1.Paul, etc. (11) — With regard to the word Paul, as it is a subject of no such moment as ought to detain us, and as nothing can be said which has not been mentioned by other expounders, I should say nothing, were it not proper to satisfy some at small expense without being tedious to others; for the subject shall be despatched in a very few words.
They who think that the Apostle attained this name as a trophy for having brought Sergius, the proconsul, to the faith of Christ, are confuted by the testimony of Luke, who shows that he was so called before that time. (Acts 13:7.) Nor does it seem probable to me, that it was given him when he was converted to Christ; though this idea so pleased [Augustine ], that he took occasion refinedly to philosophize on the subject; for he says, that from a proud Saul he was made a very little (parvulum (12)) disciple of Christ. More probable is the opinion of [Origen ], who thought that he had two names; for it is not unlikely to be true, that his name, Saul, derived from his kindred, was given him by his parents to indicate his religion and his descent; and that his other name, Paul, was added, to show his right to Roman citizenship; (13) they would not have this honor, then highly valued, to be otherwise than made evident; but they did not so much value it as to withhold a proof of his Israelitic descent. But he has commonly taken the name Paul in his Epistles, and it may be for the following reasons: because in the churches to which he wrote, it was more known and more common, more acceptable in the Roman empire, and less known among his own nation. It was indeed his duty to avoid the foolish suspicion and hatred under which the name of a Jew then labored among the Romans and in their provinces, and to abstain from inflaming the rage of his own countrymen, and to take care of himself.
A servant of Jesus Christ, etc. — He signalizes himself with these distinctions for the purpose of securing more authority to his doctrine; and this he seeks to secure by two things — first, by asserting his call to the Apostleship; (14) and secondly, by showing that his call was not unconnected with the Church of Rome: for it was of great importance that he should be deemed an Apostle through God’s call, and that he should be known as one destined for the Roman Church. He therefore says, that he was a servant of Christ, and called to the office of an Apostle, thereby intimating that he had not presumptuously intruded into that office. He then adds, that he was chosen, (selectum — selected, (15)) by which he more fully confirms the fact, that he was not one of the people, but a particular Apostle of the Lord. Consistently with this, he had before proceeded from what was general to what was particular, as the Apostleship was an especial service; for all who sustain the office of teaching are to be deemed Christ’s servants, but Apostles, in point of honor, far exceed all others. But the choosing for the gospel, etc., which he afterwards mentions, expresses the end as well as the use of the Apostleship; for he intended briefly to show for what purpose he was called to that function. By saying then that he was servant of Christ, he declared what he had in common with other teachers; by claiming to himself the title of an Apostle, he put himself before others; but as no authority is due to him who willfully intrudes himself, he reminds us, that he was appointed by God.
Then the meaning is, — that Paul was a servant of Christ, not any kind of servant, but an Apostle, and that by the call of God, and not by presumptuous intrusion: then follows a clearer explanation of the Apostolic office, — it was ordained for the preaching of the Gospel. For I cannot agree with those who refer this call of which he speaks to the eternal election of God; and who understand the separation, either that from his mother’s womb, which he mentions in Galatians 1:15, or that which Luke refers to, when Paul was appointed for the Gentiles: but I consider that he simply glories in having God as the author of his call, lest any one should think that he had through his own rashness taken this honor to himself. (16)
We must here observe, that all are not fitted for the ministry of the word; for a special call is necessary: and even those who seem particularly fitted ought to take heed lest they thrust themselves in without a call. But as to the character of the Apostolic and of the Episcopal call, we shall consider it in another place. We must further observe, that the office of an Apostle is the preaching of the gospel. It hence appears what just objects of ridicule are those dumb dogs, who render themselves conspicuous only by their mitre and their crook, and boast themselves to be the successors of the Apostles!
The word, servant, imports nothing else but a minister, for it refers to what is official. (17) I mention this to remove the mistake of those who too much refine on this expression and think that there is here to be understood a contrast between the service of Moses and that of Christ.
He was an Apostle by a call, or as [Beza ] renders it, “by the call of God — ex Dei vocatione apostolus.” The meaning is the same as what he himself expresses it in Galatians 1:1. [Turrettin ] renders it, “Apostolus vocatione divina — an Apostle by divine vocation.”
The difference between “a called Apostle” and “called to be an Apostle,” is this, that the first conveys the idea that he obeyed the call, and the other does not. — Ed.
2.Which he had before promised, etc. — As the suspicion of being new subtracts much from the authority of a doctrine, he confirms the faith of the gospel by antiquity; as though he said, “Christ came not on the earth unexpectedly, nor did he introduce a doctrine of a new kind and not heard of before, inasmuch as he, and his gospel too, had been promised and expected from the beginning of the world.” But as antiquity is often fabulous, he brings witnesses, and those approved, even the Prophets of God, that he might remove every suspicion. He in the third place adds, that their testimonies were duly recorded, that is, in the Holy Scriptures.
We may learn from this passage what the gospel is: he teaches us, not that it was promulgated by the Prophets but only promised. If then the Prophets promised the gospel, it follows, that it was revealed, when our Lord was at length manifested in the flesh. They are then mistaken who confound the promises with the gospel, since the gospel is properly the appointed preaching of Christ as manifested, in whom the promises themselves are exhibited. (18)
3.Concerning his own Son, etc. — This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that the whole gospel is included in Christ, so that if any removes one step from Christ, he withdraws himself from the gospel. For since he is the living and express image of the Father, it is no wonder, that he alone is set before us as one to whom our whole faith is to be directed and in whom it is to center. It is then a definition of the gospel, by which Paul expresses what is summarily comprehended in it. I have rendered the words which follow, Jesus Christ our Lord, in the same case; which seems to me to be most agreeable with the context. We hence learn, that he who has made a due proficiency in the knowledge of Christ, has acquired every thing which can be learned from the gospel; and, on the other hand, that they who seek to be wise without Christ, are not only foolish, but even completely insane.
Who was made, etc. — Two things must be found in Christ, in order that we may obtain salvation in him, even divinity and humanity. His divinity possesses power, righteousness, life, which by his humanity are conveyed to us. Hence the Apostle has expressly mentioned both in the Summary he gives of the gospel, that Christ was manifested in the flesh — and that in it he declared himself to be the Son of God. So John says; after having declared that the Word was made flesh, he adds, that in that flesh there was a glory as of the only-begotten Son of God. (John 1:14.) That he specially notices the descent and lineage of Christ from his ancestor David, is not superfluous; for by this he calls back our attention to the promise, that we may not doubt but that he is the very person who had been formerly promised. So well known was the promise made to David, that it appears to have been a common thing among the Jews to call the Messiah the Son of David. This then — that Christ did spring from David — was said for the purpose of confirming our faith.
He adds,according to the flesh; and he adds this, that we may understand that he had something more excellent than flesh, which he brought from heaven, and did not take from David, even that which he afterwards mentions, the glory of the divine nature. Paul does further by these words not only declare that Christ had real flesh, but he also clearly distinguishes his human from his divine nature; and thus he refutes the impious raving of Servetus, who assigned flesh to Christ, composed of three untreated elements.
4.Declared (19) the Son of God, etc.: or, if you prefer, determined (definitus); as though he had said, that the power, by which he was raised from the dead, was something like a decree by which he was proclaimed the Son of God, according to what is said in Psalms 2:7, “I have this day begotten thee:” for this begetting refers to what was made known. Though some indeed find here three separate evidences of the divinity of Christ — “power,” understanding thereby miracles — then the testimony of the Spirit — and, lastly, the resurrection from the dead — I yet prefer to connect them together, and to reduce these three things to one, in this manner — that Christ was declared the Son of God by openly exercising a real celestial power, that is, the power of the Spirit, when he rose from the dead; but that this power is comprehended, when a conviction of it is imprinted on our hearts by the same Spirit. The language of the Apostle well agrees with this view; for he says that he was declared by power, because power, peculiar to God, shone forth in him, and uncontestably proved him to be God; and this was indeed made evident by his resurrection. Paul says the same thing in another place; having stated, that by death the weakness of the flesh appeared, he at the same time extols the power of the Spirit in his resurrection; (2 Corinthians 13:4) This glory, however, is not made known to us, until the same Spirit imprints a conviction of it on our hearts. And that Paul includes, together with the wonderful energy of the Spirit, which Christ manifested by rising from the dead, the testimony which all the faithful feel in their hearts, is even evident from this — that he expressly calls it the Spirit of Holiness; as though he had said, that the Spirit, as far as it sanctifies, confirms and ratifies that evidence of its power which it once exhibited. For the Scripture is wont often to ascribe such titles to the Spirit, as tend to illustrate our present subject. Thus He is called by our Lord the Spirit of Truth, on account of the effect which he mentions; (John 14:17)
Besides, a divine power is said to have shone forth in the resurrection of Christ for this reason — because he rose by his own power, as he had often testified:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days
I will raise it up again,” (John 2:19;)
“No man taketh it from me,” etc.; (John 10:18)
For he gained victory over death, (to which he yielded with regard to the weakness of the flesh,) not by aid sought from another, but by the celestial operation of his own Spirit.
Professor [Hodge ] gives what he conceives to be the import of the two verses in these words, “Jesus Christ was, as to his human nature, the Son of David; but he was clearly demonstrated to be, as to his divine nature, the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead.” This view is taken by many, such as [Pareus ], [Beza ], [Turrettin ], etc. But the words, “according to the Spirit of Holiness ” — κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης, are taken differently by others, as meaning the Holy Spirit. As the phrase is nowhere else found, it may be taken in either sense. That the divine nature of Christ is called Spirit, is evident. See 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 3:18 [Doddridge ], [Scott ], and [Chalmers ], consider The Holy Spirit to be intended. The last gives this paraphrase: — “Declared, or determinately marked out to be the Son of God and with power. The thing was demonstrated by an evidence, the exhibition of which required a putting forth of power, which Paul in another place represents as a very great and strenuous exertion, ‘According to the working of his mighty power when he raised him from the dead.’ — The Spirit of Holiness, or the Holy Spirit. It was through the operation of the Holy Spirit that the divine nature was infused into the human at the birth of Jesus Christ; and the very same agent, it is remarkable, was employed in the work of the resurrection. ‘Put to death in the flesh,’ says Peter, and ‘quickened by the Spirit.’ We have only to do with the facts of the case. He was demonstrated to be the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit having been put forth in raising him from the dead.” As to the genitive case after “resurrection,” see a similar instance in Acts 17:32
The idea deduced by [Calvin ], that he is called here “the Spirit of Holiness,” on account of the holiness he works in us, seems not well-founded, though advanced by [Theodoret ] and [Augustine ]. — Ed.
5.Through whom we have received, etc. — Having completed his definition of the gospel, which he introduced for the recommendation of his office, he now returns to speak of his own call; and it was a great point that this should be proved to the Romans. By mentioning grace and apostleship apart, he adopts a form of speech, (20) which must be understood as meaning, gratuitous apostleship or the favor of the apostleship; by which he means, that it was wholly through divine favor, not through his own worthiness, that he had been chosen for so high an office. For though it has hardly any thing connected with it in the estimation of the world, except dangers, labors, hatred, and disgrace; yet before God and his saints, it possesses a dignity of no common or ordinary kind. It is therefore deservedly counted a favor. If you prefer to say, “I have received grace that I should be an Apostle,” the sense would be the same. (21)
The expression, on account of his name, is rendered by [Ambrose ], “in his name,” as though it meant, that the Apostle was appointed in the place of Christ to preach the gospel, according to that passage, “We are ambassadors for Christ,” etc. (2 Corinthians 5:20.) Their opinion, however, seems better, who take name for knowledge; for the gospel is preached for this end — that we may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 3:23.) And Paul is said to have been a chosen vessel, to carry the name of Christ among the Gentiles. (Acts 9:15.) On account then of his name, which means the same, as though he had said, that I might make known what Christ is. (22)
For the obedience of faith, etc. — That is, we have received a command to preach the gospel among all nations, and this gospel they obey by faith. By stating the design of his calling, he again reminds the Romans of his office, as though he said, “It is indeed my duty to discharge the office committed to me, which is to preach the word; and it is your duty to hear the word and willingly to obey it; you will otherwise make void the vocation which the Lord has bestowed on me.”
We hence learn, that they perversely resist the authority of God and upset the whole of what he has ordained, who irreverently and contemptuously reject the preaching of the gospel; the design of which is to constrain us to obey God. We must also notice here what faith is; the name of obedience is given to it, and for this reason — because the Lord calls us by his gospel; we respond to his call by faith; as on the other hand, the chief act of disobedience to God is unbelief, I prefer rendering the sentence, “For the obedience of faith,” rather than, “In order that they may obey the faith;” for the last is not strictly correct, except taken figuratively, though it be found once in the Acts 6:7. Faith is properly that by which we obey the gospel. (23)
Among all nations, etc. It was not enough for him to have been appointed an Apostle, except his ministry had reference to some who were to be taught: hence he adds, that his apostleship extended to all nations. He afterwards calls himself more distinctly the Apostle of the Romans, when he says, that they were included in the number of the nations, to whom he had been given as a minister. And further, the Apostles had in common the command to preach the gospel to all the world; and they were not, as pastors and bishops, set over certain churches. But Paul, in addition to the general undertaking of the apostolic function, was constituted, by a special appointment, to be a minister to proclaim the gospel among the Gentiles. It is no objection to this, that he was forbidden to pass through Macedonia and to preach the word in Mysia: for this was done, not that there were limits prescribed to him, but that he was for a time to go elsewhere; for the harvest was not as yet ripe there.
Ye are the called of Jesus Christ, etc. He assigns a reason more nearly connected with them — because the Lord had already exhibited in them an evidence by which he had manifested that he had called them to a participation of the gospel. It hence followed, that if they wished their own calling to remain sure, they were not to reject the ministry of Paul, who had been chosen by the same election of God. I therefore take this clause, “the called of Jesus Christ,” as explanatory, as though the particle “even” were inserted; for he means, that they were by calling made partakers of Christ. For they who shall be heirs of eternal life, are chosen by the celestial Father to be children in Christ; and when chosen, they are committed to his care and protection as their shepherd. (24)
“Pro nomine ipsius ,” — ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνὸματος αὐτοῦ; “ad nominis ejus gloriam — to the glory of his name,” [Turrettin ]; “for the purpose of magnifying his name,” [Chalmers ] [Hodge ] observes, “Paul was an apostle that all nations might be obedient, to the honor of Jesus Christ, that is, so that his name may be known.” Some, as [Tholuck ], connect the words with “obedience to the faith,” as they render the phrase, and, in this sense, “that obedience might be rendered to the faith among all nations for the sake of his name.” But it is better to connect the words with the receiving of the apostleship: it was received for two purposes — that there might be the obedience of faith, and that the name of Christ might be magnified. — Ed.
7.To all of you who are at Rome, etc. By this happy arrangement he sets forth what there is in us worthy of commendation; he says, that first the Lord through his own kindness made us the objects of his favor and love; and then that he has called us; and thirdly, that he has called us to holiness: but this high honor only then exists, when we are not wanting to our call.
Here a rich truth presents itself to us, to which I shall briefly refer, and leave it to be meditated upon by each individual: Paul does by no means ascribe the praise of our salvation to ourselves, but derives it altogether from the fountain of God’s free and paternal love towards us; for he makes this the first thing — God loves us: and what is the cause of his love, except his own goodness alone? On this depends our calling, by which in his own time he seals his adoption to those whom he had before freely chosen. We also learn from this passage that none rightly connect themselves with the number of the faithful, except they feel assured that the Lord is gracious, however unworthy and wretched sinners they may be, and except they be stimulated by his goodness and aspire to holiness, for he hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7.) As the Greek can be rendered in the second person, I see no reason for any change.
Grace to you and peace, etc. Nothing is more desirable than to have God propitious to us, and this is signified by grace; and then to have prosperity and success in all things flowing from him, and this is intimated by peace; for however things may seem to smile on us, if God be angry, even blessing itself is turned to a curse. The very foundation then of our felicity is the favor of God, by which we enjoy true and solid prosperity, and by which also our salvation is promoted even when we are in adversities. (25) And then as he prays to God for peace, we must understand, that whatever good comes to us, it is the fruit of divine benevolence. Nor must we omit to notice, that he prays at the same time to the Lord Jesus Christ for these blessings. Worthily indeed is this honor rendered to him, who is not only the administrator and dispenser of his Father’s bounty to us, but also works all things in connection with him. It was, however, the special object of the Apostle to show, that through him all God’s blessings come to us. (26)
There are those who prefer to regard the word peace as signifying quietness of conscience; and that this meaning belongs to it sometimes, I do not deny: but since it is certain that the Apostle wished to give us here a summary of God’s blessings, the former meaning, which is adduced by Bucer, is much the most suitable. Anxiously wishing then to the godly what makes up real happiness, he betakes himself, as he did before, to the very fountain itself, even the favor of God, which not only alone brings to us eternal felicity but is also the source of all blessings in this life.
8. I first (28) indeed, etc. Here the beginning commences, altogether adapted to the occasion, as he seasonably prepares them for receiving instruction by reasons connected with himself as well as with them. What he states respecting them is, the celebrity of their faith; for he intimates that they being honored with the public approbation of the churches, could not reject an Apostle of the Lord, without disappointing the good opinion entertained of them by all; and such a thing would have been extremely uncourteous and in a manner bordering on perfidy. As then this testimony justly induced the Apostle, by affording him an assurance of their obedience, to undertake, according to his office, to teach and instruct the Romans; so it held them bound not to despise his authority. With regard to himself, he disposes them to a teachable spirit by testifying his love towards them: and there is nothing more effectual in gaining credit to an adviser, than the impression that he is cordially anxious to consult our wellbeing.
The first thing worthy of remark is, that he so commends their faith, (29) that he implies that it had been received from God. We are here taught that faith is God’s gift; for thanksgiving is an acknowledgment of a benefit. He who gives thanks to God for faith, confesses that it comes from him. And since we find that the Apostle ever begins his congratulations with thanksgiving, let us know that we are hereby reminded, that all our blessings are God’s free gifts. It is also needful to become accustomed to such forms of speaking, that we may be led more fully to rouse ourselves in the duty of acknowledging God as the giver of all our blessings, and to stir up others to join us in the same acknowledgment. If it be right to do this in little things, how much more with regard to faith; Which is neither a small nor an indiscriminate (promiscua ) gift of God. We have here besides an example, that thanks ought to be given through Christ, according to the Apostle’s command in Hebrews 13:15; inasmuch as in his name we seek and obtain mercy from the Father. — I observe in the last place, that he calls him his God. This is the faithful’s special privilege, and on them alone God bestows this honor. There is indeed implied in this a mutual relationship, which is expressed in this promise,
“I will be to them a God;
they shall be to me a people.” (Jeremiah 30:22.)
I prefer at the same time to confine this to the character which Paul sustained, as an attestation of his obedience to the end in the work of preaching the gospel. So Hezekiah called God the God of Isaiah, when he desired him to give him the testimony of a true and faithful Prophet. (Isaiah 37:4.) So also he is called in an especial manner the God of Daniel. (Daniel 6:20.)
Through the whole world. The eulogy of faithful men was to Paul equal to that of the whole world, with regard to the faith of the Romans; for the unbelieving, who deemed it detestable, could not have given an impartial or a correct testimony respecting it. We then understood that it was by the mouths of the faithful that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed through the whole world; and that they were alone able to judge rightly of it, and to pronounce a correct opinion. That this small and despised handful of men were unknown as to their character to the ungodly, even at Rome, was a circumstance he regarded as nothing; for Paul made no account of their judgment.
9.For God is my witness, etc. He proves his love by its effects; for had he not greatly loved them, he would not have so anxiously commended them to the Lord, and especially he would not have so ardently desired to promote their welfare by his own labors. His anxiety then and his ardent desire were certain evidences of his love; for had they not sprung from it, they would never have existed. And as he knew it to be necessary for establishing confidence in his preaching, that the Romans should be fully persuaded of his sincerity, he added an oath — a needful remedy, whenever a declaration, which ought to be received as true and indubitable vacillates through uncertainty. For since an oath is nothing else but an appeal to God as to the truth of what we declare, most foolish is it to deny that the Apostle used here an oath. He did not notwithstanding transgress the prohibition of Christ.
It hence appears that it was not Christ’s design (as the superstitious Anabaptists dream) to abolish oaths altogether, but on the contrary to call attention to the due observance of the law; and the law, allowing an oath, only condemns perjury and needless swearing. If then we would use an oath aright, let us imitate the seriousness and the reverent manner exhibited by the Apostles; and that you may understand what it is, know that God is so called as a witness, that he is also appealed to as an avenger, in case we deceive; which Paul expresses elsewhere in these words,
“God is a witness to my soul.” (2 Corinthians 1:23.) (30)
Whom I serve with my spirit, etc. It is usual with profane men, who trifle with God, to pretend his name, no less boldly than presumptuously; but the Apostle here speaks of his own piety, in order to gain credit; and those, in whom the fear of God and reverence for his name prevail, will dread to swear falsely. At the same time, he sets his own spirit in opposition to the outward mask of religion; for as many falsely pretend to be the worshippers of God, and outwardly appear to be so, he testifies that he, from the heart served, God. (31) It may be also that he alluded to the ancient ceremonies, in which alone the Jews thought the worship of God consisted. He then intimates, that though he retained not observance of these, he was yet a sincere worshipper of God, according to what he says in Philippians 3:3,
“We are the true circumcision, who in spirit serve God,
and glory not in the flesh.”
He then glories that he served God with sincere devotion of heart, which is true religion and approved worship.
But it was expedient, as I have said, in order that his oath might attain more credit, that Paul should declare his piety towards God; for perjury is a sport to the ungodly, while the pious dread it more than a thousand deaths; inasmuch as it cannot be, but that where there is a real fear of God, there must be also a reverence for his name. It is then the same thing, as though Paul had said, that he knew how much sacredness and sincerity belonged to an oath, and that he did not rashly appeal to God as a witness, as the profane are wont to do. And thus, by his own example, he teaches us, that whenever we swear, we ought to give such evidence of piety, that the name of God, which we use in our declarations, may retain its sacredness. And further, he gives a proof, even by his own ministry, that he worshipped not God feignedly; for it was the fullest evidence, that he was a man devoted to God’s glory, when he denied himself, and hesitated not to undergo all the hardships of reproach, poverty, and hatred, and even the peril of death, in advancing the kingdom of God. (32)
Some take this clause, as though Paul intended to recommend that worship which he said he rendered to God, on this account, — because it corresponded with what the gospel prescribes. It is indeed certain that spiritual worship is enjoined on us in the gospel; but the former interpretation is far the most suitable, — that he devoted his service to God in preaching the gospel. He, however, makes at the same time a difference between himself and hypocrites, who have something else in view rather than to serve God; for ambition, or some such thing, influences most men; and it is far from being the case, that all engage cordially and faithfully in this office. The meaning is, that Paul performed sincerely the office of teaching; for what he says of his own devotion he applies to this subject.
But we hence gather a profitable doctrine; for it ought to add no little encouragement to the ministers of the gospel, when they hear that, in preaching the gospel, they render an acceptable and a valuable service to God. What, indeed, is there to prevent them from regarding it an excellent service, when they know that their labor is pleasing to God, and is approved by him? Moreover, he calls itthe gospel of the Son of God; for Christ is in it made known, who has been appointed by the Father for this end, — that he, being glorified, should also glorify the Father.
That continually, etc. He still further sets forth the ardor of his love by his very constancy in praying for them. It was, indeed, a strong evidence, when he poured forth no prayers to the Lord without making mention of them. That the meaning may be clearer, I render παντοτε, “always;” as though it was said, “In all my prayers,” or, “whenever I address God in prayer, I join a mention of you.” (33) Now he speaks not of every kind of calling on God, but of those prayers to which the saints, being at liberty, and laying aside all cares, apply their whole attention to the work; for he might have often expressed suddenly this or that wish, when the Romans did not come into his mind; but whenever he had previously intended, and, as it were, prepared himself to offer up prayers to God, among others he remembered them. He then speaks peculiarly of those prayers, for which the saints deliberately prepare themselves; as we find to have been the case with our Lord himself, who, for this purpose, sought retirement. He at the same time intimates how frequently, or rather, how unceasingly he was engaged in such prayers, since he says that he prayed continually.
9. My witness indeed is God, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that I unceasingly make mention of you, always requesting in my prayers,
10. That by some means now at length I may, through the will of God, have a free course to come to you.
“In the gospel,” may either mean “according to the gospel,” or, “in preaching the gospel.” [Hodge ] prefers the first. The particle ει clearly means “that” in this connection. That it is used in this sense in the New Testament there can be no doubt; see Acts 26:8; Hebrews 7:15
10.Requesting, if by any means, etc. As it is not probable that we from the heart study his benefit, whom we are not ready to assist by our labors, he now adds, after having said that he was anxious for their welfare, that he showed by another proof his love to them, as before God, even by requesting that he might be able to advance their interest. That you may, therefore, perceive the full meaning, read the words as though the word also were inserted, requesting also, if by any means, etc. By saying, A prosperous journey by the will of God he shows, not only that he looked to the Lord’s favor for success in his journey, but that he deemed his journey prosperous, if it was approved by the Lord. According to this model ought all our wishes to be formed.
11.For I greatly desire to see you He might, indeed, while absent, have confirmed their faith by his doctrine; but as advice is better taken from one present, he had a desire to be with them. But he explains what his object was, and shows that he wished to undertake the toil of a journey, not for his own, but for their advantage. — Spiritual gifts (34) he calls those which he possessed, being either those of doctrine, or of exhortation, or of prophesy which he knew had come to him through God’s favor. He has here strikingly pointed out the use of gifts by the word, imparting: for different gifts are distributed to each individual, that all may in kindness mutually assist one another, and transfer to others what each one possesses. See Romans 12:3
To confirm you, etc. He modifies what he had said of imparting, lest he should seem to regard them such as were yet to be instructed in the first elements of religion, as though they were not hitherto rightly taught in Christ. He then says, that he wished so to lend his aid to them, that they who had for the most part made a proficiency, might be further assisted: for a confirmation is what we all want, until Christ be fully formed in us. (Ephesians 4:13.)
12.Being not satisfied with this modest statement, he qualifies it, and shows, that he did not so occupy the place of a teacher, but that he wished to learn also from them; as though he said, “I desire so to confirm you according to the measure of grace conferred on me, that your example may also add courage (alacritatem — alacrity) to my faith, and that we may thus mutually benefit one another.”
See to what degree of modesty his pious heart submitted itself, so that he disdained not to seek confirmation from unexperienced beginners: nor did he speak dissemblingly, for there is no one so void of gifts in the Church of Christ, who is not able to contribute something to our benefit: but we are hindered by our envy and by our pride from gathering such fruit from one another. Such is our high-mindedness, such is the inebriety produced by vain reputation, that despising and disregarding others, every one thinks that he possesses what is abundantly sufficient for himself. I prefer to read with Bucer, exhortation (exhortationem — encouragement) rather than consolatim ; for it agrees better with the former part. (35)
The verb with the prefix , συμ, is only found here; but the verb παρακαλέω frequently occurs, and its common meaning is, to beseech, to exhort to encourage, and by these means to comfort.
With regard to this passage, Professor [Stuart ] says, “I have rendered the word, comfort, only because I cannot find any English word which will convey the full sense of the original.”
“The word rendered to comfort, ” says Professor [Hodge ], “means to invite, to exhort, to instruct, to console, etc. Which of these senses is to be preferred here, it is not easy to decide. Most probably the Apostle intended to use the word in a wide sense, as expressing the idea, that he might be excited, encouraged, and comforted by his intercourse with his Christian brethren.” — The two verses may be thus rendered: —
11.For I desire much to see you, that I may impart to you spiritual
12.benefit, so that you may be strengthened: this also is what I desire, to be encouraged together with you, through the faith which is in both, even in you and in me.
[Grotius ] observes , “ἐν ἀλλήλοις impropriè dixit pro in utrisque, in me et vobis. Dixit sic et Demosthenes , τα πρὸς ἀλλήλοις — Ed
13.I would not that you should be ignorant. What he has hitherto testified — that he continually requested of the Lord that he might visit them, might have appeared a vain thing, and could not have obtained credit, had he neglected to seize the occasion when offered: he therefore says, that the effort had not been wanting, but the opportunity; for he had been prevented from executing a purpose often formed.
We hence learn that the Lord frequently upsets the purposes of his saints, in order to humble them, and by such humiliation to teach them to regard his Providence, that they may rely on it; though the saints, who design nothing without the Lord’s will, cannot be said, strictly speaking, to be driven away from their purposes. It is indeed the presumption of impiety to pass by God, and without him to determine on things to come, as though they were in our own power; and this is what James sharply reprehends in James 4:13.
But he says that he was hindered: you must take this in no other sense, but that the Lord employed him in more urgent concerns, which he could not have neglected without loss to the Church. Thus the hinderances of the godly and of the unbelieving differ: the latter perceive only that they are hindered, when they are restrained by the strong hand of the Lord, so as not to be able to move; but the former are satisfied with an hinderance that arises from some approved reason; nor do they allow themselves to attempt any thing beyond their duty, or contrary to edification.
That I might obtain some fruit, etc. He no doubt speaks of that fruit, for the gathering of which the Lord sent his Apostles,
“I have chosen you, that ye may go and bring forth fruit,
and that your fruit may remain.” (John 15:16.)
Though he gathered it not for himself, but for the Lord, he yet calls it his own; for the godly have nothing more as their own than the work of promoting the glory of the Lord, with which is connected all their happiness. And he records what had happened to him with respect to other nations, that the Romans might entertain hope, that his coming to them would not be unprofitable, which so many nations had found to have been attended with so much benefit.
14.I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, etc. Those whom he means by the Greeks and the Barbarians, he afterwards explains by adding, both to the wise and to the foolish; which words Erasmus has not rendered amiss by “learned and unlearned,” (eruditos et rudes ,) but I prefer to retain the very words of Paul. He then takes an argument from his own office, and intimates that it ought not to be ascribed to his arrogance, that he thought himself in a manner capable of teaching the Romans, however much they excelled in learning and wisdom and in the knowledge of things, inasmuch as it had pleased the Lord to make him a debtor even to the wise. (36)
Two things are to be here considered — that the gospel is by a heavenly mandate destined and offered to the wise, in order that the Lord may subject to himself all the wisdom of this world, and make all variety of talents, and every kind of science, and the loftiness of all arts, to give way to the simplicity of his doctrine; and what is more, they are to be reduced to the same rank with the unlearned, and to be made so meek, as to be able to bear those to be their fellow-disciples under their master, Christ, whom they would not have deigned before to take as their scholars; and then that the unlearned are by no means to be driven away from this school, nor are they to flee away from it through groundless fear; for if Paul was indebted to them, being a faithful debtor, he had doubtless discharged what he owed; and thus they will find here what they will be capable of enjoying. All teachers have also a rule here which they are to follow, and that is, modestly and kindly to accommodate themselves to the capacities of the ignorant and unlearned. Hence it will be, that they will be able, with more evenness of mind, to bear with many absurdities and almost innumerable things that may disgust them, by which they might otherwise be overcome. They are, however, to remember, that they are not so indebted to the foolish, as that they are to cherish their folly by immoderate indulgence.
In modern phraseology, the words may be rendered, “Both to the civilized and to the uncivilized, both to the learned and to the unlearned, am I a debtor.” The two last terms are not exactly parallel to the two first, as many unlearned were among the Greeks, or the civilized, as well as among the Barbarians. — Ed.
15.I am therefore ready, (37) etc. He concludes what he had before said of his desire — that as he knew it to be his duty to spread the gospel among them, in order to gather fruit for the Lord, he was anxious to fulfill God’s calling, as far as he was allowed to do so by the Lord.
16.I am not indeed ashamed, etc. This is an anticipation of an objection; for he declares beforehand, that he cared not for the taunts of the ungodly; and he thus provides a way for himself, by which he proceeds to pronounce an eulogy on the value of the gospel, that it might not appear contemptible to the Romans. He indeed intimates that it was contemptible in the eyes of the world; and he does this by saying, that he was not ashamed of it. And thus he prepares them for bearing the reproach of the cross of Christ, lest they should esteem the gospel of less value by finding it exposed to the scoffs and reproaches of the ungodly; and, on the other hand, he shows how valuable it was to the faithful. If, in the first place, the power of God ought to be extolled by us, that power shines forth in the gospel; if, again, the goodness of God deserves to be sought and loved by us, the gospel is a display of his goodness. It ought then to be reverenced and honored, since veneration is due to God’s power; and as it avails to our salvation, it ought to be loved by us.
But observe how much Paul ascribes to the ministry of the word, when he testifies that God thereby puts forth his power to save; for he speaks not here of any secret revelation, but of vocal preaching. It hence follows, that those as it were willfully despise the power of God, and drive away from them his delivering hand, who withdraw themselves from the hearing of the word.
At the same time, as he works not effectually in all, but only where the Spirit, the inward Teacher, illuminates the heart, he subjoins, To every one who believeth. The gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but the power of it appears not everywhere: and that it is the savor of death to the ungodly, does not proceed from what it is, but from their own wickedness. By setting forth but one Salvation he cuts off every other trust. When men withdraw themselves from this one salvation, they find in the gospel a sure proof of their own ruin. Since then the gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly called the doctrine of salvation: for Christ is there offered, whose peculiar office is to save that which was lost; and those who refuse to be saved by him, shall find him a Judge. But everywhere in Scripture the word salvation is simply set in opposition to the word destruction: and hence we must observe, when it is mentioned, what the subject of the discourse is. Since then the gospel delivers from ruin and the curse of endless death, its salvation is eternal life. (38)
First to the Jew and then to the Greek. Under the word Greek, he includes all the Gentiles, as it is evident from the comparison that is made; for the two clauses comprehend all mankind. And it is probable that he chose especially this nation to designate other nations, because, in the first place, it was admitted, next to the Jews, into a participation of the gospel covenant; and, secondly, because the Greeks, on account of their vicinity, and the celebrity of their language, were more known to the Jews. It is then a mode of speaking, a part being taken for the whole, by which he connects the Gentiles universally with the Jews, as participators of the gospel: nor does he thrust the Jews from their own eminence and dignity, since they were the first partakers of God’s promise and calling. He then reserves for them their prerogative; but he immediately joins the Gentiles, though in the second place, as being partakers with them.
“The gospel is a divine act, which continues to operate through all ages of the world, and that not in the first place outwardly, but inwardly, in the depths of the soul, and for eternal purposes.” — [Dr. Olshausen ]
17.For (39) the righteousness of God, etc. This is an explanation and a confirmation of the preceding clause — that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. For if we seek salvation, that is, life with God, righteousness must be first sought, by which being reconciled to him, we may, through him being propitious to us, obtain that life which consists only in his favor; for, in order to be loved by God, we must first become righteous, since he regards unrighteousness with hatred. He therefore intimates, that we cannot obtain salvation otherwise than from the gospel, since nowhere else does God reveal to us his righteousness, which alone delivers us from perdition. Now this righteousness, which is the groundwork of our salvation, is revealed in the gospel: hence the gospel is said to be the power of God unto salvation. Thus he reasons from the cause to the effect.
Notice further, how extraordinary and valuable a treasure does God bestow on us through the gospel, even the communication of his own righteousness. I take the righteousness of God to mean, that which is approved before his tribunal; (40) as that, on the contrary, is usually called the righteousness of men, which is by men counted and supposed to be righteousness, though it be only vapor. Paul, however, I doubt not, alludes to the many prophecies in which the Spirit makes known everywhere the righteousness of God in the future kingdom of Christ.
Some explain it as the righteousness which is freely given us by God: and I indeed confess that the words will bear this sense; for God justifies us by the gospel, and thus saves us: yet the former view seems to me more suitable, though it is not what I make much of. Of greater moment is what some think, that this righteousness does not only consist in the free remission of sins, but also, in part, includes the grace of regeneration. But I consider, that we are restored to life because God freely reconciles us to himself, as we shall hereafter show in its proper place.
But instead of the expression he used before, “to every one who believeth,” he says now, from faith; for righteousness is offered by the gospel, and is received by faith. And he adds, to faith: for as our faith makes progress, and as it advances in knowledge, so the righteousness of God increases in us at the same time, and the possession of it is in a manner confirmed. When at first we taste the gospel, we indeed see God’s smiling countenance turned towards us, but at a distance: the more the knowledge of true religion grows in us, by coming as it were nearer, we behold God’s favor more clearly and more familiarly. What some think, that there is here an implied comparison between the Old and New Testament, is more refined than well-founded; for Paul does not here compare the Fathers who lived under the law with us, but points out the daily progress that is made by every one of the faithful.
As it is written, etc. By the authority of the Prophet Habakkuk he proves the righteousness of faith; for he, predicting the overthrow of the proud, adds this — that the life of the righteous consists in faith. Now we live not before God, except through righteousness: it then follows, that our righteousness is obtained by faith; and the verb being future, designates the real perpetuity of that life of which he speaks; as though he had said, — that it would not be momentary, but continue forever. For even the ungodly swell with the false notion of having life; but when they say, “Peace and safety,” a sudden destruction comes upon them, (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) It is therefore a shadow, which endures only for a moment. Faith alone is that which secures the perpetuity of life; and whence is this, except that it leads us to God, and makes our life to depend on him? For Paul would not have aptly quoted this testimony had not the meaning of the Prophet been, that we then only stand, when by faith we recumb on God: and he has not certainly ascribed life to the faith of the godly, but in as far as they, having renounced the arrogance of the world, resign themselves to the protection of God alone. (41)
He does not indeed professedly handle this subject; and hence he makes no mention of gratuitous justification: but it is sufficiently evident from the nature of faith, that this testimony is rightly applied to the present subject. Besides, we necessarily gather from his reasoning, that there is a mutual connection between faith and the gospel: for as the just is said to live by faith, he concludes that this life is received by the gospel.
We have now the principal point or the main hinge of the first part of this Epistle, — that we are justified by faith through the mercy of God alone. We have not this, indeed as yet distinctly expressed by Paul; but from his own words it will hereafter be made very clear — that the righteousness, which is grounded on faith, depends entirely on the mercy of God.
There is more difficulty connected with the following words , ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν. The view which [Calvin ] gives was adopted by some of the Fathers, such as [Theophylact ] and [Clemens Alexandrinus ]; and it is that of [Melancthon ], [Beza ], [Scaliger ], [Locke ], and many others. From [Poole ] we find that [Chrysostom ] gave this exposition, “From the obscure and inchoate faith of the Old Testament to the clear and full faith of the New;” and that [Ambrose ] ’s exposition was the following, “From the faith or fidelity of God who promises to the faith of him who believes.” But in all these views there is not that which comports with the context, nor the construction very intelligible-”revealed from faith,” What can it mean? To render the passage intelligibly , ἐκ πίστεως must be connected with δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, as suggested by [Hammond ], and followed by [Doddridge ] and [Macknight ]. Then it would be, “The righteousness of God by faith or, which is by faith:” this is revealed in the gospel “to faith,” that is, in order that it may be believed; which is often the force of εἰς before a noun; as, εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν — in order to do wickedness; or, εἰς ἁγιασμόν in order to practice holiness, Romans 6:19 [Chalmers ], [Stuart ], [Barnes ], and [Haldane ] take this view. The verse may be thus rendered, —
For the righteousness of God by faith is in it revealed in order to be believed, as it is written, “The just shall by faith live.” The same truth is conveyed in Romans 3:22; and similar phraseology is found in Philippians 3:9.
[Barnes ] seems fully to express the import of the passage in these words, “God’s plan of justifying men is revealed in the gospel, which plan is by faith, and the benefits of which plan shall be extended to all that have faith or that believe.” — Ed.
18.For (42) revealed, etc. He reasons now by stating things of a contrary nature, and proves that there is no righteousness except what is conferred, or comes through the gospel; for he shows that without this all men are condemned: by it alone there is salvation to be found. And he brings, as the first proof of condemnation, the fact, — that though the structure of the world, and the most beautiful arrangement of the elements, ought to have induced man to glorify God, yet no one discharged his proper duty: it hence appears that all were guilty of sacrilege, and of wicked and abominable ingratitude.
To some it seems that this is a main subject, and that Paul forms his discourse for the purpose of enforcing repentance; but I think that the discussion of the subject begins here, and that the principal point is stated in a former proposition; for Paul’s object was to teach us where salvation is to be found. He has already declared that we cannot obtain it except through the gospel: but as the flesh will not willingly humble itself so far as to assign the praise of salvation to the grace of God alone, Paul shows that the whole world is deserving of eternal death. It hence follows, that life is to be recovered in some other way, since we are all lost in ourselves. But the words, being well considered, will help us much to understand the meaning of the passage.
Some make a difference between impiety and unrighteousness, and think, that by the former word is meant the profanation of God’s worship, and by the latter, injustice towards men; but as the Apostle immediately refers this unrighteousness to the neglect of true religion, we shall explain both as referring to the same thing. (43) And then,all the impiety of men is to be taken, by a figure in language, as meaning “the impiety of all men,” or, the impiety of which all men are guilty. But by these two words one thing is designated, and that is, ingratitude towards God; for we thereby offend in two ways: it is said to be ἀσέβεια, impiety, as it is a dishonoring of God; it is ἀδικία, unrighteousness, because man, by transferring to himself what belongs to God, unjustly deprives God of his glory. The word wrath, according to the usage of Scripture, speaking after the manner of men, means the vengeance of God; for God, in punishing, has, according to our notion, the appearance of one in wrath. It imports, therefore, no such emotion in God, but only has a reference to the perception and feeling of the sinner who is punished. Then he says that it isrevealed from heaven; though the expression,from heaven, is taken by some in the sense of an adjective, as though he had said “the wrath of the celestial God;” yet I think it more emphatical, when taken as having this import, “Wheresoever a man may look around him, he will find no salvation; for the wrath of God is poured out on the whole world, to the full extent of heaven.”
The truth of God means, the true knowledge of God; and to hold in that, is to suppress or to obscure it: hence they are charged as guilty of robbery. — What we renderunjustly, is given literally by Paul, in unrighteousness, which means the same thing in Hebrew: but we have regard to perspicuity. (44)
This is the view taken by [Turrettin ]; and [Pareus ] says, “There is nothing to prevent us from referring the revelation of wrath, as well as the revelation of righteousness, to the gospel” — Ed.
“They rushed headlong,” says [Pareus ], “into impiety against God and into injustice against one another, not through ignorance, but knowingly, not through weakness, but willfully and maliciously: and this the Apostle expresses by a striking metaphor, taken from tyrants, who, against right and justice, by open violence, oppress the innocent, bind them in chains, and detain them in prison.”
The sense given by [Schleusner ] and some others, “Qui cum veri Dei cognitione pravitatem vitæ conjungunt — who connect with a knowledge of the true God a wicked life,” seems not to comport with the context.
“The truth” means that respecting the being and power of God afterwards specified. — Ed.
19.Inasmuch as what may be known of God, etc. He thus designates what it behoves us to know of God; and he means all that appertains to the setting forth of the glory of the Lord, or, which is the same thing, whatever ought to move and excite us to glorify God. And by this expression he intimates, that God in his greatness can by no means be fully comprehended by us, and that there are certain limits within which men ought to confine themselves, inasmuch as God accommodates to our small capacities what he testifies of himself. Insane then are all they who seek to know of themselves what God is: for the Spirit, the teacher of perfect wisdom, does not in vain invite our attention to what may be known, τὸ γνωστὸν; and by what means this is known, he immediately explains. And he said, in them rather than to them, for the sake of greater emphasis: for though the Apostle adopts everywhere Hebrew phrases, and ב, beth, is often redundant in that language, yet he seems here to have intended to indicate a manifestation, by which they might be so closely pressed, that they could not evade; for every one of us undoubtedly finds it to be engraven on his own heart, (45) By saying, that God has made it manifest, he means, that man was created to be a spectator of this formed world, and that eyes were given him, that he might, by looking on so beautiful a picture, be led up to the Author himself.
20.Since his invisible things, (46) etc. God is in himself invisible; but as his majesty shines forth in his works and in his creatures everywhere, men ought in these to acknowledge him, for they clearly set forth their Maker: and for this reason the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews says, that this world is a mirror, or the representation of invisible things. He does not mention all the particulars which may be thought to belong to God; but he states, that we can arrive at the knowledge of his eternal power and divinity; (47) for he who is the framer of all things, must necessarily be without beginning and from himself. When we arrive at this point, the divinity becomes known to us, which cannot exist except accompanied with all the attributes of a God, since they are all included under that idea.
So that they are inexcusable. It hence clearly appears what the consequence is of having this evidence — that men cannot allege any thing before God’s tribunal for the purpose of showing that they are not justly condemned. Yet let this difference be remembered, that the manifestation of God, by which he makes his glory known in his creation, is, with regard to the light itself, sufficiently clear; but that on account of our blindness, it is not found to be sufficient. We are not however so blind, that we can plead our ignorance as an excuse for our perverseness. We conceive that there is a Deity; and then we conclude, that whoever he may be, he ought to be worshipped: but our reason here fails, because it cannot ascertain who or what sort of being God is. Hence the Apostle in Hebrews 11:3, ascribes to faith the light by which man can gain real knowledge from the work of creation, and not without reason; for we are prevented by our blindness, so that we reach not to the end in view; we yet see so far, that we cannot pretend any excuse. Both these things are strikingly set forth by Paul in Acts 14:16, when he says, that the Lord in past times left the nations in their ignorance, and yet that he left them not without witness (amarturon ,) since he gave them rain and fertility from heaven. But this knowledge of God, which avails only to take away excuse, differs greatly from that which brings salvation, which Christ mentions in John 17:3, and in which we are to glory, as Jeremiah teaches us, Jeremiah 9:24
[Venema ], in his note on this passage, shows, that goodness was regarded by many of the heathens as the primary attribute of Deity. Among the Greeks, goodness — τὸ ἀγαθὸν, was the expression by which the Supreme Being was distinguished. And it appears evident from the context that the Apostle included this idea especially in the word θείοτης. — Ed
21.For when they knew God, etc. He plainly testifies here, that God has presented to the minds of all the means of knowing him, having so manifested himself by his works, that they must necessarily see what of themselves they seek not to know — that there is some God; for the world does not by chance exist, nor could it have proceeded from itself. But we must ever bear in mind the degree of knowledge in which they continued; and this appears from what follows.
They glorified him not as God. No idea can be formed of God without including his eternity, power, wisdom, goodness, truth, righteousness, and mercy. His eternity appears evident, because he is the maker of all things — his power, because he holds all things in his hand and continues their existence — his wisdom, because he has arranged things in such an exquisite order — his goodness, for there is no other cause than himself, why he created all things, and no other reason, why he should be induced to preserve them — his justice, because in his government he punishes the guilty and defends the innocent — his mercy, because he bears with so much forbearance the perversity of men — and his truth, because he is unchangeable. He then who has a right notion of God ought to give him the praise due to his eternity, wisdom, goodness, and justice. Since men have not recognized these attributes in God, but have dreamt of him as though he were an empty phantom, they are justly said to have impiously robbed him of his own glory. Nor is it without reason that he adds, that they were not thankful, (48) for there is no one who is not indebted to him for numberless benefits: yea, even on this account alone, because he has been pleased to reveal himself to us, he has abundantly made us indebted to him. But they became vain, (49) etc.; that is, having forsaken the truth of God, they turned to the vanity of their own reason, all the acuteness of which is fading and passes away like vapor. And thus their foolish mind, being involved in darkness, could understand nothing aright but was carried away headlong, in various ways, into errors and delusions. Their unrighteousness was this — they quickly choked by their own depravity the seed of right knowledge, before it grew up to ripeness.
“Whatever the right reason within,” says [Pareus ], “or the frame of the world without, might have suggested respecting God, they indulged in pleasing speculations, specious reasonings, and in subtle and frivolous conclusions; some denied the existence of a God, as Epicurus and Democritus — others doubted, as Protagoras and Diagoras — others affirmed the existence of many gods, and these, as the Platonics, maintained that they are not corporeal, while the Greeks and Romans held them to be so, who worshipped dead men, impious, cruel, impure, and wicked. There were also the Egyptians, who worshipped as gods, brute animals, oxen, geese, birds, crocodiles, yea, what grew in their gardens, garlic’s and onions. A very few, such as Plato and Aristotle, acknowledged one Supreme Being; but even these deprived him of his providence. These, and the like, were the monstrous opinions which the Gentiles deduced from their reasonings. They became vain, foolish, senseless.”
“And darkened became their foolish heart ,” — ἡ ἀσύνετος αὐτῶν καρδία; “Corinthians eorum intelligentia carens — their heart void of understanding;” “their unintelligent heart,” [Doddridge ]. Perhaps “undiscerning heart” would be the most suitable. See Matthew 15:16. Heart, after the manner of the Hebrews, is to be taken here for the whole soul, especially the mind. — Ed.
22.While they were thinking, etc. It is commonly inferred from this passage, that Paul alludes here to those philosophers, who assumed to themselves in a peculiar manner the reputation of wisdom; and it is thought that the design of his discourse is to show, that when the superiority of the great is brought down to nothing, the common people would have no reason to suppose that they had any thing worthy of being commended: but they seem to me to have been guided by too slender a reason; for it was not peculiar to the philosophers to suppose themselves wise in the knowledge of God, but it was equally common to all nations, and to all ranks of men. There were indeed none who sought not to form some ideas of the majesty of God, and to make him such a God as they could conceive him to be according to their own reason. This presumption I hold is not learned in the schools, but is innate, and comes with us, so to speak, from the womb. It is indeed evident, that it is an evil which has prevailed in all ages — that men have allowed themselves every liberty in coining superstitions. The arrogance then which is condemned here is this — that men sought to be of themselves wise, and to draw God down to a level with their own low condition, when they ought humbly to have given him his own glory. For Paul holds this principle, that none, except through their own fault, are unacquainted with the worship due to God; as though he said, “As they have proudly exalted themselves, they have become infatuated through the righteous judgment of God.” There is an obvious reason, which contravenes the interpretation which I reject; for the error of forming an image of God did not originate with the philosophers; but they, by their consent, approved of it as received from others. (50)
“This is the greatest unhappiness of man, not only not to feel his malady, but to extract matter of pride from what ought to be his shame. What they deemed to be their wisdom was truly their folly.” — [Haldane ].
It is a just remark of [Hodge ], “That the higher the advancement of the nations in refinement and philosophy, the greater, as a general rule, the degradation and folly of their systems of religion.” As a proof he mentions the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, as compared with the aborigines of America. — Ed.
23.And changed, etc. Having feigned such a God as they could comprehend according to their carnal reason, they were very far from acknowledging the true God: but devised a fictitious and a new god, or rather a phantom. And what he says is, that they changed the glory of God; for as though one substituted a strange child, so they departed from the true God. Nor are they to be excused for this pretense, that they believe that God dwells in heaven, and that they count not the wood to be God, but his image; for it is a high indignity to God, to form so gross an idea of his majesty as to dare to make an image of him. But from the wickedness of such a presumption none were exempt, neither priests, nor statesmen, nor philosophers, of whom the most sound-minded, even Plato himself, sought to find out some likeness of God.
The madness then here noticed, is, that all attempted to make for themselves an image of God; which was a certain proof that their notions of God were gross and absurd. And, first, they befouled the majesty of God by forming him in the likeness of a corruptible man: for I prefer this rendering to that of mortal man, which is adopted by [Erasmus ] ; for Paul sets not the immortality of God in opposition to the mortality of man, but that glory, which is subject to no defects, to the most wretched condition of man. And then, being not satisfied with so great a crime, they descended even to beasts and to those of the most filthy kind; by which their stupidity appeared still more evident. You may see an account of these abominations in Lactantius, in [Eusebius ] , and in [Augustine ] in his book on the city of God.
24.God therefore gave them up, etc. As impiety is a hidden evil, lest they should still find an evasion, he shows, by a more palpable demonstration, that, they cannot escape, but must be held fast by a just condemnation, since such fruits have followed this impiety as cannot be viewed otherwise than manifest evidences of the Lord’s wrath. As the Lord’s wrath is always just, it follows, that what has exposed them to condemnation, must have preceded it. By these evidences then he now proves the apostasy and defection of men: for the Lord indeed does so punish those, who alienate themselves from his goodness, that he casts them headlong into various courses which lead to perdition and ruin. And by comparing the vices, of which they were guilty, with the impiety, of which he had before accused them, he shows that they suffered punishment through the just judgment of God: for since nothing is dearer to us than our own honor, it is extreme blindness, when we fear not to bring disgrace on ourselves; and it is the most suitable punishment for a reproach done to the Divine Majesty. This is the very thing which he treats of to the end of the chapter; but he handles it in various ways, for the subject required ample illustration.
What then, in short, he proves to us is this, — that the ingratitude of men to God is incapable of being excused; for it is manifest, by unequivocal evidences, that the wrath of God rages against them: they would have never rolled themselves in lusts so filthy, after the manner of beasts, had not the majesty of God been provoked and incensed against them. Since, then, the worst abominations abounded everywhere, he concludes that there existed among them evidences of divine vengeance. Now, as this never rages without reason, or unjustly, but ever keeps within the limits of what is right, he intimates that it hence appears that perdition, not less certain than just, impended over all.
As to the manner in which God gives up or delivers men to wickedness, it is by no means necessary in this place to discuss a question so intricate, (longam — tedious.) It is indeed certain, that he not only permits men to fall into sin, by allowing them to do so, and by conniving at them; but that he also, by his equitable judgment, so arranges things, that they are led and carried into such madness by their own lusts, as well as by the devil. He therefore adopts the word, give up, according to the constant usage of Scripture; which word they forcibly wrest, who think that we are led into sin only by the permission of God: for as Satan is the minister of God’s wrath, and as it were the executioner, so he is armed against us, not through the connivance, but by the command of his judge. God, however, is not on this account cruel, nor are we innocent, inasmuch as Paul plainly shows, that we are not delivered up into his power, except when we deserve such a punishment. Only we must make this exception, that the cause of sin is not from God, the roots of which ever abide in the sinner himself; for this must be true,
“Thine is perdition, O Israel; in me only is thy help.”
(Hosea 13:9) (51)
By connecting the desires or lusts of man’s heart with uncleanness, he indirectly intimates what sort of progeny our heart generates, when left to itself. The expression, among themselves, is not without its force; for it significantly expresses how deep and indelible are the marks of infamy imprinted on our bodies.
The preposition ἐν before desires or lusts, is used after the Hebrew manner, in the sense of to or into; for ב beth, means in, and to, and also by or through; and such is the import of ἐν as frequently used by the Apostle. It is so used in the preceding verse — ἐν ὁμοιώματι — into the likeness, etc. Then the verse would be, as Calvin in sense renders it, —
God also on this account delivered them up to the lusts of their own hearts to work uncleanness, that they might dishonor their bodies among themselves.
The import of εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν, in order to uncleanness, is no doubt, to work uncleanness; the Apostle frequently uses this kind of expression. [Stuart ] labors here unnecessarily to show, that God gave them up, being in their lusts, etc., taking the clause as a description of those who were given up; but the plainest meaning is that which Calvin gives. — Ed.
25.Who changed, etc. He repeats what he had said before, though in different words, in order to fix it deeper in our minds. When the truth of God is turned to a lie, his glory is obliterated. It is then but just, that they should be besprinkled with every kind of infamy, who strive to take away from God his honor, and also to reproach his name. —
And worshipped, etc. That I might include two words in one, I have given this rendering. He points out especially the sin of idolatry; for religious honor cannot be given to a creature, without taking it away, in a disgraceful and sacrilegious manner, from God: and vain is the excuse that images are worshipped on God’s account, since God acknowledges no such worship, nor regards it as acceptable; and the true God is not then worshipped at all, but a fictitious God, whom the flesh has devised for itself. (52) What is added, Who is blessed for ever, I explain as having been said for the purpose of exposing idolaters to greater reproach, and in this way, “He is one whom they ought alone to have honored and worshipped, and from whom it was not right to take away any thing, no, not even the least.”
26.God therefore gave them up, etc. After having introduced as it were an intervening clause, he returns to what he had before stated respecting the judgment of God: and he brings, as the first example, the dreadful crime of unnatural lust; and it hence appears that they not only abandoned themselves to beastly lusts, but became degraded beyond the beasts, since they reversed the whole order of nature. He then enumerates a long catalogue of vices which had existed in all ages, and then prevailed everywhere without any restraint.
It is not to the purpose to say, that every one was not laden with so great a mass of vices; for in arraigning the common baseness of men, it is proof enough if all to a man are constrained to acknowledge some faults. So then we must consider, that Paul here records those abominations which had been common in all ages, and were at that time especially prevalent everywhere; for it is marvelous how common then was that filthiness which even brute beasts abhor; and some of these vices were even popular. And he recites a catalogue of vices, in some of which the whole race of man were involved; for though all were not murderers, or thieves, or adulterers, yet there were none who were not found polluted by some vice or another. He calls those disgraceful passions, which are shameful even in the estimation of men, and redound to the dishonoring of God.
27.Such a reward for their error as was meet. They indeed deserved to be blinded, so as to forget themselves, and not to see any thing befitting them, who, through their own malignity, closed their eyes against the light offered them by God, that they might not behold his glory: in short, they who were not ashamed to extinguish, as much as they could, the glory of God, which alone gives us light, deserved to become blind at noonday.
28.And as they chose not, etc. There is an evident comparison to be observed in these words, by which is strikingly set forth the just relation between sin and punishment. As they chose not to continue in the knowledge of God, which alone guides our minds to true wisdom, the Lord gave them a perverted mind, which can choose nothing that is right. (53) And by saying, that they chose not, (non probasse - approved not,) it is the same as though he had said, that they pursued not after the knowledge of God with the attention they ought to have done, but, on the contrary, turned away their thoughts resignedly from God. He then intimates, that they, making a depraved choice, preferred their own vanities to the true God; and thus the error, by which they were deceived, was voluntary.
To do those things which were not meet As he had hitherto referred only to one instance of abomination, which prevailed indeed among many, but was not common to all, he begins here to enumerate vices from which none could be found free: for though every vice, as it has been said, did not appear in each individual, yet all were guilty of some vices, so that every one might separately be accused of manifest depravity. As he calls them in the first instance not meet, understand him as saying, that they were inconsistent with every decision of reason, and alien to the duties of men: for he mentions it as an evidence of a perverted mind, that men addicted themselves, without any reflection, to those vices, which common sense ought to have led them to renounce.
But it is labor in vain so to connect these vices, as to make them dependent one on another, since this was not Paul’s design; but he set them down as they occurred to his mind. What each of them signifies, we shall very briefly explain.
“To acknowledge God” is literally “to have God in recognition τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει. ” [Venema ] says, that this is a purely Greek idiom, and adduces passages from [Herodotus ] and [Xenophon ] ; from the first, the following phrase , ἐν αλογίῃ ἔχειν — to have in contempt, i.e., to contemn or despise. — Ed.
29.Understand by unrighteousness, the violation of justice among men, by not rendering to each his due. I have rendered πονηρίαν, according to the opinion of Ammonium, wickedness; for he teaches us that πονηρον, the wicked, is δραστίκον κακου, the doer of evil. The word (nequitia ) then means practiced wickedness, or licentiousness in doing mischief: but maliciousness (malitia ) is that depravity and obliquity of mind which leads us to do harm to our neighbour. (54) For the word πορνείαν, which Paul uses, I have put lust, (libidinem .) I do not, however, object, if one prefers to render it fornication; but he means the inward passion as well as the outward act. (55) The words avarice, envy, and murder, have nothing doubtful in their meaning. Under the word strife, (contentione ,) (56) he includes quarrels, fightings, and seditions. We have rendered κακοηθείαν, perversity, (perversitatem ;) (57) which is a notorious and uncommon wickedness; that is, when a man, covered over, as it were, with hardness, has become hardened in a corrupt course of life by custom and evil habit.
30.The word θεοστυγεῖς, means, no doubt, haters of God; for there is no reason to take it in a passive sense, (hated of God,) since Paul here proves men to be guilty by manifest vices. Those, then, are designated, who hate God, whose justice they seem to resist by doing wrong. Whisperers (susurrones ) and slanderers (obtrectatores ) (58) are to be thus distinguished; the former, by secret accusations, break off the friendships of good men, inflame their minds with anger, defame the innocent, and sow discords; and the latter through an innate malignity, spare the reputation of no one, and, as though they were instigated by the fury of evilspeaking, they revile the deserving as well as the undeserving We have translated ὑβριστὰς, villanous, (maleficos ;) for the Latin authors are wont to call notable injuries villanies, such as plunders, thefts, burnings, and sorceries; and these where the vices which Paul meant to point out here. (59) I have rendered the word ὑπερήφανους, used by Paul, insolent, (contumeliosos ;) for this is the meaning of the Greek word: and the reason for the word is this, — because such being raised, as it were, on high, look down on those who are, as it were, below them with contempt, and they cannot bear to look on their equals. Haughty are they who swell with the empty wind of overweeningness. Unsociable (60) are those who, by their iniquities, unloose the bands of society, or those in whom there is no sincerity or constancy of faith, who may be called truce-breakers.
To preserve the same negative according to what is done in Greek, we may render Romans 1:31 as follows: —
31.Unintelligent, unfaithful, unnatural, unappeasable, unmerciful. — Ed.
31.Without the feelings of humanity are they who have put off the first affections of nature towards their own relations. As he mentions the want of mercy as an evidence of human nature being depraved, [Augustine ], in arguing against the Stoics, concludes, that mercy is a Christian virtue.
32.Who, knowing the judgement (61) of God, etc. Though this passage is variously explained, yet the following appears to me the correctest interpretation, — that men left nothing undone for the purpose of giving unbridled liberty to their sinful propensities; for having taken away all distinction between good and evil, they approved in themselves and in others those things which they knew displeased God, and would be condemned by his righteous judgment. For it is the summit of all evils, when the sinner is so void of shame, that he is pleased with his own vices, and will not bear them to be reproved, and also cherishes them in others by his consent and approbation. This desperate wickedness is thus described in Scripture:
“They boast when they do evil,” (Proverbs 2:14.)
“She has spread out her feet,
and gloried in her wickedness,” (Ezekiel 16:25.)
For he who is ashamed is as yet healable; but when such an impudence is contracted through a sinful habit, that vices, and not virtues, please us, and are approved, there is no more any hope of reformation. Such, then, is the interpretation I give; for I see that the Apostle meant here to condemn something more grievous and more wicked than the very doing of vices: what that is I know not, except we refer to that which is the summit of all wickedness, — that is, when wretched men, having cast away all shame, undertake the patronage of vices in opposition to the righteousness of God.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter