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J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton
Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans (1916)







      [In Part I. of his Epistle (chaps. 1-8) Paul presented the great doctrine that righteousness and salvation are obtained through faith in Jesus Christ. But the unbelief of the Jews excluded them Generally from this salvation, yet "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22). The doctrine, and the situation engendered by it, raised before the minds of Paul's readers several great questions, such as these: How could Scripture, which promised blessings to the Jews, be fulfilled in a gospel which gave blessings to Gentiles to the exclusion of Jews? The covenants to Abraham guaranteed blessings to his seed, how, then, could the gospel be the fulfillment of these covenants when it brought blessing and salvation to the Gentiles, and rejection and damnation to the Jews, the seed of [373] Abraham? It is for the purpose of answering these and kindred questions which naturally arose out of the doctrine of the first part of his work, that this second part was written. As these questions arose out of the history of Israel, Paul naturally reviews that history, so Tholuck calls this second part of his work "a historical corollary." The apostle's effort is to show that the gospel of Christ, while it conflicts with the false doctrinal deductions which the Jews drew from their history, agrees perfectly with all correct deductions from that history.] 1 I say the truth in Christ [This is not an oath. Some modern, and most of the earlier, commentators suppose it is; but they forget that Deut. 6:13 is repealed at Matt. 5:33-37. If it were an oath, we would, in the absence of any verb of swearing, have the Greek preposition pros ("by") with the genitive, but instead we have en ("in") with the dative. His asseveration is, however, as solemn and binding as an oath, and is designed to give vehement emphasis to his words--comp. 2 Cor. 2:17: as though he said, "I speak the truth, for Christ is true, and I am a member in Christ, and he himself, therefore, speaks through me"--comp. Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21], I lie not [Such a coupling of the positive and negative for purposes of emphasis is common to Scripture. See Deut. 33:6; Isa. 38:1; John 1:20], my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit [my conscience, though enlightened, guided and made more than literally sensitive and accurate by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, still testifies that in this I am wholly and unequivocally truthful], 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. [Paul, in the depth of his passion, does not deliberately state the cause of his grief, but leaves it to be implied. His grief was that the gospel had resulted in the rejection of his own people, the Jews. He had closed the first part of his Epistle in a triumphant outburst of praise at the glorious salvation wrought by the gospel of belief in Christ, but ere praise has died on his lips, this minor wail of anguish opens the [374] second part of his Epistle because Israel does not participate in this glad salvation. "The grief for his nation and people," says Poole, "he expresseth, 1. By the greatness of it; it was such as a woman hath in travail; so the word imports. 2. By the continuance of it; it was continual, or without intermission. 3. By the seat of it; it was in his heart, and not outward in his face." And why does Paul asseverate so strongly that he feels such grief? 1. Because only himself and God (and God had to do with him through Christ and the Holy Spirit) knew the hidden secrets of his bosom. 2. Because without some such asseveration the Jews would hardly believe him in this respect. Even Christian Jews looked upon his racial loyalty with suspicion (Acts 21:20, 21); what wonder, then, if unbelieving Jews recorded him as the most virulent enemy of their race (Acts 28:17-19), and believed him capable of corrupting any Scripture to their injury, of inventing any doctrine to their prejudice, of perverting any truth into a lie to work them harm? (See 2 Cor. 6:8; 1:17; 2:17; 4:1, 2; 7:2, etc.) In their estimation Paul was easily capable of giving birth to this doctrine of salvation by faith for no other end than the joy of pronouncing their damnation for their unbelief. Yea, they could readily believe that his joy expressed at Rom. 8:31-39 was more due to the fact that Israel was shut out from salvation, than that there was salvation. To thoroughly appreciate the full bitterness of the Jewish mistrust and hatred toward Paul we must remember the constancy with which for years they persecuted him, and that very soon after the writing of this Epistle they occasioned his long imprisonment in Rome, and relentlessly persisted in their accusations against him till they became the immediate cause of his martyrdom. Therefore, in expressing his sorrow over the rejection of Israel, Paul pledges his truthfulness in Christ for whom he had suffered the loss of all things, and in the Holy Spirit who was wont to strike down all lying Ananiases (Acts 5:3-5), for it [375] was necessary, before another word be said, that every Jew should know that Paul's doctrine was not his own, that it did not arise in his mind because of any spleen, malice, hostility, illwill, or even mild distaste for the Jewish people. On the contrary, his personal bias was against the doctrine which he taught; and none knew this so well as the Christ with whom the doctrine arose, and the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to teach it.] 3 For I could wish [Literally, "I was wishing." Some therefore regard Paul as referring to his attitude to Christ while he was persecuting the church in the days before his conversion. But Paul is asserting his present love toward Israel, and his past conduct proved nothing whatever as to it. The tense here is the imperfect indicative, and is correctly translated "I could wish," for it indicates arrested, incomplete action, a something never finished; and it therefore often stands for the conjunctive. This potential or conditional force of the imperfect is, as Alford remarks, "no new discovery, but common enough in every schoolboy's reading." Paul means to say that he never actually formed this wish, but could conceive of himself as going to the length of forming it, if admissible--if it were merely a question of love toward his countrymen, and no obstacle intervened] that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake [The root idea of anathema is anything cut or torn off, anything separated or shut up. In the Old Testament the inanimate thing devoted or anathematized was stored up, while the animate thing was killed (Lev. 27:26-29). Compare the anathemas of Jericho and Achan (Josh. 6:16; 7:15, 22-26). But the New Testament prefers that use of the word which indicates spiritual punishment; viz., exclusion, banishment, as in the case of one resting under a ban (Gal. 1:8, 9; 1 Cor. 12:3; 16:22), for Paul certainly ordered no one to be physically put to death. The idea of banishment is, in this case, made even more apparent by the addition of the words "from Christ." Paul therefore means to say, "I may, indeed, [376] be regarded as an enemy of my people, delighting in their being excluded from salvation by their rejection of the gospel (as they indeed are--Gal. 1:8, 9; 5:4); but so far am I from doing this that I could, were it permissible, wish for their sakes that I might so exchange places with them that I might be cut off from Christ, and be lost, that they might be joined to him and be saved. For their sakes I could go into eternal perdition to keep them from going there." Men of prudent self-interest and cold, speculative deliberation regard Paul's words as so unreasonable that they would pervert them in order to alter their meaning. They forget that Judah offered to become a slave in Benjamin's stead (Gen. 44:18-34); that David wished he had died for Absalom (2 Sam. 18:33), and that the petition of Moses exceeded this unexpressed wish of the apostle (Ex. 32:32). They are blind to the great truth that in instances like this "the foolishness of God" (even operating spiritually in men of God) "is wiser than men" (1 Cor. 1:25). No man can be a propitiation for the souls of other men. Only the Christ can offer himself as a vicarious sacrifice for the lives of others so as to become in their stead a curse (Gal. 3:13), abandoned of God (Mark 15:34). But surely the true servant of Christ may so far partake of the Spirit of his Master as to have moments of exalted spiritual grace wherein he could wish, were it permissible, to make the Christlike sacrifice. (Comp. 2 Cor. 12:15; Phil. 2:17; 1 Thess. 2:8; 1 John 3:16.) In this instance we may conceive of Paul as ardently contemplating such a wish, for: 1. He had prophetic insight into the age-long and almost universal casting off of the Jews, and their consequent sorrows and distresses, all of which moved him to unusual compassion. 2. He had also spiritual insight into the torments of the damned, which would stir him to superhuman efforts on behalf of his people. 3. He could conceive of the superior honor to Christ if received by the millions of Israel instead of the one, Paul. 4. He could deem it a sweeter joy to [377] Christ to give salvation unto the many, rather than merely unto the one, Paul. 5. He could contrast the joys his exchange might give to the many with the single sorrow of damnation meted out to himself alone, and could therefore feel some satisfaction in contemplating such a sacrifice for such a purpose. (Comp. Heb. 12:2.) 6. Finally, just before this he has asserted the possibility of one dying for a righteous or good man (Rom. 5:7). If such a thing is possible, might not Paul be excused if he felt ready, not only to die, but even to suffer eternal exclusion from Christ, if his act could avail to save a whole covenanted people, so worthy and so loved of God, as Israel was shown to be by those honors and favors bestowed upon it, which he proceeds at once to enumerate? Under all the circumstances, therefore, it is apparent that such strong words and deep emotions are to be expected from one who loved as did Paul. For further evidences of his love toward churches and individuals, see 1 Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3, 4; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 1:2; Philem. 4; 2 Tim. 1:3, 4; 2 Cor. 11:28, 29], my kinsmen according to the flesh [And here we have the first impulse for the strong expression of passion just uttered. In the Jew an ardent family affection, blending with an intense national pride, combine to form a patriotism unparalleled in its fervor and devotion]: 4 who are Israelites [The first distinction of the chosen people was their descent from and right to the name "Israel": a name won by Jacob when, wrestling, he so prevailed with God that he was called Israel, or prince of God (Gen. 32:28), and also won for himself the unique honor of having all his descendants bear his name, and be accepted as God's covenant people]; whose is the adoption [i. e., the Sonship. Israel is always represented as the Lord's son or first-born, in contradistinction to the Gentiles, who are his creatures--Ex. 4:22, 23; 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:1: Isa. 1:2; Jer. 31:9; Hos. 11:1; Mal. 1:6], and the glory [The glory of having God manifested visibly as their friend and protector. This [378] glory was called the Shekinah and appeared in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Ex. 13:21, 22), and rested on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:16) and on the tabernacle (Ex. 29:43), and in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-38; Lev. 9:23, 24), and enlightened the face Moses (Ex. 34:29-35; 2 Cor. 3:7-18), and filled Solomon's temple (1 Kings 8:10, 11), and is thought to have abode between the cherubim, over the mercy-seat of the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:22; 29:43, Heb. 9:5), whence it is also thought that the ark itself is once called "the glory of Israel"--1 Sam. 4:21], and the covenants [Especially the Messianic and promised-land covenants given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to which may be added the covenants with Aaron (Ex. 29:9) and Phinehas (Num. 25:10-13), and those made with Israel on the plains of Moab (Deut. 29, 30) and at Shechem (Josh. 24:25), and the throne covenant with David--2 Sam. 7:12-17], and the giving of the law [It was given at Mt. Sinai directly from the person of God himself, and its retention in Israel was a notable mark of distinction between them and all other people, for it placed them under the divine government, as the peculiar heritage of Jehovah], and the service of God [The order of praise and worship in tabernacle and temple under charge of Levites and priests and explained at length in the Epistle to the Hebrews. "The grandest ritual," says Plumer, "ever known on earth, with its priests, altars, sacrifices, feasts, and splendid temple"], and the promises [The term "promise" is about the same as "covenant" (Acts 2:39; Rom. 15:8; Gal. 3:16; Eph. 2:12; Heb. 11:17). If there is any distinction to be drawn between the two words, covenant is the larger, including threatenings as well as assurances of grace. In the promises the threatenings are omitted, and the details of the good are enlarged]; 5 whose are the fathers [At Hebrews 11 we have the list of the chief of these fathers. They were Israel's pride and inspiration. "The heroes of a people," says Godet, "are regarded as its most precious treasure." [379] The three pre-eminent "fathers" were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--Ex. 3:6, 13, 15; 4:5; Matt. 22:32; Acts 3:13; 7:32], and of whom [i. e., of or descended from the fathers] is Christ as concerning the flesh [Paul's enumeration of Israel's endowments ends in this as the climax of all their glories when coupled with the statement as to the divine nature of this Christ. But to this climax Israel failed to attain. They accepted neither the humanity nor divinity of Christ, hence Paul's grief], who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. [These words have quite a history. None of the so-called Ante-Nicene Fathers (theologians who wrote prior to A. D. 325) ever thought of contorting them from their plain reference to Christ. Even among later writers, but two--Diodorus of Tarsus (bishop in A. D. 378; died in 394) and Theodore of Mopseustia (A. D. 350-429)--ever questioned their reference to Christ. Then came Erasmus (A. D. 1465-1536). This fertile genius seems to have exerted all his ingenuity on this passage, for, by changing the punctuation, he made it read four different ways, two of which have attracted some notice. The first of these reads thus: "Of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all. Blessed be God for ever. Amen." This effort to cut off the last clause and make a benediction of it is open to several objections; we note two. 1. It is too abrupt. 2. It is not grammatical if taken as a benediction, for to be in correct form eulogetos ("blessed") should precede Theos ("God"), but, instead, it follows it, as in narrative form (Rom. 1:25; 2 Cor. 11:31), which it is. The second reading makes the whole passage a benediction, thus: "Of whom is Christ concerning the flesh. Blessed for ever be God, who is over all. Amen." To this reading it may be properly objected: 1. That a benediction is contrary to the apostle's mood and thought. He is mourning over the rejection of Israel. Though he does recount the endowments of Israel, why should he burst forth in ecstatic benediction when all these endowments only [380] brought the heavier condemnation because of Israel's unbelief? 2. Why should he leave his analysis of Christ unfinished (compare the finished, similar analysis at Rom. 1:3, 4) to wind up in a benediction, when he might have finished his analysis and thereby laid, in a finished climax, a better basis for a benediction? 3. Again, the eulogetos still follows the Theos, when it should precede it to form a benediction, as it does above twenty times in Scripture (Luke 1:68; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3, etc.). 4. The ho oon, "who is," stands naturally as in apposition to the preceding subject, ho Christos, "the Christ," and if by any unusual construction it has been meant to be taken in apposition to Theos, "God," it is hardly conceivable that we should have had the participle oon, "is" (literally "being"), which under such a construction is superfluous and awkward. This untenable reading would soon have been forgotten, but, unfortunately, Meyer has given respectability to it by a long argument in its favor; in which he insists that the reading, "Christ.  . . who is over all, God blessed for ever," is contrary to the invariable teaching of Paul, who always recognizes the subordination of the Son to the Father and who does this by never calling the Son "God"; always reserving that title for the Father. It is true that Paul recognizes this subordination, and generally does it in the way indicated, but he does it as to Christ the unit; i. e., Christ the united compound of God and man. But Paul is here resolving that compound into its two elements; viz., Christ, man-descended after the flesh; and Christ, God after the Spirit. Now, when thus resolved into his elements, the divine in Christ is not described as subordinate to the Father, nor is the full measure of deity withheld from him. On the contrary, John and Paul (whom Meyer conceives of as disagreeing as to the Christ's subordination) agree perfectly in this, only Paul is even clearer and more explicit in his statement. John begins with our Lord before his divinity became compounded with humanity, and calls him [381] the Word. "In the beginning," says he, "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Surely there is no subordination indicated by John in treating of the separate divine nature of our Lord. Then he tells of the compounding of that divine nature with the human nature. "And the Word," says he, "became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Here, then, is that compounding of divinity and humanity which we call Jesus, and this Jesus is, according to John, subordinate to the Father. On this important point John lets the God-man speak for himself. "The Father," says Jesus, "is greater than I" (John 14:28). Now let us compare this teaching with the doctrine of Paul. "Have this mind in you," says he, "which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God" (that is, when he was what John calls the Word; when he was not as yet compounded with humanity), "counted not the being on an equality with God" (here Paul is more explicit than John in asserting our Lord's unsubordinate condition before he became incarnate) "a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men" (equivalent to John's "the Word became flesh," after which follows the statement of subordination; viz.); "and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross," etc. (Phil. 2:5-11). To one, therefore, who carefully compares these passages, it is apparent that according to apostolic doctrine Jesus, the unit, is subordinate to the Father, but when Jesus is separated by analysis into his component parts, his divine nature is God, and equal with God (Col. 2:9). At Rom. 1:3, 4 this divine nature is called "Son of God"; here it is called "God over all, blessed for ever." So Meyer's contention against the reading of the text is not well taken. The natural reading refers the words to Christ, and there is good Scriptural reason why this should be done, for all things here said of Christ rest on [382] Scriptural authority; for (1) he is called God (Isa. 9:6; John 1:1; Phil. 2:5-11; John 20:28; Tit. 1:3; 2:13; 3:4, 6; Col. 2:9. Comp. 1 Tim. 2:5 with Acts 20:28, and the "my church" of Matt. 16:18). (2) The term eulogetos may be fittingly applied to him, for it is even applied to mere men by the LXX. (Deut. 7:14; Ruth 2:20; 1 Sam. 15:13), and is no stronger than the term "glory" (2 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 13:21; 2 Tim. 4:18). (3) Christ himself claims to be "over all" (John 3:31; Matt. 28:18), and it is abundantly asserted that such is the case (Phil. 2:6-11; Eph. 1:20-23; Rom. 10:12; Acts 10:36). So complete is his dominion that Paul deems it needful to expressly state that the Father is not made subordinate (1 Cor. 15:25-28). The whole passage, as Gifford well says, constitutes "a noble protest against the indignity cast upon him (Christ) by the unbelief of the Jews."]

[TCGR 373-383]

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J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton
Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans (1916)

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