Page images
PDF
EPUB

und offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. While he urges them to the kind reception of all faithful ministers and Christians, he enjoins upon them to have nothing to do with those who cause divisions and offences. There were probably two evils in the apostle's mind when he wrote this passage; the divisions occasioned by erroneous doctrines, and the offences or scandals occasioned by the evil conduct of the false teachers. Almost all the forms of error which distracted the early church, were intimately connected with practical evils of a moral character. This was the case, to a certain extent, with the Judaizers; who not only disturbed the church by insisting on the observance of the Mosaic law, but also pressed some of their doctrines to an immoral extreme. See 1 Cor. 5:1-5.X It was still more obviously the case with those errorists, infected with a false philosophy, who are described in Col. 2: 10–23.71 Tim. 4:1-8. These evils were equally opposed to the doctrines taught by the apostle. Those who caused these dissensions Paul commands Christians, first, to mark, i. e. to notice carefully, and not allow them to pursue their corrupting course unheeded; and, secondly, to avoid, i. e. to break off connexion with them.

(19) For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. These men are to be avoided, because they are wicked and injurious. The description here given is applicable, in a greater degree, to errorists in all ages. They are not actuated by zeal for the Lord Jesus; they are selfish, if not sensual; and they are plausible and deceitful. Compare Phil. 3 : 18, 19. 2 Tim. 3: 5, 6. The words rendered good words and fair speeches do not in this connexion materially differ. They express that plausible and flattering address by which false teachers are wont to secure an influence over the simple. The word simple signifies not merely innocent, but unwary, he who is liable to deception. (Prov. 14: 15, the simple believe every thing.)

(20) For your obedience is come abroad unto all men, &c. This clause admits of two interpretations; the word obedience may express either their obedience to the gospel, their faith (see ch. 1:8), or their obedient disposition, their readiness to follow the instructions of their religious teachers. If the former meaning be adopted, the sense of the passage is this, • Ye ought to be on your guard against these false teachers, for, since your character is so high, your faith being every where spoken of, it would be a great disgrace and evil to be led astray by them.' If the latter meaning be taken, the sense is, . It is the more necessary that you should be on your guard against these false teachers, becaus/ your ready obedience to your divine teachers is so great and generall known. This, in itself, is commendable, but I would that you joine prudence with your docility. This latter view is, on account of the concluding part of the verse, most probably the correct one; see 2 Cor. 10:6. Phil. v. 21.

[ocr errors]

H

I am glad, therefore, on your behalf; but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

That is, • Simplicity (an unsuspecting docility) is indeed good; but I would have you not only simple but prudent. You must not only avoid doing evil, but be careful that you do not suffer evil.' Grotius' explanation is peculiarly happy, .so prudent as not to be deceived; and so good as not to deceive.' The word simple means unmixed, pure, and then harmless. • Wise as to good, but simple as to evil;' or, wise so that good may result, and simple so that evil may not be done.' This latter is probably the meaning. Paul would have them so wise as to know how to take care of themselves; and yet harmless. X

(20) And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. As the evils produced by the false teachers were divisions and scandals, the apostle, in giving them the assurance of the effectual aid of God, calls him the God of peace, i. e. God who is the author of peace in the comprehensive scriptural sense of that term. Shall bruise is not a prayer, but a consolatory declaration that Satan should be trodden under foot. As Satan is constantly represented as “working in the children of disobe. dience,” the evil done by them is sometimes referred to him as the instigator, and sometimes to the immediate agents who are his willing instruments. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. This is a prayer for the favour and aid of Christ, and of course is an act of worship, and a recognition of the Saviour's divinity.

(21—24) These verses contain the salutations of the apostle's companions to the Roman Christians, and a repetition of the prayer just mentioned. I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord. Tertius was Paul's amanuensis. The apostle seldom wrote his epistles with his own hand; hence he refers to the fact of having himself written the letter to the Galatians as something unusual ; Gal. 6:11, “ Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand." In order to authenticate his epistles, he generally wrote himself the salutation or benediction at the close; 1 Cor. 16:21, “ The salutation of me Paul, with mine own hand ;" 2 Thess. 3: 17, “ The salutation of Paul with mine own hand; which is the token in every epistle: so I write." Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, i. e. Gaius, who not only entertains me, but Christians generally; or, in whose house the congregation is accustomed to assemble. Erastus the chamberlain of the city (oikovóuos), the treasurer of the city, the quæstor.

(25—27) These verses contain the concluding doxology. Now to him that is of power to establish you, according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, &c. To him that is able to establish you, i. e. to render you firm and constant, to keep you from falling. According to my gospel. The word rendered according to may be variously explained. It is by many taken for in, establish you in my gospel;' but this the proper meaning of the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

words will hardly allow. 2. It may be rendered agreeably to my gospel, in such a manner as my gospel requires; or, 3. Through, i. e. by means of the gospel. The second interpretation is perhaps the best. And the preaching of Jesus Christ. This may mean either • Christ's preaching;' or the preaching concerning Christ;' either interpretation gives a good sense, the gospel being both a proclamation by Christ, and concerning Christ. The apostle dwells upon this idea, and is led into a description and commendation of the gospel. According to the revelation of the mystery. These words may be considered as co-ordinate with the preceding clause; the sense then is, “Who is able to establish you agreeably to (or through) my gospel, agreeably to (through) the revelation of the mystery,' &c. It is, however, more common and natural to consider this clause as subordinate and descriptive.

The gospel is a revelation of the mystery which had been hid for ages.' The word mystery, according to the common scriptural sense of the term, does not mean something obscure or incomprehensible, but simply something previously unknown, and undiscoverable by human reason, and which,

known at all, must be known by a revelation from God; see ch. 11 : 25. According to this passage, Paul speaks of the gospel as something 6 which had been kept secret since the world began;" i. e. hidden from eternity in the divine Mind. It is not a system of human philosophy, or the result of human investigation, but it is a revelation of the purpose of God. Paul often presents the idea that the plan of redemption was formed from eternity, and is such as no eye could discover, and no heart conceive, 1 Cor. 2:7–9. Col. 1:26.

(26) But is now made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets ; that is, this gospel or mystery, hidden from eternity, is now revealed; not now for the first time, indeed, since there are so many intimations of it in the prophecies of the Old Testament.' It is evident that the apostle adds the words and by the scriptures of the prophets to X avoid having it supposed that he overlooked the fact that the plan of redemption was taught in the Old Testament; compare ch. 1 : 2. 3:21. According to the command of the everlasting God, that is, this gospel is now made manifest by command of God. Paul probably uses the expression everlasting God, because he had just before said that the gospel was hid from eternity. It is now revealed by that eternal Being in whose mind the wonderful plan was formed, and by whom alone it could be revealed.' Made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. • Made known among all nations. For the obedience of faith, i. e. that they should become obedient to the faith ; see ch. 1: 5.

This gospel, so long concealed, or but partially revealed in the ancient prophets, is now, by the command of God, to be made known among all nations

(27) To the only wise God be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. There is an ambiguity in the original which is not retained in our version. • To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever.' The construction adopted by our translators is perhaps

2 G X Pent here he !

the one most generally approved. To him that is able to establish you, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory. In this case the relative to whom, in v. 27, is pleonastic. Others explain the passage thus, . To the only wise God, made known through Jesus Christ, to whom (i. e. Christ) be glory for ever.' The former construction appears the more natural. As Paul often calls the gospel the “wisdom of God" in contrast with the wisdom of men, he here, when speaking of the plan of redemption as the product of the divine Mind, and intended for all nations, addresses his praises to its author as the ONLY WISE God, as that Being whose wisdom is so wonderfully displayed in the gospel, and in all his other works, that he alone can be considered truly wise.

REMARKS.

1. It is the duty of Christians to receive kindly their brethren, and to aid them in every way within their power, and to do this from religious motives, and in a religious manner; as becometh saints, vs. 1, 2.

2. The social relations in which Christians stand to each other as relatives, countrymen, friends, should not be allowed to give character to their feelings and conduct, to the exclusion of the more important relation which they bear to Christ. It is as friends, helpers, fellow laboura ers in the Lord, that they are to be recognised; they are to be received in the Lord; our common connexion with Christ is ever to be borne in mind, and made to modify all our feelings and conduct, vs. 3—12.

2. From the beginning females have taken an active and important part in the promotion of religion. They seem more than others to have contributed to Christ of their substance; they were his most faithful attendants, • last at the cross, and first at the sepulchre;' Phebe was a servant of the church, a succourer of Paul and of many others; Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis laboured much in the Lord, vs. 1, 3, 6, 12.

4. It does not follow, because a custom prevailed in the early churches, and received the sanction of the apostles, that we are obliged to follow it. These customs often arose out of local circumstances and previous habits, or were merely conventional modes of expressing certain feelings, and were never intended to be made universally obligatory. As it was common in the east (and is so, to a great extent, at present, not only there, but on the continent of Europe) to express affection and confidence by • the kiss of peace,' Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to salute one another with a holy kiss ; i. e. to manifest their Christian love to each other according to the mode to which they were accustomed. The exercise and manifestation of the feeling, but not the mode of its expression, are obligatory on us. This is but one example; there are many other things connected with the manner of conducting public worship, and with the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, common in the apostolic churches, which have gone out of use. Christianity is a living principle, and was never intended to be confined to one unvarying set of forms, v. 16.

5. It is the duty of Christians to be constantly watchful over the peace and purity of the church, and not to allow those who cause divisions and scandals, by departing from the true doctrines, to pursue their course unnoticed. With all such we should break off every connexion which either sanctions their opinions and conduct, or gives them facilities for affecting evil, v. 17.

6. False teachers have ever abounded in the church. All the apostles were called upon earnestly to oppose them. Witness the epistles of Paul, John, Peter, and James. No one of the apostolical epistles is silent upon this subject. Good men may indeed hold erroneous doctrines; but the false teachers, the promoters of heresy and divisions, as a class, are characterized by Paul as not influenced by a desire to serve Christ, but as selfish in their aims, and plausible, flattering, and deceitful in their conduct, v. 18.

7. Christians should unite the harmlessness of the dove with the wisdom of the serpent. They should be careful neither to cause divisions or scandals themselves, nor allow others to deceive and beguile them into evil, v. 19.

8. However much the church may be distracted and troubled, error and its advocates cannot finally prevail. Satan is a conquered enemy with a lengthened chain; God will ultimately bruise him under the feet of his people, v. 20.

9. The stability which the church and every Christian should maintain is a steadfastness, not in forms or matters of human authority, but in the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ. God alone is able thus to make his people stand; and, therefore, we should look to him and depend upon him for our own preservation, and the preservation of the church; and ascribe to him, and not to ourselves, all glory and thanks, vs. 25, 27.

10. The gospel is a mystery, i. e. a system of truth beyond the power of the human mind to discover, which God has revealed for our faith and obedience. It was formed from eternity in the divine Mind, revealed by the prophets and apostles, and the preaching of Jesus Christ; and is by the command of God to be made known to all nations, vs. 25, 26.

11. God alone is wise. He charges his angels with folly; and the wisdom of men is foolishness with him. To God, therefore, the profoundest reverence and the most implicit submission are due. Men should not presume to call in question what he has revealed, or consider themselves competent to sit in judgment on the truth of his declarations, or the wisdom of his plans. To God ONLY WISE, BE GLORY THROUGH Jesus CHRIST FOR EVER. AMEN.

The subscriptions to this and the other epistles were not added by the sacred writers, but appended by some later and unknown persons. This is evident, 1. Because it cannot be supposed that the apostles would thus formally state (as in this case) what those to whom their letters were addressed must have already

« PreviousContinue »