NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER ELEVEN (Lesson XV)
But how does the Apostle Paul magnify his office? By boasting that he, after the rejection of the Jews, is preaching the riches of Christ to the Gentiles? If through his office the Gentiles receive such glorious gifts, which are taken from the Jews, does this truly and solemnly prove the glory of his Gospel ministry? Or is it that by this the Jews will be moved with zeal to seek the riches of the ministry God gave him?1 This sort of reminds me of when a mother bakes some brownies and tries to give it to her son but he shows no interest. So then she gives them to the neighborhood kids who grab and eat them with enthusiasm. It isn’t long before the son is grabbing the tray away from them and saying, “They are mine!” Nothing would have pleased Paul more than if the Jews began to plead with him to hear the Gospel of their Messiah.
John Calvin offers his understanding of the point Paul is making here. For him, Paul confirms, by strong reasoning, that the Jews will lose nothing because the Gentiles are so blessed as long as they return again to favor with God. Paul, thereby, shows that the salvation of both is so connected that by one and the same means both can be promoted. So this is Paul’s message to the Gentiles: Though I have been called, in particular, to be your Apostle, and ought, therefore, with special care seek your salvation, with which I am charged, and to omit, as it were, all other things, and to labor for that only, I will nevertheless faithfully discharge my office by gaining for Christ any of my own nation. This will not only be the glory for my ministry but also good for yours.2
John Bengel makes the point that Paul is not expecting the Gentile members of the church in Rome to be elated by the fact that the same grace given to them was also available to the Jews. Rather, He wants them to know how elated he is, after being called as an Apostle to the Gentiles, to also be given the privilege of sharing the Good News with His fellow countrymen, the Jews.3 The same is true today. The powerful message of the Gospel was not given to just one church or denomination to hold onto as though it was theirs alone to interpret and only share with those they preapproved of before accepting them into their fellowship. It was meant for the whole world, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, regardless of race, ethnicity, or color of their skin. To treat the Gospel any other way is an insult to the One who sent it and the One who died to give it the power to save.
Adam Clarke advises us that these two verses should be read in parenthesis between verses 12 and 15. Paul, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, wished to show them the high pinnacle of glory and blessedness to which they had been raised that they might experience a deep sense of God‘s mercy in calling them to salvation. But even more, that they might be jealous of their position in Christ lest they should fall as the Jews had done before them. And Paul dwells particularly on the greatness of those privileges which the Gentiles had now received, that he might stir up the minds of his countrymen to emulation, and that might be the means of saving some of them.4
Clarke goes on to say that Paul desired to magnify his office to show how much he honored the ministry given to him by Christ. In so doing, the Apostle simply means that he does justice to his ministry, by stating the glorious things which he was commissioned to preach among the Gentiles: blessings which the Jews by their obstinacy had forfeited. So now that the Gentiles were safely part of the Last Covenant, why not rejoice that the Jews were being invited to come in as well.5
Robert Haldane focuses on Paul’s message to believing Gentile on how their salvation was God’s way of dealing with the Jews. They could see that they were largely blessed with the Gospel when it was rejected by the Jews, but they will be blessed with it to an unspeakably greater extent when the Jews return to faith in Christ. Paul was no doubt the Apostle to the Gentiles, and by making this prediction with regard to the Gentiles’ role in the possible restoration of the Jews, he, thereby, magnifies his office.
He addresses himself particularly to those in the church at Rome, who were Gentiles. For as he had been appointed their Apostle, he was desirous to commend his ministry among them, to assert the honor of his commission, and to prove its great importance in imparting to them the knowledge of the Gospel. He shows, with regard to the Gentiles, that its value was enhanced in proportion to the great number of Gentiles who will be saved. In this view, it is should be of particular interest to the Gentiles that the Jews should be brought back, and this should increase their own efforts for their conversion.6
Albert Barnes also speaks about this same topic. By Paul showing that the Gospel is to be preached to the Gentiles, that the barrier between them and the Jews is to be broken down, that the Gospel may be preached to all people, he showed that the office he holds proclaims this as one of its great honors. A minister may not magnify himself, but he may magnify his office. He may esteem himself as less than the least of all saints, and unworthy to be called a servant of God,7 yet he may feel that he is an ambassador of Christ, entrusted with a message of salvation, entitled to the respect due to a diplomat, and to the honor which is appropriate to an emissary of God. To unite these two things constitutes the dignity of the Christian ministry.8
H. A. Ironside believes that since Paul was the called Apostle to the Gentiles, he had every right to magnify his office. But he did not want the Gentiles to think for a moment that he had somehow lost his interest in Israel’s salvation. Rather, he wanted to see the Jews stirred to such emulation that many might be saved from among them as they saw the grace of God going out to the Gentiles. On the other hand, he would not have the Gentiles glory over the Jews because the latter was set aside and the former enjoyed the blessings that the Jew would have had, had they only been ready to receive them.9
Charles Hodge also sees Paul’s statement here as having a very personal feeling. That’s because these two verses contain a passing remark relating to the Apostle’s own emotions and mode of acting in reference to the subject in hand. His readers were not supposed to think that just because he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, his labors had no reference to the Jews, or that he was unconcerned about their salvation. This passage is, therefore, connected with the last clause of verse 12 in which Paul mentioned that the conversion of the Gentiles was adapted and designed to bring about the restoration of the Jews.”10
Hodge believes that Paul wanted the Gentiles to realize that the restoration of the Jews would in no way jeopardize their position in God’s Kingdom. Therefore, there should be no reason for them not to support such an effort. Hodge feels this is the reason why Paul desired the spiritual rebirth of the Jews. If the two events involving the salvation of the Gentiles and conversion of the Jews were found to be intimately related, there would be no grounds for ill feelings on either one’s part. The Gentiles need not fear that the restoration of the Jews would hurt their chances with God. This would be to think that the happiness of one would jeopardize that of the other.11
Charles Spurgeon also has some interesting thoughts on this subject. For him, the dignity that God gives to His servants is bestowed upon their office, not something on them individually apart from their office. They must never run away with it into daily life and think that they can call themselves “reverend,” simply because their Lord is equally revered. Also, they have no reason to claim the same serious attention for their own thoughts which they rightly demand for the Word of the Lord.12 What Spurgeon is saying here is that some ministers feel that their ideas and opinions on the subject of politics, sports, or finances are superior to others just because they are called, “Reverend.” However, the Apostle Paul was wanting the Gentiles to know that his desire to see the Jews come into the fold was not due solely to his being a Jew or that he was called an Apostle of Christ, but of his being a chosen carrier of the Good News to those who were lost.
Frédéric Godet shares his view on what Paul was trying to say here. He begins by asking: “What does Paul understand when using the expression: ‘I magnify my office?‘” These words might be applied to the defenses which he was constantly obliged to make of his Apostleship. But instead of this being seen as contributing to his effort to bring the Jews to the faith, such claims would only embitter them. It is, therefore, only the zeal and dedication displayed by him in the service of his mission that the Apostle is thinking. To magnify his ministry as the Apostle of the Gentiles is to convert as many heathens as possible. When understood this way, Paul would be saying that it all had to do with expanding his office as an Apostle, not only to go to the Gentiles but also to the Jews.
So could it be that Paul is telling everyone that he will try in every way possible to awakening his own people from their passivity, whom he loves as his own flesh, should it only be by jealousy, even as he attempts to reach as many Gentiles as possible? Here, as in Romans 11:11, he uses the expression which Moses employed (see verse 19). No doubt he does not deceive himself; he does not take the conversion of Israel en masse as a possibility before the end times. But he would like, at least, to be instrumental in saving some of them as first-fruits of the harvest yet to come.13
Charles Ellicott hears Paul saying something like this: I am talking to you Gentiles. It is you who will benefit if the Jews are restored. And that’s the real reason why, as Apostle of the Gentiles I make the most of my office. I do it in order to create a dream for my own countrymen, knowing that the effects of their rejection can still lead us to the happiest consequences of their readmission to the kingdom of God. For their end will be as their beginning was. They began as the chosen people of God, and the conclusion of it will be the same only more glorious.14 Would we not feel the same today if all the atheist, secularist, and verbal critics of the church were to suddenly turn and be saved, and join us in declaring the glory of the cross, the power of the Gospel, and the joy of everlasting life? I believe we all would.
1 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 159-160
2 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 331
4 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 219
5 Clarke: ibid., p. 220
6 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 533
7 Ephesians 3:8
8 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op cit., loc. cit.
9 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 566
11 Hodge: ibid., p. 567
12 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 Frédéric H. Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
14 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.