Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chapter 2 

(8) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (9) For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; (10) Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. (11) For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; (12) That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. (13) Now I would not have you ignorant, that oftentimes I proposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among all Gentiles. (14) I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

Verse 8  First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. In this prayer of the apostle he is strongly expressing his affections for all true believers in Rome and is here informing them of how often he is moved by the Spirit to remember them at the throne of grace.  His heart was drawn out in thanksgiving that some of God’s elect were found there.  The apostle, who before his conversion had a hatred for Christ and all His followers, now has a genuine affection for all the saints, without respect of persons. He shows his deep personal interest in each of them and states that they were continually upon his heart, and in all his prayers.

The object of thanksgiving is God, “But God be thanked” (Rom. ), that most gracious and glorious Being.  All that we are, have and know comes from Him (James ).  Paul invoked Him, not as an absolutely, infinitely removed, unrelated One, but as “my God,” as a living and personal reality.  This was an avowal of covenant relationship; the grand covenant promise “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb. ), looking back to Jer. 24:7 and 31:33.  “My God” is expressive of a personal relationship of all God’s people to Him.  God was Paul’s God as He is the God of all the saints, by eternal election, having loved them with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3); by redemption, having purchased them with His precious blood (Acts 20:28); by His regenerating power, having communicated spiritual life to them and having stamped the divine image upon their hearts, making them manifestly His own dear children (Titus 3:5); by receiving Him, for when God was revealed to us and in us, we surrendered to His claims, saying, “What wilt Thou have me do?” (Acts 9:6), and God bestowed upon us His own nature and became our everlasting portion, our all-satisfying inheritance. “My God” — the One who showed such sovereign and signal mercy to Paul, and to each of His children, who could say with Job, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee” (Job 42:5).

The ground of approach, the Person through whom thanks are given is, “through Jesus Christ.”  How can Paul, you, or I, conscious of our sinful pollution and utter unworthiness, even think of approaching Infinite Purity?  Only in Christ, the all-sufficient provision to meet our need, we may obtain access to the thrice holy God — “through Jesus Christ.”  God is our God, through Christ only.  Every approach to God must be made through the merits of the Mediator. We can not know God as our Father until we know, acknowledge, and adorn Christ as our living Lord (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Psa. ).  There is no prayer or praise acceptable to a Holy God except through Him, “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 2:5).  All religions or religious activities that fail to adhere to this vital principle are false and are damning their deluded followers.

That your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”  Paul was thankful for the humble reliance of the saints on the Lord Jesus and their loving allegiance to Him as Lord and Savior.  Their faith, the Faith of God wrought within the soul, was of such a character as to be everywhere spoken of, and Paul’s thanksgiving for them was his recognition and acknowledgment that God was the Giver of their faith (Phil. 1:29), and that they believed so strongly and openly.  He did not congratulate them upon their faith, but he fervently thanks God for it, and praises God for what He by His grace had wrought in them.  Faith is truly the gift of God, all boasting is excluded (Eph. 2:8-9), and men and women of true faith are not ashamed to declare it (Luke ).  God-given faith which transforms the character and conduct of poor sinners will be taken note of and spoken of everywhere.  This faith is productive of obedience such as others will be aware of, producing a tremendous change of life and practice (Rom. & 1 Thes. 1:8-9).

The fact that thanks were returned to God for these graces was an acknowledgment that He is the Author of them; they do not, in any way, originate with man.  They are the fruit of the Spirit, evidences of His regenerating work. Thanksgiving should be offered to God not for ourselves only but for our fellow Christians also.  This was always Paul’s custom (Eph. -16; Col. 1:3-4).

Verse 9  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers. Paul appeals to God who knew how much these Christians were on his heart.  He acknowledged that God is omniscient, knowing all things (Acts 15:8), and Paul reverently appeals to Him as the Searcher of hearts (Psa. 139:23).   He also exhorts each saint to look to that perfect knowledge that God has of his heart as evidence of his intense interest in their spiritual welfare, thus assuring them of his affection, interest and continual prayers for them.

Whom I serve with my spirit. Paul was “constrained by the love of Christ,” sold out,  serving with all his innermost being.  He was completely at His Lord’s entire disposal, subject only to His orders.  There was no hypocrisy, no greed, nor formality as there is in most so-called service today.  Paul’s true service to his Lord was from the very depths of his being — willingly, heartily, joyously.  All true service is spiritual, as befits the nature of God.  No bodily service is acceptable to Him, which is not informed and animated by a renewed spirit (Rom.1:1-14; Col. 3:10). 

In the gospel of Christ.”  The whole of Paul’s new life and all his activity were consecrated to the preaching of the Gospel of his Lord.  This is the “Good News,” the only good news, that God has for poor, guilty sinners; “in the gospel of His Son.”  As the ambassador of the Triune God Paul was never happier than when he was speaking of the excellencies of his Sovereign Lord.

That without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.  “The care of all the churches” lay deep in Paul’s affections, and that care he cast upon Him Who alone was able to bear it.  It was the apostle’s delight to bear those to whom he ministered upon his heart, and in his prayers before the Lord (Phil. 1:3-5).  May our Lord graciously move all our hearts in this direction.  We cannot do the saints a greater kindness, or exercise our love for them in a more practical way, than by praying for them. This was Paul’s common practice as stated here and also in Ephesians (1:15-16); the Philippians (1:3-4); the Colossians (1:3-4); and the Thessalonians (1:2-3).  What love for all saints, what all absorbing spirituality, what impassioned devotion to the glory of Christ among men!

By prayer (which we hope to deal with much more extensively at 8:26), is meant an address to the Almighty, consisting of petition, thanksgiving, statements of present necessities, confession of sin, &c., which constitute the expression of the various needs and feeling in the soul.  We add the quote of Robert Haldane, “To pray without laboring is to mock God: to labor without praying is to rob God of His glory.”

Verse 10  Making requests, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. Paul’s love for all the saints made him desirous of meeting those at Rome, and he prayed constantly that God would make this possible. His desire for “a prosperous journey” is that his circumstances should be so favorably ordered by God that Paul would have a profitable visit with them and that the Lord through him would bestow spiritual blessings upon them. Later in this epistle (15:28-29) Paul was given Divine assurance of his request being granted. It was nearly twenty five years after his conversion before this desire was accomplished. The journey is described in Acts chapters 27 and 28.  After a most trying and hazardous voyage, Paul arrived in Rome in chains “as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” But there was victory for him as recorded in Acts 28:30-31.

“By the will of God to come unto you.”  Paul, on the road to Damascus, in the dust as an awakened sinner, was brought to bow to the will of his Lord, then and throughout his life, as from his heart he cried, “What wilt Thou have me to do?”  This is the cry of every sinner that the Holy Ghost brings to Christ. Paul acknowledged that his all, his future, was in God’s hands and his continual prayer was for his Lord’s will in all ways and at all times in his life.  In the pursuit of every lawful project there must be a humble acknowledgment of the Divine proviso, “Thy will be done,” for as Charles Hodge remarks, “God’s providence is to be recognized in reference to the most ordinary affairs of life” (James 4:15; Acts 18:21; 1 Cor. 4:19).

Verse 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established. The apostle makes it known to the saints that his desire to see them was due to spiritual affection for them.  The word “long” shows how strong and intense Paul’s desire was to visit the saints in Rome, and how real and commendable was his subjection to the will of God.  We see the heart of a true under-shepherd in his burning zeal, plus we see his blessed, total submission to the Chief Shepherd. 

It is not the impartation of supernatural gifts which exercises Paul’s heart, but the establishment of believers in the true and experimental doctrines of God’s pure, free, sovereign grace, as the context makes clear. 

“To the end ye may be established.”  As the instrument of God, Paul desired to be made a blessing to Christ's little flock.  Though their faith was well spoken of, he desired to minister spiritual light, knowledge, peace and comfort through the Word of God. He wished them to be established, strengthened, settled, as “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus ... make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Pet. 5:10).  The Greek word translated “stablish” means thoroughly establish, to make “rooted and grounded in the faith” (Col. 1:27) both in heart (1 Thes. 3:12) and in walk (2 Thes. 2:17).  Paul shows the object of a true minister which is to expound the Way more perfectly to them, to add to their spiritual light and joy in Christ, and to open up to them more fully the unsearchable riches of Christ our Lord. A true man of God wants to see sinners truly converted and will seek to be used of God in their growth and establishment in the faith.

Verse 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Paul had expressed his desire to instruct them in order to do them good, and he adds, to instruct and do one another good; in giving I shall receive.  In the words of John Calvin, “There is none so poor in the Church of Christ who may not impart to us something of value: it is only our malignity and pride that hinders us from gathering such fruit from every quarter.”  How vastly different is the apostolic style from present day ministers!  When the Gospel is faithfully preached, sinners converted and firmly established in the faith, both they and the minister are comforted together.  Contact with kindred minds refreshes, and “he that watereth (others) shall be watered also himself” (Prov. 11:25).

This grace of faith is the same in all and is called “the common faith” (Titus 1:4) or “the mutual faith both of you and me.”  It is mutually enjoyed by all the living members of our Lord’s body, and ever seeks, not the glory of its possessors, but that of its gracious Author.  It is the same in all its properties, all flowing from one and the same fountain, which is Christ; a faith which “worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6).  It is to be carefully noted that in true Christian fellowship a common, mutual faith is the uniting factor.  There can be no mutual edification where there is no mutual faith.  It is the fellowship of kindred minds which binds hearts together in Christian love.  In our day many would make a so-called fellowship the means of securing a “common faith,” but this is a total inversion of what is ever the Biblical order (see the second epistle of John).

Verse 13  Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. “I would not have you to be ignorant” was a phrase Paul used in calling special attention to what he is about to say. He said he “purposed,” oftentimes for many years, to come to them, showing Paul’s settled determination.  The word “let” means hindered.  Some have thought that this hindering was the incessant calls for apostolic labor, which left no time at his command. Others think it means that the Spirit, who had forbidden his preaching in Asia, had hitherto forbidden his visiting Rome.  But 1 Thes. 2:18 — “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us” — shows that it was Satan who was the hinderer. We see from Acts 23:11 that it was the will of God for Paul to go to Rome. “Power belongeth unto God” (Psa. 62:11) and to Him only.  But Satan, who sometimes by Divine permission has delegated power (for he is simply a pawn in Almighty God’s hand), and his emissaries opposed Paul’s approach to Rome, while Paul was longing and praying to get there.  Paul’s entrance at a later date into Rome shows our Lord’s will overruling Satan’s will and Paul’s prayer answered by his Lord.

On this issue of Satan being entirely in the hands of Him alone Who has all power and totally under control of His will, we cannot improve upon the following quote of the late Charles D. Alexander:  “It is a mistake to suppose that these instances mean Satan has alterations of liberty and restraint as though sometimes he is in ‘heaven,’ sometimes on earth, and sometimes under it.  These terms refer to the constantly recurring phases of Satan’s manifestation.  The providential government of God ordains periods of unleashing Satanic power, and again periods of restraint according to the unfolding of the Divine plan in relation to the Kingdom of Christ.  We know from the Book of Job that Satan is the slave of providence.  He cannot act without the Divine permission, and hence must, from time to time, appear before the throne of God and give an account of himself.  WE CONTEND WITH ALL OUR SOUL AGAINST THE PERNICIOUS IMAGINATION THAT SATAN REPRESENTS A SECOND FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE.  There is NO SECOND FORCE.  ONLY GOD RULES!  There is only one control.  There is only one hand which holds the reins of power and authority.  WHERE CHRIST HAS HIS SEAT, THE DEVIL IS ALWAYS CAST DOWN ... Decrees to what extent Satan is to be given liberty to act.  Always that liberty is ordained by God in relation to the righteous administration of the world.  Sometimes that liberty is given so that the people of God should be tried and proven as to their faith and patience, the prime example being Job.  Always it is ‘so far and no further’ — again as in the case of Job — ‘touch not his life’ (Job 2:6).  If God is not in total control of His own creation, then He is no God and we must look for another who IS in control.”

“That I might have some fruit among you also.”  Paul’s desire was for spiritual fruit, the conversion or edification of those to whom he preached.  John Calvin says, “He no doubt speaks of that fruit, for the gathering of which the Lord sent His apostles” (John 15:16). 

Verse 14  I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.  Paul called himself by many names; none of them lofty, all of them lowly; the highest, simply “an apostle.” Other times, it is Paul “the servant of Jesus Christ,” sometimes Paul “the aged,” or at other times Paul “the prisoner,” or “less than the least of all saints,” or sometimes, the “chief of sinners.”  Here it is “a debtor.” Paul was a “debtor” as he had experienced the mercy and grace of God in his own soul, and receiving his Divine call to the ministry of the Word, Paul was bound by the love that Christ had shown him.  Because of this he had a keen desire in his heart to be faithful to his Lord and used of Him in the preaching of the Gospel to the conversion of sinners and being beneficial and comforting to the saints.  So greatly did he feel this obligation resting upon him that he says, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).  Paul is a debtor to his God; to Christ; to God’s Gospel; and to men of all nations.  By grace he became possessed of the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”  He found this treasure revealed in his soul, and he could not conceal it; he must proclaim it; he must tell abroad what he felt in his heart.

Who had made Paul to differ, and worked this grace in him?  The Triune God in the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  It is to God, then, in the first place that Paul feels himself an infinite debtor in the fullest sense.  And he pays this debt (willingly and lovingly) by pouring out this God-given treasure to others. A man must have this call of God and know that he has this treasure himself before he can be quickened into feeling of his responsibility to preach to others.  The love of Christ must constrain us; a sense of what we owe to Him must impel and stimulate us.  Only then is the debt paid, by carrying the Gospel which we have received in power in our hearts.  That Gospel had enriched the apostle infinitely, and he takes it to others.

Paul’s commission was to no one nation, or one race, or one class of people.  “Barbarians” means all who spoke a language foreign to the Greek.  It means a foreigner, one of another language.  “Greeks and Barbarians” is like saying “Greeks and non-Greeks,” or all nations.  Also to all classes.  The man of God must preach to all men, rich as well as poor, wise as well as unwise.  All men need to hear the message of the Gospel, even all natural men who despise it as Paul did before his conversion.  But the Gospel must be delivered to the heart of a convinced sinner in the power of the Holy Ghost in order for it to become “good news” to that sinner.

Verse15.  So, as much as is in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.  Paul was willing and ready to preach the Gospel, to fulfill the call of his loving Lord, as far as he was allowed to do so by Him.  He knew it to be his duty to spread that Gospel among the Romans, in order to gather fruit for his Master, and he was anxious to obey the Lord Christ whom he loved supremely.  Everything he did, everywhere he went, rested not with him, but on the will of Christ.  He did not direct his own actions as he was always dependent and submissive to the Lord Jesus. This is the path for all Christians to take in following the Lord, leaving all events in His hands.  RCLVC

Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 1:8-15

Verse 8. Hearty thanks must be given to God: such as cometh not from the roof of the mouth but the root of the heart. — John Trapp (1601-1669).

Thanksgiving is an act of self-denial. — William Gurnall (1617-1679).

If God Himself be mine, then everything that is pure, holy, lovely, satisfying, is mine.  If that glorious fact, that infinitely grand truth, be the subject of constant meditation and adoration, then my heart will not be cold and dull, nor will my mouth be paralyzed when I draw near to the throne of grace.  It is not an absolute and unrelated Deity whom I approach, but “my God.”  And that blessed and blissful relationship is to be duly acknowledged by the Christian when he bows the knee before Him.  So far from being the language of presumption, it would be wicked presumption, insulting unbelief, to deny it. — Arthur W. Pink (1881-1952).

If faith has not for its basis a testimony of God, then such “faith” is no faith. — Adolphe Monod (1802-1856).

Faith is exalted so high today that men are being satisfied with any kind of faith. — J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937).

Believing and obeying always run side by side. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).

Verse 9. As a Christian is never out of the reach of God’s hand, so he is never out of the view of God's eye. — Thomas Brooks (1608-1680).

The Lord first of all wants sincerity in His service, simplicity of heart without guile and falsehood. — John Calvin (1509-1564).

Do not pray by heart but with the heart. — Anonymous.

The reasons for this prayer are, (1) To impart some spiritual gift looking to their establishment. (2) For mutual comfort in each other’s faith. (3) That he might have some fruit in them as in other Gentiles. (4) Because he was a debtor to both Greeks and Barbarians, wise and foolish.  (5) Because he was ready to preach at Rome as well as elsewhere. (6) He had been hindered in his purposes to visit them hitherto (see also ). (7) He was not ashamed of the Gospel in any crowd. — B. H. Carroll (1843-1914).

Verse 10. As to the will of God, it falls under a twofold consideration of His secret and revealed will.  The distinction is found in that Scripture: “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but these things which are revealed belong unto us” (Deut. 29:29).  The first is the rule of His own actions:  the latter of ours. — John Flavel (1627-1691).

Verse 11. A drop of grace is worth a sea of gifts. — William Jenkyn (1612-1685).

Grace is too much neglected where gifts are too highly prized. — William Gurnall (1617-1679).

Salvation is promised to those who have the graces of the Spirit, but not to those who have merely the extra-ordinary gifts.  Many have these last, and yet go to hell. — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).

Verses 12 through 14.  Because of the mercy of God to me and by His divine call to the ministry of the Word, I have an obligation to fulfill, a duty to perform and a debt to pay to all men, cultured and uncultured, wise and unwise. The Gospel is the same for all men and is to be preached to the civilized, cultured nations as well as to the pagan, uncivilized barbarians.  It is the same Gospel to those who are learned and wise, with respect to human wisdom and knowledge, and to those who are unlearned and untaught in natural things (1 Cor. 1:26-30; Matt. 11:25). — Henry Mahan (b. 1926).

Whatever you do, begin with God. — Matthew Henry (1662-1714).

This faith is mutual in all Christ’s members.  No rivalry, or unseemly emulation, is discovered in its manifestations.  The strong helps the weak.  The weak hugs the strong. Precious oneness!  — Thomas Bradbury (1831-1905).

The right manner of growth is to grow less in one’s own eyes. — Thomas Watson (1620-1686).

TRUE RELIGION is not the great competition for members that we see on every corner and in every church organization, but the religion of God is to be conformed to the Word of God and seek to reach out to the chosen of God who desire to hear the good news of eternal salvation in Christ the Lord. — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).

Verse 15. Whenever you preach, be sure that you lift the Savior high and lay the sinner low. — John Wilmot.

My grand point in preaching is to break the hard heart, and to heal the broken one. — John Newton (1725-1807).

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