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A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans online

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According to St. Paul the manifestation of the Divine righteous-
ness takes a number of different forms. Four of these may be
specified, (i) It is seen in the fidelity with which God fulfils His
promises (Rom. iii. 3, 4), {2) It is seen in the punishment
which God metes out upon sin, especially the great final punish-
ment, the fj[xepa opyi]: Koi dnoKaXvylreoiS SiKaioKpiaiag tov Qeov (Rom.

ii. 5). Wrath is only the reaction of the Divine righteousness
when it comes into collision with sin. (3) There is one signal mani-
festation of righteousness, the nature of which it is difficult for us
wholly to grasp, in the Death of Christ. We are going further
than we have warrant for if we set the Love of God in opposition
to His Justice ; but we have the express warrant of Rom. iii. 25, 26
for regarding the Death on Calvary as a culminating exhibition of
the Divine righteousness, an exhibition which in some mysterious
way explains and justifies the apparent slumbering of Divine re-
sentment against sin. The inadequate punishment hitherto in-
flicted upon sin, the long reprieve which had been allowed man-
kind to induce them to repent, all looked forward as it were to that
culminating event. Without it they could not have been; but the
shadow of it was cast before, and the prospect of it made them
possible. (4) There is a further link of connexion between what is
said as to the Death of Christ on Calvary and the leading pro-
position laid down in these verses (i. 16, 17) as to a righteousness
of God apprehended by faith. The Death of Christ is of the
nature of a sacrifice (eV tw airov alfiari) and acts as an iXacrTi'jpiuv
(iii. 25 q. V.) by virtue of which the Righteousness of God which
reaches its culminating expression in it becomes capable of wide
diffusion amongst men. This is the great 'going forth' of the
Divine Righteousness, and it embraces in its scope all believers.
The essence of it, however, is — at least at first, whatever it may be
ultimately — that it consists not m making men actually righteous
but in ' justifying ' or treating them as if they were righteous.


Here we reach a fundamental conception with St. Paul, and one
which dominates all this part of the Epistle to the Romans, so that
it may be well to dwell upon it in some detail.

We have seen that a process of transference or conversion
takes place ; that the righteousness of which St. Paul speaks, though
it issues forth from God, ends in a state or condition of man. How
could this be? The name which St. Paul gives to the process
is SiKnt'cocrtv (iv. 25, V, 1 8). More often he uses in respect to
it the verb 8iKaioia-6iu (iii. 24, 28, v. i, 9, viii. 30, 33). The full
phrase is SiKaiovcrdcn tK triiTTecos : which means that the believer, by
virtue of his faith, is 'accounted or treated as if he were righteous'
in the sight of God. More even than this : the person so ' ac-
counted righteous' may be, and indeed is assumed to be, not
actually righteous, but da-f^fjs (Rom. iv. 5), an offender against

There is something sufficiently startling in this. The Christian
life is made to have its beginning in a fiction. No wonder that
the fact is questioned, and that another sense is given to the words
— that ^iKaiovadai is taken to imply not the attribution of righteous-
ness in idea but an imparting of actual righteousness. The facts
of language, however, are inexorable : we have seen that 8iKaiovv,
^iKaioivdai have the first sense and not the second ; that they are
rightly said to be * forensic'; that they have reference to a judicial
verdict, and to nothing beyond. To this conclusion we feel bound
to adhere, even though it should follow that the state described
is (if we are pressed) a fiction, that God is regarded as dealing
with men rather by the ideal standard of what they may be than by
the actual standard of what they are. What this means is that
when a man makes a great change such as that which the first
Christians made when they embraced Christianity, he is allowed
to start on his career with a clean record ; his sin-stained past
is not reckoned against him. The change is the great thing ; it
is that at which God looks. As with the Prodigal Son in the
parable the breakdown of his pride and rebel 1 on in the one cry,
■ Father, I have sinned' is enough. The faiht-r does not wait
to be gracious. He does not put him upon a long term of
probation, but reinstates him at once in ihe full privilege of
sonship. The justifying verdict is nothing more than the 'best
robe' and the 'ring' and the 'fatted calf of the parable (Luke
XV. 22 {.).

When the process of Justification is thus reduced to its simplest
elements we see that there is after all nothing so very strange
about it. It is simply Forgiveness, Free Forgiveness. The Parable
of the Prodigal Son is a picture of it which is complete on two
of its sides, as an expression of the attiiude of mind required in
the sinner, and of the reception accorded to him by God. To


insist that it must also be complete in a negative sense, and that
it excludes any further conditions of acceptance, because no such
conditions are mentioned, is to forget the nature of a parable.
It would be as reasonable to argue that the father would be
indifferent to the future conduct of the son whom he has recovered
because the curtain falls upon the scene of his recovery and is
not again lifted. By pressing the argument from silence in this
way we should only make the Gospels inconsistent with them-
selves, because elsewhere they too (as we shall see) speak of
fmther condiiions besides the attitude and temper of the sinner.

We see then that at bottom and when we come to the essence of
things the teaching of the Gospels is not really different from the
teaching of St. Paul. It may be said that the one is tenderly and
pathetically human where the other is a system of Jewish Scho-
lasticism. But even if we allow the name it is an encouragement
to us to seek for the simpler meaning of much that we may be
inclined to call ' scholastic' And we may also by a little inspection
discover that in following out lines of thought which might come
under this description St. Paul is really taking up the threads of
grand and far-reaching ideas which had fallen from the Prophets
of Israel and had never yet been carried forwards to their legitimate
issues. The Son of Man goes straight, as none other, to the
heart of our common humanity; but that does not exclude the
right of philosophizing or theologizing on the facts of religion, and
that is surely not a valueless theology which has such facts as its

What has been thus far urged may serve to mitigate the apparent
strangeness of St. Paul's doctrine of Justification. But there is
much more to be said when we come to take that doctrine with
its context and to put it in its proper place in relation to the whole

In the first place it must be remembered that the doctrine belongs
strictly speaking only to the beginning of the Christian's career.
It marks the initial stage, the entrance upon the way of life. It
was pointed out a moment ago that in the Parable of the Prodigal
Son the curtain drops at the readmission of the prodigal to his
home. We have no further glimpse of his home life. To isolate
the doctrine of Justification is to drop the curtain at the same
place, as if the justified believer had no after-career to be re-

But St. Paul does not so isolate it He takes it up and follows
every step in that after-career till it ends in the final glory (our 8(
(^tKaiw(re, tovtovs koI f86$a(re viii, 30). We may say roughly that
the first five chapters of the Epistle are concerned with the doctrine
of Justificadon, in itself (i. 16 — iii. 30), in its relation to leading
features of the Old Covenant (iii. 31 — iv. 25) and in the conse-


quences which flowed from it (v. 1-2 1). But with ch. vi another
factor is introduced, the Mystical Union of the Christian with the
Risen Christ. This subject is prosecuted through three chapters,
vi-viii, which really cover (except perhaps the one section vii.
7-25) — and that with great fulness of detail — the whole career
of the Christian subsequent to Justification. We shall speak of
the teaching of those chapters when we come to them.

It is no doubt an arguable question how far these later chapters
can rightly be included under the same category as the earlier.
Dr. Liddon for instance summarizes their contents as 'Justification
considered subjectively and in its effects upon life and conduct.
Moral consequences of Justification. (A) The Life of Justification
and sin (vi. 1-14). (B) The Life of Justification and the Mosaic
Law (vi. 15 — vii. 25). (C) The Life of Justification and the work
of the Holy Spirit (viii.).' The question as to the legitimacy of
this description hangs together with the question as to the meaning
of the term Justification. If Justification =yir/j////<z infusa as well
as imputata^ then we need not dispute the bringing of chaps, vi-viii
under that category. But we have given the reasons which compel
us to dissent from this view. The older Protestant theologians dis-
tinguished between Justification and Sanctification; and we think
that they were right both in drawing this distinction and in
referring chaps, vi-viii to the second head rather than to the first.
On the whole St. Paul does keep the two subjects separate from
each other ; and it seems to us to conduce to clearness of thought
to keep them separate.

At the same time we quite admit that the point at issue is rathei
one of clearness of thought and convenience of thinking than
anything more material. Although separate the two subjects run
up into each other and are connected by real links. There is an
organic unity in the Christian life. Its different parts and functions
are no more really separable than the different parts and functions
of the human body. And in this respect tliere is a true analogy
between body and soul. When Dr. Liddon concludes his note
(p. 18) by saying, 'Justification and sanctification may be dis-
tinguished by the student, as are the arterial and nervous systems
in the human body ; but in the living soul they are coincident and
inseparable,' we may cordially agree. The distinction between
Justification and Sanctification or between the subjects of chaps,
i, 16 — V, and chaps, vi-viii is analogous to that between the arterial
and nervous systems ; it holds good as much and no more — no
more, but as much.

A further question may be raised which the advocates of the
view we have just been discussing would certainly answer in the
affirmative, viz. whether we might not regard the whole working
out of the influences brought to bear upon the Christian in chaps.


vi-viii, as yet a fifth great expression of the Righteousness of God
as energizing amongst men. We too think that it might be so
regarded. It stands quite on a like footing with other manifes-
tations of that Righteousness. All that can be said to the con-
trary is that St. Paul himself does not explicitly give it this


I. 18-32. This revelation of Righteojisness, isstiing forth
from God and embracing man, has a dark background in
that other revelation of Divine Wrath at the gross wicked-
ness of men (ver. icS).

There are three stages: (i) the knowledge of God zvhick
all might have from the character imprinted upon CreatioJt
(w. 19-20) ; (2) the deliberate ignoring of this knowledge
and idle speculation ending in idolatry (vv. 21-23) '■> (3) ^^^^
judicial surrender of those who provoke God by idolatry to
every kittd of moral degradation (vv. 24-32).

" This message of mine is the one ray of hope for a doomed
world. The only other revelation, which we can see all around
us, is a revelation not of the Righteousness but of the Wrath
of God breaking forth — or on the point of breaking forth — from
heaven, like the lightning from a thundercloud, upon all the
coundess offences at once against morals and religion of which
mankind are guilty. They stifle and suppress the Truth within
them, while they go on still in their wrong-doing (eV a^iK.). *"It is
not merely ignorance. All that may be known of God He has
revealed in their hearts and consciences. ^°For since the world
has been created His attributes, though invisible in themselves,
are traced upon the fabric of the visible creation. I mean, His
Power to which there is no begiiming and those other attributes
which we sum up under the common name of Divinity.

So plain is all this as to make it impossible to escape the
responsibiUty of ignoring it. " The guilt of men lay not in their
ignorance ; for they had a knowledge of God. But in sjnte of
that knowledge^ they did not pay the homage due to Him as


God : they gave Him no thanks ; but they gave the rein to futile
speculations; they lost all inielligence of truth, and their moral
sense was obscured. ""■ While they boasted of their wisdom, they
were turned to folly. " In place of the majesty of the Eternal
God, they worshipped some fictitious representation of weak and
perishable man, of bird, of quadruped or reptile.

'* Such were the beginnings of idolatry. And as a punishment
for it God gave them up to moral corruption, leaving; them to
fc>lIow their own depraved desires wherever they might lead, even
to the polluting of their bodies by shameful intercourse. '* Repro-
bates, who could abandon the living and true God for a sham
divinity, and render divine honours and ritual observance to the
creature, neglecting the Creator (Blessed be His name for ever!).

"* Because of this idolatry, I repeat, God gave them up to the
vilest passions. Women behaved like monsters who had forgotten
their sex. ^ And men, forsaking the natural use, wrought shame
with their own kind, and received in their physical degradation
a punishment such as they deserved.

'^^They refused to make God their study: and as they rejected
Him, so He rejected them, giving them over to that abandoned
mind which led them into acts disgraceful to them as men:
'"replete as they were with every species of wrong-doing; with
active wickedness, with selfish greed, with thorough inward de-
pravity : their hearts brimming over with envy, murderous thoughts,
quarrelsomeness, treacherous deceit, rank ill-nature; backbiters,
^ slanderers ; in open defiance of God, insolent in act, arrogant in
thought, braggarts in word towards man; skilful plotters of evil,
bad sons, *' dull of moral apprehension, untrue to their word,
void of natural duty and of humanity : '- Reprobates, who, knowing
full well the righteous sentence by which God denounces death
upon all who act thus, are not content with domg the things which
He condemns themselves but abet and applaud those who practise

18. There is general agreement as to the structure of this
part of the Episile. St. Paul has just stated what the Gospel
is ; he now goes on to show the necessity for such a Gospel.
The world is lost without it. Following what was for a Jew
the obvious division, proof is given of a complete break-down in
regard to righteousness (i) en the parr of the Gentiles, (ii) on the


part of the Jews. The summary conclusion of the whole section
i. 18 — iii. 20 is given in the two verses iii. 19, 20: it is that the
whole world, Gentile and Jew alike, stands guilty before God.
Thus the way is prepared for a further statement of the means of
removing that state of guilt offered in the Gospel.

Marcion retained ver. 18, omitting' ®eov, perhaps tlirough some accident
on his own part or in the MS. which he copied (Zahn, ai sup. p. 516 ; the
rather important cursive 47 has the same omission'. The rest of the chapter
with ii. 1 he seems to have excised. He may have been jealous of this
trenchant attack upon the Gentiles.

*AiroKo\uirreToi. How is this revelation made ? Is the reference
to the Final Judgement, or to the actual condition, as St. Paul
saw it, of the heathen world ? Probably not to either exclusively,
but to both in close combination. The condition of the world
seems to the Apostle ripe for judgement ; he sees around him
on all hands signs of the approaching end. In the latter half
of this chapter St. Paul lays stress on these signs : he develops
the dn-oKoXvjrTfT-ai, present. In the first half of the next chapter
he brings out the final doom to which the signs are pointing.
Observe the links which connect the two sections : aTroKaXuTrrfrat

i. 18 = airoKokv^K ii. 5; opy^ i. 18, ii. 5) 8j avaTioK6f]TOi i. 20,

ii. I.

6pY?| 06OU. (i) In the O. T. the conception of the Wrath of
God has special reference to the Covenant-relation. It is inflicted
either (a) upon Israelites for gross breach of the Covenant (Lev.
X. I, 2 Nadab and Abihu; Num. xvi. 33, 46 ff. Korah ; xxv. 3
Baal-peor), or (i3) upon non-Israelites for oppression of the Chosen
People (Jer. 1. 11-17; Ezek. xxxvi. 5). (2) In the prophetic
writings this infliction of ' wrath' is gradually concentrated upon
a preat Day of Judgement, the Day of the Lord (Is. ii. 10-22, &c. ;
Jer. XXX. 7,8; Joel iii. 1 2 ff. ; Obad. 8 ff. ; Zeph. iii. 8 ff.). (3) Hence
the N. T. use seems to be mainly, if not altogether, eschati^logical :
cf. iMatt. iii. 7; i Thess. i. 10; Rom. ii. 5, v. 9 ; Rev. vi. 16, 17.
Even I Thess. ii. 16 does not seem to be an exception: the state
of the Jews seems to St. Paul to be only a foretaste of the final
woes. See on this subject esp. Ritschl, Rechtfertigung u. Versoh-
nuiig, ii. 124 ff. ed. 2.

Similarly Euthym.-Zig. 'hitoKaXv-Brtrai k.t.X. iv ■^/jiipa StjKovoti Kpla-eois.
We must remember however that St. Paul regarded the Day of Judgement as
near at hand.

iv ctStKia, ' living in unrighteousness the while' Moule.

Kari.x6vT(av. Karex^iv =■ (i) ' to hold fast' Lk. viii. 15 ; i Cor. xi. 2,
XV. 2, &c. ; (ii) 'to hold down,' 'hold in check' 2 Thess. ii. 6, 7,
where to Karix"", o KaT6x^v=zi\\& force of [Roman] Law and Order
by which Antichrist is restrained : similarly here but in a bad


sense; it is the truth which is 'held down,' hindered, thwarted,
checked in its free and expansive operation.

19. 8i(5ti: always in Gl<. Test. = ' because.' There are three uses :
(i) for 8t' o Tt = propter quod, quamobrem, ' wherefore,' introducing
a consequence ; (ii) for Sta toOto on = propterea quod, or quia,
'because,' giving a reason for what has gone before; (iii) from
Herod, downwards, but esp. in later Gk. = or<, ' that.'

TO yj'uo-T^K. This is a similar case to that of floSoiSfia-ofiai above :
yvaaros in Scripture generally (both LXX and N. T.) means as
a rule 'known' (e.g. Acts i. 19, ii. 14, xv. 18, &c.) ; but it does
not follow that it may not be used in the stricter sense of
'knowable,' 'what may be known' ('the intelligible nature'
T. H. Green, T/ie Witness of God, p. 4) where the context favours
that sense : so Orig. Theoph. Weiss. Gif., against Chrys. Mey.
De W. Va. There is the more room for this stricter use here
as the word does not occur elsewhere in St. Paul and the induction
does not cover his writings.

iv auTois, ' within them.' St. Paul repeatedly uses this preposi-
tion where we might expect a different one (cf. Gal. i. 16; Rom.
ii. 15) : any revelation must pass through the human conscious-
ness : so Mey. Go. Oltr. Lips., not exactly as Gif. (' in their very
nature and constitution as men ') or Moule i^ among them).'

Compare also Luther, Table Talk, Aph. dxlix : * Melanchthon disconrsing
with Luther touching the prophets, who continually buast thus : " Thus saith
the Lord," asked whether God in person spoke with them or no. Luther
replied : " They were very holy, spiritual people, who seriously contemplated
upon holy and divine things: therefore God spake with them in their
consciences, which the prophets held as sure and certain revelations."'

It is however possible that allowance should be made for the wider
Hebraistic use of kv, as in the phrase XaXilv iv twi (Habak. ii. i dnoajio-
vfvcQJ roil l^tiv ri \a\r]<Tei iv ifioi: cf. Zech. i. p, 13, 14, 19 ; ii. 3 ; iv. 4. 5 ;
V. 5, 10; vi, 4; also 4 Ezr. v. 15 angelus qui loquehatur in me. In that
case too much stress must not be laid on the preposition as describing an
internal process. At the same time the analogy of KaXdv iv does not cover
the very explicit <pav(p6v iartv iv avroTs : and we must remember that
St. Paul is writing as one who had himself an ' abundance of revelations '
(2 Cor. xii. 7), and uses the language which corresponded to his own

20. dirS KTtcreus tc<5(rp,ou. Gif. is inclined to translate this * from
the created universe,' ' creation ' (in the sense of ' things created ')
being regarded as the source of knowledge : he alleges Vulg.
a creatura mundi. But it is not clear that Vulg. was intended
to have this sense; and the parallel phrases an npx'i^ Koafiov
(Matt. xxiv. 21), uTTo KaTa^<>\i]i Koanov (Matt. XXV. 34 ; Luke xi. 50;
Rev. xiii. 8 ; xvii. 8), dn apx^s Kria-ftos (Mark x. 6; xiii. 19; 2 Pet.
iii. 4), seem to show that the force of the prep, is rather temporal,
'since the creation of the universe' ((ic/)' ov xp'^''^^ o opaToa eKrladi)
Koa-fxos Euth} m.-Zig.). The idea of knowledge being derived from


the fabric of the created world is in any case contained in the

KTio-ews: see Lft. Col. p. 214. nn'o-u has three senses: (i) the
act of creating (as here) ; (ii) the result of that act, whether (a) the
aggregate of created things (Wisd. v. 18 ; xvi, 24; Col. i. 15 and
probably Rom, viii. 19 flf.) ; or (/3) a creature, a single created thing
(Heb. iv. 13, and perhaps Rom. viii. 39, q. v.).

KaSopaxai : commonly explained to mean ' are clearly seen '
{Kara with intensive force, as in KaTa\j.av6av(w^ KaTavoeiv) ; so Fri.
Grm.-Thay. Gif. &c. It may however relate rather to the direction
of sight, 'are surveyed,' 'contemplated' ('are under observation'
Moule). Both senses are represented in the two places in which
the word occurs in LXX : (i) in Job x. 4 ^ wtrTrfp /3/jor6s opa KaOopav ;

(ii) in Num. XXiv. 2 BaXaa/t , . . Kudapa t6v 'lcrpai)\ earpaTOTrfSevKOTa
Kara 4>v\ds.

diSios : ai^ioTTjs is a Divine attribute in Wisd. ii. 23 (v. 1., see
below); cf. also Wisd. vii. 26 (fiairos dPuov, Jude 6.

The argument from the nature of the created world to the
character of its Author is as old as the Psalter, Job and Isaiah :
Pss. xix. I ; xciv. 9; cxliii. 5; Is. xlii. 5; xlv. 18; Job xii. 9;
xxvi. 14; xxxvi. 24 ff. ; Wisd. ii. 23; xiii. 1,5, &c. It is common
to Greek thought as well as Jewish : Arist. De Mtindo 6 a6ii>py]T0i
an axjTuv tcov tpycov BeapnTai. [o Sfo's] (Lid.). This argument is very
fully set forth by Philo, De Praem. et Poen. 7 (Mang. ii. 415).
After describing the order and beauty of Nature he goes on :
' Admiring and being struck with amazement at these things, they
arrived at a conception consistent with what they had seen, that
all these beauties so admirable in their arrangement have not come
into being spontaneously {ovk unavTopaTiadivra yiyovev), but are the
work of some Maker, the Creator of the world, and that there must
needs be a Providence (iipovoiav) ; because it is a iav' of nature
that the Creative Power {r6 nenoirjKOi) must take care of that which
has come into being. But these admirable men superior as they
are to all others, as I said, advanced from below upwards as if
by a kind of celestial ladder guessing at the Creator from His
works by probable inference {oia 8id tivos olpaviov KXi/iaKos djro rav

tpyoiv (iKOTi \oyi(Tfjia> <TTO)(a<Tap,fVoi rov 8r]p.invpy6v\

OeioTTis: Beorr^s = Divine Personality, 5ftdTJ7f = Divine nature and
properties : is a single attribute, dfiorrji is a summary term
for those other attributes which constitute Divinity : the word
appears in Biblical Gk. first in Wisd. xviii, 9 t6v r^y deiorrfTos vof^ov

iv ofiovoia hudtvTO.

Didymns {Trin. ii. 11 ; Migne, P. G. xxxix. 664) accuses the lierctics cf
reading Of^T-qs here, and it is lound in one MS., P.

It is certainly somev\'hat strange that so general a term as 0n6rT]i six mid
be combined with a term denoting a particular attribute like oi^^a^is. To
meet this difficulty the attempt has been made to narrow down OtioTTjs to

44 EPISTLE 10 THE ROMANS [l. 20, 21.

Online LibraryW. (William) SandayA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Romans → online text (page 19 of 71)