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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Romans 2

 

 

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Verse 1

CONTENTS

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (2) But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. (3) And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? (4) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (5) But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; (6) Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (7) To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: (8) But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (9) Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (10) But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: (11) For there is no respect of persons with God.

The Apostle having shewn in the foregoing Chapter, the sad State of all Men by Nature, he shews with equal Proofs arising from human Depravity, the total Inability of the Law to bring Sinners to God: and from hence, as in the former Instance, manifests the Necessity and Importance of the Gospel, of Christ.

Romans 2:1-11 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (2) But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. (3) And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? (4) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (5) But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; (6) Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (7) To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: (8) But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (9) Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (10) But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: (11) For there is no respect of persons with God.

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (2) But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. (3) And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? (4) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (5) But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; (6) Who will render to every man according to his deeds: (7) To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: (8) But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, (9) Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; (10) But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: (11) For there is no respect of persons with God.

Within the compass of those verses the Apostle enumerates very-many things, which are, and must be confessedly plain and universally received truths, not only founded in revelation, but common sense and reason. But on these we need not dwell. Paul's evident intention in the introduction, of them, is only in a way preparatory, to shew the inability of the Law of Moses to justify sinners before God. The great design of this Chapter is to set this forth in the fullest colors, and, in the example of the Jew, to manifest that the law never did, neither was it ever designed, to bring sinners to God. And therefore he begins with stating common principles of right and wrong. All judgment proceeds upon this standard of equity. The Jews had a law. They brake it. And yet, while breaking it themselves, they condemned others who brake it also. Now, saith the Apostle, is it possible for you to suppose, that a law which you have broken can justify you? Can you think that a broken law can be your justification before God? Are you so senseless as to plead what becomes your very condemnation?

Such views of the subject contained in those verses, will serve to explain the several expressions made use of in the Apostle's reasoning. The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. What repentance? Not that repentance which Christ is exalted as a prince and a Savior to give, Acts 5:31. God's gift cannot be man's merit. But the repentance here alluded to, is that natural sorrow which conscience will still excite in the heart, notwithstanding its present benumbed state, and as we see it doth in the worst of men, when their sins bring sorrow, and their crimes are followed by punishment. The vilest sinner alive is led to this natural repentance when judgment taketh hold of him. But this sorrow differs wholly from godly sorrow and true repentance, wrought in the heart by sovereign grace.

This natural sorrow is wholly of man, the other is wholly of God. Natural repentance is excited by the dread of affliction: gracious repentance is awakened by the Holy Ghost, when convincing of sin. And while that of nature only acts as long as a fear of punishment hangs over the conscience, and the heart remains the same as it was before: that of grace brings with it a thorough change, and the life is reformed. The Apostle himself so describes it. Godly sorrow (said he) worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death, 2 Corinthians 6:10.

In like manner, when it is said in those verses, that the Lord will render to every man according to his works, and that there is no respect of persons with God: those expressions must not be accepted contrary to the general tenor of holy scripture, God hath no respect of persons, considered as to their own personal worth or doings. He hath no respect of persons, as to their place of birth, or relations from whom they are descended in the Adam - nature of generation, where the whole stock is from the original apostacy, all alike corrupt. Neither hath the Lord respect of persons, as some have ventured to suppose from foreseeing what should arise in them, or be done by them, in the after circumstances of their life. For all the good that is done upon earth, the Lord doeth it himself Upon all these accounts, nothing can be more plain and evident than that God is no respecter of persons. There is, there can be nothing in the creature in a way of merit, which can act as a cause in the sight of the Lord to induce this respect. But it is equally certain, that while God respects no man's person, on either of the grounds here mentioned, yet the whole Church, and every individual of that Church, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, the Lord hath had respect to, on Christ's account, and highly distinguished everyone of their persons, as they are one with Christ, and hath accepted and beloved them in Him. And to the same amount, and on the same ground, the reward that the Lord is here said to render to every man according to his deeds; the sense is, not that the merit of every man, considered in himself, and without an eye to Christ, will form the standard of retribution. For, alas! if this were the case, everlasting condemnation must alike fall on all, for all the world; in the Adam-nature of an unregenerated, unrenewed state, become guilty before God, Romans 3:19. But the meaning is, (and indeed the verses which follow explain it,) as men are accepted in Christ, or as they reject Christ in their own souls. They (saith the Apostle) who seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life; that is, they seek those things in Christ. Indeed, nowhere else can they be found. Christ himself is eternal life. And they who have Christ, have eternal life in Him, and all the blessings connected with it, John 17:2; Joh_17:1; Joh_5:11-12; Joh_3:36. But to them that are contentious, that is, contend against Christ as the whole of salvation, and stand upon the bottom of their own works, either in whole or in part, there will be indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil. Hence this scripture is in this way very fully established. The Lord will render to every man according to his deeds. Here are the deeds of faith, and the deeds of works. And the issue is as might be expected. Reader! ponder well the subject. Think what a mercy it must be in that final day of account, which Paul calls, the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, to have a perfect, complete, and all-sufficient righteousness to stand in, for the justification of our persons before God. Thai can only be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if it be blessed then, so must it be now. Have you ever made it the subject of examination? Will you try it in the present moment? Put your hand upon your heart. Judge it yourself with a strict scrutiny, as it will be done in the hour when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. And as a discovery of its workings will bring up proofs of its deceitfulness, Jeremiah 17:9, listen to what the Holy Ghost speaks of Christ's all-sufficiency, in the blood of the everlasting covenant. And if the Lord the Spirit shews you, that there is more in Jesus to save, than in sin to condemn, sweet will be the consolation that will follow. And depend upon it, if the Lord speaks peace now, he will not speak condemnation then. He is of one mind, and who can turn him? Job 23:13. God will not unsay what he hath once said. Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom, Job 33:24.


Verses 12-16

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (13) (For not the hearers of the law just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (14) For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: (15) Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) (16) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. Here the Apostle enters upon the subject, which is the great design he had in view in this whole chapter. His object is to prove, that the had no more advantage by the law, in a way of justification, than (as he had before shewn in the preceding chapter,) the had by the light of nature. Both were included under sin. Having introduced the subject by the preparatory verses, he here enters upon it in the consideration of the law.

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (13) (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (14) For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: (15) Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) (16) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. Here the Apostle enters upon the subject, which is the great design he had in view in this whole chapter. His object is to prove, that the Jew had no more advantage by the law, in a way of justification, than (as he had before shewn in the preceding chapter,) the Gentile had by the light of nature. Both were included under sin. Having introduced the subject by the preparatory verses, he here enters upon it in the consideration of the law.

And, first, he considers sinners in the Adam-nature of a fallen state, as sinning, and perishing without law, as a positive and decided proof, that all who sin under the law must be judged, and will consequently fall under the just sentence by that law. And then, in a parenthesis which takes up three verses, the Apostle draws the line of equity to prove the justness of this decision, as it relates both to Jew and Gentile; the one by the law of conscience, and the other by the law of the covenant given to Israel on Mount Sinai.

Some men, (indeed most men,) who have written, or commented upon the subject, have dwelt much upon the law of Moses, as divided into two parts; and have called it, Ceremonial and Moral. But this distinction certainly is not scriptural; for there is not such a word in the whole Bible, as Moral. The Law indeed, is, made up of precepts and ordinances; but then, both point to Christ, and both are fulfilled in Christ. And the law had no other tendency, than to act as a school-master to Christ, See Galatians 3:24 and Commentary. And, as Christ is said by the Holy Ghost, to be the end of the law, for righteousness to everyone that believeth; Romans 10:4, in Him, both the accomplishment of the ordinances, and the fulfillment of the precepts, are alike found.

That the law, in all its bearings had this direction, and was intended for no other purpose, is evident, from the spirituality of its nature. Its chief object was to shew the necessity of a purity within; not of mere ceremonies without. And the law insisted upon an holiness of the thoughts, as well as of the actions. And, therefore, this one view alone is enough to manifest, that none of the Adam - nature stock could come up to it. Indeed it was never expected. For, the Apostle elsewhere saith, in answer to the important question; wherefore then serveth the law? It was added, (saith he,) because of transgressions, Galatians 3:19. As if he had said, it was given, to set forth the spirituality of God's holy law; and the total impossibility of any one of the sons of Adam, by nature, fulfilling it. And what was all this, but Preaching Christ, in all his fulness and glory, as the Law-fulfiller, in the character and capacity of the Surety of his people? Hebrews 7:22.


Verses 17-29

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (18) And knowest will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; (19) And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, (20) An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. (21) Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? (22) Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? (23) Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? (24) For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (25) For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (26) Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (27) And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise not of men, but of God.

next proceeds to charge upon the Jews the total neglect of all the precepts enjoined them. And he doth it in a way of question, which, as it waits not for an answer, (because in fact it needed none, being self-evident, and unanswerable,) becomes a more decided method, than so many positive assertions. And the Apostle having fully shewn, that the Jews, while priding themselves upon their laws, were defective in the observance of everyone of them: while pretending to instruct the ignorant, were themselves wholly ignorant, and in the blindness of unregeneracy; while apparently approving the things that were more excellent, were acting in direct contradiction to them; he draws a conclusion, that in an instance so palpable, nothing could be more glaring, than that the stood on the same footing with the and both became alike guilty before God. Yea, closeth this part of his charge with intimating, that from the greater inattention which the observed to the law, as a rule of life, to what the unenlightened in many instances had followed, in the law of nature; the deficiency of the one, was less pardonable than the and the worse effects in the world in consequence took place. God (saith . Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (18) And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; (19) And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, (20) An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. (21) Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? (22) Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? (23) Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? (24) For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (25) For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (26) Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (27) And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? (28) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: (29) But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

The Apostle having thus, in a general way, very fully established the main point he had in view, in proving the impossibility of justification before God, either by the law of nature, or by the law given by Moses; now proceeds to make a particular address to the people, he all along had in contemplation, and calls upon the Jew, to form his own judgment. There is a very great beauty, both in the argument itself he makes use of, and in the manner of his using it; which cannot fail, under the Lord, to have a sensible effect on every mind taught of God.

The Apostle first grants everything that could be desired, in respect to the privileges and advantages of the Jews, above all nations of the earth. They had, as Paul elsewhere tells the Church, those great things done for them, which no people under heaven but themselves possessed. To them pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants) and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises: Whose were the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came; who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen, Romans 9:4-5. A nation so distinguished, so marked with divine favors, might well be expected to have been distinguished also in everything which should have marked a corresponding conduct. And ages before Paul, their great law-giver Moses, had both shewn them their advantages, and what should have followed. See Deuteronomy 4:5-9. But their history, furnished a woeful account of the reverse of all right conduct. And, from that period to the days of Paul, nothing, more or less, but daring rebellion, uniformly filled in the pages of their national character. The Apostle briefly takes notice of their advantages as a people; and makes this the foundation of his appeal therefrom. Behold! (saith he,) thou art called a Jew, and resteth in the law, and makest thy boast of God. And the Apostle goeth on, to fall in with all of what the children of Abraham, after the flesh, boasted of, in order the more strikingly to prove his grand point, in their self-condemnation.

Paul next proceeds to charge upon the Jews the total neglect of all the precepts enjoined them. And he doth it in a way of question, which, as it waits not for an answer, (because in fact it needed none, being self-evident, and unanswerable,) becomes a more decided method, than so many positive assertions. And the Apostle having fully shewn, that the Jews, while priding themselves upon their laws, were defective in the observance of everyone of them: while pretending to instruct the ignorant, were themselves wholly ignorant, and in the blindness of unregeneracy; while apparently approving the things that were more excellent, were acting in direct contradiction to them; he draws a conclusion, that in an instance so palpable, nothing could be more glaring, than that the stood on the same footing with the and both became alike guilty before God. Yea, closeth this part of his charge with intimating, that from the greater inattention which the observed to the law, as a rule of life, to what the unenlightened in many instances had followed, in the law of nature; the deficiency of the one, was less pardonable than the and the worse effects in the world in consequence took place. God (saith).

next proceeds to charge upon the Jews the total neglect of all the precepts enjoined them. And he doth it in a way of question, which, as it waits not for an answer, (because in fact it needed none, being self-evident, and unanswerable,) becomes a more decided method, than so many positive assertions. And the Apostle having fully shewn, that the Jews, while priding themselves upon their laws, were defective in the observance of everyone of them: while pretending to instruct the ignorant, were themselves wholly ignorant, and in the blindness of unregeneracy; while apparently approving the things that were more excellent, were acting in direct contradiction to them; he draws a conclusion, that in an instance so palpable, nothing could be more glaring, than that the Jew stood on the same footing with the Gentile, and both became alike guilty before God. Yea, Paul closeth this part of his charge with intimating, that from the greater inattention which the Jew observed to the law, as a rule of life, to what the unenlightened Heathen in many instances had followed, in the law of nature; the deficiency of the one, was less pardonable than the other: and the worse effects in the world in consequence took place. For the name of God (saith Paul) is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, Isaiah 52:5.

The third step the Apostle advances in, throws to the ground all that the Jew could lay hold of, in his vain pretensions to the divine favor, in shewing, that the rite of circumcision, in its highest extent, was simply nothing more than an outward sign of an inward effect. It consisted, not in anything carnal, but spiritual. Not in a mere mark in the flesh, but the impression of grace in the heart. In short, it pointed to Christ, being a seal of the covenant, and Christ himself the Covenant! And therefore, nothing could be argued in point of privileges, from circumcision; because in fact those privileges were all in Christ, to whom that rite referred. And consequently, a carnal Jew had not the smallest claim in the privileges of a spiritual Christian. Hence, from this plain and undeniable statement, the Apostle fairly, and fully concludes, that the Jew, no more than the Gentile, could find justification by the deeds of the law, before God. Reader! do not fail to remark, with what unanswerable force of argument the Apostle follows up the great and important doctrine, which he had entered upon, in the preceding Chapter; and to what a sure, however humiliating conclusion, he hath already advanced, when by such a clear train of evidences, the truth is fully seen; that the whole world, both Jew and Gentile, are manifestly proved guilty before God, Romans 3:19.


Verse 29

REFLECTIONS

Reader! let us, in the view of Israel, and the privileges of Israel, and the sad abuse of them by Israel; feel suitably affected with the sense of our mercies. Is it possible to behold that nation, to mark the Lord's watchful eye over them as a nation; and now to call to mind their dispersion and misery, as a nation; and have no concern for ourselves, as a people?

Let us moreover solemnly deliberate, as fully shewn in their history, how incompetent both law and ordinances are, to bring the heart to God. Yea, let us in them learn, how sure it is, that where privileges do not lead to good, men pervert them into evil. Outward means, unaccompanied with an inward grace, are among the most fatal deceptions of the present day. And, beyond all doubt, whatever becomes not the savor of life unto life; will have the savor of death unto death!

Precious Lord Jesus! how sweet is it, when our souls can seek unto thee for relief and comfort, under all our discouragements! Thou art indeed the life, and light; and the sole righteousness of thy people, Oh! grant, that from being stripped of everything the pride of unhumbled nature might be prompted to take up with after the Gentile, and the presumption of any supposed righteousness in the law after the Jew; thy redeemed may come under the teaching of thy blessed Spirit; and wholly seeking in Jesus, and from Jesus, glory, honor, and immortality, may have eternal life; and with full assurance of faith, believe the record that God hath given of his Son.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Romans 2:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/romans-2.html. 1828.

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