Adam Clarke Commentary
The happy state of those who believe in Christ, and walk under the influence of his Spirit, Romans 8:1, Romans 8:2. The design of God in sending his Son into the world was to redeem men from sin, Romans 8:3, Romans 8:4. The miserable state of the carnally minded, Romans 8:6-8. How Christ lives and works in his followers; their blessedness here, and their happiness hereafter, Romans 8:9-17. Sufferings are the common lot of all men; and from which Gentiles and Jews have the hope of being finally delivered, Romans 8:18-23. The use and importance of hope, Romans 8:24, Romans 8:25. The Spirit makes intercession for the followers of Christ, Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27. All things work together for good to them that love God, and who act according to his gracious purpose in calling them, Romans 8:28. The means used to bring men to eternal glory, Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30. The great blessedness, confidence, and security of all genuine Christians, whom, while they hold fast faith and a good conscience, nothing can separate from the love of God, Romans 8:31-39.
There is, therefore, now no condemnation - To do justice to St. Paul's reasoning, this chapter must be read in the closest connection with the preceding. There we have seen the unavailing struggles of an awakened Jew, who sought pardon and holiness from that law which he was conscious he had broken; and in which he could find no provision for pardon, and no power to sanctify. This conviction having brought him to the very brink of despair, and, being on the point of giving up all hope, he hears of redemption by Jesus Christ, thanks God for the prospect he has of salvation, applies for and receives it; and now magnifies God for the unspeakable gift of which he has been made a partaker.
Those who restrain the word now, so as to indicate by it the Gospel dispensation only, do not take in the whole of the apostles meaning. The apostle has not been dealing in general matters only, but also in those which are particular. He has not been pointing out merely the difference between the two dispensations, the Mosaic and the Christian; but he marks out the state of a penitent under the former, and that of a believer under the latter. The last chapter closed with an account of the deep distress of the penitent; this one opens with an account of his salvation. The now, therefore, in the text, must refer more to the happy transition from darkness to light, from condemnation to pardon, which this believer now enjoys, than to the Christian dispensation taking the place of the Jewish economy.
Who walk not after the flesh, etc. - In this one verse we find the power and virtue of the Gospel scheme; it pardons and sanctifies; the Jewish law could do neither. By faith in our Lord Jesus Christ the penitent, condemned by the law, is pardoned; the carnal man, labouring under the overpowering influence of the sin of his nature, is sanctified. He is first freely justified; he feels no condemnation; he is fully sanctified; he walks not after the Flesh, but after the Spirit.
This last clause is wanting in the principal MSS., versions, and fathers. Griesbach has excluded it from the text; and Dr. White says, Certissime delenda; it should most undoubtedly be expunged. Without it, the passage reads thus: There is, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; for the law of the Spirit of life, etc. It is a fairly assumed point, that those who are in Christ Jesus, who believe in his name, have redemption in his blood; are made partakers of his Spirit, and have the mind in them that was in him; will not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit: therefore the thing itself is included in the being in Christ, whether it be expressed or not: and it was probably to make the thing more obvious, that this explanatory clause was added by some copyist, for it does not appear to have made an original part of the text; and it is most likely that it was inserted here from the fourth verse.
For the law of the Spirit of life - The Gospel of the grace of Christ, which is not only a law or rule of life, but affords that sovereign energy by which guilt is removed from the conscience, the power of sin broken, and its polluting influence removed from the heart. The law was a spirit of death, by which those who were under it were bound down, because of their sin, to condemnation and death. The Gospel proclaims Jesus the Savior; and what the law bound unto death, It looses unto life eternal. And thus the apostle says, whether of himself or the man whom he is still personating, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Most people allow that St. Paul is here speaking of his own state; and this state is so totally different from that described in the preceding chapter, that it is absolutely impossible that they should have been the state of the same being, at one and the same time. No creature could possibly be carnal, sold under sin, brought into captivity to the law of sin and death; and at the same time be made free from that law of sin and death, by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! Until the most palpable absurdities and contradictions can be reconciled, these two opposite states can never exist in the same person at the same time.
For what the law could not do - The law could not pardon; the law could not sanctify; the law could not dispense with its own requisitions; it is the rule of righteousness, and therefore must condemn unrighteousness. This is its unalterable nature. Had there been perfect obedience to its dictates, instead of condemning, it would have applauded and rewarded; but as the flesh, the carnal and rebellious principle, had prevailed, and transgression had taken place, it was rendered weak, inefficient to undo this word of the flesh, and bring the sinner into a state of pardon and acceptance with God.
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh - Did that which the law could not do; i.e. purchased pardon for the sinner, and brought every believer into the favor of God. And this is effected by the incarnation of Christ: He, in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily, took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh, that is, a human body like ours, but not sinful as ours; and for sin, και περι ἁμαρτιας, and as a Sacrifice for Sin, (this is the sense of the word in a multitude of places), condemned sin in the flesh - condemned that to death and destruction which had condemned us to both.
Condemned sin in the flesh - The design and object of the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ was to condemn sin, to have it executed and destroyed; not to tolerate it as some think, or to render it subservient to the purposes of his grace, as others; but to annihilate its power, guilt, and being in the soul of a believer.
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us - That the guilt might be pardoned through the merit of that sacrifice; and that we might be enabled, by the power of his own grace and Spirit, to walk in newness of life; loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves: and thus the righteousness, the spirit, design, and purpose of the law is fulfilled in us, through the strength of the Spirit of Christ, which is here put in opposition to the weakness of the law through the flesh.
It is very likely that the concluding clause of this verse, which is the very same as that found in the common text of the first verse, has been transferred to that verse from this place.
For they that are after the flesh - And here is the great distinction between Jews and genuine Christians: the former are after the flesh - are under the power of the carnal, rebellious principle; and consequently mind, προνουσιν, relish, the things of the flesh - the things which appertain merely to the present life; having no relish for spiritual and eternal things.
But they that are after the Spirit - They who are regenerated, who are born of the Spirit, being redeemed from the influence and law of the carnal mind; these relish the things of the Spirit - they are spiritually minded, and pass through things temporal, so as not to lose the things which are eternal. And this, which in these apostolic times distinguished between the carnal Jew and the spiritual believer in Christ, is the grand mark of distinction between the nominal and the real Christian now. The former is earthly minded, and lives for this world; the latter is spiritually minded, and lives for the world to come.
For to be carnally minded is death - To live under the influence of the carnal mind is to live in the state of condemnation, and consequently liable to death eternal: whereas, on the contrary, he who is spiritually minded has the life and peace of God in his soul, and is in full prospect of life eternal.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God - Because it is a carnal mind, and relishes earthly and sinful things, and lives in opposition to the pure and holy law of God: therefore, it is enmity against God; it is irreconcilable and implacable hatred.
It is not subject to the law of God - It will come under no obedience; for it is sin, and the very principle of rebellion; and therefore it cannot be subject, nor subjected; for it is essential to sin to show itself in rebellion; and when it ceases to rebel, it ceases to be sin.
From this we learn that the design of God in the economy of the Gospel, is not to weaken, curtail, or lay the carnal principle in bonds, but to destroy it. As it is not subject, and cannot be subject, to the law of God, it must be destroyed, else it will continue to rebel against God. It cannot be mended, or rendered less offensive in its nature, even by the operations of God; it is ever sin, and sin is ever enmity; and enmity, wherever it has power, will invariably show itself in acts of hostility and rebellion.
So then - Because this carnal mind is enmity against God, they that are in the flesh - who are under the power of the workings of this carnal mind, (which every soul is that has not received redemption in the blood of the Lamb), -
Cannot please God - Because of the rebellious workings of this principle of rebellion and hatred. And, if they cannot please God, they must be displeasing to him; and consequently in the broad road to final perdition.
But ye are not in the flesh - Ye Christians, who have believed in Christ Jesus as the sin offering which has condemned sin in the flesh; and, having been justified by faith and made partakers of the Holy Spirit, are enabled to walk in newness of life.
If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you - Or seeing that, ειπερ, the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. The flesh, the sinful principle, dwelt in them before; and its motions were the proofs of its indwelling; but now the Spirit dwells in them; and its testimony in their conscience, and its powerful operations in their hearts, are the proofs of its indwelling. God made man in union with himself, and his heart was his temple. Sin being committed, the temple was defiled, and God abandoned it. Jesus Christ is come by his sacrifice and Spirit to cleanse the temple, and make man again a habitation of God through the Spirit. And when this almighty Spirit again makes the heart his residence, then the soul is delivered from the moral effects of the fall. And that this is absolutely necessary to our present peace and final salvation is proved from this: that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ - the mind that was in him, produced there by the power of the Holy Ghost - he is none of his; he does not belong to the kingdom, flock, or family of God. This is an awful conclusion! Reader, lay it to heart.
And if Christ be in you, etc. - This is the criterion by which you may judge of the state of grace in which ye stand. If Christ dwell in your hearts by faith, the body is dead because of sin, δι 'ἁμαρτιαν, in reference to sin; the members of your body no more perform the work of sin than the body of a dead man does the functions of natural life. Or the apostle may mean, that although, because of sin, the life of man is forfeited; and the sentence, dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return, must be fulfilled on every human being, until the judgment of the great day; yet, their souls being quickened by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, which enables them to live a life of righteousness, they receive a full assurance that their bodies, which are now condemned to death because of sin, shall be raised again to a life of immortal glory.
But if the Spirit, etc. - This verse confirms the sense given to the preceding. He who here receives the grace and Spirit of Christ, and continues to live under its influence a life of obedience to the Divine will, shall have a resurrection to eternal life; and the resurrection of Christ shall be the pattern after which they shall be raised.
By his Spirit that dwelleth in you - Instead of δια του ενοικουντος αυτου πνευματος, because of the Spirit of him who dwelleth in you, DEFG, a great many others, with the Vulgate, Itala, and several of the fathers, have δια το ενοικουν αυτου πνευμα, which gives almost no variety of meaning. The latter may be neater Greek, but it is not better sense than the preceding.
Therefore, brethren, etc. - Dr. Taylor is of opinion that the apostle having spoken separately, both to Jews and Gentiles, concerning holiness and the obligations to it, now addresses himself to both conjointly, and,
III. And as the affair of suffering persecution was a great stumbling block to the Jews, and might very much discourage the Gentiles, he introduces it to the best advantage, Romans 8:17, and advances several arguments to fortify their minds under all trials: as -
(1.) That they suffered with Christ;
(2.) In order to be glorified with him in a manner which will infinitely compensate all sufferings, Romans 8:17, Romans 8:18.
(3.) All mankind are under various pressures, longing for a better state, Romans 8:19-22.
(4.) Many of the most eminent Christians are in the same distressed condition, Romans 8:23.
(5.) According to the plan of the Gospel, we are to be brought to glory after a course of patience exercised in a variety of trials, Romans 8:24, Romans 8:25.
(6.) The Spirit of God will supply patience to every upright soul under persecution and suffering, Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27.
(7.) All things, even the severest trials, shall work together for their good, Romans 8:28. And this he proves, by giving us a view of the several steps which the wisdom and goodness of God have settled, in order to our complete salvation, Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30. Thence he passes to the affair of our perseverance; concerning which he concludes, from the whole of his preceding arguments, that as we are brought into a state of pardon by the free grace of God, through the death of Christ, who is now our mediator in heaven; no possible cause, providing we continue to love and serve God, shall be able to pervert our minds, or separate us from his love in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:31-39. Therefore, αρα ουν is the grand inference from all that he has been arguing in relation to sanctity of life, both to the Gentiles, chap. 6, and to the Jews, chap. 7, and 8, to this verse, where I suppose he begins to address himself to both, in a body, to the end of the chapter. - Taylor, page 317.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die - Though μελλετε αποθνησκειν may mean, ye shall afterwards die, and this seems to indicate a temporal death, yet not exclusively of an eternal death; for both, and especially the latter, are necessarily implied.
But if ye through the Spirit - If ye seek that grace and spiritual help which the Gospel of Christ furnishes, resist, and, by resisting, mortify the deeds of the flesh, against which the law gave you no assistance, ye shall live a life of faith, love, and holy obedience here, and a life of glory hereafter.
For as many as are led by the Spirit, etc. - No man who has not Divine assistance can either find the way to heaven, or walk in it when found. As Christ, by his sacrificial offering, has opened the kingdom of God to all believers; and, as a mediator, transacts the concerns of their kingdom before the throne; so the Spirit of God is the great agent here below, to enlighten, quicken, strengthen, and guide the true disciples of Christ; and all that are born of this Spirit are led and guided by it; and none can pretend to be the children of God who are not thus guided.
Ye have not received the spirit of bondage - All that were under the law were under bondage to its rites and ceremonies; and as, through the prevalence of that corrupt nature with which every human being is polluted, and to remove which the law gave no assistance, they were often transgressing, consequently they had forfeited their lives, and were continually, through fear of death, subject to bondage, Hebrews 2:15. The believers in Christ Jesus were brought from under that law, and from under its condemnation; and, consequently, were freed from its bondage. The Gentiles were also in a state of bondage as well as the Jews, they had also a multitude of burdensome rites and ceremonies, and a multitude of deities to worship; nor could they believe themselves secure of protection while one of their almost endless host of gods, celestial, terrestrial, or infernal, was left unpropitiated.
But ye have received the Spirit of adoption - Ye are brought into the family of God by adoption; and the agent that brought you into this family is the Holy Spirit; and this very Spirit continues to witness to you the grace in which ye stand, by enabling you to call God your Father, with the utmost filial confidence and affection.
The Spirit of adoption - Adoption was an act frequent among the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans; by which a person was taken out of one family and incorporated with another. Persons of property, who had no children of their own, adopted those of another family. The child thus adopted ceased to belong to his own family, and was in every respect bound to the person who had adopted him, as if he were his own child; and in consequence of the death of his adopting father he possessed his estates. If a person after he had adopted a child happened to have children of his own, then the estate was equally divided between the adopted and real children. The Romans had regular forms of law, by which all these matters were settled. - See in Aulus Gellius. Noctes Attic., vol. i. cap. xix. p. 331. Edit Beloe; and the note there.
Whereby we cry, Abba, Father - The reason why the Syriac and Greek words are here conjoined, may be seen in the note on Mark 14:36; (note), to which the reader is referred. The introduction of the words here shows that the persons in question had the strongest evidence of the excellence of the state in which they stood; they knew that they were thus adopted; and they knew this by the Spirit of God which was given them on their adoption; and let me say, they could know it by no other means. The Father who had adopted them could be seen by no mortal eye; and the transaction being purely of a spiritual nature, and transacted in heaven, can be known only by God's supernatural testimony of it upon earth. It is a matter of such solemn importance to every Christian soul, that God in his mercy has been pleased not to leave it to conjecture, assumption, or inductive reasoning; but attests it by his own Spirit in the soul of the person whom he adopts through Christ Jesus. It is the grand and most observable case in which the intercourse is kept up between heaven and earth; and the genuine believer in Christ Jesus is not left to the quibbles or casuistry of polemic divines or critics, but receives the thing, and the testimony of it, immediately from God himself. And were not the testimony of the state thus given, no man could possibly have any assurance of his salvation which would beget confidence and love. If to any man his acceptance with God be hypothetical, then his confidence must be so too. His love to God must be hypothetical, his gratitude hypothetical, and his obedience also. If God had forgiven me my sins, then I should love him, and I should be grateful, and I should testify this gratitude by obedience. But who does not see that these must necessarily depend on the If in the first case. All this uncertainty, and the perplexities necessarily resulting from it, God has precluded by sending the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, by which we cry, Abba, Father: and thus our adoption into the heavenly family is testified and ascertained to us in the only way in which it can possibly be done, by the direct influence of the Spirit of God. Remove this from Christianity, and it is a dead letter.
It has been remarked that slaves were not permitted to use the term Abba, father, or Imma, mother, in accosting their masters and mistresses. The Hebrew canon, relative to this, is extant in the tract Berachoth, fol. 16. 2, פלוגית אימא ולא פלוגי אבא לא אותם קורין אין והשפחות העבדים haabadim vehashshephachoth ein korin otham, lo Abba N velo Imma N . Men-servants and maid-servants do not call to their master Abba, (father), N. nor to their mistress Imma, (mother), N. And from this some suppose that the apostle intimates that being now brought from under the spirit of bondage, in which they durst not call God their Father, they are not only brought into a new state, but have got that language which is peculiar to that state. It is certain that no man who has not redemption in the blood of the cross has any right to call God Father, but merely as he may be considered the Father of the spirits of all flesh.
Some have supposed that the apostle, by using the Syriac and Greek words which express Father, shows the union of Jewish and Gentile believers in those devotions which were dictated by a filial spirit. Others have thought that these were the first words which those generally uttered who were made partakers of the Holy Spirit. It is enough to know that it was the language of their sonship, and that it expressed the clear assurance they had of being received into the Divine favor, the affection and gratitude they felt for this extraordinary blessing, and their complete readiness to come under the laws and regulations of the family, and to live in the spirit of obedience.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit - Αυτο το πνευμα, that same Spirit, the Spirit of adoption; that is, the Spirit who witnesses this adoption; which can be no other than the Holy Ghost himself, and certainly cannot mean any disposition or affection of mind which the adopted person may feel; for such a disposition must arise from a knowledge of this adoption, and the knowledge of this adoption cannot be given by any human or earthly means; it must come from God himself: therefore the αυτο το πνευμα must have reference to that Spirit, by whom alone the knowledge of the adoption is witnessed to the soul of the believer.
With our spirit - In our understanding, the place or recipient of light and information; and the place or faculty to which such information can properly be brought. This is done that we may have the highest possible evidence of the work which God has wrought. As the window is the proper medium to let the light of the sun into our apartments, so the understanding is the proper medium of conveying the Spirit's influence to the soul. We, therefore, have the utmost evidence of the fact of our adoption which we can possibly have; we have the word and Spirit of God; and the word sealed on our spirit by the Spirit of God. And this is not a momentary influx: if we take care to walk with God, and not grieve the Holy Spirit, we shall have an abiding testimony; and while we continue faithful to our adopting Father, the Spirit that witnesses that adoption will continue to witness it; and hereby we shall know that we are of God by the Spirit which he giveth us.
And if children, then heirs - For the legitimate children can alone inherit the estate. This is not an estate to which they succeed in consequence of the death of a former possessor; it is like the promised land, given by God himself, and divided among the children of the family.
Heirs of God - It is neither an earthly portion nor a heavenly portion; but God himself, who is to be their portion. It is not heaven they are to inherit; it is God, who is infinitely greater and more glorious than heaven itself. With such powers has God created the soul of man, that nothing less than himself can be a sufficient and satisfactory portion for the mind of this most astonishing creature.
Joint heirs with Christ - Partaking of the same eternal glory with the glorified human nature of Christ.
If so be that we suffer with him - Observe, says Dr. Taylor, how prudently the apostle advances to the harsh affair of suffering. He does not mention it till he had raised up their thoughts to the highest object of joy and pleasure - the happiness and glory of a joint inheritance with the ever-blessed Son of God.
We are heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him. This, with the additional consideration that we suffer with Christ, or, as he himself suffered, would greatly qualify the transitory afflictions of this world, and dispose them to attend to the other arguments he had to offer.
For I reckon that the sufferings, etc. - If the glory that is to be revealed be the enjoyment of God himself, (see above, Romans 8:17; (note)), then the sufferings of this life, which, when compared with eternity, are but as for a moment, are not worthy to be put in competition with this glory which shall be revealed in us. This case is perfectly clear.
For the earnest expectation of the creature - There is considerable difficulty in this and the four following verses: and the difficulty lies chiefly in the meaning of the word ἡ κτισις, which we translate the creature, and creation. Some think that by it the brute creation is meant; others apply it to the Jewish people; others to the godly; others to the Gentiles; others to the good angels; and others to the fallen spirits, both angelic and human. Dissertations without end have been written on it; and it does not appear that the Christian world are come to any general agreement on the subject. Dr. Lightfoot's mode of explanation appears to me to be the best, on the whole. "There is," says he, "a twofold key hanging at this place, which may unlock the whole, and make the sense plain and easy.
For the creature was made subject to vanity - The Gentile world were subject to vanity of mind; but how? not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same. May we not say, it became vain willingly, but was made subject to vanity unwillingly? For, let us recur to the origin of Gentilism, the confusion of languages, by reason of the attempt to build the tower of Babel; and though there are some passages in the gloss of the Targumists upon this matter that are sufficiently ridiculous, yet as to their scope and design they are worthy of notice. "They said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, and let its head reach unto the top of heaven; and let us make a house of worship in the top of it; and let us put a sword in his hand that he may wage war for us against our enemies, before we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." It is an ancient tradition among the Jews, that this tower was built on an idolatrous account. The confusion of tongues, by which true religion was lost in the world, is a proof that the builders of this tower sinned against God in the highest degree. They were inclined to vanity, i.e. idolatry, Willingly; but they were subjected to vanity Unwillingly; for this proceeded from the just indignation and vengeance of God. From this time the world lay under heathenism till the bringing in of the Gospel, upwards of 2000 years after. See Lightfoot.
Because the creature - This and the preceding verse should be thus connected: in hope That (ὁτι ) the creature itself also shall be delivered. The word φθορα denotes, very frequently, sinful corruption. So, 2 Peter 1:4; : Corruption through lust, της εν επιθυμια φθορας . 2 Corinthians 11:3; : Lest your minds should be corrupted. 1 Corinthians 15:33; : Evil communications corrupt good manners. The sense, therefore, of the apostle in this place seems to be: the Gentile world shall, in time, be delivered from the bondage of their sinful corruption, i.e. the bondage of their lusts and vile affections; and be brought into such a noble liberty as the sons of God enjoy.
The whole creation groaneth and travaileth - If it be inquired how the Gentile world groaned and travailed in pain; let them who explain this of the fabric of the material world, tell us how that groans and travails? They must needs own it to be a borrowed and allusive phrase: but in the sense above given, the very literal construction may be admitted.
And not only they, but ourselves also - Neither the Gentiles only, but we Jews also, (however we belong to a nation envious of the heathen), to whom God hath granted the first fruits of the Spirit; we sigh among ourselves for their sakes, waiting for the adoption; that is, the redemption of our mystical body, whereof the Gentiles make a very great part. Lightfoot's works. vol. ii. p. 359 and 707.
The scope and design of St. Paul in these verses may be thus summed up: - The apostle shows that the whole creation is in a suffering state, into which it has been brought by the disobedience of one man, Adam; therefore, it was made subject to vanity - pain, sickness, and death; not willingly, for mankind had no part in that transgression which "brought death into the world and all our wo;" but God subjected the whole, purposing to afford them a deliverance and infusing into every heart a hope that a more auspicious era should take place; and it is through the influence of this hope, which every man possesses, that the present ills are so patiently borne, because all are expecting better days. The great deliverer is the Messiah, and the Gospel days the auspicious era which God intended to bring forward. They who believe in Christ with a heart unto righteousness are freed from the bondage of their sinful corruption, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; and they look forward with joyous expectation, waiting for the general resurrection, when their bodies also shall be redeemed from corruption, and the whole man, body and soul, be adopted into the family of heaven Above, as their souls had been previously adopted into the family of faith Below. And although it may be said that the redemption provided by the Gospel can not be an object of hope to those who have never heard of it; yet, as every man has hope, and this hope is inspired by God for this very purpose; that it may be the means of supporting them in the ills of life, and God, in inspiring it, had respect to the glorious state of Christianity, therefore it is this state, in effect, that the whole creation are longing for. So Jesus Christ is said, by the Prophet Haggai, Haggai 2:7, to be the desire of all nations; and yet not one of the nations of the earth had, at that time, heard of him. And thus, as Dr. Whitby has very properly remarked, "desire and expectation are ascribed to creatures, in reference to things they want, and which tend to their advantage; notwithstanding they explicitly know nothing of them."
For we are saved by hope - We are supported and are comfortable in the expectation we have of receiving from the hand of our God all the good we need in the troubles and adversities of this life, and of having our bodies raised from corruption and death at the general resurrection.
Hope that is seen is not hope - As hope signifies the expectation of future good, so it necessarily supposes that the object of it is not seen, i.e. not enjoyed; for to see, in Scripture language, sometimes signifies to enjoy, as in Job 7:7; : Mine eye shall no more See (margin, Enjoy) good. Job 9:25; : My days flee away, and See no good; i.e. enjoy no prosperity. Psalm 50:23; : I will Show the salvation of God: I will give that man to enjoy my salvation who walks uprightly. Matthew 5:8; : Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall See God; that is, they shall enjoy his favor and blessing. See also John 3:36; Hebrews 12:14, and 1 John 3:2. The hope that is seen, that is, enjoyed, is no longer hope, it is fruition: and a man cannot hope for that which he has in his possession.
But if we hope for that we see not - If we have a well-grounded expectation of our resurrection and final glorification, knowing that such things are necessarily future, and must for a certain time be delayed; then do we patiently wait for them, continue patiently to endure the common ills of life, and whatever tribulations we may be exposed to in consequence of our Christian profession; for we know, Faithful is he who has promised. Hope is a sort of universal blessing, and one of the greatest which God has granted to man. To mankind, in general, life would be intolerable without it; and it is as necessary as faith is even to the followers of God.
The ancients have a very instructive and elegant fable concerning it. "Prometheus having made a human body, went up to heaven, and stole some celestial fire to animate it: Jupiter, incensed at the theft, sent down Pandora, with a box full of diseases and plagues of every kind, as an ensnaring present to Prometheus; but he refused to accept it. Epimetheus took and opened it, and instantly all those diseases, etc., by which mankind have been made miserable, flew out, and spread themselves over the whole earth; and only Hope remained at the bottom of the box." This fable explains itself, as to its main design. Men find life, with its various and unavoidable ills, only supportable by the hope they have of not only getting safely through them, but of enjoying a state of blessedness in the end. Hope is still at the bottom; and therefore man is encouraged to bear up in all the pressures of life. Take away hope, and then black despair and indescribable wretchedness would be the instant result. Hope stands justly among the highest mercies of God.
The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities - The same Spirit, το πνευμα, mentioned before as bearing witness with ours that we are the children of God; and consequently it is not a disposition or frame of mind, for the disposition of our mind surely cannot help the infirmities of our minds.
The word συναντιλαμβανεται is very inadequately expressed by helpeth. It is compounded of συν, together, αντι, against, and λαμβανομαι, to support or help, and signifies such assistance as is afforded by any two persons to each other, who mutually bear the same load or carry it between them. He who prays, receives help from the Spirit of God; but he who prays not receives no such help. Whatever our strength may be, we must put it forth, even while most implicitly depending on the strength of God himself.
For we know not what we should pray for as we ought - And should therefore be liable to endless mistakes in our prayers, if suitable desires were not excited by the Holy Spirit and power received to bring these desires, by prayer, before the throne of grace.
But the Spirit itself - Αυτο το πνευμα, The same Spirit, viz. the Spirit that witnesses of our adoption and sonship, Romans 8:15, Romans 8:16, makes intercession for us. Surely if the apostle had designed to teach us that he meant our own sense and understanding by the Spirit, he never could have spoken in a manner in which plain common sense was never likely to comprehend his meaning. Besides, how can it be said that our own spirit, our filial disposition, bears witness with our own spirit; that our own spirit helps the infirmities of our own spirit; that our own spirit teaches our own spirit that of which it is ignorant; and that our own spirit maketh intercession for our own spirit, with groanings unutterable? This would have been both incongruous and absurd. We must therefore understand these places of that help and influence which the followers of God receive from the Holy Ghost; and consequently, of the fulfillment of the various promises relative to this point which our Lord made to his disciples, particularly in John 14:16, John 14:17, John 14:26; John 15:26, John 15:27; John 16:7; and particularly John 16:13, John 16:14; : Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.
He maketh intercession for the saints - The word εντυγχανω signifies to apply one's self to a person in behalf of another; to intercede or negotiate for. Our Lord makes intercession for us, by negotiating and managing, as our friend and agent, all the affairs pertaining to our salvation. And the Spirit of God makes intercession for the saints, not by supplication to God on their behalf, but by directing and qualifying their supplications in a proper manner, by his agency and influence upon their hearts; which, according to the Gospel scheme, is the peculiar work and office of the Holy Spirit. See Taylor.
According to the will of God - Κατα Θεον· According to the mind, intention, or design of God. And thus the prayers which we offer up, and the desires which subsist in the unutterable groanings, are all such as are pleasing in the sight of God. So that God, whose is the Spirit, and who is acquainted with the mind of the Spirit, knows what he means when he leads the saints to express themselves in words, desires, groans, sighs, or tears: in each God reads the language of the Holy Ghost, and prepares the answer according to the request.
From all this we learn that a fluency in prayer is not essential to praying: a man may pray most powerfully in the estimation of God, who is not able to utter even one word. The unutterable groan is big with meaning, and God understands it, because it contains the language of his own Spirit. Some desires are too mighty to be expressed; there is no language expressive enough to give them proper form and distinct vocal sound: such desires show that they came from God; and as they came from him, so they express what God is disposed to do, and what he has purposed to do. This is a matter of great encouragement to all those who are agonizing to enter in at the strait gate.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God - To understand this verse aright, let us observe:
For whom he did foreknow, etc. - "In this and the following verse the apostle shows how our calling is an argument that all things work together to advance our eternal happiness, by showing the several steps which the wisdom and goodness of God have settled, in order to complete our salvation. In order to this he first gives us, in this verse, the foundation and finishing, or the beginning and end, of the scheme of our redemption: For whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. To foreknow, here signifies to design before, or at the first forming of the scheme; to bestow the favor and privilege of being God's people upon any set of men, Romans 11:2. This is the foundation or first step of our salvation; namely, the purpose and grace of God, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began, 2 Timothy 1:9. Then, he knew or favored us; for in this sense the word to know is taken in a great variety of places, both in the Old and New Testaments. And as he knew the Gentiles then, when the scheme was laid, and before any part of it was executed, consequently, in reference to the execution of this scheme, he foreknew us. This is the first step of our salvation, and the end or finishing of it is our conformity to the Son of God in eternal glory, Romans 8:17, which includes and supposes our moral conformity to him. When God knew us, at the forming of the Gospel scheme; or, when he intended to bestow on us the privilege of being his people; he then destinated or designed us to be conformed to the image of his Son; and, as he destinated or determined us then to this very high honor and happiness, he pre-destinated, fore-ordained, or pre-determined us to it. Thus we are to understand the foundation and finishing of the scheme of our salvation. The foundation is the foreknowledge, or gracious purpose of God; the finishing is our being joint heirs with Christ. Now, our calling or invitation (see on Romans 8:28; (note)) stands in connection with both these.
Whom he did predestinate, etc. - The Gentiles, whom He determined to call into his Church with the Jewish people, He called - He invited by the preaching of the Gospel, to believe on his Son Jesus Christ. It is worthy of note, that all that is spoken here refers to what had already taken place; for the calling, justifying, and glorifying are here represented as having already taken place, as well as the foreknowing and the predestinating. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that the apostle refers to what God had already done among the Jews and Gentiles: though he may also speak of the things that were not as though they were.
He also justified - Pardoned the sins of all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turned unto him.
He also glorified - He has honored and dignified the Gentiles with the highest privileges, and he has already taken many of them to the kingdom of glory, and many more are on their way thither; and all who love him, and continue faithful unto death, shall inherit that glory eternally. Hence it is added, them he also glorified; for all the honors which he confers on them have respect to and are intended to promote their endless felicity; and though the terms are here used in a more general sense, yet, if we take them more restrictedly, we must consider that in the work of justification sanctification is implied; justification being the foundation and beginning of that work. From all this we learn that none will be glorified who have not been sanctified and justified; that the justified are those who have been called or invited by the Gospel of Christ; that those who have had this calling are they to whom God determined to grant this privilege - they did not choose this salvation first, but God sent it to them when they knew him not - and therefore the salvation of the Gentile world, as well as that of the Jews, comes through the gratuitous mercy of God himself, was the result of infinite designs, and stands on the same ground as the calling, etc., of the Jewish people. The word δοξα, which we render glory, and δοξαζω, to glorify, both mean to render illustrious, eminent, etc., etc., in various parts of the New Testament; and in this sense the verb is used John 11:4; John 12:23, John 12:28; John 13:31, John 13:32; John 14:13; John 15:8; John 21:19; Acts 3:13; Acts 11:13; in none of which places eternal beatification can be intended. Here it seems to mean that those whom God had called into a state of justification he had rendered illustrious by innumerable gifts, graces, and privileges, in the same manner as he had done to the Israelites of old.
The whole of the preceding discourse will show that every thing here is conditional, as far as it relates to the ultimate salvation of any person professing the Gospel of Christ; for the promises are made to character, and not to persons, as some have most injudiciously affirmed. The apostle insists upon a character all along from the beginning of the chapter. Romans 8:1; : There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:13; : If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die, etc. The absolute necessity of holiness to salvation is the very subject of his discourse; this necessity he positively affirms, and establishes by the most solid arguments. At the very entrance of his argument here, he takes care to settle the connection between our calling and our love and obedience to God, on purpose to prevent that mistake into which so many have fallen, through their great inattention to the scope of his reasoning. Romans 8:28; : All things work together for good - To whom? To Them that Love God: to them that are the called according to his purpose. To them that love God, because they are called according to his purpose; for those only who love God can reap any benefit by this predestination, vocation, or any other instance of God's favor. See the observations at the end of this chapter, ( Romans 8:39; (note)).
What shall we then say to these things? - What conclusion should we draw from the above premises? From all that was already laid down in the preceding chapters, but especially in the preceding verses, from Romans 8:28-30; inclusive. As if he had said: What comfort may we derive from these doctrines? God has called us all to holiness, and to love to him, which is the principle of holiness. We are persecuted and despised, it is true, and we may be more so; but, as God has called us to love him, and all things work together for good to them that love him; and, as his covenant with Abraham, while he was in his Gentile state, shows his gracious purpose towards us Gentiles, whom he has foreknown, who have been objects of his gracious foreknowledge, as well as the Jews, and who have now the fullest proof that we were so, by his sending us the Gospel, and showing us, in it, that if the Israelites were to be a holy priesthood, a royal nation, we are no less favored, as he has predestinated, from the beginning determined, that we should be conformed to the image of his Son, who is to be the first-born among many brethren, the head and chief of all converted Jews and Gentiles, and, in order to our final salvation, has called, invited us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, has justified those who do believe, and has glorified, highly honored, and adorned them with innumerable gifts and graces, and, if they continue to possess that faith which worketh by love, will bring them, both body and soul, to his eternal glory, their bodies being made like unto his glorious body: - seeing, therefore, all these things are so, what comfort in our tribulations shall we derive from them? - Why this: If God be for us, who can be against us? He who is infinitely wise has undertaken to direct us: He who is infinitely powerful has undertaken to protect us: He who is infinitely good has undertaken to save us. What cunning, strength, or malice, can prevail against his wisdom, power, and goodness? None. Therefore we are safe who love God; and not only shall sustain no essential damage by the persecutions of ungodly men, but even these things work together for our good.
He that spared not his own Son - And can we, his sincere followers, doubt of the safety of our state, or the certainty of his protection? No: for if he loved us, Gentiles and Jews, so intensely as to deliver up to death his own Son for us all, can he withhold from us any minor blessing? Nay, will he not, on the contrary, freely give us all things? For if he told Abraham, who is the father of the faithful, and representative of us all, and with whom the covenant was made, that, because he had not withheld from him his only son Isaac, but delivered him up to that death which he thought his God had required, in blessing, he would bless him; and in multiplying, he would multiply him; that his seed should possess the gate of his enemies; and that in it all the nations of the earth should be blessed, Genesis 22:16-19; will He not give US all that was spiritually intended by these promises, whose only begotten Son was not sacrificed in a figure, but really, in order to purchase every blessing that the soul of man can need and that the hand of God can dispense.
This and the two following verses contain a string of questions, most appropriately introduced and most powerfully urged, tending to show the safety of the state of those who have believed the Gospel of the grace of God. I shall lay these verses down as they are pointed by the best Greek critics: -
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? - God who justifieth? Who is he that condemneth? - Christ who died? or, rather, who is risen again? He, who is at the right hand of God? He, who maketh intercession for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? - Tribulation? or distress? or persecution? or famine? or nakedness? or peril? or sword?" In all these questions the apostle intimates that if neither God nor Christ would bring any charge against them who love him, none else could. And as God justifies through Christ who died, consequently no charge can lie against these persons, as God alone could produce any; and He, so far from doing this, has justified them - freely forgiven their trespasses.
For the proper meaning and sense of the terms chosen, elect, called, etc., etc., see the discourse prefixed to this epistle; and especially Section 6, p. 19, etc., and Section 7, p. 23, etc.
Who is even at the right hand of God - To which he has exalted our human nature, which he took in conjunction with his Divinity; and there he maketh intercession for us - manages all the concerns of his own kingdom in general, and of every member of his Church in particular.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? - I do think that this question has been generally misunderstood. The apostle is referring to the persecutions and tribulations to which genuine Christians were exposed through their attachment to Christ, and the gracious provision God had made for their support and final salvation. As in this provision God had shown his infinite love to them in providing Jesus Christ as their sin-offering, and Jesus Christ had shown his love in suffering death upon the cross for them; so, here, he speaks of the love of the followers of God to that Christ who had first loved them. Therefore the question is not, Who shall separate the love of Christ from us? or prevent Christ from loving us? but, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Who or what shall be able to remove our affection from him? And the questions that immediately follow show that this is the sense of the passage; for the tribulation, distress, etc., which he enumerates, are things by which they might be affected, but by which Christ could not be affected; and, consequently, the question most evidently refers to their love to him who had first loved them, and, while it affords a strong presumption of their perseverance, furnishes a most powerful argument against apostasy.
Shall tribulation? - Θλιψις, grievous affliction, or distress of any kind; from θλιβω, to compress, oppress, straiten, etc.; any thing by which a man is rendered miserable.
Or distress? - Στενοχωρια, a word of nearly the same import with the former, but more intense in its signification. It signifies straitness, being hemmed in on every side, without the possibility of getting out or escaping; from στενος, strait or narrow, and χωρος, a place.
Or persecution? - Διωγμος, from διωκω, to pursue, press upon, prosecute, signifies such pursuing as an enemy uses in order to overtake the object of his malice, that he may destroy him.
Or famine? - Λιμος, from λειπω, to fail; the total want of bread, and all the necessaries of life.
Or nakedness? - Γυμνοτης, being absolutely without clothing; forcibly expressed by the derivation of the word γυια μονα εχων, having one's limbs only, being totally unclothed.
Or peril? - Κινδυνος, a state of extreme and continued danger, perplexing and distressing with grievous forebodings and alarms; derived from κινει τας οδυνας, it excites anguish; because much evil is felt, and much more feared.
Or sword? - Μαχαιρα, slaughter; the total destruction of life, and especially beheading, and such like, done by the order of the civil magistrate; for the word is used in this epistle, Romans 13:4, to signify the authority and power which he has of judicially terminating life; i.e. of inflicting capital punishment.
As it is written - And these are no more than we may naturally expect from the present constitution of the world, and the positive predictions of the prophet, Psalm 44:22, who foresaw that a wicked world would always persecute and oppress the true followers of God.
Nay - as the prophet adds in the same place, all this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten thee, nor dealt falsely in thy covenant, Romans 8:17, Romans 8:18, so all these things may happen unto us; but in all these things we are more than conquerors; We abide faithful in the new covenant of our God; and He is faithful who has promised to support and make us more than conquerors; i.e. to give us a complete triumph over sin, and death, and hell, not leaving one enemy unsubdued.
For I am persuaded - After the blessed experience we have had of support by the grace and Spirit of him that loved us, that neither fear of death, nor hope of life, nor evil angels, nor principalities, nor powers, persecuting us for Christ's sake; nor the things we endure at present, nor the things to come, whatever tribulation we may be called to suffer in future;
Nor height - of honor, nor depth - of ignominy, nor any other creature, ουτε τις κτισις ετερα, (nor any other thing whatever), shall be able to separate us, who love God, from the love of God, which he has vouchsafed to us in Christ Jesus. See Whitby. And for farther observations on the subject of the 29th and 30th verses, see at the end of the chapter, (the following notes).
We have already seen that one grand aim of the apostle in writing this epistle was:
It is strange that so obvious a meaning of the passage should not have been noticed; but the word δοξαζω, which we render to glorify, and by which we understand eternal beatification, which it is very seldom used to express, being taken in this sense in the passage in question, fixed the meaning of the preceding terms; and thus the whole passage was applied to things eternal, which had reference only to things in time. This seems to me to be the true key of the passage, and the whole scope of the epistle, and especially of the context, which shows that this is the sense in which it should be understood. The passages understood in this way illustrate the infinite mercy and wisdom of God; they show that whatever appearances his providential dealings may assume of partiality towards any particular people, yet he is equally the Father of the spirits of all flesh; hateth nothing that he hath made; is loving to all; that his tender mercies are over all his works; and that he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto the knowledge of the truth and be saved. Hence, whatever he did for the Jews he purposed to do for the Gentiles: if he foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, and glorified the former; he Also foreknew, predestinated, called, justified, and glorified the latter; having brought them into the same state of salvation, with a vast extension of blessings and higher degrees of honor. As the Jews forfeited their privileges, and now, instead of being glorified, instead of being highly honored, and rendered illustrious, they are degraded, brought down, and rendered contemptible; because they have not made a proper use of their election, they are now reprobated; so a similar reverse awaits the Gentiles if they sin after the similitude of their transgression; and it is against this that the apostle so solemnly warns them, Romans 11:20-22; : Because of unbelief they (the Jews) were broken off - thou (the Gentiles) standest by faith. If God spared not the Natural Branches, take heed lest he also spare not Thee. Behold the goodness and severity of God! on them which Fell severity; but toward Thee goodness, If Thou Continue in his goodness; otherwise Thou Also shalt be Cut Off.
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