Romans 2:13
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
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(13) For not the hearers of the law.—The parenthesis should not be placed here (as usually in the Authorised version), but at the beginning of the next verse. The present verse is explanatory of that which precedes. “Judged, I say, by the Law; for they must not suppose that the mere fact of their being under the Law will exempt them from this judgment. The only exemption will be that which is given to those who have kept the Law, and not merely had the privilege of hearing it. And,” the argument follows—the Apostle digressing for a moment to pursue this point to its conclusion—“this exemption, may apply quite as much to Gentile as to Jew.”

Hearers of the law.—Strictly (as above), hearers of lawi.e., those who have a law to which they can listen, and by which they may be guided. (Comp. Acts 13:27; Acts 15:21, “Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath”; and for the opposition between hearing and doing, James 1:22-23; James 1:25.)

Romans 2:13. For not the hearers of the law — Those who are only hearers; are — Even now; just δικαιοι, righteous, that is, accounted and dealt with as righteous persons; before God — Here the apostle condemns the folly of the Jews, who thought themselves sure of eternal life, because God had favoured them with a revelation of his will: as Dr. Whitby has shown by many important quotations, in a note on this verse. But the doers of the law — Whether natural or revealed, that is, they who walk according to the light of the dispensation they are under, “who steadily and universally, in the tenor of their lives, act agreeably to its precepts; they, and they only, shall be justified [acquitted and rewarded] — In the day of final audit and account; whether their knowledge of it were more or less express.” So Doddridge. A most sure and important truth this, which respects the Gentiles also, though principally the Jews. The apostle speaks of the former, Romans 2:14, &c.; of the latter, Romans 2:17, &c. It must be observed, however, that the apostle does not speak of a perfect, unsinning obedience, either to the law of nature, or to any revealed law, whether patriarchal, Jewish, or Christian; but of that obedience of faith, productive of holiness, or that sincere obedience to the dispensation men are under, which, on the ground of the covenant of grace, established for all mankind immediately after the fall, God is pleased graciously to accept instead of that unsinning obedience, which to man, in his fallen state, is impossible. This obedience of faith, with regard to the heathen, implies their believing that God is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and on the ground of this faith, coming to him in prayer for his favour and blessing, and with praise for his benefits, and diligently seeking an acquaintance with him, and with his will concerning them. And with respect to Jews and Christians, it implies a true and lively faith in, and sincere obedience to, the truths, precepts, and promises of the dispensation they are under. The reader must observe, therefore, that merited justification, whether of Jews or heathen, spoken of Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; or, justification according to the tenor of the law, by performing all the deeds or works enjoined thereby, without the least failure, is not here intended; but a gratuitous justification, founded, not on the accused person’s innocence, or righteousness, but proceeding merely from the mercy of his Judge, who is pleased, out of pure favour, to accept of his faith, producing sincere love and obedience, in the place of perfect righteousness, and to reward it as if it were that righteousness, and all for the sake of Christ.

2:1-16 The Jews thought themselves a holy people, entitled to their privileges by right, while they were unthankful, rebellious, and unrighteous. But all who act thus, of every nation, age, and description, must be reminded that the judgment of God will be according to their real character. The case is so plain, that we may appeal to the sinner's own thoughts. In every wilful sin, there is contempt of the goodness of God. And though the branches of man's disobedience are very various, all spring from the same root. But in true repentance, there must be hatred of former sinfulness, from a change wrought in the state of the mind, which disposes it to choose the good and to refuse the evil. It shows also a sense of inward wretchedness. Such is the great change wrought in repentance, it is conversion, and is needed by every human being. The ruin of sinners is their walking after a hard and impenitent heart. Their sinful doings are expressed by the strong words, treasuring up wrath. In the description of the just man, notice the full demand of the law. It demands that the motives shall be pure, and rejects all actions from earthly ambition or ends. In the description of the unrighteous, contention is held forth as the principle of all evil. The human will is in a state of enmity against God. Even Gentiles, who had not the written law, had that within, which directed them what to do by the light of nature. Conscience is a witness, and first or last will bear witness. As they nature. Conscience is a witness, and first or last will bear witness. As they kept or broke these natural laws and dictates, their consciences either acquitted or condemned them. Nothing speaks more terror to sinners, and more comfort to saints, than that Christ shall be the Judge. Secret services shall be rewarded, secret sins shall be then punished, and brought to light.For not the hearers ... - The same sentiment is implied in James 1:22; Matthew 7:21, Matthew 7:24; Luke 6:47. The apostle here doubtless designed to meet an objection of the Jews; to wit, that they had the Law, that they manifested great deference for it, that they heard it read with attention, and professed a willingness to yield themselves to it. To meet this, he states a very plain and obvious principle, that this was insufficient to justify them before God, unless they rendered actual obedience.

Are just - Are justified before God, or are personally holy. Or, in other words, simply hearing the Law is not meeting all its requirements, and making people holy. If they expected to be saved by the Law, it required something more than merely to hear it. It demanded perfect obedience.

But the doers of the law - They who comply entirely with its demands; or who yield to it perfect and perpetual obedience. This was the plain and obvious demand, not only of common sense, but of the Jewish Law itself; Deuteronomy 4:1; Leviticus 18:5; compare Romans 10:9.

Shall be justified - This expression is evidently synonymous with that in Leviticus 18:5, where it is said that "he shall live in them." The meaning is, that it is a maxim or principle of the Law of God, that if a creature will keep it, and obey it entirely, he shall not be condemned, but shall be approved and live forever. This does not affirm that anyone ever has thus lived in this world, but it is an affirmation of a great general principle of law, that if a creature is justified by the Law, the obedience must be entire and perpetual. If such were the case, as there would be no ground of condemnation, man would be saved by the Law. If the Jews, therefore, expected to be saved by their Law, it must be, not by hearing the Law, nor by being called a Jew, but by perfect and unqualified obedience to all its requirements. This passage is designed, doubtless, to meet a very common and pernicious sentiment of the Jewish teachers, that all who became hearers and listeners to the Law would be saved. The inference from the passage is, that no man can be saved by his external privileges, or by an outward respectful deference to the truths and ordinances of religion.

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 breasts. This and the two following verses are included in a parenthesis, and they serve to obviate an objection against what was said, Romans 2:12. The Jews might plead, that they were superior to the Gentiles, and should be exempted or privileged, in judgment, forasmuch as they knew and professed the law of God, which the Gentiles did not. To this he says, that to know and learn the law was not sufficient, unless in all things they yielded obedience to it, which they neither did nor could. The scope of the apostle is not simply to show how sinners are now justified in the sight of God; but to show what is requisite to justification according to the tenor of the law, and that is, to do all that is written therein, and to continue so to do. And if there be any man that can bring such perfect and constant obedience of his own performing, he shall be justified by God; but inasmuch as no man, neither natural nor regenerate, can so fulfil the law, he must seek for justification in some other way. The text, thus expounded, doth no way militate with Romans 3:30, and Galatians 3:11, which at first reading it seems to do. And it further shows, that the Jews are comprehended under the general curse, as well as the Gentiles, and are bound to have recourse to the righteousness of God by faith.

For not the hearers of the law are just before God,.... The apostle here shows, that the Jews were justly condemned, notwithstanding their having and hearing of the law; since hearing without doing it, will never denominate persons righteous in the sight of God, however it might recommend them in the sight of men: regard seems to be had either to the first delivery of the law by Moses to the people of Israel, when he read it to them, and they hearkened to it, and promised obedience; or rather to the reading and hearing it every sabbath day; and may include a speculative knowledge of it, without a practical obedience to it; and which therefore must fall greatly short of entitling them to a justifying righteousness; since not these,

but the doers of the law, shall be justified; by whom are meant, not such who merely literally and externally fulfil the law, as they imagine; for the law is spiritual, and regards the inward as well as the outward man, and requires internal holiness, as well as external obedience; and the apostle is speaking of justification before God, who sees the heart, and not before men, who judge according to outward appearance: nor are such designed who are imperfect doers of the law; for the law requires a perfect obedience, and what is not perfect is not properly righteousness; nor does it, nor can it consider an imperfect righteousness as a perfect one; for it accuses of, pronounces guilty, curses, and condemns for every transgression of it. But such only can be intended, who are doers of it spiritually, internally, as well as externally, and that perfectly. Adam, in his state of innocence, was a perfect doer of the law; he sinning, and all his posterity in him, none of them are righteous, but all pass under a sentence of condemnation. The best of men, even believers in Christ, are not without sin in themselves; and when any of the saints are said to be perfect, it must be understood in a comparative sense, or as they are considered in Christ. There never was but one since Adam, and that is Christ, who has fulfilled, or could perfectly fulfil the law; the thing is impossible and impracticable for fallen man: hence these words must be understood either hypothetically, thus, not the hearers of the law, but if there were any perfect doers of it, they would be justified before God; or else of such persons who are considered in Christ, by whom the whole perfect righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them, and who may be reckoned as perfect doers of it in him, their substitute, surety, and representative.

{5} (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be {h} justified.

(5) He prevents an objection which might be made by the Jews whom the law does not excuse, but condemn, because it is not the hearing of the law that justifies, but rather the keeping of it.

(h) Will be pronounced just before God's judgment seat: which is true indeed if any one could be found that had fulfilled the law: but seeing that Abraham was not justified by the law, but by faith, it follows that no man can be justified by works.

Romans 2:13 proves the correctness of the proposition, so much at variance with the fancy of the Jews, ὅσοι ἐν νόμῳ ἥμαρτον, διὰ νόμου κριθήσονται.

The placing of Romans 2:13-15 in a parenthesis, as after Beza’s example is done by Grotius, Griesbach, and others, also by Reiche and Winer, is to be rejected, because Romans 2:13, which cannot be placed in a parenthesis alone (as Koppe and Mehring do), is closely joined with what immediately precedes, and it is only in Romans 2:14 that an intervening thought is introduced by way of illustration. The parenthesis is (with Baumgarten-Crusius) to be limited to Romans 2:14-15, as is done also by Lachmann. See on Romans 2:16.

οἱ ἀκροαταί] A reference to the public reading of the Thorah on the Sabbath. Comp Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:14; John 12:34; Josephus, Antt. v. 1, 26, v. 2, 7. The substantive brings out more forcibly than the participial form of expression would have done the characteristic feature: those, whose business is hearing. Compare Theile, a[639] Jac. i. 22, p. 76.

παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ] ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ Romans 3:20, according to God’s judgment. 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Winer, p. 369 [E. T. 492].

δικαιωθήσ.] They shall be declared as righteous, normal. See on Romans 1:17. This οἱ ποιηταὶ νόμου δικαιωθήσονται is the general fundamental law of God who judges with righteousness (Galatians 3:12); a fundamental law which required to be urged here in proof of the previous assertion ὅσοι ἐν νόμῳ ἥμαρτον, διὰ ν. κριθήσ. Compare Weiss, bibl. Theol. § 87. How in the event of its being impossible for a man to be a true ποιητὴς νόμου (Romans 3:9 ff.) faith comes in and furnishes a δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως, and then how man, by means of the καινότης ζωῆς (Romans 6:4) attained through faith, must and can fulfil (Romans 8:4) the law completed by Christ (the νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς, Romans 8:2), were topics not belonging to the present discussion. Compare on Romans 2:6. “Haec descriptio est justitia legis, quae nihil impedit alia dicta de justitia fidei,” Melancthon.

[639] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

Romans 2:13. This is the principle of judgment, for not the hearers of law (the Mosaic or any other) are just with God, but the law doers shall be justified. ἀκροαταὶ tends to mean “pupils,” constant hearers, who are educated in the law: see Romans 2:10. But no degree of familiarity with the law avails if it is not done. The forensic sense of δικαιοῦσθαι is apparent in this verse, where it is synonymous with δίκαιοι εἶναι παρὰ τῷ θεῷ: the latter obviously being the opposite of “to be condemned”. Whether there are persons who perfectly keep the law, is a question not raised here. The futures ἀπολοῦνται, κριθήσονται, δικαιωθήσονται all refer to the day of final judgment.

13. for not the hearers] A parenthesis is usually begun here, and continued to the close of Romans 2:15. We prefer to dispense with it, for reasons to be given there. The present verse is naturally connected with the close of Romans 2:12.—“The hearers of the law:”—as we too speak of “hearers of the Gospel,” even now when reading is so vastly prevalent.

before God] See last note Romans 2:11. The Gr. is the same here.

the doers of the law shall be justified] See Galatians 3:12. For the express citation cp. Leviticus 18:5 : “Ye shall keep my statutes … which if a man do, he shall live in them; I am the Lord.” How deep the tendency of the Jew was to build safety upon privilege and knowledge, appears from Matthew 3:9; John 7:49. See on Romans 2:3, and Appendix A.

shall be justified] The future tense, perhaps, refers to Leviticus 18:5 just quoted; “shall live.” Supposing the law kept, this stands in God’s word as the promised result.

The meaning of the verb “to justify” will be fully illustrated as we proceed. Here it is enough to remark that it signifies not amendment, but acquittal; or, rather, a judicial declaration of righteousness. See for an excellent illustration from the O. T., Deuteronomy 25:1. (The LXX. there employ the same Gr. word as St Paul’s here). The present verse does not, of course, assert (what would be so clearly contradicted by e.g. Romans 3:20) that the law ever is, or can be, so kept as to justify the keeper. It merely states the conditions of legal justification, whether fulfilled in fact or not.

Romans 2:13. Οὑ γαρ, for not) A Proposition [Statement of Subject] clearly standing forth, the words of which have respect also to the Gentiles, but are particularly adapted to the Jews; concerning the former, Romans 2:14, etc. treats; concerning the latter, Romans 2:17, etc.; wherefore, also, Romans 2:16 depends on Romans 2:15, not on Romans 2:12. They have caused much confusion, who enclosed within a parenthesis the passage beginning at the 14th, nay, rather at the 13th verse, and ending with the 15.—οἱ ἀκροαταὶ, hearers), inactive, however sedulous [in hearing] they may be.—παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, before [with] God) Romans 2:2.—ποιηταὶ, doers) namely, if men have shown themselves to be doers, ch. Romans 10:5. They may do things pertaining to the law, but they cannot prove [warrant] themselves to be the doers of the whole law.—δικαιωθήσονται, shall be justified) This verb, in contradistinction to the noun δίκαιοι, which denotes men actually righteous, involves a condition, which is to be performed, and then [the condition being fulfilled] the declaration of their being righteous, as about to follow [as the consequence] in the day of the divine judgment.

Verse 13. - For not the hearers of Law are just before God, but the doers of Law shall be justified; In this verse, as in the previous one, νόμου is anarthrous according to the best-supported readings, though the Textus Receptus has τοῦ before it. It has, therefore, been rendered above simply as Law, not as either the law, or a law, as the same word will be below, whenever it stands by itself without either the article or any modifying genitive. Much has been written by commentators on the senses in which this word νόμος is to be understood, as used by St. Paul with or without the article. In an Appendix to the Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans in the 'Speaker's Commentary' will be found a summary of the views taken by critics of repute, with exhaustive references to the usage of the word in the Septuagint, in the New Testament generally, and in the writings of St. Paul. It has not been thought necessary in this Commentary to discuss further what has been so amply discussed already. It may suffice to state certain principles for the reader's guidance, which appear plainly to commend themselves to acceptance.

(1) νόμος, with the article prefixed, always means the Mosaic Law.

(2) Νόμος, without the article, may have, and often has, specific reference to the Mosaic Law; but, if so, the emission of the article is not arbitrary, but involves a difference of meaning. The article in Greek is prefixed to a word when the latter is intended to convey some definite idea already familiarized to the mind, and "the natural effect of its presence is to divert the thoughts from dwelling on the peculiar import of the word, and is adverse to its inherent notion standing out as a prominent point in the sense of the passage" (quoted from 'Grammar of the New Testament Dialect,' by T. S. Green, in Appendix to Introduction to Romans in the 'Speaker's Commentary '). Hence the omission of the article, where it might have been used, before a word has often the effect of emphasizing and drawing attention to the inherent notion of the word. We may take as an instance ver. 17 in this chapter, where the Textus Receptus has ἐπαναπαύῃ τῷ νόμῳ but where the preferable reading omits the article. In either case the Mosaic Law is referred to; but the omission of the article brings into prominence the principle of justification on which the Jew rested - viz. Law, which exacts entire obedience. In the following verse (the eighteenth), in the phrase, κατηχούμενος ἐκ τοῦ νόμου the article is inserted, the intention being simply to say that the Jew was instructed in the well-known Law of Moses. The same difference of meaning is intimated by the omission or insertion of the article in ver. 23 and elsewhere in other parts of the chapter and of the whole Epistle (see especially ch. 7.). The apostle, who, however spontaneous and unstudied might be his style of writing, by no means used phrases at random, would not surely have thus varied his expressions so often in one and the same sentence without intended significance.

(3) Νόμος without the article seems evidently in many passages to be used by St. Paul to denote law in the abstract, without any exclusive reference to the Mosaic Law at all, or to any particular code of law. Doubtless the Mosaic Law, in which he had been educated, and which he had painfully proved the impossibility of keeping perfectly, had been to him the grand embodiment and representative of law; but he had hence been led to an abstract conception, ever before his mind, of law as representing the principle of exaction of full obedience to requirements; and when he says, as he so often does, that by law no man can be justified, he means that none can be so on the principle of complete conformity being required to the behests of Divine righteousness, whether as revealed from Mount Sinai or through the human conscience, or in any other way; for by law is the knowledge of sin and consequent guilt, but not the power of avoiding sin. Those who ignore the distinction as above explained, saying, as some do, that νόμος, whether with or without the article, always means simply the Law of Moses, fail to enter into the depth and generality of the apostle's argument. The distinction will be observed in this translation throughout the Epistle (ὁ νόμος being translated "the Law," and νόμος "law"), and it will be found always to have a meaning. (For one instance in which it is hardly possible to suppose St. Paul to have omitted and inserted the article in the same sentence without a meaning, cf. Galatians 4:21.) Romans 2:13Hearers (ἀκροαταὶ)

Like the Jews, who heard it regularly in the synagogues. Only here in Paul. Three times in James. It brings out, better than the participle οἱ ἀκούοντες those that hear, the characteristic feature; those whose business is hearing.

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