What follows are Luther's notes on the chapter, with the text of Scripture interspersed with his commentary, from Lectures on Romans. This version is translated by Walter G. Tillmanns.
In Romans 2, the Apostle Paul refutes the faults of the Jews (who know God's Law), saying that, as far as their guilt is concerned, they are the same as the Gentiles and in a certain respect even worse.
Therefore, since those who act in this way [in the manner of sin Paul describes in Romans 1] are worthy of death, it follows that "you have no excuse," just as if you nevertheless believe that you are convicted by your own verdict. O man, whoever you are, outside of Christ and not yet spiritual, who judge, no matter how well or even better you do things than they and therefore judge them. For in whatever, namely, in some special evil thing, "you judge another," reckon him to be an evil person, "you condemn yourself," although you may not share the same sin, yet, because, this gives the reason, "you who judge are doing the very same things," although not all the things, some of the things mentioned above. For the judge must above all be innocent of the things which he judges in others.
"For we know that the judgment of God," but not your judgment, although it may agree with His, namely, that they are worthy of death, "is according to truth," for it is itself unchangeable truth, "against those who do such things," for He is the only one who does not do what He judges, that is, He is the only true judge.
"Do you suppose," such a presumptuous thought, "O man," you who are wise carnally and in the ways of men, "that when you judge those who do such things," the above-mentioned vices, "and yet do them yourself," that is, similar things, "you will escape the judgment of God?"It is as if he were saying: "No, because upon the same evil works the same judgment will be pronounced."
"Or do you despise," as if you were not in need of, "the riches," the abundance, "of His goodness" with which He does good to you assiduously and is always ready to forgive evil, "and patience," with which He endures your many great vices, "and longsuffering," which waits patiently for you slow improvement. "Do you not know," He is so rich toward you not so that you may sin more freely and longer but that you should come to repentance the more quickly, "that God's kindness leads you to repentance," not to an increase of your sins. But like perverse people, we abuse it the more to the contrary.
"But by," that is, through "your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up," heaping up, "for yourself wrath," the punishment of the wrath of God, "on the day of wrath," the Last Day, "and of the revelation," when everything will be revealed and will remain thus revealed forever, and "of the just judgment of God," which will stand forever. "Who will render" at that time "to every man," to the good and to the evil, "according to his works, to those," that is, the good men, "who, by patience in well-doing," that is, through patience in good works "seek for glory," that is, for renown and praise, by working faithfully and by living a holy life "and honor and incorruption" in body and soul, "eternal life," not the vanity of this world.
"But to those," to the evil and impious, "who are contentious," who do not know patience but assiduously fight against one another, "and do not obey," believe, or do not want to be persuaded to believe "the truth" in an evangelical way, "but obey" because they seem wise and just to themselves, like the Jews (according to the righteousness of their forefathers), or simply because the Gospel does not seem true to them, as in the case of the Gentiles, "wickedness," injustice, and things contrary to the truth of faith, "wrath and indignation," that is, the effects of wrath and indignation, which are not in God but in the creature to be punished.
"There will be tribulation and distress," by which a man is held tight so that he cannot escape, "for every soul of man who does evil," but he does evil who is outside of faith, as is revealed below, no matter how great his work may be, "the Jew first," because to them everything was told first, "and also the Greek," that is, the Gentiles. "But glory," praise, as explained above, "and honor," reverence, "and peace," both inwardly and outwardly, "for everyone who does good," but no good work is done except in faith, "the Jew first, and also the Greek." The Jew and also the Greek because "there is no respect of persons with God," namely, for punishing both Jews and Gentiles less or more.
V. Verses 12-13
"All who have sinned," as Gentiles, "without the Law," namely, the written law, that is, all people who exist and are living, "will also perish," will be condemned "without the Law," such a law, even though they did well according to another law, one in their hearts, "and all who have sinned," like the Jews, living "under the Law, will be judged," condemned, "by the Law," which they have known and accepted.
"For not the hearers of the Law," like those who say: "Lord, in Your name we have prophesied" (Matt. 7:22). Such are also those who do the works of the Law, but not willingly, therefore they do not do them. They "are righteous before God," that is, are considered righteous by God, "but the doers," who are the only ones who have the grace that conquers the evil will, "of the Law will be justified," they will be considered righteous before God.
VI. Verses 14-16
"For when the Gentiles," whom he has described above as being "without the Law," "who have not the Law," namely, the written law, "do by nature," only by nature and not by tradition, as the Jews do, "those things," the works, "which are of the Law," given or written, "even though they do not have the Law, they are a law to themselves," that is, they can instruct themselves without the instruction of such a law.
"They show," prove to others through their performance outwardly and to themselves inwardly, "that the work of the Law," that is, the law of doing such works, "is written," namely, with the finger of God, "on their hearts." By nature and indelibly the law of nature is imprinted on their minds, "while their conscience bears witness to them," a good witness about the good works and an evil witness about the evil works. How? They show it through their conscience now to themselves and in the Last Judgment before God, "and that among themselves," mutually against each other, in turn, this is exposition of what has been said: what the conscience is which bears witness, "their thoughts," by which they interpret themselves to themselves, what sort of people they are, "accuse," in the things they have done wrong, "or also defend them," in the things they have done well.
"On the day," against the day, that is, these things all are done now and take place now so that they may be judged then according to them, "when God will judge the secrets of men," the sins which are not known to men, that is, even their innermost thoughts, "according to my Gospel," that is, that which is preached by me, "by Jesus Christ." For He will be the judge because of His likeness of men, that He may be seen by all.
Martin Luther (1483-1546), was a German Catholic priest and theologian who challenged the established Roman Catholic Church over the sale of indulgences and many other distortions of Scripture and abuses of power, setting off the Protestant Reformation. His list of grievances, known as the 95 Theses, were nailed to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany, on October 31, 1517. Luther worked tirelessly to teach God's Word to his people, translating the Bible into German, preaching, writing hymns, and publishing numerous popular theological works and commentaries on the entire Bible. Because of his courage and faithfulness, his influence on the history of the Church, and indeed, the Western world, is difficult to overstate and his legacy continues to impact believers across the globe.
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