They who think that the Apostle attained this name as a trophy for having brought Sergius, the proconsul, to the faith of Christ, are confuted by the testimony of Luke, who shows that he was so called before that time. (Acts 13:7, 9.) Nor does it seem probable to me, that it was given him when he was converted to Christ; though this idea so pleased Augustine, that he took occasion refinedly to philosophize on the subject; for he says, that from a proud Saul he was made a very little (parvulum2) disciple of Christ. More probable is the opinion of Origen, who thought that he had two names; for it is not unlikely to be true, that his name, Saul, derived from his kindred, was given him by his parents to indicate his religion and his descent; and that his other name, Paul, was added, to show his right to Roman citizenship; 3 they would not have this honor, then highly valued, to be otherwise than made evident; but they did not so much value it as to withhold a proof of his Israelitic descent. But he has commonly taken the name Paul in his Epistles, and it may be for the following reasons: because in the churches to which he wrote, it was more known and more common, more acceptable in the Roman empire, and less known among his own nation. It was indeed his duty to avoid the foolish suspicion and hatred under which the name of a Jew then labored among the Romans and in their provinces, and to abstain from inflaming the rage of his own countrymen, and to take care of himself.
Then the meaning is, -- that Paul was a servant of Christ, not any kind of servant, but an Apostle, and that by the call of God, and not by presumptuous intrusion: then follows a clearer explanation of the Apostolic office, -- it was ordained for the preaching of the Gospel. For I cannot agree with those who refer this call of which he speaks to the eternal election of God; and who understand the separation, either that from his mother's womb, which he mentions in Galatians 1:15, or that which Luke refers to, when Paul was appointed for the Gentiles: but I consider that he simply glories in having God as the author of his call, lest any one should think that he had through his own rashness taken this honor to himself. 6
We must here observe, that all are not fitted for the ministry of the word; for a special call is necessary: and even those who seem particularly fitted ought to take heed lest they thrust themselves in without a call. But as to the character of the Apostolic and of the Episcopal call, we shall consider it in another place. We must further observe, that the office of an Apostle is the preaching of the gospel. It hence appears what just objects of ridicule are those dumb dogs, who render themselves conspicuous only by their mitre and their crook, and boast themselves to be the successors of the Apostles!
We may learn from this passage what the gospel is: he teaches us, not that it was promulgated by the Prophets but only promised. If then the Prophets promised the gospel, it follows, that it was revealed, when our Lord was at length manifested in the flesh. They are then mistaken who confound the promises with the gospel, since the gospel is properly the appointed preaching of Christ as manifested, in whom the promises themselves are exhibited. 8
Besides, a divine power is said to have shone forth in the resurrection of Christ for this reason -- because he rose by his own power, as he had often testified:
"Destroy this temple, and in three days
I will raise it up again," (John 2:19;)
"No man taketh it from me," etc.; (John 10:18)
For he gained victory over death, (to which he yielded with regard to the weakness of the flesh,) not by aid sought from another, but by the celestial operation of his own Spirit.
We hence learn, that they perversely resist the authority of God and upset the whole of what he has ordained, who irreverently and contemptuously reject the preaching of the gospel; the design of which is to constrain us to obey God. We must also notice here what faith is; the name of obedience is given to it, and for this reason -- because the Lord calls us by his gospel; we respond to his call by faith; as on the other hand, the chief act of disobedience to God is unbelief, I prefer rendering the sentence, "For the obedience of faith," rather than, "In order that they may obey the faith;" for the last is not strictly correct, except taken figuratively, though it be found once in the Acts 6:7. Faith is properly that by which we obey the gospel. 13
Here a rich truth presents itself to us, to which I shall briefly refer, and leave it to be meditated upon by each individual: Paul does by no means ascribe the praise of our salvation to ourselves, but derives it altogether from the fountain of God's free and paternal love towards us; for he makes this the first thing -- God loves us: and what is the cause of his love, except his own goodness alone? On this depends our calling, by which in his own time he seals his adoption to those whom he had before freely chosen. We also learn from this passage that none rightly connect themselves with the number of the faithful, except they feel assured that the Lord is gracious, however unworthy and wretched sinners they may be, and except they be stimulated by his goodness and aspire to holiness, for he hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7.) As the Greek can be rendered in the second person, I see no reason for any change.
There are those who prefer to regard the word
1 "The inscription of the Pauline Epistles," says Turrettin, "is according to the manner of the ancients, both Greeks and Romans. They were wont to prefix their name; and to those to whom they wrote they added their good wishes." We have an example in Acts 23:26. -- Ed.
2 Thereby expressing the meaning of Paulus, which in Latin is little. "Paul," says the quaint Elnathan Parr, as signifies little, and indeed not unfitly, for he is reported to have been low in stature, and to have had a very small voice, which is thought to have been objected to him in 2 Corinthians 10:10 -- Ed.
3 Most writers agree in this view, regarding Saul as his Hebrew name and Paul as his Roman name. -- Ed.
4 "A called Apostle -- vocatus apostolus --
He was an Apostle by a call, or as Beza renders it, "by the call of God -- ex Dei vocatione apostolus." The meaning is the same as what he himself expresses it in Galatians 1:1. Turrettin renders it, "Apostolus vocatione divina -- an Apostle by divine vocation."
The difference between "a called Apostle" and "called to be an Apostle," is this, that the first conveys the idea that he obeyed the call, and the other does not. -- Ed.
6 Some combine the four separations. "Set apart in the eternal counsel of God, and from his mother's womb, Galatians 1:15, and by the special commandment of the Holy Ghost, Acts 13:2, confirmed by constitution of the Church, Acts 13:3; Galatians 2:9." -- Parr. But the object here seems to have been that stated by Calvin: nor is it just or prudent to connect any other idea with the word except that which the context requires; for to do so only tends to create confusion. -- Ed.
7 Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, etc., where, in a similar sense, called servants; and also our Savior. They were officially servants. -- Ed
8 The verb is
Professor Hodge gives what he conceives to be the import of the two verses in these words, "Jesus Christ was, as to his human nature, the Son of David; but he was clearly demonstrated to be, as to his divine nature, the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead." This view is taken by many, such as Pareus, Beza, Turrettin, etc. But the words, "according to the Spirit of Holiness" --
The idea deduced by Calvin, that he is called here "the Spirit of Holiness," on account of the holiness he works in us, seems not well-founded, though advanced by Theodoret and Augustine. -- Ed.
10 "Hypellage," a figure in grammar, by which a noun or an adjective is put in a form or in a case different from that in which it ought grammatically to be. -- Ed.
11 If this view be taken, the best mode would be to render
12 He has taken this clause before that which follows, contrary to the order of the text, because he viewed it as connected with the receiving of the apostleship.
"Pro nomine ipsius," --
13 It might be rendered, "that there might be the obedience of faith," or, "in order to produce," or, "Promote the obedience of faith." The obedience is faith. The command is, "believe," and the obedience must Correspond with it. To obey the faith, as in Acts 6:7, is a different form of expression: the article is prefixed there, it is the faith, meaning the gospel. -- See 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Professor Stuart and Haldane, agree in this view. The latter refers to Romans 10:3, where the Israelites are charged for not submitting to God's righteousness; and, in verse 16, it is said, that they had not all obeyed the gospel, "for Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?" Then to believe the gospel is in an especial manner to obey it. -- Ed.
14 "The called of Jesus Christ," i.e., the called who belong to Christ
15 "The ancient Greeks and Romans," says Turrettin, "wished to those to whom they wrote, in the inscription of their epistles, health, joy, happiness; but Paul prays for far higher blessings even the favor of God, the fountain of all good things, and peace, in which the Hebrews included all blessings." -- Ed.
16 "From God our Father, -- if God, then able; if our Father, then willing to enrich us with his gifts: and from our Lord Jesus Christ, -- from our Lord, who has purchased them for us; from Jesus, for without these we cannot be saved; from Christ, for he is anointed with grace and peace, John 1:16." -- Parr.