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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Romans 1

Verse 1

‘A SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST’

‘A servant of Jesus Christ.’

Romans 1:1

It is the highest title that is known in earth or heaven—‘a servant of Jesus Christ.’

Service is based on love. Can you help to love Him Who has done all for you?—to love Him dearly? and, loving Him, must you not wish to prove your love? must not your first thought be, ‘What can I do for Him?’

I. Service is a willing surrender of the whole man; and you are at once the most perfectly free and the most absolutely bound. In the strong imagery of Scripture you have ‘given your ear to be bored through with an awl, to fasten you to the post of the door of your Master’s house.’ That is, by a voluntary act—for the love you have to Him—you rivet yourself to the service of Christ and His house the Church, for ever; and from that moment you are, and you feel, and you can say, ‘I am Thy servant.’

II. The next thing which follows this is, that now you are placed in such close communication with your Master, He tells you all His secrets.—And this is the great privilege of the slaves of Jesus. I say slaves—that is the right word—they like to be, and to be called ‘slaves.’ It is God’s own Word, though we have translated it ‘servants.’ And where it is all affection, the lordship cannot be too unrestricted and too bound. But Jesus says to these slaves, ‘Henceforth I call you not slaves, for the slave knoweth not what his Lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.’ So that we get to know not the commands of God only, but His will.

III. And there is another feature in the ‘service’ which makes it unlike every other.—You serve ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’; but you serve One Who was once a servant! And He can appreciate a servant’s work. He understands it all.

Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘An eminent Missioner says that he was once holding some special services when a woman came to him at the close of the Sunday morning service and said: “Oh, I would give anything to be in this work actively and actually. I would give anything to have some living part in the work that is going on here next week in winning men and women for Christ; but I don’t know what to do.” The Missioner said: “My sister, are you prepared to give the Master the five loaves and the two fishes you possess?” She said: “I don’t know that I have five loaves and two fishes.” The Missioner replied: “Have you anything that stands out at all in your life? Have you anything that you have used in any way especially?” No, she didn’t think she had. “Well,” said the Missioner, “can you sing?” “Well, yes, I sing at home, and I have sung before now in an entertainment.” “Well, now,” he said, “let us put our hand on that. Will you give the Lord your voice for the next ten days? You shall settle with Him at the end as to what you do then, but will you let the Master have your voice for the next ten days?” “I don’t think I can.” “You can sing at an entertainment—can’t you sing in order to save men?” “I will,” she said; and the Missioner says he shall never forget that Sunday evening he asked her to sing and she sang. She sang a Gospel message with the voice she had, feeling it was a poor, worthless thing, and that night there came out to the after-meeting into the inquiry-room one man who said it was the Gospel that was sung which had reached his heart. And from that day to this (and it is now many years ago) that man has been one of the mightiest workers for God in all England. It was brought about because the woman gave her whole self, in that decision, to the service of the Lord; she did what she could for Christ’s dear sake. It blessed her, and it glorified her service, and made it powerful for the salvation of men.’

Verse 7

OUR CALLING

‘Called to be saints.’

Romans 1:7

St. Paul is not writing to great, well-known people. The Church of Christ in Rome did not number many of the high and mighty in the world. Most of its members were of the low and despised class, many even slaves, but whether high or low, slave or free, St. Paul addresses them all alike as ‘beloved of God, called to be saints.’

I. Our calling.—We are not called to be great; we are called to be saints. And what do we mean by saints? The word in the original Greek means ‘holy ones.’ We are called to holiness. ‘How can I lead the holy life? With such temptations to evil, with so much wickedness all round me in the world?’ Are you saying that? Well, then, you can, because others have done so. In fighting the battle against evil in your own hearts and in the outside world, you will not be alone. Some have done their work and have gone to their rest. Others, though perhaps unknown to you, are carrying on the work still. This is the communion of saints; the saints whose rest is won, and the saints who are working still are linked together in one common brotherhood and form one army, and their General is ordering the work, even Christ the Lord.

II. Faith binds all in One.—What is wanted to make ourselves good soldiers in this army? Faith. That is what joins all in One. A belief in the goodness of their cause, a sure trust in the wisdom and goodness of their Leader. Faith is that power which enables a man to live and work in the sight of Christ, although to bodily sight his Leader is invisible. Every one who lives a holy life now, however poor and unknown, is really preaching faith, showing he believes there is something higher and nobler and more worth living for than this world or his own self. May we not add one word of warning? Do not let us think that God’s saints are confined to one particular nation or branch of the Church. Such may be our puny view, but the truth is broader far. In that great vision of the Apocalypse, John beheld standing before the Lamb a great multitude of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues. Shall we then ever in the face of this deny salvation to any because they may not think exactly as we do? Not that we should be indifferent about our faith. Our business is to seek with might and main for the truth, and hold it at all costs whenever we may find it.

III. Reverence holiness in all.—We are ready enough to honour it when accompanied by greatness, but do we not sometimes ridicule it and speak of it as a weakness? Perhaps it may be but a weak, a very weak, trial to rise, only a feeble effort to seek after God and holiness, yet holiness and goodness, like all other things, must have a beginning, and our ridicule and disdain may check it in the bud. We are all called to be God’s saints. Shall we be ashamed of the name ourselves or speak slightingly of any one who is trying, however feebly, to live according to his high calling? We are called to be saints, but do we belong to them? Year after year we join in the festival of All Saints, but some day or other a saints’ festival will come when we shall not be here. Others will be joining in the hymn of thanksgiving, but our voice will not be heard. Will they then be giving thanks for us? Shall we be among that great multitude who, together with the saints on earth, make up the mighty Church of God? We ought to be there. It will be our own fault if we are not there, for we are all—each one of us—called to be saints.

—Bishop Were.

Illustration

‘All Saints’ Day is a day by itself, quite different from all the other saints’ days in the year. There is, I am afraid, a certain sense of unreality in keeping the usual saints’ days, arising, I suppose, from the fact that the saints themselves seem far removed from us. But All Saints’ Day is quite a different day. No longer are our thoughts directed to one or, at the most, two well-known followers of our Blessed Lord; the Lessons, Collect, and Epistle all speak to us of a great multitude, such a multitude as no man can number, men and women who have lived and died in the faith and fear of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have been received by Him, and are being kept safe in His charge till the day of the final resurrection.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

‘ONE COMMUNION AND FELLOWSHIP’

A saint is simply a sanctified person; one who is sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God. It does not mean one who is dead; it does not mean one who has been canonised as Saint by the Church; it does not mean, and it is not to be restricted to the Apostles, Evangelists, and the early Christian Martyrs. They are, of course, saints, but there are saints not merely dead but also living, in fact, all Christians are, or have been, saints.

I. A saint is a sanctified person.—Now, we believe in the Christian Church that every person who is baptized is sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God. That the Holy Spirit descends upon every person at his baptism, and that He will dwell within that person, sanctifying him, unless he expel Him by reason of his sin. And, therefore, I wish you to bear in mind that the way in which the Apostle uses the word ‘saints’ in addressing the Romans appeals to us now; in fact, that in every age of the Christian Church there have been saints; that every member of the Christian Church would be a saint were it not for his sins, if, in fact, it were not for the inconsistency of his life. If we were consistent Christians we should all be saints, and it is true that we have all been called to be saints, we have been all elected, or selected, that we might be the saints of God, and if we are not the saints of God it is entirely through our own sins.

II. In the Creed we declare our belief in the communion of saints, but how many persons are there in any congregation who really attach any meaning at all to this article of the Creed? They say that they believe in ‘the communion of saints.’ What do they mean by the communion of saints? If they do not understand what a saint is, they certainly cannot understand what the communion of saints is. We all believe in the communion of saints, that is, we believe that all the saints form one body, one community, one society. What we declare in this article of the Creed is, that we believe that all those saints who have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and who have preserved their holiness, that all those who have been made members of the mystical Body of Christ, and have not been finally excluded by their sins, we believe that they all make up the one Body of Christ, that they all make up the one communion of the Christian Church, which is the communion of saints. There is really not much difference between this article of the Creed and the one which precedes it, in which we say that we believe in the Holy Catholic Church. They really mean the same thing. The saints are the Holy Catholic Church, only that in the Holy Catholic Church there are a great many who have unfortunately fallen away from their saintliness, and are so no longer. There are those who, like the tares, will be separated from the wheat at the harvest. We believe that all those, from the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost down to the present day, who have been sanctified by the Holy Ghost, all make up the one Body of Jesus Christ, that they all belong to the Church of Christ. The communion of saints must extend through the whole Church, from its very beginning down to the present day.

III. There are three positions in which the saints of God are.—

( a) There are some in heaven now. The Church has always believed that in heaven are the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, His apostles and evangelists, and the prophets and the martyrs. Who else are there we cannot, of course, tell, but there are, no doubt, saints in heaven.

( b) There are saints in the place of departed souls—the faithful departed.

( c) There are saints on earth.

There is a communion, a fellowship, between these three classes of saints. We have communion with the saints in heaven, and we have communion with the saints who are in the place of departed souls.

—Rev. H. M. J. Bowles.

Illustration

‘The communion of saints is that partnership and fellowship of privilege, sympathy and love, visible or invisible, silent or expressed, which unites together “the whole family of God in earth and heaven,”—though they be divided upon earth, and though they be separated for a little while by death. It is the necessary result of union with Christ. For all who are His, everywhere, both here and there, being united to Him, Who is their life, they are all members of one body, drawing from one Head, and consequently are knit together in one affection, declaring it when they can, but whether they can utter it or not, equally believing in it, feeling it, comforted by it, delighting in it, in all places, and at all times. That is the communion of saints.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

GROUNDS OF OUR CALLING

‘Called to be saints.’ By what means?

I. By the election of God, and by the providence of your birth in a Christian land.

II. By the dedication and the grace of your baptism.

III. By those inward calls which from time to time you have felt in your heart.

IV. By the many voices of affliction, and by the constant gentle operations of the Comforter in your soul.

Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘I quite sympathise with the feelings of men of the world, who very often say, “If I am ever a Christian, I will be a very different Christian from the Christians I see.” Do not be a religious person; be “a saint,”—be an eminent “servant of God”; determine that you will be a great Christian, that you will do something large before you die; that you will be really holy, heavenly, God-like—“a saint.” The higher the mark, the easier it is to some minds to reach it. And the reason why some simply do nothing, is because they have not yet conceived great things. Do not be content with common-places, do not be like Christians about you. Throw your ambition into a channel worthy of the capabilities of which you are conscious. Leave beaten tracks, and conventional standards, and the trite ordinary ways of so-called Christians—be “a saint,” be “a saint”! Who knows what a work may be appointed for you to do in this church? Who knows to what a place you are to reach hereafter, in the ever-ascending circles of the blest?’

Verse 9

MARKS OF SPIRITUAL SERVICE

‘God … Whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.’

Romans 1:9

Here is a remarkable expression—‘Whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His son.’ St. Paul was a model servant. We profess ourselves to be Christ’s servants. Let us take a lesson from this great exemplar of acceptable service and seek to follow him as he followed Christ. In these words St. Paul strikingly describes the character of his service. Let us notice, first, its marks. They are indicated in the expression to which I again call your attention, ‘ with my spirit.’ It occurs in one other place only in the New Testament, viz. in Php_3:1 , where true Christians are described as those who worship God in the spirit. We shall see that it is full of meaning.

I. It was a willing service.—The Lord Jesus Christ will have no compulsion. There are to be no pressed men in His service. There are some persons who are religious, so far as their religion goes, by necessity, the force of circumstances, the force of public opinion, which still considers a profession of religion a respectable thing. But that is not serving God with the spirit. St. Paul was no such unwilling, reluctant servant as that. His was a voluntary, free-hearted service. There were very few inducements in St. Paul’s day to serve God in any other manner except with the spirit. A man attempting to do so would very soon find he had chosen a rough and unpleasant path.

II. This service was intelligent, as opposed to a merely mechanical routine.—There is a very great danger of our falling into a mere routine. The very familiarity with holy things may breed contempt of them before we are aware. The most spiritual duties may come at last to be almost mechanically performed. The only safeguard is to be renewed in our spirit by daily contact with the Holy Spirit of God. St. Paul, at any rate, was no unintelligent worker. How wonderfully he had grasped the great problems of sin and salvation this Epistle is a witness. What a range of spiritual truth does he unveil!

III. It was priestly service.—An examination of the original helps us here. The thought of ‘adoration’ is in the Greek word. It is a liturgical word. It brings before us the idea of the Temple and priestly service. The service St. Paul was rendering to God in the Gospel of His Son was priestly service. The priest of the Old Testament exercised his office in perpetually offering the same sacrifices which could never take away sins; but the true spiritual priest of the New Testament exercises his office in proclaiming the finished work of Christ on Calvary, and the good news of salvation through His merit, freely offered to all them that believe. This thought of priestly service carries with it the idea of the dedication of the body as God’s truest temple. It is a mighty step onward in Christian experience to have learnt what it is to be God’s temple.

—Rev. E. W. Moore.

Verses 14-15

THE SPHERE OF SPIRITUAL SERVICE

‘I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise, … I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.’

Romans 1:14-Ezra :

To whom was the Apostle sent? We are lost in wonder at his greatness. Natural prejudices, class prejudices, religious prejudices—all went down before him. He declares that his mission is to embrace not only his own people, but the outside nations, and not these only, but the most barbarous and uncultivated of them all; not only the cultured Greeks, but the untutored barbarians. The gospel which he preached was a gospel for every man, for every clime, for every class, the ignorant, for the rich and for the poor, for the privileged and for those who are altogether out of the way.

I. The love of God embraces all, and the Apostle’s heart of love went forth to all the world.—His mission was to every man. His object was to obey his Lord’s command—‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ And yet, while this catholic spirit pervades his utterance, his thoughts naturally, notwithstanding, centre upon Rome. Throughout this passage we can see how, again and again, he revolves the difficulties and responsibilities of his mission to Rome, and truly those difficulties were neither few nor small. For just as with us to-day there are, so to speak, many worlds, each separate from the other, the world of fashion, the world of art, the world of poverty and suffering, the world of sceptical doubt, and the world of religion—so it was at Rome; yet there, as here, all those subdivisions fell into two great divisions—Rome Christian and Rome antichristian.

II. Christian Rome.—Yes, there was, even when St. Paul wrote this Epistle, a Rome within a Rome, a Rome of which he could write that it was beloved of God, sanctified. Beloved with a love which dated from an ageless eternity—‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love’ ( Jeremiah 31:3), a love which rejoiced over the most unworthy objects, over lost ones recovered even from the depths of the vice and iniquity which made Rome, in the language of its own historians, ‘the common sink and sewer’ of the world.

III. Antichristian Rome.—And then, on the other side, there was Rome antichristian. Rome, the mistress of the world, the mightiest city perhaps the world had ever seen, where, side by side, were found splendour and squalor, philosophy and filth, moral corruption and material magnificence, savage cruelty and effeminate luxury. Into this Rome, the shadow of whose darkness falls upon St. Paul’s canvas in the closing verses of the chapter like a funeral pall, the light of the gospel must penetrate, nay, had already penetrated; that little Church in Rome was a light shining in the darkness. How the heart of the Apostle went out to it, how he longed after them all with the ardent affection of the true missionary, though he had never yet seen their face in the flesh! Never repelled by uncongenial surroundings, never daunted by hindrances, his heart went out in love to all with whom he had to do. ‘So, as much as in me is,’ he says, in the fifteenth verse, ‘I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.’ This, then, was the scope of the Apostle’s mission, it embraced the world, and its universality is one of the many proofs of its Divine origin.

—Rev. E. W. Moore.

Verse 16

JEW AND GREEK

‘To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’

Romans 1:16

The Jew and the Greek were respectively the loftiest and the noblest exponents of the races and religions of the East and the West. St. Paul shows the fitness of the gospel to meet and to satisfy the needs and requirements of nationalities so widely different as these.

I. The gospel finds a centre of union between them, and that centre is Christ, for it welds all the nations and peoples of the earth together in one great Church. To reconcile such opposing forces might appear to transcend human thought, and its supreme difficulty to banish it to the region of ideas and ideals which can never be realised. But the gospel of Christ aims at nothing less. St. Paul was, perhaps, the first to be convinced that such a reconciliation was possible, and that it was being brought about. It was contained in our Saviour’s words, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.’ And experience had already proved that the gospel of the Crucified was the magnet which drew men nearer to each other as it drew them alike to ‘Him Who died for all.’

II. Consider the attitude of the Jew and of the Greek towards the gospel, as the Apostle describes it in his first Epistle to the Corinthians. ‘Christ crucified,’ he says, ‘is to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness.’ But the gospel availed to overcome these radical antagonisms, and it is an encouragement now when we meet with the same spirit of opposition to know that it can also be surmounted. These types of mind may hinder men from receiving the gospel altogether, or they may mar their reception of it in its fullness and simplicity.

( a) There is the character of which the Jew is a type, the self-righteous, the Pharisaic. Such as have it possess a high standard of right and duty, in accordance with which they strive to live, but the measure of their attainment they ascribe chiefly to their own efforts. They have no strong feeling that they need the grace of God, which, therefore, they do not seek by earnest prayer. To them, as to the Jew, Christ crucified is the stumbling-block.

( b) The Greek, i.e. the representative of that great and gifted people, regarded the preaching of the Cross as ‘foolishness.’ How, he would say, can men bring themselves to worship a crucified Jew? The entire Christian economy seemed to him preposterous. He treated it with scorn and ridicule. It ran counter to all his ideals; it set forth strange doctrines concerning human nature. Atonement by sacrifice seemed to him a discredited and obsolete superstition. He regarded such as held it with a mixture of pity and contempt. To the Christian of that age it was no small trial to be regarded in this way by the wise and learned of this world. If he did not quail before their scorn, he was in danger of keeping too much in the background those doctrines of the Christian revelation which were most likely to excite opposition. We must not forget that there are still persons to whom the preaching of the Cross is foolishness. They cannot reconcile it with views which they have formed respecting the character of God, and of any revelation which professes to come from Him.

III. We must not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, however narrow-minded and fanatical we may seem when we declare that there is no salvation in any other. When men oppose us herein, we should seek in meekness to instruct them, if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth.

—Rev. F. K. Aglionby.

Verse 16

JEW AND GREEK

‘To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’

Romans 1:16

The Jew and the Greek were respectively the loftiest and the noblest exponents of the races and religions of the East and the West. St. Paul shows the fitness of the gospel to meet and to satisfy the needs and requirements of nationalities so widely different as these.

I. The gospel finds a centre of union between them, and that centre is Christ, for it welds all the nations and peoples of the earth together in one great Church. To reconcile such opposing forces might appear to transcend human thought, and its supreme difficulty to banish it to the region of ideas and ideals which can never be realised. But the gospel of Christ aims at nothing less. St. Paul was, perhaps, the first to be convinced that such a reconciliation was possible, and that it was being brought about. It was contained in our Saviour’s words, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.’ And experience had already proved that the gospel of the Crucified was the magnet which drew men nearer to each other as it drew them alike to ‘Him Who died for all.’

II. Consider the attitude of the Jew and of the Greek towards the gospel, as the Apostle describes it in his first Epistle to the Corinthians. ‘Christ crucified,’ he says, ‘is to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness.’ But the gospel availed to overcome these radical antagonisms, and it is an encouragement now when we meet with the same spirit of opposition to know that it can also be surmounted. These types of mind may hinder men from receiving the gospel altogether, or they may mar their reception of it in its fullness and simplicity.

( a) There is the character of which the Jew is a type, the self-righteous, the Pharisaic. Such as have it possess a high standard of right and duty, in accordance with which they strive to live, but the measure of their attainment they ascribe chiefly to their own efforts. They have no strong feeling that they need the grace of God, which, therefore, they do not seek by earnest prayer. To them, as to the Jew, Christ crucified is the stumbling-block.

( b) The Greek, i.e. the representative of that great and gifted people, regarded the preaching of the Cross as ‘foolishness.’ How, he would say, can men bring themselves to worship a crucified Jew? The entire Christian economy seemed to him preposterous. He treated it with scorn and ridicule. It ran counter to all his ideals; it set forth strange doctrines concerning human nature. Atonement by sacrifice seemed to him a discredited and obsolete superstition. He regarded such as held it with a mixture of pity and contempt. To the Christian of that age it was no small trial to be regarded in this way by the wise and learned of this world. If he did not quail before their scorn, he was in danger of keeping too much in the background those doctrines of the Christian revelation which were most likely to excite opposition. We must not forget that there are still persons to whom the preaching of the Cross is foolishness. They cannot reconcile it with views which they have formed respecting the character of God, and of any revelation which professes to come from Him.

III. We must not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, however narrow-minded and fanatical we may seem when we declare that there is no salvation in any other. When men oppose us herein, we should seek in meekness to instruct them, if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth.

—Rev. F. K. Aglionby.

Verse 16

JEW AND GREEK

‘To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’

Romans 1:16

The Jew and the Greek were respectively the loftiest and the noblest exponents of the races and religions of the East and the West. St. Paul shows the fitness of the gospel to meet and to satisfy the needs and requirements of nationalities so widely different as these.

I. The gospel finds a centre of union between them, and that centre is Christ, for it welds all the nations and peoples of the earth together in one great Church. To reconcile such opposing forces might appear to transcend human thought, and its supreme difficulty to banish it to the region of ideas and ideals which can never be realised. But the gospel of Christ aims at nothing less. St. Paul was, perhaps, the first to be convinced that such a reconciliation was possible, and that it was being brought about. It was contained in our Saviour’s words, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.’ And experience had already proved that the gospel of the Crucified was the magnet which drew men nearer to each other as it drew them alike to ‘Him Who died for all.’

II. Consider the attitude of the Jew and of the Greek towards the gospel, as the Apostle describes it in his first Epistle to the Corinthians. ‘Christ crucified,’ he says, ‘is to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness.’ But the gospel availed to overcome these radical antagonisms, and it is an encouragement now when we meet with the same spirit of opposition to know that it can also be surmounted. These types of mind may hinder men from receiving the gospel altogether, or they may mar their reception of it in its fullness and simplicity.

( a) There is the character of which the Jew is a type, the self-righteous, the Pharisaic. Such as have it possess a high standard of right and duty, in accordance with which they strive to live, but the measure of their attainment they ascribe chiefly to their own efforts. They have no strong feeling that they need the grace of God, which, therefore, they do not seek by earnest prayer. To them, as to the Jew, Christ crucified is the stumbling-block.

( b) The Greek, i.e. the representative of that great and gifted people, regarded the preaching of the Cross as ‘foolishness.’ How, he would say, can men bring themselves to worship a crucified Jew? The entire Christian economy seemed to him preposterous. He treated it with scorn and ridicule. It ran counter to all his ideals; it set forth strange doctrines concerning human nature. Atonement by sacrifice seemed to him a discredited and obsolete superstition. He regarded such as held it with a mixture of pity and contempt. To the Christian of that age it was no small trial to be regarded in this way by the wise and learned of this world. If he did not quail before their scorn, he was in danger of keeping too much in the background those doctrines of the Christian revelation which were most likely to excite opposition. We must not forget that there are still persons to whom the preaching of the Cross is foolishness. They cannot reconcile it with views which they have formed respecting the character of God, and of any revelation which professes to come from Him.

III. We must not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, however narrow-minded and fanatical we may seem when we declare that there is no salvation in any other. When men oppose us herein, we should seek in meekness to instruct them, if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth.

—Rev. F. K. Aglionby.

Verse 16

JEW AND GREEK

‘To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’

Romans 1:16

The Jew and the Greek were respectively the loftiest and the noblest exponents of the races and religions of the East and the West. St. Paul shows the fitness of the gospel to meet and to satisfy the needs and requirements of nationalities so widely different as these.

I. The gospel finds a centre of union between them, and that centre is Christ, for it welds all the nations and peoples of the earth together in one great Church. To reconcile such opposing forces might appear to transcend human thought, and its supreme difficulty to banish it to the region of ideas and ideals which can never be realised. But the gospel of Christ aims at nothing less. St. Paul was, perhaps, the first to be convinced that such a reconciliation was possible, and that it was being brought about. It was contained in our Saviour’s words, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.’ And experience had already proved that the gospel of the Crucified was the magnet which drew men nearer to each other as it drew them alike to ‘Him Who died for all.’

II. Consider the attitude of the Jew and of the Greek towards the gospel, as the Apostle describes it in his first Epistle to the Corinthians. ‘Christ crucified,’ he says, ‘is to the Jews a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness.’ But the gospel availed to overcome these radical antagonisms, and it is an encouragement now when we meet with the same spirit of opposition to know that it can also be surmounted. These types of mind may hinder men from receiving the gospel altogether, or they may mar their reception of it in its fullness and simplicity.

( a) There is the character of which the Jew is a type, the self-righteous, the Pharisaic. Such as have it possess a high standard of right and duty, in accordance with which they strive to live, but the measure of their attainment they ascribe chiefly to their own efforts. They have no strong feeling that they need the grace of God, which, therefore, they do not seek by earnest prayer. To them, as to the Jew, Christ crucified is the stumbling-block.

( b) The Greek, i.e. the representative of that great and gifted people, regarded the preaching of the Cross as ‘foolishness.’ How, he would say, can men bring themselves to worship a crucified Jew? The entire Christian economy seemed to him preposterous. He treated it with scorn and ridicule. It ran counter to all his ideals; it set forth strange doctrines concerning human nature. Atonement by sacrifice seemed to him a discredited and obsolete superstition. He regarded such as held it with a mixture of pity and contempt. To the Christian of that age it was no small trial to be regarded in this way by the wise and learned of this world. If he did not quail before their scorn, he was in danger of keeping too much in the background those doctrines of the Christian revelation which were most likely to excite opposition. We must not forget that there are still persons to whom the preaching of the Cross is foolishness. They cannot reconcile it with views which they have formed respecting the character of God, and of any revelation which professes to come from Him.

III. We must not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, however narrow-minded and fanatical we may seem when we declare that there is no salvation in any other. When men oppose us herein, we should seek in meekness to instruct them, if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth.

—Rev. F. K. Aglionby.

Verse 17

JUSTIFYING FAITH

‘For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.’

Romans 1:17

After affirmation of his not being ashamed of the gospel, the Apostle states his reason for making it his glory: ‘It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.’ And then he explains how it avails to this end.

I. There is no salvation without a justifying righteousness.

II. Justifying righteousness is unattainable by the sinner’s own works.

III. The gospel reveals a justifying righteousness.

IV. This righteousness is wholly of God.

Illustration

‘There are two things taught us by the phrase “revealed”—first, it is intimated that the subject of the gospel is something unknown, inconceivable before. It is a thing which by the gospel is unveiled, discovered—a new thing, which eye had not seen, nor ear heard. The righteousness it reveals is made known nowhere else. It is an apocalypse. The works of creation said nothing of such a righteousness. Questioned as to how man should be just with God, the oracles of nature were dumb. Heaven knew nothing of it—holy angels were just by innocence. The law said nothing of it. It was only, “Do, and live.” Created intellects could not conceive it. It was revealed to finite minds, like the first creation of light. The Divine mind alone could give birth to the thought, and the Divine heart alone prompt its execution. But the word “revealed” suggests that what was hid before is now clearly and impressively manifested. And here the gospel stands in contrast with previous dispensations.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 1". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/romans-1.html. 1876.