A New Translation|
Romans 1 - 7.
He who writes a book does in that very act profess, unless he be a thoughtless man, that he has somewhat of profit to offer the reader. To some this might seem unlikely, when ever so slight a survey is taken of the many works written on the Epistle to the Romans. Nevertheless, such is the wealth of the mine, on the one hand, such the faithfulness of God's Spirit, on the other, that I doubt if any servant of Christ has ever seriously sought into that great communication of God through the apostle Paul without results of value for others. By this brief exposition I too trust in the Lord to help souls in the understanding of that which shall never perish, so that they may walk more freely and firmly in His ways. Enough one knows, however little it may be, to be assured how much remains to be gathered by those who may yet labour in faith till the Lord comes.
October 1, 1873.
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS,
A NEW TRANSLATION OF THE TEXT ACCORDING TO ANCIENT AUTHORITY.
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, set apart unto God's gospel, 2 which he had before promised through his prophets in holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, that was born of David's seed according to flesh, 4 that was marked out Son of God in power according to [the] Spirit of holiness by resurrection of [the] dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we received grace and apostleship unto obedience of faith among all the Gentiles* in behalf of his name; 6 among whom are ye also, called of Jesus Christ, 7 to all that are in Rome beloved of God, called saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ.
* Or, nations.
8 First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed in the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, always at my prayers 10 beseeching, if by any means now at least I shall be prospered by the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift in order to your being established; 12 that is, to be comforted together among you through the faith which is in one another, both yours and mine.
13 But I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that I often proposed to come to you and was hindered until the present, that I might have some fruit among you too, even as also among the other Gentiles. 14 Both to Greeks and barbarians, both to wise and unintelligent, I am debtor; 15 so on my part there is readiness to preach the gospel to you also that [are] in Rome; 16 for I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is God's power unto salvation to every one that believeth, both to Jew first and to Greek. 17 For God's righteousness in it is revealed by faith unto faith, even as it is written, 'But the righteous shall live by faith.'
18 For there is revealed God's wrath from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men that hold the truth in unrighteousness. 19 Because what maybe known of God is manifest among them, for God made [it] manifest to them. 20 For the invisible things of him from [the] world's creation are perceived, being understood by the works, both his eternal power and Godhead, that they might be inexcusable. 21 Because, having known God, they glorified him not as God nor were thankful, but became vain in their thoughts, and their heart void of understanding was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for a likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of winged and four-footed and creeping [creatures]. 24 Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness so that their bodies were dishonoured among them; 25 which exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and served and reverenced the creature rather than* the Creator who is blessed for ever,* Amen. 26 On this account God gave them up to vile passions; for both their females exchanged the natural use into the unnatural, 27 and likewise the males also, leaving the natural use of the female, were inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males working out unseemliness, and receiving in themselves the recompense of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they disapproved to have God in acknowledgment,† God gave them up unto a reprobate mind to do improper things; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, ill-will; whisperers, 30 slanderers, God-hated, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 void of understanding, faithless, without natural affection, pitiless; 32 which, knowing right well the righteous award of God that they who do such things are worthy of death, not only practise them but also have a fellow-pleasure in those that do [them].
*Literally "beyond," and "unto the ages."
†Or, 'in [their] knowledge.'
Wherefore thou art inexcusable, O man, every one that judgest: for wherein thou judgest the other, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth upon those that do such things. 3 And dost thou reckon this, O man that judgest those that do such things and practisest them, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But according to thy hardness and unrepentant heart thou treasurest to thyself wrath in [the] day of wrath and revelation of God's righteous judgment, 6 who shall render to each according to his works: 7 to those that with patience in good work seek for glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life; 8 but to those that are contentious and disobey the truth but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation, 9 tribulation and anguish on every soul of man that worketh out evil, both of Jew first and of Greek; 10 but glory and honour and peace to every one that worketh good, both to Jew first and to Greek; 11 for there is no regard of person with God. 12 For as many as without law have sinned without law also shall perish; and as many as have sinned in law shall be judged by law 13 (for not the hearers of law [are] just with God, but the doers of law shall be justified. 14 For when Gentiles which have no law practise by nature the things of the law, these having no law are a law to themselves; 15 which evince the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also joining its testimony and their thoughts also one with another accusing or also excusing) 16 in [the] day when God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel by Jesus Christ.
17 But if thou art named a Jew, and restest on law, and boastest in God, 18 and knowest the will, and provest the things that differ,* being instructed out of the law, 19 and hast confidence that thou thyself art a guide of blind, a light of those in darkness, 20 an instructor of foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law: 21 thou then that teachest another, dost thou not teach thyself? thou that preachest not to steal, dost thou steal? 22 thou that sayest not to commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou who boastest in law, through the transgression of' the law dost thou dishonour God? 24 For the name of God on your account is blasphemed among the Gentiles, even as it is written. 25 For circumcision indeed profiteth if thou do law; but if thou be a transgressor of law, thy circumcision is become uncircumcision. 26 If then the uncircumcision keep the requirements of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be reckoned for circumcision, 27 and the natural uncircumcision, fulfilling the law, judge thee that in the way of letter and circumcision transgressest law? 28 For he that is outwardly a Jew is not [one], nor [is] that which is outward in flesh circumcision, 29 but he that [is so] hiddenly [is] a Jew, and circumcision of heart in spirit, not in letter, the praise of whom [is] not of men but of God.
*It might mean the consequence of this process, "approvest the things that are excellent."
What then [is] the superiority of the Jew, or what the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way; for, first, because they were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 For what if some believed not? shall their unbelief make void the faith* of God? 4 Let it not be, but let God be true and every man false, even as it is written, 'That thou mightest be justified in thy words, and overcome when thou art judged.' 5 But if our unrighteousness commend God's righteousness, what shall we say? [Is] God unrighteous who inflicteth wrath? I speak according to man. 6 Let it not be: since how shall God judge the world? 7 For if the truth of God abounded in my lie to his glory, why any longer am I too judged as a sinner? 8 and not, even as we are slanderously reported, and even as some give out that we say, 'Let us do evil that good things may come?' whose judgment is just.
* That is, His faithfulness or good faith.
9 What then? are we better? Not at all; for we have before charged both Jews and Greeks with being all under sin, 10 even as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not one; 11 there is not the [man] that understandeth; there is not the [man] that seeketh out God. 12 All went out of the way, together they became unprofitable; there is none that practiseth kindness, there is not so much as one.' 13 'An open grave [is] their throat; with their tongues they used deceit; venom of asps [is] under their lips; 14 whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; 15 swift [are] their feet to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery [are] in their ways; 17 and no way of peace they knew. 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.' 19 Now we know that what ever things the law saith, it speaketh to those that [are] in the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment with God. 20 Wherefore by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him, for by law [is] knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from law God's righteousness is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, 22 even God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all that believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all sinned, and come short of the glory of God, 24 being justified gratuitously by his grace through the redemption that [is] in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiatory* through faith in his blood, for a declaration of his righteousness on account of the praeter-mission of the sins that had been before, in the forbearance of God, 26 with a view to the declaration of his righteousness in the present time, in order to his being just and justifying him that [is] of faith in Jesus. 27 Where then [is] boasting? It was excluded. Through what law? of works? No, but through [the] law of faith. 28 We reckon then that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. 29 Is he, pray, the God of Jews only? [Is he] not also of Gentiles? Yes, of Gentiles also; 30 since God [is] one who shall justify [the] circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through† faith? 31 Do we then make void law through† faith? Let it not be: nay, we establish law.
*That is, a mercy-seat as in Hebrews 9:5.
†The article follows, meaning the faith actually exercised by any.
What then shall we say that Abraham our fore-father according to flesh hath found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath matter whereof to boast, but not before God. 3 For what doth the scripture say? 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.' 4 Now to him that worketh the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt; 5 but to him that worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. 6 Just as David also describeth the blessedness of the man to whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works. 7 'Blessed they whose iniquities have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered; 8 blessed [the] man to whom the Lord will in no way reckon sin.'
9 This blessedness then [cometh it] upon the circumcision or also upon the uncircumcision? For we say that to Abraham faith was reckoned for righteousness. 10 How then was it reckoned? When he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received [the] sign of circumcision as seal of the righteousness of the faith that [he had] in uncircumcision, in order to his being father of all that believe in a state of uncircumcision, that righteousness might be reckoned to them also, 12 and father of circumcision not only to those circumcised but also to those that walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham while in uncircumcision.
13 For not by law was [the] promise to Abraham or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world, but by righteousness of faith. 14 For if those that are of law [be] heirs, faith is made vain and the promise is annulled. 15 For the law worketh out wrath; but where no law is, [there is] no transgression. 16 On this account [it is] of faith that [it might be] according to grace, in order to the promise being sure to all the seed, not only to that which [is] of the law, but also to that which [is] of Abraham's faith, who is father of us all 17 (even as it is written, 'A father of many nations* I have made thee') before God whom he believed, that quickeneth the dead and calleth the things that be not as being; 18 who against hope believed in hope, in order to his becoming father of many nations† according to that which was spoken, 'So shall be thy seed.' 19 And not being weak in faith, he considered [not] his own body now dead, being about a hundred years old, and the deadening of Sarah's womb, 20 yet as to the promise of God wavered not through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and fully persuaded that what he hath promised he is also able to perform. 22 Wherefore also it was reckoned to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was not written on his account alone that it was reckoned to him, 24 but on our account also, to whom it shall be reckoned, to us that believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord out of [the] dead, who was given up on account of our offences and was raised on account of our justification.‡
*Or Gentiles," as ἐθνῶν is elsewhere translated.
‡The form of the word here and in Rom. 5:18 means the act of justification, not the thing done or its ground.
Having then, been justified by faith, we have* peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 through whom also we have had the access into this grace wherein we stand, and boast in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only [so], but we also boast in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh out endurance; 4 and endurance proof, and proof hope: 5 and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that was given to us. 6 For Christ, while we were yet weak, died in due time for ungodly [men]. 7 For hardly in behalf of a righteous [man] will one die: for in behalf of the good [man] perhaps one even dareth to die; 8 but God commendeth his own love towards us, because, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having been now justified by his blood, we shall be saved by him from wrath. 10 For if while enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but boasting also in God by our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom now we have received the reconciliation.
*Very excellent and ancient MSS. read ἔχωμεν, which however to my mind suits not the context, for this is doctrine, not exhortation. It is well known that the best copies often faultily interchange ω with ο, as I presume they did here. Under such circumstances internal evidence is entitled to great weight. Thus in 1 Corinthians 15:49 the authorities (save B. and very few others) read φορέσωμεν, which, I am bold to say, no sober Christian of intelligence can accept as in keeping with the context or even sound doctrine.
12 On this account as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and thus death passed unto all men, for that all sinned: 13 (for until law sin was in [the] world, but no sin is put to account when there is no law; 14 but death reigned from Adam till Moses even over those that had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of the coming [one]. 15 But [shall] not, as the offence, so also* [be] the free gift? for if by the offence of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ abound unto the many. 16 And [shall] not, as by one having sinned, [be] the gift? For the judgment [was] of one unto condemnation, but the free gift [was] of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by the offence of the one death reigned by the one, much more they that receive the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by the one Jesus Christ:) 18 So then as by one offence [it was] toward all men for condemnation, so also by one accomplished righteousness† toward all men for justification of life. 19 For as by the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one the many shall be constituted righteous. 20 But law came in by the way, in order that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded, grace over-abounded that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto life eternal by Jesus Christ our Lord.
*Probably Mr. Darby (who first, as far as I know, adopted the interrogative form) was not aware that this idea was suggested by the famous Bentley, as appears from the papers in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, lately edited by Mr. A. A. Ellis, page 28.
†It is the same word, δικαίωμα, as is translated "justification" in verse 16. See also Rom. 1:32; Rom. 2:26; Rom. 8:4.
What then shall we say? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Let it not be. We which died to sin, how shall we live any longer in it? 3 What, know ye not that as many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism unto death, that as Christ was raised out of [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so also we should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we are become identified with the likeness of his death, so also of his resurrection shall we be, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be disannulled, that we should no longer serve sin. 7 For he that died hath been justified from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him, 9 knowing that Christ risen out of [the] dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, to sin he died once for all; but in that he liveth, he liveth to God. 11 So also do ye reckon yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to obey [it in] its lusts, 13 nor be yielding your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God as alive out of [the] dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin, because we are not under law but under grace? Let it not be. 16 Know ye not that to whom ye are yielding yourselves as bondservants for obedience, ye are bondservants to him whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But thanks to God that ye were bondservants of sin, but ye obeyed from the heart the form of teaching unto which ye were delivered; 18 and having been freed from sin ye became bondservants to righteousness. 19 I speak humanly on account of the weakness of your flesh; for as ye yielded your members in bondage to uncleanness and to lawlessness unto lawlessness, so now yield your members in bondage to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were bondservants of sin, ye were free in respect to righteousness.
21 What fruit then had you at that time? [Things] of which ye are now ashamed, for the end of those things [is] death. 22 But now freed from sin, and made bondservants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end life eternal. 23 For the wages of sin [is] death, but the free gift of God life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What, are ye ignorant, brethren, for I speak to [such as] know law, that the law hath dominion over the man as long time as he liveth? 2 For the married woman is bound to the living husband by law; but if the husband die, she is quit from the law of her husband. 3 So then, while the husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she belong to another man; but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so as not to be an adulteress by belonging to another man. 4 So that, my brethren, ye also have been made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that ye should belong to another, him that was raised out of [the] dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins that [were] by the law wrought in our members bringing forth fruit to death; 6 but now have we got quittance from the law, having died in what we were held so as for us to serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter.
7 What then shall we say? [Is] the law sin? Let it not be. Nay, I had not known sin unless by law; for* lust also I had not been conscious of, unless the law had said, 'Thou shalt not lust.' 8 But sin having taken occasion by the commandment wrought in me every lust; for apart from law sin is dead. 9 But I was alive apart from law once; but, the commandment having come, sin revived and I died, 10 and the commandment that [was] unto life, this was found to me unto death. 11 For sin having taken a point of attack by the commandment deceived me and by it slew [me]. 12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Did then the good become death to me? Let it not be; but sin, that it might appear sin, working out death to me by the good, that sin might become excessively sinful by the commandment. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I work out I own not; for I do not what I will, but what I hate, this I practise. 16 But if what I will not, this I practise, I consent to the law that [it is] right. 17 But now no longer am I working it out, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, no good dwelleth; for to will is present with me, but to work out the right 19 [is] not; for I practise not good which I will, but evil which I will not, this I do. 20 But if what I will not, this I practise, no longer am I working it out, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then the law, for me wishing to practise the right, that the evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I [am]! who shall deliver me out of this body of death? 25 I thank God† through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I myself with the mind am serving God's law, but with the flesh sin's law.
*The article is in the Greek, implying what was actually there.
†The Vatican and other ancient authorities give "thanks to God," but the Sinai, Alex., and the mass of other MSS., support εὐχαριστῶ.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath freed me from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, having sent his own Son in likeness of flesh of sin and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us that walk not according to flesh but according to Spirit. 5 For those that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh, but those according to Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind of the flesh [is] death, and the mind of the Spirit [is] life and peace; 7 because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for indeed it cannot; 8 but those that are in flesh cannot please God. 9 Ye however are not in flesh but in Spirit, if so be God's Spirit dwell in you. But if anyone has not Christ's Spirit, he is not of him. 10 But if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead on account of sin, and the Spirit life, on account of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised Jesus out of [the] dead dwell in you, he that raised Christ out of [the] dead shall quicken your mortal bodies also on account of his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 So then, brethren, debtors we are not to the flesh to live according to flesh; 13 for if ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die; but if by [the] Spirit ye mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are being led by God's Spirit, these are God's sons. 15 For ye received not a spirit of bondage again unto fear, but ye received a Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba Father. 16 The Spirit itself jointly testifieth with our Spirit that we are God's children; 17 and, if children, heirs also; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if at least we suffer together, that we may also together be glorified.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time [are] not worthy of comparison with the glory about to be revealed in regard to us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation awaiteth the revelation of the sons of God. 20 For to vanity the creation was subjected, not willingly but on account of him that subjected [it], in hope 21 that the creation itself too shall be freed from the bondage of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that all the creation groaneth together and travaileth together until now; 23 and not only [so], but ourselves too, having the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves within ourselves are groaning, awaiting [the] adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For by hope were we saved; but hope seen is no hope; for what one seeth, why also doth he hope for [it]? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, in patience we await. 26 And likewise too the Spirit joineth help to our weakness; for what we should pray for as we ought we know not, but the Spirit itself pleadeth for us with unutterable groanings; 27 and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what [is] the mind of the Spirit, because according to God it pleadeth in behalf of saints. 28 But we do know that all things work together for good to those that love God, to those that are called according to purpose. 29 For whom he foreknew, he also predetermined [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he should be first-born among many brethren. 30 But whom he predetermined, them also he called, and whom he called, them also he justified, and whom he justified, them also he glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? if God [be] for us, who against us? 32 He at least that spared not his own Son but gave him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely grant us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? [It is] God that justifieth: 34 who is he that condemneth? [It is] Christ that died, yea rather risen too, who is also at [the] right hand of God, who also pleadeth for us: 35 who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 according as it is written, 'For thy sake are we being put to death all the day long, we have been reckoned as sheep of slaughter.' 37 But in all these things we more than overcome by him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God that [is] in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Truth I say in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in [the] Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart, 3 for I could wish, I myself, to be a curse from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to flesh, 4 which are Israelites, whose [is] the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the lawgiving and the service and the promises; 5 whose are the fathers, and of whom [is] the Christ as far as according to flesh, who is over all God blessed for ever. Amen. 6 Not however that the word of God hath failed; for not all those that are of Israel [are] Israel; 7 nor because they are Abraham's seed, [are] they all children, but 'In Isaac shall a seed be called to thee.' 8 That is, not the children of the flesh, these [are] children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned for seed; 9 for this word is of promise, 'According to this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.' 10 And not only [so], but also Rebecca having conceived by one, Isaac our father, 11 for [the children] being not yet born, nor having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might remain, not of works but of him that calleth, 12 it was said to her, 'The greater shall serve the lesser,' 13 according as it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'
14 What then shall we say? Is there unrighteousness with God? Let it not be. 15 For to Moses he saith, 'I will have mercy on whomsoever I have mercy and will pity whomsoever I pity.' 16 So then [it is] not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth but of God that hath mercy. 17 For the scripture saith to Pharaoh, 'For this very thing I raised thee up, so that I might display in thee my power, and that my name might be declared in all the earth.' 18 So then on whom he willeth he hath mercy and whom he willeth he hardeneth.
19 Thou wilt say to me then, Why then doth he yet find fault? for his purpose who resisteth? 20 Nay rather, O man, who art thou that answerest against God? Shall the thing moulded say to him that moulded, Why madest thou me thus? 21 Or hath the potter no authority over the clay out of the same lump to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour? 22 And if God, willing to display his wrath and to make known his power, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, 23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy which he before prepared for glory 24 us whom he also called not only out of Jews, but also out of Gentiles, 25 as also in Hosea he saith, 'I will call that which [is] not-my-people, My people, and the not-beloved, Beloved;' 26 and 'It shall be in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not my people, there they be called sons of [the] living God.' 27 But Esaias crieth concerning Israel, 'Were the number of the sons of Israel as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall be saved, 28 for he is completing and cutting short the matter in righteousness, because a matter cut short will [the] Lord make on the earth.' 29 And according as Esaias said before, 'Unless [the] Lord of Hosts had left us a seed, we had become as Sodom and been made like as Gomorrha.'
30 What then shall we say? That Gentiles which followed not after righteousness obtained righteousness, even [the] righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel following after a law of righteousness attained not unto a law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because not by faith but as by works [of law], for they stumbled at the stone of stumbling, 33 even as it is written, 'Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and rock of offence; and he that believeth on him shall not be ashamed.'
Brethren, the delight of my heart and my supplication to God, on their behalf [is] for salvation. 2 For I bear witness to them that they have zeal for God but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own [righteousness], they have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ [is the] end of law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
5 For Moses describeth the righteousness that [is] by the law, that the man who hath done those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness that [is] by faith thus speaketh, 'Say not in thine heart, Who shall go up into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down; 7 or, 'Who shall go down into the deep?' that is, to bring up Christ from [the] dead:' 8 but what saith it? 'The word is near thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart;' that is, the word of faith which we preach: 9 that, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth [the] Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God raised him out of [the] dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart belief is unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Every 'one that believeth on him shall not be ashamed;' 12 For there is no difference of Jew and Greek, for the same Lord of all [is] rich toward all that call upon him. 13 For everyone whosoever shall call on the name of [the] Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? and how believe in him of whom they heard not? and how hear without a preacher? 15 and how preach unless they have been sent? According as it is written, 'How beautiful the feet of those that announce glad tidings of peace, of those that announce glad tidings of good things!' 16 But not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias says, 'Lord, who believed our report?' 17 Therefore faith [is] by report, but the report through God's word. 18 But I say, Have they not heard? Nay, rather 'Unto all the earth went out their voice, and unto the ends of the habitable earth their words.' 19 But I say, Did Israel not know? First, Moses saith 'I will make you jealous through [those] not a nation, through a nation void of understanding I will make you angry.' 20 But Esaias is very bold and saith, 'I was found by those not seeking me, I became manifested to those not inquiring for me;' 21 but with regard to Israel he saith, 'All the day long I spread out my hands toward a people disobedient and gainsaying.'
I say then, Did God thrust away his people? Let it not be; for I also am an Israelite, of Abraham's seed, of [the] tribe of Benjamin. 2 God had not thrust away his people whom he foreknew. What, know ye not what the scripture saith in Elias's [case]; how he pleadeth with God against Israel? 3 'Lord, thy prophets they slew, thy altars they digged down, and I was left alone, and they seek my life.' 4 But what saith the divine answer to him? 'I left for myself seven thousand men which never bowed knee to Baal.' 5 So then in the present time also there hath been a remnant according to election of grace; 6 and if by grace, no longer by works, since [otherwise] grace becometh no longer grace.
7 What then? That which Israel seeketh after, this it did not obtain, but the election obtained [it]; but the rest were hardened, 8 even as it is written, 'God gave them a spirit of slumber, eyes so as not to see, and ears so as not to hear, until this day.' 9 And David saith, 'Let their table be for a snare and for a trap and for a stumbling-block and for a recompense to them: 10 let their eyes be darkened so as not to see, and their back ever bend thou down.'
11 I say then, Did they stumble that they should fall? Let it not be; but by their slip [there is] salvation to the Gentiles, in order to make them jealous. 12 But if their slip [be the] world's riches and their loss [the] Gentiles' riches, how much more their fulness? 13 For I speak to you the Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am apostle of Gentiles I glorify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may stir to jealousy my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if the rejection of them [be the] world's reconciliation, what their reception but life out of [the] dead?
16 But if the firstfruit [be] holy, the lump [is] also; and if holy the root, the branches also. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou being a wild olive wert grafted in among them and becamest a fellow-partaker of the root and the fatness of the olive tree, 18 boast not against the branches; but if thou boastest against [them], thou bearest not the root but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off that I might be grafted in. 20 Right: through unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest through faith. Be not high-minded, but fear; 21 for if God spared not the natural branches, [fear] lest somehow thee he will not even spare. 22 Behold then God's goodness and severity: upon those that fell severity, and upon thee God's goodness, if thou abide in the goodness; since [otherwise] thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they too, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if thou hast been cut out of the naturally wild olive tree, and contrary to nature wert grafted into a good olive tree, how much more shall these that [are] natural be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I do not wish you, brethren, to be ignorant of this mystery, that ye be not wise in your own eyes, that hardness hath happened in part to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles come in; 26 and so all Israel shall be saved, even as it is written, 'There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer; he shall turn away ungodlinesses from Jacob. 27 And this [is] for them the covenant on my part, when I shall have taken away their sins.' 28 As to the gospel, [they are] enemies on your account, but as to the election beloved on account of the fathers; 29 for indefeasible* are [the] gifts and the calling of God. 30 For as ye once were disobedient to God but now have been shown mercy through their disobedience, 31 so also these have now disobeyed your mercy, that they also may have mercy shown to themselves. 32 For God hath shut all together into disobedience that to all he might show mercy.
33 O depth of God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! how unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! 34 For who knew [the] Lord's mind? or who became his counsellor! 35 or who first gave him and it shall be repaid him? 36 For of him and through him and unto him [are] all things: to him [be] the glory for ever. Amen.
*Or "irrevocable," not subject to change of mind.
I exhort you then, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, your intelligent service; 2 and not to fashion†† yourselves to this age but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind that ye may prove what [is] the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For through the grace of God that is given to me, I say to every one that is among you not to be high-minded above what he ought to be minded, but to be minded to sobermindedness as God to each hath dealt a measure of faith. 4 For just as in one body we have many members, but the members have not all the same function, 5 so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but individually members of one another. 6 But having gifts different according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, [let us prophesy] according to the proportion of faith; 7 or service, [let us be occupied] in service; or he that teacheth, in teaching; 8 or he. that exhorteth, in exhortation; he that bestoweth, with simplicity;* he that presideth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love [be] unfeigned, abhorring evil, cleaving to good; 10 in brotherly love affectionate to one another; in honour anticipating one another; 11 in diligence not slothful, in spirit fervent, serving the Lord 12 in hope rejoicing; in tribulation enduring, in prayer persevering; 13 communicating to the wants of the saints, pursuing hospitality. 14 Bless those that persecute you; bless and curse not. 15 Rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another, not minding high things, but consorting with† the lowly. Be not wise in your own eyes: 17 repay to none evil for evil; providing things right in the sight of all men; 18 if possible, on your part be at peace with all men; 19 avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place to wrath; for it is written, 'To me [belongeth] vengeance, I will requite, saith the Lord. 20 Nay,‡ 'if thine enemy should be hungry, feed him; if he should thirst, give him drink; for, this doing, thou wilt heap coals of fire on his head.' 21 Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
††An excellent reading of most ancient MSS is "and do not fashion," etc.
*This in effect is "liberality."
†Such is the true force of συναπαγόμενοι, and "condescending to" would be rather an evil the apostle guards us against by bidding us associate with the lowly. The latter is of Christ, the former of the world.
‡The most ancient text seems to be ἀλλὰ ἐὰν π. as in A B P and some good cursives and versions; a few also drop the ἀλλ (which Griesbach thought probable and Mr. Green follows).
Let every soul be subject to authorities above [it]. For there is no authority unless from God; and those that are have been ordained by God. 2 So that he that setteth himself against the authority withstandeth the ordinance of God; and those that withstand shall receive judgment for themselves. 3 For the rulers are no terror for the good work but for the evil. And dost thou wish not to be afraid of the authority? Practise good and thou shalt have praise for it; 4 for it is God's servant to thee for good. But if thou practise evil, be afraid; for not in vain doth it wear the sword; for God's servant it is, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore [there is] a necessity to be subject not only on account of wrath but also on account of conscience. 6 For on this account ye pay tribute also; for they are God's officers, ever attending unto this very thing. 7 Render to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour. 8 To none owe anything unless to love one another; for he that loveth the other hath fulfilled law. 9 For 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' 'Thou shalt not kill,' 'Thou shalt not steal,' 'Thou shalt not lust,' and if [there be] any other commandment, in this word it is summed up, in 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' 10 Love worketh no ill to one's neighbour; love therefore is law's fulness.* 11 And this, knowing the time, that [it is] already time that we should awake from sleep; for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, and the day is near: let us therefore put off the deeds of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 13 As in daylight, let us walk becomingly, not in revels and drunkenness, not in chambering and indecency, not in strife and envy; 14 but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and take no forethought of the flesh with a view to lusts.
* Or, "fulfilment."
But him that is weak in the faith receive not unto decisions† of reasonings. 2 One person hath faith to eat all things, but he that is weak eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth; for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth; and stand he shall, for his master is able to make him stand. 5 One [person] judgeth day more than day, another judgeth every day [alike]. Let each be fully assured in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day doth regard to [the] Lord, and he that regardeth not the day to [the] Lord doth not regard; and he that eateth eateth to [the] Lord, for he giveth thanks to God, and he that eateth not to [the] Lord eateth not and giveth thanks to God. 7 For none of us liveth to himself and none dieth to himself; 8 for both if we should live, to the Lord we live, and if we die, to the Lord we die; therefore both if we should live and if we should die, we are the Lord's. 9 For unto this [end] Christ died and lived, that he might be Lord both of dead and living. 10 But thou, why judgest thou thy brother? or thou too, why despisest thou thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. 11 For it is written, 'I live, saith [the] Lord, that to me shall bow every knee, and every tongue shall confess to God.' 12 So then each of us shall give account concerning himself to God. 13 Let us then no longer judge one another, but judge ye this rather, not to set an occasion of stumbling or offence for one's brother.
† Or, "doubts," doubtful points.
14 I know and am persuaded in [the] Lord Jesus that nothing [is] unclean by itself; unless to him that reckoneth anything to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean. 15 For if on account of meat thy brother is grieved, thou art no longer walking in love. Do not with thy meat destroy him for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be ill spoken of; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in [the] Holy Ghost; 18 for he that in this serveth Christ [is] acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue the things of peace and the things of edifying one another. 20 Do not for the sake of meat pull down the work of God. All things are clean; but [it is] evil to the man that eateth while stumbling. 21 [It is] right not to eat flesh nor drink wine nor anything in which thy brother stumbleth [or is offended or is weak]. 22 Hast thou faith? to thyself have [it] before God. Happy [is] he that judgeth not himself in what he approveth; 23 but he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because [it is] not of faith; but everything which [is] not of faith is sin.
But we, the strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbour unto good for edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself, but even as it is written, 'The reproaches of those that are reproaching thee fell on me.' 4 For as many things as were written before were written for our instruction, that through endurance and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and of comfort give you to be like-minded one with another according to Christ Jesus, 6 that with one accord, with one mouth, ye may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another according as Christ also received you unto God's glory.
8 For I say that Christ became a minister of [the] circumcision for God's truth to confirm the promises of the fathers; 9 and that the Gentiles should glorify God for mercy, even as it is written, 'On this account I will confess to thee among [the] Gentiles, and to thy name will I sing.' 10 And again he saith, 'Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people;' 11 and, again, 'Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and give him praise, all ye people.' 12 And again Esaias saith, 'There shall be the root of Jesse, and he that standeth up to rule Gentiles: on him shall Gentiles hope.' 13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope by the power of [the] Holy Ghost.
14 But I am persuaded, my brethren, even I myself about you, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. 15 But I have written to you, brethren, more boldly in measure, as reminding you on account of the grace that was given to me by God, 16 in order to my being a minister of Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles, as a sacred rite ministering the gospel of God that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by [the] Holy Ghost. 17 I have therefore my boasting in Christ Jesus in things relative to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of anything of what Christ has wrought not by me for [the] obedience of [the] Gentiles by word and deed, 19 in [the] power of signs and wonders, in [the] power of [the Holy] Spirit; so that, from Jerusalem and in a circle as far as Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ, 20 yet so making it a point of honour to preach, not where Christ was named, that I might not build upon another's foundation: 21 but even as it is written, 'They to whom it was not told concerning him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.' 22 Wherefore also I have been these many times hindered from coming to you; 23 but now, having no longer place in these regions, and having a longing to come to you for many years past, 24 whenever I go into Spain [I will come to you, for]* I hope while passing through to see you, and by you to be sent forward thither, if first I be in measure filled with you. 25 But now I go unto Jerusalem, ministering to the saints; 26 for Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a certain contribution for the poor of the saints that [are] at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased, and they are their debtors; for if in their spiritual things the Gentiles had a share, they ought also in things carnal to minister to them. 28 Having finished this therefore and sealed to them this fruit, I shall set off by you into Spain. 29 And I know that, on coming to you, I shall come in [the] fulness of [the] blessing of Christ. 30 Now I beseech you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, to strive with me in prayer for me to God, 31 that I may be delivered from the disobedient in Judea, and my ministry that [is] for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints; 32 that in joy coming to you by God's will I may be refreshed with you. 33 And the God of peace [be] with you all. Amen.
*The bracketed words are not in the most ancient copies.
But I commend to you Phoebe, our sister, being a deaconess of the assembly that [is] in Cenchrea; 2 that ye may welcome her in [the] Lord worthily of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she may need you; for she herself too hath been a helper of many and of myself. 3 Salute Prisca and Aquila, my work-fellows in Christ Jesus 4 (which* for my life staked their own neck; to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the assemblies of the Gentiles), 5 and the assembly at their house. Salute Epaenetus my beloved, who is a firstfruit of Asia for Christ. 6 Salute Maria which* laboured much for us. 7 Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, which* are noted among the apostles, who also before me were in Christ. 8 Salute Amplias my beloved in [the] Lord. 9 Salute Urbanus our work-fellow in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Salute Apelles, the approved in Christ. Salute those of the [household] of Aristobulus. 11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Salute those of the [household] of Narcissus that are in [the] Lord. 12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa that labour in [the] Lord. Salute Persis the beloved which* laboured much in [the] Lord. 13 Salute Rufus the chosen in [the] Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brethren that [are] with them. 15 Salute Philologus and Julias, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints. 16 Salute one another with a holy kiss. All the assemblies of Christ salute you.
* I have thus throughout rendered the various forms of ὅστις, distinct from ὅς, as denoting character and not fact only.
17 But I beseech you, brethren, to consider those that make divisions and occasions of stumbling-blocks contrary to the doctrine which ye have learnt, and turn away from them. 18 For such as they serve not our Lord [Jesus] Christ, but their own belly, and by kind speaking and fairness of speech deceive the hearts of the harmless. 19 For your obedience hath reached unto all. Over you then I rejoice, but I wish you to be wise in regard to good and simple in regard to evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. 21 There salute you Timothy my work-fellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I Tertius, that wrote the epistle, salute you in [the] Lord. 23 Gaius, the host of me and of the whole assembly, saluteth you. Erastus, the steward of the city, saluteth you, and Quartus the brother. 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen.
25 Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to [the] revelation of [the] mystery kept secret in everlasting times, 26 but now manifested and by prophetic scriptures, according to the eternal God's command, made known for obedience of faith unto all the Gentiles, 27 to God only wise, by Jesus Christ, to whom [be] the glory for ever. Amen.
The Epistle to the Romans, though not the highest in its character of truth, more comprehensively than any other sets forth God's glad tidings, and this with a method and depth which attest not merely the style of Paul but the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who inspired the great apostle of the Gentiles. His Son (for so the apostle preached Him from the first, Acts 9:20.) is the object of faith, come of David's seed according to flesh, marked out Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection of the dead. Thus the connection with the Old Testament is maintained, while the way is open for a new order of things through resurrection wherein guilt was removed, sin judged, and life manifested victorious over the enemy in his last stronghold of death, yea, with a title superior to God's eternal judgment.
Then, after presenting himself suitably, as apostle by call to those called at Rome, he testifies his thanks for their faith, and his great desire to see them, whatever the hindrances till then, for their mutual refreshment. He desired fruit there as elsewhere, being debtor to all. He was not ashamed of the gospel (or glad tidings): it is God's power to salvation to every believer, because divine righteousness is revealed in it by faith to faith, as the prophet declared in a dark day for Israel. Thus, if the Son is the object of faith, the believer has part in God's righteousness.* Man had no righteousness for God, who reveals His to man; and hence it is a question of believing. For His wrath is revealed from heaven against all impiety, and unrighteousness of men holding the truth in unrighteousness: the one embracing every shade of heathenism or ungodliness, the other especially Jews or, as we can now add, Christendom. How deep the need, how grave the danger, of sinful man.
*Had a Jew unswervingly obeyed the law, it had been human righteousness and himself accepted accordingly. But in the cross of Christ we see not merely the Father glorified in obedience, but God glorified as to sin, so that He is righteous now in setting Christ at His own right hand and justifying us accordingly by and in Him. This is divine righteousness.
To the end of Romans 1 the Gentiles are convicted of their impiety in a brief but appalling sketch, confirmed too truly by all that remains of antiquity, utterly depraved not only by their lusts and passions but yet more by their idolatry which sanctioned, yea, provoked and even consecrated their worst evils. It will be observed therefore that the apostle does not trace the ruin to the beginning of the world but only since the flood when men inexcusably slighted the testimony of creation, and, knowing God, glorified Him not as God, but professing to be wise became fools, and setting up idols were given up by the one true God above them, whom they would not serve, to become slaves of every vileness below them.
The opening of Romans 2 looks at the moralists, at men, Gentiles or Jews, who speculated on good but were a prey like others to the wickedness they condemned, despising the riches of God's goodness as they forgot His judgment, with whom is no respect of persons, those who sin without law perishing also without it, and those who sin in it to be judged by it in the day when God judges the secrets of men, according to the apostle's gospel, by Jesus Christ. Here he names the "Jew first" and the "Greek" in judgment, as before in the administration of the gospel. For judgment takes account of all things, and hence of superior advantages, each giving account according to his light and receiving according to his deeds. For salvation is according to grace, reward or judgment according to works. Thus both tests are applied, what they fell from, and what God will bring in at Christ's coming and kingdom. And as wrath revealed from heaven stood in contrast on God's side with earthly judgments in providence, so here on man's side does the judgment of the secrets of the heart.
The Jews are then distinctively and expressly brought forward, who with better light were no better morally, for the name of God was blasphemed on their account. So far is circumcision from availing them against their base inconsistencies that it becomes contrariwise uncircumcision, even as uncircumcision keeping the requirements of the law should be reckoned for circumcision, judging such as with letter and uncircumcision transgressed law. Sin is shown to be the great leveller, as righteousness does not fail to exalt. A transgressing Jew was as bad as, indeed worse than, a Gentile; a Gentile who wrought righteousness no less acceptable than a Jew. God will have moral reality; and this, wherever found, alone secures His praise.
This raised the question, in Romans 3, of the superiority of the Jew, or of the profit of circumcision. The apostle allows it in every way, and first in being entrusted with the oracles of God. But man's unfaithfulness in no way hinders the certainty or the justice of God's judging the world. Nor do outward privileges in any wise suppose or secure a better condition, though aggravating responsibility. And the fact that what the law or Old Testament says, it speaks to those under it (that is, to the Jews), totally convicts them; for it declares in the plainest terms that there is none righteous, none that understandeth, none that doeth good, all gone out of the way, and no fear of God before their eyes. Thus, as the beginning of the argument proved the Gentiles ruined, so does the end the Jews: the result is, every mouth stopped and all the world under judgment to God. What is His sentence? Is there no mercy? There is His righteousness by Christ Jesus, righteousness which justifies the believer. Doubtless by works of law no flesh shall be justified, for by law is knowledge of sin, the very reverse of sins forgiven, or of righteousness.
Law therefore cannot help Israel, still less a Gentile. What is the resource then? The apostle returns to the thesis which preceded his reasoning, and, with so much the more evidence of its urgent necessity, affirms that now apart from law God's righteousness is manifested. A truly wonderful statement, in which we have the relation of the gospel to the Old Testament, its universal direction, and its application in fact as being contingent on faith, while it meets all on the ground of sheer ruin and so of pure grace. It proclaims the work of the Lord which answers to the mercy-seat with the atoning blood of Jehovah's lot sprinkled on and before it, thus a righteous ground laying both to justify the forbearance of God in dealing with the saints of old or their sins in past times, and to display now that God is just, while He justifies him that believes in Jesus. By faith boasting is thus excluded, and God is shown to be the God who justifies both Jew and Gentile while law itself is established instead of being made void.
There is nothing to hinder our understanding δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ in its usual sense of an attribute or quality of God, because it is also δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πιστεως, for indeed it is revealed in the gospel for us to believe, and therefore we could profit by it on no other principle. It is of course χωρὶς νόμου "apart from law" (Rom. 3:21), which, if obeyed, would have been man's, not God's, righteousness. The δωρεά or free giving of righteousness (Rom. 5:17) is perfectly consistent with this: God's grace was the source of this gift; it was no question of one's work or fitness as under law. So Romans 10:3, Philippians 3:9, are both thoroughly in harmony with the fact that the apostle speaks of divine righteousness, or God's consistency with Himself in justifying the believer through the redemption that is in Christ. Undoubtedly it is a righteousness of which He is the author (as Phil. 3:9 teaches), and which He approves; but it is below the mark merely to say this. For if man be imagined to have obeyed the law, it would have been a righteousness available before God; and man would have lived instead of dying. But this would have been neither eternal life in the Son, nor God's righteousness but man's. Hence the definition of Luther, Calvin, Beza, Reiche, De Wette, etc., is unsatisfactory, as Luther's version, which is a paraphrase expressive of it, is erroneous. A righteousness which God might give or approve need not be His own, which the apostle over and over declares it to be. Of course, it is not divine justice abstractly (which is perhaps the unconscious difficulty of most who approach the subject), but God just in virtue of the Saviour's work. How does He estimate it, how act on it, for the believer? The infusion of divine righteousness has no just sense or appears to confound justification with life; whilst the idea that it means mercy is a poor evasion which weakens the grand truth that not His love only but His justice justifies the believer in Jesus.
The remarkable fact may here be noticed that confessedly the majority of commentators, who shrink from the plain meaning of the phrase in Romans 1:17, and even in Romans 3:21, 22, confess that in verses 25, 26, it does signify, not God's mercy, nor His method of justification or act of justifying (which in Greek is expressed by δικαίωσις), nor that righteousness which is acceptable to God, but His justice. Here this is allowed to be the proper meaning of the terms, and what the context demands. Not merely did justice seem compromised by praetermission of past sins, and therefore require vindication, but the work of Christ had so glorified God in the judgment of sin that it was only just for God to remit sins, yea, to justify him that is of faith in Christ Jesus. And so, it cannot be denied, the apostle but explains what he means by δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ, when he adds that God set forth Christ a propitiatory, or mercy-seat, that He might be just and justify the believer. If then it be so, that δ. Θ. can only mean God's righteousness where it is fully expounded (as in vers. 25, 26), how unreasonable to give the same phrase a different force in the same context! (Vers. 21, 22, just before.) If this be owned, with what consistency can one question its meaning in Romans 1:17? Even Romans 3:5 makes this apparent, for there beyond controversy the phrase means the consistently of God with His character (that is, His righteousness) in judging the world which rejects Christ, as the other passages show His righteousness in justifying those who believe in His name. Compare also Matthew 6:33, James 1:20. Elsewhere (save in 2 Cor. 5:21, which stands alone in using the abstract for concrete, but otherwise strengthens the same truth) the terms in the Epistles of St. Paul signify God's justice in justifying those who, resting by faith on Jesus and His blood, are accepted in all the value of His acceptance before God.
Romans 4 confirms the principle of faith for justification by the example of Abraham, backed up by David's testimony in Psalm 32; and this before the law or even circumcision. Thus, if the Jews contended for the inheritance by law or ordinances, they must shut him out who had it by promise, and therefore by faith: if they were his children really, they must receive all from God on a ground that ensures the promise to all the seed, Gentile no less than Jewish; and the rather, as in his case and Sarah's they were as good as dead, and their accomplishing of the promise out of the question, that God alone might be looked to as able to quicken the dead; just as we, Christians, believe, not here simply on Jesus, but on Him that raised from among the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered for our offences, and raised for our justification.
The consequences of being thus justified by faith are stated in the first half of Romans 5: peace with God, His actual grace or favour, and the hope of His glory in which we boast; nor in this only, but in tribulations because of their effect experimentally; yea, finally, boasting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom now we have received the reconciliation.
But the work of Christ goes much farther than remission of sins or the display of divine love to us in view of guilt, however important it is that we begin with this. Pardon refers to our sins which must otherwise be dealt with in the day of judgment; but there rises also the question of our nature or actual state, not merely of our bad works but of the sin that produced them. Here it is not personal guilt, nor Jews and Gentiles convicted as before, but the race with its head, and the sin which came in by that one man, though each also has his own sins. This clearly brings us up to Adam, though (thank God) also in presence of Christ, the law which came in meanwhile and by-the-by only shaping sins into offences and causing them to abound. Now, if a single man righteously involved all his family in sin and death, who can dispute the righteous title of God that the grace of another man, Christ, should abound to His family for eternal life? Such is the argument from Romans 5:12.
If grace be so rich in every way and for ever, should we continue in sin that grace may abound? It is a denial in effect of Christianity: so we learn in Romans 6. We that died to sin, how shall we longer live in it? We were buried with Christ by baptism unto death that we should walk in newness of life. Our old man was crucified together that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. For he that died is justified from sin. Thus we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin shall not have dominion, for we are not under law but under grace. Shall we sin then because we are thus? Certainly not. We were slaves of sin, but now, freed from it, we have become slaves of righteousness and of God, have our fruit unto holiness, and the end, worthy of His grace, eternal life.
Romans 7 handles the question of freedom from the law, as it was already shown that grace strengthens against sin, instead of making it a light or open matter. The married woman is bound by law to her husband as long is he is alive: death severs this bond. So are we made dead to the law by the body of Christ that we should belong to another who has been raised from among the dead in order that we might bear fruit to God. We were in the flesh, but now are cleared from the law, being dead to that wherein we were held, so that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter. Observe however that it is not by abrogation of the law but by our death to it, that grace acts.
Not that the law is sin, but sin, getting an occasion or point of attack by the commandment, works every lust, deceives, slays, and also becomes exceeding sinful. But though renewed, the person finds himself without strength, discerns evil in his nature as distinct from himself, delights in the law of God yet sees another law in his members bringing him into captivity, and so learns in conscious wretchedness the value of Christ for deliverance no less than pardon, though this in no way alters the two natures.
Romans 8 closes the discussion with the fullest statement of the results of Christ's work in death and resurrection for the Christian. Three divisions present themselves: first, the deliverance pursued even to the raising of the mortal body, the Spirit being regarded as characterizing that life and state; secondly, the relations of the Holy Ghost to the Christian as acting in, with, and on him in power and person; and, thirdly, God for us in the face of every trying experience and all hostility from the creature, fully and triumphantly securing us.
First, what a status for those in Christ! The necessary action of their new nature, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, bespeaks their deliverance from the law of sin and death; as again God has already condemned in the cross sin in the flesh, not merely in its outbreak, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For there are persons characterized by each in life and character, the mind of the one death, of the other life and peace; and this, because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, and they that are in it cannot please Him, while Christians are not in it, but in Spirit, and so, Christ being in them, they hold the body as dead on account of sin, as the Spirit is life on account of righteousness. But even their mortal bodies will be raised on account of His Spirit that dwells in them. Secondly, the Spirit is a Spirit of sonship and an earnest of the glory that is coming, and we meanwhile groan by the Spirit, and God thus finds the mind of the Spirit, not selfishness, in us, while He makes all work for good. Thirdly, along with God's purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son in glory, we have divine power assuring us so that, come what will, nothing shall separate from His love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 9-11 follow the doctrine, and have for their object to conciliate the special promises to Israel with the indiscriminate grace to sinners as such without exception in the gospel.
In Romans 9 the apostle shows that not he but the Jews could be more justly censured for making light of the peculiar privileges of Israel; as in truth he loved them quite as fervently as Moses. It was a question of God's call in Isaac. Nay, more, we see fleshly right still more manifestly excluded by the blessing of Jacob in disparagement of Esau, and this before the birth of the twins. It is a question thus of sovereign grace. Did they then complain of God's unrighteousness? It was all for Israel, that sovereignty of God: else what had become of them ruined before the golden calf at Sinai, had not God said, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy?" On the other hand Pharaoh is the witness of His hardening and judgments. Does man yet find fault because, God acts as He will? This is met by asserting God's title to judge man, and rebuking man's pretension to judge God. He has power; but how does He use it? With the utmost long-suffering toward the vessels of wrath, and in the richest mercy to its vessels, the latter being in themselves no better than the former. Thus mercy calls Gentiles who had no privileges and Jews who had lost all. Hosea and Isaiah, more than once, confirm all, showing not only Gentiles called but Israel stumbling at the stumbling-stone laid in Zion, while faith only would not be ashamed.
In Romans 10 the apostle expresses his heart's desire on their behalf for salvation. But their zeal was not according to knowledge. They were ignorant of, and did not submit to, God's righteousness, seeking to establish their own. For Christ ends law (and all such efforts are legal) for righteousness to everyone that believes. They speak incompatibly, that which is of law, and what is of faith; but God's righteousness is that of faith, Christ is the ground of it, and salvation the result, which therefore is as open to the Gentile as to the Jew who believed. Hence a testimony was sent out by God; and if few Jews received it, none the less did it go out unto all the earth; and here testimonies thicken from law and prophets to show God found by Gentiles, and Israel disobedient and gainsaying.
Romans 11 proves that the rejection of Israel is neither complete nor final, corroborated by the olive tree which lets us see the cutting off that awaits unfaithful Christendom no less surely than what befell the Jew, but that the Redeemer would yet come out of Zion turning away ungodlinesses from Jacob, and so all Israel be saved, coming in at length as an object of mercy no less than a Gentile. This drew out the transports of the apostle as he thought of the depth of the riches of God's wisdom and knowledge.
From Romans 12 we enter on practical exhortations formally. The apostle beseeches the saints by the compassions of God to present their bodies a living sacrifice, without conformity to this world, but transformed by the renewing of their mind, to cultivate a sober, not a high, mind, as God dealt to each. For we being many are one body in Christ, and members one of another, with gifts differing which each should occupy himself in. More general calls follow, grace here too reigning through righteousness in the walk and spirit, widening toward men at large which draws out the caution against avenging ourselves: rather should we, as God does, overcome evil with good.
Romans 13 exhibits the relation of the saints to outward government in the world; subjection to what is thus set up of God, whatever it be, in the world, so that to oppose the authority is to resist His ordinance, on account not only of wrath but of conscience also; and on this account paying tribute and to all their dues, owing no man anything but love, the fulfilment of the law. And this too, urged the more by the nearness of the day, in the light of which we should walk, remembering that the night is far spent, and not gratifying flesh which loves the dark.
Then in Romans 14 follows the duty of brotherly forbearance, rendered at Rome in those days the more incumbent because of so many Jews and Gentiles meeting together there as Christians. The weak, as they are called, who were burdened with scruples, were not to judge the strong, who knew their liberty; neither were the strong to despise the weak. Conscience must be respected; Christ is Lord of dead and living: and to God every one of us must give account. Rather let one judge to put no stumbling-block in a brother's way, nor thus for meat destroy him for whom Christ died. Peace and edification should be sought, but also a good conscience, for whatever is not of faith is sin. The beginning of Romans 15 concludes this question with Him who pleased not Himself but bore the reproaches men cast on God, thus entitling the Christian to all the comfort of the scriptures which speak of Christ, and strengthening us to receive one another, as Christ did, to God's glory.
Next we have, from verse 8, a statement of God's ways in the gospel justified by the Old Testament, and of his own ministry among us Gentiles, as a reason for thus exhorting them, though giving them credit for goodness and knowledge and ability to admonish one another. From Jerusalem and in a circle round to Illyricum he had fully preached the gospel, and so aiming, not where Christ was named, but where they had not heard of Him; and now that his work was done in the East, his old and strong desire to visit the West, after a deacon's service for the poor of the saints in Jerusalem (for nothing comes amiss to love), revives the hope to see the Roman saints on his way to Spain. But God had plans of His own; and if Paul was not saved from unbelieving brethren after the flesh in Judea, it was but to give him more the fellowship of Christ's sufferings who was delivered to the Gentiles by the Jews.
Romans 16 finishes with commendation of a sister Phoebe, servant of the assembly at Cenchreae, salutations minute and varied in the appreciation of all that was lovely and of good report, and warnings against those who make divisions and stumbling-blocks contrary to the doctrine they had learnt. To turn away from such men eaten up with self-importance is the best answer to their kind speaking and fairness of speech. Here as elsewhere we should be wise to what is good and simple to evil. The God of peace will see to all that is above us, bruising Satan under our feet shortly. How much do we not need the grace of our Lord with us now!
The apostle's amanuensis, Tertius, adds his salutation, as do a few others. The Epistle closes with a doxology wonderfully suited to all we have had before us, yet intimating truth (not here developed) in harmony with which was his preaching. In the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians is this hidden mystery fully set out, the Epistles to the Corinthians acting as a link of transition, but each in due place and season, and all important for the saint and for the church. To the only wise God through Jesus Christ be glory for ever. Amen.
NOTES ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
It was ordered in the wisdom of God that no apostle should plant the gospel in the imperial city. Rome cannot boast truthfully of a church apostolic in its origin, like Jerusalem, Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus, and many more less considerable. We know that on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost was first given, there were Roman Jews, sojourning in Jerusalem, who heard the gospel there. (Acts 2; compare also Rom. 16:7.) These may have carried the glad tidings westward, if not before, at least when the persecution that arose on the case of Stephen scattered all save the apostles. We are sure that some who were then dispersed went to Phenice and Cyprus as well as to Antioch, and that at this last place they preached to Greeks and not to Jews only.
But whatever the particular means used to make known Christ there, it is certain that till Paul wrote and afterwards came to Rome, no apostle had visited that city. Yet an evidently considerable number of saints were there; and, in my judgment, the epistle itself affords clear and full indication that they consisted of persons from among Jews as well as Gentiles.
These were among the circumstances which drew out an epistle from the great apostle which yields to no other in importance. Hence have we here so comprehensive a treatise, and withal so fundamental; not on Church relationship, but man's state as a sinner, and then his justification by the work and death and resurrection of Christ; that is, the privileges of individual saints through redemption, as well as the total ruin of man and his need of this mighty intervention of God in the gospel. Had the apostle laid the foundation of the work at Rome, had he gone there, as he had ardently wished, to impart some spiritual gift, we could scarcely have had such a development as we now possess. For in either case he would naturally have taught them face to face what is now embodied for ever in the epistle. Before he could pay them a visit and establish them orally, their state called out this remarkable fulness of truth from the rudiments of truth upwards. Their mingled composition of Jews and Gentiles required the question of the law to be solved as to both justification and walk, as well as the reconciliation of the actual display of indiscriminate grace in the gospel with the special promises to Israel. It demanded a full explanation of human responsibility, whether in Jew or in Greek. For the same reason too it was needed, here especially, to set forth chiefly in exhortation the general walk of the Christians in relation to each other and to the powers that be (at that time heathen), with the peremptory claims of holiness on the one hand, and on the other the true nature and limits of brotherly forbearance in things indifferent.
The salutation or address of the apostle is unusually full. "Paul, a bondman of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated unto God's gospel, which he promised before by his prophets in holy scripture, concerning his Son, that came of David's seed as to flesh, that was marked out God's Son in power as to spirit of holiness by resurrection of [the] dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom we received grace and apostleship, for obedience of faith among all the nations, in behalf of his name; among whom are ye also, called of Jesus Christ: to all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ." (Ver. 1-7.)
"Bondman of Jesus Christ" is the boast of one who knew the true holy liberty of grace as perhaps no other heart was taught and enjoyed so well. This was a general designation and should be true, is true, of each Christian. But. Paul next speaks of himself as a "called apostle." Apostleship was not successional like a Jewish priest, nor elect of the assembly like the seven who cared for tables at Jerusalem: still less was it a question of self-assumption He was an apostle by calling as the saints were called. (Ver. 7.) No doubt, from his mother's womb Saul of Tarsus had been separated, as he was afterwards called by God's grace. But here it appears to me that the separation was more distinctly "for God's gospel," and therefore may refer rather to Acts 13:2. God's glad tidings is a precious truth, the direct and explicit contradiction of man's natural thought of Him who gives to all liberally and upbraids not. Doubtless this can only be in and through Christ; still it is God who loves, gives, sends, it is His gospel. What a blessed starting-point for the apostle! What an exhaustless fountain-head!
But if the fulness of spontaneous and active love in God toward man be a truth ever new by reason of the constant prevalence of human thoughts even in the saints, it was no new thing to God. (Ver. 2.) It was late in the world's history when this gospel went forth; but He had promised it before through His prophets in holy writ — through the prophets who ever appear of old when all on man's part was hopeless. So one of the earliest that wrote prophecies said, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help. I will be thy king; where is any other that may save thee?" So another, the last of them, wrote, "I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." Had the Jews, had the priests even, despised His name? "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles." Such is a sample of what He proclaimed beforehand through His prophets. Space would fail to cite even a small portion. What went before as far as this verse notices was God's promise (for the law is not yet touched on); His gospel is not promise but accomplishment. Before Christ and His work, it could not be more than promised. Now, whatever be the promises, in Him is the Yea and in Him the Amen.
How can these things be? What can account either for such precious promises, or for the still more precious accomplishment on which God's gospel is founded and goes forth to man? The answer is clear, worthy, and amply sufficient. All turns on the Son of God: His glad tidings are concerning Him. (Ver. 3.) His person comes before us here in two ways: first, as born of the seed of David according to the flesh which He had condescended to; secondly, as defined or declared Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection. These two views of our Lord are respectively in relation to what we have just seen, — the promises and the gospel. The true Beloved, the Son of David, came, object and fulfiller and fulfilment of every promise of God; but man, and especially the people who had the promises, received Him not, but cast Him out even to death, the death of the cross. God, infinitely glorified therein, raised Him up who had already raised dead persons, and will raise all. "For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." Thus in every way resurrection marks Him out as Son of God in power, pre-eminently so when He rose in His own person after being crucified in weakness, and this according to the Spirit of holiness which characterized Him all the days of His flesh. Thus, as the coming of Christ was the presentation of the promise, God's gospel supposes not only the divine glory of His person but the mighty power of His resurrection which demonstrates the value and efficacy of His death. (Ver. 4.) In life sin and Satan touched Him not, who ever walked in the Spirit and according to the word of God; on the cross, made sin for us, He annulled him who had the power of death, though resurrection alone adequately determines His power and glorious person.
Jesus consequently, risen from the dead in power, acts as Lord and Christ, "our Lord," "by whom we have received grace and apostleship." (Ver. 5.) It is He who sends from on high. As once on earth, Lord of the harvest, He sent forth first the twelve and afterwards other seventy also; so ascended He gave gifts to men. Nor was it only that the apostolic call was itself a mark of grace. In Paul's case the grace that arrested and quickened him to God was at one and the same time with the choice of him as a witness to all men of what he had seen and heard. Such a call could not, so to speak, but be of deeper character and larger sphere than that of others who had been appointed of the Lord while here below. Hence it was "for obedience of faith" (not exactly that which faith leads and strengthens to, but faith — obedience, the heart bowing to the divine message of His grace) "in all the nations" as the scene of testimony. Taken out from among the people and the nations, to these last the Lord sent him, as we are told in Acts 26. Again, we are here told, it was "for" or "on behalf of the name of Christ."
Such was his passport: what was theirs? "Among whom are ye also, called of Jesus Christ." They were among the nations, and his commission was toward all the nations. Was he a called apostle? So were they saints, not by birth nor by ordinance, but by the call of Jesus Christ who had called him as apostle. (Ver. 6.)
This entitled Paul then to address "all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called saints;" this made it his heart's joy, as it was the Holy Ghost's inspiring him, to wish them "grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Ver. 7.) These privileges they had tasted already through the faith of Christ; but the apostle owns himself their debtor and proceeds to put to their account that which would enrich them exceedingly. May we too enjoy increasingly Him who is their source through the One who alone can make Him known!
Take any part of the Old Testament and compare it with these opening words. How evident and immense the difference, aim, character, and scope! One may well wonder this never occurred to those who would assimilate the testimony of God and state of man before and after the coming of Christ. What is there, for instance, like it in the five books of Moses, or the historical books that follow? In vain do you search the Psalms and other poetical books for a parallel. Not even the prophets describe or predict such a state of things. Glorious things are spoken for Israel; mercy from God which will not fail to reach and bless the poor Gentiles; deliverance and joy for the long-travailing earth and lower creation in general: — all this and more we have abundantly from the prophets and even in the Psalms. But there is nothing resembling the tone even of the Apostle's salutation and preface to the Roman saints, any more than what meets us in the rest of the epistles of the New Testament. A new thing was before God here below, answering to a new thing, the greatest of all, in heaven — His own Son, as man who was risen and gone on high after having expiated our sins on the cross. From this, as the central object, the Holy Ghost works, sent down to make God known in Christ come and gone, and to give believers a part in the infinite work Christ has effected for them. This revealed object conforms the hearts that know it, though not all equally, yet all in measure after its own nature. Such is Christianity.
Here, as everywhere in the epistles, illustrations, examples, and proofs abound; not that there was not faith before, not that the Spirit did not at all times work suitably to God's character and dealings. Hence there never was a day of difficulty or darkness of old which did not give occasion for some worthy display of God's wisdom and goodness, and this through, as well as to, those that knew Him in His grace. But these displays were of course according to the task He had then in hand, whether before the flood or after it, whether in the time of simple promise or after the law was given, whether amidst the sorrows of the captivity or when the Messiah was presented to the responsibility of the returned remnant in the land. Certainly for saints now as of old there are objective truths, there are traits of inward experience and of outward practice, which always abide in substance. But this identity in much that is of no small moment only makes the fact the more striking that there are differences of incalculable importance, not merely for us but as connected with God's glory. Who could conceive before redemption such feelings, thoughts, language as we have here before us? Who that has the smallest spiritual perception could think of Enoch or Noah, Isaac or Jacob, Moses or Joshua, David or Solomon, Isaiah or Jeremiah, yea even Peter or John in the days of our Lord's ministry, uttering such words as these to saints at Rome, many of them Gentiles? "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all that your faith is proclaimed in the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, always at the time of my prayers entreating, if by any means now at length I shall be prospered by the will of God to come to you: for I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift in order to your being established; that is, to be comforted mutually in you by the faith in each other, both yours and mine." (Ver. 8-12.)
Entirely independent of fleshly tie or national connection or a school of opinion or any other relationship of time, it was a bond which, resting on the unseen and eternal, knit the heart of him who wrote to souls for the most part never seen before. An affection ardent and sustained continually bore them on his heart before God and delighted in the good report of their faith announced in the whole world, as it then might easily be from that seat of central authority which made its will and mind felt to and beyond the extremities of its vast empire. Hence his longing to see them for no selfish interest but for their spiritual blessing through the faith which produces and reproduces joy now in the midst of rejection, and blessing that will never fade or be forgotten. Such were among the effects of God's gospel now realized in and expressed by him who, without that blessed knowledge of Christ, had been the fiercest zealot of the straitest sect of the Pharisees, persecuting to prison and death all that dared even of his own nation to call on the name of Jesus of Nazareth; now the untiring herald of divine grace, in that same Jesus dead and risen, as unlimited as the sin and misery of man; the warm sympathizer with God-given faith in all who bore that despised name. He himself was emphatically a man of faith — faith working by love which sought not theirs but them, not this world's ease or honour but God's will and glory in the good of souls, everlastingly indeed but now also, not as if it were a doubtful essay but a willing blessing from the God whose grace he knew for himself and could count on for all His children.
Fervour of affection too was natural, so to speak, to one thus living with God, "my God," while in this world, joy (not in iniquity, as wretched flesh delights in what is of and like itself, but) in what was of God "through Jesus Christ," though only known by report everywhere. "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed in the whole world." He could appeal to God for the best of all evidences of his thankfulness to Him for it, and love to them. "For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son." His mention of them was incessant, always beseeching on occasion of his prayers, that, if God so pleased, he might somehow be permitted now at least to visit them. What evident and godly sincerity! What motives wrought of the Spirit in one who owned himself the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints!
Mark the change of expression here in passing. It is the gospel of God's Son now, not simply of God, however beautiful this was in its place. (Ver. 1.) But now the apostle is not thinking of the source which characterized the glad tidings, but of the manner and means in which His grace wrought to deliver the lost. It was therefore the gospel of His Son as well as His own. Here, too, the apostle names his own serving God "in my spirit;" i.e., not with mere outward works or a bare sense of imperious duty, but with inwardly active and intelligent devotedness in the glad tidings of God's Son.
One of this world's sages has dared to impute to the holy apostle pious craft and holy flattery; but this was, no doubt, a judgment founded on his own spirit and his incapacity of appreciating the delicate feelings which grace renders easy and habitual. Not so: though the apostle had his commission from the Lord to the Gentiles as such, he would exercise it according to Christ. It is the tact of tender love toward those who were saints of God in such a place, not the manoeuvring of a skilful party-leader, which we see here, when he tells them of his strong desire to see them — that he might impart some spiritual gift in order to their establishment: that is, as he explains, to be mutually comforted among them by each other's faith, both theirs and his. Yet the will of God governed his steps, whatever might be his affectionate longing after their good.
Nor was it a new thing, this desire to see them. "Now I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that I often proposed to come to you (and was hindered hitherto), that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among the other Gentiles. Both to Greeks and Barbarians, both to wise and to unintelligent, I am debtor; so, as far as concerns me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that [are] in Rome." (Ver. 13-15.) Whatever might be the special preoccupation which hindered the apostle's execution of what was in his heart, God manifestly did not mean the great western city, the capital of the world, to have an early visit of one in Paul's position. If he owned the debt of love to all nations and conditions, certainly Rome could not but have attractions, especially as some already called out from the world were there. On his part, then, there was no reluctance but all readiness to go to Rome.
Let none imagine that the grandeur of that great city kept him back through awe of it or shame of Christ. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, both to Jew first and to Greek." (Ver. 16.) All else was but man, or appealed to man. The gospel was God's power for saving, not a mere rule to condemn. Consequently it went out to every one that believes, Jew or Greek, though to Jew first who had the law and the promises too. Such was the order even for the great apostle of the uncircumcision, at least while the first tabernacle subsisted.
"For God's righteousness is revealed in it by faith unto faith, even as it is written, But the just shall live by faith." (Ver. 17.)
This verse is so important in itself, of so large a bearing on the epistle as well as the doctrine of the gospel elsewhere, and withal so perplexed by the conflicting thoughts even of true believers, not to speak of theologians of all schools, that it demands and will surely repay our careful consideration in dependence on our God.
The first thing to be remarked is that δικαιοσύνη does not mean justification, but here at least, as in most passages where this phrase occurs, righteousness, and this justifying. It is therefore kept distinct by the apostle from δικαίωσις (Rom. 4:25; Rom. 5:18.), which expresses the act of justifying, or the effect — justification; as δικαίωμα sets forth accomplished righteousness in justification or in judgment, righteous requirement whether morally or as an ordinance or decree. (Luke 1:6; Rom. 1:32; Rom. 2:26; Rom. 5:16, 18; Rom. 8:4; Heb. 9:1, 10; Rev. 15:4; Rev. 19:8.) Thus δικαιοσύνη retains its regular signification of habit or quality of righteousness.
Next, observe that it is Θεοῦ, God's righteousness, not man's — divine righteousness revealed in the gospel, not human righteousness required in the law. There is no question here either of infusion or of imputation. As for infusion,* it is wholly wrong; as to imputation, it is a precious truth insisted on in Romans 4, where the apostle draws from the case of Abraham that the believer's faith is reckoned for (or as) righteousness. For God in His grace can afford to justify the ungodly soul who believes on Him — can and does reckon righteousness to him apart from works, according to Psalm 32.
*This is the Romish or Tridentine doctrine, which, though it uses the phrase "righteousness of God," means thereby inherent righteousness wrought by the Spirit of God in the heart of man, expressly "non qua ipse justus est, sed qua nos justos facit, qua videlicet ab eo donati renovamur spiritu mentis nostrae, et non modo reputamur sed vere justi nominantur et sumus," etc. Thus justification, being confounded with practical holiness, is really set aside. (Can. et Decr. Conc. Trid. Sessio VI., capp. vii. xvi.) Bellarmine is very explicit to the same effect. (De Controv. Tom. IV, de justif. ii. passim.)
Here, however, the apostle does not enter on an exposition of the ground on which God could consistently with His character justify a sinful man. But as he had declared he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is God's power for salvation to every believer Jew or Greek, so he now explains that it has this saving character because God's righteousness is revealed in it "by faith," and consequently "to faith."
In Titus 2 the apostle looks at the source of the gospel. It is the grace of God. Lost man needs that saving grace which is only in God and has now appeared free and full in Christ Jesus and His redemption. But here in Romans 1 the stress is on His righteousness, not on His mercy, though indeed it is the richest mercy, but it is much more. In the gospel is His righteousness revealed. The awakened sinner does repent, does detest his sins, judges himself as wholly and nothing but evil in God's sight, and so humbly, thankfully casts himself on Christ. But in the gospel is revealed not the victory of the soul striving against sin, but God's righteous consistency with Himself in revealing to the believer a salvation entirely outside himself and therefore ἐκ πίστεως, by or of faith, out of that principle and no other. Sovereign grace alone could have thought of it, or given it thus freely to him who deserved nothing less; but the conscience of the sinner touched of the Spirit could not have peace whilst a charge of guilt remained. The righteousness of God, without the gospel, would and must have made a short work of the guilty — most have judged them at once and for ever. But the gospel is God's power for salvation because in it is His righteousness revealed in the way of faith. Were it by works of law man must win and merit life, but it is wholly in contrast with such a scheme, and man, being guilty and so lost on any such ground, disappears, save as the object of God's salvation which now triumphs in the blessed fact that it is His righteousness also. Hence it is of faith that it might be according to grace, and so open to any and every believer; for as we are told elsewhere (Gal. 3.) "the law is not of faith;" and it works wrath. (Rom. 4.) Clearly, then, there is great precision, as ever in the language of Scripture. Human righteousness is expressly excluded, as it would be indeed inconsistent with the entire context, which supposes man to be lost, if it were only because the gospel is God's power for salvation: and which immediately after (ver. 18 et seqq.) proceeds to demonstrate the universality and completeness of man's ruin. The gospel is the revelation of divine righteousness.* It is God who justifies, and He is just in justifying, him who believes.
* The peculiarly anarthrous form of the proposition must strike any careful reader. This is owing to the fact that the apostle is describing the character of the gospel, not explaining as yet how God can so act (as he does in Romans 3:24-26, and elsewhere).
It is of immense moment to see this great truth. It is not merely a righteousness which God provides and gives, or which avails with Him,† though both be quite true. The meaning is, what the words say — "God's righteousness" — without for the present going farther. Who doubts the force of God's power just before, or God's wrath just after? Why should men stumble at the similar phrase between? Romans 3:21-26 is explicit enough to help to a definite judgment.
† Δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ = neither ἡ ἐκ Θ. δ. nor δ. παρὰ Θ.
One reason of the difficulty is that some never seem to think of righteousness apart from imputation; and as we cannot speak of imputing God's righteousness, so they, in their own mind, change the expression of Scripture and prefer to express their thought as the "imputed righteousness of Christ," which again leaves room for other consequences. Now as a principle we must hold to the superiority of Scripture and the forms which the inspiring wisdom of God has given to His own truth. That Christ was absolutely and perfectly righteous every Christian believes; that imputation has a most weighty place in the matter of our justification is to my mind both undeniably certain and essential to the gospel. Nevertheless, the truth remains that, where God's righteousness occurs in Scripture, imputation is not employed. Nor do I believe it could be; because as God's righteousness could not be inherent, so on the other hand imputing God's righteousness has no meaning.* Here it is His righteousness revealed in the gospel. Chapter 3 shows how this can be righteously. Being not merely deficient but guilty sinners, we cannot be justified without the blood of Christ dying in atonement for our sins. Hence, therefore, entirely apart from law, divine righteousness is by faith of Him who thus wrought redemption, and God is just and justifies him who is of faith in Jesus. But God was so glorified in the cross of Christ, that He raised Him up and seated Him in glory at His own right hand — not only forgave us, but seated us in Christ in heavenly places. This is God's righteousness, which is revealed to faith. Nothing less is righteously due to Christ because of His redemption work. It is the contrast of law — work in all respects. God is righteous in treating not Christ only but the believer in Him according to the worth of redemption in His own eyes. By virtue of His work God accounts us righteous who believe; we are made the righteousness of God in Him.
* It may be well to add that some, having the sense that there is and must be practical reality in those who stand in true relationship with God, have from time to time clouded this subject and slipped to either side of the truth; and I refer to this the rather because there exists much want of scriptural intelligence, as well as ignorance even of facts easy enough to ascertain. Thus in and even before 1550 there broke out a serious feud among the Lutherans, which, though not confined to the point of divine righteousness, nevertheless had this for one of the most serious questions in dispute. Andrew Osiander (Professor of theology at Konigsberg, a man of mystical turn of mind and fond of bold and novel speculation) taught that it is only through the eternal and essential righteousness which resides in Christ as God or in His divine nature united to the human, that man obtains righteousness. Of this divine righteousness he partakes by faith. Thereby Christ dwells in man, and with Christ divine righteousness: in virtue of which righteousness, present in the regenerate, God regards them, though sinners, as righteous in the name of that righteousness. (See J. L. Moshemii Institt. H E. Saec. xvi. Sect. iii. pars ii. § 35.) This naturally and justly aroused the opposition of Melancthon; but Osiander's death did not end the mischief, — for Stancar (Professor of Hebrew in the same place, and of turbulence equal to his colleague) fell into an opposite extreme and almost as dangerous. For if Osiander excluded the manhood of Christ, his antagonist excluded the divine nature from redemption. Evidently, however, Osiander's doctrine is substantially that of the mystics, and confounds life, or the new nature, with the believer's justification. There is not the smallest resemblance between it, and that which has been expounded in the text. It is God's righteousness inherent or infused in the believer's heart, not revealed in the gospel. In fact, there was the activity of a mind which saw that the believer partakes of the divine nature but confounded this with the wholly distinct truth that he is accounted righteous according to the acceptance of Christ Himself before God. In short, Osiander abused regeneration to deny justification or imputation of righteousness, and confounded union with Christ, as many do now, with both. This may be seen in Calvin's Institutes, Book III., chapter xi., § 11. The following extract may be useful in showing how far those who have talked of Osiander have either understood his doctrine or are free from the snare into which he fell. "Ridet eos Osiander qui justificari docent esse verbum forense: quia oporteat nos re ipsa esse justos: nihil etiam magis respuit quam nos justificari gratuita imputatione. Agedum si nos Deus non justificat absolvendo et ignoscendo, quid sibi vult illud Pauli? Erat Deus, etc., 2 Cor. 5:20, 21. Primum obtineo justos censeri qui Deo reconciliantur; modus inseritur quod Deus ignoscendo justificet: sicuti alio loco justificatio accusationi opponitur; quae antithesis clare demonstrat sumptam esse loquendi formam à forensi usu." I purposely quote Calvin's reproof of the Lutheran for his mockery of imputation under the plea that we must be in reality just, which is indeed to deride a capital truth of the gospel. No Christian doubts, on the other hand, the value or necessity of practical righteousness apart from justification. (See Phil. 1:9-11.)
At Sinai, in the law, man's righteousness was claimed but found wanting. In the gospel God's righteousness is revealed, complete and perfect. Promised before, it was only revealed when all was accomplished which is its ground. Being revealed, it is a question of faith, not of desert nor victory, nor power within, but contrariwise of looking out of self to God's righteousness in Christ.
As divine righteousness is revealed by faith (ἐκ πίστεως), so is it unto or for faith (εἰς πίστιν): the one excluding works of law as the way or principle on which it is revealed; the other including faith wherever it may be, and whatever the measure. It is singular that the Authorized Version should give "from faith" here and "by faith" for the same phrase in the same verse. The former appears to me objectionable in this connection; because it insinuates the idea of growth from one degree of faith to another, as some ancients and moderns have avowed. On the other hand, to take ἐκ π. (by faith) with δ. Θ. (God's righteousness) is due perhaps to the difficulty some have found in assigning to each phrase its own definite value.
Again, the reader must beware of the notion which some found on the present tense of the verb ἀποκαλύπτεται, as if it warrants the idea of a gradually more complete realization of the state of justification.* I do not doubt that faith grows and so apprehension and enjoyment of our blessing in Christ, but the thing revealed in the gospel to faith is complete: divine righteousness repudiates any other thought, whatever may be the measure in which the heart apprehends it.
* Calvin may illustrate the danger of this; for he draws from it, that as our faith makes progress and advances in this knowledge, so the righteousness of God increases in us at the same time. What can be looser than such language?
Not even a Jew could deny that the prophet Habakkuk (2:4) affirms the same principle; and the slight difference from both the Hebrew and the Septuagint bears witness, it seems to me, that these words are cited for so much and no more: "even as it is written, The just shall live by faith."
The apostle next proceeds to show what it was that made the gospel so necessary to man and so suitable to God. The gospel is God's power to salvation, and so a revelation of His righteousness, ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν. When man evidently had, or was convicted of having, no righteousness for God, He revealed His own in the gospel, which was consequently open for faith wherever it existed, being by faith, and not by works of law, to which the Jew laid claim. To this truth also the prophet Habakkuk gave his emphatic testimony.
That God should thus deal with man was absolutely needful if man were to find salvation. "For God's wrath is revealed from heaven upon all impiety and unrighteousness of men that hold the truth in unrighteousness."
The fathers and the children of Israel were not without experience of divine wrath on earth. They had seen it consume the cities of the plain of Sodom. They had known His wondrous chastisements in the field of Zoan till the waters of the Red Sea, rebuked for their sakes, covered their proud enemies, so that not one was left. They had felt its edge when the Lord created a new thing, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up quickly Korah, Dathan, and Abiram with their company. Man, the race, had already proved it indeed in the flood which took them all away, save those secured in the ark. But these and other kindred acts of judgment of old were providential and earthly. There was as yet no revelation of God's wrath from heaven. These divine actings were visible in their effects if not arresting men before the eyes of their fellows on earth.
Now, concurrently with the glad tidings, not exactly therein, divine wrath is revealed from heaven (ver. 18.). This is in no way executed yet, but it is being revealed; and man, being sinful, is seen to be utterly, manifestly, unfit for God's presence. God Himself is no longer hidden. He has been manifested in flesh: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." His nature thus disclosed is absolutely intolerant of sin, as it must be also of sinners, but for His righteousness revealed in the gospel, which justifies the believer by the faith of Christ. Still the same Christ, whose atonement is the groundwork of the gospel, makes known God as He is, and nowhere more proved to be at war for ever with evil than in the cross, where Jesus who knew no sin, yet made sin for us, tasted not death only but the divine abandonment, that our sins might be dealt with according to the unsparing judgment of God. Hence, along with the gospel, there is revealed His wrath from heaven, which goes far beyond any conceivable temporal strokes of His hand on earth; for these (though of course a testimony to, and as far as they went in harmony with, this nature) were but a part of His governmental dealings, not the full expression of His nature as when we come to the expiation of Christ.
Hence this divine wrath revealed from heaven has for its object every kind of godlessness (πᾶσαν ἀσέβειαν) and especially men's unrighteousness that hold the truth in unrighteousness. It is no longer a particular nation under a law which judged acts of transgression, though it gave the knowledge of a sinful root underneath, while the rest of the nations were comparatively overlooked. 'Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:1, 2.) The veil is rent; and God shining out, as it were, discerns and judges all everywhere inconsistent with Himself. At the same time He sends in the gospel a free and full remission of sins to every believer. Thus, while every form of Gentile evil is morally judged as contrary to God's nature, the Jew, if unrighteous, is implied from the outset to be in a yet more awful condition. "Salvation is of the Jews." They had the promises, and the law, and in part at least the truth. But the language is so comprehensive as to be quite as applicable, if not more so, to the professing Christian now with his enlarged light, grace, and the truth more fully revealed in Christ. Increase of privileges, if abused, is but increase of condemnation. And what more just, the enemies of God themselves being judges and the cause their own? Thus it seems to me that πᾶσαν ("all") extends to the second part of the description as well as to the first, and embraces every sort of unrighteousness where men hold the truth in unrighteousness, no less than every kind of impiety. Such men might not be strictly impious; they possess the truth; but along with this, being unrighteous, they cause the truth and name of God to be thereby blasphemed.
Some find a difficulty in the last clause, and, assuming that κατεχόντων, if here taken in the sense of "holding," must have it only in the lowest degree, they contend for the meaning of "holding back" or restraint as in 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7, which they persuade themselves is suitable to our context. My conviction is that κατέχω retains here its usual emphasis of possession or holding fast, where moral things are in question, and that this is necessary to the solemn lesson here conveyed. For the apostle is speaking of God's wrath as against not merely all impiety in general but specifically men's unrighteousness who ever so stubbornly keep the truth in unrighteousness. God is not mocked. His Spirit is the Holy Spirit as well as the Spirit of truth. He must have the truth held in righteousness; for otherwise it is not Christ, the Second Man, but only the first man in another shape, and in a shape pre-eminently hateful to Himself. How many feel keenly, dispute hotly, and in other days have contended in deadly warfare for the truth they held, whose works denied God, being abominable, disobedient, and to every good work reprobate! The Jews were a standing witness of this perilous religion then: Christendom, Popery, Protestantism, the truest dogmatic reaching you please, is not a whit safer now, where the professor does not pursue holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Nothing can be simpler and more certain than this truth, once it is stated and understood. But the value of it is apparent from the fact that the Fathers so-called, almost if not quite unanimously, overlooked and denied it. Their system, even that of pious and able men like Augustine, was that the wicked, though lost, would derive some considerable assuagement during their everlasting punishment because of their baptism. Most fatal and offensive error! The very reverse is true. "That servant which knew his lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew it not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
Again, this verse is not, as some suppose, limited as a preface to the proof of Gentile depravity; it is rather the thesis in brief, which is opened out in the rest of Romans 1, 2, 3, down to verse 21, which resumes the treatment of God's righteousness, and begins the details of that which we had in Romans 1:17. I understand, therefore, that verse 18 gives first the general description of human ungodliness in every phase, and then the unrighteousness which was at that time most conspicuous in the Jews who combined with practical injustice a tenacious hold or possession of the truth: the former demonstrated to the end of Romans 1; the latter (after the transition of Rom. 2:1-16.) pursued from Romans 2:17 to Romans 3:20. Had this two-fold aspect been apprehended in the verse before us, the rendering of the Authorized Version would not have been deserted for "restraining the truth by unrighteousness," which is a sense framed to meet the condition of the heathen who were supposed here to be alone in the apostle's view. The same misconception wrought mischief in lowering the character both of the revelation of God's wrath from heaven, and of the truth in order to meet paganism. Admit the universal scope of the moral description with a specific reference to those who held the truth in unrighteousness, and the sense which results is as easy as it is all-important, the fitting introduction to the entire episode that follows till the apostle takes up his proper theme, God's righteousness revealed in the gospel.
The apostle next proceeds to set forth the proofs of the guilt of men, because of which the wrath of God awaits them. And first he takes up impiety, or the evil which characterized the vast majority of the world, as later on he addresses himself to that subtler iniquity which consisted in holding the truth along with practical unrighteousness, then found among Jews as now in Christendom. This division of the subject, it will be seen, is not only closer to the language of the context but it preserves us from the mistake of such as attribute a knowledge of "the truth" to the heathen as such. In fact verse 19 begins with the earlier of the two classes of evil we have seen distinguished in verse 18, and the subject is pursued to the end of the chapter. It is distinctively the Gentile portion, and presents the moral ground which necessitated and justified the unsparing judgment of God.
Two reasons are assigned why His wrath is thus revealed upon all impiety. The first (ver. 19, 20.) is their inexcusable neglect of the testimony of creation to His eternal power and divinity; the second (ver. 21.), their abandonment of the traditional knowledge of God they had as late as the day of (not Adam, but even) Noah. Thus man was unfaithful to knowledge he possessed and to evidence around him.
"Because what is to be known of God is manifest among them, for God hath manifested it to them. For the invisible things of him from the world's creation are perceived, being understood by his work, both his eternal power and divinity, so that they should be inexcusable." The general force is plain. A few expressions may call for more detailed explanation. Τὸ γνωστόν means here, I think, not the knowledge (ἡ γνῶσις) or what was known of God, but, as the English Version, "that which may be known" of Him. It is the knowable rather than the known. The evidence was ample and distinct, but their eyes were dull. Next, I see no sufficient ground to take the phrase ἐν αὐτοῖς in an emphatic sense, but in one more general. Had self-knowledge been appealed to, as many conceive, it appears to me that the proper word for subjective knowledge must have been employed, and, further, the reflexive pronoun. It was expressly an objective character of knowledge which lay open in the midst; and this is confirmed by the added intimation — "for God manifested it to them," not the action of conscience, which finds its more appropriate place in Romans 2 where moral perception and conduct is discussed.
But how did God manifest to men what may be known to Him? This is answered in verse 20. For His invisible things, not all of course, but His eternal power and divinity, since the creation of the world, are perceived, being mentally apprehended by His works. The things He made were before all eyes, and, as we know, did not fail to produce convictions far above the ordinary strain of human thought prostrated by superstition and bewildered by philosophy: so much so that even the famous positivist of ancient times could not write his treatise on the world without affirming that "God, though He is invisible to every mortal being, is seen from the works themselves."
The phrase, ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου, "from the world's creation," can signify the foundation or source of the suggestion as easily and surely as the earliest starting point of time; but the latter seems to me preferable here, because the things made by God are immediately afterwards named as furnishing the groundwork for the mind to infer their Maker by.
Again, it is notorious that θειότης (from θεῖος, divine), here translated "Godhead" in the Authorized Version, has a wholly different force from θεότες (from Θεός, God) in Colossians 2:9. In the latter case it would quite fall short of the apostle's object to predicate divinity of the person of Christ: all the fulness of the Deity, or Godhead in the strictest sense, he says, dwells in Him bodily. In the former case, there is no such distinct personality supposed, but the more general sense that man may gather of a nature not creaturely but creatorial as evidenced in His works, the fruit of His power. It is a real, though the lowest, kind of testimony.
The next ground is not the knowable but the positively known. "Because, having known God, they glorified him not as God, nor were thankful, but became vain in their reasonings, and their unintelligent heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into* a likeness of an image† of corruptible man and birds and quadrupeds and reptiles." (Ver. 21-23.) A traditional knowledge of God is in question; and as the former regarded man with evidence from the beginning calculated and adequate to indicate a divine First Cause, so the objective knowledge of God here spoken of was the portion of man even after the flood: indeed not till after that mighty event do we hear of idolatry. But man was unequal to the task of preserving the holy deposit; and this, because of his moral state. When they did know God, they neither glorified Him as such, nor were they thankful. This left room for vain reasonings, which again darkened the heart instead of leading it into light. It was the self-sufficiency, and so the folly, of the creature. For light is only seen in God's light, and man must sink into darkness when not morally elevated by looking up to One above him. The humbling proof appeared too soon; and philosophy but sealed the evil to which superstitious fear led the way. An unacknowledged Supreme was rapidly forgotten, and the glory of the incorruptible God exchanged for a likeness of an image of corruptible man, yea, into objects ever lowering till creation's lords, now the victims of this debasing delusion, worship the most loathsome reptile which eats the dust.
† Ὁμοίωμα and εἰκών are not the same and are both needed to complete the apostle's thought. The one means a thing made like, or likeness; the other, a representative or image, whether externally resembling or not. This explains why the forms of ὅμοιος are never used of the Son in relation to the Father; for He, who was God in the beginning before creation and yet with God, could not be said to be merely like God. But when incarnate He could be, and is said to be, the image of the invisible God. On the other hand, it was no derogation but the highest distinction for God to say of the first Adam that He would make him "in our image, after our likeness;" i.e., representing Him here below, and withal sinless morally like as He was. The tracing of the application both in Genesis and in the New Testament is deeply interesting and will prove how little the Fathers or modern books based on their ideas have caught the truth conveyed. They exalt the first man as unduly as they lower the glory of the Second; and this through the influence of Platonism. Fallen as he is, man is still God's image. To curse him is to curse one that was made after His likeness. In the resurrection the saint will be like Christ and conformed to His image as the Firstborn among many brethren.
How admirably these few words refute the theory of progress in which the would-be wise have indulged in ancient and in modern times: a theory as contrary to their own vaunted reason as to fact. For what a Being could He be who would leave His intelligent and morally responsible creature, man, to grope his cheerless miserable way from the horrors of nature worship, and the darkness of polytheism, to juster notions of Himself and His attributes! Where is the wisdom, where the love, where the justice of such a scheme? The error consists in reasoning from progress in material things, or even from the intellectual domain, to moral condition: progress in those Scripture admits since the fall which means the very reverse in this. No: man departed more and more from God till the flood; after it he gave up the knowledge of God for the worship of the creature. The race fell into ever increasing error and evil, till a partial revelation by Moses and the complete manifestation of God in Christ judged morally the heathen world, proving its declension, not progress, its insensibility to right reason, and its departure from true traditions into the degradation of idolatry.
The consequence of idolatry is invariably under the moral judgment of God utter uncleanness among its votaries; and this in all its varieties but perhaps most conspicuously, as a divine retribution, among those who set up the human form, — "corruptible man," — though it was certainly not wanting where they worshipped that which was beneath man, birds, quadrupeds, and reptiles, alone or combined.
"Wherefore also God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness to dishonour their bodies among them [-selves], who changed the truth of God for falsehood and venerated and served the creature more than the Creator who is blessed for ever, Amen." (Ver. 24, 25.) If the soul abandons the truth of God, all is wrong, whatever appearances may say for the present. This was the great falsehood. Not to be in dependence and obedience is to be false to the relationship of a creature. Yet is there a step still farther down in evil, — the giving to the creature the honour that belongs to God only. It is exactly, and in this order, what Satan did, who was a liar from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, for there was no truth in him. Fallen man does his own will and is simply thus the slave of Satan. It may be in lusts, or in a religion of his own imagination, the one evidently degrading him, the other promising to elevate. But in truth it is Satan's, not God's promise, and is the full absolute lie which seals him up in all moral degradation not only for mind but for the body also. Such was heathenism, from which Judaism was powerless to deliver man, though a witness against his state. For God as yet dwelt behind a veil, and if at times He disclosed His way without a veil, it was but angelically, which is only a healing testimony to the sin-sick and not the quickening power needed by man, by all dead in trespasses and sin. (Comp. John 5.) God revealed in Christ, and this in eternal life as well as redemption, alone meets the case. Such is Christianity as now brought home and enjoyed in the power of the Holy Ghost, who accordingly puts more abundant honour on our uncomely parts and for the first time develops the vast importance of the body in God's service. See Romans 6, 12; 1 Corinthians 6, 15; 2 Corinthians 5, etc.
"On this account God gave them up unto passions of dishonour; for both their females changed the natural use into the contrary of nature, and likewise also the males, leaving the natural use of the female, burned in their desire toward one another; males with males working out unseemliness, and fully receiving in themselves the recompense of their error which was due." (Ver. 26, 27.) In this graphic but most grave sketch of the humiliating picture, which the classics fill up in so different a tone (for "the unjust knoweth no shame"), the weaker vessel comes first, as indeed the shamelessness was there most apparent and human depravity proved most complete and hopeless. The apostle does not deign to characterize them (though the greatest and highest, sages of earth, monarchs, conquerors, poets, philosophers, and what not) as men and women, but as "females" and "males," characterized by ways below the brute, given up of God, and even now enduring the meet reward of their deeds.
"And even as they approved not to have God in knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do things unbecoming; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, guile, ill-disposition; whisperers, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boasters, inventors of mischiefs, disobedient to parents, without understanding, perfidious, without natural affection, unmerciful; who, well knowing the righteous decree of God that those who do such things are worthy of death, not only do them but also take complacency in those who do them." (Ver. 28-32.) What pit of immorality can be lower than this last?
The word ἀδόκιμος is here as elsewhere translated "reprobate," as this well suits the phrase and contrasts their not approving to retain God in their knowledge with His giving them over to a "disapproved" mind. But it may rightly bear an active sense, and would then mean an "undiscerning" mind, as the sentence on their presumption in rejecting God after pretending to test and try the matter. It will be observed that in verse 29 I have omitted on good external authority πορνείᾳ ("fornication"), as the internal appears to me to turn the scale against it. As for the resemblance to πονηρίᾳ, it might act either in giving room to its insertion by mistake, or to its omission. But I think that the first class consists of personal evil; the second of that which is relative; as the third brings out, not roots of moral pravity, abstractedly viewed, whether personal or relative, but developed wicked characters, and this in an order neither unsystematic nor difficult to discern. Ἀσπόνδους is deficient in authority, being omitted in the best and most ancient manuscripts. "Implacable" is therefore left out of verse 31. It was probably introduced here because of its connection with ἄστοργοι in 2 Timothy 3:3.
The proof of human depravity and need is not yet complete. There is another character of evil contrasted yet connected with the description in the last verse of chapter 1 and most offensive in the sight of God. Men judge others and yet do the same things, and thus condemn themselves. How can this in any way arrest or even mitigate the sentence of God? It was and is common among speculative men, moralists, and the like. In truth it is no small aggravation To say "we see" exposes us, who none the less practise iniquity, to hear from the just Judge of all, that "our sin remaineth." For the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, and the judging in others what they themselves live in justifies their own righteous doom. Say what they please, God's sentence is according to truth upon those that do such things. He will, He must, have reality, and conscience knows it. Instead of open sympathy with others who sin, they may judge it as wrong; but if they do the same, how can such moral trifling, or those guilty of it, stand before God?
"Wherefore thou art inexcusable, O man, every one that judgest; for wherein thou judgest the other, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth upon those that do such things. And dost thou reckon this, O man, that judgest those that do such things, and doest them, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Ver. 1-4.) The truth is that philosophy knows not God, and so easily forgets His judgment, as it never can conceive His love. It is self-satisfied and has man for its object, not God. Hence His lavish goodness and His patience are despised, and His end in all is a lesson never learnt.
Repentance is the work of God in the soul on the moral side. It is inseparable from the new nature, and flows from the energy of the Spirit as faith in Jesus does; in no way the preparation for faith, but its accompaniment and fruit. Nevertheless, by this I do not mean faith exercised as to the infinite work of Christ. There may be as yet but a looking to Him longingly and hopefully; and, along with this expectation of good from Him according to God's word, that word turns the eye of conscience inwardly, and the man now converted judges himself as well as his ways before God. This deepens also, instead of diminishing, as the soul grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There was always repentance as truly as faith wrought in souls; and though this may have assumed a legal shape under law, repentance is not in anywise done with now, but is wrought all the more profoundly under the gospel. Different schools of doctrine have drawn a wrong inference, one from Romans 2:4, the other from 2 Corinthians 7:10. On the one side it is thought that the perception of God's goodness is repentance; on the other side that it is godly sorrow for sin. Scripture says nothing of the sort in either case, and intimates that, while repentance always supposes a change of mind, it goes much farther, and is a matter of conscience in the light of God, and not a purely intellectual process. As the goodness of God leads to repentance, so sorrow according to Him works repentance. There is such a thing as sorrowing unto repentance, as there is repentance unto salvation. It is thus a far deeper dealing with the soul than many suppose. Self is judged without reserve, and the will goes wholly with the new man. Sorrow according to God may still have a struggle: when one repents truly, the evil is disliked inwardly, and one has got free from it. "Surely after I was turned, I repented; and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth." (Jer. 31:19.)
Moralizing without conscience has a peculiarly hardening effect, and the long-suffering goodness of God is then misused to slight His leading. God is not mocked; it is only thou, O man, who thus deceivest thyself. "But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest to thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of God's righteous judgment." (Ver. 5.) Such is the solemn sanction which accompanies the gospel: not national, earthly, and providential judgments, but divine wrath, wrath already revealed from heaven, to take its awful course in its day when the day of grace is over. The law inflicted its temporal chastisements; with the gospel goes the revelation of "how much sorer punishment," even eternal; and this most of all when the gospel is refused or abused. For there is a righteous judgment of God, "who shall render to each according to his work: to those that in patience of good work seek for glory, honour, and incorruptibility, eternal life; but to those that are contentious and disobey the truth and obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath." (Ver. 6-8.) The appraisal and the rendering are individual; and, as we shall see farther on, the secrets of the heart appear.
It is important to note that eternal life is viewed not only as a present possession for the believer in Christ, but as the future issue of a devoted pathway for His name. The Gospel of John develops the former; the other three show us the latter; as our apostle elsewhere in this epistle (Rom. 6:22, 23) gives us both brought together in the same context. But now, says he of Christians, "being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." On the other hand, the wages of sin, though death, are not death only, but after it the judgment, as Hebrews 9 states in accordance with what we have here.
In the next verse the apostle for the first time points directly at the Jew, no less than the Gentile, as obnoxious to divine judgment. We have seen with what consideration he approaches this subject, which, once cleared, is to hold so prominent a place in the epistle. In Romans 1 he had begun with the bright side, and affirmed the gospel to be God's power unto salvation to every one that believes, both to Jew first and to Greek. Now, in Romans 2, when handling, not the gospel that saves the lost, but the immutable principles of God's righteous government, he brings out the alternative — "tribulation and anguish on every soul of man that worketh evil, both of Jew first and of Greek; but glory, and honour, and peace to every one that worketh good, both to Jew first and to Greek; for there is no regard of person with God." (Ver. 9-11.) Such are His ways. Time, place, people can make no radical difference with Him, save that possession of privileges brings with it a prior responsibility, and this with evident justice. If the man who enjoys religious light works out evil notwithstanding, is he less guilty than his less favoured fellow-sinner? If he heeds the warning and testimony of God, working out that which is good, God will not withhold "glory, honour, and peace;" and neither last nor least stands the Jew thus found in His sight, though, as Peter truly declared on a great occasion, God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him and works righteousness is acceptable to Him. How this is made good in souls every believer knows. It is the fruit of His own grace; for it is not in man to direct his stops, nor in good in him or to be got from him, save when faith enables him to do His good pleasure: without faith it is impossible to please Him. Nor is it for a moment to be allowed that Romans 2 can clash either with Romans 1 or with Romans 3. Without such grace of God and faith of man there is no good about him: on the contrary, he needs God's power to save him. But God is here laying down His own inflexibly just ways as dealing morally with man. The believer, no doubt, is the only one who works good, the only possessor therefore of glory, honour, and peace; and while the Jew (as long as he had a place of relationship with God, and even till judgment manifestly closed it) had the precedence, the Gentile is not overlooked, but comes up in gracious remembrance before God, as we see in Cornelius and his house.
But, next, the apostle goes farther, and formally lays down that, while in every instance God will judge righteously, superiority of privilege entails deeper obligations and corresponding strictness in judgment: "for as many as without law have sinned, shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned under law shall be judged by law (for not the hearers of law are just with God, but the doers of law shall be justified. For whenever Gentiles, which have no law, do by nature the things of the law, these having no law are a law to themselves; who evince the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also joining its testimony, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel by Jesus Christ." (Ver. 12-16.) Thus there can be no prescriptive title of exemption to the Jew in the day of judgment, as he fondly hoped. The very standing as God's witness in the earth, which that people had enjoyed in contrast with the Gentiles, bears with it their liability to a closer scrutiny when God deals, not in external inflictions on the nations, but with the heart and its ways in His sight, however hidden from man. Could even the Jew question the equity of this procedure? He must assuredly abandon his own fatal presumption — that the righteous God would close His eyes to the wickedness of His own ancient people: if he still maintained, as he ought, the special advantage of Israel, he could not deny their augmented responsibility compared with the Gentile.
In other ways also these passages are of great weight and value. Men are apt to reason on this as on other subjects after an abstract sort. From one true God who gave His law, as He had made and shall judge all men, many assume that all alike are under that law, and shall be judged by it, and that no other method is possible without sullying God's truth, righteousness, authority, and honour. But he who is subject to the word of God, and stands intelligently by faith in His favour, knows that the dogmatism of a Pharisee is no better than the scepticism of a Sadducee, that neither knows the scripture, and that, as the latter denies the power, so the former sets aside His grace and also His righteousness. For the apostle elaborately shows as an incontestable truth here and elsewhere that there were men without law, as certainly as others under law. Who they were is equally clear and sure: Gentiles had not law, Jews had; and this was a main element of the different ground on which they should be tried. In vain would they weaken what the apostle says in verse 12 by that which he adds in verses 14, 15, that Gentiles, having no law, whenever they do the duties of the law, are a law to themselves, spite of having no law. It would be better to seek to understand the latter verses which need a little attention and reflection, rather than to overthrow what is so plain and positive in both; for in these passages, as everywhere, the doctrine is that Gentiles were without law, in contradistinction from Jews who were under law. (Compare Rom. 3:19, 1 Cor. 9:20, 21.) In Romans 1, where Gentile responsibility and guilt are treated, it is not a question of law, but of the testimony of creation and of the traditional knowledge of God they at first possessed. Here, in Romans 2, the Jewish boast of the law is turned to a serious purpose, as it is the basis of the apostle's proof that they cannot escape from being judged of God by the higher and fuller standard of His law.
It is argued by some who would neutralize these differences, that Gentiles are said to have the law written in their hearts. Why not look into what the apostle actually says and means, instead of twisting a few words into a contradiction of his express doctrine? It would be strange indeed, and say but little for Christianity, if heathens possessed as such that which the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:15, 16.) affirms to be one of the grand and distinctive blessings of the New Covenant. This kind of theology teaches that the heathen have already the law written in their hearts. But the apostle does not stultify himself, as this would imply, — does not predicate of the heathen that immense mercy of God which the New Covenant holds out to faith based on redemption in Christ. What he really teaches is that whenever (for indeed it was scanty and rare) Gentiles do by nature the things of the law, they evince the law's work written in their hearts. He says not that the law, as these uninstructed men assume, but that its work, was written therein. For instance, let a heathen gather somehow the duty of honouring his parents: this, though he may have never heard of the law, is a law to him. So far the work of the law (not the law itself) is said to be written in his heart. His conscience thenceforth accuses or excuses him according to his conduct; and God in judgment will take all fully into account by and by. But this in no way interferes with the opening principle that some sin without being under law and so perish, as others more guiltily sin under law, and so shall be judged; for the question in judgment is not privilege but fidelity according to what we know or may know. Not the law-hearers are just with God but the law-doers shall be justified. This is invariably true; as scripture declares, faith accepts and judgment will display.
Accordingly we have the character of judgment declared in verse 16 conformably to what the apostle calls his gospel. Providential scourges, earthly chastening, or destruction, are true dealings of God and so revealed, not only in the Jewish scriptures, but in the prophecies of the New Testament also. But the judgment of the secrets of men is a different and far deeper truth: and this finds its suited revelation in the gospel as Paul presented it, where man is judged fully, both outwardly and inwardly, in presence of the saving grace of God and the heavenly glory of Christ the risen man, who is the life and the righteousness of the believer. This is Paul's gospel, and God's judgment of man (yea, of his heart's secrets by Jesus Christ in the great day that hastens) is according to that gospel. (Comp. Rom. 1:17, 18.)
The apostle now advances another step in his appeal to conscience. He addresses himself next to the Jew, not classing him with the Gentile alone. Did the Jew value himself on his singular place among men, on his possession of a divine revelation, on the true God as his God, on the knowledge of His will, on his own consequent ability to try the things that differ and hence decide for the more excellent? did he assume a conscious superiority to his Gentile neighbours, through confidence in himself as thus standing on a vantage ground which gave him to look down on the wisest of other nations as but blind, and in the dark, and foolish, and babes, being destitute of that embodiment of knowledge and truth which the law afforded himself? Be it so, but if all this were so, how was it with the Jew in fact? The greater the privilege, the less excusable if he was faithless to the light he had and as bad as the heathen he despised.
"But if* thou art named a Jew, and restest on law, and boastest in God, and knowest his will, and provest the things that differ, being instructed out of the law, and hast confidence that thou thyself art a guide of blind, a light of those in darkness, an instructor of fools, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and of truth in the law: thou then that teachest another dost thou not teach thyself? thou that preachest not to steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest not to commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou who boastest in the law, through transgression of the law dost thou dishonour God? For the name of God on your account is blasphemed among the Gentiles even as it is written." (Ver. 17-24.)
*But if (εἰ δὲ) is unquestionably the right reading, not ἴδε ("behold") as in the Received Text and Authorized Version, which seems to have been a correction to ease the sense, if not a mere blunder in copying.
Thus severely, but severely because it was with the irresistible force of truth, does the apostle turn to the utter shame of the Jew the very ground on which he had entrenched himself in pride and vain glory. If there was conscience, he must own himself more guilty than the Gentile; if there was none, his insensibility would not make his sin and folly less manifest to all who fear God and estimate man aright. On his own showing his boasted knowledge of the law brought no saving power along with it for himself, whatever fuel it might supply for his arrogant abuse of it in contempt of others. Who, then, more signally dishonoured God? Was it not written even more strongly still in their own prophets? What said Isaiah (Isa. 52:5.)? and what Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:20-23.)? No doubt their foreign lords made them to howl; but was it not true that Israel profaned Jehovah's holy name among the heathen whither they went?
The issue of the reasoning is given in the concluding verses. A religious form cannot cover the contradiction morally of its own spirit; and on the other hand, where the spirit is truly found, God will approve of this spite of the absence (it may be unavoidably) of the form. He will and must have reality in that which concerns men in relation to Himself. "For circumcision indeed profiteth, if thou keep the law; but if thou be a transgressor of law, thy circumcision is become uncircumcision. If then the uncircumcision keeps the requirements of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be reckoned for circumcision; and the natural uncircumcision fulfilling the law, judge thee that in the way of letter and circumcision transgressest law? For he that is outwardly a Jew is not [one], nor is that which is outward in flesh circumcision, but he that is hiddenly a Jew, and circumcision of heart in spirit, not in letter, the praise of whom [is] not of men but of God." As the principle is clear, so are the persons who alone are acceptable with God. External circumstances cannot over-ride His character and ways and judgment. The apostle does not here enunciate the fundamental truth of either Christianity or the Church in which dispensational differences vanish away in the light of a Christ dead and risen in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek. But it is of deep interest to observe how the profoundly just dealing of God which he is asserting, and which could not but commend itself to the conscience even of him whom it most condemns, fits in with that mighty development of truth, the revelation of the mystery, which it was Paul's province above all others to make known to us. As on the one hand the mere outward Jew is nothing nor the rite abstracted from its meaning; so on the other hand that only has praise with God which is hidden and heart work, not in letter but in spirit. Such an one, he strikingly adds (in allusion it would seem to the name of Judah and of a Jew) even if his brethren curse, or men hate, shall have his praise of God.
The apostle's statement at the end of Romans 2 had laid down with irresistible force for the conscience that God will have reality rather than form. Let the Jew then beware. This gives occasion to objections which are met in the earlier part of Romans 3:1-8.
"What therefore [is] the superiority of the Jew, or what the profit of circumcision?" To this or at least the former of these questions the apostle replies, "Much in every way; for, first, because they were entrusted with the oracles of God." In its proper place he enumerates the various high distinctions of Israel; but here he singles out, as foremost, that which had been their constant, and most precious privilege, the possession of God's written word; and the rather too as this was most suited to demonstrate their moral delinquency. For what use had they made of it? Where was the fruit of so great a favour?
Here again there is an anticipation of any argument founded, however unreasonably, on Jewish refractoriness which knew that the glory of God can never fail. "For what if some believed not? shall their unbelief make void the faith of God? Let it not be, but let God be true and every man false, even as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy words, and overcome when thou art judged." God holds fast infallibly to His truth, and men fail in faithfulness because of want of faith, which is insensible to sin, trusts self and has no confidence in God. That there is any, the smallest, failure on God's part he indignantly repudiates, and insists that He at least be vindicated to man's shame and confession of his own evil; even as David found his only resource in acknowledging his sin to God, clearing Him at all cost to himself. Indeed this is the secret of blessing for the sinner; and the willingness to own his ruined estate God operates in the heart by the revelation of His own grace. Our sins justify His words.
Of this the objector would again take advantage by contending that God could not then consistently punish us. Hence the apostle cuts off such misuse of the truth by what follows. "But if our unrighteousness commend God's righteousness, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who inflicteth wrath? I speak according to man. Let it not be: since how shall God judge the world?" This last was an axiom with the Jew, who was willing enough to allow justice in dealing with the earth at large (as, e.g., Abraham had entrenched himself on it in favour of exempting Lot from the destruction then impending over the cities of the plain). Impossible that there can be unrighteousness in God. But this very consideration was fatal to the fond delusion of self-security to which an unrighteous Jew yielded. God brings Himself glory even in face of man's iniquity; but iniquity is none the less, nor the less surely to be judged of God for all that. Hence he allows the objection to betray its own heinousness and leaves it when thus self-exposed without an answer, as necessarily condemned even by the most ordinary natural conscience. "For if the truth of God abounded in my lie to his glory, why any longer am I too judged as a sinner? and not, even as we are slanderously reported, and even as some give out that we say, 'Let us do evil that good may come?' — whose judgment is just." Such reasoning resembled what was falsely put into the mouth of the Christian, and proved too truly of the Jewish adversary that, in seeking to escape the conviction of his own hopeless exposure to God's judgment, he was obliged, as with the stiffest legalist is so often the case, to slip into principles of very gross antinomianism. It must always be thus, where men, cloaking their sins, hope for mercy from God; and the more inconsistently, as they ignore His grace and confess that He is the judge of all.
Next, from verse 9 the general argument is resumed, all the stronger for the interruption which rebuked the vain struggles and detailed cavils of the Jew. "What therefore? are we better? Not at all; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles to be all under sin, even as it is written, There is none righteous, not one; there is not the [man] that understandeth; there is not the [nation] that seeketh God. All went out of the way, thus then they became unprofitable; there is none that doeth kindness, there is not so much as one. Their throat [is] an open grave; with their tongues they used deceit; venom of asps [is] under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; swift [are] their feet to shed blood; ruin and misery [are] in their ways, and no way of peace they knew. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever things the law saith, it speaketh to those that are in the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world come under judgment with God; because by works of law no flesh shall be justified before him, for by law is knowledge of sin." (Ver. 9-20.) The Jew then is no better. The Gentiles were utterly degraded and guilty, as we saw in Romans 1; the Jews had brought shame on the Lord in proportion to their exceeding privileges. To clench this last point the apostle cites from the Psalms and prophets, especially Psalm 53 and Isaiah 59. Righteousness, intelligence, and even desire after God were not to be found, but all gone aside, and useless morally. Nay, every whit of them was corrupt or violent, — throats tongues, lips, feet, eyes. And this, as is remarked: was God's estimate, not of men merely but of the Jew, and addresses itself to those under itself as no Jew would deny.
The overwhelming conclusion, then, is that every mouth is closed and the whole world comes in guilty before God. The Jew never doubted the wickedness of the idolatrous Greeks, Romans, or other Gentiles. This to him was patent and unquestionable. But the flattering and most mistaken inference of immunity he drew from his own position, as having God's law and ordinances. No, reasons the apostle, this demonstrates your guilt to be even greater than the heathens, if you are no less immoral than they; and that such is the fact certainly flows from the revealed sentence of the law on the people who have that law.
Thus all stand inexcusable in their guilt before God; and this, because law-works cannot justify — still less of course the works that man's mind suggests, or that the will of others may extort. If any works could justify anybody, those of God's law must be the surest benefit to the Jew. But the truth is that no flesh shall be justified from any such source in His sight; for contrariwise law never produces holiness but is only the means of arriving at a full knowledge of sin.
There is another point I would notice as to the two chief portions which the apostle quotes from the Old Testament. The psalm and the prophecy already referred to terminate respectively — the former, with an earnest wish that the turning-point for Israel were come out of Zion, their captivity giving place to the long-looked-for joy and deliverance — the latter, with the declaration that the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and the covenant of blessing be theirs for ever. That is, both texts in their original connection close their sad account of Israel's sin with the yearning after, and the distinct prediction of, the kingdom of God restored to Israel with all accompanying blessedness and glory. But in the New Testament they are followed by the indiscriminate grace of God to every sinner that believes in Christ. In the former it is redemption by power; in the latter it is redemption by blood, which is come in meanwhile, before the Redeemer appears in power and glory, as He will soon.
Hitherto it has been for the most part negative statement or argument. The proof is complete that the Jew has righteousness for God no more than the Gentile, whom no Jew could doubt to be hopelessly ruined in sin, as indeed the state of the heathen, before the gospel testimony went forth, was to the last degree deplorable. But it had been shown from their own Psalms and Prophets that Israel was wholly evil in the sight of God; and to demonstrate this the Apostle needs nothing but the admitted postulate that, whatever things the law says, it speaks to those that are under the law; i.e., the Jews. Thus, both being demonstrated to be mere sinners (the Jews who had most pretension by the most sweeping and express testimonies of their own boasted divine oracles), every mouth was stopped, and all the world obnoxious to God's judgment. Law made its possessors no better, could not justify, but only give full knowledge of sin — sorrowful result for the sinner!
Then, what law could not do, God does by His good news. "But now without law God's righteousness is manifested, being testified by the law and the prophets, even God's righteousness through faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all that believe." What fulness of truth, and what a compressed and precise expression of it! Man's righteousness was nowhere among the Gentiles. It had been asked for by the law among the Jews; but the law received no answer save of guilt. Those among them whose conscience was upright acknowledged that all their righteousnesses were as filthy rags, and that their iniquities, like the wind, had taken them away — that for their sins and for the iniquities of their fathers, the Jews had become a reproach to all that were about them. In the very writings which confessed their ruin the prophets spoke of Jehovah bringing near His righteousness. "My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth." "My salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished." "My righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation." "My salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed." (Isaiah 46, 56; Daniel 9:16, 24.) So, in the types of the law, the entire sacrificial system sets forth a righteousness of God outside man, yet most truly for him, which meets its only adequate significance in the mighty work and death of Jesus. But the law and the prophets were only witnesses, testifying that this divine righteousness was not come, but coming; the shadows of a substance not yet present, the prediction of what was to be, and then near to come. Now it is come and manifested. It is quite independent of law, on the wholly different principle of grace, though the law as well as the prophets bore an anticipative witness to it. Law (not in its types, but in its proper character) appeals to the individual's own obedience, knows nothing of a substitute. Grace always supposes the intervention of God Himself in His Son, who in the cross establishes the right of God to bless him that believes in Jesus. It is not simply His prerogative of mercy; it is His righteousness. For the blood of the only acceptable victim is shed, the sacrifice is offered, the judgment of the sins has fallen on Him, He has accepted it all. This then is the new sort of righteousness; not man's, which, if it existed, must be according to the law; not the sinner's, of course (for he, being a sinner, has none which can avail), but God's, according to the types of the law and the declarations of the prophets, now no longer hidden or even promised, but manifested. He who believes God's testimony in the gospel to Jesus Christ His Son, confesses his sins and trusts God, not himself; he sees and owns what God can righteously do for him through the cross, and thus shares in His righteousness.
The manuscripts differ as to the text here. Some of the most ancient (the Sinai, Vatican, Alexandrian, and Rescript of Paris, beside some juniors, versions, and fathers) omit καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας ("and upon all"). But I agree with the judgment of those who retain the received text in this, and I have little doubt that the words were omitted through the eye or ear resting on one πάντας so as to overlook the other. Possibly indeed one scribe or more may have designedly left out the clause, fancying it to be a mistake from not apprehending the scope, and conceiving, like some commentators (e. g., Dean Alford), that there is no real difference of meaning in the prepositions. But this is incorrect. There is no difference of words in scripture without a different sense, though sometimes the shade is so fine as to be more easily felt than expressed. Here the distinct force of the clause is plain and important. The former (εἰς πάντας) marks the direction of God's righteousness. It is not, like the law, restricted to a single nation; it addresses itself "unto all" men without exception; but the benefit depends on faith in Jesus Christ, and hence it only reaches and takes effect "upon all that believe." This distinction is of great practical value; but it turns mainly on the difference of the prepositions. Divine righteousness was in principle applicable to all, but in fact applied only to all believers.
It was no question of right in man, but in God, and this through Christ's redemption. "For there is no difference; for all sinned, and do come short of the glory of God." When man was innocent, he simply enjoyed the creature gifts around in thankfulness to Him who had set him in the midst of all and over all which God had pronounced "very good." But when he sinned, God appeared and could have no test to try him by short of His glory, which drives out sinful man from before His face. Hence the necessity for divine grace if he is to be justified. This accordingly is the immediate topic of discourse: "being justified [i.e. all who are being justified] gratuitously by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiatory through faith in his blood, for a declaration of his righteousness on account of the praeter-mission of the sins that had been before in the forbearance of God, with a view to the declaration of his righteousness in the present time, in order to his being just and justifying him that is of faith in Jesus."
Thus the utter sin of man makes it an absolute necessity that, if he is to be justified at all, he must be justified gratuitously by God's grace. The question of desert or previous fitness is excluded. This suits the grace and majesty of God quite as much as the abject need of man. His grace moreover does no dishonour to His holy and righteous character, but the very reverse; and all through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. What is the ransom He purposed and has found? Christ a propitiatory through faith in His blood whom He set forth for a declaration of His righteousness. For God passed over the sins of believers in Old Testament times, looking forward to Christ's blood to vindicate Him, and forbearing all the while. But now it is not a matter of forbearance. The debt is cancelled, the blood is shed, His righteousness is no longer in prospect, but brought in and manifested, and God is proved to be just in justifying him that believes in Jesus. (Ver. 26.)
This therefore exalts God and His Son, but leaves no room for the boasting of those who trust in themselves that they are righteous. "Where then [is] boasting? It was excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by [the] law of faith. For we reckon that a man is justified by faith without works of law. Is he the God of Jews only? [Is he] not also of Gentiles? Yea of Gentiles also; since God is one who shall justify [the] circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through their faith? Do we then make void law through faith? Far be it: but we establish law." (Ver. 27-31.) The principle of faith shuts the door against glorying in one's own works, because it means justification by faith apart from works of law. But the moment it is allowed that this is God's sanctioned way, He is certainly not God of Jews more than of Gentiles, but is one and the same to both, who will justify circumcised persons not by law as they expect, but by faith, and if uncircumcised have faith, through it He will justify them also.
Is this destruction of law as a principle? The very opposite. Law never had such a sanction as in the gospel proposed to faith, whether one looks at the sinner totally condemned under it or at Christ made a curse on the cross. On the other hand, those who would treat Christians as under the law for their rule do enfeeble its authority, because these are taught to hope for salvation at the same time that they fail to meet its requirements. This is not to establish law, but to make it void.
The previous reasoning, and especially the statement of the apostle towards the close of Romans 3, had made justification to depend evidently and exclusively on the expiatory work of Jesus. God was thereby just and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. And this, as he had further shown, at once opens the door of grace to Gentiles as well as Jews, while it establishes law instead of annulling its authority (as the salvation of sinners on any other principle must).
This naturally raised the question of the saints in Old Testament times, before Jesus and the gospel which, since His advent, is preached to every creature. How does the doctrine agree with God's ways in their case? Accordingly the apostle takes two instances which would naturally occur to a Jewish objector: one the depositary of promise from God, as regards the chosen people; the other the true type of royalty over them according to God — Abraham and David, but especially Abraham. Both, we shall see, confirm the great argument instead of presenting the smallest difficulty to be removed.
"What therefore shall we say that Abraham, our [fore-]father according to the flesh, hath found?* For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath matter of boast, but not before God. For what saith the scripture? And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness." (Ver. 1-5.)
* The manuscripts differ widely in this place. The Vatican is not alone in omitting εὑρηκέναι ("hath found"), which would yield a very easy sense. Most of the copies place εὑρηκέναι before κατὰ σάρκα, but the best have it after ἐροῦμεν. Προπάτορα is the reading of but few, but perhaps enough; as πατέρα is the usual form and might easily have slipped in.
What, then, is the true inference from the history of Abraham? If justified by works, certainly the credit would be his; but this is never found before God. And with this the scripture accords; for it speaks not of his goodness before his call or acceptance, but expressly of his faith in God's word as that which he exercised, and which was accounted as righteousness. (Gen. 15:6.) No Jew who bowed to the divine authority of the Pentateuch could dispute this. Was it, then, consistent or at issue with the gospel? If a man work, the reward is not viewed as a gratuity, but as the wages due to him; but if, instead of working, he believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, what a magnificent proof and conclusion that his faith is reckoned for righteousness! This is free grace, and the very reverse of a debt according to law; and such was the principle of God's dealings with their great forefather according to the inspired account of Moses.
Take again the testimony of David. Does he fall in with the gospel or contradict the legislator? The sweet psalmist of Israel confirms them, for he pronounces those blessed whom the law could only curse. "Just as David also speaketh of the blessedness of the man to whom God reckoneth righteousness without works. Blessed [they] whose iniquities were forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed a man whose sin the Lord will in no way reckon." (Ver. 6-8.) Unquestionably this is justification not by good, but in spite of evil works. It is God's grace blessing, not His law cursing, where there was no righteousness, but only lawlessness and sin; yet the Lord reckons no sin whatever, but righteousness without works. No doubt, man is supposed to be altogether evil and without excuse; but this is the revelation of the God of all grace as He loves to be known by sinful man. He justifies those who need it most — the ungodly. "This blessedness, therefore, [is it] upon the circumcision or also upon the uncircumcision? for we say that to Abraham faith was reckoned for righteousness. How then was it reckoned? When he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received [the] sign of circumcision, a seal of the faith that [he had] in uncircumcision, in order to his being the father of all that believe while uncircumcised, in order that righteousness might be reckoned to them also; and father of circumcision, net only to those circumcised, but also to those that walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham while uncircumcised." (Ver. 9-12.)
We have seen, then, faith counted as righteousness to Abraham, corroborated by the testimony of David to the blessedness of those whose bad works were remitted and to whom the Lord reckoned no sin. But a new question arises for the Jewish mind — Were not those blessed in the enjoyment of circumcision? Is it not limited to persons within that pale? Again the apostle brings in Abraham. Could any Jew slight him or hesitate as to the conditions of his blessing? How, therefore, in his case was faith reckoned to him? after or before he was circumcised? Beyond doubt, when he was uncircumcised, as their own inspired record made plain and sure. Circumcision was but a sign he received considerably later, as sealing the faith he had while in an uncircumcised state. Thus is Abraham more than any other fitted to be father of all that believe while uncircumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them; and father of circumcision (not of the circumcised, or Jews, as some perversely understand, but), of true separation to God, whether for the circumcised or for those also that walk in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham whilst uncircumcised.
The Jew, therefore, could not cite Abraham without being compelled by the scriptural history to allow that this precedent illustrates the grace of God in justifying the heathen more forcibly, if possible, than in its application to his own circumcised and lineal seed. God, if He pleased, could have justified Abraham after bringing him under the rite of circumcision; but He saw fit to do the very reverse. Not only was faith reckoned as righteousness to Abraham, but it was also beyond cavil whilst he was still uncircumcised; and circumcision was in no way a means of the grace that justifies, but a seal of the righteousness that was reckoned to him long before that sign was instituted by God.
Justification, then, is not of works: else man might boast of himself, instead of God being glorified. It is really according to grace, and not debt; and God reserves His prerogative of justifying the ungodly. Thus God and man have their due place; and as Abraham illustrated the principle, so David speaks of the pronouncing a blessing after this sort in Psalm 32. Nothing but imputing righteousness without works could avail for the justifying of a sinner. Nor this only; for the very man, with whom circumcision began as the command of God, was expressly justified by faith before he was circumcised. So manifestly did God order all in His wisdom and goodness that circumcision should be but a seal of the righteousness of faith which Abraham had while yet uncircumcised. Thus the Gentiles or the uncircumcised were especially provided for in the unquestionable facts recorded in the first book of the Pentateuch, as no Jew could deny. Abraham was father of all believers in a state like his own, and father of circumcision (i.e., separation to God, couched under that act which set forth mortification of the flesh) not only to the circumcised, but also to those that walk in the footsteps of the faith the ancestor of Israel had before circumcision. Believers from among the Gentiles were thus as truly circumcised in the highest sense as Jewish ones.
"For not by law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed, that he should be heir of [the] world, but by righteousness of faith. For if those of law [be] heirs, faith is made vain and the promise is annulled." (Ver. 13, l4.)
The apostle now reasons from the necessary principle of God's promise. This excludes law and supposes faith — righteousness. For evidently law supposes the obedience of man as the condition of receiving the boon which is in question. It was not so in God's dealings with Abraham or his seed. There was not a word about His law when God gave promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, and to his seed in Genesis 22. The promise implies God's fulfilment of it; the law claimed man's obedience of its demands. They are thus, while each is admirable for its own end, absolutely different and mutually exclusive. The promised inheritance is not by law, but by another sort of righteousness. It was annexed to faith; and this is so true, that if those who stand on law are heirs, no room is left for faith and the promise comes thus to nought. "For the law worketh out wrath; but where no law is, there is no transgression." (Ver. 15.) The application is as clear as it is momentous, and this positively as well as negatively. The thing law generally, and in particular the law of God given by Moses, provokes by its very excellence the hostile self-will of man, and so detects his enmity and works out wrath in result. On the other hand, where there is no law, there is no transgression. It is no question of sin here, but of violating positive prescription, which latter of course could not be till the lawgiver uttered the enactments definitely. Then as law existed, it could be transgressed. But it was not yet promulgated in the time of Abraham, who had that wholly different thing — the promise.
The conclusion is, that as law would have defeated the promise of God and brought wrath on man, instead of the inheritance, "on this account [it is] of faith, that [it might be] according to grace in order to the promise being sure to all the seed, not only to that which is of law, but also to that which is of Abraham's faith, who is father of us all (even as it is written, A father of many nations I have made thee), before God whom he believed, that quickeneth the dead and calleth the things that are not as if they are; who against hope believed in hope, in order to his becoming father of many nations according to that which was spoken, So shall be thy seed." (Ver. 16-18.) As faith is opposed to works, so is grace to law; while the grace of God who gave the promise makes the sole and withal the large door of faith to open for Gentiles no less than Jews. Had law been the principle, Israel who boasted of possessing the law, though blind to their breaches of it and to their own enhanced exposure to wrath, could alone have made an effort, however vainly. But grace goes out to the Gentile no less than to the Jew who could hardly limit Abraham's paternity of "many nations" to his own people.
Here too another point of great value is noticed. The God whom Abraham believed quickens the dead and calls things that have no being as though they had. This was rendered evident not only by the fact that Sarah bore no child to Abraham, but by their great age when the promise was given. They were as good as dead, and a child of theirs had no existence. But what of all this to God? Long before the time God spoke, Abraham against hope believed in hope. What a pattern of faith! On the human side all was hopeless; on God's part there was simply His word. But Abraham believed, hoped, and was not ashamed. God could not fail to make good what He said: "So shall be thy seed."
We are thus gradually advancing to the great principle of resurrection, which, while it bears mainly on life, as we shall see in Romans 5-8, plays also a most momentous part in justification. For this too the case of Abraham is employed: "And, not being weak in faith, he considered [not] his own body now dead, being about a hundred years old, and the deadening of Sarah's womb, yet as to the promise of God wavered not through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and fully assured that what he hath promised he is able also to perform." (Ver. 19-21.) The promise of God was beyond hope, and contrary to it, if he reasoned from himself and Sarah; but yet he believed in hope, because God had declared he should have posterity numerous as the stars and the sand. Faith reasons from God and His word, not from self or circumstances.
In verse 19 there occurs a remarkable difference of reading; and yet, strange to say, though that which results is as opposite as can be, in either way the sense is good. For both appear to suit and carry on the argument, though of course one alone is the true and intended comment of the Spirit on the state of Abraham. There is excellent and perhaps adequate authority of every kind* (manuscripts, versions, and ancient citations) for dropping the negative particle, which is therefore marked as doubtful in the version just before the reader's eye. If οὐ be an interpolation, the meaning would be that Abraham, instead of slighting the obstacles, took full account of them all (Gen. 17:17), yet as regards the promise of God had no hesitation through unbelief, but on the contrary was inwardly strengthened in faith. If the ordinary reading be right, the meaning is that, far from being weak in faith, he paid no heed to the facts before his eyes whether in himself or in his wife, nor staggered at the promise of God through unbelief, but found strength in faith, giving glory to Him and satisfied that He was able also to perform the promise.
* The Sinai, Vatican, Alexandrian, and Rescript of Paris (C.), with a few cursives, some of the oldest and best copies of the Vulgate, the Syriac (not the later or Philox.), the Coptic, the Erpenian Arabic, and some Greek and Latin fathers did not read οὐ. Lachmann accordingly leaves it out, and Griesbach counted it a probable omission. Tischendorf too omitted it in his first edition, but replaced it in the second and those subsequent. Meyer adheres to the common text.
"Wherefore also it was reckoned to him for righteousness. Now it was not written on his account alone that it was reckoned to him, but on our account also, to whom it shall be reckoned — [us] that believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord out of [the] dead, who was delivered† for our offences and was raised for our justification." (Ver. 22-25.)
† Διά with the accus. means "for," "on account of," either retrospectively or prospectively, according to the requirement of the context (as here we have instances of each). The active force of δικαίωσις forbids "because of," as does Romans 5:1, which makes faith necessary to justification. I have therefore preferred "for" as admitting of a similar latitude in English.
Thus as faith was reckoned for righteousness to the father of the faithful, so is it to the believer now. But the apostle takes care to point out the difference as well as the analogy. The faith not of Abraham only but of all the Old Testament saints was exercised on promise. They all in a large sense waited for the accomplishment of what God held out, sure that He could not lie, and was able also to perform. But in the great ulterior object of their hope they were expecting One who was only promised and not yet come.
It is not so with the Christian; for though he, like the elders, obtains a good report by faith, and has his faith reckoned for righteousness, yet the personal object of hope is come, and has wrought the infinite work of redemption. This is an incalculable change, and fraught with mighty consequences. It is not of course that much does not remain to be effected when Christ comes again (changing the saints then alive, raising the dead believers, judging the quick and finally the dead who had no part in the first resurrection, and closing all in the eternal state); but as to the foundation of all this and more, as to that work which alone could glorify God and justify sinful man, it is already done so perfectly that it admits of not a hairbreadth from God or man to render it more complete or efficacious. Such is the gospel of the grace of God; it is not promise, but accomplishment; and so absolutely, we may boldly say, that, if not now done in the cross, in the death and resurrection of Him who hung there, it never can be done — not even by Him. Christ being risen from the dead, dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over Him. Without His death in atonement, nothing was done which could adequately vindicate God about sin. In His death, God is glorified perfectly and for ever. He has put away sin by His sacrifice. By His one offering for our sins, they are gone for the believer. This is no question of hope, but of faith in the efficacy of His redemption, which we already possess through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Hence we are viewed in scripture as receiving the end of our faith, namely, the salvation of our souls, though we have to wait for the change of our bodies into His glorious likeness at His coming for us. Besides, there are gracious promises of care in both natural and spiritual necessities along the path here below. But the great fact remains for faith, that the atoning work is done.
Let it be remarked, further, that here it is not a question of the Saviour's blood as in Romans 3, but of God that raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead. The truth insisted on is not His grace who suffered all for our sins. It is the mighty intervention of God on our behalf in triumphant power, raising out of the dead Him who gave Himself to bear our judgment; or rather as it is here written, who was delivered on account of our offences and was raised to secure our justification. Thus, in Romans 3:26 the point is faith in Jesus; here, it is on Him that raised up Jesus. Such is the God whom we know. The fathers knew Him as He was pleased to reveal at that time and link Himself with them. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob was the giver of promises assuredly to be accomplished in His time. But our God, while the same blessed and blessing Almighty, is (as we can say) far more than this. The Only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father — He had declared Him — He who was full of grace and truth. Nor this only; for Jesus, conqueror of Satan in life, went down for us into death, was delivered for our offences, and therein so glorified God that His righteousness could not but bring Him up from the dead. The sins that were laid on Him, where are they? Gone for ever: blotted out by His precious blood. Could God leave Him in death who had thus afresh retrieved His glory and bound up with it the means of our eternal blessing? Impossible. He raised Jesus therefore from the dead and gave Him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God.
As God, then, is thus made known to the believer now, so it will be noticed that all is here closed in justifying us. In the same verse of Romans 3, which has been already compared, we read that He might be ''just and the justifier" of him that believeth in Jesus. For as we look on the blood of Jesus shed in expiation God has necessarily a judicial character. Sins must be judged according to all the holiness of a nature to which they are infinitely abhorrent. Here therefore God is declared to be just and the justifier of the believer. But in the end of Romans 4 we see that it is no longer a question of righteous satisfaction, as this had been completely settled in the blood of Jesus. Not so with justification. This derives an immensely increased value from the resurrection of Jesus which gloriously displayed in the Deliverer's person the victory that was won for us. He was delivered for our offences and was raised for our justifying. It is our Red Sea, and not merely our Passover
The weighty theme of justification has been now fully treated, on the side both of Christ's blood shed in expiation and of His resurrection as carried through death in the power of God; that is to say, both negatively and positively, bearing all the consequences of our sins and manifesting the new estate in which He stands before God.
In the former half of our chapter the apostle draws out the consequences of justification. From verse 12 he enters on a new part of his subject which runs down to the end of Romans 8 and is practically an appendix to what goes before.
"Having therefore been justified by faith, we have* peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also had access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God."
* This is an instance of a reading which differs from that given in the great majority of first-class authorities (the Sinai, Alexandrian, Vatican, Rescript of Paris, Clermont uncials, many excellent cursives, ancient versions, and fathers), yet, as it appears to me, most in keeping with the requirements of the context. For ἔχωμεν ("let us have") brings in an exhortation which agrees neither with what goes before nor with what follows, as the christian reader can judge for himself. The fact is that nothing is easier than to account for the various reading, for the interchange of the short with the long vowel or a diphthong that corresponds to it is most familiar to all acquainted with the critical history of the text. Thus inadvertence may have introduced the long ω instead of the short ο. Besides, the subjunctive suits man's mind, when conscious of wants Godward (and such is the state of most), rather than the indicative which expresses the blessing possessed already. Just so we see in 1 Corinthians 15, as another has remarked, where the Vatican stands alone of the Uncials in supporting some modern copies against the mass of ancient MSS., which favour an unquestionable error. , A, C, D, E, F, G, J, K, with the great majority of cursives, the Italic, Vulgate, Coptic, Gothic, Sclavonic, and many ancient ecclesiastical writers read φορέσωμεν, the subjunctive (instead of the indicative as in the common and correct text).
Peace with God we have as the first notable result of justification. Our previous state was enmity and war with God. But now that He has justified us by faith of Christ, we can look back at all the past, so humiliating to our souls, and yet we have peace with God.
It is a mistake to confound this with the ordinary apostolic salutation, which desires grace to the saints and "peace from God." These we need continually, and feel so much the more to be needed because we have peace with God. Again, "the peace of God," of which the apostle speaks in Philippians 4, is quite distinct; for it too is the want of the Christian in his daily circumstances. While he is enjoying peace with God as to his state, spite of the deep sense he may have of past guilt, he may not have the peace of God guarding his heart and his thoughts by Christ Jesus. He may be tried greatly and distracted, because anxious about this or that; if in one thing and another he fail by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make known his requests to God, he will assuredly fail to enjoy the guardian power of His peace. This therefore differs indisputably from that primary blessedness, the fruit of justification, which the apostle treats as the common portion of believers in his Epistle to the Romans.
The next effect it is as important as sweet to take into account. Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have also, as a permanent blessing given already to us, the title of access into this favour wherein we stand. If the former was in view of all we had done in past hostility to God, this contemplates our actual place and the feeling which reigns where we stand. Blessed be God! it is grace that reigns there. Not a breath is there, save of favour toward us who deserved alas! to be cast out and contemned for our unworthy ways, even since we have been brought to God. We do not stand under law: this were to fall from grace, the sure precursor of falling into sin, as well as the denial of the Saviour and of His precious redemption, and of our own blessing. The access we have had through our Lord Jesus Christ is into the grace, the true grace of God, and there alone we stand; anywhere else we must fall from everything good and into all evil.
But there is a third result which must not be passed by. The greater the boon, whether you look at the past with its dark sin or at the present with the settled sunshine of God's favour, so much the less can one bear to think of such blessedness coming to nought; and to nought it must all come, did the rich effects of justification depend on ourselves. But they do not. They come to us faith-wise, and they rest on Christ through whom alone they are our portion. They are not temporal like Adam's tenure of Eden, or Israel's possession of Canaan. They are secured through Him who died for our sins and is raised out of the dead. Can He lose the blessings He has thus won? No more can we for whom He won them. Hence we can exultingly look on the future. Not more certainly do we stand in present grace than "boast in hope of the glory of God." Less than this does not suit our God to hold out before us. He will have us to be with and as Christ in His own glory. With, us who believe He deals as to past, present, and future, according to what our Lord Jesus deserves and His eternal redemption. If the righteousness be God's righteousness, not man's, if divine righteousness be the starting-point, no wonder that the grace of God is the ground in which we stand, and that the glory of God is the sole adequate hope, whether we consider the person or the work of the Saviour. May we boast of it and Him!
The soul that believes has been thus shown us enjoying the results of justification absolute and complete. Admirable as a groundwork, nevertheless it is not everything. God would bless the believer according to what is in His heart, yet with full consideration of passing circumstances. And this last is what the apostle can speak of, now that the course is clear from the starting-point to the goal of God's glory, the hope of which makes the heart exult.
Nevertheless we are in the place of trial still, we are in the wilderness, though sheltered by the blood of the Lamb and redeemed from Egypt and its prince. Indeed properly here above all are we put to the proof; here, where no resources appear, God calls us to depend on and confide in Himself; here especially the enemy seeks to make us murmur in unbelief both as to the journey and as to the hope at the end of it. Egypt is the house of bondage; the wilderness is the scene of temptation; the land calls for conflict with the powers of darkness. The first two verses suppose us outside Egypt, and looking onward with joyful anticipation to the mountain of Jehovah's inheritance, the place He has made for Himself to dwell in.
Meanwhile there is nothing but desert around. Do we boast in hope notwithstanding? Assuredly, "and not only [so], but we boast in tribulations also." This flesh can never do; it may affect stoical insensibility: but faith, while it increases our feeling, alone gives us to triumph.
Here, however, there is a process to which we need to take heed. In hoping for the glory of God, our boast is direct. It is not so with our tribulations. We should and do boast in them, but it is not immediate. It is the fruit of intelligent apprehension of God's gracious aim in these afflictions. Hence the apostle proceeds to set out how we are brought thus to traverse the judgment of nature. We boast in tribulations, says he; "knowing that tribulation worketh endurance; and endurance, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that was given to us."
Such is the shining pathway of the Christian even here, because Christ is before the heart: otherwise, tribulation works out the impatience of the first man, not endurance through the Second. Then endurance sustained in faith works out experience (i.e., the proof of what is tested and stands); as this again, from what God is shown to be in gracious present care, strengthens hope; and this does not put to shame by failure and disappointment; because the Holy Ghost sheds abroad in our hearts the love of God, who loved us when there was nothing lovable in us, as we are shown after self is thus detected and judged, the world seen in its true colours, and God more than ever proved, and prized, and trusted.
This verse is remarkable as the first which speaks either of the Spirit given to us, or of the love of God which is thereby shed forth in us. We have His righteousness fully displayed and applied before there is any allusion to either. That God is wise in this, it is almost needless to remark. It is well that the soul should be shut up to that which is absolutely perfect outside ourselves on God's part and in virtue, not of the Spirit's work in us, but of Christ's for us. And so it is. Then in the path of subsequent christian experience, he can touch on and in due time unfold the love of God shed abroad in us, and the Holy Ghost given to us. We can then bear it safely. Had it been brought in before this, the heart would have readily turned to its own workings and affections from Christ and God's righteousness revealed in the gospel.
It may have been noticed that, though the apostle had carefully proved the ruin of man and the righteousness of God in which the believer has part, it is not so with His love. Of this he first speaks here as a thing not demonstrated but known and enjoyed. He assumes it from the common consciousness of Christians. It is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us.
Next we have God's love not thus subjectively viewed, but its display pointed out and grounded on the great objective fact of the death of Christ for us and outside us. "For while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for [the] ungodly." (Ver. 6.) How admirable the wisdom of God, and how wholesome! For even the believer convinced of his ungodliness is slow to appreciate his powerlessness. It was good to know that as man all was lost, and he had to do either with God's wrath in unbelief, or with His righteousness by faith. There is then the love of God in us, yea, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; but the foundation of it is in Christ's death, when we had as little strength as we were far from godliness. This was just the opportunity for grace; and for such Christ died.
It is not after this sort that the creature — that man — loves. "For scarcely for a just [man] will one die." Righteousness, as such, one esteems and values; but it does not draw out love so that one would die for a merely righteous person. Not that man's heart is not capable of strong affections; "for one might for the good* [man] even dare to die." (Ver. 7.) None among the sons of Adam could surpass such love as this.
* The article is here inserted, not before δικαίου but before ἀγαθοῦ. One would hardly die for any just person simply as such; but it might be for some known good man, whose excellence had powerfully acted on the heart of another.
"But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Ver. 8.) This is characteristically divine and sovereign. We were powerless, unjust, evil, nothing but sinners, on the one hand; and God, on the other, had no motive for His love other than itself. It is emphatically His own love. As another apostle puts it, God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Only God can love thus. Man, the saint even, must have a motive without; God has none. He, and He only, is love. The spring is within, and He needs no object without to call it forth. Those whom His grace makes objects of His love are wholly and absolutely unlovable as to themselves, yet He loves them spite of all they are. While they were yet sinners, Christ died for them — the fullest proof of their sin and of God's love. Nothing less could avail; nothing more blessed could be done even by Him; nothing different would suit Himself. Thus He commends His own love. What a resting-place for both heart and conscience! He forgets nothing, judges all, yet loves us with a love that is perfect and altogether peculiar.
How admirable are the ways of God in Christianity! There is nothing which opens so vast a field for activity, either in love or in mind; for the truth revealed is the revelation in Christ of Him who is infinite. Yet withal is it the most simple adaptation to the wants of every heart awakened to its real state in relation to God and indeed also to man. Thus the display of His love in the death of Christ comes down to the child, while it wholly transcends the highest soarings of poor but proud philosophy. There is the most profound truth, but it is embodied in facts which speak to every heart and conscience when the will has been dealt with by the Holy Spirit. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us; and in this God commends His own love toward us.
We have now to note the reasoning of the apostle, not indeed to prove the love of God; but, beginning with it as known through the Holy Ghost given to us, he draws conclusions after a truly divine sort. Thus the consciousness of the Christian has its just and full place, and so has the proof of divine love. However shed abroad in the heart, its demonstration rests on the gift of Christ and His death for us, wholly without us. This presents the love of God toward us absolutely free from mixture with anything in us or of us. Hence, as there was nothing to draw it out and fix it on us, the result is no less sure. The reasoning is not at all from divine counsels about us or promises made to us, but from what God is; and He is love — love proved in Christ's dying for us, while we were yet sinners. "Much more therefore, having been now justified by* his blood, we shall be saved through him from wrath." Most sound and conclusive!
* The preposition ἐν here and in the next verse I have translated "by." It is a far more intimate relation (= "in virtue of," "in the power of") than is expressed by διά, which, with the genitive as in each of these verses, signifies a means or instrument ("through"), as sometimes also in a certain condition ("with")- a sense which it occasionally bears in the accusative also. Compare Galatians 4:13 with Romans 2:27.
But he proceeds in the next place to develop and apply it yet more definitely. "For if, being enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Neither the weakness nor the positive enmity of man hindered that love but furnished the deepest occasion for its display. Certainly there is nothing that can frustrate its results now. We were but sinners then; we have been justified in virtue of Christ's blood now. We were foes of God, but have now been reconciled to Him through the death of His Son — infinitely precious in His sight, infinitely efficacious in its effects for us. Impossible that such love could fail for those whom it placed in a relationship so excellent. Assuredly the blood, the death, of Christ has done great things for us: now that he is risen again for our justifying, is all to prove abortive? It could not be. The wrath of God awaits the unbelieving soul, yea, abides on him that submits not to the Son. But we have received Him, believing on His name; we have been justified in the power of His blood; and we shall be saved through Him from that wrath.
How could it be otherwise? For us even now there is reconciliation. On the ground of the blood of Christ God has reconciled us to Himself. Not only are we no longer alienated, but He has brought us back and put us before Him according to His own grace, not reinstated merely (as if it were a replacing us in Adamic blessing), but according to His own nature and purpose by redemption. It is the due and normal place before God who would bless us in view of Christ and the results of His work for us on the cross. God reconciles: man, the believer, is reconciled, and this through the death of His Son. There was His own love without limit in Christ; nevertheless, even that love alone could not have sufficed to meet the case. No love in se could have saved us who were enemies from His just wrath. The death of Christ puts everything in its due place, and conciliates all. Neither wrath on God's part nor enmity on ours is ignored. Christ shed His blood, and died; the believer is justified and reconciled, and God's love, which so wrought in Christ and for us, will yet have the results of His gracious purpose in perfection. If He justified us when evil and rebellious by the death of Christ, much more (now that we stand in a new and holy relationship where all is made good for us by and with God) shall we be saved by His life.
Yet there is another boast we have as believers, in virtue of Christ's death and resurrection; and it is infinite, though entered on already. It is not now simply in hope of the glory of God; nor is it in our tribulations, looking on to the end of the Lord in them and the consequent profit meanwhile. This had drawn out a most blessed unfolding of what God is. His love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost given to us. He commends His own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There are consequences drawn; but they are not drawn from counsels about us, but from what He is, and has done for us when we were in our sins. There was no motive but in Himself; the objects of His love were the merest sinners. Hence we exult in much more than His ways with us, or the glorious hoped for result; "and not only [so], but also [we are] boasting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received the reconciliation."
Truly this is the climax: we exult in God! Higher we cannot go. In this we do boast through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us the most excellent gifts, but, better than all, Himself. For this, as for all the rest, we are indebted to Jesus; and we may even say, boldly yet most truly, that only through Jesus could God be what He is as the highest spring, ground, and object, of our boasting. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him," said the Saviour, "God will glorify him in himself and will straightway glorify him." "And not only so, but we glory in God through our Lord Jesus." Blessed fruit above, yea and even below!
Through Him also now we received the reconciliation; for so the apostle wrote, not the propitiation, but the "reconciliation." Without that mighty work of Christ on the cross we could not indeed, being sinners, be reconciled to God; but this is the theme here — the complete making good of our case with God with whom we had been at war, and from whom we were wholly estranged by our sins. In Romans 3:25, we were shown how God justified us freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom He set forth a propitiatory (or mercy-seat) through faith in His blood. Thus He could be propitious spite of our sins which were fully met by the blood of Jesus. But the first half of Romans 5 brings in His love and consequently the reconciliation, which we have now received through Christ, impossible without His atoning death, but going much farther in itself.
The chapters that follow can scarcely be thought to carry the soul into a deeper blessedness. Privileges are there very fully developed, security is more elaborately affirmed of the Christian in the face of adverse circumstances and enemies, in Romans 8 above all; but I know not that any joy even there rises up to the boasting in God we find here. It is at once the occasion for the heart both of the most profound repose and of the utmost spiritual activity. Worship is its expression. The outflow of the joy of the redeemed in the rest of God is thus anticipated. We begin the new song that will never end; and as it is here and now through our Lord Jesus, is it not so much the sweeter to our God? Thus the deepest inward poison that Satan insinuated into man at the fall is not merely counteracted but triumphed over to the praise of God. He thus acquires His due place; but it is such a place of trustful delight as never could have been for the creature save as the result of Himself known as He is now by redemption — the God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.
From this verse to the end of Romans 8, we have not so much a distinct portion of the Epistle as a needed and most weighty appendix to that which precedes. Hitherto the great truth of the remission of the believer's sins has been fully set forth, closing with the blessed privileges which belong to the justified man, but still in that connection — the expiatory efficacy of the blood of Jesus, and this displayed in His resurrection. Precious as it all is, it is not every thing the believer wants. He may be miserable in the discovery of what he finds within himself, and if he know not the truth that applies to his difficulties on this score, he is in danger of yielding to hardness on one side, or of bearing a burdened spirit of bondage on the other. How many saints have never learnt the extent of their deliverance, and go mourning from day to day under efforts which they would be the first to confess unavailing against their inward corruption! How many settle down callously balancing their faith in the forgiveness of their sins by the blood of Christ as a set-off against a plague which they suppose must needs be, and of course with no more power over it than those who are honestly but in vain struggling to get better. Neither the one nor the other understands the value to them of the sentence already executed on the old man in the cross, nor their own new place before God in Christ risen from the dead. This it is the Spirit's object to unfold in what follows.
"On this account, as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed unto all men for that all sinned." (Ver. 12.)
There is no need to reduce the apostle's language to a formal regularity. The utterance of the Spirit's mind, through a heart and understanding which felt its value as none ever did, clothed itself in a form more akin to that which was enunciated than man's rhetoric ever conceived. A broken sentence, with a long interruption following before the answer was given, suits the subject here, no less than the most parenthetic chapter in the scripture falls in with the task the apostle had in hand in Ephesians 3. This coincidence of the remarkable form with the great facts and doctrines under discussion cannot be questioned even by those who see nothing beyond the fortuitous even in the Bible. Verses 13-17 form a digression that ends in meeting objections and helping on the argument; and then verse 18 resumes the matter of verse 12 under a more compact shape and furnishes the consequent of what was there introduced but left unfinished.
Nor does there seem to be any great difficulty in apprehending the propriety and bearing of particular phrases in this verse. The opening words have given rise to much needless and unintelligent questioning. The connection is as evident as it is important. God's love being the source, and Christ — the death and resurrection of Christ especially — the channel of redemption with such wondrous results to the believer, "on this account" (διὰ τοῦτο) we are free to approach another side of this mighty and fruitful theme — the two heads with their respective families and the two natures of the believer, derived from Adam and Christ, with the relation of the Holy Ghost to us. In the same verse the last words have also been much debated. Undoubtedly the new subject is sin, the fallen estate of man, marked and closed by death; but there is no right reason to exclude from this and other expressions of the section the actual sinning of mankind. Ἐφ᾽ ῳ does not mean "in whom;" nor is there warrant, while translating these words correctly, to add to the sentence that all died in the person of Adam. The point beyond all prominent is the way in which one man may affect the world. However preoccupied the Jew might be by the individual dealing of the law with each soul under it, it was impossible even for him to deny that such is the plain fact standing in the written word at the beginning of the world's sad moral history. Undoubtedly by one man, sin, the thing sin, entered; and this at once broke up the ground on which all was then ordered. As it was rebellion against God, so was it fatal to man. Thereby death, the enemy so dreaded of man, entered.
Thus the change most solemnly affecting the world came in long before the Jew existed or consequently before their boasted law was given. The Jew must look somewhere more largely, and accurately too, into the scriptures. He must not flatter his national vanity or religious pride with the delusion that all hinges either on Israel or on their law. Adam was before them both and affects all mankind (the Jews not excepted). True, the momentous history that shows us how sin and death entered is humbling indeed; but anything will the heart turn into a vaunt. At any rate, that incalculably grave event was outside the Jew in itself, and in consequences went far beyond them. It was not outside man, but contrariwise "by one man;" yet its effect, death, permeated the world.
But the apostle takes care to add to this one man's sin those of all others — "and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned." Thus the last clause is expressly to guard against the exclusion of the sins of men generally. We must therefore beware of enfeebling either side of the case. In the very scripture which opens the discussion of the universal bearing of Adam's sin on the human race (for it is no question here of Israel in particular) the connection of men's own sins with their death is carefully added. No one doubts that infants and idiots die, and this through Adam's sin; but the Spirit does not exclude the consequence where personal guilt can apply. The position of ruin to which the fall consigned the race is not severed from the evil workings of the nature now fallen in all men. Adam's sin is the cause but not the sole account and whole case of the bitter lot of man.
Now if one man, according to God's word and consistently with His character and ways, could plunge the world in death by sin, was it inconsistent with the true God by one man to bring in justification of life which addresses itself to all men? This the apostle proceeds to show elaborately and with divine precision in the verses that follow, which I will not further anticipate.
The parenthesis now begins. The apostle meets a possible objection, and certainly proves that the existence of sin is independent of law. "For until [the] law sin was in [the] world; but sin is not put to account when there is no law." Thus the Jew could not even make the miserable boast (for what will not man boast of?) that the law preceded sin. The very object of law is to prove the sin of men. Alas! it is not confined to Israel; it is universal. "Sin was in the world," where the law was not. When it was given by Moses, it put sin to account; but sin was already there, and far more widely than the sphere which law contemplated when it came. Law could work no remedy for sinners; it could only register — not get rid of — sin. Law gave sin the character of offence; sin, where law spoke, became the transgression of a positive and known commandment. "Where no law is, there is no transgression." It is a pernicious mistake to understand that the apostle denies sin to be where no law exists. Sin is not the transgression of the law, though transgression assuredly is sin. But sin is a wider and deeper thing. The Authorized Version notwithstanding, 1 John 3:4 teaches really otherwise — that sin is lawlessness, and not necessarily the violation of law. Thus both apostles are restored to harmony, instead of either clashing mischievously or tempting an expositor to a still more mischievous paring down of the truth to save appearances. Never is this needed with scripture. As being the word of God, we must eschew and resent all such manipulations of its language. It is only our ignorance which finds difficulties; it is ill-will which sets one passage in antagonism to another. If John could have meant us to gather that sin and transgression of law are the same thing, nothing could save the statement from opposition to our text.
This is yet more apparent from the support the Apostle Paul adds in verse 14 to what was laid down in verse 13: "But death reigned from Adam to Moses even over those that sinned not in the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was coming." The two points are named when a positive commandment was imposed by God. Adam had a law; by Moses the law was made known. Between them there was no dealing with men by either the one or the other; yet men sinned as scripture abundantly shows. Hence death reigned, for it is the wages (not of transgression only but) of sin. It reigned in the case of Adam and Eve; it reigned from Moses' day; but not at either epoch only, but between them, when there was no law. Death reigned over all those that sinned; for sin they did, even though it was not in the likeness of our first parents' transgression. Their antediluvian posterity, as well as those who followed the flood down to the gift of law from Sinai, could not sin as their father in Eden or the children of Israel after they heard the ten words. But they sinned, they did their own will, they were corrupt and violent, as they afterwards added idolatry to their evil ways. Accordingly death reigned even over them; for they were sinners, though not transgressors, like Adam at first and Israel afterwards.
It is interesting to note that the apostle refers here to Hosea 6:7: "But they, like men, transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me." The margin gives the true sense, which is lost in the vagueness of "men" in the text. "They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." Israel had the law, as Adam a law; and both transgressed the bond by which they were held. But all between Adam and Moses were on a different footing. They were not a whit less truly sinners, but they had no law or laws proposed to them by God which they broke. So the nations in contrast with Israel are ever styled "sinners of the Gentiles." Having sinned without law, they perished without law; while the Jews who had the law sinned in the law and were thus transgressors, which the Gentiles who had not the law could not be. But the Jews were not sinners only but transgressors. Hence it is written, "Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." The law put sin to their account. Not so with the Gentiles: God winked at these times of ignorance.
Nothing, however, is said of Gentiles in our verses, for we are here led up to times before the Jews were called, or the Gentiles consequently could be left aside. We see the sons of Adam down to the promulgation of God's law at Sinai. If on the one hand there was no law to charge sin to the account of the guilty, there was on the other hand the reign of death, and this over sinners, if not transgressors, even over those that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. Men at large were guilty and died accordingly. We are here then in presence, not of the law and its special aims and its peculiar sphere, but of sin flowing down from its first source, Adam, through all the streams which descended thence. If law was not there to set sin to account, as it does precisely and in detail, their death was the witness that they were all sinners, whose dread wages were duly paid. Thus Adam, as we shall see more fully soon, is a figure of the coming One, of Christ (i.e., of a federal head who was to follow the first).*
*I am surprised Mr. Green should understand τοῦ μέλλοντος "of the future;" for the context points unequivocally to a person, and to one person only, Christ, not to time coming merely.
Having spoken of Adam as typical of Christ, the apostle at once proceeds to guard and clear the statement. The point of comparison is the bearing of a head on his family. He that believed the scripture (and every Jew was tenacious of the Pentateuch) must own that Adam's fall brought a condition of sin and a sentence of death on his descendants. Such was the sorrowful beginning of the Old Testament, such the key to the history of the race ever since. It was in vain then to make all a question of law. Not so: granted that what the law says it speaks to those under the law. The fact was plain that the fundamental book of the law shows a far deeper, wider, earlier principle, yea, so early that it embraces all the children of Adam from the first. Could any Jew deny the scripture, the facts, or the moral ground? It was certain then, and must be conceded by hint who believes the first book of Moses that Adam's fall involved in universal ruin those who sprang from him; for he, while innocent, had no son! His family headship was only after he sinned.
Now if it were a righteous dealing, as no Jew would dispute, so to involve a whole race in the consequences of what one man, their father, did amiss, Israel of all men should be the last to question the principle and the wondrous grace of God in the headship of the Lord Jesus. What Adam was to his descendants in evil and its consequences, Christ is in good to all who are His by faith. Thus the first man is a figure of the Second.
"But not as [is] the offence, so also the free gift; for if by the offence of the one the many died, much more the grace of God and the gift in the grace of the one man Jesus Christ abounded unto the many." (Ver. 15.) Thus the apostle qualifies the analogy. The difference is an immense advantage on the side of good. How could it be otherwise with such a source of goodness as God, and with such a channel and ground and object as the man Christ Jesus? To punish, smite, destroy, was a grief, so to speak, to God; to bless is His delight, and now to the full, since Christ has made it righteous by the removal of all hindrances. The superior dignity of Christ and the exhaustless fountain of God's grace of which He was the expression secure the vast preponderance for the free gift, as against the offence.
Nor is it a difference of measure only but of kind. "And not as by one having sinned [is] the gift; for the judgment [was] from one unto condemnation, but the free gift from many offences unto justification." (Ver. 16.) The people or parties affected were before us in verse 15; the things which indicate it are prominent here. In the former contrast "the many" were respectively made to depend on "the one," though "much more" for those in relation to Christ. In the contrast before us one act on the part of the head that sinned sentenced into condemnation; whereas the free gift, spite of many offences, was for a state of accomplished righteousness.
And this he confirms by the overflowing results in the next verse 17: "For if by the offence of the one death reigned by the one, much more they that receive the abundance of the grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by the one, Jesus Christ." Thus the result is triumphant, and this not only for men dead by sin, but also for those that had the aggravation of offences under law. Believers being Christ's, let them have been what they may, Gentile no less than Jewish, receive abundance of grace and of the free gift of righteousness, and shall reign in life by the one Jesus Christ. It is not merely that life is to reign, in contrast with death, but they shall reign in life through Christ. Calvin thinks these two equivalent; what is said is really far more blessed. For faith the contrast of grace with the first man always exceeds. If the balance is not so exact in rhetoric, the believer may enjoy so much the more the precious affluence of the word and the Spirit now, as he will the crowning blessedness in glory by and by.
It is evidently an argument drawn from the righteous governmental ways of God to His grace. If, looking at Adam, the head of nature, it was worthy of Him not to limit the consequences of sin to him who fell, surely it was much more worthy to extend the effects of grace according to His own nature and the glory of Christ from Him who rose to all who derived their life from such a source! and this whether we consider the objects (ver. 15), the circumstances (ver. 16), or the results. (Ver. 17.)
The argument is now resumed from verse 12, but strengthened by the parenthetical instruction of verses 13-17. This both enforced the analogy between Adam and Christ for evil and good over those who pertain to them respectively, and also pointed out the enormous preponderance of good over evil in Christ, as is but due to the glory of His person and the grace of His work. If the one by a single offence involved all that were his in death, the other brings blessing to His family spite of countless offences.
"So then as by one offence [the bearing was] unto all men unto condemnation, so also by one accomplished righteousness unto all men unto justifying of life. For as by the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one the many shall be constituted righteous." (Ver. 18, 19.)
There is no reasonable doubt that the marginal correction of our English Bible ("by one offence") should be adopted, in preference to the text — "by one man's offence," however weighty and from various sides the names which have espoused the latter. The Sinai Manuscript actually inserts ἀνθρώπου here, as we find in some minuscules also. But this is an unquestionable error. The point of the verse, as it appears to me, was to present the direction respectively, apart from the actual issues, whether on Adam's part or on Christ's. Hence the strikingly elliptic, as well as the broadly characteristic, form of verse 18. There is no need (as in the Authorized Version) to bring in κρίμα or χάρισμα from the parenthesis. If we understand ἐγένετο* [it was], this suffices, though we may conform the phrase more to English ears by saying "the bearing was." But it is more to maintain the idea of direction here by giving εἰς the force of "unto," "for," or "towards" rather than "upon," which is more suited to convey the notion of the definitive effect or result. This, we shall see, it is the object of the following verse 19 to supply, and in contradistinction from verse 18. And, as has been observed by another, this is confirmed by Romans 3:22 where we have two classes distinguished — εἰς πάντας, καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας (easily merged into one δἰ ὁμοιοτέλευτον or the double occurrence of πάντας, whereas it is hardly possible to conceive one clause enlarged into two). Here the distinctive force of εἰς and ἐπί is plain: the former gives the bearing of God's righteousness by faith of Jesus Christ "unto all" (and so the gospel is preached to every creature); the latter gives the result (and, as we know the gospel has its blessed effect "upon all those that believe," and upon them only).
*It appears to me, because of contextual reasons, that ἀπέβη (as Meyer, Winer, etc.) is rather strong.
The meaning, then, I conceive to be that "as through one offence" all men were threatened with condemnation; so through one accomplished righteousness all had the door opened unto a justifying (not by blood alone, but) of life in Christ risen from the dead. But therein we see only the native tendency, on one side of Adam's act, and on the other of Christ's, without taking into account the modification of God's effectual grace or of man's persistent unbelief.
Accordingly, verse 19 is requisite to complete this part of the subject. "For as by one man's disobedience the many were constituted sinners, so by the obedience of the one shall the many be constituted righteous." It is the final result which is here contemplated; and as this is certainly and necessarily limited to the household of faith, it would have been false to have said πάντας "all" in the last clause. For it is not a question in any of these verses of merely raising the dead just and unjust, as many divines in old and modern times have unintelligently imagined. For the vast majority of mankind, dying in unbelief, must rise for a resurrection of judgment, which is as far removed as it is possible for facts and words to make it from justification or justifying of life.
First the scope and then the result of Adam's position and of Christ's are here set before us and explained by the Holy Spirit. As it is certain from scripture that not all men but only such as are Christ's have life, eternal life, and are justified by faith, so in this verse, devoted to the presentation of the result, it was not possible to adopt a larger term common to the two heads (the disobedient and the obedient) than "the many" or "the mass" (οἱ πόλλοι) identified with each. In point of fact the Adam party, according to nature and for some time, embraces the whole human race; and therefore in this way "the many" in the first clause of verse 19 may be said to answer to "all men" in verse 18. But this I must be forgiven for considering a superficial method of solving the question, and altogether unwarrantable as applied to both classes. The second οἱ πόλλοι is unequivocally and exclusively "the children" given to Christ and in no possible sense humanity as actually saved and recovered. They are not identical with the "all men" of the verse before; for there it was but the gracious aspect of the work of Christ, and therefore not (as some say) all men who receive and embrace its truth, but universal. Here it is the positive effect, and so restricted to those who believe (i.e., those who live through Christ, as the preceding οἱ πόλλοι derive their being from fallen Adam). There is no "total" in this verse, but "the [known] many" in relation to "the one" definite person who represented each his own company. It is not the same total in the two verses, nor is there any total expressed in the latter of them. As the ruin of Adam went to destroy all the race, so the work of Christ goes out for the blessing of all. As in fact the Adam mass were constituted sinners through his disobedience, so by Christ's obedience His own are constituted righteous. Here all is explicit result, and not character; and hence the article is used in Greek as pointedly as the preceding verse exhibited the anarthrous construction: in both cases with the utmost accuracy, and with a perfection altogether admirable, with which no writings of man can compare. Where the apostle speaks of "all men," the aim is to show the tendency whether from the first man or from the Second; where he speaks of "the many," the definitive effect is set before us.
Thus Calvinism and Arminianism are both at fault; and the truth conveyed is larger than the one and more definite than the other, refusing the fetters of human system, and yet exhibiting a precise as well as an infinite character, being the revealed truth of God.
Thus the doctrine of headship, and of a race or family depending on the head for evil or good, has been distinctly laid down; and Adam and Christ stand confronted as those respectively under whom all ultimately must be classed. This necessarily brought in a wholly different principle from the law which is necessarily individual in its character, and claims from each under itself what he must do if he pretends to stand for himself before God. But the apostle does not close this part of the subject without a notice of the relative place of the law. Since he introduced the theme of sin, as distinguished from sins, in connection with the two heads, he had only alluded to the law negatively to show that sin is a deeper question than law, and, so far from depending on it, existed before it: only it is not put to account when no law exists.
Now we are told what was the true object of law. The Jew, and all Judaizers, at once assume that it could be for nothing else than righteousness. Alas! the blindness of man at his best estate where human thoughts prevail, and not the understanding of the revealed mind of God. But he is fallen; and fallen man thinks as highly of himself as meanly of Christ. Nothing but this can account for the perverse ingenuity with which, even in spite of the blessed light of the gospel, the truth as to this is eluded and opposed. What can be plainer than the inspired statement? "But law came in that the offence might abound." One can see how it is that men dislike a sentence which annihilates their moral ground; but it is an astonishing proof of the deleterious effects of theology that christian men can uphold their false systems of thought against such words of inspiration.
Every word is uttered with the greatest accuracy. Thus the apostle speaks of the legal state of things, and hence employs the word νόμος, "law," here as in verse 13 without the article. It is clearly the Mosaic law that is in question; yet if it be, Middleton allows that the rejection of the article is not here authorized by any of the canons (i.e., of his own treatise). And this is true. The case is one which demonstrates the defectiveness of his theory. Even in verse 13 the preposition has nothing to do with the true solution; and his notion though still followed by very many scholars, that the use or non-use of the article is a license after prepositions, is a total fallacy. It may call for more nicety of observation to account for cases with certain prepositions, but nothing more. The regular usage, with or without prepositions, is to present a phrase in the anarthrous form wherever a characteristic state is meant rather than a fact or an abstraction. So here it was the state of things when God gave His law through Moses to Israel which enters the discussion; and, hence, νόμος (not ὁ ν.) was the correct form. Again, the reasoning of Macknight is of no force; for it is not the point whether the Mosaic law was ushered into the world with pomp and notoriety, or privily. Not the historical fact, but the resulting state is here meant. Further, there is no need to take παρεισῆλθεν as necessarily implying in entrance by stealth or privily. The true idea appears to be that the legal state came in by the by. Neither was it the original mould, in which man was made, nor is it the final condition to which he is destined. It came in not directly, but ancillarily, for a special though subordinate purpose, between the entrance of sin and the coming of the Saviour. Hence law in the abstract is uncalled for, even if the phrase would admit of it. But this is carefully excluded, quite as much as giving prominence to the objective historical fact, which also would be out of place.
But law, the legal state, came in by the way in order that the offence might abound. The sense is not that sin might abound: God is in no way or degree its author. Sin, as had been already shown, was in the world, quite independently of law and before it was given by Moses. But law came in, that the offence might abound; that, sin being already there, its evil might be made manifest and horrible by taking the shape of open contempt of God's known authority. This was worthy of God and wholesome for man. And such was the object and issue of the legal state. Sin, I repeat, was not created by it; but it was provoked by the restraint put on its gratification: the very presence of God's revealed claim on man's conscience made the offence to abound. The evil of man was there and at work; and the expression and authoritative demand of his duty only drew out unmistakably what was at work. Self-will only the more chafes, the more it is subjected to an authority which opposes its every desire. But this is the truth of man's moral state; and it is good, as far as it goes, that he should know the truth about himself.
There is no reason therefore to escape from the plain and certain meaning of these inspired words. Chrysostom was wrong in this, and has misled thousands. He denied that the apostle spoke of intention or aim, but only of result, and fell into the error of saying that the law was given, not that the offence might abound, but to diminish and take it away. This was to contradict the apostle, not to expound him.
So, again, Macknight asks if one can imagine that no offence abounded in the world which could be punished with death till the law of Moses was promulgated? and that grace did not superabound till the offence against the law abounded? He therefore argues for "the law of Nature," which silently entered the moment Adam and Eve were reprieved. What can be more distressing than this confusion?
It must be evident to him who believes the word of God, and understands His dealings ever so little, that between the fall and the promulgation of the law at Sinai was precisely the time when men were left to prove what flesh is without the restraint of law; that afterward Israel became the proof that a legal state did not in itself mend matters, but caused the offence to abound. So the apostle instructs us in this chapter, the truth of which is otherwise apparent in the facts of the Old Testament and the condition of Israel.
"But where sin abounded, grace far exceeded; that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Here too it is impossible to conceive language more apposite or precise. The apostle does not say, it will be noticed, where "the offence" abounded; for this would limit the sphere to the area of the legal state. All that wherein a Jew boasted was the causing the offence to abound. What a withering of pride without an exaggeration or an effort! But grace went out in its triumph far beyond the narrow bounds of law; it went out into the world where sinful man lay, not to Israel only. "Where sin abounded, grace far exceeded." And grace too had its characteristic purpose, or God rather by it. What was this? "That as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." Here if anywhere is an aim and result which do honour even to God and His Son. In presence of such a gospel we are not ashamed, but boast. To vaunt of law is to vaunt of what condemns and kills, for it makes the offence to abound. In grace we may and ought to exult. God delights in it. It came, as did truth, by Christ Jesus who is full of both. And specially may we boast, that grace reigned. Had law reigned, what must have been our just doom! But grace reigns (not without but) through righteousness; for the work of redemption is done, and God justifies in consequence according to His sense of its worth. Thus it is not more surely a fountain of grace than a righteous ground and channel. And hence the issue is according to God; it is eternal life, and this through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is risen from the dead, and gives life more abundantly. All is thus as secure as it is perfect. God is glorified as He should be; and this, as it ought to be, through the only One, even Jesus, who has retrieved all and turned by His death and resurrection even sin itself into an occasion of such a glorifying of God, and such a blessing of the believer, as could never else have been. These are the ways, and this the victory, grace through our Lord Jesus.
That grace should so triumphantly rise above sin, even where sin abounded most, leads to the various objections of unbelief and the answers of the Holy Spirit for our furtherance and joy of faith. Grace in no way slights sin. From first to last Christianity and evil are proved to be incompatible.
"What then shall we say? Let us continue in sin that grace may abound? Let it not be. We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it? Are ye ignorant that as many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism unto death, that, as Christ was raised from among [the] dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life." (Ver. 1-4.)
Is this then the deduction from the gospel of God? May we continue in sin, in order that His grace may be the more richly displayed? Away with such a thought. But here the apostle deals with the wicked inference or imputation, not from its intrinsic heinousness, nor from its reflection on the character of God, as in Romans 3:8, but from its flat contradiction of Christianity in its first principles. It is not again a motive drawn from the sense we have of our Saviour's love; it is not here a question how can we so wound His heart or grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
The apostle replies from the starting-point of each confessor of Christ. Not merely did He die for our sins, laying us under an infinite obligation, but we died to sin:* how then shall we longer live in it? This is the meaning of our baptism. Are you ignorant of so plain a truth? It is not some special quality of blessing that is the privilege of a few Christians only; it is the common property of all the baptized. As many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto His death.
*The notion of Macknight and Rosenmüller, that death by sin is intended, misses all the force of the passage, and is clean contrary to the argument in the context, which is founded on our being baptized unto the death of Christ.
Thus is laid down clearly and beyond question the fundamental truth that not more surely did Christ die for us, than we died to sin in His death. Our baptism sets forth this as well as that. The conclusion is inevitable: "We were buried then with him by baptism unto death, that, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life."
Let us weigh the immense importance of this truth stated with the simplicity and the force characteristic of a divine revelation.
Evangelicalism (whether in national or dissenting bodies) takes its stand (at least it used to do so) on the truth of Christ dying for our sins. This is most true, and a capital truth; without which there is no bringing of the soul to God, no divine judgment of our iniquities, no possible sense of pardon. But it is very far from being the truth even of the Saviour's death, to speak of no more now. Hence evangelicalism, as such, having no real apprehension of our death in Christ, never understands the force and place of baptism, is habitually infirm as to christian walk, and is apt to take the comfort of forgiveness by the blood of Christ so as to mix with the world and enjoy the life that now is, often helping on the delusion of ameliorating man and improving Christendom.
Mysticism on the other hand, whether Catholic or Protestant, dissatisfied with the worldly case and self-complacency of the evangelicals, is ever pining after a deeper reality, but seeks it within. Hence the continual effort of the pietist school is to die to self and so to enjoy God, unless perhaps with the few who flatter themselves that they have arrived at such a state of perfection as they can rest in. But for the mass, and I suppose indeed all whose conscience retains its activity, they never go beyond godly desires and inward strainings after holiness. They cannot dwell consciously in God's love to them as a settled fact known in Christ, producing self-forgetfulness in presence of His own perfect grace which made Christ to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The system tends even in its fairest samples to turn the eye inwardly in a search after a love which may aspire to resemble as closely as possible the love of God, and so satisfy itself with the hope of a life ever higher and higher. Hence pious sentimentalism, which is little more than imagination at work in religion, reigns in the heart, not grace through righteousness.
Thus the ground the apostle here insists on is ignored by evangelicals and mystics; and indeed in Christendom at large it is excluded by its legalism and ordinances as decidedly as by rationalism. They are all, in every part, judged by the simple elementary truth couched under and expressed in baptism, that the Christian is dead to sin. To teach that we ought to die to sin is well meant, but it is not the truth, and therefore can but deeply injure the soul in its real wants. The true view is, no doubt, the reverse of death in sin; it is death to sin. Grace gives us this blessed portion — gives it now in this world from the commencement of our career — gives it once for all as the one baptism recognizes. Hence the Christian is false to the primary truth he confesses who should live still in sin. In his baptism he owns he died in Christ. He is bound to walk accordingly — as one already and always dead to sin.
Is there then no mortification? no practical carrying out of death with Christ? Unquestionably. It is the constant duty of the Christian; but then, mark well the difference: — christian practice consists, not in our dying to sin, but in our putting to death our members which are on the earth, even the various lusts of the old man. In his baptism the believer openly renounces all hope of himself or the first man; nor does he, like a Jew, merely hope for a Messiah to be born and reign on the throne of David. In baptism he confesses His death, and his own death therein — not only his sin but its end in the death of Christ. If we had not another life, who could thus give up his own life as dead? Yet what is attested in baptism is not life but death — our death to sin in Christ's death — which we could not do save as living through Him.
Thus it is as different from Jewish ground as from that of the Gentiles who know not God, some of whose sages in West as well as East have tried to die to sin. The distinctive christian ground is that, as baptized unto Christ's death, we died to sin from the commencement of our career. "We were buried then with him in baptism unto death, that, even as Christ was raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life." It is a poor interpretation to take the Father's glory as equivalent to His almightiness or power. Every motive which animates Him morally, every way and end whereby He is set forth in His perfections, all that goes forth in excellence and delight, not toward the creature only but His Son, was exercised in raising up the Lord Jesus. After such a standard are we too called to walk in newness of life. It is no longer a question of original creation, still less of fallen Adam, but of Christ, who is the life of which by grace we live; and He is risen. May we walk accordingly!
The apostle carries out the comparison of our blessing after the pattern of Christ to actual resurrection. "For if we have become united in nature with the likeness of his death, we shall be also [with that] of his resurrection, knowing this that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be annulled, that we should no longer serve sin. For he that died has been justified from sin."
Resurrection, as far as we are concerned, is a matter of hope. We have part with Christ in His death; we shall have in resurrection also for our bodies. Meanwhile, we, as alive through Him risen, have all the benefit of His death as a power delivering from sin. Our old man we know to be crucified with Him. Without this the root of evil had not been dealt with, nor consequently had we against self that weapon of divine temper which a God of resurrection puts in our hands. Nor is it a feeling — a consciousness — of death which might only minister to self-satisfaction. It is a fact objectively known, though only within the ken of faith: knowing (γινώσκοντες) this, etc. Thus only as a practical means can the body of sin come to nought, that we should no more be slaves to it. Here the point of need is liberty from sin to do the holy will of God for those who were only slaves of sin. There is no other way, though when we take this the path of faith, there is much to help us along the road. If I have died, it is evident that there is no longer a question of sinning. A dead man cannot sin more; and the Christian is given to know himself dead in Christ's death that he may henceforth enjoy this quittance from the power of sin. How can one dead be charged with going on in sin? For he that died (ἀποθάνων, the completed act) has been justified (δεδικαίωται, the subsisting effect of the past action) from sin. It is a deliverance worthy of God both in His wisdom and in His holiness; and as it is of grace, so it is by faith.
Hence verse 8 repeats the conclusion as to the future which follows from the death and resurrection of Christ. "Now if we died with Christ, we believe we shall also live with him." Our condition when actually risen is once more anticipated and rehearsed. "Knowing that Christ being raised from among [the] dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him." It is interesting to note the difference here. We only know because we are taught it, as a truth outside us, that our old man has been crucified with Christ. It is not really, what so many would like to make it, a matter of subjective experience; for this would flatter the flesh in its pious frames and aspirations, instead of honouring the grace of God in the death of Christ. On the other hand we have the inward conscious knowledge (εἰδότες) that Christ, being risen, dies no more: death has no more dominion over Him. It is not a mere outward fact of knowledge: we feel from our soul that so it is and must be. Sin never had dominion over Him, but death had, that God might be glorified, sin judged, Satan's power abolished, and we delivered.
"For in that he died, he died to sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth to God." Life has now the victory, so much the more strikingly and conspicuously because that death seemed to gain it at first. Thus as sin never had the least advantage, so death has lost its claim through His bowing to it and thus securing our freedom who have part in His death. If sin's wages are death, what a gain to us His death has been who, personally without sin, was made sin by God for us, as truly as we became the righteousness of God in Him.
Not of course that on the cross He was not as holy as in all that preceded it; but He gave Himself to be judicially treated according to all that was imputed to Him, and for which in grace He became responsible. In nothing did He spare Himself; in nothing did God, who forsook Him thus identified with our sin and all its consequences under divine judgment, that we might come out free. By dying all was ended; and we, having our part with Him, have done with sin. "So also do ye reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." We are entitled so to reckon ourselves; we ought to do so; we wrong the death and resurrection of Christ if we do not account ourselves thus dead to sin and alive to God in Him — a great and wondrous boon to those who delight to have an end of sin, a real if but a small part of Christianity, yet even this, I may say, ignored in Christendom, its force misunderstood, its joy untasted.
It is to be observed that verse 11 carries the subject beyond the reasoning of verse 8, where our living with Christ is shown to be a just and sure consequence for the believer: if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. It is future. But now we have a weighty present result founded on what intervenes, especially verse 10. Christ died to sin once and lives to God; and He is the life as well as the resurrection. As thus alive to God, all closed as to sin in His death, we live of His life, and are thus also to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God, not here with Him, but through or in virtue of (ἐν) Him. This epistle never, in its doctrinal province, goes so far as union with Him, though it does employ the truth of the body to enforce the right use of spiritual gifts on Christians. In the Epistle to the Ephesians we are shown to be quickened together with Christ and raised up together with Him. Here however we are alive to God in Him.
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey its lusts."* (Ver. 12.) The truth is then, not that sin is dead, but that we are entitled by Christ's death and resurrection to regard ourselves in the account of faith as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign. It is personified here as elsewhere sometimes, seeking the upper hand in our mortal body so as to subject us to its lusts. But through Christ it has no claim over us. As He lives to God who died to sin once for all, so also we are to reckon ourselves done with the dominion of sin and not to obey its lusts. As dead to sin we owe it no allegiance whatever.
*Beza notices the critical reading as that of the old interpreter (the Vulgate) and of Augustine, and as also so found in one Greek. This may serve to show how much more fully and accurately the authorities are now known; for it is so read in the Sinai, Vatican, Alexandrian, and Rescript of Paris (C); in six cursives; in the Coptic, Sahidic, Syriac, Æthiopic, Armenian, etc., besides the Latin, not to speak of many fathers Greek and Latin.
Nor is this all. The apostle pushes the matter farther. "Neither yield your members instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God as alive from out of dead [men], and your members instruments of righteousness to God." (Ver. 13.) The first occurrence of "yield" means, in the form of the word, the habit of yielding; the second, by its form, implies the surrender already made. It is not a gradual improvement of the nature or the will as men speak, but the giving up of ourselves in a single and complete act to God as alive from among the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness to God.
This is the new place of positive blessing given to us, counting ourselves thus by faith. Such is the present practical consequence, as we have seen also what is future for us. "For sin shall not have dominion over you" — not sin as a personified ruler now, but no sin in any shape or measure; "for ye are not under law* but under grace." (Ver. 14.) This closes the foregoing discussion and prepares for a new step taken in the argument following.
*The commentators torture themselves to reconcile these words with their own views, which they condemn; but even Calvin and Beza own that it is a question of law, moral law (not the law of our members, nor of ceremonies, still less national or political law). "Quare non est dubium, quin hic aliquam ab ipsa Domini Lege manumissionem indicare voluerit," says the former (in loco). That is, the context decides for him beyond doubt that the apostle meant here to indicate some freedom from the very law of the Lord. But his explanation is altogether imperfect and unsound, falling in with and helping on mere natural thoughts, and thus contributing to bring about the low state of practice which prevails even among the godly portion of the Reformed. "Therefore, lest broken in mind by a consciousness of their infirmity they should despond, he seasonably comes to their help, by interposing a consolation derived from the consideration that their works are not now tested by the severe criterion of the law, but God, remitting their impurity, accepts them kindly and benignantly . . . . Therefore not to be under law means that we are no longer exposed to the law as requiring perfect righteousness, with death pronounced on all who have in any part deviated from it." The notion is that, being under grace, we are freed from the rigorous exactions of law. Thus grace becomes a sort of mitigated law, which is just what flesh would desire — a law that prescribes but has no power to condemn. That this must of itself lead to laxity, and is therefore really Antinomian in principle, seems evident and certain. It is an unwarrantable mixture of law and grace, which destroys the true character and scope of both. The truth is that Christ redeemed such believers as were under law from the curse; but He has in no way taken away its curse from law. Our blessing is of faith that it might be by grace; but the law, as scripture says, is not of faith. As we were justified by faith, so by it we walk, for we are not under law but under grace. He who abstains from murder simply because the law forbids it is a wicked man, and not a believer.
What a blessed comfort thus far and how uncompromisingly laid down in the very portion that refutes the flesh's misuse of God's mercy and of the Christian's liberty! "Ye are not under law but under grace."
It is painful to see how those who profess to believe the gospel, valuing both Christ and His work, elude the force of His word, and essay to foist on the Christian subjection to law, which the Spirit is here flatly negativing. The law is the strength of sin; for by its restraint and interdict it can but provoke the flesh. It never gives power of holiness any more than life: grace, not law, quickens, saves, and strengthens. If believers could be under law, sin must have dominion over them.
It is in vain to say that the apostle is here treating of our being accounted righteous in Christ. Not so: he is discussing the walk of the Christian in answer to the cavil that grace tends to sanction lax ways. It is a question therefore of a rule of life, of its principle and spring. The objectors then as now had fallen into the error of supposing that the law, though unable to give the remission of sins, is the rule of righteousness for the Christian. Justification from sin, not from sins, is the point in hand, and as the blood of Christ washes away the sins of the believer in the sight of God, so he is cleansed from sin; not simply by Christ's dying for him, but by his dying with Christ. For he that died is justified from sin. The nature is in question, and consequently the walk of the believer; and the remedy here, as everywhere, is in Christ; but it is in death with Him of which baptism is the sign.
Nor can there be a less holy doctrine than the notion so prevalent among the Puritans as well as others still less intelligent and with less godly desire, that the death of Christ has taken away the condemnatory power of the law for faith, but left the Christian under it as a directory of his ways. A law which can no longer condemn departure from itself or those guilty of it is nugatory. It is of the essence of law not only to prescribe duty but to condemn any and every infraction of its requirements. Hence our apostle teaches elsewhere, "as many as are of the works of the law" (i.e., as many people as are on the ground or principle of works of law, not merely as many as have broken the law) "are under the curse."
It is false doctrine, then, and really Antinomian in its basis, that the law has lost its sting or condemnatory power for those under it. Such is not the boon of redemption. The law is not dead. It retains all its force against the wicked, as the apostle shows. It is not an evil thing but excellent, when used lawfully; but it is unlawfully imposed on the righteous and holy. The Christian, even if he had been a Jew, is not under law but under grace; and this not by the death of law, which cannot be and ought not to be, but by his own death with Christ. As a dead man can sin no more, so the law does not apply to one viewed as dead. Such is God's way of considering the Christian, not only atoned for but dead with Christ; and faith considers him who possesses it as God does. Thus the law remains inviolable; and the deliverance of the Christian consists, not in the weakening or even mitigation of the law, but in the change of place which grace gives. The believer died with Christ, and is thus justified from sin and freed from law. Nebuchadnezzar's furnace did not burn the less, though the three Hebrews were preserved unscathed. The curse fell on Christ crucified; the believer is in Christ risen. "There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."
Verse 15 puts a new question. It is no longer, as in verse 1, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may exceed?" This is the primary objection to grace for Christians just delivered from the ruin of the first man. Moral relaxation is dreaded, if where sin abounded, grace still more exceeded. It was met by counter questions which prove that grace does not merely help by motive against sin, but delivers the believer from it by that most decisive and ultimate weapon, even death. How shall we that died to sin live any longer in it? Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism unto death . . . . He that died is justified from sin. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign. Such is the apostle's argument in answer to the first question.
"What then? are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? Let it not be." (Ver. 15.) Thus his second question is not answered by our death with Christ. That we cannot live longer in sin is conclusively set aside by the fact that we died to sin with Christ and therefore are not to abide in it. All this sinful first Adam life is closed to us, both for the future in resurrection and for the present in the part we have with Christ for our souls. Christ dead and risen is the pattern for faith; His death is the principle of present deliverance from the reign of sin. But do we not need a mighty spring to move, and cheer, and strengthen us along the way of the Lord? Unquestionably we do; and this is none other than grace. Nothing else could keep the believer from yielding his members as implements of unrighteousness to sin, nothing else could enable him to act consistently with that surrender of himself, once for all, to God and of his members as implements of righteousness to God, which is characteristic of the Christian. And we are under grace, the power for holiness, as the Jew was under law, the strength of the sin he was so slow to feel and confess. And therefore sin, which for the present has absolutely governed the chosen nation, shall not lord it over the Christian. May we then sin because we are not under law that condemns, but under God's free unmerited favour that imputes no sin, but justifies and saves? Far be it from us. Is it thus we would or could use our liberty? What could be more base? If I am by Christ thus freed, for what, for whom, shall I use my freedom? "Know ye not that to what ye yield yourselves bondmen to obey, ye are bondmen to what ye obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness?"* (Ver. 16.)
*Think of Calvin's temerity in saying that the apostle "improprie locutus est," and this for so petty and technical a reason as this: "nam si partes partibus reddere voluisset dicendum erat: sive justitiae in vitam." The apostle does (in ver. 19) guard his use of the figure of bondage; but here all is perfectly accurate — far more so than the correspondency suggested. "Righteousness unto life" might be gravely misunderstood and seems in every way a questionable statement.
This again is another characteristic of Christianity. Christ makes the soul, once the slave of sin, to be free, and calls it to stand fast in His liberty, never again to be held in a yoke of bondage. For there is no middle ground or other alternative. But grace uses this liberty to be so much the more His bondman, free from sin to serve the Lord Christ. It was precisely what He did here below, evermore the true and perfect servant. Into this love always leads. With Him we have communion in this, and in order to express its absoluteness we, however free from our old slavery, are said to be bondmen of Jesus, His will and work, or, as suits the argument here, "of obedience unto righteousness." The Christian's righteousness is never doing things because they are right, which is pride, independence, or deification of self, but because they are God's will for us. We must obey in order to practical righteousness. How complete the change from all we were! "But thanks to God that ye were bondmen of sin, but ye obeyed from [the] heart [the] form of teaching into which ye were delivered." (Ver. 17.)
Man does not suffice for himself; for he is but a creature and therefore necessarily dependent on God. If he seeks to be his own master, if he affects independence, he only falls the more thoroughly under Satan; and, instead of obeying God, he becomes the slave of sin. From this servitude redemption delivers the believer, but only to bind him heartily (and so much the more because under grace, not law) to do as the christian form of teaching instructs us; for obedience is always according to, and measured by, the relationship in which we stand. Legal obedience, if practicable, is not that which grace produces, which is in unison with the truth in Christ — that mould, as it were, into which the believer is cast.
Such then is the character and effect of christian deliverance and the vital connection which we shall see more fully afterwards between redemption by Christ and life in Him. "Being made free from sin ye became enslaved to righteousness." (Ver. 18.) Two masters no man can serve. Freed from sin, we are now indissolubly bound to righteousness. Grace is the only power for righteousness. The law defined and demanded that measure and form of righteousness which God could not but exact from man in the flesh. But grace, under which the Christian is, makes good in his practice what we have been taught since Christ is revealed. Thus the very fact that God does not impute iniquity to the believer encourages and fortifies him in willing self-surrender to the Lord, instead of simply provoking sin and condemning the sinner as law did and could do nothing else. Under grace we are free, but withal servants. Freed from sin, we become bondmen to righteousness. Such is the effect of our hearty obedience of the gospel.
As the first question of our chapter, then, is met by the great fact of God's judgment of the old man and deliverance of the Christian by the death and resurrection of Christ, as he confesses his own death with Christ (witnessed in baptism from the starting-point of Christianity), so the second is an appeal to his motives as set free according to the liberty of grace. Is he going to use it for sinning? Not as the power of sin is the law (1 Cor. 15), grace is the power of holiness and makes him who is under it a more devoted bondman of righteousness to the God who imputes no sin, than the law even asked, but never obtained, with all its rewards and penalties: why this is will appear fully and definitely in Romans 7, where the special question of man under law, even though converted and indeed only as converted, is brought to issue.
For having spoken of the Christian as enslaved to righteousness, the apostle hastens to excuse his language. He had shown the impossibility of a middle place, maintaining the absoluteness of the surrender to God, which is made good in the heart and ways of the believer; he had characterized the new relation as one of bondage to righteousness. This required explanation; for in truth it is real, and the only real, liberty of heart; yet is the bond none the less firm and thorough. "I speak after a human sort on account of the weakness of your flesh; for as ye yielded your members in bondage to uncleanness and to lawlessness unto lawlessness, so now yield your members to righteousness unto holiness." (Ver. 19.) Their former estate manifested its corruption and wilfulness increasingly. Evil ripens and waxes worse and worse. Willing service issues not only in a just appreciation of our relative place to God and man, but in an ever deepening sense of separation to God. To this the saints are exhorted. The life is exercised and progress is looked for. Righteousness is here the practical maintenance of our responsibility according to the relation in which we now stand to God (our mere creature-place as of the first Adam being closed by death). Holiness is the intrinsic delight of the new life in good and its abhorrence of evil, according to God as revealed in Christ.
"For when ye were bondmen of sin, ye were free to righteousness. What fruit had ye then at that time? [Things] of which ye are now ashamed. For the end of those things [is] death." (Ver. 20, 21.) There seems to be a grave but cutting irony in this allusion to their old condition, when the only freedom they knew was in respect to righteousness. They were slaves of sin and had nothing to do with righteousness. And what was the result? Nothing to boast of certainly: how much to fill these representatives with shame! And what is the .end of those things? Death.
Here then we stand on the ground of motives which test the heart. It is no longer, as at the beginning of the chapter, a great fact which is true of the Christian because he has a part with Christ in His death, and so is dead to sin and lives to God. It is an appeal to his appreciation of the grace of God which has freed him from his slavery to sin. To what account and use then is he going to turn his freedom? What was the fruit of his old life when he was free enough in relation to righteousness? Nothing, as far as he was concerned, but a source of present shame, save death the end.
How admirable is the wisdom of the inspired word! The sense of grace thus corrects the otherwise inevitable effect of the light of God, cast on the past and the present and the future: for if it were possible that a soul should be awakened to a just sense of its sinfulness and then left with earnest desires to serve God, to a new life, battling with its old evil, how occupied with self must be the whole of its experience! Alas! so it is too deeply as well as extensively among real children of God, who imperfectly know the blessed consequences for them of the work of Christ. They are not redeemed to be put under law, but contrariwise under grace. Saved by grace, they stand in grace. And this is the strongest motive to the renewed mind, the most fatal snare to the hypocritical professor, the ready objection of the natural mind, which sees the latter without being able to estimate the former.
"But now freed from sin, and made bondmen to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end life eternal." Observe the relation of grace. It is not slaves to the law, but bondservice to God. Man in flesh was tried by the ten words; but they were too weighty for his weakness, and only riveted a chain of judgment on his guilt. But now, emancipated by the death and resurrection of Christ, received by faith, having the life of Him risen from the dead as well as redemption — the forgiveness of sins, we are freed from sin and enslaved to God. Hence follows not a mere test by certain commands, but subjection to Himself who speaks to us by all His word. Every part of scripture has His authority to our souls: only we must learn by the Spirit its just application; and this, holding fast our association with Christ no longer as in the first Adam. It is clear that this both gives a more intimate relation to God, and opens a boundless sphere in which our obedience is to be exercised.
Nor is it only subjection to God, which takes the place of the Jewish position under law; but, thus walking, we have our "fruit unto holiness, and the end life eternal." Such is the pathway here, and such its crown in glory by and by. There is growth in the value of good and its issue in the attracted separation of the heart from evil to God; and the end is suited to the way, though surely according to the personal dignity of Christ, and that which alone meets the character and counsels of God.
"For the wages of sin [is] death; but the free gift of God life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is a summary of the general truth; it is the result on man's side and on God's. He does not limit it to transgression, though of course its wages are no less; he takes man, the Gentile sinner, as well as the Jewish transgressor. Both were sinners; and the wages of sin is death. But the blessing is quite as rich and free: eternal life is the need of the Jew no less than of the Gentile: it is God's free gift, and thus equally open to either or both. Let it be carefully noted that the Holy Spirit, by the structure of the phrase, carefully avoids intimating that the wages of sin are limited to death; for in truth judgment remains, and is appointed to man no less than death. Together they are the full wages of sin. Nor would it be safe to affirm that even eternal life exhausts the free gift of God; for, as we shall find in Romans 8, no less than in many scriptures more, He gives the Holy Ghost to be the portion of the believer, not to speak of the relation of son and the accompanying inheritance. Boundless indeed is His grace to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The apostle had already laid down that sin should not have dominion over the Christian, because he is not under law but under grace. He now unfolds the relations of the believer, even had he been a Jew, to the law; and this he does with admirable wisdom which the mass of his best expositors that it has been my lot to see, not to speak of others, have failed to appreciate.
"Or are ye ignorant, brethren, for I speak to [men] knowing law, that the law has dominion over the man as long time as he lives? For the married woman is bound to the living husband by law; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband." (Ver. 1, 2.) Thus death is the grand principle, as with sin, so with law. It is indeed a confessed and universal axiom. It was fitting to take up the woman rather than the man, because he is treating of our responsibility to do the will of the Lord; and it is emphatically the woman's place to obey her husband. But this, as he demonstrates, is quite independent of the law, which simply deals with man alive in the flesh. Now his thesis in the preceding chapter was the death of the Christian with Christ, which is no less true and forcible when applied to the law as to sin. During the husband's life the wife is bound; if he have died, she is quit. Death severs the bond. "Therefore then, while the husband liveth, she shall be called an adulteress, if she belong to another man. But if the husband die, she is free from the law so as not to be an adulteress by belonging to another man." (Ver. 3.) It is difficult to conceive a blow more destructive to the common notion of putting the Christian under the law as his rule of life. Two husbands are intolerable. Not only is the law not the actual husband, but the apostle will not hear of Christ and the law. It must be Christ alone. To admit of any other association is to be false to Him. If the law had been the old husband, such is no longer the relationship of the Christian. Death having come in, the former obligation terminates, and there is freedom to belong to another without fear of adultery, even to Christ exclusively. Compare for our practice Phil. 3:13, 14.
"So that, my brethren, ye also have been put to death to the law by the body of Christ that ye should belong to another — him that was raised out of [the] dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." (Ver. 5.) Far from its being the aim of God to maintain the rule of the law, the express design and effect of grace is to bring the Christian (even if a Jew formerly) out of the old relationship into an absolutely new one founded on the death of Christ, that he should henceforth belong exclusively to Him risen from among the dead, and this in order to glorify God by fruits acceptable to Him.
It will be observed, however, that the apostle carefully abstains from the least insinuation that the law is dead. Not so does God deliver. The law lives to curse and kill all within its sphere. But we by death with Christ pass out of its power to touch us; and having a new husband, even Christ risen, we dare not allow any other spiritual rule: else we are guilty of what is most grievous in His eyes and an utter breach of our new relationship. And this alone secures fruitfulness Godward. Subjection to Christ fulfils the law without thinking of any one or thing but Him. You cannot serve, you ought not to serve, two masters.
"For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins that [were] by the law wrought in our members to the bearing fruit to death; but now have we got discharge from the law, having died in what we were held, so as for us to serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter." (Ver. 6.)
Thus evidently the flesh and the law (as we may add, the world) are correlative; and the Christian belongs to neither, but to Christ, and to Him risen from the dead. We are no longer in the flesh; we were there, and to this state the law applied: it is made not for the righteous, but the unrighteous. The Christian is dead to law, not it to anybody. Not only does the law work death and condemnation to the unbeliever, but the Christian who meddles with it as a rule for his path will prove it, if taught of God, to be a rule, not of life, but of death. As Christ is our life, so is He our pattern and power through the Holy Ghost, who forms us according to the word which reveals Him to our souls.
It is scarcely needful to point out how false is the doctrine of the common text and translation, which the margin corrects. If true, Antinomianism would follow, than which nothing is more false and evil. Death to law as well as to sin is the fruit of Christ's death and resurrection, and the privilege of the Christian. The law lives to condemn every living soul who pretends to a righteousness of his own.
The passage on which we now enter has been the occasion of as extraordinary discord in thought and comment as any other in the epistle, and I cannot but think with small fruit as to intelligence of God's mind revealed in it. The source of the difficulty is the ordinary one — ignorance of the Christian's position or standing, and consequently of his relation to the law. Had the six preceding verses of Romans 7 been understood, there would have been no such obscurity and no room for such divergence among those who have discussed it. But death with Christ to sin and law is an unknown region, and the loss to souls from ignorance of it is incalculable.
The point, which divides the mass of those who have written and preached on it, as well as of multitudes of those influenced by them, is the question whether the experience described is that of a natural man or of a Christian. It is assumed on both sides that one or other it must be. But the assumption is an error, and the failure of both lies exactly here. It is impossible rightly to understand the passage if applied either to a natural man or to a Christian. There may be, there is, a transitional state constantly found in souls when they are born again, but not yet in conscious deliverance; and this is the precise state, here in question. Paul may have passed as most do through this experience more or less during the three days, when without sight he neither ate nor drank. He was converted then, no longer therefore a natural man, but not yet filled with the Holy Ghost. Certainly he personates the case and reasons it out fully from verse 7 to the end of the chapter. It is the case of one quickened, but not yet submitting to the righteousness of God. Hence, being jealous for God but ignorant of the full place in which redemption sets the believer, such a soul places itself under law; and the operation of the law is therefore exhibited to us. There is an awakened conscience, but no power. If the new nature were not there, such experience could not be: if the Holy Ghost were there, power would follow, as we see in Romans 8 where we have the proper normal state of the Christian. The state described, however, is in no case I believe final, but transitional, though bad and legal teaching may keep a soul in it till grace acts fully, it may be, on a deathbed, or what is equivalent.
"What then shall we say? [Is] the law sin? Let it not be. But I should not have known sin unless by law; for lust also I had not known unless the law had said, Thou shalt not lust. But sin, having taken occasion by the commandment, wrought out in me every [manner of] lust; for apart from law sin [is] dead. But I was alive apart from law once; but the commandment having come, sin revived, and I died; and the commandment that [was] unto life was even found for me unto death. For sin, having taken occasion by the commandment, deceived, and by it slew me. So that the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good. Did then the good become death to me? Let it not be; but sin, that it might appear sin, working out death to me by the good, that sin might become excessively sinful by the commandment." (Ver. 7-13.)
Thus the apostle takes pains to relieve the law of all censure. Far from this, it was the excellency of the law which was so fatal to the sinner. It knows no mercy; it cannot mitigate its terms or its punishment. By the law is the full knowledge of sin, said the apostle in Romans 3. So here, whether objectively or in inward consciousness, law is the means of its discovery, not from any defect in law but from the sinfulness of sin, which is here personified as the foe that is seizing a point for attacking man. But here the apostle is occupied with the proof not of guilty acts but of an alien rebellious nature, and hence singles out the last commandment, the prohibition of covetousness or lust, as the most adapted to convict of sin, not merely of sins. And how true this is! Who does not know the irritation produced by a restraint on the will? So all manner of lust is excited, for apart from law sin is dead: let the commandment have come, and all is over. It never did, it cannot, improve the flesh, but contrariwise provokes it by the curb applied. What is really wanted is a new nature and a transforming object; but law neither communicates the one nor reveals the other: grace does both through Christ our Lord. The fault is solely in the first man, the deliverance is exclusively in the Second. Law sets forth what man ought to be, but condemns him necessarily for the sin it makes active and manifest, without the smallest power to save from it any more than to strengthen against it. On the contrary, says the apostle, "I was alive apart from law once, but, the commandment having come, sin revived and I died." Thus what pointed to life only proved an instrument of death. But if the living man die, law cannot quicken the dead. It is the Son's to quicken whom He will, even as the Father does. But here again the apostle is careful to lay all blame on sin, which, having taken occasion by the commandment, slew by it the deceived man. Thus the law is vindicated, the nature it in vain appeals to is alone in fault; for the commandment is holy, just, and good. Did then the good become death to me? asks the apostle. Not so; it is sin here again he treats as the true culprit, "sin that it might appear sin, working out death to me by the good, that sin might become excessively sinful by the commandment." Could the Jew, however prejudiced against grace, however prepossessed in favour of law, complain with justice? Is it not the evident truth?
The apostle turns now to a discussion of the working of the law, and the discovery which the renewed man makes of no good thing in him, that is, in his flesh. It is one set free reflecting on his state when under law. "For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal,* sold under sin." (Ver. 14.) Thus it is opened by the technical expression of christian knowledge, and this inwardly. But the soul is shut up to a sense of its own overwhelming evil. Only observe it is the bitter sense of bondage to sin, and not the love of sin. Still, though it is one born again, there is no strength whatever. "For what I work out I know (or, own) not, for not what I wish I do, but what I hate this I am doing. But if what I do not wish this I am doing, I agree to the law that [it is] good; but now [it is] no longer I that work it out, but the sin that dwelleth in me." (Ver. 15-17.) It is no small anguish for the soul to feel, who had thought that to be forgiven was all, and that after this nothing but light and joy remained. And now to find oneself weighed down by a constant inward dead weight of evil, to prove experimentally that one is a slave to sin, effort only making it manifest, is a distress as grave as it is unexpected. He learns, however, that it is not himself that loves sin, for he really hates it. Sin is there, and it is not himself now, as he learns even in this painful experience. But what a wretched state! what slavery!
* The best authorities (, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc.) read σάρκινος, not σαρκικὸς as in the received text. The difference is that the former is a confession of being mere flesh physically. So it is in 2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 7:16, and probably in 1 Cor. 3:1 (but not in verses 3, 4, where the other form is clearly right). In Rom. 15:27; 1 Cor. 9:11; 2 Cor. 1:12; 2 Cor. 10:4; 1 Peter 2:11, it is σαρκικός, in most of which the physical idea of flesh would be out of place. In our text the difference is of some importance as corroborating the scope of the passage that the will was not engaged. Were this meant to be expressed, σαρκικὸς would be the more proper term.
It is evident that the state described is not that of deliverance; it is not therefore the normal state of the Christian, but one of transition. The reader will be perhaps as pleased as I with the substance of the following note, which I did not expect from Doddridge. "The apostle here, by a very dexterous turn, changes the person and speaks as of himself. This he elsewhere does (Rom. 3:6; 1 Cor. 10:30; chap. 4:6) when he is only personating another character. And the character here assumed is that of a man, first ignorant of the law, then under it, and sincerely desiring to please God, but finding to his sorrow the weakness of the motives it suggested, and the sad discouragement under which it left him; and last of all with transport discovering the gospel, and gaining pardon and strength, peace and joy by it. But to suppose he speaks all these things of himself or the confirmed Christian — that he really was when he wrote this epistle — is not only foreign but contrary to the whole scope of his discourse, as well as to what is expressly asserted, Rom. 8:2."
It is a question of power coming in, not of will; for he is supposed to will the contrary, but alas! does what he wills not. Thus the moral character of both natures is made plain. The flesh never goes along with the moral judgment and desire of the renewed man while under law. But it is well to observe that there is another discussion in verses 18-20 leading to the same result and closing similarly, only with greater emphasis personally in its course. "For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, no good dwelleth; for to will is present with me, but to work out the good [is] not; for I am not doing good which I wish; but evil which I wish not, this I do. But if what I wish not, this I am doing, [it is] no longer I that work it out, but the sin that dwelleth in me." (Ver. 18-20.)
It is a renewed "I," but obliged to feel that it is powerless. The hated evil continually gains the day, and the good that is acknowledged and valued slips through undone — a dreadful lesson, yet the truth of our nature, wholesome and needful to learn. Grace turns it to excellent account, and ere long, if there be simplicity and subjection of heart through the Holy Ghost to Christ.
In all the previous process it is striking to see how totally eclipsed is every object and power of faith. It is throughout self, though not self indulged and gratified, but self proving to itself intense cause of misery and disappointment. Christ in the end becomes all the more welcome; and the deliverance is of grace, not activity of self, through Him. After this activity in the energy of the Spirit can safely follow: before it, if possible, it would only veil the knowledge of self from us, and so far hide the truth and foster both self-love and self-righteousness.
It will be observed too, how admirably the apostle, while asserting fully the new place which grace gives by our having part with Christ in His death, guards the law from all impeachment. Let the Jew be ever so sensitive, God's honour is safe; and it was not Paul who forgot or wounded it, whatever the adversaries of the gospel averred. As the law was not sin, so it was not death. The entire fault lay in man's sin, not in God's law. The converted feel this and cleave to the law, let it be ever so peremptory and painful. But it never does nor can deliver; on the contrary, it demonstrates the abject, thorough, hopeless bondage to sin in which our nature is held — the more felt, the more the sanctity of the law is owned. Under law, therefore, the renewed soul finds peace impossible. Impossible in this state to do anything but condemn oneself. This is true and good as far as it goes, but it is not the christian state, though it is the condition in which Christians must find themselves till they know deliverance from their state of sin, and not the forgiveness of their sins alone.
We see progress before full sense of emancipation comes. It is in the second discussion, not the first, that the soul is represented as saying "in me, that is, in my flesh, no good dwelleth." The distinction of the new nature from the old becomes more apparent, though power is still wanting. The next verses show us how the misery is brought to a crisis, but through grace to a close.
Verses 21-23 furnish the conclusion from the discussion we have seen doubly pursued. "I find then the law for me wishing to do the right thing that evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members." Guilt is not the matter in hand, but power, or rather the total absence of it; so that, with the best possible dispositions and desires, all ends in captivity to sin, though it is now hated. It is not the soul in the death and darkness of nature, but renewed. God is loved, evil abhorred; but the soul finds itself powerless either to give effect to the one or to avoid the other. There is progress notwithstanding, sad as the experience is still, and slow as the soul itself may be, to realize or allow it. Hence, he now speaks of the opposition he finds in his members, the law of sin that is there. There is a growing sense of distinctness, as well as of internal conflict. This does not give peace any more than power — far from it. As far as feeling goes, never was he more intensely miserable.
But the deepening of the darkness precedes the light of day. New light dawns when all seemed most forlorn. "Wretched man I! who shall deliver me out of this body of death?" This expression of distress, not without hope, yet bordering on despair, is the direct road to the Deliverer. The mistake was looking to himself, the humiliating process was the discovery of his own powerlessness for good however loved, against his own evil however honestly detested. All turns on the question of a Deliverer outside self. All expectation of victory over self by himself is proved to be the sheerest vanity of vanities. Another becomes the true and sole resource. Who that other is remains not for a moment an object of hesitation to the believer. The inquiry has only to be raised in order to receive the most decided and triumphant answer. "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Jesus is not alone the one ground of pardon through His blood-shedding; He is equally the Deliverer from the withering sense of death which the believer experiences when, honestly seeking to subdue his own will and work out the good he delights in and eschew the ill he hates. Broken to nothingness by the continual proof of his own failure, spite of prayer, watching, and efforts of every conceivable kind, he abandons himself as hopelessly wretched, looks out of himself inquiringly, and answers at once the demand of his soul with a song of thanksgiving for Jesus.
The Spirit of God, however, takes care at once to guard the soul, now humble and filled with praise, from the illusion that the flesh is changed for the better. Not so: the two natures retain each its own character. "Therefore then I myself with the mind serve God's law, but with the flesh sin's law." (Ver. 25.) We shall see more of the deliverance itself, and its consequences, in the following chapter. Meanwhile we learn here that, if the flesh acts at all, it can only be to sin. Such is its law. Deliverance does not alter the bent of man's nature, which is the same in all, in the Christian as in the unbeliever. Only the former, not the latter, has a new nature, deliverance in and through Christ, and the Holy Spirit as the power of enjoying his privileges and of walking accordingly, as we shall soon learn.