1.Paul, etc. — With regard to the word Paul, as it is a subject of no such moment as ought to detain us, and as nothing can be said which has not been mentioned by other expounders, I should say nothing, were it not proper to satisfy some at small expense without being tedious to others; for the subject shall be despatched in a very few words.
They who think that the Apostle attained this name as a trophy for having brought Sergius, the proconsul, to the faith of Christ, are confuted by the testimony of Luke, who shows that he was so called before that time. (Act_13:7.) Nor does it seem probable to me, that it was given him when he was converted to Christ; though this idea so pleased [Augustine ], that he took occasion refinedly to philosophize on the subject; for he says, that from a proud Saul he was made a very little (parvulum ) disciple of Christ. More probable is the opinion of [Origen ], who thought that he had two names; for it is not unlikely to be true, that his name, Saul, derived from his kindred, was given him by his parents to indicate his religion and his descent; and that his other name, Paul, was added, to show his right to Roman citizenship; they would not have this honor, then highly valued, to be otherwise than made evident; but they did not so much value it as to withhold a proof of his Israelitic descent. But he has commonly taken the name Paul in his Epistles, and it may be for the following reasons: because in the churches to which he wrote, it was more known and more common, more acceptable in the Roman empire, and less known among his own nation. It was indeed his duty to avoid the foolish suspicion and hatred under which the name of a Jew then labored among the Romans and in their provinces, and to abstain from inflaming the rage of his own countrymen, and to take care of himself.
A servant of Jesus Christ, etc. — He signalizes himself with these distinctions for the purpose of securing more authority to his doctrine; and this he seeks to secure by two things — first, by asserting his call to the Apostleship; and secondly, by showing that his call was not unconnected with the Church of Rome: for it was of great importance that he should be deemed an Apostle through God’s call, and that he should be known as one destined for the Roman Church. He therefore says, that he was a servant of Christ, and called to the office of an Apostle, thereby intimating that he had not presumptuously intruded into that office. He then adds, that he was chosen, (selectum — selected, ) by which he more fully confirms the fact, that he was not one of the people, but a particular Apostle of the Lord. Consistently with this, he had before proceeded from what was general to what was particular, as the Apostleship was an especial service; for all who sustain the office of teaching are to be deemed Christ’s servants, but Apostles, in point of honor, far exceed all others. But the choosing for the gospel, etc., which he afterwards mentions, expresses the end as well as the use of the Apostleship; for he intended briefly to show for what purpose he was called to that function. By saying then that he was servant of Christ, he declared what he had in common with other teachers; by claiming to himself the title of an Apostle, he put himself before others; but as no authority is due to him who willfully intrudes himself, he reminds us, that he was appointed by God.
Then the meaning is, — that Paul was a servant of Christ, not any kind of servant, but an Apostle, and that by the call of God, and not by presumptuous intrusion: then follows a clearer explanation of the Apostolic office, — it was ordained for the preaching of the Gospel. For I cannot agree with those who refer this call of which he speaks to the eternal election of God; and who understand the separation, either that from his mother’s womb, which he mentions in Gal_1:15, or that which Luke refers to, when Paul was appointed for the Gentiles: but I consider that he simply glories in having God as the author of his call, lest any one should think that he had through his own rashness taken this honor to himself.
We must here observe, that all are not fitted for the ministry of the word; for a special call is necessary: and even those who seem particularly fitted ought to take heed lest they thrust themselves in without a call. But as to the character of the Apostolic and of the Episcopal call, we shall consider it in another place. We must further observe, that the office of an Apostle is the preaching of the gospel. It hence appears what just objects of ridicule are those dumb dogs, who render themselves conspicuous only by their mitre and their crook, and boast themselves to be the successors of the Apostles!
The word, servant, imports nothing else but a minister, for it refers to what is official. I mention this to remove the mistake of those who too much refine on this expression and think that there is here to be understood a contrast between the service of Moses and that of Christ.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ – The word δουλος, which we translate servant, properly means a slave, one who is the entire property of his master; and is used here by the apostle with great propriety. He felt he was not his own, and that his life and powers belonged to his heavenly owner, and that he had no right to dispose of or employ them but in the strictest subserviency to the will of his Lord. In this sense, and in this spirit, he is the willing slave of Jesus Christ; and this is, perhaps, the highest character which any soul of man can attain on this side eternity. “I am wholly the Lord’s; and wholly devoted in the spirit of sacrificial obedience, to the constant, complete, and energetic performance of the Divine will.” A friend of God is high; a son of God is higher; but the servant, or, in the above sense, the slave of God, is higher than all; – in a word, he is a person who feels he has no property in himself, and that God is all and in all.
Called to be an apostle – The word αποστολος, apostle, from αποστελλειν, to send, signifies simply a messenger or envoy; one sent on a confidential errand: but here it means an extraordinary messenger; one sent by God himself to deliver the most important message on behalf of his Maker; – in a word, one sent by the Divine authority to preach the Gospel to the nations. The word κλητος, called, signifies here the same as constituted, and should be joined with αποστολος, as it is in the Greek, and translated thus: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, constituted an apostle, etc. This sense the word called has in many places of the sacred writings; e. g. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called, κληθωμεν, Constituted, or made the sons of God. As it is likely that no apostle had been employed in founding the Church of Rome, and there was need of much authority to settle the matters that were there in dispute, it was necessary he should show them that he derived his authority from God, and was immediately delegated by him to preach and write as he was now doing.
Separated unto the Gospel – Set apart and appointed to this work, and to this only; as the Israelites were separate from all the people of the earth, to be the servants of God: see Lev_20:26. St. Paul may here refer to his former state as a Pharisee, which literally signifies a separatist, or one separated. Before he was separated unto the service of his own sect; now he is separated unto the Gospel of God. On the word Gospel, and its meaning, see the preface to the notes on St. Matthew; and for the meaning of the word Pharisee, see the same Gospel, Mat_3:7 (note).
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called an apostle. Agreeably to the ancient mode of epistolary address, the apostle begins with the declaration of his name and office. It was his office which gave him the right to address the believers at Rome, and elsewhere, with that tone of authority which pervades all his epistles. Speaking as the messenger of Christ, he spake as he spake, as one having authority, and not as an ordinary teacher.
The original name of the apostle was Saul, שָׁאוּל demanded. He is first called Paul in Act_13:9. As this change of his name is mentioned in the paragraph which contains the account of the conversion of Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of Cyprus, some have supposed that the name was assumed in compliment to that distinguished convert. This supposition does not seem to accord with the apostle’s character, and is, on other grounds, less probable than either of the two following. First, as it was not unusual, among the Jews, to change the name of a person in consequence of some remarkable event, as in the case of Abraham and Jacob, Gen_17:5; Gen_32:28; or when he was advanced to some new office or dignity, Gen_41:45; Dan_1:6, Dan_1:7; so that a new name is sometimes equivalent to a new dignity, Rev_2:17 it may be supposed that the apostle received the name of Paul, when called to the office of an apostle. This supposition is favored by the consideration that he received the name soon after he entered upon the public exercise of his apostleship, and by the fact that Simon was called Cephas when called to be an apostle, Joh_1:42; Mat_10:2, and that James and John were called Boanerges, Mar_3:17. Hence Theophylact says that it was in order that even in this matter, he should not be behind the very chief of the apostles, that Saul was called Paul. Second, as it was very common for those Jews who had much intercourse with the heathen to bear two names, one Jewish and the other Greek or Roman, which names were sometimes entirely distinct, as Hillel and Pollio, sometimes nearly related as Silas and Silvanus, it is very probable that this was the case with the apostle. He was called Saul among the Jews, and Paul among the Gentiles; and as he was the Apostle of the Gentiles, the latter name became his common designation. As this change was, however, made or announced at an epoch in the apostle’s history, Act_13:9 the two explanations may be united. “The only supposition,” says Dr. J. A. Alexander, in his comment on Act_13:9 “which is free from all these difficulties, and affords a satisfactory solution of the facts in question, is, that this was the time fixed by Divine authority for Paul’s manifestation as Apostle of the Gentiles, and that this manifestation was made more conspicuous by its coincidence with his triumph over a representative of unbelieving and apostate Judaism, and the conversion of an official representative of Rome, whose name was identical with his own apostolic title.”
In calling himself a servant (bondsman) of Jesus Christ, he may have intended either to declare himself the dependent and worshipper of Christ, as all Christians are servants (slaves) of Christ, Eph_6:6; or to express his official relation to the church as the minister of Christ. This is the more probable explanation, because, in the Old Testament עֶבֶד יְחוָֹה, servant of the Lord, is common official designation of any one employed in the immediate service of God, Jos_1:1, Jos_24:29; Jer_29:19; Isa_42:1; and because in the New Testament we find the same usage, not only in the beginning of several of the epistles, as “Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ,” Phi_1:1, “James, the servant of God and of Jesus Christ” Jam_1:1, “Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,” 2Pe_1:1; but also in other cases where the word δοῦλος is interchanged with διάκονος minister. Comp. Col_1:7, Col_4:7, Col_4:12. It is, therefore, a general official designation of which in the present case, apostle is the specific explanation. “Apostolatus ministerii est species.” Calvin. It has also been properly remarked, that as the expression, servant of Christ, implies implicit obedience and subjection, it supposes the Divine authority of the Redeemer. That is, we find the apostle denying that he was the servant of men, rejecting all human authority as it regards matters of faith and duty, and yet professing the most absolute subjection of conscience and reason to the authority of Jesus Christ.
κλητός ἀπόστολὁ, called an apostle. Paul was not only a servant of Christ, but by Divine appointment an apostle. This idea is included in the word κλητός; which means not only called, but chosen, appointed; and the κλῆσις, or vocation, as well of believers to grace and salvation, as of the apostles to their office is uniformly ascribed to God or Christ; see Gal_1:1; 1Co_1:1; Tit_1:1; Gal_1:15. As the immediate call of Christ was one of the essential requisites of an apostle, Paul means to assert in the use of the word κλητός that he was neither self-appointed nor chosen by men to that sacred office.
The word ἀπόστολος; occurs in its original sense of messenger in several cases in the New Testament. Joh_13:16 οὐκ ἔστι ἀπόστολος μείζων τοῦ πέμψαντος αὐτόν. Phi_2:25 — Επαφρόδιτον … ὑμῶν δε ἀπόστολον. Comp. Phi_4:18. In 2Co_8:23 Paul, speaking of the brethren who were with him, calls them ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν; τουτέστιν says Chrysostom, ὑπο ἐκκλησιῶν πεμφθέντες. Theophylact adds, καὶ χειροτονηθέντεϚ. Our translators, therefore, are doubtless correct in rendering this phrase, messengers of the churches. As a strict official designation, the word apostle is confined to those men selected and commissioned by Christ himself to deliver in his name the message of salvation. It appears from Luk_6:13, that the Savior himself gave them this title. “And when it was day, he called his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.” If it be asked why this name was chosen, it is perhaps enough to say, that it was peculiarly appropriate. It is given to those who were sent by Christ to perform a particular service, who were therefore properly called messengers. There is no necessity to resort for an explanation of the term, to the fact that the word מַלְאָךְ messenger, was applied sometimes to the teachers and ministers of the synagogue, sometimes to plenipotentiaries sent by the Sanhedrim to execute some ecclesiastical commission.
The apostles, then, were the immediate messengers of Christ, appointed to bear testimony to what they had seen and heard. “Ye also shall bear witness,” said Christ, speaking to the twelve, “because ye have been with me from the beginning” (Joh_15:27). This was their peculiar office; hence when Judas fell, one, said Peter, who has companioned with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, must be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Act_1:21. To be an apostle, therefore, it was necessary to have seen Christ after his resurrection, 1Co_9:1, and to have a knowledge of his life and doctrines derived immediately from himself. Without this no man could be a witness, he would only report what he had heard from others, he could bear no independent testimony to what he himself had seen and heard. Christ, therefore, says to his disciples, after his resurrection, “Ye shall be my witnesses,” Act_1:8, and the apostles accordingly constantly presented themselves in this character. Act_2:32, Act_3:15, Act_13:31. “We are witnesses,” said Peter, speaking of himself and fellow-apostles, “of all things which he did, both in the land of Judea, and in Jerusalem.” Act_10:39. When Paul was called to be an apostle, the Savior said to him, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.” Act_26:16. We accordingly find, that whenever Paul was called upon to defend his apostleship, he strenuously asserted that he was appointed not of men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ; and as to his doctrines, that he neither received them of man, neither was he taught them, but by revelation of Jesus Christ. Gal_1:12.
As the testimony which the Apostles were to bear related to all that Jesus had taught them, it was by preaching the gospel that they discharged their duty as witnesses. Hence Paul says, “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel.” 1Co_1:17. To the elders of Ephesus he said, “I count not my life dear unto me, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Act_20:24.
To give authority to this testimony the apostles were inspired, and as religious teachers infallible. Joh_14:26, Joh_16:13. They had the power of working miracles, in confirmation of their mission. Mat_10:8 and the Acts of the Apostles passim. This power they could communicate to others by the laying on of their hands. Act_9:15, Act_9:17, Act_9:18; Act_19:6. This is what is meant by giving the Holy Ghost, for the apostles never claimed the power of communicating the sanctifying influences of the Spirit. Nor was the power of giving the Spirit, in the sense above-mentioned, peculiar to them, for we read that Ananias, a disciple, was sent to Paul that he might receive the Holy Ghost. Act_9:17. The apostles seem also to have had the gift of “discerning spirits,” 1Co_12:10 and of remitting sins, Joh_20:23. They ordained presbyters over the congregations gathered by their ministry, Act_14:23, etc.; and exercised a general jurisdiction over the churches. 1Co_5:3-5; 2Co_10:6, 2Co_10:8, 2Co_10:11; 1Ti_1:20. The apostles, therefore, were the immediate messengers of Jesus Christ, sent to declare his gospel, endued with the Holy Spirit, rendering them infallible as teachers, and investing them with miraculous powers, and clothed with peculiar prerogatives in the organization and government of the Church.
It is in explanation of his apostolic office, and in the further assertion of his divine commission that Paul adds, ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, separated unto the gospel of God. — Αφορίζειν is to limit off, to separate, to select from among others. It is so used in Lev_20:24, Lev_20:26, “I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people.” In the same sense, in Gal_1:15, “when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb;” that is, who singled me out, or chose me. It is obvious, therefore, that the apostle here refers to his appointment by God to his office. In Act_13:2, it is said, “Separate (ἀφορίσατε) unto me Barnabas and Saul,” where a separation not to the ministry, much less to the apostleship, but to a special mission is referred to. Paul’s designation to office was neither of man, nor by man, Gal_1:1. The words εἰς εὐαγγέλιον, unto the gospel, express the object to which he was devoted when thus separated from the mass of his brethren; it was to preach the gospel. The divine origin of the gospel is asserted in calling it the gospel of God. It is the glad annunciation which God makes to men of the pardon of sin, of restoration to his favor, of the renovation of their nature, of the resurrection of the body, and of eternal life.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Paul — (See on Act_13:9).
a servant of Jesus Christ — The word here rendered “servant” means “bond-servant,” or one subject to the will and wholly at the disposal of another. In this sense it is applied to the disciples of Christ at large (1Co_7:21-23), as in the Old Testament to all the people of God (Isa_66:14). But as, in addition to this, the prophets and kings of Israel were officially “the servants of the Lord” (Jos_1:1; Psa_18:1, title), the apostles call themselves, in the same official sense, “the servants of Christ” (as here, and Phi_1:1; Jam_1:1; 2Pe_1:1; Jud_1:1), expressing such absolute subjection and devotion to the Lord Jesus as they would never have yielded to a mere creature. (See on Rom_1:7; see on Joh_5:22, Joh_5:23).
called to be an apostle — when first he “saw the Lord”; the indispensable qualification for apostleship. (See on Act_9:5; see on Act_22:14; see on 1Co_9:1).
separated unto the — preaching of the
gospel — neither so late as when “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul” (Act_13:2), nor so early as when “separated from his mother’s womb” (see on Gal_1:15). He was called at one and the same time to the faith and the apostleship of Christ (Act_26:16-18).
of God — that is, the Gospel of which God is the glorious Author. (So Rom_15:16; 1Th_2:2, 1Th_2:8, 1Th_2:9; 1Pe_4:17).
Superscription (Rom_1:1, Rom_1:2)
Dr. Morison observes that the superscription is peerless for its wealth of theological idea.
A transcript for the Latin paulus or paullus, meaning little. It was a favorite name among the Cilicians, and the nearest approach in sound to the Hebrew Saul. According to some, both names were borne by him in his childhood, Paulus being the one by which he was known among the Gentiles, and which was subsequently assumed by him to the exclusion of the other, in order to indicate his position as the friend and teacher of the Gentiles. The practice of adopting Gentile names may be traced through all the periods of Hebrew history. Double names also, national and foreign, often occur in combination, as Belteshazzar-Daniel; Esther-Hadasa; thus Saul-Paulus.
Others find in the name an expression of humility, according to Paul’s declaration that he was “the least of the apostles” (1Co_15:9). Others, an allusion to his diminutive stature; and others again think that he assumed the name out of compliment to Sergius Paulus, the deputy of Cyprus. Dean Howson, while rejecting this explanation, remarks: “We cannot believe it accidental that the words ‘who is also called Paul,’ occur at this particular point of the inspired narrative. The heathen name rises to the surface at the moment when St. Paul visibly enters on his office as the apostle of the heathen. The Roman name is stereotyped at the moment when he converts the Roman governor.”
A servant (δοῦλος)
Lit., bond-servant or slave. Paul applies the term to himself, Gal_1:10; Phi_1:1; Tit_1:1; and frequently to express the relation of believers to Christ. The word involves the ideas of belonging to a master, and of service as a slave. The former is emphasized in Paul’s use of the term, since Christian service, in his view, has no element of servility, but is the expression of love and of free choice. From this stand-point the idea of service coheres with those of freedom and of sonship. Compare 1Co_7:22; Gal_4:7; Eph_6:6; Phm_1:16.
On the other hand, believers belong to Christ by purchase (1Co_6:20; 1Pe_1:18; Eph_1:7), and own Him as absolute Master. It is a question whether the word contains any reference to official position. In favor of this it may be said that when employed in connection with the names of individuals, it is always applied to those who have some special work as teachers or ministers, and that most of such instances occur in the opening salutations of the apostolic letters. The meaning, in any case, must not be limited to the official sense.
Called to be an apostle (κλητὸς ἀπόστολος)
As the previous phrase describes generally Paul’s relation to Christ, this expression indicates it specifically. “Called to be an apostle” (A.V. and Rev.), signifies called to the office of an apostle. Yet, as Dr. Morison observes, there is an ambiguity in the rendering, since he who is simply called to be an apostle may have his apostleship as yet only in the future. The Greek indicates that the writer was actually in the apostolate – a called apostle. Godet, “an apostle by way of call.”
Separated unto the gospel of God (ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον Θεοῦ)
Characterizing the preceding phrase more precisely: definitely separated from the rest of mankind. Compare Gal_1:15, and “chosen vessel,” Act_9:15. The verb means “to mark off (ἀπό) from others by a boundary (ὅρος).” It is used of the final separation of the righteous from the wicked (Mat_13:49; Mat_25:32); of the separation of the disciples from the world (Luk_6:22); and of the setting apart of apostles to special functions (Act_13:2). Gospel is an exception to the almost invariable usage, in being without the article (compare Rev_14:6); since Paul considers the Gospel rather as to its quality – good news from God – than as the definite proclamation of Jesus Christ as a Savior. The defining elements are added subsequently in Rom_1:3, Rom_1:4. Not the preaching of the Gospel, but; the message itself is meant. For Gospel, see on superscription of Matthew.
2.Which he had before promised, etc. — As the suspicion of being new subtracts much from the authority of a doctrine, he confirms the faith of the gospel by antiquity; as though he said, “Christ came not on the earth unexpectedly, nor did he introduce a doctrine of a new kind and not heard of before, inasmuch as he, and his gospel too, had been promised and expected from the beginning of the world.” But as antiquity is often fabulous, he brings witnesses, and those approved, even the Prophets of God, that he might remove every suspicion. He in the third place adds, that their testimonies were duly recorded, that is, in the Holy Scriptures.
We may learn from this passage what the gospel is: he teaches us, not that it was promulgated by the Prophets but only promised. If then the Prophets promised the gospel, it follows, that it was revealed, when our Lord was at length manifested in the flesh. They are then mistaken who confound the promises with the gospel, since the gospel is properly the appointed preaching of Christ as manifested, in whom the promises themselves are exhibited.
Which he promised afore. That is, the gospel which Paul was sent to preach, was the same system of grace and truth, which from the beginning had been predicted and partially unfolded in the writings of the Old Testament. The reason why the Apostle here adverts to that fact probably was, that one of the strongest proofs of the divine origin of the gospel is found in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The advent, the character, the work, the kingdom of the Messiah, are there predicted, and it was therefore out of the Scriptures that the apostles reasoned, to convince the people that Jesus is the Christ; and to this connection between the two dispensations they constantly refer, in proof of their doctrines. See Rom_3:21; Rom_4:3; Rom_9:27, Rom_9:33; Rom_10:11, Rom_10:20. Comp. Luk_24:44; Joh_12:16; Act_10:43.
By his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. As in Scripture the term προφήτἡ, Hebrews נָבִיא, is applied to any one who spake by inspiration as the ambassador of God and the interpreter of his will; προφητῶν here includes all the Old Testament writers, whether prophets in the strict sense of the term, or teachers, or historians. Meyer indeed insists that the line of the prophets begins with Samuel according to Act_3:24 — “all the prophets from Samuel, and those who follow after,” and therefore that the earlier writers of the Old Testament are not here included. But Moses was a prophet, and what is here expressed by the words “his prophets,” is explained by the phrase “the law and the prophets,” in Rom_3:21.
By the Holy Scriptures must of course be understood, those writings which the Jews regarded as holy, because they treated of holy things, and because they were given by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 1:2 Which he promised before through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his Son.
Here the parenthetical passage begins, extending to the end of ver. 6. It is unnecessary to complicate it by connecting peri tou uiou autou with the previous euaggelion Yeou . It goes more naturally with proephggeilato , denoting the subject of the Old Testament promises. By profhtwn are meant not only the sacred writers distinctively so called, but (as in Heb_1:1) all who spoke of old under Divine inspiration, as by grafaiv agiaiv is signified the Old Testament generally. This intimation of the gospel being the fulfilment of prophecy is fitly introduced here, as preparing the reader for the argument of the Epistle, in the course of which the doctrine propounded is shown to be in accordance with the Old Testament, and in fact anticipated therein. This is, indeed, a prominent point in the general teaching of apostles and evangelists. They announce the gospel as the fulfilment of prophecy, and the true completion of all the ancient dispensation; and it is to the Old Testament that, in addressing Israelites, they ever in the first place appeal. Thus St. Peter; (Act_2:14 Act_3:18 Act_4:11) thus Stephen; (Ac 7) thus St. Paul at Antioch in Pisidia, at Thessalonica, and before Agrippa; (Act_13:16 Act_17:2 Act_26:6, Act_26:22) thus Philip to the Ethiopian proselyte; (Act_8:35) thus Apollos at Corinth. (Act_18:28) Our Lord himself had done the same, as in Mat_5:17 Luk_4:21 Luk_24:27, 44 Joh_5:39. All this is important as showing how the old and new dispensations are regarded together as parts of a whole, the old one being but the needful preparation for a fulfilment in the new, and so becoming intelligible; and thus how “through all the ages one eternal purpose runs.” There was also a providential preparation in the Gentile world, though not so direct and obvious, and though, of course, not similarly noticed in addresses to disciples of the Law. But St. Paul intimates it; as in his speech on Areopagus, and also, as will be seen, in this Epistle. Even the gospel (it may be further observed) is set forth as but a further stage of progress towards a final consummation, as the dawn only of a coming daybreak. We have still but an earnest of our inheritance; the “earnest expectation of the creature” still awaits “the manifestation of the sons of God.” Meanwhile, in the revelation already made through Christ, and the redemption accomplished by him, we are taught to cling to our faith in a Divine purpose throughout the world”s perplexing history that of resolving at last all discords into eternal harmony, and making manifest “one great love, embracing all.” This grand view of a providential order leading to a final consummation (though how and when we know not) pervades St. Paul”s writings, and should be kept in mind for a proper understanding of this Epistle.
3.Concerning his own Son, etc. — This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that the whole gospel is included in Christ, so that if any removes one step from Christ, he withdraws himself from the gospel. For since he is the living and express image of the Father, it is no wonder, that he alone is set before us as one to whom our whole faith is to be directed and in whom it is to center. It is then a definition of the gospel, by which Paul expresses what is summarily comprehended in it. I have rendered the words which follow, Jesus Christ our Lord, in the same case; which seems to me to be most agreeable with the context. We hence learn, that he who has made a due proficiency in the knowledge of Christ, has acquired every thing which can be learned from the gospel; and, on the other hand, that they who seek to be wise without Christ, are not only foolish, but even completely insane.
Who was made, etc. — Two things must be found in Christ, in order that we may obtain salvation in him, even divinity and humanity. His divinity possesses power, righteousness, life, which by his humanity are conveyed to us. Hence the Apostle has expressly mentioned both in the Summary he gives of the gospel, that Christ was manifested in the flesh — and that in it he declared himself to be the Son of God. So John says; after having declared that the Word was made flesh, he adds, that in that flesh there was a glory as of the only-begotten Son of God. (Joh_1:14.) That he specially notices the descent and lineage of Christ from his ancestor David, is not superfluous; for by this he calls back our attention to the promise, that we may not doubt but that he is the very person who had been formerly promised. So well known was the promise made to David, that it appears to have been a common thing among the Jews to call the Messiah the Son of David. This then — that Christ did spring from David — was said for the purpose of confirming our faith.
He adds,according to the flesh; and he adds this, that we may understand that he had something more excellent than flesh, which he brought from heaven, and did not take from David, even that which he afterwards mentions, the glory of the divine nature. Paul does further by these words not only declare that Christ had real flesh, but he also clearly distinguishes his human from his divine nature; and thus he refutes the impious raving of Servetus, who assigned flesh to Christ, composed of three untreated elements.
Concerning his Son. These words are either to be connected with εὐαγγέλιον, the gospel concerning his Son; or with προεπηγγείλατο, which he promised concerning his Son. The sense in either case is much the same. As most commentators and editors regard the second verse as a parenthesis, they of course adopt the former construction; but as there is no necessity for assuming any parenthesis, the natural grammatical connection is with προεπηγγείλατο. The personal object of the ancient promises is the Son of God.
It is a well known scriptural usage, that the designations employed in reference to our Lord are sometimes applied to him as a historical person, God and man, and sometimes exclusively to one or the other of the two natures, the divine and human, which enter into the constitution of the theanthropos. Thus the term Son designates the Logos in all those passages in which he is spoken of as the Creator of all things; at other times it designates the incarnate Logos; as when it is said, “the Son shall make you free.” Sometimes the same term is used in the same passage in reference fist to the incarnate Word, and then to the Word as the second person of the Trinity. Thus in Heb_1:2 it is said, “Hath spoken unto us by his Son, (the historical person, Jesus Christ,) by whom (the eternal Word) he made the worlds.” So here “concerning his Son,” means the Son of God as clothed in our nature, the Word made flesh; but in the next clause, “declared to be the Son of God,” the word Son designates the divine nature of Christ. In all cases, however, it is a designation implying participation of the divine nature. Christ is called the Son of God because he is consubstantial with the Father, and therefore equal to him in power and glory. The term expresses the relation of the second to the first person in the Trinity, as it exists from eternity. It is therefore, as applied to Christ, not a term of office, nor expressive of any relation assumed in time. He was and is the Eternal Son. This is proved from Joh_1:1-14, where the term υἱός is interchanged with λόγος. It was the Son, therefore, who in the beginning was with God, who was God, who created all things, in whom was life, who is the light of men, who is in the bosom of the Father. In Joh_5:17-31, Christ calls himself the Son of God, in a sense which made him equal to the Father, having the same power, the same authority, and a right to the same honor. In Joh_10:29-42, Christ declares God to be his Father in such a sense as to make himself God, one with the Father; and he vindicates his claim to this participation of the divine nature by appealing to his works. In Col_1:13-17, he is said as Son to be the image of the invisible God, the exact exemplar, and of course the reveler of the Divine nature; the Creator of all things that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible. In Heb_1:4-6, the title Son is adduced as proof that he is superior to the angels, and entitled to their worship. He is therefore called God’s proper Son, ἴδιος, Rom_8:32 (comp. πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν τὸν θεόν, Joh_5:18); his own Son, ἑαυτοῦ, Rom_8:3; his only begotten Son, μονογενής, Joh_1:14, Joh_1:18; Joh_3:16, Joh_3:18; 1Jo_4:9. Hence giving, sending, not sparing this Son, is said to be the highest conceivable evidence of the love of God, Joh_3:16; Rom_8:32; 1Jo_4:9. The historical sense of the terms λόγος, εἰκών, υἱός, πρωτοτόκος, as learned from the Scriptures and the usus loquendi of the apostolic age, shows that they must, in their application to Christ, be understood of his Divine nature.
Who was made of the seed of David. As γίνομαι, from the assumed theme γένω, to beget, signifies to begin to be, to come into ex
istence, it is often used in reference to descent or birth, γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, Gal_4:4; ης ἐγενήθητε τέκνα, 1Pe_3:6. “Made of the seed of David,” is therefore equivalent to “born of the seed of David.” That the Messiah was to be of the family of David, was predicted in the Old Testament, and affirmed in the New. Isa_9:1; Jer_23:5; Mat_22:45; Joh_7:42; Act_13:23.
The limitation κατὰ σάρκα, according to the flesh, obviously implies the superhuman character of Jesus Christ. Were he a mere man, it had been enough to say that he was of the seed of David; but as he is more then man, it was necessary to limit his descent from David to his human nature. That the word σάρξ here means human nature is obvious both from the scriptural usage of the word, and from the nature of the case. See Joh_1:14; Rom_9:5; 1Ti_3:16; 1Jo_4:2, 1Jo_4:3. It is not the flesh or body, as opposed to the soul, but the human, as opposed to the divine nature, that is intended. Neither does σάρξ here mean the purely material element with its organic life, the σῶμα and ψυχή, to the exclusion of the πνεῦμα or rational principle, according to the Apollinarian doctrine, but the entire humanity of Christ, including “a true body and a reasonable soul.” This is the sense of the word in all the parallel passages in which the incarnation is the subject. As when it is said, “The Word was made flesh,” Joh_1:14; or, “God was manifested in the flesh,” 1Ti_3:16. These are explained by saying, “He was found in fashion as a man,” Phi_2:8. The word therefore includes everything which constitutes the nature which a child derives from its progenitors.
God”s promises through his prophets in Holy Scripture are said to have been “concerning his Son;” and a question hence arises as to the exact sense in which “his Son” is to be here understood; a consideration of which question may help our interpretation of the expression in the following verse, which is not without difficulty, Tou orisyentov uiou Yeou en dunamei . We may distinguish between three senses in which Christ is called “the Son of God.
(1) With reference to his Divine pre-existence, the term expressing his relation to the Father from eternity, like the Logov (and probably the monogenhv) of St. John.
(2) With reference to his incarnation, as being conceived by the Holy Ghost; as in Luk_1:35, Dio kai to gennwmenon agion klhyhsetai uio ..
(3) With reference to the position assigned to the Messiah in psalm and prophecy, as the Son exalted to the right hand of God, and crowned with glory. It is with the last of these three references that the title is used in the Epistle to the Hebrews; where the ideal of sonship, found in the Old Testament, and imperfectly typified by the theoretic position of the theocratic kings, is regarded as prophetic, and pointing to Christ, in whom alone it is shown to be fulfilled. Hence in that Epistle his exaltation to the rank and dignity of Son is regarded as subsequent to his human obedience, and even the consequence and reward of it. It was because of the suffering of death (dia to payhma yanatou)” that he has been “crowned with glory and honour”; (Heb_2:9) it was after he had made a purification of sins that he “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” having “inherited” that “more excellent name the name of Son. (Heb_1:4) It is by no means implied that the said Epistle does not recognize a true Sonship of Christ before his exaltation; he was all along “the Son”, (cf. Heb_5:7, Kaiper wn uio , etc.) though not enthroned as such over mankind and all creation till after his resurrection; and, further, the essential doctrine of his pre-existent and eternal Sonship. in the first of the senses noted above, is distinctly taught, (as in Rom_1:3) though not there by the use of the term “Son.” All we say is that this word is used in the Epistle to the Hebrews to denote Christ”s position and office as the royal High Priest of humanity, exalted, after suffering, to the right hand of God, rather than his original Divine Personality; such being the significance of the title in the prophetic anticipations of the Messiah. Now, this being so, and it being the promises made “through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his Son” that are being spoken of in the passage before us, it may seem at first most probable that the idea here implied by the word “Son” is the same as in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and no more. We ought, however, to take further into account what St. Paul himself seems to signify by the term when he uses it elsewhere. It does not follow that his own conception of its significance was confined to what was apparent in “the prophets.” Reading them in the light of the gospel revelation, he may have seen in their language more implied than it distinctly expressed, and himself intended to imply more. The passages in his Epistles, apart from this chapter, where Christ is called God”s Son are these:
(1) Rom_5:10, “We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son;
(2) Rom_8:3, “Sending his own Son (ton) in the likeness of flesh of sin;
(3) Rom_8:29, “To be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the Firstborn among many brethren;
(4) Rom_8:32, “Spared not his own Son (tou idiou uiou);
(5) 2Co_1:19, “The Son of God… was not Yea and Nay;
(6) Gal_4:4, Gal_4:6, “God sent forth his Son, forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father;
(7) Col_1:13, “Translates us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.”
In all these passages except (3), in which the reference may be only to Christ in glory the term “Son” denotes a relation to the Father, peculiar to our Lord, previous to the death and exaltation, and in some of them, (2), (6), (7), previous to the Incarnation. Such previous relation is especially apparent in the sequence to (7), where “the Son of his love” is defined not only as “the Head of the body, the Church,” and “the Firstborn from the dead,” but also as “the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation; for in him all things were created, the things in heaven, and the things on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible; all things through him and unto him have been created.” With this may be compared Php_2:6-12, where an existence en morfh Yeou , anterior to incarnation, is undoubtedly declared, though the exaltation after human obedience, and the receiving then of “a name that is above every name”, (cf. Heb_1:4) is spoken of as well. One other passage remains to be noticed, occurring, not in an Epistle, but in the sermon at Antioch in Pisidia, (Act_13:33) where the view of Christ”s Sonship which is found in the Epistle to the Hebrews (no more being expressed) appears as present to St. Paul”s mind. For there God is said to have “fulfilled the promise which was made unto the fathers, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the psalm, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Here the Sonship assigned to “the Christ” in the second psalm is regarded as exhibited in the Resurrection. From this review of St. Paul”s usage it may be inferred that peri tou uiou autou in the text before us carries with it in his own mind the idea of pre-existent eternal Sonship, though what we may call Messianic Sonship may be all he means distinctly to intimate as declared by prophets. The bearing of this distinction on the interpretation of ver. 4 will appear under it. It may be observed here that the absence of a fixed and definite usage in the application of the term “Son” to Christ, which (as has been seen) is found in the New Testament, is what might be expected there. Formal definitions of theological conceptions by means of language used uniformly in a recognized definite sense had not as yet been made. Among such conceptions that of the Holy Trinity though implied, is nowhere distinctly formulated as a dogma. It was reserved for the Church, under the guidance of the Spirit, to preclude misconception by precise dogmatic definitions.
A promised gospel.
It sometimes happens that a blessing long promised, loudly heralded, and warmly extolled, loses thereby something of its charm, and suffers in the warmness of its welcome when it appears. That must be a vast and priceless boon which will bear to be promised and expected generation after generation. Expectation is aroused, the flame of hope is fanned, desire stands on tip-toe and strains her eyes. And when the gift comes, it must be of surpassing value, if no disappointment follow. The gospel of Jesus Christ was foretold for centuries. It had become “the desire of all nations.” But when it came, it was more glorious and welcome than all hope, all imagination, could have dreamed.
I IT WAS TAUGHT BY CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES THAT THE GOSPEL WAS A BLESSING PROMISED FROM ANCIENT TIME. Here are three direct proofs of this.
1. Our Lord, in his conversation with the disciples on the way to Emmaus, reproached them as “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken;” and, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
2. Upon the Day of Pentecost Peter instanced the resurrection of Christ as a fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy; David, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn to raise up his descendant to sit on his throne, “seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ.
3. When before Agrippa and Festus, Paul affirmed that, in his witnessing, he said “none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” Add to these the many instances in which the writers of the New Testament declare the gospel to be the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, and it becomes apparent that the Founder and first preachers of Christianity all claim that the Hebrew Scriptures testified beforehand to their glorious theme.
II THE MEN BY WHOM THE GOSPEL WAS FORETOLD WERE GOD”S PROPHETS. They were so called because they uttered forth, as his representatives, the mind and will of God. And they fulfilled this office, not only with a view to the time then present, its circumstances and duties, hut with a view to a time to come. Thus prophecy and prediction were closely linked together. With God is neither past, present, nor future. The promise was first made to our first parents, and through Adam to his posterity. The seed of the woman should bruise the serpent”s head. Abraham, in whom the human race took a new departure, was assured that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. This declaration, made to the father of the faithful, was believed by him, and his faith was accounted as righteousness. Through him it became the property of his descendants; for it was evidently so understood by Jacob. To Moses the promise was given, and by him it was recorded, that God should raise up a prophet like unto himself. But Moses prophesied of Christ rather in the ordinances he instituted than in the words he uttered. The sacrifices especially of the Jewish dispensation were an earnest of him who in due time should die for the ungodly. In the Psalms of David are several passages in which the Holy Spirit assured to the Israelitish monarch a successor to more than his own dignity and dominion. Isaiah spoke of a suffering and victorious Messiah. And others of the goodly fellowship, especially Jeremiah, Zechariah, Malachi, and Daniel, announced beforehand the advent or Israel”s and the world”s Deliverer.
III THE SCRIPTURES WERE THE RECORD IN WHICH THE PROMISE OF THE GOSPEL WAS PRESERVED. Admire the wisdom of God manifested in this provision. Men have sneered at a “book revelation;” but it should be remembered that the only alternative to this, so far as we can see, was tradition shifting, untrustworthy tradition. The Hebrews valued their sacred writings, and they had good reason for doing so. The Lord Jesus bade his opponents “search the Scriptures,” knowing that these testified of him. The apostles always appealed, when reasoning with the Jews, to the books they justly deemed inspired. These books contained a treasure which those who knew only their letter, not their spirit, often failed to discern and value. “Holy,” because inspired by the Holy Ghost; because written by the pens of holy men; because containing holy doctrine; because tending to foster a holy character and life, to leaven society with holy doctrines and principles. Above all, holy because witnessing to him who was the “Holy One and the Just,” God”s “holy Child Jesus.” The Scriptures are the casket, and Christ the Divine Jewel within.
IV CONSIDER THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH THE GOSPEL WAS THUS FORETOLD AND PUBLISHED, with growing clearness in the centuries before the coming of the Christ. There was Divine reason in this arrangement; and Paul saw this to be so, or he would not have put this forward in the forefront of this document. Observe these three evident intentions.
1. Thus the hopes of God”s people were sustained. How needful must express promises have been to the godly who lived in the twilight of Judaism, surrounded by the dark night of heathenism! Often must their hearts have sunk within them, only to be revived by the gracious declarations of the universal Lord and King.
2. Thus were displayed the wisdom and the benevolence of God. He would be known, not only as the moral Ruler, but as the gracious Saviour, of mankind. The glowing language of inspired prophets depicted the attributes of the great Redeemer in such colours as to inspire the nation with a lively and a blessed hope.
3. Thus was provision made for establishing the credibility and authority of the gospel, when revealed. Much that was written aforetime could not at that period be fully understood. These things were written, not for those who then lived, but for us. Looking upon the prophecy, and then upon the fulfilment, recognizing the wonderful correspondence, we see the presence of the same God in the old covenant, and in that new covenant which is in truth more ancient than the old.
Which was made; or, was born. But the word in itself, genomenou , need only mean that he became a Man of the seed of David; implying, it would seem, a pre-existence of him who so became. This, however, is more evident from other passages, in which wn , or uparcwn , is opposed to genomenov . (cf. Joh_1:1, 14 Php_2:6, 7; cf. Gal_4:4, Exapesteilen o Yeomenon ek gunaikov) Of the seed of David according to the flesh. Kata sarka is here, as elsewhere, contrasted with kata pneuma . Here kata sarka denotes the merely human descent of Jesus in distinction from his Divine Being. (cf. Act_2:40 Rom_9:3, 5 2Co_5:16) His having come humanly “of the seed of David” is suitably noted here, where “the Son” is being set forth as fulfilling the Old Testament promises; for they uniformly represent the Messiah as thus descended, and it was essential to the Jewish conception of him that he should be so. (cf. Mat_22:42Jo Mat 7:42; and for the stress laid by the writers of the New Testament on the fact that Jesus was so of which fact no doubt was entertained cf. Heb_7:14, prodhlon gar , etc. See, among many other passages, Mat_1:1 Luk_2:4, 5 Act_2:30 Act_13:23 2Ti_2:8) Meyer, commenting on the verse before us, goes somewhat out of his way to set forth that only Joseph”s, not Mary”s, descent from David was in St. Paul”s mind, saying that “the Davidic descent of the mother of Jesus can by no means be established from the New Testament,” and also that “Paul nowhere indicates the view of a supernatural generation of the bodily nature of Jesus.” As to the first of these assertions, it may be observed that, in the opening chapters of our Gospel of St. Luke (representing certainly the early belief of the Church) our Lord seems to be regarded as actually descended from David not legally so accounted only though, at the same time, his supernatural generation is distinctly asserted. (comp. Luk_1:32 with Luk_1:35) Hence we are led to infer Mary”s, as well as Joseph”s, descent from David, whether or not either of the genealogies given in St. Matthew”s and St. Luke”s Gospels represents hers. Further, with respect to those two genealogies (evidently independent ones, and both probably got from genealogical records preserved at Jerusalem), a probable way of accounting for the two distinct lines of descent through which Joseph seems to be traced to David, is to suppose one of them to be really Mary”s, the legal representative of whose family Joseph had become by marriage, so as to be entered in legal documents as the son of her father (see art. on “Genealogy of Jesus Christ,” in “Dictionary of the Bible,” W. Smith, LL.D.). As to Meyer”s second assertion above alluded to, it is true that St. Paul nowhere refers to our Lord”s supernatural conception spoken of in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. But it does not follow that it was not already included in the Church”s creed, or that St. Paul himself was unaware of it or disbelieved it. This is not the place for enlarging on the evidence, at the present day increasing in force, of the early origin of our existing Gospels, and of their being a true embodiment of the Church”s original belief. St. Paul”s silence as to the manner how the Son of God became incarnate may be accounted for by his not having had occasion, in his extant Epistles, to speak of it. He is occupied, in accordance with his peculiar mission, in setting forth the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation rather than its mode, and in preaching rather than catechetical instruction; and on the essential idea involved he is sufficiently explicit, viz. the peculiar Divine paternity of Christ, notwithstanding the human birth.
Concerning his Son – This is connected with the first verse, with the word “gospel.” The gospel of God concerning his Son. The design of the gospel was to make a communication relative to his Son Jesus Christ. This is the whole of it. There is no “good news” to man respecting salvation except what comes by Jesus Christ.
Which was made – The word translated “was made” means usually “to be,” or “to become.” It is used, however, in the sense of being born. Thus, Gal_4:4, “God sent forth his Son made of a woman,” born of a woman. Joh_8:58, “before Abraham was (born), I am.” In this sense it seems to be used here, who was born, or descended from the seed of David.
Of the seed of David – Of the posterity or lineage of David. He was a descendant of David. David was perhaps the most illustrious of the kings of Israel. The promise to him was that there should not fail a man to sit on this throne; 1Ki_2:4; 1Ki_8:25; 1Ki_9:5; 2Ch_6:16. This ancient promise was understood as referring to the Messiah, and hence, in the New Testament he is called the descendant of David, and so much pains is taken to show that he was of his line; Luk_1:27; Mat_9:27; Mat_15:22; Mat_12:23; Mat_21:9, Mat_21:15; Mat_22:42, Mat_22:45; Joh_7:42; 2Ti_2:8. As the Jews universally believed that the Messiah would be descended from David Joh_7:42, it was of great importance for the sacred writers to make it out clearly that Jesus of Nazareth was of that line and family. Hence, it happened, that though our Saviour was humble, and poor, and obscure, yet he had that on which no small part of the world have been accustomed so much to pride themselves, an illustrious ancestry. To a Jew there could be scarcely any honor so high as to be descended from the best of their kings; and it shows how little the Lord Jesus esteemed the honors of this world, that he could always evince his deep humility in circumstances where people are usually proud; and that when he spoke of the honors of this world, and told how little they were worth, he was not denouncing what was not within his reach.
According to the flesh – The word “flesh,” σάρξ sarx, is used in the Scriptures in a great variety of significations.
(1) it denotes, as with us, the flesh literally of any living being; Luk_24:39, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones,” etc.
(2) the animal system, the body, including flesh and bones, the visible part of man, in distinction from the invisible, or the soul; Act_2:31, “Neither did his flesh (his body) “see corruption.” 1Co_5:5; 1Co_15:39.
(3) the man, the whole animated system, body and soul; Rom_8:3, “In the likeness of sinful flesh. 1Co_15:50; Mat_16:17; Luk_3:6.
(4) human nature. As a man. Thus, Act_2:30, “God hath sworn with an oath that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh, that is, in his human nature, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Rom_9:5, “whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” The same is its meaning here. He was a descendant of David in his human nature, or as a man. This implies, of course, that he had another nature besides his human, or that while he was a man he was also something else; that there was a nature in which he was not descended from David.
That this is its meaning will still further appear by the following observations.
(1) the apostle expressly makes a contrast between his condition according to the flesh, and that according to the spirit of holiness.
(2) the expression “according to the flesh” is applied to no other one in the New Testament but to Jesus Christ. Though the word “flesh” often occurs, and is often used to denote man, yet the special expression, “according to the flesh” occurs in no other connection.
In all the Scriptures it is never said of any prophet or apostle, any lawgiver or king, or any man in any capacity, that he came in the flesh, or that he was descended from certain ancestors according to the flesh. Nor is such an expression ever used any where else. If it were applied to a mere man, we should instantly ask in what other way could he come than in the flesh? Has he a higher nature? Is he an angel, or a seraph? The expression would be unmeaningful. And when, therefore, it is applied to Jesus Christ, it implies, if language has any meaning, that there was a sense in which Jesus was not descended from David. What that was, appears in the next verse.
4.Declared the Son of God, etc.: or, if you prefer, determined (definitus); as though he had said, that the power, by which he was raised from the dead, was something like a decree by which he was proclaimed the Son of God, according to what is said in Psa_2:7, “I have this day begotten thee:” for this begetting refers to what was made known. Though some indeed find here three separate evidences of the divinity of Christ — “power,” understanding thereby miracles — then the testimony of the Spirit — and, lastly, the resurrection from the dead — I yet prefer to connect them together, and to reduce these three things to one, in this manner — that Christ was declared the Son of God by openly exercising a real celestial power, that is, the power of the Spirit, when he rose from the dead; but that this power is comprehended, when a conviction of it is imprinted on our hearts by the same Spirit. The language of the Apostle well agrees with this view; for he says that he was declared by power, because power, peculiar to God, shone forth in him, and uncontestably proved him to be God; and this was indeed made evident by his resurrection. Paul says the same thing in another place; having stated, that by death the weakness of the flesh appeared, he at the same time extols the power of the Spirit in his resurrection; (2Co_13:4) This glory, however, is not made known to us, until the same Spirit imprints a conviction of it on our hearts. And that Paul includes, together with the wonderful energy of the Spirit, which Christ manifested by rising from the dead, the testimony which all the faithful feel in their hearts, is even evident from this — that he expressly calls it the Spirit of Holiness; as though he had said, that the Spirit, as far as it sanctifies, confirms and ratifies that evidence of its power which it once exhibited. For the Scripture is wont often to ascribe such titles to the Spirit, as tend to illustrate our present subject. Thus He is called by our Lord the Spirit of Truth, on account of the effect which he mentions; (Joh_14:17)
Besides, a divine power is said to have shone forth in the resurrection of Christ for this reason — because he rose by his own power, as he had often testified: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again,” (Joh_2:19;) “No man taketh it from me,” etc.; (Joh_10:18) For he gained victory over death, (to which he yielded with regard to the weakness of the flesh,) not by aid sought from another, but by the celestial operation of his own Spirit.
Not made the Son of God, as he was said before to be made of the seed of David; but
declared, or demonstrated, to be the Son of God.
With power: this refers either to the word declared, and then the meaning is, he was powerfully or miraculously declared to be the Son of God; the Greek word ordinarily signifies a miracle in the New Testament: or else it refers to the last words, the Son of God; and then the sense is, he was declared to be the powerful and omnipotent Son of God, of the same power and majesty with the Father.
By the spirit of holiness, some would understand the Third Person in the blessed Trinity, which is often called the Holy Spirit, and here the Spirit of holiness; but others, and they more rightly, do understand the Deity and Divine nature of Christ; this is called the Spirit, 1Ti_3:16 1Pe_3:18; and the eternal Spirit, Heb_9:14 and here it is called the Spirit of holiness, or the most Holy Spirit, and that, probably, because of its effects; for thereby he sanctified his natural body, and still sanctifies his mystical body, the church. That this is the meaning is evident, by the opposition between the flesh and the Spirit: as according to the flesh, in the former verse, did signify his human nature; so according to the Spirit, in this verse, doth signify his Divine nature. See the like antithesis in 1Ti_3:16 1Pe_3:18.
By the resurrection from the dead: because it is said, the resurrection of the dead, not from the dead, some would understand the words of Lazarus, and others, who by the power of Christ were raised from the dead; and others would understand the words of those who were raised with Christ, when he himself arose: see Mat_27:52,53. But in Scripture the resurrection of the dead, is put for the resurrection from the dead; see 1Co_15:42 Heb_6:2; and hereby is meant the resurrection of Christ himself: he rose again from the dead, and thereby declared or manifested himself to be the Son of God with power: see Joh_2:19,21 5:26 10:18 1Co_15:4. And though it be said in Scripture, that the Father raised him from the dead, Act_2:24 13:30,33; yet that doth not hinder but by his own power he raised himself; seeing the Father and he were one, and the works of the Three Persons in one and the same Essence are undivided.
Romans 1:4 Who was declared (so Authorized Version) the Son of God with (literally, in) power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of (not as in Authorized Version, from) the dead. Supposing the intention here to be to declare the Son”s essential Deity, notwithstanding his human birth, we might have expected ontov after the genomenou preceding. But the word used is orisyentov ; and, further, the Resurrection is referred to, not a pre-existent state. The verb orizein means properly to “appoint” or “determine;” and if this meaning be re-mined, the whole passage would seem to preclude the idea of Sonship previous to the Resurrection being in view. Hence commentators ancient and modern agree generally in assigning an unusual meaning to orisyentov here, making it signify “declared,” as in the Authorized Version. So Chrysostom, Ti oun estin orisyentov; tou deicyentov, apofanyentov kriyentov duologhyentov para thv apantwn gnwmhv kai qhfou (Hom. 2 p. 432, D).
It is maintained that this use of the word, though unusual, is legitimate; since a person may be said to be appointed, or determined, to be what he already is, when his being such is declared and manifested. Thus, it may be said, a king may be spoken of as appointed king when he is crowned, though he was king before; or a saint determined a saint when he is canonized; and the classical phrase, orizein tina Yeon , in the sense of deify, is adduced as parallel. Thus the expression is made to mean that “the same who kata sarka was known only as the descendant of David, is now declared to be the Son of God” (Tholuck); Orizetai de eiv uio kata to anbrwpinon (Cyril); and St. Paul”s reason for thus putting it, in pursuance of his course of thought, is thus explained by Meyer; “Paul gives the two main epochs in the history of the Son of God as they had actually occurred, and had been prophetically announced;” also by Bengel thus, “Etiam ante exinanitionem suam Filius Dei is quidem fuit: sed exinanitione filiatio occultata fuit, et plene demure retecta post resurrectionem.” This interpretation would be more satisfactory than it is if the verb orizein were found similarly used in any other part of the New Testament. It occurs in the following passages, and always in its proper and usual sense: Luk_22:22 Act_2:23 Act_10:42 Act_11:29 Act_17:26, 31 Heb_4:7. Of these especially significant are Act_10:42 (Oti autov estin o wrismenov upo tou Yeou krithntwn kai nekrwn) and Act_17:31 (Dioti esthsen hmeran en h mellei krinein thnhn en dikaiosunh en andri w wrise, pistin parascwsav auto). In both of these texts the word denotes God”s appointment or determination of Christ to the office of Judge, not merely a declaration or manifestation of his already being so; and it is to be observed that in the second the language is given as that of St. Paul himself, and that it corresponds with the passage before us in that the Resurrection is spoken of as the display to the world of Christ being so appointed or determined. Surely, then, there ought to be cogent reason for giving orisyentov a different meaning here; and, in spite of the weight of authority on the other side, it is submitted that we are under no necessity to do so, if we bear in mind what appeared under ver. 3 as to the different senses in which Christ is designated Uio . In the sense apparent is Messianic prophecy, and pervading the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the sense which seems intended by St. Paul himself in Act_13:32, Act_13:33, it was not till after the Resurrection that Christ attained his position of royal Sonship; it was then that the Divine orismov took effect in that regard. It is true that St. Paul (as was seen under ver. 3) himself conceived of Christ as essentially Son of God from eternity; but here, while speaking of the fulfilment of Messianic prophecy, and desiring to point out what was patent to all who believed that Christ had risen, he may fitly refer to his exaltation only, in virtue of which, further, he had himself received his apostolic commission, of which he proceeds to speak, and the assertion which he has had all along in view.
The above interpretation of orisyentov appears, further, to have the weighty support of Pearson, who, speaking of Christ”s fourfold right unto the title of “the Son of God by generation, as begotten of God; by commission, as sent by him; by resurrection, as the Firstborn; by actual possession, as Heir of all refers thus to Rom_1:4: “Thus was he defined, or constituted, and “appointed to be the Son of God with power by the Resurrection from the dead (Pearson on the Creed, art. 2.). En dunamei (to be connected with orisyentov ) denotes the Divine power displayed in the Resurrection. (cf. Eph_1:19, “the exceeding greatness of his power,… according to the working of the strength of his might, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead;” cf. 1Co_6:14 1Co_15:43 2Co_13:4) In the last two of these passages, power evidenced in resurrection is contrasted with human weakness evidenced in death: Speiretai en asyeneia egeiretai en dunamei Kai gayh ex asyeneiav alla zh ek dunamewv. To kata sarka in ver. 3 is opposed, not simply kata pneuma , but kata pneuma agiwsunhv (the spirit of holiness), so as to denote the Divine element that was all along in the Incarnate Son, in virtue of which he rose triumphant over human asyeneia . We too are composed of sarx and pneuma ; but the pneuma in Christ was one of absolute holiness the holiness of Deity; not agiothv , holiness in the abstract, attributed to Deity, (Heb_12:10) nor agiasmov “sanctification,” of which man is capable; but agiwsunh , an inherent quality of Divine holiness (“Quasi tres sint gradus, sanctificatio, sanctimonia, sanctitas, Bengel). Because of this “spirit of holiness” that was in Christ, “it was not possible that he should be holden of” death. (Act_2:24) Through this, which was in himself not merely through a Divine power external to himself calling him from the grave, as he had called Lazarus he overcame death. (cf. Act_2:27 Act_13:35, “Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption It was through this too (dia pneumatov aiwniou) that he “offered himself without spot to God”; (Heb_9:14) and in the same sense may be understood edikaiwyh en pneumatic . (1Ti_3:16) Neither in these passages nor in the one before us is the Holy Spirit meant, in the sense of a distinct Person of the Holy Trinity. Further, the preposition in ex anastasewv does not denote (as explained by Theodoret, Luther, and Grotius) the time from which the orismo began in the sense of ex ou anesth , but the source out of which it proceeded. Ek non mode tempus, sed nexum rerum denotat” (Bengel). Further, the phrase is not “resurrection from the dead,” as in the Authorized Version, but of the dead,” which may be purposely used so as to point, not only to the fact of Christ”s own resurrection, but also to its significance for mankind. The same expression often occurs elsewhere with a comprehensive meaning. (cf. Act_23:6 Act_24:21 1Co_15:12-21 Php_3:11; also 1Co_15:22 Php_3:10)
The resurrection of Christ expressed “the power of an endless life,” here and hereafter, for mankind, carrying with it the possibility of the resurrection of all from the dominion of death in the risen Son. One view of the meaning of the whole of the above passage that of Chrysostom and Melancthon may be mentioned because of the weight of these authorities, though it cannot be the true one. They take kata pneuma agiwsunhv en dunamei , and ex anastasewv nekrwn , as coordinate, regarding them as the three proofs of Christ”s eternal Sonship i.e. miracles, the communication of the Holy Ghost, and the resurrection. Jesus Christ our Lord; thus in conclusion distinctly identifying the Son of prophecy with the Jesus who had lately appeared, and was acknowledged by the Christians as the Messiah, and commonly by them called Kuriov . The force of the passage is weakened in the Authorized Version by the transposition of Ihsou Cristou Kuriou hmwn to the beginning of ver. 3, as also by the inclusion of ver. 2 in a parenthesis, so as to separate it from peri tou uiou which follows. (See explanation given above)
Who was declared (tou horisthentos). Articular participle (first aorist passive) of horizō for which verb see note on Luk_22:22 and note on Act_2:23. He was the Son of God in his preincarnate state (2Co_8:9; Phi_2:6) and still so after his Incarnation (Rom_1:3, “of the seed of David”), but it was the Resurrection of the dead (ex anastaseōs nekrōn, the general resurrection implied by that of Christ) that definitely marked Jesus off as God’s Son because of his claims about himself as God’s Son and his prophecy that he would rise on the third day. This event (cf. 1 Corinthians 15) gave God’s seal “with power” (en dunamei), “in power,” declared so in power (2Co_13:4). The Resurrection of Christ is the miracle of miracles. “The resurrection only declared him to be what he truly was” (Denney).
According to the spirit of holiness (kata pneuma hagiōsunēs). Not the Holy Spirit, but a description of Christ ethically as kata sarka describes him physically (Denney). Hagiōsunē is rare (1Th_3:13; 2Co_7:1 in N.T.), three times in lxx, each time as the attribute of God. “The pneuma hagiōsunēs, though not the Divine nature, is that in which the Divinity or Divine Personality Resided” (Sanday and Headlam).
Jesus Christ our Lord (Iēsou Christou tou kuriou hēmōn). These words gather up the total personality of Jesus (his deity and his humanity).
Rev., in margin, determined. The same verb as in the compound separated in Rom_1:1. Bengel says that it expresses more than “separated,” since one of a number is separated, but only one is defined or declared. Compare Act_10:42; Act_17:31. It means to designate one for something, to nominate, to instate. There is an antithesis between born (Rom_1:3) and declared. As respected Christ’s earthly descent, He was born like other men. As respected His divine essence, He was declared. The idea is that of Christ’s instatement or establishment in the rank and dignity of His divine sonship with a view to the conviction of men. This was required by His previous humiliation, and was accomplished by His resurrection, which not only manifested or demonstrated what He was, but wrought a real transformation in His mode of being. Compare Act_2:36; “God made,” etc.
With power (ἐν δυνάμει)
Lit., in power. Construe with was declared. He was declared or instated mightily; in a striking, triumphant manner, through His resurrection.
Spirit of holiness
In contrast with according to the flesh. The reference is not to the Holy Spirit, who is nowhere designated by this phrase, but to the spirit of Christ as the seat of the divine nature belonging to His person. As God is spirit, the divine nature of Christ is spirit, and its characteristic quality is holiness.
Resurrection from the dead (ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν)
Wrong, since this would require the preposition ἐκ from. Rev., correctly, of the dead. Though this resurrection is here represented as actually realized in one individual only, the phrase, as everywhere in the New Testament, signifies the resurrection of the dead absolutely and generically – of all the dead, as exemplified, included, and involved in the resurrection of Christ. See on Phi_3:11.
And declared – In the margin, “determined.” Τοῦ ὁρισθέντος Tou horisthentos. The ancient Syriac has, “And he was known to be the Son of God by might and by the Holy Spirit, who rose from the house of the dead.” The Latin Vulgate, “Who was “predestinated” the Son of God,” etc. The Arabic, “The Son of God destined by power special to the Holy Spirit,” etc. The word translated “declared to be” means properly “to bound, to fix limits to,” as to a field, to determine its proper limits or boundaries, to “define,” etc. Act_17:26, “and hath determined the bounds of their habitation.” Hence, it means to determine, constitute; ordain, decree; i, e. to fix or designate the proper boundaries of a truth, or a doctrine; to distinguish its lines and marks from error; or to show, or declare a thing to be so by any action. Luk_22:22, “the Son of man goeth as it was determined, as it was fixed; purposed, defined, in the purpose of God, and declared in the prophets. Act_2:23, “him being delivered by the determinate counsel, the definite. constituted will, or design, of God. Act_11:29; Heb_4:7, “he limiteth a certain day,” fixes it, defines it. In this sense it is clearly used in this place. The act of raising him from the dead designated him, or constituted him the Son of God. It was such an act as in the circumstances of the case showed that he was the Son of God in regard to a nature which was not “according to the flesh.” The ordinary resurrection of a man, like that of Lazarus, would not show that he was the Son of God; but in the circumstances of Jesus Christ it did; for he had claimed to be so; he had taught it; and God now attested the truth of his teaching by raising him from the dead.
The Son of God – The word “son” is used in a great variety of senses, denoting literally a son, then a descendant, posterity near or remote, a disciple or ward, an adopted son, or one that imitates or resembles another; see the note at Mat_1:1. The expression “sons of God,” or “son of God,” is used in an almost equal latitude of signification. It is:
(1) Applied to Adam, as being immediately created by God without an earthly father; Luk_3:38.
(2) it is applied to saints or Christians, as being adopted into his family, and sustaining to him the relation of children; Joh_1:12-13; 1Jo_3:1-2, etc. This name is given to them because they resemble him in their moral character; Mat_5:45.
(3) it is given to strong men as resembling God in strength; Gen_6:2, “The sons of God saw the daughters of men,” etc. Here these men of violence and strength are called sons of God, just as the high hills are called hills of God, the lofty trees of Lebanon are called cedars of God, etc.
(4) kings are sometimes called his sons, as resembling him in dominion and power, Psa_82:6.
(5) the name is given to angels because they resemble God; because he is their Creator and Father, etc., Job_1:6; Job_2:1; Dan_3:25.
But the name the “Son of God” is in the New Testament given by way of eminence to the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the common and favorite name by which the apostles designated him. The expression “Son of God” is applied to him no less than 27 times in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and 15 times in the Epistles and the Revelation The expression my Son, and his Son, thy Son, etc. is applied to him in his special relation to God, times almost without number. The other most common appellation which is given to him is “Son of man.” By this name he commonly designated himself. There can be no doubt that that was assumed to denote that he was a man, that he sustained a special relation to man, and that he chose to speak of himself as a man. The first, the most obvious, impression on the use of the name “Son of man” is that he was truly a man, and was used doubtless to guard against the impression that one who manifested so many other qualities, and did so many things like a celestial being, was not truly human being.
The phrase “Son of God” stands in contrast with the title “Son of man,” and as the natural and obvious import of that is that he was a man, so the natural and obvious import of the title “Son of God” is that he was divine; or that he sustained relations to God designated by the name Son of God, corresponding to the relations which he sustained to man designated by the name Son of Man. The natural idea of the phrase, “Son of God,” therefore is, that he sustained a relation to God in his nature which implied more than was human or angelic; which implied equality with God. Accordingly, this idea was naturally suggested to the Jews by his calling God his Father; Joh_5:18, “But said also that God was his Father, “making himself equal with God.” This idea Jesus immediately proceeded to confirm; see the note at Joh_5:19-30. The same idea is also suggested in Joh_10:29-31, Joh_10:33, Joh_10:36, “Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest: “because I said I am the Son of God?” There is in these places the fullest proof that the title suggested naturally the idea of equality with God; or the idea of his sustaining a relation to God corresponding to the relation of equality to man suggested by the title Son of man.
This view is still further sustained in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Rom_1:1-2, “God hath spoken unto us by His Son.” He is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, Rom_1:3. He is higher than the angels, and they are required to worship him, Rom_1:4-6. He is called “God,” and his throne is forever and ever, Rom_1:8. He is “the Creator of the heavens and the earth,” and is immutably the same, Rom_1:10-12. Thus, the rank or title of the “Son of God” suggests the ideas and attributes of the Divinity. This idea is sustained throughout the New Testament. See Joh_14:9, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;” Rom_1:23, “That all men shall honor the Son even as they honor the Father;” Col_1:19, “It hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” Col_2:9, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily:” Phi_2:2-11; Rev_5:13-14; Rev_2:23. It is not affirmed that this title was given to the second person of the Trinity before he became incarnate; or to suggest the idea of any derivation or extraction before he was made flesh. There is no instance in which the appellation is not conferred to express his relation after he assumed human flesh. Of any derivation from God, or emanation from him in eternity, the Scriptures are silent. The title is conferred on him, it is supposed, with reference to his condition in this world, as the Messiah. And it is conferred, it is believed, for the following reasons, or to denote the following things, namely.
(1) to designate his unique relation to God, as equal with him, Joh_1:14, Joh_1:18; Mat_11:27; Luk_10:22; Luk_3:22; 2Pe_1:17, or as sustaining a most intimate and close connection with him, such as neither man nor angels could do, an acquaintance with his nature Mat_11:27, plans, and counsels, such as no being but one who was equal with God could possess. In this sense, I regard it as conferred on him in the passage under consideration.
(2) it designates him as the anointed king, or the Messiah. In this sense it accords with the use of the word in Psa_82:6. See Mat_16:16, “Thou art “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mat_26:63, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether “thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Mar_14:61; Luk_22:70; Joh_1:34; Act_9:20, “he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”
(3) it was conferred on him to denote his miraculous conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Luk_1:35, “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, therefore διό dio also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the “Son of God.”
(It is readily admitted, that on the subject of the “eternal Sonship” very much has been said of an unintelligible kind. Terms applicable only to the relation as it exists among people have been freely applied to this mystery. But whatever may be thought of such language as “the eternal generation,” “the eternal procession,” and “the subordination” of the Son; the doctrine itself, which this mode of speaking was invented to illustrate, and has perhaps served to obscure, is in no way affected. The question is not, Have the friends of the doctrine at all times employed judicious illustration? but, What is the “Scripture evidence” on the point? If the eternal Sonship is to be discarded on such grounds, we fear the doctrine of the Trinity must share a similar fate. Yet, those who maintain the divinity of Christ, and notwithstanding deny the eternal Sonship, seem generally to found their objections on these incomprehensible illustrations, and from thence leap to the conclusion that the doctrine itself is false.
That the title Son of God, when applied to Jesus, denotes a natural and not merely an official Sonship, a real and not a figurative relation; in other words, that it takes origin from the divine nature, is the view which the Catholic Church has all along maintained on this subject: no explanation which falls short of divinity will exhaust the meaning of the title. Christ is indeed called the Son of God on account of his miraculous conception; “That holy thing,” said the angel to the Virgin, “which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of the Highest.” But the creation of Adam, by the immediate power of God, without father or mother, would constitute him the Son of God, in a sense equally or even more exalted than that in which the title is applied to Jesus, if the miraculous conception were allowed to exhaust its meaning. Nor will an appeal to the resurrection of Christ serve the purpose of those who deny the divine origin of the title, since that is assigned as the evidence only, and not the ground of it.
The Redeemer was not constituted, but declared or evidenced to be, “the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” In the search for a solution short of divine Sonship, recourse is next had to the office of Christ as Mediator. Yet though the appellation in question be frequently given in connection with the official character of Jesus, a careful examination of some of these passages will lead to the conclusion, that “though the Son of God hold the office, yet the office does not furnish the reason or ground of the title.” The name is given to distinguish Jesus from all others who have held office, and “in such a way as to convince us that the office is rendered “honorable” by the exalted personage discharging its duties, and not that the person merits the designation in virtue of the office.” “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,” etc. “God so loved the world that he gave his “only begotten Son,” etc. Now the glory of the mission in the first of these passages, and the greatness of the gift in the second, is founded on the original dignity of the person sent and given. But if the person derive his title from the office only, there would seem to be comparatively little grandeur in the mission, and small favor in the gift. The passages quoted would more readily prove that God had bestowed favor on Jesus, by giving him an office from which he derived so much “personal dignity!”
The following are some of the passages in which the appellation “Son of God” is found connected with the office of Christ. “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, (an official term signifying “anointed Saviour”), the Son of God;” “He answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ (the official designation) is the Son of God;” “Whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” Now it is reasonable to suppose, that these declarations and confessions concerning the person of Christ, contain not only an acknowledgment of his official character, but also of his personal dignity. “Thou art Jesus the Christ,” is the acknowledgment of his office, and “thou art the Son of God,” is an acknowledgment of his natural dignity. The confession of the Ethiopian eunuch, and of Peter, would be incomplete on any other supposition. It should be borne in mind also, that the question of Christ to Peter was not, What office do ye suppose I hold? but, “Whom say ye that I am?” See Haldane on Rom_1:4.
If, then, the miraculous conception, the resurrection, and the office of Christ, do not all of them together exhaust the meaning of the appellation, we must seek for its origin higher still – we must ascend to the divine nature. We may indeed take one step more upward before we reach the divine nature, and suppose, with Professor Stuart and others, that the name denotes “the complex person of the Saviour,” as God and man, or in one word, “Mediator.” Comment on Heb. Exe. 2. But this is just the old resolution of it into official character, and is therefore liable to all the objections stated above. For while it is admitted by those who hold this view, that Christ is divine, it is distinctly implied, that the title Son of God would not have been his but for his office.
In the end therefore we must resolve the name into the divine nature. That it implies equality with God is clearly proved in this commentary. So the Jews understood it, and the Saviour tacitly admitted that their construction was right. And as there is no equality with God without divinity, the title clearly points to such a distinction in the Godhead as is implied in the relative terms, Father and Son. Indeed it is not easy to understand how the doctrine of the Trinity can be maintained apart from that of the eternal Sonship. If there be in the Godhead a distinction of persons, does not that distinction belong to the nature of the Godhead, independent of any official relations. Or will it be maintained, that the distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, arises entirely from the scheme of redemption, and did not exist from eternity? We may find fault with Dr Owen, and others, who speak of a “hypostatical subordination of persons in the Godhead.” Prof. Stuart, Com. Heb. Exe. 1. Yet, the distinction itself, through we cannot explain it, “must” be allowed to exist.
The remaining evidence of the eternal Sonship may be thus stated.
1. Christ is called God’s “own Son,” his “beloved,” and “well beloved,” and “only begotten Son.’ So strong and special adjuncts seem intended to prevent any such idea as that of figurative Sonship. If these do not express the natural relationship, it is beyond the power of language to do it. Moreover, correct criticism binds us to adopt the natural and ordinary signification of words, unless in such cases as plainly refuse it,
2. In a passage already quoted, God is said “to have sent forth His Son to redeem us,” etc. And there are many passages to the same effect, in which is revealed, not only the pre-existence of Christ, but the capacity in which he originally moved, and the rank which he held in heaven. “God sent forth his Son,” implies that he held that title prior to his mission. This at least is the most obvious sense of the passage, and the sense which an ordinary reader would doubtless affix to it. The following objection, however, has been supposed fatal to this argument: “The name Son of God is indeed used, when speaking of him previous to his having assumed human nature, but so are the names of Jesus and the Christ, which yet we know properly to belong to him, only as united to humanity.” It is readily allowed that the simple fact of the name being given prior to the incarnation proves nothing of itself. But the case is altered when this fact is viewed in connection with the difficulty or impossibility of resolving the Sonship into an official relation. No such difficulty exists in regard to the terms “Jesus” and “Christ,” for they are plainly official names, signifying “anointed Saviour.”
3. Rom_1:3-4. If in this passage we understand the apostle to declare, that Christ was of the seed of David, according to his human nature, the rule of antithesis demands, that we understand him next to assert what he was according to his divine nature, namely, the Son of God.
The views given in this Note are those adopted by the most eminent orthodox divines. The language of the Westminster divines is well known; “The only Redeemer of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God, of one substance etc.” “Larger Catechism.” Mr. Scott “is decidedly of opinion, that Christ is called the only Son of God in respect of his divine nature.” Commentary, Heb_1:3-4.” The late Principal Hill, in his Theological System, having exposed what he deemed erroneous views on this subject, adds, “there is a more ancient and a more exalted title to this name (Son of God), which is inseparable from the nature” of Christ. “3rd edition, vol. i., page 363.)”
With power – ἐν δυνάμει en dunamei. By some this expression has been supposed to mean in power or authority, after his resurrection from the dead. It is said, that he was before a man of sorrows; now he was clothed with power and authority. But I have seen no instance in which the expression in power denotes office, or authority. It denotes physical energy and might, and this was bestowed on Jesus before his resurrection as well as after; Act_10:38, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit, and with power; Rom_15:19; 1Co_15:43. With such power Jesus will come to judgment: Mat_24:30. If there is any passage in which the word “power” means authority, office, etc., it is Mat_28:18, “All power in heaven and earth is given unto me.” But this is not a power which was given unto him after his resurrection, or which he did not possess before. The same authority to commission his disciples he had exercised before this on the same ground, Mat_10:7-8. I am inclined to believe, therefore, that the expression means “powerfully, efficiently;” he was with great power, or conclusiveness, shown to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. Thus, the phrase “in power” is used to qualify a verb in Col_1:29, “Which worketh in me mightily,” “Greek,” in power, that is, operating in me effectually, or powerfully. The ancient versions seem to have understood it in the same way. “Syriac,” “He was known to be the Son of God by power, and by the Holy Spirit.” “AEthiopic,” “Whom he declared to be the Son of God by his own power, and by his Holy Spirit,” etc. “Arabic,” “Designated the Son of God by power appropriate to the Holy Spirit.”
According to the spirit of holiness – κατά πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης kata pneuma hagiōsunēs. This expression has been variously understood. We may arrive at its meaning by the following considerations.
(1) it is not the third person in the Trinity that is referred to here. The designation of that person is always in a different form. It is “the Holy Spirit,” the Holy Ghost, πνεῦμα ἅγιον pneuma hagion, or τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον to pneuma to hagion; never “the spirit of holiness.”
(2) it stands in contrast with the flesh; Rom_1:3, “According to the flesh, the seed of David: according to the spirit of holiness, the Son of God.” As the former refers doubtless to his human nature, so this must refer to the nature designated by the title Son of God, that is, to his superior or divine nature.
(3) the expression is altogether unique to the Lord Jesus Christ. No where in the Scriptures, or in any other writings, is there an affirmation like this. What would be meant by it if affirmed of a mere man?
(4) it cannot mean that the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, showed that Jesus was the Son of God by raising him from the dead because that act is no where attributed to him. It is uniformly ascribed either to God, as God Act_2:24, Act_2:32; Act_3:15, Act_3:26; Act_4:10; Act_5:30; Act_10:40; Act_13:30, Act_13:33-34; Act_17:31; Rom_10:9; Eph_1:20, or to the Father Rom_6:4, or to Jesus himself Joh_10:18. In no instance is this act ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
(5) it indicates a state far more elevate than any human dignity, or honor In regard to his earthly descent, he was of a royal race; in regard to the Spirit of holiness, much more than that, he was the Son of God.
(6) the word “Spirit” is used often to designate God, the holy God, as distinguished from all the material forms of idol worship, Joh_4:24
(7) the word “Spirit” is applied to the Messiah, in his more elevated or divine nature. 1Co_15:45, “the last Adam was made a quickening Spirit.” 2Co_3:17, “now the Lord (Jesus) is that Spirit.” Heb_9:14, Christ is said to have offered himself through the eternal Spirit. 1Pe_3:18, he is said to have been “put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” 1Ti_3:16, he is said to have been “justified in the Spirit.” In most of these passages there is the same contrast noticed between his flesh, his human nature, and his other state, which occurs in Rom_1:3-4. In all these instances, the design is, doubtless, to speak of him as a man, and as something more than a man: he was one thing as a man; he was another thing in his other nature. In the one, he was of David; was put to death, etc. In the other, he was of God, he was manifested to be such, he was restored to the elevation which he had sustained before his incarnation and death, Joh_17:1-5; Phi_2:2-11. The expression, “according to the Spirit of holiness,” does not indeed of itself imply divinity. It denotes that holy and more exalted nature which he possessed as distinguished from the human. What that is, is to be learned from other declarations. “This expression implies simply that it was such as to make proper the appellation, the Son of God.” Other places, as we have seen, show that that designation naturally implied divinity. And that this was the true idea couched under the expression, according to the Spirit of holiness, appears from those numerous texts of scripture which explicitly assert his divinity; see Joh_1:1, etc., and the note on that place.
By the resurrection from the dead – This has been also variously understood. Some have maintained that the word “by,” ἐξ ex, denotes after. He was declared to be the Son of God in power after he rose from the dead; that is, he was solemnly invested with the dignity that became the Son of God after he had been so long in a state of voluntary humiliation. But to this view there are some insuperable objections.
(1) it is not the natural and usual meaning of the word “by.”
(2) it is not the object of the apostle to state the time when the thing was done, or the order, but evidently to declare the fact, and the evidence of the fact. If such had been his design, he would have said that previous to his death he was shown to be of the seed of David, but afterward that he was invested with power.
(3) though it must be admitted that the preposition “by, ἐξ ex,” sometimes means after (Mat_19:20; Luk_8:27; xxiii. 8, etc.), yet its proper and usual meaning is to denote the efficient cause, or the agent, or origin of a thing, Mat_1:3, Mat_1:18; Mat_21:25; Joh_3:5; Rom_5:16; Rom_11:36, “OF him are all things.” 1Co_8:6, “one God, the Father, of whom are all things,” etc. In this sense, I suppose it is used here; and that the apostle means to affirm that he was clearly or decisively shown to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.
But here will it be asked, how did his resurrection show this? Was not Lazarus raised from the dead? And did not many saints rise also after Jesus? And were not the dead raised by the apostles; by Elijah, by the bones of Elisha, and by Christ himself? And did their being raised prove that they were the sons of God? I answer that the mere fact of the resurrection of the body proves nothing in itself about the character and rank of the being that is raised. But in the circumstances in which Jesus was placed it might show it conclusively. When Lazarus was raised, it was not in attestation of anything which he had taught or done. It was a mere display of the power and benevolence of Christ. But in regard to the resurrection of Jesus, let the following circumstances be taken into the account.
(1) he came as the Messiah.
(2) he uniformly taught that he was the Son of God.
(3) he maintained that God was his Father in such a sense as to imply equality with him, Joh_5:17-30; Joh_10:36.
(4) he claimed authority to abolish the laws of the Jews, to change their customs, and to be himself absolved from the observance of those laws, even as his Father was, John 5:1-17; Mar_2:28.
(5) when God raised him up therefore, it was not an ordinary event. It was “a public attestation, in the face of the universe, of the truth of his claims to be the Son of God.” God would not sanction the doings and doctrines of an impostor. And when, therefore he raised up Jesus, he, by this act, showed the truth of his claims, that he was the Son of God.
Further, in the view of the apostles, the resurrection was intimately connected with the ascension and exaltation of Jesus. The one made the other certain. And it is not improbable that when they spoke of his resurrection, they meant to include, not merely that single act, but the entire series of doings of which that was the first, and which was the pledge of the elevation and majesty of the Son of God. Hence, when they had proved his resurrection, they assumed that all the others would follow. That involved and supposed all. And the series, of which that was the first, proved that he was the Son of God; see Act_17:31, “He will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all people, “in that he hath raised him from the dead.” The one involves the other; see Act_1:6. Thus, Peter Act_2:22-32 having proved that Jesus was raised up, adds, Act_2:33, “therefore, being by the right hand exalted, he hath shed forth this,” etc.; and Act_2:36, “therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
This verse is a remarkable instance of the “apostle” Paul’s manner of writing. Having mentioned a subject, his mind seems to catch fire; he presents it in new forms, and amplifies it, until he seems to forget for a time the subject on which he was writing. It is from this cause that his writings abound so with parentheses, and that there is so much difficulty in following and understanding him.
5.Through whom we have received, etc. — Having completed his definition of the gospel, which he introduced for the recommendation of his office, he now returns to speak of his own call; and it was a great point that this should be proved to the Romans. By mentioning grace and apostleship apart, he adopts a form of speech, which must be understood as meaning, gratuitous apostleship or the favor of the apostleship; by which he means, that it was wholly through divine favor, not through his own worthiness, that he had been chosen for so high an office. For though it has hardly any thing connected with it in the estimation of the world, except dangers, labors, hatred, and disgrace; yet before God and his saints, it possesses a dignity of no common or ordinary kind. It is therefore deservedly counted a favor. If you prefer to say, “I have received grace that I should be an Apostle,” the sense would be the same.
The expression, on account of his name, is rendered by [Ambrose ], “in his name,” as though it meant, that the Apostle was appointed in the place of Christ to preach the gospel, according to that passage, “We are ambassadors for Christ,” etc. (2Co_5:20.) Their opinion, however, seems better, who take name for knowledge; for the gospel is preached for this end — that we may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1Jo_3:23.) And Paul is said to have been a chosen vessel, to carry the name of Christ among the Gentiles. (Act_9:15.) On account then of his name, which means the same, as though he had said, that I might make known what Christ is.
For the obedience of faith, etc. — That is, we have received a command to preach the gospel among all nations, and this gospel they obey by faith. By stating the design of his calling, he again reminds the Romans of his office, as though he said, “It is indeed my duty to discharge the office committed to me, which is to preach the word; and it is your duty to hear the word and willingly to obey it; you will otherwise make void the vocation which the Lord has bestowed on me.”
We hence learn, that they perversely resist the authority of God and upset the whole of what he has ordained, who irreverently and contemptuously reject the preaching of the gospel; the design of which is to constrain us to obey God. We must also notice here what faith is; the name of obedience is given to it, and for this reason — because the Lord calls us by his gospel; we respond to his call by faith; as on the other hand, the chief act of disobedience to God is unbelief, I prefer rendering the sentence, “For the obedience of faith,” rather than, “In order that they may obey the faith;” for the last is not strictly correct, except taken figuratively, though it be found once in the Act_6:7. Faith is properly that by which we obey the gospel.
Among all nations, etc. It was not enough for him to have been appointed an Apostle, except his ministry had reference to some who were to be taught: hence he adds, that his apostleship extended to all nations. He afterwards calls himself more distinctly the Apostle of the Romans, when he says, that they were included in the number of the nations, to whom he had been given as a minister. And further, the Apostles had in common the command to preach the gospel to all the world; and they were not, as pastors and bishops, set over certain churches. But Paul, in addition to the general undertaking of the apostolic function, was constituted, by a special appointment, to be a minister to proclaim the gospel among the Gentiles. It is no objection to this, that he was forbidden to pass through Macedonia and to preach the word in Mysia: for this was done, not that there were limits prescribed to him, but that he was for a time to go elsewhere; for the harvest was not as yet ripe there.
Ye are the called of Jesus Christ, etc. He assigns a reason more nearly connected with them — because the Lord had already exhibited in them an evidence by which he had manifested that he had called them to a participation of the gospel. It hence followed, that if they wished their own calling to remain sure, they were not to reject the ministry of Paul, who had been chosen by the same election of God. I therefore take this clause, “the called of Jesus Christ,” as explanatory, as though the particle “even” were inserted; for he means, that they were by calling made partakers of Christ. For they who shall be heirs of eternal life, are chosen by the celestial Father to be children in Christ; and when chosen, they are committed to his care and protection as their shepherd.
Through whom we have received grace and apostleship. As it was of the utmost importance that Paul’s authority as an apostle should be acknowledged in the Church, he here repeats the assertion that he received his office immediately from Jesus Christ, whose exalted character as the Son of God and our supreme Lord he had just declared. Though δἰ οὗ properly means through whom, by whose instrumentality, the preposition must here be taken in a more general sense as indicating the source from whom. Comp. Gal_1:1 διὰ θεοῦ πατρός. Rom_11:36; 1Co_1:9. The words χάριν καὶ ἀποστολήν may either be taken together and rendered the favor of the apostleship, or each word may be taken separately. Then χάρις refers to the kindness of God manifested to the apostle in his conversion and vocation. ‘Through whom we received grace, favor in general, and specially, the apostleship.’
Unto the obedience of faith. These words express the object of the apostleship; πίστεως is either the genitive of apposition, “obedience which consists in faith;” or it is the genitive of the source, “obedience which flows from faith;” or it is the genitive of the object, “obedience to faith;” i.e., to the gospel. In favor of the last interpretation reference may be made to 2Co_10:5. ης ὑπακοὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ; 1Pe_1:22 ης ὑπακοὴ τῆς ἀληθείας, obedience to the truth. See Gal_1:23; Act_6:7; Jud_1:3 for examples of the use of πίστίς in this objective sense. The subjective sense, however, of the word πίστις in the New Testament is so predominant that it is safest to retain it in this passage. The obedience of faith is that obedience which consists in faith, or of which faith is the controlling principle. The design of the apostleship was to bring all nations so to believe in Christ the Son of God that they should be entirely devoted to his service. The sense is the same if πίστις be taken objectively, understood, however, not of the gospel, but of the inward principle of faith to which the nations were to be obedient. Among all nations. The apostles were not diocesans restricted in jurisdiction to a particular territory. Their commission was general. It was to all nations. If these words are connected with we received, they express directly the extent of the apostle’s mission, ‘We have received a mission among all nations.’ If, as is much more natural, on account of their position, they are connected with the immediately preceding words, they express the same idea indirectly; his office was to promote obedience to the faith among all nations.
For his name. That is for the sake of (ὑπέρ) his name or glory. These words are most naturally connected with the whole preceding verse, and express the final end of the apostleship, viz., the honor of Christ. It was to promote the knowledge and glory of Christ that Paul had received his office and labored to make the nations obedient to the gospel.
By whom; or of whom; by whom, as Mediator, or of whom, as Author and Giver.
Grace and apostleship: some make these two distinct gifts; the one common, which is grace; the other special, which is apostleship: others think, that, by an hendiadis, he means the grace of apostleship; which he so calls, because it was conferred upon him, not for any desert of his, but by the mere favour and free grace of God. It is his manner to call his apostleship by the name or style of grace: see Rom_15:15 Gal_2:9 Eph_3:2,8.
For obedience to the faith; you have the same phrase, Rom_16:26, and there it is rendered for the obedience of faith. By faith here some understand the gospel or doctrine of faith; it hath this sense, Act_6:7 Jud_1:3, &c.; and then the meaning is, God, of his mere grace, hath given me this office, that I might bring the nations to believe, and work in them obedience to the doctrine of the gospel. Others understand the grace of faith; and then the meaning is, I have received this office, that I might bring the nations to believe, and so to obey the gospel. Therefore obedience is joined with faith, because by faith we obey the commands of God; and faith itself consists in obedience, and is the great command of the gospel.
Among all nations; according to the general commission, Mat_28:19, and a more special commission to this apostle; see Act_9:15 Gal_2:7,8 1Ti_2:7 2Ti_1:11.
For his name; that the nations might believe in his name; so some: others suppose these words are added to declare the end of Paul’s preaching and apostleship, which was to set forth the glory and praise of Christ: see 2Th_1:12.
We have received (ἐλάβομεν)
Aorist tense. Rev., we received. The categorical plural, referring to Paul, and not including the other apostles, since the succeeding phrase, among all the nations, points to himself alone as the apostle to the Gentiles.
Grace and apostleship
Grace, the general gift bestowed on all believers: apostleship, the special manifestation of grace to Paul. The connecting καὶ and, has the force of and in particular. Compare Rom_15:15, Rom_15:16.
For obedience to the faith (εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως)
Rev., unto obedience of faith. Unto marks the object of the grace and apostleship: in order to bring about. Obedience of faith is the obedience which characterizes and proceeds from faith.
Or Gentiles. Not geographically, contrasting the inhabitants of the world, Jew and Gentile, with the Jews strictly so called, dwelling in Palestine, but Gentiles distinctively, for whom Paul’s apostleship was specially instituted. See on Luk_2:32, and compare note on 1Pe_2:9.
By whom – The apostle here returns to the subject of the salutation of the Romans, and states to them his authority to address them. That authority he had derived from the Lord Jesus, and not from man. On this fact, that he had received his apostolic commission, not from man, but by the direct authority of Jesus Christ, Paul not infrequently insisted. Gal_1:12, “for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ;” 1Co_15:1-8; Eph_3:1-3.
We – The plural here is probably put for the singular; see Col_4:3; compare Eph_6:19-20. It was usual for those who were clothed with authority to express themselves in this manner. Perhaps here, however, he refers to the general nature of the apostolic office, as being derived from Jesus Christ, and designs to assure the Romans that “he” had received the apostolic commission as the others had. ‘We,” the apostles, have received the appointment from Jesus Christ. ‘
Grace and apostleship – Many suppose that this is a figure of speech, “hendiadys,” by which one thing is expressed by two words, meaning the grace or favor of the apostolic office. Such a figure of speech is often used. But it may mean, as it does probably here, the two things, grace, or the favor of God to his own soul, as a personal matter; and the apostolic office as a distinct thing. He often, however, speaks of the office of the apostleship as a matter of special favor, Rom_15:15-16; Gal_2:9; Eph_3:7-9.
For obedience to the faith – In order to produce, or promote obedience to the faith; that is, to induce them to render that obedience to God which faith produces. There are two things therefore implied.
(1) that the design of the gospel and of the apostleship is to induce men to obey God.
(2) that the tendency of faith is to produce obedience. There is no true faith which does not produce that. This is constantly affirmed in the New Testament, Rom_15:18; Rom_16:19; 2Co_7:15; James 2.
Among all nations – This was the original commission which Jesus gave to his apostles, Mar_16:15-16; Mat_28:18-19. This was the special commission which Paul received when he was converted, Act_9:15. It was important to show that the commission extended thus far, as he was now addressing a distant church which he had not seen.
For his name – This means probably “on his account,” that is, on account of Christ, Joh_14:13-14; Joh_16:23-24. The design of the apostleship was to produce obedience to the gospel among all nations, that thus the name of Jesus might be honored. Their work was not one in which they were seeking to honor themselves, but it was solely for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ. For him they toiled, they encountered perils, they laid down their lives, because by so doing they might bring people to obey the gospel, and thus Jesus Christ might wear a brighter crown and be attended by a longer and more splendid train of worshippers in the kingdom of his glory.
Among whom are ye also. The apostle thus justifies his addressing the Church at Rome in his official character. If the commission which he had received extended to all nations, he was not transcending its limits in writing as an apostle to any church, though it had not been founded by his instrumentality, nor enjoyed his personal ministry. Called of Jesus Christ. This may mean, Those whom Christ has called. But as the κλῆσις, or vocation of believers, is generally in the New Testament referred to God, the meaning probably is, The called who belong to Christ. Qui Dei beneficio estis Jesu Christi, Beza. The word κλητός is never in the epistles applied to one who is merely invited by the external call of the gospel. Οις κλητοί, the called, means the effectually called; those who are so called by God as to be made obedient to the call. Hence the κλητοί are opposed to those who receive and disregard the outward call. Christ, though an offense to the Jews and Greeks, is declared to be (τοῖς κλητοῖϚ) to the called the wisdom and power of God, 1Co_1:24. Hence, too, κλητοί and ἐκλεκτοί are of nearly the same import; κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοί, Rom_8:28; comp. Rom_9:11; 1Co_1:26, 1Co_1:27. We accordingly find κλητοί used as a familiar designation of believers, as in Rev_17:14 οις μετ- αὐτοῦ κλητοὶ καὶ ἐκλεκτοὶ καὶ πιστοί. See Jud_1:1. Comp. Rom_8:30; Rom_9:24; 1Co_1:9; 1Co_7:17 et seq., Gal_1:15; Eph_4:1; Col_3:15; 1Th_2:12; 1Th_5:24; 2Ti_1:9. In these and in many other passages, the verb καλέω expresses the inward efficacious call of the Holy Spirit.
Theophylact remarks that the word κλητοί is applied to Christians, since they are drawn by grace, and do not come of themselves. God, as it were, anticipates them. The same remark may be made of most of the other terms by which believers are designated. They all more or less distinctly bring into view the idea of the agency of God in making them to differ from others. They are called ἐκλεκτοί θεοῦ. Rom_8:33; Col_3:12; 1Ti_1:1; or more fully ἐκλεκτοὶ κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ, 1Pe_1:2; ἡγιασμένοι sanctified, which includes the idea of separation, 1Co_1:2; Jud_1:1; προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ θεοῦ, Eph_1:11; σωζόμενοι, 1Co_1:18; 2Co_2:15; τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, Act_13:48.
Among whom – That is, among the Gentiles who had become obedient to the Christian faith in accordance with the design of the gospel, Rom_1:8. This proves that the church at Rome was made up partly at least, if not mainly, of Gentiles or pagans. This is fully proved in the xvith. chapter by the names of the persons whom Paul salutes.
The called of Jesus Christ – Those whom Jesus Christ has called to be his followers. The word “called” (see Rom_1:1) denotes not merely an external invitation to privilege, but it also denotes the “internal” or “effectual” call which secures conformity to the will of him who calls, and is thus synonymous with the name Christians, or believers. That true Christians are contemplated by this address, is clear from the whole scope of the Epistle; see particularly Rom. 8; compare Phi_3:14; Heb_3:1.
7.To all of you who are at Rome, etc. By this happy arrangement he sets forth what there is in us worthy of commendation; he says, that first the Lord through his own kindness made us the objects of his favor and love; and then that he has called us; and thirdly, that he has called us to holiness: but this high honor only then exists, when we are not wanting to our call.
Here a rich truth presents itself to us, to which I shall briefly refer, and leave it to be meditated upon by each individual: Paul does by no means ascribe the praise of our salvation to ourselves, but derives it altogether from the fountain of God’s free and paternal love towards us; for he makes this the first thing — God loves us: and what is the cause of his love, except his own goodness alone? On this depends our calling, by which in his own time he seals his adoption to those whom he had before freely chosen. We also learn from this passage that none rightly connect themselves with the number of the faithful, except they feel assured that the Lord is gracious, however unworthy and wretched sinners they may be, and except they be stimulated by his goodness and aspire to holiness, for he hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness. (1Th_4:7.) As the Greek can be rendered in the second person, I see no reason for any change.
Grace to you and peace, etc. Nothing is more desirable than to have God propitious to us, and this is signified by grace; and then to have prosperity and success in all things flowing from him, and this is intimated by peace; for however things may seem to smile on us, if God be angry, even blessing itself is turned to a curse. The very foundation then of our felicity is the favor of God, by which we enjoy true and solid prosperity, and by which also our salvation is promoted even when we are in adversities. And then as he prays to God for peace, we must understand, that whatever good comes to us, it is the fruit of divine benevolence. Nor must we omit to notice, that he prays at the same time to the Lord Jesus Christ for these blessings. Worthily indeed is this honor rendered to him, who is not only the administrator and dispenser of his Father’s bounty to us, but also works all things in connection with him. It was, however, the special object of the Apostle to show, that through him all God’s blessings come to us.
There are those who prefer to regard the word peace as signifying quietness of conscience; and that this meaning belongs to it sometimes, I do not deny: but since it is certain that the Apostle wished to give us here a summary of God’s blessings, the former meaning, which is adduced by Bucer, is much the most suitable. Anxiously wishing then to the godly what makes up real happiness, he betakes himself, as he did before, to the very fountain itself, even the favor of God, which not only alone brings to us eternal felicity but is also the source of all blessings in this life.
Called to be saints – Invited to become holy persons, by believing the Gospel and receiving the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Or, here, the word may have the meaning of made or constituted, as above; κλητοις αγιοις, to all that be in Rome, Constituted saints, for they had already received the Gospel grace, and were formed into a Christian Church.
Grace to you – χαρις υμιν; May you be partakers of the Divine favor, the source whence every blessing is derived.
I think it necessary, once for all, to give the several acceptations of this word grace which occur in the sacred writings.
1. The word χαριν signifies in general favor or benevolence, but especially that favor which is powerful and active, and loads its objects with benefits. Luk_1:30 : Fear not, Mary, thou hast found Favor, χαριν, with God. Luk_2:40 : And the child grew – and the Grace of God, χαρις θεου, the favor of God was upon him. Luk_1:52 : And Jesus increased in Favor, χαριτι Grace, with God and man. Act_2:47 : Having Favor, χαριν, Grace, with all the people. Act_4:33 : And great Grace, χαρις, Favor, was upon them all. The apostles were at that time in universal favor with the multitude. In this sense the word occurs in a great variety of places, both in the Old and New Testaments.
2. Hence it is often used for the blessing which it dispenses; for, if God be favourably disposed towards a person, his beneficent acts, in that person’s behalf, will be a necessary consequence of such favor. Joh_1:14 : Full of Grace and truth; accomplished in all spiritual blessings. Joh_1:16 : And Grace upon Grace: he who is full of the most excellent blessings, confers them liberally on all believers. Act_11:23 : When he had seen the Grace of God, i.e. had the fullest evidence that they were richly endowed with heavenly gifts. 1Co_1:4 : For the Grace of God which is given you – the Divine blessings conferred upon you. 2Co_9:8 : God is able to make all Grace abound toward you; i.e. to enrich you with every benediction. This is also a very common acceptation of the word; and in this sense the word grace or favor is now generally understood among religious people. The grace of God meaning with them some Divine or spiritual blessing communicated.
3. It is sometimes taken for the whole of the Christian religion, as being the grandest possible display of God’s favor to a lost, ruined world: and in this sense it appears to be used, Joh_1:17 : For the Law was given by Moses; but Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ: where the term Grace is evidently opposed to Law; the latter meaning the Mosaic, the other the Christian, dispensation. Act_13:43 : Barnabas persuaded them to continue in the Grace of God; i.e. to hold fast their profession of the religion of Christ. Rom_6:14 : Ye are not under the Law, but under Grace – ye are no longer under obligation to fulfill the Mosaic precepts, but are under the Christian dispensation. See also Rom_6:15; and see 2Co_1:12; 2Co_6:1; Gal_1:6; Col_1:6; 2Ti_2:1, Tit_2:11 : The Grace of God, that bringeth salvation unto all men, hath appeared. The Jewish religion was restricted in its benefits to a few; but the Christian religion proposes the salvation of all men; and the author of it has become a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Heb_12:15 : Looking diligently lest any man fall from the Grace of God – lest any man apostatize from the Christian religion, and the blessings of pardon and holiness which he has received through it. 1Pe_5:12 : This is the true Grace of God wherein ye stand – the Christian religion which ye have received is the genuine religion of God.
4. It signifies all the blessings and benefits which Christ has purchased, and which he gives to true believers, both in time and eternity. See Rom_5:15, Rom_5:17, where the grace of God is opposed to death; i.e. to all the wretchedness and misery brought into the world by Adam’s transgression. 1Co_16:23 : The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all – May every blessing purchased by Christ’s passion and death be the portion of you all. Gal_5:4 : Ye are fallen from Grace – ye have lost the blessings of the Gospel by submitting to circumcision.
5. It signifies the apostolic and ministerial office, or the authority to propagate the Christian religion, and the unction or influence by which that office is executed; so in the 5th verse of this chapter, (Rom_1:5) as has been already noted: By whom we have received Grace and apostleship, or, the apostolic office. Rom_13:3 : I say, through the Grace given unto me; i.e. I command you, by the authority of my apostolic office, etc. See also Rom_13:6.
6. It signifies a gift, salary, or money collected for the use of the poor. 1Co_16:3 : Whomsoever ye shall approve – them will I send to bring your Liberality, την χαριν υμων, your Grace; i.e. the collection made for the poor saints: see 1Co_16:1. 2Co_8:4 : Praying us – that we would receive the Gift, την χαριν, the Grace, the contribution made in the Churches of Macedonia, for the relief of the poor. In this sense it is used in Ecclus. 17:22: He will keep the Good Deeds of man, χαριν, the same as ελεημοσυνη, alms, in the beginning of the verse; and it signifies a kind or friendly act, in the same author. Ecclus. 29:16: Forget not the Friendship, χαριτας, of thy surety. Graces or χαρις, was a deity among the ancients; and the three Graces, αι τρεις χαριτες, were called Pitho, Aglaia, and Euphrosyne; πειθω, mild persuasion; αγλαια, dignity; ευφροσυνη, liberality and joyfulness; and these were always painted naked, to show that all benefits should be gratuitous, this being essential to the nature of a gift. See Suidas, in χαριτας.
7. It sometimes signifies merely thanks or thanksgiving. See Luk_17:9 : Doth he thank, μη χαριν εχει, that servant? Rom_6:17 : But God be Thanked, χαρις οε τω θεω. 1Co_10:30 : For if I by Grace, χαριτι, Thanksgiving, as our margin has it, and properly.
8. It signifies remuneration, wages, or reward Luk_6:32-34 : If ye love them that love you – do good to them which do good to you – lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what Thank have ye? ποια υμιν χαρις εστι; what Reward have ye? This appears, from the parallel place, Mat_5:46, to be most evidently the meaning: τινα μισθον εχετε; what Reward have ye? The word is used in this sense by several Greek writers.
9. It signifies whatever is the means of procuring the favor or kindness of another. 1Pe_2:19, 1Pe_2:20 : For this is Thankworthy, τουτο γαρ χαρις παρα τῳ Θεῳ, this is the means of Procuring Favor from God.
10. It signifies joy, pleasure, and gratification, which is the, meaning of cara, and with which it is often confounded in the New Testament. Phm_1:7 : For we have great Joy, χαριν γαρ εχομεν πολλην. Tobit 7:18: The Lord give thee Joy, χαριν, for this thy sorrow. In this sense the word is used by the best Greek writers; and in this sense it appears to be used, 2Co_1:15.
11. It signifies the performance of an act which is pleasing or grateful to others. Act_24:27 : Felix, willing to show the Jews a Pleasure, χαριτας καταθεσθαι, to perform an act which he knew would be highly gratifying to them.
12. It signifies whatever has the power or influence to procure favor, etc. Suavity, kindness, benevolence, gentle demeanour. Luk_4:22 : All wondered at the Gracious Words, τοις λογοις της χαριτος, the benevolent, kind, and tender expressions; such as his text, Luk_4:18, would naturally lead him to speak. He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, etc. Eph_4:29; Col_4:6 : Let your speech be always with Grace; i.e. gracious, kind, benevolent, savouring of the doctrine of Christ: it is thus used by several Greek writers. See Schleusner. As the word χαρις Grace, most frequently signifies some blessing or benefit calculated to promote human happiness, it is generally derived from χαρω, I rejoice, because of the effect produced by the blessing.
And peace – ειρηνη, the same as שלום shalom in Hebrew, generally signifying all kinds of blessing, but especially harmony and unity, and the bond of such unity. The most probable derivation of the word ειρηνη is from ειρω, I bind, and εν, one – because peace unites and binds those who were, by discord, before disunited. In the New Testament it signifies –
1. Peace, public or private, in the general acceptation of the word, as implying reconciliation and friendship; and to the etymology of the word the apostle seems to allude in Eph_4:3 : Endeavouring to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. Act_12:20 : They of Tyre and Sidon desired Peace – they sought reconciliation, with Herod, by means of Blastus, the king’s chamberlain.
2. It signifies regularity, good order. 1Co_14:33 : God is not the God of confusion, but of Peace.
3. It signifies the labor or study of preserving peace and concord; and this is supposed to be its meaning, Mat_10:34; Luk_12:51; and Act_7:26. Rom_14:17 : For the kingdom of God is righteousness and Peace – the Christian dispensation admits of no contention, but inculcates peace. 1Co_7:15 : God hath called us to Peace – to labor to preserve quietness and concord. Heb_12:14 : Follow Peace – labor to preserve it.
4. It signifies the author or procurer of peace and concord. Eph_2:14 : He is our Peace – the author of concord betwixt Jews and Gentiles.
5. It signifies the Gospel and its blessings. Eph_2:17 : And came and preached Peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
6. It signifies all kinds of mental and corporeal happiness, and especially the happiness of Christians. Luk_1:79 : To guide our feet into the way of Peace – to show us the way to obtain true happiness. Luk_19:42 : The things which belong unto thy Peace – that by which thou mightest have been made truly happy. 1Th_5:23 : The very God of Peace – God, the only source of true felicity. Joh_16:33 : These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have Peace – that ye might have confidence and happiness in believing on me as your only Savior.
7. It signifies good wishes and affectionate prayers. Mat_10:13 : And if the house be worthy, let your Peace come upon it. Our Lord commands his disciples, Mat_10:12, to salute the house into which they entered; and this was done by saying, Peace be unto this house! that is, Let every blessing, spiritual and temporal, be the portion of this family! See Luk_10:6; Joh_14:27; Act_15:33 : They were let go in Peace – they had the most fervent and affectionate prayers of the Church.
8. It signifies praise. Luk_19:38 : Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! – May all the heavenly host praise God, and give him the highest honor!
9. It signifies benignity, benevolence, favor. Rom_5:1 : Being justified by faith, we have Peace with God – In consequence of having our sins forgiven, we have a clear sense of the Divine favor. Phi_4:7 : The Peace of God which passeth all understanding – the inexpressible blessedness of a sense of the Divine favor. See Schleusner’s Lexicon.
From God our Father – The apostle wishes them all the blessings which can flow from God, as the fountain of grace, producing in them all the happiness which a heart filled with the peace of God can possess; all of which are to be communicated to them through the Lord Jesus Christ. See the note on Act_28:31.
To all who are in Rome. These words are, in sense, connected with the first verse, “Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ, to all who are in Rome.”
Beloved of God. This is the great distinction and blessedness of believers, they are the beloved of God. They are not so called simply because, as was the case with the ancient Israelites, they are selected from the rest of the world, and made the recipients of peculiar external favors; but because they are the objects of that great love wherewith he hath loved those whom, when they were dead in sins, he hath quickened together with Christ, Eph_2:4, Eph_2:5. They are the elect of God, holy and beloved, Col_3:12; they are brethren beloved of the Lord, 2Th_2:13.
Called to be saints. The former of these worlds stands in the same relation to the latter that κλητός does to ἀπόστολος in Rom_1:1, called to be an apostle, called to be saints. It is one of those designations peculiar to the true people of God, and expresses at once their vocation, and that to which they are called, viz., holiness. The word ἃγιος, in accordance with the meaning of קָדוֹשׁ, holy, in the Old Testament, signifies clean, pure morally, consecrated, and especially as applied to God, holy, worth of reverence. The people of Israel, their land, their temple, etc., are called holy, as separated and devoted to God. The term ἃγιοι as applied to the people of God under the new dispensation, includes this idea. They are saints, because they are a community separated from the world and consecrated to God. But agreeably to the nature of the Christian dispensation, this separation is not merely external; believers are assumed to be really separated from sin, that is, clean, pure. Again, as the impurity of sin is, according to Scripture, twofold, its pollution, and guilt or just liability to punishment, so the words, καθαίρειν, καθαρίζειν, ἁγιάζειν, which all mean to cleanse, are used both to express the cleansing from guilt by expiation, and from pollution by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the one and sometimes the other, and often both of these ideas are expressed by the words. See Joh_15:2; Heb_10:2 for the use of καθαίρω; Act_15:9; Eph_5:26; Tit_2:14; Heb_9:14, Heb_9:22; 1Jo_1:7; for the use of καθαρίζω; Joh_17:19; Act_26:16; 1Ti_4:5; Heb_2:11; Heb_10:10, Heb_10:14, Heb_10:29; for the use of ἁγιάζω. Hence Christians are called ἃγιοι, ἡγιασμένοι, not only as those who are consecrated to God, but also as those who are cleansed both by expiation, and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
“Novam hîc periodum incipio,” says Beza, “adscripto puncto post ἁγίοις.” In this punctuation he is followed by Knapp, Lachmann, Fritzsche, and many others. The sense then is, “Paul, an apostle — to the saints in Rome.” And then follows the salutation, “Grace and peace to you.” That the words χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη are in the nominative, and the introduction of ὑμῖν show that a new sentence is here begun.
Grace be to you, and peace. Χάρις is kindness, and especially undeserved kindness, and therefore it is so often used to express the unmerited goodness of God in the salvation of sinners. Very frequently it is used metonymically for the effect of kindness, that is, for a gift or favor. Anything, therefore, bestowed on the undeserving may be called χάρις. In this sense Paul calls his apostleship χάρις, Rom_12:3; Eph_3:2, Eph_3:8; and all the blessings conferred on sinners through Jesus Christ, are graces, or gifts. It is in this sense repentance, faith, love, and hope are graces. And especially the influence of the Holy Spirit in the heart, in connection with the gift of the Son, the greatest of God’s free gifts to men, is with peculiar propriety called χάρις, or grace. Such is its meaning in 1Co_15:10; 2Co_8:1; Rom_12:6; Gal_1:15 and in many other passages. In the text, it is to be taken in the comprehensive sense in which it is used in the apostolic benedictions for the favor and love of God and Christ. The word εἰρήνη, which is so often united with χάρις in the formulas of salutation, is used in the wide sense of the Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם, Shalom, well-being, prosperity, every kind of good. Grace and peace therefore include everything that we can desire or need, the favor of God, and all the blessings that favor secures. “Nihil prius optandum,” says Calvin, “quàm ut Deum propitium habeamus; quod designatur per gratiam. Deinde ut ab eo prosperitas et successus omnium rerum fluat, qui significatur Pacis vocabulo.”
From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. This association of the Father and Christ as equally the object of prayer, and the source of spiritual blessings, is a conclusive proof that Paul regarded Christ as truly God. God is called our Father, not merely as the author of our existence, and the source of every blessing, but especially as reconciled towards us through Jesus Christ. The term expresses the peculiar relation in which he stands to those who are his sons, who have the spirit of adoption, and are the heirs or recipients of the heavenly inheritance. Jesus Christ is our Lord, as our supreme Ruler, under whose care and protection we are placed, and through whose ministration all good is actually bestowed.
To all that be in Rome – That is, to all who bear the Christian name. Perhaps he here included not only the church at Rome, but all who might have been there from abroad. Rome was a place of vast concourse for foreigners; and Paul probably addressed all who happened to be there.
Beloved of God – Whom God loves. This is the privilege of all Christians. And this proves that the persons whom Paul addressed were “not” those merely who had been invited to the external privileges of the gospel. The importance of this observation will appear in the progress of these notes.
Called to be saints – So called, or influenced by God who had called them, as to become saints. The word “saints,” ἅγιοι hagioi, means those who are holy, or those who are devoted or consecrated to God. The radical idea of the word is what is separated from a common to a sacred use, and answers to the Hebrew word, קדושׁ qadowsh. It is applied to any thing that is set apart to the service of God, to the temple, to the sacrifices, to the utensils about the temple, to the garments, etc. of the priests, and to the priests themselves. It was applied to the Jews as a people separated from other nations, and devoted or consecrated to God, while other nations were devoted to the service of idols. It is also applied to Christians, as being a people devoted or set apart to the service of God. The radical idea then, as applied to Christians, is, that “they are separated from other men, and other objects and pursuits, and consecrated to the service of God.” This is the special characteristic of the saints. And this characteristic the Roman Christians had shown. For the use of the word, as stated above, see the following passages of scripture; Luk_2:23; Exo_13:2, Rom_11:16; Mat_7:6; 1Pe_1:16; Act_9:13; 1Pe_2:5; Act_3:21, Eph_3:5; 1Pe_2:9; Phi_2:15; 1Jo_3:1-2.
Grace – This word properly means “favor.” It is very often used in the New Testament, and is employed in the sense of benignity or benevolence; felicity, or a prosperous state of affairs; the Christian religion, as the highest expression of the benevolence or favor of God; the happiness which Christianity confers on its friends in this and the future life; the apostolic office; charity, or alms; thanksgiving; joy, or pleasure; and the benefits produced on the Christian’s heart and life by religion – the grace of meekness, patience, charity, etc., “Schleusner.” In this place, and in similar places in the beginning of the apostolic epistles, it seems to be a word including all those blessings that are applicable to Christians in common; denoting an ardent wish that all the mercies and favors of God for time and eternity, blended under the general name grace, may be conferred on them. It is to be understood as connected with a word implying invocation. I pray, or I desire, that grace, etc. may be conferred on you. It is the customary form of salutation in nearly all the apostolic epistles; 1Co_1:3; 2Co_1:2; Gal_1:3; Eph_1:2; Phi_1:2; Col_1:2; 1Th_1:1; 2Th_1:2; Phm_1:3.
And peace – Peace is the state of freedom from war. As war conveys the idea of discord and numberless calamities and dangers, so peace is the opposite, and conveys the idea of concord, safety, and prosperity. Thus, to wish one peace was the same as to wish him all safety and prosperity. This form of salutation was common among the Hebrews. Gen_43:23, “peace to you! fear not;” Jdg_6:23; Jdg_19:20; Luk_24:36. But the word “peace” is also used in contrast with that state of agitation and conflict which a sinner has with his conscience. and with God. The sinner is like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, Isa_57:20. The Christian is at peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom_5:1. By this word, denoting reconciliation with God, the blessings of the Christian religion are often described in the scriptures, Rom_8:6; Rom_14:17; Rom_15:13; Gal_5:22; Phi_4:7. A prayer for peace, therefore, in the epistles, is not a mere formal salutation, but has a special reference to those “spiritual” blessings which result from reconciliation with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
From God our Father – The Father of all Christians. He is the Father of all his creatures, as they are his offspring, Act_17:28-29. He is especially the Father of all Christians, as they have been “begotten by him to a lively hope,” have been adopted into his family, and are like him; Mat_5:45; 1Pe_1:3; 1Jo_5:1; 1Jo_3:1-2. The expression here is equivalent to a prayer that God the Father would bestow grace and peace on the Romans. It implies that these blessings proceed from God, and are to be expected from him.
And the Lord Jesus Christ – From him. The Lord Jesus Christ is especially regarded in the New Testament as the Source of peace, and the Procurer of it; see Luk_2:14; Luk_19:38, Luk_19:42; Joh_14:27; Joh_16:33; Act_10:36; Rom_5:1; Eph_2:17. Each of these places will show with what propriety peace was invoked from the Lord Jesus. From thus connecting the Lord Jesus with the Father in this place, we may see,
(1) That the apostle regarded him as the source of grace and peace as really as he did the Father.
(2) he introduced them in the same connection, and with reference to the bestowment of the same blessings.
(3) if the mention of the Father in this connection implies a prayer to him, or an act of worship, the mention of the Lord Jesus implies the same thing, and was an act of homage to him.
(4) all this shows that his mind was familiarized to the idea that he was divine.
No man would introduce his name in such connections if he did not believe that he was equal with God; compare Phi_2:2-11. It is from this incidental and unstudied manner of expression, that we have one of the most striking proofs of the manner in which the sacred writers regarded the Lord Jesus Christ.
These seven verses are one sentence. They are a striking instance of the manner of Paul. The subject is simply a salutation to the Roman church. But at the mention of some single words, the mind of Paul seems to catch fire, and go burn and blaze with signal intensity. He leaves the immediate subject before him, and advances some vast thought that awes us, and fixes us in contemplation, and involves us in difficulty about his meaning, and then returns to his subject. This is the characteristic of his great mind; and it is this, among other things, that makes it so difficult to interpret his writings.
8. I first indeed, etc. Here the beginning commences, altogether adapted to the occasion, as he seasonably prepares them for receiving instruction by reasons connected with himself as well as with them. What he states respecting them is, the celebrity of their faith; for he intimates that they being honored with the public approbation of the churches, could not reject an Apostle of the Lord, without disappointing the good opinion entertained of them by all; and such a thing would have been extremely uncourteous and in a manner bordering on perfidy. As then this testimony justly induced the Apostle, by affording him an assurance of their obedience, to undertake, according to his office, to teach and instruct the Romans; so it held them bound not to despise his authority. With regard to himself, he disposes them to a teachable spirit by testifying his love towards them: and there is nothing more effectual in gaining credit to an adviser, than the impression that he is cordially anxious to consult our wellbeing.
The first thing worthy of remark is, that he so commends their faith, that he implies that it had been received from God. We are here taught that faith is God’s gift; for thanksgiving is an acknowledgment of a benefit. He who gives thanks to God for faith, confesses that it comes from him. And since we find that the Apostle ever begins his congratulations with thanksgiving, let us know that we are hereby reminded, that all our blessings are God’s free gifts. It is also needful to become accustomed to such forms of speaking, that we may be led more fully to rouse ourselves in the duty of acknowledging God as the giver of all our blessings, and to stir up others to join us in the same acknowledgment. If it be right to do this in little things, how much more with regard to faith; Which is neither a small nor an indiscriminate (promiscua ) gift of God. We have here besides an example, that thanks ought to be given through Christ, according to the Apostle’s command in Heb_13:15; inasmuch as in his name we seek and obtain mercy from the Father. — I observe in the last place, that he calls him his God. This is the faithful’s special privilege, and on them alone God bestows this honor. There is indeed implied in this a mutual relationship, which is expressed in this promise, “I will be to them a God; they shall be to me a people.” (Jer_30:22.)
I prefer at the same time to confine this to the character which Paul sustained, as an attestation of his obedience to the end in the work of preaching the gospel. So Hezekiah called God the God of Isaiah, when he desired him to give him the testimony of a true and faithful Prophet. (Isa_37:4.) So also he is called in an especial manner the God of Daniel. (Dan_6:20.)
Through the whole world. The eulogy of faithful men was to Paul equal to that of the whole world, with regard to the faith of the Romans; for the unbelieving, who deemed it detestable, could not have given an impartial or a correct testimony respecting it. We then understood that it was by the mouths of the faithful that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed through the whole world; and that they were alone able to judge rightly of it, and to pronounce a correct opinion. That this small and despised handful of men were unknown as to their character to the ungodly, even at Rome, was a circumstance he regarded as nothing; for Paul made no account of their judgment.
First – In the first place, not in point of importance, but before speaking of other things, or before proceeding to the main design of the Epistle.
I thank my God – The God, whom I worship and serve. The expression of thanks to God for his mercy to them was suited to conciliate their feelings, and to prepare them for the truths which he was about to communicate to them. It showed the deep interest which he had in their welfare; and the happiness it would give him to do them good. It is proper to give thanks to God for his mercies to others as well as to ourselves. We are members of one great family, and we should make it a subject of thanksgiving that he confers any blessings, and especially the blessing of salvation, on any mortals.
Through Jesus Christ – The duty of presenting our thanks to God “through” Christ is often enjoined in the New Testament, Eph_5:20; Heb_13:15; compare Joh_14:14. Christ is the mediator between God and human beings, or the medium by which we are to present our prayers and also our thanksgivings. We are not to approach God directly, but through a mediator at all times, depending on him to present our cause before the mercy-seat; to plead for us there; and to offer the desires of our souls to God. It is no less proper to present thanks in his name, or through him, than it is prayer. He has made the way to God accessible to us, whether it be by prayer or praise; and it is owing to “his” mercy and grace that “any” of our services are acceptable to God.
For you all – On account of you all, that is, of the entire Roman church. This is one evidence that that church then was remarkably pure. How few churches have there been of whom a similar commendation could be expressed.
That your faith – “Faith” is put here for the whole of religion, and means the same as your piety. Faith is one of the principal things of religion; one of its first requirements; and hence, it signifies religion itself. The readiness with which the Romans had embraced the gospel, the firmness with which they adhered to it, was so remarkable, that it was known and celebrated everywhere. The same thing is affirmed of them in Rom_16:19, “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men.”
Is spoken of – Is celebrated, or known. They were in the capital of the Roman Empire; in a city remarkable for its wickedness; and in a city whose influence extended everywhere. It was natural, therefore, that their remarkable conversion to God should be celebrated everywhere. The religious or irreligious influence of a great city will be felt far and wide, and this is one reason why the apostles preached the gospel so much in such places.
Throughout the whole world – As we say, everywhere; or throughout the Roman Empire. The term “world” is often thus limited in the scriptures; and here it denotes those parts of the Roman Empire where the Christian church was established. All the churches would hear of the work of God in the capital, and would rejoice in it; compare Col_1:6, Col_1:23; Joh_12:19. It is not improper to commend Christians, and to remind them of their influence; and especially to call to their mind the great power which they may have on other churches and people. Nor is it improper that great displays of divine mercy should be celebrated everywhere, and excite in the churches praise to God.