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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 1

 

 

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Verses 1-32


The Power of the Gospel and the need of the World. The Guilt of the Heathen

In his salutation the apostle emphasises his commission, and the greatness of the Person whose servant he is and who is the centre of his message (Romans 1:1-7). After expressing his desire to visit the Romans (Romans 1:8-15), he states the subject of his Epistle, viz. acceptance with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17), and proceeds to develop it by showing that none have been able to merit acceptance with God. He begins by proving this of the Gentiles (Romans 1:18-32).

1-7. The Salutation.

Paraphrase. '(1) I, Paul, who write am a bondservant of Christ, set apart by God as an apostle to proclaim that message of good news (2) which was promised by His prophets. (3) The subject of the message is His Son, of David's lineage by human descent, (4) but, as regards His spiritual being, shown to be Son of God by the divine power exercised in His Resurrection. (5) Since, through Christ, I was brought into God's favour, and commissioned to be apostle to the Gentiles, (6) and that you at Rome, whom Christ has chosen, are Gentiles; (7) therefore I write to you, praying that God may grant you His blessings.'

1. Servant] A title used in the OT. of those devoted to a special work for God: cp. Joshua 24:29; Psalms 36 (title) Jeremiah 7:25; Daniel 9:11; Zechariah 3:8. St. Paul claims a similar place in the New Covenant. Servant of Jesus Christ] cp. OT. expression 'servant of God'; one of many undesigned testimonies to the Apostle's belief in the divinity of Christ: cp. Romans 9:5; Romans 10:12.

Called] i.e. chosen by Christ. He emphasises this, because a party of Judaising Christians, who opposed the doctrine of salvation by faith, and held that circumcision was of perpetual obligation, denied his apostleship: cp. 1 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:1 : see Intro. Gal. Apostle] see on Romans 16:7. Separated] cp. Acts 13:2; Galatians 1:15

3. David] Thus fulfilling prophecies, as Isaiah 11:1, and the expectation of the Jews (cp. Mark 12:35; John 7:42) that the Messiah would be descended from David: cp. Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-32.

4. Declared] cp. Acts 13:33. Son of God] For St. Paul's teaching on the person of Christ cp. Acts 8:3, Acts 8:32; Acts 9:5; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15.; Colossians 2:9.

With power] i.e. by a display of divine power. The Resurrection was a miracle: cp. 2 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 1:19. According to] i.e. as regards. Spirit of holiness] Not the Holy Spirit, but Christ's human spirit 'in which the Divinity or Divine Personality resided' (Sanday and Headlam). By the resurrection] As His words and works marked Him out as more than mere man (cp. Matthew 16:16), so did the Resurrection. Notice the confidence and the emphasis with which the apostles proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ as being a certain fact, and as proving the truth of the gospel: see on Ephesians 4:25; Acts 1:22; Acts 22:4.; Acts 17:18, Acts 17:31, etc.

5. Grace] In Acts and Epistles this word usually means the unmerited favour of God, shown (1) in forgiveness and salvation, cp. Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7 as opposed to debt, cp. Romans 4:4, to works, cp. Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8., and to law, cp. Galatians 2:21; (2) in the call of the Gentiles, cp. Ephesians 3:2.; (3) in special gifts of calling to and fitness for Christian work, cp. Romans 12:6; Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 4:7. Here 'grace' means the Christian standing generally, to which is added in Paul's case the distinctive gift of apostleship. For obedience to the faith] RV 'unto obedience of faith,' i.e. to win that obedience which is connected with faith: cp. Romans 16:26. Nations] RV 'the nations,' i.e. Gentiles: cp. Romans 1:13, Galatians 1:16; Galatians 2:7. Name] RV 'name's sake,' i.e. the Apostle works for the sake of Christ, and to promote His glory. The name of God is what God has revealed about Himself: cp. Exodus 34:5.; Matthew 28:19.

7. Called to be saints] lit. 'summoned saints.' 'Saint' means 'consecrated to God': cp. Exodus 22:31. In this sense all Christians are saints: cp. 1 Peter 2:9.

8-15. The Apostle greatly desires to visit Rome.

Paraphrase. '(8) I thank God that your faith is so well known. (9) I constantly pray about you, (10) asking that God may permit me soon to visit you. (11) For I long to impart to you some spiritual benefit, (12) in fact that we may be mutually helped by each other's faith. (13) I have often planned a visit, although I have been prevented, for (14) all Gentiles, of whatever race, lie within the sphere of my duty. (15) Therefore, so far as the decision rests with me, I am eager to preach the gospel to you.'

9. Serve] The Gk. word is used of the worship of God by people or priest. St. Paul's work of preaching the gospel was a priestly service, in which he offered the Gentiles as a sacrifice to God: cp. Romans 15:16. With] RV 'in.'

10. Have a prosperous journey] RV 'be prospered.' He knew his journey to Jerusalem would be dangerous, cp. Romans 15:30, but did not foresee that he would visit Rome as a prisoner: cp. Acts 27:24;

11. Spiritual gift] The term is sometimes used of the special endowments which accompanied the reception of the Holy Spirit: cp. 1 Corinthians 12-14. The meaning here is that St. Paul hopes the Romans may increase in faith and love through his teaching and influence. Established] i.e. strengthened in faith and other virtues.

12. The Apostle will not assume superiority.

13. Let] RV 'hindered,' i.e. by more pressing calls: cp. Romans 15:22.

14. Greeks] The Roman Christians were Greek-speaking for 250 years. To the Greek and Roman, all the rest of the world was barbarian.

15. In me] Emphasis on 'me'; God might will otherwise. St. Paul was going to Jerusalem, and felt that his life would be in danger: cp. Romans 15:25.; Acts 20:22.

16, 17. The main subject of the Epistle—Righteousness by Faith.

Paraphrase. '(16) I am not ashamed to preach the message of Christ even in great Rome, for it is the divine power whereby God brings salvation to all who have faith in Christ. (17) For in it is revealed that God accepts men as righteous solely on the condition of faith, as is shown in the OT.'

16. Ashamed] cp. 1 Corinthians 1:23. Salvation] i.e. deliverance from dangers or enemies. So it signified the deliverance which the Messiah would bring: cp. Luke 1:69-71. Here it is such as belongs to a spiritual kingdom; and is from 'sin,' cp. Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:77 from 'wrath,' cp. Romans 5:9 from 'the grave,' cp. Romans 13:11 and to 'eternal life,'cp. John 3:15. As regards conversion and baptism, Christians 'were' or 'are saved,' cp. Romans 8:24; (RV), Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:9 as recipients of God's favour and blessing, Christians are 'being saved,' cp. Acts 2:47 (RV), 1 Corinthians 1:18; (RV); as regards future glory, Christians 'will be saved,' cp. Romans 13:11; Matthew 10:22. Believeth] i.e. who devotes and entrusts himself to Christ as his Lord and Saviour. The Jew first] to whom the Messiah was promised and from whom He came. Greek] i.e. any one not a Jew = Gentile.

17. The righteousness of God] RV 'a righteousness of God.' A state of righteousness, or acceptance with God, to which man could not attain by his own efforts, but which God bestows upon him of His free grace.

From faith to faith] RV 'by faith unto faith,' i.e. given, on condition of faith, to those who have faith: cp. Romans 3:22. Just] RV 'righteous.' The quotation is from Habakkuk 2:4, which referred to preservation from the calamities of the Chaldean invasion. The principle is that it is faith which gains God's approval.

18-32. The Apostle has briefly stated God's offer of righteousness in the Christian message. He now proceeds to show that all men have failed to attain acceptance with God by other means. First he speaks of the Gentiles. They lie under God's wrath on account of their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). They might have had a knowledge of God (Romans 1:19-20), but have turned away to idolatry (Romans 1:21-23), and are sunk, in consequence, in moral corruption (Romans 1:24-32).

Paraphrase. '(18) The need of such a method of salvation is evident when we consider how mankind has always suppressed the truth within and lived in wickedness. For them wrath, not righteousness, is revealed. (19) For instance, God has made Himself known to the Gentiles; (20) for His power and divinity are so clearly impressed upon the visible creation that they cannot plead ignorance. (21) They had a revelation of God, but instead of worshipping Him aright they became so involved in useless speculations about His nature, that they lost the sense of truth and right. (22) Their conceit led to such idolatrous folly (23), that they regarded an image of man or beast as a fitting representation of the majesty of God. (24-27) Therefore God gave them over to the degradation which was the result of their apostasy. (28-31) Their rejection of the true idea of God was followed, as a penal consequence, by depravity and every kind of sin. (32) So great is their wickedness, that although they know the guilt of such sins, they not only commit them, but approve of them in others.'

18. Wrath] i.e. the steadfast indignation of God against sin. God 'would not love good, unless He hated evil, the two being inseparable '(Trench). Revealed] by the state to which sin had brought the Gentile world, and by God's revelation of a coming day of wrath: cp. Romans 2:5. Hold] RV 'hold down,' i.e. suppress.

19. Known.. in them] i.e. nature teaches a knowledge of God, and man has the faculty of receiving the teaching.

20. From] RV 'since.' By] RV 'through.' Godhead] RV 'divinity.'

21. Vain] i.e. foolish, empty. Imaginations] RV 'reasonings,' i.e. about God.

23. Changed] i.e. exchanged. Glory] i.e. the manifested power and goodness of God.

Into] RV 'for.' Man] as in Greece and Rome, where even immorality was ascribed to the gods. Birds, etc.] as in Egypt.

24. Gave them up] Those who forsake God, forsake Him who restrains evil and inspires good. Further, one sin leads to another, by natural consequence which is God's law: cp. Psalms 81:12; Acts 7:42. So the idolatry of success, money, pleasure, and luxury, often leads to gambling, dishonesty, and vice.

25. Who] RV 'for that they.' Changed] RV 'exchanged.' Truth of God] i.e. the true idea of God. Into a lie] RV 'for a lie,' i.e. for an idol, a false conception of God. More] RV 'rather.'

26. Affections] RV 'passions.'

28. Convenient] RV 'fitting.'

29. Debate] RV 'strife.' Whisperers] i.e. secret slanderers.

30. Despiteful] RV 'insolent.' Proud] RV 'haughty.'

32. Knowing] i.e. by conscience. Judgment] RV 'ordinance.' Have pleasure in] RV 'consent with.' A sign of 'complete victory over conscience, and complete callousness to the moral ruin of others' (Moule).

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Romans 1:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/romans-1.html. 1909.

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