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Commentary on Romans
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Romans 1:16-17

16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

16. Non enim pudet me Evangelii Christi, quandoquidem potentia est Dei, in salutem omni credenti, Iudæoprimum, deinde Græco.

17. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

17. Nam justitia Dei in eo revelatur ex fide in fidem, sicut scriptum est, Justus ex fide sua vivet.

16. I am not indeed ashamed, etc. This is an anticipation of an objection; for he declares beforehand, that he cared not for the taunts of the ungodly; and he thus provides a way for himself, by which he proceeds to pronounce an eulogy on the value of the gospel, that it might not appear contemptible to the Romans. He indeed intimates that it was contemptible in the eyes of the world; and he does this by saying, that he was not ashamed of it. And thus he prepares them for bearing the reproach of the cross of Christ, lest they should esteem the gospel of less value by finding it exposed to the scoffs and reproaches of the ungodly; and, on the other hand, he shows how valuable it was to the faithful. If, in the first place, the power of God ought to be extolled by us, that power shines forth in the gospel; if, again, the goodness of God deserves to be sought and loved by us, the gospel is a display of his goodness. It ought then to be reverenced and honored, since veneration is due to God’s power; and as it avails to our salvation, it ought to be loved by us.

But observe how much Paul ascribes to the ministry of the word, when he testifies that God thereby puts forth his power to save; for he speaks not here of any secret revelation, but of vocal preaching. It hence follows, that those as it were willfully despise the power of God, and drive away from them his delivering hand, who withdraw themselves from the hearing of the word.

At the same time, as he works not effectually in all, but only where the Spirit, the inward Teacher, illuminates the heart, he subjoins, To every one who believeth. The gospel is indeed offered to all for their salvation, but the power of it appears not everywhere: and that it is the savor of death to the ungodly, does not proceed from what it is, but from their own wickedness. By setting forth but one Salvation he cuts off every other trust. When men withdraw themselves from this one salvation, they find in the gospel a sure proof of their own ruin. Since then the gospel invites all to partake of salvation without any difference, it is rightly called the doctrine of salvation: for Christ is there offered, whose peculiar office is to save that which was lost; and those who refuse to be saved by him, shall find him a Judge. But everywhere in Scripture the word salvation is simply set in opposition to the word destruction: and hence we must observe, when it is mentioned, what the subject of the discourse is. Since then the gospel delivers from ruin and the curse of endless death, its salvation is eternal life. 3838     On the power of God, Pareus observes, that the abstract, after the Hebrew manner, is put for the concrete. Power means the instrument of God’s power; that is, the gospel is an instrument rendered efficacious by divine power to convey salvation to believers: or, as Stuart says, “It is powerful through the energy which he imparts, and so it is called his power.” Chalmers gives this paraphrase, “It is that, which however judged and despised as a weak instrument by the men of this world — it is that, to which he, by his own power, gives effect for the recovery of that life which all men had forfeited and lost by sin.”
   “The gospel is a divine act, which continues to operate through all ages of the world, and that not in the first place outwardly, but inwardly, in the depths of the soul, and for eternal purposes.” — Dr. Olshausen

First to the Jew and then to the Greek. Under the word Greek, he includes all the Gentiles, as it is evident from the comparison that is made; for the two clauses comprehend all mankind. And it is probable that he chose especially this nation to designate other nations, because, in the first place, it was admitted, next to the Jews, into a participation of the gospel covenant; and, secondly, because the Greeks, on account of their vicinity, and the celebrity of their language, were more known to the Jews. It is then a mode of speaking, a part being taken for the whole, by which he connects the Gentiles universally with the Jews, as participators of the gospel: nor does he thrust the Jews from their own eminence and dignity, since they were the first partakers of God’s promise and calling. He then reserves for them their prerogative; but he immediately joins the Gentiles, though in the second place, as being partakers with them.

17. For 3939     “The causative, γὰρ, indicates a connection with the preceding, that the gospel is the power of God: the reason is, because by the gospel is revealed the righteousness of God, that is, made known by it is a way of righteousness and of obtaining life before God, which neither the law, nor philosophy, nor any other doctrine, was able to show.” — Pareus the righteousness of God, etc. This is an explanation and a confirmation of the preceding clause — that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. For if we seek salvation, that is, life with God, righteousness must be first sought, by which being reconciled to him, we may, through him being propitious to us, obtain that life which consists only in his favor; for, in order to be loved by God, we must first become righteous, since he regards unrighteousness with hatred. He therefore intimates, that we cannot obtain salvation otherwise than from the gospel, since nowhere else does God reveal to us his righteousness, which alone delivers us from perdition. Now this righteousness, which is the groundwork of our salvation, is revealed in the gospel: hence the gospel is said to be the power of God unto salvation. Thus he reasons from the cause to the effect.

Notice further, how extraordinary and valuable a treasure does God bestow on us through the gospel, even the communication of his own righteousness. I take the righteousness of God to mean, that which is approved before his tribunal; 4040     “The righteousness of God,” δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, has been the occasion of much toil to critics, but without reason: the very context is sufficient to show its meaning, it being what the gospel reveals, and what the gospel reveals is abundantly known from other passages. Whether we saw, it is the righteousness which is approved of God, as Calvin says, or provided by God, or contrived by God, or imputed by God, the meaning does not materially differ, and indeed all these things, as it is evident from Scripture, are true respecting it.
   There is more difficulty connected with the following words, ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν. The view which Calvin gives was adopted by some of the Fathers, such as Theophylact and Clemens Alexandrinus; and it is that of Melancthon, Beza, Scaliger, Locke, and many others. From Poole we find that Chrysostom gave this exposition, “From the obscure and inchoate faith of the Old Testament to the clear and full faith of the New;” and that Ambrose’s exposition was the following, “From the faith or fidelity of God who promises to the faith of him who believes.” But in all these views there is not that which comports with the context, nor the construction very intelligible-”revealed from faith,” What can it mean? To render the passage intelligibly, ἐκ πίστεως must be connected with δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, as suggested by Hammond, and followed by Doddridge and Macknight. Then it would be, “The righteousness of God by faith or, which is by faith:” this is revealed in the gospel “to faith,” that is, in order that it may be believed; which is often the force of εἰς before a noun; as, εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν — in order to do wickedness; or, εἰς ἁγιασμόν in order to practice holiness, Romans 6:19 Chalmers, Stuart, Barnes, and Haldane take this view. The verse may be thus rendered, —

   For the righteousness of God by faith is in it revealed in order to be believed, as it is written, “The just shall by faith live.” The same truth is conveyed in Romans 3:22; and similar phraseology is found in Philippians 3:9.

   Barnes seems fully to express the import of the passage in these words, “God’s plan of justifying men is revealed in the gospel, which plan is by faith, and the benefits of which plan shall be extended to all that have faith or that believe.” — Ed.
as that, on the contrary, is usually called the righteousness of men, which is by men counted and supposed to be righteousness, though it be only vapor. Paul, however, I doubt not, alludes to the many prophecies in which the Spirit makes known everywhere the righteousness of God in the future kingdom of Christ.

Some explain it as the righteousness which is freely given us by God: and I indeed confess that the words will bear this sense; for God justifies us by the gospel, and thus saves us: yet the former view seems to me more suitable, though it is not what I make much of. Of greater moment is what some think, that this righteousness does not only consist in the free remission of sins, but also, in part, includes the grace of regeneration. But I consider, that we are restored to life because God freely reconciles us to himself, as we shall hereafter show in its proper place.

But instead of the expression he used before, “to every one who believeth,” he says now, from faith; for righteousness is offered by the gospel, and is received by faith. And he adds, to faith: for as our faith makes progress, and as it advances in knowledge, so the righteousness of God increases in us at the same time, and the possession of it is in a manner confirmed. When at first we taste the gospel, we indeed see God’s smiling countenance turned towards us, but at a distance: the more the knowledge of true religion grows in us, by coming as it were nearer, we behold God’s favor more clearly and more familiarly. What some think, that there is here an implied comparison between the Old and New Testament, is more refined than well-founded; for Paul does not here compare the Fathers who lived under the law with us, but points out the daily progress that is made by every one of the faithful.

As it is written, etc. By the authority of the Prophet Habakkuk he proves the righteousness of faith; for he, predicting the overthrow of the proud, adds this — that the life of the righteous consists in faith. Now we live not before God, except through righteousness: it then follows, that our righteousness is obtained by faith; and the verb being future, designates the real perpetuity of that life of which he speaks; as though he had said, — that it would not be momentary, but continue forever. For even the ungodly swell with the false notion of having life; but when they say, “Peace and safety,” a sudden destruction comes upon them, (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) It is therefore a shadow, which endures only for a moment. Faith alone is that which secures the perpetuity of life; and whence is this, except that it leads us to God, and makes our life to depend on him? For Paul would not have aptly quoted this testimony had not the meaning of the Prophet been, that we then only stand, when by faith we recumb on God: and he has not certainly ascribed life to the faith of the godly, but in as far as they, having renounced the arrogance of the world, resign themselves to the protection of God alone. 4141     Here is an instance in which Paul quotes the Old Testament, [Habbakuk 2:4] neither exactly from the Hebrew nor the Septuagint. The Hebrew is “the just, — by his faith shall he live,” וצדיק באמונתו היה: and the Septuagint, turns “his” into “my,” ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως μοῦ ζήσεται — “The just shall by my faith live,” — “by my faith,” that is, according to the tenor of the passage, “by faith in me.” The passage is quoted by him twice besides, in Galatians 3:11, and in Hebrews 10:38, but exactly in the same words, without the pronoun “his” or “my.” His object in this, as in some similar instances, was to state the general truth contained in the passage, and not to give a strictly verbal quotation. — Ed.

He does not indeed professedly handle this subject; and hence he makes no mention of gratuitous justification: but it is sufficiently evident from the nature of faith, that this testimony is rightly applied to the present subject. Besides, we necessarily gather from his reasoning, that there is a mutual connection between faith and the gospel: for as the just is said to live by faith, he concludes that this life is received by the gospel.

We have now the principal point or the main hinge of the first part of this Epistle, — that we are justified by faith through the mercy of God alone. We have not this, indeed as yet distinctly expressed by Paul; but from his own words it will hereafter be made very clear — that the righteousness, which is grounded on faith, depends entirely on the mercy of God.


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