Having concluded Romans 1 last Sunday, this upcoming Sunday we will be following the natural progression of moving into chapter 2. Hopefully as we continue to study the book of Romans together as a body at Grace Baptist Church, you have received a great deal of encouragement from the truth of God’s Word being studied in the variety of outlets of Grace. As we move into our next section, here is a commentary on Romans 2:1-11 that will benefit us in our time in Romans throughout the week, and also on Sunday.
The scope of the first two chapters of this epistle may be gathered from ch. 3:9, “We have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin.” This we have proved upon the Gentiles (ch. 1), now in this chapter he proves it upon the Jews, as appears by v. 17, “thou art called a Jew.” [He proves in general that Jews and Gentiles stand upon the same level before the justice of God, to v. 11.]
[Verses 1-11] In the former chapter the apostle had represented the state of the Gentile world to be as bad and black as the Jews were ready enough to pronounce it. And now, designing to show that the state of the Jews was very bad too, and their sin in many respects more aggravated, to prepare his way he sets himself in this part of the chapter to show that God would proceed upon equal terms of justice with Jews and Gentiles; and now with such a partial hand as the Jews were apt to think he would use in their favour.I. He arraigns them for their censoriousness and self-conceit (v. 1): Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. As he expresses himself in general terms, the admonition may reach those many masters (Jam. 3:1 ), of whatever nation or profession they are, that assume to themselves a power to censure, control, and condemn others. But he intends especially the Jews, and to them particularly he applies this general charge (v. 21), Thou who teachest another teachest thou not thyself? The Jews were generally a proud sort of people, that looked with a great deal of scorn and contempt upon the poor Gentiles, as not worthy to be set with the dogs of their flock; while in the mean time they were themselves as bad and immoral-though not idolaters, as the Gentiles, yet sacrilegious, v. 22. Therefore thou art inexcusable. If the Gentiles, who had but the light of nature, were inexcusable ch. 1:20 ), much more the Jews, who had the light of the law, the revealed will of God, and so had greater helps than the Gentiles.II. He asserts the invariable justice of the divine government, v. 2, v. 3. To drive home the conviction, he here shows what a righteous God that is with whom we have to do, and how just in his proceedings. It is usual with the apostle Paul, in his writings, upon mention of some material point, to make large digressions upon it; as here concerning the justice of God (v. 2), That the judgment of God is according to truth, —according to the eternal rules of justice and equity,—according to the heart, and not according to the outward appearance (1 Sa. 16:7 ),—according to the works, and not with respect to persons, is a doctrine which we are all sure of, for he would not be God if he were not just; but it behoves those especially to consider it who condemn others for those things which they themselves are guilty of, and so, while they practise sin and persist in that practice, think to bribe the divine justice by protesting against sin and exclaiming loudly upon others that are guilty, as if preaching against sin would atone for the guilt of it. But observe how he puts it to the sinner’s conscience (v. 3): Thinkest thou this, O man? O man, a rational creature, a dependent creature, made by God, subject under him, and accountable to him. The case is so plain that we may venture to appeal to the sinner’s own thoughts: “Canst thou think that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Can the heart-searching God be imposed upon by formal pretences, the righteous Judge of all so bribed and put off?’’ The most plausible politic sinners, who acquit themselves before men with the greatest confidence, cannot escape the judgment of God, cannot avoid being judged and condemned.III. He draws up a charge against them (v. 4, v. 5) consisting of two branches:—1. Slighting the goodness of God (v. 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, Eccl. 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.2. Provoking the wrath of God, v. 5. The rise of this provocation is a hard and impenitent heart; and the ruin of sinners is their walking after such a heart, being led by it. To sin is to walk in the way of the heart; and when that is a hard and impenitent heart (contracted hardness by long custom, besides that which is natural), how desperate must the course needs be! The provocation is expressed by treasuring up wrath.Those that go on in a course of sin are treasuring up unto themselves wrath. A treasure denotes abundance. It is a treasure that will be spending to eternity, and yet never exhausted; and yet sinners are still adding to it as to a treasure. Every wilful sin adds to the score, and will inflame the reckoning; it brings a branch to their wrath, as some read that (Eze. 8:17 ), they put the branch to their nose. A treasure denotes secrecy. The treasury or magazine of wrath is the heart of God himself, in which it lies hid, as treasures in some secret place sealed up; see Deu. 32:34 ; Job. 14:17 . But withal it denotes reservation to some further occasion; as the treasures of the hail are reserved against the day of battle and war, Job. 38:22, Job. 38:23 . These treasures will be broken open like the fountains of the great deep, Gen. 7:11 . They are treasured up against the day of wrath, when they will be dispensed by the wholesale, poured out by full vials. Though the present day be a day of patience and forbearance towards sinners, yet there is a day of wrath coming-wrath, and nothing but wrath. Indeed, every day is to sinners a day of wrath, for God is angry with the wicked every day (Ps. 7:11 ), but there is the great day of wrath coming, Rev. 6:17 . And that day of wrath will be the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The wrath of God is not like our wrath, a heat and passion; no, fury is not in him (Isa. 27:4 ): but it is a righteous judgment, his will to punish sin, because he hates it as contrary to his nature. This righteous judgment of God is now many times concealed in the prosperity and success of sinners, but shortly it will be manifested before all the world, these seeming disorders set to rights, and the heavens shall declare his righteousness, Ps. 50:6 . Therefore judge nothing before the time. IV. He describes the measures by which God proceeds in his judgment. Having mentioned the righteous judgment of God in v. 5, he here illustrates that judgment, and the righteousness of it, and shows what we may expect from God, and by what rule he will judge the world. The equity of distributive justice is the dispensing of frowns and favours with respect to deserts and without respect to persons: such is the righteous judgment of God.1. He will render to every man according to his deeds (v. 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 v. 7and v. 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, v. 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 (v. 10) glory, honour, and peace. Those that seek for glory and honour (v. 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.(2.) In dispensing his frowns (v. 8, v. 9). Observe, [1.] The objects of his frowns. In general those that do evil, more particularly described to be such as are contentious and do not obey the truth.Contentious against God. every wilful sin is a quarrel with God, it is striving with our Maker(Isa. 45:9 ), the most desperate contention. The Spirit of God strives with sinners (Gen. 6:3 ), and impenitent sinners strive against the Spirit, rebel against the light (Job. 24:13 ), hold fast deceit, strive to retain that sin which the Spirit strives to part them from. Contentious, and do not obey the truth. The truths of religion are not only to be known, but to be obeyed; they are directing, ruling, commanding; truths relating to practice. Disobedience to the truth is interpreted a striving against it. But obey unrighteousness —do what unrighteousness bids them do. Those that refuse to be the servants of truth will soon be the slaves of unrighteousness. [2.] The products or instances of these frowns: Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. These are the wages of sin. Indignation and wrath the causes—tribulation and anguish the necessary and unavoidable effects. And this upon the soul; souls are the vessels of that wrath, the subjects of that tribulation and anguish. Sin qualifies the soul for this wrath. The soul is that in or of man which is alone immediately capable of this indignation, and the impressions or effects of anguish therefrom. Hell is eternal tribulation and anguish, the product of wrath and indignation. This comes of contending with God, of setting briers and thorns before a consuming fire, Isa. 27:4 . Those that will not bow to his golden sceptre will certainly be broken by his iron rod. Thus will God render to every man according to his deeds.2. There is no respect of persons with God, v. 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 (Acts. 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?