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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Romans 1

 

 

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Verse 1

CONTENTS

Paul opens the Epistle with declaring his Apostleship. He salutes the Church, with the Profession of his brotherly Love: declares his willingness to visit them; and draws a faithful, but melancholy Picture of the Ungodly.


Verses 1-6

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (2) (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures,) (3) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; (4) And declared the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (5) By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name; (6) Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (2) (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures,) (3) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; (4) And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (5) By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name; (6) Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

The Apostle very properly begins his address to the Church, with his own name and character, by way of grounding his authority in writing to them. He declares himself to be not only a servant of Jesus Christ, but called to be an Apostle, and separated to this service by God. So that, here is indirectly, an acknowledgment of the whole Persons of the Godhead; and not unsimilar to what we meet with in the writings of the other Apostles. See Jude 1:1-25; 1 Peter 1:2. And here, once for all, let it be observed, that the distinguishing office of an Apostle, made it necessary for Paul, to make out his just claim to that character. An Apostle, was not only one who received his authority immediately from Christ; but the very name and office implied, in the person executing it, one that was a witness of Christ's resurrection. So Peter, at the election of Matthias, in the room of the traitor Judas, declared it to be the design of the office, Acts 1:21-22. Now, Paul was qualified to be an Apostle, having seen, and heard Christ, from heaven, Acts 9:4; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1Co_15:8. And his ordination also, was by the Holy Ghost. See Acts 13:1-4 and Commentary there. And he was separated, or set apart, by God the Father, from the womb for that purpose. See Galatians 1:15; Jeremiah 1:4-5; Luke 1:15-17.

The Apostle next most properly adverts, to the design of his ministry, and the particular object, for which he wrote to the Romans, The whole is of Christ, God-Man, and the momentous things connected with the revelation of the Son of God, from heaven. This had been indeed the sum and substance of all the writings and preachings of the Prophets of God, in all ages: but now, by the open manifestation Christ hath made of' himself, in substance of our flesh, it became more fully known. And Paul dwells upon that feature of character, in this grace, the resurrection of Christ from the dead; because, this glorious act, not only most compleatly proved his own eternal power, and Godhead, but also, as decidedly manifested his oneness, and union, in all the perfections, and distinguishing characters, which constitute Godhead, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost: each glorious Person, in that act of the resurrection, having put their Almighty hand to the work. Paul saith, that Christ is declared to be the Son of God with power by this very deed. But, had Christ been raised from the dead, by the power of God the Father only; or by the Spirit of holiness only; or by both, without Christ having an hand in it: the resurrection, in either case, would not have declared him thereby to have been the Son of God with power. There would have been then no more a proof of Godhead, in the resurrection of Christ, than in the resurrection of any other body. But if, as was the case, when Jesus laid down his life which no mart could take from him, he himself took it again; and when put to death in the flesh, he quickened himself by his Spirit; even his own eternal power and Godhead: here, his Godhead was compleatly proved. And hence, as this scripture states it, and is confirmed elsewhere, he was declared to be the Son of God with power; meaning, his own power, for nothing of the power of any other could have declared his Godhead, John 10:18; 1 Peter 3:18; John 5:21; Joh_11:25-26. And, in further proof of the union of the divine nature, Christ's resurrection is declared to have been the express act of the Holy Three in One, who bear record in heaven. Here it is ascribed to the Son of God himself, and to the Spirit of holiness; and elsewhere to God the Father, whose grace in raising Christ's body is spoken of as a pledge of raising up his members by his own power also, 1 Corinthians 6:14. Reader! do not hastily dismiss this view of the subject, for it is blessed. Jesus! (your Jesus, if so be the Spirit of Jesus dwells in your heart,) first offered himself without spot to God the Father through his own eternal Spirit, without spot to God for your offences; and then, by his own power, with the same Spirit of holiness, quickened himself, to rise again, for your justification, Hebrews 9:14; Romans 9:25.


Verse 7

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I beg the Reader to pause over this verse, in order that he may enter into a right apprehension, of what constitutes the Church of God. And, I do it the rather at this place, because the subject, once clearly understood, will minister to much information on the same point, upon similar occasions, to be met with in the word of God. It is to the Church, Paul sends this Epistle, yea, all his Epistles. And all the Epistles of the Apostles, are directed to the Church in like manner. And the Church is declared to be the beloved of God, called to he saints. Beloved of God, from everlasting, Jeremiah 31:3, and chosen in Christ before all worlds, Ephesians 1:4. And, as these acts of free grace and favor, became the ground-work of all blessedness from all eternity: so, in proof, they are called to be saints, in the time-state of the Church, upon earth. Not born saints, but new-born; not making themselves saints, either in whole, or in part; but made so altogether by sovereign grace, resulting from sovereign love. So that, from the everlasting purpose, counsel, and will, of Jehovah, in his threefold character of Persons, the Church owes her Being in Christ, before all time; and having been beloved of God, and called to be saints, they are blessed in Christ with grace, during the whole of their time-state here below, and blessed in Christ in all his communicable glory and happiness, to all eternity. If the Reader be enabled, under divine teaching, to have this view of the Church always in remembrance; he will find the sweetness of it, in the several parts of the Word of God, in discovering the application of many a gracious portion, in direct reference to the Church of God, distinguished from the carnal world.

Neither at our entrance on those writings of the Apostles, may we too hastily pass over the very sweet apostolical benediction we meet with in the beginning, for the most part, of all their Epistles. Here the Apostle prays for grace and peace, and sometimes he connects with those twin blessings, mercy also; for Christ is himself mercy in the fullest and most comprehensive sense of the word, yea, the mercy promised, Luke 1:72. And as these blessings are the gracious effects which flow from the covenant-love and favor of Jehovah, in his threefold character of persons, towards the Church in Christ; so the Apostle prays as he opens his Epistles, with this benediction, that they may proceed from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. By which I humbly apprehend is meant, (as the Apostle elsewhere, when closing one of his Epistles, expresseth,) that both the beginning and the end may have a beautiful correspondence, he prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with the Church. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14.

It were hardly necessary to detain the Reader with defining what is included in those great branches of the Lord's favor to his Church In Christ, grace and peace. everyone that reads the word of God with an enlightened eye, must perceive, that the terms carry with them a comprehension of all blessings, suited to the present time-state of the Church. Grace, in all its properties, original and eternal, in the first manifestations of it, and flowing from the same unceasing fountain, in all the after acts of it. Electing, regenerating, calling, redeeming, justifying, adopting, sanctifying, renewing, confirming, strengthening; yea, in short, all grace. Peter, the Apostle, on this account was directed to call God, the God of all grace, 1 Peter 5:10, which teacheth, that God is not only in himself, towards his Church and people, grace in his very nature and essence; but also, that all the grace he hath is for them. And what endears it yet more, is, that the several parts and portions of grace, in all the infinite varieties of it, the Lord knoweth what each child will want, during the whole time-state of their continuance here below; he lays it up for them; hath each portion separate for them; keeps it for them to the moment of need; and gives it out with such a sweetness of love and favor, as makes it doubly blessed, coming immediately from the Lord's own hand, and coming with his love marked on it, in the very time of need. I pray the Reader to turn to some few scriptures in proof, Genesis 22:11-14; Psalms 59:10; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 4:14-16. And in like manner, peace takes in every blessing of time and eternity. Our peace is Christ himself. The Prophet, ages before Christ's incarnation, was taught to tell the Church, that He should be our peace, when the Assyrian should come into our land, Micah 5:5. And the Apostle sums up the whole mystery of godliness, when he saith, He is our peace, having made peace through the blood of his cross, Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20. In short, Christ is the everlasting peace of his people, in God, and with God. And well might the Apostle begin every Epistle with praying for it; for Christ, from all eternity, is both the means and the end, the source and fountain, in whom, and from whom all peace flows. He is the great restorer of peace to all the breaches sin and Satan have made in the time-state of the Church. It is He which brings his redeemed into peace and favor with God, and with our own consciences; takes away the natural enmity of our minds; and having opened a new and living way for our return to God by his blood, ever liveth to keep it open by his intercession. Precious Jesus! what a sweet thought is it to my soul, that amidst all the tribulation of the world, in thee 1 have peace!


Verses 8-12

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (9) 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 my prayers; (10) Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. (11) 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 mutual faith both of you and me.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (9) 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 my prayers; (10) Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. (11) 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 mutual faith both of you and me.

I beg the Reader to observe, how the Apostle begins his subject to the Church, after he had finished his prayers to God, and implored grace and peace for the people. He enters upon his Epistle with thanksgiving. Reader! nothing can more effectually call forth praises to the Lord, when the heart is tinder the teaching of God the Spirit, than a deep sense of the Lord's mercies to the Church. Though Paul had no personal knowledge of the saints at Rome, yet knowing by their call to God in Christ, that they were beloved of God, they were beloved to Paul also. There is a oneness of heart and affliction among the saints of God, which proves a kindred of souls, and manifests an union with each other, from an union with the Lord Jesus. No wonder the Apostle longed to see them, whose faith carried with it such an honorable testimony everywhere.

But what I would more particularly request the Reader to notice, is, what Paul expected from seeing them, namely, that while through grace he might be enabled to impart to them some spiritual gift, he himself, though so great an Apostle, might receive from them comfort. It were devoutly to be wished that this statement of Paul's was but more generally regarded in our Churches, both by ministers and people. The Apostle here speaks of a mutual faith. And, surely, as the faith is the same in all the members of Christ's body, in all its properties, all flowing as it doth from one and the same fountain, which is Christ; however different in the greatness or smallness of the stream, it must be, or ought to be, a faith which worketh by love, and therefore the consequences would be truly blessed, if they were thus sought for. And it is very blessed both to minister and people, when the one is refreshed under the Lord from the labors of his servant, and the other is comforted in his own, and their establishment in grace by the Word. Paul felt the sweetness of this, and so must all faithful ministers also, when they can adopt Paul's language; he told the Corinthians, that they had acknowledged his labors in part, and we are (said he) your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus, 2 Corinthians 1:11-14.


Verses 13-17

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 among you also, even as among other Gentiles. (14) I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith.

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 among you also, even as among other Gentiles. (14) I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith.

I would pass over in the review of those verses all that Paul speaks of himself, (very interesting as it is to behold this great champion of his Master's cause,) with only one short observation, namely, the ground upon which the Apostle rests, when declaring he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. I beg the Reader particularly to notice this. Paul was not ashamed of it, because he knew it in its saving power. And let my Reader not be offended when I say, that this personal knowledge can be the only security and preservative against shame. Any man, and every man, will want confidence to profess the Gospel of Christ, whether preacher or hearer, in all its purity, fulness, and glory, unless he himself hath in his own heart known it to be what Paul saith it is, the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth. There is indeed what is called the Gospel, and which brings no shame among men, either in those that preach it, or those who hear it, and which is in such a spirit of accommodation to the world, that it is even become fashionable in the present day to attend it: I mean, Where the great leading truths of the Gospel are thrown into the back ground, and a system of ethics supply the place. But, Reader! depend upon it, the shame Paul here speaks of, that he shrunk not from, is as much known now where Christ is fully and faithfully preached as it was in Paul's days. The offence of the cross is not ceased. The Lord forbid it ever should! It is the true standard of a real believer. And where the grand truths of the Gospel are held forth, and insisted upon as the whole counsel of God, the man who preacheth, or he that heareth these glorious doctrines, and rejoiceth in their infinite importance, must have received the same convictions as Paul had, or neither of them can adopt his language. Oh! the blessedness of knowing, by the saving work of God the Holy Ghost upon the heart, that it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth!

I cannot but beg the Reader's notice to what the Apostle saith concerning the righteousness of God; that it is revealed from faith to faith. That the righteousness here spoken of, is the righteousness of God our Savior, is too plain to need further proof, than from what follows when it is added, the just shall live by faith, Jeremiah 23:6; Daniel 9:24. See Romans 3:21-22. And there can be no righteousness a man can live upon by faith, but this righteousness. Moreover, the just here named can mean no other than the justified soul in Christ, Romans 3:24. But the revelation of this righteousness of God, from faith to faith, is not so easy to be understood, and hath been not a little perplexing to many. Some have supposed, that it means a revelation from the Old Testament faith to the New. Others have conceived, that the righteousness of God, being revealed, begets faith. And a third class, differing from both the former, and with more appearance of probability, have concluded, that it means from the first revelation of God's method of justifying a sinner, to all the after acts of faith in the enjoyment of it. But if I may venture to give my views of the passage, I should say, that it appears to me to be simply no other than to state, that this righteousness of God, revealed from faith to faith, is revealed to faith by way of shewing that it is not obtained by faith. The whole and sole cause of justification is Christ. Faith is no more than the hand to receive it by. And faith doth not give the least title to it. Nay, so far from that, faith is produced by the com-pleat work of Christ's righteousness. So that as faith hath no hand in the work, neither hath faith any merit in the performance. It is not revealed from works to faith: but from faith to faith. And as Christ is the great object of faith, so all the life and actings of faith are solely upon his person, blood, and righteousness.


Verses 18-32

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (19) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed unto them. (20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (21) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (23) And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. (24) Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: (25) Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (26) For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: (27) And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. (28) And even as they did not like to retain God in knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; (29) Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, (30) Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, (31) Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: (32) Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (19) Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. (20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (21) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (23) And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. (24) Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: (25) Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (26) For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: (27) And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. (28) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; (29) Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, (30) Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, (31) Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: (32) Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

I must beg the Reader to spare me from entering into any further account than what is here given of the awful state of human nature by the fall. While I admire the chastity of language in the sacred writers, upon every occasion of this sort, when called upon to sketch the horrid features of man's portrait, since the apostacy of Adam, in which all his posterity are equally drawn, I behold enough in the picture to be humbled to the dust before God, and desire to gather from the whole, without enlarging on the several parts of the representation, yet fuller views of the infinite preciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, by whose vast redemption alone, his Church is brought up from such an awful state of depravity. Here, Reader! if we look at what the Apostle hath drawn, and stand convinced under divine teaching, that what one of Adam's fallen sinful race hath done, all are equally capable of, and, but for the restraints of grace, would fail into; thus beheld, humbling as the view is, yet blessedly profitable will it become. And, oh! that the Lord may in this manner sanctify the Apostle's account here given to the souls of his people!


Verse 32

REFLECTIONS

Reader! let you and I both pause at the entrance on this blessed Epistle, and while we adore God the Holy Ghost for so precious a gift to his Church, let us beg of Him to give us an understanding and believing heart, in the right apprehension of all its sacred contents. And here, in the very opening, let us look up and behold the Lord Jesus Christ in our nature, in all the glories of his person, and offices, and character. He was, he is declared to be, the Son of God, with power. His divine nature fully proved by his quickening Spirit, and his human nature by his death and resurrection, and both confirming his suitability to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of Him which filleth all in all!

And, oh! what preciousness is hereby discovered of the Gospel of Christ! How blessedly adapted for the delivery of our poor nature from the ruins of the fail! How graciously contrived for the everlasting happiness of the Church! Reader! behold the holy joy of Paul, in his readiness to preach it to all that were in Rome, yea, all the world, among the beloved of God, and called to be saints. I am not ashamed (said Paul,) of the Gospel of Christ! Ashamed? Who is, who can be ashamed at that which is the highest glory of our nature? The Son of God in our nature proclaiming mercy, pardon, and peace, in the blood of his cross. But, Reader! see to it, that we shrink not from the same standard, and the same cause; when we can say, and appeal as he did, God Is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of his Son! Lord! grant that thy people, in the awful view of what thy servant hath here shewn of a fallen state, may be led to contemplate the blessed deliverance wrought out for the Church by the Lord Jesus Christ, And, oh! for grace to enter into an heart-felt enjoyment of these unspeakable mercies, that while the righteousness of God therein is revealed from faith to faith, all truly justified believers may live by faith!

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Romans 1:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/romans-1.html. 1828.

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