Sinner, would you know how to be just before God? Read Romans! Saint, would you be at perfect peace with God? Ponder Romans!
The writer of these words became acquainted with God through a study of this epistle. It is emphatically the portion of God's word which is adapted to show all men God's present grace, preparatory to the higher unfoldings of Ephesians.
All revelation previous to Paul's severance to the ministries which are expounded in Romans, as given through the Lord and His apostles, was limited to the Circumcision, concerned with the kingdom promised by the prophets to Israel, and falls far short of the grace revealed through Paul in this epistle. They promised a probationary pardon on repentance, but here we have a complete vindication or justification or acquittal founded entirely on faith.
As is shown by the literary framework, Romans is dominated by three great doctrines: Justification, Conciliation and Sovereignty. God's own righteousness, which He shares with the sinner, His own peace, which He imparts to the believer, and His own indomitable will, which forms the immovable basis of all blessing, are the bulk and burden of this epistle. As justification is commonly degraded to a mere pardon, or forgiveness, and conciliation is unknown, and God's sovereignty is denied, there is need to urge God's beloved saints to give the great truths of this epistle the place in their hearts and lives which they deserve.
Every doctrine in this epistle is discussed twice: first from the viewpoint of the individual, and again from the larger, national standpoint. The latter half of the third and the fourth chapters show clearly and exhaustively how anyone may be vindicated in the sight of God. The latter half of the ninth and the tenth chapter shows how this favor finds its way to the nations while Israel fails to effect it through the law. So, too, God's present attitude of peace toward all mankind and toward those who are justified is fully set forth in the fifth, sixth, seventh and part of the eighth chapters. The bearing of this on Israel and the nations is fully unfolded in the eleventh chapter. That God is for His people is shown in the end of the eighth chapter. His sovereign will with regard to Israel and the nations is shown in the succeeding chapter.
It is exceedingly important to recognize the national scope of the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters. Much confusion has resulted from applying parts of these chapters to individuals rather than to nations. Nothing in these chapters which is said of Israel nationally, in apostasy, was true of Paul himself and the few faithful ones in the nation. These are not hardened, though the nation, as such, is. Israel, nationally, has not attained to righteousness, yet many in the nation cannot be included in this sweeping assertion. The nation, as such, not the faithful remnant, has stumbled. It is Israel as God's national witness in the earth which is figured by the olive tree. Some of the branches (the unbelieving majority) are broken off. The nations as a whole (the wild olive tree) are grafted into the cultivated olive tree. Now that the nations, as such, are apostatizing, they are about to be cut out. Individual believers in the nations will not be cut out, for their faith would keep them in.
1 Paul dates his apostleship from the commission he received at Antioch (Ac.13:2) when he was severed from the rest to preach the evangel of God to the nations. Hitherto only Jews and proselytes like Cornelius heard the evangel. Now Paul is called to preach justification to the other nations. This evangel was promised before. It is in contrast to that secret evangel (16:25-27) which was never before revealed, but which is first set forth in the fifth to the eighth chapters, called "the conciliation."
3 The evangel is not concerning the sinner but concerning God's Son. Like all men, He was a union of two elements, flesh and spirit. As to His flesh He was a descendant of David, but as to His Spirit, He was from God. This is powerfully evidenced by the fact that His Father had given Him life in Himself (Jn.5:26) so that He never entered the presence of death without vanquishing it. The fact that He raised Jairus' daughter (Mk.5:35-42) , the widow of Nain's son (Lu.7:11-16) , and Lazarus (Jn.11:44) proves conclusively that He is the Son of God.
5 Paul had obtained this unparalleled grace from the risen Son of God when he met Him on the road to Damascus and, later, was given a distinct commission, in accord with this grace, to evangelize all the nations, to whom the twelve apostles were not sent (Gal.2:9). James and Peter wrote to their Jewish brethren among the nations, but none of the Circumcision, not even Christ Himself, ever went to any nation but Israel. Paul alone, of those whose writings we have, was the minister of Christ Jesus to the nations (15:16).
8 The emphasis on faith is characteristic of this and its companion epistles. The Circumcision mixed faith and works, but Paul insists on sheer, unassisted faith, on which alone can be founded the pure, unadulterated grace which he is dispensing.
9 Cut off, in large measure, from the ceremonial worship of his nation at Jerusalem, Paul carries it on where ever he is, in spirit, by the proclamation of this evangel, for the exaltation of Christ's sacrifice in the evangel is a far sweeter fragrance to God than the literal offerings of the law.
14 The "Greek" must not be confounded with the so-called "gentile", or man of the nations. The Greek is the cultured, refined person, sometimes in contrast with the Jew, the religious man, but here in contrast with the uncultured or "barbarian".
14 "Barbarian" seems to be the only available term in English for this Greek word. It denoted especially one who did not speak Greek, the language which nearly all the world spoke at that time.
16 The evangel is God's power for salvation–nothing else can take its place. There is no other power in the universe which can turn men to God. All the modern substitutes and expedients, sanitary or social, impassioned oratory or emotional excitement, cannot save or make men right before God. The evangel alone, without any additions or apologies, is able to justify anyone who believes.
17 This evangel imparts God's own righteousness to those who accept it. This is unspeakably more than the pardon or forgiveness proclaimed at Pentecost by the twelve apostles.
17 When the law failed utterly, and Israel was far gone in apostasy, the prophet fell back upon God's unconditional promises, and made the memorable statement "The just by faith shall live" (Hab.2:4). Now that Israel is again apostate, this rule once more supersedes the law.
THE CONDUCT OF MANKIND
18 The apostle now takes up the conduct of those of mankind who had no written revelation. Nature alone ought to teach them much about the Deity. His attributes are in some degree revealed in His works in creation.
21 Such a knowledge of God called for worship and thanksgiving. Instead, they degraded His glory by making images of Him like themselves or even the lower orders of creation. Idols may be nothing in themselves, but, as they are supposed to represent the Deity, it is of the utmost importance that they do not suggest false ideas about Him. Hence He abhors all images and would not allow His people to harbor them. Christ is the One Image that truly represents Him.
24 There is no surer road to degradation than to degrade the object of our worship.
The Conduct of Mankind
25 There may be an allusion here to the prevalent custom of worshiping the Roman emperor. It has often occurred that, when men have attained to great eminence, they have demanded and received divine honors. Alexander the Great claimed such homage.
26 The prevailing immorality in ancient times was largely attributable to the character of the gods they worshiped. The younger race of gods who held sway on Olympus were usurpers who had murdered the older gods, and were guilty of innumerable deeds of violence and full of sensuality and injustice. If their gods behaved so, it was not difficult for men to emulate their example and endorse such actions in others as well.
The failure of Christendom is largely due to the fact that God is unknown, and His place filled by a fierce, vindictive caricature, who is restrained from his thirst for vengeance by the intervention of an effeminate mediator who takes the place of the Christ of God.
1 The argument here is inexorable. The man who judges others must be prepared to submit to the same judgment himself. There is no surer way of condemning himself than by sitting in judgment on those who commit the sins of which he is guilty. In the day of judgment there will be little need to call witnesses against mankind, for their own reasonings among themselves and the standards of justice, however low, which they apply to their neighbors, are sufficient to condemn all.
The constant effort to uplift humanity ignores the true cause of human depravity. These things are the result of refusing to recognize God. One of the most alarming signs of modern times is the increasing desire to eliminate all reference to God in every sphere of life. Education must be strictly Godless, business has no place for the Deity, society shuns all mention of Him, and even many of the so-called churches have little more than a formal recognition of an unknown God. We must be prepared for more and more of the crime waves which periodically surge over the earth, as well as the complete break-down of the moral fibre of so-called civilization.
3 Is it not most unreasonable for the sinner to suppose that God's judgment of him will be less searching than his condemnation of the sins of his fellow men? The fact that His judgment is delayed and that He continues to give the blessings of creation with a bountiful hand should lead to reconsideration and amendment.
6 It is well to consider the basis on which the judgment of mankind will proceed. It is not all one-sided. God will not only sentence the evil, but reward the good–if such there be. That there are none to claim His rewards does not alter the great fact which is here laid down as the just basis of God's dealings with mankind. He will be paying each one according to his acts. No one can say this is not just and right. He is just as ready to reward the good as to punish the bad. All that is needed is someone to live up to the standard, and He will give such a one life for the eons–the same life which those who believe get through Christ as a gratuitous gift. To say that it is idle to speak thus, since no one can possibly claim such an award, betrays a misapprehension of the underlying purpose of judgment. This is not, as commonly supposed, the condemnation of wrongdoers, but rather the payment of what is due, good as well as bad, that so the justice of God's character may be revealed. Judgment, as a revelation of God, would be most misleading if it made no provision for reward as well as punishment. If no one is able to claim the reward it will not change the essential fact that such a righteous foundation underlies God's throne.
11 Law does not exempt from judgment: it only fixes the standard of judgment. Knowledge of the law only incriminates more deeply those who break it.
14 Human nature, or instinct, is not corrupt. It is in line with God's law and conscience (2:27) . It is against sin (1:26). The heart of humanity is corrupt. By following their nature it was quite possible for men to do by instinct what was later inscribed in the written code. Men's acts are unnatural.
The Conduct of Mankind
16 Much of the judgment which obtains among men is unjust and oppressive because of their inability to uncover the real truth: But in the divine judgment the hidden things will be revealed and a just sentence will be based on all the facts. Doubtless the motives will be laid bare as well as the acts themselves and thus the quality of each action will receive due recognition.
17 Now the apostle is about to devote particular attention to the Circumcision. Hitherto he has appealed to nature, or instinct, and to conscience. All these combine to condemn those who had no access to the revealed will of God. The Jew, who had the law, considered himself in an entirely different class, so the apostle devotes a considerable section to prove to him that the possession of the law did not make him immune from judgment, but rather invited a severer sentence.
23 The responsibility of being the repository of the form of knowledge and truth was very lightly felt by the Jew. He did not realize the gravity of his position. His conduct was now no longer a matter of private concern; it involved the name and honor of God. If he kept the law it would mark him as a just and holy man, and God and His law would receive praise. As it was, however, his actions did not comport with the light in which he boasted, and as a result God's name was brought into dishonor among the nations.
25 God's judgment, let us remember, is based on acts; His gifts are granted to faith. We have not yet come to the bestowal of gifts. The rite of circumcision was the outward sign, in the first place, of an inward faith, but it degenerated into a mere mark of privilege. But misused privilege is of no avail at the bar of God.
28 In the judgment the outward visible tokens will count for nothing. Only that which is vital, in spirit, which will meet the scrutiny of God, will receive recognition. Men may applaud many an action which God detests, and may condemn that which God approves. Human standards and outward appearances will weigh little in the judgment.
1 It would almost seem, from the preceding argument, that the advantages enjoyed by the Jews brought them no real benefit. But this seems to be true only of those who disbelieved and abused the advantages accorded them. Those of faith among them received untold benefit, like their father Abraham.
2 The greatest treasure in all the world was once the exclusive possession of the Jews. To them were confided the oracles of God. Today we, who in that day had no revelation from God, are entrusted with the same treasure, yet with jewels infinitely more precious than were ever in their care. This epistle is one of them. Have we anything like a true sense of our responsibility? Have we explored and enjoyed these treasures in any measure as they deserve? May God grant that the present attempt to open this treasure house to all His saints from the highest to the humblest, may lead to a greater appreciation of the infinite value of this sacred deposit.
5 The painful contrast between the fearful failures of His people and His holy law had one good effect. It magnified His righteousness. The question arises whether, since their unrighteousness commends His righteousness, He has the right to be indignant at it. Indeed (we might add) since all sin is a foil for His glory, how can He condemn it? But, how then can there be any judgment at all? That God is able to bring good out of evil is no excuse for the commission of evil, far less an incentive to do evil.
9 In the judgment there will be no privileged class. Religious Jews as well as cultured Greeks are all under sin. The proof of this for the Jews is found in the very oracles in which they boast.
10 These passages are all quoted in support of the charge that the Jew, equally with those of other nations, is subject to the judgment of God.
10-18 The whole quotation is taken from the Septuagint of Ps.14:2-3 except that it begins "The Lord out of heaven stoops over the sons of mankind, to perceive if they are understanding or seeking out God".
The Conduct of Mankind
19 The passages from the Psalms might be turned by the Jews to apply to the nations. But the apostle rightly insists that what is written in the law is binding upon those under the law. Having previously silenced the non-Jew and now effectually included the Jew in the same condition, Paul arrives at the grand conclusion of this section of the epistle, that the whole world is subject to the just verdict of God.
21 The previous section found no one just but God Himself. No one has been able to attain God's standard by doing good or keeping the law. How then may we become just before God ?
Only by becoming partakers of His righteousness.
22 The channel through which we may obtain this righteousness is the faith of Jesus Christ. He alone of all mankind, not only did good and kept the law, but He believed God even when He smote Him for our sins. It is out of His faith for our faith (1:17) .
24 They hated Him without a cause–gratuitously. Such is the meaning of this precious word. Justification on any other ground than the free and unforced favor of God is impossible, for none deserve it. But now Christ Jesus has effected a deliverance from all judgment, which is absolutely free to all who believe.
25 The important point in this passage, however, is not our justification, but God's, for it is His righteousness which we receive. In Israel He had made provision for atonement, or a shelter from sins. This was not strictly just, for the penalty of these sins was still due. The answer to this, as well as the answer to His present work is found in the blood of Christ. That settles for sins, past, present and future. That vindicates God's justice and makes it possible for Him to be the Justifier of all who are of the faith of Jesus.
27 Such a deliverance, entirely on the ground of grace, bars all boasting, unless it be in Christ and in His God, Who has become our Justifier.
30 The Circumcision who have believed before and have received a pardon, receive this greater boon because of the faith they have. The Uncircumcision use faith as the channel in receiving it.
1 The kingdom proclamation reverts to David, for it is founded on the covenant made with him. The evangel of God, dispensing justification, takes us back to Abraham, with whom the covenant to bless all the families of the earth was made. The far greater grace of conciliation goes back still further, and engages us with Adam and his offense.
As this gift of justification was first given to Abraham and he is its great example, the apostle takes up his case at length to show its absolutely gracious character.
4 It is important to remember that, while God's future judgment is based on acts, His present gifts are absolutely spoiled the moment we connect them with any suspicion of merit or work. Justification is as free, or freer, than sunlight. In judgment He will pay everyone who is entitled to wages. He will not be in debt to anyone. But when He gives He gives, and refuses to allow His gifts to be paid for, even if anyone could pay the price. Justification is for him who is not working, but who is believing. This distinguishes the gospel from all religion, divine or pagan.
7 Pardon is the exercise of executive clemency, and is connected with the kingdom. The covering of sin is an act of the priest who made atonement by the blood of the sacrifices, under the law. But justification is the judicial act of the Judge, and far surpasses both pardon and atonement. Only the guilty can be pardoned. Atonement only covers sin from God's sight. Justification, or vindication, is a complete acquittal from all guilt, the pronouncing of the verdict "not guilty".
8 The fact that Abraham was justified while still uncircumcised opens the door of justification to the Uncircumcision. They, too, may claim him as their father, for they have the reality of which circumcision was but the outward sign.
13 As further developed in Galatians, the law was not given till hundreds of years after Abraham was counted righteous. The promises he received in connection with it were unconditional, dependent only on God's faithfulness. They were given without any reference to the law and do not depend on any legal observance for fulfillment. When the law did come it did not confirm these promises. It was brought in to show how impotent their own efforts were when they sought to attain to Abraham's divinely given righteousness by the keeping of the law. The law hindered rather than helped. Instead of making them just, it drew down God's indignation for their failure to live up to it.
16 Faith has not the least merit. We do not deem it meritorious to believe an honest man. It is no effort. It is not work. It is the simplest, easiest, freest channel God could choose to convey His righteousness to us. Let us exult in His explanation that it is of faith that it may accord with grace. In Ephesians we have the further truth that such a salvation–through faith–calls for further favor in the future (Eph.2:8).
17 Abraham believed God when all the evidence was against Him. He was, for all practical purposes, as good as dead himself, and Sarah, his wife, was worse, if that could be. He faced the facts. He considered his own condition as well as that of his wife, yet never doubted that God could and would do as He had said. He believed in a God Who was superior to death, and thus made it possible for God to vindicate him. Apart from death we can see how God could pardon his sins, or cover them by means of atonement, but it is only as having died to sin, and being alive in resurrection, that we can realize that Abraham is justified.
23 Thus, we, too, are justified, by the simple process of believing God. We do not believe concerning our seed, as Abraham did, but concerning his Seed, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who actually died for our sins and was roused because the sin He bore was all gone, and we were vindicated.
1 Justification is the ground of peace. Sin no longer bars us from the presence of God. Yet peace is a favor infinitely beyond justification. God's affections are not satisfied with clearing us from all guilt. He craves our love and our adoration. Righteousness alone does not give us a passport into His presence, but this further grace of reconciliation urges us into full and affectionate fellowship with Him. And we are aware that He will not rest in having us clothed in forensic righteousness only, but will make us all that He desires, to satisfy His own love.
5 His way of winning our response is to pour His own love into us first, as exemplified in the death of Christ for us while we were most undeserving of His favor. The grace of it lies in the entire lack of anything in us to draw out His affections toward us.
9 The blood of Christ is a memorial of the abiding efficacy of His death. It fends us from all future indignation. If Christ died for us as sinners, surely we have no need to fear aught now that we are justified!
10 We now take up the new subject of conciliation. We leave the atmosphere of the court for the closer ties of the family circle. Now it is not Christ dying for sinners, but God's Son dying for His enemies. The effect is not justification, but conciliation, peace. Furthermore, we are not only unafraid of future wrath, because of the abiding value of His death, as figured by the blood, but we have the living Son of God Himself as the surety of our salvation. We shall be saved by His life.
11 Christ did not obtain "atonement". That was a mere temporary covering for sin made by the blood of bulls and goats, and utterly failed to take away sin. Let us not degrade Christ's work by calling it an "atonement". But let us glory in conciliation, the ripened fruit of God's great effort to win the fealty and affection of His creatures. Few things indicate more clearly the necessity for using sound words than the constant reference to the work of Christ as "the atonement."
12 Death entered through sin at first, but now sin is transmitted through death. All sin because they are mortal. Christ brings life, which disposes of both death and sin.
14 The type covers the period of time up to the giving of the law, from Adam to Moses. During this period there was no transgression, for there was no law. So it is today. The law was not given to the nations, hence they do not transgress it. Nevertheless death reigns, even as it did before the law was given. The type, however, is in the nature of a shadow, whose dark outlines do not clearly depict the present grace. The reign of Sin corresponds to the reign of Grace, Adam's single offense to Christ's one just act on Calvary, bringing life where Adam brought death. But the type fails utterly in a number of particulars.
15 A simple reversal of the offense would put us where Adam was before he transgressed. But the gratuity through Christ is infinitely more than a mere recovery from the effects of Adam's offense.
16 One sin brought condemnation to all mankind. Grace recovers, not from one sin only, but from many offenses.
17 Adam enthroned death, but Christ gives believers not only a full vindication from all guilt, but life and the right to reign with Him.
18 The parallel here is perfect. Adam's one offense is counteracted by Christ's one just award. The act of Adam actually affects all mankind. So Christ's work, eventually, must also actually justify all mankind. This cannot be during the eons, hence will not be fully accomplished until after the eons are past, when all are made alive in Christ (lCor.15:22). If Adam's offense only gave each one an opportunity to sin, so that some become sinners and others not, then we might say that Christ's work brings justification to all subject to their acceptance. But we must acknowledge that man has no choice in becoming a sinner, thus also will it be through the work of Christ. Both are actual and universal.
19 The contrast here is between one and many, not between the many and the all of the previous statement. The many here are the all of verse eighteen.
20 Here we have the true character and function of the law. It crept in. It was not a normal necessity, nor did it make any vital change. Its effect was to alter the character of sin so that it became an offense. Just as Adam's sin was against God's expressed command, and thus was a personal affront to God as well as a misdeed bringing harm on his own head, so those under the law, by sinning against light, greatly increased the sinfulness of sin. Obedience to the law would have banished sin and death. Disobedience enhanced their power. But grace not only exceeds the effects of sin, but superexceeds the offenses of those under law, so that now, Grace has dethroned sin.
1 The absolute despotism of Grace is set forth in the startling suggestion that if we should be persisting in sin, grace would increase. While the following argument is against persistence in sin, it confirms the sovereignty of grace. Let us not deny this marvelous doctrine. It will give us rich, exultant liberty, ridding us of the thralldom of Sin, and giving us power to avoid the very sins which unnatural logic supposes we would eagerly follow, now that there is no condemnation even if we should sin.
2 This and the following chapter are a digression, discussing the effects of the reign of grace, first without, and then with, law. Deliverance from sin comes, not through victory over it, but through death to it. It is useless to struggle against sin, or to fight with its practices. Rather we should acknowledge its force and reckon ourselves as dead through it and to it, yet alive in resurrection, where sin has no place.
3 The spiritual values of baptism into the death (Lu.12:50) and entombment with Christ, as shown in this chapter, indicate that spirit baptism is in view here (Confer l Cor.12:13). "For in one spirit also we all are baptized into one body."
8 As we did not die, but Christ was crucified for us, we may reckon His death as ours, fully finishing our connection with sin, and His resurrection as ours also, for in Him we enjoy an unclouded life in the presence of God.
12 A realization of our death to sin and life in Christ will give us power to cope with sin, always remembering that sin cannot bring us into disfavor because of the superexceeding grace.
14 Law, as we shall see in the next chapter, not only cannot deliver from Sin, but actually forges the fetters of Sin, and makes Sin's bondage more cruel and galling.
15 The law said, "Accursed is everyone who is not remaining in all things written in the Scroll of the Law, to do them." Grace says, Blessed are you, whatever you may do, for Christ has justified you and not one dare bring anything against you. The fallacious logic of the old humanity immediately imagines that this gives license and encouragement to sin. But its actual effect is quite the opposite. Grace, not law, has power to deter us from sinning. No one who has an actual experience of grace, reasons that because there is immunity, therefore he will sin. The offender against law flies in the face of law. Its austere threats do not hinder him. But the offender against grace feels the heinousness of his offense and flies from it.
16 All of us are slaves, however much we may vaunt our liberty. We are controlled either by Sin or by Obedience. It is a cause of thankfulness that we all have had service under Sin, for only so could we realize the nature of such slavery. But we have not been taken from Sin's service to become idle. We have been transferred to the service of Righteousness.
20 Slaves of Sin can produce only the fruits of sin and know that the only possible outcome is death. But slaves of Righteousness have a brighter outlook. Even though ashamed of their lawless deeds, they look for life eonian.
23 Sin, like slave holders, does not pay wages, but only supplies rations. This consists, at present, in an attitude toward God which is the equivalent of death, for all Sin's slaves avoid God's presence. Hence their deeds will result in destruction. Neither do we, as slaves, look for wages. God not only gives, but gives graciously, or gratuitously, the very reward which is only for those whose endurance in good acts merits it–eonian life, or life for the eons (2:7).
1 The apostle now addresses particularly those who have been under law, that is, who were of the Circumcision. His appeal, however, is not to the law itself, but to the nature of all law, that it has jurisdiction only over those who are alive.
2 The law of wedlock is given as a well-known example. A woman's subjection to her husband lasts only for his life. During his life she may have no relations with other men. After his death the ties which bind her to a new husband are just as sacred as those which united her to the former one.
4 A wife and her husband are one flesh (Gen.2:24), hence the wife dies with the husband, but the woman remains. Those united to Christ under law died with Him to the law. Union with Christ in resurrection is a new relationship beyond the sphere of the law.
6 Exemption from the law applies only to those who were under the law. As the law is not unjust, like Sin, but just and holy, they continue to serve, no longer in letter, but in spirit.
7 The mistaken deduction from the foregoing is that the law itself is sin. Else why cease to serve its letter? Or else how does it make sin more sinful and transform it into an offense? Sin is not known in its true character except through law. Instead of sin being ignorant inability, it becomes the opposite. It is active hostility. The law which seemed to be given to regulate, only roused it. Sin is dormant or dead until law comes and gives it life. The law which should have given the sinner life, gave life to sin. It should have been the death blow of sin, but it became the death of the sinner. All this shows how futile it is to try to reform or regulate or conquer sin. It not only acts in darkness and ignorance but transforms the very light into an agent of death. The law offered life to those under it, on terms which, apart from sin, were all that could be desired. But sin not only disabled them so that they could not take advantage of its provisions, but involved them in its condemnation by stirring their passions against its just decrees.
13 From the supposition that the law being holy and just and good, involved him in death, it seems that what is good may become the cause of death. But such is not the case. It was not the law which produced death, but sin, misusing law. The real law and apparent functions of the law are very different. And, in order to effect its real object, it was necessary that it should not appear on the surface. The apparent object of the law was to give life to all who consistently and constantly kept it. As it never gave life to anyone, for no one was able to fulfill its demands, it appears as if the law has failed of its primary object. And, further, as it revived the passions of sin which were dormant, it seems to have defeated its own aim. But the real object of the law was to reveal the inordinate sinfulness of sin, and in this it was most successful.
15 This is the experience of one who does not realize his death to sin and the law, but who is endeavoring to keep the letter of the law. He finds that the law of sin in his members is far more potent than the law of God which appeals to his mind. He wants to do good; but cannot. He does things which he hates to do, hence charges his misery to the indwelling sin which has taken possession of his body. He is a wretched captive. This will be the experience of all who make an earnest effort to please God by obeying the letter of that law which was broken even before it reached the people (Ex.32:19) .
24 What is the answer to this wretched man's cry? It is grace. There is no other deliverance possible. This brings us back to where this disgression began, the reign of Grace at the end of the fifth chapter. It is only as we recognize the imperial sway of Grace, putting us beyond all possibility of condemnation, whether we sin or not, that we have real liberty and power sufficient to effect not only what was demanded by the law, but those higher duties which far transcend the righteous requirements of Sinai. Then we will not be wretched and self occupied, but happy and exulting in God, in Whose favor we are basking, and Whose delight we are, in Christ.
1 Condemnation is utterly out of the question for all in Christ Jesus. This is infinitely more than the atonement or shelter provided for sin by the sacrifices offered under the law. It is far beyond the pardon, or forgiveness, contained in the proclamation of the kingdom. The atonement needed to be renewed year by year, the pardon might be recalled, but the justification we have in Christ Jesus is nothing less than God's righteousness, which is absolutely inviolable. It was not secured by any act of ours and cannot be marred by aught that we can do. Sin only enhances the graciousness of it, but cannot sully or impair it.
2 The spirit's law of life, in Christ Jesus, is the opposite of the law of Sinai. That said: Obey, and live; disobey, and die. The spirit's law imparts life for the eons as God's gracious gift, apart from obedience or disobedience.
4 We do not fulfill the law in its letter. Grace leads us to act far beyond its spirit. Its just requirements, love to God and man, are fulfilled only by those who walk in spirit.
5 The flesh is not able to be subject to God's law. It is useless to try to train it to please Him. We are not justified in flesh. It is only in spirit that we can count ourselves as beyond all condemnation. The flesh is after the things of flesh and leads to death. But the spirit is concerned with spiritual things and makes for life and peace.
9 All who believe Him are indwelt by God's Spirit. Christ, by His Spirit, is in us. Consequently, our spirit is life, yet our body, being absolutely unresponsive to their presence is death. Thus, while we have but one body, it is the home of three spirits– God's Spirit, Christ's Spirit, and our spirit. As a result the spiritual force at our disposal is far greater than the flesh. Our own spirit is the seat of our new life, because of righteousness. Christ's Spirit gives us communion with Him. God's Spirit gives us power over our dead bodies, just as in the case of Christ, He roused His body from among the dead. He is able to vivify these death-doomed bodies, so that they respond to the dictates of the spirit.
11 Mortal bodies are such as are dying, in a physical sense. Their vivification cannot refer to the future resurrection, but to the present power of God's Spirit to use an utterly unresponsive, hostile instrument, as our bodies, and constrain its members to do the bidding of our spirits.
12 We owe the flesh nothing, and it promises us nothing but death. But we do owe it to the spirit to put the practices of the body to death and thus enjoy the life which the spirit makes ours in Christ Jesus.
14 To be a son of God implies more than belonging to Him. As the Son of God manifests Him so we are sons only insomuch as we display His character in our words and ways.
15 The law led to slavery, not sonship. Fear is not for us. Justification and reconciliation lead us unafraid into the Father's presence. Just as the little Hebrew child would lisp its "Abba" in the familiar Aramaic household speech, or, as our children say trustingly, "Papa," so we are without constraint in the august presence of the Divine Majesty.
16 God's Spirit says we are His children. Our spirits claim Him as our Father. If this be the case, then, even as our children have the enjoyment of all that is ours, so all that is God's is for us. Indeed, even the great glories in store for Christ are ours if we, too, tread the path of suffering which led Him to them.
16 The creation has been involved in the treadmill of corruption through the sin of man. We are associated with the creation on the physical side. When our bodies are delivered from their present slavery and death at our Lord's descent from heaven, He will transfigure them to conform them to His body glorious (Phil.3:21). Later, when we are unveiled, the creation will be set at liberty from the bondage which now enthralls it. How it ought to comfort us to know that the patient, suffering creatures, who had no hand in their own degradation, will yet find a real release from the pain and sorrow from which they have no escape now! Its physical aspect waits until our Lord's return.
26 Here is the true "form" for acceptable prayer in this economy. It is not definite persistence, like the importunate widow. It is acknowledged weakness and ignorance casting itself on God, urged on by His Spirit, knowing only the need and the One Who can meet it in His own way.
28 Though we know not what to pray for, this is not at all necessary, for we do know that God is making everything cooperate for our welfare. No matter how things appear, they can work no ill to us who love God, for He first loved us, and has included us in His vast purpose, of which we form a vital part.
29 Our destiny was fixed by God from the beginning, long before we could have any part in it. It is higher than our highest dreams, for it is nothing less than conformity to the image of His Son. And, better still, our exaltation is the means of putting Him in the place supreme. He cannot be firstborn without brethren. Thus we are essential to His glory!
30 Here we have the golden chain of God's sovereignty forged for our blessing. Its four links cannot be separated. He has designated us and called us and justified us. Three links are forged. The next is glory!
31 Nothing can compare with the sublime consciousness of a place in God's heart. If He is for us, even those who would be against us work our weal. No one can be against us.
32 God has given His best gift when He spared not His Son. Nothing else can compare with Him. He will withhold no good thing from those who have received His Beloved.
33 We can challenge the universe to find a single thing against us! Whatever we may be in ourselves, in Christ God has justified us. And not only that, but all judgment has been committed to the Son, the very Christ Who died for us and lives to plead for us at God's right hand! God, the Judge of all, Who alone can acquit, has become our Vindicator! Christ, Who alone has the right to condemn, is our Saviour!
37 God's love never lets us go. The trials and tribulations we endure are not tokens of His displeasure. They are all tempered by His loving heart. A sense of His love hovering over us in the midst of our distresses is the most blessed of all balms and will enable us not only to endure them but to enjoy them.
38 Here all the great forces of the universe are arrayed, and none of them, no, nor all of them together, can come between us and the unconquerable love of our God as displayed in Christ Jesus. Death will be swallowed up by life. Life may lead us far from Him, but not beyond the reach of His love. The present perplexes us, the future fills us with fear, but only when we lose the sense of His love. Powers, celestial or terrestrial, are subject to His sway. Nothing above or beneath nothing at all has the power to break the bond that binds the humblest and most unworthy saint to the throbbing breast of our great and glorious God. This is more than salvation from sin! This is reconciliation!
1 Paul was in acute sympathy with his brethren according to the flesh for he himself had been the most rabid of all in opposing the Christ he now adored. This is a most apt confession as he is about to introduce the great doctrine of the divine Sovereignty, for he is the star example of God's sovereign grace.
4 Physically, Israel has the monopoly of the eight blessings here recorded. In flesh, Christ belongs exclusively to them; no other nation can lay claim to the fathers. The covenants, the law the priestly worship, and the promises do not belong to the church, but to Israel according to the flesh. The sonship and the glory are ours only in spirit, not in flesh.
5 Christ, in flesh, is the God of the eons. All eonian blessing is through Him and for Him.
6 Ishmael was Abraham's son as well as Isaac, but he was born of the flesh, not of the promise. This shows that mere physical descent is not enough to give a title to the blessing of Abraham (Gen.17:18-20, 21:12).
11 The futility of fleshly precedence is next shown in the case of Jacob and Esau. This is full of comfort for those of us today who feel like classing ourselves with crooked Jacob, who dId all he could to buy God's blessing, and stupidly hindered it. Yet, being the object of God's elective purpose and love, all his perverse ways could not set aside God's predetermined outcome. Esau was Jacob's senior and superior, yet he became his slave. This ought to appeal powerfully to the sons of Israel (for whom this section is especially intended), for they are his descendants.
14 The usual deduction from this is that God is not just. In a man this would not be right, but it is God's sovereign privilege to display Himself through any of His creatures, in any way best suited to the purpose. Love needed a Jacob for its display. Power needed a Pharaoh for its foil. Man cannot turn the tide of God's affections in his favor nor can he stem the torrent of His wrath. In God's great purpose to eventually bless all mankind it is His prerogative to form and use suitable vessels to convey His mercy. Of such was Jacob. Esau was needed to emphasize Jacob's unworthiness. Pharoah was elevated by God, not that his name might be great, but that God's name might be made known through all the earth. A great man was needed for this or God could not have made His power known.
19 The questioner persists in looking at God's sovereignty from the human standpoint of the individual, when it should be viewed from the divine national vantage. God has a large purpose which will eventuate in the blessing of all. But in the process of its fulfillment it demands the temporary use of some as foils to set forth His indignation and power, that He may make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy. This chapter does not deal with the destiny of the individual. That has been settled. All mankind will be justified eventually (5:18). It is not difficult to see how God can justify Pharaoh, whom He hardened, lest his heart should soften and he should fail to oppose Him further.
25 A comparison of Hos.2:23 with Hos.1:9-11 shows that this is not an interpretation but an illustration. God, in His sovereign mercy, will reverse the sentence which He pronounced against Israel. In the very same place in which they were named "Lo-ammi," there they shall be called sons of the living God. He deals with the nations as this.
21 Isaiah's testimony is to the same effect. A remnant in Israel shall be saved in the coming time of reckoning. These are seen in the Unveiling as the hundred and forty-four thousand and the vast throng (Un.7:4, 9) .
30 God's sovereignty is further illustrated in the dispensation of justification. Normally, Israel, seeking to keep a just law, should have attained righteousness. Yet the nations, who made no effort to attain righteousness, grasp it because they find it on the principle of faith. The pursuit of righteousness by means of the law led Israel to refuse the grace of Christ apart from the keeping of the law.
It is evident that this is true only in a national way, for not all of Israel stumbled, neither did all among the nations find the righteousness of faith. This must be constantly borne in mind in studying this entire division of Romans. It deals, not with individuals, but nations. Israel, as a whole, is apostate, yet some among them are brilliant examples of faith. The nations, who never before had any part in God's blessings, except as they became proselytes and identified themselves with Israel, now believe God in considerable numbers. Paul becomes the apostle of the nations and thus inaugurates the present secret economy (Eph.3:2).
1 Intense zeal, religious fervor, coupled with self-righteousness, does not lead to salvation. God demands subjection to His righteousness in Christ. The law should establish their unrighteousness and thus reveal God's righteousness, which is manifested in Christ. Israel, as a nation, will be saved when they see Him Whom they stabbed, and recognize Him as their Righteousness.
6 The law demanded obedience first and promised life to those only who continued to keep it. But even in the law there was provision for faith. It taught that Jehovah Himself, He was their life (Deut.30:20). In the day when He gathers them out of the peoples and brings them back into the land He will bring the word of faith very near to them (Deut.30:1-14). In place of their own efforts He will put the humiliation and resurrection of Christ before them. Salvation will depend on the avowal of His lordship and resurrection.
13 There is here an allusion to the ancient custom, still in vogue in eastern lands, of the right of sanctuary. One who is in danger of death by the hands of the blood avenger, if he cannot reach a safe place in time, may invoke the name of some great and powerful person, and thus find salvation through his name. If the avengers of blood refuse to listen to his appeal, and take his life, it devolves upon the person on whose name he has called to take swift and summary vengeance. He gathers together all his friends and allies to assist him in punishing the outrage and in defending the honor of his name. For three and one third days he executes vengeance on all who were concerned in killing the one who had invoked his name. "Whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord shall be saved." When vengeance visits the earth, the only shelter will be the name of Jehovah. Therefore it will require not only heart belief, but the avowal of the mouth. Thus it is that Israel will be saved and all others who, in that day, will seek refuge in His name.
14 The refugee does not need to know his protector personally, yet would hardly call on one in whom he had no faith. He could not invoke one of whom he had not even heard. Hence it will be necessary to proclaim Christ, and even before that God will need to commission His heralds.
17 For Israel in that day the declarations of Christ, the great Protector, will be presented to them for their belief. Thus their salvation will be a simple matter of faith in His great name.
18 The proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, beginning in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, spread to the limits of the land (Ac.1:8), and reached beyond it to the Dispersion. Israel was not disobedient through lack of tidings.
1 It would seem from the foregoing that God was through with His ancient and beloved people and was thrusting them away. But the apostle hastens to deny this assumption. God is not thrusting away His people whom He foreknew. Their apostasy is only in part, and the term of it is temporary. That not all of Israel are thrust away is evident from his own case. He, of all Israelites, most deserved to be thrust from God's presence and blessing. Yet he is not included in the national defection. And he is not alone. Elijah thought that he was the only one in all Israel who did not bow the knee to Baal. But God, in His sovereign dealings, restrains seven thousand from worshiping the idol. Neither was Paul alone, for there was then, as always, a remnant reserved by God. These, however, are not those who are more faithful than the rest, or more deserving than the mass of the nation. If it had not been for God's choice in grace, there never would have been a remnant.
6 Grace and works will not mix. The moment works are merged with grace it becomes mere mercy and loses its essential nature. You cannot earn or deserve grace any more than you can do anyone a favor by paying him for services rendered. The sinner or saint who seeks to buy or deserve the favor of God will find that it cannot be purchased. Grace is only for those who merit the opposite. Paul's is the pattern case. As he excelled all in persecuting God's saints, he deserved the direst doom. Yet he received the greatest grace!
7 Israel sought blessing through law keeping, but did not get it. Those chosen in grace alone found it.
9 The blessing they coveted on the ground of law keeping blinded their eyes to grace, and loaded their backs with legal burdens.
11 The temporary nature of Israel's defection is strikingly illustrated by the figure of a man who trips yet recovers himself before he falls prostrate. Israel has not fallen. The book of Acts is full of the jealousy of Jews whenever they see the nations receiving God's gifts.
12 Israel is God's appointed channel of blessing to the nations. If, then, their failure brings the storehouse of God's grace to the world, what will occur when they take their true place? Then the world will be blessed far beyond what is possible now. Now only spiritual blessing comes to the nations. Then, through Israel, physical blessing will flow out to them, as well.
15 With Israel aside, God no longer puts barriers between Himself and the nations, but is conciliated to the whole world. When men receive this conciliation, then there is mutual reconciliation.
17 It is a remarkable fact, generally unknown, that a very old olive tree, no longer capable of bearing, may be rejuvenated by a wild graft. This has been done only in those Mediterranean countries where the olive has been cultivated for many centuries. Israel is the old olive tree which becomes almost incapable of bearing the olives from which the light-giving oil was obtained. Some of the branches were broken out and the nations were grafted in, and, through living contact with its root, become God's testimony in the earth. The light of God is now no longer with Israel, but with the nations. But all the light is derived from the Scriptures which, came through Israel. Apart from the sacred scrolls, the nations shed no light.
19 The apostle is dealing with Israel and the nations–not individuals. No individual believer will be broken out of the olive tree. The nations, however, as such, no longer believe, and are due to be cut out of the olive tree. Jehovah is already gathering Israel back to their land with a view of once more grafting them into their own olive tree.
22 Nothing shows the blindness of Christendom more than their severe denunciation of faithless Israel, yet they are following precisely the same course and have not the slightest idea that God will deal with them as He did with Israel.
24 If a wild graft can be introduced into a cultivated tree with good results, how much better will it be to graft back the good branches!
25 The secret that Israel's present condition is not permanent, but only untill all who were chosen are called out of the nations, has never been generally believed, hence the haughty attitude of Christendom toward Israel.
26 Only a few, comparatively, are being saved among the nations, but when Israel again regains its proper place, all Israel shall be saved. Then the whole nation, from the least to the greatest, will know God. And they will become the light of the world, as they were always intended to be.
28 Let us always remember that Israel is still beloved, whatever its present attitude toward God.
29 God never regrets any favor He has shown. No individual or nation whom He calls ever disappoints Him, for He knows full well what they are and what they will do. This alone proves that Israel will yet fulfill the part He has prepared for it.
30 Mercy can be shown only to those who are in need of it. So God plays Israel and the nations against one another that each in turn may taste of His mercy.
32 God's purpose includes all nations. No matter what their present attitude toward Him, it is all apart of His plan and a preparation for the display of His mercy. Here we have the real reason why all, in turn, become stubborn. God Himself locks them up to it, not that He may condemn them, but that He may have occasion to manifest His mercy.
33 God's judgments and ways are too deep for human perception, but we can grasp His purpose. We do not know how fruit is made, but we can plant a tree and enjoy its product. We can grasp God's goal, but the process by which He attains it is too complex for our feeble minds.
36 This is the most comprehensive statement which can be uttered. God is the source of all, the channel of all, and the object of all. The universe sprang out of Him, it has its course in Him and He will be its ultimate. This settles all speculation as to the origin of all things. Creation is out of God, not out of nothing. This explains universal history. God is the One back of all the movements of mankind. This reveals the goal of all things. God is so guiding all His creatures that, eventually, He will become their All. To Him, indeed, be glory for the eons!
THE CONDUCT OF THE SAINTS
1 This section is in marked contrast with the conduct of mankind (1:18-3:20), as shown in the literary framework [omitted]. The exhortation is based on the previous teaching concerning our bodies in the sixth, seventh and eighth chapters. Our mortal bodies are vivified by the indwelling spirit (8:11). God is no longer pleased with dead substitutes, but asks for living offerings. He longs for worship in spirit and in truth. Hence we have no altar and ritual, with bleeding victims which did not satisfy God, but we offer our bodies, dead indeed to Him, yet energized by His Spirit, so that they are employed in good deeds, which ascend as a sweet savor to Him. This is real religious service. It displaces the forms of divine service connected with the law. It is the only divine service which He recognizes in this economy. This is the Godward side.
2 On the manward side our conduct is not to look like that of the world. There is to be a transformation wrought by means of our minds, through the influence of God's revelation. We can never be like the world at heart, so we are not to appear to be like it. We are to become more and more unlike it by contact with the mind of God.
4 Our behavior toward one another is based on the marvelous figure of the human body. We all have distinct functions, designed not merely for our own use, but for the edification of all. This is the key to conduct among our fellow-saints. As the body is a vital unity, so the saints are one in Christ.
The Conduct of the Saints
14 The conduct of the saints in any given economy is based on God's dispensation. If He dispenses law, He requires conduct in accord with law. Mercy calls for a higher standard, while grace appeals for the highest type of loving deportment under even the most trying circumstances. The law allowed men to hate their enemies, to exact an equivalent, as an eye for an eye, and, indeed, to act toward one another as God dealt with them. God's grace, then, is the model after which we may pattern our conduct. As He never curses now, we may not curse, but bless even those who are persecuting us.
18 If God should avenge Himself on His enemies where would we be? We were His enemies and as such we were conciliated by the death of His Son. Hence we should never avenge ourselves.
20 An enemy in distress, instead of calling for hate and vengeance, is a special opportunity for the display of God's grace. The "morsel," a special portion of food with which a host favored an honored guest, was a token of esteem and consideration. Mercy might provide an enemy with food, but grace accompanies the gift with every mark of love and honor. This is the way in which God vanquished our enmity, hence we should do likewise.
1 Unlike Israel, we do not come into conflict with the rulers of the world. The setting up of the kingdom will involve the subjection of them all to the suzerainty of Christ. But we have no place in that earthly kingdom. While Israel is thrust aside we must recognize the existing authorities. God is not at variance with present governments. It is not a question of obeying God rather than man, as when Peter refused the orders of the Sanhedrin. We must not withstand regularly constituted magistrates, but depend on God to overrule their acts, if they seem to conflict with our duty to God or our convictions of His truth. Our conflict is with the sovereignties, and the authorities and the world mights, the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials. We are to be sandaled with the evangel of peace (Eph.6:12-15).
5 The true believer should make the most exemplary citizen, for he has a deeper motive and a more powerful impulse to obedience than the unbeliever. He recognizes the civil authorities as God's servants and has a conscience which should make him most law-abiding. The unbeliever is deterred from evil by fear and respect for a human institution. We recognize existing governments as of divine origin.
6 It may seem a strange paradox, yet it is a sad fact that many who are ministers of God in name, are not so in truth, and many a magistrate, who would not dare consider himself a minister of God, is such in fact, in the execution of his office.
8 The debtor is the servant of the lender. The servant of God should never be under obligation to another. Love alone is the great debt which never can be fully discharged. Law is useless where there is love, for every precept is more than met by the dictates of love. Apart from love law is a broken fragment, incomplete, unsatisfactory. Love is its complement, and rounds it out to a satisfactory, complete whole.
11 Time, in Scripture, is variously characterized. We make an effort to distinguish between the various terms used. The longest divisions of time are the five great eons or ages. The present eon stretches all the way from the flood to the coming advent of Christ. But there are shorter divisions of time, often spoken of under the term SEASON. Sometimes this refers to a literal season of the year, as the harvest season (Mt.13:30). Usually, however, it denotes some characteristic period or era, as in this scripture. It is illustrated by the dawning of the day. Deeds of darkness are done at night. But this is not the era of darkness but of light. The full day is approaching when our salvation will be complete at His advent. Just as we rouse ourselves in the morning, preparatory to the duties of the day, so, in this larger sense, our conduct should reflect the coming of the light and not be tainted with the dark doings which seek the shades of night to hide their shame.
The Conduct of the Saints
1 Fellowship among God's saints should not be based on knowledge or ignorance. God receives us even when we are feeble in faith. We should not cut from our fellowship one who does not follow all our deductions from the Scriptures. Neither should we make light of his scruples. No foods are forbidden now. Yet the undoubted wisdom of the food regulations under the law may well help us to determine what is best, without abridging our liberty to eat all things with a good conscience. We may not dictate to one another in these things. They are to be settled by the individual conscience before God.
5 The observance of days is also a matter of individual preference. It is abundantly evident that no day is above another, so far as the Scriptures are concerned. The seventh day, the sabbath, was never given to the nations. To observe it is to put ourselves under the curse of the law. The first day of the week, called Sunday, is never once referred to in the Scriptures, properly translated. The phrase should always be rendered "one of the sabbaths." In order to get "the first day of the week" it is necessary to alter one to first, to insert the word day, and change the plural sabbaths to the singular week. It is a desperate attempt to find some scriptural excuse for the prevalent observance of Sunday. There is nothing wrong in the setting aside of a day to the Lord. Custom has made Sunday the most convenient for this purpose. But let us not mar the word of God in order to uphold the practice. Neither should we ride roughshod over the religious scruples of those who look upon Sunday as a day sanctioned by God for divine worship. They have no basis for their belief, nevertheless their conscience demands consideration.
10 It is not ours to pass judgment in these matters. It is not the place of the church to fix any days and condemn those who do not observe them. Only the observance of days as a matter of law keeping is condemned. Though there may be nothing wrong in working on Sunday, it is wrong to keep it as a means of salvation. The same is true of the seventh day, or sabbath.
14 The distinctions instituted by the law between things which are to be reckoned clean and unclean have no place in the economy of grace. God has no hesitancy in associating with us, sinners of the nations. A strict Jew could not eat our food without being contaminated. Yet, before God, we are holy and the Jew is unclean! Hence no food is ceremonially unclean. It is only an uninstructed conscience which counts things common.
15 The liberty to eat anything should not be allowed to infringe on the prejudices of others. Those who have a conscience about partaking of certain foods are easily offended. We should not stand on our rights but seek rather to restrain our liberty to conform to the religious scruples of our fellow believers.
17 This is not a definition of the kingdom of God, but a statement of its bearing on this subject. The distinctive truth for the present economy was not yet known, and the saints are included in the kingdom of God in its widest aspect as denoting the sphere of God's rule.
19 These are safe tests to apply to all our intercourse with our fellow saints. Will it provoke strife? If so, let us avoid it. Will it edify? If not, let us forego it. Peace and the edification of others, rather than our own privileges should be pressed. Things which we can do with a good conscience before God, may give dire offense if done before some of His saints.
1 Knowledge puffs up. There is a prideful tendency to make a show of our liberty in Christ. But grace considers the weak rather than the strong. If there is to be peace and unity it must come from the condescension of those who are able. The weak in faith are not asked to consider the strong. Christ is the most brilliant example in this as in all else. What marvelous condescension He displayed in His dealings with His disciples, whose weakness and lack of faith was a constant source of distress to Him! If He could bridge the great gulf between Him and His disciples, surely we can bear with those whose infirmities we all share.
PAUL'S PREVIOUS MINISTRY
8 Contrast the two ministries of Christ and Paul (16). Christ was the Servant of the Circumcision. Paul was a minister for the nations. Christ confirms the patriarchal promises. Paul acts as a priest in the evangel of God. Christ never went outside the land of Israel. He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Paul, on the contrary, was not called until he had left the land of Israel. He was sent to the Uncircumcision. It is of the utmost importance that we recognize these distinctive ministries, for the distinction has been virtually ignored. Christ is taken as the minister to the nations and Paul is forgotten. Yet throughout the Lord's public life He emphasized the fact that His mission was to Israel exclusively. A few proselytes, indeed, received blessing, but they were counted as one with the favored nation. The Syro-Phoenician woman had to take the place of an outcast before she could get a crumb from Israel's board.
Paul is a direct contrast to all this. Later he describes himself as the apostle of the nations (2Tim.1:11). He made an agreement with Peter and John that they should go to the Circumcision while he went to the nations (Gal.2:9). He was severed from the rest in order to fulfill this ministry. As a result all the truth for the nations at the present time comes only through the apostle Paul. Those who wish to be established in present truth should master his epistles, especially Ephesians. After they have learned the mysteries or secrets in his writings and scaled the heights to which he alone can guide them, they never will be tempted to descend to the level which is found in our Lord's earthly ministry and in its continuation by the twelve, as recorded in the book of Acts and in the epistles from their pens.
9 Mercy for the nations "with His people" is not in force now, for His people are not blessed. We are blessed because of their defection. In the millennial age, however, the nations will be abundantly blessed through the restored nation of Israel, with Christ on the throne.
16 While the priests at Jerusalem still offered the sacrifices according to the law, their ministrations were not acceptable to God, for they had rejected the true Lamb of God. God had no pleasure in the blood of slain beasts, for the hearts of the offerers were far from Him. Is it not a marvel how God, in His wisdom, finds true worshipers among the despised aliens, who offer themselves as living sacrifices well pleasing to Him? In spirit, Paul's ministry among the nations takes the place of the divine ritual at Jerusalem. He officiates as a priest. Though not sanctified by the altar at Jerusalem, they were hallowed by the holy Spirit. So it ought to be today. Though the temple worship has ceased, it is our privilege so to walk as to be a sweet savor of Christ.
17 Paul labored more than all of the other apostles, and, before this crisis in his ministry, performed greater miracles than the rest. In Acts, every sign in the first part, by Peter, is duplicated in the last part, by Paul. This ministry he has now completed.
19 The completion of the proclamation of the evangel of Christ marks the central crisis in Paul's ministries. The first was his severance from the rest at Antioch. The last was at Rome, and was followed by the writing of his prison epistles. This crisis lies between, after the completion of his Antioch commission, and is marked by the expression of his desire to go to Rome. In Acts his previous ministry is declared to be fulfilled (Ac.19:21). In Corinthians he would henceforth know no one after the flesh. He had been proclaiming Christ after the flesh–as Israel's Messiah–but he would now do so no longer (2Cor.516). It is at this crisis also that the conciliation is first revealed (2 Cor. 5:17-20).
His second ministry was concerned with justification (Ac.13:39) . After this crisis, his third ministry is characterized by conciliation, which is first set forth in the fifth to the eighth chapters of this epistle in its individual aspect, and in the eleventh chapter, in its national aspect. His final ministry was carried on at Rome, which he plans to visit at this crisis. It was carried on almost entirely by means of the Perfection Epistles.
Paul's Intended Journey
28 During Paul's first three ministries the nations were dependent on Israel, and received of their spiritual things. Hence they were indebted to them and sought to pay by sending them relief in time of famine. But after this Paul makes known the present secret economy, in which the nations are no longer guests of Israel (Eph.2:12,19) , but receive their own spiritual blessings direct from God. Their destiny is a celestial one, where Israel has no possessions. At the close of the book of Acts the pre-eminence of the Jew vanished, and since then there is a new humanity in which all physical distinctions are done away.
29 The blessing of Christ which fills doubtless is an intimation of the transcendent truths which were made public by Paul after his arrival at Rome. None of the blessings before bestowed filled, in the sense of completing and perfecting. The full-orbed presentation of truth in the Ephesian epistle, written at Rome, fully meets the anticipation here expressed by the apostle.
30 Paul's apprehension lest he should not be well received in Judea was well founded, as events proved. Though he came bringing gifts to his people, his later teaching seemed to them to be directed against the people and the law and Jerusalem. Indeed, he did teach that God would be worshiped in any place, and he did lead out from under the bondage of the law (Ac.21:28). Tens of thousands of Jews believed, yet they were all zealous of the law (Ac.21:20). They would not hear of blessing to the nations apart from the law. Later, when Paul spoke to them, they did not object to his own call, but could not bear to hear of his commission to the nations (Ac.22:22).
3 The best manuscripts read Prisca here as in 2 Tim. 4:19. Elsewhere she is given the fuller form Priscilla. This is common in Roman names. She and her husband (who is usually mentioned last) were banished from Rome a few years before (Ac.18:2). Paul met them in Corinth and joined them in their business of tentmaking. They traveled with the apostle (Ac,18:18) and must have returned to Rome before the writing of this epistle.
7 The term "relative" is an elastic expression, used sometimes in a broad sense of all Israelites (9:3) yet more usually in a restricted sense of a closer blood relation (Jn.18:26). Paul mentions six of his relatives in the course of these greetings (7, 11, 21), besides his mother. Very few of them are ever spoken of again in the Scriptures. Some of them, notably Andronicus and Junius, seem to have been very prominent and faithful. They were in Christ before him and suffered imprisonment with him. Indeed, it is not at all improbable that we are to understand them to be apostles, not indeed of the twelve, but such as Barnabas (Ac.14:14).
10 "Of Aristobulus" seems to denote those associated with his establishment. Perhaps this is the grandson of Herod the Great who was later given the government of Lesser Armenia.
11 Narcissus is probably one of Nero's favorites, for even Nero's household was invaded by the power of the evangel (Phil.4:22).
13 Rufus is probably the same one whose father Simon was compelled to bear the cross (Mt.15:21). If so, he must have been of some prominence among early believers, for Mark is content to identify his father by referring to him and his brother Alexander. It is touching to see the apostle especially single out his mother, the wife of him who had the honor of bearing our Saviour's cross.
17 How soon dissension and division crept in among the saints! Even before they had received the truth in its fullness, men came with smooth words to draw them from it. Hence the necessity for some authoritative written standard, as this epistle, to which appeal could be made when the truth was in danger.
21 Lucius of Cyrene (Ac.13:1) was probably a different person. Jason was prominent in Corinth (Ac.17:5-9). Sosipater is probably the same one who is called Sopater (Ac.20:4), who, together with Gaius, left Corinth with Paul.
22 Tertius was probably a professional scribe, such as to this day are employed to write letters in the East. Paul, however, usually penned the concluding words of his epistles.
25 The importance of this closing benediction is apparent from the fact that it was written by the apostle with his own hand after Tertius had finished the epistle. Paul characterizes the great themes of his epistle, my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ in accord with the revelation of a secret hushed in times eonian (conciliation), in contrast with the gospel of God (1:1) which He promised before. The conciliation was not made known through the ancient prophets, but through prophetic writings, such as this epistle and 2 Corinthians. It is of principal importance that we see the point the apostle makes here, for otherwise we shall not appreciate the unique, distinctive character of the conciliation, which is first set forth in this epistle. The teaching of the fifth to the eighth chapters and especially the eleventh chapter is absolutely unknown in the prophets. In the latter all blessing comes to the nations through Israel as the channel. The conciliation comes because Israel is thrust aside. The prophets would lead us to infer that Israel's apostasy would bar all possibility of blessing to the nations. The conciliation was a secret likely knew nothing of, for it makes Israel's defection the ground of worldwide, unbounded blessing to the nations until Israel is again in God's reckoning.