A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Moral World Under Sentence of Condemnation
"Thou ... Dost ... the Same Things"
That may seem a little difficult to believe. It may seem impossible to you that these men who were moral men should be doing the same things that we found in the first chapter. You may even say, "It is impossible. If they were doing that, then it is wrong to call them moral men."
However, several explanations may be made, for there are perhaps three or four ways in which they did the same things.
First, they may not have done all the things, but only some of them. You will notice that they were covetous, envious, boastful. You can find things in that catalog of which every moral man is guilty; though he may not fall down before a graven image, he does some of those things.
Then perhaps he may not do them outwardly but inwardly. There is an intimation in verse 16 that this is what the apostle is thinking about, as he says, God shall judge the secrets of men." Have you ever seen someone who outwardly was good but inwardly wicked, and that very man condemning other people who were outwardly bad? That is what Paul has in mind. "Thou ... dost ... the same things."
Then again (and this is probably the greatest sin of all), what was the outstanding sin of the people in the first chapter? They sinned against light. "Knowing God, they glorified Him not as God" (1:21). These men were doing in their lives the very things they disapproved. In that sense, they were doing the same things.
"Thou Art Without Excuse"
This indictment is doubly true. If these men did the same things, they are without excuse. But their guilt was heightened by their own morality, by their own ability to judge.
Look at verse 32 of the first chapter. Pagan men not only do evil things, but they have pleasure in others that do them. The word "consent", you will recall, means "applaud" or "approve." These people in the first chapter knew that these sins brought death, yet they approved of them. The difference between the two classes now becomes clear. Both kinds of men were sinners, both did the same things; but the pagans did something of which they approved, and the moralists did something of which they disapproved. The second is worse.
So the conclusion to be drawn from verse one is this: man is condemned by his own judgment.
The Moral Man Condemned by God's Judgment
Paul has shown that this moral man is self-condemned, and now he is going to show that he is God-condemned. He first turned his own judgment against him, and now is going to turn the judgment of God against him (2:16). In these verses, Paul explains four great principles of judgment which constitute the four features in this section:
1. "According to truth" (verse 2). Truth is the first principle by which God is going to judge men.
2. "According to his works" (verse 6). Practice is second.
3. "There is no respect of persons" (verse 11). When God judges men, there will be no partiality.
4. "According to my gospel" (verse 16). There will be a searching judgment of the secrets of men.
We are going to find some "things hard to be understood" (2 Peter 3:16). Some say, for instance, that Paul teaches salvation by works, and at first glance it looks that way too. But remember that Paul is not trying to show men how to be saved; he is trying to show men why they are lost. So you will find no gospel in this section. He is dealing with a crowd of men who stand off and say, "We are righteous in ourselves." He is trying to sweep away their refuge, to cut the foundation from beneath them. God is talking about judgment!
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 21 - "According to Truth")