Epistle to the Romans
ROMANS, EPISTLE TO THE. The longest of the thirteen NT letters bearing the name of Paul and the first letter in the long-established order of the corpus Paulinum.
If one disregards those erratic schools of thought (e.g. the Dutch school of W. C. van Manen at the beginning of the 20th cent.) which have denied apostolic authorship to any of the documents in the corpus Paulinum, the Pauline authorship of Romans is uncontested. With Galatians and the two letters to the Corinthians, Romans belongs to the four “capital” epistles which are basic material for determining the main lines of Paul’s teaching. In one sense it is otiose to speak of the Pauline authorship of Romans and its three companion letters, since for most theological purposes “Paul” and “the author of Romans, Galatians, and 1 and 2 Corinthians” are synonymous terms.
In the opening salutation the addressees are denoted as “all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints” (Rom 1:7)—for the textual problem of the phrase “in Rome” see # VII below. The fact that Paul did not speak of the “church” in Rome may be significant; perhaps at this time there was no city-wide church in Rome with a community consciousness of its own, as there was, for example, in Corinth, where Paul himself had planted and tended the church. On the other hand, the fact that Paul can address a letter to all the Christians in Rome implies some assurance on his part that they would all have access to it. Even if the only church life in Rome was found in decentralized groups or household churches, the fact of their common faith in Christ would tend to give them a sense of fellowship one with another.
Christianity in Rome
There is no record of the planting of Christianity in Rome. The position of the city as the center of communications throughout the Rom. empire would insure that Christianity, once it was securely established in the eastern provinces, would reach the capital sooner rather than later. The mention of “visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes” (Acts 2:10) as the only European contingent in the list of those present in Jerusalem at the first Christian Pentecost may suggest that some of these, impressed by what they heard, carried the message back to Rome. In the 4th cent. the Lat. writer conventionally called “Ambrosiaster,” in the preamble to his commentary on Romans, says that the Romans “had embraced the faith of Christ, albeit according to the Jewish rite, without seeing any sign of mighty works or any of the apostles.” These words prob. preserve a sound tradition. What he wrote about the “Jewish rite” reflects the probable truth of the matter, that it was Jewish Christians who first carried the Gospel to Rome. As late as the time of Hippolytus, early in the 3rd cent., Christian worship at Rome retained some elements derived from Judaism, and from “nonconformist” rather than normative Judaism (e.g. the preliminary bath of purification which converts were required to undergo on the Thursday preceding Easter, by way of preparation for their baptism on Easter Day itself, according to the Hippolytan Apostolic Tradition). That the base of Rom. Christianity was Jewish, although when Paul wrote, it comprised more Gentile than Jewish believers, is a natural inference from Romans 11:13-24.
The Jewish colony which existed in Rome as early as the 2nd cent. b.c., was greatly augmented from 63 b.c. onward, after Judea was incorporated into the Rom. empire; Cicero in 59 b.c. represented it as large, clannish, powerful, and influential. The city authorities from time to time tried to evict masses of undesirable immigrants, and occasionally the Jewish colony attracted their unfriendly attention in this regard. In a.d. 19, when Tiberius was emperor, there was a large-scale expulsion of Jews from Rome because of a financial scandal (Jos. Antiq. XVIII. iii. 5ff.); but in a decade or two they were back in larger numbers than ever. Claudius, at the beginning of his principate (a.d. 41), took some steps to restrict them (Dio Cassius, Hist. lx.6), but about eight years later he resorted to the more drastic course of expulsion. This expulsion, mentioned in Acts 18:2, is ascribed by Suetonius (Claudius, 25) to the Rom. Jews’ “constant indulgence in riots at the instigation of Chrestus.” These last words are enigmatic; it is conceivable that at this time there was in Rome a Jewish agitator named Chrestus of whom nothing else is known. It is more likely that Suetonius reproduced a garbled version of the rioting which repeatedly broke out within the Jewish colony as a result of the introduction of Christianity. That on this occasion the expelled Jews included some who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah is evident from the fact that Aquila and his wife Priscilla were among them; they appear to have been Christians before they met Paul in Corinth, for Paul never refers to them as though they were converts of his.
The expulsion under Claudius was no more durable than that under Tiberius. The edict may have been allowed to lapse with Claudius’ death (a.d. 54), if not earlier; a few years later the Jewish colony in Rome was as flourishing as ever, and as before it included Jewish believers in Jesus. By the time Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, not more than eight years after the edict of expulsion, the Christian community in the capital comprised a considerable Gentile element which prob. by that time outnumbered the Jewish membership. At any rate, Paul could assure his readers that their faith was “proclaimed in all the world” (Rom 1:8). Some idea of the composition of the Rom. church at this time may be gathered from the greetings in ch. 16, if one regards this chapter as destined for Rome (on this see # VII below). Many people whom Paul had met at various places in the eastern provinces from time to time were then resident in Rome, so that he had many friends there, although thus far he had never visited the city. They included members of the households of certain scions of the Herod family, and also two of Paul’s kinsmen and fellow prisoners who, he says, are “of note among the apostles” and were Christians before he himself was, with one or two others like Rufus (prob.), whose association with the Christian movement went back to the earliest days. The presence of such men and women in the Rom. church, even if they were a handful in proportion to the total membership, must have contributed greatly to its strength.
It may be that by the time this letter was written Christianity was beginning to make its way into the upper strata of Rom. society. In a.d. 57 the wife of Aulus Plautius (who had added Britain to the Rom. empire fourteen years before) was accused before a domestic court of having embraced a “foreign superstition” which, from the description of her way of life, might have been Christianity (Tac. Ann. xiii. 32). She was acquitted, and continued for the rest of her life to enjoy the esteem of her friends in spite of her retiring ways, which presented a sharp contrast to the social frivolity of many of her contemporaries. Some color is given to the view that her “foreign superstition” was Christianity by archeological evidence for the prevalence of Christianity in her family in the following cent.
By the time of the first great persecution of Rom. Christians, which broke out as the sequel to the fire of a.d. 64, they were so numerous that a pagan historian (Tac. Ann. xv. 44) and a Christian father ([[Clement of Rome]], Ep. 6:1) both described the martyrs on that occasion as “a huge multitude.” The Rom. church survived the ordeal and continued to increase and enjoy the esteem of Christians throughout the world as a church “worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy in purity, pre-eminent in love, walking in the law of Christ and bearing the Father’s name” (Ignatius, To the Romans, preface).
Occasion, purpose and date
The writing of this letter is a milestone in the course of Paul’s ministry as apostle to the Gentiles. In Acts 19:21 Luke says that toward the close of his three years’ evangelization of Ephesus and the province of Asia, Paul planned to visit Macedonia and Achaia, the theater of an earlier phase of his ministry, and then go to Jerusalem, adding, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” Luke put the matter from his own perspective; Rome is the goal of his narrative, and when he has brought Paul there some years later and portrayed him preaching the Gospel unhindered at the heart of the empire, under the eyes of the highest authorities, he has achieved his purpose. Paul’s perspective was different; to him, Rome was not a goal but a place which he must visit in transit, or at best a base from which he could set out on a further phase of his ministry, with a view to repeating in the western Mediterranean the program which (at the time indicated in Acts 19:21) he had almost completed in the E. That Paul’s plan for this westward advance was conceived around the time indicated by Luke may be gathered from this letter.
With the evangelization of the province of Asia, Paul had completed his program of missionary pioneering in Asia Minor and the Aegean world. The Gospel had been preached and churches had been planted in the principal cities and along the principal roads of Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia. During the brief visit to the Balkan peninsula which followed his Ephesian ministry, Paul carried the Gospel farther W than he had previously done, at least as far as the border of Illyricum (Rom 15:19), the province on the eastern shore of the Adriatic. In his own words, he had no longer “any room for work in these regions” (Rom 15:23). His missionary zeal had not weakened through the arduous experiences of the past years; there were other Gentile lands to be won for the Gospel, and the responsibility of evangelizing them rested peculiarly on Paul as the Gentiles’ apostle par excellence. Some Gentile lands along the Mediterranean seaboard had, however, been evangelized already by others than Paul; he looked for virgin soil, for territory where the name of Christ had never been heard. Spain, the oldest Rom. province in the W and an important bastion of Rom. civilization, was such a place; to Spain, then, Paul decided to go and continue his apostolic service there.
First, however, he determined to go to Jerusalem and give an account of his stewardship thus far—not to the church of Jerusalem or its leaders, for he denied that he had in any sense been commissioned by them, but to the risen Christ. One may ask why he should have thought it necessary to go to Jerusalem for this purpose; could he not have accomplished it in Ephesus or Corinth? Perhaps he could have done so; but a consideration of his reason may help to understand the place which Jerusalem held in Paul’s thinking. Although it was in Damascus that he first began to preach the Gospel, he describes the first stage of his mission as having been fulfilled “from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum” (Rom 15:19), as though Jerusalem were his point of departure. It was in Jerusalem many years before (Acts 22:17-21) that Paul had a vision of the Lord in the Temple and heard His command: “Depart; for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” To that same spot he would return and present to his Master as a spiritual sacrifice the fruit of his “priestly service of the gospel of God” (Rom 15:16). He planned also to take with him to Jerusalem delegates of the Gentile churches he had founded in the Aegean provinces, bearing gifts from their churches as a contribution to relieve the poverty of the mother church in Jerusalem; thus, he hoped, the bonds of fellowship would be more securely forged between those churches and the headquarters of Jewish Christianity, where the Gentile mission in general, and Paul’s activity in particular, tended to be viewed with misgivings and suspicion. When this service had been completed, and not before, he would be free to turn his steps in the direction of Spain. On the route to Spain he would have an opportunity of realizing an ambition cherished for many years—the ambition of seeing Rome. Roman citizen though he was from birth, he had never visited the city. It was, therefore, in large measure to prepare the Christians of Rome for his projected visit that he sent them this letter.
In addition to paving the way for his visit to Rome Paul hoped to secure the good will of the Rom. Christians to such an extent that they would provide him with a forward base for his Spanish mission—in the way, for example, that Syrian Antioch had served as a base for Barnabas and himself when they evangelized Cyprus and the cities of S Galatia. He knew that outside his own mission field (and even to some degree inside it) his reputation suffered from the criticisms of his opponents. Therefore he availed himself of the opportunity to place before the Rom. Christians a systematic statement of the Gospel as he understood and proclaimed it, and of his policy as apostle to the Gentiles. He does not impose his authority on these readers as he does when he writes to his own converts; yet he makes it plain that the authority by which he carries on his ministry is imparted to him by the risen Christ who called him to be His apostle. The Gospel expounded in this letter is recognizably “the Gospel according to Paul” as known from his other letters, and esp. from Galatians. Whereas Galatians was an urgent response to a critical situation in Paul’s mission field, Romans is a more dispassionate and orderly unfolding of the same theme to which Galatians is related “as the rough model to the finished statue” (J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians , p. 49). A great deal of the present letter was therefore of general interest, and it is probable that from the first, at Paul’s own instance, copies of it were circulated to other churches as well as to that in Rome (see # VII below).
How well the letter accomplished its immediate purpose is uncertain; not for three years was Paul able to visit Rome, and when he came it was not as a free agent but as a prisoner under armed guard, to stand trial before Caesar to whose supreme court he had appealed from the jurisdiction of the procurator of Judaea. The reception of the letter may have had something to do with the welcome he received from some Rom. Christians as he approached their city along the [[Appian Way]], when he was still some forty m. distant. “The brethren there,” says his companion Luke, “when they heard of us, came as far as the [[Forum of Appius]] and [[Three Taverns]] to meet us. On seeing them Paul thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15).
Paul expands the opening salutation (Rom 1:1-7) to emphasize his special calling and the nature of the Gospel which he has been commissioned to proclaim. The Gospel has God as its Author and His Son [[Jesus Christ]] as its subject matter; it is no innovation, but was promised of old by the prophets. Jesus Christ traced His human lineage from King David (this is part of the early Jewish kerygma, calculated to show that Jesus possessed the genealogical credentials for the Davidic Messiahship); but His resurrection, accomplished by the power of the [[Holy Spirit]] set Him forth as “[[Son of God]] in power.” To bring the nations under His obedience Paul, His servant, had been chosen by Him and endowed with apostolic grace. Since Rome belongs to the Gentile world it falls within the sphere of Paul’s apostleship, and to the Christians of Rome he addressed himself with his customary greeting of “grace and peace.”
The introduction to his argument
(1:8-15) assures his readers that he regularly prays for them and thanks God for them, since he is well acquainted with their good reputation, and explains that his reason for not having visited them was lack of opportunity, since he has often planned to see them, in order to preach the Gospel at Rome as elsewhere in the Gentile world and enjoy mutual fellowship and refreshment in their company. The preaching of the Gospel is for him an obligation which he will never have fully discharged as long as he lives.
The foundation of Christian doctrine
(1:16-8:39). The main section of the letter begins with a brief statement of the nature and theme of the Gospel: it is God’s mighty means for the salvation of all believers, Jew and Gentile alike, and it displays the righteousness of God—not merely God’s righteous character but His gracious bestowal of a righteous status on believers, in accordance with Habakkuk 2:4 which Paul construes to mean “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (1:16, 17).
Paul then envisages a bystander applauding this denunciation of pagan immorality and turns on him to assure him that he is in no better case (Rom 2:1-16). Such denunciations can be paralleled among pagan moralists as well as among Jews of that period, and although Paul had a Jewish critic in mind from the outset of ch. 2, his language through v. 16 would be largely applicable to such a pagan as Seneca. It is not enough to avoid the grosser forms of immorality if one is involved in the society which fosters them or practices essentially the same vices in a more refined way. The judgment of God is completely impartial; it is proportioned to each man’s works, whether he be Jew or Gentile, moralizer or libertine. If a man presumes that since divine retribution has not manifested itself in his life in the manner detailed in ch. 1, he is exempt from that judgment, let him thank God for His goodness, and reflect that this goodness is a sign of God’s patience with him, giving him opportunity to repent. If Jews break the law of Moses, they must repent of their transgression, but the fact that Gentiles have not received that law does not exempt them from the necessity of repentance; they have a divine law written in the conscience; when they break it they know that they are doing wrong, and will be judged in the light of it at the last judgment.
Turning more directly to the Jew (2:17-29), Paul writes that he has no cause to suppose that he enjoys a position of special favor before God because of the privileges God has lavished on his nation. It is not the knowledge but the doing of the law that is important. The Jew who knows the will of God by revelation is more guilty if he disobeys it than the Gentile who has no such knowledge. There are many ways of breaking the divine commandments, and when Paul, applying to the reputation of Jews in the Rom. empire the words of Isaiah 52:5, said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom 2:24), he said something which found corroboration in both Jewish and Gentile writers of the period. What is of primary importance is that a man’s heart must be right with God; apart from that, the knowledge of the law and the covenant of circumcision are valueless. God will accept an uncircumcised Gentile who does His will rather than a circumcised Jew who does not. It is the circumcision of the heart that matters (cf. Deut 10:16); by etymology the true Jew is the man whose life wins “praise” from God (Rom 2:28, 29; cf. Gen 29:35; 49:8) and such praise is not confined to men of any one race.
If this is so, someone may ask, is there any advantage in being a Jew? This quotation of a question or objection by someone breaking into his argument is a feature of the diatribe style of Gr. rhetoric, repeatedly used by Paul in this letter. Paul’s reply is that there is great advantage in belonging to the people to whom the oracles of God were committed, in order that they might be the instrument for the accomplishment of His purpose in the world. It is true that some of them proved unfaithful to their trust, but since God is God, no imperfection in the instrument can thwart His purpose. Nor can He be blamed for not foreseeing such imperfection: no lawsuit against God can ever succeed. Nor can those who have been unfaithful to their trust claim indulgence because their unfaithfulness has been overruled by God for His glory: the doing of evil that good may come is always to be condemned (Rom 3:1-8).
Despite the advantages inherited by Jews, their failure to treat these advantages responsibly means that before God they have no claim to favor over Gentiles. A catena of OT passages, establishing the sinfulness of all mankind, applies to Gentiles but in the first instance to Jews, since they were the people with whom the sacred writers were primarily concerned. The whole world is bound to plead guilty at God’s tribunal; no one can expect to be justified there on the ground of his works or his obedience to God’s law; the law which sets forth God’s will reveals in the event man’s inability to do that will (3:9-20).
Every attempt of man to establish his own righteousness before God being ruled out of court, the way is open for the introduction of God’s way of righteousness, and to this Paul devotes the crucially important passage which follows (3:21-23). The first part may be paraphrased thus: “But now a way to get right with God has been revealed, apart from the righteousness prescribed in the law. This way, which is attested by the law and the prophets, is provided by God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe in Him. There is no difference: Jew and Gentile alike have sinned, and all fall short of God’s glory; but Jew and Gentile alike can be brought into a right relationship with God and secure His pardon. This they receive freely, by His pure grace, because of the redemptive work accomplished by Christ Jesus. He has been set before mankind by God as the One whose sacrificial death has made atonement for sin, and what He has procured becomes effective in a person through faith. God’s righteousness has been demonstrated; in His forbearance He passed over sins committed before Christ came, instead of exacting their proper penalty, and He did so in prospect of the demonstration of His righteousness in this present epoch. While remaining perfectly righteous, He pardons those who believe in Jesus and brings them into a right relationship with Himself.” The “expiation” (v. 25, RSV) which is provided in Christ averts the wrath of Romans 1:18 and wipes out the sinner’s guilt. It is not an act by which the sinner attempts to placate God (as if such a thing were possible) but an act in which God graciously takes the initiative. The Gr. word (hilastērion) is used elsewhere in the Gr. Bible for the “mercy seat” where God assured His people when they confessed their sin through their sacerdotal representative, of His forgiveness and acceptance. What was done by a rit ual object lesson has now been accomplished effectively in Christ “by his blood”; and all may share in its benefits by resting their faith in Him.
If this is God’s way of justifying men and women, it affords them no opportunity of taking any credit to themselves; it springs from His grace, not their merit. It is a way which is open on equal terms to Jew and Gentile, since God is the God of both; therefore neither has now any advantage over the other. Moreover, far from setting the law aside, it vindicates the law (3:27-31).
To show how the principle of justification by faith vindicates the law, Paul returned to the account of Abraham in Genesis (4:1-25). If obedience to God’s will were the ground of justification, Abraham could make a good case (cf. Gen 26:5). According to the record, the ground of Abraham’s justification was his simply taking God at His word: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Rom 4:3, quoting Gen 15:6). The place which this OT text already occupied in Paul’s thinking may be seen from his use of it in Galatians 3:6. When he proceeds (Rom 4:5) to speak of God as He “who justifies the ungodly,” he boldly declares that God in the Gospel does the very thing which in the law He says He will not do (cf. Exod 23:7: “I will not acquit the wicked,” where LXX has the same verb and noun as Paul uses).
Before developing the argument about Abraham, Paul looks at another OT use of the verb “reckon”: “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin” (Ps 32:2; cf. Rom 4:6-8). The non-reckoning of sin to the sinner is equivalent to his being reckoned righteous. Abraham’s case was not isolated; David’s testimony was similar.
Reverting to Abraham (vv. 9ff.), Paul asks whether his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness before or after he was circumcised, and had no need to labor the point: Abraham was justified by faith while he was uncircumcised, years before he received the covenant of circumcision (Gen 17:24). In this fact Paul finds a charter admitting Gentile believers, equally with Jewish believers, to the status of Abraham’s heirs. It is faith, not circumcision, that is relevant. Abraham’s spiritual fatherhood of Gentile as well as Jewish believers was adumbrated when God gave him a new name and said, “I have made you the father of many nations” (Rom 4:17, quoting Gen 17:5). His faith was no easy faith: it was faith exercised in the face of an overwhelming weight of circumstances that for most people would have made such faith seem ridiculous. But in Abraham’s eyes the promise of God absolutely outweighed all those circumstances, making them of no account; he believed the bare promise before there was any external sign or likelihood of its coming to pass, and this was counted to him for righteousness. In the same way, God confers a righteous status on all who believe the Word He has spoken through the crucified and risen Jesus.
Having thus demonstrated the Biblical foundation of the good news of justification by faith, Paul proceeds to describe the blessings which accompany it in the believer’s life (5:1-11). A textual problem arises in v. 1 because of the common confusion between short and long “o” in Gr. MS copying; RSV “we have peace with God” suits the context better than the somewhat more strongly attested “let us have peace....” Peace, joy, and hope are the boons which the justified enjoy, no matter what afflictions they have to endure. Their endurance produces strength of character, but best of all, the Holy Spirit whom they have received, and who conveys these boons to them, has poured the love of God into their hearts. The saving work which has been so effectually inaugurated in their lives will continue until its consummation at the end time; when the eschatological wrath is poured out, they will be delivered from it by the Savior who has already procured their justification by the shedding of His blood. This is their hope, both sure and joyful; meanwhile they “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation” (v. 11).
Paul’s account of God’s way of righteousness concludes with a parallel drawn between the old humanity and the new (5:12-21). Adam, head of the old creation, who involved his posterity in sin and death through his disobedience, is set over against Christ, Head of the new creation, who brings His people into righteousness and life through His obedience. This is one of the two classic passages where Paul develops the concept of Christ as the second Adam (the other is 1 Cor 15:21ff.). This concept can be traced elsewhere in his letters, and may be linked with teaching associated in other parts of the Bible with the figure of the “Son of man.” By the redemptive work which the Gospel proclaims the old “Adam-solidarity” of guilt and despair is shattered, to be replaced by the new “Christ-solidarity” of pardon and hope. For the saving effects of Christ’s obedience (His lifelong obedience culminating in the crowning obedience of His submission to death) are much more comprehensive and far-reaching than the ruinous effects of Adam’s disobedience.
If it be asked what place the law has in this concept, the answer is that it does not affect the great issue of death in Adam versus life in Christ; the law was introduced to bring to light the sin that was already latent. This it did, and at the same time it stimulated an increase in acts of sin; “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).
From his exposition of the way of righteousness (3:21-5:21) Paul continues (chs. 6-8) to speak of the way of holiness, and he introduces this subject by supposing a questioner who, having heard him say that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” asks why one should not go on sinning in order that grace may continue to abound (6:1). The question was prob. not an imaginary one; Paul knew some members of the Gentile churches whose conduct seemed to be based on just such an argument. He replies that there can be no peaceful coexistence between death to sin and life in sin and shows what he means by two arguments: (1) he brings out the practical implication of baptism (vv. 3-14), and (2) he draws an analogy from the institution of slavery (vv. 15-23).
Baptism “into Christ Jesus” betokens incorporation into Him, so that henceforth the baptized person is “in Christ Jesus”; sharing Christ’s death he has died to the old way, and sharing His resurrection he lives in the new way. To live in sin would be, for such a person, a contradiction of his life in Christ; it would be repudiating his baptism, severing himself from Christ. As it is, the man he once was (the “old self” of v. 6) is no more; the life he now lives is the life which the risen Christ lives out in him. Christ died once in relation to sin (as the sin-bearer) but death has no more power over Him; the man in Christ is “dead to sin and alive to God” (v. 11) and is no more compelled, as he once was, to let his limbs and faculties be used for sin; he should dedicate them to God as instruments to do His will, and he will find himself liberated from the dominion of sin. The phrase “not under law but under grace” (v. 14) in this context underscores the close association in Paul’s mind between law and sin (cf. 7:4ff.).
Sin, in other words, can be personified as a slave owner. The slave is forced to do his master’s bidding. If the slave dies, his master has no further power over him. The man in Christ has died as far as his relation to sin, his former slave-owner, is concerned. Or, to change the figure somewhat, if the slave becomes the property of another master, he is henceforth bound to obey his new master, not his old one. So the believer, formerly a slave of sin, has now been liberated into the free service of God. His former master paid him the wages of death; his new Master gives him life in Christ—not as a reward for service rendered, but as a free gift.
Law, which is good, nevertheless stimulates sin, which is bad. Law reveals and denounces sin but cannot bring deliverance from it. To be liberated from sin to righteousness is one side of a coin, the other is liberation from law to grace. From the subject of freedom from sin (ch. 6) Paul turns to its cognate: freedom from law (ch. 7). To illustrate this aspect of Christian freedom he has recourse to another legal relation: that between husband and wife. By law a wife is bound to her husband so long as he lives; only if he dies is she free to marry another man. (Whether Paul is thinking of Rom. or Jewish law makes little difference.) In the application of the analogy the husband is the law and the wife is the believer, but it is not the law that dies, but the believer who has died with Christ. The point, however, is that, as death breaks the marriage bond, so the believer’s death with Christ breaks the bond that bound him to the law and sets him free to be united “to him who has been raised from the dead” (v. 4). Union with the law stimulated sinful passions and produced fruit for death; union with Christ enables one to deny those passions and bring forth fruit for God. One may surmise that Paul’s Jewish-Christian readers understood his argument better than the Gentile Christians, whether they approved of it or not. Admittedly, Paul’s language about the law runs counter to the traditional testimony of Jewish piety, but he spoke out of the experience of one who had exchanged the bondage of “the old written code” for “the new life of the Spirit” (v. 6).
In 7:7-25 there is a passage written in the first person sing. and the past tense giving way in v. 14 to one also written in the first person sing. but in the present tense. Ostensibly both passages are autobiographical, and although the view that they are truly autobiographical has been “now relegated to the museum of exegetical absurdities” (P. Demann, apud F. J. Leenhardt, The [[Epistle to the Romans]], p. 181), the poignancy of much of the language still compels some readers to discern no “abstract argument but the echo of the personal experience of an anguished soul” (M. Goguel, The Birth of Christianity [London, 1953], pp. 213f.). Perhaps one can say that “here Paul’s autobiography is the biography of Everyman” (T. W. Manson in Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, ed. M. Black [London, 1962], p. 945). At one level Paul describes his innocent boyhood and the growing sense of bondage after he assumed personal responsibility to keep the law, finding that it tempted him to do the very thing it forbade. At another level he prob. was describing Adam before and after the prohibition to eat of the forbidden tree; at still another he recapitulates the history of the human family—before the giving of the law (“from Adam to Moses”, 5:14), after the giving of the law (cf. 5:20), and then (7:25a) freed from the law in Christ (cf. 5:21).
After this portrayal of the dawn of conscience, Paul continues in the present tense to describe the inner conflict experienced by one who approves the divine law and desires to keep it, but is prevented from doing so by “another law” which forces him against his will to do the evil that he loathes. “I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (7:25b); a man’s own resources, for all the excellence of his intentions, are inadequate for doing the will of God and defying the power of evil. Only “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 25a) comes the strength for this.
Such strength is available for all “who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1); there is no reason why they should go on in a state of penal servitude (which may be the meaning of “condemnation” in 8:1). A new principle has begun to live within them, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (8:2), and liberates them not only from the thraldom of sin and the bondage of the law, but from death itself. This is the theme of ch. 8, where the mainspring of the way of holiness—the presence of the life giving Spirit in the believer—is fully unfolded.
This coming glory (vv. 18-30) will not only compensate the believer for the trials endured in the present age; it is something to which all creation eagerly looks forward, for when the sons of God are revealed in glory, all creation will be released from the frustration under which it has labored since the fall (vv. 19-22). This investiture with glory will coincide with the day of resurrection, “the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23), when the saving effect of the passion of Christ will be consummated and believers will be manifested as sons of God. Till that day dawns, the Spirit helps them in their weakness, intercedes on their behalf, and co-operates with them in everything for good (vv. 26-28). When it dawns, it will be recognized as the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose, conceived when He foreknew and foreordained His people in Christ before the world’s foundation (vv. 29-30). The verb “glorified” in v. 30 is in the past tense because, although it refers to a future experience, its accomplishment is settled already in the counsel of God.
With such a hope, the believer may well exult in God (vv. 31-39). Though all things seem to be against him, God is for him; though men condemn him, Christ at God’s right hand is his all-prevailing advocate and intercessor. Neither earth’s privations nor hell’s hostility can separate him from the love of God, manifest and active in Christ.
The righteousness of God in history
(9:1-11:36). Chapters 9-11 may seem to be a parenthesis in the argument of the letter, but in Paul’s mind they were crucially necessary. The fact that the people who had been specially prepared for the Gospel declined for the most part to believe it, although it was from their midst that the Christ Himself came “according to the flesh” (9:5), presented Paul and no doubt many of his contemporaries with a problem in theodicy. Had God’s purpose gone awry? Was He lacking in foresight? Surely, if Paul’s claims were valid, his own kith and kin would have been the first to acknowledge them. Paul appreciated the problem all the more because in his earlier days he himself had been involved in Israel’s unbelief. As he faces the problem, he begins with the particular issue of Jewish resistance to the Gospel and ends with an exposition of the divine purpose in history.
The first two answers he gives to the problem are these: 1. The Jewish resistance to the Gospel has come about in the unchallengeable ordering of God’s electing purpose (9:6-29). 2. In resisting the Gospel Israel is following a precedent repeatedly shown throughout her history (9:30-10:21).
To these Paul adds two more, much more hopeful in tone: 3. The fact that a “remnant” of Israel has believed the Gospel is the token that Israel as a whole will yet do so (11:1-16). 4. If Israel’s present rejection of the Gospel has meant so much blessing for Gentiles, Israel’s future acceptance of the Gospel will mean even greater blessing for the world (11:17-32).
1. God’s sovereign choice (9:6-29). Throughout sacred history God has chosen one and set aside another. Of the sons of Abraham, God chose Isaac and not Ishmael; in the next generation, of the two sons of Isaac, He chose Jacob and not Esau, giving notice of His choice before either Jacob or Esau was born, in order to establish His sovereignty in election (9:6-13). Even those who have been set aside promote His purpose, whether willingly or not: Pharaoh, so stubborn of heart, was a signal instrument in God’s hand for the display of His power and the exaltation of His name: “he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills” (9:14-18).
To the complaint that God is unjust in acting thus, since no one can resist His decree, the uncompromising answer is given, following the precedent of OT prophets (cf. Isa 29:16; 45:9), that the pot has no right to complain of the potter’s workmanship. What if God chose to make some “vessels,” from Gentiles as well as from Jews, to be recipients of His mercy, and others to be destroyed, object lessons of His judgment? Paul did not say that God has in fact done this latter thing, but argued that, if He chose to do so, no one is competent to call Him to account (9:19-24).
What God in fact has done, says Paul, is to display His mercy in uncovenanted fashion, by calling as His people those who had no claim to be so designated (in accordance with a principle revealed in Hosea) and preserving only a remnant of His former people Israel (in accordance with a principle emphasized in Isaiah). So he concluded his first exposition of God’s way of election (9:6-29), but he will revert to this subject before the end of his present argument.
2. Israel’s responsibility (9:30-10:21). If on the one hand Israel’s unbelief exemplifies divine election, it has to be seen on the other hand in terms of human responsibility. The stone of stumbling described in Isaiah 28:16, realized in Christ and the Gospel, had tripped them up, because they did not entrust themselves to it and so avoid being put to shame (9:30-33).
With a further confession of his heartfelt longing and prayer for his kinsmen’s salvation, Paul ascribes their present unbelief and unenlightened zeal to their ignorance of God’s way of righteousness. They pursued the righteousness based on the law, in terms of Leviticus 18:5 (living by doing), not knowing that with the coming of Christ an end has been put to the age of law, so that now it is every believer who is justified. This way of righteousness by faith was foreshadowed in Deuteronomy 30:11-14, here interpreted as teaching that righteousness and salvation come to those who confess Jesus aloud as Lord and believe in Him inwardly as the risen One. To the same effect is the assurance of the passage about the stone of stumbling already quoted: “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” This assurance applies equally to Jew and Gentile: “there is no distinction” between them because all have sinned (Rom 3:22, 23), but also “there is no distinction” (10:12) because all receive God’s abundant mercy on an equal footing: “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (10:1-13).
3. Israel’s alienation not final (Rom 11:1-16). It must not, however, be thought that Israel’s present unbelief and setting aside are permanent. As in OT days the preservation of a remnant carried with it hope for the future, so now the existence of “a remnant, chosen by grace” (to which Paul himself belongs) contains promise of the ultimate salvation of all Israel. For the present, Israel has stumbled, but has not fallen irrevocably. Their temporary “trespass” has meant blessing for the world; their restoration will mean far greater blessing (11:1-16).
4. The parable of the olive tree (Rom 11:17-24). Paul, as apostle to the Gentiles, thinks highly of his ministry, not only because of the blessing it brings to Gentile believers but also because, in the purpose of God, the conversion of the Gentiles will, in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 32:21 (quoted in Rom 10:19), provoke Israel to jealousy and stimulate them to demand a share in those blessings which are their natural heritage. The history of the people of God is portrayed in terms of an olive tree from which some of the original branches have been lopped off to make way for the grafting in of branches from a wild olive (a process which in 11:24 Paul rightly says is “contrary to nature”). The lopped-off branches are Jews, separated from the stock of the people of God because of unbelief; the ingrafted branches are Gentiles, incorporated into the people of God through faith. But—and here one may detect a warning to the Gentile Christians in Rome and elsewhere—the ingrafted branches may in their turn be lopped off through unbelief and the severed branches may through faith be reunited with the parent stock. By faith Jew and Gentile alike stand; by unbelief they fall (11:13-24).
God’s purpose for blessing mankind far exceeds anything that men could have hoped. If He has found all men, Jew and Gentile alike, guilty of disobedience and has pronounced this verdict on them, it is not that He may sentence them to the appropriate penalty, but “that he may have mercy upon all” (11:32). When the Deliverer comes from Zion (cf. Ps. 14:7) and banishes ungodliness from Jacob, mankind will enjoy undreamed-of bliss. Who could have supposed that Israel’s unbelief was to become God’s instrument for good to such an overwhelming degree? God’s wisdom cannot be compared with man’s; He is the source, guide and goal of all (11:25-36).
The Christian way of life
(12:1-15:13). The proper response to the Gospel of grace which has been unfolded in the foregoing chapters is the yielding of the believer’s life to God as “a living sacrifice,” presented in the course of his “spiritual worship,” so that his mind henceforth may be transfigured to conform with the will of God (12:1, 2).
This will manifest itself, among other things, in the common life of the Christian fellowship. The figure of the body and its limbs, already used in this way (1 Cor 12:12ff.) and destined to be developed further in Colossians and Ephesians, is introduced here to illustrate the interdependence and cooperation of all for the good of the whole; and whatever service each one does should be done with a ready heart (12:3-8).
The life of the Spirit will manifest itself outwardly in acts of love to fellow members of the Christian brotherhood and to all men. [[The Sermon on the Mount]] may not have been written down at this early date in the form in which we know it, but its contents were familiar in the Church, and formed the basis of the “law of Christ” (cf. Gal 6:2) which Paul here applied. Revenge must never occur to a believer’s mind. Paul quoted in this regard the passage from Proverbs 25:21, 22, beginning, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread...”; but he omitted the clause “and the Lord will reward you” and added the injunction, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:9-21).
The passage about the Christian and the state (13:1-7) has given rise to long debate. Its spirit and tone can no doubt be linked with Paul’s happy experience of Rom. law and order, as reflected in the narrative of Acts; but the permanent teaching is plain. So long as the civil authorities remain within their divinely-given commission, they can command the believer’s obedience and cooperation; only when Caesar demands the things that are God’s must the believer say “No” (cf. Acts 4:19; 5:29). Such a demand on the part of the state is not contemplated here; there is a great difference between Romans 13 and Revelation 13, although the Rom. empire is the supreme worldly authority in both places. It is very unlikely that the “governing authorities” (Rom 13:1) are angelic principalities and powers; the latter do not receive taxes, and far from counseling believers to submit to them, the Bible portrays them as servants to the people of God.
Apart from his special duty to the powers that be, the Christian has the general duty of love to all men. He may be dead to the law in the sense of Romans 7:4, but the whole OT law is summed up in the commandment of love (as Jesus had affirmed in Mark 12:29-31); from this law the Christian is never set free (Rom 13:8-10).
The days are critical; Christians must be vigilant. Already coming events were casting their shadows before; with hindsight one can think of the persecution of a.d. 64 and the revolt of a.d. 66. However, Paul looked beyond intervening woes to the fullness of salvation which would attend the advent of Christ. In language reminiscent of the idiom of Qumran, he enjoins his readers to put on the “armour of light” in readiness for spiritual conflict and to live lives worthy of Christ. It is striking that, when he commends the cultivation of those virtues that grace the character of Christ in the gospels, he does so in the words, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” One recalls how Augustine’s conversion followed immediately upon his reading Romans 13:13, 14.
In 14:1-15:6 Paul deals with the apparently conflicting demands of Christian liberty and Christian charity. He had to deal with this issue in the churches he had founded, e.g. Corinth (cf. 1 Cor 8:1-13; 10:23-33); he expounds the general principles for the benefit of the Rom. Christians. In most Christian communities there would be some people whose consciences, like the apostle’s, were completely emancipated in neutral matters such as food and sacred seasons, but they had to live alongside others who religiously avoided eating certain things and doing ordinary work on special days. “Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind,” says Paul. The emancipated Christian must not despise his brother who is more scrupulous than he in such matters; the scrupulous Christian must not condemn his brother who cheerfully does things of which his own conscience disapproves. Each believer is the Lord’s servant, whether in life or in death; it is to the Lord that he must render account at the last.
So far so good; but Paul knew from his experience elsewhere that Christians with tender consciences were easily upset and likely to be tripped up in their spiritual progress. Those who had robust consciences like himself had a duty to consider their weaker fellow Christians. Paul would have refused to listen to any attempt to place limitations on his freedom, and warned his converts, as in Galatia and at Colosse, against listening to any such attempts directed toward themselves. But it was possible, while refusing legal restrictions, to accept voluntary limitations on one’s freedom of action in the interests of a brother “for whom Christ died.” Such a spontaneous gesture of Christian charity would be in fact one way of exercising Christian liberty. The truly emancipated man is not in bondage to his emancipation: he can choose to indulge and he can choose to refrain. His choice will be determined by the Lord’s glory and the spiritual welfare of others. If a more scrupulous Christian is encouraged by the example of one with a more robust conscience to do something of which his own conscience disapproves, his conscience is damaged by his doing so, and the damage will be debited by the Lord to his insufficiently considerate fellow Christian.
It is the privilege of the strong to help the weak and be patient with them; the example of Christ is sufficient argument. Instead of living for His own interests, He lived for others and endured reproach for His Father’s sake, as OT Scripture had foretold (Ps 69:9, quoted in 15:3). This quotation of OT Scripture reminds Paul that all Scripture was given for the instruction and encouragement of the people of God, and he prays for such harmony among his readers that would redound to the glory of God.
Continuing the theme of the example of Christ (15:7-13), he stated that Christ became a servant to Jews and Gentiles alike—to the former, to fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs, and to the latter, that they too “might glorify God for his mercy” (v. 9). There follows a catena of OT Scriptures, drawn from all three divisions of the Heb. Bible (Law, Prophets, and Psalms), showing that the Gentile mission was foretold in them. (The means by which the Gentiles’ ingathering would be accomplished, by their incorporation as fellow members of the body of Christ on an equal footing with Jewish believers, was a “mystery” first revealed in NT times, but the fact of their ingathering had been predicted.) With a benediction echoing the wording of the final quotation Paul closes this division of the letter.
(15:14-16:27). In Romans 15:14-33 Paul tells his readers about the present position of his apostolic program. His work in the eastern Mediterranean area is finished, and when once he has presented the fruit of this work in Jerusalem and handed over the Gentile churches’ contribution for the relief of the believers there, he looks forward to visiting Rome on his way to Spain (see # IV above). Meanwhile, he requests their prayers; he is well aware of the hazards which the immediate future might have in store for him.
Phoebe, a “deaconess” of the church at Cenchreae (the eastern seaport of Corinth), will carry the letter to its destination; Paul commends her to his readers’ fellowship (16:1, 2).
He then sends greetings to a number of his friends. Although Paul had not previously visited Rome, it was not surprising that there were many people there whom he had met elsewhere during his journeys; indeed, precedent suggests that he was more apt to send individual greetings of this kind in a letter to a church with which he was not acquainted at first hand, than to one where he knew practically everybody, so that if he singled out a few for special mention, others would ask, “Why leave me out?” The mention of Epaenetus, his first convert in the province of Asia (v. 5), and of Prisca and Aquila (v. 3), who were last mentioned in Ephesus (Acts 18:26; 1 Cor 16:19), has suggested to many commentators that this list of greetings may have been appended to a copy of the letter sent to Ephesus; most of the names however, have Rom. rather than Ephesian affinities (Rom 16:3-16).
The exhortation of 16:17-20 is more urgent and personal than anything appearing earlier in the letter; Paul was afraid that the Rom. Christians might be visited by troublemakers such as those who had upset churches of his own planting, and he warns against them. Satan, the author of discord, will be crushed under their feet if they remain true worshipers of the God of peace.
Paul has already sent greetings from the Gentile churches (v. 16); he (vv. 21-23) then sends greetings from some of his personal friends who are with him at the time of writing. Paul regularly dictated his letters to amanuenses, but Tertius is the only one of these whose name is known (v. 22).
The doxology of 16:25-27 recapitulates the main themes of the letter, as they have been introduced in the opening salutation (1:1-7).
There are two sets of textual problems in Romans which require special attention, one at the beginning and the other at the end. Apart from these, the text of the letter is reasonably straightforward, although F. G. Kenyon concluded from the pattern of agreement and disagreement in the various Pauline epistles between P46 and the other early witnesses to the text that the textual tradition of Romans might go back to a time before the publication of the corpus Paulinum, when the letters circulated separately. (If copies were in fact sent to various churches to begin with, the history of texual variation could have started in a.d. 57.)
The omission of the words “in Rome” from Romans 1:7 in the texts on which the commentaries on Romans by Origen and Ambrosiaster were based and in the Graeco-Latin Codex G, and their omission from Romans 1:15 in G, together with adjustments of this abridged text in companions of G, can best be accounted for in terms of their absence from the archetype of the Western text of the Pauline letters. (Their absence from a text used by Origen indicates that this shorter reading was not exclusively Western.)
At the end of the letter indications of three distinct editions are provided by the varying position of the final doxology in the authorities for the text. In P46, the oldest Pauline MS (end of 2nd cent.), it is placed at the end of ch. 15. Although the doxology is then followed by 16:1-23, the implication is that there was in antiquity one form of the text which ended with 15:33 and the doxology. (To this shorter text 16:1-23 was subsequently added from a copy of the longer text.) The simplest explanation of this phenomenon is that copies of the letter were sent not only to Rome but also to other places; the personal greetings being omitted from copies sent to churches other than that in which the persons named were present. (Whether the copy including the personal greetings was intended for Rome or Ephesus cannot be decided by textual criticism; for the arguments for Rome, see C. H. Dodd, The Epistle to the Romans, MNT [London, 1932], pp. xviiff.; for those for Ephesus, see T. W. Manson, Studies in the Gospels and Epistles [Manchester, 1962], pp. 234ff. To the present writer the Rom. destination of the greetings seems more probable.)
There is, however, much more abundant evidence for an even shorter edition of the letter which terminated at the end of ch. 14. The Byzantine text-type has the doxology there instead of at the end of ch. 16; a few witnesses (A P 5 33 etc.) have it at the end of ch. 14 and also at the end of ch. 16; the original Western text of Paul appears to have lacked the doxology altogether. The origin of this shortest edition is hardly in doubt; Origen states what is antecedently probable in any case when he dealt with the final doxology in his commentary on Romans: “Marcion, who introduced interpolations into the evangelic and apostolic scriptures, removed this section completely from this epistle, and not only so, but he cut out everything from that place where it is written ‘whatsoever is not of faith, is sin’ [14:23] right to the end” (tr. from Rufinus’ Lat. VS of Origen). The ancient chapter summaries in Codex Amiatinus and some other Vulgate MSS, which were taken over from a pre-Vulgate Lat. VS, indicate a text in which 14:23 was followed immediately by the doxology; Tertullian and Cyprian of Carthage also seem to have known this short edition.
In this respect, as in several others, Marcion’s text of the Pauline letters appears to have influenced the transmission of their text in circles which were far from subscribing to Marcionite views. Why Marcion should have brought the text of Romans to an end with 14:23 is plain if one looks at the OT quotations in 15:3-12, or the statement in 15:4 that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction,” or the description of Christ in 15:8 as “a servant to the circumcised...to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.” These passages were contrary to Marcion’s view that the OT was irrelevant to Christ and the Gospel, and were prob. regarded by him as Judaizing intrusions into the pure apostolic text.
The omission of “in Rome” in 1:7, 15, belongs not (as might have been expected) to the textual tradition which omits only the personal greetings of ch. 16 and thus generalizes the letter, but to the textual tradition which brought the letter to a close at 14:23—that is, to the tradition stemming from Marcion’s text. Why Marcion should have omitted these two references to Rome is uncertain; perhaps, since the Rom. church repudiated his teaching as unacceptable, he judged that church to be unworthy to be named as a recipient of a letter from Christ’s one true apostle.
Although Marcion’s text did not include the doxology at the end, it was added to his text later, possibly from the long edition.
There remain some unresolved problems, but the conclusion in general is that there were in antiquity three recensions of the letter: (1) the long recension, including the personal greetings and the doxology, which was prob. the recension found in the first ed. of the corpus Paulinum; (2) a shorter recension, lacking the personal greetings, derived from an early copy sent to another church than that primarily addressed (P46 would in this case preserve a textual tradition antedating the publication of the first corpus Paulinum); and (3) a still shorter recension, lacking ch. 15 as well as ch. 16 (and also in some of its forms lacking the references to Rome in 1:7, 15); this recension, while widely attested in orthodox circles, can be ascribed to Marcion’s dogmatic interference with the apostolic text.
Canonicity and authority
The canonicity of Romans was never an issue in the Church. From the earliest beginnings of the formation of the NT canon its place within it has been secure, both among heretical groups like the Valentinians and Marcionites, and in the Catholic Church.
Behind canonicity lies intrinsic authority, and in this regard the record of Romans is impressive. Time and again in the course of Christian history it has liberated the minds of men, brought them back to an understanding of the essential Gospel of Christ, and started spiritual revolutions. One has only to think of the part played by the letter in the careers of men like Augustine, Luther, [[John Wesley]], and [[Karl Barth]], and in the movements associated with their names, to appreciate its enduring evangelical dynamism.
R. Haldane, Exposition of Romans (1835-1839; reprinted, 1959); C. Hodge, Commentary on Romans (1835; reprinted, 1951); C. J. Vaughan, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1874); F. Godet, The Epistle to the Romans (1880; reprinted 1956); H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, ExB (1893); H. P. Liddon, Explanatory Analysis of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1893); F. J. A. Hort, Prolegomena to Romans and Ephesians (1895); J. Denney, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, EGT (1900); W. Sanday and A. C. Headlam, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, ICC (1902); C. H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, MNT (1932); K. Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (1933); A. Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1952); O. Michel, Römerbrief, Meyer (1955); A. M. Hunter, The Epistle to the Romans (1955); C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (1957); J. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (1959-1965); E. Brunner, The Epistle to the Romans (1959); M. Luther, Lectures on Romans, trans. W. Pauck (1961); F. J. Leenhardt, The Epistle to the Romans (1961); J. Calvin, The Epistles of Paul to the Romans and Thessalonians, trans. R. Mackenzie (1961); T. W. Manson, Studies in the Gospels and Epistles (1962), 225-241; T. W. Manson, “Romans” in Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, ed. M. Black (1962), 940-953; F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Romans (1963).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
|| 1. Its Genuineness
2. Its Integrity
3. The Approximate Date
4. The Place of Writing
5. The Destination
6. The Language
7. The Occasion
8. Some Characteristics
9. Main Teachings of the Epistle
(1) Doctrine of Man
(2) Doctrine of God
(3) Doctrine of [[Son of God]]--Redemption; Justification
(4) Doctrine of the Spirit of God
(5) Doctrine of Duty
(6) Doctrine of Israel
This is the greatest, in every sense, of the apostolic letters of Paul; in scale, in scope, and in its wonderful combination of doctrinal, ethical and administrative wisdom and power. In some respects the later Epistles, Ephesians and Colossians, lead us to even higher and deeper arcana of revelation, and they, like Romans, combine with the exposition of truth a luminous doctrine of duty. But the range of Roman is larger in both directions, and presents us also with noble and far-reaching discussions of Christian polity, instructions in spiritual utterance and the like, to which those Epistles present no parallel, and which only the Corinthian Epistles rival.
1. Its Genuineness:
No suspicion on the head of the genuineness of the Epistle exists which needs serious consideration. Signs of the influence of the Epistle can be traced, at least very probably, in the [[New Testament]] itself; in 1 Peter, and, as some think, in James. But in our opinion Jas was the earlier writing, and Lightfoot has given strong grounds for the belief that the paragraph on faith and justification (Jas 2) has no reference to perversions of Pauline teaching, but deals with rabbinism. [[Clement of Rome]] repeatedly quotes Romans, and so do Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin. Marcion includes it in his list of [[Pauline Epistles]], and it is safe to say in general Romans "has been recognized in the Christian church as long as any collection of Paul’s Epistles has been extant" (A. Robertson, in HDB, under the word). But above all other evidences it testifies to itself. The fabrication of such a writing, with its close and complex thought, its power and marked originality of treatment, its noble morale, and its spiritual elevation and ardor, is nothing short of a moral impossibility. A mighty mind and equally great heart live in every page, and a soul exquisitely sensitive and always intent upon truth and holiness. Literary personation is an art which has come to anything like maturity only in modern times, certainly not before the Renaissance. In a fully developed form it is hardly earlier than the 19th century. And even now who can point to a consciously personated authorship going along with high moral principle and purpose?
2. Its Integrity:
The question remains, however, whether, accepting the Epistle in block as Pauline, we have it, as to details, just as it left the author’s hands. Particularly, some phenomena of the text of the last two chapter invite the inquiry. We may--in our opinion we must--grant those chapters to be Pauline. They breathe Paul in every sentence. But do they read precisely like part of a letter to Rome? For example, we have a series of names (Ro 16:1-15), representing a large circle of personally known and loved friends of the writer, a much longer list than any other in the Epistles, and all presumably--on theory that the passage is integral to the Epistle--residents at Rome. May not such a paragraph have somehow crept in, after date, from another writing? Might not a message to Philippian, Thessalonian or Ephesian friends, dwellers in places where Paul had already established many intimacies, have fallen out of its place and found lodgment by mistake at the close of this letter to Rome? It seems enough to reply by one brief statement of fact. We possess some 300 manuscripts of Romans, and not one of these, so far as it is uninjured, fails to give the Epistle complete, all the chapters as we have them, and in the present order (with one exception, that of the final doxology). It is observable meanwhile that the difficulty of supposing Paul to have had a large group of friends living at Rome, before his own arrival there, is not serious. To and from Rome, through the whole empire, there was a perpetual circulation of population. Suppose [[Aquila and Priscilla]] (e.g.) to have recently returned (Ac 18:2) to Rome from Ephesus, and suppose similar migrations from Greece or from Asia Minor to have taken place within recent years; we can then readily account for the greetings of Ro 16.
Lightfoot has brought it out in an interesting way (see his Philippians, on 4:22) that many of the names (e.g. Amplias, Urbanus, Tryphena) in Ro 16 are found at Rome, in inscriptions of the early imperial age, in cemeteries where members of the widely scattered "household of Caesar" were interred. This at least suggests the abundant possibility that the converts and friends belonging to the "household" who, a very few years later, perhaps not more than three, were around him at Rome when he wrote to Philippi (Php 4:22), and sent their special greeting ("chiefly they") to the Philipplans, were formerly residents at Philippi, or elsewhere in Macedonia, and had moved thence to the capital not long before the apostle wrote to the Romans. A. Robertson (ut supra) comes to the conclusion, after a careful review of recent theories, "that the case for transferring this section .... from its actual connection to a lost Epistle to Ephesus is not made out."
Two points of detail in the criticism of the text of Romans may be noted. One is that the words "at Rome" (1:7,15) are omitted in a very few manuscripts, in a way to remind us of the interesting phenomenon of the omission of "at Ephesus" (Eph 1:1 margin). But the evidence for this omission being original is entirely inadequate. The fact may perhaps be accounted for by a possible circulation of Romans among other mission churches as an Epistle of universal interest. This would be much more likely if the manuscripts and other authorities in which the last two chapters are missing were identical with those which omit "at Rome," but this is not the case.
The other and larger detail is that the great final doxology (Ro 16:25-27) is placed by many cursives at the end of Romans 14, and is omitted entirely by three manuscripts and by Marcion. The leading uncials and a large preponderance of ancient evidence place it where we have it. It is quite possible that Paul may have reissued Romans after a time, and may only then have added the doxology, which has a certain resemblance in manner to his later (captivity) style. But it is at least likely that dogmatic objections led Marcion to delete it, and that his action accounts for the other phenomena which seem to witness against its place at the finale.
It is worth noting that Hort, a singularly fearless, while sober student, defends without reserve the entirety of the Epistle as we have it, or practically so. See his essay printed in Lightfoot’s Biblical Studies.
3. The Approximate Date:
We can fix the approximate date with fair certainty within reasonable limits. We gather from Ro 15:19 that Paul, when he wrote, was in the act of closing his work in the East and was looking definitely westward. But he was first about (15:25,26) to revisit Jerusalem with his collection, mainly made in Macedonia and Achaia, for the "poor saints." Placing these allusions side by side with the references in 1 and 2 Corinthians to the collection and its conveyance, and again with the narrative of Acts, we may date Romans very nearly at the same time as 2 Corinthians, just before the visit to Jerusalem narrated in Ac 20, etc. The year may be fixed with great probability as 58 AD. This estimate follows the lines of Lightfoot’s chronology, which Robertson (ut supra) supports. More recent schemes would move the date back to 56 AD.
"The reader’s attention is invited to this date. Broadly speaking, it was about 30 years at the most after the Crucifixion. Let anyone in middle life reflect on the freshness in memory of events, whether public or private, which 30 years ago made any marked impression on his mind. Let him consider how concrete and vivid still are the prominent personages of 30 years ago, many of whom of course are still with us. And let him transfer this thought to the 1st century, and to the time of our Epistle. Let him remember that we have at least this one great Christian writing composed, for certain, within such easy reach of the very lifetime of [[Jesus Christ]] when His contemporary friends were still, in numbers, alive and active. Then let him open the Epistle afresh, and read, as if for the first time, its estimate of Jesus Christ--a Figure then of no legendary past, with its halo, but of the all but present day. Let him note that this transcendent estimate comes to us conveyed in the vehicle not of poetry and rhetoric, but of a treatise pregnant with masterly argument and admirable practical wisdom, tolerant and comprehensive. And we think that the reader will feel that the result of his meditations on date and circumstances is reassuring as to the solidity of the historic basis of the Christian faith" (from the present writer’s introduction to the Epistle in the Temple Bible; see also his Light from the First Days: Short Studies in 1 Thessalonians).
4. The Place of Writing:
With confidence we may name Corinth as the place of writing. Paul was at the time in some "city" (Ro 16:23). He was staying with one Gaius, or Caius (same place) , and we find in 1Co 1:14 a Gaius, closely connected with Paul, and a Corinthian. He commends to the Romans the deaconess Phoebe, attached to "the church at Cenchrea" (16:1), presumably a place near that from which he was writing; and Cenchrea was the southern part of Corinth.
5. The Destination:
The first advent of Christianity to Rome is unrecorded, and we know very little of its early progress. Visiting Romans (epidemountes), both Jews and proselytes, appear at Pentecost (Ac 2:10), and no doubt some of these returned home believers. In Ac 18:2 we have Aquila and Priscilla, Jews, evidently Christians, "lately come from Italy," and probably from Rome. But we know practically nothing else of the story previous to this Epistle, which is addressed to a mission church obviously important and already spiritually advanced. On the other hand (a curious paradox in view of the historical development of Roman Christianity), there is no allusion in the Epistle to church organization. The Christian ministry (apart from Paul’s own apostleship) is not even mentioned. It may fairly be said to be incredible that if the legend of Peter’s long episcopate were historical, no allusion whatever to his work, influence and authority should be made. It is at least extremely difficult to prove that he was even present in Rome till shortly before his martyrdom, and the very ancient belief that Peter and Paul founded the Roman church is more likely to have had its origin in their martyrdoms there than in Peter’s having in any sense shared in the early evangelization of the city.
As to Rome itself, we may picture it at the date of the Epistle as containing, with its suburbs, a closely massed population of perhaps 800,000 people; a motley host of many races, with a strong oriental element, among which the Jews were present as a marked influence, despised and sometimes dreaded, but always attracting curiosity.
6. The Language:
The Epistle was written in Greek, the "common dialect," the Greek of universal intercourse of that age. One naturally asks, why not in Latin, when the message was addressed to the supreme Latin city? The large majority of Christian converts beyond doubt came from the lower middle and lowest classes, not least from the slave class. These strata of society were supplied greatly from immigrants, much as in parts of East London now aliens make the main population. Not Latin but Greek, then lingua franca of the Mediterranean, would be the daily speech of these people. It is remarkable that all the early Roman bishops bear Greek names. And some 40 years after the date of this Epistle we find Clement of Rome writing in Greek to the Corinthians, and later again, early in the 2nd century, Ignatius writing in Greek to the Romans.
7. The Occasion:
We cannot specify the occasion of writing for certain. No hint appears of any acute crisis in the mission (as when 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, or Colossians were written). Nor would personal reminiscences influence the writer, for he had not yet seen Rome. We can only suggest some possibilities as follows:
(1) A good opportunity for safe communication was offered by the deaconess Phoebe’s proposed visit to the metropolis. She doubtless asked Paul for a commendatory letter, and this may have suggested an extended message to the church.
(2) Paul’s thoughts had long gone toward Rome. See Ac 19:21: "I must see Rome," words which seem perhaps to imply some divine intimation (compare 23:11). And his own life-course would fall in with such a supernatural call. He had always aimed at large centers; and now his great work in the central places of the Levant was closing; he had worked at Ephesus, Thessalonica, Corinth; he was at last to think of the supreme center of all. Rome must always have had a dominant interest for the "Apostle of the Nations," and any suggestion that his Lord’s will tended that way would intensify it to the highest degree.
(3) The form of the Epistle may throw further light on the occasion. The document falls, on the whole, into three parts. First we have Romans 1-8 inclusive, a prolonged exposition of the contrasted and related phenomena of sin and salvation, with special initial references to the cases of Jew and non-Jew respectively. Then come Romans 9-11, which deal with the Jewish rejection of the Jewish Messiah, developing into a prophetic revelation of the future of Israel in the grace of God. Lastly we have Romans 12-16. Some account of the writer’s plans, and his salutations to friends, requests for prayer, etc., form the close of this section. But it is mainly a statement of Christian duty in common life, personal, civil, religious. Under the latter head we have a noble treatment of problems raised by varying opinions, particularly on religious observances, among the converts, Jew and Gentile.
Such phenomena cast a possible light on the occasion of writing. The Roman mission was on one side, by its locality and surroundings, eminently gentile. On the other, there was, as we have seen, a strong Judaic element in Roman life, particularly in its lower strata, and no doubt around the Jewish community proper there had grown up a large community of "worshippers" (sebomenoi) or, as we commonly call them, "proselytes" ("adherents," in the language of modern missionary enterprise), people who, without receiving circumcision, attended Jewish worship and shared largely in Jewish beliefs and ideals. Among these proselytes, we may believe, the earliest evangelists at Rome found a favorable field, and the mission church as Paul knew of it contained accordingly not only two definite classes, converts from paganism, converts from native Judaism, but very many in whose minds both traditions were working at once. To such converts the problems raised by Judaism, both without and within the church, would come home with a constant intimacy and force, and their case may well have been present in a special degree in the apostle’s mind alike in the early passages (Romans 1-3) of the Epistle and in such later parts as Romans 2-11; 14; 15. On the one hand they would greatly need guidance on the significance of the past of Israel and on the destiny of the chosen race in the future. Moreover, discussions in such circles over the way of salvation would suggest to the great missionary his exposition of man’s reconciliation with a holy God and of His secrets for purity and obedience in an unholy world. And meanwhile the ever-recurring problems raised by ceremonial rules in common daily life--problems of days and seasons, and of forbidden food--would, for such disciples, need wise and equitable treatment.
(4) Was it not with this position before him, known to him through the many means of communication between Rome and Corinth, that Paul cast his letter into this form? And did not the realization of the central greatness of Rome suggest its ample scale? The result was a writing which shows everywhere his sense of the presence of the Judaic problem. Here he meets it by a statement, massive and tender, of "heaven’s easy, artless, unencumbered plan" of redemption, grace, and glory, a plan which on its other side is the very mystery of the love of God, which statement is now and forever a primary treasure of the Christian faith. And then again he lays down for the too eager champions of the new "liberty" a law of loving tolerance toward slower and narrower views which is equally our permanent spiritual possession, bearing a significance far-reaching and benign.
(5) It has been held by some great students, notably Lightfoot and Hort, that the main purpose of Romans was to reconcile the opposing "schools" in the church, and that its exposition of the salvation of the individual is secondary only. The present writer cannot take this view. Read the Epistle from its spiritual center, so to speak, and is not the perspective very different? The apostle is always conscious of the collective aspect of the Christian life, an aspect vital to its full health. But is he not giving his deepest thought, animated by his own experience of conviction and conversion, to the sinful man’s relation to eternal law, to redeeming grace, and to a coming glory? It is the question of personal salvation which with Paul seems to us to live and move always in the depth of his argument, even when Christian polity and policy is the immediate theme.
8. Some Characteristics:
Excepting only Ephesians (the problem of the authorship of which is insoluble, and we put that great document here aside), Romans is, of all Paul has written, least a letter and most a treatise. He is seen, as we read, to approach religious problems of the highest order in a free but reasoned succession; problems of the darkness and of the light, of sin and grace, fall and restoration, doom and remission, faith and obedience, suffering and glory, transcendent hope and humblest duty, now in their relation to the soul, now so as to develop the holy collectivity of the common life. The Roman converts are always first in view, but such is the writer, such his handling, that the results are for the universal church and for every believer of all time. Yet all the while (and it is in this a splendid example of that epistolary method of revelation which is one of the glories of the New Testament) it is never for a moment the mere treatise, however great. The writer is always vividly personal, and conscious of persons. The Epistle is indeed a masterpiece of doctrine, but also always "the unforced, unartificial utterance of a friend to friends."
9. Main Teachings of the Epistle:
Approaching the Epistle as a treatise rather than a letter (with the considerable reserves just stated), we indicate briefly some of its main doctrinal deliverances. Obviously, in limine, it is not set before us as a complete system either of theology or of morals; to obtain a full view of a Pauline dogma and ethics we must certainly place Ephesians and Colossians, not to speak of passages from Thessalonians, beside Romans. But it makes by far the nearest approach to doctrinal completeness among the Epistles.
(1) Doctrine of Man.
In great measure this resolves itself into the doctrine of man as a sinner, as being guilty in face of an absolutely holy and absolutely imperative law, whether announced by abnormal revelation, as to the Jew, or through nature and conscience only, as to the Gentile. At the back of this presentation lies the full recognition that man is cognizant, as a spiritual being, of the eternal difference of right and wrong, and of the witness of creation to personal "eternal power and Godhead" as its cause, and that he is responsible in an awe-inspiring way for his unfaithfulness to such cognitions. He is a being great enough to be in personal moral relation with God, and able to realize his ideal only in true relation with Him; therefore a being whose sin and guilt have an unfathomable evil in them. So is he bound by his own failure that he cannot restore himself; God alone, in sovereign mercy, provides for his pardon by the propitiation of Christ, and for his restoration by union with Christ in the life given by the [[Holy Spirit]]. Such is man, once restored, once become "a saint" (a being hallowed), a "son of God" by adoption and grace, that his final glorification will be the signal (in some sense the cause?) of a transfiguration of the whole finite universe. Meanwhile, man is a being actually in the midst of a life of duty and trial, a member of civil society, with obligations to its order. He lives not in a God-forsaken world, belonging only to another and evil power. His new life, the "mind of the Spirit" in him, is to show itself in a conduct and character good for the state and for society at large, as well as for the "brotherhood."
(2) Doctrine of God.
True to the revelation of the [[Old Testament]], Paul presents God as absolute in will and power, so that He is not only the sole author of nature but the eternal and ultimately sole cause of goodness in man. To Him in the last resort all is due, not only the provision of atonement but the power and will to embrace it. The great passages which set before us a "fore-defining" (proorisis, "predestination") and election of the saints are all evidently inspired by this motive, the jealous resolve to trace to the one true Cause all motions and actions of good. The apostle seems e.g. almost to risk affirming a sovereign causation of the opposite, of unbelief and its sequel. But patient study will find that it is not so. God is not said to "fit for ruin" the "vessels of wrath." Their woeful end is overruled to His glory, but nowhere is it taken to be caused by Him. All along the writer’s intense purpose is to constrain the actual believer to see the whole causation of his salvation in the will and power of Him whose inmost character is revealed in the supreme fact that, "for us all," "he spared not his Son."
(3) Doctrine of Son of God--Redemption; Justification.
The Epistle affords materials for a magnificently large Christology. The relation of the Son to creation is indeed not expounded in terms (as in Col), but it is implied in the language of Romans 8, where the interrelation of our redemption and the transfiguration of Nature is dealt with. We have the Lord’s manhood fully recognized, while His Godhead (as we read in 9:5; so too Robertson, ut supra) is stated in terms, and it is most certainly implied in the language and tone of e.g. the close of Romans 8. Who but a bearer of the Supreme Nature could satisfy the conception indicated in such words as those of 8:32,35-39, coming as they do from a Hebrew monotheist of intense convictions? Meantime this transcendent Person has so put Himself in relation with us, as the willing worker of the Father’s purpose of love, that He is the sacrifice of peace for us (Romans 3), our "propitiatory" One (hilasterion, is now known to be an adjective), such that (whatever the mystery, which leaves the fact no less certain) the man who believes on Him, i.e. (as Romans 4 fully demonstrates) relies on Him, gives himself over to His mercy, is not only forgiven but "justified," "justified by faith." And "justification" is more than forgiveness; it is not merely the remission of a penalty but a welcome to the offender, pronounced to be lawfully at peace with the eternal holiness and love.
See [[Justification]]; [[Propitiation]].
In closest connection with this message of justification is the teaching regarding union with the Christ who has procured the justification. This is rather assumed than expounded in Romans (we have the exposition more explicitly in Eph, Col, and Gal), but the assumption is present wherever the pregnant phrase "in Christ" is used. Union is, for Paul, the central doctrine of all, giving life and relation to the whole range. As Lightfoot has well said (Sermons in Paul’s, number 16), he is the apostle not primarily of justification, or of liberty, great as these truths are with him, but of union with Christ. It is through union that justification is ours; the merits of the Head are for the member. It is through union that spiritual liberty and power are ours; the Spirit of life is from the Head to the member. Held by grace in this profound and multiplex connection, where life, love and law are interlaced, the Christian is entitled to an assurance full of joy that nothing shall separate him, soul and (ultimately) body, from his once sacrificed and now risen and triumphant Lord.
(4) Doctrine of the Spirit of God.
No writing of the New Testament but John’s Gospel is so full upon this great theme as Romans 8 may be said to be the locus classicus in the Epistles for the work of the [[Holy Ghost]] in the believer. By implication it reveals personality as well as power (see especially 8:26). Note particularly the place of this great passage, in which revelation and profoundest conditions run continually into each other. It follows Romans 7, in which the apostle depicts, in terms of his own profound and typical experience, the struggles of conscience and will over the awful problem of the "bondage" of indwelling sin. If we interpret the passage aright, the case supposed is that of a regenerate man, who, however, attempts the struggle against inward evil armed, as to consciousness, with his own faculties merely, and finds the struggle insupportable. Then comes in the divine solution, the promised Spirit of life and liberty, welcomed and put into use by the man who has found his own resources yam. "In Christ Jesus," in union with Him, he "by the Spirit does to death the practices of the body," and rises through conscious liberty into an exulting hope of "the liberty of the glory of the sons of God"--not so, however as to know nothing of "groaning within himself," while yet in the body; but it is a groan which leaves intact the sense of sonship and divine love, and the expectation of a final completeness of redemption.
(5) Doctrine of Duty.
While the Epistle is eminently a message of salvation, it is also, in vital connection with this, a treasury of principle and precept for the life of duty. It does indeed lay down the sovereign freedom of our acceptance for Christ’s sake alone, and so absolutely that (Ro 6:1,2,15) the writer anticipates the inference (by foes, or by mistaken friends), "Let us continue in sin." But the answer comes instantly, and mainly through the doctrine of union. Our pardon is not an isolated fact. Secured only by Christ’s sacrifice, received only by the faith which receives Him as our all, it is ipso facto never received alone but with all His other gifts, for it becomes ours as we receive, not merely one truth about Him, but Him. Therefore, we receive His Life as our true life; and it is morally unthinkable that we can receive this and express it in sin. This assumed, the Epistle (Romans 12 and onward) lays down with much detail and in admirable application large ranges of the law of duty, civil, social, personal, embracing duties to the state, loyalty to its laws, payment of its taxes, recognition of the sacredness of political order, even ministered by pagans; and also duties to society and the church, including a large and loving tolerance even in religious matters, and a response to every call of the law of unselfish love. However we can or cannot adjust mentally the two sides, that of a supremely free salvation and that of an inexorable responsibility, there the two sides are, in the Pauline message. And reason and faith combine to assure us that both sides are eternally true, "antinomies" whose harmony will be explained hereafter in a higher life, but which are to be lived out here concurrently by the true disciple, assured of their ultimate oneness of source in the eternal love.
(6) Doctrine of Israel.
Very briefly we touch on this department of the message of Romans, mainly to point out that the problem of Israel’s unbelief nowhere else in Paul appears as so heavy a load on his heart, and that on the other hand we nowhere else have anything like the light he claims to throw (Romans 11) on Israel’s future. Here, if anywhere, he appears as the predictive prophet, charged with the statement of a "mystery," and with the announcement of its issues. The promises to Israel have never failed, nor are they canceled. At the worst, they have always been inherited by a chosen remnant, Israel within Israel. And a time is coming when, in a profound connection with Messianic blessing on the Gentiles, "all Israel shall be saved," with a salvation which shall in turn be new life to the world outside Israel. Throughout the passage Paul speaks, not as one who "will not give up a hope," but as having had revealed to him a vast and definite prospect, in the divine purpose.
It is not possible in our present space to work out other lines of the message of Romans. Perhaps enough has been done to stimulate the reader’s own inquiries.
Of the Fathers, Chrysostom and Augustine are pre-eminent as interpreters of Romans: Chrysostom in his expository Homilies, models of eloquent and illuminating discourse, full of "sanctified common sense," while not perfectly appreciative of the inmost doctrinal characteristics; Augustine, not in any continuous comm., but in his anti-Pelagian writings, which show the sympathetic intensity of his study of the doctrine of the Epistle, not so much on justification as on grace and the will. Of the Reformers, Calvin is eminently the great commentator, almost modern in his constant aim to ascertain the sacred writer’s meaning by open-eyed inference direct from the words. On Romans he is at his best; and it is remarkable that on certain leading passages where grace is theme he is much less rigidly "Calvinistic" than some of his followers. In modern times, the not learned but masterly exposition of [[Robert Haldane]] (circa 1830) claims mention, and the eloquent and highly suggestive expository lectures (about the same date) of [[Thomas Chalmers]]. H. A. W. Meyer (5th edition, 1872, English translation 1873-1874) among the Germans is excellent for carefulness and insight; Godet (1879, English translation 1881) equally so among French-writing divines; of late English interpreters I. A. Beet (1877, many revisions), Sanday and Headlam (1895, in the" International" series) and E. H. Gifford (admirable for scholarship and exposition; his work was printed first in the Speaker’s (Bible) Comm., 1881, now separately) claim particular mention. J. Denney writes on Romans in The Expositor’s Greek Test. (1900).
Luther’s lectures on Romans, delivered in 1516-1517 and long supposed lost, have been recovered and were published by J. Ficker in 1908. Among modern German commentators, the most important is B. Weiss in the later revisions of the Meyer series (9th edition, 1899), while a very elaborate commentary has been produced by Zahn in his own series (1910). Briefer are the works of Lipsius (Hand-Kommentar, 2nd edition, 1892, very scholarly and suggestive); Lietzmann (Handbuch zum N T, interest chiefly linguistic), and Julicher (in J. Weiss, Schriften des NTs, 2nd edition, 1908, an intensely able piece of popular exposition).
A. E. Garvie has written a brilliant little commentary in the "(New) Century" series (no date); that of R. John Parry in the Cambridge Greek Testament, 1913, is more popular, despite its use of the Greek text. F. B. Westcott’s Paul and Justification, 1913, contains a close grammatical study with an excellent paraphrase.
The writer may be allowed to name his short commentary (1879) in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and a fuller one, in a more homiletic style, in the Expositor’s Bible, 1894.