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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Preface to the Epistle to the Romans
That St. Paul was the author of this epistle, and that it possesses every evidence of authenticity that any work of the kind can possess, or that even the most fastidious skepticism can require, has been most amply proved by Dr. W. Paley, Archdeacon of Carlisle, in his work entitled "Horae Paulinae; or, the Truth of the Scripture History of St. Paul evinced, by a comparison of the Epistles which bear his name with the Acts of the Apostles, and with one another."
Of this apostle I have spoken at large in the notes on the preceding book, and especially in the observations at the close of the ninth chapter, to which I beg leave to refer the reader. It will be sufficient to state here, that Saul, (afterwards called Paul), was born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, of Jewish parents, who possessed the right of Roman citizens; (see the note on Acts 22:28); that, when young, he was sent to Jerusalem for the purpose of receiving a Jewish education; that he was there put under the tuition of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel, and was incorporated with the sect of the Pharisees, of whose system he imbibed all the pride, self-confidence, and intolerance; and distinguished himself as one of the most inveterate enemies of the Christian cause; but, being converted by a most singular interposition of Divine Providence and grace, he became one of the most zealous promoters and successful defenders of the cause which he had before so inveterately persecuted.
Though this epistle is directed to the Romans, yet we are not to suppose that Romans, in the proper sense of the word, are meant; but rather those who dwelt at Rome, and composed the Christian Church in that city: that there were among these Romans, properly such, that is heathens who had been converted to the Christian faith, there can be no doubt; but the principal part of the Church in that city seems to have been formed from Jews, sojourners at Rome, and from such as were proselytes to the Jewish religion.
When, or by whom, the Gospel was first preached at Rome cannot be ascertained. Those who assert that St. Peter was its founder, can produce no solid reason for the support of their opinion. Had this apostle first preached the Gospel in that city, it is not likely that such an event would have been unnoticed in the Acts of the Apostles, where the labors of St. Peter are particularly detailed with those of St. Paul, which indeed form the chief subject of this book. Nor is it likely that the author of this epistle should have made no reference to this circumstance, had it been true. Those who say that this Church was founded by these two apostles conjointly, have still less reason on their side; for it is evident, from Romans 1:8, etc., that St. Paul had never been at Rome previously to his writing this epistle. It is most likely that no apostle was employed in this important work, and that the Gospel was first preached there by some of those persons who were converted at Jerusalem on the day of pentecost; for we find, from Acts 2:10, that there were at Jerusalem strangers of Rome, Jews, and proselytes; and these, on their return, would naturally declare the wonders they had witnessed, and proclaim that truth by which they themselves had received salvation. Of Rome itself, then the metropolis of the world, a particular account has been given in the note on Acts 28:16 (note); to which the reader is requested to refer.
The occasion of writing this epistle may be easily collected from the epistle itself. It appears that St. Paul had been made acquainted with all the circumstances of the Christians at Rome, by Aquila and Priscilla, (see Romans 16:3), and by other Jews who had been expelled from Rome by the decree of Claudius, (mentioned Acts 18:2); and, finding that they consisted partly of heathens converted to Christianity, and partly of Jews who had, with many remaining prejudices, believed in Jesus as the true Messiah, and that many contentions arose from the claims of the Gentile converts to equal privileges with the Jews, and from the absolute refusal of the Jews to admit these claims unless the Gentile converts became circumcised, he wrote to adjust and settle these differences.
Dr. Paley, with his usual perspicuity, has shown that the principal object of the argumentative part of the epistle is "to place the Gentile convert upon a parity of situation with the Jewish, in respect of his religious condition, and his rank in the Divine favor." The epistle supports this point by a variety of arguments; such as, that no man of either description was justified by the works of the law - or this plain reason, that no man had performed them; that it became therefore necessary to appoint another medium, or condition of justification, in which new medium the Jewish peculiarity was merged and lost; that Abraham's own justification was antecedent to the law, and independent of it; that the Jewish converts were to consider the law as now dead, and themselves as married to another; that what the law in truth could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God had done by sending his Son; that God had rejected the unbelieving Jews, and had substituted in their place a society of believers in Christ, collected indifferently from Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, in an epistle directed to Roman believers, the point to be endeavored after by St. Paul was to reconcile the Jewish converts to the opinion that the Gentiles were admitted by God to a parity of religious situation with themselves, and that without their being obliged to keep the law of Moses. In this epistle, though directed to the Roman Church in general, it is, in truth, a Jew writing to Jews. Accordingly, as often as his argument leads him to say any thing derogatory from the Jewish institution, he constantly follows it by a softening clause. Having, Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29, pronounced "that he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor that circumcision which is outward in the flesh," he adds immediately, "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there in circumcision? Much every way." Having in Romans 3:28, brought his argument to this formal conclusion, "that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law," he presently subjoins, Romans 3:31, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law." In the seventh chapter, when in Romans 7:6 he had advanced the bold assertion, "that now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held;" in the next verse he comes in with this healing question, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid! Nay, I had not known sin but by the law." Having, in the following words, more than insinuated the inefficacy of the Jewish law, Romans 8:3 : "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh;" after a digression indeed, but that sort of a digression which he could never resist, a rapturous contemplation of his Christian hope, and which occupies the latter part of this chapter; we find him in the next, as if sensible that he had said something which would give offense, returning to his Jewish brethren in terms of the warmest affection and respect: "I say the truth in Christ Jesus, I lie not; my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart; for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers; and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came." When, in the 31st and 32nd verses of the ninth chapter, he represented to the Jews the error of even the best of their nation, by telling them that "Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, had not attained to the law of righteousness, because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, for they stumbled at that stumbling-stone;" he takes care to annex to this declaration these conciliating expressions: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved; for I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." Lastly, having, Romans 10:20, Romans 10:21, by the application of a passage in Isaiah, insinuated the most ungrateful of all propositions to a Jewish ear, the rejection of the Jewish nation as God's peculiar people; he hastens, as it were, to qualify the intelligence of their fall by this interesting exposition: "I say then, hath God cast away his people, (i.e. wholly and entirely?) God forbid! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew;" and follows this throughout the whole of the eleventh chapter, in a series of reflections calculated to soothe the Jewish converts, as well as to procure from their Gentile brethren respect to the Jewish institution. Dr. Paley, drawing an argument from this manner of writing, in behalf of the genuineness of this epistle, adds, "Now all this is perfectly natural. In a real St. Paul writing to real converts, it is what anxiety to bring them over to his persuasion would naturally produce; but there is an earnestness and a personality, if I may so call it, in the manner, which a cold forgery, I apprehend, would neither have conceived nor supported." Horae Paulinae, p. 49, etc.
From a proper consideration of the design of the apostle in writing this epistle, and from the nature and circumstances of the persons to whom it was directed, much light may be derived for a proper understanding of the epistle itself. When the reader considers that the Church at Rome was composed of heathens and Jews, that the latter were taught to consider themselves the only people on earth to whom the Divine favor extended; that these alone had a right to all the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom; that the giving them the law and the prophets, which had not been given to any other people, was the fullest proof that these privileges did not extend to the nations of the earth; and that, though it was possible for the Gentiles to be saved, yet it must be in consequence of their becoming circumcised, and taking on them the yoke of the law: - when, on the other hand, the reader considers the Roman Gentiles, who formed the other part of the Church at Rome, as educated in the most perfect contempt of Judaism and of the Jews, who were deemed to be haters of all mankind, and degraded with the silliest superstitions, and now evidently rejected and abandoned by that God in whom they professed to trust; it is no wonder if, from these causes, many contentions and scandals arose, especially at a time when the spirit of Christianity was but little understood, and among a people, too, who do not appear to have had any apostolic authority established among them to compose feuds and settle religious differences.
That the apostle had these things particularly in his eye is evident from the epistle itself. His first object is to confound the pride of the Jews and the Gentiles; and this he does by showing the former that they had broken their own law, and, consequently, forfeited all the privileges which the obedient had a right to expect. He shows the latter that, however they might boast of eminent men, who had been an honor to their country, nevertheless, the Gentiles, as a people, were degraded by the basest of crimes, and the lowest idolatry; that, in a word, the Gentiles had as little cause to boast in their philosophers as the Jews had to boast in the faith and piety of their ancestors; "for all had sinned and come short of the glory of God." This subject is particularly handled in the five first chapters, and often referred to in other places.
Concerning the time in which this epistle was written, there is not much difference of opinion: it is most likely that it was written about a.d. 58, when Paul was at Corinth: see Romans 16:23, conferred with 1 Corinthians 1:14; and Romans 16:1, conferred with 2 Timothy 4:20. It appears, from Romans 16:22, that Paul did not write this epistle with his own hand, but used a person called Tertius as his amanuensis; and that it was sent by the hands of Phoebe, a deaconess, (δια φοιβης της διακυνου), of the Church of Cenchrea, which was the eastern port on the Isthmus of Corinth.
From internal evidence Dr. Paley has demonstrated the authenticity of this epistle; and its existence in the ancient Antehieronymian versions and the Syriac, as well as its being mentioned by the Apostolic Fathers, Barnabas, chap. xii. 13; Clemens Romanus, Ep. i. c. i. 30, 32, 35, 46; Ignatius, Epist. ad Ephesians 20, ad Smyrn. 1, ad Trall. 8; and Polycarp, 3 and 6, and by all succeeding writers, puts it beyond all dispute.
Of the fourteen epistles attributed to St. Paul, (thirteen only of which bear his name), this has been reckoned the first in importance, though certainly not in order of time; for there is every reason to believe that both the epistles to the Thessalonians, that to the Galatians, those to the Corinthians, the first to Timothy, and that to Titus, were all written before the epistle to the Romans. See the dates of the books of the New Testament at the end of the introduction to the Gospels, etc..
In the arrangement of the epistles nothing seems to have been consulted besides the length of the epistle, the character of the writer, and the importance of the place to which it was sent. Rome, being the mistress of the world, the epistle to that city was placed first. Those to the Corinthians, because of the great importance of their city, next. Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica, follow in graduated order. Timothy, Titus, and Philemon succeed in the same way: and the epistle to the Hebrews, because the author of it was long in dispute, was placed at the end of the epistles of Paul, as being probably written by him. James, as Bp. of Jerusalem, precedes Peter, Peter precedes John, as the supposed chief of the apostles; and John the beloved disciple, Jude. The book of the Revelation, as being long disputed in the Christian Church, was thrown to the conclusion of the New Testament Scriptures. The surats or chapters of the Koran were disposed in the same sort of order; the longest being put first, and all the short ones thrown to the end, without any regard to the times in which it was pretended they were revealed.
There have been some doubts concerning the language in which this epistle was written. John Adrian Bolten endeavored to prove that St. Paul wrote it in Syriac, and that it was translated into Greek by Tertius: but this supposition has been amply refuted by Griesbach. Others think that it must have been written originally in Latin, the language of the people to whom it was addressed; "for although the Greek tongue was well known in Rome, yet it was the language of the great and the learned; and it is more natural to suppose that the apostle would write in the language of the common people, as those were most likely to be his chief readers, than that of the great and the learned." This argument is more specious than solid. -
1. It is certain that at this time the Greek language was very generally cultivated in Rome, as it was in most parts of the Roman empire. Cicer., pro Arch. 10, says Graeca leguntur in omnibus fere gentibus: Latina, suis finibus, exiguis sane continentur. "The Greek writings are read in almost all nations: those of the Latin within their own narrow limits." Tacitus, Orator. 29, observes, Nunc natus infans delegatur Graeculae alicui ancillae. "Now the new-born child is put under the care of some Greek maid;" and this undoubtedly for the purpose of its learning to speak the Greek tongue. And Juvenal, Sat. vi. ver. 184, ridicules this affectation of his countrymen, which in his time appears to have been carried to a most extravagant excess.
Nam quid rancidius, quam quod se non putat ulla
Formosam, nisi quae de Tusca Graecula facta est?
De Sulmonensi mera Cecropis? Omnia Graece,
Cum sit turpe magis nostris nescire Latine.
Hoc sermone pavent, hoc Iram, Gaudia, Curas,
Hoc cuncta effundunt animi secreta. Quid ultrae
"For what so nauseous and affected too,
As those that think they due perfection want
Who have not learned to lisp the Grecian cant?
In Greece their whole accomplishments they seek:
Their fashion, breeding, language must be Greek,
But raw in all that does to Rome belong,
They scorn to cultivate their mother-tongue,
In Greek they flatter, all their fears they speak,
Tell all their secrets, nay they scold in Greek."
From these testimonies it is evident that the Greek was a common language in Rome in the days of the apostle; and that in writing in this language, which he probably understood better than he did Latin, he consulted the taste and propensity of the Romans, as well as the probability of his epistle being more extensively read in consequence of its being written in Greek.
2. But were these arguments wanting, there are others of great weight that evince the propriety of choosing this language in preference to any other. The sacred writings of the Old Testament were, at that time, confined to two languages, the Hebrew and the Greek. The former was known only within the confines of Palestine; the latter over the whole Roman empire: and the Latin tongue appears to have been as much confined to Italy as the Hebrew was to Judea. The epistle, therefore, being designed by the Spirit of God to be of general use to the Christian Churches, not only in Italy, but through Greece and all Asia Minor, where the Greek language was spoken and understood, it was requisite that the instructions to be conveyed by it should be put in a language the most generally known; and a language too which was then in high and in daily increasing credit.
3. As the Jews were the principal objects of the epistle, and they must be convinced of the truth of Christianity from the evidence of their own Scriptures; and as the Greek version of the Septuagint was then their universal text-book, in all their dispersions, it was absolutely requisite that the epistle should be written in a tongue with which they were best acquainted, and in which their acknowledged Scriptures were contained. These arguments seem conclusive for a Greek and not a Latin original of this epistle.
From the manner in which this epistle has been interpreted and applied, various most discordant and conflicting opinions have originated. Many commentators, forgetting the scope and design of it, have applied that to men in general which most obviously belongs to the Jews, as distinguished from the Gentiles, and to them only. From this one mistake the principal controversies that have agitated and divided the Church of Christ concerning the doctrines of unconditional reprobation and election have arisen. Men, eminent for their talents, learning, and piety, have interpreted and applied the whole on this mistaken ground. They have been opposed by others, not at all their inferiors either in religion or learning, who, not attending properly to the scope of the apostle, have rather argued from the perfections of the Divine nature, and the general concurrent sense of Scripture, and thus proved that such doctrines cannot comport with those perfections, nor with the analogy of faith; and that the apostle is to be interpreted according to these, and not according to the apparent grammatical import of the phraseology which he employs. On both sides the disputes have run high; the cause of truth has gained little, and Christian charity and candour have been nearly lost. Dispassionate men, on seeing this, have been obliged to exclaim: -
- tantaene animis coelestibus irae!
Can such fierce zeal in heavenly bosoms dwell!
To compose these differences, and do justice to the apostle, and set an important portion of the word of God in its true and genuine light, Dr. John Taylor of Norwich, a divine who yielded to few in command of temper, benevolent feeling, and deep acquaintance with the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, undertook the elucidation of this much-controverted epistle. The result of his labors was a paraphrase and notes on the whole book, to which is prefixed "A Key to the Apostolic Writings; or, an essay to explain the Gospel scheme, and the principal words and phrases the apostles have used in describing it." 4to. 1769, fourth edition. This Key, in the main, is a most invaluable work, and has done great justice to the subject. Christians, whether advocates for general or particular redemption, might have derived great service from this work, in explaining the Epistle to the Romans; but the author's creed, who was an Arian, (for he certainly cannot be ranked with modern Unitarians), has prevented many from consulting his book.
To bring the subject of this epistle before the reader, into the fairest and most luminous point of view in my power, I think it right to make a large extract from this Key, steering as clear as possible of those points in which my own creed is certainly at variance with that of my author; especially in the articles of Original Sin, the Atonement, and Deity of Christ; but as these points are seldom directly touched in this introductory key, the reader need be under no apprehension that he shall meet with any thing in hostility to the orthodoxy of his own creed.
St. Paul shows the Romans his Divine call to the apostleship, and for what end he was thus called, Romans 1:1-6. His salutation to the Church at Rome, and his commendation of their faith, Romans 1:7, Romans 1:8. His earnest desire to see them, that he might impart to them some spiritual gifts, Romans 1:9-15. His description of the Gospel of Christ, Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17. The crimes and profligacy of the Gentile world, which called aloud for the judgments of God, Romans 1:18-32.
Different interpreters have divided this epistle into certain parts or divisions, by which they suppose its subject and matter may be the better understood. Some of these divisions have been mentioned in the preceding preface.
The epistle contains three grand divisions.
I. The Preface, Romans 1:1-17.
II. The Tractation, or setting forth of the main subject, including two sections:
1. Dogmatic, or what relates to doctrine.
2. Paraenetic, or what relates to the necessity and importance of the virtues and duties of the Christian life.
The dogmatic part is included in the first eleven chapters, the grand object of which is to show that eternal salvation cannot be procured by any observance of the Jewish law, and can be hoped for only on the Christian scheme; for by the works of the law no man can be justified; but what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God has accomplished by sending his Son into the world, who, becoming an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. The paraenetic part commences with Romans 12:1 : I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, etc.; and extends to Romans 15:14.
III. The peroration or epilogue, which contains the author's apology for writing; his commendation of his apostolical office; his promise to visit them; his request of an interest in their prayers; his commendations of certain persons, and his salutations to others. These points are contained in the succeeding parts of the epistle, from Romans 15:14 to Romans 16:24. The 25th, 26th, and 27th verses (Romans 16:25-27) of this chapter evidently belong to another part of the epistle, and should come in, as they do in a vast majority of the best MSS., after Romans 14:23.
For every thing necessary to a general knowledge of the epistle itself, see the preceding preface.
The inscriptions to this epistle are various in the different MSS. and versions. The following are the principal: - To the Romans - The Epistle of Paul to the Romans - The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans - The Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Romans. The word αγιος, holy, we have translated saint; and thus, instead of saying the holy Paul, etc., we say Saint Paul, etc.; and this is now brought into general use. The older the MSS. are, the more simple the appellatives given to apostles and apostolic men.
1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ - The word δουλος, which we translate servant, properly means a slave, one who is the entire property of his master; and is used here by the apostle with great propriety. He felt he was not his own, and that his life and powers belonged to his heavenly owner, and that he had no right to dispose of or employ them but in the strictest subserviency to the will of his Lord. In this sense, and in this spirit, he is the willing slave of Jesus Christ; and this is, perhaps, the highest character which any soul of man can attain on this side eternity. "I am wholly the Lord's; and wholly devoted in the spirit of sacrificial obedience, to the constant, complete, and energetic performance of the Divine will." A friend of God is high; a son of God is higher; but the servant, or, in the above sense, the slave of God, is higher than all; - in a word, he is a person who feels he has no property in himself, and that God is all and in all.
Called to be an apostle - The word αποστολος, apostle, from αποστελλειν, to send, signifies simply a messenger or envoy; one sent on a confidential errand: but here it means an extraordinary messenger; one sent by God himself to deliver the most important message on behalf of his Maker; - in a word, one sent by the Divine authority to preach the Gospel to the nations. The word κλητος, called, signifies here the same as constituted, and should be joined with αποστολος, as it is in the Greek, and translated thus: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, constituted an apostle, etc. This sense the word called has in many places of the sacred writings; e. g. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called, κληθωμεν, Constituted, or made the sons of God. As it is likely that no apostle had been employed in founding the Church of Rome, and there was need of much authority to settle the matters that were there in dispute, it was necessary he should show them that he derived his authority from God, and was immediately delegated by him to preach and write as he was now doing.
Separated unto the Gospel - Set apart and appointed to this work, and to this only; as the Israelites were separate from all the people of the earth, to be the servants of God: see Leviticus 20:26. St. Paul may here refer to his former state as a Pharisee, which literally signifies a separatist, or one separated. Before he was separated unto the service of his own sect; now he is separated unto the Gospel of God. On the word Gospel, and its meaning, see the preface to the notes on St. Matthew; and for the meaning of the word Pharisee, see the same Gospel, Matthew 3:7 (note).
2(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
Which he had promised afore - Both in the law and in the prophets God showed his purpose to introduce into the world a more perfect and glorious state of things; which state was to take place by and under the influence of the Messiah, who should bring life and immortality to light by his Gospel.
3Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
Concerning his Son - That is, the Gospel relates every thing concerning the conception, birth, preaching, miracles, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed-royal, being, as far as his humanity was considered, the son of David, and then the only rightful heir to the Israelitish throne.
4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
And declared to be the Son of God - See the note on Acts 13:33, where this subject is considered at large. The word ορισθεντος, which we render declared, comes from οριζω, to bound, define, determine, or limit, and hence our word horizon, the line that determines the farthest visible part of the earth, in reference to the heavens. In this place the word signifies such a manifest and complete exhibition of the subject as to render it indubitable. The resurrection of Christ from the dead was such a manifest proof of our Lord's innocence, the truth of his doctrine, and the fulfillment of all that the prophets had spoken, as to leave no doubt on any considerate and candid mind.
With power - εν δυναμει, With a miraculous display of Divine energy; for, how could his body be raised again, but by the miraculous energy of God? Some apply the word here to the proof of Christ's sonship; as if it were said that he was most manifestly declared to be the Son of God, with such powerful evidence and argument as to render the truth irresistible.
According to the spirit of holiness - There are many differences of sentiment relative to the meaning of this phrase in this place; some supposing that the spirit of holiness implies the Divine nature of Jesus Christ; others, his immaculate sanctity, etc. To me it seems that the apostle simply means that the person called Jesus, lately crucified at Jerusalem, and in whose name salvation was preached to the world, was the Son of God, the very Messiah promised before in the holy Scriptures; and that he was this Messiah was amply demonstrated.
1st, By his resurrection from the dead, the irrefragable proof of his purity, innocence, and the Divine approbation; for, had he been a malefactor, as the Jews pretended, the miraculous power of God would not have been exerted in raising his body from the dead.
2nd, He was proved to be the Son of God, the promised Messiah, by the Holy Spirit, (called here the spirit of holiness), which he sent down upon his apostles, and not on them only, but on all that believed on his name; by whose influence multitudes were convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and multitudes sanctified unto God; and it was by the peculiar unction of this spirit of holiness, that the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Acts 4:33.
Thus, then, Christ was proved to be the true Messiah, the son of David according to the flesh, having the sole right to the throne of Israel; and God recognized this character, and this right, by his resurrection from the dead, and sending forth the various gifts and graces of the Spirit of holiness in his name.
5By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
Grace and apostleship - The peculiar influence and the essential qualifications which such an office requires. Without the Grace, favor, and peculiar help of God, he could not have been an apostle: he had an extraordinary conversion, and an extraordinary call to preach the Gospel. Probably χαριν και αποστολην, grace and apostleship, mean the same as χαριν της αποστολης, the apostolical office; for so the word χαρις means in Romans 12:3; Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:8. See the various acceptations of the word grace, Romans 1:7.
For obedience to the faith - That by this office, which I have received from God, and the power by which it is accompanied, I might proclaim the faith, the Gospel of Jesus; and show all nations the necessity of believing in it, in order to their salvation. Here is:
1. The Gospel of the Son of God.
2. An apostle divinely commissioned and empowered to preach it.
3. The necessity of faith in the name of Jesus, as the only Savior of the world.
4. Of obedience, as the necessary consequence of genuine faith. And,
5. This is to be proclaimed among all nations; that all might have the opportunity of believing and being saved.
6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
Ye are the called - Ye Romans are all invited to believe in Christ Jesus, for the salvation of your souls; and to you, with the rest, my apostolical mission extends. This appears to be the most obvious sense of the word called in this place - to be called by the Gospel is to be invited to believe in Christ Jesus, and become his disciples. The word sometimes means constituted, or made, as in Romans 1:1.
7To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Called to be saints - Invited to become holy persons, by believing the Gospel and receiving the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Or, here, the word may have the meaning of made or constituted, as above; κλητοις αγιοις, to all that be in Rome, Constituted saints, for they had already received the Gospel grace, and were formed into a Christian Church.
Grace to you - χαρις υμιν; May you be partakers of the Divine favor, the source whence every blessing is derived.
I think it necessary, once for all, to give the several acceptations of this word grace which occur in the sacred writings.
1. The word χαριν signifies in general favor or benevolence, but especially that favor which is powerful and active, and loads its objects with benefits. Luke 1:30 : Fear not, Mary, thou hast found Favor, χαριν, with God. Luke 2:40 : And the child grew - and the Grace of God, χαρις θεου, the favor of God was upon him. Luke 1:52 : And Jesus increased in Favor, χαριτι Grace, with God and man. Acts 2:47 : Having Favor, χαριν, Grace, with all the people. Acts 4:33 : And great Grace, χαρις, Favor, was upon them all. The apostles were at that time in universal favor with the multitude. In this sense the word occurs in a great variety of places, both in the Old and New Testaments.
2. Hence it is often used for the blessing which it dispenses; for, if God be favourably disposed towards a person, his beneficent acts, in that person's behalf, will be a necessary consequence of such favor. John 1:14 : Full of Grace and truth; accomplished in all spiritual blessings. John 1:16 : And Grace upon Grace: he who is full of the most excellent blessings, confers them liberally on all believers. Acts 11:23 : When he had seen the Grace of God, i.e. had the fullest evidence that they were richly endowed with heavenly gifts. 1 Corinthians 1:4 : For the Grace of God which is given you - the Divine blessings conferred upon you. 2 Corinthians 9:8 : God is able to make all Grace abound toward you; i.e. to enrich you with every benediction. This is also a very common acceptation of the word; and in this sense the word grace or favor is now generally understood among religious people. The grace of God meaning with them some Divine or spiritual blessing communicated.
3. It is sometimes taken for the whole of the Christian religion, as being the grandest possible display of God's favor to a lost, ruined world: and in this sense it appears to be used, John 1:17 : For the Law was given by Moses; but Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ: where the term Grace is evidently opposed to Law; the latter meaning the Mosaic, the other the Christian, dispensation. Acts 13:43 : Barnabas persuaded them to continue in the Grace of God; i.e. to hold fast their profession of the religion of Christ. Romans 6:14 : Ye are not under the Law, but under Grace - ye are no longer under obligation to fulfill the Mosaic precepts, but are under the Christian dispensation. See also Romans 6:15; and see 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 1:6; Colossians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:1, Titus 2:11 : The Grace of God, that bringeth salvation unto all men, hath appeared. The Jewish religion was restricted in its benefits to a few; but the Christian religion proposes the salvation of all men; and the author of it has become a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Hebrews 12:15 : Looking diligently lest any man fall from the Grace of God - lest any man apostatize from the Christian religion, and the blessings of pardon and holiness which he has received through it. 1 Peter 5:12 : This is the true Grace of God wherein ye stand - the Christian religion which ye have received is the genuine religion of God.
4. It signifies all the blessings and benefits which Christ has purchased, and which he gives to true believers, both in time and eternity. See Romans 5:15, Romans 5:17, where the grace of God is opposed to death; i.e. to all the wretchedness and misery brought into the world by Adam's transgression. 1 Corinthians 16:23 : The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all - May every blessing purchased by Christ's passion and death be the portion of you all. Galatians 5:4 : Ye are fallen from Grace - ye have lost the blessings of the Gospel by submitting to circumcision.
5. It signifies the apostolic and ministerial office, or the authority to propagate the Christian religion, and the unction or influence by which that office is executed; so in the 5th verse of this chapter, (Romans 1:5) as has been already noted: By whom we have received Grace and apostleship, or, the apostolic office. Romans 13:3 : I say, through the Grace given unto me; i.e. I command you, by the authority of my apostolic office, etc. See also Romans 13:6.
6. It signifies a gift, salary, or money collected for the use of the poor. 1 Corinthians 16:3 : Whomsoever ye shall approve - them will I send to bring your Liberality, την χαριν υμων, your Grace; i.e. the collection made for the poor saints: see 1 Corinthians 16:1. 2 Corinthians 8:4 : Praying us - that we would receive the Gift, την χαριν, the Grace, the contribution made in the Churches of Macedonia, for the relief of the poor. In this sense it is used in Ecclus. 17:22: He will keep the Good Deeds of man, χαριν, the same as ελεημοσυνη, alms, in the beginning of the verse; and it signifies a kind or friendly act, in the same author. Ecclus. 29:16: Forget not the Friendship, χαριτας, of thy surety. Graces or χαρις, was a deity among the ancients; and the three Graces, αι τρεις χαριτες, were called Pitho, Aglaia, and Euphrosyne; πειθω, mild persuasion; αγλαια, dignity; ευφροσυνη, liberality and joyfulness; and these were always painted naked, to show that all benefits should be gratuitous, this being essential to the nature of a gift. See Suidas, in χαριτας.
7. It sometimes signifies merely thanks or thanksgiving. See Luke 17:9 : Doth he thank, μη χαριν εχει, that servant? Romans 6:17 : But God be Thanked, χαρις οε τω θεω. 1 Corinthians 10:30 : For if I by Grace, χαριτι, Thanksgiving, as our margin has it, and properly.
8. It signifies remuneration, wages, or reward Luke 6:32-34 : If ye love them that love you - do good to them which do good to you - lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what Thank have ye? ποια υμιν χαρις εστι; what Reward have ye? This appears, from the parallel place, Matthew 5:46, to be most evidently the meaning: τινα μισθον εχετε; what Reward have ye? The word is used in this sense by several Greek writers.
9. It signifies whatever is the means of procuring the favor or kindness of another. 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 2:20 : For this is Thankworthy, τουτο γαρ χαρις παρα τῳ Θεῳ, this is the means of Procuring Favor from God.
10. It signifies joy, pleasure, and gratification, which is the, meaning of cara, and with which it is often confounded in the New Testament. Plm 1:7 : For we have great Joy, χαριν γαρ εχομεν πολλην. Tobit 7:18: The Lord give thee Joy, χαριν, for this thy sorrow. In this sense the word is used by the best Greek writers; and in this sense it appears to be used, 2 Corinthians 1:15.
11. It signifies the performance of an act which is pleasing or grateful to others. Acts 24:27 : Felix, willing to show the Jews a Pleasure, χαριτας καταθεσθαι, to perform an act which he knew would be highly gratifying to them.
12. It signifies whatever has the power or influence to procure favor, etc. Suavity, kindness, benevolence, gentle demeanour. Luke 4:22 : All wondered at the Gracious Words, τοις λογοις της χαριτος, the benevolent, kind, and tender expressions; such as his text, Luke 4:18, would naturally lead him to speak. He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, etc. Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6 : Let your speech be always with Grace; i.e. gracious, kind, benevolent, savouring of the doctrine of Christ: it is thus used by several Greek writers. See Schleusner. As the word χαρις Grace, most frequently signifies some blessing or benefit calculated to promote human happiness, it is generally derived from χαρω, I rejoice, because of the effect produced by the blessing.
And peace - ειρηνη, the same as שלום shalom in Hebrew, generally signifying all kinds of blessing, but especially harmony and unity, and the bond of such unity. The most probable derivation of the word ειρηνη is from ειρω, I bind, and εν, one - because peace unites and binds those who were, by discord, before disunited. In the New Testament it signifies -
1. Peace, public or private, in the general acceptation of the word, as implying reconciliation and friendship; and to the etymology of the word the apostle seems to allude in Ephesians 4:3 : Endeavouring to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. Acts 12:20 : They of Tyre and Sidon desired Peace - they sought reconciliation, with Herod, by means of Blastus, the king's chamberlain.
2. It signifies regularity, good order. 1 Corinthians 14:33 : God is not the God of confusion, but of Peace.
3. It signifies the labor or study of preserving peace and concord; and this is supposed to be its meaning, Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51; and Acts 7:26. Romans 14:17 : For the kingdom of God is righteousness and Peace - the Christian dispensation admits of no contention, but inculcates peace. 1 Corinthians 7:15 : God hath called us to Peace - to labor to preserve quietness and concord. Hebrews 12:14 : Follow Peace - labor to preserve it.
4. It signifies the author or procurer of peace and concord. Ephesians 2:14 : He is our Peace - the author of concord betwixt Jews and Gentiles.
5. It signifies the Gospel and its blessings. Ephesians 2:17 : And came and preached Peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
6. It signifies all kinds of mental and corporeal happiness, and especially the happiness of Christians. Luke 1:79 : To guide our feet into the way of Peace - to show us the way to obtain true happiness. Luke 19:42 : The things which belong unto thy Peace - that by which thou mightest have been made truly happy. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 : The very God of Peace - God, the only source of true felicity. John 16:33 : These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have Peace - that ye might have confidence and happiness in believing on me as your only Savior.
7. It signifies good wishes and affectionate prayers. Matthew 10:13 : And if the house be worthy, let your Peace come upon it. Our Lord commands his disciples, Matthew 10:12, to salute the house into which they entered; and this was done by saying, Peace be unto this house! that is, Let every blessing, spiritual and temporal, be the portion of this family! See Luke 10:6; John 14:27; Acts 15:33 : They were let go in Peace - they had the most fervent and affectionate prayers of the Church.
8. It signifies praise. Luke 19:38 : Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! - May all the heavenly host praise God, and give him the highest honor!
9. It signifies benignity, benevolence, favor. Romans 5:1 : Being justified by faith, we have Peace with God - In consequence of having our sins forgiven, we have a clear sense of the Divine favor. Philippians 4:7 : The Peace of God which passeth all understanding - the inexpressible blessedness of a sense of the Divine favor. See Schleusner's Lexicon.
From God our Father - The apostle wishes them all the blessings which can flow from God, as the fountain of grace, producing in them all the happiness which a heart filled with the peace of God can possess; all of which are to be communicated to them through the Lord Jesus Christ. See the note on Acts 28:31.
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
First, I thank my God - From this to the end of Romans 1:17 belongs to the preface, in which the apostle endeavors to conciliate the good opinion of the Christians at Rome, and to prepare their minds for his reproofs and exhortations.
Your faith is spoken - καταγγελλεται, is celebrated, throughout the whole world - in every place where the Christian religion is professed, through all parts of the Roman dominions; for in this sense we should understand the words, the whole world.
9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
Whom I serve with my spirit - λατπευω Whom I worship with the profoundest religious reverence; for so the original certainly means: I not only employ all the powers of my body in this service, but all those of my soul; being thoroughly convinced of the absolute truth of the religion I preach. Probably St. Paul opposes, in this place, the spiritual worship of the Gospel to the external, or what some call the carnal, worship of the Jews. Mine is not a religion of ceremonies, but one in which the life and power of the eternal Spirit are acknowledged and experienced.
10Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
Making request, etc. - By this we see how earnestly the apostle longed to see Rome. It had long been a subject of continual prayer to God, that he might have a prosperous journey to, or rather meeting with, them, for so we should understand the word ευοδωθησμαι· that he had a prosperous meeting with them we cannot doubt; that he had a disastrous journey to them the 27th of the Acts fully proves.
11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
Some spiritual gift - This probably means some of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, which, being given to them, might tend greatly to establish their faith in the Gospel of Christ; and it is very likely that such gifts were only conferred by means of apostles; and as the apostle had not yet been at Rome, consequently the Roman Christians had not yet received any of these miraculous gifts, and thus they differed widely from all the other Churches which had been raised by the apostle's ministry.
12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
That I may be comforted together with you - He here, with great address, intimates that he longs for this opportunity, as well on his own account as on theirs, and to show them that he arrogates nothing to himself; for he intimates that it will require the conjoint action of their faith as well as his own, to be the means of receiving those blessings from God to which he refers.
13Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
But was let hitherto - The word let, from the Anglo-Saxon to hinder, signifies impediment or hinderance of any kind: but it is likely that the original word, εκωλυθην, I was forbidden, refers to a Divine prohibition: - he would have visited them long before, but God did not see right to permit him.
14I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians - It has been remarked before that all the nations of the earth, themselves excepted, were termed barbarians by the Greeks. See the origin of the word barbarous in the note on Acts 28:2 (note). The apostle considers himself, by his apostolical office and call, under obligation to preach the Gospel to all people, as far as the providence of God might open his way; for this is implied in the Divine commission: - Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature - to the wise and the unwise; to the learned and cultivated as well as to the unlearned and uncultivated. This evidently appears to be the import of the terms.
15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
I am ready to preach - προθυμον; I have a ready mind. I was only prevented by the providence of God from visiting you long ago. His time is best: in the mean time I write, by his direction, to comfort and instruct you.
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ - This text is best illustrated by Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 49:23, quoted by the apostle, Romans 10:11 : For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him, shall not be ashamed; i.e. they shall neither be confounded, nor disappointed of their hope. The Jews, by not believing on Jesus Christ, by not receiving him as the promised Messiah, but trusting in others, have been disappointed, ashamed, and confounded, from that time to the present day. Their expectation is cut off; and, while rejecting Christ, and expecting another Messiah, they have continued under the displeasure of God, and are ashamed of their confidence. On the other hand, those who have believed on Christ have, in and through him, all the blessings of which the prophets spoke; every promise of God being yea and amen through him. Paul, as a Jew, believed on Christ Jesus; and in believing he had life through his name; through him he enjoyed an abundance of grace; so that, being filled with that happiness which an indwelling Christ produces, he could cheerfully say, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. And why? Because he felt it to be the power of God to the salvation of his believing soul. This appears to be the true sense of this passage, and this interpretation acquires additional strength from the consideration that St. Paul is here most evidently addressing himself to the Jews.
It is the power of God unto salvation - δυναμις γαρ θεου εστιν· The almighty power of God accompanies this preaching to the souls of them that believe; and the consequence is, they are saved; and what but the power of God can save a fallen, sinful soul?
To the Jew first - Not only the Jews have the first offer of this Gospel, but they have the greatest need of it; being so deeply fallen, and having sinned against such glorious privileges, they are much more culpable than the Gentiles, who never had the light of a Divine revelation.
And also to the Greek - Though the salvation of God has hitherto been apparently confined to the Jewish people, yet it shall be so no longer, for the Gospel of Christ is sent to the Gentiles as well as the Jews; God having put no difference between them; and Jesus Christ having tasted death for Every man.
17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
For therein - In the Gospel of Christ.
Is the righteousness of God - God's method of saving sinners.
Revealed from faith to faith - Shown to be by faith, and not by the works of any law; for Abraham, the father and founder of the Jewish people, was justified by faith, before even the law was given; and by believing, in reference to the spiritual object held forth in the various ordinances of the law, and now revealed under the Gospel, he and all his believing descendants have been justified. And thus the faith of the old covenant led on to the faith of the new covenant, which shows that salvation has been by faith from the call of Abraham to the present time. And, from the beginning, all that were just or righteous in the earth became such by faith, and by this principle alone they were enabled to persevere; as it is written, The just shall live by faith. That δικαιοσυνη, which we translate righteousness in this verse, signifies God's method of saving mankind by faith in Christ, is fully evident from the use of the term in Romans 9:30 : The Gentiles which followed not after Righteousness - who had no knowledge by revelation, of God's method of justifying and saving sinners, have attained to Righteousness - have had imparted to them God's method of salvation by faith in Christ. Romans 9:31 : But Israel, the Jews, which followed after the law of righteousness - that law, the end or object of which is Christ, and through him justification to all that believe (Romans 10:4), have not attained to the law of righteousness - have not found out the genuine plan of salvation, even in that law which so strongly and generally proclaims justification by faith. And why have they not found it? Romans 9:32 : Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law - they did not discern that even its works or prescribed religious observances were intended to lead to faith in that glorious Mediator of whom they were the types and representatives; but the Jews trusted in the observances themselves, hoping to acquire justification and final salvation by that means. For they stumbled at the stumbling-stone - at the doctrine of Christ crucified as the only sure ground on which the expectation of future salvation can be founded. Therefore, being ignorant of God's righteousness - God's method of saving sinners, and going about to establish their own righteousness - their own method of salvation, by the observance of those rites and ceremonies which should have led them by faith to Christ, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God - they would not submit to be saved in God's way, and therefore rejected, persecuted, and crucified the Lord Jesus; see Romans 10:3. This collation of passages most evidently shows that the word righteousness here means simply God's method of saving sinners, or God's way of salvation, in opposition to the ways and means invented by the fancies or prejudices of men.
There are few words in the sacred writings which are taken in a greater variety of acceptations than the word צדקה tsedakah in Hebrew, and δικαιοσυνη in Greek, both of which we generally translate righteousness. Our English word was originally rightwiseness, from the Anglo-Saxon justice, right, and to know; and thus the righteous man was a person who was allowed to understand the claims of justice and right, and who, knowing them, acted according to their dictates. Such a man is thoroughly wise; he aims at the attainment of the best end by the use of the best means. This is a true definition of wisdom, and the righteous man is he that knows most and acts best. The Hebrew צדק tsadak, in its ideal meaning, contains the notion of a beam or scales in equipoise, what we call even balance; and it is well known that in all the personifications of Justice, both ancient and modern, she is represented as a beautiful female with a bandage on her eyes, and a beam and scales in her hand, so perfectly poised that neither end preponderates.
The Greek word δικαιοσυνη has been derived from διχαζω, to divide; and hence δικη, justice, because it is the property of this virtue to divide to each his due. With other etymologies it is useless to trouble the reader. Both the noun δικαιοσυνη and the verb δικαιοω have a great variety of meaning in the New Testament; but they are all reducible to this original idea, acting according to the requisitions of justice or right. It may not be improper to notice some of the chief of these acceptations in this place.
1. The act of distributing to each man his due is the sense of the word, Acts 17:31 : He will judge the world in Righteousness, i.e. according to the principles of eternal justice and rectitude. See also Revelation 19:2 : In Righteousness doth he judge and make war.
2. It signifies a holy life, as proceeding from piety towards God. Luke 1:75 : Might serve him in holiness and Righteousness all the days of our life.
3. It signifies benignity, liberality, and particularly almsgiving, as justice and righteousness require us, being only stewards of God's bounty, to share it with the necessitous. Matthew 6:1 : Take heed that ye do not your Alms, δικαιοσυνην, your Righteousness, before men. Romans 3:5 : But if our unrighteousness commend the Righteousness, the benignity of God. 2 Corinthians 9:10 : Increase the fruits of your Righteousness, i.e. of your liberality.
4. It signifies God's method of saving sinners; the way which is agreeable to his righteousness and liberality. See the former part of this note, and the scriptures there referred to.
5. It signifies the reward or issue of liberality. 2 Corinthians 9:9 : He hath scattered abroad; he hath given to the poor; his Righteousness - the reward of his bounty, remaineth for ever. See Psalm 112:9.
6. It signifies the whole collection of graces, which constitute the complete Christian character. Matthew 5:6 : Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after Righteousness - they who ardently long for the full salvation of God. Matthew 5:10, Matthew 5:20 : If your Righteousness exceed not the righteousness, etc. Matthew 6:33 : Seek the kingdom of God and his Righteousness.
7. It signifies the result of faith in God and submission to his will, exemplified in a holy and useful life. Hebrews 11:7 : By faith Noah prepared an ark, and became heir of the Righteousness which is by faith - he escaped the deluge and became the instrument of repeopling the world.
8. It signifies an exact observance of religious ordinances and precepts. Philippians 3:6 : Touching the Righteousness which is of the law, blameless - having lived in an exact conformity to all the Mosaic precepts. In this sense it is to be understood, Matthew 3:15 : Thus it becomes us to fulfill all Righteousness - to observe every precept of the law.
9. It signifies the favor or pardoning mercy of God. Romans 4:6 : The blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth Righteousness - without works - the man is happy to whom God has granted the remission of sins, without respect to his observance of the law of Moses.
10. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, δικαιοσυνη, righteousness, is put for δικαιος, righteous: That we might become the righteousness of God - that we might receive such a righteousness or holiness, such a salvation, as is worthy of God's grace to impart, and such as the necessities of mankind require.
A few of the leading acceptations of the verb δικαιοω, which we translate to justify, may be here properly subjoined, as this verb is so repeatedly used in this epistle.
1. It signifies so declare or pronounce one just or righteous; or, in other words, to declare him to be what he really Isaiah 1 Timothy Isaiah 3:16 : He was Justified in the Spirit. - By the almighty power of the Spirit he was proved to be the True Messiah.
2. To esteem a thing properly. Matthew 11:19 : Wisdom is Justified of her children. - Wisdom, propriety of conduct, is properly estimated by wise men.
3. It signifies to approve, praise, and commend. The publicans Justified God, Luke 7:29; praised him for calling them to such a state of salvation. Luke 16:15 : Ye are they which Justify yourselves before men - Ye are self-commended, self-applauded, and self-praised. In this sense it is often used in the Greek apocryphal books. Ecclus. 7:5: Justify not thyself before the Lord - Do not applaud thyself in the presence of thy - Maker. Ecclus.10:29: Who will Justify (praise or applaud) him that sinneth against his own soul. Ecclus 18:2: The Lord only is righteous, δικαιωθησεται, shall be Justified, i.e. praised, because there is none other but he.
4. The verb δικαιοομαι is used to clear from all sin. 1 Corinthians 4:4 : For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby Justified - A man's own consciousness of integrity is not a proof that he is clear from all sin in the sight of God.
5. A judge is said to justify not only when he condemns and punishes, but also when he defends the cause of the innocent. See Eurip. Heraclid. ver. 190. Thucyd. iii. p. 200. Polyb. iii. 31, and Schleusner on δικαιοω. Hence δικαιουσθαι is taken in a forensic sense, and signifies to be found or declared righteous, innocent, etc. Matthew 12:37 : By thy words shalt thou be Justified - thou shalt be declared to be righteous. Romans 3:4 : That thou mightest be Justified in thy saying - that thou mightest be proved to be true in what thou hast said.
6. It signifies to set free, to escape from. Acts 13:39 : And by him all that believe are Justified from all things, from which ye could not be Justified by the law - by faith in Christ a man escapes those evils which, otherwise, the law of Moses would inflict upon him. Romans 6:7 : For he that is dead, δεδικαιωται, is Justified, properly rendered by our translators, is Freed from sin.
7. It signifies also to receive one into favor, to pardon sin. Romans 8:30 : Whom he called, them he also Justified - he received them into favor and pardoned their sins. Luke 18:14 : This man went down to his house Justified - he humbled himself, repented of his iniquity, and God forgave his sin. Romans 3:20 : By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be Justified - no soul can have his sins forgiven through the observance of the Mosaic law. Romans 4:2 : If Abraham were Justified (had his sin pardoned) by works. 1 Corinthians 6:11 : Such were some of you, but ye are Justified - ye are received into the Divine favor, and have your sins forgiven. See James 2:21-25; Romans 3:24, Romans 3:28; Romans 5:1, Romans 5:9; Galatians 2:16, Galatians 2:17; Galatians 3:11, Galatians 3:24; Galatians 5:4; Titus 3:7. In all these texts the word justify is taken in the sense of remission of sins through faith in Christ Jesus; and does not mean making the person just or righteous, but treating him as if he were so, having already forgiven him his sins.
The just shall live by faith - This has been understood two ways:
1. That the just or righteous man cannot live a holy and useful life without exercising continual faith in our Lord Jesus: which is strictly true; for He only who has brought him into that state of salvation can preserve him in it; and he stands by faith.
2. It is contended by some able critics that the words of the original text should be pointed thus: 'ο δε δικαιος εκ πιστεως, ζησεται. The just by faith, shall live; that is, he alone that is justified by faith shall be saved: which is also true; as it is impossible to get salvation in any other way. This last meaning is probably the true one, as the original text in Habakkuk 2:4, speaks of those who believed the declarations of God when the Chaldeans besieged Jerusalem, and, having acted conformably to them, escaped with their lives.
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
For the wrath of God is revealed - The apostle has now finished his preface, and comes to the grand subject of the epistle; namely, to show the absolute need of the Gospel of Christ, because of the universal corruption of mankind; which was so great as to incense the justice of God, and call aloud for the punishment of the world
1. He shows that all the heathen nations were utterly corrupt, and deserved this threatened punishment. And this is the subject of the first chapter, from Romans 1:18 to the end (Romans 1:18-32).
2. He shows that the Jews, notwithstanding the greatness of their privileges, were no better than the Gentiles; and therefore the wrath of God was revealed against them also. This subject he treats in Romans 2:1-29 and Romans 3:1-19.
3. He returns, as it were, on both, Romans 3:20-31, and proves that, as the Jews and Gentiles were equally corrupt, they could not be saved by the deeds of any law; that they stood equally in need of that salvation which God had provided; that both were equally entitled to that salvation, for God was the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews.
By οργη θεου, the wrath of God, we are not to understand any uneasy passion in the Divine Being; but the displeasure of his righteousness, which is expressed by the punishments inflicted on the ungodly, those who retain not God in their knowledge; and the unrighteous, those whose lives are profligate.
As, in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed for the salvation of the ungodly, so is the wrath of God revealed against the workers of iniquity. Those who refuse to be saved in the way revealed by his mercy must be consumed in the way revealed by his justice.
Ungodliness - ασεβειαν, from α , negative, and σεβω or σεβομαι, I worship, probably intended here to express atheism, polytheism, and idolatry of every kind.
Unrighteousness - αδικιαν from α, negative, and δικη, justice; every thing contrary to strict morality; all viciousness and profligacy of conduct.
Who hold the truth in unrighteousness - In what sense could it be said that the heathen held the truth in unrighteousness, when they really had not that truth? Some think this refers to the conduct of their best philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, Seneca, etc., who knew much more of the Divine nature than they thought safe or prudent to discover; and who acted in many things contrary to the light which they enjoyed. Others think this to be spoken of the Gentiles in general, who either did know, or might have known, much of God from the works of creation, as the apostle intimates in the following verses. But Rosenmuller and some others contend that the word κατεχειν here does not signify to hold, but to hinder; and that the place should be translated, who through maliciousness hinder the truth; i.e. prevent it from taking hold of their hearts, and from governing their conduct. This is certainly a very usual acceptation of the verb κατεχειν, which Hesychius interprets κρατειν, κωλυειν, συνεχειν, to retain, hinder, etc.; these men hindering, by their vicious conduct, the truth of God from being propagated in the earth.
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
That which may be known of God - Dr. Taylor paraphrases this and the following verse thus: "Although the Gentiles had no written revelation, yet what may be known of God is every where manifest among them, God having made a clear discovery of himself to them. For his being and perfections, invisible to our bodily eyes, have been, ever since the creation of the world, evidently to be seen, if attentively considered, in the visible beauty, order, and operations observable in the constitution and parts of the universe; especially his eternal power and universal dominion and providence: so that they cannot plead ignorance in excuse of their idolatry and wickedness."
20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
The invisible things of him - His invisible perfections are manifested by his visible works, and may be apprehended by what he has made; their immensity showing his omnipotence, their vast variety and contrivance, his omniscience; and their adaptation to the most beneficent purposes, his infinite goodness and philanthropy.
His eternal power - αιδιος αυτου δυναμις, That all-powerful energy that ever was, and ever will exist; so that, ever since there was a creation to be surveyed, there have been intelligent beings to make that survey.
And Godhead - θειοτης, His acting as God in the government and support of the universe. His works prove his being; the government and support of these works prove it equally. Creation and providence form a twofold demonstration of God,
1st. in the perfections of his nature; and,
2ndly. in the exercise of those perfections.
21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Because that when they knew God - When they thus acquired a general knowledge of the unity and perfections of the Divine nature, they glorified him not as God - they did not proclaim him to the people, but shut up his glory (as Bishop Warburton expresses it) in their mysteries, and gave the people, in exchange for an incorruptible God, an image made like to corruptible man. Wherefore God, in punishment for their sins, thus turning his truth into a lie, suffered even their mysteries, which they had erected for a school of virtue, to degenerate into an odious sink of vice and immorality; giving them up unto all uncleanness and vile affections.
They glorified him not - They did not give him that worship which his perfections required.
Neither were thankful - They manifested no gratitude for the blessings they received from his providence, but became vain in their imaginations, διαλογισμοις, in their reasonings. This certainly refers to the foolish manner in which even the wisest of their philosophers discoursed about the Divine nature, not excepting Socrates, Plato, or Seneca. Who can read their works without being struck with the vanity of their reasonings, as well as with the stupidity of their nonsense, when speaking about God? I might crowd my page with proofs of this; but it is not necessary to those who are acquainted with their writings, and to others it would not be useful. In short, their foolish, darkened minds sought God no where but in the place in which he is never to be found; viz. the vile, corrupted, and corrupting passions of their own hearts. As they did not discover him there, they scarcely sought him any where else.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Professing themselves to be wise - This is most strikingly true of all the ancient philosophers, whether Greeks or Romans, as their works, which remain, sufficiently testify. The word φασκοντες signifies not merely the professing but the assumption of the philosophic character. In this sense the word φασκειν is used by the best Greek writers. See Kypke. A dispassionate examination of the doctrine and lives of the most famed philosophers of antiquity, of every nation, will show that they were darkened in their mind and irregular in their conduct. It was from the Christian religion alone that true philosophy and genuine philosophers sprang.
23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
They changed the glory, etc. - The finest representation of their deities was in the human figure; and on such representative figures the sculptors spent all their skill; hence the Hercules of Farnese, the Venus of Medicis, and the Apollo of Belvidere. And when they had formed their gods according to the human shape, they endowed them with human passions; and as they clothed them with attributes of extraordinary strength, beauty, wisdom, etc., not having the true principles of morality, they represented them as slaves to the most disorderly and disgraceful passions; excelling in irregularities the most profligate of men, as possessing unlimited powers of sensual gratification.
And to birds - As the eagle of Jupiter among the Romans, and the ibis and hawk among the Egyptians; which were all sacred animals.
Four-footed beasts - As the apis or white ox among the Egyptians; from which the idolatrous Israelites took their golden calf. The goat, the monkey, and the dog, were also sacred animals among the same people.
Creeping things - Such as the crocodile and scarabeus, or beetle, among the Egyptians.
24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
God - gave them up, etc. - They had filled up the measure of their iniquities, and God, by permitting them to plunge into all manner of irregularities, thus, by one species of sin, inflicted punishment on another.
Dishonour their own bodies - Probably alluding here to what is more openly expressed, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:27.
Between themselves - εν εαυτοις, Of themselves, of their own free accord; none inciting, none impelling.
25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Changed the truth of God into a lie - In the place of the true worship of God, they established idolatry. In various places of Scripture idols are termed lies. Isaiah 44:20; Jeremiah 10:14; Jeremiah 13:25. The true God was known among the primitive inhabitants of the earth, those who first became idolaters literally changed the truth of God into a lie: they did know the true God, but they put idols in his place.
26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
For this cause God gave them up, etc. - Their system of idolatry necessarily produced all kinds of impurity. How could it be otherwise, when the highest objects of their worship were adulterers, fornicators, and prostitutes of the most infamous kind, such as Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Venus, etc.? Of the abominable evils with which the apostle charges the Gentiles in this and the following verse I could produce a multitude of proofs from their own writings; but it is needless to make the subject plainer than the apostle has left it.
27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Receiving in themselves that recompense, etc. - Both the women and men, by their unnatural prostitutions, enervated their bodies, so that barrenness prevailed, and those disorders which are necessarily attendant on prostitution and sodomitical practices.
28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
They did not like to retain God - It would, perhaps, be more literal to translate ουκ εδοκιμασαν, They Did Not Search to retain God in their knowledge. They did not examine the evidences before them (Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20) of his being and attributes; therefore God gave them over to a Reprobate mind, εις αδοκιμον νουν, to an Unsearching or undiscerning mind; for it is the same word in both places. They did not reflect on the proofs they had of the Divine nature, and God abandoned them to the operations of a mind incapable of reflection. How men of such powers and learning, as many of the Greek and Roman philosophers and poets really were, could reason so inconsecutively concerning things moral and Divine is truly astonishing. But here we see the hand of a just and avenging God; they abused their powers, and God deprived them of the right use of these powers.
29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Being filled with all unrighteousness - αδικια, every vice contrary to justice and righteousness.
Fornication - Πορνειᾳ, all commerce between the sexes out of the bounds of lawful marriage. Some of the best MSS. omit this reading; and others have ακαθαρσιᾳ, uncleanness.
Wickedness - Πονηριᾳ, malignity, that which is oppressive to its possessor and to its object; from πονος, labor, toil, etc.
Covetousness - Πλεονεξιᾳ, from πλειον, more, and ἑξω, I will have; the intense love or lust of gain; the determination to be rich; the principle of a dissatisfied and discontented soul.
Maliciousness - Κακιᾳ, malice, ill-will; what is radically and essentially vicious.
Full of envy - Φθονου, from φθινω, to wither, decay, consume, pine away, etc.; "pain felt and malignity conceived at the sight of excellence or happiness in another." A fine personification of this vice is found in Ovid Metam. lib. ii. ver. 768-781, which I shall here insert, with Mr. Addison's elegant and nervous translation.
- Videt intus edentem
Vipereas carnes, vitiorum alimenta suorum
Invidiam: visaque oculos avertit. At illa
Surgit humo pigra: semesarumque relinquit
Corpora serpentum, passuque incedit inerti.
Utgue deam vidit formaque armisque decoram,
Ingemuit: vultumque ima ad suspiria duxit.
Pallor in Ore sedet: macies in Corpore toto:
Nusquam recta acies: livent rubigine dentes:
Pectora felle virent: lingua est suffusa veneno.
Risus abest, nisi quem visi movere dolores:
Nec fruitur somno, vigilacibus excita curis:
Sed videt ingratos, intabescitque videndo
Successus hominum; carpitgue et carpitur una;
Suppliciumque suum est.
- A poisonous morsel in her teeth she chewed,
And gorged the flesh of vipers for her food.
Minerva loathing, turned away her eye.
The hideous monster, rising heavily,
Came stalking forward with a sullen pace,
And left her mangled offals on the place.
Soon as she saw the goddess gay and bright,
She fetched a groan at such a cheerful sight.
Livid and meagre were her looks, her eye
In foul distorted glances turned awry;
A hoard of gall her inward parts possessed,
And spread a greenness o'er her canker'd breast;
Her teeth were brown with rust, and from her tongue
In dangling drops the stringy poison hung.
She never smiles but when the wretched weep;
Nor lulls her malice with a moment's sleep:
Restless in spite while watchful to destroy,
She pines and sickens at another's joy;
Foe to herself, distressing and distressed,
She bears her own tormentor in her breast.
Murder - Φονου, taking away the life of another by any means; mortal hatred; for he that hates his brother in his heart is a murderer.
Debate - Εριδος, contention, discord, etc. Of this vile passion the Greeks made a goddess.
Deceit - Δολου, lying, falsity, prevarication, imposition, etc.; from δελω, to take with a bait.
Malignity - Κακοηθειας, from κακος, evil, and ηθος, a custom; bad customs, founded in corrupt sentiment, producing evil habits, supported by general usage. It is generally interpreted, a malignity of mind, which leads its possessor to put the worst construction on every action; ascribing to the best deeds the worst motives.
Whisperers - ψιθυριστος, secret detractors; those who, under pretended secrecy, carry about accusations against their neighbors, whether true or false; blasting their reputation by clandestine tittle-tattle. This word should be joined to the succeeding verse.
The whispering is well expressed by the Greek word Ψιθυριστας, psithuristas.
30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Backbiters - Καταλαλους, from κατα, against, and λαλεω, I speak; those who speak against others; false accusers, slanderers.
Haters of God - Θεοστυγεις, atheists, contemners of sacred things, maligners of providence, scorners, etc. All profligate deists are of this class; and it seems to be the finishing part of a diabolic character.
Despiteful - Ὑβριστας, from ὑβριζω, to treat with injurious insolence; stormy, boisterous; abusing both the characters and persons of those over whom they can have any power.
Proud - Ὑπερηφανους, from ὑπερ, above or over, and φαινω, I show or shine. They who are continually exalting themselves and depressing others; magnifying themselves at the expense of their neighbors; and wishing all men to receive their sayings as oracles.
Boasters - Αλαζονας, from λαζομαι, to assume; self-assuming, vain-glorious, and arrogant men.
Inventors of evil things - Εφευρετας κακων. Those who have invented destructive customs, rites, fashions, etc.; such as the different religious ceremonies among the Greeks and Romans - the orgies of Bacchus, the mysteries of Ceres, the lupercalia, feasts of the Bona Dea, etc., etc. Multitudes of which evil things, destructive and abominable ceremonies, are to be found in every part of the heathen worship.
Disobedient to parents - Though filial affection was certainly more recommended and cultivated than many other virtues, yet there are many instances on record of the grossest violation of this great branch of the law of nature.
31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Without understanding - Ασυνετους, from α, negative, and συνετος, knowing; persons incapable of comprehending what was spoken; destitute of capacity for spiritual things.
Covenant-breakers - Ασυνθετους, from α, negative, and συντιθημυι, to make an agreement; persons who could be bound by no oath, because, properly speaking, they had no God to witness or avenge their misconduct. As every covenant, or agreement, is made as in the presence of God, so he that opposes the being and doctrine of God is incapable of being bound by any covenant; he can give no pledge for his conduct.
Without natural affection - Αστοργους; without that attachment which nature teaches the young of all animals to have to their mothers, and the mothers to have for their young. The heathens, in general, have made no scruple to expose the children they did not think proper to bring up, and to despatch their parents when they were grown old or past labor.
Implacable - Ασπονδους, from α, negative; and σπονδη, A Libation. It was customary among all nations to pour out wine as a libation to their gods, when making a treaty. This was done to appease the angry gods, and reconcile them to the contracting parties. The word here shows a deadly enmity; the highest pitch of an unforgiving spirit; in a word, persons who would not make reconciliation either to God or man.
Unmerciful - Ανελεημονας; those who were incapable, through the deep-rooted wickedness of their own nature, of showing mercy to an enemy when brought under their power, or doing any thing for the necessitous, from the principle of benevolence or commiseration.
32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Who, knowing the judgment of God - Δικαιωμα, the grand rule of right which God has revealed to every man, the knowledge of which he has, less or more, given to every nation of the world, relative to honouring parents, taking care of their own offspring, keeping their engagements, etc., etc. In the worst states of heathenism this great principle has been acknowledged; but, through the prevalence of corruption in the heart, this law, though acknowledged, was not obeyed; and the corruption increased so that those were highest in repute who had cast off all restraints of this kind; so that they even delighted in them; συνευδοκουσι, highly applauded, and gladly associated with those transgressors: which argues the very highest pitch of moral depravity.
1. The preceding chapter gives us one of the finest views of the Gospel of Christ, to be met with any where. It is God's method of saving a lost world, in a way which that world could never have imagined: there is nothing human in it; it is all truly and gloriously Divine; essentially necessary to the salvation of man, and fully adequate to the purposes of its institution. Though it is an extension of the old covenant, yet it is almost wholly dissimilar; being as different from that as the person is from the picture which represents it, and as the substance is from the shadow projected by it. It is a scheme as worthy of God as it is necessary for man; hence there are no excluding clauses in it - it is for the Jew and for the Greek; for the wise and for the unwise; for all the nations of the universe, and for all the individuals of those nations. He blasphemes God who holds the contrary.
2. As God never does any thing that is not fitting, suitable, and necessary to be done, he has not made an unnecessary display of his mercy and goodness in the incarnation and death of his Son - all this was necessary, else it had not been done. But how does the necessity appear? In the deep-rooted and widely extended corruption and profligacy of the nations of the earth. Of these the apostle gives a most affecting and distressing picture.
1. Almost every trace of original righteousness had been obliterated.
2. The proofs of God's eternal power and providence, so manifest in the creation and preservation of the universe, were wholly disregarded.
3. A vain philosophy, without right, principle, or end, was substituted for those Divine truths which had been discovered originally to man.
4. Their hearts were contaminated with every vice which could blind the understanding, pervert the judgment, corrupt the will, and debase the affections and passions.
5. This was proved in the most unequivocal manner, by a profligacy of conduct which had debased them far, far below the beasts that perish; and the apostle here gives a list of their crimes, every article of which can be incontrovertibly proved from their own history and their own writers: crimes which, even bad as the world is now, would shock common decency to describe. See the whole of the second, third, sixth, and ninth Satires of Juvenal.
3. So completely lost were the heathens to a knowledge of the influence of God on the souls and the necessity of that influence, that they asserted, in the most positive manner, that man was the author of his own virtue and wisdom. Cicero, Nat. Deor., lib. iii. c. 36, declares it a general opinion that, although mankind received from the gods the outward conveniencies of life - virtutem autem nemo unquam acceptam Deo retulit - "virtue none ever thought they received from the Deity." And again: - "This is the persuasion of all, that fortune is to be had from the gods; wisdom from ourselves." And again: - "Whoever thanked the gods for his being a good man? Men pray to Jupiter, not that he would make them just, temperate, and wise; but rich and prosperous."
Juvenal, on this point, speaks thus: -
Monstro, quod ipse tibi possis dare:
Semita certe Tranquillae per virtutem patet unica vitae.
Sat. x. v. 363.
The path to peace is virtue; which, Ishow,
Thyself may fully on thyself bestow.
In the same stain, Horace, Epist. lib. i. E. xviii. v. penult.
Haec satis est orare Jovem, qui donat et aufert:
Det vitam det opes: aequum mi animum ipse parabo.
To Jove for life and wealth Ipray,
These Jove may give or take away;
But, for a firm and tranquil mind,
That blessing for myself Ifind.
Thus, they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; and professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. See Madan's Juvenal, vol. ii. p. 53.
4. By all this we see what the world was, and what it would have continued to be had not God sent a Divine revelation of his will, and established a public ministry to proclaim and enforce it. Were man left to the power and influence of his fallen nature he would be, in all places of his dispersion on the earth, what the apostle describes in the 29th, 30th, and 31st verses of this chapter. (Romans 1:29-31) Reader, magnify God, who has called thee from such deep darkness, to the marvellous light of the glorious Gospel of his Son; and walk as a child of the light and of the day, in whom there shall be no cause of stumbling.