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Home > Fathers of the Church > Homilies on Romans (Chrysostom) > Homily 19

Homily 19 on Romans

Rom. XI. 7

What then? Israel has not obtained that, which he seeks for; but the election has obtained it and the rest were blinded.

He had said that God did not cast off His people; and to show in what sense He had not cast them off, he takes refuge in the Prophets again. And having shown by them that the more part of the Jews were lost, that he might not seem to be again bringing forward an accusation of his own, and to make his discourse offensive, and to be attacking them as enemies, he takes refuge in David and Isaiah, and says,

Ver. 8. According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber. Isaiah 29:10

Or rather we should go back to the beginning of his argument. Having then mentioned the state of things in Elijah's time, and shown what grace is, he proceeds, What then? Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for. Now this is as much what an accuser would say, as what one who was putting a question. For the Jew, he means, is inconsistent with himself when he seeks for righteousness, which he will not accept. Then to leave them with no excuse, he shows, from those who have accepted it, their unfeeling spirit, as he says, But the election has obtained it, and they are the condemnation of the others. And this is what Christ says, But if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Wherefore they shall be your judges. Luke 11:19 For to prevent any one from accusing the nature of the thing, and not their own temper, he points out those who had obtained it. Hence he uses the word with great propriety, to show at once the grace from above and the zeal of these. For it is not to deny free-will that he speaks of their having obtained (as by chance, Gr. πέτυχε) it, but to show the greatness of the good things, and that the greater part was of grace, though not the whole. For we too are in the habit of saying, so and so chanced to get (same word), so and so met with, when the gain has been a great one. Because it is not by man's labors, but by God's gift, that the greater part was brought about.

And the rest was blinded.

See how he has been bold enough to tell with his own voice the casting off of the rest. For he had indeed spoken of it already, but it was by bringing the prophets in as accusers. But from this point he declares it in his own person. Still even here he is not content with his own declaration, but brings Isaiah the prophet in again. For after saying, were blinded, he proceeds; according as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber. Now whence came this blinding? He had indeed mentioned the causes of it before, and turned it all upon their own heads, to show that it was from their unseasonable obstinacy that they had to bear this. And now he speaks of it too. For when he says, Eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, he is but finding fault with their contentious spirit. For when they had eyes to see the miracles, and were possessed of ears to hear that marvellous Teaching, they never used these as were fitting. And the He gave, do not imagine to mean here an agency, but a permission only. But slumber (καταάνυξις lit. piercing) is a name he here gives to the habit of soul inclinable to the worse, when incurably and unchangeably so. For in another passage David says, that my glory may sing unto You, and I may not be put to slumber Psalm 30:12, Septuagint: that is, I may not alter, may not be changed. For as a man who is hushed to slumber in a state of pious fear would not easily be made to change his side; so too he that is slumbering in wickedness would not change with facility. For to be hushed to slumber here is nothing else but to be fixed and riveted to a thing. In pointing then to the incurable and unchangeable character of their spirit, he calls it a spirit of slumber. Then to show that for this unbelief they will be most severely punished, he brings the Prophet forward again, threatening the very things which in the event came to pass.

Ver. 9. Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block. Psalm 69:22-23

That is, let their comforts and all their good things change and perish, and let them be open to attack from any one. And to show that this is in punishment for sins that they suffer this, he adds, and a recompense unto them.

Ver. 10. Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back always.

Do these things then still require any interpreting? Are they not plain even to those ever so senseless? And before our words, the very issue of facts has anticipated us in bearing witness to what was said. For at what time have they ever been so open to attacks? At what time such an easy prey? At what time has He so bowed down their backs? At what time have they been set under such bondage? And what is more, there is not to be any unloosing from these terrors. And this the prophet has also hinted. For he does not say only, bow Thou down their back, but, forever bow Thou down. But if you are disposed to dispute, O Jew, about the issue, from what has gone before learn also the present case. Thou went down to Egypt; and two hundred years passed, and God freed you speedily from that bondage, and that though thou were irreligious, and went whoring with the most baneful whoredom. You were freed from Egypt, and you worshipped the calf, you sacrificed your sons to Baalpeor, you defiled the temple, you went after every sort of vice, you grew not to know nature itself. The mountains, the groves, the hills, the springs, the rivers, the gardens did you fill with accursed sacrifices, you slew the prophets, overthrew the altars, exhibited every excess of wickedness and irreligion. Still, after giving you up for seventy years to the Babylonians, He brought you back again to your former freedom, and gave you back the temple, and your country, and your old form of polity and there were prophets again, and the gift of the Spirit. Or rather, even in the season of your captivity you were not deserted, but even there were Daniel, and Ezekiel, and in Egypt Jeremiah, and in the desert Moses. After this you reverted to your former vice again, and wast a reveller ξεβακχεύθης 2 Maccabees 14:33, therein, and changed your manner of life πολιτείαν to the Grecian in the time of Antiochus the impious Daniel 8:14; 1 Maccabees 4:54. But even then for a three years and a little over only were ye given up to Antiochus, and then by the Maccabees ye raised those bright trophies again. But now there is nothing of the sort, for the reverse has happened throughout. And this is ground for the greatest surprise, as the vices have ceased, and the punishment has been increased, and is without any hope of a change. For it is not seventy years only that have passed away, nor a hundred, nor yet twice as many but three hundred, and a good deal over, and there is no finding even a shadow of a hope of the kind. And this though ye neither are idolaters, nor do the other audacious acts ye did before. What then is the cause? The reality has succeeded to the type, and grace has shut out the Law. And this the prophet foretelling from of old said, And ever bow Thou down their back. See the minuteness of prophecy, how it foretells their unbelief, and also points out their disputatiousness, and shows the judgment which should follow, and sets forth the endlessness of the punishment. For as many of the duller sort, through unbelief in what was to come to pass, wished to see things to come by the light of things present, from this point of time God gave proof of His power on either part, by lifting those of the Gentiles who believed, above the heaven, but bringing down such of the Jews as believed not to the lowest estate of desolation, and giving them up to evils not to be ended. Having then urged them severely both about their not believing, and about what they had suffered and were yet to suffer, he again allays what he had said by writing as follows:

Ver. 11. I say then, Have they stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid.

When he has shown that they were liable to evils without number, then he devises an allayment. And consider the judgment of Paul. The accusation he had introduced from the prophets, but the allayment he makes come from himself. For that they had sinned greatly, he would say, none will gainsay. But let us see if the fall is of such kind as to be incurable, and quite preclude their being set up again. But of such kind it is not. You see how he is attacking them again, and under the expectation of some allayment he proves them guilty of confessed sins. But let us see what even by way of allayment he does devise for them. Now what is the allayment? When the fullness of the Gentiles, he says, shall have come in, then shall all Israel be saved, at the time of his second coming, and the end of the world. Yet this he does not say at once. But since he had made a hard onset upon them, and linked accusations to accusations, bringing prophets in after prophets crying aloud against them, Isaiah, Elijah, David, Moses, Hosea, not once or twice, but several times; lest in this way he should both by driving these into despair, make a wall to bar their access to the faith, and should further make such of the Gentiles as believed unreasonably elated, and they also by being puffed up should take harm in matter of their faith, he further solaces them by saying, But rather through their fall salvation has come unto the Gentiles. But we must not take what is here said literally, but get acquainted with the spirit and object of the speaker, and what he aimed to compass. Which thing I ever entreat of your love. For if with this in our minds we take up what is here said, we shall not find a difficulty in any part of it. For his present anxiety is to remove from those of the Gentiles the haughtiness which might spring in them from what he had said. For in this way they too were more likely to continue unshaken in the faith, when they had learned to be reasonable, as also those of the Jews were, when quit of despair, more likely to come with readiness to grace. Having regard then to this object of his, let us so listen to all that is said on this passage. What does he say then? And whence does he show that their fall was not irremediable, nor their rejection final? He argues from the Gentiles, saying as follows:

Through their fall salvation has come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

This language is not his own only, but in the Gospels too the parables mean this. For He who made a marriage feast for His Son, when the guests would not come, called those in the highways. Matthew 22:9. And He who planted the Vineyard, when the husbandmen slew the Heir, let out His Vineyard to others. Matthew 21:38, etc And without any parable, He Himself said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Matthew 15:24 And to the Syrophœnician woman, when she persevered, He said somewhat further besides. It is not meet, He says, to take the children's bread, and cast it to the dogs. Matthew 15:26 And Paul to those of the Jews that raised a sedition, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken unto you: but seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy, lo, we turn unto the Gentiles. Acts 13:46 And throughout it is clear that the natural course of things was this, that they should be the first to come in, and then those of the Gentiles; but since they disbelieved, the order was reversed; and their unbelief and fall caused these to be brought in first. Hence it is that he says, through their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. But if he mentions what the course of things issued in, as if the chief design of Providence, do not feel surprised. For he wishes to solace their down-stricken souls, and his meaning is about this. Jesus came to them; they did not receive Him, though He did countless miracles, but crucified Him. Hence He drew the Gentiles to Him, that the honor they had, by cutting them to the heart for their insensibility might at least out of a moroseness against others persuade them to come over. For they ought to have been first admitted, and then we. And this was why he said, For it is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. Romans 1:16 But as they had started off, we the last became first. See then how great honors he gathers for them even from this. One that he says, we were then called, when they were not willing; a second that he says, the reason of our being called was not that we only might be saved, but that they also, growing jealous at our salvation, might become better. What does he say then? That if it were not for the Jews' sake, we should not have been called and saved at all? We should not before them, but in the regular order. Wherefore also when He was speaking to the disciples, He did not say barely, Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel Matthew 10:6, but, Go rather to the sheep, to show that to those parts also they must come after these. And Paul again says not, It was necessary that the word of God should have been spoken unto you, but should first have been spoken unto you Acts 13:46, to show that in the second place it must be to us also. And this was both done and said, that they might not be able, shameless though they were, to pretend that they were overlooked, and that was why they did not believe. This then was why Christ, though he knew all things before, yet came to them first.

Ver. 12. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness?

Here he is speaking to gratify them. For even if these had fallen a thousand times, the Gentiles would not have been saved unless they had shown faith. As the Jews likewise would not have perished unless they had been unbelieving and disputatious. But as I said, he is solacing them now they are laid low, giving them so much the more ground to be confident of their salvation if they altered. For if when they stumbled, he says, so many enjoyed salvation, and when they were cast out so many were called, just consider what will be the case when they return. But he does not put it thus, When they return. Now he does not say how much more their return, or their altering, or their well-doing, but how much more their fullness, that is, when they are all about coming in. And this he said to show that then also grace and God's gift will do the larger part, or almost the whole.

Ver. 13, 14. For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office; if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Again he endeavors much to get himself clear of untoward suspicion. And he seems to be blaming the Gentiles, and to be humbling their conceits, yet he gives a gentle provocation to the Jew also. And indeed he goes round about seeking to veil and allay this great ruin of theirs. But he finds no means of doing it, owing to the nature of the facts. For from what he had said, they deserved but the greater condemnation, when those who were far short of them had taken the good things prepared for them. This is why then he passes from the Jews to those of the Gentiles, and puts in between his discourse the part about them, as wishing to show that he is saying all these things in order to instruct them to be reasonable. For I praise you, he means, for these two reasons; one, because I am necessitated to do so as being your commissioned minister; the other, that through you I may save others. And he does not say, my brethren, my kinsmen; but, my flesh. And next, when pointing out their disputatious spirit, he does not say, if by any means I may persuade, but, provoke to jealousy and save; and here again not all, but, some of them. So hard were they! And even amid his rebuke he shows again the Gentiles honored, for they are causes of their salvation, and not in the same way. For they became purveyors of blessings to them through unbelief, but these to the Jews by faith. Hence the estate of the Gentiles seems to be at once equal and superior. For what will you say, O Jew? That if we had not been cast out, he would not have been called so soon? This the man of the Gentiles may say too, If I had not been saved, you would not have been moved to jealousy. But if you would know wherein we have the advantage, I save you by believing, but it is by stumbling that you have afforded us an access before yourself. Then perceiving again that he had touched them to the quick, resuming his former argument, he says,

Ver. 15. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?

Yet this again condemns them, since, while others gained by their sins, they did not profit by other men's well doings. But if he asserts that to be their doing which necessarily happened, be not surprised: since (as I have said several times) it is to humble these, and to exhort the other, that he throws his address into this form. For as I said before, if the Jews had been cast away a thousand times over, and the Gentiles had not shown faith, they would never have been saved. But he stands by the feeble party, and gives assistance to the distressed one. But see also even in his favors to them, how he solaces them in words only. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, (and what is this to the Jews?) what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead? Yet even this was no boon to them, unless they had been received. But what he means is to this effect. If in anger with them He gave other men so great gifts, when He is reconciled to them what will He not give? But as the resurrection of the dead was not by the receiving of them, so neither now is our salvation through them. But they were cast out owing to their own folly, but it is by faith that we are saved, and by grace from above. But of all this nothing can be of service to them, unless they show the requisite faith. Yet doing as he is wont, he goes on to another encomium, which is not really one, but which only seems to be, so imitating the wisest physicians, who give their patients as much consolation as the nature of the sickness allows them. And what is it that he says?

Ver. 16. For if the first-fruits be holy, the lump also is holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches;

So calling in this passage by the names of the first-fruit and root Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, the prophets, the patriarchs, all who were of note in the Old Testament; and the branches, those from them who believed. Then since the fact met him that many had disbelieved, observe how he undermines ( ποτέμνεται, see p. 345) it again, and says,

Ver. 17. And if some of the branches be broken off.

And yet above you said that the more part perished, and a few were saved only. How came it then that speaking of those that perished, you have used a some, which is indicative of fewness? It is not, he replies, in opposition to myself, but out of a desire to court and recover those that are distressed. Observe how in the whole of the passage one finds him working at this object, the wish to solace them. And if you deny it, many contradictions will follow. But let me beg you to notice his wisdom, how while he seems to be speaking for them, and devising a solace for them, he aims a secret blow at them, and shows that they are devoid of all excuse, even from the root, from the first-fruit. For consider the badness of the branches, which, when they have a sweet root, still do not imitate it; and the faultiness of the lump, when it is not altered even by the first-fruit. And if some of the branches were broken off. However, the greater part were broken off. Yet, as I said, he wishes to comfort them. And this is why it is not in his own person, but in theirs, that he brings in the words used, and even in this gives a secret stroke at them, and shows them to have fallen from being Abraham's kinsmen. Matthew 3:9 For what he was desirous of saying was, that they had nothing in common with them. John 8:39 For if the root be holy, and these be not holy, then these are far away from the root. Then under the appearance of solacing the Jews, he again by his accusation smites them of the Gentiles. For after saying, And if some of the branches were broken off, he proceeds.

And thou being a wild olive were grafted in.

For the less esteem the man of the Gentiles is of, the more the Jew is vexed at seeing him enjoy his goods. And to the other, the disgrace of the little esteem he was of, is nothing to the honor of the change. And consider his skilfulness. He does not say, thou were planted in, but thou were grafted in, by this again cutting the Jew to the heart, as showing that the Gentile man was standing in his own tree, and himself lying on the ground. Wherefore he does not stop even here, nor after he had spoken of grafting in does he leave off (and yet in this he declared the whole matter), but still he dwells over the prosperous state of the Gentile, and enlarges upon his fair fame in the words, And with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree. And he seems indeed to have viewed him in the light of an addition. But he shows that he was no whit the worse on that account, but in possession of everything, that the branch which had come up out of the root had. Lest then on hearing the words, and thou were grafted in, you should suppose him to be lacking when compared with the natural branch, see how he makes him equal to it by saying, that with them you partake of the root and fatness of the olive: that is, hast been put into the same noble rank, the same nature. Then in rebuking him, and saying,

Ver. 18. Boast not against the branches. He seems indeed to be comforting the Jew, but points out his vileness and extreme dishonor. And this is why he says not, boast not, but, boast not against do not boast against them so as to sunder them. For it is into their place that you have been set, and their goods that you enjoy. Do you observe how he seems to be rebuking the one, while he is sharp upon the other?

But if you boast, he says, you bear not the root, but the root you.

Now what is this to the branches that are cut off? Nothing. For, as I said before, while seeming to devise a sort of weak shadow of consolation, and in the very midst of his aiming at the Gentile, he gives them a mortal blow; for by saying, boast not against them, and, if you boast, you bear not the root, he has shown the Jew that the things done deserved boasting of, even if it was not right to boast, thus at once rousing him and provoking him to faith, and smiting at him, in the attitude of an advocate, and pointing out to him the punishment he was undergoing, and that other men had possession of what were their goods.

Ver. 19. You will say then, he goes on, The branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.

Again he establishes, by way of objection, the opposite to the former position, to show that what he said before, he had not said as directly belonging to the subject, but to draw them to him. For it was no longer by their fall that salvation came to the Gentiles, nor was it their fall that was the riches of the world. Nor was it by this that we were saved, because they had fallen, but the reverse. And he shows that the providence in regard to the Gentiles was a main object, even though he seems to put what he says into another form. And the whole passage is a tissue of objections, in which he clears himself of the suspicion of hatred, and makes his language such as will be acceptable.

Ver. 20. Well, he praises what they said, then he alarms them again by saying, Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you are grafted in by faith.

So here another encomium, and for the other party an accusation. But he again lays their pride low by proceeding to say, be not high-minded, but fear. For the thing is not matter of nature, but of belief and unbelief. And he seems to be again bridling the Gentile, but he is teaching the Jew that it is not right to cling to a natural kinsmanship. Hence he goes on with, Be not high-minded, and he does not say, but be humble, but, fear. For haughtiness genders a contempt and listlessness. Then as he is going into all the sorrows of their calamity, in order to make the statement less offensive, he states it in the way of a rebuke given to the other as follows:

Ver. 21. For if God spared not the natural branches, and then he does not say, neither will He spare you, but take heed, lest He also spare not you. So paring ( ποτεμνόμενος) away the distasteful from his statement, representing the believer as in the struggle, he at once draws the others to him, and humbles these also.

Ver. 22. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shall be cut off.

And he does not say, Behold your well doing, behold your labors, but, Behold the goodness of God toward man, to show that the whole comes of grace from above, and to make us tremble. For this reason for boasting should make you to fear: since the Lord (δεσπότης) has been good unto you, do thou therefore fear. For the blessings do not abide by you unmovable if you turn listless, as neither do the evils with them, if they alter; For thou also, he says, unless thou continue in the faith, will be cut off.

Ver. 23. And they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in.

For it was not God that cut them off, but they have broken themselves off and fallen, and he did well to say have broken themselves off. For He has never yet so (Sav. conj. manuscript corr. οὗτος) cast them off, though they have sinned so much and so often. You see what a great thing a man's free choice is, how great the efficacy of the mind is. For none of these things is immutable, neither your good nor his evil. You see too how he raises up even him in his despondency, and humbles the other in his confidence; and do not thou be faint at hearing of severity, nor thou be confident at hearing of goodness. The reason why He cut you off in severity was, that you might long to come back. The reason why He showed goodness to you was, that you might continue in (he does not say the faith, but) His goodness, that is, if you do things worthy of God's love toward man. For there is need of something more than faith. You see how he suffers neither these to lie low, nor those to be elated, but he also provokes them to jealousy, by giving through them a power to the Jew to be set again in this one's place, as he also had first taken the other's ground. And the Gentile he put in fear by the Jews, and what had happened to them, lest they should feel elated over it. But the Jew he tries to encourage by what had been afforded to the Greek. For thou also, he says, will be cut off if you grow listless, (for the Jew was cut off), and he will be grafted in if he be earnest, for thou also wast grafted in. But it is very judicious in him to direct all he says to the Gentile, as he is always in the habit of doing, correcting the feeble by rebuking the stronger. This he does in the end of this Epistle too, when he is speaking of the observance of meats. Then, he grounds this on what had already happened, not upon what was to come only. And this was more likely to persuade his hearer. And as he means to enter on consecutiveness of reasonings, such as could not be spoken against, he first uses a demonstration drawn from the power of God. For if they were cut off, and cast aside, and others took precedence of them in what was theirs, still even now despair not.

For God is able, he says, to graft them in again, since He does things beyond expectation. But if you wish for things to be in order, and reasons to be consecutive, you have from yourselves a demonstration which more than meets your wants.

Ver. 24. For if you were cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.

If then faith was able to do what was contrary to nature, much more will it that which is according to nature. For if this person, who was cut off from those by nature his fathers, came contrary to nature unto Abraham, much more will you be able to recover your own. For the Gentile's evil lot is according to nature (he being by nature a wild olive), and the good contrary to nature (it being contrary to nature for him to be grafted into Abraham), but your lot on the contrary is the good by nature. For it is not upon another root, as the Gentile, but on your own that you are to be fixed if you are minded to come back. What then do you deserve, when after the Gentile had been able to do what was contrary to nature, you are not able to do that which is according to nature, but hast given up even this? Then as he had said contrary to nature, and, were grafted in, that you may not suppose the Jew to have the advantage, he again corrects this by saying that he also is grafted in. How much more shall these, says he, which be the natural branches be grafted into their own olive-tree? And again, God is able to graft them in. And before this he says, that if they abide not still in unbelief, they shall be also grafted in. And when you hear that he keeps speaking of according to nature, and contrary to nature, do not suppose that he means the nature that is unchangeable, but he tells us in these words of the probable and the consecutive, and on the other hand of the improbable. For the good things and the bad are not such as are by nature, but by temper and determination alone. And consider also how inoffensive he is. For after saying that thou also will be cut off, if you dost not abide in the faith, and these will be grafted in, if they abide not still in unbelief, he leaves that of harsh aspect, and insists on that of kindlier sound, and in it he ends, putting great hopes before the Jews if they were minded not to abide so. Wherefore he goes on to say,

Ver. 25. For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise your own conceits.

Meaning by mystery here, that which is unknown and unutterable, and has much of wonder and much of what one should not expect about it. As in another passage too he says, Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51 What then is the mystery?

That blindness in part has happened unto Israel. Here again he levels a blow at the Jew, while seeming to take down the Gentile. But his meaning is nearly this, and he had said it before, that the unbelief is not universal, but only in part. As when he says, But if any has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but in part 2 Corinthians 2:5: And, so here too he says what he had said above, God has not cast off His people whom He foreknew Romans 11:2: and again, What then? Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid Romans 11:11: This then he says here also; that it is not the whole people that is pulled up, but many have already believed, and more are likely to believe. Then as he had promised a great thing, he adduces the prophet in evidence, speaking as follows. Now it is not for the fact of a blindness having happened that he quotes the passage (for every one could see that), but that they shall believe and be saved, he brings Isaiah to witness, who cries aloud and says,

Ver. 26. There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Isaiah 59:20

Then to give the mark that fixes its sense to salvation, to prevent any one from drawing it aside and attaching it to times gone by, he says,

Ver. 27. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Not when they are circumcised, not when they sacrifice, not when they do the other deeds of the Law, but when they attain to the forgiveness of sins. If then this has been promised, but has never yet happened in their case, nor have they ever enjoyed the remission of sins by baptism, certainly it will come to pass. Hence he proceeds,

Ver. 29. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

And even this is not all he says to solace them, for he uses what had already come about. And what came in of consequence, that he states as chiefly intended, putting it in these words,

Ver. 28. As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

That the Gentile then might not be puffed up, and say, I am standing, do not tell me of what would have been, but what has been, he uses this consideration to bring him down, and says, As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes. For when you were called they became more captious. Nevertheless God has not even now cut short the calling of you, but He waits for all the Gentiles that are to believe to come in, and then they also shall come. Then he does them another kind favor, by saying, As touching election, they are beloved for the fathers sakes. And what is this? For wherein they are enemies, punishment is theirs: but wherein they are beloved, the virtue of their ancestors has no influence on them, if they do not believe. Nevertheless, as I said, he ceases not to solace them with words, that he may bring them over. Wherefore by way of fresh proof for his former assertion, he says,

Ver. 30-32. For as you in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy. For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.

He shows here that those of the Gentiles were called first. Then, as they would not come, the Jews were elected, and the same result occurred again. For when the Jews would not believe, again the Gentiles were brought over. And he does not stop here, nor does he draw the whole to a conclusion at their rejection, but at their having mercy shown them again. See how much he gives to those of the Gentiles, as much as he did to the Jews before. For when you, he would say, in times past did not obey, being of the Gentiles, then the Jews came in. Again, when these did not obey, you have come. However, they will not perish forever. For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that is, has convinced them, has shown them disobedient; not that they may remain in disobedience, but that He may save the one by the captiousness of the other, these by those and those by these. Now consider; you were disobedient, and they were saved. Again, they have been disobedient, and you have been saved. Yet you have not been so saved as to be put away again, as the Jews were, but so as to draw them over through jealousy while you abide.

Ver. 33. Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments!

Here after going back to former times, and looking back to God's original dispensation of things whereby the world has existed up to the present time, and having considered what special provision He had made for all occurrences, he is stricken with awe, and cries aloud, so making his hearers feel confident that certainly that will come to pass which he says. For he would not have cried aloud and been awe-struck, unless this was quite sure to come to pass. That it is a depth then, he knows: but how great, he knows not. For the language is that of a person wondering, not of one that knew the whole. But admiring and being awe-struck at the goodliness, so far forth as in him lay, he heralds it forth by two intensitive words, riches and depth, and then is awestruck at His having had both the will and the power to do all this, and by opposites effecting opposites. How unsearchable are His judgments. For they are not only impossible to be comprehended, but even to be searched. And His ways past finding out; that is, His dispensations for these also are not only impossible to be known, but even to be sought into. For even I, he means, have not found out the whole, but a little part, not all. For He alone knows His own clearly. Wherefore he proceeds:

Ver. 34, 35. For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counsellor? Or who has first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

What he means is nearly this: that though He is so wise, yet He has not His Wisdom from any other, but is Himself the Fountain of good things. And though He has done so great things, and made us so great presents, yet it was not by borrowing from any other that He gave them, but by making them spring forth from Himself; nor as owing any a return for having received from him, but as always being Himself the first to do the benefits; for this is a chief mark of riches, to overflow abundantly, and yet need no aid. Wherefore he proceeds to say, For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things. Himself devised, Himself created, Himself works together (Vulg. συγκρατεἵ, manuscripts συγκροτεἵ). For He is rich, and needs not to receive from another. And wise, and needs no counsellor. Why speak I of a counsellor? To know the things of Him is no one able, save Himself alone, the Rich and Wise One. For it is proof of much riches that He should make them of the Gentiles thus well supplied; and of much wisdom that He should constitute the inferiors of the Jews their teachers. Then as he was awe-struck he offers up thanksgiving also in the word, To Whom be glory forever. Amen.

For when he tells of any great and unutterable thing of this kind, he ends in wonder with a doxology. And this he does in regard to the Son also. For in that passage also he went on to the very same thing that he does here. Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, Who is over all God blessed forever. Amen. Romans 9:5

Him then let us also imitate, and let us glorify God in all things, by a heedful way of life, and let us not feel confidence in the virtues of our ancestry, knowing the example that has been made of the Jews. For this is not, certainly it is not, the relationship of Christians, for theirs is the kinsmanship of the Spirit. So the Scythian becomes Abraham's son: and his son on the other hand more of an alien to him than the Scythian. Let us not then feel confidence in the well-doings of our fathers (most manuscripts of others), but if you have a parent who is a marvel even, fancy not that this will be enough to save you, or to get you honor and glory, unless you have the relationship of character to him. So too if you have a bad one, do not think that you will be condemned on this account, or be put to shame if at least you order your own doings aright. For what can be less honorable than the Gentiles? Still in faith they soon became related to the Saints. Or what more nearly connected than the Jews? Yet still by unbelief they were made aliens. For that relationship is of nature and necessity, after which we are all relations. For of Adam we all sprung, and none can be more a relation than another, both as regards Adam and as regards Noah, and as regards the earth, the common mother of all. But the relationship worthy of honors, is that which does distinguish us from the wicked. For it is not possible for all to be relations in this way, but those of the same character only. Nor do we call them brothers who come of the same labor with ourselves, but those who display the same zeal. In this way Christ gives men the name of children of God, and so on the other hand children of the devil, and so too children of disobedience, of hell, and of perdition likewise. So Timothy was Paul's son from goodness and was called my own son 1 Timothy 1:2: but of his sister's son we do not know even the name. And yet the one was by nature related to him, and still that availed him not. But the other being both by nature and country far removed from him (as being a native of Lystra), still became most nearly related. Let us then also become the sons of the Saints, or rather let us become even God's sons. For that it is possible to become sons of God, hear what he says, Be therefore perfect, as your father which is in Heaven. Matthew 5:48 This is why we call Him Father in prayer, and that not only to remind ourselves of the grace, but also of virtue, that we may not do anything unworthy of such a relationship. And how it may be said is it possible to be a son of God? By being free from all passions, and showing gentleness to them that affront and wrong us. For your Father is so to them that blaspheme Him. Wherefore, though He says various things at various times, yet in no case does He say that you may be like your Father, but when He says, Pray for them that despitefully use you, do good to them that hate you Matthew 5:44, then He brings in this as the reward. For there is nothing that brings us so near to God, and makes us so like Him, as this well-doing. Therefore Paul also, when he says, Be followers of God Ephesians 5:1, means them to be so in this respect. For we have need of all good deeds, chiefly however of love to man and gentleness, since we need so much of His love to man ourselves. For we commit many transgressions every day. Wherefore also we have need to show much mercy. But much and little is not measured by the quantity of things given, but by the amount of the givers' means. Let not then the rich be high-minded, nor the poor dejected as giving so little, for the latter often gives more than the former. We must not then make ourselves miserable because we are poor, since it makes almsgiving the easier for us. For he that has got much together is seized with haughtiness, as well as a greater affection to that (or lust beyond that) he has. But he that has but a little is quit of either of these domineering passions: hence he finds more occasions for doing well. For this man will go cheerfully into a prison-house, and will visit the sick, and will give a cup of cold water. But the other will not take upon him any office of this sort, as pampered up (φλεγμαίνων) by his riches. Be not then out of heart at your poverty. For your poverty makes your traffic for heaven the easier to you. And if you have nothing, but have a compassionating soul, even this will be laid up as a reward for you. Hence too Paul bade us weep with them that weep Romans 12:15, and exhorted us to be to prisoners as though bound with them. Hebrews 13:3 For it is not to them that weep only that it yields some solace that there be many that compassionate them, but to them who are in other afflicting circumstances. For there are cases where conversation has as much power to recover him that is cast down as money. For this then God exhorts us to give money to them that ask, not merely with a view to relieve their poverty, but that He may teach us to compassionate the misfortunes of our neighbors. For this also the covetous man is odious, in that he not only disregards men in a beggared state, but because he gets himself trained ( λείφεται) for cruelty and great inhumanity. And so he that, for their sakes, thinks little of money, is even on this account an object of love, that he is merciful and kind to man. And Christ, when He blesses the merciful, blesses and praises not those only that give the alms of money, but those also who have the will to do so. Let us then be so inclinable to mercy, and all other blessings will follow, for he that has a spirit of love and mercy, if he have money, will give it away, or if he see any in distress, will weep and bewail it; if he fall in with a person wronged, will stand up for him; if he sees one spitefully entreated, will reach out his hand to him. For as he has that treasure-house of blessings, a loving and merciful soul, he will make it a fountain for all his brethren's needs, and will enjoy all the rewards that are laid up with God (Field with 4 manuscripts τᾥ θεᾥ). That we then may attain to these, let us of all things frame our souls accordingly. For so, while in this world, we shall do good deeds without number, and shall enjoy the crowns to come. To which may we all attain by the grace and love toward man, etc.

About this page

Source. Translated by J. Walker, J. Sheppard and H. Browne, and revised by George B. Stevens. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 11. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/210219.htm>.

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