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Commentary on The Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans

1:1-7 Paul adapts and expands the conventional introduction of ancient epistles ("A to B, greetings") by filling it with Christian elements. In addition to his name (1:1) and the destination of the letter (1:7), he states his apostolic calling (1:1), introduces the gospel (1:2-5), and replaces the customary wish for good health with one for [g]race and peace (1:7). Back to text.

1:1 Paul: A Roman surname used consistently since the early days of his apostolic ministry (Acts 13:9). Before this he went by his Hebrew birth name, "Saul". Like Paul, many Jews of the NT period had both a Semitic and Hellenistic name (Acts 1:23; 9:36; 12:12; 13:1). a servant: Or, "a slave". Paul does not use this term to suggest that his submission to Christ is degrading or inhuman. The point is that Paul has made his entire life a gift to Christ and has placed all of his talents and energies at the service of the mission assigned to him (CCC 876). an apostle: An emissary or messenger sent by the risen Jesus to spread the gospel (1 Cor 9:1; Gal 1:1). • Paul right away calls himself an apostle, not to boast of his authority, but so that others will be moved to read the letter more earnestly and attentively (Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Interpretation of Romans). set apart: Even before birth Paul was consecrated for his apostolic mission (Gal 1:15). Back to text.

1:2 in the holy Scriptures: The gospel message is a biblical message that was prophesied and prefigured long ago in the Hebrew Scriptures (15:4; 16:26). This conviction is amply attested in Romans, where Paul appeals to the OT more than 60 times in the span of 16 chapters (CCC 121-23). Back to text.

1:3-4 Possibly an excerpt from an ancient hymn or creed of the Church. It does not reflect on the two natures of Christ, human and divine, but delineates two phases of his incarnate life as a man (2 Tim 2:8). The dividing line between these phases is the Resurrection: Jesus was born of the royal line of David according to the flesh (Rom 1:3); then, by his rising from the dead, his humanity was reborn to a heavenly life of kingship by the power of the Spirit (1:4). These verses build on classic messianic ideas found in the Jewish literature of the period. Back to text.

1:3 concerning his Son: In the translation, this phrase modifies "the gospel" of v. 1. It can also modify "the holy Scriptures" of v. 2. The latter option would suggest that Paul had specific OT passages about the "Son" in mind. • Two passages fit the description: 2 Sam 7:14 and Ps 2:7, which both refer to a Davidic ruler. In ancient Israel, the kings in David's line were designated the "sons" of Yahweh by a decree of royal adoption on the day of their enthronement. Paul sees this pattern elevated to a new level on Easter morning, when the Davidic humanity of Jesus was anointed for eternal kingship and made to share in the glory of his divine Sonship (Acts 13:33-34). This event, culminating in the enthronement of Jesus in heaven, fulfilled Yahweh's covenant oath to establish the royal throne of David for ever (Ps 89:3-4; 132:11; Lk 1:32-33; Acts 2:29-36). Back to text.

1:4 designated: Or "appointed". Paul is saying, not that Jesus became the divine Son of God only at his rising, but that the glory of his divine Sonship is now manifest in his resurrected humanity (CCC 445, 648). Back to text.

1:5 the obedience of faith: Probably means "the obedience that is faith" or "the obedience that springs from faith". The expression stands like two bookends at the beginning and end of Romans (16:26). It holds the epistle together around the central theme of faith, which is the act of trusting in God and entrusting oneself to God. Faith inspires love (Gal 5:6) and is the indispensable basis for a living relationship with Christ (Rom 1:17; Heb 11:6) (CCC 143, 1814). among all the nations: Paul was appointed an apostle both to the "Gentiles" (11:13) and to the "sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Back to text.

1:8 in all the world: The Church in Rome was already admired the world over as a living exemplar of Christian faith (16:19). Its reputation continued to grow as Peter and Paul ministered to the Roman Church and were martyred there in the mid 60s. This led the early Christians to shift their attention from Jerusalem to Rome as the new center of apostolic authority and tradition. See note on Acts 12:17Back to text.

1:11 I long to see you: An ambition fulfilled when Paul came to Rome as a prisoner around A.D. 60 (Acts 28:14-16). Back to text.

1:14 Greeks: Cultured peoples of the Mediterranean who spoke Greek. barbarians: Peoples of the Mediterranean who spoke languages other than Greek and followed their own indigenous customs. For Paul's missionary encounters with barbarians, see Acts 14:8-18 and 27:1-10. Back to text.

1:16 I am not ashamed: Paul was neither bashful nor embarrassed when it came to spreading the gospel. Boldness was necessary to overcome the hardened opposition of Jews and Greeks who considered the message scandalous and even ridiculous (1 Cor 1:23). Encouragement came from the gospel itself, as Paul witnessed its power to save bursting forth into lives of believers (1 Cor 1:18). Jew first and also to the Greek: Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles equally but sequentially. The conviction that Israel stood first in line for the blessings of the Messiah was also that of Jesus (Mt 15:24) and Peter (Acts 3:26). See note on Acts 13:5Back to text.

1:17 righteousness of God: A towering theme of the Book of Romans. It has two related meanings. (1) It denotes the covenant faithfulness of Yahweh revealed through the history and Scriptures of Israel. God shows himself righteous when he keeps his promises and fulfills his covenant commitments to bless the righteous and rain curses upon the wicked (Neh 9:8; Ps 50:6; 143:11; Dan 9:14; Zech 8:8). (2) It also denotes an inward grace that establishes the faithful in a right covenant relationship with God (5:17; Phil 3:9). These two meanings work together in Romans, especially in 3:21-26. See word study: Justified at 2:13. through faith for faith: From start to finish, the Christian life advances by faith. The expression that Paul uses here suggests he envisions a steady increase in faith (the same prepositions are used in the same sequence in the Greek versions of Ps 84:7 and Jer 9:3). He who through faith: A citation from Hab 2:4. • Habakkuk receives a word of hope in the midst of a message of judgment. Although Yahweh was sending Babylonian hordes to punish Israel for its sins, he promised to spare the just man who keeps faith. Received in faith, Paul's gospel offers the same hope of deliverance in the face of the coming judgment (2:5-11). Back to text.

1:18-3:20 Paul paves the way for good news with the bad news of human sin. He declares all nations guilty before God, the Gentiles for rejecting the natural revelation of God in the world (1:18-32), and Israel for spurning the supernatural revelation of God in the Scriptures (2:1-3:20) (CCC 401). Back to text.

1:18-32 Paul reflects on the moral and spiritual depravity of the Gentiles. Although God placed himself and his law within the reach of their rational minds (1:19), they defiantly turned their backs to him, piling ingratitude upon impiety (1:21) until their sins smothered his truth within their consciousness (1:18). This is the underlying cause of their foolish and idolatrous ways. • Paul's diagnosis of pagan corruption has close affinities with the Jewish assessment in Wis 11-14. Back to text.

1:18 the wrath of God: Not a surge of anger and emotion that overcomes God, but a fixed response or reflex of divine holiness toward sin. Back to text.

1:20 his invisible nature: Paul contends that our minds can rise to a knowledge of God's power and divinity by reflecting on the grandeur of the world (Wis 13:5; Acts 17:2628). Failure to do this is inexcusable since God has made it possible everywhere and at all times (CCC 1147). Atheism and idolatry are thus moral problems and only secondarily intellectual problems (CCC 2125). • Vatican I decreed in 1870 that God's existence can be known with certainty by the light of human reason (Dei Fiiius, chap. 2). This confirmed centuries of theological tradition, which developed numerous philosophical arguments for the existence of one Supreme Being (CCC 3135). Back to text.

1:21 minds were darkened: Persistence in sin has damaging effects on the human faculties: the mind gradually darkens to a point of intellectual blindness, and the heart gradually hardens and grows cold to the love and laws of God (Eph 4:17-18). Back to text.

1:23 exchanged the glory: Idolatry is the most conspicous error of paganism. It is the sin of worshiping created things in place of the Creator (1:25; Wis 13:10). Gentiles of the biblical period worshiped images of men (Greeks) and animals (Egyptians) (CCC 2112-14). • Paul alludes to Ps 106:20 as a subtle reminder that Israel, too, has stumbled down the path of idolatry. Although Yahweh strictly forbade Israel to manufacture graven images (Ex 20:4), at its weaker moments the nation venerated figures of men (Ezek 16:17), beasts (Ex 32:4), and reptiles (2 Kings 18:4). Back to text.

1:24 God gave them up: God does not hold back his judgment on sin until the end of history but manifests it throughout history as well (Ps 81:12; Acts 7:42). One severe form of judgment is for God to allow recalcitrant sinners to continue in their sin. The graces that would have moved sinners to repentance have been rejected. As a consequence, a dulled moral sense and intense, disordered desires are forms of punishment that such hardened sinners often experience when they revel in their sin. Paul sees this sort of punishment at work among the Gentiles, whom God has handed over to a thousand obscenities and sins against nature (1:26, 28) because they would not acknowledge him or his truth (1:21, 25, 28, 32). In effect, God says to them, "Have it your way." Back to text.

1:27 passion for one another: Homosexual activity is expressly condemned in the OT (Lev 18:22; 20:13) as well as the NT (1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10). It is a grave disorder that victimizes both men and women and turns them away from each other and their natural complementarity. For Paul, sexual rebellion against nature (1:26) is the fallout of spiritual rebellion against God (CCC 2357-59). Back to text.

1:28-32 One of several lists of vices in Paul's writings (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21). Here Paul is showing how chaos erupts in families and society when the relationship between God and man breaks down (CCC 1852-53). Back to text.

1:32 they know God's decree: Even the pagans possess a moral awareness of right and wrong. Because of this, they can no more defer responsibility for their wickedness than plead ignorance of God's existence (1:21) (CCC 1776, 1954). approve those who practice them: The Gentiles are guilty of adulation, i.e., the sin of applauding others for their wrongdoing. Praising sinners is itself sinful because it emboldens them to continue in their evil ways. Back to text.

2:1-3:20 Paul narrows his indictment of the world to target the failures of Israel. He charges the Jews with committing the same sins as the Gentiles (3:9), even though they have the light of the Torah to order their worship and guide their behavior. Stylistically, Paul begins in this section to employ a writing technique called a "diatribe", which consists of a lively debate between a writer (Paul) and a hypothetical conversation partner (a Jew, 2:17). Authors in Greek antiquity used this question-and-answer format to explain their ideas and anticipate objections. The technique is utilized throughout Romans (2:17-23; 3:1-9, 27-29; 4:1, etc.). Back to text.

2:3 escape the judgment of God?: Presumption was a temptation for many Jews in the biblical period, who believed their membership in the Old Covenant and their Israelite descent would exempt them from the judgments of God (Mt 3:9; Jn 8:33). Paul attacks this mind-set and the attitude of superiority that springs from it. Back to text.

2:4 forbearance: The time that God gives the sinner to repent is a grace (Wis 11:23; 2 Pet 3:9). To make light of this opportunity is to show contempt for his mercy. • Forbearance differs from patience in that God is forbearing to those who sin out of weakness, but he endures with patience those who sin deliberately and brazenly. And this patience has limits, as seen when God finally acts to drown the generation of the flood and destroy the godless of Sodom (Origen, Commentary on Romans 2, 3). Back to text.

2:6 according to his works: Paul looks ahead to the Last Day, when the life of every person is unrolled before God, and every thought (1 Cor 4:5), word (Mt 12:36), and deed (2 Cor 5:10) is weighed in the balance of divine justice. That God will determine his verdict on the basis of human works is a teaching that originates in the OT (Ps 62:12; Prov 24:12). It was later confirmed by Jesus (Mt 16:27) and reiterated by the apostles (2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pet 1:17). Paul is here stressing that Jews and Gentiles will be held to the same standard of judgment (CCC 682). Back to text.

2:8 those who are factious: Or, better, "those who are selfish". Back to text.

2:11 no partiality: The Jews can expect no favoritism over the Gentiles on the day God judges the world (Acts 10:34-35). It matters only that people repent of evil in time to live for God (2:7) instead of themselves and their shallow ambitions (2:8). Back to text.

2:13 not the hearers: Salvation is guaranteed, not to every Jew who hears the Torah read in the synagogue (Acts 15:21), but to those who put what they hear into practice (Jas 1:2225). Back to text.

2:14 by nature: The Greek expression can be understood in two ways. (1) If it modifies the verb "do", as in the translation, it means the Gentiles follow the natural law that God has inscribed on their hearts (CCC 1954, 2070). (2) If it modifies the verb "have", it means the Gentiles were not privileged by birth to possess the Mosaic Law. This is the sense of the expression in 2:27 (rendered "physically"). • When Paul says that the Gentiles keep the Law by nature, he means, not by nature apart from grace, but by nature that is healed and restored by grace (St. Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter 47). Back to text.

2:17-29 Paul rails against the Jew who boasts of possessing the Torah but fails to practice it. Already charged with presumption (2:4), he is now charged with hypocrisy (2:23). Back to text.

Word Study

Justified (Rom 2:13)

Dikaioō (Gk.): the verb means to "acquit", "vindicate", or "pronounce righteous" and is used 15 times in Romans and 24 times in the rest of the NT. It can describe how men make themselves out to be righteous (Lk 16:15) or verbally acknowledge the righteousness of God (Lk 7:29). In a legal context, a judge justifies the innocent when he acquits them of unproven charges (Ex 23:7; Deut 25:1; 1 Cor 4:4). Great theological significance is attached to this term when God is the one who justifies. Especially in Paul's writings it describes how God establishes man in a right covenant relationship with himself. This was made possible by the death of Christ (Rom 5:9), which frees us from sin (Acts 13:39; Rom 6:7) through the free gift of grace (Rom 3:24). This grace is received by faith (Rom 3:26; 5:1) in the liturgical context of Baptism (1 Cor 6:11). When God acquits the sinner, he also adopts the sinner as one of his own children, making him an heir of eternal life (Tit 3:7). For Paul, the justifying decree of God effects an inward transformation that makes us holy and righteous in his sight (Rom 5:19) (CCC 654, 1987-95).

2:19 a light . . . in darkness: Israel was called to share its wisdom with the nations as a living witness to the ways of righteousness. • This missionary vocation has roots in the Pentateuch (Deut 4:5-8) and comes to full expression in Isaiah (Is 42:6; 49:6). Paul charges that the Jews have fallen from this high calling: instead of being a iight to the Gentiles, they have become iike the Gentiles through their brazen transgressions of the Law. Back to text.

2:24 The name of God: A citation from the Greek version of Is 52:5. • Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that because their iniquities drove them into exile and scattered them among the nations, the very name and reputation of Yahweh are dishonored throughout the world. For Paul, continued infidelity to the Torah among the Jews perpetuates this shameful legacy. Back to text.

2:29 real circumcision: Physical circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 17:9-14) and the rite of initiation into the family of Israel (Lev 12:3). However, the Torah itself teaches that circumcision of the body points to a deeper need to circumcise the heart by consecrating it to God and cutting away its rebellious inclinations (Lev 26:41; Deut 10:16). God circumcises the hearts of believers in Baptism (Col 2:1112), just as he promised Moses he would do in the time of restoration (Deut 30:6). As a result, this spiritual procedure makes the literal procedure unnecessary and outdated in the new economy of grace (1 Cor 7:19; Gal 6:15; Phil 3:3). His praise: A wordplay on the term "Jew", which comes from the Hebrew name "Judah" and is related to the notion of "praise" (Gen 29:35). Back to text.

3:2 the oracles of God: The Torah spoken to Moses and written down for Israel. This gave a great advantage to the covenant people compared to the rest of the world because it ordered their worship, gave them clear guidelines for living, and drew them closer to God. An inventory of these benefits is listed in 9:4-5. Back to text.

3:3 faithfulness: Despite the transgressions of Israel, Yahweh never canceled his commitment to the people or his obligations to uphold the terms of his covenants (11:1). Back to text.

3:4 That you may be justified: A citation from Ps 51:4. • David is pleading for divine mercy. Though crushed by the weight of his sins, he dares not accuse God of wrongdoing but insists the Lord is perfectly just in sentencing the sinner and making him accountable for his misbehavior. Back to text.

3:8 do evil that good may come?: Someone has accused Paul of teaching that the end justifies the means. He vigorously denies this, holding that evil actions can never be done in the hope that something good will come of them. Both the act (means) and the intention (end) must be pure for our deeds to be morally acceptable (CCC 1789). Back to text.

3:9 under the power of sin: Paul builds his argument to a climax with the charge that every nation is in bondage to sin and in need of salvation. Not even the Jews, lavished with so many blessings and advantages, have been able to rise above their fallen nature and crowd sin out of their lives. Supporting testimony is heard from the Scripture passages cited in the following nine verses. Back to text.

3:10-18 Six citations from the OT confirm the charge that wickedness has flourished in Israel. The chain is made of links from Ps 14:3, Ps 5:9, Ps 140:3, Ps 10:7, Is 59:7-8, and Ps 36:1. •Many of these passages distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, suggesting that Paul is not condemning every single Israelite without exception. His point is that sin has taken hold of the covenant people as it has the rest of the world. He is likewise showing that sin, which has spread throughout the body of mankind, has also spread throughout the body of every man who is prone to use his members as instruments of wickedness (6:13). All but one of these passages highlights a part of the body in this way (throat, tongues, lips in 3:13, mouth in 3:14, feet in 3:15, eyes in 3:18). Back to text.

3:20 works of the law: Paul uses this expression eight times in his writings, twice in Romans (3:20, 28) and six times in Galatians (Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10). Christian scholarship, both ancient and modern, has understood it in different ways. (1) Some, like St. Augustine, take it to mean observance of the entire Law of Moses, whole and undivided. On this view, Paul contends that no act of obedience to the moral, ceremonial, or juridical commandments of the Torah can bring about the justification of the sinner. (2) Others, like St. Jerome, understand the expression to mean the ceremoniai iaws of Moses, such as circumcision, dietary laws, feast days, and Sabbath observance. On this view, Paul charges that the ritual works of the Torah, which defined the Jewish way of life during the Mosaic age, have become obsolete in the New Covenant and thus have no bearing on justification. Both views are correct in their proper context: initial justification in Baptism takes place apart from any observance of the Law whatever (Tit 3:4-7), whereas final justification at the Last Judgment takes place apart from the ceremonial works of the Law, but not apart from observing the moral commandments of the Law (Rom 2:13; Mt 19:16-19; 1 Cor 7:19; Jas 2:8-13). knowledge of sin: Because the Torah defines what is good and evil, it acts as a moral informant and makes the sins of Israel stand out in stark clarity (2:17-23; 7:7; Heb 10:1-3). See essay: The Works of the Law at Gal 3. Back to text.

3:21-26 Paul turns from the tragic history of sin (1:18— 3:20) to the redeeming work of Christ (3:21-8:39). These transitional verses resume Paul's discussion of the "righteousness of God" introduced in 1:16-17. Back to text.

3:21 the law and the prophets: The Scriptures prepared Israel for a Messiah who would conquer the devil (Gen 3:15), make atonement for sin (Is 53:10-12), and renew the heart of man (Ezek 36:25-27) through the founding of a New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34). Back to text.

3:23 all have sinned: Not all without exception (every human being), but all without distinction (Jews and Gentiles alike, 3:9; 10:12). That there are exceptions is clear: Jesus was sinless; children below the age of reason do not willfully commit sin; and tradition holds that Mary, by the grace of God, lived her entire life unstained by sin. Back to text.

3:24 redemption: A ransom price paid for the release of captives. See note on Eph 1:7Back to text.

3:25 an expiation: A sacrifice that wipes away sin. • The expression is used multiple times in the Greek OT for the mercy seat, or golden lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:17; Heb 9:5). The high priest of Israel sprinkled blood on the mercy seat once a year on the Day of Atonement to expiate the sins of the people and restore them to fellowship with Yahweh (Lev 16:1-34). For Paul, the mercy seat typifies Christ as the living seat of God's presence and the place where atonement is made with sacrificial blood (CCC 433). • Christ, who became an expiation by blood, teaches us to follow his example by the mortification of our members (St. Gregory of Nyssa, On Perfection). Back to text.

3:28 justified by faith: Faith is a gift of grace that moves us toward God (Phil 1:29). It leads to justification because it leads to Baptism (6:3-4; 1 Cor 6:11). The object of justifying faith is both personal and propositional: it embraces God as well as the revealed tenets of the gospel. Catholic theology holds that faith does not act alone in this process but reaches out with hope for divine mercy and love for the Lord. Faith manifests itself in the lives of believers through obedience (1:5), love (Gal 5:6), and good works (Eph 2:10). See essay: Faith and Works at Jas 2. works of law: For possible meanings of this, See note on Rom 3:20. • The Council of Trent decreed in 1547 that man, by his own efforts and works, can never merit the initial grace of justification that makes him a child of God and a member of the New Covenant. This grace is an entirely free gift from Jesus Christ conferred in Baptism (Sess. 6, chap. 8) (CCC 1987-2011). Back to text.

3:30 God is one: The monotheistic creed of ancient Israel (Deut 6:4). Paul draws an important lesson from it: because Jews and Gentiles have one and the same God, all are justified in one and the same way, i.e., by faith. Back to text.

4:1-25 Paul expounds the spiritual fatherhood of Abraham. He aims to show from Scripture that faith, not circumcision or observance of the Mosaic Law, makes us children of Abraham. Back to text.

4:1 our forefather: Paul continues to engage his rhetorical Jewish opponent (2:17). Back to text.

4:2 boast: By taking pride in a personal accomplishment. • The one who boasts in his works boasts in himself, but the one who boasts in his faith boasts in God. To observe the laws against stealing and murder is a small thing compared to believing that God can do all things (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 8). Back to text.

4:3 Abraham believed God: A citation from Gen 15:6. • Abraham takes God at his word when he embraces the promise of descendants, despite the obstacles of childlessness and old age (Gen 15:1-5). The Lord accepts his faith with an acknowledgment of his righteousness. Paul works forward from this passage to demonstrate in Rom 4:9-10 that the narrative sequence of the Abraham story in Genesis holds the key to a right understanding of justification: it shows us that Abraham was righteous by faith long before he was circumcised with the flint knife (Gen 17:24). Paul thus debunks a prevalent Jewish perception that circumcision, and the obligation to keep the Mosaic Law that follows from it, is indispensable for a covenant relationship with God (Acts 15:1-5) (CCC 144-46). Back to text.

4:4 one who works: Justification is a free gift of grace, not a wage that is owed on the principle of justice and fair compensation (6:23; Tit 3:5). reckoned: In secular Greek, the verb iogizomai is a business term for recording credits and debits. It can also be translated "counted". When Paul stresses that righteousness is booked to our credit as a gift, he does not imply that the gift is merely imputed to the believer in an external way. In his mind, the divine record corresponds to reality, that is, we are counted righteous because we are made righteous in Christ (5:19). Back to text.

4:7-8 Paul quotes Ps 32:1-2 to buttress his reading of Gen 15:6, showing again that justification takes place apart from circumcision and observance of the Torah. He is using a Jewish exegetical technique that links passages of Scripture together on the basis of common vocabulary. Note how the excerpts from Genesis and the Psalter both showcase the verb "reckon". • Psalm 32 celebrates divine forgiveness. As Paul points out, the Psalmist does not restrict this blessing to the people of the Mosaic covenant, i.e., to those who are circumcised (4:9) and trace their genealogy back to Abraham (4:12). Forgiveness is an essential part of justification in Pauline theology (Acts 13:38-39). Back to text.

4:11 father of all who believe: The fatherhood of Abraham is defined by imitation rather than generation. To be a part of his family is to share his faith, not necessarily his physical lineage (4:12, 16). without being circumcised: Given Paul's comments about true circumcision in 2:25-29, he is saying that Abraham is the father of true Jews, not all Jews. Jesus makes a similar point in Jn 8:39. Back to text.

4:13 inherit the world: God promised Abraham a worldwide family through his offspring (Gen 22:16-18) several centuries before the Law was given to Israel (Gal 3:17-18). This was the oath of universal blessing he swore when the patriarch was tested and found faithful (Sir 44:21) (CCC 705-6). Back to text.

4:15 the law brings wrath: Violation of the Law brings the curses of the Mosaic covenant upon transgressors (Lev 26:1433; Deut 27:15-26). Back to text.

4:17 I have made you: A citation from Gen 17:5. • The passage shows that God had already made Abraham the father of nations before he gave him the covenant of circumcision (Gen 17:9-14). In Paul's mind, this took place back in Gen 15:5-6, when the patriarch first believed that God would make him a father. It follows that circumcision, which came after his fatherhood was established by faith, cannot be the sign of Abrahamic sonship. calls into existence: Reflects the belief that God created all things out of nothing (2 Mac 7:28) (CCC 296). Back to text.

4:18-24 Paul sees a parallel between Christian faith and Abraham's faith. Abraham believed that God could bring new life (Isaac) from his and Sarah's dying bodies. Christians believe that God brought new life to the crucified body of Jesus by raising him from the dead. Back to text.

4:18 So shall your descendants: A citation from Gen 15:5. • God promised Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky. Back to text.

4:19 barrenness: The Greek is literally "death" or "deadness". Back to text.

4:25 raised for our justification: The Resurrection of Christ is more than a miracle and motive for faith. It is a saving event in its own right, since the dying and rising of Jesus together constitute his victory over sin and death (1 Cor 15:17-22). Baptism gives us a share is this double victory, for through it we die to sin and rise to new life with Christ (6:3-4). The death and resurrection of our souls will be followed by the death and resurrection of our bodies (8:10-11) (CCC 654-55). Back to text.

5:1-5 The justified are endowed with theological virtues. By faith, they live in peace with God and have access to his grace; in hope, they long for the glory of God that awaits them; and through love, they show that the charity of the Spirit dwells in their hearts (CCC 1813). Equipped in this way, believers can become more like Christ through endurance and suffering (CCC 618). See note on 1 Cor 13:13Back to text.

5:8 God shows his love: The dying of Christ shows us the depths of God's unconditional love for the world (1 Jn 3:16). This is all the more remarkable since the world, being "ungodly" (5:6) and "enemies" (5:10), did not deserve it (CCC 603-4). Back to text.

5:10 shall we be saved: Salvation can be described in terms of the past, present, and future. It is past with reference to Baptism, which saves us from the filth of our sins (1 Pet 3:21). It is a present reality when we allow grace to make us steadily more virtuous and holy (1 Cor 1:18). It is a future hope that we will for ever live with the Lord in glory (Heb 9:28) (CCC 169, 1026). Back to text.

5:12-21 Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. They are similar because their actions have had a great impact on the world, but dissimilar because Adam filled the world with misery and Christ redeemed the world from slavery to sin. Paul is stressing that the grace of Christ more than compensates for the damage done by Adam's rebellion (CCC 385, 388). Back to text.

5:12 through one man: Sin invaded the world through Adam, who allowed the temptations of his wife and the devil to overpower his commitment to God (Gen 3:1-7; Wis 2:24). death through sin: God warned Adam that death was the penalty for disobedience (Gen 2:17). His willful defiance in the face of this threat brought about the immediate death of his soul and the eventual death of his body (Gen 3:19). all men sinned: As the father of the human family, Adam turned away from God on our behalf. His rebellion was thus a representative act that not only injured himself, but dragged the entire family of man into suffering and separation from God (CCC 402-5). • The Council of Trent appealed to Rom 5:12 when it defined the doctrine of Original Sin in 1546 (Sess. 5). The doctrine holds that all descendants of Adam are born into the world in a state of spiritual death and in desperate need of salvation. The condition spreads, not by imitation (making the same mistake as Adam), but by propagation (by virtue of our genealogical link with Adam). Back to text.

Word Study

Type (Rom 5:14)

Typos (Gk.): "figure", "example", or "pattern". The word is used twice in Romans and 13 times in the rest of the NT. In general, a type is an impression or stamp made when an instrument strikes an object and leaves a mark that resembles the instrument. The NT uses the term is various ways and contexts. It can describe the nail prints in the hands of Jesus (Jn 20:25), a pattern of catechetical teaching (Rom 6:17), and examples of holiness displayed in the lives of believers (Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:7; Tit 2:7). In biblical theology, a type is a person, place, thing, event, or institution in Scripture that points to a future mystery. Romans 5:14 is a classic example: Paul shows that Adam, who shaped the destiny of man for the worst, was a type of Christ, who reverses the tragic effects of sin by his righteousness. Adam thus showed us in advance how the saving work of Jesus, the new Adam, would affect the entire world. Paul likewise interprets the experiences of Israel in the wilderness as warnings or types of the Church's experiences in the world (1 Cor 10:1-6). Peter sees the biblical flood as a prophetic type of Baptism (1 Pet 3:21) (CCC 128-30).

5:14 Yet death reigned: Death was the covenant curse set before Adam (Gen 2:17) and Moses (Deut 30:19). Although no positive law threatening death was issued during the centuries that intervened, men and women continued to suffer and die. This shows that the sin of Adam had a lasting and devastating effect on the world quite apart from the behavior of his first descendants (CCC 396). • Just as all who descend from Adam inherit death, though they do not eat from the tree themselves, so all who are joined to Christ inherit righteousness, though they do nothing to produce it themselves (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 10). Back to text.

5:19 made righteous: The essence of justification, which takes effect when God imparts the gift of righteousness to the believer (5:17; Phil 3:9). See word study: Justified at 2:13. Back to text.

5:20 to increase the trespass: The Torah aggravated the problem of sin because it defined the boundaries of wrongdoing (7:7) but could not restrain Israel from crossing them (7:12-24). The purpose was to induce Israel to acknowledge its weakness and cry out for divine help. • The Law was given that grace might be sought; grace was given that the Law might be kept (St. Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter 34). Back to text.

6:1-23 Paul addresses a potential misunderstanding: If our sins let loose a flood of divine grace (5:20), then why not continue in sin to unleash ever more grace? Such logic betrays the very purpose of grace, which is to forgive us of past sins and to assist us in avoiding future ones. For Paul, our liberty in Christ is not a license to sin (Gal 5:13). Back to text.

6:2 By no means!: A strenuous objection voiced often in Romans (3:4, 31; 6:15; 7:7; 9:14; 11:1). died to sin: The baptized are freed from the bondage of guilt and so die to their former life apart from Christ. Back to text.

6:4 by baptism into death: Baptism joins us to Christ crucified and risen, so that united with his death, our sins are put to death, and united with his rising, our souls are filled with life (4:25). Paul is alluding to the liturgy of Baptism, where the recipient is submerged in water as a body is buried in a grave, only to rise again to a new life with God (CCC 537, 628, 1214). Back to text.

6:6 our former man: The expression "old man" is used elsewhere in Eph 4:22 and Col 3:9. crucified with him: Paul makes a personal comment to this effect at Gal 2:20. Back to text.

6:7 is freed from sin: Literally, "is justified from sin" (CCC 1990). See word study: Justified at 2:13. Back to text.

6:9 never die again: Because Christ destroyed death by his own death, his risen humanity is for ever victorious over death (CCC 1085). Back to text.

6:12 Let not sin . . . reign: Sin is like a tyrant that orders our members into actions of wickedness. This enemy is to be fought, renounced, and subdued through the Spirit (8:13). Back to text.

6:14 under grace: The new position of the believer, who can master the urges of sin with the assistance of God. This inward strength to suppress our fallen inclinations was a grace not yet available to Israel living under the yoke of the Law (7:18). Back to text.

6:16 obedient slaves: It would be absurd for a slave, recently purchased to serve a new master (righteousness), to continue to serve the old one (sin). The first master leads to destruction and death (6:23), and the new master to sanctification and life (6:22). righteousness: A baptismal gift (5:17) as well as a future hope (Gal 5:5). Paul here refers to the righteous status that comes with the final justification of the saints at the Judgment (2:13). Back to text.

6:17 the standard of teaching: Possibly a baptismal creed recited and accepted by the Romans. Paul smiles at the news of their obedience to this standard (16:19). Back to text.

6:19 speaking in human terms: A mild apology for explaining Christian conversion in terms of commercial slave trading. There are obvious limits to the analogy, but Paul wants to ensure that his teaching is well understood. sanctification: Or, "holiness". It is a gift received in Baptism that gradually increases as the Spirit penetrates our hearts and lives over time (8:13-14). See word study: Sanctified at 1 Cor 6:11. Back to text.

6:23 the wages of sin: Death is the payment for service to sin, but eternal life is the gift that comes through Christ. Back to text.

7:1-6 Paul illustrates Christian freedom in terms of death and remarriage. Just as a woman is freed from the law of marriage when her spouse dies, so believers are freed from the Law of Moses (7:6) when they die to sin in Baptism (6:1-11). So, too, as the widow is free to remarry, the baptized are freed for a new marriage with Christ (7:2-4). Note that Paul is using the marital analogy to make the general point that death liberates us from law. The analogy breaks down when we insist that every detail must correlate with Paul's teaching (e.g., note how the surviving spouse remarries in 7:2-3, but the deceased spouse remarries in 7:4). Back to text.

7:3 called an adulteress: Paul echoes the teaching of Jesus that marriage is lifelong and exclusive (Mk 10:11-12). Remarriage after the death of a spouse is licit (1 Tim 5:14), but remarriage after divorce is forbidden when both spouses are living. For further details, see note on 1 Cor 7:15 and essay: Jesus on Marriage and Divorce at Mt 19. Back to text.

7:4 the body of Christ: The crucified humanity of Jesus. In other contexts, this expression denotes the mystical body of Christ, the Church (12:4-5; 1 Cor 12:12; Col 1:24). bear fruit for God: The goal of our marital union with Christ. In Paul's theology, this fruit is produced in our lives through the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) (CCC 2074). Back to text.

7:5 living in the flesh: i.e., living by the impulses of our fallen nature. Paul often speaks of "the flesh", not as the body per se, but as the whole range of weaknesses we inherited from Adam, including (1) our corruptible bodies (8:3); (2) our darkened minds (1:21); (3) our inability to obey God without grace (8:7); and (4) our inclinations toward sin (7:25). The desires of the flesh are directly opposed to the will of the Spirit. See note on Gal 5:16-24. our members: Our bodies can be used as instruments either of wickedness or of righteousness (6:13) (CCC 1995). Back to text.

7:6 held us captive: The Mosaic Law imprisoned the people of Israel in condemnation, revealing their sins (3:20) and magnifying their guilt (5:20). Although its written code made clear distinctions between good and evil, it gave them no assistance to obey it through the Spirit (CCC 1963). Back to text.

7:7-25 Paul contemplates the mystery of sin and man's natural inability to resist it. He defends the Law of Moses as innocent and good (7:12), but accuses sin of murder and enslavement (7:11, 23). To dramatize this, he personifies "sin" as a predator lurking in our members who deceives, kills, and wages war on our desire to follow God. Paul is approaching these issues from a Christian perspective, where the experience of grace magnifies the reality of sin. His consciousness of sin was not nearly so acute when he was a Pharisaic Jew (Phil 3:5). • The Law was given neither to create sin nor to remove sin, but merely to make it known. Thus the Law, in giving the soul a sense of guilt rather than innocence, makes it ready to receive grace (St. Augustine, To Simplician on Various Questions 1, 1). Back to text.

7:7 You shall not covet: The preface to the final two LIU commandments of the Decalogue (Ex 20:17). • The laws against coveting another's wife and property show that the Torah censures not just outward acts, but even interior acts hidden in the heart. So not only do the commandments heighten our awareness of sin (3:20), they show that our vulnerability to sin lies deep within. Back to text.

7:9 I was once alive: Paul speaks often in Romans 7 in the first person ("I" or "me"). Scholars ancient and modern have wrestled over the rhetorical implications of this. (1) Paul may be reflecting on his personal history, either as a Jew, confronted with the challenging demands of the Torah, or as a Christian, still fighting the inclination to sin in order to follow the Law. (2) Paul may be looking back on biblical history as sin was first experienced by Adam, who lived in innocence until he transgressed the commandment threatening death (Gen 2:17), or by Israel, who no sooner received the Law of the covenant than broke it (Ex 32:1-28). For the insertion of divine commandments into history at these two junctures, see 5:13-14. (3) Paul may be thinking of human history in general, so that his words describe the universal plight of all men apart from the saving grace of Christ. In the end, the third view is most likely Paul's intended meaning, although allusions at the level of personal and biblical history should not be ruled out. Back to text.

7:11 deceived: A form of this verb is used in the Greek version of Gen 3:13, where Eve blames the serpent for "beguiling" her into sin. Paul reflects on this tragedy elsewhere in 2 Cor 11:3 and 1 Tim 2:14. Back to text.

7:12 the law is holy: Because it promotes virtue and prohibits vice. It is likewise "the embodiment of knowledge and truth" (2:20); it is "spiritual" (7:14); and it is full of righteous requirements (cf. 8:4). Paul is here asserting the excellence of its moral commandments. Back to text.

7:13 death to me?: The Torah is not a murderer of souls. Sin is the real cause of death (5:12), which used the Law like a sword to kill us for our trespasses. Back to text.

7:15-20 On his own, man is unable to rise above his fallen condition or to close the distance between what he ought to do and what he actually does. This leads to the overwhelming sense of helplessness that Paul verbalizes in these verses (CCC 2542). Back to text.

7:23 the law of sin: Traditionally called concupiscence, which is the inclination of fallen man to misuse his free will in sinful and selfish ways. It manifests itself as an unremitting desire for pleasure, power, and possessions. Even the baptized have to wrestle with this inner force, although Paul insists that the Spirit can give us victory over its unmanageable urges (8:2, 13). So concupiscence remains in the believer, but it need not rule us like a tyrant (6:12-14) (CCC 405, 1426, 2520). Back to text.

7:24 Who will deliver me . . . ?: The desperate cry of humanity apart from Christ. Back to text.

7:25 I serve . . . sin: Insinuates that believers will continue to struggle with sin throughout their lives. There is thus an ongoing need for confession (1 Jn 1:9) and forgiveness (Mt 6:12). Back to text.

8:1-11 Romans 8 unveils the solution to the problem laid out in Romans 7. It is a divine solution orchestrated by the Trinity: The Father sent the Son to redeem the world from sin (8:3) and sent the Spirit to raise the world from death to new life (8:9-13). Back to text.

8:2 law of the Spirit: The power of grace we receive to counteract the downward pull of concupiscence, which Paul calls the "law of sin" (7:23). It is also the positive force of divine love that the Spirit pours into our hearts (5:5) and enables us to fulfill the righteous law of God (8:4; 13:810). Paul mentions the Spirit 18 times in this chapter. • The prophet Ezekiel envisioned Yahweh pouring the Spirit into his people and making them walk in his ways (Ezek 36:27). • The Spirit frees us, not from the Law of Moses, but from the law of sin, and this by slaying sin and helping us in the daily struggle against it (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 13). Back to text.

8:3 the likeness of sinful flesh: Christ did not become a ' sinner when he became man, but he did assume our mortal condition (Jn 1:14). This enabled him to die and, by this means, to defeat death and the devil for ever (Heb 2:14). for sin: The Greek is identical to a shorthand expression used in the Greek version of Leviticus for a sacrificial sin-offering (Lev 4:24; 6:18; 14:19). If Paul had this in mind, as many hold, he is claiming that Jesus was sent by the Father to be an offering for sin. See note on 2 Cor 5:21Back to text.

8:4 just requirement: Probably the moral precepts of the Mosaic Law (13:8-10). Elsewhere in Romans this Greek term has the sense of moral decrees or righteous conduct (1:32; 2:26; 5:18). Back to text.

8:5-8 A contrast between two mind-sets, one that is fleshly and centered on self (1:21) and another that is spiritual and focused on God (Col 3:1). Paul implies that the believer will not automatically follow the Spirit but must choose which road he wants to follow in light of their destinations (8:13). Back to text.

8:9 the Spirit of God . . . of Christ: The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in eternity as well as in history (Jn 14:26; 15:26). He is therefore identified with both of them (8:14-15; Gal 4:6). Back to text.

8:10 your bodies are dead: i.e., still subject to death and decay. Back to text.

8:11 your mortal bodies also: When God resurrects the bodies of the saints on the Last Day (8:23), he will complete the process of divine adoption that began in Baptism with the infusion of the Spirit into our souls (8:15; Gal 4:4-7; Tit 3:5-7). Back to text.

8:13 you will die: Spiritually, that is, since everyone dies physically regardless of how he lives. The warning is posted for believers, who are "in the Spirit" (8:9) but who can still submit to the flesh. Back to text.

8:14-25 Paul reflects on the sonship of believers in Christ. Though Christ is the eternal Son of God by nature, we share in his life and become adopted sons of God by grace. This takes effect through the Spirit, who is poured into our hearts (5:5) and shows us the way to the Father (8:15) (CCC 1996). • Paul's discussion of sonship and suffering has parallels with the Exodus story. The sonship of believers (8:15) recalls the sonship of Israel (9:4; Ex 4:22; Is 63:8). Calling God our Father (8:15) echoes the title first given to Yahweh at the end of the Exodus journey (Deut 32:6; Is 63:16). Being led by the Spirit out of slavery (8:14-15) calls to mind how Israel was led out of the bondage of Egypt by the pillar of fire (Ex 6:6; 13:21), which biblical tradition sees as an image of the Spirit (Is 63:10-14). Even the groan of the believer, still awaiting the fullness of redemption (8:23), reminds us of Israel groaning in bondage (Ex 2:23-24; 6:5) for the Lord's redemption (Ex 6:6; 15:13). For the Christian, the Exodus has begun but is still in progress, for he is delivered from slavery to sin (6:6-7, 17) but not yet from the slavery of corruption (8:19-23). For Paul's teaching that the Church relives the Exodus experience of Israel, see 1 Cor 10:1-11. Back to text.

8:15 sonship: Or, "adoption", as in 8:23. Our kinship with God by covenant adoption entitles us to an inheritance kept in heaven (8:17; 1 Pet 1:3-4). See word study: Adoption at Gal 4:5. Abba!: Aramaic for "Father!", an intimate term of address that Jesus uses in his own prayer life (Mk 14:36). The Spirit makes the prayer of Jesus the prayer of all God's children as they call to the Father for grace and help in times of need (Gal 4:6) (CCC 2779-82). Back to text.

8:17 fellow heirs with Christ: To suffer with Christ is to share in his inheritance, which Paul understands to be "all things" (8:32; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2). Back to text.

8:18-25 Paul contends, on the basis of cost-benefit analysis, that even our heaviest burdens of suffering are far outweighed by the glory that awaits us (2 Cor 4:17). Though the afflictions of our time on earth are inescapable, the Spirit helps to make them bearable (8:26). Suffering is all part of God's plan to mold us into the image of Christ (8:29). Back to text.

8:21 glorious liberty: God's children and God's creation share the same plight and so yearn for the same destiny of life without corruption (CCC 1042-47). Back to text.

8:22 groaning with labor pains: Paul hears creation crying out like a woman giving birth. The pangs of labor will not subside until the children of God are revealed and the whole material creation is renewed (8:21). See word study: Unite at Eph 1:10. • The earth groans under the curse of Gen 3:17. The passage shows that Adam's trespass had catastrophic consequences not only for himself but for the world in which he lived. Back to text.

8:23 the first fruits: An agricultural term for the initial produce reaped at the beginning of the harvest season. When Paul uses a commercial metaphor for this same idea, he describes the Spirit as a "guarantee" or down payment on the full inheritance we expect to receive in heaven (Eph 1:13-14) (CCC 735). Back to text.

8:24 hope: The earnest desire to share in the glory of God (5:2). Hidden from human eyes, this inheritance is visible only to faith (2 Cor 5:7) and is attained only by love (1 Cor 16:22). The point here is that hope helps us to endure the hardships of life (Rom 8:25) (CCC 1817-20). Back to text.

8:26 the Spirit helps us: When distress makes prayer difficult, the Spirit makes our groaning and sighing (8:23) an impassioned prayer to the Father (CCC 2729-31, 2739). Back to text.

8:27 intercedes for the saints: The same is said of the Son in 8:34. Both the Son and the Spirit request from the Father what we need, not necessarily what we want. The will of God for our life is the determining factor. Back to text.

8:29 predestined: Selected for divine adoption by an eternal decree of God (Eph 1:4). Predestination is a mystery revealed but not fully understood; what we know for certain is that God is free to act as he chooses (Ps 135:6) and man is free to accept or reject his blessings (Rom 2:6-8; Sir 15:11-13). No one is predestined by God for eternal damnation (CCC 1037). See note on Eph 1:5. the first-born: Jesus is the eldest brother in the family of faith. As adopted children, we look up to him as the perfect image of Sonship and the perfect example of filial obedience to the Father (Jn 15:10). See word study: First-born at Heb 1:6. Back to text.

8:32 did not spare: Paul takes this expression from the Greek version of Gen 22:12 to compare the Father's surrender of Christ with Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. This memorable event, which took place in Moriah (Gen 22:2), prefigures the sacrifice of Jesus in Jerusalem, which is built in part on Mt. Moriah (2 Chron 3:1) (CCC 2572). Back to text.

8:35 Who shall separate . . .?: Paul denies suffering the power to cut us off from Christ. In his mind, only sin can pry us away from his grace (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:4). See note on 1 Jn 5:16-17. tribulation . . . or sword?: Afflictions commonly linked with the curses that God lets loose upon Israel when they abandon the covenant (Lev 26:21-26; Deut 28:48; Jer 29:18). This background sets the stage for 8:36. Back to text.

8:36 For your sake: A citation from Ps 44:22. • The Psalmist is puzzled that Yahweh permits the righteous of Israel to suffer the curses of exile along with the unrighteous. Covered with shame but convinced of his innocence, he pleads with God for deliverance. For Paul, this is the cry of the believer who lives faithfully in Christ but who bears with Christ the curses of suffering and death that weigh upon the world (Gen 3:17-19; Gal 3:13). As a result, we are not crushed by suffering; rather, we conquer through it in a redemptive way (Rom 8:37; Acts 14:22). Back to text.

8:38-39 A rundown of different forces and dimensions of creation: human existence (death/life), spirits (angels/principalities/powers), time (things present/things to come), and astronomical forces (height/depth). None of these potential threats is an actual threat to those enveloped in God's love. That principalities and powers are classes of angels, see Eph 3:10 and note on Eph 1:10. Back to text.

8:39 nor anything: Not a claim that salvation is absolutely assured for believers, but a claim that salvation cannot be threatened by any cosmic force outside of us. For Paul, the only real threat to salvation is our will, which is free to reject God's love and forfeit eternal life through sin (2:5-10; 6:16; 8:13; 11:2122). See note on Rom 8:35Back to text.

9:1-11:36 The middle section of Romans turns from the salvation of the world in general (chaps. 1-8) to the salvation of Israel in particular (chaps. 9-11). Faced with a theological and pastoral conundrum, Paul takes the opportunity to explain how God's election of Israel in the past is perfectly consistent with Israel's widespread rejection of the gospel in the present. His discussion is difficult to follow because the argument winds through a dense forest of echoes, allusions, and citations from the OT. In general, Paul follows the story line of Israel's history set forth in the Bible: he starts with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (9:6-13), moves through the Exodus (9:14-18), looks at the Exile (9:25-29), draws on passages about the time of restoration (10:1-21), and ends with a vision of Jacob-Israel saved in the New Covenant (11:26-27). Nearly a third of all Paul's references to the Hebrew Scriptures in the entire collection of his writings are packed into these three chapters. Back to text.

9:1 I am not lying: An adamant plea of innocence. It may suggest Paul was accused of indifference toward Israel. He uses the same expression to clear away suspicions and rumors in 2 Cor 11:31 and Gal 1:20. Back to text.

9:3 accursed and cut off: Paul almost wishes he could be set apart for destruction and severed from Christ if it would bring Israel salvation. See word study: Accursed at Gal 1:8. • Moses voiced a similar sentiment at a similar time of national apostasy (Ex 32:32), when nearly all Israel fell from grace at the golden calf rebellion (Ex 32:1-6). Back to text.

9:4-5 An inventory of Israel's covenant blessings. These are tokens of God's irrevocable commitment to the people of Israel (11:29) that gave them an "advantage" over other nations (3:12), drawing them closer to God, ordering their worship, and showing them the way of righteousness. Their crowning gift is the Messiah, who came many centuries after the initial endowments had been given through Moses and the patriarchs. Back to text.

9:5 Christ, who is God: The punctuation of this verse is debated. When a comma is placed between "Christ" and "God", the two are identified and the divinity of Jesus is asserted. When a period is used instead, the two are distinguished and God the Father is extolled by the final blessing. Both renderings are consistent with Pauline theology. Back to text.

9:6 not all . . . belong to Israel: The thesis statement of Rom 9-11, that elect Israel, as a remnant chosen by grace, has always been a subset of ethnic Israel (11:6-7). Back to text.

9:7-13 Paul shows that a pattern of divine selection and L exclusion was already at work before the founding of Israel as a nation. • From Gen 21:12 and 18:10 he shows that God made a distinction between the biological sons of Abraham, choosing Isaac over Ishmael to be the channel of his covenant blessings (9:7, 9). Then from Gen 25:23 and Mal 1:2-3 he shows that God made a distinction between the biological sons of Isaac, choosing Jacob over Esau to be a channel of covenant blessings (Rom 9:12-13). The point is that natural and biological descent from the patriarchs is not a guarantee of divine blessing, because everything depends on the grace of God's call (9:11; Lk 3:8; Jn 8:33-39). Back to text.

9:8 children of the flesh . . . the promise: The distinction applies to the sons of Abraham and Isaac. Ishmael and Esau are sons by the flesh but excluded from the covenant plan of God, while Isaac and Jacob are sons called by the Lord to carry his promises forward. Back to text.

9:11 his call: Or, "the One who calls". That God advances his plan of election through his call is a theme that was introduced in the Genesis quote in 9:7 ("named" is literally "called") and runs throughout the chapter (9:24-26). Back to text.

9:13 Esau I hated: A Semitic expression that means God loved Esau less than Jacob. It neither asserts nor implies that God predestined him for punishment or damnation. Back to text.

9:14-18 Paul denies that divine election amounts to divine injustice. • From Ex 33:19 he shows that God's justice is matched by an abundance of mercy (Rom 9:15), as seen when he robed the children of Israel in mercy right after they abandoned him for the golden calf (Ex 32:1-6). From Ex 9:16 he shows that the hardness of Pharaoh during the Exodus was part of his plan to reveal his power to the world (Rom 9:17). In effect, Paul is defending God's freedom to be patient and merciful toward sinners, not his freedom to punish sinners. Back to text.

9:18 he has mercy . . . he hardens: The pattern of God's dealings with Israel (9:15) and Pharaoh (9:17) during the Exodus is a pattern repeated in Paul's day, when a remnant of Israel is shown mercy (9:23-24) and the rest remains hardened (11:7, 25). Divine hardening does not cause a person to sin but is a disciplinary measure for those like Pharaoh who are already stubbornly resisting God (Ex 7:14; 8:15). Back to text.

9:21 the potter: Illustrates the sovereign freedom of God. • Paul is alluding to Is 29:16, although the same imagery is used elsewhere in the OT (Sir 33:13; Is 45:9; Jer 18:1-11). In Isaiah, Israel is the earthenware vessel that complains to the Lord and dares to question the wisdom of his ways. Rebuked for this audacity, it is reminded that God is the Maker of all things and stands accountable to no one. Back to text.

9:22 made for destruction: The Greek can mean that the vessels of wrath have prepared themselves for doom by rejecting the gospel. Paul is not saying that God has predestined the unbelievers of Israel for damnation; otherwise he would not be praying (10:1) and working (11:14) for their salvation (CCC 1037). Back to text.

9:25-29 Citations from Hosea and Isaiah support the assertion in 9:24 that Gentiles and a remnant of Jews constitute the "vessels of mercy" (9:23). • Hosea foretells the restoration of Israel to full covenant sonship after centuries of exile have dissolved the northern tribes into the nations and reduced them to the status of Gentiles (Hos 2:23 in 9:25 and Hos 1:10 in 9:26). Isaiah depicts Yahweh saving a remnant of Israel even as he punishes the rest of the nation for their transgressions. In context, the Isaian passages speak of a remnant saved from the northern and southern tribes of Israel respectively (Is 10:22 in 9:27-28 and Is 1:9 in 9:29). See word study: Remnant at Rom 11:5. Back to text.

9:32 through faith: The hardened part of Israel (11:7) pursues, not the wrong object (righteousness), but the right object in the wrong way (by works/without faith). The Law was intended to lead them to their Messiah (10:4). Back to text.

9:33 Behold, I am laying: A quotation from Is 28:16 with an excerpt from Is 8:14 spliced into the middle. • The passages are linked together by the common image of a stone, which is symbolic for the royal Messiah in Jewish tradition (Targum Isaiah). Stumbling over the stone dramatizes the folly of unbelief (11:20; 1 Cor 1:23). Paul believes that many in Israel have tripped but have not completely fallen (11:11). He is hopeful that some will regain their balance and come to faith in Jesus (11:23). Back to text.

10:1-4 Instead of condemning and abandoning his kinsmen, Paul is pained at the unbelief of Israel (9:2) and prays intensely for its salvation. A former Pharisee, he is well acquainted with unenlightened zeal for the ancestral traditions of Judaism (Gal 1:14; Phil 3:6) (CCC 579). Back to text.

10:3 righteousness: A distinction is made between righteousness that comes from the Mosaic Law (Deut 6:25) and righteousness that comes from the Messiah (Rom 5:17; Phil 3:9). The former is real but radically deficient; the latter alone gives us entrance into the messianic kingdom (Mt 5:20). Back to text.

10:4 the end: The Greek can mean "termination" or "goal". The latter sense is more probable, for Jesus came to fulfill the Law rather than to abolish it (Mt 5:17) (CCC 1953). • Christ is the end that completes, not the end that destroys, for the details of the Law were shadows that prefigured his coming (St. Augustine, Against the Adversary of the Law and the Prophets 2, 26-27). Back to text.

10:5 shall live by it: An excerpt from Lev 18:5. • Israel is urged to follow the Torah and shun the ways of the Egyptians and the Canaanites. Adherence to the Law would have brought life, but Israel needed to learn that obedience was humanly impossible without the grace and help of God that come through faith. See note on Rom 5:20Back to text.

10:6-8 An interpretive paraphrase of Deut 30:12-14. • Moses contends that Israel could not escape responsibility for obeying the word of God, as though the Torah were somewhere beyond its reach. In the spirit of Moses, Paul insists that Israel cannot escape responsibility for obeying the word of the gospel, as though it were forced to look high and low for Christ. On the contrary, Israel cannot plead ignorance because the gospel has come to its doorstep through the Scriptures and the missionary efforts of the Church (10:17-19). Back to text.

10:10 his heart . . . his lips: Paul connects these with the inward conviction (heart) and outward confession (lips) of faith in Jesus. The images are drawn from the Deuteronomy quote in 10:8. Back to text.

10:11 No one who believes: A reference to Is 28:16, already quoted in Rom 9:33. Back to text.

10:12 no distinction: All nations are saved together in Christ just as all nations sinned together before his coming (3:9, 2223). Back to text.

10:13 every one who calls: A quotation from Joel 2:32. • The prophet envisions a time of judgment and salvation in the messianic age, with the Spirit pouring down on all flesh and a remnant of Israel being saved. This text was the springboard of Peter's inaugural sermon in Acts, where calling on "the name" of the Lord was linked with Baptism (Acts 2:21, 38) (CCC 432, 449, 2666). See note on Acts 2:17-21. Back to text.

10:14-17 Paul stresses the need to spread the gospel. Unless missionaries are sent and Christ is proclaimed, the world cannot call upon its Savior (CCC 875). • Paul twice excerpts from Isaiah, who foresees both the evangelization of Israel (10:15; Is 52:7) and its tragic rejection of a suffering Messiah (10:16; Is 53:1) (CCC 601). Aware that some in Israel have accepted the message, Paul is careful to say that not all have embraced the gospel (10:16). Back to text.

10:18 Their voice: A quotation from Ps 19:4. • The Psalmist describes how the heavens proclaim the glory of God throughout the world. Paul borrows this image to explain how the gospel has sounded across the earth, telling the dispersed of Israel that the Messiah has come (Col 1:5-6). Back to text.

10:19 I will make you jealous: A quotation from Deut 32:21. • Deuteronomy 32 is a prophetic song that foresees the rebellion and restoration of Israel long after the Exodus. This will involve the salvation of a foolish nation (Gentiles), an event that will anger some in Israel but will make others jealous of their blessings, stirring them to emulate their faith (11:11, 14). Back to text.

Word Study

Remnant (Rom 11:5)

Leimma (Gk.): a "portion" or "remainder". The biblical concept of a "remnant" refers to the survivors of God's people who escape conquest, catastrophe, and divine chastisement. The Greek OT uses similar terms in contexts where God's judgment on his people stops short of total annihilation. Thus Noah's family was the surviving remnant after the flood (Sir 44:17), and Jacob and his sons were the few who escaped a severe famine (Gen 45:7). When the kingdom of Israel was divided, the remnant came to mean, first, the remainder of the northern Israelites who were spared from Assyrian destruction in 722 B.C. (Is 10:20-22; Jer 31:7; Amos 3:12). It was later applied to the survivors of the Southern Kingdom of Judah who escaped death during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (Ezra 9:8; Jer 40:11; Hag 1:12). Several prophets looked forward to God restoring the remnant of Israel and Judah who were scattered across the world, reuniting them as his people (Is 11:11; Jer 50:20; Zech 8:12-13).

10:20-21 A final demonstration that unbelieving Israel is guilty of willful defiance. • Paul examines two sequential verses from Isaiah, applying the first to the Gentiles (10:20; Is 65:1) and the second to wayward Israel (10:21; Is 65:2). The contrast is stark: the nations are responding enthusiastically to the gospel without having sought it, whereas Israel remains unresponsive despite the Lord's persistent pleas for faith. Back to text.

11:1 rejected his people?: A question emphatically denied. For Paul, the faithlessness of Israel does not cancel the faithfulness of God, who refuses to abandon his people (1 Sam 12:22; Ps 94:14). Paul is living proof of this as an Israelite who has experienced the grace and mercy of Christ. Back to text.

11:2-4 Scripture shows that God preserves a remnant of Israel even when most of the nation goes astray. • This was the case in Elijah's day, when nearly all of the Northern Kingdom of Israel abandoned Yahweh for the idolatrous cult of Baal (1 Kings 16:30-32). The prophet despaired that he alone was left, but the Lord had preserved a remnant of believers 7,000 strong that escaped his notice. Back to text.

11:8-10 Paul summons the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms to witness against hardened Israel. • Moses describes how Yahweh withheld the gifts of spiritual understanding (eyes and ears) from the wilderness generation of Israel because of its faithlessness, thanklessness, and idolatry (11:8; Deut 29:4). The same scenario was repeated in Isaiah's day when the Lord disciplined Israel with a spirit of stupor, making it numb and unresponsive to his warnings and causing it to stagger around in spiritual darkness (11:8; Is 29:10). David invoked such a curse on his enemies in Israel for their injustices (11:9; Ps 69:22-23). Back to text.

11:11 to make Israel jealous: The stumbling of Israel is temporary for itself and beneficial for the Gentiles. Until Israel regains its footing, a window has been opened for gathering other peoples and nations into the Church (11:17-24). Back to text.

11:13 to you Gentiles: Paul addresses his Gentile readers directly, cautioning them against pride. Some Gentile converts looked disdainfully upon Israel, as though they had replaced the covenant people in the messianic age. Paul not only rejects this (11:1); he warns that Gentiles, too, can be rejected as easily as they have been accepted. They should rather marvel that God has given them a share in Israel's spiritual blessings (15:27). Pagan anti-Semitism was pervasive in Roman antiquity. Back to text.

11:14 my fellow Jews: Literally, "my flesh". Paul is thinking of Israelites related to him by race (9:3-4). Back to text.

11:15 life from the dead?: Like the OT prophets, Paul envisions the spiritual recovery of Israel as a national resurrection (Is 26:19; Ezek 37:1-12; Hos 6:2). Back to text.

11:16 first fruits: The initial meal offering made to the Lord from each year's grain harvest (Num 15:17-21). the root: Anticipates the olive tree metaphor that follows in 11:17-24. The first fruits and the root probably symbolize the patriarchs, who are the founding ancestors of Israel (9:5) and for whose sake Israel is a people beloved by God (11:28). Others interpret the images as references to Christ (15:12; 1 Cor 15:23) or to Jewish Christians (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:15). Back to text.

11:17-24 Paul pictures the messianic people as an olive tree that is partly natural (believing Israel), partly engrafted (believing Gentiles), and partly dismembered (unbelieving Israel). The horticultural procedure of grafting wild shoots onto a cultivated trunk was meant to reinvigorate an old, exhausted tree that was yielding less and less fruit each season. The analogy shows that Israel is not being demoted from its favored-nation status so much as the Gentiles are being promoted to share in its blessings (15:27). • The picture of Israel as an olive tree comes from Jer 11:16-17. Back to text.

11:20 because of their unbelief: Just as Gentiles are grafted into the covenant through faith, so fallen-away Israelites will be regrafted onto the tree through belief in Jesus Christ. Back to text.

11:22 the kindness and the severity of God: God's justice and mercy are held in delicate balance: he neither withholds forgiveness from the contrite heart nor overlooks the hardness of an impenitent heart. Back to text.

11:25 mystery: The plan of worldwide salvation hidden in the Scriptures (16:25-26) but now made known through the Spirit (Eph 3:4-6). part of Israel: Those in Israel who are unresponsive to the gospel (11:7). Only some in Israel are hardened in this way, since a remnant of ethnic Israelites has come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (11:5). Paul himself is among this believing remnant (11:1). the full number of the Gentiles: The many people and nations of the world who will come to faith in Christ. Paul played a monumental role in launching the Church's pursuit of this missionary goal (1:5; 11:13). It is not specified when the conversion of the Gentiles will reach the point of fullness determined by God (CCC 674). Back to text.

11:26 and so: The Greek can mean "and in this way" (modal) or "and then" (temporal). all Israel: The entire tribal family of Israel. The point is not that every individual Israelite will be saved, but that a collective group representing all twelve tribes will be saved (Rev 7:1-8). See essay: The Salvation of All Israel at Rom 12. it is written: Paul combines citations from Is 59:20--21 and Is 27:9. • Isaiah envisions the restoration of Jacob-Israel from exile and sin. Yahweh's new covenant will bring his people a new abundance of mercy and forgiveness (11:27; Jer 31:31-34). The expression from Zion is worded differently in Is 59:20 ("to Zion") and may be taken from Is 2:3, which foresees the word of the Lord going out to the nations from Jerusalem (15:19; Lk 24:47). Back to text.

11:28 enemies: Temporarily, until their salvation (11:26). beloved: God will never revoke his promises to Israel on account of the patriarchs (9:5) but loves his people with an "everlasting love" (Jer 31:3). Back to text.

11:32 all men to disobedience: God allows all to sin that all might taste salvation (3:9, 23). His saving plan moves forward despite man's rebellion. Back to text.

11:33-36 Paul's concluding doxology extols the infinite wisdom of God. Overwhelmed and amazed, he gasps at the unsearchable and inscrutable plan of God to save the world in Christ. • Citations from Is 40:13 (in 11:34) and Job 41:11 (in 11:35) portray God's designs as beyond our comprehension and his greatness as independent of any need or earthly gift. Back to text.

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