Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Romans 5:12, et seq.; 8:31, et seq.; 11:33, et seq.). Paul first exhorts, by the example of Christ, to mutual condescension (vers. 1-3); he points out (vers. 4-7), as an end to be reached, the common adoration to which such conduct will bring the Church; finally (vers. 8-13), he indicates the 'special' part given to Jews and to Gentries in this song of the whole redeemed race. It as not now so much the particular question which has just been dealt with, as the whole question of which that was but a part, viz. the relation of a free, spiritual Christianity to the more or less Judaic Christianity of some, to which the apostle here directs his words. They are to be of one mind, that they may with one mouth glorify God.
I. A MUTUAL LOVE. The strong ought to show their strength by bearing the infirmities of the weak. And not only will their strength thus be most perfectly shown, but the love, which is more than strength. For this love is the law of the new life. Shall we then please ourselves, by pluming ourselves on our liberty, our superior faith? Nay, rather, we must seek, in love, to please our neighbour. But not merely as pleasing him, though this is an end to be sought; but as pleasing him in harmony with all right principle, viz. for his good, unto edifying. There must be the desire to contribute comfort, joy; but, above this, and as controlling all else, the desire to contribute to his building up in holiness and love. And what is our great inspiration to this helpfulness of sacrificing love? We have the mind of Christ! Did he please himself? How, then, had we been saved? Nay, rather, for our sake he gave up all. In him was seen pre-eminently the spirit of sacrifice expressed in the ancient words, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me." And as generally the ancient Scriptures were written that we might also endure all things for God's sake, being comforted of God, and so have hope of the perfect salvation at last, ought we not in this particular respect to make the sacrifice required, bearing even the weak scruples of our brethren, that together, through God's comfort, we may have hope of heaven? Yes, we must be "of the same mind one with another according to Christ Jesus."
II. A COMMON PRAISE. What shall be the result of loving like-mindedness, in which all differences are sunk? A glorifying of God, with one accord. And the one united psalm shall be but the expression of one common thanksgiving, filling the hearts of all, for the love wherewith God hath loved them. Is not this the end of all God's redeeming work, that all should join in loving praise to God, being redeemed with one common redemption - a praise shown forth, not only with the lips, but in the lives? So should all things be made new. To this end was Christ's work, that Jew and Gentile together might be saved by a true and merciful God. The ancient Scriptures foresaw this grand result, the blending of Gentile and Jewish praise in one large harmony. So David's declaration (Psalm 18:49); so the invitation of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:43); so again the psalmist (Psalm 117:1); and so Isaiah's prophecy of hope: all of which could find their true fulfilment only in such a loving union of the Jewish and Gentile world in the glad service of their one God and Christ as now filled the apostle's view. One chief guarantee of the mutual love and common praise shall be the united hope of a perfect salvation. Let them look to God for this, and he shall grant them a faith, and a realized power of God through faith, which shall give them joy and peace now, amid whatever outward disturbances, as being the pledge of all things good guaranteed to us for that future. So should their songs abound; so should their hearts be one: praise helping love, and love helping praise, and God all in all! - T.F.L.
public character, regulating his life by the spiritual interests of all around him. In this respect he will be following Christ.
I. THE PLEASING OF OTHERS, NOT THE PLEASING OF OURSELVES, IS TO BE THE RULE OF OUR CHRISTIAN LIVING. NOW, this does not mean:
1. Popularity-hunting. For this is securing a selfish end by means of gratifying our neighbours. It is self-pleasing in a subtle and deceptive shape. It is self-pleasing, even though it may involve the degradation of our neighbour. And it does mean:
2. The conciliation and even humouring of our neighbour with a view to his edification. This is real love, going all lengths to serve and edify a neighbour. We will bear with him, even humour him, with the thoroughly unselfish end of securing his edification. It is the very essence of public service. What a contrast it presents to the self-seeking which, alas! goes on among men under the name of public services!
II. IN THIS LIFTING UP OF OUR FELLOWS WE SHALL BE STRENGTHENED BY LOOKING UP TO CHRIST. For the whole spirit of our Master's ministry consisted in pleasing ethers and not himself. Not, indeed, that men understood his plan. The gospel does not appear at first to promote men's pleasure. It humiliates, it breaks them down, it calls for penitential tenderness; but it secures peace through pardon, and the joy which comes through believing. Our Lord's sufferings were consequently in the long run with a view to the real and abiding pleasure of men. And so he was constantly lifting them up, so far as they would allow him. His very crucifixion was to please others, and secure their edification. A broad view of Christ's history, therefore, shows it to have been a pleasing of others, not of himself. He became a servant of the circumcision that the Jews might be brought to peace and joy; he became the Saviour and so the Joy of the Gentiles. In both respects he was pleasing and edifying others, not pleasing himself. HIS self-sacrificing life becomes thus the fountain-head for public service.
III. THE GOSPEL THUS DISTINGUISHES ITSELF FROM UTILITARIAN TEACHING. For instead of directing us to regulate our conduct by self-pleasing, which is at bottom the utilitarian principle, it directs us to please our neighbour unto edification, and in the spirit of Christ. Nor is our pleasing of our neighbour to secure personal comfort; this may ultimately be given into the bargain, but it will assuredly be missed if made our end. "A great German poet and philosopher," says Dr. Martineau, "was fond of defining religion as consisting in a reverence for inferior beings. The definition is paradoxical; but though it does not express the essence of religion, it assuredly designates one of its effects. True, there could be no reverence for lower natures, were there not, to begin with, the recognition of a Supreme Mind; but the moment that recognition exists, we certainly look on all that is beneath with a different eye. It becomes an object, not of pity and protection only, but of sacred respect; and our sympathy, which had been that of a humane fellow-creature, is converted into the deferential help of a devout worker of God's will. And so the loving service of the weak and wanting is an essential part of the discipline of the Christian life. Some habitual association with the poor, the dependent, the sorrowful, is an indispensable source of the highest elements of character."
IV. A BUOYANT, HOPEFUL SPIRIT SHOULD BE OURS IN ALL OUR PUBLIC WORK. For it is "the God of hope" with whom we have to do. And humanity is being lifted up by the Christian spirit of service. And great things are in store for the earth. Peace, joy, hope, should in consequence characterize every one who names the name of Jesus and professes to follow him in service. God grant it to us all! - R.M.E.
I. CHRIST HAS INTRODUCED INTO MORALS A BEAUTIFUL MODEL AND A POWERFUL MOTIVE. His pattern life is best appreciated by comparing it with ancient heathen manners. The impossibility of inventing such an ideal is the proof of the genuineness of the Gospel narratives. The story is vivid and consistent because a record of fact. An example instructs more than any prolixity of statement or precept. Lecturers know this by their illustrations and experiments. It is one thing to hear of truth, goodness, beauty, from the lips of Plato; quite another to see it live and breathe before our eyes. Cicero could describe the "perfect man" according to his conceptions of perfection; Christ alone exemplified it. And the relationship of Christ to his followers, as not only Teacher but Saviour, imparts tenfold force to his example. He has definite claims upon our obedience, and dearest links of love bind us to the imitation of our Master. His life on earth has been a stream irrigating the parched desert, and has taught us how to make canals of philanthropic benevolence, deriving their idea and element from the river of his love. In fanatical Jerusalem and luxurious Antioch, in philosophic Athens and pleasure-loving Corinth, in colonial Philippi and imperial Rome, this river of grace proved its power to fertilize and beautify. And today we trace a likeness to Christ in the missionary, content to dwell in malarial swamps, and yield his life for the salvation of the degraded; in the tired mother cheerfully continuing at her household toil whilst she uplifts her thoughts to the Redeemer; and in the Church officer leaving his comfortable fireside after his day's work is done to minister to a brother in sickness. In the repression of a hasty word and biting sarcasm, in the gift unostentatiously placed in the hands of the poor, we behold reflected the self-sacrifice of Christ.
II. THE FEATURE OF CHRIST'S LIFE ON WHICH STRESS IS HERE LAID. He was unselfish; he "pleased not himself." This does not imply that he felt no personal pleasure in his mission of mercy. "I delight to do thy will, O my God." But:
1. He sought not to promote his own ease and comfort, but the edification of others. He would not pander to vitiated taste; he taught what men most needed to know, not what gratified the vanity of his hearers, though he, thereby aroused their enmity and created the storm which burst in wrath upon his head. At great cost of physical labour and spiritual weariness he performed works of love. See him asleep from fatigue in the heaving vessel, and fainting under the load of his cross.
2. He gloried not himself, but the work he came to accomplish. He might have summoned angels to his side, he might have led an uprising of the populace, have overawed the rulers, and selected the wisest and wealthiest as his companions and disciples. But the truth was more than all to him. His meat and drink were to do the will of his Father. He had left for this the splendour of the upper realms, and stooped to the form of a servant, and the obedience of a shameful, agonizing death.
III. To FOLLOW CHRIST IS TO MAKE THE OLD TESTAMENT A WELLSPRING OF PATIENCE AND HOPE. The persecution which Christ met with showed him treading in the steps of Scripture heroes. The language of the psalmist is quoted by the apostle as typically expressing the lot of Christ. The chief pangs of a devoted life are caused by the opposition of an ungodly world. Our Lord exposed the hollow pretensions of the Jewish religionists by declaring that true love to God in the heart would listen to the teachings of his Son, would acknowledge in him the promised Messiah, and would recognize in his deeds the echo of the Scriptures. It fortifies Christian sufferers to know that they are in the line of the faithful. No new thing hath happened, for the same afflictions were accomplished in our brethren before. If, then, others have bravely endured and maintained their confidence, so may we. And the ancient writings testify that men, in pleasing God and serving their day and generation, realized true satisfaction, an inward peace and joy indestructible. So we, too, may discover that the road to happiness is holy self-denial. We are slow to learn that the bitter rind covers grateful fruit, that death is the gate to life, and humility the stepping-stone to honour. Obedience prepares us to wield authority; and to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing is to prove how inseparably the kingdom of God and our own good are combined. Miserly selfishness overreaches itself; the restricted heart dies of inanition. He who will always get from others knows not the blessedness of giving. The wine of Christian charity flushes the spirit with a generous emotion, pure and God-like, the nectar of the skies. - S.R.A.
He does this by revealing God. He is Emmanuel, "God with us." "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Christ reveals the Divine character. He reveals it in his teaching - the Divine holiness. He reveals it in his cross - the Divine mercy. He reveals it in his resurrection - the Divine power. Christ saves us also by reproducing or restoring in us the image of God. In the renewed nature God becomes part of us. He dwells in us and we in him. The law of heredity emphasizes the fact that children bear not only the bodily, but the mental and moral characteristics of their parents. The character of the parent reappears in the child. So the character of God reappears in his people. Three features of God's character St. Paul speaks of here, and wants his readers to think of them in relation to their own character and life.
I. THE GOD OF PATIENCE.
1. The Divine Being manifests patience in waiting. He waits patiently for the fulfilment of his plans. Thousands of years he waited for the sending of the Saviour. All that time he occupied in the training of Israel, and in the preparing of the nations, till, at the time when Jesus came, the world was ripe and ready for his coming. What a lesson for us! How impatient we are! If we do not see immediate results, we think our work is a failure. "Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
2. The Divine Being is patient in enduring. How he bore with Israel, with all Israel's backsliding and. repeated sins! How he bears with us, with our disobedience and our inconsistencies! His patience with us is in marked contrast with our impatience toward our fellow-men. How impatient we are with our subordinates or our fellow-workers, with the slowness and stupidity which they sometimes manifest! Let us imitate the patience of God. We need to learn how to bear with others. Strife is the result of impatience, of intolerance. Unity is the result of patience. This was the apostle's idea, and his practical purpose in referring to the patience of God. "The God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus" (ver. 5). Let us be patient in enduring all suffering and trial.
"Angel of patience! sent to calm "There's quiet in that angel's glance, "O thou who mournest on the way II. THE GOD OF HERE. Nature is full of hope. Day follows night. Spring follows winter. "And ever upon old decay We hope in thee, O God, III. THE GOD OF PEACE. "The God of peace be with you all" (ver. 33). Peace is essentially a part of the Divine character. No storms disturb his rest. No sinfulness is in his being, and therefore no conflict in his moral nature. If the God of peace is with us, then peace will pervade our own spirit and life. There will be not only the peace that comes from pardon, but also the peace that comes from the victory over indwelling and besetting sin. There is a striking phrase in the next chapter: "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20). If the God of peace is in our hearts, we shall cultivate peace with our fellow-men. "Live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Thus we see how profitable it is to contemplate the character of God, the God of patience, the God of hope, the God of peace, so that endurance and forbearance, hopefulness and joy, unity and peace, may be manifest in our lives. - C.H.I.
"There's quiet in that angel's glance, "O thou who mournest on the way II. THE GOD OF HERE. Nature is full of hope. Day follows night. Spring follows winter. "And ever upon old decay We hope in thee, O God, III. THE GOD OF PEACE. "The God of peace be with you all" (ver. 33). Peace is essentially a part of the Divine character. No storms disturb his rest. No sinfulness is in his being, and therefore no conflict in his moral nature. If the God of peace is with us, then peace will pervade our own spirit and life. There will be not only the peace that comes from pardon, but also the peace that comes from the victory over indwelling and besetting sin. There is a striking phrase in the next chapter: "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20). If the God of peace is in our hearts, we shall cultivate peace with our fellow-men. "Live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Thus we see how profitable it is to contemplate the character of God, the God of patience, the God of hope, the God of peace, so that endurance and forbearance, hopefulness and joy, unity and peace, may be manifest in our lives. - C.H.I.
"O thou who mournest on the way II. THE GOD OF HERE. Nature is full of hope. Day follows night. Spring follows winter. "And ever upon old decay We hope in thee, O God, III. THE GOD OF PEACE. "The God of peace be with you all" (ver. 33). Peace is essentially a part of the Divine character. No storms disturb his rest. No sinfulness is in his being, and therefore no conflict in his moral nature. If the God of peace is with us, then peace will pervade our own spirit and life. There will be not only the peace that comes from pardon, but also the peace that comes from the victory over indwelling and besetting sin. There is a striking phrase in the next chapter: "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20). If the God of peace is in our hearts, we shall cultivate peace with our fellow-men. "Live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Thus we see how profitable it is to contemplate the character of God, the God of patience, the God of hope, the God of peace, so that endurance and forbearance, hopefulness and joy, unity and peace, may be manifest in our lives. - C.H.I.
II. THE GOD OF HERE. Nature is full of hope. Day follows night. Spring follows winter.
I. THEIR MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST. "Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us" (ver. 7). Both have been received by Christ: why not, then, by one another? Why should our views of Episcopacy or Presbytery, Calvinism or Arminianism, interfere with our relationship as brethren in Christ? St. Paul shows that both Jews and Gentiles have a direct personal interest in Christ and relationship to him. "Jesus Christ was a Minister of the circumcision" (ver. 8). Therefore the Jew should not look upon Jesus of Nazareth as an alien, but as his kinsman according to the flesh. He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil. But because he is a Jew, he is not, therefore, without an interest in the Gentiles. The apostle shows how even the Jewish writings looked forward to an incorporation of the Gentiles with the people of God, and to their sharing the blessings which the Messiah was to confer (vers. 10-12). "In him shall the Gentiles trust." How precious, then, should be the Name of Jesus to all the children of humanity! How the universal brotherhood of Christians is here enforced!
II. THEIR MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP TO THE GOSPEL, Not only was it predicted that both Jews and Gentiles would be joint partakers in the benefits of the Messiah's kingdom, but in actual fact the gospel has come to both. St. Paul, who was himself a Jew, experienced the blessings of the gospel. He, in his turn, communicated those blessings to the Gentiles. He was "the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God" (ver. 16). Truly, the gospel is a great reconciler. How it breaks down the prejudices of race and class and caste! Let the gospel only become a real, living power in our own heart and life, and we shall go forth, like St. Paul, to share its blessings with others, winning them by a spirit of love, no matter what our prejudices against them may have been.
III. THEIR DUTY OF MUTUAL HELPFULNESS. At the time of writing this Epistle St. Paul was on an errand which gave practical proof of the mutual sympathy between Gentile and Jewish Christians. He was on his way to Jerusalem (ver. 25). He was taking with him a contribution which the Gentile Christians of Macedonia and Achaia had made for their Jewish brethren at Jerusalem, who at this time were in poverty (ver. 26). He takes the occasion to say that this act of generosity, cheerfully performed, was indeed a Christian duty. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things" (vet, 27). Here is a reason for missionary efforts among the Jews. They have been the channel through which blessings have flowed to us: shall we not be the channel through which the blessings of the gospel shall flow to them? Here is a reason for the support of the Christian ministry. It is wise and prudent that those who are to be teachers and preachers of the Word, and pastors of the flock, should devote themselves to that work only. How, then, are they to be supported? By the generosity of those to whom they minister. If the latter are "partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things." Such mutual helpfulness all Christians ought to cultivate towards one another. - C.H.I.
I. CHRIST RECEIVES MEN GLADLY. Not reluctantly, but heartily, with outstretched arms and promise of blessing. See this evinced in the Gospel narratives. He was moved with compassion toward the multitudes; gave royal invitations - "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink;" "Come unto me, all ye that labour." This can be verified in our own experience; for Christ lives and rules over our hearts and lives, dispenses his favours freely; and the peace and joy that filled our hearts in trusting him were the testimony of his delight, the fire descending from heaven to certify the acceptance of our sacrifice. Contrast Christ's interest in Saul's conversion with the latter's cool reception by the Church at Jerusalem, where the apostle had been abandoned to utter neglect but for Barnabas. The kingdom of God is no close corporation, like a city company, afraid of its membership growing too large for the spoils to be divided; or a House of Lords, where a large influx lessens individual importance. But our desire must be for the Church to increase till it sways the globe. Our Christian societies should be as a fostering greenhouse to young life, or as a warm bath that dissipates spiritual rheumatism, where the outside chill may be forgotten, and men may rise from a hostile crowd to a sanctuary of peace and love.
II. CHRIST RECEIVES MEN IN SPITE OF THEIR IMPERFECTIONS Though sin-stained and despairing of righteousness, helpless with frequent falls, ignorant with a dulness which is realized more each day, yet our worthlessness was not spurned by the Saviour. For this reason he drew us to himself, to heal and save us, to instruct and improve us, to develop into maturity any latent germ of good. He sees what men may become under genial influences - the image of God renewed; the dry stick swelling into life and blossom; the plot of barren ground a garden. If we wait till our brethren are faultless, we shall have little communion this side of heaven. If they are not as cultured or as large-hearted, all the more do they need our stimulating converse; and if not doctrinally perfect, they will learn.
III. CHRIST RECEIVES MEN IMPARTIALLY, making no invidious distinctions. This was Peter's argument for the admission of the Gentiles (Acts 11:17; Acts 15:9). One presented, at court may demand the countenance of any ambassador; for whom the sovereign hath received, all her servants must honour. Whom Christ hath admitted to his grace we are bound to acknowledge. The Saviour on earth demanded sincerity in would-be followers. This is the explanation of any apparent sternness. He would have none enter on a Christian career without counting the cost, and showing a wholehearted readiness to obey. Feeble faith, if genuine, he never refused to bless. Hypocrisy, delusion, he pitilessly unmasked; but trembling seekers he smiled upon with Divine encouragement. Why distrust his magnanimity now? Why fear a scornful rejection of your prayers and service?
IV. CHRIST REGARDS IN ALL THINGS THE GLORY OF GOD. Note his constant reference to the Father's will. He preached that misunderstandings respecting God might be cleared away. He relieved and cheered the suffering that they might know and praise the mercy of God. He gave his life that the dark shadow of human guilt might no longer eclipse the glory of the Divine government. The end cometh, when Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, having subjected all things to God. And through him the same principle actuates his disciples. It is men who have some noble end in view that can rise above petty meannesses and jealousies, caring no longer for personal rank and power, content to be abased if thereby the kingdom of God may be advanced. The zeal of God's house consumes the fleshly, ease-loving, envious "me," and substitutes a bright blaze of pure, affectionate solicitude for God and man. There are doubtless seasons when individual dignity must be asserted; there is no season when it is not in place to consider the glory of God. That glory includes our own highest good. It is no ear of Juggernaut trampling on the devotees; any contradiction is on the surface merely, and in the future life a lasting reconciliation shall be seen established between man's satisfaction and the authority of his Maker. - S.R.A.
hope. And this leads the apostle to utter the supplication of the text.
I. THE TITLE GIVEN TO GOD. The God of hope." The names of God in the Scriptures emphasize his personality and close relationship with his creatures more than any designations in philosophy or mythology. He has established a plan of salvation which is the substantial warrant for hope, and, besides this objective provision, does himself inspire hope subjectively in his people. The bestowment of every grace is attributed to him. Naturally does the apostle, in his anxiety for the hopefulness of Christians, invoke a blessing from the God of hope. Our prayers are fashioned according to our conception of the Hearer of prayer. Hope concerns two things - what we desire, and what we anticipate. When either of these characteristics is absent, hope fails. And we are not to imagine that hope belongs only to us limited beings; for though to the omniscient eye the future is visible, God, like ourselves, cherishes confident expectations. He, too, welcomes the era when his fair dominions shall not he defiled with sin. He is as much delighted with the prospect of triumphant grace as any of us can be. If we wonder why the period is not hastened, the solution is to be found in the nature of man. Forcibly to overcome man's power of resistance would be to destroy the plant in the moment of its flowering, or to crush the drowning in the very act of rescue. The trophies of redemption are to be monuments of moral suasion. The kingdom spreads not by sword and garments rolled in blood, but by the kindling of the fuel of love in the heart of man. What an idea of the patience of the Almighty is presented in the myriad ages through which this earth has been slowly prepared for the residence of man! We are like children, who cannot wait cheerfully for the coming feast; we lose heart if the chariot delays.
II. THE PRAYER. "Fill you with all joy and peace in believing." We may lawfully seek, not only to obey the precepts, but to enjoy the comforts of the gospel. True, the gospel ideal is blessedness rather than happiness; yet its intent is to bring present serenity and gladness, not to leave us all our life trembling in doubt. It is a remedy for present ills, a foretaste of coming bliss. Peace and joy are virtues; there is no merit attached to disquiet and mournfulness. Faith is the ground of peace and joy, or the instrument through which God communicates these blessings. "In believing" is put for the whole of Christian conduct. Expect peace and joy whilst you hold fast to the message which imparted glad tranquillity at the first, whilst you remember the obligations and partake of the privileges of the gospel. Without faith, joy and peace can no more enter the soul than hunger and thirst can be relieved without eating and drinking. Faith grows by exercise, mounts aloft on experience like the vine on the trellis. It is not honourable to be for ever questioning the credibility of Christ. Faith knocks at the door and gains admittance into the mansion of light and song; unbelief examines the door, and questions the resources of the palace. When our right to our inheritance is challenged, we may examine again the title-deeds; but it is not in the law courts that we learn to prize our possessions. The prayer of the text teaches not to rest content with meagre supplies. How exuberant the apostle's language! "Fill you with all peace," etc. There is joy of every kind arising from service and communion - joy intellectual and emotional; joy in our own advance and in the widening bounds of the kingdom of Christ. We are too apt to sink to a certain level of monotony. Our course is circular, too seldom spiral reaching upwards.
III. THE END IN VIEW. "That ye may abound in hope." Here again see the spiritual vehemence of the apostle. He knew that every Gentile believer cherished hope; but he would have this hope to abound in every season, under every circumstance. Some Christians, like birds in an eclipse of the sun, are sure that the shades betoken night. Now, the Christian who is rich in peace and joy cannot help reasoning from the present to the future; his ecstasy tints every cloud with roseate hues. He is youthful in spirit, lives in a
"... boyhood of wonder and hope, IV. THE CONDITION EXPRESSED. "Through the power of the Holy Ghost." The human condition was "believing;" the Divine is the energy of the Spirit. And since he dwells in believers, his aid may surely be reckoned on. This hope, therefore, is neither painted in water nor written in dust. It is not made so much dependent on our reasonings or struggles as on that life from God which is the answer to all man's pleas and excuses. He says, "I am weak, I cannot." God says, "I will pour my Spirit upon you." How vast the difference between the dull, timid disciples and the same when "filled with the Spirit " - enthusiastic, vigorous, ready to preach and to take joyfully the spoiling of their persons and property! Let our cry be, "Come, Holy Sprat, come. Breathe about our wintry chills, scatter our darkness, raise our plane of thought and feeling! - S.R.A.
IV. THE CONDITION EXPRESSED. "Through the power of the Holy Ghost." The human condition was "believing;" the Divine is the energy of the Spirit. And since he dwells in believers, his aid may surely be reckoned on. This hope, therefore, is neither painted in water nor written in dust. It is not made so much dependent on our reasonings or struggles as on that life from God which is the answer to all man's pleas and excuses. He says, "I am weak, I cannot." God says, "I will pour my Spirit upon you." How vast the difference between the dull, timid disciples and the same when "filled with the Spirit " - enthusiastic, vigorous, ready to preach and to take joyfully the spoiling of their persons and property! Let our cry be, "Come, Holy Sprat, come. Breathe about our wintry chills, scatter our darkness, raise our plane of thought and feeling! - S.R.A.
Romans 1:1-15), on his personal relations to the Church at Rome. And he reintroduces the subject with much delicate courtesy. He may have seemed to be speaking somewhat boldly, to have assumed a knowledge and goodness superior to theirs: not so! They, he was sure, were "full of goodness, filled with all knowledge," and therefore "able to admonish one another." But he might at least remind them of what they knew; and this, not by any superiority of himself to them, but only by the grace of God; not as a better or wiser Christian man, but as an apostle commissioned by God. We have here set forth, then, much as before, his apostleship, his purpose respecting them, and his request for their prayers on his behalf. By this last, again, with much delicacy, making prominent his dependence on them, rather than theirs on him.
I. HIS APOSTLESHIP. He was put in trust by God with the gospel for the Gentiles. And his fulfilment of this trust was as a priestly service, which he should perform, not proudly, but faithfully. And what a service! ministering the gospel in this great temple of the new kingdom, that he might offer up as a sacrifice the whole Gentile world! His thoughts, perhaps, revert to the words he has used in Romans 12:1; and what a vision greets his view as he looks into the future - all the kindreds, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues of this manifold world, praising God with the harmonious psalm of a consecrated life, offering themselves a living sacrifice! Better this than all the bleeding victims of the older dispensation; all man's intellect and affection and energy of action, all science and art, all industry and commerce, all the multifarious activities of all lives, offered to God! And this was his work, to minister the gospel that the offering might be made, acceptable because sanctified by the Holy Ghost. He would glory in such a work as this, for Christ's sake! For all was through Christ, and the great work already done was only Christ's work
II. HIS PURPOSE. Now, there was one aim which governed him in the fulfilment of this work - he would preach the gospel only where it was not known before. Thus from place to place he went, proclaiming the glad tidings to those who had not heard. And hence to this present, having so much room for such work in those eastward parts, he had been hindered from visiting Rome. Now the hindrance was removed: he had "no more any place in these regions." And still impelled by the constraining purpose to preach the gospel to those "to whom no tidings of him came," he must now turn westwards, even to Spain. And, m passing to Spain, there is every reason why he should pause for mutual refreshment, as he delicately puts it, amongst a people who were, indirectly at least, the fruit of his labours - the Christians at Rome. And coming to them, he would come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ.
III. HIS REQUEST. But, meanwhile, there is another mission to fulfil - the mission of charity to the poor saints at Jerusalem. Prominence of this matter among the Churches (see 1 Corinthians 16.; Acts 20:4). Probable cause of necessity, withholding of custom from Christians on the part of their fellow-Jews. Mere charity demander that help should be given; and not only so, the Gentiles were bound in honour to pay, as it were, in this way, a debt they owed; for their salvation was "of the Jews." But what further constrained Paul to be urgent in this matter was his desire that the charity of the Gentile Churches might overcome all the prejudices that still subsisted amongst the Jewish Christians against the full and free admission of the Gentiles into the Christian Church. And for this, and also for his own security amongst many enemies, he asks the prayers of the Christians at Rome. Then he shall come to them in joy, and find rest. In any case, be he troubled or not, may the God of peace be with them! So does he exemplify, by his yearning love and courtesy of love, the spirit which he seeks to foster in them; so does he, as he would have them do, refer all his doings to the Lord Christ and the will of God. Most surely the God of peace was with him! - T.F.L.
I. PAUL'S REASONS FOR WRITING TO THE ROMANS. (Vers. 14-21.) It is not because the Church at Rome is deficient in either knowledge or preaching power. The list in last chapter shows how many able men and women composed the Church. But the reason is:
1. Because Paul is apostle to the Gentiles. The Church at Rome should enjoy his care as well as the other Gentiles. The only difference is that in this case he has not been the pioneer, as he had been in so many other Gentile Churches. And regarding this apostleship he is careful to speak of:
(1) Its sacred character. He has not only been a minister of Jesus Christ (λειτουργὸς), but has also been "doing holy service" (ἱερουργοῦντα) in the matter of the gospel of God, that the Gentiles might be got ready as an offering. It is a pre-eminently holy office which the apostle has been exercising.
(2) The means employed have been the gospel of God. Paul carried "good tidings" from God to the Gentiles, and this splendid Epistle shows how full a message he brought. Then:
(3) Its end was that the Gentiles should become an acceptable offering. Consecration is the great purpose of salvation, to make them obedient in word and deed and dedicated in heart and life to God's glory.
(4) He has had a wide success in his enterprise. Signs and wonders have been wrought by the power of the Spirit of God round a large district of the heathen world.
2. But having been prevented hitherto frets coming to Rome, he indites this Epistle to them. It is as a token from the unavoidably absent apostle that he writes the Epistle.
II. HE SKETCHES HIS PROGRAMME FOR THEM. (Vers. 22-28.) And first he has to go up from Corinth with money for the poor saints of the mother Church at Jerusalem. From that Church the gospel has come to the Gentiles, and it is only reasonable that there should be now a return in the time of their need. A return in carnal things is to be expected after the reception of spiritual things. He hopes when he has got through this service at Jerusalem to come by Rome to Spain. He hoped to make his advent to Rome as a free man - he did not then think it would be as a prisoner.
III. HE IS CERTAIN HE WILL COME AS A BLESSING TO THEM. (Ver. 29.) He is inspired with moral certainty that his advent will not be in vain. It is such an assurance of blessing through us that should animate every worker for the Master. Rome was to feel the effects of Paul's visit for years. And so it did.
IV. PAUL'S REQUEST FOR INTERCESSION. (Vers. 30-32.) His assurance of blessing, instead of minimizing, only intensified his prayer, and led him to ask others to intercede for him. And here we notice:
1. The ground of the request. It is "for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit." By all that Christ has been for them and the Spirit has been with them and in them, he asks them to intercede.
2. The substance of the request. For deliverance from unbelievers in Judaea, for acceptance among the poor saints, and for a joyful and refreshing advent to Rome. Of these the last two were answered and the first was denied. Yet his apprehension by the unbelievers was overruled for great spiritual good.
V. THE BENEDICTION. (Ver. 33.) The God of peace, the great Peace-maker, is asked to be with them, making them a peaceful, happy Church at Rome. It is a message of peace that an apostle brings. - R.M.E.
I. EVERY BENEFIT RECEIVED LAYS US UNDER AN OBLIGATION TO OUR BENEFACTORS. As stewards of the gospel the saints in Judea had betrayed their trust if guilty silence restrained their lips from communicating to the world the panacea revealed for human ill. But this fact did not set the Greeks free from indebtedness to the Churches which, recognizing their responsibility, had sent to them the message of life. Whatever the reason that has procured us some kindness or favour, gratitude is incumbent upon us. Not to acknowledge it betrays baseness of soul. And the greatest benefits are those pertaining to our spiritual well-being. These are nobler, more satisfying, more lasting than any treasures of gold or marble, any appeasing of temporal hunger or nakedness, or any rescue from earthly distress or danger. The knowledge, the consolation, the stimulus which a missionary, a teacher, or a pastor imparts are of incomparable value. Is it a matter for wonder that, in return for spiritual gifts, men bestow of their carnal things? Those who clamour for a cheap ministry display woeful inappreciation of the riches of Christ. The return which our Lord demands for his own self-sacrifice is that his servants and brethren be honourably treated and succoured. He still regards his poor; hence our collections at the Lord's Supper.
II. To THE RIGHT-MINDED THE DISCHARGE OF SUCH AN OBLIGATION IS A SOURCE OF PLEASURE. Not in order to get rid of any sense of liability; this would be mean, even if possible; but we are glad of an opportunity of visibly certifying our gratitude. The outward expression of any inward feeling is a delight. A generous emotion ministers a pure joy, which ever seeks for ways and means of demonstration. The memory of Christ's gift of himself to us bestirs us to seek out worthy objects, needy souls on whom the mantle of charity may fittingly fall. "He became poor for our sakes/' The disinclination to give liberally melts away under the impulse of Divine love. Men who grudge the demands of the tax-collector will voluntarily, cheerfully contribute to the dissemination of Christian truth.
"The poorest poor III. THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF THE REQUITAL MUST BE MEASURED BY OUR RESOURCES AND THE WANTS OF OTHERS. God provides for his family by the mutual interdependence and assistance of the members thereof. Whilst unlimited competition and the survival of the strongest tend to make life's battle of hell, unrestricted helpfulness blesses every heart and laud. The Christian law of supply and demand is designed to correct the injuries and supplement the deficiencies of close-fisted political economy. Power is, rightly understood, a capacity to help, not a weapon of destruction to the weak. The men of leisure can visit the sick and suffering; the rich have ability to relieve the needy; and the cultured may bestow on others the results of their mental diligence. "Such as I have give I you." "It is accepted according to that a man hath." As the world is one great market supplied by every land, so the special distress of one country appeals to all for relief. "We do not well, if this be a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace." - S.R.A.
III. THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF THE REQUITAL MUST BE MEASURED BY OUR RESOURCES AND THE WANTS OF OTHERS. God provides for his family by the mutual interdependence and assistance of the members thereof. Whilst unlimited competition and the survival of the strongest tend to make life's battle of hell, unrestricted helpfulness blesses every heart and laud. The Christian law of supply and demand is designed to correct the injuries and supplement the deficiencies of close-fisted political economy. Power is, rightly understood, a capacity to help, not a weapon of destruction to the weak. The men of leisure can visit the sick and suffering; the rich have ability to relieve the needy; and the cultured may bestow on others the results of their mental diligence. "Such as I have give I you." "It is accepted according to that a man hath." As the world is one great market supplied by every land, so the special distress of one country appeals to all for relief. "We do not well, if this be a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace." - S.R.A.
Acts 28:31). There were two elements in his confident expectation.
I. HIS CONFIDENCE IN THE BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL. "The fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." St. Paul felt that the best blessing he could bring to any city, or any people whom he visited, was the blessing of the gospel. Four features in the gospel have made it a blessing to the world.
1. It is a gospel of love and mercy. This was a new message to the world. What a contrast to the cruel gods of heathenism is the merciful God whom the gospel proclaims! 2. It is a gospel of salvation.
2. It is a gospel of salvation.It not only shows us the evil of sin and the guilt of it, but it tells us of a Saviour. Here is its transcendent superiority over the best of the heathen religions. Not only so, but the Saviour of whom it speaks is a Divine Saviour. He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through him.
3. It is a gospel of everlasting life. What hopes it opens up! What a stimulus it gives us to exertion to remember that they that are faithful unto death shall receive the crown of life that fadeth not away! It teaches us that this life is eternal in its consequences, and thus exercises a purifying and elevating influence upon the lives of men. What comfort it brings to the bereaved to know that the grave does not end all, but that there is another and a better life beyond! The hope of the agnostic has recently been expressed in a popular novel, 'John Ward, Preacher.' The heroine expresses her hope for the future by speaking of it as "an eternal sleep." Where is the stimulus to exertion there? Where is there any comfort for the bereaved? When death is drawing nigh, the dying Christian and those who are to be left behind can appreciate the blessing of that gospel which has brought life and immortality to light.
4. It is a gospel of light and guidance. It points out to us the path of duty. It gives us not only wise precepts, but the personal example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here also it transcends all human systems of religion and morality. The best of human teachers have not been free from imperfection and sin. Christ alone can truly say, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." He alone has the right to say to us - a right vindicated not only by his Divine authority, but by his perfect character - "Follow me." The influence of Jesus Christ and his example is one of the most precious blessings of the gospel. In the year 1876 the centennial of the United States was celebrated. General Grant was then president. The editors of the Sunday School Times wrote to him, requesting him to give them a message for children and youth in their centennial number. In his reply he said, "My advice to Sunday schools, no matter of what denomination, is - Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties, write its precepts on your hearts, and practise them in your lives. To the influence of this book are we indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future." He, too, had confidence in the gospel, and in the blessings which it brings to the individual and the nation.
II. HIS CONFIDENCE IN THE CHRISTIAN'S POWER TO COMMUNICATE THIS BLESSING. The apostle's words express not only his belief in the blessing of the gospel, but also his confidence that he can and will communicate that blessing. "I am sure that, when I crone to you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." And yet it was not a confidence in self, in his own lemming or eloquence. It was a confidence in Christ. He knew whom he had believed. Twenty-five years he had been serving him, and he had more than once proved the Divine power of Christ's presence and help. Our power to communicate the blessings of the gospel depends on two things.
1. A personal knowledge of the gospel. 2. Constant communion with Christ.
2. Constant communion with Christ.A life of prayer is indispensable if we would live a life of usefulness. These two things, personal knowledge of the gospel and personal communion with Christ, will make us independent of time and circumstances. They impart strength and confidence. It was all the same to St. Paul how or when he went to Rome. As if he said, "No matter how, no matter when I come to you, one thing I am sure of, that I shall bring the rich blessing of Christ's gospel with me." As a matter of fact, he came there as a prisoner, but even thus he brought a blessing. Whether we are rich or poor, learned or unlearned, we shall be sure to carry a blessing to the circles in which we move, if only we have first of all experienced the power of the gospel in our own hearts, and then realize our constant dependence upon Christ. There are two ways in which we can communicate this blessing.
1. By our Christian character. The Corinthian Christians became living epistles (2 Corinthians 3:2, 3). Their changed life was a remarkable testimony to the power of the gospel.
2. By our personal testimony. If we know by personal experience the preciousness of Christ and the blessings of the gospel, let us be more ready to proclaim them to others. - C.H.I.
I. AN INTENSE LONGING. The apostle frequently alluded to his desire to visit Rome and see the brethren there. Aquila and Priscilla must often have conversed with him respecting the famous city, and the vast influx of strangers to be witnessed there continually. The apostle had high hopes kindled in his breast, thoughts of the metropolis as the "pulpit of the world. The words of a speaker amid the seven hills would, like the faith of the disciples there, be trumpeted to every part of the globe. After some years the apostle resolved to carry his desire into effect (see Acts 19.). This Epistle offers explanations of the circumstances which had hitherto prevented the realization of the wish. Here is a lesson of patient submission to the guidance of God. Whilst doors of entrance and utterance were opening in the East, and the Gentiles were becoming obedient by word and deed, the Holy Spirit plainly signified that fields so ripe for the sickle must not be deserted. Let those impatient for another sphere of labour beware lest through some burning impulse they neglect the crops ready to the reaper's hands. The wider scope may be presented hereafter. We learn, too, the apostle's missionary method. He liked not to build on another's foundation. He chose of two regions the one most like fallow ground. He loved to evangelize rather than proselytize, and whilst unoccupied territory was near it did not seem right to visit a Church where Christ had been already proclaimed. It is matter for thankfulness that denominations and missionary societies are beginning to recognize the evil and sin of overlapping agencies and districts. Note the apostle's justification of his desire to see Rome. He intended to make it not his terminus, but a temporary resting-place, and a starting-point for further excursions. His eager vision beheld Churches rising in the furthest western limits of Europe, his ear caught the sounds of prayer and praise soon to ascend from countries debased by superstition and vice. The victories won over Satan in Asia Minor and Greece he hoped to repeat in Italy and Spain. He perhaps projected tours through France, for to this Christian warrior, as to Alexander of Macedon, there could be no rest as long as there were kingdoms, if not conquered, at least unassailed. Oh for more of this crusading spirit, this holy ambition!
II. AN UNCERTAINTY as to the time of the expected visit. When I come." There seemed no reason why Paul should not proceed to Rome immediately after the Pentecostal feast at Jerusalem. But he saw a cloud arising which contained the materials for a storm, though in what way it would burst, or whether it might not pass over, he could not foresee. He knew the vindictive watchfulness of "them that did not believe in Judaea," enemies who never forgave his desertion of their cause. The story in the Acts tells how his suspicions were confirmed by the predictions of Agabus, and how the apostle's yielding to the excessive caution of the saints furnished an occasion for the fury of the fanatical Jews. Imprisonment and shipwreck lay on the apostle's course, and when ultimately his wish to visit the metropolis was gratified, he entered as a prisoner with a prospect of a wearisome captivity. How strangely the hoped-for differed from the actual! Nor is it by any means rare to find the fruition of our hopes attended with far other than the bright-hued environment imagination forecasted. Plans are executed, the projected castles built, the rank secured, the home obtained, yet the accompaniments vary in toto from those anticipated. Sometimes we have asked selfishly, and the cup petitioned has held a bitter potion indeed. Yet the Christian may say confidently, "The will of the Lord be done." There are times when our Master leads his servants purposely through flood and flame. Then be it ours like Paul to accept the post of honour and bravely do our best.
III. A FULL ASSURANCE that his arrival would be fraught with good. "I know that I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of Christ."
1. He would enter the city as a messenger of Christ. Not for purposes of pleasure and sight-seeing, but as the bearer of sacred tidings would he in any case approach Rome. Along the Appian Way had many a renowned general returned laden with the spoils of conflict, many an orator and philosopher had passed through the gates, but none more honoured by posterity than this servant of Christ. When seeking our own ends we may ever doubt of a celestial convoy, but when seeking the things of Christ, the ambassador of Christ shall be treated as such.
2. He could not conceive of the absence of that spiritual power which had thus far attended him. "Lo, I am with you alway," was the promise. Like Joseph in Potiphar's house, and the ark in the house of Obed-Edom, a true man of God brings a blessing where'er he sojourns. Who should separate the apostle from the love and equipment of his Lord? To rely on this is not presumption, but God-honouring confidence.
3. No scanty measure of spiritual gifts ever satisfied or was expected by this devoted labourer. He made little mention of tongues and healing, of priestly functions and intellectual displays; he looked to the blessing which maketh endlessly, joyously rich; that knowledge, proclamation, and practice of the gospel which bears fruit unto eternal life. Next to the presence of the Lord himself the advent of a faithful minister profits our gatherings. With what delight, like members of a family long separated, would these primitive Christians confer on the holy theme of the new faith! Let our anxiety be not to fritter away time in idle gossip, but to make each other wiser and better for the meeting. If we more often expected seasons when, like the river Jordan in harvest-time, our hearts should be filled to overflowing, the testimony would more frequently rejoice us: "It was good to be there." Prepare the vessels for the fulness of the blessing which alone can banish poverty and weakness of the spirit. This conviction did not preclude the apostle from requesting the prayers of the Church for the fulfilment of his beloved project. To our short-sighted reason it is unnecessary to pray to the Father who orders all things aright. But our conclusion is based on too narrow premisses; there are other ends subserved by prayer. It has respect to the plans of the Almighty and the character of his creatures. Prayer is one of the laws of the kingdom, and "effectual fervent prayer availeth much." - S.R.A.