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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Romans 1



Other Authors
Verse 1

Superscription (Romans 1:1, Romans 1:2)

Dr. Morison observes that the superscription is peerless for its wealth of theological idea.

Paul ( Παῦλος )

A transcript for the Latin paulus or paullus, meaning little. It was a favorite name among the Cilicians, and the nearest approach in sound to the Hebrew Saul. According to some, both names were borne by him in his childhood, Paulus being the one by which he was known among the Gentiles, and which was subsequently assumed by him to the exclusion of the other, in order to indicate his position as the friend and teacher of the Gentiles. The practice of adopting Gentile names may be traced through all the periods of Hebrew history. Double names also, national and foreign, often occur in combination, as Belteshazzar-Daniel; Esther-Hadasa; thus Saul-Paulus.

Others find in the name an expression of humility, according to Paul's declaration that he was “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9). Others, an allusion to his diminutive stature; and others again think that he assumed the name out of compliment to Sergius Paulus, the deputy of Cyprus. Dean Howson, while rejecting this explanation, remarks: “We cannot believe it accidental that the words 'who is also called Paul,' occur at this particular point of the inspired narrative. The heathen name rises to the surface at the moment when St. Paul visibly enters on his office as the apostle of the heathen. The Roman name is stereotyped at the moment when he converts the Roman governor.”

A servant ( δοῦλος )

Lit., bond-servant or slave. Paul applies the term to himself, Galatians 1:10; Philemon 1:1; Titus 1:1; and frequently to express the relation of believers to Christ. The word involves the ideas of belonging to a master, and of service as a slave. The former is emphasized in Paul's use of the term, since Christian service, in his view, has no element of servility, but is the expression of love and of free choice. From this stand-point the idea of service coheres with those of freedom and of sonship. Compare 1 Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 6:6; Philemon 1:16.

On the other hand, believers belong to Christ by purchase (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18; Ephesians 1:7), and own Him as absolute Master. It is a question whether the word contains any reference to official position. In favor of this it may be said that when employed in connection with the names of individuals, it is always applied to those who have some special work as teachers or ministers, and that most of such instances occur in the opening salutations of the apostolic letters. The meaning, in any case, must not be limited to the official sense.

Called to be an apostle ( κλητὸς ἀπόστολος )

As the previous phrase describes generally Paul's relation to Christ, this expression indicates it specifically. “Called to be an apostle” (A.V. and Rev.), signifies called to the office of an apostle. Yet, as Dr. Morison observes, there is an ambiguity in the rendering, since he who is simply called to be an apostle may have his apostleship as yet only in the future. The Greek indicates that the writer was actually in the apostolate - a called apostle. Godet, “an apostle by way of call.”

Separated unto the gospel of God ( ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον Θεοῦ )

Characterizing the preceding phrase more precisely: definitely separated from the rest of mankind. Compare Galatians 1:15, and “chosen vessel,” Acts 9:15. The verb means “to mark off ( ἀπό ) from others by a boundary ( ὅρος ).” It is used of the final separation of the righteous from the wicked (Matthew 13:49; Matthew 25:32); of the separation of the disciples from the world (Luke 6:22); and of the setting apart of apostles to special functions (Acts 13:2). Gospel is an exception to the almost invariable usage, in being without the article (compare Revelation 14:6); since Paul considers the Gospel rather as to its quality - good news from God - than as the definite proclamation of Jesus Christ as a Savior. The defining elements are added subsequently in Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4. Not the preaching of the Gospel, but; the message itself is meant. For Gospel, see on superscription of Matthew.

Verse 2

Had promised afore ( προεπηγγείλατο )

Only here in the New Testament. Rev., He promised afore. Paul's Old Testament training is manifest. Naturally, in beginning the more precise description of the new revelation, he refers first to its connection with ancient prophecy. The verb ἐπαγγέλλομαι ; means more than to proclaim. It occurs frequently, and always in the sense of profess or promise. See Mark 14:11; Acts 7:5; 1 Timothy 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:21.


Not limited to the prophets proper, but including all who, in the Old Testament, have prophesied the Gospel - Moses, David, etc. Compare Hebrews 1:1.

In the holy scriptures ( ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις )

Or, more strictly, in holy writings. The scriptures would require the article. See on John 5:47; see on John 2:22. Here again the absence of the article denotes the qualitative character of the phrase - books which are holy as conveying God's revelations. On ἅγιος holysee on Acts 26:10. This is the only passage in which it is applied to scriptures.

Verse 3

Concerning His son

Connect with promised afore. Christ is the great personal object to which the promise referred.

Verse 4

Declared ( ὁρισθέντος )

Rev., in margin, determined. The same verb as in the compound separated in Romans 1:1. Bengel says that it expresses more than “separated,” since one of a number is separated, but only one is defined or declared. Compare Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31. It means to designate one for something, to nominate, to instate. There is an antithesis between born (Romans 1:3) and declared. As respected Christ's earthly descent, He was born like other men. As respected His divine essence, He was declared. The idea is that of Christ's instatement or establishment in the rank and dignity of His divine sonship with a view to the conviction of men. This was required by His previous humiliation, and was accomplished by His resurrection, which not only manifested or demonstrated what He was, but wrought a real transformation in His mode of being. Compare Acts 2:36; “God made,” etc.

With power ( ἐν δυνάμει )

Lit., in power. Construe with was declared. He was declared or instated mightily; in a striking, triumphant manner, through His resurrection.

Spirit of holiness

In contrast with according to the flesh. The reference is not to the Holy Spirit, who is nowhere designated by this phrase, but to the spirit of Christ as the seat of the divine nature belonging to His person. As God is spirit, the divine nature of Christ is spirit, and its characteristic quality is holiness.

Resurrection from the dead ( ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν )

Wrong, since this would require the preposition ἐκ fromRev., correctly, of the dead. Though this resurrection is here represented as actually realized in one individual only, the phrase, as everywhere in the New Testament, signifies the resurrection of the dead absolutely and generically - of all the dead, as exemplified, included, and involved in the resurrection of Christ. See on Philemon 3:11.

Verse 5

We have received ( ἐλάβομεν )

Aorist tense. Rev., we received. The categorical plural, referring to Paul, and not including the other apostles, since the succeeding phrase, among all the nations, points to himself alone as the apostle to the Gentiles.

Grace and apostleship

Grace, the general gift bestowed on all believers: apostleship, the special manifestation of grace to Paul. The connecting καὶ andhas the force of and in particular. Compare Romans 15:15, Romans 15:16.

For obedience to the faith ( εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως )

Rev., unto obedience of faith. Unto marks the object of the grace and apostleship: in order to bring about. Obedience of faith is the obedience which characterizes and proceeds from faith.

Nations ( ἔθνεσιν )

Or Gentiles. Not geographically, contrasting the inhabitants of the world, Jew and Gentile, with the Jews strictly so called, dwelling in Palestine, but Gentiles distinctively, for whom Paul's apostleship was specially instituted. See on Luke 2:32, and compare note on 1 Peter 2:9.

Verse 6

Ye also

As Romans among other Gentiles: not, called as I am called.

Verse 7

In Rome ( ἐν Ῥώμῃ )

The words are omitted in a MS. Of the tenth or eleventh century, and in a cursive of the eleventh or twelfth. The words ἐν Ἑφέσῳ inEphesus, are also omitted from Ephesians 1:1, by two of the oldest MSS. On which fact has arisen the theory that the Ephesian Epistle was encyclical, or addressed to a circle of churches, and not merely to the church at Ephesus. This theory has been very widely received. With this has been combined the omission of in Rome from the Roman Epistle, and the attempt has been made to show that the Roman Epistle was likewise encyclical, and was sent to Ephesus, Thessalonica, and possibly to some other churches. Archdeacon Farrar advocates this view in “The Expositon,” first ser., 9,211; and also in his “Life and Work of Paul,” ii., 170. This theory is used to defend the view which places the doxology of Romans 16:25-27at the end of ch. 14. See note there.

Called to be saints ( κλητοῖς ἁγίοις )

Or, saints by way of call. See on called to be an apostle, Romans 1:1. It is asserted that they are what they are called. The term ἅγιοι saintsis applied to Christians in three senses in theNew Testament. 1, As members of a visible and local community (Acts 9:32, Acts 9:41; Acts 26:10); 2, as members of a spiritual community (1 Corinthians 1:2; Colossians 3:12); 3, as individually holy (Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:12; Revelation 13:10).

Verse 8

First ( πρῶτον μὲν )

Not above all, but in the first place. The form of the phrase leads us to expect a succeeding clause introduced by secondly or next; but this is omitted in the fullness and rapidity of Paul's thought, which so often makes him negligent of the balance of his clauses.

Through Jesus Christ

As the medium of his thanksgiving: “As one who is present to his grateful thoughts; in so far, namely, as that for which he thanks God is vividly perceived and felt by him to have been brought about through Christ.” Compare Romans 7:25; Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 5:20. In penitence and in thanksgiving alike, Jesus Christ is the one mediator through whom we have access to God.

For you all ( περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν )

The preposition means rather concerning, about.

Is proclaimed ( καταγγέλλεται )

The different compounds of the simple verb ἀγγέλλω toannounce, are interesting. The simple verb occurs only at John 20:18. Ἁναγγέλλειν is to report with the additional idea of bringing tidings up to or back to the person receiving them. So John 5:15. The impotent man brought back information to the Jews. Compare Mark 5:14. So Christ will send the Comforter, and He will bring back to the disciples tidings of things to come. John 16:13-15. See Acts 14:27; 2 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Peter 1:12.

Ἁπαγγέλλειν is to announce with a reference to the source from ( ἀπό ) which the message comes So Matthew 2:8; Acts 12:14. Compare Luke 7:22; Luke 8:34, Acts 5:22.

Καταγγέλλειν is to proclaim with authority, as commissioned to spread the tidings throughout, down among those that hear them, with the included idea of celebrating or commending. So here. Compare Acts 16:21; Acts 17:3. Thus in ἀναγγέλλειν therecipient of the news is contemplated; in ἀπαγγέλλειν thesource; in καταγγέλλειν the relation of the bearer and hearer of the message. The first is found mostly in John, Mark, and Acts; the second in the Synoptists and Acts; the third only. in the Acts and Paul.

Throughout the whole world

Hyperbolical, but according with the position of the metropolitan church. Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:8.

Verse 9

I serve ( λατρεύω )

See on Luke 1:74. The word was used in a special sense to denote the service rendered to Jehovah by the Israelites as His peculiar people. See Romans 9:4; Acts 26:7. Compare Hebrews 9:1, Hebrews 9:6. As in his Philippian letter, Paul here appropriates the Jewish word for the spiritual Christian service. See on Philemon 3:3.

Verse 10

I might have a prosperous journey ( εὐοδωθήσομαι )

Rev., I may be prospered. The A.V. brings out the etymological force of the word. See on 3 John 1:2.

Verse 11

Some spiritual gift ( τι χάρισμα )

Note the modesty in some. Χάρισμα is a gift of grace ( χάρις ) a favor received without merit on the recipient's part. Paul uses it both in this ordinary sense (Romans 5:15, Romans 5:16; Romans 6:23), and in a special, technical sense, denoting extraordinary powers bestowed upon individuals by the Holy Spirit, such as gifts of healing, speaking with tongues, prophecy, etc. See Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 12:4, 1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Peter 4:10. In 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6, it is used of the sum of the powers requisite for the discharge of the office of an evangelist.

To the end ye may be established ( εἰς τὸ στηριχθῆναι ὑμᾶς )

Not that I may establish you. The modest use of the passive leaves out of view Paul's personal part. For established, see on Luke 22:32; see on 1 Peter 5:10. The word shows that he had in view their christian character no less than their instruction in doctrine.

Verse 12

That is ( τοῦου δέ ἐστιν )

The A.V. and Rev. omit δέ howeverthus losing an important shade of meaning. That is is not merely an explanatory repetition of the preceding phrase, but modifies the idea contained in it. It is a modest and delicate explanation, by which Paul guards himself against the possible appearance of underestimating the christian standpoint of his readers, to whom he was still, personally, a stranger. Hence he would say: “I desire to impart some spiritual gift that you may be strengthened, not that I would imply a reproach of weakness or instability; but that I desire for you the strengthening of which I stand in need along with you, and which I hope may be wrought in us both by our personal intercourse and our mutual faith.”

Verse 13

I would not have you ignorant

An emphatic expression calling special attention to what follows. Compare 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

Have some fruit ( τινὰ καρπὸν σχῶ )

For the phrase, compare Romans 6:22. A metaphorical statement of what is stated literally in Romans 1:11. Not equivalent to bear fruit, but to gather as a harvest. Compare John 4:36; Philemon 1:22; Colossians 1:6. Fruit is a favorite metaphor with Paul. He uses it in both a good and a bad sense. See Romans 7:4, Romans 7:5; Romans 6:22; Galatians 5:22.

Verse 14

Debtor ( ὀφειλέτης )

All men, without distinction of nation or culture, are Paul's creditors, “He owes them his life, his person, in virtue of the grace bestowed upon him, and of the office which he has received.” (Godet).

Greeks - Barbarians

Gentiles without distinction. Paul takes the conventional Greek division of all mankind into Greeks and non-Greeks. See on Acts 6:1. The question whether he includes the Romans among the Greeks or the Barbarians, is irrelevant.

Verse 15

To you also that are in Rome

To you refers to the christian Church, not to the population generally. In every verse, from Romans 1:6to Romans 1:13, ὑμεῖς yourefers to the Church.

Verse 16

For ( γὰρ )

Marking the transition from the introduction to the treatise. “I am ready to preach at Rome, for, though I might seem to be deterred by the contempt in which the Gospel is held, and by the prospect of my own humiliation as its preacher, I am not ashamed of it.” The transition occupies Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17.

The Gospel

Omit of Christ.

Power ( δύναμις )

Not merely a powerful means in God's hands, but in itself a divine energy.


Not principally, nor in preference to the Greek; but first in point of time. Compare John 4:22; Romans 3:1; Romans 9:1; Matthew 15:24.

Verse 17

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed ( δικαιοσύνη γὰρ Θεοῦ ἐν ἀυτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ).

Rev., more correctly, therein is revealed a righteousness of God. The absence of the article denotes that a peculiar kind of righteousness is meant. This statement contains the subject of the epistle: Righteousness is by faith. The subject is not stated formally nor independently, but as a proof that the Gospel is a power, etc.

This word δικαιοσύνη righteousnessand its kindred words δίκαιος righteousand δικαιόω tomake righteous, play so important a part in this epistle that it is desirable to fix their meaning as accurately as possible.

Classical Usage. In the Greek classics there appears an eternal, divine, unwritten principle of right, dwelling in the human consciousness, shaping both the physical and the moral ordering of the world, and personified as Themis ( Θέμις ). This word is used as a common noun in the phrase θέμις ἐστὶ itis right (fundamentally and eternally), like the Latin fas est. Thus Homer, of Penelope mourning for Ulysses, θέμις ἐστὶ γυναικός itis the sacred obligation of the wife (founded in her natural relation to her husband, ordained of heaven) to mourn (“Odyssey,” 14,130). So Antigone appeals to the unwritten law against the barbarity of refusing burial to her brother.

“Nor did I deem thy edicts strong enough,

That thou, a mortal man, shouldst overpass

The unwritten laws of God that know not change.”

Sophocles, “Antigone,” 453-455.

See, also, “Odyssey,” 14,91; Aristophanes, “Clouds,” 140; “Antigone,” 880.

This divine ordering requires that men should be shown or pointed to that which is according to it - a definite circle of duties and obligations which constitute right ( δίκη ). Thus what is δίκαιος righteousis properly the expression of the eternal Themis. While δίκη and θέμις are not to be distinguished as human and divine, δίκη has a more distinctively human, personal character, and comes into sharper definition. It introduces the distinction between absolute right and power. It imposes the recognition of a moral principle over against an absolutely constraining natural force. The conception of δίκη is strongly moral. Δίκαιος is right; δικαιοσύνη is rightness as characterizing the entire being of man.

There is a religious background to the pagan conception. In the Homeric poems morality stands in a relation, loose and undeveloped indeed, but none the less real, to religion. This appears in the use of the oath in compacts; in the fear of the wrath of heaven for omission of sacrifices; in regarding refusal of hospitality as an offense against Zeus, the patron of strangers and suppliants. Certain tribes which are fierce and uncivilized are nevertheless described as δίκαιοι righteous“The characteristic stand-point of the Homeric ethics is that the spheres of law, of morals, and of religion are by no means separate, but lie side by side in undeveloped unity.” (Nagelsbach).

In later Greek literature this conception advances, in some instances, far toward the christian ideal; as in the fourth book of Plato's “Laws,” where he asserts that God holds in His hand the beginning, middle, and end of all things; that justice always follows Him, and punishes those who fall short of His laws. Those who would be dear to God must be like Him. Without holiness no man is accepted of God.

Nevertheless, however clearly the religious background and sanction of morality may be recognized, it is apparent that the basis of right is found, very largely, in established social usage. The word ethics points first to what is established by custom. While with Mr. Grote we must admit the peculiar emphasis on the individual in the Homeric poems, we cannot help observing a certain influence of social sentiment on morals. While there are cases like the suitors, Paris and Helen, where public opinion imposes no moral check, there are others where the force of public opinion is clearly visible, such as Penelope and Nausicaa. The Homeric view of homicide reveals no relation between moral sentiment and divine enactment. Murder is a breach of social law, a private and civil wrong, entailing no loss of character. Its penalty is a satisfaction to the feelings of friends, or a compensation for lost services.

Later, we find this social aspect of morality even more strongly emphasized. “The city becomes the central and paramount source of obligation. The great, impersonal authority called 'the Laws' stands out separately, both as guide and sanction, distinct from religious duty or private sympathy” (Grote). Socrates is charged with impiety because he does not believe in the gods of the state, and Socrates himself agrees that that man does right who obeys what the citizens have agreed should be done, and who refrains from what they forbid.

The social basis of righteousness also appears in the frequent contrast between δίκη and βία , right and force. A violation of right is that which forces its way over the social sanction. The social conception of δίκαιος is not lost, even when the idea is so apprehended as to border on the christian love of one's neighbor. There is a wrong toward the gods, but every wrong is not in itself such. The inner, personal relation to deity, the absolute and constraining appeal of divine character and law to conscience, the view of duty as one's right, and of personal right as something to be surrendered to the paramount claim of love - all these elements which distinguish the christian conception of righteousness - are thus in sharp contrast with a righteousness dictated by social claims which limit the individual desire or preference, but which leave untouched the tenacity of personal right, and place obligation behind legitimacy.

It is desirable that the classical usage of these terms should be understood, in order to throw into sharper relief the Biblical usage, according to which God is the absolute and final standard of right, and every wrong is a sin against God (Psalm 51:4). Each man stands in direct and primary relation to the holy God as He is by the law of His own nature. Righteousness is union with God in character. To the Greek mind of the legendary age such a conception is both strange and essentially impossible, since the Greek divinity is only the Greek man exaggerated in his virtues and vices alike. According to the christian ideal, righteousness is character, and the norm of character is likeness to God. This idea includes all the social aspects of right. Love and duty toward God involve love and duty to the neighbor.

Here must be noted a peculiar usage of δίκαιος righteousand δικαιοσύνη righteousnessin the Septuagint. They are at times interchanged with ἐλεημοσύνη mercyand ἔλεος kindnessThe Hebrew chesed kindness, though usually rendered by ἔλεος , is nine times translated by δικαιοσύνη righteousnessand once by δίκαιος righteousThe Hebrew tsedakah usually rendered by δικαιοσύνη , is nine times translated by ἐλεημοσύνη mercyand three times by ἔλεος kindnessCompare the Heb. and Sept. at Deuteronomy 6:25; Deuteronomy 24:13(15); Genesis 19:19; Genesis 24:27. This usage throws light on the reading δικαιοσύνην , Rev., righteousness (kindness? ), instead of ἐλεημοσύνην mercyA.V., alms, Matthew 6:1. Mr. Hatch (“Essays in Biblical Greek”) says that the meaning kindness is so clear in this passage that scribes, who were unaware of its existence, altered the text. He also thinks that this meaning gives a better sense than any other to Matthew 1:19“Joseph, being a kindly ( δίκαιος , A.V., just ) man.”

1. In the New Testament δίκαιος is used both of God and of Christ. Of God, 1 John 1:9; John 17:25; Revelation 16:5; Romans 3:26. Of Christ, 1 John 2:1; 1 John 3:7; Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; Acts 22:14. In these passages the word characterizes God and Christ either in their essential quality or in their action; either as righteous according to the eternal norm of divine holiness (John 17:25; 1 John 3:7; Romans 3:26), or as holiness passes into righteous dealing with men (1 John 1:9).

2. Δίκαιος is used of men, denoting their normal relation to the will and judgment of God. Hence it means virtuous, upright, pure in life, correct in thinking and feeling. It stands opposed to ἀνομία lawlessness ἁμαρτία sin ἀκαθαρσία impuritya contrast wanting in classical usage, where the conception of sin is vague. See Romans 6:13, Romans 6:16, Romans 6:18, Romans 6:20; Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 6:7, 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:9; Ephesians 6:14; Philemon 1:11; James 3:18.

Where δικαιοσύνη righteousnessis joined with ὁσιότης holiness(Luke 1:75; Ephesians 4:24), it denotes right conduct toward men, as holiness denotes piety toward God. It appears in the wider sense of answering to the demands of God in general, Matthew 13:17; Matthew 10:41; Matthew 23:29; Acts 10:22, Acts 10:35; and in the narrower sense of perfectly answering the divine demands, guiltless. So of Christ, Acts 3:14; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:1.

3. It is found in the classical sense of it is right, Philemon 1:7, or that which is right, Colossians 4:1. This, however, is included within the Christian conception.

Δικαιοσύνη righteousnessis therefore that which fulfills the claims of δίκη right“It is the state commanded by God and standing the test of His judgment; the character and acts of a man approved of Him, in virtue of which the man corresponds with Him and His will as His ideal and standard” (Cremer).

The medium of this righteousness is faith. Faith is said to be counted or reckoned for righteousness; i.e., righteousness is ascribed to it or recognized in it. Romans 4:3, Romans 4:6, Romans 4:9, Romans 4:22; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23.

In this verse the righteousness revealed in the Gospel is described as a righteousness of God. This does not mean righteousness as an attribute of God, as in Romans 3:5; but righteousness as bestowed on man by God. The state of the justified man is due to God. The righteousness which becomes his is that which God declares to be righteousness and ascribes to him. Righteousness thus expresses the relation of being right into which God puts the man who believes. See further, on justified, Romans 2:13.

Is revealed ( ἀποκαλύπτεται )

Emphasizing the peculiar sense in which “righteousness” is used here. Righteousness as an attribute of God was revealed before the Gospel. Righteousness in this sense is a matter of special revelation through the Gospel. The present tense describes the Gospel in its continuous proclamation: is being revealed.

From faith to faith ( ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν )

Rev., by faith unto faith. According to the A.V. the idea is that of progress in faith itself; either from Old to New Testament faith, or, in the individual, from a lower to a higher degree of faith; and this idea, I think, must be held here, although it is true that it is introduced secondarily, since Paul is dealing principally with the truth that righteousness is by faith. We may rightly say that the revealed righteousness of God is unto faith, in the sense of with a view to produce faith; but we may also say that faith is a progressive principle; that the aim of God's justifying righteousness is life, and that the just lives by his faith (Galatians 2:20), and enters into “more abundant” life with the development of his faith. Compare 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 6:19; and the phrase, justification of life, Romans 5:18.


Verse 18


All men require this mode of justification, for all men are sinners, and therefore exposed to God's wrath.

The wrath of God ( ὀργὴ Θεοῦ )

Not punishment, but the personal emotion. See on John 3:36.

Ungodliness and unrighteousness ( ἀσέβειαν καὶ ἀδικίαν ).

Irreligiousness and immorality. See on godliness, 2 Peter 1:3; also 2 Peter 2:13.

Hold ( κατεχόντων )

Not possess: compare Romans 1:21. Rev., correctly, hold down; i.e., hinder or repress. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Luke 4:42.

The truth

Divine truth generally, as apparent in all God's self-revelations.

Verse 19

That which may be known ( τὸ γνωστὸν )

So A.V. and Rev., as equivalent to that which is knowable. But that which is knowable was not revealed to the heathen. If it was, what need of a revelation? Better, that which is known, the universal sense in the New Testament, signifying the universal objective knowledge of God as the Creator, which is, more or less, in all men.

In them

In their heart and conscience. The emphasis should be on in. Thus the apparent tautology - what is known is manifest - disappears.

Verse 20

The invisible things of Him

The attributes which constitute God's nature, afterward defined as “His eternal power and divinity.”

From the creation ( ἀπό )

From the time of. Rev., since.

Are clearly seen ( καθορᾶται )

We have here an oxymoron, literally a pointedly foolish saying; a saying which is impressive or witty through sheer contradiction or paradox. Invisible things are clearly visible. See on Acts 5:41. Illustrations are sometimes furnished by single words, as γλυκύπικρος bittersweet θρασύδειλος abold coward. In English compare Shakespeare:

“Dove-feathered raven, fiend angelical;

Beautiful tyrant, wolfish-ravening lamb.”


“Glad of such luck, the luckless lucky maid.”

Godhead ( θειότης )

Rev., better, divinity. Godhead expresses deity ( θεότης ). θειότης is godhood, not godhead. It signifies the sum-total of the divine attributes.

So that they are ( εἰς τὸ εἶναι )

The A.V. expresses result; but the sense is rather purpose. The revelation of God's power and divinity is given, so that, if, after being enlightened, they fall into sin, they may be without defense.

Without excuse ( ἀναπολογήτους )

See on answer, 1 Peter 3:15. Only here and Romans 2:1.

Verse 21

Knowing - glorified not

“I think it may be proved from facts that any given people, down to the lowest savages, has at any period of its life known far more than it has done: known quite enough to have enabled it to have got on comfortably, thriven and developed, if it had only done what no man does, all that it knew it ought to do and could do” (Charles Kingsley, “The Roman and the Teuton”).

Became vain ( ἐματαιώθησαν )

Vain things ( μάταια ) was the Jews' name for idols. Compare Acts 4:15. Their ideas and conceptions of God had no intrinsic value corresponding with the truth. “The understanding was reduced to work in vacuo. It rendered itself in a way futile ” (Godet).

Imaginations ( διαλογισμοῖς )

Rev., better, reasonings. See on Matthew 15:19; see on Mark 7:21; see on James 2:4.

Foolish ( ἀσύνετος )

See on συνετός prudent Matthew 11:25, and the kindred word σύνεσις understandingsee on Mark 12:33; see on Luke 2:47. They did not combine the facts which were patent to their observation.

Heart ( καρδία )

The heart is, first, the physical organ, the center of the circulation of the blood. Hence, the seat and center of physical life. In the former sense it does not occur in the New Testament. As denoting the vigor and sense of physical life, see Acts 14:17; James 5:5; Luke 21:34. It is used fifty-two times by Paul.

Never used like ψυχή , soul, to denote the individual subject of personal life, so that it can be exchanged with the personal pronoun (Acts 2:43; Acts 3:23; Romans 13:1); nor like πνεῦμα spiritto denote the divinely-given principle of life.

It is the central seat and organ of the personal life ( ψυχή ) of man regarded in and by himself. Hence it is commonly accompanied with the possessive pronouns, my, his, thy, etc.

Like our heart it denotes the seat of feeling as contrasted with intelligence. 2 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 9:2; Romans 10:1; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Philemon 1:7. But it is not limited to this. It is also the seat of mental action, feeling, thinking, willing. It is used -

1. Of intelligence, Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:18.

2. Of moral choice, 1 Corinthians 7:37; 2 Corinthians 9:7.

3. As giving impulse and character to action, Romans 6:17; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22. The work of the law is written on the heart, Romans 2:15. The Corinthian Church is inscribed as Christ's epistle on hearts of flesh, 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.

4. Specially, it is the seat of the divine Spirit, Galatians 4:6; Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:22. It is the sphere of His various operations, directing, comforting, establishing, etc., Philemon 4:7; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:5. It is the seat of faith, and the organ of spiritual praise, Romans 10:9; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16.

It is equivalent to the inner man, Ephesians 3:16, Ephesians 3:17. Its characteristic is being hidden, Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 14:25.

It is contrasted with the face, 1 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:12; and with the mouth, Romans 10:8.

Verse 22

Professing ( φάσκοντες )

The verb is used of unfounded assertion, Acts 24:9; Acts 25:19; Revelation 2:2.

Wise, they became fools

Another oxymoron; see on Romans 1:20. Compare Horace, insaniens sapientia raving wisdom. Plato uses the phrase μάταιον δοξοσοφίαν vain-gloryingof wisdom (“Sophist,” 231).

Verse 23

Image made like ( ὁμοιώματι εἰκόνος )

Rev., more literally, the likeness of an image. See on Revelation 13:14. Equivalent to what was shaped like an image. Likeness indicates the conformity with the object of comparison in appearance; image, the type in the artist's mind; the typical human form. See, further, on Philemon 2:7.

Birds and beasts and creeping things

Deities of human form prevailed in Greece; those of the bestial form in Egypt; and both methods of worship were practiced in Rome. See on Acts 7:41. Serpent-worship was common in Chaldaea, and also in Egypt. The asp was sacred throughout the latter country. The worship of Isis was domesticated at Rome, and Juvenal relates how the priests of Isis contrived that the silver images of serpents kept in her temple should move their heads to a suppliant (“Satire” vi., 537). Many of the subjects of paintings in the tombs of the kings at Thebes show the importance which the serpent was thought to enjoy in the future state. Dollinger says that the vestal virgins were intrusted with the attendance upon a holy serpent, and were charged with supplying his table with meats on festival days.

Verse 24

Gave them up ( παρέδωκεν )

Handed them over to the power of sin. See on Matthew 4:12; see on Matthew 11:27; see on Matthew 26:2; see on Mark 4:29; see on Luke 1:2; see on 1 Peter 2:23.

Verse 25

Who changed ( οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν )

Rev., for that they exchanged. The double relative specifies the class to which they belonged, and thereby includes the reason for their punishment. He gave them up as being those who, etc. Μετήλλαξαν exchanged(so Rev.), is stronger than the simple verb in Romans 1:23. Godet renders travestied. Compare the same word in Romans 1:26.

Truth of God

Equivalent to the true God.

Into a lie ( ἐν τῷ ψεύδει )

Better, as Rev., exchanged, etc., for a lie. Lit., the lie; a general abstract expression for the whole body of false gods. Bengel remarks, “the price of mythology.”

Worshipped and served ( ἐσεβάσθησαν καὶ ἐλάτρευσαν )

The former of worship generally; the latter of worship through special rites or sacrifices. On the latter verb, see on Revelation 22:3.

More than the Creator ( παρά )

The preposition indicates passing by the Creator altogether; not merely giving preference to the creature. Hence Rev., rather than. Compare Luke 18:14, where the approved reading is παρ ' ἐκεῖνον ratherthan the other, implying that the Pharisee was in no respect justified.

Blessed ( εὐλογητὸς )

See on 1 Peter 1:3.

Verse 26

Vile affections ( πάθη ἀτιμίας )

Lit., passions of dishonor. Rev., passions. As distinguished from ἐπιθυμίαι lustsin Romans 1:24, πάθη passionsis the narrower and intenser word. Ἐπιθυμία is the larger word, including the whole world of active lusts and desires, while the meaning of πάθος is passive, being the diseased condition out of which the lusts spring. Ἐπιθυμίαι areevil longings; πάθη ungovernableaffections. Thus it appears that the divine punishment was the more severe, in that they were given over to a condition, and not merely to an evil desire. The two words occur together, 1 Thessalonians 4:5.

Women ( θήλειαι )

Strictly, females. This, and ἄρσενες malesare used because only the distinction of sex is contemplated.

Verse 27

Burned ( ἐξεκαύθησαν )

The terms are terrible in their intensity. Lit., burned out. The preposition indicates the rage of the lust.

Lust ( ὀρέξει )

Only here in the New Testament. It is a reaching out after something with the purpose of appropriating it. In later classical Greek it is the most general term for every kind of desire, as the appetite for food. The peculiar expressiveness of the word here is sufficiently evident from the context.

That which is unseemly ( τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην )

Primarily, want of form, disfigurement. Plato contrasts it with εὐσχημοσύνη gracefulness(“Symposium,” 196).

Which was meet ( ἔδει )

Rev., was due, which is better, though the word expresses a necessity in the nature of the case - that which must needs be as the consequence of violating the divine law.

The prevalence of this horrible vice is abundantly illustrated in the classics. See Aristophanes, “Lysistrata,” 110; Plato, “Symposium,” 191; Lucian, “Amores,” 18; “Dialogi Meretricii,” v., 2; Juvenal, vi., 311; Martial, i., 91; vii., 67. See also Becker's “Charicles;” Forsyth's “Life of Cicero,” pp. 289,336; and Dollinger's “Heathen and Jew,” ii., 273 sqq. Dollinger remarks that in the whole of the literature of the ante-Christian period, hardly a writer has decisively condemned it. In the Doric states, Crete and Sparta, the practice was favored as a means of education, and was acknowledged by law. Even Socrates could not forbear feeling like a Greek on this point (see Plato's “Charmides”). In Rome, in the earlier centuries of the republic, it was of rare occurrence; but at the close of the sixth century it had become general. Even the best of the emperors, Antoninus and Trajan, were guilty.

On the Apostle's description Bengel remarks that “in stigmatizing we must often call a spade a spade. The unchaste usually demand from others an absurd modesty.” Yet Paul's reserve is in strong contrast with the freedom of pagan writers (see Ephesians 5:12). Meyer notes that Paul delineates the female dishonor in less concrete traits than the male.

Verse 28

Even as

Expressing the correlation between the sin and the punishment.

They did not like to have God in their knowledge ( οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν ).

Lit., did not approve. Rev., refused. They did not think God worth the knowing. Compare 1 Thessalonians 2:4. Knowledge ( ἐπιγνώσει ) is, literally, full knowledge. They did not suffer the rudimentary revelation of nature to develop into full knowledge - “a penetrating and living knowledge of God” (Meyer). In Dante's division of Hell, the section assigned to Incontinence, or want of self-control, is succeeded by that of Bestiality, or besotted folly, which comprises infidelity and heresy in all their forms - sin which Dante declares to be the most stupid, vile, and hurtful of follies. Thus the want of self-restraint is linked with the failure to have God in knowledge. Self is truly possessed only in God. The tendency of this is ever downward toward that demoniac animalism which is incarnated in Lucifer at the apex of the infernal cone, and which is so powerfully depicted in this chapter. See “Inferno,” ix.

Reprobate mind ( ἀδόκιμον νοῦν )

Lit., not standing the test. See on is tried, James 1:12; and see on trial, 1 Peter 1:7. There is a play upon the words. As they did not approve, God gave them up unto a mind disapproved. This form of play upon words of similar sound is perhaps the most frequent of Paul's rhetorical figures, often consisting in the change of preposition in a compound, or in the addition of a preposition to the simple verb. Thus περιτομή circumcision κατατομή concision Philemon 3:2, Philemon 3:3. “Our epistle known ( γινωσκομένη ) and read ( ἀναγινωσκομένη ).” Compare Romans 2:1; 1 Corinthians 11:29-31; Romans 12:3. The word reprobate is from re-probare, to reject on a second trial, hence, to condemn.

Verse 29


The retribution was in full measure. Compare Proverbs 1:31; Revelation 18:6.

Wickedness ( πονηρίᾳ )

See on Mark 7:22.

Covetousness ( πλεονεξίᾳ )

Lit., the desire of having more. It is to be distinguished from φιλαργυρία , rendered love of money, 1 Timothy 6:10, and its kindred adjective φιλάργυρος , which A.V. renders covetous Luke 16:14; 2 Timothy 3:2; properly changed by Rev. into lovers of money. The distinction is expressed by covetousness and avarice. The one is the desire of getting, the other of keeping. Covetousness has a wider and deeper sense, as designating the sinful desire which goes out after things of time and sense of every form and kind. Hence it is defined by Paul (Colossians 3:5) as idolatry, the worship of another object than God, and is so often associated with fleshly sins, as 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5. Lightfoot says: “Impurity and covetousness may be said to divide between them nearly the whole domain of selfishness and vice.” Socrates quotes an anonymous author who compares the region of the desires in the wicked to a vessel full of holes, and says that, of all the souls in Hades, these uninitiated or leaky persons are the most miserable, and that they carry water to a vessel which is full of holes in a similarly holey colander. The colander is the soul of the ignorant (Plato, “Gorgias,” 493). Compare, also, the description of covetousness and avarice by Chaucer, “Romaunt of the Rose,” 183-246.


That eggeth folk in many a guise

To take and yeve (give) right nought again,

And great treasoures up to laine (lay).

… ..

And that is she that maketh treachours,

And she maketh false pleadours.

… ..

Full crooked were her hondes (hands) two,

For Covetise is ever woode (violent)

To grippen other folkes goode.”


Full foul in painting was that vice.

… ..

She was like thing for hunger dead,

That lad (led) her life onely by bread.

… ..

This Avarice had in her hand

A purse that honge by a band,

And that she hid and bond so strong,

Men must abide wonder long,

Out of the purse er (ere) there come aught,

For that ne commeth in her thought,

It was not certaine her entent

That fro that purse a peny went.”

Maliciousness ( κακίᾳ )

See on naughtiness, James 1:21.

Full ( μεστοὺς )

Properly, stuffed.

Envy, murder ( φθόνου , φόνου )

Phthonou phonou A paronomasia or combination of like-sounding words. Compare Galatians 5:21. Murder is conceived as a thought which has filled the man. See 1 John 3:15.

Debate ( ἔριδος )

In the earlier sense of the word (French, debattre, to beat down, contend ) including the element of strife. So Chaucer:

“Tales both of peace and of debates.”

Man of Law's Tale,” 4550.

Later usage has eliminated this element. Dr. Eadie (“English Bible”) relates that a member of a Scottish Church-court once warned its members not to call their deliberations “a debate,” since debate was one of the sins condemned by Paul in this passage. Rev., correctly, strife.

Deceit ( δόλου )

See on John 1:47.

Malignity ( κακοηθείας )

Malicious disposition.

Verse 30

Haters of God ( θεοστυγεῖς )

Rev., hateful to God. All classical usage is in favor of the passive sense, but all the other items of the list are active. Meyer defends the passive on the ground that the term is a summary of what precedes. The weight of authority is on this side. The simple verb στυγέω tohate, does not occur in the New Testament. Στυγητός hatefulis found Titus 3:3. The verb is stronger than, μισέω Ihate, since it means to show as well as to feel hatred.

Proud ( ὑπερηφάνους )

Rev., haughty. See on pride, Mark 7:22.

Boasters ( ἀλαζόνας ). Swaggerers

Not necessarily implying contempt or insult.

Verse 31

Without understanding, covenant-breakers ( ἀσυνέτους ἀσυνθέτους )

Another paronomasia: asynetous asynthetous This feature of style is largely due to the pleasure which all people, and especially Orientals, derive from the assonance of a sentence. Archdeacon Farrar gives a number of illustrations: the Arabic Abel and Kabel (Abel and Cain); Dalut and G'ialut (David and Goliath). A Hindoo constantly adds meaningless rhymes, even to English words, as button-bitten; kettley-bittley. Compare the Prayer-book, holy and wholly; giving and forgiving; changes and chances. Shakespeare, sorted and consorted; in every breath a death. He goes on to argue that these alliterations, in the earliest stages of language, are partly due to a vague belief in the inherent affinities of words (“Language and Languages,” 227).

Verse 32

Judgment ( δικαίωμα )

Rev., correctly, ordinance.

Commit ( πράσσοντες )

Rev., better, practice. See on John 3:21.

Paul would have been familiar with the abominations of the pagan world from the beginning of his life. The belief in paganism was more firmly rooted in the provinces than in Italy, and was especially vigorous in Tarsus; which was counted among the three Kappa Kakista, most villainous K's of antiquity - Kappadokia, Kilikia, and Krete. Religion there was chiefly of an Oriental character, marked by lascivious rites. See Farrar's “Life and Work of Paul,” ii., 24-34


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Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Romans 1:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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