1.We here see with what solicitude the holy man obviated offenses; for in order to soften whatever sharpness there may have been in his manner of explaining the rejection of the Jews, he still testifies, as before, his goodwill towards them, and proves it by the effect; for their salvation was an object of concern to him before the Lord, and such a feeling arises only from genuine love. It may be at the same time that he was also induced by another reason to testify his love towards the nation from which he had sprung; for his doctrine would have never been received by the Jews had they thought that he was avowedly inimical to them; and his defection would have been also suspected by the Gentiles, for they would have thought, as we have said in the last chapter, that he became an apostate from the law through his hatred of men.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. As the truth which Paul was to reiterate in the ears of the Jew was, of all others, to them the most offensive, he endeavors to allay their enmity, first, by assuring them of his affection, and secondly, by avoiding all exaggeration in the statement of their case. The word εὐδοκία means either good pleasure, sovereign purpose, Mat_11:26; Luk_2:14; 2Th_1:11; Eph_1:5, Eph_1:9, or benevolence, kind feeling, or desire, as in Phi_1:15. The latter sense best suits this passage. Paul meant to assure his brethren according to the flesh, that all his feelings towards them were kind, and that he earnestly desired their salvation. He had no pleasure in contemplating the evils which impended over them, his earnest desire and prayer was (εἰς σωτηρίαν) that they might be saved; literally to salvation, as expressing the end or object towards which his wishes or prayers tend; see Rom_6:22; Gal_3:17, and frequent examples elsewhere of this use of the preposition εἰς.
Desire (eudokia). No papyri examples of this word, though eudokēsis occurs, only in lxx and N.T., but no example for “desire” unless this is one, though the verb eudokeō is common in Polybius, Diodorus, Dion, Hal. It means will, pleasure, satisfaction (Mat_11:26; 2Th_1:11; Phi_1:15; Phi_2:13; Eph_1:5, Eph_1:9).
Supplication (deēsis). Late word from deomai, to want, to beg, to pray. In the papyri. See Luk_1:13. It is noteworthy that, immediately after the discussion of the rejection of Christ by the Jews, Paul prays so earnestly for the Jews “that they may be saved” (eis sōtērian), literally “unto salvation.” Clearly Paul did not feel that the case was hopeless for them in spite of their conduct. Bengel says: Non orasset Paul si absolute reprobati essent (Paul would not have prayed if they had been absolutely reprobate). Paul leaves God’s problem to him and pours out his prayer for the Jews in accordance with his strong words in Rom_9:1-5.
Brethren – This expression seems intended particularly for the Jews, his ancient friends, fellow-worshippers, and kinsmen, but who had embraced the Christian faith. It is an expression of tenderness and affection, denoting his deep interest in their welfare.
My heart’s desire – The word “desire” εὐδοκία eudokia means benevolence, and the expression, “my heart’s desire,” means my earnest and sincere wish.
Prayer to God – He not only cherished this feeling but he expressed in a desire to God. He had no desire that his kinsmen should be destroyed; no pleasure in the appalling doctrine which he had been defending. He still wished their welfare; and could still pray for them that they might return to God. Ministers have no pleasure in proclaiming the truth that people must be lost. Even when they declare the truths of the Bible that some will be lost; when they are constrained by the unbelief and wickedness of people to proclaim it of them, they still can sincerely say that they seek their salvation.
For Israel – For the Jewish nation.
That they might be saved – This clearly refers to salvation from the sin of unbelief; and the consequences of sin in hell. It does not refer to the temporal calamities which were coming upon them, but to preservation from the eternal anger of God; compare Rom_11:26; 1Ti_2:4. The reasons why the apostle commences this chapter in this tender manner are the following.
(1) because he had stated and defended one of the most offensive doctrines that could be preached to a Jew; and he was desirous to show them that it was not from any lack of affection for them, but that he was urged to it by the pressure of truth.
(2) he was regarded by them as an apostate. He had abandoned them when bearing their commission, and while on his way to execute their favorite purposes, and had preached the doctrine which they had sent him to destroy; compare Acts 9. He had opposed them everywhere; had proclaimed their pride, self-righteousness, and crime in crucifying their Messiah; had forsaken all that they valued; their pomp of worship, their city, and their temple; and had gone to other lands to bear the message of mercy to the nations that they despised. He was willing to show them that this proceeded from no lack of affection for them, but that he still retained toward them the feelings of a Jew, and could give them credit for much that they valued themselves on, Rom_10:2.
(3) he was aware of the deep and dreadful condemnation that was coming on them. In view of that he expressed his tender regard for their welfare, and his earnest prayer to God for their salvation. And we see here the proper feelings of a minister of the gospel when declaring the most terrible of the truths of the Bible. Paul was tender, affectionate, kind; convincing by cool argument, and not harshly denouncing; stating the appalling truth, and then pouring out his earnest desires to God that he would avert the impending doom. So should the awful doctrines of religion be preached by all the ambassadors of God.
2.For I bear to them a testimony, etc. This was intended to secure credit to his love. There was indeed a just cause why he should regard them with compassion rather than hatred, since he perceived that they had fallen only through ignorance, and not through malignancy of mind, and especially as he saw that they were not led except by some regard for God to persecute the kingdom of Christ. Let us hence learn where our good intentions may guide us, if we yield to them. It is commonly thought a good and a very fit excuse, when he who is reproved pretends that he meant no harm. And this pretext is held good by many at this day, so that they apply not their minds to find out the truth of God, because they think that whatever they do amiss through ignorance, without any designed maliciousness, but with good intention, is excusable. But no one of us would excuse the Jews for having crucified Christ, for having cruelly raged against the Apostles, and for having attempted to destroy and extinguish the gospel; and yet they had the same defense as that in which we confidently glory. Away then with these vain evasions as to good intention; if we seek God sincerely, let us follow the way by which alone we can come to him. For it is better, as [Augustine ] says, even to go limping in the right way than to run with all our might out of the way. If we would be really religious, let us remember that what Lactantius teaches is true, that true religion is alone that which is connected with the word of God.
And further, since we see that they perish, who with good intention wander in darkness, let us bear in mind, that we are worthy of thousand deaths, if after having been illuminated by God, we wander knowingly and willfully from the right way.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God. So far from desiring to exaggerate the evil of their conduct, the apostle, as was his uniform manner, endeavored to bring every thing commendable and exculpatory fully into view. The word for, has here its appropriate force, as it introduces the ground or reason of the preceding declaration. ‘I desire their salvation, for they themselves are far from being unconcerned as to divine things.’ Zeal of God may mean very great zeal, as cedars of God mean great cedars, according to a common Hebrew idiom; or zeal of which God is the object; the latter explanation is to be preferred. Joh_2:17, “The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.” Act_21:20, “Zealous of the law.” Act_22:3, “Zealous of God.” Gal_1:14, etc., etc. The Jews had great zeal about God, but it was wrong as to its object, and of consequence wrong in its moral qualities. Zeal, when rightly directed, however ardent, is humble and amiable. When its object is evil, it is proud, censorious, and cruel. Hence, the importance of its being properly guided, not merely to prevent the waste of feeling and effort, but principally to prevent its evil effects on ourselves and others. But not according to knowledge. Commentators notice that Paul uses the word ἐπίγνωσις. The Jews had γνῶσις (knowledge), what they lacked was ἐπίγνωσις, correct knowledge and appreciation. Their knowledge was neither enlightened nor wise; neither right as to its objects, nor correct in its character. The former idea is here principally intended. The Jews were zealous about their law, the traditions of their fathers, and the establishment of their own merit. How naturally would a zeal for such objects make men place religion in the observance of external rites; and be connected with pride, censoriousness, and a persecuting spirit. In so far, however, as this zeal was a zeal about God, it was preferable to indifference, and is, therefore, mentioned by the apostle with qualified commendation.
3.For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, etc. See how they went astray through inconsiderate zeal! for they sought to set up a righteousness of their own; and this foolish confidence proceeded from their ignorance of God’s righteousness. Notice the contrast between the righteousness of God and that of men. We first see, that they are opposed to one another, as things wholly contrary, and cannot stand together. It hence follows, that God’s righteousness is subverted, as soon as men set up their own. And again, as there is a correspondence between the things contrasted, the righteousness of God is no doubt his gift; and in like manner, the righteousness of men is that which they derive from themselves, or believe that they bring before God. Then he who seeks to be justified through himself, submits not to God’s righteousness; for the first step towards obtaining the righteousness of God is to renounce our own righteousness: for why is it, that we seek righteousness from another, except that necessity constrains us?
We have already stated, in another place, how men put on the righteousness of God by faith, that is, when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them. But Paul grievously dishonors the pride by which hypocrites are inflated, when they cover it with the specious mask of zeal; for he says, that all such, by shaking off as it were the yoke, are adverse to and rebel against the righteousness of God.
For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not, etc. The grand mistake of the Jews was about the method of justification. Ignorance on this point implied ignorance of the character of God, of the requirements of the law, and of themselves. It was, therefore, and is, and must ever continue to be a vital point. Those who err essentially here, err fatally; and those who are right here, cannot be wrong as to other necessary truths. Their own righteousness, τὴν ἰδίαν δικαιοσύνηn, which Theophylact correctly interprets, τὴν ἐξ ἔργων ἰδίων καὶ πόνων κατορθουμένην. The phrase righteousness of God, admits here, as in other parts of the epistle, of various interpretations.
1. It may mean the divine holiness or general moral perfection of God. In this way the passage would mean, ‘Being ignorant of the perfections or holiness of God, and, of course, of the extent of his demands, and going about to establish their own excellence, etc.’ This gives a good sense, but it is not consistent with the use of the expression righteousness of God, in other similar passages, as Rom_1:17; Rom_3:21, etc. And, secondly, it requires the phrase to be taken in two different senses in the same verse; for the last clause, ‘have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God,’ cannot mean, ‘They have not submitted to the divine holiness.’
2. The term may mean that righteousness of which God is the author, that which he approves and accepts. This interpretation is, in this case, peculiarly appropriate, from the opposition of the two expressions, righteousness of God and their own righteousness. ‘Being ignorant of that righteousness which God has provided, and which he bestows, and endeavoring to establish their own, they refused to accept of his.’ The sense here is perfectly good, and the interpretation may be carried through the verse, being applicable to the last clause as well as to the others. A comparison of this passage with Phi_3:9, “Not having my own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God,” is also in favor of this interpretation. For there the phrase the righteousness which is of God, can only mean that which he gives, and with this phrase the expression the righteousness of God, in this verse, seems to be synonymous.
3. Thirdly, Some interpreters take righteousness in the sense of justification, “justification of God” being taken as equivalent to ‘God’s method of justification.’ Being ignorant of God’s method of justification, and going about to establish their own, they have not submitted themselves to the method which he has proposed.’ The cause of the rejection of the Jews was the rejection of the method of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, and their persisting in confiding in their own merits and advantages as the ground of their acceptance with God.
Although this is the meaning of the passage, it is not the sense of the words. Righteousness does not signify justification. It is that on which the sentence of justification is founded. Those who have righteousness, either personal and inherent, or imputed, are justified. As we have no righteousness of our own, nothing that we have done or experienced, nothing personal or subjective, that can answer the demands of the law, we can be justified only through the righteousness of God, imputed to us and received by faith.
4. For the end of the law is Christ, etc. The word completion, seems not to me unsuitable in this place; and [Erasmus ] has rendered it perfection: but as the other reading is almost universally approved, and is not inappropriate, readers, for my part, may retain it.
The Apostle obviates here an objection which might have been made against him; for the Jews might have appeared to have kept the right way by depending on the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for him to disprove this false opinion; and this is what he does here. He shows that he is a false interpreter of the law, who seeks to be justified by his own works; because the law had been given for this end, — to lead us as by the hand to another righteousness: nay, whatever the law teaches, whatever it commands, whatever it promises, has always a reference to Christ as its main object; and hence all its parts ought to be applied to him. But this cannot be done, except we, being stripped of all righteousness, and confounded with the knowledge of our sin, seek gratuitous righteousness from him alone.
It hence follows, that the wicked abuse of the law was justly reprehended in the Jews, who absurdly made an obstacle of that which was to be their help: nay, it appears that they had shamefully mutilated the law of God; for they rejected its soul, and seized on the dead body of the letter. For though the law promises reward to those who observe its righteousness, it yet substitutes, after having proved all guilty, another righteousness in Christ, which is not attained by works, but is received by faith as a free gift. Thus the righteousness of faith, (as we have seen in the first chapter,) receives a testimony from the law. We have then here a remarkable passage, which proves that the law in all its parts had a reference to Christ; and hence no one can rightly understand it, who does not continually level at this mark.
For Christ Is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. The precise connection of this verse with the preceding, depends on the view taken of its meaning. The general import of the passage is sufficiently obvious, but its exact sense is not so easy to determine, on account of the ambiguity of the word (τέλος) translated end. The word may signify,
1. The object to which any thing leads. Christ is, in this sense, the end of the law, inasmuch as the law was a schoolmaster to lead us to him, Gal_3:24; and as all its types and prophecies pointed to him, “They were a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ,” Col_2:17; Heb_9:9. The meaning and connection of the passage would then be, ‘The Jews erred in seeking justification from the law, for the law was designed, not to afford justification, but to lead them to Christ, in order that they might be justified.’ To Christ all its portions tended, he was the object of its types and the subject of its predictions, and its precepts and penalty urge the soul to him as the only refuge. So Calvin, Bengel, and the majority of commentators.
2. The word may be taken in the sense of completion or fulfillment. Then Christ is the end of the law, because he fulfills all its requisitions, all its types and ceremonies, and satisfies its perceptive and penal demands See Mat_5:17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill;” and Rom_8:4. The Philological ground for this interpretation is slight. 1Ti_1:5, is compared with Rom_13:10, in order to prove that the word (τέλος) here translated end, is equivalent to the word (πλήρωμα) which is there (Rom_13:10) rendered fulfilling. The sense, according to this interpretation, is scriptural, but is not consistent with the meaning of the word.
3. We may take the word in its more ordinary sense of end or termination, and understand it metonymically for he who terminates or puts an end to. The meaning and connection would then be, ‘The Jews mistake the true method of justification, because they seek it from the law, whereas Christ has abolished the law, in order that all who believe may be justified.’ Compare Eph_2:15, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments;” Col_2:14, “Blotting Out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, etc.,” Gal_3:10, Gal_3:12; Rom_6:14; Rom_7:4, Rom_7:6, and the general drift of the former part of the epistle. In sense, his interpretation amounts to the same with the preceding, though it differs from it in form. Christ has abolished the law, not by destroying, but by fulfilling it. He has abolished the law as a rule of justification, or covenant of works, and the whole Mosaic economy having met its completion in him, has by him been brought to an end. In Luk_16:16, it is said, “The law and the prophets were until John;” then, in one sense, they ceased, or came to an end. When Christ came, the old legal system was abolished, and a new era commenced. The same idea is presented in Gal_3:23, “Before faith came we were kept under the law,” but when Christ appeared, declaring, “Believe and thou shalt be saved,” we were no longer under that bondage. The doctrine is clearly taught in Scripture, that those who are out of Christ are under the law, subject to its demands and exposed to its penalty. His coming and work have put an end to its authority, we are no longer under the law, but under grace, Rom_6:14; we are no longer under the system which says, Do this, and live; but under that which says, Believe, and thou shalt be saved. This abrogation of the law, however, is not by setting it aside, but by fulfilling its demands. It is because Christ is the fulfiller of the law, that he is the end of it. It is the latter truth which the apostle here asserts. The word law is obviously here used in its prevalent sense throughout this epistle, for the whole rule of duty prescribed to man, including for the Jews the whole of the Mosaic institutions. That law is intended which has been fulfilled, satisfied, or abrogated by Jesus Christ. For righteousness to every one that believeth. The general meaning of this clause, in this connection, is, ‘So that, or, in order that, every believer may be justified;’ Christ has abolished the law, ἵνα δικαιωθῇ πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ ̓ αὐτῷ, in order that every believer may attain righteousness, Which is unattainable by the law. The law is abolished by Christ, not as a rule of life, but as a covenant prescribing the condition of life. The way in Which this idea is arrived at, however, may be variously explained.
1. The preposition (εἰς) rendered for, may be rendered as to, as it relates to. ‘Christ is the end of the law, as it relates to righteousness.’
2. It may be understood of the effect, or result, and be resolved into the verbal construction with that or so that; ‘Christ is the end, etc., that righteousness is to every believer; or so that every believer is justified.’
3. It may point out the end or object. ‘Christ has abolished the law in order that every one that believes, etc.’
The last is the correct explanation. The Jews, then, did not submit to the righteousness of God, that is, to the righteousness which he had provided, for they did not submit to Christ, who is the end of the law. He has abolished the law, in order that every one that believes may be justified.
The end of the law (telos nomou). Christ put a stop to the law as a means of salvation (Rom_6:14; Rom_9:31; Eph_2:15; Col_2:14) as in Luk_16:16. Christ is the goal or aim of the law (Gal_3:24). Christ is the fulfilment of the law (Mat_5:17; Rom_13:10; 1Ti_1:5). But here (Denney) Paul’s main idea is that Christ ended the law as a method of salvation for “every one that believeth” whether Jew or Gentile. Christ wrote finis on law as a means of grace.
Expositor’s Greek NT
Ver 4. Further proof that the pursuit of a righteousness of one’s own by legal observances is a mistake, the act of men “in ignorance”. τέλος γὰρ νόμου χριστὸς εἰς δικαιοσύνην παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι: For Christ is law’s end, etc. The sense required—a sense which the words very naturally yield—is that with Christ in the field law as a means of attaining righteousness has ceased and determined. The moment a man sees Christ and understands what He is and what He has done, he feels that legal religion is a thing of the past: the way to righteousness is not the observance of statutes, no matter though they have been promulgated by God Himself; it is faith, the abandonment of the soul to the redeeming judgment and mercy of God in His Son. The meaning is virtually the same as that of our Lord’s words in Luk_16:16. νόμου without the article is “law” in the widest sense; the Mosaic law is only one of the most important instances which come under this description; and it, with all statutory conceptions of religion, ends when Christ appears. It is quite true to say that Christ consummates or fulfils the law (hence Calvin would prefer complementum or perfectio to finis as a rendering of τέλος); quite true also that He is the goal of the O.T. dispensation, and that it is designed to lead to Him (cf. Mat_5:17, Gal_3:24); but though both true and Pauline, these ideas are irrelevant here, where Paul is insisting, not on the connection, but on the incompatibility, of law and faith, of one’s own righteousness and the righteousness of God. Besides, in limiting νόμος to the Mosaic O.T. law, this interpretation does less than justice to the language, and misses the point of παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι: there is no believer, Gentile or Jew, for whom law, Mosaic or other, retains validity or significance as a way to δικαιοσύνη, after the revelation of the righteousness of God in Christ.
The end of the law (τέλος νόμου)
First in the sentence as the emphatic point of thought. Expositors differ as to the sense. 1. The aim. Either that the intent of the law was to make men righteous, which was accomplished in Christ, or that the law led to Him as a pedagogue (Gal_3:24). 2. The fulfillment, as Mat_5:17. 3. The termination. To believers in Christ the law has no longer legislative authority to say, “Do this and live; do this or die” (Morison). The last is preferable. Paul is discussing two materially exclusive systems, the one based on doing, the other on believing. The system of faith, represented by Christ, brings to an end and excludes the system of law; and the Jews, in holding by the system of law, fail of the righteousness which is by faith. Compare Gal_2:16; Gal_3:2-14.
8.What does it say? For the purpose of removing the impediments of faith, he has hitherto spoken negatively: but now in order to show the way of obtaining righteousness, he adopts an affirmative mode of speaking. Though the whole might have been announced in one continuous sentence, yet a question is interposed for the sake of exciting attention: and his object at the same time was to show how great is the difference between the righteousness of the law and that of the gospel; for the one, showing itself at a distance, restrains all men from coming nigh; but the other, offering itself at hand, kindly invites us to a fruition of itself, Nigh thee is the word.
It must be further observed, that lest the minds of men, being led away by crafts, should wander from the way of salvation, the limits of the word are prescribed to them, within which they are to keep themselves: for it is the same as though he had bidden them to be satisfied with the word only, and reminded them, that in this mirror those secrets of heaven are to be seen, which would otherwise by their brightness dazzle their eyes, and would also stun their ears and overpower the mind itself.
Hence the faithful derive from this passage remarkable consolation with regard to the certainty of the word; for they may no less safely rest on it, than on what is actually present. It must also be noticed, that the word, by which we have a firm and calm trust as to our salvation, had been set forth even by Moses:
This is the word of faith. Rightly does Paul take this as granted; for the doctrine of the law does by no means render the conscience quiet and calm, nor supply it with what ought to satisfy it. He does not, however, exclude other parts of the word, no, not even the precepts of the law; but his design is, to show that remission of sins stands for righteousness, even apart from that strict obedience which the law demands. Sufficient then for pacifying minds, and for rendering certain our salvation, is the word of the gospel; in which we are not commanded to earn righteousness by works, but to embrace it, when offered gratuitously, by faith.
The word of faith is to be taken for the word of promise, that is, for the gospel itself, because it bears a relation to faith. The contrast, by which the difference between the law and the gospel appears, is indeed to be understood: and from this distinction we learn, — that as the law demands works, so the gospel requires nothing else, but that men bring faith to receive the grace of God. The words, which we preach, are added, that no one might have the suspicion that Paul differed from Moses; for he testifies, that in the ministration of the gospel there was complete consent between him and Moses; inasmuch as even Moses placed our felicity in nothing else but in the gratuitous promise of divine favor.
The word is nigh thee
Septuagint, Very nigh thee is the word. The word is the whole subject-matter of the Gospel. See Rom_10:9. Moses used it of the law. See on Luk_1:37. The whole quotation in the Hebrew is as follows: “It (the commandment) is not in heaven, that ye should say, Who will ascend for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us hear it that we may do it? And it is not beyond the sea, that ye should say, Who will go over for us beyond the sea, and bring it to us, and make us hear it that we may do it? But the word is very near thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, to do it.” The object of the passage is to contrast the system of faith with the system of law, and that, especially, with reference to the remoteness and difficulty of righteousness. Moses says that the commandment of God to Israel is not incapable of accomplishment, nor is it a distant thing to be attained only by long and laborious effort. The people, on the contrary, carries it in its mouth, and it is stamped upon its heart. Compare Exo_13:9; Deu_6:6-9. In applying these words to the system of faith, Paul, in like manner, denies that this system involves any painful search or laborious work. Christ has accomplished the two great things necessary for salvation. He has descended to earth and has risen from the dead. All that is necessary is to accept by faith the incarnate and risen Christ, instead of having recourse to the long and painful way of establishing one’s own righteousness by obedience to the law.
Word of faith
The phrase occurs only here. “Which forms the substratum and object of faith” (Alford). Others, the burden of which is faith.
We preach (κηρύσσομεν)
See on Mat_4:17, and see on preacher, 2Pe_2:5.
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which we preach. As the expressions to be hidden, to be far off, imply that the thing to which they refer is inaccessible or difficult, so to be near, to be in the mouth and in the heart, mean to be accessible, easy and familiar. They are frequently thus used; see Jos_1:8, “This law shall not depart out of thy mouth,” i.e. it shall be constantly familiar to thee; Exo_13:9, “That the law may be in thy mouth;” Psa_37:31; Psa_40:8. The meaning of this passage then is, ‘The gospel, instead of directing us to ascend into heaven, or to go down to the abyss, tells us the thing required is simple and easy. Believe with thy heart and thou shalt be saved.’ The word is nigh thee, i.e. the doctrine or truth contemplated, and by implication, what that doctrine demands. Paul, therefore, represents the gospel as speaking of itself. The method of justification by faith says, ‘The word is near thee, in thy mouth, i.e. the word or doctrine of faith is thus easy and familiar.’ This is Paul’s own explanation. The expression, word of faith, may mean the word or doctrine concerning faith, or the word to which faith is due, which should be believed. In either case, it is the gospel, or doctrine of justification, which is here intended.
9.That if thou wilt confess, etc. Here is also an allusion, rather than a proper and strict quotation: for it is very probable that Moses used the word mouth, by taking a part for the whole, instead of the wordface, or sight. But it was not unsuitable for the Apostle to allude to the word mouth, in this manner: — “Since the Lord sets his word before our face, no doubt he calls upon us to confess it.” For wherever the word of the Lord is, it ought to bring forth fruit; and the fruit is the confession of the mouth.
By putting confession before faith, he changes the order, which is often the case in Scripture: for the order would have been more regular if the faith of the heart had preceded, and the confession of the mouth, which arises from it, had followed. But he rightly confesses the Lord Jesus, who adorns him with his own power, acknowledging him to be such an one as he is given by the Father, and described in the gospel.
Express mention is made only of Christ’s resurrection; which must not be so taken, as though his death was of no moment, but because Christ, by rising again, completed the whole work of our salvation: for though redemption and satisfaction were effected by his death, through which we are reconciled to God; yet the victory over sin, death, and Satan was attained by his resurrection; and hence also came righteousness, newness of life, and the hope of a blessed immortality. And thus is resurrection alone often set before us as the assurance of our salvation, not to draw away our attention from his death, but because it bears witness to the efficacy and fruit of his death: in short, his resurrection includes his death. On this subject we have briefly touched in the sixth chapter.
It may be added, that Paul requires not merely an historical faith, but he makes the resurrection itself its end. For we must remember the purpose for which Christ rose again; — it was the Father’s design in raising him, to restore us all to life: for though Christ had power of himself to reassume his soul, yet this work is for the most part ascribed in Scripture to God the Father.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, etc. The connection of this verse with the preceding may be explained by making the last clause of Rom_10:8 a parenthesis, and connecting this immediately with the first clause. ‘It says, the word is nigh thee; it says, that if thou shalt confess and believe, thou shalt be saved.’ According to this view, this verse is still a part of what the gospel is represented as saying. Perhaps, however, it is better to consider this verse as Paul’s own language, and an explanation of the “word of faith” just spoken of. ‘The thing is near and easy, to wit, the word of faith which we preach, that if thou wilt confess,’ etc. The two requisites for salvation mentioned in this verse are confession and faith. They are mentioned in their natural order; as confession is the fruit and external evidence of faith. So in 2Pe_1:10, calling is placed before election, because the former is the evidence of the latter. The thing to be confessed is that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is, we must openly recognize his authority to the full extent in which he is Lord; acknowledge that he is exalted above all principality and powers, that angels are made subject to him, that all power in heaven and earth is committed unto him, and of course that he is our Lord. This confession, therefore, includes in it an acknowledgment of Christ’s universal sovereignty, and a sincere recognition of his authority over us. To confess Christ as Lord, is to acknowledge him as the Messiah, recognized as such of God, and invested with all the power and prerogatives of the Mediatorial throne. This acknowledgment is consequently often put for a recognition of Christ in all his offices. 1Co_12:3, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” Phi_2:11, “Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”’To preach the Lord Jesus,’ or ‘that Jesus is the Lord,’ Act_11:20, is to preach him as the Savior in all his fullness. Rom_14:9, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” The necessity of a public confession of Christ unto salvation is frequently asserted in the Scriptures. Mat_10:32, “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” Luk_12:8; 1Jo_4:15, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”
The second requisite is faith. The truth to be believed is that God hath raised Christ from the dead. That is, we must believe that by the resurrection of Christ, God has publicly acknowledged him to be all that he claimed to be, and has publicly accepted of all that he came to perform. He has recognized him as his Son and the Savior of the world, and has accepted of his blood as a sacrifice for sin. See Rom_4:25; Rom_1:4; Act_13:32, Act_13:33; 1Pe_1:3-5; 1Co_15:14, et seq.; Act_17:31, “Whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” To believe, therefore, that God has raised Christ from the dead, involves the belief that Christ is all that he claimed to be, and that he has accomplished all that he came to perform. In thy heart. Faith is very far from being a merely speculative exercise. When moral or religious truth is its object, it is always attended by the exercise of the affections. The word heart, however, is not to be taken in its limited sense, for the seat of the affections. It means the whole soul, or inner man. Confession is an outward act, faith is an act of the mind in the wide sense of that word. It includes the understanding and the affections. Saving faith is not mere intellectual assent, but a cordial receiving and resting on Christ alone for salvation.
That if thou shalt confess – The word here rendered “confess” ὁμολογέω homologeō is often rendered “profess”; Mat_7:23, “Then will I profess to them, I never knew you;” Tit_1:16; Tit_3:14; Rom_1:22; 1Ti_2:10; 1Ti_6:12-13, 1Ti_6:21; Heb_3:1, etc. It properly means to “speak what agrees with something which others speak or maintain.” Thus, confession or profession expresses our “agreement or concord with what God holds to be true, and what he declares to be true.” It denotes a public declaration or assent to that, here expressed by the words “with thy mouth.” A profession of religion then denotes a public declaration of our agreement with what God has declared, and extends to all his declarations about our lost estate, our sin, and need of a Saviour; to his doctrines about his own nature, holiness, and law; about the Saviour and the Holy Spirit; about the necessity of a change of heart and holiness of life; and about the grave and the judgment; about heaven and hell. As the doctrine respecting a Redeemer is the main and leading doctrine, it is put here by way of eminence, as in fact involving all others; and publicly to express our assent to this, is to declare our agreement with God on all kindred truths.
With thy mouth – To profess a thing with the mouth is to speak of it; to declare it; to do it openly and publicly.
The Lord Jesus – Shalt openly acknowledge attachment to Jesus Christ. The meaning of it may be expressed by regarding the phrase “the Lord” as the predicate; or the thing to be confessed is, that he is Lord; compare Act_2:36; Phi_2:11, “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Here it means to acknowledge him as Lord, that is, as having a right to rule over the soul.
Shalt believe in thy heart – Shalt sincerely and truly believe this, so that the external profession shall correspond with the real, internal feelings. Where this is not the case, it would be hypocrisy; where this is the case, there would be the highest sincerity, and this religion requires.
That God hath raised him – This fact, or article of Christian belief, is mentioned here because of its great importance, and its bearing on the Christian system. If this be true, then all is true. Then it is true that he came forth from God; that he died for sin; and that God approved and accepted his work. Then it is true that he ascended to heaven, and is exalted to dominion over the universe, and that he will return to judge the quick and the dead. For all this was professed and taught; and all this was regarded as depending on the truth of his having been raised from the dead; see Phi_2:8-11; Eph_1:21; Act_2:24, Act_2:32-33; Act_17:31; 2Co_4:14; 1Co_15:13-20. To profess this doctrine was, therefore, virtually to profess all the truths of the Christian religion. No man could believe this who did not also believe all the truths dependent on it. Hence, the apostles regarded this doctrine as so important, and made it so prominent in their preaching. See the note at Act_1:3.
Thou shalt be saved – From sin and hell. This is the doctrine of the gospel throughout; and all this shows that salvation by the gospel was easy.
10.For with the heart we believe unto righteousness, etc. This passage may help us to understand what justification by faith is; for it shows that righteousness then comes to us, when we embrace God’s goodness offered to us in the gospel. We are then for this reason just, because we believe that God is propitious to us in Christ. But let us observe this, — that the seat of faith is not in the head, ( in cerebro — in the brain,) but in the heart. Yet I would not contend about the part of the body in which faith is located: but as the word heart is often taken for a serious and sincere feeling, I would say that faith is a firm and effectual confidence, ( fiducia — trust, dependence,) and not a bare notion only.
With the mouth confession is made unto salvation It may seem strange, that he ascribes no part of our salvation to faith, as he had before so often testified, that we are saved by faith alone. But we ought not on this account to conclude that confession is the cause of our salvation. His design was only to show how God completes our salvation, even when he makes faith, which he implants in our hearts, to show itself by confession: nay, his simple object was, to mark out true faith, as that from which this fruit proceeds, lest any one should otherwise lay claim to the empty name of faith alone: for it ought so to kindle the heart with zeal for God’s glory, as to force out its own flame. And surely, he who is justified has already obtained salvation: hence he no less believes with the heart unto salvation, than with the mouth makes a confession. You see that he has made this distinction, — that he refers the cause of justification to faith, — and that he then shows what is necessary to complete salvation; for no one can believe with the heart without confessing with the mouth: it is indeed a necessary consequence, but not that which assigns salvation to confession.
But let them see what answer they can give to Paul, who at this day proudly boast of some sort of imaginary faith, which, being content with the secrecy of the heart, neglect the confession of the mouth, as a matter superfluous and vain; for it is extremely puerile to say, that there is fire, when there is neither flame nor heat.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. This is the reason why faith and confession are alone necessary unto salvation; because he who believes with the heart is justified, and he who openly confesses Christ shall be saved. That is, such is the doctrine of Scripture, as the apostle proves in the subsequent verse. Here, as in the passages referred to above, in which confession is connected with salvation, it is not a mere saying, Lord, Lord, but a cordial acknowledgment of him, before men, as our Lord and Redeemer. Unto righteousness, i.e., so that we may become righteous. The word righteousness has two senses, answering to the two aspects of sin, guilt and moral depravity. According to the former sense, it is that which satisfies justice; in the latter, it is conformity to the precepts of the law. A man, therefore, may be righteous and yet unholy. Were this not so, there could be no salvation for sinners. If God cannot justify, or pronounce righteous the ungodly, how could we be justified? Here, as generally, where the subject of justification is discussed in the Bible, righteousness has its forensic, as distinguished from its moral sense. And when Paul says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” he expresses the relation of faith, not to our sanctification, but to justification. Unto salvation is equivalent to saying ‘that we may be saved.’ The preposition rendered unto, expressing here the effect or result. Act_10:4; Heb_6:8. By faith we secure an interest in the righteousness of Christ, and by confessing him before men, we secure the performance of his promise that he will confess us before the angels of God.
For with the heart – Not with the understanding merely, but with such a faith as shall be sincere, and shall influence the life. There can be no other genuine faith than what influences the whole mind.
Believeth unto righteousness – Believes so that justification is obtained. (Stuart.) In God’s plan of justifying people, this is the way by which we may be declared just or righteous in his sight. The moment a sinner believes, therefore, he is justified; his sins are pardoned; and he is introduced into the favor of God. No man can be justified without this; for this is God’s plan, and he will not depart from it.
With the mouth confession is made … – That is, confession or profession is so made as to obtain salvation. He who in all appropriate ways professes his attachment to Christ shall be saved. This profession is to be made in all the proper ways of religious duty; by an avowal of our sentiments; by declaring on all proper occasions our belief of the truth; and by an unwavering adherence to them in all persecutions, oppositions, and trials. He who declares his belief makes a profession. He who associates with Christian people does it. He who acts with them in the prayer meeting, in the sanctuary, and in deeds of benevolence, does it. He who is baptized, and commemorates the death of the Lord Jesus, does it. And he who leads an humble, prayerful, spiritual life, does it. He shows his regard to the precepts and example of Christ Jesus; his regard for them more than for the pride, and pomp, and allurements of the world. All these are included in a profession of religion. In whatever way we can manifest attachment to it, it must be done. The reason why this is made so important is, that there can be no true attachment to Christ which will not manifest itself in the life. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. It is impossible that there should be true belief in the heart of man, unless it should show itself in the life and conversation. This is the only test of its existence and its power; and hence it is made so important in the business of religion. And we may here learn,
(1) That a profession of religion is, by Paul, made as really indispensable to salvation as believing. According to him it is connected with salvation as really as faith is with justification; and this accords with all the declarations of the Lord Jesus; Mat_10:32; Mat_25:34-46; Luk_12:8.
(2) there can be no religion where there is not a willingness to confess the Lord Jesus. There is no true repentance where we are not willing to confess our faults. There is no true attachment to a father or mother or friend, unless we are willing on all proper occasions to avow it. And so there can be no true religion where there is too much pride, or vanity, or love of the world, or fear of shame to confess it.
(3) those who never profess any religion have none: and they are not safe. To deny God the Saviour before people is not safe. They who do not profess religion, profess the opposite. The real feelings of the heart will be expressed in the life. And they who profess by their lives that they have no regard for God and Christ, for heaven and glory, must expect to be met in the last day, as those who deny the Lord that bought them, and who bring upon themselves quick destruction; 2Pe_1:2.
11.For the Scripture saith, etc. Having stated the reasons why God had justly repudiated the Jews, he returns to prove the calling of the Gentiles, which is the other part of the question which he is discussing. As then he had explained the way by which men obtain salvation, and one that is common and opened to the Gentiles no less than to the Jews, he now, having first hoisted an universal banner, extends it expressly to the Gentiles, and then invites the Gentiles by name to it: and he repeats the testimony which he had before adduced from Isaiah, that what he said might have more authority, and that it might also be evident, how well the prophecies concerning Christ harmonize with the law.
For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. This passage is cited in support of the doctrine just taught, that faith alone is necessary to salvation. There are clearly two points established by the quotation; the first is, the universal applicability of this method of salvation; whosoever, whether Jew or Gentile, believes, etc.; and the second is, that it is faith which is the means of securing the divine favor; whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed. The passage, therefore, is peculiarly adapted to the apostle’s object; which was not merely to exhibit the true nature of the plan of redemption, but mainly to show the propriety of its extension to the Gentiles. The passage quoted is Isa_28:16, referred to at the close of the preceding chapter. We must not only believe Christ, but believe upon him. The language of Paul is, πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐπ ̓ αὐτῷ, Πιστεύειν ἐπί τινι, to trust upon any one. That is, it expresses confiding reliance on its object. It is all important to know what the Bible teaches, both as to the object and nature of saving faith. That object is Christ, and saving faith is trust. He is so complete a Savior as to be able to save all who come unto God by him; and therefore whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
For the scripture saith — in Isa_28:16, a glorious Messianic passage.
Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed — Here, as in Rom_9:33, the quotation is from the Septuagint, which renders those words of the original, “shall not make haste” (that is, fly for escape, as from conscious danger), “shall not be put to shame,” which comes to the same thing.
12.For there is no distinction, etc. Since faith alone is required, wherever it is found, there the goodness of God manifests itself unto salvation: there is then in this case no difference between one people or nation and another. And he adds the strongest of reasons; for since he who is the Creator and Maker of the whole world is the God of all men, he will show himself kind to all who will acknowledge and call on him as their God: for as his mercy is infinite, it cannot be but that it will extend itself to all by whom it shall be sought.
Rich is to be taken here in an active sense, as meaning kind and bountiful. And we may observe, that the wealth of our Father is not diminished by his liberality; and that therefore it is not made less for us, with whatever multiplied affluence of his grace he may enrich others. There is then no reason why some should envy the blessings of others, as though anything were thereby lost by them.
But though this reason is sufficiently strong, he yet strengthens it by the testimony of the Prophet Joel; which, according to the general term that is used, includes all alike. But readers can see much better by the context, that what Joel declares harmonizes with the present subject; for he prophesies in that passage of the kingdom of Christ: and further, after having said, that the wrath of God would burn in a dreadful manner, in the midst of his ardor, he promises salvation to all who would call on the name of the Lord. It hence follows, that the grace of God penetrates into the abyss of death, if only it be sought there; so that it is not by any means to be withheld from the Gentiles.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, etc. This verse is evidently connected logically with the whosoever of Rom_10:12, ‘Whosoever believes shall be saved, for there is no difference between the Jew and Gentile.’ That is, there is no difference in their relation to the law or to God. They are alike sinners, and are to be judged by precisely the same principles, (see Rom_3:22); and consequently, if saved at all, are to be saved in precisely the same way. For the same Lord over all, is rich unto all who call upon him. This is the reason why there is no difference between the two classes. Their relation to God is the same. They are equally his creatures, and his mercy towards them is the same. It is doubtful whether this clause is to be understood of Christ or of God. If the latter, the general meaning is what has just been stated. If the former, then the design is to declare that the same Savior is ready and able to save all. In favor of this latter, which is perhaps the most common view of the passage, it may be urged that Christ is the person referred to in the preceding verse; and secondly, that he is so commonly called Lord in the New Testament. But, on the other hand, the Lord in the next verse refers to God; and secondly, we have the same sentiment, in the same general connection, in Rom_3:29, Rom_3:30, “Is he the God of the Jews only? etc. It is the same God which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.” The same Lord over all, in this connection, means ‘one and the same Lord is over all.’ All are equally under his dominion, and may, therefore, equally hope in his mercy. As good reasons may be assigned for both interpretations, commentators are nearly equally divided on the question whether the immediate reference be to Christ or to God. Doctrinally, it matters little which view be preferred. Faith in God is faith in Christ, for Christ is God. This is the great truth to be acknowledged. The condition of salvation, under the gospel, is the invocation of Christ as God. The analogy of Scripture, therefore, as well as the context, is in favor of the immediate reference of κύπιος to Christ. The words is rich, may be either a concise expression for is rich in mercy, or they may mean is abundant in resources. He is sufficiently rich to supply the wants of all; whosoever, therefore, believes in him shall be saved.
Unto all who call upon him, i.e., who invoke him, or worship him, agreeably to the frequent use of the phrase in the Old and New Testament, Gen_4:26; Gen_12:8; Isa_64:7; Act_2:21; Act_9:14, Act_22:16; 1Co_1:2; 2Ti_2:22. This religious invocation of God implied, of course, the exercise of faith in him; and, therefore, it amounts to the same thing whether it is said, ‘Whosoever believes,’ or, ‘Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ This being the case, the passage quoted from Joel, in the next verse, is equivalent to that cited from Isaiah, in Rom_10:11. The meaning, then, of this verse is, ‘That God has proposed the same terms of salvation to all men, Jews and Gentiles, because he is equally the God of both, and his mercy is free and sufficient for all.’
For there is no difference – In the previous verse Paul had quoted a passage from Isa_28:16, which says that “everyone” (Greek, πᾶς pas) that believeth shall not be ashamed; that is, everyone of every nation and kindred. This implies that it was not to be confined to the Jews. This thought he now further illustrates and confirms by expressly declaring that there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek. This doctrine it was one main design of the Epistle to establish, and it is fully proved in the course of the argument in Rom. 1–4. See particularly Rom_3:26-30. When the apostle says there is no difference between them, he means in regard to the subject under discussion. In many respects there might be a difference; but not in the way of justification before God. There all had sinned; all had failed of obeying the Law; and all must be justified in the same way, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “difference” διαστολὴ diastolē means “distinction, diversity.” It also means “eminence, excellence, advantage.” There is no eminence or advantage which the Jew has over the Greek in regard to justification before God.
The Jew – That portion of mankind which professed to yield obedience to the Law of Moses.
The Greek – Literally, those who dwelt in Greece, or those who spoke the Greek language. As the Jews, however, were acquainted chiefly with the Greeks, and knew little of other nations, the name Greek among them came to denote all who were not Jews; that is, the same as the Gentiles. The terms “Jew and Greek,” therefore, include all mankind. There is no difference among people about the terms of salvation; they are the same to all. This truth is frequently taught. It was a most important doctrine, especially in a scheme of religion that was to be preached to all people. It was very offensive to the Jews, who had always regarded themselves as a especially favored people. Against this, all their prejudices were roused, as it completely overthrew all their own views of national eminence and pride, and admitted despised Gentiles to the same privileges with the long favored and chosen people of God. The apostles, therefore, were at great pains fully to establish it; see Act_10:9; Gal_3:28.
For the same Lord over all … – For there is the same Lord of all; that is, the Jews and Gentiles have one common Lord; compare Rom_3:29-30. The same God had formed them, and ruled them; and God now opened the same path to life. See this fully presented in Paul’s address to the people of Athens, in Act_17:26-30; see also 1Ti_2:5. As there was but one God; as all, Jews and Gentiles, were his creatures; as one law was applicable to all; as all had sinned; and as all were exposed to wrath; so it was reasonable that there should be the same way of return – through the mere mercy of God. Against this the Jew ought not to object; and in this he and the Greek should rejoice.
Is rich unto all – πλουτῶν εἰς παντάς ploutōn eis pantas. The word “rich” means to have abundance, to have in store much more than is needful for present or personal use. It is commonly applied to wealth. But applied to God, it means that he abounds in mercy or goodness toward others. Thus, Eph_2:4, “God, who is rich in mercy,” etc.; 1Ti_6:17-18, “charge them that are rich in this world …that they be rich in good works.” Jam_2:5, “God hath chosen the poor …rich in faith;” that is, abounding in faith and good works, etc. Thus, God is said to be rich toward all, as he abounds in mercy and goodness toward them in the plan of salvation.
That call upon him – This expression means properly to supplicate, to invoke, as in prayer. As prayer constitutes no small part of religion; and as it is a distinguishing characteristic of those who are true Christians (Act_11:11, “Behold he prayeth;”) to call on the name of the Lord is put for religion itself, and is descriptive of acts of devotion toward God; 1Pe_1:17, “And if ye call on the Father, etc.;” Act_2:21; Act_9:14,” he hath authority …to bind all that call on thy name;” Act_7:59; Act_22:16; Gen_4:26, “Then began men to call on the name of the Lord.”
For whosoever shall call, etc. – Nor shall any one who hears this doctrine of salvation, and credits it as he is commanded, be permitted to pray or supplicate the throne of grace in vain: for the Prophet Joel hath declared, Joe_2:32 : Whosoever shall call upon, invoke, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinners, shall be saved – shall have his guilt pardoned, his heart purified; and if he abide in the faith, rooted and grounded in him, showing forth the virtues of him who was called him out of darkness into his marvellous light, he shall be saved with all the power of an eternal life.
“Believing in Christ, or God, Rom_10:11, and calling upon God, Rom_10:12-14, are in effect the same thing; as calling upon God necessarily connects and supposes faith in him: and he who duly believes in Christ has such a sense of his dependence upon Divine grace, that he looks unto God and trusts in his power and goodness alone for happiness: which is the true religion of the Gospel.” Dr. Taylor.
It is evident that St. Paul understood the text of Joel as relating to our blessed Lord; and therefore his word κυριος must answer to the prophet’s word יהוה Yehovah, which is no mean proof of the Godhead of Jesus Christ. If the text be translated, Whosoever shall invoke in the name of the Lord, which translation יקרא בשם יהוה yikra beshem Yehovah will certainly bear, yet still the term Yehovah, the incommunicable name, is given to Christ; because invoking in the name signifies soliciting one in the name or on the account of another. He who is invoked is God; he, in whose name he is invoked, is Jesus Christ, who is here called Yehovah. He who asks mercy from God, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, shall get his soul saved.
For whosoever shall call … – This sentiment is found substantially in Joe_2:32, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” This is expressly applied to the times of the gospel, by Peter, in Act_2:21; see the note on that place. To call on the name of the Lord is the same as to call on the Lord himself. The word “name” is often used in this manner. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, etc.;” Pro_18:10. “The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;” Psa_20:1. That is, God himself is a strong tower, etc. It is clear from what follows, that the apostle applies this to Jesus Christ; and this is one of the numerous instances in which the writers of the New Testament apply to him expressions which in the Old Testament are applicable to God; see 1Co_1:2.
Shall be saved – This is the uniform promise; see Act_2:21; Act_22:16, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” This is proper and indispensable because,
(1) We have sinned against God, and it is right that we should confess it.
(2) because he only can pardon us, and it is fit, that if we obtain pardon, we should ask it of God.
(3) to call upon him is to acknowledge him as our Sovereign, our Father, and our Friend; and it is right that we render him our homage.
It is implied in this, that we call upon him with right feelings; that is, with a humble sense of our sinfulness and our need of pardon, and with a willingness to receive eternal life as it is offered us in the gospel. And if this be done, this passage teaches us that all may be saved who will do it. He will cast none away who come in this manner. The invitation and the assurance extend to all nations and to people of all times.
I shall not engage the reader long in reciting and disproving the opinions of others. Let every one have his own view; and let me be allowed to bring forward what I think. That you may then understand the design of this gradation, bear in mind first, that there was a mutual connection between the calling of the Gentiles and the ministry of Paul, which he exercised among them; so that on the evidence for the one depended the evidence for the other. It was now necessary for Paul to prove, beyond a doubt, the calling of the Gentiles, and, at the same time, to give a reason for his own ministry, lest he should seem to extend the favor of God without authority, to withhold from the children the bread intended for them by God, and to bestow it on dogs. But these things he therefore clears up at the same time.
But how he connects the thread of his discourse, will not be fully understood, until every part be in order explained. The import of what he advances is the same as though he had said, “Both Jews and Gentiles, by calling on the name of God, do thereby declare that they believe on him; for a true calling on God’s name cannot be except a right knowledge of him were first had. Moreover, faith is produced by the word of God, but the word of God is nowhere preached, except through God’s special providence and appointment. Where then there is a calling on God, there is faith; and where faith is, the seed of the word has preceded; where there is preaching there is the calling of God. Now where his calling is thus efficacious and fruitful, there is there a clear and indubitable proof of the divine goodness. It will hence at last appear, that the Gentiles are not to be excluded from the kingdom of God, for God has admitted them into a participation of his salvation. For as the cause of faith among them is the preaching of the gospel, so the cause of preaching is the mission of God, by which it had pleased him in this manner to provide for their salvation.” We shall now consider each portion by itself.
14.How shall they call? etc. Paul intends here to connect prayer with faith, as they are indeed things most closely connected, for he who calls on God betakes himself, as it were, to the only true haven of salvation, and to a most secure refuge; he acts like the son, who commits himself into the bosom of the best and the most loving of fathers, that he may be protected by his care, cherished by his kindness and love, relieved by his bounty, and supported by his power. This is what no man can do who has not previously entertained in his mind such a persuasion of God’s paternal kindness towards him, that he dares to expect everything from him.
He then who calls on God necessarily feels assured that there is protection laid up for him; for Paul speaks here of that calling which is approved by God. Hypocrites also pray, but not unto salvation; for it is with no conviction of faith. It hence appears how completely ignorant are all the schoolmen, who doubtingly present themselves before God, being sustained by no confidence. Paul thought far otherwise; for he assumes this as an acknowledged axiom, that we cannot rightly pray unless we are surely persuaded of success. For he does not refer here to hesitating faith, but to that certainty which our minds entertain respecting his paternal kindness, when by the gospel he reconciles us to himself, and adopts us for his children. By this confidence only we have access to him, as we are also taught in Eph_3:12.
But, on the other hand, learn that true faith is only that which brings forth prayer to God; for it cannot be but that he who has tasted the goodness of God will ever by prayer seek the enjoyment of it.
How shall they believe on him? etc. The meaning is, that we are in a manner mute until God’s promise opens our mouth to pray, and this is the order which he points out by the Prophet, when he says, “I will say to them, my people are ye;” and they shall say to me, “Thou art our God.” (Zec_13:9.) It belongs not indeed to us to imagine a God according to what we may fancy; we ought to possess a right knowledge of him, such as is set forth in his word. And when any one forms an idea of God as good, according to his own understanding, it is not a sure nor a solid faith which he has, but an uncertain and evanescent imagination; it is therefore necessary to have the word, that we may have a right knowledge of God. No other word has he mentioned here but that which is preached, because it is the ordinary mode which the Lord has appointed for conveying his word. But were any on this account to contend that God cannot transfer to men the knowledge of himself, except by the instrumentality of preaching, we deny that to teach this was the Apostle’s intention; for he had only in view the ordinary dispensation of God, and did not intend to prescribe a law for the distribution of his grace.
How then shall they call on him – As the apostle had laid so much stress on believing in order to salvation, and as this doctrine, without farther explanation, might be misunderstood, it was necessary to show how this faith was produced; and therefore he lays the whole doctrine down in a beautifully graduated order.
1. There can be no salvation without the Gospel: a dispensation of mercy and grace from God alone, here called, Rom_10:15, the Gospel of peace; glad tidings of good things.
2. This must be preached, proclaimed in the world for the obedience of faith.
3. None can effectually preach this unless he have a Divine mission; for how shall they preach except they be Sent, Rom_10:15. The matter must come from God; and the person mho proclaims it must have both authority and unction from on high.
4. This Divinely-commissioned person must be heard: it is the duty of all, to whom this message of salvation is sent, to hear it with the deepest reverence and attention.
5. What is heard must be credited; for they who do not believe the Gospel as the record which God has given of his Son cannot be saved, Rom_10:14.
6. Those who believe must invoke God by Christ, which they cannot do unless they believe in him; and in this way alone they are to expect salvation. Professing to believe in Christ, without earnest, importunate prayer for salvation, can save no man. All these things the apostle lays down as essentially necessary; and they all follow from his grand proposition, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But, says the apostle, How shall they Call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they Believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they Hear without a preacher? And how shall they Preach except they be sent? And with what message which can bring salvation can they be sent, but with the Gospel of Peace, the Glad Tidings Of Good Things. When, therefore, there is:
1st, a proper Message;
2ndly, a proper Messenger;
3rdly, the message Preached, proclaimed, or properly delivered by him;
4thly, the proclamation properly Heard and attentively considered by the people;
5thly, the message which they have heard, conscientiously Believed;
6thly, the name of the Lord Jesus, by whom alone this salvation is provided, most fervently Invoked; then,
7thly, salvation, or redemption from sin and misery, and the enjoyment of peace and happiness, will be the result of such calling, believing, hearing, preaching, sending, and message sent: – and thus the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith is guarded from abuse.
How then shall they call. … – The apostle here adverts to an objection which might be urged to his argument. His doctrine was, that faith in Christ was essential to justification and salvation; and that this was needful for all; and that, without this, man must perish. The objection was, that they could not call on him in whom they had not believed; that they could not believe in him of whom they had not heard; and that this was arranged by God himself, so that a large part of the world was destitute of the gospel, and in fact did not believe; Rom_10:16-17. The objection had particular reference to the Jews; and the ground of injustice which a Jew would complain of, would be, that the plan made salvation dependent on faith, when a large part of the nation had not heard the gospel, and had had no opportunity to know it. This objection the apostle meets, so far as it was of importance to his argument, in Rom_10:18-21. The first part of the objection is, that they could “not call on him in whom they had not believed.” That is, how could they call on one in whose existence, ability, and willingness to help, they did not believe? The objection is, that in order to our calling on one for help, we must be satisfied that there is such a being, and that he is able to aid us. This remark is just, and every man feels it. But the point of the objection is, that “sufficient evidence of the divine mission and claims of Jesus Christ had not been given to authorize the doctrine that eternal salvation depended on belief in him, or that it would be right to suspend the eternal happiness of few and Gentile on this.”
How shall they believe in him … – This position is equally undeniable, that people could not believe in a being of whom they had not heard. And the implied objection was, that people could not be expected to believe in one of whose existence they knew nothing, and, of course, that they could not be blamed for not doing it. It was not right, therefore, to make eternal life depend, both among Jews and Gentiles, on faith in Christ.
And how shall they hear … – How can people hear, unless some one proclaim to them, or preach to them what is to be heard and believed? This is also true. The objection thence derived is, that it is not right to condemn people for not believing what has never been proclaimed to them; and, of course, that the doctrine that eternal life is suspended on faith cannot be just and right.
15.How shall they preach except they be sent? etc. He intimates that it is a proof and a pledge of divine love when any nation is favored with the preaching of the gospel; and that no one is a preacher of it, but he whom God has raised up in his special providence, and that hence there is no doubt but that he visits that nation to whom the gospel is proclaimed. But as Paul does not treat here of the lawful call of any one, it would be superfluous to speak at large on the subject. It is enough for us to bear this only in mind, that the gospel does not fall like rain from the clouds, but is brought by the hands of men wherever it is sent from above.
As it is written, How beautiful, etc. We are to apply this testimony to our present subject in this manner, The Lord, when he gave hope of deliverance to his people, commended the advent of those who brought the glad tidings of peace, by a remarkable eulogy; by this very circumstance he has made it evident that the apostolic ministry was to be held in no less esteem, by which the message of eternal life is brought to us. And it hence follows, that it is from God, since there is nothing in the world that is an object of desire and worthy of praise, which does not proceed from his hand.
But hence we also learn how much ought all good men to desire, and how much they ought to value the preaching of the gospel, which is thus commended to us by the mouth of the Lord himself. Nor is there indeed a doubt, but that God has thus highly spoken of the incomparable value of this treasure, for the purpose of awakening the minds of all, so that they may anxiously desire it. Takefeet, by metonymy, for coming.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and who shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? etc., etc. Paul considered it as involved in what he had already said, and especially in the predictions of the ancient prophets, that it was the will of God that all men should call upon him. This being the case, he argues to prove that it was his will that the gospel should be preached to all. As invocation implies faith, as faith implies knowledge, knowledge instruction, and instruction an instructor, so it is plain that if God would have all men to call upon him, he designed preachers to be sent to all, whose proclamation of mercy being heard, might be believed, and being believed, might lead men to call on him and be saved. This is agreeable to the prediction of Isaiah, who foretold that the advent of the preachers of the gospel should be hailed with great and universal joy. According to this, which is the common and most natural view of the passage, it is an argument founded on the principle, that if God wills the end, he wills also the means; if he would have the Gentiles saved, according to the predictions of his prophets, he would have the gospel preached to them. Calvin’s view of the object of the passage is the same, but his idea of the nature of the argument is very different. He supposes the apostle to reason thus. The Gentiles actually call upon God; but invocation implies faith, faith hearing, hearing preaching, and preaching a divine mission. If therefore, the Gentiles have actually received and obeyed the gospel, it is proof enough that God designed it to be sent to them. This interpretation is ingenious, and affords a good sense; but it is founded on an assumption which the Jew would be slow to admit, that the Gentile was an acceptable worshipper of God. If he admitted this, he admitted every thing and the argument becomes unnecessary.
According to De Wette, Meyer, and others, the design of the apostle is to show the necessity of divine messengers in order to ground thereon a reproof of disobedience to that message. The whole context, however, shows, that he is not here assigning the reasons for the rejection of the Jews, but vindicating the propriety of preaching to the Gentiles. God had predicted that the Gentiles should be saved; he had provided a method of salvation adapted to all men; he had declared that whosoever called upon the name of the Lord should be saved; from which it follows that it is his will that they should hear of him whom they were required to invoke.
As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. The word here rendered preach the gospel, is the same as that immediately afterwards translated, bring glad tidings. The word gospel, therefore, must be taken in its original meaning, good news, the good news of peace. The passage in Isa_52:7, which the apostle faithfully, as to the meaning, follows, has reference to the Messiah’s kingdom. It is one of those numerous prophetic declarations, which announce in general terms the coming deliverance of the Church, a deliverance which embraced, at the first stage of its accomplishment, the restoration from the Babylonish captivity. This, however, so far from being the blessing principally intended, derived all its value from being introductory to that more glorious deliverance to be effected by the Redeemer. How beautiful the feet, of course means, how delightful the approach Romans The bearing of this passage on the object of the apostle is sufficiently obvious. He had proved that the gospel should be preached to all men, and refers to the declaration of the ancient prophet, which spoke of the joy with which the advent of the messengers of mercy should be hailed.
And how shall they preach – In what way shall there be preachers, unless they are commissioned by God? The word “how” does not refer to the manner of preaching, but to the fact that there would be no preachers at all unless they were sent forth. To preach means to proclaim in a public manner, as a crier does. In the Scriptures it means to proclaim the gospel to people.
Except they be sent – That is, except they are divinely commissioned, and sent forth by God. This was an admitted doctrine among the Jews, that a proclamation of a divine message must be made by one who was commissioned by God for that purpose; Jer_23:21; Jer_1:7; Jer_14:14-15; Jer_7:25. He who sends a message to people can alone designate the proper persons to bear it. The point of the objection, therefore, was this: People could not believe unless the message was sent to them; yet God had not actually sent it to all people: it could not, therefore, be just to make eternal life depend on so impracticable a thing as faith, since people had not the means of believing.
As it is written – In Isa_52:7.
How beautiful … – The reason why this passage is introduced here is, that it confirms what had just been advanced in the objection – the “importance and necessity” of there being messengers of salvation. That importance is seen in the high encomium which is passed on them in the Sacred Scriptures. They are regarded as objects especially attractive; their necessity is fully recognised; and a distinguished rank is given to them in the oracles of God – How beautiful. How attractive, how lovely. This is taken from the Hebrew, with a slight variation. In the Hebrew, the words “upon the mountains” occur, which makes the passage more picturesque, though the sense is retained by Paul. The image in Isaiah is that of a herald seen at first leaping or running on a distant hill, when he first comes in sight, with tidings of joy from a field of battle, or from a distant land. Thus, the appearance of such a man to those who were in captivity, would be an image full of gladness and joy.
Are the feet – Many have supposed that the meaning of this expression is this: The feet of a herald, naked and dusty from traveling, would be naturally objects of disgust. But what would be naturally disagreeable is thus made pleasant by the joy of the message. But this explanation is far fetched, and wants parallel instances. Besides, it is a violation of the image which the apostle had used. That was a distant object – a herald running on the distant hills; and it supposes a picture too remote to observe distinctly the feet, whether attractive or not. The meaning of it is clearly this: “how beautiful is the coming or the running of such a herald.” The feet are emblematic of his coming. Their rapid motion would be seen; and their rapidity would be beautiful from the desire to hear the message which he brought. The whole meaning of the passage, then, as applied to ministers of the gospel, is, that their coming is an attractive object, regarded with deep interest, and productive of joy – an honored and a delightful employment.
That preach … – Literally, “that evangelize peace. That proclaim the good news of peace; or bring the glad message of peace.
And bring glad tidings … – Literally, “and evangelize good things;” or that bring the glad message of good things. Peace here is put for good of any kind; and as the apostle uses it, for the news of reconciliation with God by the gospel. Peace, at the end of the conflicts, distresses, and woes of war, is an image of all blessings. Thus, it is put to denote the blessings when a sinner ceases to be the enemy of God, obtains pardon, and is admitted to the joys of those who are his children and friends. The coming of those messengers who proclaim it is joyful to the world. It fills the bosom of the anxious sinner with peace; and they and their message will be regarded with deep interest, as sent by God, and producing joy in an agitated bosom, and peace to the world. This is an illustration of the proper feeling with which we should regard the ministers of religion. This passage in Isaiah is referred by the Jews themselves to the times of the gospel (Rosenmuller).
16.But all have not obeyed the gospel, etc. This belongs not to the argument, which Paul designed to follow in the gradation he lays down; nor does he refer to it in the conclusion which immediately follows. It was yet expedient for Paul to introduce the sentence here, in order to anticipate an objection, lest any one should build an argument on what he had said, — that the word in order always precedes faith, as the seed the corn, — and draw this inference, that faith everywhere follows the word: for Israel, who had never been without the word, might have made a boast of this kind. It was therefore necessary, that, in passing, he should give them this intimation, — that many are called, who are yet not chosen.
He also quotes a passage from Isa_53:1; where the Prophet, before he proceeds to announce a remarkable prediction respecting the death and the kingdom of Christ, speaks with astonishment of the few number of believers, who appeared to him in the Spirit to be so few, that he was constrained to exclaim, “O Lord, who has believed our report?” that is, the word which we preach. For though in Hebrew the term שמועה,shimuoe, means passively a word, yet the Greeks have rendered it, ἀκοὴν — hearing, and the Latins, auditum — hearing; incorrectly indeed, but with no ambiguity in the meaning.
We now see why this exception was by the way introduced; it was, that no one might suppose that faith necessarily follows where there is preaching. He however does afterwards point out the reason, by saying, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” by which he intimates that there is no benefit from the word, except when God shines in us by the light of his Spirit; and thus the inward calling, which alone is efficacious and peculiar to the elect, is distinguished from the outward voice of men. It is hence evident, how foolishly some maintain, that all are indiscriminately the elect, because the doctrine of salvation is universal, and because God invites all indiscriminately to himself. But the generality of the promises does not alone and by itself make salvation common to all: on the contrary, the peculiar revelation, mentioned by the Prophet, confines it to the elect.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel, for Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? This verse may be viewed as an objection to the apostle’s doctrine, confirmed by the quotation of a passage from Isaiah. ‘You say the gospel ought to be preached to all men, but if God had intended that it should be preached to them, they would obey it; which they have not done.’ This view of the passage would have some plausibility if Calvin’s representation of Paul’s argument were correct. Did the apostle reason from the fact that the Gentiles believed that it was God’s intention they should have the gospel preached to them, it would be very natural to object, that as only a few have obeyed, it was evidently not designed for them. But even on the supposition of the correctness of this view of the argument, this interpretation of Rom_10:16 is barely possible, for the quotation from Isaiah cannot be understood otherwise than as the language of the apostle, or as intended to confirm what he himself had said. There is no necessity for the assumption that this verse is the language of an objection. Paul had said that the preaching of the gospel to all men, whether Jews or Gentiles, was according to the will of God. This is true although (ἀλλά) all have not obeyed. This disobedience was foreseen and predicted, for Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? The complaint of the prophet was not confined to the men of his generation. It had reference mainly to the general rejection of the gospel, especially by the theocratical people. Christ came to his own and his own received him not. And this was predicted of old. Our report, or message. The word is ἀκοή, literally the faculty or act of hearing; then metonymically, what is heard, i.e. a message, preaching, or teaching. The message of the prophet concerning the servant of the Lord, and what he was to do and suffer for his people, as recorded in Isa_53:1-12, it was predicted would be believed by the great majority of those to whom it was addressed.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel – It is not easy to see the connection of this; and it has been made a question whether this is to be regarded as a continuation of the objection of the Jew, or as a part of the answer of the apostle. After all the attention which I have been able to give it, I am inclined to regard it as an admission of the apostle, as if he had said, “It must be admitted that all have not obeyed the gospel. So far as the objection of the Jew arises from that fact, and so far as that fact can bear on the case, it is to be conceded that all have not yielded obedience to the gospel. For this was clearly declared even by the prophet;” compare Act_28:24; Heb_4:2.
For Esaias saith – Isa_53:1.
Who hath believed our report? – That is, Isaiah complains that his declarations respecting the Messiah had been rejected by his countrymen. The form of expression, “Who hath believed?” is a mode of saying emphatically that few or none had done it. The great mass of his countrymen had rejected it. This was an example to the purpose of the apostle. In the time of Isaiah this fact existed; and it was not a new thing that it existed in the time of the gospel. “Our report.” Our message; or what is delivered to be heard and believed. It originally means the doctrine which Isaiah delivered about the Messiah; and implies that the same thing would occur when the Messiah should actually come. Hence, in the fifty-third chapter he proceeds to give the reasons why the report would not be credited. and why the Messiah would be rejected. It would be because he was a root out of a dry ground; because he was a man of sorrows. etc. And this actually took place. Because he did not come with splendor and pomp, as a temporal prince, he was rejected, and put to death. On substantially the same grounds he is even yet rejected by thousands. The force of this verse, perhaps, may be best seen by including it in a parenthesis, “How beautiful are the feet, etc.” how important is the gospel ministry – (although it must be admitted, that all have not obeyed, for this was predicted also by Isaiah, etc.)
17.Faith then is by hearing, etc. We see by this conclusion what Paul had in view by the gradation which he formed; it was to show, that wherever faith is, God has there already given an evidence of his election; and then, that he, by pouring his blessing on the ministration of the gospel, to illuminate the minds of men by faith, and thereby to lead them to call on his name, had thus testified, that the Gentiles were admitted by him into a participation of the eternal inheritance.
And this is a remarkable passage with regard to the efficacy of preaching; for he testifies, that by it faith is produced. He had indeed before declared, that of itself it is of no avail; but that when it pleases the Lord to work, it becomes the instrument of his power. And indeed the voice of man can by no means penetrate into the soul; and mortal man would be too much exalted, were he said to have the power to regenerate us; the light also of faith is something sublimer than what can be conveyed by man: but all these things are no hindrances, that God should not work effectually through the voice of man, so as to create faith in us through his ministry.
It must be further noticed, that faith is grounded on nothing else but the truth of God; for Paul does not teach us that faith springs from any other kind of doctrine, but he expressly restricts it to the word of God; and this restriction would have been improper if faith could rest on the decrees of men. Away then with all the devices of men when we speak of the certainty of faith. Hence also the Papal conceit respecting implicit faith falls to the ground, because it tears away faith from the word; and more detestable still is that blasphemy, that the truth of the word remains suspended until the authority of the Church establishes it.
So then faith (cometh) by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The passage in Isaiah speaks of an ἀκοή, a message, something addressed to the ear. The design of that message was that men should believe. They were required to receive and rest upon it as true. Without it there could be no ground of faith; nothing on which faith could rest. Therefore faith is from hearing. It is receiving the message as true. But this message is by the word or command of God. It is therefore a sure foundation of faith. And as all men are required to believe, the message should be sent to all, and the divine command on which it rests, must include an injunction to make the proclamation universal. Thus the two ideas presented in the context, viz., the necessity of knowledge to faith, and the purpose of God to extend that knowledge to the Gentiles, are both confirmed in this verse. The above is the common interpretation of this passage. It assumes that ῥῆμα Θεοῦ is to be taken in the sense of God, whereas it commonly means the word or message of God. If this sense be retained here, then ἀκοή must mean the act of hearing. ‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing supposes something to be heard, a ῥῆμα, or word of God.’ In Luk_5:5; Heb_11:3, (compare Heb_1:3), ῥῆμα Θεοῦ means God’s (or the Lord’s) command. There is no necessity, therefore, for giving ἀκοή a different sense here from that which it must have in the preceding verse.
So then faith cometh … – This I take to be clearly the language of the objector. As if he had said, by the very quotation which you have made from Isaiah, it appears that a report was necessary. He did not condemn people for not believing what they had not heard; but he complains of those who did not believe a message actually delivered to them. Even by this passage, therefore, it seems that a message was necessary, that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the divine message. It could not be right, therefore, to condemn those who had not obeyed the gospel because they had not heard it; and hence, not right to make salvation dependent on a condition which was, by the arrangement of God, put beyond their power. The very quotation from Isaiah, therefore, goes to confirm the objection in Rom_10:14;15.
By hearing – Our translation has varied the expression here, which is the same in two places in the Greek: “Isaiah said, Who hath believed our report τῇ ἀκοῇ tē akoē? So then, you must admit that faith comes by that report ἐξ ἀκοῆς ex akoēs, and therefore this report or message is necessary.” When it is said that faith cometh by hearing, it is not meant that all who hear actually believe, for that is not true; but that faith does not exist unless there is a message, or report, to be heard or believed. It cannot come otherwise than by such a message; in other words, unless there is something made known to be believed. And this shows us at once the importance of the message, and the fact that people are converted by the instrumentality of truth, and of truth only.
And hearing – And the report, or the message (η ̔ἀκοὴ hē akoē), is by the Word of God; that is, the message is sent by the command of God. It is his word, sent by his direction, and therefore if withheld by him, those who did not believe could not be blamed. The argument of the objector is, that God could not justly condemn people for not believing the gospel.
18.But I say, have they not heard? etc. Since the minds of men are imbued, by preaching, with the knowledge of God, which leads them to call on God, it remained a question whether the truth of God had been proclaimed to the Gentiles; for that Paul had suddenly betaken himself to the Gentiles, there was by that novelty no small offense given. He then asks, whether God had ever before directed his voice to the Gentiles, and performed the office of a teacher towards the whole world. But in order that he might show that the school, into which God collects scholars to himself from any part, is open in common to all, he brings forward a Prophet’s testimony from Psa_19:4; which yet seems to bear apparently but little on the subject: for the Prophet does not speak there of Apostles but of the material works of God; in which he says the glory of God shines forth so evidently, that they may be said to have a sort of tongue of their own to declare the perfections of God.
This passage of Paul gave occasion to the ancients to explain the whole Psalm allegorically, and posterity have followed them: so that, without doubt, the sun going forth as a bridegroom from his chamber, was Christ, and the heavens were the Apostles. They who had most piety, and showed a greater modesty in interpreting Scripture, thought that what was properly said of the celestial architecture, has been transferred by Paul to the Apostles by way of allusion. But as I find that the Lord’s servants have everywhere with great reverence explained Scripture, and have not turned them at pleasure in all directions, I cannot be persuaded, that Paul has in this manner misconstrued this passage. I then take his quotation according to the proper and genuine meaning of the Prophet; so that the argument will be something of this kind, — God has already from the beginning manifested his divinity to the Gentiles, though not by the preaching of men, yet by the testimony of his creatures; for though the gospel was then silent among them, yet the whole workmanship of heaven and earth did speak and make known its author by its preaching. It hence appears, that the Lord, even during the time in which he confined the favor of his covenant to Israel, did not yet so withdraw from the Gentiles the knowledge of himself, but that he ever kept alive some sparks of it among them. He indeed manifested himself then more particularly to his chosen people, so that the Jews might be justly compared to domestic hearers, whom he familiarly taught as it were by his own mouth; yet as he spoke to the Gentiles at a distance by the voice of the heavens, he showed by this prelude that he designed to make himself known at length to them also.
But I know not why the Greek interpreter rendered the word קום, kum, φθόγγον αὐτῶν, their sound; for it means a line, sometimes in building, and sometimes in writing. As it is certain that the same thing is mentioned twice in this passage, it seems to me probable, that the heavens are introduced as declaring by what is written as it were on them, as well as by voice, the power of God; for by the word going forth the Prophet reminds us, that the doctrine, of which the heavens are the preachers, is not included within the narrow limits of one land, but is proclaimed to the utmost regions of the world.
But I say, have they not heard? – But to return to the objection: You say they have not all Believed; I ask: Have they not all Heard? Have not the means of salvation been placed within the reach of every Jew in Palestine, and within the reach of all those who sojourn in the different Gentile countries where we have preached the Gospel, as well to the Jews as to the Gentiles themselves? Yes: for we may say of the preaching of the Gospel what the psalmist has said (Psa_19:4) of the heavenly bodies: Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. As the celestial luminaries have given testimony of the eternal power and Godhead of the Deity to the habitable world, the Gospel of Christ has borne testimony to his eternal goodness and mercy to all the land of Palestine, and to the whole Roman empire. There is not a part of the promised land in which these glad tidings have not been preached; and there is scarcely a place in the Roman empire in which the doctrine of Christ crucified has not been heard: if, therefore, the Jews have not believed, the fault is entirely their own; as God has amply furnished them with the means of faith and of salvation.
In Psa_19:4, the psalmist has קום kauuam, their line, which the Septuagint, and the apostle who quotes from them, render φθογγος, sound; and hence some have thought that the word in the Psalm was originally קולם kolam, voice. But that קו kau is used for word or speech is sufficiently evident from Isa_28:10, line upon line, precept upon precept, etc., where קו is analogous to word or direction. It is very remarkable that these words of David, quoted by St. Paul, are mentioned in Sohar. Genes. fol. 9, where it is said: עבדי משיחא אינון מלין Abdey mashicha innun millin. “These words are the servants of the Messiah, and measure out both the things above and the things beneath.” To this notion of them the apostle may refer in his use of them in this place, and to a Jew the application would be legitimate.
But I say, Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, etc. The concise and abrupt manner of and expression in this and the verses which precede and follow, renders the apostle’s meaning somewhat doubtful. This verse is frequently considered as referring to the Jews, and designed to show that their want of faith could not be excused on the ground of want of knowledge. The sense of the passage would then be, ‘As faith cometh by hearing, have not the Jews heard? Have they not had the opportunity of believing? Yes, indeed, for the Gospel has been proclaimed far and wide.’ So Koppe, Flatt, Tholuck, Meyer, Philippi, etc. But there are several objections to this view of the passage.
1. In the first place it is not in harmony with the context. Paul is not speaking now of the rejection of the Jews, or the grounds of it, but of the calling of the Gentiles.
2. If the 16th verse refers to the Gentiles, “They have not all obeyed the gospel,” and therefore this verse, “Have they not heard?” cannot, without any intimation of change, be naturally referred to a different subject.
3. In the following verse, where the Jews are really intended, they are distinctly mentioned, “Did not Israel know?”
Paul’s object in the whole context is to vindicate the propriety of extending the gospel call to all nations. This he had beautifully done in Rom_10:14, Rom_10:15, by showing that preaching was a necessary means of accomplishing the clearly revealed will of God, that men of all nations should participate in his grace. ‘True, indeed, as had been foretold, the merciful offers of the gospel were not universally accepted, Rom_10:16, but still faith cometh by hearing, and therefore the gospel should be widely preached, Rom_10:17. Well, has not this been done? has not the angel of mercy broke loose from his long confinement within the pale of the Jewish Church, and flown through the heavens with the proclamation of love?’ Rom_10:18. This verse, therefore, is to be considered as a strong declaration that what Paul had proved ought to be done, had in fact been accomplished. The middle wall of partition had been broken down, the gospel of salvation, the religion of God, was free from its trammels, the offers of mercy were as wide and general as the proclamation of the heavens. This idea the apostle beautifully and appositely expresses in the sublime language of Psa_19:1-14, “The heavens declare the glory of God, day unto day uttereth speech, there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard, their line is gone through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” The last verse contains the words used by the apostle. His object in using the words of the Psalmist was, no doubt, to convey more clearly and affectingly to the minds of his hearers the idea that the proclamation of the gospel was now as free from all national or ecclesiastical restrictions, as the instructions shed down upon all people by the heavens under which they dwell. Paul, of course, is not to be understood as quoting the Psalmist as though the ancient prophet was speaking of the gospel. He simply uses scriptural language to express his own ideas, as is done involuntarily almost by every preacher in every sermon. It is, however, nevertheless true, as Hengstenberg remarks in his Christology, that “The universal revelation of God in nature, was a providential prediction of the universal proclamation of the gospel. If the former was not fortuitous, but founded in the nature of God, so must the latter be. The manifestation of God in nature, is, for all his creatures to whom it is made, a pledge of their participation in the clearer and higher revelations.”
It will be perceived that the apostle says, “Their sound has gone, etc.,” where as in the 19th Psalm it is, “Their line is gone.” Paul follows the Septuagint, which, instead of giving the literal sense of the Hebrew word, gives correctly its figurative meaning. The word signifies a line, then a musical chord, and then, metonymically, sound.
But I say – But to this objection, I, the apostle, reply. The objection had been carried through the previous verses. The apostle comes now to reply to it. In doing this, he does not deny the principle contained in it, that the gospel should be preached in order that people might be justly condemned for not believing it; not that the messengers must be sent by God, not that faith comes by hearing. All this he fully admits. But he proceeds to show, by an ample quotation from the Old Testament, that this had been actually furnished to the Jews and to the Gentiles, and that they were actually in possession of the message, and could not plead that they had never heard it. This is the substance of his answer.
Have they not heard? – A question is often, as it is here, an emphatic way of affirming a thing. The apostle means to affirm strongly that they had heard. The word “they,” in this place, I take to refer to the Gentiles. What was the fact in regard to Israel, or the Jew, he shows in the next verses. One main design waste show that the same scheme of salvation extended to both Jews and Gentiles. The objection was, that it had not been made known to either, and that therefore it could not be maintained to be just to condemn those who rejected it. To this the apostle replies that then it was extensively known to both; and if so, then the objection in Rom_10:14-15, was not well founded, for in fact the thing existed which the objector maintained to be necessary, to wit, that they had heard, and that preachers had been sent to them.
Yes, verily – In the original, a single word, μενοῦνγε menounge, compounded of μέν men and οὖν oun and γέ ge. An intense expression, denoting strong affirmation.
Their sound went … – These words are taken in substance from Psa_19:4. The psalmist employs them to show that the works of God, the heavens and the earth, proclaim his existence everywhere. By using them here, the apostle does not affirm that David had reference to the gospel in them, but he uses them to express his own meaning; he makes an affirmation about the gospel in language used by David on another occasion, but without intimating or implying that David had such a reference. In this way we often quote the language of others as expressing in a happy way our own thoughts, but without supposing that the author had any such reference. The meaning here is, that that may be affirmed in fact of the gospel which David affirmed of the works of God, that their sound had gone into all the earth.
Their sound – Literally, the sound or tone which is made by a stringed instrument (φθόγγος phthongos). Also a voice, a report. It means here they have spoken, or declared truth. As applied to the heavens, it would mean that they speak, or proclaim, the wisdom or power of God. As used by Paul, it means that the message of the gospel had been spoken, or proclaimed, far and wide. The Hebrew, is “their line, etc.” The Septuagint translation is the same as that of the apostle – their voice ὁ φθόγγος αὐτῶν ho phthoggos autōn. The Hebrew word may denote the string of an instrument, of a harp, etc. and then the tone or sound produced by it; and thus was understood by the Septuagint. The apostle, however, does not affirm that this was the meaning of the Hebrew; but he conveyed his doctrine in language which aptly expressed it.
Into all the earth – In the psalm, this is to be taken in its utmost signification. The works of God literally proclaim his wisdom to all lands and to all people. As applied to the gospel, it means that it was spread far and wide, that it had been extensively preached in all lands.
Their words – In the psalm, the heavens are represented as speaking, and teaching people the knowledge of the true God. But the meaning of the apostle is, that the message of the gospel had sounded forth; and he referred doubtless to the labors of the apostles in proclaiming it to the pagan nations. This Epistle was written about the year 57. During the time which had elapsed after the ascension of Christ, the gospel had been preached extensively in all the known nations; so that it might be said that it was proclaimed in those regions designated in the Scripture as the uttermost parts of the earth. Thus, it had been proclaimed in Jerusalem, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, Arabia, and in the islands of the Mediterranean. Paul, reasoning before Agrippa, says, that he could not be ignorant of those things, for they had not been done in a corner; Act_26:26. In Col_1:23, Paul says that the gospel had been preached to every creature which is under heaven; see Col_1:6. Thus, the great facts and doctrines of the gospel had in fact been made known; and the objection of the Jew was met. It would be sufficiently met by the declaration of the psalmist that the true God was made known by his works, and that therefore they were without excuse (compare Rom_1:20); but in fact the gospel had been preached, and its great doctrine and duties had been proclaimed to all nations far and near.
28.With regard indeed to the gospel, etc. He shows that the worst thing in the Jews ought not to subject them to the contempt of the Gentiles. Their chief crime was unbelief: but Paul teaches us, that they were thus blinded for a time by God’s providence, that a way to the gospel might be made for the Gentiles; and that still they were not for ever excluded from the favor of God. He then admits, that they were for the present alienated from God on account of the gospel, that thus the salvation, which at first was deposited with them, might come to the Gentiles; and yet that God was not unmindful of the covenant which he had made with their fathers, and by which he testified that according to his eternal purpose he loved that nation: and this he confirms by this remarkable declaration, — that the grace of the divine calling cannot be made void; for this is the import of the words, —
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. In this and the few following verses, the apostle sums up what he had previously taught. The Jews, he says, were now, as far as the gospel was concerned, regarded and treated as enemies, for the benefit of the Gentiles; but, in reference to the election, they were still regarded as the peculiar people of God, on account of their connection with the patriarch. They are enemies, whether of the gospel, of the apostle, or of God, is not expressed, and therefore depends on the context. Each view of the clause has its advocates. The last is the correct one, because they are enemies to him, by whom, on one account, they are beloved. The word ἐχθροί; may be taken actively or passively; see Rom_5:10. They are inimical to God, or they are regarded and treated as enemies by him. The latter best suits the context. They are now aliens from their own covenant of promise.
As concerning the gospel, κατὰ τὸ ἐυαγγέλιον, that is, the gospel is the occasion of their being regarded as enemies. This is explained by a reference to Rom_11:11, Rom_11:15. By their punishment the progress of the gospel has been facilitated among the Gentiles; and therefore the apostle says, it is for your sakes they are thus treated. On the other hand, κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἐκλογήν, as it regards the election, or the covenant of God, they are still regarded with peculiar favor, because descended from those patriarchs to whom and to whose seed the promises were made. This is but expressing in a different form the idea which the apostle had previously presented, viz., that the covenant made with Abraham was inconsistent with the final rejection of the Jews, as a people. God foresaw and predicted their temporary defection and rejection from his kingdom, but never contemplated their being for ever excluded; see Rom_11:16, Rom_11:25-27.
As concerning the gospel – So far as the gospel is concerned; or, in order to promote its extension and spread through the earth.
They are enemies – The word “enemies” here stands opposed to “beloved;” and as in one respect, to wit, on account of “election,” they were still beloved, that is, beloved by God, so in another respect they were his enemies, i. e., opposed to him, or cast off from him. The enemies of God denote all who are not his true friends; Col_1:21; Rom_5:10; compare Rom_11:8. The word here is applied to the Jews because they had rejected the Messiah; had become opposed to God; and were therefore rejected by him.
For your sakes – For your advantage. Their rejection has become the occasion by which the gospel has been preached to you; compare Rom_11:11, Rom_11:19-20.
As touching the election – So far as the purpose of election is concerned. That is, the election of their fathers and of the nation to be the special people of God.
They are beloved – God still regards them with interest; has purposes of mercy toward them; intends still to do them good. This does not, mean that he approved of their conduct or character, or that he had for them the same kind of affection which he would have had if they had been obedient. God does not love a sinful character; but he may have still purposes of mercy, and regard people with deep interest on whom he intends yet to bestow mercy.
For the fathers’ sakes – Compare Deu_10:15. He had chosen their fathers to be His special people. He had made many promises to Abraham respecting his seed, and extended these premises to his remotest posterity. Though salvation is by grace, and not from human merit, yet God has respect to his covenant made with the fathers, and will not forget his promises. It is not on account of any merit of the fathers or of ancient saints, but solely because God had made a covenant with them; and this purpose of election would be manifest to their children in the latest times. As those contemplated in the covenant made with Abraham, God retained for them feelings of special interest; and designed their recovery to himself. It is clear here that the word “election” does not refer to external privileges; for Paul is not teaching the doctrine that they shall be restored to the external privileges of Jews, but that they shall be truly converted to God. Yet this should not be abused by others to lead them to security in sin. No man has any security of happiness, and of the favor of God, but he who complies with the terms of his mercy. His commands are explicit to repent and believe, nor can there be safety except in entire compliance with the terms on which he is willing to bestow eternal life.
29.The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He has mentioned gifts and calling; which are to be understood, according to a figure in grammar, as meaning the gift of calling: and this is not to be taken for any sort of calling but of that, by which God had adopted the posterity of Abraham into covenant; since this is especially the subject here, as he has previously, by the word, election, designated the secret purpose of God, by which he had formerly made a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. For we must bear this in mind, — that he speaks not now of the election of individuals, but of the common adoption of the whole nation, which might seem for a time, according to the outward appearance, to have failed, but had not been cut up by the roots. As the Jews had fallen from their privilege and the salvation promised them, that some hope might remain to the remnant, Paul maintains that the purpose of God stands firm and immovable, by which he had once deigned to choose them for himself as a peculiar nation. Since then it cannot possibly be, that the Lord will depart from that covenant which he made with Abraham, “I will be the God of thy seed,” (Gen_17:7,) it is evident that he has not wholly turned away his kindness from the Jewish nation.’
He does not oppose the gospel to election, as though they were contrary the one to the other, for whom God has chosen he calls; but inasmuch as the gospel had been proclaimed to the Gentiles beyond the expectation of the world, he justly compares this favor with the ancient election of the Jews, which had been manifested so many ages before: and so election derives its name from antiquity; for God had in past ages of the world chosen one people for himself.
On account of the Fathers, he says not, because they gave any cause for love, but because God’s favor had descended from them to their posterity, according to the tenor of the covenant, “Thy God and the God of thy seed.” How the Gentiles had obtained mercy through the unbelief of the Jews, has been before stated, namely, that God, being angry with the Jews for their unbelief, turned his kindness to them. What immediately follows, that they became unbelievers through the mercy manifested to the Gentiles, seems rather strange; and yet there is in it nothing unreasonable; for Paul assigns not the cause of blindness, but only declares, that what God transferred to the Gentiles had been taken away from the Jews. But lest what they had lost through unbelief, should be thought by the Gentiles to have been gained by them through the merit of faith, mention is made only of mercy. What is substantially said then is, — that as God purposed to show mercy to the Gentiles, the Jews were on this account deprived of the light of faith.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; τὰ χαρίσματα καὶ ἡ κλῆσις, the gifts of God in general, and specially the calling of God. Compare Mar_16:7. God is not a man, that he should change. Having chosen the Jews as his people, the purpose which he had in view in that choice can never be altered; and as it was his purpose that they should ever remain his people, their future restoration to his favor and kingdom is certain. Having previously explained the nature of God’s covenant with his ancient people, Paul infers from the divine character, that it will be fully accomplished. Calling is equivalent to election, as appears from the context, the one word being substituted for the other, and also from the use of the cognate terms, (see Rom_8:28, Rom_1:7, etc., etc.) The general proposition of the apostle, therefore, is, that the purposes of God are unchangeable; and, consequently, those whom God has chosen for any special benefit cannot fail to attain it. The persons whom he hath chosen to eternal life shall certainly be saved; and the people whom he chooses to be his peculiar people, as the Jews were chosen in Abraham, must for ever remain his people. The purpose once formed, and the promise once given, never can be changed. As in the whole context Paul is speaking, not of individuals, but of the rejection and restoration of the Jews as a body, it is evident that the calling and election which he here has in view, are such as pertain to the Jews as a nation, and not such as contemplate the salvation of individuals.
For the gifts – The favors or benefits which God bestows on men. The word χάρισμα charisma properly denotes any benefit which is conferred on another as a mere matter of favor, and not of reward; see Rom_5:15-16; Rom_6:23. Such are all the favors which God bestows on sinners including pardon, peace, joy, sanctification, and eternal life.
And calling of God – The word “calling” κλῆσις klēsis here denotes that act of God by which he extends an invitation to people to come and partake of his favors, whether it be by a personal revelation as to the patriarchs, or by the promises of the gospel, or by the influences of his Spirit. All such invitations or callings imply a pledge that he will bestow the favor, and will not repent, or turn from it. God never draws or invites sinners to himself without being willing to bestow pardon and eternal life. The word “calling” here, therefore, has not respect to external privileges, but to that choosing of a sinner, and influencing him to come to God, which is connected with eternal life.
Without repentance – This does not refer to man, but to God. It does not mean that God confers his favors on man without his exercising repentance, but that God does not repent, or change, in his purposes of bestowing his gifts on man. What he promises he will fulfil; what he purposes to do, he will not change from or repent of. As he made promises to the fathers, he will not repent of them, and will not depart from them; they shall all be fulfilled; and thus it was certain that the ancient people of God, though many of them had become rebellious, and had been cast off, should not be forgotten and abandoned. This is a general proposition respecting God, and one repeatedly made of him in the Scriptures; see Num_23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he not said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Eze_24:14; 1Sa_15:29; Psa_89:35-36; Tit_1:2; Heb_6:18; Jam_1:17. It follows from this,
(1) That all the promises made to the people of God shall be fulfilled.
(2) that his people need not be discouraged or desponding, in times of persecution and trial.
(3) that none who become his true friends will be forsaken, or cast off. God does not bestow the gift of repentance and faith, of pardon and peace, on people, for a temporary purpose; nor does he capriciously withdraw them, and leave the soul to ruin. When he renews a soul, it is with reference to his own glory; and to withdraw those favors, and leave such a soul once renewed to go down to hell, would be as much a violation of all the principles of his nature as it would be to all the promises of the Scripture.
(4) for God to forsake such a soul, and leave it to ruin, would imply that he did repent. It would suppose a change of purpose and of feeling. It would be the character of a capricious being, with no settled plan or principles of action; no confidence could be reposed in him, and his government would be unworthy the affections and trust of his intelligent creation.
Romans 11:30 Vers. 30, 31. For as ye in times past believed not God (so, except that the aorist hpeiyhsate is translated “have not believed,” in the Authorized Version: but with an alternative in the margin of “obeyed” for “believed.” The substantive apeiyeia , which follows twice, should be translated “disobedience” rather than “unbelief,” if hpeiyhsate is translated “disobeyed.” Properly and usually apeiyeia conveys a different idea from apistia , denoting “disobedience” or “contumacy,” and not merely want of faith. But it appears to be sometimes used in the sense of apistia . For instance, in Joh_3:36, o apeiywn tw uiw is opposed to tw pisteuonti eiv ton . Most modem commentators, with reason, understand “disobedience” here. The difference does not affect the drift of the argument), but now have obtained mercy through their unbelief (or, disobedience): even so have these also now not believed (or, obeyed), that through your mercy (i.e. the mercy shown to you) they also may obtain mercy. The position of ina after tw umeterw eleei has led commentators, ancient and modem, to connect tw umeterw eleei with the preceding hpeiyhsan , and to try to hit upon a meaning in this connection. But the sense of the passage, as well as the parallalism of the preceding clause, favours the connection of the Authorized Version, as given above. (For a similar position of ina , cf. 2Co_12:7)
Romans 11:30 – 31
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so, etc. These verses contain a repetition and confirmation of the previous sentiment. The cases of the Gentiles and Jews are very nearly parallel. Formerly the Gentiles were disbelieving, yet the unbelief of the Jews became the occasion of their obtaining mercy; so now, though the Jews are disobedient, the mercy shown to the Gentiles is to be the means of their obtaining mercy. As the gospel came from the Jews to the Gentiles, so it is to return from the Gentiles to the Jews. Paul had before stated how the unbelief of the Israelites was instrumental in promoting the salvation of other nations, and how the conversion of the Gentiles was to react upon the Jews.
It is in confirmation of what had just been said, that the apostle introduces what follows by ga&r, for. For as ye in time past have not believed. Ye, of course referring to the Gentiles. In times past, i.e. before the coming of Christ. Have not believed God, ησπειθήσατε τῷ Θεῷ, disobeyed God. According to the Scriptures, however, faith is an act of obedience, and unbelief is disobedience. Hence the to obey often means to believe or confide in. That is, the same act may be expressed by either word. Thus in Heb_5:9, Christ is said to be the author of salvation to all those who obey Him. In the New Testament ἀπειθεῖν and ἀπείθεια are always used to express disobedience to the truth; that is, the act of rejecting the truth. It is not, therefore, moral disobedience in general that is here referred to, but unbelief.
Have obtained mercy through their unbelief, τῇ τούτων ἀπειθείᾳ. The dative has here a causal force. The unbelief of the Jews was, as an historical fact, the occasion of the gospel’s being extended to the Gentiles. So have these also not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy, οὕτω καὶ οὗτοι, νῦν ησπείθησαν τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθῶσι. The translation given of this clause in the English version, supposes that ἵνα is out of its proper place, and should stand before τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει, that through your mercy they may obtain mercy. In the Greek these words are connected with ἡπείθησαν; and accordingly in the Vulgate they are rendered, “ita et isti nunc non crediderunt in vestram misericordiam.” And Luther translates, “And these now have not chosen to believe the mercy which you have accepted or experienced.” Calvin: “Si nunc increduli facti sunt, eo quod adepti estis misericordiam,” (because ye have obtained mercy.) Lachmann, in his edition of the Greek Testament, adopts the same construction, putting a comma after ἐλέει. The parallelism of the verse, and the obvious antithesis between ἐλέει and ἀπειθείᾳ, (your mercy and their unbelief,) demand the other mode of explanation. This trajection of the particle ἵνα is not unusual. For the sake of emphasis, some clause or word is placed before, when its logical position would be after the particle. See 2Co_2:4, τὴν ἀγάπην ἵνα γνῶτε.
For as ye – You who were Gentiles.
In times past – Before the gospel was preached. This refers to the former idolatrous and sinful state of the pagan world; compare Eph_2:2; Act_14:16.
Have not believed God – Or have not obeyed God. This was the character of all the pagan nations.
Yet have now obtained mercy – Have been pardoned and admitted to the favor of God.
Through their unbelief – By means of the unbelief and rejection of the Jews; see the note at Rom_11:11.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Even so have these — the Jews.
now not believed — or, “now been disobedient”
that through your mercy — the mercy shown to you.
they also may obtain mercy — Here is an entirely new idea. The apostle has hitherto dwelt upon the unbelief of the Jews as making way for the faith of the Gentiles – the exclusion of the one occasioning the reception of the other; a truth yielding to generous, believing Gentiles but mingled satisfaction. Now, opening a more cheering prospect, he speaks of the mercy shown to the Gentiles as a means of Israel’s recovery; which seems to mean that it will be by the instrumentality of believing Gentiles that Israel as a nation is at length to “look on Him whom they have pierced and mourn for Him,” and so to “obtain mercy.” (See 2Co_3:15, 2Co_3:16).
Even so have these … – That is, the Jews.
That through your mercy … – The immediate effect of the unbelief of the Jews was to confer salvation on the Gentiles, or to open the way for the preaching of the gospel to them. But its remote effect would be to secure the preaching of the gospel again to the Jews. Through the mercy, that is, the compassion or deep feeling of the converted Gentiles; through the deep and tender pity which they would feel for the blinded and degraded Jews: the gospel should be again carried to them, and they should be recalled to the long lost favor of God. Each party should thus cause salvation to come to the other – the Jews to the Gentiles by their unbelief; but the Gentiles, in their turn, to the Jews by their belief. We may here learn,
(1) That the Jews are to be converted by the instrumentality of the Gentiles. It is not to be by miracle, but by the regular and common way in which God blesses people.
(2) that this is to be done by the mercy, or compassion of the Gentiles; by their taking pity on the lost and wretched condition of the Jewish people.
(3) it is to be when the abundance of the Gentiles – that is, when great numbers of the Gentiles – shall be called in.
It may be asked here whether the time is not approaching for the Gentiles to make efforts to bring the Jews to the knowledge of the Messiah. Hitherto those efforts have been unsuccessful; but it will not always be so; the time is coming when the promises of God in regard to them shall be fulfilled. Christians shall be moved with deep compassion for the degraded and forsaken Jews, and they shall be called into the kingdom of God, and made efficient agents in extending the gospel through the whole world. May the time soon come when they shall feel as they should, for the rejected and forsaken children of Abraham, and when their labors for their conversion shall be attended with success.
32.For God has shut up, etc. A remarkable conclusion, by which he shows that there is no reason why they who have a hope of salvation should despair of others; for whatever they may now be, they have been like all the rest. If they have emerged from unbelief through God’s mercy alone, they ought to leave place for it as to others also. For he makes the Jews equal in guilt with the Gentiles, that both might understand that the avenue to salvation is no less open to others than to them. For it is the mercy of God alone which saves; and this offers itself to both. This sentence then corresponds with the testimony of Hosea, which he had before quoted, “I will call those my people who were not my people.” But he does not mean, that God so blinds all men that their unbelief is to be imputed to him; but that he hath so arranged by his providence, that all should be guilty of unbelief, in order that he might have them subject to his judgment, and for this end, — that all merits being buried, salvation might proceed from his goodness alone.
Paul then intends here to teach two things — that there is nothing in any man why he should be preferred to others, apart from the mere favor of God; and that God in the dispensation of his grace, is under no restraint that he should not grant it to whom he pleases. There is an emphasis in the word mercy; for it intimates that God is bound to none, and that he therefore saves all freely, for they are all equally lost. But extremely gross is their folly who hence conclude that all shall be saved; for Paul simply means that both Jews and Gentiles do not otherwise obtain salvation than through the mercy of God, and thus he leaves to none any reason for complaint. It is indeed true that this mercy is without any difference offered to all, but every one must seek it by faith.
For God hath concluded all in unbelief; συγκλείω εἰς, in a literal or local sense, means, to shut up together in a place; and metaphorically, to deliver over to the power of. Here the idea is, that God, in the dispensation of his providence and grace, has so ordered things, that all Gentiles and Jews, first the one, and then the other, should reveal their true character as sinners, and stand out in history confessed as unbelieves. For examples of a similar form of expression, see Psa_31:8, “Thou hast shut me up (συνέκλεισας) into the hands of the enemy;” Psa_78:50, “He gave their life over (συνέκλεισεν) to the pestilence.” Compare Gal_3:22. In none of these cases is the word used simply declaratively, “God declared them to be unbelieves.” Nor is mere permission all that is expressed. God’s efficiency or control is directly asserted. God gave the Psalmist into the hands of his enemy, and he gave up first the Gentiles and then the Jews, unto unbelief. The agency of God in giving men up to sin is punitive; it is consistent with their liberty and responsibility, and with his own holiness. He does not cause their sin, but he so orders his dispensations, that their sinfulness is revealed, and the mode of its manifestations determined. It seems also to enter into the design of the apostle to show that God had dealt alike with Gentile and Jew. They stood on the same ground. Both were dependent on sovereign mercy. Both had sunk into a state from which the grace of God alone could save them. As all were equally miserable and helpless, God determined to have mercy upon all, and to bring all, Jews as well as Gentiles, into the fold of Christ.
For God hath concluded … – The word translated here “concluded” sunekleise, is rendered in the margin “shut them all up together.” It is properly used in reference to those who are shut up in prison, or to those in a city who are shut up by a besieging army; 1 Macc. 5:5; 6:18; 11:65; 15:25; Jos_6:6; Isa_45:1. It is used in the New Testament of fish taken in a net; Luk_5:6, “They enclosed a great multitude of fishes;” Gal_3:22, “But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, etc.” In this place the Scripture is declared to have shut them up under sin, that is, declared them to be sinners; gave no hope of rescue by any works of their own; and thus kept them Rom_11:23 “shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealed.” All are represented, therefore, as in prison, enclosed or confined by God, and to be liberated only in his own way and time. In regard to the agency of God in this, we may remark:
(1) That the word does not mean that God compelled them to disbelieve the gospel. When, in Gal_3:22, the Scripture is said to have included all under sin, it is not meant that the Scripture compelled them not to believe.
(2) the word does not imply that the sin and unbelief for which they were shut up were not voluntary. Even when a man is committed to prison, the crime which brought him there is voluntary, and for it he is responsible.
(3) the keeper of a prison does no wrong in confining a criminal; or the judge in condemning him; or the executioner in fulfilling the sentence of the Law. So of God. What he does is not to compel people to remain under unbelief, but to declare that they are so; so to encompass them with the proof of it that they shall realize that there is no escape from the evidence of it, and thus to press on them the evidence of their need of a Saviour. This he does in relation to all sinners who ever become converted.
(4) yet God permitted this; suffered Jews and Gentiles to fall into unbelief, and to be concluded under it, because he had a special purpose to answer in leaving man to the power of sin and unbelief. One of those purposes was, doubtless, to manifest the power of his grace and mercy in the plan of redemption.
(5) in all this, and in all other sin man is voluntary. He chooses his course of evil; and God is under no obligation to compel him to do otherwise. Being under unbelief, God declares the fact, and avails himself of it, in the plan of salvation by grace.
Them all – Both Jews and Gentiles.
In unbelief – εἰς eis. “Unto unbelief.” He has delivered them over unto unbelief, as a man is delivered over into prison. This is the literal meaning of the expression.
That he might have mercy upon all – Mercy is favor shown to the undeserving. It could not have been shown to the Jews and the Gentiles unless it was before proved that they were guilty. For this purpose proof was furnished that they were all in unbelief. It was clear, therefore, that if favor was shown to either, it must be on the same ground, that of mere undeserved mercy. Thus, all people were on a level; and thus all might be admitted to heaven without any invidious distinctions, or any dealings that were not in accordance with mercy and love. “The emphasis in this verse is on the word “mercy.” It signifies that God is under obligation to no one, and therefore that all are saved by grace, because all are equally ruined.” (Calvin.) It does not prove that all people will be saved; but that those who are saved shall be alike saved by the mercy of God; and that He intends to confer salvation on Jews and Gentiles on the same terms. This is properly the close of the argument of this Epistle. By several independent trains of reasoning, the apostle had come to the same conclusion, that the Jews had no special privileges in regard to religion, that all people were on a level, and that there was no hope of salvation for any but in the mercy of a sovereign God. This conclusion, and the wonderful train of events which had led to this state of things, give rise to the exclamations and ascriptions of praise with which the chapter closes.