Romans 15:4
For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) For. . . .—These words of the Old Testament may rightly be taken as having a bearing upon us, “For,” &c.

Through patience and comfort of the scripturesi.e., “by the patience and comfort which the Scriptures afford.” The promises and consolations of Scripture support the Christian under his trials, and enable him to endure them not only patiently but cheerfully.

Might have hope.—Literally, the hope—i.e., the Messianic hope. The promises of Scripture centre in the hope of the future Messianic glory, and the fortitude with which the Christian endures his trials is to be sustained by that hope, and itself reacts upon the hope and makes it held with firmer tenacity.

Romans

TWO FOUNTAINS, ONE STREAM

Romans 15:4
, Romans 15:14.

There is a river in Switzerland fed by two uniting streams, bearing the same name, one of them called the ‘white,’ one of them the ‘grey,’ or dark. One comes down from the glaciers, and bears half-melted snow in its white ripple; the other flows through a lovely valley, and is discoloured by its earth. They unite in one common current. So in these two verses we have two streams, a white and a black, and they both blend together and flow out into a common hope. In the former of them we have the dark stream-’through patience and comfort,’ which implies affliction and effort. The issue and outcome of all difficulty, trial, sorrow, ought to be hope. And in the other verse we have the other valley, down which the light stream comes: ‘The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope.’

So both halves of the possible human experience are meant to end in the same blessed result; and whether you go round on the one side of the sphere of human life, or whether you take the other hemisphere, you come to the same point, if you have travelled with God’s hand in yours, and with Him for your Guide.

Let us look, then, at these two contrasted origins of the same blessed gift, the Christian hope.

I. We have, first of all, the hope that is the child of the night, and born in the dark.

‘Whatsoever things,’ says the Apostle, ‘were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we, through patience,’-or rather the brave perseverance-’and consolation’-or rather perhaps encouragement-’of the Scriptures might have hope.’ The written word is conceived as the source of patient endurance which acts as well as suffers. This grace Scripture works in us through the encouragement which it ministers in manifold ways, and the result of both is hope.

So, you see, our sorrows and difficulties are not connected with, nor do they issue in, bright hopefulness, except by reason of this connecting link. There is nothing in a man’s troubles to make him hopeful. Sometimes, rather, they drive him into despair; but at all events, they seldom drive him to hopefulness, except where this link comes in. We cannot pass from the black frowning cliffs on one side of the gorge to the sunny tablelands on the other without a bridge-and the bridge for a poor soul from the blackness of sorrow, and the sharp grim rocks of despair, to the smiling pastures of hope, with all their half-open blossoms, is builded in that Book, which tells us the meaning and purpose of them all; and is full of the histories of those who have fought and overcome, have hoped and not been ashamed.

Scripture is given for this among other reasons, that it may encourage us, and so may produce in us this great grace of active patience, if we may call it so.

The first thing to notice is, how Scripture gives encouragement-for such rather than consolation is the meaning of the word. It is much to dry tears, but it is more to stir the heart as with a trumpet call. Consolation is precious, but we need more for well-being than only to be comforted. And, surely, the whole tone of Scripture in its dealing with the great mystery of pain and sorrow, has a loftier scope than even to minister assuagement to grief, and to stay our weeping. It seeks to make us strong and brave to face and to master our sorrows, and to infuse into us a high-hearted courage, which shall not merely be able to accept the biting blasts, but shall feel that they bring a glow to the cheek and oxygen to the blood, while wrestling with them builds up our strength, and trains us for higher service. It would be a poor aim to comfort only; but to encourage-to make strong in heart, resolved in will, and incapable of being overborne or crushed in spirit by any sorrows-that is a purpose worthy of the Book, and of the God who speaks through it.

This purpose, we may say, is effected by Scripture in two ways. It encourages us by its records, and by its revelation of principles.

Who can tell how many struggling souls have taken heart again, as they pondered over the sweet stories of sorrow subdued which stud its pages, like stars in its firmament? The tears shed long ago which God has put ‘in His bottle,’ and recorded in ‘His book,’ have truly been turned into pearls. That long gallery of portraits of sufferers, who have all trodden the same rough road, and been sustained by the same hand, and reached the same home, speaks cheer to all who follow them. Hearts wrung by cruel partings from those dearer to them than their own souls, turn to the pages which tell how Abraham, with calm sorrow, laid his Sarah in the cave at Macpelah; or how, when Jacob’s eyes were dim that he could not see, his memory still turned to the hour of agony when Rachael died by him, and he sees clear in its light her lonely grave, where so much of himself was laid; or to the still more sacred page which records the struggle of grief and faith in the hearts of the sisters of Bethany. All who are anyways afflicted in mind, body, or estate find in the Psalms men speaking their deepest experiences before them; and the grand majesty of sorrow that marks ‘the patience of Job,’ and the flood of sunshine that bathes him, revealing the ‘end of the Lord,’ have strengthened countless sufferers to bear and to hold fast, and to hope. We are all enough of children to be more affected by living examples than by dissertations, however true, and so Scripture is mainly history, revealing God by the record of His acts, and disclosing the secret of human life by telling us the experiences of living men.

But Scripture has another method of ministering encouragement to our often fainting and faithless hearts. It cuts down through all the complications of human affairs, and lays bare the innermost motive power. It not only shows us in its narratives the working of sorrow, and the power of faith, but it distinctly lays down the source and the purpose, the whence and the whither of all suffering. No man need quail or faint before the most torturing pains or most disastrous strokes of evil, who holds firmly the plain teaching of Scripture on these two points. They all come from my Father, and they all come for my good. It is a short and simple creed, easily apprehended. It pretends to no recondite wisdom. It is a homely philosophy which common intellects can grasp, which children can understand, and hearts half paralysed by sorrow can take in. So much the better. Grief and pain are so common that their cure had need to be easily obtained. Ignorant and stupid people have to writhe in agony as well as wise and clever ones, and until grief is the portion only of the cultivated classes, its healing must come from something more universal than philosophy; or else the nettle would be more plentiful than the dock; and many a poor heart would be stung to death. Blessed be God! the Christian view of sorrow, while it leaves much unexplained, focuses a steady light on these two points; its origin and its end. ‘He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness,’ is enough to calm all agitation, and to make the faintest heart take fresh courage. With that double certitude clear before us, we can face anything. The slings and arrows which strike are no more flung blindly by an ‘outrageous fortune,’ but each bears an inscription, like the fabled bolts, which tells what hand drew the bow, and they come with His love.

Then, further, the courage thus born of the Scriptures produces another grand thing-patience, or rather perseverance. By that word is meant more than simply the passive endurance which is the main element in patience, properly so called. Such passive endurance is a large part of our duty in regard to difficulties and sorrows, but is never the whole of it. It is something to endure and even while the heart is breaking, to submit unmurmuring, but, transcendent as that is, it is but half of the lesson which we have to learn and to put in practice. For if all our sorrows have a disciplinary and educational purpose, we shall not have received them aright, unless we have tried to make that purpose effectual, by appropriating whatsoever moral and spiritual teaching they each have for us. Nor does our duty stop there. For while one high purpose of sorrow is to deaden our hearts to earthly objects, and to lift us above earthly affections, no sorrow can ever relax the bonds which oblige us to duty. The solemn pressure of ‘I ought,’ is as heavy on the sorrowful as on the happy heart. We have still to toil, to press forward, in the sweat of our brow, to gain our bread, whether it be food for our bodies, or sustenance for our hearts and minds. Our responsibilities to others do not cease because our lives are darkened. Therefore, heavy or light of heart, we have still to stick to our work, and though we may never more be able to do it with the old buoyancy, still to do it with our might.

It is that dogged persistence in plain duty, that tenacious continuance in our course, which is here set forth as the result of the encouragement which Scripture gives. Many of us have all our strength exhausted in mere endurance, and have let obvious duties slip from our hands, as if we had done all that we could do when we had forced ourselves to submit. Submission would come easier if you took up some of those neglected duties, and you would be stronger for patience, if you used more of your strength for service. You do well if you do not sink under your burden, but you would do better if, with it on your shoulders, you would plod steadily along the road; and if you did, you would feel the weight less. It seems heaviest when you stand still doing nothing. Do not cease to toil because you suffer. You will feel your pain more if you do. Take the encouragement which Scripture gives, that it may animate you to bate no jot of heart or hope, but still bear up and steer right onward.

And let the Scripture directly minister to you perseverance as well as indirectly supply it through the encouragement which it gives. It abounds with exhortations, patterns, and motives of such patient continuance in well-doing. It teaches us a solemn scorn of ills. It, angel-like, bears us up on soft, strong hands, lest we bruise ourselves on, or stumble over, the rough places on our roads. It summons us to diligence by the visions of the prize, and glimpses of the dread fate of the slothful, by all that is blessed in hope, and terrible in foreboding, by appeals to an enlightened self-regard, and by authoritative commands to conscience, by the pattern of the Master, and by the tender motives of love to Him to which He, Himself, has given voice. All these call on us to be followers of them who, through faith and perseverance, inherit the promises.

But we have yet another step to take. These two, the encouragement and perseverance produced by the right use of Scripture, will lead to hope.

It depends on how sorrow and trial are borne, whether they produce a dreary hopelessness which sometimes darkens into despair, or a brighter, firmer hope than more joyous days knew. We cannot say that sorrow produces hope. It does not, unless we have this connecting link-the experience in sorrow of a God-given courage which falters not in the onward course, nor shrinks from any duty. But if, in the very press and agony, I am able, by God’s grace, to endure nor cease to toil, I have, in myself, a living proof of His power, which entitles me to look forward with the sure confidence that, through all the uproar of the storm, He will bring me to my harbour of rest where there is peace. The lion once slain houses a swarm of bees who lay up honey in its carcase. The trial borne with brave persistence yields a store of sweet hopes. If we can look back and say, ‘Thou hast been with me in six troubles,’ it is good logic to look forward and say, ‘and in seven Thou wilt not forsake me.’ When the first wave breaks over the ship, as she clears the heads and heels over before the full power of the open sea, inexperienced landsmen think they are all going to the bottom, but they soon learn that there is a long way between rolling and foundering, and get to watch the highest waves towering above the bows in full confidence that these also will slip quietly beneath the keel as the others have done, and be left harmless astern.

The Apostle, in this very same letter, has another word parallel to this, in which he describes the issues of rightly-borne suffering when he says, ‘Tribulation worketh perseverance’-the same word that is used here-’and perseverance worketh’ the proof in our experience of a sustaining God; and the proof in our experience of a sustaining God works hope. We know that of ourselves we could not have met tribulation, and therefore the fact that we have been able to meet and overcome it is demonstration of a mightier power than our own, working in us, which we know to be from God, and therefore inexhaustible and ever ready to help. That is foundation firm enough to build solid fabrics of hope upon, whose bases go down to the centre of all things, the purpose of God, and whose summits, like the upward shooting spire of some cathedral, aspire to, and seem almost to touch, the heavens.

So hope is born of sorrow, when these other things come between. The darkness gives birth to the light, and every grief blazes up a witness to a future glory. Each drop that hangs on the wet leaves twinkles into rainbow light that proclaims the sun. The garish splendours of the prosperous day hide the stars, and through the night of our sorrow there shine, thickly sown and steadfast, the constellations of eternal hopes. The darker the midnight, the surer, and perhaps the nearer, the coming of the day. Sorrow has not had its perfect work unless it has led us by the way of courage and perseverance to a stable hope. Hope has not pierced to the rock, and builds only ‘things that can be shaken,’ unless it rests on sorrows borne by God’s help.

II. So much then for the genealogy of one form of the Christian hope.

But we have also a hope that is born of the day, the child of sunshine and gladness; and that is set before us in the second of the two verses which we are considering, ‘The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope.’

So then, ‘the darkness and the light are both alike’ to our hope, in so far as each may become the occasion for its exercise. It is not only to be the sweet juice expressed from our hearts by the winepress of calamities, but that which flows of itself from hearts ripened and mellowed under the sunshine of God-given blessedness.

We have seen that the bridge by which sorrow led to hope, is perseverance and courage; in this second analysis of the origin of hope, joy and peace are the bridge by which Faith passes over into it. Observe the difference: there is no direct connection between affliction and hope, but there is between joy and hope. We have no right to say, ‘Because I suffer, I shall possess good in the future’; but we have a right to say, ‘Because I rejoice’-of course with a joy in God-’I shall never cease to rejoice in Him.’ Such joy is the prophet of its own immortality and completion. And, on the other hand, the joy and peace which are naturally the direct progenitors of Christian hope, are the children of faith. So that we have here two generations, as it were, of hope’s ancestors;-Faith produces joy and peace, and these again produce hope.

Faith leads to joy and peace. Paul has found, and if we only put it to the proof, we shall also find, that the simple exercise of simple faith fills the soul with ‘all joy and peace.’ Gladness in all its variety and in full measure, calm repose in every kind and abundant in its still depth, will pour into my heart as water does into a vessel, on condition of my taking away the barrier and opening my heart through faith. Trust and thou shalt be glad. Trust, and thou shalt be calm. In the measure of thy trust shall be the measure of thy joy and peace.

Notice, further, how indissolubly connected the present exercise of faith is with the present experience of joy and peace. The exuberant language of this text seems a world too wide for anything that many professing Christians ever know even in the moments of highest elevation, and certainly far beyond the ordinary tenor of their lives. But it is no wonder that these should have so little joy, when they have so little faith. It is only while we are looking to Jesus that we can expect to have joy and peace. There is no flashing light on the surface of the mirror, but when it is turned full to the sun. Any interruption in the electric current is registered accurately by an interruption in the continuous line perforated on the telegraph ribbon; and so every diversion of heart and faith from Jesus Christ is recorded by the fading of the sunshine out of the heart, and the silencing of all the song-birds. Yesterday’s faith will not bring joy to-day; you cannot live upon past experience, nor feed your souls with the memory of former exercises of Christian faith. It must be like the manna, gathered fresh every day, else it will rot and smell foul. A present faith, and a present faith only, produces a present joy and peace. Is there, then, any wonder that so much of the ordinary experience of ordinary Christians should present a sadly broken line-a bright point here and there, separated by long stretches of darkness? The gaps in the continuity of their joy are the tell-tale indicators of the interruptions in their faith. If the latter were continuous, the former would be unbroken. Always believe, and you will always be glad and calm.

It is easy to see that this is the natural result of faith. The very act of confident reliance on another for all my safety and well-being has a charm to make me restful, so long as my reliance is not put to shame. There is no more blessed emotion than the tranquil happiness which, in the measure of its trust, fills every trustful soul. Even when its objects are poor, fallible, weak, ignorant dying men and women, trust brings a breath of more than earthly peace into the heart. But when it grasps the omnipotent, all-wise, immortal Christ, there are no bounds but its own capacity to the blessedness which it brings into the soul, because there is none to the all-sufficient grace of which it lays hold.

Observe again how accurately the Apostle defines for us the conditions on which Christian experience will be joyful and tranquil. It is ‘in believing,’ not in certain other exercises of mind, that these blessings are to be realised. And the forgetfulness of that plain fact leads to many good people’s religion being very much more gloomy and disturbed than God meant it to be. For a large part of it consists in sadly testing their spiritual state, and gazing at their failures and imperfections. There is nothing cheerful or tranquillising in grubbing among the evils of your own heart, and it is quite possible to do that too much and too exclusively. If your favourite subject of contemplation in your religious thinking is yourself, no wonder that you do not get much joy and peace out of that. If you do, it will be of a false kind. If you are thinking more about your own imperfections than about Christ’s pardon, more about the defects of your own love to Him than about the perfection of His love to you, if instead of practising faith you are absorbed in self-examination, and instead of saying to yourself, ‘I know how foul and unworthy I am, but I look away from myself to my Saviour,’ you are bewailing your sins and doubting whether you are a Christian, you need not expect God’s angels of joy and peace to nestle in your heart. It is ‘in believing,’ and not in other forms of religious contemplation, however needful these may in their places be, that these fair twin sisters come to us and make their abode with us.

Then, the second step in this tracing of the origin of the hope which has the brighter source is the consideration that the joy and peace which spring from faith, in their turn produce that confident anticipation of future and progressive good.

Herein lies the distinguishing blessedness of the Christian joy and peace, in that they carry in themselves the pledge of their own eternity. Here, and here only, the mad boast which is doomed to be so miserably falsified when applied to earthly gladness is simple truth. Here ‘to-morrow shall be as this day and much more abundant.’ Such joy has nothing in itself which betokens exhaustion, as all the less pure joys of earth have. It is manifestly not born for death, as are they. It is not fated, like all earthly emotions or passions, to expire in the moment of its completeness, or even by sudden revulsion to be succeeded by its opposite. Its sweetness has no after pang of bitterness. It is not true of this gladness, that ‘Hereof cometh in the end despondency and madness,’ but its destiny is to ‘remain’ as long as the soul in which it unfolds shall exist, and ‘to be full’ as long as the source from which it flows does not run dry.

So that the more we experience the present blessedness, which faith in Christ brings us, the more shall we be sure that nothing in the future, either in or beyond time, can put an end to it; and hence a hope that looks with confident eyes across the gorge of death, to the ‘shining tablelands’ on the other side, and is as calm as certitude, shall be ours. To the Christian soul, rejoicing in the conscious exercise of faith and the conscious possession of its blessed results, the termination of a communion with Christ, so real and spiritual, by such a trivial accident as death, seems wildly absurd and therefore utterly impossible. Just as Christ’s Resurrection seems inevitable as soon as we grasp the truth of His divine nature, and it becomes manifestly impossible that He, being such as He is-should be holden of death,’ being such as it is, so for His children, when once they come to know the realities of fellowship with their Lord, they feel the entire dissimilarity of these to anything in the realm which is subjected to the power of death, and to know it to be as impossible that these purely spiritual experiences should be reduced to inactivity, or meddled with by it, as that a thought should be bound with a cord or a feeling fastened with fetters. They, and death, belong to two different regions. It can work its will on ‘this wide world, and all its fading sweets’-but is powerless in the still place where the soul and Jesus hold converse, and all His joy passes into His servant’s heart. I saw, not long since, in a wood a mass of blue wild hyacinths, that looked like a little bit of heaven dropped down upon earth. You and I may have such a tiny bit of heaven itself lying amidst all the tangle of our daily lives, if only we put our trust in Christ, and so get into our hearts some little portion of that joy that is unspeakable, and that peace that passeth understanding.

Thus, then, the sorrows of the earthly experience and the joys of the Christian life will blend together to produce the one blessed result of a hope that is full of certainty, and is the assurance of immortality. There is no rainbow in the sky unless there be both a black cloud and bright sunshine. So, on the blackest, thickest thunder-mass of our sorrows, if smitten into moist light by the sunshine of joy and peace drawn from Jesus Christ by faith, there may be painted the rainbow of hope, the many-coloured, steadfast token of the faithful covenant of the faithful God.Romans 15:4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime — In the Old Testament; were written for our learning — As if he had said, Though this may seem to concern David or Christ only, yet it, and all other parts of Scripture, whether containing promises or threatenings, whether speaking of rewards or punishments, were intended to be useful to God’s people in after ages; and by this passage in particular, we may learn to bear with the infirmities of others, a matter of great importance in religion; nay, of absolute necessity, considering that we ourselves, and all around us, not excepting the wisest and holiest Christians, are compassed about with infirmity; that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures — By learning and exercising such patience as the Scriptures prescribe, especially in bearing with the infirmities of others, and by obtaining those comforts the Scriptures hold forth to us; we might have hope — Might be confirmed in our expectation of eternal life, or that through the consolation which God gives us by the Scriptures, we might have patience and a joyful hope.15:1-7 Christian liberty was allowed, not for our pleasure, but for the glory of God, and the good of others. We must please our neighbour, for the good of his soul; not by serving his wicked will, and humouring him in a sinful way; if we thus seek to please men, we are not the servants of Christ. Christ's whole life was a self-denying, self-displeasing life. And he is the most advanced Christian, who is the most conformed to Christ. Considering his spotless purity and holiness, nothing could be more contrary to him, than to be made sin and a curse for us, and to have the reproaches of God fall upon him; the just for the unjust. He bore the guilt of sin, and the curse for it; we are only called to bear a little of the trouble of it. He bore the presumptuous sins of the wicked; we are called only to bear the failings of the weak. And should not we be humble, self-denying, and ready to consider one another, who are members one of another? The Scriptures are written for our use and benefit, as much as for those to whom they were first given. Those are most learned who are most mighty in the Scriptures. That comfort which springs from the word of God, is the surest and sweetest, and the greatest stay to hope. The Spirit as a Comforter, is the earnest of our inheritance. This like-mindedness must be according to the precept of Christ, according to his pattern and example. It is the gift of God; and a precious gift it is, for which we must earnestly seek unto him. Our Divine Master invites his disciples, and encourages them by showing himself as meek and lowly in spirit. The same disposition ought to mark the conduct of his servants, especially of the strong towards the weak. The great end in all our actions must be, that God may be glorified; nothing more forwards this, than the mutual love and kindness of those who profess religion. Those that agree in Christ may well agree among themselves.For whatsoever things ... - This is a "general" observation which struck the mind of the apostle, from the particular case which he had just specified. He had just made use of a striking passage in the Psalms to his purpose. The thought seems suddenly to have occurred to him that "all" the Old Testament was admirably adapted to express Christian duties and doctrine, and he therefore turned aside from his direct argument to express this sentiment. It should be read as a parenthesis.

Were written aforetime - That is, in ancient times; in the Old Testament.

For our learning - For our "teaching" or instruction. Not that this was the "only" purpose of the writings of the Old Testament, to instruct Christians; but that all the Old Testament might be useful "now" in illustrating and enforcing the doctrines and duties of piety toward God and man.

Through patience - This does not mean, as our translation might seem to suppose, patience "of the Scriptures," but it means that by patiently enduring sufferings, in connection with the consolation which the Scriptures furnish, we might have hope. The "tendency" of patience, the apostle tells us Romans 5:4, is to produce "hope;" see the notes at this place.

And comfort of the Scriptures - By means of the consolation which the writings of the Old Testament furnish. The word rendered "comfort" means also "exhortation" or "admonition." If this is its meaning here, it refers to the admonitions which the Scriptures suggest, instructions which they impart, and the exhortations to patience in trials. If it means "comfort," then the reference is to the examples of the saints in affliction; to their recorded expressions of confidence in God in their trials, as of Job, Daniel, David, etc. Which is the precise meaning of the word here, it is not easy to determine.

Might have hope - Note, Romans 5:4. We may learn here,

(1) That afflictions may prove to be a great blessing.

(2) that their proper tendency is to produce "hope."

(3) that the way to find support in afflictions is to go to the Bible.

By the example of the ancient saints, by the expression of their confidence in God, by their patience, "we" may learn to suffer, and may not only be "instructed," but may find "comfort" in all our trials; see the example of Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 1:2-11.

4. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning—"instruction"

through, &c.—"through the comfort and the patience of the Scriptures"

might have hope—that is, "Think not that because such portions of Scripture relate immediately to Christ, they are inapplicable to you; for though Christ's sufferings, as a Saviour, were exclusively His own, the motives that prompted them, the spirit in which they were endured, and the general principle involved in His whole work—self-sacrifice for the good of others—furnish our most perfect and beautiful model; and so all Scripture relating to these is for our instruction; and since the duty of forbearance, the strong with the weak, requires 'patience,' and this again needs 'comfort,' all those Scriptures which tell of patience and consolation, particularly of the patience of Christ, and of the consolation which sustained Him under it, are our appointed and appropriate nutriment, ministering to us 'hope' of that blessed day when these shall no more be needed." See on [2265]Ro 4:7, Note 7. (For the same connection between "patience and hope" see on [2266]Ro 12:12, and 1Th 1:3).

Lest any should think, that the testimony before alleged concerneth only David or Christ, he showeth that it belongeth also unto us; that we may learn by their example to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Yea, he takes occasion from hence to inform us of the general use of the Scriptures, that whatsoever is written, in this or any other place, is written for our learning and instruction; we are concerned not only by all the precepts, but in all the promises, Hebrews 13:5, menaces, Acts 13:40,41, rewards, Romans 4:24, and punishments, 1 Corinthians 10:11, therein mentioned and declared: and though this passage is more especially to be understood of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, yet it is true also of the Scriptures of the New Testament; they, being written by the same Spirit, are profitable for the same ends: see 2 Timothy 3:16.

That we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope; he proceeds to show more particularly the use and benefit of the Holy Scripture, which is, to confirm our hope and assurance of eternal life; see 1Jo 5:13. He saith,

the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, because they are both wrought in us by means thereof: see Revelation 3:10. We are armed with patience, and finished with consolations, from the examples and promises contained therein. It may be, the hope he here speaks of is to be understood not only of eternal life, but of salvalion and deliverance in this life: q.d. One principal use of the Scriptures is this, that by the examples we find there of the patience of holy men, and of God’s relieving and comforting them in their distresses, we might be confident that God will relieve and comfort us also in due time. For whatsoever things were written aforetime,.... In the books of the Old Testament; the apostle says this, to vindicate the pertinency of the above citation, and to prevent any objection that might be made against it; since whatsoever was written in that psalm did not belong personally to David, but to Christ; and what is written concerning him, is designed for the use and instruction of his people; yea, whatever is written anywhere in the sacred Scriptures,

were written for our learning; to instruct in the knowledge of Christ, of his person, offices, grace, righteousness, obedience, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension; and of the great salvation and redemption he came to obtain, and has obtained; and to teach us the doctrines of grace, of pardon through the blood of Christ, atonement by his sacrifice, justification by his righteousness, acceptance in his person, and eternal life through him; as also to inform us of our duty, and how we ought to behave both towards God and men:

that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope; the Scriptures are not only written for our present instruction, but for the ingenerating, encouraging, and establishing, an hope of eternal Life in another world; which they are the means of, under the influence of divine grace; since they give us a clear account of eternal life; of the promise of it in Christ; of its being procured by him, and secured in him; of the means of enjoying it, through his blood and righteousness; of the declarations of God's free grace and mercy to sinners, and of the various instances of persons who have been made partakers of it; all which encourage to hope in the Lord, and to rejoice in hope of the glory of God; believing we also may have and enjoy the thing hoped for, "through patience and comfort of the Scriptures"; both which are encouraged thereby: the "patience of the Scriptures" is not a stoical apathy, a stupid indolence; and is of a different kind from that patience the writings of the Heathen philosophers define and recommend: the Scripture gives an account of the true nature of patience, in bearing all sorts of evils for Christ's sake; of the excellency and usefulness of it; and do strongly exhort unto it upon the best principles, and with the best motives; and are full of promises to the exercise of it, and furnish out the best examples of suffering affliction, and patience: "the comfort of the Scriptures" is such as is not to be met with elsewhere. These writings abound with exceeding great and precious promises, and excellent doctrines, big with consolation to the saints; and both serve much to cherish, support, and maintain an hope of eternal happiness; all which prove the divine authority, excellency, and usefulness of the sacred writings, and recommend the reading of them by us, and the hearing of them explained by others.

{3} For whatsoever things were written {c} aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the {d} scriptures might have hope.

(3) The preventing of an objection: such things as are cited out of the examples of the ancients, are propounded unto us to this end and purpose, that according to the example of our fathers we should in patience and hope bear one with another.

(c) By Moses and the prophets.

(d) The scriptures are said to teach and comfort, because God uses them to teach and comfort his people with them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 15:4. In O. T. words Paul had just presented the example of Christ as an encouragement, and not without reason: for all that was previously written, etc. This reason[11] might, in truth, cause the example of Christ set before them to appear all the more inviting and involving the more sacred obligation to follow it.

ΠΡΟΕΓΡΆΦΗ] ΠΡΟ clearly obtains its definition through the ἩΜΕΤΈΡΑΝ in the second clause, prefixed with emphasis; hence: all that was written before us, before our time,[12] by which is meant the collective contents of the O. T. Wrongly, therefore, Reiche and Hofmann think that it refers to the Messianic oracles written before their fulfilment. On διδασκ. comp. 2 Timothy 3:16ΔΙᾺ Τῆς ὙΠΟΜ. Κ. Τ. ΠΑΡΑΚΛ. Τ. ΓΡ.] through the perseverance and the comfort which the Scriptures afford to us. That τ. ὑπομ. is to be connected with ΤῶΝ ΓΡΑΦ. (in opposition to Melanchthon, Grotius, Amnion, Flatt, van Hengel, and others), is clear from the fact, that otherwise Τ. ὙΠΟΜ. would stand severed from the connection, as well as from Romans 15:5 : Ὁ ΘΕῸς Τῆς ὙΠΟΜ. Κ. Τ. ΠΑΡΑΚΛ. The ὙΠΟΜΟΝΉ is here also, according to Romans 15:3, and conformably to the connection with ΠΑΡΆΚΛΗΣΙς, self-denying endurance in all sufferings (see on Romans 5:3), opposed to ἑαυτῷ ἀρέσκειν; and the ΓΡΑΦΑΊ are conceived as “ministerium spiritus” (Melanchthon). Incorrectly Hofmann understands the ὑπομονὴ τ. γραφ. as the waiting upon Scripture (namely, upon that which stands written in it), upon its fulfilment. Thus there is substituted for the notion of ὑπομονή that of ἈΠΟΚΑΡΑΔΟΚΊΑ (Romans 8:19), or ἈΝΑΜΟΝΉ (Symmachus, Psalm 38:8; Psalm 70:5), which even in 2 Thessalonians 3:5 it by no means has (see Lünemann); and how strangely would the only once used ΤῶΝ ΓΡΑΦ. be forced into two entirely different references of the genitive!

ΤῊΝ ἘΛΠΊΔΑ ἜΧΩΜΕΝ denotes having the hope (i.e. the definite and conscious Christian hope of the Messianic glory); for to promote the possession of this blessed hope by means of patience and comfort in Christians, is the object for which the contents of the O. T. were written for the instruction of Christians. Accordingly neither is ἔχωμ. to be taken as teneamus, with Beza and others; nor is ἐλπ., with Reiche and others, of the object of hope. Against the latter (see on Colossians 1:5) militates the fact that ἐλπίδα ἔχειν never denotes anything else than the subjective spem habere. Acts 24:15; 2 Corinthians 10:15; Ephesians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 John 3:3, et al.; Wis 3:18; Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 28; Polyb. i. 59. 2. Comp. Lobeck, Aglaoph. I. p. 70. But that the ἐλπίς refers to the conversion of the world of nations is a misunderstanding of Hofmann’s, which is connected with his erroneous reference of γάρ, Romans 15:4 (see on Romans 15:4). It is the hope of eternal salvation which, warranted and fostered by the influence of Scripture imparting patience and consolation, can and should merge and reconcile all separate efforts of αὐταρέσκεια, which divide men, into the mutual unanimity of Christian sentiment. Comp. Ephesians 4:3-4.

[11] Even if the closing verses of chap. 16 had their critically correct position at the end of chap. 14, we still could not, with Hofmann, put the γάρ in our passage into relation to the designation of God contained in those concluding verses. This—even apart from the fact that Romans 16:25-27 is an independent doxology—would be impossible on account of the already interposed vv. 2 and 3, and after the καθὼς γέγραπται just preceding (to which every reader must have referred the προεγράφη, ver. 4). Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:11.

[12] The compound is then followed (see critical notes) by the simple expression,—a frequent interchange also in the classics; see Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phaed. p. 59 B.Romans 15:4. Here Paul justifies his use of the O.T. ὅσα γὰρ προεγράφη = the whole O.T. εἰς τὴν ἡμετέραν διδασκαλίαν ἐγράφη: was written to teach us, and therefore has abiding value. 2 Timothy 3:16. ἵνα introduces God’s purpose, which is wider than the immediate purpose of the Apostle. Paul meant to speak only of bearing the infirmities of the weak, but with the quotation of Psalm 69:9 there came in the idea of the Christian’s sufferings generally, and it is amid them that God’s purpose is to be fulfilled. διὰ τῆς ὑπομ. κ. τῆς παρακλ. τῶν γραφῶν κ.τ.λ.: “that through the patience and the comfort wrought by the Scriptures we may have our hope”. τὴν ἐλπίδα is the Christian hope, the hope of the glory of God; and the Christian has it as he is able, through the help of God’s Word in the Scriptures, to maintain a brave and cheerful spirit amid all the sufferings and reproaches of life. Cf. Romans 5:2-5. This is, if not a digression, at least an expansion of his original idea, and at4. For whatsoever things, &c.] St Paul takes occasion from his last quotation to state a great principle; namely, that the O. T. was throughout designed for the instruction and establishment of N. T. believers. “Our,” just below, is emphatic.

On the principle, cp. 2 Timothy 3:15-17. It is almost needless to remark on the witness borne to the O. T. in such passages as this.

aforetime] Before our time; under the Elder Dispensation.

learning] i.e. teaching. Cp. Prayer-Book Version of Psalm 25:8; “them shall He learn His way;” and the present use of “learnèd” as an adjective.

through patience, &c.] Lit. through the patience and the comfort of the Scriptures may have the hope.—“The hope” is not hope in general, but the special hope of glory through Christ. (ch. Romans 5:2)—“The patience, &c. of the Scriptures” is the patience and comfort taught by the Scriptures, whether in precept or example. Here, for instance, the Lord’s blessed “patience,” His unwearied bearing of the burthen He had undertaken, forms, both in itself and as an example, a part of the “comfort” of His followers. (Cp. 1 Peter 2:19-21; 1 Peter 4:13.) It cheers them on to tread in His track; to “gird up the loins of their mind;” to “hope to the end.”

On the word “patience,” see on ch. Romans 5:3.Romans 15:4. Γὰρ, for) This assigns the reason for the quotation just made.—προεγράφη) were written before the time of the New Testament; as was that, which is quoted, Romans 15:3, as having been written concerning Christ.—ἡμετέραν) our, or of us believers in the New Testament, ch. Romans 4:24; 1 Corinthians 10:11.—ὑπομονῆς, patience) of which Christ afforded an example, not pleasing Himself.—καὶ) a hendiadys [end.], the comfort [paraclesis] of the Scriptures leads us to patience. A summary of the ends [the main aim] of sacred Scripture.—παρακλήσεως, comfort) which holds the middle place between patience and hope; ch. Romans 5:4. There is comfort [paraclesis, consolation], when the soul re-echoes the sentiment, thou art δόκιμος [Comp. the Gr. Jam 1:3; Jam 1:12] approved. 2 Corinthians 1:6.—τῶν γραφῶν, of the Scriptures) It is in the plural, and corresponds with whatsoever. [The Scriptures testify of Christ, and teach us by His example, what we should do or what we should leave undone.—V. g.]—τὴν ἐλπίδα, the hope) The article must not be overlooked, comp. on patience and hope, ch. Romans 5:4, on hope, Romans 15:12-13. For from this mention of patience and comfort the fifth verse is deduced, and from the mentioning of hope the thirteenth verse.—ἔχωμεν, may have) The former part of this verse treats of the use of the whole Scripture, the latter principally of the use of the Saying quoted at Romans 15:3. Hence comes the twofold prayer, Romans 15:5; Romans 15:13, suitable to the approaching conclusion.Verse 4. - For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning (in the old sense of teaching, or instruction), that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures (or, as the form of the Greek rather suggests, and as is confirmed by the repetition of the words conjoined in ver. 5, through the patience and the comfort of the Scriptures) might have hope. This verse, introduced by γὰρ, gives the reason why the words of the ancient psalmist are adduced for the instruction of Christians. Christ, it is said, exemplified the principle of it, and it is for us to do so too. By bearing the infirmities of the weak, and submitting, if need be, to reproach, we exhibit Christ-like endurance (ὑπομονὴ), such as Scripture inculcates; and therewith will come comfort, such as Scripture contains and gives, and so a strengthening of our hope beyond these present troubles. The psalm quoted was peculiarly one of endurance and comfort under vexations and reproaches, and of hope beyond them. It was written afore-time for our instruction, that so it may be with us, as it was with Christ. In the next verse the apostle returns definitely to the subject in hand.
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