Are you a Christian?
PREVIOUS SECTION - NEXT SECTION - HELP
Or rather we should go back to the beginning of his argument. Having then mentioned the state of things in Elijah’s time, and shown what grace is, he proceeds, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for.” Now this is as much what an accuser would say, as what one who was putting a question. For the Jew, he means, is inconsistent with himself when he seeketh for righteousness, which he will not accept. Then to leave them with no excuse, he shows, from those who have accepted it, their unfeeling spirit, as he says, “But the election hath obtained it,” and they are the condemnation of the others. And this is what Christ says, “But if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Wherefore they shall be your judges.” (Luke xi. 19.) For to prevent any one from accusing the nature of the thing, and not their own temper, he points out those who had obtained it. Hence he uses the word1508
See how he has been bold enough to tell with his own voice the casting off of the rest. For he had indeed spoken of it already, but it was by bringing the prophets in as accusers. But from this point he declares it in his own person. Still even here he is not content with his own declaration, but brings Isaiah the prophet in again. For after saying, “were blinded,” he proceeds; “according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber.” Now whence came this blinding? He had indeed mentioned the causes of it before, and turned it all upon their own heads, to show that it was from their unseasonable obstinacy that they had to bear this. And now he speaks of it too. For when he says, “Eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear,” he is but finding fault with their contentious spirit. For when they had “eyes to see” the miracles, and were possessed of “ears to hear” that marvellous Teaching, they never used these as were fitting. And the “He gave,” do not imagine to mean here an agency, but a permission only. But “slumber” (καταάνυξις lit. piercing) is a name he here gives to the habit of soul inclinable to the worse, when incurably and unchangeably so. For in another passage David says, “that my glory may sing unto Thee, and I may not be put to slumber” (Ps. xxx. 12, LXX.): that is, I may not alter, may not be changed. For as a man who is hushed to slumber in a state of pious fear would not easily be made to change his side; so too he that is slumbering in wickedness would not change with facility. For to be hushed1510
That is, let their comforts and all their good things change and perish, and let them be open to attack from any one. And to show that this is in punishment for sins that they suffer this, he adds, “and a recompense unto them.”
Do these things then still require any interpreting? Are they not plain even to those ever so senseless? And before our words, the very issue of facts has anticipated us in bearing witness to what was said. For at what time have they ever been so open to attacks? at what time such an easy prey? at what time hath He so “bowed down their backs?” At what time have they been set under such bondage? And what is more, there is not to be any unloosing from these terrors. And this the prophet hath also hinted. For he does not say only, “bow Thou down their back,” but, “forever bow Thou down.” But if thou art disposed to dispute, O Jew, about the issue, from what hath gone before learn also the present case. Thou didst go down to Egypt; and two hundred years passed, and God freed thee speedily from that bondage, and that though thou wert irreligious, and wentest a whoring with the most baneful whoredom. Thou wast freed from Egypt, and thou didst worship the calf, thou didst sacrifice thy sons to Baalpeor, thou didst defile the temple, thou didst go after every sort of vice, thou didst grow not to know nature itself. The mountains, the groves, the hills, the springs, the rivers, the gardens didst thou fill with accursed sacrifices, thou didst slay the prophets, didst overthrow the altars, didst exhibit every excess of wickedness and irreligion. Still, after giving thee up for seventy years to the Babylonians, He brought thee back again to thy former freedom, and gave thee back the temple, and thy country, and thy old form of polity1511
When he has shown that they were liable to evils without number, then he devises an allayment. And consider the judgment of Paul. The accusation he had introduced from the prophets, but the allayment he makes come from himself. For that they had sinned greatly, he would say, none will gainsay. But let us see if the fall is of such kind as to be incurable, and quite preclude their being set up again. But of such kind it is not.1512
This language is not his own only, but in the Gospels too the parables mean this. For He who made a marriage feast for His Son, when the guests would not come, called those in the highways. (Matt. xxii. 9). And He who planted the Vineyard, when the husbandmen slew the Heir, let out His Vineyard to others. (ib. xxi. 38, etc.) And without any parable, He Himself said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (ib. xv. 24.) And to the Syrophœnician woman, when she persevered, He said somewhat further besides. “It is not meet,” He says, “to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs.” (ib. xv. 26.) And Paul to those of the Jews that raised a sedition, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken unto you: but seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy, lo, we turn unto the Gentiles.” (Acts xiii. 46.) And throughout it is clear that the natural course of things was this, that they should be the first to come in, and then those of the Gentiles; but since they disbelieved, the order was reversed; and their unbelief and fall caused these to be brought in first. Hence it is that he says, “through their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” But if he mentions what the course of things issued in, as if the chief design of Providence, do not feel surprised. For he wishes to solace their down-stricken souls, and his meaning is about this. Jesus came to them; they did not receive Him, though He did countless miracles, but crucified Him. Hence He drew the Gentiles to Him, that the honor they had, by cutting them to the heart for their insensibility might at least out of a moroseness against others persuade them to come over. For they ought to have been first admitted, and then we. And this was why he said, “For it is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” (Rom. i. 16.) But as they had started off, we the last became first. See then how great honors he gathers for them even from this. One that he says, we were then called, when they were not willing; a second that he says, the reason of our being called was not that we only might be saved, but that they also, growing jealous at our salvation, might become better. What does he say then? that if it were not for the Jews’ sake, we should not have been called and saved at all? We should not before them, but in the regular order. Wherefore also when He was speaking to the disciples, He did not say barely, “Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt. x. 6), but, “Go rather to the sheep,” to show that to those parts also they must come after these. And Paul again saith not, “It was necessary that the word of God should have been spoken unto you,” but “should first have been spoken unto you” (Acts xiii. 46), to show that in the second place it must be to us also. And this was both done and said, that they might not be able, shameless though they were, to pretend that they were overlooked, and that was why they did not believe. This then was why Christ, though he knew all things before, yet came to them first.
Here he is speaking to gratify them. For even if these had fallen a thousand times, the Gentiles would not have been saved unless they had shown faith. As the Jews likewise would not have perished unless they had been unbelieving and disputatious. But as I said, he is solacing them now they are laid low, giving them so much the more ground to be confident of their salvation if they altered. For if when they stumbled, he says, so many enjoyed salvation, and when they were cast out so many were called, just consider what will be the case when they return. But he does not put it thus, When they return. Now he does not say “how much more their” return, or their altering, or their well-doing, but “how much more their fulness,” that is, when they are all about coming in. And this he said to show that then also grace and God’s gift will do the larger part, or almost the whole.
Ver. 13, 14. “For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office; if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”
Again he endeavors much to get himself clear of untoward suspicion. And he seems to be blaming the Gentiles, and to be humbling their conceits, yet he gives a gentle provocation to the Jew also. And indeed he goes round about seeking to veil and allay this great ruin of theirs. But he finds no means of doing it, owing to the nature of the facts. For from what he had said, they deserved but the greater condemnation, when those who were far short of them had taken the good things prepared for them. This is why then he passes from the Jews to those of the Gentiles, and puts in between his discourse the part about them, as wishing to show that he is saying all these things in order to instruct them to be reasonable. For I praise you, he means, for these two reasons; one, because I am necessitated to do so as being your commissioned minister; the other, that through you I may save others. And he does not say, my brethren, my kinsmen; but, “my flesh.” And next, when pointing out their disputatious spirit, he does not say, “if by any means I may” persuade, but, “provoke to jealousy and save;” and here again not all, but, “some of them.” So hard were they! And even amid his rebuke he shows again the Gentiles honored, for they are causes of their salvation, and not in the same way. For they became purveyors of blessings to them through unbelief, but these to the Jews by faith. Hence the estate of the Gentiles seems to be at once equal and superior. For what wilt thou say, O Jew? that if we had not been cast out, he would not have been called so soon? This the man of the Gentiles may say too, If I had not been saved, thou wouldest not have been moved to jealousy. But if thou wouldest know wherein we have the advantage, I save thee by believing, but it is by stumbling that thou hast afforded us an access before thyself. Then perceiving again that he had touched them to the quick, resuming his former argument, he says,
Yet this again condemns them, since, while others gained by their sins, they did not profit by other men’s well doings. But if he asserts that to be their doing which necessarily happened, be not surprised: since (as I have said several times) it is to humble these, and to exhort the other, that he throws his address into this form. For as I said before, if the Jews had been cast away a thousand times over, and the Gentiles had not shown faith, they would never have been saved. But he stands by the feeble party, and gives assistance to the distressed one. But see also even in his favors to them, how he solaces them in words only. “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world,” (and what is this to the Jews?) “what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?” Yet even this was no boon to them, unless they had been received. But what he means is to this effect. If in anger with them He gave other men so great gifts, when He is reconciled to them what will He not give? But as the resurrection of the dead was not by the receiving of them, so neither now is our salvation through them. But they were cast out owing to their own folly, but it is by faith that we are saved, and by grace from above. But of all this nothing can be of service to them, unless they show the requisite faith. Yet doing as he is wont, he goes on to another encomium, which is not really one, but which only seems to be, so imitating the wisest physicians, who give their patients as much consolation as the nature of the sickness allows them. And what is it that he says?
So calling in this passage by the names of the first-fruit and root Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, the prophets, the patriarchs, all who were of note in the Old Testament; and the branches, those from them who believed. Then since the fact met him that many had disbelieved, observe how he undermines (ὑποτέμνεται, see p. 345) it again, and says,
And yet above thou didst say that the more part perished, and a few were saved only. How came it then that speaking of those that perished, thou hast used a “some,” which is indicative of fewness? It is not, he replies, in opposition to myself, but out of a desire to court and recover those that are distressed. Observe how in the whole of the passage one finds him working at this object, the wish to solace them. And if you deny it, many contradictions will follow. But let me beg you to notice his wisdom, how while he seems to be speaking for them, and devising a solace for them, he aims a secret blow at them, and shows that they are devoid of all excuse, even from the “root,” from the “first-fruit.” For consider the badness of the branches, which, when they have a sweet root, still do not imitate it; and the faultiness of the lump, when it is not altered even by the first-fruit. “And if some of the branches were broken off.” However, the greater part were broken off. Yet, as I said, he wishes to comfort them. And this is why it is not in his own person, but in theirs, that he brings in the words used, and even in this gives a secret stroke at them, and shows them to have fallen from being Abraham’s kinsmen. (Matt. iii. 9.) For what he was desirous of saying was, that they had nothing in common with them. (John viii. 39.) For if the root be holy, and these be not holy, then these are far away from the root. Then under the appearance of solacing the Jews, he again by his accusation smiteth them of the Gentiles. For after saying, “And if some of the branches were broken off,” he proceeds.
“And thou being a wild olive wert grafted in.”
For the less esteem the man of the Gentiles is of, the more the Jew is vexed at seeing him enjoy his goods. And to the other, the disgrace of the little esteem he was of, is nothing to the honor of the change. And consider his skilfulness. He does not say, “thou wert” planted “in,” but “thou wert grafted in,” by this again cutting the Jew to the heart, as showing that the Gentile man was standing in his own tree, and himself lying on the ground. Wherefore he does not stop even here, nor after he had spoken of grafting in does he leave off (and yet in this he declared the whole matter), but still he dwells over the prosperous state of the Gentile, and enlarges upon his fair fame in the words, “And with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” And he seems indeed to have viewed him in the light of an addition. But he shows that he was no whit the worse on that account, but in possession of everything, that the branch which had come up out of the root had. Lest then on hearing the words, “and thou wert grafted in,” thou shouldest suppose him to be lacking when compared with the natural branch, see how he makes him equal to it by saying, that “with them thou partakest of the root and fatness of the olive:” that is, hast been put into the same noble rank, the same nature. Then in rebuking him, and saying,
Ver. 18. “Boast not against the branches.” He seems indeed to be comforting the Jew, but points out his vileness and extreme dishonor. And this is why he says not, “boast not,” but, “boast not against” do not boast against them so as to sunder them. For it is into their place that ye have been set, and their goods that ye enjoy. Do you observe how he seems to be rebuking the one, while he is sharp upon the other?
“But if thou boast,” he says, “thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”
Now what is this to the branches that are cut off? Nothing. For, as I said before, while seeming to devise a sort of weak shadow of consolation, and in the very midst of his aiming at the Gentile, he gives them a mortal blow; for by saying, “boast not against them,” and, “if thou boast, thou bearest not the root,” he has shown the Jew that the things done deserved boasting of, even if it was not right to boast, thus at once rousing him and provoking him to faith, and smiting at him, in the attitude of an advocate, and pointing out to him the punishment he was undergoing, and that other men had possession of what were their goods.
Again he establishes, by way of objection, the opposite to the former position, to show that what he said before, he had not said as directly belonging to the subject, but to draw them to him. For it was no longer by their fall that salvation came to the Gentiles, nor was it their fall that was the riches of the world. Nor was it by this that we were saved, because they had fallen, but the reverse. And he shows that the providence in regard to the Gentiles was a main object, even though he seems to put what he says into another form. And the whole passage is a tissue of objections, in which he clears himself of the suspicion of hatred, and makes his language such as will be acceptable.
So here another encomium, and for the other party an accusation. But he again lays their pride low by proceeding to say, “be not high-minded, but fear.” For the thing is not matter of nature, but of belief and unbelief. And he seems to be again bridling the Gentile, but he is teaching the Jew that it is not right to cling to a natural kinsmanship. Hence he goes on with, “Be not high-minded,” and he does not say, but be humble, but, fear. For haughtiness genders a contempt and listlessness. Then as he is going into all the sorrows of their calamity, in order to make the statement less offensive, he states it in the way of a rebuke given to the other as follows:
Ver. 21. “For if God spared not the natural branches,” and then he does not say, neither will He spare thee, but “take heed, lest He also spare not thee.” So paring (ὑποτεμνόμενος) away the distasteful from his statement, representing the believer as in the struggle, he at once draws the others to him, and humbles these also.
And he does not say, Behold thy well doing, behold thy labors, but, “Behold the goodness of God” toward man, to show that the whole comes of grace from above, and to make us tremble. For this reason for boasting should make thee to fear: since the Lord (δεσπότης) hath been good unto thee, do thou therefore fear. For the blessings do not abide by thee unmovable if thou turnest listless, as neither do the evils with them, if they alter; “For thou also,” he says, “unless thou continue in the faith, wilt be cut off.”
“For God is able,” he says, “to graft them in again,” since He doeth things beyond expectation. But if thou wishest for things to be in order, and reasons to be consecutive, you have from yourselves a demonstration which more than meets your wants.
Ver. 24. “For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted1516
Meaning by mystery here, that which is unknown and unutterable, and hath much of wonder and much of what one should not expect about it. As in another passage too he says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” (1 Cor. xv. 51.) What then is the mystery?
“That blindness in part hath happened unto Israel.” Here again he levels a blow at the Jew, while seeming to take down the Gentile. But his meaning is nearly this, and he had said it before, that the unbelief is not universal, but only “in part.” As when he says, “But if any hath caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part” (2 Cor. ii. 5): And, so here too he says what he had said above, “God hath not cast off His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. xi. 2): and again, “What then? Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid” (ib. 11): This then he says here also; that it is not the whole people that is pulled up, but many have already believed, and more are likely to believe. Then as he had promised a great thing, he adduces the prophet in evidence, speaking as follows. Now it is not for the fact of a blindness having happened that he quotes the passage (for every one could see that), but that they shall believe and be saved, he brings Isaiah to witness, who crieth aloud and saith,
Not when they are circumcised, not when they sacrifice, not when they do the other deeds of the Law, but when they attain to the forgiveness of sins. If then this hath been promised, but has never yet happened in their case, nor have they ever enjoyed the remission of sins by baptism, certainly it will come to pass. Hence he proceeds,
And even this is not all he says to solace them, for he uses what had already come about. And what came in of consequence, that he states as chiefly intended, putting it in these words,
That the Gentile then might not be puffed up, and say, “I am standing, do not tell me of what would have been, but what has been,” he uses this consideration to bring him down, and says, “As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes.” For when you were called they became more captious. Nevertheless God hath not even now cut short the calling of you, but He waiteth for all the Gentiles that are to believe to come in, and then they also shall come. Then he does them another kind favor, by saying, “As touching election, they are beloved for the fathers sakes.” And what is this? for wherein they are enemies, punishment is theirs: but wherein they are beloved, the virtue of their ancestors has no influence on them, if they do not believe. Nevertheless, as I said, he ceaseth not to solace them with words, that he may bring them over. Wherefore by way of fresh proof for his former assertion, he says,
Ver. 30–32. “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.”
He shows here that those of the Gentiles were called first. Then, as they would not come, the Jews were elected, and the same result occurred again. For when the Jews would not believe, again the Gentiles were brought over. And he does not stop here, nor does he draw the whole to a conclusion at their rejection, but at their having mercy shown them again. See how much he gives to those of the Gentiles, as much as he did to the Jews before. For when ye, he would say, “in times past did not obey,” being of the Gentiles, then the Jews came in. Again, when these did not obey, ye have come. However, they will not perish forever. “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief,” that is, hath convinced them, hath shown them disobedient; not that they may remain in disobedience, but that He may save the one by the captiousness of the other, these by those and those by these. Now consider; ye were disobedient, and they were saved. Again, they have been disobedient, and ye have been saved. Yet ye have not been so saved as to be put away again, as the Jews were, but so as to draw them over through jealousy while ye abide.
Here after going back to former times, and looking back to God’s original dispensation of things whereby the world hath existed up to the present time, and having considered what special provision He had made for all occurrences, he is stricken with awe, and cries aloud, so making his hearers feel confident that certainly that will come to pass which he saith. For he would not have cried aloud and been awe-struck, unless this was quite sure to come to pass. That it is a depth then, he knows: but how great, he knows not. For the language is that of a person wondering, not of one that knew the whole. But admiring and being awe-struck at the goodliness, so far forth as in him lay, he heralds it forth by two intensitive words, riches and depth, and then is awestruck at His having had both the will and the power to do all this, and by opposites effecting opposites. “How unsearchable are His judgments.” For they are not only impossible to be comprehended, but even to be searched. “And His ways past finding out;” that is, His dispensations for these also are not only impossible to be known, but even to be sought into. For even I, he means, have not found out the whole, but a little part, not all. For He alone knoweth His own clearly. Wherefore he proceeds:
What he means is nearly this: that though He is so wise, yet He has not His Wisdom from any other, but is Himself the Fountain of good things. And though He hath done so great things, and made us so great presents, yet it was not by borrowing from any other that He gave them, but by making them spring forth from Himself; nor as owing any a return for having received from him, but as always being Himself the first to do the benefits; for this is a chief mark of riches, to overflow abundantly, and yet need no aid. Wherefore he proceeds to say, “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.” Himself devised, Himself created, Himself worketh together (Vulg. συγκρατεἵ, mss. συγκροτεἵ ). For He is rich, and needeth not to receive from another. And wise, and needeth no counsellor. Why speak I of a counsellor? To know the things of Him is no one able, save Himself alone, the Rich and Wise One. For it is proof of much riches that He should make them of the Gentiles thus well supplied; and of much wisdom that He should constitute the inferiors of the Jews their teachers. Then as he was awe-struck he offers up thanksgiving also in the word, “To Whom be glory forever. Amen.”
For when he tells of any great and unutterable thing of this kind, he ends in wonder with a doxology. And this he does in regard to the Son also. For in that passage also he went on to the very same thing that he does here. “Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, Who is over all God blessed forever. Amen. (Rom. ix. 5.)
Him then let us also imitate, and let us glorify God in all things, by a heedful way of life, and let us not feel confidence in the virtues of our ancestry, knowing the example that has been made of the Jews. For this is not, certainly it is not, the relationship of Christians, for theirs is the kinsmanship of the Spirit. So the Scythian becometh Abraham’s son: and his son on the other hand more of an alien to him than the Scythian. Let us not then feel confidence in the well-doings of our fathers (most mss. “of others”), but if you have a parent who is a marvel even, fancy not that this will be enough to save you, or to get you honor and glory, unless you have the relationship of character to him. So too if you have a bad one, do not think that you will be condemned on this account, or be put to shame if at least you order your own doings aright. For what can be less honorable than the Gentiles? still in faith they soon became related to the Saints. Or what more nearly connected than the Jews? Yet still by unbelief they were made aliens. For that relationship is of nature and necessity, after which we are all relations. For of Adam we all sprung, and none can be more a relation than another, both as regards Adam and as regards Noah, and as regards the earth, the common mother of all. But the relationship worthy of honors, is that which does distinguish us from the wicked. For it is not possible for all to be relations in this way, but those of the same character only. Nor do we call them brothers who come of the same labor with ourselves, but those who display the same zeal. In this way Christ giveth men the name of children of God, and so on the other hand children of the devil, and so too children of disobedience, of hell, and of perdition likewise. So Timothy was Paul’s son from goodness and was called “mine own son”1520