Notes On The Epistle To The Romans
These notes were first published in 1868 with the following forward. 'The following observations on the most comprehensive of all the apostolic Epistles consists mainly of 'Notes' of remarks made by an honoured servant of God (J. N. Darby, 1800-1882), at a reading of Christian brethren, in another land and tongue. Retouched by another, but without the revision of their author, they are now sent forth with the assurance of the blessing of the Lord on His own truth. They will have little value or interest save for those who study the Word of God.'
Thoughts On Romans 1 To 8
To the end of chapter 3 it is a question of man's state, Jew or Gentile, before God, and of God's answer to that state by the blood of Christ. In chapter 4 we see man justified by blood, being set by grace in a new position, by virtue of resurrection. Chapter 5, 6 and 7 present the application of this life to justification, to the conduct of the justified man, and to his deliverance from the law. Chapter 8 opens out the Christian state founded on this deliverance-the state of man set free.
Chapter 1:1. 'Paul, servant of Jesus Christ.' Paul addresses the Romans according to the apostolic authority he possessed. He had no title with them because of his labours: he had not yet laboured at Rome. He names himself alone. We may see elsewhere that, when he wrote to church in which he had wrought with others, he named them with him in the introduction of the epistle. 'Called apostle:' these two words must be read without separating them, (not 'to be' an apostle). The sense is an apostle called, an apostle, not by succession, and so on, but by calling. We find again this form of expression in verse 7, where we have 'saints called', 'the gospel of God;' elsewhere it is said, 'the gospel of Christ,' 'the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ;' and usage has, so to speak, chosen this last appellation. But if it is good to see the gospel in its acts, it is good also to see it in its source. Here we have God's gospel, an expression which shows in God Himself the spring of grace, and which rejects the common idea of an angry God appeased by Jesus Christ. If it was necessary for our happiness that the Son of man should be lifted up on the cross, it is His own Son whom God has given. Such is the sovereign grace which God has communicated to us by the gospel. Paul was 'called' by the Lord on the road to Damascus; he was 'separated' by the authority of the Spirit at Antioch (Acts 9:13).
Verses 2-4. There are two things to consider in this gospel: the accomplishment of promises (not of the promises) and the power of God in resurrection. 'According to the spirit of holiness, declared Son of God in power, by resurrection of the dead.' The spiritual power which was manifested in the person of Christ during His life was manifested in power in resurrection. The reference is not to promise merely, but to the power of resurrection; it is the abstract expression, but demonstrated in a fact. If I lift up this table, it is by power that I do so, while it is, at the same time, the act of lifting the table which proves this power. 'By resurrection of dead [persons],' not that of Christ alone; it is by the resurrection of others, as well as by His own, though this was the great proof, that Jesus was marked out Son of God. It will be remarked how the apostle fully owns the previous order of things and revelations, and the relation in which the gospel stood thereto. It was promised before in holy scriptures (so Jesus is presented, first as David's seed, and object of promise, and next as Son of God in power), the grand subject-matter of God's gospel.
Verse 5. 'Grace and apostleship.' In Paul the two things were bound together, in a particular way. He had, at the same time, received grace for himself, and apostleship (mission) for others; and this from Jesus, the Lord of the harvest. It was a mission received by grace, the object of which was the obedience of faith among all nations-not the obedience of the law, which was the responsibility of Israel. It is the mode of the obedience, not the object.
Verses 6,7. Among these Gentiles were the believers at Rome, saints, not by birth, nor by ceremonial institutions, but by divine call. The Jews were born a holy nation relatively to the Gentiles. The Roman Christians were saints by calling of Jesus Christ, and beloved of God.
Verses 8-17. Next follows the apostle's thanksgiving for their faith; also the expression for his desire to see them for blessing. 'First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you' (vv. 8-10). The apostle served God with or in his spirit, in the glad tidings of His Son. It was ministry in communion with the source whence it took its rise. Indeed there is no real power of God otherwise, though there may be much activity. But it is a poor thing if only rendered as a duty. Accordingly, there is amazing interest in the saints as belonging to God. 'Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request,' etc. 'For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift unto your establishing.' It is not that Paul forgets the privilege of his apostleship; but how tenderly he adds that it was to their finding comfort together in their mutual faith,-'both of you and me!' It was not a new thought. Often he purposed to come to them, but hitherto had been hindered. He was indebted to all the nations, and was ready to announce the glad tidings to them also who were in Rome. For he was not ashamed of his message. The gospel is God's power. The law would have been man's strength if he had been able to accomplish it. 'For God's righteousness is revealed in it by faith unto faith.' The law demanded righteousness from man. The gospel reveals God's righteousness already accomplished in Christ, and justifies, instead of condemning. Hence, being not in man but of God, it is for faith; because it is by faith that a revelation is received. This righteousness was exercised against sin on the cross, of which Christ knew the suffering; afterwards it is revealed in the gospel. The cross was not the revelation of righteousness (for Jesus Christ the Righteous ought not justly to have died); the cross is the execution of righteousness. When God executes righteousness, He strikes; when he displays His righteousness to man, He justifies him. The meaning of the phrase, 'by faith,' is properly on the principle of faith. This righteousness pertains to faith, not to the law; consequently it is revealed where there is faith. The gospel was the intervention of God accomplishing a salvation which was from first to last His work. Hence man enters into it by faith-the only means of sharing blessing which was wholly from God. The law proved that man has no righteousness for God. The gospel declares that God has His righteousness and gives it to man, to the believer, Jew or Gentile; for being of faith, and not of the law, it was opened by grace to the Gentile, as to the Jew. The Jewish prophet confirmed and proved this: 'the just shall live by faith.' (see Hab. 2).
Verse 18. From verse 18, of chapter 1 to chapter 3:20, we find an expose', in which Paul, before showing the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, begins by establishing that all men are under sin and judgment. Verse 18 gives the thesis on this point: 'the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth [while living] in unrighteousness.' The heathen, who are first considered, are seen in this state of culpability. Nor is it earthly judgments (so familiar in Old Testament history) but divine wrath, which is now revealed. Not that it is revealed in the gospel, which unfolds divine righteousness: nevertheless it is revealed from heaven, in connection with the grace which delivers from this very wrath-revealed against every sort of impiety, and especially where the truth is professed along with the dishonour of God, whether in Jewry or Christendom. God is now fully revealed in Christ: and all sin, whatever and wherever it is, being set in the light of heaven, is insupportable.
The unfolding which is here given of men's state reveals in them beings fallen into profound degradation, at the same time that it manifests the serious responsibility under the consequences of which they lie. For their fall and their progress in evil were not accomplished till they had slighted the testimonies of the truth of God. First, by the works of creation, God had set before their eyes the witness which makes known what cannot be seen of Him-His eternal power and godhead (vv. 19, 20). This should have rendered them inexcusable. But, besides, they had originally known God. Noah's descendants, doubtless, had known Him; for after having caused the old world to disappear by a terrible judgment, God had recommenced the present world by a family in which He had placed the deposit of the knowledge of Himself. But men had not kept it; nay, they had perverted it; they had abandoned the Creator to worship the creature (ver. 21ff). And God, in righteous retribution, had turned their own perversion against themselves. They were left to themselves to degrade against themselves. Yet more-to abominable lusts, and a mind void or moral discernment. Giving up God's honour, they dishonoured themselves, and had sympathy with the vileness of others.
Behold now a class of individuals which differs from the preceding, in that they judge those disorders. Philosophers, moralists, etc., well discerned such a state of things. Were they changed themselves? In no way. Could God accept such things? Assuredly not. If they judged evil, it was not to avoid it; they judged it with others only; and God classes even them among those who possess the truth in unrighteousness. Here the pagan philosopher (vv. 1-16) and the Jew (vv. 17-29) find their place. These last occupy, in respect of those who went before, a more elevated moral position. But these outsiders of wisdom and knowledge do not suffice to escape God's judgment, which will be according to truth, and which cannot be deceived by man's disguises. In this chapter, the position is not viewed, as in the foregoing, in connection with God's government. It is not the Gentile under the consequences of his conduct towards God, running in an open way into gross wanderings; nor the Jew with special privileges set apart in the midst of the nations. The title which describes this class is very general, 'thou, man, that judges whoever thou art.' Moreover, man stript before the justice of God, is judged according to his light and his real moral condition. None who does evil shall escape God's judgment. His mercy and long-suffering, which ought to lead the evildoer to repentance, will never lessen that judgment which man forgets as easily as he despises His goodness. The issues of a life far from God, and a godly one, are equally certain (vv. 6-11). Men as such will be dealt with according to there true character morally, and according to the advantages enjoyed. God will judge the Gentile by conscience, the Jew by law, in the day in which the secrets of the heart are judged, according to Paul's gospel (vv. 12-16). There will be no preference for the circumcision; for that, without fidelity, is uncircumcision in God's estimate (v. 25), for there is no respect of persons with Him. He will have realities; and His judgment here spoken of is a judgment of the secrets of the heart, not exterior and earthly. 'But if' (for that is the true reading, and not 'behold' in verse 17) one had the name of Jew and behaved evilly, it was but blaspheming the name of God among the Gentiles, as it is written, and such an one's circumcision became uncircumcision. On the other hand, righteousness in an uncircumcised state would be reckoned for circumcision. The true Jew is so, not in outward show merely, but hiddenly and in spirit circumcised (vv. 17-29).
Here is the proper consideration of the Jews and their state, such as it was in fact, whatever might be the great privileges with which God had honoured them nationally. Christian doctrine, though it reduce the Jew to the level of the Gentile when it is a question of sin, in no way despises the distinctive advantages of the Jew. It owns them, particularly that of being entrusted with the oracles of God. It owns them, even in presence of faithlessness of many in Israel. For God is faithful, who will judge the faithless, and keep His people faithfully.
But those same oracles whose deposit is one of the great privileges of Israel, declare, and this in a solemn manner, that the Jews are under sin and judgment. On their own showing and boast, the law was theirs, and it addressed them. But if so, it declared that God could find not one righteous, with yet more terrible descriptions of their state outwardly and inwardly. Such were the Jews according to their own psalms and prophets. Thus every mouth was closed and all the world brought in guilty before God. No man should be justified before Him by works of law; for those who had the law were so much the more guilty in that they had transgressed it. Law gives knowledge of sin, not power against it, nor justification from it.
Man has no righteousness: judgment is already pronounced upon him. But when it is proved that every kind of righteousness is wanting in man, then the gospel discovers the boundless riches of grace and shows God revealing His righteousness in saving lost man. Yes, it belongs to the glad tidings of Jesus Christ to reveal in God a righteousness which saves man. 'Now, without law, divine righteousness is manifested, being testified of by the law and the prophets-divine righteousness by faith of Christ Jesus towards all, and upon all who believe.' Thus by faith, man is delivered from judgment, and put at ease with God. Evidently, if God's righteousness, according to which men shall be judged, becomes our righteousness, our deliverance is ensured, and we have perfect security for the judgment. If the righteousness whereby justification comes were man's own, it must be by law-the law given to the Jews; but it is God's righteousness, and therefore is towards all men, Gentiles as well as Jews. But it takes effect only where there is faith in Jesus. If it is unto all, it is only upon all that believe, Jew or Greek; for there is no difference: 'All have sinned and are come short of the glory of God.' What then is to be done? 'Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth a mercy-seat, through faith in his blood.' It is God who justifies, and He justifies in virtue of His own grace, established on the value of Christ's blood. Instead of bringing into judgment, He had passed by sins of Old Testament saints (which is the meaning of 'sins that are past' or that had taken place before). But now it was not only the forbearance of God: the atonement was accomplished, and this vindicated both His praetermission of sins in past time, and His showing His righteousness in the present time, so that He should be just and justify him who is of the faith of Jesus. God abides in this character (i.e., just in justifying sinners).
There are two things to remark as to the righteousness of God. Justice was first exercised in vengeance on the victim, after that in acceptance. The Christ whom God smote on the cross He has accepted by receiving Him near Himself. And our condition answers to these two things: 'we have redemption through His blood,' and 'we are accepted in the Beloved.' But this last feature belongs more particularly to the following chapter.
Boasting is thus excluded by this law, or principle, of faith of Jesus, which justifies without law-works of any sort. And the god who acts thus in grace is the God of Gentiles no less than of Jews, since it is one who justifies Jews by faith not by law, and Gentiles through their faith, if they believe. Justification flows from faith and nothing else; and the man who believes is justified. Also (v. 31), this doctrine of faith establishes the authority of law instead of weakening it. Faith supposes man's ruin under law, but receives another righteousness even God's. Law is made void by him who pretends to stand under law without being condemned.
 Probably given in French, then translated by William Kelly (it is not found in the Collected Writings of JND nor on the 'Darby Disc').
It may be useful to observe here that Paul habitually employs the word ga`r, 'for' to connect several thoughts, which pertain to the same stock.
'Whoever thou art,' be thou Jew, Gentile, philosopher. Pharisee, professing Christian and even real Christian,-the last considered in his responsibility and not in the position which God's sovereign grace makes and keeps for him. Whatever may be the favour that God accords to man, the great principles of righteousness and judgment are never enfeebled by His goodness.
Up to the end of chapter 3 the apostle has developed the sad state of man, and presented the blood of Christ, as answering to this state. In chapter 4 he opens out the new position which the resurrection gives us. In this way holiness of life cannot be severed from justification by grace, because from Christ one receives, at the same time, both righteousness and life. There are three thoughts in this chapter. First, Abraham believed God. Second, when Abraham entered into the blessings of faith, he was not circumcised. Third, his faith embraced the power and life of resurrection. It is clear that Abraham's case sets us on the same principle of faith. If justified by works, he would have had ground for boasting, which can never be before God. James speaks of justification before man, and hence speaks of what Abraham did when tried long after. Scripture says that his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness And such is the principle now-not to him that works, as a debt, but as of grace to him who believes on Him who justifies the ungodly. Abraham, then, exemplifies justification by faith. In perfect accordance with it is the language of David in Psalm 32 For he speaks of blessedness, where the man was not righteous but a sinner. The happiness of such an one is, that God does not impute His, but covers them, and reckons to him righteousness without works. Incontestably, also, Abraham was uncircumcised when God thus dealt with him-an overwhelming consideration for the Jews, who looked up to Abraham as the beau ideal to which all their notions of excellence and privilege were referred. Circumcision, then, was only the seal of the righteousness of faith, which he had during his uncircumcised state.
It may be observed here, that we are instructed in redemption, but redemption is not given as the object of faith. Our faith has for its object God, Christ. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Abraham believed in God. He believed the God who quickens the dead, and we believe on Him who has raised up from the dead Jesus our Lord. Another thing should be borne in mind, that we are before God according to all the worth of the acceptance of Christ. Not only is sin taken away, but, moreover, we have a righteousness, which has glorified God, and we are accepted according to this righteousness received 'safe and sound' to be before God. To receive from God the wedding-garment is more than to be simply stript of our tags; it is to be clothed. Christ, independently of the putting away of our sins, has done a work which gives Him a personal title before God. Were there none saved, still Jesus would have the position to which He is entitled by this work in which God has been glorified by Him. In coming here below, the Saviour found man lost, and the glory of God tarnished by the sin of the creature. He undertook to serve man, and to retrieve the glory of God; and success crowned His work. In this respect, God receives from man (in Jesus) for His glory, as he received from him (in Adam) for his dishonour. In Jesus, on the cross, God recovered all His rights in justice, and has been fully manifested in love. In fact, there is more glory on the cross than in heaven. We may share the heavenly glory; but as for that of the cross, none but Christ could sustain it.
It follows thence, that in virtue of righteousness Jesus is before God, according to all the value of the righteousness which is imputed to us. By faith we share with Christ this blessed portion. 'We are as He is;' and such being our condition in this world, we have confidence for the day of judgment. Christ will judge the world in righteousness; but the righteousness with which He will judge is ours: the Judge is our righteousness. Observe, that in this case, righteousness supposes a spiritual life. It is never said that we ought to be what He was, but that we ought to walk as He walked. The life that we receive from Christ, who is now in heaven, renders us capable of walking as He walked. We could not be what He was; for we should be under responsibility before righteousness, and, besides, we have lusts, etc., which He had not. We are so as He is now; and we should walk as He walked, when He was here below.
Verse 12 should be thus translated: 'father of circumcision not only to them who are of the circumcision, but to those also who walk,' etc. Abraham is here called father of circumcision, or of true separation to God-father of this separation, as the person in whom began this order of separating man for God. It was in him that God introduced this new principle of His intervention, in the midst of evil, by setting man apart for Himself. From that time, in the subsequent ways of God with man, this principle of separation has been much developed. Abraham is the father of circumcision in the same sense as that in which science has made Hippocrates the father of medicine.
Verses 13-16 The promise of itself does not raise the question of sin. God has promised; He will accomplish. But all must be accomplished by grace; and in the interval between the promise given and the promise fulfilled God brings in the law by which the question of sin and righteousness is awakened, and this furnishes occasion for grace. It was not by law, then, that the promise of being heir of the world was made to Abraham, or to his seed. It was by righteousness of faith. Clearly, then, if those who took the ground of law were heirs, faith is made vain, and the promise null and void. But it is not so: for the law works wrath, and not the enjoyment of the promise as, on the other hand, there is no transgression where there is no law. The apostle does not say sin; for that there might be where no law was, sin being lawlessness, as John says, (1 John 3:4), and not merely' the transgression of the law,' according to the erroneous rendering of the English version. Here the meaning is most plain: there was no law; and where law is given to sinners, it works wrath of necessity. But the inheritance was promised to Abraham, and certainly he to whom a promise is given is not the one who has accomplished it. Therefore it is on the principle of faith, that it might be according to grace (not man's desert), in order that the promise might be sue to all the seed, not only to that which is of the law, but to that also which believed like Abraham. That is to say, faith, and not law, being the title to the inheritance, even the Jews could inherit in no other way, and the door was open to the Gentiles; as it is written, I have made thee father of many nations (v. 17).
But this is not all. Abraham, not yet circumcised, was justified by faith, without the law and before it. Upon what did he rest? Against hope he believed in hope, and trusted in the resurrection-power of God, fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able to perform.
We may here remark the difference between the Old Testament saints and us. Abraham believed that God had the power to accomplish His promise, and we (v. 24) believe in Him who has raised up out of the dead Jesus our Lord. If we were in prison, and the authorities gave us the promise of setting us free at a certain time, we might, doubtless, enjoy this promise with assurance; but how different would our condition be when we were actually at liberty!
The Apostle here speaks not of believing in Jesus, but in God, in Him who has entered in power the region of the death in which Jesus lay because of our sins, and who has lifted Him thence. The resurrection, whether of Christ or of His people, is the fruit of the mighty activity of God's love, who has taken from under the consequences of sin Him who had already borne all the penalty of our sins: so that believing in God who has thus raised Him from the dead, we embrace the whole extent of the work on which resurrection has put the seal, as will the grace and the power which are displayed therein. God has thus made an end of our sins once for all, and has set in Jesus us who believe, fully justified by what Jesus has done, since He has done it for all who believe in Him.
But why the future-'to whom it shall be imputed?' Paul here considers man as being in question: 'What will then become of man?' He will be justified. We meet several times in the epistle this employment of the future. In this case the future has no reference to the time, but answers to another expression in the phrase. Chapter 6:5 furnishes an example. There we read, 'for if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.' 'Shall be,' though future, clearly points out in this verse a thing which we now possess; for it is said a little farther on (v. 13), 'yield yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead.' It is the same with the words 'shall be imputed' at the end of Rom 4. The principle of resurrection established in this chapter abides in the following, applied in chapter 5 to justification, in chapter 6 to the life of the justified, and in chapter 7 to the law.
There is a slight difference between justification and peace, though in simple souls these two blessings go on together. Peace is the consequence of justification. 'Having been justified, we have peace with God.'
Though it be by faith alone that we are justified, God, in justifying us, sets the soul in connection with the grace received. One must take account of that in evangelisation and the care of souls. Experience, it is true, is not faith,-we are not justified by experience; and yet if the state of the soul rests outside what faith has received, true peace cannot be enjoyed.
But not only is the work done and he who receives God's testimony (i.e., the believer) justified. Three privileges follow justification by faith. 1st, as we have seen, we have peace; 2nd, we are in the grace or favour of God; and 3rd, we boast (or rejoice) in the hope of His glory. Peace is the end of war; grace goes farther; we are actually in the enjoyment of God's favour. As regards the past, (the old man and his acts), we have peace; as to the present, we are in favour before God; for the future, we await glory. In a certain sense the entire Christian position is given in these three things-peace, grace, and hope. Nevertheless, there is more, for we find farther on, and twice, the expression, 'And not only so' (3:11).
'We boast (or rejoice) in tribulations also.' The ways of God towards us during the crossing of the wilderness are designed to mortify the flesh, to break the man, and thereby to form us for the knowledge of God. The flesh is a veil which hides heavenly things from us. God acts in our interest, as to this veil, and afterwards we see better throughout. In this verse 3 it is in view of the subjective fruit, which results from the tribulation that we boast. In 5:11 we boast in view of the objective blessing-we joy or boast in God. By objective blessing is meant the blessing which specially belongs to faith, as the knowledge of God, His work of grace accomplished outside us in Christ, etc. Subjective is said of the effects of grace produced in us.
The result of tribulation is experience, and that works hope. While experience in affliction is an inner thing and productive of experience, it is not on this inner feeling that one can lean. The sole support given to our faith is the love of God, that love which He showed in Christ toward us. It is there that experience and faith meet. Accordingly there are two aspects in which Paul presents the love of God:-
His love in us, as a subjective thing: and as soon as the apostle has named the love of God in us, He immediately goes back to God's love for us, the first spring of every blessing. This is the inverse of the human mind. Man is so quick to put himself at the centre and to seek in God only what may correspond with the order of things where he finds himself placed. But if we have such a privilege as that of knowing the love of God, it is because God first loved us, even when we were only worthy of his hatred.
The Holy Ghost reasons not from what is in man, but from what God is (the only certainty for man), and shows us the consequences of the work Christ has done for the believer. Having been justified in the power of His blood, we shall be saved from wrath. For if, while enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in the power of His life-that endless life in which the Son lives eternally.
The consequence is that we boast not only in this full and assured salvation, but in God Himself. If we boast in the things received, we also boast in Him who has given them. We enter thereby into the blessed ocean of the knowledge of God.
It seems that this verse, which introduces us to a new subject, is linked with what precedes, by the fact that it is by our Lord Jesus Christ that we have now received the reconciliation. Since it is by Him, we are thus carried back to Christ, and to Adam by contrast, beyond the limits of a question of law, Jews, etc.
The general idea in these verses is that, as Adam introduced sin into the world, Christ has brought righteousness therein. The apostle takes up the subject in Adam at the beginning of the ways of God with man. What he says amounts to this: it is no longer a question of you, Jews, only but of man, of sin , and consequently of grace. Nor is it you alone who are to be benefited by Christ's work, but Gentiles,-sinners. In Adam sin entered the world, and it is for sin committed then and since that Christ came. The work He accomplished is as valid for others as for you.
The meaning of these verses is not that people are condemned solely by the imputation of Adam's sin. It is true that his sin is imputed to his race, but there is also the personal state of the individual, who are condemned for their own sins. We are under the consequences of Adam's sin in two respects, as to position and as to nature. We are born far from God, and we have borne a nature at enmity with Him. The son of a man given up to dissipation is found in this double misfortune, that he is born fortuneless, and that he has a nature disposed to dissipation. As another comparison, suppose the Czar, for example, sends a man to Siberia because of rebellion, and he has a son born there, and of course fallen from the rights of a Russian subject. There, however, is the limit of the penalty he endure for the conduct of his father. But if he happens to show the enmity to the Czar which brought his father to exile, the Czar leaves him also in exile: this son of the proscribed abides in disgrace because of his personal enmity. Just so, we are born under guilt, but we cannot be guilty without sinning. The apostle avoids separating our fall in Adam-our state under the fall-from the state of the heart estranged from God. He does not sever guilt from the presence of sin in the individual. In the mystical sense employed about Levi in Heb. 7:9,10, there need be no difficulty in saying that we sinned in Adam. However, this is evidently not the sense of the passage. Exclusively understood, it is contradicted by such scriptures as Ezekiel 18:20, and Jeremiah 31:29,30. Further, remark that there remains nothing to guard the conscience, the moment we make the sin of Adam the sole cause of our condemnation; for if we die for that sin, our conduct matters little!
Paul mentions here, as an existing fact, the presence of sin in the world. The twelfth verse gives the positive proof of the existence of sin in the world by the fact that death is there. Death is the sign of sin for which man is condemned, law or no law. The following verses appeal to the early inspired history which no Jew would dispute. Until law sin was in the world. There was then something more than Adam's sin. It is true that sin is not put to account where there is no law: still death reigned from Adam to Moses; and this demonstrated that sin was there, for death is the wages of sin, and not only of transgression. If man is under a law given by God and infringes it, his death is the necessary consequence. But without that, without law, when there was not this rule whereby God, in His government, imputes sin by virtue of a given law, it was clear that death reigned equally-that it attacked individuals who were not under the law: the proof too that they were under everlasting ruin also. Death reigned, he says, over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression (that is, over those who, in a different position from that of Adam and of the Jews, had sinned with out the law). Paul groups together the position of the Jews and Adam, according to the true sense of Hosea 6:7, which charges the people with having acted like Adam. 'But they, like (not 'men,' but) Adam, have transgressed the covenant.' Both of these had a positive command, which each violated. But it was not so with sinners between the two points They had died because they sinned, but it was not after the resemblance of Adam's transgression.
Adam is the type or the figure of the coming one-of Christ. Like the disobedience of Adam, the work of Christ has an effect on a great member of individuals. If death struck all men, as well those who sinned like Adam in the way of transgressing commands, as those who sinned otherwise, the remedy which the Lord Jesus Christ brings for sin has no less universal effects. The work of His death has a value which answers to man's state, whatever may be the form of the sin. The Jew died under the curse of the law-Christ has borne this curse. The Gentile, without law, died under sin-Christ by His death delivers him.
There is, in these verses, a parallel instituted between sin in Adam and righteousness in Christ, a parallel by which are shown the extent and the excellency of Christ's work. As to the details we may remark the order as follows:-
Verse 15. -The roots of sin and grace. The subject is not shut up within the bounds of a Jewish question (Moses, the law, the prophets, etc.): it embraces a vaster extent. To judge of sin and grace, it is to Adam and Christ that we must go back.
Verse 16. If the judgment was from one to condemnation, the free gift is from many offences to accomplished righteousness. The principle of grace extends to the things as well as persons.
Verse 17. The issues are then given. By one offence death reigned: much more shall those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life by the one, Jesus Christ. How rich the contrast! Not merely life reigns, but we shall reign ourselves in life.
The parenthesis which began with verse 13 closes here. In verse 18 the general reasoning is taken up in a peculiarly abstract way. 'So then as [the bearing was] by one offence toward all men to condemnation, so by one accomplished righteousness [it is] toward all men to justification of life.' It is the direction of either act expressed abstractly. We are always here in the parallel between Adam and Christ. Their acts have a bearing toward all men; but the tendency of Adam's act is to condemn, that of Christ's work is to justify.
It must be borne in mind that the point in this verse is not the application or actual effect; for in that case all men would be justified in justification of life, which is not the fact. All men are condemned; but it is for more than the simple imputation of Adam's sin, as the preceding chapters have shown. Likewise, as to justification, if there are individuals placed in the state which it indicates, this is in virtue of a moral fact which corresponds to it-even faith. From what sources flow these two conditions of man? From Adam and Christ, only while the acts of the one and the other are of similar bearing, we find that, when we come to fact, condemnation weights on all, while justification is only the portion of some. Hence we see that after having said 'all men' in verse 18, Paul changes his phrase and speaks of the 'many' in verse 19. 'For as by the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted righteous.'
This is because 'all' are not definitively justified in Christ, though all are made sinners. Using the word 'many', or rather 'the many', in the second term of the parallel, he employs it in the first also for the correspondence of the subjects.
But why, then, law? It 'came in that (not sin but) the offence might abound; but where sin abounded, grace still more abounded, that as sin reigned in (the power of) death, so also grace might reign through righteousness, to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' If justice reigned, as sin has reigned by death, it would have been all over with us: we should have been under the penalties. But grace reigns. The contrast is established between God and man, not between sin and righteousness, and God exercises His sovereign right in grace; and this to life everlasting, instead of governing this world according to the Jewish system. Save certain glimmerings in eternal life, the Jews in general looked at life on this side of death. Here God, far from sanctioning unrighteousness, justifies in His grace through Jesus, and gives eternal life above and beyond death.
We have in this chapter the second of the three things we have already indicated-the life. The apostle's doctrine is, that we are brought into God's presence by death and resurrection in virtue of the work which Christ therein accomplished. We believe in Him who raised up Christ from among the dead. Can we live in the sin to which we are dead? It is to contradict oneself and one's baptism. But if I am baptised into Christ, it is as having part in His death (for there it is that I have this righteousness in which He appears before God, and I in Him). Now it is to sin that He is dead; and I am brought into the participation of this divine and perfect righteousness by having part in death unto sin. It is impossible, therefore, that it should be to live in sin, though, no doubt, the flesh would like that. 'Know ye not that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.' All that is in God was interested in the resurrection of Christ. At the cross, God (not the Father, as such, but God) was glorified; His holiness, love, righteousness, plainly witnessed by the death of the just one, were there fully magnified. But in the resurrection of Christ all that God was in His glory, and the Father in His relationship.
The question here is not motive, nor duty merely but the nature of the blessing in which we participate, and of which Christian baptism is the expression. The Christian's life is quite new and the walk flows from it. Death and resurrection with Christ is his present portion. Our old man (v. 6) has been crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be rendered null, that we might no longer serve sin. Death gives quittance from sin (v. 7).
The obedience of Christ was put to the proof up to the end, till there rested no more than death; and He preferred to die rather than fail in obedience, which would have been yielding to sin. Far from yielding, He died; He completed His obedience in death; and by it He has done with sin in every way. He has only to do with God. We, too, should appropriate this by faith (v. 11), and reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Hence the clear and solemn exhortations of verses 12, 13, 'Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments or righteousness unto God.' But mark well that the source of practical power (and that is the question) is in grace: 'sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under grace.' If God and sin are in question doubtless God is found the strongest!
It is owned that grace is an occasion for the flesh, not for the Christian to walk according to the flesh. Observe how, in this chapter, Paul reduces the flesh to silence: Shall we sin (v. 1) to show greater grace? No, for that would be no longer the grace which annulled our sins to save us. Shall we sin (v. 15) since grace delivers from the law, and we are no longer under its slavery? No, for in that we should become slaves in another way.
While it is by righteousness outside us that we are justified, this righteousness is identified in us, notwithstanding, with practical righteousness. Its character is obedience, and obedience is learned of Christ. If I forbid my son to do something he would like to do, and I am heeded, I say, There is an obedient child; but Christ's obedience is quite another thing. Never had God to stop Him in the movement of His soul, for that movement was always the very will of God. Our obedience is on the same principle. We are elect to the obedience of Jesus Christ, i.e., to
that same obedience (1 Pet. 1). We have also to obey Jesus; but here it is the obedience of Jesus Christ. Obedience owns the authority of another, binding to the person, and not merely to the precept. So 1 Cor. 9:21, 'lawfully subject to Christ.'
The contrary is here spoken of-lawlessness-the act not only of disobeying a recognised authority, but of not owning the authority itself. The lawlessness produced nothing, but stops in itself. Obedience bears fruit unto holiness By it one is in connection with God, and its effect is holiness. In verse 20 there is an 'end' but no fruits. The end is death.
The present fruit of obedience is holiness, and the end eternal life. We possess eternal life and we make towards it for the end. Such is the enigma of Christianity: we have not and we have.
We have seen the deliverance of the believer as to guilt (chapter 5), and as to life (chapter 6). In the seventh chapter we have deliverance with regard to the law. Thus these three chapters give, taken together, deliverance as to the guilt of sin, as to the power of sin, and as to the law which binds upon us both these things. From the details of Chapters 5 & 6 we have also seen that it is always on the principle of death and resurrection that our deliverance rests. It is the same in the seventh chapter.
The Christian, or, to say better, the believer, has part in Christ as a dead Christ, and lives, in that Christ is raised from the dead. Now the law has only power over a man as long as he lives. In bringing out the effect of this truth, the apostle uses the example of the law of marriage. The woman would be an adulteress if she were married to another while her husband was alive, but when her husband is dead she is free. In this illustration, the husband died; but in application to us, the law does not lose its force, its rights, by dying, but by our dying. The law does not die (for in that case sin would be free), but we, by the body of Christ, are dead of the law.
'But now we are dead from the law, having died in that in which we were held, so that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter.' In Gal. 2:19 it is the same thing differently expressed. There our death to the law is attributed to the law itself. 'I through the law am dead to the law.' A man suffocated in a room owes his death to the room itself, but by the very fact he is also dad to this room. We are dead to the law; it has no more rights over us. Notwithstanding, if we were freed from it without a sufficient authority, we should become anomoi, without law, without restraint. But in Christ we have a good authority for being free. In Him, on the cross, our responsibility before God was settled. In Him risen, we partake of a new life which bears its fruits, and for which the system of law no longer exists.
We must not confound the principle of law, under which the responsibility of man before God, as to righteousness, is guarded, with the system of ordinances blotted out by the death of Christ. There is the authority of God, and the authority of the lawgiver. As to man, he is necessarily under responsibility before God, whatever may be the particular circumstances which are attached to that responsibility. The law of Moses, for example, is an application of man's responsibility; it is by it that God has illustrated, on a large scale, this principle of law. And what we almost always find in the Old Testament is the law. In the subject which occupies us Paul generalises; he reasons on the principle of law, without confining himself to the law of Moses, although he sometimes quotes it. The Romans, to whom he says, 'ye have been made dead to the law by the body of Christ,' had never been put under Moses' law, with the exemption of a few Jews among them.
God could never do otherwise than give a law which man could not possibly accomplish, seeing that when He gave it, man was already under sin: and God could not give a law which should tolerate sin. Moreover, whatever rule He gives to man, it is always according to the divine perfection, and consequently a rule that man cannot accomplish.
After the seventh verse, we have the details of the experience which is made of the law when it acts on a man in whom are found the two natures-the flesh and the inner man. Is the law sin, that we are withdrawn form its authority? But it gave the knowledge of sin and imputed it. The apostle says that he would not have understood that the mere impulse of his nature was sin if the law had not said, 'thou shalt not covet.' But the commandment gave sin the occasion to attack the soul. Sin, that evil principle of our nature, making use of the commandment to provoke the soul to the sin that is forbidden, (but which it took occasion to suggest by the interdiction itself, acting also on the will which resisted the interdiction,) produced all manner of concupiscence.
'I was alive without law once.' Paul does not mean to indicate by this a state in which he himself had been. It is a great principle which he demonstrates by personifying it, as he says elsewhere, 'these things I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos.' That does not designate any individual-it is every man.
We may remark three characters of sin-lawlessness, transgression, and hatred. These characters, for instance, might be seen in the following circumstances of the conduct of a child. First, he runs about the streets, instead of going to school. His father forbids him to leave the house, and the child, without taking heed to the interdiction, runs in the streets all the same. Lastly, his father entreats him, on the ground of his love as a father, and the son replies by giving him a blow. In these three cases, he has successively followed his wrong desires, and infringed his father's order, and despised his love. This last case is the consummation of sin.
If one calls oneself under law, without acknowledging oneself condemned, it weakens the authority of the law. One sometimes hears this profession from the mouths of Christians, 'I am saved by grace, I am not under the law except for my conduct; doubtless, I fail in it, but God is merciful?' That is not the question. The law condemns. You have sinned, and you are cursed. 'The commandment which was for life was found by me itself [to be] unto death.' 'Do this and live' became death, by showing the exigencies of God to a sinful nature, whose will rejected them and to a conscience which could not but accept the just condemnation. Therefore the law is good and holy, since it forbade the sin, but in condemning the sinners. 'Did then that which is good become death to me? Far be the thought. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death to me by that which is good; in order that sin might, by the commandment, become exceedingly sinful (v. 13). 'For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am fleshly, sold under sin.' (v. 14). This last is individual experience. Speaking of Christians, as such, Paul would not say, 'we are fleshly,' because he ought always to see the saints in Christ. In the case where, addressing the Corinthian believers, he said, 'you are carnal,' it was when he had to look at them in a particular circumstance-when they walked as men of this world. To be in the flesh is to be before God in the condition of the first Adam. We are in the Spirit when we are in the second Adam, because it is in this position that we receive the Spirit.
The first thing, then, noticed is the attack of sin, personified as one that seizes the opportunity of the law to drive him in the contrary direction, and thus on god's part say him in the conscience of what the law forbade. Next the apostle presents the experience of a soul under the law-not the conflict between the two natures, which still goes on when the Holy Ghost dwells in us, as shown in Gal. 6., but the effect of the law if permitted to have its way even where the heart is renewed. It will be remarked, accordingly, that neither Christ nor the Spirit is named till the question of deliverance appears. In verses 14, 17, and 20, the I is emphatic. It is the individual case which is supposed and reasoned out. The evil here is want of power where the desires are good: so that the better they are, the more miserable the person is. The question of guilt is over, but the soul discovers that it has no strength. In verse 23, the law means, not a rule imposed, but one acting always in the same way.
'O wretched man that I [am]! Who shall deliver me out of this body of death?' The soul sees that it has neither righteousness nor power: it is in despair as to this, and looks around, not saying, How shall I? But Who shall deliver me?' It finds at once in God a deliverance already prepared in Jesus. It is not even that God will deliver: the deliverance is wrought, and he gives thanks. Such is what happens always when, in the travail of conscience, there is the action of the Holy Spirit: then one is in quest of God, even when one is yet shrouded in a great deal of darkness.
It is, on one side, remarkable to see how, in order to get free from its embarrassment, this troubled soul cries out, 'Who shall deliver me?' It ceases saying, 'Who will make me better?' It seeks nothing more in itself: it wants and asks a deliverance to come from without-a deliverance indeed. On the other side, it is also remarkable to see how suddenly it can say with joy, 'I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
What is described here is the natural and necessary result of the law, when the conscience is awakened. The sense of unanswered responsibility, and the lack of peace, turns the soul in upon itself. Hence self is so prominent from verse 14, after speaking of general Christian knowledge ('we know'). It is introduced as a sort of parenthesis, to show the wretched condition to which grace applies, and form which it only can deliver, through Jesus Christ. Verse 25 is the Christian state, characterised by deliverance. But the fullness of it is developed in the next chapter.
This chapter is divided into three parts, and presents the following subjects:-1st, the Spirit considered as life (vv. 1-15); 2nd, the Spirit seen personally dwelling in the Christian-God in us (vv. 16-27); and 3rd, God for us (vv. 28-39).
'There is therefore'...  The beginning of the chapter is a consequence of all that has been proved in chaps. 5, 6 and 7. Deliverance in Christ (chapter 5) is not touched by the flesh (chapter 6) nor by the law (chapter 7). As to these different points, all is ordered in the way of deliverance. Observe, too, that the three first verses of our chapter answer to the three preceding chapters-first to chapter 5, second to chapter 6, and third to chapter 7. The great point here is the justification of life-our new position in Christ outside the judgment of God, which has, as it were, spent itself for us in the blood and cross. Condemnation fell on Christ crucified; but now He is risen, God being glorified in the way in which He suffered and atoned for our sins, and not a debt of ours unpaid.
As Christ now stands, all wrath past, in the full favour of God, such is the position of the Christian before God; 'for the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.' It is not a question of experience, but the fruit of what God has wrought in Christ and given to us in the new life wherewith we are quickened.
'For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God having sent his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin (i.e., as a sacrifice for sin), has condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to flesh but according to Spirit.' The Greek phrase, 'for sin,' is an expression derived from the Septuagint (Lev. 6, Num. 8, etc., cf. also Heb. 10:6). The grand thing here is not merely the forgiveness of sinful acts, but the deliverance which God has wrought for the believer in the respect of the sin which is in his nature. God has, in Christ, executed sentence upon this root of sin; so that this sin has no title whatever against us; nay, it exists no more for the conscience between the soul and God, however we have to watch, and judge, and fight against it. Thus the Christian life is united inseparably with deliverance from condemnation by grace, and this in virtue of the resurrection of Christ. The law could only condemn the sinner: God, acting in grace, has condemned the sin, and delivered the sinner. The practical result for him is that, being freed, he walks in love, and that is the fulfilling of the law. Holiness is produced by the Spirit in the ways; for it is the Spirit, not the law, which characterises the Christian and gives him power. Verse 4, then, is a transition from the position in which grace has set us before God to the practical life in which this grace places and conducts the Christian. While they are distinct, absolute righteousness and practical righteousness cannot be severed. The first comes to us from Christ dead on the cross: the second, verse 5, indicates the moral categories-not the duty merely, but the tendency and sure action of the nature whether in those according to the flesh, or in those according to the Spirit.
Verse 6 gives the respective results-death, and life, and peace: as v. 7 presents the deep, amoral reason-the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, and hence necessarily rebellious when rested by His law. The conclusion, verse 9, is clear: those that are in flesh (i.e., natural men) cannot please God. The law could only regulate their responsibility and condemn their failure, instead of delivering them.
Verse 9 puts us, Christians as such, entirely outside the first Adam. We belong no more to that existence. The principle of our relations with God is not the flesh but the Spirit. If God's dwell in us, we are not in flesh but in Spirit, though the flesh is still in us. Thus is a new life given, a new man formed. The man has the Spirit of Christ: if not, he is none of His. Whatever be the sovereign grace of God, there is in Christianity a practical realisation through the Spirit of Christ. We 'are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.'
Verse 10. 'If |Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin.' The body can only produce sin. Now, on account of Christ, the Christian accounts it as dead. If it act in its living will, there is nothing but sin. The body is only an instrument of righteousness so far as it is dead. But the Spirit is life because of righteousness. By the fact that Christ is in us, the Spirit is our life. He produces only righteousness. Verse 11. The resurrection of the saints falls under a spiritual principle which distinguishes it entirely from the resurrection of the rest of men. Three things may be remarked in these verses relating to the Spirit. (1) He is called 'the Spirit of God' abiding in us, so that we are not in the flesh. It is the Holy Spirit in opposition to the old man.(2) The Spirit of Christ as the formal character of the life morally. It is the Spirit, as the formative agent of the new man, or the perfect life of Christ in man. And (3) He is the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead; not only the opposition to the flesh of man,-not only effects in man; but a state perfect and definitive in resurrection. In this way we are finally delivered from this body of death, and get the full answer to the question of chapter 7:24, 'Who shall deliver me?' The very body is to be set free by the power of God acting as He did in Christ's resurrection by the Spirit.
Whatever be His gifts and favours toward man, God never changes in the first elements of righteousness and holiness. It is extremely important to maintain these great principles in all their force.
But those led by God's Spirit are sons of God. We have received a spirit of Sonship, whereby we cry, Abba Father.
We are arrived at that part of the subject which considers the Spirit as personally indwelling in the saints. Two things are said of His operations in them. First, inasmuch as He has made us His dwelling, He is the power which introduces us into the knowledge and enjoyment of our privileges.
Next, since we, through our bodies, suffer in the midst of a suffering creation, He takes part in our infirmities. He is the power of that which is new, namely of grace and its riches, and He is the consolation of that which is old, namely, the consolation of our souls in the midst of a state of things resulting from the fall.
'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.' This passage, which, in experience leaves no difficulty, presents one when it is a question of saying what it means. If I separate from my spirit the witness of the Spirit of God, I leave no witness at all. If I receive the witness of the Spirit, then I have two; I have the certainty in my own spirit that I am a child of God, and I have besides the witness of that Spirit which works in us as the Spirit of adoption. It is the Spirit of God in us who gives to our spirit the strength to say that we are children of God.
The relation of child of God, formed in our hearts by the Spirit of adoption, having been named, the privileges which belong to children are afterwards brought out. The first of the privileges mentioned is that of our participation in the inheritance of God. We are 'heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.' But the saints, before they receive the inheritance, have to tread a road which is sown with sorrows. Sufferings mark their path towards the glory which is to come. Suffering for Christ is not exactly the subject here; it is suffering with Christ. A spiritual man cannot do other than suffer with Christ, because he will feel the things as Christ felt them.
We are brought into liberty; this is the subject of the chapter. But creation has nothing to do with the liberty of the grace which we enjoy. In order that it may be delivered, glory must come. Then the creation, brought into captivity through the sin of man, will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Meanwhile it groans and travails. The Christian is the channel through which these groans ascend to God. The Lord Himself, when upon earth, knew what were these groans. He groaned at the bomb of Lazarus and was heard.
There is something unutterable in the condition of the Christian. On the one hand he is connected with the dust; on the other he bears within him the divine nature. He can thus, in a practical manner, express before God all the sufferings of this creation.
Verse 26. This is a wonderful experience of the child of God, in which meet, at the same time, our heart, the new life, and the Holy Ghost. In the midst of the confusion of visible things, our hearts, under the impression received from them, and in the consciousness of the good which is in God, send forth groans. But God gathers up these groans, for they are an intercession which is pleasing to Him. They come from the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts quickened by grace. And the vessel into which the Holy ghost puts so excellent a thing is, nevertheless, an human heart.
'He maketh intercession for the saints according to God'-not in a selfish manner, which would lead one only to think of oneself, but associating us with the groans of creation.
So far we have seen in this chapter the work of God in us. We pass now to another point; the work of God for us.
He has predestinated them 'to be conformed to the image of his Son.' This counsel is not at all dependence upon a foresight by which God would know that we should succeed in becoming conformed to Christ. It is a purpose which was reserved in God-a purpose which He has had of rendering us conformed to the image of His Son. It is very sweet to see our happiness thus flowing from the divine will.
'Whom he called, them he also justified; whom he justified, them he also glorified. 'All these blessings belong to the work of God for us-to His acts accomplished outside us, according to His determinate counsel. In this list, sanctification is not mentioned. It is not said, as in 1 Cor. 6:2, 'washed, sanctified, justified.' We see by this verse of the epistle to the Corinthians, that sanctification takes its place before justification. As soon as truth has reached us, the first effect that it produces is to set us apart; an operation which is accomplished by the action of the word upon us, by regeneration, &c. Thus set apart by divine action, we are sanctified; after that, God justifies us. Three facts are to be remarked in sanctification-we are sanctified by God the Father, sanctified through the blood of Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. The Father, in the thoughts of His sovereign grace, has determined this condition for us; the blood has redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit forms us in holiness. Practical sanctification must be added; the stone taken from the quarry is afterwards fashioned for taking its place in the building.
In these words, the Holy Spirit brings out the full extent of the liberality and the free-giving of God. He draws consequences from this liberality, and he concludes by the certainty of grace, and of the security of the saints. 'God is for us.' He has shown it by giving His Son, and delivering Him up to death for us all. When man reasons upon sacred things, he arrives at different conclusions. Making himself the starting point, he judges of God by himself, and finds in result uncertainty. Here there is nothing vague; faith is surrounded with certainties.
The Holy Ghost is still drawing consequences from the perfect grace of God. Taking in the circumstances of the saints, their weakness, &c., and measuring the extent of the difficulties that they may meet with in this world, he concludes once more with there perfect security. No accusation nor any condemnation, for it is God Himself who has justified them. And as to the difficulties which may arise on their way, there are none which are not known to Christ, and subordinate to the power of that Saviour who loved these chosen ones and gave Himself for them.
'Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?' Paul here puts forth a challenge, as we see the Lord giving one to Satan in favour of Joshua (Zech. 3). 'Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?' The answer is in the question, 'who will dare to accuse these persons before God? It is God who justifies'-God who has elected them.
Verses 33, 34
Read, punctuating as follows, -'It is God who justifies; who is he that condemns?' Justification and condemnation are put in contrast.
Verses 35 and 37
These three verses are delicious. In the midst of so many sorrows, calculated to separate us from the love of Christ, it is precisely there that we meet with this faithful Saviour. In tribulation. ... He has passed through it, He is with us in it, etc.
Verses 38, 39
Paul, in terminating this unfolding of the Christian condition, names the strongest things which could dare to rise up against the saints, and only sees in them powerless obstacles in presence of the love that God has shown us in Jesus Christ. This eighth chapter, as it has been expressed, sets out by saying 'no condemnation,' and ends by adding 'no separation.'
 It is well known that the latter clause of the verse in the common text should disappear. It really belongs to ver. 4, where it is rightly read.
We now approach another subject. In Rom. 9 to 11 Paul is reconciling the special promises given to Abraham with the levelling which the gospel makes of Jew and Gentile, by placing them on equal conditions, whether before judgment or before grace.
They are not all Israel who are of Israel. There is an election which admits Gentiles among the children of promise. The apostle reasons in this way: You, Jews, allow that it is from Abraham you hold the promises. Well, if simple descent from Abraham conferred a right to the promises, you must take in along with you Ishmael and Esau, with their races; for they also were descended from Abraham. Notwithstanding, they do not belong to the congregation of the Lord. And wherefore? Because God chose Isaac and Jacob, and did not take up Ishmael and Esau. There is then an election which distinguishes between the children of the promise and the children of the flesh. You must needs again allow the sovereignty of God, for without it all is over with you since Sinai, where you broke the covenant of the Lord. If you have subsisted since that time, if till this day there yet remains a resource for you, it is in virtue of the sovereign grace God exercises as and where He pleases. Thus, then, there is no unrighteousness with God. You have no room to complain if He acts toward the Gentiles in the same sovereign mercy which He has shown to you.
Verses 1 - 3
Paul begins by protesting solemnly his affection for Israel, and deep concern for their blessing. Their state was to him a source of great grief and continual pain. Far from despising his nation or returning their dislike and rancour against him, he loved them as much as Moses ever did. If Moses had pleaded in his anguish, 'Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written', Paul was not at all behind in his love. 'I could wish (or I did wish) that I myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.' Of course, it is not a calm settled desire, but the impassioned feeling of his heart, expressing in all its strength his intense interest in Israel. There is no difficulty in Paul's words if we compare them with the similar outburst of Moses' heart.
Verses 4 & 5
Hence, too, he hastens to recognise the privileges of Israel, before striking what he knew would be a great blow. 'Who are Israelites, whose is the sonship, and the glory, and the covenants, and the law-giving and the service, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as to flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.' His controversy, therefore, was not with their privileges, but rather with Israel, because they did not rate the privileges highly enough. He owns those privileges as theirs and appreciates them far more than the Jews did.
Verses 6 - 13
Next he denies that the word of God has failed, and pronounces the declaration in their face that not at all Israel are Israel, God in His sovereignty decides, by election, who are to inherit the promise. Nor was there any need of going beyond the family of the fathers to demonstrate this truth; for undeniably not all the seed of Abraham himself were called, but 'in Isaac shall a seed be called to thee.' In vain, then, did the Jews found their exclusive rights upon their descent from him to whom the promises were made. Ishmael was Abraham's seed no less than Isaac, and yet undeniably God chose Isaac, not Ishmael, for the line of special favour. Thus, it is not the children of the flesh that are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as seed. 'For this word is [a matter] of promise. At this appointed time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.' This was confirmed in the next generation; for though the children sprang from the same father and mother,-yea, before they were born, or had done anything, good or evil, (that God's purpose according to election might abide) it was said to Rebecca, The greater [elder] shall serve the less [younger]. And so ran the prophetic testimony of Malachi at the close, I loved Jacob and hated Esau. What could be more conclusive than this reasoning? For of all the Gentiles, none were more odious in the eyes of Jews than these very races, the Arabs and the Edomites. Yet clearly, if mere descent were to decide, they sprang from Abraham and Isaac as certainly as Israel. They must fall back, therefore, on the principle of God's sovereign choice.
Verses 14 - 18
Man, stumbled by the doctrine of election, objects and says that it involves unrighteousness with God. Far be the thought, says the apostle, for if God deals in the way of righteousness, man, being sinful, falls under judgment, and all are lost. But it is not so. God acts as He will; He shews mercy or judgment, as it pleases Him; and so it should be and is best, for His will is the highest wisdom and goodness. Nor has a single soul right to complain, for those on whom this sovereign will is exercised are all covered with sin. Two examples are given in illustration; one of mercy towards the people when guilty and deserving death, the other of judgment on their enemy Pharaoh.
Now the circumstances in which God announced His sovereignty add amazing force to all this. For when was it that He said to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion?' It was when, on grounds of bare righteousness, Israel ought to have been cut off. God then withdrew, as it were, within His sovereignty, in order to spare Israel, whom righteousness must have condemned around their golden idol. How blessed then for Israel that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy! Verse 16 is an abstract enunciation of this principle, that the question is not of man's desires or efforts, but of God's will. Besides, when we come to the facts of the case, we find that man neither wishes nor seeks for mercy. It is too late, then, for man to talk of rights. The truth is that he himself is all wrong, and that the foundation of righteousness is that God should have His rights. As we have seen, and we may bless Him for it, He uses His rights in maintaining His prerogative of mercy in behalf of the people who had utterly destroyed themselves! (cf. Ex. 33: 19 with the preceding history).
Thus, too, we find in the history of every day. When men are self-righteous, they are ready to dispute at every step with God's sovereignty; when really broken down under a sense of sin, they are right glad to hear that God's mercy is sovereign enough to show them mercy; when saved and at peace themselves, they can rejoice at that mercy flowing out towards any.
On the side of judgment, the apostle cites the instance of Pharaoh. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, for this very thing have I raised thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be declared in all the earth. Nor, in fact, could any dealing be more just, for Pharaoh had derided and denied the right of God over His own people. He was a proud and rebellious man against God, who righteously made an example of him. Hardening came on him judicially, and in the end utter ruin. Therefore has He mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. On a large scale, it was so with Israel, (Isa. 6) and it will be so with Christendom. (2 Thess. 2) Man is wicked and rejects God, who thereon-according to His sovereign wisdom-can and does give men up to hardness. Though election belongs to the eternal will of God, it is occupied with man under sin, since it settles for him the question of mercy or judgment. It is not the less sovereign for that. If God were to show His glory in the place where we are, for instance, and were suddenly to take to Him one or two persons, that act would be as sovereign as if He had decreed it thousands of years before. Observe, too, that while God hardens whom He will, He does not render wicked; but He may take a wicked man to make an example of His justice in his case. Had God created man evil, there would not have been room for a fall, and in that case man might have fairly complained.
Verses 19 - 29
But man does complain, and a second objection is: Since the sovereign God decides everything, why does He any longer find fault? For who has resisted His purpose? And what I am, I am: I can only be what He pleases. Nay, but thou, man, says the apostle, who art thou that answerest again to God? Does the creature of the dust dare to judge the Creator? God does what He will, and renders account of His acts to none. Thus man complains of God's righteousness when it touches himself, as he dislikes the grace which justifies others freely and absolutely. And to this indeed the question will be found to come: Is God to judge man? or is man to judge God? In the entire answer there are three propositions. First, as we have seen, the apostle maintains, in all its strength, the right of the sovereign God-the authority that He has to do just as He will with His creatures. Has not the potter power over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honour and another for dishonour? Next, he comes to the facts, and sets before us, that God, even when minded to show his wrath and make His power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction-vessels which He did not fit, but had long endured. Thirdly, there is the revelation that He had afore prepared for glory vessels of mercy. The vessels of wrath were fitted by themselves-by their sins-for wrath; but the vessels of mercy were prepared of God, for in truth no man is prepared of himself for glory. Grace alone effects His work in favour of the elect. The passage is written, if we may so say, carefully, by the Spirit, that we should not impute the fitting of the wicked to God. His title to act sovereignly is asserted as a general and abstract truth in verse 21. But when we come to the facts as they are, Paul declares that it is not by God's act that they are fitted to destruction. On the other hand, it is expressly said that God endured vessels of wrath, (v. 22) and that he prepared vessels of mercy. Such are the cases supposed. Who or what, then, prepared those vessels of wrath? Sin, without doubt. Nevertheless, the word on this point preserves silence. What profound revelations result from the existence of sin-from God's way for us and for His own glory in respect of it! God alone suffices to Himself, and His power is necessary to the maintenance of everything, as it was needed to create all. The creature can only fall, if it be not sustained. The moment it seeks an independent existence it is fallen, and that even before committing a positive act of sin.
It is God's sovereignty, then, which is here established, and this necessarily dissipates the exclusive claim of the Jews to the promises. The call of God was established in Isaac, else they must share all with their most detested neighbours and enemies! The pure compassion of God was proved to be the only hope of Israel, for they had set up the golden calf! Thus, all pretence for taking the promises as a right in virtue of descent from Abraham or of obeying the law was clean gone. The sovereignty of God was the sole resource that remained. But if God was sovereign, a Jew had not more right than a Gentile; it was a question henceforth of God's will and God's word. Accordingly He calls not only from amongst Jews but from amongst Gentiles, as is shown in Hosea 1 & 2. Nay, more: Esaias, (vv. 27-29), far from strengthening the Jews' pretension, declares too plainly that, numerous as the sons of Israel might be, the remnant should be saved-not the mass; even as the same prophet had said before, that had not the Lord left them a seed, they had been as Sodom and Gomorra. In a word, judgment on Israel was the burden of the testimony in their own prophet, as well as the disclosures of mercy to the Gentiles.
Thus Paul puts the Gentiles under the benefit of the principle of sovereign election-the very same principle which opened the door for Israel's blessing as their past history showed. Thus had God spared the Jew: thus He was now calling the Gentile. It is well to remark that this election is not a national election, as men often say, for, on the contrary, God uses His sovereignty to draw individuals out from the nation-'us whom he has also called, not only from among Jews, but also from among Gentiles.' Indeed, the greater part of the reasoning of the chapter is precisely against the national pretension of the Jews.
These last citations from Isaiah pave the way for the grand subject. In Chapter 11-the setting aside of Israel is temporary. They have shown that if all the people were not cut off, what remained of them was to be but a little remnant. In the closing verses we have the principle under which Israel are seen cut off, and Gentiles let in. 'What then shall we say? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness, have attained righteousness, righteousness which is by [or from] faith. But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, has not attained to a law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because [it was] not from faith but from works of law. For they stumbled at the stumbling-stone,' and so on. Thus their cutting off is not a fact which merely flows from the scripture, but which results from the conduct of Israel, and that not only from their failure in accomplishing the law, which they undertook to do under the fearful sanctions of Sinai, but far more because they rejected their own Messiah, forfeiting thus their title to the promises. They stumbled at the stumbling-stone.
Chapter 9 has brought before us the sovereign counsels of God towards Israel; chapter 10 occupies us with His ways in respect of Israel during the present period.
We may remark, first of all, that the knowledge of the irrevocable counsels of God about Israel had not at all extinguished the affection of Paul for his nation, nor taken away from his heart every hope of salvation for his Israelitish brethren. The thought which delighted his heart and which drew out his affections in supplication to God was their salvation. He says 'for them,' (not for Israel, as in the vulgar text). Occupied as he is with Israel, its insertion would have been needless: its omission is beautiful, for it implies how they and their salvation-not their judgment, much as they might deserve it-were before his mind.
Nor does he fail to bear them witness that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 'For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about seeking to establish their own righteousness have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.' Their zeal, which had for its object the righteousness of man according to the law was the obstacle which hindered their knowing the righteousness of God and submitting to it. When God presented His righteousness, offering it to Israel in their own Messiah, they rejected Him. They failed in their own righteousness and what was worse, they would not submit to God's.
The righteousness of God is in Christ-Christ the end of law for righteousness to every believer. This verse gives the subject round which turn all the developments of the chapter. Christ is the object of faith and the end of law. For though Christ was in view in the law, these words mean rather that He was its accomplishment, so that law ends in Him. He closes the ancient order of things. The whole principle of the first Adam, namely the principle of the responsibility of man before the righteousness of God, dies in Christ. But in Him also everything recommences, on a new footing. Christ is Himself God's righteousness-righteousness which becomes the portion of the believer, and which sets him before God in a position of acceptance. It is in Jesus Christ that we pass from the first state to the second, from the responsibility that has failed to real righteousness.
Verse 5 onwards.
The righteousness of faith is established in the scriptures of the Old Testament. Several citations follow.
Verses 6 - 8.
He quotes a portion of Deuteronomy, which has this peculiarity, that it is addressed to Israel by Moses to serve as a resource when all should be lost under the law, when Israel might be in exile, far from the altars of the Lord, suffering the consequence of their transgressions. We know that for a Jew righteousness consisted in the observance of the law, in all its precepts and all its ordinances-ordinances which were bound up with the establishment of Israel in the land of Canaan, and which could not be observed save in the country where God had set up His altar. But Israel for their rebellions, and under the chastisement of the Lord, were to be carried away. Then there was no more altar, and, of course, no more possibility of attaining righteousness by means of law. 'And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee.' (Deut. 30: 1). Thus when all hopes of legal righteousness are overturned and gone, a new principle comes in. The passage used by the apostle begins at verse 11, 'For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.' (Deut. 30: 11-14).
If, in the discourse of Moses, you remark these words and those which precede them, you will see that before expressing what belongs to the righteousness of faith, Moses has done with the law as a thing revealed. What the law could produce, alas! has been produced: Israel have shown themselves transgressors, and the wrath of the Lord weighs down upon them for their transgressions. It is all over. They are under chastisement. There is nothing more to expect on the side of the law. 'The Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land.' (Deut. 29: 28). But is this an end without hope of return? Ah, says Moses, 'the secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.' (v. 29). The things revealed were their rules of action and are summed up in this: 'Obey, and you shall abide in the land; if not, you shall be driven out.' They did not obey all the words of the law and were rooted out. But what are the secret things? Grace which remained with God for the time in which Israel should find themselves under chastisement. This subject is the theme of the prophets.
Let Israel be ever so far off, the testimony of God was addressed to them that they might turn to Him in spirit. But this was not legal righteousness: it was by faith they might have relations with God. They had not practised the things commanded in the law; they were under punishment. But the righteousness of faith speaks thus to any one who asks where he must go to recover what is lost, to return to God: 'Say not in thine heart,' and so on. Paul interprets this movement of the Israelite's heart, or rather he answers it according to God. To ascend to heaven, to descend into the abyss, would be to bring Christ down, or to bring Him again from the dead. Taken thus, spiritually, Christ is the aim of the law. There was need of going nowhere. The word had come from God to them. 'The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness: and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.' (Rom. 10: 8-10). Two other quotations follow: in verse 11, Isaiah 28: 16 and in verse 13, Joel 2: 32, If none that believes on Him shall be ashamed, the Gentile believer need not be any more than the Jew. Therefore, adds the apostle, 'there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' If all were on one level of sin, grace equally levels all difference between Jew and Gentile (cf. Rom. 3).
Thus it is clear that the words 'in thy mouth and in thine heart' (vv. 8,9,10), cited from Deut. 30 are in contrast with the merely literal accomplishment of the law. This is supposed to be impossible, for Israel is viewed as scattered and in captivity, far away from their land and the place in which the Lord their God chose to set His name. There only could the law in strictness apply; but the gracious word of his God might be in the heart and mouth of an Israelite. It was not necessary, then, to go to Jerusalem across the sea, any more than to go up to heaven. The word was near them, 'in thy mouth and in thy heart;' that is, adds the apostle, the word not of law, but of faith, which we preach; that, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, [or Jesus as Lord], and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart is belief to righteousness and with the mouth is confession to salvation. Hence even the law indicated that the faith of the heart is the sole resource of the Jew when all was ruined-the sole means of drawing near to God at any time, for man is a sinner. And to this agree the words of the prophets; Isaiah, on the one hand, declaring that none who believed on Him should be ashamed, and Joel, on the other, affirming that whosoever that should call on His name should be saved. Negatively and positively, then, it was manifest from the law and the prophets, not to speak of the gospel, that in this respect there is no difference between Jew and Greek: if there is none as to their sin, neither is there in the Lord's grace, For the same Lord of all is rich toward all that call upon Him.
Verses 14 - 21
Here the apostle, pursuing the thread of the same passage of Joel (2: 32), justifies his own ministry, and what God was doing thereby among the Gentiles. The word of faith was preached to them. God, by means of preaching, is making them acquainted with the name of the Lord, who must be called on in order that they should be saved. 'How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that announce glad tidings of peace, of them that announce glad tidings of good things!'
Evangelisation characterizes the action of God in Christianity. It is a part of His name of grace, the activity of His love in seeking as well as saving the lost, whoever and wherever they may be. Evangelization, I say, and not the Church; for the confusion of the two ideas is, at bottom, popery. Ministry is the action of God in the world, and is characteristic of Christianity (as priesthood on earth was of Judaism). It is a testimony of goodness and grace, addressed from God to man. It is the Lord who sends; the Lord who teaches by His servants. The Church does not teach, but is taught. Teaching is a care which the Lord confides to special members of His body, for the good of all.
This announcement of glad tidings was clearly not the law: for this was a report of what the Lord had done-a report to be believed by man, not works to be done by him. Their own prophet, Isaiah, spoke of it as a future blessing; why, then, should the Jews be so incredulous? But even this incredulity was only an accomplishment of the same prophet's words, and that too the incredulity of Israel. 'They have not all obeyed the glad tidings, for Esaias says, Lord, who has believed our report? So then faith is by a report, and the report by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yea, verily, their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the bounds of the world.' Israel is thereby shown to be inexcusable. Not only had they heard, but all the habitable world-Gentiles as well as Jews-had had the testimony of God's Son published to them. Thus Psalm 19 from which he quotes, is a witness of the universality of God's message. It was not like the law given to a particular people, but like the light of the sun, 'whose going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit to the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.' But this seems rather to be hinted than plainly brought out. The next verses (19-21) are express. 'But I say, has not Israel known? First, Moses says, I will provoke you to jealousy through that which is no nation, and through a senseless nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and says, I was found by those who asked not after me....' 'But to Israel he says, All the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.' That is, Israel should have known that God would receive the Gentiles. Moses was the first to say so, an Isaiah declares it with great boldness. Isaiah had predicted outright that the Gentiles were to find God, and what was still more, that Israel would oppose and be rebellious against God. It was indeed no other than the Lord Jesus had intimated in the parable of the king and his servants, (Matt. 17); no other than the Holy Ghost develops in word and deed throughout the history in the Acts. And there it was in their own prophet 700 years before.
 To confirm what is said in verse 24, Paul cites two passages of Hosea, of which the one (2:23) applies to the Jews, and the other (1:10), applies to the Gentiles. Peter, who only addresses Jews, confines himself to citing the former passage. (1 Peter 2:10). Thus, the prophets predicted that Israel, as a people, should not enjoy the promises during the present time.
The subject of the chapter is this: God has not rejected His people. The apostle gives three proofs that Israel is not finally rejected of God. 1) There is, as in the time of Elijah, a remnant. The rejection which affects Israel does not strike in an absolute way the totality of the people (vs. 1-10). 2) This rejection is not definitive. God, in putting His people aside for a time, calls the Gentiles to provoke His people to jealousy. Israel is not therefore cast off, if there remains for them the opportunity of returning to God, even in a case of being animated by a feeling of jealousy towards the Gentiles. The call of the Gentiles should arouse Israel, instead of being a proof that God had done with them (vs. 11-24). 3) The time will come when all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (vs. 25-32). The chapter, with the exception of the last four verses of doxology, is summed up in these three points. There are details to consider; above all in that which concerns the olive tree of the promises mentioned in this subject, and on which we may gather up the following remarks.
The olive-tree represents the line of promise and testimony, 'by nature' Israel, the posterity of promise which issued from Abraham. That is shown by the fact that the Jews, as well those who abide as those who were cut off for their unbelief, are its 'natural branches', and that it is added that when the Jews shall cease to be disobedient, they shall be anew grafted into 'their own olive-tree.' Israel, according to nature, is Israel viewed as a nation descended from Abraham, the posterity issued from him according to the flesh. That point offers no difficulty. Thus, to take Israel at the root, it must be taken in Abraham, for before him it was not a question of Israel. It was in the person of the patriarch that this nation commenced. The root of the promises, then, is Abraham; and the fatness, namely the sap which springs from the root and which circulates in the tree, answers consequently to the promises which God deposited as it were in Abraham. Thus viewed, he is the personification of the three principles-election, calling, and promise.
The olive-tree is upon the earth. God who has once planted it, neither cuts nor roots it up; He could not annul His promises. According as He finds it good, He removes some branches. He grafts in others in their place. As to the olive-tree itself He leaves it-yea more, He maintains it.
It came to pass that at a certain moment God considered the state of this tree, and decided to remove from it the dry branches, that is, the unbelieving Jews, and to graft in their stead the believing Gentiles. This operation has changed for a time the aspect of the olive-tree, without causing nevertheless that the tree should cease to be the same stock. In this respect it is with the olive-tree as with a bank whose firm changes in the course of years whilst the capital abides the same. The persons who have their fortune there deliver cheques upon this bank; and though, in course of time, their cheques may have borne different addresses, the fact is, notwithstanding, that the clerks have always been at the same bank to cash them.
The place which the Jews and the Gentiles occupy on the olive-tree has not been given to the one and the other in virtue of the same principle. The first, as being the Israelitish race, Abraham's posterity, are found there by birth. They are there according to nature; this tree is there own olive-tree. But the Gentiles, grafted on this tree by the blessing of the gospel, enter in by virtue of a new principle, that of faith. An example of it is seen in Cornelius. With regard to this, it may also be remarked that Christianity, as grafted upon the olive-tree of the promises, succeeds Judaism. The national churches, such as established Protestantism, Popery, and the Greek church, are right as to this. But it must be added that Christianity, after having been set up by God, has been overrun, later on, by the number of professors, and is become Christendom such as is seen at this day. The doom of this grafting in of the Gentiles, and therefore, the doom of the professing masses, is found thus decided; for the Gentiles, in receiving a place on the olive-tree, were put under this condition; 'toward thee, goodness, (that is of God,) if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.'
If it were asked whether the olive-tree is not the Church, the answer is, No. The Church is the creation of one new man, (Eph. 2), the formation of one new body, which, far from succeeding to Abraham and to Israel here below, has its existence for heaven. The olive-tree leaves the Jews and the Gentiles distinct, (Rom. 11) whilst the Church takes out of the one and the other, and unites them in one single body (Eph. 2). It may well be that the individuals composing the Church, united to Christ in heaven, are also branches of the olive-tree on the earth-that they have these two relations, but the olive-tree never could be the Church. (not '?') Finally, in the consideration of what is to come, remark at once that if a portion of Israel has been cut off the olive-tree, this chastisement will have an end. The moment will come when the Jews, returned from their unbelief, shall be grafted in again. Then Israel, as a people, shall be reinstated in the blessing of the promises: 'the deliverer shall come to Zion, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.' This return of Israel to God is the subject of the close of the chapter. The whole is a blessed picture of the faithfulness of God and His ways towards Israel. Originally the tree was Jewish, it is now Gentile, but finally it will be Jewish again.
Verses 1 - 10
Far be the thought, then, that God had cast away His people, Israel. For, as the apostle urges, himself also was one of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. It was a pledge of more, and a proof that God had not cast away His people as a whole. The elect remnant itself showed that God was not going to finally discard Israel. This leads the apostle to refer to the case of Elijah. 'Know you not what the scripture says in (the history of) Elias? How he pleads to God against Israel, saying,' &c. But what says the divine answer to him? 'I have left to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' Thus, then, at the present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace: 'And if by grace, no longer of works, since (if it were,) grace is no more grace.' That is, the apostle illustrates the remnant in his day by a reference to Elijah's day when he, the most energetic of faithful men in Israel, did not know of one but himself that owned Jehovah. But it was want of faith. God knew 7000, whose existence proved God's love and faithful care. If Elijah pleaded against Israel, it only drew out God for them, and the disclosure of a complete though hidden remnant, whom the prophet had failed to discern. There was a remnant still in the apostle's day. God showed thereby that He had not done with Israel. But if sovereign grace thus dwelt with an election from Israel, the mass were but lying under the tremendous maledictions which he next proceeds to quote from their own prophets (vs. 7-10). The remnant were blessed, the rest were blinded, just as Moses, David, and Isaiah, had predicted. They might talk of their works, but they had eyes not to see and ears not to hear until this day. Their own scriptures were clear enough that it should be so; clear as to a little godly remnant; clear as to an ensnared and hardened mass in Israel.
Verses 11 - 24
Had Israel then stumbled that they might fall? Far be the thought; but by their slip, salvation [is come] to the Gentiles to provoke them to jealousy. God had merciful thoughts in store for Israel. He judged their sin, took advantage of it to call the Gentiles, but not as if He had abandoned the Jews for ever as His people, but rather to stir them up to holy emulation. Israel had slipped, not finally fallen. And if their slip [be] the world's wealth, and their loss the Gentiles' wealth, how much more their fullness? He is speaking to the Gentiles, but it is about Israel, whose temporary slip gave occasion to the revelation of God's grace to Gentiles, and whose future restoration in full would be life from the dead to the world. If their disgrace brought blessing to the Gentile, what would not be the fruit of their honour when grace gives it to them?
It will be observed that Paul is here tracing the question of responsibility on earth, and reconciling it with the sure and triumphant faithfulness of God at the end. The subject is neither the salvation of the soul, nor the peculiar calling of the Church, the body of Christ. It is the line of promise here below, and God's wise and holy ways as to it on a large scale. It need hardly be said that he is not proving that God was saving Israelites individually, for that needed no proof. But as he had used the fact of a Jewish elect remnant to show that God had not wholly cast off Israel, but ever waited over them, as an earnest of future mercy to them as a nation, so he interprets the call of the Gentiles as done meanwhile to provoke Israel to jealousy, not to give them up altogether.
It is astonishing how persons who believe in the eternal life of the believer can apply the olive-tree, of which we next hear (vs. 16-24), to salvation or the Church. If it did bear such a meaning, it would follow that branches, not of the wild olive, but natural branches-in that case meaning members of Christ-could be broken off. Take these branches as the Jews, the natural heirs of the promise to Abraham, and all is plain. They have been broken off in part. They trusted to their works and their own goodness; they have slipped from their place as God's witnesses. The Gentiles meanwhile enjoy the light and testimony of God. They have replaced the incredulous Jews in this respect. They are grafted into the olive-tree. The unbelieving Jews were in the olive-tree: who will say that they were ever in the Church? Till the death of Christ, Israel, as a whole, composed the olive-tree. By nature the Jews were branches in this, the old stock of promise from Abraham downwards. They were born the natural heirs. All this disappears in the Church, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Everything there is above nature, and the Jew is no more than a Gentile in that new man, where of twain God makes one. And as Israel nationally never did form the Church or body of Christ, so it never will; whereas all Israel shall be saved and be grafted once more into their own olive-tree. These considerations suffice to show that the Church and the olive-tree are two very different things.
But if the Gentile, wild olive as he was, was grafted into the tree of earthly testimony, let him not boast over the Jewish or natural branches; the Gentile does not bear the root, but the root him. And let him remember that through unbelief they were broken off, and that the Gentile, having no natural right, stands by faith. If God spared not the natural branches, it might be He will not spare the Gentile! Nay, it is certain that, if the Gentile abide not in goodness, excision will be his lot, as it was of the Jewish branches who had been unfaithful before him. And God, who cut out the Gentile from the naturally wild olive and grafted him, contrary to nature, into the good olive, how much more will He graft the branches that are according to nature into their own olive? Israel, then, was not cast off.
Verses 25 - 32
But there is another reason more express: blindness in part is happened to Israel, but this is until the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come in; and so all Israel, instead of being rejected, shall be saved. It is the future national restoration and salvation of Israel. They shall be restored to their own olive, to their place in the line of God's testimony and promises on earth: for heavenly hopes do not enter into view here. Instead of being cast off, Israel, as such, are destined to enjoy all that was promised them. The deliverer shall come out of Zion; and God will take away their sins. Plainly it is the Jews, the literal Jews, who are here meant; for they are distinguished from, and contrasted with, the Gentiles all through the chapter from verse 11, and very clearly in this verse 26. 'The fullness of the Gentiles' means the complete number of such Gentiles as believe-all the Gentiles who share in the blessing during Israel's practical obdurateness. Israel are enemies on account of the Gentiles now as regards the gospel, but as regards election, beloved on account of the fathers. This is in no wise applicable to what people call the spiritual Israel, for they are friends as regards the gospel, and beloved of God the Father, not on account of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand Israel after the flesh, and all is simple; they are beloved on the fathers' account. For the gifts and calling of God are not subject to repentance; they are indefeasible. The election mentioned in verse 28 is that of the beloved people Israel. It must not be confounded with the election according to grace, whereby, in the interval of Israel's rejection, the called Jews and Gentiles are taken for heaven. The first is a national election, the second an individual election, which sets us in far superior blessing, since its object and result are to introduce us into heaven. In fact, the believing Jews, who abode on the olive-tree, share in these two elections.
How strange that Christians who enjoy and maintain the faithfulness of God as to their own souls, should deny it as to Israel, spite of His call and promises to them. But He will never repent. He is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent. He created, and when His work became corrupt, He destroyed. (Gen. 6:7.) But if He calls, He never casts off; His counsel is irrevocable. He is sovereign in Rom 9. He is faithful in Rom. 11. 'For as the Gentiles at one time believed not in God, but have now had mercy shown them through their (Israel's) unbelief, so Israel have now not believed in the Gentiles' mercy, in order that they also may have mercy shown them. For God has shut up all together in unbelief in order that He might show mercy to all.' Israel shall be reinstated in the blessing of the promises by the same road that the Gentiles have followed to enter into the blessing of the gospel-namely the mercy of God. Through rejecting Christ they lost their title to the promises, and they sealed that loss by opposing and denying the mercy of God which passed on to the Gentiles who received the Christ in heaven, whom the Jews rejected on earth. Thus Israel is stripped of title and stands the object of pure mercy just as much as a Gentile. And thus God will save Israel at the end, not on the ground of their claim but of His mercy.
'O depth of riches, both of God's wisdom and knowledge! how unsearchable his judgements and untraceable his ways! For who has known the Lord's mind? or who has become his counsellor? or who has first given to him and it shall be rendered to him? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to him be glory for ever. Amen.'
Romans 12 - 13
Chapter 12: 1
The Apostle now comes to the moral consequences of his doctrine. The compassions of God, manifested in the acts of His grace toward us, and developed in the doctrine of this epistle, are the motive given to the Christian to urge him to obedience and personal devotedness to God. 'I beseech you, therefore, brethren by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God-your intelligent service.' The devotedness of the Christian is an offering which he renders to God of his life and all his movements. Therefore is it that the Christian life is here called 'worship' or divine 'service.' The compassions of God are contrasted with the law, a living sacrifice with the sacrifices of dead beasts, and an intelligent service or worship with a ceremonial service which the hands or the body could accomplish. In no way should the Christian be a Jew.
Verse 2. Nevertheless, he is not to be a Gentile either. If, on the one hand, he is to be outside the system of religious ceremonies, he is, on the other hand, to be also outside the world. 'And be not conformed to this world, (or age), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.' Renewed in understanding, he has no more his relationship with the present age, but with the will of God. Under the law, one had, between ceremonies and the world, nothing but flesh. It is remarkable that in exhorting to intelligent service, the apostle beseeches Christians to present their bodies as a sacrifice to God, and in warning against conformity to this world, he desires not a mere outward separation, but one that answers to the renewing of his mind, and this in order to discerning the will of God. It does not happen habitually that one knows His will all at once. We are exercised by God in order to know it; and in this exercise, formed by Him, we learn that His will is good, acceptable, and perfect. These two first verses furnish the general character of the Christian life, the principles of conduct that apply to every Christian and to all his walk here below. They are summed up in devotedness and obedience.
Verses 3 - 8
'For I say, through the grace that has been given to me, to every one that is among you, not to have high thoughts, above what he should think: but to think so as to be sober-minded, as God has dealt to each a measure of faith. For just as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office; so we the many are one body in Christ, and severally members of each other. But having gifts different according to the grace given to us, whether prophecy, [let us prophesy] according to the proportion of faith; or service, [let us occupy ourselves] in service; or he that teacheth, in teaching; or he that exhorteth, in exhortation: he that giveth, in simplicity; he that leadeth, with earnestness; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.' Here the apostle looks at the Christian life in a narrower circle. To trace in all points the service of the gospel, he now looks at the body of Christ-this body in which each has to display conduct and activity which harmonises with the place he occupies in it. It is the only passage in the epistle where mention is made of the body, the Church, and that in reference to the duties of the members as individuals. The general subject is-man in his individual responsibility before God. But since there is one body, the service of the members should be in the common interest. We cannot have an isolated action, as if we had a tie with one on earth. And in the general interest, the first thing recommended to our attention is sobriety, which teaches one to abide in the measure of that which he has received, not to put oneself forward, and so on. Each is exhorted to modest thoughts of himself and his gift, and therefore to confine himself to the kind and the measure of the gift bestowed by God. A humble, faithful use of whatever gift has been given is the object of the apostle's injunction. The gifts found in the members of the body are different, and that again makes the saints mutually dependent, for all the gifts are not in one individual nor for one. Thus, a certain need before our eyes demands perhaps a service for which we are not qualified. What then? We are compelled, if walking in humility and faith, to wait till the Lord sends the ministry which answers to it.
Verses 9 - 21
After having spoken of the particular service of the members, which are joints in the body of Christ, the apostle almost imperceptibly moves into the conduct of the saints in things which belong to the general state of the body. He gives directions and precepts which concern the good collective state, the well-being of the body. He recommends also the sentiments which suit this state. 'Let love be unfeigned: abhor evil; cleave to good. In brotherly love, be affectionate towards each other; in honour, setting the lead to each other; in business, not slothful; in spirit, fervent; serving the Lord; in hope, rejoicing; in tribulation, enduring; in prayer, persevering; relieving the necessities of the saints; pursuing hospitality. Bless those that persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep. Have the same mind towards each other, not minding high things, but consorting with the lowly; be not wise in your own conceit. Repay to none evil for evil. Take forethought of things honourable in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men; avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will requite, saith the Lord. If, therefore, thine enemy should hunger, feed him; if thirsty, give him drink; for, doing this, thou will heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' In verse 19 the wrath of man is meant, and the saint is told to yield, letting it alone and not avenging himself. Vengeance belongs to God. The words in the next verse are a citation of Proverbs 25:21,22. The sense of the Hebrew word rendered 'heap,' and in other versions 'to take, or withdraw,' and so on, is literally to 'take coals from the hearth to gather them.' The meaning of these two verses amounts to this: leave thine enemy to the vengeance of God, let God do it. The exhortation to patience under wrongs naturally introduces the relations of the Christian to the authorities of the world.
The preceding chapter has given instructions which have to do with the conduct of the saints as making part of one and the same body. It has shown what the Christian owes to the internal prosperity of the assembly of the faithful. The chapter we are entering on is occupied with their relations with the outside.
The first thing recommended is submission, on the part of the Christian, to 'the powers that be.' The principle of the Christian's submission to the power is, that, in submitting to it, he is subject to God who has ordained it. 'Let every soul be subject to the authorities that are above [it]; for there is no authority except from God, and those that be are ordained by God. So he that sets himself against the authority, withstands the ordinance of God, and they that withstand will get judgement for themselves. For the rulers are not a terror for the good work, but for the evil. And dost thou desire not to be afraid of the authority? Do what is good, and thou shalt have praise from it; for God's servant it is to thee for good. But if thou shouldst do what is evil, fear; for it bears not the sword in vain: for God's servant it is, an avenger for wrath to him that practises evil. Wherefore it is needful to be subject, not only account of wrath, but also on account of conscience. For on this account pay tribute also; for they are God's officers ever attending on this very thing. Render to all their dues; tribute to him [that claims] tribute, custom to him [that claims] custom, fear to him [that claims] fear, honour to him [that claims] honour.'
By the designation, 'the powers that be,' we must understand not merely force but authority. Now from the moment that power is there, it is enough to command our subjection, for the power that exists is of God. We have nothing else to do; we have not to occupy ourselves with judging it in what it is or in what it does. Our duty is to be subject. There can be no power save from God, for otherwise there would be several sources of power.
But how do we then render account of Satan's success in the things of this world? The adversary, though power does not proceed from him, suggests to the established powers different motives, so that they may act in the way that he desires. But this again is not our affair: we have not to occupy ourselves with it. The authorities are set up by God. Such is the principle which decides our obedience, and which teaches us to submit, not through fear of the consequences, but for conscience' sake. When it is a question of fidelity to Christ, we must obey Him; but in no case should we resist the authority: obedience to it is absolute, unless it involves positive unfaithfulness to Christ.
Indeed, the Christian should owe no person any debt, but discharge to every man, according to the position he is in, whatever is due to him in virtue of that position. Owe nothing to the creditor, to the magistrate, to anybody. Pay to the creditor his account, to the magistrate his honour, to each that which is his due. 'Owe no one anything, except the love each other, for he that loves another has fulfilled [the] law.' Love is a debt of which we are never quit. But, besides the love which works no evil to one's neighbour, and therefore is the sum and substance of the law, there is another principle which encourages the Christian to be faithful. 'It is already high time for us to be aroused out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand, .... as in daylight, let us walk becomingly; not with revels and drunkenness, not with chambering and wantonness, not with strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and take no forethought of the flesh with a view to (its) lusts.'
 It is plainly a quite distinct thought and phrase from the 'times of the Gentiles,' in Luke 21. The latter refers to the allotted period of Gentile supremacy, during which Jerusalem should receive at the Lord's hand for her sins. Both expressions suppose Israel unfaithful; but one alludes rather to the times of Gentile dominion, when the Jewish polity was finally broken; the other to the completion of God's present work of mercy, in visiting the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name.
Romans 14-15: 1 - 7
This section teaches in what spirit we ought to behave towards the scrupulous or 'the weak,' that is, towards such as are still under the influence of Jewish elements. The same subject continues to the 7th verse of chapter 15-the obligation, the grounds, the sphere, and the end of Christian forbearance.
Various principles ought to govern the sentiments and conduct with regard to the weak. It was hard for the Christian, who had been a Jew, to renounce his old and divinely established differences of clean and unclean, of days holy and days common. The converted Gentile had, or ought to have had, no difficulty whatever; for what respect could he have longer for the particular parts of a system which, as a whole, he had rejected as false and idolatrous? But these very diversities of their circumstances exposed the Christians, who comprised both, to danger from disputes as to these questions of conscience about outward things. For it must be carefully borne in mind, that what the Holy Ghost lays down does not refer to matters of moral good or evil, not to doctrine or revelation, but to questions which grew out of the relics of Jewish feeling. In other words, 'the weak' brother was one who loved Christ, and who hated sin, not less really than 'the strong.' The weak were not lax, but the contrary: they were extremely and painfully scrupulous, hence their anxiety as to eating meat or keeping a day.
It was a remnant of legalism from which they had not been set free, from feebleness in apprehending the place into which we are brought through and in Christ risen from the dead.
Now it is well to remember that human nature always tends to one or other of the perils which threatened the saints at Rome. Liberty, if not exercised immediately in Christ's service, is apt to slip into a lack of conscience, whereas sense of responsibility, if not maintained with full and unclouded rest in God's grace, soon degenerates into a burdened and groaning scrupulosity. The Christian is in principle delivered from both these snares: he is dead with Christ, and so ordinances of 'touch not, taste not, handle not' no longer apply. They are meant for those who are living in the world: whereas, he is dead with Christ and risen with Him, no longer to be occupied with such earthly restrictions, but free to set the mind upon things above, where Christ sitteth at God's right hand. Such is the position of the Christian for himself; but then for his brethren, there is the love that bears with and respects the conscience that is tried by the very things in which he realises his liberty. Love bends to feebleness of faith, never to latitudinarianism; love does not put a cause of tripping or stumbling before one's brother.
The apostle, then, exhorts that the weak in the faith (as to ancient ceremonial precepts) should be received, but not to the discussion of questions. The Christian should know his superiority to such a point as eating herbs, but if he had doubts about it from Levitical associations, and so on, he was not to be disdained, nor should he judge another who knew no scruples of the sort. It is remarkable that the stress is laid, in verse 4, on not judging. It is the weak who are liable to judge the strong; the strong in danger of making little of the weak. Who art thou that art judging another's servant? he belongs to the Lord, not to us; and what he does, he does to the Lord, giving thanks to God. Living or dying, we are the Lord's-the expression of entire consecration to God in the Christian life. Founded then upon this truth of Christ's universal lordship over His own, ('for for this end Christ both died and lived, that he might rule over both dead and living,') the apostle urges once more with increased force, not upon the ground of our service, but of His Lordship. 'But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother?' for we shall be presented before the judgment seat of Christ ... each of us shall render account concerning himself to God. Christ has the authority to judge; we have not: why should we judge our brethren?
Besides, charity demands that we should respect our brother. The more right a man is, the more he can afford to be gracious. 'Let not then your good be evil spoken of; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.' We have been called to liberty, but true liberty proceeds by love. It is very touching to serve the Lord even in these details. We shall appear, too, before His judgment seat, not to be judged, but to render account to God-a striking proof of the deity of the Lord Jesus. We are already accepted, so that the righteousness of God will by no means put us again on trial; and if it is a question of us on this point in any way, it will be to show that we are 'the righteousness of God in Christ.' But in this circumstance what a discovery shall we not make of the tenderness of Christ, and what will not be our admiration, when we shall know all the watchful care wherewith the faithful Saviour has surrounded our weakness, during the passage through the desert! Seen in this light, this moment presents something attractive to the mind.
Practically, peace and edification are to be the great aim in all these debatable points. If thou hast faith, instead of doubts, so much the better, but have it to thyself before God. Blessed is he who does not judge himself in what he allows, (or approves), but he who doubts is condemned if he eat, because it is not from faith; but whatsoever is not from faith is sin: that is, whatever is not done in liberty of faith.
'But we who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves.' If we are really better off than our brethren, how are we to show it? As Christ, we are to act in love and in this spirit of candour which finds pleasure in the society of the humble. How well Paul could speak of it, who, with a ministry so elevated as his, knew to bend down to the level of all, even of the least. Further, the Christian receives encouragement. What a marvellous position this passage puts us in! 'As many things as were written before, were written for our instruction, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have our hope.' But it is in God that these graces are found which are communicated to us by the scriptures. God is in Himself the God of patience and of comfort. Patience is for the strong; the weak have hardly any; patience is in the number of the qualities which characterise the apostleship. Christ received us, not because we were wise, enlightened, and so on, but by an effect of His grace to the glory of God. So should we receive brethren in a like spirit.
Romans 15:8 - 33
From verse 8 of chapter 15, Paul resumes the great principles of the epistle and also writes of his personal circumstances. Then in the concluding chapter, he gives affectionate salutations to the Christians at Rome whom he knew. It is a sort of peroration.
Verses 8,9 present to us the two sides of the mission of Christ: the ways of God towards the Jew and the Gentile, accomplished in His advent. 'Jesus Christ became a minister of circumcision for the truth of God, in order to confirm the promises of the fathers, and that the Gentiles should glorify God for mercy.' This explains the conduct of the Lord in the gospels. While the mercy shown to the Gentiles might seem inferior to the promises of the Jews, it is at bottom more excellent still, for this mercy is pure grace; the exercise of the free and sovereign grace of God. The Gentiles had no promises made to them; so that, as far as they were concerned, it was not a question of truth but of grace, if God were pleased, as He was, to abound in mercy towards them by Jesus. To prove that this grace to the Gentiles was in the mind of God, the apostle quotes from the Psalms, the law, and the prophets (vs. 9-12). How decisive to a godly Jew, who might hesitate before the special promises to the fathers! Without disparagement to-nay, fulfilling, or ready to fulfil, all which God had guaranteed of old-Jesus was the vessel of deeper counsels of mercy; and for these the very law itself made room, though it did not reveal them. But therein was their justification when they were revealed.
In verse 13 the apostle turns to the saints at Rome, the then centre or metropolis of the Gentile world, warmly expressing his desires and prayers on their behalf, as well as (v. 14) his confidence in them through grace. In verses 15, 16, he speaks with the authority he possessed in virtue of his apostleship, his peculiarly Gentile mission. In an extraordinary sense he was a minister (leitourgo'V) of Jesus Christ to the nations or Gentiles. He had a public function in respect of them to discharge, carrying on as a holy rite the glad tidings of God, in order that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. This was not the result of confidence from a ministry exercised in their midst-a special tie which Scripture recognises-for Paul had never seen the Roman saints generally. Nevertheless, he speaks figuratively of presenting the nations (that is such gentiles as received Christ) to God, as the priests offered the Levites in Numbers 8. It was no longer a matter of outward holiness arising from birth, as in Israel, but real separation to God in the power of the Holy Ghost. From Jerusalem, and in circuit as far as Illyricum, Paul had fully set forth the glad tidings of the Christ, and this where He had not been named (vs. 18-21). But God had taken care to show that there were saints at Rome before any apostle had arrived there (vs. 23,24); and it may be remarked also that Paul's project, as his visit to them, was not realised in the way he intended or expected. He came as a prisoner to Rome, and whether he visited Spain we know not.
Thoughts On Romans 16
Chapter 16. Paul terminates the epistle by sending to the Roman saints cordial and numerous salutations (vs. 1-16). It is interesting to see, by this example, the affection which reigns in the relationship of the saints. It is beautiful above all to see Paul, so elevated by the mysteries in which God had initiated him, condescending so far as to put himself on a level with the very least. How touching, too, it is to hear him recall the things which clothed each with honour! 'Priscilla and Aquila, my work-fellows in Christ Jesus, who, in behalf of my life, staked their own neck.' 'Epç¯¥tus, my beloved, who is the first-fruits of Asia for Christ.' And so on. Alas! there were those who created divisions and stumbling blocks. Such were to be avoided (vs. 17,18). Then in verse 19 we have a precious rule, and useful to follow in the midst of the evil which surrounds us. 'I wish you to be wise as to (or for) that which is good, and simple as to evil.' If the man of the world would escape evil, he has need to know it; whilst the Christian walks directly in good, following the pathway God has marked out for him. If he walks with wisdom, following what is good, he has no need to know the evil. But if he knows not the good way he is embarrassed: he is forced to try several routes. A complete deliverance is at hand. 'The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.'
The last verses are important, for this amongst other reasons, because they insist on the inspiration and authenticity of the New Testament. The meaning of the phrase in verse 26 is, 'by prophetic writings' or 'scriptures,' and not 'by the scriptures of the prophets.' The epistles addressed to the Gentiles, like this to the Romans, had this character.
The epistle we have been studying lays down the foundations of our relations with God in a manner equally clear and powerful. There is this difference between it and the Epistle to the Ephesians, that the latter begins with the counsels of God, and consequently gives all the extent of God's grace in its own perfection, whether as regards the individual or the Church; whilst in our epistle the apostle begins with the sin of man, and therefore addresses himself more to the conscience, develops individual justification, and shows how the believer is set free from sin, and what are the character and the bearing of the freedom he enjoys.
Here is the order of the teachings of the epistle to the Romans. After the introduction, which shows the glad tidings of grace, the apostle lays bare the sins of the Gentiles and of the Jews, the sin of every man, of the moralists, as well as of men of pleasure; of those who enjoyed a revelation, no less than of the slaves of idolatry. All are shut up under sin. At the end of this demonstration of the sinful state of all men, he presents the sole and sovereign remedy, the blood of Christ; making this difference as to its application, that the patience of God, in view of the efficacy of the death of Jesus, had borne with the sins of the believers who lived before the work of atonement, whilst now the perfect righteousness of God is revealed. The death of Jesus proved the righteousness of God in the long-suffering He had shown in respect of the sins of the faithful in past times, but this divine righteousness formed now the ground on which the believer found himself set before God. What the apostle had already said closed the mouth of the Jew, in respect of his pretensions as the depository of the law. God would have realities and righteousness, not pretensions founded on the advantages by which they had not profited. But besides the law, there was both Abraham and David, on whom the Jews rested. Now these men bore the same testimony: man is justified by faith and finds his happiness in pardon. But this appeal to Abraham introduces a principle of great importance, namely, the introduction of man into a totally new scene by the resurrection, a scene where sin exists no longer, where man is justified, not only as pardoned, but as agreeable to God in this new state. Abraham had been blessed by his faith in this truth as a principle; he counted on the power and the faithfulness of God to accomplish this resurrection. We believe that God has accomplished this act of power in Jesus, delivered for our offences, and risen for our justification. Thus our justification is founded on resurrection, as well as on death; and this connects justification and life. We have the position of the last Adam, of Christ in righteousness, as we had the position of the first Adam. Now, if the law has had the effect of giving the character of multiplied transgressions to all the sins of the Jews, and if these have thus added something more to the difficulty of the work of reconciliation, it is not less evident that the principle on which man is justified, applies to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. Human justification is shut out, because it is by the obedience of One alone that we are made righteous, but a holy life where sin is not found is brought in by our participation in the life of Christ risen.
This doctrine of resurrection is applied to justification in chapter 5, which gives us at the same time the experience of the renewed soul under the law. Lastly, chapter 8 presents to us the state of the Christian, the liberty founded on the work of Christ, the liberty which one enjoys in sharing His life; and this deliverance is pursued up to its final application to the body. Then it shows us the Spirit Himself as the power of our joy and the consoler of our hearts, during our sojourn in this body which binds us to the fallen creation. The apostle closes this part of his instructions, and the fundamental doctrine of the epistle, by showing that God ensures to us the enjoyment of the heavenly blessing by His own power, which guarantees the accomplishment of His counsels, so that nothing shall separate us from His love.
There remained one question to clear. The apostle had just shown that the Jew, viewed as set under the law, had nothing to say in his own justification; the law even condemned him. But what is to be said of the promises? God had given promises without condition. This point is treated in chapters 9, 10 and 11. In chapter 9 it is shown that, Ishmael and Esau having been put aside though they were children of Abraham, and Israel under Sinai having been spared purely by sovereign compassion of God, the Jews were forced to own God's sovereignty. Now God exercised this sovereignty in favour of the Gentiles, which the prophets, besides, had clearly announced. In chapter 10. Paul shows that the Jews, just as the same prophets had predicted, had stumbled against the stumbling-stone, and had not submitted to the righteousness of God. Ought one to conclude that they were finally rejected as a people? Not at all: so chapter 11 shows, by presenting these considerations. 1) there was then a remnant; 2) the object of the admission of the Gentiles was to provoke the Jews to jealousy, 3) and finally, the Redeemer should come to Zion.
In chapter 12 the apostle resumes the thread of his general instructions, by bringing out the conduct, which in all respects suited those who were the objects of so great mercy; and in particular he draws out clearly the principles on which the new relations of the Jews and the Gentiles could be founded and maintained. The teaching on this last point gives room for some directions touching on the unity of the body, and forming the sole passage where the church is introduced. The apostle closes with communications relative to his projected voyage to Jerusalem and Rome; he foresaw in part the dangers which awaited him. He adds numerous salutations to the Christians at Rome, whom he knew individually, though he had never founded the church at Rome, nor visited the city itself.