An American Commentary on the New Testament

Edited by Hovey, Alvah

Introduction to the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans




We have no certain means of knowing at what precise time Christianity first gained a footing at Rome. It would seem, however, to have been many years before the date of the apostle's letter to the disciples there. They were then a numerous body (1:7), too numerous, apparently, to assemble conveniently or safely in one place, and therefore distributed into several companies. (16:5, 14, 15.) Some of them had long been disciples of Christ (16:3, 4 compared with Acts 18:2; 16:5, 6, 7, 12), their faith was already spoken of throughout the whole world (1:8; 16:19), and Paul had for many years been intending to visit them. (1:13; 15:23.) All these indications point to a numerous church, of no recent origin. [Thus a Christian church may have been planted there before it was at Philippi.]

"We read of visitors or sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:10.) It is very probable that some among these were converted at that time, and soon after returned to Rome, and thus became the nucleus around which was afterward gathered the church to which Paul wrote. [As Fritzsche says: "They left Rome as Jews and returned as Christians."]

Had any one of the apostles been the founder of the church in Rome, we should probably have had, in the Book of Acts or in the Epistle itself, some intimation of this fact. The later tradition, which attributes to Peter the planting of the Christian faith in this metropolis of the world, is not only unsupported by any historical evidence, but is burdened with very serious difficulties. Jerome says ("De viris illustribus. " Ch. I.) that Peter went to Rome in the second year of Claudius, A. D. 42, to confute Simon Magus, and that he was bishop there for twenty-five years. But we know that he was imprisoned in Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa in the fourth year of Claudius; that he was there at the Council (Acts 15:7, seq. ), in the tenth year of Claudius— at which time, probably, the agreement mentioned in Gal. 2:9 was made among the apostles, that Peter, James, and John should devote their labors chiefly to the Jews, and Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles; — that he was at Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, between the years A. D. 50 and A. D. 55 (Gal. 2:11-13); that he wrote his First Epistle from Babylon (1 Peter 5:13); probably A. D. 63 or 64, possibly seven or eight years earlier. It is not likely that there would have been no mention of Peter in the salutations in Rom. 16, if he had been at that time in Rome; nor that he would have been passed over in silence if he had been there with Paul when the latter wrote his five epistles from that city (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. Philemon, 2 Timothy). Thus it appears that Peter is mentioned in the New Testament on four different occasions between the years A. D. 42 and A. D. 67, each time as being far from Rome; and that no mention is made of him on six different occasions within the same period when he would naturally have been mentioned by Paul if he had been in Rome. In fact, there is scarcely any period of half a dozen years, during all these twenty-five, when he could have resided continuously at Rome, consistently with the historical notices of him in the New Testament. [Paul's invariable rule "not to build upon another man's foundation" nor to "glory in another's province in regard to things made ready to his hand," is alone sufficient to prove that Peter was not the founder of the church in Rome — a fact which many Roman Catholic writers freely acknowledge. Meyer remarks that "our Epistle — since Peter cannot have been there before it was written — is a fact destructive of the historical basis of the Papacy in so far as this is made to rest on the founding of the Roman Church and the exercise of its episcopate by that apostle." This, of course, does not disprove the possibility that Peter may in after years have come to Rome and labored there in the gospel (without, however, founding any particular church), and that he there finally suffered martyrdom. Bishop Lightfoot even conjectures that both apostles may at some time have been together in Rome, that they exchanged once more the hands of fellowship, that they gathered, or preached to, two separate, though not necessarily antagonistic communities (traces of whose origin he finds in Phil. 1:15-18; Col. 4:11), and that this basis of fact " possibly underlies the tradition that St. Peter and St. Paul were joint founders of the Roman Church, and may explain the discrepancies in the lists of the early bishops." (See his " St. Paul and the Three," p. 337, in his "Commentary on Galatians.") But it is marvelous that this separation, if it ever existed, was so soon composed, for Bishop Lightfoot concedes that "at the close of the first century we see no more traces of a twofold church," all the Christian communities being united under the presiding eldership of Clement, and that we never hear of it afterward. On the contrary, Ignatius of Antioch and Dionysius of Corinth, both of whom wrote letters to Rome, and Hegesippus, who visited Rome, all of whom lived in the second century, assert or imply in their writings the unity and orthodoxy of the Roman Christians. To the frequent boast of Papists that they belong to that church which was the first and which will be last, we may simply reply that the Jerusalem Church was the first church of Christ on earth. If priority of age is anything, we should prefer to be a Jerusalem Catholic rather than a Roman Catholic. We are aware that some adherents of this church now disclaim the term "Roman." But if Rome with its hierarchy were sunk by some earthquake's shock, as it yet may be, the high and special claim of this church would at once be rendered null and void.]

Neither is it probable that the church at Rome owed its origin to any other apostle. There is no intimation of this kind in the New Testament; and we know that Paul made it his rule not to build on another man's foundation. (Rom. 15:20; compare 2 Cor. 10:14-16.) He speaks of the Romans as belonging to his field of labor (1:13-15). and from the salutations in chap. 16, it appears that, although he had not yet visited them, many of them had been intimately connected with him. (16:3-9, 11, 13.) While, therefore, there is every probability that the church at Rome was not founded by the direct labors of any apostle, it seems to have been more closely connected in its early history with the labors of Paul than with those of any of the rest. [We may therefore say of Paul, that he was, directly or indirectly, the founder of all the historic churches of Asia Minor and of Europe.]



The view generally held is, that the Gentile element predominated in the early Roman Church. It is plain that there was a very considerable Jewish element. (2:17-29; 3:1-4, 9-21; 4:1; 7:1-4; and chapters 9-11). There was a large population of Jews in Rome. Pompey brought many captives thither from Judea; and these had greatly multiplied in the course of a century. Josephus speaks of eight thousand as attaching themselves to an embassy which appealed to Augustus. ("Antiq.," xvii. 11, 1.) This emperor assigned to them for their residence a district beyond the Tiber. About the time when Paul wrote his epistle, Seneca complains that many Romans had embraced the Jewish religion (he uses the expression "victi victoribus leges dederunt — the conquered have given laws to the conquerors." — Augustine, " De Civitate Dei," Lib. vi., ch. 11), and Juvenal scoffs at Judaizing Romans (Sat. xiv., v. 96-104). Still, the Jews formed but a comparatively insignificant portion of the population of the great capital of the world;1 and it seems most probable that a church which had existed so long, and become so widely known, must have been mostly made up of Gentile converts. The tenor of the Epistle confirms this. It is as the apostle of the Gentiles that Paul writes them. (1:5, 6, 13; 9:3, 4; 10:1; 11:13, 14, 22, 23, 25, 30, 31; 15:15, 16.) [" From the description of most of the persons named in chap. 16, from the express approval given to the doctrine in which the Romans had been instructed, (6:17; 16:17), and even from the fact of the composition of the letter itself, inasmuch as not one of the now extant letters of the apostle is directed to a non-Pauline church, we may with certainty infer that Pauline Christianity was preponderant in Rome; and from this it is a further necessary inference that a very import ant part of the Roman Church consisted of Gentile Christians." (Meyer.) These Gen tile believers, however, may have been Jewish proselytes before they became Christians, and so the church of Rome may have been " primarily, at least, one of the churches of the circumcision." (Plumptre.) Similar is the view of Jowett, who describes the Roman Church as of "Gentile origin and Jewish character." And this view is not inconsistent with the generally Pauline character of their doctrine, since a majority of them may have come from Greece and Asia Minor, and may have been some of Paul's earliest converts in those countries.]

It seems most likely, on the whole, that the Gentile element formed the majority: but these Gentile believers were probably in large part of Greek, rather than of Roman origin. The names mentioned in the salutations are largely Greek. The earliest Latin versions of the New Testament were made for use in the provinces rather than at Rome; the names of the early bishops are more generally Greek than Latin; and the earliest literature of the Roman Church was in Greek. (Justin Martyr, Clement, Caius, Hippolytus, etc.).



The proof that the Apostle Paul wrote this Epistle is such as to satisfy every unprejudiced inquirer. It bears his name. It has been received as his without question from the earliest times. Its language and style agree with those of his other undoubted epistles. It presents many striking coincidences, as to matters of fact, with other parts of the New Testament. Compare 15:25-31 with Acts 20:2, 3; 24:17; 1 Cor. 16:1, 4; 2 Cor. 8:1-4; 9:2. Also, 16:21-23 with Acts 20:4; and 16:3, seq. with Acts 18:2, 18-26; 1 Cor. 16:19, seq.

In fine, it is no exaggeration to say, that there is no ancient writing of which the authorship is more certain than that of this Epistle. Even Baur questions the last two chapters only. [For resemblances between this Epistle and other epistles of Paul, especially that to the Galatians, see Lightfoot's "Commentary on the Galatians," pp. 44-48; and for " Undersigned Coincidences," see Paley's " Horĉ Paulinĉ," chapter II.]



Three names in the salutations very distinctly point to Corinth as the place where this Epistle was written.

1. We learn from 16:23 that the apostle was the guest of Gaius when he wrote it; and this Gaius was one of the converts baptized by Paul at Corinth. (1 Cor. 1:14.) Identity of persons is not, indeed, certainly inferred from identity of names, especially when the name is a very common one. But in connection with other known circum- stances, the identity of the persons is in this case a very safe inference. What more natural, than that the apostle should be entertained by one of the very few Corinthians whom he had baptized with his own hands.

2. Phebe, who is commended to the Roman disciples (16:1), and who seems to have been the bearer of the Epistle, was a member, very probably a deaconess, of the church at Cenchrea, the Eastern port of Corinth.

3. Erastus, designated as the chamberlain, or treasurer, of the city (16:23), is mentioned in 2 Tim. 4:20, in connection with Corinth. See also Acts 19:21, 22.

We may consider it settled, therefore, that the Epistle to the Romans was written from Corinth. (The confirmation furnished by the subscription is of little account, as the subscriptions were added at a later date, and some of them are unquestionably false. )



Paul's first missionary tour was confined to Asia Minor. (Acts 13:4, 14.) On his second tour (Acts 15:36; 18:21), he visited Corinth, and remained there at least a year and a half. (Acts 18:11-15.) At this time he became acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla, and labored with them in their common handiwork, as well as in the work of the gospel. (Acts 18:2, 3.) But the Epistle to the Romans could not have been written at this time; for, when it was written, Aquila and Priscilla were in Rome. (16:3-5). No subsequent visit of Paul to Corinth is expressly mentioned in Acts; but he intimates, in. 2 Cor. 13:1, that he had already visited them twice; and we know that on his third missionary tour (Acts 18:23; 21:8), he spent three months in Greece. (20:2, 3). He would not be likely to omit visiting that city of Greece, which was, in a Christian point of view, the most important of all. At this time, Sopater, Gaius, Timothy, and probably Erastus, were with him, (Acts 20:4, seq.; 19:21, 22.) Now all these were with him when he wrote to the Romans. (16:21, 23.) Paul's plans at this time, as described in the Acts and in the Epistles to the Corinthians, agree exactly with those indicated in this Epistle. He was about to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22), to carry thither the contributions which had been gathered by the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia for the relief of their brethren in Judea (Acts 24:17; 1 Cor. 16:2-4; 2 Cor. 8:6-11), intending, after he had done this, to visit Rome. (Acts 19:21.) All these circumstances agree with what he writes to the Romans in 15:23-28.2 It is quite certain, therefore, that this Epistle was written during the time which Paul spent in Corinth, while engaged in his third missionary journey.

It remains to fix, as nearly as we can, the date of that visit. We will take, as the surest and most convenient starting point, A. D. 52, the date of the decree of Claudius, banishing the Jews from Rome. See Hackett on Acts, notes on 18:2. Aquila and Priscilla had already reached Corinth after that decree, and Paul dwelt there with them at least a year and a half. He could hardly have left Corinth before the spring of A. D. 54. Embarking from Cenchrea, he sailed for Syria (Acts 18:18), by way of Ephesus, Caesarea, and Jerusalem. At Ephesus he made but a short stay, spending probably one Sabbath with his countrymen there (Acts 18:9), and leaving Aquila and Priscilla there. Proceeding thence to Caesarea, and landing there, he went up to Jerusalem, and saluted the church, and probably spent the Passover with them (Acts 18:21, 22); after which he went down to Antioch, and "spent some time there " (Acts 18:23) before he set out on his third missionary tour.

It must have been as late as the autumn of A. D. 54, perhaps the spring of A. D. 55, when he started on this journey. He went through Galatia and Phrygia to Ephesus (Acts 18:23; 19:1-4), where he spent about two and a half years. (Acts 19:8, three months; ver. 10, two years; ver. 21, 22, a season. All these periods seem to be distinct and successive.) He could not have left Ephesus earlier than the spring of A. D. 57. He spent the ensuing summer in Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 20:1-6), and probably at this time proceeded as far west as Illyricum (15:19) — for it is hardly possible to find any earlier place for that journey — before he came into Greece. (Acts 20:3.) His abode there of three months (Acts 20:3) could hardly have begun much before the close of A. D. 57, and would consequently end in the early part of A. D. 58. When he left Corinth, the winter was past, for he purposed at first to go by sea (Acts 20:3); yet the spring could not have been far advanced, for he hoped to be at Jerusalem at the Feast of Pentecost in May. (Acts 20:16.) '

The Epistle to the Romans was therefore probably written in the early part of A. D. 58.

According to the chronology of Conybeare and Howson, Paul was taken from Caesarea to be carried as a prisoner to Rome, in August, A. D. 60. (Vol. II., p. 543 Scribner's ed.)3 He had been a prisoner at Caesarea for two years. (Acts 24:27.) Allowing five or six months for the previous journey from Corinth to Jerusalem, and the occurrences at the latter place before he was removed to Caesarea (Acts 20:3; 23:35), we have a very satisfactory corroboration of our previous calculation. Two years and five months, reckoned backward from August, A. D. 60, would bring us to March A. D. 58.



[The Epistle to the Romans was not written, like those to the Corinthians and the Galatians, to correct local abuses and errors; but for the most part it is encyclical, or catholic, in its nature, and would be well adapted to the needs of any church existing in the apostle's time. For in the churches of that age there were, to a greater or less degree, Judaizing tendencies on the one hand, and Hellenizing or paganizing tendencies on the other; and we cannot suppose the Roman Church formed an exception in this respect. (14:12; 16:17.) During the third missionary tour of the apostle, he wrote the first four epistles of the New Testament, that to the Romans being the last written. A short time before indicting this letter, he had, with much anguish of heart, written to the paganizing Corinthians, and to the Judaizing Galatians. As some of them doubted or denied that he was an apostle, he felt obliged in these letters to assert and prove his divine call to the apostleship; but his principal endeavor was to win back his erring brethren from their disorders and immoralities, and from their vain trusting in the ritual ceremonies of Judaism, those "weak and beggarly rudiments," to seek salvation in which was, to him, like seeking the living among the dead. And now, in a calmer frame of mind, he sits down to write out for the benefit of his brethren in the world's capital whom he intended speedily to visit, and from whom he would fain secure a favorable reception for himself, and for the gospel which he preached, the substance of that which had so recently and so intensely occupied his mind, to wit: "The position of the Christian in reference to the Law, and of the relations of Judaism to Heathenism, and of both to Christianity." (Farrar.) He had preached the gospel of grace in the principal cities of the East, and he would naturally wish to do the same in the imperial city, of whose church he may have heard much from the lips of Aquila and Priscilla,4 among whose members he had many personal friends, and in whose welfare he felt the deepest interest. But he knew the dangers which would attend his journey to Jerusalem, as well as the common uncertainties of life, and thus he who had oftentimes been hindered hitherto (1:13; 15:22) might again be prevented from orally communicating the gospel to his Roman brethren. "Besides," as Godet remarks, "should he arrive at Rome safe and sound, he had too much tact to think of putting the members of such a church, as it were, on the catechumen's bench. In these circumstances how natural the idea of filling up, by means of writing, the blank which Providence had permitted, and of giving, in an epistolary treatise addressed to the church, the Christian instruction which it had missed, and which was indispensable to the solidity of its faith." At this time also, as Paul was about to depart for the East to carry the offerings of Gentiles to the poor saints in Jerusalem, Phebe, a deaconess in the neighboring church of Cenchrea, was, as is commonly supposed, about to sail in an opposite direction for the Empire's capital city, which Paul said he "must see." (Acts 19:21.) And this her journey Romeward furnished, of course, a convenient opportunity of sending the letter. In this way, apparently, originated "The Epistle of Paul to the Romans," which is characterized by Dr. Schaff as " the epistle of the epistles," by Dr. Meyer, as " the grandest and richest in contents of all the apostle's letters,"5 and by Coleridge, as "the most profound work in existence."]



[It might be supposed that Paul, when writing to the Romans, would, if he were able, use the Latin tongue, since the letter was not only addressed to Roman residents, but was written by an amanuensis who bore a Latin name.6 But it must be remembered that the Greek language had at this time become well-nigh universal. "It was," says Gribbon, "almost impossible, in any province, to find a Human subject of a liberal education who was at once a stranger to the Greek and to the Latin language." As vouchers for this general acquaintance with Greek on the part of the Romans, Tholuck, in Chapter 3, of his "Introduction," cites Tacitus, Ovid, Martial, Juvenal, and Suetonius. It is, moreover, a singular circumstance, yet "nothing is more certain than that the Church of Rome was at this time a Greek, and not a Latin Church." See Smith's "Bible Dictionary," p. 2746, also IF. of this Introduction. "The literary language at Rome," says Godet, "was Greek. This is established by the numerous Greek inscriptions in the Catacombs, by the use of the Greek language in the letter of Ignatius to the Church of Rome, in the writings of Justin Martyr composed at Rome, and in those of Irenĉus composed in Gaul," as also in those of Hippolytus, Bishop of Ostia, the seaport of Rome. "The early bishops and divines of Rome were Greeks by descent or education, or both. Pope Cornelius addressed the churches in the Hellenic language in the middle of the third century. The Apostle's Creed, even in the Roman form, was originally composed in Greek. The Roman Liturgy (ascribed to Clement of Rome) was Greek. The inscriptions in the oldest catacombs, and the epitaphs of the popes down to the middle of the third century, are Greek." (Schaff) We may add that most of the manuscripts discovered in the ruins of Herculaneum appear to have been written in Greek. Milman, in his "Latin Christianity," says: "The Church of Rome, and most, if not all, the churches of the West were, if we may so speak, Greek religious colonies." Tarsus also, where Paul was born, was of Greek origin, and was celebrated for its Greek schools and learning. The geographer Strabo (born about 60 b. c.) says that in its zeal for learning and philosophy it excelled even Athens and Alexandria. Paul "doubtless spoke Greek from childhood" (Tholuck), and we do not suppose that he utterly discarded Greek study in Jerusalem. His liberal-minded teacher, "Rabban Gamliel," favored Greek study, and, according to the Talmud, knew Greek literature better than any other doctor of the law. "A thousand students were in the academy of my grandsire," said a descendant of Gamaliel, "five hundred of whom studied the Greek"; and the Talmud maintains that Paul "had always a Grecian poem on his lips." Indeed, Dr. Isaac M. Wise, President of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati (from whose writings we have made these last extracts) says, in his "History of the Hebrews' Second Commonwealth," p. 307, that "in the academy at Jerusalem he (Paul) was noted as paying more attention to Greek poetry and infidel books than to his studies"! From Acts 21:37 we are assured that Paul could speak Greek. He certainly quoted several times from the Greek poets (Acts 17:28:1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12), and with some of them — as when he refers his Athenian audience to certain (τινες) of their own poets (to wit, Aratus and Cleanthes) — he seems to have had more than a hearsay acquaintance. We have spoken of Greek as a current language among the ancients.7 The Old Testament Apocrypha was written mainly in Greek (only Ecclesiasticus and 1 Maccabees were originally written in modern Hebrew), and the Old Testament was translated, not into Aramaic, or modern Hebrew, but into Greek, and it was this version of the Seventy which the New Testament writers mainly used. Noticeable also is the fact that the Epistle to the Hebrews and James' Epistle to the Jews of the "Dispersion" were written, not in Aramaic, but in Greek. The Greek dialect, too, seems to have been almost as common in Palestine as the vernacular Aramaic. Indeed, Dr. Roberts, author of the "Companion to the Revised Version," endeavors to show in his "Discussions on the Gospels" that Christ and the apostles spoke mostly in Greek, and only occasionally in Aramaic. Of course, he would decide that all the Gospels and other New Testament Scriptures were originally spoken or written in Greek. Similarly, S. G. Green, in his " Grammar of the Greek Testament": "It was the Greek of the Septuagint, in all probability, our Lord and his apostles generally spoke. The dialect of Galilee was not a corrupt Hebrew, but a provincial Greek." Josephus, a Jewish priest, who lived in the time of the apostles, wrote his " Wars " and "Antiquities " in Greek, though he states that he composed the first-named work originally in Hebrew for the benefit of the " Upper Barbarians." That the Greek people or language had penetrated even into barbarian regions is evident from Seneca's query: "What is the meaning of Greek cities in barbarous countries, and the Macedonian language among Indians and Persians?" For the general prevalence of the Greek language, especially in Palestine in the time of Christ, see Hug's "Introduction to the New Testament, " pp. 326-340; Dr. Schaff's " Companion to the Greek Testament," p. 7; Prof. Hadley's article on the "Language of the New Testament," and B. R Westcott's article on the New Testament, in Smith's "Bible Dictionary," pp. 1590, 2139; also articles on the "Language of Palestine in the Age of Christ and the Apostles," in the April and July numbers of the "Biblical Repository " for 1831.]



The main object which the apostle had in view in writing this Epistle is nowhere formally stated; but it may be inferred from the Introduction, and from the contents of the Epistle. In the Introduction he expresses his earnest desire to visit the disciples at Rome, in order to contribute something to their confirmation and spiritual comfort. (1:11, 12.) Doubtless he had the same end in view in writing to them; and he seeks to attain this end by unfolding the way of justification and salvation through faith in Christ. The object of his letter, then, is to present such an exhibition of the way of justification and salvation through faith in Christ, as would be adapted to comfort and confirm the disciples at Rome. The Epistle might well take its title from the sixteenth verse of the first chapter: "The Gospel the Power of God unto Salvation to every one that believeth"; and the manner in which the apostle treats this subject is adapted to promote the spiritual confirmation and comfort of all who devoutly study this Epistle. May the readers of the following notes find them helpful toward that happy result.

      Pawtuxet, R. I.


[On the nth day of October, 1883, the writer of the above lines ceased from hie earthly toils, and entered into rest. Yet his labors for Christ were not felt by him to be irksome, and those especially which were spent in the study of this noble Epistle were manifestly to him an exceeding pleasure and delight. In a letter, dated January 7, 1882, he thus writes:'" I heartily wish that you may have as much enjoyment in the performance of your work as I had in the performance of mine. And may the blessing of our common Master rest upon our joint work to the glory of his name and the benefit of his people." We are glad to be assured, but are not surprised to learn, that in his last days the comfort of the Scriptures, and especially of the great doctrines of grace, did not fail him. The old theology, which was his soul's food in life, was his abundant support in his last days. On hearing, shortly before his death, of the apparently approaching end of a greatly endeared classmate and friend, Thomas D. Anderson, D. D., he said:" Mine is an abundant entrance. Tell him (speaking his friend's name) that we shall soon8 meet above, sinners saved by sovereign grace — sovereign, redeeming grace." "And this," says the narrator. Dr. J. C. Stockbridge, "he kept repeating over and over, as if he would gather up all he wished to say, of what was profoundest and dearest in his religious faith, and concentrate it upon that which was the very heart and substance of his creed, 'sovereign, redeeming grace.' " If, since the days of the apostles, there have lived any Christian men whose kindliness and guilelessness of spirit, whose blamelessness of life, and whose diligence in Christian labor, could furnish a ground of acceptance with God, one of those men, in my opinion, was Albert Nicholas Arnold. And yet, had it been suggested to him from without, or from within, that he could properly place this reliance upon the righteousness of his character and the goodness of his varied and abundant works, laboring as he had done, so assiduously as a preacher and pastor, a missionary, a theological instructor and writer, the thought, we believe, would have been repelled by him with as emphatic a "God forbid" as was ever uttered by the Apostle Paul. Yet no one was more careful than he to maintain good works, both as a fruit and evidence of his love for Christ and of his faith in him. May the readers of these lines, by a deep consciousness of their lost condition by nature, and by a rich experience of the "sovereign, redeeming grace " of the gospel, be made to feel that we need no other or better theology than that which is so plainly set forth in the writings of this blessed apostle, and which our beloved and now lamented friend sought to embody in these pages.]


Part I.Introduction. (1:1-15.)

  1. Salutatory. (Ver. 1-7.)

  2. Conciliatory. (Ver. 8-15.)

Part II.Doctrinal (1:16-11:36.)

§ 1. All Mankind in a Sinful and Condemned State, and therefore in Need of the Salvation which the Gospel Reveals. (1:16-3:20. ) The subject opened. (1:16, 17.)

  1. The general sinfulness of men proved. (1:18—2:29.)

    1. In the case of the Gentiles. (1:18-22.) God has made known his displeasure against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. (Ver. 18.) The Gentiles are both ungodly (ver. 19-23) and unrighteous. (Ver. 24-32.)

    2. In the case of the Jews. (2:1-29. ) Those who practice the same sins which they condemn in others are equally inexcusable (2:1), for God's judgment will be impartial (ver. 2-5), and justly most severe against those who have the most light. (Ver. 6-16.) Neither the possession of the law (ver. 17-24), nor the covenant of circumcision (ver. 25-29), will exempt them from condemnation.

  2. Objections stated and answered. (3:1-8.) Objection 1. The Jew has no advantage over the Gentile. (Ver. 1.) Answer: The possession of God's word is a great advantage. (Ver. 2.) Objection 2. God's faithfulness obliges him to show favor to the Jews, notwithstanding their unfaithfulness. (Ver. 3.) Answer: God's faithfulness must not be questioned, however unfaithful men maybe. (Ver. 4.) Objection 3. It would be unjust in God to punish those whose sins are the occasion of displaying his righteousness. (Ver. 5, 7.) Answer: The principle which this objection assumes leads to conclusions manifestly false and impious; as,

    1. That God cannot righteously judge and punish any. (Ver. 6)

    2. That it is lawful to do evil that good may come. (Ver. 8.)

  3. The charge of universal sinfulness renewed, and confirmed by proofs from Scripture. (Ver. 9-20.)

§ 2. The Way of Justification and Salvation Through Faith in Christ. (3:21-5:21.)

  1. The gospel method of justification described, as being —

    1. In its nature,

      1. Conditioned not on works, but on faith. (3:21, 22.)

      2. Available for all mankind. (Ver. 22.)

      3. Needed by all. (Ver. 22, 23. )

      4. Entirely gratuitous. (Ver. 24.)

    2. As having, for its ground, the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. (Ver. 24, 25. )

    3. For its direct object, the reconciliation of God's righteousness with man's salvation. (Ver. 25, 26.)

    4. For its indirect results,

      1. The exclusion of all boasting. (Ver. 27, 28.)

      2. The display of God's impartial mercy to both Jews and Gentiles. (Ver. 29, 30. )

      3. The confirmation, not the subversion, of the law. (Ver. 31.)

  2. That the above method of justification is in harmony with the teachings of Scripture is shown by the examples of Abraham and David. (4:1-25.)

    1. Abraham was justified, not by works, but by faith. (Ver. 1-5.)

    2. David teaches that justification is not of merit, but of grace. (Ver. 6-8.)

    3. Circumcision is not indispensable to justification; for Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. (Ver. 9-12.)

    4. The law is not the ground of justification; for Abraham, who was justified, not by the law, but by faith, is in this respect the pattern of all who are justified, both Jews and Gentiles. (Ver. 13-17.) This illustrious pattern is more fully described and commended. (Ver. 18-25.)

  3. the happy results of the gospel way of justification, both to the individual believer, and to the race at large. (5:1-21.)

    1. As it respects the individual believer, the results are:

      1. Peace with God, including free access to him. (Ver. 1, 2.)

      2. Joyful hope of future glory. (Ver. 2.)

      3. Afflictions made subservient to the confirmation of our hope. (Ver. 3, 4.)

      4. The certainty of this hope.

        1. For God has already given us his Spirit. (Ver. 5. )

        2. He has already shown the fullness of his love to us, by giving his Son to die for us while we were yet sinners. (Ver. 6-8.)

        3. By thus beginning the work of our salvation while we were enemies, he has given the surest pledge that he will complete it now that we are reconciled to him (ver. 9, 10), so that we have a present and abounding joy. (Ver. 11.)

    2. As it respects the race at large, the benefits of the gospel way of justification are illustrated by a comparison between Adam and Christ. (Ver. 12-21.)

      1. The resemblance between the two cases. (Ver. 12-14.)

      2. The differences stated under several aspects. (Ver. 15-17.)

      3. Recapitulation of the whole, showing how men are regarded and treated in consequence of their connection with Adam and Christ respectively. (Ver. 18, 19. ) As the law discloses and even aggravates, the triumphs of sin, reigning in death, so the gospel displays the superior triumphs of grace, reigning unto life, through Jesus Christ. (Ver. 20, 21.)

§ 3. This Way of Justification Favorable to Holiness. (6:1-8:39.)

Proposition I. Gratuitous justification does not lead to sinful living. (6:1-23.)

  1. The objection stated. (Ver. 1.)

  2. Its validity denied. (Ver. 2.)

  3. The grounds of that denial. (Ver. 3-23.)

  1. The justified believer, agreeably to the very import of his baptism, is brought into such a connection and conformity with Christ as dying and rising to a new life, that he cannot continue in the old life of sin. (Ver. 3-6.) As Christ's death on account of sin is never to be repeated (ver. 7-10), so the believer must regard his own separation from sin as final. (Ver. 11-14.)

  2. The very fact that he is not under the law, but under grace, forbids that sin should have dominion over him. (Ver. 14, 15.) For his relation to the law and to grace is like the relation of a servant to his master: Before justification, he is a servant of sin, under an influence which secures his obedience to evil; after justification, he is a servant of righteousness, under an influence which secures his obedience to good. (Ver. 16-20.) The former service results in death, the latter in eternal life; and the knowledge of these opposite consequences is a still farther security for his continued fidelity to his new Master. (Ver. 21-23.)

Proposition II. So long as men remain under the law, they continue under the power of sin. (7:1-25.)

  1. The believer's relation to the law may be illustrated by the case of marriage. (Ver. 1-6.) As the wife is freed from her conjugal obligations by the death of her husband, so that she is afterward at liberty to be married to another man (ver. 1-3); so we are freed from our connection with the law, that we may enter into a new connection with Christ. (Ver. 4.) The fruit of that first connection was sin. (Ver. 5.) The fruit of this second connection is holiness. (Ver. 6.)

  2. The law has no power to convert a sinner, or to make a bad man good; this illustrated by Paul's own experience before his conversion (ver. 7-13), (the effect of the law is to make sin known (ver. 7), and also to excite it to greater activity (ver. 8-11), so that, while the law is good (ver. 12), it becomes the occasion of manifesting more fully the exceeding sinfulness of sin.) (Ver. 13.)

  3. The law has no power to sanctify a saint, or to make a good man better: this illustrated by Paul's own experience after his conversion. (Ver. 14-24. ) (Even the renewed man, who assents to the excellence of the law, and desires and purposes to fulfill its requirements, finds that the remains of indwelling sin often prove too strong for his good resolutions (ver. 14-23); so that, as long as he looks to the law, he gets no effectual help or comfort in his strivings after holiness. (Ver. 24.) Hence the conclusion, that if we are ever to be freed from the dominion of sin, it must be by becoming connected with Christ. (Ver. 25.)

Proposition III. Grace accomplishes what the law could not accomplish. (8:1-17.)

  1. Grace furnishes not only a justifying righteousness (ver. 1), but also a regenerating and sanctifying power. (Ver. 2.) The way in which this is done briefly explained. (Ver. 3, 4.)

  2. Sanctification is the indispensable evidence of justification. (Ver. 5-17.) The justified will certainly walk in newness of life, because:

    1. Their inward moral disposition is thoroughly changed. (Ver. 5-8. )

    2. The Spirit of God dwells in and actuates them. (Ver. 9-13.)

    3. They are children of God, not only by a formal adoption on his part, but also by a filial spirit on theirs. (Ver. 14-17. )

Proposition IV. The sufferings which believers undergo in this life are not inconsistent with their being fully justified and accepted of God. (Ver. 17-30.)

  1. For they suffer with Christ, that they may be glorified with him. (Ver. 17.)

  2. There is an immeasurable disproportion between the present sufferings and the future glory. (Ver. 18.) The greatness of that future glory is seen:

    1. In the unconscious longing for its coming which pervades all nature. (Ver. 19-22.)

    2. In the conscious longing of believers, notwithstanding the happiness which they enjoy in the present foretaste of it. (Ver. 23-25.)

  3. Suitable spiritual supports are afforded them while these sufferings continue. (Ver. 26, 27.)

  4. They are assured that all these sufferings are working for their good. (Ver. 28-30.)

Proposition V. The certainty of the salvation of believers is established. (Ver. 31-39.) They for whose salvation (ver. 31) God has given his Son, and for whom the Son (ver. 32, 33) of God has died and risen from the dead (ver. 34), can never be separated from the love of either by any vicissitudes of the present life (ver. 35-37), or by any other events or agencies whatsoever. (Ver. 38, 39.)

§ 4. The Rejection of the Jews. (9:1-11:36.)

  1. The fact of their rejection, though very lamentable (ver. 1-5), is not inconsistent with God's truth and justice: not with his truth, because the blessings which they fail to secure were never promised indiscriminately to all the natural seed of Abraham (ver. 6-13); not with his justice, because —

    1. These blessings are God's free gifts, bestowed according to his sovereign pleasure. (Ver. 14-18.)

    2. The unbelieving Jews only receive the righteous recompense of their willful sin. (Ver. 19-24.)

    3. Indeed, their rejection is plainly foretold by their own prophets. (Ver. 25-29.) In fine, the Gentiles obtain righteousness through faith in Christ, and the Jews fail to obtain it because of unbelief (Ver. 30-33.) Thus it appears that:

  2. The cause of the failure of the Jews to attain justification (for which failure the apostle again expresses his sorrow) (10:12) is, that they persist in seeking justification in their own false way, instead of seeking it in God's true way. (Ver. 3-11.) Justification is attainable on precisely the same terms by Jews and Gentiles. (Ver. 12-13.) Therefore the gospel ought to be preached to all nations. (Ver. 14, 15.) All this is confirmed by the testimony of the Scriptures. (Ver. 16-21.)

  3. There is a limit to this rejection, both as to persons, and as to time. (Chap. 11.)

I. As to persons, it is not total, for Paul himself (ver. 1), and many others among the Jews (ver. 2-5), have obtained justification through free grace (ver. 6), though the greater part of the nation has been rejected (ver. 7), as their own Scriptures had fore- told. (Ver. 8-10.)

II. As to time, it is not final; but God designs, by this temporary rejection of the Jews, to facilitate the conversion of the Gentiles. (Ver. 11-16.) The Gentiles are admonished not to glory over the Jews, as if their advantage over them was due to any merit of their own. (Ver. 17-22.) So soon as the Jews turn from their unbelief, God is able and willing to save them. (Ver. 23, 24. ) Nay, more; he has positively determined that they shall at last turn and be saved. (Ver. 25-32.) In all this, his unsearchable wisdom is gloriously displayed. (Ver. 33-36. )

Part III.— Practical (12:1-15:13.) (a) General Precepts, applicable to all. (12:1-13:14.) (b) Special Directions in regard to the treatment of those who are weak and over-scrupulous. (14:1-15:13.)

  1. General Precepts.

    1. Exhortation to entire consecration to God. (12:1.) This results in a practical conformity to his will (ver. 2), and in humility'. (Ver. 3.)

    2. Duties to the church (ver. 4-8), and to the brethren. (Ver. 9-13.)

    3. Duties to the world, and especially to enemies. (Ver. 14-21.)

    4. Duties to rulers. (13:1-7.)

    5. The duty of love to all men. (Ver. 8-10.)

    6. All these duties enforced by the consideration that salvation is near. [Ver. 11-14.)

  2. Special Directions in regard to the treatment of brethren whose consciences are weak and are over-scrupulous. (14:1-15:13. )

I. The Christian who regards the Jewish restrictions as to days and meats as still binding is to be received without disputations. (14:1, 2.)

  1. Because this weakness does not hinder his acceptance with God. (Ver. 3, 4. )

  2. Because he is conscientious in it. (Ver. 5-9.)

  3. Because all such differences should be referred to the final judgment. (Ver. 10-12.)

II. Those who, through better knowledge, are free from such scruples, must not so use their freedom as to lead their weaker brethren into sin. (Ver. 13.)

  1. Because, though the use of this liberty is not wrong in itself, yet it is a breach of charity to use it to the injury of a brother. (Ver. 14, 15.)

  2. Because such a course brings religion into reproach. (Ver. 16.)

  3. Because the rise of this liberty is no essential part of Christian duty. (Ver. 17, 18.)

  4. Because it is inconsistent with the obligation to promote the peace of the church, and the edification of the brethren. (Ver. 19.) They there- fore who know that the eating of certain meats is not sinful, must not use their liberty in such a way as to entice others who have not this knowledge to do the same thing in violation of their consciences. (Ver. 20-23.) They must rather bear the infirmities, and seek the edification of the weak. (15:1, 2.) Thus they must imitate the self-denying example of Christ. (Ver. 3-7.) For Christ, agreeably to the predic- tions of the prophets, has received both Jews and Gentiles, and united them into one body. (Ver. 8-13.)

Part IVPersonal (15:14-16:23.)

  1. As to his own relations and feelings toward them. (15:14-33.) The apostle declares his confidence in them. (Ver. 14.) He justifies the freedom with which he has addressed them. (Ver. 15.) This he does on the ground of his office as the apostle of the Gentiles. (Ver. 16-21.) He expresses his hope of visiting them soon. (Ver. 22-29.) He asks their prayers in his behalf (Ver. 30-33.)

  2. After bespeaking their Christian hospitality and kind offices for Phebe, a servant of the church, at Cenchrea (and probably the bearer of the Epistle) (16:1, 2), he sends his salutations to various members of the church. (Ver. 3-16.)

  3. He warns them against those who cause divisions. (Ver. 17-20.)

  4. He adds salutations from Christian friends who were with him. (Ver. 21-23.) '

Part V. — Conclusion. (16:24-27.)

  1. Benediction. (Ver. 24.)

  2. Doxology — embodying a brief summary of gospel doctrine. (Ver. 25-27.)


1) Gibbon, in chapter xxxi., says:" We may fairly estimate the inhabitants of Rome at twelve hundred thou- sand." Conybeare and Howson and Canon Farrar put theirs at "more than two millions." According to Dr. Schaff, the Jews in Rome itself " numbered from twenty to thirty thousand souls, had seven synagogues and three cemeteries." — (F.)

2) The fact that no mention is made of this charitable collection in the Epistle to the Galatians, while it is mentioned in other letters of this group (1,2, Corinthians, Romans) is urged by Bishop Wordsworth in proof that the Epistles to the Corinthians were written subsequently to that to the Galatians, especially as its mention, had it been then undertaken, would have been exceedingly appropriate to the design of this Epistle, and could hardly have failed to find place in it.— (F.)

3) Paul would then arrive at Rome in the spring of A. D. 61, the seventh j-ear of Nero's reign, and the twenty- fourth of his life. The great tire at Rome, and the consequent persecution of Christians occurred A. D. 64, and hence were probably subsequent to Paul's release from imprisonment. It is now commonly supposed that after a brief second imprisonment he was beheaded on the Ostian Way, in the year 66 or 67. Nero committed suicide a. d 68.— (F.)

4) De Wette and Meyer vesus Hemsen, Hug, Olshausen, Neander, Wieseler, Farrar, and Pluiuptre, hold that these were Paul's converts at Corinth, and were not members of the Roman Church. It will be recollected that Paul abode with these two disciples at Corinth for the space of at least one year and six months. — (F.)

5) The last literary work of Dr. Meyer (died June 21st. 1873) was the preface (written March, 1873) to the English edition of his "Commentary on Romans." And it is an interesting; circumstance that the words inscribed on his tombstone are taken from this Epistle:14:8:" Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." — (F.)

6) That Paul must have had considerable acquaintance with the Latin language, if not at the time this Epistle was written, at least some years afterward, is most certain. The Latin dialect would, of course, naturally extend itself wherever the Roman government was established, and this had at that time become almost universal. This language was stamped on the national coins; it was used in trade, in public edicts, in legal proceedings. Paul always was a subject of the Roman Government, was born in a Roman "free city," and passed his life in Roman colonies and provinces. In every country of his residence he could have seen Roman soldiers, centurions, chiliarchs, or military tribunes (Acts 21:31), prĉtors and lictors (Acts 16:20, H.5), proconsuls and procurators, or " governors." (Acts 13:7; 23:24.) Latin was used to some extent in Palestine and in Jerusalem. It was one of the three languages which were inscribed, not only on the inner separating wall of the Court of the Gentiles, forbidding any foreigner to go within the sanctuary on pain of death (.Josephus' "Antiquities," xv., xi., 5; " Wars," vi., ii., 4), but also on the Saviour's cross. The word Christian, though first expressed in Greek letters, was yet put in a Latinized form. And when we further consider that Paul, as is commonly believed, was chained to a Roman soldier during his two years' imprisonment in Caesarea and his two years' imprisonment at Rome, to say nothing of his long-protracted sea voyage, we must conclude that the apostle in his last years was familiarly acquainted with Latin. — (F.)

7) Paul evidently needed not to be specially endowed with the gift of tongues, as Wordsworth supposes, in order to obey his Lord's last command, since a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew alone would enable him to preach intelligently in almost all parts of the civilized world.–(F.)

8) It was "soon," the 19th of the ensuing December, that the beloved Anderson, a man of kindred spirit with Arnold, followed him to the land of rest. What a world of darkness they have left for what a world of light: Gladly would we exchange, for just their first moments experience in bliss, all the theology of all the schools of earth.— (F.)