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by Robert Hawker
THE EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL TO THE ROMANS
WE here enter upon the inspired writings of the Apostle. They may well be called inspired; himself was taught by the Holy Ghost, to tell the Church, that God. So that in truth, God the Spirit is the Author, and his Servants are but the Pen-men of all the holy records. And hence we do right, when at any time we make quotations from the Word of God, instead of saying, (as is but too commonly done,) the Apostle, whose name the writing bears, saith thus, or thus: We consider God the Holy Ghost himself the speaker, by his servant, and give the Lord the glory. For this would tend, under God, to keep alive in our remembrance, both the Person and authority of Him that speaks; and cause us to look beyond the words Holy Ghost
here enter upon the inspired writings of the Apostle Paul. They may well be called inspired; for Paul himself was taught by the Holy Ghost, to tell the Church, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. So that in truth, God the Spirit is the Author, and his Servants are but the Pen-men of all the holy records. And hence we do right, when at any time we make quotations from the Word of God, instead of saying, (as is but too commonly done,) the Apostle, whose name the writing bears, saith thus, or thus: We consider God the Holy Ghost himself the speaker, by his servant, and give the Lord the glory. For this would tend, under God, to keep alive in our remembrance, both the Person and authority of Him that speaks; and cause us to look beyond the words which man's wisdom teacheth, to the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
The Epistle to the Romans, is placed first in point of order to all the writings of the Apostle Paul. But this priority is not on account of the time when written, for many of the Epistles which bear his name, were written before it. Perhaps it stands first in the list of Paul's Epistles, partly by reason of its bulk, being larger than all his other writings, and partly on being directed to the Church of the chief city in the Roman Empire.
The persons to whom it is addressed are said to be Romans. By which is meant, not the whole body of the people who lived at Rome; but the Church of God in that place. Paul indeed, declares as much, in the opening of the Epistle, when directing it: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to he saints. It is highly needful, that this should be always kept in view. And, not only in relation to this Epistle of Paul to the Romans, which is now before us, but in all the writings of the servants of the Lord, in their Epistles. And, I take occasion from hence to remark to the Reader, the great importance of the thing itself. For, to the general inattention on this subject, must be ascribed the sad perversion, which is not infrequently made, of particular passages in those holy writings, to wrong purposes. I mean, when the carnal and ungodly make application of certain words and promises found in them to themselves, and the world at large; which, if properly considered, would be found as belonging only to the Lord's people.
The place, and time of writing of this Epistle by may be easily learnt from the date, which is given in the close of it, and from several incidental passages we meet with here and there in the different parts of it. He dates it from And in the last Chapter, he tells the Church at that (that is, the city of . And this is further confirmed, by what the Apostle saith elsewhere, . Moreover, by whom sent this Epistle, is said to be a servant of the Church at a small seaport of the about eight miles from the city, . And, from these particulars, it is no difficult matter to discover the when the Apostle sent it to the Church; perhaps about the year of our Lord God when was on the eve of departure from ee.
and time of writing of this Epistle by Paul, may be easily learnt from the date, which is given in the close of it, and from several incidental passages we meet with here and there in the different parts of it. He dates it from Corinth. And in the last Chapter, he tells the Church at Rome, that Gaius, his host, and Erasius, the chamberlain of the city, (that is, the city of Corinth,) sent their salutations to the Church, Romans 16:23 . And this is further confirmed, by what the Apostle saith elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 1:14 ; Acts 18:8 . Moreover, Phoebe, by whom Paul sent this Epistle, is said to be a servant of the Church at Cenchrea, a small seaport of the Corinthians, about eight miles from the city, Romans 16:1-2 . And, from these particulars, it is no difficult matter to discover the time when the Apostle sent it to the Church; perhaps about the year of our Lord God 57, when Paul was on the eve of departure from Corinth, see Acts 20:2-3 .
But the most important point to be attended to, in these general observations, by way of introduction to the Epistle, is the enquiry, what was the great and leading object God the Holy Ghost might be supposed to have in view, in sending so blessed a portion of his holy word to the Church. And this, be it spoken to the Lord's glory, and the Church's happiness, is as plain and evident as if written with a sun-beam. The one chief doctrine taught in it to the Church, is the method of the sinner's acceptance before God, of justification alone, through faith, by the Lord Jesus Christ. This glorious truth runs through the whole Epistle, like one continued golden chain, linked together in all its bearings, and may be seen, more or less, in every Chapter. And the doctrine is set forth in such plain and clear terms, as if God the Spirit had determined, for the Church's happiness, that no possible mistake should arise, in the minds of any of his people, when taught of Him, on a point of such infinite consequence. Hence he shews, that this method of God's own providing of justification, in and by the Lord Jesus Christ, is totally distinguished from, and wholly unconnected with the law, either in whole, or in part: and, that an obedience to the precepts of the law, hath not the smallest share in contributing to the merciful design of Jehovah, in this plan of salvation. All is the result of free sovereign grace. Christ is here set forth as the One ordinance of heaven. Salvation is shewn to be in no other. Christ is the sole cause. And, even the sweet and precious influences of God the Holy Ghost, which manifest themselves in the hearts and lives of the redeemed, are shewn to be the blessed effects, and not in part the cause, of justification. The leading tenor and language of this blessed Epistle, runs, through the whole of it, to this effect; being justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3:24 .
The Reader will enter upon the perusal of this Epistle, and have a better apprehension of the whole contents of it, if I previously give him a brief analysis of the several Chapters.
The Apostle begins from the platform of the subject, at his first Chapter, with describing the miserable state of every man by nature, in consequence of the fall; and, in the instance of the city of Rome, at that time advanced to the greatest height of human science, but sunk to the lowest degree of profligacy, he fully proves, that the world, by wisdom, knew not God. From the Gentile, he next goes on to the Jew, and in his second and third Chapters, states a faithful account of that highly-favored nation. But here, as in the former instance, he makes it abundantly plain and evident, that all are alike included under sin: and that by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified before God, Romans 3:19-20 . Foreseeing, however, that some objections might be made to arise among those who prided themselves in their being descended from Abraham, as if the case of that great Patriarch became an exception to this statement of universal corruption; the Apostle, in his fourth Chapter, takes up the full force of the objection on this ground, and proves, in Abraham's instance, the truth of the doctrine which he had before asserted. He shews most fully and decidedly, that Abraham himself was actually justified by faith in Christ, even when he was in a state of uncircumcision. And that in fact the sign of circumcision was appointed him, as a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised, Romans 4:10-11 .
Having thus most clearly and blessedly proved the truth of the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ, by such palpable evidences, the Apostle's mind seems to have been led out in the vast comprehension of the glorious subject, as be had been led to write it, in those four Chapters: and therefore in the fifth, he runs back to the very beginning of time, and, in stating the fall of Adam, and the Church in him, the Apostle is led to shew, that, as misery and ruin came by this first Adam, so blessedness and salvation came by the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. He proves here, with equal clearness and force of truth, that it is the goodness and grace of God, to bring the Church out of that Adam-corruption, by a means in which they have no part in the performance, as they were involved in an original ruin, to which, by actual transgression, they did not contribute. As by the offence of one, (saith the Apostle,) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men to justification of life, Romans 5:18 .
The sixth, seventh, and eighth Chapters, are directed to set forth the blessedness of the dispensation, that being justified by faith, and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the persons of believers are freed from all condemnation; and, from their union with Christ, they partake in his triumphs over sin, death, hell, and the grave. And the Apostle very fully shews, that so far are these privileges from tending to relax the motives, to a corresponding life of sanctity and holiness, such principles become the only source to give life to it, and ensure it. The Apostle speaks with an holy indignation and abhorrence of the bare suspicion, that they, who by union with Christ, are dead to sin, could live any longer therein. He denies it, as a thing impossible, Romans 6:1-2 . And very sure it is, that where justification by faith in Christ, springs out of a grace union with Christ, (and where this is not the case there can be no justification,) the most ample security is made for everything that is blessed, in life and conversation. For, (saith the Apostle,) as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God, Romans 8:14 . And if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, Romans 8:14 .
In the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Chapters, the Apostle most blessedly dwells upon the grace and mercy of Jehovah, in his threefold character of persons, in this high dispensation of his sovereignty and holiness. And here he manifests the Almightiness of the teaching he was under, when he wrote this Epistle. He speaks with such humbleness of soul, while bowing down under a sense of Jehovah's wisdom and power in, his appointment of things, as carries with it the highest testimony that God the Holy Ghost guided the Apostle's pen.
The twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth Chapters, together with a part of the fifteenth, are directed to shew the Church what blessed effects will follow from those gracious principles formed in the heart, where the Lord's people are living in a state of justification, by faith in Christ, before God. For, while Christ is lived upon by faith, the Spirit of Christ dwells in the heart, and induceth everything that is truly blessed in life and practice. Christ being made the s ole cause of salvation, the Spirit of Christ, in the believer, manifest the effects, as the sole work of God the Spirit. And these things are not spoken so much as precepts, but as promises; not so much in a way of bidding, as enabling: similar to what the Lord Jesus said to his disciples; Abide in me, and I in you. Continue ye in my love: that is, ye shall abide in me; ye shall continue in my love; and I will abide in you, John 15:4-9 . See Commentary there.
And thus the Apostle having accomplished the great design which God the Holy Ghost had in view, when dictating this Epistle to the Church, Paul concludes the whole in the remainder of the fifteenth and the sixteenth Chapters, with his blessing and his prayers, accompanied with the affectionate remembrances of the brethren with him to the people, and desiring an interest in their prayers for him, in his person and ministry. And he closeth all, with giving glory to God through Jesus Christ.
Reader! I have only to call upon you, before we enter on the Epistle, to join me in spirit before the Throne, that the teachings of the same Almighty Lord, which guided the Apostle's pen, may guide our hearts, that in the reading of it, we may be made wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Amen.
the Second Week of Advent