Romans 7

This commentary covers all chapters in the Book of Romans

Translated by Bro. Andrew Thornton, OSB

"Vorrede auff die Epistel S. Paul: an die Romer."in D. Martin Luther: Die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch 1545aufs new zurericht, ed. Hans Volz and Heinz Blanke.Munich: Roger & Bernhard. 1972, vol. 2, pp. 2254-2268.

Translator's Note: The material between square brackets isexplanatory in nature and is not part of Luther's preface. Theterms "just, justice, justify"in this piece are synonymous withthe terms "righteous, righteousness, make righteous." Both sets ofEnglish words are common translations of German "gerecht"andrelated words. A similar situation exists with the word "faith";it is synonymous with "belief." Both words can be used totranslate German "Glaube." Thus, "We are justified by faith."translates the same original German sentence as does "We are maderighteous by belief."

This letter is truly the most important piece in the NewTestament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian'swhile not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupyhimself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of thesoul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter toomuch or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious itbecomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out myservice and, with this preface, provide an introduction to theletter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one cangain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it hasbeen darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments whichaccompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is initself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entireScripture.

To begin with, we have to become familiar with the vocabulary ofthe letter and know what St. Paul means by the words law, sin,grace, faith, justice, flesh, spirit, etc. Otherwise there is nouse in reading it.

You must not understand the word law here in human fashion, i.e.,a regulation about what sort of works must be done or must not bedone. That's the way it is with human laws: you satisfy thedemands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not.God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his lawalso makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn't let theheart rest content in works; rather it punishes as hypocrisy andlies all works done apart from the depths of the heart. All humanbeings are called liars (Psalm 116), since none of them keeps orcan keep God's law from the depths of the heart. Everyone findsinside himself an aversion to good and a craving for evil. Wherethere is no free desire for good, there the heart has not setitself on God's law. There also sin is surely to be found and thedeserved wrath of God, whether a lot of good works and anhonorable life appear outwardly or not.

Therefore in chapter 2, St. Paul adds that the Jews are allsinners and says that only the doers of the law are justified inthe sight of God. What he is saying is that no one is a doer ofthe law by works. On the contrary, he says to them, "You teachthat one should not commit adultery, and you commit adultery. Youjudge another in a certain matter and condemn yourselves in thatsame matter, because you do the very same thing that you judged inanother." It is as if he were saying, "Outwardly you live quiteproperly in the works of the law and judge those who do not livethe same way; you know how to teach everybody. You see the speckin another's eye but do not notice the beam in your own."

Outwardly you keep the law with works out of fear of punishment orlove of gain. Likewise you do everything without free desire andlove of the law; you act out of aversion and force. You'd ratheract otherwise if the law didn't exist. It follows, then, that you,in the depths of your heart, are an enemy of the law. What do youmean, therefore, by teaching another not to steal, when you, inthe depths of your heart, are a thief and would be one outwardlytoo, if you dared. (Of course, outward work doesn't last long withsuch hypocrites.) So then, you teach others but not yourself; youdon't even know what you are teaching. You've never understood thelaw rightly. Furthermore, the law increases sin, as St. Paul saysin chapter 5. That is because a person becomes more and more anenemy of the law the more it demands of him what he can't possiblydo.

In chapter 7, St. Paul says, "The law is spiritual." What doesthat mean? If the law were physical, then it could be satisfied byworks, but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it unlesseverything he does springs from the depths of the heart. But noone can give such a heart except the Spirit of God, who makes theperson be like the law, so that he actually conceives a heartfeltlonging for the law and henceforward does everything, not throughfear or coercion, but from a free heart. Such a law is spiritualsince it can only be loved and fulfilled by such a heart and sucha spirit. If the Spirit is not in the heart, then there remainsin, aversion and enmity against the law, which in itself is good,just and holy.

You must get used to the idea that it is one thing to do the worksof the law and quite another to fulfill it. The works of the laware every thing that a person does or can do of his own free willand by his own powers to obey the law. But because in doing suchworks the heart abhors the law and yet is forced to obey it, theworks are a total loss and are completely useless. That is whatSt. Paul means in chapter 3 when he says, "No human being isjustified before God through the works of the law." From this youcan see that the schoolmasters [i.e., the scholastic theologians]and sophists are seducers when they teach that you can prepareyourself for grace by means of works. How can anybody preparehimself for good by means of works if he does no good work exceptwith aversion and constraint in his heart? How can such a workplease God, if it proceeds from an averse and unwilling heart?

But to fulfill the law means to do its work eagerly, lovingly andfreely, without the constraint of the law; it means to live welland in a manner pleasing to God, as though there were no law orpunishment. It is the Holy Spirit, however, who puts sucheagerness of unconstained love into the heart, as Paul says inchapter 5. But the Spirit is given only in, with, and throughfaith in Jesus Christ, as Paul says in his introduction. So, too,faith comes only through the word of God, the Gospel, thatpreaches Christ: how he is both Son of God and man, how he diedand rose for our sake. Paul says all this in chapters 3, 4 and 10.

That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law;faith it is that brings the Holy Spirit through the merits ofChrist. The Spirit, in turn, renders the heart glad and free, asthe law demands. Then good works proceed from faith itself. Thatis what Paul means in chapter 3 when, after he has thrown out theworks of the law, he sounds as though the wants to abolish the lawby faith. No, he says, we uphold the law through faith, i.e. wefulfill it through faith.

Sin in the Scriptures means not only external works of the bodybut also all those movements within us which bestir themselves andmove us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heartwith all its powers. Therefore the word do should refer to aperson's completely falling into sin. No external work of sinhappens, after all, unless a person commit himself to itcompletely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see intothe heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in thedepth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just andbrings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so itis only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desireto do evil external works. That's what happened to Adam and Eve inParadise (cf. Genesis 3).

That is why only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says inJohn, chapter 16, "The Spirit will punish the world because ofsin, because it does not believe in me." Furthermore, before goodor bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of theheart, there has to be present in the heart either faith orunbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin. That is why,in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent andof the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e.Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (cf. Genesis 3).Grace and gift differ in that grace actually denotes God'skindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he isdisposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, asbecomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, "Grace and gift arein Christ, etc." The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us,yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain inus which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and inGalations, chapter 5. And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmitybetween the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. Butgrace does do this much: that we are accounted completely justbefore God. God's grace is not divided into bits and pieces, asare the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God's favorfor the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that thegifts may begin their work in us.

In this way, then, you should understand chapter 7, where St. Paulportrays himself as still a sinner, while in chapter 8 he saysthat, because of the incomplete gifts and because of the Spirit,there is nothing damnable in those who are in Christ. Because ourflesh has not been killed, we are still sinners, but because webelieve in Christ and have the beginnings of the Spirit, God soshows us his favor and mercy, that he neither notices nor judgessuch sins. Rather he deals with us according to our belief inChrist until sin is killed.

Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people thinkit is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see thatno moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fallinto error and say, "Faith is not enough. You must do works if youwant to be virtuous and get to heaven." The result is that, whenthey hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves withtheir own powers a concept in their hearts which says, "Ibelieve." This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it isa human fabrication and thought and not an experience of theheart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us tobirth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes uscompletely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all ourpowers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living,creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible thatfaith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn't ask whether good worksare to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It isalways active. Whoever doesn't do such works is without faith; hegropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn'tknow what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with agreat many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is socertain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kindof trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful,confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This iswhat the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person willdo good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; hewill serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise ofGod, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separateworks from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be onguard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers whothink they are clever enough to make judgements about faith andgood works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God towork faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally withoutfaith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate.

Now justice is just such a faith. It is called God's justice orthat justice which is valid in God's sight, because it is God whogives it and reckons it as justice for the sake of Christ ourMediator. It influences a person to give to everyone what he oweshim. Through faith a person becomes sinless and eager for God'scommands. Thus he gives God the honor due him and pays him what heowes him. He serves people willingly with the means available tohim. In this way he pays everyone his due. Neither nature nor freewill nor our own powers can bring about such a justice, for evenas no one can give himself faith, so too he cannot removeunbelief. How can he then take away even the smallest sin?Therefore everything which takes place outside faith or inunbelief is lie, hypocrisy and sin (Romans 14), no matter howsmoothly it may seem to go.

You must not understand flesh here as denoting only unchastity orspirit as denoting only the inner heart. Here St. Paul calls flesh(as does Christ in John 3) everything born of flesh, i.e. thewhole human being with body and soul, reason and senses, sinceeverything in him tends toward the flesh. That is why you shouldknow enough to call that person "fleshly"who, without grace, fabricates, teaches and chatters about high spiritual matters. Youcan learn the same thing from Galatians, chapter 5, where St. Paulcalls heresy and hatred works of the flesh. And in Romans, chapter8, he says that, through the flesh, the law is weakened. He saysthis, not of unchastity, but of all sins, most of all of unbelief,which is the most spiritual of vices.

On the other hand, you should know enough to call that person"spiritual"who is occupied with the most outward of works as wasChrist, when he washed the feet of the disciples, and Peter, whenhe steered his boat and fished. So then, a person is "flesh"who, inwardly and outwardly, lives only to do those things which are ofuse to the flesh and to temporal existence. A person is "spirit."who, inwardly and outwardly, lives only to do those things whichare of use to the spirit and to the life to come.

Unless you understand these words in this way, you will neverunderstand either this letter of St. Paul or any book of theScriptures. Be on guard, therefore against any teacher who usesthese words differently, no matter who he be, whether Jerome,Augustine, Ambrose, Origen or anyone else as great as or greaterthan they. Now let us turn to the letter itself.

The first duty of a preacher of the Gospel is, through hisrevealing of the law and of sin, to rebuke and to turn into sineverything in life that does not have the Spirit and faith inChrist as its base. [Here and elsewhere in Luther's preface, asindeed in Romans itself, it is not clear whether "spirit"has themeaning "Holy Spirit"or "spiritual person,"as Luther haspreviously defined it.] Thereby he will lead people to arecognition of their miserable condition, and thus they willbecome humble and yearn for help. This is what St Paul does. Hebegins in chapter 1 by rebuking the gross sins and unbelief whichare in plain view, as were (and still are) the sins of the pagans,who live without God's grace. He says that, through the Gospel,God is revealing his wrath from heaven upon all mankind becauseof the godless and unjust lives they live. For, although they knowand recognize day by day that there is a God, yet human nature initself, without grace, is so evil that it neither thanks norhonors God. This nature blinds itself and continually falls intowickedness, even going so far as to commit idolatry and otherhorrible sins and vices. It is unashamed of itself and leaves suchthings unpunished in others.

In chapter 2, St. Paul extends his rebuke to those who appearoutwardly pious or who sin secretly. Such were the Jews, and suchare all hypocrites still, who live virtuous lives but withouteagerness and love; in their heart they are enemies of God's lawand like to judge other people. That's the way with hypocrites:they think that they are pure but are actually full of greed,hate, pride and all sorts of filth (cf. Matthew 23). These arethey who despise God's goodness and, by their hardness of heart,heap wrath upon themselves. Thus Paul explains the law rightlywhen he lets no one remain without sin but proclaims the wrath ofGod to all who want to live virtuously by nature or by free will.He makes them out to be no better than public sinners; he saysthey are hard of heart and unrepentant.

In chapter 3, Paul lumps both secret and public sinners together:the one, he says, is like the other; all are sinners in the sightof God. Besides, the Jews had God's word, even though many did notbelieve in it. But still God's truth and faith in him are notthereby rendered useless. St. Paul introduces, as an aside, thesaying from Psalm 51, that God remains true to his words. Then hereturns to his topic and proves from Scripture that they are allsinners and that no one becomes just through the works of the lawbut that God gave the law only so that sin might be perceived.

Next St. Paul teaches the right way to be virtuous and to besaved; he says that they are all sinners, unable to glory in God.They must, however, be justified through faith in Christ, who hasmerited this for us by his blood and has become for us a mercyseat [cf. Exodus 25:17, Leviticus 16:14ff, and John 2:2] in thepresence of God, who forgives us all our previous sins. In sodoing, God proves that it is his justice alone, which he givesthrough faith, that helps us, the justice which was at theappointed time revealed through the Gospel and, previous to that,was witnessed to by the Law and the Prophets. Therefore the lawis set up by faith, but the works of the law, along with the glorytaken in them, are knocked down by faith. [As with the term"spirit,"the word "law"seems to have for Luther, and for St.Paul, two meanings. Sometimes it means "regulation about what mustbe done or not done,"as in the third paragraph of this preface;sometimes it means "the Torah,"as in the previous sentence. Andsometimes it seems to have both meanings, as in what follows.]

In chapters 1 to 3, St. Paul has revealed sin for what it is andhas taught the way of faith which leads to justice. Now in chapter4 he deals with some objections and criticisms. He takes up firstthe one that people raise who, on hearing that faith make justwithout works, say, "What? Shouldn't we do any good works?"HereSt. Paul holds up Abraham as an example. He says, "What didAbraham accomplish with his good works? Were they all good fornothing and useless?"He concludes that Abraham was maderighteous apart from all his works by faith alone. Even before the"work"of his circumcision, Scripture praises him as being just onaccount of faith alone (cf. Genesis 15). Now if the work of hiscircumcision did nothing to make him just, a work that God hadcommanded him to do and hence a work of obedience, then surely noother good work can do anything to make a person just. Even asAbraham's circumcision was an outward sign with which he provedhis justice based on faith, so too all good works are only outwardsigns which flow from faith and are the fruits of faith; theyprove that the person is already inwardly just in the sight ofGod.

St. Paul verifies his teaching on faith in chapter 3 with apowerful example from Scripture. He calls as witness David, whosays in Psalm 32 that a person becomes just without works butdoesn't remain without works once he has become just. Then Paulextends this example and applies it against all other works of thelaw. He concludes that the Jews cannot be Abraham's heirs justbecause of their blood relationship to him and still less becauseof the works of the law. Rather, they have to inherit Abrahams'sfaith if they want to be his real heirs, since it was prior to theLaw of Moses and the law of circumcision that Abraham became justthrough faith and was called a father of all believers. St. Pauladds that the law brings about more wrath than grace, because noone obeys it with love and eagerness. More disgrace than gracecome from the works of the law. Therefore faith alone can obtainthe grace promised to Abraham. Examples like these are written forour sake, that we also should have faith.

In chapter 5, St. Paul comes to the fruits and works of faith,namely: joy, peace, love for God and for all people; in addition:assurance, steadfastness, confidence, courage, and hope in sorrowand suffering. All of these follow where faith is genuine,because of the overflowing good will that God has shown inChrist: he had him die for us before we could ask him for it, yes,even while we were still his enemies. Thus we have establishedthat faith, without any good works, makes just. It does not followfrom that, however, that we should not do good works; rather itmeans that morally upright works do not remain lacking. About suchworks the "works-holy"people know nothing; they invent forthemselves their own works in which are neither peace nor joy norassurance nor love nor hope nor steadfastness nor any kind ofgenuine Christian works or faith.

Next St. Paul makes a digression, a pleasant little side-trip, andrelates where both sin and justice, death and life come from. Heopposes these two: Adam and Christ. What he wants to say is thatChrist, a second Adam, had to come in order to make us heirs ofhis justice through a new spiritual birth in faith, just as theold Adam made us heirs of sin through the old fleshy birth.

St. Paul proves, by this reasoning, that a person cannot helphimself by his works to get from sin to justice any more than hecan prevent his own physical birth. St. Paul also proves that thedivine law, which should have been well-suited, if anything was,for helping people to obtain justice, not only was no help at allwhen it did come, but it even increased sin. Evil human nature,consequently, becomes more hostile to it; the more the law forbidsit to indulge its own desires, the more it wants to. Thus the lawmakes Christ all the more necessary and demands more grace to helphuman nature.

In chapter 6, St. Paul takes up the special work of faith, thestruggle which the spirit wages against the flesh to kill offthose sins and desires that remain after a person has been madejust. He teaches us that faith doesn't so free us from sin that wecan be idle, lazy and self-assured, as though there were no moresin in us. Sin is there, but, because of faith that strugglesagainst it, God does not reckon sin as deserving damnation.Therefore we have in our own selves a lifetime of work cut out forus; we have to tame our body, kill its lusts, force its members toobey the spirit and not the lusts. We must do this so that we mayconform to the death and resurrection of Christ and complete ourBaptism, which signifies a death to sin and a new life of grace.Our aim is to be completely clean from sin and then to rise bodilywith Christ and live forever.

St. Paul says that we can accomplish all this because we are ingrace and not in the law. He explains that to be "outside the law."is not the same as having no law and being able to do what youplease. No, being "under the law"means living without grace,surrounded by the works of the law. Then surely sin reigns bymeans of the law, since no one is naturally well-disposed towardthe law. That very condition, however, is the greatest sin. Butgrace makes the law lovable to us, so there is then no sin anymore, and the law is no longer against us but one with us.

This is true freedom from sin and from the law; St. Paul writesabout this for the rest of the chapter. He says it is a freedomonly to do good with eagerness and to live a good life without thecoercion of the law. This freedom is, therefore, a spiritualfreedom which does not suspend the law but which supplies what thelaw demands, namely eagerness and love. These silence the law sothat it has no further cause to drive people on and make demandsof them. It's as though you owed something to a moneylender andcouldn't pay him. You could be rid of him in one of two ways:either he would take nothing from you and would tear up hisaccount book, or a pious man would pay for you and give you whatyou needed to satisfy your debt. That's exactly how Christ freedus from the law. Therefore our freedom is not a wild, fleshyfreedom that has no obligation to do anything. On the contrary, itis a freedom that does a great deal, indeed everything, yet isfree of the law's demands and debts.

In chapter 7, St. Paul confirms the foregoing by an analogy drawnfrom married life. When a man dies, the wife is free; the one isfree and clear of the other. It is not the case that the woman maynot or should not marry another man; rather she is now for thefirst time free to marry someone else. She could not do thisbefore she was free of her first husband. In the same way, ourconscience is bound to the law so long as our condition is that ofthe sinful old man. But when the old man is killed by the spirit,then the conscience is free, and conscience and law are quit ofeach other. Not that conscience should now do nothing; rather, itshould now for the first time truly cling to its second husband,Christ, and bring forth the fruit of life.

Next St. Paul sketches further the nature of sin and the law. Itis the law that makes sin really active and powerful, because theold man gets more and more hostile to the law since he can't paythe debt demanded by the law. Sin is his very nature; of himselfhe can't do otherwise. And so the law is his death and torture.Now the law is not itself evil; it is our evil nature that cannottolerate that the good law should demand good from it. It's likethe case of a sick person, who cannot tolerate that you demandthat he run and jump around and do other things that a healthyperson does.

St. Paul concludes here that, if we understand the law properly andcomprehend it in the best possible way, then we will see that itssole function is to remind us of our sins, to kill us by our sins,and to make us deserving of eternal wrath. Conscience learns andexperiences all this in detail when it comes face to face with thelaw. It follows, then, that we must have something else, over andabove the law, which can make a person virtuous and cause him tobe saved. Those, however, who do not understand the law rightlyare blind; they go their way boldly and think they are satisfyingthe law with works. They don't know how much the law demands,namely, a free, willing, eager heart. That is the reason that theydon't see Moses rightly before their eyes. [In both Jewish andChristian teaching, Moses was commonly held to be the author ofthe Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible. Cf. theinvolved imagery of Moses' face and the veil over it in 2Corinthians 3:7-18.] For them he is covered and concealed by theveil.

Then St. Paul shows how spirit and flesh struggle with each otherin one person. He gives himself as an example, so that we maylearn how to kill sin in ourselves. He gives both spirit and fleshthe name "law,"so that, just as it is in the nature of divine lawto drive a person on and make demands of him, so too the fleshdrives and demands and rages against the spirit and wants to haveits own way. Likewise the spirit drives and demands against theflesh and wants to have its own way. This feud lasts in us for aslong as we live, in one person more, in another less, depending onwhether spirit or flesh is stronger. Yet the whole human being isboth: spirit and flesh. The human being fights with himself untilhe becomes completely spiritual.

In chapter 8, St. Paul comforts fighters such as these and tellsthem that this flesh will not bring them condemnation. He goes onto show what the nature of flesh and spirit are. Spirit, he says,comes from Christ, who has given us his Holy Spirit; the HolySpirit makes us spiritual and restrains the flesh. The HolySpirit assures us that we are God's children no matter howfuriously sin may rage within us, so long as we follow the Spiritand struggle against sin in order to kill it. Because nothing isso effective in deadening the flesh as the cross and suffering,Paul comforts us in our suffering. He says that the Spirit, [cf.previous note about the meaning of "spirit."] love and allcreatures will stand by us; the Spirit in us groans and allcreatures long with us that we be freed from the flesh and fromsin. Thus we see that these three chapters, 6, 7 and 8, all dealwith the one work of faith, which is to kill the old Adam and toconstrain the flesh.

In chapters 9, 10 and 11, St. Paul teaches us about the eternalprovidence of God. It is the original source which determines whowould believe and who wouldn't, who can be set free from sin andwho cannot. Such matters have been taken out of our hands and areput into God's hands so that we might become virtuous. It isabsolutely necessary that it be so, for we are so weak and unsureof ourselves that, if it depended on us, no human being would besaved. The devil would overpower all of us. But God is steadfast;his providence will not fail, and no one can prevent itsrealization. Therefore we have hope against sin.

But here we must shut the mouths of those sacriligeous andarrogant spirits who, mere beginners that they are, bring theirreason to bear on this matter and commence, from their exaltedposition, to probe the abyss of divine providence and uselesslytrouble themselves about whether they are predestined or not.These people must surely plunge to their ruin, since they willeither despair or abandon themselves to a life of chance.

You, however, follow the reasoning of this letter in the order inwhich it is presented. Fix your attention first of all on Christand the Gospel, so that you may recognize your sin and his grace.Then struggle against sin, as chapters 1-8 have taught you to.Finally, when you have come, in chapter 8, under the shadow of thecross and suffering, they will teach you, in chapters 9-11, aboutprovidence and what a comfort it is. [The context here and in St.Paul's letter makes it clear that this is the cross and passion,not only of Christ, but of each Christian.] Apart from suffering,the cross and the pangs of death, you cannot come to grips withprovidence without harm to yourself and secret anger against God.The old Adam must be quite dead before you can endure this matterand drink this strong wine. Therefore make sure you don't drinkwine while you are still a babe at the breast. There is a propermeasure, time and age for understanding every doctrine.

In chapter 12, St. Paul teaches the true liturgy and makes allChristians priests, so that they may offer, not money or cattle,as priests do in the Law, but their own bodies, by putting theirdesires to death. Next he describes the outward conduct ofChristians whose lives are governed by the Spirit; he tells howthey teach, preach, rule, serve, give, suffer, love, live and acttoward friend, foe and everyone. These are the works that aChristian does, for, as I have said, faith is not idle.

In chapter 13, St. Paul teaches that one should honor and obey thesecular authorities. He includes this, not because it makes peoplevirtuous in the sight of God, but because it does insure that thevirtuous have outward peace and protection and that the wickedcannot do evil without fear and in undisturbed peace. Therefore itis the duty of virtuous people to honor secular authority, eventhough they do not, strictly speaking, need it. Finally, St. Paulsums up everything in love and gathers it all into the example ofChrist: what he has done for us, we must also do and follow afterhim.

In chapter 14, St. Paul teaches that one should carefully guidethose with weak conscience and spare them. One shouldn't useChristian freedom to harm but rather to help the weak. Where thatisn't done, there follow dissention and despising of the Gospel,on which everything else depends. It is better to give way alittle to the weak in faith until they become stronger than tohave the teaching of the Gospel perish completely. This work is aparticularly necessary work of love especially now when people, byeating meat and by other freedoms, are brashly, boldly andunnecessarily shaking weak consciences which have not yet come toknow the truth.

In chapter 15, St. Paul cites Christ as an example to show that wemust also have patience with the weak, even those who fail bysinning publicly or by their disgusting morals. We must not castthem aside but must bear with them until they become better. Thatis the way Christ treated us and still treats us every day; heputs up with our vices, our wicked morals and all ourimperfection, and he helps us ceaselessly. Finally Paul prays forthe Christians at Rome; he praises them and commends them to God.He points out his own office and the message that he preaches. Hemakes an unobtrusive plea for a contribution for the poor inJerusalem. Unalloyed love is the basis of all he says and does.

The last chapter [16] consists of greetings. But Paul also includes asalutary warning against human doctrines which are preachedalongside the Gospel and which do a great deal of harm. It's asthough he had clearly seen that out of Rome and through the Romanswould come the deceitful, harmful Canons and Decretals along withthe entire brood and swarm of human laws and commands that is nowdrowning the whole world and has blotted out this letter and thewhole of the Scriptures, along with the Spirit and faith. Nothingremains but the idol Belly, and St. Paul depicts those people hereas its servants. God deliver us from them. Amen.

We find in this letter, then, the richest possible teaching aboutwhat a Christian should know: the meaning of law, Gospel, sin,punishment, grace, faith, justice, Christ, God, good works, love,hope and the cross. We learn how we are to act toward everyone,toward the virtuous and sinful, toward the strong and the weak,friend and foe, and toward ourselves. Paul bases everythingfirmly on Scripture and proves his points with examples from hisown experience and from the Prophets, so that nothing more couldbe desired. Therefore it seems that St. Paul, in writing thisletter, wanted to compose a summary of the whole of Christian andevangelical teaching which would also be an introduction to thewhole Old Testament. Without doubt, whoever takes this letter toheart possesses the light and power of the Old Testament.Therefore each and every Christian should make this letter thehabitual and constant object of his study. God grant us his graceto do so. Amen.

[This translation was made by Bro. Andrew Thornton, OSB, for theSaint Anselm College Humanities Program. �1983 by Saint AnselmAbbey. This translation may be used freely with properattribution.]