Easton's Bible Dictionary
This epistle was probably written at Corinth. Phoebe
16:1 ) of Cenchrea conveyed it to Rome, and Gaius of Corinth entertained the
apostle at the time of his writing it ( Romans
16:23 ; 1
Corinthians 1:14 ), and Erastus was chamberlain of the city, i.e., of Corinth
Timothy 4:20 ).
The precise time at which it was written is not mentioned in the epistle, but
it was obviously written when the apostle was about to "go unto Jerusalem to minister
unto the saints", i.e., at the close of his second visit to Greece, during the
winter preceding his last visit to that city ( Romans
15:25 ; Compare Acts
20:16 ; 1
Corinthians 16:1 -
4 ), early in A.D. 58.
It is highly probable that Christianity was planted in Rome by some of those who
had been at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost ( Acts
2:10 ). At this time the Jews were very numerous in Rome, and their synagogues
were probably resorted to by Romans also, who in this way became acquainted with
the great facts regarding Jesus as these were reported among the Jews. Thus a
church composed of both Jews and Gentiles was formed at Rome. Many of the brethren
went out to meet Paul on his approach to Rome. There are evidences that Christians
were then in Rome in considerable numbers, and had probably more than one place
of meeting ( Romans
The object of the apostle in writing to this church was to explain to them the
great doctrines of the gospel. His epistle was a "word in season." Himself deeply
impressed with a sense of the value of the doctrines of salvation, he opens up
in a clear and connected form the whole system of the gospel in its relation both
to Jew and Gentile. This epistle is peculiar in this, that it is a systematic
exposition of the gospel of universal application. The subject is here treated
argumentatively, and is a plea for Gentiles addressed to Jews. In the Epistle
to the Galatians, the same subject is discussed, but there the apostle pleads
his own authority, because the church in Galatia had been founded by him.
After the introduction ( Romans
15 ), the apostle presents in it divers aspects and relations the doctrine
of justification by faith ( Romans
1:16 - 11:36
) on the ground of the imputed righteousness of Christ. He shows that salvation
is all of grace, and only of grace. This main section of his letter is followed
by various practical exhortations ( Romans
12:1 - 15:13
), which are followed by a conclusion containing personal explanations and salutations,
which contain the names of twenty-four Christians at Rome, a benediction, and
a doxology ( Romans
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
The date of this epistle is fixed at the time of the
visit recorded in Acts 20:3 during the winter and spring following the apostles
long residence at Ephesus A.D. 58. On this visit he remained in Greece three months.
The place of writing was Corinth.
The occasion which prompted it,,and the circumstances attending its writing, were
as follows:--St. Paul had long purposed visiting Rome, and still retained this
purpose, wishing also to extend his journey to Spain. Etom. 1:9 - 13 ; 15:22 -
29. For the time, however, he was prevented from carrying out his design, as he
was bound for Jerusalem with the alms of the Gentile Christians, and meanwhile
he addressed this letter to the Romans, to supply the lack of his personal teaching.
Phoebe, a deaconess of the neighboring church of Cenchreae, was on the point of
starting for Rome, ch. ( Romans 16:1 , 16:2 ) and probably conveyed the letter.
The body of the epistle was written at the apostles dictation by Tertius, ch.
( Romans 16:22 ) but perhaps we may infer, from the abruptness of the final doxology,
that it was added by the apostle himself.
The origin of the Roman church is involved in obscurity. If it had been founded
by St. Peter according to a later tradition, the absence of any allusion to him
both in this epistle and in the letters written by St. Paul from Rome would admit
of no explanation. It is equally clear that no other apostle was like founder.
The statement in the Clementines --that the first tidings of the gospel reached
Rome during the lifetime of our Lord is evidently a fiction for the purposes of
the romance. On the other hand, it is clear that the foundation of this church
dates very far back. It may be that some of these Romans, "both Jews and proselytes,"
present. On the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:10 ) carried back the earliest tidings
of the new doctrine; or the gospel may have first reached the imperial city through
those who were scattered abroad to escape the persecution which followed on the
death of Stephen. ( Acts 8:4 ; 11:10 ) At first we may suppose that the gospel
had preached there in a confused and imperfect form, scarcely more than a phase
of Judaism, as in the case of Apollos at Corinth, ( Acts 18:25 ) or the disciples
at Ephesus. ( Acts 19:1 - 3 ) As time advanced and better-instructed teachers
arrived the clouds would gradually clear away, fill at length the presence of
the great apostle himself at Rome dispersed the mists of Judaism which still hung
about the Roman church.
A question next arises as to the composition of the Roman church at the time when
St. Paul wrote. It is more probable that St. Paul addressed a mixed church of
Jews and Gentiles, the latter perhaps being the more numerous. These Gentile converts,
however, were not for the most part native Romans. Strange as the: paradox appears,
nothing is more certain than that the church of Rome was at this time a Greek
and not a Latin church. All the literature of the early Roman church was written
in the Greek tongue.
The heterogeneous composition of this church explains the general character of
the Epistle to the Romans. In an assemblage so various we should expect to find,
not the exclusive predominance of a single form of error, but the coincidence
of different and opposing forms. It was: therefore the business of the Christian
teacher to reconcile the opposing difficulties and to hold out a meeting-point
in the gospel. This is exactly what St. Paul does in the Epistle to the Romans.
In describing the purport of this epistle we may start from St. Pauls own words,
which, standing at the beginning of the doctrinal portion, may be taken as giving
a summary of the contents. ch. ( Romans 1:16 , 1:17 ) Accordingly the epistle
has been described as comprising "the religious philosophy of the worlds history
"The atonement of Christ is the centre of religious history. The epistle, from
its general character, lends itself more readily to an analysis than is often
the case with St. Pauls epistles. While this epistle contains the fullest and
most systematic exposition of the apostles teaching , it is at the same time a
very striking expression of his character . Nowhere do his earnest and affectionate
nature and his tact and delicacy in handling unwelcome topics appear more strongly
than when he is dealing with the rejection of his fellow country men the Jews.
Internal evidence is so strongly in favor of the genuineness of the Epistle to
the Romans that it has never been seriously questioned.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
This is the greatest, in every sense, of the apostolic
letters of Paul; in scale, in scope, and in its wonderful combination of doctrinal,
ethical and administrative wisdom and power. In some respects the later Epistles,
Ephesians and Colossians, lead us to even higher and deeper arcana of revelation,
and they, like Romans, combine with the exposition of truth a luminous doctrine
of duty. But the range of Roman is larger in both directions, and presents us
also with noble and far-reaching discussions of Christian polity, instructions
in spiritual utterance and the like, to which those Epistles present no parallel,
and which only the Corinthian Epistles rival.
1. Its Genuineness:
No suspicion on the head of the genuineness of the Epistle exists which needs
serious consideration. Signs of the influence of the Epistle can be traced, at
least very probably, in the New Testament itself; in 1 Peter, and, as some think,
in James. But in our opinion Jas was the earlier writing, and Lightfoot has given
strong grounds for the belief that the paragraph on faith and justification (James
2) has no reference to perversions of Pauline teaching, but deals with rabbinism.
Clement of Rome repeatedly quotes Romans, and so do Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin.
Marcion includes it in his list of Pauline Epistles, and it is safe to say in
general Romans "has been recognized in the Christian church as long as any collection
of Paul's Epistles has been extant" (A. Robertson, in HDB, under the word). But
above all other evidences it testifies to itself. The fabrication of such a writing,
with its close and complex thought, its power and marked originality of treatment,
its noble morale, and its spiritual elevation and ardor, is nothing short of a
moral impossibility. A mighty mind and equally great heart live in every page,
and a soul exquisitely sensitive and always intent upon truth and holiness. Literary
personation is an art which has come to anything like maturity only in modern
times, certainly not before the Renaissance. In a fully developed form it is hardly
earlier than the 19th century. And even now who can point to a consciously personated
authorship going along with high moral principle and purpose?
2. Its Integrity:
The question remains, however, whether, accepting the Epistle in block as Pauline,
we have it, as to details, just as it left the author's hands. Particularly, some
phenomena of the text of the last two chapter invite the inquiry. We may--in our
opinion we must--grant those chapters to be Pauline. They breathe Paul in every
sentence. But do they read precisely like part of a letter to Rome? For example,
we have a series of names (Romans 16:1 - 15), representing a large circle of personally
known and loved friends of the writer, a much longer list than any other in the
Epistles, and all presumably--on theory that the passage is integral to the Epistle--residents
at Rome. May not such a paragraph have somehow crept in, after date, from another
writing? Might not a message to Philippian, Thessalonian or Ephesian friends,
dwellers in places where Paul had already established many intimacies, have fallen
out of its place and found lodgment by mistake at the close of this letter to
Rome? It seems enough to reply by one brief statement of fact. We possess some
300 manuscripts of Romans, and not one of these, so far as it is uninjured, fails
to give the Epistle complete, all the chapters as we have them, and in the present
order (with one exception, that of the final doxology). It is observable meanwhile
that the difficulty of supposing Paul to have had a large group of friends living
at Rome, before his own arrival there, is not serious. To and from Rome, through
the whole empire, there was a perpetual circulation of population. Suppose Aquila
and Priscilla (e.g.) to have recently returned (Acts 18:2) to Rome from Ephesus,
and suppose similar migrations from Greece or from Asia Minor to have taken place
within recent years; we can then readily account for the greetings of Romans 16.
Lightfoot has brought it out in an interesting way (see his Philippians, on 4:22)
that many of the names (e.g. Amplias, Urbanus, Tryphena) in Romans 16 are found
at Rome, in inscriptions of the early imperial age, in cemeteries where members
of the widely scattered "household of Caesar" were interred. This at least suggests
the abundant possibility that the converts and friends belonging to the "household"
who, a very few years later, perhaps not more than three, were around him at Rome
when he wrote to Philippi (Philippians 4:22), and sent their special greeting
("chiefly they") to the Philipplans, were formerly residents at Philippi, or elsewhere
in Macedonia, and had moved thence to the capital not long before the apostle
wrote to the Romans. A. Robertson (ut supra) comes to the conclusion, after a
careful review of recent theories, "that the case for transferring this section
.... from its actual connection to a lost Epistle to Ephesus is not made out."
Two points of detail in the criticism of the text of Romans may be noted. One
is that the words "at Rome" (1:7 , 15) are omitted in a very few manuscripts,
in a way to remind us of the interesting phenomenon of the omission of "at Ephesus"
(Ephesians 1:1 margin). But the evidence for this omission being original is entirely
inadequate. The fact may perhaps be accounted for by a possible circulation of
Romans among other mission churches as an Epistle of universal interest. This
would be much more likely if the manuscripts and other authorities in which the
last two chapters are missing were identical with those which omit "at Rome,"
but this is not the case.
The other and larger detail is that the great final doxology (Romans 16:25 - 27)
is placed by many cursives at the end of Romans 14, and is omitted entirely by
three manuscripts and by Marcion. The leading uncials and a large preponderance
of ancient evidence place it where we have it. It is quite possible that Paul
may have reissued Romans after a time, and may only then have added the doxology,
which has a certain resemblance in manner to his later (captivity) style. But
it is at least likely that dogmatic objections led Marcion to delete it, and that
his action accounts for the other phenomena which seem to witness against its
place at the finale.
It is worth noting that Hort, a singularly fearless, while sober student, defends
without reserve the entirety of the Epistle as we have it, or practically so.
See his essay printed in Lightfoot's Biblical Studies.
3. The Approximate Date:
We can fix the approximate date with fair certainty within reasonable limits.
We gather from Romans 15:19 that Paul, when he wrote, was in the act of closing
his work in the East and was looking definitely westward. But he was first about
(15:25 , 26) to revisit Jerusalem with his collection, mainly made in Macedonia
and Achaia, for the "poor saints." Placing these allusions side by side with the
references in 1 and 2 Corinthians to the collection and its conveyance, and again
with the narrative of Acts, we may date Romans very nearly at the same time as
2 Corinthians, just before the visit to Jerusalem narrated in Acts 20, etc. The
year may be fixed with great probability as 58 AD. This estimate follows the lines
of Lightfoot's chronology, which Robertson (ut supra) supports. More recent schemes
would move the date back to 56 AD.
"The reader's attention is invited to this date. Broadly speaking, it was about
30 years at the most after the Crucifixion. Let anyone in middle life reflect
on the freshness in memory of events, whether public or private, which 30 years
ago made any marked impression on his mind. Let him consider how concrete and
vivid still are the prominent personages of 30 years ago, many of whom of course
are still with us. And let him transfer this thought to the 1st century, and to
the time of our Epistle. Let him remember that we have at least this one great
Christian writing composed, for certain, within such easy reach of the very lifetime
of Jesus Christ when His contemporary friends were still, in numbers, alive and
active. Then let him open the Epistle afresh, and read, as if for the first time,
its estimate of Jesus Christ--a Figure then of no legendary past, with its halo,
but of the all but present day. Let him note that this transcendent estimate comes
to us conveyed in the vehicle not of poetry and rhetoric, but of a treatise pregnant
with masterly argument and admirable practical wisdom, tolerant and comprehensive.
And we think that the reader will feel that the result of his meditations on date
and circumstances is reassuring as to the solidity of the historic basis of the
Christian faith" (from the present writer's introduction to the Epistle in the
Temple Bible; see also his Light from the First Days: Short Studies in 1 Thessalonians).
4. The Place of Writing:
With confidence we may name Corinth as the place of writing. Paul was at the time
in some "city" (Romans 16:23). He was staying with one Gaius, or Caius (same place)
, and we find in 1 Corinthians 1:14 a Gaius, closely connected with Paul, and
a Corinthian. He commends to the Romans the deaconess Phoebe, attached to "the
church at Cenchrea" (16:1), presumably a place near that from which he was writing;
and Cenchrea was the southern part of Corinth.
5. The Destination:
The first advent of Christianity to Rome is unrecorded, and we know very little
of its early progress. Visiting Romans (epidemountes), both Jews and proselytes,
appear at Pentecost (Acts 2:10), and no doubt some of these returned home believers.
In Acts 18:2 we have Aquila and Priscilla, Jews, evidently Christians, "lately
come from Italy," and probably from Rome. But we know practically nothing else
of the story previous to this Epistle, which is addressed to a mission church
obviously important and already spiritually advanced. On the other hand (a curious
paradox in view of the historical development of Roman Christianity), there is
no allusion in the Epistle to church organization. The Christian ministry (apart
from Paul's own apostleship) is not even mentioned. It may fairly be said to be
incredible that if the legend of Peter's long episcopate were historical, no allusion
whatever to his work, influence and authority should be made. It is at least extremely
difficult to prove that he was even present in Rome till shortly before his martyrdom,
and the very ancient belief that Peter and Paul founded the Roman church is more
likely to have had its origin in their martyrdoms there than in Peter's having
in any sense shared in the early evangelization of the city.
As to Rome itself, we may picture it at the date of the Epistle as containing,
with its suburbs, a closely massed population of perhaps 800,000 people; a motley
host of many races, with a strong oriental element, among which the Jews were
present as a marked influence, despised and sometimes dreaded, but always attracting
6. The Language:
The Epistle was written in Greek, the "common dialect," the Greek of universal
intercourse of that age. One naturally asks, why not in Latin, when the message
was addressed to the supreme Latin city? The large majority of Christian converts
beyond doubt came from the lower middle and lowest classes, not least from the
slave class. These strata of society were supplied greatly from immigrants, much
as in parts of East London now aliens make the main population. Not Latin but
Greek, then lingua franca of the Mediterranean, would be the daily speech of these
people. It is remarkable that all the early Roman bishops bear Greek names. And
some 40 years after the date of this Epistle we find Clement of Rome writing in
Greek to the Corinthians, and later again, early in the 2nd century, Ignatius
writing in Greek to the Romans.
7. The Occasion:
We cannot specify the occasion of writing for certain. No hint appears of any
acute crisis in the mission (as when 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians,
or Colossians were written). Nor would personal reminiscences influence the writer,
for he had not yet seen Rome. We can only suggest some possibilities as follows:
|(1) A good opportunity for safe communication was offered
by the deaconess Phoebe's proposed visit to the metropolis. She doubtless asked
Paul for a commendatory letter, and this may have suggested an extended message
to the church.
(2) Paul's thoughts had long gone toward Rome. See Acts 19:21: "I must see Rome,"
words which seem perhaps to imply some divine intimation (compare 23:11). And
his own life-course would fall in with such a supernatural call. He had always
aimed at large centers; and now his great work in the central places of the Levant
was closing; he had worked at Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth; he was at last to
think of the supreme center of all. Rome must always have had a dominant interest
for the "Apostle of the Nations," and any suggestion that his Lord's will tended
that way would intensify it to the highest degree.
(3) The form of the Epistle may throw further light on the occasion. The document
falls, on the whole, into three parts. First we have Romans 1-8 inclusive, a prolonged
exposition of the contrasted and related phenomena of sin and salvation, with
special initial references to the cases of Jew and non-Jew respectively. Then
come Romans 9 - 11, which deal with the Jewish rejection of the Jewish Messiah,
developing into a prophetic revelation of the future of Israel in the grace of
God. Lastly we have Romans 12-16. Some account of the writer's plans, and his
salutations to friends, requests for prayer, etc., form the close of this section.
But it is mainly a statement of Christian duty in common life, personal, civil,
religious. Under the latter head we have a noble treatment of problems raised
by varying opinions, particularly on religious observances, among the converts,
Jew and Gentile.
Such phenomena cast a possible light on the occasion of writing. The Roman mission
was on one side, by its locality and surroundings, eminently gentile. On the other,
there was, as we have seen, a strong Judaic element in Roman life, particularly
in its lower strata, and no doubt around the Jewish community proper there had
grown up a large community of "worshippers" (sebomenoi) or, as we commonly call
them, "proselytes" ("adherents," in the language of modern missionary enterprise),
people who, without receiving circumcision, attended Jewish worship and shared
largely in Jewish beliefs and ideals. Among these proselytes, we may believe,
the earliest evangelists at Rome found a favorable field, and the mission church
as Paul knew of it contained accordingly not only two definite classes, converts
from paganism, converts from native Judaism, but very many in whose minds both
traditions were working at once. To such converts the problems raised by Judaism,
both without and within the church, would come home with a constant intimacy and
force, and their case may well have been present in a special degree in the apostle's
mind alike in the early passages (Romans 1 - 3) of the Epistle and in such later
parts as Romans 2 - 11 ; 14 ; 15. On the one hand they would greatly need guidance
on the significance of the past of Israel and on the destiny of the chosen race
in the future. Moreover, discussions in such circles over the way of salvation
would suggest to the great missionary his exposition of man's reconciliation with
a holy God and of His secrets for purity and obedience in an unholy world. And
meanwhile the ever-recurring problems raised by ceremonial rules in common daily
life--problems of days and seasons, and of forbidden food--would, for such disciples,
need wise and equitable treatment.
(4) Was it not with this position before him, known to him through the many means
of communication between Rome and Corinth, that Paul cast his letter into this
form? And did not the realization of the central greatness of Rome suggest its
ample scale? The result was a writing which shows everywhere his sense of the
presence of the Judaic problem. Here he meets it by a statement, massive and tender,
of "heaven's easy, artless, unencumbered plan" of redemption, grace, and glory,
a plan which on its other side is the very mystery of the love of God, which statement
is now and forever a primary treasure of the Christian faith. And then again he
lays down for the too eager champions of the new "liberty" a law of loving tolerance
toward slower and narrower views which is equally our permanent spiritual possession,
bearing a significance far-reaching and benign.
(5) It has been held by some great students, notably Lightfoot and Hort, that
the main purpose of Romans was to reconcile the opposing "schools" in the church,
and that its exposition of the salvation of the individual is secondary only.
The present writer cannot take this view. Read the Epistle from its spiritual
center, so to speak, and is not the perspective very different? The apostle is
always conscious of the collective aspect of the Christian life, an aspect vital
to its full health. But is he not giving his deepest thought, animated by his
own experience of conviction and conversion, to the sinful man's relation to eternal
law, to redeeming grace, and to a coming glory? It is the question of personal
salvation which with Paul seems to us to live and move always in the depth of
his argument, even when Christian polity and policy is the immediate theme.
8. Some Characteristics:
Excepting only Ephesians (the problem of the authorship of which is insoluble,
and we put that great document here aside), Romans is, of all Paul has written,
least a letter and most a treatise. He is seen, as we read, to approach religious
problems of the highest order in a free but reasoned succession; problems of the
darkness and of the light, of sin and grace, fall and restoration, doom and remission,
faith and obedience, suffering and glory, transcendent hope and humblest duty,
now in their relation to the soul, now so as to develop the holy collectivity
of the common life. The Roman converts are always first in view, but such is the
writer, such his handling, that the results are for the universal church and for
every believer of all time. Yet all the while (and it is in this a splendid example
of that epistolary method of revelation which is one of the glories of the New
Testament) it is never for a moment the mere treatise, however great. The writer
is always vividly personal, and conscious of persons. The Epistle is indeed a
masterpiece of doctrine, but also always "the unforced, unartificial utterance
of a friend to friends."
9. Main Teachings of the Epistle:
Approaching the Epistle as a treatise rather than a letter (with the considerable
reserves just stated), we indicate briefly some of its main doctrinal deliverances.
Obviously, in limine, it is not set before us as a complete system either of theology
or of morals; to obtain a full view of a Pauline dogma and ethics we must certainly
place Ephesians and Colossians, not to speak of passages from Thessalonians, beside
Romans. But it makes by far the nearest approach to doctrinal completeness among
(1) Doctrine of Man.
In great measure this resolves itself into the doctrine of man as a sinner, as
being guilty in face of an absolutely holy and absolutely imperative law, whether
announced by abnormal revelation, as to the Jew, or through nature and conscience
only, as to the Gentile. At the back of this presentation lies the full recognition
that man is cognizant, as a spiritual being, of the eternal difference of right
and wrong, and of the witness of creation to personal "eternal power and Godhead"
as its cause, and that he is responsible in an awe-inspiring way for his unfaithfulness
to such cognitions. He is a being great enough to be in personal moral relation
with God, and able to realize his ideal only in true relation with Him; therefore
a being whose sin and guilt have an unfathomable evil in them. So is he bound
by his own failure that he cannot restore himself; God alone, in sovereign mercy,
provides for his pardon by the propitiation of Christ, and for his restoration
by union with Christ in the life given by the Holy Spirit. Such is man, once restored,
once become "a saint" (a being hallowed), a "son of God" by adoption and grace,
that his final glorification will be the signal (in some sense the cause?) of
a transfiguration of the whole finite universe. Meanwhile, man is a being actually
in the midst of a life of duty and trial, a member of civil society, with obligations
to its order. He lives not in a God-forsaken world, belonging only to another
and evil power. His new life, the "mind of the Spirit" in him, is to show itself
in a conduct and character good for the state and for society at large, as well
as for the "brotherhood."
(2) Doctrine of God.
True to the revelation of the Old Testament, Paul presents God as absolute in
will and power, so that He is not only the sole author of nature but the eternal
and ultimately sole cause of goodness in man. To Him in the last resort all is
due, not only the provision of atonement but the power and will to embrace it.
The great passages which set before us a "fore-defining" (proorisis, "predestination")
and election of the saints are all evidently inspired by this motive, the jealous
resolve to trace to the one true Cause all motions and actions of good. The apostle
seems e.g. almost to risk affirming a sovereign causation of the opposite, of
unbelief and its sequel. But patient study will find that it is not so. God is
not said to "fit for ruin" the "vessels of wrath." Their woeful end is overruled
to His glory, but nowhere is it taken to be caused by Him. All along the writer's
intense purpose is to constrain the actual believer to see the whole causation
of his salvation in the will and power of Him whose inmost character is revealed
in the supreme fact that, "for us all," "he spared not his Son."
(3) Doctrine of Son of God--Redemption; Justification.
The Epistle affords materials for a magnificently large Christology. The relation
of the Son to creation is indeed not expounded in terms (as in Col), but it is
implied in the language of Romans 8, where the interrelation of our redemption
and the transfiguration of Nature is dealt with. We have the Lord's manhood fully
recognized, while His Godhead (as we read in 9:5; so too Robertson, ut supra)
is stated in terms, and it is most certainly implied in the language and tone
of e.g. the close of Romans 8. Who but a bearer of the Supreme Nature could satisfy
the conception indicated in such words as those of 8:32 , 35 - 39, coming as they
do from a Hebrew monotheist of intense convictions? Meantime this transcendent
Person has so put Himself in relation with us, as the willing worker of the Father's
purpose of love, that He is the sacrifice of peace for us (Romans 3), our "propitiatory"
One (hilasterion, is now known to be an adjective), such that (whatever the mystery,
which leaves the fact no less certain) the man who believes on Him, i.e. (as Romans
4 fully demonstrates) relies on Him, gives himself over to His mercy, is not only
forgiven but "justified," "justified by faith." And "justification" is more than
forgiveness; it is not merely the remission of a penalty but a welcome to the
offender, pronounced to be lawfully at peace with the eternal holiness and love.
See JUSTIFICATION; PROPITIATION.
In closest connection with this message of justification is the teaching regarding
union with the Christ who has procured the justification. This is rather assumed
than expounded in Romans (we have the exposition more explicitly in Eph, Col,
and Gal), but the assumption is present wherever the pregnant phrase "in Christ"
is used. Union is, for Paul, the central doctrine of all, giving life and relation
to the whole range. As Lightfoot has well said (Sermons in Paul's, number 16),
he is the apostle not primarily of justification, or of liberty, great as these
truths are with him, but of union with Christ. It is through union that justification
is ours; the merits of the Head are for the member. It is through union that spiritual
liberty and power are ours; the Spirit of life is from the Head to the member.
Held by grace in this profound and multiplex connection, where life, love and
law are interlaced, the Christian is entitled to an assurance full of joy that
nothing shall separate him, soul and (ultimately) body, from his once sacrificed
and now risen and triumphant Lord.
(4) Doctrine of the Spirit of God.
No writing of the New Testament but John's Gospel is so full upon this great theme
as Romans 8 may be said to be the locus classicus in the Epistles for the work
of the Holy Ghost in the believer. By implication it reveals personality as well
as power (see especially 8:26). Note particularly the place of this great passage,
in which revelation and profoundest conditions run continually into each other.
It follows Romans 7, in which the apostle depicts, in terms of his own profound
and typical experience, the struggles of conscience and will over the awful problem
of the "bondage" of indwelling sin. If we interpret the passage aright, the case
supposed is that of a regenerate man, who, however, attempts the struggle against
inward evil armed, as to consciousness, with his own faculties merely, and finds
the struggle insupportable. Then comes in the divine solution, the promised Spirit
of life and liberty, welcomed and put into use by the man who has found his own
resources yam. "In Christ Jesus," in union with Him, he "by the Spirit does to
death the practices of the body," and rises through conscious liberty into an
exulting hope of "the liberty of the glory of the sons of God"--not so, however
as to know nothing of "groaning within himself," while yet in the body; but it
is a groan which leaves intact the sense of sonship and divine love, and the expectation
of a final completeness of redemption.
(5) Doctrine of Duty.
While the Epistle is eminently a message of salvation, it is also, in vital connection
with this, a treasury of principle and precept for the life of duty. It does indeed
lay down the sovereign freedom of our acceptance for Christ's sake alone, and
so absolutely that (Romans 6:1 , 2 , 15) the writer anticipates the inference
(by foes, or by mistaken friends), "Let us continue in sin." But the answer comes
instantly, and mainly through the doctrine of union. Our pardon is not an isolated
fact. Secured only by Christ's sacrifice, received only by the faith which receives
Him as our all, it is ipso facto never received alone but with all His other gifts,
for it becomes ours as we receive, not merely one truth about Him, but Him. Therefore,
we receive His Life as our true life; and it is morally unthinkable that we can
receive this and express it in sin. This assumed, the Epistle (Romans 12 and onward)
lays down with much detail and in admirable application large ranges of the law
of duty, civil, social, personal, embracing duties to the state, loyalty to its
laws, payment of its taxes, recognition of the sacredness of political order,
even ministered by pagans; and also duties to society and the church, including
a large and loving tolerance even in religious matters, and a response to every
call of the law of unselfish love. However we can or cannot adjust mentally the
two sides, that of a supremely free salvation and that of an inexorable responsibility,
there the two sides are, in the Pauline message. And reason and faith combine
to assure us that both sides are eternally true, "antinomies" whose harmony will
be explained hereafter in a higher life, but which are to be lived out here concurrently
by the true disciple, assured of their ultimate oneness of source in the eternal
(6) Doctrine of Israel.
Very briefly we touch on this department of the message of Romans, mainly to point
out that the problem of Israel's unbelief nowhere else in Paul appears as so heavy
a load on his heart, and that on the other hand we nowhere else have anything
like the light he claims to throw (Romans 11) on Israel's future. Here, if anywhere,
he appears as the predictive prophet, charged with the statement of a "mystery,"
and with the announcement of its issues. The promises to Israel have never failed,
nor are they canceled. At the worst, they have always been inherited by a chosen
remnant, Israel within Israel. And a time is coming when, in a profound connection
with Messianic blessing on the Gentiles, "all Israel shall be saved," with a salvation
which shall in turn be new life to the world outside Israel. Throughout the passage
Paul speaks, not as one who "will not give up a hope," but as having had revealed
to him a vast and definite prospect, in the divine purpose.
It is not possible in our present space to work out other lines of the message
of Romans. Perhaps enough has been done to stimulate the reader's own inquiries.
Of the Fathers, Chrysostom and Augustine are pre-eminent as interpreters of Romans:
Chrysostom in his expository Homilies, models of eloquent and illuminating discourse,
full of "sanctified common sense," while not perfectly appreciative of the inmost
doctrinal characteristics; Augustine, not in any continuous comm., but in his
anti-Pelagian writings, which show the sympathetic intensity of his study of the
doctrine of the Epistle, not so much on justification as on grace and the will.
Of the Reformers, Calvin is eminently the great commentator, almost modern in
his constant aim to ascertain the sacred writer's meaning by open-eyed inference
direct from the words. On Romans he is at his best; and it is remarkable that
on certain leading passages where grace is theme he is much less rigidly "Calvinistic"
than some of his followers. In modern times, the not learned but masterly exposition
of Robert Haldane (circa 1830) claims mention, and the eloquent and highly suggestive
expository lectures (about the same date) of Thomas Chalmers. H. A. W. Meyer (5th
edition, 1872, English translation 1873-1874) among the Germans is excellent for
carefulness and insight; Godet (1879, English translation 1881) equally so among
French-writing divines; of late English interpreters I. A. Beet (1877, many revisions),
Sanday and Headlam (1895, in the" International" series) and E. H. Gifford (admirable
for scholarship and exposition; his work was printed first in the Speaker's (Bible)
Comm., 1881, now separately) claim particular mention. J. Denney writes on Romans
in The Expositor's Greek Test. (1900).
Luther's lectures on Romans, delivered in 1516-1517 and long supposed lost, have
been recovered and were published by J. Ficker in 1908. Among modern German commentators,
the most important is B. Weiss in the later revisions of the Meyer series (9th
edition, 1899), while a very elaborate commentary has been produced by Zahn in
his own series (1910). Briefer are the works of Lipsius (Hand-Kommentar, 2nd edition,
1892, very scholarly and suggestive); Lietzmann (Handbuch zum N T, interest chiefly
linguistic), and Julicher (in J. Weiss, Schriften des NTs, 2nd edition, 1908,
an intensely able piece of popular exposition).
A. E. Garvie has written a brilliant little commentary in the "(New) Century"
series (no date); that of R. John Parry in the Cambridge Greek Testament, 1913,
is more popular, despite its use of the Greek text. F. B. Westcott's Paul and
Justification, 1913, contains a close grammatical study with an excellent paraphrase.
The writer may be allowed to name his short commentary (1879) in the Cambridge
Bible for Schools and a fuller one, in a more homiletic style, in the Expositor's
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