Romans 2 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Romans 2)

Verse 1

[1] 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.

Therefore — The apostle now makes a transition from the gentiles to the Jews, till, at Romans 2:6, he comprises both.

Thou art inexcusable — Seeing knowledge without practice only increases guilt.

O man — Having before spoken of the gentile in the third person, he addresses the Jew in the second person. But he calls him by a common appellation, as not acknowledging him to be a Jew. See verses Romans 2:17,28.

Whosoever thou art that judgest — Censurest, condemnest.

For in that thou judgest the other — The heathen.

Thou condemnest thyself; for thou doest the same things — In effect; in many instances.

Verse 2

[2] But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

For we know — Without thy teaching That the judgment of God - Not thine, who exceptest thyself from its sentence.

Is according to truth — Is just, making no exception, Romans 2:16.

Verse 3

[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?

That thou shalt escape — Rather than the gentile.

Verse 4

[4] Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Or despisest thou — Dost thou go farther still, - from hoping to escape his wrath, to the abuse of his love?.

The riches — The abundance.

Of his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering — Seeing thou both hast sinned, dost sin, and wilt sin. All these are afterwards comprised in the single word goodness. Leadeth thee - That is, is designed of God to lead or encourage thee to it.

Verse 5

[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;

Treasurest up wrath — Although thou thinkest thou art treasuring up all good things. O what a treasure may a man lay up either way, in this short day of life! To thyself - Not to him whom thou judgest.

In the day of wrath, and revelation, and righteous judgment of God — Just opposite to "the goodness and forbearance and longsuffering" of God. When God shall be revealed, then shall also be "revealed" the secrets of men's hearts, Romans 2:16. Forbearance and revelation respect God, and are opposed to each other; longsuffering and righteous judgment respect the sinner; goodness and wrath are words of a more general import.

Verse 6

[6] Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

Proverbs 24:12

Verse 7

[7] To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

To them that seek for glory — For pure love does not exclude faith, hope, desire, 1 Corinthians 15:58.

Verse 8

[8] But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

But to them that are contentious — Like thee, O Jew, who thus fightest against God. The character of a false Jew is disobedience, stubbornness, impatience.

Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish — Alluding to Psalms 78:49: "He cast upon them," the Egyptians. "the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble;" and finely intimating, that the Jews would in the day of vengeance be more severely punished than even the Egyptians were when God made their plagues so wonderful.

Verse 9

[9] Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

Of the Jew first — Here we have the first express mention of the Jews in this chapter. And it is introduced with great propriety. Their having been trained up in the true religion, and having had Christ and his apostles first sent to them, will place them in the foremost rank of the criminals that obey not the truth.

Verse 10

[10] But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

But glory — Just opposite to "wrath," from the divine approbation.

Honour — Opposite to "indignation," by the divine appointment; and peace now and for ever, opposed to tribulation and anguish.

Verse 11

[11] For there is no respect of persons with God.

For there is no respect of persons with God — He will reward every one according to his works. But this is well consistent with his distributing advantages and opportunities of improvement, according to his own good pleasure.

Verse 12

[12] 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;

For as many as have sinned — He speaks as of the time past, for all time will be past at the day of judgment.

Without the law — Without having any written law.

Shall also perish without the law — Without regard had to any outward law; being condemned by the law written in their hearts. The word also shows the agreement of the manner of sinning, with the manner of suffering.

Perish — He could not so properly say, Shall be judged without the law.

Verse 13

[13] (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

For not the hearers of the law are, even now, just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified - Finally acquitted and rewarded a most sure and important truth, which respects the gentiles also, though principally the Jews. St. Paul speaks of the former, Romans 2:16,15,12.

Verse 14

[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:

For when the gentiles — That is, any of them. St. Paul, having refuted the perverse judgment of the Jews concerning the heathens, proceeds to show the just judgment of God against them. He now speaks directly of the heathens, in order to convince the heathens. Yet the concession he makes to these serves more strongly to convince the Jews.

Do by nature — That is, without an outward rule; though this also, strictly speaking, is by preventing grace.

The things contained in the law — The ten commandments being only the substance of the law of nature. These, not having the written law, are a law unto themselves - That is, what the law is to the Jews, they are, by the grace of God, to themselves; namely, a rule of life.

Verse 15

[15] Which shew 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;)

Who show — To themselves, to other men, and, in a sense, to God himself.

The work of the law — The substance, though not the letter, of it.

Written on their hearts — By the same hand which wrote the commandments on the tables of stone.

Their conscience — There is none of all its faculties which the soul has less in its power than this.

Bearing witness — In a trial there are the plaintiff, the defendant, and the witnesses. Conscience and sin itself are witnesses against the heathens. Their thoughts sometimes excuse, sometimes condemn, them.

Among themselves — Alternately, like plaintiff and defendant.

Accusing or even defending them — The very manner of speaking shows that they have far more room to accuse than to defend.

Verse 16

[16] In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

In the day — That is, who show this in the day. Everything will then be shown to be what it really is. In that day will appear the law written in their hearts as it often does in the present life.

When God shall judge the secrets of men — On secret circumstances depends the real quality of actions, frequently unknown to the actors themselves, Romans 2:29. Men generally form their judgments, even of themselves merely from what is apparent.

According to my gospel — According to the tenor of that gospel which is committed to my care. Hence it appears that the gospel also is a law.

Verse 17

[17] Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

But if thou art called a Jew — This highest point of Jewish glorying, after a farther description of it interposed, Romans 2:19,20, what he glories in with respect to others. The first particular of the former five answers to the first of the latter; the second, to the second, and so on.

And restest in the law — Dependest on it, though it can only condemn thee.

And gloriest in God — As thy God; and that, too, to the exclusion of others.

Verse 19

[19] And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

Blind, in darkness, ignorant, babes — These were the titles which the Jews generally gave the gentiles.

Verse 20

[20] An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

Having the form of knowledge and truth — That is, the most accurate knowledge of the truth.

Verse 21

[21] Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Thou dost not teach thyself — He does not teach himself who does not practise what he teaches.

Dost thou steal, commit adultery, commit sacrilege — Sin grievously against thy neighbour, thyself, God. St. Paul had shown the gentiles, first their sins against God, then against themselves, then against their neighbours. He now inverts the order: for sins against God are the most glaring in an heathen, but not in a Jew.

Thou that abhorrest idols — Which all the Jews did, from the time of the Babylonish captivity.

Thou committest sacrilege — Doest what is worse, robbing Him "who is God over all" of the glory which is due to him. None of these charges were rashly advanced against the Jews of that age; for, as their own historian relates, some even of the priests lived by rapine, and others in gross uncleanness. And as for sacrilegiously robbing God and his altar, it had been complained of ever since Malachi; so that the instances are given with great propriety and judgment.

Verse 24

[24] For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

Isaiah 52:5

Verse 25

[25] For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

Circumcision indeed profiteth — He does not say, justifies. How far it profited is shown in the third and fourth chapters.

Thy circumcision is become uncircumcision — is so already in effect. Thou wilt have no more benefit by it than if thou hadst never received it. The very same observation holds with regard to baptism.

Verse 26

[26] Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

If the uncircumcision — That is, a person uncircumcised.

Keep the law — Walk agreeably to it.

Shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision — In the sight of God?

Verse 27

[27] And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

Yea, the uncircumcision that is by nature — Those who are, literally speaking, uncircumcised.

Fulfilling the law — As to the substance of it.

Shall judge thee — Shall condemn thee in that day.

Who by the letter and circumcision — Who having the bare, literal, external circumcision, transgressest the law.

Verse 28

[28] For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

For he is not a Jew — In the most important sense, that is, one of God's beloved people. Who is one in outward show only; neither is that the true, acceptable circumcision, which is apparent in the flesh.

Verse 29

[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.

But he is a Jew — That is, one of God's people.

Who is one inwardly — In the secret recesses of his soul. And the acceptable circumcision is that of the heart - Referring to Deuteronomy 30:6; the putting away all inward impurity. This is seated in the spirit, the inmost soul, renewed by the Spirit of God.

And not in the letter — Not in the external ceremony.

Whose praise is not from men, but from God — The only searcher of the heart.