Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X. - Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Romans
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER X. - John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Romans 
Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Romans, trans. from the original Latin by the Rev. John Owen (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
1. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2. For I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
1. Fratres, benevolentia certè cordis mei, et deprecatio ad Deum super Israel, est in salutem.
2. Testimonium enim reddo illis, quòd zelum Dei habent, sed non secundum scientiam:
3. Ignorantes enim Dei justitiam, et propriam justitiam quærentes statuere, justitiæ Dei subjecti non fuerunt;
4. Finis enim Legis Christus in justitiam omni credenti.1
We here see with what solicitude the holy man obviated offences; for in order to soften whatever sharpness there may have been in his manner of explaining the rejection of the Jews, he still testifies, as before, his goodwill towards them, and proves it by the effect; for their salvation was an object of concern to him before the Lord, and such a feeling arises only from genuine love. It may be at the same time that he was also induced by another reason to testify his love towards the nation from which he had sprung; for his doctrine would have never been received by the Jews had they thought that he was avowedly inimical to them; and his defection would have been also suspected by the Gentiles, for they would have thought, as we have said in the last chapter, that he became an apostate from the law through his hatred of men.2
2.For I bear to them a testimony, &c. This was intended to secure credit to his love. There was indeed a just cause why he should regard them with compassion rather than hatred, since he perceived that they had fallen only through ignorance, and not through malignancy of mind, and especially as he saw that they were not led except by some regard for God to persecute the kingdom of Christ. Let us hence learn where our good intentions may guide us, if we yield to them. It is commonly thought a good and a very fit excuse, when he who is reproved pretends that he meant no harm. And this pretext is held good by many at this day, so that they apply not their minds to find out the truth of God, because they think that whatever they do amiss through ignorance, without any designed maliciousness, but with good intention, is excusable. But no one of us would excuse the Jews for having crucified Christ, for having cruelly raged against the Apostles, and for having attempted to destroy and extinguish the gospel; and yet they had the same defence as that in which we confidently glory. Away then with these vain evasions as to good intention; if we seek God sincerely, let us follow the way by which alone we can come to him. For it is better, as Augustine says, even to go limping in the right way than to run with all our might out of the way. If we would be really religious, let us remember that what Lactantius teaches is true, that true religion is alone that which is connected with the word of God.1
And further, since we see that they perish, who with good intention wander in darkness, let us bear in mind, that we are worthy of thousand deaths, if after having been illuminated by God, we wander knowingly and wilfully from the right way.
3.For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, &c. See how they went astray through inconsiderate zeal! for they sought to set up a righteousness of their own; and this foolish confidence proceeded from their ignorance of God’s righteousness. Notice the contrast between the righteousness of God and that of men. We first see, that they are opposed to one another, as things wholly contrary, and cannot stand together. It hence follows, that God’s righteousness is subverted, as soon as men set up their own. And again, as there is a correspondence between the things contrasted, the righteousness of God is no doubt his gift; and in like manner, the righteousness of men is that which they derive from themselves, or believe that they bring before God. Then he who seeks to be justified through himself, submits not to God’s righteousness; for the first step towards obtaining the righteousness of God is to renounce our own righteousness: for why is it, that we seek righteousness from another, except that necessity constrains us?
We have already stated, in another place, how men put on the righteousness of God by faith, that is, when the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them. But Paul grievously dishonours the pride by which hypocrites are inflated, when they cover it with the specious mask of zeal; for he says, that all such, by shaking off as it were the yoke, are adverse to and rebel against the righteousness of God.
4.For the end of the law is Christ, &c. The word completion,1 seems not to me unsuitable in this place; and Erasmus has rendered it perfection: but as the other reading is almost universally approved, and is not inappropriate, readers, for my part, may retain it.
The Apostle obviates here an objection which might have been made against him; for the Jews might have appeared to have kept the right way by depending on the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for him to disprove this false opinion; and this is what he does here. He shows that he is a false interpreter of the law, who seeks to be justified by his own works; because the law had been given for this end,—to lead us as by the hand to another righteousness: nay, whatever the law teaches, whatever it commands, whatever it promises, has always a reference to Christ as its main object; and hence all its parts ought to be applied to him. But this cannot be done, except we, being stripped of all righteousness, and confounded with the knowledge of our sin, seek gratuitous righteousness from him alone.
It hence follows, that the wicked abuse of the law was justly reprehended in the Jews, who absurdly made an obstacle of that which was to be their help: nay, it appears that they had shamefully mutilated the law of God; for they rejected its soul, and seized on the dead body of the letter. For though the law promises reward to those who observe its righteousness, it yet substitutes, after having proved all guilty, another righteousness in Christ, which is not attained by works, but is received by faith as a free gift. Thus the righteousness of faith, (as we have seen in the first chapter,) receives a testimony from the law. We have then here a remarkable passage, which proves that the law in all its parts had a reference to Christ; and hence no one can rightly understand it, who does not continually level at this mark.
5. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
6. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
7. Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach;
9. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
5. Moses enim describit justitiam quæ est ex Lege, Quòd qui fecerit ea homo vivet in ipsis.
6. Quæ vero est ex fide justitia sic dicit, Ne dixeris in corde tuo, Quis ascendet in cœlum? hoc est Christum deducere:
7. Aut, Quis descendet in abyssum? hoc est Christum ex mortuis reducere:
8. Sed quid dicit? Propè est verbum, in ore tuo et in corde tuo; hoc est verbum fidei quod prædicamus,
9. Quod si confessus fueris in ore tuo Dominum Iesum, et credideris in corde tuo quòd Deus suscitavit illum ex mortuis, salvus eris:
10. Corde enim creditur in justitiam, ore fit confessio in salutem.
5.For Moses, &c. To render it evident how much at variance is the righteousness of faith and that of works, he now compares them; for by comparison the opposition between contrary things appears more clear. But he refers not now to the oracles of the Prophets, but to the testimony of Moses, and for this reason,—that the Jews might understand that the law was not given by Moses in order to detain them in a dependence on works, but, on the contrary, to lead them to Christ. He might have indeed referred to the Prophets as witnesses; but still this doubt must have remained, “How was it that the law prescribed another rule of righteousness?” He then removes this, and in the best manner, when by the teaching of the law itself he confirms the righteousness of faith.
But we ought to understand the reason why Paul harmonizes the law with faith, and yet sets the righteousness of one in opposition to that of the other:—The law has a two-fold meaning; it sometimes includes the whole of what has been taught by Moses, and sometimes that part only which was peculiar to his ministration, which consisted of precepts, rewards, and punishments. But Moses had this common office—to teach the people the true rule of religion. Since it was so, it behoved him to preach repentance and faith; but faith is not taught, except by propounding promises of divine mercy, and those gratuitous: and thus it behoved him to be a preacher of the gospel; which office he faithfully performed, as it appears from many passages. In order to instruct the people in the doctrine of repentance, it was necessary for him to teach what manner of life was acceptable to God; and this he included in the precepts of the law. That he might also instil into the minds of the people the love of righteousness, and implant in them the hatred of iniquity, promises and threatenings were added; which proposed rewards to the just, and denounced dreadful punishments on sinners. It was now the duty of the people to consider in how many ways they drew curses on themselves, and how far they were from deserving anything at God’s hands by their works, that being thus led to despair as to their own righteousness, they might flee to the haven of divine goodness, and so to Christ himself. This was the end or design of the Mosaic dispensation.
But as evangelic promises are only found scattered in the writings of Moses, and these also somewhat obscure, and as the precepts and rewards, allotted to the observers of the law, frequently occur, it rightly appertained to Moses as his own and peculiar office, to teach what is the real righteousness of works, and then to show what remuneration awaits the observance of it, and what punishment awaits those who come short of it. For this reason Moses is by John compared with Christ, when it is said, “That the law was given by Moses, but that grace and truth came by Christ.” (John i. 17.) And whenever the word law is thus strictly taken, Moses is by implication opposed to Christ: and then we must consider what the law contains, as separate from the gospel. Hence what is said here of the righteousness of the law, must be applied, not to the whole office of Moses, but to that part which was in a manner peculiarly committed to him. I come now to the words.
For Moses describes, &c. Paul has γράϕει, writes; which is used for a verb which means to describe, by taking away a part of it [ἐπιγράϕει.] The passage is taken from Lev. xviii. 5, where the Lord promises eternal life to those who would keep his law; for in this sense, as you see, Paul has taken the passage, and not only of temporal life, as some think. Paul indeed thus reasons,—“Since no man can attain the righteousness prescribed in the law, except he fulfils strictly every part of it, and since of this perfection all men have always come far short, it is in vain for any one to strive in this way for salvation: Israel then were very foolish, who expected to attain the righteousness of the law, from which we are all excluded.” See how from the promise itself he proves, that it can avail us nothing, and for this reason, because the condition is impossible. What a futile device it is then to allege legal promises, in order to establish the righteousness of the law! For with these an unavoidable curse comes to us; so far is it, that salvation should thence proceed. The more detestable on this account is the stupidity of the Papists, who think it enough to prove merits by adducing bare promises. “It is not in vain,” they say, “that God has promised life to his servants.” But at the same time they see not that it has been promised, in order that a consciousness of their own transgressions may strike all with the fear of death, and that being thus constrained by their own deficiency, they may learn to flee to Christ.
6.But the righteousness1which is by faith, &c. This passage is such as may not a little disturb the reader, and for two reasons—for it seems to be improperly applied by Paul—and the words are also turned to a different meaning. Of the words we shall hereafter see what may be said: we shall first notice the application. It is a passage taken from Deut. xxx. 12, where, as in the former passage, Moses speaks of the doctrine of the law, and Paul applies it to evangelic promises. This knot may be thus untied:—Moses shows, that the way to life was made plain: for the will of God was not now hid from the Jews, nor set far off from them, but placed before their eyes. If he had spoken of the law only, his reasoning would have been frivolous, since the law of God being set before their eyes, it was not easier to do it, than if it was afar off. He then means not the law only, but generally the whole of God’s truth, which includes in it the gospel: for the word of the law by itself is never in our heart, no, not the least syllable of it, until it is implanted in us by the faith of the gospel. And then, even after regeneration, the word of the law cannot properly be said to be in our heart; for it demands perfection, from which even the faithful are far distant: but the word of the gospel has a seat in the heart, though it does not fill the heart; for it offers pardon for imperfection and defect. And Moses throughout that chapter, as also in the fourth, endeavours to commend to the people the remarkable kindness of God, because he had taken them under his own tuition and government, which commendation could not have belonged to the law only. It is no objection that Moses there speaks of forming the life according to the rule of the law; for the spirit of regeneration is connected with the gratuitous righteousness of faith. Nor is there a doubt but that this verse depends on that main truth, “The Lord shall circumcise thine heart,” which he had recorded shortly before in the same chapter. They may therefore be easily disproved, who say that Moses speaks only in that passage of good works. That he speaks of works I indeed allow; but I deny it to be unreasonable, that the keeping of the law should be traced from its own fountain, even from the righteousness of faith. The explanation of the words must now follow.1
Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend? &c. Moses mentions heaven and the sea, as places remote and difficult of access to men. But Paul, as though there was some spiritual mystery concealed under these words, applies them to the death and resurrection of Christ. If any one thinks that this interpretation is too strained and too refined, let him understand that it was not the object of the Apostle strictly to explain this passage, but to apply it to the explanation of his present subject. He does not, therefore, repeat verbally what Moses has said, but makes alterations, by which he accommodates more suitably to his own purpose the testimony of Moses. He spoke of inaccessible places; Paul refers to those, which are indeed hid from the sight of us all, and may yet be seen by our faith. If then you take these things as spoken for illustration, or by way of improvement, you cannot say that Paul has violently or inaptly changed the words of Moses; but you will, on the contrary, allow, that without loss of meaning, he has, in a striking manner, alluded to the words heaven and the sea.
Let us now then simply explain the words of Paul:—As the assurance of our salvation lies on two foundations, that is, when we understand, that life has been obtained for us, and death has been conquered for us, he teaches us that faith through the word of the gospel is sustained by both these; for Christ, by dying, destroyed death, and by rising again he obtained life in his own power. The benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection is now communicated to us by the gospel: there is then no reason for us to seek anything farther. That it may thus appear, that the righteousness of faith is abundantly sufficient for salvation, he teaches us, that included in it are these two things, which are alone necessary for salvation. The import then of the words, Who shall ascend into heaven? is the same, as though you should say, “Who knows whether the inheritance of eternal and celestial life remains for us?” And the words, Who shall descend into the deep? mean the same, as though you should say, “Who knows whether the everlasting destruction of the soul follows the death of the body?” He teaches us, that doubt on those two points is removed by the righteousness of faith; for the one would draw down Christ from heaven, and the other would bring him up again from death. Christ’s ascension into heaven ought indeed fully to confirm our faith as to eternal life; for he in a manner removes Christ himself from the possession of heaven, who doubts whether the inheritance of heaven is prepared for the faithful, in whose name, and on whose account he has entered thither. Since in like manner he underwent the horrors of hell to deliver us from them, to doubt whether the faithful are still exposed to this misery, is to render void, and, as it were, to deny his death.
8.What does it say?1 For the purpose of removing the impediments of faith, he has hitherto spoken negatively: but now in order to show the way of obtaining righteousness, he adopts an affirmative mode of speaking. Though the whole might have been announced in one continuous sentence, yet a question is interposed for the sake of exciting attention: and his object at the same time was to show how great is the difference between the righteousness of the law and that of the gospel; for the one, showing itself at a distance, restrains all men from coming nigh; but the other, offering itself at hand, kindly invites us to a fruition of itself, Nigh thee is the word.
It must be further observed, that lest the minds of men, being led away by crafts, should wander from the way of salvation, the limits of the word are prescribed to them, within which they are to keep themselves: for it is the same as though he had bidden them to be satisfied with the word only, and reminded them, that in this mirror those secrets of heaven are to be seen, which would otherwise by their brightness dazzle their eyes, and would also stun their ears and overpower the mind itself.
Hence the faithful derive from this passage remarkable consolation with regard to the certainty of the word; for they may no less safely rest on it, than on what is actually present. It must also be noticed, that the word, by which we have a firm and calm trust as to our salvation, had been set forth even by Moses:
This is the word of faith. Rightly does Paul take this as granted; for the doctrine of the law does by no means render the conscience quiet and calm, nor supply it with what ought to satisfy it. He does not, however, exclude other parts of the word, no, not even the precepts of the law; but his design is, to show that remission of sins stands for righteousness, even apart from that strict obedience which the law demands. Sufficient then for pacifying minds, and for rendering certain our salvation, is the word of the gospel; in which we are not commanded to earn righteousness by works, but to embrace it, when offered gratuitously, by faith.
The word of faith is to be taken for the word of promise, that is, for the gospel itself, because it bears a relation to faith.1 The contrast, by which the difference between the law and the gospel appears, is indeed to be understood: and from this distinction we learn,—that as the law demands works, so the gospel requires nothing else, but that men bring faith to receive the grace of God. The words, which we preach, are added, that no one might have the suspicion that Paul differed from Moses; for he testifies, that in the ministration of the gospel there was complete consent between him and Moses; inasmuch as even Moses placed our felicity in nothing else but in the gratuitous promise of divine favour.
9.That if thou wilt confess, &c. Here is also an allusion, rather than a proper and strict quotation: for it is very probable that Moses used the word mouth, by taking a part for the whole, instead of the word face, or sight. But it was not unsuitable for the Apostle to allude to the word mouth, in this manner:—“Since the Lord sets his word before our face, no doubt he calls upon us to confess it.” For wherever the word of the Lord is, it ought to bring forth fruit; and the fruit is the confession of the mouth.
By putting confession before faith, he changes the order, which is often the case in Scripture: for the order would have been more regular if the faith of the heart had preceded, and the confession of the mouth, which arises from it, had followed.1 But he rightly confesses the Lord Jesus, who adorns him with his own power, acknowledging him to be such an one as he is given by the Father, and described in the gospel.
Express mention is made only of Christ’s resurrection; which must not be so taken, as though his death was of no moment, but because Christ, by rising again, completed the whole work of our salvation: for though redemption and satisfaction were effected by his death, through which we are reconciled to God; yet the victory over sin, death, and Satan was attained by his resurrection; and hence also came righteousness, newness of life, and the hope of a blessed immortality. And thus is resurrection alone often set before us as the assurance of our salvation, not to draw away our attention from his death, but because it bears witness to the efficacy and fruit of his death: in short, his resurrection includes his death. On this subject we have briefly touched in the sixth chapter.
It may be added, that Paul requires not merely an historical faith, but he makes the resurrection itself its end. For we must remember the purpose for which Christ rose again;—it was the Father’s design in raising him, to restore us all to life: for though Christ had power of himself to reassume his soul, yet this work is for the most part ascribed in Scripture to God the Father.
10.For with the heart we believe1unto righteousness, &c. This passage may help us to understand what justification by faith is; for it shows that righteousness then comes to us, when we embrace God’s goodness offered to us in the gospel. We are then for this reason just, because we believe that God is propitious to us in Christ. But let us observe this,—that the seat of faith is not in the head, (in cerebro—in the brain,) but in the heart. Yet I would not contend about the part of the body in which faith is located: but as the word heart is often taken for a serious and sincere feeling, I would say that faith is a firm and effectual confidence, (fiducia—trust, dependence,) and not a bare notion only.
With the mouth confession is made unto salvation. It may seem strange, that he ascribes no part of our salvation to faith, as he had before so often testified, that we are saved by faith alone. But we ought not on this account to conclude that confession is the cause of our salvation. His design was only to show how God completes our salvation, even when he makes faith, which he implants in our hearts, to show itself by confession: nay, his simple object was, to mark out true faith, as that from which this fruit proceeds, lest any one should otherwise lay claim to the empty name of faith alone: for it ought so to kindle the heart with zeal for God’s glory, as to force out its own flame. And surely, he who is justified has already obtained salvation: hence he no less believes with the heart unto salvation, than with the mouth makes a confession. You see that he has made this distinction,—that he refers the cause of justification to faith,—and that he then shows what is necessary to complete salvation; for no one can believe with the heart without confessing with the mouth: it is indeed a necessary consequence, but not that which assigns salvation to confession.
But let them see what answer they can give to Paul, who at this day proudly boast of some sort of imaginary faith, which, being content with the secrecy of the heart, neglect the confession of the mouth, as a matter superfluous and vain; for it is extremely puerile to say, that there is fire, when there is neither flame nor heat.
11. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
11. Dicit enim scriptura, omnis qui credit in eum non pudefiet:
12. Non enim est distinctio Iudæi et Græci; unus enim Dominus omnium, dives in omnes qui invocant eum;
13. Quisquis enim invocaverit nomen Domini salvus erit.
11.For the Scripture saith, &c. Having stated the reasons why God had justly repudiated the Jews, he returns to prove the calling of the Gentiles, which is the other part of the question which he is discussing. As then he had explained the way by which men obtain salvation, and one that is common and opened to the Gentiles no less than to the Jews, he now, having first hoisted an universal banner, extends it expressly to the Gentiles, and then invites the Gentiles by name to it: and he repeats the testimony which he had before adduced from Isaiah, that what he said might have more authority, and that it might also be evident, how well the prophecies concerning Christ harmonize with the law.1
12.For there is no distinction, &c. Since faith alone is required, wherever it is found, there the goodness of God manifests itself unto salvation: there is then in this case no difference between one people or nation and another. And he adds the strongest of reasons; for since he who is the Creator and Maker of the whole world is the God of all men, he will show himself kind to all who will acknowledge and call on him as their God: for as his mercy is infinite, it cannot be but that it will extend itself to all by whom it shall be sought.
Rich is to be taken here in an active sense, as meaning kind and bountiful.2 And we may observe, that the wealth of our Father is not diminished by his liberality; and that therefore it is not made less for us, with whatever multiplied affluence of his grace he may enrich others. There is then no reason why some should envy the blessings of others, as though anything were thereby lost by them.
But though this reason is sufficiently strong, he yet strengthens it by the testimony of the Prophet Joel; which, according to the general term that is used, includes all alike. But readers can see much better by the context, that what Joel declares harmonizes with the present subject; for he prophesies in that passage of the kingdom of Christ: and further, after having said, that the wrath of God would burn in a dreadful manner, in the midst of his ardour, he promises salvation to all who would call on the name of the Lord. It hence follows, that the grace of God penetrates into the abyss of death, if only it be sought there; so that it is not by any means to be withheld from the Gentiles.1
14. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15. And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16. But they have not all obeyed the gospel: for Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God?
14. Quomodo ergo invocabunt eum in quem non crediderint? quomodo vero in eum credent de quo non audiverint? quomodo autem audient absque prædicante?
15. Quomodo autem prædicabunt nisi mittantur? quemadmodum scriptum est, Quàm pulchri pedes annuntiantium pacem, annuntiantium bona!
16. Sed non omnes obedierunt evangelio; Iesaias enim dicit, Domine, quis credidit sermoni nostro?
17. Ergo fides ex auditu, auditus autem per verbum Dei.
I shall not engage the reader long in reciting and disproving the opinions of others. Let every one have his own view; and let me be allowed to bring forward what I think. That you may then understand the design of this gradation, bear in mind first, that there was a mutual connection between the calling of the Gentiles and the ministry of Paul, which he exercised among them; so that on the evidence for the one depended the evidence for the other. It was now necessary for Paul to prove, beyond a doubt, the calling of the Gentiles, and, at the same time, to give a reason for his own ministry, lest he should seem to extend the favour of God without authority, to withhold from the children the bread intended for them by God, and to bestow it on dogs. But these things he therefore clears up at the same time. But how he connects the thread of his discourse, will not be fully understood, until every part be in order explained.
The import of what he advances is the same as though he had said, “Both Jews and Gentiles, by calling on the name of God, do thereby declare that they believe on him; for a true calling on God’s name cannot be except a right knowledge of him were first had. Moreover, faith is produced by the word of God, but the word of God is nowhere preached, except through God’s special providence and appointment. Where then there is a calling on God, there is faith; and where faith is, the seed of the word has preceded; where there is preaching there is the calling of God. Now where his calling is thus efficacious and fruitful, there is there a clear and indubitable proof of the divine goodness. It will hence at last appear, that the Gentiles are not to be excluded from the kingdom of God, for God has admitted them into a participation of his salvation. For as the cause of faith among them is the preaching of the gospel, so the cause of preaching is the mission of God, by which it had pleased him in this manner to provide for their salvation.” We shall now consider each portion by itself.
14.How shall they call? &c. Paul intends here to connect prayer with faith, as they are indeed things most closely connected, for he who calls on God betakes himself, as it were, to the only true haven of salvation, and to a most secure refuge; he acts like the son, who commits himself into the bosom of the best and the most loving of fathers, that he may be protected by his care, cherished by his kindness and love, relieved by his bounty, and supported by his power. This is what no man can do who has not previously entertained in his mind such a persuasion of God’s paternal kindness towards him, that he dares to expect everything from him.
He then who calls on God necessarily feels assured that there is protection laid up for him; for Paul speaks here of that calling which is approved by God. Hypocrites also pray, but not unto salvation; for it is with no conviction of faith. It hence appears how completely ignorant are all the schoolmen, who doubtingly present themselves before God, being sustained by no confidence. Paul thought far otherwise; for he assumes this as an acknowledged axiom, that we cannot rightly pray unless we are surely persuaded of success. For he does not refer here to hesitating faith, but to that certainty which our minds entertain respecting his paternal kindness, when by the gospel he reconciles us to himself, and adopts us for his children. By this confidence only we have access to him, as we are also taught in Eph. iii. 12.
But, on the other hand, learn that true faith is only that which brings forth prayer to God; for it cannot be but that he who has tasted the goodness of God will ever by prayer seek the enjoyment of it.
How shall they believe on him? &c. The meaning is, that we are in a manner mute until God’s promise opens our mouth to pray, and this is the order which he points out by the Prophet, when he says, “I will say to them, my people are ye;” and they shall say to me, “Thou art our God.” (Zech. xiii. 9.) It belongs not indeed to us to imagine a God according to what we may fancy; we ought to possess a right knowledge of him, such as is set forth in his word. And when any one forms an idea of God as good, according to his own understanding, it is not a sure nor a solid faith which he has, but an uncertain and evanescent imagination; it is therefore necessary to have the word, that we may have a right knowledge of God. No other word has he mentioned here but that which is preached, because it is the ordinary mode which the Lord has appointed for conveying his word. But were any on this account to contend that God cannot transfer to men the knowledge of himself, except by the instrumentality of preaching, we deny that to teach this was the Apostle’s intention; for he had only in view the ordinary dispensation of God, and did not intend to prescribe a law for the distribution of his grace.
15.How shall they preach except they be sent? &c. He intimates that it is a proof and a pledge of divine love when any nation is favoured with the preaching of the gospel; and that no one is a preacher of it, but he whom God has raised up in his special providence, and that hence there is no doubt but that he visits that nation to whom the gospel is proclaimed. But as Paul does not treat here of the lawful call of any one, it would be superfluous to speak at large on the subject. It is enough for us to bear this only in mind, that the gospel does not fall like rain from the clouds, but is brought by the hands of men wherever it is sent from above.
As it is written, How beautiful, &c. We are to apply this testimony to our present subject in this manner, The Lord, when he gave hope of deliverance to his people, commended the advent of those who brought the glad tidings of peace, by a remarkable eulogy; by this very circumstance he has made it evident that the apostolic ministry was to be held in no less esteem, by which the message of eternal life is brought to us. And it hence follows, that it is from God, since there is nothing in the world that is an object of desire and worthy of praise, which does not proceed from his hand.1
But hence we also learn how much ought all good men to desire, and how much they ought to value the preaching of the gospel, which is thus commended to us by the mouth of the Lord himself. Nor is there indeed a doubt, but that God has thus highly spoken of the incomparable value of this treasure, for the purpose of awakening the minds of all, so that they may anxiously desire it. Take feet, by metonymy, for coming.2
16.But all have not obeyed the gospel, &c. This belongs not to the argument, which Paul designed to follow in the gradation he lays down; nor does he refer to it in the conclusion which immediately follows. It was yet expedient for Paul to introduce the sentence here, in order to anticipate an objection, lest any one should build an argument on what he had said,—that the word in order always precedes faith, as the seed the corn,—and draw this inference, that faith everywhere follows the word: for Israel, who had never been without the word, might have made a boast of this kind. It was therefore necessary, that, in passing, he should give them this intimation,—that many are called, who are yet not chosen.
He also quotes a passage from Isaiah liii. 1; where the Prophet, before he proceeds to announce a remarkable prediction respecting the death and the kingdom of Christ, speaks with astonishment of the few number of believers, who appeared to him in the Spirit to be so few, that he was constrained to exclaim, “O Lord, who has believed our report?” that is, the word which we preach. For though in Hebrew the term שמועה, [Editor: word missing] means passively a word,1 yet the Greeks have rendered it, ἀκοὴν—hearing, and the Latins, auditum—hearing; incorrectly indeed, but with no ambiguity in the meaning.
We now see why this exception was by the way introduced; it was, that no one might suppose that faith necessarily follows where there is preaching. He however does afterwards point out the reason, by saying, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” by which he intimates that there is no benefit from the word, except when God shines in us by the light of his Spirit; and thus the inward calling, which alone is efficacious and peculiar to the elect, is distinguished from the outward voice of men. It is hence evident, how foolishly some maintain, that all are indiscriminately the elect, because the doctrine of salvation is universal, and because God invites all indiscriminately to himself. But the generality of the promises does not alone and by itself make salvation common to all: on the contrary, the peculiar revelation, mentioned by the Prophet, confines it to the elect.
17.Faith then is by hearing, &c. We see by this conclusion what Paul had in view by the gradation which he formed; it was to show, that wherever faith is, God has there already given an evidence of his election; and then, that he, by pouring his blessing on the ministration of the gospel, to illuminate the minds of men by faith, and thereby to lead them to call on his name, had thus testified, that the Gentiles were admitted by him into a participation of the eternal inheritance.
And this is a remarkable passage with regard to the efficacy of preaching; for he testifies, that by it faith is produced. He had indeed before declared, that of itself it is of no avail; but that when it pleases the Lord to work, it becomes the instrument of his power. And indeed the voice of man can by no means penetrate into the soul; and mortal man would be too much exalted, were he said to have the power to regenerate us; the light also of faith is something sublimer than what can be conveyed by man: but all these things are no hindrances, that God should not work effectually through the voice of man, so as to create faith in us through his ministry.
It must be further noticed, that faith is grounded on nothing else but the truth of God; for Paul does not teach us that faith springs from any other kind of doctrine, but he expressly restricts it to the word of God; and this restriction would have been improper if faith could rest on the decrees of men. Away then with all the devices of men when we speak of the certainty of faith. Hence also the Papal conceit respecting implicit faith falls to the ground, because it tears away faith from the word; and more detestable still is that blasphemy, that the truth of the word remains suspended until the authority of the Church establishes it.
18. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19. But I say, Did not Israel know? First, Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
18. Sed dico, Nunquid non audierunt? Quinimo, In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum, et in fines orbis verba eorum.
19. Sed dico, Nunquid non cognovit Israel? Primus Moses dicit, Ego ad æmulationem provocabo vos in eo qui non est populus, et in gente stulta irritabo vos.
20. Iesaias autem audet et dicit, Inventus sum à non quærentibus me, conspicuus factus sum iis qui me non interrogabant.
21. De Israele autem dicit, Quotidie expandi manus meas ad populum contumacem et contradicentem (vel, non credentem.)
18.But I say, have they not heard? &c. Since the minds of men are imbued, by preaching, with the knowledge of God, which leads them to call on God, it remained a question whether the truth of God had been proclaimed to the Gentiles; for that Paul had suddenly betaken himself to the Gentiles, there was by that novelty no small offence given. He then asks, whether God had ever before directed his voice to the Gentiles, and performed the office of a teacher towards the whole world. But in order that he might show that the school, into which God collects scholars to himself from any part, is open in common to all, he brings forward a Prophet’s testimony from Ps. xix. 4; which yet seems to bear apparently but little on the subject: for the Prophet does not speak there of Apostles but of the material works of God; in which he says the glory of God shines forth so evidently, that they may be said to have a sort of tongue of their own to declare the perfections of God.
This passage of Paul gave occasion to the ancients to explain the whole Psalm allegorically, and posterity have followed them: so that, without doubt, the sun going forth as a bridegroom from his chamber, was Christ, and the heavens were the Apostles. They who had most piety, and showed a greater modesty in interpreting Scripture, thought that what was properly said of the celestial architecture, has been transferred by Paul to the Apostles by way of allusion. But as I find that the Lord’s servants have everywhere with great reverence explained Scripture, and have not turned them at pleasure in all directions, I cannot be persuaded, that Paul has in this manner misconstrued this passage. I then take his quotation according to the proper and genuine meaning of the Prophet; so that the argument will be something of this kind,—God has already from the beginning manifested his divinity to the Gentiles, though not by the preaching of men, yet by the testimony of his creatures; for though the gospel was then silent among them, yet the whole workmanship of heaven and earth did speak and make known its author by its preaching. It hence appears, that the Lord, even during the time in which he confined the favour of his covenant to Israel, did not yet so withdraw from the Gentiles the knowledge of himself, but that he ever kept alive some sparks of it among them. He indeed manifested himself then more particularly to his chosen people, so that the Jews might be justly compared to domestic hearers, whom he familiarly taught as it were by his own mouth; yet as he spoke to the Gentiles at a distance by the voice of the heavens, he showed by this prelude that he designed to make himself known at length to them also.
But I know not why the Greek interpreter rendered the word קום, kum, ϕϑόγγον αὐτν, their sound; for it means a line, sometimes in building, and sometimes in writing.1 As it is certain that the same thing is mentioned twice in this passage, it seems to me probable, that the heavens are introduced as declaring by what is written as it were on them, as well as by voice, the power of God; for by the word going forth the Prophet reminds us, that the doctrine, of which the heavens are the preachers, is not included within the narrow limits of one land, but is proclaimed to the utmost regions of the world.
19.But I say, has not Israel known? This objection of an opponent is taken from the comparison of the less with the greater. Paul had argued, that the Gentiles were not to be excluded from the knowledge of God, since he had from the beginning manifested himself to them, though only obscurely and through shadows, or had at least given them some knowledge of his truth. What then is to be said of Israel, who had been illuminated by a far different light of truth? for how comes it that aliens and the profane should run to the light manifested to them afar off, and that the holy race of Abraham should reject it when familiarly seen by them? For this distinction must be ever borne in mind, “What nation is so renowned, that it has gods coming nigh to it, as thy God at this day descends to thee?” It was not then without reason asked, why knowledge had not followed the doctrine of the law, with which Israel was favoured.
First, Moses saith, &c. He proves by the testimony of Moses, that there was nothing inconsistent in God in preferring the Gentiles to the Jews. The passage is taken from that celebrated song, in which God, upbraiding the Jews with their perfidiousness, declares, that he would execute vengeance on them, and provoke them to jealousy by taking the Gentiles into covenant with himself, because they had departed to fictitious gods. “Ye have,” he says, “by despising and rejecting me, transferred my right and honour to idols: to avenge this wrong, I will also substitute the Gentiles in your place, and I will transfer to them what I have hitherto given to you.” Now this could not have been without repudiating the Jewish nation: for the emulation, which Moses mentions, arose from this,—that God formed for himself a nation from that which was not a nation, and raised up from nothing a new people, who were to occupy the place from which the Jews had been driven away, inasmuch as they had forsaken the true God and prostituted themselves to idols. For though, at the coming of Christ, the Jews were not gone astray to gross and external idolatry, they had yet no excuse, since they had profaned the whole worship of God by their inventions; yea, they at length denied God the Father, as revealed in Christ, his only-begotten Son, which was an extreme kind of impiety.
Observe, that a foolish nation, and no nation, are the same; for without the hope of eternal life men have properly no existence. Besides, the beginning or origin of life is from the light of faith: hence spiritual existence flows from the new creation; and in this sense Paul calls the faithful the work of God, as they are regenerated by his Spirit, and renewed after his image. Now from the word foolish, we learn that all the wisdom of men, apart from the word of God, is mere vanity.1
20.But Isaiah is bold, and says, &c. As this prophecy is somewhat clearer, that he might excite greater attention he says that it was expressed with great confidence; as though he had said,—“The Prophet did not speak in a figurative language, or with hesitation, but had in plain and clear words declared the calling of the Gentiles.” But the things which Paul has here separated, by interposing a few words, are found connected together in the Prophet, ch. lxv. 1, where the Lord declares, that the time would come when he should turn his favour to the Gentiles; and he immediately subjoins this reason,—that he was wearied with the perverseness of Israel, which, through very long continuance, had become intolerable to him. He then speaks thus,—“They who inquired not of me before, and neglected my name, have now sought me, (the perfect tense for the future to denote the certainty of the prophecy;) they who sought me not have beyond hope and desire found me.”1
I know that this whole passage is changed by some Rabbins, as though God promised that he would cause that the Jews should repent of their defection: but nothing is more clear than that he speaks of aliens; for it follows in the same context,—“I have said, Behold I come to a people, on whom my name is not called.” Without doubt, then, the Prophet declares it as what would take place, that those who were before aliens would be received by a new adoption unto the family of God. It is then the calling of the Gentiles; and in which appears a general representation of the calling of all the faithful; for there is no one who anticipates the Lord; but we are all, without exception, delivered by his free mercy from the deepest abyss of death, when there is no knowledge of him, no desire of serving him, in a word, no conviction of his truth.
21.But of Israel, &c. A reason is subjoined why God passed over to the Gentiles; it was because he saw that his favour was become a mockery to the Jews. But that readers may more fully understand that the blindness of the people is pointed out in the second clause, Paul expressly reminds us that the elect people were charged with their own wickedness. Literally it is, “He says to Israel;” but Paul has imitated the Hebrew idiom; for ל, lamed, is often put for מן, men. And he says, that to Israel he stretched forth his hands, whom he continually by his word invited to himself, and ceased not to allure by every sort of kindness; for these are the two ways which he adopts to call men, as he thus proves his good-will towards them. However, he chiefly complains of the contempt shown to his truth; which is the more abominable, as the more remarkable is the manner by which God manifests his paternal solicitude in inviting men by his word to himself.
And very emphatical is the expression, that he stretches out his hands; for by seeking our salvation through the ministers of his word, he stretches forth to us his hands no otherwise than as a father who stretches forth his arms, ready to receive his son kindly into his bosom. And he says daily, that it might not seem strange to any one if he was wearied in showing kindness to them, inasmuch as he succeeded not by his assiduity. A similar representation we have in Jer. vii. 13; and xi. 7, where he says that he rose up early to warn them.
Their unfaithfulness is also set forth by two most suitable words. I have thought it right to render the participle ἀπειθούντα, refractory, or rebellious, and yet the rendering of Erasmus and of the Old Translator, which I have placed in the margin, is not to be wholly disapproved. But since the Prophet accuses the people of perverseness, and then adds that they wandered through ways which were not good, I doubt not but that the Greek Translator meant to express the Hebrew word םורר, surer, by two words, calling them first disobedient or rebellious, and then gainsaying; for their contumacy showed itself in this, because the people, with untamable pride and bitterness, obstinately rejected the holy admonitions of the Prophets.1
[1 ]The γὰρ, “for,” at the beginning of this verse, connects it with the latter part of the preceding, as the γὰϱ, “for,” in the preceding connects it with the latter part of verse 2; and γὰρ also in verse 5 expresses a reason for what verse 4 contains. So that we have a regular chain; the following sentence gives a reason for the one immediately preceding in four instances.—Ed.
[2 ]Calvin’s Latin for this verse is: “Fratres, benevolentia certè cordis mei et deprecatio ad Deum super Israel est in salutem—Brethren, the goodwill indeed of my heart and prayer to God for Israel is for their salvation.” The word for “goodwill,” εὐδοϰία, means a kind disposition towards another, it means here a benevolent or a sincere desire, or, according to Theophylact, an earnest desire. Doddridge renders it “affectionate desire;” Beza, “propensa voluntas—propense wish;” and Stuart, “kind desire.”
[1 ]“A zeal of God,” ζήλον Θεοῦ, is a zeal for God, a genitive case of the object. Some regard “God” here as meaning something great, as it is sometimes used in Hebrew, and render the phrase, as Macknight does, “a great zeal;” but this is not required by the context. The Jews had professedly “a zeal for God,” but not accompanied with knowledge. The necessity of knowledge as the guide of zeal is noted by Turrettin in four particulars: 1. That we may distinguish truth from falsehood, as there may be zeal for error and false doctrine as well as for that which is true; 2. That we may understand the comparative importance of things, so as not to make much of what is little, and make little account of what is great; 3. That we may prosecute and defend the truth in the right way, with prudence, firmness, fidelity, and meekness; 4. That our zeal may have the right object, not our own interest andreputation, but the glory of God and the salvation of men.—Ed.
[1 ]“Complementum—the complement,” the filling up, the completion. The word τέλος, “end,” is used in various ways, as signifying—1. The termination of any thing, either of evils, or of life, &c., Matt. x. 22; John xiii. 1;—2. Completion or fulfilment, Luke xxii. 37; 1 Tim. i. 9;—3. The issue, the effect, the consequence, the result, chap. vi. 21; 1 Pet. i. 9; 2 Cor. xi. 15;—4. Tribute or custom, chap. xiii. 7;—5. The chief thing, summary or substance, 1 Pet. iii. 8.
[1 ]Righteousness is here personified, according to the usual manner of the Apostle: law and sin had before been represented in the same way.—Ed.
[1 ]It seems not necessary to have recourse to the distinctions made in the foregoing section. The character of the quotation given is correctly described in the words of Chrysostom, as quoted by Poole, “Paulus ea transtulit et aptavit ad justitiam fidei—Paul transferred and accommodated these things to the righteousness of faith.” He evidently borrowed the words of Moses, not literally, but substantially, for the purpose of setting forth the truth he was handling. The speaker is not Moses, but “the righteousness of faith,” represented as a person. Luther, as quoted by Wolfius, says, that “Paul, under the influence of the Spirit, took from Moses the occasion to form, as it were, a new and a suitable text against the justiciaries.” It appears to be an application, by way of analogy, of the words of Moses to the gospel, and not a confirmatory testimony. Chalmers hesitates on the subject; but Pareus, Wolfius, Turrettin, and Doddridge, consider the words as applied by way of accommodation.—Ed.
[1 ]“The righteousness of faith” is evidently the “it” in this question: See ver. 6.—Ed.
[1 ]It is “the word” which requires “faith,” and is received by faith; or it is the word entitled to faith, worthy of being believed; or it is the word which generates and supports faith.—Ed.
[1 ]“He puts ‘mouth’ before ‘heart,’ ” says Pareus, “for he follows the order in which they are given by Moses, and for this reason, because we know not faith otherwise than by possession.”
He begins and ends with confession, and in the middle clauses he mentions faith.—Ed.
[1 ]“Creditur;” πιστεύεται, “it is believed.” It is an impersonal verb, and so is the verb in the next clause. The introduction of a person is necessary in a version, and we may say, “We believe;” or, as “thou” is used in the preceding verse, it may be adopted here,—“For by the heart thou believest unto righteousness,” i.e., in order to attain righteousness; “and with the mouth thou confessest unto salvation,” i.e., in order to attain salvation. “God knows our faith,” as Pareus observes, “but it is made known to man by confession.” Turrettin’s remarks on this verse are much to the purpose. He says, that Paul loved antitheses, and that we are not to understand faith and confession as separated and applied only to the two things here mentioned, but ought to be viewed as connected, and that a similar instance is found in ch. iv. 25, where Christ is said to have been delivered for our offences, and to have risen again for our justification; which means, that by his death and resurrection our offences are blotted out, and justification is obtained. In the same manner the import of what is here said is, that by sincere faith and open confession we obtain justification and salvation.—Ed.
[1 ]As in chap. ix. 33, the Apostle quotes from the Septuagint; for to “make haste,” as the Hebrew is, conveys the same idea as “to be ashamed:” for he who hastens, acts for the most part foolishly and brings himself to shame, as Saul did, when he did not wait for Samuel, but hastened to sacrifice, and thereby brought shame on himself.—Ed.
[2 ]“Pro benigno et benefico:” the word “rich,” is rather to be taken as meaning one who possesses abundance, or an exuberance of things, and here, of gifts and blessings, of mercy and grace to pardon, to cleanse, and to endow with spiritual privileges.—Ed.
[1 ]The passage referred to is in Joel ii. 32. It is taken verbatim from the Septuagint; and it is literally according to the Hebrew, except that the last verb מלט, in that language, means to be set free, rescued, or delivered, rather than to be saved; but the idea is nearly the same.—Ed.
[1 ]“This prophecy,” says Gomarus, “has not two meanings—the proper and the allegorical, as the Papists foolishly assert, but two fulfilments; the first when heralds announced the return of the people from Babylon to their own country; and the second, (shadowed forth by the first as its destined type,) when the heralds of the gospel announced and proclaimed its tidings to the world.”—Ed.
[2 ]This passage is taken from Isaiah lii. 7. This is a striking instance that the Apostle quotes not from the Septuagint, when that version materially departs from the Hebrew, as is the case here. Though it appears to be a version of his own, he yet gives not the original literally, but accommodates it to his own purpose: he leaves out “on the mountains,” and adopts the plural number instead of the singular, both as to the participle “announcing” or evangelizing, and as to the word “good.” The words peace, good, and salvation, in Hebrew, seem to refer to the same thing, according to the usual style of the Prophets.
[1 ]Or, what is heard; it being a noun from שמע, to hear, in its passive sense, it signifies a report, a message, or any tidings conveyed to the hearing of men. The Greek word ἀϰοή is used in various senses, as signifying the act of hearing, Matt. xiii. 14,—the faculty of hearing, 1 Cor. xii. 17,—the organ of hearing, the ear, Mark. vii. 35,—and what is heard, a word, a report, as here and in John xii. 38. Schleusner refers to instances in the classics in which the word is used in all these meanings. It is not necessary, nor is it in accordance with the usual manner of the Apostle, to give the word the same meaning in the next verse as in this. It is the practice of the Apostle to use the same words in different senses in the same passage. See chap. iv. 18; viii. 24. Here it means what is heard, report; and in the following verse, the act, that is, hearing.—Ed.
[1 ]Interpreters have been very much at a loss to account for this difference. The Apostle adopts the rendering of the Septuagint, as though the Hebrew word had been קולם. Though there is no copy, yet consulted, that favours this reading, it is yet the probable one; not only because the Apostle sanctions it, but it is what the context demands, and especially the parallelism which prevails in Hebrew poetry. In the next line “words” are mentioned, and “voice” here would be the most suitable corresponding term. But we may go back to the preceding distich, and find not only a confirmation of this, but also an instance of terms being used in the same passage in different senses, while yet the meaning is obvious to a common reader, and at the same time intricate and puzzling to a critic. The two distichs may be thus rendered,—
They have no words, and yet they have words; they have no voice, and yet they have a voice. Here the first and the last line correspond, and the second and the third. There is indeed a different term used for “words” in the last line from that which is adopted in the first, but in the first there are two, “speech,” אמר, and “words,” מליר, which are expressed by one, דברים, in the last. It seems then most probable, that the true reading has been retained by the Septuagint.
[1 ]The quotation is from Deut. xxxii. 21, and it is literally the Hebrew as well as the Septuagint, except that “you” is put for “them.” The contrast in Hebrew is very striking; the whole verse is this,—
[1 ]Is. lxv. 1. The two sentences are reversed; the Septuagint and the Hebrew are the same. The reason for changing the order does not appear; but it may be observed, that it is an instance common in Hebrew, where essentially the same idea is expressed in two successive lines, so that it is immaterial which of them is put first.—Ed.
[1 ]The passage is taken from Is. lxv. 2. The Septuagint is followed, except that the order of the words in the first part of the sentence is changed, though the Septuagint has preserved the order of the original. The version is according to the Hebrew, with the exception of the last word, which from its form, the last radical letter being doubled, can hardly be expressed in another language by a single term, and so the Septuagint has employed two. It means “revolting again and again,” or wilfully revolting. The simple verb םר, signifies to turn aside, to revolt, to apostatize: and in a reduplicate form, as here, it means either a repeated or an obstinate revolt. Indeed the revolt or the apostasy of the Jews was both reiterated and perverse, as their history abundantly testifies.—Ed.