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The Adam Clarke Commentary

Chapter 2

The apostle shows that the Jew, who condemns the Gentiles, and considers them utterly unworthy of the blessings of the Gospel, is inexcusable, because he is guilty of the same crimes; and therefore shalt not escape the righteous judgment of God, 1-3. It is an awful thing to despise the goodness and long-suffering of God, which lead to repentance, 4,5. God, the impartial judge, will render to every man according to his works, 6-11. The Jews and the Gentiles will be judged according to their respective advantages and disadvantages, 12,13. In some cases, the Gentiles, who had no law, have shown a better disposition than the Jews, 14-16. The Jews, by their unfaithfulness, have been a stumbling-block to the Gentiles, 17-24. Jewish rites and ceremonies of no advantage, unless productive of change of heart and conduct, 25. The Gentiles, who attend to the small light which they have received from God, are in a better state than the unfaithful Jews, with all their superior privileges, 26,27. What constitutes a real Jew in the sight of God, 28,29.

Notes on Chapter 2

Dr. Taylor makes the following sensible observations at the commencement of this chapter.

"The representation of the moral state of the heathen world, in the foregoing chapter, is a demonstration of the necessity of the Gospel for the reformation and salvation of man. And how rich is the favour wherewith God has visited the world! To have destroyed a race of apostate rebels, who had abused their understandings and every gift of a bountiful Creator, would have been justice; to have spared them would have been lenity and goodness; but to send his only begotten Son from heaven to redeem us from all iniquity and ungodliness by his own blood; to grant us a free pardon for all our sins; to put us in a state of mercy and salvation; to take us into his kingdom and family; to give us an inheritance among his saints; to bless us with immortality and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places;-this is most wonderful and exuberant favour. Rightly is the doctrine which teaches it called the Gospel, or glad tidings. One would think it could not possibly have met with opposition from any part of mankind. But the JEW opposed it! He abhorred the Gentile, and contradicted the grace that honoured and saved him. The apostle pleads and defends our cause. His business is to confound the Jew, and to prove that we have as good a right as he to all the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom. And, by his description of the vicious state of the Gentiles, in the former chapter, he has wisely made his advantage of the prejudices of the Jew; for nothing could please him more than the preceding discourse, in which the Gentiles are reduced to so vile and abject a state. Thus the apostle gives him an opportunity to condemn the Gentiles; but he does this that he may the more effectually humble him in this chapter; in which he proves that the Jews, having in an aggravated manner despised the goodness and broken the law of God, were as obnoxious to his wrath as the Gentiles; and if so, how could they, with any conscience or modesty, arrogate all the Divine mercy to themselves, or pretend that others were unworthy of it, when they had done as much or more to forfeit it! Must they not exclude themselves from being the people of God under the Gospel, by the same reason that they would have the Gentiles excluded! But this was an argument highly ungrateful to the Jew; and it would be very difficult to fix any conviction upon his mind. Therefore the apostle addresses him in a covert way:-Thou art therefore inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest; not giving out expressly that he meant the Jew, that the Jew might more calmly attend to his reasoning, while he was not apprehensive that he was the man. This point secured, the apostle, very judiciously and with great force of reasoning, turns his thoughts from his present superior advantages to the awful day of judgment, Romans 2:5,6, when God, in the most impartial equity, will render to all mankind, without exception, according to their works. Thus the apostle grounds his following argument, very methodically and solidly, in God's equal regards to all men, in all nations, who uprightly practise truth and godliness; and his disapproving, and at last condemning, all men, in any nation, however privileged, who live wickedly. This was a blow at the root, and demolished, in the most effectual manner, the Jew's prejudices in favour of his own nation, and the unkind thoughts he had entertained of the Gentiles. For, if a Jew could be convinced that a sober, upright heathen might be blessed with eternal salvation, he must be persuaded that it was no absurd matter that believing Gentiles should now be pardoned, and taken into the visible Church. Thus the apostle advances with great skill, insinuating himself, by degrees, into the Jew's conscience. It is reasoning is well adapted to encourage the Gentile, humbled by the dismal representation in the preceding chapter; for he would here see that he was not utterly abandoned of God, but might, upon good grounds, hope for his mercy and kindness." Verse 1. That judgest
οκρινων, the judger; thou assumest the character of a judge, and in that character condemnest others who are less guilty than thyself.

Verse 2. We are sure that the judgment of God, impartial, and will punish sin wheresoever he finds it. Transgression in a Jew is not less criminal than iniquity in a Gentile.

Verse 4. Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness
Wilt thou render of none effect that marked benevolence of God towards thee which has given so many superior advantages, and that forbearance which has tolerated thy many miscarriages, and that long-suffering which, after repeated provocations, still continues to bear with thee?

Not knowing
αγνοων, not acknowledging that this goodness of God, which has so long manifested itself in forbearance and long-suffering, leadeth thee to repentance-was designed to accomplish this blessed end; which thy want of consideration and acknowledgment has rendered, hitherto, ineffectual. This was a maxim among the Jews themselves; for, in Synopsis Sohar, it is said:-The holy blessed God delays his anger against the wicked, to the end that they may repent and be converted.

Verse 5. But after thy hardness
Occasioned by thy long course of iniquity. And impenitent heart-produced by thy hardness, through which thou art callous to the calls and expostulations of conscience. Treasurest up-continuest to increase thy debt to the Divine justice, which will infallibly inflict wrath-punishment in the day of wrath-the judgment day, in which he will render to every man according to his works. The word treasure the Hebrew uses to express any kind of store or collection:-Treasure or plenty of rain. Deuteronomy 28:12: The Lord shall open unto thee his good TREASURE, to give the RAIN unto thy land. Treasure of punishment. Deuteronomy 32:34,35: Is not this sealed up among my TREASURES? To me belongeth VENGEANCE and RECOMPENSE. Treasures of mines, i.e. abundance of minerals. Deuteronomy 33:19: They shall suck of the ABUNDANCE of the seas, and of TREASURES hid in the sand. So treasures of gold, silver, corn, wine, oil, mean collections or an abundance of such things: the word is used by the Greek writers precisely in the same sense. By wrath we are to understand punishment, as in Romans 1:18; and it is used by the very best Greek writers. See Kypke.

The treasure of wrath, in this verse, is opposed to the riches of goodness, in the preceding. As surely as thou despisest, or neglectest to improve the RICHES of God's GOODNESS, so surely thou shalt share in the TREASURES of his WRATH. The punishment shall be proportioned to the mercy thou hast abused.

Verse 6. Who will render
Who, in the day of judgment, will reward and punish every man according as his life and conversation have been.

Verse 7. To them, day, dispense punishments and rewards: 1. He will give eternal life to them who, in all the trials and difficulties of the present state, have persevered in well doing-seeking for and expecting glory, honour, and immortality.

Verse 8. But unto them, indignation, and inflict wrath-punishment, on all who are contentious-who obstinately dispute against the truth, and obey unrighteousness-who act under the influence of the principle of sin, and not under the influence of the Spirit of God.

Verse 9. Tribulation and anguish
Misery of all descriptions, without the possibility of escape, will this righteous Judge inflict upon every impenitent sinner. The Jew first, as possessing greater privileges, and having abused greater mercies; and also on the Gentile, who, though he had not the same advantages, had what God saw was sufficient for his state; and, having sinned against them, shall have punishment proportioned to his demerit.

Verse 10. But glory, honour, and peace
While the finally impenitent Jew and Gentile shall experience the fullest effects of the righteous indignation of the supreme Judge, even man that worketh good-that lives in a conscientious obedience to the known will of God, whether he be Jew or Gentile, shall have glory, honour, and peace; i.e. eternal blessedness.

Verse 11. For there is no respect of persons with God.
The righteous Judge will not act according to any principle of partiality; the character and conduct, alone of the persons shall weigh with him. He will take no wicked man to glory, let his nation or advantages be what they may; and he will send no righteous man to perdition, though brought up in the very bosom of Gentilism. And as he will judge in that day according to character and conduct, so his judgment will proceed on the ground of the graces, privileges, and blessings which they had received, improved or abused. And as there is no respect of persons with God in judgment, so there can be none in the previous administration of his saving blessings. He that will be condemned for his unrighteousness, will be condemned on the ground that he had sufficient grace afforded him for the salvation of his soul; and his condemnation will rest on the simple principle, that he abused the grace which was sufficient to save him, by acting in opposition to its dictates and influence. No man, in that great day, shall be brought to heaven through any partiality of the Judge; and no man sent to hell because God did not afford him sufficient grace, or because he had made a decree which rendered even his use of it ineffectual to his salvation. In reference to the great design of God, in the salvation of man, it shall be said,-in time, at the day of judgment, and throughout eternity,-