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Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
The Salutation (Romans 1:1-7)
Instead of the "greeting" [ chairein (G5463)] familiar to us in the epistolary compositions of the Greeks, and once used in the New Testament (James 1:1), the Pauline Epistles begin with a benediction on those addressed, as do also the second of John and that to Jude. Unique, however, to the salutation of the present Epistle is the addition here of doctrinal statements (as Olshausen observes), by means of which it is converted into a small self-contained whole. In the Epistles to the Galatians and to Titus a similar peculiarity may be observed, but in a less degree. So rich and exuberant is the Salutation here, that it will conduce to clearness to subdivide it into its several parts.
Being a comparative stranger to those whom he is about to address, the Epistle opens with an account of himself.
The Writer's Three-fold Account of Himself (Romans 1:1)
Paul (on this name, see the note at Acts 13:9 ), a servant of Jesus Christ, [ Ieesou (G2424) Christou (G5547) - not Christou (G5547) Ieesou (G2424), with Tischendorf and Tregelles, on the sole authority of B and the Old Latin Vulgate, with Augustine and Ambrose (who doubtless followed their own Latin version); while the Received Text is supported by all the other Uncials, many cursives, several ancient versions, and Greek and Latin fathers: Lachmann abides by the Received Text.] In the New Testament several words are used for "servant," all of which, except one, convey the idea of free service [ therapoon (G2324), hupeeretees (G5257), oiketees (G3610), diakonos (G1249), pais (G3816) - this last word being used with the same latitude as garcon in French]. The one denoting bond-service, is that here used [ doulos (G1401)] - see Galatians 3:28; 1 Timothy 6:1; Revelation 6:15, Gr. It is a word of more frequent occurrence than all the rest, and properly means 'slave.' Accordingly, Luther renders it by the word which denotes menial service ('Knecht'), Conybeare, 'a bondsman;' Green, 'a bond-servant.' But since the repulsive ideas which servility suggests to our minds is apt to cling unpleasantly to such terms, it is perhaps better to avoid them in translating-always bearing in mind, however, that in expressing the relation of Christ's servants to Himself, this term invariably means, 'one who is the property of another,' and so is 'subject to his will, and wholly at his disposal.' Among the earliest Christians, indeed, so great was felt to be the honour and privilege of standing in such a relation to Christ, that it absorbed every repulsive association attaching to the word that expressed it, insomuch that in the Apocalypse it is employed to express the standing even of the glorified saints to God and the Lamb; while their services in that capacity are expressed by the term denoting religious service - "His servants [ douloi (G1401)] shall serve Him" [ latreusousin (G3000)] (Revelation 22:3).
In this sense, then-that of entire subjection and devotion to another-it is applied in the New Testament to the disciples of Christ at large (Romans 6:22; Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; Revelation 19:2; Revelation 19:5), as in the Old Testament it had been applied to all the people of God (Psalms 135:1; Isaiah 65:13; Daniel 3:26). But over and above this, as the prophets and kings of Israel had in an official sense been called "the servants of Yahweh" [ `abdeey (H5650) Yahweh (G3068)] (Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1), so do the apostles of the Lord Jesus style themselves "the servants of Christ," expressing thereby such subjection and devotion to Him as they would never have yielded to a mere creature. In the same spirit the Baptist spoke of himself as unworthy to do for his Master, Christ, the most ordinary office of a slave (Mark 1:7). In this absolute sense, then, does the writer here call himself "a servant of Jesus Christ."
Called [to be] an apostle, But next he describes himself as "called [to be] an apostle", [ kleetos (G2822) apostolos (G652)]. Some render this 'a called apostle;' but as that would seem to imply that there might be apostles who were not called, we think the rendering of our version is to be preferred. The calling here referred to is that glorious manifestation of Christ which placed him on a level with the original Twelve (1 Corinthians 15:7-8; Acts 26:16-18).
Separated unto the gospel. Finally, he describes himself as "separated unto the gospel." At three distinct stages of his life he was divinely "separated;" and the same word is used to express them all. First, at his birth, "When it pleased God, who separated me [ aforisas (G873)] from my mother's womb" (Galatians 1:15) - so ordering all the circumstances of it, and all the events succeeding it, up to the time of his conversion, as to train him for his great work as a servant of Christ. Next, when called at once to the faith and the apostleship of Christ, he was officially "separated [ afoorismenos (G873)] unto the Gospel" as here expressed. Lastly, in the church at Antioch, immediately before his designation to the missionary vocation, "the Holy Spirit said, Separate me [ aforisate (G873)] Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2).
The gospel of God - meaning, not the Gospel 'about God' (as Chrysostom takes it), but the Gospel of which God is the glorious Author (as Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 4:17). He calls it "the Gospel of God" here, because in the next two verses he was going to speak more immediately of what God had to do with it.
(2.) This Gospel Is No Novelty, but only the Fulfillment of Ancient Prophecy
(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures. Though the Roman church was Gentile by nation (see the note at Romans 1:13), yet, as most of them had been proselytes to the Jewish Faith, they are here reminded that in embracing the Gospel they had not cast off Moses and the prophets, but only yielded themselves the more intelligently and profoundly to the testimony of God in that earlier Revelation (Acts 13:32-33).
(Romans 1:3) Christ-as THE SEED OF DAVID and THE SON OF GOD-the Grand Burden of the Gospel
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
Concerning ... It would have been better if the order in which the words of this and the following verse stand in the original had been followed in our version, as they are in nearly every other-thus: 'Concerning His Son, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, [even] Jesus Christ our Lord.'
Concerning his Son. Does this mean that the Gospel itself, or that the promise of it in the Old Testament, was "Concerning his Son?" Most critics, probably, say the latter; but (with Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Lange, etc.) we think the former the more natural-that the grand Burden of the Gospel of God is His own Son, whose glorious Person the apostle now proceeds to unfold.
Which was made of the seed of David. As that was the predicted Messianic line (2 Samuel 7:12, etc.; Psalms 89:1-52 passim; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 23:5), Jesus of Nazareth behoved to come of it, if He was to have any just claim to be "the Christ of God" (see Matthew 22:42; John 7:42). Accordingly this is grandly dwelt on in the angelic annunciation of His birth by the angel to the blessed Virgin (Luke 1:32), while the descent of His legal father also from David was emphatically recognized to himself by the same angel (Matthew 1:20; see Luke 1:27); and His birth at the royal city was announced to the shepherds as one of the most notable circumstances of this great event (Luke 2:11). The apostles were at pains to bring this claim of Jesus of Nazareth to be their predicted Messiah under the notice of their countrymen, in their earliest pleadings with them (Acts 2:30-32; Acts 13:22-23; 2 Timothy 2:8).
According to the flesh - that is (beyond all reasonable doubt), 'according to His human nature: compare John 1:14, "The Word was made flesh" (or 'became man'); Romans 9:5, "of whom, as concerning the flesh" [ kata (G2596) sarka (G4561)], or 'in respect of His human nature,' "Christ came;" 1 John 4:2-3, "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" (or 'in true humanity'). But this sense will more clearly appear to be the only true one by what follows.
And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
And declared to be the Son of God, [ horisthentos (G3724)] - 'marked off,' 'pointed out,' and so 'declared,' or 'evinced'-as the best critics, ancient and modern, take the sense to be. [The Old Latin-apparently confounding horisthentos (G3724) with prooristhentos-rendered it proedestinatus, which Jerome unhappily retained in the Vulgate; and though Estius apologizes for it, he admits it to be a forced interpretation. Erasmus has some excellent remarks on this word.] It cannot escape the attentive observer of these words how warily the apostle changes his language here. "He was made (he says) of the seed of David according to the flesh;" but he does not say, 'He was made the Son of God;' on the contrary, he says, He was only "declared (or 'manifested') to be the Son of God" - precisely as in John 1:1; John 1:14, "In the beginning was the Word ... And the Word was made flesh;" and Isaiah 9:6, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." Thus is the Sonship of Christ held forth, not as a thing of time and of human birth, but as an essential and uncreated Sonship; the Son of God being by His Incarnation only enshrined in our nature, and thus efflorescing into public manifestation. But not until His resurrection from the dead could even His most penetrating disciples say, in the fullest sense, "We beheld His glory." Then only, and thus, was He "manifested to be the Son of God" --
With power. If we connect this with the preceding words - "the Son of God with power" - the meaning is, that that power which He all along possessed, but which was veiled from human view until then, shone brightly forth when He arose from the dead. (So the Vulgate, Chrysostom, Melancthon, Calvin, Philippi, Lange, etc., understand it, as we ourselves did formerly.) But it seems better to connect these words with "declared;" and then the sense is, He was 'with power declared,' or gloriously evinced to be the Son of God by His resurrection. (So Luther, Beza, Bengel, Fritzsche, Meyer, Tholuck, etc.)
According to the Spirit of holiness, [ kata (G2596) pneuma (G4151) hagioosunees (G42)] - an uncommon and somewhat difficult phrase, the sense of which depends on whether we have here a climax or a contrast. Those who would set aside the testimony here borne to the divinity of Christ hold that the apostle is not contrasting the lower and the higher natures of Christ, but describing the transition of Christ from a lower to a higher condition of existence, or out of his humbled state, from birth to death, into the exalted state of resurrection and glory. In this case, "the Spirit of holiness" is understood to mean either the Holy Spirit or that 'spiritual energy' which dwelt in him beyond other men, and manifested itself pre-eminently at his resurrection. Those who acknowledge nothing in Christ higher than mere Humanity, of course take this view; but some of the orthodox interpret this passage substantially in the same way.
But since beyond all doubt "the flesh," in such passages, means 'human nature' in its frailty and mortality (see the note at John 1:14, p. 348), and consequently Christ's being made of the seed of David "according to the flesh" must mean His being descended from David 'in respect of His human nature,' it follows that His being "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness," must mean that He was manifested to be such according to His other and higher nature, which we have seen to be that of the uncreated, essential "Son of God." But why should the apostle call this "the Spirit?" Doubtless because he had spoken of His human nature under the name of "the flesh;" and "flesh" and "spirit" are the usual contrasts to each other. In 2 Corinthians 3:17 (says Tholuck) - "Now the Lord is the Spirit" - the substance or element that constitutes the higher Personality of Christ is called Spirit.
And if "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24), why should not this incarnate God be entitled to the name of "Spirit" in an absolute sense? Clement of Rome (Eph 2, 100: 9) [or whoever wrote that letter] has these words, 'Christ the Lord, being first Spirit, became flesh' [ Christos (G5547) ho (G3588) Kurios (G2962), oon (G5607) men (G3303) pneuma (G4151), egeneto (G1096) sarx (G4561)]. In the same sense are we to understand that expression in Hebrews 9:14, "the eternal Spirit;" and in 1 Timothy 3:16 we have the same contrast between "flesh" and "spirit" as here.' But one question more occurs, Why is this Higher Nature of Christ termed "the Spirit of holiness?" In all probability, because if he had said "according to the Holy Spirit," his readers would certainly have understood him to be speaking about the Holy Spirit; and it was to avoid this that we think he used the uncommon phrase, "according to the Spirit of holiness" [q.d., 'quoad spiritum sacrosanctum.' It may here be observed that hagioosunee (G42), as distinguished from hagiotees (G41), may be presumed from its form to denote 'the subjective condition,' as distinguished from 'the objective quality.']
By the resurrection from the dead, [ ex (G1537) anastaseoos (G386) nekroon (G3498)] - literally, 'by the resurrection of the dead;' the risen Head being here regarded as but the First-fruits of them that sleep. [Luther wrongly renders ex (G1537) here, 'since,' or 'after'-misled probably by the Vulgate's ex, which, though capable of this sense, was in all likelihood intended to convey the idea of 'by' or 'through.']
(4) From this Glorious Person Flowed the Writer's Grace and Apostleship-The World-wide Scope of his Message-Its Efficacy at Rome
By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
By whom we have received, [ elabomen (G2983)] - 'we received;' that is, at the period of his conversion. In the plural "we" there is no reference to any other than himself. In epistolary compositions (as Tholuck remarks) the plural is largely used, and the New Testament writers, as Cicero sometimes does, alternate between the plural and the singular in the same breath (see 2 Corinthians 5:11; Colossians 4:3; 2 Peter 1:15-16).
Grace and apostleship - not exactly 'the grace of apostleship' (by what grammarians call hendiadys, as Chrysostom, Beza, Philippi, etc., take it). The "grace" is what he had in common with all believers; the "apostleship" was special to the selected few. But since grace made him at one and the same time a believer and an apostle, we can hardly doubt that the former is here referred to only as his divine preparation for the latter: cf. Ephesians 3:8, "To me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given that I should preach." etc.; and 1 Timothy 1:12-14, "I thank Christ Jesus, who hath enabled me ... putting me into the ministry, who was before a blasphemer ... And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant," etc.
For obedience to the faith, [ eis (G1519) hupakoeen (G5218) pisteoos (G4102)] - rather, 'for the obedience of faith;' or in order that men might yield to the Gospel the highest of all homage, which is to believe it (John 6:28-29; 1 John 3:23). Hence, the phrase to "obey the Gospel" (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8: cf. Romans 16:26; Acts 6:7).
Among all nations, for (or 'in behalf of') his name - that is, for spreading abroad the savour of it, manifesting His work, character, and glory (Philippians 2:10). "The name of the Lord" is a phrase of such frequent occurrence in the Old Testament, that it became a household word for all that is most precious in His revealed character. Yet that very phrase, and in exactly the same sense, is appropriated to Christ by all the New Testament writers. And so studiously is this done, that no impartial reader can doubt that they regarded Jesus of Nazareth as having rightfully served Himself heir both to all the perfections of the God of Israel and to all the relations in which He stood to His people. (See the notes at Matthew 22:1-2, and Remark 1 at the close of that section, p. 107.)
Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
Among whom are ye also - but only along with others; for the apostle ascribes nothing special to the church of Rome (as Bengel observes, referring to 1 Corinthians 14:36).
The called of Jesus Christ - not 'the called by Him' (as Luther, etc., though that is a truth), but 'Christ's The called of Jesus Christ - not 'the called by Him' (as Luther, etc., though that is a truth), but 'Christ's called ones,' or the called who belong to Him (so Erasmus, Meyer, Lange, etc.) - being called, not as all that hear the Gospel are (Matthew 20:16), but internally and efficaciously. And now at length comes --
(5) The Salutation itself
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
To all (such called ones) that be in Rome, beloved of God (cf. Deuteronomy 33:12; Colossians 3:12),
Called [to be] saints - called internally and efficaciously "to be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Ephesians 1:4): see the notes on "called to be an apostle," Romans 1:1.
Grace to you - that most precious of New Testament words, expressing the whole riches of God's everlasting love to sinners of mankind in Christ Jesus (see the notes on this word in John 1:14, p. 349; and on Romans 5:20-21).
And peace - through the blood of the cross (Ephesians 2:13-17; Colossians 1:20), in virtue, of which He who cannot look upon sin is called "The god of peace" (Heb. 22:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 16:20); which peace, when reflected into the believing bosom, "passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). To this peace all believers are called "in one body" (Colossians 3:15); and thus, when set down in a world full of strife, they are among them as "peacemakers," and as such "the children of God."
From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Nothing (says Olshausen) speaks more decisively for the divinity of Christ than these juxtapositions of Christ with the eternal God which run through the whole language of Scripture, and the derivation of purely divine influences from Him also. The name of no man can be placed by the side of the Almighty. He only in whom the Word of the Father, who is Himself God, became flesh, may be named beside Him; for men are commanded to honour Him even as they honour the Father' (John 5:23).
Introduction (Romans 1:8-16)
First, [ prooton (G4412) men (G3303)] - not intending any 'second,' but merely using this word as an opening for his brimful heart. [Bengel finds an apodosis to men (G3303) in the de (G1161) of Romans 1:13:
q.d., 'Already, indeed are ye beloved of God, called to be saints, but I long to impart to you something more.' This, however, seems forced.]
I thank my God, [ eucharistoo (G2168). This term of later Greek is a favourite one with our apostle, being used by him about 25 times, while by no ether New Testament writer is it used above three or four times.]
Through Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 13:15 ) for you all - `regarding you all' is the true reading [ peri (G4012) Through Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 13:15 ) for you all - `regarding you all' is the true reading [ peri (G4012) not huper (G5228)],
That your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. The fact of a Christian church springing up in the metropolis without any apostolic, or even noted, instrumentality, could not but cause lively astonishment and joy to the Christians of other places, to whom the news would quickly spread, through the frequent visits paid to the capital from all the provinces; nor could it fail to attract the notice of many who were not Christians. The same is said of the faith of the Thessalonian Christians, whose bright walk and missionary zeal compelled general and wide spread attention to the change worked on them, and of course to that which produced it (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10).
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
No JFB commentary on this verse.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
For God is my witness, whom I serve, [ latreuoo (G3000)] - 'in the sense of religious service' (as this word always signifies in the Septuagint and in the New Testament),
With my spirit - or 'inmost soul' (cf. Luke 1:47; Matthew 5:3; Mark 8:12; John 11:33; John 13:21; Acts 17:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:23),
In the gospel of his Son - to which his whole religions life and official activities were consecrated, "that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;"
Making request if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
Making request ... According to what is probably the most ancient division of these verses-adopted in nearly every version but our own, and by every critic-they should read thus: Romans 1:9. For God is my witness ... how unceasingly I make mention (or remembrance) of you; Romans 1:10. Always in my prayers making request,' etc. When one puts alongside of this the similar language used to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:15-16), the Philippians (Philippians 1:3-4), the Colossians (Colossians 1:3-4), and the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3) - what universal love, what all-absorbing spirituality, what impassioned devotion to the glory of Christ, what incessant transaction with Heaven about the minutest affairs of the kingdom of Christ upon earth, are thus seen to meet in this wonderful man!
(If by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey, [ euodootheesomai (G2137)] - rather, 'I may have a way opened,'
By the will of God) to come unto you. Though long anxious to visit the capital, he met with a number of providential hindrances (Romans 1:13; Rom. 25:22; Acts 19:21; Acts 23:11; Acts 28:15); insomuch that nearly a quarter of a century elapsed, after his conversion, before his desire was accomplished, and that only as "a prisoner of Jesus Christ." Thus taught that his whole future was in the hands of God, he makes it his continual prayer that at length the obstacles to a happy and prosperous meeting might be removed.
For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift - not any supernatural gift (as Bengel, etc.), but some purely spiritual gift, the character of which the next verse specifies (see 1 Corinthians 1:7).
To the end ye may be established;
That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
By the mutual faith both of you and me - that is, that by my witnessing your spiritual prosperity there may arise consolation to both of us. 'Not wishing (as Jowett happily expresses it) to "lord it over their faith," but rather to be a "helper of their joy," the apostle corrects his former expressions: My desire is to instruct you and do you good, that is, for us to instruct and do one another good: in giving I shall also receive.' 'Nor (says Calvin) is he insincere in so speaking, for there is none so poor in the Church of Christ who may not impart to us something of value: it is only our malignity and pride that hinder us from gathering such fruit from every quarter.' 'How widely different (exclaims Bengel) is the apostolic style from that of the court of Papal Rome!'
Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, but was let ('hindered') hitherto - chiefly by his desire to go first to places where Christ was not known (see Romans 15:20-24),
That I might have some fruit (of my ministry) among you also, even as among other Gentiles. The GENTILE origin of the Roman Church is here so explicitly stated, that those who conclude merely from the Jewish strain of the argument, that they must have been mostly Israelites, decide in opposition to the apostle himself. (But see Introduction to this Epistle.)
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
I am debtor both to the (cultivated) Greeks - among whom might be classed the educated Romans, who prided themselves on their Greek culture (see Cic. de fin. 2:15-non solum Graecia et Italia sed etiam omnis Barbaria),
And to the (rude) Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise - to all alike, without distinction of race or of culture. From this it has been argued that "the gift of tongues" must have been designed to facilitate the preaching of the Gospel in foreign countries. (So several of the fathers, and in modern times those who lean much on the fathers-Wordsworth, for example, quotes in support of it 1 Corinthians 14:18). But if such a continued miracle had been performed wherever our apostle preached beyond the region of Greek culture, and during all the contact which he kept up in those places, how is it that neither he nor his biographer has anywhere dropped a hint of it? To us this notion appears as improbable in itself as it is void of all evidence as matter of fact.
So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
To preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. An all-subduing sense of obligation to carry the Gospel to men of every class, from the rudest to the most refined, drew him with a yearning desire to the great capital.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel [of Christ]. These bracketed words are clearly an addition to the genuine text, as nearly all critics agree. [They are found only in K L D*** (a corrector so late as the 9th or 10th century), several cursives, and some late versions; but missing in 'Aleph (') A B C D* E G, a number of cursives, some of the principal copies of the Old Latin, the Vulgate, and both Syriac versions, and the principal fathers.] The language implies that it required some courage to bring to 'the mistress of the world' what "to the Jews was a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness." But its intrinsic glory, as God's life-giving message to a dying world, so filled his soul, that like his blessed Master he "despised the shame."
FOR IT IS THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION TO EVERY ONE THAT BELIEVETH; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. [There is no sufficient reason for bracketing prooton (G4412), as Lachmann does; for the evidence of its genuineness is decisive.] Here, and in Romans 1:17, the apostle announces the grand theme of his ensuing argument, the substance of which is, SALVATION (the one overwhelming necessity of perishing men) EMBODIED IN A MESSAGE FROM GOD TO MEN (that every hearer of it may be assured that in it he hears God's message to himself), WHICH WHOSOEVER CREDITS SHALL FIND TO BE THE POWER OF GOD TO HIS OWN SALVATION: the Jew first (to whom, in virtue of his ancient standing, the message is first to be carried), but the Greek as well.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
For therein is THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD revealed.
Though the sense of this great word, "THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD," will open upon us as we advance in the argument of this Epistle, it may be well to state here at the outset what we understand by it. First, then, it does not mean God's 'rectitude' or 'clemency,' as an attribute of His nature, or a feature of His moral government. (as Origen and Chrysostom among the fathers, and, with a certain modification, Osiander the reformer; and in our own day Hofmann, in his 'Schriftbeweis'). Everything said of this "righteousness" in the progress of the apostle's argument disproves such a notion. It must therefore mean that righteousness which God provides for men, or which He bestows upon men, or which He approves in men. These ideas, though distinct in themselves, do in the present case run into and presuppose one another. The predominant shade of thought, however, is perhaps not so much 'the divinely provided and divinely bestowed righteousness' (as Beza and others take it) as 'the divinely approved and divinely accepted righteousness,' (so Luther, Calvin, Fritzsche, Tholuck, etc.) See, for example, Romans 3:20 ("justified in his sight"); Galatians 3:11 ("justified in the sight of God"); Romans 2:13 ("just before God"); and 2 Corinthians 5:21 ("He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him").
Secondly, It does not mean 'an implanted and inherent righteousness worked in men by divine grace.' This is what the Church of Rome teaches (Canon. et Deoret. Conc. Trid.: Decr. 'De Justificatione,' 6: 7), though Estius expresses a very different doctrine, on Romans 2:12, Tertio; it is what Grotius and the Remonstrant (or Semipelagian) party in the Dutch Church held; and it is what in the present day a party in the Church of England, headed by Dr. Pusey, contend for as Being the doctrine of their own Church as well as that of Rome; while some otherwise sound Protestants, going along with them in this, are thus surrendering the citadel of Protestantism. In direct opposition to all these views is the teaching of this great Epistle throughout-that "the righteousness of God" is a righteousness 'reckoned' or 'imputed to us,' founded on the entire work of Christ in the flesh, or "His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross," in our behalf.
The verse above quoted - "He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God IN HIM" (2 Corinthians 5:21) - can mean nothing else than that it is the sinless One's being made sin for us, that gives us who believe our righteous standing before God. And since the "sin" which Christ was "made" for us, was certainly not any personal sin of His, nor sin infused into Him, but simply sin reckoned to Him, even so "the righteousness of God," which the believer is "made in him," can be neither any personal righteousness of his own, nor any righteousness infused into or worked in him, but a righteousness simply reckoned or imputed to Him. Nay, even as reckoned to us, it is still IN HIM that we are thus constituted righteous. True-and the truth is a fundamental one-the union between the believer and Christ being a real and vital one, constituting them one spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17), it is impossible that the justified believer, from the moment of this union, should be other than personally and inherently righteous, or truly holy. But this does not constitute his justifying righteousness-it is not this that makes him "the righteousness of God," But all this will unfold itself as we proceed with the apostle's argument.
Such, then, is "the righteousness of God" which is to constitute the chief theme of this Epistle. But, next, it is revealed --
From faith to faith, [ ek (G1537) pisteoos (G4102) eis (G1519) pistin (G4102)]. Some of the many senses put upon this rather difficult clause (which Estius carefully enumerates) may be dismissed at once as unworthy of notice: such as that it means, 'from the faith of the Law to the faith of the Gospel;' or, 'from the faith of the Old Testament to the faith of the New;' 'from a general faith in the Gospel to an appropriating faith in it to one's self;' 'from the faith of the preacher to the faith of the hearer;' 'from the faith of the promising God to the faith of the believing man.' But there are three other interpretations which claim more attention.
First, 'From one degree of faith to another-from a weaker to a stronger-from a lower to a higher.' (So several of the fathers; and of the moderns, Erasmus, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Estius, Meyer, etc.) But it is fatal to this view, as we think, that it introduces a foreign element into the apostle's argument-an argument which has nothing to do with progressive stages or degrees of faith, but solely with faith itself, as the appointed way of receiving the righteousness of God. Second, 'As it begins in faith, so in faith it ends-in other words, it is all of faith.' (So OEcumenius of the fathers; and of the moderns, Bengel, Alford, Hodge, Wordsworth.) But this makes one statement of what the apostle seems studiously to make two, and connects the words "righteousness" and "faith," while the apostle appears studiously to disjoin them.
Third, and this we without hesitation adopt: Let it be observed that the words here rendered "from faith" [ ek (G1537) pisteoos (G4102)], wherever else they occur in this Epistle, mean 'by,' or 'through faith;' and they are so rendered by our translators themselves even in the sequel of this same verse - "as it is written. The just shall live by faith," Precisely so in Romans 3:30; Romans 4:16 ("of" or "by faith"); 5:1; 9:30,32 ("of faith" - "by faith"); 10:16. This is to us decisive in favour of rendering the clause thus: 'The righteousness of God is revealed [to be] of' or 'by faith, unto faith.' But what does 'unto faith' mean? It may mean either 'unto those who believe' [= eis (G1519) tous (G3588) pisteuontas (G4100)], as Tholuck, Conybeare, Philippi; or (which we much prefer) 'in order to faith' [ eis (G1519) to (G3588) pisteutheenai (G4100), or pisteusai (G4100) heemas (G2248)], as the same preposition is rendered in Romans 1:5 of this chapter, and in Romans 6:16; Romans 6:19; Romans 8:15; Romans 10:10; Romans 13:14. So DeWette, Olshausen, Fritzsche (whose remarks are worthy of special notice), Stuart, Scholefield, Bloomfield, Jowett. If this have less point (says the last-named critic, it is more in accordance with the style of Paul than the preceding explanations, and may be defended by the quotation from Habakkuk, which shows that the real stress of the passage is not on "to faith," but "from," or "by faith."
As it is written (in Habakkuk 2:4 ), The just shall live by faith. This is precisely as in the Hebrew, except that there it is, 'by his faith' [ wªtsadiyq (H6662) be'emuwnaatow (H530) yihyeh (H1961)]. The Septuagint translate, 'shall live by my faith'-meaning, probably, by 'faith in Me' - [reading, no doubt, y (yodh) for w (waw)]. The prophet's words mean either, 'The just (or the justified) by faith shall live;' or 'The just shall live (or 'have life') by faith.' This latter seems clearly what both the prophet and the apostle, in quoting him, mean to say. Indeed, according to the argument and the phraseology of this Epistle, to say that 'the justified by faith shall live,' is rather a truism: since to "be justified," and to "live," are not, in the apostle's sense, cause and effect, but just two aspects of one and the same 'life of justification.' It may be added, that this golden maxim of Old Testament theology is thrice quoted in the New Testament, namely, here; in Galatians 3:11; and in Hebrews 10:38) - showing that the Gospel way of 'LIVE BY FAITH,' so far from subverting or disturbing, only takes up and develops the ancient method.
(1) What manner of persons ought the ministers of Christ to be, according to the pattern here set up: absolutely subject and officially dedicated to the Lord Jesus; separated unto that Gospel of God which contemplates the subjugation of all nations to the faith of Christ; debtors to all classes-the refined and the rude-to bring the Gospel to them all alike, all shame in the presence of the one, as well as pride before the other, sinking before the glory which they feel to be in their message; yearning over all faithful churches, not lording it over them, but rejoicing in their prosperity, and finding refreshment and strength in their fellowship!
(2) The special features of the Gospel, here brought prominently forward, should be the devout study of all who preach it, and guide the views and the taste of all who are privileged statedly to hear it: namely, that it is "the Gospel of God," as a message from heaven, yet not absolutely new, but, on the contrary, only the fulfillment of Old Testament promise; that not only is Christ the great theme of it, but Christ in the very nature of God, as His own Son, and in the nature of men, as partaker of their flesh-Christ, whose resurrection from the dead not only wiped away the reproach of the cross, but gloriously vindicated His claim to be the Son of God, even in His veiled condition, Christ, as now the Dispenser of all grace to men and of all gifts for the establishment and edification of the Church, Christ the Righteousness provided of God for the justification of all that believe in His name; in a word, that in this glorious Gospel, when thus preached, there resides he very power of God to save Jew and Gentile like who embrace it.
(3) While Christ is to be regarded as the ordained Channel of all grace from God to men, let none imagine that His proper divinity is in any respect compromised by this arrangement, since He is here expressly associated with "God the Father," in the prayer that is offered for "grace and peace" - which include all spiritual blessings-to rest upon this Roman church.
(4) While this Epistle teaches, in conformity with the teaching of our Lord Himself, that all salvation is suspended upon faith, this is but half a truth, and will certainly minister to self-righteousness, if dissociated from another feature of the same truth, here explicitly taught, that this faith is God's own gift-for which accordingly, in the case of the Roman believers, he "thanks his God through Jesus Christ."
(5) Christian fellowship, as indeed all real fellowship, is a mutual benefit; and as it is not possible or the most eminent saints and servants of Christ to impart any refreshment and profit to the meanest of their brethren without experiencing a rich return into their own bosoms, so just in proportion to their humility and love will they feel their need of it and rejoice in it.
Great General Proposition: The Wrath of God is Revealed against all Iniquity (Romans 1:18)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
For the wrath of God, [ orgee (G3709) Theou (G2316)] - His holy displeasure and rectoral vengeance against sin. However distasteful such language may be to some ears, it is among the household words of the New Testament as well as of the Old (for example, Matthew 3:7; John 3:36; Romans 2:5; Romans 2:8; Romans 5:1; Romans 9:22; Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; Hebrews 3:11; Hebrews 4:3; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 14:10; Revelation 19:10).
Is revealed from heaven. But where revealed? and how? 'In the Gospel message itself,' say some (as Beza, Grotius, Estius, Stuart, Wordsworth). But besides that this sounds harsh, why, it has been well asked, did not the apostle in that case say, as in the previous verse, "For therein [ en (G1722) autoo (G846)] is the wrath of God revealed"? Others understand here, not any existing manifestations of divine wrath against sin, but what is to burst forth at the day of judgment - "the wrath to come." (So Chrysostom, Jowett, etc.) But this surely is against the natural sense of the words. What the apostle refers to is, in our judgment, 'the whole visible procedure of God in the moral government of the world,' by which He 'reveals,' or palpably displays, His holy displeasure against sin (as Olshausen), and particularly His making sin its own punishment, as described so awfully in the sequel of this chapter (so Fritzsche, and some of the best interpreters). This wrath of God is said to be "revealed from heaven," to signify the lofty jealousy of that Eye, as a flame of fire, that looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth, and the might of that unseen Hand that is upon every form of iniquity under the whole heaven, to take vengeance on it.
Against all ungodliness, [ asebeian (G763)] - or, 'impiety;' meaning all the irreligiousness of men, or their living (no matter how virtuously, yet) without any conscious reference to God, and without any proper feelings toward Him.
And unrighteousness of men, [ adikian (G93)] - that is, men's whole deviations from moral rectitude, whether in heart, speech, or behaviour. Either of these terms, standing alone, may and usually does carry the sense of the other; but when both are used together, they must be distinguished, and the distinction can only be what we have given. Now, as no human being can plead guiltless of "all ungodliness" and "all unrighteousness," it follows that every child of Adam in his sins is the object of Heaven's deserved and impending wrath. Thus all-comprehensive is the apostle's statement, embracing Jew and Gentile alike in its dread sweep. But as this was too general to suit his purpose, of shutting up all alike to gratuitous justification in the Lord Jesus, he now proceeds to details, bringing the charge of guilt first against the pagan world, and next against the chosen people. And first, The progressive degeneracy (Romans 1:18-23), the retributive punishment (Romans 1:24-27), and the consummated penal debasement (Romans 1:28-32) of the whole pagan world. The value of the following picture is immensely enhanced by its containing a historical sketch, rather than a mere description, of pagan degeneracy, traced down from its earliest stage after the fall.
The progressive degeneracy of the pagan world (Romans 1:18-23)
Who hold the truth in unrighteousness, [ teen (G3588) aleetheian (G225) en (G1722) adikia (G93) katechontoon (G2722)] - literally, 'who hold down' or 'stifle the truth in (or 'by') unrighteousness.' (Compare the use of the same word in Luke 4:40 - "stayed him," or 'held him back'-also in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, "what withholdeth;" "he who now letteth," or 'hindereth.') So all critics understand the word here, and so all the ancient and nearly all modern versions but our own render it-`detain' the truth-or, as Calvin explains it, 'suppress' or 'obscure' it. But when he and Beza and Reiche render the words "in unrighteousness" by 'unjustly,' with a view (as he says) to perspicuity, they miss an important truth which nearly every other critic justly dwells on-namely, that the "unrighteousness" of the pagan world, or their depraved passions and practices, were the very element in which, and by means of which, the truth which they possessed was stifled-the light they enjoyed darkened. Thus are the pagan represented as having light, or possessing truth, even when left to themselves, without that revelation which the chosen people enjoyed; and yet as holding it down, suppressing or stiffing it, by and in their unrighteousness. Compare Matthew 6:22-23, "The light of the body is the eye: if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" And the action of this principle on the pagan mind is expressed in Ephesians 4:17-18, "That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness ('hardness') of their heart."
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
(1) the known of God (so the Old Latin and Vulgate, DeWette, etc.);
(2) the knowable of God (so Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Tholuck, Stuart, Conybeare, Mehring, Green); (2) the knowable of God (so Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Tholuck, Stuart, Conybeare, Mehring, Green);
(3) the knowledge of God (as the Syriac, Chrysostom, Luther, Fritzsche).
The first and last of these senses, in the only sense of them which has much to recommend them, almost resolve themselves into the middle one-that of our own version, which we think decidedly the preferable. It is objected to this sense, that though in the classics it is the usual sense, yet the Septuagint and the New Testament use it in the sense, not of what may be, but of what is known. But besides that this as but partially true [see Romans 1:20, anapologeetous (G379), and Romans 2:1, anapologeetos (G379)], as the word is not very common anywhere, and the senses run into each other, we must be guided in each case solely by the context. It is further objected, that all which may be known of God is not "manifest" to the pagan; and therefore the sense cannot be 'that which may be,' but 'that which is known is manifest in them.' But the apostle does not say 'all that may be known,' But only "that which may be known;" and to show that he did not mean 'all,' he expressly specifies in the next verse what of God it was that they did know-namely, "his eternal power and Godhead." This, then, is what is manifest in them [en autois (G846)] - not 'among them' (as Erasmus, Grotius, Fritzsche), meaning what the pagan philosophers attained to by reflection, amidst the brutish ignorance of the mass of the people, but (as all the best interpreters take it) 'within them,' in the sense which the next verse will more fully explain.
For God hath showed it unto them, [ efaneroosen (G5319)] - 'for God showed it unto them,' in the constitution stamped upon man's nature in his creation, in which the conviction of a God is deeply rooted, and through the perception of Him in the works of His hand resulting from this.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, [ apo (G575) ktiseoos (G2937) kosmou (G2889)] - not 'by means of,' but 'since the time of' the world's creation [= apo (G575) katabolees (G2602) kosmou (G2889), Luke 11:50 ]
Are clearly seen - [ aorata (G517) ... kathoratai (G2529). See Fritzsche's note in defense of the intensive import of kata (G2596) here, denied by Alford], There is here an incomparable oxymoron (says Bengel), or a bold, paradoxical play of words; the unseen things of God are clearly seen, and surely (he adds), if anywhere, it is in creation that these invisibilities of God become visible to human intelligence. Aristotle (de mundo, 6) has a remarkable statement, identical with this-`In every mortal by nature the invisible God becomes by those very works visible'
Being understood by the things that are made - [ nooumena (G3539), 'perceived,' 'apprehended' by the nous (G3563).] The apostle, then, does not say that without reflection even "the things that are made" will discover (God to men. He says exactly the reverse. And thus is to be explained the brutish ignorance of God that reigns among the more debased and unreflecting pagan, the atheistic speculations in modern times of some subtle metaphysicians, and the negation of all Theism on the part of many enthusiastic students of the mere facts and laws of the material universe; while to the calm, unprejudiced exercise of thought upon the mind which is seen to reign in every department of "the things that are made," God is brightly beheld.
Even his eternal power and Godhead, [ theiotees (G2305)]. This word signifies not 'The Godhead' [which is theotees (G2320)], but that property of divineness which belongs to Him who called this creation into being. Two things are thus said to be clearly discovered so the reflecting intelligence by the things which are made-First, That there is an Eternal Power; and, Secondly, That this is neither a blind physical 'Force' nor a pantheistic 'spirit of nature,' but a living, conscious Divine Person, whose outgoing energy is beheld in the external universe. And, what is eminently worthy of notice, the outward creation is here represented, not as the parent, but only as the interpreter, of our faith in God. That faith has its primary sources within our own breast (Romans 1:19); but it becomes an intelligent and articulate conviction only through what we observe around us (Romans 1:20). And thus are the inner and outer revelation of God just the complement of each other, making up between them one universal and immoveable conviction that God is. With this most striking apostolic statement agree the latest conclusions of the most profound speculative students of Theism.
So that they are without excuse, [ eis (G1519) to (G3588) einai (G1511)] - or, 'so that they might be without excuse' (in the event of their failure). Though the latter shade of meaning is more conformable to the words used, the former is what one would more naturally expect; but each presupposes the other.
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Because that, when they knew God (in the sense of Romans 1:19) - even while still retaining some real knowledge of God, and before they sank down into the state next to be described,
They glorified him not as God, neither were thankful - neither yielding Him the adoration due to Himself, nor rendering the gratitude which His beneficence demanded,
But became vain in their imaginations, [ en (G1722) tois (G3588) dialogismois (G1261)] - 'in their reasonings,' 'thoughts,' 'speculations' about God, The word rendered, "became vain" [ emataiootheesan (G3154)], and the corresponding word, 'vanity' [ mataiotees (G3153)], almost always refer to the idolatrous tendencies and practices of men (Jeremiah 2:5; 2 Kings 17:15; Acts 14:15). The word rendered "imaginations" is mostly used in a bad sense, and here refers to men's proud and restless dissatisfaction with the simple verities regarding God, which are "manifest in them," their cravings after something more satisfactory, and the thoughts, reasonings, or speculations to which these gave rise.
And their foolish heart, [ asunetos (G801)] - 'their senseless,' 'stupid heart;' meaning their whole inner man,
Was darkened. How instructively is the downward progress of the human soul here traced! When once darkness is suffered to overspread the mind, an impotent stupidity of all the active powers of the soul is the result; and thus the truth which God left with and in men, instead of having free scope to acquire strength and develop itself, came by degrees to be lost, and the still, small voice of conscience, first disregarded, was next thwarted, and at length systematically disregarded.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man - that is, they exchanged the one for the other. The expression is taken from Psalms 106:20, (and in the words of the Septuagint) They exchanged God for man-the incorruptible for the corruptible; nay, Him who is the essence and fountain of all that is glorious, for a mere inanimate image, fashioned after the likeness of perishable man. The allusion here is doubtless to the Greek worship, and the apostle may have had in his eye those exquisite chisellings of the human form which lay so profusely beneath and around him as he stood on Mars' hill, and "beheld their devotions," or 'the objects of their worship' (see the note at Acts 17:29). But, as if that had not been a deep enough degradation of the living God, there was found 'a lower deep' still.
And to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things - referring now to the Egyptian and Oriental worship. In the face of these plain declarations of the descent of man's religious belief from loftier to ever lower and more debasing conceptions of the Supreme Being, there are expositors of this very Epistle (as Reiche and Jowett) who, believing neither in any Fall from primeval innocence, nor in the noble traces of that innocence which lingered even after the fall, and were only by degrees obliterated by willful violence to the dictates of conscience, maintain that man's religious history has been all along a struggle to rise, from the lowest forms of nature-worship, suited to the childhood of our race, into that which is more rational and spiritual.
The retributive punishment
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Wherefore God also (in righteous retribution), gave them up, [ paredooken (G3860)]. This divine abandonment of men is here strikingly traced in three successive stages, at each of which the same word is used (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28, where the word is rendered "gave over").
To uncleanness through, [ en (G1722 ), rather, 'in'] the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves, [ en (G1722) heautois (G1438)] - or, according to the preferable reading [ en (G1722) autois (G846)], 'with each other;' But the sense is the same. 'As they deserted God (says Grotius), God in turn deserted them-not giving them divine (i:e., supernatural) laws, and suffering them to corrupt those which were human; not sending them prophets, and allowing the philosophers to run into absurdities. He let them do what they pleased, even what was in the last degree vile, that those who had not honoured God might dishonour themselves.'
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
The truth of God into a lie - or 'into the lie;' that is, the true God into the false (the abstract is here put for the concrete), the Living into the lying. In the Old Testament the idols of the pagan are constantly represented as 'vanity,' and 'a lie.'
And worshipped [ esebastheesan (G4573 ), here only] and served, [ elatreusan (G3000 ), in their hearts paying homage, and in their religious exercises worshipping by outward acts], the creature more than (or 'rather than') the Creator, [ para (G3844) ton (G3588) ktisanta (G2936). para (G3844), with accusative, 'along by,' 'beyond,' proeter, contra]. Professing merely to worship the Creator by means of the creature, they soon came to lose sight of the Creator in the creature. How aggrarated is the guilt of the Church of Rome, which, under the same flimsy pretext, does shamelessly what the pagan are here condemned for doing, and with light which the pagan never had!
Who is blessed forever. Amen. By this doxology the apostle instinctively relieves the horror which the penning of such things excited within his breast: an example to such as are called still to expose like dishonour done to the blessed God.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
For this cause God gave them up (see the note at Romans 1:24 ) unto vile affections, [ pathee (G3806) atimias (G819)] - 'shameless passions.' The expression is very strong, but not so strong as the monstrousness of the thing intended would have warranted.
For even their women - that sex whose priceless jewel and fairest ornament is modesty, and which, when that is once lost, not only becomes more shameless than the other sex, but lives henceforth only to drag the other sex down to its own level, "did change the natural use into that which is against nature:"
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly. The practices here referred to, though too abundantly attested by classic authors, cannot be described and illustrated from them without trenching on things 'which ought not to be even named among us as becometh saints.' 'At the period when the apostle wrote, unnatural lusts broke out (says Tholuck) to the most revolting extent, not at Rome only, but over the whole empire. He who is unacquainted with the historical monuments of that age-especially Petronius, Suetonius, Martial, and Juvenal-can scarcely figure to himself the frightfulness of these excesses.' (See also Grotius, Wetstein, Fritzsche.) Reiche, indeed; throws doubt upon the apostle's accuracy, alleging that the Christian world has been at various times no better in these respects than the pagan.
No doubt passages can be produced from ecclesiastical writers, at different periods, in which charges quite as strong as anything in this chapter are, with too much justice, laid at the door of the Christian Church. (See, for example, one from Salvian, in the fifth century, which Tholuck quotes.) But besides that (as Tholucuk observes) the very pagan writers themselves (Seneca, for example, de brev. vit., 100: 16) expressly blame the vicious character of the pagan deities for much of the immorality which reigned among the people, whereas all vice is utterly alien to Christianity, the worst vices of humanity have since the glorious Reformation (which was but true Christianity restored, and raised to its legitimate ascendancy) almost disappeared from European society. To return, then, to the state of the pagan world, we may add (with Bloomfield) that the disclosures lately made by the disinterment of Herculaneum and Pompeii (Roman towns near Naples, overwhelmed by the terrible eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 79 AD-first discovered in 1713, and now gradually undergoing disentombment) are such as too fully bear out and illustrate all that the apostle says or hints on the tremendous abominations of even the most civilized nations of the ancient world.
Indeed, it was just the most civilized that were plunged the deepest in the mire of pollution, the barbarians being (as will appear from the 'Germania' of Tacitus) comparatively virtuous. Observe how, in the retributive judgment of God, vice is here seen consuming and exhausting itself. When the passions, scourged by violent and continued indulgence in natural vices, became impotent to yield the craved enjoyment, resort was had to artificial stimulants by the practice of unnatural and monstrous vices. How early these were in full career, in the history of the world, the case of Sodom affectingly shows; and because of such abominations, centuries after that, the land of Canaan 'spued out' its old inhabitants. Long before this chapter was penned, the Lesbians and others throughout refined Greece had been luxuriating in such debasements; and as for the Romans, Tacitus, speaking of the emperor Tiberius, tells us that new words had then to be coined to express the newly invented stimulants to jaded passions. No wonder that, thus sick and dying as was this poor Humanity of ours under the highest earthly culture, its many-voiced cry for the balm in Gilead and the Physician there - "Come over and help us" - pierced the hearts of the missionaries of the Cross, and made them "not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ!"
And receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet - alluding to the many physical and moral ways in which, under the righteous government of God, vice was made serf-avenging.
The Consummated Penal Debasement of the Pagan World
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
God gave them over (or 'up,' see the note at Romans 1:24)
To a reprobate mind [ eis (G1519) adokimon (G96) noun (G3563)]. The word signifies 'disapproved' on trial (as metals, when they are assayed and found worthless), 'reprobate;' and, next, as the result of this, 'rejected,' 'cast away.' But it is very difficult to convey in any English translation the play upon words which has been long observed in the two terms here employed. [The Vulgate and Calvin have tried it in Latin-Et sicut non probaverunt ... tradidit Deus in reprobum sensum (reprobam mentem-Calvin)]. Conybeare's version is not good English-`As they thought fit to cast out the acknowledgment of God, God gave them over to an outcast mind.' DeWette's version comes pretty near it-`Und so win sie die Kenntnisz Gottes verwarjen, so gab sie Gott einem verworfenen Sinnepreis.' Were we, at some sacrifice of smooth English, to retain this alliteration, perhaps it might not be too harsh to translate thus: 'And even as they reprobated retaining God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.'
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Being filled with all unrighteousness, [ pepleeroomenous (G4137) pasee (G3956) adikia (G93). The dative in place of the genitive (as Green remarks) in this and the following nouns may here be regarded as used designedly to convey, by the entire expression, the idea of an engrossing process, as distinguished from that of mere fullness. See 2 Corinthians 7:4 for a similar idea]. On comparing this, the longest, with some of the other lists of vices which occur in the Pauline Epistles (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:2-4), it will be evident that the order in which they are placed follows associations sometimes of sound (as Jewett says) and sometimes of sense. Not without reason, therefore, does Fritzsche recommend the student of the sacred text not to spend his time and ingenuity in arranging into distinct classes words whose meaning, and vices whose characteristics, differ only by a slight shade from each other. A word or two in explanation of the probable sense of some of the terms will suffice. The first word, then, 'unrighteousness' [ adikia (G93)] is a general term, purposely used, perhaps, at the outset.
[Fornication]. This bracketed word [ porneia (G4202), immediately preceding poneeria (G4189)] must be regarded as an addition to the genuine text. It is supported only by one Uncial manuscript, L, and several cursives, the Syriac version, and one or two later Greek fathers; but is lacking in 'Aleph (') A B C (D is here defective), and K, some cursives, and many fathers. Its resemblance to the next word [ poneeria (G4189)] may have occasioned its introduction; and the circumstance of this vice not being included in such a list, may have seemed so incredible as to give rise to the interpolation. The critical editors reject it, and critics generally pronounce against it.
Wickedness, [ poneeria (G4189)] - perhaps 'villany;'
Covetousness - invariably classed in the New Testament with some of the worst vices (Jeremiah 22:17; Habakkuk 2:19; Mark 7:22; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 2 Peter 2:3), and pointing probably to outrageous manifestations of it. It is not used in the sense of 'lust' [= epithumia (G1939)], as Jowett thinks.
Maliciousness, [ kakia (G2549)] - 'wickedness,' 'badness,' in a passive sense, as vice is distinguished from 'villany.'
Full, [ mestous (G3324)]. The change of word here (of precisely the same import as that used at the beginning of the verse) is evidently adopted merely to vary the construction of the profusion of nouns following from the preceding ones [and the accusative here, as in the opening word, is-as Erasmus and others have remarked-under the influence of poiein (G4160), at the close of the preceding verse].
Debate (or 'strife'), deceit, malignity, [ kakoeetheias (G2550)] - 'rancour,' 'ill-nature;'
Whisperers, [ psithuristas (G5588)]. The 30th verse should have begun with this word, as the form of the original shows a change in the construction of the words that follow from that of the preceding ones. Accordingly, most critics so arrange the verses.
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Backbiters, [ katalalous (G2637)] - rather, 'slanderers'. The former word refers to secret, this to open slander.
Haters of God, [ theostugeis (G2319)] - 'God-hated,' being the classical sense of this not very common word, is that which some superior critics give it here; understanding by it 'abhorred of the Lord,' as denoting the detestableness of their character in His sight (cf. Proverbs 22:14; Psalms 73:20). But the active sense of the word, adopted in our version, and by the majority of expositors, though rarer, agrees perhaps better with the context, whose object is, by a series of examples, to set forth the evil principles, feelings, and practices which reigned in the pagan world.
Despiteful, [ hubristas (G5197)] - 'insolent,' or 'insulters' (cf. Matthew 22:6, "entreated them spitefully;" Luke 18:32; Acts 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:2);
Proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Without natural affection, [implacable]. The evidence against this bracketed word is decisive. (It is found only in C K L with D ***-a late corrector-with several cursives and versions; whereas it is missing in 'Aleph (') A B D * E G, the Old Latin and Vulgate, and the Memphitic version. Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles omit it.)
Unmerciful. Green translates this verse with ingenious terseness and uniformity, though the improvement is questionable: 'Senseless, faithless, heartless, pitiless.'
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Who, [ Hoitines (G3748)] - 'Such as,'
Knowing, [ epignontes (G1921)] - 'knowing well'
That they which commit such things are worthy of death. The word "death" is here used in its widest known sense-namely, the uttermost of divine vengeance against sin. What that is will be variously conceived according to the light enjoyed. The mythic representations of Tartarus sufficiently show how the pagan conscience in classic lands pictured to itself the horrors of the future "death."
Not only do the same - which, under the pressure of temptation and in the heat of passion, they might do, even while abhorring it, and abhorring themselves for doing it,
But have pleasure in (or 'consent to') them that do them, [ suneudokousin (G4909)]. The word conveys the idea of positive satisfaction in a person or thing (see the note at Acts 8:1). The charge here brought against the pagan world is, that they deliberately set their seal to such actions by encouraging and applauding the doing of them in others. This is the climax of our apostle's charges against the pagan; and certainly, if the things are in themselves as black as possible, this settled and unblushing satisfaction at the practice of them, apart from all the Blinding effects of present passion, must be regarded as the darkest feature of human depravity.
(1) "The wrath of God" against sin has all the dread reality of a "revelation from heaven" sounding in the consciences of men, in the self-inflicted miseries of the wicked, and in the vengeance which God's moral government, sooner or later, takes open all who outrage it. Nor is this "wrath of God" confined to high-handed crimes, or the grosser manifestations of human depravity, but is "revealed" against all violations of divine law of whatever nature - "against all ungodliness" as well as "unrighteousness of men," against all disregard of God in the conduct of life, as well as against all deviations from moral rectitude; and therefore, since no child of Adam can plead guiltless either of "ungodliness" or of "unrighteousness." to a greater or less extent it follows that every human being is involved in the awful sweep of this "wrath of God." There is a tendency among some critics to explain away all such language, as purely anthropathic, or as merely accommodated from human feeling to the divine nature; and some of the soundest divines think that they exhaust its legitimate application to God when they say it expresses 'the punitive justice of God,' or 'the calm, undeviating purpose of the divine mind, which secures the connection between sin and misery.' (So Hodge).
But "wrath" - whatever be meant it in relation to God-is a feeling, not a purpose; not can it, in any fair sense of the word, be identified with justice. Of passion, indeed-in the human sense of the term-there can be none in the divine nature. But are we to strip the divine nature of all that we mean by the word 'feeling?' Is there no such thing essentially as love in Him of whom it is said, "God is love?" Those who say so-alleging that all such language must be understood metaphorically, nor metaphysically, and that all such ideas are regulative, rather than real in God-divest the Godhead of all that is fitted to awaken the affection of love in reasonable creatures. Straining after metaphysical accuracy, they dry up the springs of all that the Bible enjoins, and the human heart feels to be its own proper emotions, toward God. If God loves no object and no quality, nor is capable of dislike or displeasure against anything that is unlike Himself, how can He be capable even of approving or disapproving! And if not that, what Personality, that is worth the name, remains to the Godhead?
(2) The apostle places the terrible truth, that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, in the forefront of his argument on Justification by faith, in order that upon the basis of universal condemnation he may rear the edifice of a free, world-wide Salvation; nor can the Gospel be scripturally preached or embraced, except as the good news of salvation to those who are all equally "lost."
(3) We must not magnify the supernatural Revelation which God has been pleased to make of Himself, through Abraham's family to the human race, at the expense of that elder and, in itself, lustrous Revelation which He has made to the whole family of man through the medium of their own nature and the creation around them. Without the latter, the former would have been impossible; and those who have not been favoured with the former will be without excuse, if they are deaf to the voice and blind to the glory of the latter.
(4) Wilful resistance of light has a retributive tendency to blind the moral perceptions and weaken the capacity to apprehend and approve of truth and goodness; and thus is the soul prepared to surrender itself, to an indefinite extent, to error and sin.
(5) Pride of wisdom, as it is a convincing evidence of the want of it, so it makes the attainment of it impossible (Romans 1:22; and cf. Matthew 11:25; Matthew 1:0 Cor. 13:18-20 ).
(6) As idolatry, even in its most plausible forms, is the fruit of unworthy views of the Godhead, so its natural effect is to vitiate and debase still further the religious conceptions; nor is there any depth of degradation too low and too revolting for men's ideas of the Godhead to sink to, if only their natural temperament and the circumstances they are placed in be favourable to their unrestrained development. The apostle had Greece and Egypt in his eye when he penned Romans 1:23-25. But the whole Paganisms of the East at this day attest its accuracy, from the more elaborate idolatry of India and the simpler and more stupid idolatry of China, down to the childish rudiments of nature-worship prevalent among the savage tribes. Alas! Christendom itself furnishes a melancholy illustration of this truth; the constant use of material images in the Church of Rome, and the materialistic and sensuous character of its entire service (to say nothing of the less offensive but more stupid service of the Greek Church) debasing the religious ideas of millions of nominal Christians, and lowering the whole character and tone of Christianity as represented within their immense pale.
(7) Moral corruption invariably follows religious debasement. The grossness of Pagan idolatry is only equalled by the revolting character and frightful extent of the immoralities which it fostered and consecrated. And so strikingly is this to be seen in all its essential features in the East at this day, that missionaries have frequently been accused by the natives of having forged the whole of the latter part of this chapter, as they could not believe that so accurate a description of themselves could have been written eighteen centuries ago. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah furnish a striking illustration of the inseparable connection between religion and morals. As the great sin of the kingdom of Israel lay in corrupting and debasing the worship of Yahweh, so the sins with which they were charged were mostly of the greaser kind-intemperance and sensuality: Judah, on the other hand, remaining faithful to the pure worship, were for a long time charged mostly with formality and hypocrisy; and only as they fell into the idolatries of the pagan around them did they sink into their vices. And may not a like distinction be observed between the two great divisions of Christendom-the Popish and the Protestant? To test this, we must not look to Popery, surrounded with, and more or less influenced by, the presence and power of Protestantism; nor to Protestantism under every sort of disadvantage,internal and external. But look at Romanism where it has unrestrained liberty to develop its true character, and see whether impurity does not there taint society to its core, pervading alike the highest and the lowest classes; and then look at Protestantism where it enjoys the same advantages, and see whether it be not marked by a comparatively high standard of social virtue.
(8) To take pleasure in what is sinful and vicious for its own sake, and knowing it to be such, is the last and lowest stage of human recklessness. 'The innate principle of self-love (says South, in a sermon on the last verse of this chapter-we take the passage from Wordsworth), that very easily and often blinds a man as to any impartial reflection upon himself, yet for the most part leaves his eyes open enough to judge truly of the same thing in his neighbour, and to hate that in others which he allows and cherishes in himself. And, therefore, when it shall come to this, that he approves, embraces, and delights in sin as he observes it even in the person and practice of other men, this shows that the man is wholly transformed from the creature that God first made him; nay, that he has consumed those poor remainders of good that the sin of Adam left him; that lie has worn off the very remote dispositions and possibilities to virtue; and, in a word, has turned grace first, and afterward nature itself, out of doors.' Yet,
(9) This knowledge can never be wholly extinguished in the breast of man. So long as reason remains to them, there is a still, small voice in the worst of men, protesting, in the name of the Power that implanted it, "that they which do such things are worthy of death."
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25