Introduction. The Morals of Paganism.
SUMMARY.--Paul's Salutation to the Church at Rome.
His Deep Interest in its Welfare.
His Confidence in the Gospel.
It the Power of God.
The Argument Begun in Verse 18.
The Sins of the Gentile World.
The Gentile World under Condemnation.
1-7. Paul. Instead of subscribing a name at the end of a letter,
the custom was to introduce it at the beginning. See other Epistles of
For a sketch of Paul, see
also see notes in Vol. I. on
Called to be an apostle. "To be" is not in the original. Paul
simply states that he is "a called apostle," not one appointed by men,
but called by Jesus Christ. He was called when he "saw the Lord," an
essential to apostleship. See notes
1 Cor. 9:1;
His setting apart at Antioch
was not this call, but it came direct from Jesus Christ. As some
Judaizing teachers tried to destroy his apostolic authority, he found
it necessary on several occasions to show that his commission was
directly from the Lord.
Separated. Set apart to the work of the gospel. Christ set him
apart, and his whole life was consecrated to his divine glory.
2. Which he had promised afore, etc. This gospel was no
innovation, but a fulfillment of God's long-cherished plans, and had
been promised through the prophets of the Old Testament. Indeed the Old
Testament is a system of types, shadows and promises pointing forward
to the coming of Christ. "Of him have all the prophets borne witness."
3. Concerning his Son. The Son of God is the very center of the
gospel, and the promises are all concerning him.
Born of the seed of David. The two natures combined in the Son,
according to the flesh, are pointed out in
this and the next verse.
As to his human body, he was a descendant of David,
his mother being of David's lineage.
4. But declared to be the Son of God. Though in human form he
was demonstrated to be divine by power, such power as he displayed in
mighty miracles, and especially by the greater miracle of his own
resurrection from the dead.
According to the spirit of holiness. It must be noted that this
is a contrast with according to the flesh in
and hence must refer to our Lord's holy nature. The body was descended
from David, but the pure, holy life was demonstrated to be divine. One
was a human nature; the other was a divine nature. This nature is
spoken of as "the spirit of holiness," because it is contrasted with
5. Through whom. Through Jesus Christ, who is the subject spoken
We have received. Paul refers to himself, and perhaps to other
Grace. The grace, the favor and mercy of heaven granted to all
Apostleship. All saints were not apostles, but one must be a
saint to be an apostle. Without the general grace he could not have the
special gift of apostleship.
For obedience to the faith. The apostleship was given in order
to lead all nations to obedience to the faith. The faith is a
synonym for the gospel. Observe that it is a system of
obedience. In the apostolic age there were no recognized
believers but obedient believers.
6. Among whom are ye also the called. From among "all nations"
The members of the church at Rome, though partly Jews, were mostly
Gentiles. They had heard the gospel call, had obeyed it, and were now
"the called of Jesus Christ." In the
they are said to be "called to be saints."
7. To all that are in Rome. To all Christians in Rome. The
letter is addressed to the church in the great imperial city. Rome was
the capital of the world, the home of Nero, the emperor, the largest
city on earth, supposed to contain about two million inhabitants.
Saints. All Christians were called saints by the New Testament
writers. Any one consecrated to a holy life is a saint.
Grace to you and peace. This is the ordinary New Testament
Christian salutation. It is the expression of a prayer that God the
Father and our Lord may bestow favor and peace upon them.
The Father is the source, and our Lord Jesus Christ the mediator and
procurer of these blessings. It is plain that Paul was not a
Let it be noted that this section, written, as admitted by skeptical
critics, less than thirty years after the crucifixion, by Paul, to a
body of believers at a distance from Judea, affirms the main facts of
the Gospels: 1. That Jesus was the Son of God. 2. That he took upon
himself our nature. 3. That he displayed divine power. 4. That he was
raised from the dead. 5. That men are saved by the obedience of the
8-15. First, I thank God. The first thing he wishes to speak of
is thankfulness for a fact he is about to state, viz., their
faith is spoken of throughout the world. The church at Rome was
as "a city set on a hill."
From every country where the gospel was planted, people were constantly
going to and returning from Rome, and hence the fact of there being a
church in the great capital would be known everywhere.
9. For. This introduces a reason for his thankfulness. He feels
so deep an interest in the cause of Christ in that great center that he
prays for them daily.
Serve with my spirit. Not an outward service, but of the whole
heart, soul and life,
in the gospel to which he is consecrated. The spirit is the
highest part of a man's nature, and service with the spirit is the
Make mention of you always. So, too, of the Ephesians,
Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians. See
Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2.
Such statements show the deep solicitude of the apostle for the saints.
10. Making request. One of his petitions was that God might
permit him to visit the church at Rome. While at Ephesus he had said
"I must also see Rome." His prayers were granted, but not in the way
that he now expected. When he went to Rome it was as "the prisoner of
11. I long to see you. He had a special reason for
visiting Rome. No apostle had ever visited the city. None of the
spiritual gifts which were conferred by the imposition of apostolic
hands had been conferred in Rome. If any of the brethren enjoyed them,
seems to imply, they have received them elsewhere, and he desires to
impart them there.
Spiritual gift is used in the sense of a supernatural gift. See
1 Cor. 12:1, 4.
It is a gift conferred by the Spirit. Elsewhere the phrase "spiritual
gifts" refers to extraordinary gifts. There is no recorded instance in
the New Testament of any one working miracles who was not an apostle,
or who had not received the gift through the imposition of apostolic
To the end. All these gifts of the Spirit were imparted for a
purpose. The purpose in the mind of Paul was that they
might be established; that saints might be strengthened and the
cause of Christ made stronger. The agent would be the Holy Spirit; Paul
12. That is. Such a result would minister to the mutual comfort
of Paul and the church. If they are established, he will
be comforted in them. The idea is that his faith will be a
comfort and strength to them, and he will be encouraged and
strengthened by their faith. Thus they will be mutual helpers. How
different the humble apostolic style of address from that of a Roman
13. Oftentimes I purposed to come to you. See
Thus far he has been hindered. He desired to visit Rome to do the
Lord's work. He had planted Gentile churches in many cities. He
have some fruit in the greatest Gentile city in the world, as
well as elsewhere.
14. I am a debtor. He owed it, or was under obligation to preach
both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians. The Greeks called
other people but themselves barbarians, but in the apostolic age the
Romans were excepted. The cultured Greeks and the proud Romans looked
with contempt on all other races. Paul is a debtor to both, and must
give them the gospel. Hence he is so anxious to labor at Rome.
Both to wise and unwise. Here the division into two classes
turns on knowledge, instead of race. His meaning is that the gospel
must be offered to every class.
15. Ready to preach at Rome also. Where, in the great world center,
were found all classes, Greeks and barbarians, wise and unwise.
16, 17. For I am not ashamed of the gospel. Hence he is ready to
preach it in Rome, in the very citadel of heathen pride and power. If
there was any place where one would be ashamed of a crucified Savior
that place was Rome in the reign of Nero.
The gospel. God's plan of salvation in Christ. Its three great
facts are the death, burial, and the resurrection of Christ
(1 Cor. 15:1-4).
For. He now states why he is not ashamed of the gospel.
It is the power of God unto salvation. The gospel is God's only
appointed means of salvation. The name of Jesus Christ "is the only
name . whereby we must be saved."
All God's saving power is manifested through the gospel.
To every one that believeth. The great fundamental facts of the
gospel (see above) must be believed, in order to the enjoyment of this
saving power. They are embraced in the proposition that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God. The gospel does not save unconditionally.
Belief is a condition.
To the Jew first. The first to enjoy this saving power were
Jews. To them the gospel was first offered. But it is offered to the
Greek also, on the same conditions.
17. For therein. In the gospel. It reveals
the righteousness of God.
This might mean (1) God's personal righteousness; (2) a righteousness
acceptable to God; or, (3) a righteousness bestowed by God. The last is
its sense in the Epistle to the Romans. The obedient believer in Christ
is forgiven and clothed with Christ's righteousness. See
From faith to faith. This clause has caused much discussion. The
generally received view is thus stated by Dr. Schaff: "The
righteousness is revealed from faith, or through means of faith, in
order to produce faith in others." It is revealed to us by
believing (faith), and the duty of the believer is to extend the
gospel, or to extend the faith. "Believing," says Dr. Schaff, "includes
knowledge and belief, assent and surrender, appropriation and
As it is written.
The Old Testament had predicted this system of righteousness by faith,
for the prophet had said,
The just shall live by faith.
The just. Those who have been forgiven and justified by the
18-32. For. Now follows a declaration of the world's
unrighteousness, of the wrath of God against unrighteousness, and hence
the need of the righteousness of God through the gospel received by
faith in order to salvation. The "for" introduces an argument which
shows that Christ's gospel is the world's only hope.
The wrath of God. His displeasure.
Is revealed. Not only by the declarations of the Holy
Scriptures, and his judgments, but by nature's teachings, and by the
Ungodliness. Irreligiousness. This is the fountain of
Hold the truth in unrighteousness. There is a measure of truth
revealed to every man. See
Many refuse to profit by the light they have, and love the darkness
rather than the light. All who do not live up to the knowledge they
possess, who do worse than they know, hold the truth in
unrighteousness. They obstruct the truth, rather than let it have free
19. Because. Here he begins to show why God's wrath is manifest.
They are inexcusable because "that which may be known of God is
manifest in them." The
shows what may be known of God by all.
20. The invisible things of God. God's attributes.
Are clearly seen. Are manifested by his works. Nature speaks of
His eternal power and divinity. The attributes are especially
shown in his works. The earth and the heavenly bodies are effects which
must be due to eternal power and divinity.
So that they are without excuse. No excuse is left for
worshiping helpless idols.
21. When they knew God. Had the knowledge shown in
They turned from their knowledge, did not glorify the invisible
Creator, yielded neither adoration nor gratitude.
Became vain in their imaginations. Thoughts or reasonings. When
men turn willfully from truth, they will run to the extremes of error.
The world (the pagan world) yielded to idle fancies, and were involved
in deeper darkness. He who shuts out the light will finally be unable
to bear it.
Vain. Empty, useless. See
22. Became fools. The Greeks and Roman heathen boasted of their
wisdom and held the rest of the world in contempt, but at the same time
their idolatry showed their utter folly.
23. Changed the glory of the uncorruptible God. Turning from the
glorious revelation of God in nature, they showed that they were fools
by making an image, like man, or lower animals, and calling it a god.
Man. The Greeks made
their gods like men. Many statues still exist that were taken from old
Greek or Roman temples.
Birds. The Egyptians worshiped birds, quadrupeds, and
24. Wherefore. Having chosen folly, God gave them up to the
consequences of their folly, and there followed an awful moral
degradation which is now described. Their false religion was no check
upon their lusts. They engaged in the lowest and most disgusting lusts.
Language cannot describe the pollution of the Gentile world, when Paul
wrote, as revealed by the pagan writers of that period.
25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie. By giving up the
worship of the great unseen God to worship an idol; a creature, rather
than the Creator. At first, idols were probably designed as only
representations, but they finally became objects of worship. Just so,
the images in Roman Catholic churches were intended at first as helps
in worship, but have become to great multitudes really idols.
26. For this cause. Because of the apostasy just described.
God gave them up. Abandoned them to their own course, and thus
it was shown to what depths men will fall without God.
To vile passions. Vile, shameless, sensual indulgence, such as
cannot now be named. The sodomy referred to here was common in the
first century among the Romans, and is often spoken of without a sense
of shame by their writers. It was prohibited neither by religion nor
law, and was acknowledged without shame.
28. God gave them over to a reprobate mind. A thought is
repeated here that has already been hinted, and is often taught in the
Scriptures. The man who turns from the truth will be allowed to have
his way, will fall deeper and deeper into error, and will reap all the
evil consequences of loving darkness rather than light. Those who hate
the truth are "given over" to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind
is one rejected of God.
Which are not convenient. Not decent, or honorable.
29. Being filled. The characteristics of those given over to a
reprobate mind are now described.
Whisperers. Secret slanderers.
30. Haters of God. "Hateful to God," in the Revision. Hateful,
because so polluted with
31. Without understanding. Senseless, foolish.
32. Who knowing the judgment of God. The ordinance or decree of
God condemning such sinners. That ordinances is next stated. It is that
those who do such deeds are worthy of death. The heathen moralists
admitted this. Yet in spite of this knowledge they not only continued
in their vile sins, but took pleasure in them. No deeper degree of
depravity can be found than when men call evil good, and cherish it.
This dark picture of heathen vices, from
verse 18 to 32,
is not overdrawn. It is fully confirmed by such heathen writers as
Tacitus, Horace, Seneca, and Juvenal. The conclusion, from these facts,
is that all such guilty persons are under condemnation.