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Romans v. 1-11

WE reached a pause in the Apostle's thought with the close of the last paragraph. We may reverently imagine, as in spirit we listen to his dictation, that a pause comes also in his work; that he is silent, and Tertius puts down the pen, and they spend their hearts awhile on worshipping recollection and realization. The Lord delivered up; His people justified; the Lord risen again, alive for evermore—here was matter for love, joy, and wonder.

But the Letter must proceed, and the argument has its fullest and most wonderful developments yet to come. It has now already expounded the tremendous need of justifying mercy, for every soul of man. It has shewn how faith, always and only, is the way to appropriate that mercy—the way of God's will, and manifestly also in its own nature the way of deepest fitness. We have been allowed to see faith in illustrative action, in Abraham, who by faith, absolutely, without the least advantage of traditional privilege, received justification, with the vast concurrent blessings which it carried. Lastly we have heard St Paul dictate to Tertius, for the Romans and for us, those summarizing words (iv. 25) in which we now have God's own certificate 129 of the triumphant efficacy of that Atoning Work, which sustains the Promise in order that the Promise may sustain us believing.

We are now to approach the glorious theme of the Life of the Justified. This is to be seen not only as a state whose basis is the reconciliation of the Law, and whose gate and walls are the covenant Promise. It is to appear as a state warmed with eternal Love; irradiated with the prospect of glory. In it the man, knit up with Christ his Head, his Bridegroom, his all, yields himself with joy to the God who has received him. In the living power of the heavenly Spirit, who perpetually delivers him from himself, he obeys, prays, works, and suffers, in a liberty which is only not yet that of heaven, and in which he is maintained to the end by Him who has planned his full personal salvation from eternity to eternity.

It has been the temptation of Christians sometimes to regard the truth and exposition of Justification as if there were a certain hardness and as it were dryness about it; as if it were a topic rather for the schools than for life. If excuses have ever been given for such a view, they must come from other quarters than the Epistle to the Romans. Christian teachers, of many periods, may have discussed Justification as coldly as if they were writing a law-book. Or again they may have examined it as if it were a truth terminating in itself, the Omega as well as the Alpha of salvation; and then it has been misrepresented, of course. For the Apostle certainly does not discuss it drily; he lays deep indeed the foundations of Law and Atonement, but he does it in the manner of a man who is not drawing the plan of a refuge, but calling his reader from the tempest into what is not only a refuge but a home. 130 And again he does not discuss it in isolation. He spends his fullest, largest, and most loving expositions on its intense and vital connexion with concurrent truths. He is about now to take us, through a noble vestibule, into the sanctuary of the life of the accepted, the life of union, of surrender, of the Holy Ghost.

Justified therefore on terms of faith,6363Ἐκ πίστως: "out of faith." The phrase has often met us in the Greek before. It calls for various renderings in various contexts; that given above seems best to paraphrase it here. we have peace6464See detached note, p. 140, for an account of the various reading here, ἔχωμεν εἰρήνην, "Let us have peace." towards our (τὸν) God, we possess in regard of Him the "quietness and assurance" of acceptance, through our Lord Jesus Christ, thus delivered up, and raised up, for us; through whom we have actually (καὶ) found6565Ἐσχήκαμεν: "we have had," "we have got." our (τὴν) introduction, our free admission, by our (τῇ) faith, into this grace, this unearned acceptance for Another's sake, in which we stand, instead of falling ruined, sentenced, at the tribunal. And we exult, not with the sinful "boasting"6666Καυχᾶσθαι, καύχησις: see above ii. 23, iii. 27, iv. 2. of the legalist, but in hope (literally, "on hope," ἐπ' ἐλπίδι, as reposing on the promised prospect) of the glory of our (τοῦ) God, the light of the heavenly vision and fruition of our Justifier, and the splendour of an eternal service of Him in that fruition. Nor only so, but we exult too in our tribulations, with a better fortitude than the Stoic's artificial serenity, knowing that the tribulation works out, develops, patient persistency,6767Ὑπομονὴ is more than "patience." By usage it implies "patience in action"; "perseverance." as it occasions proof after proof of the power 131 of God in our weakness, and thus generates the habit of reliance; and then (δὲ) the patient persistency develops proof, brings out in experience, as a proved fact, that through Christ we are not what we were; and then the proof develops hope, solid and definite expectation of continuing grace and final glory, and, in particular, of the Lord's Return; and the hope does not shame, does not disappoint; it is a hope sure and steadfast, for it is the hope of those who now know that they are objects of eternal Love; because the love of our (τοῦ) God has been poured out in our hearts; His love to us has been as it were diffused through our consciousness, poured out in a glad experience as rain from the cloud, as floods from the rising spring,6868It is quite possible, of course, to explain ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ, grammatically, to mean "our love to God." And some, more mystically, explain it of God's faculty of love conveyed to us that we, with it, may love Him. But the following context, especially ver. 8, is clearly against such expositions. Verses 6-11 are in fact an explanation of the thought of ver. 5. through the Holy Spirit that was given to us.

Here first is mentioned explicitly, in the Apostle's argument, (we do not reckon ch. i. 4 as in the argument,) the blessed Spirit, the Lord the Holy Ghost. Hitherto the occasion for the mention has hardly arisen. The considerations have been mainly upon the personal guilt of the sinner, and the objective fact of the Atonement, and the exercise of faith, of trust in God, as a genuine personal act of man. With a definite purpose, we may reverently think, the discussion of faith has been kept thus far clear of the thought of anything lying behind faith, of any "grace" giving faith. For whether or no faith is the gift of God, it is most certainly the act of man; none should assert this more decidedly than 132 those who hold (as we do) that Eph. ii. 86969The writer ventures to refer to his Commentary on Ephesians in The Cambridge Bible. does teach that where saving faith is, it is there because God has "given" it. But how does He "give" it? Not, surely, by implanting a new faculty, but by so opening the soul to God in Christ that the divine magnet effectually draws the man to a willing repose upon such a God. But the man does this, as an act, himself. He trusts God as genuinely, as personally, as much with his own faculty of trust, as he trusts a man whom he sees to be quite trustworthy and precisely fit to meet an imperative need. Thus it is often the work of the evangelist and the teacher to insist upon the duty rather than the grace of faith; to bid men rather thank God for faith when they have believed than wait for the sense of an afflatus before believing. And is this not what St Paul does here? At this point of his argument, and not before, he reminds the believer that his possession of peace, of happiness, of hope, has been attained and realized not, ultimately, of himself but through the working of the Eternal Spirit. The insight into mercy, into a propitiation provided by divine love, and so into the holy secret of the divine love itself, has been given him by the Holy Ghost, who has taken of the things of Christ, and shewn them to him, and secretly handled his "heart" so that the fact of the love of God is a part of experience at last. The man has been told of his great need, and of the sure and open refuge, and has stepped through its peaceful gate in the act of trusting the message and the will of God. Now he is asked to look round, to look back, and bless the hand which, when he was outside in the 133 naked field of death, opened his eyes to see, and guided his will to choose.

What a retrospect it is! Let us trace it from the first words of this paragraph again. First, here is the sure fact of our acceptance, and the reason of it, and the method. "Therefore"; let not that word be forgotten. Our Justification is no arbitrary matter, whose causelessness suggests an illusion, or a precarious peace. "Therefore"; it rests upon an antecedent, in the logical chain of divine facts. We have read that antecedent, ch. iv. 25; "Jesus our Lord was given up because of our transgressions, and was raised up because of our justification." We assented to that fact; we have accepted Him, only and altogether, in this work of His. Therefore we are justified, δικαιωθέντες,7070Observe the aorist form of the participle. placed by an act of divine Love, working in the line of divine Law, among those whom the Judge accepts, that He may embrace them as Father. Then, in this possession of the "peace" of our acceptance, thus led in (προσαγωγή), through the gate of the promise, with the footstep of faith, we find inside our Refuge far more than merely safety. We look up from within the blessed walls, sprinkled with atoning blood, and we see above them the hope of glory, invisible outside. And we turn to our present life within them (for all our life is to be lived within that broad sanctuary now), and we find resources provided there for a present as well as a prospective joy. We address ourselves to the discipline of the place; for it has its discipline; the refuge is home, but it is also school; and we find, when we begin to try it, that the discipline is full of joy. It brings out into a joyful consciousness the power we now have, in Him 134 who has accepted us, in Him who is our Acceptance, to suffer and to serve in love. Our life has become a life not of peace only but of the hope which animates peace, and makes it flow "as a river." From hour to hour we enjoy the never-disappointing hope of "grace for grace," new grace for the next new need; and beyond it, and above it, the certainties of the hope of glory. To drop our metaphor of the sanctuary for that of the pilgrimage, we find ourselves upon a pathway, steep and rocky, but always mounting into purer air, and so as to shew us nobler prospects; and at the summit—the pathway will be continued, and transfigured, into the golden street of the City; the same track, but within the gate of heaven.

Into all this the Holy Ghost has led us. He has been at the heart of the whole internal process. He made the thunder of the Law articulate to our conscience. He gave us faith by manifesting Christ. And, in Christ, He has "poured out in our hearts the love of God."

For now the Apostle takes up that word, "the Love of God," and holds it to our sight, and we see in its pure glory no vague abstraction, but the face, and the work, of Jesus Christ. Such is the context into which we now advance. He is reasoning on; "For Christ, when we still were weak." He has set justification before us in its majestic lawfulness. But he has now to expand its mighty love, of which the Holy Ghost has made us conscious in our hearts. We are to see in the Atonement not only a guarantee that we have a valid title to a just acceptance. We are to see in it the love of the Father and the Son, so that not our security only but our bliss may be full.


For Christ, we still being weak, (gentle euphemism for our utter impotence, our guilty inability to meet the sinless claim of the Law of God,) in season, in the fulness of time, when the ages of precept and of failure had done their work, and man had learnt something to purpose of the lesson of self-despair, for the ungodly—died. "For the ungodly," ὑπὲρ ἀσεβῶν, "concerning them," "with reference to them," that is to say, in this context of saving mercy, "in their interests, for their rescue,7171Ὑπὲρ is literally "over," and in itself imports simply "concern with"; as when we say that a man is busy "over" an important matter; as it were stooping over it, attending to it. Its special references depend altogether upon context and usage. In itself it neither teaches nor denies the doctrine of a vicarious and substitutionary work; ἀητὶ is the preposition which guarantees as true that great aspect of the Lord's death. But ὑπὲρ of course amply allows for such an application of its meaning, where the context suggests the idea. as their propitiation." "The ungodly," or, more literally still, without the article, "ungodly ones"; a designation general and inclusive for those for whom He died. Above (iv. 5) we saw the word used with a certain limitation, as of the worst among the sinful. But here, surely, with a solemn paradox, it covers the whole field of the Fall. The ungodly here are not the flagrant and disreputable only; they are all who are not in harmony with God; the potential as well as the actual doers of grievous sin. For them "Christ died"; not "lived," let us remember, but "died." It was a question not of example, nor of suasion, nor even of utterances of divine compassion. It was a question of law and guilt; and it was to be met only by the death-sentence and the death-fact; such death as He died of whom, a little while before, this same Correspondent had written to the converts of 136 Galatia (iii. 13); "Christ bought us out from the curse of the Law, when He became a curse for us." All the untold emphasis of the sentence, and of the thought, lies here upon those last words, upon each and all of them, "for ungodly ones—He died," ὑπὲρ ἀσεβῶν—ἀπέθανε. The sequel shews this to us; he proceeds: For scarcely, with difficulty, and in rare instances, for a just man will one die; "scarcely," he will not say "never," for for the good man, the man answering in some measure the ideal of gracious and not only of legal goodness,7272We incline more than formerly, though still with some doubt, to see a rising climax here, as indicated in the paraphrase, from δίκαιος to ὁ ἀγαθός. perhaps someone actually ventures to die. But God commends, as by a glorious contrast (συνίστησι), His love, "His" as above all current human love, "His own love," τὴν Ἑαυτοῦ, towards us, because while we were still sinners, and as such repulsive to the Holy One, Christ for us did die.

We are not to read this passage as if it were a statistical assertion as to the facts of human love and its possible sacrifices. The moral argument will not be affected if we are able, as we shall be, to adduce cases where unregenerate man has given even his life to save the life of one, or of many, to whom he is not emotionally or naturally attracted. All that is necessary to St Paul's tender plea for the love of God is the certain fact that the cases of death even on behalf of one who morally deserves a great sacrifice are relatively very, very few. The thought of merit is the ruling thought in the connexion. He labours to bring out the sovereign Lovingkindness, which went even to the length and depth of death, by reminding us that, whatever 137 moved it, it was not moved, even in the lowest imaginable degree, by any merit, no, nor by any "congruity," in us. And yet we were sought, and saved. He who planned the salvation, and provided it, was the eternal Lawgiver and Judge. He who loved us is Himself eternal Right, to whom all our wrong is unutterably repellent. What then is He as Love, who, being also Right, stays not till He has given His Son to the death of the Atonement?

So we have indeed a warrant to "believe the love of God" (1 John iv. 16). Yes, to believe it. We look within us, and it is incredible. If we have really seen ourselves, we have seen ground for a sorrowful conviction that He who is eternal Right must view us with aversion. But if we have really seen Christ, we have seen ground for—not feeling at all, it may be, at this moment, but—believing that God is Love, and loves us. What is it to believe Him? It is to take Him at His word; to act altogether not upon our internal consciousness but upon His warrant. We look at the Cross, or rather, we look at the crucified Lord Jesus in His Resurrection; we read at His feet these words of His Apostle; and we go away to take God at His assurance that we, unlovely, are beloved.

"My child," said a dying French saint, as she gave a last embrace to her daughter, "I have loved you because of what you are; my heavenly Father, to whom I go, has loved me malgré moi."

And how does the divine reasoning now advance? "From glory to glory"; from acceptance by the Holy One, who is Love, to present and endless preservation in His Beloved One. Therefore much more, justified now in His blood, as it were "in" its laver of ablution, or again "within" its circle of 138 sprinkling as it marks the precincts of our inviolable sanctuary, we shall be kept safe through Him, who now lives to administer the blessings of His death, from the wrath, the wrath of God, in its present imminence over the head of the unreconciled, and in its final fall "in that day." For if, being enemies, with no initial love to Him who is Love, nay, when we were hostile to His claims, and as such subject to the hostility of His Law, we were reconciled to our (τῷ) God7373On the meaning of καταλλαγή see detached note, p. 141. through the death of His Son, (God coming to judicial peace with us, and we brought to submissive peace with Him,) much more, being reconciled, we shall be kept safe in His life, in the life of the Risen One who now lives for us, and in us, and we in Him. Nor only so, but we shall be kept exulting too in our (τοῦ) God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom now we have received7474Ἐλάβομεν: but the English perfect best represents the idea. this (τὴν) reconciliation.

Here, by anticipation, he indicates already the mighty issues of the act of Justification, in our life of Union with the Lord who died for us, and lived again. In the sixth chapter this will be more fully unfolded; but he cannot altogether reserve it so long. As he has advanced from the law-aspect of our acceptance to its love-aspect, so now with this latter he gives us at once the life-aspect, our vital incorporation with our Redeemer, our part and lot in His resurrection-life. Nowhere in this whole Epistle is that subject expounded so fully as in the later Epistles, Colossians and Ephesians; the Inspirer led His servant all over that region then, in his Roman prison, but not now. But He had brought him into the region from the first, and we see it here 139 present to his thought, though not in the foreground of his discourse. "Kept safe in His life"; not "by" His life, but "in" His life. We are livingly knit to Him the Living One. From one point of view we are accused men, at the bar, wonderfully transformed, by the Judge's provision, into welcomed and honoured friends of the Law and the Lawgiver. From another point of view we are dead men, in the grave, wonderfully vivified, and put into a spiritual connexion with the mighty life of our Lifegiving Redeemer. The aspects are perfectly distinct. They belong to different orders of thought. Yet they are in the closest and most genuine relation. The Justifying Sacrifice procures the possibility of our regeneration into the Life of Christ. Our union by faith with the Lord who died and lives brings us into actual part and lot in His justifying merits. And our part and lot in those merits, our "acceptance in the Beloved," assures us again of the permanence of the mighty Love which will maintain us in our part and lot "in His life." This is the view of the matter which is before us here.

Thus the Apostle meets our need on every side. He shews us the holy Law satisfied for us. He shews us the eternal Love liberated upon us. He shews us the Lord's own Life clasped around us, imparted to us; "our life is hid in God with Christ, who is our Life" (Col. iii. 3, 4). Shall we not "exult in God through Him"?

And now we are to learn something of that great Covenant-Headship, in which we and He are one.


Detached Notes to Chapter XII


Εἰρήνην ἔχομεν, "We have peace": Εἰρήνην ἔχωμεν, "Let us have peace." Which did St Paul write? On the whole, after long thought upon the evidence, we decide for the former reading. The documentary witness is strong for the latter. For those who place the great Uncial manuscripts in the place of practical decision, ἔχωμεν has a clear verdict in its favour. But the other class of copies, the Cursive, later on the whole than the Uncials, but probably often representing correction rather than corruption, are greatly in favour of ἔχομεν. The evidence of ancient Versions, and of quotations by early Christian writers, inclines on the whole for ἔχωμεν. But in the study of a reading the argument and context of course claim attention; for most surely the original reading, whatever it was, was pertinent. Now here the question of pertinence seems to us to lead to a decided verdict for ἔχομεν. The Apostle is engaged here altogether with assertion, instruction; exhortation is to come later. Through this whole paragraph he does nothing but assert facts and principles. Is it to be believed that he begins it with a disjointed exhortation?

In itself the exhortation would bear a meaning perfectly intelligible. "Let us have peace" would mean "Let us enjoy peace." So ἔχωμεν χάριν, Heb. xii. 28, means, practically, "Let us use grace." Neither exhortation would mean that we do not yet possess, in respect of the Lord's gift, "peace" and "grace" respectively. 141 But, we repeat it, the context here seems decisive against the presence here of any exhortation. We want, logically, assertion.

The interchange of ω and ο in manuscripts is, as a fact, frequent.

See the case carefully considered, and decided for ἔχομεν, in Dr Scrivener's Introduction to the Criticism of the N. T., p. 625.


Καταλλάσσειν, Καταλλαγή. It is sometimes held that these words denote "reconciliation" in the sense of man's laying aside his distrust, reluctance, resistance towards God, not of God's laying aside His holy displeasure against man; and that for this latter idea, that of persuading an offended superior to grant peace, we should need the words διαλλάσσεσθαι (which we have Matt. v. 24, and in the Lxx. in e.g. 1 Sam. xxix. 4, where the English has, "Wherewith should he reconcile himself to his master?") and διαλλαγὴ (which does not occur in the N. T.). But καταλλαγὴ (and its verb) is as a fact used in the Greek of the Apocrypha in connexions where the thought is just that of the clemency of a king, induced to pardon. See e.g. 2 Macc. v. 20, where the English Version reads, "the great Lord being reconciled (ἐν τῇ καταλλαγῇ τοῦ μεγάλου Δεσπότου) [the temple] was set up." So 2 Macc. i. 5, where we have the prayer (English Version), "God be at one with you," καταλλαγείη ὑμῖν. Thus no elaborate distinction can safely be drawn between the two sets of compounds. And there is no place in the N. T. where the meaning, conciliation of an offended party, would not well suit καταλλάσσεσθαι, etc. The present passage 142 (Rom. v. 10, 11) would be practically meaningless otherwise. The whole thought is of the divine mercy, providing a way for accepting grace. To "receive τὴν καταλλαγὴν" is a phrase which, by its very form as well as its connexion, points to the thought not of reluctance overcome but mercy found.

The word "atonement" (A.V., ver. 11) needs remark. It seems certain that its derivation is "at-one-ment" (See Skeat, Etymol. Dict., s.v.), though an etymological connexion with ver-söhnen, (Dutch, ver-zoenen) has been maintained (see Hofmeyr, The Blessed Life, p. 25). But as Trench remarks, (Synonyms of the N. T., s.v. καταλλαγὴ,) the usage of English has now long attached the idea of propitiation (ἱλασμὸς) to the word "atonement"; which should therefore be avoided as a rendering for καταλλαγή.

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