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Ch. 8:1 13 . Security of the justified. The mind of the Spirit, not the mind of the flesh, is their characteristic
1 . therefore ] To what does “ therefore ” refer? To the discussion of the inner conflict just previous? Or to something remoter in the argument? The text is sometimes so printed as to carry on the connexion unbroken from ch. 7 some distance into this ch., and thus to make the discussion in 7:7 25 the premiss of this “therefore.” But against this we think that, ( a ), both in contents and in tone, ch. 8 is a whole in itself, with one grand topic, the Security of the Saints, traceable throughout; and that ( b ) there is nothing in the last paragraphs of ch. 7 to suggest directly the present statement, though much to illustrate and enforce it. Had ch. 7 ended with “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” it might have seemed otherwise, (though see note on those words;) but ch. 7 actually ends with the strongest assertion of the sin-awaking and sin-detecting power of the Law and the consequent strife of the soul. It is thus far better to refer this exordium of ch. 8 to the whole previous argument, but specially to such parts of it as detail the way of Justification. More specially still it is connected with chh. 5 and 6, and the first section of ch. 7, which state (under various imagery) the union of the justified with their Head, Master, and Bridegroom.
Hitherto the Epistle has discussed and explained, from many sides, the great matter of Justification, and its immediate results, (union with Christ, bondservice to God, the liberation of the will, &c.). The last topic thus considered is the attitude of the Law towards the soul an attitude such that the Law cannot (in the regenerate or unregenerate) subdue sin, but can only expose and condemn it. This has been shewn partly to vindicate the holiness of the Law, partly to expose the malignity of sin, partly to re-inforce the truth, already proved, that Justification is to be attained by another way.
Now, to the close of ch. 8, the argument (without wholly leaving former topics and reasonings) rises to a fuller view of present results, and to the first full statement of the eternal Sequel. It is needless to point out the majesty and splendour which mark the whole passage.
no condemnation ] The word “ no ” is strongly emphatic in the Greek. The Gr. for “ condemnation ” here occurs elsewhere in N. T. only ch. 5:16, 18. The cognate verb is frequent, and occurs e. g. Mark 16:16 ; 1 Corinthians 11:32 (last clause). As regards the soul, the verb means to pass sentence of death . Such sentence “ is not ,” for those who are in Christ; they “shall not come into condemnation, but are passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24 .) “Who is he that condemneth?” (ver. 34.)
Observe that the word “ is ” is not in the Gr. There is no specification of time. Q. d., “such a condemnation is inconceivable.”
in Christ Jesus ] See for parallels to this important phrase, 6:11, (E. V. “ through , &c.,”) 12:5, 16:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2 , 1 Corinthians 1:15 :18; 2 Corinthians 5:17 , &c. And cp. Ephesians 5:30 , where the key to its special meaning appears. The brethren of the Second Adam are regarded as solidaire with Him in the sense both of holy dearness and inseparable interest; specially the latter. The former idea is conveyed rather under the figure of the Spouse; the latter under that of the Body and the Head. The whole previous argument of the Epistle makes it plain that those who are “in Christ” are those who have been “justified through faith.” (Ch. 5:1.). No merely external position of opportunity or privilege can satisfy the phrase, in view of such a verse as this, or as 2 Corinthians 5:17 . On the other hand, the phrase (strictly speaking) indicates not the inner experience of the justified which rather appears in the phrase of “ Christ in them ” (Colossians 1:27 , &c.,) but their standing and interest .
who walk , &c.] Better, walking, as they do, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit . If these words are retained, they must be taken as a description rather than a definition . The condition of freedom from doom is, to “be in Christ Jesus;” but that happy position does, as a fact, result in, and so is characterized by, a “walk after the Spirit.” The words will thus serve as a caution against the abuse of the doctrine of gratuitous justification; but not as a modification of it . The point is admirably elucidated by Calvin’s remark, that “it is faith alone which justifies, but the faith which justifies can never be alone.”
But it is probable that the words from “who walk” to “after the Spirit” are to be omitted here. Almost for certain the last clause, “but after the Spirit,” must so be omitted. Very possibly they were inserted here by copyists, who conceived the previous statement too absolute to be trusted alone to the reader , and so borrowed a quasi-note from ver. 4.
2 . For the law , &c.] What is this law? We take it to be a phrase by way of paradox , meaning the institute, or procedure, of the Gospel of Grace. Cp. “the law of faith,” 3:27. It is the Divine Rule of Justification , (which alone, as the whole previous reasoning shews, removes “all condemnation,”) and is thus “a law” in the sense of “fixed process.” But also it is here “the law of the Spirit ,” because its necessary sequel (indeed we may say its final cause as regards man) is the impartation of the Holy Spirit, (see John 7:39 ,) of whose influences so much is now to be said. And He is here specially “ the Spirit of Life ,” because He is the Agent who first leads the soul to believe in the Propitiation (see 1 Peter 1:2 ), and so to escape sentence of “ death; ” and who then animates it with the energies of the new life . Lastly, this whole process is “ in Christ Jesus ,” who is the meritorious Cause of Justification, the Head of the Justified, and the Giver of the Spirit. The sum of the meaning thus is that the deliverance from doom is by faith in the Justifying Merit of Christ, which faith is attended, as well as produced, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, given through and by Christ.
hath made me free ] An aorist in the Gr.; probably referring to the definite past fact of the delivering Work. The phrase thus refers to Justification rather than Sanctification, which is a present process, not a past event. “ Me: ” there is another reading “thee;” but “me” is certainly right. The word is an echo from ch. 7, Cp. Galatians 2:17-21 , where the Apostle similarly turns from the plural of general truth to the singular of his own appropriation of it. “ Free: ” i.e. in respect of condemnation not in respect of influence; which indeed (see next note) would be an alien idea here. He is here summing up the whole previous argument of the Epistle.
the law of sin and death ] i.e. the Law, which, as regards man apart from Christ, is invariably linked with sin , as evoking it, and with death , as thus, in the nature of things, calling it down on the sinner. In other words it is the Divine Law, (instanced in that of Moses,) which, as a Covenant, is by its very holiness the sinner’s doom. The word “law” is (though not at first sight) used in the sense of a fixed process in both parts of the verse: the “new covenant” is linked, by the chain of cause and effect , with the Spirit of Life; the “old covenant,” with sin and death.
3 . what the law could not do ] Lit. the Impossible of the Law . What was this? The answer lies in ver. 4. The Law could not procure the “fulfilment” of its own “legal claim;” could not make its subjects “live after the Spirit.” This was beyond its power, as it was never within its scope: it had to prescribe duty, not to supply motive. Here, obviously, the Law is the Moral Code; just alluded to as inseparably connected with sin and death in its effects (apart from Redemption) on fallen man.
in that it was weak ] Better, in which it was weak . It was “weak” (i.e. “powerless,” in fact,) “ in its impossibility” (see last note); in the direction, in the matter, of producing holiness of soul.
through the flesh ] The construction is instrumental; the flesh was, as it were, the instrument by which sin made the Law powerless to sanctify. Observe how St Paul here again (as in 7:7, &c.) guards the honour of the Law; laying the whole blame of the failure on the subject with which it deals. On “ the flesh ” see below, on ver. 4.
God ] Not in antithesis to “the Law,” which, equally with grace, is from Him. The antithesis to the Law here is the whole idea of the Gift and Work of His Son.
his own Son ] So ver. 32; though the Gr. is not precisely identical. In both places the emphasis is on the Divine nearness and dearness between the Giver and the Given One. The best commentary is such passages as John 1:1 , John 1:18 ; Colossians 1:13-20 ; Hebrews 1:1-4 .
in the likeness of sinful flesh ] Lit. in the likeness of the flesh of sin; i.e. of the flesh which is, in us, inseparably connected with sin. The Apostle is careful not to say “in sinful flesh;” for “in Him was no sin” as to His whole sacred being. But neither does he say “the likeness of flesh,” which might seem to mean that the flesh was unreal. The Eternal Son took real “flesh,” (John 1:14 ; Romans 9:5 ; Colossians 1:22 ; &c., &c.;) and it was “like” to our “flesh of sin” in that it was liable to all such needs and infirmities as, not sinful in themselves, are to us occasions of sinning. He felt the strain of those conditions which, in us, lead to sin. See Hebrews 4:15 . This is kept in view here (by the phrase “flesh of sin ”) because the victory over sin in its own stronghold is in question.
and for sin ] The Gr. preposition is one specially used in sacrificial connexions in LXX. Sin-offerings are frequently there called “ for-sins ,” (to translate literally). So in the quotation Hebrews 10:8 . We are prepared for a sacrificial phrase here, not only by the idea of Substitution so often before us in the previous chapters, but by the explicit passage 3:25.
condemned sin ] i.e. in act: He did judgment upon it. Perhaps the ideas of disgrace and deposition are both in the phrase: the sacrifice of the Incarnate Son both exposed the malignity of sin and procured the breaking of its power. But the idea of executed penalty is at least the leading one: Christ as the Sin-offering bore “the curse;” (see Galatians 3:13 ;) sin, in His blessed humanity, (representing our “flesh of sin,”) was punished; and this, (as is immediately shewn,) with a view to our deliverance from the power of sin, both by bringing to new light the love and loveliness of God, and by meriting the gift of the Holy Ghost to make the sight effectual. (See ch. 5:1, 5.)
in the flesh ] i.e. in our flesh as represented by the flesh of Christ; our sinful by His sinless flesh. Meyer and others take the words as = “in humanity in its material aspect.” But through this passage the idea of the flesh is an idea connected with evil: even the Lord’s flesh is “in the likeness of the flesh of sin; ” and St Paul goes on at once to the hopeless antagonism of the flesh and the Spirit. It seems consistent then to refer the word here, in some sense, to the unregenerate state and element in man; to man, in fact, as unregenerate. On man as such the doom of sin behoved to fall: but in his place it was borne by his Representative, who, to do so, behoved to come “in the flesh;” “in the likeness of sinful flesh; ” with that about Him, as part of His being, which in us is unregenerate and calls for doom. Thus the idea is of substitutionary penalty; fallen man’s sinfulness was punished, but in the incarnate Manhood of the Son.
4 . that the righteousness of the law , &c.] Here is the (for us) Final Cause of the Atonement. Both as a satisfaction of the Law as regards God, and as the manifestation and pledge of Divine Love as regards man, it was to give man peace with God (see on ch. 5:1, &c.), and so to bring his will into real working harmony with the will of God. Atonement was to result in love and holiness.
righteousness ] Better, legal claim; that which the Law laid down as the requisite for man, as his only possible right state. (The form of the Gr. word is different from that usually rendered “righteousness.”) What this “claim” is we find in the Lord’s definition of the Great Commandments; supreme love to God, and unselfish love to man.
fulfilled ] The context, as now interpreted, will explain this word. The saints “fulfil” the law’s “claim” not in the sense of sinless perfection, (for see last chapter, and cp. 1 John 1:8-10 ,) but in that of a true, living, and working consent to its principles; the consent of full conviction, and of a heart whose affections are won to God. The Law could not compel them to “delight with” itself; but the gift and work of the Son of the Father do draw them “with the cords of love” to find the Law (as the expression of His now all-beloved will) “good, perfect, and acceptable .” This state of things is further described in the next clause.
in us ] The justified.
who walk , &c.] “Who live and act;” a very frequent Scripture metaphor, from Genesis 5:22 onwards. “ After the flesh: ” on its principles, by its rule. So “ after the Spirit: ” as the Spirit animates and guides.
The Flesh The Spirit
This seems to be a proper place for a few general remarks on these two important words.
A. The Flesh . In N. T. usage, on the whole, this word bears in each place (where its meaning is not merely literal) one of two meanings. It denotes either ( a ) human nature as conditioned by the body; (e.g. 9:3, 5, 8; 2 Corinthians 7:5 , &c. &c.;) or ( b ) human nature as conditioned by the Fall, or in other words by the dominion of sin, which then began, and which works so largely through the conditions of bodily life that those conditions are almost, in language, identified with sinfulness. (See e.g. the present passage, and 7:5, 18, 25, 13:14; Galatians 5:17-24 , &c., &c.) In the first connexion “the flesh” may bear a neutral, or a holy, meaning; (John 1:14 ;) in the second , it means a state which is essentially evil, and which may be described with practical correctness as (1) the state of man unregenerate, and (2), in the regenerate, the state of that element of the being which still resists grace. For manifestly (see Galatians 5:17 ) “the flesh” is an element still in the regenerate, not only in the sense of corporeal conditions, but in that of sinful conditions. But, in the latter sense, they are no longer characterized by it; they are not “fleshly,” because the dominant element is now not “the flesh,” but the renewed will, energized by the Divine Spirit.
B. The Spirit . In the present context this word, in our view, denotes the Holy Ghost, except in vv. 10, 16, where the human spirit is spoken of. That it means here the Holy Ghost seems plain, because it is regarded as a regulating principle, and immediately below (vv. 13, 14) the Divine Spirit is described as the regulator of the will of the saints. We do not of course deny the reality of the human spirit, even in the unregenerate (1 Corinthians 2:11 ; Ecclesiastes 12:7 ). But here, as in a large majority of N. T. passages, the personal Divine Spirit is depicted as in such a sense inhabiting and informing the regenerate human spirit that He, rather than it, is regarded as the dominant rule and influence in the being. Thus, ver. 9, the regenerate are said to be “in the Spirit,” not “in the flesh,” not because their human spirits are in command of their being, but because the Divine Spirit dwells in them . He does not dispossess their spirit, but so possesses it that He in and through it is the ruler of the man.
As regards the human spirit , (vv. 10, 16;) the word, in both O. T. and N. T., has now a wider, now a narrower meaning. Now it is the whole incorporeal element of the being the whole antithesis of “ the body; ” now it is the “nobler powers” of that element the antithesis of “ the soul ,” in that narrower sense of “soul” which concerns instincts rather than conscience, reflection, and deliberate affections. Man is thus sometimes “body and soul;” (e.g. Matthew 10:28 , and cf. Revelation 6:9 ;) and sometimes “body, soul, and spirit;” (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ). And in 1 Corinthians 15:44 , in the Gr., a remarkable contrast is drawn between the present body, “ characterized by soul ,” and the future body, “ characterized by spirit .” It must be remembered, however, that, unless in passages of exceptional antithesis, the distinction of soul and spirit may easily be pressed too far, and that in no case are they to be thought of as distinct in the sense in which they both are distinct from the body. We have no hint that they are two separable elements; they are rather different aspects and exercises of the same incorporeal element.
5 . they that are ] This “ being after the flesh” is the state of which “ walking after the flesh” is the exhibition and proof. St Paul here, and in a measure to the close of ver. 11, expands and illustrates the difference between the past and present state of the Christian.
after the flesh ] i.e. obeying it, (as the organ of sin;) making it their rule, in spite of their knowledge of right and wrong.
do mind ] Same word as Colossians 3:2 , where E. V. has “set your affection on.” It means far more than to “like,” or “care for;” it indicates the full preoccupation of thought and will with a chosen and engrossing object. Such, according to St Paul, is the natural state of men, as regards any real bias of will and love to the true claims of the true God.
the things of the flesh ] All things that the unregenerate nature prefers to the “things above,” whether in themselves guilty or innocent.
they that are after the Spirit ] Ruled and determined by His awakening, regenerating, illuminating presence; characterized by the fact that He dwells in them. It is plain ( a ) that St Paul regards the two classes as mutually exclusive, and together exhaustive of mankind; ( b ) that he makes the “being in the Spirit” to be a strictly super natural state, the result of a Divine Indwelling once unknown to the soul, but now real and living; and ( c ) that this state is, in his teaching, an absolutely necessary condition of the true “sonship” of men towards God. Further, he does not mean by it a state of un natural exaltation, (for nothing can be more practical than his view of daily life and duty; see ch. 12. &c., &c.,) nor of freedom from trial, (ver. 17,) nor of absence of inner conflict with sin (ver. 13). He means a state in which the will is decisively roused to that conflict, by the knowledge and love of God.
6 . For ] The reference of this “for” is not clear at first sight. Probably the sequence of thought is that the difference of carnal and spiritual preferences is profoundly real; for the former involves death, the latter, life and peace. And it is implied that the respective persons cannot possibly therefore interchange their preferences.
to be carnally minded ] Lit. the mind of the flesh . The noun rendered “mind” is cognate to the verb rendered “do mind” in ver. 5. See note there. The idea includes choice, engrossment, affection towards a congenial object. See Art. IX. of the Church of England, where “the wisdom of the flesh” is the only phrase not admissible in a strict explanation. The E. V. here gives the sense as well as is possible, perhaps, in a brief form.
death ] Is this legal or moral death? On the whole, we explain it of legal death, i.e. of doom . This idea implies the other, for the soul which is incurring the Divine Sentence cannot be morally “alive to God” in the sense of peace, love, and purity. But the connexion makes the idea of doom more prominent: see ver. 7, where antagonism to the Law is specified as the inevitable state of the “carnal mind.” Thus the words here mean that to have the choices and affections of unregenerate humanity is to lie under God’s sentence, and to be on the way to its infliction.
to be spiritually minded ] Lit. the mind of the Spirit . See last note but one.
life and peace ] This (by analogy with the view of “death” just above) means a state of acceptance , in its aspect ( a ) of pardon and consequent glory; (see last note on ch. 5:18;) and ( b ) of secure and loving intercourse with God, with all its attendant blessings. See on ch. 5:1. Here of course, in view of the argument of cch. 3 and 4 especially, we must note how the being spiritually minded “is” life and peace; viz. not as the procuring cause of these blessings, which cause is the Propitiation (accepted by faith) alone; but as the state of mind in which only they can be realized and enjoyed.
7 . Because ] The reason of the radical difference of the two “minds” is now further shewn by a description of the essential condition of the “mind of the flesh.”
the carnal mind ] Lit. the mind of the flesh ; the same phrase in Gr. as that rendered “to be carnally minded,” ver. 6.
enmity ] Cp. ch. 5:10. The expression here is as forcible as possible. As truly as “God is Love,” so truly, essentially, and unalterably is the “mind of the flesh,” the liking and disliking of unregenerate man, “enmity,” “personal hostility,” towards the true God and His real claims.
Nothing short of this is St Paul’s meaning. It is not to be toned down, as by the theory that other impulses in the unregenerate may counterbalance, or at least modify, this enmity. We must keep clearly in view the reality of the claim of the Holy Creator to the love of the whole being . To decline this, when it is the creature that declines it, is not mere reserve; it is hostility.
the law ] In its two great Precepts. Matthew 22:37-39 .
can be ] Again a perfectly uncompromising statement. The will of the unregenerate, as such , is incapable of cordial submission to the claim of the true God. Its essence is alienation from Him; self, not God, is its central point. When the man in reality “yields himself to God,” ipso facto he is proved to be no longer “in the flesh,” (see next verse,) but “in the Spirit.”
8 . So then ] Lit. But ; and perhaps better thus. The opposition is to the idea implied by the previous clauses of a condition which can love and submit.
in the flesh ] Of course in the moral sense of “the flesh,” and as being not merely beset by it, but characterized and determined by it. Practically the phrase = “ after the flesh” (ver. 4). The difference in idea is that between a condition and the resulting action. It is clear that “they that are in the flesh” means “all men before special grace.” For the only other condition of the soul contemplated by St Paul is the being “in the Spirit,” i.e. actuated and ruled by “the Holy Ghost given unto us.”
cannot please God ] See Colossians 1:10 for the bright contrast of the state of grace. This ver. proves that “the mind of the flesh” is viewed by St Paul as the true, ruling, determining, “mind” of the unregenerate man. It is not only a dangerous element, but that which gives its quality to his whole attitude towards God. He “cannot” (a moral impossibility of course is meant) “please God;” he cannot make God his supreme choice, object, and rule; in short he cannot “love Him with all his mind;” and no other condition of the soul than this can, in the true sense of the word, “ please God.” Particular acts, in themselves, He may approve; but not the real attitude of the doer’s soul.
9 . But , &c.] After this dark foil, in the picture of the fleshly state, St Paul now gives (what is his main aim all the while) the opposite picture; that of the spiritual, regenerate, state.
ye ] Who are “in Christ Jesus;” “Jesus Christ’s called ones.” (1:6) in the Spirit ] See long note on ver. 4; and note on “in the flesh,” ver. 8. To be “ in the Spirit ” is to be in that state of soul which results in a “walk after the Spirit;” a state therefore in which the Holy Ghost is the ruling influence. The meaning is illustrated by the use of the same phrase for ecstatic inspiration, (another result of the same Agency,) Revelation 1:10 .
if so be ] The Gr. particle is more than merely “if,” (which often = “since,” or “as,”) and suggests just such doubt and enquiry as would amount to self-examination. See 2 Corinthians 13:5 .
dwell ] See John 14:17 , and cp. Ephesians 3:16 . The word indicates the intimacy and permanence of the Holy Spirit’s action and influence in the regenerate man.
in you ] i.e. of course, as individuals. For see the next words “If any man have not, &c.”
the Spirit of Christ ] Evidently not in the essentially modern sense of His (Christ’s) principles and temper , but in that of the Personal Holy Spirit as profoundly connected with Christ. Same word as Philippians 1:19 ; 1 Peter 1:11 ; and see Galatians 4:6 . The phrase is indeed remarkable, just after the words “the Spirit of God:” it at least indicates St Paul’s view of the Divine majesty of Messiah. On the other hand, it is scarcely a text in point on the great mystery of the “Procession” of the Holy Ghost; the emphasis of the words here being rather on the work of the Holy Ghost as the Revealer of Christ to the soul. See again Ephesians 3:16 .
none of his ] See again 2 Corinthians 13:5 , as the best comment on this brief warning. Evidently St Paul reminds the reader that a vital requisite to union with Christ is the present veritable indwelling of His Spirit; such an indwelling as he is treating of here, which determines the man to be “not in the flesh.” The question thus solemnly suggested was to be answered (we may be sure) by no visionary tests, but by a self-searching enquiry for “the fruit of the Spirit.” See the whole passage, Galatians 5:16-26 ; and cp. 1 John 3:24 .
10 . If Christ be in you ] Observe the immediate transition from “the Spirit of Christ” to “Christ.” See again Ephesians 3:16 , for a deeply suggestive parallel. See too each of the Seven Epistles (Revelation 2:0 and 3) for the identification (in a certain sense) of the Voice of Christ and the Voice of the Spirit. The supreme work of the Spirit is to acquaint the soul with Christ; hence the indwelling of the Spirit as the Divine Teacher results by holy necessity in the indwelling of Christ as the Divine Guest. Again cp. 2 Corinthians 13:5 .
the body , &c.] Lit. the body indeed is dead , &c. The sentence may be paraphrased; “though the body is dead, &c., yet the spirit is life.” “ The body ” is here the literal body (see next ver.), doomed to death, and so already “as good as dead;” not yet “redeemed” (ver. 23). It cannot here mean “the flesh” (in the sense of that word in this context) because just below it is promised that the body shall be “ made alive ” hereafter by the Holy Ghost; whereas “ crucifixion ” is the doom of “the flesh.” In short, the Christian is here reminded that the penal results of sin still affect the body so that it must die; but that the regenerate spirit is rescued from the spirit’s death. Many bodies, indeed, (those of the living at the Last Day) will not, in the common sense, die; but they will cease to be “flesh and blood.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 .)
the spirit ] Here the context seems to give the sense of the human spirit; that which now “liveth unto God” in the regenerate man; the soul, in the highest sense of that word. See long note on ver. 4.
is life ] A powerful phrase. Cp. “ye are light,” Ephesians 5:8 . The spirit is not only “alive:” life is its inmost characteristic . The “life” here is that of acceptance and peace with God; the antithesis of the doom of death. Of course the idea of the “life” of love and energy is inseparably connected with this; but it is not identical with it.
Observe here that “Christ in us” is presented as the proof that the “spirit is life.” Here again (as on ver. 6; see last note there,) we must remember that “Christ for us” is the procuring cause of life; “Christ in us” is the evidence that that cause has, for us, taken effect. See next note.
righteousness ] Here, surely, the Righteousness of Christ, the meriting cause of justification, and so of the gift of the Spirit, and so of the indwelling of Christ. See on 1:17; 5:17, 21; where it is explained in what way “righteousness” may be taken as a practical synonym (in proper contexts) for Justification.
11 . But ] Here the fact of the death-state of the body is met and qualified by the prospect of life for it also.
the Spirit of him that raised , &c.] i.e. of the Father; so described here because of the following statement. See 6:4, and cp. Hebrews 13:20 . Here again the indwelling of the Spirit is practically identical with the indwelling of Christ in ver. 10. “ Jesus ” and “ Christ ” are not mere synonyms here: Jesus is the Risen One as to Himself; Christ the Risen One as the Head of His people. So Bengel.
quicken ] make alive . Though the word “ raise ” is not used, the reference is to the resurrection-day. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:22 . The word is no doubt chosen to include the case of those who shall “remain to the coming.”
your mortal bodies ] The Religion of Scripture alone of religions (excepting Mahometanism, whose element of truth is all borrowed from it) promises immortal bliss to the body.
by his Spirit ] Lit., and far better, on account of His Spirit . The body is the Spirit’s “temple” now, (1 Corinthians 6:19 ,) and as such it is for ever “precious in the sight of the Lord.” Our Lord indicates this same deep connexion between the soul’s intercourse with God now and the body’s glory hereafter, Matthew 22:31 , Matthew 22:32 .
12 . debtors ] An emphatic word in the verse. Q. d., “We are debtors to the Giver of the Spirit; to the flesh we indeed owe nothing , for its result is death.” The first part of this statement is unexpressed, but obviously in point.
13 . ye shall die ] Lit. ye are about to die ; on the way to die. The phrase indicates a sure effect from the given cause.
through the Spirit ] The Holy Spirit; see next verse, and note above on ver. 4.
mortify ] put to death ; an antithesis to the “death” just mentioned as the result of sin. The verb is in the present tense, and indicates a continued process of resistance and self-denial. For the metaphor, so strong and stern, cp. Galatians 5:24 ; Colossians 3:5 .
the deeds of the body ] the doings , almost the dealings . (“ Praktiken, Machinationen; ” Meyer.) On “the body,” as used here, see note on 6:6. Cp. also the instructive parallel, Colossians 3:5 , where “your limbs that are on the earth” = “the body of sin.” This passage, and the parallels, shew how fully St Paul recognized the element of sinfulness as present still in the regenerate so present as to call for intense resistance.
14 39 . Security of the Justified: the Holy Spirit’s aid given to them: Eternal Glory prepared for them: the Divine purpose leads them thither
14 . For ] This word points back to “ through the Spirit ” in ver. 13. That brief reference to the Divine Helper of the soul suggests and brings in the marvellous passage now following, down to ver. 27, in which the Holy Spirit’s work is the primary subject throughout.
as many as are led , &c.] The emphasis in this ver. is about equal on each clause; on the condition , (spirituality of will,) and the privilege , (son-ship). Only the spiritual are children of God; and the spiritual are nothing less than children of God.
led ] As by their ruling principle. For illustration of the truth here referred to, see John 16:13 , and Galatians 5:18 , Galatians 5:22 , Galatians 5:23 . The phrase is exactly parallel to “walk after the Spirit.” The Galatian passage is enough to shew that St Paul intends not enthusiastic exaltation, but heart-subjection to the pure rule of God’s will, in thought, word, and work; a subjection on the one hand perfectly voluntary in man, on the other hand perfectly due to the Divine Agent and Teacher.
sons ] On this sacred word, as used here, cp. John 1:12 , John 1:13 ; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 ; Galatians 3:26 ; Philippians 2:15 ; 1 John 3:1 , 1 John 3:2 , 1 John 3:5 :1, 1 John 3:4 , 1 John 3:5 ; and below.
15 . have not received ] Better, did not receive ; a reference to definite past bestowal. See on ch. 5:5, last note.
the spirit of bondage ] of slavery . The verse practically means “Ye received the Holy Spirit not as a Spirit of (connected with) slavery, but as a Spirit of (connected with) adoption.” See 6:19, where we have a seeming discord, but real and profound harmony, with this verse. The Holy Spirit’s influence leads the regenerate to “yield their members as slaves to righteousness;” but his method of compulsion (see ch. 5:5) is such as to make their real subjection “perfect freedom,” because divinely filial .
again ] As in the old days of their “ignorance,” when they knew God only as a justly offended King and Judge. Cp. Hebrews 2:14 , Hebrews 2:15 ; 1 John 4:18 . It is scarcely needful to point out the difference between the “fear” of the unwilling slave, or criminal, and the reverent and sensitive “fear” of the child of God; (1 Peter 1:17 ).
adoption ] Same word as Galatians 4:5 ; Ephesians 1:5 . The relationship of God’s children to their Father is sometimes viewed as generative , for the change in their wills amounts to a change, as it were, of life and person a new birth (see 1 Peter 1:3 ; &c.): sometimes as adoptive , in respect of the divinely legal redemption which procures to them this inner change, and also in distinction from the essential and eternal Sonship of Christ, the “Own Son” of the Father.
whereby ] Lit. in which ; surrounded and animated by His influence.
we cry ] Whether in supplication, or in praise. Observe the change again to the first person, suggesting St Paul’s sense of the holy community of the family of God.
Abba, Father ] Same words as Mark 14:36 ; Galatians 4:6 . The first word is the Chaldee for “Father.” St Paul places the Gr. equivalent after it, not for explanation, (which was surely needless, in view of the well-known use of the word by the Lord,) but probably because in prayer and praise the Gentile Christians themselves did so. To them the Chaldee word would sound as a quasi-Name, and would be as it were supplemented by their own word; q. d., “Our Father Abba.” So Meyer; who suggests that the word “Abba” was already familiar in Jewish prayers, but now specially sanctified for Christians by the Lord’s Gethsemane-prayer. The present verse does not, of course, mean that the view of God as the Father of His People was unknown in O. T. (see e.g. Psalms 103:13 ; Isaiah 63:16 ), but that the Gospel had both extended this view to others than Jews, and had intensified and glorified it by fully revealing the Eternal Son as the Firstborn among Brethren (ver. 29). The knowledge of the Father as our Father because the Father of the Son is among the greatest of the treasures of grace.
16 . The Spirit itself , &c.] The “Spirit of Adoption” is here seen, as it were, at His mysterious work, teaching us to “cry Abba, Father.” He “witnesses” with a witness which concurs with a witness borne by our own “spirit,” our own consciousness of will and affection. On this “secret of the Lord” (Psalms 25:14 ) some light is thrown by ch. 5:5. There the Holy Spirit is said to “shed abroad the love of God in our hearts;” i.e., in ways of His own, to assure the believer of the love of the Father for him . Meantime, the human heart thus visited is humbly but clearly conscious that it loves the Father . Thus the family affection of Divine Grace is owned on both sides . The Divine Spirit evermore meets the Christian’s filial love with fresh assurances of the Paternal Love which is the origin of the whole blessed relationship. The witness of “our spirit” is so met as to be verified by the witness of the Paraclete.
are ] The word is slightly emphatic by position in the Gr.
17 . and if children , &c.] Here St Paul reasons onward from the primary fact, witnessed to by the Spirit, of the Christian’s sonship. He has in view now, more than ever yet in the Epistle, the hope of eternal Glory, when in the fullest sense the saints shall possess the Kingdom of God. This possession he views as an Inheritance by virtue of Birth into the Family of God. For the figure, cp. Matthew 25:34 ; Acts 20:32 ; 1 Corinthians 15:50 ; Galatians 4:7 ; Ephesians 1:14 ; James 2:5 ; 1 Peter 1:4 ; &c., &c.
joint-heirs with Christ ] The Divine and Human Eldest Brother (ver. 29.)
if so be ] Same word as ver. 9. St Paul reminds his readers of the great fact and principle that the path of obedience and self-denial is the one path to Heaven. And he chooses phraseology (see note on “ if so be ,” ver. 9,) which suggests to the reader’s soul the self-enquiry whether the will is really brought into “the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.” (Philippians 3:10 ) To “ suffer with the Lord ” is not only generally to follow Him in patience and meekness; but specially to bear, in loving fidelity, the pains of that conflict (outward, or inward, or both,) against sin , to which we are inevitably called by the fact of our union to Him as His brethren. Such “sufferings,” in one form or another, are never out of date.
that we may be , &c.] “Suffering with Christ” is the necessary antecedent to “glorification with Him;” by way, not of merit, but of preparation. The eternal bliss is a gift in the most absolute sense; (6:23, &c., &c.,) but the capacity to enjoy it is, certainly in a great measure, imparted only in the school of trial. See, for an illustration of this passage, 1 Peter 1:5-7 .
together ] i.e. “together with Him; ” in His eternal presence, and as sharers in the joy and dignity of His eternal kingdom. Before the throne of the Lamb, His servants “shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5 .) See too Colossians 3:4 ; 1 Peter 4:13 ; 1 John 3:1-2 ; Revelation 3:21 .
18 . For , &c.] St Paul here follows out the last previous thought, and especially the last word; the prospect of glorification with Christ after suffering with Him. He dilates on its immensity and bliss, and never quite leaves the subject through the rest of the chapter.
I reckon ] A favourite word with St Paul. There is the finest justness in the use of this word of calculation here, where the subject so full of rapture stands in profound contrast to all mere calculation. And this force is intensified to the utmost when we think who it is that speaks thus; what was meant in Paul’s case by “the sufferings of this present time.”
time ] The Gr. word is same as 3:26, where see note. The choice of word is most significant: the longest life of trial is but a soon-passing occasion , compared with the eternal Future. See 2 Corinthians 4:17 ; 1 Peter 1:6 .
revealed ] “When His glory shall be revealed;” “at the revealing of Jesus Christ;” (1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 4:13 , 1 Peter 5:1 . See too Colossians 3:3 .)
in us ] Lit., and better, unto us, upon us ; q. d., “to be revealed as ours and laid as a crown, or robe, upon us.” With this verse on his lips Calvin died, in extreme suffering, and unable to finish the quotation.
19 . For the earnest expectation , &c.] The connexion of thought is: “A glory is to be revealed for us, the children of God; and so real and momentous is that glory, and its revelation, that it is intently expected by ‘the creature.’ ” “ The manifestation of the sons of God: ” more lit., and better, (as referring back to the word “revealed,” ver. 18,) the revelation, &c.
The Expectation of the Creature
The remarkable passage, vv. 19 23, demands a few preliminary general remarks. Among the many explanations of its meaning, two are the most representative and important. Of these (A) takes the passage to refer to the vague but deep longings of mankind for a better future; (B) to the longings, in a certain sense, of “creation” as distinguished from man, for a coming glory. According to (A) the doctrine is that humanity, outside the pale of the believing Church, shews in many ways its sense of weariness and aspiration; that this is an unconscious testimony to the fact of a glorious futurity; and that this futurity will be realized at the Consummation, when (not indeed all mankind, but) all from all mankind who shall have believed, will inherit the glory prepared for God’s children. According to (B) the doctrine is that the non-intelligent universe has before it a glorious transformation; that this is to take place when the saints “appear with Christ in glory;” and that in some sense there is a longing for this in “mute and material things.”
The decision lies in the true meaning here of the word rendered “Creature” and “Creation” the same word in the Greek.
Now certainly in one remarkable text (Mark 16:15 ,) that word means mankind; so too Colossians 1:23 , (where render, “in all the creation under heaven.”) And the peculiar intensity of the language of thought and feeling here (“earnest expectation,” “hope,” “groaning and travailing,”) makes it certainly difficult to apply it, in so dogmatic a passage, to “rocks and stones and trees.” The longings, however vague, of human hearts are certainly suggested at the first thought.
But, on the other hand, there are many well-known places (e.g. Psalms 98:7 , Psalms 98:8 ; Isaiah 35:1 ; Hosea 2:21 ;) where rejoicing, or even prayer, is represented as uttered by inanimate things. The whole tone of Scripture makes it certain that this is purely figurative; a reflection, as it were, of the feelings of conscious beings; for Revelation recognizes no “soul of the world.” But the language of such passages is a fact, and throws some light on this passage; though this differs from those in respect of its dogmatic character.
And again, the “Creation” here is said to have been “ unwillingly ” (ver. 20) “subjected to vanity,” i.e. to evil. Now the doctrine of sin, so fully expounded in the previous chapters, forbids us to refer this to the unrenewed human heart, in which the perverted will is the secret of all transgressions.
On the whole, notwithstanding serious difficulties, it seems necessary to take the word “Creation” here to mean what we popularly call “Nature.” Thus the passage reveals that, in some sense , a future of glory, a transfiguration, awaits “Creation;” and the shocks and apparent failures in the present universe are, in a figure, taken to be this (absolutely impersonal) “Creation’s” longing and expectancy. We learn also that this transfiguration will not come till the final glorification of the saints; i.e. till the eternal state. Our best comment will be, then, 2 Peter 3:0 ; where we find (1) that the “Day of the Lord” (i.e. of resurrection and judgment) will be attended with the fiery dissolution of the present frame of things; and (2) that then, in modes absolutely unknown to us, there will be, as it were, a resurrection of the “heavens and earth;” or, to keep close to Scripture, “new heavens and a new earth.”
There is ample Scripture evidence (Psalms 102:26 ; Isaiah 51:6 ; Matthew 24:35 ; &c.) that “ all these things must be dissolved .” The resurrection of Creation will be indeed as from a tomb. And who shall describe “the body that shall be” of that New Universe? Or who shall reconcile with eternity the idea of materiality , even when that idea is refined to the utmost? But we believe, in our own case, that “ body ” as well as “spirit” will live for ever, in a state at present inconceivable. A Universe in some sense material may therefore also be to last for ever, by the Divine will.
Note meanwhile that St Paul nowise dilates on this prospect. It is mentioned by the way, to vivify the idea of the greatness of the glory of the saints in their final bliss.
earnest expectation ] Lit. waiting with outstretched head ; a single and forcible word in the Gr. See previous note for remarks on this and like words as in this passage.
creature ] Better, in modern English, creation ; and so through the passage.
waiteth for ] The Gr. word again is intense; almost q. d., “is absorbed in awaiting.”
the manifestation , &c.] i.e. the “glorification together with Christ;”
“the revelation of glory upon them,” (vv. 17, 18.) They shall at length be “manifested” to one another, and to the universe, in their true character as the children of the King Eternal.
20 . was made subject ] Apparently, at the Fall. Not that there was no animal suffering and death previously. God pronounced His creation “good;” but this “goodness” may mean only goodness in respect to its then work and purpose; and this may have included death and suffering, as in fact it seems to have done. (1 Corinthians 15:21 refers to human death, as that alone is in question there.) From Genesis 3:17-19 we find that some change for the worse passed over man’s abode when he fell; a change impossible now to define. But it may be that all distress and failure in creation are, in the sight of the Eternal, connected with the entrance of sin, whether or no they have followed the Fall in order of time.
vanity ] Same word as Ephesians 4:17 ; 2 Peter 2:18 . The word means evil , whether physical or moral, regarded as (what all evil ultimately proves to be) delusion and failure.
not willingly ] See note just above on “The Creature.” The word here implies merely the absence of personal wrong and demerit in the subject of the change.
by reason of him , &c.] Who was this? It is very difficult to decide whether it is ( a ) the Tempter, who procured the Fall; ( b ) Man, who fell; or ( c ) the Judge who punished the Fall. But we incline to the latter, because the next words point to Hope in a way that suggests the connexion of a Promise with the subjugation . The sin-caused “vanity” was thus inflicted “by reason of” the righteous doom of God.
in hope ] These words form a brief clause by themselves.
21 . because ] Better than “ that ,” as in some translations. St Paul justifies the “hope,” by stating the fact in which it will be realized.
itself also ] As well as the children of God; though in other modes from theirs.
the bondage of corruption ] “Corruption” here (as in 1 Corinthians 15:42 , 1 Corinthians 15:50 ,) is probably decay; physical, not moral, detriment. This, to creation, is “bondage,” in that it represses and foils its fulness of peace and splendour.
the glorious liberty ] Lit., and better, the liberty of the glory; i.e. connected with the glory; attendant on it, involved in it. The period of that glory is to be (not only for the saints, but, in another mode, for the new heavens and earth,) a period of “liberty;” of developement in undecaying power and bliss.
22 . we know ] By observation of the pain and disturbance everywhere in the material world.
travaileth in pain ] A powerful and expressive word, indicating both great present distress and the definite result which is to close it.
together ] This word is to be taken with both “groaneth” and “travaileth.” It refers to the complex whole of “creation;” all its kinds and regions share the distress and anticipation.
until now ] i.e. ever since the primeval “subjugation.” The “ now ” perhaps specially refers to the Gospel Age, as that which heralds the final and eternal Age of Glory.
23 . not only they ] The word “ they ” (inserted by our Translators) perhaps indicates that they understood the passage of conscious individual beings; the world of man . (See long note on ver. 19.)
the firstfruits ] Same word as 11:16, 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20 . The idea is not that “we” have the Spirit before others have it; but that we have that measure of the Spirit which is the specimen and pledge of the fulness hereafter . St Paul now contrasts the impersonal and unconscious creation, utterly incapable of the Divine Gift, with the human subjects of grace. The word “ firstfruits ” is used to suggest the thought of incompleteness and anticipation. Cp. the similar word “earnest;” 2 Corinthians 1:22 , 2 Corinthians 1:5 :5; Ephesians 1:14 .
groan within ourselves ] As our Lord once did (John 11:33 , John 11:38 ). In 7:14 24, we see one great instance of this “groaning” of the saint for entire freedom, in his whole being, from the power of sin. There too we see that the longing for freedom is linked with the thought of the body as the citadel of temptation, in its present state. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:27 for another vivid picture of a “groaning” conflict, and there too in view of the body . “ Within ourselves: ” because the cause of the groan is emphatically within . Not outward afflictions so much as inner conflict are our burthen.
waiting for ] Same word as “waiteth for,” ver. 19; where see note.
the adoption ] i.e., obviously, the final realization of our adoption; for already the believer is “the child of God;” vv. 14, 16. So great and blissful a crisis will the “manifestation” of the son-ship be that it is here viewed as the beginning of the son-ship.
the redemption , &c.] The realized adoption will bring this with it, will imply and involve this. The Brethren of the Incarnate Son of God will not realize the fulness of their Brotherhood till their bodies shall be “like the body of His glory,” (Philippians 3:21 ) The Adoption, and the Redemption of the Body, are not identical terms; but the former includes the latter, as necessary to it. “ Redemption ” here (as Luke 21:28 ; Ephesians 1:14 , Ephesians 1:4 :30; but not Ephesians 1:7 ,) obviously means the actual and realized deliverance. The redemption-price is paid already; the redemption-liberation is to come. See note on 7:24.
Again remark this unique feature of Revealed Religion; an immortal prospect for the body .
Some expositors take the body here to be the “mystical body;” the Church. But the context is clearly against it, giving us as the main idea the struggles and longings for a better future in respect of material things.
24 . For we are saved ] Lit., and better, we were saved; at the time of our deliverance from darkness into light.
by hope ] “ Hope ” has the article in the Gr. If our English Version is retained, the meaning will be that our conversion was effected, in one sense, by the discovery of “the hope laid up in heaven” for the justified. But the connexion of salvation with faith is so marked and careful in N. T. doctrine that it seems far more likely that the true version (equally proper in grammar) is, we were saved in hope; i.e. when we believed we accepted a salvation whose realization was future, and could therefore be enjoyed only in the hope we felt in view of it . “ Salvation ” here is used (as e.g. 1 Peter 1:5 ,) for the crown of the saving process; final glory.
hope that is seen ] i.e. “the hoped-for object, once seen, (as present,) ceases ipso facto to be hoped for.”
25 . But if we hope , &c.] The emphasis here is double; ( a ) on the fact that we do hope for a given thing; i.e. look for it with a reason for so doing; ( b ) on the fact that it is (by its nature as an object of hope) out of sight . Of this general statement, the particular case is the Hope of Glory; and the inference is that we must be at once patient and intent (see next note) in waiting for it. But this particular application is left to be understood.
wait ] Same word as ver. 19, where see note.
26 . Likewise also ] Probably the reference of these words is to the thought just previous; the help given to the anxious and weary Christian by a clear view of the ground and object of his Hope. Q. d., “as this view of hope calms and cheers you, so too calm and strength come from a yet higher source from the direct influences of the Holy Ghost.” It is possible to refer “ likewise ” back to ver. 16, q. d., “ as the Spirit witnesses to our son-ship, so too He cheers our weakness.” But the reference is too remote to suit the character of this passage, where one reason for confidence is heaped at once upon another.
helpeth ] Not removeth . The causes for “groaning” (ver. 24) remain, mysteriously permitted still, until the final rest.
infirmities ] Or infirmity , as a better reading has it. The word includes all that encumbers and obstructs the “patient expectation;” and, as a special example, weakness and indecision in prayer. It may well indicate (as ch. 5:6) not mere imperfection of strength, but absence of strength; a condition of helplessness without Him.
for we know not , &c.] An illustrative case of the general truth. The “ know not ” cannot mean total ignorance, but ignorance in details. St Chrysostom (quoted by Meyer) gives as an example St Paul’s own mistaken prayer, (2 Corinthians 12:8 ,) which was not granted by the wise love of his Lord. We may instance also St Augustine’s remark on the prayer of Monnica that he (Augustine) might not leave her for Italy. He went to Italy, but to be converted there; and thus the Lord “denied her special request to grant her life-long request.” ( Confessions , v. 8.)
maketh intercession , &c.] The practical meaning of these profound words seems to be that the Divine Spirit, by His immediate influence in the saint’s soul, which becomes as it were the organ of His own address to the Father, secures the rightness of the essence of the saint’s prayer. E.g. in Monnica’s case (see last note) He so worked that her desire to keep Augustine by her was not a mere craving of natural love, but the expression, though imperfect, of a spiritual and intense longing (infused by the Spirit of Adoption) that her child might become a child of God. It is true that in strict language, and no doubt in mysterious reality, the Holy Spirit is said here Himself to intercede and groan; but we mean that to our understandings such intercessions take the form of desires of ours, inspired and secured by Him.
which cannot be uttered ] i.e. in all the depth of His meaning; which must indeed pass, human words, even when He inspires them. In any special case of prayer the saint may or may not use words; but, anywise, the root-desires that underlie the prayer, being the Holy Spirit’s promptings, are “unutterable” to the full.
27 . He that searcheth the hearts ] Certainly here, the Father. But it is the more noteworthy that the same words are used of the Son, Revelation 2:23 . “ The hearts ” here are human hearts. In them the Father sees, below the surface of “ignorance what to pray for as they ought,” the sacred longings which are the expression of the Spirit’s influence.
knoweth ] And meeteth with a corresponding answer; crossing perhaps the saint’s explicit prayer, but granting the implicit .
the mind ] The whole Aim and Choice of the great Intercessor.
because ] If this rendering is kept, the connexion is; “The Father knows (and welcomes) the ‘mind of the Spirit,’ because in its requests it is in Divine harmony with His own.” But it is better to render that . “The Father knows the mind of the Spirit; He knows that He intercedes in harmony with His Own will and purpose, and for His Own children.”
the saints ] Lit. saints (without article). Such is the character of those for whom He pleads.
according to the will of God ] Lit. according to God; in unerring coincidence with the Father’s will. The words are used in emphatic contrast to the possible errors in detail of the saint’s unaided desires and prayers.
28 . And we knew , &c.] Here appears a fresh assurance of safety. We have seen (1) the certainty of the son-ship of the believer; (2) the fact that his sorrows are only the prelude of glory; (3) the Divine assistance afforded him by the Holy Spirit, especially in prayer. Now, before the final appeal, we have an express statement of the truth that the children of God are the objects on His part of an Eternal Purpose, which must issue in their final blessedness, and must thus turn “all things” at last to good for them. This is stated as a confessed certainty, well known in the Church.
all things ] In the amplest sense. See vv. 38, 39 for illustration. No doubt St Paul has specially in view the sufferings of the saints, which would often tempt them to say “these things are against me.” But peace and rest, on earth, are perils also; and even such trials therefore need a similar assurance. St Chrysostom’s dying words were, “Glory be to God for all things.”
work together ] As means in the great Worker’s hand. It is instructive to note this expression in a passage where also the Divine Decrees are in view. The eternal Will takes place not arbitrarily, but through means; and those means are immensely various, and mutually adjusted by supreme Wisdom only.
for good ] Chiefly, no doubt, the final Good is meant, the fruition of God in eternal Glory. But all true good by the way is included, as part of the path thither.
that love God ] As His children; in whose hearts His love has been “outpoured by the Holy Ghost” (ch. 5:5). Observe that this note of saintship stands first in this memorable passage; not eternal election, but that conscious love to God in Christ which is its sure fruit, and without which no speculation of mysteries brings the soul near to Him. It is the True God alone who makes this His unalterable demand; “Thou shalt love me.”
to them who are the called ] Identical with “them that love Him.” See on 1:6, for the profound meaning of “the call.” 1 Corinthians 1:24 , 1 Corinthians 1:26 , 1 Corinthians 1:27 is a clear illustration, in contrast with Matthew 20:16 , Matthew 22:14 . In the Gospels the word “call” refers to outward hearing; in the Epistles to inward reception, due to a special and sovereign influence from above. See too Revelation 17:14 .
according to his purpose ] Same word as 9:11; Ephesians 1:11 , Ephesians 1:3 :11; 2 Timothy 1:9 . See especially the last passage and Ephesians 1:11 , for the sense in which St Paul uses the word here. It is the intention of “Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will;” and it is absolute and sovereign, in the sense not of arbitrary caprice, (God forbid,) but in that of its being uncaused by anything external to Himself . The gift of life is “ not according to our works, but according to His own purpose.” His “good pleasure” was, “before the world began,” “ purposed in Himself .” (2 Timothy 1:9 ; Ephesians 1:9 , Ephesians 1:11 .) In the next verses, St Paul explains his meaning further. (The word “ His ” is not in the Gr., but is certainly right in translation.)
29 . For ] The word introduces a fuller account of the “Call according to Purpose.”
he did foreknow ] Same word as 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20 (E. V. “foreordained”). The noun occurs Acts 2:23 ; 1 Peter 1:2 . Comparing this passage with 2 Tim. quoted above, it is clear that the foreknowing is of persons, not of merit in those persons. It thus nearly approaches in meaning here to sovereign Choice of souls. See too 11:2, and cp. with it e.g. Deuteronomy 7:7 , Deuteronomy 7:8 . Fully to understand and estimate such Foreknowledge, we should need to be the Eternal Being Himself. But our recognition of the extreme mystery should dispose us more, not less, to bow to the revelation of the fact . It is surely dangerous, if only in view of the context and tone of this great passage, (where all is made to bear on the safety of the children of God,) to attempt explanations which lower the idea of a sovereign choice to life and glory. Cp. on the general subject, (on which it is obviously best to keep as close to Scripture as possible,) John 6:37 , John 6:39 , John 6:44 , John 6:64-66 , John 6:17 :2; Ephesians 1:4 ; and below, 9:11, &c., 11:5, 7, 28. See further, Appendix G.
did predestinate ] Lit. defined beforehand; “marked out, set apart, ordained beforehand.” Same word as Acts 4:28 ; (E. V. “determined;”) 1 Corinthians 2:7 ; (E. V. “ordained;”) Ephesians 1:5 , Ephesians 1:11 . All idea of blind destiny must be excluded; the “pre-ordination” is the act of the Living and Holy God. But while we can thus repose on its justice, it is none the less real, effectual, and sovereign.
to be conformed , &c.] Here is the special regard of the pre-ordination; not merely escape from doom, but sanctity , the likeness of Christ. See Ephesians 1:4 . All the great Doctrines of Grace are, in Scripture, connected with holiness as their supreme aim. The “ conformity ” here is illustrated by 2 Corinthians 3:18 ; 1 John 3:3 . It is incipient here, entire hereafter. It is a spiritual likeness; for while the son-ship is in one respect adoptive, in another it is generative. See on “adoption,” ver. 15. The Gr. implies a real and permanent likeness.
firstborn ] Same word as Colossians 1:15 , Colossians 1:18 ; Hebrews 1:6 ; Revelation 1:5 . He is prior (1) as to time, “begotten before the worlds,” eternally the Son; (2) as to dignity; “in all things pre-eminent.”
many brethren ] Cp. Hebrews 2:10-17 ; a passage remarkably parallel in some respects. See also Matthew 12:48-50 .
30 . them he also called ] See above, on ver. 28, last note but one. In this chain of past tenses, the whole process is viewed as in its eternal completeness. We look back , as it were, from the view-point of glory.
justified ] See on 2:13. The links in this golden chain are strictly consecutive. The “ call ” was to obedient faith; therefore justification , by the Divine order, followed. See cch. 3, 4, 5.
glorified ] A past tense used, with wonderful power, of a thing future. (See ch. 5:2, where we have the “ hope of the glory of God.”) So indissoluble is the chain that the last link is here viewed as an accomplished fact because the first links are so. See, for a remarkable illustration, Ephesians 2:4-6 . There the saints are already “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus: ” such is their union with Him that, just as they are viewed as having gone through penal death, because He died, so they are viewed as having entered heaven, (as regards right of entrance), because He ascended.
It seems difficult, without violence to both the letter and spirit of this passage, to deny that it represents the salvation of “the children of God” as a line drawn from eternity to eternity: first, a sovereign Choice of souls; then the Call of the chosen, resulting in their Faith and their Acceptance; then the final entrance on heavenly Bliss of these same called ones; and also their Note and characteristic now, Love to God. The “scheme” thus indicated, called by whatever name, has always met with earnest criticism and opposition; but it is the only one which naturally fits St Paul’s language here and in ch. 9. It is really alien from Scripture only when it is stated as if it were a plan of which we saw the whole: assuredly in these things “we know in part ”. But this does not mean that we are not to accept what is revealed, just so far as it is revealed, with sincere submission, and with that encouragement and joyful assurance which certainly this passage, on any view of it, was meant to excite. See, on the whole subject, the equally careful and decided language of the 17th English Church Article; especially noting that the doctrine here stated is there viewed (in the spirit of this passage) as “full of unspeakable comfort 1 1 See further, Appendix F. .” It must also be remembered that in the scheme in question the sanctification of the saved is viewed as quite as much fore ordained, and quite as necessary a part of the process, as any other; and that the only evidence to the conscience that the person is “foreknown” lies, not in any intuition of a Divine decree, but in the presence of faith and love, and their fruits, in heart and life. These will be always attributed, and justly, to Divine grace alone: but the presence of that grace will be traced in them alone .
31 . What shall we then say , &c.] St Paul now applies the whole previous facts and reasons to the final proof of the Safety of the children of God. He seems to refer not only to the former part of this chapter, but to the whole previous argument of the Epistle; for there, rather than in ch. 8, we find the doctrines which are here applied the sacrifice of Christ, and consequent justification . No eloquence could be nobler than that of these closing verses, taking them merely in point of language. It is the eloquence of profound fact and truth, expressed with the sublime force and beauty of a lofty mind filled with the love of God.
against us ] So as to prevail. “ Who ” points the reference to personal adversaries; persecutors and tempters, seen or unseen.
32 . He that spared not ] From all the humiliation and anguish involved in His incarnation and passion. For comment, see Psalms 22:1 ; Isaiah 53:6 , Isaiah 53:10 ; Matthew 26:38 , Matthew 26:39 .
his own Son ] The word “ own ” is of course emphatic, marking the infinite difference, as to the Divine Generation, between the son-ship of Christ and that of Christians. Note that the Lord, in John 20:17 , says not “our Father and our God,” but “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” For comment on the doctrine of the Divine Sonship of Christ, as revealing the supreme love of both the Giver and the Given One, see e.g. John 1:18 , John 1:3 :16, John 1:35 , John 1:36 ; Romans 5:3 , Romans 5:10 ; Ephesians 1:6 ; Colossians 1:13 , Colossians 1:14 ; Hebrews 1:2 , Hebrews 1:3 . “He spared not His Son: ’Tis this that silences the rising fear; ’Tis this that makes the hard thought disappear: He spared not His Son.” (Bonar.)
all things ] Lit. the all things; all those things needful to the safety and bliss of the children of God. See for comment, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ; and ver. 28.
33 . Who shall lay any thing to the charge ] The Gr. word is technical and legal. The legal ideas of accusation, condemnation, acquittal, which have been so prominent through the Epistle, here reappear, in a final statement of the certainty of the Divine Acquittal of those who are in Christ. No doubt the great “Accuser of the Brethren” (Revelation 12:10 ) is in view in this phrase, though not exclusively.
God’s elect ] The persons chosen by Him and belonging, as such, to Him; identical, manifestly, with the “foreknown, foreordained, called, justified, and glorified.” The phrase occurs Matthew 24:31 ; Mark 13:27 : Luke 18:7 ; Colossians 3:12 ; Titus 1:1 . The word “elect,” (chosen,) is always used in N. T. in connexions that indicate the highest dignity and worth in the sight of God. The present passage throws as much light on the greatness of its meaning as any other. Cp. with it specially Ephesians 1:4 , Ephesians 1:5 . In the O. T. Israel is “My people, My chosen, (Isaiah 43:20 .) In the N. T. the chosen are “the Israel of God,” (Galatians 6:16 : cp. Galatians 3:29 ; Romans 4:11 .) As with the old so with the new Israel, the choice is emphatically sovereign. On the other hand, the choice of the “justified and glorified” takes effect through means; through the Gospel. See 2 Timothy 2:10 ; (a passage sometimes, but not justly, quoted against a sovereign election to salvation;) and ante , note on “work together,” ver. 28.
It is God , &c.] The Gr. equally allows the rendering Is it God , &c.? And this on the whole is more likely to be right, if only because we are here in a series of questions, (from vv. 31 35 inclusive,) the force of which is surely greatest when unbroken. The doctrine of the passage is unchanged by the difference of rendering. The only finally effective Accuser must be God Himself; but He is pledged to be the very opposite.
that justifieth ] “him that believeth in Jesus.” (3:26.) The use of this word here, so amply illustrated already, shews how entirely the acquittal and acceptance now in question are “not of works.”
34 . condemneth ] Or perhaps (by a change of Gr. accent) shall condemn (at the Great Day).
It is Christ ] Here again, Is it Christ , &c.? should be read. Observe the level on which “God” and “Christ” are set in the language of this great passage. The One is as truly the Supreme Judge as the Other.
that died ] “for us” (ch. 5:8).
yea rather, that is risen again ] “by reason of our justification,” (4:25.) The Resurrection is “ rather ” emphasized because it not only involves the Death, but is the proof of its Divine efficacy.
who is even at the right hand ] As the Incarnate, Slain, and Risen One; as wielding, in that character, “all power in heaven and earth;” not merely accepted as our Representative, but so accepted as to be on the eternal Throne. Cp. Hebrews 1:3 ; Revelation 5:6-9 ; &c., &c. This is the only direct reference to the Ascension in the Epistle; but what a pregnant reference!
who also maketh intercession ] Another item in this solemn enumeration. The enthroned Son of God is actually pleading for the justified, in such a sense as to secure “ that their faith fail not .” (Luke 22:31 , Luke 22:32 ) The fullest comment is Hebrews 4:14-16 , Hebrews 4:7 :25, Hebrews 4:9 :11, Hebrews 4:12 , 24; 1 John 2:1 ; and such O. T. passages as Exodus 28:29 .
35 . Who shall separate us ] He speaks in view of these amazing proofs of the grace and truth of the Father and the Son. “ Who ,” not “ what; ” although the following words are of things, not persons. This is in harmony with the intense and vivid tone of the whole passage. Cp. John 10:28 , John 10:29 ; “ no one shall pluck them out of my hand; no one can pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” “ Us ” is slightly emphatic by position: q. d., “us, thus cared for and pleaded for.”
the love of Christ ] Same word as 2 Corinthians 5:14 ; Ephesians 3:19 . It is the love of Christ for us, not ours for Him. The whole context here relates to our security through the goodness of God. In what sense are the things now to be named viewed as “ not separating ” us from this love? Probably they are to be taken as so many veils or clouds between us and the (outward) manifestation of the love; things which might tempt the believer to think that his Lord had forsaken him. St Paul assures him that this cannot be really so; the separation is but seeming; the love is indissoluble.
tribulation , &c.] St Paul had indeed a right to use such language as the language of experience. See e.g. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 ; 2 Timothy 3:10-12 . Cp. Hebrews 11:35-38 , (of the O. T. saints.)
It will not be out of place to quote from the letter of a sufferer for his faith, in the French galleys, 1739: “Having, by the grace of God, made a Christian profession, we are bound to be faithful soldiers and submit to the Lord’s will. Our chains are where He has placed them. Our persecutors think to disgrace us by putting us with malefactors; but in this we are honoured of God, who gives us cause for rejoicing that He counts us worthy to bear shame for the name of Jesus.… God has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that suffering with Him we may also be glorified together. Our life is hid with Christ in God; but when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.” (Letter of M. Villevaire, in Bonnefon’s Life of B. du Plan , p. 241, Eng. Trans.)
36 . As it is written ] In Psalms 44:0 (LXX. 43):22. The Gr. is verbatim from the LXX. The quotation refers specially to the last previous word, “ sword .” By thus quoting the Psalm of the O. T. confessors and martyrs as divinely meant also for N. T. saints, St Paul indicates (as so often) the continuity of the believing Church of all time.
37 . Nay ] Lit., and perhaps better, But: q. d., “Such are indeed our sufferings; but in all these things &c.”
we are more than conquerors ] “Wir überwinden weit;” Luther. If this glorious utterance (a single word in the Gr.) must be analyzed, we may explain it as saying that through these sufferings the saints come out not only unhurt, but with the precious advantage of a firmer faith, and more burning love, and so a deeper capacity for eternal bliss. See 2 Corinthians 4:17 .
through Him that loved us ] Even in the thought of personal victory St Paul does not forget that the source of strength is wholly above. For this Title of the Saviour see Revelation 1:5 ; (where however read “loveth us.”) See too Galatians 2:20 .
38 . I am persuaded ] Same word as 14:14, 15:14; 2 Timothy 1:5 , 2 Timothy 1:12 ; Hebrews 6:9 . The word implies firm assurance on good grounds. Here, of course, this amounts (unless the passage is to end with an anticlimax) to the utmost certainty of expectation.
death ] Through which we “depart, and are with Christ.” Philippians 1:23 . Cp. also, throughout this passage, 1 Corinthians 3:22 , 1 Corinthians 3:23 .
life ] With its allurements or its sufferings.
angels, principalities, powers ] The last word is to be transferred, perhaps, to stand after things to come.” In that case it may include the widest meanings of the word “power.” As placed in E. V., it must specially refer to (evil) angelic powers, “ Principalities: ” cp. Ephesians 3:10 , Ephesians 3:6 :12; Colossians 1:16 , Colossians 1:2 :15; which assure us that the word here, standing close to “angels,” means not earthly but supernatural (and here evil) dominions. For suggestions how such powers might seem to tend to “separate” the saint from the love of God, see Ephesians 6:12 .
things present things to come ] Phrases in themselves quite exhaustive, whether or no they refer (as they may) to the present world and the future world respectively. He who holds His saints in His hand “is, and is to come.”
39 . height depth ] Vastness of intervening space. The Lord who loved us is “above all Heavens” as to His bodily presence: but His love reaches thence to our “depth” below, and holds us fast.
any other creature ] A phrase meant to be absolutely inclusive of everything except the Uncreated One. And it is the Uncreated who loved us! The previous phrases had logically included “all creatures;” but St Paul would fain preclude even the least definable causes of apprehension.
shall be able ] At any possible future time.
the love of God, which is in , &c.] A deeply instructive equivalent for “the love of Christ,” ver. 35. The “love of Christ” is the Divine Love felt for us by the Eternal Son. And this, because He is the Eternal Son, is also the Divine expression of the love felt for us by the Eternal Father, who “sent His Son to be the Propitiation for our sins,” and, in giving His Son, gave His Son’s love to be our bliss and light.
This closing passage of ch. 8, taken as the climax of the whole previous part of the Epistle, is a remarkable illustration of the vital connexion between revealed Truth and sacred Love. It is out of the dogmatic statements and discussions of the previous passages that this utterance of adoring love and confidence comes forth.
Here closes the more strictly dogmatic part of the Epistle. But the next three chapters, though less purely dogmatic, are, incidentally, full of definitions of truth. Not till ch. 12 comes in the “practical” part of the Epistle, in the ordinary sense of that word.
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the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29