The Epistle to the Romans

By David Brown


CHAPTER I. 8-17.—Introduction—Theme of the Epistle.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that

9 your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in

10 my prayers; making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to

11 come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

12 that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the

13 mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (but was let hitherto), that I might have some fruit

14 among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise,

15 and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to

16 preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 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

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

7. Grace, that word of richest import and sweetest sound to Christian ears, meaning that 'free favour to the unworthy,' whence springs all salvation for the lost (Eph. ii. 10). and peace—the first result of this grace in the soul that receives it (chap. v. 1). from God our Father—as the primal Fountain, and the Lord Jesus Christ—as the ordained Channel of both blessings. Observe how here, as throughout the Epistles, the Father and the Son are conjointly invoked—the One as the great originating Source, the Other as the Channel of all spiritual blessings.

8. First, I thank my God. . . . that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world. The fact of a Christian church springing up in the metropolis without any apostolic, or even noted, instrumentality, could not but cause lively astonishment and joy to the Christians of other places, to whom the news would quickly spread, through the frequent visits paid to the capital from all the provinces; nor could it fail to attract the notice of many who were not Christians. The same is said of the faith of the Thessalonian Christians, whose bright walk and missionary zeal compelled general and widespread attention to the change wrought on them, and of course to that which produced it (1 Thess. i. 8-10).

9-12. For God is my witness, whom I serve (in the sense of "worship") with my spirit (or 'inmost soul') (see Luke i. 47) in the gospel of his Son—an unusually strong protestation, prompted, perhaps, by the fact that he was writing from Corinth, where galling insinuations against his sincerity were thrown out, and in view of his intended visit, which he would have to be with unsullied character.

how unceasingly I make mention of you. Writing in the same strain to the churches of Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae, and Thessalonica, who can but marvel at the capaciousness of soul, the absorbing spirituality, the impassioned devotedness to the cause of Christ, and the incessant transactions with Heaven about all that concerned it, which met in this wonderful man! always in my prayers making request, if by any means now at length I may be prospered by the will of God to come unto you. As to the hindrances, see on ver 13. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift. . . . that is, that I may be comforted in you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. He corrects himself, as it were, shrinking from even the appearance of assumption in the words he had "just used:—'Did I say I longed to impart something to you? Nay, it will be a mutual giving and getting: the profit and the refreshing will be on both sides.' How different (exclaims Bengel) the apostolic style from that of Papal Rome! His apostolic authority—lost sight of, under the feeling of a common brotherhood with all believers—was only asserted when it was called in question, but then boldly enough (1 Cor. ix. I; 2 Cor. xi. 5, xii. 2).

13. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (see Acts xix. 21, with xxiii. 11), but was hindered hitherto (see xv. 22)—chiefly by his desire to avoid "building on another's foundation," and rather break fresh ground for himself (chap. xv. 20-25, 2 S)- In fact, it was nearly a quarter of a century after his conversion ere his desire was accomplished, and then only as "a prisoner of Jesus Christ." that I might have some fruit in you also, even a3 in other Gentiles. These words should set at rest the vexed question, whether this was a church chiefly of Jews or of Gentiles. Surely, not chiefly of Jews, else how could the apostle have written so? Nor is the Jewish strain of much of the argument anything against their being chiefly Gentile converts, since most of them probably had been proselytes to Judaism first; and as Rome abounded with Jews, not a few of them doubtless would be won over to the faith of the Gospel.

14-17. I am debtor both to the (cultivated) Greeks, including the Romans, who prided themselves upon their Greek culture, and to the (rude) Barbarians—as all were called who were strangers to Greek culture and Roman civilization (see Acts xxxiii. 2; 1 Cor. xiv. 11). So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel.1 That it did require some courage to face 'the mistress of the world 'with a message which to the Jews was a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness, was a feeling which could scarcely fail to arise in a refined and sensitive nature. But the all-subduing sense of the inestimable value and surpassing glory of that message hushed every such feeling, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Thus naturally and almost impatiently does the apostle glide into his great theme—THE GOSPEL—what it is, why and for whom it was needed, what it does for those who receive it, and where it leaves those who reject it. Its design is Salvation to the lost; it comes to men in a message from heaven, fitly called the Gospel or ' Glad Tidings; 'needed by all, it is for all without distinction; the power of God lies in it to save the soul that hears in it the voice of God bringing salvation to itself in the belief of it. But here the question arises, What is there in this Gospel to give it such a power to save them that believe it? The answer to this question lies in the next verse:—

17. For therein is revealed the righteousness of God. On the sense in which we understand this great word, "The righteousness of God," it depends whether we shall enter into the precious teaching of this Epistle or entirely miss it. (1) It cannot mean the mere attribute of righteousness in God (as in chap. iii. 5), for this in no sense depends on the faith of men. (2) It clearly means that righteousness which God will regard and reckon as such in men. But (3) it cannot mean any righteousness of character Divinely implanted ox wrought in men.2 The whole argument of the Epistle, especially in chap. iii. iv., is totally inconsistent with this view of the phrase, and makes it quite clear that what is here meant by "the righteousness of God" is 'a righteousness not our own, but a righteousness received by faith, and reckoned to us, in virtue of the work of Christ.' This will open upon us by degrees as we advance in the argument; but meantime the reader should take along with him that complete statement of the whole matter in a single golden sentence which will be found in 2 Cor. v. 21: "Him who knew no sin He made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Here, (1) since sinlessness, in the most absolute sense that can be ascribed to a creature-nature, is ascribed to Christ, to be "made sin" cannot mean that He was made personally sinful, either in act or inclination. Nor should it be rendered 'made a sin-offering; 'but just as "made a curse for us," in Gal. iii. 13, means that Christ was 'held and treated as the accursed one 'in our stead, so "made sin for us, who knew no sin" can only mean that the Sinless One was 'held and treated as the Sinful One 'in our slead. Hence, (2) when the effect of this judicial transference of our guilt to Christ is said to be that "we are made the righteousness of God in Him," the meaning can only be that the righteousness of the Sinless One is judicially transferred to us the sinful ones, and so we who believe "are made the righteousness of God in Him," or have, in the judicial eye of God, the very righteousness which He demands and accepts; and thus—

"Our faith receives a righteousness
That makes the sinner just."

Such will be found the doctrine taught throughout in this great Epistle regarding "the righteousness of God." Now for the way in which it becomes ours:—by faith unto faith (as rightly rendered in the R. V.)—that is, as it is



1) The words "of Christ," introduced here in the A. V. after Beza, who in this followed Erasmus, are clearly no part of the original text.

2) This is what the Church of Rome teaches (Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, "On Justification," vi. 7); what the Remonstrants in the Dutch Church held; and what the Tractarians in the English Church contend for as the teaching of their own Church.