on Romans 2 :12
For as many as have sinned without law, etc. - They, viz. the Gentiles, who shall be found to have transgressed against the mere light of nature, or rather, that true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, John 1:9, shall not come under the same rule with those, the Jews, who have in addition to this enjoyed an extraordinary revelation; but they shall be dealt with according to the inferior dispensation, under which they lived: while those, the Jews, who have sinned against the law - the positive Divine revelation granted to them, shall be judged by that law, and punished proportionably to the abuse of such an extraordinary advantage.
on Romans 2 :12
For - This is used to give a reason for what he had just said, or to show on what principles God would treat man, so as not to be a respecter of persons.
As many - Whosoever. This includes all who have done it, and evidently has respect to the Gentile world. It is of the more importance to remark this, because he does not say that it is applicable to a few only, or to great and incorrigible instances of pagan wickedness, but it is a universal, sweeping declaration, obviously including all.
Have sinned - Have been guilty of crimes of any kind toward God or man. Sin is the transgression of a rule of conduct, however made known to mankind.
Without law - ἀνόμως anomōs. This expression evidently means without revealed or written law, as the apostle immediately says that they had a law of nature, Romans 2:14-15. The word "law," νόμος nomos. is often used to denote the revealed Law of God, the Scriptures, or revelation in general; Matthew 12:5; Luke 2:23-24; Luke 10:26; John 8:5, John 8:17.
Shall also perish - ἀπολοῦνται apolountai. The Greek word used here occurs frequently in the New Testament. It means to destroy, to lose, or to corrupt, and is applied to life, Matthew 10:39; to a reward of labor, Matthew 10:42; to wisdom 1 Corinthians 1:19; to bottles, Matthew 9:17. It is also used to denote future punishment, or the destruction of soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:14; John 3:15, where it is opposed to eternal life, and therefore denotes eternal death; Romans 14:15; John 17:12. In this sense the word is evidently used in this verse. The connection demands that the reference should be to a future judgment to be passed on the pagan. It will be remarked here that the apostle does not say they shall be saved without law. He does not give even an intimation respecting their salvation. The strain of the argument, as well as this express declaration, shows that they who had sinned - and in the first chapter he had proved that all the pagan were sinners - would be punished. If any of the pagan are saved, it will be, therefore, an exception to the general rule in regard to them. The apostles evidently believed that the great mass of them would be destroyed. On this ground they evinced such zeal to save them; on this ground the Lord Jesus commanded the gospel to be preached to them; and on this ground Christians are now engaged in the effort to bring them to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. It may be added here, that all modern investigations have gone to confirm the position that the pagan are as degraded now as they were in the time of Paul.
Without law - That is, they shall not be judged by a law which they have not. They shall not be tried and condemned by the revelation which the Jews had. They shall be condemned only according to the knowledge and the Law which they actually possess. This is the equitable rule on which God will judge the world. According to this, it is not to be apprehended that they will suffer as much as those who have the revealed will of God; compare Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:24; Luke 10:12.
Have sinned in the law - Have sinned having the revealed will of God, or endowed with greater light and privileges than the pagan world. The apostle here has undoubted reference to the Jews, who had the Law of God, and who prided themselves much on its possession.
Shall be judged by the law - This is an equitable and just rule; and to this the Jews could make no objection. Yet the admission of this would have led directly to the point to which Paul was conducting his argument, to show that they also were under condemnation, and needed a Saviour. It will be observed here, that the apostle uses a different expression in regard to the Jews from what he does of the Gentiles. He says of the former, that they "shall be judged;" of the latter, that they "shall perish." It is not certainly known why he varied this expression. But if conjecture may be allowed, it may have been for the following reasons.
(1) if he had a affirmed of the Jews that they should perish, it would at once have excited their prejudice, and have armed them against the conclusion to which he was about to come. Yet they could bear the word to be applied to the pagan, for it was in accordance with their own views and their own mode of speaking, and was strictly true.
(2) the word "judged" is apparently more mild, and yet really more severe. It would arouse no prejudice to say that they would be judged by their Law. It was indeed paying a sort of tribute or regard to that on which they prided themselves so much, the possession of the Law of God. Still, it was a word. implying all that he wished to say, and involving the idea that they would be punished and destroyed. If it was admitted that the pagan would perish; and if God was to judge the Jews by an unerring rule, that is, according to their privileges and light; then it would follow that they would also be condemned, and their own minds would come at once to the conclusion. The change of words here may indicate, therefore, a nice tact, or delicate address in argument, urging home to the conscience an offensive truth rather by the deduction of the mind of the opponent himself than by a harsh and severe charge of the writer. In instances of this, the Scriptures abound; and it was this especially that so eminently characterized the arguments of our Saviour.
on Romans 2 :12
2:12 For as many as have sinned - He speaks as of the time past, for all time will be past at the day of judgment. Without the law - Without having any written law. Shall also perish without the law - Without regard had to any outward law; being condemned by the law written in their hearts. The word also shows the agreement of the manner of sinning, with the manner of suffering. Perish - He could not so properly say, Shall be judged without the law.