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Commentary On Romans by Jean Calvin

Romans 15:17-21

17. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.

17. Habeo igitur quod glorier per Iesum Christum in iis quae ad Deum pertinent.

18. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,

18. Non enim ausim loqui quicquam de iis quae non effecit Christus per me, in obedientiam Gentium, sermone et opere;

19. Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

19. In potentia signorum et prodigiorum, in potentia Spiritus Dei, ut ab Ierusalem et in circuitu usque in Illyricum impleverim evangelium Christi:

20. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:

20. Ira annitens praedicare evangelium, non ubi nominatus erat Christus, ne super alienum fundamentum aedificarem;

21. But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

21. Sed quemadmodum scripture est, Ii quibus non annuntiatum est de eo, videbunt, et qui non audierunt, intelligent.

17. I have then, etc. After having in general commended his own calling, that the Romans might know that he was a true and undoubted apostle of Christ, he now adds testimonies, by which he proved that he had not only taken upon him the apostolic office conferred on him by God's appointment, but that he had also eminently adorned it. He at the same time records the fidelity which he had exhibited in discharging his office. It is indeed to little purpose that we are appointed, except we act agreeably to our calling and fulfill our office. He did not make this declaration from a desire to attain glow, but because nothing was to be omitted which might procure favor and authority to his doctrine among the Romans. In God then, not in himself, did he glory; for he had nothing else in view but that the whole praise should redound to God.

And that he speaks only negatively, it is indeed an evidence of his modesty, but it availed also to gain credit to what he was proceeding to announce, as though he said, |The truth itself affords me such cause for glowing, that I have no need to seek false praises, or those of another, I am content with such as are true.| It may be also that he intended to obviate the unfavorable reports which he knew were everywhere scattered by the malevolent, he therefore mentioned beforehand that he would not speak but of things well known.

18. In order to make the Gentiles obedient, etc. These words prove what his object was, even to render his ministry approved by the Romans, that his doctrine might not be without fruit. He proves then by evidences that God by the presence of his power had given a testimony to his preaching, and in a manner sealed his apostleship, so that no one ought to have doubted, but, that he was appointed and sent by the Lord. The evidences were word, work, and miracles. It hence appears that the term work includes more than miracles. He at last concludes with this expression, through the power of the Spirit; by which he intimates that these things could not have been done without the Spirit being the author. In short, he declares that with regard to his teaching as well as his doing, he had such strength and energy in preaching Christ, that it was evidently the wonderful power of God, and that miracles were also added, which were seals to render the evidence more certain.

He mentions word and work in the first place, and then he states one kind of work, even the power of performing miracles. The same order is observed by Luke, when he says that Christ was mighty in word and work, (Luke 24:19;) and John says that Christ referred the Jews to his own works for a testimony of his divinity. (John 5:36.) Nor does he simply mention miracles, but gives them two designations. But instead of what he says here, the power of signs and of wonders, Peter has |miracles and signs and wonders.| (Acts 2:22.) And doubtless they were testimonies of divine power to awaken men, that being struck with God's power, they might admire and at the same time adore him; nor are they without an especial meaning, but intended to stimulate us, that we may understand what God is.

This is a striking passage respecting the benefit of miracles: they are designed to prepare men to reverence and to obey God. So you read in Mark, that the Lord confirmed the truth by the signs which followed. (Mark 16:20.) Luke declares in the Acts, that the Lord by miracles gave testimony to the word of his grace. (Acts 14:3.) It is then evident that those miracles which bring glory to creatures and not to God, which secure credit to lies and not to God's word, are from the devil. The power of the Spirit, which he mentions in the third place, I apply to both the preceding clauses.

19. So that from Jerusalem, etc. He joins also a testimony from the effect; for the success which followed his preaching exceeded all the thoughts of men. For who could have gathered so many churches for Christ, without being aided by the power of God? |From Jerusalem,| he says, |I have propagated the gospel as far as Illyricum, and not by hastening to the end of my course by a straight way, but by going all around, and through the intervening countries.| But the verb peplerokenai, which after others I have rendered filled up or completed, means both to perfect and to supply what is wanting. Hence pleroma in Greek means perfection as well as a supplement. I am disposed to explain it thus, -- that he diffused, as it were by filling up, the preaching of the gospel; for others had before begun, but he spread it wider.

20. Thus striving to preach the gospel, etc. As it was necessary for Paul not only to prove himself to be the servant of Christ and a pastor of the Christian Church, but also to show his title to the character and office of an Apostle, that he might gain the attention of the Romans, he mentions here the proper and peculiar distinction of the apostleship; for the work of an Apostle is to propagate the gospel where it had not been preached, according to that command,

|Go ye, preach the gospel to every creature.| (Mark 16:15.)

And this is what we ought carefully to notice, lest we make a general rule of what specially belongs to the Apostolic order: nor ought we to consider it a fault, that a successor was substituted who built up the Church. The Apostles then were the founders as it were of the Church; the pastors who succeeded them, had to strengthen and amplify the building raised up by them. He calls that another's foundation, which had been laid by the hand of another: otherwise Christ is the only stone on which the Church is founded. See 1 Corinthians 3:11; and Ephesians 2:20

21. But as it is written, etc. He confirms by the testimony of Isaiah what he had said of the evidence of his apostleship; for in Isaiah 52:15, speaking of the kingdom of Messiah, among other things he predicts, that the knowledge of Christ would be spread among the Gentiles throughout the whole world, that his name would be declared to those by whom it had not been heard of before. It was meet that this should be done by the Apostles, to whom the command was specifically given. Hence the apostleship of Paul was made evident from this circumstance, -- that this prophecy was fulfilled in him.

It is absurd for any one to attempt to apply what is here said to the pastoral office; for we know that in Churches rightly formed, where the truth of the gospel has been already received, Christ's name must be constantly preached. Paul then was a preacher of Christ, yet unknown to foreign nations, for this end, -- that after his departure the same doctrine should be daily proclaimed in every place by the mouth of the pastors; for it is certain that the Prophet speaks of the commencement of the kingdom of Christ.

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