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Commentary on Romans
« Prev Romans 11:22-24 Next »

Romans 11:22-24

22. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

22. Vide igitur lenitatem 359359     “Lenitatem;” χρηστότητα; “indulgentiam — indulgence,” Jerome; “benignitatem — benignity,” Beza. Its most literal meaning is “beneficence,” as χηστὸς is useful or beneficial: but “goodness,” as in our version, expresses its sense here perhaps better than any other word. It is rendered “kindness” in 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 2:7; Colossians 3:12; Titus 3:4; — “gentleness” in Galatians 5:22, — and “good” in Romans 3:12. It is nowhere else found and has a similar meaning in the Septuagint, and stands often for טוב, which signifies good, goodness, benevolence. — Ed. et severitatem Dei; in eos quidem qui ceciderunt, severitatem; 360360     “Severitatem;” ἀποτομίαν; “rigorem — rigor,” Erasmus, “praecisam severitatem — a cut-off severity,” Beza. It means literally excision, cutting off, amputation, and metaphorically, rigor, severity; and it is taken, says Schleusner, not from the amputation of infected limbs, but from the cutting off of barren and useless branches of trees. It occurs here only, and is not found in the Septuagint Αποτμία τῶν νόμων — rigor of the laws, Diod. Sic. It is used adverbially in two places, 2 Corinthians 13:10, and Titus 1:13; where it means rigidly, sharply, severely. The adjective, ἀπότομος, is found in Wisdom of Solomon 5:20, and Solomon 6:6, connected with “wrath” and “judgment,” and means rigid or severe. — Ed. in te vero lenitatem, si permanseris in lenitate; alioqui tu quoque excideris:

23. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

23. Et illi, si non perstiterint in incredulitate, inserentur; potens enim est Deus rursum inserere ipsos.

24. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

24. Si enim tu ex oleastro, quae tibi nativa erat, exectus es, et printer naturam insitus es in veram oleam; multo magis hi secundum naturam propriae oleae inserentur.

22. See then, etc. By laying the case before their eyes he more clearly and fully confirms the fact, — that the Gentiles had no reason to be proud. They saw in the Jews an example of God’s severity, which ought to have terrified them; while in themselves they had an evidence of his grace and goodness, by which they ought to have been stimulated to thankfulness only, and to exalt the Lord and not themselves. The words import the same, as though he had said, — “If thou exultest over their calamity, think first what thou hast been; for the same severity of God would have impended over thee, hadst thou not been delivered by his gratuitous favor: then consider what thou art even now; for salvation shall not continue to thee, except thou humbly recognisest the mercy of God; for if thou forgettest thyself and arrogantly exultest, the ruin, into which they have fallen, awaits thee: it is not indeed enough for thee to have once embraced the favor of God, except thou followest his call through the whole course of thy life.” They indeed who have been illuminated by the Lord ought always to think of perseverance; for they continue not in the goodness of God, who having for a time responded to the call of God, do at length begin to loathe the kingdom of heaven, and thus by their ingratitude justly deserve to be blinded again.

But he addresses not each of the godly apart, as we have already said, but he makes a comparison between the Gentiles and the Jews. It is indeed true that each individual among the Jews received the reward due to his own unbelief, when they were banished from the kingdom of God, and that all who front among the Gentiles were called, were vessels of God’s mercy; but yet the particular design of Paul must be borne in mind. For he would have the Gentiles to depend on the eternal covenant of God, so as to connect their own with the salvation of the elect people, and then, lest the rejection of the Jews should produce offense, as though their ancient adoption were void, he would have them to be terrified by this example of punishment, so as reverently to regard the judgment of God. For whence comes so great licentiousness on curious questions, except that we almost neglect to consider those things which ought to have duly taught us humility?

But as he speaks not of the elect individually, but of the whole body, a condition is added, If they continued in his kindness I indeed allow, that as soon as any one abuses God’s goodness, he deserves to be deprived of the offered favor; but it would be improper to say of any one of the godly particularly, that God had mercy on him, when he chose him, provided he would continue in his mercy; for the perseverance of faith, which completes in us the effect of God’s grace, flows from election itself. Paul then teaches us, that the Gentiles were admitted into the hope of eternal life on the condition, that they by their gratitude retained possession of it. And dreadful indeed was the defection of the whole world, which afterwards happened; and this dearly proves, that this exhortation was not superfluous; for when God had almost in a moment watered it with his grace, so that religion flourished everywhere, soon after the truth of the gospel vanished, and the treasure of salvation was taken away. And whence came so sudden a change, except that the Gentiles had fallen away from their calling?

Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off, etc. We now understand in what sense Paul threatens them with excision, whom he has already allowed to have been grafted into the hope of life through God’s election. For, first, though this cannot happen to the elect, they have yet need of such warning, in order to subdue the pride of the flesh; which being really opposed to their salvation, ought justly to be terrified with the dread of perdition. As far then as Christians are illuminated by faith, they hear, for their assurance, that the calling of God is without repentance; but as far as they carry about them the flesh, which wantonly resists the grace of God, they are taught humility by this warning, “Take heed lest thou be cut off.” Secondly, we must bear in mind the solution which I have before mentioned, — that Paul speaks not here of the special election of individuals, but sets the Gentiles and Jews in opposition the one to the other; and that therefore the elect are not so much addressed in these words, as those who falsely gloried that they had obtained the place of the Jews: nay, he speaks to the Gentiles generally, and addresses the whole body in common, among whom there were many who were faithful, and those who were members of Christ in name only.

But if it be asked respecting individuals, “How any one could be cut off from the grafting, and how, after excision, he could be grafted again,” — bear in mind, that there are three modes of insition, and two modes of excision. For instance, the children of the faithful are ingrafted, to whom the promise belongs according to the covenant made with the fathers; ingrafted are also they who indeed receive the seed of the gospel, but it strikes no root, or it is choked before it brings any fruit; and thirdly, the elect are ingrafted, who are illuminated unto eternal life according to the immutable purpose of God. The first are cut off, when they refuse the promise given to their fathers, or do not receive it on account of their ingratitude; the second are cut off, when the seed is withered and destroyed; and as the danger of this impends over all, with regard to their own nature, it must be allowed that this warning which Paul gives belongs in a certain way to the faithful, lest they indulge themselves in the sloth of the flesh. But with regard to the present passage, it is enough for us to know, that the vengeance which God had executed on the Jews, is pronounced on the Gentiles, in case they become like them.

23. For God is able, etc. Frigid would this argument be to the profane; for however they may concede power to God, yet as they view it at a distance, shut up as it were in heaven, they do for the most part rob it of its effect. But as the faithful, whenever they hear God’s power named, look on it as in present operation, he thought that this reason was sufficient to strike their minds. We may add, that he assumes this as an acknowledged axiom, — that God had so punished the unbelief of his people as not to forget his mercy; according to what he had done before, having often restored the Jews, after he had apparently banished them from his kingdom. And he shows at the same time by the comparison, how much more easy it would be to reverse the present state of things than to have introduced it; that is, how much easier it would be for the natural branches, if they were again put in the place from which they had been cut off, to draw substance from their own root, than for the wild and the unfruitful, from a foreign stock: for such is the comparison made between the Jews and the Gentiles.


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