Calvin on Romans 2:13

For the hearers of the law,” etc. This anticipates an objection which the Jews might have adduced. As they had heard that the law was the rule of righteousness, (Deuteronomy 4:1) they gloried in the mere knowledge of it: to obviate this mistake, he declares that the hearing of the law or any knowledge of it is of no such consequence, that any one should on that account lay claim to righteousness, but that works must be produced, according to this saying, “He who will do these shall live in them.” The import then of this verse is the following, — “That if righteousness be sought from the law, the law must be fulfilled; for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law, — That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfill the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law.

John Calvin, | Commentary on Romans.


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  1. Agreed!
    “the external economy of the covenant under the OT…the promise of the land of Canaan and of rest and happiness in it; and under the image of each, of heaven and rest in him; or of eternal life according to the clause, ‘Do this and live.’ On the part of the people, it was a stipulation of obedience to the whole law or righteousness both perfect and personal and justification by it. But this stipulation in the Israelite covenant was only accidental since it was added only in order that man by its weakness might be led to reject his own righteousness and to embrace another’s, latent under the law.” Turretin, Institutes, Vol. 2, p. 227 (Dennison)

  2. Thank you for this quote. Romans 2:13 is the hinge on which so many twist the Scriptures’ teaching on justification. At least we know that they cannot appeal to Calvin on this verse or James 2. Thanks again.

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