Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume XI/On the Epistle to the Romans/Homily XXVII on Rom. xiv. 25-27
Rom. XIV. 25–27
“Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my Gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and (mss. τεwhich Sav. omits) by the Scriptures of the Prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God only wise, to Him be glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
It is always a custom with Paul to conclude his exhortation with prayers and doxologies. For he knows that the thing is one of no slight importance. And it is out of affectionateness and caution that he is in the habit of doing this. For it is the character of a teacher devoted to his children, and to God, not to instruct them in words only, but by prayer too to bring upon his teaching the assistance which is from God. And this he does here also. But the connection is as follows: “To Him that is of power to stablish you, be glory for ever. Amen.” For he again clings to those weak brethren, and to them he directs his discourse. For when he was rebuking, he made all share his rebuke; but now, when he is praying, it is for these that he wears the attitude of a suppliant. And after saying, “to stablish,” he proceeds to give the mode of it, “according to my Gospel;” and this was what one would do to show that as yet they were not firmly fixed, but stood, though with wavering. Then to give a trustworthiness to what he says, he proceeds, “and the preaching of Jesus Christ;” that is, which He Himself preached. But if He preached it, the doctrines are not ours, but the laws are of Him. And afterwards, in discussing the nature of the preaching, He shows that this gift is one of much benefit, and of much honor; and this he first proves from the person of the declarer thereof, and then likewise from the things declared. For it was glad tidings. Besides, from His not having made aught of them known to any before us. And this he intimates in the words, “according to the revelation of the mystery.” And this is a sign of the greatest friendliness, to make us share in the mysteries, and no one before us. “Which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest.” For it had been determined long ago, but was only manifested now. How was it made manifest? “By the Scriptures of the Prophets.” Here again he is releasing the weak person from fear. For what dost thou fear? is it lest thou depart from the Law? This the Law wishes, this it foretold from of old. But if thou pryest into the cause of its being made manifest now, thou art doing a thing not safe to do, in being curious about the mysteries of God, and calling Him to account. For we ought not with things of this nature to act as busybodies, but to be well pleased and content with them. Wherefore that he might himself put a check upon a spirit of this sort, he adds, “according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for the obedience of faith.” For faith requires obedience, and not curiosity. And when God commands, one ought to be obedient, not curious. Then he uses another argument to encourage them, saying “made known to all nations.” That is, it is not thou alone but the whole world that is of this Creed, as having had not man, but God for a Teacher. Wherefore also he adds, “through Jesus Christ.” But it was not only made known, but also confirmed. Now both are His work. And on this ground too the way it is to be read is, “Now to Him that is of power to stablish you through Jesus Christ;” and, as I was saying, he ascribes them both to Him; or rather, not both of these only, but the glory belonging (or ascribed, Gr. τὴν εἰς) to the Father also. And this too is why he said, “to Whom be glory forever, Amen.” And he uses a doxology again through awe at the incomprehensibleness of these mysteries. For even now they have appeared, there is no such thing as comprehending them by reasonings, but it is by faith we must come to a knowledge of them, for in no other way can we. He well says, “To the only wise God.” For if you will only reflect how He brought the nations in, and blended them with those who in olden time had wrought well, how He saved those who were desperate, how He brought men not worthy of the earth up to heaven, and brought those who had fallen from the present life into that undying and unalterable life, and made those who were trampled down by devils to vie with Angels, and opened Paradise, and put a stop to all the old evils, and this too in a short time and by an easy and compendious way, then wilt thou learn His wisdom;—when thou seest that which neither Angels nor Archangels knew, they of the Gentiles learnt on a sudden through Jesus. (2 mss. add “then wilt thou know His power.”) Right then is it to admire His wisdom, and to give Him glory! But thou keepest dwelling over little things, still sitting under the shadow. And this is not much like one that giveth glory. For he who has no confidence in Him, and no trust in the faith, does not bear testimony to the grandeur of His doings. But he himself offers glory up in their behalf, in order to bring them also to the same zeal. But when you hear him say, “to the only wise God,” think not that this is said in disparagement of the Son. For if all these things whereby His wisdom is made apparent were done (or made, see John i. 3) by Christ, and without Him no single one, it is quite plain that he is equal in wisdom also. What then is the reason of his saying “only?” To set Him in contrast with every created being. After giving the doxology then, he again goes from prayer to exhortation, directing his discourse against the stronger, and saying as follows:
Chap. xv. ver. 1. “We then that are strong, ought”—it is “we ought,” not “we are so kind as to.” What is it we ought to do?—“to bear the infirmities of the weak.”
See how he has roused their attention by his praises, not only by calling them powerful, but also by putting them alongside of himself. And not by this only, but by the advantage of the thing he again allures them, and by its not being burdensome. For thou, he says, art powerful, and art no whit the worse for condescending. But to him the hazard is of the last consequence, if he is not borne with. And he does not say the infirm, but the “infirmities of the weak,” so drawing him and bending him to mercy. As in another place too he says, “Ye that are spiritual restore such an one.” (Gal. vi. 1.) Art thou become powerful? Render a return to God for making thee so. But render it thou wilt if thou settest the weakness of the sickly right. For we too were weak, but by grace we have become powerful. And this we are to do not in this case only, but also in the case of those who are weak in other respects. As, for instance, if any be passionate, or insolent, or has any such like failing bear with him. And how is this to be? Listen to what comes next. For after saying “we ought to bear,” he adds, “and not to please ourselves.”
Ver. 2. “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.”
But what he says is this. Art thou powerful? Let the weak have trial of thy power. Let him come to know thy strength; please him. And he does not barely say please, but for his good, and not barely for his good, lest the advanced person should say, See I am drawing him to his good! but he adds, “to edification.” And so if thou be rich or be in power, please not thyself, but the poor and the needy, because in this way thou wilt at once have true glory to enjoy, and be doing much service. For glory from things of the world soon flies away, but that from things of the Spirit is abiding, if thou do it to edification. Wherefore of all men he requires this. For it is not this and that person that is to do it, but “each of you.” Then since it was a great thing he had commanded them, and had bidden them even relax their own perfectness in order to set right the other’s weakness; he again introduces Christ, in the following words:
Ver. 3. “For even Christ pleased not Himself.”
And this he always does. For when he was upon the subject of alms, he brought Him forward and said, “Ye know the grace of the Lord, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.” (2 Cor. viii. 9.) And when he was exhorting to charity, it was from Him that he exhorted in the words “As Christ also loved us.” (Eph. v. 25.) And when he was giving advice about bearing shame and dangers, he took refuge in Him and said, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame.” (Heb. xii. 2). So in this passage too he shows how He also did this, and how the prophet proclaimed it from of old. Wherefore also he proceeds:
“The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell upon Me.” (Ps. lxix. 9.) But what is the import of, “He pleased not Himself?” He had power not to have been reproached, power not to have suffered what He did suffer, had He been minded to look to His own things. But yet He was not so minded. But through looking to our good He neglected His own. And why did he not say, “He emptied Himself?” (Phil. ii. 7.) It is because this was not the only thing he wished to point out, that He became man, but that He was also ill-treated, and obtained a bad reputation with many, being looked upon as weak. For it says, “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” (Matt. xxvii. 40). And, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save.” (ib. 42). Hence he mentions a circumstance which was available for his present subject, and proves much more than he undertook to do; for he shows that it was not Christ alone that was reproached, but the Father also. “For the reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell,” he says, “upon Me.” But what he says is nearly this, What has happened is no new or strange thing. For they in the Old Testament who came to have a habit of reproaching Him, they also raved against His Son. But these things were written that we should not imitate them. And then he supplies (Gr. anoints) them for a patient endurance of temptations.
Ver. 4. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime,” he says, “were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.”
That is, that we might not fall away, (for there are sundry conflicts within and without), that being nerved and comforted by the Scriptures, we might exhibit patience, that by living in patience we might abide in hope. For these things are productive of each other, patience of hope, and hope of patience. And both of them are brought about by the Scriptures. Then he again brings his discourse into the form of prayer, and says,
Ver. 5. “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus.”
For since he had given his own advice, and had also urged the example of Christ, he added the testimony of the Scriptures also, to show that with the Scripture Himself giveth patience also. And this is why he said, “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus.” For this is what love would do, be minded toward another even as toward himself. Then to show again that it is not mere love that he requires, he adds, “according to Christ Jesus.” And this he does, in all places, because there is also another sort of love. And what is the advantage of their agreeing?
Ver. 6. “That ye may with one mind,” he says, “and one mouth, glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
He does not say merely with one mouth, but bids us do it with one will also. See how he has united the whole body into one, and how he concludes his address again with a doxology, whereby he gives the utmost inducement to unanimity and concord. Then again from this point he keeps to the same exhortation as before, and says,
Ver. 7. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”
The example again is as before, and the gain unspeakable. For this is a thing that doth God especial glory, the being closely united. And so if even against thy will (Field “being grieved for His sake,” after Savile, but against mss.) and for His sake, thou be at variance with thy brother, consider that by putting an end to thine anger thou art glorifying thy Master, and if not on thy brother’s account, for this at all events be reconciled to him: or rather for this first. For Christ also insists upon this upon all possible grounds, and when addressing His Father he said, “By this shall all men know that Thou hast sent Me, if they be one.” (John xvii. 21.)
Let us obey then, and knit ourselves to one another. For in this place it is not any longer the weak, but all that he is rousing. And were a man minded to break with thee, do not thou break also. Nor give utterance to that cold saying, “Him I love that loveth me; if my right eye does not love me, I tear it out.” For these are satanical sayings, and fit for publicans, and the little spirit of the Gentiles. But thou that art called to a greater citizenship, and are enrolled in the books of Heaven, art liable to greater laws. Do not speak in this way, but when he is not minded to love thee, then display the more love, that thou mayest draw him to thee. For he is a member; and when by any force a member is sundered from the body, we do everything to unite it again, and then pay more attention to it. For the reward is the greater then, when one draws to one a person not minded to love. For if He bids us invite to supper those that cannot make us any recompense, that what goes for recompense may be the greater, much more ought we to do this in regard to friendship. Now he that is loved and loveth, does pay thee a recompense. But he that is loved and loveth not, hath made God a debtor to thee in his own room. And besides, when he loves thee he needs not much pains; but when he loves thee not, then he stands in need of thy assistance. Make not then the cause for painstaking a cause for listlessness; and say not, because he is sick, that is the reason I take no care of him (for a sickness indeed the dulling of love is), but do thou warm again that which hath become chilled. But suppose he will not be warmed, “what then?” is the reply. Continue to do thy own part. “What if he grow more perverse?” He is but procuring to thee so much greater return, and shows thee so much the greater imitator of Christ. For if the loving one another was to be the characteristic of disciples (“For hereby,” He says, “shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another”), (ib. xiii. 35) consider how great an one loving one that hates us must be. For thy Master loved those that hated Him, and called them to Him; and the weaker they were, the greater the care He showed them; and He cried and said, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” (Matt. ix. 12.) And He deemed publicans and sinners worthy of the same table with Him. And as great as was the dishonor wherewith the Jewish people treated Him, so great was the honor and concern He showed for them, yea, and much greater. Him do thou also emulate: for this good work is no light one, but one without which not even he that is a martyr can please God much, as Paul says. Say not then, I get hated, and that is why I do not love. For this is why thou oughtest to love most. And besides, it is not in the nature of things for a man who loves to be soon hated, but brute as a person may be, he loves them that love him. For this He says the heathens and the publicans do. (Matt. v. 46.) But if every one loves those that love him, who is there that would not love those who love while they are hated? Display then this conduct, and cease not to use this word, “Hate me as much as you may, I will not leave off loving thee,” and then thou wilt humble his quarrelsomeness, and cast out all coldness. For this disorder comes either from excessive heat (φλεγμονἥς, inflammation), or from coldness; but both of these is the might of love wont to correct by its warmth. Did you never see those who indulge a base love beaten, spit upon, called names, ill-treated in a thousand ways by those fornicatresses? What then? Do the insults break off this love? In no wise: they even kindle it the more. And yet they who do these things, besides being harlots, are of a disreputable and low grade. But they who submit to it, have often illustrious ancestors to count up, and much other nobility to boast of. Yet still none of these things break the tie, nor keep them aloof from her whom they love. And are we not ashamed then to find what great power the love of the devil (v. p. 520) and the demons hath, and not to be able to display as much in the love according to God? Dost thou not perceive that this is a very great weapon against the devil? Do you not see, that that wicked demon stands by, dragging to himself the man thou hatest, and desiring to snatch away the member? And dost thou run by, and give up the prize of the conflict? For thy brother, lying between you, is the prize. And if thou get the better, thou receivest a crown; but if thou art listless, thou goest away without a crown. Cease then to give utterance to that satanical saying, “if my eye hates me, I cannot see it.” For nothing is more shameful than this saying, and yet the generality lay it down for a sign of a noble spirit. But nothing is more ignoble than all this, nothing more senseless, nothing more foolish. Therefore I am indeed quite grieved that the doings of vice are held to be those of virtue, that looking down on men, and despising them, should seem to be honorable and dignified. And this is the devil’s greatest snare, to invest iniquity with a good repute, whereby it becomes hard to blot out. For I have often heard men taking credit to themselves at their not going near those who are averse to them. And yet thy Master found a glory in this. How often do not men despise (διέπτυσαν) Him? how often show aversion to Him? Yet He ceaseth not to run unto them. Say not then that “I cannot bear to come near those that hate me,” but say, that “I cannot bear to despise (διαπτύσαι) those that despise me.” This is the language of Christ’s disciple, as the other is of the devil’s. This makes men honorable and glorious, as the other doth shameful and ridiculous. It is on this ground we feel admiration for Moses, because even when God said, “Let Me alone, that I may destroy them in Mine anger,” (Exod. xxxii. 10) he could not bear to despise those who had so often shown aversion to him, but said, “If thou wilt forgive them their trespass, forgive it; else blot out me also.” (ibid. 32.) This was owing to his being a friend of God, and a copyer of Him. And let us not pride ourselves in things for which we ought to hide our faces. Nor let us use the language of these lewd fellows, that are the scum of men, I know how to scorn (καταπτύσαι, spit at) thousands. But even if another use it, let us laugh him down, and stop his mouth for taking a delight in what he ought to feel ashamed of. What say you, pray, do you scorn a man that believes, whom when unbelieving Christ scorned not? Why do I say scorned not? Why He had such love towards him, when he was vile and unsightly, as even to die for him. He then so loved, and that such a person, and do you now, when he has been made fair and admirable, scorn him; now he is made a member of Christ, and hath been made thy Master’s body? Dost thou not consider what thou art uttering, nor perceive what thou art venturing to do? He hath Christ as a Head, and a Table, and a Garment, and Life, and Light, and a Bridegroom, and He is everything to him, and dost thou dare to say, “this fellow I despise?” and not this only, but thousands of others along with him? Stay thee, O man, and cease from thy madness; get to know thy brother. Learn that these be words of unreasonableness, and frenzy, and say on the contrary, though he despise me ten thousand times, yet will I never stand aloof from him. In this way thou wilt both gain thy brother, and wilt live to the glory of God, and wilt share the good things to come. To which God grant that we may all attain, by the grace and love toward man, etc.
- These three verses are placed here by Theodoret, St. Cyr. Alex., St. John Dam, and some 200 cursive mss. Of the few uncial mss. which have come down to us, the Codex Sinaiticus the Codex Vaticanus and the very ancient C. D. with the chief versions of the New Testament, including the two first made, the Old Latin and the Peschito-syriac. Origen put them where we do, at the end of the Epistle. The fifth century Alexandrian ms. in the British Museum and two or three other mss. have the passage twice over. (For an elaborate defence both of the genuineness of this doxology and of the view that it belongs at the end of chap. xvi. see Meyer’s critical note prefixed to his comments on chap. xvi.—G.B.S.)
- Μὴ ἀποστῇς, one ms. οὐ μὴ, which seems to determine the construction.
- v. 27, in the Greek reads thus: “To God only wise through Jesus Christ, to Him (or to Whom) be glory,” etc.
- The grammatical form of the doxology presents a noticeable anacoluthon. The dative τῷ δυναμένῳ is resumed in μόνῳ σοφῷ θεῷ and again in the relative ᾧ as if the proposition begun with the dative had been competed. Thus the previous datives are left without grammatical government. ᾧ, if read (many texts omit it) is to be understood as referring to θεῷ.—G.B.S.
- Chap. xv. contains conclusions and applications drawn from the principles laid down in regard to the treatment which should be accorded to the weak in chap. xiv. The crowning consideration is that Christ pleased not himself, but bore the burdens of the weak. This is presented as the type of all Christian duty. In v. 6 the construction usually preferred is (as in R.V.) “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Eph. i. 3, 17).—G.B.S.
- ἄνω καὶ κάτω στρέφει, see Ast. ad Platon. Phædr. 127.
- See St. Chrys. ad loc. Hom. 32, on 1 Cor. p. 446 O.T. in some places he seems to speak exclusively of love to one’s neighbor in quoting this passage, but he always views this as the carrying out of love toward God, see p. 515.
- mss. ψύξιν ἐξέβαλες. Sav. ψυχην ἐμάλαξας, soften any soul.
- So Field from mss.: old edd. “If my brother hates me, I do not even wish to see him.” Perhaps the true reading is, “If my eye hates me, I do not even wish it to see,” ἐὰν ὁ ὀφθαλμός μου μισῇ με, οὐδὲ ἰδεῖν αὐτὸν βούλομαι, which seems more proverbial, (if the aorist will bear this construction as Matt. xiii. 14), and agrees with p. 537.
- So all mss. Sav. “more cruel.”