Exposition of Romans Chapter 2-Part 2 of 2


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 recounts 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.

VII. Verses 17-21
But "if you," just look, "call yourself a Jew," although you are not one in truth, but still have the name, "and rely upon the Law," that is, you are confident and seem secure to yourself because you have the written law, "and boast of your relation to God," that you have God and are the people of God and have knowledge of Him, "And know," but don't do, "His will," which has been made known in the Law, "and approve what is excellent," that is, the things that are good and salutary, "becauseyou are instructed," to be sure, "in the Law," which has been given.

"And if you are sure," because of your presumption and arrogance, "that you are a guide," that is, one who can show the way by means of the example of his life and morals, "to the blind," when you yourself are blind and in need of a leader, "a light," pertaining to things that can be known and to the mysteries that can be observed, "to those who are in darkness," although you yourself are in darkness-and are sure you are: "a corrector," although you, too, are foolish, "of the foolish," of people who do not know God and the things of God, a teacher of children, not only of the older ones but also of the little ones, that is, you think you are a teacher of them all-and you are confident of: "having in the Law the embodiment," the measure and pattern by which it is known and truly understood, although you do not have it at all, "of knowledge and truth," of true understanding, which he proves thus: "you then who teach others," as you trust, although you are not really teaching, because you are teaching the letter without the spirit, "teach not," namely, the spirit of the Law "yourself," because you, like those whom you teach, are in need.

"You who preach," adopting the commandment from the Law, "that men should not steal," namely, as far as the external work is concerned, "do steal" namely, you yourself by an act of your will or in a hidden act. Because if you could, you would do it. But even this will is considered an act in the presence of God.

VIII. Verses 22-23
"You who say," according to the Law, "that one must not commit adultery," according to the external act only, "you commit adultery," namely, through inward concupiscence in the presence of God. "You who abhor idols," you who teach according to the Law that idols should be detested in the sight of men; "you commit sacrilege," by polluting and violating the true temple of God, which is the heart, with your concupiscence. "You who boast in the Law," that you have received it and now keep it in your works, "you dishonor God," because the honor of God is the holiness of His people, and conversely, the contempt of God is the wickedness of His people, by breaking the Law, namely, because you willfully neglect to fulfill it, as emphatically required.

IX. Verses 24-25
"For, as it is written," (Is. 52:5), "the name of God," which is called out over you, because you are called the people of God, "through," on account of, "you is blasphemed," just as the glory of a prince is the strength of his people and his shame is the poverty and baseness of his people, "among the Gentiles," who say: "What kind of God is this who has such a disgraceful people?" "Circumcision indeed," namely, the external one, lest you think that I disapprove of it, "is of value," for salvation, "if you obey the Law," by fulfilling it spiritually. "But if you break the law," also through your will, no matter how much you keep it with works, which is of necessity true for him who is not in Christ, "your circumcision," in the external work before men, without any in your heart before God, "becomes uncircumcision," namely, before God, because your heart remains uncircumcised.

X. Verses 26-27
"So if the uncircumcision," that is, a Gentile who is uncircumcised in the flesh and yet believes in Christ, "keeps the precepts of the Law," spiritually, "will not his uncircumcision," that is, the fact that he is not circumcised is not against him, but will, "be regarded as circumcision" by God, on account of the circumcision of his heart, just as your circumcision becomes uncircumcision?

"Then that which by nature is uncircumcision," that is, the Gentiles, those who without the restraint of the Law have uncircumcision, "keeping the Law," fulfilling it from the heart and the spirit, "will judge," your brief will condemn you, "you," a Jew, "who by the letter," external righteousness, "and circumcision," of the flesh only "break the Law," because you have not circumcised your evil will.

XI. Verses 28-29
"For he," that you are such a person is apparent from this, "is not a real Jew," that is, of the seed of Abraham, "who is one outwardly," in the external man and according to the flesh, "nor is that true circumcision which is outward," external in the eyes of the people, "in the flesh," in imitation of Abraham.

"But he is a Jew who is one inwardly," in the inward man on the basis of faith in Christ, of the faith of Abraham, "and," this is the real circumcision, "circumcision is a matter of the heart," away from all forbidden concupiscence, "in the spirit," that is, in the spiritual man, or in spiritual righteousness, "not in the letter," that is, in the carnal man or carnal righteousness; "whose praise is not from men," as is the circumcisionand the righteousness of the flesh, but rather there is vituperation and persecution, "but from God," for God approves it and praises it, that is, He makes it and deems it praiseworthy.

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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