Romans: Chapter ii.

December 30, 2010



Paul teaches the same of the Jews that he taught of the Gentiles in Chapter 1, namely that they are in sin and need the faith and grace of Christ.  Therefore 1) he refutes the Jews, who condemn the Gentiles on account of a law they themselves do not observe; 2) v. 13 it is not the hearers but the doers of the law who are justified, and the Gentiles as well as the Jews have knowledge of the natural law; 3) v. 17 he again refutes the Jews who do the same things they complain of in others; 4) v. 25 he teaches that the true circumcision is internal and consists of observation of the law, and that this circumcision is of the heart, in spirit and before God, not before men.

1. i.e. “If the Gentiles, who did not understand the seriousness of their sins, nevertheless are worthy of death, you Jews are much more worthy of death, you who have the Mosaic law and from it condemn the Gentiles, but nevertheless do the same things for which you condemn them.”

5. the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God – the day of Judgment.

6. Note the word render (reddet), implying a reward.  Refutes Calvin’s “faith alone”: good works merit eternal life.

7. according to patience in good work – that is, “patiently and faithfully persevere in good works through every temptation and trouble, seeking and patiently awaiting the future glory that God will render unto them in eternal life.”  From this passage, and as the Council of Trent defined, sess. 6 c. 11 and can. 31, it is clear that it is pious and holy to do good works while thinking of the eternal reward for them.

8. wrath and indignation – nominative case, not accusative as glory and eternal life, v. 7; therefore repeat and supply “render” in the passive (Hebraism): wrath and indignation will be rendered by God.  Note that when referring to rewards the text says “God will render,” since it is proper to God to reward and bless; when referring to punishment, the text says (unquestionably implies) “will be rendered,” since God of himself does not inflict punishments, but we bring them upon ourselves: God does not wish this and indeed laments it (Photius).

9. that worketh good – by good the Apostle understands the observation of the whole law, which can only be done with the faith and grace of Christ.  Avoid here the error of Origen, who teaches wrongly that the Gentiles can avoid damnation solely by observance of the natural law (i.e. without faith in Christ).  Without faith, no one is acceptable to God, nor can anyone without faith fulfill the law and thus avoid eternal punishment.  Thus Gentiles who lived before Christ were nevertheless saved by the faith and grace of Christ (Melchisedec, Job, the Ninivites, etc.).

12. shall perish without the law – judged not by the Mosaic law, but solely by the natural law which they have transgressed, and therefore more mildly than the reprobate Jews who transgress the Mosaic law as well.

13. justified – to be justified can have three meanings: 1) to change from a sinner to a just man; 2) for a just man to become more just; 3) to be judged or pronounced just.  All these meanings are included here, but especially the third.  Note: knowledge of the law does not suffice for justification; good works and observance of the law are also necessary.  This is very important as it condemns the protestant heretics (Calvin, Luther etc.) who teach that observance of the law is impossible and thus faith alone can save.  To say that it is impossible for man, even aided by the grace of Christ, to fulfill the law, is an enormous blasphemy against God and Christ, because this is to say that God is a tyrant who commands us to do impossible things, and that Christ did not sufficiently redeem us and that Christ’s grace is too weak to enable us to overcome sin and fulfill the law.  “God does not command what is impossible, but commands you to do what you are able and to ask for help with what you are not able, and helps you so that you may be able” (St. Augustine).

14. Answers a tacit objection: “How can the Gentiles sin against the law if they do not have the law?”  Answer: they have the natural law, against which they sin: their conscience serves as a law for them, and condemns them.  Second objection: “How can the Gentiles do by nature those things that are of the law?”  Answer: this refers to Gentiles lacking the Mosaic law but possessing the natural law as manifested in their consciences.  Third objection: “How can Gentiles without faith do those things that are of the law, if the doers of the law shall be justified (v. 13) and the Gentiles cannot be justified without faith (v. 9)?”  Answer: doers of the law refers to those who fulfill the whole law; faithless Gentiles can fulfill part of the law, but only part, and thus cannot be justified.

15.  Note that God has established his tribunal in the human heart, and inscribed his laws upon it, so that a man is either exonerated or condemned by his own conscience.

17-20. Supply from the preceding verses: … “and nevertheless do not observe the law and do its works, you will be condemned more gravely for this reason.”

25-26. Circumcision only profits a Jew if he also keeps the law, since if he breaks the law his circumcision is made uncircumcision, and if a Gentile fulfills the law his uncircumcision will not hinder him from the reward a circumcised Jew receives for keeping the law.

28-29.  “The true Jew is not the man who externally and publicly observes and professes Judaism, and the true circumcision is not that of the flesh.  Rather, the true Jew is one inwardly, that is, in his heart and spirit, by the faith and grace of Christ and the observance of the law; and the true circumcision is that of the heart, which cuts away vices and passions.”



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