The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans

By G. Campbell Morgan

Chapter 5

ii. THE JEW CONDEMNED Romans 2:1 - 3:8


1. The Judgment of Man Rom 2:1

Invalid on account of the Practice of Sin

2. The Judgment of God Rom 2:1-16

a. According to Truth Rom 2:2-5

Against the Practice of Sin Rom 2:2-3

After Longsuffering Rom 2:4-5

b. According to Works Rom 2:6-12

The Principle Stated Rom 2:6, Rom 2:11-12

Application Rom 2:7-10

Rewards Rom 2:7, Rom 2:10

Punishments Rom 2:8-9

c. According to Gospel Rom 2:13-16

The Principle Stated Rom 2:13-14

Illustration. The Gentiles Rom 2:14-15


1. Intellectual Orthodoxy Rom 2:17-18

2. Relative Complacency Rom 2:19-20

3. Ethical Failure Rom 2:21-23

4. Vocational Sin Rom 2:24


1. The Test of Ceremony Rom 2:25-28

a. Vitalized by Obedience Rom 2:25 a

b. Vitalized by Disobedience Rom 2:25-28

2. The Essential in Religion Rom 2:29

a. Spirituality

b. Godliness


1. The Advantage of the Jew Rom 3:1-2

a. The Questions Asked

b. The Answer. Revelation

2. The Faithfulness of God Rom 3:3-4

a. The Questions Asked

b. The Answer. Judgment

3. The Wrath of God Rom 3:5-8

a. The Questions Asked Rom 3:5

b. The Answer. Righteousness Rom 3:6-8

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It is evident that at this point the apostle turned to the Jew, although he did not immediately name him. The Jew condemned Gentile sins, evidently under the impression that the possession of the law resulted in a closer relationship to God, and ensured some kind of benefit to himself. This view the apostle combated, ruthlessly sweeping away all such false confidence. Again his method was characterized by clearness and skill. In the course of it he enunciated two basic principles of religious life. Between his dealing with these, in a brief passage he showed wherein lay the sin of the Jew, and thus accounted for his condemnation. Knowing that certain difficulties would arise as the result of his argument, he dealt with these in a closing paragraph.


The attitude of the Jew to the Gentile was that of contempt, resulting in the first place from the idea that the possession of knowledge of the things of God was in itself of the essence of religion. The Gentile had received no Divine revelation, and was corrupt in life. The Jew had received the Divine revelation, and therefore arrogated to himself the right to sit in judgment on the Gentile.

Against that view, and its consequent attitude, the apostle's first statement of principle was directed. He declared that no man was in a position to pass judgment on another man, who himself was guilty of the sins he condemned in the other. He thus inferentially charged upon the Jew the sin of practicing the very evils which he condemned in the Gentiles.

He then proceeded to describe the judgment of God, and in such a way as to demonstrate the fact that the Jew was equally under condemnation with the Gentile. His dealing with this subject of the judgment of God falls into three parts.

In the first he simply declared that it was according to truth, proceeding against the practice of sin after forbearance and longsuffering.

It follows therefore that His judgment is according to works, rewards or punishments being meted out absolutely upon the basis of the kind of life which men live. The Jew, having the law, is not by the fact of that possession freed from obligation as to conduct. Those sinning without the law, perish without the law. What the apostle meant by that, must be gathered from that earlier paragraph in which he had described Gentile sin, and Gentile judgment. Those sinning under the law, perish under the law. The law itself has no virtue save as it is obeyed. Thus the apostle denied the view that religion is essentially intellectual, by declaring that the only expression of it which is of value is ethical.

Thus, at the very beginning of this letter, the master-theme of which is salvation by faith, we have an overwhelming and unanswerable indictment of that particular heresy to which an improper emphasis of the doctrine is liable to give rise. Nothing can be clearer than the apostle's teaching that works will be the final test of judgment. Faith which does not produce these is declared to be useless. Privilege which does not issue in response to responsibility, is but severer condemnation. God has no people in whom He excuses sin. The privileged soul who sins must die on account of the sin, and in spite of all the privileges. The Jew is as great a failure as the Gentile in the matter of actual righteousness. Godliness as privileged relationship is of no value except as it produces actual righteousness.

The final statement of the apostle is that judgment will be according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this statement the light of the Gospel is seen shining with a new glory through the severity of the teaching which had just been advanced. Not for a single moment does it lower the standard of requirement, but it sings the song of hope to the man under condemnation. In reading this paragraph particular notice should be taken of the fact that verses fourteen and fifteen are in parenthesis, and that the main statement of the apostle can only be gained by reading verses thirteen and sixteen in immediate relationship. The basis of judgment is to be the actual condition of man, whether he has lived without the law or under the law; but he is to be judged finally by Jesus Christ. That is to say, the final test of character and of conduct is to be that of man's attitude to the Saviour. Evidently therefore the presentation of the Gospel is the last opportunity that man has; and equally evident is it, that every man must have this opportunity as the basis of judgment.


Turning from his discussion of the first principle, the apostle definitely and directly dealt with the condemnation of the Jew. This he did by first describing his mental attitude. It was that of intellectual godliness. The Jews were proud of their name, were resting upon the fact that they possessed the law. They gloried in the God Whose they were, knowing His will, and approving; that is, they were convinced of the excellencies of excellent things because they were instructed out of the law. Intellectually therefore he admitted that they were orthodox.

He then proceeded to describe their consequent attitude toward the outside nations. They considered that as a nation they were "a guide ... a light ... a corrector . . . a teacher." This revealed their sense of superiority over all other peoples, and their consequent confidence in their right to be didactic and dogmatic. Moreover that attitude was in some senses justified, for the apostle recognized that in the law they did actually possess the form of knowledge, and of truth; and it should be remembered that this word "form" () indicates far more than an outward formality. It suggests that the law has in it such embodiment of knowledge and of truth as to be equal to the realization of conduct and character when obeyed. As truth itself is a sanctifying power, so the law being a correct revelation, a true form, a full unfolding of a Divine power, does issue in the life of holiness and righteousness in the case of such as observe its commandments to do them.

Having recognized these facts, the apostle charged the Jews with ethical failure. This he did in a series of questions, each one of which inferentially charged them with actual failure in conduct in the very matters which were regulated by the law for which they stood, and which they professed to teach.

Finally, upon the basis of this argument, the apostle charged the Jew with that which was his principal and most terrible sin. Because his mental attitude was correct, his relative position should have been that of a guide to those without revelation; but he had absolutely failed in realization of that at which the law ever aims, and therefore he had become a blasphemer of the name of God among the Gentiles. If it were true that the Gentiles had imperfect light, they ought to have received the more perfect light from these people, who upon their own showing were placed in the position of guide, and light, and corrector, and teacher. But because in the actualities of outward conduct they had committed the very sins which their law condemned, the Gentile had seen no reason to believe through their testimony in the one living God to Whom they professed to be related. Thus therefore His name had been blasphemed as the result of Jewish failure.


Having made this most serious charge, the apostle declared his second principle, namely that religion is spiritual. This was for the correction of their false conception that the true expression of religion was ceremonial. Before dealing with this more particularly, it may be well to notice the apostolic method. He had corrected their view that religion was essentially intellectual by declaring that its expression must be ethical. He now corrected their view that the expression of religion was ceremonial, by declaring that essentially it was spiritual.

In sentences characterized by almost overwhelming force and incisiveness, he swept away the refuge of lies. The boasted privileges were all valueless. The externalities which were the symbols of possession counted for nothing, because the inward condition demonstrated the absence of the essential fact. Then turning to a statement of the case from the other side, he made all this even more emphatic by affirming that where the external symbols are lacking, if there be the inward fulfillment of intention, the lack of the external is of no moment.

Arguing in the clear light of the Divine requirement and purpose, he made the most sweeping and tremendous statement when he announced that a Jew who is one outwardly merely, is not a Jew; but that he who is a Jew inwardly, even though he lack the outward mark, is the true Jew.

Thus again from a new angle, and with new emphasis is the idea that justification is by faith, without regard to its expression in works, declared to be false. The principles underlying this passage are of permanent value, and of searching power. Their unanswerable logic should prepare us for all that is to follow, and thus prevent any disproportionate explanation of the doctrine of justification by faith.


The apostle then turned to a brief discussion of certain objections which would almost inevitably be raised in consequence of what he had said concerning the true spiritual interpretation of the position of the Jew.

First, "What advantage then hath the Jew?" If circumcision is in itself of no avail, where is the gain? Is this covenant not a Divine covenant? Underneath the question suggested, which the apostle knew would be the question of the Jew, there lurked the idea that there is a profit in the external fact of circumcision. The apostle did not again state his argument on the matter, having done so already; but in a brief sentence declared what he considered to be the advantage of the Jew. He said "Much every way," and then proceeded to mention only one, which he spoke of as being "first of all," that is, of supreme importance, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. By this he referred to the revelations, declarations, and promises of God, which constitute the basis of faith - that is, the Old Testament Scriptures in their entirety. To these people, separated from other nations. He had committed that great deposit, consisting of utterances and writings in which He was revealed, and His will concerning man made known. Therein lay the supreme advantage of the Jew.

A new question naturally arose. If faith on the part of man fail, will God be unfaithful? Does His faithfulness depend upon man

Yet another question logically followed. If sin becomes the means of glorifying God, in that it demonstrates His faithfulness, is it righteous to punish the sinner? The question is so terrible that when the apostle stated it, he parenthetically added, "I speak after the manner of men," and then proceeded to declare that unless God did punish sin, He could have no basis upon which He could judge the world at all.