Romans 2:1

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whosoever you are that judge: for in what you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do the same things.
All Commentaries on Romans 2:1 Go To Romans 2

Thomas Aquinas

AD 1274
169. After showing that the Gentiles did not become just from the knowledge of the truth they had, the Apostle now shows that neither were the Jews made just by the things in which they gloried. Consequently, both of them need the power of the gospel’s grace for salvation. First, therefore, he says that the Jews were not made just by the Law; secondly, that they were not made just by the race in which they gloried, in chapter 3 [n. 246] at Then what advantage has the Jew?; 90 thirdly, that they were not made just by circumcision, in chapter 4 [n. 322] at What therefore shall we say? 170. In regard to the first point it should be noted that Jews and Gentiles converted to the faith judged each other on their previous life. For the Jews objected to the Gentiles that when they lived without God’s law, they sacrificed to idols. The Gentiles on their part objected to the Jews that even though they received God’s law, they did not keep it. First, therefore, he rebukes both sides and their extravagant judgment; secondly, he shows that the Jews were not worthy of a reward, because the things they glory in were not sufficient for salvation, there [v. 13; n. 210] at For it is not the hearers of the Law. In regard to the first he does two things. First, he confutes human judgment; secondly, he discloses and commends the divine judgment, there [v. 2; n. 178] at For we know. In regard to the first he does two things: first, he proposes that although they judge one another, neither has an excuse; secondly, he gives the reason, there [v. lb; n. 172] at for in passing judgment. 171. First, therefore, he concludes from what he stated in the first chapter that even though the Gentiles by their wickedness suppressed the truth they knew about God, you have no excuse, 0 man, whoever you are, when you judge another, just as he said earlier: "So they are without excuse" (Rom 1:20). 91 He says, whoever you are, as if to say: Whether Jew or Gentile, because even the Gentiles, who might seem to have an excuse, cannot be excused on the plea of ignorance, as he stated above in 1:20 ff; "Do not pronounce judgment before the time" (1 Cor 4:5). 172. Then when he says For in passing judgment he gives the reason by rejecting the causes for excuse: first, ignorance; secondly, innocence, there [v. 1c; n. 176] at because you, the judge. 173. Ignorance is excluded by the very act of judging. For whoever judges another an evildoer shows that he knows that the conduct is evil and, therefore, that he is himself worthy of condemnation. And this is what he says: You have no excuse, for in passing judgment upon him as an evildoer you condemn yourself, i.e., you show that you are worthy of being condemned: "Judge not, that you may not be judged" (Mt 7:1). 174. This does not mean that every judgment is a cause of condemnation. For there are three kinds of judgment: one is just, i.e., made according to the rule of justice: "Love justice, you rulers of the earth" (Wis 1:1); another is not just, i.e., made contrary to the rule of justice: "Although servants of his kingdom, you did not rule rightly" (Wis 6:4); the third is rash judgment against which Ec (5:2) says: "Be not rash with your mouth." A rash judgment is made in two ways: in one way, when a person passes judgment on a matter committed to him without due knowledge of the truth, contrary to what is stated in Jb (29:16): "I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know." In another way, when a person presumes to judge about hidden matters, of which God alone has the power to judge, contrary to what is stated in 1 Cor (4:5): "Do not pronounce 92 judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness." 175. But some things are hidden not only in relation to us but of their very nature and so belong solely to God’s knowledge: first, the thoughts of the heart: "Man’s heart is deceitful and unsearchable. Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the mind and try the heart" (Jer 17:9); secondly, the contingent future: "Tell us what is to come hereafter that we may know you are gods" (Is 41:23). Hence, as Augustine says: "There are two cases in which we must beware of rash judgment: when it is not certain in what spirit something was done, or when it is not certain how a person will turn out, who now appears to be good or to be wicked." The first judgment is not a cause for condemnation, but the second and third are. 176. Then when he says for you, the judge, he rejects the other excuse, namely, innocence. As if to say: The reason why you, the judge of others, condemn yourself is that you are doing the very same things for which you condemn them; consequently, it seems that you are acting against your conscience: "Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?" (Mt 7:3). 177. However, it should be noted that it is not always true, when someone judges another concerning a sin which he himself commits, that he automatically draws a condemnation upon himself, because he does not always sin mortally by so judging; yet he always reveals his own damnation. For if he is publicly guilty of the sin concerning which he judges another, he seems to be giving scandal by judging, unless perhaps he humbly reproves himself along with the other and laments his sin. 93 But if he is secretly guilty of the same sin, he does not sin by judging another about the same sin, especially when he does so with humility and with an effort to rise again, as Augustine says in The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount: "When necessity compels us to correct someone, let us first examine whether it is a vice, such as we never had: and then let us reflect that we could have bad it or that we once had it and no longer have it: and then our common weakness will prod the memory, so that mercy and not hatred will guide that correction. But if we discover that we are presently guilty of the same vice, we should not scold but lament together and invite the other to join you in grieving." 178. Then when he says For we know (v. 2), he discloses and commends God’s judgment. And concerning this he does three things. First, he declares the truth of God’s judgment; secondly, he rejects a contrary opinion, there [v. 3; n. 180] at Do you suppose; thirdly, he manifests the truth, there [v. 6; n. 189] at Who will render. 179. First, therefore, he says: The reason I say that you condemn yourself, when you do the same things that you judge, is that we know, i.e., we hold it as certain, that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things i.e. God’s judgment threatens them: "The avenger of sin is the sword, that you may know there is a judgment" (Jb 19:29); "God will bring every deed into judgment" (Ec 12:14). We also know that this judgment will be based on the truth: "He will judge the earth with righteousness" (Ps 96:13). But man’s judgment, even though it be formed justly, is not always based on the truth of the affair, but on the words of witnesses, which sometimes clash with the truth. But this cannot happen in the divine judgment, because, as is said in Jer (21:23): "I am 94 the judge and witness." Nor is He deceived by false allegations: "I will not spare him, nor his mighty words, and framed to make supplication" (Jb 41:12). 180. Then when he says Do you suppose (v. 3) he rejects a contrary opinion. First, he states it; secondly, the cause of it, there [v. 4a; n. 182] at Or do you despise; thirdly, he disproves it, there [v. 4b; n. 183] at Do you not know. 181. First, therefore, he says: I have said that God’s judgment is in accordance with the truth, against those who do such things. But do you not, O man, whoever you are, who judges those who do such things and yet do them yourself, do you not fear a higher judgment? Do you suppose that you will escape the judgment of God? As if to say: If you suppose this, you are wrong: "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from your presence? (Ps 139:7); "All way of escape will be lost to them" (Jb 11:20). 182. Then when he says, Or do you presume, he shows the cause of this false supposition. For since man is not punished at once by God for sin, he supposes that he will not be punished, which is contrary to Si (4:5): "Do not say, ‘I sinned, and what happened to me? For the Lord is slow to anger"; "because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil" (Ec 8:11) Yet the fact that the sinner does evil a hundred times and is patiently endured should not lead him to presume on God, but to conclude that it is good to fear Him. Therefore, he says here, do you presume upon: "When wickedness comes, contempt comes also" (Pr 18:3); the riches, i.e., the abundance: "God who is rich in mercy" (Eph 2:3); of his kindness, through which He diffuses His blessings on us: Thou openest thy 95 hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing" (Psl45:l6). For according to Denis the good involves the notion of diffusing itself: "The Lord is good to those who wait on him." (Lam 3:25); and longsuffering, through which Be endures for a long time those who sin from weakness and continue in their sin for a long time: "And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation" (2 Pt 3:15); and patience, through which He endures those who sin grievously and from malice: "God is a righteous and patient judge. Is he indignant every day?" (Ps 7:11). 183. Then when he says Do you not know (v.4b) he disproves the aforementioned cause, namely the cause of contempt of the divine patience. First, he discloses the purpose of God’s patience; secondly, the danger of contempt, there [v. 5; n. 186] at But by your hardness. 184. First, therefore, he says it is hard to understand your scorn; do you not know that God’s kindness in postponing punishment is meant to lead you to repentance? "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Pt 3:9); "The Lord waits to be gracious to you" (Is 30:l8). 185. As is said in the gloss [of Lombard], the Apostle seems to touch upon three groups of sinners: those who promise themselves impunity; those who scorn God’s goodness; and the ignorant. Hence, the Gloss says: "You sin, O man, as long as you promise yourself that you will escape punishment; you sin more gravely, because you scorn; you sin most gravely, because you are ignorant. 96 But this seems to be false, for ignorance makes a sin less serious, rather than more serious. The answer, as is held by some, is that it is more serious, i.e., more dangerous for some, because those who are ignorant of sin do not seek a remedy. Or it is most serious, if it is the form of ignorance that pertains to unbelief, which is the gravest sin: "If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized" (1 Cor 14:38). Or it is most serious in ingratitude, as Augustine says: "One who does not recognize a blessing is more ungrateful than one who belittles, i.e., scorns it." 186. Then when he says But by your hardness (v. 5) he shows the danger of contempt, because it is not softened by the blessings of God’s goodness: "A hard heart will be afflicted at the end" (Si 4:26); and impenitent heart, which is not moved to repent by God’s forbearance and patience: "No man repents of his wickedness" (Is 8:6), you are storing up wrath for yourself, i.e., you are multiplying the debt of punishment: "You have laid up a treasure of wrath for the last days" (Jas 5:3). Hence there follows on the day of wrath, i.e., on the day of judgment: "A day of wrath is that day" (Zeph 1:15), namely, because God does not now inflict the punishment He will inflict then, as is stated in Ps 75 (v.2): "At the set time I will judge with equity"; when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed, because the justice of God’s judgment will be revealed then, whereas now it is not believed or does not seem just: "Soon my salvation will come and my justice revealed" (Is 56:1). 187. Because the gloss [of Lombard, col. 1340] says that by hardness and impenitent heart is meant a sin against the Holy Spirit, which is unforgivable, it is important to see what a sin against the Holy Spirit is and why it is unforgivable. 97 Accordingly, it should be noted that in the opinion of the earlier Fathers of the Church who preceded Augustine, namely, Athanasius, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome and Chrysostom, the sin against the Holy Spirit was the blasphemy whereby the works of the Holy Spirit are attributed to an unclean spirit, as in Matthew (12:31). It is considered unforgivable both in this life and in the future, because the Jews were punished for this sin even in this life by the Romans and in the life to come by devils; or because it has no basis for being excused, unlike the blasphemy they spoke against Christ, inasmuch as He was a son of man: "Behold a glutton and a drunkard" (Mt 11:19). They could have been led to say this on account of the weakness of the flesh, as occurred even in the Old Testament, when the children of Israel complained about the lack of bread and water, as we read in Ex (16:2 ff). This could be considered a human failing and easy to forgive. But later on when they declared before an idol: "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (Ex 32:4), they sinned against the Holy Spirit, for they attributed God’s work to demons. Hence their sin is called unforgivable, when the Lord answers: "Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them" (Ex 32:34). Augustine, on the other hand, calls a sin against the Holy Spirit any word or blasphemy a person speaks against the Holy Spirit, through Whom sins are forgiven, as is stated in Jn (20:22): "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven." Indeed, this sin is committed in the heart, in word and in deed, as long as one continues in sin to the end. Consequently, final impenitence is a sin against the Spirit and of its very nature unforgivable. 98 Later teachers call a sin against the Holy Spirit one that is committed with deliberate malice, which is opposed to the goodness appropriated to the Holy Spirit, just as a sin against the Son of God is one committed from ignorance, which is opposed to the wisdom appropriated to the Son. Similarly, a sin against the Father is one committed through weakness, which is opposed to the power appropriated to the Father. Consequently, a sin against the Father and against the Son is deemed forgivable, because the very fact that it is committed from ignorance or from weakness seems to be a ground for excuse. But one committed from deliberate malice has no ground for excuse; hence, it is deemed unforgivable, because it has nothing in it to plead forgiveness; although God does forgive it sometimes, because He is good, just as He sometimes used His power to cure a naturally incurable disease. 188. In light of the foregoing, six kinds of sin against the Holy Spirit are listed, each excluding something by which sin is forgiven. The first two are taken on the part of God, namely, hope in His mercy, to which is opposed despair, and fear of God’s justice, to which is opposed presumption. Two others are taken on the part of man, namely, contempt for the changeable good, to which is opposed obstinacy, which is here called hardness, through which a person hardens his soul to sin; and abandonment of the state of being turned away from God, to which is opposed an impenitent heart, which never intends to repent and return to God. The last two are taken on the part of God’s gifts, one of which is faith "by faith sins are cleansed," to which is opposed resistance to the acknowledged truth. The other is 99 charity: "Charity covers all offenses" (Pr 10:12), to which is opposed envy of a brother’s grace.
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Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation - 2 Peter 1:20

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