Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CONDEMNATION WITH THE
From those without, the apostle now turns to those within the pale
of revealed religion, the self-righteous Jews, who looked down upon the
uncovenanted heathen as beyond the pale of God's mercies, within which
they deemed themselves secure, however inconsistent their life may be.
Alas! what multitudes wrap themselves up in like fatal confidence, who
occupy the corresponding position in the Christian Church!
4. the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance--that is, is designed
and adapted to do so.
5. treasurest up unto thyself wrath against--rather "in."
the day of wrath--that is wrath to come on thee in the day of wrath.
What an awful idea is here expressed--that the sinner himself is
amassing, like hoarded treasure, an ever accumulating stock of divine
wrath, to burst upon him in "the day of the revelation of the righteous
judgment of God!" And this is said not of the reckless, but of those who
boasted of their purity of faith and life.
7-10. To them who, &c.--The substance of these verses is that the
final judgment will turn upon character alone.
by patient continuance in well-doing, &c.--Compare
"That on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart,
having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with
patience"; denoting the enduring and progressive
character of the new life.
8. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth,
&c.--referring to such keen and determined resistance to the Gospel as
he himself had too painfully witnessed on the part of his own
Ac 13:44-46; 17:5, 13; 18:6, 12;
1Th 2:15, 16).
indignation and wrath--in the bosom of a sin-avenging God.
9. Tribulation and anguish--the effect of these in the sinner
10. to the Jew first--first in perdition if unfaithful; but if
obedient to the truth, first in salvation
12. For as many as have sinned--not "as many as have sinned
at all," but, "as many as are found in sin" at the judgment of
the great day (as the whole context shows).
without law--that is, without the advantage of a positive Revelation.
shall also perish without law--exempt from the charge of rejecting
or disregarding it.
and as many as have sinned in the law--within the pale of a positive,
shall be judged by the law--tried and condemned by the higher standard
of that written Revelation.
13-15. For not the hearers, &c.--As touching the Jews, in whose ears
the written law is continually resounding, the condemnation of as many
of them as are found sinners at the last involves no difficulty; but
even as respects the heathen, who are strangers to the law in its
positive and written form--since they show how deeply it is engraven on
their moral nature, which witnesses within them for righteousness and
against iniquity, accusing or condemning them according as they violate
or obey its stern dictates--their condemnation also for all the sin in
which they live and die will carry its dreadful echo in their own
15. their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing--that
is, perhaps by turns doing both.
16. In the day, &c.--Here the unfinished statement of
is resumed and closed.
shall judge the secrets of men--here specially referring to the
unfathomed depths of hypocrisy in the self-righteous whom the apostle
had to deal with. (See
according to my gospel--to my teaching as a preacher of the Gospel.
17-24. Behold--"But if" is, beyond doubt, the true reading here. (It
differs but in a single letter from the received reading, and the sense
is the same).
18. approvest the things that are excellent--"triest the things
that differ" (Margin). Both senses are good, and indeed the
former is but the result of the latter action. (See on
20. hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law--not being
left, as the heathen are, to vague conjecture on divine things, but
favored with definite and precise information from heaven.
22. thou that abhorrest idols--as the Jews did ever after their
captivity, though bent on them before.
dost thou commit sacrilege?--not, as some excellent interpreters, "dost
thou rob idol temples?" but more generally, as we take it, "dost thou
profane holy things?" (as in
Mt 21:12, 13,
and in other ways).
24. as it is written--(See
25-29. For circumcision--that is, One's being within the covenant of
which circumcision was the outward sign and seal.
verily profiteth, if thou keep the law--if the inward reality
correspond to the outward sign.
but if, &c.--that is, "Otherwise, thou art no better than the
26. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the . . . law, &c.--Two
mistaken interpretations, we think, are given of these words: First,
that the case here supposed is an impossible one, and put merely for
HODGE]; second that it is the case
of the heathen who may and do please God when they act, as has been and
is done, up to the light of nature
OLSHAUSEN, &c.]. The
first interpretation is, in our judgment, unnatural; the second, opposed
to the apostle's own teaching. But the case here put is, we think, such
as that of Cornelius
who, though outside the external pale of God's covenant, yet
having come to the knowledge of the truths contained in it, do manifest
the grace of the covenant without the seal of it, and exemplify the
character and walk of Abraham's children, though not called by the name
of Abraham. Thus, this is but another way of announcing that God was
about to show the insufficiency of the mere badge of the Abrahamic
covenant, by calling from among the Gentiles a seed of Abraham that had
never received the seal of circumcision (see on
and this interpretation is confirmed by all that follows.
28. he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, &c.--In other words, the
name of "Jew" and the rite of "circumcision" were designed but as
outward symbols of a separation from the irreligious and ungodly world
unto holy devotedness in heart and life to the God of salvation. Where
this is realized, the signs are full of significance; but where it is
not, they are worse than useless.
Note, (1) It is a sad mark of depravity when all that is designed
and fitted to melt only hardens the heart
(2) Amidst all the inequalities of religious opportunity measured out
to men, and the mysterious bearing of this upon their character and
destiny for eternity, the same great principles of judgment, in a form
suited to their respective discipline, will be applied to all, and
perfect equity will be seen to reign throughout every stage of the
(3) "The law written on the heart"
(Ro 2:14, 15)
--or the Ethics of Natural Theology--may be said to be the one deep
foundation on which all revealed religion reposes; and see on
Ro 1:19, 20,
where we have what we may call its other foundation--the Physics and
Metaphysics of Natural Theology. The testimony of these two passages is
to the theologian invaluable, while in the breast of every teachable
Christian it wakens such deep echoes as are inexpressibly solemn and
precious. (4) High religious professions are a fearful aggravation of
the inconsistencies of such as make them
(5) As no external privileges, or badge of discipleship, will shield
the unholy from the wrath of God, so neither will the want of them shut
out from the kingdom of heaven such as have experienced without them
that change of heart which the seals of God's covenant were designed to
mark. In the sight of the great Searcher of hearts, the Judge of quick
and dead, the renovation of the character in heart and life is all in
all. In view of this, have not all baptized, sacramented disciples of
the Lord Jesus, who "profess that they know God, but in works deny
Him," need to tremble--who, under the guise of friends, are "the
enemies of the cross of Christ?"