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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Romans 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Romans 8:1. οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν χ. . The οὐδὲν is emphatic: condemnation is in every sense out of the question. νῦν is temporal: it distinguishes the Christian from the pre-Christian period of life. The bold assertion is an inference ( ἄρα) from what is implied in the thanksgiving to God through Jesus Christ (Romans 7:25). The description of Christians as “those who are in Christ Jesus” goes back to the words of Jesus Himself in John 15.


Verses 1-11

Romans 8:1-11. The Spirit as the principle of righteousness and life.


Verse 2

Romans 8:2. There is no condemnation, for all ground for it has been removed. “The law of the spirit of the life which is in Christ Jesus made me [thee] free from the law of sin and death.” It is subjection to the law of sin and death which involves condemnation; emancipation from it leaves no place for condemnation. For the meaning of “the law” see on Romans 7:23. The spirit which brings to the believer the life which is in Christ Jesus brings with it also the Divine law for the believer’s life; but it is now, as Paul says in Galatians 3:21, a “ νόμος δυνάμενος ζωοποιῆσαι,” not an impotent law written on tables of stone, and hence righteousness comes by it; it proves more than a match for the authority exercised over man by the forces of sin and death. Paul would not have called the Divine law (even as a series of statutes) a law of sin and death, though he says τὸ γράμμα ἀποκτείνει; Sin and Death are conceived objectively as powers which impose their own law on unredeemed men.


Verse 3

Romans 8:3. He now explains how this was done. It was not done by the law: that is the first point. If τὸ ἀδύνατον is active (= “the inability” of the law) we must suppose that Paul meant to finish the sentence, “was overcome,” or “was removed” by God. If it is passive (= “that which is impossible” for the law), we must suppose he meant to finish it, “was achieved” or “accomplished” by God. There is really no way of deciding whether ἀδύνατον is active or passive, and the anacoluthon makes it impossible to tell what construction Paul had in his mind, i.e., whether ἀδύνατον is nominative or accusative. For the best examination of the grammar see S. and H. ἐν probably refers to ἀδύνατον: the point at which the law was impotent, in which it was weak through the flesh. This is better than to render ἐν “in that,” or “because”. For the meaning cf. Romans 7:18. What the law could not do, God did by sending τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν His own Son. With the coming of so great a Person, uniquely related to God (for this is implied both here and in Romans 8:32, as contrasted with Romans 8:14), a new saving power entered the world. God sent His Son ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας. The connection implies that sending Him thus was in some way related to the end to be secured. But what do the words mean? ὁμοίωμα occurs in Romans 1:23; Romans 5:14; Romans 6:5, and also in Philippians 2:7. This last passage, in which Christ is described as ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, is the one which is most akin to Romans 8:3, and most easily illustrates it. There must have been a reason why Paul wrote in Philippians ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθ. γενόμενος instead of ἄνθρωπος γενόμενος, and it may well have been the same reason which made him write here ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας instead of ἐν σαρκὶ ἁμαρτὶας. He wishes to indicate not that Christ was not really man, or that His flesh was not really what in us is σάρξ ἁμαρτίας, but that what for ordinary men is their natural condition is for this Person only an assumed condition (Holtzmann, N.T. Theol., ii., 74). But the emphasis in ὁμοίωμα is on Christ’s likeness to us, not His unlikeness; “flesh of sin” is one idea to the Apostle, and what he means by it is that God sent His Son in that nature which in us is identified with sin. This was the “form” (and “form” rather than “likeness” is what ὁμοίωμα signifies) in which Christ appeared among men. It does not prejudice Christ’s sinlessness, which is a fixed point with the Apostle ab initio; and if any one says that it involves a contradiction to maintain that Christ was sinless, and that He came in a nature which in us is identified with sin, it may be pointed out that this identification does not belong to the essence of our nature, but to its corruption, and that the uniform teaching of the N.T. is that Christ is one with us—short of sin. The likeness and the limitation of it (though the former is the point here urged) are equally essential in the Redeemer. But God sent His Son not only ἐν ὁμ. σ. . but καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας. These words indicate the aim of the mission. Christ was sent in our nature “in connection with sin”. The R.V. renders “as an offering for sin”. This is legitimate, for περὶ ἁμαρτίας is used both in the LXX (Leviticus 4:33 and passim, Psalms 40:6, 2 Chronicles 29:24) and in the N.T. (Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8) in the sense of “sin-offering” (usually answering to Heb. חַטָּאת, but in Isaiah 53:10 to אָשָׁם); but it is not formally necessary. But when the question is asked, In what sense did God send His Son “in connection with sin”? there is only one answer possible. He sent Him to expiate sin by His sacrificial death. This is the centre and foundation of Paul’s gospel (Romans 3:25 ff.), and to ignore it here is really to assume that he used the words καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας (which have at least sacrificial associations) either with no meaning in particular, or with a meaning alien to his constant and dearest thoughts. Weiss says it is impossible to think here of expiating sin, because only the removal of the power of sin belongs to the context. But we cannot thus set the end against the means; the Apostle’s doctrine is that the power of sin cannot be broken except by expiating it, and that is the very thing he teaches here. This fixes the meaning and the reference of κατέκρινεν. It is sometimes interpreted as if Christ were the subject: “Christ by His sinless life in our nature condemned sin in that nature,” i.e., showed that it was not inevitable, and in so doing gave us hope; and this sense of “condemned” is supported by reference to Matthew 12:41 f. But the true argument (especially according to the analogy of that passage) would rather be, “Christ by His sinless life in our nature condemned our sinful lives, and left us inexcusable and without hope”. The truth is, we get on to a wrong track if we ignore the force of περὶ ἁμαρτίας, or fail to see that God, not Christ, is the subject of κατέκρινεν. God’s condemnation of sin is expressed in His sending His Son in our nature, and in such a connection with sin that He died for it—i.e., took its condemnation upon Himself. Christ’s death exhibits God’s condemnation of sin in the flesh. ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ is to be construed with κατέκρινεν: the flesh—that in which sin had reigned—was also that in Which God’s condemnation of sin was executed. But Paul does not mean that by His sinless life in our nature Christ had broken the power of sin at one point for the human race; he means that in the death of His own Son, who had come in our nature to make atonement for sin, God had pronounced the doom of sin, and brought its claims and its authority over man to an end. This is the only interpretation which does not introduce elements quite alien to the Apostle’s mode of thought.


Verse 4

Romans 8:4. All this was done ἵνα τὸ δικ. τοῦ νόμου πληρωθῇ ἐν ἡμῖν: that the just requirement of the law (i.e., a righteous life) might be fulfilled in us. See note on Romans 3:31. ἐν ἡμῖν (not ὑφʼ ἡμῶν), for it is not our doing, though done in us (Weiss). τοῖς μὴ κατὰ σάρκα κ. τ. λ. = inasmuch as we walk not, etc. This is the condition under which the Divine purpose is fulfilled: there is no physical necessity in it. κατὰ σάρκα: the flesh meant is our corrupt human nature. κατὰ πνεῦμα: the spirit is the Divine spirit which is given to those who are in Christ Jesus. It is in them “both law and impulse”.


Verse 5

Romans 8:5. The meaning of the sentence “is not contained in the repetitions of γὰρ by which it is hooked together” (Jowett). οἱ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες are those whose nature is determined simply by the flesh; their “mind,” i.e., their moral interest, their thought and study, is upon τὰ τῆς σαρκός: for which see Galatians 5:19 f. οἱ κατὰ πνεῦμα are those whose nature is determined by the spirit: for τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος see Galatians 5:22.


Verse 7

Romans 8:7 f. The reason why the mind of the flesh terminates so fatally: it is hostility to God, the fountain of life. Alienation from Him is necessarily fatal. It is the flesh which does not (for indeed it cannot) submit itself to God; as the seat of indwelling sin it is in permanent revolt, and those who are in it (a stronger expression, yet substantially identically with those who are after it, Romans 8:5) cannot please God.


Verse 9

Romans 8:9. Paul applies to his readers what he has said in Romans 8:5-8. ὑμεῖς is emphatic. You can please God, for you are not in the flesh, etc. εἴπερ has its proper force: “if, as is the fact”: cf. Romans 3:30, Romans 8:17; and the excellent examination of other N.T. instances in Simcox, Language of the N.T., 171 f. Yet the possibility of the fact being otherwise in isolated cases, is admitted when he goes on: εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει κ. τ. λ. For εἰ followed by οὐ see Winer, 599 f. οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ: only the indwelling of Christ’s spirit proves a real relation to Him.


Verse 10

Romans 8:10. Consequences of this indwelling of Christ in the Christian. In one respect, they are not yet so complete as might be expected. τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρὸν: the body, it cannot be denied, is dead because of sin: the experience we call death is inevitable for it. τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωή: but the spirit (i.e., the human spirit, as is shown by the contrast with σῶμα) is life, God-begotten, God-sustained life, and therefore beyond the reach of death. As death is due to sin, so is this life to δικαιοσύνη. It is probably not real to distinguish here between “justification” and “moral righteousness of life,” and to say that the word means either to the exclusion of the other. The whole argument of chaps. 6–8. is that neither can exist without the other. No man can begin to be good till he is justified freely by God’s grace in Christ Jesus, and no one has been so justified who has not begun to live the good life in the spirit.


Verse 11

Romans 8:11. But though the present results of the indwelling of the spirit are not all we might desire, the future is sure. The indwelling spirit is that of Him who raised Jesus from the dead, and as such it is the guarantee that our mortal bodies also (as well as our spirits) shall share in immortality. The same argument, in effect, is used in Ephesians 1:18-20. “The power that worketh in us” is the same with which “God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places”; and it will work to the same issue in us as in Him. The reading in the last clause is very doubtful, but whether we take the accus. (according to which the indwelling of the spirit is the ground on which God raises our mortal bodies to undying life) or the genit. (according to which the spirit is itself the agent in this resurrection—a conception not found elsewhere in Scripture), in either case a share in the Christian resurrection is conditioned by the possession of the Spirit of Christ. It is clear from the alternation of πνεῦμα θεοῦ and πνεῦμα χριστοῦ in Romans 8:9 that the Spirit of Christ is the same as the Spirit of God, and the use of χριστὸς alone in the next verse shows that this same spirit is the alter ego of Christ. Cf. Philippians 1:19; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 3:17. This is one of the passages in which the presuppositions of the Trinitarian conception of God come out most clearly.


Verse 12

Romans 8:12 f. The blessed condition and hopes of Christians, as described in these last verses, lay them under obligations: to whom, or to what? Not (Romans 8:12) to the flesh, to live according to it: to it they owe nothing. If they live after the flesh they are destined to die—the final doom in which there is no hope; but if by the spirit (i.e., God’s Spirit) they put to death the doings of the body, they shall live—the life against which death is powerless. We might have expected τῆς σαρκὸς instead of τοῦ σώματος, but in the absence of the spirit the body in all it does is only the tool of the flesh: the two are morally equivalent.


Verse 14

Romans 8:14. Ye shall live, for as many as are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons, and life is congruous to such a dignity. υἱὸς suggests the rank and privileges of the persons in question; τέκνον (in Romans 8:16 f.) their kinship in nature to God. Yet this cannot everywhere be urged in the N.T.


Verse 15

Romans 8:15. Sons, οὐ γὰρ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας. The aorist refers to the time of their baptism, when they received the Spirit. It was not the Spirit proper to slaves, leading them again to shrink from God in fear as they had done when under the law of sin and death, but πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας, a spirit proper to those who were being translated from the servile to the filial relation to God. υἱοθεσία is a word used in the N.T. by Paul only, but “no word is more common in Greek inscriptions of the Hellenistic time: the idea, like the word, is native Greek” (E. L. Hicks, quoted in S. and H.), see Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5. The word serves to distinguish those who are made sons by an act of grace from the only-begotten Son of God: τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν Romans 8:3, τοῦ ἰδίου υἱοῦ Romans 8:32. But the act of grace is not one which makes only an outward difference in our position; it is accomplished in the giving of a spirit which creates in us a new nature. In the spirit of adoption we cry Abba, Father. We have not only the status, but the heart of sons. κράζομεν (often with φωνῇ μεγάλῃ) is a strong word: it denotes the loud irrepressible cry with which the consciousness of sonship breaks from the Christian heart in prayer. The change to the first person marks Paul’s inclusion of himself in the number of those who have and utter this consciousness; and it is probably this inclusion of himself, as a person whose native language was “Hebrew” (Acts 21:40), to which is due the double form ἀββᾶ πατήρ. The last word certainly interprets the first, but it is not thought of as doing so: “we cry, Father, Father”.


Verse 16

Romans 8:16. The punctuation in W. and H. margin deserves notice. “In that we cry, Abba, Father, the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,” etc. Our own spirit tells us we are God’s children, but the voice with which it speaks is, as we know, prompted and inspired by the Divine Spirit itself. For similar distinctions Gifford compares Romans 2:15 and Romans 9:1. τέκνα θεοῦ: τέκνα, not υἱοὶ, is used with strict propriety here, as it is the reality of the filial nature, not the legitimacy of the filial position, which is being proved.


Verse 17

Romans 8:17. Yet this last is involved, for “if children, also heirs”. Cf. Galatians 4:7 where κληρονόμος is relative to υἱὸς; and all the passages in which the Spirit is regarded as “the earnest” of an inheritance: 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 1:14. It is from God the inheritance comes, and we share in it with Christ (Mark 12:7). For what it is, see 1 Corinthians 2:9 f. The inheritance attached to Divine sonship is attained only on the condition expressed in the clause εἴπερ συμπάσχομεν ἵνα καὶ συνδοξασθῶμεν. On εἴπερ, see Romans 8:9. “Romans 8:17 gains in pathos, when we see that the share of the disciples in the Master’s sufferings was felt to be a fact of which there was no question.” Simcox, Language of N.T., p. 171. Paul was sure of it in his own case, and took it for granted in that of others. Those who share Christ’s sufferings now will share His glory hereafter; and in order to share His glory hereafter it is necessary to begin by sharing His sufferings here.


Verse 18

Romans 8:18. The passage extending from this verse to Romans 8:27 is described by Lipsius as a “threefold testimony to the future transfiguration which awaits suffering believers”. In Romans 8:19-22 there is the first testimony—the sighing of creation; in Romans 8:23-25 the second, the yearning hope of Christians themselves, related as it is to the possession of the first fruits of the Spirit; and in Romans 8:26 f. the third, the intercession of the Spirit which helps us in our prayers, and lends words to our longing. λογιζόμεθα γὰρ κ. τ. λ. λογίζομαι is a favourite word with Paul: the instance most like this is the one in Romans 3:28. It does not suggest a more or less dubious result of calculation; rather by litotes does it express the strongest assurance. The insignificance of present suffering compared with future glory was a fixed idea with the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 4:17 f. For οὐκ ἄξιαπρὸς see Winer, 505 (d). With τὴν μέλλουσαν δόχαν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι cf. in Galatians 3:23 τὴν μέλλ. πίστιν ἀποκαλ. The unusual order emphasises the futurity, εἰς ἡμᾶς = toward and upon us. The glory comes from without, to transfigure them. It is revealed at the ἀποκάλυψις (1 Corinthians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:13), the glorious second coming, of Christ, and is indeed His glory of which they are made partakers.


Verse 19

Romans 8:19. First testimony to this glorious future: creation sighs for it. In some sense the hope and promise of it is involved in the present constitution of the world. For a fine speculative interpretation see E. Caird’s Evolution of Religion, ii., 124 f. In Paul, however, the spirit of the passage is rather poetic than philosophical. Its affinities are with Genesis 3:17, where the ground is cursed for man’s sake: he conceives of all creation as involved in the fortunes of humanity. But this, if creation be personified, naturally leads to the idea of a mysterious sympathy between the world and man, and this is what the Apostle expresses. Creation is not inert, utterly unspiritual, alien to our life and its hopes. It is the natural ally of our souls. What rises from it is the music of humanity—not apparently so still and sad to Paul as to Wordsworth, but with a note of hope in it rising triumphantly above all the pain of conflict. ἀποκαραδοκία (Philippians 1:20) denotes absorbed, persistent expectation—waiting, as it were, with uplifted head. κτίσις is the world and all that it contains, animate and inanimate, as distinguished from man. τὴν ἀποκ. τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ θεοῦ: cf. 1 John 3:2. With the revelation of the sons of God humanity would attain its end, and nature too.


Verse 20

Romans 8:20. For creation was subjected to vanity, etc. ματαιότης is not classical, but is often used in the LXX, especially for הֶבֶל. The idea is that of looking for what one does not find—hence of futility, frustration, disappointment. ματαιότης ματαιοτήτων is the “vanity of vanities” in Eccl, the complaint of the utter resultlessness of life. Sin brought this doom on creation; it made a pessimistic view of the universe inevitable. ὑπετάγη: the precise time denoted is that of the Fall, when God pronounced the ground cursed for man’s sake. Creation came under this doom οὐχ ἑκοῦσα ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα: the last words seem best referred to God: it was on account of Him—that His righteousness might be shown in the punishment of sin—that the sentence fell upon man, carrying consequences which extended to the whole realm intended originally for his dominion. The sentence on man, however, was not hopeless, and creation shared in his hope as in his doom. When the curse is completely removed from man, as it will be when the sons of God are revealed, it will pass from creation also; and for this creation sighs. It was made subject to vanity on the footing of this hope; the hope is latent, so to speak, in the constitution of nature, and comes out, in its sighing, to a sympathetic ear.


Verse 21

Romans 8:21. Contents of the hope. It makes no difference in meaning, whether we read ὅτι or διότι. αὐτὴ κτίσις: creation as well as man. δουλεία τῆς φθορᾶς: a system in which nothing continues in one stay, in which death claims everything, in which there is not even an analogy to immortality, is a system of slavery—in subjection to “vanity,” with no high eternal worth of its own. From such a condition creation is to be emancipated; it is to share in the liberty which belongs to the glory of the children of God. When man’s redemption is complete, he will find himself in a new world matching with his new condition (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1): this is Paul’s faith, and the sighing of creation attests it.


Verse 22

Romans 8:22. οἴδαμεν γὰρ κ. τ. λ.: How Christians know this Paul does not say. Perhaps we may say that the Christian consciousness of sin and redemption is in contact with the ultimate realities of the universe, and that no interpretation of nature can be true but one which, like this, is in essential harmony with it. The force of the preposition in συστενάζει and συνωδίνει is not that we sigh and are in pain, and creation along with us; but that the whole frame of creation, all its parts together, unite in sighing and in pain. Weiss is right in saying that there is no reference to the dolores Messiae; but in συνωδίνει there is the suggestion of the travail out of which the new world is to be born. ἄχρι τοῦ νῦν means up till now, without stopping, ever since the moment of ὑπετάγη.


Verse 23

Romans 8:23. Second testimony to the glorious future. οὐ μόνον δὲ sc. κτίσις—not only all creation, but we Christians: we ourselves, τὴν ἀπαρχὴν τοῦ πνεύματος ἔχοντες. τοῦ πνεύματος is gen of apposition: the spirit which Christians have received is itself t the first fruits (elsewhere, the earnest: see on Romans 8:17) of this glory; and because we have it (not although: it is the foretaste of heaven, the heaven begun in the Christian, which intensifies his yearning, and makes him more vehemently than nature long for complete redemption), we also sigh in ourselves υἱοθεσίαν ἀπεκδεχόμενοι, τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν τοῦ σώματος ἡμῶν. The key to these words is found in Romans 1:4. Christ was Son of God always, but was only declared to be so in power ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, and so it is with believers. They have already received adoption, and as led by the spirit are sons of God; but only when their mortal bodies have been quickened, and the corruptible has put on incorruption, will they possess all that sonship involves. For this they wait and sigh, and the inextinguishable hope, born of the spirit dwelling in them, guarantees its own fulfilment. Cf. Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 2 Corinthians 5:2; and for ἀπολύτρωσις in this sense, 1 Corinthians 1:30.


Verse 24

Romans 8:24 f. This sentence explains why Paul can speak of Christians as waiting for adoption, while they are nevertheless in the enjoyment of sonship. It is because salvation is essentially related to the future. “We wait for it: for we were saved in hope.” The dat τῇ ἐλπίδι is that of mode or respect. Our salvation was qualified from the beginning by reference to a good yet to be. Weiss argues that the sense of ἐλπὶς in the second clause (res sperata) makes it “absolutely necessary” to take it so in the first, and that this leaves no alternative but to make τῇ ἐλπίδι dat comm and translate: “for, for this object of hope—eternal life and glory—were we delivered from eternal destruction”. But the “absolute necessity” is imaginary; a word with the nuances of ἐλπίς in a mind with the speed of Paul’s need not be treated so rigorously, especially as the resulting construction is in itself extremely dubious. Hope, the Apostle argues, is an essential characteristic of our salvation; but hope turned sight is hope no more, for who hopes for what he sees? We do not see all the Gospel held out to us, but it is the object of our Christian hope nevertheless; it is as true and sure as the love of God which in Christ Jesus reconciled us to Himself and gave us the spirit of adoption, and therefore we wait for it in patience. For διὰ cf. Romans 2:27. ὑπομονὴ: in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 we have ὑπομονὴ τῆς ἐλπίδος ὑμῶν used of a suffering but steadfast Church: ὑπομονὴ is the constancy which belongs to and characterises hope in dark days. In the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy 6:10; Titus 2:2) instead of the πίστις, ἀγάπη, ἐλπίς, of earlier letters, Paul writes πίστις, ἀγάπη, ὑπομονή, as if he had discovered by experience that in this life “hope” has mainly to be shown in the form of “patience”.


Verse 26

Romans 8:26. Third testimony to the glorious future: the sighing of creation, our own sighing, and this action of the Spirit, point consistently to one conclusion. συναντιλαμβάνεται, cf. Luke 10:40. The weakness which the Spirit helps is that due to our ignorance: τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμαν. The article makes the whole clause object of οἴδαμεν: Winer, p. 644. Broadly speaking, we do know what we are to pray for—the perfecting of salvation; but we do not know what we are to pray for καθὸ δεῖ—according as the need is at the moment; we know the end, which is common to all prayers, but not what is necessary at each crisis of need in order to enable us to attain this end. ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις. ὑπερεντυγχάνει is found here only in N.T., but ἐντυγχάνειν in this sense in Romans 8:27; Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25. In Romans 11:2 with κατὰ = to make intercession against. ἀλαλήτοις does not mean “unspoken” but “unutterable”. The στεναγμοὶ of believers find expression, adequate or inadequate, in their prayers, and in such utterances as this very passage of Romans, but there is a testimony to the glory awaiting them more profound and passionate than even this. It is the intercession of the Spirit with στεναγμοὶ ἀλάλητοι—groanings (or sighs) that baffle words. αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα is undoubtedly God’s Spirit as distinguished from ours, yet what is here affirmed must fall within Christian experience, for Paul says in the next verse that He Who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit in this unutterable intercession. It is in the heart, therefore, that it takes place. “The whole passage illustrates in even a startling manner the truth and reality of the ‘coming’ of the Holy Ghost—the extent to which, if I may venture to say it, He has separated Himself—as Christ did at His Incarnation—from His eternal glory and blessedness, and entered into the life of man.… His intercession for us—so intimately does He share all the evils of our condition—is a kind of agony” (R. W. Dale, Christian Doctrine, p. 140 f.).


Verse 27

Romans 8:27. This intercession, with which our heart goes, though it is deeper than words, the Heart Searcher understands. τί τὸ φρόν. τοῦ πνεύματος: what the Spirit is set upon, the whole object of its thought and endeavour. ὅτι, viz., that He intercedes κατὰ θεόν in agreement with God’s will, see 2 Corinthians 7:9-11. ὑπὲρ ἁγίων on behalf of those who are God’s. Both the intercession of Christ and the intercession of the Spirit are represented in the N.T. as made on behalf of those who are in Christ—saints, the Church, not mankind in general.


Verses 28-39

Romans 8:28-39. Conclusion of the argument: the Apostle glories in the assurance of God’s eternal and unchangeable love in Jesus Christ.

οἴδαμεν δὲ = further, we know: in a sense this is one ground more for believing in the glorious future: God is ever with us, and will not abandon us at last. πάντα συνεργεῖ ( θεός): συνεργεῖ is naturally neuter, and if θεός is the true reading, it is probably best to render “God co-operates for good in all things ( πάντα accus. of ref as in 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 10:33) with those,” etc. τοῖς ἀγαπ. τὸν θεὸν describes the persons in question from the human side; τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν describes them from the Divine side. It is in pursuance of a purpose of God (for πρόθεσις with reference to the eternal purpose of redemption, see Romans 9:11, Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 3:11, 2 Timothy 1:9) that they are called. “Calling” in Paul never means “invitation”; it is always “effectual calling”.


Verse 29

Romans 8:29 f. These verses give the proof that God in all things co-operates for good with the called. They show how His gracious purpose, beginning with foreknowledge and foreordination perfects all that concerns them on to the final glory. οὓς προέγνω: those whom He foreknew—in what sense? as persons who would answer His love with love? This is at least irrelevant, and alien to Paul’s general mode of thought. That salvation begins with God, and begins in eternity, are fundamental ideas with him, which he here applies to Christians, without raising any of the problems involved in the relation of the human will to the Divine. He comes upon these in chap. 9, but not here. Yet we may be sure that προέγνω has the pregnant sense that γιγνώσκω ( יָדַע) often has in Scripture: e.g., in Psalms 1:6, Amos 3:2 : hence we may render, “those of whom God took knowledge from eternity” (Ephesians 1:4). καὶ προώρισεν κ. τ. λ., “he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son”. This conformity is the last stage in salvation, as προέγνω is the first. The image is in import not merely spiritual but eschatological. The Son of God is the Lord who appeared to Paul by Damascus: to be conformed to His image is to share His glory as well as His holiness. The Pauline Gospel is hopelessly distorted when this is forgotten. εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς: the end in all this is the exaltation of Christ. It is implied in πρωτότοκον that He also is regarded as only having attained the fulness of His Son-ship through the resurrection (cf. Romans 1:4, and Colossians 1:18 πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν). The idea of Christ’s dignity as firstborn among many brethren who all owe their salvation to Him is sublimely interpreted in Hebrews 2:10-13. The Apostle now resumes the series of the Divine acts in our salvation. οὓς δὲ προώρισεν, τούτους καὶ ἐκάλεσεν. The eternal foreordination appears in time as “calling,” of course as effectual calling: where salvation is contemplated as the work of God alone (as here) there can be no breakdown in its processes. The next stages are summarily indicated. ἐδικαίωσεν: God in Jesus Christ forgave our sins, and accepted us as righteous in His sight; ungodly as we had been, He put us right with Himself. In that, everything else is included. The whole argument of chaps. 6–8 has been that justification and the new life of holiness in the Spirit are inseparable experiences. Hence Paul can take one step to the end, and write οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν. Yet the tense in the last word is amazing. It is the most daring anticipation of faith that even the N.T. contains: the life is not to be taken out of it by the philosophical consideration that with God there is neither before nor after.


Verse 31

Romans 8:31. τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν πρὸς ταῦτα; the idea underlying all that precedes is that of the suffering to be endured by those who would share Christ’s glory (Romans 8:17). The Apostle has disparaged the suffering in comparison with the glory (Romans 8:18); he has interpreted it (Romans 8:19-27) as in a manner prophetic of the glory; he has in these last verses asserted the presence through all the Christian’s life of an eternal victorious purpose of love: all this is included in ταῦτα. For ὑπὲρ and κατὰ, cf. 2 Corinthians 13:8.


Verse 32

Romans 8:32. The Christian’s faith in providence is an inference from redemption. The same God who did not spare His own Son will freely give us all things. οὐκ ἐφείσατο, cf. Genesis 22:12, οὐκ ἐφείσω τοῦ υἱοῦ σου τοῦ ἀγαπητοῦ διʼ ἐμέ. It vivifies the impression of God’s love through the sense of the sacrifice it made. ὑπὲρ πάντων ἡμῶν: none were worthy of such a sacrifice (Weiss). παρέδωκεν sc. to death: Romans 4:25. πῶς οὐχὶ καί: the argument of selfishness is that he who has done so much need do no more; that of love, that he who has done so much is certain to do more. σὺν αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα: τὰ πάντα has a collective force. It is usually taken to mean the whole of what furthers the Christian’s life, the whole of what contributes to the perfecting of his salvation; all this will be freely given to him by God. But why should it not mean “all things” without any such qualification? When God gives us His Son He gives us the world; there is nothing which does not work together for our good; all things are ours. Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:22 f.


Verse 33

Romans 8:33 f. The punctuation here is a very difficult problem: see the text and margin of R.V. The reminiscence of Isaiah 50:8 f. in Romans 8:33 makes it more difficult; for it suggests that the normal structure is that of an affirmation followed by a question, whereas Paul begins with a question to which the affirmation (with at least a trace of Isaiah’s language in it) is an answer. It is even possible to read every clause interrogatively, though that is less effective. τίς ἐγκαλέσει κατὰ ἐκλεκτῶν θεοῦ; who shall bring a charge against persons who are God’s chosen? The absence of the article (cf. ὑπὲρ ἁγίων, Romans 8:27) brings out the character in which the persons in question figure, not their individual personality. For the word see Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; for the thing cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4; John 15:16. It describes Christians as persons who owe their standing as such to the act of God’s grace. All Christians are conscious that this is the truth about their position: they belong to God, because He has taken them for His own. To say that the word designates “not those who are destined for final salvation, but those who are ‘summoned’ or ‘selected’ for the privilege of serving God and carrying out His will” (S. and H.), is to leave the rails of the Apostle’s thought altogether. There is nothing here (Romans 8:28-30) about the privilege of serving God and carrying out His will; the one thing Paul is concerned with is the security given by the eternal love of God that the work of salvation will be carried through, in spite of all impediments, from foreknowledge to final glory. The ἐκλεκτοὶ θεοῦ are those who ought to have such security: they should have a faith and an assurance proportioned to the love of God. Paul is one of them, and because he is, he is sure, not that he is called to serve God, but that nothing can ever separate him from God’s love in Christ. The question τίς ἐγκαλέσει is best answered by taking both the following clauses together: “It is God that justifieth: who is he that shall condemn?” (cf. Isaiah 50:8 f.). But many make τίς κατακρινῶν a new question, and find the answer in Romans 8:34 : χριστὸς [ ἰησοῦς] ἀποθανών = the only person who can condemn is the Judge, viz., Christ, but He is so far from condemning that He has done everything to deliver us from condemnation. What Christian, Paul seems to ask, can speak of κατάκριμα with his eye on Christ, who died for our sins? μᾶλλον δὲ ἐγερθεὶς [ ἐκ νεκρῶν]: cf. Galatians 4:9; and chap. Romans 4:25. The correction in μᾶλλον is formal (Weiss): Paul does not mean that the resurrection is more important than the cross; he improves upon an expression which has not conveyed all that was in his mind. Our position depends upon Jesus Christ who died, nay rather, over whom death no more has dominion (Romans 6:9), who is at God’s right hand (this phrase, which describes Christ’s exaltation as a sharing in the universal sovereignty of God, is borrowed from Psalms 110:1, and is oftener used in the N.T. than any other words of the Old), who also makes intercession on our behalf. ὂς καὶ ἐντυγχάνει: a solemn climax is marked by the repetition of ὃς, and by the καὶ which deliberately adds the intercession to all that has gone before. The Christian consciousness, even in an apostle, cannot transcend this. This is Paul’s final security—the last ground of his triumphant assurance: Jesus Christ, at God’s right hand, with the virtue of His atoning death in Him, pleads His people’s cause. cf. Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1 f.


Verse 35

Romans 8:35 f. τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ χριστοῦ; If this verse is to be most closely connected with Romans 8:34, τοῦ χριστοῦ will appear the more probable reading, for there Christ is the subject throughout; but at Romans 8:28; Romans 8:31; Romans 8:39 the love of God is the determining idea, and at this point it seems to be caught up again in view of the conclusion—facts which favour the reading τοῦ θεοῦ. In any case it is the Divine love for us which is meant. With the list of troubles cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 2 Corinthians 11:26 f., Romans 12:10. They were those which had befallen Paul himself, and he knew that the love of God in Jesus Christ could reach and sustain the heart through them all. The quotation from Psalms 44:12 is peculiar. It exactly reproduces the LXX, even the ὅτι being simply transferred. The καθὼς implies that such experiences as those named in Romans 8:35 are in agreement with what Scripture holds out as the fortune of God’s people. Possibly the mention of the sword recalled to the Apostle’s memory the θανατούμεθα of the psalm, and suggested the quotation. The point of it, both in the psalm and in the epistle, lies in ἕνεκεν σοῦ. This is what the Psalmist could not understand. That men should suffer for sin, for infidelity to God, was intelligible enough; but he and his countrymen were suffering because of their faithfulness, and the psalm is his despairing expostulation with God. But the Apostle understood it. To suffer for Christ’s sake was to enter into the fellow-ship of Christ’s sufferings, and that is the very situation in which the love of Christ is most real, near, and sure to the soul. Cf. chap. Romans 5:3, 2 Corinthians 1:5, Colossians 1:24. Instead of despairing, he glories in tribulations.


Verse 37

Romans 8:37. ὑπερνικῶμεν: a word probably coined by Paul, who loves compounds with ὑπέρ. The Vulg. gives superamus, with which Lipsius agrees (obsiegen, like over-power): but Cyprian supervincimus. Later Greek writers distinguish νικᾶν and ὑπερνικᾶν (see Grimm, s.v), and justify the happy rendering “we are more than conquerors”. Perhaps it is a mistake to define in what the “more” consists; but if we do, the answer must be sought on the line indicated in the note on ἕνεκεν σοῦ,: these trials not only do not cut us off from Christ’s love, they actually give us more intimate and thrilling experiences of it. διὰ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς: the aorist points to Christ’s death as the great demonstration of His love: cf. Galatians 2:20, also Revelation 12:11.


Verse 38

Romans 8:38 f. The Apostle’s personal conviction given in confirmation of all that has been said, especially of Romans 8:37. πέπεισμαι cf. 2 Timothy 1:12. οὔτε θάνατος οὔτε ζωὴ: death is mentioned first, either with Romans 8:36 in mind, or as the most tremendous enemy the Apostle could conceive. If Christ’s love can hold us in and through death, what is left for us to fear? Much of the N.T. bears on this very point, cf. John 8:51; John 10:28; John 11:25 f., 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4:16 to 2 Corinthians 5:5, Romans 14:8, Hebrews 2:14 f. The blank horror of dying is annihilated by the love of Christ. Neither death nor life is to be explained: explanations “only limit the flight of the Apostle’s thoughts just when they would soar above all limitation” (Gifford). οὔτε ἄγγελοι οὔτε ἀρχαὶ: this, according to the best authorities, forms a second pair of forces conceivably hostile to the Christian. As in every pair there is a kind of contrast, some have sought one here also: either making ἄγγελοι good and ἀρχαὶ evil powers, though both spiritual; or ἄγγελοι heavenly, and ἀρχαὶ (as in Luke 12:11, Titus 3:1) earthly powers, in which case either might be either good or bad. But this is arbitrary: and a comparison of 1 Corinthians 15:24, Ephesians 1:21 favours a suggestion in S. and H. that possibly in a very early copy οὔτε δυνάμεις had been accidentally omitted after οὔτε ἀρχαὶ, and then added in the margin, but reinserted in a wrong place. The T.R. “neither angels nor principalities nor powers” brings together all the conceptions with which the Apostle peopled the invisible spiritual world, whatever their character, and declares their inability to come between us and the love of Christ. οὔτε ἐνεστῶτα οὔτε μέλλοντα: cf. 1 Corinthians 3:22. οὔτε ὕψωμα οὔτε βάθος: no dimensions of space. Whether these words pictured something to Paul’s imagination we cannot tell; the patristic attempts to give them definiteness are not happy. οὔτε τις κτίσις ἑτέρα: nor any created thing of different kind. All the things Paul has mentioned come under the head of κτίσις; if there is anything of a different kind which comes under the same head, he includes it too. The suggestions of “another world,” or of “aspects of reality out of relation to our faculties,” and therefore as yet unknown to us, are toys, remote from the seriousness and passion of the Apostle’s mind. Nothing that God has made, whatever be its nature, shall be able to separate us ἀπὸ τῆς ἁγάπης τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς ἐν χ. . τοῦ κ. ἡμῷν, The love of Christ is God’s love. manifested to us in Him; and it is only in Him that a Divine love is manifested which can inspire the triumphant assurance of this verse.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 8:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-8.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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