HYPOCRITICAL HUMANITY (RELIGIOUS MORALIZERS) CANNOT ESCAPE GOD’S IMPARTIAL RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT
Frank Thielman: In Romans, Paul wants to show that the gospel is for everyone without exception. He is obligated to proclaim the gospel to Greeks, to barbarians, to wise, to the unlearned—and to Jews. If the good news of God’s saving righteousness in Jesus Christ is for everyone, then the bad news that all stand under condemnation apart from God’s righteousness is also for everyone. Thus, in 1:18–32 Paul explained that God is revealing his wrath against all humanity for its ungodliness and unrighteousness. Paul explained this in such a way, however, that some Jewish unbelievers might well assume he was only describing gentiles, not Jews. . .
In Romans 2:1–29, therefore, Paul wants to show that the good news of God’s saving righteousness is not merely for impious and wicked gentiles but for Jews also, because they stand as much in need of God’s saving power as gentiles. Paul does this by emphasizing God’s fairness in judging the whole world impartially, Jews included. It is not enough to condemn evil, to possess the Mosaic law, to teach the law to others, or to carry the physical mark of circumcision in order to avoid God’s wrath and receive eternal life on the final day. As an impartial judge, God focuses on what one does, not on the social group to which one belongs. . .
Paul exposes as unbiblical and un-Jewish his interlocutor’s hardhearted attitude toward his own sin and God’s mercy. His interlocutor, like the gentile, is unrighteous, and since God is an impartial judge the interlocutor stands as firmly under the sentence of condemnation as any gentile. . .
Here Paul explains that doing what is good, not merely condemning those who are bad, will count on the day of judgment, and the doing, not the hearing of God’s law, leads to justification on that day. Paul demonstrates this in the service of his overall point that God will not favor Jews over gentiles on the day of judgment but will treat all in the same way, condemning the wicked among the Jews just as he condemns the wicked among the gentiles.
Michael Gorman: It becomes clear here that hypocrisy and presumption are as serious as any evil listed in 1:18–32, for what is at stake is the interlocutor’s future justification—here meaning acquittal at the eschatological divine court on judgment day (2:5, 13, 16) and reception of life eternal (2:7). It also becomes clear in this passage, as in 1:18–32, that the entire person being described is out of sync with God: body/deeds, mind/imagination (2:3), and heart (2:5). We will see later in the chapter (2:25–29) that the heart is the heart of the problem. . .
In summary: just as the divine gospel is for Jew and gentile alike, so also is the divine criterion of judgment: performance, not possession, of God’s law.
Douglas Moo: To be sure, Paul does not directly address his “opponent” as a Jew until 2:17. But the language he uses in verses 1–5 points unmistakably to a Jewish situation. Paul has shown in 1:21–32 that Gentiles have suppressed the truth that God revealed to them in nature and they therefore have “no excuse” before God. He now begins to show that Jews also suppress the truth God has given them and that they, too, are “without excuse.”
Paul’s argument in these verses develops in two clear stages, marked by a shift from the second person (vv. 1–5) to the third person (vv. 6–11).
- In the former paragraph, he exposes as false the Jews’ presumption of superiority over the Gentile.
- In the latter, he sets forth the theoretical basis for this exposé, arguing that God assesses all people on the same basis.
Charles Simeon: Paul is countering the pervasive Jewish view that no Jew could perish, except through apostasy or idolatry; and that no Gentile could be saved, but by subjecting himself to the institutions and observances of the Mosaic ritual (Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible [Zondervan], 15:36).
Thomas Schreiner: God’s Impartial Judgment — The argument proceeds in three movements:
(1) The Jews, despite their covenant with God, cannot shield themselves from God’s wrath by appealing to his grace (2:1–5). God judges all people according to what they have done, and the Jews will be judged, since they have sinned.
(2) God does not grant his rewards to the Jews merely because of their Jewish heritage (2:6–11). God judges on an impartial basis, and therefore the one who does good works (whether Jew or gentile) will be rewarded with eternal life, whereas the one who does evil will face God’s eschatological wrath.
(3) Jews cannot appeal to the mere possession of the Torah as a saving advantage (2:12–16). Vindication on the last day comes from keeping the law, not merely by having it. All those who violate God’s commands will perish on the final day.
I. (:1-4) NO POSSIBLE EXCUSES OR ESCAPE FROM GOD’S RIGHTEOUS JUDGMEN
A. (:1) No Excuses Because Your Conduct Condemns You as You Judge Others
“Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment,
for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself;
for you who judge practice the same things.”
Illustration: 2 Samuel 12 – Incident of the prophet Nathan confronting David with his sin
We stand condemned by our own moral evaluations of right and wrong. Paul does not try to argue that they are greater sinners but rather that they stand condemned by whatever standard of morality they apply to others. Since they are hypocrites, their guilt is even greater.
Frank Thielman: Who is this person? Paul becomes more explicit about his identity in 2:12, 17, 23, and 25. He is addressing a Jew who possesses the Mosaic law, the ethical and legal code of Israel that separates them from the nations. Sometimes Paul’s interlocutor believes that he is basically obedient to the law, and Paul seeks to show him that he too is a sinner (2:1–3b, 17–24). Yet most of Paul’s argument assumes that his interlocutor expects God to hold him to a different standard than the gentiles. He thinks God will condemn the unrighteous among the gentiles to the death they deserve (1:32) but will treat his own people Israel more leniently because of his covenant with them.
David Guzik: After gaining the agreement of the moralist in condemning the obvious sinner, now Paul turns the same argument upon the moralist himself. This is because at the end of it all, you who judge practice the same things.
James Dunn: The list of 1:29–31 largely consists of vices into which an individual can slide without being fully aware of it. In particular, the last five items are applicable to the sort of attitude among the Pharisees already criticized within the Jesus tradition (Mark 7:9–13; cf. also Mark 7:21–22 with Rom 1:29–31). The prominence given in that list to sins of pride and presumption (ὑβριστὰς, ὑπερηφάνους, ἀλαζόνας) may well already have had the Jewish interlocutor in mind, since it is precisely Jewish presumption regarding their favored status as the people of God which underlay so much Jewish disparagement of Gentile religion.
Timothy Keller: 2:1 comes as a bucket of cold water to the religious person. It is an absolute masterstroke. Paul turns to the person who has been sitting and listening to his exposé of pagan lifestyles in chapter 1, and feeling pleased that they are not like “them.” Paul says: You do the same things! Whenever you judge a non-religious person, you are judging yourself! It turns out that the end of chapter 1 is written to expose the idols of the religious person as much as those of the irreligious person.
John Murray: Now in the case of the Jew Paul’s indictment presupposes the thing that was absent in the case of the Gentiles, namely, a condemnatory judgment of others for sins committed. It is to be noted, however, that the indictment brought against the Jew is not that he judged others for sins committed; it is rather that he judged others for the very things he practised himself. In other words, it is the blindness and hypocrisy of the Jew, hyprocrisy because he judged others for the same sins of which he himself was guilty, blindness because he failed to see his own self-condemnation in the condemnation he pronounced on others. The state of mind characterized by hypocrisy and blindness is brought home not in these express terms but in the form of the charge of inexcusableness and in this respect the Jew is placed in the same category as the Gentile.
Steven Cole: Illustration — A man complained about the amount of time his family spent in front of the TV. His girls watched cartoons and neglected schoolwork. His wife preferred soap operas to housework. His solution? “As soon as the baseball season’s over, I’m going to pull the plug” (Reader’s Digest, June, 1981, p. 99). How easy it is to fall into this deadly sin of self-righteousness!
B. (:2) No Excuses or Escape Because God’s Judgment Is Righteous and Certain
“And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls
upon those who practice such things.”
We stand condemned by God who knows all and judges us objectively based on our conduct.
Frank Thielman: God, who sees into the human heart (cf. 2:16), has no trouble piercing through the hypocrisy of those who condemn others for the same conduct that they “practice” (πρασσοντας; cf. 1:32). The negative verdict he renders (κρίμα) matches the truth of what the defendant has done (cf. 2:5–6). This strict truthfulness stands in contrast to human thinking, which suppresses the truth that it knows about God and exchanges it for a lie (1:18, 25).
Grant Osborne: Paul assumes that all his readers will agree with him regarding God’s judgment. Human judgment is based on prejudice and partial perception; God’s judgment is based on the truth—he judges on the basis of the facts about what we do. We know only in part, but God knows fully. Whereas our judgment of others is imperfect and partial, his is perfect and impartial.
C. (:3-4) No Escape Because God Requires Repentance
- (:3) False Presumption that You Will Escape Judgment
“And do you suppose this, O man,
when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things
and do the same yourself,
that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Why would people think that they are exempt from God’s judgment?
Frank Thielman: Paul asks his interlocutor if he thinks that somehow he is an exception to the rule of God’s impartial judgment. The conclusion should be obvious: he is not an exception.
James Dunn: Paul implies also that Jewish pride in the law (2:17–20) obscured the degree to which Jews themselves failed to “do” the law (2:21–29).
John Murray: The impossibility of leniency resides in the fact that the judgment of God is according to truth and therefore knows no respect of persons.
- (:4) False Presumption that God Will Keep Delaying Judgment
“Or do you think lightly of the riches
of His kindness and forbearance and patience,
not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
God’s kind forbearance should not be interpreted as a stay of execution but as an invitation to repentance.
Frank Thielman: In 2:1b–5 Paul assumes that his fictional interlocutor has joined him in condemning the ungodly and unrighteous people of 1:18–32. He points out that having such an attitude toward others at the same time that one is oblivious to one’s own sin and impending judgment reveals a heart hardened toward God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience, and positions one directly underneath the Damocles’s sword of God’s coming wrath.
In 2:6–11 Paul explains how he can say this with such assurance and why his interlocutor should agree with him: they both know that God is an impartial judge. Paul states this principle at the beginning (2:6) and end of this paragraph (2:11) in language that echoes the biblical text that both he and his interlocutor accept as authoritative. Sandwiched between these two expressions of the principle is a carefully arranged explanation of it. Paul first explains the principle simply from the perspective of the “works” that form the criterion of God’s judgment, using both positive (2:7) and negative (2:8) expressions. He then explains the principle from the same perspective but with the issue of ethnicity introduced, and again uses positive (2:10) and negative expressions (2:9), this time in reverse order. The whole paragraph follows a chiastic pattern and progresses from a simple statement of God’s impartial judgment according to works to the more specific point that God’s impartiality implies the exclusion of ethnicity as a criterion of God’s judgment.
Douglas Moo: Relying on “the riches of [God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience” to avoid judgment will not work (vv. 3–4). These words together connote God’s grace and willingness to forgive. “Kindness” (chrestotes) occurs again in Romans in 11:22, where it is the opposite of God’s “sternness,” and it appears regularly in the Psalms to denote God’s goodness to Israel. “Tolerance” (anoche) occurs in only one other place in the New Testament, where it refers again to God’s “forbearance” (Rom. 3:25). Paul’s use of this language suggests he is thinking at this point of the Jewish people. For we must remember that the Jews’ assumption of superiority over Gentiles was not a matter of ego or personal boasting. Out of all the nations of the earth, God had chosen Israel as his people. Surely, Jews may well have reasoned, as God’s chosen people, they are immune from judgment—his “tolerance” and “kindness” will always cause him to overlook our sins.
R. Kent Hughes: So we see the psychology of the self-righteous: their ignorance of the nature and extent of sin, blindness to their own sins, extreme judgmentalism, siding with God against others’ sins, interpreting God’s kindness as approval. God understands those who are truly self-righteous. He is never fooled. That is why his judgment will be rendered with unerring, terrible perfection. He sees all. In Psalm 139:4 David says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” God knows the real intention behind every spoken word. God knows instantly and effortlessly everything about us. A man may be a “good” person—upright, outwardly moral, sure of his goodness. But if he dies without Christ, Christ will say to him, “You have no excuse” (Romans 2:1). And his judgment will be perfect.
John Murray: The abundance of God’s “forbearance and longsuffering” to Israel was exemplified again and again in the history of the Old Testament but the apostle must be thinking particularly, if not exclusively, of the forbearance and longsuffering exercised to the Jew at the time of writing. For in the rejection of the grace and goodness manifested in Christ the Jew had given the utmost of ground for the execution of God’s wrath and punishment to the uttermost. Only “the riches” of forbearance and longsuffering could explain the preservation accorded to him. We must not press unduly and thus artificially the distinction between “forbearance” and “longsuffering”. Together they express the idea that God suspends the infliction of punishment and restrains the execution of his wrath. When he exercises forbearance and longsuffering he does not avenge sin in the instant execution of wrath. Forbearance and longsuffering, therefore, reflect upon the wrath and punishment which sin deserves and refer to the restraint exercised by God in the infliction of sin’s desert. It needs to be noted that the apostle does not think of this restraint as exercised in abstraction from the riches of God’s goodness, the riches of his benignity and lovingkindness. There is a complementation that bespeaks the magnitude of God’s kindness and of which the gifts of covenant privilege are the expression. . .
To “despise” is to underestimate the significance of something, to think lightly of it and thus fail to accord to it the esteem that is due. It can also take on the strength of scorning and contemning. The Jew whom Paul is addressing had indeed failed to assess the riches of goodness of which he was the beneficiary, and whenever God’s gifts are underestimated they are truly despised. However, when we think of the unbelief with which the apostle is dealing as that of a Jew who had rejected the revelation of grace in Christ, we must predicate of him contempt and scorn in the most express and direct fashion. It is in these terms that we shall have to interpret Paul’s question. . .
The presumptuous Jew interpreted the special goodness of God to him as the guarantee of immunity from the criteria by which other men would be judged and he claimed for himself indulgence on the part of God; the Gentile needed repentance but not he. What the apostle says is that the goodness of God when properly assessed leads to repentance; it is calculated to induce repentance, the frame of mind which the Jew considered to be the need only of the Gentile. The goodness of God has not only this as its true intent and purpose; when properly understood this is its invariable effect. And the condemnation of the Jew is that he failed to understand this simple lesson.
II. (:5-11) NO PARTIALITY IN GOD’S RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT
Chiastic Structure: A (:6) B (:7) C (:8) C1 (:9) B1 (:10) A1 (:11)
Douglas Moo: Sometimes in a chiasm, the main point comes at the center. In this case, however, the main point appears at the outer edges. [Although the center thought – wrath for those who do evil – could also be said to be the key]
A. (:5-6) Judgment Will Be Consistent with One’s Conduct
- (:5) Accumulating Storehouse of Future Wrath
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart
you are storing up wrath for yourself
in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,”
Steven Tackett: Let us define hardness and impenitent heart. It is fixed and unchanging; it is unwilling to show sorrow and remorse. In other words, it is an unwillingness to change or repent. It is a resolve to continue rejecting God and what God says.
James Dunn: The pious interlocutor assumes that by his faithfulness to the covenant he is laying up treasure in heaven; but by his failure to recognize the need for a more radical repentance he is actually storing up not “good,” not “life,” but wrath.
- (:6) Universal Basis for Judgment
“who will render to every man according to his deeds:”
Frank Thielman: In order to demonstrate God’s impartiality, Paul says that in principle God will repay eternal life to those whose good works merit it (2:6, 10, 13), but he does not mean that anyone will actually receive eternal life in this way.
John Murray: Verse 6 enunciates three features of God’s righteous judgment:
(1) the universality—“to each one”, a fact reiterated in verses 9, 10;
(2) the criterion by which judgment is to be executed—“according to his works”;
(3) the certain and effective distribution of award—“who will render”.
B. (:7-10) Two Possible Destinies for God’s Impartial Righteous Judgment
- (:7-8) Case Study #1
a. (:7) Positive Destiny
“to those who by perseverance in doing good
seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;”
John Murray: The three words define aspiration in terms of the highest reaches of Christian hope. The reward of this aspiration is in like manner the eschatology of the believer, “eternal life”.
b. (:8) Negative Destiny
“but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth,
but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”
Timothy Keller: Verse 8 then gives us two indicators that a person is not right with God:
- “Self-seeking” is the tell-tale sign. It means to have a spirit of self-will, or self-glorification—of seeking to be our own Lord and/or Savior. This is something that can be pursued either through being irreligious and licentious, or through being moral, religious and upright.
- “Reject the truth and follow evil” means there is an unwillingness to be instructed and learn from God’s truth. There is a lack of teachability, a refusal to submit to truth outside one’s own convictions and heart. Irreligious people do this in a very obvious way, but religious people do it, too! If we want to think of ourselves as righteous through our law-keeping, we are willing to listen to God’s commands about how to live; but we ignore his word when it tells us that we must keep it perfectly, and that we don’t keep it perfectly, and that we need to be given righteousness that we cannot earn. If we think we can save ourselves, we reject the truth as much as if we think we do not need to be saved at all.
- (:9-10) Case Study #2
a. (:9) Negative Destiny
“There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,”
b. (:10) Positive Destiny
“but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good,
to the Jew first and also to the Greek”
Frank Thielman: He now explicitly states what has been his point all along, that the Jew who does evil will not escape God’s condemnation. The day of God’s wrath will reveal his “righteous judgment” (2:5), which means that God’s judgment will be fair. The Jew does have priority over the gentile in ways that Paul has hinted at in 1:16 and will explain more fully in 3:2 and 9:1–5, but this priority does not mean that God will judge the Jew in a different way than he judges the gentile.
C. (:11) Judgment Will Be Without Partiality
“For there is no partiality with God.”
John Toews: The phrase “God does not show the face” is a classic Hebrew assertion of God’s impartiality. “To show the face” to one person, but not another, is to show partiality. God does not show the face to anyone. . . Impartiality is the ground for God’s righteousness. Because this righteousness excludes partiality, God judges all people and makes righteous all people “without distinction.” Therefore, people are called to live justly without regard for the ethnic identity or social status of others.
John Murray: The criterion of judgment is not privilege or position but that affirmed repeatedly in the preceding verses, namely, the character of men’s works. It might appear that the priority accorded to the Jew in verses 9, 10 is inconsistent with the principle that there is no respect of persons with God. But it is to be remembered that the priority accorded to the Jew gives him no immunity from the criterion of judgment which is applied to all indiscriminately. The determining factor in the awards of retribution or of glory is not the privileged position of the Jew but evil-doing or well-doing respectively. And the priority of the Jew applies to retributive judgment as well as to the award of bliss. As will be noted in connection with verse 12, the equity of God’s judgment and the fact that there is no respect of persons with him do not interfere with the diversity of situations which are found among men. Equity of judgment on God’s part takes the diversity of situation into account and hence the priority belonging to the Jew, because of his privilege, accentuates his condemnation in the event of evil-doing just as the righteous judgment of God is verified and most relevantly exemplified in the award of glory in the event of well-doing. It needs to be noted, furthermore, that no greater degree of glory, honour, and peace is represented as bestowed upon the Jew by reason of his priority.
III. (:12-16) NO MERE POSSESSION OF THE LAW OR PLEADING OF IGNORANCE WILL EXEMPT ONE FROM GOD’S RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT
Frank Thielman: In 2:12–16 Paul introduces the issue of the Mosaic law into the argument to explain that Jewish possession of the law does not nullify the principle that God will make no distinction between Jew and gentile on the day of judgment. Doing the law, not possessing the law, will lead to justification on that day. Gentiles too have a moral compass that functions as a form of God’s law. It sometimes agrees with the Mosaic law and sometimes leads them to righteous conduct. Because of this, God will be able to judge people justly on the final day apart from the question of whether or not they possess the Mosaic law.
Douglas Moo: Paul intends to show here that the Jews’ possession of the law does not give to them a decisive advantage over the Gentiles (2:12). He shows this by arguing that
(1) it is doing, not possessing, the law that counts (2:13), and
(2) even Gentiles have “law” in a certain sense (2:14–15).
A. (:12-13) Universal Requirement = Obedience to God’s Law
- (:12) Obedience Required Regardless of Level of Spiritual Privilege
“For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law;
and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;”
Timothy Keller: Paul is saying that God is right to judge those who know the law but have not kept it; and Paul is also warning that God will rightfully judge those who don’t know the law externally—because they know it internally, yet have not kept it.
- (:13) Obedience Required Regardless of Familiarity with Divine Revelation
“for not the hearers of the Law are just before God,
but the doers of the Law will be justified.”
God’s final judgment requires obedience to moral standards that are obvious (not just agreement with those standards).
Key = what have we done with what we know?
Frank Thielman: The law in 2:13 is the Jewish law, the revelation of God’s will that sets the Jews who live by it apart from the gentiles. This means that gentiles cannot fall into the category of “hearers of the law.” They fall “by nature” (φύσει) outside the boundaries of those who hear the law read Sabbath by Sabbath.
John Murray: The apostle is undoubtedly guarding against that perversion so characteristic of the Jew that the possession of God’s special revelation and of the corresponding privileges would afford immunity from the rigour of the judgment applied to others not thus favoured.
B. (:14-16) Universal Judgment Makes Everyone Accountable Before God
- (:14-15) Conscience and Inward Moral Deliberations Provide Sufficient Accountability
“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,”
Grant Osborne: Some Gentiles who did not know anything about God’s law had moral sensitivity and lived as though following it. They had the law of conscience. The knowledge of God’s character was available to them, for they knew within their hearts the difference between right and wrong. Their moral awareness will serve in place of the law to judge them.
Paul does not attempt to prove that people are incapable of any good. His point is that not one of us is capable of perfect goodness. At the human level, we all behave more or less in line with the standards of our society. But righteousness is not determined by what most people do, or even by what most people think might be possible for someone who tries very hard. Righteousness is God’s standard, God’s character. Comparisons with others are of no help when we measure ourselves before God’s standard. Ultimately, whatever our background, we will be held accountable by God for our life.
Frank Thielman: When they do what God requires without having the Mosaic law to guide them, gentiles show that they have an instinctive sense of right and wrong. The idea that some people felt instinctively what was right to do and could therefore function as “a law to themselves” (ἑαυτοῖς εἰσιν νόμος) was a traditional Greek philosophical notion by Paul’s time, although it was construed in various ways. Aristotle thought that some people were so virtuous they did not need laws, “for they are themselves a law” (αὐτοὶ γάρ εἰσι νόμος; Politics 1284a 13 [H. Rackham, LCL]). The Stoics thought that living virtuously was synonymous with living in accord with nature (Arius Didymus, Epitome of Stoic Ethics 5b3; cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1375a; Philo, Joseph 29). Philo believed that ethnic tradition could function as an unwritten, willingly obeyed law, which was particularly praiseworthy (On the Special Laws 4.150), and so on. Paul commits himself to none of these specific ideas, but their presence in the ancient literature does show that the general notion of an innate, unwritten law was in the air and that Paul’s use of it here is likely. Paul uses the notion to serve his general point that being a “hearer of the law” was not necessary for doing the law, and so being a Jew gave one no advantage over being a gentile on the day of God’s wrath. . .
Paul next introduces two genitive-absolute constructions . . . two further pieces of evidence, in addition to the law written on their hearts, that gentiles have a moral standard to which God justly holds them accountable.
- First, their conscience functions as a moral compass. Since the conscience in antiquity referred to a knowledge that one shared with one’s self, it is possible for the conscience to “bear witness together with” (συμμαρτυρέω) one’s self, and that is probably Paul’s meaning here. Gentiles have a conscience that is capable of alerting them that what they have done is wrong, or, by the absence of a painful conscience in a given situation, of confirming that their conduct was correct.
- Second, their moral deliberations with each other yield accusation and, occasionally, defense of one another. . . the “thoughts among one another” to which Paul refers are the reasoned decisions that gentiles make about the moral quality of the actions of others around them. These moral judgments sometimes accuse and sometimes even defend the conduct of others.
John Murray: “Their conscience bearing witness therewith.” Conscience must not be identified with “the work of the law written in their hearts” for these reasons:
(1) Conscience is represented as giving joint witness. This could not be true if it were the same as that along with which it bears witness.
(2) Conscience is a function; it is the person functioning in the realm of moral discrimination and judgment, the person viewed from the aspect of moral consciousness. The work of the law written in the heart is something ingenerated in our nature, is antecedent to the operations of conscience and the cause of them.
(3) The precise thought is that the operations of conscience bear witness to the fact that the work of the law is written in the heart. Not only does the doing of the things of the law prove the work of the law written in the heart but the witness of conscience does also. Hence the distinction between the work of the law and conscience.
- (:16) Future Day of Judgment Will Extend to One’s Hidden Secrets
“on the day when, according to my gospel,
God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
Frank Thielman: Paul’s gospel teaches that God will judge human beings through the Messiah Jesus, and the future day on which he does that will reveal that God has used no different standard of judgment with the gentiles than he has with the Jews. . . the final day will bring to light the existence of an internal moral standard among the gentiles by which God can judge them, a moral standard that for the purposes of a just judgment is identical to the law that the Jews possess in written form. The God who knows “the hidden things” within people will have no trouble judging people by conformity to an internal law (cf. 2:28–29; 1 Cor 4:5; cf. 1 Kgs 8:39).
Robert Gundry: As objects of judgment, “the hidden things of human beings” recalls “their hearts” but also indicates that nothing, whether good or evil, will fail to be judged.