Attention!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Romans 11

Verse 8

SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS

‘As it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear.’

Romans 11:8

The blindness that happened to Israel, and arrested their spiritual growth, may be happening no less to any of us. As God gave them the spirit of slumber, so it may be with our lives.

And the very thought of our possible risks in this respect is valuable to us.

I. How comes it that we are so liable to be affected by this dullness of spirit and of general habit?—we have to reply that it is because of the sensitiveness of the human soul to surrounding influences. It is because our souls are so receptive, so imitative, and in consequence so easily perverted, darkened, blinded, or misled. In the light of this feeling of the soul’s sensitiveness the thoughtful man is very often intolerant of things which to others seem of little moment, because he sees how they are tending to dull or deaden the eye of the soul, or to pervert or to kill its finer instincts; and how, in consequence, though tradition may have given them a sort of spurious consecration, or the world in its blindness may have come to honour them, they are in fact laden with mischief to the general life. It was the thought of this sensitiveness of the soul to external influences, and of the ease with which any bad influence, or bad custom or practice or fashion, perverts common lives, and of the untold mischief which is consequently latent in it, that winged the words of a well-known writer when she protested, some years ago, against what she designated as debasing the moral currency. Whosoever in anything that concerns the conduct of life spreads low notions or drags down men’s opinion or taste, thus helping to pervert ordinary minds from those higher aims and motives and those reverent views of character and life which should be cherished for our common use and service, is debasing the moral currency.

II. Here, then, we have a very practical question for our consideration and answering. ‘Is there anything in my life’—so the question comes to us in our self-examination—‘which could be so described? any influence spreading from my conduct of which men might truly say that it also is helping to debase the moral currency? Is there to be seen in it anything that tends towards the lowering of common standards? any misuse of things sacred or holy? any foolish or vulgar estimate of the higher things of life?’

III. Remembering, then, how sensitive the soul is, and how easily by example, or conduct, or fashion, it may be so perverted as to lose its clear vision and higher aims, its pure tastes and ennobling emotions, we have to make it our ambition and endeavour that our life may be kept free from such debasement. But if we are to succeed in this, we must make it our daily prayer that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ will enlighten the eyes of our understanding, and give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge and love of Him.

—Bishop Percival.

Verse 11

CHRISTIANITY AND THE JEWS

‘Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.’

Romans 11:11

Would that the Gentiles had borne more in heart this short sentence of St. Paul’s through these long centuries since the Apostles fell asleep!

I. It is one of the most marked, as it is one of the saddest, phenomena in the history of the Church that for ages, almost from the days of John himself, we look in vain for any appreciable Jewish element in Christendom to win Jewish hearts to Christ by a wise and loving evangelisation. With only relatively insignificant exceptions this was the abiding state of things till well within the eighteenth century, when the German Pietists began to call the attention of believing Christians to the spiritual needs and prophetic hopes of Israel, and to remind them that the Jews were not only a beacon of judgment, or only the most impressive and awful illustration of the fulfilment of prophecy, but the bearers of yet unfulfilled predictions of mercy for themselves and for the world. Meanwhile, all through the Middle Ages, and through generations of preceding and following time also, Christendom did little for Israel but retaliate, reproach, and tyrannise. It was so of old in England: witness the fires of York. It is so to this day in Russia, and where the Judenhetze inflames innumerable hearts in Central Europe.

II. No doubt there is more than one side to the persistent phenomenon.—There is a side of mystery; the permissive sentence of the Eternal has to do with the long affliction, however caused, of the people which once uttered the fatal cry, ‘His blood be on us, and on our children’ ( Matthew 27:25). And the wrong doings of Jews, beyond a doubt, have often made a dark occasion for a ‘Jew-hatred,’ on a larger or narrower scale. But all this leaves unaltered, from the point of view of the Gospel, the sin of Christendom in its tremendous failure to seek, in love, the good of erring Israel.

III. Here, surely, is the very point of the Apostle’s thought.—In his inspired idea, Gentile Christendom, in Christ, was to be so pure, so beneficent, so happy, finding manifestly in its Messianic Lord such resources for both peace of conscience and a life of noble love, love above all, directed towards opponents and traducers, that Israel, looking on, with eyes however purblind with prejudice, should soon see a moral glory in the Church’s face impossible to be hid, and be drawn as by a moral magnet to the Church’s hope.

IV. Is it the fault of God or the fault of man, man carrying the Christian name, that facts have been so woefully otherwise in the course of history? It is the fault, the grievous fault, of us Christians. May the mercy of God awaken Gentile Christendom, in a manner and degree as yet unknown, to remember this our indefeasible debt to this people everywhere present with us, everywhere distinct from us.

—Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Verse 12

THE SALVATION OF THE JEWS

‘Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?’

Romans 11:12

Either these words of St. Paul in this eleventh chapter of Romans mean nothing or they mean what they say, that at some future time—how it will happen we know not—illumination will come to the hearts of the Jews, conviction to their minds, and the whole body of the Jews, so wonderfully preserved, will turn to Christ and enter the Catholic Church.

I. Consider the marvellous manner in which the Jewish nation, driven from their own land, their temple destroyed, the Holy City trampled under the feet of the Moslem, persecuted, scattered, despised, has yet been kept undestroyed, unmelted into other nations. Surely this is for a purpose. Surely this must be due to God’s providence. And when we look at the promises of old made to patriarchs and by prophets, we must come to the conclusion that at some time or other the Jewish people will turn to Christ. And when they do turn, what an infusion of strength it will be to Christ’s Church; how it will draw all those who have been wandering after their own lights as by a magnet into the Church, and how the variances in the Church will necessarily disappear (Is. Romans 11:13).

II. Surely this points to the cessation of all party feeling in Christ’s Church.—Nothing, I take it, but the conversion of the Jews en masse will dissolve this antagonism, and so all men become of one mind in God’s house. But see how that St. Paul, not in one passage only, speaks of the restoration of the Jews. In the Epistle to the Hebrews ( Romans 8:8), we have this assurance: ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.’

III. A new Covenant.—What can that be but the Covenant—the New Testament—the reception into the Church with all its promises, all its graces, all its sanctity, all its glorious hopes? Do these words mean anything? We dare not say that they are empty words, that they contain no promise. A certain nation and certain known events in its history are spoken of, events that apply to no other people whatever. The words of the apostle agree with those of the prophet (Jeremiah 31).

Rev. S. Baring-Gould.

Verse 20

STANDING BY FAITH

‘Thou standest by faith.’

Romans 11:20

All who ‘stand,’ ‘stand’ through mercy. There is no place where any one may ever judge or condemn a fallen brother. For if there is no ‘charity,’ there is no ‘faith’—for he who fell, fell from lack of ‘faith’; if you condemn another, you have no ‘charity,’ and therefore you have no ‘faith’; and if you have no ‘faith,’ you will not ‘stand.’ Every one that ever fell may trace his fall back, primarily, to the want of the realisation of the unseen. There came separation from God; there came low views of God; there came disparagement of the power, or the willingness, or the love of God—and so you fell. But the root of that bitterest of all things—a fall—is ‘unbelief.’

I. There is a distinction, which appears more in the original, than it does in the translation; that we are ‘justified through faith,’ but we ‘stand by it.’ For, in the great work of a man’s salvation, ‘faith’ is only a medium, simply to transmit to him the pardon of sin and the grace of God. But every saved man finds ‘faith’ the actual means and instrument which holds him up. In the one case, it is as the wire which conveys the message; in the other, it is the invisible chain which holds the planet in its course.

II. There is an inferior sense in which we may say that a man ‘stands by faith,’ since confidence is always the secret of composure, as composure is the secret of power; and therefore the more confidence a man has, the more surely can he do anything, and do it well. The little child will walk, and, what is much harder to the little child, the little child will ‘stand,’ as soon as he has confidence enough. And thus there is a meaning—not far remote from the highest and the spiritual, but still human—there is a sense in which ‘thou standest by faith.’

III. More accurately, and in its truer signification, to ‘stand by faith’ is to have thrown away every other dependence; it is to have no confidence in any creature; it is to have no confidence in yourselves, no confidence in any gifts, or talent, or power to possess, or attainments you have yet made, to have no confidence in anything you do, in any prayer you ever offer, in any service you ever render, in any ordinance of the Church you ever attend, in any fellowship of any man you ever enjoy. My peace, my safety, my life is in my nearness to God; in my contact with God. I am utterly unable, everything in the whole universe is utterly unable to keep me; ‘Hold thou me up, and I shall stand.’

IV. To ‘stand by faith’ is to believe, and not doubt, that you are in a state of full forgiveness and acceptance with God. That sense of peace is a simple act of ‘faith,’ to be obtained only by the thought, the assured thought, that it exists; that, by grace, it is yours, and that you have it. And this is essential to the very first act of the life of the new man, without which there never will be firmness of principle enough to make you ‘stand.’

Rev. James Vaughan.

Verse 20

STANDING BY FAITH

‘Thou standest by faith.’

Romans 11:20

All who ‘stand,’ ‘stand’ through mercy. There is no place where any one may ever judge or condemn a fallen brother. For if there is no ‘charity,’ there is no ‘faith’—for he who fell, fell from lack of ‘faith’; if you condemn another, you have no ‘charity,’ and therefore you have no ‘faith’; and if you have no ‘faith,’ you will not ‘stand.’ Every one that ever fell may trace his fall back, primarily, to the want of the realisation of the unseen. There came separation from God; there came low views of God; there came disparagement of the power, or the willingness, or the love of God—and so you fell. But the root of that bitterest of all things—a fall—is ‘unbelief.’

I. There is a distinction, which appears more in the original, than it does in the translation; that we are ‘justified through faith,’ but we ‘stand by it.’ For, in the great work of a man’s salvation, ‘faith’ is only a medium, simply to transmit to him the pardon of sin and the grace of God. But every saved man finds ‘faith’ the actual means and instrument which holds him up. In the one case, it is as the wire which conveys the message; in the other, it is the invisible chain which holds the planet in its course.

II. There is an inferior sense in which we may say that a man ‘stands by faith,’ since confidence is always the secret of composure, as composure is the secret of power; and therefore the more confidence a man has, the more surely can he do anything, and do it well. The little child will walk, and, what is much harder to the little child, the little child will ‘stand,’ as soon as he has confidence enough. And thus there is a meaning—not far remote from the highest and the spiritual, but still human—there is a sense in which ‘thou standest by faith.’

III. More accurately, and in its truer signification, to ‘stand by faith’ is to have thrown away every other dependence; it is to have no confidence in any creature; it is to have no confidence in yourselves, no confidence in any gifts, or talent, or power to possess, or attainments you have yet made, to have no confidence in anything you do, in any prayer you ever offer, in any service you ever render, in any ordinance of the Church you ever attend, in any fellowship of any man you ever enjoy. My peace, my safety, my life is in my nearness to God; in my contact with God. I am utterly unable, everything in the whole universe is utterly unable to keep me; ‘Hold thou me up, and I shall stand.’

IV. To ‘stand by faith’ is to believe, and not doubt, that you are in a state of full forgiveness and acceptance with God. That sense of peace is a simple act of ‘faith,’ to be obtained only by the thought, the assured thought, that it exists; that, by grace, it is yours, and that you have it. And this is essential to the very first act of the life of the new man, without which there never will be firmness of principle enough to make you ‘stand.’

Rev. James Vaughan.

Verse 36

GOD’S REVELATION TO MAN

‘Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever.’

Romans 11:36

We are in great danger of losing much of the comfort and strength which we are intended to find in the Holy Scriptures by studying them, if we study them at all, or thinking of them in what I may call a fragmentary way. We read a passage here and there, or we hear it read to us in the services of God’s house, but we fail to take a general view of the whole revelation, which is continuous from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter in Revelation. And thus we fail to perceive the method and purpose, not only of the revelation itself, but of God’s dealings with man from the time of his creation to the time of his everlasting glory in the New Jerusalem.

Let us consider what is the character, what is the substance and the method of the whole Scriptures as they are contained for us in the Word of God.

I. Holy Scripture brings before us the creation of man.—It tells us that man is of a twofold nature; as it is expressed in the book of Genesis, he is made ‘of the dust of the ground.’ These are figurative words, and are meant to imply that man has an earthly nature. But, on the other hand, we are told that God breathed into him, and he became a living soul. He has then also a spiritual nature, and with these two he is equipped and endowed for his work in the world during the course of his earthly life. But there is something more told us; we are told that he is made in the image of God. There is something akin to God in him. And he is endowed with a capacity of knowing God and of loving God—the highest of all the blessed endowments with which God has blessed his creature man. Then came the Fall. The Fall means disobedience to God’s will; and all sin is of the same character. Sin is the transgression of the law, John tells us. It is the disobedience to God’s will that is the inner essence of all sin, whatever shape or form it may take. Here, then, is the first, the opening chapter of this book, if we may so speak, in the revelation of God—the creation of man, his trial, his failure, his fall, and the disorder that ensued for himself and for the world in which we live.

II. The next chapter is occupied by the education of the human race with a view to its restoration. For no sooner had man failed than God, His Father, undertook the work of redemption.

III. And now comes the third period embraced by the Holy Scriptures. Men have learned, or they might have learned, by this time that the race could never redeem itself, that there was no hope for restoration in man himself. He was helpless to achieve that longing of his own soul, and still more the longing desire of the Father for His children. And so we reach the conclusion of the Psalmist, ‘Now, Lord, what is my hope?’ Man has failed, man has disobeyed, ‘Now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly my hope is even in Thee.’ If there is to be a restoration at all it must come from God, and not from man. So, then, through that perfect sacrifice we find, as the close of that chapter in the history of man, God is reconciled to man, He has seen man as He desired him to be, and intended him to be; God is reconciled to man, and man is restored through Christ to the favour of God.

IV. And there is one chapter more, that chapter in which we ourselves are the actors, the history of which we ourselves are writing in our lives from day to day. Man through Christ is admitted to the family of God, and that admission to God’s family is sealed and conveyed to him in that baptism which God enjoined upon His disciples, ‘Go into all the world and baptize.’ For in that baptism is the assurance that man is restored to God’s favour through Christ, and in that baptism man is really united to that Christ in Whom all his hope and all his happiness must lie. Man, then, is admitted to the family of God and reunited to God his Maker through Christ.

Now you will see why I chose my text. What is the meaning of all this that I have been saying, and of the whole story of Scripture, but this: ‘Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things’? He is the beginning, all things are of Him; He is the way, all things are through Him; He is our home, all things are to Him. It is the very keynote of the whole Scripture revelation of God: ‘Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.’

—Archbishop Maclagan.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE

God governs all things in heaven and earth. This is the faith of every simple Christian. This is the faith in which he finds refuge when dazed by the contradictions of human thought. God forbid that we should disparage human thought. We must all be thinkers. But, with all our thinking, we are unable to solve the riddle of the universe.

I. A threefold statement.—The Apostle takes us back to the very beginning of things. Let us carefully consider the meanings of the three statements which he puts so very concisely:—

( a) Of God. The first is a statement which all but the atheist will make—that God is the great First Cause. He is the Source and Origin of all things. All things proceed from Him, as their author and creator; all things are of Him. Some Christians are too ready to stop here. Their philosophy demands the great First Cause, and they find that First Cause in God, but they are half-disposed to imagine that God’s action in creation may have been at once final and complete, so that the universe itself has to be thought of as a piece of mechanism wound up and set in motion by its constructor, but left to go on by itself in utter independence of His Presence or control.

( b) Through God. Now St. Paul is not satisfied with any such limited view of God’s action in the universe. He is not content to say that all things are of God, but all things are through Him. God is not only the First Cause, but He is the ever-present power which worketh all in all.

( c) To God. But St. Paul insists that all things are to God—that is, God is the end and object towards which all creation tends. The powers of the universe not only proceed from God as their Author, but they are directed to the fulfilment of His purpose, Divine also in their end. It is said of man that the end and object of his existence is the glory of God. All things are for the fulfilment of God’s purpose; all things are for God’s glory; all things are to God.

II. Practical thoughts.—Some very practical thoughts follow from the consideration of the subject before us.

( a) First, the sacredness of all truth. It seems to me that the knowledge of any truth whatever must be an element of our knowledge of God. The knowledge of any verity is the knowledge of something which witnesses for God. Some people seem to be afraid of the difficulties of science, but God cannot contradict Himself.

( b) Secondly, observe the unity of the secular and the spiritual. The subject before us suggests a warning that we should not exaggerate the distinctions between the secular and the spiritual. Christ has said, ‘One thing is needful,’ but He has also said, ‘All things are clean unto you.’ Both are sacred. The secular things themselves are of God, and through God, and unto God. Apply this first to your own work in life, and then to your efforts to benefit those around you.

( c) Thirdly, God ministers through Nature. Our subject shows that God is ministering to us not only in psalm and sacred rite, but in all the ways and laws of Nature. Men have sometimes fallen into the mistake of disregarding the laws of Nature, whilst they looked to God to work for them some miracle in their favour. They have neglected the sanitary laws of cleanliness, whilst they have committed themselves into God’s hands as regarded some prevalent disease, praying to be delivered from it. Is this faith? Oh, no; it is sheer unbelief. It means that they think of God and Nature as two powers ruling in two independent provinces. They have no faith to see that all things are of God, and recognise God’s Holy Spirit in the inspiration of chemist and physician. They have not faith to accept the discoveries of science as a revelation given to us by God Himself.

III. The final triumph.—Let us dwell upon the assurance that all things are to God. They will all end in God and to His glory. They began of God, they continue through His providence, and they are to Him, and must eventuate in His glory. The very will of the creature has been turned against the Creator. Yes, in the conflict of good and evil in our world good must triumph over evil. God cannot fail. The work of redemption in Jesus Christ cannot be set at naught. Christ victorious, Christ reigning with His saints in the Kingdom of Heaven in everlasting glory.

Prebendary Allen Whitworth.

Illustration

‘God’s voice in science cannot possibly be opposed to His voice in any other revelation, for science is itself one of His revelations to mankind. All truth is of God, and truth cannot contradict truth. Science may be doubtful about some of her conclusions—we ought not hastily to accept them—but there are other conclusions of science about which there is no doubt whatever. It does concern the theologian to take them into account as a revelation of God, and to give them their due weight in interpreting the other revelations of God, for no single revelation is to be interpreted by itself, but the whole testimony of God is to be received, whether it be delivered by psalmist, or prophet, or by philosopher, scientist, or poet.’

Romans 12:1-2

ST. PAUL’S APPEAL FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world.’

Romans 12:1-2

St. Paul has been rehearsing the mercies of God in Christ and redemption. He has been placarding before their eyes in the long panorama of history the course of God’s merciful providence for Jew and for Gentile, and then he turns round on his audience, with a pointed and practical conclusion, ‘I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by these mercies of God to you, which I have been rehearsing, to make offering to God of your bodies, and not conform your conduct to the world.’

I. The meaning of Christian worship.—Well, that, put shortly, is St. Paul’s appeal for Christian worship. That is his justification of Christian worship, and we, so many hundred years after, as we read his appeal, cannot but admit that worship, so justified, is reasonable. If our creed is true, if it is by the mercy of God that we are what we are, should not a sense of His mercies bring us before His presence with thanksgiving and prayer? And therefore, in our highest act of Christian worship, which is the Holy Communion (that great act commemorates the whole of our Lord’s life of self-offering summed up into its final scene), we who are redeemed by the offering of that Body, with a sense of that mercy quickened in our hearts, we take those words into our mouths, and we say, ‘These bodies which Thou hast prepared for us, O God, lo, we also are going to do Thy will. Here we, we also, in and through Christ, present unto Thee ourselves, our souls, our bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice.’ That offering of the heart and will, the sursum corda, has been an integral part of the Eucharist from the earliest Christian age. ‘Lift up your hearts.’ ‘We lift them up unto the Lord.’ For no service could be more reasonable. Every Christian who knows the Creed, and is grateful, must acknowledge that ‘it is meet and right to do so. It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty.’

II. Why worship is neglected.—Why are there so many Christians who do not worship? I think we may distinguish several causes of the neglect.

( a) Through ignorance. Of course the most obvious reason would be a failure to understand the Christian creed, a failure to recognise God’s mercy, through simple ignorance, which may easily happen among the thronging population of our large cities.

( b) Wrong ideas of God. Another reason may be traced in the existence of a feeling that after all God is beyond our gratitude, that He cannot care for it. Can anybody read the parable of the Prodigal Son, and not see that Christ meant to attribute to God emotions of joy at the return of His child from the far country?

( c) An idea that worship is superseded. But then, again, worship is sometimes disregarded from another motive, from a notion, not always, perhaps, clearly defined, that worship in this age has become superseded by practical philanthropy. If there is to be a controversy to-day between worship and philanthropy, it can only be a new form of the old controversy between faith and works, which the Scripture decides in favour of faith. We are made righteous by faith, not because works of righteousness are unimportant—of course not—but because faith in God is the ground of all such works. Faith is the root of the tree that bears such heavenly fruit.

( d) An absence of reality. And then, once more, may not the neglect of public worship be due in some degree to some defect in the rites and ceremonies provided for the worshipper? If that is so, the fact should be faced and a remedy should be sought.

III. A picture of the worshipping Church.—There is a picture of the worshipping Church in the Book of Revelation that may teach us many lessons. John saw a throne in heaven, and Him Who sat thereon, and round about the throne he saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white robes, with crowns of gold, and beyond them, in an outer circle, he saw four living creatures, symbols of the whole of creation, one like a lion, and one like a calf, and one like a flying eagle, and one with the face of a man, and they said, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Which was, and is, and is to come.’ That is to say, that under the image of these four living ones the Apostle sees all creation, all created things, bowing down before the throne of God, and giving Him glory and honour and thanks. Well, now, as a matter of fact, how do they do so, how do the beasts and cattle and birds praise God and magnify Him? The answer is, They perform His will, they follow the path which He has prescribed for them; and so, because man too is a creature, for man also to perform the will of the Creator, to do right, in whatever blind, instinctive way, is to give glory to God.

—Rev. Canon Beeching.

Illustration

‘A crowd of people were visiting a gallery of pictures upon which a philanthropist was discoursing, and presently he came to a picture of the woman in the Pharisee’s house who was anointing our Lord’s feet with precious ointment. The lecturer told the story, and then made this comment: “In old days that was thought to be religion. But happily we have learned better now. We know that religion means doing your duty and loving your neighbour.” But the Founder of our faith knew better than His modern interpreter wherein lay the essence of religion; and He was not undervaluing actions of brotherly love when He said that the spring of all such actions lies in devotion to Himself.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

CONSECRATION OF LIFE

It cannot be denied that St. Paul is asking a great deal in this passage.

I. Consider the force of the appeal.—Three facts combine to make it almost irresistible:—

( a) The character of the writer.

( b) The ground upon which he rests his appeal. ‘I beseech you, by the mercies of God.’ We are drawn to contemplate the threefold work, and we hear the threefold voice, of the Blessed Trinity.

( c) The force of the argument is ratified by the teaching of the Church. The Epistle is appointed for the First Sunday after Epiphany. We have gathered round the cradle of the new-born King, and contemplated the mystery of the Incarnation; the glorious object revealed to our view is no less than ‘God manifest in the flesh. As, then, we think of how He emptied Himself of His glory, and voluntarily elected to undergo a life of shame and humiliation, and to die ultimately a death of agony, we begin to understand indeed what the Apostle means.

II. But for what is God asking through His Apostle?—He asks us ‘to present our bodies.’ We pause a moment, and ask, ‘Why our bodies?’ Surely it is with our hearts that God has primarily to do. The explanation is simply this, that these Roman converts to whom the Apostle addressed himself had presented their hearts already. God’s order is invariable—the heart first, the body afterwards. You cannot reverse this. Many try to do so, and they make confusion worse confounded.

III. The nature of the sacrifice.—‘I beseech you—present your bodies.’ We must understand this clearly—God will have us accept His gift, before we present our gift to Him. First accept ‘the gift of God,’ which is ‘everlasting life,’ in your own souls; then in your turn give Him yours. He gives you the life which is to pervade your humanity; it is your blessed privilege in return to present that humanity as a sacrifice to Him. It is here, alas, where many professing Christians go wrong. They have given their hearts, they say, to God, they have accepted the gift of eternal life; and they have only to sit down and congratulate themselves on the spiritual blessing conveyed to them. But—

IV. We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice.—The right estimate of God’s gift will not permit us simply to sit down, satisfied with what He has given. The thought of ‘the mercies of God’ becomes a power within our nature, and we turn towards Him, Who gave Himself for us, with the cry, ‘Lord and Master, what can we do for Thee?’ And the Voice Divine seems to say, ‘I want that body of yours. That “body” of yours is a necessity for your service on earth, so much so that when I Myself came into the world to work out the Father’s will and redeem mankind, it was necessary that I Myself should take a “body” ( Psalms 40:6; Hebrews 10:5-7). Even I required a body that I might render that completeness of service which I desired to My Father. You have such a body now. I want that body, that through it the influences of the unseen Brother may be felt amongst brethren. It is the only thing thou hast to give Me; I could do without thee, but I will not, and the one thing I ask thee is to present thy body to Me.’ ‘Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee!’

Rev. Canon Aitken.

Illustration

‘He will have the life or nothing. All the powers of mind, memory, will, which work through the bodily organisation; all the power of muscle, nerve, and brain. As Chrysostom strikingly says: “Let not the eye see evil, and it is become a sacrifice; let not the tongue speak what is shameful, and it is become profitable; let not the hand do a lawless deed, it is become a whole burnt-offering.” ’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

DEDICATION OF LIFE

Fundamentally our Lord’s sacrifice was a sacrifice of the will, but He allowed that will to execute its purpose through the body, and so our Lord does penance with His human body for all those sins that you and I sinned with our body as the instrument of the will within us. If we are to partake in full and have our share in the twofold work of redemption, we must be in touch with Him. There are many ways in which we can do penance.

I. There must be no shirking of the work of repentance.—It all brings us into closer touch with Him.

II. We must keep in subjection this body, chasten its desires, and check its longings for unholy gratification.

But is that the only way to glorify God with our bodies?

III. There must be a dedicating of all our powers—of soul, and spirit, and of body—in order that, recognising the claim which God has upon us, we may yield ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, to His service.

—Rev. E. P. Williams.

Illustration

‘The Fakirs in India think to do God an extraordinary service by depriving their bodies of proper care and nourishment, or covering themselves with mud, or crippling their limbs in an unnatural way. The Lord our God demands our body, but He is Holy, and such our sacrifice must be. It must be unstained by wilful guilt. This living, holy sacrifice is acceptable to God. Even heathen writers have had glimpses of the truth that the only sacrifice that can be well pleasing to God is the sacrifice of the heart, of the whole man, and that animal sacrifices were only acceptable as expressive of this higher spiritual offering.’

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

‘A LIVING SACRIFICE’

I. The sacrifice God requires.—‘That ye present your bodies.’ Our bodies, that is, the life of our bodies; for if we give our bodies as an offering, we give all that belongs to the body. The sacrifice God requires is that of the life devoted to Him.

( a) The life may be given to business, but this must be given to Him, and so the employment of our hands and minds made holy.

( b) The life may be given to science, but it must not be a Christless science.

( c) The life may be given to theology, but it must not be a theology with God left out.

II. The sacrifice God accepts.

( a) A living sacrifice. Our bodies may be brought as dead offerings. The eyes may be cast down in an assumed humility; the hands may be folded in prayer, but the heart far from God; the lips may move and the heart be silent. Thus all our works may be dead works. The sacrifice we are to present must be instinct with the soul of true piety and love to God.

( b) A holy sacrifice. That which we bring to God we separate from all common and profane uses. In bringing our bodies as a sacrifice we engage ourselves to God’s service, to obedience to His will and the furtherance of His honour.

( c) A spiritual sacrifice. The words, ‘which is your reasonable service,’ have been often taken to mean that whilst the offering of animals was with natural unwillingness on the part of the beasts that were forcibly brought, the Christian’s offering is that of a voluntary, reasoning agent. The expression has reference to the ceremonial character of the Jewish and heathen cultus. From the Christian is demanded an inner spiritual service in the place of the external character, the merely mechanical nature of the Jewish and heathen sacrifices.

Illustration

‘St. Paul besought these Romans to do what David Livingstone did, though of course he had done it before. It was March 19, 1872, his last birthday but one (he died May 1, 1873), that he wrote these words in his diary: “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All; I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.… Amen, so let it be.” And his name is written below.’

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 11". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/romans-11.html. 1876.