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Bible Commentaries

Godet's Commentary on Selected Books

Romans 15

Verse 1

Vv. 1. “ We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

The δέ , then, is progressive. The domain enlarges; it is no longer simply the question of meats, but in general of the relation between Judeo-Christianity more or less legal, of which the party of the weak, chap. 14, was a branch, and that pure spirituality, which is the proper character of Paul's gospel. This tendency to enlarge the subject had already appeared in the preceding chapter, in Romans 15:5-6, where the example taken from the observance of feast days was evidently borrowed from a more general domain. The apostle now expresses his entire thought regarding the relation between a Christianity still allied to the legal spirit, and that which is wholly exempt from it. Since the two elements co-existed in the church of Rome, Paul must once at least before closing utter his thought as to their normal relation, and he does so here quite naturally by applying that law of love in which he has just pointed out that the soul of the Christian life is to be found. It is this gradation in the subject treated which is indicated by the δέ progressive ( then) of Romans 15:1. It is no doubt for the same reason he changes the expression which he had used to designate the weak in chap. 14. He now employs the terms δυνατός and ἀδύνατος , able, unable, whereas he had made use of the term ἀσθενής . It would be improper, however, completely to identify the contrast expressed by these two terms, employed Romans 15:1, with that between Judeo-Christians and believers of Gentile origin. For by saying ἡμεῖς , we, the apostle shows clearly that he puts himself among the strong, and not only himself, but all those also of his Jewish fellow-countrymen who, like Aquilas and Priscilla, for example, have risen to the height of Christian spirituality. Among the weak, on the other hand, might be found a goodly number of former proselytes who had brought with them into the gospel their attachment to the law. We acknowledge then, with Mangold, that the contrast between the strong and the weak in chap. 15 does not coincide absolutely with that of chap. 14. There the matter in question was only a special feature of Judeo-Christian formalism; here the apostle speaks of the conduct to be observed toward the formalist spirit in itself. But, on the other hand, it is impossible to adopt the opinion of the same author, when he represents the strong and the weak here as two small minorities, two ultra parties of the right and left, the one of extreme Gentile-Christians, the other of particularly narrow Judeo-Christians, whom Paul contrasted with the in general moderate Judeo-Christian mass of the church of Rome. How could Paul himself, by saying: we, the strong, take his place in one of these extreme parties, which, according to Mangold, wished even (see at Rom 15:7 ) to excommunicate the weak! This construction, whereby it is sought in the face of this whole passage to save the hypothesis of a Judeo-Christian majority in the church of Rome, is an expedient which all critics have hitherto judged untenable. ᾿Ασθενήματα , the infirmities or weaknesses; these are, as Hodge says, “the prejudices, errors, and faults which arise from weakness of faith.” The strong ought to show his strength, not by humiliating the weak and triumphing in the feeling of his superiority, but by bearing the burden of his weakness with love and tenderness. To serve is always in the gospel the true sign of strength ( Gal 6:2 ).

But to be able to act thus, there is an enemy that must be swept out of our own heart: self-complacency. The man who boasts of his superiority in understanding and in Christian liberty, is not fitted to assist the weak; rather he estranges and revolts them.

Verses 1-3

Here, according to M. Renan, we return to the text of the copy addressed to the church of Rome; for, according to him, chap. 15 formed the conclusion of the Epistle destined for this church. If this view were well grounded, the first verse of chap. 15 must have immediately followed the last of chap. 11; for chaps. 12, 13, and 14 only belonged to the copies intended for other churches. Is this hypothesis probable? What connection is there between the end of chap. 11, celebrating the wisdom of God in the course of history, and this distinction between the strong and the weak with which chap. 15 begins? This contrast fits in, on the contrary, in the closest possible way to the subject of chap. 14. Schultz feels this so much, that though sharing Renan's opinion in regard to the three preceding chapters, up to a certain point, he still makes the first six verses of chap. 15 the continuation and conclusion of the passage chap. 14, and not till Rom 15:7 does he find the resumption of the true Epistle to the Romans, which closed, according to him, with our Romans 15:13. Thus in the apostolic copy it was Romans 15:7: “Wherefore receive ye one another as Christ also received you,” which immediately followed the close of chap. 11. But this sudden transition to a hortatory application, after so vast a development as that of chap. 11, is somewhat too abrupt to be probable; and especially when we recognize, as this author does, the close connection between the first six verses of chap. 15 and the whole development of chap. 14, it must also be seen that the exhortation: “Wherefore receive ye one another” ( Rom 15:7 ), is only the resumption of that which began chap. 14 in these terms: “Receive ye him that is weak in faith.” Not only is it in both cases the same verb that is used: προσλαμβάνεσθαι , to take to oneself. But, moreover, the following words of Romans 15:7: “As Christ took you to Himself,” reproduce exactly the end of Romans 14:3: “For God hath taken him to Himself,” (thy brother, weak or strong). Our Rom 15:7 is therefore the close of the cycle of teaching opened Romans 14:1-3; and Paul sums up in Rom 15:7 the general exhortation to connect with it the invitation to union between the two parts of the church which forms the subject of Romans 15:8-13. Thus is closed the practical part begun in chap. 12. Everything is so strongly compacted, and forms so fine a whole, that it is hard to understand how it should have entered the mind of intelligent commentators to break such an organism.

We have already said that with chap. 15 there begins, according to Baur, the unauthentic part of our Epistle. We shall examine step by step the objections to which the composition of these two chapters by the Apostle Paul seems to him to be exposed. We shall have to study likewise the reasons which have led a great number of critics, such as Semler, Griesbach, Eichhorn, Reuss, Schultz, Ewald, and others to dispute, not the apostolic origin of the whole or part of the last two chapters, but their original connection with the Epistle to the Romans. As we have stated these very diverse opinions in the Introduction, vol. i. pp. 66-69, we think it unnecessary to reproduce them here.

From the particular question which has just occupied the apostle, he now passes to a more general subject, that of the perfect union which, notwithstanding the difference between the two elements of which it is composed, ought to unite the whole church in a common song of praise to the God of salvation. The goodwill with which all, Jews and Gentiles, have been received by God, ought to make them, as it were, one heart and one mouth to magnify the Lord, while awaiting patiently the consummation of the work He has begun. Such are the contents of this passage, which admirably crowns the practical part. It is really impossible to understand Baur's affirmation: “This piece contains nothing which had not been much better said before,” or that of M. Renan, who, adhering to this judgment, thus expresses himself: “These verses repeat and weakly sum up what precedes.” The particular question treated in chap. 14 broadens; the point of view rises, and the tone is gradually heightened even to the elevation of a hymn, as at the end of all the great parts preceding (chap. Rom 5:12 et seq., Rom 8:31 et seq., Rom 11:33 et seq.).

Paul first exhorts, by the example of Christ, to mutual condescension, Romans 15:1-3; he points out, Romans 15:4-7, as an end to be reached the common adoration to which such conduct will bring the church; finally, Romans 15:8-13, he indicates the special part given to Jews and to Gentiles in this song of the whole redeemed race. He has not before expressed anything like this.

Verses 1-13

Twenty-eighth passage (14:1-15:13). Exhortation relative to a particular Difference of View in the Church of Rome.

The following passage is a practical application of the law of love expounded, chaps. 12 and 13. It is an immediate illustration of the selfsacrifice which Paul has just been requiring. This passage, from its connection with a local circumstance, is at the same time the first step of return from the treatise to the letter form; it is, consequently, the transition to the epistolary conclusion of the entire writing. Thus it is that everything is organically bound together in the compositions of the apostle.

What was the subject of the difference of view to which the instruction following refers? Rom 14:2 proves that a certain number of Christians at Rome thought they should abstain from the use of meats and of wine; and it is probable, from Romans 14:5-6, that the same men joined to this abstinence the scrupulous observance of certain days which seemed to them more holy than others. This party does not appear to have been considerable or influential; and Paul, far from treating it as he treated those who corrupted the pure gospel in Galatia, at Corinth, or at Colosse, seems rather inclined to take it under his protection as against the rest of the church. The subject is one on which somewhat divergent views have been expressed. It is difficult to explain the principle which led these people to act thus.

Eichhorn regarded the weak as former Gentiles, who had belonged previously to a school of philosophy with an ascetic tendency, the Neo-Pythagoreans, for example. They imported into the gospel, according to him, certain principles pertaining to their former philosophy.

This opinion is now generally rejected. 1st. There are manifest indications of the Jewish origin of this party. Thus Rom 14:5-6 appear to prove that these same men observed the Jewish feast days, like the heretics of Colosse (see the exegesis). Besides, if the passage, Romans 15:1-13, still forms part of this section, as appears to us unquestionable, it follows that we have to do with a Judeo-Christian party. For this whole passage closes with the celebration of the union of Christians of both origins in one and the same salvation. 2d. Such men would not have taken the modest and timid attitude at Rome which seems to have been that of the weak. On the ground of their pretended superiority, either in holiness or in culture, they would much rather have affected haughty airs in relation to the rest of the church.

Origen and Chrysostom regarded these people as Christians of Jewish origin, and ascribe their kind of life to their attachment to the Mosaic law. But the law did not forbid the eating of flesh, except that of certain (unclean) animals, nor the use of wine, except to certain persons and in certain particular cases. It would therefore be difficult to explain how they could have come by the way of the Levitical ordinances to the principle of entire abstinence.

This reflection and comparison with the passage, 1 Corinthians 8-10., have led many commentators (Clem. of Alex., Flatt, Neand., Philip., etc.) to explain the abstinence of the weak by the fear they felt of unwittingly eating flesh and drinking wines which had been offered to idols. Rather than run such a risk, they preferred to dispense with them altogether. But it should have been easy to find means of avoiding this danger, at least in private meals; and it would be hard to understand how, if the ideas of these people had been the same as those of their scrupulous brethren in the church of Corinth, Paul should not give them any of those explanations which he had given to the latter, and should content himself with striving to preserve peace within the church of Rome. It appears to us very doubtful, besides, whether the weak at Corinth were of Jewish origin. The more we have examined the question, the more have we been led to regard them rather as formerly Gentiles. Finally, the text of Rom 14:14 is incompatible with this opinion. Paul says: “I am persuaded in the Lord that there is nothing unclean of itself. ” These words: of itself, prove that the pollution appeared to the weak as attaching to the very nature of the meats, and not merely contracted by accident.

Baur, in his Apostel Paulus (I. p. 361 et seq.), has attempted to connect the party of the weak with the Ebionites, who, according to the description given by Epiphanius, abstained from all animal food, or even from food prepared with animal matter. He also cites the Clementine Homilies (dating from Rome in the last third of the second century), in which the Apostle Peter thus describes his mode of life: “I use only bread and oil and a little pulse,” and where it is taught that the use of flesh is contrary to nature, and of diabolical origin. He cites also the saying of Hegesippus regarding James the brother of our Lord: “He ate nothing ἔμφυχον ( animated).” As to wine, this critic refers to the fact that according to Epiphanius, the most austere of the Ebionites celebrated the Eucharist only with unleavened bread and water; which seems to prove that they abstained wholly from wine.

Ritschl ( Enst. der altkath. Kirche, 2d ed. p. 184 et seq.) has given out a somewhat different hypothesis, which has been adopted by many moderns (Mey., Mang., etc.). Our party of the weak at Rome was composed, it is said, of former Essenes. According to this critic, the fundamental idea of the Essene order was to realize a permanent priestly life. Now, it is known that the priests were forbidden ( Lev 10:9 ) to drink wine while they were officiating; the Essene must therefore have abstained from it entirely. Moreover, the priests, being required to eat only food consecrated to God, and Essenism rejecting at the same time the practice of bloody sacrifices, it followed that they could eat no flesh. If, therefore, such men had been sold as prisoners, and carried to Rome as the result of previous wars, then set free and converted to the gospel, they might have carried with them into the church their former mode of life as superior in holiness to that of ordinary Christians. An analogous origin ought probably to be assigned to the sect which some years later troubled the church of Colosse. In general, it is clear that a certain ascetic dualism was in the air at this period. And this was the common source of all the different tendencies which we have mentioned.

Only the question arises (1) Whether, supposing the weak had belonged to one of these parties, Paul could have attached so little importance to the question considered in itself (comp. his polemic in the Epistle to the Colossians); and (2) whether the attitude of such Christians would have been so modest as the following passage supposes?

Perhaps there is a simpler way of explaining the origin of such ideas. We must go back even beyond the law. According to the narrative of Genesis, animal food was not originally allowed to man ( Gen 1:29 ). It was not till after the deluge that it was expressly authorized ( Rom 9:3 ). The invention of wine dates also from this latter epoch, and the abuse of this drink was immediately connected with its discovery. It is easy to understand how such biblical precedents might have taken hold of serious readers of the O. T., and led them to the abstinence of which our text speaks. In this conduct no Christian principle was seriously compromised. It was simply an attempt to return to the primitive regimen, which easily presented itself to the mind as the most normal. And thus is explained why the apostle does not even touch the root of the question, and treats it solely on the side on which it concerns the maintenance of harmony between the members of the church.

To finish at once the exposition of our view, we shall add that, as appears to us, it was in the love-feasts that the difference broke out and gave rise to certain painful manifestations to which the apostle desired to put an end. We think we can give the proof of this as we study chap. 14.

It has been sometimes thought that in the first part of this chapter, Romans 14:1-12, the apostle was addressing the weak, with the view of checking their unjust judgments upon the strong; and in the second, Romans 14:13-23, the strong, to call them to the exercise of charity toward the weak. This view does not seem to me exact, at least as to the first part. Rather Paul begins by addressing both in this part, in order to point out to them the duty of mutual toleration; then he turns specially to the strong in the second part, to remind them of the considerate bearing which love claims of them toward the weak.

Verses 2-3

Vv. 2, 3. “ Let every one of us please his neighbor in what is good to edification. For also Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

The γάρ , for, in the T. R., is certainly unauthentic: the asyndeton implies a more emphatic reproduction of the thought of Romans 15:1. The word every one seems to us to extend the exhortation to all the members of the church, weak or strong; it is as if it ran: “Yes, let every one of us in general”...

There are two ways of seeking to please our neighbor. In the one we are self-seeking; we seek to satisfy our interest or self-love. In the other, we seek the good of our neighbor himself. It is this latter way only which the apostle recommends: such is the force of the first clause: in good; for good, not from egoism. Then this abstract notion is positively determined by the second clause: to edification. The life of Paul was all through the realization of this precept; comp. 1 Corinthians 10:33, 34.

Vv. 3. The example of Christ is to the believer the new law to be realized ( Gal 6:2 ); hence the for also. If, as man, Christ had pleased Himself in the use of His liberty, or in the enjoyment of the rights and privileges which His own righteousness had acquired, what would have come of our salvation? But He had only one thought: to struggle for the destruction of sin, without concerning Himself about His own well-being, or sparing Himself even for an instant. In this bold and persevering struggle against our enemy, evil, He drew on Him the hatred of all God's adversaries here below, so that the lamentation of the Psalmist, Psalms 69:9, became as it were the motto of His life. In laboring thus for the glory of God and the salvation of men, He recoiled, as Isaiah had prophesied, “neither before shame nor spitting.” This certainly is the antipodes of pleasing ourselves. Psalms 69:0 applies only indirectly to the Messiah (Psalms 69:5: “ My sins are not hid”); it describes the righteous Israelite suffering for the cause of God. But this is precisely the type of which Jesus was the supreme realization.

We need not say, with Meyer, that Paul adopts the saying of the Psalmist directly into his own text. It is more natural, seeing the total change of construction, like Grotius, to supply this idea: “ but he did as is written;” comp. John 13:18.

Paul, Romans 15:1-2, had said us; it is difficult, indeed, to believe, that in writing these last sayings he could avoid thinking of his own apostolic life.

But divine succor is needed to enable us to follow this line of conduct unflinchingly; and this succor the believer finds only in the constant use of the Scriptures, and in the help of God which accompanies it ( Rom 15:4-6 ).

Verses 4-6

Vv. 4-6. “ For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus;that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The transition from Rom 15:3 to Rom 15:4 is this: “If I thus apply this saying of the Psalmist to Christ and ourselves, it is because, in general, all Scripture was written to instruct and strengthen us.” It is certain that in the case of the first verb we should read προεγράφη , was written aforetime; and probably we should read for the second the simple ἐγράφη , was written (comp. the critical note). The new light which Scripture revelation throws on all things, and particularly on the events of human life, diffuses in the heart the strength which makes us hold out ( ὑπομονή , patience), and even hold out joyously ( παράκλησὶς , comfort). Whether we read or reject the second διά , through, the genitive τῶν γραφῶν , of the Scriptures, equally depends on both the preceding substantives: the patience and comfort of which the Scriptures are the source.

And it is by these dispositions that we are kept at the height of Christian hope which anticipates the joy of perfect salvation. We need not give the verb ἔχωμεν the exceptional meaning of holding fast ( κατέχειν ); the simple sense of possessing is enough.

Baur has found in this verse an evidence of the unauthenticity of the whole piece. How could the apostle, on occasion of the passage quoted ( Rom 15:3 ), set himself to speak all at once of the entire O. T.? But he forgets that this whole piece is a practical exhortation, and that in such circumstances the particular recommendation of the use of the Scriptures is quite in place. The inspiration thereto was probably given by the apostle's own daily experience.

But he knows well himself that Scripture is ineffectual without the direct help of the God of the Scriptures. It is therefore to Him that he lifts his eyes, Romans 15:5.

Verse 5

Vv. 5. By the double description of God as the God of patience and of consolation, He is characterized as the true source of these two graces which are communicated to us through the channel of the Scriptures. To get them we must therefore go not only to the Scriptures, but to Himself.

There is a close relation in a church between the consolation and the union of its members. When all are inwardly consoled from above, the way is paved for communion of hearts, all together aspiring vehemently after the same supreme good. It is this common impulse which is expressed by Paul's term ( φρονεῖν ἐν ἀλλ ). He thus returns to the principal idea of the passage, which he had left for an instant to speak of the Scriptures.

On the difference between Christ Jesus and Jesus Christ, see at Romans 1:1.

Verse 6

Vv. 6. When one common aspiration reigns in the church, secondary diversities no longer separate hearts; and from the internal communion there results common adoration like pure harmony from a concert of well-tuned instruments. All hearts being melted in one, all mouths become only one. And how so? Because one being only appears henceforth to all as worthy of being glorified.

It seems obvious to us, since the two words God and Father are joined in Greek by one and the same article, that the complement: of our Lord Jesus Christ, must depend on both. Comp. Ephesians 1:17 (“the God of Jesus Christ”); Matthew 27:46 (“my God, my God”); John 20:17 (“my Father and your Father, my God and your God”). The expression: God of Jesus Christ, denotes the relation of complete dependence; and the expression: Father of Jesus Christ, the relation of perfect intimacy. The ideal here described by the apostle, and which is the supreme object of the prayer which he has just formed, Romans 15:5, is therefore that of the union of the entire church, composed of Jews and Gentiles, in the adoration of the God and Father who has redeemed and sanctified it by Jesus Christ. This union was in a sense his personal work, and the prize of his apostolic labors. How his heart must have leaped, hearing already by the anticipation of faith, the hymn of saved humanity! It is the part of every believer, therefore, to make all the advances and all the sacrifices which love demands in order to work for so magnificent a result. So there is added, as the conclusion of all that precedes (from Rom 14:1 ), Romans 15:7.

Verse 7

Vv. 7. “ Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

The compassionate welcome which Christ has given to all the members of the church individually ought to be perpetually reproduced in the welcome of goodwill and tenderness which they give one another in all the relations of life. And if there is some concession to make, some antipathy to surmount, some difference of opinion to allow, some injury to forgive, one thing ought to lift us above all these annoyances the thought that we are thereby laboring for the glory of God, who received us in grace through Jesus Christ. Mutual love ought to reign supremely in a church wholly composed of the Lord's well-beloved. We should probably read ἡμᾶς , us, us believers in general, rather than ὑμᾶς you (the Christians of Rome). This latter reading has no doubt arisen from the verb in the second person plural: receive ye. The words: to the glory of God, depend rather on the first than on the second verb; for they are intended to explain the recommendation.

Mangold finds himself led by his peculiar point of view, according to which the strong in this chapter are merely the small number of extreme Paulinists, to give to the word receive a wholly different sense from that which it had Romans 14:1, where the same recommendation was addressed to the entire (according to him, Judeo-Christian) church. The party of the strong mentioned here had, according to this critic, pushed opposition to the weak the length of regarding them as a burden to the life of the church, and of demanding their excommunication. And this is what Paul would prevent. It is very obvious how arbitrary is this difference laid down in the notion of receiving. Not only can the προσλαμβάνεσθαι ( receive) signify nothing else than in Romans 14:1, but, moreover, the apostle would never have consented to rank himself, as he would do by the word us ( Rom 15:1-2 ), in a party so violent.

The apostle would seem, by this conclusion, to have reached the end of the whole development begun Romans 14:1. But he has still an explanation to add: If Christ has received us with equal goodness, there has yet been a difference in the mode of this receiving. Unity in the works of God is never uniformity. Rather harmony implies variety. This common adoration, in which all presently existing contrasts in the church are to be fused, does not prevent each group in the new people of God from bringing with it its own experiences, and playing its particular part in the final concert.

Verses 8-10

Vv. 8, 9a. “ Now I say that Christ was made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, but that the Gentiles glorify God for His mercy;

The gracious acceptance which Jesus Christ has given to men has taken place in two principal ways. In His relation to the Jews, God has above all displayed His truth, His fidelity to His ancient promises; in His relation to the Gentiles, He has more particularly manifested His mercy; for, without having promised them anything directly, He has given everything to them as well as to the Jews. And hence it is, that with the voice which rises from the people of Israel to celebrate God's faithfulness, there should henceforth be joined that of the Gentile world magnifying His grace. Such is the meaning of this admirable passage, which extends to Romans 15:13.

The reading γάρ , for, would introduce the demonstration of the προσελάβετο , He received us. But what follows is rather an explanation than a proof; the latter would have been superfluous. We must therefore read λέγω δέ : “ Now, here is my whole thought regarding this receiving on the part of Christ, and the duty of union arising from it.”

What attracts the Jew to Christ is not exactly the same as that which gains for Him the heart of the Gentile. The Jew is struck with the fulfilment of the prophecies in His person (comp. the Gospel of St. Matthew); the heart of the Gentile is taken by the view of His mercy (comp. the Gospel of Luke).

Bauer has thought that the expression: minister of the circumcision, could not be ascribed to the apostle, and that it betrayed a writer disposed to carry concessions to Judaism much further than St. Paul could have done. But what is there in this expression which goes beyond the contents of Galatians 4:4-5: “Born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem them that are under the law”? All the Gospels prove that Jesus submitted to the strictest observance of the law, and that from His circumcision to His death He enveloped Himself as it were in the national form of Israelitish life. It is a gratuitous error of commentators to think that he ever violated the Sabbath, even in His works of healing. He simply freed it from the Pharisaical prescriptions which had greatly exaggerated Sabbatical strictness. And when Paul says, Philippians 2:8: “He became obedient, even to the death of the cross,” he exactly expresses the idea contained in the term with which Baur finds fault. Hilgenfeld himself acknowledges the error of the master of his school on this point: “This passage,” says he, “contains nothing more than was already contained in chap. 11 of our Epistle.”

Several MSS. substitute the aorist γένεσθαι for the perfect γεγενῆσθαι ; erroneously, without doubt, for the fact in question is one which remains forever in its results, as is proved in the sequel.

To establish a promise is to confirm by fulfilling it. Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:19-20, a passage which is, as it were, the exegesis of ours.

Romans 15:9 a The Gentiles, indeed, occupied a place in the prophecies committed to Israel; but God had never promised them anything directly. This circumstance gave to the salvation which was granted to them as well as to the Jews a more marked character of freeness.

The verb δοξάσαι , to glorify, is not an optative, as Hofmann thinks; the change of construction would be too abrupt. It is the aorist infinitive; and this infinitive is not to be regarded as parallel to βεβαιῶσαι , to establish, and consequently as dependent on εἰς , in order to: “in order to confirm the promises..., and in order that the Gentiles might glorify”..., as Meyer thinks. For the work of God for the Gentiles would thus be made dependent on the act by which Jesus became a minister of the law in behalf of the Jews, which, in this passage at least, would have no meaning. The simple construction is to make this infinitive, as well as the preceding γεγενῆσθαι , the object of λέγω , I say: “Now, I say that Jesus became a minister...for the truth of God...; and that the Gentiles glorify [have in Him a cause for glorifying] God for His mercy.” Thus is formed the sublime duet in which there is uttered henceforth the thanksgiving of the entire race.

In support of this idea Paul now quotes a series of O. T. passages which announced the future participation of the Gentiles in the eternal hallelujah.

Vv. 9b, 10. According as it is written, For this cause I will praise Thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto Thy name. And again He saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people.

The first passage quoted is Psalms 18:49: David, victorious over all his enemies, declares that he will make his hymn of thanksgiving resound even in the heathen countries subject to his seeptre, in order to associate these nations in celebrating the work of Jehovah. In the application, Paul starts from the idea that what was accomplished in David's person must be more magnificently realized in that of his antitype the Messiah.

The second passage ( Rom 15:10 ) is found in Deuteronomy 32:43. Moses, in his final hymn, describes Israel's future deliverance and the judgment of their adversaries; then he invites the Gentiles who have escaped punishment to join their song of rejoicing with that of Israel glorified. The apostle follows the version of the LXX. The latter translates from a form of the text which is not that of our Masoretic text, but which has been proved by Kennicott as a variant. According to this reading, the preposition eth ( with) stands before ammo ( His people), which leads to the meaning of the LXX. and of the apostle: “Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people.” If this eth be rejected, as in the ordinary text, we may translate: “Rejoice, ye nations, His people,” either, with De Wette, applying the term nations ( gojim) to the twelve tribes of Israel, or holding, with Aquilas, Theodotion, Ostervald, Hofmann, that it is the Gentiles themselves who are here designated as the people of God. In the sense of De Wette, the application Paul makes of this saying would have no connection with the thought which is really expressed. But this meaning is not admissible, for Moses could not designate the people of Israel as gojim, Gentiles, especially in a song which turns throughout on the antagonism between Israel and the heathen. The second explanation would be possible; it would be in harmony with the object of the apostolic quotation. Only it must be confessed that the idea of the transformation of the Gentiles into God's people has not been so much as hinted by the rest of the song.

Again, it may be translated, as by the Vulgate and Segond: “Nations, praise His people,” or, “Sing the praises of His people.” But is it natural to direct praise to Israel rather than to Jehovah? Besides, Meyer rightly observes that the Hiphil hirenin, to sing, either has no regimen ( Psa 32:11 ), or it is construed with the dative ( Psa 81:1 ).

Lange and others hold yet a different translation: “Gentiles, make His people sing with joy (by turning to the Lord).” Hirenin has really this causative sense, Psalms 65:8. But there is no question here of making Israel rejoice, but of celebrating the glory of Jehovah. If the meaning defended by Hofmann (see above) is inadmissible, it only remains to follow the reading adopted by the LXX., and which has passed into the text of the apostle. The idea of these two quotations, as well as of the two following, is the announcement of the great fact: that a day will come when the Gentiles shall celebrate Jehovah in concert with Israel.

Verses 11-12

Vv. 11, 12. “ And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and let all the peoples laud Him!And again, Isaiah saith, There shall be the root of Jesse, and He that ariseth to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope.

The third passage is taken from Psalms 117:1. This hymn in honor of Jehovah, ascribed to the Gentiles, naturally supposes their conversion and their entrance into the kingdom of God. We prefer the reading ἐπαινεσάτωσαν , let them laud, to the T. R. ἐπαινέσατε , laud ye. The second person is probably a correction after the preceding proposition. The MSS. of the LXX. present the same variant.

Verse 12

Vv. 12. Quotation from Isaiah 11:10. The literal meaning of the Hebrew is: “And in that day there shall be a shoot of Jesse, which shall be set up as a banner for the peoples.”...For the figure of an erected banner, the LXX. have substituted the idea of a person rising up to reign; Paul quotes after them. In meaning it comes to the same thing.

With what emotion does St. Paul refer to all these passages, each of which was the motto, as it were, of his own work among the Gentiles! One understands, in reading such quotations, what he said in Romans 15:4, undoubtedly from his own experience, of the patience and consolation which are kept up in the believer by the daily use of the Scriptures, as well as of the ever new hope which they inspire. This idea of hope is that which is expressed in the prayer uttered Romans 15:13. For this adoration of the Gentiles, to which the four preceding quotations refer, is the fruit not only of the enjoyment of present blessings, but also, and above all, of the hope of future blessings.

Verse 13

Vv. 13. “ Now the God of hope fill you with every kind of joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit!

God is described here as the God of hope, evidently in relation to the last words of the preceding quotation: “In Him shall the Gentiles hope.” The apostle could not more clearly designate his readers as former Gentiles, than he does by this connection.

The richer the possession of present blessings ( peace and joy) which the believer derives by the ever-renewed act of faith ( ἐν τῷ πιστεύειν , literally, by believing), the more does his soul rise to the lively view of future blessings, and according to the expression of the apostle, superabounds or overflows with hope.

The last words: the power of the Holy Spirit, point out to the reader once more, as in Romans 14:17, the true power which they ought to seek, in opposition to the factitious power by which one exalts himself so easily above others. The former unites, for it strives to serve ( Rom 15:1 ), whereas the second disunites.

From the very marked connection of this whole last passage with the apostle's ministry, it forms at once the conclusion of the didactic part of the Epistle to the Romans and the transition to the epistolary conclusion in which Paul proceeds to treat of the present situation of his apostolic work.

The reasons alleged by Baur against the authenticity of the first part of this chapter have appeared to us without force. The spirit of conciliation in regard to Judaism, which Baur judges incompatible with Paul's character, never ceased to be that which inspired his work. It was because he felt the need of keeping up union with the Twelve, that after each of his missions he returned to Jerusalem, “lest,” as he says himself, Galatians 2:2, “he had run in vain.” The collections which he made in the churches of the Gentile world in behalf of the Judeo-Christians of Palestine had the same object. This was also the object of the personal concessions of which he speaks 1 Corinthians 9:21-22, and by which he became “to the weak as weak,” exactly as he recommends to the strong in this passage. Hilgenfeld rightly says: “What is looked upon as not possibly Paul's, to my conviction only proves one thing: that since the days of Marcion there has been formed an inexact idea of the apostle to which it is still sought at the present day to conform the real Paul” ( Einleit. p. 323). It will be seen that this observation applies equally to the criticism of Baur and Lucht in regard to the second part of this chapter.

According to Schultz, it is from Rom 15:7 that the real Epistle to the Romans recommences, to which the whole moral treatise, Rom 12:1 to Romans 15:6, was originally foreign. It would follow therefrom that the wherefore of Rom 15:7 was immediately connected with the end of chap. 11. There is something seductive at first glance in this combination. The mercy shown both to the Gentiles and to the Jews ( Rom 11:32 ) is well adapted to justify the invitation to the mutual receiving spoken of in our Romans 15:7. But it is nevertheless true that this relation is factitious 1st. Because the object of chap. 11 was to justify God's dispensations toward the people of Israel, and not to endeavor the union of Jews and Gentiles in the church; 2d. Because Rom 15:7 is in evident, and we might say literal correlation, not with any saying whatever of chap. 11, but with the first three verses of chap. 14.

Finally, we have an inference to draw from this whole piece, Rom 14:1 to Romans 15:13, as to the composition of the church of Rome. We appropriate the observation of Hilgenfeld, who declares that in this passage, as nowhere else, there is revealed the true composition of this church; but we apply it in a very different sense from his. While confessing, indeed, that Paul is addressing the Roman Christians in a body as strong ( Rom 14:1 and Rom 15:1 ), this critic refuses to conclude therefrom that the majority of the church were Pauline by conviction and Gentile-Christian by origin. How does he escape from this consequence, which is yet so evident? By supposing that Paul expresses himself thus: “as conceiving good hopes of them” that is to say, describing them here not as they are, but as he hopes they will become. This critical subterfuge will deceive no one.

M. Reuss experiences no less embarrassment in view of our passage. In his Histoire des écrits du N. T. he expressed himself thus: “This passage is cleverly turned, so as to make believe that the freer opinion was dominant at Rome, while the contrary was assuredly the case.” Reuss thus ascribed tactics to the apostle unworthy of his character, rather than abandon his preconceived opinion of a Judeo-Christian majority in this church. In his Commentaire sur les épîtres pauliennes he expresses himself somewhat differently: “It is thus evident,” he says, “that the author considers the Christian community of Rome as not being exclusively composed of Jews.” That is certainly very evident, and no one ever denied that there were at Rome other Christians than those of Jewish origin. But this confession is altogether insufficient. Instead of not exclusively, he should have said not essentially, to deal fairly with the text before us. The violent expedient attempted by Mangold, in his desire to evade this conclusion, demonstrates it better than anything else. And when Schultz, acknowledging that the strong are Paulinists, and at the same time that they form the majority in the church, concludes therefrom that the whole passage, Rom 14:1 to Romans 15:6, cannot have been addressed to the church of Rome, seeing that the majority of it was Jewish-Christian, he will allow us to regard this simply as a naive confession of the falsity of the latter opinion, and to conclude by saying, to the contrary effect: As this passage cannot have been written to a Jewish-Christian church, and as it is addressed to the church of Rome, the majority of this church was not Jewish-Christian.

Verses 14-16

Vv. 14, 15. “ Now I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.But brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you, as in some measure to put you in remembrance again of these things, because of the grace that is given to me of God;

The form of address: my brethren, is occasioned by the return to the epistolary style.

By saying: myself also, the apostle hints that the very full instruction which he has given them in this Epistle is not caused by a want of confidence in their Christian attainments; myself: “though my letter might make you suppose the contrary.” This meaning seems to me more natural than that of many commentators who suppose that Paul means: “I, as well as others,” or: “without needing any one to remind me of what you are.”

The καὶ αὐτοί , ye also, is certainly authentic, notwithstanding the omission of the words by the Greco-Latins; the meaning is: “you to whom I am thus writing.” The qualities on which the apostle rests this favorable judgment are at once of a moral and intellectual nature. They are full of goodness, ἀγαθωσύνή ; this word denotes practical solidity, the full maturity of spiritual life; then they possess in abundance every kind of Christian knowledge, πᾶσα γνῶσις . We may remark the difference between this testimony and the eulogium passed on the Corinthians (1st Eph 1:5 ), where Paul brings out only this second sort of gifts ( knowledge and speech).

From these two kinds of qualities it followed that there was among them the capacity for providing in a certain measure for their own edification and their mutual instruction. The true reading is άλλήλους , one another, and not as it is in one Mj. and the Syriac version, ἄλλους , others. The καί , also or even, which accompanies this pronoun, means: even among yourselves, without the help of any master from without. There is nothing in the expressions of this verse which goes beyond what the apostle could say with all sincerity, nor anything to support the judgment of Baur: that these sayings are the work of a later writer, who, seeing the bad effect produced by this letter on the Judeo-Christians of Rome, sought to soothe them by adding these chaps. 15 and 16. The apostle might well think the church of Rome very advanced in all respects, without its following that a letter like this was a work of supererogation. He himself ( Rom 1:8 ) gave thanks for the faith of his readers, “which is spoken of throughout the whole world;” and if the terms which he uses in our verse could not be applied fully to all the individuals composing the church, they were nevertheless strictly true when applied to the church as a whole; for, as chap. 16 will show, it possessed a very great abundance of teachers and evangelists who could carry out within it the functions of instruction and admonition.

Vv. 15. The δέ is adversative: but; nevertheless; and the comparative τολμηρότερον , more boldly, is explained precisely by this contrast with Romans 15:1: “more freely than it seemed I should do in the case of such a church.” The repetition of the form of address: brethren, is perfectly natural in these conditions; it expresses anew the feeling of equality with which the apostle loves to approach them.

In the explanation of what follows, everything depends on the grammatical meaning and construction of ἀπὸ μέρους , which we have translated by: in some measure, and which literally signifies: in part. Some refer this restriction to the verb: I wrote you (Meyer, for example), and apply it solely to some particularly forcible passages of the letter, such as Romans 11:17-25, Romans 12:2, Rom 14:1 et seq. But what is there in these passages so different from the rest of the Epistle, and which should have called forth a special apology? Hofmann refers this “in part” to what is fragmentary in the teaching of the Epistle to the Romans. But in no letter does Paul give a statement of evangelic doctrine which less deserves to be called fragmentary. It is impossible to get an appropriate meaning for ἀπὸ μέρους , in part, except by referring this restriction to ἐπαναμιμνήσκων , putting you in remembrance, and applying it, not to the extent and contents of the teaching, as if the readers had had certain parts of the truth present to their mind, and not others, but to the mode of giving instruction. The apostle has written to them, not with the view of teaching them things that were new to them, but to bring back to their memory, in a way not to be forgotten, things which he knew to be already known to them to a certain degree. Thus is explained the ὡς , as; it is much more as reminding than as instructing them that he has written. He wished to treat them not as catechumens, but as Christians and brethren.

And if he has taken the liberty of acting thus toward them, it is not arbitrarily and at his own hand, it is in virtue of the mission which he has received and of the gift which has been bestowed on him in order to its fulfilment. Such is the meaning of the διὰ τὴν χάριν , on account of the grace, an expression which we must beware of rendering “ through the grace,” which is forbidden by the regimen in the accusative. The thing referred to, as is shown by the following verse, is his commission as apostle of the Gentiles, which he has only been obeying by writing thus to the church of Rome. Thus he apologizes for his letter: (1) By declaring that he wished merely to remind his readers of what they already knew; and (2) by tracing his right of acting thus to the apostleship which he has received. There is room for hesitating between the two readings, υπό , “ by God,” and ἀπό , “ on the part of God.” The former is perhaps preferable in the context, as denoting a more direct divine interposition.

The right understanding of these two verses suffices to set aside Baur's view regarding the entire Epistle to the Romans. According to this critic, the apostle aimed at nothing less than to bring over the church from the Judeo-Christian legal standpoint to his own evangelical conception. Now, to say that all he did was only to bring back to the memory of his readers what they already knew, would, if such had been his aim, be an act of gross hypocrisy; to make one change his opinion is not to remind him of what he knows. It is true that Baur has sought to give a quite different meaning to the expression: “as putting you in mind.” He applies it, not to the contents of the Epistle, but solely to the communications which are about to follow regarding the work which Paul has accomplished in the world. But such is not the natural meaning of the word ἔγραψα , I have written unto you; and the restriction: ἀπὸ μέρους , in part, no longer in that case admits of explanation. It is with good reason that Mangold himself declares that it is impossible to found a hypothesis on exegetical processes of such violence.

Verses 14-23

Twenty-ninth Passage (15:14-33). Personal Explanations.

This passage is intended to convey to the minds of his readers full light as to the apostle's conduct toward them. These explanations relate first to this letter itself.

Verses 14-33

Epistolary Conclusion. 15:14-16:27.

WE have said that the Epistle to the Romans is a didactic treatise, doctrinal and practical, contained in a letter. The treatise is now closed, and the letter begins again. It is easy to show, indeed, that the part about to follow is closely correlated to the epistolary preface which preceded the treatise ( Rom 1:1-15 ). The apostle apologizes for the liberty with which he writes to the Christians of Rome, by reminding them of his mission to the Gentiles ( Rom 15:14-16 ). This passage corresponds to Romans 1:14-15, where he declares himself a debtor for the gospel to all Gentiles, the Romans included. He explains ( Rom 15:17-24 ) what has kept him hitherto in the east. Thus he completes what he had said, Romans 1:11-13, of the impossibility he had before found in the way of visiting Rome. The personal salutations which we find in the first part of chap. 16 correspond to the address, Romans 1:7: “To all that are at Rome, beloved of God.” Finally, the doxology which closes at once chap. 16 and the whole Epistle ( Rom 15:25-27 ) brings us back to the idea with which the letter had opened ( Rom 1:1-2 ): that of the fulfilment of the divine plan by the gospel promised beforehand in the O. T. Thus the circle is completed; on every other view (whether the end of the Epistle be put at chap. 11 or at chap. 14) it is broken.

This conclusion contains the following passages:

(1) Romans 15:14-33, where the apostle gives explanations of a personal nature regarding his letter, his work in general, his approaching visit to Rome, and the journey which he must first make to Jerusalem.

(2) Romans 16:1-16: Recommendations and salutations of the apostle.

(3) Romans 15:17-20: A warning in regard to the probable arrival of Judaizers in the church of Rome.

(4) Romans 15:21-24: The salutations of his fellow-workers.

(5) Romans 15:25-27: The doxology which closes the Epistle.

Verse 16

Vv. 16. “ That I should be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest in the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

The grace of apostleship had been given to Paul for the accomplishment of a sublime task. The word λειτουργός denotes a public functionary. In this case the function involved is nothing less than presenting to God the Gentile world as an offering which may be acceptable to Him. This world-wide service to which Jesus Christ Himself had called St. Paul was not only that of a preacher, it had a priestly character. This is certainly what is expressed by the term ἱερουργεῖν (see Meyer): “to offer as a priest;” not that the preacher of the gospel is in any sense a mediator who comes between God and the believer; but his function does not consist in simple teaching; each time it is an act of consecration whereby the messenger of salvation offers to God his own person as well as the persons of all his hearers. We know how Paul prayed constantly for the churches which he had already founded (comp. Romans 1:8-10, and the beginning of all the Epistles), and we can thus imagine what the work of their founding was. Thus was his whole apostolate a priestly function. In the expression: “to fulfil sacerdotally (minister) the gospel of God,” we must understand, here as elsewhere (see on Rom 1:8 ), by “the gospel,” not the contents, but the act of preaching.

The end of this priestly office confided to the apostle is to transform the world of the Gentiles into an offering well-pleasing to God. Comp. Philippians 2:17. Τῶν ἐθνῶν , of the Gentiles, is a genitive of apposition: the offering which consists of the persons of the Gentiles. The verb γένηται , might be ( become), indicates progress; this progress does not consist only in the growing extension of the work; but also, and especially, as is shown by the following words, in the transformation of those who are its subjects: being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. The word of salvation received with faith must be sealed in the heart by power from on high, that the soul may be truly gained, and that it may belong to God; comp. Ephesians 1:13. The apostle probably alludes to the Levitical ordinance, according to which the sprinkling of salt over the meat-offering was the condition of its acceptance on the part of God.

If it is true, according to the natural meaning of these Romans 15:14-16, that the apostle justifies his Epistle to the Romans by his commission to be the apostle of the Gentiles, it clearly follows that the majority of the Christians of Rome were of Gentile origin. The defenders of the Jewish-Christian composition of this church have had to seek to parry this decisive blow. They have tried to do so in two ways. Mangold explains these verses in this sense: “I have required, as apostle of the Gentiles, to express myself more than once in this letter more forcibly than seemed fitting in addressing Jewish-Christians like you; but I had to uphold the rights of those of whom God made me the apostle.” But what is there to give us the right to restrict the application of the word τολμηρότερον , more boldly, to a few passages of the Epistle relative to the calling of the Gentiles? This expression bears on the character of the entire writing as a doctrinal composition; this is shown by the connection of Rom 15:15 with Romans 15:14. Filled with knowledge, as the Romans were, they seemed to have no need of this complete instruction. Then the description of Paul's apostolate, from Rom 15:16 to Romans 15:20, proves that we have here the positive indication of the motive which led him to write this Epistle, and not only the justification of some passages of his letter. Weizsäcker correctly observes that the apostle explains his letter by the duty which his task of providing for the edification of the Gentiles imposed on him, and not by the right which he has to uphold their cause before Jewish-Christians.

Volkmar, who pursues the same object as Mangold, has attempted another explanation: “I do not forget, Paul would say, that I am only the apostle of the Gentiles, and I have no thought, in writing you as I do, to intrude on a church which does not belong to me, since it is of Jewish-Christian origin; and that is the very reason which has prevented me hitherto from visiting you, for my intention is not to build on a foundation laid by another; but now that I have no more place in the countries of the east, I am about to proceed to Spain, and I shall see you in passing” ( Rom 15:17-24 ). This construction is ingenious, but impossible. The διὰ τὴν χάριν , “ because of the grace given unto me,” depending on ἔγραψα , I have written unto you, is absolutely opposed to it; and in what follows the apostle does not for a moment say that he has not yet visited Rome because of the Judeo-Christian character of the church, but that he has not done so because he was still detained in the east by nearer duties. Whether the founders of the church of Rome were or were not Judeo-Christians, whether the believers gathered in by them were or were not of this character, the apostle makes no allusion to this side of the question; a proof that it was not this which concerned his inference.

Lucht has attempted to find a proof of unauthenticity in the absence of the title apostle, Romans 15:16. The forger sought, he holds, by avoiding this title, to spare the susceptibilities of the Jewish-Christians of Rome. But, answers Hilgenfeld, “If the word is not there, the thing is.” And, in fact, Rom 15:16 is nothing else than the paraphrase of the term: apostle of the Gentiles. And if Paul has here preferred the paraphrase to the title itself, it is because it was much more suitable than the latter to explain the course which he had followed in writing such a letter to this church which he had not founded, and which he did not even yet know.

As to this mission to the Gentile world with which he has been invested, God has crowned it with such successes that it is now finished in the east, and that it only remains to the apostle to continue it in the west, which will lead him next to Rome. Such are the contents of the following verses, Romans 15:17-24, the somewhat free connection of which with what precedes is not hard to understand.

Verses 17-19

Vv. 17-19. “ I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in the service of God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and by deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit of God;so that from Jerusalem, and the countries round about, as far as Illyria, I have accomplished [the preaching of] the gospel of Christ.

Therefore: in virtue of that weighty commission by which I have felt myself authorized to write you as I have done. If we read the article τήν before καύχησιν , “ the glorying,” the meaning is: “I have therefore this cause of glorying (that of being Christ's minister to the Gentiles).” But the last words: in the service of God, are thus made superfluous. The article must therefore be rejected; the meaning is this: “I have truly occasion to glory in what concerns the service of God.” The expression τὰ πρὸς Θεόν , literally, “what concerns God,” is a sort of technical phrase in the Jewish liturgical language to denote the functions of worship (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 5:1, etc.). This term therefore belongs to the same order of ideas as all those of the preceding verse ( ἱερουργεῖν , λειτουργός , προσφορά , ἡγιασμένη ).

The words: through Jesus Christ, soften the too startling force which the term glorying might have. This verse, while recalling the work already done by Paul in God's service, completes the justification of what Paul had called the τολμηρότερον , the somewhat bold character of his conduct. Nothing assuredly could have a more authentic character than such a passage.

This Rom 15:17 is at the same time the transition to what follows. As a confirmation of his apostolic mission to the Gentiles, Paul expounds the extraordinary results which he has obtained (1) from the viewpoint of the nature of the work, Romans 15:18-19 a; (2) from the viewpoint of the extension of the work accomplished, Romans 15:19 b

Vv. 18. The words: “I will not dare to speak of any of those things,” signify, according to Meyer and others, that to exalt himself he will not take the liberty of inventing facts which Christ had not really wrought by him. But did this odious supposition need to be denied? Such a defence of his veracity might be in place in the Epistles to the Corinthians, but not in that to the Romans. Besides, the expression τι ὧν , any of the things which, naturally refers only to real facts. To designate fictitious facts, he must have used, not τι ὧν , but τι ὅ , anything which. Finally, all the following qualifications: “ for the obedience..., by word and by deed ”..., can be applied only to real facts. Hofmann thinks Paul means that he will not take advantage here of any other grounds of glorying than those which enter into the service of Christ; that he will omit, for example, all those he enumerates ( Php 3:4 et seq.). But in that case the subject Χριστός , Christ, should be at the head of the proposition. And what motive could the apostle have to allude in this passage to the advantages which he might have possessed before being a Christian? The only possible meaning of these words: I will not dare, is this: “It would imply some hardihood on my part to indicate a single mark of apostleship whereby God has not deigned to set His seal on my ministry to the Gentiles.” It is a very delicate form of saying, that it would be easier to convict him of falsehood in the signs of apostolic power which he might omit in speaking of his work, than in those which he enumerates here. This: I will not dare, is, as it were, the acme of the καύχησις , of that glorying of which he spoke in Romans 15:17. It would be vain for him to seek a divine manifestation which Christ has not wrought by him; he would not discover it. This mode of speaking does not come of boastfulness; it is the expression of a holy jealousy in behalf of the Gentiles, that domain which God has assigned him, and which He has privileged by the apostleship of Paul, no less than the Jewish world has been by the apostleship of the Twelve; comp. 2 Corinthians 12:11-12.

In the expression: by word, are embraced all his teachings, public and private; and in the expression: by deed, his labors, journeys, collections, sufferings, sacrifices of all kinds, and even miracles, though these are mentioned afterward as a category by themselves.

The expression: the power of signs, is explained by Meyer in this sense: “the power (my power over men) arising from signs.” It seems to me more natural to understand: “the (divine) power breaking forth in signs.” Miraculous facts are called signs in relation to the meaning which God attaches to them and which men ought to see in them, and wonders ( τέρας ) in relation to nature and its laws, on the regular basis of which the miracle is an inroad.

The power of the Spirit may designate the creative virtue inherent in this divine breath; but here the complement seems to me to be the person of Paul: “the power with which the Spirit fills me.”

It is better to read, with the T. R., the Spirit of God than the Holy Spirit (with 6 Mjj.), for it is force that is in question rather than holiness.

In the second part of the verse Paul passes from the nature of his activity to the extent of the results obtained. The latter is the effect of the former; hence the ὥστε , so that. For the previous subject, Christ, there is substituted the personal pronoun I, because in the act of preaching it is the human agent who is in view. There has been found (by Hofmann and others) in the word κύκλῳ , in a circle, an indication of the course followed by the apostle in his work of evangelizing, to the effect that Paul did not proceed from Jerusalem to Illyria by a straight line, but by describing a vast ellipse. This idea is far from natural, and would have a shade of boastfulness. It is much simpler to understand the word in a circle (or with its surroundings) as intended to widen the point of departure indicated by the word Jerusalem: “Jerusalem, with the surrounding countries.” In fact, it was strictly at Damascus, then in Arabia, that Paul had begun to evangelize. But Jerusalem being the point best known to western Christians, he names only this capital.

If we refuse, with Meyer, to give to the word εὐαγγέλιον the meaning of preaching of the gospel, it is impossible to find a natural meaning here for the word πληροῦν , to fill. To translate, with Luther: “to fill every place with the gospel,” is contrary to grammar. Meyer understands: to give the gospel its full development (by spreading it everywhere). But one feels how forced this manner of expression would be in this sense. We have only to represent to ourselves the act of preaching the gospel in the east as a task to be fulfilled or an ideal to be reached, and the meaning of πληροῦν becomes clear. It is in this same sense that we have seen πλήρωμα νόμου signify the fulfilment of the law, Romans 13:10. Baur has here found manifest exaggeration, and therein a sign of unauthenticity. But it is clear that Paul was not claiming to have finished the work of preaching in relation to the small towns and country districts of the lands he had evangelized. He regarded his apostolic task as entirely fulfilled when he had lighted the torch in the great centres, such as Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus. That done, he reckoned on the churches founded in those capitals continuing the evangelization of the provinces. The same critic has pronounced the fact here mentioned of the apostle's preaching in Illyria to be inadmissible. None of the apostle's journeys known to us had led him into this “rude and inhospitable country.” The rudeness of a country did not arrest St. Paul. From the fact that this mission is not mentioned in the Book of Acts, must it be concluded that it is a fable? But this book does not speak of the three years passed by Paul in Arabia, according to Galatians 1:17; must it therefore be concluded that the statement is false, and that the Epistle to the Galatians is unauthentic? A forger would have taken good care, on the contrary, not to implicate himself in other facts of the apostle's life than those which were generally known. Besides, what is there improbable in the statement that during the time which elapsed from his leaving Ephesus (Pentecost 57 or 58) till his arrival at Corinth (December 58) the apostle, who spent that time in Macedonia, should have made an excursion to the shores of the Adriatic? For that only a few days were needed. The Book of Acts is not at all intended to relate in detail the life of Peter or of Paul.

Verses 20-21

Vv. 20, 21. “ And that while making it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: but as it is written, They to whom nothing was said of Him shall see Him; and they that have not heard shall know Him.

To confirm the reality of his apostleship to the Gentiles, Paul has referred to the successes with which his activity thus far has been crowned in the east; and now, to pass to the idea of his fnture work in the west and of his visit to Rome, he recalls the principle by which he has always been guided in the direction of his labors. The participle φιλοτιμούμενον has something of the force of a gerund: while making it my ambition. The reading φιλοτιμοῦμαι , I make it my ambition, must be unhesitatingly rejected; for the apostle does not mean here to express a new idea, but merely to define the manner of his procedure in the work to the goal of which he is now approaching. The term φιλοτιμεῖσθαι should not be generalized in the sense of: to strive or bind myself to; it must be kept in its strict sense: to esteem it a matter of honor. Not that Paul sought his personal honor in the method followed by him: what he was concerned about was his apostolic dignity. An apostle is not a simple pastor or evangelist; his mission is, as Paul himself says, 1 Corinthians 3:10, to “ lay the foundation” on which others after him may build, consequently to preach where others have not yet come. Paul might have said: “to preach the gospel where Christ has not yet been named,” but he prefers to give his expression a still more negative turn, and to say more precisely: “to preach the gospel, not where He has been named.” He wishes to preach the gospel, but not where any one has done so before him.

Vv. 21. This conduct rested, as we have just said, on the exalted feeling which he had of the apostolic mission; and, moreover, he found, as it were, the programme for it in a prophetical saying, Isaiah 52:15. The prophet speaks here of the Gentile kings and peoples to whom the declaration of the Messiah's work shall come for the first time.

The expression: “as it is written,” depends, as in Romans 15:3, on a verb understood: “ but doing as it is written.” Volkmar here finds proof of the Jewish-Christian character of the church of Rome, since this church is to Paul like a foreign domain on which he has denied himself the satisfaction of entering. Weizsäcker shows indeed that Paul's words contain nothing of the kind; for what he says refers in general to every church not founded by him, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin. But it may be questioned if Paul is even alluding to the reason which has kept him hitherto from visiting Rome. Does not Paul by this digression, Romans 15:20-21, simply mean to say that so long as there still remained unevangelized countries in the east, it was his duty to remain in that part of the world? In Romans 15:22-24, he calls to mind that now circumstances are changed, and that the application of the same principle which had hitherto detained him in the east, henceforth impels him to the west, which will bring him at the same time to Rome.

Baur has asked, if to write a letter of so considerable compass as this to a Jewish-Christian church not founded by him, was not to build on the foundation laid by another? We first remove from the objection the word Jewish-Christian; then we call to mind that the founders of the church of Rome were chiefly disciples of St. Paul, who came from churches founded by him in the east; and finally, we cannot put on the same footing a letter written by Paul, and his personal intervention as a preacher. He wrote to the Colossians and the Laodiceans, though he had not personally founded and known those churches ( Col 2:1 ). It is precisely for this reason that in beginning his Epistle ( Rom 1:1-7 ), and then again in closing it ( Rom 15:16 ), he has referred to his mission to the Gentiles which imposes on him duties to all churches of Gentile origin.

Verses 22-24

Vv. 22-24. “ From which cause also I have been hindered often from coming to you; but now, having no more place in these regions, and having a great desire for many years to come unto you, when I take my journey unto Spain, I trust to see you in passing, and to be brought on my way thither ward by you, if first I have somewhat satisfied the need I have of seeing you.

The “for which cause also” might be connected with Rom 15:20-21 in this sense: because I still found parts in the east where Christ had not been preached. But Rom 15:20-21 may also be regarded as a disgression, and the “for which cause” connected with the idea of Romans 15:19. The immense labor to which Paul had to give himself to preach the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyria has not allowed him to carry out his often formed project of going to preach it at Rome ( Rom 1:13 ).

The imperfect ἐνεκοπτόμην is the true reading. It is an imperfect of duration: “Ever and again I was hindered.” Τὰ πολλά might signify: by many things; but it is more natural to understand it in the sense: many times, like πολλάκις , which is read by the Vatic. and the Greco-Lats.

Verses 23-24

Vv. 23, 24. Yet, agreeably to the principle expounded Romans 15:20-21, his journey to Rome will not, strictly speaking, be a mission, but rather a visit as it were in passing, for the church already exists in this capital. When, Acts 19:21, Paul at Ephesus was forming his plans for the future, it indeed was to Rome that he wished to proceed; but afterward he had no doubt heard of the foundation of a church in that city, and therefore he now no longer says: to Rome, but: to Spain by way of Rome. The unevangelized country, Spain, is the goal (the εἰς ); Rome is now only the way (the διά ). Yet it would be easy to go directly by sea from Asia to Spain. But this is what he will take good care not to do, for he hungers and thirsts to enter into personal communication with the Christians of Rome, and he will make a detour to visit them in passing. Such is the perfectly obvious meaning of these two verses.

The text of Rom 15:24 comes to us in three forms. The T. R. and the Byzs. read after the words: “into Spain,” a principal clause: “ I will come to you; ” which leads them to add a for with the following verb: “ for I trust.” The clause is simple, the sense clear; only these words: I will come to you, are wanting in the documents of the two other texts.

The Alex. is much less intelligible. It begins at Rom 15:23 with two participles: “having no more place...but having the desire”...; then it continues with a subordinate proposition: “when I shall go into Spain;” and instead of the principal verb expected, it closes by saying: “for I hope to see you in passing”...; and in Romans 15:25: “now then I go to Jerusalem.” There would be but one way of justifying this text, to make a long parenthesis from: for I trust, to the end of the verse, and to find the principal verb on which the two participles of Rom 15:23 depend in Romans 15:25: “now I go to Jerusalem.” But this would require us to reject the δέ , but or now, at the beginning of Romans 15:25, contrary to the authority of all the documents; then, there is no logical relation between the idea of these two participles: having no more place, having the desire to come to you, and the verb: I go to Jerusalem. To render this reading admissible, it is absolutely necessary to reject the γάρ , for, after ἐλπίζω , I trust, and thus to make this the principal verb.

This is precisely what is done by the Greco-Lat. reading, which is supported by the ancient Syriac version. This is not the only time that the Greco-Latin text has the superiority over the other two. We have already met with some similar cases in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 13:1, for example), and we beg the reader specially to compare 1 Corinthians 9:10, which is not intelligible except in the form preserved by the Greco-Latin documents. The meaning which we get by means of this text is faultless: “Having no more place..., but having the desire to see you..., when I go into Spain, I hope to see you in passing.”

The διά in διαπορευόμενος alludes to the idea that Rome will only be a place of rest and passage; the reason of this has been explained. The church is already founded there.

The verb προπεμφθῆναι , to be conducted farther, contains these two ideas: to be accompanied by some of theirs, and to be provided with everything necessary for the journey; comp. Tit 3:13 and 3 John 1:6.

The reading ὑφ᾿ ὑμῶν , by you, which contains the idea of the solicitude of the Romans about Paul, is much to be preferred to the reading ἀφ᾿ ὑμῶν , from among you, which makes the church only a point of departure. ᾿Εκεῖ , the adverb of rest, is used, as it often is, instead of ἐκεῖσε , the adverb of motion; the goal is considered as reached: “to go thither and be there. ” Comp. John 11:8. ᾿Εμπλησθῆναι , literally to saturate himself with them, a very lively expression of the need he feels to make their personal acquaintance, and of the pleasure which this relation will bring him; comp. Romans 1:12. The word somewhat is not a poor compliment which he pays to the Romans, as if he meant to say that his stay among them will only half satisfy him; Paul means, on the contrary, that he will never see them enough to satisfy completely the want he feels of spiritual communion with them.

Baur suspects this whole passage, for the reason that this journey to Spain is a pure fiction; a notion, the realization of which is wholly without attestation. But the Fragment of Muratori says expressly: “the departure of Paul, setting out from Rome to Spain.” For the very reason, answers Hilgenfeld, that this journey never took place, a forger would not have mentioned it. And without examining the question of fact, how is it possible to prove that Paul could not have formed such a project, which corresponded so well with his noble ambition, even though he had not been able to realize it?

But before setting out for the west, the apostle has yet a task to fulfil; he proposes to seal by a solemn act the union between the two portions of the church in that part of the world which he is about to leave. Such is the object of a last visit which he yet reckons on making to Jerusalem. He must transmit to the mother church of Jerusalem, on behalf of the churches of Greece, the fruits of a collection which they have made spontaneously for it. The apostle is concerned to inform the Christians of Rome on this point, not only because this journey will detain him some time yet in the east, but especially because it may involve him in dangers, and because he has a request to address to them in this relation. Such are the perfectly natural contents of the end of the chapter.

Verses 25-27

Vv. 25-27. “ But now I go unto Jerusalem ministering unto the saints. For it hath seemed good to them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. For it hath seemed good to them, and verily their debtors they are; for if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they ought also to minister unto them in carnal things.

The νυνὶ δέ , but now, does not contrast, as that of Rom 15:22 did, his approaching journey to Rome with certain anterior obstacles; the matter in question now is a near hindrance which still retards his visit to Rome. The word διακονῶν , putting myself at the service of (ministering), shows that the apostle is referring to a task which is sacred in his eyes. The participle present διακονῶν is preferable to the participle future or to the infinitive aorist: “in order to serve,” which is read by some documents. For the service is not only the object of the journey; it consists of the journey itself.

Verse 26

Vv. 26. The expression: the saints, characterizes the church of Jerusalem as the most venerable of Christendom; comp. 1 Corinthians 16:1. But it is not to all the church, it is the most indigent of its members, that this service is destined. The idea has often been advanced, that the cause of the poverty of so large a number of believers at Jerusalem was the community of goods which is thought to have prevailed at the origin of this church. This is to exaggerate and mistake the import of the facts related in the narrative of the Acts on this subject. The state of things is quite naturally explained in the following way. From the beginning, the preaching of Christ found but little access except to the poorer classes; “Blessed are the poor,” said Jesus ( Luk 6:20 ). The indigence of those first believers must have been increased day by day by the violent hatred of the Jewish authorities and of the upper classes; comp. James 2:4-6. What easier for rich and powerful families than to deprive poor artisans, who had become the objects of their reprobation, of their means of subsistence! This is an event which is reproduced everywhere when there is a transition from one religious form to another; so in Catholic countries where Protestantism is preached; among the Jews, among the heathen of India or China, etc., when one of their own becomes a Christian. Thus are naturally explained the meals in common (the service of tables) to which the whole church was invited in the first times, the collection made at Antioch ( Act 11:29 ) in behalf of the church of Jerusalem, and the request which the apostles addressed to Paul and Barnabas, Galatians 2:10. Κοινωνία , strictly communion, and hence material communication so far as it arises from communion of hearts; comp. Hebrews 13:16. The word τινά , “ some communication,” brings out with delicacy the free and at the same time accidental character of this collection, both as to the thing in itself and as to its amount. It is the churches which have spontaneously taxed themselves for this purpose. It is surprising that Paul speaks only of the churches of Greece, for Act 20:4 and 1Co 16:1 put beyond doubt the participation of the churches of Asia and Galatia.

Verse 27

Vv. 27. The repetition of the: “it seemed good to them,” emphasizes still more forcibly the free-will of the churches in this course. They felt themselves impelled to pay this homage to the church from which the gift of salvation had come to them; they even judged that it was a small matter to act thus in a lower domain in behalf of those to whom they owed blessings of an infinitely more precious nature. Paul evidently enlarges thus on this subject, not only to praise the churches of Greece, or with the view of leading the church of Rome immediately to carry out a similar work, but with the intention of awaking in the hearts of his hearers the feeling of a duty which they shall also have the opportunity of fulfilling some time or other. After this episode Paul returns to his principal subject.

Verses 28-29

Vv. 28-29. “ When, therefore, I have accomplished this and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by you unto Spain. Now I know that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.

The term σφραγίζεσθαι , to seal, has been understood here in many ways. Erasmus explained it thus: “when I have delivered to them this money well enclosed and sealed.” This meaning is grammatically impossible, and the idea is rather vulgar. Theodoret thought Paul was alluding to the duly signed and sealed receipt which should be given him by the receivers to be transmitted to the donors. But the αὐτοῖς , to them, can only apply to the former, while in this sense it would require to refer to the latter. Hofmann applies the idea of the seal to the signed and sealed deed by which the churches of Greece charged Paul to take to Jerusalem the deputies who were bearers of the collection. But how could all that be included in the simple expression: to seal? The term σφραγίζεσθαι is frequently taken in a metaphorical sense: to keep closed, to keep secret, attest, confirm, consent. It is in this wide sense that it must be explained here. The word denotes the delivery officially and in due form of the sum collected. We can see, Acts 21:18, how Paul, arrived at Jerusalem, repaired to the assembly of the elders called together in the house of James, as to a solemn reception. It was then no doubt that the letter of commission from the churches was communicated, with the sums accompanying it, and that a receipt duly signed was given by the elders.

Paul declares that this formality once accomplished, he will haste to take up his project of a journey to the west ( Rom 15:29 ); and if things can be so brought about, he is perfectly sure of the happiness he will enjoy among his brethren of the church of Rome. Would a forger, writing in the apostle's name in the second century, have made him pen a plan of the future so different from the way in which things really fell out?

The Greco-Latin reading πληροφορία , instead of πληρώματι ( fulness), is evidently erroneous; for this word signifies only “fulness of conviction,” a meaning which does not suit the context. The words τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τοῦ , of the gospel of (Christ), in the Byz. documents, must be regarded as an interpolation, unless we choose to explain their omission in the other Mjj. by the four terminations in ου which follow one another consecutively.

The more assured the mind of the apostle is when it is turned to Rome, the more does disquiet take possession of his heart when he thinks of Jerusalem.

Verses 30-33

Vv. 30-32. “ Now I exhort you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me before God for me in your prayers, that I may be delivered from the disobedient in Judea, and that this aid which I have for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; that coming with joy among you by the will of God, I may with you find rest.

The δέ might be adversative ( but); it would thus express the contrasted impressions which we have just indicated. But it is better to take it simply as progressive: now. The form of address: brethren, which the Vatic. wrongly rejects, makes a pressing appeal to the sympathy of the readers. This appeal is addressed in the name of Christ Himself, whom Paul serves, then of the affection by which he feels himself bound to the Romans by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The love of the Spirit is opposed to that which exists between persons who know one another personally; “who have seen my face in the flesh,” as Paul himself says, Colossians 2:1 (in opposition to Rom 1:8 ).

The request so solemnly prefaced is one for a common struggle; for there are hostile powers to be combated ( Rom 15:31 ). The two phrases: for me (in my behalf) and before God, are often joined to the substantive προσευχαῖς : “your prayers for me before God. But would not the regimen before God connected with the word prayers be superfluous, and would not the expression your prayers for me imply a thing which Paul has no right to assume: viz. that they make prayer for him continually? The two regimens, therefore, depend rather on the verb strive. To strive before God, whose arm can alone cover the apostle in this journey with an impenetrable buckler; and by your prayers, since they are the efficacious means of moving this almighty arm.

The phrase: with me, reminds the Romans how he is himself striving for the same end.

Vv. 31. The enemies to be removed are, above all, the unbelieving Jews. It is to them the first that refers; the second intimates that there are other adversaries within the church itself; they are “those thousands of Jews who have believed,” Acts 21:20-21, and who have been filled with prejudices against Paul's person and work. All those hearts must be prepared by God Himself to receive well the offering which is about to be brought them. The reading δωροφορία ( offering of a present) instead of διακονία ( service), in the Vatic. and the Greco-Lats., seems to me probable enough, considering the rareness of the expression.

The kind of anxiety which breathes throughout this whole passage is in keeping with the painful presentiments felt by all the churches about this journey to Jerusalem, and which found utterance shortly afterward by the mouth of the prophets wherever Paul stopped (Acts 20:22-23; Act 21:4 et seq., 11 et seq.).

Vv. 32. If with א A C we read: “ that coming ( ἐλθών )... I may find rest ( συναναπαύσωμαι ),” the two clauses: with joy and by the will of God, might refer to the principal verb: “that I may find rest.” But it seems to me that this relation is unnatural, for the idea of joy is already contained in that of finding rest, and the will of God more naturally determines the matter of arriving than that of resting. It is therefore preferable to apply these two clauses to the idea of coming. Of the two readings ἐλθών or ἐλθω ... καί , the former is more in keeping with the simplicity of the apostle's style; the latter, more elegant, seems to be an Alexandrine correction.

We think we see the apostle, after happily finishing his mission in Palestine, embarking full of joy and guided by the will of God, then arriving at Rome there to rest his weary heart among his brethren in the joy of the common salvation, and to recover new strength for a new work.

The reading “By the will of God ” is preferable to all the others: Paul ordinarily rises to God whenever the subject involved is providential dispensations.

Vv. 33. “ The God of peace be with you all! Amen.

The apostle's heart seems constrained, in proportion as he approaches the end, to transform every particular subject he touches into a prayer or request. The special prayer contained in this verse is suggested to him by his conviction of the hostilities and dangers lying before himself, and by the need of soon being in full peace in the midst of his readers.

The authenticity of the word ἀμήν , amen, is doubtful. It is found, no doubt, in most of the Mjj., but it is wanting in three of them, and it is easier to explain its addition by copyists than its omission.

The authenticity of Rom 15:30-33 is acknowledged by Lucht. Volkmar admits only that of Romans 15:33, adding the first two verses of chap. 16. We have seen how little weight belongs to the objections raised by Baur and those critics to the authenticity of chap. 15 in general; we have not therefore to return to them. As to the opinions formerly given out by Semler and Paulus, according to which this whole chapter is only a particular leaf intended by the apostle either for the persons saluted in chap. 16, or for the most enlightened members of the church of Rome, they are now abandoned. The apostle was no friend of religious aristocracies, as we have seen in chap. 12; and he would have done nothing to favor such a tendency. Besides, what is there in this chapter which could not be read with advantage by the whole church? We have proved the intimate connection between the first part of the chapter and the subject treated in chap. 14, as well as the connection between the second part and the Epistle as a whole, more particularly the preface, Romans 1:1-15. The style and ideas are in all points in keeping with what one would expect from the pen of Paul. As Hilgenfeld says: “It is impossible in this offhand way to reject chaps. 15 and 16; the Epistle to the Romans cannot have closed with Romans 14:23, unless it remained without a conclusion.” M. Reuss expresses himself to the same effect, and we have pleasure in quoting the following lines from him in closing this subject: “The lessons contained in the first half of the text (chap. 15) are absolutely harmonious with those of the previous chapter, and of the parallel passages of other Epistles, and the statement of the apostle's plans is the most natural expression of his mind and antecedents, as well as the reflection of the situation of the moment. There is not the slightest trace of the aim of a forged composition, nor certainly of the possibility that the Epistle closed with chap. 14.”

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Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 15". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/romans-15.html.