Meditations on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans

Romans 1  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
In none of the other epistles does the apostle place his apostleship upon so firm a basis as in the one before us, and this perhaps for this reason, that he had no claim upon the Christians at Rome in consequence of his labor; although he knew several saints there personally, yet he himself had never been at Rome. Nevertheless he was their apostle, because he was the apostle of the nations. He was debtor to the nations. He wrote to them, because he had received of the Lord a mission to all nations. The Christians at Rome, therefore, belonged to the field of his labor. To him it was entrusted “that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (chap. 15:16). God wrought effectually by Peter among the Jews; but Paul was sent to the nations, and as such acknowledged by the twelve other apostles (Gal. 2:77But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (Galatians 2:7)). He was therefore fully entitled to write a letter to the assembly at Rome, not merely because he was a servant of Christ—such were many besides him—but because he was “a called apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (verse 1). His calling took place on his way to Damascus, through the glorified Christ Himself (Acts 10), and his separation unto this service at Antioch, through the authority of the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:22As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Acts 13:2)). The object of his service, whereunto he was called, was “the gospel of God concerning his Son.” It is the gospel of God, because as it originated from God Himself, and as His own purposes are made known therein, God Himself is the source of this gospel. It was promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures (verse 2), and this shows unto us the connection of the Old Testament with the gospel.1 It is here well to notice, that this gospel was not yet revealed, and brought to light through the holy Scriptures, but was only before declared as a coming thing. But in reference to the assembly this was not the case.
The precious object of this gospel is the Son of God— “the gospel of God concerning his Son” (verse 3), Jesus who had finished the work of redemption: He Himself is the true object of this gospel. In verses 2 and 3 He is presented to us in a twofold relation. At first He is the object and fulfiller of the promises—” of the seed of David according to the flesh,” and then He is “declared the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead” (verses 3, 4).
Let us observe first the two words “declared” and “made” standing opposed to one another. He was the Son of God, and this is perfectly declared by His resurrection from the dead. But He came in the flesh, as it is written: “The word was made flesh.” This will simply signify: He became a real man—the second Adam. He was horn of Mary, He was the man Christ Jesus, but He had in nowise part with our corrupted nature, as is asserted by a false doctrine spread much abroad, whereby our redemption is quite called in question. The power of the Highest had overshadowed
Mary, and what was born of her was that Holy thing, the Son of God (Luke 1:3535And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)). As man, Jesus was the second Adam—head of a new creation. He was the Lord from heaven, and came to be the fulfiller of the promises of God, of the seed of David.
The resurrection from the dead is the great and public proof, that Christ is the Son of God. The power of the Spirit, which in perfect holiness manifested itself in Him during His whole life, was displayed in the resurrection in perfect power. In the resurrection, therefore, it is not a question of promises, but of power. Here is the question concerning Him, who Himself was in conflict with death, under which man lay captive. Jesus perfectly conquered death, and that in connection with the holiness, which during His whole life gave testimony of the power of the Spirit, by which He lived. First it is declared through His own resurrection and then through the resurrection from the dead in general, that He is the Son of God.
The gospel was the gospel of God; but through Jesus Christ, the Lord, Paul had received “grace and apostleship” (verse 5). Christ was the head, and He sent forth the laborers into His harvest, to work in the world. The grace here refers not so much to the personal redemption of Paul, but rather to his service. The entrusting of the same was grace. It signifies the true character of service, and the practice of it. Paul through grace was the bearer of this message of grace, which exercises its whole power upon lost sinners, and presents the inexhaustible riches of God to the believer freely. The object and bearing of the mission of the apostle was “the obedience of faith among all nations”—not the “obedience of the law,” which was Israel’s responsibility. Here we have also the kind and manner of the obedience, and not the object itself. At the same time we are told that it was for the name of Jesus, to confirm the authority and the value of this name, who shall bear universal rule and be acknowledged.
Among these nations were also the believers at Rome, “called of Jesus Christ” (verse 6). The apostle directs his epistle to all believers in that great city. He calls them “beloved of God and called saints;” this is their character. They are saints—not through birth, nor through ceremonial ordinances, but through “divine calling.” The Jews, in contrast with the nations, were born saints, but the Christians are “saints through the calling of Jesus Christ,” and are “beloved of God” (verse 7).
The apostle wishes them “grace and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 7). This blessed message starts from thence, and from thence he addresses himself to them. In his gospel and in his heart he brought the perfect grace of God through Christ, and the perfect peace of man with God, as also the peace of God itself. This is the ground upon which Christianity places man; these are the true and blessed relations of God to man and of man to God, which the gospel declares and imparts. When the apostle writes to single persons, he adds to his salutation the word “mercy.” Personal weakness and infirmity are there recognized in such cases. (Compare Timothy, Titus, &c.) But as soon as believers are looked at as a body, as an assembly, then are they the objects upon which all mercy is shed abroad. They are, viewed with the eye of God, continually under the influence and energy of the love and grace which has blessed them.
The faith of the Romans was spoken of throughout the whole world at that time (verse 8). The reason why their faith was known so generally, lay perhaps chiefly in the persecution, which broke out under the Emperor Claudius (Acts 18), and through which many Christians were driven out of Rome. Their faith was therefore approved, and this awakened the deepest thankfulness in the heart of the apostle toward God. Paul is not only in his service, but also with his whole heart connected with this work of grace. Filled with the love of God, he does rejoice in the operation and spreading of this grace, and thanks God, who is the only source of the same. “He serves with his spirit in the gospel of his Son” (verse 9). His service was done in communion with the source in which the service itself had its origin. His “prayer without ceasing” proves how hearty and uninterruptedly his communion with this source was. And in truth our service, yea, our whole conduct here below, cannot be blessed and accompanied with power, except it flows from communion with God (verse 10). At the same time he declares his apostolic relationship to them, and this with a delicacy, which is peculiar only to grace and love. He longs for them with the heartiest and most brotherly love, in order to “impart some spiritual gift,” which his office as apostle enabled him to confer (verse 10); and this would he do, for this reason, that he himself and they also might be partakers together, and be comforted together by their mutual faith, through the communication of this gift of grace (verse 12). Yea, what tenderness of feeling and what love did he manifest in those few words! He is a called apostle among all nations, although he had not seen them, but in his heart he is their servant. He himself had often purposed to come to them, that he also, in this field of labor, assigned to him of God, might have some fruit (verse 13). He declared that he is a debtor to all nations, and that he, as much as was in him, was ready also to preach the gospel to them that are at Rome (verses 14-15). This readiness had its source as well in the perfect devotedness of the apostle, as also more particularly in the knowledge of the precious value of the gospel, the bearer of which he was. Yet how wondrous was the way in which the prayer and desire of the apostle to come to Rome was fulfilled! He came there only at the end of his course, and then as a prisoner. Surely, the ways of God are wondrous!
It has been already remarked that the readiness of the apostle to preach the gospel to them at Rome had its source particularly in the precious value of the gospel. This is specially expressed in these words: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,2 for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (verse 16). Paul knew the gospel as the power of God, and therefore he was not ashamed of it—not even of preaching it in the great metropolis of Rome. Whosoever, therefore, believeth receives in the gospel the power of God unto salvation. All are lost, both Jews as well as Greeks; for all there is but one power for redemption, the power of God, and this power is the gospel. Therefore it must be preached to all; first to the Jews, who had the law and the promises; but also the Greeks had claims upon the declaration of it.
The law would have been the power of man, had man been able to fulfill it. But now all glory is due to God. It is “the gospel of God,” and it is also “the power of God unto salvation.” Man has no merit and no glory in it. The gospel brings a redemption, whose source and might is God alone. Man has done nothing towards it, neither can he do anything towards it. God has interposed in His might and love to save the sinner according to the power that is in Him, and, therefore, it is and remains the work of God alone.
Some Thoughts on The Gospel of John. Chap. 18.
Now the Lord goes to meet evil, the power of darkness; but it is beautiful to see the calmness and tranquility with which He presents Himself to His enemies. He had been in the presence of God, in the enjoyment of communion with Him, and when He goes forth to meet His enemies, He shows a tranquility, which was an evident sign of the peace and power that were in Him. He had come to reveal the Father, but He is also ready to die; because He had come to die. At verse 6, His enemies fall to the ground, and as a man He could have gone away from them; but He goes to meet the power of the devil in order to allow His disciples to escape with their lives. In such-wise He went to bear the evil that we might be saved, as it is written in verse 9. Peter’s conduct is the exact opposite to that of Jesus; when Jesus was praying in the garden Peter was sleeping; when Jesus is going as a lamb to the slaughter, Peter wants to resist; when Jesus is making a good confession before his enemies, Peter is denying Him. Nevertheless the Lord answers Peter with calmness, and notwithstanding what we know had passed in the presence of the Father respecting His feeling of horror at this cup, seeing that it was His will He should drink it, He now takes it tranquilly from His hand, Jesus always called God His Father, all through His life, except when He was making atonement for sin upon the cross, then He called Him God, (“My God, my God;”) and it is after the expiation He again called Him Father, showing the relationship which He enjoyed, not only as Son, but according to all the perfections of God glorified, into which he brings us also along with Himself.
Peter and John had a special love for Jesus, see verse 15. They were closely bound up together in the Lord’s work after the resurrection. Jesus always treated the Jews with indifference, and as it were with contempt, see verses 20, 21. At verse 31, we see how God overruled the designs of His enemies for the accomplishment of His own will; as an example of this, the Jews did not want to take Him on the feast day, but they could not do otherwise. He must die on the cross for three reasons: —1St. Because it was the most infamous of deaths by which malefactors only and slaves were executed. 2nd. Because He must be lifted up from the earth to draw men unto Him. 3rd. Because it was the expression of the curse, as it is written, “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.”
Pilate asked, “What is truth?” just as the modern philosophers do; but there can be no truth apart from Christ; man has not the truth, because he does not want God, and then all his calculations are based on a false foundation.
1. Evangelion.
2. T.R. reads “of Christ.”