|<< Romans 11 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
I say then - This expression is to be regarded as conveying the sense of an objection. Paul, in the previous chapters, had declared the doctrine that all the Jews were to be rejected. To this a Jew might naturally reply, Is it to be believed, that God would cast off his people whom he had once chosen; to whom pertained the adoption, and the promises, and the covenant, and the numerous blessings conferred on a favorite people? It was natural for a Jew to make such objections. And it was important for the apostle to show that his doctrine was consistent with all the promises which God had made to his people. The objection, as will be seen by the answer which Paul makes, is formed on the supposition that God had rejected "all his people," or "cast them off entirely." This objection he answers by showing,
(1) That God had saved him, a Jew, and therefore that he could not mean that God had east off all Jews Romans 11:1;
(2) That now, as in former times of great declension, God had reserved a remnant Romans 11:2-5;
(3) That it accorded with the Scriptures that a part should be hardened Romans 11:6-10;
(4) That the design of the rejection was not final, but was to admit the Gentiles to the privileges of Christianity Romans 11:11-24;
(5) That the Jews should yet return to God, and be reinstated in his favor: so that it could not be objected that God had finally and totally cast off his people, or that he had violated his promises.
At the same time, however, the doctrine which Paul had maintained was true, that God had taken away their exclusive and special privileges, and had rejected a large part of the nation.
Cast away - Rejected, or put off. Has God so renounced them that they cannot be any longer his people.
His people - Those who have been long in the covenant relation to him: that is, the Jews.
God forbid - Literally, it may not or cannot be. This is an expression strongly denying that this could take place; and means that Paul did not intend to advance such a doctrine; Luke 20:16; Romans 3:4, Romans 3:6,Romans 3:31; Romans 6:2, Romans 6:15; Romans 7:7, Romans 7:13.
For I am also an Israelite - To show them that he did not mean to affirm that all Jews must of necessity be cast off, he adduces his own case. He was a Jew; and yet he looked for the favor of God, and for eternal life. That favor he hoped now to obtain by being a Christian; and if he might obtain it, others might also. "If I should say that all Jews must be excluded from the favor of God, then I also must be without hope of salvation, for I am a Jew."
Of the seed of Abraham - Descended from Abraham. The apostle mentions this to show that he was a Jew in every respect; that he had a title to all the privileges of a Jew, and must be exposed to all their liabilities and dangers. If the seed of Abraham must of necessity be cut off, he must be himself rejected. The Jews valued themselves much on having been descended from so illustrious an ancestor as Abraham Matthew 3:9; and Paul shows them that he was entitled to all the privileges of such a descent; compare Philippians 3:4-5.
Of the tribe of Benjamin - This tribe was one that was originally located near Jerusalem. The temple was built on the line that divided the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It is not improbable that it was regarded as a special honor to have belonged to one of those tribes. Paul mentions it here in accordance with their custom; for they regarded it as of great importance to preserve their genealogy, and to be able to state not only that they were Jews, but to designate the tribe and family to which they belonged.
2God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
God hath set cast away - This is an explicit denial of the objection.
Which he foreknew - The word "foreknew" is expressive not merely of foreseeing a thing, but implies in this place a previous purpose or plan; see the note at Romans 8:29. The meaning of the passage is simply, God has not cast off those whom he had before purposed or designed to be his people. It is the declaration of a great principle of divine government that God is not changeable: and that he would not reject those whom he had purposed should be his people. Though the mass of the nation, therefore, should be cast off, yet it would not follow that God had violated any promise or compact; or that he had rejected any whom he had foreknown as his true people. God makes no covenant of salvation with those who are in their sins; and if the unbelieving and the wicked, however many external privileges they may have enjoyed, are rejected, it does not follow that he has been unfaithful to one whom he had foreknown or designated as an heir of salvation. It follows from this, also, that it is one principle of the divine government that God will not reject those who are foreknown or designated as his friends. It is a part of the plan, therefore, that those who are truly renewed shall persevere, and obtain eternal life.
Wot ye not - Know ye not.
What the Scripture saith? - The passage here quoted is found in 1 Kings 19:10-18.
Of Elias - Of Elijah. Greek, "Elijah" ἐν Ἡλιᾳ en Hēlia. This does not mean that it was said about Elijah, or concerning him; but the reference is to the usual manner of quoting the Scriptures among the Jews. The division into chapters and verses was to them unknown. (See the Introduction to the notes on Matthew.) Hence, the Old Testament was divided into portions designated by subjects. Thus, Luke 20:37; Mark 12:26, "At the bush," means the passage which contains the account of the burning bush; (see the notes on those places.) Here it means, in that passage or portion of Scripture which gives an account of Elijah.
He maketh intercession to God against Israel - The word translated "maketh intercession" ἐντυγχάνει entungchanei means properly to come to the aid of anyone; to transact the business of anyone; especially to discharge the function of an advocate, or to plead one's cause in a court of justice. In a sense similar to this it is applied to Christ in his function of making intercession for us in heaven; Hebrews 7:25; Isaiah 53:12. In the English language, the word is constantly used in a good sense, to plead for one; never, to plead against one; but the Greek word may imply either. It expresses the function of one who manages the business of another; and hence, one who manages the business of the state against a criminal; and when followed by the preposition for, means to intercede or plead for a person; when followed by against κατά kata, it means to accuse or arraign. This is its meaning here. He accuses or arraigns the nation of the Jews before God; he charges them with crime; the crime is specified immediately.
3Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
Lord, they have killed ... - This is taken from 1 Kings 19:10. The quotation is not literally made, but the sense is preserved. This was a charge which Elijah brought against the whole nation; and the act of killing the prophets he regarded as expressive of the character of the people, or that they were universally given to wickedness. The fact was true that they had killed the prophets, etc.; 1 Kings 18:4, 1 Kings 18:13; but the inference which Elijah seems to have drawn from it, that there were no pious people in the nation, was not well founded.
And digged down - Altars, by the Law of Moses, were required to be made of earth or unhewn stones; Exodus 20:24-25. Hence, the expression to dig them down means completely to demolish or destroy them.
Thine altars - There was one great altar in the front of the tabernacle and the temple, on which the daily sacrifices of the Jews were to be made. But they were not forbidden to make altars also elsewhere; Exodus 20:25. And hence they are mentioned as existing in other places; 1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 16:2-3; 1 Kings 18:30, 1 Kings 18:32. These were the altars of which Elijah complained as having been thrown down by the Jews; an act which was regarded as expressive of signal impiety.
I am left alone - I am the only prophet which is left alive. We are told that when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred of them and hid them in a cave; 1 Kings 18:4. But it is not improbable that they had been discovered and put to death by Ahab. The account which Obadiah gave Elijah when he met him 1 Kings 18:13 seems to favor such a supposition.
Seek my life - That is, Ahab and Jezebel seek to kill me. This they did because he had overcome and slain the prophets of Baal; 1 Kings 19:1-2. There could scarcely be conceived a time of greater distress and declension in religion than this. It has not often happened that so many things that were disheartening have occurred to the church at the same period of time. The prophets of God were slain; but one lonely man appeared to have zeal for true religion; the nation was running to idolatry; the civil rulers were criminally wicked, and were the leaders in the universal apostasy; and all the influences of wealth and power were setting in against the true religion to destroy it. It was natural that the solitary man of God should feel disheartened and lonely in this universal guilt; and should realize that he had no power to resist this tide of crime and calamities.
4But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
The answer of God - ὁ χρηματισμός ho chrēmatismos. This word is used no where else in the New Testament. It means an oracle, a divine response. It does not indicate the manner in which it was done, but implies only that it was an oracle, or answer made to his complaint by God. Such an answer, at such a time, would be full of comfort, and silence every complaint. The way in which this answer was in fact given, was not in a storm, or an earthquake, but in a still, small voice; 1 Kings 19:11-12.
I have reserved - The Hebrew is, "I have caused to remain," or to be reserved. This shows that it was of God that this was done. Amidst the general corruption and idolatry he had restrained a part, though it was a remnant. The honor of having done it he claims for himself, and does not trace it to any goodness or virtue in them. So in the case of all those who are saved from sin and ruin, the honor belongs not to man, but to God.
To myself - For my own service and glory. I have kept them steadfast in my worship, and have not suffered them to become idolaters.
Seven thousand men - Seven is often used in the Scriptures to denote an indefinite or round number. Perhaps it may be so here, to intimate that there was a considerable number remaining. This should lead us to hope that even in the darkest times in the church, there may be many more friends of God than we suppose. Elijah supposed he was alone; and yet at that moment there were thousands who were the true friends of God; a small number, indeed, compared with the multitude of idolaters; but large when compared with what was supposed to be remaining by the dejected and disheartened prophet.
Who have not bowed the knee - To bow or bend the knee is an expression denoting worship; Philippians 2:10; Ephesians 3:14; Isaiah 45:23.
To Baal - The word "Baal" in Hebrew means Lord, or Master. This was the name of an idol of the Phenicians and Canaanites, and was worshipped also by the Assyrians and Babylonians under the name of Bel; (compare the Book of Bel in the Apocrypha.) This god was represented under the image of a bull, or a calf; the one denoting the Sun, the other the Moon. The prevalent worship in the time of Elijah was that of this idol.
5Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
At this present time - In the time when the apostle wrote. Though the mass of the nation was to be rejected, yet it did not follow that all were to be excluded from the favor of God. As in the time of Elijah, when all appeared to be dark, and all the nation, except one, seemed to have become apostate, yet there was a considerable number of the true friends of God; so in the time of Paul, though the nation had rejected their Messiah, though, as a consequence, they were to be rejected as a people: and though they were eminently wicked and corrupt, yet it did not follow that all were cast off, or that any were excluded on whom God had purposed to bestow salvation.
A remnant - That which is left or reserved; Romans 9:27. He refers here doubtless, to that part of the nation which was truly pious, or which had embraced the Messiah.
According to the election of grace - By a gracious or merciful choosing, or election; and not by any merit of their own. As in the tinge of Elijah, it was because God had reserved them unto himself that any were saved from idolatry, so now it was by the same gracious sovereignty that any were saved from the prevalent unbelief. The apostle here does not specify the number, but there can be no doubt that a multitude of Jews had been saved by becoming Christians, though compared with the nation - the multitude who rejected the Messiah it was but a remnant. The apostle thus shows that neither all the ancient people of God were cast way, nor that any whom he foreknew were rejected. And though he had proved that a large part of the Jews were to be rejected and though infidelity was prevalent, yet still there were some who had been Jews who were truly pious, and entitled to the favor of God. Nor should they deem this state of things remarkable, for a parallel case was recorded in their own Scriptures. We may learn from this narrative,
(1) That it is no unparalleled thing for the love of many to wax cold, and for iniquity to abound.
(2) the tendency of this is to produce deep feeling and solicitude among the true friends of God. Thus, David says, "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law;" Psalm 119:136; compare Jeremiah 9:1; Luke 19:41.
(3) that in these darkest times we should not be discouraged. There may be much more true piety in the world than in our despondency we may suppose. We should take courage in God, and believe that he will not forsake any that are his true friends, or on whom he has purposed to bestow eternal life.
(4) it is of God that all are not corrupt and lost. It is owing only to the election of grace, to his merciful choosing, that any are saved. And as in the darkest times he has reserved a people to himself, so we should believe that he will still meet abounding evil, and save those whom he has chosen from eternal death.
6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
And if grace ... - If the fact that any are reserved be by grace, or favor, then it cannot be as a reward of merit. Paul thus takes occasion incidentally to combat a favorite notion of the Jews, that we are justified by obedience to the Law. He reminds them that in the time of Elijah it was because God had reserved them; that the same was the case now; and therefore their doctrine of merit could not be true; see Romans 4:4-5; Galatians 5:4; Ephesians 2:8-9.
Otherwise grace ... - If people are justified by their works, it could not be a matter of favor, but was a debt. If it could be that the doctrine of justification by grace could be held and yet at the same time that the Jewish doctrine of merit was true, then it would follow that grace had changed its nature, or was a different thing from what the word properly signified. The idea of being saved by merit contradicts the very idea of grace. If a man owes me a debt, and pays it, it cannot be said to be done by favor, or by grace. I have a claim on him for it, and there is no favor in his paying his just dues.
But if it be of works ... - "Works" here mean conformity to the Law; and to be saved by works would be to be saved by such conformity as the meritorious cause. Of course there could be no grace or favor in giving what was due: if there was favor, or grace, then works would lose their essential characteristic, and cease to be the meritorious cause of procuring the blessings. What is paid as a debt is not conferred as a favor.
And from this it follows that salvation cannot be partly by grace and partly by works. It is not because people can advance any claims to the favor of God; but from his mere unmerited grace. He that is not willing to obtain eternal life in that way, cannot obtain it at all. The doctrines of election, and of salvation by mere grace, cannot be more explicitly stated than they are in this passage.
7What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
What then? - What is the proper conclusion from this argument? "Israel hath not obtained." That is, the Jews as a people have not obtained what they sought. They sought the favor of God by their own merit; and as it was impossible to obtain it in that manner, they have, as a people, failed of obtaining his favor at all, and will be rejected.
That which he seeketh for - To wit, salvation by their own obedience to the Law.
The election hath - The purpose of choosing on the part of God has obtained, or secured, what the seeking on the part of the Jews could not secure. Or the abstract here may be put for the concrete, and the word "election" may mean the same as the elect. The elect, the reserved, the chosen part of the people, have obtained the favor of God.
Hath obtained it - That is, the favor, or mercy, of God.
The rest - The great mass of the people who remained in unbelief, and had rejected the Messiah.
Were blinded - The word in the original means also were hardened ἐπωρώθησαν epōrōthēsan. It comes from a word which signifies properly to become hard, as bones do which are broken and are then united; or as the joints sometimes do when they become callous or stiff. It was probably applied also to the formation of a hard substance in the eye, a cataract; and then means the same as to be blinded. Hence, applied to the mind, it means what is "hard, obdurate, insensible, stupid." Thus, it is applied to the Jews, and means that they were blind and obstinate; see Mark 6:52, "Their heart was hardened;" Mark 8:17; John 12:40. The word does not occur in any other place in the New Testament. This verse affirms simply that "the rest were hardened," but it does not affirm anything about the mode by which it was done. In regard to "the election," it is affirmed that it was of God; Romans 11:4. Of the remainder, the fact of their blindness is simply mentioned, without affirming anything of the cause; see Romans 11:8.
8(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
According as it is written - That is, they are blinded in accordance with what is written. The fact and the manner accord with the ancient declaration. This is recorded in Isaiah 29:10, and in Deuteronomy 29:4. The same sentiment is found also substantially in Isaiah 6:9-10. The principal place referred to here, however, is doubtless Isaiah 29:10, "For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes; the prophets and your rulers hath he covered." The quotation is not however literally made either from the Hebrew or the Septuagint; but the sense is preserved. The phrase "according as" means upon the same principle, or in the same manner.
God hath given - Expressions like this are common in the Scriptures, where God is represented as having an agency in producing the wickedness and stupidity of sinners; see Romans 9:17-18; see the Matthew 13:15 note; Mark 4:11-12 note; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:11. This quotation is not made literally. The Hebrew in Isaiah is, God has poured upon them the spirit of slumber. The sense, however, is retained.
The spirit of slumber - The spirit of slumber is not different from slumber itself. The word "spirit" is often used thus. The word "slumber" here is a literal translation of the Hebrew. The Greek word, however κατανύξεως katanuxeōs, implies also the notion of compunction, and hence in the margin it is rendered "remorse." It means any emotion, or any influence whatever, that shall benumb the faculties, and make them insensible. Hence, it here means simply insensibility.
Eyes that they should not see ... - This expression is not taken literally from any single place in the Old Testament; but expresses the general sense of several passages; Isaiah 6:10; Deuteronomy 29:4. It denotes a state of mind not different from a spirit of slumber. When we sleep, the eyes are insensible to surrounding objects, and the ear to sounds. Though in themselves the organs may be perfect, yet the mind is as though they were not; and we have eyes which then do not see, and ears which do not hear. Thus, with the Jews. Though they had all the proper faculties for understanding and receiving the gospel, yet they rejected it. They were stupid and insensible to its claims and its truths.
Unto this day - Until the day that Paul wrote. The characteristic of the Jews that existed in the time of Isaiah. existed also in the time of Paul. It was a trait of the people; and their insensibility to the demands of the gospel developed nothing new in them.
9And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
And David saith ... - This quotation is made from Psalm 69:22-23. This Psalm is repeatedly quoted as having reference to the events recorded in the New Testament. (See the note at Acts 1:2.) This quotation is introduced immediately after one that undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus. Psalm 69:21, "they gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." The passage here quoted immediately follows as an imprecation of vengeance for their sins. "Let their table," etc. The quotation is not made, however, either literally from the Hebrew or from the Septuagint, but the sense only is retained. The Hebrew is, "Let their table before them be for a snare, and for those at peace, let it be for a gin." The Septuagint is, "Let their table before them be for a snare, and for a stumbling-block, and for an offence." The ancient Targum is, "Let their table which they had prepared before me be for a snare, and their sacrifices be for an offence."
The meaning is this. The word "table" denotes food. In this they expected pleasure and support. David prays that even this, where they expected joy and refreshment, might prove to them the means of punishment and righteous retribution. A snare is that by which birds or wild beasts were taken. They are decoyed into it, or walk or fly carelessly into it, and it is sprung suddenly on them. So of the Jews. The petition is, that while they were seeking refreshment and joy, and anticipating at their table no danger, it might be made the means of their ruin. The only way in which this could be done would be, that their temporal enjoyments would lead them away from God, and produce stupidity and indifference to their spiritual interests. This is often the result of the pleasures of the table, or of seeking sensual gratifications. The apostle does not say whether this prayer was right or wrong. The use which he seems to make of it is this, that David's imprecation was to be regarded in the light of a prophecy; that what he prayed for would come to pass; and that this had actually occurred in the time of the apostle; that their very enjoyments, their national and private privileges, had been the means of alienating them from God; had been a snare to them; and was the cause of their blindness and infidelity. This also is introduced in the psalm as a punishment for giving him vinegar to drink; and their treatment of the Messiah was the immediate cause why all this blindness had come upon the Jews.
A trap - This properly means anything by which wild beasts are taken in hunting. The word "snare" more properly refers to birds.
And a stumbling-block - Anything over which one stumbles or falls. Hence, anything which occasions us to sin, or to ruin ourselves.
And a recompense - The Hebrew word translated "what should have been for their welfare," is capable of this meaning, and may denote their recompense, or what is appropriately rendered to them. It means here that their ordinary comforts and enjoyments, instead of promoting their permanent welfare, may be the occasion of their guilt and ruin. This is often the effect of earthly comforts. They might lead us to God, and should excite our gratitude and praise; but they are often abused to our spiritual slumber and guilt, and made the occasion of our ruin. The rich are thus often most forgetful of God; and the very abundance of their blessings made the means of darkness of mind, ingratitude, prayerlessness, and ruin. Satisfied with them, they forget the Giver; and while they enjoy many earthly blessings, God sends barrenness into their souls. This was the guilt of Sodom, "pride, and fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness," Ezekiel 16:49; and against this Moses solemnly warned the Jews; Deuteronomy 6:11-12; Deuteronomy 8:10-12. This same caution might be extended to the people of this land, and especially to those who are rich, and are blessed with all that their hearts have wished. From the use which the apostle makes of this passage in the Psalms, it is clear that he regarded it rather as a prophetic denunciation for their sins - a prediction of what would be - than as a prayer. In his time it had been fulfilled; and the very national privileges of the Jews, on which they so much prided themselves, and which might have been so great blessings, were the occasion of their greater sin in rejecting the Messiah, and of their greater condemnation. Thus, their table was made a trap, etc.
10Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
Let their eyes be darkened - This is taken literally from the psalm, and was evidently the main part of the passage which the apostle had in his eye. This was fulfilled in the insensibility and blindness of the Jews. And the apostle shows them that it was long ago predicted, or invoked, as a punishment on them for giving the Messiah vinegar to drink; Psalm 69:21, Psalm 69:23.
And bow down their back alway - The Hebrew Psa 69:23 is, "Let their loins totter or shake," that is, as one does when he has on him a heavy burden. The apostle has retained this sense. It means, let them be called to bear heavy and oppressive burdens; let them be subjected to toil or servitude, as a reward for their sins. That this had come upon the Jews in the time of Paul is clear; and it is further clear that it came upon them, as it was implied in the psalm, in consequence of their treatment of the Messiah. Much difficulty has been felt in reconciling the petitions in the psalms for calamities on enemies, with the spirit of the New Testament. Perhaps they cannot all be thus reconciled; and it is not at all improbable that many of those imprecations were wrong. David was not a perfect man; and the Spirit of inspiration is not responsible for his imperfections. Every doctrine delivered by the sacred writers is true; every fact recorded is recorded as it was.
But it does not follow that all the men who wrote, or about whom a narrative was given, were perfect. The reverse is the fact. And it does not militate against the inspiration of the Scriptures that we have a record of the failings and imperfections of those men. When they uttered improper sentiments, when they manifested improper feelings, when they performed wicked actions, it is no argument against the inspiration of the Scriptures that they were recorded. All that is done in such a case, and all that inspiration demands, is that they be recorded as they are. We wish to see human nature as it is; and one design of making the record of such failings is to show what man is, even under the influence of religion; not as a perfect being, for that would not be true; but as he actually exists mingled with imperfection. Thus, many of the wishes of the ancient saints, imperfect as they were, are condemned as sinful by the spirit of the Christian religion.
They were never commended or approved, but they are recorded just to show us what was in fact the character of man, even partially under the influence of religion. Of this nature probably, were many of the petitions in the Psalms; and the Spirit of God is no more answerable for the feeling because it is recorded, than he is for the feelings of the Edomites when they said, "Rase it, rase it to the foundation" Psalm 137:7. Many of those prayers, however, were imprecations on his enemies as a public man, as the magistrate of the land. As it is right and desirable that the robber and the pirate should be detected and punished; as all good people seek it, and it is indispensable for the welfare of the community, where is the impropriety of praying that it may be done? Is it not right to pray that the laws may be executed; that justice may be maintained; and that restraint should be imposed on the guilty? Assuredly this may be done with a very different spirit from that of revenge. It may be the prayer of the magistrate that God will help him in what he is appointed to do, and in what ought to be done. Besides, many of these imprecations were regarded as simply predictions of what would be the effect of sin; or of what God would do to the guilty. Such was the case we are now considering, as understood by the apostle. But in a prediction there can be nothing wrong.
11I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Have they stumbled that they should fall? - This is to be regarded as an objection, which the apostle proceeds to answer. The meaning is, is it the design of God that the Jews should totally and irrecoverably be cast off? Even admitting that they are now unbelieving, that they have rejected the Messiah, that they have stumbled, is it the purpose of God finally to exclude them from mercy? The expression to stumble is introduced because he had just mentioned a stumbling-stone. It does not mean to fall down to the ground, or to fall so that a man may not recover himself; but to strike the foot against an obstacle, to be arrested in going, and to be in danger of falling. Hence, it means to err, to sin, to be in danger. To fall expresses the state when a man pitches over an obstacle so that he cannot recover himself, but falls to the ground. Hence, to err, to sin, or to be cast off irrecoverably. The apostle shows that this last was not the way in which the Jews had fallen that they were not to be cast off forever, but that occasion was taken by their fall to introduce the Gentiles to the privileges of the gospel, and then they should be restored.
God forbid - By no means; see Romans 11:1.
But rather through their fall - By means of their fall. The word "fall" here refers to all their conduct and doom at the coming of the Messiah, and in the breaking up of their establishment as a nation. Their rejection of the Messiah; the destruction of their city and temple; the ceasing of their ceremonial rites; and the rejection and dispersion of their nation by the Romans, all enter into the meaning of the word "fall" here, and were all the occasion of introducing salvation to the Gentiles.
Salvation - The Christian religion, with all its saving benefits. It does not mean that all the Gentiles were to be saved, but that the way was open; they might have access to God, and obtain his favor through the Messiah.
The Gentiles - All the world that were not Jews. The rejection and fall of the Jews contributed to the introduction of the Gentiles in the following manner:
(1) It broke down the harrier which had long subsisted between them.
(2) it made it consistent and proper, as they had rejected the Messiah, to send the knowledge of him to others.
(3) it was connected with the destruction of the temple, and the rites of the Mosaic Law; and taught them, and all others, that the worship of God was not to be confined to any single place.
(4) the calamities that came upon the Jewish nation scattered the inhabitants of Judea, and with the Jews also those who had become Christians, and thus the gospel was carried to other lands.
(5) these calamities, and the conduct of the Jews, and the close of the Jewish economy, were the means of giving to apostles and other Christians right views of the true design of the Mosaic institutions. If the temple had remained; if the nation had continued to flourish; it would have been long before they would have been effectually detached from those rites. Experience showed even as it was, that they were slow in learning that the Jewish ceremonies were to cease. Some of the most agitating questions in the early church pertained to this; and if the temple had not been destroyed, the contest would have been much longer and more difficult.
For to provoke them to jealousy - According to the prediction of Moses; Deuteronomy 32:21; see Romans 10:19.
12Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
If the fall of them - If their lapse, or falling. If their temporal rejection and being cast off for a time has already accomplished so much.
Be the riches of the world - The word "riches" means wealth, abundance of property; more than is necessary to the supply of our needs. Hence, it means also anything that may promote our comfort or happiness, as wealth is the means of securing our welfare. The gospel is called riches, as it is the means of our highest enjoyment, and eternal welfare. It is the means of conferring numberless spiritual blessings on the Gentile world; and as this was done by the fall of the Jews, so it could be said that their fall was the riches of the world. It was the occasion or means without which the blessings of the gospel could not be conferred on the world.
The diminishing of them - Margin, "Decay." "Loss" ἥττημα hēttēma. This word means diminution, defect, what is lacked or missing. Hence, also judgment, condemnation. Here it means their degradation; the withdrawing of their special privileges; their rejection. It stands opposed to "their fulness."
The riches of the Gentiles - The means of conferring important blessings on the Gentiles.
How much more their fulness - The word "fulness" πλήρωμα plērōma means what fills up, or completes anything. Thus, it is applied to what fills a vessel or cup; also to the piece of cloth which is put in to fill up the rent in a garment; Matthew 9:16. To the fragments which were left when Christ had fed the five thousand; Mark 8:20; Romans 13:10. "Love is the fulfilling of the law," that is, it is the filling up of the law, or what renders the obedience complete; see Galatians 5:14. Here it stands opposed to their fall, and their diminution, and evidently means their complete restoration to the favor of God; their recovery from unbelief and apostasy. That there will be such a recovery, the apostle proceeds to show. The sentiment of the passage then is, If their rejection and punishment; their being cut off from the favor of God, an event apparently so unlikely to promote the spread of true religion, if their being withrawn from all active influence in spreading the true knowledge of God, be yet the occasion of so many blessings to mankind as have attended the spread of the gospel in consequence of it; how much more shall we expect when they shall be restored; when the energy and zeal of the Jewish nation shall unite with the efforts of others in spreading the knowledge of the true Messiah. In what way, or when, this shall be, we know not. But it is easy to see, that if the Jewish people should be converted to the Christian faith, they would have facilities for spreading the truth, which the church has never had without them.
(1) they are scattered in all nations, and have access to all people.
(2) their conversion, after so long unbelief, would have all the power and influence of a miracle performed in view of all nations. It would be seen why they had been preserved, and their conversion would be a most striking fulfillment of the prophecies.
(3) they are familiar with the languages of the world, and their conversion would at once establish many Christian missionaries in the heart of all the kingdoms of the world. It would be kindling at once a thousand lights in all the dark parts of the earth.
(4) the Jews have shown that they are eminently suited to spread the true religion. It was by Jews converted to Christianity, that the gospel was first spread. Each of the apostles was a Jew; and they have lost none of the ardor, enterprise, and zeal that always characterized their nation. Their conversion would be, therefore, to give to the church a host of missionaries prepared for their work, familiar with all customs, languages, and climes, and already in the heart of all kingdoms, and with facilities for their work in advance, which others must gain only by the slow toil of many years.
13For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
For I speak to you Gentiles - What I am saying respecting the Jews, I say with reference to you who are Gentiles, to show you in what manner you have been admitted to the privileges of the people of God; to excite your gratitude; to warn you against abusing those mercies. etc. As Paul also was appointed to preach to them, he had a right to speak to them with authority.
I am the apostle of the Gentiles - The apostle of the Gentiles, not because other apostles did not preach to Gentiles, for they all did, except perhaps James; nor because Paul did not himself preach occasionally among the Jews; but because he was especially called to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, and that this was his original commission Acts 9:15; because he was principally employed in collecting and organizing churches in pagan lands; and because the charge of the Gentile churches was especially intrusted to him, while that of the Jewish churches was especially intrusted to Peter; see Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 3:8; Galatians 2:7-8. As Paul was especially appointed to this function, he claimed special authority to address those who were gathered into the Christian church from pagan lands.
I magnify mine office - I honor δοξάζω doxazō my ministry. I esteem it of great importance; and by thus showing that the gospel is to be preached to the Gentiles, that the barrier between them and the Jews is to be broken down, that the gospel may be preached to all people, I show that the office which proclaims this is one of signal honor. A minister may not magnify himself, but he may magnify his office. He may esteem himself as less than the least of all saints, and unworthy to be called a servant of God Ephesians 3:8, yet he may feel that he is an ambassador of Christ, intrusted with a message of salvation, entitled to the respect due to an ambassador, and to the honor which is appropriate to a messenger of God To unite these two things constitutes the dignity of the Christian ministry.
14If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
If by any means - If even by stating unpleasant truths, if by bringing out all the counsel of God, even what threatens their destruction, I may arrest their attention, and save them.
I may provoke to emulation - I may awaken up to zeal, or to an earnest desire to obtain the like blessings. This was in accordance with the prediction of Moses, that the calling in of the Gentiles would excite their attention, and provoke them to deep feeling; Note, Romans 10:19. The apostle expected to do this by calling their attention to the ancient prophecies; by alarming their fears about their own danger; and by showing them the great privileges which Gentiles might enjoy under the gospel; thus appealing to them by every principle of benevolence, by all their regard for God and man, to excite them to seek the same blessings.
My flesh - My countrymen. My kinsmen, Those belonging to the same family or nation; Romans 9:3; Genesis 29:14; Judges 9:2; 2 Samuel 5:1; Isaiah 58:7.
And save some of them - This desire the apostle often expressed; (see Romans 9:2-3; Romans 10:1-2.) We may see here:
(1) That it is the earnest wish of the ministry to save the souls of men.
(2) that they should urge every argument and appeal with reference to this.
(3) that even the most awful and humbling truths may have this tendency. No truth could be more likely to irritate and offend than that the Jews would be cast off; and yet the apostle used this so faithfully, and yet so tenderly, that he expected and desired it might be the means of saving the souls of his countrymen. Truth often irritates, enrages, and thus excites the attention. Thought or inquiry, however it may be excited, may result in conversion. And thus, even restlessness, and vexation, and anger, may be the means of leading a sinner to Jesus Christ. It should be no part of a minister's object, however, to produce anger. It is a bad emotion; in itself it is evil; and if people can be won to embrace the Saviour without anger, it is better. No wise man would excite a storm and tempest that might require infinite power to subdue, when the same object could be gained with comparative peace, and under the mild influence of love.
(4) it is right to use all the means in our power, not absolutely wicked, to save people. Paul was full of devices; and much of the success of the ministry will depend on a wise use of plans, that may, by the divine blessing, arrest and save the souls of people.
15For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
For if the casting away of them - If their rejection as the special people of God - their exclusion from their national privileges, on account of their unbelief. It is the same as "the fall of them;" Romans 11:12.
Be the reconciling of the world - The word "reconciliation" καταλλαγή katallagē denotes commonly a pacification of contending parties; a removing the occasion of difference, so as again to be united; 1 Corinthians 7:11, "Let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband." It is commonly applied to the reconciliation, or pacification, produced between man and God by the gospel. They are brought to union, to friendship, to peace, by the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ; Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19," God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." Hence, the ministry is called the "ministry of reconciliation;" 2 Corinthians 5:18. And hence, this word is used to express the atonement; Romans 5:11, "By whom we have now received the atonement" (the reconciliation). In this place it means that many of the Gentiles - the world - had become reconciled to God as the result of the casting off of the Jews. By their unbelief, the way had been opened to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; it was the occasion by which God sent it to the nations of the earth; compare Acts 13:46.
The receiving of them - The same as was denoted Romans 11:12 by their fulness. If the casting them off, an event so little likely, apparently, to produce any good effect, was nevertheless overruled so as to produce important benefits in the spread of the gospel, how much more may we expect will be accomplished by their conversion and return; an event suited in itself to produce an important influence on mankind. One would have supposed that their rejection of the Messiah would have been an important obstacle in the way of the gospel. It was overruled, however, to promote its increase. Their return will have a direct tendency to spread it. How much more, therefore, may we expect to be accomplished by that?
But life from the dead - This is an instance of the special, glowing, and vigorous manner of the apostle Paul. His mind catches at the thought of what may be produced by the recovery of the Jews, and no ordinary language would convey his idea. He had already exhausted the usual forms of speech by saying that even their rejection had reconciled the world, and that it was the riches of the Gentiles. To say that their recovery - a striking and momentous event; an event so much better suited to produce important results - would be attended by the conversion of the world, would be insipid and tame. He uses, therefore, a most bold and striking figure. The resurrection of the dead was an image of the most vast and wonderful event that could take place. This image, therefore, in the apostle's mind, was a striking illustration of the great change and reformation which should take place when the Jews should be restored, and the effect should be felt in the conversion also of the Gentile world.
Some have supposed that the apostle here refers to a literal resurrection of the dead, as the conversion of the Jews. But there is not the slightest evidence of this. He refers to the recovery of the nations from the death of sin which shall take place when the Jews shall be converted to the Christian faith. The prophet Ezekiel EZechariah 37:1-14 has also used the same image of the resurrection of the dead to denote a great moral change among a people. It is clear here that the apostle fixed his eye on a future conversion of the Jews to the gospel, and expected that their conversion would precede the universal conversion of the Gentiles to the Christian faith, There could be no event that would make so immediate and decided an impression on the pagan world as the conversion of the Jews. They are scattered everywhere; they have access to all people; they understand all languages; and their conversion would be like kindling up thousands of lights at once in the darkness of the pagan world.
16For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
For if the first-fruit be holy - The word "first-fruit" ἀπαρχή aparchē used here denotes the firstling of fruit or grain which was separated from the mass and presented as an offering to God. The Jews were required to present such a portion of their harvest to God, as an expression of gratitude and of their sense of dependence; Numbers 15:19-21. Until this was done, it was not lawful to partake of the harvest. The offering of this was regarded as rendering the mass holy, that is, it was lawful then to partake of it. The first-fruits were regarded as among the best portions of the harvest; and it was their duty to devote to God that which would be the best expression of their thanksgiving. This was the general practice in relation to all that the land produced. The expression here, however, has reference to the small portion of dough or kneaded meal that was offered to God; and then the mass or lump φύραμα phurama was left for the use of him who made the offering; Numbers 15:20.
Be holy - Be set apart, or consecrated to God, as he commanded.
The lump - The mass. It refers here properly to the dough of which a part had been offered. The same was true also in relation to the harvest, after the waive-sheaf had been offered; of the flock, after the first male had been offered, etc.
Is also holy - It is lawful then for the owner to partake of it. The offering of a part has consecrated the whole. By this illustration Paul doubtless means to say that the Jewish nation, as a people, were set apart to the service of God, and were so regarded by him. Some have supposed that by the first-fruit here the apostle intends to refer to the early converts, made to the Christian faith in the first preaching of the gospel. But it is more probable that he refers to the patriarchs, the pious people of old, as the first-fruits of the Jewish nation; see Romans 11:28. By their piety the nation was, in a manner, sanctified, or set apart to the service of God; implying that yet the great mass of them would be reclaimed and saved.
If the root be holy - This figure expresses the same thing as is denoted in the first part of the verse. The root of a tree is the source of nutritious juices necessary for its growth, and gives its character to the tree. If that be sound, pure, vigorous, we expect the same of the branches. A root bears a similar relation to the tree that the first-fruit does to the mass of bread. Perhaps there is allusion here to Jeremiah 11:16, where the Jewish nation is represented under the image of "a green olivetree, fair, and of goodly fruit." In this place the reference is doubtless to Abraham and the patriarchs, as the root or founders of the Jewish nation. If they were holy, it is to be expected that the distant branches, or descendants, would also be so regarded. The mention of the root and branches of a tree gives the apostle occasion for an illustration of the relation at that time of the Jews and Gentiles to the church of Christ.
17And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
If some of the branches - The illustration here is taken from the practice of those who ingraft trees. The useless branches, or those which bear poor fruit, are cut off, and a better kind inserted. "If some of the natural descendants of Abraham, the holy root, are cast off because they are unfruitful, that is, because of unbelief and sin."
And thou - The word "thou" here is used to denote the Gentile, whom Paul was then particularly addressing.
Being a wild olive-tree - From this passage it would seem that the olive-tree was sometimes cultivated, and that cultivation was necessary in order to render it fruitful. The cultivated olive-tree is "of the a moderate height, its trunk knotty, its bark smooth and ash-colored, its wood is solid and yellowish, the leaves are oblong, and almost like those of the willow, of a green color, etc. The wild olive is smaller in all its parts." (Calmet.) The wild olive was unfruitful, or its fruit very imperfect and useless. The ancient writers explain this word by "unfruitful, barren." (Sehleusner.) This was used, therefore, as the emblem of unfruitfulness and barrenness, while the cultivated olive produced much fruit. The meaning here is, that the Gentiles had been like the wild olive, unfruitful in holiness; that they had been uncultivated by the institutions of the true religion, and consequently had grown up in the wildness and sin of nature. The Jews had been like a cultivated olive, long under the training and blessing of God.
Wert grafted in - The process of grafting consists in inserting a scion or a young shoot into another tree. To do this, a useless limb is removed; and the ingrafted limb produces fruit according to its new nature or kind, and not according to the tree in which it is inserted. In this way a tree which bears no fruit, or whose branches are decaying, may be recovered, and become valuable. The figure of the apostle is a very vivid and beautiful one. The ancient root or stock, that of Abraham, etc. was good. The branches - the Jews in the time of the apostle - had become decayed and unfruitful, and broken off. The Gentiles had been grafted into this stock, and had restored the decayed vigor of the ancient people of God; and a fruitless church had become vigorous and flourishing. But the apostle soon proceeds to keep the Gentiles from exaltation on account of this.
Among them - Among the branches, so as to partake with them of the juices of the root.
Partakest of the root - The ingrafted limb would derive nourishment from the root as much as though it were a natural branch of the tree. The Gentiles derived now the benefit of Abraham's faith and holy labors, and of the promises made to him and to his seed.
Fatness of the olive-tree - The word "fatness" here means "fertility, fruitfulness" - the rich juices of the olive producing fruit; see Judges 9:9.
18Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
Boast not ... - The tendency of people is to triumph over one that is fallen and rejected. The danger of pride and boasting on account of privileges is not less in the church than elsewhere. Paul saw that some of the Gentiles might be in danger of exultation over the fallen Jews, and therefore cautions them against it. The ingrafted shoot, deriving all its vigor and fruitfulness from the stock of another tree, ought not to boast against the branches.
But if thou boast - If thou art so inconsiderate and wicked, so devoid of humility, and lifted up with pride, as to boast, yet know that there is no occasion for it. If there were occasion for boasting, it would rather be in the root or stock which sustains the branches; least of all can it be in those which were grafted in, having been before wholly unfruitful.
Thou bearest not the root - The source of all your blessings is in the ancient stock. It is clear from this, that the apostle regarded the church as one; and that the Christian economy was only a prolongation of the ancient dispensation. The tree, even with a part of the branches removed. and others ingrafted, retains its identity, and is never regarded as a different tree.
19Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
Thou wilt say then - Thou who art a Gentile.
The branches were broken off ... - The Jews were rejected in order that the gospel might be preached to the Gentiles. This would seem to follow from what the apostle had said in Romans 11:11-12. Perhaps it might be said that there was some ground of exultation from the fact that God had rejected his ancient people for the sake of making a way open to admit the Gentiles to the church. The objection is, that the branches were broken off in order that others might be grafted in. To this Paul replies in the next verse, that this was not the reason why they were rejected, but their unbelief was the cause.
20Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
Well - True. It is true they were broken off; but in order to show that there was no occasion for boasting, he adds that they were not rejected in order to admit others, but because of their unbelief, and that their fate should have a salutary impression on those who had no occasion for boasting, but who might be rejected for the same cause. This is an instance of remarkable tact and delicacy in an argument, admitting the main force of the remark, but giving it a slight change in accordance with the truth, so as to parry its force, and give it a practical bearing on the very point which he wished to enforce.
Thou standest by faith - The continuance of these mercies to you depends on your fidelity. If you are faithful, they will be preserved; if, like the Jews, you become unbelieving and unfruitful, like them you will be also rejected. This fact should repress boasting, and excite to anxiety and caution.
Be not high-minded - Do not be elated in the conception of your privileges, so as to produce vain self-confidence and boasting.
But fear - This fear stands opposed to the spirit of boasting and self-confidence, against which he was exhorting them. It does not mean terror or horror, but it denotes humility, watchfulness, and solicitude to abide in the faith. Do not be haughty and high-minded against the Jew, who has been cast off, but "demean yourself as a humble believer, and one who has need to be continually on his guard, and to fear lest he may fall through unbelief, and be cast off." (Stuart.) We may here learn,
(1) That there is danger lest those who are raised to eminent privileges should become unduly exalted in their own estimation, and despise others.
(2) the tendency of faith is to promote humility and a sense of our dependence on God.
(3) the system of salvation by faith produces that solicitude, and careful guarding, and watchfulness, which is necessary to preserve us from apostasy and ruin.
21For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
For if God ... - If God did not refrain from rejecting the Jews who became unbelievers, assuredly he will not refrain from rejecting you in the same circumstances. It may be supposed that he will be quite as ready to reject the ingrafted branches, as to cast off those which belonged to the parent stock. The situation of the Gentiles is not such as to give them any security over the condition of the rejected Jew.
22Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
Behold, therefore ... - Regard, or contemplate, for purposes of your own improvement and benefit, the dealings of God. We should look on all his dispensations of judgment or of mercy, and derive lessons from all to promote our own steadfast adherence to the faith of the gospel.
The goodness - The benevolence or mercy of God toward you in admitting you to his favor. This calls for gratitude, love, confidence. It demands expressions of thanksgiving. It should be highly prized, in order that it may excite to diligence to secure its continuance.
The severity of God - That is, toward the Jews. The word "severity" now suggests sometimes the idea of harshness, or even of cruelty. (Webster.) But nothing of this kind is conveyed in the original word here. It properly denotes "cutting off," ἀποτομίαν apotomian from ἀποτέμνω apotemnō, to cut off; and is commonly applied to the act of the gardener or vine-dresser in trimming trees or vines, and cutting off the decayed or useless branches. Here it refers to the act of God in cutting off or rejecting the Jews as useless branches; and conveys no idea of injustice, cruelty, or harshness. It was a just act, and consistent with all the perfections of God. It indicated a purpose to do what was right, though the inflictions might seem to be severe, and though they must involve them in many heavy calamities.
On them which fell, severity - On the Jews, who had been rejected because of their unbelief.
But towards thee, goodness - Toward the Gentile world, benevolence. The word "goodness" properly denotes benignity or benevolence. Here it signifies the kindness of God in bestowing these favors on the Gentiles.
If thou continue in his goodness - The word "his" is not in the original. And the word "goodness" may denote integrity, probity, uprightness, as well as favor; Romans 3:12, "There is none that doeth good." The Septuagint often thus uses the word; Psalm 13:1, Psalm 13:3, etc. This is probably the meaning here; though it may mean "if thou dost continue in a state of favor;" that is, if your faith and good conduct shall be such as to make it proper for God to continue his kindness toward you. Christians do not merit the favor of God by their faith and good works; but their obedience is an indispensable condition on which that favor is to be continued. It is thus that the grace of God is magnified, at the same time that the highest good is done to man himself.
Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off - Compare John 15:2. The word "thou" refers here to the Gentile churches. In relation to them the favor of God was dependent on their fidelity. If they became disobedient and unbelieving, then the same principle which led him to withdraw his mercy from the Jewish people would lead also to their rejection and exclusion. And on this principle, God has acted in numberless cases. Thus, his favor was withdrawn from the seven churches of Asia Revelation 1-3, from Corinth, from Antioch, from Philippi, and even from Rome itself.
23And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
And they also - The Jews.
If they bide not ... - If they do not continue in willful obstinacy and rejection of the Messiah. As their unbelief was the sole cause of their rejection, so if that be removed, they may be again restored to the divine favor.
For God is able ... - He has,
(1) Power to restore them, to bring them back and replace them in his favor.
(2) he has not bound himself utterly to reject them, and forever to exclude them.
In this way the apostle reaches his purpose, which was to show them that God had not cast away his people or finally rejected the Jewish nation; Romans 11:1-2. That God has this power, the apostle proceeds to show in the next verse.
24For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
For if thou - If you who are Gentiles.
Wert cut out of - Or, if thou wert of the cutting of the wild olive-tree.
Which is wild by nature - Which is uncultivated and unfruitful. That is, if you were introduced into a state of favor with God from a condition which was one of enmity and hostility to him. The argument here is, that it was in itself as difficult a thing to reclaim them, and change them from opposition to God to friendship, as it would seem difficult or impossible to reclaim and make fruitful the wild olive-tree.
And were graffed contrary to nature - Contrary to your natural habits, thoughts, and practices. There was among the Gentiles no inclination or tendency toward God. This does not mean that they were physically depraved, or that their disposition was literally like the wild olive; but it is used, for the sake of illustration, to show that their moral character and habits were unlike those of the friends of God.
How much more ... - The meaning of this whole verse may be thus expressed; "If God had mercy on the Gentiles, who were outcasts from his favor, shall he not much rather on those who were so long his people, to whom had been given the promises, and the covenants, and the Law, whose ancestors had been so many of them his friends, and among whom the Messiah was born?" In some respects, there are facilities among the Jews for their conversion, which had not existed among the Gentiles. They worship one God; they admit the authority of revelation; they have the Scriptures of the Old Testament; they expect a Messiah; and they have a habit of professed reverence for the will of God.
25For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Ignorant of this mystery - The word "mystery" means properly what is "concealed, hidden, or unknown." And it especially refers, in the New Testament, to the truths or doctrines which God had reserved to himself, or had not before communicated. It does not mean, as with us often, that there was anything unintelligible or inscrutible in the nature of the doctrine itself, for it was commonly perfectly plain when it was made known. Thus, the doctrine, that the division between the Jews and the Gentiles was to be broken down, is called a mystery, because it had been, to the times of the apostles, concealed, and was then revealed fully for the first time; Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:26-27; compare 1 Corinthians 15:51; Mark 4:11; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3. Thus, the doctrine which the apostle was stating was one that until then had been concealed, or had not been made known. It does not mean that there was anything unintelligible or incomprehensive in it, but until then it had not been made known.
Lest ye should be wise in your own conceits - Paul communicated the truth in regard to this, lest they should attempt to inquire into it; should speculate about the reason why God had rejected the Jews; and should he elated with the belief that they had, by their own skill and genius, ascertained the cause. Rather than leave them to vain speculations and self-gratulation, he chose to cut short all inquiry, by stating the truth about; their present and future state.
Blindness - Or hardness; see Romans 11:7.
In part - Not totally, or entirely. They are not absolutely or completely blinded. This is a qualifying expression; but it does not denote what part or portion, or for what time it is to continue. It means that the blindness in respect to the whole nation was only partial. Some were then enlightened, and had become Christians; and many more would he.
To Israel - To the Jews.
Until the fulness of the Gentiles ... - The word "fulness" in relation to the Jews is used in Romans 11:12. It means until the abundance or the great multitude of the Gentiles shall be converted. The word is not used elsewhere in respect to the Gentiles; and it is difficult to fix its meaning definitely. It doubtless refers to the future spread of the Gospel among the nations; to the time when it may be said that the great mass, the abundance of the nations, shall be converted to God. At present, they are, as they were in the times of the apostle, idolators, so that the mass of mankind are far from God. But the Scriptures have spoken of a time when the gospel shall spread and prevail among the nations of the earth; and to this the apostle refers. He does not say, however, that the Jews may not be converted until all the Gentiles become Christians; for he expressly supposes Romans 11:12-15 that the conversion of the Jews will have an important influence in extending the gospel among the Gentiles. Probably the meaning is, that this blindness is to continue until great numbers of the Gentiles shall be converted; until the gospel shall be extensively spread; and then the conversion of the Jews will be a part of the rapid spread of the gospel, and will be among the most efficient and important aids in completing the work. If this is the case, then Christians may labor still for their conversion. They may seek that in connection with the effort to convert the pagan; and they may toil with the expectation that the conversion of the Jews and Gentiles will not be separate, independent, and distinct events; but will be inter-mingled, and will be perhaps simultaneous. The word "fulness" may denote such a general turning to God, without affirming that each individual shall be thus converted to the Christian faith.
26And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
And so - That is, in this manner; or when the great abundance of the Gentiles shall be converted, then all Israel shall be saved.
All Israel - All the Jews. It was a maxim among the Jews that "every Israelite should have part in the future age." (Grotius.) The apostle applies that maxim to his own purpose; and declares the sense in which it would be true. He does not mean to say that every Jew of every age would be saved; for he had proved that a large portion of them would be, in his time, rejected and lost. But the time would come when, as a people, they would be recovered; when the nation would turn to God; and when it could be said of them that, as a nation, they were restored to the divine favor. It is not clear that he means that even then every individual of them would be saved, but the body of them; the great mass of the nation would be. Nor is it said when this would be. This is one of the things which "the Father hath put in his own power;" Acts 1:7. He has given us the assurance that it shall be done to encourage us in our efforts to save them; and he has concealed the time when it shall be, lest we should relax our efforts, or feel that no exertions were needed to accomplish what must take place at a fixed time.
Shall be saved - Shall be recovered from their rejection; be restored to the divine favor; become followers of the Messiah, and thus be saved as all other Christians are.
As it is written - Isaiah 59:20. The quotation is not literally made, but the sense of the passage is preserved. The Hebrew is, "There shall come to Zion a Redeemer, and for those who turn from ungodliness in Jacob." There can be no doubt that Isaiah refers here to the times of the gospel.
Out of Zion - Zion was one of the bills of Jerusalem. On this was built the city of David. It came thus to denote, in general, the church, or people of God. And when it is said that the Redeemer should come out of Zion, it means that he should arise among that people, be descended from themselves, or should not be a foreigner. The Septuagint, however render it, "the Redeemer shall come on account of Zion." So the Chaldee paraphrase, and the Latin Vulgate.
And shall turn away ... - The Hebrew is, "to those forsaking un godliness in Jacob." The Septuagint has rendered it in the same manner as the apostle.
27For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
For this is my covenant ... - This expression is found immediately following the other in Isaiah 59:21. But the apostle connects with it a part of another promise taken from Jeremiah 31:33-34; or rather he abridges that promise, and expresses its substance, by adding "when I shall take away their sins." It is clear that he intended to express the general sense of the promises, as they were well known to the Jews, and as it was a point concerning which he did not need to argue or reason with them, that God had made a covenant with them, and intended to restore them if they were cast off, and should then repent and turn to him. The time and manner in which this shall be, is not revealed. It may be remarked, however, that that passage does not mean that the Redeemer shall come personally and preach to them, or re-appear for the purpose of recalling them to himself; nor does it mean that they will be restored to the land of their fathers. Neither of these ideas is contained in the passage. God will doubtless convert the Jews, as he does the Gentiles, by human means, and in connection with the prayers of his people; so that the Gentiles shall yet repay the toil and care of the ancient Jews in preserving the Scriptures, and preparing the way for the Messiah; and both shall rejoice that they were made helps in spreading the knowledge of the Messiah.
28As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
As concerning the gospel - So far as the gospel is concerned; or, in order to promote its extension and spread through the earth.
They are enemies - The word "enemies" here stands opposed to "beloved;" and as in one respect, to wit, on account of "election," they were still beloved, that is, beloved by God, so in another respect they were his enemies, i. e., opposed to him, or cast off from him. The enemies of God denote all who are not his true friends; Colossians 1:21; Romans 5:10; compare Romans 11:8. The word here is applied to the Jews because they had rejected the Messiah; had become opposed to God; and were therefore rejected by him.
For your sakes - For your advantage. Their rejection has become the occasion by which the gospel has been preached to you; compare Romans 11:11, Romans 11:19-20.
As touching the election - So far as the purpose of election is concerned. That is, the election of their fathers and of the nation to be the special people of God.
They are beloved - God still regards them with interest; has purposes of mercy toward them; intends still to do them good. This does not, mean that he approved of their conduct or character, or that he had for them the same kind of affection which he would have had if they had been obedient. God does not love a sinful character; but he may have still purposes of mercy, and regard people with deep interest on whom he intends yet to bestow mercy.
For the fathers' sakes - Compare Deuteronomy 10:15. He had chosen their fathers to be His special people. He had made many promises to Abraham respecting his seed, and extended these premises to his remotest posterity. Though salvation is by grace, and not from human merit, yet God has respect to his covenant made with the fathers, and will not forget his promises. It is not on account of any merit of the fathers or of ancient saints, but solely because God had made a covenant with them; and this purpose of election would be manifest to their children in the latest times. As those contemplated in the covenant made with Abraham, God retained for them feelings of special interest; and designed their recovery to himself. It is clear here that the word "election" does not refer to external privileges; for Paul is not teaching the doctrine that they shall be restored to the external privileges of Jews, but that they shall be truly converted to God. Yet this should not be abused by others to lead them to security in sin. No man has any security of happiness, and of the favor of God, but he who complies with the terms of his mercy. His commands are explicit to repent and believe, nor can there be safety except in entire compliance with the terms on which he is willing to bestow eternal life.
29For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
For the gifts - The favors or benefits which God bestows on men. The word χάρισμα charisma properly denotes any benefit which is conferred on another as a mere matter of favor, and not of reward; see Romans 5:15-16; Romans 6:23. Such are all the favors which God bestows on sinners including pardon, peace, joy, sanctification, and eternal life.
And calling of God - The word "calling" κλῆσις klēsis here denotes that act of God by which he extends an invitation to people to come and partake of his favors, whether it be by a personal revelation as to the patriarchs, or by the promises of the gospel, or by the influences of his Spirit. All such invitations or callings imply a pledge that he will bestow the favor, and will not repent, or turn from it. God never draws or invites sinners to himself without being willing to bestow pardon and eternal life. The word "calling" here, therefore, has not respect to external privileges, but to that choosing of a sinner, and influencing him to come to God, which is connected with eternal life.
Without repentance - This does not refer to man, but to God. It does not mean that God confers his favors on man without his exercising repentance, but that God does not repent, or change, in his purposes of bestowing his gifts on man. What he promises he will fulfil; what he purposes to do, he will not change from or repent of. As he made promises to the fathers, he will not repent of them, and will not depart from them; they shall all be fulfilled; and thus it was certain that the ancient people of God, though many of them had become rebellious, and had been cast off, should not be forgotten and abandoned. This is a general proposition respecting God, and one repeatedly made of him in the Scriptures; see Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he not said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" Ezekiel 24:14; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 89:35-36; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; James 1:17. It follows from this,
(1) That all the promises made to the people of God shall be fulfilled.
(2) that his people need not be discouraged or desponding, in times of persecution and trial.
(3) that none who become his true friends will be forsaken, or cast off. God does not bestow the gift of repentance and faith, of pardon and peace, on people, for a temporary purpose; nor does he capriciously withdraw them, and leave the soul to ruin. When he renews a soul, it is with reference to his own glory; and to withdraw those favors, and leave such a soul once renewed to go down to hell, would be as much a violation of all the principles of his nature as it would be to all the promises of the Scripture.
(4) for God to forsake such a soul, and leave it to ruin, would imply that he did repent. It would suppose a change of purpose and of feeling. It would be the character of a capricious being, with no settled plan or principles of action; no confidence could be reposed in him, and his government would be unworthy the affections and trust of his intelligent creation.
30For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
For as ye - You who were Gentiles.
In times past - Before the gospel was preached. This refers to the former idolatrous and sinful state of the pagan world; compare Ephesians 2:2; Acts 14:16.
Have not believed God - Or have not obeyed God. This was the character of all the pagan nations.
Yet have now obtained mercy - Have been pardoned and admitted to the favor of God.
Through their unbelief - By means of the unbelief and rejection of the Jews; see the note at Romans 11:11.
31Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
Even so have these ... - That is, the Jews.
That through your mercy ... - The immediate effect of the unbelief of the Jews was to confer salvation on the Gentiles, or to open the way for the preaching of the gospel to them. But its remote effect would be to secure the preaching of the gospel again to the Jews. Through the mercy, that is, the compassion or deep feeling of the converted Gentiles; through the deep and tender pity which they would feel for the blinded and degraded Jews: the gospel should be again carried to them, and they should be recalled to the long lost favor of God. Each party should thus cause salvation to come to the other - the Jews to the Gentiles by their unbelief; but the Gentiles, in their turn, to the Jews by their belief. We may here learn,
(1) That the Jews are to be converted by the instrumentality of the Gentiles. It is not to be by miracle, but by the regular and common way in which God blesses people.
(2) that this is to be done by the mercy, or compassion of the Gentiles; by their taking pity on the lost and wretched condition of the Jewish people.
(3) it is to be when the abundance of the Gentiles - that is, when great numbers of the Gentiles - shall be called in.
It may be asked here whether the time is not approaching for the Gentiles to make efforts to bring the Jews to the knowledge of the Messiah. Hitherto those efforts have been unsuccessful; but it will not always be so; the time is coming when the promises of God in regard to them shall be fulfilled. Christians shall be moved with deep compassion for the degraded and forsaken Jews, and they shall be called into the kingdom of God, and made efficient agents in extending the gospel through the whole world. May the time soon come when they shall feel as they should, for the rejected and forsaken children of Abraham, and when their labors for their conversion shall be attended with success.
32For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
For God hath concluded ... - The word translated here "concluded" sunekleise, is rendered in the margin "shut them all up together." It is properly used in reference to those who are shut up in prison, or to those in a city who are shut up by a besieging army; 1 Macc. 5:5; 6:18; 11:65; 15:25; Joshua 6:6; Isaiah 45:1. It is used in the New Testament of fish taken in a net; Luke 5:6, "They enclosed a great multitude of fishes;" Galatians 3:22, "But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, etc." In this place the Scripture is declared to have shut them up under sin, that is, declared them to be sinners; gave no hope of rescue by any works of their own; and thus kept them Romans 11:23 "shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealed." All are represented, therefore, as in prison, enclosed or confined by God, and to be liberated only in his own way and time. In regard to the agency of God in this, we may remark:
(1) That the word does not mean that God compelled them to disbelieve the gospel. When, in Galatians 3:22, the Scripture is said to have included all under sin, it is not meant that the Scripture compelled them not to believe.
(2) the word does not imply that the sin and unbelief for which they were shut up were not voluntary. Even when a man is committed to prison, the crime which brought him there is voluntary, and for it he is responsible.
(3) the keeper of a prison does no wrong in confining a criminal; or the judge in condemning him; or the executioner in fulfilling the sentence of the Law. So of God. What he does is not to compel people to remain under unbelief, but to declare that they are so; so to encompass them with the proof of it that they shall realize that there is no escape from the evidence of it, and thus to press on them the evidence of their need of a Saviour. This he does in relation to all sinners who ever become converted.
(4) yet God permitted this; suffered Jews and Gentiles to fall into unbelief, and to be concluded under it, because he had a special purpose to answer in leaving man to the power of sin and unbelief. One of those purposes was, doubtless, to manifest the power of his grace and mercy in the plan of redemption.
(5) in all this, and in all other sin man is voluntary. He chooses his course of evil; and God is under no obligation to compel him to do otherwise. Being under unbelief, God declares the fact, and avails himself of it, in the plan of salvation by grace.
Them all - Both Jews and Gentiles.
In unbelief - εἰς eis. "Unto unbelief." He has delivered them over unto unbelief, as a man is delivered over into prison. This is the literal meaning of the expression.
That he might have mercy upon all - Mercy is favor shown to the undeserving. It could not have been shown to the Jews and the Gentiles unless it was before proved that they were guilty. For this purpose proof was furnished that they were all in unbelief. It was clear, therefore, that if favor was shown to either, it must be on the same ground, that of mere undeserved mercy. Thus, all people were on a level; and thus all might be admitted to heaven without any invidious distinctions, or any dealings that were not in accordance with mercy and love. "The emphasis in this verse is on the word "mercy." It signifies that God is under obligation to no one, and therefore that all are saved by grace, because all are equally ruined." (Calvin.) It does not prove that all people will be saved; but that those who are saved shall be alike saved by the mercy of God; and that He intends to confer salvation on Jews and Gentiles on the same terms. This is properly the close of the argument of this Epistle. By several independent trains of reasoning, the apostle had come to the same conclusion, that the Jews had no special privileges in regard to religion, that all people were on a level, and that there was no hope of salvation for any but in the mercy of a sovereign God. This conclusion, and the wonderful train of events which had led to this state of things, give rise to the exclamations and ascriptions of praise with which the chapter closes.
33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
O the depth ... - This passage should have been translated "O the depth of the riches, and of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God." The apostle has three subjects of admiration. Our translation, by the word "both" introduced here, confines it to two. The apostle wishes to express his admiration of the riches and the wisdom, and the knowledge of God. So the Syriac, Arabic, etc. Our translation has followed the Latin Vulgate. The word "depth" is applied in the Scriptures to anything vast and incomprehensible. As the abyss or the ocean is unfathomable, so the word comes to denote what words cannot express, or what we cannot comprehend; Psalm 36:6, "Thy judgments are a great deep;" 1 Corinthians 2:10," The Spirit searcheth ...the deep things of God;" Revelation 2:24, "The depths of Satan" - the deep, profound, cunning, and wicked plans of Satan.
Riches - See the note at Romans 11:12. The word denotes the abundant blessings and mercies which had been conferred on sinful people by the gospel. These were vast and wonderful. The pardon of sin; the atonement; the hope of heaven; the peace of the gospel; all bestowed on the sinful, the poor, the wretched, and the dying; all bespeak the great mercy and rich grace of God. So every pardoned sinner may still exclaim. The grace of God which pardons him is felt to be indeed wonderful, and past comprehension. It is beyond the power of language to express; and all that the Christian can do, is to follow the example of the apostle, and sit down in profound admiration of the rich grace of God. The expression "the depth of the riches" is a Hebraism, meaning the deep or profound riches.
The wisdom - Wisdom is the choice of the best means to accomplish the best ends. The end or design which God had in view was to bestow mercy on all; i. e., to save people by grace, and not by their own works; Romans 11:32. He intended to establish a glorious system that should present his mercy as the prominent attribute, standing out in living colors in all the scheme of salvation. This was to be alike shown in relation to Jews and Gentiles. The wonderful wisdom with which this was done, is the object of the apostle's profound admiration. This wisdom was seen,
(1) In adapting the plan to the condition of man. All were sinners. The apostle in this Epistle has fully shown that all had come short of the glory of God. Man had no power to save himself by his own wisdom. The Jews and Gentiles in different ways had sought to justify themselves, and had both failed God had suffered both to make the experiment in the most favorable circumstances. He had left the world for four thousand years to make the trial, and then introduced the plan of divine wisdom, just so as to meet the manifest wants and woes of people.
(2) this was shown in his making the Jews the occasion of spreading the system among the Gentiles. They were cast off, and rejected; but the God of wisdom had made even this an occasion of spreading his truth.
(3) the same wisdom was yet to be seen in his appointing the Gentiles to carry the gospel back to the Jews. Thus, they were to be mutual aids; until all their interests should be blended, and the entire race should be united in the love of the same gospel, and the service of the same God and Saviour. When, therefore, this profound and wonderful plan is contemplated, and its history traced from the commencement to the end of time, no wonder that the apostle was fixed in admiration at the amazing wisdom of him who devised it, and who has made all events subservient to its establishment and spread among people.
And knowledge - That is, foreknowledge, or omniscience. This knowledge was manifest,
(1) In the profound view of man, and acquaintance with all his wants and woes.
(2) in a view of the precise scheme that would be suited to recover and save.
(3) in a view of the time and circumstances in which it would be best to introduce the scheme.
(4) in a discernment of the effect of the rejection of the Jews, and of the preaching of the gospel among the Gentiles.
Who but God could see that such effects would follow the rejection of the Jews? Who but he could know that the gospel should yet prevail among all the nations? We have only to think of the changes in human affairs; the obstacles to the gospel; the difficulties to be surmounted; and the vast work yet to be done, to be amazed at the knowledge which can adapt such a scheme to people, and which can certainly predict its complete and final spread among all the families of man.
How unsearchable - The word "unsearchable" means what cannot be investigated or fully understood.
His judgments - This word in this place evidently means his arrangement, his plan, or proceeding. It sometimes refers to laws; at other times to the decision or determination of God; at others to the inflictions of his justice. In this last sense it is now commonly used. But in the case before us, it means his arrangements for conferring the gospel on people compare Psalm 36:7," His judgments are a great deep."
His ways - The word rendered "ways" properly denotes a path, or road on which one travels. Hence, it comes also to denote the course or manner of life in which one moves; or his principles, or morals; his doctrine, or teaching, etc. Applied to God, it denotes his mode or manner of doing things; the order, etc. of his divine Providence; his movements, in his great plans, through the universe; Acts 13:10, "Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" to oppose, or to render vain, his plan of guiding and saving man; Hebrews 3:10," They have not known my ways;" Psalm 77:19, "Thy way is in the sea, thy footsteps are not known." Here it refers particularly to his way or plan of bringing all nations within the reach of his mercy in the gospel.
Past finding out - Literally, which cannot be tracked or traced out. The footsteps cannot be followed. As if his path were in the sea Psalm 77:19, and the waves closed immediately, leaving no track, it cannot be followed or sought out. It is known that he has passed, but there is no way of tracing his goings. This is a beautiful and striking figure. It denotes that God's plans are deep, and beyond our comprehension. We can see the proofs that he is everywhere; but how it is, we cannot comprehend. We are permitted to see the vast movements around us; but the invisible hand we cannot see, nor trace the footsteps of that mighty God who performs his wonders on the ocean and on the land,
34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller?
For who hath known? ... - This verse is a quotation, with a slight change, from Isaiah 40:13, "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?" It is designed to express the infinite wisdom and knowledge of God, by affirming that no being could teach him, or counsel him. Earthly monarchs have counsellors of state, whom they may consult in times of perplexity or danger. But God has no such council. He sits alone; nor does he call in any or all of his creatures to advise him. All created beings are not qualified to contribute anything to enlighten or to direct him. It is also designed to silence all opposition to his plans, and to hush all murmurings. The apostle had proved that this was the plan of God. However mysterious and inscrutable it might appear to the Jew or the Gentile, yet it was his duty to submit to God, and to confide in his wisdom, though he was not able to trace the reason of his doings.
35Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
Or who hath ... - The sentiment in this verse is found substantially in Job 41:11. "Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him." The Hebrew word "prevented" means to anticipate, to go before; and God asks who has anticipated me; who has conferred favors on me before I have on him; who has thus laid me under obligation to him." This is the sense in which the apostle uses the word here. Who has, by his services, laid God under obligation to recompense or pay him again? It is added in Job, "Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine." Thus Paul, contrary to the prevailing doctrine of the Jews, shows that no one could plead his own merits, or advance with a claim on God. All the favors of salvation must be bestowed by mercy or grace. God owned them all; and he had a right to bestow them when and where he pleased. The same claim to all things is repeatedly made by God; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; Psalm 50:12.
Shall be recompensed - Repaid as a matter of debt. None of God's mercies can be conferred in that way; if they could, man could bring God under obligation, and destroy the freeness and benevolence of his favors.
36For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
For of him - εξ αὐτοῦ ex autou; compare 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6. This expression doubtless means that he is the original source and fountain of all blessings. He is the Creator of all, the rich "fountain from which all streams of existence take their rise. The design of this verse is to show that no creature has any claim on God. Jews and Gentiles must alike receive salvation on the ground of his mercy. So far from having a claim on God, the apostle here affirms that all things have come from him, and therefore all must be derived to us. Nothing has been produced by chance, or haphazard; nothing by created skill or might. All has been formed by God; and therefore he has a right to dispose of all.
And through him - δἰ αὐτοῦ di autou.) That is, by his immediate operating agency. The former expression, "of him," affirmed that he was the original source of all things; this declares that all are by him, or through him, as their immediate cause. It is not merely by his plan or purpose; it is by his agency, by the direct exertion of his power in their creation and bestowment. By his power they are still directed and controlled. Human agency, therefore, could not lay him under any obligation. He does not need the aid of man; and he did not call in that aid in the creation and government of the world. He is the independent Creator and Lord, and on him none can have a claim.
To him - εἰς αὐτὸν eis autos. This expression denotes the final cause, the reason or end for which all things were formed. It is to promote his honor and glory. It is to manifest his praise, or to give a proper putting forth of the glorious attributes of God; that the exceeding greatness, and goodness, and grandeur of his character might be evinced. It is not to promote his happiness, for he was eternally happy; not to add anything to him, for he is infinite; but that he might act as God, and have the honor and praise that is due to God. As this was the design of all things, so it followed that the bestowment of his favors must be in accordance with this in such a way as to promote his glory; and not so as to consult the feelings or views of either Jews or Gentiles.
All things - The universe; the creation, or still more particularly, the things of which the apostle is discoursing. He does not affirm that he is the author of sin or of sinful thoughts; not that he creates evil, or that evil is designed to promote his glory. The apostle is not discoursing of these, but of his method of bestowing his favors; and he says that these are to be conferred in such a way as to promote his honor, and to declare the praise of hint who is the original source, the creator, and the proprietor of all things.
To whom be glory - This ascription of praise is the appropriate close of the argumentative part of the Epistle, as well as appropriate to the train of remarks into which the apostle had fallen. It expresses his hearty amen in concurrence with this view; the deep desire of a pious man that all might be to God's glory and honor. He had not merely come to it by reasoning, but it was the sincere desire of his soul that it might be so. The Christian does not merely admit this doctrine; he is not merely driven to it by argument, but it finds a hearty response in his bosom. He rejoices in it; and sincerely desires that all may be to the honor of God. Sinners are often compelled by argument to admit it, but they do not love it. They would rejoice were it otherwise, and be glad if they were permitted rather to seek their own glory than that of the living God.
Glory - Praise, honor.
Forever - Not merely amid transitory events now, but ever onward to eternity. This will be the case. There never will be a time when the affairs of the universe shall not be conducted with reference to the glory of God. That honor and glory shall shine brighter and brighter, and all worlds shall be perfectly adapted to show his praise, and to evince his greatness, goodness, power, and love forever and ever. Thus, let it be, is the language of everyone that truly loves him.
This closes the argumentative part of the Epistle. From the close of this chapter we may make the following observations.
1. God is infinitely wise, and just, and good. This is seen in all his plans and doings, and especially in the glorious plan of saving people.
2. It becomes man to be humble. He can see but few of the reasons of the doings of an infinite God. He is not qualified to sit in judgment on his plans. He is not suited to arraign him. There is nothing more absurd than for a man to contend with God, or to find fault with his plans; and yet there is nothing more common. Man speaks, and thinks, and reasons on the great things pertaining to the divine mind and plan, as if he were qualified to counsel the being of infinite wisdom, and to arraign at the bar of his own reason the being of infinite goodness.
3. It is our duty to be submissive to God. His plans may often require him to cross the path of our pleasures, or to remove some of our enjoyments. He tries us by requiring us to put confidence in him where we cannot see the reason of his doings, and to believe that he is qualified for universal empire. In all such cases it is our duty to submit to his will. He is seeking a grander and nobler object than our private good. He is seeking the welfare of a vast universe; and he best knows in what way that can be promoted.
4. God is the creator and proprietor of all things. It would be possible to prove this from his works. But his word unequivocally asserts it. He has formed, and he upholds, and he directs all things for his glory. He who formed all has a right to all. He who is the source of life has the right to direct it, or to withdraw the gift. He on whom all depend has a right to homage and praise.
5. He has formed a universe that is eminently adapted to declare his glory. It evinces infinite power in its creation; and it is suited to fill the mind with ever-growing wonder and gladness in its contemplation. The sacred writers were filled with rapture when they contemplated it; and all the discoveries of astronomy, and geology, and science in general, in modern times, are suited to carry forward the wonder, and fill the lips with new expressions of praise. The universe is vast and grand enough to occupy the thoughts forever. How little do we know of the wonders of his creation, even pertaining to this little world; to our own bodies and souls; to the earth, the ocean, the beast and the reptile, the bird and the insect; how much less of that amazing view of worlds and systems which modern astronomy has opened to our view, the vast starry frame which the eye can penetrate for millions and millions of miles, and where it finds world piled on world, and system rising above system, in wonderful order and grandeur, and where the utmost power of the telescore can as yet find no bounds.
6. Equally true is this in his moral government. The system is such as to excite our wonder and praise. The creation and control of free, and active, and mighty minds is as wonderful as the creation and control of matter, even the vast masses of the planetary systems. Creation is filled with minds. God has peopled the worlds with conscious, free, and active intelligences. The wonderful wisdom by which he controls them; the amazing moral power by which he guards and binds them to himself, by which he restrains and awes the rebellious; and the complete subjection by which he will bring all yet at his feet, is as much replete with wonder as the wisdom and skill by which he framed the heavens. To govern mind requires more wisdom and skill than to govern matter. To control angels and human beings evinces more glory than to roll the streams or the ocean, or than to propel and guide the planets. And especially is this true of the plan of salvation. That wondrous scheme is adapted to call forth eternal, praise, and to show forever the wisdom and mercy of God. Without such a plan, we cannot see how the Divinity could be fully manifested; with that, we see God as God, vast, grand, mighty, infinite; but still seeking to do good, and having power to enter any vast mass of iniquity, and to diffuse purity and peace over the face of an alienated and dying world.
7. The salvation of sinners is not to promote their own glory primarily, but that of God. "He is first, and he is last; he is midst, and without end," in their salvation. God seeks his own honor, and seeks it by their return and their obedience. But if they will not promote his glory in that way, they must be made to promote it in their ruin.
8. It is the duty of people to seek the honor of this infinitely wise and holy God. It commends itself to every man's conscience. God has formed us all; and man can have no higher destiny and honor than to be permitted to promote and spread abroad through all the universe the knowledge of a Being whose character is infinitely lovely, whose government is right, and whose presence and favor will diffuse blessings of salvation and eternal peace on all the wide creation that will be obedient to his will.