Romans 2:18
And know his will, and approve the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) His will.—Literally, the willi.e., “the supreme will.”

Approvest the things that are more excellent.—Probably rightly given in the Authorised version, though the marginal rendering also is possible, “triest the things that differ”—i.e., “art able to discriminate between good and evil.”

Being instructed.—With reference to the constant reading of the Law in the synagogue.

2:17-24 The apostle directs his discourse to the Jews, and shows of what sins they were guilty, notwithstanding their profession and vain pretensions. A believing, humble, thankful glorying in God, is the root and sum of all religion. But proud, vain-glorious boasting in God, and in the outward profession of his name, is the root and sum of all hypocrisy. Spiritual pride is the most dangerous of all kinds of pride. A great evil of the sins professors is, the dishonour done to God and religion, by their not living according to their profession. Many despise their more ignorant neighbours who rest in a dead form of godliness; yet themselves trust in a form of knowledge, equally void of life and power, while some glory in the gospel, whose unholy lives dishonour God, and cause his name to be blasphemed.And knowest his will - The will or commands of God. This knowledge they obtained from the Scriptures; and of course in this they were distinguished from other nations.

And approvest - The word used here is capable of two interpretations. It may mean either to distinguish, or to approve. The word is properly and usually applied to the process of testing or trying metals by fire. Hence, it comes to be used in a general sense to try or to distinguish anything; to ascertain its nature, quality, etc.; Luke 12:56. This is probably its meaning here, referring rather to the intellectual process of discriminating, than to the moral process of approving. It could not, perhaps, be said with propriety, at least the scope of the passage does not properly suppose this, that the Jew approved or loved the things of God: but the scope of the passage is, that the Jew valued himself on his knowledge of what was conformable to the will of God; see the notes at Romans 14.

The things that are more excellent - The word translated here "more excellent" denotes properly the things that differ from others, and then also the things that excel. It has an ambiguity similar to the word translated "approved." If the interpretation of that word above given is correct, then this word here means those things that differ from others. The reference is to the rites and customs, to the distinctions of meats and days, etc., prescribed by the Law of Moses. The Jew would pride himself on the fact that he had been taught by the Law to make these distinctions, while all the pagan world had been left in ignorance of them. This was one of the advantages on which he valued himself and his religion.

Being instructed ... - That is, in regard to the one God, his will, and the distinguishing rites of his worship.

18. approvest the things that are excellent—"triest the things that differ" (Margin). Both senses are good, and indeed the former is but the result of the latter action. (See on [2183]Php 1:10).Ver. 18,19. Art confident; thou dost proudly arrogate all that follows to thyself, and conceitest that thou hast all the points of the law in thy breast, and full knowledge of all the secrets thereof. And knowest his will,.... Not the secret will or purpose of God; nor his revealed will in the Gospel, for of this they were ignorant; but his declared will in the law, showing what is to be done, and what is not to be done: to know which in express terms was a privilege, that other people had not; but then the bare knowledge of this will be of no avail: for persons may know their Lord's will, as the Jews did, and not do it, and so be worthy to be beaten with many stripes:

and approvest the things that are more excellent: or "triest the things that differ"; from one another, and from the will and law of God; or as the Syriac, "discernest" "things that are convenient"; agreeable, which are fit and ought to be done: and having tried and discerned them, they approved of them in their judgment as the things more excellent; but then they did not put these excellent things in practice which they approved of; and the knowledge and approbation they had of these things, arose from their

being instructed out of the law, and not the Gospel; for the excellent things of the Gospel, they had no discerning, knowledge and approbation of; see Philippians 1:10.

And knowest his will, and {n} approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

(n) Can test and discern what things swerve from God's will.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 2:18. τὸ θέλημα is God’s will. Lipsius compares the absolute use of ὁδός, θύρα and ὄνομα. Cf. Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23; Acts 14:27; Acts 5:41. Also 1 Corinthians 16:12, where God’s will is meant, not the will of Apollos. The words δοκιμάζεις τὰ διαφέροντα κατηχούμενος ἐκ τοῦ νόμου are to be taken together. In virtue of being taught out of the law (in the synagogue and the schools) the Jew possesses moral discernment: he does not sink to the νοῦς ἀδόκιμος, the mind which has lost all moral capacity (Romans 1:28). But a certain ambiguity remains in δοκιμάζειν τὰ διαφέροντα: it may mean either (1) to distinguish, by testing, between things which differ—i.e., to discriminate experimentally between good and evil; or (2) to approve, after testing, the things which are more excellent. There are no grounds on which we can decide positively for either.18. his will] Lit. the will. Cp. 3 John 1:7, where the original is “for the sake of the Name.” Possibly the phrase here was a “stereotyped” formula, which St Paul quotes. But in any case its form (as that of the parallel above) is one of peculiar solemnity and dignity.

approvest the things that are more excellent] Better, assayest, puttest to the test, things which differ. Exactly the same words occur Php 1:10. The Jew had the touchstone of Divine Revelation to apply to questions of wrong and right; he claimed to be a perfect casuist.Romans 2:18. Τό θέλημα) the will, that is, whatever has been ratified by the law; so, the will, absolutely, Matthew 18:14; 1 Corinthians 16:12. But this will is nothing else, than the will of God; but a strong feeling of piety [εὐλάβεια, pious caution] prevented Paul from adding, of God.—δοκιμαζεὶς) provest, approvest.Verse 18. - And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent (δοκιμάζεις τὰ διαφέροντα, a phrase capable also of the meaning, "provest the things which differ," i.e. distinguishest between right and wrong; for δοκιμάζειν may mean either "to prove," or "to approve" after trial, and τὰ διαφέροντα either "things which differ," or "things which surpass." Exactly the same expression occurs in Philippians 1:10, with the same uncertainty of meaning. The difference is unimportant, both interpretations coming to the same thing), being instructed (κατηχούμενος, which implies regular training, whether catechetically in youth, or through rabbinical and synagogic teaching) out of the Law. So far the Jew's own claims on the ground of his own position have been touched on; what follows expresses his attitude with regard to others. We may observe throughout a vein of irony. The things that are more excellent (τὰ διαφέροντα)

This may be the meaning, and it is adopted by Rev. with the proper omission of more. But it may also mean the things which differ; in which case we shall render provest instead of approvest. The sense will then be: thou dost test with nice discrimination questions of casuistry. Compare Philippians 1:10. The latter interpretation seems preferable, being borne out by the succeeding being instructed.

Being instructed (κατηχούμενος)

Systematically through catechetical and synagoguic instruction. See on Luke 1:4. This formal instruction is the basis of the critical discrimination.

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