Romans 2:8
But to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) But unto them . . .—The scholar will observe that in the original Greek the construction is changed. At the end of Romans 2:7 is an accusative “(he will render) eternal life;” here we have the nominative, “(there shall be) tribulation and anguish.”

That are contentious.—An error in the Authorised version through a wrong derivation of the word. Strictly, To those who act in the spirit of a hireling; hence, according to the secondary meaning of the word, “to those who act in a spirit of factiousness and self-seeking.” It is, however, quite possible that the mistaken derivation may have been current in St. Paul’s time, as it was, no doubt, somewhat later, from Origen downwards. St. Paul, it is true, distinguishes between the proper word for “contention” and that used here (e.g., in 2Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20), but this would not exclude, it would rather seem to imply, not indeed a formal derivation, but some association of ideas. The shade of meaning will, perhaps, be expressed if we translate by some such word as “factiousness.” So in Philippians 1:16 (properly Philippians 1:17, the order of the clauses being reversed), “the one (the other) preach Christ of factiousness.”

Indignation and wrath.—The Greek equivalents for these two words are distinguished as the settled angry feeling from the passionate outbreak of anger.

The truth.—Here used in a moral sense, as almost equivalent to “rectitude,” “that which is right.” There is a tendency towards this meaning in Romans 1:18, “Who hold down the truth in unrighteousness,” though there “the truth” appears to mean rather “natural religion” in general. The ethical sense comes out clearly in John 3:21, “he that doeth truth,” opposed to “he that doeth evil.” These phrases, “obey the truth,” “obey unrighteousness,” in a plainer style, would be simply “do good,” “do evil.” It may be noted that St. Paul is fond of these quasi-personifications.

Romans 2:8-11. But unto them that are contentious — Like thee, O Jew, who thus fightest against God. The character of the unbelieving Jews was disobedience, stubbornness, and impatience. Mr. Locke thinks the original expression, οι δε εξ εριθειας, the contentions, here spoken of, are Jews who refused to obey the gospel. “But as the apostle is speaking of the punishment of the wicked Gentiles, as well as of the wicked Jews, εριθεια, contention, must be a vice common to both. Accordingly, εριθειαι, contentions, are mentioned among the works of the flesh, to which wicked men in general are addicted, Galatians 5:20. And Suidas tells us, that εριθεια, contention, is η δια λογου φιλονεικια, contention by words, by keen disputing. Wherefore the contentious are persons who spread evil principles, and maintain them by keen disputings. This was the vice of many of the heathen, who disputed themselves into a disbelief of the plainest principles of morality, and argued even in support of atheism. Agreeably to this account of the contentious, the apostle represents them here as enemies of the truth, and as friends of unrighteousness.” — Macknight. Who obey not the truth — Both those who did not walk according to the light of nature, chap. Romans 1:18, and those who disobeyed the gospel, are here intended. The former, because, as truth is here opposed to unrighteousness, it must signify not only the truths discovered by revelation, but those likewise respecting religion and morality, which are discoverable by the light of nature, and which, among the heathen, were the only foundations of a virtuous conduct. The truth, as it is in Jesus, or the gospel, however, seems to be especially intended, this being styled, the truth of God, Romans 3:7; Romans 15:8; the word of truth, Ephesians 1:13, and elsewhere; the knowledge of it being the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:3; the belief of it, the belief of the truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13; obedience to it, obedience to the truth, Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:7; walking according to it, walking in the truth, 1 John 2:4; the gospel itself being emphatically styled the truth, Ephesians 4:21; and to know it being to know the truth, 1 John 2:21. This being so, they that are here said not to obey the truth seem to be especially, first, the unbelieving Jews, and, secondly, the Gentiles, who spake against the truth, and rejected it. And both these obeyed, and gave themselves up to error and falsehood; the Gentiles by changing the truth of God into a lie, Romans 1:25, and the Jews by adhering to their vain traditions, which made void the commands of God, supposing them to be derived from Moses, when they were indeed only the doctrines of men. But obey unrighteousness — Live in known sin; acting contrary to the clear dictates of reason and conscience. Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish — He seems to allude to Psalm 78:49, He cast upon them, the Egyptians, the fierceness of his anger, wrath, 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. Upon every soul of man that doeth evil — That contradicts the light of his dispensation, or holds in unrighteousness the portion of truth made known to him. 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 their having had Christ and his apostles first sent to them, were circumstances which placed them in the foremost rank of the criminals that obeyed not the truth.

It must be observed, however, that “in this and the following verse, the apostle, by using the most general expression possible, every soul of man, and by twice introducing the distribution of Jew and Greek, which, according to the ideas of the Jews, comprehended all mankind, (see note on chap. Romans 1:16,) has left his reader no room to doubt that he is discoursing of the judgment of all nations, of heathen as well as of Jews and Christians. Therefore, not only what he says of the punishments, but what he observes of the rewards to be distributed at that day, must be understood of the heathen, as well as of those who have enjoyed the benefit of revelation.”

We see also, by these two verses, (Romans 2:9-10,) and Romans 1:16, that the apostle carefully lays it down as a fundamental position that there was now, under the gospel, no other national distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles, save only a priority of right in the Jews to the offer of the gospel, and the allotment of rewards or punishments, according as they obeyed or not. But glory, (just opposite to wrath,) — From the divine approbation; honour, (opposite to indignation,) — By the divine appointment; and peace — Implying a secure and quiet possession of all good, now and for ever, opposed to tribulation and anguish. To every one that worketh good — Sincerely performs his duty to God and man; to the Jew first, &c. — To one as well as another. For there is no respect of persons with God — That is, in passing their final sentence, and in distributing rewards and punishments, he is determined by their real characters, and will reward every one according to his works, not according to their outward condition; such as their country, kindred, sex, dignity, office, wealth, and profession of religion. This declaration concerning God, as Judge, the apostle made to show the Jews their folly in expecting favour at the final judgment, because they had Abraham for their father, and were themselves members of God’s church. And it must appear the more important and seasonable, considering that the Jews thought no Israelite should be deprived of future happiness, whatever his faults had been; unless he were guilty of apostacy, idolatry, and a few other very enormous crimes. But this impartial and equitable proceeding at the final judgment is very consistent with God’s distributing to persons here advantages and opportunities of improvement, according to his own good pleasure.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.Who are contentious - This expression usually denotes those who are of a quarrelsome or litigious disposition; and generally has reference to controversies among people. But here it evidently denotes a disposition toward God, and is of the same signification as rebellious, or as opposing God. They who contend with the Almighty; who resist his claims, who rebel against his laws, and refuse to submit to his requirements, however made known. The Septuagint use the verb to translate the Hebrew word מרה maarah, in Deuteronomy 21:20. One striking characteristic of the sinner is, that he contends with God, that is, that he opposes and resists his claims. This is the case with all sinners; and it was particularly so with the Jews, and hence, the apostle used the expression here to characterize them particularly. His argument he intended to apply to the Jews, and hence he used such an expression as would exactly describe them. This character of being a rebellious people was one which was often charged on the Jewish nation, Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:24; Deuteronomy 31:27; Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 30:9; Isaiah 65:2; Jeremiah 5:23; Ezekiel 2:8, Ezekiel 2:5.

Do not obey the truth - Compare Romans 1:18. The truth here denotes the divine will, which is alone the light of truth (Calvin). It means true doctrine in opposition to false opinions; and to refuse to obey it is to regard it as false, and to resist its influence. The truth here means all the correct representations which had been made of God, and his perfections, and law, and claims, whether by the light of nature or by revelation. The description thus included Gentiles and Jews, but particularly the latter, as they had been more signally favored with the light of truth. It had been an eminent characteristic of the Jews that they had refused to obey the commands of the true God, Joshua 5:6; Judges 2:2; Judges 6:10; 2 Kings 18:12; Jeremiah 3:13, Jeremiah 3:25; Jeremiah 42:21; Jeremiah 43:4, Jeremiah 43:7; Jeremiah 9:13.

But obey unrighteousness - The expression means that they yielded themselves to iniquity, and thus became the servants of sin, Romans 6:13, Romans 6:16-17, Romans 6:19. Iniquity thus may be said to reign over people, as they follow the dictates of evil, make no resistance to it, and implicitly obey all its hard requirements.

Indignation and wrath - That is, these shall be rendered to those who are contentious, etc. The difference between indignation and wrath, says Ammonius, is that the former is of short duration, but the latter is a long continued remembrance of evil. The one is temporary, the other denotes continued expressions of hatred of evil. Eustathius says that the word "indignation" denotes the internal emotion, but wrath the external manifestation of indignation. (Tholuck.) Both words refer to the opposition which God will cherish and express against sin in the world of punishment.

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 countrymen. (See Ac 13:44-46; 17:5, 13; 18:6, 12; and compare 1Th 2:15, 16).

indignation and wrath—in the bosom of a sin-avenging God.

That are contentious; or, that are of contention: so, they of the circumcision, for such as are circumcised, Acts 10:45 Galatians 2:12. By contentious, understand such as are refractory and self-willed; that, from a spirit of contradiction, will not be persuaded; that strive and kick against the righteousness of God, from an opinion of their own righteousness, Hosea 4:4.

Do not obey the truth: see Romans 1:18, and the note there.

But obey unrighteousness; that are the servants of sin, and of corruption, Romans 6:12 2 Peter 2:19.

Indignation and wrath; these two differ only in degree: thereby understand the judgments of God upon the wicked, which are the effects of his anger: the cause is commonly put for the effect. But unto them that are contentious,.... This is a description of the other sort of persons to whom God will render according to their deeds, "who are of the contention"; who contend for victory, and not truth; strive about words to no profit; are quarrelsome, and sow discord among men, and in churches;

and do not obey the truth; neither attend to the light of nature, and to that which may be known of God by it; nor regard and submit to the Gospel revelation and so design both the Gentiles, which knew not God, and Jews, and others, who obey not the Gospel:

but obey unrighteousness; are servants of sin: to these God renders

indignation and wrath; wrathful or fiery indignation, the hottest of his fury.

But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the {e} truth, but obey unrighteousness, {f} indignation and wrath,

(e) By truth he means the knowledge which we naturally have.

(f) God's indignation against sinners, which will quickly be kindled.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 2:8. Τοῖς δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας] sc[617] οὖσι: paraphrase of the substantive idea, to be explained from the conception of the moral condition as drawing its origin thence (comp Romans 3:26; Romans 4:12; Romans 4:14; Galatians 3:10; Php 1:17, al[619]). See Bernhardy, p. 288 f. Comp the use of ΥἹΟΊ and ΤΈΚΝΑ in Ephesians 2:2. We are precluded from taking (with Hofmann) ἘΚ in a causal sense (in consequence of ἐριθεία), and as belonging to ἀπειθ. Κ.Τ.Λ[621] by the καί, which would here express the idea, unsuitable to the connection: even (Baeuml. Partik. p. 150, also Xen. Mem. i. 3, 1). This καί, the simple and, which is not however with Hofmann to be interpreted as if Paul had written μᾶλλον or τοὐναντίον (“instead of seeking after eternal life, rather,” etc.), clearly shows that τοῖς δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας is to be taken by itself, as it has been correctly explained since the time of the Vulgate and Chrysostom.

ἐριθεία] is not to be derived from ἔρις or ἐρίζω, but from ἔριθος, a hired labourer,[622] a spinner (Homer, xviii. 550, 560; Hesiod, ἔργ. 600 f.; Dem. 1313, 6; LXX. Isaiah 38:12; hence ἘΡΙΘΕΎΩ, to work for hire (Tob 2:11), then also: to act selfishly, to lay plots. Compare ἐξεριθεύεσθαι, Polyb. x. 25, 9, and ἈΝΕΡΙΘΕΎΤΟς (without party intrigues) in Philo, p. 1001 E. ἐριθεια has therefore, besides the primary sense of work for hire, the twofold ethical signification (1) mercenary greed; and (2) desire of intrigue, pursuit of partisan courses; Arist. Pol. v. 2 f. See Fritzsche, Excursus on ch. 2; regarding the composition of the word, see on 2 Corinthians 12:20. The latter signification is to be retained in all passages of the N. T. 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Php 1:16; Php 2:3; Jam 3:14; Jam 3:16.

οἱ ἐξ ἐριθείας are therefore the intriguers, the partisan actors; whose will and striving are conducive not to the truth (for that in fact is a power of an entirely different kind, opposed to their character), but to immorality; wherefore there is added, as further characterizing them: καί ἀπειθοῦσι. Compare Ignatius, ad Philad. 8, where the opposite of ἐριθ. is the ΧΡΙΣΤΟΜΆΘΕΙΑ, i.e. the discipleship of Christ, which excludes all selfish partisan effort. Haughtiness (as van Hengel explains it), and the craving for self-assertion (Mehring and Hofmann) are combined with it, but are not what the word itself signifies. The interpretation formerly usual: qui sunt ex contentione (Vulg.), those fond of strife (Origen, Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Beza, Calvin, etc.), which was understood for the most part as those rebelling against God, is based partly on the erroneous derivation from ἔρις, partly on the groundless assumption that in the other passages of the N. T. the sense of quarrelsomeness is necessary. Since this is not the case, Reiche’s conjecture is irrelevant, that the vulgar usus loquendi had erroneously derived the word from ἔρις and had lent to it the corresponding signification. Köllner explains it rightly as partisanship, but gratuitously assumes that this was a special designation for “godless character” in general. So in substance also Fritzsche: “homines nequam.” The very addition, further describing these men, καὶ ἀπειθοῦσι.… ἀδικίᾳ, quite allows us to suppose that Paul had before his mind the strict and proper meaning of the word partisanship; and it is therefore unwarrantable to base the common but linguistically erroneous explanation on the affinity between the notions of partisanship and of contentiousness (Philippi). The question to be determined is not the category of ideas to which the ἐριθεύειν belongs, but the definite individual idea which it expresses.

ὈΡΓῊ Κ. ΘΥΜΌς] sc[623] ἔσται. In the animation of his description Paul has broken off the construction previously followed. To connect these words with what follows (Mehring) disturbs unnecessarily the important symmetry of the passage. On the distinction between the two words, see Tittmann’s Synon. p. 131 ff. θυμός: vehement passion, in Cic. Tusc. iv. 9, 21 rendered excandescentia, here, as also in Galatians 5:20, Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8, Revelation 16:19; Revelation 19:15, often also in the O. T. and the Apocrypha, made known by its combination with ὀργή, and by its being put last as the more vehement, as the holy divine wrath. Compare Isoc. xii. Rom. 81: ὀργῆς κ. θυμοῦ μεστοί. Herodian, viii. 4, 1 : ὈΡΓῆ Κ. ΘΥΜᾮ ΧΡΏΜΕΝΟς. Lucian, de column. 23, al[624]

[617] c. scilicet.

[619] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[621] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[622] See Valck. ad Theocr. Adoniaz. p. 373. Compare συνέριθος frequent in Greek authors.

[623] c. scilicet.

[624] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.Romans 2:8. τοῖς δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας: for the use of ἐκ, cf. Romans 3:26, τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ; Galatians 3:7, οἱ ἐκ πίστεως; Ch. Romans 4:14, οἱ ἐκ νόμου. Lightfoot suggests that it is better to supply πράσσουσιν, and to construe ἐξ ἐριθείας with the participle, as in Php 1:17 it is construed with καταγγέλλουσιν: but it is simpler not to supply anything. By “those who are of faction” or “factiousness” (Galatians 5:20, 2 Corinthians 12:20, Php 1:16 f., Romans 2:3, Jam 3:14; Jam 3:16) the Apostle probably means men of a self-willed temper, using all arts to assert themselves against God. The result of this temper—the temper of the party man carried into the spiritual world—is seen in disobedience to the truth and obedience to unrighteousness. See note on ἀλήθεια, Romans 1:18. The moral import of the word is shown by its use as the counterpart of ἀδικία. Cf. the same contrast in 1 Corinthians 13:6. To those who pursue this course there accrues indignation and wrath, etc.8. contentious] Lit. out of partisanship, or factiousness; (the same construction as “of the truth;” John 18:37). The phrase implies connexion and attachment; as here, “those who belong to, can be classed under the character of, the factious.”

The “faction” in question is that of the sinful soul against the humbling terms of the Divine peace and love. Cp. Romans 10:3 for a special example of this in the case of the Jews. A pointed, though not explicit, reference to Jewish opponents of the Gospel lies in the word here.

do not obey] The Gr. is sometimes rendered, “disbelieve.” In all cases, however, the resistance of the will is implied in it; the element of disobedience in unbelief towards God. See, for a suggestive example, Hebrews 4:6, compared with the history there referred to.

the truth] The revelation of the eternal reality of the glory of God. (See on Romans 1:18; Romans 1:25.) It is Truth, not in mere generality, but in that speciality which attaches to the Truth of truths. See, for an important parallel, 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; where “the truth” and “unrighteousness” are contrasted, as here. See also John 8:32.

obey unrighteousness] Yielding the will to the impulse of sin; “having pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Cp. Romans 6:6; Romans 6:16, &c.; Titus 3:3. “Unrighteousness” here, as often, means sin in its largest sense. All wrong, civil, social, moral, personal, overt, secret, violates the eternal rights, even when it least seems to touch temporal and human interests.

indignation and wrath] See on Romans 1:18 and Romans 2:5.Romans 2:8. Τοῖς δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας, but unto them that are [influenced by contention] contentious. Paul shrunk from saying directly: God will render to them, that are contentious, death or everlasting destruction. He therefore leaves that matter to be supplied, by the conscience of the sinner, from the preceding antithesis; He will render, not certainly eternal life; and he turns the discourse to those things, which follow. Τοῖς here, has therefore the force of ל prefixed, and signifies as concerns. Comp. ch. Romans 4:12, notes. Accordingly there follows, with great propriety, ἐπὶ πᾶσαν; for we have also, Exodus 20:5, ἐπὶ τέκνα, ἐπὶ τρίτην καὶ τετάρτην γενεὰν, τοῖς μισοῦσί με, upon the children, upon the third and fourth generation, as concerns them that hate me. Furthermore, ἐξ, from or of, as in Romans 2:27, and often elsewhere, denotes a party or sect; in reference to those, who are of a contentious party or nation, like thee, O Jew, setting themselves in resistance to God. The character of false Judaism is disobedience, contumacy, impatience.—τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, τῃ ἀδικίᾳ, truth, unrighteousness) These two are often opposed to each other, 1 Corinthians 13:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; truth includes righteousness, and unrighteousness implies at the same time falsehood.—θυμὸς καὶ ὀργή) LXX., Psalms 78 (77):49, θυμὸν καὶ ὀργὴν καὶ θλίψιν; θυμὸς inflicts punishment; ὀργή follows up an offence. The propriety respectively of these words is seen in Ephesians 4:31-32, where τὸ χαρίζεσθαι is opposed to τῇ ὀργῇ, and εὔσπλαγχνον to θυμὸς. θυμὸς is defined by the Stoics to be ὀργὴ ἀρχομένη, the beginning of anger. Nor should we despise the explanation of Ammonius, θυμὸς μἐν ἐστι πρόσκαιρος, ὀργὴ δὲ πολυχρόνιος μνησικακία; θυμὸς is only temporary; ὀργὴ is the lasting remembrance of injuries.[27]

[27] θύμος Th. θύω, boiling indignation; ὀργή, abiding wrath, with a settled purpose of revenge, ἐπιθνμία τιμωρίας.—ED.Contentious (ἐξ ἐριθείας)

Rev., better, factious. Lit., of faction. See on James 3:14. Intriguers; partisan agitators.

Indignation and wrath (ὀργὴ καὶ θυμός)

See on be patient, James 5:7.

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