In this paragraph we have,
I. The person who writes the epistle described (Rom. 1:1): Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ; this is his title of honour, which he glories in, not as the Jewish teachers, Rabbi, Rabbi; but a servant, a more immediate attendant, a steward in the house. Called to be an apostle. Some think he alludes to his old name Saul, which signifies one called for, or enquired after: Christ sought him to make an apostle of him, Acts 9:15. He here builds his authority upon his call; he did not run without sending, as the false apostles did; kletos apostolos—called an apostle, as if this were the name he would be called by, though he acknowledged himself not meet to be called so, 1 Cor. 15:9. Separated to the gospel of God. The Pharisees had their name from separation, because they separated themselves to the study of the law, and might be called aphorismenoi eis ton nomon; such a one Paul had formerly been; but now he had changed his studies, was aphorismenos eis to Euangelion, a gospel Pharisee, separated by the counsel of God (Gal. 1:15), separated from his mother’s womb, by an immediate direction of the Spirit, and a regular ordination according to that direction (Acts 13:2, 3), by a dedication of himself to this work. He was an entire devotee to the gospel of God, the gospel which has God for its author, the origin and extraction of it divine and heavenly.
II. Having mentioned the gospel of God, he digresses, to give us an encomium of it.
1. The antiquity of it. It was promised before (Rom. 1:2); it was no novel upstart doctrine, but of ancient standing in the promises and prophecies of the old Testament, which did all unanimously point at the gospel, the morning-beams that ushered in the sun of righteousness; this not by word of mouth only, but in the scriptures.
2. The subject-matter of it: it is concerning Christ, Rom. 1:3, 4. The prophets and apostles all bear witness to him; he is the true treasure hid in the field of the scriptures. Observe, When Paul mentions Christ, how he heaps up his names and titles, his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, as one that took a pleasure in speaking of him; and, having mentioned him, he cannot go on in his discourse without some expression of love and honour, as here, where in one person he shows us his two distinct natures. (1.) His human nature: Made of the seed of David (Rom. 1:3), that is, born of the virgin Mary, who was of the house of David (Luke 1:27), as was Joseph his supposed father, Luke 2:4. David is here mentioned, because of the special promises made to him concerning the Messiah, especially his kingly office; 2 Sam. 7:12; Ps. 132:11; Luke 1:32, 33. (2.) His divine nature: Declared to be the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), the Son of God by eternal generation, or, as it is here explained, according to the Spirit of holiness. According to the flesh, that is, his human nature, he was of the seed of David; but, according to the Spirit of holiness, that is, the divine nature (as he is said to be quickened by the Spirit, 1 Pet. 3:18; 2 Cor. 13:4), he is the Son of God. The great proof or demonstration of this is his resurrection from the dead, which proved it effectually and undeniably. The sign of the prophet Jonas, Christ’s resurrection, was intended for the last conviction, Matt. 12:39, 40. Those that would not be convinced by that would be convinced by nothing. So that we have here a summary of the gospel doctrine concerning Christ’s two natures in one person.
3. The fruit of it (Rom. 1:5); By whom, that is, by Christ manifested and made known in the gospel, we (Paul and the rest of the ministers) have received grace and apostleship, that is, the favour to be made apostles, Eph. 3:8. The apostles were made a spectacle to the world, led a life of toil, and trouble, and hazard, were killed all the day long, and yet Paul reckons the apostleship a favour: we may justly reckon it a great favour to be employed in any work or service for God, whatever difficulties or dangers we may meet with in it. This apostleship was received for obedience to the faith, that is, to bring people to that obedience; as Christ, so his ministers, received that they might give. Paul’s was for this obedience among all nations, for he was the apostle of the Gentiles, Rom. 11:13. Observe the description here given of the Christian profession: it is obedience to the faith. It does not consist in a notional knowledge or a naked assent, much less does it consist in perverse disputings, but in obedience. This obedience to the faith answers the law of faith, mentioned Rom. 3:27. The act of faith is the obedience of the understanding to God revealing, and the product of that is the obedience of the will to God commanding. To anticipate the ill use which might be made of the doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law, which he was to explain in the following epistle, he here speaks of Christianity as an obedience. Christ has a yoke. “Among whom are you, Rom. 1:6. You Romans in this stand upon the same level with other Gentile nations of less fame and wealth; you are all one in Christ.” The gospel salvation is a common salvation, Jude 1:3. No respect of persons with God. The called of Jesus Christ; all those, and those only, are brought to an obedience of the faith that are effectually called of Jesus Christ.
III. The persons to whom it is written (Rom. 1:7): To all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints; that is, to all the professing Christians that were in Rome, whether Jews or Gentiles originally, whether high or low, bond or free, learned or unlearned. Rich and poor meet together in Christ Jesus. Here is, 1. The privilege of Christians: They are beloved of God, they are members of that body which is beloved, which is God’s Hephzibah, in which his delight is. We speak of God’s love by his bounty and beneficence, and so he hath a common love to all mankind and a peculiar love for true believers; and between these there is a love he hath for all the body of visible Christians. 2. The duty of Christians; and that is to be holy, for hereunto are they called, called to be saints, called to salvation through sanctification. Saints, and only saints, are beloved of God with a special and peculiar love. Kletois hagiois—called saints, saints in profession; it were well if all that are called saints were saints indeed. Those that are called saints should labour to answer to the name; otherwise, though it is an honour and a privilege, yet it will be of little avail at the great day to have been called saints, if we be not really so.
IV. The apostolical benediction (Rom. 1:7): Grace to you and peace. This is one of the tokens in every epistle; and it hath not only the affection of a good wish, but the authority of a blessing. The priests under the law were to bless the people, and so are gospel ministers, in the name of the Lord. In this usual benediction observe, 1. The favours desired: Grace and peace. The Old-Testament salutation was, Peace be to you; but now grace is prefixed—grace, that is, the favour of God towards us or the work of God in us; both are previously requisite to true peace. All gospel blessings are included in these two: grace and peace. Peace, that is all good; peace with God, peace in your own consciences, peace with all that are about you; all these founded in grace. 2. The fountain of those favours, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. All good comes, (1.) From God as a Father; he hath put himself into that relation to engage and encourage our desires and expectations; we are taught, when we come for grace and peace, to call him our Father. (2.) From the Lord Jesus Christ, as Mediator, and the great feoffee in trust for the conveying and securing of these benefits. We have them from his fulness, peace from the fulness of his merit, grace from the fulness of his Spirit.