Romans 1
Matthew Poole's Commentary
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
Rom 1:1-7 Paul, commending to the Romans his calling, greets them,

Rom 1:8-15 and professes his concern for, and desire of coming to

see them.

Rom 1:16,17 He shows that the gospel is for the justification of

all mankind through faith.

Rom 1:18-32 And having premised that sinners in general are

obnoxious to God's wrath, he describes at large the

corruption of the Gentile world.

A servant of Jesus Christ, is a higher title than monarch of the world: several great emperors styled themselves Christ's vassals. He so calls himself, either in respect of his condition, which was common with him to all true Christians; or else in respect of his office. Of old, they who were in great offices were called the servants of God: see Jos 1:1 Neh 1:6 Psa 132:10. Or else in respect of his singular and miraculous conversion: by reason of which, he thought himself so obliged to Christ, that he wholly addicted or devoted himself to his service.

Called to be an apostle; appointed to that high office by the immediate call of Christ himself: see Gal 1:1 Tit 1:3. The history of this call you have in Act 9:15.

Two things are couched in this phrase:

1. That he did not take this honour to himself, but was thereunto appointed and called of God.

2. That this apostolical dignity was not by any desert of his, but by grace only, and the free gift of him that calleth.

It was formerly matter of admiration, and so it became a proverb in Israel: Is Saul also among the prophets? And we may say, with great astonishment, Is Saul also among the apostles? He that a little before had seen him doing what he is recorded to have done, Act 26:10,11, would never have dreamed of any such thing.

Separated; either from his mother's womb, in the purpose of God, Gal 1:15; so Jeremiah of old, Jer 1:5. Or else it may have respect to Act 13:2, where the Holy Ghost did actually order he should be separated for the work to which he had called him. The Greek word, in both places, is the same. Or else it may respect the more immediate commission he had from Christ himself, Act 9:15 26:16-18. Some think he alludes to the name of Pharisee, which is from separating: when he was a Pharisee, he was separated to the law of God; and now, being a Christian, he was separated to the gospel of God.

Unto the gospel of God; that is, to the preaching and publishing of it. The gospel is sometimes called the gospel of God, as in this place; and sometimes the gospel of Christ, as in Rom 1:16: it is said to be the gospel of God, because he is the author of it, it is not a human invention; and it is said to be the gospel of Christ, because he is the matter and subject of it.

(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
Which he had promised; the meaning is not, that the history of the gospel was promised by the prophets, but that Jesus Christ, with all his benefits, (which is the direct subject of the gospel history and revelation), was promised or foreshown by them.

Afore; this word is added to prevent the imputation of novelty: q.d. Let none object and say, the gospel is a new and modern doctrine; for it was promised or foretold of old, by all the prophets which have been since the world began, Luke 1:70.

By his prophets: by prophets we may understand, not only those that were commonly dignified with that title, but all those also whom God condescended to converse with in a familiar manner, revealing his secrets to them: that such are called prophets, see Genesis 20:7 Psalm 105:15.

In the holy Scriptures; to wit, of the Old Testament; he hath respect to the oracles and promises therein contained, concerning Christ and his kingdom; chiefly to Genesis 3:15 49:8,10 Deu 18:18 Psalm 16:10 Psalm 22:1-31 40:1-17 110:1 Isaiah 7:14 9:6 53:1-12 63:1-3 Daniel 9:24-26 Micah 5:2 Zechariah 9:9 Malachi 3:1, &c. He hereby intimates, that there is a great harmony and consent betwixt the prophets and apostles, the doctrine of the Old Testament and the New; see Luke 24:44 John 12:16 Acts 10:43. Our modern translators include this verse in a parenthesis; the ancients did not.

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: this phrase either respects the Holy Scriptures, mentioned immediately before in Romans 1:2; the sum and substance of them is, concerning the Messiah, the Son of God: or else it respects the gospel, that was spoken of in the Romans 1:1,2 being only a parenthesis, as was before hinted; then the meaning is, that the apostle Paul was separated to the gospel of God, which only or mainly concerns his Son Jesus Christ. And this seems to show the excellency of the gospel, that it doth not treat of vulgar and ordinary matters. as of the gods of the Gentiles, or the actions of Alexander, Caesar, the Scipios, or such like heroes; but of the Son of God himself.

Which was made; i.e. as he afterwards expresseth it, according to the flesh, or his human nature: in regard of his Divine subsistence, he was begotten and not made; in regard of his manhood, he was made and not begotten. When he says the Son of God was made, & c., it is undeniably implied, that he did exist before his incarnation, and was the Son of God before he was the Son of man. This place proves clearly these two truths:

1. That in the person of Jesus Christ there are two natures.

2. That there is between these a communication of properties; here the Son of God is said to be made of the seed of David; and elsewhere the Son of man is said to have come down from heaven: see John 3:13: cf. John 6:62 Acts 20:28 1 Corinthians 2:8.

Of the seed of David; i.e. of the virgin Mary, who was of David’s lineage and posterity; the promise was expressly, that the Messiah should be of the fruit of his loins, Acts 2:30, compared saith Isaiah 11:1 Jeremiah 23:5 Ezekiel 34:24. Yea, this promise was so fully known to the Jews, that when they spake of the Messiah, they called him the Son of David: see Matthew 21:9 22:42 Mark 10:47,48 Joh 7:42. Hence it is that the evangelists, Matthew and Luke, are so careful and industrious to prove, that the virgin Mary, and Joseph to whom she was espoused, did come of David’s line and race.

And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
Not made the Son of God, as he was said before to be made of the seed of David; but

declared, or demonstrated, to be the Son of God.

With power: this refers either to the word declared, and then the meaning is, he was powerfully or miraculously declared to be the Son of God; the Greek word ordinarily signifies a miracle in the New Testament: or else it refers to the last words, the Son of God; and then the sense is, he was declared to be the powerful and omnipotent Son of God, of the same power and majesty with the Father.

By the spirit of holiness, some would understand the Third Person in the blessed Trinity, which is often called the Holy Spirit, and here the Spirit of holiness; but others, and they more rightly, do understand the Deity and Divine nature of Christ; this is called the Spirit, 1 Timothy 3:16 1 Peter 3:18; and the eternal Spirit, Hebrews 9:14 and here it is called the Spirit of holiness, or the most Holy Spirit, and that, probably, because of its effects; for thereby he sanctified his natural body, and still sanctifies his mystical body, the church. That this is the meaning is evident, by the opposition between the flesh and the Spirit: as according to the flesh, in the former verse, did signify his human nature; so according to the Spirit, in this verse, doth signify his Divine nature. See the like antithesis in 1 Timothy 3:16 1 Peter 3:18.

By the resurrection from the dead: because it is said, the resurrection of the dead, not from the dead, some would understand the words of Lazarus, and others, who by the power of Christ were raised from the dead; and others would understand the words of those who were raised with Christ, when he himself arose: see Matthew 27:52,53. But in Scripture the resurrection of the dead, is put for the resurrection from the dead; see 1 Corinthians 15:42 Hebrews 6:2; and hereby is meant the resurrection of Christ himself: he rose again from the dead, and thereby declared or manifested himself to be the Son of God with power: see John 2:19,21 5:26 10:18 1 Corinthians 15:4. And though it be said in Scripture, that the Father raised him from the dead, Acts 2:24 13:30,33; yet that doth not hinder but by his own power he raised himself; seeing the Father and he were one, and the works of the Three Persons in one and the same Essence are undivided.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
By whom; or of whom; by whom, as Mediator, or of whom, as Author and Giver.

Grace and apostleship: some make these two distinct gifts; the one common, which is grace; the other special, which is apostleship: others think, that, by an hendiadis, he means the grace of apostleship; which he so calls, because it was conferred upon him, not for any desert of his, but by the mere favour and free grace of God. It is his manner to call his apostleship by the name or style of grace: see Romans 15:15 Galatians 2:9 Ephesians 3:2,8.

For obedience to the faith; you have the same phrase, Romans 16:26, and there it is rendered for the obedience of faith. By faith here some understand the gospel or doctrine of faith; it hath this sense, Acts 6:7 Judges 1:3, &c.; and then the meaning is, God, of his mere grace, hath given me this office, that I might bring the nations to believe, and work in them obedience to the doctrine of the gospel. Others understand the grace of faith; and then the meaning is, I have received this office, that I might bring the nations to believe, and so to obey the gospel. Therefore obedience is joined with faith, because by faith we obey the commands of God; and faith itself consists in obedience, and is the great command of the gospel.

Among all nations; according to the general commission, Matthew 28:19, and a more special commission to this apostle; see Acts 9:15 Galatians 2:7,8 1 Timothy 2:7 2 Timothy 1:11.

For his name; that the nations might believe in his name; so some: others suppose these words are added to declare the end of Paul’s preaching and apostleship, which was to set forth the glory and praise of Christ: see 2 Thessalonians 1:12.

Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
Among whom are ye also; the Romans are in this number, and a part of the nations to whom I have a commission, and for whom I have received the grace of apostleship. He adds this, to show his warrant for writing to them, he did it by virtue of his office; as also to humble them; for though they were Romans, and such as bore the greatest sway in the world, yet they were formerly pagans and idolaters.

The called of Jesus Christ: though such were some of you, to wit, heathen idolaters; yet now you are Christians, and the called of Jesus Christ: called outwardly by his word, and inwardly by his Spirit. By effectual calling you are become his disciples and followers.

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
To all that be in Rome; he doth not direct this Epistle to all that there inhabited, as to the emperor and senate, &c.; but to the church, and all the Christians there, as appears by the two following phrases. He wrote not to those only which were Romans by nation, but to all the faithful, whether Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, for they were all one and alike in Christ. They are deceived that think this Epistle, because directed to the Romans, was written in Latin. The Greek tongue was well understood in that city. Juvenal calls Rome a Greek city, because the inhabitants, as well natives as strangers, did some of them use, and most of them understand, that language.

Called to be saints, or, called saints; though there might be hypocrites amongst them, yet they were denominated from the better part. The Jews of old were only accounted a holy nation or people; and the Gentiles, common or unclean; but now that difference is taken away, faith in Jesus Christ, and effectual calling, makes the Gentiles holy as well as the Jews. The name saint doth not denote a perfection in holiness, but one that is devoted and consecrated to God, who is holy in heart and life, though he hath many imperfections.

Grace to you, and peace: under these two words, grace and peace, are comprehended all spiritual and temporal blessings. It is a usual salutation or benediction in the Epistles of this apostle: see 1 Corinthians 1:3 2 Corinthians 1:2 Galatians 1:3 Ephesians 1:2 Philippians 1:2 Colossians 1:2 2 Thessalonians 1:2 1 Timothy 1:2 Titus 1:4 Philemon 1:3. See the like in the Epistles of Peter, 1 Peter 1:2 2 Peter 1:2. See also 2Jo 1:3 Revelation 1:4.

From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: why is there no mention made here of the Holy Ghost?

Answer. Because he is implied in his gifts: grace and peace are the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. In other salutations the Holy Ghost is expressed; see 2 Corinthians 13:14; and here, when the Father and Son are named, he is plainly implied.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
First, here, is not a word of order, for there follows no secondly, &c.; but it serves to show, that here the Epistle begins, for all before was but a preface or inscription: q.d. In the first place. See the like, 1 Timothy 2:1.

Throughout the whole world, that is, through many parts of it; it is a figurative speech: see the like, John 12:19. Or else, by the whole world may be understood the Roman empire, which ruled at that time over a great part of the known world. See the like, Luke 2:1. Besides, there was a resort to Rome from all parts of the world, and so this report might be diffused far and near. The faith of the gospel at Rome made it more famous than all its victories and triumphs. Oh, how is Rome degenerated! We may take up the complaint concerning her which we find, Isaiah 1:11,12. The Romanists urge this place to prove Rome the mother church; but without reason: the church of Thessalonica had as high a eulogy: see 1 Thessalonians 1:8.

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
God is my witness; in these words there is the force, if not the form, of an oath. See the like, 2 Corinthians 1:18 11:31 Galatians 1:20. His great love and care of them was a hidden thing, and known only to God; to him therefore he appeals for the truth thereof. Oaths, in certain cases, are allowable under the New Testament, as well as the Old.

With my spirit, i.e. sincerely, or with my whole heart: see Ephesians 6:6 2 Timothy 1:3.

Without ceasing, i.e. as often as he prayed. This was a great indication of his hearty affection to them.

Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
Making request; this was one thing he requested of God, that what he had long desired and designed might happily (if it seemed good in God’s sight) be at last accomplished, that he might come in person to them. This desire of Paul to see the Romans might be one cause of that appeal which he made to Rome, Acts 25:10,11,

By the will of God; he adds this, because, in publishing the gospel, he followed the order which God, by his Spirit, prescribed him: see Acts 16:7,9,10.

For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
He declares his end in desiring to see them; it was not his own profit, but their edification.

By some spiritual gift, he means some one or other of those gifts of the Spirit, of which particular mention is made, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.

To the end ye may be established: q.d. I do not intend to bring any new doctrine to you, but to confirm and establish you in that which you have already heard and received. Establishing grace is that which all Christians stand in need of. See Romans 16:25 1 Thessalonians 3:8,13 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17.

That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
This is added to qualify what he had said before, lest he should seem to arrogate too much to himself; he tells them, he hoped not only to comfort them, but to be comforted by them. The meanest of Christ’s members may contribute somewhat to the edifying even of an apostle. The apostle John did hope to be quickened and comforted by the graces of a woman and her children, 2Jo 1:12. Great is the benefit of the communion of saints.

By the mutual faith both of you and me; i.e. by the faith which you and I have in Jesus Christ; which he elsewhere calls the common faith, and the faith of God’s elect. All true comfort springs from faith.

Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
He prevents a cavil; they might say, If Paul hath such a longing desire to see us, why doth he not come to us? To this he answers, it was not for want of will or affection; for he often intended and attempted it.

But was let hitherto; either by Satan, as 1 Thessalonians 2:18; or by the Holy Spirit otherwise disposing of him, as Acts 16:6,7 Ro 15:22. It is possible that he might be hindered also by his own infirmities, or by others’ necessities and entreaties, Acts 10:48 16:15 28:14.

That I might have some fruit, i.e. of my ministry and calling, as the apostle of the uncircumcision. He hoped the gospel he should preach among them would have good success, and bring forth fruit in them, as it had done in other churches of the Gentiles. See Colossians 1:6.

I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
I am debtor; as being obliged by virtue of my calling, and as being intrusted by God with talents to that purpose. You are not beholden to me for this desire, as if it were an arbitrary favour, for it is my bounden duty.

Both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; i.e. to all nations, which he divides into these two sorts, Greeks and Barbarians. The Jews he mentions not, because he was the doctor of the Gentiles.

Both to the wise, and to the unwise; by these he understands particular persons among the Greeks and Barbarians, for there were among either of them some wise, and some unwise. The gospel is adapted to all sorts of persons, whether wise or simple.

So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
q.d. I have preached it at Antioch, at Athens, at Ephesus, at Corinth, &c.; and I: am ready (if God permit) to preach it in the most splendid city of Rome likewise. So the reason is not in myself, or in my own will, why I have not come to you all this while.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Though Rome be the head of the empire, and the Romans bear the name of wise and learned persons; and though the gospel hath the show of simplicity, and is foolishness to the wise men of this world; yet

I am not ashamed to own and publish this gospel of Christ. I do not shrink back, and withdraw myself, as men do from these things whereof they are ashamed. Neither indeed need I, because, how mean soever it seems to be to carnal eyes, yet

it is the power of God unto salvation, & c.; not the essential power of God, but the organical power. See the like, 1 Corinthians 1:18. The meaning is, it is a powerful means ordained of God for this purpose. Touching the efficacy and excellent power of the gospel for the conversion and salvation of the souls of men, see Isaiah 53:1 1 Corinthians 4:15 2 Corinthians 4:7 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 Heb 4:12 Jam 1:21.

To every one that believed; the gospel is offered unto all, but it profiteth unto salvation only those that believe; as a medicine is only effectual to those who receive or apply it.

To the Jew first, and also to the Greek; the gospel was first to be published to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles, whom he here calls Greeks: see Luke 24:47 Acts 1:8. This order the apostles accordingly kept and observed, Acts 13:46.

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
It will give light to this whole Epistle, to explain what is here meant by

the righteousness of God. Some do thereby understand the whole doctrine of salvation and eternal life, which is revealed in the gospel; and they make it the same with the faith of God, Romans 3:3, and with the truth of God, Romans 3:7. Others, by the righteousness of God, do understand that righteousness whereby a man is justified, or stands just and righteous in the sight of God: and it is called the righteousness of God, to distinguish it from our own righteousness, Romans 10:3, and because it is appointed, approved, and accepted by him, it being such as he himself can find no fault with. Further, it is called

the righteousness of God, because it was performed by him, who is God as well as man, and imputed unto us: hence he is said to be made righteousness unto us, and we are said to be made the righteousness of God in him; we having his righteousness, as he had our sins, viz. by imputation. This is often called the righteousness of faith, because by faith it is apprehended and applied. And again, it is called the law of righteousness, Romans 9:31, in opposition to that law of righteousness whereby the unbelieving Jews sought to be justified.

Revealed; the law of God discovers no suchway of justifying a sinner, nor is it taught by reason or philosophy: the gospel only makes a revelation of it; which occasioned the apostle’s glorying in it.

From faith to faith: this apostle seems to delight in such repetitions, and there is an elegancy in them: see Romans 6:19 2 Corinthians 2:16 2 Corinthians 3:18. The words are variously interpreted: from the fiath of the Old Testament to the faith of the New; so that no person ever was or shall be justified in any other way. Or, from a lesser faith to a greater; not noting two faiths, but one and the same faith increasing to perfection. He saith not, from faith to works, or from works to faith; but from faith to faith, i.e. only by faith. The words to be must be understood: q.d. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God to be from faith to faith. The beginning, the continuance, the accomplishment of our justification is wholly absolved by faith.

The just shall live by faith: some refer these words, by faith, to the subject of this proposition, the just; and thus they render it: The just by faith shall live; and so read, the foregoing proposition is the better proved thereby. There is some diffculty to understand the fitness of this testimony to prove the conclusion in hand; for it is evident, that the prophet Habakkuk, in whom these words are found, doth speak of a temporal preservation; and what is that to eternal life?

Answer. The Babylonian captivity figured out our spiritual bondage under sin and Satan; and deliverance from that calamity did shadow forth our deliverance from hell, to be procured by Christ: compare Isaiah 40:2-4, with Matthew 3:3. Again, general sentences applied to particular cases, are not thereby restrained to those particulars, but still retain the generality of their nature: see Matthew 19:6. Again, one and the same faith apprehends and gives us interest in all the promises of God; and as by it we live in temporal dangers, so by it we are freed from eternal destruction.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
He proceeds to prove the principal proposition laid down in the foregoing verse; the causal particle for implies as much. Men must be justified by the righteousness of God, because they have no righteousness of their own to justify them, they themselves are all unrighteous. This he proves both of the Gentiles and Jews. He begins with the Gentiles, and proves it upon them, from this verse to Romans 2:17; and then he proves it upon the Jews also, from thence to the end of the 3rd chapter. {Romans 2:18-3:31}

The wrath of God is revealed; it is revealed in the word of God, or rather, by the judgments which he inflicteth.

From heaven; i.e. from God in heaven. Plagues and judgments spring not out of the dust, proceed not originally from second causes, much less do they come by chance.

Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men: the abstract is put for the concrete; he means unrighteous and ungodly men; but he chooseth this way of speaking, because God, when he punisheth, aims at the sins of men; and would not punish their persons, but for their sins. By ungodliness, understand sins against the first table, which are mentioned Romans 1:21,23: by unrighteousness, sins against the second, of which there is mention at large, from Romans 1:26 to the end of the chapter.

Who hold the truth in unrighteousness: by truth, understand all that light which is left in man since the fall. There are in all men some common notions of God, his nature and will; some common principles also of equity and charity towards men, which nature itself teacheth, and upon which the consciences of the Gentiles did accuse or excuse them. These natural notions concerning God and their neighbour they did not obey and follow, but wickedly suppressed them. They imprisoned the truth which they acknowledged, that they might sin the more securely. The metaphor is taken from tyrants, who oppress the innocent, and imprison them: so the Gentiles did by the truth which they had by nature, they kept it in and under.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
That which may be known of God; or, that which is knowable of God, viz. by the light of nature. The apostle, by a prolepis, prevents an objection which some might make in excuse of the Gentiles: how could they sufficate or suppress the truth, seeing they wanted the Scripture, and were without the knowledge of it? To this he answers, that they were not wholly without knowledge, for that which might be known of God was manifest in them, and revealed to them.

Is manifest in them, i.e. in their heart and minds; see Romans 2:15: or, to and among them; as appears by many of their learned writers, who have left behind them many clear discourses, and wise essays and sayings, about this matter, though they themselves did act contrary thereunto.

For God hath showed it unto them; i.e. as before, by the light of nature in their consciences, or by the consideration of the creatures, as it follows in the next verse.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because it might be further objected in behalf of the Gentiles, that the notions of God imprinted in their nature are so weak, that they may be well excused; therefore the apostle adds, that the certainty of them is further confirmed by the book of the creatures, which was written before them in capital letters, so that he that runs may read.

The invisible things of him: the apostle tells us afterwards himself what he means by the invisible things of God, viz. his being and his attributes, particularly his eternity and almighty power; to which we might add, his wisdom, goodness, &c. These, though invisible in themselves, yet are discernible by his works, and that ever since the creation of the world. By what they see created, they may easily collect or understand, that there is an eternal and almighty Creator; they may argue from the effects to the cause.

So that they are without excuse: some render it, that they may be without excuse; but it is better rendered in our translation: the meaning is not, that God gave them that knowledge for this end and purpose, that they might be inexcusable, for they might catch even at that for an excuse; but the plain sense is this, that God hath given all men such means of knowledge as sufficeth to leave them without excuse, there can be no pretence of ignorance.

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Because; either this must be referred to the words immediately foregoing, and then it is a reason why the Gentiles are inexcusable,

because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, &c.; or else it refers to Romans 1:18, and then it is a proof of their withholding the truth in unrighteousness, because, & c.

They knew God; they had a natural knowledge of God, it was taught them, as before, by the light of natnre, and by the book of the creatures. Though this was not sufficient to save them, yet it was sufficient to save them without excuse.

They glorified him not as God; they did not conceive of him and worship him as became his Divine excellencies and perfections; see Psalm 29:2.

Neither were thankful; they did not own God to be the Author and Giver of all the good things they enjoyed, and return him thanks accordingly; but referred all to chance and fortune, their own prudence and providence, the influence of the stars, &c.

But became vain in their imaginations, or reasonings. This hath chief respect to the conception and opinions that the heathen framed to themselves of the Divine Being. For though some denied there was a God, and others doubted thereof, yet generally it was acknowledged by them; yea, some owned a multiplicity of gods, and those either corporeal or incorporeal. Others acknowledged but one God, as Plato, Aristotle, &c.; but then they either denied his providence, as the Peripatetics, or tied him to second or inferior causes, as the Stoics. This is the vanity which the apostle here speaketh of. Note also, that idols, the frame of idle brains, are called vanities: see Deu 32:21 Jeremiah 10:15 Acts 14:15.

And their foolish heart was darkened: by the heart is meant the mind, their very understandings were darkened, the natural reason in them was obscured. This was a just judgment upon them for their abuse of knowledge, and pride, of which in the next verse. {see Romans 1:22}

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Some think, that all along this context the apostle hath reference to the Gnostics, a sort of heretics in the first age, (of which see Dr. Hammond in locum), and that the meaning of the words is this, That they, assuming the title of Gnostics, of knowing men, and of men wiser than others, have proved more sottish than any. Others think the words refer to the heathen philosophers, who though they were learned and wise in secular and natural things, yet they became fools in spiritual and heavenly matters; though they well understood the creature, yet they erred concerning the Creator. And as fools delight in toys, neglecting things of great value; so they set up puppets and idols of their own devising, in the room of the true God; which the apostle gives us in the next verse, as a demonstration of their folly. Socrates, who was accounted one of the wisest amongst them, desired his friends, when he was about to die, to offer for him a cock to Aesculapius, which he had vowed.

And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Changed the glory of the uncorruptible God; you have the same phrase, Psalm 106:20 Jeremiah 2:11; and from thence it is borrowed.

Into an image made like to corruptible man, &c.: the apostle proeeedeth from the more worthy to the less worthy creatures, that the grossness of their idolatry might the better appear; and these four are put for all other kinds. This gross idolatry of the heathen in worshipping such images as are here spoken of, was practised by the Israelites; see Ezekiel 8:10,11: and so it is by the Romanists to this day; nor doth it avail them to say, they do not worship images, but the true God in or before those images; for the same plea was made by the idolaters of old. Symmachus, in a learned oration, wherein he craved of the emperors Valentinian and Theodosius the restitution of the Roman gods, affirms, that they had respect only to one God; but they had divers ways to bring them to that God: they did not hold such things as they worshipped to be God, but in them they said they worshipped the true God. That worship which is intended to God by an image, is not the worship of God, but of the image. Compare Psalm 106:19,20, with Exodus 32:4,5.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Wherefore; their impiety was the cause of what followed: this is repeated again, that it may be the better observed. The contempt of God and of religion is the cause of all wickedness.

God also gave them up; this phrase is thrice used in this context, viz. Romans 1:24,26,28: it seems to be taken out of Psalm 81:12. Some think his giving them up, is only’ his withdrawing his grace from them, and permitting them to sin; but there seems to be more in it than a bare subtraction or permission. He did not only leave them to themselves, but, in a judicial way, he put then, into the hands of Satan, and of their own lusts; as it is said, Psalm 69:27, he added iniquity to their iniquity, making the latter iniquity a punishment of the former.

Between themselves; some read it, in themselves, and some read it, one among another; so the same word is rendered, Ephesians 4:32 Colossians 3:13. The apostle here speaks more generally of all kinds of pollution and uncleanness that was committed by them, whether natural or unnatural.

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Who changed the truth of God into a lie; i.e. the God of truth, or the true God, into an idol, which is a lie, which seems to be that which it is not: or else, by the truth of God, understand those true sentiments and notions that they had of God, and were taught them, as before, by the light of nature, and the book of the creatures; these they changed into lying imaginations and conceits.

And worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator; or, besides the Creator: some understand it comparatively, they worshipped one more than the other; others exclusively, they worshipped one and not the other. They were guilty of two great errors; one was in their minds, they changed the truth of God into a lie; the other in their wills, they served the creature more than the Creator.

Who is blessed for ever. Amen: when the Hebrews of old made mention of the true God, they were wont to add these words: Let him be blessed for ever.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
For this cause; i.e. for their idolatry and uncleanness both, for now their idolatry is aggravated by the uncleanness accompanying it.

Vile affections; Gr. affections of dishonour, i.e. the most dishonourable and shameful affections; for as we are exhorted, 1 Thessalonians 4:4,5, to possess our vessels in honour, that is, to withhold our body from uncleanness; so they that give up themselves to uncleanness, dishonour themselves and their own bodies; see 1 Corinthians 6:18: if they, as this scripture tells us, that commit fornication dishonour their own bodies; then much more do they that practise the unnatural uncleanness hereafter mentioned.

For even their women, &c.; i.e gunaikev andrizontai, so Clem. Alexandr. Ad praeposteros et sodomiticos concubitus sese maribus prostituerunt. See Paraeus: a filthy practice not to be named, Ephesians 5:3.

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
This was the sin of the Sodomites of old, for which they were destroyed, Genesis 19:5: see Leviticus 18:22. How meet was it that they who had forsaken the Author of nature, should be given up not to keep the order of nature; that they who had changed the glory of God into the similitude of beasts, should be left to do those things which beasts themselves abhorred! God only concurred as a just judge in punishing foregoing with following sins: see Romans 1:25.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
To retain God in their knowledge; or, to have God in acknowledgment. The apostle proceeds to show the analogy betwixt their sin and their punishment. The evil he here taxed them with is much the same with that in Romans 1:21; though they had some knowledge of God, yet they did not acknowledge him as God, by glorifying him, and giving thanks to him; it did not seem good to them so to do.

God gave them over to a reprobate mind; or, an injudicious mind, a mind void of judgment. It is just and equal, that he, who in his judgment disapproves of God, should be left either to be of a corrupt judgment, or of none at all. The word may be taken passively, for a mind disapproved of God; or actively, for a mind which disapproves of all good. They were not given up to this reprobate mind all at once, but by degrees. First, they were given up to their own hearts’ lusts, Romans 1:24; then, to vile affections, Romans 1:26; and then, lastly, to a mind void of judgment; to such an evil habit, that they could do nothing but evil.

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Now follow the sins against the second table, which reigned amongst the Gentiles; amongst which

unrighteousness is as the fountain, from whence the rest as streams do flow. This is the genus that comprehends all the evils hereafter enumerated. It is not to be supposed that all the following vices were found in every individual person; but the meaning is, that all were guilty of some, and some were guilty of all of them.

Fornication, wickedness; in the Greek there is all elegant paronomasia, porneia, ponhria. So there are two more in the following verses, fyonou, fonou, asunetoi, asunyetoi. The design of the apostle is, to set down a particular vice; therefore, instead of wickedness, some read troublesomeness, or a desire to procure trouble and molestation to another. The devil is called oo ponhrov, the troublesome one.

Maliciousness; or, mischievousness, the better to distinguish it from envy.

Malignity; or, morosity and churlishness, taking all things in the worser part.

Whisperers: whisperers speak evil privily of others; backbiters, openly.

Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Haters of God; the original word hath a passive termination, and therefore some read it, hated of God. But words passive are sometimes actively taken: see 2 Peter 1:3. And the apostle here intendeth a catalogue of the Gentiles’ sins, whereof this was one: see Psalm 81:15.

Despiteful; or, injurious.

Inventors of evil things; they were not contented with old usual evils, but they invented new; whether we refer this to evils of pain, or evils of sin, we may find examples thereof amongst the heathen. Phalaris propounded a reward to him that could devise a new torment; and Sardanapalus offered rewards to such as could find out new venereal pleasures.

Disobedient to parents, either natural or political.

Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Without understanding; or, without conscience; sunesiv, or snueidhsiv, being much the same.

Without natural affection; this evil also reigned amongst the Gentiles, who sacrificed their very children to their idols, and otherwise exposed them to ruin: see 2 Timothy 3:3.

Implacable; or, irreconcilable and vindictive.

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Knowing the judgment of God; i.e. his just law and statute, or his justice in punishing sin and sinners. This the Gentiles knew by the light of nature, and by the examples of God’s justice in the world.

That they which commit such things are worthy of death; the barbarians of Melita judged murder worthy of death, Acts 28:4: see Acts 23:29 26:31. The heathen also had some knowledge of future and everlasting punishment, as appears by their writings: and were persuaded that the sins be dementioned, and such like, did really deserve it.

Have pleasure in them that do them; or, patronize and applaud such; see Psalm 10:3. This is set last, as worst of all; it is the highest degree of wickedness: such come nearest the devil, who take pleasure in evil because it is evil.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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