Romans 1:1. Paul. See Gen. Introd., § 1, and Acts throughout.
A servant of Jesus Christ. The word ‘servant’ here means ‘bondman,’ expressing the fact that Paul personally belonged to Jesus Christ, rather than the idea of service in His behalf. Another word conveys the latter sense. Any unpleasant thought connected with the former idea is removed by the character of the Master, Jesus Christ. This term of humility and dependence is the most honorable of all titles.
Called to be an Apostle. Here he simply asserts the fact of his apostolic dignity and authority; in writing to the Galatians, he was forced to defend his apostleship (comp. the enlarged description of the word in Galatians 1:1). He received the call on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:15; Acts 26:17); his call coincided with his conversion; it was confirmed in the temple at Jerusalem (Acts 9:28; Acts 22:17-21). His setting apart at Antioch (Acts 13:2-3) was not the call, but a formal recognition of the call on the part of the Church there, and for a special mission. The title is an official one, and while it might at first refer to any messenger, in the early Church it was soon restricted to the Twelve and to Paul, as chosen witnesses of the resurrection, selected to lay the foundation of the Christian Church. Paul was not one of the Twelve, but represented the independent apostolate of the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9). As preachers and missionaries the Apostles must have successors, but as inspired and authoritative witnesses for Christ, called directly by him for the whole world, they have none.
Set apart. This explains the apostleship. Paul was selected from the world, singled out, consecrated to, and destined for the gospel service. In one sense this took place at is birth (comp. Galatians 1:15, where the same word occurs); but the reference here is probably to the call to be an Apostle, especially as the tense used is not the same as in Galatians, but points to a past act with a continuous result.
Unto the gospel of God. This was that for which he was set apart. The gospel is ‘of God,’ having Him as its author; it is about Christ (Romans 1:3-4).
Address and Greeting
The Apostle conforms to the usage of his time, beginning his letters with his own name, followed by a designation of the persons addressed, to which a greeting is added. But he usually describes himself as related to Jesus Christ, indicates the character of those he addresses, and gives a distinctively Christian salutation. The most usual designation of himself is ‘an Apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God’ (so 2 Cor., Eph., Col., 2 Tim.); in 1 and 2 Thess. no designation is added; ‘prisoner,’ ‘servant,’ etc., occur in other Epistles. But here and in Galatians the description is more full, in view of the thoughts which are to follow. (Compare also the full designation in Titus 1:1-3.) He begins the address here, by describing himself as ‘a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle;’ he then particularizes his relation to the gospel (Romans 1:1); but designing to treat quite fully of evangelical truth, he enlarges upon these relations, introducing: (1) the connection of the gospel with the Old Testament, Romans 1:2; (2) the divine-human Person of Christ, who is the subject of this gospel, Romans 1:3-4; (3) his call to the apostleship of the Gentiles (Romans 1:5), which gives him the right to address the Roman Christians, Romans 1:6. Then follows the usual apostolic greeting, Romans 1:7. The fulness of this address shows the importance which the Apostle attached to the fundamental thoughts of this Epistle, since they suggest themselves at the very outset, and are interwoven with what would ordinarily be merely the conventional beginning of a letter.
The greeting found in Romans 1:7 occurs in this form (with trifling variations) in most of Paul’s letters. It is partly Greek, partly Hebrew, in its origin, but wholly Christian in its sense. (On the words “grace” and “peace,” see Romans 1:7.) The Pastoral Epistles (with the exception of Titus, according to the correct text) contain the form, “grace, mercy, and peace,” the word “mercy” being probably derived from the Greek version of the priestly benediction, Numbers 6:25. The Apostle Peter in his Epistles, and the Apostle John in the Apocalypse, join together “grace and peace” in their greetings, while in Jude 1:2 we find “ mercy, peace, and love.”
The whole section shows Paul to be a model for the Christian minister, in his humility and dignity, in the sense of dependence on the personal Lord Jesus Christ which underlies his authoritative utterances, as well as in his devotion to this great personal theme of the gospel which he so earnestly desires to preach everywhere.
Romans 1:2. Which he promised beforehand. The parenthesis is unnecessary, for the whole passage is closely connected. It must be God’s gospel, for He had already promised it, and this thought would have force with the Gentile Christians as well as the Jews. Moreover it serves to emphasize the sacredness of the gift intrusted to him as separated unto the gospel of God.
Through his prophets. In the New Testament the revelation is always said to be made ‘by’ God, ‘through the prophets.’ The ‘prophets’ are not here distinguished from the other Old Testament writers.
In the holy Scriptures. The article is wanting in the original, but this can scarcely alter the accepted sense. The Greek-speaking Jews probably used the phrase as a proper noun, as in the case of the word ‘law.’ The omission of the article, in such usage, does not imply any indefinite or general meaning. ‘The divine promises of the gospel, given through the prophets of God, are found in such books as, being God’s records for His revelations, are holy writing’(Meyer). The reader would understand that the whole Old Testament was meant. In fact, the entire revelation is one organic system of types and prophecies pointing to Christ; John 5:39. The gospel, Paul implies, though new, is yet old.
Romans 1:3. Concerning his Bon. The punctuation of the E. V. connects this with the word ‘gospel’ (Romans 1:1), but it may be joined with Romans 1:2 : God’s previous promise in the Old Testament was concerning His Son. That promise was fulfilled in the gospel. In any case it is fairly implied that the ‘Son’ existed in a peculiar relation to God, before the historical manifestations described in the two parallel clauses which follow. These clauses each contain three contrasted members: (1) was born, (2) of the seed of David, (3) according to the flesh; (1) was declared to be the Son of God with power, (2) by resurrection of the dead, (3) according to the Spirit of holiness.
Who was born. Though He was the Son of God, it was necessary for the fulfilment of the Messianic promises that He should appear as man, hence He was born.
Of the need of David. This too was in fulfilment of the promise. On the question whether this refers to Mary as well as Joseph, see vol. i., pp. 29, 367.
According to the flesh, i.e., according to His human nature, or descent. The word ‘flesh’ is also used of our sinful nature, but that sense is excluded here, since He appeared ‘in the likeness of the flesh of sin’ (see on chap. Romans 8:3). Nor does the phrase refer to the body alone, or to the body and soul, distinguished from the spirit ‘Were He a mere man, it had been enough to say that He was of the seed of David; but as He is more than man, it was necessary to limit His descent from David to His human nature’ (Hodge).
Romans 1:4. Who was installed, or, ‘declared,’ the Son of God.’ The clause is strictly parallel with ‘who was born.’(The word ‘and’ as well as the phrase ‘to be ‘are interpolated in the E. V.) The word translated ‘declared’ has been much discussed. It first meant, to bound, define, determine, etc. In this case a mistake of the Latin Vulgate has confounded it with the word meaning ‘predestined.’ The sense ‘constituted,’ in so far as that implies that the Sonship began at the resurrection, is an impossible one. The two allowable meanings are: (1) instated or installed; (2) declared, manifested, etc. They differ in this respect that (1) points to what God did, and (2) to the human recognition or proof of the Sonship of Christ. The former seems to be the more natural sense, but the latter is usually accepted. In neither case is there any suggestion that Christ became the Son of God in consequence of the resurrection, although the human nature of Christ was then exalted, and made partaker of the glory which eternally belonged to the Son, John 17:5, ‘For although Christ was already the Son of God before the creation of the world, and as such was sent (chap. Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4), nevertheless there was needed a fact, by means of which He should receive, after the humiliation that began with his birth (Philippians 2:7 ff.), instating into the rank and dignity of His divine Sonship; whereby also, as its necessary consequence with a view to the knowledge and conviction of men, He was legitimately established as the Son’ (Meyer).
With power. Lit, ‘in power.’ This should be connected with ‘declared’; it thus sets forth the in-stating by the resurrection as an exhibition of the divine power. Some, however, prefer to join the phrase with ‘Son of God,’ thus contrasting the majesty and power of the risen Son of God with the weakness of His human nature. In any case the whole phrase ‘installed the Son of God with power,’ is to be taken together as in contrast with ‘was born’ (Romans 1:3).
According to the Spirit of holiness. This is evidently in contrast with ‘according to the flesh,’ and must set forth—that side of the person of Christ wherein He differs absolutely from those who are only human. This would exclude a reference to the personal Holy Spirit, who is nowhere designated by this phrase, also to the human spirit of Christ as distinct from His body and soul (see on Romans 1:3). God is a Spirit, hence the divine nature of the Incarnate Son of God is Spirit. Of this ‘Spirit’ the characteristic quality is ‘holiness.’ We reject the view which explains ‘holiness’ as ‘sanctification.’
By the resurrection of the dead. Literally, ‘out of resurrection of dead.’’ Out of’ is here equivalent to ‘by means of,’ and not to ‘after’ or ‘since,’ as some have imagined ‘Resurrection,’ though without the article, refers to the historical fact by virtue of which was accomplished the exaltation of the Son of God, who had previously humbled himself to be born. Hence it seems best to insert the article in English. ‘Of the dead’ is probably not identical with ‘from the dead’ (as in E.V.), but points to the resurrection of Christ as the fact which implies and guarantees the final resurrection of all believers.
Jesus Christ our Lord. ‘Having given this description of the person and dignity of the Son of God, very man and very God, he now identifies this divine person with Jesus Christ, the Lord and Master of Christians, the historical object of their faith, and (see words following) the Appointer of himself to the apostolic office’ (Alford). ‘Jesus’ is the personal name; ‘Christ’ the official name; ‘our Lord,’ taking up the word applied to Jehovah in the Septuagint, presents Him as the supreme Lord of the New Dispensation, the personal Master and King of all believers. The full phrase always has a solemn and triumphant tone, and here serves not only to exalt Christ, but to express the high dignity of the apostolic office (Romans 1:1; Romans 1:5), the leading idea in the address.
Romans 1:5. Through whom, i.e., ‘Jesus Christ our Lord,’ which should immediately precede. The two verses should be separated only by a comma. Everywhere Paul speaks of himself as called by God to be an Apostle (comp. Romans 1:1), but called through Jesus Christ, who had spoken to him on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:4-5), and subsequently (Acts 22:17-21).
We received. The Plural is used, although the context shows that he refers to himself alone. Such a custom was very common among Greek authors.
Grace and apostleship. ‘Grace,’ in general; and ‘apostle-ship,’ in particular. The latter was indeed the special object and highest evidence of the former, but the two ideas are not to be confounded. Without the grace so fully bestowed upon him he could not have been an Apostle (comp. Ephesians 3:8), but his apostleship was a special gift. As suggested above (see Romans 1:1), the Apostles, as such, have no successors, yet the connection of the words, ‘grace and apostleship,’ implies that a gift of grace must underlie all genuine service in the church, that without this there is certainly no call to the ministry.
Unto obedience of faith. This might be paraphrased: ‘in order to produce obedience to faith.’ ‘The faith’ is misleading, for it suggests a body of doctrine, whereas ‘faith’ in the New Testament, well-nigh invariably, means ‘believing,’ not what is believed. On the other hand, the two ideas of ‘obedience’ and ‘faith’ must not be confounded, by explaining that obedience consists in faith, or has faith as its controlling principle. For ‘faith’ is that to which the obedience is rendered. The end of his apostleship was that people might submit themselves to faith, become believers; this would result in a new and true obedience, but of this he is not now speaking. That ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’ was the object of this faith is clear enough.
Among all the nation, or, ‘Gentiles,’ as the word is usually translated, comp. Romans 1:13. The only objection to rendering it thus in this instance, is the probability that the Jews may be Included, since he addresses himself to all the Christians at Rome (Romans 1:6-7), some of whom were Jews; but usually Paul emphasizes his apostleship to the Gentiles. The words qualify ‘unto obedience of faith.’
For his name’s take. For the glorifying of His name. Comp. Acts 9:16; Acts 15:26; Acts 21:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:12. The end of his apostleship was that men in all the nations might believe, and the end of their believing was the glory of Christ in whom they believed. Hence this was the end of his preaching. In the ‘name’ of Christ is summed up all that He was, did, and suffered. The expression is borrowed from the Hebrew.
Romans 1:6. Among whom are ye also. To prepare for the address he says that his mission for the glory of Christ’s name is to them also; they are included among those for whom he received his apostleship.
Called of Jesus Christ. They were not called by Jesus Christ but called to tie His, since the call of believers is always referred to God. The article is wanting before ‘called,’ it seems better to place a comma after ‘also.’ ‘Called ‘may here mean effectually called, but ‘called’ and ‘chosen,’ or, ‘elect,’ are frequently distinguished in the New Testament; Matthew 22:14.
Romans 1:7. To all that are in Rome. This is the address proper, indicating the recipients of the letter. The Christians at Rome, of whatever nationality, are viewed as one community, though not addressed as a ‘church.’ The city was so large that they may have worshipped in various domestic congregations (comp. chap. Romans 16:5). But it does not follow that the organizations were imperfect; for while Paul in all the Epistles written before this time (Thessalonians, Galatians, Corinthians) addresses the churches, in his subsequent letters to the fully organized Christian congregations at Ephesus, Philippi, and Colosse, he does not.
Beloved of God. Because reconciled to God through Christ (chaps. Romans 5:5; Romans 8:19).
Called to be saints. Just as Paul Vas called to be an Apostle (Romans 1:1), implying that they actually were what they were called to be. ‘Saints’ refers first of all to consecration to God, and then as a consequence to holiness. This must always be borne in mind. (Since the greeting forms of itself a grammatically complete sentence, it seems best to place a period after ‘saints.’)
Grace to you, and peace. This is the Christian greeting. The word translated ‘grace’ is akin to the common Greek salutation, while ‘peace’ is the Hebrew salutation. The two, as here lifted up into Christian usage, are related to each other as cause and effect: the one is God’s feeling toward us; the other the result in us. The connection shows what a profound sense is attached to both. The greeting seems to be an earnest wish or prayer, rather than an authoritative benediction, but on this point there is room for discussion. There is no verb in the original, and to this usage the English version conforms here, but not elsewhere.
From God our Father. This refers to the new and special relation which Christians hold to God, as adopted sons (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5).
And the Lord Jesus Christ. This joining of Christ with God our Father as the personal source of ‘grace and peace’ to us, is a strong incidental proof of the divinity of Christ. No one who believed the Hebrew Scriptures would thus associate the eternal Jehovah with a mere man. At the same time, we learn elsewhere that the Father is the Author, and Jesus Christ the mediator and procurer of these blessings.
This section assumes the fundamental facts of Christianity. Written less than thirty years after the death of Christ, to a body of believers far removed from Judea, it is itself sufficient evidence that the Gospels contain history, and not myths or fictions, that the doctrines peculiar to Christianity were proclaimed and believed from the first, and are not the inventions of after ages. Paul goes further, and affirms that the main facts were promised in the Old Testament. The Person of Christ, the Incarnation,—the Resurrection, the universal Lordship of Jesus Christ, these are the facts. Faith in Him, loyal allegiance to Him, universal proclamation of Him—all for His glory—this is the human response to the facts of salvation. This was the substance of Christianity in the first century, and this is its substance now. Such a gospel is imperishable, and the letter which treats of it most systematically is not for one place and age alone, out of universal interest and of permanent authority, even as this distinctively Christian greeting is as precious to us now as to the Roman Christians then.
Romans 1:8. First of all. Some find the second thought in Romans 1:10, or Romans 1:13; others translate ‘chiefly.’ As the absence of ‘secondly’ suggests a slight emphasis, we render as above (comp. chap. Romans 3:2).
I thank my God. (See introductory note). ‘The Apostle pursues the natural course of first placing himself, so to speak, in relation with his readers; and his first point of contact with them is gratitude for their participation in Christianity’ (De Wette). There is a touching emphasis in the phrase ‘my God’ with its personal appropriation and corresponding sense of personal obligation. In this expression he sums up ‘all those experiences he had personally made’ (Godet) of the covenant faithfulness of God.
Through Jesus Christ. The thanksgiving is through Chris; comp. Hebrews 3:15. and similar passages. Jesus Christ is also the medium through whom came the blessings for which he is thankful; but the other thought is the prominent one.
For you all. The thanksgiving was concerning them, or, on their behalf.
That. The word also means ‘because;’ but here the two senses are practically the same.
Your faith is published, declared among Christians. That the Roman church was comparatively unknown to unbelievers, even to the Jews at Rome, appears from Acts 28:22. The praiseworthy character of their faith may be inferred from the thanksgiving.
In the whole world. A popular hyperbole, but how accordant with the position of the church in that city, toward which the eyes of the whole world were turned!’ (Meyer.)
Introduction, Giving the Occasion of the Epistle.
After the full and formal address and greeting, the Apostle, as usual, begins with thanksgiving on behalf of the Christians addressed. (In Galatians a rebuke takes the place of the thanksgiving.) Here Paul gives thanks, and that through Jesus Christ, for the extended fame of the faith of the Christians at Rome (Romans 1:8), and then mentions his constant prayer for them (Romans 1:9), and especially his prayerful desire to come to them (Romans 1:10), for their common edification (Romans 1:11-12). His unfulfilled purpose to come that he might have fruit among them also (Romans 1:13), grows out of his obligation to preach the gospel to all men (Romans 1:14), hence his readiness to preach to them also (Romans 1:15). The non-fulfilment of this desire and purpose occasioned the Epistle, the main thought of which immediately follows (Romans 1:16-17).
Romans 1:9. For. This introduces a solemn proof of his thanksgiving.
God is my witness. Such appeals to God are not uncommon in Paul’s writings. God only could know what his habit in secret prayer was. The fact was important, since he had labored so widely and yet not visited them. This might seem like ignorance or forgetfulness of them.
Whom I serve in my spirit. This adds strength to the solemn asseveration. The word translated ‘serve’ is used in the Septuagint of priestly service, and probably retains some such force here. He renders true service, not in the temple, but in his ‘spirit.’ ‘Spirit’ is the highest part of man’s nature, and in passages like this the reference is to the human spirit, not in contrast with soul or body, but as the sphere of the working of the Holy Spirit. Meyer says: ‘in my moral self-consciousness, which is the living inner sphere of that service.’ But it is a regenerated moral self-consciousness (so Godet).
In the gospel of his Son. The gospel concerning his Son (comp. Romans 1:3). This is the sphere of the service from another point of view; his service is not the performance of a ritual, but the proclamation of the gospel, the good tidings about the Son of God. Notice here and throughout, that the gospel is spoken of, not as the gospel of Jesus, but as the gospel of God, the gospel of Christ, the gospel of his Son. Paul served God by telling the good tidings of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-5)
How unceasingly. The E. V. is incorrect here. It is the mode, rather than the simple fact, or the degree, which is brought out.
I remember you. Here the E. V. is inaccurate in its punctuation. This phrase should be separated from what follows. The remembrance is not a mere recollection, but an active recalling of them. ‘Make mention’ is more literal, but it suggests the thought of petition, which is first brought out in what follows.
Always in my prayers, or, ‘at my prayers’ i.e., always when engaged in prayer.
Romans 1:10. Making request. How unceasingly he remembers them is evident from this constant petition, the purport of which is next expressed.
If haply, etc. Instead of saying, ‘that I may come,’ the Apostle uses this conditional form, which indicates both his earnest desire and his submission of it to God’s will.
How at last, on some occasion. This implies both earnest wish and long delay (both of which are expressed in Romans 1:13), and also the possibility that he might be delayed much longer. Three years intervened before his desire was granted.
I may be prospered. The E. V. here follows the incorrect trans-ion of the Vulgate. The word means to succeed, to have the good fortune; the idea of journeying, which belonged to it originally, was lost in the usage of that time.
By the will of God. This belongs to ‘prospered,’ not to ‘come.’ Romans 1:11.
For I long to see you. This longing was the reason of his constant petition. There is no needless repetition, since this verse and what follows show that thanksgiving, remembrance, petition, and longing, all grow out of his desire to preach that gospel, which he is about to set forth in this Epistle.
Some spiritual gift. ‘Spiritual’ means, wrought by the Holy Spirit, and not simply, belonging to the inner lift. Apparently, Paul never uses the word in the latter sense. ‘Gift’ does not refer to miraculous gifts, but to all gifts of grace. ‘Some,’ expresses ‘not only the Apostle’s modesty, but an acknowledgment that the Romans were already in the faith, together with an intimation that something was still wanting in them.’ (Lange.)
To the end, etc. This was the object of the desired impartation of spiritual gifts; they were not desired for their own sake.
Be established, or, ‘strengthened.’ The agent would be the Holy Spirit (comp. ‘spiritual’); Paul was but the instrument (see next verse).
Romans 1:12. That is, etc. ‘By this modifying explanation, subjoined with humility, and expressed in a delicate complimentary manner, Paul guards himself, in the presence of a church to which he was still a stranger, from the possible appearance of presumption and of forming too low an estimate of the Christian position of his readers.’ (Meyer.)
I with you may be comforted among or, ‘in,’ you. The phrase is difficult to translate; since in the original there is a compound verb which means ‘comforted with,’ i.e., at the same time with, and also an added phrase, which means ‘among you,’ lit, ‘in you.’ The full meaning is: that he might be comforted, i.e., encouraged and helped, as these ideas are included in the New Testament use of the word, at the same time when they were, namely, when by the fulfilment of his purpose, he should be ‘among them.’ The literal sense ‘in you’ is preferred by some as indicating that the comfort was found in them; but the next phrase designates the source of the comfort.
Each of us, etc. The translation we adopt is now generally accepted. (‘Mutual faith’ suggests the incorrect sense, that the faith they had was faith in each other.) This turn of the thought indicates that their faith is the same, that they can, therefore, help and comfort one another; the closing expression shows tact and modesty. One can scarcely fail to remark how the tone of Paul differs from that of the Roman Popes.
Romans 1:13. But I would not have you ignorant (comp). chap. Romans 11:25). The phrase lays stress on what is said. The progress of thought is natural. Paul had expressed his prayerful longing to see them (Romans 1:9-12), he now tells them that this longing had not been inactive; it had frequently led to a definite purpose to visit them.
Brethren. This affectionate address agrees well with the fraternal tone of Romans 1:12.
Often I purposed. In his frequent visits to Greece such a purpose would readily be formed (comp. chap. Romans 15:23).
And was hindered hitherto.—This is a parenthetical explanation, introduced by ‘and,’ not ‘but’ The word ‘let’ is an instance of entire reversal of meaning in English usage. It meant ‘hinder’ at the time when the E. V. was made. The hindrances are not specified; but we infer from chap. Romans 15:20-24, that he felt it to be his first duty to preach where the gospel had not been yet proclaimed. At the same time, his necessary journeys to Jerusalem, and the task of organizing the Gentile churches, of correcting their errors (comp. Galatians), of allaying dissensions (comp. Corinthians), filled up his time. It is nowhere hinted that he was forbidden to preach there.
That I might have some fruit. The main thought is here resumed. The figure is quite common. The ‘fruit’ is the harvest to be gathered and presented to God. Hence it is not Paul’s reward, or the result of his labor merely, but the good works produced among the Roman Christians, as fruit unto God (comp. Romans 15:11). The conversion of others is not alluded to.
Among you also. Lit., ‘in you also.’ The literal sense would emphasize the internal character of the fruit-bearing; but ‘among,’ which is a frequent sense of the preposition, is, on the whole, to be preferred.
Among the rest of the Gentiles. In Romans 1:5, the word is rendered ‘nations,’ but here the reference to ‘Gentiles’ is more marked, since there is a marked hint of his special mission as Apostle to the Gentiles, carried out in the next verse.
Romans 1:14. The striking order of the original is reproduced in the emended rendering: Both to Greeks and to Barbarians; both to wise and to unwise, I am debtor.
I am debtor. ‘Paul regards the divine obligation of office, received through Christ (Romans 1:5), as the undertaking of a debt, which he has to discharge by preaching the Gospel among all Gentile nations. Comp. in reference to this subject, Acts 26:17 f.; Galatians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 9:16.’ (Meyer). Until he had fruit among the Romans, as among the rest of the Gentiles (Romans 1:13), this debt was not paid.
To Greeks and to Barbarians. The Greeks called all other peoples ‘Barbarians;’ the word having reference to the strange, unintelligible language. It became a term of reproach, because the Greeks, with their pride of race and culture, and the Romans, with their pride of power, looked down upon other nations. The Romans, according to the usage of those days, were not counted among the ‘Barbarians,’ but the Apostle probably docs not class them here at all, for at Rome were representatives of all nations and all shades of culture and ignorance. He is a debtor to all, whatever may be the distinctions of language or race. The Jews are left out, because he is speaking of his debt to the Gentiles.
Both to wise and to unwise. This expresses the difference of natural intelligence and cultivation in every nation; it is not a repetition of the previous clause. The article is omitted in the original, and is not necessary in English; the word ‘unwise’ is not strictly accurate, since it suggests a verbal correspondence which does not exist. But ‘foolish’ implies more of a bad sense than the word used by the Apostle. The two pairs together ‘are used, apparently, merely as comprehending all Gentiles, whether considered in regard of race or of intellect; and are placed here certainly not without a prospective reference to the universality of guilt, and need of the gospel, which he is presently about to prove existed in the Gentile world.’ (Alford.)
Romans 1:15. So, in accordance with this position of debtor (Romans 1:14). Other explanations are less satisfactory.
As much as in me is, or,’ as far as in me lies.’ The phrase is a strong one, as if to say: ‘As far as it depends on me, I am anxious to come and preach to you, but my will is subject to the will of God, who may have decreed it otherwise;’ comp. Romans 1:10; Romans 1:13.
I am ready. This is a correct paraphrase of a difficult Greek expression.
To preach the gospel. One word in the original, to evangelize.
To you also that are in Rome. The Christians in Rome are meant here, as throughout. The gospel, which they had already heard from others, he was ready to preach to them, that he might have fruit among them also (Romans 1:13). To refer it to unconverted Romans is incorrect, both because of the use of ‘you’ in what precedes, and because his readiness to preach this gospel to those who had already received it is the warrant for writing it to believers. Emphasis rests upon ‘you also in Rome.’ It was the capital of the world; even there he would not be ‘ashamed of the gospel’ (Romans 1:16). ‘Paul subsequently attained the object of his wishes, though not according to human purposes, but according to the counsel of God: first as a prisoner, and last as a martyr’ (Lange). The very same power is required to make men missionaries as to make them martyrs.
Romans 1:16. For I am not ashamed. This gives the reason for his being ready to preach at Rome also (Romans 1:15), and forms an easy transition to the statement which follows. Rome, the metropolis of the heathen world, with all its pride of power, presented a field, where, if anywhere, one might be tempted to be ashamed of the gospel which centred in a Person whom Roman soldiers had crucified. Comp. Galatians 6:14, and chap. Romans 5:2.
The Theme of the Epistle.
Paul is ready to preach at Rome also, because he is not ashamed of the gospel; and he is not ashamed of the gospel, because of its character (Romans 1:16). The whole Epistle, to the end of chap. 11, is an expansion of the latter part of Romans 1:16. The gospel is to ‘every one,’ for every one needs it (chaps, Romans 1:18—Romans 3:20); it is ‘ to every one that believeth,’ for this is the one way (chaps, Romans 3:21 to Romans 4:25); it is ‘Gods power unto salvation,’ for thus salvation is accomplished (chaps, Romans 5:1—Romans 8:39); it is ‘to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,’ for the rejection of it by the Jews is but temporary (chaps. 9-11).
In Romans 1:17 it is further explained how the gospel is ‘God’s power unto salvation.’ It is a revelation of God’s righteousness’ (of a righteousness coming from Him), and that too by faith, as had already been set forth in the Old Testament These verses therefore contain the fundamental truths of God’s plan of salvation.
Of the gospel. The message itself which he proclaims, not the work of proclaiming it. The word gospel (evangelium) means the good tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ.’ Hence it is not merely a set of ideas, or a code of morals, but certain facts which are told that men may believe on Him in whom they centre (Romans 1:3-4), and thus believing live through and in Him. The reference to Christ is so obvious that the phrase ‘of Christ’ was added. It is to be omitted, according to the testimony of the mass of ancient authorities. Paul knew no other gospel than the gospel of (i.e., about) Christ; comp. Galatians 1:6-9.
For. The reason for not being ashamed is the nature of the gospel.
God’s power. The article is not found in the Greek, but the idea is made definite by the word ‘God’s. ‘It comes from Him, belongs to Him, in and through it He works efficaciously. ‘By awaking repentance, faith, comfort, love, peace, joy, courage in life and death, hope, etc., the gospel manifests itself as power, as a mighty potency, and that of God, whose revelation and work the gospel is (Meyer). Writing to Rome, the city of worldly power, he calls the gospel God’s power; writing to Corinth, the city of worldly wisdom, he calls the gospel God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:7, etc.).
Unto salvation. This includes both redemption from sin and positive privilege; a share in the eternal glory of the Messiah’s kingdom. ‘Salvation’ includes more than moral improvement or continued happiness; it is, on its positive side, the equivalent of ‘life,’ in its full New Testament sense.
To every one, not to the Jew alone (see next clause). The subsequent argument (Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20) shows that every one needs this power unto salvation; guilt being universal.
Believeth. This is the subjective condition of the gospel salvation; faith lays hold of what the gospel presents. There may be a contrast to Jewish legalism,—as in the subsequent discussion (Romans 3:21 to Romans 4:25). Comp. Romans 1:17.
To the Jew first. First in time, but including more than this. ‘First, in having a prior claim, as the covenanted people of God: first, therefore, in the season of its offer, but not in the condition of its recipients after its acceptance’ (Wordsworth). In chaps. 9-11 this priority of the Jews is discussed in view of the general rejection of the gospel by that people.
And also to the Greek. ‘Greek’ is here equivalent to ‘Gentile;’ comp. Acts 14:1; and 1 Corinthians 10:32, where the E. V. translates ‘Gentiles.’ Greek and Barbarian (Romans 1:14), was a national distinction used by the Greeks; Jew and Greek, a religious one used by the Jews; in both cases including all mankind.
Romans 1:17. For. The proof of Romans 1:16, especially of the assertion that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation,
Therein; in the gospel.
God’s righteousness. The word ‘righteous,’ so frequent in the Old Testament, is used of conformity to law, equivalent to holy, perfect. It is applied absolutely to God alone, and the entire family of similar terms has a religious significance. ‘Righteousness,’ when used of man, means conformity to the holy will and law of God, as the ultimate standard of right; when used of God, it expresses one of His attributes, essentially the same with His holiness and goodness, as manifested in His dealings with His creatures, especially with men. Closely allied with these words is another, meaning to declare or pronounce one righteous, expressed in English by the word ‘justify,’ derived from the Latin equivalent of ‘righteous.’ It is unfortunate that the correspondence cannot be preserved. In this verse ‘God’s righteousness,’ in itself, might mean: (1) a righteousness which belongs to God; (2) a righteousness which comes from God; (3) a righteousness which He approves. But the discussion in chaps. 3, 4, leaves no room for doubting that the correct meaning is (2), a righteousness of which God is the author, and that too His free gift, so that it is reckoned to the believer (chap. Romans 3:21-25). But while this is to be insisted upon as the prominent thought, it must be borne in mind: (a) That neither here nor elsewhere is ‘righteousness’ exactly equivalent to ‘justification,’ or God’s method of justification, (b) That this revelation of ‘righteousness from God,’ by imputation, grows out of the righteousness which belongs to God; in the gospel He reveals His own righteousness by revealing that He is ‘just and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus’ (chap. Romans 3:26); nothing shows His righteousness so plainly as the death of Christ for our Redemption, (c) Hence this ‘righteousness from God,’ freely reckoned to the believer, necessarily leads to a change of character in the sinner who believes, so that the righteousness imputed ‘becomes righteousness inwrought.’ This is necessarily the case: because when God accounts a man righteous, He is pledged to make him so; because faith which lays hold on this imputed righteousness brings the justified man into living fellowship with Jesus Christ, who gives him the Holy Spirit; and because on the human side this method of pardon and reconciliation affords motives for well-doing, which that Holy Spirit uses to fulfil the pledge God makes of sanctifying the believer. It has been found that a denial of the fundamental sense (righteousness from God, imputed by Him) leads to a practical obscuration of both the other senses; while God has been proven righteous and man made righteous by the maintenance of the truth that in the gospel He reveals a righteousness which He puts to the account of the believer.
Revealed. The present tense indicates continued action: it is being revealed, it is continuously proclaimed and made known. In the Old Testament it was promised and prepared for, but first made known fully in the gospel.
From faith to faith. This is to be joined with ‘revealed,’ not with ‘righteousness.’ The righteousness is revealed ‘from faith’ as the starting-point, and ‘to faith’ as its aim, continually producing new faith. This is substantially the generally accepted explanation. (It is improper to refer ‘from faith’ to God’s faithfulness.) The gospel makes known constantly that faith on Christ is the subjective cause of the righteousness from God, the condition of its imputation, the organ which appropriates it; and it further makes known that thus faith is produced; faith is the beginning and end, the vital principle is ever the same. ‘Faith,’ in the New Testament, has well-nigh invariably the subjective sense, not what is believed, but believing. It includes knowledge and belief, assent and surrender, appropriation and application; and hence cannot be limited to a purely intellectual credence.
As it if written. By this passage (Habakkuk 2:4), Paul would show that this revelation of righteousness from God, from faith and to faith, is in accordance with the Old Testament Scripture, and hence according to the divine plan.
The righteous. The rendering ‘just’ obliterates the verbal correspondence with ‘righteousness.’ Paul here refers to one who possesses the righteousness from God, If this were not the case the quotation would lack point.
Shall live by faith; or, ‘the righteous by faith shall live.’ The former view of the connection agrees better with the original prophecy of Habakkuk, where ‘faith’ is equivalent to ‘faithfulness’ (both having the same fundamental idea of trust in God). The latter, however, is accepted by some, on the Sound that Paul, in this case, is seeking to prove from the Old Testament, not a life by faith, but the revelation of righteousness by faith. (‘By’ here is the same word as that rendered ‘from’ in the preceding clause.) In any case, Paul clearly holds that if the righteous man truly lives, it is because he has been accounted righteous by faith; comp. Galatians 3:11, where the same passage is quoted. In favor of the connection ‘live by faith,’ we may urge the greater emphasis which falls upon ‘by faith’, in accordance with the order of the Greek.
We add a paraphrase of these important verses: To you Romans also I am ready to preach, for even in your imperial city I would not be ashamed of the gospel. How can I be ashamed of it before any sinful man, since it is that through and in which God’s power works so as to save men, all of whom are sinful, and any one of whom can be thus saved when he believes
whether he be of God’s ancient people, to whom it was first preached, or of the Gentiles. It is God’s power unto salvation because it brings to sinful men righteousness which comes from God, given freely by Him, so that they are accounted righteous (and made righteous because He so accounts them); and this, not by any impossible way, but revealed from faith as its starting-point and faith as its terminal point: whatever of righteousness man has comes by faith. And this was God’s way, predicted already in the Old Testament, for He there says: The man who is declared righteous lives by faith (or, the man who is righteous by faith lives).
Romans 1:18. For. Direct proof of Romans 1:17 : the righteousness from God is revealed by faith, for other revelations are of God’s wrath. (See note above.)
God’s wrath. (The article is wanting here, as in Romans 1:16-17; but the translation ‘a wrath of God,’ is altogether unnecessary.) This phrase is anthropopathic (i. e, borrowed from human feelings), but it expresses a reality, namely, the punitive justice and holiness of God over against sin. Yet, this wrath of God, so frequently spoken of, must not be confounded with its result, the punishment of sin; it is rather ‘an affection of the personal God, having a necessary connection with His love. The wrath of God, the reality of which is indisputable as the very presupposition of the work of atonement, is the love of the holy God (who is neither neutral nor one-sided in His affection) for all that is good in its energy as antagonistic to all that is evil’ (Meyer).
Is revealed. The continuous revelation is indicated. It is not necessary to assume that such a revelation is exclusively supernatural, especially here where historical facts exemplify the made of the revelation. Hence the revelation is an outward one, not that accomplished through the gospel.
From heaven; to be joined with ‘revealed.’ ‘Heaven,’ as the dwelling-place or throne of God, is designated as the place from which this revelation of wrath proceeds.
Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. God’s wrath is against every form of irreligiousness and immorality; the two words distinguishing sin with respect to God and the law of right He has established. ‘Ungodliness is more the fountain (but at the same time partially the result) of unrighteousness,—which unrighteousness is more the result (but at the same time partially the fountain) of ungodliness’ (Alford). Hence the terms are not to be applied respectively to sins against God and against men.
Of men. The reference is not now to all men, but to those ‘who hinder,’ etc. Since the Apostle does not charge the Jews with this in chap. 2, the Gentiles are meant here.
Hinder, restrain, or hold back, rather than hold (see references); those who hinder the truth from producing its proper results.
Unrighteousness is that wherein they hold the truth back, hindering it thereby.
1. The Sinfulness of the Gentiles.
This fearful yet truthful description of the moral decay of the Gentile world is not introduced abruptly. In Romans 1:17 the Apostle had declared that righteousness from God was revealed by faith; he now proves this (and thus the position of Romans 1:16) by the fact that God’s wrath is revealed against unrighteousness. This is, indeed, a revelation of God’s punitive righteousness, but it shows that sinful men can be saved only through the gospel. Romans 1:18 suggests the thoughts developed more fully in the entire section. In Romans 1:19-23 the Apostle shows why this wrath was revealed; in Romans 1:24-32, how it was revealed; but in the latter part he constantly recurs to the previous thought. The former part is a sketch of the downward progress of the heathen world, in its religious life; the latter describes the consequent immorality, which is in fact a revelation of God’s wrath. (For an analysis of Romans 1:24-32, see under Romans 1:24.) The Apostle assumes that religion and morality are inseparably connected; that God punishes impiety by giving up the impious to the wrong practices which are the legitimate fruit of their ungodliness; that truth and right, error and wrong, are vitally connected in human experience.
1. UNIVERSAL NEED.
Having asserted that the gospel is God’s power unto salvation to every one that believeth, whether Jew or Greek, the Apostle proceeds to show that all men are sinners, and therefore can be saved only by this method. He first (1.) describes the sinfulness of the Gentiles (chap. Romans 1:18-32), and then (2.) proves that the Jews are equally in need of this salvation (chaps. Romans 2:1 to Romans 3:20). This proof of the universality of sinfulness establishes directly the propriety of using the phrase ‘every one’ in Romans 1:16, while it indirectly proves that ‘ God’s power’ is needed, and that only he that ‘ believeth’ can be saved. Since all are sinners they cannot save themselves, and must be saved by faith.
Romans 1:19. Because. Here begins the statement why God’s wrath was revealed, which is also a proof that they hold back the truth in unrighteousness. ‘If they did so out of ignorance, they would be excusable: but they do not do so out of ignorance, and therefore God’s wrath is manifested against them’ (Meyer). The Apostle proves first that men had the truth (Romans 1:19-20); then that they hindered it, and perverted it (Romans 1:21-23). Afterwards the result is described.
That which is known of God. The word used has this sense in the New Testament; so that the phrase does not mean the knowledge of God, nor what may be known of God. The former is un-grammatical, the latter illogical in this connection, since it is plainly shown that the heathen did not know all that may be known of God.
In them; not, ‘among them,’ which would refer to a merely external revelation. The Apostle is speaking of a revelation in the heart and conscience.
God manifested it. Through the creation (Romans 1:20); the tense used pointing to one act.
Romans 1:20. For the invisible things of God. Some of His attributes, as explained afterwards.
Since the creation of the world. ‘From,’ while literally correct, may be misunderstood as referring to the means of clearly seeing.
Being perceived, etc. The mode of clearly seeing the invisible attributes of God is the perception of them through the visible things which He has made.
Even his everlasting power and divinity. The word ‘everlasting’ here is not the same as that usually rendered ‘eternal’; it belongs to both nouns. ‘Eternal, and Almighty, have always been recognized epithets of the Creator’ (Alford). Through the ‘power’ men recognize the ‘divinity,’ which here means not the personal Deity, but the sum of the divine attributes. The position Paul takes is opposed to Pantheism.
That they may be without excuse. The designed result is here set forth; ‘so that’ is not literally exact. But man’s inexcusableness, not God’s sovereignty, is under discussion.
Romans 1:21. Because. The fact which renders them inexcusable is now stated.
Though knowing God. Although they had the knowledge indicated in Romans 1:20.
Did not glorify him as God. What worship they rendered was not in accordance with the knowledge they had. ‘Glorify’ refers to praising God for what He is.
Nor give thanks; i.e., did not praise Him for all his benefits.
Became vain in their thoughts. ‘Imaginations’ is inexact; ‘thoughts,’ discussions, reasonings, are meant (comp. chap. Romans 2:15).’ The conceptions, ideas, and reflections, which they formed for themselves regarding the Deity, were wholly devoid of any intrinsic value corresponding with the truth’ (Meyer.) ‘Vanity’ is a characteristic term for idol-worship; Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Kings 17:5; Jeremiah 2:5; Acts 14:15.
Senseless, or, ‘without understanding,’ as the word is translated in Romans 1:31.
Heart. Here, as so often in the Bible, this refers to the whole inner man.
Was darkened. (Comp. Ephesians 4:18.) This is the culmination of the process: not worshipping and thanking God, although they knew Him, they became vain in their reasonings; this made their heart senseless, and thus it was darkened, deprived of the truth which it might have had (formerly had) from the light of nature.
Romans 1:22. Professing themselves to be wise. While, not because they professed themselves to be wise. This has reference, not to heathen philosophers, but to the conceit of wisdom which lay back of heathenism itself.
They became fool. Their folly was manifested in their idolatry. ‘For heathenism is not the primeval religion, from which man might gradually have risen to the knowledge of the true God, but is, on the contrary, the result of a falling away from the known original revelation of the true God in His works. Instead of the practical recognition and preservation of the truth thus given comes the self-wisdom rendering them foolish, and idolatry in its train’ (Meyer).
Romans 1:23. And changed. Comp. the strikingly similar passage, Psalms 106:20. ‘Exchanged’ is the meaning, as in Romans 1:25, where, however, a stronger word is used.
The glory, etc. God’s majesty, perfection, etc., made known as stated in Romans 1:19-21.
Incorruptible; introduced to mark the folly of the exchange.
For a likeness of an image. This expression refers both to the grosser and the more refined form of idolatry: the common people saw in the idols the gods themselves; the cultivated heathen regarded them as symbolical representations, etc.
Of corruptible man; so the Greeks universally.
Of birds, etc. The Egyptians worshipped idols of varied bestial forms, and in Rome this worship prevailed extensively. The order marks a descent to the lowest kind of idolatrous representation; even the images of reptiles were worshipped.
Romans 1:24. Wherefore. Having shown that the heathen had the truth and held it back in unrighteousness, the Apostle now shows how God’s wrath was displayed: generally in giving them up to uncleanness (Romans 1:24-25), and specially to unnatural sensuality (Romans 1:26-27), as well as to other vices which are named (Romans 1:28-32).
Gave them up. This is more than ‘permitted.’ That sin is punished by sin, we are taught by the Bible and by daily experience. God abandons man to the consequence of his own doings, and thus punishes him. This is a divinely instituted law, in perfect harmony with our personal freedom and moral accountability.
In the lusts of their hearts. Not ‘through,’ but ‘in,’ signifying the moral sphere in which they were, when the judicial abandonment by God delivered them over to a still worse condition.
Unto uncleanness; impurity, unchastity. The heathen scarcely recognized lewdness as sinful.
That their oodles were dishonored. This may mean either (1) the purpose, or (2) the result, or (3) wherein the uncleanness consisted. The last is preferable.
Among them. This seems a better supported reading than ‘themselves’; but the notion is of reciprocal dishonor.
Romans 1:25. Being such as, or, ‘since they were such as.’ Here the Apostle reverts to the reason for the punishment.
Exchanged. A stronger phrase than that in Romans 1:23.
The truth of God. The truth or reality of God, the true Divine essence, practically the same as ‘the true God.’ The latter phrase would perhaps seem irreverent. Other views, the true knowledge of God, the true notion of God, etc., are less in keeping with the figure of exchanging.
For a lie; comp. Jeremiah 13:25, and similar passages, where idols are called a ‘lie.’ The term is apt because the heathen gods have no existence.
Worshipped and served. The former means religious reverence of every kind; the latter, formal worship, with sacrifice, and other acts and rites.
Bather than the Creator. The nature of the case leads us to prefer ‘rather than’ to ‘more than’; for idolatry is in compatible with the worship of the true God, who shares His honor with none of His creatures.
Who is blessed, etc. The doxology is the natural outburst of piety, aroused into holy indignation at the sin of idolatry, which is by the contrast portrayed in its darkest colors. The word rendered ‘blessed’ is applied, in the Bible, only to God; a different one is used of man, in the Psalms, Sermon on the Mount, etc.
Amen. Comp. chaps. Romans 9:5; Romans 11:33, for the solemn, liturgical close of a doxology.
Romans 1:26. For this cause; namely, because of the apostasy described in Romans 1:25. But as that passage repeats in another form the thought of Romans 1:23, so this verse takes up anew the thought of Romans 1:24. The uncleanness to which the heathen were given up took a special and aggravated form; as vile passions, lit., ‘passions of dishonor.’ Those are truthfully described, and yet with modest reticence.
For both; or, ‘even’; but the former seems preferable on account of ‘also’ (Romans 1:27).
Women; lit., ‘females.’ Abundant evidence of such unnatural crime is found in heathen writers.
Romans 1:27. The men; lit., ‘males.’ The vice of sodomy was very prevalent in the ancient world. The description here is more intense, corresponding with the prevalence and intensity of the immorality.
Receiving in themselves; in their own persons. ‘The unseemliness’ points to something well known.
That recompense of their error. The unnatural lusts and vices were the recompense, the due punishment, of their ‘error,’ namely, their departure from God into idolatry.
Romans 1:28. And even as. This is not equivalent to ‘because,’ but marks the correspondence between the sin and its punishment. Having chosen out the most glaring form of vice, the Apostle enumerates others which formed part of the punishment. Here, as throughout, he reverts to the reason they were given over, thus emphasizing anew the connection between religion and morality.
They refused, etc., did not deem it worth while; the original makes ‘God’ the object; did not deem God worthy to have in knowledge.
Unto a reprobate mind. ‘Refused’ and ‘reprobate’ represent words that sound alike, but the play on the words cannot be readily reproduced. ‘Reprobate’ means rejected of God as unworthy. The heathen were not deprived of the faculty of distinguishing between right and wrong, but they practised evil and encouraged it in others (Romans 1:32). Because ‘they knew the better and approved,’ their guilt was the greater when they ‘yet the worse pursued.’
Which are not becoming, indecent, immoral; what these things were is detailed in Romans 1:29-31.
Romans 1:29. Being filled with all unrighteousness. This is a general statement, the specifications follow. (Comp. similar catalogues of sins; noted in marg. references to this verse.) Various ingenious attempts have been made at classifying the list; but the Apostle seems to have had in mind rhetorical effect, rather than systematic order, the design being to bring out more strikingly the absolute need of redemption. (The word ‘fornication’ is omitted by the best authorities; and after Romans 1:26-27, the naming of this vice seems inappropriate.)
Wickedness; disposition to accomplish evil; the adjective is applied to Satan.
Covetousness; this sin is emphasized in the New Testament (see especially Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5), and was widespread, at that time, in the Roman world.
Maliciousness in the classical sense is idleness as opposed to virtue.
Envy. Conceived here as the thought which has filled the man.
Murder. The similarity in sound of the original words may have led to the mention of this sin first here; but ‘envy’ and ‘murder’ are related.
Strife. The word is that applied to the goddess of Discord.
Whisperers; secret slanderers, tale-bearers. (This word ought to be placed in the next verse.)
Romans 1:30. Backbiters; open slanderers, or calumniators.
Hateful to God; or, as in the E. V., ‘haters of God.’ The former sense is the classical one; the latter is supposed to be more in accordance with the Biblical view of God. ‘Leaving the word in its strict signification, hated of God, we recognize in it a summary judgment of moral indignation respecting all the preceding particulars; so that, looking back on these, it forms a resting-point in the disgraceful catalogue’ (Meyer). This suits the connection better: ‘If any crime was known more than another, as “hated by the gods,” it was that of informers, abandoned persons who circumvented and ruined others by a system of malignant espionage and false information’(Alford).
Insolent, haughty, boasters; three terms applying to self-exaltation, the last the least offensive.
Disobedient to parents. ‘Apostasy from the piety and affection due to parents is a fountain of corruption. See Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17’ (Lange).
Romans 1:31. In this verse adjectives take the place of the substantives previously used. The long catalogue is thus varied.
Without understanding; the same word as ‘senseless’ (E. V. ‘foolish’), Romans 1:21.
Covenant breakers. In the original there is another play upon the sound of the words. (The best authorities omit ‘implacable.’)
Unmerciful. This concludes the list, marking the absence of the least principle of moral action.
Romans 1:32. Who; or, as in Romans 1:25, ‘being such as.’ This verse adds to the description of vices a deeper degree of immorality; showing how entirely the heathen are ‘without excuse’ (Romans 1:20; chap. Romans 2:1).
Knowing. A stronger word than that in Romans 1:21. Their conscience gave such knowledge.
Ordinance of God. The word ‘ordinance’ is derived from the verb meaning to Justify, and means a justifying verdict or decree; here it is the sentence or decree of God as Righteous Lawgiver and Judge, connecting death with sin, and life with righteousness, as recognized in the conscience.
Practise. This word suggests the repetition and continuance of the actions.
Worthy of death. The heathen recognized that sin must be punished, and Paul indicates that the punishment is ‘death,’ by which he usually meant whatever the heathen understood) eternal death. There is, however, no objection to understanding it more generally.
Consent with them who practise them. This is the sign of completed moral abandonment; they fail even to condemn it in others. It is almost equivalent to saving, ‘evil, be thou my good.’ The climax of the punishment of sin by sin suggests one feature of the eternal death threatened in the Bible. This dark picture of heathen corruption is not overdrawn, though honorable exceptions existed. Not all heathen had these vices, but as a whole the description is correct. It can be verified by testimony from the classical writers, especially from Seneca and Tacitus. Comp. Schaff, Church History, vol. i., p. 302 ff. Deep moral corruption has, it is true, pervaded Christendom. But there remains this radical difference: heathen religion produced and sanctioned heathen corruptions; Christendom is corrupt in spite of Christianity.
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter