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Apostolic Introduction. Verses 1-7.
Personal Greetings, and Expressions of Desire to See and to Preach to Saints in Rome. Verses 8-15.
Great Theme of the Epistle: The Gospel the Power of God,—Because of the By-Faith-Righteousness Revealed Therein. Verses 16-17.
The World’s Danger: God’s Wrath Revealed Against Human Sin. Verses 18-20.
The awful Course of Man’s Sin, and Man’s Present State, Related and Described. Verses 21-32.
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated unto God’s good news, 2 which He before promised through His prophets in (the) holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son: who was born of David’s seed according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead,—Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we received grace and apostleship, for obedience of faith among all the nations for His name’s sake; 6 among whom are ye also,—called as Jesus Christ’s: 7 to all those who are in Rome beloved of God, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 1: PAUL—We see Paul’s name standing alone here—no Silas, Timothy or other brother with him. For Paul is himself Christ’s apostle unto the Gentiles, the declarer, as here in Romans, of the gospel for this dispensation. Also, in revealing the heavenly character, calling, and destiny of the Church as the Body and Bride of Christ, and as God’s House, as in Ephesians, Paul stands alone. When essential doctrines and directions are being laid down, no one is associated with the apostle in the authority given to him,
We dare not glory in a man, not even in Paul, whose life and ministry are by far the most remarkable of those of any human being.11Paul, being really the least, is the greatest of men! The Lord Jesus said, “Among those born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.” But He added immediately, “Yet he that is lesser in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11). Paul names himself “less than the least of all saints,” speaking in the Spirit. When John the Baptist speaks of the place he had, it was, as “the friend of the Bridegroom”; but Paul, of his work, as that of espousing and presenting the saints as a chaste virgin to Christ”! We cannot conceive of a higher honor, than that given to this very least of Christ’s bondservants,-- to present His Church to Him; as we believe it will be given Paul to do, at the Marriage of the Lamb! (Re 19:6-9; II Cor. 11:2) Yet our Lord Jesus said: “He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth him that sent Me” (John 13:20). And Paul was especially sent to us Gentiles. At the first council of the Church, recorded in Acts 15, “They who were of repute” (in the church in Jerusalem), said Paul, “saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision” (Gal. 2:7).
Throughout church history, to depart from Paul has been heresy. To receive Paul’s gospel and hold it fast, is salvation,—“By which (gospel) ye are saved, if ye hold fast the very word I preached unto you” (I Cor. 15:1, 2 margin),
A bondservant of Jesus Christ—Paul was bondservant before he
was apostle. Saul of Tarsus’ first words, as he lay in the dust in the Damascus
road, blinded by the glory of Christ’s presence, were, “Who art thou,
when there came the voice, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest,” his
next words were, “What shall I do, Lord?”—instant, utter surrender! It is deeply
instructive to mark that although our Lord said, “No longer do I call you bondservants,
but friends”; yet, successively, Paul, James, Peter, Jude and John (Re
1:1), name themselves bondservants (Greek; douloi),—and that with great
delight! It is the “service of perfect freedom”—deepest of all devotions, that
of realized redemption and perfected love.22 It would be well also here, regarding Paul, to apply Mk
10:43,44: “Whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister.”
The Greek word for “minister” here is the one we translate elsewhere “deacon” (diakonos);
but verse 44 goes further and deeper: “And whosoever would be first among you, shall
be servant of all.” Here the Greek word is the one always used for a slave under
bondage—doulos. And so we find Paul saying to the Corinthians:
“We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves
as your bondservants far Jesus’ sake . . . Though I was free from all men, I brought
myself under bondage to all (verb form of doulos: literally, I became bondslave
to all), that I might gain the more . . . I will most gladly spend and be spent out
for your souls.” (II Cor. 4:5; I Cor. 9:19;
II Cor. 12:15, Gr.).
No other apostle calls himself “slave of all”: Paul got the first place, by our Lord’s own word,—not that any who choose to be slaves of all for Christ’s sake may not he associated with Paul! Rut he is “less than the least,” even yet!
No wonder, then, that we find Paul speaking with an authority from the Lord such as no other apostle uses. Moses (who had authority in Israel) was “meek above all the men an the face of the earth.” The Lord Jesus Himself is seen, when the Kingdom is handed over to Him, as a Lamb that had been slain (Re 5:6) is ever “meek and lowly in heart.” Thus Paul says, “I am nothing . . . I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” (Here, by the way, was sovereign grace! Christ’s choosing His greatest enemy to be His greatest apostle!)
Paul next names himself a called apostle, or “apostle by calling.” Three times in these first seven verses the word “called” occurs, and three times more in the Epistle this great word is written: Chapter 8:28, 30 (twice). Compare Paul’s three other uses of the word: I Cor. 1:2, 9, 24; and Jude’s: Jude 1; and the one other occurrence: Re 17:14. “Called” means designated and set apart by an action of God to some special sphere and manner of being and of consequent activity. In the sixth verse of our chapter, the saints are described in the words “called as Jesus Christ’s.” They were given to Him by the Father (John 17), and connected with Him before their earth-history: “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world”; and in the seventh verse verse we read that they are “called as saints,” or “saints by calling,” which does not at all mean that they were invited to become saints—a Romish doctrine! But that they were saints by divine sovereign calling; holy ones, having been washed in Christ’s blood; and having been created in Christ Jesus. It was their mode of being; even as the holy angels did not become angels by a process of holiness, but were created into the angelic sphere and manner of being. Such is the meaning of the word “called” with Paul.33The verb to call (kaleo), is used in this way of Divine sovereign action about forty times; and the cognate noun (klesis), eleven times: always in the sense of Romans 11:29: “The gifts and calling of God are not repented of.”
Separated unto God’s good news—This expression is explained further in Galatians 1:15: “God separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations.” In like manner were born Moses, who Stephen says was “fair unto God,” —that is, manifestly marked out to be used by God (Acts 7:20, R. V., margin); and John the Baptist, of whom Gabriel said, that he would be “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb . . . to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for Him.” Likewise were Jacob, Samson, Samuel, and Jeremiah separated even before birth to an appointed calling.
The sovereignty of God is thus seen at the very beginning of this great Epistle. And how well Paul carried out his separation to this high calling, the gospel, the good news about Christ! Yet there are those today, even today, who in ignorance and pride affect to despise the words of this great apostle,—as Peter44In the book of Acts, Peter and John, together with others of the twelve, and Philip and Stephen, give witness to our Lord’s physical resurrection, and proclaim remission of sins to the Jews and proselytes. Then God, through Peter, (to whom the Lord had given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”) opens the door of faith to Gentiles (Acts 10). Paul, saved outside Jewish bounds, saw the glorified Christ, and heard His voice (Acts 9). He is sent forth by the Holy Ghost (Acts 13), with the gospel which belongs to this dispensation, wholly apart from the Law of Moses: witnessing first in synagogues, and afterwards, at Ephesus, (Acts 19), bringing believers out into separation from rebellious Judaism. Finally, at Rome (Acts 28), through the awful passage of Isaiah Six, he declares the Jews to be judicially hardened, and “this salvation of God sent to the Gentiles,” Since that day, Jews are invited to believe,—not as Jews, but as sinners! warns, “to their own destruction” (II Peter 3:16).
Now as to this “good news of God,” we see in our passage two great facts:
First, that it is God’s good news. Mark this well! It was God who loved the world; it was God who sent His Son. Note our Lord’s continual insistence on this in the gospel of John (19 times!). Christ said constantly “I am not come of Myself, but My Father sent Me.” It is absolutely necessary that we keep fast in mind, as we read in Romans the awful facts about ourselves, that it is God who is leading us up to His own good news for bad sinners!
Second, (verse 2), that the good news was
promised through His prophets in holy
Scriptures—These are the Old Testament Scriptures,55 “Compare “holy Scriptures” (graphais hagiais) here, with “sacred
writings” (hiera grammata) of II Tim. 3:15, and with the words,
“every Scripture is God-breathed” (pisa graphē theopneustos) of the following verse
(II Tim. 3:16). We should, in II Tim. 3:16, supply
the substantive verb, “is,” after “Scripture”; and the words “and is” after the
word “God,” with the resultant reading: “Every Scripture is inspired of God and
is also profitable,” etc. The reading in both the English and American Revisions
here is a poor attempt at literalness which avoids the evident meaning of the Holy
Spirit, and is, furthermore, not a possible translation in view of the Spirit’s
constant use of the word graphē in the New Testament as referring only to the Word
of God. To say, “Every graphē inspired of God,” etc., is to insinuate that there
may be a graphē uninspired; whereas graphē is God’s technical word for Scripture,
for God’s inspired Word, used 51 times in the New Testament as a noun denoting always
inspired writings. Its first occurrence is Matthew 21:42; its last,
2Pe 3:16. Other illustrations are Matthew 26:54, 56; John 10:35; and II Timothy 3:16.
We may note also, as to “holy writings,” that Paul, if addressing Jews, would have said the holy writings, for they had them; but he is writing to Gentiles, therefore omits the article. with promises, types, and direct prophecies of good news to come, both to Israel and to the nations, concerning His Son. We shall find in Romans 3:21 that there is revealed “a righteousness of God” which had been “witnessed by the law and the prophets”: witnessed by the law, in that it provided sacrifices and a way of forgiveness for those who failed in its observance; and witnessed by the prophets directly in such passages as these: “By the knowledge of Himself shall my righteous Servant [Christ] make many righteous” (Isa. 53:11); and, “This is His name whereby He shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6; 33:16) ; and again, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4).
Verses 3 and 4: Concerning His Son—Specifically (a) that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (b) that He was buried, (c) that He hath been raised the third day according to the Scriptures, (d) that He appeared to various witnesses. The good news Paul preached is therefore scientifically specific, and must be held in our minds in its accuracy, as it lay in that of the apostle. (See I Cor. 15:3-8)
These great facts concerning Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are the beginning of the gospel; as Paul says: “I delivered unto you (these) first of all.”66Let us beware, however, of misapplying I Cor. 2:2: “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul goes on in verse 6, there, to say: “We speak wisdom, however, among them that are fullgrown”; and in 3:1: “I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I fed you with milk.” “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is the gospel for the sinner and babes in Christ; Christ Jesus and Him glorified is the gospel for instructing and perfecting believers (I Cor. 2:6-13).
The gospel is all about Christ. Apart from Him, there is no news from heaven but that of coming woe! Read that passage in I Corinthians 15:3-5: “I make known unto you the gospel which I preached unto you: that Christ died, Christ was buried; Christ hath been raised; Christ was seen.” It is all about the Son of God! This is the record of Paul’s first preaching, after “the heavenly vision”: “Straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).
Who was born of David’s seed according to the flesh, who was declared
the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness, by resurrection of
the dead—We have here two things: first, Christ as a Man “according to the flesh”;
and as such fulfilling the promises as to “the seed of David”; second, Christ as
Son of God, declared so to be with power by His resurrection,—and that “according
to the Spirit of holiness,” even that holiness in which He had existed and had walked
on earth all His life.77 “That same energy of the Holy Ghost which had displayed itself
in Jesus when He walked in holiness here below, was demonstrated in resurrection;
and not merely in His own rising from the dead, but in raising the dead at any time,
though most signally and triumphantly displayed in His own resurrection.”—W.
I have never seen a fully satisfactory explanation of the words (literally) “marked out as the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of dead (ones).” The account of our Lord’s death in Matthew 27:51-54 remarkably corroborates the truth of this great verse. The rent veil, the earthquake, the rent rocks, and the opened tombs: “And many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection (for He was the First-fruits) they entered into the holy city, and appeared unto man).” And the awed testimony of “the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, feared exceedingly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.” And as Luke adds: “Certainly this was a righteous man!” Christ, the Holy One of God had, “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish unto God,” at the cross (Heb. 9:14). God the Father then acted in power and glory, and raised Him (Rom. 6:4, Eph. 1:19, 20 Christ was thus irresistibly, eternally “declared to be the Son of God”! Always when prophesying His death, Christ included His rising again the third day as the proof of all. In his last Epistle (II Tim. 2:8) Paul connects these same two facts about our Lord: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel.”88 “Christ was to be born as Seed of the woman, Seed of Abraham, and Seed of David: as the Seed of the woman to bruise Satan; as the Seed of Abraham, to bring in salvation to the whole household of faith (Gal. 3:16); and Christ was to be the Seed of David, in the actual fulfilment to Israel of all Messianic promises: for He was born into the “house and family” of David. In fact, He is named in the New Testament as Son of David a dozen times. It is from the sixteenth Psalm, concerning David, that Peter quotes in Acts 2:25-36; and Paul calls Christ David’s Seed, quoting from the same Psalm in his first recorded sermon (Acts 13:16-41); although he addresses those Jews in Antioch as “children of the stock of Abraham.” Christ was the Seed of the woman; He was also the Seed of Abraham; but He was born into this world of a virgin of the family of David (her betrothed husband being also of that fami1y), so that they both went to enroll themselves in the city of David, Bethlehem (Luke 2:4, 5).
“There is strong reason to believe that Mary, as well as Joseph, was a descendant of David. This was the persistent tradition of the early Church.” —James Orr.
“I do not doubt that Luke’s is Mary’s genealogy.”—Darby.
Jesus Christ our Lord—Ten times in Romans Paul uses this title, or, “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” that full name beloved by the apostles and all instructed saints from Pentecost onward: for “God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36). Jesus, His personal name (Matt. 1:21) as Savior; Christ, God’s Anointed One to do all things for us; Lord, His high place over us all for whom His work was done; and as, truly, Lord of all things in heaven and earth (Acts 10:36).
Verse 5: Through whom we received grace and apostleship for obedience of
faith among all the nations for His name’s sake—Personal grace must come before
true service. The grace Paul had received concerned both his personal salvation
and his service as the great example of divine favor. Paul’s own words are the best
comment on this: “I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called
an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am
what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored
more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”
(I Cor. 15:9, 10); and, “I obtained mercy, that in me as chief
might Jesus Christ show forth all His longsuffering, for an ensample of them that
should thereafter believe on Him unto eternal life” (I Tim. 1:16).
Paul’s apostleship was marked out by the fact that he had “seen Jesus our Lord”
(I Cor. 9:1), and by the “signs of an apostle,” in “authority,”
(II Cor. 10:8; 13:10), in “all patience, by signs and wonders and
mighty works” (II Cor. 12:12). Though desperately resisted by the
Jerusalem Judaizers, he continually insisted, to the glory of God, upon “obedience
of faith among all the nations.” To obey God’s good news, is simply to believe it.
There is now a “law of faith” (3:27); and Paul ends this Epistle with this same
wonderful phrase: “obedience of faith” (16:26). Paul was not establishing what is
now called “the Christian religion”! Having abandoned the only religion God ever
gave, that of the Jews,99 “By “religion” (thrēskeia): we mean that worship which is conducted
through ceremonies. Paul, indeed, calls that worship, in Galatians 1:13, 14
Judaism—(Ioudaismos). James 1:26 uses the word thrēskeia,
which primarily means, fear of the gods. The fundamental thought in “religion” is
the performance of duties. In fact, the English word “religion” from Latin, religio,
a binding, that is, to bind duties on one, and is an accurate setting forth of
the original meaning.
Now this was exactly what was not done in the gospel. “Religious” duties as Such were wholly set aside, and faith in the living Christ substituted. Strictly speaking, a believer is a man who has a Person, not a religion.
The “Judaizers” were those professing to be Christians who were determined to fasten on Christian believers “Iaudaismos,” as Paul calls it. The cross ended all that: the veil was rent, the way to God made wholly open, apart from “religious duties and ceremonies, days, seasons, months and years”! he went forth with a simple message concerning Christ, to be believed by everybody, anybody, anywhere. And all was “for His name’s sake” —Christ’s. And why not! The Christ of glory had done the work, had “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross.” He was the “propitiation for the whole world” (I John 2:2). We are likely to think of the gospel as something published for our sake only, whereas in fact God is having it published for the sake of His dear Son, Who died. It is sweet to enter into this, as did John: “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His Name’s sake” (I Joh 2:12). Preachers, teachers, and missionaries everywhere, should regard themselves as laboring for Christ’s Name’s sake, first of all.
Verse 6: Among whom are ye also,—called as Jesus Christ’s—The saints are connected with Jesus Christ,—“called as of Him”; as we read in Chapter 8:39: Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Verse 7: To all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called as saints1010We might render these expressions: “Jesus Christ’s by calling,” “saints by calling.” Calling, in this sense, is always of God the Father, who appoints to each creature its own manner, character, and sphere of being.—Note that while God loved the whole world, it is the saints who are called the “beloved of God.” They are His household, His dear children. Sinners should believe that God loved them and gave His Son for them; but saints, that they are the “beloved of God.” The unsaved are never named God’s “beloved.” A man, even, may, and should, love his neighbors: but his wife and children are “his beloved.”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ—Paul uses practically this same form of address over and over;—and he connects grace with peace in his apostolic greeting to all the saints to whom he writes,—as does Peter. Grace is always pronounced as from “God our Father” as the Source, and “our Lord Jesus Christ” as the Channel and Sphere of Divine blessing. Sometimes grace for the Church is considered in the benediction as wholly from Christ, as in I Corinthians 16:23: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (see comment on “Rom. 16:20”). For our Lord Jesus Christ is “Head over all things to the Church”; and life and judgment are distinctly said to be in His hands: “That all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John 5:21-23). In writing to individuals,—Timothy, Titus, and “the elect lady,” (II John 1) Paul and John insert the more personal word, “mercy”; for we are told that we each need mercy (Heb. 4:16). The saints, looked at as a company, have obtained, in general, mercy. Like Israel of old, the Church is now God’s sphere of blessing. But each individual—even Paul himself—has need of peculiar mercy (I Cor. 7:25).
Words fail to express the blessedness of being thus under God’s grace, His eternal favor! Such, such only, have peace. All other “peace” than that extended by God and possessed by the saints, will “break up,” as Rutherford says, “at the last, in a sad war.”
And how wonderful to be of those whose Father is God! to whom the apostle can say in truth, “God our Father.” Only those who have received Christ have the right (exousia) to become children (tekna—born ones) of God (John 1:12).
Grace and peace are eternally proceeding from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,—through and by whom all blessing comes.
8 First of all, indeed, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ concerning you all, because your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world! 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the good news of His Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always beseeching in my prayers, if by any means at last I may be so prospered in the course of the will of God as to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, for your establishing: 12 that is, that I with you may be comforted mutually, through each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come to you (and was hindered until the present time), in order that I might have some fruit in you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 To Greeks and to Barbarians both,—both to wise and foolish, I am debtor. 15 So to my very uttermost I am eager to preach the good news to you also in Rome.
Verse 8: First of all, indeed, I give thanks to God through Jesus Christ concerning you all—“The apostle pursues the natural course of first placing himself, so to speak, in relation with his readers, and his first point of contact with them is gratitude1111“When one puts alongside of this (thanksgiving and prayer) the similar language used by Paul to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians,—what catholic love, what all-absorbing spirituality, what impassioned devotion to the glory of Christ, what incessant transaction with Heaven about the minutest affairs of the kingdom of Christ upon earth, are thus seen to meet in this wonderful man!”—David Brown. for their participation in Christianity,” says DeWette. Paul is ever thanking God for any grace he found in any saint. He looks at all who are Christ’s, through Christ’s eyes, because your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Not fathered or founded by any apostle, the assemblies that God had Himself gathered from all quarters into the world’s capital1212Matthew Henry well remarks, “The church at Rome was then a flourishing church; but since that time, how is the gold become dim! The Epistle to the Romans is now an epistle against the Romans.” had a faith in Christ which was “spoken of,” nay, announced as a wonder, throughout the whole Roman Empire. Announced, too, without steamship, without telegraph, without newspapers, without radio! God sees to it that a real work of His Spirit is published abroad, as it was with the Thessalonians: “From you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth.” So with every real revival: the whole world soon knows about it.
Verse 9: Paul made unceasing prayer for these believers. He calls God to witness concerning this, as he frequently does when his soul is most exercised. See II Cor. 1:23; Philippians 1:8; I Thessalonians 2:5, 10. The expression, Whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son, is striking and significant. Those who would make man to consist of but two parts, soul and body, cannot properly explain “spirit and soul and body” (I Thess. 5:23); much less “the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Heb. 4:12). The constant witness of Scripture is that man exists as a spirit living in a body, possessed of a soul. Paul’s service to God was in his spirit, and therefore in the Holy Spirit, and never “soulical” (not psychikos, but pneumatikos— I Cor. 2:14; Jude 19, Jas. 3:15. Paul did not depend on music, or architecture, or oratory, or rhetoric. He did not hold “inspirational” meetings to arouse the emotions to mystic resolves. He served God directly, in his spirit. It was the truth in the Holy Ghost he ministered, and the results were “that which is of the Spirit.” The spirits of his hearers were born again; and the Spirit witnessed to their spirits that they were born-ones of God. Thus it was that Paul spoke of God’s “witness” to him: it was to his spirit God witnessed. Furthermore, his serving was not by outward forms, as in Judaism, but in intelligent service (see 12.1), that is, knowing God and Christ directly by the Holy Ghost.
Verse 10: Paul was pleading with God to bring him, in His good time, to these Roman Christians. His prayers, subject to God’s will, always tended to this: unceasingly . . . always beseeching . . . to come unto you.
Verse 11: His knowledge that he could through the marvelous message entrusted to him, impart unto them some spiritual gift, for their establishing, was the root of his deep longing to come to them. “Spiritual gift” does not refer to the “gifts” of I Corinthians 12; but to such operation of the Holy Spirit when Paul with his message should come among them, as would enlarge and settle them in their faith. In the words “some spiritual gift,” “we see not only the apostle’s modesty, but an acknowledgment that the Romans were already in the faith, together with an intimation that something was still wanting in them”—(Lange).
Paul knew that there was in him by the grace of God peculiar apostolic power, by both his presence and the ministry of the Word, to “impart a gift” (Greek, charisma), or spiritual blessing. “I know that, when I come to you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ,” he says later (15:29). So it has been in their measure with all the great men of God, the Augustines, the Chrysostoms, the Luthers, the Calvins, the Knoxes, the great Puritans, the Wesleys, the Whitefields; and, even in our own memory, the Finneys and Darbys and Moodys, as well as the Torreys and the Chapmans; who, by their very presence, through the spirit of faith that God had given them, and through the anointing of the Spirit conferred upon them, have in a wondrous way banished the spirit of unbelief in great audiences; and made it easy for the saints to run rapidly in the way of the Lord; to become, as Paul says, “mutually comforted,” the preacher and the saints together, each by the other’s faith; with the result that saints became established, in the truth and in their walk, as they had not been before.
We today, also, have the written Word and the blessed Spirit of God. We have, in the power of that Spirit, through these wonderful epistles written direct to us, the very words and power of the apostle. As he says to the Corinthians, “For I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as though I were present judged,” etc. (5:3). For all who are willing to hearken to God, who gave Paul to be the minister of the Church, the body of Christ; and the minister of the gospel of grace and of glory,—to all, I say, who really hearken, Paul’s voice becomes audible and intelligent.1313“We must keep the personal-letter spirit of Romans before us, if we are to be truly benefited by it. So we shall seek not only to teach doctrine with Paul, but to exhort response with him. We must not only teach, “Paul said so and so to the Roman Christians”; but, “Paul says so and so to us.” And we must remember that as Paul told Timothy to teach, exhort, charge, command, rebuke, to be urgent in season and out of season,—so must we exhort, command, rebuke, who teach Paul to others.
Here, then, is the apostle who knew the great secret, the heavenly calling of the Church, writing to the saints at Rome, who, though they were of Christ’s Body, and were, therefore, heavenly,—in creation, calling, and character, did not fully know these facts,—longing to see them that he might impart unto them “some spiritual gift, for their establishing”; and, at the end of the Epistle, announcing that God is able to establish them,—but, “according to the revelation of the mystery, which had been kept in silence through aionian times, but was now manifested.” (See 16:25-27.)
The burden of Paul’s heart, therefore, is to make known to them this heavenly secret: that they were not connected with the earthly, the Jewish calling; but were in the Risen, Heavenly Christ; that, having died to the first Adam with his responsibilities, they were in the Second Man, the Last Adam, by divine creation; and were, therefore, heavenly. True, this heavenly truth is not fully developed in Romans, yet it was according to it that they were to be “established.”
Verse 12: His coming, therefore, he says, is, that I with you may be comforted mutually, through each other’s faith, both yours and mine: but of course their blessing would be unspeakably the greater, because of the mighty gift and grace God had vouchsafed to this apostle for them. Paul’s way of speaking here is most humble, gentle, and persuasive.
Verse 13: Oftentimes I purposed to come to you (and was hindered until the present time)—He desired them to know this, for he longed for fruit in them, such as he was finding everywhere he went, among Gentiles. In this he is a perfect ambassador of Christ, longing to be used everywhere. That yearning to be used in telling the gospel lies deep in the heart of one who knows it, so if you want to hear some man of God, begin to pray God to send him to you!
As to Paul’s having been “hindered” before from getting to Rome, we probably have an explanation in the course of labor that God had appointed to him: “From Jerusalem, and round about [through Asia Minor] even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the good tidings of Christ . . . Wherefore also I was hindered these many times from coming to you: but now, having no more any place in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come unto you,” etc. (15:19, 22, 23). Sometimes it was Satan that hindered, (I Thess. 2:18); but here, evidently, superabundant labors, as directed of God, in other parts. Only those carrying God’s message of grace to men know fully these great hindrances: the crying need of doors already open; the desperate opposition of the devil at the entrance to every door.
That I might have some fruit in you also—Paul’s constant yearning was for fruit unto God in the souls of others. This must. characterize all true ministers of Christ. In the degree that this yearning after fruit prevails, is the servant of God successful. “Give me Scotland or I die!” prayed John Welch, John Knox’s son-in-law.
Verse 14: To Greeks and to Barbarians both,—both to wise and foolish, I am debtor. Greeks1414To the Jew the whole world was divided into Jews (Ioudaioi) and Greeks (Hellenes), religious prerogative being taken as the line of demarkation. To the Greek and the Roman the world was similarly divided into Greeks (Hellenes) and Barbarians (Barbaroi), civilization and culture being now the criterion of distinction.” —(Lightfoot.) were those that spoke the Greek language and had the Greek culture, which had covered Alexander’s world-wide empire; and in which culture the Romans themselves gloried. “Barbarians” were those not knowing Greek, and thus “uncultured.” So also the “Scythians” (Col 3:11) were the especially wild and savage,—as we say, “Tartars.”
“Wise and foolish” is more personal, not meaning merely educated and uneducated, but of all degrees of intelligence. Since Paul is debtor to all, he is enumerating all. And he must begin to pay his debt by setting forth the guilt of all; which he does (1:18 to 3:20).
In the words “I am debtor” we have the steward’s consciousness, —of being the trusted bearer of tidings of infinite importance directly from heaven; and Paul was “debtor” to all classes. He does not here mention Jews, because, although full of longing toward them, he had been sent distinctly to Gentiles: “The Gentiles unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes,” etc., (Acts 26:17). How different Paul’s spirit here from that of Moses in the wilderness among murmuring Israel!
“And Moses said unto Jehovah . . . Have I conceived all this people? have I brought them forth, that Thou shouldst say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father carrieth the sucking child, unto the land which Thou swarest unto their fathers? . . . I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if Thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have. found favor in Thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness” (Num. 11:11-15).
We must remember that Moses, beloved faithful servant of God, walked under law. The ninetieth Psalm is the very expression of the forty years in the Wilderness:
“All our days are passed away in thy wrath:
We bring our years to an end as a sigh,
For we are consumed in thine anger,
And in thy wrath are we troubled.
Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee,
Our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.”
But here is Paul, gladly a “debtor” to all, with a message of glorious grace: “God was in Christ reconciling the world “unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses “Christ gave Himself a ransom for all”; Christ “tasted death for every man.” And not only this, but the hope of the heavenly calling is set before earthly men. We are here seeing “less than the least of all saints,” the most wonderful servant God ever had, willing to “become all things to all men to gain some!” But remember, it is not a wonderful man speaking, but Christ in Paul (Gal. 1:16). Our Lord said of His own ministry: “The Father abiding in me doeth His works.” And so of the ministry of the Lord’s chief servant!
Now when Paul proclaims himself a “debtor,” what does he mean by this word? Was he a debtor in any different sense from what other and all Christians are? For we are all Christ’s “witnesses.” Let us see.
When Moses had received the tables written with the finger of God, and the pattern of the Tabernacle for Israel, he was bound, he was a debtor, both to God and to Israel, to deliver those tables and that pattern, as given to him by God. To Paul, the risen, glorified Christ Himself had given the gospel by especial “revelation” (Gal. 1:11, 12); and Paul, as we know, was especially to go to the Gentiles, (as Peter, James and John were to go to the circumcision). Just as definitely as Moses received the Law for Israel, so Paul received the gospel for us, and he was a debtor, both to God and to us, till he had that gospel committed to all. How unutterably sad to find many professing Christians shutting their doors in the face of Paul as he comes t his debt—comes to tell them the glories of the heavenly message given to him,—the unsearchable riches of Christ. In his last epistle Paul mourns that “all that are in Asia”—of which Ephesus was the capital! —“turned away from me.” So soon! (II Tim. 1:15).
Verse 15: So to my very uttermost I am eager to preach the good news to you also in Rome—How blessed is the readiness, yea, eagerness, of this holy apostle to pay his debt, to preach the good tidings to those also in Rome. Rome despised the Jews, and Paul was “little of stature,” with “weak” bodily presence; and with “speech,” or, as we say, “delivery,” “of no account” in the proud carnal opinion of men (II Cor. 10:10). Moreover, he would be opposed by any Jews of wealth or influence in Rome. Furthermore, Rome was the center of the Gentile world: its emperors were soon to demand—and receive —worship; it was crowded with men of learning and culture from the whole world; it had mighty marchings;—great triumphal processions flowed through its streets. Rome shook the world.
Yet here is Paul, utterly weak in himself, and’ with his physical thorn; yet ready, eager, to go, to Rome!
And to preach,—what? A Christ that the Jewish nation had themselves officially rejected, a Christ who had been despised and crucified at their cries,— by a Roman governor! To preach a Way that the Jews in Rome would tell Paul was “everywhere spoken against” (Acts 28:22).
Talk of your brave men, your great men, O world! Where in all history can you find one like Paul Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, marched with the protection of their armies to enforce their will upon men. Paul was eager to march with Christ alone to the center of this world’s greatness entrenched under Satan, with “the Word of the cross,” which he himself says is “to Jews, an offence; and to Gentiles, foolishness.”
Yes, and when he does go to Rome, it is as a shipwrecked (though Divinely delivered) prisoner. Oh, what a story! There, “for two whole years” in his own “hired dwelling” he receives “all that go in unto him” (for he cannot go to them); and the message goes on and on, throughout the Roman Empire, and even into Caesar’s household!
And what is the secret of this unconquerable heart? Hear Paul: “Ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me.” “To me, to live is Christ”; “It was the good pleasure of God to reveal His Son in me”; “By the grace of God I am what I am”; “I labor, striving according to Christ’s working, who worketh in me mightily”; “I am ready to spend and be spent out (R.V., marg.) for your souls.” There was no other path for Christ, nor is there any other for us His servants, but, “as much as in me is,” “to my utmost.” Those who belong in Paul’s company are ever “assaying to go” (Acts 16:7), ever “ready”—to preach or to suffer (Acts 21:13).
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For God’s righteousness on the principle of faith to [such as have] faith is revealed in it [the gospel]: just as it is written, “The righteous on the principle of faith shall live.”
Here we have the text of the whole Epistle of Romans: First, the words “the gospel”—so dear to Paul, as will appear. Next, the universal saving power of this gospel is asserted. Then, the secret of the gospel’s power—the revelation of God’s righteousness on the principle of faith. Finally, the accord of all this with the Old Testament Scriptures: “The righteous shall live by faith.”
It will assist our study to notice at once the four “For”s in the apostle’s argument: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel,”1515“All philosophy is a perfect delusion; intellect has nothing to do with God at all. Faith is never in the intellect; and, what is more, the intellect never knows a truth. Truth is not the object of intellect, but of testimony. This is where the difference lies. You tell me something and I believe you, but the thing that receives truth (a testimony) is not intellect. Real intelligence of God is in the conscience. The mind is incapable of forming an idea of God, and that is where the philosophers have gone wrong,”—This word by Mr. Darby is the very truth! “For it is the power of God unto salvation,” “For a righteousness of God is revealed in it”; and the “for” of the next verse, which makes this gospel necessary: “For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men.”
Verse 16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel—First then, we have Paul’s willingness, all unashamed, to go to Rome, mistress of the world, with this astonishing message of a crucified Nazarene, despised by Jews, and put to death by Romans. “The inherent glory of the message of the gospel, as God’s life-giving message to a dying world, so filled Paul’s soul, that, like his blessed Master, he ‘despised the shame.’” So, praise God, may all of us!
For it is the power of God unto salvation—The second “For”
gives the reason for Paul’s boldness: this good news concerning Christ’s death,
burial, resurrection, and appearing, “is the power of God unto salvation unto every
one that believeth.” There is no fact for a preacher or teacher to hold more constantly in his mind than this. It is not the
“excellency of speech or wisdom,” or
the “personal magnetism,” or “earnestness,” of the preacher; any more than it is
the deep repentance or earnest prayers of the hearer, that avails. But it is the
message of Christ crucified, dead, buried, and risen, which, being believed, is
“the empower of God”! “The word1616 “Notice, it is
not the cross. Romanists put the cross on the
top of the cathedral; millions wear a figure of the cross around their necks; but
they may never have heard “the word of the cross.” As Paul says further in I Cor. 1:23,
“We preach Christ crucified, [not the cross, merely] unto Jews
a stumbling block, and unto gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are saved,
both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
As one has said, “Not to Thy cross, but to Thyself, My living Savior, would I cling! ‘Twas Thou, and not Thy cross, that bore My soul’s dark guilt, sin’s deadly sting. “A Christless cross no refuge were for me; A crossless Christ my Savior could not be: But, O CHRIST CRUCIFIED, I rest in Thee!” of the cross is to them that are perishing, foolishness; but unto us who are being saved it (the word of the cross) IS the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).
Again we repeat that it is of the very first and final importance that the preacher or teacher of the gospel believe in the bottom of his soul that the simple story, Christ died for our sins, was buried, hath been raised from the dead the third day, and was seen, IS THE POWER OF GOD to salvation to every one who rests in it,—who believes!
The word gospel (evaggelion), means good news, glad tidings,— of course, about love and grace in giving Christ; and Christ’s blessed finished work for the sinner, putting away sin on the Cross. (There is no other good news for a sinner!)
The other word, for “preached,” is kerusso, which properly means to proclaim as a herald, to publish. And if we would understand Paul’s attitude in preaching the good news, we must not forget what he says in I Cor. 1:21: The reading in I Corinthians 1:21 should be, “God was pleased through the foolishness of the proclaiming to save them that believe.” The word (kērusso) means, to announce as a herald, to proclaim. It does not carry the thought of the proclamation’s content, of a glad message, as does the other word (evangelidzo). Therefore God selects the word kērusso to show in the great message I Corinthians 1:18-25 how he absolutely passes by the intellect of man, and sets aside all his possible reasoning, ability, philosophy and wisdom—in this amazing way: “by the proclaiming”! Here comes a small and weak Jew upon the assembly of the earth’s “wise” at Mars’ hill: “proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection.” It is “foolishness” to them. Yet “certain men”—including one Mars’ hill philosopher, and a prominent woman, and others with them, cleave unto him and believe the proclamation, and will spend eternity with God.
No; when you reflect on God’s plan of proclamation—of Christ, dead, buried, raised, living: it does get right past everything of man. A herald —he does not stop to argue—he has a message; yonder he is; here he comes; yonder he goes—and the message is left. Man is set aside!
It pleased God through the proclaiming to save them that believe! Praise God! Anyone can hear good news!
Therefore the herald does not hearken either to “Jews,” who would say, “We have wonderful forms of religion.; we have a great temple!” No, the herald proclaims “a Messiah crucified” by these very Jews!—and passes on!
Nor does he hearken to the “disputers of this age”—the “wise,” who call to him, “We have a new philosophy to discuss—let us hear your philosophical system.” No; he proclaims a crucified, dead, buried and risen Son of God, and passes on. And as many as are ordained to eternal life will believe. All others are offended, or stirred to ridicule.
Paul’s preaching was not, as is so much today, general disquisition on some subject, but definite statements about the crucified One, as he himself so insistently tells us in I Corinthians 15:3-5
“The power of God unto salvation” is a wonderful revelation! As Chrysostom says, “There is a power of God unto punishment, unto destruction: ‘Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’” (Matt. 10:28). “The use of the word ‘power’ here, as in I Corinthians 1:24, carries a superlative sense,—the highest and holiest vehicle of divine power” (Alford). This story of Christ’s dying for our sins, buried, raised, manifested, is the great wire along which runs God’s mighty current of saving power. Beware lest you be putting up some little wire of your own, unconnected with the Divine throne, and therefore non-saving to those to whom you speak. T. DeWitt Talmadge said at the funeral of Alfred Cookman, one of the most holy, devoted men of God America has known, “Strike a circle of three feet around the cross of Jesus, and you have all there was of Alfred Cookman.”
The gospel “is the power of God unto salvation.” God does not say, unto reformation, education, progress, nor development; nor “fanning an innate flame.” Salvation is a word for a lost man, and for none other. Men are involved either in salvation, or in its opposite, perdition (Philippians 1:28).
To the Jew first and also to the Greek—The Jew had the Law. They had the temple, with its divinely prescribed worship. Heretofore, if a Gentile were to be saved, let him become a proselyte and come to Jerusalem to worship as did the Ethiopian eunuch. Christ came “to His own things” (John 1:11), to Jerusalem, to His Father’s house (literally, “the things of My Father”). The apostles were to be witnesses—beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). The Holy Spirit fell upon the hundred and twenty at Jerusalem. Upon the persecution that arose in Jerusalem from Stephen, the disciples “were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles,” but Jerusalem was the gospel’s first center, then Antioch in Syria, whence Paul and Barnabas, afterwards Paul and Silas, went forth. Afterwards, the center of God’s operations was Ephesus, the capital of proconsular Asia, where after being rejected by the Jews in many cities, Paul separates the disciples, and all distinction between Jew and Greek in the assemblies of the saints is gone. Then he goes to Jerusalem to be finally and officially rejected—killed, if it were possible. God waits two years at Caesarea for Jewish repentance: there is none, but the direct opposite. Then the apostle, having been driven into the hands of the Romans by the Jews goes to Rome, the world’s center, only to have the Jews reject his teaching (Acts 28). Thereupon it is announced: “Be it known therefore unto you, that this salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles: they will also hear.”
Therefore, in expressing to the Jew first, Paul is not at all prescribing an order of presentation of the gospel throughout this dispensation. He is simply recognizing the fact that to the Jew, who had the Law and Divine privileges, the gospel offer had first been presented, and then to the Gentile. As Paul says in Ephesians “And He came and preached peace to you that were far off [the Gentile], and peace to them that were nigh [the Jews]” (Eph. 2:17). We might just as sensibly claim that Ephesians 2:17 gives Gentiles priority because they are mentioned first—“you that were afar” over the Jews who were mentioned last,—“them that were nigh.”
To claim that the gospel must be preached first to the Jew throughout this dispensation, is utterly to deny God’s Word that there is now no distinction between Jew and Greek either as to the fact of sin (Rom. 3:22) or the availability of salvation (Rom. 10:12). Paul’s words in Galatians 4:12 are wholly meaningless if the Jews still have a special place.
The meaning of the word “first” (prōton) is seen in verse 8 of our chapter: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all.” That is, thanksgiving to God was the first thing Paul wrote to the Romans in this Epistle. Then he proceeds to other things. It is an order of sequence; just as the gospel came “first” to the Jew and then to Greek, and now, since the “no difference” fact, is proclaimed to all indiscriminately, Jews and Greeks.
Verse 17: For God’s righteousness on the principle of faith to [such as have] faith is revealed in it [the gospel]: just as it is written, “The righteous on the principle of faith shall live.”
This third “For” gives another reason why Paul was not ashamed
of the good news1717“In these days of “respectable” Christianity, with its great
cathedrals, churches, denominations, colleges, seminaries, “uplift movements,” etc.,
you may say, Men no longer have any temptation to be “ashamed of the gospel.” But
lo, and behold, it is not the gospel they preach; but a man-reforming, world-mending
message of fallen flesh! Who today preaches of the wrath of God? But Paul speaks
of wrath twelve times in Romans, and says: “If God visit not with wrath, He cannot
be the Judge of the world.” Who preaches of the awful things we are about to find
true of the Gentile world in the end of this chapter? Who preaches, that even among
the moral philosophers, the “better” classes (in the first part of Ch. 2); or the
“religious” world as represented by the Jew (last part of Ch. 2); or in the whole
world (3:10-20), that “none is righteous,” “none doeth good”? Who preaches that
the whole world is under the Divine sentence of guilt, and that no man is able to
put this guilt away? that the shed blood of Christ as the vicarious sacrifice for
human guilt is absolutely the only hope of man? who preaches this, today?
Here and there, one! It is blessed for you, brother, if you are preaching the gospel
Paul preached, and are not ashamed thereof! It is blessed if you art not sucking
the poison-honey of Modernism; nor allured by earth’s Kagawas into the fool’s paradise
of the “social-gospellers”; nor deceived by the Neo-Romanists,— the Man-Confessionalists,
the Buchmanites (falsely called the “Oxford Movement”). Better be in prison with
Paul, with Paul’s gospel!: in this message concerning God’s Son,—that He died for our
sins, was buried, was raised,—there was brought to light,—made manifest—a
righteousness of God which had indeed been prophesied, but was really (especially
to the Jew under law) absolute news:1818Note, it is the righteousness of God, not the righteousness
of Christ. It is God’s acting righteously upon the basis of Christ’s redeeming work. God acting in righteousness, as we shall
find, wholly on the basis of Christ’s atoning work,—to be believed in, rested
upon, apart from all human works whatever. It was on the principle of faith1919 A word concerning the preposition ek as used in verse 17, “a
righteousness of God from (ek) faith,” etc., or “faithwise.” There has been much
objection to the translation of ek by “on the principle of”; yet that is about the
expression nearest to the truth of any we have found, unless it be “faithwise.”
Literally, ek means out of, or from. We ourselves use “out of” thus: “He acted
of prudence,” —(as animated by that principle) or, “He gave out of kindness.”
But it is of imperative importance that we get the great fact quickly and forever fixed in our hearts that God declares men righteous not by faith as the procuring cause, for the blood of Christ was that; not by faith as the putting forth of a certain faculty innate in man, much less by the keeping of divine commands, however holy and just; but out of reliance upon His own word as true, and on that alone. by means of a message, and those exercising faith in the message would be reckoned righteous,—apart from all “merit” or “works” whatever. This is the meaning of “from faith unto faith”—literally, out of faith [rather than works] unto [those who have] faith.
The “For” of verse 17, For God’s righteousness therein is revealed—in the gospel,—is also a logical setting forth of the reason why the good news concerning Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is the power of God unto salvation. And this verse is the essence of the text of the whole Epistle: “Therein God’s righteousness is revealed.”
God could have come forth in righteousness and smitten with doom the whole Adamic race. He would have been acting in accordance with His holiness: it would have been “the righteousness of God” unto judgment, and would have been just.
But God, who is love, though infinitely holy and sin-hating, has chosen to act toward us in righteousness, in a manner wherein all His holy and righteous claims against the sinner have been satisfied upon a Substitute, His own Son. Therefore, in this good news, (1) Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (2) He was buried, (3) He hath been raised the third day according to the Scriptures, (4) He was manifested (I Cor. 15:3 ff),—in this good news there is revealed, now openly for the first time, God’s righteousness on the principle of faith. We simply hear and believe: and, as we shall find, God reckons us righteous; our guilt having been put away by the blood of Christ forever, and we ourselves declared to be the righteousness of God in Him!
Habakkuk prophesied of it (Paul quotes him in verse 17); but ah, how little he dreamed of the fulness and wonder of it! It is the gospel that brings these to light!
And now in the next section (verses 18 ff) will come Paul’s fourth “For”: showing man’s frightful state of guilt; and his need of the gospel:
18 For there is revealed God’s wrath from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness [of life]; 19 because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world, made known to the mind by the things that are made, are clearly perceived,—both His eternal power and divinity; so as to render them inexcusable: 21 because, though knowing God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were they thankful [towards Him] but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and of quadrupeds, and of creeping things.
It will not only fail to help us, but will seriously harm us, to study the awful arraignment of God against human sin, unless we apply it to ourselves, thereby discovering our own state by nature. Therefore we have sought to make plain these terms which Paul uses, in view of today’s sin. Christendom is rapidly losing sin-consciousness, which means losing God-consciousness; which means eternal doom: “As were the days of Noah . . . as it came to pass in the days of Lot . . . they knew not.” Because iniquity abounds, the love of many professing Christians is waxing cold; so that we see a Sardis condition everywhere, “a name to live, while dead”: on many faces, the horrid lack of spiritual life; the lightless, sightless eyes; the chill,—the corpse-like chill, of the lifeless, the unfeeling.
On the other hand, among God’s real saints, those born from above and indwelt by the Spirit of God, there is everywhere, thank God, a gathering, an eagerness, a hunger for His Word, for news from Home,—for their citizenship is in Heaven!
Therefore let all who have ears to hear give the utmost attention to what God says about our state by nature. Do not apply the threefold “God gave them up” of Romans One to “the heathen,” as most do. Behold, we are those of whom God says: “There is no distinction: all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” ALL are brought under the judgment of God. O saints, beware of the “select” circles, the “we-are-better” societies of pride! For all human beings are alike sinners: for “The Scripture shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” (Gal. 3:22).
The more you discover yourself to be a common sinner, the more you will realize God’s uncommon grace! And the more deeply you despair of man, of yourself, the more simple and easy it will be to rest in Christ and in His work of salvation for you.
Verse 18: Wrath revealed from heaven—This is the tenor of all Scripture as to God’s attitude toward defiant sin. “Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven,” we read in Genesis 19:24. We know that “God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world” (Acts 17:31); that He will “visit with wrath” at that time (Rom. 3:5).
However, in the thrice-repeated “God gave them over” of verses 24, 26 and 28, there is to be seen the character, the beginning, and the working of God’s wrath in this world, in His judicial handing over of rebels to go further into rebellion. But the awful arraignment of humanity in Chapters One, Two, and Three; together with the particular account of their apostasy and lost condition, however terrible it be, is not a description of the finally damned, but of the at-present-lost: and, “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” “Such were some of you,” says Paul to the Corinthians, after an enumeration of those who “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:11). “Effeminate, and abusers of themselves with men,” the very kind of sinners described in our chapter, are in this enumeration. Let us admit, therefore, the judicial “delivering over” of humanity which has “exchanged the glory” of the God they knew for horrid idolatrous conceptions,—a present judicial action of God on earth, where and when He “lets men go their own way.” But let us distinguish this apart from the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God from Heaven. At the Great White Throne of Revelation Twenty there will be no liberty left to the creature to indulge his lusts as in this present world. The lusts, indeed, will remain, and probably intensify forever: “He that is filthy, let him be made filthy yet more”; but the ability to indulge lust will be eternally removed, and the damned placed under the visitation of Divine anger.
Thank God, we may still cry with Paul, “Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!” Grace is still ready to reach the worst wretch on earth!
Note that ungodliness is direct disregard of God, which to the Jew would connect itself with the first table of the Law, the first four commandments; while unrighteousness has reference to wickedness of conduct, in itself and toward other men. Note further that it is distinctly said that the human race, in order to live an unrighteous life, held down the truth. The meaning of the verb translated “hold down” is seen in its use in II Th 2:6: “Ye know that which restraineth,” referring to the present restraining of the sin and wrath of man by the Spirit of God. It is also true, turning this about, that man in his wickedness restrains the truth he knows. (See also same word in Luke 4:42, “would have stayed Him.”) Almost all men know more truth than they obey. They call themselves “truth seekers”; but would they attend a meeting where Paul preached the facts of this first of Romans?
Verse 19: That which is known of God is manifest . . . God made it evident—Noah’s father, Lamech, was for over fifty years a contemporary of Adam. Knowledge of God was held and imparted by tradition from the beginning. The fact that the “world that then was” became so corrupt as to necessitate destruction (Hebrew, “blotting out,” Gen. 6:7, margin), only supports the awful account. Not only was the world bad unto judgment at the time of the Flood; but the world after Noah became such that God called out His own (from Abraham on) to a separate, pilgrim life. Sodom, and later the Canaanites, again filled up iniquity’s measure and were “sent away from off the face of the earth” (Jer 28:16). Utter uncompromising, abandonment of hope in man is the first preliminary to understanding or preaching the gospel. Man says, “I am not so bad; I can make amends”; “There are many people worse than I am”; “I might be better, but I might be worse.” But God’s indictment is sweeping: it reaches all. “None righteous; all have sinned; there is no distinction.” And the first step of wisdom is to listen to the worst God says about us, for He (wonderful to say!) is the Lover of man, sinner though man be. You and I were born in this lost race, with all these evil things innate in, and, apart from the grace of God, possible to us. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and is desperately wicked.” Only redemption by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, can afford hope.
Verse 20: For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world . . . are clearly perceived—“The heavens declare the glory of God.” But humanity today prefers Hollywood’s “sound-pictures” to seeing the “things” of the glorious God in the heavens,—beholding His works, and hearing their speech. How long since you have gone out and gazed at moon and stars, made by the blessed God, travelling in such quiet glory, beauty, power, and order? Men know, if they care to know, that an infinite Majesty made and controls this. Even His eternal power and divinity2020Divinity (theiotēs)—what pertains to God; rather than deity (theotēs)—“the state of being God”:—the Godhead. That there is divinity, men know from creation; God,—the Godhead, Deity, is known by His saints.—Paul connects the observing of the mighty and beautiful things of the universe with the consciousness of a personal God.2121 We cannot refrain from quoting here Joseph Addison’s beautiful hymn. Would that it were widely learned and sung today! The spacious firmament on high, With all the blue ethereal sky, And spangled heavens, a shining frame, Their great Original proclaim. The unwearied sun, from day to day, Doth his Creator's power display, And publishes to every land, The work of an Almighty Hand. Soon as the evening shades prevail, The moon takes up the wondrous tale, And nightly to the listening earth Repeats the story of her birth; Whilst all the stars that round her burn, And all the planets in their turn, Confirm the tidings as they roll, And spread the truth from pole to pole. What though in solemn silence all Move round this dark terrestrial ball? What though no real voice nor sound Amidst their radiant orbs be found? In reason's ear they all rejoice, And utter forth a glorious voice: Forever singing, as they shine, “The Hand that made us is Divine.” Human science, through its telescope, observes the vast courses of the stars, moving with amazing accuracy in their orbits, but often counts it a mark of wisdom to doubt whether an intelligent Being exists at all! But, “the undevout astronomer is mad,” as said the great Kepler. No really great scientist today supports the Darwinian theory; and many,—and some of the most prominent scientific men are saying, There must be a God, a Creator.2222Read “Does Science Support Evolution” by Dr. E. Ralph Hooper, for many years Demonstrator of Anatomy at the University of Toronto (The Defender Publishers, Wichita, Kansas, U. S. A.; 50 cents). It gives an astonishing amount of accurate testimony.
Next the reason for God’s wrath is stated: men are without excuse—Men had the light, and that from God. His eternal power and divinity were, from creation onward, plain to men, from His works. Napoleon, on a warship in the Mediterranean on a star-lit night, passed a group of his officers who were mocking at the idea of a God. He stopped, and sweeping his hand toward the stars, said, “Gentlemen, you must get rid of those first!” Men secretly believe there is a Power above them, and that their evil deeds deserve the wrath of that Power. In sudden peril, they scream like the guilty wretches they are, “God have mercy!” Knowledge of God, though not acquaintanceship with Him, lay behind Pharaoh’s words, “I have sinned against Jehovah and against you” (Ex. 10:16); and behind the words of the Philistines in I Samuel 4:7,8, and 5:7,8,11; and the proclamation of the King of Nineveh (Jonah 3:7-9).
Verse 21: Because that, though knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful—Every human being knows he ought to give his being over to his Creator’s worship and glory, and ought to be continually thankful for life itself, and for its blessings; but men refused both worship and gratitude: they became godless and thankless. But they could not free themselves thus easily from conscience and terrors: so came on idolatry. First they resorted to vain speculations and “reasonings,” to escape the thought of God and duty. Then the judicial result: as Alford well renders, “Their heart (the whole inner man, the seat of knowledge and feeling), became dark (lost the little light it had), and wandered blindly in the mazes of folly.” Think of a whole race of created beings knowing, but refusing to recognize, their Creator! of their eating from His hand daily, but refusing even one thanksgiving! Yet such ungodly ones, such unthankful ones, are all about you, now.
Verse 22: Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools— Rejecting the light of God’s knowledge in their consciences, men now arrogated to themselves wisdom, and became—what? Fools!2323“Fools”: “This is Paul, the writer’s (that is, to say God’s) estimate of the philosophers and religious leaders of the race. Paul knew the boasted wisdom of the Euphrates and of the Nile, the learning of Hellas, and of Rome. We know it today. But there is this difference: there are those in our time who see no generic difference between these ethnic sages and the prophets of God, while Paul declares the former to be but ‘fools’.”—(Stifler). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning” —of both knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Ps. 111:10; Job 28:28).
The silliness of these “modern” shallow-pan days! How men are rushing back to the old pagan pit out of which God’s Word and His gospel would have delivered them! They suck up sin; they welter in wickedness; they profess to be wise! They sit at the feet of “professors” whose breath is spiritual cyanide. They idolize the hog-sty doctrines of a rotten Freud:2424Crucifying Christ in Our Colleges, by Dan Gilbert, shows the monstrous doctrines of this evil “educator,” whose influence is so great with many colleges and universities in the United States today. May God keep Freud’s filthy feet from our shores! and count themselves “wise”! They say, “God is not a person; men evolved from monkeys; morals are mere old habits; self-enjoyment, self-expression, indulgence of all desires—this,” they say, “is the path of wisdom.” It is the path of those who go quickly down to the pit and on to judgment! The very morals of Sodom, as our Lord foretold, are rushing fast upon us, and God will bring again the awful doom of Sodom (Luke 17:28-31).
Now if someone objects, saying, This is a strange introduction to the gospel of God’s grace, we answer, It lies here before us, this awful indictment of Romans One, and cannot be evaded! Moreover, until man knows his state of sin, he wants no grace. Shall pardon be spoken of before the sinner is proved a sinner? While the evidence is being brought in, the whole attention of the court is upon that. If the evidence of guilt be insufficient or inconclusive, there is no necessity for a pardon!
Preachers and teachers have soft-pedalled sin, until the fear Of God is vanishing away. McCheyne used to Say, “A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hands of God” A preacher who avoids telling men the truth about their sin as here revealed, is the best tool of the devil.
Verse 23: And changed the glory of the incorruptible God—Incorruptibility is of the essence of God’s being. From the beginningless eternity past to the endless eternity to come, He is the glorious self-existent One. Now came the high insult: having rejected knowledge of God, but unable to escape the consciousness that He exists, men, like Israel later, “changed their glory for the likeness of an ox that eateth grass” (Ps. 106:20). The more you reflect upon the infinite glory and majesty of the eternal God, the more hideous will the unspeakable insult to Him of any kind of idolatry appear to you! Men first likened God to man; but, being given over, they rushed rapidly downwards: a bird, a quadruped; and finally, a reptile!
Vincent remarks “Deities of human form prevailed in Greece; those of bestial form in Egypt; and both methods of worship were practiced in Rome. See on Acts 7:41. Serpent-worship was common in Chaldaea, and also in Egypt, where the asp was sacred.” Israel evidently learned calf-worship from Egypt’s sacred bull.2525Mahatma Gandhi, he of the horrible, toothless, diabolical grin of conceited folly; having been educated in England, and having heard the gospel and read the Scriptures, and rejected their light: sits on the deck of the steamer returning from India—doing what? Forming mud images with his own hands! A self-advertising illustration of the idolater’s heart-conception of the glorious incorruptible God.
24 Wherefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, so that their bodies were dishonored among themselves:—25 such ones as they! who changed the truth of God into the lie! and worshipped and served the created thing rather than the Creator,—Who is blessed unto the ages! Amen.
26 On account of this, God gave them over to shameful passions: for their females2626The Greek words used here are not the noble ones meaning men and women; but those denoting sex only, as in lower creatures. (For many examples, see thēleioi and arsenes in Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon.) This passage has deep significance in this day of the “sex-craze”: when, as some one says, “Human beings seem to be just beginning to realize that they are male and female.” The first of Romans warns of what such a craze will end in! changed the natural use into that contrary to nature: 27 and in like manner also the males2727The Greek words used here are not the noble ones meaning men and women; but those denoting sex only, as in lower creatures. (For many examples, see thēleioi and arsenes in Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon.) This passage has deep significance in this day of the “sex-craze”: when, as some one says, “Human beings seem to be just beginning to realize that they are male and female.” The first of Romans warns of what such a craze will end in! having left the natural use of the females, were inflamed in their lust one toward another, males with males working out shame, and receiving in themselves the recompense of their error which was due.
Verse 24: God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts. This is deeper than the mere lusts of the flesh. Flesh has natural desires, which may or may not be yielded to. The lusts of the heart continue after the flesh is dissolved; and even when, in the tormented bodies of the damned, the lusts of the flesh cannot be conscious or controlling, “the lusts of the heart” will forever exist.
Notice that when man is delivered from Divine restraint, the lusts of his heart plunge him into ever deeper bodily uncleanness, and bodily vileness. History backs up this fact with terrible relentlessness. What an answer is here to all the boasting of proud men of a “principle of development” in man; to the lying claim that man is ever “making progress.” The “Golden Age” of Grecian literature, and that of Roman letters,—in both of them we find remarkable minds; but their works must be expurgated for decent readers! No printer, even in this corrupt age, would dare to publish books with literal descriptions of the orgies of “classical” days.
Verse 25: For they changed the truth of God into the lie—That God is glorious, incorruptible, infinite, is the truth; that any image whatsoever, be it gold, silver, wood, stone; picture or symbol, is God,—God here names this the lie!2828The expression in II Thess. 2:11 is exactly the same: God sends them who refuse the love of the truth “a working of error, that they should believe the lie”: in this final case it is the apotheosis of idolatry,— Satan’s false Christ, the Antichrist, himself a lost man, whom they worship! Any such thing, connected with worship, is a fearful travesty of the divine Majesty. Think of it! They worshipped and served the created thing rather than the Creator—who made the creature! This is that desperate hiding away from God by wicked-hearted man, called idolatry. (See Appendix III in the author’s “Book of the Revelation.”)2929There is no Scripture record of idolatry before the Flood. The solemn presence of the Cherubim at the gate of Eden, probably continued long. Sin was increasing, but the Spirit was striving with man (Gen. 6:3 Then the 120 years passed; man was given up and the Deluge-judgment came. After the Deluge, came Nimrod, son of Cush (hence Bar-Cush, which becomes Bacchus), and the Satan-invented plan of idols to obscure God,—by demons (I Cor. 10:20). God permitted this as a judgment on a race that did not desire knowledge of Him. Who is blessed unto the ages. Amen. Paul’s adding these humble, worshipful words after “Creator” both glorifies God and also differentiates Paul from the abandoned devotees of sin thronging the dark alley of human history; showing him to be a child of light, as is every real saint of God, though passing through a world of thick darkness.
Verse 26: For the second time we read, God gave them over—and now, unto shameful passions—There are natural and normal appetites of the body: God is not speaking of these, or even of the abuse of these,—adultery or harlotry—in this verse. He is describing that state of unnatural appetites in which all normal instincts are left behind. And it is significant, that, as originally woman took the lead in sin, so here!
Verse 27: Here men are seen visited with a like condign, judicial “giving up” by God, in which they forget not only the holy relations of marriage, but even the burnings of ordinary lust, and plunge into nameless horrors of unnatural lust-bondage, all, males and females, receiving in themselves the due recompense of their error. Compare “among themselves” of verse 24, with “in themselves” of verse 27: “These words bring out,” as Godet remarks, “the depth of the blight. It is visible to the eyes of all.” And Meyer also: “The law of history, in virtue of which the forsaking of God is followed among men by a parallel growth of immorality, is not a purely natural order of things; the power of God is active in the execution of this law.”
What a fearful account is here! A lost race plunging ever deeper,
by their own desire! Left in shameful, horrid bondage, unashamed,—not only immoral,
but unmoral, hideous. Missionaries abroad can tell you of what they find; as can
the Christian workers in our great cities. But you would be unprepared to believe
what exists, in the private lives of many, even in country districts through Christendom.
And if God has “made you to differ,” thank Him only! It will not do to hold up your
hands in self-righteous dismay, and say, These verses do not in any particular describe
me. For God will show you and me that this is exactly the race as we were born into
it, and out of which the only rescue is being born again. All these things pertain
to lost, fallen man. Man is a tenant of the earth only by Divine grace, since the
Deluge.3030 “Few, perhaps, realize what is going on right here in America
(not Russia) in these last days. Read these two extracts:
From Children of the Jungle, by Thos. Minbaugh, Prof. of Sociology, University of Minnesota. (Reprinted in Reader’s Digest, 1935):
“Child tramps learn all about life—and who can do that and ignore sex? More and more girls are following their brethren on the bum; about one tribe in ten has female members. About one child tramp in 20 is a girl, disguised usually in breeches, but just as appallingly homeless as the boys, and young— under twenty. They live in the jungles and boxcars, serving as mistresses and maids, sharing the joys and sorrows of life on the roads. They treat all boys and men alike; the girls are available to any and all in the camp. Occasionally a pair of girls travel with a gang for weeks; others prefer variety. They go from jungle to jungle without discrimination; they know they will be welcome.”
From The Disinherited, by J. Pegano, Scribner’s, also reprinted in Reader’s Digest:
“I visited the ‘jungle,’ a mile or so out of town. All men who are ‘on the bum’ have a certain similarity—a lean and sullen look. [Describes some] . . . and a hatchet-faced man whom I recognized to be what is known among men on the bum, as a wolf. A ‘wolf’ is a man who picks up young boys on the toad, for reasons it is not necessary to go into. There are hundreds of ‘wolves’ on the road, and thousands of boys fall a prey to them.”
28 And just as they did not approve to have God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a mind disapproved [of Him],—to practise things not befitting [His creatures]; 29 having become filled with all injustice, destructiveness, covetousness, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, guile, malignant subtlety; secret slanderers, 30 open slanderers, hateful to God, insolent, arrogant, boasters, inventors of bad things; without obedience to parents, 31 without [moral] understanding, without good faith, without affection for kindred, without [consent to] truce, without mercy: 32 who, conscious of the righteous decree of God that those practising such things are worthy of [the sentence of] death, not only keep on practising the same, but also are pleased with those that are practising them.
Verse 28: Here we have for the third time the judicial utterance, God gave them over. This time it is to a settled state, a reprobate mind. There is such a solemn irony in the manner of speech in the Greek, that it should be brought out as well as the English will allow. Alford translates it: “Because they reprobated the knowledge of God, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” Conybeare renders it: “As they thought fit to cast out the knowledge of God, God gave them over to an outcast mind.” We might render it: To a mind disapproved of God, since they did not approve knowing God. And given over to do what? To live lives, think thoughts, be such creatures, as are not befitting the universe of the blessed God; and most particularly not befitting man, who was created in God’s image.
In the following verses, 29 to 32, three things are seen: first, some nine phases or developments of human sin (verse 29); second, the kind of people it makes (verses 29 to 31); and third, the fearful human conspiracy or agreement of wickedness of man against God (verse 32). Let us mark each carefully. (The student of Greek may well study the roots of these twenty-two nouns and adjectives, given in the footnote).31311. adikia; 2. poneria; 3. pleonexia; 4. kakia; 5. phthonou; 6. phonou; 7. eridos; 8. dolou; 9. kakoētheias; 10. psithuristas; 11. katalalous; 12. theostugeis; 13. hybristas; 14. hyperēphanous; 15. aladzonas; 16. epheuretas kakōn; 17. goneusin apeitheis; 18. asunetous; 19. asunethetous; 20. astorgous; 21. asponpdous; 22. aneleēmonas
And remember God says men are filled with all these things! And not only so: they are filled without restraint or limit! “With all unrighteousness, all destructiveness,” etc.
Verses 29 to 31: l. all injustice—Selfishness, enthroned against all rights of others.
2. destructiveness—The same word is used to describe Satan and his hosts: “the evil one,” “hosts of wickedness,” in Eph. 6:12, 16. It denotes wickedness in hostile activity.
3. covetousness—literally, the itch for more. “(a) Claiming more than one’s due, greedy, grasping; (b) making gain from others’ losses; (c) the act of over-reaching by selfish tricks. To take advantage of another’s simpleness, to over-reach, defraud.” – Liddell and Scott. Lightfoot says, “Impurity and covetousness may be said to divide between them nearly the whole domain of selfishness and vice.” Vincent distinguishes between covetousness and avarice: “The one is the desire of getting, the other of keeping.” Paul constantly defines covetousness as idolatry, worship of another object than God; and associates it with the vilest sins (I Cor. 5:11; Eph. 5:3, 5; Col 3:5). Many professing Christians are withering in a blight because of this unjudged sin.
4. malice—“malignity, maliciousness, desire to injure” (Thayer).
5. full of envy—The apostle takes another full breath here, beginning anew this hell-meat catalog. Envy is the hate that arises in the heart toward one who is above us, who is what we are not, or possesses that, which we cannot have, or do not choose the path to attain. “Pilate knew that for envy they had delivered Him.” He was holy and good, which they pretended to be, and knew they were not,—nor really chose to be.
6. murder—How strikingly the Holy Spirit brings these words, envy, murder, which sound so alike in the Greek,—phthonou, phonou—into the order and connection which they constantly sustain in life.
7. strife—Literally, beating down in wrangling and contention. How “full of strife,” indeed, is this human race!
8. guile—Jesus called Nathaniel “an Israelite in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). The Greek word means “a bait for fish,” and so, to catch with a bait, to beguile. So in what is called “business” today, men are baited and lured: and “society” lives by it! This is the human heart.
9. malignant subtlety—The Genevan New Testament renders it, “Taking all things in an evil sense.”
10. secret slanderers—By this Greek word of hissing sound (psithuristas), the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) renders the Hebrew lahash: “a snake-charmer’s ‘magical murmuring.’” Let those privately peddling evil reports, remember that God views their tongue as the slithering of the adder! It is remarkable how secret slanderers can “charm” others (fitted thereto by their evil nature) into believing their slanders. We heard of a modest, excellent young woman secretly slandered by a jealous rival. She could not overcome the falsehood, and died within a year.
11. open slanderers—Literally, those who speak against, incriminate, traduce. See its use in I Peter 2:12. Many openly rail at others—especially if their own lives are condemned by theirs.
12. hateful to God—Hateful toward God, because haters of God. The word means to show as well as to feel such hatred: “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God.”
13. insolent—People taking pleasure in insulting others.
14. arrogant—Full of haughty pride toward others.
15. boasters—The very contrary of Him Who said: “Come unto Me—I am meek, and lowly of heart.”
17. without obedience3232‘In the six words of which this is the first, God emphasizes the negative, or stubborn quality of badness Each of these words begins with the Greek alpha, which has the force here of alpha privative: denial or negation of the quality expressed in the word. Therefore we have translated the first letter in all six “without,”—a rendering consistent rather than elegant, as accuracy of interpretation, rather than “excellency of speech” should be sought here. to parents—literally, not able to be persuaded by parents. What a photograph of the “youth” of our day! This appalling rejection of parental control is developing amazingly in these last days, just as God said it would (II Tim. 3:1,2). It brings a curse upon whole families, whole communities, and whole lands. Obedience to parents brings promised blessing: “Honor thy father and thy mother (which is the first commandment with promise), that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2, 3).
"The eye that mocketh at his father,
And despiseth to obey his mother,
The ravens of the valley shall pick it out,
And the young eagles shall eat it.”
This explains many an early death! Yes; and terrible deaths long delayed.
18. without moral understanding—The verb is used in Scripture only of moral and spiritual understanding (Matt. 13:14, 15, 19, 23, 51). This adjective (Rom. 1:31) means, without any understanding of Divine things; having no proper moral discernment. That is the awful condition of the human race; and, remember, you and I were born in it.
19. without good faith—Faithless, bound by no promise or covenant. This is a very heart-disease! The word denotes that wickedness that does not intend to carry out its pledged word, except for selfish ends. Broken business contracts, violated national treaties, light betrayal of personal confidences,—all have this hideous condition as their root.
20. without natural affection—Without affection for kindred. Even a third century pagan poet, Theocritus, calls these “the heartless ones.” How constantly we see, especially in the selfish lives of graceless “moderns,” utter disregard of the natural ties which a kind God has used in “setting the solitary in families.” Such are really moral morons; but the possibilities of all these things are in every one of us.
21. without [consent to] truce,—literally, not willing to consent to a truce, or cease hostilities. The present ruthless civil war in Spain, and the savagery of Japan in China, are examples. Indeed, only an “armistice,” not a peace, was concluded after the World War; and, despite all “treaties” since, there persists a sort of international suspicion; proving that men know, as by instinct, the implacability of human nature.3333“I stood several years ago upon “Starved Rock,” near LaSalle, Illinois, a beautiful hill with precipitous sides, where in 1769 the entire tribe of the “Illinois” Indians were starved, almost to the last man, and the tribe practically exterminated, by other Indian tribes besieging the rock. You say, But those were Indians: I am civilized. No, God says, “There is no distinction; for all sinned.” And even Paul cried, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.”
22. without mercy—It is said that Nero as a child amused himself in pulling the legs and wings from insects. Perhaps you cry out at this, saying, I have always been tender-hearted towards animals. Indeed? And how about people? Are you tender-hearted towards them? to all of them? Think deeply on this: God “delighteth in mercy”; but “man’s inhumanity to man makes countless millions mourn.” Consider: A merciful God! unmerciful creatures!
And now we come to the dark, wilful conspiracy of evil of this whole human race. For, remember, what we have been reading is not an indictment of the heathen merely, but of the race. It does indeed depict the progress of human wickedness, and how God gave the race over to those lusts that judicially followed their sin. Yet, as we shall find in the next chapter, it is humanity as such, as thus degraded, of which God is speaking.
Verse 32: Who, conscious that such things are worthy of death, not only keep practising them but approve of others practising them.
Here we are confronted with three terrible realities: (1) They have complete inner knowledge from God (Gr. epignontes) that their ways deserve and must have Divine condemnation and judgment; (2) they persist in their practices despite the witness of conscience; (3) they are in a fellowship of evil with other evil-doers!
The Greek word here (syneudokouso) which we have rendered “are pleased with,” “approve of”; the Revised Version renders “consent with”; Bagster’s Interlinear, “are consenting to”; Moule, “feel with and abet.” “Not only commit the sins, but delight in their fellowship with the sinner,” says Conybeare; “Not only practice them, but have fellow-delight in those that do them”—Darby; “Not only do the same, but applaud those that do them”—Godet; “They not only do these things, but are also (in their moral judgment) in agreement with others who so act” —Meyer.
What a description of this world of sinners, this race alienated from the life of God,—at enmity with Him, and at strife with one another! But all in a hellish unity of evil!
THE WRATH OF GOD—IN ROMANS
1. The Greek word for wrath (orgē) is used twelve times in this book of Romans, and always as connected with God. In all twelve occurrences in Romans it is referred to God: “The wrath of God is revealed” (1:18); “wrath in the day of wrath” (2:5); “Wrath and indignation” (2:8); “God visiteth with wrath” (3:5); “The Lair worketh wrath” (4:15); “Much more shall we be saved from the wrath [of God] through Him [Christ]” (5:9); “If God, willing to show His wrath, endured vessels of wrath fitted for destruction” (9:22); “Give place unto the wrath” [of God] (12:19); “Wrath to him that doeth evil” (13:4); “Not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (13:5).
Now the fundamental word for “wrath” is orgē, and it always looks, in Romans, toward the final, or last, Judgment; although including, as in 13:4, 5, God’s governmental actions through present human authorities.
This distinction between the outpouring of governmental wrath which precedes the Kingdom, and the final Assize at the Last Judgment is of primary importance. Paul is dealing in Romans with eternal things; with “no condemnation,” on the one hand; and with final condemnation on the other. It is not the attitude and actions of God as the dispensational Ruler of earth’s affairs, but the final Judge dealing with eternal individual destinies, of Whom Paul is writing.
Mark carefully, therefore, that Paul, who is setting forth the gospel of grace, describes the blessedness of those who receive that gospel as forgiven, justified, at peace with God. Romans is a court book. God, who adjudged all guilty under sin, gladly declares righteous and safe those who trust Him. Contrariwise, those who reject His mercy and grace are visited by the same Judge, even God, with wrath. Both the wrath in the one case, and the grace in the other, proceed from God’s personal feeling. and just as there was personal Divine mercy and eternal tenderness toward the believer, so there is personal Divine wrath and eternal indignation against those who despise His love and mercy, as set forth in the death of His Son. It is righteous indignation, certainly; but it is personal indignation. Listen carefully to God’s own words as to this future visitation of wrath upon the finally impenitent: “Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14); “Lest there should be among you man or woman whose heart turneth away from Jehovah, to serve other gods, and it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart . . . . Jehovah will not pardon him, but then the anger of Jehovah, and His jealousy, shall smoke against that man” (Deut. 29:18-20); “Jehovah is a jealous God, and avengeth; Jehovah avengeth and is full of wrath; Jehovah taketh vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath or His enemies”; “He will pursue His enemies into darkness” (Nahum 1:2, 8); “Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19); “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Heb. 10:31) “Can thy heart endure, or can thy hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I, Jehovah, have spoken it and will do it” (Ezek. 22:14)
It is fatuous folly to seek to avoid the manifest, necessary meaning of such words. God, who alone has the right to avenge, will avenge! The very first chapter of the Prophets warns any willing to hear: “Ah, I will ease Me of Mine adversaries, and avenge Me of Mine enemies!” (Isa. 1:24). Human justice is to be meted out by juries of men and by judges, uncolored by personal feelings. Not so with God! As is not the case in human courts, it is the Judge Himself who has been wronged. It is His light that has been refused for darkness. It is His salvation, and that by His Son’s blood that has bee despised. And it will not be justice merely, but the infliction of penalty by an outraged Being whose Name is Love, now aroused to a righteous fury commensurate with the measureless guilt of the hideous haters of His holiness, the despisers of His mercy—it will be by the Hand of the Judge of all, Himself, that wrath will fall upon the guilty.
As for the “great” pulpiteers of Christendom, the favorites of the rapidly apostatizing denominations of this day, the men who, by their ecclesiastical politics or personal ability, or so called “scholarship,” are “outstanding” and yet deny or ignore the wrath of God,—fear them not! They are false prophets, prophets of “peace,”—which can only be found in the shed blood of the Redeemer: the blood which they do not preach.
Oh, that Day! that Day!—for these lying preachers of “peace, peace,” who have said, “God is too good to damn anybody.” And shall God, in that Day, refuse to remember the agonies of His Son on the Cross? Shall He change that holy hatred of sin, wherein He forsook Christ and spared Him not?—all because miserable guilty Universalists, Unitarians, Millennial Dawnists, “Modernists,” “Christian(!) Scientists(!)”—all the fawning “Hush, hush” preachers, have promised to men “a God that would not show wrath against sin!” A God who would indeed “spare all,— yea, probably, even Satan, finally!”
Let this awful word Orgē, wrath, settle into the conscience of every soul; for God hath spoken it!
And every Preacher and every Prophet of God has warned of it: Enoch (Jude 14,15); Noah (II Pet. 2:5); Moses (Deut. 32:35); the Psalmists, the Prophets (for example, Isaiah,— all of Chapters 24 and 34); the Lord’s forerunner, John the Baptist, with his “Flee from the wrath to come”; the Apostles,—from Romans to Revelation; and the great Preachers and Evangelists of the Christian centuries,—the men who have won souls—the Reformers, the Puritans, the Wesleys, Whitefields, Edwardses, Finneys, Spurgeons, Moodys,—all have told of man’s guilt and danger, of the coming judgment, and of the wrath of God upon the impenitent and unbelieving.
2.This wrath is here in Romans 1:18 declared to be now, like the gospel, revealed from heaven; and that, now, against all ungodliness; and against all unrighteousness of men; in that they have resisted the truth they know.
Heretofore, as at the Deluge, and that terrible day when “Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven,” God had revealed His wrath on earth when men’s cup of iniquity was full; as we read also in the case of the Canaanites (Gen. 15:16; Lev. 18:24, 25). Yet, God “overlooked” much that was evil, even in Israel (Acts 17:30; Matt. 19:8). But now, He “commandeth all men everywhere to repent,”—in view of a revealed coming day of judgment, “by the Man whom He hath ordained” (Acts 17:30, 31; Rom 2:16), and of which judgment He hath given certainty to all men by raising this coming Judge from the dead! The cross brought to an end God’s “overlooking” sin, by judging it, even to the utter Divine forsaking of Him whom God sent to bear sin. Sin, therefore, is brought into the open; God’s wrath from, heaven is now revealed against it all! If the blood of Jesus, God’s Son cleanseth believers “from all sin”; then no sin has been left unjudged at the cross, and no sins will be unjudged upon the lost, at the Great White Throne, nor be “overlooked” today!
This, then, is the first full, formal, and general, announcement of wrath from heaven. For heretofore God had man on trial. While Israel had “the house of God” on earth, and were being tested under law, there was (humanly speaking) the possibility of human recovery. But when they, with the Gentiles, crucified the Lord of glory,—killed the Righteous One, four things came to light: (a) the absolute character of man's sin; (b) the absoluteness of God's holiness which could not spare the Son of His love, when once sin was laid on him; (c) the absoluteness of God's love and grace toward sinners, in publishing forgiveness and righteousness as a free-gift through Christ,—“beginning from Jerusalem—where men had crucified His Son! and (c) the revelation from heaven of Divine wrath against all ungodliness, all unrighteousness. It was not that God hated sin less in the past, in “the times of ignorance.” But there had been “overlooking, forbearance.” Now, with the full revelation of both human guilt and Divine grace by the Cross, ‘there must also be fully announced God's wrath from heaven against all sin. It is no longer an earthly, governmental affair,—as against high earthly offenders, such as Pharaoh, the Sodomites, or the Canaanites; but against all ungodliness, all unrighteousness. In grace God at the cross had come forth; not in Law or judgment, but as He was, in His being,—that is, absolutely, as Love, offering pardon and justification to men. Therefore, all He was, absolutely, in Heaven His dwelling-place, against the awful thing, sin, must, along with His pardoning grace, be revealed! The days of “winking at” ignorance are over; for, “He spared not His own Son!” So now, that God is against all sin must be revealed. The days of that protection from God’s wrath that religion had afforded are over! For had not Judaism afforded a kind of protection? Jehovah dwelt in the thick darkness of the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle and the temple. An outward walk according to external enactments, secured the nation Israel, amidst which God dwelt. But no longer! “Your house is left to you desolate,” said the Lord to the Jews. “The blood (for forgiveness), and the water (for cleansing) followed man’s spear of hate thrust into the Redeemer’s side.” But by that very fact we know that there is absolute wrath against man’s sin! Only, flee not from this wounded Lamb; for here the wrath has struck! There is safety here,—though nowhere else in the universe!
3. It will fall to other pens than Paul’s—to those of Peter and Jude, and especially to that of John, in the Apocalypse, to describe the particulars of time and mode of visitation of God’s wrath; together with the places of confinement and punishment of the wicked, both before and after the Last Judgment. Peter will write of “Tartarus,” where God cast the rebel angels of (Genesis 6; II Pet. 2:4); and Jude will describe both the “everlasting bonds” of those angels, and also the “eternal fire” that overtook the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah; while John will show the risen Christ with the keys of death and of Hades (the detention-jail at present of lost human spirits); and John will describe also that awful “lake of fire” which shall be the final portion of the devil and his angels, and of those who sided with him against God. (Compare Rev. 20:10; Matt. 25:41.)
Paul, however, will set forth the scene as from God’s court. Just as his gospel will show a God whose love is such that He gave Christ for wicked, hateful sinners, and offers to justify the ungodly who believe Him; so the contrary of justification—condemnation, becomes the portion of the rejecter of mercy
Since grace is the outpouring of God’s “heart of mercy,” and is a personal feeling; so despised mercy arouses in God (and how necessarily), the opposite of mercy,—wrath! Paul’s words will therefore be: grace, and over against it, wrath. Justification, and over against it, condemnation. Life, and over against it, death. He will say to the saints, “Ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end, eternal life.” And, of the things whereof the saints are now “ashamed,” —“the end of those things is death!”
4. But be it noted, there is absolutely no foot of Scripture ground to stand upon for those who, refusing the Bible doctrine of a God who “visiteth with wrath,” bring in their subtle arguments for the “final restoration of all.” Honest readers know that the very opposite is taught throughout the Scripture. There is no wrath upon believers. There is forever nothing but wrath for unbelievers. If you value your soul, regard with utter horror all trifling on this question. If you do not believe in Divine wrath, you are not subject to Scripture, and you are in fearful personal danger. The errorists begin very subtly,—as the Bullingerites began with the doctrine of “soul-sleeping.” (See footnote to Romans 15:8 found on p. 526.) Then there are the “annihilationists,” the “conditional immortality” falsifiers, the Christadelphians, the “restorationists,” the Seventh Day Adventists, and all the rest of the rabble. These false prophets are lulling millions upon millions into a deathful slumber from which only the crack of doom will rouse them. There are no “soul-sleepers” or “restorationists” in Hades! They know the truth now! And they are in nameless terror of coming Judgment and final eternal Hell.
The God of the twentieth century is not the God of the Bible, but the God of the vain imaginations of shadow men,—men who will not look honestly at history (as, e.g., the Flood, or Sodom and Gomorrah); nay, who will not look honestly at present events! Preachers are found by the thousands who pooh-pooh the thought that the great calamities, such as the late war, and that now looming, are judgments of God; that great droughts or floods or storms are sent by Him. Like the hardened wretches whom Ezekiel saw, they say, “Jehovah seeth us not; Jehovah hath forsaken the land.”
If Paul, at the beginning of Church days, could write to Roman Christians that terrible arraignment of the human race with which this Epistle begins, and must begin, what shall be the attitude, and what the words, of any faithful preacher or teacher at this, the end of the Church times, after nearly 2000 years of unbelief, heresy, divisions, and general denial of the guilt and danger of lost men!
Merely to give in this book the meaning of the words of Paul,— without applying them to the very soul and conscience of the reader, would, in view of the conditions prevalent today, be both fruitless and cowardly: fruitless, because the present day will not study, and least of all, thoroughly study, Scripture; and cowardly, because shrinking from applying truth would be seeking to be “fundamental” without offending anyone!
“If thou warn the wicked . . . thou hast delivered thy soul,” God speaks.
The gospel of Christ is written in letters of heavenly light against the fearful black cloud of human guilt flashing with warnings of coming wrath!
TO THE PREACHERS OF “THE SOCIAL GOSPEL”
This is the doctrine that Jesus Christ came to reform society (whatever “society” may be!); that He came to abate the evils of selfishness, give a larger “vision” to mankind; and, through His example and precepts, bring about such a change in human affairs, social, political, economic and domestic, as would realize all man’s deep longings for a peaceful, happy existence upon earth, ushering in what these teachers are pleased to call, “the Kingdom of God.”
1. Now, in the first place, Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not “society.” He said, “The Son of Man hath authority on earth to forgive sins.” Now, sins are individual transgressions against a personal God; there is no such thing in Scripture as these social-gospellers dream of,—a condition of “society” to be “changed” or “ameliorated.” All that really exists is the guilt of a vast number of really guilty sinners. “Society” does not exist before God at all; and it is a vain delusion of the devil that sins are dealt with en masse.
2. Sinners, having been pardoned, find themselves in a blessed fellowship, a really heavenly thing, constituted by the Holy Spirit, who indwells each of them. But to confuse this fellowship with what these social-gospellers call “society,” is to forget that “except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
3. It flatters men’s vanity, of course, and shelters them from conviction, to be dealt with as “society,” and not as guilty souls needing personal pardon through the shed blood of Christ. Therefore this gospel (which is not a gospel, but a lie, a delusion of Satan), draws together vast concourses of unconverted men and women, “church-members” and “non-church-members.” Its preachers are plausible and popular, for if “society” is going to be saved in a mass, individual repentance need not be mentioned. The Jesus of these men,—the Stanley Joneses, the Sherwood Eddys, the Frank Buchmans, the Bishop McConnells, the Kagawas, and a whole host of drifters and on-the-fencers, is not the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world by an atoning sacrifice, not the One despised, forsaken, smitten of God, of the fifty-third of Isaiah! He is not at all the substitutionary Sacrifice drinking the cup of wrath for man’s guilt! But He is “the Christ of the Indian Road”—or the American road, the Canadian road, the English road, as you please; walking by the wayside, teaching the multitudes, as in the Four Gospels, BEFORE HE WAS REJECTED AND DIED. He is not the RISEN CHRIST, with all power in heaven and earth given unto Him, pouring forth the Holy Spirit and doing mighty works, as in the early church days.
I affirm that the present day popular preachers DO NOT KNOW what human guilt, before God, is! DO NOT KNOW that Christ really bore wrath under God’s hand for the sin of the world! DO NOT KNOW that He was forsaken of God, as the whole race, otherwise, must have been! I affirm that they are preaching as if an unrejected, uncrucified Christ were still being offered to the world! They preach the “character” of Jesus, saying “nice things” of Him, and telling people to “follow His example”: while the truly awful fact that Christ “bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” that He was “wounded for our transgressions,” that He was “forsaken of His God”; that “God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up,”—and that “for our trespasses,” is never told to the poor, wretched people! Nor are they warned of that literal lake of fire and brimstone into which “every one not found written in the book of life” will be cast, and that forever.
One look into the lost eternity to which these last-days “preachers” are leading those who follow them, renders even the briefest consideration of these men who dare to call themselves “preachers of the gospel,” beyond all enduring. As Jeremiah cries:
“Concerning the prophets. My heart within me is broken, all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of Jehovah, and because of His holy words.
“Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they teach you vanity; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of Jehovah. They say continually unto them that despise Me, Jehovah hath said, Ye shall have peace; and unto every one that walketh in the stubbornness of his own heart they say, No evil shall come upon you . . . Behold, the tempest of Jehovah, even His wrath, is gone forth, yea, a whirling tempest; it shall burst upon the head of the wicked . . . I sent not these prophets, yet they ran: I spake not unto them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then had they caused My people to hear My words, and had turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings” (Jer. 23:9, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22).
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of Man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own heart, Hear ye the word of Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! . . . They have seen falsehood and lying divination, that say, Jehovah saith; but Jehovah hath not sent them: and they have made men to hope that the word could be confirmed. Have ye not seen a false vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, in that ye say, Jehovah saith; albeit I have not spoken?
“Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there is no peace; and when one buildeth up a wall, behold, they daub it with untempered mortar: say unto them that daub it with untempered mortar, that it shall fall” (Ezek. 13:1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12-14, 15).
“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die, and thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, and he turn not from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezek. 33:8, 9).
You may say, Those were Old Testament prophets—Jeremiah and Ezekiel; and Those were messages to the Jews. Wait till you meet, as you will shortly, the God Who inspired these prophets. Let us see what you will say to Him,—you who profess to preach the gospel of Christ. and yet preach it not!
And Paul saith: “Though we, or an angel from heaven should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.” “For I delivered unto you first of all that . . . Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, . . . that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This very declaration of the gospel after Christ died, is that atoning death of His. When you leave that out, and prate about the “beautiful life” of Jesus, you are deceived by the devil and are a deceiver of other souls.
4. We know that this “social gospel,” the false news that humanity is to be reached in the mass, and not by individual conviction, individual faith, individual new birth by the Holy Spirit, is a lie, because Scripture directly contradicts any such notion:
Hear Paul: “In the last days, grievous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away!” (II Tim. 3:1-5).
Peter also: “In the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying. Where is the promise of His coming?” (II Pet. 3:3, 4).
Paul again: “Evil men and imposters shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (II Tim. 3:13). And our Lord plainly says:
“In the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:29, 30).
How dare you call yourself a believer of Scripture, while you deny such plain words as these, and preach a fool’s dream, that the world, with the devil still here, its prince and god; and man still unregenerate—that the world will by some “social gospel” gradually change in character? It is a lie! and those that preach it, preach a lie. The words of God shall be fulfilled, and not the mouthings of a McConnell or the fumings of a Fosdick.
And, O social gospeller, if you are looking for a changed state of “society,” who is going to help you bring it in? The Holy Ghost will not, for He has inspired men to write that the very opposite will occur! that men shall hate one another, and that the world will grow worse, to the very return of Christ. And we know that enlightened Christians will not go about to bring in what they know from God’s Word is not coming in! And ignorant Christians cannot help you,—for they know not how. And we know that this selfish world will not go about to bring in your social dream: for you and we know they are set on their own interests, and will remain so. And Satan cannot do it, if he would!
So, O social gospeller, who would go about to bring in a “new social order,” you are left to do it yourself, without that regeneration by the Holy Spirit which alone truly saves men; without any message of pardon for guilty souls through the shed blood of a Redeemer (for you do not preach that!) without the help and prayers of true believers: for, these pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”; but they know that Christ must return to earth to bring in that Kingdom; and they know that all other promises are false and lying hopes!
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