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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
General Editor: J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.,
Bishop of Worcester.
The Epistle Of Paul the Apostle
With Introduction and Notes
The Rev. H. C. G. Moule, M.A.,
principal of ridley hall, and late fellow of trinity college, cambridge.
edited for the syndics of the university press.
At the University Press.
[ All Rights reserved .]
Preface by the General Editor
The publication of the Epistle to the Romans in The Cambridge Bible for Schools seems a suitable opportunity for me to say a few words on the nature of the Editorial supervision which I have thought it right to exercise in the preparation of the several volumes of the Series. I do not hold myself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the Epistles, and especially in such an Epistle as that to the Romans, questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. My aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. I have contented myself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.
Beyond this I have not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.
J. J. STEWART PEROWNE.
Chapter I . Sketch of the Life of St Paul
Chapter II . § 1. Date of the Epistle. § 2. Language. § 3. Genuineness. § 4. Questions raised about the closing chapters. § 5. And about the final Doxology
Chapter III . Parallels between the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle to the Galatians
Chapter IV . Number of Quotations from the Old Testament
Chapter V . Argument of the Epistle
* * * The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible . A few variations from the ordinary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Introduction to the Paragraph Bible , published by the Cambridge University Press.
* * * In the notes on the Text, among other abbreviations, the following are used:
q. v., ( quod vide ,) = “ to which the reader is referred .”
q. d., ( quasi dicat ,) = “ as much as to say .”
* * * The Aorist Tense.
As this tense of the Greek verb is very frequently mentioned in the Notes, we here explain that its ordinary use, as a past tense, is to denote a single and completed past act, or whatever in the past is viewed as such. It thus differs from the Imperfect, which denotes past continuity; and from the Perfect, which denotes continuity between the past and the present.
sketch of the life of st paul
§ 1. Birthplace and parentage . § 2. Name . § 3. Date of Birth . § 4. Training and Residence at Jerusalem . § 5. In the Sanhedrim . § 6. Commission to Damascus . § 7. The Conversion . § 8. Arabia; Damascus . § 9. Jerusalem . § 10. Tarsus; Antioch . § 11. The first Missionary Journey . § 12. Judaic intrusion: the Synod: Results for St Paul . § 13. Second Circuit in Asia Minor . § 14. Europe . § 15. Athens . § 16. Corinth . § 17. Aquila and Priscilla: connexion with Rome. § 18. Work at Corinth: earliest Epistles . § 19. Departure for Palestine: Antioch . § 20. Third Circuit in Asia Minor: Ephesus . § 21. 1 Ep. Cor.: Macedonia: 2 Ep. Cor . § 22. Illyricum? The Fund for Jerusalem: Ep. Galat.: Corinth . § 23. Epistle to the Romans: Its Motive: Paul and Rome . § 24. His work and travels tend Rome-wards . § 25. Opportunity for despatch of a Letter . § 26. What determined its Form and Topics? Inspiration and Circumstances . § 27. Events subsequent to date of the Epistle: Jerusalem: arrest in the Temple: two years at Cœsarea . § 28. Voyage to Italy: Rome. § 29. Two years at Rome: Epistles, Col., Philem., Ephes., Philipp . § 30. Release: later travels: Pastoral Epistles: Martyrdom . § 31. Spain . § 32. St Paul’s person . § 33. His character and work .
§ 1. “Saul, who is also called Paul,” was born at Tarsus, the capital of the province of Cilicia, and one of the three great Academies (Athens, Alexandria, Tarsus,) of the classic world. His father was a Jew, a Benjamite; one of the great orthodox-patriotic party of the Pharisees; a “Hebrew,” in the special sense of a maintainer of Hebrew customs and of the use (within his own household) of the Aramaic language; and, finally, a Roman citizen. This citizenship was no result of the “freedom” of Tarsus; for civic “freedom,” under the Empire, implied no more at the most than municipal self-government and exemption from public taxation. Saul’s father may have been the freedman of a Roman noble; or he may have received citizenship in reward for political services during the great Civil Wars; or, just possibly, he may have bought the privilege.
His name, as that of his wife, is unknown to us. We gather (2 Timothy 1:3 ) that they were sincerely pious. They had, besides Saul, at least one child, a daughter. (Acts 23:16 .)
§ 2. Saul’s circumcision-name was perhaps common in his tribe, in memory of the First King. His other and to us far more familiar name, Paul, (Paulus 1 1 So spelt, and not Paullus , in the Imperial age. ), was probably given him also in infancy, for use in the Gentile world; just as Jewish children in England now have a Hebrew home-name as well as an English (or otherwise European) name for exterior use. If his father was in any sense a dependent of the Æmilian family, the choice of Paulus is easily explained; for Paulus was a common cognomen of the Æmilii. But it was used also by the Sergii and other families.
The name first occurs, Acts 13:9 . The marked mention of it there is sufficiently explained by the fact that the Gentile name was, just then, in the Apostle’s life, necessarily coming to be the more usual name of the two, and that the first distinguished Gentile before whom he spoke for Christ was himself, by a coincidence, a Paulus.
§ 3. The exact date of Saul’s birth is quite uncertain; but it must lie within the few years before and the few years after the common (or Dionysian 2 2 So called from Dionysius Exiguus, (cent. vi.,) framer of the received reckoning. He dated the Incarnation 4 years too late. ) date of the Birth of Christ. When Stephen died Saul was still a “young man;” that is (in the then recognized sense of the words) he was not more than forty years old. And the date of Stephen’s death must probably be placed in, or very near, a.d. 36 3 3 Mr Lewin ( Fasti Sacri ) gives much curious evidence in favour of a.d. 37. We incline to place Saul’s birth after the Era; for, though men up to the age of forty were, as a class, called “young men,” there is still some emphasis in the mention of the “youth” of an individual of that class. .
§ 4. Quite early, perhaps as early as his ninth or tenth year, Saul was transferred, as a student of the Law, to Jerusalem; where the great Pharisaic Teacher of the day was Gamaliel 1 1 Cp. Conybeare and Howson, Vol. I. p. 69 71. , grandson of Hillel. Gamaliel was an orthodox “Hebrew,” but also a student of Gentile literature: and Saul under his influence not only matured into the best Rabbinist of his generation (Galatians 1:14 ), but also gained an acquaintance, traceable in his Epistles and Discourses, with at least a few Greek authors and with the then prevalent Greek philosophies 2 2 This was hardly acquired at Tarsus (unless indeed during his residence there after conversion), for a Pharisee’s young son would be carefully guarded from the influence of Gentile schools. .
Under Gamaliel, too, he would not be discouraged from using (along with the Original Scriptures) the “Septuagint” (LXX.) Greek Version 3 3 Jewish tradition indeed makes Gamaliel to have been far from favourable to translations of the Sacred Hebrew. J. Lightfoot, ( Horæ Hebr ., Addenda to 1 Cor. 14), quotes from the Talmud that Rabban Gamaliel ordered a Targum (Chaldee paraphrase-version) of Job to be buried under a heap of stones! But Onkelos, the author of a renowned Targum of the O. T., was Gamaliel’s devoted pupil. The Talmudic story must be an invention or distortion. . His quotations from the Old Testament indicate an equal familiarity, or nearly so, with the Original and the Version. He quotes in Greek much as an English Hebraist, with the Authorized Version in his memory, might quote in English.
Whether Saul dwelt continuously at Jerusalem till his first recorded public acts, is uncertain. Acts 26:4 , Acts 26:5 , suggests a residence continuous on the whole; but on the other hand St Paul’s silence is sufficient proof that our Lord, during His earthly Life, was unknown to him by sight. This suggests a break of residence; an absence (in Cilicia, or at Alexandria?) during about the period of our Lord’s Ministry; after which, perhaps, a return to Jerusalem was prompted by the sudden prominence of the Nazarene heresy .
§ 5. At the date of Stephen’s work Saul was perhaps a member (as a Scribe) of the Great Sanhedrim. But more probably his election into it (which seems to be proved by Acts 26:10 , “I gave my vote against them,”) was due to his display at that great crisis (for such it was both for the Church and the Synagogue,) of intense and energetic zeal.
§ 6. He now became a regularly delegated inquisitor for the Sanhedrim, and (amongst other places, Acts 26:11 ,) visited Damascus; of whose 50000 Jews, as of all the Jews of the Dispersion, the High Priest (under certain imperial grants) was not only the spiritual head but also in some respects the civil patronus . His delegate thus carried the power of arrest. Under king Aretas of Petra, (a vassal of the Empire), who was just then 1 1 During the reigns of Caligula and Claudius, or nearly so. lord of Damascus, the Jews there had a governor ( ethnarch , 2 Corinthians 11:32 ,) of their own; to whom Saul would shew his commission, but who was soon to set guards at the city-gates to bar the Renegade’s escape.
§ 7. On the ever-memorable Conversion we only remark here that the Appearance then granted was, in the Convert’s own life-long belief, radically different from what is commonly called a Vision. It was truly, though mysteriously, corporeal; for St Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8 ) bases upon it his claim to count among the witnesses of our Lord’s corporeal Resurrection.
We do not dwell on the absolute and perfectly permanent change in the intense purpose of Saul’s life which then and there took place; it is best read in the Scripture pages. We only suggest the study of its two contrasted yet harmonious aspects the supernatural aspect, in that it was wrought by an objective Divine act, which was the issue of a Divine purpose, (Galatians 1:15 ,) and the first step in a life-long experience of Divine inspiration; and the natural aspect, in that it left the framework of character unchanged; preserved unimpaired the balance of intellectual judgment or rather gave a vastly greater expansion to its legitimate use; and far from leading Saul impatiently to reject old beliefs as such, left him quite as fixedly as ever, and far more deeply than ever, sure of the entire and eternal truth of the prophetic Scriptures, and of the Divine meaning of the very Ritual which had once seemed to him irreconcilably to contradict the teaching of the Nazarenes.
§ 8. After baptism, and some intercourse with the Damascene disciples (Acts 9:19 ), and then a withdrawal from the city (Galatians 1:17 ) for some weeks or months, Saul began at Damascus the new work of his life. His withdrawal had secured for him, probably, the mysterious preparation of supernatural intercourse with his Master, in the solitudes of Arabia perhaps in the peculiarly congenial solitudes of “Sinai in Arabia 1 1 Arabia, however, was then a largely inclusive term. Some have explained St Paul’s absence in Arabia as if it were a first missionary effort; but the context in Gal. 1 points rather to an occasion of Divine intercourse and revelations. .”
§ 9. After three years (at most) he left Damascus, to avoid arrest or murder, and made his way to Jerusalem, where Barnabas, his friend and perhaps old fellow-student, introduced him to the still hesitating Apostles. He became St Peter’s guest; but after a fortnight of discussions with the Hellenists of Jerusalem he was again compelled, by plots of assassination, to retire to the coast of Syria, and thence to his native Tarsus a.d. 38 or 39.
§ 10. From Tarsus, no doubt, he now worked as the evangelist of Cilicia, and so spent at least three years. At length he was summoned by Barnabas to the Syrian Antioch, the scene of wholly new developements; for in it first 2 2 Unless indeed Saul in Cilicia had already done the same. the “Greeks,” or heathen Gentiles, (Acts 11:20 ,) had now been freely welcomed to the covenant of Messiah. At Antioch he laboured with Barnabas for “a whole year;” about a.d. 43, probably; a year memorable as the birth-time of the Christian name (Acts 11:26 ); and then visited Jerusalem, to carry relief there during (or just before) one of the great dearths which marked the reign (a.d. 41 54) of Claudius. The martyrdom of St James the son of Zebedee, and the seizure and deliverance of St Peter, occurred while Saul and Barnabas were in or near Jerusalem. This brief and troubled visit is scarcely (it would appear from the words of Galatians 2:1 ) to be reckoned as a visit to the Apostles at all.
§ 11. Now followed, at Antioch, another period of work for Saul and Barnabas. It is a period not easy to date: some reckonings close it a.d. 45, some as late as a.d. 49. It lasted, however, till a Divine oracle called Saul and Barnabas to embark on their great Missionary Tour. They began with Cyprus, where at Paphos the Proconsul Paulus became, we may hope, a true convert to the Gospel through the work and word of the Tarsian Jew who bore his name. They then passed to the Pamphylian shore, and thence to the inner uplands of Pisidia and Lycaonia, including the Isaurian fastnesses where Derbe stood. At length they approached, from the West, the Cilician border, and then returned on their footsteps to the port of Attalia, and so by sea to the Syrian Antioch. We attempt no details of this memorable circuit crowded as its story is both with Divine instruction and with innumerable notes of historic accuracy and reality.
At Antioch they remained “a long time” probably till a.d. 50 or 51.
§ 12. And now a disturbance of extreme gravity broke in upon the work in this great centre of Gentile Christianity. The Judaic party in the Christian Church, retaining and intensifying the exclusive views which had once clouded even St Peter’s mind (Acts 10:34 ), and which degenerated afterwards into manifold heretical divergences, now intruded on the field of St Paul. Jerusalem, where by this time the Lord’s Brother was what we may fairly call the Bishop, was recognized as the Metropolis of the Gospel, and the dispute was referred thither; a Divine oracle (Galatians 2:2 ) concurring with, or prompting, the resolve of the Church. The result was in some sort a compromise, though it was a compromise divinely sanctioned (Acts 15:28 ); but it was at least so solemn a statement of the covenantequality of Gentile Christians, and thus so real a victory for St Paul, that it secured to him for life the bitter and restless opposition of the Judaic party an opposition curiously developed in somewhat later days in the heretical literature falsely inscribed with the name of Clement of Rome, and in which St Paul is covertly assailed as the grand corrupter of the primeval Gospel .
The undiminished energy of the Judaists, even just after the decision at Jerusalem against their main principle, appears from the successful pressure they put upon St Peter himself, and that too at Antioch (to which he appears to have followed St Paul), to act for the moment as a separatist (Galatians 2:11-21 ).
From this crisis, then, St Paul came forth as more than ever a recognized Apostle, co-ordinate with the Twelve, and also more than ever the object of intense hatred with a powerful party.
§ 13. He had returned to Antioch with Barnabas, and accompanied by the new-comers from Jerusalem, Judas and Silas (Silvanus); and now, after a residence there of “some days,” he proposed to Barnabas a second circuit. But a personal difference 1 1 Afterwards healed. Cp. e.g. 1 Cor. 9:6. led to their separation, and St Paul set out with Silas (say a.d. 51) on an independent track.
This time he went by land; revisited his plantings in Syria, Cilicia, and Lycaonia; joined the young Timotheus to his company in what proved to be a life-long connexion; broke new ground in Phrygia and the “Galatian Region,” where (it seems from Galatians 4:13 ) he was detained among the Celtic inhabitants by illness a detention overruled to a large and enthusiastic acceptance of the Gospel, soon however to be marred by Judaic intruders; and then attempted other districts of Asia Minor.
§ 14. But Divine commands, perhaps in the form of “prophesyings 2 2 The genuine supernatural phenomena which in later ages were perhaps in some few instances repeated, but in countless other instances unconsciously travestied; e.g. among the French “Prophets of the Cevennes.” ,” closed all avenues, and at last guided St Paul across the Ægæan to Europe. Here he landed in Macedonia, perhaps a.d. 52; made his first converts, now in peace, now amidst cruelties and terrors, at Philippi; passed southward to Thessalonica, a Jewish centre and a busy trading-place, where he planted a vigorous Church; then southward still, to Berœa, still followed by Jewish violence but also by Divine blessing; and at last, for safety’s sake, to Athens. Silas and Timotheus were left at Berœa, with orders to follow in due time.
§ 15. At Athens he took advantage of the ways of the place, and opened discussion with the students and dilettanti who frequented the walks of the Agora; and at length (whether formally or informally, seriously or in irony, who shall say?) he was brought up to answer for his strange doctrine before (or at least in) the sacred Court of Areopagus. His address indicates familiarity with Stoicism.
§ 16. Before long he left Athens for Corinth, the seat of the Roman government of Achaia (i.e. the Southern Greek Province). Here a scene of mingled activity and vice made both peculiar difficulties and peculiar opportunities for St Paul.
§ 17. Early in a.d. 52 Claudius, by a severe but soon cancelled edict, banished from Rome its multitude of Jews. Of these one married pair, Aquila and Prisca (or Priscilla,) settled or rested at Corinth. They were workpeople, hair-cloth workers, and thus plied the trade which long before, (according to Rabbinic precepts, by which every Rabbi was to learn a handicraft against a time of need,) had been taught to the boy Saul. And this trade was now standing St Paul, the Christian Rabbi, in good stead; and thus, perhaps at first in the way of business, he fell in with Aquila and Priscilla. Whether he found them Christians, or (under God) made them such, we shall never know; but it is more probable that they were already believers for otherwise we should certainly expect some distinct allusion in the Acts or the Epistles to so important a conversion. But doubtless they owed their first direct apostolic teaching to St Paul; to whom now they were bound for life in a holy friendship.
We have thus in Aquila and Priscilla, very probably, an example of what is antecedently likely the arrival already of the Gospel at Rome. The first facts and doctrines may have reached the City soon after the Pentecostal preaching, (see Acts 2:10 ), and there they would find rather easy audience than otherwise. At Rome a peculiar weariness of paganism was manifest in many directions; the East was, in a certain sense, in fashion; Judaism had attracted abundant notice; and the prophecies must have been at least superficially known to a multitude of proselytes or semi-proselytes. But no organized Church seems as yet to have arisen at Rome. Indeed there is no clear token of any Christian organization west of the Ægæan, before St Paul’s arrival at Philippi.
§ 18. At Corinth St Paul spent eighteen months. This time was marked by the writing of his earliest apostolic Letters the two Epistles to the Thessalonians . These must be dated in, or near, a.d. 53 certainly not earlier.
Great opposition and great success marked the beginnings of the great Corinthian Church, with the “out-stations” (in modern missionary language) which doubtless then sprung up at the port of Cenchreæ and other neighbour-towns. Probably the assistants of St Paul carried the Gospel through the whole Achaian province at this time, or very soon after (2 Corinthians 1:1 ).
About this stage of St Paul’s life Nero succeeded Claudius; October, a.d. 54.
§ 19. After scenes of outrage which the proconsul Gallio treated with impartial indifference, St Paul at last left Corinth for Syria; say some time in a.d. 54. He touched at Ephesus; left Aquila there with his wife, perhaps to be the organizer of a regular community; and himself departed for Cæsarea and Jerusalem. There he was perhaps in time to keep, as he had intended, one of the great Festivals; but all that is certain is that he “saluted the Church” of St James, and then soon left for Antioch, where again he spent “some time.” (Acts 18:0 .)
§ 20. Now followed a missionary tour in the “upper coasts,” i.e. the inland regions, of Asia Minor. It must have been long and laborious; but it is dismissed by St Luke with a brief allusion. At length St Paul reached the shore, at Ephesus, some time (say) in a.d. 55.
Here an eminent Alexandrian Hellenist convert, Apollos, had meanwhile arrived; had held intercourse with the more advanced and instructed Aquila and Priscilla, and had crossed to Corinth; there to do much good, (Acts 18:27 , Acts 18:28 ,) but also, probably, by his more ornate and philosophically-worded preaching, to raise prejudices, unwittingly, against St Paul.
The Apostle spent about three years at Ephesus in ceaseless Christian labours; and during this time his assistants travelled, it seems, to Colossæ, and Laodicea, and other places in pro-consular Asia which he could not reach (Colossians 2:1 ). At length the tumult of Demetrius, perhaps at the festival of the Ephesia , hastened St Paul’s already-planned departure for the European side.
§ 21. Very shortly before this departure, (Spring, a.d. 57,) he had written and sent the First Epistle to the Corinthians occasioned by distressing reports from Corinth as well as by questions raised by the Church there. To give the Epistle time to do its work, he resolved to reach Corinth by a long circuit round the head of the Ægæan, and so southward through Macedonia. Titus went before, to ascertain the state of the Corinthians, and to report to St Paul, if possible, in Asia Minor; but this proved impracticable, and St Paul’s intense anxiety was not relieved by the longed-for tidings until he entered Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12 , 2 Corinthians 2:13 ). Thence he wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians a wonderful mosaic of serene revelations of eternal truth and outpourings of personal anxiety and affection.
§ 22. He was now free to visit the Macedonian churches, and to evangelize new districts. Here we may probably place his westward tour (Romans 15:19 ,) as far as the Adriatic seaboard. Now also he effected throughout Macedonia (i.e., in the then sense of that term, the Northern Grecian Province,) the ingathering of a fund, already organized, for the poor Christians at Jerusalem (Romans 15:25 , Romans 15:26 ; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 , 2 Corinthians 8:9 :1, 2 Corinthians 8:2 ); a task which was not only a tangible proof of deep sympathy with the work of St James, but also an expression of St Paul’s own heart’s love for his fellow Jews. (See Romans 15:27 .)
But the most lastingly important effort of this period (for to this period it surely belongs 1 1 Bp Lightfoot’s argument seems conclusive for a date falling within this visit to Macedonia and Achaia, and probably very soon after the date of 2 Cor. (See his Galatians , pp. 36, &c.) ) was the Epistle to the Galatians , the result of news of the inroads of Judaic propaganda in that well-loved, but already troubled, scene of his earlier labours. At length he reached Corinth; there found (as we have good cause to think) happy results of his two Messages of warning and instruction; and there also collected the Achaian gifts for the Jerusalem Fund, which he now (Romans 15:25 ) prepared to carry to St James.
§ 23. This stay at Corinth lasted only three months. But it was made memorable for ever by the writing of our great Epistle the Epistle to the Romans. Let us examine the occasion of this Work at some little length.
It is not easy to conjecture the precise motive which led to the writing. The Epistle says nothing of serious disquiet or disorder among the Roman Christians. It indicates that they were, in a large majority, Gentile converts, and that the Judaic party proper, if present at Rome at all, had very small influence there. Evidently St Paul’s informants from Rome told him rather of spiritual maturity and prosperity than of organic difficulty or really anxious controversy.
Nevertheless there was much just now to draw his thoughts specially to the City. The Apostle of the Nations would be sure, at any time, to think with profound interest of Rome; and, in fact, he had long desired to visit it (Romans 15:23 ). But now his beloved and trusted Aquila was once more there, possibly having returned from the Levant to Italy as St Paul’s delegate, to form an organized Christian community 1 1 The silence of our Epistle, and of the Epistles afterwards written from Rome, is itself sufficient evidence against the legend (recorded and accepted by St Jerome) of St Peter’s Episcopate at Rome. . And there were other Christian city-residents with whom St Paul had ties of kinship or friendship (Romans 16:0 ). Thus through private information, (besides such news of the Roman brotherhood as would naturally permeate everywhere, and especially through the Greek provinces, from the centre of the Empire,) St Paul knew enough of the evangelical affairs of Rome to quicken his interest to a special degree.
His relations with the Church at Rome, if we have sketched them rightly, were thus exactly such as to account for the tone of our Epistle a tone on the one hand of affectionate acquaintance, and of personal interest in the details of work and life, and of consciousness of a special warrant to instruct the Roman believers; and yet on the other hand a tone marked by a certain distance and deference, as to those who did not, as a Church, owe their illumination to St Paul’s immediate teaching, and who moreover by their metropolitan position stood on a height of influence which would specially appeal alike to his farseeing wisdom and to his noble courtesy.
§ 24. And now not only his thoughts but his movements tended towards Rome. He had traversed with the Gospel message the East of Roman Europe, and his path lay westward. Probably a Divine intimation (see the phrase, Acts 19:21 ,) had pointed him to the City; and moreover he was now bent upon a mission to Spain, where his usual points d’appui , the Synagogues, were frequent along the eastern shores. Thus, after one necessary visit to Jerusalem, he would take Italy on the road to Spain, and spend some while among the mature and spiritually-minded groups of disciples in the City.
§ 25. Meantime, an opportunity offered for the previous greetings and instructions of an Epistle. A ministrant Christian woman from one of the ports of Corinth was about to sail for Rome; and by her he could send. And what he wrote for Phœbe’s care proved to be that profound and magnificent exposition of fundamental principles, and that solution of the great problem of Jewish unbelief, and those abundant precepts of holy practical wisdom, which are now in our hands as the Epistle to the Romans this Work of which one 1 1 S. T. Coleridge, Table Talk , p. 252. who had a right to speak has said, (in view only of its intellectual grandeur,) “I think the Epistle to the Romans the most profound work in existence.”
§ 26. Looking now into the Epistle, and especially into the more properly dogmatic chapters (1 11), we cannot help the question, what determined its actual scale and form? Was it aimed at purely local, or incidental, needs and problems? Or was it, on the contrary, an abstract Treatise on the whole range of Christian truth, written as such, and merely by accident (so to speak) addressed to Rome? Such questions will be pursued by Christian students under full recollection of the mysterious reality (whatever were the varying methods) of Inspiration that definite and unique influence of the Eternal Spirit on the Scripture-writers which made their writings the Oracles of God. But we are none the less for this rather the more entitled to ask what were the circumstances amidst which the Inspirer was pleased to work, or rather which He used as a part of His means not merely finding , but ordaining , the conditions and idiosyncrasies of His messengers. Looking thus at our Epistle, taking into account the state of things at Rome, and St Paul’s relations with Rome, we venture to account as follows for what we find.
( A .) The crisis in Galatia which had so very recently occasioned the Galatian Epistle (see ante, p. 16,) had forced into supreme prominence in St Paul’s thought the true doctrine of Justification, as a matter preeminently calling for final and full exposition. It was for him; at that time above all others, the truth of truths; as indeed in its nature, on the whole, it must ever be for the human soul as guilty before God. For though it is not, by any means, the whole of the Gospel, yet such is its position in the Gospel which is before all things a message to sinners that it holds a direct and vital connexion with every other distinctive doctrine, and (from the point of view of sinful man) dominates the whole.
( B .) The problem of Jewish unbelief was at this time more than ever forced on the Apostle, not only by the fierceness of unbelieving Judaism, but by the misguided energy of Judaic error within the Church. And, moreover, the large Jewish population at Rome, and the remarkable influence 1 1 Fully attested by the Roman satirists. of Jewish thought and usages on pagan society there, would also be present in St Paul’s thoughts when once he looked towards the City.
( C .) Certain minor but pressing questions of ceremonialism, involving principles of toleration, had been recently very prominent at Corinth, where St Paul now was; and these same questions were said to be in some measure apparent also at Rome.
Thus when he addressed himself, just at that place and time, to an Epistle to the Romans, ( α ) the mighty Truth of Justification lay providentially uppermost in his thoughts; and he resolved to state and explain it in all its main bearings, not as in an abstract treatise merely, but as to this community which had already learned its outline, and which would have a world-wide influence in its maintenance. And he then further ( β ) set himself to deal, in unexampled fulness, with the Jewish Problem his soul, perhaps, being the more animated to the effort, and the more prompt to reveal the better Future of Israel, just because of his own sufferings from unbelieving Rabbinism and from the malice of the Judaic party. And to these doctrinal passages he added ( γ ) the counsels and greetings occasioned by his knowledge of minuter circumstances at Rome.
The Epistle was evidently written not under pressure of anxiety, but with calm deliberation.
It was composed, apparently, in the house of a Corinthian Christian, Gaius or Caius; dictated by St Paul, and written down by one Tertius. Would that we could call up the scene in the Corinthian chamber!
§ 27. We have thus dwelt at length on the occasion of the Epistle 1 1 A few points, such as evidence of date, genuineness, &c. are treated below, pp. 25 27. . Let us now follow St Paul’s life, in simplest outline, to the close.
The three months at Corinth over, he left Achaia for Macedonia; spent Passover at Philippi; crossed to Asia Minor; addressed the Ephesian presbyters at Miletus; sailed to Tyre, and at length (amidst prophecies of danger) reached Jerusalem, perhaps in May, a.d. 58; not long after an Egyptian impostor, at the head of a huge gang of the zealot Sicarii , (Assassins,) had seriously threatened the Roman authorities of Palestine. In the act of a last effort to conciliate the Judaic party, St Paul was almost murdered in the Temple by the Jews; rescued by the Roman commandant, but under the belief that the victim of the mob was the Egyptian rebel; allowed to defend himself on the spot before the multitude, and the next day before the Sanhedrim; and then, for safety, conveyed as a prisoner to Cæsarea. There, within a fortnight of his arrival at Jerusalem, he was heard before the Procurator Felix; who lingered however over the case, and at last, two years after, when recalled on a serious charge (Summer, a.d. 60,) left St Paul a prisoner still.
Of these two years of St Paul’s life we know almost nothing. Some critics assign to them the writing of the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. But these are certainly to be dated later, and from Rome.
§ 28. At length, before Porcius Festus, the Apostle was heard again; but even this far better judge hesitated to do him full justice, and he appealed in due form, as a citizen, to the Emperor’s own hearing. He was ere long shipped for Italy; but off the Cretan coast, perhaps early in October, a typhoon struck the ship, which soon was a drifting wreck and was at last run aground at Malta. There the rescued company wintered, and not till the early spring of a.d. 61 (the year of Boadicea’s revolt in Britain) did St Paul at last see Rome. At some distance from the City, in detached parties, at two different spots, the representatives of the Church (now for nearly three years in possession of the great Epistle) met the captive Saint, and cheered his anxious and weary spirit by their loyal sympathy.
§ 29. In the City, he was permitted to occupy a hired lodging, perhaps a storey of one of the lofty Roman tabernæ . Here, a few days after his arrival, he made a last long effort to convince the leaders of the Roman Jews 1 1 The cautious language of these Jews to St Paul (Acts 28:21, 22) does not prove, as some have said, that they knew nothing of any Christian Church at Rome. They spoke diplomatically, with the wish to hear St Paul’s own account of the “Nazarenes.” of the Messiahship of Jesus; and here, under military custody but otherwise unmolested, he spent “two whole years,” full no doubt of immense mental and spiritual labour and holy influence, and marked for ever by the writing of the four Epistles, (perhaps in this order 2 2 Or nearly so. Setting aside Philemon (which, as a personal message, is an appendage to Colossians ), we may certainly place Colossians and Ephesians in that order, and may assume that they (with Philemon ) were written at one time. Philippians bears traces of a distinct time of writing. See our edition of Philippians , pp. 14 19. ,) Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians .
§ 30. This Roman residence closed in the course of a.d. 62, probably in the summer. The question how it closed whether with condemnation to death, or acquittal is a famous one. Its discussion would be out of place here; but our undoubting conviction is that the result was St Paul’s acquittal; that he was set free 1 1 If the Epistle to the Hebrews is St Paul’s, it must probably be dated between this release and his departure from Italy. But this is not the place for so large a question. , and once more undertook missionary labours; that he visited Western and Eastern Europe, and Asia Minor; and that, late in this last stage of his life, he wrote the Pastoral Epistles in the order 1 Timothy, Titus , 2 Timothy . This last most affecting Letter is dated once more from a prison, and from Rome. It is our only relic of St Paul’s second Roman captivity, which ended in his martyrdom probably a.d. 66, the year of the Great Fire and of the Neronian Persecution; though perhaps the date of the martyrdom must be placed one or two years later 2 2 But the main reason for the later date seems to be the supposed necessity for a long interval between Philippians and the Pastorals , to explain the change of surroundings and especially of style . But at St Paul’s age, and after his sufferings and extreme vicissitudes , an alteration of style was at least as likely to be sudden as gradual. Timothy is still addressed as a “young man.” The genuineness of the Pastorals is, in our view, a certain fact. .
Probably soon before St Paul’s execution, and probably also at Rome, St Peter had suffered his predicted death. And (if a.d. 66 is the true date) the Jewish War had already begun a few months when St Paul died to close four years later with the Fall of Jerusalem.
§ 31. The one question within our scope here, connected with this last period of St Paul’s life, is the question of a visit to Spain. Was the hope of Romans 15:24 , Romans 15:28 , at length fulfilled?
There seems to be good evidence that it was. In the Epistle to the Corinthians written by St Paul’s own follower, St Clement of Rome, we find it stated (ch. 5) as a familiar fact that St Paul, before his “departure from this world to the holy place,” “went to the end of the West 3 3 “The end (or limit) of the West” is the only unforced rendering of the Greek of Clement. .” It has been pleaded, against the theory of a Spanish journey, that this may mean only Italy , as viewed from the locality of St Clement’s correspondents at Corinth . But the then Centre of the World could not possibly be so described, and above all not by a writer dating from Rome, however he might care to put himself in his readers’ geographical position. And there is direct evidence besides that such a phrase as “the end of the West” would have a familiar connexion, at that time, with Spain. (See Bp Lightfoot’s S. Clement of Rome , pp. 49 51.)
This witness, certainly genuine and quite contemporary, is fairly conclusive. St Clement cannot have been mistaken or ignorant on so leading a fact of his great Master’s latest labours as the westward limit of those labours.
The only serious difficulty in the theory of the Spanish visit (once granting the theory, necessary to the genuineness of the Pastorals , of St Paul’s release and second Roman imprisonment) is that there is no traditional trace whatever of any work of St Paul’s in Spain 1 1 Mr Lewin ( Life , &c., Vol. II. p. 363, note) quotes an inscription found in Spain, of Nero’s time, which commemorates the riddance out of the Province of “robbers, and of those who sought to instil a new superstition into mankind .” This probably refers to Christianity, and possibly to the results of St Paul’s labours. . But this is equally true of other districts (as Illyricum), in which however we have St Paul’s own word for his labours.
We take it then for certain that St Paul, some time after the spring or summer of a.d. 62, and probably before the spring of a.d. 66, visited the Western Peninsula whose present name, España, is said 2 2 By W. von Humboldt, quoted in Smith’s Dict. Class. Geogr . to be an aboriginal word, meaning “The Land’s End.”
The belief that he landed in Britain possesses, in Bp Lightfoot’s words ( S. Clement of Rome , quoted above), “neither evidence nor probability.”
§ 32. It is impossible not to wish to know something of St Paul’s personal appearance. Mr Lewin (in his Life and Epistles of St Paul , Vol. II. ch. xi.) has collected all that approaches to information in this matter; and in this one case at least tradition appears to be something better than mere fancy. It seems to be certain that St Paul’s stature was short, if not diminutive; that his head was bald and his face bearded; and that his expression, even if deformed in some measure by ophthalmia (which is one of the many conjectural explanations of the “thorn in the flesh”), yet reflected something of his soul. A medallion, dating perhaps from the generation next to St Paul’s own, is engraved by Mr Lewin (Vol. II. p. 411): it gives the profiles of St Paul and St Peter; and that of St Paul expresses, or seems to do so, all the elevation and intensity both of thought and feeling which still, as we read the Epistles, touch us with the touch of life.
§ 33. The character and labours of St Paul have been so often eulogized, and are so inimitably described in a thousand unconscious touches by his own pen, that it would be vain in this brief summary to attempt another portrait. We will only quote the words of a very few of the many existing delineations.
Amidst the circumstances of his apostolic work he developed a force and play of spirit, a keenness, depth, clearness, and cogency of thought, a purity and firmness of purpose, an intensity of feeling, a holy audacity of effort, a wisdom of deportment, a precision and delicacy of practical skill, a strength and liberty of faith, a fire and mastery of eloquence, a heroism in danger, a love, and self-forgetfulness, and patience, and humility, and altogether a sublime power and richness of endowment, which have secured for this chosen Implement 1 1 Rüstzeug: the word used by Luther in Acts 9:15, where our Version uses vessel . of Christ the reverence and wonder of all time.
Meyer: Brief an die Römer, Einleitung , p. 7.
I dream’d that with a passionate complaint
I wish’d me born amid God’s deeds of might;
And envied those who had the presence bright
Of gifted Prophet and strong-hearted Saint,
Whom my heart loves, and Fancy strives to paint.
I turn’d, when straight a stranger met my sight,
Came as my guest, and did awhile unite
His lot with mine, and lived without restraint.
Courteous he was, and grave, so meek in mien,
It seemed untrue, or told a purpose weak;
Yet, in the mood, he could with aptness speak,
Or with stern force, or show of feelings keen,
Marking deep craft, methought, or hidden pride:
Then came a voice, “St Paul is at thy side.” 1 1 The impressions of “craft” and “pride” are manifestly intended by the Poet to be false impressions. But things have been sometimes said about St Paul’s tact which amount to a charge of insincerity; and it seems worth while to observe that a sufficient vindication of his noble straightforwardness is found in his own gentle and affectionate allusions (see 1 Cor. 9:19 22; 2 Cor. 12:16;) to his own “craft,” “guile,” and the like. A man really capable of insincerity, and especially of the insincerity of pious frauds, is not the man to describe himself thus. St Paul’s one recorded approach to equivocation (Acts 23:6), if such it was, seems to have disturbed his conscience (Acts 24:20, 21).
J. H. Newman, 1833: Verses on Various Occasions , p. 159.
Imagine the world without St Paul: it would mean the detention of the Gospel, perhaps for centuries, on the borders of Asia, far from this Europe of ours, which Paul (after Jesus Christ) has made the centre of the conversion and civilization of the world. Imagine the Bible without St Paul: it would mean Christian truth only half revealed, Christian life only half understood, Christian charity only half known, Christian faith only half victorious.
Adolphe Monod: Saint Paul, Cinq Discours , 1.
Yet not I, but the Grace of God which was with me.
§ 1. date of the epistle. § 2. language. § 3. genuineness. § 4. questions raised about the closing chapters, and, § 5, about the final doxology
§ 1. The time and place of the writing of the Epistle can both be clearly ascertained. It was written (1) late in the missionary history recorded in the Acts; for St Paul had already done his work in the regions East of the Adriatic (15:19). It was written (2) when he was just about to leave Greece (15:25, 26) for Jerusalem, with collected gifts for the poor. These notes exactly agree with allusions in 1 and 2 Corinthians to the collection of such gifts during St Paul’s approach to Achaia by Macedonia, at a time when both Achaia and Macedonia were already evangelized. And these allusions, again, fit into the history of Acts 20:21 , which records his journey from Ephesus, by Macedonia, to Achaia, and his journey and voyage thence (after a brief interval) to Palestine. Our Epistle, then, was written soon after the date of 2 Corinthians, and just before the visit to Palestine of Acts 20:21 : that is, it was written early in a.d. 58 (see ante, p. 20), during the fourth year of Nero.
Again, the place of writing was Corinth. Cenchreæ (16:1), the Saronic port of Corinth, was evidently a neighbour-town; and in 16:23 “ the city ” is a phrase which indicates a capital; and that capital was, by the obvious meaning of that verse, the place where St Paul was at the time. And this localization is confirmed by comparing 16:23, where a Gaius is St Paul’s actual host, with 1 Corinthians 1:14 , where a Gaius appears as a Corinthian specially connected with St Paul.
§ 2. The Epistle, though addressed to Rome, was written in Greek. There is no surprise in this. For (1) Greek was the far more familiar language to St Paul; while there is no proof that the “gift of tongues” was of a kind to neutralize this difference. And (2) Greek was used to a very large extent in Italy at that date. Not only was it universally learnt and spoken by the children of wealthy Romans, but (to point to one fact alone) Southern Italy had been for ages sprinkled with Greek colonies, and between these and the City there must have been abundant intercourse for many generations when St Paul wrote.
Not many years later St Clement, the Roman bishop, wrote to the Corinthians in Greek; and not long afterwards again St Ignatius of Antioch wrote in Greek to the Romans. Many such examples might be added.
§ 3. The genuineness of the Epistle as a whole is universally admitted: even the extreme school of German criticism, the “school of Tübingen,” did not assail it. The first formal quotations from the Epistle are by St Irenæus, about a.d. 170; but such quotations indicate, of course, an already long established authority. And St Clement of Rome, St Paul’s own follower, writes (in his Epistle to the Corinthians, ch. 35,) what is plainly a summary of Romans 1:29 , &c. Several other testimonies, also primeval, might be added.
§ 4. The closing chapters of the Epistle, however, have been said, by some foreign critics, of the last hundred years, to be either mutilated or misplaced. We here abridge Tholuck’s summary of these theories 1 1 Tholuck on the Romans, Eng. Trans.; Biblical Cabinet , Vol. v. pp. 17, &c. , supplemented from Alford’s and Meyer’s Introductions.
1. Semler held that cch. 15, 16, were not meant for the Romans at all; that the true Epistle was cch. 1 14; that this was entrusted to certain Christians moving from Corinth to Rome; that ch. 16 was a list of disciples resident at different places on the route, who were to be greeted; that Cenchreæ would be the first stage (a very brief one), and that thus Phœbe is first named; that Ephesus would be the next resting-place, where Aquila and Priscilla (whose names thus stand next) would be met with; and so on. Ch. 15, in Sender’s view, was merely “a sort of private missive to be communicated to all whom they visited on the way.”
2. Heumann held that cch. 1 11, 16, were the original Epistle; that Phœbe’s journey was delayed; and that, in the interval, news from Rome led St Paul to add cch. 12 15.
3. Schulz held that ch. 16 has nothing to do with the Epistle, but was written from Rome to Ephesus;
4. Schott , that it is the fragments of an Epistle from St Paul in Corinth to some Asiatic Church or other.
(The doubts about ch. 16 seem to be almost wholly due to the mention there of Aquila and Priscilla, and the supposed difficulty of our having no account of a migration of theirs from Ephesus to Rome, and an after migration again (2 Timothy 4:19 ) to Ephesus.)
The internal evidence for these curiously conflicting guesses is feeble indeed. The best refutation is a consecutive reading of cch. 12 16 by a reader who does not start with a pedantic theory of what St Paul ought to have related, or alluded to, or discussed. And what is the external evidence? It amounts to this:
(1) The heretical teacher Marcion (cent. ii.) “cut off” (so Tertullian tells us) cch. 15, 16: but it was Marcion’s principle to reject whatever Scriptures did not suit his views .
(2) Tertullian (centt. ii., iii.) apparently quotes 1 1 Against Marcion , v. 14. The words possibly admit of another rendering. 14:10 as “in the conclusion ” (of the Epistle): but this is in a treatise written against Marcion , and may be meant to meet Marcion on his own ground.
(3) Euthalius (cent. v.; see p. 258), in his section-headings to St Paul’s Epistles, gives no heading for ch. 16; but probably this was because ch. 16, as being full of names, was not used as a church-lesson; and Euthalius elsewhere, in counting the “verses” (of his arrangement) in the Epistle, evidently reckons in ch. 16 .
Meanwhile, of the known extant MSS. of St Paul (of which Dr Scrivener reckons about 300 2 2 Introduction to N. T. Criticism , 1874, p. 269. ), all the MSS. hitherto collated (including the very large majority and all the most important), if they preserve the main body of the Epistle consecutively at all, give these chapters in just the received connexion and order.
§ 5. To this statement one reservation must be made, regarding the closing Doxology , 16:25 27. These verses
(1) in most of the very oldest MSS. stand where we read them: (2) in a very few MSS. indeed are omitted or (by a later hand) erased: (3) in many MSS., including most of the cursive, or running-hand, MSS., are placed at the close of ch. 14: (4) in a very few MSS. are found in both places.
The evidence of patristic quotations and ancient versions is divided. The ancient Greek Lectionaries support the position at the close of ch. 14.
The evidence for the right of the Doxology to stand somewhere in the Epistle is thus most ample. A tendency to place it at the end of ch. 14 can be fairly explained by early misconception, due (1) to the occurrence of a Benediction (16:24) just before the Doxology, and (2) to the thought that the words “ able to stablish you ” were specially adapted to the plea for the “ weak ” in ch. 14. And on the other hand it needs only to read the Doxology to see that its main purpose is nothing lower than thanksgiving for the Universal Gospel as a whole, and that its weighty grandeur of tone obviously belongs to the close not of a section (which section, too, the Apostle at once carries on into a new passage, 15:1, &c.), but of the Epistle.
On the theory of a pause in St Paul’s dictation after ver. 24 (see note there), the received place of the Doxology entirely harmonizes with its rich contents and sublime expression 1 1 See further Tholuck’s Introduction; Alford, in loc.; and Meyer’s long and careful preliminary note to ch. 16. .
parallels between the epistle to the romans and the epistle to the galatians
Subjoined are the more obvious parallels, arranged under doctrinal heads. A careful study of these, and of the two Epistles generally, will make plain the peculiar connexion of the two, and the remarkable upgrowth, so to speak, of the longer and more deliberate out of the shorter, more personal, and more urgent 2 2 On resemblances between Romans and Corinthians see Appendix K. .
1. The Gospel predestined and prophesied:
Galatians 3:8 = Romans 1:2 .
Galatians 4:4 = Romans 5:6 .
Galatians 5:19-21 = Romans 1:18-32 .
3. Futility of mere Privilege:
Galatians 5:6 , Galatians 6:15 = Romans 2:25-29 .
4. Justification by Faith:
Galatians 3:11 = Romans 1:17 , Romans 1:3 :26, &c.
5. Release from the Law:
Galatians 5:18 = Romans 6:14 .
Galatians 2:19 = Romans 7:4 .
6. Use of the Law:
Galatians 3:19 = Romans 5:20 , Romans 7:7 .
7. The Holy Spirit:
Galatians 3:14 = Romans 5:1 , Romans 5:5 .
Galatians 5:17 = Romans 8:14 .
8. Sonship of the Justified:
Galatians 4:5 , Galatians 4:6 = Romans 8:14-16 .
9. Heirship of the Justified:
Galatians 4:7 = Romans 8:17 .
10. The Flesh and the Spirit:
Galatians 3:3 , Galatians 5:16 = Romans 8:4 , &c.
11. The inner Conflict:
Galatians 5:17 = Romans 7:14-24 .
12. Equality ( in Guilt and Justification ) of Jew and Gentile:
Galatians 3:8 , Galatians 3:28 = Romans 3:30 , Romans 10:12 .
Galatians 3:22 = Romans 11:32 .
13. Abraham, and his Seed:
Galatians 3:0 = Romans 4:0 .
Galatians 6:16 = Romans 9:8 , Romans 9:25 , Romans 9:26 .
Galatians 3:27 = Romans 6:3 , Romans 6:4 .
15. “ Crucifixion ” :
Galatians 2:20 , Galatians 5:24 , Galatians 6:14 = Romans 6:6 .
16. “ Putting on of Christ ” :
Galatians 3:27 = Romans 13:14 .
17. Love fulfils the Law:
Galatians 5:14 = Romans 13:8 .
number of quotations from the old testament
The reckoning below is approximate only, for in some cases the quotation may be accounted for by more O. T. passages than one. The figures thus tend on the whole to be under rather than over the mark.
Approximately, then, we have in this Epistle
Genesis quoted five times;
Exodus quoted four times;
Leviticus quoted twice;
Deuteron. quoted five times;
I. Kings quoted twice;
Psalms quoted fifteen times;
Proverbs quoted twice;
Isaiah quoted nineteen times;
Ezekiel quoted once;
Hosea quoted twice;
Joel quoted once;
Nahum quoted once;
Habakk. quoted once;
Malachi quoted once .
Thus there are at least sixty-one direct quotations. Cch. 5, 6, 16 alone are without any. The allusions to Old Testament history, type, and doctrine extend, of course, far beyond even these verbal references.
argument of the epistle
Ch. 1:1 7 . Paul, a commissioned messenger of the predicted and now exalted Messiah, greets the saints of Rome.
8 17 . He hears with joy the report of their faith, and prays to be allowed at length to visit them, both as a friend and as a teacher. Even in the great City he will find courage to teach, for his doctrine is Divine in origin and efficacy, and it is for all. It is the secret of sinful man’s acceptance before God Justification by Faith. [And of this, anticipating an oral discourse, he will now treat in writing.]
18 23 . First, then, let them consider the need of such a Way of Acceptance, in the light of the fact of Divine Wrath against Human Sin. Such is the sin of man that the sinner, in his rebellion, has resisted and repressed that knowledge of a Supreme Creator which the outward world has always at least suggested to the conscience of the Creature. From this voluntary and most guilty ignorance sprung Idolatry; and, as a judicial penalty upon Idolatry, God gave up the idolatrous world to the worst developments of impurity and unrighteousness.
Ch. 2:1 11 . But what, then, of the Jewish world, which had now for ages been free from positive idolatry? The exposure of Jewish sin is approached gradually, by an appeal first to the conscience of self-righteous man in general , but in terms which more and more mark out Jewish self-righteousness; and closing with a warning that, not only in privilege but in responsibility, the Jew stands first.
12 16 . Yes: for sin implies guilt, and guilt implies doom; alike for those who have an explicit Revelation, and for those who have the light and law of Conscience only. [For Conscience, even when addressed by no more than the voice of Natural Religion, is a real, though imperfect, guide; and man’s disobedience to it, even in the darkness of heathenism, is sin.] Thus neither the privilege of having a Revelation exempts the Jew, nor the disadvantage of not having it exempts the Gentile, from the judgment of the Great Day.
17 29 . These truths are now pressed direct upon the conscience of the Jew. As a well-known fact, self-righteous Jews are not pure. And if not pure, then not safe. For the Covenant of Abraham was never meant to shield impenitent descendants of Abraham from doom. Circumcision is not a substitute for spiritual blessings, but their seal.
Ch. 3:1 2 . But if so, how was the Jew better off than the heathen? Why was there a Covenant with Abraham at all? Answer: chiefly, because of the immense honour and benefit of the possession of Revelation. True, Revelation aggravates responsibility; but none the less is it an inestimable opportunity and privilege.
[This section is an appendage to the section previous.]
3 8 . But may not the Jew now urge, on the whole question, a new and subtle objection? May he not take his stand on the fact of the promise to Abraham, and suggest that that promise may include the impunity of even impenitent Jewish sinners; because such impunity might “commend,” by contrast, the indulgence of God displayed in letting the impenitent alone? Answer: such reasoning would tend to negative the fear of any penalty for any sin, whether of Jews or Gentiles. It goes on a principle abhorrent to all righteousness.
9 20 . Thus then, as the result of the reasoning, the whole world, mankind in every instance, Jews and heathens alike, is Guilty before God. Experience attests it, and Revelation (vv. 10 18) plainly declares it. And thus the whole result of the Law, in other words, of Revelation as preceptive, is not the acceptance of man but his conviction. Every explicit demand on obedience, addressed to sinners, does but expose more explicitly the nature of sin as transgression .
21 31 . [Under these circumstances of fatal guiltiness, is there a means of mercy, a Way of Acceptance? All have sinned, and so sinned that “there is no difference” between man and man in respect, not of amount of guilt, but of completeness of failure. For all men equally therefore the Law has no acceptance; for its inexorable demand is nothing less than life-long and entire obedience, negative and positive. And meantime God, the Eternal Judge, is fully on the side of the Law; which is no capricious demand of mere Power, but the expression of His own absolute and necessary Holiness. Thus then if there is a Way of Acceptance for man, it must on the one side stand entirely “ apart from the Law ” (ver. 21), independent (as to its terms,) of man’s obedience to the Law because a justifying obedience on man’s part is now impossible; and on the other side it must “ manifest the righteousness ” of Him who accords acceptance; it must make it plain that the Judge, while accepting the offender, still unchangeably ratifies, maintains, and honours the sanctity of His own Law, His expressed Holiness.]
Such a Way of Acceptance there is; foretold in the Old Scriptures, and now made actual in the Work of Jesus, the Messiah. He, by the Eternal Judge Himself, is now “ set forth ” in the view of fallen men as their Expiatory Sacrifice. [His Death is that of a vicarious, or substituted, Victim; a Death endured because Sin (not His own but man’s) calls for the retribution of Death. As such, and as the Death of an infinitely sacred and perfectly voluntary Victim , it proves beyond doubt that God, who ordained that Death, is indeed not indifferent to His own Law. And again, as the death of a Substitute , it is a Redemption, a Ransom: for those who obtain interest in it, it effects deliverance from legal doom, i.e., Acceptance before God.] And lastly, the way to obtain such interest is Faith; sincere and direct Trust in the Person and the Work in question, as the revealed Propitiation; Faith and no less, Faith and no more.
By this Way of Acceptance, now revealed, God (1) “ declares (or, explains ) His righteousness ,” in the pardon of sin, both in the ages before the Gospel (ver. 25), and now. And (2) He “ excludes boasting ,” by transferring the element of merit in the matter of Acceptance, wholly and for ever, to the Propitiatory Substitute of the sinner; nothing being left to the sinner but the act of trustful acceptance the act of Faith.
[And even this is left to him only that he, a responsible being, may have a conscious and willing part in the matter; not with any suggestion that faith carries any merit with it . For in its proper nature it cannot; and this is specially plain in this case, where Faith is the acceptance of immense mercy: and, in any view, the admission of the idea of merit would at once negative the “exclusion of boasting.” But this “exclusion” is, says St Paul, the direct and proper result of “the law (or, institute) of Faith.”]
These terms of Acceptance are, evidently, as free for Gentiles as for Jews. God, and His procedure in the matter, alike are One (ver. 30).
31 . An objection is here, in passing, stated and negatived, and deferred for fuller treatment. That objection is that such terms of Acceptance appear to dispense in all respects with the Law . Is the sinner accepted only and absolutely on the merits of the Propitiation; which merits he obtains interest in on the sole condition of his own trustful acceptance of them? What becomes then of his future actions? Will he care to keep rules of righteousness? Has he adequate reasons for so doing? Yes, says St Paul; he has indeed; and they are such as will secure a fulness and reality of obedience unknown before. [But this is to be explained later (ch. 6.)]
Ch. 4:1 5 . Another objection is now anticipated and discussed, the discussion forming a strong confirmatory argument. Abraham, it might be urged, the great Paternal Name of the Old Covenant, was surely justified by that covenant and not another. He, at least, won acceptance “ according to the flesh; ” on a standing of his own works. He, at least, might in some sense “ glory ,” in the matter of his acceptance.
No: for it is expressly and providentially laid down in Abraham’s history that what was “ counted to him for righteousness ” was his entire and self-forgetful Trust in the promise of God. [He was regarded as having merit because he had Faith; while yet Faith is not merit, nor can be.] And thus Abraham, instead of being an exception to, is the great example of, the rule of Divine Acceptance; namely, that the sinner’s way to that Acceptance is not by merit, whether antecedent, concomitant, or consequent, but by Faith; by “ believing on Him that justifieth , that accepteth as righteous, the ungodly .” [Yes; even the ungodly; the impious and profane. Even in such extreme cases, if the man, with all his guilt unmitigated on his head, yet trustfully accepts the revealed Propitiation, God justifies freely.]
6 8 . [A parenthetical illustration follows, perhaps suggested by the word “ungodly.”] David, another preeminent Mosaic “patriarch,” bears explicit witness to the bliss of non-legal acceptance; [and he does so with the intensity of personal experience of deep transgression.] He testifies to the wonderful and merciful fact that God can, and does, “ reckon (impute) righteousness ” to a soul that has nothing of its own but aggravated sin.
9 17 . The argument reverts now to Abraham’s case; and a new difficulty is anticipated and met. Abraham and David were Hebrews; members of the covenant of circumcision. May it not be, then, that this blessing of free Acceptance, albeit so large in itself, is yet in its application limited to the circumcised alone? Is it not for them only that Justification by Faith is revealed? No: for again in Abraham’s history it is providentially recorded that his acceptance as righteous took place long before his circumcision. The covenant followed his Faith, not his Faith the covenant. And this was thus ordered on purpose to make it quite clear that Gentiles as well as Jews are welcome to the sacred Justification, and to the inheritance of the Promise made to Abraham; [a Promise which pointed to his Great Descendant, Messiah, and to all who should stand vitally connected with Messiah.]
18 22 . The circumstances under which Abraham “believed God” are now detailed, [to bring out not only Abraham’s strength of Faith, but a main characteristic of justifying Faith in general, as the act by which the man looks wholly away from self and intently regards Another as the sole ground of trust. And this is taken as an account, in some measure, of the reason why Faith specially is appointed as the condition of Justification. Faith (as directed towards God) is that act of the soul which most entirely honours Him. Absolutely devoid of merit, as we have seen, it has however a natural fitness to be the act of acceptance of the blessing.]
23 25 . This act of Faith on Abraham’s part, and the record of it, have direct reference to believers now. It was recorded not merely as a passage of ancient story, but because God purposed to deal with us as He dealt with Abraham; to count us, having Faith in Him, as having righteousness. And we now have a final and special cause for such Faith; for He is known to us as the Father who gave His Holy One to death because we had sinned, and raised Him again because His death had effected our Justification.
Ch. 5 . [Thus far St Paul has established (1) the need of Justification; and (2) its equal terms for Jews and Gentiles; and (3) that Faith in Christ’s blood, (3:25,) personal trustful acceptance of the Propitiation, is its one appointed condition . And (4) in Abraham’s case he has illustrated the nature and actings of Faith. Now he is about to deal with the effects of Faith in life and character; but not yet explicitly or exclusively. He has to treat of topics connected with both past and future reasonings. First he must dwell on the Manifestation of Divine Love in Justification; then he must further illustrate the relation between Christ and the justified by the relation between Adam and the guilty.]
1 11 . [Now first he deals with the manifestation of Divine Love in Justification by Faith. The justified are not merely acquitted, in a negative way.] They are in full “ peace ” with God; they if “ stand ” in holy nearness to Him; they look with joy for His final glory; their very sorrows are used to vivify their hope and perseverance. They have (ver. 5), from the indwelling Divine Spirit , a consciousness (not due to their own minds) of the love of God towards them. Meantime this consciousness is conveyed through the amazing objective Fact of the Father’s Gift of His Christ to be the Propitiation for souls which, in themselves, were sinful, impious, and hostile to God. This, further, is a sacred pledge that He who so freely loved them before reconciliation will perseveringly love them after reconciliation; and thus their state is one not of safety only but of joy.
12 21 . [Now follows a section in which both the vicariousness, and the overflowing efficacy, of the Work of Christ for the justified are illustrated by the doctrine (evidently known and believed in the Church) of the relation of the fallen Race to Adam. This discussion springs, partially, from the immediately previous statement of the abundance of the Divine love in Justification, and of the deep and lasting connexion (ver. 10) of the justified with Christ.] Such, says St Paul, was Adam’s position as Head of the Race that by his sin every individual of his sons was subjected to guilt . Yes; not to defilement only, but to guilt Such were the mysterious relations of Law and Sin that Adam’s sons, even when [as in the case of infants] no conscious transgression could have been committed by them, yet all without exception have suffered death; that is, suffered penalty for sin for such, for man, death is. [Why, we do not fully know; but the fact of infant-death is enough to prove it to be so; and the Judge of all the earth does right.] Thus, in a sense, Adam’s race penally dies because Adam sinned .
Now this is a counterpart, and strong illustration, of the fact that the Church lives, meritoriously accepted, because Christ obeyed . As Adam’s guilt is reckoned to his sons, so Christ’s righteousness is reckoned to His brethren. The parallel only fails (ver. 15) in the excess of the wonder of the results in the second case. The Gift of Grace far exceeds the Ruin, though each is the result of one Representative’s act; for while the result of Adam’s sin was that law merely took its course of condemnation, the result of Christ’s work is not a mere return to the status quo , but a truly Divine reversal the Reign of the Justified in eternal glory: and this, meanwhile, in spite of the fact that the Redeemer had to deal not only with the one original Crime but with the countless personal offences of the justified (ver. 16). And the Law, far from doing part of His work, did but bring out in its fulness the fatal malady and peril; only, however, that this might be surpassed by the more than equal fulness of the atoning and redeeming Grace and its results.
Ch. 6:1 15 . [We now come to the question suggested in 3:31.] What is the result on conduct of this proved and illustrated truth that man is justified by faith without works? Shall we go on in the old life of sin, under the belief that thus the Grace of God will have a wider field for action? The thought is abhorrent. But it is also clearly unreasonable. For how are we set free from the claim, and doom , of sin? By our union with a slain and risen Redeemer. Now as His Death, counted to us, frees us from doom, so His Life, in which He is still our Head and Representative, pledges our continued blessed acceptance before God. But such acceptance before such a God must, inevitably, be a cause of holiness. It is not merely freedom from doom; it is freedom to God . And one way in which this effect (holiness) is to be realized is by a firm grasp on the truth that the justified, in their Substitute and Head, have died to sin ; that is, have borne its penalty and exhausted its claim. Not till that was done could they truly love the true God; for they could not have peace with Him, nor He with them. Conversely, now that this is done, their wills are set free to love Him; love to Him, and consequent obedience, are now the true bias of their new position “in Christ.” Let them realize this and act it out; still keeping (ver. 14) the feet of Justification full in view as the grand motive and condition for Sanctification, i.e. attainment of holiness.
16 23 . This great subject is further illustrated from the facts of human Slavery. A slave, purchased from one owner, is freed from that owner, but only by the fact of becoming the property of another. Now it is a purchase , a Redemption , that has freed the justified from doom; but by that very fact therefore they are the property of their Redeemer; the slaves of holiness, of God. True, the illustration (ver. 19) is in itself low and harsh; but it is used to enforce a strong reality; and meantime that reality is full of dignity, full of the bliss of an immortality of holiness, the Gift of God in Christ.
Ch. 7:1 6 . The same subject is further illustrated from the facts of Matrimony. Matrimony, in its idea, is indissoluble during the lifetime of both partners. But the death of one sets the other free for a new union. Even thus the justified once had for a mystical Husband the Law (regarded not as a guiding but as an exacting standard), and the offspring was sin. Now the justified, in Christ, have died: the matrimony is dissolved. But also in Christ they are risen, they are in a new life; therefore they are free for a new union. And this union is to the Eternal Bridegroom Himself. Him His Church is both to love and (with a wife’s devotedness) to serve . And the offspring will be, deeds of holy obedience done for God.
7 13 . But the question now has to be answered, What is the true function of the Law? St Paul has just said that we, in Christ, are dead to the Law: is the Law then a thing which is evil, and from which it is good to be altogether free? No; the thought is abhorrent. But none the less the fact is plain that the Law, in itself entirely pure and holy, yet in collision with the fallen soul does aggravate the developements of sin. Man, antecedent to his knowledge of the Law, was sinful and guilty (ch. 5:12, &c.), but knowledge of the Law gives a new rancour and intensity to his personal sinfulness, because it developes the element of definite resistance to a perfectly Holy Will. It finds this element dormant; it awakens it as from a grave; sin, in this aspect, “revives” at the voice of the Law, and the man [consciously but not penitently ] is aware of its doom; he “dies.” Such then in the present respect is the true function of the Law: as a demand upon the sinful soul, it does not purify, but only inexorably evokes and exposes the full reality and malignity of Sin .
14 25 . And this, which is true of the unregenerate state, is true also, in measure, of the regenerate state. For in the regenerate man there is still an element, “the flesh,” which, though no longer dominant, is present; no longer the practically true Self, yet an almost alter Ego .
And this double consciousness (so to speak) is to last as long as the “body of death” lasts in other words, till the immortal state begins. The conflict is terrible; but the prospect of release is glorious and animating (ver. 24).
The justified man then, (as the result (ver. 25) of the discussion,) is in a certain sense in bondservice both to God and to sin. But it is his true self that serves God; it is his old self that serves sin.
Ch. 8 . [St Paul now proceeds to a final application of the whole previous reasonings, to the position, privileges, and hopes of the justified. He has explained and illustrated the absolute freeness of Justification, as effected wholly by the merits of Christ conveyed to those who believe in Him. He has explained and illustrated also the relations between the justified and the Law; shewing (1) that their Justification (being a matter of Redemption, and involving a spiritual Marriage-union,) binds them ipso facto to a new obedience, that of the reconciled soul to the reconciled God; and (2) that the Law, nevertheless, in no degree is, any more than it was, their Justification; for, alike in the past and the present, its absolute demands viewed as demands for satisfying obedience serve only to expose the subtle malignity of sin. It is the Guide, but not the Covenant, of the justified.]
1 13 . There is therefore now, as the whole result, no condemnation from the Law for those who, by faith, are “in Christ” His Sacrifice has done what the Law could not do; it has, by removing the legal curse, set free the believing soul to choose and love ex animo the Law of God: and this not merely by removing a barrier but by admitting a new Energy even that of the Divine Spirit, who dwells in a mode altogether special in the souls of the justified, and (through their human spirit) rules their nature, which before this Indwelling was ruled and characterized by the element of sin, and incapable of true love to the true God. Now, though their body still feels the results of the penalty of sin, (ver. 10,) and though there is still an inherent element of sin to be resisted by the will, (vv. 9, 13,) yet their spirits are already exempt from the spirit’s death, (ver. 10,) and their bodies shall hereafter be exempt from the body’s death also (ver. 11).
14 17 . Further, the justified are (what has not yet been explicitly stated) the Sons of God, [as being “in Christ,” the Eternal Son.] They are, in this their filial position, animated by the Divine Spirit with filial feelings with the will to obey their Father (ver. 14), and the intimacy of conscious and reciprocal love in His presence (vv. 15, 16). And their Father makes them His heirs as well as His sons: He designs for them His riches of glory in the eternal state.
18 25 . So vast is this glory that the manifestation of it is an object of profound desire not only to the justified themselves, but (in a different and metaphorical sense) to the sin-affected material universe, for which is destined a mysterious transfiguration, to be effected in connexion with the glorification of the justified. They, meanwhile, recognize this futurity of their full blessedness, and patiently wait for it, notwithstanding all sorrows and delays.
26 27 . And again, their happy position is further secured by the Indwelling Spirit’s special influences in prayer; surely directing them to effectual petitions for real blessings.
28 30 . Finally, all things and events are so ordered by the will of God as to contribute to the present and final good of those who love Him; that is to say, of the justified; who are, according to a purpose of eternal covenant, fore-ordained to their possession of likeness to Christ, to acceptance in Him, and to glory with Him.
31 39 . In view of such sacred facts, as expounded in the whole previous reasoning of the Chapter and the Epistle, what can be said in the way of doubt and fear? Who can ruin those thus secured? He who gave His Son for their deliverance will deny no subsidiary security. Their Justifier will not be also their Accuser. Their Substitute and Intercessor will not be their condemning Judge. And as they have thus the Father and the Son wholly on their side, no adverse power shall avail for their ruin. Nothing shall pluck them from the eternal hand; no violence of this world; no powers of the world unseen; no imaginable obstacle or adversary, present or to come. Divine Redeeming Love holds them fast.
Ch. 9 . [St Paul now turns from the abstract explanation of the ways of Divine Grace, to the discussion of one great and anxious concrete phenomenon. There is a subtle connexion of thought in the transition: the freedom of the Christian’s justification, the security of his standing, and the splendour of his hopes, bring up by way of contrast the dark fact of the unbelief of israel. Perhaps also he is led to deal with it by a consciousness that it was a difficult question in many Christian minds how to reconcile the truth of the Gospel as the final Revelation with the rejection of it by the Depositaries of the elder Revelation.]
1 5 . But St Paul’s immediate feeling is the intensest personal pain, and most importunate longing, as he himself a Jew contemplates the unbelief, and consequent exclusion from the great Blessing, of the once gloriously privileged Israel; the people honoured above all by the human birth among them of the Divine Messiah.
6 13 . The first care in this matter, however, must be to vindicate God. Has He failed to keep His promises, by thus suffering the Jewish Nation to fall? Had He not promised Abraham that his seed should be blessed, and should be a blessing? Is the present state of Israel, then, a case of non-performance?
St Paul meets this, not by making out that the promise was conditional , but by proving the limits of its intention. By “the seed” was meant, plainly, not all the descendants of Abraham, but some of them. There was a limit in Sarah; another in Isaac; another in Jacob. And the story of Jacob illustrates a fact full of importance in this question; that namely of absolute Sovereignty of Choice on the part of the Eternal. He chooses, as the recipients of blessing, “ whom He will ,” antecedently to all idea of merits or character in the persons chosen or not chosen; [ all of whom are, considered à priori and in themselves, alike unworthy of choice.]
14 24 . Such a fact is unquestionably one of profound mystery, and challenges the most anxious questions. Is God unrighteous? Is man responsible? If God’s Will is the ultimate account of the difference between man and man in respect of religious privileges and the actings of Divine grace, what can we say to these questions?
[St Paul’s reply is, to the last degree, uncompromising. He takes his stand on two principles: first, that the Old Testament is a true revelation of the true God; secondly, that whatever the true God, as a fact, does, cannot be unrighteous whether or no we can fully understand its righteousness.] In this respect he specially insists (ver. 20, &c.) on the ineffable difference of standing-point between the Creator and the Creature. St Paul does not overwhelm objections by mere power or terror; he meets them with the fact that the God who is Sovereign is, not merely an irresistible Potentate, but the Eternal Cause of things, and especially the Cause of Man. Before Him it is indeed reasonable to bow with entire submission when we are once sure of His Act or of His Word.
Now in this matter of Sovereignty we are sure of both . His own Scriptures record His own avowal that as in the actual case of Pharaoh He applies or withholds gracious influences on human souls as He will. This is true not only of nations, or churches, but of individuals; for so (ver. 18) St Paul applies the individual case of Pharaoh: “ He hath mercy on the man on whom He will, &c .” In His dealings, alike with communities and with persons, His own Glory is the ultimate purpose of the Eternal. [That purpose is sure to be attained through ways of perfect Righteousness, but also through ways of quite unfathomable mystery. For the Glory is the Glory of the Eternal.]
[Meantime, however man may fail to understand the problem, and to reconcile the Decrees and the Benevolence of God, both are real facts .] Even with the “ vessels of wrath ” He deals in sincere longsuffering. And on the “ vessels of mercy ” He pours His wealth of blessing, and has destined them for heavenly glory. And these “vessels” are the true Israel; the true “seed of Abraham,” blessed and a blessing; some of them Jews, some of them Gentiles, and all sovereignly called to grace.
25 33 . And such an Israel, an Israel of election and of spiritual parentage, from which many Jews should be shut out, and to which many Gentiles should be admitted, was foretold in Prophecy; by Hosea and by Isaiah. And the actual cause of the ruin of the excluded Jews was foretold also; it was to be their guilty error in taking the Law to be a covenant of self-righteousness, and in stumbling, instead of resting, on the rock of Messiah’s Work.
Ch. 10:1 13 . St Paul pauses to repeat the assurance of his intense desire for the salvation of the Jews; especially in view of their strong, but misguided, earnestness . This gives him occasion to enlarge on the witness of the Old Testament to Christ, and to Justification by Faith. For he shews that Israel, in mistaking the purpose of “the Law,” mistook it in spite of its own words . Christ is the Divine Fulfilment of which the Law was one vast prediction. And, in one remarkable passage, Moses was inspired to specially foreshadow the Incarnation and Resurrection of Messiah, and the offer of salvation to whosoever should confess and accept Him as the Eternal Son thus made Man and sacrificed for sinners. And manifestly such a salvation is as free for Gentile as for Jewish faith; as again Prophecy (ver. 13) has testified.
14 15 . And if so, then certainly the salvation thus foretold must now be proclaimed , without reserve, to the nations. Apostolic missions, however opposed by misguided Judaism, are the will of God; as again (ver. 15) Prophecy has indicated.
16 21 . [But is it objected further that multitudes of the heathen have met those missions with contempt and unbelief, and that this looks as if the Divine Purpose were otherwise?] The reply is that this too was distinctly foretold in words which exactly describe the Gospel and its work (ver. 17); and moreover that the universal spread of the proclamation, and the admission of Gentiles to covenant with God, and the Jews’ rejection of the appeals of His patient love, were all fore-shewn in Prophecy, and are therefore confirmations, not difficulties, of belief.
Ch. 11:1 10 . [But this is not all that is to be said on the great problem. The Divine Sovereignty of Choice has been asserted, and we have been shewn the clear predictions in the Hebrew Scriptures of the universal Gospel and of Jewish unbelief. Thus far the discussion, as regards the Jews, has been adverse only. Now St Paul will shew proof, in their favour, that their rejection never has been total .]
The nation was never so rejected as not to contain within it an elect Church, a true Israel . As in the darkest days of Baal-worship, (ver. 4,) so now in the darkest days of unbelief in Messiah, there is a believing Israel all along. [What no other race can shew, Israel shews; an unbroken continuity of the “holy seed.”] This continuity, be it again remembered, is the result of pure sovereign grace (vv. 5, 6), and in it we see the predicted (vv. 8, 9) spectacle of an unbelieving Nation enshrining an elect Remnant [whose existence proves that Jews as Jews have never been excluded from the covenant.]
11 15 . But even this is not all. The rejection of Israel has never been total; neither is it, even thus, final . Its present phase, in which Faith is the rare exception, is in God’s time to close, and a great return to Messiah is to take place. The “ stumbling ” of Israel is not a final “ fall .” Viewed on a certain side, it was permitted and ordained as a means of mercy to the Gentiles; for (1) it immediately occasioned the Death of the Redeemer, and (2) it compelled the Apostles to turn to the Gentile world. And from this may be anticipated the greatness of the blessing which the Gentile world shall reap from the Restoration of Israel. For such a blessing is, in fact, in store. Israel shall in such a sense be “received” into the Covenant of Messiah that the result on the world at large shall be like a spiritual resurrection. (On this prospect St Paul specially dwells because (vv. 13, 14) of his special mission to the Gentiles; which gives him an equal concern in the influence of Gentile faith on the Jews and of Jewish restoration on the Gentiles.)
16 24 . This predicted restoration, though an act of Divine grace, will yet, in a sense, move in the line of anterior probability. The lineal connexion of the Jews with the Fathers makes it obviously likely that their return to Messiah will be abundantly welcome to the God of the Fathers. To the great Olive Tree of the Church the Jews stand in a specially congenial relation; [for, in a certain respect, the Root of that Tree is Abraham and the Hebrew Patriarchs, and its Stem is the faithful Hebrew Church under the Old Testament.] From this Tree the unbelieving Jew is, as it were, a branch rent off . Into this Tree the believing Gentile is, as it were, a branch grafted in from an alien and uncultured stock. Can it be doubted, then, that when the great Husbandman re-ingrafts the native branches their reception and growth will be, to the full, as kindly as that of the alien branches has proved to be? Let the Gentile Christian beware of the tendency to a proud and exclusive spirit in his turn. Let him remember that grace has reached him through Israel, not Israel through him. Let him not be content merely to see that Israel’s rejection was the means of mercy to himself; but let him further see in that rejection a caution to himself, a warning that his own personal Faith in the Propitiation is the one and vital condition of his own union with the mystic Tree; and let him welcome the prospect of the restoration, on the same condition, of the severed, but native, branches.
25 27 . For, be it once more remembered, such restoration is to take place. The present partial unbelief of Israel is to last, not for ever, but till an advanced stage of the in-gathering of the Gentiles. Then the Jews shall be brought back to Messiah in numbers which will be, in at least a general sense, inclusive of the whole race. So Prophecy has foreshadowed: Messiah’s coming was foretold as that which, in God’s time and way, should bring to Israel the blessings of faith and peace.
28 32 . To sum up: In spite of the dark phenomenon of the rejection of Israel, (over-ruled for the spread of the Gospel,) the nation, with a view to the always-existing elect Remnant, is still emphatically within the purposes of Divine Love. And again, there is a special purpose of grace in the temporary rejection of Israel: namely, that the salvation of Jews, as well as that of Gentiles, might be conspicuously placed to God’s glory on a footing of mere mercy . Mere mercy had called the Gentiles out of heathenism; mere mercy would re -call the Jews out of unbelief. Thus, in both cases, the sovereignty of mercy would stand out unmistakable.
33 36 . At the close of this discussion, in which the mystery of the ways of God, and the inscrutable adaptations of judgment to mercy, and of all to the Divine Glory, have been so prominent, St Paul pauses to ascribe adoring praise to Him whose Will and Wisdom are unfathomable, and absolutely independent of His creatures, and Who is Himself the Final Cause of all His works.
[Here closes the Doctrinal Part of the Epistle, in the stricter sense of the word “doctrinal.” The application of doctrine to practice is now to come more definitely forward.]
Ch. 12:1 8 . In view of the great Exposition, now completed, of Human Sin and the redeeming, justifying, and electing “Compassions” of God, St Paul beseeches the believers to live as those who are wholly dedicated, with all their energies, to their Lord; finding in the hope of eternal bliss an animating motive; studying the good will of God with the powers of their now renewed intelligence; watching against tendencies to self-assertion, and isolation of spiritual interests, (for each is a part, with all the rest, of one Body); and aiming faithfully to carry out the sacred “division of labour” appointed by the Divine Master.
9 21 . They must cultivate love; holiness; courtesy; diligence; hope; patience; prayerfulness; unselfishness; meekness under persecution; sympathy; humility; probity; and that loving requital of good for evil which is the true revenge of a Christian.
Ch. 13:1 7 . They must be careful to live as loyal and orderly subjects in the State; for Civil Authority is God’s own ordinance. He, the Supreme King, without a moment’s abdication of His own royalty (ver. 8, note ,) yet has constituted human magistrates His delegates. Their work (in spite of all imperfections and abuses) is, on the whole, His work; they bear His credentials; they carry on the work of the State, with its machinery of taxation and the like, in His name [whether they own it or not.] The Christian therefore must recognize, in “the powers that be,” his Lord’s order, and must altogether decline, whether by way of craft or of violence, to resist them.
8 10 . And as in the public so in the private relations of life, the Christian must sedulously regard the claims of others; avoiding all indebtedness save only that of the great debt of brotherly love, which will be ever paying, never paid; and the payment of which is the sure way to an impartial obedience to all the guidings of the Divine Law.
11 14 . Meanwhile, to animate these loving efforts, they must live in recollection of the waning of the Night of sorrow and temptation, and of the approach of the eternal Day of purity and joy. [The Lord’s Incarnation, like the Star of Morning, has already warned us that] “ the night is far spent: ” the next great crisis is the sunrise of resurrection glory. Let them then, by new efforts of faith and love, cast off the acts and habits of sin and sloth which are, as it were, the nightrobe of the soul; let them dress themselves in the armour that befits the children of the Day in other words, let them make their Redeeming Lord Himself the safeguard of their souls, and in Him find the true secret of watchful self-denial instead of that watchful self-indulgence (ver. 14, note ,) natural to the sinful will.
Ch. 14:1 9 . [Yet, with all these exhortations to vigorous decision, St Paul must warn them also to practise, in one direction specially, gentleness and toleration.] There are, he understands, some amongst them whose consciences are not clear on the question whether observance of the Mosaic ritual and calendar is still incumbent on believing Christians; “brethren” who hold, or at least incline to hold, that the Levitical distinctions in food, and the specially Jewish holy-days, are a part of God’s path of duty for the justified. And again there are others amongst them who so strongly take the opposite view as to make their assertion of freedom in these respects a main part of their religion, and well-nigh to excommunicate the Christians who differ from them. Now, in abstract principle , the “stronger” consciences are right; St Paul’s own convictions are with them. But in application of principle they are wrong. For these differences touch not the Foundation. The “weak” and the “strong” alike, their special opinions notwithstanding, may be and are safe in Christ by justifying Faith; accepted, “received,” for His sake, by His Father. Both alike, though in different ways, “acknowledge Him” as their rule and principle; and both alike are directly and supremely responsible to Him. Yes, let them all remember this: His saints, alike in this world and the next, are immediately and inseparably connected with Him as Master and Disposer. The very manner and method of His Redeeming work proves and enforces this.
10 23 . But, to revert to the special question: seeing that each Christian is thus responsible to the Lord, responsible for his opinions as for all else, let the “stronger” believer be tenderly respectful towards the conscience of the “weaker.” Let him think of the sacredness of Conscience, which however erring is never (while it is still conscience) violated without sin. Let him not tempt his brother to trifle with his scruples, and, so far, tend to undo the work of Redeeming Love for that soul. True Christian privilege and liberty has infinitely more to do with justification, peace, and joy before God, than with a self-asserting independence of ceremonial restrictions; and, while a faithful life in the enjoyment of spiritual privilege is both acceptable to God and a proof to men of the reality of true religion, [an eager assertion of mere mundane privilege is little likely to be either the one or the other.] Faith (ver. 22) is not a matter for personal display. And, once more, the peril of a slighted conscience is great indeed: every liberty taken against conscience , and not on the clear ground of acceptance in Christ, is essentially sin, and brings down the displeasure of the holy Judge.
To pursue the same subject:
Ch. 15:1 7 . The duty of the “strong” or “able” Christian is to be not the critic but the friend and helper of the “weak;” to make not the liberty of self but the good of the brotherhood his dearest aim. This is to follow the supreme Example of Him who, for man’s salvation, “endured the contradiction of sinners” against His Father and Himself; thus specially fulfilling the prophetic words of Psalms 69:0 . And (be it said by the way) the whole Old Testament Scriptures are in one respect or another applicable, even as that passage is applicable, to Christian life and duty now; and specially to the enlivenment of Christian hope , which again is one of the surest motives to Christian unanimity .
So let Christians welcome Christians, into the friendship, sympathy, and forbearance of the Gospel; remembering each his own merciful welcome to grace: thus glory to God will be the result.
8 13 . As one more motive-truth in this direction, let them remember that the Redeemer was “ of the Jews” and “ for the Gentiles;” which latter fact is fully attested by Prophecy. Let this thought draw together the Jewish and the Gentile believer, and conciliate him who still observes the old ceremonial with him who has entirely done with it,
14 21 . [Now to draw to an end.] St Paul fully shares the universal high esteem for evangelical maturity in which the Roman Christians are held. Yet he has written as their monitor, (and sometimes in very plain terms); for he stands before them as being, by grace, the Apostle of the Gentiles; the metaphorical Priest of the great metaphorical Offering; bringing to the Gospel-altar the “ living sacrifice ” of converted nations. Such is his commission; and he has been enabled to carry out that commission, in an independent and miraculously-ratified course of apostolic labour, from Jerusalem and the East to the Adriatic province the next neighbour of Italy.
22 33 . The vastness of this field of work, and the knowledge that the Gospel had already struck such root at Rome, has kept him hitherto from visiting the Capital. But now he is planning a journey to Spain, and he will take Rome on the way, and taste there the sweetness of sacred friendship a little while. A visit to Jerusalem, in the matter of alms from the Greek to the Judæan Christians, must first be carried out: then he will come, and blessing from the Lord will attend the visit. Meanwhile, the Romans must now specially remember him in prayer; for this Judæan visit has many attendant anxieties. May the God of holy peace be with them!
Ch. 16:1 16 . He now personally commends to their Christian hospitality a pious Visitor from the neighbourhood of Corinth Phœbe, a female helper in the Cenchrean church. And he greets first his honoured and self-devoted friends Prisca and Aquila, and the Christians meeting at their house for worship; and then many other individuals and groups.
17 20 . One brief warning more. There are certain teachers of error abroad, specious in tone and exposition, but not pure in intention and practice. Loyal to the Gospel as the Romans are, yet even they must be on their guard. And ere long the strife with error, and with its Prince, will be over for ever.
21 24 . Timotheus and others desire their salutations to the Roman saints. The amanuensis inscribes his own.
25 27 . Lastly, [on review of the Argument in which thus his Inspirer has enabled him to expound the foundation-truths of the Gospel,] St Paul ascribes all praise to the Eternal Father, the Giver and Revealer of this Gospel of Grace and Faith, (in which the Romans will find their secret of stability;) this Gospel which was the great Secret of the Past, and is the glorious Revelation of the Present; the embodied Wisdom of the Only Wise. To Him, through His Son, be glory for ever.
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18