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1. We then who are strong, etc. Lest they who had made more advances than others in the knowledge of God should think it unreasonable, that more burden was to be laid on them than on others, he shows for what purpose this strength, by which they excelled others, was bestowed on them, even that they might so sustain the weak as to prevent them to fall. For as God has destined those to whom he has granted superior knowledge to convey instruction to the ignorant, so to those whom he makes strong he commits the duty of supporting the weak by their strength; thus ought all gifts to be communicated among all the members of Christ. The stronger then any one is in Christ, the more bound he is to bear with the weak. (437)
By saying that a Christian ought not to please himself, he intimates, that he ought not to be bent on satisfying himself, as they are wont to be, who are content with their own judgment, and heedlessly neglect others: and this is indeed an admonition most suitable on the present subject; for nothing impedes and checks acts of kindness more than when any one is too much swallowed up with himself, so that he has no care for others, and follows only his own counsels and feelings.
(437) The word for “strong” is δυνατοὶ, “able,” which [ Calvin ] renders potentes , powerful, or able. They were the more advanced in knowledge and in piety. They were to “bear,” βαστάζειν, in the sense of carrying or sustaining the infirmities of the weak, impotentium , “the unable,” ἀδυνάτων, such as were unable to carry their own burdens. The duty is not merely to bear with or tolerate weaknesses, (for this is not the meaning of the verb,) but to help and assist the weak and the feeble to carry them. The most literal rendering is —“
We then who are able ought to bear (or carry) the infirmities of the unable.” — Ed.
2. Let indeed (438) every one of us, etc. He teaches us here, that we are under obligations to others, and that it is therefore our duty to please and to serve them, and that there is no exception in which we ought not to accommodate ourselves to our brethren when we can do so, according to God’s word, to their edification.
There are here two things laid down, — that we are not to be content with our own judgment, nor acquiesce in our own desires, but ought to strive and labor at all times to please our brethren, — and then, that in endeavoring to accommodate ourselves to our brethren, we ought to have regard to God, so that our object may be their edification; for the greater part cannot be pleased except you indulge their humor; so that if you wish to be in favor with most men, their salvation must not be so much regarded, but their folly must be flattered; nor must you look to what is expedient, but to what they seek to their own ruin. You must not then strive to please those to whom nothing is pleasing but evil.
(438) The γὰρ in this verse is considered by [ Griesbach ] as wholly spurious; and [ Beza ] has left it out. — Ed.
3. For even Christ pleased not himself, etc. Since it is not right that a servant should refuse what his lord has himself undertaken, it would be very strange in us to wish an exemption from the duty of bearing the infirmities of others, to which Christ, in whom we glory as our Lord and King, submitted himself; for he having no regard for himself, gave up himself wholly to this service. For in him was really verified what the Prophet declares in Psalms 69:9 : and among other things he mentions this, that “zeal for God’s house had eaten him up,” and that “the reproaches of those who reproached God fell on him.” By these words it is intimated, that he burned with so much fervor for God’s glory that he was possessed by such a desire to promote his kingdom, that he forgot himself, and was, as it were, absorbed with this one thought, and that he so devoted himself to the Lord that he was grieved in his soul whenever he perceived his holy name exposed to the slandering of the ungodly. (439)
The second part, “the reproaches of God,” may indeed be understood in two ways, — either that he was not less affected by the contumelies which were heaped on God, than if he himself had endured them, — or, that he grieved not otherwise to see the wrong done to God, than if he himself had been the cause. But if Christ reigns in us, as he must necessarily reign in his people, this feeling is also vigorous in our hearts, so that whatever derogates from the glory of God does not otherwise grieve us than if it was done to ourselves. Away then with those whose highest wish is to gain honors from them who treat God’s name with all kinds of reproaches, tread Christ under foot, contumeliously rend, and with the sword and the flame persecute his gospel. It is not indeed safe to be so much honored by those by whom Christ is not only despised but also reproachfully treated.
(439) The intention of producing Christ’s example here is to enjoin disinterestedness. He denies himself for the sake of glorifying God in the salvation of men: so his followers ought to show the same spirit; they ought to inconvenience themselves, and undergo toil, trouble, suffering, and reproaches, if necessary, in order to help and assist their fellow-Christians. — Ed.
4. For whatsoever things, etc. This is an application of the example, lest any one should think, that to exhort us to imitate Christ was foreign to his purpose; “Nay,” he says, “there is nothing in Scripture which is not useful for your instruction, and for the direction of your life.” (440)
This is an interesting passage, by which we understand that there is nothing vain and unprofitable contained in the oracles of God; and we are at the same time taught that it is by the reading of the Scripture that we make progress in piety and holiness of life. Whatever then is delivered in Scripture we ought to strive to learn; for it were a reproach offered to the Holy Spirit to think, that he has taught anything which it does not concern us to know; let us also know, that whatever is taught us conduces to the advancement of religion. And though he speaks of the Old Testament, the same thing is also true of the writings of the Apostles; for since the Spirit of Christ is everywhere like itself, there is no doubt but that he has adapted his teaching by the Apostles, as formerly by the Prophets, to the edification of his people. Moreover, we find here a most striking condemnation of those fanatics who vaunt that the Old Testament is abolished, and that it belongs not in any degree to Christians; for with what front can they turn away Christians from those things which, as Paul testifies, have been appointed by God for their salvation?
But when he adds, that through the patience and the consolation of the Scriptures we might have hope, (441) he does not include the whole of that benefit which is to be derived from God’s word; but he briefly points out the main end; for the Scriptures are especially serviceable for this purpose — to raise up those who are prepared by patience, and strengthened by consolations, to the hope of eternal life, and to keep them in the contemplation of it. (442) The word consolation some render exhortation; and of this I do not disapprove, only that consolation is more suitable to patience, for this arises from it; because then only we are prepared to bear adversities with patience, when God blends them with consolation. The patience of the faithful is not indeed that hardihood which philosophers recommend, but that meekness, by which we willingly submit to God, while a taste of his goodness and paternal love renders all things sweet to us: this nourishes and sustains hope in us, so that it fails not.
(440) “The object of this verse is not so much to show the propriety of applying the passage quoted from the Psalms to Christ, as to show that the facts recorded in the Scriptures are designed for our instruction.” — [ Hodge ]
(441) Or, That we might possess, enjoy, or retain hope. He does not describe this hope, it being sufficiently evident — the hope of the gospel. — Ed.
(442) Some take “patience” apart from “consolation,” — “through patience, and the consolation of the Scriptures;” but what is evidently meant is the patience and consolation which the Scriptures teach and administer, or are the means of supplying; for it is the special object of the passage to show the benefits derived from the Scriptures. Then it is no doubt “consolation,” and not exhortation, though the word has also that meaning; for in the next verse it clearly means consolation. It is thus rendered, and in connection with “patience,” by [ Beza ], [ Pareus ], [ Doddridge ], [ Macknight ], etc.
In our version it is “comfort” in Romans 15:4, and “consolation” in Romans 15:5; but it would have been better to have retained the same word. — Ed.
5. And the God of patience, etc. God is so called from what he produces; the same thing has been before very fitly ascribed to the Scriptures, but in a different sense: God alone is doubtless the author of patience and of consolation; for he conveys both to our hearts by his Spirit: yet he employs his word as the instrument; for he first teaches us what is true consolation, and what is true patience; and then he instills and plants this doctrine in our hearts.
But after having admonished and exhorted the Romans as to what they were to do, he turns to pray for them: for he fully understood, that to speak of duty was to no purpose, except God inwardly effected by his Spirit what he spoke by the mouth of man. The sum of his prayer is, — that he would bring their minds to real unanimity, and make them united among themselves: he also shows at the same time what is the bond of unity, for he wished them to agree together according to Christ Jesus Miserable indeed is the union which is unconnected with God, and that is unconnected with him, which alienates us from his truth. (443)
And that he might recommend to us an agreement in Christ, he teaches us how necessary it is: for God is not truly glorified by us, unless the hearts of all agree in giving him praise, and their tongues also join in harmony. There is then no reason for any to boast that he will give glory to God after his own manner; for the unity of his servants is so much esteemed by God, that he will not have his glory sounded forth amidst discords and contentions. This one thought ought to be sufficient to check the wanton rage for contention and quarreling, which at this day too much possesses the minds of many.
(443) There is a difference of opinion as to the unity contemplated here, whether it be that of sentiment or of feeling. The phrase, τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν, occurs in the following places, Romans 12:16; Philippians 2:2 [ Leigh ] says, that the phrase signifies to be of one mind, of one judgment, of one affection, towards one another. But though the verb φρονεῖν may admit of these three significations, yet the Apostle no doubt had in view a specific idea; and when we consider that he had been inculcating the principle of toleration as to unity of sentiment with regard to the eating of meats and of observing of days, and that he has been enforcing the duty of forbearance, and of sympathy, and of love towards each other, it appears probable that unity of feeling and of concern for each other’s welfare is what is intended here. [ Beza ], [ Scott ], and [ Chalmers ] take this view, while [ Pareus ], [ Mede ], and [ Stuart ] take the other, that is, that unity of sentiment is what is meant.
What confirms the former, in addition to the general import of the context, is the clause which follows, “according to Christ Jesus,” which evidently means, “according to his example,” as mentioned in verse 3.
Then in the next verse, the word ὁμοθυμαδὸν refers to the unity of feeling and of action, rather than to that of sentiment. It occurs, besides here, in these places, Acts 1:14; Acts 4:24; Acts 7:57; Acts 12:20; Acts 18:12. It is used by the Septuagint for יחד, which means “together.” It is rendered “ unanimiter — unanimously,” [ Beza ]; “with one mind,” by [ Doddridge ]; and “unanimously,” by [ Macknight ]. It is thus paraphrased by [ Grotius ], “with a mind full of mutual love, free from contempt, free from hatred.” — Ed.
7. Receive ye then, etc. He returns to exhortation; and to strengthen this he still retains the example of Christ. For he, having received, not one or two of us, but all together, has thus connected us, so that we ought to cherish one another, if we would indeed continue in his bosom. Only thus then shall we confirm our calling, that is, if we separate not ourselves from those whom the Lord has bound together.
The words, to the glory of God, may be applied to us only, or to Christ, or to him and us together: of the last I mostly approve, and according to this import, — “As Christ has made known the glory of the Father in receiving us into favor, when we stood in need of mercy; so it behooves us, in order to make known also the glory of the same God, to establish and confirm this union which we have in Christ.” (444)
(444) In gloriam Dei , εἰς δόξαν Θεοῦ, i.e., in order to set forth the glory of God, or, in other words, that God might be glorified. So [ Erasmus ], [ Chalmers ], and [ Stuart ]. Others regard this “glory” as that which God bestows, even eternal happiness, according to this meaning, — “Receive ye one another into communion and fellowship, as Christ has received you into the glory of God,” that is, into that glorious state which God has provided and promised. See John 17:24. For “you,” our version has “us;” but [ Griesbach ] considers “you” as the true reading. — Ed.
8. Now I say, that Jesus Christ, etc. He now shows that Christ has embraced us all, so that he leaves no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, except that in the first place he was promised to the Jewish nation, and was in a manner peculiarly destined for them, before he was revealed to the Gentiles. But he shows, that with respect to that which was the seed of all contentions, there was no difference between them; for he had gathered them both from a miserable dispersion, and brought them, when gathered, into the Father’s kingdom, that they might be one flock, in one sheepfold, under one shepherd. It is hence right, he declares, that they should continue united together, and not despise one another; for Christ despised neither of them. (445)
He then speaks first of the Jews, and says, that Christ was sent to them, in order to accomplish the truth of God by performing the promises given to the Fathers: and it was no common honor, that Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth, put on flesh, that he might procure salvation for them; for the more he humbled himself for their sake, the greater was the honor he conferred on them. But this point he evidently assumes as a thing indubitable. The more strange it is, that there is such effrontery in some fanatical heads, that they hesitate not to regard the promises of the Old Testament as temporal, and to confine them to the present world. And lest the Gentiles should claim any excellency above the Jews, Paul expressly declares, that the salvation which Christ has brought belonged by covenant to the Jews; for by his coming he fulfilled what the Father had formerly promised to Abraham, and thus he became the minister of that people. It hence follows that the old covenant was in reality spiritual, though it was annexed to earthly types; for the fulfillment, of which Paul now speaks, must necessarily relate to eternal salvation. And further, lest any one should cavil, and say, that so great a salvation was promised to posterity, when the covenant was deposited in the hand of Abraham, he expressly declares that the promises were made to the Fathers. Either then the benefits of Christ must be confined to temporal things, or the covenant made with Abraham must be extended beyond the things of this world.
(445) The beginning of this verse, “Now I say,” Dico autem , Λέγω δὲ, is read by [ Beza ] and [ Grotius ], Λέγω γὰρ, “For I say,” and [ Griesbach ] regards it of nearly equal authority. If we retain δὲ, it may be rendered “moreover,” or “further;” and to render the clause more distinct, the word “this,” as proposed by [ Beza ] and [ Pagninus ], may be added, — “I further say this, ” etc. The two verses may be thus rendered, —
8. I further say this, that Christ became a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, that he might confirm the promises made to
9. the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy, as it is written, “I will therefore confess thee among the nations, and to thy name will I sing.”
The reasons for this rendering are given in the next note. — Ed.
9. The Gentiles also, (446) etc. This is the second point, on proving which he dwells longer, because it was not so evident. The first testimony he quotes is taken from Psalms 18:0; which psalm is recorded also in 2 Samuel 22:0, where no doubt a prophecy is mentioned concerning the kingdom of Christ; and from it Paul proves the calling of the Gentiles, because it is there promised, that a confession to the glory of God should be made among the Gentiles; for we cannot really make God known, except among those who hear his praises while they are sung by us. Hence that God’s name may be known among the Gentiles, they must be favored with the knowledge of him, and come into communion with his people: for you may observe this everywhere in Scripture, that God’s praises cannot be declared, except in the assembly of the faithful, who have ears capable of hearing his praise.
(446) The construction of this first sentence is differently viewed. [ Grotius ] and [ Stuart ] connect it with “I say” at the beginning of the former verse; but [ Beza ] and [ Pareus ] connect it with the last clause, and consider εἰς τὸ as being here understood: and this seems to be the best construction. Christ became the minister of the circumcision, a minister under the Abrahamic economy, for two objects, — that he might confirm the promises made to the Fathers, — and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. Mercy was destined to come to the Gentiles through the covenant made with Abraham, of which circumcision was the sign and seal. The promise, “In thee shall the nations of the earth be blessed,” was made to Abraham, and not to the Gentiles. Hence it is called “mercy” to them, there being to previous promise made distinctly to them, while the same mercy as to the Jews is called “truth,” because it was the fulfillment of a promise. A remarkable instance of this difference, noticed by [ Haldane ], is found in Micah 7:20. What is said to be “mercy” to Abraham, to whom the promise was first made, is said to be “truth” to Jacob, to whom it was confirmed. It may also, by the way, be observed, that this verse in Micah affords an example of what we often find in Paul’s style; for in mentioning two or more things, he often reverses the regular order. What Micah mentions first is “truth” to Jacob, and then he goes back to God’s “mercy” to Abraham.
The quotation from Psalms 18:49, is verbatim from the Septuagint. The Hebrew verb with its postfix, אודך, in our version, “I will give thanks to thee,” may more properly be rendered, “I will confess thee.” — Ed.
10 Exult, ye Gentiles, with his people This verse is commonly considered as if it was taken from the song of Moses; but with this I cannot agree; for Moses’ design there was to terrify the adversaries of Israel by setting forth his greatness, rather than to invite them to a common joy. I hence think that this is quoted from Psalms 47:5, where it is written, “Exult and rejoice let the Gentiles, because thou judgest the nations in equity, and the Gentiles on the earth thou guidest.” And Paul adds, with his people, and he did this by way of explanation; for the Prophet in that psalm no doubt connects the Gentiles with Israel, and invites both alike to rejoice; and there is no joy without the knowledge of God. (447)
(447) This passage is evidently taken from Deuteronomy 32:43, given literally as it is found in the Septuagint, and literally too from the Hebrew, if the reading of two copies, referred to by Kennicalt, be adopted, in which את, “with,” is placed before עשו, “his people.” It is no objection that “adversaries” are mentioned in the context. There have ever been adversaries to God’s people; and God even now denounces his judgments on his adversaries, though the Gentiles as a people, as a separate class from the Jews, have been long ago admitted to the privilege of rejoicing with his people. — Ed.
11. Praise God, all ye Gentiles, etc. This passage is not inaptly applied; for how can they, who know not God’s greatness, praise him? They could no more do this than to call on his name, when unknown. It is then a prophecy most suitable to prove the calling of the Gentiles; and this appears still more evident from the reason which is there added; for he bids them to give thanks for God’s truth and mercy. (Psalms 117:1.)
12. And again, Isaiah, etc., This prophecy is the most illustrious of them all: for in that passage, the Prophet, when things were almost past hope, comforted the small remnant of the faithful, even by this, — that there would arise a shoot from the dry and the dying trunk of David’s family, and that a branch would flourish from his despised root, which would restore to God’s people their pristine glory. It is clear from the account there given, that this shoot was Christ, the Redeemer of the world. And then, he added, that he would be raised for a sign to the Gentiles, that might be to them for salvation. The words do indeed differ a little from the Hebrew text; for we read here, arise, while in Hebrew it is stand for a sign, which is the same; for he was to appear conspicuous like a sign. What is here hope, is in Hebrew seek; but according to the most common usage of Scripture, to seek God is nothing else but to hope in him. (448)
But twice in this prophecy is the calling of the Gentiles confirmed, — by the expression, that Christ was to be raised up as a sign, and he reigns among the faithful alone, — and by the declaration, that they shall hope in Christ, which cannot take place without the preaching of the word and illumination of the Spirit. With these things corresponds the song of Simeon. It may be further added, that hope in Christ is an evidence of his divinity.
(448) Isaiah 11:10. The whole of this quotation is given as it is found in the Septuagint. The difference, as noticed by [ Calvin ], between the words as given in Hebrew, is considerable. The language of the Prophet is metaphorical, the Septuagint interpreted it, and this interpretation the Apostle approved and adopted. The Messiah is represented by the Prophet as a general or a leader of an army, raising his banner for the nations, ( עמיש, not “people,” as in our version:) and the Gentiles repair or resort to this banner for protection; and so [ Lowth ] renders the verb ידרשו, only he does not preserve the metaphor, by rendering אליו, “unto him,” instead of “to it,” as in our version. It hence appears evident, that the passage is substantially the same; and indeed the verb ἄρχειν, retains in some measure the idea of the original, for it strictly means to be a leader, to rule as a chief. — Ed.
13. And may the God, etc. He now concludes the passage, as before, with prayer; in which he desires the Lord to give them whatever he had commanded. It hence appears, that the Lord does in no degree measure his precepts according to our strength or the power of free-will; and that he does not command what we ought to do, that we, relying on our own power, may gird up ourselves to render obedience; but that he commands those things which require the aid of his grace, that he may stimulate us in our attention to prayer.
In saying the God of hope, he had in view the last verse; as though he said, — “May then the God in whom we all hope fill you with joy, that is, with cheerfulness of heart, and also with unity and concord, and this by believing:” (449) for in order that our peace may be approved by God, we must be bound together by real and genuine faith. If any one prefers taking in believing, for, in order to believe, (450) the sense will be, — that they were to cultivate peace for the purpose of believing; for then only are we rightly prepared to believe, when we, being peaceable and unanimous, do willingly embrace what is taught us. It is however preferable, that faith should be connected with peace and joy; for it is the bond of holy and legitimate concord, and the support of godly joy. And though the peace which one has within with God may also be understood, yet the context leads us rather to the former explanation. (451)
He further adds, that ye may abound in hope; for in this way also is hope confirmed and increased in us. The words, through the power of the Holy Spirit, intimate that all things are the gifts of the divine bounty: and the word power is intended emphatically to set forth that wonderful energy, by which the Spirit works in us faith, hope, joy, and peace.
(449) The God of hope may mean one of two things, — the giver or author of hope, as in 1 Peter 1:3, — or the object of hope, he in whom hope is placed, as in 1 Timothy 6:17.
Why does he mention joy before peace? It is in accordance with his usual manner, — the most visible, the stream first, then the most hidden, the spring. — Ed.
(450) That is εἰς τὸ, instead of ἐν τῷ. — Ed.
(451) This is the view approved by [ Theophylact ], [ Beza ], [ Grotius ], [ Mede ], and [ Hammond ] : but [ Doddridge ], [ Scott ], [ Stuart ], and [ Chalmers ] consider “peace” here to be that with God, and “joy” as its accompaniment; while [ Pareus ] and [ Hodge ] view both as included, especially the latter. If we consider the subject in hand, that the Apostle was attempting to produce union and concord between the Jews and the Gentiles, we shall see reason to accede to [ Calvin ] ’s explanations. This joy and peace seem to be the same as in Romans 14:17. Concord, union, and mutual enjoyment, are graces which come by believing, or by faith, as well as concord or peace with God, and its accompanying joy; and these graces have no doubt an influence on hope, so as to make it brighter and stronger, when they are produced by the Holy Spirit. There are three things which distinguish these graces from such as are fictitious, — they proceed from faith, — they increase hope, — they are produced by the Spirit. — Ed.
14. But even I myself am persuaded, etc. This was said to anticipate an objection, or it may be deemed a kind of concession, made with the view of pacifying the Romans; in case they thought themselves reproved by so many and so urgent admonitions, and thus unjustly treated. He then makes an excuse for having ventured to assume towards them the character of a teacher and of an exhorter; and he says, that he had done so, not because he had any doubt as to their wisdom, or kindness, or perseverance; but because he was constrained by his office. Thus he removed every suspicion of presumption, which especially shows itself when any one thrusts himself into an office which does not belong to him, or speaks of those things which are unsuitable to him. We see in this instance the singular modesty of this holy man, to whom nothing was more acceptable than to be thought of no account, provided the doctrine he preached retained its authority.
There was much pride in the Romans; the name even of their city made the lowest of the people proud; so that they could hardly bear a teacher of another nation, much less a barbarian and a Jew. With this haughtiness Paul would not contend in his own private name: he however subdued it, as it were, by soothing means; for he testified that he undertook to address them on account of his Apostolic office.
Ye are full of goodness, being filled with knowledge, etc. Two qualifications are especially necessary for him who gives admonitions: the first is kindness, which disposes his mind to aid his brethren by his advice, and also tempers his countenance and his words with courtesy, — and the second is skill in advice or prudence, which secures authority to him, inasmuch as he is able to benefit the hearers whom he addresses. There is indeed nothing more opposed to brotherly admonitions than malignity and arrogance, which make us disdainfully to despise the erring, and to treat them with ridicule, rather than to set them right. Asperity also, whether it appears in words or in the countenance, deprives our admonitions of their fruit. But however you may excel in the feeling of kindness, as well as in courtesy, you are not yet fit to advise, except you possess wisdom and experience. Hence he ascribes both these qualifications to the Romans, bearing them a testimony, — that they were themselves sufficiently competent, without the help of another, to administer mutual exhortations: for he admits, that they abounded both in kindness and wisdom. It hence follows, that they were able to exhort.
15. The more boldly, however, have I written to you, etc. The excuse follows, and in adducing this, that he might more fully show his modesty, he says, by way of concession, that he acted boldly in interposing in a matter which they themselves were able to do; but he adds that he was led to be thus bold on account of his office, because he was the minister of the gospel to the Gentiles, and could not therefore pass by them who were also Gentiles. He however thus humbles himself, that he might exalt the excellency of his office; for by mentioning the favor of God, by which he was elevated to that high honor, he shows that he could not suffer what he did according to his apostolic office to be despised. Besides, he denies that he had assumed the part of a teacher, but that of an admonisher, (452)
(452) It does not clearly appear what meaning [ Calvin ] attached to the words ἀπο μέρους, which he renders ex parte . Some, like [ Origen ], connect the expression with the verb, “I have written to you in part,” that is, not fully, which seems to have no meaning consistently with the evident tenor of the passage. Others, as [ Chrysostom ], [ Erasmus ], and [ Pareus ], connect the words with the adjective, “I have in part (or somewhat) more boldly (or more freely, or more confidently) written to you.” [ Macknight ] connects them with the following clause, “partly as calling things to your remembrance.” [ Doddridge ] and [ Stuart ] render them “in this part of the Epistle. ” The most suitable view is to consider them as qualifying the adjective. — Ed.
16. Consecrating the gospel, etc. This rendering I prefer to that which [ Erasmus ] in the first place adopts, that is, “Administering;” for nothing is more certain than that Paul here alludes to the holy mysteries which were performed by the priest. He then makes himself a chief priest or a priest in the ministration of the gospel, to offer up as a sacrifice the people whom he gained for God, and in this manner he labored in the holy mysteries of the gospel. And doubtless this is the priesthood of the Christian pastor, that is, to sacrifice men, as it were, to God, by bringing them to obey the gospel, and not, as the Papists have hitherto haughtily vaunted, by offering up Christ to reconcile men to God. He does not, however, give here the name of priests to the pastors of the Church simply as a perpetual title, but intending to commend the honor and power of the ministry, Paul availed himself of the opportunity of using this metaphor. Let then the preachers of the gospel have this end in view while discharging their office, even to offer up to God souls purified by faith.
What [ Erasmus ] afterwards puts down as being more correct, “sacrificing the gospel,” is not only improper but obscures also the meaning; for the gospel is, on the contrary, like a sword, by which the minister sacrifices men as victims to God. (453)
He adds that such sacrifices are acceptable to God; which is not only a commendation of the ministry, but also a singular consolation to those who surrender themselves to be thus consecrated. Now as the ancient victims were dedicated to God, having been externally sanctified and washed, so these victims are consecrated to the Lord by the Spirit of holiness, through whose power, inwardly working in them, they are separated from this world. For though the purity of the soul proceeds from faith in the word, yet as the voice of man is in itself inefficacious and lifeless, the work of cleansing really and properly belongs to the Spirit.
(453) “ Consecrans evangelium,” so [ Augustine ]; ἱερουργοῦντα τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, “ operans evangelio — being employed in the gospel,” [ Beza ] and [ Pareus ]; “ docens sacrum evangelium — teaching the holy gospel,” [ Vatablus ]. The verb means to “perform sacred rites,” or to officiate in holy things. It has no connection, as some think, with a sacrificing priest; indeed ἱερεὺς itself, that is a priest, is a holy person, who did sacrifice no doubt among other things, but the word does not import a sacrificer any more than כהן in Hebrew. The word here does not mean to consecrate, or to sanctify, or to sacrifice, but to discharge a holy function. Perhaps the most literal rendering would be “performing a holy office as to the gospel,” but dispensing, administering, or preaching the gospel would be the best version. The Apostle had previously called himself λειτουργὸν, a public functionary, a public minister of Jesus Christ; he now designates his work as such, being a sacred administrator of the gospel, and then he states the object, that the offering of the Gentiles, that is, that the Gentiles being offered, might be an acceptable sacrifice to God, sanctified by the Spirit. See Romans 12:1. — Ed.
17. I have then, etc. After having in general commended his own calling, that the Romans might know that he was a true and undoubted apostle of Christ, he now adds testimonies, by which he proved that he had not only taken upon him the apostolic office conferred on him by God’s appointment, but that he had also eminently adorned it. He at the same time records the fidelity which he had exhibited in discharging his office. It is indeed to little purpose that we are appointed, except we act agreeably to our calling and fulfill our office. He did not make this declaration from a desire to attain glow, but because nothing was to be omitted which might procure favor and authority to his doctrine among the Romans. In God then, not in himself, did he glory; for he had nothing else in view but that the whole praise should redound to God.
And that he speaks only negatively, it is indeed an evidence of his modesty, but it availed also to gain credit to what he was proceeding to announce, as though he said, “The truth itself affords me such cause for glowing, that I have no need to seek false praises, or those of another, I am content with such as are true.” It may be also that he intended to obviate the unfavorable reports which he knew were everywhere scattered by the malevolent, he therefore mentioned beforehand that he would not speak but of things well known.
18. In order to make the Gentiles obedient, etc. These words prove what his object was, even to render his ministry approved by the Romans, that his doctrine might not be without fruit. He proves then by evidences that God by the presence of his power had given a testimony to his preaching, and in a manner sealed his apostleship, so that no one ought to have doubted, but, that he was appointed and sent by the Lord. The evidences were word, work, and miracles. It hence appears that the term work includes more than miracles. He at last concludes with this expression, through the power of the Spirit; by which he intimates that these things could not have been done without the Spirit being the author. In short, he declares that with regard to his teaching as well as his doing, he had such strength and energy in preaching Christ, that it was evidently the wonderful power of God, and that miracles were also added, which were seals to render the evidence more certain.
He mentions word and work in the first place, and then he states one kind of work, even the power of performing miracles. The same order is observed by Luke, when he says that Christ was mighty in word and work, (Luke 24:19;) and John says that Christ referred the Jews to his own works for a testimony of his divinity. (John 5:36.) Nor does he simply mention miracles, but gives them two designations. But instead of what he says here, the power of signs and of wonders, Peter has “miracles and signs and wonders.” (Acts 2:22.) And doubtless they were testimonies of divine power to awaken men, that being struck with God’s power, they might admire and at the same time adore him; nor are they without an especial meaning, but intended to stimulate us, that we may understand what God is.
This is a striking passage respecting the benefit of miracles: they are designed to prepare men to reverence and to obey God. So you read in Mark, that the Lord confirmed the truth by the signs which followed. (Mark 16:20.) Luke declares in the Acts, that the Lord by miracles gave testimony to the word of his grace. (Acts 14:3.) It is then evident that those miracles which bring glory to creatures and not to God, which secure credit to lies and not to God’s word, are from the devil. The power of the Spirit, which he mentions in the third place, I apply to both the preceding clauses. (454)
(454) Some, as [ Beza ] and [ Grotius ], understand by the last clause, “through the power of the Spirit of God,” the internal power of speaking with tongues, etc., and by “signs and wonders,” the external work of healing the sick, etc. But this passage is evidently an instance of the Apostle’s usual mode of stating things. “Word” means preaching; and “work,” the doing of miracles. He first specifies the last, the work was that of “signs and wonders;” and then he mentions what belongs to the first, and shows how it became effectual, that is, through the power of the Spirit. See a similar arrangement in 1 Corinthians 6:11; where he mentions washed, sanctified and justified; and then he mentions first what belongs to the last, “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and afterwards what appertains to the first words, “and by the Spirit of our God.” “Signs and wonders” are often mentioned together: they designate the same things by different names: miracles were called “signs,” because they were evidences of divine power, and they were called “wonders,” or prodigies, because they were not according to the course of nature, but were extraordinary things. By these words their design and character are set forth. — Ed.
19. So that from Jerusalem, etc. He joins also a testimony from the effect; for the success which followed his preaching exceeded all the thoughts of men. For who could have gathered so many churches for Christ, without being aided by the power of God? “From Jerusalem,” he says, “I have propagated the gospel as far as Illyricum, and not by hastening to the end of my course by a straight way, but by going all around, and through the intervening countries.” But the verb πεπληρωκέναι , which after others I have rendered filled up or completed, means both to perfect and to supply what is wanting. Hence πλήρωμα in Greek means perfection as well as a supplement. I am disposed to explain it thus, — that he diffused, as it were by filling up, the preaching of the gospel; for others had before begun, but he spread it wider. (455)
(455) The clause is rendered by [ Beza ] and [ Grotius ], “ Impleverim praedicandi evangelii Christi munus — I have fulfilled the office of preaching the gospel of Christ.” The gospel is put for preaching the gospel. See Acts 12:25; Colossians 1:25 [ Vatablus ] renders the verb “ plene annunciaverim — I have fully announced;” and [ Mede ], “ propagaverim — I have propagated.” Some, as [ Wolfius ] and [ Vitringa ], think the verb is used in a sense borrowed from Hebrew: the verb גמר, which in its common meaning is to fill or to finish, is used in the sense of teaching, not indeed in the Hebrew bible, but in the Talmud. That the idea of teaching, or propagating, or preaching, belongs to it here, and in Colossians 1:25, is evident. The notion of filling up, which [ Calvin ] gives to it, is hardly consistent with what the Apostle says in Romans 15:20. The full preaching is referred by [ Erasmus ], not to its extent, but to its fidelity, “omitting nothing which a faithful evangelist ought to have proclaimed.” — Ed.
20. Thus striving to preach the gospel, etc. As it was necessary for Paul not only to prove himself to be the servant of Christ and a pastor of the Christian Church, but also to show his title to the character and office of an Apostle, that he might gain the attention of the Romans, he mentions here the proper and peculiar distinction of the apostleship; for the work of an Apostle is to propagate the gospel where it had not been preached, according to that command,“
Go ye, preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15.)
And this is what we ought carefully to notice, lest we make a general rule of what specially belongs to the Apostolic order: nor ought we to consider it a fault, that a successor was substituted who built up the Church. The Apostles then were the founders as it were of the Church; the pastors who succeeded them, had to strengthen and amplify the building raised up by them. (456) He calls that another’s foundation, which had been laid by the hand of another: otherwise Christ is the only stone on which the Church is founded. See 1 Corinthians 3:11; and Ephesians 2:20
(456) The participle, “striving,” rendered annitens by [ Calvin ] and by [ Erasmus ], is φιλοτιμούμενος, which means to strive honorably: it is to seek a thing as an object of honor or ambition. It may be rendered here, “honorably striving;” [ Doddridge ] has, “It hath been the object of my ambition;” [ Stuart ], “I was strongly desirous;” and [ Wolfius ], “ honori mihi ducentem — esteeming it an honor to me.” It is used to express both an honorable and an earnest or diligent pursuit. It is found in two other places, teeming it an honor,” or, “Being ambitious.” — Ed.
21. But as it is written, etc. He confirms by the testimony of Isaiah what he had said of the evidence of his apostleship; for in Isaiah 52:15, speaking of the kingdom of Messiah, among other things he predicts, that the knowledge of Christ would be spread among the Gentiles throughout the whole world, that his name would be declared to those by whom it had not been heard of before. It was meet that this should be done by the Apostles, to whom the command was specifically given. Hence the apostleship of Paul was made evident from this circumstance, — that this prophecy was fulfilled in him. (457)
It is absurd for any one to attempt to apply what is here said to the pastoral office; for we know that in Churches rightly formed, where the truth of the gospel has been already received, Christ’s name must be constantly preached. Paul then was a preacher of Christ, yet unknown to foreign nations, for this end, — that after his departure the same doctrine should be daily proclaimed in every place by the mouth of the pastors; for it is certain that the Prophet speaks of the commencement of the kingdom of Christ.
(457) Isaiah 52:15. The quotation is literally from the Septuagint, and is nearly according to the Hebrew, only the tense is altered, it being the past in that language, as prophecies are often found to be, in order to show their certainty. The Hebrew is as follows, —
For what had not been told them, have they seen, And what they had not heard, have they understood.
To render the last verb “consider,” as in our version, is not proper; it means to distinguish between things, to discern, to understand. It bears strictly the same meaning with the Greek verb here used. — Ed.
22. And on this account, etc. What he had said of his apostleship he applies now to another point, even for the purpose of excusing himself for not having come to them, though he was destined for them as well as for others. He, in passing, then intimates, that in propagating the gospel from Judea as far as to Illyricum, he performed, as it were, a certain course enjoined him by the Lord; which being accomplished, he purposed not to neglect them. And lest they should yet think that they had been neglected, he removes this suspicion by testifying, that there had been for a long time no want of desire. Hence, that he had not done this sooner was owing to a just impediment: he now gives them a hope, as soon as his calling allowed him.
From this passage is drawn a weak argument respecting his going to Spain. It does not indeed immediately follow that he performed this journey, because he intended it: for he speaks only of hope, in which he, as other faithful men, might have been sometimes frustrated. (459)
(459) On this subject [ Wolfius ] says, “Paul’s journey to Spain was unknown to [ Origen ] and [ Eusebius ]; nor does it comport with the records connected with him. The Apostle, when freed from the chains of [ Nero ], did not go to Spain, but to Asia; and there is no vestige of a Church founded by Paul in Spain. [ Basnage ] has carefully examined this subject as well as [ W. Wall ] in his critical Notes in English on the New Testament.” As is common in many things connected with antiquity, fathers later than [ Origen ] and [ Eusebius ] came to know of this journey, but how, it is not easy to know: and in process of time various particulars were discovered, or rather invented, in connection with this journey. It is something similar to the story of Peter being the founder of the Church of Rome. — Ed.
24. For I hope, etc. He refers to the reason why he had for a long time wished to come to them, and now intended to do so, — even that he might see them, enjoy an interview and an intercourse with them, and make himself known to them in his official character; for by the coming of the Apostles the gospel also came.
By saying, to be brought on my way thither by you, he intimates how much he expected from their kindness; and this, as we have already observed, is the best way for conciliating favor; for the more confidence any one hears is reposed in him, the stronger are the obligations under which he feels himself; inasmuch as we deem it base and discourteous to disappoint the good opinion formed of us. And by adding, When I shall first be in part filled, etc., he bears witness to the benevolence of his mind towards them; and to convince them of this was very necessary for the interest of the gospel.
25. But I am going now, etc. Lest they should expect his immediate coming, and think themselves deceived, if he had not come according to their expectation, he declares to them what business he had then in hand, which prevented him from going soon to them, and that was, — that he was going to Jerusalem to bear the alms which had been gathered in Macedonia and Achaia. Availing himself at the same time of this opportunity, he proceeds to commend that contribution; by which, as by a kind of intimation, he stirs them up to follow this example: for though he does not openly ask them, yet, by saying that Macedonia and Achaia had done what they ought to have done, he intimates, that it was also the duty of the Romans, as they were under the same obligation; and that he had this view, he openly confesses to the Corinthians, —“
I boast,” he says, “of your promptitude to all the Churches, that they may be stirred up by your example.” (2 Corinthians 9:2.)
It was indeed a rare instance of kindness, that the Grecians, having heard that their brethren at Jerusalem were laboring under want, considered not the distance at which they were separated from them; but esteeming those sufficiently nigh, to whom they were united by the bond of faith, they relieved their necessities from their own abundance. The word communication, which is here employed, ought to be noticed; for it well expresses the feeling, by which it behooves us to succor the wants of our brethren, even because there is to be a common and mutual regard on account of the unity of the body. I have not rendered the pronoun τινὰ, because it is often redundant in Greek, and seems to lessen the emphasis of this passage. (461) What we have rendered to minister, is in Greek a participle, ministering; but the former seems more fitted to convey the meaning of Paul: for he excuses himself, that by a lawful occupation he was prevented from going immediately to Rome.
(461) The words are, κοινωνίαν τινὰ ποιήσασθαι, “to make a certain contribution,” or, “some contribution,” or, as [ Doddridge ] has it, “a certain collection.” There seems to be no necessity for leaving out the word τινὰ. — Ed.
27. And their debtors they are, etc. Every one perceives, that what is said here of obligation, is said not so much for the sake of the Corinthians as for the Romans themselves; for the Corinthians or the Macedonians were not more indebted to the Jews than the Romans. And he adds the ground of this obligation, — that they had received the gospel from them: and he takes his argument from the comparison of the less with the greater. He employs also the same in another place, that is, that it ought not to have appeared to them an unjust or a grievous compensation to exchange carnal things, which are immensely of less value, for things spiritual. (2 Corinthians 9:11.) And it shows the value of the gospel, when he declares, that they were indebted not only to its ministers, but also to the whole nation, from whom they had come forth.
And mark the verb λειτουργὢσαι , to minister; which means to discharge one’s office in the commonwealth, and to undergo the burden of one’s calling: it is also sometimes applied to sacred things. Nor do I doubt but that Paul meant that it is a kind of sacrifice, when the faithful gave of their own to relieve the wants of their brethren; for they thus perform that duty of love which they owe, and offer to God a sacrifice of an acceptable odor. But in this place what he had peculiarly in view was the mutual right of compensation.
28. And sealed to them this fruit, etc. I disapprove not of what some think, that there is here an allusion to a practice among the ancients, who closed up with their seals what they intended to lay up in safety. Thus Paul commends his own faithfulness and integrity; as though he had said, that he was an honest keeper of the money deposited in his hands, no otherwise than if he carried it sealed up. (462) — The word fruit seems to designate the produce, which he had before said returned to the Jews from the propagation of the gospel, in a way similar to the land, which by bringing forth fruit supports its cultivator.
(462) More satisfactory is the explanation of [ Stuart ] : he says, that the word “sealed” means that the instrument to which a seal is applied is authenticated, made valid, i.e., “sure to answer the purpose intended. So here the Apostle would not stop short in the performance of his duty, as the almoner of the Churches, until he had seen the actual distribution of their charity.” It seems then that “sealed” here means “secured,” or safely conveyed. “Delivered to them safely,” is the paraphrase of [ Hammond ]. — Ed.
29. And I know, that when I come, etc. These words may be explained in two ways: the first meaning is, — that he should find a plentiful fruit from the gospel at Rome; for the blessing of the gospel is, when it fructifies by good works: but to confine this to alms, as some do, is not what I approve. The second is, that in order to render his coming to them more an object of desire, he says, that he hopes that it would not be unfruitful, but that it would make a great accession to the gospel; and this he calls fullness of blessing, which signifies a full blessing; by which expression he means great success and increase. But this blessing depended partly on his ministry and partly on their faith. Hence he promises, that his coming to them would not be in vain, as he would not disappoint them of the grace given to him, but would bestow it with the same alacrity with which their minds were prepared to receive the gospel.
The former exposition has been most commonly received, and seems also to me the best; that is, that he hoped that at his coming he would find what he especially wished, even that the gospel flourished among them and prevailed with evident success, — that they were excelling in holiness and in all other virtues. For the reason he gives for his desire is, that he hoped for no common joy in seeing them, as he expected to see them abounding in all the spiritual riches of the gospel. (463)
(463) This explanation is that of [ Chrysostom ] ; but how to make the words to give such a meaning is a matter of some difficulty. The obvious import of the passage corresponds with Romans 1:11. All the authors quoted by [ Poole ], except [ Estius ], take the other view, such as [ Grotius ], [ Beza ], [ Mede ], etc. The last gives the following as the sentiments of [ Origen ] and [ Anselm ] — “My preaching and conversation shall impart to you an abundant knowledge of the gospel mysteries, love, comfort, grace, and spiritual fruit.” The word “blessing,” εὐλογία, is said by [ Grotius ] to mean everything that is freely bestowed on us. See Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:3. The words τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τοῦ, are not considered genuine by [ Griesbach ] and by most critics. This makes no difference in the meaning: the clause then would be, — “With the fullness of the blessings of Christ,” or, with the abounding blessings of Christ; or, as [ Beza ] renders it, “with the full blessing of Christ.” — Ed.
30. Now I beseech you, etc. It is well known from many passages how much ill-will prevailed against Paul in his own nation on account of false reports, as though he taught a departure from Moses. He knew how much calumnies might avail to oppress the innocent, especially among those who are carried away by inconsiderate zeal. Added also to this, was the testimony of the Spirit, recorded in Acts 20:23; by which he was forewarned, that bonds and afflictions awaited him at Jerusalem. The more danger then he perceived, the more he was moved: hence it was, that he was so solicitous to commend his safety to the Churches; nor let us wonder, that he was anxious about his life, in which he knew so much danger to the Church was involved.
He then shows how grieved his godly mind was, by the earnest protestation he makes, in which he adds to the name of the Lord, the love of the Spirit, by which the saints ought to embrace one another. But though in so great a fear, he yet continued to proceed; nor did he so dread danger, but that he was prepared willingly to meet it. At the same time he had recourse to the remedies given him by God; for he solicited the aid of the Church, so that being helped by its prayers, he might find comfort, according to the Lord’s promise, —“
Where two or three shall assemble in my name, there in the midst of them am I,” (Matthew 18:20;)
Whatsoever they agree in on earth, they shall obtain in heaven,” (Matthew 18:19.)
And lest no one should think it an unmeaning commendation, he besought them both by Christ and by the love of the Spirit. The love of the Spirit is that by which Christ joins us together; for it is not that of the flesh, nor of the world, but is from his Spirit, who is the bond of our unity.
Since then it is so great a favor from God to be helped by the prayers of the faithful, that even Paul, a most choice instrument of God, did not think it right to neglect this privilege, how great must be our stupidity, if we, who are abject and worthless creatures, disregard it? But to take a handle from such passages for the purpose of maintaining the intercessions of dead saints, is an instance of extreme effrontery. (465)
That ye strive together with me, (466) etc. [ Erasmus ] has not given an unsuitable rendering, “That ye help me laboring:” but, as the Greek word, used by Paul, has more force, I have preferred to give a literal rendering: for by the word strive, or contend, he alludes to the difficulties by which he was oppressed, and by bidding them to assist in this contest, he shows how the godly ought to pray for their brethren, that they are to assume their person, as though they were placed in the same difficulties; and he also intimates the effect which they have; for he who commends his brother to the Lord, by taking to himself a part of his distress, do so far relieve him. And indeed if our strength is derived from prayer to God, we can in no better way confirm our brethren, than by praying to God for them.
(465) [ Scott ] quotes the following from [ Whitby ], — “If Paul, saith [ Estius ], might desire the prayers of the Romans, why might not the Romans desire the prayers of Paul? I answer, they might desire his prayers, as he did theirs, by a letter directed to him to pray for them. He adds, If they might desire his prayers for them when living, why not when dead and reigning with Christ? I answer, Because they could direct no epistle to him, or in any other way acquaint him with their mind.” — Ed.
(466) “ Ut concertetis mihi,” συναγωνίσασθαί μοι; “ ut mecum certetis — that ye strive with me,” — [ Beza ]; “ ut mecum laboretis — that ye labor with me,” — Tremelius, from the Syriac. Literally it is, “that ye agonize with me.” It is an allusion, says [ Grotius ], to Jacob’s wrestling with the angel. Genesis 32:24. A strenuous and earnest supplication is intended. [ Pareus ] says, that it is a metaphor taken from warfare, when a soldier comes to the help of another: but rather from the games, when there is a striving for the prize. He would have the Romans to make a similar strenuous effort for him in prayer to God. The word ἀγὼν, is an agonistic and not a military term. — Ed.
31. That my ministration, etc. Slanderers had so prevailed by their accusations, that he even feared that the present would hardly be acceptable, as coming from his hands, which otherwise, under such a distress, would have been very seasonable. And hence appears his wonderful meekness, for he ceased not to labor for those to whom he doubted whether he would be acceptable. This disposition of mind we ought to imitate, so that we may not cease to do good to those of whose gratitude we are by no means certain. We must also notice that he honors with the name of saints even those by whom he feared he would be suspected, and deemed unwelcome. He also knew that, saints may sometimes be led away by false slanders into unfavorable opinions, and though he knew that they wronged him, he yet ceased not to speak honorably of them.
By adding that I may come to you, he intimates that this prayer would be profitable also to them, and that it concerned them that he should not be killed in Judea. To the same purpose is the expression with joy; for it would be advantageous to the Romans for him to come to them in a cheerful state of mind and free from all grief, that he might in a more lively and strenuous manner labor among them. And by the word refreshed, (467) or satisfied, he again shows how fully persuaded he was of their brotherly love. The words by the will of God remind us how necessary it is to be diligent in prayer, for God alone directs all our ways by his providence.
And the God of peace, (468) etc. From the universal word all, I conclude that he did not simply pray that God would be present with and favor the Romans in a general sense, but that he would rule and guide every one of them. But the word peace refers, I think, to their circumstances at the time, that God, the author of peace, would keep them all united together.
(467) It was a mutual refreshment, according to Romans 1:12. The verb here used, says [ Grotius ], means to give and to receive comfort. The verb without its compound σὺν, is found in 1 Corinthians 16:18; 2 Corinthians 7:13; Genesis 1:7, etc. — Ed.
(468) Lover, author, or bestower of peace. This intimates that there were strifes and contentions among them. Paul often speaks of God as the God of peace, especially when referring to the discords which prevailed among Christians. See 1 Corinthians 14:33; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 13:20. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30