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Charles Hodge’s Commentary on Romans: Romans 15


This Chapter Consists Of Two Parts. In The Former, Vers. 1-13, The Apostle Enforces The Duty Urged In The Preceding Chapter, By Considerations Derived Principally From The Example Of Christ. In The Latter Part, Vers. 14-33, We Have The Conclusion Of The Whole Discussion, In Which He Speaks Of His Confidence In The Roman Christians, Of His Motives In Writing To Them, Of His Apostolical Office And Labors, And Of His Purpose To Visit Rome After Fulfilling His Ministry For The Sins At Jerusalem.

Romans 15:1-13


The first verse of this chapter is a conclusion from the whole of the preceding. On the grounds there presented, Paul repeats the command that the strong should bear with the infirmities of the weak, and that instead of selfishly regarding their own interests merely, they should endeavor to promote the welfare of their brethren, vers. 1, 2. This duty he enforces by the conduct of Christ, who has set us an example of perfect disinterestedness, as what he suffered was not for himself, ver. 3. This and similar facts and sentiments recorded in the Scripture are intended for our admonition, and should be applied for that purpose, ver. 4. The apostle prays that God would bestow on them that harmony and unanimity which he had urged them to cultivate, vers. 5, 6. He repeats the exhortation that they should receive one another, even as Christ had received them, ver. 7. He shows how Christ had received them, and united Jews and Gentiles in one body, vers. 8-13.

—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans


VERSE 1. We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. The separation of this passage from the preceding chapter is obviously unhappy, as there is no change in the subject. 'As the points of difference are not essential, as the law of love, the example of Christ, and the honor of religion require concession, we that are fully persuaded of the indifference of those things about which our weaker brethren are so scrupulous, ought to accommodate ourselves to their opinions, and not act with a view to our own gratification merely.'

We that are strong, (δυνατοί) strong in reference to the subject of discourse, i.e. faith, especially faith in the Christian doctrine of the lawfulness of all kinds of food, and the abrogation of the Mosaic law.

Ought to bear i.e. ought to tolerate, (βαστάζειν.) The infirmities, τὰ ασθενήματα that is, the prejudices, errors, and faults which arise from weakness of faith. Compare 1 Corinthians 9:20-22, where the apostle illustrates this command by stating how he himself acted in relation to this subject.

And not to please ourselves; we are not to do every thing which we may have a right to do, and make our own gratification the rule by which we exercise our Christian liberty. "Significat non oportere studium suum dirigere ad satisfactionem sibi, quemadmodum solent, qui proprio judicio contenti alios secure negli gunt." Calvin.

VERSE 2. Let each one of us please his neighbor, for his good for edification. The principle which is stated negatively at the close of the preceding verse, is here stated affirmatively. We are not to please ourselves, but others; the law of love is to regulate our conduct; we are not simply to ask what is right in itself, or what is agreeable, but also what is benevolent and pleasing to our brethren. The object which we should have in view in accommodating ourselves to others, however, is their good.

For good to edification most probably means with a view to his good so that he may be edified. The latter words, to edification, are, therefore, explanatory of the former; the good we should contemplate is their religious improvement; which is the sense in which Paul frequently uses the word (οἰκοδομή) edification; Romans 14:19; 2 Corinthians 10:8; Ephesians 4:12, 29. It is not therefore, a weak compliance with the wishes of others, to which Paul exhorts us, but to the exercise of an enlightened benevolence; to such compliances as have the design and tendency to promote the spiritual welfare of our neighbor.

VERSE 3. For even Christ pleased not himself, but as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 'For even Christ, so infinitely exalted above all Christians, was perfectly disinterested and condescending.' The example of Christ is constantly held up, not merely as a model, but a motive. The disinterestedness of Christ is here illustrated by a reference to the fact that he suffered not for himself, but for the glory of God. The sorrow which he felt was not on account of his own privations and injuries, but zeal for God's service consumed him, and it was the dishonor which was cast on God that broke his heart. The simple point to be illustrated is the disinterestedness of Christ, the fact that he did not please himself. And this is most affectingly done by saying, in the language of the Psalmist (Psalm 69:9), "The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me;" that is, such was my zeal for thee, that the reproaches cast on thee I felt as if directed against myself. This Psalm is so frequently quoted and applied to Christ in the New Testament, that it must be considered as directly prophetical. Compare John 2:17; 15:25; 19:28; Acts 1:20.

VERSE 4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. The object of this verse is not so much to show the propriety of applying the passage quoted from the Psalms to Christ, as to show that the facts recorded in the Scriptures are designed for our instruction. The character of Christ is there portrayed that we may follow his example and imbibe his spirit. The προ in προεγράφη has its proper temporal sense; before us, before our time. The reference is to the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures, and assumes, as the New Testament writers always assume or assert, that the Scriptures are the word of God, holy men of old writing as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. God had an immediate design in the Scriptures being just what they are; and that design was the sanctification and salvation of men. The words, through patience and consolation of the Scriptures, may be taken together, and mean, 'through that patience and consolation which the Scriptures produce;' or the words through patience may be disconnected from the word Scriptures, and the sense be, 'that we through patience, and through the consolation of the Scriptures,' etc. The former method is the most commonly adopted, and is the most natural.

Might have hope. This may mean, that the design of the divine instructions is to prevent all despondency, to sustain us under our present trials; or the sense is, that they are intended to secure the attainment of the great object of our hopes, the blessedness of heaven. Either interpretation of the word hope is consistent with usage, and gives a good sense. The former is more natural.

VERSE 5. Now, the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like minded one towards another, according to Jesus Christ. 'May God, who is the author of patience and consolation, grant,' etc. Here the graces, which in the preceding verse are ascribed to the Scriptures, are attributed to God as their author, because he produces them by his Spirit, through the instrumentality of the truth.

The patience, ὑπομονή, of which the apostle speaks, is the calm and steadfast endurance of suffering, of which the consolation, παρακλήσις, afforded by the Scriptures, is the source. This resignation of the Christian is very different from stoicism as Calvin beautifully remarks: —

"Patientia fidelium non est illa durities, quam praecipiunt philosophi: sed ea mansuetudo, qua nos libenter Deo subjicimus, dum gustus bonitatis ejus paternique amoris dulcia omnia nobis reddit. Ea spem in nobis alit ac sustinet, ne deficiat."

Luther says: —

"Scriptura quidem docet, sed gratia donat, quod illa docet."

External teaching is not enough; we need the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit to enable us to receive and conform to the truths and precepts of the word. Hence Paul prays that God would give his readers the patience, consolation, and hope which they are bound to exercise and enjoy. Paul prays that God would grant them that concord and ananimity which he had so strongly exhorted them to cherish. The expression (τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν), to be like minded, does not here refer to unanimity of opinion, but to harmony of feeling; see Romans 8:5; 12:3.

According to Jesus Christ, i.e. agreeably to the example and command of Christ; in a Christian manner. It is, therefore, to a Christian union that he exhorts them.

VERSE 6. That ye may with one mind and with one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This harmony and fellowship among Christians is necessary, in order that they may glorify God aright. To honor God effectually and properly, there must be no unnecessary dissensions among his people.

God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, means either that God who is the Father of the Lord Jesus, or the God and Father of Christ. This expression occurs frequently in the New Testament; see 2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3. Most commonly the genitive τοῦ κυρίου is assumed to belong equally to the two preceding nouns, God and Father. Many of the later commentators restrict it to the latter, and explain καί as exegetical: 'God, who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.' In favor of this explanation, reference is made to such passages as 1 Corinthians 15 24; Ephesians 5:20, and others, in which ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατήρ occurs without the genitive τοῦ κυρίου κ.τ.λ.

VERSE 7.Wherefore receive ye one another; as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Wherefore, i.e. in order that with one heart they may glorify God. This cannot be done, unless they are united in the bonds of Christian fellowship. The word (προσλαμβάνεσθε) receive, has the same sense here that it has in Romans 14:1: 'Take one another to yourselves, treat one another kindly, even as Christ has kindly taken us to himself;' προσελάβετο, sibi sociavit. The words, to the glory of God, may be connected with the first or second clause, or with both: 'Receive ye one another, that God may be glorified;' or, 'as Christ has received us in order that God might be glorified;' or, if referred to both clauses, the idea is, 'as the glory of God was illustrated and promoted by Christ's reception of us, so also will it be exhibited by our kind treatment of each other.' The first method seems most consistent with the context, as the object of the apostle is to enforce the duty of mutual forbearance among Christians, for which he suggests two motives, the kindness of Christ towards us, and the promotion of the divine glory. If instead of "received us," the true reading is, "received you," the sense and point of the passage is materially altered. Paul must then be considered as exhorting the Gentile converts to forbearance towards their Jewish brethren, on the ground that Christ had received them, though aliens, into the commonwealth of Israel.

VERSE 8. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. This verse follows as a confirmation or illustration of the preceding.

Now I say, i.e. this I mean. The apostle intends to show how it was that Christ had received those to whom he wrote. He had come to minister to the Jews, ver. 8, and also to cause the Gentiles to glorify God, ver. 9. The expression, minister or servant, of the circumcision, means a minister sent to the Jews, as 'apostle of the Gentiles,' means 'an apostle sent to the Gentiles.'

For the truth of God, i.e. to maintain the truth of God in the accomplishment of the promises made to the fathers, as is immediately added. The truth of God is his veracity or fidelity. Christ had exhibited the greatest condescension and kindness in coming, not as a Lord or ruler, but as an humble minister to the Jews, to accomplish the gracious promises of God. As this kindness was not confined to them, but as the Gentiles also were received into his kingdom, and united with the Jews on equal terms, this example of Christ furnishes the strongest motives for the cultivation of mutual affection and unanimity.

VERSE 9. And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. Might glorify, δοξάσαι, have glorified. The effect is considered as accomplished. The apostle's language is, as usual, concise. There are two consequences of the work of Christ which he here presents; the one, that the truth of God has been vindicated by the fulfillment of the promises made to the Jews; and the other, that the Gentiles have been led to praise God for his mercy. The grammatical connection of this sentence with the preceding is not very clear. The most probable explanation is that which makes (δοξάσαι) glorify depend upon (λέγω) I say, in ver. 8: 'I say that Jesus Christ became a minister to the Jews, and I say the Gentiles have glorified God;' it was thus he received both. Calvin supplies δεῖν, and translates, "The Gentiles ought to glorify God for his mercy;" which is not necessary, and does not so well suit the context. The mercy for which the Gentiles were to praise God, is obviously the great mercy of being received into the kingdom of Christ, and made partakers of all its blessings.

As it is written, I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name, Psalm 18:49. In this and the following quotations from the Old Testament, the idea is more or less distinctly expressed, that true religion was to be extended to the Gentiles; and they therefore all include the promise of the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom to them, as well as to the Jews. In Psalm 18:49, David is the speaker. It is he that says: "I will praise thee among the Gentiles." He is contemplated as surrounded by Gentiles giving thanks unto God, which implies that they were the worshippers of God. Our version renders ἐξομολογήσομαι, I will confess, make acknowledgment to thee. The word in itself may mean, to acknowledge the truth or sin, or God's mercies; and therefore it is properly rendered, at times, to give thanks, or to praise, which is an acknowledgment of God's goodness.

VERSE 10. And again, Rejoice ye Gentiles with his people. This passage is commonly considered as quoted from Deuteronomy 32:43, where it is found in the Septuagint precisely as it stands here. The Hebrew admits of three interpretations, without altering the text. It may mean, 'Praise his people, ye Gentiles;' or, 'Rejoice, ye tribes, his people;' or, 'Rejoice ye Gentiles, (rejoice,) his people.' Hengstenberg on Psalm 18:49, adopts the last mentioned explanation of the passage in Deuteronomy. The English version brings the Hebrew into coincidence with the LXX. by supplying with: 'Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.' And this is probably the true sense. As the sacred writer (in Deuteronomy 32) is not speaking of the blessing of the Jews being extended to the Gentiles, but seems rather in the whole context, to be denouncing vengeance on them as the enemies of God's people, Calvin and others refer this citation to Psalm 67:3, 5, where the sentiment is clearly expressed, though not in precisely the same words.

VERSE 11. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. This passage is from Psalm 117:1, and strictly to the apostle's purpose.

VERSE 12. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to rule over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust, Isaiah 11:1, 10. This is an explicit prediction of the dominion of the Messiah over other nations besides the Jews. Here again the apostle follows the Septuagint, giving, however, the sense of the original Hebrew. The promise of the prophet is, that from the decayed and fallen house of David, one should arise, whose dominion should embrace all nations, and in whom Gentiles as well as Jews should trust. In the fulfillment of this prophecy Christ came, and preached salvation to those who were near and to those who were far off. As both classes had been thus kindly received by the condescending Savior, and united into one community, they should recognize and love each other as brethren, laying aside all censoriousness and contempt, neither judging nor despising one another.

VERSE 13. Now then the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. All joy means all possible joy. Paul here, as in ver. 5, concludes by praying that God would grant them the excellencies which it was their duty to possess. Thus constantly and intimately are the ideas of account ableness and dependence connected in the sacred Scriptures. We are to work out our own salvation, because it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do, according to his good pleasure.

The God of hope, i.e. God who is the author of that hope which it was predicted men should exercise in the root and offspring of Jesse.

Fill you with all joy and peace in believing, i.e. fill you with that joy and concord among yourselves, as well as peace of conscience and peace towards God, which are the results of genuine faith.

That ye may abound in hope. The consequence of the enjoyment of the blessings, and of the exercise of the graces just referred to, would be an increase in the strength and joyfulness of their hope; through the power of the Holy Ghost, through whom all good is given and all good exercised.

—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans

Romans 15:14-33


The apostle, in the conclusion of his epistle, assures the Romans of his confidence in them, and that his motive for writing was not so much a belief of their peculiar deficiency, as the desire of putting them in mind of those things which they already knew, vers. 14, 15. This he was the rather entitled to do on account of his apostolic office, conferred upon him by divine appointment, and confirmed by the signs and wonders, and abundant success with which God had crowned his ministry, vers. 15, 16. He had sufficient ground of confidence in this respect, in the results of his own labors, without at all encroaching upon what belonged to others; for he had made it a rule not to preach where others had proclaimed the gospel, but to go to places where Christ was previously unknown, vers. 17-21. His labors had been such as hitherto to prevent the execution of his purpose to visit Rome. Now, however, he hoped to have that pleasure, on his way to Spain, as soon as he had accomplished his mission to Jerusalem, with the contributions of the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia, for the poor saints in Judea, vers. 22-28. Having accomplished this service, he hoped to visit Rome in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. In the meantime he begs an interest in their prayers, and commends them to the grace of God, vers. 29-33.

—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans


VERSE 14. And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another: Paul, with his wonted modesty and mildness, apologizes, as it were, for the plainness and ardor of his exhortations. They were given from no want of confidence in the Roman Christians, and they were not an unwarrantable assumption of authority on his part. The former of these ideas he presents in this verse, and the latter in the text.

I also myself, i.e. I of myself, without the testimony of others. Paul had himself such knowledge of the leading members of the church of Rome, that he did not need to be informed by others of their true character.

That ye also are full of goodness, i.e. of kind and conciliatory feelings; or, taking αγαθωσύνη in its wider sense, full of virtue, or excellence.

Filled with all knowledge, i.e. abundantly instructed on these subjects, so as to be able to instruct or admonish each other. It was, therefore, no want of confidence in their disposition or ability to discharge their duties, that led him to write to them; his real motive he states in the next verse. They were able, νουθετεῖν, to put in mind, to bring the truth seasonably to bear on the mind and conscience. It does not refer exclusively to the correction of faults, or to reproof for transgression.

"Duae monitoris praecipuae sunt dotes, humanitas quae et illius animum ad juvandos consilio suo fratres inclinet, et vultum verbaque comitate temperet: et consilii dexteritas, sive prudentia, quae et auctoritatem illi conciliet, ut prodesse queat auditoribus ad quos dirigit sermonem. Nihil enim magis contrarium fraternis moni tionibus, quam malignitas et arrogantia, quae facit ut errantes fastuose contemnamus et ludibrio habere malimus, quam corrigere."—Calvin.

VERSE 15. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind. because of the grace given to me of God. It was rather to remind than to instruct them, that the apostle wrote thus freely. The words (ἀπὸ μέρους) in some sort, are intended to qualify the words more boldly, 'I have written somewhat too boldly.' How striking the blandness and humility of the great apostle! The preceding exhortations and instructions, for which he thus apologizes, are full of affection and heavenly wisdom. What a reproof is this for the arrogant and denunciatory addresses which so often are given by men who think they have Paul for an example! These words, (in some sort,) however, may be connected with I have written; the sense would then be, 'I have written in part (i.e., in some parts of my epistle,) very boldly.' The former method seems the more natural. When a man acts the part of a monitor, he should not only perform the duty properly, but he should, on some ground, have a right to assume this office. Paul therefore says, that he reminded the Romans of their duty, because he was entitled to do so in virtue of his apostolical character; because of the grace given to me of God. Grace here, as appears from the context, signifies the apostleship which Paul represents as a favor; see Romans 1:5.

VERSE 16. That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles λειτουργὸν εἰς τὰ ἔθνα, a minister for, or in reference to the Gentiles. This is the explanation of the grace given to him of God; it was the favor of being a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Compare Ephesians 3:8, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." The word (λειτουργός) rendered minister, means a public officer or servant; see Romans 13:6, where it is applied to the civil magistrate. It is, however, very frequently used (as is also the corresponding verb) of those who exercised the office of a priest, Deuteronomy 10:8; Hebrews 10:11. As the whole of this verse is figurative, Paul no doubt had this force of the word in his mind, when he called himself a minister, a sacred officer of Jesus Christ; not a priest, in the proper sense of the term, for the ministers of the gospel are never so called in the New Testament, but merely in a figurative sense. The sacrifice which they offer are the people, whom they are instrumental in bringing unto God.

Ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable; being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. This is the apostle's explanation of the preceding clause. 'He was appointed a minister of Christ to administer, or to act the part of a priest in reference to the gospel, that is, to present the Gentiles as a holy sacrifice to God.' Paul, therefore, no more calls himself a priest in the strict sense of the term, than he calls the Gentiles a sacrifice in the literal meaning of that word. The expression, (ἱερουργοῦντα τὸ εὐαγγέλιον) rendered ministering the gospel, is peculiar, and has been variously explained. Erasmus translates it sacrificans evangelium, 'presenting the gospel as a sacrifice;' Calvin consecrans evangelium, which he explains, 'performing the sacred mysteries of the gospel.' The general meaning of the phrase probably is, 'acting the part of a priest in reference to the gospel.' Compare Macc. 4:7, 8, ἱερουργεῖν τὸν νόμον.

The sense is the same, if the word (εὐαγγέλιον) gospel be made to depend on a word understood, and the whole sentence be resolved thus, 'That I should be a preacher of the gospel (εἰς τὸ εἶναί με κηρύσσοντα τὸ εὐαγγέλιον) to the Gentiles, a ministering priest (i.e., a minister acting the part of a priest,) of Jesus Christ,' Wahl's Clavis, p. 740. Paul thus acted the part of a priest that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable. The word (προσφορά) offering sometimes means the act of oblation, sometimes the thing offered. Our translators have taken it here in the former sense; but this is not so suitable to the figure or the context. It was not Paul's act that was to be acceptable, or which was 'sanctified by the Holy Spirit.' The latter sense of the word, therefore, is to be preferred; and the meaning is, 'That the Gentiles, as a sacrifice, might be acceptable;' see Romans 12:1; Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6.

Being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. As the sacrifices were purified by water and other means, when prepared for the altar, so we are made fit for the service of God, rendered holy or acceptable, by the influences of the Holy Spirit. This is an idea which Paul never omits; when speaking of the success of his labors, or of the efficacy of the gospel, he is careful that this success should not be ascribed to the instruments, but to the real author. In this beautiful passage we see the nature of the only priesthood which belongs to the Christian ministry. It is not their office to make atonement for sin, or to offer a propitiatory sacrifice to God, but by the preaching of the gospel to bring men, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, to offer themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. It is well worthy of remark, that amidst the numerous designations of the ministers of the gospel in the New Testament, intended to set forth the nature of their office, they are never officially called priests. This is the only passage in which the term is even figuratively applied to them, and that under circumstances which render its misapprehension impossible. They are not mediators between God and man; they do not offer propitiatory sacrifices. Their only priesthood, as Theophylact says, is the preaching of the gospel, (αὓτη γάρ μοι ἱερωσύνη τὸ καταγγέλλειν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον,) and their offerings are redeemed and sanctified men, saved by their instrumentality.

"Et sane hoc est Christiani pastoris sacerdotium, homines in evangelii obedientiam subi gendo veluti Deo immolare; non autem, quod superciliose hactenus Papistae jactarunt, oblatione Christi homines reconciliare Deo. Neque tamen ecclesiasticos pastores simpliciter hic vocat sacerdotes, tanquam per petuo titulo; sed quum dignitatem efficaciamque ministerii vellet commendare Paulus, hac metaphora per occasionem usus est."—Calvin.

VERSE 17. I have therefore whereof to glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. That is, 'seeing I have received this office of God, and am appointed a minister of the gospel to the Gentiles, I have (καύχησιν) confidence and rejoicing.' As, in the previous verses, Paul had asserted his divine appointment as an apostle, he shows, in this and the following verses, that the assertion was well founded, as God had crowned his labors with success, and sealed his ministry with signs and wonders. He, therefore, was entitled, as a minister of God, to exhort and admonish his brethren with the boldness and authority which he had used in this epistle. This boasting, however, he had only in or through Jesus Christ, all was to be attributed to him; and it was in reference to things pertaining to God, i.e. the preaching and success of the gospel, not to his personal advantages or worldly distinctions. There is another interpretation of the latter part of this verse, which also gives a good sense. 'I have therefore ground of boasting, (i.e., I have) offerings for God, viz., Gentile converts.' (The words τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν are understood as synonymous with the word προσφορά of the preceding verse, προσενεχθέντα being supplied.) The common view of the passage, however, is more simple and natural.

VERSES 18, 19. In these verses the apostle explains more fully what he had intended by saying he gloried, or exalted. It was that God had born abundant testimony to his claims as a divinely commissioned preacher of the gospel: so that he had no need to refer to what others had done; he was satisfied to rest his claims on the results of his own labors and the testimony of God.

For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me. That is, 'I will not claim the credit due to others, or appeal to results which I have not been instrumental in effecting.' According to another view, the meaning is, 'I will not speak of any thing as the ground of boasting which Christ has not done by me.' The contrast implied, therefore, is not between what he had done and what others had accomplished, but between himself and Christ. He would not glory in the flesh, or in any thing pertaining to himself, but only in Christ, and in what he had accomplished. The conversion of the Gentiles was Christ's work, not Paul's; and therefore Paul could glory in it without self-exaltation. It is to be remarked that the apostle represents himself as merely an instrument in the hands of Christ for the conversion of men; the real efficiency he ascribes to the Redeemer. This passage, therefore, exhibits evidence that Paul regarded Christ as still exercising a controlling agency over the souls of men, and rendering effectual the labors of his faithful ministers. Such power the sacred writers never attribute to any being but God.

To make the Gentiles obedient, i.e. to the gospel; compare Romans 1:5, where the same form of expression occurs. The obedience of which Paul speaks is the sincere obedience of the heart and life. This result he says Christ effected, through his instrumentality, by word and deed, not merely by truth, but also by that operation which Christ employed to render the truth effectual. It was not only by the truth as presented in the word, but also by the effectual inward operation of his power, that Christ converted men to the faith.

VERSE 19. Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, i.e. by miracles, and by the influences of the Holy Ghost. The Greek is, ἐν δυνάμει σημείων καὶ τεράτων, ἐν δυνάμει πνεύματος ἁγίου, that is, by the power of (i.e., which comes from) signs and wonders, and, the power which flows from the Holy Spirit. It was thus Christ rendered the labors of Paul successful. He produced conviction, or the obedience of faith in the minds of the Gentiles, partly by miracles, partly and mainly by the inward working of the Holy Ghost. That Christ thus exercises divine power both in the external world, and in the hearts of men, clearly proves that he is a divine person.

Signs and wonders are the constantly recurring words to designate those external events which are produced, not by the operation of second causes, but by the immediate efficiency of God. They are called signs because evidences of the exercise of God's power, and proofs of the truth of His declarations, and wonders because of the effect which they produce on the minds of men. This passage is, therefore, analogous to that in 1 Corinthians 2:4, "My speech and preaching was not in the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." That is, he relied for success not on his own skill or eloquence, but on the powerful demonstration of the Spirit. This demonstration of the Spirit consisted partly in the miracles which He enabled the first preachers of the gospel to perform, and partly in the influence with which he attended the truth to the hearts and consciences of those that believed; see Galatians 3:2-5; Hebrews 2:4.

So that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Round about, καὶ κύκλῳ, in a circle. Jerusalem was the center around which Paul prosecuted his labors. He means to say, that throughout a most extensive region I have successfully preached the gospel. God had given his seal to Paul's apostleship, by making him so abundantly useful.

I have, fully preached, expresses no doubt, the sense of the original, (πεπληρωκέναι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον) to bring the gospel (i.e., the preaching of it) to an end, to accomplish it thoroughly; see Colossians 1:25. In this wide circuit had the apostle preached, founding churches, and advancing the Redeemer's kingdom with such evidence of the divine cooperation, as to leave no ground of doubt that he was a divinely appointed minister of Christ.

VERSES 20, 21. In further confirmation of this point, Paul states that he had not acted the part of a pastor merely, but of an apostle, or founder of the church, disseminating the gospel where it was before unknown, so that the evidence of his apostleship might be undeniable; compare 1 Corinthians 9:2; "If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you; for the seal of my apostleship are ye in the Lord;" and 2 Corinthians 3:2, 3, Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation; that is, 'I have been desirous of not preaching where Christ was before known, but in such a way as to accomplish the prediction that those who had not heard should understand.' Φιλοτιμεῖσθαι, so to prosecute an object as to place one's honor in it. The motive which influenced him in taking this course was lest he should build upon another man's foundation. This may mean either lest I should appropriate to myself the result of other men's labors; or, lest I should act the part not of an apostle, (to which I was called), but of a simple pastor.

VERSE 21. But, as it is written, To whom he has not spoken of, they shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand. That is, I acted in the spirit of the prediction, that Christ should be preached where He had not been known. It had been foretold in Isaiah 52:15, that Christ should be preached to the Gentiles, and to those who had never heard of His name; it was in accordance with this prediction that Paul acted. There is, however, no objection to considering this passage as merely an expression, in borrowed language, of the apostle's own ideas; the meaning then is, 'I endeavored to preach the gospel not where Christ was named, but to cause those to see to whom he had not been announced, and those to understand who had not heard.' This is in accordance with the apostle's manner of using the language of the Old Testament; see Romans 10:15, 18. But as, in this case, the passage cited is clearly a prediction, the first method of explanation should probably be preferred. A result of this method of interweaving passages from the Old Testament, is often, as in this case and ver. 3, a want of grammatical coherence between the different members of the sentence; see 1 Corinthians 2:9.

VERSE 22. For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you. That is, his desire to make Christ known where he had not been named, had long prevented his intended journey to Rome, where he knew the gospel had already been preached.

Much, τὰπολλά, plerumque, in most cases. The pressure of the constant calls to preach the gospel where he then was, was the principal reason why he had deferred so long visiting Rome.

Hindered from coming, ἐνεκοπτόμην τοῦ ἐλθεῖν, the genitive following verbs signifying to hinder.

VERSE 23.But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you etc. Great desire ἐπιποθίαν, summum desiderium. The expression, having no more place (μηκέτι τὸπον ἔχων,) in this connection, would seem obviously to mean, 'having no longer a place in these parts where Christ is not known.' This idea is included in the declaration that he had fully preached the gospel in all that region. Others take the word (τόπον) rendered place, to signify occasion, opportunity, 'Having no longer an opportunity of preaching here;' see Acts 25:16; Hebrews 12:17.

VERSE 24. Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.

Whensoever (ὡς ἐάν for ὡσ ἄν) as soon as; 'As soon as I take my journey,' etc. The words in the original, corresponding to I will come unto you, for are omitted in many MSS. The sense is complete without them: 'As soon as I take my journey into Spain, I hope to see you on my way.' If the word for be retained, the passage must be differently pointed: 'Having a great desire to see you, as soon as I go to Spain, (for I hope on my way to see you, etc.) but now I go to Jerusalem.' Spain, the common Greek name for the great Pyrenian Peninsula, was ·Ιβηρία, although Σπανία was also used. The Romans called it ῾Ισπανία. Whether Paul ever accomplished his purpose of visiting Spain, is a matter of doubt. There is no historical record of his having done so, either in the New Testament, or in the early ecclesiastical writers; though most of those writers seem to have taken it for granted. His whole plan was probably deranged by the occurrences at Jerusalem, which led to his long imprisonment at Cesarea, and his being sent in bonds to Rome.

To be brought on my way. The original word means, in the active voice, to attend any one on a journey for some distance, as an expression of kindness and respect; and also to make provision for his journey; see Acts 15:3; 20:38; 1 Corinthians 16:6; 2 Corinthians 1:16.

VERSE 25. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints, i.e. to supply the wants of the saints, distributing to them the contributions of the churches; see Hebrews 6:10; compare also Matthew 8:15; Mark 1:31; Luke 4:39. The word διακονέω is used for any kind of service. The present participle is used to imply that the journey itself was a part of the service Paul rendered to the saints at Jerusalem.

VERSES 26, 27. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. To make a contribution, κοινωνίαν τινὰ ποιήσασθαι, to bring about a communion or participation. That is, to cause the poor in Jerusalem to partake of the abundance of the brethren in Achaia. In this way the ordinary intransitive sense of the word κοινωνία retained. Compare, however, 2 Corinthians 9:13, and Hebrews 13:16, where the transitive sense of the word is commonly preferred. Having mentioned this fact, the apostle immediately seizes the opportunity of showing the reasonableness and duty of making these contributions. This he does in such a way as not to detract from the credit due to the Grecian churches, while he shows that it was but a matter of justice to act as they had done.

It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are; i.e. 'It hath pleased them, I say (γάρ, redordiendae rationi inservit) they did it voluntarily, yet it was but reasonable they should do it.' The ground of this statement is immediately added:

For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in carnal things. 'If the Gentiles have received the greater good from the Jews, they may well be expected to contribute the lesser. The word (λειτουργῆσαι) rendered to minister, may have the general sense of serving; or it may be used with some allusion to the service being a sacred duty, a kind of offering which is acceptable to God.

"Nec dubito, quin significet Paulus sacrificii speciem esse, quum de suo erogant fideles ad egestatem fratrum levandam. Sic enim persolvunt quod debent caritatis officium, ut Deo simul hostiam grati odoris offerant: sed proprie hoc loco ad illud mutuum jus compensationis respexit."—Calvin.

This, however, is not very probable, as the expression is. λειτουργῆσαι αὐτοῖς to minister to them. The λειτουργία was rendered to the brethren, not to God.

VERSE 28. When therefore I have done this, and sealed unto them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. The word sealed appears here to be used figuratively, 'When I have safely delivered this fruit to them;' compare 2 Kings 22:4, "Go up to Hilkiah, the high priest, and sum (seal, σφράγισον,) the silver," etc. Commentators compare the use of the Latin words consignare, consignatio, and of the English word consign.

VERSE 29. And I am sure that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. The fullness of the blessing, means the abundant blessing. Paul was persuaded that God, who had so richly crowned his labors in other places, would cause his visit to Rome to be attended by those abundant blessings which the gospel of Christ is adapted to produce. He had, in Romans 1:11, expressed his desire to visit the Roman Christians, that he might impart unto them some spiritual gift, to the end that they might be established.

VERSE 30. Now I beseech you, brethren, for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me. As the apostle was not immediately to see them, and knew that he would, in the meantime, be exposed to many dangers, he earnestly begged them to aid him with their prayers. He enforces this request by the tenderest considerations; for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, i.e. out of regard to the Lord Jesus; 'whatever regard you have for him, and whatever desire to see his cause prosper, in which I am engaged, let it induce you to pray for me.'

And for the love of the Spirit, i.e. 'for that love of which the Holy Spirit is the author, and by which he binds the hearts of Christians together, I beseech you,' etc. He appeals, therefore, not only to their love of Christ, but to their love for himself as a fellow Christian.

That ye strive together with me (συναγωνίσασθαί μοι,) i.e. 'that ye aid me in my conflict, by taking part in it.' This they were to do by their prayers.

VERSE 31. That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea. There are three objects for which he particularly wished them to pray; his safety, the successful issue of his mission, and that he might come to them with joy. How much reason Paul had to dread the violence of the unbelieving Jews is evident from the history given of this visit to Jerusalem, in the Acts of the Apostles. They endeavored to destroy his life, accused him to the Roman governor, and effected his imprisonment for two years in Cesarea, whence he was sent in chains to Rome. Nor were his apprehensions confined to the unbelieving Jews; he knew that even the Christians there, from their narrow-minded prejudices against him as a preacher to the Gentiles, and as the advocate of the liberty of Christians from the yoke of the Mosaic law, were greatly embittered against him. He, therefore, begs the Roman believers to pray that the service which (he had) for Jerusalem might be accepted of the saints. The words service which I have, etc., (ἡ διακονία μου ἡ εἰς ᾿Ιερουσαλήμ) means the contribution which I carry to Jerusalem; see the use of this word (διακονία) in 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:1, 13. The ordinary sense of διακονία, service, however, may be retained. Paul desired that the work of love on which he was to go to Jerusalem might be favorably received by the Christians of that city. Paul labored for those whom he knew regarded him with little favor; he calls them saints, recognizes their Christian character, notwithstanding their unkindness, and urges his brethren to pray that they might be willing to accept of kindness at his hands.

VERSE 32. That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and that I may with you be refreshed. These words may depend upon the former part of the preceding verse, 'Pray that I may come;' or, upon the latter part, 'Pray that I may be delivered from the Jews, and my contributions be accepted, so that I may come with joy, etc.'

By the will of God, i.e. by the permission and favor of God. Instead of Θεοῦ, the MS. B. has Κυρίου ·Ιησοῦ; D. E. F. G. the Italic version, read Χριστοῦ ·Ιησοῦ; most editors, however, retain the common text. Paul seemed to look forward to his interview with the Christians at Rome, as a season of relief from conflict and labor. In Jerusalem he was beset by unbelieving Jews, and harassed by Judaizing Christians; in most other places he was burdened with the care of the churches; but at Rome, which he looked upon as a resting place, rather than a field of labor, he hoped to gather strength for the prosecution of his apostolic labors in still more distant lands.

VERSE 33. Now the peace of God be with you all. As he begged them to pray for him, so he prays for them. It is a prayer of one petition; so full of meaning, however, that no other need be added.

The peace of God, that peace which God gives, includes all the mercies necessary for the perfect blessedness of the soul.

—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans


1. The sacred Scriptures are designed for men in all ages of the world, and are the great source of religious knowledge and consolation, ver. 4.

2. The moral excellences which we are justly required to attain. and the consolations which we are commanded to seek in the use of appropriate means, are still the gifts of God. There is, therefore, no inconsistency between the doctrines of free agency and dependence, vers. 5, 13.

3. Those are to be received and treated as Christians whom Christ himself has received. Men have no right to make terms of communion which Christ has not made, ver. 7.

4. There is no distinction, under the gospel, between the Jew and Gentile; Christ has received both classes upon the same terms and to the same privileges, vers. 8-12.

5. The quotation of the predictions of the Old Testament by the sacred writers of the New, and the application of them in proof of their doctrines, involves an acknowledgment of the divine authority of the ancient prophets. And as these predictions are quoted from the volume which the Jews recognize as their Bible, or the word of God, it is evident that the apostles believed in the inspiration of all the books included in the sacred canon by the Jews, vers. 9-12.

6. Christian ministers are not priests, i.e. they are not appointed to "offer gifts and sacrifices for sins." It is no part of their work to make atonement for the people; this Christ has done by the one offering up of himself, whereby he has for ever perfected them that are sanctified, ver. 16. A priest, according to the Scriptures, is one appointed for men who have not liberty of access to God, to draw nigh to him in their behalf, and to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin. In this sense Christ is our only Priest. The priesthood of believers consists in their having (through Christ) liberty of access unto God, and offering themselves and their services as a living sacrifice unto him. In one aspect, the fundamental error of the church of Rome is the doctrine that Christian ministers are priests. This assumes that sinners cannot come to God through Christ, and that it is only through the intervention of the priests men can be made partakers of the benefits of redemption. This is to put the keys of heaven into the hands of priests. It is to turn men from Christ to those who cannot save.

7. The truth of the gospel has been confirmed by God, by signs and wonders, and by the power of the Holy Ghost. Infidelity, therefore, is a disbelief of the testimony of God. When God has given satisfactory evidence of the mission of his servants, the sin of unbelief is not relieved by the denial that the evidence is satisfactory. If the gospel is true, therefore, infidelity will be found not merely to be a mistake, but a crime, ver. 19.

8. The success of a minister in winning souls to Christ may be fairly appealed to as evidence that he preaches the truth. It is, when clearly ascertained, as decisive an evidence as the performance of a miracle; because it is as really the result of a divine agency. This, however, like all other evidence, to be of any value, must be carefully examined and faith fully applied. The success may be real, and the evidence decisive, but it may be applied improperly. The same man may preach (and doubtless every uninspired man does preach) both truth and error; God may sanction and bless the truth, and men may appeal to this blessing in support of the error. This is often done. Success therefore is of itself a very difficult test for us to apply, and must ever be held subject to the authority of the Scriptures. Nothing can prove that to be true which the Bible pronounces to be false, vers. 18, 19.

9. Prayer (and even intercessory prayer) has a real and important efficacy; not merely in its influence on the mind of him who offers it, but also in securing the blessings for which we pray. Paul directed the Roman Christians to pray for the exercise of the divine providence in protecting him from danger, and for the Holy Spirit to influence the minds of the brethren in Jerusalem. This he would not have done, were such petitions of no avail, vers. 30, 31.

—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans


1. The duty of a disinterested and kind regard to others, in the exercise of our Christian liberty, is one of the leading topics of this, as it is of the preceding chapter, vers. 1-13.

2. The desire to please others should be wisely directed, and spring from right motives. We should not please them to their own injury, nor from the wish to secure their favor; but for their good, that they may be edified, ver. 2.

3. The character and conduct of Jesus Christ are at once the most perfect model of excellence and the most persuasive motive to obedience. The dignity of his person, the greatness of his condescension, the severity of his sufferings, the fervor of his love towards us, all combine to render his example effective in humbling us, in view of our own shortcomings, and in exciting us to walk even as he walked, vers. 4-13.

4. We should constantly resort to the Scriptures for instruction and consolation. They were written for this purpose; and we have no right to expect these blessings unless we use the means appointed for their attainment. As God, however, by the power of the Holy Ghost, works all good in us, we should rely neither on the excellence of the means, nor the vigor and diligence of our own exertions, but on his blessing, which is to be sought by prayer, vers. 4, 5, 13.

5. The dissensions of Christians are dishonorable to God. They must be of one mind, i.e., sincerely and affectionately united, if they would glorify their Father in heaven, vers. 5-7.

6. A monitor or instructor should be full of goodness and knowledge. The human heart resists censoriousness, pride, and ill-feeling, in an admonisher; and is thrown into such a state, by the exhibition of these evil dispositions, that the truth is little likely to do it any good. As oil poured on water smooths its surface, and renders it transparent, so does kindness calm the minds of men, and prepare them for the ready entrance of the truth. Besides these qualifications, he who admonishes others should be entitled thus to act. It is not necessary that this title should rest on his official station; but there should be superiority of some kind—of age, excellence or knowledge—to give his admonitions due effect. Paul's peculiar modesty, humility, and mildness, should serve as an example to us, vers. 14, 15.

7. We should be careful not to build improperly on another man's foundation. Pastors and preachers must of course preach Christ where he had before been known; but they should not appropriate to themselves the results of the labors of others, or boast of things which Christ has not wrought by them. The man who reaps the harvest, is not always he who sowed the seed. One plants, and another waters, but God giveth the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase, vers. 19, 20.

8. It is the duty of those who have the means, to contribute to the necessities of others, and especially to the wants of those from whom they themselves have received good, vers. 26, 27.

9. The fact that men are prejudiced against us, is no reason why we should not do them good. The Jewish Christians were ready to denounce Paul, and cast out his name as evil; yet he collected contributions for them, and was very solicitous that they should accept of his services, ver. 31.

10. Danger is neither to be courted nor fled from; but encountered with humble trust in God, ver. 31.

11. We should pray for others in such a way as really to enter into their trials and conflicts; and believe that our prayers, when sincere, are a real and great assistance to them. It is a great blessing to have an interest in the prayers of the righteous.

—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans