9.For God is my witness, etc. He proves his love by its effects; for had he not greatly loved them, he would not have so anxiously commended them to the Lord, and especially he would not have so ardently desired to promote their welfare by his own labors. His anxiety then and his ardent desire were certain evidences of his love; for had they not sprung from it, they would never have existed. And as he knew it to be necessary for establishing confidence in his preaching, that the Romans should be fully persuaded of his sincerity, he added an oath — a needful remedy, whenever a declaration, which ought to be received as true and indubitable vacillates through uncertainty. For since an oath is nothing else but an appeal to God as to the truth of what we declare, most foolish is it to deny that the Apostle used here an oath. He did not notwithstanding transgress the prohibition of Christ.
It hence appears that it was not Christ’s design (as the superstitious Anabaptists dream) to abolish oaths altogether, but on the contrary to call attention to the due observance of the law; and the law, allowing an oath, only condemns perjury and needless swearing. If then we would use an oath aright, let us imitate the seriousness and the reverent manner exhibited by the Apostles; and that you may understand what it is, know that God is so called as a witness, that he is also appealed to as an avenger, in case we deceive; which Paul expresses elsewhere in these words, “God is a witness to my soul.” (2Co_1:23.)
Whom I serve with my spirit, etc. It is usual with profane men, who trifle with God, to pretend his name, no less boldly than presumptuously; but the Apostle here speaks of his own piety, in order to gain credit; and those, in whom the fear of God and reverence for his name prevail, will dread to swear falsely. At the same time, he sets his own spirit in opposition to the outward mask of religion; for as many falsely pretend to be the worshippers of God, and outwardly appear to be so, he testifies that he, from the heart served, God. It may be also that he alluded to the ancient ceremonies, in which alone the Jews thought the worship of God consisted. He then intimates, that though he retained not observance of these, he was yet a sincere worshipper of God, according to what he says in Phi_3:3, “We are the true circumcision, who in spirit serve God, and glory not in the flesh.” He then glories that he served God with sincere devotion of heart, which is true religion and approved worship.
But it was expedient, as I have said, in order that his oath might attain more credit, that Paul should declare his piety towards God; for perjury is a sport to the ungodly, while the pious dread it more than a thousand deaths; inasmuch as it cannot be, but that where there is a real fear of God, there must be also a reverence for his name. It is then the same thing, as though Paul had said, that he knew how much sacredness and sincerity belonged to an oath, and that he did not rashly appeal to God as a witness, as the profane are wont to do. And thus, by his own example, he teaches us, that whenever we swear, we ought to give such evidence of piety, that the name of God, which we use in our declarations, may retain its sacredness. And further, he gives a proof, even by his own ministry, that he worshipped not God feignedly; for it was the fullest evidence, that he was a man devoted to God’s glory, when he denied himself, and hesitated not to undergo all the hardships of reproach, poverty, and hatred, and even the peril of death, in advancing the kingdom of God.
Some take this clause, as though Paul intended to recommend that worship which he said he rendered to God, on this account, — because it corresponded with what the gospel prescribes. It is indeed certain that spiritual worship is enjoined on us in the gospel; but the former interpretation is far the most suitable, — that he devoted his service to God in preaching the gospel. He, however, makes at the same time a difference between himself and hypocrites, who have something else in view rather than to serve God; for ambition, or some such thing, influences most men; and it is far from being the case, that all engage cordially and faithfully in this office. The meaning is, that Paul performed sincerely the office of teaching; for what he says of his own devotion he applies to this subject.
But we hence gather a profitable doctrine; for it ought to add no little encouragement to the ministers of the gospel, when they hear that, in preaching the gospel, they render an acceptable and a valuable service to God. What, indeed, is there to prevent them from regarding it an excellent service, when they know that their labor is pleasing to God, and is approved by him? Moreover, he calls it the gospel of the Son of God; for Christ is in it made known, who has been appointed by the Father for this end, — that he, being glorified, should also glorify the Father.
That continually, etc. He still further sets forth the ardor of his love by his very constancy in praying for them. It was, indeed, a strong evidence, when he poured forth no prayers to the Lord without making mention of them. That the meaning may be clearer, I render παντοτε, “always;” as though it was said, “In all my prayers,” or, “whenever I address God in prayer, I join a mention of you.” Now he speaks not of every kind of calling on God, but of those prayers to which the saints, being at liberty, and laying aside all cares, apply their whole attention to the work; for he might have often expressed suddenly this or that wish, when the Romans did not come into his mind; but whenever he had previously intended, and, as it were, prepared himself to offer up prayers to God, among others he remembered them. He then speaks peculiarly of those prayers, for which the saints deliberately prepare themselves; as we find to have been the case with our Lord himself, who, for this purpose, sought retirement. He at the same time intimates how frequently, or rather, how unceasingly he was engaged in such prayers, since he says that he prayed continually.
In confirmation of his declaration of gratitude for their conversion, and for the eminence of their faith, Paul appeals to his constant remembrance of them in his prayers. For God is my witness. This reverent appeal to God as the searcher of hearts, is not uncommon in the apostle’s writings. 2Co_1:23; Gal_1:20; Phi_1:8. It is an act of worship, a devout recognition of God’s omnipresence and omniscience.
Whom I serve. The word λατρεύω is in the New Testament always used of religious service, either as rendered to God or to creatures — ‘Who worship and serve the creature more than the Creator,’ Rom_1:25. This service may consist either in worship, or in the performance of external duties of a religious nature. The service of which Paul here speaks is characterized in the following clause; in my spirit. This is opposed at once to an insincere, and to a mere external service. In the gospel of his Son. That is, it was a service rendered in preaching the gospel. The priests served, ἐλάτρευσαν, when performing the duties of their office; and Paul served in performing the duties of an apostle. The gospel of his Son, may mean either the gospel concerning his Son, or which his Son himself taught. The former, perhaps, is more in accordance with the use of this and similar phrases, as, ‘gospel of the kingdom,’ ‘gospel of the grace of God,’ etc. That I constantly make mention of you. It is plain, from the occurrence of the word δεόμενος in the next verse, and from the use of this expression in other places, Phi_1:3; 1Th_1:2 that Paul here refers to his remembering the Roman Christians in his prayers, and not to his bearing them in his mind, or talking about them. The particle ὡς may be connected with ἀδιαλείπτως, how uninterruptedly; or with the clause, ‘God is my witness that,’ etc. Comp. Act_10:28; 1Th_2:10.
For God is my witness – The reason of this strong appeal to God is, to show to the Romans the deep interest which he felt in their welfare This interest was manifested in his prayers, and in his earnest desires to see them. A deep interest shown in this way was well suited to prepare them to receive what he had to say to them.
Whom I serve – See Rom_1:1; compare Act_17:23. The expression denotes that he was devoted to God in this manner; that he obeyed him; and had given himself to do his will in making known his gospel.
With my spirit – Greek, ἐν en, in my spirit, that is, with my “heart.” It is not an external service merely; it is internal, real, sincere. He was really and sincerely devoted to the service of God.
In the gospel of his Son – In making known the gospel, or as a minister of the gospel.
That without ceasing – ἀδιαλείπτως adialeiptōs. This word means constantly, always, without intermission. It was not only once, but repeatedly. It had been the burden of his prayers. The same thing he also mentions in regard to other churches, 1Th_1:3; 1Th_2:13.
I make mention – I call you to remembrance, and present your case before God. This evinced his remarkable interest in a church which he had never seen, and it shows that Paul was a man of prayer; praying not for his friends and kindred only, but for those whom he had never seen. If with the same intensity of prayer all Christians, and Christian ministers, would remember the churches, what a different aspect would the Christian church soon assume!
Always – This word should be connected with the following verse, “Always making request,” etc.
10.Requesting, if by any means, etc. As it is not probable that we from the heart study his benefit, whom we are not ready to assist by our labors, he now adds, after having said that he was anxious for their welfare, that he showed by another proof his love to them, as before God, even by requesting that he might be able to advance their interest. That you may, therefore, perceive the full meaning, read the words as though the word also were inserted, requesting also, if by any means, etc. By saying, A prosperous journey by the will of God he shows, not only that he looked to the Lord’s favor for success in his journey, but that he deemed his journey prosperous, if it was approved by the Lord. According to this model ought all our wishes to be formed.
I make mention of you, always in my prayers praying (εἴ πως) if possibly, if it may be, expressing the submission to the will of God with which the apostle urged his request. ἤδη ποτέ, now at last, as though he had long looked forward with desire to what there was now a prospect of his seeing accomplished. I may be so happy, by the will of God, to come to you. Εὐοδοῦν is, to lead in the right way, to prosper one’s journey, Gen_24:48, and figuratively, to prosper, 1Co_16:2; 3Jo_1:2. In the passive voice, it is, to be prospered, successful, favored.
In the present case, as Paul had neither commenced his journey, nor formed any immediate purpose to undertake it, see Rom_15:25-29, his prayer was not that his journey might be prosperous, but that he might be permitted to undertake it; that his circumstances should be so favorably ordered that he might be able to execute his long cherished purpose of visiting Rome. Knowing, however, that all things are ordered of God, and feeling that his own wishes should be subordinated to the Divine will, he adds, by the will of God; which is equivalent to, If it be the will of God. ‘Praying continually, that, if it be the will of God, I may be prospered to come unto you.’
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Making request, if by any means now at length I may have a prosperous journey by the will of God, to come to you — Though long anxious to visit the capital, he met with a number of providential hindrances (Rom_1:13; Rom_15:22; and see on Act_19:21; see on Act_23:11; see on Act_28:15); insomuch that nearly a quarter of a century elapsed, after his conversion, ere his desire was accomplished, and that only as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” Thus taught that his whole future was in the hands of God, he makes it his continual prayer that at length the obstacles to a happy and prosperous meeting might be removed.
Making request – It was his earnest desire to see them, and he presented the subject before God.
If by any means – This shows the earnest desire which he had to see them, and implies that be had designed it, and had been hindered; see Rom_1:13.
Now at length – He had purposed it a long time, but had been hindered. He doubtless cherished this purpose for years. The expressions in the Greek imply an earnest wish that this long-cherished purpose might be accomplished before long.
A prosperous journey – A safe, pleasant journey. It is right to regard all success in traveling as depending on God, and to pray for success and safety from danger. Yet all such prayers are not answered according to the letter of the petition. The prayer of Paul that be might see the Romans was granted, but in a remarkable way. He was persecuted by the Jews, and arraigned before King Agrippa. He appealed to the Roman emperor, and was taken there in chains as a prisoner. Yet the journey might in this way have a more deep effect on the Romans, than if he had gone in any other way. In so mysterious a manner does God often hear the prayers of his people; and though their prayers are answered, yet it is in his own time and way; see the last chapters of the Acts .
By the will of God – If God shall grant it; if God will by his mercy grant me the great favor of my coming to you. This is a proper model of a prayer; and is in accordance with the direction of the Bible; see Jam_4:14-15.
11.For I greatly desire to see you He might, indeed, while absent, have confirmed their faith by his doctrine; but as advice is better taken from one present, he had a desire to be with them. But he explains what his object was, and shows that he wished to undertake the toil of a journey, not for his own, but for their advantage. — Spiritual gifts he calls those which he possessed, being either those of doctrine, or of exhortation, or of prophesy which he knew had come to him through God’s favor. He has here strikingly pointed out the use of gifts by the word, imparting: for different gifts are distributed to each individual, that all may in kindness mutually assist one another, and transfer to others what each one possesses. See Rom_12:3
To confirm you, etc. He modifies what he had said of imparting, lest he should seem to regard them such as were yet to be instructed in the first elements of religion, as though they were not hitherto rightly taught in Christ. He then says, that he wished so to lend his aid to them, that they who had for the most part made a proficiency, might be further assisted: for a confirmation is what we all want, until Christ be fully formed in us. (Eph_4:13.)
Some spiritual gift – This probably means some of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, which, being given to them, might tend greatly to establish their faith in the Gospel of Christ; and it is very likely that such gifts were only conferred by means of apostles; and as the apostle had not yet been at Rome, consequently the Roman Christians had not yet received any of these miraculous gifts, and thus they differed widely from all the other Churches which had been raised by the apostle’s ministry.
Why the apostle was anxious to visit Rome, he states in this verse. He desired to see them, not merely for his own gratification, but that he might confer some spiritual gift upon them, which would tend to strengthen their faith. For I Long to see you, that I may impart (μεταδῶ share with you) some spiritual gift. By spiritual gift is not to be understood a gift pertaining to the soul in distinction from the body, but one derived from the Spirit. The gifts of which the Holy Spirit is the author, include not only those miraculous endowments of which such frequent mention is made in the Epistle to the Corinthians, and the ordinary gifts of teaching, exhortation, and prophesying, 1 Corinthians 12, but also those graces which are the fruits of the Spirit. The extraordinary gifts were communicated by the imposition of the apostles’ hands, Act_8:17; Act_19:6, and therefore abounded in churches founded by the apostles, 1Co_1:7; Gal_3:5. As the church at Rome was not of this number, it has been supposed that Paul was desirous of conferring on the Roman Christians some of those miraculous powers by which the gospel was in other places attended and confirmed. The following verses, however, are in favor of giving the phrase here a wider signification. Any increase of knowledge, of grace, or of power, was a χάρισμα πνευματικόν in the sense here intended. In order that ye may be strengthened. This includes not only an increase of confidence in their belief of the gospel, but an increase of strength in their religious feelings, and in their purpose and power of obedience. Comp. 1Th_3:2; I sent Timothy — “to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” And 2Th_2:17, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.” And the apostle prays that the Ephesians might be strengthened as to the inner man.
Romans 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established. Bengel, taking carisma as the special gift of the Holy Ghost consequent on apostolic laying on of hands, (cf. Act_8:17, Act_8:18) argues from this verse that neither St. Peter nor any other apostle could have been at Rome so far. Though his conclusion is probably true, it does not follow from his premise; for ti carisma pneumatiko evidently means generally any gift of grace. All St. Paul implies is that he hopes to do them some spiritual good, so as to settle and strengthen them; and in the next verse, with characteristic delicacy, he even modifies what he has said, so as to guard against being supposed to imply that the benefit would be all on their side.
Some spiritual gift (τι χάρισμα)
Note the modesty in some. Χάρισμα is a gift of grace (χάρις) a favor received without merit on the recipient’s part. Paul uses it both in this ordinary sense (Rom_5:15, Rom_5:16; Rom_6:23), and in a special, technical sense, denoting extraordinary powers bestowed upon individuals by the Holy Spirit, such as gifts of healing, speaking with tongues, prophecy, etc. See Rom_12:6; 1Co_1:7; 1Co_12:4, 1Co_12:31; 1Pe_4:10. In 1Ti_4:14; 2Ti_1:6, it is used of the sum of the powers requisite for the discharge of the office of an evangelist.
To the end ye may be established (εἰς τὸ στηριχθῆναι ὑμᾶς)
Not that I may establish you. The modest use of the passive leaves out of view Paul’s personal part. For established, see on Luk_22:32; see on 1Pe_5:10. The word shows that he had in view their christian character no less than their instruction in doctrine.
For I long to see you – I earnestly desire to see you; compare Rom_15:23, Rom_15:32.
That I may impart – That I may “give,” or communicate to you.
Some spiritual gift – Some have understood this as referring to “miraculous gifts,” which it was supposed the apostles had the power of conferring on others. But this interpretation is forced and unnatural. There is no instance where this expression denotes the power of working miracles. Besides, the apostle in the next verse explains his meaning, “That I may be comforted together by the mutual faith,” etc. From this it appears that he desired to be among them to exercise the office of the ministry, to establish them in the gospel and to confirm their hopes. He expected that the preaching of the gospel would be the means of confirming them in the faith; and he desired to be the means of doing it. It was a wish of benevolence, and accords with what he says respecting his intended visit in Rom_15:29, “And I am sure that when I come, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” To make known to them more fully the blessings of the gospel, and thus to impart spiritual gifts, was the design he had in view.
To the end … – With the design, or purpose.
Ye may be established – That is, that they might be “confirmed” in the truths of the gospel. This was one design of the ministry, that Christians may be established, or strengthened, Eph_4:13. It is not to have dominion ever their faith, but to be “helpers of their joy,” 2Co_1:24. Paul did not doubt that this part of his office might be fulfilled among the Romans, and he was desirous there also of making full proof of his ministry. His wish was to preach not simply where he must, but where he might. This is the nature of this work.
12.Being not satisfied with this modest statement, he qualifies it, and shows, that he did not so occupy the place of a teacher, but that he wished to learn also from them; as though he said, “I desire so to confirm you according to the measure of grace conferred on me, that your example may also add courage (alacritatem — alacrity) to my faith, and that we may thus mutually benefit one another.”
See to what degree of modesty his pious heart submitted itself, so that he disdained not to seek confirmation from unexperienced beginners: nor did he speak dissemblingly, for there is no one so void of gifts in the Church of Christ, who is not able to contribute something to our benefit: but we are hindered by our envy and by our pride from gathering such fruit from one another. Such is our high-mindedness, such is the inebriety produced by vain reputation, that despising and disregarding others, every one thinks that he possesses what is abundantly sufficient for himself. I prefer to read with Bucer, exhortation (exhortationem — encouragement) rather than consolatim ; for it agrees better with the former part.
That is, that I may be comforted among you. This is obviously intended to be an explanation or correction of what precedes. He had desired to see them, in order that he might do them good; but this was not his whole object, he hoped to receive benefit himself. As to the grammatical construction, the infinite συμπαρακληθῆναι may depend on στηριχθῆναι. The sense would then be, ‘That you may be strengthened, that I may be comforted.’ Or the one infinitive is coordinate with the other; then both depend on the ἵνα μεταδῶ of Rom_1:11, ‘That I may impart some spiritual gift to you, in order that you may be strengthened; that is, that I may be comforted together with you.’ This seems the most natural construction; yet as Paul expected to be refreshed by their faith and not by his giving them spiritual gifts, the sense seems to require that συμπαρακληθῆναι should depend on the first words of Rom_1:11, ‘I desire to see you, that I may impart (ἵνα μεταδῶ) some spiritual gift to you; that is, that I may be comforted (συμπαρακληθῆναι),’ etc. It is not a valid objection to this interpretation, that it supposes a change of the construction from the subjunctive to the infinitive. A similar change occurs (probably) in Rom_9:22, Rom_9:23; and much greater irregularities are not unfrequent in the New Testament.
The word παρακαλέω is used in such various senses, that it is not easy to determine what precise meaning should be attached to it here. It signifies to call near, to invite, Act_28:20 to call upon, and more generally to address, either for instruction, admonition, exhortation, confirmation, or consolation. Our translators and the majority of commentators choose the last mentioned sense, and render συμπαρακληθῆναι(ἐμέ) that I may be comforted. This is probably too narrow. The word expresses all that excitement and strengthening of faith and pious feeling, as well as consolation, which is wont to flow from the communion of saints. This appears from the context, and especially from the following clause, διὰ τῆς ἐν ἀλλήλοις πίστεως, ὑμῶν τε καὶ ἐμοῦ, through our mutual faith, as well yours as mine. The faith of the Romans would not only comfort, but strengthen the apostle; and his faith could not fail to produce a like effect on them. Βν τε καὶ ἐμοῦ are the explanation of the preceding ἐν ἀλλήλοις, and should therefore be in the dative. Fritzsche refers to Luk_1:55 for a similar case of variation in the construction.
That I may be comforted … – It was not merely to confirm them that Paul wished to come. He sought the communion of saints; he expected to be himself edified and strengthened; and to be comforted by seeing their strength of faith, and their rapid growth in grace.
We may remark here,
(1) That one effect of religion is to produce the desire of the communion of saints. It is the nature of Christianity to seek the society of those who are the friends of Christ.
(2) nothing is better suited to produce growth in grace than such communion. Every Christian should have one or more Christian friends to whom he may unbosom himself. No small part of the difficulties which young Christians experience would vanish, if they should communicate their feelings and views to others. Feelings which they suppose no Christians ever had, which greatly distress them, they will find are common among those who are experienced in the Christian life.
(3) there is nothing better suited to excite the feelings, and confirm the hopes of Christian ministers, than the firm faith of young converts, of those just commencing the Christian life, 3Jo_1:4.
(4) the apostle did not disdain to be taught by the humblest Christians. He expected to be strengthened himself by the faith of those just beginning the Christian life. “There is none so poor in the church of Christ, that he cannot make some addition of importance to our stores,” Calvin.
13.I would not that you should be ignorant. What he has hitherto testified — that he continually requested of the Lord that he might visit them, might have appeared a vain thing, and could not have obtained credit, had he neglected to seize the occasion when offered: he therefore says, that the effort had not been wanting, but the opportunity; for he had been prevented from executing a purpose often formed.
We hence learn that the Lord frequently upsets the purposes of his saints, in order to humble them, and by such humiliation to teach them to regard his Providence, that they may rely on it; though the saints, who design nothing without the Lord’s will, cannot be said, strictly speaking, to be driven away from their purposes. It is indeed the presumption of impiety to pass by God, and without him to determine on things to come, as though they were in our own power; and this is what James sharply reprehends in Jas_4:13.
But he says that he was hindered: you must take this in no other sense, but that the Lord employed him in more urgent concerns, which he could not have neglected without loss to the Church. Thus the hinderances of the godly and of the unbelieving differ: the latter perceive only that they are hindered, when they are restrained by the strong hand of the Lord, so as not to be able to move; but the former are satisfied with an hinderance that arises from some approved reason; nor do they allow themselves to attempt any thing beyond their duty, or contrary to edification.
That I might obtain some fruit, etc. He no doubt speaks of that fruit, for the gathering of which the Lord sent his Apostles, “I have chosen you, that ye may go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit may remain.” (Joh_15:16.)
Though he gathered it not for himself, but for the Lord, he yet calls it his own; for the godly have nothing more as their own than the work of promoting the glory of the Lord, with which is connected all their happiness. And he records what had happened to him with respect to other nations, that the Romans might entertain hope, that his coming to them would not be unprofitable, which so many nations had found to have been attended with so much benefit.
let = hindered. (Anglo-Saxon lettan, to delay.) Greek. kdluo; Occurs twenty-three times (seventeen times “forbid”).
I would not have you ignorant, brethren; a mode of expression which the apostle often adopts, when he would assure his readers of anything, or call their attention to it particularly. That oftentimes I purposed to come unto you. In Rom_15:23, he states that he had cherished this purpose for many years. And was hindered until now. Our version renders καί adversatively but. This is objected to as unnecessary especially as καί often introduces a parenthesis; and such is this clause, because the following ἵνα must depend on προεθέμην of the preceding clause. As in the fifteenth chapter the apostle says, that having no more place in the countries around Greece, he was ready to visit Rome, it is probable that the hindering to which he here refers, was the incessant calls for apostolic labor, which left no time at his command. As, however, his course seems to have been under the guidance of a special providence, Act_16:6, Act_16:7, Act_16:9 it may be that the Spirit who had forbidden his preaching in Asia, had hitherto forbidden his visiting Rome. That may have some fruit among you, as among other gentiles. Καρπὸν ἔχειν is to have profit, or advantage. See Rom_6:21, Rom_6:22. The profit, however, which Paul desired, was the fruit of his ministry, the conversion or edification of those to whom he preached.
I would not have you ignorant
An emphatic expression calling special attention to what follows. Compare 1Co_10:1; 1Th_4:13.
Have some fruit (τινὰ καρπὸν σχῶ)
For the phrase, compare Rom_6:22. A metaphorical statement of what is stated literally in Rom_1:11. Not equivalent to bear fruit, but to gather as a harvest. Compare Joh_4:36; Phi_1:22; Col_1:6. Fruit is a favorite metaphor with Paul. He uses it in both a good and a bad sense. See Rom_7:4, Rom_7:5; Rom_6:22; Gal_5:22.
That oftentimes I purposed – See Rom_1:10. How often he had purposed this we have no means of ascertaining. The fact, however, that he had done it, showed his strong desire to see them, and to witness the displays of the grace of God in the capital of the Roman world; compare Rom_15:23-24. One instance of his having purposed to go to Rome is recorded in Act_19:21, “After these things were ended (namely, at Ephesus), Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia to go to Jerusalem; saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” This purpose expressed in this manner in the Epistle, and the Acts of the Apostles, has been shown by Dr. Paley (Horae Paulinae on Rom_1:13) to be one of those undesigned coincidences which strongly show that both books are genuine; compare Rom_15:23-24, with Act_19:21. A forger of these books would not have thought of such a contrivance as to feign such a purpose to go to Rome at that time, and to have mentioned it in that manner. Such coincidences are among the best proofs that can be demanded, that the writers did not intend to impose on the world; see Paley.
But was let hitherto – The word “let” means to “hinder,” or to “obstruct.” In what way this was done we do not know, but it is probable that he refers to the various openings for the preaching of the gospel where he had been, and to the obstructions of various kinds from the enemies of the gospel to the fulfillment of his purposes.
That I might have some fruit among you – That I might be the means of the conversion of sinners and of the edification of the church in the capital of the Roman Empire. It was not curiosity to see the splendid capital of the world that prompted this desire; it was not the love of travel, and of roaming from clime to clime; it was the specific purpose of doing good to the souls of human beings. To “have fruit” means to obtain success in bringing men to the knowledge of Christ. Thus, the Saviour said Joh_15:16,” I have chosen you, and ordained you that you should bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”
14.I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, etc. Those whom he means by the Greeks and the Barbarians, he afterwards explains by adding, both to the wise and to the foolish; which words Erasmus has not rendered amiss by “learned and unlearned,” (eruditos et rudes ,) but I prefer to retain the very words of Paul. He then takes an argument from his own office, and intimates that it ought not to be ascribed to his arrogance, that he thought himself in a manner capable of teaching the Romans, however much they excelled in learning and wisdom and in the knowledge of things, inasmuch as it had pleased the Lord to make him a debtor even to the wise.
Two things are to be here considered — that the gospel is by a heavenly mandate destined and offered to the wise, in order that the Lord may subject to himself all the wisdom of this world, and make all variety of talents, and every kind of science, and the loftiness of all arts, to give way to the simplicity of his doctrine; and what is more, they are to be reduced to the same rank with the unlearned, and to be made so meek, as to be able to bear those to be their fellow-disciples under their master, Christ, whom they would not have deigned before to take as their scholars; and then that the unlearned are by no means to be driven away from this school, nor are they to flee away from it through groundless fear; for if Paul was indebted to them, being a faithful debtor, he had doubtless discharged what he owed; and thus they will find here what they will be capable of enjoying. All teachers have also a rule here which they are to follow, and that is, modestly and kindly to accommodate themselves to the capacities of the ignorant and unlearned. Hence it will be, that they will be able, with more evenness of mind, to bear with many absurdities and almost innumerable things that may disgust them, by which they might otherwise be overcome. They are, however, to remember, that they are not so indebted to the foolish, as that they are to cherish their folly by immoderate indulgence.
Both to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am debtor. That is, I am under obligation (to preach) to all classes of men. His commission was a general one, confined to no one nation, and to no particular class. Greeks and barbarians, mean all nations; wise and unwise, mean all classes. Βάρβαρος means properly a foreigner, one of another language, 1Co_14:11. Greeks and barbarians therefore, is equivalent to Greeks and not Greeks, all nations. As the Greeks however, excelled other nations in civilization, the word came to signify rude, uncultivated; though even by later writers it is often used in its original sense, and not as a term of reproach. The apostle distinguishes men first as nations, Greeks and not Greeks, and secondly as to culture, wise and unwise. The Romans, whose city was called “an epitome of the world,” belonged exclusively neither to the one class nor to the other. Some were wise and some unwise, some Greeks and some barbarians.
Romans 1:14 Vers. 14, 15. Both to Greeks and Barbarians, both to wise and unwise, I am debtor. So, as much as is in me, to you also that are at Rome, I am ready to preach the gospel. The two divisions of mankind into
(1) Ellhnev kai Barbaroi ,
(2) sofoi kai anohtoi , are intended to include all, independently of nationality and culture, regarded from a Greek or Roman point of view. The Greeks, as is well known, called all others than themselves Barbaroi , so that Ellhnev kai Barbaroi included the whole world. Here the Romans are intended to be included among Ellhnev , being partakers in Hellenic culture, and in fact at that time its prominent representatives (el. “Non solum Graecia et Italia, sod etiam omnis barbaria,” Cicero, “De Fin.,” 2:15). Of course, sofoi also includes them. The obvious intention of the writer is to place them in each of the higher categories, and so, while after his manner he pays his expected readers a delicate compliment, to insist that his mission is to the highest in position and culture as well as the lowest, cud that, bold in his convictions, he is not ashamed to preach the cross even to them.
I am debtor – This does not mean that they had conferred any favor on him, which bound him to make this return, but that he was under obligation to preach the gospel to all to whom it was possible. This obligation arose from the favor that God had shown him in appointing him to this work. He was specially chosen as a vessel to bear the gospel to the Gentiles Act_9:15; Rom_11:13, and he did not feel that he had discharged the obligation until he had made the gospel known as far as possible among all the nations of the earth.
To the Greeks – This term properly denotes “those who dwelt in Greece.” But as the Greeks were the most polished people of antiquity, the term came to be synonymous with the polished, the refined, the wise, as opposed to barbarians. In this place it doubtless means the same as “the wise,” and includes the Romans also, as it cannot be supposed that Paul would designate the Romans as barbarians. Besides, the Romans claimed an origin from Greece, and Dionysius Halicarnassus (book i.) shows that the Italian and Roman people were of Greek descent.
Barbarians – All who were not included under the general name of Greeks. Thus, Ammonius says that “all who were not Greeks were barbarians.” This term “barbarian,” Βάρβαρος Barbaros, properly denotes one who speaks a foreign language, a foreigner, and the Greeks applied it to all who did not use their tongue; compare 1Co_14:11, “I shall be unto him that speaketh, a barbarian, etc. that is, I shall speak a language which he cannot understand. The word did not, therefore, of necessity denote any rusticity of manners, or any lack of refinement.
To the wise – To those who esteemed themselves to be wise, or who boasted of their wisdom. The term is synonymous with “the Greeks,” who prided themselves much in their wisdom. 1Co_1:22, “the Greeks seek after wisdom;” compare 1Co_1:19; 1Co_3:18-19; 1Co_4:10; 2Co_11:19.
Unwise – Those who were regarded as the ignorant and unpolished part of mankind. The expression is equivalent to ours, ‘to the learned and the unlearned.’ It was an evidence of the proper spirit to be willing to preach the gospel to either. The gospel claims to have power to instruct all mankind, and they who are called to preach it, should be able to instruct those who esteem themselves to be wise, and who are endowed with science, learning, and talent; and they should be willing to labor to enlighten the most obscure, ignorant, and degraded portions of the race. This is the true spirit of the Christian ministry.
So, as much as in me is – As far as opportunity may be offered, and according to my ability.
I am ready … – I am prepared to preach among you, and to show the power of the gospel, even in the splendid metropolis of the world. He was not deterred by any fear; nor was he indifferent to their welfare; but he was under the direction of God. and as far as he gave him opportunity, he was ready to make known to them the gospel, as he had done at Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, and Corinth.
This closes the introduction or preface to the Epistle. Having shown his deep interest in their welfare, he proceeds in the next verse to state to them the great doctrines of that gospel which he was desirous of proclaiming to them.
And so, or hence. That is, since I am bound to all men, Greeks and barbarians, I am ready to preach to you who are at Rome. The clause, τὸ κατ ̓ ἐμε πρόθυμον, admits of different interpretations. According to the English version, τὸ κατ ̓ ἐμέ must be taken together; πρόθυμον is taken as a substantive, and made the nominative to ἐστί. Hence, as much as is in me, (or, as far as I am concerned), there is a readiness, i.e. I am ready. Thus Calvin, “Itaque, quantum in me est, paratus sum.” This gives a good sense, and is specially suited to the context, as it renders prominent Paul’s dependence and submission. He did not direct his own steps. As far as he was concerned, he was willing to preach in Rome; but whether he should do so or not, rested not with him, but with God. A second explanation makes τὸ κατ ̓ ἐμέ the subject of the sentence, and pro&qumon the predicate. ‘What is in me is ready.’ Thus Beza, “Quicquid in me situm est, id promptum est.” Or, as Beza also proposes, τὁ κατ ̓ ἐμέ may be taken as a periphrase for ἐγώ, and the clause be translated, “Promptus sum ego.” But it is denied that such a periphrase for the personal pronoun ever occurs; τὰ ὑμέτερα for ὑμεῖς, and τὰ ἐμά for ἐγώ, to which Beza refers, are not parallel. The third explanation, refers τό to πρόθυμον, and makes κατ ̓ ἐμέ equal to ἐμοῦ, ‘My readiness, or desire is.” Comp. Eph_1:15, τὴν καθ ̓ ὑμᾶς πίστιν, your faith; Act_17:28, τῶν καθ ̓ ὑμᾶς ποιητῶν, Act_18:15, νόμου τοῦ καθ ὑμᾶς. To preach the gospel. The verb εὐαγγελίσασθαι is commonly followed by some word or phrase expressing the subject of the message — kingdom of God, gospel, word of God, Christ. In writing to Christians, who knew what the glad tidings were, the apostles often, as in the present case, use the word absolutely so that the word by itself means to preach the gospel, etc. See Rom_15:20; Act_14:7; Gal_4:13.
16.I am not indeed ashamed, etc. This is an anticipation of an objection; for he declares beforehand, that he cared not for the taunts of the ungodly; and he thus provides a way for himself, by which he proceeds to pronounce an eulogy on the value of the gospel, that it might not appear contemptible to the Romans. He indeed intimates that it was contemptible in the eyes of the world; and he does this by saying, that he was not ashamed of it. And thus he prepares them for bearing the reproach of the cross of Christ, lest they should esteem the gospel of less value by finding it exposed to the scoffs and reproaches of the ungodly; and, on the other hand, he shows how valuable it was to the faithful. If, in the first place, the power of God ought to be extolled by us, that power shines forth in the gospel; if, again, the goodness of God deserves to be sought and loved by us, the gospel is a display of his goodness. It ought then to be reverenced and honored, since veneration is due to God’s power; and as it avails to our salvation, it ought to be loved by us.
But observe how much Paul ascribes to the ministry of the word, when he testifies that God thereby puts forth his power to save; for he speaks not here of any secret revelation, but of vocal preaching. It hence follows, that those as it were willfully despise the power of God, and drive away from them his delivering hand, who withdraw themselves from the hearing of the word.
At the same time, as he works not effectually in all, but only where the Spirit, the inward Teacher, illuminates the heart, he subjoins, To every one who believeth. The gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but the power of it appears not everywhere: and that it is the savor of death to the ungodly, does not proceed from what it is, but from their own wickedness. By setting forth but one Salvation he cuts off every other trust. When men withdraw themselves from this one salvation, they find in the gospel a sure proof of their own ruin. Since then the gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly called the doctrine of salvation: for Christ is there offered, whose peculiar office is to save that which was lost; and those who refuse to be saved by him, shall find him a Judge. But everywhere in Scripture the word salvation is simply set in opposition to the word destruction: and hence we must observe, when it is mentioned, what the subject of the discourse is. Since then the gospel delivers from ruin and the curse of endless death, its salvation is eternal life.
First to the Jew and then to the Greek. Under the word Greek, he includes all the Gentiles, as it is evident from the comparison that is made; for the two clauses comprehend all mankind. And it is probable that he chose especially this nation to designate other nations, because, in the first place, it was admitted, next to the Jews, into a participation of the gospel covenant; and, secondly, because the Greeks, on account of their vicinity, and the celebrity of their language, were more known to the Jews. It is then a mode of speaking, a part being taken for the whole, by which he connects the Gentiles universally with the Jews, as participators of the gospel: nor does he thrust the Jews from their own eminence and dignity, since they were the first partakers of God’s promise and calling. He then reserves for them their prerogative; but he immediately joins the Gentiles, though in the second place, as being partakers with them.
Paul here enters upon a large discourse of justification, in the latter part of this chapter laying down his thesis, and, in order to the proof of it, describing the deplorable condition of the Gentile world. His transition is very handsome, and like an orator: he was ready to preach the gospel at Rome, though a place where the gospel was run down by those that called themselves the wits; for, saith he, I am not ashamed of it, Rom_1:16. There is a great deal in the gospel which such a man as Paul might be tempted to be ashamed of, especially that he whose gospel it is was a man hanged upon a tree, that the doctrine of it was plain, had little in it to set it off among scholars, the professors of it were mean and despised, and every where spoken against; yet Paul was not ashamed to own it. I reckon him a Christian indeed that is neither ashamed of the gospel nor a shame to it. The reason of this bold profession, taken from the nature and excellency of the gospel, introduces his dissertation.
I. The proposition, Rom_1:16, Rom_1:17. The excellency of the gospel lies in this, that it reveals to us,
1. The salvation of believers as the end: It is the power of God unto salvation. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, how mean and contemptible soever it may appear to a carnal eye; for the power of God works by it the salvation of all that believe; it shows us the way of salvation (Act_16:17), and is the great charter by which salvation is conveyed and made over to us. But, (1.) It is through the power of God; without that power the gospel is but a dead letter; the revelation of the gospel is the revelation of the arm of the Lord (Isa_53:1), as power went along with the word of Christ to heal diseases. (2.) It is to those, and those only, that believe. Believing interests us in the gospel salvation; to others it is hidden. The medicine prepared will not cure the patient if it be not taken. – To the Jew first. The lost sheep of the house of Israel had the first offer made them, both by Christ and his apostles. You first (Act_3:26), but upon their refusal the apostles turned to the Gentiles, Act_13:46. Jews and Gentiles now stand upon the same level, both equally miserable without a Saviour, and both equally welcome to the Saviour, Col_3:11. Such doctrine as this was surprising to the Jews, who had hitherto been the peculiar people, and had looked with scorn upon the Gentile world; but the long-expected Messiah proves a light to enlighten the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel.
2. The justification of believers as the way (Rom_1:17): For therein, that is, in this gospel, which Paul so much triumphs in, is the righteousness of God revealed. Our misery and ruin being the product and consequent of our iniquity, that which will show us the way of salvation must needs show us the way of justification, and this the gospel does. The gospel makes known a righteousness. While God is a just and holy God, and we are guilty sinners, it is necessary we should have a righteousness wherein to appear before him; and, blessed be God, there is such a righteousness brought in by Messiah the prince (Dan_9:24) and revealed in the gospel; a righteousness, that is, a gracious method of reconciliation and acceptance, notwithstanding the guilt of our sins. This evangelical righteousness,
(1.) Is called the righteousness of God; it is of God’s appointing, of God’s approving and accepting. It is so called to cut off all pretensions to a righteousness resulting from the merit of our own works. It is the righteousness of Christ, who is God, resulting from a satisfaction of infinite value.
(2.) It is said to be from faith to faith, from the faithfulness of God revealing to the faith of man receiving (so some); from the faith of dependence upon God, and dealing with him immediately, as Adam before the fall, to the faith of dependence upon a Mediator, and so dealing with God (so others); from the first faith, by which we are put into a justified state, to after faith, by which we live, and are continued in that state: and the faith that justifies us is no less than our taking Christ for our Saviour, and becoming true Christians, according to the tenour of the baptismal covenant; from faith engrafting us into Christ, to faith deriving virtue from him as our root: both implied in the next words, The just shall live by faith. Just by faith, there is faith justifying us; live by faith, there is faith maintaining us; and so there is a righteousness from faith to faith. Faith is all in all, both in the beginning and progress of a Christian life. It is not from faith to works, as if faith put us into a justified state, and then works preserved and maintained us in it, but it is all along from faith to faith, as 2Co_3:18, from glory to glory; it is increasing, continuing, persevering faith, faith pressing forward, and getting ground of unbelief. To show that this is no novel upstart doctrine, he quotes for it that famous scripture in the Old Testament, so often mentioned in the New (Hab_2:4): The just shall live by faith. Being justified by faith he shall live by it both the life of grace and of glory. The prophet there had placed himself upon the watch-tower, expecting some extraordinary discoveries (Rom_1:1), and the discovery was of the certainty of the appearance of the promised Messiah in the fulness of time, not withstanding seeming delays. This is there called the vision, by way of eminence, as elsewhere the promise; and while that time is coming, as well as when it has come, the just shall live by faith. Thus is the evangelical righteousness from faith to faith – from Old Testament faith in a Christ to come to New Testament faith in a Christ already come.
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. This he assigns as the reason why he was ready to preach even at Rome. To the wise of this world the gospel was foolishness, 1Co_1:23 yet Paul was not ashamed of it, but was ready among the wise and unwise to preach Christ and him crucified. The reason of this regard for the gospel is stated in the following clause: For it is the power of God unto salvation. By δύναμις Θεοῦ, some understand great power; in accordance with an assumed Hebrew idiom, agreeably to which ‘mountains of God’ mean great mountains, ‘wind of God’ great wind, ‘zeal of God’ great zeal, etc. But the existence of such an idiom in the Hebrew is very doubtful, and its application to this passage is unnatural and unnecessary. Others make Θεοῦ a mere qualifying genitive, ‘power of God,’ meaning ‘divinely powerful.’ Beza’s explanation is, “Organon Dei vere potens et efficax.” The gospel is then declared to be that through which God exercises his power. Most commonly Θεοῦ is taken as the genitive of the Author, and power of God is made to mean power derived from God. There are two things then asserted of the gospel, first that it is powerful, and secondly that it is from God. (Comp. 1Co_1:18, 1Co_1:24). The main idea, however, is that expressed by Beza, The gospel is that in which God works, which he renders efficacious — εἰς σωτηρίαν, unto salvation. That is, it is efficacious to save. The nature of the salvation here intended is to be learned from the nature of the gospel. It is deliverance from sin and its punishment, and admission into eternal life and blessedness. This is what no means of man’s devising, no efforts of human wisdom or human power could effect for any human being. The gospel effects it παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, for every one that believes. Emphasis must be laid on both the members of this clause. The gospel is thus efficacious to every one, without distinction between Jew and gentile, Greek or barbarian, wise or unwise; and it is efficacious to every one that believes, not to every one who is circumcised, or baptized, or who obeys the law, but to every one who believes, that is, who receives and confides in Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel. We have here the two great doctrines set forth in this epistle. First, salvation is by faith; and secondly, it is universally applicable, to the Greek as well as to the Jew. The faith of which the apostle here speaks includes a firm persuasion of the truth, and a reliance or trust on the object of faith. Sometimes the one, sometimes the other of these ideas is expressed by the word, and very often both are united. The meaning of the term is not to be determined so much by philosophical analysis as by scriptural usage. For the question is not what is the abstract nature of the act of believing, philosophically considered, but what act or state of mind is expressed by the words πιστεύειν and πίστις in the various constructions in which they occur. It is rare indeed that the state of mind expressed by any word is so simple as not to admit of being resolved into various elements. The exercise expressed by the world love, for example, includes the perception of agreeable qualities in its object, a judgment of the mind as to their nature, a delight in them, and a desire for their enjoyment. And these differ specifically in their nature, according to the nature of the thing loved. It is not to any one of these elements of the complex affection that the word love is applied, but to the state of mind as a whole. So also with the word faith, the exercise which it expresses includes a perception of its object and its qualities, that is, it includes knowledge; secondly, an assent of the mind to the truth of the thing believed, and very often a reliance or trust on the object of faith. Assent is therefore but one of the elements of saving faith, that is, it is but one of the constituents of that state of mind which, in a multitude of cases, is in the Bible expressed by the word. And as the great object of interest to Christians is not a philosophical definition of a word, but a knowledge of the sense in which it is used in the word of God, we must recur to the usage of the Scriptures themselves to determine what that faith is which is connected with salvation.
There is no doubt that πιστεύειν is often used to express mere assent. It means — to receive as true, to be persuaded of the truth of any thing. Hence πίστις is persuasion of the truth. When πιστεύειν has this simple meaning, it is commonly followed by the accusative, as in 1Co_11:18; Joh_11:26; or by the dative, Mar_16:13, οὐδὲ ἐκείνοις ἐπίστευσαν, Joh_5:46; or by ὃτι, Mar_11:23; Rom_10:9. Yet in these cases the word often expresses confidence or trust, as well as assent; πιστεύειν Θεῷ is in many connections, to confide in God; as Act_27:25, πιστεύω γὰρ τῷ Θεῷ ὃτι οὕτως ἔσται.
When πιστεύειν is followed by ἐπί with an accusative, as in Rom_4:5, πιστεύοντι ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα, or by ἐπί with a dative, as Rom_9:33, ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ ̓ αὐτω, 1Ti_1:16 it commonly means to trust, to believe upon, to confide in. It has the same sense when followed by εἰς, as in Joh_14:1, πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν Θεὸν, καὶ ἐις ἐμὲ πιστεύετε, Joh_16:9, Rom_10:14; Gal_2:16; and often elsewhere. The construction with ἐν is less common; see, however, Mar_1:15, μετανοεῖτε, καὶ τιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ; comp. Gal_5:10, πέποιθα ἐν Κυρίῳ, 2Th_3:4.
The substantive πίστις also in various constructions signifies reliance, or trust; thus when followed by εἰς, as in Act_20:21, τίστιν τὴν εἰς τὸν Κύριον ἡμῶν, Act_24:24; Act_26:18; by ἐπί, with the accusative, Heb_6:1; by πρός, as 1Th_1:8, πίστις ὑμῶν ης πρὸς τὸν Θεόν; by ἐν Rom_3:25, διὰ Χριστῷ, comp. Gal_3:26; 1Ti_3:13, πίστει τῇ ἐν 2Ti_3:15; or by the genitive, as in Rom_3:22, Rom_3:26; Gal_2:16, Gal_3:22, and often. That faith, therefore, which is connected with salvation, includes knowledge, that is, a perception of the truth and its qualities; assent, or the persuasion of the truth of the object of faith; and trust, or reliance. The exercise, or state of mind expressed by the word faith, as used in the Scriptures, is not mere assent, or mere trust, it is the intelligent perception, reception, and reliance on the truth, as revealed in the gospel.
To the Jew first, and also to the Greek. To render πρῶτον (first), here especially, would make the apostle teach that the gospel was peculiarly adapted to the Jews, or specially designed for them. But he frequently asserts that this is not the case, Rom_3:9, Rom_3:22, Rom_3:29; Rom_10:12. Πρῶτον, therefore, must have reference to time, ‘To the Jew in the first instance, and then to the Greek.’ Salvation, as our Savior said to the woman of Samaria, is of the Jews. Of them the Messiah came, to them the gospel was first preached, and by them preached to the Gentiles. The apostle often, as in the present instance, says Jews and Greeks, for Jews and Gentiles, because the Greeks were the Gentiles with whom, at that period, the Jews were most familiar.
It is the power of God (dunamis theou estin). This Paul knew by much experience. He had seen the dynamite of God at work.
To the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Ioudaiōi te prōton kai Hellēni). Jesus had taught this (Joh_4:22; Joh_10:16; Luk_24:47; Act_1:8). The Jew is first in privilege and in penalty (Rom_2:9.). It is not certain that prōton is genuine, but it is in Rom_2:9.
For I am not ashamed … – The Jews had cast him off, and regarded him as an apostate; and by the wise among the Gentiles he had been persecuted, and despised, and driven from place to place, and regarded as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things 1Co_4:13, but still he was not ashamed of the gospel. He had so firm a conviction of its value and its truth; he had experienced so much of its consolations; and had seen so much of its efficacy; that he was so far from being ashamed of it that he gloried in it as the power of God unto salvation. People should be ashamed of crime and folly. They are ashamed of their own offences, and of the follies of their conduct, when they come to reflect on it. But they are not ashamed of what they feel to be right, and of what they know will contribute to their welfare, and to the benefit of their fellow-men. Such were the views of Paul about the gospel; and it is one of his favorite doctrines that they who believe on Christ shall not be ashamed, Rom_10:11; Rom_5:5; 2Co_7:14; 2Ti_1:12; Phi_1:20; Rom_9:33; 2Ti_1:8; compare Mar_8:38; 1Pe_4:16; 1Jo_2:28.
Of the gospel – This word means the “good news,” or the glad intelligence; see the note at Mar_1:1. It is so called because it contains the glad annunciation that sin may be pardoned, and the soul saved.
Of Christ – The good news respecting the Messiah; or which the Messiah has brought. The expression probably refers to the former, the good news which relates to the Messiah, to his character, advent, preaching, death, resurrection, and ascension. Though this was “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness,” yet he regarded it as the only hope of salvation, and was ready to preach it even in the rich and splendid capital of the world.
The power of God – This expression means that it is the way in which God exerts his power in the salvation of people. It is the efficacious or mighty plan, by which power goes forth to save, and by which all the obstacles of man’s redemption are taken away. This expression implies,
(1) That it is God’s plan, or his appointment. It is not the device of man.
(2) it is adapted to the end. It is suited to overcome the obstacles in the way. It is not merely the instrument by which God exerts his power, but it has an inherent adaptedness to the end, it is suited to accomplish salvation to man so that it may be denominated power.
(3) it is mighty, hence, it is called power, and the power of God. If is not a feeble and ineffectual instrumentality, but it is “mighty to the pulling down of strongholds,” 2Co_10:4-5. It has shown its power as applicable to every degree of sin, to every combination of wickedness. It has gone against the sins of the world, and evinced its power to save sinners of all grades, and to overcome and subdue every mighty form of iniquity, compare Jer_23:29, “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” 1Co_1:18, “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness, but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God.”
Unto salvation – This word means complete deliverance from sin and death, and all the foes and dangers that beset man. It cannot imply anything less than eternal life. If a man should believe and then fall away, he could in no correct sense be said to be saved. And hence, when the apostle declares that it is the power of God unto salvation “to everyone that believeth,” it implies that all who become believers “shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (see 1Pe_1:5), and that none shall ever fall away and be lost. The apostle thus commences his discussion with one of the important doctrines of the Christian religion, the final preservation of the saints. He is not defending the gospel for any temporary object, or with any temporary hope. He looks through the system, and sees in it a plan for the complete and eternal recovery of all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. When he says it is the power of God unto salvation, he means that it is the power of God for the attainment of salvation. This is the end, or the design of this exertion of power.
To everyone that believeth – Compare Mar_16:16-17. This expresses the condition, or the terms, on which salvation is conferred through the gospel. It is not indiscriminately to all people, whatever may be their character. It is only to those who confide or trust in it; and it is conferred on all who receive it in this manner. If this qualification is possessed, it bestows its blessings freely and fully. All people know what “faith” is. It is exercised when we confide in a parent, a friend, a benefactor. It is such a reception of a promise, a truth, or a threatening, as to suffer it to make its appropriate impression on the mind, and such as to lead us to act under its influence, or to act as we should on the supposition that it is true. Thus, a sinner credits the threatenings of God, and fears. This is faith. He credits his promises, and hopes. This is faith. He feels that he is lost, and relies on Jesus Christ for mercy. This is faith. And, in general, faith is such an impression on the mind made by truth as to lead us to feel and act as if it were true; to have the appropriate feelings, and views, and conduct under the commands, and promises, and threatenings of God; see the note at Mar_16:16.
To the Jew first – First in order of time, Not that the gospel was any more adapted to Jews than to others; but to them had been committed the oracles of God; the Messiah had come through them; they had had the Law, the temple, and the service of God, and it was natural that the gospel should be proclaimed to them before it was to the Gentiles. This was the order in which the gospel was actually preached to the world, first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. Compare Acts 2 and Acts 10; Mat_10:6; Luk_24:49; Act_13:46, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” Compare Mat_21:43.
And also to the Greek – To all who were nor Jews, that is, to all the world. It was nor confined in its intention or efficacy to any class or nation of people. It was adapted to all, and was designed to be extended to all.
17.For the righteousness of God, etc. This is an explanation and a confirmation of the preceding clause — that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. For if we seek salvation, that is, life with God, righteousness must be first sought, by which being reconciled to him, we may, through him being propitious to us, obtain that life which consists only in his favor; for, in order to be loved by God, we must first become righteous, since he regards unrighteousness with hatred. He therefore intimates, that we cannot obtain salvation otherwise than from the gospel, since nowhere else does God reveal to us his righteousness, which alone delivers us from perdition. Now this righteousness, which is the groundwork of our salvation, is revealed in the gospel: hence the gospel is said to be the power of God unto salvation. Thus he reasons from the cause to the effect.
Notice further, how extraordinary and valuable a treasure does God bestow on us through the gospel, even the communication of his own righteousness. I take the righteousness of God to mean, that which is approved before his tribunal; as that, on the contrary, is usually called the righteousness of men, which is by men counted and supposed to be righteousness, though it be only vapor. Paul, however, I doubt not, alludes to the many prophecies in which the Spirit makes known everywhere the righteousness of God in the future kingdom of Christ.
Some explain it as the righteousness which is freely given us by God: and I indeed confess that the words will bear this sense; for God justifies us by the gospel, and thus saves us: yet the former view seems to me more suitable, though it is not what I make much of. Of greater moment is what some think, that this righteousness does not only consist in the free remission of sins, but also, in part, includes the grace of regeneration. But I consider, that we are restored to life because God freely reconciles us to himself, as we shall hereafter show in its proper place.
But instead of the expression he used before, “to every one who believeth,” he says now, from faith; for righteousness is offered by the gospel, and is received by faith. And he adds, to faith: for as our faith makes progress, and as it advances in knowledge, so the righteousness of God increases in us at the same time, and the possession of it is in a manner confirmed. When at first we taste the gospel, we indeed see God’s smiling countenance turned towards us, but at a distance: the more the knowledge of true religion grows in us, by coming as it were nearer, we behold God’s favor more clearly and more familiarly. What some think, that there is here an implied comparison between the Old and New Testament, is more refined than well-founded; for Paul does not here compare the Fathers who lived under the law with us, but points out the daily progress that is made by every one of the faithful.’
As it is written, etc. By the authority of the Prophet Habakkuk he proves the righteousness of faith; for he, predicting the overthrow of the proud, adds this — that the life of the righteous consists in faith. Now we live not before God, except through righteousness: it then follows, that our righteousness is obtained by faith; and the verb being future, designates the real perpetuity of that life of which he speaks; as though he had said, — that it would not be momentary, but continue forever. For even the ungodly swell with the false notion of having life; but when they say, “Peace and safety,” a sudden destruction comes upon them, (1Th_5:3.) It is therefore a shadow, which endures only for a moment. Faith alone is that which secures the perpetuity of life; and whence is this, except that it leads us to God, and makes our life to depend on him? For Paul would not have aptly quoted this testimony had not the meaning of the Prophet been, that we then only stand, when by faith we recumb on God: and he has not certainly ascribed life to the faith of the godly, but in as far as they, having renounced the arrogance of the world, resign themselves to the protection of God alone.
He does not indeed professedly handle this subject; and hence he makes no mention of gratuitous justification: but it is sufficiently evident from the nature of faith, that this testimony is rightly applied to the present subject. Besides, we necessarily gather from his reasoning, that there is a mutual connection between faith and the gospel: for as the just is said to live by faith, he concludes that this life is received by the gospel.
We have now the principal point or the main hinge of the first part of this Epistle, — that we are justified by faith through the mercy of God alone. We have not this, indeed as yet distinctly expressed by Paul; but from his own words it will hereafter be made very clear — that the righteousness, which is grounded on faith, depends entirely on the mercy of God.
The reason why the gospel has the efficacy ascribed to it in the preceding verse, is not because of its pure morality, or because it reveals and confirms a future state of retribution, but because the righteousness of God is therein revealed. As this is one of those expressions which are employed to convey ideas peculiar to the gospel, its meaning is to be learned not merely from the signification of the words, but from parallel passages, and from the explanations given in the gospel itself of the whole subject to which it relates. That δικαιοσύνη cannot here be understood of a divine attribute, such as rectitude, justice, goodness, or veracity, is obvious, because it is a δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως, a righteousness which is by faith, i.e., attained by faith, of which the apostle speaks. Besides, it is elsewhere said to be without law, Rom_3:21 to be a gift, Rom_5:17, not to be our own, Rom_10:3, to be from God, Phi_3:9. These and similar forms of expression are inconsistent with the assumption that the apostle is speaking of a divine attribute. The righteousness of God, therefore, must mean either the righteousness of which God is the author, or which he approves. Luther, Calvin, and many others, prefer the latter. “Die Gerechtigkeit die vor Gott gilt,” is Luther’s version. Calvin says, “Justitiam Dei accipio, quae apud Dei tribunal approbatur.” Beza, Reiche, De Wette, Rückert, and others, prefer the former. These ideas are not incompatible. This righteousness is at once a δικαιοσύνη ης ἐκ Θεοῦ, Phi_3:9; and a δικαιοσύνη παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, Rom_2:13; Rom_3:20; Gal_3:11. The gospel reveals a righteousness, which God gives, and which he approves; it is a righteousness, “qua quisquis donatus est, sistitur coram Deo, sanctus, inculpatus, et nullius labis possit postulari.” Beza.
This interpretation is confirmed by all that the Scriptures teach respecting the manner of our justification before God. The Bible represents God in the character of a moral governor or judge. Man is placed under a law which is the rule of his duty, and the standard by which he is to be judged. This law may be variously revealed, but it is ever substantially the same, having the same precepts, the same sanction, and the same promises. Those who comply with the demands of this law are δίκαιοι, righteous; those who break the law are ἄδικοι, unrighteous; to pronounce one righteous is δικαιοῦν, to justify; the righteousness itself, or integrity which the law demands is δικαιοσύνη. Those who are righteous, or who have the righteousness which the law requires, or who are justified, have a title to the favor of God.
Now, nothing is more clearly taught in the Scriptures than that no man in himself is righteous in the sight of God. “There is none righteous, no not one; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” It is no less clearly taught that no man can make himself righteous; that is, he cannot attain the righteousness which the law demands, and which is necessary to his acceptance with God. The reason is, that the law demands perfect obedience, which no one has rendered, or can render. It is hence plain that by the works of the law no flesh can be justified before God. Rom_3:20; Gal_2:16; δικαιοσύνη is not ἐκ νόμου, Gal_3:21 or διὰ νόμοθ, Gal_2:21, or ἐξ ἔργων, Gal_2:16. Men are not justified ἰδίᾳ δικαιοσύνῃ by their own righteousness. Rom_10:3. And yet righteousness is absolutely necessary to our justification and salvation. Such a righteousness the gospel reveals; a righteousness which is χωρὶς νόμου, without the law; which is not of works; a δικαιοσύνη πίστεως or ἐκ πίστεως, which is by faith; a righteousness which is not our own, Phi_3:9; which is the gift of God, Rom_5:17; which is ἐκ Θεοῦ from God; which is imputed χωρὶς ἔργων without works. Christ is our righteousness, 1Co_1:30 or we are righteous before God in him. 2Co_5:21.
From this contrast between a righteousness which is our own, which is of works, and that which is not our own, which is of God, from God, the gift of God, it is plain that the δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ of which the apostle here speaks, is that δικαιοσύνη by which we are made δίκαιοι παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ; it is a righteousness which he gives and which he approves. This is the interpretation which is given substantially by all the modern commentators of note, as Tholuck, Reiche, Fritzsche, Rückert, Koellner, De Wette, etc., however much they may differ as to other points. “Alle Erkläung,” says De Wette, “welche das Moment der Zurechnung übersehen, und das thun besonders die katholischen, auch die des Grotius, sind falsch.” That is, “All interpretations which overlook the idea of imputation, as is done in the explanations given by the Romanists, and also in that of Grotius, are false.”
The nature of this righteousness, it is one great design of this epistle, and of the whole gospel to unfold. This, therefore, is not the place to enter fully into the examination of that point; it will present itself at every step of our progress. It is sufficient here to specify the three general views of the nature of that righteousness by which men are justified before God. The first may be called the Pelagian, according to which the apostle teaches that righteousness cannot be attained by obedience to the ritual law of the Jews, but consists in works morally good. The second view is that of the Romanists, who teach that the works meant to be excluded from our justification are legal works; works done without grace and before regeneration; but the righteousness which makes us just before God, is that inherent righteousness, or spiritual excellence which is obtained by the aid of divine grace. The third view, which is the common doctrine of Protestant churches is, that the righteousness for which we are justified is either anything done by us nor wrought in us, but something done for us and imputed to us. It is the work of Christ, what he did and suffered to satisfied the demands of the law. Hence not merely external or ceremonial works are excluded as the ground of justification; but works of righteousness, all works of whatever kind or degree of excellence. Hence this righteousness is not our own. It is nothing that we have either wrought ourselves, or that inheres in us. Hence Christ is said to be our righteousness; and we are said to be justified by his blood, his death, his obedience; we are righteous in him, and are justified by him or in his name, or for his sake. The righteousness of God, therefore, which the gospel reveals, and by which we are constituted righteous, by the perfect righteousness of Christ which completely meets and answers all the demands of what law to which all men are subject, and which all have broken.
This righteousness is said in the text to be of faith. It is obvious that the words ἐκ πίστεως are not to be connected with ἀποκαλύπτεται. They must be connected either directly or indirectly with δικαιοσύνη. It is either δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως ἀποκαλύπτεται, righteousness by faith is revealed; δικαιοσύνη ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως οὖσα righteousness is revealed, being of faith, i.e., which is by faith. Not an excellence of which faith is the germinating principle, or which consists in faith, because this is inconsistent with all those representations which show that this righteousness is not subjective.
The meaning of the words εἰς πίστιν in the formula ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν; from faith to faith, is very doubtful. They must be explained in a manner consistent with their connection with δικαιοσύνη. It is a righteousness which is of faith to faith. Now it cannot be said that our justification depends on our believing first the Old Testament, and then the New, which is the interpretation of Theodoret — δεῖ γὰρ πιστεῦσαι τοῖς προφήταις, καὶ δ ̓ ἐκείνων εἰς τὴν τοῦ ευσαγγελίου πίστιν ποδηγηθῆναι; nor does it seem to suit this connection to make the phrase in question express a progress from a weak or imperfect faith to that which is more perfect. This however is a very generally received interpretation. Calvin says, “Quum initio gustamus evangelium, laetam quidem et exporrectam nobis cernimus Dei frontem, sed eminus; quo magis augescit pietatis eruditio, velut propiore accessu clarius ac magis familiariter Dei gratiam perspicimus.” The sense is however perfectly clear and good, if the phrase is explained to mean, faith alone. As “death unto death” and “life unto life” are intensive, so “faith unto faith” may mean, entirely of faith. Our justification is by faith alone: works form no part of that righteousness in which we can stand before the tribunal of God. “Dicit,” says Bengel, “fidem meram; namque justitia ex fide subsistit in fide, sine operibus … Fides, inquit Paulus, manet fides; fides est prora et puppis, apud Judaeos et Gentiles, etiam apud Paulum, usque ad ipsam ejus consummationem.” Most of the modern commentators regard εἰς in the words εἰς πιστιν as indicating the terminus. Righteousness is from faith and unto faith, comes to it. This makes πίστιν here virtually equivalent to πιστεύοντας, as in Rom_3:22, the δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ is said to be εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεὺοντας. Righteousness then is by faith and unto faith, i.e. is granted unto or bestowed upon believers.
This doctrine of the apostle, that the righteousness which is unto life is to be obtained by faith, he confirms by a reference to Hab_2:4 where it is said, ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως, ζήσεται, he that is righteous by faith, shall live; or, the righteous shall live by faith. The connection of ἐκ πίστεως; with δίκαιος is certainly best suited to the apostle’s object, which is to show that righteousness is by faith; but in either construction the sense is substantially the same. Salvation is by faith. In the Hebrew also, either construction is allowable, as the words are “The righteous in his faith shall live.” The Masoretic accentuation however connects, as Paul does, the first two words together, ‘The righteous in his faith shall live.’ Shall live, shall attain that life which Christ gives, which is spiritual, blessed, and everlasting; comp. Rom_5:17; Rom_8:13; Rom_10:3. This passage is cited in confirmation of the apostle’s own doctrine, and is peculiarly pertinent as it shows that under the old dispensation as well as under the new, the favor of God was to be secured by faith.
It will give light to this whole Epistle, to explain what is here meant by
the righteousness of God. Some do thereby understand the whole doctrine of salvation and eternal life, which is revealed in the gospel; and they make it the same with the faith of God, Rom_3:3, and with the truth of God, Rom_3:7. Others, by the righteousness of God, do understand that righteousness whereby a man is justified, or stands just and righteous in the sight of God: and it is called the righteousness of God, to distinguish it from our own righteousness, Rom_10:3, and because it is appointed, approved, and accepted by him, it being such as he himself can find no fault with. Further, it is called
the righteousness of God, because it was performed by him, who is God as well as man, and imputed unto us: hence he is said to be made righteousness unto us, and we are said to be made the righteousness of God in him; we having his righteousness, as he had our sins, viz. by imputation. This is often called the righteousness of faith, because by faith it is apprehended and applied. And again, it is called the law of righteousness, Rom_9:31, in opposition to that law of righteousness whereby the unbelieving Jews sought to be justified.
Revealed; the law of God discovers no such way of justifying a sinner, nor is it taught by reason or philosophy: the gospel only makes a revelation of it; which occasioned the apostle’s glorying in it.
From faith to faith: this apostle seems to delight in such repetitions, and there is an elegancy in them: see Rom_6:19 2Co_2:16 2Co_3:18. The words are variously interpreted: from the fiath of the Old Testament to the faith of the New; so that no person ever was or shall be justified in any other way. Or, from a lesser faith to a greater; not noting two faiths, but one and the same faith increasing to perfection. He saith not, from faith to works, or from works to faith; but from faith to faith, i.e. only by faith. The words to be must be understood: q.d. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God to be from faith to faith. The beginning, the continuance, the accomplishment of our justification is wholly absolved by faith.
The just shall live by faith: some refer these words, by faith, to the subject of this proposition, the just; and thus they render it: The just by faith shall live; and so read, the foregoing proposition is the better proved thereby. There is some diffculty to understand the fitness of this testimony to prove the conclusion in hand; for it is evident, that the prophet Habakkuk, in whom these words are found, doth speak of a temporal preservation; and what is that to eternal life?
Answer. The Babylonian captivity figured out our spiritual bondage under sin and Satan; and deliverance from that calamity did shadow forth our deliverance from hell, to be procured by Christ: compare Isa_40:2-4, with Mat_3:3. Again, general sentences applied to particular cases, are not thereby restrained to those particulars, but still retain the generality of their nature: see Mat_19:6. Again, one and the same faith apprehends and gives us interest in all the promises of God; and as by it we live in temporal dangers, so by it we are freed from eternal destruction.
For therein (gar en autōi). In the gospel (Rom_1:16) of which Paul is not ashamed.
A righteousness of God (dikaiosunē theou). Subjective genitive, “a God kind of righteousness,” one that each must have and can obtain in no other way save “from faith unto faith” (ek pisteōs eis pistin), faith the starting point and faith the goal (Lightfoot).
Is revealed (apokaluptetai). It is a revelation from God, this God kind of righteousness, that man unaided could never have conceived or still less attained. In these words we have Paul’s statement in his own way of the theme of the Epistle, the content of the gospel as Paul understands it. Every word is important: sōtērian (salvation), euaggelion (gospel), apokaluptetai (is revealed), dikaiosunē theou (righteousness of God), pistis (faith) and pisteuonti (believing). He grounds his position on Hab_2:4 (quoted also in Gal_3:11). By “righteousness” we shall see that Paul means both “justification” and “sanctification.” It is important to get a clear idea of Paul’s use of dikaiosunē here for it controls the thought throughout the Epistle. Jesus set up a higher standard of righteousness (dikaiosunē) in the Sermon on the Mount than the Scribes and Pharisees taught and practised (Mat_5:20) and proves it in various items. Here Paul claims that in the gospel, taught by Jesus and by himself there is revealed a God kind of righteousness with two ideas in it (the righteousness that God has and that he bestows). It is an old word for quality from dikaios, a righteous man, and that from dikē, right or justice (called a goddess in Act_28:4), and that allied with deiknumi, to show, to point out. Other allied words are dikaioō, to declare or make dikaios (Rom_3:24, Rom_3:26), dikaiōma, that which is deemed dikaios (sentence or ordinance as in Rom_1:32; Rom_2:26; Rom_8:4), dikaiōsis, the act of declaring dikaios (only twice in N.T., Rom_4:25; Rom_5:18). Dikaiosunē and dikaioō are easy to render into English, though we use justice in distinction from righteousness and sanctification for the result that comes after justification (the setting one right with God). Paul is consistent and usually clear in his use of these great words.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed (δικαιοσύνη γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐν ἀυτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται).
Rev., more correctly, therein is revealed a righteousness of God. The absence of the article denotes that a peculiar kind of righteousness is meant. This statement contains the subject of the epistle: Righteousness is by faith. The subject is not stated formally nor independently, but as a proof that the Gospel is a power, etc.
This word δικαιοσύνη righteousness, and its kindred words δίκαιος righteous, and δικαιόω to make righteous, play so important a part in this epistle that it is desirable to fix their meaning as accurately as possible.
Classical Usage. In the Greek classics there appears an eternal, divine, unwritten principle of right, dwelling in the human consciousness, shaping both the physical and the moral ordering of the world, and personified as Themis (Θέμις). This word is used as a common noun in the phrase θέμις ἐστὶ it is right (fundamentally and eternally), like the Latin fas est. Thus Homer, of Penelope mourning for Ulysses, θέμις ἐστὶ γυναικός it is the sacred obligation of the wife (founded in her natural relation to her husband, ordained of heaven) to mourn (“Odyssey,” 14, 130). So Antigone appeals to the unwritten law against the barbarity of refusing burial to her brother.
This divine ordering requires that men should be shown or pointed to that which is according to it – a definite circle of duties and obligations which constitute right (δίκη). Thus what is δίκαιος righteous, is properly the expression of the eternal Themis. While δίκη and θέμις are not to be distinguished as human and divine, δίκη has a more distinctively human, personal character, and comes into sharper definition. It introduces the distinction between absolute right and power. It imposes the recognition of a moral principle over against an absolutely constraining natural force. The conception of δίκη is strongly moral. Δίκαιος is right; δικαιοσύνη is rightness as characterizing the entire being of man.
There is a religious background to the pagan conception. In the Homeric poems morality stands in a relation, loose and undeveloped indeed, but none the less real, to religion. This appears in the use of the oath in compacts; in the fear of the wrath of heaven for omission of sacrifices; in regarding refusal of hospitality as an offense against Zeus, the patron of strangers and suppliants. Certain tribes which are fierce and uncivilized are nevertheless described as δίκαιοι righteous. “The characteristic stand-point of the Homeric ethics is that the spheres of law, of morals, and of religion are by no means separate, but lie side by side in undeveloped unity.” (Nagelsbach).
In later Greek literature this conception advances, in some instances, far toward the christian ideal; as in the fourth book of Plato’s “Laws,” where he asserts that God holds in His hand the beginning, middle, and end of all things; that justice always follows Him, and punishes those who fall short of His laws. Those who would be dear to God must be like Him. Without holiness no man is accepted of God.
Nevertheless, however clearly the religious background and sanction of morality may be recognized, it is apparent that the basis of right is found, very largely, in established social usage. The word ethics points first to what is established by custom. While with Mr. Grote we must admit the peculiar emphasis on the individual in the Homeric poems, we cannot help observing a certain influence of social sentiment on morals. While there are cases like the suitors, Paris and Helen, where public opinion imposes no moral check, there are others where the force of public opinion is clearly visible, such as Penelope and Nausicaa. The Homeric view of homicide reveals no relation between moral sentiment and divine enactment. Murder is a breach of social law, a private and civil wrong, entailing no loss of character. Its penalty is a satisfaction to the feelings of friends, or a compensation for lost services.
Later, we find this social aspect of morality even more strongly emphasized. “The city becomes the central and paramount source of obligation. The great, impersonal authority called ‘the Laws’ stands out separately, both as guide and sanction, distinct from religious duty or private sympathy” (Grote). Socrates is charged with impiety because he does not believe in the gods of the state, and Socrates himself agrees that that man does right who obeys what the citizens have agreed should be done, and who refrains from what they forbid.
The social basis of righteousness also appears in the frequent contrast between δίκη and βία, right and force. A violation of right is that which forces its way over the social sanction. The social conception of δίκαιος is not lost, even when the idea is so apprehended as to border on the christian love of one’s neighbor. There is a wrong toward the gods, but every wrong is not in itself such. The inner, personal relation to deity, the absolute and constraining appeal of divine character and law to conscience, the view of duty as one’s right, and of personal right as something to be surrendered to the paramount claim of love – all these elements which distinguish the christian conception of righteousness – are thus in sharp contrast with a righteousness dictated by social claims which limit the individual desire or preference, but which leave untouched the tenacity of personal right, and place obligation behind legitimacy.
It is desirable that the classical usage of these terms should be understood, in order to throw into sharper relief the Biblical usage, according to which God is the absolute and final standard of right, and every wrong is a sin against God (Psa_51:4). Each man stands in direct and primary relation to the holy God as He is by the law of His own nature. Righteousness is union with God in character. To the Greek mind of the legendary age such a conception is both strange and essentially impossible, since the Greek divinity is only the Greek man exaggerated in his virtues and vices alike. According to the christian ideal, righteousness is character, and the norm of character is likeness to God. This idea includes all the social aspects of right. Love and duty toward God involve love and duty to the neighbor.
Here must be noted a peculiar usage of δίκαιος righteous, and δικαιοσύνη righteousness, in the Septuagint. They are at times interchanged with ἐλεημοσύνη mercy, and ἔλεος kindness. The Hebrew chesed kindness, though usually rendered by ἔλεος, is nine times translated by δικαιοσύνη righteousness, and once by δίκαιος righteous. The Hebrew tsedakah, usually rendered by δικαιοσύνη, is nine times translated by ἐλεημοσύνη mercy, and three times by ἔλεος kindness. Compare the Heb. and Sept. at Deu_6:25; Deu_24:13 (15); Gen_19:19; Gen_24:27. This usage throws light on the reading δικαιοσύνην, Rev., righteousness (kindness?), instead of ἐλεημοσύνην mercy, A.V., alms, Mat_6:1. Mr. Hatch (“Essays in Biblical Greek”) says that the meaning kindness is so clear in this passage that scribes, who were unaware of its existence, altered the text. He also thinks that this meaning gives a better sense than any other to Mat_1:19 “Joseph, being a kindly (δίκαιος, A.V., just) man.”
1. In the New Testament δίκαιος is used both of God and of Christ. Of God, 1Jo_1:9; Joh_17:25; Rev_16:5; Rom_3:26. Of Christ, 1Jo_2:1; 1Jo_3:7; Act_3:14; Act_7:52; Act_22:14. In these passages the word characterizes God and Christ either in their essential quality or in their action; either as righteous according to the eternal norm of divine holiness (Joh_17:25; 1Jo_3:7; Rom_3:26), or as holiness passes into righteous dealing with men (1Jo_1:9).
2. Δίκαιος is used of men, denoting their normal relation to the will and judgment of God. Hence it means virtuous, upright, pure in life, correct in thinking and feeling. It stands opposed to ἀνομία lawlessness; ἁμαρτία sin; ἀκαθαρσία impurity, a contrast wanting in classical usage, where the conception of sin is vague. See Rom_6:13, Rom_6:16, Rom_6:18, Rom_6:20; Rom_8:10; 2Co_6:7, 2Co_6:14; Eph_5:9; Eph_6:14; Phi_1:11; Jam_3:18.
Where δικαιοσύνη righteousness, is joined with ὁσιότης holiness (Luk_1:75; Eph_4:24), it denotes right conduct toward men, as holiness denotes piety toward God. It appears in the wider sense of answering to the demands of God in general, Mat_13:17; Mat_10:41; Mat_23:29; Act_10:22, Act_10:35; and in the narrower sense of perfectly answering the divine demands, guiltless. So of Christ, Act_3:14; 1Pe_3:18; 1Jo_2:1.
3. It is found in the classical sense of it is right, Phi_1:7, or that which is right, Col_4:1. This, however, is included within the Christian conception.
Δικαιοσύνη righteousness, is therefore that which fulfills the claims of δίκη right. “It is the state commanded by God and standing the test of His judgment; the character and acts of a man approved of Him, in virtue of which the man corresponds with Him and His will as His ideal and standard” (Cremer).
The medium of this righteousness is faith. Faith is said to be counted or reckoned for righteousness; i.e., righteousness is ascribed to it or recognized in it. Rom_4:3, Rom_4:6, Rom_4:9, Rom_4:22; Gal_3:6; Jam_2:23.
In this verse the righteousness revealed in the Gospel is described as a righteousness of God. This does not mean righteousness as an attribute of God, as in Rom_3:5; but righteousness as bestowed on man by God. The state of the justified man is due to God. The righteousness which becomes his is that which God declares to be righteousness and ascribes to him. Righteousness thus expresses the relation of being right into which God puts the man who believes. See further, on justified, Rom_2:13.
Is revealed (ἀποκαλύπτεται)
Emphasizing the peculiar sense in which “righteousness” is used here. Righteousness as an attribute of God was revealed before the Gospel. Righteousness in this sense is a matter of special revelation through the Gospel. The present tense describes the Gospel in its continuous proclamation: is being revealed.
From faith to faith (ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν)
Rev., by faith unto faith. According to the A.V. the idea is that of progress in faith itself; either from Old to New Testament faith, or, in the individual, from a lower to a higher degree of faith; and this idea, I think, must be held here, although it is true that it is introduced secondarily, since Paul is dealing principally with the truth that righteousness is by faith. We may rightly say that the revealed righteousness of God is unto faith, in the sense of with a view to produce faith; but we may also say that faith is a progressive principle; that the aim of God’s justifying righteousness is life, and that the just lives by his faith (Gal_2:20), and enters into “more abundant” life with the development of his faith. Compare 2Co_2:16; 2Co_3:18; 2Co_4:17; Rom_6:19; and the phrase, justification of life, Rom_5:18.
For – This word implies that he is now about to give a “reason” for what he had just said, a reason why he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. That reason is stated in this verse. It embodies the substance of all that is contained in the Epistle. It is the doctrine which he seeks to establish; and there is not perhaps a more important passage in the Bible than this verse; or one more difficult to be understood.
Therein – In it, ἐν οὕτῳ en houtō, that is, in the gospel.
Is the righteousness of God – δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ dikaiosunē Theou. There is not a more important expression to be found in the Epistle than this. It is capable of only the following interpretations.
(1) some have said that it means that the attribute of God which is denominated righteousness or justice, is here displayed. It has been supposed that this was the design of the gospel to make this known; or to evince his justice in his way of saving people. There is an important sense in which this is true Rom_3:26. But this does not seem to be the meaning in the passage before us. For,
(a) The leading design of the gospel is not to evince the justice of God, or the attribute of justice, but the love of God; see Joh_3:16; Eph_2:4; 2Th_2:16; 1Jo_4:8.
(b) The attribute of justice is not what is principally evinced in the gospel. It is rather mercy, “or mercy in a manner consistent with justice,” or that does not interfere with justice.
(c) The passage, therefore, is not designed to teach simply that the righteousness of God, as an attribute, is brought forth in the gospel, or that the main idea is to reveal his justice.
(2) a second interpretation which has been affixed to it is, to make it the same as goodness, the benevolence of God is revealed, etc. But to this there are still stronger objections. For.
(a) It does not comport with the design of the apostle’s argument.
(b) It is a departure from the established meaning of the word “justice,” and the phrase “the righteousness of God.”
(c) If this had been the design, it is remarkable that the usual words expressive of goodness or mercy had not been used. Another meaning, therefore, is to be sought as expressing the sense of the phrase.
(3) the phrase “righteousness of God” is equivalent to God’s “plan of justifying people; his scheme of declaring them just in the sight of the Law; or of acquitting them from punishment, and admitting them to favor.” In this sense it stands opposed to man’s plan of justification, that is, by his own works: God’s plan is by faith. The way in which that is done is revealed in the gospel. The object contemplated to be done is to treat people as if they were righteous. Man attempted to accomplish this by obedience to the Law. The plan of God was to arrive at it by faith. Here the two schemes differ; and the great design of this Epistle is to show that man cannot be justified on his own plan, to wit, by works; and that the plan of God is the only way, and a wise and glorious way of making man just in the eye of the Law. No small part of the perplexity usually attending this subject will be avoided if it is remembered that the discussion in this Epistle pertains to the question, “how can mortal man be just with God?” The apostle shows that it cannot be by works; and that it “can be” by faith. This latter is what he calls the “righteousness of God” which is revealed in the gospel.
To see that this is the meaning, it is needful only to look at the connection; and at the usual meaning of the words. The word to “justify,” δικαιόω dikaioō, means properly “to be just, to be innocent, to be righteous.” It then means to “declare,” or treat as righteous; as when a man is charged with an offence. and is acquitted. If the crime alleged is not proved against him, he is declared by the Law to be innocent. It then means to “treat as if innocent, to regard as innocent;” that is, to pardon, to forgive, and consequently to treat as if the offence had not occurred. It does not mean that the man did not commit the offence; or that the Law might not have held him answerable for it; but that the offence is forgiven; and it is consistent to receive the offender into favor, and treat him as if he had not committed it. In what way this may be done rests with him who has the pardoning power. And in regard to the salvation of man, it rests solely with God. and must be done in that way only which he appoints and approves. The design of Paul in this Epistle is to show how this is done, or to show that it is done by faith. It may be remarked here that the expression before us does not imply any particular manner in which it is done; it does not touch the question whether it is by imputed righteousness or not; it does not say that it is on legal principles; it simply affirms “that the gospel contains God’s plan of justifying people by faith.”
The primary meaning of the word is, therefore, “to be innocent, pure, etc.” and hence, the name means “righteousness” in general. For this use of the word, see Mat_3:15; Mat_5:6, Mat_5:10, Mat_5:20; Mat_21:32; Luk_1:75; Act_10:35; Act_13:10; Rom_2:26; Rom_8:4, etc.
In the sense of pardoning sin, or of treating people as if they were innocent, on the condition of faith, it is used often, and especially in this Epistle; see Rom_3:24, Rom_3:26, Rom_3:28, Rom_3:30; Rom_4:5; Rom_5:1; Rom_8:30; Gal_2:16; Gal_3:8, Gal_3:24; Rom_3:21-22, Rom_3:25; Rom_4:3, Rom_4:6,Rom_4:13; Rom_9:30, etc.
It is called “God’s” righteousness, because it is God’s plan, in distinction from all the plans set up by people. It was originated by him; it differs from all others; and it claims him as its author, and tends to his glory. It is called his righteousness, as it is the way by which he receives and treats people as righteous. The same plan was foretold in various places where the word “righteousness” is nearly synonymous with “salvation;” Isa_56:5 “My righteousness is near, my salvation is gone forth;” Isa_56:6, “My salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished;” Isa_56:1, “My salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed;” Dan_9:24, “To make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.”
(There is yet another sense lying on the very surface of the passage, and adopted by nearly all the evangelical expositors, according to which “the righteousness of God” is that righteousness, which Christ worked out in his active and passive obedience. This is a righteousness which God hath devised, procured, and accepted. It is therefore eminently His. It is imputed to believers, and on account of it they are held righteous in the sight of God. It is of the highest importance that the true meaning of this leading expression be preserved; for if it be explained away, the doctrine of imputed righteousness is materially affected, as will appear in a subsequent note.
That the phrase is to be understood of the righteousness which Christ has procured by his obedience and death, appears from the general sense of the original term δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunē. Mr. Haldane in a long and elaborate comment on Rom_3:21, has satisfactorily shown that it signifies “righteousness in the abstract, and also conformity to law,” and that “Wherever it refers to the subject of man’s salvation, and is not merely a personal attribute of Deity, it signifies that righteousness which, in conformity with his justice, God has appointed and provided.”
Besides, if the expression be understood of “God’s plan of justifying men,” we shall have great difficulty in explaining the parallel passages. They will not bend to any such principle of interpretation, In Rom_5:17, this righteousness is spoken of as a “gift” which we “receive,” and in the Rom_5:18 and Rom_5:19 verses, the “righteousness of one” and “the obedience of one,” are used as convertible terms. Now it is easy to understand how the righteousness which Christ has procured by his obedience, becomes “a gift,” but “a plan of justification” is appropriately said to be declared, or promulgated. It cannot be spoken of in the light of a gift received. The same observation applies with still greater force to the passage in 2Co_5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” How would this passage appear, if “plan of justification” were substituted for righteousness of God?
In Phi_3:9, Paul desires to be found in Christ, “not having his own righteousness, which is of the land, but what is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Is not his own righteousness what he could attain to by his works or obedience, and is not the righteousness of Christ what Jesus had procured by his obedience?
Lastly, in Rom_10:3, the righteousness of God is thus opposed to the righteousness of man, “they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” Now what is that righteousness which natural people seek to establish, and which is especially called “their own?” Doubtless it is a righteousness founded on their own works, and therefore what is here properly opposed to it is a righteousness founded on the “work of God. See Haldane, Hodge, Scott, Guyse, etc.” This meaning of the term furnishes a key to unlock “all” the passages in which it is used in connection with the sinner’s justification, whereas any other sense, however it may suit a few places, will be found generally inapplicable.)
In regard to this plan it may be observed;
(1) That it is not to declare that people are innocent and pure. That would not be true. The truth is just the reverse; and God does not esteem men to be different from what they are.
(2) it is not to take part with the sinner, and to mitigate his offences. It admits them to their full extent; and makes him feel them also.
(3) it is not that we become partakers of the essential righteousness of God. That is impossible.
(4) it is not that his righteousness becomes ours. This is not true; and there is no intelligible sense in which that can be understood.
(It is true indeed that the righteousness of Christ cannot be called ours in the sense of our having actually accomplished it in our own persons. This is a view of imputation easily held up to ridicule, yet there is a sense in which the righteousness of Christ may be ours. Though we have not achieved it, yet it may be so placed to our account that we shall be held righteous, and treated as such. I have said, first, we shall be held righteous, and then treated as such; for God treats none as righteous who in some sense or other are not really so. See the note at Rom_4:3.)
But it is God’s plan for pardoning sin, and for treating us as if we had not committed it; that is, adopting us as his children, and admitting us to heaven on the ground of what the Lord Jesus has done in our stead. This is God’s plan. People seek to save themselves by their own works. God’s plan is to save them by the merits of Jesus Christ.
Revealed – Made known, and communicated. The gospel states the fact that God has such a plan of justification; and shows the way or manner in which it might be done. The fact seems to have been understood by Abraham, and the patriarchs Heb. 11, but the full mode or manner in which it was to be accomplished, was not revealed until it was done in the gospel of Christ. And because this great and glorious truth was thus made known, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. Nor should we be.
From faith – ἐκ πίστεως ek pisteōs. This phrase I take to be connected with the expression, “the righteousness of God.” Thus, the righteousness of God, or God’s plan of justifying people by faith, is revealed in the gospel. Here the great truth of the gospel is brought out, that people are justified by faith, and not by the deeds of the Law. The common interpretation of the passage has been, that the righteousness of God in this is revealed from one degree of faith to another. But to this interpretation there are many objections.
(1) it is not true. The gospel was not designed for this. It did not “suppose” that people had a certain degree of faith by nature which needed only to be strengthened in order that they might be saved.
(2) it does not make good sense. To say that the righteousness of God, meaning, as is commonly understood, his essential justice, is revealed from one degree of faith to another, is to use words without any meaning.
(3) the connection of the passage does not admit of this interpretation. The design of the passage is evidently to set forth the doctrine of justification as the grand theme of remark, and it does not comport with that design to introduce here the advance from one degree of faith to another, as the main topic.
(4) the Epistle is intended clearly to establish the fact that people are justified by faith. This is the grand idea which is kept up; and to show how this may be done is the main purpose before the apostle; see Rom_3:22, Rom_3:30; Rom_9:30; Rom_9:32; Rom_10:6, etc.
(5) the passage which he immediately quotes shows that he did not speak of different degrees of faith, but of the doctrine that people are to be justified by faith.
To faith – Unto those who believe (compare Rom_3:22); or to everyone that believeth, Rom_1:16. The abstract is here put for the concrete. It is designed to express the idea, “that God’s plan of justifying people is revealed in the gospel, which plan is by faith, and the benefits of which plan shall be extended to all that have faith, or that believe.”
As it is written – See Hab_2:4.
The just shall live by faith – The Septuagint translate the passage in Habakkuk, ‘If any man shall draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him, but the just by my faith,” or by faith in me, “shall live.” The very words are used by them which are employed by the apostle, except they add the word “my,” μοῦ mou, my faith. The Syriac renders it in a similar manner, “The just by faith shall live.” The meaning of the Hebrew in Habakkuk is the same. It does not refer originally to the doctrine of justification by faith; but its meaning is this, “The just man, or the righteous man, shall live by his confidence in God.” The prophet is speaking of the woes attending the Babylonish captivity. The Chaldeans were to come upon the land and destroy it, and remove the nation, Rom_1:6-10. But this was not to be perpetual. It should have an end Rom_2:3, and they who had confidence in God should live Rom_1:4; that is, should be restored to their country, should be blessed and made happy. Their confidence in God should sustain them, and preserve them. This did not refer primarily to the doctrine of justification by faith, nor did the apostle so quote it, but it expressed a general principle that those who had confidence in God should be happy, and be preserved and blessed. This would express the doctrine which Paul was defending. It was not by relying on his own merit that the Israelite would be delivered, but it was by confidence in God, by his strength and mercy. On the same principle would men be saved under the gospel. It was not by reliance on their own works or merit; it was by confidence in God, by faith, that they were to live.
Shall live – In Habakkuk this means to be made happy, or blessed; shall find comfort, and support, and deliverance. So in the gospel the blessings of salvation are represented as life, eternal life. Sin is represented as death, and man by nature is represented as dead in trespasses and sins, Eph_2:1. The gospel restores to life and salvation, Joh_3:36; Joh_5:29, Joh_5:40; Joh_6:33, Joh_6:51, Joh_6:53; Joh_20:31; Act_2:28; Rom_5:18; Rom_8:6. This expression, therefore, does not mean, as it is sometimes supposed, the “justified by faith” shall live; but it is expressive of a general principle in relation to people, that they shall be defended, preserved, made happy, not by their own merits, or strength, but by confidence in God. This principle is exactly applicable to the gospel plan of salvation. Those who rely on God the Saviour shall be justified, and saved.