Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on Paul's Epistle to the Romans: Homily XXIX on Rom. xv. 14.
Rom. XV. 14
“And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” (So most: S. Chrys. “others.”)
He had said, “Inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.” (Rom. xi. 13.) He had said, “Take heed lest He also spare not thee.” (Rom. 11.21.) He had said, “Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12.16); and again, “Why dost thou judge thy brother?” (Rom. 14.10) And, “Who art thou that judgest another mans servant?” (Rom. 14.4.) And several other like things besides. Since then he had often made his language somewhat harsh, he now speaks kindly (θεραπεύει). And what he said in the beginning, that he doth in the end also. At the beginning he said, “I thank my God for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (Rom. 1.8.) But here he says, “I am persuaded that ye also are full of goodness, being able also to admonish others;” and this is more than the former. And he does not say, I have heard, but, “I am persuaded,” and have no need to hear, from others. And, “I myself,” that is, I that rebuke, that accuse you. That “ye are full of goodness,” this applies to the exhortation lately given. As if he said, It was not as if you were cruel, or haters of your brethren, that I gave you that exhortation, to receive, and not to neglect, and not to destroy “the work of God.” For I am aware that “ye are full of goodness.” But he seems to me here to be calling their virtue perfect. And he does not say ye have, but “ye are full of.” And the sequel is with the same intensitives: “filled with all knowledge.” For suppose they had been affectionate, but yet did not know how to treat those they loved properly. This was why he added, “all knowledge. Able to admonish others,” not to learn only, but also to teach.
Rom. 15.15. “Nevertheless, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort.”
Observe the lowly-mindedness of Paul, observe his wisdom, how he gave a deep cut in the former part, and then when he had succeeded in what he wished, how he uses much kindliness next. For even without what he has said, this very confession of his having been bold were enough to unstring their vehemency. And this he does in writing to the Hebrews also, speaking as follows, “But, beloved, I am persuaded better things of you, and things which belong unto salvation, though we thus speak.” (Heb. vi. 9.) And to the Corinthians again, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor. xi. 2.) And in writing to the Galatians he says, “I have confidence in you, that ye will be none otherwise minded.” (Gal. v. 10.) And in all parts of his Epistles one may find this to be frequently observed. But here even in a greater degree. For they were in a higher rank, and there was need to bring down their fastidious spirit, not by astringents only, but by laxatives also. For he does this in different ways. Wherefore he says in this place too, “I have written the more boldly unto you,” and with this even he is not satisfied, but has added, “in some sort,” that is, gently; and even here he does not pause, but what does he say? “As putting you in mind.” 1640 And he does not say as teaching, nor simply putting in mind, (ἀναμιμνήσκων) but he uses a word (ἐπαναμιμνήσκων) which means putting you in mind in a quiet way. Observe the end falling in with the introduction. For as in that passage he said, “that your faith is made known in all the world.” (Rom. i. 8.) So in the end of the Epistle also, “For your obedience hath reached unto all.” (Rom. 16.19.) And as in the beginning he wrote, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end that ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you” (Rom. 1:11, 12); so here also he said, “As putting you in mind.” And having come down from the seat of the master, both there and here, he speaks to them as brethren and friends of equal rank. And this is quite a Teachers duty, to give his address that variety which is profitable to the hearers. See then how after saying, “I have written the more boldly,” and, “in some sort,” and, “as putting you in mind,” he was not satisfied even with these, but making his language still more lowly, he proceeds:
“Because of the grace that is given me of God.” As he said at the beginning, “I am a debtor.” (Rom. i. 14.) As if he had said, I have not snatched at the honor for myself, neither was I first to leap forward to it, but God commanded this, and this too according unto grace, not as if He had separated me for this office because I deserved it. Do not ye then be exasperated, since it is not I that raise myself up, but it is God that enjoins it. And as he there says, “whom I serve in the Gospel of His Son” (Rom. 1.9), so also here, after saying, “because of the grace given unto me by God,” he adds,
Rom. 15.16. “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering (ἱερουργοὕντα) the Gospel of God.”
For after his abundant proof of his statements, he draws his discourse to a more lofty tone, not speaking of mere service, as in the beginning, but of service and priestly ministering (λειτουργίαν καί ὶερουργίαν). For to me this is a priesthood, this preaching and declaring. This is the sacrifice I bring. Now no one will find fault with a priest, for being anxious to offer the sacrifice without blemish. And he says this at once to elevate (πτερὥν) their thoughts, and show them that they are a sacrifice, and in apology for his own part in the matter, because he was appointed to this office. For my knife, he says, is the Gospel, the word of the preaching. And the cause is not that I may be glorified, not that I may appear conspicuous, but that the “offering up (προσφορὰ) of the Gentiles may be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”
That is, that the souls of those that are taught by me, may be accepted. For it was not so much to honor me, that God led me to this pitch, as out of a concern for you. And how are they to become acceptable? In the Holy Ghost. For there is need not only of faith, but also of a spiritual way of life, that we may keep the Spirit that was given once for all. For it is not wood and fire, nor altar and knife, but the Spirit that is all in us. 1641 For this cause, I take all means to prevent that Fire from being extinguished, as I have been also enjoined to do. Why then do you speak to those that need it not? This is just the reason why I do not teach you, but put you in mind, he replies. As the priest stands by stirring up the fire, so I do, rousing up your ready-mindedness. And observe, he does not say, “that the offering up of” you “may be” etc. but “of the Gentiles.” But when he says of the Gentiles, he means the whole world, the land, and the whole sea, to take down their haughtiness, that they might not disdain to have him for a teacher, who was putting himself forth (τεινόμενον) to the very end of the world. As he said in the beginning, “as among the other Gentiles also, I am a debtor to Greeks, and also to barbarians, to wise, and to foolish.” (Rom. 1:13, 14, see p. 347.)
Rom. 15.17. “I have therefore whereof I may glory, through Jesus Christ, in those things which pertain to God.”
Inasmuch as he had humbled himself exceedingly, he again raised his style, doing this also for their sakes, lest he should seem to become readily an object of contempt. And while he raises himself, he remembers his own proper temper, and says, “I have therefore whereof to glory.” I glory, he means, not in myself, not in our zeal, but in the “grace of God.”
Rom. 15.18. “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make Gentiles obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.” 1642
And none, he means, can say that my words are a mere boast. For of this priestly ministry of mine, the signs that I have, and the proofs of the appointment too, are many. Not the long garment (ποδήρης) and the bells as they of old, nor the mitre and the turban (κίδαρις), but signs and wonders, far more awful than these. Nor can it be said that I have been entrusted indeed with the charge, but yet have not executed it. Or rather, it is not I that have executed, but Christ. Wherefore also it is in Him that I boast, not about common things, but about spiritual. And this is the force of, “in things which pertain to God.” For that I have accomplished the purpose for which I was sent, and that my words are not mere boast, the miracles, and the obedience of the Gentiles show. “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, through signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.” See how violently he tries to show that the whole is Gods doing, and nothing his own. For whether I speak anything, or do anything, or work miracles, He doth all of them, the Holy Spirit all. And this he says to show the dignity of the Holy Spirit also. See how these things are more wondrous and more awful than those of old, the sacrifice, the offering, the symbols. For when he says, “in word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders,” he means this, the doctrine, the system (φιλοσοφίαν) relating to the Kingdom, the exhibition of actions and conversation, the dead that were raised, the devils that were cast out, and the blind that were healed, and the lame that leaped, and the other marvellous acts, all whereof the Holy Spirit wrought in us. Then the proof of these things (since all this is yet but an assertion) is the multitude of the disciples. Wherefore he adds, “So that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ.” Count up then cities, and places, and nations, and peoples, not those under the Romans only, but those also under barbarians. For I would not have you go the whole way through Phœnicia, and Syria, and the Cilicians, and Cappadocians, but reckon up also the parts behind, 1643 the country of the Saracens, and Persians, and Armenians, and that of the other savage nations. For this is why he said, “round about,” that you might not only go through the direct high road, but that you should run over the whole, even the southern part of Asia in your mind. And as he ran over miracles thick as snow, in a single word, by saying, “through mighty signs and wonders,” so he has comprehended again endless cities, and nations, and peoples, and places, in this one word “round about.” For he was far removed from all boasting. And this, he said on their account, so that they should not be conceited about themselves. And at the beginning he said, that “I might have some fruit amongst you also, even as among other Gentiles.” But here he states the compulsion of his priesthood. For as he had spoken in a sharper tone, he shows also by it his power more clearly. This is why he there only says, “even as among other Gentiles.” But here he insists on the topic fully, so that the conceit may be pruned away on all grounds. And he does not merely say, preached the Gospel, but “have fully preached the Gospel of Christ.” 1644
Rom. 15.20. “Yea, so have I strived to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was named.”
See here another preeminence; that he had not only preached the Gospel to so many, and persuaded them, but he did not even go to those who had become disciples. So far was he from thrusting himself upon other mens disciples, and from doing this for glorys sake, that he even made it a point to teach those who had not heard. For neither does he say where they were not persuaded, but “where Christ was not even named,” which is more. And what was the reason why he had this ambition? “Lest I should build,” he says, “upon another mans foundation.”
This he says to show himself a stranger to vanity, and to instruct them that it was not from any love of glory, or of honor from them, that he came to write, but as fulfilling his ministry, as perfecting his priestly duty, as loving their salvation. But he calls the foundation of the Apostles “another mans,” not in regard to the quality of the person, or the nature of preaching, but in regard to the question of reward. For it was not that the preaching was that of another man, 1645 but so far as it went to another mans reward. For the reward of the labors of others was, to this man, another mans. Then he shows that a prophecy was fulfilled also saying,
Rom. 15.21. “As it is written, To whom He was not spoken of, they shall see, and they that have not heard shall understand.” (Is. iii. 15 [LXX].)
You see he runs to where the labor is more, the toil greater.
Rom. 15.22. “For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.”
Observe again, how he makes the end of the like texture with the introduction. For while he was quite at the beginning of the Epistle, he said, “Oftentimes I purpose to come unto you, but was let hitherto.” (Rom. i. 13.) But here he gives the cause also by which he was let, and that not once, but twice even, aye, and many times. For as he says there, “oftentimes I purposed to come to you,” so here too, “I have been much (or often, τὰ πολλὰ) hindered from coming to you.” Now it is a thing which proves a very strong desire, that he attempted it so often.
Rom. 15.23. “But now having no more place in these parts.”
See how he shows that it was not from any coveting of glory from them, that he both wrote and was also coming. “And having a great desire to come to you these many years,”
Rom. 15.24. “Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I trust to see you in my journey; and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company,”
For that he might not seem to be holding them very cheap, by saying, Since I have not anything to do, therefore I am coming to you, he again touches on the point of love by saying, “I have a great desire, these many years, to come unto you.” For the reason why I desire to come, is not because I am disengaged, but that I may give birth to that desire wherewith I am travailing so long. Then that this again should not puff them up, consider how he lowers them by saying, “Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I trust to see you in my journey.” For this was why he stated this, that they should not be high-minded. For what he wants is to show his love, and at the same time to prevent them from being dainty. And so he places this close on the other, and uses things confirmative of either alternately. For this reason again that they might not say, Do you make us a by-object of your journey? he adds, “and to be brought on my way thitherward by you: that is, that you may be my witnesses that it is not through any slight of you, but by force of necessity, that I run by you. But as this is still distressing, he heals it over more carefully, by saying, “If I be first somewhat filled with your company.” For by his saying, “in my journey,” he shows that he did not covet their good opinion. But by saying “be filled,” that he was eager for their love, and not only was eager for it, but exceedingly so; and this is why he does not say “be filled,” but be “somewhat” so. That is, no length of time can fill me or create in me a satiety of your company. See how he shows his love, when even though in haste he doth not rise up until he be filled. And this is a sign of his great affectionateness, that he uses his words in so warm a way. For he does not say even I will see, but “shall be filled,” imitating thus the language of parents. And at the beginning he said, “that I might have some fruit.” (Rom. i. 13.) But here that I may be “filled.” And both these are like a person who is drawing others to him. For the one was a very great commendation of them, if they were likely to yield him fruit from their obedience; and the other, a genuine proof of his own friendship. And in writing to the Corinthians he thus says, “That ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go” (1 Cor. xvi. 6), so in all ways exhibiting an unrivalled love to his disciples. And so at the beginning of all his Epistles it is with this he starts, and at the end in this he concludes again. For as an indulgent father doth an only and true born son, so did he love all the faithful. Whence it was that he said, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” (2 Cor. xi. 29.)
For before everything else this is what the teacher ought to have. Wherefore also to Peter Christ saith, “If thou lovest Me, feed My sheep.” (John xxi. 16.) For he who loveth Christ loveth also His flock. And Moses too did He then set over the people of the Jews, when he had shown a kindly feeling towards them. And David in this way came to be king, having been first seen to be affectionately-minded towards them; so much indeed, though yet young, did he grieve for the people, as to risk his life for them, when he killed that barbarian. But if he said, “What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine?” (1 Sam. 19:5, 1 Sam. 17:261 Sam. xix. 5; ib. xvii. 26) he said it not in order to demand a reward, but out of a wish to have confidence placed in himself, and to have the battle with him delivered to his charge. And therefore, when he came to the king after the victory, he said nothing of these things. And Samuel too was very affectionate; whence it was that he said, “But God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray unto the Lord for you.” (1 Sam. xii. 23.) In like way Paul also, or rather not in like way, but even in a far greater degree, burned towards all his subjects (τὥν ἀρχομένων). Wherefore he made his disciples of such affection towards himself, that he said, “If were possible, ye would have pulled out your eyes and given them to me.” (Gal. iv. 15.) On this ground too it is, that God charges the teachers of the Jews above all things with this, saying, “Oh shepherds of Israel, do shepherds feed themselves? do they not feed the flock?” (Ezek. 34:2, 3.) But they did the reverse. For he says, “Ye eat the milk, and clothe you with the wool, and ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the flock.” And Christ, in bringing out the rule for the fittest Pastor, said, “The good shepherd layeth down his life for his sheep.” (John x. 11.) This David did also, both on sundry other occasions, and also when that fearful wrath from above came down upon the whole people. For while all were being slain he said, “I the shepherd 1646 have sinned, I the shepherd have done amiss, and these the flock what have they done?” (2 Sam. xxiv. 17.) And so in the choice of those punishments also, he chose not famine, nor flight before enemies, but the pestilence sent by God, whereby he hoped to place all the others in safety, but that he should himself in preference to all the rest be carried off. But since this was not so, he bewails, and says, “On me be Thy Hand:” or if this be not enough, “on my fathers house” also. “For I,” he says, “the shepherd have sinned.” As though he had said, that if they also sinned, I was the person who should suffer the vengeance, as I corrected them not. But since the sin is mine also, it is I who deserve to suffer the vengeance. For wishing to increase the crime he used the name of “Shepherd.” Thus then he stayed the wrath, thus he got the sentence revoked! So great is the power of confession. “For the righteous is his own accuser first.” 1647 So great is the concern and sympathy of a good Pastor. For his bowels were writhed at their falling, as when ones own children are killed. And on this ground he begged that the wrath might come upon himself. And in the beginning of the slaughter he would have done this, unless he had seen it advancing and expected that it would come to himself. When therefore he saw that this did not happen, but that the calamity was raging among them, he no longer forebore, but was touched more than for Amnon his first-born. For then he did not ask for death, but now he begs to fall in preference to the others. Such ought a ruler to be and to grieve rather at the calamities of others than his own. 1648 Some such thing he suffered in his sons case likewise, that you might see that he did not love his son more than his subjects, and yet the youth was unchaste, and an ill-user of his father (πατραλοίας), and still he said, “Would that I might have died for thee!” (2 Sam. xviii. 33.) What sayest thou, thou blessed one, thou meekest of all men? Thy son was set upon killing thee, and compassed thee about with ills unnumbered. And when he had been removed, and the trophy was raised, dost thou then pray to be slain? Yea, he says, for it is not for me that the army has been victorious, but I am warred against more violently than before, and my bowels are now more torn than before. These however were all thoughtful for those committed to their charge, but the blessed Abraham concerned himself much even for those that were not entrusted to him, and so much so as even to throw himself amongst alarming dangers. For when he did what he did, not for his nephew only, but for the people of Sodom also, he did not leave driving those Persians before him until he had set them all free: and yet he might have departed after he had taken him, yet he did not choose it. For he had the like concern for all, and this he showed likewise by his subsequent conduct. When then it was not a host of barbarians that was on the point of laying siege to them, but the wrath of God that was plucking their cities up from the foundations, and it was no longer the time for arms, and battle, and array, but for supplication; so great was the zeal he showed for them, as, if he himself had been on the point of perishing. For this reason he comes once, twice, thrice, aye and many times to God, and finds a refuge (i.e. an excuse) in his nature by saying, “I am dust and ashes” (Gen. xviii. 27): and since he saw that they were traitors to themselves, he begs that they may be saved for others. Wherefore also God said, “I will hide not from Abraham My servant that thing which I am about to do” (Gen. 18.17), that we might learn how loving to man the righteous is. And he would not have left off beseeching, unless God had left off first (so he takes Gen. 18.33). And he seems indeed to be praying for the just, but is doing the whole for them. For the souls of the Saints are very gentle and, loving unto man, both in regard to their own, and to strangers. And even to the unreasoning creatures they extend their gentleness. Wherefore also a certain wise man said, “The righteous pitieth the souls of his cattle.” 1649 But if he doth those of cattle, how much more those of men. But since I have mentioned cattle, let us just consider the shepherds of the sheep who are in the Cappadocian land, and what they suffer in kind and degree in their guardianship of unreasoning creatures. They often stay for three days together buried down under the snows. And those in Libya are said to undergo no less hardships than these, ranging about for whole months through that wilderness, dreary as it is, and filled with the direst wild beasts (θηρία may include serpents). Now if for unreasonable things there be so much zeal, what defense are we to set up, who are entrusted with reasonable souls, and yet slumber on in this deep sleep? For is it right to be at rest, and in quiet, and not to be running about everywhere, and giving ones self up to endless deaths in behalf of these sheep? Or know ye not the dignity of this flock? Was it not for this that thy Master took endless pains, and afterwards poured forth His blood? And dost thou seek for rest? Now what can be worse than these Shepherds? Dost thou not perceive, that there stand round about these sheep wolves much more fierce and savage than those of this world? Dost thou not think with thyself, what a soul he ought to have who is to take in hand this office? Now men that lead the populace, if they have but common matters to deliberate on, add days to nights in watching. And we that are struggling in heavens behalf sleep even in the daytime. And who is now to deliver us from the punishment for these things? For if the body were to be cut in pieces, if to undergo ten thousand deaths, ought one not to run to it as to a feast? And let not the shepherds only, but the sheep also hear this; that they may make the shepherds the more active minded, that they may the more encourage their good-will: I do not mean by anything else but by yielding all compliance and obedience. Thus Paul also bade them, saying, “Obey them which have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account.” (Heb. xiii. 17.) And when he says, “watch,” he means thousands of labors, cares and dangers. For the good Shepherd, who is such as Christ wisheth for, is contending, before countless witnesses. For He died once for him; but this man ten thousand times for the flock, if, that is, he be such a shepherd as he ought to be; for such an one can die every day. (See on Rom. viii. 36. p. 456.) And therefore do ye, as being acquainted with what the labor is, coöperate with them, with prayers, with zeal, with readiness, with affection, that both we may have to boast of you, and you of us. For on this ground He entrusted this to the chief 1650 of the Apostles, who also loved Him more than the rest; after first asking him if He was loved by him, that thou mayest learn that this before other things, is held as a proof of love to Him. For this requireth a vigorous soul. This I have said of the best shepherds; not of myself and those of our days, but of any one that may be such as Paul was, such as Peter, such as Moses. These then let us imitate, both the rulers of us and the ruled. For the ruled may be in the place of a shepherd to his family, to his friends, to his servants, to his wife, to his children: and if we so order our affairs we shall attain to all manner of good things. Which God grant that we may all attain unto, by the grace and love toward man, etc.
Besides the interpretation adopted by Chrys. which joins ἀπὸ μερους closely with ἀναμιμνήσκων and understands it to mean, in a sort—gently, two other views deserve notice (1) that which joins it to τολμηρότερον—in part, or somewhat more boldly (Hodge) and (2) that which joins it to ἔγραψα—I have written more boldly in parts of the epistle (De Wette, Meyer, Alford). Both our Eng. vss. seem to understand it as Chrys. viz.: as a conciliatory modification of “more boldly,” and connecting with it the explanatory statement that the reason of his more bold writing was the kindly one of putting them in remembrance.—G.B.S.i:1641
Some mss. “all is spiritual with us” (πνευματικὰ). Saviles marginal reading is unintelligible, but might suggest conjectures.i:1642
Rom. 15.18 may yield three different meanings according to the word which receives the main emphasis. If it is placed on through me the meaning is: I shall not mention or lay claim to results wrought by others, but only to those secured by my own labors. The desire of the apostle (Rom. 15.20) not to build upon another mans foundation favors this view. (So Alford, Hodge). If the stress is placed on the word wrought the sense is: I shall not dare to mention any of those things which Christ did not actually work, i.e., I shall make no claim to success not actually achieved (Meyer). The emphasis may be placed on Christ. If so, it means: I will mention only what Christ (he and he alone) wrought through me for the extension of his kingdom. Chrys. understands the passage thus and, we think, rightly. (So Tholuck, Olshausen, Boise).—G.B.S.i:1643
This is scarcely historical, except with reference to Arabia. Even St. Jerome on Amos v. 8, implies less.i:1644
2 mss. add ὥστε δεῖξαι φιλοτιμίας τὸ κατόρθωμα ὄν. The φιλοτιμία, “zealous striving,” is here opposed to mere necessity of duty, “the compulsion of his priesthood.” The words thus are a gloss on those next cited, not a proper part of the text.i:1645
ἀλλότριον, which means either “alien,” or “another mans.”i:1646
So LXX. Cod. Alex. Theodoret in loc. makes David herein a type of Christ.i:1647
Prov. xviii. 17, LXX. and Vulg. Our version is, “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just.” The text is much quoted by the Fathers, as Hil. in Ps. cxxxv.i:1648
See a remarkable form in use in China on the occasion of such calamities, Windischman, Philos. im fortgang der Weltgeschichte, i. p. 29.i:1649
Prov. xii. 10, LXX. Know occurs in Exod. xxiii. 9, for “enter into the feelings of.”i:1650
κορυφαί& 251·. The common title of St. Peter among the Fathers.
Next: Homily XXX on Rom. xv. 25-27.
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