We must now take time to explain the parenthetical statement, which is absolutely crucial in undermining all false hopes and all excuses which men may offer to exculpate themselves before God.  He has just, in verse 12, made the statement that every person who is guilty of sin will be judged and condemned righteously; those who have sinned without law will perish without law, and those who have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.  But here he anticipates an objection, which he feels pressed to address without finishing his sentence (this he does in verse 16, which we have already considered).  But he must once and for all dispose of the objection, that if men do not know the law of God, then they cannot be condemned.  These important 3 verses, 13-15, show that even those who have never heard the law of God, nevertheless may be justly condemned by a righteous God, even if on somewhat of a different ground than the hearer of the law.

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He begins by establishing an extremely important principle, one which the Jews had sadly forgotten: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”  Of course, the apostle is not here undermining his doctrine of justification by free grace alone, for he is in the process of showing that at the most fundamental level, no person can be justified by the works of the law.  This statement is delivered to remind the Jews that their possession of the divine oracles did not automatically equate to their acceptance before God.  This was a lesson stressed from the earliest moments of the preaching of the kingdom of God.  John the Baptist inveighed against the religious hypocrites, “Think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father’!”  Christ also, in John 8, while on the one hand acknowledging His enemies were sons of Abraham, on the other hand told them, “Ye are of your father the devil.”  It was a lesson the Jews should have learned from Moses and the prophets.  The book of Deuteronomy is filled with warnings of doom and destruction both for individuals and the corporate body of the nation, if they forsook the law of God to serve idols.  Though the scriptures highly extol the grace of God in the favor He gratuitously bestowed upon Israel so lavishly, they never ceased to warn the people of Israel not to presume upon their status as sons of Abraham, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God.  If the law, the history, and the prophecies of the Old Testament showed anything, it is that God did not give the Jews a pass on their sin because they were Jews.  Their hearing of the law did nothing to draw down the smile of heaven.  Only when they performed the words of the law did they find favor with God.

 

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