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The Apostle Paul
When Paul and the other Apostles were called to enter upon their important duties, the world was in a deplorable and yet most interesting state. Both Heathenism and Judaism were in the last stages of decay. The polytheism of the Greeks and Romans had been carried to such an extent as to shock the common sense of mankind, and to lead the more intelligent among them openly to reject and ridicule it. This skepticism had already extended itself to the mass of the people, and become almost universal. As the transition from infidelity to superstition is certain, and generally immediate, all classes of the people were disposed to confide in dreams, enchantments, and other miserable substitutes for religion. The two reigning systems of philosophy, the Stoic and Platonic, were alike insufficient to satisfy the agitated minds of men. The former sternly repressed the best natural feelings of the soul, insulating nothing but a blind resignation to the unalterable course of things, and promising nothing beyond an unconscious existence hereafter. The latter regarded all religions as but different forms of expressing the same general truths, and represented the whole mythological system as an allegory, as incomprehensible to the common people as the pages of a book to those who cannot read. This system promised more than it could accomplish. It excited feelings which it could not satisfy, and thus contributed to produce that general ferment which existed at this period. Among the Jews, generally, the state of things was hardly much better. They had, indeed, the form of true religion, but were in a great measure destitute of its spirit. The Pharisees were contented with the form; the Sadducees were skeptics; the Essenes were enthusiasts and mystics. Such being the state of the world, men were led to feel the need of some surer guide than either reason or tradition, and some better foundation of confidence than either heathen philosophers or Jewish sects could afford. Hence, when the glorious gospel was revealed, thousands of hearts, in all parts of the world, were prepared, by the grace of God, to exclaim, This is all our desire and all our salvation!
The history of the apostle Paul shows that he was prepared to act in such a state of society. In the first place, he was born, and probably educated in part, at Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia; a city almost on a level with Athens and Alexandria, for its literary zeal and advantages. In one respect, it is said by ancient writers to have been superior to either of them. In the other cities mentioned, the majority of students were strangers, but in Tarsus they were the inhabitants themselves.‹1› That Paul passed the early part of his life here is probable, because the trade which he was taught, in accordance with the custom of the Jews, was one peculiarly common in Cilicia. From the hair of the goats, with which that province abounded, a rough cloth was made, which was much used in the manufacture of tents. The knowledge which the apostle manifests of the Greek authors, 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12, would also lead us to suppose that he had received at least part of his education in a Grecian city. Many of his characteristics, as a writer, lead to the same conclusion. He pursues, far more than any other of the sacred writers of purely Jewish education, the logical method in presenting truth. There is almost always a regular concatenation in his discourses, evincing the spontaneous exercise of a disciplined mind, even when not carrying out a previous plan. His epistles, therefore, are far more logical than ordinary letters, without the formality of regular dissertations. Another characteristic of his manner is, that in discussing any question, he always presents the ultimate principle on which the decision depends. These and similar characteristics of this apostle are commonly, and probably with justice, ascribed partly to his turn of mind, and partly to his early education. We learn from the Scriptures themselves, that the Holy Spirit, in employing men as his instruments in conveying truth, did not change their mental habits; he did not make Jews write like Greeks, or force all into the same mold. Each retained his own peculiarities of style and manner, and, therefore, whatever is peculiar to each, is to be referred, not to his inspiration, but to his original character and culture. While the circumstances just referred to, render it probable that the apostles habits of mind were in some measure influenced by his birth and early education in Tarsus, there are others (such as the general character of his style) which show that his residence there could not have been long, and that his education was not thoroughly Grecian. We learn from himself, that he was principally educated at Jerusalem, being brought up, as he says, at the feet of Gamaliel. (Acts 22:3).
This is the second circumstance in the providential preparation of the apostle for his work, which is worthy of notice. As Luther was educated in a Roman Catholic seminary, and thoroughly instructed in the scholastic theology of which he was to be the great opposer, so the apostle Paul was initiated into all the doctrines and modes of reasoning of the Jews, with whom his principal controversy was to be carried on. The early adversaries of the gospel were all Jews. Even in the heathen cities they were so numerous, that it was through them and their proselytes that the church in such places was founded. We find, therefore, that in almost all his epistles, the apostle contends with Jewish terrorists, the corrupters of the gospel by means of Jewish doctrines. Paul, the most extensively useful of all the apostles, was thus a thoroughly educated man; a man educated with a special view to the work which he was called to perform. We find, therefore, in this, as in most similar cases, that God effects his purposes by those instruments which he has, in the ordinary course of his providence, specially fitted for their accomplishment.
In the third place, Paul was converted without the intervention of human instrumentality, and was taught the gospel by immediate revelation. “I certify you, brethren,” he says to the Galatians, “that the gospel which was preached of me, is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” These circumstances are important, as he was thus placed completely on a level with the other apostles. He had seen the Lord Jesus, and could therefore be one of the witnesses of his resurrection; he was able to claim the authority of an original inspired teacher and messenger of God. It is obvious that he laid great stress upon this point, from the frequency with which he refers to it. He was thus furnished not only with the advantages of his early education, but with the authority and power of an apostle of Jesus Christ.
His natural character was ardent, energetic, uncompromising, and severe. How his extravagance and violence were subdued by the grace of God, is abundantly evident from the moderation, mildness, tenderness, and conciliation manifested in all his epistles. Absorbed in the one object of glorifying Christ, he was ready to submit to anything, and to yield any thing necessary for this purpose. He no longer insisted that others should think and act just as he did. So that they obeyed Christ, he was satisfied; and he willingly conformed to their prejudices, and tolerated their errors, so far as the cause of truth and righteousness allowed. By his early education, by his miraculous conversion and inspiration, by his natural disposition, and by the abundant grace of God, was this apostle fitted for his work, and sustained under his multiplied and arduous labors.
Origin and Condition of the Church at Rome
One of the providential circumstances which most effectually contributed to the early propagation of Christianity, was the dispersion of the Jews among surrounding nations. They were widely scattered through the East, Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy, especially at Rome. As they were permitted, throughout the wide extent of the Roman Empire, to worship God according to the traditions of their fathers, synagogues were everywhere established in the midst of the heathen. The apostles, being Jews, had thus always a ready access to the people. The synagogues furnished a convenient place for regular assemblies, without attracting the attention or exciting the suspicion of the civil authorities. In these assemblies they were sure of meeting not only Jews, but the heathen also, and precisely the class of heathen best prepared for the reception of the gospel. The infinite superiority of the pure theism of the Old Testament Scriptures to any form of religion known to the ancients, could not fail to attract and convince multitudes among the pagans, wherever the Jewish worship was established. Such persons became either proselytes or “devout,” that is, worshippers of the true God. Being free from the inveterate national and religious prejudices of the Jews, and at the same time convinced of the falsehood of polytheism, they were the most susceptible of all the early hearers of the gospel. It was by converts from among this class of persons, that the churches in all the heathen cities were in a great measure founded. There is abundant evidence that the Jews were very numerous at Rome, and that the class of proselytes or devout persons among the Romans was also very large. Philo says (Legatio in Caium, p. 1041, ed. Frankf.) that Augustus had assigned the Jews a large district beyond the Tiber for their residence. He accounts for their being so numerous, from the fact that the captives carried thither by Pompey were liberated by their masters, who found it inconvenient to have servants who adhered so strictly to a religion which forbade constant and familiar intercourse with the heathen. Dion Cassius (Lib. 60, c. 6) mentions that the Jews were so numerous at Rome, that Claudius was at first afraid to banish them, but contented himself with forbidding their assembling together. That he afterwards, on account of the tumult which they occasioned, did banish them from the city, is mentioned by Suetonius (Vita Claudii, c. 25), and by Luke, Acts 18:2. That the Jews, on the death of Claudius, returned to Rome, is evident from the fact that Suetonius and Dion Cassius speak of their being very numerous under the following reigns: and also from the contents of this epistle, especially the salutations (Romans 16) addressed to Jewish Christians.
That the establishment of the Jewish worship at Rome had produced considerable effect on the Romans, is clear from the statements of the heathen writers themselves. Ovid speaks of the synagogues as places of fashionable resort; Juvenal (Satire 14) ridicules his countrymen for becoming Jews;‹2› and Tacitus (Hist. Lib. 5, chap. 5)‹3› refers to the presents sent by Roman proselytes to Jerusalem. The way was thus prepared for the early reception and rapid extension of Christianity in the imperial city. When the gospel was first introduced there, or by whom the introduction was effected, is unknown. Such was the constant intercourse between Rome and the provinces, that it is not surprising that some of the numerous converts to Christianity made in Judea, Asia Minor, and Greece, should at an early period find their way to the capital. It is not impossible that many who had enjoyed the personal ministry of Christ, and believed in his doctrines, might have removed or returned to Rome, and been the first to teach the gospel in that city. Still less improbable is it, that among the multitudes present at Jerusalem at the day of Pentecost, among whom were “strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,” there were some who carried back the knowledge of the gospel. That the introductory of Christianity occurred at an early period, may be inferred not only from the probabilities just referred to, but from other circumstances. When Paul wrote this epistle, the faith of the Romans was spoken of throughout the world, which would seem to imply that the church had already been long established. Aquila and Priscilla, who left Rome on account of the decree of Claudius banishing the Jews, were probably Christians before their departure; nothing at least is said of their having been converted by the apostle. He found them at Corinth, and being of the same trade, he abode with them, and on his departure took them with him into Syria.
The tradition of some of the ancient fathers, that Peter was the founder of the church at Rome, is inconsistent with the statements given in the Acts of the Apostles. Irenaeus (Haeres. 3:1) says, that “Matthew wrote his gospel, while Peter and Paul were in Rome preaching the gospel and founding the church there.” And Eusebius (Chron. ad ann. 2 Claudii) says, “Peter having founded the church at Antioch, departed for Rome, preaching the gospel.” Both these statements are incorrect. Peter did not found the church at Antioch, nor did he and Paul preach together at Rome. That Peter was not at Rome prior to Paul’s visit, appears from the entire silence of this epistle on the subject; and from no mention being made of the fact in any of the letters written from Rome by Paul during his imprisonment. The tradition that Peter ever was at Rome, rests on very uncertain authority. It is first mentioned by Dionysius of Corinth, in the latter half of the second century, and from that time it seems to have been generally receded. This account is in itself improbable, as Peter’s field of labor was in the East, about Babylon; and as the statement of Dionysius is full of inaccuracies. He makes Peter and Paul the founders of the church at Corinth, and makes the same assertion regarding the church at Rome, neither of which is true. He also says that Paul and Peter suffered martyrdom at the same time at Rome, which, from the silence of Paul respecting Peter, during his last imprisonment, is in the highest degree improbable.‹4› History, therefore, has left us ignorant of the time when this church was founded, and the persons by whom the work was effected.
The condition of the congregation may be inferred from the circumstances already mentioned, and from the drift of the apostle’s letter. As the Jews and proselytes were very numerous at Rome, the early converts, as might be expected, were from both these classes. The latter, however, seem greatly to have predominated, because we find no such evidence of a tendency to Judaism, as is supposed in the Epistle to the Galatians. Paul no where seems to apprehend that the church at Rome would apostatize, as the Galatian Christians had already done. And in Acts 14 and 15 his exhortations imply that the Gentile party were more in danger of oppressing the Jewish, than the reverse. Paul, therefore, writes to them as Gentiles (Romans 1:13) and claims, in virtue of his office as apostle to the Gentiles, the right to address them with all freedom and authority (Romans 15:16). The congregation, however, was not composed exclusively of this class; many converts, originally Jews, were included in their numbers, and those belonging to the other class were more or less under the influence of Jewish opinions. The apostle, therefore, in this, as in all his other epistles addressed to congregations similarly situated, refutes those doctrines of the Jews which were inconsistent with the gospel, and answers those objections which they and those under their influence were accustomed to urge against it. These different elements of the early churches were almost always in conflict, both as to points of doctrine and discipline. The Jews insisted, to a greater or less extent, on their peculiar privileges and customs; and the Gentiles disregarded, and at times despised the scruples and prejudices of their weaker brethren. The opinions of the Jews particularly controverted in this epistle are:
1. That connection with Abraham by natural descent, and by the bond of circumcision, together with the observance of the law, is sufficient to secure the favor of God.
2. That the blessings of the Messiah’s reign were to be confined to Jews and those who would consent to become proselytes.
3. That subjection to heathen magistrates was inconsistent with the dignity of the people of God, and with their duty to the Messiah as King.
There are clear indications in other parts of Scripture, as well as in their own writings, that the Jews placed their chief dependence upon the covenant of God with Abraham, and the peculiar rites and ordinances connected with it. The Baptist, when speaking to the Jews, tells them, “Say not, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” (Luke 3:8). It is clearly implied in this passage, that the Jews supposed that to have Abraham as their father was sufficient to secure the favor of God. The Rabbins taught that God had promised Abraham, that his descendants, though wicked, should be saved on account of his merit. Justin Martyr mentions this as the ground of confidence of the Jews in his day. “Your Rabbins,” he says, “deceive themselves and us, in supposing that the kingdom of heaven is prepared for all those who are the natural seed of Abraham, even though they be sinners and unbelieves.” (Dialogue with Trypho). They were accustomed to say, “Great is the virtue of circumcision; no circumcised person enters hell.” And one of their standing maxims was, “All Israel hath part in eternal life.”‹5›
The second leading error of the Jews was a natural result of the one just referred to. If salvation was secured by connection with Abraham, then none who were not united to their great ancestor could be saved. There is no opinion of the Jews more conspicuous in the sacred writings, than that they were greatly superior to the Gentiles; that the theocracy and all its blessings belonged to them; and that others could attain even an inferior station in the kingdom of the Messiah only by becoming Jews.
The indisposition of the Jews to submit to heathen magistrates, arose partly from their high ideas of their own dignity, and their contempt for other nations; partly from their erroneous opinions of the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom; and partly, no doubt, from the peculiar hardships and oppressions to which they were exposed. The prevalence of this indisposition among them is proved by its being a matter of discussion whether it was even lawful to pay tribute to Caesar; by their assertion that, as Abraham’s seed, they were never in bondage to any man; and by their constant tumults and rebellions, which led first to their banishment from Rome, and finally to the utter destruction of their city. The circumstance of the church at Rome, composed of both Jewish and Gentile converts; surrounded by Jews who still insisted on the necessity of circumcision, of legal obedience, and of connection with the family of Abraham, in order to salvation; and disposed on many points to differ among themselves sufficiently account for the character of this epistle.
Time and Place of its Composition
There are no sufficient data for fixing accurately and certainly the chronology of the life and writings of the apostle Paul. It is, therefore, in most cases, only by a comparison of various circumstances, that an approximation to the date of the principal events of his life can be made. With regard to this epistle, it is plain, from its contents, that it was written just as Paul was about to set out on his last journey to Jerusalem. In the fifteenth chapter he says, that the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia had made a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem, and that he was on this eve of his departure for that city (Acts 15:25). This same journey is mentioned in Acts 15, and occurred most probably in the spring (see Acts 20:16) of the year 58 or 59. This date best suits the account of his long imprisonment, first at Cesarea, and then at Rome, of four years, and his probable liberation in 62 or 63. His subsequent labors and second imprisonment would fill up the intervening period of two or three years, to the date of his martyrdom, towards the close of the reign of Nero. That this epistle was written from Corinth, appears from the special recommendation of Phebe, a deaconess of the neighboring church, who was probably the bearer of the letter (Romans 16:1); from the salutations of Erastus and Gaius, both residents of Corinth, to the Romans (Romans 16:23); compare 2 Timothy 4:20 and 1 Corinthians 1:14; and from the account given in Acts 20:2, Acts 20:3, of Paul’s journey through Macedonia into Greece, before his departure for Jerusalem, for the purpose of carrying the contributions of the churches for the poor in that city.
Authenticity of the Epistle
That this epistle was written by the apostle Paul, admits of no reasonable doubt.
1. It, in the first place, purports to be his. It bears his signature, and speaks throughout in his name.
2. It has uniformly been recognized as his. From the apostolic age to the present time, it has been referred to, and quoted by a regular series of authors, and recognized as of divine authority in all the churches. It would be requisite, in order to disprove its authenticity, to account satisfactorily for these facts, on the supposition of the epistle being spurious. The passages in the early writers, in which this epistle is alluded to or cited, are very numerous, and may be seen in Eardner’s Credibility, Vol. 2.
3. The internal evidence is no less decisive in its favor.
(a) In the first place, it is evidently the production of a Jew, familiar with the Hebrew text and the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, because the language and style are such as no one, not thus circumstanced, could adopt; and because the whole letter evinces such an intimate acquaintance with Jewish opinions and prejudices.
(b It agrees perfectly in style and manner with the other epistles of this apostle.
(c) It is, in the truth and importance of its doctrines, and in the elevation and purity of its sentiments, immeasurably superior to any uninspired production of the age in which it appeared. A comparison of the genuine apostolic writings with the spurious productions of the first and second centuries, affords one of the strongest collateral evidences of the authenticity and inspiration of the former.
(d) The incidental or undesigned coincidences, as to matters of fact, between this epistle and other parts of the New Testament, are such as to afford the clearest evidence of its having proceeded from the pen of the apostle. Compare Romans 15:25-31 with Acts 20:2, Acts 20:3, Acts 24:17; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 2 Corinthians 9:2. Romans 16:21-23 with Acts 20:4. Romans 16:3 et seq. with Acts 18:2, Acts 18:18-26; 1 Corinthians 16:19 etc. (see Paley’s Horae Paulinae).
4. Besides these positive proofs, there is the important negative consideration, that there are no grounds for questioning its authenticity. There are no discrepancies between this and other sacred writings; no counter testimony among the early Fathers; no historical or critical difficulties which must be solved before it can be recognized as the work of Paul. There is, therefore, no book in the Bible, and there is no ancient book in the world, of which the authenticity is more certain than that of this epistle.
Analysis of the Epistle
The epistle consists of three parts. The first, which includes the first eight chapters, is occupied in the discussion of the doctrine of justification and its consequences. The second, embracing Romans 9-11, treats of the calling of the Gentiles, the rejection and future conversion of the Jews. The third consists of practical exhortations and salutations to the Christians at Rome.
The first part the apostle commences by saluting the Roman Christians, commending them for their faith, and expressing his desire to see them, and his readiness to preach the gospel at Rome. This readiness was founded on the conviction that the gospel revealed the only method by which men can be saved, viz., by faith in Jesus Christ, and this method is equally applicable to all mankind, Gentiles as well as Jews, Romans 1:1-17. Paul thus introduces the two leading topics of the epistle.
In order to establish his doctrine respecting justification, he first proves that the Gentiles cannot be justified by their own works, Romans 1:18-32; and then establishes the same position in reference to the Jews, Romans 2; 3:1-20. Having thus shown that the method of justification by works is unavailable for sinners, he unfolds that method which is taught in the gospel, Romans 3:21-31. The truth and excellence of this method he confirms in Romans 4 and 5. The obvious objection to the doctrine of gratuitous acceptance, that it must lead to the indulgence of sin, is answered, and the true design and operation of the law are exhibited in Romans 6 and 7; and the complete security of all who confide in Christ is beautifully unfolded in Romans 8.
In arguing against the Gentiles, Paul assumes the principle that God will punish sin, Romans 1:18, and then proves that they are justly chargeable both with impiety and immorality, because though they possessed a competent knowledge of God, they did not worship him, but turned unto idols, and gave themselves up to all kinds of iniquity, Romans 1:19-32.
He commences his argument with the Jews by expanding the general principle of the divine justice, and especially insisting on God’s impartiality by showing that he will judge all men, Jews and Gentiles, according to their works, and according to the light they severally enjoyed, Romans 2:1-16. He shows that the Jews, when tried by these rules, are as justly and certainly exposed to condemnation as the Gentiles, Romans 2:17-29.
The peculiar privileges of the Jews afford no ground of hope that they will escape being judged on the same principles with other men, and when thus judged, they are found to be guilty before God. All men, therefore, are, as the Scriptures abundantly teach, under condemnation, and consequently cannot be justified by their own works, Romans 3:1-20.
The gospel proposes the only method by which God will justify men — a method which is entirely gratuitous; the condition of which is faith; which is founded on the redemption of Christ; which reconciles the justice and mercy of God; humbles man; lays the foundation for an universal religion, and establishes the law, Romans 3:21-31.
The truth of this doctrine is evinced from the example of Abraham, the testimony of David, the nature of the covenant made with Abraham and his seed, and from the nature of the law. He proposes the conduct of Abraham as an example and encouragement to Christians, Romans 4:1-25.
Justification by faith in Christ secures peace with God, present joy, and the assurance of eternal life, Romans 5:1-11. The method, therefore, by which God proposes to save sinners, is analogous to that by which they were first brought under condemnation. As on account of the offense of one, sentence has passed on all men to condemnation; so on account of the righteousness of one, all are justified, Romans 5:12-21.
The doctrine of the gratuitous justification of sinners cannot lead to the indulgence of sin, because such is the nature of union with Christ, and such the object for which he died, that all who receive the benefits of his death, experience the sanctifying influence of his life, Romans 6:1-11. Besides, the objection in question is founded on a misapprehension of the effect and design of the law, and of the nature of sanctification. Deliverance from the bondage of the law and from a legal spirit is essential to holiness. When the Christian is delivered from this bondage, he becomes the servant of God, and is brought under an influence which effectually secures his obedience, Romans 6:12-23.
As, therefore, a woman, in order to be married to a second husband, must first be freed from her former one, so the Christian, in order to be united to Christ, and to bring forth fruit unto God, must first be freed from the law, Romans 7:1-6.
This necessity of deliverance from the law, does not arise from the fact that the law is evil, but from the nature of the case. The law is but the authoritative declaration of duty; which cannot alter the state of the sinner’s heart. Its real operation is to produce the conviction of sin (Romans 7:7-13), and, in the renewed mind, to excite approbation and complacency in the excellence which it exhibits, but it cannot effectually secure the destruction of sin. This can only be done by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, Romans 7:7-25.
Those who are in Christ, therefore, are perfectly safe. They are freed from the law; they have the indwelling of the life-giving Spirit: they are the children of God; they are chosen, called, and justified according to the divine purpose; and they are the objects of the unchanging love of God, Romans 8:1-39.
The second part of the epistle relates to the persons to whom the blessings of Christ’s kingdom may properly be offered, and the purposes of God respecting the Jews. In entering upon this subject, the apostle after assuring his kindred of his affection, establishes the position that God has not bound himself to regard as his children all the natural descendants of Abraham, but is at perfect liberty to choose whom he will to be heirs of his kingdom. The right of God to have mercy on whom he will have mercy, he proves from the declarations of Scripture, and from the dispensations of his providence. He shows that this doctrine of the divine sovereignty is not inconsistent with the divine character or man’s responsibility, because God simply chooses from among the undeserving whom he will as the objects of his mercy, and leaves others to the just recompense of their sins, Romans 9:1-24.
God accordingly predicted of old, that he would call the Gentiles and reject the Jews. The rejection of the Jews was on account of their unbelief, Romans 9:25-33, Romans 10:1-5. The two methods of justification are then contrasted for the purpose of showing that the legal method is impracticable, but that the method proposed in the gospel is simple and easy, and adapted to all men. It should, therefore, agreeably to the revealed purpose of God, be preached to all men, Romans 10:6-21.
The rejection of the Jews is not total; many of that generation were brought into the church, who were of the election of grace, Romans 11:1-10. Neither is this rejection final. There is to be a future and general conversion of the Jews to Christ, and thus all Israel shall be saved, Romans 11:11-36.
The third or practical part of the epistle, consists of directions, first, as to the general duties of Christians in their various relations to God, Romans 12; secondly, as to their political or civil duties, Romans 13:1-14; and thirdly, as to their ecclesiastical duties, or those duties which they owe to each other as members of the church, Romans 14, 15, 1-13.
The epistle concludes with some account of Paul’s labors and purposes, Romans 15:14-33, and with the usual salutations, Romans 16.
This chapter consists of two parts. The first extends to the close of Romans 1:17, and contains the general introduction to the epistle. The second commences with Romans 1:18, and extends to the end of the chapter: it contains the argument of the apostle to prove that the declaration contained in Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17, that justification can only be obtained by faith, is true with regard to the heathen.
This section consists of two parts. The first from Romans 1:1-7 inclusive, is a salutatory address; the second, from Romans 1:8-17, is the introduction to the epistle. Paul commences by announcing himself as a divinely commissioned teacher, set apart to the preaching of the gospel, Romans 1:1. Of this gospel, he says,
1. That it was promised, and of course partially exhibited in the Old Testament, Romans 1:2.
2. That its great subject was Jesus Christ, Romans 1:3. Of Christ he says, that he was, as to his human nature, the Son of David; but as to his divine nature, the Son of God, Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4. From this Divine Person he had received his office as an apostle. The object of this office was to bring men to believe the gospel; and it contemplated all nations as the field of its labor, Romans 1:5. Of course the Romans were included, Romans 1:6. To the Roman Christians, therefore, he wishes grace and peace, Romans 1:7. Thus far the salutation.
Having shown in what character, and by what right he addressed them, the apostle introduces the subject of his letter by expressing to them his respect and affection. He thanks God, not only that they believed, but that their faith was universally known and talked of, Romans 1:8. As an evidence of his concern for them, he mentions,
1. That he prayed for them constantly, Romans 1:9.
2. That he longed to see them, Romans 1:10, Romans 1:11.
3. That this wish to see them arose from a desire to do them good, and to reap some fruit of his ministry among them, as well as among other Gentiles, Romans 1:12, Romans 1:13.
Because he was under obligation to preach to all men, wise and unwise, he was therefore ready to preach even at Rome, Romans 1:14, Romans 1:15. This readiness to preach arose from the high estimate he entertained of the gospel. And his reverence for the gospel was founded not on its excellent system of morals merely, but on its efficacy in saving all who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles, Romans 1:16. This efficacy of the gospel arises from its teaching the true method of justification, that is, the method of justification by faith, Romans 1:17. It will be perceived how naturally and skillfully the apostle introduces the two great subjects of the epistle — the method of salvation, and the persons to whom it may properly be offered.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called an apostle. Agreeably to the ancient mode of epistolary address, the apostle begins with the declaration of his name and office. It was his office which gave him the right to address the believers at Rome, and elsewhere, with that tone of authority which pervades all his epistles. Speaking as the messenger of Christ, he spake as he spake, as one having authority, and not as an ordinary teacher.
The original name of the apostle was Saul, ùÈÑàåÌì demanded. He is first called Paul in Acts 13:9. As this change of his name is mentioned in the paragraph which contains the account of the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus, some have supposed that the name was assumed in compliment to that distinguished convert. This supposition does not seem to accord with the apostle’s character, and is, on other grounds, less probable than either of the two following. First, as it was not unusual, among the Jews, to change the name of a person in consequence of some remarkable event, as in the case of Abraham and Jacob, Genesis 17:5; Genesis 32:28; or when he was advanced to some new office or dignity, Genesis 41:45; Daniel 1:6, Daniel 1:7; so that a new name is sometimes equivalent to a new dignity, Revelation 2:17 it may be supposed that the apostle received the name of Paul, when called to the office of an apostle. This supposition is favored by the consideration that he received the name soon after he entered upon the public exercise of his apostleship, and by the fact that Simon was called Cephas when called to be an apostle, John 1:42; Matthew 10:2, and that James and John were called Boanerges, Mark 3:17. Hence Theophylact says that it was in order that even in this matter, he should not be behind the very chief of the apostles, that Saul was called Paul. Second, as it was very common for those Jews who had much intercourse with the heathen to bear two names, one Jewish and the other Greek or Roman, which names were sometimes entirely distinct, as Hillel and Pollio, sometimes nearly related as Silas and Silvanus, it is very probable that this was the case with the apostle. He was called Saul among the Jews, and Paul among the Gentiles; and as he was the Apostle of the Gentiles, the latter name became his common designation. As this change was, however, made or announced at an epoch in the apostle’s history, Acts 13:9 the two explanations may be united. “The only supposition,” says Dr. J. A. Alexander, in his comment on Acts 13:9 “which is free from all these difficulties, and affords a satisfactory solution of the facts in question, is, that this was the time fixed by Divine authority for Paul’s manifestation as Apostle of the Gentiles, and that this manifestation was made more conspicuous by its coincidence with his triumph over a representative of unbelieving and apostate Judaism, and the conversion of an official representative of Rome, whose name was identical with his own apostolic title.”
In calling himself a servant (bondsman) of Jesus Christ, he may have intended either to declare himself the dependent and worshipper of Christ, as all Christians are servants (slaves) of Christ, Ephesians 6:6; or to express his official relation to the church as the minister of Christ. This is the more probable explanation, because, in the Old Testament òÆáÆã éÀçåÈÉä, servant of the Lord, is common official designation of any one employed in the immediate service of God, Joshua 1:1, Joshua 24:29; Jeremiah 29:19; Isaiah 42:1; and because in the New Testament we find the same usage, not only in the beginning of several of the epistles, as “Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ,” Philippians 1:1, “James, the servant of God and of Jesus Christ” James 1:1, “Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:1; but also in other cases where the word δοῦλος is interchanged with διάκονος minister. Comp. Colossians 1:7, Colossians 4:7, Colossians 4:12. It is, therefore, a general official designation of which in the present case, apostle is the specific explanation. “Apostolatus ministerii est species.” Calvin. It has also been properly remarked, that as the expression, servant of Christ, implies implicit obedience and subjection, it supposes the Divine authority of the Redeemer. That is, we find the apostle denying that he was the servant of men, rejecting all human authority as it regards matters of faith and duty, and yet professing the most absolute subjection of conscience and reason to the authority of Jesus Christ.
κλητός ἀπόστολὁ, called an apostle. Paul was not only a servant of Christ, but by Divine appointment an apostle. This idea is included in the word κλητός; which means not only called, but chosen, appointed; and the κλῆσις, or vocation, as well of believers to grace and salvation, as of the apostles to their office is uniformly ascribed to God or Christ; see Galatians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Titus 1:1; Galatians 1:15. As the immediate call of Christ was one of the essential requisites of an apostle, Paul means to assert in the use of the word κλητός that he was neither self-appointed nor chosen by men to that sacred office.
The word ἀπόστολος; occurs in its original sense of messenger in several cases in the New Testament. John 13:16 οὐκ ἔστι ἀπόστολος μείζων τοῦ πέμψαντος αὐτόν. Philippians 2:25 — Επαφρόδιτον … ὑμῶν δε ἀπόστολον. Comp. Philippians 4:18. In 2 Corinthians 8:23 Paul, speaking of the brethren who were with him, calls them ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν; τουτέστιν says Chrysostom, ὑπο ἐκκλησιῶν πεμφθέντες. Theophylact adds, καὶ χειροτονηθέντεϚ. Our translators, therefore, are doubtless correct in rendering this phrase, messengers of the churches. As a strict official designation, the word apostle is confined to those men selected and commissioned by Christ himself to deliver in his name the message of salvation. It appears from Luke 6:13, that the Savior himself gave them this title. “And when it was day, he called his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.” If it be asked why this name was chosen, it is perhaps enough to say, that it was peculiarly appropriate. It is given to those who were sent by Christ to perform a particular service, who were therefore properly called messengers. There is no necessity to resort for an explanation of the term, to the fact that the word îÇìÀàÈêÀ messenger, was applied sometimes to the teachers and ministers of the synagogue, sometimes to plenipotentiaries sent by the Sanhedrim to execute some ecclesiastical commission.
The apostles, then, were the immediate messengers of Christ, appointed to bear testimony to what they had seen and heard. “Ye also shall bear witness,” said Christ, speaking to the twelve, “because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27). This was their peculiar office; hence when Judas fell, one, said Peter, who has companioned with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, must be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Acts 1:21. To be an apostle, therefore, it was necessary to have seen Christ after his resurrection, 1 Corinthians 9:1, and to have a knowledge of his life and doctrines derived immediately from himself. Without this no man could be a witness, he would only report what he had heard from others, he could bear no independent testimony to what he himself had seen and heard. Christ, therefore, says to his disciples, after his resurrection, “Ye shall be my witnesses,” Acts 1:8, and the apostles accordingly constantly presented themselves in this character. Acts 2:32, Acts 3:15, Acts 13:31. “We are witnesses,” said Peter, speaking of himself and fellow-apostles, “of all things which he did, both in the land of Judea, and in Jerusalem.” Acts 10:39. When Paul was called to be an apostle, the Savior said to him, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.” Acts 26:16. We accordingly find, that whenever Paul was called upon to defend his apostleship, he strenuously asserted that he was appointed not of men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ; and as to his doctrines, that he neither received them of man, neither was he taught them, but by revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:12.
As the testimony which the Apostles were to bear related to all that Jesus had taught them, it was by preaching the gospel that they discharged their duty as witnesses. Hence Paul says, “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 1:17. To the elders of Ephesus he said, “I count not my life dear unto me, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24.
To give authority to this testimony the apostles were inspired, and as religious teachers infallible. John 14:26, John 16:13. They had the power of working miracles, in confirmation of their mission. Matthew 10:8 and the Acts of the Apostles passim. This power they could communicate to others by the laying on of their hands. Acts 9:15, Acts 9:17, Acts 9:18; Acts 19:6. This is what is meant by giving the Holy Ghost, for the apostles never claimed the power of communicating the sanctifying influences of the Spirit. Nor was the power of giving the Spirit, in the sense above-mentioned, peculiar to them, for we read that Ananias, a disciple, was sent to Paul that he might receive the Holy Ghost. Acts 9:17. The apostles seem also to have had the gift of “discerning spirits,” 1 Corinthians 12:10 and of remitting sins, John 20:23. They ordained presbyters over the congregations gathered by their ministry, Acts 14:23, etc.; and exercised a general jurisdiction over the churches. 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 10:6, 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Timothy 1:20. The apostles, therefore, were the immediate messengers of Jesus Christ, sent to declare his gospel, endued with the Holy Spirit, rendering them infallible as teachers, and investing them with miraculous powers, and clothed with peculiar prerogatives in the organization and government of the Church.
It is in explanation of his apostolic office, and in the further assertion of his divine commission that Paul adds, ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, separated unto the gospel of God. — Αφορίζειν is to limit off, to separate, to select from among others. It is so used in Leviticus 20:24, Leviticus 20:26, “I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people.” In the same sense, in Galatians 1:15, “when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb;” that is, who singled me out, or chose me. It is obvious, therefore, that the apostle here refers to his appointment by God to his office. In Acts 13:2, it is said, “Separate (ἀφορίσατε) unto me Barnabas and Saul,” where a separation not to the ministry, much less to the apostleship, but to a special mission is referred to. Paul’s designation to office was neither of man, nor by man, Galatians 1:1. The words εἰς εὐαγγέλιον, unto the gospel, express the object to which he was devoted when thus separated from the mass of his brethren; it was to preach the gospel. The divine origin of the gospel is asserted in calling it the gospel of God. It is the glad annunciation which God makes to men of the pardon of sin, of restoration to his favor, of the renovation of their nature, of the resurrection of the body, and of eternal life.
Which he promised afore. That is, the gospel which Paul was sent to preach, was the same system of grace and truth, which from the beginning had been predicted and partially unfolded in the writings of the Old Testament. The reason why the Apostle here adverts to that fact probably was, that one of the strongest proofs of the divine origin of the gospel is found in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The advent, the character, the work, the kingdom of the Messiah, are there predicted, and it was therefore out of the Scriptures that the apostles reasoned, to convince the people that Jesus is the Christ; and to this connection between the two dispensations they constantly refer, in proof of their doctrines. See Romans 3:21; Romans 4:3; Romans 9:27, Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11, Romans 10:20. Comp. Luke 24:44; John 12:16; Acts 10:43.
By his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. As in Scripture the term προφήτἡ, Hebrews ðÈáÄéà, is applied to any one who spake by inspiration as the ambassador of God and the interpreter of his will; προφητῶν here includes all the Old Testament writers, whether prophets in the strict sense of the term, or teachers, or historians. Meyer indeed insists that the line of the prophets begins with Samuel according to Acts 3:24 — “all the prophets from Samuel, and those who follow after,” and therefore that the earlier writers of the Old Testament are not here included. But Moses was a prophet, and what is here expressed by the words “his prophets,” is explained by the phrase “the law and the prophets,” in Romans 3:21.
By the Holy Scriptures must of course be understood, those writings which the Jews regarded as holy, because they treated of holy things, and because they were given by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Concerning his Son. These words are either to be connected with εὐαγγέλιον, the gospel concerning his Son; or with προεπηγγείλατο, which he promised concerning his Son. The sense in either case is much the same. As most commentators and editors regard the second verse as a parenthesis, they of course adopt the former construction; but as there is no necessity for assuming any parenthesis, the natural grammatical connection is with προεπηγγείλατο. The personal object of the ancient promises is the Son of God.
It is a well known scriptural usage, that the designations employed in reference to our Lord are sometimes applied to him as a historical person, God and man, and sometimes exclusively to one or the other of the two natures, the divine and human, which enter into the constitution of the theanthropos. Thus the term Son designates the Logos in all those passages in which he is spoken of as the Creator of all things; at other times it designates the incarnate Logos; as when it is said, “the Son shall make you free.” Sometimes the same term is used in the same passage in reference fist to the incarnate Word, and then to the Word as the second person of the Trinity. Thus in Hebrews 1:2 it is said, “Hath spoken unto us by his Son, (the historical person, Jesus Christ,) by whom (the eternal Word) he made the worlds.” So here “concerning his Son,” means the Son of God as clothed in our nature, the Word made flesh; but in the next clause, “declared to be the Son of God,” the word Son designates the divine nature of Christ. In all cases, however, it is a designation implying participation of the divine nature. Christ is called the Son of God because he is consubstantial with the Father, and therefore equal to him in power and glory. The term expresses the relation of the second to the first person in the Trinity, as it exists from eternity. It is therefore, as applied to Christ, not a term of office, nor expressive of any relation assumed in time. He was and is the Eternal Son. This is proved from John 1:1-14, where the term υἱός is interchanged with λόγος. It was the Son, therefore, who in the beginning was with God, who was God, who created all things, in whom was life, who is the light of men, who is in the bosom of the Father. In John 5:17-31, Christ calls himself the Son of God, in a sense which made him equal to the Father, having the same power, the same authority, and a right to the same honor. In John 10:29-42, Christ declares God to be his Father in such a sense as to make himself God, one with the Father; and he vindicates his claim to this participation of the divine nature by appealing to his works. In Colossians 1:13-17, he is said as Son to be the image of the invisible God, the exact exemplar, and of course the reveler of the Divine nature; the Creator of all things that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible. In Hebrews 1:4-6, the title Son is adduced as proof that he is superior to the angels, and entitled to their worship. He is therefore called God’s proper Son, ἴδιος, Romans 8:32 (comp. πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν τὸν θεόν, John 5:18); his own Son, ἑαυτοῦ, Romans 8:3; his only begotten Son, μονογενής, John 1:14, John 1:18; John 3:16, John 3:18; 1 John 4:9. Hence giving, sending, not sparing this Son, is said to be the highest conceivable evidence of the love of God, John 3:16; Romans 8:32; 1 John 4:9. The historical sense of the terms λόγος, εἰκών, υἱός, πρωτοτόκος, as learned from the Scriptures and the usus loquendi of the apostolic age, shows that they must, in their application to Christ, be understood of his Divine nature.
Who was made of the seed of David. As γίνομαι, from the assumed theme γένω, to beget, signifies to begin to be, to come into existence, it is often used in reference to descent or birth, γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, Galatians 4:4; ης ἐγενήθητε τέκνα, 1 Peter 3:6. “Made of the seed of David,” is therefore equivalent to “born of the seed of David.” That the Messiah was to be of the family of David, was predicted in the Old Testament, and affirmed in the New. Isaiah 9:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Matthew 22:45; John 7:42; Acts 13:23.
The limitation κατὰ σάρκα, according to the flesh, obviously implies the superhuman character of Jesus Christ. Were he a mere man, it had been enough to say that he was of the seed of David; but as he is more then man, it was necessary to limit his descent from David to his human nature. That the word σάρξ here means human nature is obvious both from the scriptural usage of the word, and from the nature of the case. See John 1:14; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:3. It is not the flesh or body, as opposed to the soul, but the human, as opposed to the divine nature, that is intended. Neither does σάρξ here mean the purely material element with its organic life, the σῶμα and ψυχή, to the exclusion of the πνεῦμα or rational principle, according to the Apollinarian doctrine, but the entire humanity of Christ, including “a true body and a reasonable soul.” This is the sense of the word in all the parallel passages in which the incarnation is the subject. As when it is said, “The Word was made flesh,” John 1:14; or, “God was manifested in the flesh,” 1 Timothy 3:16. These are explained by saying, “He was found in fashion as a man,” Philippians 2:8. The word therefore includes everything which constitutes the nature which a child derives from its progenitors.
Declared to the Son of God. The word ὁρίζειν means,
1. To limit, or bound, and, in reference to ideas, to define.
2. To determine. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; Hebrews 4:7.
3. To appoint, or constitute. Acts 10:42.
ὁ ὡρισμένος ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ κριτὴς ζώντων καὶ νεκρῶν. Acts 17:31. This last sense is given by some few commentators to ὁρισθέντος in this passage. The apostle would then say that Christ was appointed, or constituted the Son of God, by or after his resurrection. But this is inconsistent with what he elsewhere teaches, viz., that Christ was the Son of God before the foundation of the world, Colossians 1:15. As shown above, Son of God is not a title of office, but of nature, and therefore Christ cannot be said to have been constituted the Son of God. This interpretation also would involve the latter part of the verse in great difficulties. Hence even those commentators who most strenuously insist on adhering to the signification of words, are constrained, ex necessitate loci, to understand ὁρισθέντος here declaratively, or in reference to the knowledge of men. That is, when Christ is said to be constituted the Son of God, we are not to understand that he became or was made Son, but was, in the view of men, thus determined.‹6›
The vulgate reads, qui praedestinatus est, which version is followed by most of the Roman Catholic interpreters, and by Grotius. This rendering is probably founded on the reading προορισθέντος, which, although old, has little evidence in its favor. Neither is the sense thus expressed suited to the context. Christ was not predestined to be the Son of God. He was such from eternity.
With power; τουτέστι, says Theophylact, ἀπὸ τῆς δυνάμεως τῶν σημείων ῶν ἐποίει; Theodoret also understands these words to refer to the miracles which Jesus, by the power of the Holy Ghost, wrought in confirmation of his claim to be the Son of God. The former of these commentators takes ἐν δυνάμει, κατὰ πνεῦμα, ἐξ ἀναστάσεως, as indicating three distinct sources of proof of the Sonship of Christ. He was proved by his miraculous power, by the Holy Spirit either as given to him, or as by him given to his people (the latter is Theophylact’s view), and by his resurrection, to be the Son of God. But the change of the prepositions, and especially the antithetical structure of the sentence, by which κατὰ πνεῦμα is obviously opposed to κατὰ σάρκα, are decisive objections to this interpretation. Others propose to connect ἐν δυνάμει ωιτη υἱοῦ, Son in power, for powerful Son; a more common and more natural construction is to connect them with ὁρισθέντος, proved, or declared with power, for powerfully, effectually proved to be the Son of God. He was declared with emphasis to be the Son of God, ita ut ejus rei plenissima et certissima sit fides, Winzer.
According to the Spirit of holiness. As just remarked, these words are in antithesis with κατὰ σάρκα; as to the flesh he was the Son of David, as to the Spirit the Son of God. As σάρξ means his human nature, πνεῦμα can hardly mean anything else than the higher or divine nature of Christ. The word πνεῦμα may be taken in this sense in 1 Timothy 3:16 ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, justified by the Spirit, i.e., he was shown to be just, his claims were all sustained by the manifestations of his divine nature, i.e., of his divine power and authority. Hebrews 9:14 ὃς διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου, who with an eternal Spirit offered himself unto God. 1 Peter 3:18 is a more doubtful passage. The genitive ἁγιωσύνἡ is a qualification of πνεῦμα, Spirit of holiness; the Spirit whose characteristic is holiness. This expression seems to be here used, to prevent ambiguity, as Holy Spirit is appropriated as the designation of the third person of the Trinity. As the word holy often means august, venerandus, so ἁγιωσύνη expresses that attribute of a person which renders him worthy of reverence; πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνἡ is therefore, Spiritus summe venerandus, the θεότἡ, divine nature, or Godhead, which dwelt in Jesus Christ; the Logos, who in the beginning was with God, and was God, and who became flesh and dwelt among us. That πνεῦμα does not here mean the spiritual state of exaltation of Christ, is plain; first, because the word is never so used elsewhere; and, secondly, because it is inconsistent with the antithesis to κατὰ σάρκα. Those who understand the phrase “Spirit of holiness” to refer to the Holy Spirit, either, as before remarked, suppose that the apostle refers to the evidence given by the Spirit to the Sonship of Christ, hence Calvin renders κατὰ πνεῦμα per Spiritum; or they consider him as appealing to the testimony of the Spirit as given in the Scriptures. ‘Christ was declared to be the Son of God, agreeably to the Spirit.’ To both these views, however, the same objection lies, that it destroys the antithesis.
ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, is rendered by Erasmus, Luther, and others, after the resurrection from the dead. It was not until Christ had risen that the evidence of his Sonship was complete, or the fullness of its import known even to the apostles. But it is better suited to the context, and more agreeable to the Scripture, to consider the resurrection itself, as the evidence of his Sonship. It was by the resurrection that he was proved to be the Son of God. “God,” says the apostle, “will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:31. The apostle Peter also says, that “God hath begotten us to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3. Comp. 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 13:35; Acts 26:23; 1 Corinthians 15:20. In these and many other passages the resurrection of Christ is represented as the great conclusive evidence of the truth of all that Christ taught, and of the validity of all his claims. If it be asked how the resurrection of Christ is a proof of his being the Son of God, it may be answered, first, because he rose by his own power. He had power to lay down his life, and he had power to take it again, John 10:18. This is not inconsistent with the fact taught in so many other passages, that he was raised by the power of the Father, because what the Father does the Son does likewise; creation, and all other external works, are ascribed indifferently to the Father, Son, and Spirit. But in the second place, as Christ had openly declared himself to be the Son of God, his rising from the dead was the seal of God to the truth of that declaration. Had he continued under the power of death, God would thereby have disallowed his claim to be his Son; but as he raised him from the dead, he publicly acknowledged him; saying, Thou art my Son, this day have I declared thee such. “If Christ be not right, then is our preaching vain,” says the apostle, “and your faith is also vain. But now is Christ risen, and become the first fruits of them that slept.”
Jesus Christ our Lord. These words are in apposition with τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ of the third verse; “his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” All the names of Christ are precious to his people. He is called Jesus, Savior, because he saves his people from their sins, Matthew 1:21. The name Christ, i.e., Messiah, Anointed, connects him with all the predictions and promises of the Old Testament. He is the anointed prophet, priest, and king, to whom all believing eyes had been so long directed, and on whom all hopes centered. He is κύριος ἡμῶν our Lord. This word indeed is often used as a mere term of respect, equivalent to Sir, but as it is employed by the lxx, as the common substitute of Jehovah, or rather as the translation of àÂãåÉðÈé, adonai, in the sense of supreme Lord and possessor, so it is in the New Testament applied in the same sense to Christ. He is our supreme Lord and possessor. We belong to him, and his authority over us is absolute, extending to the heart and conscience as well as to the outward conduct; and to him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. He, then, who in this exalted sense is our Lord, is, as to his human nature, the Son of David, and, as to his Divine nature, the Son of God.
Through whom we have received grace and apostleship. As it was of the utmost importance that Paul’s authority as an apostle should be acknowledged in the Church, he here repeats the assertion that he received his office immediately from Jesus Christ, whose exalted character as the Son of God and our supreme Lord he had just declared. Though δἰ οὗ properly means through whom, by whose instrumentality, the preposition must here be taken in a more general sense as indicating the source from whom. Comp. Galatians 1:1 διὰ θεοῦ πατρός. Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 1:9. The words χάριν καὶ ἀποστολήν may either be taken together and rendered the favor of the apostleship, or each word may be taken separately. Then χάρις refers to the kindness of God manifested to the apostle in his conversion and vocation. ‘Through whom we received grace, favor in general, and specially, the apostleship.’
Unto the obedience of faith. These words express the object of the apostleship; πίστεως is either the genitive of apposition, “obedience which consists in faith;” or it is the genitive of the source, “obedience which flows from faith;” or it is the genitive of the object, “obedience to faith;” i.e., to the gospel. In favor of the last interpretation reference may be made to 2 Corinthians 10:5. ης ὑπακοὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ; 1 Peter 1:22 ης ὑπακοὴ τῆς ἀληθείας, obedience to the truth. See Galatians 1:23; Acts 6:7; Judges 1:3 for examples of the use of πίστίς in this objective sense. The subjective sense, however, of the word πίστις in the New Testament is so predominant that it is safest to retain it in this passage. The obedience of faith is that obedience which consists in faith, or of which faith is the controlling principle. The design of the apostleship was to bring all nations so to believe in Christ the Son of God that they should be entirely devoted to his service. The sense is the same if πίστις be taken objectively, understood, however, not of the gospel, but of the inward principle of faith to which the nations were to be obedient. Among all nations. The apostles were not diocesans restricted in jurisdiction to a particular territory. Their commission was general. It was to all nations. If these words are connected with we received, they express directly the extent of the apostle’s mission, ‘We have received a mission among all nations.’ If, as is much more natural, on account of their position, they are connected with the immediately preceding words, they express the same idea indirectly; his office was to promote obedience to the faith among all nations. For his name. That is for the sake of (ὑπέρ) his name or glory. These words are most naturally connected with the whole preceding verse, and express the final end of the apostleship, viz., the honor of Christ. It was to promote the knowledge and glory of Christ that Paul had received his office and labored to make the nations obedient to the gospel.
Among whom are ye also. The apostle thus justifies his addressing the Church at Rome in his official character. If the commission which he had received extended to all nations, he was not transcending its limits in writing as an apostle to any church, though it had not been founded by his instrumentality, nor enjoyed his personal ministry. Called of Jesus Christ. This may mean, Those whom Christ has called. But as the κλῆσις, or vocation of believers, is generally in the New Testament referred to God, the meaning probably is, The called who belong to Christ. Qui Dei beneficio estis Jesu Christi, Beza. The word κλητός is never in the epistles applied to one who is merely invited by the external call of the gospel. Οις κλητοί, the called, means the effectually called; those who are so called by God as to be made obedient to the call. Hence the κλητοί are opposed to those who receive and disregard the outward call. Christ, though an offense to the Jews and Greeks, is declared to be (τοῖς κλητοῖϚ) to the called the wisdom and power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24. Hence, too, κλητοί and ἐκλεκτοί are of nearly the same import; κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοί, Romans 8:28; comp. Romans 9:11; 1 Corinthians 1:26, 1 Corinthians 1:27. We accordingly find κλητοί used as a familiar designation of believers, as in Revelation 17:14 οις μετ- αὐτοῦ κλητοὶ καὶ ἐκλεκτοὶ καὶ πιστοί. See Judges 1:1. Comp. Romans 8:30; Romans 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 7:17 et seq., Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Timothy 1:9. In these and in many other passages, the verb καλέω expresses the inward efficacious call of the Holy Spirit.
Theophylact remarks that the word κλητοί is applied to Christians, since they are drawn by grace, and do not come of themselves. God, as it were, anticipates them. The same remark may be made of most of the other terms by which believers are designated. They all more or less distinctly bring into view the idea of the agency of God in making them to differ from others. They are called ἐκλεκτοί θεοῦ. Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:1; or more fully ἐκλεκτοὶ κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ, 1 Peter 1:2; ἡγιασμένοι sanctified, which includes the idea of separation, 1 Corinthians 1:2; Judges 1:1; προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ θεοῦ, Ephesians 1:11; σωζόμενοι, 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15; τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, Acts 13:48.
To all who are in Rome. These words are, in sense, connected with the first verse, “Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ, to all who are in Rome.” Beloved of God. This is the great distinction and blessedness of believers, they are the beloved of God. They are not so called simply because, as was the case with the ancient Israelites, they are selected from the rest of the world, and made the recipients of peculiar external favors; but because they are the objects of that great love wherewith he hath loved those whom, when they were dead in sins, he hath quickened together with Christ, Ephesians 2:4, Ephesians 2:5. They are the elect of God, holy and beloved, Colossians 3:12; they are brethren beloved of the Lord, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Called to be saints. The former of these worlds stands in the same relation to the latter that κλητός does to ἀπόστολος in Romans 1:1, called to be an apostle, called to be saints. It is one of those designations peculiar to the true people of God, and expresses at once their vocation, and that to which they are called, viz., holiness. The word ἃγιος, in accordance with the meaning of ÷ÈãåÉùÑ, holy, in the Old Testament, signifies clean, pure morally, consecrated, and especially as applied to God, holy, worth of reverence. The people of Israel, their land, their temple, etc., are called holy, as separated and devoted to God. The term ἃγιοι as applied to the people of God under the new dispensation, includes this idea. They are saints, because they are a community separated from the world and consecrated to God. But agreeably to the nature of the Christian dispensation, this separation is not merely external; believers are assumed to be really separated from sin, that is, clean, pure. Again, as the impurity of sin is, according to Scripture, twofold, its pollution, and guilt or just liability to punishment, so the words, καθαίρειν, καθαρίζειν, ἁγιάζειν, which all mean to cleanse, are used both to express the cleansing from guilt by expiation, and from pollution by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the one and sometimes the other, and often both of these ideas are expressed by the words. See John 15:2; Hebrews 10:2 for the use of καθαίρω; Acts 15:9; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 1:7; for the use of καθαρίζω; John 17:19; Acts 26:16; 1 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:29; for the use of ἁγιάζω. Hence Christians are called ἃγιοι, ἡγιασμένοι, not only as those who are consecrated to God, but also as those who are cleansed both by expiation, and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
“Novam hîc periodum incipio,” says Beza, “adscripto puncto post ἁγίοις.” In this punctuation he is followed by Knapp, Lachmann, Fritzsche, and many others. The sense then is, “Paul, an apostle — to the saints in Rome.” And then follows the salutation, “Grace and peace to you.” That the words χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη are in the nominative, and the introduction of ὑμῖν show that a new sentence is here begun.
Grace be to you, and peace. Χάρις is kindness, and especially undeserved kindness, and therefore it is so often used to express the unmerited goodness of God in the salvation of sinners. Very frequently it is used metonymically for the effect of kindness, that is, for a gift or favor. Anything, therefore, bestowed on the undeserving may be called χάρις. In this sense Paul calls his apostleship χάρις, Romans 12:3; Ephesians 3:2, Ephesians 3:8; and all the blessings conferred on sinners through Jesus Christ, are graces, or gifts. It is in this sense repentance, faith, love, and hope are graces. And especially the influence of the Holy Spirit in the heart, in connection with the gift of the Son, the greatest of God’s free gifts to men, is with peculiar propriety called χάρις, or grace. Such is its meaning in 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:1; Romans 12:6; Galatians 1:15 and in many other passages. In the text, it is to be taken in the comprehensive sense in which it is used in the apostolic benedictions for the favor and love of God and Christ. The word εἰρήνη, which is so often united with χάρις in the formulas of salutation, is used in the wide sense of the Hebrew word ùÈÑìåÉí, Shalom, well-being, prosperity, every kind of good. Grace and peace therefore include everything that we can desire or need, the favor of God, and all the blessings that favor secures. “Nihil prius optandum,” says Calvin, “quאm ut Deum propitium habeamus; quod designatur per gratiam. Deinde ut ab eo prosperitas et successus omnium rerum fluat, qui significatur Pacis vocabulo.”
From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. This association of the Father and Christ as equally the object of prayer, and the source of spiritual blessings, is a conclusive proof that Paul regarded Christ as truly God. God is called our Father, not merely as the author of our existence, and the source of every blessing, but especially as reconciled towards us through Jesus Christ. The term expresses the peculiar relation in which he stands to those who are his sons, who have the spirit of adoption, and are the heirs or recipients of the heavenly inheritance. Jesus Christ is our Lord, as our supreme Ruler, under whose care and protection we are placed, and through whose ministration all good is actually bestowed.
From this verse to the end of the 17th, we have the general introduction to the epistle. It has the usual characteristics of the introductory portions of the apostle’s letters. It is commendatory. It breathes the spirit of love towards his brethren, and of gratitude and devotion towards God; and it introduces the reader in the most natural and appropriate manner to the great doctrines which he means to exhibit. First, I thank my God. The words πρῶτον μέν imply an enumeration, which however is not carried out. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:18; 1 Corinthians 12:28 and other cases in which the apostle begins a construction which he does not continue. My God, that is, the God to whom I belong, whom I serve, and who stands to me in the relation of God, as father, friend, and source of all good. “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people,” Hebrews 8:10, is the most comprehensive of all promises. Through Jesus Christ, are not to be connected with the immediately preceding words, ‘My God, through Jesus Christ;’ but with εὐχαριστῶ, ‘I thank God, through Jesus Christ.’ This form of expression supposes the mediation of Christ, by whom alone we have access to the Father, and for whose sake alone either our prayers or praises are accepted. See Romans 7:25; Ephesians 5:20. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Colossians 3:17, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Hebrews 13:15, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God.” All this is in accordance with the command of Christ, John 14:13 and John 16:23, John 16:24, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive.” Such then being the clear doctrine of the Bible, that in all our approaches to God in prayer or praise, we must come in the name of Christ, that is, in him, referring to him as the ground of our acceptance, there is no need of the various forced interpretations of the words in the text, which have been given by those who are unwilling to admit the idea of such mediation on the part of Christ. For you all. Several manuscripts have περί instead of ὑπέρ, which is probably a correction. The sense is the same. The special ground of the apostle’s thankfulness is expressed in the following clause: That your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Their faith was of such a character as to excite general attention and remark. Not only the fact that the Romans believed, but that their faith was of such a character as to be everywhere spoken of, was recognized by the apostle as cause of gratitude to God. God therefore is the giver of faith.
In confirmation of his declaration of gratitude for their conversion, and for the eminence of their faith, Paul appeals to his constant remembrance of them in his prayers. For God is my witness. This reverent appeal to God as the searcher of hearts, is not uncommon in the apostle’s writings. 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; Philippians 1:8. It is an act of worship, a devout recognition of God’s omnipresence and omniscience. Whom I serve. The word λατρεύω is in the New Testament always used of religious service, either as rendered to God or to creatures — ‘Who worship and serve the creature more than the Creator,’ Romans 1:25. This service may consist either in worship, or in the performance of external duties of a religious nature. The service of which Paul here speaks is characterized in the following clause; in my spirit. This is opposed at once to an insincere, and to a mere external service. In the gospel of his Son. That is, it was a service rendered in preaching the gospel. The priests served, ἐλάτρευσαν, when performing the duties of their office; and Paul served in performing the duties of an apostle. The gospel of his Son, may mean either the gospel concerning his Son, or which his Son himself taught. The former, perhaps, is more in accordance with the use of this and similar phrases, as, ‘gospel of the kingdom,’ ‘gospel of the grace of God,’ etc. That I constantly make mention of you. It is plain, from the occurrence of the word δεόμενος in the next verse, and from the use of this expression in other places, Philippians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2 that Paul here refers to his remembering the Roman Christians in his prayers, and not to his bearing them in his mind, or talking about them. The particle ὡς may be connected with ἀδιαλείπτως, how uninterruptedly; or with the clause, ‘God is my witness that,’ etc. Comp. Acts 10:28; 1 Thessalonians 2:10.
I make mention of you, always in my prayers praying (εἴ πως) if possibly, if it may be, expressing the submission to the will of God with which the apostle urged his request. ἤδη ποτέ, now at last, as though he had long looked forward with desire to what there was now a prospect of his seeing accomplished. I may be so happy, by the will of God, to come to you. Εὐοδοῦν is, to lead in the right way, to prosper one’s journey, Genesis 24:48, and figuratively, to prosper, 1 Corinthians 16:2; 3 John 1:2. In the passive voice, it is, to be prospered, successful, favored. In the present case, as Paul had neither commenced his journey, nor formed any immediate purpose to undertake it, see Romans 15:25-29, his prayer was not that his journey might be prosperous, but that he might be permitted to undertake it; that his circumstances should be so favorably ordered that he might be able to execute his long cherished purpose of visiting Rome. Knowing, however, that all things are ordered of God, and feeling that his own wishes should be subordinated to the Divine will, he adds, by the will of God; which is equivalent to, If it be the will of God. ‘Praying continually, that, if it be the will of God, I may be prospered to come unto you.’
Why the apostle was anxious to visit Rome, he states in this verse. He desired to see them, not merely for his own gratification, but that he might confer some spiritual gift upon them, which would tend to strengthen their faith. For I Long to see you, that I may impart (μεταδῶ share with you) some spiritual gift. By spiritual gift is not to be understood a gift pertaining to the soul in distinction from the body, but one derived from the Spirit. The gifts of which the Holy Spirit is the author, include not only those miraculous endowments of which such frequent mention is made in the Epistle to the Corinthians, and the ordinary gifts of teaching, exhortation, and prophesying, 1 Corinthians 12, but also those graces which are the fruits of the Spirit. The extraordinary gifts were communicated by the imposition of the apostles’ hands, Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6, and therefore abounded in churches founded by the apostles, 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 3:5. As the church at Rome was not of this number, it has been supposed that Paul was desirous of conferring on the Roman Christians some of those miraculous powers by which the gospel was in other places attended and confirmed. The following verses, however, are in favor of giving the phrase here a wider signification. Any increase of knowledge, of grace, or of power, was a χάρισμα πνευματικόν in the sense here intended. In order that ye may be strengthened. This includes not only an increase of confidence in their belief of the gospel, but an increase of strength in their religious feelings, and in their purpose and power of obedience. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:2; I sent Timothy — “to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” And 2 Thessalonians 2:17, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.” And the apostle prays that the Ephesians might be strengthened as to the inner man.
That is, that I may be comforted among you. This is obviously intended to be an explanation or correction of what precedes. He had desired to see them, in order that he might do them good; but this was not his whole object, he hoped to receive benefit himself. As to the grammatical construction, the infinite συμπαρακληθῆναι may depend on στηριχθῆναι. The sense would then be, ‘That you may be strengthened, that I may be comforted.’ Or the one infinitive is coordinate with the other; then both depend on the ἵνα μεταδῶ of Romans 1:11, ‘That I may impart some spiritual gift to you, in order that you may be strengthened; that is, that I may be comforted together with you.’ This seems the most natural construction; yet as Paul expected to be refreshed by their faith and not by his giving them spiritual gifts, the sense seems to require that συμπαρακληθῆναι should depend on the first words of Romans 1:11, ‘I desire to see you, that I may impart (ἵνα μεταδῶ) some spiritual gift to you; that is, that I may be comforted (συμπαρακληθῆναι),’ etc. It is not a valid objection to this interpretation, that it supposes a change of the construction from the subjunctive to the infinitive. A similar change occurs (probably) in Romans 9:22, Romans 9:23; and much greater irregularities are not unfrequent in the New Testament.
The word παρακαλέω is used in such various senses, that it is not easy to determine what precise meaning should be attached to it here. It signifies to call near, to invite, Acts 28:20 to call upon, and more generally to address, either for instruction, admonition, exhortation, confirmation, or consolation. Our translators and the majority of commentators choose the last mentioned sense, and render συμπαρακληθῆναι(ἐμέ) that I may be comforted. This is probably too narrow. The word expresses all that excitement and strengthening of faith and pious feeling, as well as consolation, which is wont to flow from the communion of saints. This appears from the context, and especially from the following clause, διὰ τῆς ἐν ἀλλήλοις πίστεως, ὑμῶν τε καὶ ἐμοῦ, through our mutual faith, as well yours as mine. The faith of the Romans would not only comfort, but strengthen the apostle; and his faith could not fail to produce a like effect on them. Βν τε καὶ ἐμοῦ are the explanation of the preceding ἐν ἀλλήλοις, and should therefore be in the dative. Fritzsche refers to Luke 1:55 for a similar case of variation in the construction.
I would not have you ignorant, brethren; a mode of expression which the apostle often adopts, when he would assure his readers of anything, or call their attention to it particularly. That oftentimes I purposed to come unto you. In Romans 15:23, he states that he had cherished this purpose for many years. And was hindered until now. Our version renders καί adversatively but. This is objected to as unnecessary especially as καί often introduces a parenthesis; and such is this clause, because the following ἵνα must depend on προεθέμην of the preceding clause. As in the fifteenth chapter the apostle says, that having no more place in the countries around Greece, he was ready to visit Rome, it is probable that the hindering to which he here refers, was the incessant calls for apostolic labor, which left no time at his command. As, however, his course seems to have been under the guidance of a special providence, Acts 16:6, Acts 16:7, Acts 16:9 it may be that the Spirit who had forbidden his preaching in Asia, had hitherto forbidden his visiting Rome. That may have some fruit among you, as among other gentiles. Καρπὸν ἔχειν is to have profit, or advantage. See Romans 6:21, Romans 6:22. The profit, however, which Paul desired, was the fruit of his ministry, the conversion or edification of those to whom he preached.
Both to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am debtor. That is, I am under obligation (to preach) to all classes of men. His commission was a general one, confined to no one nation, and to no particular class. Greeks and barbarians, mean all nations; wise and unwise, mean all classes. Βάρβαρος means properly a foreigner, one of another language, 1 Corinthians 14:11. Greeks and barbarians therefore, is equivalent to Greeks and not Greeks, all nations. As the Greeks however, excelled other nations in civilization, the word came to signify rude, uncultivated; though even by later writers it is often used in its original sense, and not as a term of reproach. The apostle distinguishes men first as nations, Greeks and not Greeks, and secondly as to culture, wise and unwise. The Romans, whose city was called “an epitome of the world,” belonged exclusively neither to the one class nor to the other. Some were wise and some unwise, some Greeks and some barbarians.
And so, or hence. That is, since I am bound to all men, Greeks and barbarians, I am ready to preach to you who are at Rome. The clause, τὸ κατ ̓ ἐμε πρόθυμον, admits of different interpretations. According to the English version, τὸ κατ ̓ ἐμέ must be taken together; πρόθυμον is taken as a substantive, and made the nominative to ἐστί. Hence, as much as is in me, (or, as far as I am concerned), there is a readiness, i.e. I am ready. Thus Calvin, “Itaque, quantum in me est, paratus sum.” This gives a good sense, and is specially suited to the context, as it renders prominent Paul’s dependence and submission. He did not direct his own steps. As far as he was concerned, he was willing to preach in Rome; but whether he should do so or not, rested not with him, but with God. A second explanation makes τὸ κατ ̓ ἐμέ the subject of the sentence, and pro&qumon the predicate. ‘What is in me is ready.’ Thus Beza, “Quicquid in me situm est, id promptum est.” Or, as Beza also proposes, τὁ κατ ̓ ἐμέ may be taken as a periphrase for ἐγώ, and the clause be translated, “Promptus sum ego.” But it is denied that such a periphrase for the personal pronoun ever occurs; τὰ ὑμέτερα for ὑμεῖς, and τὰ ἐμά for ἐγώ, to which Beza refers, are not parallel. The third explanation, refers τό to πρόθυμον, and makes κατ ̓ ἐμέ equal to ἐμοῦ, ‘My readiness, or desire is.” Comp. Ephesians 1:15, τὴν καθ ̓ ὑμᾶς πίστιν, your faith; Acts 17:28, τῶν καθ ̓ ὑμᾶς ποιητῶν, Acts 18:15, νόμου τοῦ καθ ὑμᾶς. To preach the gospel. The verb εὐαγγελίσασθαι is commonly followed by some word or phrase expressing the subject of the message — kingdom of God, gospel, word of God, Christ. In writing to Christians, who knew what the glad tidings were, the apostles often, as in the present case, use the word absolutely so that the word by itself means to preach the gospel, etc. See Romans 15:20; Acts 14:7; Galatians 4:13.
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.‹7› This he assigns as the reason why he was ready to preach even at Rome. To the wise of this world the gospel was foolishness, 1 Corinthians 1:23 yet Paul was not ashamed of it, but was ready among the wise and unwise to preach Christ and him crucified. The reason of this regard for the gospel is stated in the following clause: For it is the power of God unto salvation. By δύναμις Θεοῦ, some understand great power; in accordance with an assumed Hebrew idiom, agreeably to which ‘mountains of God’ mean great mountains, ‘wind of God’ great wind, ‘zeal of God’ great zeal, etc. But the existence of such an idiom in the Hebrew is very doubtful, and its application to this passage is unnatural and unnecessary. Others make Θεοῦ a mere qualifying genitive, ‘power of God,’ meaning ‘divinely powerful.’ Beza’s explanation is, “Organon Dei vere potens et efficax.” The gospel is then declared to be that through which God exercises his power. Most commonly Θεοῦ is taken as the genitive of the Author, and power of God is made to mean power derived from God. There are two things then asserted of the gospel, first that it is powerful, and secondly that it is from God. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 1:24). The main idea, however, is that expressed by Beza, The gospel is that in which God works, which he renders efficacious — εἰς σωτηρίαν, unto salvation. That is, it is efficacious to save. The nature of the salvation here intended is to be learned from the nature of the gospel. It is deliverance from sin and its punishment, and admission into eternal life and blessedness. This is what no means of man’s devising, no efforts of human wisdom or human power could effect for any human being. The gospel effects it παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, for every one that believes. Emphasis must be laid on both the members of this clause. The gospel is thus efficacious to every one, without distinction between Jew and gentile, Greek or barbarian, wise or unwise; and it is efficacious to every one that believes, not to every one who is circumcised, or baptized, or who obeys the law, but to every one who believes, that is, who receives and confides in Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel. We have here the two great doctrines set forth in this epistle. First, salvation is by faith; and secondly, it is universally applicable, to the Greek as well as to the Jew. The faith of which the apostle here speaks includes a firm persuasion of the truth, and a reliance or trust on the object of faith. Sometimes the one, sometimes the other of these ideas is expressed by the word, and very often both are united. The meaning of the term is not to be determined so much by philosophical analysis as by scriptural usage. For the question is not what is the abstract nature of the act of believing, philosophically considered, but what act or state of mind is expressed by the words πιστεύειν and πίστις in the various constructions in which they occur. It is rare indeed that the state of mind expressed by any word is so simple as not to admit of being resolved into various elements. The exercise expressed by the world love, for example, includes the perception of agreeable qualities in its object, a judgment of the mind as to their nature, a delight in them, and a desire for their enjoyment. And these differ specifically in their nature, according to the nature of the thing loved. It is not to any one of these elements of the complex affection that the word love is applied, but to the state of mind as a whole. So also with the word faith, the exercise which it expresses includes a perception of its object and its qualities, that is, it includes knowledge; secondly, an assent of the mind to the truth of the thing believed, and very often a reliance or trust on the object of faith. Assent is therefore but one of the elements of saving faith, that is, it is but one of the constituents of that state of mind which, in a multitude of cases, is in the Bible expressed by the word. And as the great object of interest to Christians is not a philosophical definition of a word, but a knowledge of the sense in which it is used in the word of God, we must recur to the usage of the Scriptures themselves to determine what that faith is which is connected with salvation.
There is no doubt that πιστεύειν is often used to express mere assent. It means — to receive as true, to be persuaded of the truth of any thing. Hence πίστις is persuasion of the truth. When πιστεύειν has this simple meaning, it is commonly followed by the accusative, as in 1 Corinthians 11:18; John 11:26; or by the dative, Mark 16:13, οὐδὲ ἐκείνοις ἐπίστευσαν, John 5:46; or by ὃτι, Mark 11:23; Romans 10:9. Yet in these cases the word often expresses confidence or trust, as well as assent; πιστεύειν Θεῷ is in many connections, to confide in God; as Acts 27:25, πιστεύω γὰρ τῷ Θεῷ ὃτι οὕτως ἔσται.
When πιστεύειν is followed by ἐπί with an accusative, as in Romans 4:5, πιστεύοντι ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα, or by ἐπί with a dative, as Romans 9:33, ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ ̓ αὐτω, 1 Timothy 1:16 it commonly means to trust, to believe upon, to confide in. It has the same sense when followed by εἰς, as in John 14:1, πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν Θεὸν, καὶ ἐις ἐμὲ πιστεύετε, John 16:9, Romans 10:14; Galatians 2:16; and often elsewhere. The construction with ἐν is less common; see, however, Mark 1:15, μετανοεῖτε, καὶ τιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ; comp. Galatians 5:10, πέποιθα ἐν Κυρίῳ, 2 Thessalonians 3:4.
The substantive πίστις also in various constructions signifies reliance, or trust; thus when followed by εἰς, as in Acts 20:21, τίστιν τὴν εἰς τὸν Κύριον ἡμῶν, Acts 24:24; Acts 26:18; by ἐπί, with the accusative, Hebrews 6:1; by πρός, as 1 Thessalonians 1:8, πίστις ὑμῶν ης πρὸς τὸν Θεόν; by ἐν Romans 3:25, διὰ Χριστῷ, comp. Galatians 3:26; 1 Timothy 3:13, πίστει τῇ ἐν 2 Timothy 3:15; or by the genitive, as in Romans 3:22, Romans 3:26; Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:22, and often. That faith, therefore, which is connected with salvation, includes knowledge, that is, a perception of the truth and its qualities; assent, or the persuasion of the truth of the object of faith; and trust, or reliance. The exercise, or state of mind expressed by the word faith, as used in the Scriptures, is not mere assent, or mere trust, it is the intelligent perception, reception, and reliance on the truth, as revealed in the gospel.
To the Jew first, and also to the Greek. To render πρῶτον (first), here especially, would make the apostle teach that the gospel was peculiarly adapted to the Jews, or specially designed for them. But he frequently asserts that this is not the case, Romans 3:9, Romans 3:22, Romans 3:29; Romans 10:12. Πρῶτον, therefore, must have reference to time, ‘To the Jew in the first instance, and then to the Greek.’ Salvation, as our Savior said to the woman of Samaria, is of the Jews. Of them the Messiah came, to them the gospel was first preached, and by them preached to the Gentiles. The apostle often, as in the present instance, says Jews and Greeks, for Jews and Gentiles, because the Greeks were the Gentiles with whom, at that period, the Jews were most familiar.
The reason why the gospel has the efficacy ascribed to it in the preceding verse, is not because of its pure morality, or because it reveals and confirms a future state of retribution, but because the righteousness of God is therein revealed. As this is one of those expressions which are employed to convey ideas peculiar to the gospel, its meaning is to be learned not merely from the signification of the words, but from parallel passages, and from the explanations given in the gospel itself of the whole subject to which it relates. That δικαιοσύνη cannot here be understood of a divine attribute, such as rectitude, justice, goodness, or veracity, is obvious, because it is a δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως, a righteousness which is by faith, i.e., attained by faith, of which the apostle speaks. Besides, it is elsewhere said to be without law, Romans 3:21 to be a gift, Romans 5:17, not to be our own, Romans 10:3, to be from God, Philippians 3:9. These and similar forms of expression are inconsistent with the assumption that the apostle is speaking of a divine attribute. The righteousness of God, therefore, must mean either the righteousness of which God is the author, or which he approves. Luther, Calvin, and many others, prefer the latter. “Die Gerechtigkeit die vor Gott gilt,” is Luther’s version. Calvin says, “Justitiam Dei accipio, quae apud Dei tribunal approbatur.” Beza, Reiche, De Wette, Rückert, and others, prefer the former. These ideas are not incompatible. This righteousness is at once a δικαιοσύνη ης ἐκ Θεοῦ, Philippians 3:9; and a δικαιοσύνη παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, Romans 2:13; Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:11. The gospel reveals a righteousness, which God gives, and which he approves; it is a righteousness, “qua quisquis donatus est, sistitur coram Deo, sanctus, inculpatus, et nullius labis possit postulari.” Beza.
This interpretation is confirmed by all that the Scriptures teach respecting the manner of our justification before God. The Bible represents God in the character of a moral governor or judge. Man is placed under a law which is the rule of his duty, and the standard by which he is to be judged. This law may be variously revealed, but it is ever substantially the same, having the same precepts, the same sanction, and the same promises. Those who comply with the demands of this law are δίκαιοι, righteous; those who break the law are ἄδικοι, unrighteous; to pronounce one righteous is δικαιοῦν, to justify; the righteousness itself, or integrity which the law demands is δικαιοσύνη. Those who are righteous, or who have the righteousness which the law requires, or who are justified, have a title to the favor of God.
Now, nothing is more clearly taught in the Scriptures than that no man in himself is righteous in the sight of God. “There is none righteous, no not one; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” It is no less clearly taught that no man can make himself righteous; that is, he cannot attain the righteousness which the law demands, and which is necessary to his acceptance with God. The reason is, that the law demands perfect obedience, which no one has rendered, or can render. It is hence plain that by the works of the law no flesh can be justified before God. Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; δικαιοσύνη is not ἐκ νόμου, Galatians 3:21 or διὰ νόμοθ, Galatians 2:21, or ἐξ ἔργων, Galatians 2:16. Men are not justified ἰδίᾳ δικαιοσύνῃ by their own righteousness. Romans 10:3. And yet righteousness is absolutely necessary to our justification and salvation. Such a righteousness the gospel reveals; a righteousness which is χωρὶς νόμου, without the law; which is not of works; a δικαιοσύνη πίστεως or ἐκ πίστεως, which is by faith; a righteousness which is not our own, Philippians 3:9; which is the gift of God, Romans 5:17; which is ἐκ Θεοῦ from God; which is imputed χωρὶς ἔργων without works. Christ is our righteousness, 1 Corinthians 1:30 or we are righteous before God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
From this contrast between a righteousness which is our own, which is of works, and that which is not our own, which is of God, from God, the gift of God, it is plain that the δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ of which the apostle here speaks, is that δικαιοσύνη by which we are made δίκαιοι παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ; it is a righteousness which he gives and which he approves. This is the interpretation which is given substantially by all the modern commentators of note, as Tholuck, Reiche, Fritzsche, Rückert, Koellner, De Wette, etc., however much they may differ as to other points. “Alle Erkläung,” says De Wette, “welche das Moment der Zurechnung übersehen, und das thun besonders die katholischen, auch die des Grotius, sind falsch.” That is, “All interpretations which overlook the idea of imputation, as is done in the explanations given by the Romanists, and also in that of Grotius, are false.”
The nature of this righteousness, it is one great design of this epistle, and of the whole gospel to unfold. This, therefore, is not the place to enter fully into the examination of that point; it will present itself at every step of our progress. It is sufficient here to specify the three general views of the nature of that righteousness by which men are justified before God. The first may be called the Pelagian, according to which the apostle teaches that righteousness cannot be attained by obedience to the ritual law of the Jews, but consists in works morally good. The second view is that of the Romanists, who teach that the works meant to be excluded from our justification are legal works; works done without grace and before regeneration; but the righteousness which makes us just before God, is that inherent righteousness, or spiritual excellence which is obtained by the aid of divine grace. The third view, which is the common doctrine of Protestant churches is, that the righteousness for which we are justified is either anything done by us nor wrought in us, but something done for us and imputed to us. It is the work of Christ, what he did and suffered to satisfied the demands of the law. Hence not merely external or ceremonial works are excluded as the ground of justification; but works of righteousness, all works of whatever kind or degree of excellence. Hence this righteousness is not our own. It is nothing that we have either wrought ourselves, or that inheres in us. Hence Christ is said to be our righteousness; and we are said to be justified by his blood, his death, his obedience; we are righteous in him, and are justified by him or in his name, or for his sake. The righteousness of God, therefore, which the gospel reveals, and by which we are constituted righteous, by the perfect righteousness of Christ which completely meets and answers all the demands of what law to which all men are subject, and which all have broken.
This righteousness is said in the text to be of faith. It is obvious that the words ἐκ πίστεως are not to be connected with ἀποκαλύπτεται. They must be connected either directly or indirectly with δικαιοσύνη. It is either δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως ἀποκαλύπτεται, righteousness by faith is revealed; δικαιοσύνη ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως οὖσα righteousness is revealed, being of faith, i.e., which is by faith. Not an excellence of which faith is the germinating principle, or which consists in faith, because this is inconsistent with all those representations which show that this righteousness is not subjective.
The meaning of the words εἰς πίστιν in the formula ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν; from faith to faith, is very doubtful. They must be explained in a manner consistent with their connection with δικαιοσύνη. It is a righteousness which is of faith to faith. Now it cannot be said that our justification depends on our believing first the Old Testament, and then the New, which is the interpretation of Theodoret — δεῖ γὰρ πιστεῦσαι τοῖς προφήταις, καὶ δ ̓ ἐκείνων εἰς τὴν τοῦ ευσαγγελίου πίστιν ποδηγηθῆναι; nor does it seem to suit this connection to make the phrase in question express a progress from a weak or imperfect faith to that which is more perfect. This however is a very generally received interpretation. Calvin says, “Quum initio gustamus evangelium, laetam quidem et exporrectam nobis cernimus Dei frontem, sed eminus; quo magis augescit pietatis eruditio, velut propiore accessu clarius ac magis familiariter Dei gratiam perspicimus.” The sense is however perfectly clear and good, if the phrase is explained to mean, faith alone. As “death unto death” and “life unto life” are intensive, so “faith unto faith” may mean, entirely of faith. Our justification is by faith alone: works form no part of that righteousness in which we can stand before the tribunal of God. “Dicit,” says Bengel, “fidem meram; namque justitia ex fide subsistit in fide, sine operibus … Fides, inquit Paulus, manet fides; fides est prora et puppis, apud Judaeos et Gentiles, etiam apud Paulum, usque ad ipsam ejus consummationem.” Most of the modern commentators regard εἰς in the words εἰς πιστιν as indicating the terminus. Righteousness is from faith and unto faith, comes to it. This makes πίστιν here virtually equivalent to πιστεύοντας, as in Romans 3:22, the δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ is said to be εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεὺοντας. Righteousness then is by faith and unto faith, i.e. is granted unto or bestowed upon believers.
This doctrine of the apostle, that the righteousness which is unto life is to be obtained by faith, he confirms by a reference to Habakkuk 2:4 where it is said, ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως, ζήσεται, he that is righteous by faith, shall live; or, the righteous shall live by faith. The connection of ἐκ πίστεως; with δίκαιος is certainly best suited to the apostle’s object, which is to show that righteousness is by faith; but in either construction the sense is substantially the same. Salvation is by faith. In the Hebrew also, either construction is allowable, as the words are “The righteous in his faith shall live.” The Masoretic accentuation however connects, as Paul does, the first two words together, ‘The righteous in his faith shall live.’ Shall live, shall attain that life which Christ gives, which is spiritual, blessed, and everlasting; comp. Romans 5:17; Romans 8:13; Romans 10:3. This passage is cited in confirmation of the apostle’s own doctrine, and is peculiarly pertinent as it shows that under the old dispensation as well as under the new, the favor of God was to be secured by faith.
1. The apostolic office, except as to what was peculiar and extraordinary, being essentially the same with the ministerial office in general, Paul teaches,
1. That ministers are the servants of Christ, deriving their authority from him, and not from the people;
2. That their calling is to preach the gospel, to which all other avocations must be made subordinate;
3. That the object of their appointment is to bring men to the obedience of faith;
4. That their field is all nations;
5. That the design of all is to honor Christ; it is for his name, Romans 1:1-5.
2. The gospel is contained in its rudiments in the Old Testament. It is the soul of the old dispensation, Romans 1:2.
3. Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Gospel. In stating the substance of the gospel, Paul says, ‘It concerns Jesus Christ,’ Romans 1:3.
4. Christ is at once God and man; the son of David and the son of God, Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4.
5. Christ is called the Son of, God in reference to his Divine nature, and on account of the relation in which, as God, he stands to the Father. The name, therefore, is expressive of his Divine character, Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4.
6. He is the proper object of prayer, and the source of spiritual blessings, Romans 1:7.
7. He is the Mediator through whom our prayers and thanksgiving must be presented to God, Romans 1:8.
8. God is the source of all spiritual good; is to be worshipped in spirit, and agreeably to the gospel; and his providence is to be recognized in reference to the most ordinary affairs of life, Romans 1:8-10.
9. Ministers are not a class of men exalted above the people, and independent of them for spiritual benefits, but are bound to seek, as well as to impart good, in all their intercourse with those to whom they are sent, Romans 1:11, Romans 1:12.
10. Ministers are bound to preach the gospel to all men, rich as well as poor, wise as well as unwise; for it is equally adapted to the wants of all, Romans 1:14, Romans 1:15.
11. The salvation of men, including the pardon of their sins and the moral renovation of their hearts, can be elected by the gospel alone. The wisdom of men, during four thousand years previous to the advent of Christ, failed to discover any adequate means for the attainment of either of these objects; and those who, since the advent, have neglected the gospel, have been eventually unsuccessful, Romans 1:16, etc.
12. The power of the gospel lies not in its pure theism, or perfect moral code, but in the Cross, in the doctrine of justification by faith in a crucified Redeemer, Romans 1:17, etc.
1. Ministers should remember that they are “separated unto the gospel,” and that any occupation which, by its demands upon their attention, or from its influence on their character or feelings, interferes with their devotion to this object, is for them wrong, Romans 1:1.
2. If Jesus Christ is the great subject of the gospel, it is evident that we cannot have right views of the one, without having correct opinions respecting the other. What think ye of Christ? cannot be a minor question. To be Christians we must recognize him as the Messiah, or Son of David; and as Divine, or the Son of God; we must be able to pray to him, to look for blessings from him, and recognize him as the Mediator between God and man, Romans 1:1-8.
3. Christians should remember that they are saints; that is, persons separated from the world and consecrated to God. They therefore cannot serve themselves or the world, without a dereliction of their character. They are saints, because called and made such of God. To all such, grace and peace are secured by the mediation of Christ, and the promise of God, Romans 1:7.
4. In presenting truth, everything consistent with fidelity should be done to conciliate the confidence and kind feelings of those to whom it is addressed; and everything avoided, which tends to excite prejudice against the speaker or his message. Who more faithful than Paul? Yet who more anxious to avoid offense? Who more solicitous to present the truth, not in its most irritating form, but in the manner best adapted to gain for it access to the unruffled minds of his readers? Romans 1:8-14.
5. As all virtues, according to the Christian system, are graces (gifts), they afford matter for thanksgiving, but never for self-complacency, Romans 1:8.
6. The intercourse of Christians should be desired, and made to result in edification, by their mutual faith, Romans 1:12.
7. He who rejects the doctrine of justification by faith, rejects the gospel. His whole method of salvation, and system of religion, must be different from those of the apostles, Romans 1:17.
8. Whether we be wise or unwise, moral or immoral, in the sight of men, orthodox or heterodox in our opinions, unless we are believers, unless we cordially receive “the righteousness which is of God” as the ground of acceptance, we have no part or lot in the salvation of the gospel, Romans 1:17.
The apostle having stated that the only righteousness available in the sight of God is that which is obtained by faith, proceeds to prove that such is the case. This proof required that he should, in the first instance, demonstrate that the righteousness which is of the law, or of works, was insufficient for the justification of a sinner. This he does, first in reference to the Gentiles, Romans 1:18-32; and then in relation to the Jews, Romans 2, 3:1-20. The residue of this chapter then is designed to prove that the Gentiles are justly exposed to condemnation. The apostle thus argues: God is just; his displeasure against sin (which is its punishment) is clearly revealed, Romans 1:18. This principle is assumed by the apostle, as the foundation of his whole argument. If this be granted, it follows that all who are chargeable with either impiety or immorality are exposed to the wrath of God, and cannot claim his favor on the ground of their own character or conduct. That the Gentiles are justly chargeable with both impiety and immorality, he thus proves. They have ever enjoyed such a revelation of the divine character as to render them inexcusable, Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20. Notwithstanding this opportunity of knowing God, they neither worshipped nor served him, but gave themselves up to all forms of idolatry. This is the height of impiety, Romans 1:21-23. In consequence of this desertion of God, he gave them up to the evil of their own hearts, so that they sank into all manner of debasing crimes. The evidences of this corruption of morals were so painfully obvious, that Paul merely appeals to the knowledge which all his readers possessed of the fact, Romans 1:24-31. These various crimes they do not commit ignorantly; they are aware of their ill-desert; and yet they not only commit them themselves, but encourage others in the same course, Romans 1:32.
The inference from the established sinfulness of the Gentile world, Paul does not draw until he has substantiated the same charge against the Jews. He then says, since all are sinners before God, no flesh can be justified by the works of the law, Romans 3:20.
Ἀποκαλύπτεται γὰρ ὁργὴ Θεοῦ ἀπ ̓ ουσρανοῦ. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. The apostle’s object is to prove the doctrine of the preceding verse, viz., that righteousness is by faith. To do this it was necessary to show that men in themselves are exposed to condemnation, or are destitute of any righteousness which can satisfy the demands of God. His argument is, God is just; he is determined to punish sin, and as all men are sinners, all are exposed to punishment. Hence this verse is connected by γάρ to the preceding one. Men must be justified by faith, for the wrath of God is revealed, etc.
The wrath of God is his punitive justice, his determination to punish sin. The passion which is called anger or wrath, and which is always mixed more or less with malignity in the human breast, is of course infinitely removed from what the word imports when used in reference to God. Yet as anger in man leads to the infliction of evil on its object, the word is, agreeably to a principle which pervades the Scriptures, applied to the calm and undeviating purpose of the Divine mind, which secures the connection between sin and misery, with the same general uniformity that any other law in the physical or moral government of God operates.
Is revealed. Ἀποκαλύπτω is properly to uncover, to bring to light, and hence to make known, whether by direct communication, or in some other way. A thing is said to be revealed, when it becomes known from its effects. It is thus that the thoughts of the heart, the arm of the Lord, and wrath of God are said to be “revealed.” It is not necessary therefore to infer from the use of this word, that the apostle meant to intimate that the purpose of God to punish sin was made known by any special revelation. That purpose is manifested in various ways; by the actual punishment of sin, by the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery, by the voice of conscience. Nor do the words “from heaven” imply any extraordinary mode of communication. They are added because God dwells in heaven whence all exhibitions of his character and purposes are said to proceed. It is however implied in the whole form of expression, that this revelation is clear and certain. Men know the righteous judgment of God; they know that those who commit sin are worthy of death. As this is an ultimate truth, existing in every man’s consciousness, it is properly assumed, and made the basis of the apostle’s argument.
This displeasure of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; that is, against all impiety towards God (ἀσέβεια) and injustice towards men (ἀδικία). This distinction is kept up in the following part of the chapter, in which the apostle proves first the impiety, and then the gross immorality of the heathen. Who hold the truth in unrighteousness. The word ἀλήθεια is used in the Scriptures in a more comprehensive sense than our word truth. It often means what is right, as well as what is true; and is therefore often used in antithesis to ἀδικία, unrighteousness, as in Romans 2:8; see Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:7. It is used especially of moral and religious truth; see John 3:21; John 8:32; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:12. It is therefore equivalent to true religion, that is, what is true and right, in reference to God and duty. As κατέχειν sometimes means to have in the sense of possessing, as in 1 Corinthians 7:30 this clause may be rendered, ‘Who have the truth, together with unrighteousness;’ i.e., although they possess the truth, are unrighteous. Comp. James 2:1, μὴ ἐν προσωπολημψίαις ἔχετε τὴν πίστιν. The sentiment is then the same as in Romans 1:21, where the heathen are said to know God, and yet to act wickedly. But as κατέχειν also means to detain, to repress or hinder, 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the passage may be translated, Who hinder or oppose the truth. The great majority of commentators are in favor of this latter interpretation. The words ἐν ἀδικὶᾳ may either express the means of this opposition, and be rendered, through unrighteousness; or they may be taken adverbially, Who unjustly, or wickedly oppose the truth. The former is to be preferred.
That this opposition is wicked because inexcusable on the plea of ignorance, is proved in this and the following verses. They wickedly oppose the truth, because the knowledge of God is manifest among them. Agreeably to this explanation, this verse is connected with the immediately preceding clause. It may however refer to the general sentiment of Romans 1:18. God will punish the impiety and unrighteousness of men, because he has made himself known to them. The former method is to be preferred as more in accordance with the apostle’s manner and more consistent with the context, inasmuch as he goes on to prove that the impiety of the heathen is inexcusable. Since that which may be known of God, is manifest in them. This version is not in accordance with the meaning of γνωστόν which always in the Bible means, what is known, not what may be known. Besides, the English version seems to imply too much; for the apostle does not mean to say that everything that may be known concerning God was revealed to the heathen, but simply that they had such a knowledge of him as rendered their impiety inexcusable. We find γνωστός used the sense of γνωτός, known, Acts 1:19; Acts 2:14; Acts 15:18; γνωστὰ ἀπ ̓ αἰῶνός ἐστι τῷ Θεῷ πάντα τὰ ἔργα αὺτοῦ; and often elsewhere. Hence τὸ γνωστόν is = γνῶσις, as in Genesis 2:9, γνωστὸν τοῦ καλοῦ καὶ τοῦ πονηροῦ. The knowledge of God does not mean simply a knowledge that there is a God, but, as appears from what follows, a knowledge of his nature and attributes, his eternal power and Godhead, Romans 1:20, and his justice, Romans 1:32. Φανερόν ἐστιν ἐν αὐτοῖς, may be rendered, either is manifest among them, or in them. If the former translation be adopted, it is not to be understood as declaring that certain men, the Pythagoreans, Platonists, and Stoics, as Grotius says, had this knowledge; but that it was a common revelation, accessible, manifest to all. In them, however, here more properly means, in their minds. “In ipsorum animis,” says Beza, “quia haec Dei notitia recondita est in intimis mentis penetralibus, ut, velint nolint idololatriae, quoties sese adhibent in consilium, toties a seipsis redarguantur.” It is not of a mere external revelation of which the apostle is speaking, but of that evidence of the being and perfections of God which every man has in the constitution of his own nature, and in virtue of which he is competent to apprehend the manifestations of God in his works. For God hath revealed to them, viz., the knowledge of himself. This knowledge is a revelation; it is the manifestation of God in his works, and in the constitution of our nature. “Quod dicit,” says Calvin, “Deum manifestasse, sensus est, ideo conditum esse hominem, ut spectator sit fabriae mundi; ideo datos ei oculos, ut intuitu tam pulchrae imaginis, ad auctorem ipsum feratur.” God therefore has never left himself without a witness. His existence and perfections have ever been so manifested that his rational creatures are bound to acknowledge and worship him as the true and only God.
This verse is a confirmation and amplification of the preceding, inasmuch as it proves that God does manifest himself to men, shows how this manifestation is made, and draws the inference that men are, in virtue of this revelation, inexcusable for their impiety. The argument is, God has manifested the knowledge of himself to men, for the invisible things of him, that is, his eternal power and Godhead, are, since the creation, clear!y seen, being understood by his works; they are therefore without excuse. The invisible things of him. By the invisible things of God, Theodoret says we are to understand creation, providence, and the divine judgments; Theophylact understands them to refer to his goodness, wisdom, power, and majesty. Between these interpretations the moderns are divided. The great majority prefer the latter, which is obviously the better suited to the context, because the works of God are expressed afterwards by ποιήματα and because the invisible things are those which are manifested by his works, and are explained by the terms “power and Godhead.” The subsequent clause, ἥ τε ἀΐ́διος αὐτοῦ δύναμις καὶ θειότης, is in apposition with and an explanation of the former one. The particle τέ followed by καί, serves then, as Tholuck remarks, to the partition of ἀόρατα into the two ideas δύναμις and θειότης, and not to annex a distinct idea, as though the meaning were, ‘and also his power and Godhead.’ The power of God is more immediately manifested in his works; but not his power alone, but his divine excellence in general, which is expressed by θειότης, from θεῖος. Θεότης, from Θεός, on the other hand, expresses the being, rather than the excellence of God. The latter is Godhead; the former, divinity, a collective term for all the divine perfections.
This divine revelation has been made ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου, from the creation of the world, not by the creation; for κτίσις here is the act of creation, and not the thing created; and the means by which the revelation is made, is expressed immediately by the words τοῖς ποιήνασι, which would then be redundant. The ποιήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ, in this connection, are the things made by God, rather than the things done by him. The apostle says the ἀόρατα καθορᾶται the unseen things are seen, because they are perceived by the mind; νοούμενα being understood by means of the things made. So that they are inexcusable. These words are, by Griesbach, Knapp, and others, made to depend on the last clause of Romans 1:19; and then the interpretation of Beza and the elder Calvinists would be the most natural. God has revealed the knowledge of himself to men, in order that they might be without excuse. But this, to say the least, is unnecessary. The connection with καθορᾶται is perfectly natural. ‘The perfections of God, being understood by his works, are seen, so that men are without excuse.’ Paul does not here teach that it is the design of God, in revealing himself to men, to render their opposition inexcusable, but rather, since this revelation has been made, they have in fact no apology for their ignorance and neglect of God. Though the revelation of God in his works is sufficient to render men inexcusable, it does not follow that it is sufficient to lead men, blinded by sin, to a saving knowledge of himself. As Paul says of the law, that it was weak through the flesh, that is, insufficient on account of our corruption, so it may be said of the light of nature, that, although sufficient in itself as a revelation, it is not sufficient, considering the indisposition and inattention of men to divine things. “Sit haec distinctio,” says Calvin, “demonstratio Dei, qua gloriam suam in creaturis perspicuam facit, esse, quantum ad lucem suam, satis evidentem; quantum ad nostram caecitatem, non adeo sufficere. Caeterum non ita caeci sumus, ut ignorantiam possimus praetexere, quin perversitatis arguamur.”
Since knowing God. The most natural and obvious connection of this verse is with the last clause of the preceding, ‘Men are without excuse, since, although they knew God, they worshipped him not as God.’ This connection, moreover, is in accordance with the apostle’s manner, who often establishes a proposition, which is itself an inference, by a new process of argument. Thus in the present instance, in Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20, he proved that the heathen had a knowledge of God which rendered them inexcusable, and then the fact that they were without excuse, is proved by showing that they did not act in accordance with the truth. Rückert, however, who is followed by Tholuck, considering that the apostle’s object is to show that the heathen wickedly oppose the truth, as stated in Romans 1:18; and that this proof consists of two parts — first, the heathen had the knowledge of the truth, Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20; and secondly, that they did not act according to it, Romans 1:21-23; assumes that the connection is rather with the last clause of Romans 1:18, and that something is implied here which is not expressed, and that the logical reference of διότι is to this omitted thought. ‘The heathen are without excuse, and wickedly oppose the truth, since, although they knew God, they glorified him not as God.’ This sense is good enough, but it is a forced and unnatural interpretation.
The apostle having shown in Romans 1:19, that the knowledge of God was revealed to men, has no hesitation in saying that the heathen knew God; which does not mean merely that they had the opportunity of knowing him, but that in the constitution of their own nature, and in the works of creation, they actually possessed an intelligible revelation of the Divine existence and perfections. This revelation was indeed generally so neglected, that men knew not what it taught. Still they had the knowledge, in the same sense that those who have the Bible are said to have the knowledge of the will of God, however much they may neglect and disregard it. In both cases there is knowledge presented, and a revelation made, and in both ignorance is without excuse. As there is no apology for the impiety of the heathen to be found in any unavoidable ignorance, their idolatry was the fruit of depravity. The apostle therefore says, that although they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful to him. Δοξάζειν is to ascribe honor to any one, to praise, and also to honor, to make glorious, or cause that others should honor any one. Men are said to glorify God either when they ascribe glory to him, or when they so act as to lead others to honor him. In the present case, the former idea is expressed by the word. They did not reverence and worship God as their God; neither did they refer to him the blessings which they daily received at his hands.
Instead of thus rendering unto God the homage and gratitude which are his due, they became vain in their imaginations. Vain (ἐματαιώθησαν) that is, according to constant scriptural usage, became both foolish and wicked. Vain conversation is corrupt conversation, 1 Peter 1:18; and vanity is wickedness, Ephesians 4:17. These words are all frequently used in reference to idolatry, as idols are in the Bible often called, μάταια, vanities. In their imaginations, διαλογισμοῖς properly thoughts; but usually, in the New Testament, with the implication of evil; evil thoughts or machinations. Here the word also has a bad sense. The thoughts of the heathen concerning God were perverted and corrupt thoughts. The whole clause therefore means, that the heathen, in refusing to recognize the true God, entertained foolish and wicked thoughts of the Divine Being; that is, they sank into the folly and sin of idolatry. And their, foolish heart was darkened; they lost the light of divine knowledge; ἀσύνετος, destitute of σύνεσις, understanding, insight into the nature of divine things. The consequence of this want of divine knowledge was darkness. The word καρδία, heart stands for the whole soul. Hence men are said to understand with the heart, Matthew 13:15; to believe with the heart, Romans 10:10; the heart is said to be enlightened with knowledge 2 Corinthians 4:6; and the eyes of the heart are said to be opened, Ephesians 1:8. The word διανοία, mind, is used with the same latitude, not only for the intellect, but also for the seat of the affections, as in Ephesians 2:3 we read of the desires of the mind. It is not merely intellectual darkness or ignorance which the apostle describes in this verse, but the whole moral state. We find throughout the Scriptures the idea of foolishness and sin, of wisdom and piety, intimately connected. In the language of the Bible, a fool is an impious man; the wise are the pious, those who fear God; foolishness is sin; understanding is religion. The folly and darkness of which the apostle here speaks are therefore expressive of want of divine knowledge, which is both the effect and cause of moral depravity.
Professing themselves to be wise Φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοί, (for σοφούς, by attraction). Saying in the sense of pretending to be. The more they boasted of their wisdom, the more conspicuous became their folly. What greater folly can there be, than to worship beasts rather than God? To this the apostle refers in the next verse.
They became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of the image of corruptible man. Herein consisted their amazing folly, that they, as rational beings, should worship the creature in preference to the Creator. The common construction of the verb ἀλλάσσειν in Greek when it means to exchange, is either τί τινος, or τὶ ἀντί τινος; but the apostle imitates the Hebrew construction, äÅéîÄéø áÀÌ, which by the lxx, is rendered ἀλλάσσειν ἐν, as in Psalms 106:20. The sense is not that they change one thing into another, but that they exchanged one thing for another. The glory, a collective term for all the divine perfections. They exchanged the substance for the image, the substantial or real divine glories for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, i.e., an image like to corruptible man. The contrast is not merely between God and man, or between the incorruptible, imperishable, eternal God, and frail man, but between this incorruptible God and the image of a man. It was not, however, in the worship of the images of men only that the degradation of the heathen was manifested, for they paid religious homage to birds, beasts, and reptiles. In such idolatry the idol or animal was, with regard to the majority, the ultimate object of worship. Some professed to regard the visible image as a mere symbol of the real object of their adoration; while others believed that the gods in some way filled these idols, and operated through them; and others again, that the universal principle of being was reverenced under these manifestations. The Scriptures take no account of these destinations. All who bowed down to stocks and stones are denounced as worshipping gods which their own hands had made; and idolatry is made to include not merely the worship of false gods, but the worship of the true God by images. The universal prevalence of idolatry among the heathens, notwithstanding the revelation which God had made of himself in his works, is the evidence which Paul adduces to prove that they are ungodly, and consequently exposed to that wrath which is revealed against all ungodliness. In the following, verses, to the end of the chapter, he shows that they are unrighteous; that as the consequence of their departure from God, they sank into the grossest vices.
Wherefore also he gave them, in their lusts, unto uncleanness. The most natural construction of this passage is to connect εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν with παρέδωκεν, he gave up unto uncleanness. We have the same construction in Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28, and infrequently elsewhere. To construct παρέδωκεν with ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, as Beza and others do, gives indeed a good sense, He gave them up to their desires unto uncleanness, i.e., so that they became unclean, but is opposed to the constant usage of the New Testament, in as much as παραδίδωμι never occurs in construction with ἐν. If the former construction be adopted, ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις may be rendered as in our version, through their lusts; or better in their lusts; ἐν expressing their condition, or circumstances; them in their lusts, i.e., being in them, immersed in them. To dishonor, τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι. This infinitive with τοῦ may depend on the preceding noun; ‘the uncleanness of dishonoring,’ etc., “quae cernebatur in,” etc. Winer, §45:4. b. But as the infinitive with the genitive article is so frequently used to express design, or simple sequence, it is better to make it depend on the whole preceding clause, ‘He gave them up to uncleanness, to dishonor,’ i.e., either in order that they might dishonor, or so that they dishonored, etc. ἀτιμὰζεσθαι may be taken either as middle, so that they dishonored their bodies; or as passive, so that their bodies were dishonored. The former best suits the context. Ἐν ἑαυτοῖς is either equivalent to ἐν ἀλλήλοις, reciprocally, they dishonored one another, as to their bodies; or in themselves, dishonoring their bodies in themselves; “significantius exprimit,” says Calvin, “quàm profundas et ineluibiles ignominiae notas corporibus suis inusserint.”
This abandonment of the heathen to the dominion of sin is represented as a punitive infliction. They forsook God, διὸ καί, wherefore also he gave them up to uncleanness. This is explained as a simple permission on the part of God. But it removes no real difficulty. If God permits those who forsake him to sink into vice, he does it intelligently and intentionally. The language of the apostle, as well as the analogy of Scripture, demands more than this. It is at least a judicial abandonment. It is as a punishment for their apostasy that God gives men up to the power of sin. Tradidit Deus ut justus judex. He withdraws from the wicked the restraints of his providence and grace, and gives them over to the dominion of sin. God is presented in the Bible as the absolute moral and physical ruler of the world. He governs all things according, to the counsel of his own will and the nature of his creatures. What happens as consequences does not come by chance, but as designed; and the sequence is secured by his control. “It is beyond question,” says Tholuck, “that, according to the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments, sin is the punishment of sin.” So the Rabbins teach, “The reward of a good deed is a good deed, and of an evil deed, an evil deed.” This is also the teaching of all experience. We see that sin follows sin as an avenger. De Wette truly says, “Diese Ansicht ist nicht bloss jüdisch, sondern allgemein wahr vom absoluten Standpunkte der Religion aus.” “This is no mere Jewish doctrine, but it is universally true from the absolute standpoint of religion.” God is not a mere idle spectator of the order of events; he is at once the moral governor and efficient controller of all things. “Man is not ‘a virtue-machine,’” says Meyer, “when God rewards virtue with virtue; neither is he ‘a sin machine,’ when God punishes sin with sin.” Men are as free in sinning as they are in obeying; and what in one passage and from one point of view, is properly presented as the work of God, in another passage and from another point of view, is no less properly presented as the work of man. What is here said to be God’s work, in Ephesians 4:19 is declared to be the sinner’s own work.
Who change (οἳτινεϚ). The pronoun has a causal sense, being such as those who, i.e., because they exchanged the, truth of God for a lie. The construction is the same as in Romans 1:23, μετήλλαχαν ἐν, they exchanged for, not they changed into. The truth of God, either a periphrase for the true God, or the truth concerning God, i.e., right conceptions of God. For a lie, that is, either a false God, or falsehood, i.e., false views of God. The former is the better explanation. The glory of God is God himself as glorious, and the truth of God, in this connection, is God himself as true; that is, the true God. In the Old Testament, as in Jeremiah 13:25; Jeremiah 16:19 the gods of the heathen are spoken of as lies. Anything which is not what it pretends to be, or what it is supposed to be, is in the Scriptures called a lie. The proof of this apostasy is, that they worshipped (ἐσεβάσθησαν) and served (ἐλάτρευσαν). These words are often synonymous, both being used to express inward reverence and outward worship; although the former properly expresses the feeling, and the latter the outward service. The creature (κτίσει), not the creation, but any particular created thing. This noun belongs, in sense, to both the preceding verbs, although the first by itself would require the accusative. More than the Creator, παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα, i.e., beyond, in the sense of more than, or in the sense of passing by, neglecting; “praeterito Creatore,” as Beza translates. The latter suits best. Who is blessed for ever: Amen. Who, notwithstanding the neglect of the heathen, is the ever-blessed God. This is the natural tribute of reverence toward the God whom men dishonored by their idolatry. The word ἐυλογντός is by Harless, Ephesians 1:3 and by Meyer, made to mean praised, as the Hebrew áÈøåÌê, to which it so constantly answers; not, therefore, worthy of praise, but who is in fact the object of praise to all holy beings. Bretschneider (Lexicon), Tholuck, and others, render it “celebrandus, venerandus.” Amen is properly a Hebrew adjective, signifying true or faithful. At the beginning of a sentence it is often used adverbially, verily, assuredly; at the end of a sentence it is used to express assent, it is true, so let it be. Paul says Amen to the declaration that God is the ever-blessed.
For this cause, etc. That is, because they worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, God gave them up to corrupt affections. Πάθη ἀτιμίας, shameful lusts, passions which are degrading, and the indulgence of which covers men with ignominy. This verse is therefore an amplification of the idea expressed in Romans 1:24. The reasons why Paul refers in the first instance to the sins of uncleanness, in illustration and proof of the degradation of the heathen, probably were, that those sins are always intimately connected with idolatry, forming at times even a, part of the service rendered to the false gods; that in turning from God and things spiritual, men naturally sink into the sensual; that the sins in question are peculiarly degrading; and that they were the most notorious, prevalent, and openly acknowledged of all the crimes of the heathen world. This corruption of morals was condemned to no one class or sex. The description given by profane writers of the moral corruption of the ante-Christian ages, is in all respects as revolting as that presented by the apostle. Of this the citations of Western and Grotius furnish abundant proof. Paul first refers to the degradation of females among the heathen, because they are always the last to be affected in the decay of morals, and their corruption is therefore proof that all virtue is lost.
The apostle for the third time repeats the idea that the moral degradation of the heathen was a punishment of their apostasy from God. Receiving, he says, in themselves the meet recompense of their error. It is obvious from the whole context that πλάνη here refers to the sin of forsaking the true God; and it is no less obvious that the recompense or punishment of this apostasy was the moral degradation which he had just described.
The heathen themselves did not fail to see the intimate connection between impiety and vice. Silius, 4:794. “Heu primae scelerum causae mortalibus aegris naturam nescire Deûm.” Cicero De natura Deorum, 12. “Haud scio, an, pietate adversus Deos sublatâ, fides etiam et societas, et una excellentissima virtus justitia tollatur.” See Wetstein. Those therefore who would merge religion into morality, or who suppose that morality can be sustained without religion, are more ignorant than the heathen. They not only shut their eyes to all the teachings both of philosophy and of history, but array against themselves the wrath of God, who has revealed his purpose to abandon to the most degrading lusts those who apostatize from him.
And as they did not think it worth while to retain God in their knowledge, he gave them up to a reprobate mind. Another repetition of the sentiment is expressed in Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26, that God abandons those who abandon him. And as, καὶ καθώς. The cases are parallel; as they deserted God, so God abandoned them; comp. John 17:2. They did not like, οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν; the verb means to try or put to the test, to examine, to approve, and, dignum habere, to regard as worthy, 1 Corinthians 16:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:4 and when followed by an infinitive, to think it worth while. The heathen did not think it worth the trouble to retain the knowledge of God. They considered religion as useless, and supposed they could live without God. The phrase ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει is stronger than simply to know; both because ἐπίγνωσις, full knowledge, is stronger than γνῶσις, and because ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει is stronger than ἐπιγιγνώσκειν. The text therefore means to retain in accurate or practical knowledge. It was the practical recognition of the only true God, whose eternal power and Godhead are revealed in his works, that men were unwilling constantly to make. God gave them up to a reprobate mind. Beza, Bengel, and others, give ἀδόκιμος here the sense of judicii expers, incapable of judgment or discernment. But this is contrary to usage, and contrary to the etymology of the word. Δόκιμος from δεχομαι, means receivable, worthy of being received; and ἀδόκιμος, worthy of rejection, reprobate. To do things not becoming; that is, to do things not becoming the nature and duties of man. Of the things meant, the following verses contain a long, and painful catalogue. Ποιεῖν is the exegetical infinitive, to do, that is, so that they did. It expresses the consequence of the dereliction just spoken of, and the natural fruit of a reprobate mind.
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, etc. The accusative πεπληρωμένους is connected with αὐτοὺς of the preceding verse. He gave them up, filled with all righteousness; or it depends on the preceding infinitive ποιεῖν, so that they, filled with all unrighteousness, should commit, etc. It is not so connected with παρέδωκεν, as to imply that God gave them up after they were thus corrupt, but it is so connected with ποιεῖν as to express the consequence of God’s abandoning them to do the things which are not convenient. The crimes here mentioned were not of rare occurrence. The heathen were filled with them. They not only abounded, but in many cases were palliated and even justified. Dark as the picture here drawn is, it is not so dark as that presented by the most distinguished Greek and Latin authors, of their own countrymen. Commentators have collected a fearful array of passages from the ancient writers, which more than sustain the account given by the apostle. We select a single passage from, Senca de Ira, 2:8: “Omnia sceleribus ac vitiis plena sunt; plus committitur quàm quod possit coercitione sanari. Certatur ingenti quodam nequitiae, certamine; major quotidie peccandi cupiditas, minor verecundia est. Expulso melioris aequiorisque respectn, quocunque visum est, libido se impingit; nec furtiva jam scelera sunt, praeter oculos eunt. Adeoque in publicum missa nequitia est, et in omnium pectoribus evaluit, ut ionocentia non rara, sed nulla sit. Numquid enim singuli aut panci rupere legenm undique, velut signo dato, ad fas nefasque miscendum coorti sunt.” What Paul says of the ancient heathen world, is found to be true in all its essential features of men of all generations. Wherever men have existed, there have they shown themselves to be sinners, ungodly and unrighteous, and therefore justly exposed to the wrath of God. Of the vices with which the heathen were filled, πορνεία, fornication, stands first as the most prominent; πονρία, malice, the disposition to inflict evil; πλεονεχία, rapacity, the desire to have more than is our due; κακία, malignity, malice in exercise; φθόνος and φόνος, envy and murder, united either from similarity in sound or because the former tends to the latter; ἔρις, δόλος, contention and fraud, nearly related evils. The primary meaning of δόλος is a bait, food exposed to entrap an animal; then the disposition to deceive, or an act of deception; κακοήθεια (κακός and ἦθοϚ), malevolence, the disposition to make the worst of everything; ψιθυριστής, a whisperer, clandestine slanderer; κατάλαλος, a detractor, one who speaks against others; θεστυγής, hateful to God, or hating God. Usage is in favor of the passive sense, the connection of the active. All wicked men, and not any one particular class, are the objects of the divine displeasure. To meet this difficulty, Meyer proposes to make this word a mere qualification of the preceding, God-abhorred detractors. This, however, is out of keeping with the whole passage. The great majority of commentators adopt the active sense. Then follow three designations, expressive of the different forms of pride, ὑβρισταί, the insolent; υπερήφανοι, the self-conceited; ἀλαζόνυς, boasters: ἐφευρεταὶ κακῶν, inventors of crimes; γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, disobedient to parents. That such should be included in this fearful list, shows the light in which filial disobedience is regarded by the sacred writers. In Romans 1:31, all the words begin with the ἀ privative, ἀσυνέτους, without (σύνεσιϚ) insight into moral or religious things, i.e., blinded, besotted, so as to think evil good, and good evil; ἀσυνθέτους, perfidious; ἀστόργους, those in whom the natural affection for parents or children is suppressed; ἀσπόνδους, implacable; ἀνελεήμονας, without pity.
Who well knowing the righteous judgment of God; that is, although they well know, etc. They were (οἳτινες) such as who. The heathen whose acts had been just described, are declared to be, Men who although they knew the righteous judgment, etc., (δικαίωμα) decree, a declaration of what is right and just; and δικαίωμα τοῦ Θεοῦ is the declaration of God as to what is right and just. The import of this declaration is contained in the clause, that they who do (πράσσουσι, commit) such things are worthy of death. By death here, as often elsewhere, is meant punishment, in the general meaning of that word. It expresses the penalty of the law, and includes all evil inflicted for the satisfaction of justice. Paul therefore teaches that the heathen knew they deserved punishment for their crimes, or in other words, that they were justly exposed to the wrath of God, which was revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The source of this knowledge he explains in the following chapter, Romans 1:14. It was a knowledge written on their hearts, or included in the constitution of their nature; it was implied in their being moral agents. As he had before shown that the impiety of the heathen was without excuse, inasmuch as they had a knowledge of the true God, so here he shows that their immorality was inexcusable, since their sins were not committed in ignorance of their nature or desert. This passage also shows that the judicial abandonment of God does not destroy the free agency or responsibility of men. They are given up to work iniquity, and yet know that they deserve death for what they do. The stream which carries them away is not without, but within. It is their own corrupt nature. It is themselves. Notwithstanding this knowledge of the ill-desert of the crimes above enumerated, they not only commit them, but approve of those who do (or practice) them. This is the lowest point of degradation. To sin, even in the heat of passion, is evil; but to delight in the sins of others, shows that men are of set purpose and fixed preference, wicked. Such is the apostle’s argument to prove that the heathen are all under sin, that they are justly chargeable with ungodliness and unrighteousness, and consequently exposed to the wrath of God.
1. The punitive justice of God is an essential attribute of his nature. This attribute renders the punishment of sin necessary, and is the foundation of the need of a vicarious atonement in order to the pardon of sinners. This doctrine the apostle assumes as a first principle, and makes it the basis of his whole exposition of the doctrine of justification, Romans 1:18.
2. That sin is a proper object of punishment, and that, under the righteous government of God, it will be punished, are moral axioms, which have “a self-evidencing light,” whenever proposed to the moral sense of men, Romans 1:18, Romans 1:32.
3. God has never left himself without a witness among his rational creatures. Both in reference to his own nature and to the rule of duty, he has, in his works and in the human heart, given sufficient light to render the impiety and immorality of men inexcusable, Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20, Romans 1:32.
4. Natural religion is not a sufficient guide to salvation. What individual or what nation has it ever led to right views of God or of his law? The experience of the whole world, under all the variety of circumstances in which men have existed, proves its insufficiency; and, consequently, the necessity of a special divine revelation, Romans 1:21-23.
5. The heathen, who have only the revelation of God in his works and in their own hearts, aided by the obscure traditionary knowledge which has come down to them, need the gospel. In point of fact, the light which they enjoy does not lead them to God and holiness, Romans 1:21-23.
6. Error (on moral and religious subjects) has its root in depravity. Men are ignorant of God and duty, because they do not like to retain him in their knowledge, Romans 1:21, Romans 1:28.
7. God often punishes one sin by abandoning the sinner to the commission of others. Paul repeats this idea three times, Romans 1:24, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:28. This judicial abandonment is consistent with the holiness of God and the free agency of man. God does not impel or entice to evil. He ceases to restrain. He says of the sinner, Let him alone, Romans 1:24-28.
8. Religion is the only true foundation, and the only effectual safeguard for morality. Those who abandon God, he abandons. Irreligion and immorality, therefore, have ever been found inseparably connected, Romans 1:24-28.
9. It evinces, in general, greater depravity to encourage others in the commission of crimes, and to rejoice in their commission, than to commit them one’s self, Romans 1:32.
10. The most reprobate sinner carries about with him a knowledge of his just exposure to the wrath of God. Conscience can never be entirely extirpated, Romans 1:32.
1. It lies in the very nature of sin, that it should be inexcusable, and worthy of punishment. Instead, therefore, of palliating its enormity, we should endeavor to escape from its penalty, Romans 1:18, Romans 1:32.
2. As the works of God reveal his eternal power and Godhead, we should accustom ourselves to see in them the manifestations of his perfections, Romans 1:18-21.
3. The human intellect is as erring as the human heart. We can no more find truth than holiness, when estranged from God; even as we lose both light and heat, when we depart from the sun. Those, in every age have sunk deepest into folly, who have relied most on their own understandings. “In thy light only, God, can we see light,” Romans 1:21, etc.
4. If the sins of the heathen, committed under the feeble light of nature, be inexcusable, how great must be the aggravation of those committed under the light of the Scriptures, Romans 1:20.
5. As the light of nature is insufficient to lead the heathen to God and holiness, it is one of the most obvious and urgent of our duties to send them the light of the Bible, Romans 1:20-23.
6. Men should remember that their security from open and gross sins is not in themselves, but in God; and they should regard as the worst of punishments, his withdrawing for them his Holy Spirit, Romans 1:24-28.
7. Sins of uncleanness are peculiarly debasing and demoralizing. To be preserved from them is mentioned in Scripture as a mark of the divine favor, Ecclesiastes 7:26; Proverbs 22:14; to be abandoned to them, as a mark of reprobation.
8. To take pleasure in those who do good, makes us better; as to delight in those who do evil, is the surest way to become even more degraded than they are themselves, Romans 1:32.
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 1". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hdg/romans-1.html.