between indignation and wrath, says Ammonius, is that the former is of short duration, but the latter is a long continued remembrance of evil. The one is temporary, the other denotes continued expressions of hatred of evil. Eustathius says that the word “indignation” denotes the internal emotion, but wrath the external manifestation of indignation. (Tholuck.) Both words refer to the opposition which God will cherish and express against sin in the world of punishment.
Tribulation and anguish; θλῖψις, (from θλίβω, to press) means pressure, affliction; στενοχωρία straitness of place, anguish. They are often associated; see Rom_8:35; 2Co_6:4. The latter is the stronger of the two terms, as may be inferred from its always following the other, and especially from 2Co_4:8, θλιβόμενοι, ἀλλ ̓ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι, troubled but not distressed; Every soul of man, that is, every man. Comp. Act_2:43; Rom_13:1, and the Hebrew אָדָם כָּל־נֶפֶשׁ; Rückert, Meyer, and others, give ψυχή its full force, upon every soul that belongs to a man, to express the idea that the soul and not the body is to suffer the penalty. But in Rom_13:1, ψυχή evidently stands for the whole person: ‘let every soul,’ means let every person; and such is a common scriptural meaning of the word, “if a soul sin,” “if a soul lie,” “if the priest buy a soul with his money,” etc. Of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. It becomes now apparent that the apostle, in laying down these general principles of justice, had the Jews specially in view. God, he says, will render to every man according to his works, to the good, eternal life; to the evil, tribulation and anguish. And lest the every man should fail to arrest attention, he adds expressly, that the Jew as well as the Greek is to be thus judged. The word πρῶτον may express either order or preeminence. If the former, the sense is what is expressed by Calvin, “Haec universalis est divini judicii lex, qua a Judaeis incipiet, et comprehendet totum orbem.” The judgment shall begin with the Jews, and extend to the Gentiles. If the latter, the sense is, The Jew shall not only be punished as certainly as others, but more severely, because he has been more highly favored. “The Jew first,” is equivalent then to the Jew especially. The same remark applies to the following verse. If the Jew is faithful, he shall be specially rewarded. What is true of all men, is specially true of those to whom God has revealed himself in a peculiar manner.
Tribulation and anguish (θλῖψις καὶ στενοχωρία)
For tribulation, see on Mat_13:21. Στενοχωρία anguish, which occurs only in Paul (Rom_8:35; 2Co_6:4; 2Co_12:10), literally means narrowness of place. The dominant idea is constraint. In Deu_28:53, Deu_28:57, it describes the confinement of a siege. Trench remarks: “The fitness of this image is attested by the frequency with which, on the other hand, a state of joy is expressed in the Psalms and elsewhere, as a bringing into a large room,” Psa_118:5; 2Sa_22:20. Aquinas says: loetitia est latitia, joy is breadth.
Tribulation – This word commonly denotes affliction, or the situation of being pressed down by a burden, as of trials, calamities, etc.; and hence, to be pressed down by punishment or pain inflicted for sins. As applied to future punishment, it denotes the pressure of the calamities that will come upon the soul as the just reward of sin.
And anguish – στενοχωρία stenochōria. This noun is used in but three other places in the New Testament; Rom_8:35; 2Co_6:4; 2Co_12:10. The verb is used in 2Co_4:8; 2Co_6:12. It means literally narrowness of place, lack of room, and then the anxiety and distress of mind which a man experiences who is pressed on every side by afflictions, and trials, and want, or by punishment, and who does not know where he may turn himself to find relief. (Schleusner.) It is thus expressive of the punishment of the wicked. It means that they shall be compressed with the manifestations of God’s displeasure, so as to be in deep distress, and so as not to know where to find relief. These words affliction and anguish are often connected; Rom_8:35.
Upon every soul of man – Upon all people. In Hebrew the word “soul” often denotes the man himself. But still, the apostles, by the use of this word here, meant perhaps to signify that the punishment should not be corporeal, but afflicting the soul. It should be a spiritual punishment, a punishment of mind. (Ambrose. See Tholuck.)
Of the Jew first – Having stated the general principle of the divine administration, he comes now to make the application. To the principle there could be no objection. And the apostle now shows that it was applicable to the Jew as well as the Greek, and to the Jew pre-eminently. It was applicable first, or in an eminent degree, to the Jew, because,
(1) He had been especially favored with light and knowledge on all these subjects.
(2) these principles were fully stated in his own Law, and were in strict accordance with all the teaching of the prophets; see the note at Rom_2:6; also Psa_7:11; Psa_9:17; Psa_139:19; Pro_14:32.
Of the Gentile – That is, of all who were not Jews. On what principles God will inflict punishment on them, he states in Rom_2:12-16. It is clear that this refers to the future punishment of the wicked, for,
(1) It stands in contrast with the eternal life of those who seek for glory Rom_2:7. If this description of the effect of sin refers to this life, then the effects spoken of in relation to the righteous refer to this life also. But in no place in the Scriptures is it said that people experience all the blessings of eternal life in this world; and the very supposition is absurd.
(2) it is not true that there is a just and complete retribution to every man, according to his deeds, in this life. Many of the wicked are prospered in life, and “there are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm;” Psa_73:4. Many of the righteous pine in poverty and want and affliction, and die in the flames of persecution. Nothing is more clear than there is not in this life a full and equitable distribution of rewards and punishments; and as the proposition, of the apostle here is, that God will render to every man according to his deeds Rom_2:6, it follows that this must be accomplished in another world.
(3) the Scriptures uniformly affirm, that for the very things specified here, God will consign people to eternal death; 2Th_1:8, “In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction,” etc.; 1Pe_4:17. We may remark also, that there could be no more alarming description of future suffering than is specified in this passage. It is indignation; it is wrath; it is tribulation; it is anguish which the sinner is to endure forever. Truly people exposed to this awful doom should be alarmed, and should give diligence to escape from the woe which is to come.
But, glory, honor and peace, to every one doing good; to the Jews first, and also to the Greek. This verse completes the statement of the principle of law announced in Rom_2:6. The law, while it threatens death to the transgressor, promises life to the obedient; and it matters not in either case, whether it is a Jew or Gentile who receives its award. Glory, honor and peace are descriptive terms for eternal life. It is a life glorious in itself; an object of reverence or regard to others, and a source of unspeakable blessedness or peace.
Peace; what he called immortality, Rom_2:7, he now calls peace; which word, according to the usual acceptation of it amongst the Hebrews, is comprehensive of all good and happiness, both here and hereafter.
To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile; as the ungodly and unbelieving Jews shall have the first place in punishment, so those that believe and are godly amongst them shall have the first place in reward, though yet, for the reason mentioned in the next verse, the godly and believing Gentiles shall share with them therein.
Romans 2:10 Vers. 10, 11. But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (literally, Greek, as before): for there is no respect of persons with God. (cf. Act_10:34) This, with what follows, is important, as bringing out in a striking way the clear doctrine of the New Testament that the Jews had no monopoly of Divine favour with respect to final salvation. Whatever advantages certain races of mankind seem undoubtedly to have above others in this world (and that this has been, and is so, with other races as well as the Jews is obvious), all men are described as standing on an exactly equal footing at the bar of eternal equity.
The apostle”s immediate intention in thus stating the perfect equity of the Divine government, and the utter absence of partiality from his nature and from his administration, was to remove from the mind of any Jewish hearer or reader the belief that his descent from Abraham could be of any avail in God”s sight if moral and spiritual qualifications were lacking. But, as is so often the case, especially in St. Paul”s writings, local and temporary references gave occasion for the utterance of broad, general, and eternal principles. The simplicity and grandeur of this assertion must appeal to the moral nature of every reader of the Epistle.
I DIVINE IMPARTIALITY CONTRASTS WITH HUMAN PARTIALITY. However it may be with God and his government, certain it is that, both in private and in public life, men”s treatment of their fellowmen has usually been marked by personal favouritism. No one can read those passages in the Old Testament referring to “gifts,” i.e. bribes, and to “regarding the face “or the person of suitors, without perceiving how general was judicial corruption in the Oriental world. And there are allusions in the New Testament which prove to us that even the great Roman officials were not free from this taint. The prevalence of the practice of bribery, corruption, and favouritism must have suggested to the minds of ordinary men the possibility that the Judge of all regarded men”s persons.
II DIVINE IMPARTIALITY IS SUPPORTED BY CONVINCING EVIDENCE.
1. There is the testimony of the unsophisticated conscience of man. Crime, no doubt, exists and flourishes in society; and men”s interests induce them to connive at its presence. But, explain it how we may, the fact is undeniable that the inner voice of reason and conscience bears witness to the justice and impartiality of God. Idolatry is indeed associated with beliefs and expedients based upon the unfairness and corruptibility of the deities held in honour or in dread. But let the idea of one supreme God take possession of men”s souls, and the moral nature with which they are endowed refuses to be satisfied except by a conviction that this Being is far above what are felt to be human infirmities and faults. If there be a God, that God is just.
2. Revelation supports this conviction. There are passages of Scripture which may seem to conflict with it, but these have been misunderstood and misinterpreted, or they would have been seen to be in consistency with what is the general tenor and the express teaching of the Word of God. How many are the passages in which the offerings of the insincere are indignantly rejected, in which we are taught that external circumstances and hypocritical pretences are valueless in the sight of him who “searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins of the children of men”!
3. The ministry of Christ is especially emphatic upon this point. It is sufficient to refer to our Lord”s rebuke of those who boasted that they were Abraham”s seed; he bade them reflect upon God”s ability to raise up even from the very stones of the fields children unto Abraham. And he constrained the acknowledgment from his enemies that “he regarded not the person of man.
III DIVINE IMPARTIALITY IS EXHIBITED IN CERTAIN STRIKING PARTICULARS.
1. In judgment God is just to all. There is one law by which all are judged. In the application of that standard a righteous regard is had to the opportunities of knowledge and enlightenment afforded by circumstances; but no other consideration is allowed to enter.
2. The salvation which is by Christ Jesus is provided for all alike. God is the “Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe” Christ died, not for any class, but for the ungodly, i.e. for all mankind, who alike needed redemption and salvation. And the heralds of the cross preached the Saviour to Jew and Gentile alike.
IV DIVINE IMPARTIALITY AFFORDS MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS TO ALL TO WHOM THE WORD OF GOD IS PREACHED.
1. Here is a rebuke addressed to the proud, the self-righteous, the self-confident, to all who deem themselves the favourites of Heaven, and who indulge the persuasion that they are in possession of some special recommendation to the consideration of the Lord and Judge of all.
2. Here is encouragement for the timid and the lowly, They have good reason to believe that, if they are viewed with disfavour by men, on account of some supposed disadvantage or deficiency, they will not on this account be rejected by him who raiseth up those that he bowed down.
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. 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.
2. There is no respect of persons with God, Rom_2:11. As to the spiritual state, there is a respect of persons; but not as to outward relation or condition. Jews and Gentiles stand upon the same level before God. This was Peter’s remark upon the first taking down of the partition-wall (Act_10:34), that God is no respecter of persons; and it is explained in the next words, that in every nation he that fears God, and works righteousness, is accepted of him. God does not save men with respect to their external privileges or their barren knowledge and profession of the truth, but according as their state and disposition really are. In dispensing both his frowns and favours it is both to Jew and Gentile. If to the Jews first, who had greater privileges, and made a greater profession, yet also to the Gentiles, whose want of such privileges will neither excuse them from the punishment of their ill-doing nor bar them out from the reward of their well-doing (see Col_3:11); for shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
For there is no respect of persons with God. He is righteous and impartial, looking not at the person, but the conduct of those whom he judges. This is the ground of the assurance that he will judge Jews and Gentiles according to their works. The words προσωποληψία, προσωπολήπτης, προσωποληπτὲω, are all peculiar to the New Testament, and all owe their origin to the phrase πρόσωπον λαμβάνειν, which is used in the sense of the Hebrew phrase, נָשָׂא פָנִים, to lift up, or accept the face of any one, that is, to be favorable to him. This is sometimes used in a good sense, as Gen_32:20 “Peradventure he will accept of me,” literally, lift up my face. Gen_19:21; Job_42:8. Most frequently in a bad sense, for partiality. Hence judges are forbidden to accept the face of any one, Lev_19:15; Deu_10:17. In the New Testament, all the expressions above mentioned are used in the sense of unjust partiality. All προσωποληψία, respect of persons, is denied to God, and forbidden to men. See Eph_6:9; Col_3:25; Jam_2:1.
Respect of persons (prosōpolēmpsia). Milligan (Vocabulary) considers this word (in N.T. only here, Col_3:25; Eph_6:9) and prosōpolēmptēs (Act_10:34) and prosōpolēmpteō (Jam_2:9) the earliest definitely known Christian words, not in lxx or non-Christian writings. See note on Act_10:34 for the formation in imitation of the Hebrew to take note of the face (prosōpon, lambanō), to judge by the face or appearance.
For – This particle is used here to confirm what is said before, particularly that this punishment should be experienced by the Jew as well as the Gentile. For God would deal with both on the principles of justice.
Respect of persons – The word thus rendered means “partiality,” in pronouncing judgment, in favoring one party or individual more than another, not because his cause is more just, but on account of something personal – on account of his wealth, or rank, or function, or influence, or by personal friendship, or by the fear of him. It has special reference to a judge who pronounces judgment between parties at law. The exercise of such partiality was strictly and often forbidden to the Jewish magistrates; Lev_19:15; Deu_1:17; Pro_24:23; Jam_2:1, Jam_2:3,Jam_2:9. In his capacity as a Judge, it is applied often to God. It means that he will not be influenced in awarding the retributions of eternity, in actually pronouncing and executing sentence, by any partiality, or by regard to the wealth, function, rank, or appearance of people. He will judge righteous judgment; he will judge people as they ought to be judged; according to their character and deserts; and not contrary to their character, or by partiality.
The connection here demands that this affirmation should be limited solely to his dealing with people as their judge. And in this sense, and this only, this is affirmed often of God in the Scriptures; Deu_10:17; 2Ch_19:7; Eph_6:9; Col_3:25; Gal_6:7-8; 1Pe_1:17; Act_10:34. It does not affirm that he must make all his creatures equal in talent, health, wealth, or privilege; it does not imply that, as a sovereign, he may not make a difference in their endowments, their beauty, strength, or graces; it does not imply that he may not bestow his favors where he pleases where all are undeserving, or that he may not make a difference in the characters of people by his providence, and by the agency of his Spirit. All these are actually done, done not out of any respect to their persons, to their rank, function, or wealth, but according to his own sovereign good pleasure; Eph. 1. To deny that this is done, would be to deny the manifest arrangement of things everywhere on the earth. To deny that God had a right to do it, would be,
(1) To maintain that sinners had a claim on his favors;
(2) that he might not do what he willed with his own; or,
(3) To affirm that God was under obligation to make all people with just the same talents and privileges, that is, that all creatures must be, in all respects, just alike.
This passage, therefore, is very improperly brought to disprove the doctrine of decrees, or election, or sovereignty. It has respect to a different thing, to the actual exercise of the office of the Judge of the world; and whatever may be the truth about God’s decrees or his electing love, this passage teaches nothing in relation to either. It may be added that this passage contains a most alarming truth for guilty people. It is that God will not be influenced by partiality, but will treat them just as they deserve. He will not be won or awed by their rank or function; by their wealth or endowments; by their numbers, their power, or their robes of royalty and splendor. Every man should tremble at the prospect of falling into the hands of a just God, who will treat him just as he deserves, and should without delay seek a refuge in the Saviour and Advocate provided for the guilty: 1Jo_2:1-2.
21.But now without the law, etc. It is not certain for what distinct reason he calls that the righteousness of God, which we obtain by faith; whether it be, because it can alone stand before God, or because the Lord in his mercy confers it on us. As both interpretations are suitable, we contend for neither. This righteousness then, which God communicates to man, and accepts alone, and owns as righteousness, has been revealed, he says,without the law, that is without the aid of the law; and the law is to be understood as meaning works; for it is not proper to refer this to its teaching, which he immediately adduces as bearing witness to the gratuitous righteousness of faith. Some confine it to ceremonies; but this view I shall presently show to be unsound and frigid. We ought then to know, that the merits of works are excluded. We also see that he blends not works with the mercy of God; but having taken away and wholly removed all confidence in works, he sets up mercy alone.
It is not unknown to me, that [Augustine ] gives a different explanation; for he thinks that the righteousness of God is the grace of regeneration; and this grace he allows to be free, because God renews us, when unworthy, by his Spirit; and from this he excludes the works of the law, that is, those works, by which men of themselves endeavor, without renovation, to render God indebted to them. (Deum promereri — to oblige God.) I also well know, that some new speculators proudly adduce this sentiment, as though it were at this day revealed to them. But that the Apostle includes all works without exception, even those which the Lord produces in his own people, is evident from the context.
For no doubt Abraham was regenerated and led by the Spirit of God at the time when he denied that he was justified by works. Hence he excluded from man’s justification not only works morally good, as they commonly call them, and such as are done by the impulse of nature, but also all those which even the faithful can perform. Again, since this is a definition of the righteousness of faith, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” there is no question to be made about this or that kind of work; but the merit of works being abolished, the remission of sins alone is set down as the cause of righteousness.
They think that these two things well agree, — that man is justified by faith through the grace of Christ, — and that he is yet justified by the works, which proceed from spiritual regeneration; for God gratuitously renews us, and we also receive his gift by faith. But Paul takes up a very different principle, — that the consciences of men will never be tranquillized until they recumb on the mercy of God alone. (111) Hence, in another place, after having taught us that God is in Christ justifying men, he expresses the manner, — “by not imputing to them their sins.” In like manner, in his Epistle to the Galatians, he puts the law in opposition to faith with regard to justification; for the law promises life to those who do what it commands, (Gal_3:12;) and it requires not only the outward performance of works, but also sincere love to God. It hence follows, that in the righteousness of faith, no merit of works is allowed. It then appears evident, that it is but a frivolous sophistry to say, that we are justified in Christ, because we are renewed by the Spirit, inasmuch as we are the members of Christ, — that we are justified by faith, because we are united by faith to the body of Christ, — that we are justified freely, because God finds nothing in us but sin.
But we are in Christ because we are out of ourselves; and justified by faith, because we must recumb on the mercy of God alone, and on his gratuitous promises; andfreely, because God reconciles us to himself by burying our sins. Nor can this indeed be confined to the commencement of justification, as they dream; for this definition — “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven” — was applicable to David, after he had long exercised himself in the service of God; and Abraham, thirty years after his call, though a remarkable example of holiness, had yet no works for which he could glory before God, and hence his faith in the promise was imputed to him for righteousness; and when Paul teaches us that God justifies men by not imputing their sins, he quotes a passage, which is daily repeated in the Church. Still more, the conscience, by which we are disturbed on the score of works, performs its office, not for one day only, but continues to do so through life. It hence follows that we cannot remain, even to death, in a justified state, except we look to Christ only, in whom God has adopted us, and regards us now as accepted. Hence also is their sophistry confuted, who falsely accuse us of asserting, that according to Scripture we are justified by faith only, while the exclusive word only, is nowhere to be found in Scripture. But if justification depends not either on the law, or on ourselves, why should it not be ascribed to mercy alone? and if it be from mercy only, it is then by faith only.
The particle now may be taken adversatively, and not with reference to time; as we often use now forbut. (112) But if you prefer to regard it as an adverb of time, I willingly admit it, so that there may be no room to suspect an evasion; yet the abrogation of ceremonies alone is not to be understood; for it was only the design of the Apostle to illustrate by a comparison the grace by which we excel the fathers. Then the meaning is, that by the preaching of the gospel, after the appearance of Christ in the flesh, the righteousness of faith was revealed. It does not, however, hence follow, that it was hid before the coming of Christ; for a twofold manifestation is to be here noticed: the first in the Old Testament, which was by the word and sacraments; the other in the New, which contains the completion of ceremonies and promises, as exhibited in Christ himself: and we may add, that by the gospel it has received a fuller brightness.
Being proved [or approved ] by the testimony, etc. He adds this, lest in the conferring of free righteousness the gospel should seem to militate against the law. As then he has denied that the righteousness of faith needs the aid of the law, so now he asserts that it is confirmed by its testimony. If then the law affords its testimony to gratuitous righteousness, it is evident that the law was not given for this end, to teach men how to obtain righteousness by works. Hence they pervert it, who turn it to answer any purpose of this kind. And further, if you desire a proof of this truth, examine in order the chief things taught by Moses, and you will find that man, being cast from the kingdom of God, had no other restoration from the beginning than that contained in the evangelical promises through the blessed seed, by whom, as it had been foretold, the serpent’s head was to be bruised, and through whom a blessing to the nations had been promised: you will find in the commandments a demonstration of your iniquity, and from the sacrifices and oblations you may learn that satisfaction and cleansing are to be obtained in Christ alone. When you come to the Prophets you will find the clearest promises of gratuitous mercy. On this subject see my Institutes.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, etc. Having demonstrated that no flesh can be justified by the deeds of the law in the sight of God, the apostle proceeds to show how the sinner can be justified. With regard to this point, he teaches, in this verse,
1. That the righteousness which is acceptable to God is not a legal righteousness; and,
2. That it had been taught already in the Old Testament
The words but now may be regarded as merely marking the transition from one paragraph to another, or as a designation of time, now, i.e. under the gospel dispensation. In favor of this view is the phrase, “to declare, at this time, his righteousness,” in Rom_3:26; compare also Rom_1:17. Is manifested, i.e. clearly made known, equivalent to the phrase is revealed, as used in Rom_1:17. The words righteousness of God, are subjected here to the same diversity of interpretation that was noticed in the passage just cited, where they first occur. They may mean,
1. A divine attribute, the justice, mercy, or general rectitude of God.
2. That righteousness which is acceptable to God, which is such in his estimation.
3. God’s method of justification; compare Rom_1:17.
The last interpretation gives here a very good sense, and is one very commonly adopted. ‘The method of justification by works being impossible, God has revealed another, already taught indeed, both in the law and prophets, a method which is not legal (without law), i.e. not on the condition of obedience to the law, but on the condition of faith, which is applicable to all men, and perfectly gratuitous,’ Rom_3:21-24. But for the reason stated above, in the remarks on Rom_1:17, the interpretation which best suits both the force of the words and Paul’s usage is, ‘The righteousness of which God is the author, which comes from him, which he gives, and which consequently is acceptable in his sight.’ The word righteousness is employed to designate that excellence which the law demands, or which constitutes a man δίκαιος; (righteous) in the sight of the law, and the genitive (τοῦ Θεοῦ) of God, indicates the source or author of that righteousness. As men therefore cannot attain such righteousness by the deeds of the law, God has revealed in the gospel another righteousness, which is not legal, but is attained or received by faith, and is offered to all men, whether Jews or Gentiles, as a free gift. The words χωρὶς νόμου, without law, may qualify the word righteousness. It is a righteousness without law, or with which the law has nothing to do. It is not a product of the law, and does not consist in our inward conformity to its precepts; so that χωρὶς νόμου is equivalent to χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου, Gal_2:16. The connection however may be with the verb: ‘Without the law (i.e. without the cooperation of the law) the righteousness of God is revealed.’ But the whole context treats of justification without works, and therefore the interpretation which makes the apostle say that a righteousness without the works of the law is made known in the gospel, is more suited to the connection. The perfect πεφανέρωται has its appropriate force. The revelation has been made and still continues. This righteousness, which, so to speak, had long been buried under the types and indistinct utterances of the old dispensation, has now in the gospel been made (φανερά) clear and apparent. The apostle therefore adds, being testified by the law and the prophets. The word is, μαρτυρουμένη, being testified to; the present is used because the testimony of the Old Testament to the gospel was still continued. The Jews were accustomed to divide the Scriptures into two parts — the Law including the five books of Moses, and the Prophets including all the other books. The word prophet means one who speaks for God. All inspired men are prophets, and therefore the designation applies to the historical, as well as to the books which we are accustomed, in a more restricted sense of the word, to call prophetical. The Law and the Prophets therefore mean the Old Testament Scriptures. Mat_5:17, Mat_7:12, Luk_16:31, Act_13:15, etc. The words designated a well known volume, and had to the minds of the Jews as definite a meaning as the word Bible has with us. The constant recognition of that volume in the New Testament as of divine authority, relieves us of the necessity of proving separately the inspiration of its several books. In sanctioning the volume as the word of God, Christ and his apostles gave their sanction to the divine authority of all that the volume contains. That the Old Testament does teach the doctrine of “a righteousness without works,” Paul proves in the next chapter, from the case of Abraham, and from the declarations of David.
Expositor’s Greek New Testament
Ver. 21. νυνὶ δὲ: but now. All time is divided for Paul into “now” and “then”. Cf. Eph_2:12 f., τῷ καιρῷ ἐêهكيῳ … νυνὶ δέ; 2Co_5:16, ἀًὸ τοῦ νῦν: the reception of the Gospel means the coming of a new world. χωρὶς νόμου: legal obedience contributes nothing to evangelic righteousness. It is plain that in this expression νόμος does not signify the O.T. revelation or religion as such, but that religion, or any other, conceived as embodied in statutes. It is statutory obedience which (as Paul has learned by experience) cannot justify. Hence νόμος has not exactly the same sense here as in the next clause, ὑًὸ τοῦ νὸμον κ. τῶν προφητῶν, where the whole expression is equal to the O.T., and the meaning is that the Gospel is not alien to the religion of Israel, but really finds attestation there. This is worth remarking, because there is a similar variation in the meaning of δικαιοσύνη between vv. 21 and 25, and in that of ἡ δόξα τοῦ θεοῦ between 3:23 and 5:2. To deny that words which mean so much, and are applied so variously, can convey different shades of meaning, even within the narrow limits of a few verses, is to deny that language shares in the life and subtlety of the mind. πεφανέρωται: once for all the righteousness of God has been revealed in the Gospel. Cf. 16:26, Col_1:26, 2Ti_1:10, 1Pe_1:20, Heb_9:8, Heb_9:26.
But now – The apostle, having shown the entire failure of all attempts to be justified by the “Law,” whether among Jews or Gentiles, proceeds to state fully the plan of justification by Jesus Christ in the gospel. To do this, was the main design of the Epistle, Rom_1:17. He makes, therefore, in the close of this chapter, an explicit statement of the nature of the doctrine; and in the following parts of the Epistle he fully proves it, and illustrates its effects.
The righteousness of God – God’s plan of justifying people; see the note at Rom_1:17.
Without the law – In a way different from personal obedience to the Law. It does not mean that God abandoned his Law; or that Jesus Christ did not regard the Law, for he came to “magnify” it Isa_42:21; or that sinners after they are justified have no regard to the Law; but it means simply what the apostle had been endeavoring to show, that justification could not be accomplished by personal obedience to any law of Jew or Gentile, and that it must be accomplished in some other way.
Being witnessed – Being borne witness to. It was not a new doctrine; it was found in the Old Testament. The apostle makes this observation with special reference to the Jews. He does not declare any new thing, but that which was rally declared in their own sacred writings.
By the law – This expression here evidently denotes, as it did commonly among the Jews, the five books of Moses. And the apostle means to say that this doctrine was found in those books; not that it was in the Ten Commandments, or in the Law, strictly so called. It is not a part of “law” to declare justification except by strict and perfect obedience. That it was found “in” those books; the apostle shows by the case of Abraham; Rom. 4; see also his reasoning on Lev_18:5; Deu_30:12-14, in Rom_10:5-11; compare Exo_34:6-7.
And the prophets – Generally, the remainder of the Old Testament. The phrase “the Law and the prophets” comprehended the whole of the Old Testament; Mat_5:17; Mat_11:13; Mat_22:40; Act_13:15; Act_28:23. That this doctrine was contained in the prophets, the apostle showed by the passage quoted from Hab_2:4, in Rom_1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” The same thing he showed in Rom_10:11, from Isa_28:16; Isa_49:23; Rom_4:6-8, from Psa_32:1-11. The same thing is fully taught in Isa_53:11; Dan_9:24. Indeed, the general tenor of the Old Testament – the appointment of sacrifices, etc. taught that man was a sinner, and that he could not be justified by obedience to the moral law.
22.Even the righteousness of God, etc. He shows in few words what this justification is, even that which is found in Christ and is apprehended by faith. At the same time, by introducing again the name of God, he seems to make God the founder, (autorem , the author,) and not only the approver of the righteousness of which he speaks; as though he had said, that it flows from him alone, or that its origin is from heaven, but that it is made manifest to us in Christ.
When therefore we discuss this subject, we ought to proceed in this way: First, the question respecting our justification is to be referred, not to the judgment of men, but to the judgment of God, before whom nothing is counted righteousness, but perfect and absolute obedience to the law; which appears clear from its promises and threatenings: if no one is found who has attained to such a perfect measure of holiness, it follows that all are in themselves destitute of righteousness. Secondly, it is necessary that Christ should come to our aid; who, being alone just, can render us just by transferring to us his own righteousness. You now see how the righteousness of faith is the righteousness of Christ. When therefore we are justified, the efficient cause is the mercy of God, the meritorious is Christ, the instrumental is the word in connection with faith. Hence faith is said to justify, because it is the instrument by which we receive Christ, in whom righteousness is conveyed to us. Having been made partakers of Christ, we ourselves are not only just, but our works also are counted just before God, and for this reason, because whatever imperfections there may be in them, are obliterated by the blood of Christ; the promises, which are conditional, are also by the same grace fulfilled to us; for God rewards our works as perfect, inasmuch as their defects are covered by free pardon.
Unto all and upon all, etc. For the sake of amplifying, he repeats the same thing in different forms; it was, that he might more fully express what we have already heard, that faith alone is required, that the faithful are not distinguished by external marks, and that hence it matters not whether they be Gentiles or Jews.
Even the righteousness of God. The repetition of the subject from the preceding verse; نه́ is therefore not adversative, but is properly rendered even. This righteousness, of which God is the author, and which is available before him, and which is now revealed, is more particularly described as a (نéêلéḯَُيç (ïَُ̓ل) نéل̀ ًéَ́ôهùٍ) righteousness which is of faith, i.e. by means of faith, not نéل̀ ًéَ́ôéي, on account of faith. Faith is not the ground of our justification; it is not the righteousness which makes us righteous before God, (it is not itself the نéêلéḯَُيç ôïُ͂ بهïُ͂,) nor is it even represented as the inward principle whence that righteousness proceeds. It is indeed the principle of evangelical obedience, the source of holiness in heart and life; but such obedience or holiness is not our justifying righteousness. Holiness is the consequence and not the cause of our justification, as the apostle proves at length in the subsequent parts of this epistle. This righteousness is through faith, as it is received and appropriated by faith. It is, moreover, not faith in general, not mere confidence in God, not simply a belief in the Scriptures as the word of God, much less a recognition of the truth of the spiritual and invisible, but it is faith of Christ; that is, faith of which Christ is the object. A man may believe what else he may; unless he receives and rests on Christ alone for salvation, receives him as the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us, he has not the faith of which the apostle here speaks as the indispensable condition of salvation. This important doctrine is not only clearly but frequently brought into view in the New Testament. What our Lord constantly demanded was not merely religious faith in general, but specifically faith in himself as the Son of God and Savior of the world. It is only faith in Christ, not faith as such, which makes a man a Christian. “If ye believe not that I am he,” saith our Lord, “ye shall die in your sins,” Joh_8:24. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” Joh_1:12. “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” Joh_3:15, Joh_3:16. “Whosoever believeth on him, shall not be confounded,” Rom_9:33. “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed,” Rom_10:14. Such passages are almost innumerable. So when the object of saving faith is designated, it is said to be not truth in general, but Christ himself. See Rom_3:25 (through faith in his blood), Gal_2:16, Gal_2:20; Gal_3:24; Eph_3:19, etc. The act, therefore, which the sinner is required to perform, in order to be made a partaker of the righteousness of God, is to believe on Christ; that is, to receive him as he is revealed in the gospel as the eternal Son of God, clothed in our nature, loving us and giving himself as a propitiation for our sins. As there is no verb in the text, of which نéêلéḯَُيç (righteousness) is the nominative, we must either borrow the verb ًهِليهٌ́ùôلé from Rom_3:21, “the righteousness of God is manifested unto all;” or what better suits what follows, supply هٌ̓́÷هôلé, comes (or simply هَ̓ôé́, is) unto all and upon all. The êلé̀ هً̓é̀ ًل́يôلٍ; (and upon all) are omitted in the MSS. A. C. 20. 31. 47. 66. 67; in the Coptic and Ethiopic versions; and by several of the Fathers. Griesbach and Lachmann leave them out of the text; most modern critical editions retain them, both on external and internal grounds. This righteousness is هéٍ̓ ًل́يôلٍ, extending unto all, êلé̀ هً̓é̀ ًل́يôلٍ, and over all, as covering them or overflowing them. “Eine Gnadenfluth,” says Olshausen, “die an alle herandringt und sogar über alle hinüberströmt.” There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile recognized in this method of salvation. The question is not as to whether men are of this or that race, or of one or another rank in life, or in the Church visible or out of it. This righteousness is unto all who believe. Faith is all that is demanded. The reason why the same method of salvation is suited to all men is given in the following clause: For there is no difference among men as to their moral state or relation to God, or as to their need of salvation, or as to what is necessary to that end. What one man needs all require, and what is suited to one is suited to and sufficient for all. The characteristics, therefore, of the plan of salvation presented in this verse are:
1. That the righteousness of God which is revealed in the gospel is to be attained by faith, not by works, not by birth, not by any external rite, not by union with any visible Church, but simply and only by believing on Christ, receiving and resting upon him.
2. That this righteousness is suited to and sufficient for all men; not only for all classes, but for all numerically; so that no one can perish for the want of a righteousness suitable and sufficient, clearly revealed and freely offered.
Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ unto all (and upon all is added in the Textus Receptus, but ill supported) them that believe: for there is no distinction. We observe that the expression here used is not h dia pistewv but simply dia pistewv . Thus dia pistewv does not naturally connect itself with dikaiosunh Yeou as defining it, but rather with eiv pantav which follows, and perhaps with reference to the pefanerwtai of ver. 21 understood. The idea, then, may be still that of God”s own righteousness, manifested in Christ, unto or towards all believers, who through faith apprehended it and became sharers in it. When St. Paul elsewhere speaks of the believer”s imputed righteousness, his language is different, so as to make his meaning plain. Thus Rom_4:6, w o Yeozetai dikaiosunhn dikaiosunhv pistewv ; Rom_5:17, thv dwreav thv dikaiosunhv ; Rom_9:30 dikaiosunhn thtsewv ; Php_3:9, thnhn epi th pistei . What we contend for is simply this that the phrase dikaiosunh Yeou means God”s own righteousness, which, manifested in the atoning Christ, embraces believers, so that to them too righteousness may be imputed (Rom_4:11)
The distinctively Christian righteousness.
The apostle has clearly shown that righteousness by the Law is not possessed by men, and that in this way is no hope for the salvation of the human race. Such is the negative conclusion to which facts and reason compel him. Yet it is not his vocation to preach a doctrine of despair. True, without righteousness there can be no salvation. Therefore, if light is to be cast upon human darkness, it must come else whither than from the Law. So it is that St. Paul preaches the new and distinctively Christian righteousness, to be secured by conditions that may be fulfilled by men of every race a righteousness that avails before God, and ensures the acceptance and the spiritual welfare and elevation of men.
I THE CHARACTER AND DESIGNATION OF THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS: IT IS OF GOD, OR DIVINE.
1. It has its source in God. In this it is distinguished from the rectitude which is “by works;” that in a sense is of human origin. It is shown to be “of grace,” i.e. to be the provision of Divine favour, free and undeserved. And further, this expression, “of God,” implies the perfection of this righteousness in comparison with all beside.
2. It is divinely adapted by.God to man. There is presupposition of man”s helplessness and dependence; it is presumed which is indeed the fact that man cannot work out a righteousness of his own. Hence there is a ground for this new righteousness in a Divine provision of substitution. The apostle would be misunderstood were his teaching upon this point to be interpreted, as some have interpreted it, as representing God as indifferent to the person by whom suffering is endured and obedience rendered. Yet Christ, by his suffering the consequences of sin in this humanity and by his perfect obedience and holiness, has laid the foundation for the acquisition by man of the distinctively Christian righteousness.
3. It avails and is acceptable before God. According to the representations of the context, it consists in the remission of sins, and acquittal and acceptance before the Divine tribunal, and in the manifestation of positive Divine approval; which may be regarded as the two parts of “justification.” It is evident that such righteousness is imputed, and not inherent a theological expression which must not, however, be interpreted to imply its unreality. Thus the Divinity of the Christian righteousness may be made apparent, as an object of admiration and of aspiration.
II THE MEANS OF THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. In order to the fulfilment of this condition upon which the Christian righteousness may he attained, there must be:
1. Belief in the Scripture testimony concerning Christ, that he is the Son of God and the appointed Saviour of mankind. This is indispensable; for faith is not a vague sentiment it has an Object, and an Object which justifies and deserves it. Yet, though indispensable, this is not sufficient. There must be also:
2. Trust or confidence in Christ as a personal Saviour. Faith is not merely intellectual assent; it is the consent of the heart and the will. It is capable of degree, and there is strong faith and weak faith. But the important point is that the soul, in the attitude and exercise of faith, is brought into personal relation with the holy Saviour.
III THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS: IT IS UNTO ALL, AND UPON ALL, THEM THAT BELIEVE. The rectitude itself is a possession which men may share, whatever their nationality, their condition in life, their individual history. And the condition of its attainment is equally universal; there is nothing in faith which limits its exercise to any special members, or any section of the human race. In this Christianity proves itself to be and this is its glory, its Divinity the universal religion.
22. نف turns to the particular aspect of the Divine righteousness which the Apostle here wishes to bring out; it is righteousness apprehended by faith in Christ and embracing the body of believers. The particle thus introduces a nearer definition, but in itself only marks the transition in thought which here (as in ch. 9:30; 1Co_2:6; Gal_2:2; Php_2:8) happens to be from the general to the particular.
ًكَôهùٍ Ἰçَïῦ ×ٌéَôïῦ: gen. of object, ‘faith in Jesus Christ.’ This is the hitherto almost universally accepted view, which has however been recently challenged in a very carefully worked out argument by Prof. Haussleiter of Greifswald (Der Glaube Jesu Christi u. der christliche Glaube, Leipzig, 1891).
Dr. Haussleiter contends that the gen. is subjective not objective, that like the ‘faith of Abraham’ in ch. 4:16, it denotes the faith (in God) which Christ Himself maintained even through the ordeal of the Crucifixion, that this faith is here put forward as the central feature of the Atonement, and that it is to be grasped or appropriated by the Christian in a similar manner to that in which he reproduces the faith of Abraham. If this view held good, a number of other passages (notably 1:17) would be affected by it. But, although ably carried out, the interpretation of some of these passages seems to us forced; the theory brings together things, like the ًكَôéٍ Ἰçَïῦ ×ٌéَôïῦ here with the ًكَôéٍ بهïῦ in 3:3, which are really disparate; and it has so far, we believe, met with no acceptance.
Even (de). Not adversative here. It defines here.
Through faith in Jesus Christ (dia pisteōs ̣Iēsoǔ Christou). Intermediate agency (dia) is faith and objective genitive, “in Jesus Christ,” not subjective “of Jesus Christ,” in spite of Haussleiter’s contention for that idea. The objective nature of faith in Christ is shown in Gal_2:16 by the addition eis Christon Iēsoun episteusamen (we believed in Christ), by tēs eis Christon pisteōs humōn (of your faith in Christ) in Col_2:5, by en pistei tēi en Christōi Iēsou (in faith that in Christ Jesus) in 1Ti_3:13, as well as here by the added words “unto all them that believe” (eis pantas tous pisteuontas) in Jesus, Paul means.
Distinction (diastolē). See note on 1Co_14:7 for the difference of sounds in musical instruments. Also in Rom_10:12. The Jew was first in privilege as in penalty (Rom_2:9.), but justification or setting right with God is offered to both on the same terms.
23.There is indeed no difference, etc. He urges on all, without exception, the necessity of seeking righteousness in Christ; as though he had said, “There is no other way of attaining righteousness; for some cannot be justified in this and others in that way; but all must alike be justified by faith, because all are sinners, and therefore have nothing for which they can glory before God.” But he takes as granted that every one, conscious of his sin, when he comes before the tribunal of God, is confounded and lost under a sense of his own shame; so that no sinner can bear the presence of God, as we see an example in the case of Adam. He again brings forward a reason taken from the opposite side; and hence we must notice what follows. Since we are all sinners, Paul concludes, that we are deficient in, or destitute of, the praise due to righteousness. There is then, according to what he teaches, no righteousness but what is perfect and absolute. Were there indeed such a thing as half righteousness, it would yet be necessary to deprive the sinner entirely of all glory: and hereby the figment of partial righteousness, as they call it, is sufficiently confuted; for if it were true that we are justified in part by works, and in part by grace, this argument of Paul would be of no force — that all are deprived of the glory of God because they are sinners. It is then certain, there is no righteousness where there is sin, until Christ removes the curse; and this very thing is what is said in Gal_3:10, that all who are under the law are exposed to the curse, and that we are delivered from it through the kindness of Christ. The glory of God I take to mean the approbation of God, as in Joh_12:43, where it is said, that “they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God.” And thus he summons us from the applause of a human court to the tribunal of heaven.
For all have sinned. This is the reason why there is no difference as to the condition of men. All are sinners. The apostle uses the aorist ç̔̀ىلٌôïي, sinned, and not the perfect, have sinned. Rückert says this is an inaccuracy; Bengel explains it by assuming that the original act in paradise, and the sinful disposition, and also the acts of transgression flowing from it, are all denoted. Olshausen says that the reference is mainly to original sin; for where there are no peccata actualia, there is still need of redemption. Dr. Wordsworth, Canon of Westminster, gives the same explanation: “All men sinned in Adam, all fell in him.” Meyer says, “The sinning of each man is presented as an historical fact of the past.” The idea that all men now stand in the posture of sinners before God might be expressed either by saying, All have sinned (and are sinners), or all sinned. The latter is the form adopted by the apostle. And come short, َُ̔ôهٌïُ͂يôلé, in the present tense. The sinning is represented as past; the present and abiding consequence of sin is the want of the glory of God. By نḯîل ôïُ͂ بهïُ͂ is most naturally understood the approbation of God, the نḯîل which comes from God; comp. Joh_12:43, “They loved the praise of men rather than the praise (نḯîلي) of God.” Calvin explains it as the glory quae coram Deo locum habet, glory before God, i.e., in estimation, as he explains نéêلéḯَُيç بهïُ͂ to be righteousness in his sight, what he regards as such. This is against the natural force of the genitive. Others understand نḯîل in the sense of glorying, non habet, unds coram Deo glorientur, Estius; so also Luther, Tholuck, (who refers to Joh_5:44, نḯîلي ًلٌل̀ ôïُ͂ بهïُ͂,) and others. This idea would be expressed by the word êلُ́÷çَéٍ Rom_3:27, or êلُ́÷çىل, Rom_4:2; 1Co_5:6; 1Co_9:16 etc. Others again say that the glory of God here means that glory which God promises to the righteous, as in Rom_3:22. So Beza, who says, “نḯîل est meta ad quam contendimus, id est, vita aeterna, quae in gloria Dei participatione consistit.” Rückert and Olshausen say it means the image of God; “Men are sinners, and are destitute of the image of God.” But this is not the sense of the words; “the glory of God” does not mean a glory like to that of God. The first interpretation, which is the simplest, is perfectly suited to the context. All men are sinners and under the disapprobation of God. In this respect there is no difference between them; and therefore all need a righteousness not their own, in order to their justification before God.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. The “glory of God,” of which all men are here said to come short (userountai), has been taken to mean
(1) honour or praise from God. “Dei favore et approbatione carent” (Sehleusner). So decidedly Meyer, Tholuek, Alford, and others. In this case Yeou would be the gen. auctoris, which Meyer argues is probable from its being so in Yeou dikaiosunh . This argument (which is not worth much in any case) tells the other way if, as we hold, it is not so in the latter phrase. For the New Testament use of doxa in the sense of “praise” or “honour,” 1Th_2:6 is adduced (Oute zhtountev en anyrwpoiv doxan); also Joh_5:44 (Doxan para allhlwn lambanontev kai thxan th tou monou Yeou ou zhteite); and especially Joh_12:43, where doxa is, as here, followed by the genitive Yeou without any connecting preposition: Hgaphsan gaxan twn anyrwpwn mallon hper thxan tou Yeou (“the praise of God,” Authorized Version). But, even apart from the different, and in itself more obvious, meaning of the phrase, doxa tou Yeou , where it occurs elsewhere, it is at least a question whether in the last cited passage it can be taken to mean praise or honour from God. It comes immediately after the quotation from Isa_6:9, etc., followed By”these things said Esaias, when he saw his glory (thxa autou), and spoke of him.” Hence the meaning of Joh_12:43 may probably be that the persons spoken of loved mundane glory (cf. Mat_4:8 Mat_6:29) rather than the Divine glory, seen in the vision of faith, manifested to the world in Christ, (cf. Joh_1:14, “We beheld his glory,” etc.) and “loved” by those who have not the eyes blinded and the heart hardened. So, even in the previous passage of St. John”s Gospel, (Joh_5:41, Joh_5:44) h doxa h para tou Yeou may denote man”s participation in the Divine glory, rather than praise or honour, while doxa para allhlwn may mean the mundane glory conferred by men on each ether. These considerations commend, in the passage before us, the interpretation (2) “Significatur ipsius Dei viventis gloria, vitam tribuens; (cf. Rom_6:4) ad quam homini, si non peccasset, patuit aditus: sod peccator ab illo fine sue excidit, neque jam eum assequitur, neque gloriam illam, quae in illo effulsisset, ullo mode tolerare potest: Heb_12:20, et seq.; 5:2, 11, 17; 8:30, etc.” (Bengel). Further, the sense which the same expression seems evidently to bear in Rom_5:2 of this Epistle is of importance for our determination of its meaning here. We are not justified in understanding, with some interpreters, any specific reference to the “image of God” (cf. 1Co_11:7, eikw doxa Yeou uparcwn) in which man was created, and which has been lost by the Fall, there being nothing to suggest it, or, with others, exclusively to the future glory, since the present usterountai seems to denote a present deficiency. The general conception appears sufficiently plain in Bengel”s exposition above given, according to which “the glory of God” means the glory of the Divine righteousness, (“sempiterna ejus virtus et divinitas” Bengel on Heb_1:8) which man, through sin, falls short of.
A remedy for a universal need.
To assert that the righteousness of God manifested in Christ was “apart from the Law” relegated the Law to its proper position, as the servant, not the master, of religion. And the apostle”s substantiation of his further assertion, that this new method of righteousness was not so entirely unheard of as that its novelty should be a strong prejudice against its truth, but that, on the contrary, the Law itself and the prophets contain intimations of such a Divine manifestation, this cut the ground entirely from under the feet of objectors jealous of every innovation which could not be justified by an appeal to the sacred writings. And this righteousness through faith recognized Jew and Gentile as alike in their need of a gospel, and their freedom of access thereto.
I THERE IS NO DISTINCTION AMONGST MEN IN RESPECT OF THEIR NEED OF THE GOSPEL. Men are declared faulty in two respects.
1. By positive transgression. They “sinned,” they have done wrong, and they wander continually from the right way. They are not adjudged criminal merely on the ground of Adam”s fall, but they themselves cross the line which separates obedience from disobedience. Scripture, history, and conscience testify to this fact.
2. By defect. They “fall short of the glory of God.” Their past behaviour has been blameworthy, and their present condition is far below what was intended when man was formed in God”s image, to attain to his likeness. Compare the best of men with the example set by the Saviour of love to God and man, and of conformity to the highest standard discernible. Now, unless perfect, man cannot claim acquittal at the bar of judgment. Perfection is marred if one feature be distorted or one limb be missing or weak. This is not to be taken to signify that all men are equally sinful, that there are no degrees of enormity, and that all are equidistant from the kingdom of God. But it means that, without exception, all fail in the examination which Divine righteousness institutes, though some have more marks than others. Left to themselves, all men would drown in the sea of their iniquity, though some are nearer the surface than their fellows. The misunderstanding of this truth has done grievous harm to tender minds, fretting because they had not the same sense of awful misdoing that has been felt by notorious malefactors. We need not gauge the amount of contrition requisite; it suffices if the heart turn humbly to God for forgiveness. Thus the gospel does not flatter men. Soothing messages may comfort for a while till the awakening comes. Then we realize that it is of no use to be in a richly decorated cabin if the ship is sinking. To reveal the true state is the necessary preliminary to reformation. There is a downrightness about the gospel assertions which, like the deep probing of the surgeon”s lance, wounds in order to thorough healing. Alas! that the disease of sin should so frequently produce lethargy in the sick! they feel no need of a physician! Lax notions of sin lessen our sense of the necessity of an atonement. We fail to discern a rebellion against the government of God, and an offence against the moral universe. We treat it as if it only concerned ourselves and our neighbours. No sprinkling of rose-water can purge away the evil; it can be cleansed only by the blood of the Lamb.
II THERE IS NO DISTINCTION IN RESPECT OF THE MEANS OF SALVATION.
1. Justification comes in every case as a gift, not as a prize discovered or earned. “Being justified freely.” Part of the beneficial influence of the gospel is the blow it administers to human notions of desert, and pride is a chief obstacle to enrichment by this gift of God.
2. To all men the kindness of God is the source of their salvation. God first loved and sought the sinner, not contrariwise. His “grace” is the fountain of redemption.
3. The same Divine method of deliverance is employed for all. “Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” There is but one way to the Father, whether men walk thereon consciously or unconsciously, in heathen twilight or gospel noontide, in Jewish anticipation or Christian realization. The one atonement can cover all transgression.
4. The same human mode of entrance into the kingdom is open to all, viz. by faith. Weakness, ignorance, degradation, cannot be pleaded as obstacles to salvation. The study of the philosopher is no nearer heaven than the cottage of the artisan. The capacity of trusting is possessed by every man; the remedy is not remote, therefore, from the reach of any of the sin-sick race. S.R.A.
23. [ὑَôهٌïῦيôلé should be rendered fall short, not, as E. V., “come short,” since this latter may be taken for the past tense, after the auxiliary “have.”]
τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ] Of the praise which comes from God, see reff. (so Grot., Thol., Reiche, Fritz., Meyer, Rückert, De Wette): not, ‘of praise in God’s sight’ (Luther, Calv., Estius, Kِllner): nor, ‘of glory with God,’ as ch. 5:2 (Œc., Beza, al.),—for the Apostle is not speaking here of future reward, but of present worthiness: nor, of the glorious image of God which we have lost through sin (Calov., al., Rückert, Olsh.), which is against both the usage of the word, and the context of the passage.
Have sinned (ç̔́ىلٌôïي)
Aorist tense: sinned, looking back to a thing definitely past – the historic occurrence of sin.
And come short (َُ̔ôهٌïُ͂يôلé)
Rev., fall short: The present tense. The A.V. leaves it uncertain whether the present or the perfect have come is intended. They sinned, and therefore they are lacking. See on Luk_15:14. The word is not merely equivalent to they are wanting in, but implies want under the aspect of shortcoming.
The glory of God (ôçٍ͂ نḯîçٍ ôïُ͂ بهïُ͂)
Interpretations vary greatly. The glory of personal righteousness; that righteousness which God judges to be glory; the image of God in man; the glorying or boasting of righteousness before God; the approbation of God; the state of future glory.
The dominant meanings of نḯîل in classical Greek are notion, opinion, conjecture, repute. See on Rev_1:6. In biblical usage: 1.
Recognition, honor, Phi_1:11; 1Pe_1:7. It is joined with ôéىḉ honor, 1Ti_1:17; Heb_2:7, Heb_2:9; 2Pe_1:17. Opposed to ل̓ôéىé̀ل dishonor, 1Co_11:14, 1Co_11:15; 1Co_15:43; 2Co_6:8. With وçôه́ù to seek, 1Th_2:6; Joh_5:44; Joh_7:18. With ëلىâل́يù to receive, Joh_5:41, Joh_5:44. With نé́نùىé to give, Luk_17:18; Joh_9:24. In the ascriptive phrase glory be to, Luk_2:14, and ascriptions in the Epistles. Compare Luk_14:10. 2. The glorious appearance which attracts the eye, Mat_4:8; Luk_4:6; Luk_12:27. Hence parallel with هé̓êù́ي image; ىïٌِḉ form; ï̔ىïé́ùىل likeness; هé̓͂نïٍ appearance, figure, Rom_1:23; Psa_17:15; Num_12:8.
The glory of God is used of the aggregate of the divine attributes and coincides with His self-revelation, Exo_33:22; compare ًٌḯَùًïي face, Exo_33:23. Hence the idea is prominent in the redemptive revelation (Isa_60:3; Rom_6:4; Rom_5:2). It expresses the form in which God reveals Himself in the economy of salvation (Rom_9:23; 1Ti_1:11; Eph_1:12). It is the means by which the redemptive work is carried on; for instance, in calling, 2Pe_1:3; in raising up Christ and believers with Him to newness of life, Rom_6:4; in imparting strength to believers, Eph_3:16; Col_1:11; as the goal of Christian hope, Rom_5:2; Rom_8:18, Rom_8:21; Tit_2:13. It appears prominently in the work of Christ – the outraying of the Father’s glory (Heb_1:3), especially in John. See Joh_1:14; Joh_2:11, etc.
The sense of the phrase here is: they are coming short of the honor or approbation which God bestows. The point under discussion is the want of righteousness. Unbelievers, or mere legalists, do not approve themselves before God by the righteousness which is of the law. They come short of the approbation which is extended only to those who are justified by faith.
24.Being justified freely, etc. A participle is here put for a verb according to the usage of the Greek language. The meaning is, — that since there remains nothing for men, as to themselves, but to perish, being smitten by the just judgment of God, they are to be justified freely through his mercy; for Christ comes to the aid of this misery, and communicates himself to believers, so that they find in him alone all those things in which they are wanting. There is, perhaps, no passage in the whole Scripture which illustrates in a more striking manner the efficacy of his righteousness; for it shows that God’s mercy is the efficient cause, that Christ with his blood is the meritorious cause, that the formal or the instumental cause is faith in the word, and that moreover, the final cause is the glory of the divine justice and goodness.
With regard to the efficient cause, he says, that we are justified freely, and further, by his grace; and he thus repeats the word to show that the whole is from God, and nothing from us. It might have been enough to oppose grace to merits; but lest we should imagine a half kind of grace, he affirms more strongly what he means by a repetition, and claims for God’s mercy alone the whole glory of our righteousness, which the sophists divide into parts and mutilate, that they may not be constrained to confess their own poverty. — Through the redemption, etc. This is the material, — Christ by his obedience satisfied the Father’s justice, (judicium — judgment,) and by undertaking our cause he liberated us from the tyranny of death, by which we were held captive; as on account of the sacrifice which he offered is our guilt removed. Here again is fully confuted the gloss of those who make righteousness a quality; for if we are counted righteous before God, because we are redeemed by a price, we certainly derive from another what is not in us. And Paul immediately explains more clearly what this redemption is, and what is its object, which is to reconcile us to God; for he calls Christ a propitiation, (or, if we prefer an allusion to an ancient type,) a propitiatory. But what he means is, that we are not otherwise just than through Christ propitiating the Father for us. But it is necessary for us to examine the words.
Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The apostle continues his exhibition of the method of salvation by using the participle “being justified,” instead of the verb “we are justified,” agreeably to a mode of construction not unusual in the Greek, though much more frequent in the Hebrew. Δικαιούμενοι therefore depends on ὑστεροῦνται, “all come short of the favor of God, being justified freely.” That is, since justification is gratuitous, the subjects of it are in themselves unworthy; they do not merit God’s favor. Justification is as to us δωρεάν, a matter of gift; on the part of God it is an act of grace; we are justified τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι, by his grace. The act, so far as we are concerned, is altogether gratuitous. We have not the slightest degree of merit to offer as the ground of our acceptance. This is the third characteristic of the method of justification which is by the righteousness of God. Though it is so entirely gratuitous as regards the sinner, yet it is in a way perfectly consistent with the justice of God. It is through “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” that is, of which he is the author.
The word ἀπολύτρωσις, redemption, has two senses in the New Testament.
1. It means properly ‘a deliverance effected by the payment of a ransom.’ This is its primary etymological meaning.
2. It means deliverance simply, without any reference to the mode of its accomplishment, whether by power or wisdom. Luk_21:28, “The day of redemption (i.e. of deliverance) draweth nigh;” Heb_9:15, and perhaps Rom_8:23; compare Isa_1:2, “Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem?” etc. When applied to the work of Christ, as affecting our deliverance from the punishment of sin, it is always taken in its proper sense, deliverance effected by the payment of a ransom. This is evident,
1. Because in no case where it is thus used, is anything said of the precepts, doctrines, or power of Christ, as the means by which the deliverance is effected; but uniformly his sufferings are mentioned as the ground of deliverance. Eph_1:7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood;” Heb_9:15, “By means of death, for the redemption of transgressions,” Col_1:14.
2. In this passage the nature of this redemption is explained by the following verse: it is not by truth, nor the exhibition of excellence, but through Christ ‘as a propitiatory sacrifice, through faith in his blood.’
3. Equivalent expressions fix the meaning of the term beyond doubt. 1Ti_2:6, “Who gave himself as a ransom for all;” Mat_20:28, “The Son of man came to give his life as a ransom for many;” 1Pe_1:18, “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ,” etc.
Accordingly Christ is presented as a Redeemer, not in the character of a teacher or witness, but of a priest, a sacrifice, a propitiation, etc. That from which we are redeemed is the wrath of God; the price of our redemption is the blood of Christ. That is in Christ Jesus. This may mean by him, ἐν having its instrumental force, as in Act_17:31, (ἐν ἀνδρὶ ῷ,) by the man. As this use of the preposition with names of persons is infrequent, others retain its usual force, in. Compare Eph_1:7, “In whom (ἐν ῷ) we have redemption,” etc.; and Col_1:14. ‘We are justified by means (διά) of the redemption which we have in virtue of union to Christ.’
Being justified freely by his grace – So far from being able to attain the glory of God by their obedience, they are all guilty: and, to be saved, must be freely pardoned by God’s grace; which is shown to them who believe, through the redemption, απολυτρωσεως, the ransom price, which is in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. The original is compounded of απο, from, and λυτροω, I redeem, and properly means the price laid down for the redemption of a captive. Comprehendit haec Christi απολυτρωσις, quicquid is docuit, fecit et passus est, eo consilio, ut homines malis liberati, praecipue peccato, malorum fonte immunes, veram felicitatem adipiscerentur. – Rosenmuller. This redemption of Christ comprehends whatsoever he taught, did, or suffered, in order to free men from evil; especially to free them from sin, the source of evils; that they might attain true felicity. And that it here means the liberation purchased by the blood-shedding of Christ, is evident from Eph_1:7 : We have Redemption, απολυτρωσιν δια του αιματος αυτου, Through His Blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. See also Col_1:14, where the same words are found.
Λυτρα according to Suidas, is μισθος, η τα παρεχομενα υπερ ελευθεριας, επι τω λυτρωσασθαι βαρβαρων δουλειας A reward; or the price given to be redeemed from the slavery of the barbarians. Schleusner, under the word απολυτρωσις, says, Negari quidem non potest, hanc vocem proprie notare redemptionem ejus, qui captivus detinetur, sive bello, sive alio captus sit modo, quae fit per pretti solutionem; quo sensu verbum απολυτροω legitur haud raro in Scripp. Graecis. No man certainly can deny that this word properly means the redemption of a captive, (whether he may have been taken in war or in any other way), which is procured by the payment of a price. That the word also means any deliverance, even where no price is paid down, nobody will dispute; but that it means redemption by a price laid down, and the redemption of the soul by the price of the death of Christ, the above scriptures sufficiently prove.