8. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
8. Primum quidem gratias ago Deo meo per Iesum Christum super vobis omnibus, quia fides vestra Prædicatur in universo mundo.
9. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
9. Testis enim mihi Deus, quem colo in spiritu meo in Evangelio Filii ipsius, ut continenter memoriam vestri faciam;
10. Making request (if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God) to come unto you.
10. Semper in orationibus meis, 1 rogans, si quomodo prosperum iter aliquando mihi, obtingat per voluntatem Dei, veniendi ad vos.
11. For I long to see you that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
11. Desidero enim videre, vos, ut aliquod impertiar vobis donum spirituale ad vos confirmandos;
12. That is, that I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me.
12. Hoc est. ad cohortationem mutuo percipiendam in vobis per Mutuam fidem, vestram atque meam.
The first thing worthy of remark is, that he so commends their faith, 3 that he implies that it had been received from God. We are here taught that faith is God's gift; for thanksgiving is an acknowledgment of a benefit. He who gives thanks to God for faith, confesses that it comes from him. And since we find that the Apostle ever begins his congratulations with thanksgiving, let us know that we are hereby reminded, that all our blessings are God's free gifts. It is also needful to become accustomed to such forms of speaking, that we may be led more fully to rouse ourselves in the duty of acknowledging God as the giver of all our blessings, and to stir up others to join us in the same acknowledgment. If it be right to do this in little things, how much more with regard to faith; Which is neither a small nor an indiscriminate (promiscua) gift of God. We have here besides an example, that thanks ought to be given
"I will be to them a God;
they shall be to me a people." (Jeremiah 30:22.)
I prefer al the same time to confine this to the character Which Paul sustained, as an attestation of his obedience to the end in the work of preaching the gospel. So Hezekiah called God the God of Isaiah, when he desired him to give him the testimony of a true and faithful Prophet. (Isaiah 37:4.) So also he is called in an especial manner the God of Daniel. (Daniel 6:20.)
It hence appears that it was not Christ's design (as the Superstitious Anabaptists dream) to abolish oaths altogether, but on the contrary to call attention to the due observance of the law; and the law, allowing an oath, only condemns perjury and needless swearing. If then we would use an oath aright, let us imitate the seriousness and the reverent manner exhibited by the Apostles; and that you may understand what it is, know that God is so called as a witness, that he is also appealed to as an avenger, in case we deceive; which Paul expresses elsewhere in these words,
"God is a witness to my soul." (2 Corinthians 1:23.) 4
"We are the true circumcision, who in spirit serve God,
and glory not in the flesh."
He then glories that he served God with sincere devotion of heart, which is true religion and approved worship.
But it was expedient, as I have said, in order that his oath might attain more credit, that Paul should declare his piety towards God; for perjury is a sport to the ungodly, while the pious dread it more than a thousand deaths; inasmuch as it cannot be, but that where there is a real fear of God, there must be also a reverence for his name. It is then the same thing, as though Paul had said, that he knew how much sacredness and sincerity belonged to an oath, and that he did not rashly appeal to God as a witness, as the profane are wont to do. And thus, by his own example, he teaches us, that whenever we swear, we ought to give such evidence of piety, that the name of God, which we use in our declarations, may retain its sacredness. And further, he gives a proof, even by his own ministry, that he worshipped not God feignedly; for it was the fullest evidence, that he was a man devoted to God's glory, when he denied himself, and hesitated not to undergo all the hardships of reproach, poverty, and hatred, and even the peril of death, in advancing the kingdom of God. 6
Some take this clause, as though Paul intended to recommend that worship which he said he rendered to God, on this account, -- because it corresponded with what the gospel prescribes. It is indeed certain that spiritual worship is enjoined on us in the gospel; but the former interpretation is far the most suitable, -- that he devoted his service to God in preaching the gospel. He, however, makes at the same time a difference between himself and hypocrites, who have something else in view rather than to serve God; for ambition, or some such thing, influences most men; and it is far from being the case, that all engage cordially and faithfully in this office. The meaning is, that Paul performed sincerely the office of teaching; for what he says of his own devotion he applies to this subject.
But we hence gather a profitable doctrine; for it ought to add no little encouragement to the ministers of the gospel, when they hear that, in preaching the gospel, they render an acceptable and a valuable service to God. What, indeed, is there to prevent them from regarding it an excellent service, when they know that their labor is pleasing to God, and is approved by him? Moreover, he calls it
12. Being not satisfied with this modest statement, he qualifies it, and shows, that he did not so occupy the place of a teacher, but that he wished to learn also from them; as though he said, "I desire so to confirm you according to the measure of grace conferred on me, that your example may also add courage (alacritatem -- alacrity) to my faith, and that we may thus mutually benefit one another."
See to what degree of modesty his pious heart submitted itself, so that he disdained not to seek confirmation from unexperienced beginners: nor did he speak dissemblingly, for there is no one so void of gifts in the Church of Christ, who is not able to contribute something to our benefit: but we are hindered by our envy and by our pride from gathering such fruit from one another. Such is our high-mindedness, such is the inebriety produced by vain reputation, that despising and disregarding others, every one thinks that he possesses what is abundantly sufficient for himself. I prefer to read with Bucer, exhortation (exhortationem -- encouragement) rather than consolatim; for it agrees better with the former part. 9
1 Margin, "in all my prayers."
2 "It does not mean here the first in point of importance, but first in the order of time." -- Stuart. The same author thinks that men here has its corresponding
3 "Faith is put here for the whole religion, and means the same as your piety. Faith is one of the principal things of religion, one of its first requirements, and hence it signifies religion itself."-Barnes. It is indeed the principal thing, the very basis of religion. Hebrews 11:6. -- Ed.
4 The passage in Matthew 5:33-37, has been often wholly misunderstood. That oaths in common conversation are alone prohibited, is quite evident from what the passage itself contains. In solemn oaths there was no swearing by "heaven," or by "God's throne," or by "the earth," or by "Jerusalem," or by "the head." such forms were only used in conversation, as similar ones are still used: and these kinds of swearing art alone condemned by our Savior. -- Ed.
5 "Sincerè et verè -- sincerely and truly," Wolfius, "not merely externally, but cordially," Hodge.
7 The order of the words, as arranged by Calvin, is better than that of our version; he connects "always in my prayers," or, "in all my prayers," with "requesting." The simpler rendering would be as follows: --
9. My witness indeed is God, whom I serve With my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that I unceasingly make mention of you, always requesting in my prayers,
10. That by some means now at length I may, through the will of God, have a free course to come to you.
"In the gospel," may either mean "according to the gospel," or, "in preaching the gospel." Hodge prefers the first. The particle
8 The words,
9 The verb is
The verb with the prefix,
With regard to this passage, Professor Stuart says, "I have rendered the word, comfort, only because I cannot find any English word which will convey the full sense of the original."
"The word rendered to comfort," says Professor Hodge, "means to invite, to exhort, to instruct, to console, etc. Which of these senses is to be preferred here, it is not easy to decide. Most probably the Apostle intended to use the word in a wide sense, as expressing the idea, that he might be excited, encouraged, and comforted by his intercourse with his Christian brethren." -- The two verses may be thus rendered: --
11. For I desire much to see you, that I may impart to you spiritual
12. benefit, so that you may be strengthened: this also is what I desire, to be encouraged together with you, through the faith which is in both, even in you and in me.
Grotius observes, "