Darby on Romans 16 – Conclusion

Even though he had never been to Rome, Paul’s heart was at home with many there. He knew the faith and service of some, and wrote to them as an assembly. As the apostle of the nations, he had his service for Christ for those in Rome.

He had a comprehensive service, embracing all the counsels of God, bringing the elements of the gospel together, to make the saints complete in Christ. The fruit will be hereafter. The apostle cites many who served diligently in the sphere in which God had placed them – from those who were of note among the apostles, to Phoebe, the deaconess or servant of the church at Cenchrea, who had been a helper of many. God does not forget any.

RomeEven though he had never been to Rome, Paul’s heart was at home with many there. He knew the faith and service of some, and wrote to them as an assembly. As the apostle of the nations, he had his service for Christ for those in Rome.

He had a comprehensive service, embracing all the counsels of God, bringing the elements of the gospel together, to make the saints complete in Christ. The fruit will be hereafter. The apostle cites many who served diligently in the sphere in which God had placed them – from those who were of note among the apostles, to Phoebe, the deaconess or servant of the church at Cenchrea, who had been a helper of many. God does not forget any.

The apostle then tells the us to mark those self-important persons who cause divisions, exploiting their own mental abilities and acting contrary to the doctrine they had learned. We are to avoid them. Such insubject activity separates our hearts from God. True hearts, like John the Baptist, knew consciously by the Spirit that everything that is right is from God. Even if we are weak, and lack faithfulness, we have a testimony from God with more power than the pretensions of man. This preserves us. Our hearts are kept simple, while the mischievous hearts, with their fair speeches, are judged.

So Paul says, ‘I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil(v.19). God has, in His gracious wisdom, traced out a path in the world for us. We do not need to know all the evil, or even any of it: we are just to walk in the wise and holy path, conversant with what is good, lovely, and of good report. If we know the one right path across the waste, and live by God’s word, we do not need to learn from those who lost themselves. ‘By the words of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer’

Paul ends Romans 16  with salutations, for fellowship in love characterises the spirit of the gospel. Tertius, to whom Paul had dictated the letter, gives his salutation. The Roman epistle, along with the others such as Ephesians and Colossians which had the character of commandments of the Lord: accuracy was important. (See 1 Cor. 14:37). The salutation at the end came from Paul’s own hand, verifying that the whole epistle was his, and that it had inspired apostolic authority.

The apostle closes with ascription of praise to the only wise God, owning Him as the One who is able to establish them according to his gospel.   He recalls the character of the testimony contained in that gospel, of which he speaks in so many places in so remarkable a manner.

In this epistle Paul does not develop the mystery: his object is to show how a soul stood in liberty before God. Conscience and justification must be individual. Still he shows that ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). We are in Christ, and in chapter 12, one body in Christ – the full scope of the counsels of God – a mystery hidden from ages, even though they were in prophetic scriptures (v.26 Darby). He does not unfold the mystery in this epistle, but preached according to the revelation of it: Christ the head of all things, Jews and Gentiles forming one body, united with Him in heaven as Head. This had been kept secret since the world began, though it was in God’s counsels before creation. The foundation for our heavenly and eternal blessings had been laid in Christ’s work. Through all the inspired epistles the truth was made known to the nations ‘according to the commandment of the everlasting God.

God, whose counsels were not confined to Judaism, commanded His message to be sent to the nations. He had His counsels and views in man, and in the Son, the Seed of the woman, and would accomplish the counsels in power. Now the original purpose of God was being made manifest for the obedience of faith to all nations.

 

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

Darby on Romans 15 – Paul’s Service moves to Rome

In the providence of God’s ordered path, Paul witnessed to all the authorities from the Sanhedrim to the Emperor, and the Lord’s grace sustained him in it. His apostolic service was to close in unwilling captivity, and Paul is delivered by the Jews to the Gentiles to suffer in grace, like his Lord, at their hands. Of course, Paul did not face it perfectly like the Lord Himself: He did so in the calmness of unvarying perfection, drinking the cup none else could, and that, if it could be, was more perfect than anything.

RomeThe apostle sums up what he had taught, especially the gospel of the nations. Christ ‘was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers’ (v.8), but the nations had no such promises – they had to glorify God for His pure mercy. Because they had rejected Christ, the Jews also had to depend on God’s pure mercy. Paul quotes from the Old Testament, showing that this mercy to the nations was always contemplated by God – there should be a root of Jesse to reign over the nations and their hope should be in Him. (See v.12, Isa 11:10, Matt 12:21). He rests on the word hope.Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost” (v.13). Such is the Christian’s joy and peace in believing, that his spirit rises in hope, trusting in God, and looking forward to the blessed time when all shall be accomplished in light – when he will be with Jesus.

Paul now refers to the public ministry that had been confided to him by Jesus Christ. He wrote to the saints in Rome as a minister of the gospel of God to the Gentiles. He presents himself figuratively as a priest (a minister), so that he could offer up the Gentile Christians to God, consecrated, sanctified to God by the Holy Spirit. He shows how he had laboured in power, and how he had not gone where Christianity was already established, but to poor souls far away from God and light. Now this ministry was closed.

Paul had finished his service in Asia and the Greek speaking world, having laid the foundation, preaching in spite of the dangers, where no one else had.   He had formed and taught assemblies from Jerusalem to Illyricum, so now they could resist evil and false doctrine. The Greek world was Christianised: others might build, but Paul’s work was done. He had learnt to work wherever God called him to do so. Now the Latin world was before him, starting with Rome.

But now he was going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. His apostolic ministry finished, he undertakes a diaconal service to Jerusalem. He certainly did not fulfill his mission as intended (See v.31). Indeed his fears as to what might happen in Judaea are stated in verses 30-32 [and more so in Acts 20:22].

God would not allow Latin Christianity to have an apostolic foundation. There were already Christians in Rome. We do not know who founded the Roman assembly – there is no evidence that it was Peter. There had been no wise master-builder: Christianity founded itself there. He came to Rome as a prisoner after two years’ captivity in Caesarea; then he remained two years captive in his own house in Rome. Now the history closes.

As far as we know Paul never went to Spain. Subsequent history may be inferred from 2 Timothy and other scriptures. This in no way affects the moral or ecclesiastical bearing of any of the epistles.

The close of Paul’s service is deeply affecting. He was so like his Master, though at a distance. He had worked with energy and exercise. There were failures because of the materials with which he, like the Lord had to use. Nevertheless, despite the materials, God’s ultimate purpose was accomplished. Compare Rom 15 with Acts 20:29-33 and Isaiah 49:4-6.

In the providence of God’s ordered path, Paul witnessed to all the authorities from the Sanhedrim to the Emperor, and the Lord’s grace sustained him in it. His apostolic service was to close in unwilling captivity, and Paul is delivered by the Jews to the Gentiles to suffer in grace, like his Lord, at their hands. Of course, Paul did not face it perfectly like the Lord Himself: He did so in the calmness of unvarying perfection, drinking the cup none else could, and that, if it could be, was more perfect than anything.

 

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

 

Darby on Romans 9-11 – What about the Jews?

God’s covenant to take away Israel’s sins is sure. It will be accomplished when Christ comes. The final restoration of Israel will be on the ground of the promises made to the fathers, not through the law, but with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel had rejected Christ: therefore they became objects of mercy, just like the Gentiles. As the Gentiles had been unbelieving, mercy had been the only ground of their entering. Now the unbelieving Jews had were also objects of God’s sovereign mercy.

Grace had dealt with sinners, and wisdom had reconciled God’s faithfulness to His promises, with the heirs of those promises, through their coming under mercy. This calls out the adoring praise of the apostle in contemplating the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God

Rome

Romans 9

 

Romans 9-11 reconciles the doctrine that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, with the faithfulness of God and the promises made to Israel. The Jew might acknowledge that he had broken the law and had forfeited his right of being God’s favoured people. But there were promises made to Israel before the law: these could not be set aside. Paul shows that although God had not cast aside His people, the Jew would have to come into blessing as a guilty sinner, entitled to nothing, just like a Gentile.

There was still blessing for the Jew – Paul was one. Even Christ Himself, according to the flesh, came from Judah. But not Israel were of Israel. Paul felt Israel’s state and had wished (past tense – see Rom 9:3 – Darby), like Moses to be cursed for his brethren. But now the apostle brings in the sovereignty of God.

This sovereignty (v. 24) God would use in favour of the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  ‘That he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles’ (v. 23-24). This was sovereign, but it was sovereign mercy. For there to be sovereignty in mercy, there most have been evil – evil that could be pardoned. God showed this after Israel had made the golden calf: God had threatened to consume Israel and make a nation of Moses.   Moses’s interceded and appealed to God’s sovereignty. God was sovereign; He could use mercy, and He did. He said to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (v. 13, Ex 33:19).   Righteousness was not attained by man’s willing or running, but by God’s showing mercy when man was unrighteous.   Both Israel and Pharaoh were wicked. Righteousness would have condemned both, but God had mercy on one, and hardened the other. This is sovereignty. How can man reply to God?

 

We see the holy wisdom of God: as with the potter, who can make vessels to honour and dishonour out of the same lump. ‘God … endured the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory’ (v.22-23).   Paul forces the Jew to admit to God’s sovereignty, otherwise Ishmaelites and Edomites would have had to have been amongst God’s people, especially as, in making the calf, all Israel (except Moses and Joshua) had deserved to be cut off. Hence God sovereignty calls both Gentiles, who had no title, and Jews, who had forfeited their title. Though the Gentiles were not looking for righteousness, they found the righteousness of faith; but Israel, without faith, followed after the law of righteousness. They stumbled at the stumbling-stone, which Isaiah had declared would be laid in Zion. Individually those of Israel who believed should not be ashamed; but as a body, they had stumbled at the stumbling-stone.

 

 

Romans 10

 

Paul desired the salvation of Israel. He testified to their zeal towards God, a zeal not according to knowledge. They had sought to establish their own righteousness under the law, but had not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. That was Christ, and Christ was the end of the law (He takes its place). As we have seen in ch. 7, the Jews could not have two husbands at the same time; they could not have the law (their own doing) and Christ (God’s righteousness). Christ has met the legal claims of God – condemnation and death – and He is our righteousness, as we believe through grace.

 

The righteousness which is by faith speaks differently from the law. ‘If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’ (v.9): the real question is the salvation of the sinner, not the keeping of the law. ‘Whosoever [Jew or Gentile] shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (v.13). Christ is the hope of the nations as well as the Jews.

 

This brings out the relative position of Jew and Gentile. God’s proclamation of grace to Israel was clear in the Old Testament, for which he quotes ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings’ (Isa 52:7). But not all obeyed the testimony. ‘Who hath believed our report?’ (Isa 53:1).   The report (God’s word) had gone out to the whole world, and was received in faith. So the Gentiles were also objects of God’s testimony and Israel was aware of this.

  • Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world (Ps 19:4).
  • I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. (Deut 32:21)
  • I was found of them that sought me not. (Isa 65:1)

When Israel was first established as a nation before God, Moses foretold they would foolishly and unwisely depart from Him as a people. The Gentiles would provoke them to anger. Grace had not been wanting, but there was no response. God had called in vain; the divorce had come. ‘Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away?’ (Isa 50:1).

 

Romans 11

 

Was the rejection of Israel final? Surely not! Paul gives three proofs that the rejection was not final:

  1. A remnant would be owned now
  2. The Jews would be provoked to jealousy, because of the reception of the Gentiles
  3. The Redeemer would yet come to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob, and so all Israel (not just the Jews) would be saved.

 

Some of Israel, such as Paul, were of the elect; the rest were blinded, having rejected Christ and stumbled at the stumbling-stone. Their fall for the salvation of the Gentiles. This is the second proof of their not being finally cast off. This lead the apostle to bring out the relative positions of Jew and Gentile as to promise in this world.

 

When, after the flood, men had cast off God to make themselves a name, God scattered men in judgment and formed them into nations. They gave themselves up to idolatry, but God called Abraham, and made him the root of a separate family with God’s promises according to the flesh, culminating by grace in Christ. Until then there had been no head of a race or a family. Adam was the father of sinners; Abraham was the father of the faithful. He was the root; the tree was Israel. Some of the branches had been broken off, and the Gentiles grafted in in their place. The root remained, and the Gentiles were grafted in among them, for they were not natural branches, but had their standing by faith.

 

The Gentiles were not to be high-minded, but fear. If God had not spared the natural branches, He would not spare the Gentiles, who were only grafted in. But the tree of promise remains, and the Jewish branches will be grafted in again into the olive. The Jewish system closed to let in the Gentiles. The Gentile system will close, to let the Jews back. God does not fail, of course, but accomplishes His own work of grace.

 

We do not have in Romans the mystery of Jew and Gentile brought into one new man – one body in Christ. This is not the church: there is no breaking off of the church. The Jews will not be grafted into the church, for it will already have been taken up into heavenly glory. Israel will be saved as a nation, which of course cannot be the case in the church, for there is neither Jew nor Greek in the church. The Gentile professing system (popery and infidelity) will be cut off – a solemn word and warning to Christendom.

 

God’s covenant to take away Israel’s sins is sure. It will be accomplished when Christ comes. The final restoration of Israel will be on the ground of the promises made to the fathers, not through the law, but with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel had rejected Christ: therefore they became objects of mercy, just like the Gentiles. As the Gentiles had been unbelieving, mercy had been the only ground of their entering. Now the unbelieving Jews had were also objects of God’s sovereign mercy.

 

Grace had dealt with sinners, and wisdom had reconciled God’s faithfulness to His promises, with the heirs of those promises, through their coming under mercy. This calls out the adoring praise of the apostle in contemplating the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  Paul now turns to the practical consequences which should flow from the mercies of God.

 

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

Darby on Romans – The First few Verses of Romans

The glad tidings have a double character:

The accomplishment of promise
The Person of the Son of God designated in power through resurrection.
That divine power, which raised Him from the dead, and proved Him to be Son of God, was manifested throughout His life in the holiness which never allowed sin to enter for an instant. He was quickened by the Spirit (lit. in Spirit), but His holiness, separation to God, was by the Spirit also. Resurrection was the public demonstration that He was the Son of God in power, having secured the victory over the full wages of sin. The opened eye would have seen the same power in the absolute and perfect holiness all through His sinless life.

Rome Paul’s Commission to preach the Glad Tidings

Paul had never been to Rome, so he is writing from the point of view of his universal mission to the Gentiles. He reasons out the gospel: the state of man, the place the law held, and the Jews’ position. :

The Lord had called him and given him a personal mission to the Gentiles. He was an apostle by God’s calling, separated to the gospel out from the whole human race.  He was directly connected with Christ in glory   He was a witness of the glorified Lord Jesus, unconnected with the Messiah down here or Jesus after the flesh in His earthly (Jewish) associations.  Paul witnessed to a Christ who had suffered death and accomplished redemption, and who was now the glorified Man, the Beginning and Head of creation.

Paul was sent forth into active service by the Holy Spirit from Antioch. ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ (Acts 13:2)   He received his commission directly from the Lord, and was separated to the glad tidings of God by the Holy Spirit.

The glad tidings have a double character:

  1. The accomplishment of promise
  2. The Person of the Son of God designated in power through resurrection.

The divine power, which raised Him from the dead, proving Him to be Son of God, was manifested throughout His life of holiness.  He was quickened by the Spirit (lit. in Spirit), but His holiness, never allowed sin to enter for an instant. Resurrection was the public demonstration that He was the Son of God in power, having secured the victory over the full wages of sin.   The opened eye would have seen the same power in the absolute and perfect holiness all through His sinless life.

God, in His goodness, approached man in grace. God came to him. This is the true gospel of God.  He came in power and grace, into the place where sin and death reigned.  He is the Son; He has power to deliver, but above all He is the Son of God. Grace made Him a man, but resurrection proved Him to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness. There is One revealed to us in perfect grace, but who in grace has a perfect claim over our souls.

He is from God. In the Person of the Son, God accomplished His promise, and secured victory over death.  His righteousness is revealed, meeting the need of man. This is the general aspect: man’s responsibility and man’s need will follow. But we must first have the gospel as it is for God and before God, though all in grace to us.   God has Himself brought in grace and glory.

As Romans is foundational, the testimony that Christ is Son of God is resurrection, not glory. His ascension is assumed as is the church’s, but already in resurrection God had put His seal on Christ’s Person and His work, redemption having been accomplished, sin atoned for, death overcome and Satan’s stronghold brought to nothing. The whole case between man and God had been met and established  on a new ground.

In Romans some things are not gone into:

  1. The glories which result according to the counsels of God
  2. Our resurrection with Christ
  3. Union with Him (which follows our resurrection with Christ)

Individual justification, not union is the subject of Romans. The assembly is not even presented.  Christ is viewed as risen alone.  Romans does cover our death with Him, because this was necessary to close the old evil, and bring us into a state where we are capable of living with God as fully delivered.

Paul’s mission concerned obedience to the faith (not the law) and the subjection of men’s souls to the truth of the revelation of God’s Son, the risen Man, the Lord Jesus. This can only be in grace, for grace could not come without truth, for what would grace be about, and how else should God be revealed? But God is light, and God is love – we know these in grace and truth.

What marvellous grace it is to see the whole power of evil broken, destroyed, by Him, who was willing to enter into the gloomy chamber of death. In submitting to death, He took upon Himself all the weakness of mortal man,  completely and absolutely delivering him.

There was no difference between Jew and Greek.  To the Gentile it was the revelation of God in grace; to the Jew it was the fulfilment of the gospel that had been announced beforehand by the prophets.  It was now a time to secure people for His Name.

Now we have Paul’s own feelings for those in Rome.  The believers already in Rome were the called of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, and saints by His calling.  The love of Christ made those he had not even seen the objects of his heart, and precious to him.  He expresses his desire to see them. He is apostle by right, but in heart he is their servant; and with the most true and ardent brotherly love, desires to impart t some spiritual gift, but in unfeigned grace he would be comforted in their mutual faith.  He was a ‘debtor to Greeks and barbarians’ (v.14) and he was ready to preach the glad tidings to them. It was ‘to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’ (v. 15). It was salvation to a sinful Jew, who had to come in in mercy, by faith, just like a Gentile.

He was not ashamed of the glad tidings; they were ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (v. 15) – simple words, but how much they contain!  It is not man acting for God, but God acting for man, in man’s favour, to deliver him from the state he was in – to save him.  How marvellous is the grace that sees the whole power of evil broken, destroyed, by Him, who was willing to enter into the gloomy chamber, taking upon Himself all man’s weakness in death,  completely and absolutely delivering him whose penalty He had borne!

Thus, in the gospel, God intervened, accomplishing a salvation which was entirely His own work.   Man came to have part in it by faith without adding anything whatsoever to it.  God be praised that it is so!  Whether for righteousness or for power,  it is a perfect divine work.  The righteousness of God is revealed on the principle of faith to faith. Nothing had to be done by man; nothing was required from man. It is on the principle of faith that it might be by grace. The object is love, God’s intrinsic nature. God’s righteousness was revealed on the principle of faith, not works. The just were to live by faith.

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, with additional material from JND’s Synopsis – Romans.