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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Romans 1

 

 

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Verse 1

Romans 1:1. Paul’s description of himself. δοῦλος . χ. The use of the same expression in James, Jude, 2 Pet., shows how universal in the Church was the sense of being under an obligation to Christ which could never be discharged. It is this sense of obligation which makes the δουλεία, here referred to, perfect freedom. κλητὸς ἀπόστολος is an Apostle by vocation. No one can take this honour to himself, any more than that of a saint (Romans 1:7), unless he is called by God. In the N.T. it is always God who calls. It is as an Apostle—i.e., with the sense of his vocation as giving him a title to do so—that Paul writes to the Romans. ἀπόστολος is here used in the narrower sense, which includes only Paul and the twelve, see on Romans 16:7. ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ: for καλεῖν and ἀφορίζειν similiarly combined, see Galatians 1:15. The separation is here regarded (as in Gal.) as God’s act, though, as far as it had reference to the Gentile mission, it was carried out by an act of the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:2, ἀφορίσατε δή μοι κ. τ. λ.). What it means is “this one thing I do”. εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ is the Gospel which comes from God, the glad tidings of which He is the source and author. As a name for the Christian religion, or the proclamation of it, it had a great fascination for an evangelist like Paul, who uses it out of all proportion oftener than any other N.T. writer.


Verses 1-7

Romans 1:1-7. The usual salutation of the Apostle is expanded, as is natural in writing to persons whom he has not seen, into a description both of himself and of his Gospel. Both, so to speak, need a fuller introduction than if he had been writing to a Church he had himself founded. The central idea of the passage is that of the whole epistle, that the Gospel, as preached by Paul to the Gentiles, was not inconsistent with, but the fulfilment of, God’s promises to Israel.


Verse 2

Romans 1:2. προεπηγγείλατο. The Gospel is not in principle a new thing, a sub-version of the true religion as it has hitherto been known to the people of God. On the contrary, God promised it before, through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. It is the fulfilment of hopes which God Himself inspired. διὰ τῶν προφητῶν does not restrict the reference to the prophets in the strict sense of the word. The O.T., as a whole, is prophetic of the New, and it is in the law (Abraham) and the Psalms (David), as much as in the prophets (Isaiah, Hosea), that Paul finds anticipations and promises of the Gospel: see chap. 4. The omission of the article with ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις (cf. Romans 16:26) is probably significant, for as against these two passages there are over forty in which αἱ γραφαὶ or γραφὴ occurs: it emphasises the Divine character of these as opposed to other writings. That is ἅγιον which belongs to God, or is connected with Him: ἅγιαι γραφαὶ is the O.T. as God’s book.


Verse 3

Romans 1:3 f. περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ: the subject of the Gospel of God is His Son. For the same conception, see 2 Corinthians 1:19 : τοῦ θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς χ. . ἐν ὑμῖν διʼ ἡμῶν κηρυχθείς. Taken by itself, “the Son of God” is, in the first instance, a title rather than a name. It goes back to Psalms 2:7; the person to whom it is applied is conceived as the chosen object of the Divine love, God’s instrument for accomplishing the salvation of His people. (Weiss.) The description which follows does not enable us to answer all the questions it raises, yet it is sufficiently clear. “The Son of God” was born of the seed of David according to the flesh. For γενομένου, cf. Galatians 4:4; for David, 2 Timothy 2:8, where, as here, the Davidic descent is an essential part of the Pauline Gospel. That it was generally preached and recognised in the primitive Church is proved by these passages, as well as by Hebrews 7:14 and the genealogies in Matthew and Luke; yet it seems a fair inference from our Lord’s question in Mark 12:35 ff. that for Him it had no real importance. Those who did not directly see in Jesus one transcendently greater than David would not recognise in Him the Saviour by being convinced of His Davidic descent. This person, of royal lineage, was “declared Son of God, with power, according to the spirit of holiness, in virtue of resurrection from the dead”. The word ὁρισθέντος is ambiguous; in Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31, it is used to describe the appointment of Christ to judge the living and the dead, and is rendered in A.V. “ordained”. If to be Son of God were merely an office or a dignity, like that of judge of the world, this meaning might be defended here. There is an approximation to such an idea in Acts 13:33, where also Paul is the speaker. “God,” he says, “has fulfilled His promise by raising up Jesus; as it is written also in the second Psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” Here the resurrection day, strictly speaking, is the birthday of the Son of God; sonship is a dignity to which He is exalted after death. But in view of passages like Galatians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:5 f., it is impossible to suppose that Paul limited his use of Son of God in this way; even while Jesus lived on earth there was that in Him which no connection with David could explain, but which rested on a relation to God; the resurrection only declared Him to be what He truly was—just as in the Psalm, for that matter, the bold words, This day have I begotten Thee, may be said to refer, not to the right and title, but to the coronation of the King. In virtue of His resurrection, which is here conceived, not as from the dead ( ἐκ νεκρῶν), but of the dead ( ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν—a resurrection exemplifying, and so guaranteeing, that of others), Christ is established in that dignity which is His, and which answers to His nature. The expression κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης characterises Christ ethically, as κατὰ σάρκα does physically. Not that it makes the sonship in question “ethical” as opposed to “metaphysical”: no such distinctions were in the Apostle’s thought. But the sonship, which was declared by the resurrection, answered to ( κατὰ) the spirit of holiness which was the inmost and deepest reality in the Person and life of Jesus. The sense that there is that in Christ which is explained by his connection with mankind, and that also which can only be explained by some peculiar relation to God, is no doubt conveyed in this description, and is the basis of the orthodox doctrine of the two natures in the one Person of the Lord; but it is a mistake to say that that doctrine is formulated here. The connection of the words ἐν δυνάμει is doubtful. They have been joined to ὁρισθέντος (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:4 : ζῇ ἐκ δυνάμεως θεοῦ): declared to be Son of God “by a miracle,” a mighty work wrought by God; and also with υἱοῦ θεοῦ = Son of God, not in humiliation, but “in power,” a power demonstrated by the gift of thè Spirit and its operations in the Church. “Jesus, Messiah, Our Lord,” summarises all this. “Our Lord” is the most compendious expression of the Christian consciousness. (A. B. Bruce, Apologetics, 398 ff.) “The whole Gospel of Paul is comprehended in this historical Jesus, who has appeared in flesh, but who, on the ground of the πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης, which constitutes His essence, has been exalted as Christ and Lord.” (Lipsius.)


Verse 5

Romans 1:5. Through Christ Paul received χάριν κ. ἀποστολήν. The plural, ἐλάβομεν, may mean no more than the singular, or may proceed from the latent consciousness that the writer is not the only person entitled to say this; it is not expressly meant to include others. χάρις, grace, is common to all Christians; ἀποστολὴ rests upon a specialised χάρις and implies competence as well as vocation. But in the N.T. these are hardly distinguished; it is a man’s χάρισμα which constitutes his “call” to any particular service in the Church. εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως: the object of the apostleship received through Christ is obedience of faith, i.e., the obedience which consists in faith (but cf. Acts 6:7) among all the Gentiles. Cf. chap. Romans 10:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:8. The meaning of ἔθνεσιν (Gentiles, not nations) is fixed by Romans 1:13 and by Paul’s conception of his own vocation, Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:8, Ephesians 3:1 ff. ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ: the final purpose of his vocation is that Christ’s name may be above every name.


Verse 6

Romans 1:6. The Romans, as well as others, are included among the Gentiles, and described as Jesus Christ’s called. They belong to Him, because they have heard and obeyed the Gospel. “Calling” in Paul always includes obedience as well as hearing. It is effectual calling, the κλητοὶ being those who have accepted the Divine invitation.


Verse 7

Romans 1:7. The salutation proper. It is addressed to all who are in Rome, etc., to include Christians of Jewish as well as Gentile origin. They are ἀγαπητοὶ θεοῦ, God’s beloved, because they have had experience of His redeeming love in Jesus Christ; and they are κλητοὶ ἅγιοι, saints, in virtue of His calling. See on κλητὸς ἀπόστολος above. The word ἅγιος did not originally describe character, but only a certain relation to God; the ἅγιοι are God’s people. What this means depends of course on what God is; it is assumed in scripture that the character of God’s people will answer to their relation to Him. It is worth mentioning that, as a synonym for Christian, it is never applied in the N.T. to an individual: no person is called ἅγιος. Philippians 4:21 ( ἀσπάσασθε πάντα ἅγιον ἐν χ. .) is not an exception. The ideal of God’s people cannot be adequately realised in, and ought not to be presumptuously claimed by, any single person. (Hort’s Christian Ecclesia, 56.) Paul wishes the Romans grace and peace (the source and the sum of all Christian blessings) from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. The greeting is followed by a thanksgiving, which passes over insensibly into an introduction of a more personal character, in which Paul explains his desire to visit the Romans and to work among them (Romans 1:8-15).


Verse 8

Romans 1:8. πρῶτον μέν. Nothing can take precedence of thanksgiving, when Paul thinks of the Romans, or indeed of any Christian Church in normal health. πρῶτον μὲν suggests that something is to follow, but what it is we are not told; Paul’s mind unconsciously leaves the track on which it started, at least so far as the linguistic following out of it is concerned. Perhaps the next thing was to be the prayer referred to in Romans 1:10. (Weiss.) διὰ . χ. Jesus Christ must be conceived here as the mediator through whom all our approaches to God are made (Ephesians 2:18), not as He through whom the blessings come for which Paul gives thanks. περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν: the “all” may have a certain emphasis when we remember the divisions to which reference is made in chap. 14 πίστις ὑμῶν is “the fact that you are Christians”. The very existence of a Church at Rome was something to be thankful for. ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ is, of course, hyperbole, but a Church in Rome was like “a city set on a hill”.


Verse 9

Romans 1:9 f. μάρτυς γάρ μού ἐστιν θεός (Philippians 1:8): at a distance the Apostle cannot directly prove his love, but he appeals to God, who hears his ceaseless prayers for the Romans, as a witness of it. λατρεύω in the LXX is always used of religious service—worship, whether of the true God or of idols. ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου: Paul’s ministry is spiritual and rendered with his spirit—not like that of the ministers in the ἅγιον κοσμικὸν at Jerusalem. ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ: in preaching the glad tidings of His Son. ὡς ἀδιαλείπτως: the ὡς may either be “how” or “that”: looking to 1 Thessalonians 2:10, “how” seems more probable. μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιοῦμαι: I remember you. Cf. Job 14:13 (O that Thou wouldst appoint me χρόνον ἐν μνείαν μου ποιήσῃ). ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου: at my prayers. (Winer, p. 470.) For εἴ πως, see Acts 27:12 and Burton, Moods and Tenses, § 276. ἤδη is “now at length,” “now, after all this waiting”. (S. and H.) The ποτὲ, which can hardly be conveyed in English, marks the indefiniteness which even yet attaches in the writer’s mind to the fulfilment of this hope. εὐοδωθήσομαι: the R.V. gives “I may be prospered”; the A.V. “I might have a prosperous journey”. The latter brings in the idea of the ὁδὸς, which was no doubt present to consciousness when the word εὐοδοῦσθαι was first used; but it is questionable whether any feeling for the etymology remained in the current employment of the word. The other N.T. examples (1 Corinthians 16:2, 3 John Romans 1:2), as well as the LXX, suggest the contrary. Hence the R.V. is probably right. ἐν τῷ θελήματι τοῦ θεοῦ: his long cherished and often disappointed hope had taught Paul to say, “if the Lord will” (James 4:15).


Verse 11

Romans 1:11. ἵνα τι μεταδῶ χάρισμα πνευματικόν. The χαρ. πν. may be understood by reference to 1 Cor. chaps. 12–14 or Rom. chap. 12. No doubt, in substance, Paul imparts his spiritual gift through this epistle: what he wished to do for the Romans was to further their comprehension of the purpose of God in Jesus Christ—a purpose the breadth and bearings of which were yet but imperfectly understood.


Verse 12

Romans 1:12. τοῦτο δὲ ἐστιν: an explanatory correction. Paul disclaims being in a position in which all the giving must be on his side. When he is among them ( ἐν ὑμῖν) his desire is that he may be cheered and strengthened with them (the subject of συνπαρακληθῆναι must be ἐμὲ in the first instance, though widening, as the sentence goes on, into ἡμᾶς) by the faith which both they and he possess ( ὑμῶν τε καὶ ἐμοῦ), and which each recognises in the other ( ἐν ἀλλήλοις). The ἐν here is to be taken as in 2 Timothy 1:5.


Verse 13

Romans 1:13. οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν: a phrase of constant recurrence in Paul, and always with ἀδελφοί (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 1:8). Some emphasis is laid by it on the idea that his desire or purpose to visit them was no passing whim. It was grounded in his vocation as Apostle of the Gentiles, and though it had been often frustrated he had never given it up. ἐκωλύθην ἄχρι τοῦ δεῦρο: probably the main obstacle was evangelistic work which had to be done elsewhere. Cf. chap. Romans 15:22 f. The purpose of his visit is expressed in ἵνα τινὰ καρπὸν σχῶ: that I may obtain some fruit among you also. καρπὸς denotes the result of labour: it might either mean new converts or the furtherance of the Christians in their new life. καθὼς καὶ ἐν τοῖς λοιποῖς ἔθνεσιν: nothing could indicate more clearly that the Church at Rome, as a whole, was Gentile.


Verse 14

Romans 1:14 f. These verses are naturally taken as an expansion of the thought contained in the preceding. Paul’s desire to win fruit at Rome, as among the rest of the Gentiles, arises out of the obligation (for so he feels it) to preach the Gospel to all men without distinction of language or culture. If it depended only on him, he would be exercising his ministry at Rome. The Romans are evidently conceived as Gentiles, but Paul does not indicate where they would stand in the broad classification of Romans 1:14. It is gratuitous, and probably mistaken, to argue with Weiss that he meant to describe them as βάρβαροι, when we know that the early Roman Church was Greek speaking. In τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον, the simplest construction is to make τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ subject and πρόθυμον predicate, supplying ἐστι: all that depends on me is eager, i.e., for my part, I am all readiness. But it is possible to take τὸ κατʼ ἐμὲ πρόθυμον together, and to translate: the readiness, so far as I am concerned, (is) to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome. The contrast implied is that between willing (which Paul for his part is equal to) and carrying out the will (which depends on God (Romans 1:10)). With this Paul introduces the great subject of the epistle, and, in a sense, of the Gospel—that which he here designates δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ. The connection is peculiar. He has professed his readiness to preach the Gospel, even at Rome. Anywhere, no doubt, one might have misgivings about identifying himself with a message which had for its subject a person who had been put to death as a criminal; anywhere, the Cross was to Jews a stumbling block and to Greeks foolishness. But at Rome, of all places, where the whole effective force of humanity seemed to be gathered up, one might be ashamed to stand forth as the representative of an apparently impotent and ineffective thing. But this the Gospel is not; it is the very reverse of this, and therefore the Apostle is proud to identify himself with it. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is a power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. It is such because there is revealed in it δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ—the very thing men need to ensure salvation; and that in such a manner—from faith to faith—as to make it accessible to all. And this, again, only answers to what stands in the O.T.—It is written, the righteous shall live by faith.”


Verse 16

Romans 1:16 f. δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν: for it is a power of God. It does no injustice to render “a Divine power”. The conception of the Gospel as a force pervades the epistles to the Corinthians; its proof, so to speak, is dynamical, not logical. It is demonstrated, not by argument, but by what it does; and, looking to what it can do, Paul is proud to preach it anywhere. εἰς σωτηρίαν: σωτηρία is one of a class of words (to which ζωὴ, δόξα, κληρονομία belong) used by Paul to denote the last result of the acceptance of the Gospel. It is the most negative of them all, and conceives of the Gospel as a means for rescuing men from the ἀπώλεια which awaits sinners at the last judgment. In παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ ἕλληνι another of the main interests of the writer in this epistle is brought forward; the Gospel is for all, the same Gospel and on the same terms, but without prejudice to the historical prerogative of the Jew. Romans 1:17 shows how the Gospel is a Divine saving power. It is such because there is revealed in it δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ. Plainly, δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ is something without which a sinful man cannot be saved; but what is it? The expression itself is of the utmost generality, and the various definite meanings which have been assigned to it attempt to justify themselves as relevant, or inevitable, by connecting themselves with the context as a whole. There can be no doubt that the fundamental religious problem for the Apostle—that which made a Gospel necessary, that the solution of which could alone be Gospel—was, How shall a sinful man be righteous before God? To Luther, who had instinctive experimental sympathy with the Pauline standpoint, this suggested that δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ meant a righteousness valid before God, of which a man can become possessed through faith; for such a righteousness (as the condition of salvation) is the first and last need of the sinful soul. In support of this view reference has been made to Romans 1:18, where ἀσέβεια and ἀδικία ἀνθρώπων are represented as the actual existing conditions which the δικ. θεοῦ has to replace. No one can deny that a righteousness valid before God is essential to salvation, or that such a righteousness is revealed in the Gospel; but it is another question whether δικ. θεοῦ is a natural expression for it. The general sense of scholars seems to have decided against it; but it seems quite credible to me that Paul used δικ. θεοῦ broadly to mean “a Divine righteousness,” and that the particular shade of meaning which Luther made prominent can be legitimately associated even with these words. Until lately, scholars of the most opposite schools had agreed in finding the key to the expression δικ. θεοῦ in two other Pauline passages, where it is contrasted with something else. Thus in chap. Romans 10:3 δικ. θεοῦ is opposed to man’s ἰδία δικαιοσύνη; and in Philippians 3:9 the opposition is more precisely defined: μὴ ἔχων ἐμὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ νόμου, ἀλλὰ τὴν διὰ πίστεως χριστοῦ, τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει. If this contrast were allowed to tell here, the righteousness of which Paul speaks would be one of which God is the source or author; we do not bring it to Him, He reveals it for our acceptance. And this also, of course, answers to the facts: Gospel righteousness is a gift, not an achievement. But then, it is said, there is nothing in the passage to suggest such a contrast; there is not any emphasis whatever on θεοῦ to bring before the mind the idea of a righteousness not due to God, but a work of man’s own. To this it may fairly be answered that the contrast did not need to be specially suggested; if it had not presented itself instinctively to those to whom Paul wrote, they would not only have missed the point of this expression, they would not have understood three lines anywhere. We must assume, upon the whole, in the recipients of Paul’s epistles, a way of conceiving the Gospel answering broadly to his own; the invisible context, which we have to reproduce as best we can, may be more important sometimes than what we have in black and white. The broad sense of “a Divine righteousness” covers this second, which may be called the historical Protestant interpretation, as well as Luther’s; and the fact seems to me an argument for that broader rendering. In view, however, of the undoubted difficulty of the phrase, new light would be welcome, and this has been sought in the O.T. use of δικαιοσύνη ( צְדָקָה), especially in the Psalms and in Isaiah 40-66. See, e.g., Psalms 35:24; Psalms 35:28; Psalms 51:14; Isaiah 56:1; Isaiah 62:1; Psalms 98:2. In the last of these passages we have a striking analogy to the one before us: ἐγνώρισε κύριος τὸ σωτήριον αὐτοῦ, ἐναντίον τῶν ἐθνῶν ἀπεκάλυψε τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ; and in others we cannot but be struck with the parallelism of “righteousness” and “salvation,” sometimes as things which belong to God (Psalms 98:2), sometimes as things which belong to His people. On the strength of facts like these, Theod. Häring, in a stupendous programme entitled δικ. θεοῦ bei Paulus (Tübingen, 1896), argues that δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ means the judicial action of God in which He justifies His people and accomplishes their salvation. This fits into the context well enough. Put as Paul puts it—how shall man be just with God?—the religious problem is a judicial one, and its solution must be judicial. If the Gospel shows how God justifies (for of course it must be God, the only Judge of all, who does it), it shows everything: salvation is included in God’s sentence of justification. Häring himself admits that this interpretation is rather of philological than of religious import; this “rechtfertigendes Walten Gottes” cannot but have as its consequence “the justification of man, a righteousness which proceeds from God and is valid before God” ( δικ. θεοῦ bei Paulus, . 68); that is, this meaning leads by immediate inference to the other two. But it can by no means be carried through (any more than either of the other two) in all places where the phrase occurs; in Romans 3:5, e.g., Häring himself admits this; in Romans 3:25-26, where he insists on the same sense as in Romans 1:17, he does not so much as refer to the clause διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ αὐτοῦ, which, it is not too much to say, necessitates a different shade of meaning for δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ there: see note. The advantage of his rendering is not so much that it simplifies the grammar, as that it revives the sense of a connection (which existed for the Apostle) between the Gospel he preached, and even the language he preached it in, and the anticipations of that Gospel in the O.T., and that it gives prominence to the saving character of God’s justifying action. In substance all these three views are Biblical, Pauline and true to experience, whichever is to be vindicated on philological grounds. But the same cannot be said of another, according to which righteousness is here an attribute, or even the character, of God. That the Gospel is the supreme revelation of the character of God, and that the character of God is the source of the Gospel, no one can question. Certainly Paul would not have questioned it. But whether Paul conceived the righteousness which is an eternal attribute of God (cf. Romans 3:5) as essentially self-communicative—whether he would have said that God justifies ( δικαιοῖ) the ungodly because he is himself δίκαιος—is another matter. The righteousness of God, conceived as a Divine attribute, may have appeared to Paul the great difficulty in the way of the justification of sinful man. God’s righteousness in this sense is the sinner’s condemnation, and no one will succeed in making him find in it the ground of his hope. What is wanted (always in consistency with God’s righteousness as one of His inviolable attributes—the great point elaborated in chap. Romans 3:24-26) is a righteousness which, as man cannot produce it must be from God, and which, once received, shall be valid before God; and this is what the Apostle (on the ground of Christ’s death for sin) announces. But it introduces confusion to identify with this the conception of an eternal and necessarily self-imparting righteousness of God. The Apostle, in chap. 3 and chap. 5, takes our minds along another route. See Barmby in Expositor for August, 1896, and S. and H. ad loc ἀποκαλύπτεται intimates in a new way that the Divine righteousness spoken of is from God: man would never have known or conceived it but for the act of God in revealing it. Till this ἀποκαλύπτειν it was a μυστήριον: cf. Romans 16:25 f. ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν. Precise definitions of this (e.g., Weiss’s: the revelation of the δικ. θεοῦ presupposes faith in the sense of believing acceptance of the Gospel, i.e., it is ἐκ πίστεως: and it leads to faith in the sense of saving reliance on Christ, i.e., it is εἰς πίστιν) strike one as arbitrary. The broad sense seems to be that in the revelation of God’s righteousness for man’s salvation everything is of faith from first to last. Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18. This N.T. doctrine the Apostle finds announced before in Habakkuk 2:14. ἐκ πίστεως in the quotation is probably to be construed with ζήσεται. To take it with δίκαιος (he who is righteous by faith) would imply a contrast to another mode of being righteous (viz., by works) which there is nothing in the text to suggest. The righteous who trusted in Jehovah were brought by that trust safe through the impending judgment in Habakkuk’s time; and as the subjective side of religion, the attitude of the soul to God, never varies, it is the same trust which is the condition of salvation still.

The Gospel of God’s righteousness is necessary, because the human race has no righteousness of its own. This is proved of the whole race (Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20), but in these verses (Romans 1:18-32) first of the heathen. The emphasis lies throughout on the fact that they have sinned against light.


Verse 18

Romans 1:18 f. The revelation of the righteousness of God (Romans 1:17) is needed in view of the revelation of His wrath, from which only δικ. θεοῦ (whether it be His justifying sentence or the righteousness which He bestows on man) can deliver. ὀργὴ in the N.T. is usually eschatological, but in 1 Thessalonians 2:16 it refers to some historical judgment, and in John 3:36 it is the condemnation of the sinner by God, with all that it involves, present and to come. The revelation of wrath here probably refers mainly to the final judgment: the primary character of Jesus in Paul’s Gospel being ῥυόμενος ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Romans 5:9; but it is not forcing it here to make it include God’s condemnation uttered in conscience, and attested (Romans 1:24) in the judicial abandonment of the world. The revelation of the righteousness of God has to match this situation, and reverse it. ἀσέβεια is “positive and active irreligion”: see Trench, Syn, § lxvi. τῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ἀδικίᾳ κατεχόντων may mean (1) who possess the truth, yet live in unrighteousness; or (2) who suppress the truth by, or in, an unrighteous life. In the N.T. ἀλήθεια is moral rather than speculative; it is truth of a sort which is held only as it is acted on: cf. the Johannine expression ποιεῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν. Hence the latter sense is to be preferred (see Wendt, Lehre Jesu, II., . 203 Anm.). διότι τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ κ. τ. λ. There is no indisputable way of deciding whether γνωστὸν here means “known” (the usual N.T. sense) or “knowable” (the usual classic sense). Cremer (who compares Philippians 3:8 τὸ ὑπερέχον τῆς γνώσεως, Hebrews 6:17 τὸ ἀμετάθετον τῆς βουλῆς, Romans 2:4 τὸ χρηστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, and makes τοῦ θεοῦ in the passage before us also gen poss.) favours the latter. What is meant in either case is the knowledge of God which is independent of such a special revelation as had been given to the Jews. Under this come (Romans 1:20) His eternal power, and in a word His (eternal) divinity, things inaccessible indeed to sense ( ἀόρατα), but clear to intelligence ( νοούμενα), ever since creation ( ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου: for ἀπὸ thus used, see Winer, 463), by the things that are made. God’s power, and the totality of the Divine attributes constituting the Divine nature, are inevitably impressed on the mind by nature (or, to use the scripture word, by creation). There is that within man which so catches the meaning of all that is without as to issue in an instinctive knowledge of God. (See the magnificent illustration of this in Illingworth’s Divine Immanence, chap. 2, on The religious influence of the material world.) This knowledge involves duties, and men are without excuse because, when in possession of it, they did not perform these duties; that is, did not glorify as God the God whom they thus knew.


Verse 21

Romans 1:21 ff. εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἀναπολογήτους would naturally express purpose: to make men inexcusable is one, though not the only or the ultimate, intention of God in giving this revelation. But the διότι almost forces us to take the εἰς τὸ as expressing result: so that they are inexcusable, because, etc. (see Burton’s Moods and Tenses, § 411). In Romans 1:21-23 the wrong course taken by humanity is described. Nature shows us that God is to be glorified and thanked, i.e., nature reveals Him to be great and good. But men were not content to accept the impression made on them by nature; they fell to reasoning upon it, and in their reasonings ( διαλογισμοί, “perverse self-willed reasonings or speculations,” S. and H.) were made vain ( ἐματαιώθησαν); the result stultified the process; their instinctive perception of God became confused and uncertain; their unintelligent heart, the seat of the moral consciousness, was darkened. In asserting their wisdom they became fools, and showed it conspicuously in their idolatries. They resigned the glory of the incorruptible God (i.e., the incorruptible God, all glorious as He was, and as He was seen in nature to be), and took instead of Him some image of a corruptible, even of a vile creature. The expression ἤλλαξαν τὴν δόξαν κ. τ. λ. is borrowed in part from Psalms 105:20 (LXX): ἠλλάξαντο τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν ἐν ὁμοιώματι μόσχου ἔσθοντος χόρτον. The reduplication of the same idea in ἐν ὁμοιώματι εἰκόνος shows the indignant contempt with which the Apostle looked on this empty and abject religion in which God had been lost. The birds, quadrupeds and reptiles could all be illustrated from Egypt.

With Romans 1:24 the Apostle turns from this sin to its punishment. Because of it ( διὸ) God gave them up. To lose God is to lose everything: to lose the connection with Him involved in constantly glorifying and giving Him thanks, is to sink into an abyss of darkness, intellectual and moral. It is to become fitted for wrath at last, under the pressure of wrath all the time. Such, in idea, is the history of humanity to Paul, as interpreted by its issue in the moral condition of the pagan world when he wrote. Exceptions are allowed for (Romans 2:10), but this is the position as a whole. παρέδωκεν in all three places (Romans 1:24, εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν; Romans 1:26, εἰς πάθη ἀτιμίας; Romans 1:28, εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν) expresses the judicial action of God. The sensual impurity of religions in which the incorruptible God had been resigned for the image of an animal, that could not but creep into the imagination of the worshippers and debase it, was a Divine judgment. τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς, in accordance with the conception of a judicial act, expresses the Divine purpose—that their bodies might be dishonoured among them. For gen of purpose, see Winer, 408 ff. (where, however, a different construction is given for this passage, τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι being made to depend immediately on ἁκαθαρσίαν).


Verse 25

Romans 1:25. οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν κ. τ. λ.: being as they were persons who exchanged the truth of God for the lie. “The truth of God” (cf. Romans 1:23, “the glory of God”) is the same thing as God in His truth, or the true God as He had actually revealed Himself to man. τὸ ψεῦδος, abstract for concrete, is the idol or false God. The ἐν (cf. Romans 1:23) answers to Hebrew בְּ. παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα: to the passing by, i.e., disregard or contempt of the Creator. For this use of παρὰ, see Winer, 503 f. ὅς ἐστιν εὐλογητός: the doxology relieves the writer’s feelings as he contemplates such horrors.


Verse 26

Romans 1:26 f. With the second παρέδωκεν the Apostle proceeds to a further stage in this judicial abandonment of men, which is at the same time a revelation of the wrath of God from heaven against them. It issues not merely like the first in sensuality, but in sensuality which perverts nature as well as disregards God. The πλάνη, error or going astray (Romans 1:27), is probably still the original one of idolatry; the ignoring or degrading of God is the first fatal step out of the way, which ends in this slough.


Verse 28

Romans 1:28 ff. In Romans 1:28-30 we have the third and last παρέδωκεν expanded. As they did not think fit, after trial made ( ἐδοκίμασαν), to keep God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a mind which cannot stand trial ( ἀδόκιμον). The one thing answers to the other. Virtually, they pronounced the true God ἀδόκιμος, and would have none of Him; and He in turn gave them up to a νοῦς ἀδόκιμος, a mind which is no mind and cannot discharge the functions of one, a mind in which the Divine distinctions of right and wrong are contused and lost, so that God’s condemnation cannot but fall on it at last. νοῦς is not only reason, but conscience; when this is perverted, as in the people of whom Paul speaks, or in the Caananites, who did their abominations unto their Gods, the last deep of evil has been reached. Most of the words which follow describe sins of malignity or inhumanity rather than sensuality, but they cannot be classified. τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα covers all. καθήκοντα is the Stoic word which Cicero renders officia. κακοηθία, the tendency to put the worst construction on everything (Arist. Rh. ii. 13), and κακία are examined in Trench’s Synonyms, § xi., and ὑβριστής, ὕπερήφανος, ἀλάζων in § xxix. θεοστυγεῖς appears to be always passive in the classics, not God hating, but God hated: Deo odibiles, Vulg. The characters are summed up, so to speak, in Romans 1:32 : οἵτινες τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντες κ. τ. λ.: such persons as, though they know the sentence of God, that those who practise such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but give a whole-hearted complacent assent to those who follow the same practice. τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ θεοῦ is that which God has pronounced to be the right, and has thereby established as the proper moral order of the world. θάνατος is death, not as a natural period to life, but as a Divine sentence executed on sin: it is not to be defined as physical, or spiritual, or eternal; by an such abstract analysis it is robbed of part of its meaning, which is as wide as that of life or the soul. ἀλλὰ καὶ συνευδοκοῦσιν: to be guilty of such things oneself, under the impulse of passion, is bad; but it is a more malignant badness to give a cordial and disinterested approval to them in others.

It is a mistake to read these verses as if they were a scientific contribution to comparative religion, but equally a mistake to ignore their weight. Paul is face to face with a world in which the vices he enumerates are rampant, and it is his deliberate judgment that these vices have a real connection with the pagan religions. Who will deny that he was both a competent observer and a competent judge? Religion and morality in the great scale hang together, and morality in the long run is determined by religion. Minds which accepted the religious ideas of Phenicia, of Egypt or of Greece (as represented in the popular mythologies) could not be pure. Their morality, or rather their immorality, is conceived as a Divine judgment upon their religion; and as for their religion, nature itself, the Apostle argues, should have saved them from such ignorance of God, and such misconceptions of Him, as deformed every type of heathenism. A converted pagan (as much as Paul) would be filled with horror as he reflected on the way in which he had once thought of God; he would feel in himself that he ought to have known better, and that everything in the world cried shame upon him. Now to recognise this fact is to accept the premises of the Apostle’s argument, and the use to which he puts it. “Once we went after dumb idols; our very worship led us into sin, and sometimes even consecrated it; now we can only see in this our own blindness and guilt, and God’s judgment upon them”—so we can fancy the converted pagan speaking. Such a world, then, as the Apostle describes in this chapter, with this terrible principle of degeneration at work in it, and no power of self-regeneration, is a world which waits for a righteousness of God.

For an interesting attempt to show Paul’s indebtedness for some of the ideas and arguments of Romans 1:18-32 to the book of Wisdom, see S. and H., p. 51 f.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 1:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-1.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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