[Above: A Christmas card image (from Jews for Jesus, 2012.)]
extraordinary how our Lords return, and the Thousand Years reign to follow, can be openly denied today by countless Churches. Dr. G. E. Gill once asked Pastor
William Anderson, of
O that the thought, the glorious hope of Millennial blessedness may animate me to perfect holiness in the fear of God, that I may be accounted worthy to escape the terrible judgments, which will prepare its way, to stand before the Son of man.
FLETCHER, of Madeley.
O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy (Hab. 3: 2).
The test of the last days, which may yet try us all, is now happening in some parts of the world, sharply dividing overcomers from those overcome.
They that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus lived [again], AND REIGNED WITH CHRIST A THOUSAND YEARS (Rev. 20: 4).
ROMANS CHAPTER NINE
JAMES M. STIFLER, D.D.
Professor of New Testament Exegesis
[Romans 9:] 1-3, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not. The transition from the eighth chapter is abrupt. The sudden change may be accounted for psychologically. The apostle had just been contemplating the certainty of the glory of the sons of God; his heart goes now to the other extreme, the failure and misery of his own countrymen.
This vehement language was necessary, because in giving the
Gospel to the heathen Paul was looked upon by the Jew as an enemy of his own
nation. Some of the Roman church,
knowing as they did the exclusiveness of the Jews, might be persuaded that Paul
was an apostate rather than an apostle of God.
He must defend himself. He is about to outline
Accursed from Christ.
This language is startling and has troubled many; but it is in the very
4, 5. Who are Israelites, or being such as are Israelites, a term of the highest honour, Gods princes (Gen. 32: 28). He enumerates seven particulars which belong especially to them: (a) they were adopted as Gods people; (b) they alone had the Shekinah glory; (c) the covenants, made with the fathers (Gen. 6: 18; 15: 18; Exod. 2: 24) and renewed from time to time (hence the plural), were theirs alone; (d) the law amid imposing splendours was given to them; (e) the temple service was divinely prescribed for them; no other nation had an authorized worship; (f) they were the only people who had promises of the Messiah and of direct blessings through him; the other nations received them through Israel; (g) the fathers - Abraham, the head of many nations, Isaac, and Jacob - were theirs; other nations had great ancestors, but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have the honour of being not merely natural, but divinely chosen chiefs.
Besides these seven all their own, the Israelites had one other honour in which they shared, an honour that overtops all the rest. The whose changes now to of whom! The fathers are theirs, but the Christ, though He came from them in His human relation, belongs to the world. To show the greatness of this honour Christ is declared to be God over all, blessed forever. Sanday (Commentary, in loc.), after an exhaustive examination of all the arguments bearing on the punctuation of this passage, with some slight, but only slight, hesitation, admits that Paul here applies the name God to Christ. No other view gives the passage its climactic point.
Paul mentions all these things not only to set forth the
Israelites pre-eminence, but to show the painfulness and difficulty of the
problem now in hand. They had the
promises and the Christ sprang from them, and yet these covenant people were
reaping nothing from these advantages.
Jesus belonged to them, but they did not belong to Jesus. Could Pauls doctrine of an elective
justification for all nations be true?
Paul abruptly lays hold of the question.
The Jews have failed, but Gods Word has not. The emphasis is on the phrase the Word of
God. The proof of no failure is that the promises
were made to
7. That the real
8. This verse shows the significance of the promise, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. If God limited the promise to one of Abrahams children, excluding Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, it follows that they which are the children of the flesh are not the children of God. Gods children are not the product of nature; they are not begotten by man, but by Him. Who, then, are His own, to whom the promises were spoken? Not even the natural descendants of Isaac; for the principle already given, that the children of the flesh as such are excluded, excludes Isaacs fleshly descent, excludes Esau. Gods children are those of whom Isaac is a type. He was born not by the energy of nature, but was a supernatural creation in accordance with a divine promise. Hence the children of the promise are counted [are reckoned, equal to called in v. 7] for the seed [or as seed] (John 1: 13). Children of promise is not equivalent to promised children. The word is almost personified. Gods promise is a potent energy, quickening those to whom His covenant pertains. Thus the seed is found in Isaac, in his line. They are all his offspring, but not all the offspring are counted for the seed.
9. If the children of the promise are
the only ones counted, of whom Isaac is the apt type, it is necessary to show
that he was a child of promise, as this verse does. The original order brings out the force
better: For of promise is this word, the quotation which follows. The emphatic word is promise.
Accordingly, as Meyer
strikingly observes, We see that not the bodily
descent, but the divine promise, constitutes the relation of belonging to
Abrahams fatherhood. But he
fails to observe a subtle point in the quotation. The child was to be not only the gift of
Gods power, will I come, but given in His own time: At this time will I come. The happy season for the realization
of the promise was not yet. He selected
the time as well as the child, and the time was when he should come with
quickening power. Paul intimates that
10-12. And not only this [or, fully expressed, And not only Sarah
received a divine promise concerning her son]; but when Rebecca ..!
In Rebeccas case the divine action is still more pointed. In saying that she was with child by one, Paul is not calling attention to the unity
of the fatherhood, which would be absurd.
It does not mean by one man (Meyer), as though there might be two. The one focuses the attention on him in whom
the seed was called, even our father Isaac. He is
significantly called our, that is,
The for (v. 11) bears on this clearly implied limitation, and brings in the statements that illustrate it. The children were not yet born; they had done neither good nor evil; the selection, then, was not made either on the ground of their character or on the ground of their works. To say that God foresaw the good character and good works of Jacob is to import an idea that is repugnant to the logic of the statement here made by Paul and contradicted by the subsequent facts. Jacobs history does not show him to be a better man morally than his brother; his very name indicates his character. (See below on v. 14.) Human merit, present or foreseen, does not enter into Gods choice. Again, if God chose Isaac and rejected Ishmael it might be said mistakenly that the selection was made because of the latters irregular parentage. That mistake is not possible in the case of Jacob and Esau. Isaac and Ishmael had only one parent in common; Jacob and Esau had both and the children were twins.
We are next told the reason for dealing thus with the twins: that the purpose of God according to election might stand. It is an according-to-election purpose. Paul finds the source of salvation in God alone. He had a purpose to save. This purpose cannot be of none effect, but must stand, because, first, it is not universal, but is limited to an election, a selection, as in the case of Isaac against Ishmael. The one elected was the one He promised. The idea of promise, with which Paul began, is the same as that in the word election. And, second, Gods elective purpose will stand because it is determined not by [or of] works, but by [or of] him that calleth, that is, God himself. Now, in order that God might show this purpose, a purpose that was elective and based on His own will, He said before the twins were born, The elder shall serve the younger. By His own will He reversed the order of nature and took but one of the twin sons of Isaac, in whom the seed was promised.
If Paul began this chain of reasoning under the proposition (v. 6) that the Word of God has not failed in the case of the Jew, and now concludes it with the proposition that His purpose has not failed, but must stand, there is only an apparent shifting of terms. It is the Word of God that embodies the purpose, and in speaking of the latter Paul means no other purpose but the one disclosed in the Word. The propositions are logically identical. The Jews erred, not knowing the Scripture. They stuck to their baseless notion that because they were the natural descent of Abraham they were heirs of salvation, a notion against which Jesus solemnly warned them. He admitted that they were Abrahams natural seed, but denied that they were His promised children (John 8: 37, 39).
13. As it is written, Jacob [have] I loved, but Esau [have] I hated. Omit have in both cases. This scripture, which looks only logically at the original two, but directly at their descendants (Mal. 1: 1-4), is quoted to corroborate the original choice. Gods motive in it was neither love of the one nor hate of the other, but simply of him that calleth. But, the choice once made, Gods love followed Jacobs seed, showing the reality of His election, and His hate followed Esaus, showing the reality of His rejection. The word hated need not be softened.
Paul has now so far vindicated Gods Word despite the failure
14. Is there unrighteousness with God? This question could not arise unless Paul wished himself to be understood as teaching that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau for no assignable reason outside His own will. If God chose Jacob because He foresaw his faith or his virtue, and rejected Esau for an opposite character, reason would approve and the question of this verse could not he asked. But when it is taught that God chose Jacob for no good in him, and rejected (hated) Esau for no bad in him, mans narrow heart feels that an injustice has been done. This sentiment Paul repels: God forbid.
15, 16. Paul finds the argument for his vehement denial of injustice in God not by abstract reasoning about the idea of justice, but in the Scriptures. The quotation is from Exodus 33: 19. The great Jewish captain is earnestly seeking grace from God. It might be supposed that he could attain it on the ground of his office and merit; but even to Moses, God saith, He gives mercy not because he is Moses, or because he seeks it, but just because it is Gods will to do so. It is a bold, crisp assertion of the divine freedom in bestowing grace. In any case through human history wherein I shall be seen to have mercy, the one account I give of the radical cause is this - I have mercy (Moule). Mercy is the outward manifestation of the feeling of compassion.
The conclusion follows. Gods mercy is not the response to human desire nor to human effort. It is not of him that willeth or wishes it, as Moses did, and not of him who runneth in the path of right. Willing and running may indicate the possession of grace, but they are not the originating cause. They may be the channel, but they are not the fountain. The source of grace is Gods own will, that goes out to whom He will. Mercy is of God, that showeth mercy independent of any motive in man.
17. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh!
Moses history bears on the election of Jacob; Pharaohs on the
rejection of Esau. The latter is cited
for the same purpose as the former - to show Gods freedom and sovereignty in
dealing with men. As He grants mercy
after His own will, so also He withholds it, and hardens whom He will. Ten times in the Scripture about Pharaoh it
is said he hardened himself; but Paul makes no account of this, for his clear
intention is to account for Pharaohs overthrow by the free purpose of
God. And yet God did not harden him for
the sake of the hardening, but that the divine power might have a field of
display and that the divine name might become known. If Pharaoh had willingly and sweetly allowed
the people to depart, there could have been no miracles in
In selecting Pharaoh as an example of Gods hardening Paul shows his skill. Pharaoh was a detestable heathen oppressor, and undue prejudice would not be excited against the doctrine in illustrating it by his case.
18. This gives the solemn and awful conclusion of the section beginning at verse 14, or even as far back as verse 7. The word whom is singular. The subject is not one about nations, but about individuals, not one about ethnic supremacy or leadership, but about personal [eternal] salvation. Therefore hath he mercy on what man he will, and what man he will he hardeneth. God is absolute sovereign, allowing nothing to direct His activity but His own will. His Word is true, as true as He is, but He has never uttered a word to abridge His freedom, nor can His Word, like a promissory note, be pleaded against His freedom. This hardening process is going on today; it can be read as clearly in current history as in Gods Word. And yet man is also free in choosing God and free in refusing Him. The reconciliation of these two is a question of philosophy, and philosophy fails in the effort. The Bible does not attempt it, but stops with asserting that both are realities.
19. Why doth he yet find fault? This puts the query of verse 14 in a more aggravated form. There it is a question about the justice of God; here it is virtually a charge of injustice. He hardened Pharaoh; He willed to harden him. Pharaoh did just what God willed; he did not resist His will; no one does whom He hardens. Why doth he yet find fault and visit dire punishment upon sinners?
20. Nay but, 0 man. Paul has already answered this question as far as possibly it ever can be answered. The answer is to the point and practical. It is that God is free to do as He will; He is a sovereign; and what is the idea of absolute sovereignty but that He who has it is under no obligation to give a reason for anything which He does? If He must give a reason for His actions He is no longer sovereign, but the reason given enjoys that distinction, not to say the persons to whom it must be given. This matter is not peculiar to the Gospel; it belongs to every religion that owns a personal God. A God is one whose will is free, whose will is law.
The question, then, Why doth he yet find fault? is not only impious, but blasphemous. The man sets himself up to condemn not only the decree of God, but to claim a higher justice for himself; he replies not merely against Gods judgment, but against the only possible conception given in the word God. In complaining against God for hardening a man to do a wicked thing and then finding fault with that man for doing it, the complainant says, There ought not to be such a God; that is, there ought to be what is really no God, one with such notions of justice toward men as I have! The man exalts himself above God in sitting in judgment upon the divine acts. The fallacy is in his idea of what constitutes a God. Godet weakens Pauls rejoinder, Who art thou that repliest? by saying that he means a reply to a reply. No; Pauls whole argument is drawn from the nature of God. His opponent is more than a debater; he is well-nigh atheistic. Shedds exposition here is better than Godets: An irreverent equalizing of man with God.
It must not be forgotten that whatever God does is necessarily just; because, if there is anything outside His own will by which to measure the actions of that will, that thing is higher than God. For human reason or human sense of right to sit in judgment on Gods acts is as foolish as it is wicked.
Again, he who replies against God must mean, if he means anything, that it is Gods hardening that deprives a soul of salvation; that if God did not interpose with an election, and take some and leave others to be hardened, all men would at least have an equal opportunity of salvation. This is false. If God did not elect, none would be saved, for there is none that seeketh after God (3: 11). And men are not lost because they are hardened; they are hardened because they are lost; they are lost because they are sinners (1: 21).
God is not responsible for sin. He is under no obligation to save anyone. Obligation and sovereignty cannot both be predicated of God. If He saves anyone it is a sovereign act of mercy, and for that very reason His justification is tantamount to [eternal] salvation.
It must not be supposed (with Sanday, apparently) that Pauls argument through this section is an ad hominem drawn from the Jews Old Testament conception of God. It is drawn from the nature of sovereignty, the necessary conception of God. Neither does Paul lay his hand on the mouth of the objector and cry, Stop! He confutes him with one single logical shaft: God is God.
Shall the thing formed say. Note that Paul does not say, Shall the thing created say to him that created it. It is not a question of original creation, but of subsequent destination. What would the ability to fashion be worth if it were under the dictation of that which is to be fashioned?
21. Hath not the potter power over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel to honour and another to dishonour? (Isa. 45: 9; 64: 8; Jer. 18: 1-10.) This illustration enforces the idea of Gods sovereignty. To be sure, men are not senseless clay but beings of feeling and will; and yet, with all feeling and will and intelligence, they are as helpless, being sinners, to fit themselves to please God as clay left to itself is helpless to become an ornamental vase. The potter does not make the clay. He takes it as he finds it and fashions out of the same lump - the clay and the lump are identical in character and quantity - one part a vessel to ornament the house and another part a vessel for some base use. Originally the two were the same thing - clay; the potter determined their destination. Pharaoh and Moses originally belonged to the same guilty lump of humanity. Moses was inherently no better than the Egyptian king. God had mercy on one and fashioned him into a glorious instrument of deliverance for His people; the other He hardened, and to deny Gods justice in so doing is as absurd as to deny that the potter has a right to turn base clay into a slop jar. Why it is that men are sinners neither Paul nor the Bible anywhere teaches; but sinners under Gods wrath they are, and He is not responsible that they are sinners, and from the lump of sinful humanity may choose for His service whom He will and may harden at His pleasure. To confess this is the very highest exercise of reason.
22. Now, after Paul has vindicated the idea of
God in vindicating His sovereignty - for a God who is not absolutely free to do
as He will is no God - he shows next and in addition how graciously He
exercised his freedom. Though willing to
show his wrath
[today], and to
make his power known, as in Pharaohs case, He, after all,
endured in much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. Paul does not now say that God fitted
them. He bore with them.
This sentence, embracing verses 22-24, is not complete. It is almost a worshipful exclamation, but may be read as in the King James Version, What if, or What shall we say if.
23. Closely connected with the last verse by means of the word endured. The vessels of mercy called also for endurance. The writer of the epistle could not forget that, had Gods just wrath fallen upon the Jews at the time that they earned it, he himself would have been lost. But God with much long-suffering restrains His wrath against sinners, and [he does so] that he might make known [by calling and justification] the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy [the elect], which he had afore prepared unto [eternal] glory! They are not vessels of favour, but of mercy, in that He showed them mercy. These, it is said, he prepared afore. Paul is doubtless referring to 8: 29 in the word afore.
Men, being sinners, have no rights remaining before God; in His justice He might destroy them all. But He chooses to save some sinners in the exercise of mercy, and for the time restrains His wrath toward the rest. These two verses bear on the idea of His sovereignty in showing how He exercises it; the next one with the quotations following shows toward whom He exercises it.
24. Even us [the vessels of mercy], whom he hath called. This is His own sovereign call. The rest heard the Gospel, but were not called by Him. Unless the word has this special meaning here and in 1: 6; 8: 28, 30, it has no meaning. The called were found not among the Jews only, but also among the Gentiles. This is by no means the ultimate, but only the present, exhibition of His sovereignty. Paul keeps the two classes separate here, for he still has Gods dealing with the Jew in mind, to whom the thought returns exclusively at verse 31 below. The promise of [eternal] salvation was not conditioned on nationality, but is of him that calleth (v. 11 above) and may extend to all nations: Even us, ... not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. He supports this statement chiastically* from the Scriptures.
* Chiasmus: an inversion of the order of words in two corresponding parallel phrases or clauses, or of words when repeated. - Editors note.
25, 26. These quotations from Hosea 2: 23 and 1: 10 are combined, and predict the call of Gentiles. The phrase and it shall come to pass (v. 26) is not Pauls, but the prophets. Call and called do not mean invited or named, but called with the call (v. 11 above and 8: 30). The place is indefinite, and means any place in the world. The prophecy originally seems to refer to the ten tribes, but as they had been excluded from the nation and were practically heathen, Paul refers to them as a type of the call of the Gentiles.
27-29. These verses look at the case of
The apostle makes one more quotation (Isa. 1: 9), that brings his teaching about Gods
sovereign and electing grace to a startling climax. But for the divine interference
30-33. What shall we say then? (See (4) above.) What are the facts so far as this discussion is concerned, the facts as seen wherever the Gospel has gone? Not that the Word of God has failed, but that the prophecy has now become history, to be seen in history. First, some Gentiles, who were making no effort (reminding the reader of verse 16 above, it is not of him that runneth) after righteousness, reached it. They did not will, but God did. Since these Gentiles had no works, God bestowed [His] righteousness upon them, that is, they had a righteousness of faith. The article the before Gentiles in the King James Version is an error, strangely repeated in the Revised Version. Paul, with the fact of election in his mind, could not and he did not write this illogical the. That some Gentiles, those who believed, were righteous, was attested by their living. They had abandoned idolatry, worshiped God, and claimed no merit for themselves (Phil. 3: 3).
A second fact in accord with the argument above was (and is)
that Israel as a whole, though following the (Mosaic) law of righteousness, the
law that is connected with righteousness, did not attain to that law. Omit of
righteousness in the second instance.
It is at this point that Paul passes from the sovereignty of God to the responsibility of man. The two cannot be harmonized in the human understanding, except as the Scriptures harmonize them; that is, by insisting on and holding to both. The Scriptures and reason assert the absolute sovereignty of God, and Scripture and the human conscience assert with equal force the responsibility of man; so that the practical error arises when either one of these is denied or when one is explained in a way to exclude the other. It must also be remembered that, while man cannot save himself, moral inability does not relieve from responsibility. Mans inability lies in his sinful nature (8: 7), and God cannot be made responsible for sin. The sinners inability to do right, to do Gods will, is the acme of his sin.
A world of sin is a world of confusion. Sin introduced confusion between God and man,
and confusion cannot be explained. The
real difficulty between Gods absolute sovereignty and mans responsibility is
metaphysical and not Biblical. How can there
be one sovereign free will and other free wills? And when Fritzsche says that Pauls view
is absolutely contradictory, he is virtually
demanding that Paul cease preaching and turn philosopher to solve the
insoluble. But Paul leaves the question
where he found it, and goes on now in this and the next chapter to show that
They stumbled at that stumbling stone. The for is probably not genuine, but it shows the correct relation of the sentences. They failed to believe because the Christ came in a way which their works disqualified them to approve (1 Pet. 2: 7, 8).
As it is written. The quotation is a combination of Isaiah 8: 14 and 28: 16. That which was applicable in the prophets time Paul sees to be applicable also in his time. Gods enemies stumbled then because of Him; they stumble now at His gift of Christ. At the same time Christ is a security for him that believeth on Him. The whosoever in the King James Version is not genuine and mars the sense. Paul is quoting this Scripture not to show the universality of salvation, which the word whosoever would suggest, but in proof that the Jews failed by lack of faith. The word believeth carries the main idea. He that believeth shall not make haste to some other refuge for salvation, or, what is the same, he shall not be put to shame by trusting in this Stone.*
[* Acts 4: 10-12.]
The substance of the chapter is that, in spite of Israels rejection, in spite of the present mixed following of Jews and Gentiles as the Lords people, Gods Word has not failed, for God never pledged away His sovereignty in it, but, on the other hand, predicted that [eternal] salvation turned on His will and call.
* * *
ROMANS CHAPTER 10
MESSIAH] THEIR OWN FAULT
Though God did not elect the mass of Israel for salvation at this time, their present rejection is not to be explained by His withholding grace, which was freely offered them, but by their sinful lack of discernment (Luke 12: 56; 19: 44; 21: 24).
The chapter contains four topics: (1) Israel failed to see that Christ was the end of the law (vv. 1-4); (2) the free character of salvation (vv. 5-11); (3) its universal character (vv. 12-18); and (4) they failed to see that all this, as well as their own rejection, was the prediction of their own Scriptures (vv. 19-21).
1. Brethren, my hearts desire
Good pleasure is preferable to the word desire.
It will be noticed that each one of the three chapters in this theodicy
begins with a warm expression of the apostles own feeling. He will not let it
be forgotten, in bringing these heavy charges against those of his own blood,
that he is writing in pity and not in anger.
He is not an enemy of
2. It was because Paul saw
3. For they, being ignorant. Here are given the contents of their ignorance: ignorant of Gods righteousness [by faith in Christ], and going about [seeking] to establish their own righteousness [by works of law, in zeal for the latter, they] have not submitted themselves to the former. Here the two kinds of righteousness are set in contrast. These two are the sum of all on earth, and they are mutually exclusive in the human heart. The Jews at this time were not unacquainted with the righteousness of God, but they were ignorant of it.
4. For Christ is the end of the law. The Revised Version retains both articles. End means termination. It is true that he is also the aim and the fulfilment of the law. Tholuck combines the two ideas of termination and aim; Alford stands for the latter. But the sharp contrast here, as well as the (original) word, requires the meaning termination. The law is no longer a means of righteousness.
Sanday surely errs in saying that this verse is a proof that the Jews were wrong in not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. It is not a question of right or wrong, but of fact. The Jews claimed that in following the law they were submitting to God, for He gave the law. No, says, Paul; in so doing you are not submitting to the righteousness of God. For Christ [whom God gave and you reject] is the end of the law for [with a view to] righteousness to every one that believeth. The Jews system was one of doing; but Gods was one of believing, one of grace. Law and grace are mutually exclusive and antagonistic systems (4: 4, 5; 11: 6). Because the Jew held to law he was not in subjection to God. The proof that he was not is this great principle of grace recorded in this fourth verse.
5. That Christ ends the law in making nothing but faith necessary to righteousness is confirmed in the further contrast of the two systems. (See (2) above.) Moses describes the righteousness of the law as one of doing the man that doeth those things! The point made here is not that no man can do those things prescribed by Moses, but that, in case he did do them, it would be his own righteousness and not Gods, which is next described at length.
6, 7. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise. Paul does not say that Moses describes this righteousness; he does not set Moses against Moses. He says the righteousness itself speaks; it is self-descriptive.
It must be carefully noted what Paul is after. The points are just two: first, that the Jews intense religious zeal in devotion to the law, a zeal that touches the apostles heart, is, after all, not Gods righteousness, but in flat contradiction to it. This is seen in the nature or character of the two. A faith-righteousness in Christ must end law-righteousness, for Moses describes the latter as one of doing. But now arises just at this point a second question. Admitting, as the Jew would, that the two are antagonistic, he would not admit that the righteousness in Christ was genuine; he would make that claim for his own. Hence, beginning at this sixth verse, Paul not only completes his contrast between the righteousness by law and the righteousness by faith, but to the end of the section at verse 11 adds the other argument, that nothing but righteousness by faith is Gods.
Say not in thy heart. This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 30: 11-14, with Pauls interjected explanations by means of the equating phrase that is! The difficulty that stands here is that Paul takes words that Moses seems to use of the law, and makes them descriptive of the righteousness of faith.
Two considerations relieve the difficulty. First, the contrast is not between the law and faith, but between the righteousness proceeding from the two. The law bears testimony to both kinds. The righteousness of faith is witnessed by the law and the prophets (3: 21, 22).
The second consideration is that Paul interprets this passage
in the original Mosaic intent of it.
This intent after the Gospel came was not difficult to see. The
thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy refers to the ultimate gathering of all
This difference between singular and plural must not be overlooked. It speaks both of keeping the commandments and also of turning to the Lord with the heart. The Gospel gave Paul the key to the latter, and he quotes the passage as not applicable to the righteousness of the law, but descriptive only of the Gospel. When, therefore, Sanday implies that words used by Moses of the law are applied by Paul to the Gospel as against the law (Commentary on Romans, p. 288), and denies to Paul a true interpretation of this and similar passages (p. 306, id.), the only question is, Which is the safer expositor of the Old Testament, the professor or the apostle?
The righteousness of the law is defined in terms that imply doing. The passage quoted here by Paul defines the righteousness of faith in terms which shut out all doing. No man need attempt the impossible thing of ascending to Heaven, which means to bring Christ down; He has already come. And no one need go over the sea or, what is the same thing, descend to its depths, the abyss [i.e., Hades / Sheol], to bring Christ again from the dead; He is already raised. Gods command (Deut. 30: 11), His work, is not hidden from thee; it is already done (John 6: 29).
8. But what saith it? This little question belongs not to the quotation, but is Pauls, and serves both to pass from the negative to the positive side of the description of true righteousness [of God] and to call attention a second time to it. It declares that Gods righteousness is not distant and difficult, but the word [Moses did not say commandments] is nigh thee [like the air of heaven], in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith [referred to in Moses], which we [apostles] preach. It is a word or command not for doing, but for believing.
9, 10. These two verses give the contents of the word of faith! That is equivalent neither to in order that nor to because. The first is forbidden by the original word (hote), and the second in that there is no need to prove the express assertion that the word is nigh thee. Paul would not attempt to prove Scripture by his own assertion; but he may tell what it means. This word by the preaching of it is brought to the mouth and the heart of the sinner as the atmosphere comes to the lungs. Man does not make it; he breathes it and lives.
Since Christ has already come down from above, has died, and has been raised from the dead, nothing remains for the Jew or for anyone else to do but to confess it with his mouth and believe it in his heart. Paul specifies the vital element in Christian faith, that God hath raised him [out] from the dead. He was raised for our justification (4: 25). The faith that leaves this out, although it may accept everything else in the Christians creed, is not Christian and is not saving. The Jews doing [to be justified] denied it. The for of the tenth verse does not introduce a proof, but an analytic explanation, of the [eternal] salvation just mentioned thou shalt be saved. If one believes with the heart, that belief brings him into righteousness, right standing before God, and if now he confesses openly in his life his adherence to Jesus, that confession leads on to the final salvation. Thus salvation is resolved into its two elements, a heart trust that provokes a true confession of His name. And yet the two are one; for confession without belief is either self-deception or hypocrisy, while trust without confession may be cowardice (John 19: 38).
It sounds a little odd, in view of Pauls words, with the mouth confession is made, to hear Sanday say the confession is made in baptism. Paul links [water] baptism with faith (Col. 2: 12).
If the order of the words mouth and heart in verse 9 is reversed to heart and mouth in verse 10, this occurs because in the former Paul is following Moses order, who presents the word rather as a creed and climactically, not only in thy mouth, but in thy very heart. The tenth verse presents the words in the order of experience.
11. This quotation from Isaiah 28: 16, with the expansion of he into whosoever, clearly implied in the original, is in proof of the last verse that [eternal] salvation is by faith. The two words about believing and confessing in the last verse are here reduced to one, believeth. (For ashamed see on 9: 33.) Perhaps none but an apostles eyes could see salvation by faith in the quotation above from Deuteronomy 30. But we must think the zealous Jews either obstinate or blind that could not see it in this verse in Isaiah, were it not for the same lack of perception attending men still. Salvation by works, even in evangelical circles, is pursued today by all such as cannot unquestioningly, like a little child (Mark 10: 15), accept this same word in its sublime simplicity.
12. For there
is no difference. As
13. For, whosoever ... This, from Joel 2: 32, is the scriptural proof of the universality of Gods mercy. The quotation is very much like that in verse 11 above, but there is a difference in use: there it confirms the believing, here the universality. Hence here in the original it is not simply whosoever, but everyone whosoever. The apostle seems fond of repeating the noble Gospel sentiment that believing prayer from any heart of man receives an answer rich in righteousness.
14. How then shall they call? With these verses begins an argument extending through several verses, to prove from another point of view the universality of the Gospel. If this Gospel is general and designed for all, if its language is that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (v. 13), it is then inevitable from the word call that the Gospel must be preached everywhere. If such general preaching is predicted (v. 15) and has been accomplished, there is thereby evidence of the Gospels universal character; and if it is found that Israel has heard this world-wide Gospel and has not believed it, the responsibility of their rejection is upon themselves. Says Cifford, From the nature of the salvation just described (v. 13), it follows that the Gospel must be preached to all without distinction (Speakers Com., in loc.). If the universal condition of salvation is to call on the Lord, only the general spread of the Gospel can make such a call possible.
By successive steps Paul argues from Joels cardinal words, Whosoever
shall call, to
the sending out of the preachers. Men,
cannot call on Him in whom they have not believed, and, to be sure, they cannot
believe in Him of whom they never heard.
And how can they ever hear without a preacher? The spread of the Gospel is dependent on the
living messenger. The sending forth of
Bibles is not sufficient;
15. And how shall they preach, except they be sent, sent by God? The first heralds who formally and definitely went out either to the Jews or to the Gentiles were commissioned by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; 10; 8: 2-4). There is no clearer passage for the call into the ministry than this: How shall they preach, except they be sent? (Gal. 1: 15, 16). No matter how well a man be qualified otherwise, if he is not divinely sent he is a profane intruder. No matter how humble and lacking in brilliance, if he has this credential he need not be discouraged. The Father sends the Son, and the Son sends the preachers (John 17: 18).
Paul has now argued backward from the nature of the Gospel, which demands that men call on the name of the Lord, to that which this call implies, a general sending forth of ministers. That such would be sent forth is confirmed by a passage from Isaiah 52: 7 (see Nahum 1: 15): How beautiful are the feet of them [how welcome is their coming] that preach ... peace, that [not and] bring glad tidings of good things! There was a partial fulfilment of Isaiahs words in the return from the captivity which the prophet foresaw. Paul sees a deeper meaning, which points to the mission of the Gospel messengers, and now his argument so far is complete. A Gospel intended for all requires ministers sent to all, and this harmonizes with the prediction that they would be sent.
16. But they
have not all obeyed the gospel - the glad tidings mentioned
above. Paul restrains himself, as in 3: 3.
He might have said, How few believed! This general disbelief, however, does not
disprove that the sent messengers were Gods. It actually
confirms their authority. For Isaiah
foresaw this unbelief and predicted it in the sad words, Lord, who
hath believed our report? or, Who hath believed thy message heard from us?
The prophet (Isa. 53: 1) is now speaking of the Messianic times, as the connection
shows clearly. Paul says they have not obeyed. The
word is general, but he has
17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the [spoken] word of God. Paul is not referring to the act of listening as the source of faith. Listening is itself faith, and all men listen to something. Saving faith, of which he is speaking, comes from heeding saving doctrine; this is his vital point. This verse can be paraphrased thus: Genuine faith comes by a message heard (from us [from God]), and the message heard (is) by means of the Word of God, the Word given the messenger, the Gospel. The Word of God, or, as some read here, of Christ, does not mean His command to preach.
But why does Paul utter the words of this verse? It is the logical conclusion of everything from verse 13 above. The call that brings [eternal] salvation demands faith, and this faith comes from the Word of God sent through His messengers. But, while this conclusion looks back to the beginning of this little section, it is drawn directly from the quotation immediately preceding, which itself comprehends what has gone before.
18. It being now shown that the Gospel which is necessary to faith has been universally given, could it be that they who have not obeyed (v. 16) did not hear? But I say, Have they not heard? The answer to this is a quotation from Psalm 19: 4. The quotation refers to the silent but effective message of the stars: Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the [inhabited] world. Paul is not quoting these words in proof that men have heard. In the verses immediately preceding there is already sufficient proof of the opportunity to hear. By quoting the Psalmist it is beautifully suggested how vain would be the excuse that men have not heard. The very stars declare Gods glory the world around (1: 20), and how much more must the preachers mentioned in verse 15 above! Paul in using the Psalmists words does not mention him, and uses no formula of quotation. If men have not believed it is not because they have not heard. The opportunity of hearing was as wide as the star-studded heavens. The believing was limited to a few (Matt. 7: 14).
19. But I say, Did not
He answers the question, Did not
20. But Isaiah
is very bold in
what he utters against
21. The third quotation, immediately following the one above from Isaiah, brings the matter of their guilt to a climax. God never ceased to plead with them; but they were disobedient and gainsaying. But even in this rebellious state he calls them people, a hopeful word with which to begin the next chapter.
* * *
ROMANS CHAPTER ELEVEN
This chapter from the historical point of view is logically
necessary. The Old Testament clearly promises
Pauls thought in this chapter moves
around two points: (1) that the present rejection of
Under (2) there are four items: (1) the rejection of Israel had a twofold aim, (a) to turn the stream of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and (b) by this means to provoke Israel to emulation (vv. 11-15); (2) the likelihood of Israels restoration should move the Gentiles to humility and maintenance of faith (vv. 16-24); (3) the apostles prediction of Israels restoration (vv. 25-32); and (4) the worshipful doxology (vv. 33-36).
1. I say then,
Hath God cast away his people? The preceding verse shows
to whom Paul refers. It is gainsaying and rejected
2. God hath
not cast off his people whom he foreknew. In the word his and the phrase whom he
foreknew there is
a double proof that
3, 4. And even for the present the case of
5. Even so
then at this present time. Paul was better
acquainted with his days than the prophet had been with the period to which he
belonged; for the apostle had the prophets experience to guide him and better
means of observation. He knew that in
every church from
While the nation lies fallen and faithless, elect individuals are being brought into the Church, where, if they lose the national advantage, they get sweet access to God in the forgiveness of sins.
6. And if by grace, then it is no more of works. The no more is not temporal, but logical. Grace and works are mutually exclusive methods. If the remnant was selected on the ground of grace, their legal works had no part whatever in the selection, else (the) grace would have lost its character as grace. In this second mention of grace there is no article in the original.
This verse expands the phrase election of grace. It serves also to show that the election, fully vindicated in chapter 9, is by means of grace. This, which was implied before, is now clearly stated. The Old Testament promised a remnant; it is shown now that nothing but grace secures it. The latter half of this verse, but if of works ... is rejected by all modem editors.
7. What then?
How does the case now stand?
Scripture is quoted not only in confirmation of the hardening of the rest of Israel, but also as descriptive of
their sad spiritual condition during the time of their rejection (Isa. 29: 10;
Deut. 29: 4; Ps. 69: 22, 23). The parentheses in
the King James Version in verse 8 must be
removed. The words unto this day are not Pauls, but a part of the
quotation. What was true in their
authors day remained so in Pauls, and is yet sadly true. In the word table there is a picture of men feasting, eating
and drinking, unconscious that their enemies are just upon them. The Jews carnal security while trusting in
the law proved his spiritual ruin. But
the quotation is poetic, and need not be rigidly defined. And bow [thou] down their back always under the heavy legal yoke (Acts 15:
10). The always does not mean forever, or the whole
From this verse to the end of the discussion Paul considers the case of
the great fallen mass of
I say then, Have they stumbled that
they should fall? The question is put negatively and
deprecatingly, as in the first verse above.
They did not stumble that they might fall, did they? Was this the whole and only purpose? They are fallen, but is this the intended
outcome of their history? God forbid.
There was a gracious, far-reaching aim in
their rejection. The early preachers of
the Gospel were so full of the Spirit that they must preach; the Gospel was
like a fire in their bones; and since the Jews would not receive it, they
turned elsewhere (Acts 11: 20; 13: 46, 47).
Through the Jews fall salvation went to the Gentiles, to provoke the
former to emulation. Jealousy is not the best word. In time
12. Now if the [sinful] fall of them is the riches
of the world [in that by
the fall the world got the gospel], and [to repeat the same question in another form, if] the diminishing of them [is] the riches of the Gentiles; how much more
their fullness? Three words here demand attention. Twice Paul calls the Gospel sent to the
Gentiles their riches. It was not their territory,
not their armies, not their culture, not their treasures, that constituted
their wealth (Rev. 2: 9; 3: 17). Again, the
word diminishing has had various renderings, loss, diminution, defeat. It occurs in only one
other instance in the New Testament (1 Cor. 6: 7), where it is translated fault.
Furthermore, has the word a moral or a numerical sense? Sanday stands for the meaning defeat, which Godet says is impossible. On
the whole, the word seems to be numerical, and signifies diminution.
Again, the meaning of this word determines that of the last
one, fullness. The latter is also
numerical. It denotes that which fills
out or fills full an empty space.
13, 14. I am the
apostle of the Gentiles, or, as the Revised
Version, I am an apostle of Gentiles.
Paul has shown such an ardent desire for the welfare of the Jews, and
has now, beginning at chapter 9, devoted so
much of his epistle to them, that an explanation is due to the Roman church,
which, as this passage implies, was Gentile.
Whatever Jews were in it had lost Jewish caste. I speak to you
(the whole Roman church), you, the Gentiles,
The for introducing these two verses is not genuine; the approved reading is but. The verses are not a parenthesis, but a logical part of Pauls argument, answering an objection that might arise in the minds of his Gentile readers because he says so much about the Jews. He is labouring for the Gentiles, glorifying his office to them, but with the salvation of at least some Jews in view. For Gentile salvation cannot be accomplished directly, cannot be reached, without the fullness of the Jews. Therefore he is interested in the Jews for the Gentiles sake, and the Romans ought to be interested in them for the same reason. If Paul can in labouring for the Gentiles save some Jews, he has accomplished so much toward the fullness necessary to the completion of Gentile or world salvation.
15. For if the casting away of them This verse gives the grand reason (for) for Pauls labouring to reach the Jew through his Gentile ministry. It is a kind of ministry little thought of today. The condition of Gentile Christianity is not such now as to impress the Jew with its superiority.
The verse repeats the idea of the twelfth and brings this section of the argument to its climax. The casting away is equivalent to their fall or diminution; the reconciling of the world is equivalent to the riches of the world or of the Gentiles; the receiving of them is tantamount to their fullness; and the life from the dead to the how much more. For the significance of the phrase reconciling of the world see 2 Corinthians 5: 19. In the verse before us it means that on the Jews rejection God was pleased to send the Gospel to the Gentiles. This reconciliation on Gods part became the riches of the Gentiles. The difficult point in the verse is in the words life from the dead. The question is twofold: Who receives this life, and what is it?
On the surface the answer to the first question seems
plain. In the first member of the
sentence the clause reconciling of the world must mean the Gentiles. The parallel demands the same meaning for
this second clause. The casting away of
the Jews was the reconciling of the world; the receiving of the Jews into
favour again will be life from the dead extending over the world.
Of course the phrase in question must mean something vastly more than
the action contained in the words reconciling of the world, or there is no climax. But what is that how much more?
Meyer contends that the words
must have their literal meaning and that they refer to actual bodily
resurrection. If Paul says life from the
dead instead of resurrection
from the dead, it
is because his eye is fixed upon the
permanent and blessed state beyond the act which leads to it. This answers Alfords objection based on this word life.
Meyers view is favoured by Sanday, and so many have understood it. (
16. For if the first-fruit be holy. The for is not in the original. It ought to be now or but. (See 2 under (2) above.) Paul has not yet asserted that
First fruit. For the figure see Numbers 15: 21. The handful of dough offered to the Lord was evidence of the worthiness of the whole mass from which it was taken. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the first fruits, and neither Christ nor the first Jewish Christians at Pentecost, for branches could not be said to be broken off from these. Holy, not in the moral sense, but as consecrated to God for His own purpose. For this technical sense see Deuteronomy 7: 6 and 1 Corinthians 7: 14. The lump is the whole lineal descent from the patriarchs. The root. He changes his figure from a lump of dough to that of a tree, because the latter is easier of expansion in argument. The root, again, is Abraham not merely as a man, but as one having the promises; and the branches are his descendants, the fleshly Israel, called holy in the sense given above.
What Paul is after in this discussion under the figure of the
olive tree must be clearly kept in mind, or his parable dazzles without helping
sight. (a) He is not considering Abraham
as the ground or root of salvation, for this is Christ. The failure to understand Paul here has led
to call Christ the root. (b) It is not a question of fruit-bearing, but of dependence, or his
figure would not be true to nature. Fruit is in accord with the engrafted
scion, and not with the nature of the root.
(c) It is not a question of the continuity of the Church. Sandays statement, The olive
17. And if [But if] some of the branches [the rest in verse 7 above] be broken off [denied the covenant salvation of Abraham], and thou [the Gentile believer, addressed
directly for emphasis], being a wild olive [not tree, but branch, a
member of an alien race having no direct promise of salvation (cf. Eph. 2:12 with 19)],
wert grafted in
among them [made by faith
a child of the covenant and of God], and with them [the believing Jews, the branches left standing] partakest [didst become a partaker] of the root and fatness of the
olive tree! Some by rejecting the and read partaker of the root of the
fatness. The root is Abraham, not as a mere physical
18. The if beginning the last verse extends over the first part of this one. [But] If some (a miosis) were broken off and thou wast grafted in, boast not against the branches that were broken off and are fallen. The boasting of the Gentile in this case would be most painful to him who could wish himself accursed for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh. But if thou boast thou art absurd, for thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. The covenant of salvation made with Abraham is not sustained by the Gentile, he is sustained and saved by the covenant. It was clearly promised that the nations should be blessed, but blessed in Abraham (Gen. 22: 18).
19, 20. From Pauls admonition the Gentile believer would deduce (then) a reply: Branches [omit the] were broken off, that I [emphatic] might be grafted in. Paul admits the fact (well), but warningly directs the proud Gentiles attention to another side of it: by want of faith they we broken off, and only by faith do you stand as a wild branch on the good stock. You stand not because they fell and not because you are a Gentile, but solely by faith, having no direct covenant. It might be well for Gentile Christianity to lay this to heart today. When simple trust in God fails, what better is a Gentile church member than the wrongly despised Jew? The admonition suits every age. Be not high-minded, but fear.
21. Why fear? Because if God spared not the natural branches, to whose ancestors the promises were made, and who were his people (v. 1 above) - if He spared not them because of their unbelief, why should He spare you, a wild branch, if you become faithless, as they are? Why should God have any more regard for a faithless Gentile Christianity than for faithless Judaism? The italic words in the King James Version add nothing to the sense, rather hinder. (See the Revised Version.)
22. Behold therefore. Because the Gentile stands solely by his faith, let him therefore avoid boasting, and cease from high-mindedness, and stop saying I, to look rather at the action of God. Severity and goodness. On them which fell came severity, and on thee, goodness [the Gentile merited nothing], if thou continue in his goodness. The contingency must not be overlooked. This continuance depended largely on Gods favour toward the Gentile believer, but also upon his own conduct. The relation of the two here, as elsewhere, is not given. The Gentile is responsible for his conduct, and if he fails to honour God he will fall as did the Jew. (See the letters addressed to the churches in Rev. 2: 3.) Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off! For why should God spare a hollow faithless Church that fails to appreciate its ineffable mercy (Eph. 2: 4, 5), when He spared not his people?
23, 24. And they
also, if they abide not still in unbelief.
When Gods purpose in breaking them off is served their blindness will
be removed (2 Cor. 3: 14-16), and they will come into the blessed advantage mentioned in 3: 2.
Here again there is a contingency.
God does all, but He acts also on the human conscience and will mediately. He would
influence the Gentile by fear lest he be broken off; He would move
What is gained in the figure lies in its suggestion. Nature seems to mean here the established
course of things in the kingdom. Its course lay through
25. With this verse begins (see (2) 3 above) the direct prediction of fallen
That blindness [hardness] in part has happened to
The phrase may mean (so Govett) that the void made in
The explanation of the phrase is not to be found in any numerical,
but in the temporal view. Until suggests time. The whole context brings up the notion of
26. And so all
A second Scripture proof of
28, 29. Paul now
reviews and sums up the previous discussion.
30, 31. For introduces these two verses not as a
proof, but as indicating how the general principle just mentioned will be
32. The for introducing this verse is hardly argumentative; it confirms nothing. Verses 30 and 31 practically restate everything from verse 11 in a single sentence. The verse before us puts these two verses, especially the thirty-first, in another form, almost that of a general principle of Gods dealing with men. His whole action with both Jew and Gentile comes to this, that he hath concluded [locked up as in a prison] them all in unbelief [with this grand purpose], that he might have mercy upon all. There is nothing richer than His mercy. If the Jews, for instance, had obeyed Him they could have experienced only His fidelity. Mercy, which wholly excludes privilege or merit, is the grand idea (Eph. 2: 4, 5). The Jew will find His gifts and calling, but then come to Him as a matter of mercy - mercy that excludes boasting (3: 27). Authorities are divided on the meaning of all. It certainly does not refer to the elect; the whole context forbids that. But does it mean all men, all individuals (Meyer, Alford), or all nations, the Jews and the Gentiles about whom Paul has been speaking? The context is decisive for the latter.
This general principle, as some have failed to notice, describes Gods attitude toward men, and not the outcome of that attitude. It does not contradict other plain Scriptures by teaching universal salvation, or salvation without faith. The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (Gal. 3: 22). The principle says nothing about the outcome of the divine mercy toward all. It simply declares that God has actively and directly locked up all in sin so that He may have mercy toward all; that if they are saved they are saved by mercy.
This is the final and complete explanation of the Jews fall. He was by nature a sinner; God hedged that nature about with a rigid law to show him what his real character was. He tried to find liberty within its iron bars, but gets only slavery. Mercy alone can deliver him. The Gentile in Pauls day had no law, but sought liberty in wisdom, his own wisdom (1: 21, 22), and in his quest became a fool and a slave to his lust.
God knows that man cannot save himself, that no form of civil government and no system of ethics, even though it be that of the Old or of the New Testament, can attain to liberty. But Man does not know it; he is in the rough prison, shut up under sin to learn it, to learn that salvation cannot be reached by human effort, that it comes down from God, the absolute gift of His mercy.
This divine purpose of mercy is not
only the explanation of the Jews fall, but of the continuance of the world in
sin. It is the key to those terrible
first chapters of the epistle. Universal
condemnation leads to the universal principle of mercy. And what Paul saw in his world-wide view in
his day is still sadly true. The nations
are in sin;
33-36. Having completed his argument, Paul, in reviewing Gods plans and purposes as they were unfolded to him, breaks forth in a lofty strain of adoration to Him who is guiding the nations and the world to salvation. We have learned Pauls meaning only when we can join in this ascription of praise (M. B. Riddle). It is a hymn of faith not in man, but in God. To be sure, there was a chain of churches reaching from Jerusalem to Rome, but the world around was sunk in heathenish darkness; Satan was god of the world (2 Cor. 4: 4), the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2: 2); false professors were many (Phil. 3: 18) and false teachers were arising (Acts 20: 29, 30), while bonds and afflictions awaited the apostle himself (Acts 20: 23); but he saw the meaning of it all in seeing that God had an ultimate merciful purpose for all, and hence this optimistic worship. (See 4 above under (2).)
0 the depth! With most commentators, this should probably be translated, 0 the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! He unfolds these chiastically, treating of the wisdom and knowledge to the end of verse 34, and of the riches in the remaining two verses. The word depth, as Chrysostom suggests, is the language of wondering admiration when one cannot see all. Riches is to be taken absolutely. It is not the riches of His grace, nor of any one thing, but of all. God is inexpressibly rich. Wisdom adapts means to ends, and knowledge sees both in all their relations. Paul, from the mountain height attained in his argument, beholds in one view the history of man from the beginning in Adam to the triumphant end in Christ as King of kings. This history is not mans, but Gods in His dealing with man, a history of Gods own wisdom and knowledge. Paul is the true historian of the race as well as the true philosopher. No man can be either who leaves God out. Hence mans history of himself is one of blood and failure. The Bible teaches more real knowledge about mankind than is to be found in all other books.
How unsearchable his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Mere human wisdom cannot understand them and so pronounces them folly (1 Cor. 2: 14). His judgments are the product of His wisdom; His ways the mode of His procedure (Meyer) in making His decrees effective. Here is the secret of profound reverence and devout worship. This swelling doxology, this burst of praise, comes forth as Paul scans the ways of God and sees something of His wide purposes for men. It comes not from a contemplation of Gods infinitely tender heart, but of His infinitely wise mind. Men know Gods acts; the masters know His ways (Ps. 103: 7).
History and prophecy! Without these, true reverence cannot be reached. A mystery remains, for His judgments are unsearchable and His riches have a depth that is lost in darkness. But it is the mystery of intelligence and not of superstition, a mystery that swathes reverence with a celestial glory. Paul could not have worshiped here had he been able to see all; but he saw enough to console him for the present rejection of his kinsmen according to the flesh; enough to satisfy him that the Word of God had not failed, though Israel was not saved; enough to be sure that, while only a meagre elect number from both Jew and Gentile was as yet accepted, this was Gods way that ultimately He might have mercy on all. Therefore, standing in the midst of a world full of idolatry and woe, Paul adored.
34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? A proof (for) from the Septuagint Scriptures (Isa. 40: 13) that Gods judgments and decrees are such as they are declared to be in the last verse. It is well-nigh a challenge to produce the man outside the circle of the inspired prophets and apostles the wise man that understood God or that could give Him advice. The religious element in uninspired history and philosophy is folly, and Paul has already (1: 22) in this epistle called its authors fools (1 Cor. 2: 8; 3: 19, 20). This verse again looks chiastically at what precedes, the mind of the Lord corresponding to the mention of knowledge above, and the word counsellor to wisdom. Gods love explains Gods gifts, but His mind and wisdom alone explain His providence or the manner in which He makes the gifts of love effective.
Modern thought of the advanced sort fails here. It attempts to explain everything by love, with an inadequate notion even of what that is, and so belittles the Book of divine history and prophecy by denying it any proper inspiration. Who has known the mind of the Lord, except as it was divinely revealed to him? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind - study His ways.
35. With this verse Paul enlarges on the word riches above. The reference is to Job 35: 7 or 51: 11. No one ever gave to God. Salvation and the whole plan of its administration are of grace. No one ever receives Gods favour as a recompense for something done. The Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him (10: 12). They call not to give, but as beggars (Matt. 5: 3) to receive out of His store.
36. For of ... through ... to him, are all things. This verse is the proof that no one gives to God and therefore receives a recompense. For of him are all things; He is their source, the Creator. And through him are all things; He is the mediator of their existence; He upholds, rules, and directs. And to him are all things; He is their final cause; they serve ultimately not mans, but Gods, ends. To Paul this was not a dry statement of theologic fact, as a matter of course, but a reason for worship. All things, all events, are full of God. To Him be the befitting glory to the ages. Amen.
(1) It is to be noticed in this momentous discussion that Paul
regards Gods covenant with Abraham as one embracing his natural seed and
perpetually valid; that he uses the words Jacob
(2) Again, he keeps up the sharp distinction between Jew and Gentile; but the ultimate salvation of both is vitally linked together, so that neither party can be saved without the other. Paul, though an apostle to the Gentiles, laboured also to save the Jews on this very account. Missions to the Jews are eminently scriptural. His own conception of the matter was to the Jew first. (See on 1: 16.)
(3) Again, neither the unbelief of
(4) While Paul does not predict the breaking off of the
engrafted wild olive branch, the Church, he warns it ominously. It has no guaranty in a covenant, as has even
(5) And finally, Paul contents himself with predicting the