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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle continues the subject of the rejection of the Jews, and dilates on the cause of this rejection, as assigned, verse 30, of the preceding; but in order to remove the harshness involved in the announcement of the rejection of the Jews, he expresses his affectionate feelings towards them, and his anxious desire for their salvation (verse 1). He bears testimony to their zeal—a zeal, however, which missed its true object, Christ (1–4). Having referred (verse 3), to the system of justice at variance with the true justice of God, which the Jews vainly endeavoured to establish, he proves from Moses the superiority of the justice by faith (5–8), and he reduces the duties of a Christian life to two heads, faith in the heart and its external profession, both of which, of course, accompanied with the other conditions which faith prescribes, confer justice on all men, without distinction of Jew or Gentile (8–13).

He takes occasion to justify his mission of preaching among the Gentiles, since otherwise they would not become partakers of the blessings which God had designed for them as well as for the Jews (14–16). He shows, from Moses and Isaias, that God had determined to call the Gentiles, and to reject the Jews, on account of their obstinacy and resistance to his gracious calls and invitations (17–21).

Paraphrase

1. Brethren (these matters I mention not from feelings of dislike, but rather of commiseration), since I entertain for them, i.e., the Israelites, the most heartfelt benevolence, and an ardent desire for their salvation, and in consequence, I continually pray to God for them.

2. For (without excusing their incredulity) I bear witness to their great zeal for God’s honour, a zeal, however, not regulated by the proper knowledge, but rather directed to a wrong end, and to a false object.

3. For, not knowing the true justice which God bestows on us gratuitously through faith, and vainly endeavouring to establish a justifying system of their own, at variance with the system of justification established by God, far from submitting to, they reject, this true justice of God given through faith in Christ.

4. They seem ignorant that the scope to which the law tends, the ultimate end to which it conducts us, is Christ, who alone confers real and internal justice, which is derived from faith in him by every believer.

5. Now, Moses pointed out the clearest difference and opposition between the justice of the law and that of faith, and gives a decided preference to the latter. Of the justice resulting from the external observance of the law, he says: “the man that shall do it,” (thereby implying difficulty and work to be done), “shall live by it,” i.e., shall not forfeit his temporal life, the forfeiture of which was the punishment annexed to the violation of the law, thereby assigning it for reward, temporal life.

6. Whereas, in speaking of the justice coming through faith (to which his words—Deut. 30—in their mystical signification refer), he says, “who shall ascend into heaven,” in order to bring down Christ, the object of our faith?

7. Or, who can cross the sea, or “descend into the deep,” which mystically signifies to descend into the bowels of the earth, and bring up Christ, the object of our faith?

8. But let us hear what the Scripture says on the subject; the matter is neither difficult nor remote from thee, it is in thy mouth and in thy heart; by acts of both one and the other, that is, by internal acts of faith, and by the external profession of the same, thou canst attain to this true justice. The whole gospel which we preach is reduced to this narrow compass.

9. If, then, you believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth, that Jesus Christ our Lord is Son of God, and became incarnate and suffered for us, and that God raised him from the dead, you shall obtain the salvation of true justice here, and of eternal glory hereafter.

10. For, the interior assent and faith of the heart is required to obtain justice, but the external profession of the same faith is necessary to preserve this justice and obtain final salvation.

11. This is clearly proved from Scripture (Isaias 38:16), Whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded, or frustrated in his expectations.

12. By saying, “whosoever,” the Scripture removes all distinction, whether of Jew or Gentile, without exception; for God is equally the Supreme Lord of all, and the riches of his bounty are held out to all who sincerely invoke Jesus as the Messiah.

13. We have in proof of this, the testimony of the prophet Joel (2:32), Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) shall be saved.

14. But since we must believe in God before invoking his name, how can men invoke God in whom they have not believed? or, how shall they be able to believe in him, unless they first hear of him? or, how shall they be able to hear of him, unless there be some person to make him known to them by preaching?

15. But how shall heralds of salvation preach him with permanent success, unless they are his own appointed messengers receiving a commission from him? It is of those preachers only, sent by divine commission, that we are to understand the words of the prophet (Isaias, 52:7): How joyous the approach of those preachers of the gospel, who announce to us peace, reconciliation with God, and all good things conducive to salvation!

16. But, although the advent of the heralds of salvation is thus pleasing; still, all men do not obey the gospel. This, however, is not to be wondered at; since, it was predicted by Isaias, who, in the person of the Apostle, says, “how few have believed and obeyed the words they heard from us.”

17. From the foregoing (14–19), I conclude that faith comes from hearing, and the hearing, from which faith springs, comes from preaching the word of God.

18. But I ask, is it from want of hearing of the word of God that men have not embraced it? Certainly not. For, as the heavens, by their silent eloquence, proclaim the attributes and perfections of God throughout the entire extent of creation; so has the voice of the Apostles and of the heralds of divine truth been heard all over the globe.

19. And, again I ask, have not the Isarelites known that the Gospel was to be everywhere preached among the Gentiles, in order to bring about their conversion? Certainly, they have witnessed their conversion, but far from imitating, they have envied them on account of it, and persisted in their obstinate incredulity, both of which were predicted by the prophets. First, Moses, speaking in the person of God, displeased with the Jews, says to them, I will incite you to jealousy by a nation whom you contemned, as of no consideration, and I will irritate you and provoke you to wrath by a foolish nation, hitherto sunk in sin and idolatry, but on whom I shall bestow the choicest gifts of my grace and heavenly vocation.

20. But, again, Isaias, regardless of the anger of the Jews, boldly speaks out and says, in the person of Christ: I am found by those who heretofore had not sought me, I openly appeared, by the preaching of my gospel, to those who consulted not me, but their own foolish oracles.

21. But speaking of the rejection and obstinacy of Israel, he says, in the person of Christ During the entire day, i.e., continually, have I stretched out my hands to an incredulous, unbelieving people, to a people contradicting and thwarting my designs of mercy regarding them.

Commentary

1. The Apostle here expresses his affection and solicitude for the salvation of his Jewish brethren. “Is for them unto salvation,” in the ordinary Greek it is, ὑπὲρ του Ἰσραὴλ, “for Israel unto salvation.” There is no difference in the sense, since it is clear from the context, that “for them,” refers to the Israelites. Moreover, the chief MSS. have ὑπὲρ αυτῶν. The word “is” is wanting in the chief MSS. From the prayers of the Apostle for the conversion of the Jews is derived a probable argument to prove that in these chapters there is question, not of predestination to, or reprobation from, glory, but only of the grace of justification. In the prayers of St. Paul for the conversion of his Jewish brethren, the pastor of souls is furnished with the most affecting example of praying earnestly for the spiritual welfare of his people.

2. Without excusing their obstinate incredulity, which, considering the evidences of our Redeemer’s mission, was inexcusable, “now they have no excuse for their sin,” (John 15:22), he commends their good qualities; “but not according to knowledge.” Their zeal was not regulated by the proper knowledge; it was directed to a wrong object; its end was the Mosaic law, or justification through the works performed by the sole aid of the Mosaic law, which was a mistaken application of their zeal. How necessary prudence, as a quality of zeal, is, in order that our labours in the cause of God should prove beneficial. There is nothing more ruinous in its consequences, than the indiscreet exercise of intemperate, ill-regulated zeal. The proper exercise of charitable zeal never deals perversely.—(1 Cor. 13).

3. This verse serves as a clear elucidation of the meaning of verse 31, chap 9, “Seeking to establish their own,” to which is added, in the common Greek, “justice,” but it is not found in the chief MSS., which support the Vulgate.

4. That they were ignorant of the justice of God, is clear from the fact of their rejecting Christ, who is “the end of the law,” τελος νομου, i.e., the scope to which it tends. The law was never intended to be the ultimate resting-place, in which men were to find true justice; the term, or, “the end,” to which it was to bring us, “is Christ;” similar is the idea (Gal. 3:24), “the law was our pedagogue in Christ.” Others, by “the end of the law,” understood the fulfilment of the law; and then, Christ is the end of the law, because it is only by his grace that the law can be fulfilled; and this grace for fulfilling the entire law, comes through faith, since faith was at all times, even under the Old Law, necessary for justification. Others understand by it the termination of the law which was accomplished in Christ, and ceased at his coming.

5. Some Interpreters understand, by “the justice which is of the law,” mere external justice before men, and connect this verse with verse 3, thus: they are ignorant of the true justice of God, and establish a justice of their own; now, Moses pointed out a clear difference, &c.—(Vide Paraphrase). In this interpretation, “the justice which is of the law,” does not necessarily extend to all the precepts of the law, but to its more prominent precepts, to the external violation of which death is annexed, and by the observance of which, man shall escape the punishment of death, “he shall live in it,” though he might, in thought and will, violate them and incur the guilt of their violation before God. This opinion is rendered very probable by the evident contrast which the Apostle draws between this justice and that from faith.

Others make this “justice which is of the law,” refer to true justice arising from the observance of the law, factores legis justificabuntur—(2:13). These connect this verse with verse 4, thus: the end of the law is Christ, since without him it could not be observed, and to its observance Moses attributes eternal life (verse 5), while in regard to the justice of faith, he merely treats of it as easy of attainment (verses 6, 7). If the antithesis clearly instituted by the Apostle between the justice or the law and that of faith could be borne out in this latter interpretation, it would seem preferable to the former, inasmuch as we never find the Apostle ascribing any reward to the justice said to arise from works performed by the sole aid of the natural law, or the law of Moses, which would be conveyed in the words, “shall live in it,” according to the former interpretation: but, as this antithesis is excluded, the former interpretation is preferred in the Paraphrase. It might be also said in support of the interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase, that the Apostle is only quoting Moses, and that he even wishes to depreciate the justice of the law, which merely has for recompense temporal life, while he extols true justice on two grounds—1st, on the ground of its facility (verses 6, 7, 8), and 2ndly, on account of its eternal reward, “thou shalt be saved,” (verse 9).

6. Whereas, speaking of the justice of faith, Moses says (Deut. 30): “This commandment that I command thee this day is not above thee, nor far off from thee, nor is it in heaven, that thou shouldst say: which of us can go up into heaven,” &c. These words, in their primary and literal signification, refer to the law which Moses was about giving to the Jews. But in their mystical signification, given here by the Apostle, and explained in the words, “that is, to bring Christ down,” they refer to Christian faith, or the justice of faith, which is quite easy and within reach, involving no insurmountable difficulty, such as ascending into heaven to bring down Christ, the object of our faith, or, “crossing the sea to fetch it,” which is the reading in Deut. 30. The reading in Deuteronomy differs not in sense from that of St. Paul here, “descend into the deep,” which, in its literal meaning, refers to fetching the law, but in its mystical meaning is explained by the Apostle to mean, “to bring up Christ again from the dead.” i.e., it is not necessary to descend into the bowels of the earth to know and firmly believe that Christ descended there, who is the object of our faith. These words, as mystically explained by the Apostle, have reference to the leading principal mysteries of Christian faith.

8. Our faith does not, any more than the law, demand any such impossibilities; of it are also verified these words, which originally were spoken of the law, “What saith the Scripture?” the word “Scripture” is not in the Greek, which simply is, but what saith it? according to this, the nominative to “saith” is, the justice of faith (verse 6), what saith the justice? &c. “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart.” As the law was in the mouths and hearts of the Jews, so is it with our faith. “This is the word of the faith,” &c., i.e., the word of faith which we preach is the same, as the preceding words spoken in reference to the law.

9. All you require is, to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who descended from heaven, became man, and died for us, and believe in his resurrection, or “that God hath raised him,” &c., and profess the same externally, and you “shall be saved,” i.e., you shall obtain not temporal life—the reward of the law—but life eternal. The raising of Christ from the dead being an act of power, is, by appropriation, ascribed to God the Father. These are the leading articles of our faith. Of course, under them are included the other articles of faith necessary to be believed, together with faith, hope, charity, without which, man, although he have true faith, cannot be saved. The words, “thou shalt be saved,” like the attribute of every affirmative proposition, are understood restrictively. Instead, then, of going up to heaven to bring down Christ, or descending to the abyss, all you require is, to believe in your heart and profess with your mouth, that Christ did come, &c., and “you shall be saved,” the other conditions, the principal of which is the performance of good works, being observed.

10. The external profession of our faith is, sometimes, an imperative duty, under pain of mortal sin, and, therefore, necessary to preserve justice and sanctifying grace.

11. He proves the truth of his assertion (verse 9), viz., that by believing in Christ, whosoever thou art, “thou shalt be saved.” This he shows from the prophet Isaias (28.) Whosoever believeth in him shall not be confounded, i.e., frustrated in his expectation. Hence, he is here treating of faith to which hope is annexed—(See 9:33). The prophecy of Isaias, just quoted, regards the Messiah, since by “him” is meant the Messiah.

12. The Apostle assigns a reason, why no distinction should be made between Jew and Gentile; because God is equally the Supreme Lord of all, and “rich,” i.e., bountiful towards all who invoke him, and profess him to be the Son of God.

13. He proves from the prophet (Joel 2) that God is bountiful to all, without exception, who call on his name, “Whosoever shall call,” etc. We have the authority of St. Peter (Acts, 2:17–37), that these words of Joel are to be referred to our Lord Jesus Christ.

14. The Apostle takes occasion, from the general promises of God regarding Jew and Gentile alike, to justify his own mission and preaching among the Gentiles. He shows the necessity of preaching, in order that they might be partakers in the rich blessings which God has in store for them; he proceeds, step by step, from invocation to faith; from faith to hearing; from hearing to preaching; from preaching to mission; so that, in a certain sense, mission becomes, in this summary recapitulation, the basis of our salvation; since, without this mission on the part of God, imparted to his preachers, the people shall not have true faith, nor the true worship of God. From this the Apostle leaves it to be inferred, that, as God is rich in bounty towards the Gentiles, and since, for the communication of his blessings, preaching the gospel with a legitimate mission is necessary, he himself has preached to the Gentiles by the orders and commission of God himself.

There are many Divines who, from this passage, undertake to prove the necessity of having a doctrine propounded by the true Church, before it can become a point even of divine faith; in other words, they assert that the proposition of a doctrine by the true Church enters the formal object of faith. At all events, we can clearly infer from this passage, that the preaching through a legitimate ministry is the ordinary means of imparting the true faith, and that God will not permanently impart his sanction to a system of faith promulgated by an uncommissioned teacher. In fact, it is clearly inferable that in the ordinary Providence of God, a divine mission and appointment are necessary for the due effect of preaching the Gospel; for, it is on this supposition that the Apostle’s argument in favour of his own mission among the Gentiles is based. God might, undoubtedly, by interior inspirations, teach an infidel the necessary truths of faith. He might also, if he pleased, aid, by the interior enlightenment of grace, the preaching of an heretical minister propounding, in a particular instance, revealed truth, so as to beget faith in the hearers; but, this is not in accordance with his ordinary Providence; nor can we admit for an instant, that he would give permanent stability to any system of faith emanating from such a teacher.

15. As it is written (Isaias 52:7), “How beautiful.” i.e., such a mission from God is necessary, in order that the teachers would be the true heralds of salvation, in whom shall be verified the words of the prophet, “How beautiful,” &c. These words, in their literal and primary signification, refer to the messengers who first brought the news of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and in their mystical signification, to the preachers of the Gospel. The Apostle here follows, with the omission of the unimportant words, (upon the mountains), the Hebrew version, which runs thus: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, and that preacheth peace; of him that sheweth forth good,” &c. The quotation differs widely from the Septuagint, which most probably had been corrupted in this passage of Isaias.

16. “Our report,” in Greek, τῇ ἀκουῇ ἡμῶν, our hearing, or the doctrine heard from our preaching. He answers the objection by showing that this obduracy was predicted by Isaias.

17. This is the point which he wished to establish (verse 14), “How shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? “And hearing by the word of Christ.” In the ordinary Greek, ῤήματος θεου, the word of God. The chief MSS. have, Χριστου, “of Christ.”

18. “Their sound hath gone forth,” &c. These words are quoted by the Apostle from Psalm 18:5, according to the Septuagint version of the Psalms. In their primary and literal signification, they refer to the heavenly bodies, and the order and harmony of the visible creation, which so eloquently proclaim the glory and attributes of God: but in their mystical signification, they refer to the preaching of the Apostles. In this sense they are to be regarded as a prophecy in the text of David, which prophecy, St. Paul announces, was about to be accomplished, and shall be gradually fulfilled before the end of the world; and hence, the Apostle, as well as the Psalmist, employs words of the past tense, “hath gone forth,” on account of the certainty of its accomplishment; or it might be said, that the prediction was really accomplished in the days of the Apostle; because the Apostles and the first heralds of salvation had announced the Gospel in the principal places of the world, from which the fame of their preaching had been heard throughout the rest of the globe. It is to be observed, that in this, and the following verse, 19, the Apostle meets a twofold objection, which the Jews might allege in excuse for their incredulity, viz., that they did not hear the Gospel, or were ignorant of its communication to the Gentiles, and so might be excused from embracing it. The first is answered in this verse., and the second, next verse, where Moses, their own favourite legislator, predicts the call of the Gentiles.—(Beelen).

19. In this is shown how inexcusable the Jews were, who not only heard of it, but even saw the Gentiles converted. This conversion, far from bringing them to the faith, was even the occasion of rage and jealousy. “I will provoke you to jealousy, &c.” (Deut. 32). Moses and Isaias both predict the universal extension of the preaching of the Gospel; and hence, the Jews had no excuse for their incredulity on this head. “Not a nation,” i.e., a contemptible people held by you in no esteem. “I will anger you,” by bestowing on them benefits, which the Jews regarded as exclusively their own birthright.

20. But Isaias loudly speaks out, for which and similar predictions he was sawn in two, according to tradition. “I was found by them,” &c. (Isaias, 65:1). From these words the Apostle proves that the Gentiles were to be converted and the Jews to be hardened.

21. But it is Israel that he regards in the words (61:2), “all the day long,” i.e., continually, “have I spread my hands,” used every exertion to bring to me “a people that contradieteth me.” Such, we know, was the harsh treatment which our Divine Redeemer received from the Jews, although he incessantly preached, performed miracles of beneficence, and exhibited, on many occasions, manifestations of his Divinity, amongst them. Some Expositors understand the words of the Prophet to regard Christ’s crucifixion, during which his hands were streched out to his cruel executioners.

From this we can see how fearful a thing it is to neglect corresponding with divine grace. How fervently should we not pray against being delivered over to a reprobate sense, to the dreadful judgment of abandonment by God, in punishment of our resistance to his precious calls and inspirations. From a neglect of thy holy inspirations, deliver us, O Lord! O Mary! who hast ever corresponded, in a most perfect degree, with divine grace, pray for us.








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