For whatsoever things ... - This is a "general" observation which struck the mind of the apostle, from the particular case which he had just specified. He had just made use of a striking passage in the Psalms to his purpose. The thought seems suddenly to have occurred to him that "all" the Old Testament was admirably adapted to express Christian duties and doctrine, and he therefore turned aside from his direct argument to express this sentiment. It should be read as a parenthesis.
Were written aforetime - That is, in ancient times; in the Old Testament.
For our learning - For our "teaching" or instruction. Not that this was the "only" purpose of the writings of the Old Testament, to instruct Christians; but that all the Old Testament might be useful "now" in illustrating and enforcing the doctrines and duties of piety toward God and man.
Through patience - This does not mean, as our translation might seem to suppose, patience "of the Scriptures," but it means that by patiently enduring sufferings, in connection with the consolation which the Scriptures furnish, we might have hope. The "tendency" of patience, the apostle tells us Romans 5:4, is to produce "hope;" see the notes at this place.
And comfort of the Scriptures - By means of the consolation which the writings of the Old Testament furnish. The word rendered "comfort" means also "exhortation" or "admonition." If this is its meaning here, it refers to the admonitions which the Scriptures suggest, instructions which they impart, and the exhortations to patience in trials. If it means "comfort," then the reference is to the examples of the saints in affliction; to their recorded expressions of confidence in God in their trials, as of Job, Daniel, David, etc. Which is the precise meaning of the word here, it is not easy to determine.
Might have hope - Note, Romans 5:4. We may learn here,
(1)That afflictions may Proverbs to be a great blessing.
(2)That their proper tendency is to produce "hope."
(3)That the way to find support in afflictions is to go to the Bible.
By the example of the ancient saints, by the expression of their confidence in God, by their patience, "we" may learn to suffer, and may not only be "instructed," but may find "comfort" in all our trials; see the example of Paul himself in II Corinthians 1:2-11.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Romans 15:4:
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