Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy Scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 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."
WE now enter upon the work of exposition.
People, in reading the Bible, are often not conscious of the extreme listlessness with which they pass along the familiar and oft repeated words of Scripture, without the impression of their meaning being at all present with the thoughts and how, during the mechanical currency of the verses through their lips, the thinking power is often asleep for whole passages together. And you will therefore allow me, at least at the commencement of this lectureship, first to read over a paragraph; and then to fasten the import of certain of its particular phrases upon your attention, even though these phrases may heretofore have been regarded as so intelligible, that you never thought of bestowing an effort or dwelling one moment upon their signification; and then of reading the passage over again, in such extended or such substituted language, as may give us another chance of the sense of it, at least being rivetted on your understandings. We shall generally endeavour to press home upon you, in the way of application, some leading truth or argument which may occur in any such portion of the epistle as we may have been enabled to overtake.
Ver. 1. "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God." An apostle is one who is sent, one who obtains, not a commission to do, but a commission to go "Go and preach the Gospel unto every creature." Jesus Christ is an apostle because sent and is therefore called not merely the High Priest, but the Apostle of our profession. God sent His Son unto the world. The call of Paul you read of several times in the Acts, both in the direct narrative of that book, and in his own account of it. And it is to be remarked that as he got his commission in a peculiar way, so he evidently feels himself more called upon than the other apostles, to assert and to vindicate its authenticity.
'Separated unto' - set apart to a particular work. You know that holiness, in its original meaning, just signifies separation from the mass. It is thus that the vessels of the temple are holy. It is thus that the terms, common and unclean, are held, in the language of the ceremonial law, to be synonymous. And it is thus that the devoting, or setting apart of an apostle to his office, is expressed by the consecration of him to it; and even, in one part of the New Testament, by the sanctifying of him to it. This explains a passage that might be otherwise difficult, John, xvii, 17 - 19. " Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified though the truth." To sanctify here is not applied to the personal but the official character. It is not to moralize the heart, but merely to set apart to an employment; and thus bears application to the Apostle Christ, as to the apostles whom He was addressing.
Gospel, a message of good news.
Verse. 2. "Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy Scriptures." 'Which' refers to gospel, - which gospel He had promised.
Ver. 3. "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh." This verse gives us the subject of the message, or what the message is aboutor, omitting the second verse as a parenthesis, separated unto the work of promulgating God's message of good news, about His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The phrase which was made might have been rendered "which became" of the seed of David in respect of His flesh, or His human nature. He took it upon Him. He received from this descent all that other men receive of natural faculty or, in other words, the term flesh comprehends the human soul as well as the human body of our Redeemer. According to is, 'in respect of'.
Ver. 4. "And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Declared or determinately marked out to be the Son of God and with power. The thing was demonstrated by an evidence, the exhibition of which required a putting forth of power, which Paul in another place represents as a very great and strenuous exertion. "According to the working of his mighty power when he raised him from the dead." The Spirit of holiness or the Holy Spirit. It was through the operation of the Holy Spirit, that the divine nature was infused into the human at the birth of Jesus Christ; and the very same agent, it is remarkable, was employed in the work of the resurrection. "Put to death in the flesh," says Peter, "and quickened by the Spirit." We have only to do with the facts of the case. He was demonstrated to be the Son of God, by the power of the Spirit having been put forth in raising Him from the dead.
Ver. 5. "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name." Grace, sometimes signifies the kindness which prompts a gift, and sometimes the gift itself. We say that we receive kindness from a man, when, in fact, all that we can personally and bodily lay hold of, is the fruit of his kindness. Here it signifies the fruit - a spiritual gift -ability, in fact, to discharge the office of an apostleship, or other duties attached to an apostle's commission. He labonred with success at this vocation, because he could strive mightily according to His working that wrought in him mightily. This commission was granted to him for the purpose of producing an obedience unto the faith among all nations, for the purpose of rendering all nations obedient unto the faith and all this for the further purpose of magnifying His name.
Ver. 6. "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ." 'Called' externally, - if addressing the whole church, of whom it is very possible that some may not have been called effectually. Or if restricted as in the following verse, only the latter though he might presume to address all in visible communion with the church as beloved of God and as called to be saints.
Ver. 7. "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." Loving kindness to you is manifested in those peculiar influences which the Spirit confers on believers; and either real peace, or a sense of it in your hearts, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. So minute an exposition may not be called for afterwards: we may not therefore persevere in it long. We have now gone in detail over the words that seemed to require it, to prepare the way for repeating the whole passage to you, either in extended or in substituted language. But before we do so, we would bid you remark a peculiarity, which we often meet with in the compositions of this apostle. He deals very much in what might be called the excursive style. One word often suggests to him a train of digression from the main current of his argument; and a single word of that train often suggests to him another; and thus does he accumulate one subsequent clause of an episode upon a foregoing; and branches out in so many successive departures, till, after a period of indulgence in this way of it, he recalls himself and falls in again to the capital stream of his observations. The interval between the first and seventh verses may be looked to, as filled up with a set of parentheses; and they will read therefore very well in succession. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 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. In like manner, several of the intermediate verses are capable of being omitted, without breaking the line of continuity. But the occurrence of the term Gospel at the end of the first verse, is followed up in the second by his mention of the antiquity of it, and in the third by his mention of the subject of it; and in this verse the single introduction of our Saviour's name, leads him to assert in thie and the following verse His divine and human natures, and to state in the fifth verse that from Him he had received a commission to preach unto all nations, and to instance in the sixth verse the people whom he was addressing as one of these nations. And it is not till after he has completed this circle of deviations, but at the same time enriched the whole of its course with the effusions of a mind stored in the truths of revelation, that he resumes in the seventh that rectilineal track, by which the writer who announced himself in the first verse, sends in the seventh his Christian salutations to the correspondents whom he is addressing.
We conclude with the following paraphrase.
"Paul a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, and set apart to the work of conveying God's message of good tidings, which message He had promised before in His holy Scriptures, and which message relates to His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who in respect of His human nature, was descended of David - but was evinced to be descended of God in respect of that divine nature with which the Holy Spirit impregnated His humanity at the first; and which He afterwards, by His power, still associated with His humanity, in raising Him from the dead. By this Jesus Christ have I received the favour to be an apostle andl ability for the office of spreading obedience unto the faith among all nations for the glory of His name. Among these nations are ye Romans, also, the called of Jesus Christ, and to all of you in Rome, beloved of God, and called to be saints, do I wish grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
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