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Matthew Henry's Introduction to Romans
An Exposition, With Practical Observations, of THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE ROMANS
If we may compare scripture with scripture, and take the opinion of some devout and pious persons, in the Old Testament David's Psalms, and in the New Testament Paul's Epistles, are stars of the first magnitude, that differ from the other stars in glory. The whole scripture is indeed an epistle from heaven to earth: but in it we have upon record several particular epistles, more of Paul's than of any other, for he was the chief of the apostles, and laboured more abundantly than they all.
His natural parts, I doubt not, were very pregnant; his apprehension was quick and piercing; his expressions were fluent and copious; his affections, wherever he took, very warm and zealous, and his resolutions no less bold and daring: this made him, before his conversion, a very keen and bitter persecutor; but when the strong man armed was dispossessed, and the stronger than he came to divide the spoil and to sanctify these qualifications, he became the most skilful zealous preacher; never any better fitted to win souls, nor more successful.
Fourteen of his epistles we have in the canon of scripture; many more, it is probable, he wrote in the course of his ministry, which might be profitable enough for doctrine, for reproof, etc., but, not being given by inspiration of God, they were not received as canonical scripture, nor handed down to us. Six epistles, said to be Paul's, written to Seneca, and eight of Seneca's to him, are spoken of by some of the ancients [Sixt. Senens. Biblioth. Sanct. lib. 2] and are extant; but, upon the first view, they appear spurious and counterfeit.
This epistle to the Romans is placed first, not because of the priority of its date, but because of the superlative excellency of the epistle, it being one of the longest and fullest of all, and perhaps because of the dignity of the place to which it is written. Chrysostom would have this epistle read over to him twice a week. It is gathered from some passages in the epistle that it was written Anno Christi 56, from Corinth, while Paul made a short stay there in his way to Troas, Acts 20:5, 6.
He commendeth to the Romans Phebe, a servant of the church at Cenchrea (ch. 16), which was a place belonging to Corinth. He calls Gaius his host, or the man with whom he lodged (ch. 16:23), and he was a Corinthian, not the same with Gaius of Derbe, mentioned Acts 20. Paul was now going up to Jerusalem, with the money that was given to the poor saints there; and of that he speaks, ch. 15:26. The great mysteries treated of in this epistle must needs produce in this, as in other writings of Paul, many things dark and hard to be understood, 2 Peter 3:16.
The method of this (as of several other of the epistles) is observable; the former part of it doctrinal, in the first eleven chapters; the latter part practical, in the last five: to inform the judgment and to reform the life. And the best way to understand the truths explained in the former part is to abide and abound in the practice of the duties prescribed in the latter part; for, if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, Jn. 7:17.
I. The doctrinal part of the epistles instructs us,
- Concerning the way of salvation
- The foundation of it laid in justification, and that not by the Gentiles' works of nature (ch. 1), nor by the Jews' works of the law (ch. 2, 3), for both Jews and Gentiles were liable to the curse; but only by faith in Jesus Christ, ch. 3:21, etc.; ch. 4.
- The steps of this salvation are,
- Peace with God, ch. 5.
- Sanctification, ch. 6, 7.
- Glorification, ch. 8.
- Concerning the persons saved, such as belong to the election of grace (ch. 9), Gentiles and Jews, ch. 10, 11. By this is appears that the subject he discourses of were such as were then the present truths, as the apostle speaks, 2 Peter 1:12. Two things the Jews then stumbled at-justification by faith without the works of the law, and the admission of the Gentiles into the church; and therefore both these he studied to clear and vindicate.
II. The practical part follows, wherein we find, 1. Several general exhortations proper for all Christians, ch. 12. 2. Directions for our behaviour, as members of civil society, ch. 13. 3. Rules for the conduct of Christians to one another, as members of the Christian church, ch. 14 and ch. 15:1–14.
III. As he draws towards a conclusion, he makes an apology for writing to them (ch. 15:14–16), gives them an account of himself and his own affairs (v. 17–21), promises them a visit (v. 22–29), begs their prayers (v. 30–32), sends particular salutations to many friends there (ch. 16:1–16), warns them against those who caused divisions (v. 17–20), adds the salutations of his friends with him (v. 21–23), and ends with a benediction to them and a doxology to God (v. 24–27).
Matthew Henry Commentary on Romans 1
An Exposition, With Practical Observations, of
THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE ROMANS
In this chapter we may observe, I. The preface and introduction to the whole epistle, to v. 16. II. A description of the deplorable condition of the Gentile world, which begins the proof of the doctrine of justification by faith, here laid down at v. 17. The first is according to the then usual formality of a letter, but intermixed with very excellent and savoury expressions.
In this paragraph we have,
I. The person who writes the epistle described (v. 1): Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ; this is his title of honour, which he glories in, not as the Jewish teachers, Rabbi, Rabbi; but a servant, a more immediate attendant, a steward in the house. Called to be an apostle. Some think he alludes to his old name Saul, which signifies one called for, or enquired after: Christ sought him to make an apostle of him, Acts 9:15. He here builds his authority upon his call; he did not run without sending, as the false apostles did; kleµtos apostolos called an apostle, as if this were the name he would be called by, though he acknowledged himself not meet to be called so, 1 Co. 15:9. Separated to the gospel of God. The Pharisees had their name from separation, because they separated themselves to the study of the law, and might be called aphoµrismenoi eis ton nomon; such a one Paul had formerly been; but now he had changed his studies, was aphoµrismenos eis to Euangelion, a gospel Pharisee, separated by the counsel of God (Gal. 1:15), separated from his mother's womb, by an immediate direction of the Spirit, and a regular ordination according to that direction (Acts 13:2, 3), by a dedication of himself to this work. He was an entire devotee to the gospel of God, the gospel which has God for its author, the origin and extraction of it divine and heavenly.
II. Having mentioned the gospel of God, he digresses, to give us an encomium of it.
1. The antiquity of it. It was promised before (v. 2); it was no novel upstart doctrine, but of ancient standing in the promises and prophecies of the old Testament, which did all unanimously point at the gospel, the morning-beams that ushered in the sun of righteousness; this not by word of mouth only, but in the scriptures.
2. The subject-matter of it: it is concerning Christ, v. 3, 4. The prophets and apostles all bear witness to him; he is the true treasure hid in the field of the scriptures. Observe, When Paul mentions Christ, how he heaps up his names and titles, his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, as one that took a pleasure in speaking of him; and, having mentioned him, he cannot go on in his discourse without some expression of love and honour, as here, where in one person he shows us his two distinct natures.
(1.) His human nature: Made of the seed of David (v. 3), that is, born of the virgin Mary, who was of the house of David (Lu. 1:27), as was Joseph his supposed father, Lu. 2:4. David is here mentioned, because of the special promises made to him concerning the Messiah, especially his kingly office; 2 Sa. 7:12; Ps. 132:11, compared with Lu. 1:32, 33.
(2.) His divine nature: Declared to be the Son of God (v. 4), the Son of God by eternal generation, or, as it is here explained, according to the Spirit of holiness. According to the flesh, that is, his human nature, he was of the seed of David; but, according to the Spirit of holiness, that is, the divine nature (as he is said to be quickened by the Spirit, 1 Pt. 3:18, compared with 2 Co. 13:4), he is the Son of God. The great proof or demonstration of this is his resurrection from the dead, which proved it effectually and undeniably. The sign of the prophet Jonas, Christ's resurrection, was intended for the last conviction, Mt. 12:39, 40. Those that would not be convinced by that would be convinced by nothing. So that we have here a summary of the gospel doctrine concerning Christ's two natures in one person.
3. The fruit of it (v. 5); By whom, that is, by Christ manifested and made known in the gospel, we (Paul and the rest of the ministers) have received grace and apostleship, that is, the favour to be made apostles, Eph. 3:8. The apostles were made a spectacle to the world, led a life of toil, and trouble, and hazard, were killed all the day long, and yet Paul reckons the apostleship a favour: we may justly reckon it a great favour to be employed in any work or service for God, whatever difficulties or dangers we may meet with in it. This apostleship was received for obedience to the faith, that is, to bring people to that obedience; as Christ, so his ministers, received that they might give. Paul's was for this obedience among all nations, for he was the apostle of the Gentiles, ch. 11:13. Observe the description here given of the Christian profession: it is obedience to the faith. It does not consist in a notional knowledge or a naked assent, much less does it consist in perverse disputings, but in obedience. This obedience to the faith answers the law of faith, mentioned ch. 3:27. The act of faith is the obedience of the understanding to God revealing, and the product of that is the obedience of the will to God commanding. To anticipate the ill use which might be made of the doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law, which he was to explain in the following epistle, he here speaks of Christianity as an obedience. Christ has a yoke. "Among whom are you, v. 6. You Romans in this stand upon the same level with other Gentile nations of less fame and wealth; you are all one in Christ.'' The gospel salvation is a common salvation, Jude 3. No respect of persons with God. The called of Jesus Christ; all those, and those only, are brought to an obedience of the faith that are effectually called of Jesus Christ.