Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Brethren - This expression seems intended particularly for the Jews, his ancient friends, fellow-worshippers, and kinsmen, but who had embraced the Christian faith. It is an expression of tenderness and affection, denoting his deep interest in their welfare.
My heart's desire - The word "desire" εὐδοκία eudokia means benevolence, and the expression, "my heart's desire," means my earnest and sincere wish.
Prayer to God - He not only cherished this feeling but he expressed in a desire to God. He had no desire that his kinsmen should be destroyed; no pleasure in the appalling doctrine which he had been defending. He still wished their welfare; and could still pray for them that they might return to God. Ministers have no pleasure in proclaiming the truth that people must be lost. Even when they declare the truths of the Bible that some will be lost; when they are constrained by the unbelief and wickedness of people to proclaim it of them, they still can sincerely say that they seek their salvation.
For Israel - For the Jewish nation.
That they might be saved - This clearly refers to salvation from the sin of unbelief; and the consequences of sin in hell. It does not refer to the temporal calamities which were coming upon them, but to preservation from the eternal anger of God; compare Rom 11:26; Ti1 2:4. The reasons why the apostle commences this chapter in this tender manner are the following.
(1) because he had stated and defended one of the most offensive doctrines that could be preached to a Jew; and he was desirous to show them that it was not from any lack of affection for them, but that he was urged to it by the pressure of truth.
(2) he was regarded by them as an apostate. He had abandoned them when bearing their commission, and while on his way to execute their favorite purposes, and had preached the doctrine which they had sent him to destroy; compare Acts 9. He had opposed them everywhere; had proclaimed their pride, self-righteousness, and crime in crucifying their Messiah; had forsaken all that they valued; their pomp of worship, their city, and their temple; and had gone to other lands to bear the message of mercy to the nations that they despised. He was willing to show them that this proceeded from no lack of affection for them, but that he still retained toward them the feelings of a Jew, and could give them credit for much that they valued themselves on, Rom 10:2.
(3) he was aware of the deep and dreadful condemnation that was coming on them. In view of that he expressed his tender regard for their welfare, and his earnest prayer to God for their salvation. And we see here the proper feelings of a minister of the gospel when declaring the most terrible of the truths of the Bible. Paul was tender, affectionate, kind; convincing by cool argument, and not harshly denouncing; stating the appalling truth, and then pouring out his earnest desires to God that he would avert the impending doom. So should the awful doctrines of religion be preached by all the ambassadors of God.
For I bear them record - To bear record means to be a witness; to give evidence. This, Paul was well qualified to do. He had been a Jew of the strictest order Act 26:5; Phi 3:5, and he well knew the extraordinary exertions which they put forth to obey the commands of the Law.
A zeal of God - A zeal for God. Thus, Joh 2:17," The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up;" an earnest desire for the honor of the sanctuary has wholly absorbed my attention; compare Psa 69:9; Act 21:20, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous of the law;" Act 22:3, "And was zealous toward God as ye all are this day." Zeal for God here means passionate ardor in the things pertaining to God, or in the things of religion. In this they were, doubtless, many of them sincere; but sincerity does not of itself constitute true piety; Joh 16:2, "The time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." This would be an instance of extraordinary zeal, and in this they would be sincere; but persecution to death of apostles cannot be true religion; see also Mat 23:15; Act 26:9, "I thought that I ought to do," etc. So many persons suppose that, provided they are sincere and zealous, they must of course be accepted of God. But the zeal which is acceptable is what aims at the glory of God, and which is founded on true benevolence to the universe; and which does not aim primarily to establish a system of self-righteousness, as did the Jew, or to build up our own sect, as many others do. We may remark here, that Paul was not insensible to what the Jews did, and was not unwilling to give them credit for it. A minister of the gospel should not be blind to the amiable qualities of people or to their zeal; and should be willing to speak of it tenderly, even when he is proclaiming the doctrine of depravity, or denouncing the just judgments of God.
Not according to knowledge - Not an enlightened, discerning, and intelligent zeal. Not what was founded on correct views of God and of religious truth. Such zeal is enthusiasm, and often becomes persecuting. Knowledge without zeal becomes cold, abstract, calculating, formal; and may be possessed by devils as well as human beings. It is the union of the two - the action of the man called forth to intense effort by just views of truth and by right feeling - that constitutes true religion. This was the zeal of the Saviour and of the apostles.
For they being ignorant - The ignorance of the Jews was voluntarily, and therefore criminal. The apostle does not affirm that they could not have known what the plan of God was; for he says Rom 10:18-21 that they had full opportunity of knowing. An attentive study of their own Scriptures would have led them to the true knowledge of the Messiah and his righteousness; see Joh 5:39; compare Isa 53:1-12, etc. Yet the fact that they were ignorant, though not an excuse, is introduced here, doubtless, as a mild and mitigating circumstance, that should take off the severity of what he might appear to them to be saying; Ti1 1:13, "But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief;" Luk 23:34, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;" Act 7:60. Involuntary ignorance excuses from guilt; but ignorance produced by our sin or our indolence is no excuse for crime.
Of God's righteousness - Not of the personal holiness of God, "but of God's plan of justifying people, or of declaring them righteous by faith in his Son;" see the note at Rom 1:17. Here God's plan stands opposed to their efforts to make themselves righteous by their own works.
And seeking to establish ... - Endeavoring to confirm or make valid their own righteousness; to render it such as to constitute a ground of justification before God; or to make good their own claims to eternal life by their merits. This stands opposed to the justification by grace, or to God's plan. And they must ever be opposed. This was the constant effort of the Jews; and in this they supposed they had succeeded. see Paul's experience in Phi 3:4-6; Act 26:5. Instances of their belief on this subject occur in all the gospels, where our Saviour combats their notions of their own righteousness. See particularly their views and evasions exposed in Matt. 23; compare Mat 5:20, etc.; Mat 6:2-5. It was this which mainly opposed the Lord Jesus and his apostles; and it is this confidence in their own righteousness, which still stands in the way of the progress of the gospel among people.
Have not submitted themselves - Confident in their own righteousness. they have nor yielded their hearts to a plan which requires them to come confessing that they have no merit, and to be saved by the merit of another. No obstacle to salvation by grace is so great as the self-righteousness of the sinner.
Righteousness of God - His plan or scheme of justifying people.
For Christ - This expression implies faith in Christ. This is the design of the discussion, to show that justification cannot be obtained by our own righteousness, but by faith in Christ. As no direct benefit results to people from Christ unless they believe on him, faith in him is implied where the word occurs in this connection.
Is the end of the law - The word translated "end" means what completes a thing, or renders it perfect; also the boundary, issue, or termination of anything, as the end of life, the result of a prophecy, etc.; Joh 13:1; Luk 22:37. It also means the design or object which is had in view; the principal purpose for which it was undertaken; Ti1 1:5," The end of the commandment is charity;" the main design or purpose of the command is to produce love; Pe1 1:9, "The end of your faith, the salvation of your souls;" the main design or purpose of faith is to secure salvation; Rom 14:9, "To this end Christ both died," etc. For this design or purpose. This is doubtless its meaning here. "The main design or object which the perfect obedience of the Law would accomplish, is accomplished by faith in Christ." That is, perfect obedience to the Law would accomplish justification before God, secure his favor and eternal life. The same end is now accomplished by faith in Christ. The great design of both is the same; and the same great end is finally gained. This was the subject of discussion between the apostle and the Jews; and this is all that is necessary to understand in the case. Some have supposed that the word "end" refers to the ceremonial law; that Christ fulfilled it, and brought it to an end. Others, that he perfectly fulfilled the moral law. And others, that the Law in the end leads us to Christ, or that its design is to point us to him. All this is true, but not the truth taught in this passage. That is simple and plain, that by faith in Christ the same end is accomplished in regard to our justification, that would be by perfect obedience to the moral law.
For righteousness - Unto justification with God.
To every ... - See the note at Rom 1:17.
For Moses describeth ... - This is found in Lev 18:5, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do he shall live in them." This appeal is made to Moses, both in regard to the righteousness of the Law and that of faith, in accordance with the usual manner of Paul to sustain all his positions by the Old Testament, and to show that he was introducing no new doctrine. He was only affirming that which had been long before taught in the writings of the Jews themselves. The word "describeth" is literally writes γράφει graphei, a word often used in this sense.
The righteousness ... - The righteousness which a perfect obedience to the Law of God would produce. That consisted in perfectly doing all that the Law required.
The man which doeth these things - The man who shall perform or obey what was declared in the previous statutes. Moses here had reference to all the commandments which God had given, moral and ceremonial. And the doctrine of Moses is what pertains to all laws, that he who shall render perfect and continued compliance with all the statutes made known, shall receive the reward which the Law promises. This is a first principle of all law; for all law holds a man to be innocent, and, of course, entitled to whatever immunities and rewards it has to confer, until he is proved to be guilty. In this case, however, Moses did not affirm that in fact any one either had yielded or would yield perfect obedience to the Law of God. The Scriptures abundantly teach elsewhere that it never has been done.
Doeth - Obeys, or yields obedience. So also Mat 5:19, "Shall do and teach them." Mat 7:24, Mat 7:26, "whosoever heareth these sayings ...and doeth them." Mat 23:3; Mar 3:35; Mar 6:20; Luk 6:46-47, Luk 6:49.
Shall live - Shall obtain felicity. Obedience shall render him happy, and entitled to the rewards of the obedient. Moses doubtless referred here to all the results which would follow obedience. The effect would be to produce happiness in this life and in the life to come. The principle on which happiness would be conferred, would be the same whether in this world or the next. The tendency and result of obedience would be to promote order, health, purity, benevolence; to advance the welfare of man, and the honor of God, and thus must confer happiness. The idea of happiness is often in the Scriptures represented by the word "life"; see the note at Joh 5:24. It is evident moreover that the Jews understood Moses here as referring to more than temporal blessings. The ancient Targum of Onkelos renders the passage in Leviticus thus: "The man who does these things shall live in them to eternal life." So the Arabic version is, "The retribution of him who works these things is that he shall live an eternal life."
By them - ἐν αὐτοῖς en autois. In them. In their observance he shall find happiness. Not simply as a result, or reward, but the very act of obeying shall carry its own reward. This is the case with all true religion. This declaration of Moses is still true. If perfect obedience were rendered, it would, from the nature of the case, confer happiness and life as long as the obedience was rendered. God would not punish the innocent. But in this world it never has been rendered, except in the case of the Lord Jesus; and the consequence is, that the course of man has been attended with pain, sorrow, and death.
But the righteousness which is of faith - It is observable here that Paul does not affirm that Moses describes any where the righteousness by faith, or the effect of the scheme of justification by faith. His object was different, to give the Law, and state its demands and rewards. Yet though he had not formally described the plan of justification by faith, yet he had used language which would fitly express that plan. The scheme of justification by faith is here personified, as if it were living and describing its own effects and nature. One describing it would say, Or the plan itself speaks in this manner. The words here quoted are taken from Deu 30:11-14. The original meaning of the passage is this: Moses, near the end of his life, having given his commandments to the Israelites exhorts them to obedience. To do this, he assures them that his commands are reasonable, plain, intelligible, and accessible.
They did not require deep research, long journeys, or painful toil. There was no need of crossing seas, and going to other lands, of looking into the profound mysteries of the high heavens, or the deep abyss; but they were near them, had been plainly set before them, and were easily understood. To see the excellency of this characteristic of the divine Law, it may be observed, that among the ancients, it was not uncommon for legislators and philosophers to travel to distant countries in pursuit of knowledge. They left their country, encountered dangers on the sea and land, to go to distant regions that had the reputation of wisdom. Egypt was especially a land of such celebrity; and in subsequent times Pythagoras, and the principal philosophers of Greece, traveled into that country to converse with their priests, and to bear the fruits of their wisdom to benefit their native land. And it is not improbable that this had been done to some extent even in or before the time of Moses. Moses says that his precepts were to be obtained by no such painful and dangerous journeys. They were near them, plain, and intelligible. This is the general meaning of this passage Moses dwells on the thought, and places it in a variety of forms by the questions, "who shall go up to heaven for us, etc.;" and Paul regards this as appropriately describing the language of Christian faith; but without affirming that Moses himself had any reference in the passage to the faith of the gospel.
On this wise - In this manner.
Say not in thine heart - The expression to say in the heart is the same as to think. Do not think, or suppose, that the doctrine is so difficult to be understood, that one must ascend to heaven in order to understand it.
Who shall ascend into heaven? - This expression was used among the Jews to denote any difficult undertaking. To say that it was high as heaven, or that it was necessary to ascend to heaven to understand it, was to express the highest difficulty. Thus, Job 11:7, "Canst thou by searching find out God? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? etc." Moses says it was not so with his doctrine. It was not impossible to be understood, but was plain and intelligible.
That is, to bring Christ ... - Paul does not here affirm that it was the original design of Moses to affirm this of Christ. His words related to his own doctrine. Paul makes this use of the words because,
(1) They appropriately expressed the language of faith.
(2) if this might be affirmed of the doctrines of Moses, much more might it of the Christian religion. Religion had no such difficult work to do as to ascend to heaven to bring down a Messiah. That work was already accomplished when God gave his Son to become a man, and to die.
To save man it was indeed indispensable that Christ should have come down from heaven. But the language of faith was that this had already been done. Probably the word "Christ" here includes all the benefits mentioned in Rom 10:4 as resulting from the work of Christ.
Or who shall descend into the deep? - These words are also a part of the address of Moses, Deu 30:13. But it is not literally quoted. The Hebrew is, "Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for us, etc." The words of the quotation are changed, but not the sense; and it is to be remembered that Paul is not professing to quote the words of Moses, but to "express the language of faith;" and this he does mainly by words which Moses had used, which also expressed his meaning. The words as used by Moses refer to what is remote, and therefore difficult to be obtained. To cross the sea in the early times of navigation involved the highest difficulty, danger, and toil. The sea which was in view was doubtless the Mediterranean, but the crossing of that was an enterprise of the greatest difficulty, and the regions beyond that were regarded as being at a vast distance.
Hence, it is spoken of as being the widest object with which they were acquainted, and the fairest illustration of infinity, Job 11:9. In the same sense Paul uses the word "deep," ἄβυσσον abusson - "the abyss." This word is applied to anything the depth or bottom of which is not known. It is applied to the ocean (in the Septuagint), Job 41:31, "He maketh the deep to boil as a pot." Isa 44:27, "that saith to the deep, Be dry, etc." Gen 7:11; Gen 8:2; to a broad place Job 36:16; and to the abyss before the world was formed, Gen 1:2. In the New Testament it is not applied to the ocean, unless in the passage Luk 8:31 (see the note on that place), but to the abode of departed spirits; and particularly to the dark, deep, and bottomless pit, where the wicked are to dwell forever. Rev 9:1-2, "and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit;" Greek, "The pit of the abyss."
Rev 11:7; Rev 17:8; Rev 20:1, Rev 20:3. In these places the word means the deep, awful regions of the nether world. The word stands opposed to heaven; as deep as that is high; as dark as that is light; while the one is as vast as the other. In the place before us it is opposed to heaven; and to descend there to bring up one, is supposed to be as impossible as to ascend to heaven to bring one down. Paul does not affirm that Christ descended to those regions; but he says that there is no such difficulty in religion as if one were required to descend into those profound regions to call back a departed spirit. That work was in fact done, when Jesus was recalled from the dead, and now the work of salvation is easy. The word "abyss" here, therefore, corresponds to Hades, or the dark regions of departed spirits.
That is, to bring up Christ ... - Justification by faith had no such difficult and impossible work to perform as would be an attempt for man to raise the dead. That would be impossible; but the work of religion is easy. "Christ, the ground of hope, is not by our efforts to be brought down from heaven to save us, for that is done; nor by our efforts to be raised from the dead, for that is done; and what remains for us, that is to believe, is easy, and is near us." This is the meaning of the whole passage.
But what saith it? - That is, what is the language of the doctrine of justification by faith? Or what is to be done according to that doctrine?
The word is nigh thee - This is still a use of the language of Moses. Deu 30:14. The meaning is, the doctrine is not difficult to be understood and embraced. What is nigh us may be easily obtained. What is remote, with difficulty. The doctrine of Moses and of the gospel was nigh; that is, it was easily obtained, embraced, and understood.
In thy mouth - This is taken from the Septuagint. Deu 30:14. The meaning is, that the doctrine was already so familiar, and so well understood, that it was actually in their mouth, that is, their language, their common conversation. Moses had so often inculcated it, that it was understood and talked about by the people, so that there was no need to search in distant climes to obtain it. The same was true of the gospel. The facts were so well known by the preaching of the apostles, that they might be said to be "in every man's mouth."
In thy heart - The word "heart" is very variously used in the sacred Scriptures. As used by Moses in this place, it evidently means that his doctrines were in their mind, or were a subject of meditation and reflection. They already possessed them, and talked and thought about them: so that there was no need of going to distant places to learn them. The same was true of the doctrine requiring faith in Christ. It was already among them by the preaching of the apostles, and was a subject of conversation and of thought.
That is - This is the use which the apostle makes of it; not that Moses referred to the gospel. His language conveys the main idea which Paul wished to do, that the doctrine was plain and intelligible.
The word of faith - The doctrine which requires faith, that is, the gospel; compare Ti1 4:6. The gospel is called the Word of faith, the Word of God, as being what was spoken, or communicated by God to man. Rom 10:17; Heb 6:5; Heb 11:3.
Which we preach - Which is proclaimed by the apostles, and made known to Jews and Gentiles. As this was now made known to all, as the apostles preached it everywhere, it could be said to be nigh them; there was no need of searching other lands for it, or regarding it as a hidden mystery, for it was plain and manifest to all. Its simplicity and plainness he proceeds immediately to state.
That if thou shalt confess - The word here rendered "confess" ὁμολογέω homologeō is often rendered "profess"; Mat 7:23, "Then will I profess to them, I never knew you;" Tit 1:16; Tit 3:14; Rom 1:22; Ti1 2:10; Ti1 6:12-13, Ti1 6:21; Heb 3:1, etc. It properly means to "speak what agrees with something which others speak or maintain." Thus, confession or profession expresses our "agreement or concord with what God holds to be true, and what he declares to be true." It denotes a public declaration or assent to that, here expressed by the words "with thy mouth." A profession of religion then denotes a public declaration of our agreement with what God has declared, and extends to all his declarations about our lost estate, our sin, and need of a Saviour; to his doctrines about his own nature, holiness, and law; about the Saviour and the Holy Spirit; about the necessity of a change of heart and holiness of life; and about the grave and the judgment; about heaven and hell. As the doctrine respecting a Redeemer is the main and leading doctrine, it is put here by way of eminence, as in fact involving all others; and publicly to express our assent to this, is to declare our agreement with God on all kindred truths.
With thy mouth - To profess a thing with the mouth is to speak of it; to declare it; to do it openly and publicly.
The Lord Jesus - Shalt openly acknowledge attachment to Jesus Christ. The meaning of it may be expressed by regarding the phrase "the Lord" as the predicate; or the thing to be confessed is, that he is Lord; compare Act 2:36; Phi 2:11, "And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Here it means to acknowledge him as Lord, that is, as having a right to rule over the soul.
Shalt believe in thy heart - Shalt sincerely and truly believe this, so that the external profession shall correspond with the real, internal feelings. Where this is not the case, it would be hypocrisy; where this is the case, there would be the highest sincerity, and this religion requires.
That God hath raised him - This fact, or article of Christian belief, is mentioned here because of its great importance, and its bearing on the Christian system. If this be true, then all is true. Then it is true that he came forth from God; that he died for sin; and that God approved and accepted his work. Then it is true that he ascended to heaven, and is exalted to dominion over the universe, and that he will return to judge the quick and the dead. For all this was professed and taught; and all this was regarded as depending on the truth of his having been raised from the dead; see Phi 2:8-11; Eph 1:21; Act 2:24, Act 2:32-33; Act 17:31; Co2 4:14; Co1 15:13-20. To profess this doctrine was, therefore, virtually to profess all the truths of the Christian religion. No man could believe this who did not also believe all the truths dependent on it. Hence, the apostles regarded this doctrine as so important, and made it so prominent in their preaching. See the note at Act 1:3.
Thou shalt be saved - From sin and hell. This is the doctrine of the gospel throughout; and all this shows that salvation by the gospel was easy.
For with the heart - Not with the understanding merely, but with such a faith as shall be sincere, and shall influence the life. There can be no other genuine faith than what influences the whole mind.
Believeth unto righteousness - Believes so that justification is obtained. (Stuart.) In God's plan of justifying people, this is the way by which we may be declared just or righteous in his sight. The moment a sinner believes, therefore, he is justified; his sins are pardoned; and he is introduced into the favor of God. No man can be justified without this; for this is God's plan, and he will not depart from it.
With the mouth confession is made ... - That is, confession or profession is so made as to obtain salvation. He who in all appropriate ways professes his attachment to Christ shall be saved. This profession is to be made in all the proper ways of religious duty; by an avowal of our sentiments; by declaring on all proper occasions our belief of the truth; and by an unwavering adherence to them in all persecutions, oppositions, and trials. He who declares his belief makes a profession. He who associates with Christian people does it. He who acts with them in the prayer meeting, in the sanctuary, and in deeds of benevolence, does it. He who is baptized, and commemorates the death of the Lord Jesus, does it. And he who leads an humble, prayerful, spiritual life, does it. He shows his regard to the precepts and example of Christ Jesus; his regard for them more than for the pride, and pomp, and allurements of the world. All these are included in a profession of religion. In whatever way we can manifest attachment to it, it must be done. The reason why this is made so important is, that there can be no true attachment to Christ which will not manifest itself in the life. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. It is impossible that there should be true belief in the heart of man, unless it should show itself in the life and conversation. This is the only test of its existence and its power; and hence it is made so important in the business of religion. And we may here learn,
(1) That a profession of religion is, by Paul, made as really indispensable to salvation as believing. According to him it is connected with salvation as really as faith is with justification; and this accords with all the declarations of the Lord Jesus; Mat 10:32; Mat 25:34-46; Luk 12:8.
(2) there can be no religion where there is not a willingness to confess the Lord Jesus. There is no true repentance where we are not willing to confess our faults. There is no true attachment to a father or mother or friend, unless we are willing on all proper occasions to avow it. And so there can be no true religion where there is too much pride, or vanity, or love of the world, or fear of shame to confess it.
(3) those who never profess any religion have none: and they are not safe. To deny God the Saviour before people is not safe. They who do not profess religion, profess the opposite. The real feelings of the heart will be expressed in the life. And they who profess by their lives that they have no regard for God and Christ, for heaven and glory, must expect to be met in the last day, as those who deny the Lord that bought them, and who bring upon themselves quick destruction; Pe2 1:2.
For the Scripture saith ... - Isa 28:16. This was the uniform doctrine of the Scripture, that he who holds an opinion on the subject of religion will not be ashamed to avow it. This is the nature of religion, and without this there can be none; see this passage explained in Rom 9:33.
For there is no difference - In the previous verse Paul had quoted a passage from Isa 28:16, which says that "everyone" (Greek, πᾶς pas) that believeth shall not be ashamed; that is, everyone of every nation and kindred. This implies that it was not to be confined to the Jews. This thought he now further illustrates and confirms by expressly declaring that there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek. This doctrine it was one main design of the Epistle to establish, and it is fully proved in the course of the argument in Rom. 1-4. See particularly Rom 3:26-30. When the apostle says there is no difference between them, he means in regard to the subject under discussion. In many respects there might be a difference; but not in the way of justification before God. There all had sinned; all had failed of obeying the Law; and all must be justified in the same way, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The word "difference" διαστολὴ diastolē means "distinction, diversity." It also means "eminence, excellence, advantage." There is no eminence or advantage which the Jew has over the Greek in regard to justification before God.
The Jew - That portion of mankind which professed to yield obedience to the Law of Moses.
The Greek - Literally, those who dwelt in Greece, or those who spoke the Greek language. As the Jews, however, were acquainted chiefly with the Greeks, and knew little of other nations, the name Greek among them came to denote all who were not Jews; that is, the same as the Gentiles. The terms "Jew and Greek," therefore, include all mankind. There is no difference among people about the terms of salvation; they are the same to all. This truth is frequently taught. It was a most important doctrine, especially in a scheme of religion that was to be preached to all people. It was very offensive to the Jews, who had always regarded themselves as a especially favored people. Against this, all their prejudices were roused, as it completely overthrew all their own views of national eminence and pride, and admitted despised Gentiles to the same privileges with the long favored and chosen people of God. The apostles, therefore, were at great pains fully to establish it; see Act 10:9; Gal 3:28.
For the same Lord over all ... - For there is the same Lord of all; that is, the Jews and Gentiles have one common Lord; compare Rom 3:29-30. The same God had formed them, and ruled them; and God now opened the same path to life. See this fully presented in Paul's address to the people of Athens, in Act 17:26-30; see also Ti1 2:5. As there was but one God; as all, Jews and Gentiles, were his creatures; as one law was applicable to all; as all had sinned; and as all were exposed to wrath; so it was reasonable that there should be the same way of return - through the mere mercy of God. Against this the Jew ought not to object; and in this he and the Greek should rejoice.
Is rich unto all - πλουτῶν εἰς παντάς ploutōn eis pantas. The word "rich" means to have abundance, to have in store much more than is needful for present or personal use. It is commonly applied to wealth. But applied to God, it means that he abounds in mercy or goodness toward others. Thus, Eph 2:4, "God, who is rich in mercy," etc.; Ti1 6:17-18, "charge them that are rich in this world ...that they be rich in good works." Jam 2:5, "God hath chosen the poor ...rich in faith;" that is, abounding in faith and good works, etc. Thus, God is said to be rich toward all, as he abounds in mercy and goodness toward them in the plan of salvation.
That call upon him - This expression means properly to supplicate, to invoke, as in prayer. As prayer constitutes no small part of religion; and as it is a distinguishing characteristic of those who are true Christians (Act 11:11, "Behold he prayeth;") to call on the name of the Lord is put for religion itself, and is descriptive of acts of devotion toward God; Pe1 1:17, "And if ye call on the Father, etc.;" Act 2:21; Act 9:14," he hath authority ...to bind all that call on thy name;" Act 7:59; Act 22:16; Gen 4:26, "Then began men to call on the name of the Lord."
For whosoever shall call ... - This sentiment is found substantially in Joe 2:32, "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered." This is expressly applied to the times of the gospel, by Peter, in Act 2:21; see the note on that place. To call on the name of the Lord is the same as to call on the Lord himself. The word "name" is often used in this manner. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, etc.;" Pro 18:10. "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;" Psa 20:1. That is, God himself is a strong tower, etc. It is clear from what follows, that the apostle applies this to Jesus Christ; and this is one of the numerous instances in which the writers of the New Testament apply to him expressions which in the Old Testament are applicable to God; see Co1 1:2.
Shall be saved - This is the uniform promise; see Act 2:21; Act 22:16, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." This is proper and indispensable because,
(1) We have sinned against God, and it is right that we should confess it.
(2) because he only can pardon us, and it is fit, that if we obtain pardon, we should ask it of God.
(3) to call upon him is to acknowledge him as our Sovereign, our Father, and our Friend; and it is right that we render him our homage.
It is implied in this, that we call upon him with right feelings; that is, with a humble sense of our sinfulness and our need of pardon, and with a willingness to receive eternal life as it is offered us in the gospel. And if this be done, this passage teaches us that all may be saved who will do it. He will cast none away who come in this manner. The invitation and the assurance extend to all nations and to people of all times.
How then shall they call. ... - The apostle here adverts to an objection which might be urged to his argument. His doctrine was, that faith in Christ was essential to justification and salvation; and that this was needful for all; and that, without this, man must perish. The objection was, that they could not call on him in whom they had not believed; that they could not believe in him of whom they had not heard; and that this was arranged by God himself, so that a large part of the world was destitute of the gospel, and in fact did not believe; Rom 10:16-17. The objection had particular reference to the Jews; and the ground of injustice which a Jew would complain of, would be, that the plan made salvation dependent on faith, when a large part of the nation had not heard the gospel, and had had no opportunity to know it. This objection the apostle meets, so far as it was of importance to his argument, in Rom 10:18-21. The first part of the objection is, that they could "not call on him in whom they had not believed." That is, how could they call on one in whose existence, ability, and willingness to help, they did not believe? The objection is, that in order to our calling on one for help, we must be satisfied that there is such a being, and that he is able to aid us. This remark is just, and every man feels it. But the point of the objection is, that "sufficient evidence of the divine mission and claims of Jesus Christ had not been given to authorize the doctrine that eternal salvation depended on belief in him, or that it would be right to suspend the eternal happiness of few and Gentile on this."
How shall they believe in him ... - This position is equally undeniable, that people could not believe in a being of whom they had not heard. And the implied objection was, that people could not be expected to believe in one of whose existence they knew nothing, and, of course, that they could not be blamed for not doing it. It was not right, therefore, to make eternal life depend, both among Jews and Gentiles, on faith in Christ.
And how shall they hear ... - How can people hear, unless some one proclaim to them, or preach to them what is to be heard and believed? This is also true. The objection thence derived is, that it is not right to condemn people for not believing what has never been proclaimed to them; and, of course, that the doctrine that eternal life is suspended on faith cannot be just and right.
And how shall they preach - In what way shall there be preachers, unless they are commissioned by God? The word "how" does not refer to the manner of preaching, but to the fact that there would be no preachers at all unless they were sent forth. To preach means to proclaim in a public manner, as a crier does. In the Scriptures it means to proclaim the gospel to people.
Except they be sent - That is, except they are divinely commissioned, and sent forth by God. This was an admitted doctrine among the Jews, that a proclamation of a divine message must be made by one who was commissioned by God for that purpose; Jer 23:21; Jer 1:7; Jer 14:14-15; Jer 7:25. He who sends a message to people can alone designate the proper persons to bear it. The point of the objection, therefore, was this: People could not believe unless the message was sent to them; yet God had not actually sent it to all people: it could not, therefore, be just to make eternal life depend on so impracticable a thing as faith, since people had not the means of believing.
As it is written - In Isa 52:7.
How beautiful ... - The reason why this passage is introduced here is, that it confirms what had just been advanced in the objection - the "importance and necessity" of there being messengers of salvation. That importance is seen in the high encomium which is passed on them in the Sacred Scriptures. They are regarded as objects especially attractive; their necessity is fully recognised; and a distinguished rank is given to them in the oracles of God - How beautiful. How attractive, how lovely. This is taken from the Hebrew, with a slight variation. In the Hebrew, the words "upon the mountains" occur, which makes the passage more picturesque, though the sense is retained by Paul. The image in Isaiah is that of a herald seen at first leaping or running on a distant hill, when he first comes in sight, with tidings of joy from a field of battle, or from a distant land. Thus, the appearance of such a man to those who were in captivity, would be an image full of gladness and joy.
Are the feet - Many have supposed that the meaning of this expression is this: The feet of a herald, naked and dusty from traveling, would be naturally objects of disgust. But what would be naturally disagreeable is thus made pleasant by the joy of the message. But this explanation is far fetched, and wants parallel instances. Besides, it is a violation of the image which the apostle had used. That was a distant object - a herald running on the distant hills; and it supposes a picture too remote to observe distinctly the feet, whether attractive or not. The meaning of it is clearly this: "how beautiful is the coming or the running of such a herald." The feet are emblematic of his coming. Their rapid motion would be seen; and their rapidity would be beautiful from the desire to hear the message which he brought. The whole meaning of the passage, then, as applied to ministers of the gospel, is, that their coming is an attractive object, regarded with deep interest, and productive of joy - an honored and a delightful employment.
That preach ... - Literally, "that evangelize peace. That proclaim the good news of peace; or bring the glad message of peace.
And bring glad tidings ... - Literally, "and evangelize good things;" or that bring the glad message of good things. Peace here is put for good of any kind; and as the apostle uses it, for the news of reconciliation with God by the gospel. Peace, at the end of the conflicts, distresses, and woes of war, is an image of all blessings. Thus, it is put to denote the blessings when a sinner ceases to be the enemy of God, obtains pardon, and is admitted to the joys of those who are his children and friends. The coming of those messengers who proclaim it is joyful to the world. It fills the bosom of the anxious sinner with peace; and they and their message will be regarded with deep interest, as sent by God, and producing joy in an agitated bosom, and peace to the world. This is an illustration of the proper feeling with which we should regard the ministers of religion. This passage in Isaiah is referred by the Jews themselves to the times of the gospel (Rosenmuller).
But they have not all obeyed the gospel - It is not easy to see the connection of this; and it has been made a question whether this is to be regarded as a continuation of the objection of the Jew, or as a part of the answer of the apostle. After all the attention which I have been able to give it, I am inclined to regard it as an admission of the apostle, as if he had said, "It must be admitted that all have not obeyed the gospel. So far as the objection of the Jew arises from that fact, and so far as that fact can bear on the case, it is to be conceded that all have not yielded obedience to the gospel. For this was clearly declared even by the prophet;" compare Act 28:24; Heb 4:2.
For Esaias saith - Isa 53:1.
Who hath believed our report? - That is, Isaiah complains that his declarations respecting the Messiah had been rejected by his countrymen. The form of expression, "Who hath believed?" is a mode of saying emphatically that few or none had done it. The great mass of his countrymen had rejected it. This was an example to the purpose of the apostle. In the time of Isaiah this fact existed; and it was not a new thing that it existed in the time of the gospel. "Our report." Our message; or what is delivered to be heard and believed. It originally means the doctrine which Isaiah delivered about the Messiah; and implies that the same thing would occur when the Messiah should actually come. Hence, in the fifty-third chapter he proceeds to give the reasons why the report would not be credited. and why the Messiah would be rejected. It would be because he was a root out of a dry ground; because he was a man of sorrows. etc. And this actually took place. Because he did not come with splendor and pomp, as a temporal prince, he was rejected, and put to death. On substantially the same grounds he is even yet rejected by thousands. The force of this verse, perhaps, may be best seen by including it in a parenthesis, "How beautiful are the feet, etc." how important is the gospel ministry - (although it must be admitted, that all have not obeyed, for this was predicted also by Isaiah, etc.)
So then faith cometh ... - This I take to be clearly the language of the objector. As if he had said, by the very quotation which you have made from Isaiah, it appears that a report was necessary. He did not condemn people for not believing what they had not heard; but he complains of those who did not believe a message actually delivered to them. Even by this passage, therefore, it seems that a message was necessary, that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the divine message. It could not be right, therefore, to condemn those who had not obeyed the gospel because they had not heard it; and hence, not right to make salvation dependent on a condition which was, by the arrangement of God, put beyond their power. The very quotation from Isaiah, therefore, goes to confirm the objection in Rom 10:14;15.
By hearing - Our translation has varied the expression here, which is the same in two places in the Greek: "Isaiah said, Who hath believed our report τῇ ἀκοῇ tē akoē? So then, you must admit that faith comes by that report ἐξ ἀκοῆς ex akoēs, and therefore this report or message is necessary." When it is said that faith cometh by hearing, it is not meant that all who hear actually believe, for that is not true; but that faith does not exist unless there is a message, or report, to be heard or believed. It cannot come otherwise than by such a message; in other words, unless there is something made known to be believed. And this shows us at once the importance of the message, and the fact that people are converted by the instrumentality of truth, and of truth only.
And hearing - And the report, or the message (η ̔ἀκοὴ hē akoē), is by the Word of God; that is, the message is sent by the command of God. It is his word, sent by his direction, and therefore if withheld by him, those who did not believe could not be blamed. The argument of the objector is, that God could not justly condemn people for not believing the gospel.
But I say - But to this objection, I, the apostle, reply. The objection had been carried through the previous verses. The apostle comes now to reply to it. In doing this, he does not deny the principle contained in it, that the gospel should be preached in order that people might be justly condemned for not believing it; not that the messengers must be sent by God, not that faith comes by hearing. All this he fully admits. But he proceeds to show, by an ample quotation from the Old Testament, that this had been actually furnished to the Jews and to the Gentiles, and that they were actually in possession of the message, and could not plead that they had never heard it. This is the substance of his answer.
Have they not heard? - A question is often, as it is here, an emphatic way of affirming a thing. The apostle means to affirm strongly that they had heard. The word "they," in this place, I take to refer to the Gentiles. What was the fact in regard to Israel, or the Jew, he shows in the next verses. One main design waste show that the same scheme of salvation extended to both Jews and Gentiles. The objection was, that it had not been made known to either, and that therefore it could not be maintained to be just to condemn those who rejected it. To this the apostle replies that then it was extensively known to both; and if so, then the objection in Rom 10:14-15, was not well founded, for in fact the thing existed which the objector maintained to be necessary, to wit, that they had heard, and that preachers had been sent to them.
Yes, verily - In the original, a single word, μενοῦνγε menounge, compounded of μέν men and οὖν oun and γέ ge. An intense expression, denoting strong affirmation.
Their sound went ... - These words are taken in substance from Psa 19:4. The psalmist employs them to show that the works of God, the heavens and the earth, proclaim his existence everywhere. By using them here, the apostle does not affirm that David had reference to the gospel in them, but he uses them to express his own meaning; he makes an affirmation about the gospel in language used by David on another occasion, but without intimating or implying that David had such a reference. In this way we often quote the language of others as expressing in a happy way our own thoughts, but without supposing that the author had any such reference. The meaning here is, that that may be affirmed in fact of the gospel which David affirmed of the works of God, that their sound had gone into all the earth.
Their sound - Literally, the sound or tone which is made by a stringed instrument (φθόγγος phthongos). Also a voice, a report. It means here they have spoken, or declared truth. As applied to the heavens, it would mean that they speak, or proclaim, the wisdom or power of God. As used by Paul, it means that the message of the gospel had been spoken, or proclaimed, far and wide. The Hebrew, is "their line, etc." The Septuagint translation is the same as that of the apostle - their voice ὁ φθόγγος αὐτῶν ho phthoggos autōn. The Hebrew word may denote the string of an instrument, of a harp, etc. and then the tone or sound produced by it; and thus was understood by the Septuagint. The apostle, however, does not affirm that this was the meaning of the Hebrew; but he conveyed his doctrine in language which aptly expressed it.
Into all the earth - In the psalm, this is to be taken in its utmost signification. The works of God literally proclaim his wisdom to all lands and to all people. As applied to the gospel, it means that it was spread far and wide, that it had been extensively preached in all lands.
Their words - In the psalm, the heavens are represented as speaking, and teaching people the knowledge of the true God. But the meaning of the apostle is, that the message of the gospel had sounded forth; and he referred doubtless to the labors of the apostles in proclaiming it to the pagan nations. This Epistle was written about the year 57. During the time which had elapsed after the ascension of Christ, the gospel had been preached extensively in all the known nations; so that it might be said that it was proclaimed in those regions designated in the Scripture as the uttermost parts of the earth. Thus, it had been proclaimed in Jerusalem, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, Arabia, and in the islands of the Mediterranean. Paul, reasoning before Agrippa, says, that he could not be ignorant of those things, for they had not been done in a corner; Act 26:26. In Col 1:23, Paul says that the gospel had been preached to every creature which is under heaven; see Col 1:6. Thus, the great facts and doctrines of the gospel had in fact been made known; and the objection of the Jew was met. It would be sufficiently met by the declaration of the psalmist that the true God was made known by his works, and that therefore they were without excuse (compare Rom 1:20); but in fact the gospel had been preached, and its great doctrine and duties had been proclaimed to all nations far and near.
But I say ... - Still further to meet the objection, he shows that the doctrine which he was maintaining was actually taught in the Old Testament.
Did not Israel know? - Did not the Jews understand. Is it not recorded in their books, etc. that they had full opportunity to be acquainted with this truth? This question is an emphatic way of affirming that they did know. But Paul does not here state what it was that they knew. That is to be gathered from what he proceeds to say. From that it appears that he referred to the fact that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, and that the Jews were to be cast off. This doctrine followed from what he had already maintained in Rom 10:12-13, that there was no difference in regard to the terms of salvation, and that the Jew had no particular privileges. If so, then the barrier was broken down; and if the Jews did not believe in Jesus Christ, they must be rejected. Against this was the objection in Rom 10:14-15, that they could not believe; that they had not heard; and that a preacher had not been sent to them. If, now, the apostle could show that it was an ancient doctrine of the Jewish prophets that the Gentiles should believe, and that the Jews would not believe, the whole force of the objection would vanish. Accordingly he proceeds to show that this doctrine was distinctly taught in the Old Testament.
First - First in order; as we say, in the first place.
I will provoke you - These words are taken from Deu 32:21. In that place the declaration refers to the idolatrous and wicked conduct of the Jews. God says that they had provoked him, or excited his indignation, by worshipping what was not God, that is, by idols; and he, in turn, would excite their envy and indignation by showing favors to those who were not regarded as a people; that is, to the Gentiles. They had shown favor, or affection, for what was not God, and by so doing had provoked him to anger; and he also would show favor to those whom they regarded as no people, and would thus excite their anger. Thus, he would illustrate the great principle of his government in Sa2 22:26-27, "With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with the pure, thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself unsavory," that is, froward. Psa 18:26. In this passage the great doctrine which Paul was defending is abundantly established - that the Gentiles were to be brought into the favor of God; and the cause also is suggested to be the obstinacy and rebellion of the Jews. It is not clear that Moses had particularly in view the times of the gospel; but he affirms a great principle which is applicable to those times - that if the Jews should be rebellious, and prove themselves unworthy of his favor, that favor would be withdrawn, and conferred on other nations. The effect of this would be, of course, to excite their indignation. This principle the apostle applies to his own times; and affirms that it ought to have been understood by the Jews themselves.
That are no people - That is, those whom you regard as unworthy the name of a people. Those who have no government, laws, or regular organization; who wander in tribes and clans, and who are under no settled form of society. This was the case with most barbarians; and the Jews, evidently regarded all ancient nations in this light, as unworthy the name of a people.
A foolish nation - The word "fool" means one void of understanding. But it also means one who is wicked, or idolatrous; one who contemns God. Psa 14:1, "the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." Pro 1:7, "fools despise wisdom and instruction." Here it means a nation who had no understanding of the true God ἀσυνέτῳ asunetō.
I will anger - My bestowing favors on them will excite your anger. We may remark here,
(1) That God is a sovereign, and has a right to bestow his favors on whom he pleases.
(2) that when people abuse his mercies, become proud, or cold, or dead in his service, he often takes away their privileges, and bestows them on others.
(3) that the effect of his sovereignty is to excite people to anger.
Proud and wicked people are always enraged that he bestows his favors on others; and the effect of his sovereign dealings is, to provoke to anger the very people who by their sins have rejected his mercy. Hence, there is no doctrine that proud man hates so cordially as he does the doctrine of divine sovereignty; and none that will so much test the character of the wicked.
But Esaias - Isa 65:1-2.
Is very bold - Expresses the doctrine openly, boldly, without any reserve. The word ἀποτολμάω apotolmaō means to dare, to be venturesome, to be bold. It means here that however unpopular the doctrine might be, or however dangerous it was to avow that the Jews were extremely wicked, and that God for their wickedness would cast them off, yet that Isaiah had long since done it. This was the point which Paul was establishing; and against this, the objection was urged, and all the Jewish prejudices excited. This is the reason why he so much insists on it, and is so anxious to defend every part by the writings of acknowledged authority among the Jews - the Old Testament. The quotation is made from the Septuagint, with only a slight change in the order of the phrases. The meaning is, that God was found, or the true knowledge of him was obtained, by those who had not sought after him; that is, by the Gentiles, who had worshipped idols, and who had not sought for the true God. This does not mean that we are to expect to find God if we do not seek for him; or that in fact any become Christians who do not seek for it, and make an effort. The contrary is abundantly taught in the Scriptures; Heb 11:6; Ch1 28:8-9; Mat 6:33; Mat 7:7; Luk 11:9. But it means that the Gentiles, whose characteristic was not that they sought God, would have the gospel sent to them, and would embrace it. The phrase, "I was found," in the past tense here, is in the present in the Hebrew, intimating that the time would come when God would say this of himself; that is, that the time would come when the Gentiles would be brought to the knowledge of the true God. This doctrine was one which Isaiah had constantly in his eye, and which he did not fear to bring openly before the Jews.
But to Israel he saith - The preceding quotation established the doctrine that the Gentiles were to be called. But there was still an important part of his argument remaining - that the Jews were to be rejected. This he proceeds to establish; and he here, in the language of Isaiah Isa 65:2, says that while the Gentiles would be obedient, the character of the Jews was, that they were a disobedient and rebellious people.
All day long - Continually, without intermission; implying that their acts of rebellion were not momentary; but that this was the established character of the people.
I have stretched forth my hands - This denotes an attitude of entreaty; a willingness and earnest desire to receive them to favor; to invite and entreat; Pro 1:24.
A disobedient - In the Hebrew, rebellious, contumacious. The Greek answers substantially to that; disbelieving, not confiding or obeying.
Gain-saying - Speaking against; resisting, opposing. This is not in the Hebrew, but the substance of it was implied. The prophet Isaiah proceeds to specify in what this rebellion consisted, and to show that this was their character; Isa 65:2-7. The argument of the apostle is this; namely, the ancient character of the people was that of wickedness; God is represented as stretching out his hands in vain; they rejected him, and he was sought and found by others. It was implied, therefore, that the rebellious Jews would be rejected; and, of course, the apostle was advancing and defending no doctrine which was not found in the writings of the Jews themselves. And thus, by a different course of reasoning, he came to the same conclusion which he had arrived at in the first four chapters of the Epistle, that the Gentiles and Jews were on the same level in regard to justification before God.
In the closing part of this chapter, the great doctrine is brought forth and defended that the way of salvation is open for all the world. This, in the time of Paul, was regarded as a novel doctrine. Hence, he is at so much pains to illustrate and defend it. And hence, with so much zeal and self-denial, the apostles of the Lord Jesus went and proclaimed it to the nations. This doctrine is not the less important now. And from this discussion we may learn the following truths:
(1) The pagan world is in danger without the gospel. They are sinful, polluted, wretched. The testimony of all who visit pagan nations accords most strikingly with that of the apostles in their times. Nor is there any evidence that the great mass of pagan population has changed for the better.
(2) the provisions of the gospel are ample for them - for all. Its power has been tried on many nations; and its mild and happy influence is seen in meliorated laws, customs, habits; in purer institutions; in intelligence and order; and in the various blessings conferred by a pure religion. The same gospel is suited to produce on the wildest and most wretched population, the same comforts which are now experienced in the happiest part of our own land,
(3) the command of Jesus Christ remains still the same, to preach the gospel to every creature. That command has never been repealed or changed. The apostles met the injunction, and performed what they could. It remains for the church to act as they did, to feel as they did, and put forth their efforts as they did, in obeying one of the most plain and positive laws of Jesus Christ.
(4) if the gospel is to be proclaimed everywhere, people must be sent forth into the vast field. Every nation must have an opportunity to say, "How beautiful are the feet of him that preaches the gospel of peace." Young men, strong and vigorous in the Christian course, must give themselves to this work, and devote their lives in an enterprise which the apostles regarded as honorable to them; and which infinite Wisdom did not regard as unworthy the toils, and tears, and self-denials of the Son of God.
(5) the church, in training young men for the ministry, in fitting her sons for these toils, is performing a noble and glorious work; a work which contemplates the triumph of the gospel among all nations. Happy will it be when the church shall feel the full pressure of this great truth, that the gospel may be preached to every son and daughter of Adam; and when every man who enters the ministry shall count it, not self-denial, but a glorious privilege to be permitted to tell dying pagan people that a Saviour bled for all sinners. And happy that day when it can be said with literal truth that their sound has gone out into all the earth; and that as far as the sun in his daily course sheds his beams, so far the Sun of righteousness sheds also his pure and lovely rays into the abodes of human beings. And we may learn, also, from this,
(6) That God will withdraw his favors from those nations that are disobedient and rebellions. Thus, he rejected the ancient Jews; and thus also he will forsake all who abuse his mercies; who become proud, luxurious, effeminate and wicked. In this respect it becomes the people of this favored land to remember the God of their fathers; and not to forget, too, that national sin provokes God to withdraw, and that a nation that forgets God must be punished.