Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judge: for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself…
It is easy for us to see sin in others, and to join in general confessions of sin, in which we seem to include ourselves. But it is very bard to acknowledge it penitently before God. There is, in every man's heart, a subtle element of self-flattery, which leads him to extenuate or deny his own offences, while yet he is very forward to condemn the iniquities of his neighbours. When Haldane read to D'Aubigne a chapter from this Epistle concerning the natural corruption of man, he said, "Now I do, indeed, see it in the Bible." "Yes," replied Haldane, "but do you see it in your heart?" — a home thrust which awakened a sense of sin, and led to his conversion. Thus Paul proceeds here to bring home to every man's conscience the terrible charge advanced against the world at large in the latter part of chap. Romans 1. He knew that many who, while acknowledging the general correctness of his statements, would make an exception of themselves. None would be more ready to do this than the Jews. The apostle therefore approaches them warily, beginning with appeals of a more general character, and then coming gradually down to a direct application of his argument to every self-righteous descendant of Abraham. Let us notice —
I. THOSE WHO EXEMPT AND EXCUSE THEMSELVES FROM THE GENERAL CHARGE OF THE WORLD'S ABOUNDING WICKEDNESS.
1. The Greeks, or Gentiles. Among these were many who could condemn their neighbours most severely, while yet they openly commended themselves. Even Socrates could practise in secret gross sensualities which he inveighed against in public. There were men who were by nature less savage or less treacherous than their fellows; but there were vices of disposition, such as envy, malice, and revenge, in which they freely, if not vauntingly, participated. Then there were men of refinement whose only difference from the licentious mob was in the superior delicacy of their pleasures, the higher artfulness of their hypocrisies, the closer secrecy of their excesses. And have not we also many classes of character, the exact counterpart of those just described — those who have not yet been found out, or are careful to avoid all coarse and flagrant forms of vice; but are selfish, covetous, proud, or vindictive? And are not these dispositions as certainly the manifestations of a corrupt heart as many fouler sins from which they fastidiously shrink? Therefore are they without excuse, for in judging others they condemn themselves.
2. The Jews. Their common delusion was to fancy themselves free from condemnation, merely because they possessed the oracles of God and enjoyed special tokens of the Divine regard. They thus missed the very object of the kindness extended toward them. It was meant to lead them to repentance; but they used it to build up their pride and confirm their obduracy. And have they not also their representatives in the Christian pale? There are many amongst us who pride themselves on their religious advantages without ever improving them to their own salvation. Are you, then, better than the heathen, because you possess the Bible, rest on the Sunday, and attend the sanctuary? Is it enough that you hear the law, without obeying it? The enjoyment of these advantages only heightens your obligation, adds to your responsibility, and may make you at last tenfold more the child of hell than the pagans you despise. "He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes."
II. THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD BY JESUS CHRIST.
1. This is a peculiarly gospel disclosure. True, there were premonitions of it amongst the heathen, as there were pre-intimations of it in the Old Testament; but still it was left to Christ and His apostles to develop the doctrine. Here we learn that a day is determined on by God to be devoted to that exclusive business. We need not conceive of a day consisting of twenty-four hours, but rather of a vast period — just as we call the term of gospel grace the day of salvation, or of immortal ages as the day of eternity. Over the affairs of that day shall the Son of Man preside in person. Before His bar all nations must be arraigned. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ," and answer for the things done in the body.
2. Mark its impartiality. "There is no respect of persons with God." No man's case will be prejudiced by his circumstances, and no man will find favour because of the accidents of birth and position. We can conceive of no motives of favouritism in the mind of God. And certainly it will be impossible either to corrupt the Judge with bribes, to pervert Him by flattery, or to overcome Him with threats. The wise will not be saved by his wisdom, nor the strong by his strength, nor the rich by his riches, nor the noble by his rank; youth and beauty will be as powerless as decrepitude and age.
3. Its strict equity. Each must receive according to his deeds, whether good or evil. What, then, is the moral amenability of the extra-Christian world? What the possibility of its salvation? (vers. 12-15.) The heathen world was not left wholly without a knowledge of right and wrong. Also, in highly civilised countries, wise men had been raised up who had carefully sought out the rule of virtue, and thus established many correct principles of moral guidance, which gained the consent of their fellow citizens, and might have served to lead them far on in the path of righteousness. If the light of Christianity is that of the sun, the light of Judaism that of the moon, the rest had at least the light of many stars. The same state of things is still found among unchristian peoples. They have both religious feelings and moral convictions. Thus is the foundation laid for a future judgment, extending to all. All have within or amongst them a law, through the operation of which they are held amenable to their Creator, and are preparing to stand before His judgment bar. And thus may they perish without the law, although, in such a case, their guilt will be less and their doom more endurable than that of men who sin amid all the illumination of Scriptural truth. And so also it is possible for some to be saved, if, with honest purpose, they follow up the light they possess and sincerely seek to please God. Thus may it come to pass that from every heathen land redeemed souls may come and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God. Any way, the judgment of the great King will be according to truth and justice. To whom much has been given, from him much will be expected; and only little from him whose advantages have been few.
4. The principle of judgment will be a strict regard to the actions of men. Universally, throughout the Bible, is this doctrine affirmed (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 25:1; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:13). Yet none will be saved by their works as works, but only as evidential of a right and honest state of will and feeling; a state produced, in all cases, by the influence of the Holy Ghost through such light of truth as may be enjoyed. This principle will not invalidate, but only the more elucidate and confirm, the fundamental arrangement of grace that "the just shall live by faith."
5. The grand bearings of the final judgment upon the destiny of men (vers. 6-10). Two awards, and only two, will result from the proceedings of the great judgment day. The good will be thenceforward and for evermore separated from the evil; the former will enter into a state of absolute enjoyment and peace, while the latter will be consigned to an abode of unmitigated wretchedness and infamy.
(T. G. Horton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.