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THE SANCTIFIED EXPERIENCE
1. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” N. B. This is all we have in the verse, the other clause appearing in E. V. having been by some transcriber taken up from Romans 8:4 and inserted here without authority. The illative conjunction, “therefore,” connecting this bold affirmation of “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” is a logical deduction from the elaborate discussion of the preceding chapter and the brilliant victory ringing out in the triumphant shout of Romans 8:25. But this is justification? Very well; but is the justification following entire sanctification in contradistinction to the primary justification identical with the remission of actual transgression, which precedes it? We can not be justified in a full and final sense till after complete expurgation from the very sin-principle in entire sanctification. Hence we see that final justification follows sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11). Here the bold affirmation involves the sweeping conclusion that the parties who have been delivered by the Omnipotent Sanctifier in Romans 8:25 are actually exonerated from all the penal consequences of sin resultant from the Fall, both personal and original.
2. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death.” One definition of “law” is a rule of action, which is pertinent in this verse, where. the Holy Spirit, the Author of life, has actually given you perfect freedom from all the power and influence of sin and death.
3. “For the impotency of the law, in which it was without strength through the flesh.” This is one of the rare instances in which “flesh” evidently means this mortal body. Wesley says we can only think, speak and act through these “organs of clay,” which have been so dilapidated by the Fall as really to become disqualified to serve in the capacity of efficient media through which the perfect law of God is verified in this world. Adam, before he fell, was competent, through the wisdom and power of the indwelling Spirit, perfectly to keep the divine law. From the ostensible fact that the whole race in the Fall signaly forfeited the power to keep the law, God in his condescending mercy, gave humanity a second probation under the mediatorial reign of the Second Adam. Otherwise we must have gone hopeless forever, like the fallen angels. “God sending his own Son in the likeness of the sin of carnality, and concerning sin, condemned sin in carnality.” The antithesis carries us back to Eden. What was the creature instrumental in the abduction of humanity? “He was the most subtle,” i. e., the wisest. This would locate him with the bipeds. The argument is altogether against the conclusion that he was a snake. He was a biped, the next link to man, looking more like him than a gorilla, which walks upright, using his hands like a man. So this creature only lacked the immortal human spirit. His very existence added much to the facility of human temptation, as he could speak; otherwise the surprise would have defeated the temptation. The position of this animal is now vacant in the zoological catalogue, as we see he was taken out of his place by the transformation which followed as a divine retribution. When God called him to account, I know he stood upright like a man till the awful anathema fell, “On thy stomach thou shalt go,” showing that he had not previously moved prostrate in the dust, the implacable odium of the human race. When this anathema fell on him, methinks I see his neck elongated, with horrific projecting jaws, and venomous, forked tongue; his arms, absorbed, disappear; his posterior members consolidated into a great, huge tail. Now falling on the ground, he crawls away, a loathsome, narcotic, hissing serpent, to be hated and slaughtered by the whole human race. Thus, you see, the snake originated out of the transformation resulting from sin. Evil can not emanate from good. Hence God never made a devil, a sinner, nor a snake. The brazen serpent in the wilderness by the divine order resembled the fiery serpents which invaded the camp and slew their multitudes. Why? Because the brazen serpent symbolized Christ, who was to take the form of man in order to save us. John the Baptist and Jesus both called the people a generation of vipers, i. e., “children of rattlesnakes.” Hence we received the diabolical venom through the serpent, thus imbibing the snake nature and becoming a race of snakes. It takes a rogue to catch a rogue. Consequently the commonwealth never makes much headway against a gang of thieves till some of them turn State’s evidence; then they get them quickly. So our blessed Savior took the form of our “sinful flesh” that He might save us from our sins. As symbolized by the brazen serpent, He became a snake that He might find and save us snakes. The wonderful condescension of redeeming love “Condemned sin in the flesh.” The condemnatory sentence must precede the execution of a criminal. As our Savior has perfectly kept the law for the whole human race, thus condemning the sin in carnality, therefore the gospel sword is sent out into all the world to execute the sentence of guilt against the man of sin in every human heart throughout the whole world. Thus, you see, it is our work to slay the man of sin without mercy. Therefore the true gospel has in all ages met the bitterest opposition, because nothing loves to die. Snakes fight awfully for their lives. Christ turned snake as symbolized in the wilderness, i. e., He took the form of us snakes, found them all, and passed sentence of death on them. Hence ours is truly a snake-killing business throughout. The two-edged sword of the gospel is sent into the world to cut off every snake head. Snakes are very scary. Hence you must have the perfect love which casts out fear, if you would make headway killing the snakes. Carnal cowards tinker along and let the snakes live.
4. “In order that the righteous judgment of the law may be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” The righteous judgment of the law is, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Hence the sin-principle in every heart must die. God’s method with sin is extermination. That is always done in “those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” When your walk is mixed you never get sin destroyed. It is only those who are solidly out and out for God who get sin exterminated.
5. “For those who are according to the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, and those who are of the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” God is calling all to heaven; and Satan, the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), is offering us this world as he did Jesus. The body is earthy and destined soon to go back to it. We have our choice to live for this world or heaven. We get just what we live for. If we live for this world, we leave soon, and are liable to at any moment, unprepared for heaven. Hence Satan, whose subjects we are, takes us to hell. The divine order is, first God, then the human spirit, then the mind or soul, and finally the body. Satan reverses the order, putting the body first, then the mind, and the immortal spirit is neglected altogether. In that case you have the world here and hell hereafter. Man is a three-story building, consisting of body, mind and spirit. The latter. i. e., the third story, is where our King erects His throne. when we are true, ruling the mind through the spirit, the body through the mind and our life through the body Satan reverses the divine order in the human spirit down in the mud then the mind, and finally the body, i. e. the hog element of our nature, on top. The sins of your body make you hoggish; those of your mind make you worldly; while the sins of your spirit make you devilish. There is a fearful liability that the degradation of your immortal spirit may pass the susceptibility of spiritual influence, in which case Satan succeeds in utterly blowing off the third story of humanity, sealing your doom in hell and diabolizing you forever. These are those who commit the unpardonable sin.
7. “For the mind of the flesh is enmity toward God: for it is not subject to the law of God: for it is not able to be.” The fallen churches in all ages have sought in vain to subdue the carnal mind and subordinate it to the law of God Oh, the efforts everywhere made in popular ecclesiasticisms to wash and dress old Adam so he will do for heaven! It is all a trick of the devil to fool the people and catch them with the lasso of carnal security. God’s method with sin is extermination. We can not evade the issue. Cato, the great Roman statesman and orator, wound up every speech before the Roman senate with the statement “ Carthago delenda est ” Carthage must be destroyed She was the uncompromising rival of Rome. Hence the one or the other must be destroyed. So the carnal mind is the implacable enemy of grace, and must be destroyed or the hope of heaven surrendered forever. This carnal mind is none other than Satan’s own mind imparted to humanity in the Fall. God is the pure Holy Spirit, and has the sole right to rule men, angels and the universe. The carnal mind subordinates soul, mind, spirit and the entire being to the animal body, in that way alienating you from God, brutalizing and turning you over to the devil.
8. “For those who are in carnality are not able to please God.” The word “flesh” (E. V.) here does not mean the body, but the carnal mind. Enoch pleased God while in the body, and He took him to heaven. The next verse shows that it does not mean the body, but carnality. There is but one way out, and that is to have carnality destroyed, which is the work of entire sanctification. If we do not please God, it is certain we will never get to heaven. If we please Him we must obey Him. He commands us to be holy, and that means to get rid of depravity. For this he has made ample provision. Hence we must obey and be holy, or disobey, remain carnal and displease God, thus backsliding and making our bed in hell. If you walk in all the light He gives you, his blood will cleanse you from all sin. If you do not walk in the light, you will displease Him, and lose your soul in the end.
9. “You are not in carnality, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.” Here we have a beautiful and lucid affirmation of the divine unity. “Spirit” occurring three times in this verse. First, He is the Holy Spirit, in the second place, the Spirit of the Father; and in the third instance, the Spirit of the Son, and identical throughout, illustrating clearly the identity of the three persons constituting the Godhead, and the identity of the Spirit of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The same is clearly revealed in Acts 5:0, where Holy Ghost, in Romans 8:3, God, in Romans 8:4, and Spirit of the Lord, i. e., Christ, in Romans 8:9, are all used synonymously. It is exceedingly pertinent for us to be specific at this point, as some have gotten tangled discriminating between the Spirit of Jesus and the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of God, and gone off into the tri-theistic heresy to their spiritual detriment.
However incomprehensible the Divine Trinity and Unity, yet it is a fact clearly revealed in God’s infallible Word. We are not saved by knowledge, but by faith. Hence we do not have to understand the Scriptures, but “only believe.” When we pass beyond we will learn more in a week than in all our lives ill this world. As we are saved by faith, and “He that believeth not shall be damned,” we would better see that we believe all, remembering that we have only a few days in which to believe, but all eternity in which to learn. While there is but one God, He is revealed to us in three persons, accommodatory to our finite apprehensions of the wonderful redemptive scheme. I am editor in the morning, teacher in the afternoon, and preacher in the evening. Yet I am only one and the same man, known to the world in three personalities. In this notable verse we would discriminate between the statement, “The Spirit of God dwelleth in you,” as the word oikei is from oikos, “a house,” and means to abide in you, like a person living in a house, which is peculiar to the sanctified experience; for during the regenerated life “He is with you” (John 14:16), in the capacity of an Architect, coming and going, working on the building, but when it is completed in entire sanctification, moving into it to permanently abide; and “If any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” which is comprehensive of the regenerated state as well as the sanctified.
10. “But if Christ is in you, the body is indeed dead as to sin, and the spirit life as to righteousness.” This verse is very beautiful and plainly affirmative of the ostensible fact that if whether in the capacity of an Architect in the regenerated life, or enthroned King in the sanctified experience, your body is dead so far as sinful activity is concerned, i. e., is as free from committing actual sin as the dead man lying in his grave from taking part in the activities of life around him; meanwhile your spirit is responsive to all the activities and enterprises involved in a life devoted to obedience to the divine administration.
11. “But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you.” Here we have again the verb oikei, from oikos, a house, signifying that the Holy Ghost, having moved into your heart, is there keeping house. Since He is the Omnipotent Architect He is always ready to undertake a building job and faithfully stick to the work till the house is completed, after which He moves in permanently to abide. If the house is unfinished, and you meet the conditions, He will abide with you in His Omnipotent executive capacity till He finishes the edifice, i. e., sanctifies you wholly. Then He moves in, brightening, beautifying, electrifying and glorifying your heart by His perpetual presence, making your life an unbroken sunshine, and giving you constant victory over every foe, and an incessant heavenly prelibation. “He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also create life in your mortal bodies by his Spirit who dwelleth in you.” The glorious ultimatum assured in this inspiring promise is the transfiguration of the body, which may take place either in the translation of the saints when the Lord comes to take up His Bride, or in the resurrection; our glorious Redeemer having provided these two methods, through either of which it is possible to enter the glorified state. While the final and perfect restitution of these bodies will take place in glorification, either by translation or resurrection, yet our blessed Savior, in His condescending mercy, gives us many prelibations of this coming glorification, to comfort, revive and reinvigorate us for the labors of this life. Hence this wonderful promise not only reaches forward to final glorification when this mortal shall put on immortality, but it includes the healing mercy of the Great Physician, administered ever and anon in the recuperation of these feeble, faltering tenements, and the alleviation of our diseases indiscriminately. While you live in a house, there is at least a probability that you will repair the breaches accruing from natural dilapidation or the sudden violence of storms, thus keeping your tenement in comfortable repair. Hence it is at least a tenable conclusion that the Holy Ghost will keep His house, this body renovated and repaired while He occupies it. He has long been the blessed Healer of my body, wonderfully keeping in repair this frail tenement. Just as your house reaches a period when it is not worth repairing, and, consequently, you no longer restore the breaches; but in that case you soon evacuate it for a new edifice which you have built; so, when the Holy Ghost ceases to heal my body, I will begin to shout louder than ever, concluding that the house is no longer worth repairing, and will soon be evacuated for the occupancy of the “house not made with hands, but eternal and in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Hence we see that divine healing normally, in the gracious economy, results from the overflow of the spiritual life, the Holy Ghost inundating my spirit and overflowing my body with His healing power and presence. My testimony to personal divine healing would comprise a volume. For all this I magnify the name of the great and infallible Physician. Yet, if He does not soon compliment me with a translation, this tenement will no longer be worth repairing. Then, with triumphant shouts, I will look out for heaven, which is infinitely better than health. God help us all to so sink away into Thy sweet will that we will shout over healing, but shout still louder when we are not healed, hailing the auspicious omen that heaven is very nigh, which is a million times better than health.
12. “Then, therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh.
13. “For if you live after the flesh, you are about to die; but if through the Spirit you kill out the habits of the body, you shall live.” This life is an irrepressible conflict between the spirit drawing us upward and the flesh gravitating earthward, sinward and hellward. Our only hope of victory is by the power of the Holy Spirit to literally and actually exterminate all the evil habits of the animal body, becoming pre-eminently and victoriously spiritual in life, conversation, aspiration and anticipation.
ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION PECULIARIZED BY THE DIVINE LEADERSHIP AND ATTESTED BY THE CLEAR WITNESS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
14. “For so many as are led by the Spirit of God, the same are the sons of God.” The Holy Spirit leads the human spirit by direct and immediate illumination, revelation and inspiration. He leads our intelligent minds by the Word, which He wonderfully lights up to our lucid apprehension, while He leads our bodies by His gracious Providence. Hence, if true to this divine leadership, we will never go astray. However, it is exceedingly pertinent that we heed this leadership in its triple aspect. If you follow the Spirit alone Without due appreciation of Word and Providence, you open the door for an evil spirit, passing himself for the Holy Ghost, to come in, deceive, side-track and ruin you. If you follow the Word alone without a due appreciation of God’s Spirit and Providence, you will run into dead formality and lose your soul. If you follow Providence alone, regardless of the Word and Spirit, you will apostatize into rationalistic infidelity and make your bed in hell. The true policy is to keep your eye on Jesus, whom no evil spirit can counterfeit, because the devils have no incarnation. Though the innumerable demons which throng the atmosphere can assume the form of an angel of light, thus counterfeiting the Holy Ghost and deceiving millions, yet none of them can counterfeit Jesus, from the fact that they have no incarnation. Therefore we are everywhere commanded to follow Jesus, meanwhile recognizing the Holy Ghost as our infallible Guide, not only personally, but through His Word and Providence.
15. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again unto fear, but you received the spirit of sonship, in which we cry out, Father, Father.” The “spirit of bondage” here mentioned does not refer to the unconverted, but the regenerated state, peculiar to the period of spiritual infancy. This passage is corroborated by Galatians 4:1-7 (which you do well to read in this connection), setting forth spiritual servitude and sonship contrastively;
the former appertaining to the entire period of spiritual infancy, beginning at birth, i. e., regeneration, and running up to majority, i. e., sanctification, where you enter spiritual manhood. Upon examination you readily see that these two periods are but counterparts in the history of the same individual, the servile character predominating during spiritual infancy, while you need “nurses” and “guardians,” and the filial having pre-eminence during your majority, when you are competent to take care of yourself and consequently no longer under the and guardians. A dead man is not subject to law in any sense. Regeneration raises you from the dead and puts you under a legal regime of nurses and guardians in the visible church, till you reach the majority of entire sanctification, old Adam, who is under the law, being crucified, thus gloriously liberating you, so that you are “no longer under the law but under grace” (Chapter 6:14). We must not discriminate too widely between “servant” and “son” in this exegesis, so as to conclude that they are different individuals, for they are not, but one and the same; during the regenerated state, while under the law, which can only be satisfied by the crucifixion of Adam the First, the servile character predominating; while in the sanctified experience the filial relation comes to the front, throwing into eclipse the former period of spiritual infancy amid the cloudless glories of full salvation. Your son is as truly your heir from his infancy as he will ever be, though under the law of domestic government and frequently flogged for misdemeanor till he reaches adult age. Though after this epoch you treat him as a servant no more, but simply as a son, yet he is more obedient and actually serves you better than when, a naughty lad, you found the rod a valuable auxiliary. The old theology is here at random recognizing the dead church members as servants of God, though they had never been born of the Spirit. You see that is untrue, because the servant in this case is your child, who serves you like a slave during minority. Hence you see that all the servants of God are not simply His servants, but His children, denominated “servants” during a spiritual minority, but “sons” after they have reached majority. Hence it is flagrantly murderous to true diction to call these common sinning church members who have been born from above the “servants of God,” even though they be ever so loyal to the church and obedient to the preacher. That is a Romish heresy, now fearfully rapidly creeping into all the Protestant churches. God does not yoke up the devil’s cattle to pull the salvation wagon. He works none but His own oxen.
16. “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” I hope you will never apply the neuter pronoun to the Holy Ghost, as it almost amounts to blasphemy to speak of the Author of all life in the use of the neuter pronoun as if He had no life at all. The clear and unequivocal witness of the Spirit here mentioned does not apply to the servile period of spiritual infancy, i. e., the regenerated state, but to the filial period of sanctification in which the sonship supersedes and predominates over the servitude in which you were born under the law of the domestic government. Do we not receive the witness of the Holy Spirit to our regeneration? Certainly we do. But it is not the clear, constant, abiding and overwhelming witness mentioned here and in Galatians 4:6, shouting incessantly, “Father! Father!” Abba being simply the Hebrew word for father, which is left untranslated in E. V. As Wesley well says, in regeneration we have the witness at times, anon obscured by intervening clouds, and, in time of temptation, frequently entirely absent. Then we sing,
“Oh, drive these dark clouds from my sky, Thy soul-cheering presence restore Or take me to Thee up on high, Where winter and clouds are no more.”
While the sanctified soul sings,
“I’ve reached the land of corn and wine, And all its riches freely mine;
There shines undimmed one blissful day, For all my night has passed away.”
John Bunyan describes the sun and moon both shining night and day in Beulah Land. Inbred sin is a dismal old bog, always generating fogs and clouds; which, though frequently for a time driven away by the sun, ever and anon linger in dismal gloom for days and even weeks together. This filthy old morass is taken out by the roots in entire sanctification, its bed thoroughly drained and transformed into fruitful fields, smiling gardens and blooming landscapes, never again to be enveloped in fogs and storms.
17. “But if children, indeed heirs, truly heirs of God, and fellow heirs of Christ; if we suffer along with him in order that we may also be glorified along with him.” None but disciples go to heaven. The disciple is a follower. Therefore we must follow Christ in all the grand, salient points of His Messiahship. We must follow Him to the manger, and be born in utter obscurity; to the Jordan, and receive the Holy Ghost; through Gethsemane, and die to our own will, sinking eternally into the will of God; to Pilate’s bar, and have the whole world sign our death warrant; and, finally, up rugged Calvary, there, nailed to the cross, our sinful humanity must be crucified, after the similitude of His sinless humanity. These grand, salient, experimental foci include providential intervening periods, replete with worldly contempt, hardships, privation and persecution, which we must gladly endure for Christ’s sake. After all of His suffering, walking out of the tomb, and glorified on Mount Olivet, He ascended up to heaven to reign forever. We have the blessed assurance that if we follow Him in His humiliation, we shall also follow Him in His glorification. This Epistle is transcendently climacteric, devoting Chapter 1 to Chapter 3:18 to the Sinai gospel on conviction; Chapter 3:19 to Chapter 5 to justification; Chapter 6 to sanctification; Chapter 7, the battle with inbred sin, culminating in the entire sanctification of Paul in Arabia (Romans 8:25); Chapter 8:1-16, Paul’s triumphant shout ringing on after he got sanctified (Chapter 7:25). Now the wonderful climax continues, the next pile in the heavenly monument being glorification. The silly idea prevails that sanctification is the end of the new creation. Justification is primary salvation; sanctification, full salvation; and glorification, final salvation. Of this grand and stupendous work the popular pulpit has nothing but the first, thus keeping the people back in rudimentary Christianity, homogeneous with Judaism. This glorification is to reach the body, mind, and spirit, thus qualifying humanity in its triple departments to go up and live with God forever. Many ignorantly oppose sanctification on the ground of its unattainability till death, thus making a fatal mistake, and identifying it with glorification, which must follow sanctification. This is a trick of Satan to keep people from sanctification, which is indispensable to prepare them for glorification. Thus they vainly congratulate themselves that sanctification will come at death without an effort on their part, which is a dangerous delusion, and will turn them over to the devil world without end. It is true that glorification comes in death irrespective of our volition, wrought by the Holy Ghost on the human spirit and mind simultaneously with the evacuation of the body. You have frequently seen an unearthly radiance lingering in the face of the dead in the coffin. This is the splendor of the glorified soul reflected back on the vacated tenement as it retreated away; as the setting sun ever and anon throws back the thousand variegated tints and hues bespangling the firmament far over to the eastern horizon simultaneously with his retreat through the gates of Hesperus. We have a most wonderful Savior. He is going to clear up everything, making a full and final restitution, not only restoring the body to heavenly glory, but even this earth is to be sanctified by fire (2 Peter 3:10), made new again and restored to heaven, where it belonged before the devil broke it loose in view of adding it to hell. Thus earth and firmament made new (Revelation 21:0), inhabited by glorified saints and angels like all other heavenly worlds, will shine and shout forever. When you die, your soul and mind will be glorified by the Holy Ghost simultaneously with the evacuation of the body, so that you actually go to heaven in the glorified state. All the saints living on the earth when the Lord returns will be glorified, soul and body simultaneously, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:0). God has two methods of glorifying the body, i. e., translation, for which I, along with the apostles and their contemporaries, am on the daily outlook. The other method is the resurrection. We must all be transfigured into the similitude of our Savior’s glorified body, soul and spirit. This may come any moment by translation.
If our Lord tarrieth till we die, then we will waive the glorious transfigured body until the resurrection, our soul and mind being glorified when we die. The apostles and saints lived and died looking for the Lord to come and translate them (2 Corinthians 5:0). We are eighteen hundred years nearer His coming than they were. Hence we should certainly be on the constant outlook. The most glorious privilege of the ages is to be living on the earth sanctified and ready for the Lord to come and translate us. In that case we will never see death, and never evacuate the body, but be transfigured and glorified, soul, mind and body simultaneously, when our Lord calls us to fly up and meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Entire sanctification does the only qualification we need. The Holy Ghost will attend to all the balance, miraculously glorifying us, soul, mind and body. This is the grandest conceivable inspiration to a holy experience and life. Oh, that the preachers would all hold it up before the people. It would stir heaven, earth and hell.
18. “For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is about to be revealed in us.” He means the glorification of soul, mind and body, about which I have written. Such is the grandeur that the sufferings of this life go into eclipse as we contemplate the glory liable to reach us any moment. What a wonderful mitigation of all worldly woes and sorrows! Yet the masses of Christendom are about as destitute of it as the heathens. Oh, how we need armies of heralds to proclaim this inspiring truth!
19. “For the earnest expectation of the creature awaiteth the revelation of the sons of God.” This means our bodies patiently waiting and longing to put off mortality and put on the transfiguration glory.
20. “For the creature was made subject to mortality, not willingly, but through him that subordinated it” Nothing loves to die. Hence the body is unwillingly tied up in mortality. We must bear it patiently for the One who put us here will soon make it all right.
21. “Therefore, indeed, pursuant to hope, the creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” The plain meaning of this verse is that my body is to be gloriously delivered from all the humiliation and suffering of this mortal life, rendered imponderable So it can fly with angelic velocity, transfigured into the unutterable similitude of my Savior’s glorious body. This is the inspiring hope thrilling my poor, mortal body, and rendering it felicitously oblivious to all my toils, cares and disappointments.
22. “For we know that all creation groaneth together and travaileth in pain till now.” This metaphor vividly describes all creation, even the earth itself, as groaning in great anguish and suffering like a woman in the throes of childbirth, till the new creation is born (Revelation 21:0), “new firmament and new earth,” thus lucidly portraying the fulfillment of prophecy appertaining to the glorious restitution in Christ, ultimating not only in the glorification of the soul, mind and body after the similitude of Christ, but the glorification of earth and firmament after the fiery sanctification, when Omnipotence will again come in and create it anew, celestializing and adding it back to the heavenly universe, where it belonged in halcyon days of Eden.
23. “And not only so, but we ourselves, having the earnest of the Spirit,”
i. e., the heavenly prelibation we enjoy in the regeneration and sanctification of the Holy Spirit, which is a foretaste of the heavenly felicity which awaits us, “and we ourselves also groan among ourselves, awaiting the sonship,” i. e., the “redemption of the body.” Even these bodies of ours are to become the sons of God in the coming glorification, where they will be transfigured into the similitude of our Savior’s glorious body, which ascended up from Mt. Olivet. The vivid conception of Paul here portrays the body holding in electrical anticipation its own coming glory and groaning to enter into the heavenly splendors of the transfiguration.
24. “For we are saved by hope.” He here means the salvation of the body from mortality. Hope spies out and appropriates in anticipation. Therefore, while shut up in these tenements of clay, we lay hold of the glorious hope of the transfiguration, thus rising superior to our pains, toils and persecutions, and virtually living in the glorious heavenly future, rather than the suffering and sorrowing present.
25. “For that which is seen is not hope; for that which one sees, why does he also hope for it? But if we hope for that which we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Glorification is purely a matter of hope, as none can receive it in this life. Hence the fanaticism of those who profess it. We see here it is not a matter of possession, but of hope. Hence, through hope, we enjoy it in anticipation. The hackneyed testimony, “I hope I am a Christian,” is incorrect. Paul here says we do not hope for what we have, but what we have not. If you are a Christian, you have present salvation, attested by the Holy Spirit. The very fact that it is with you a matter of hope is prima facie evidence against you, i. e., that you do not possess it.
Justification and sanctification are, for this life, and a matter of conscious possession, while glorification is for the future state, and a matter of hope. This Epistle is beautifully climacteric in the development of the gracious economy; conviction, Chapters 1, 2 and 3; justification, Chapters 4 and 5; sanctification, Chapter 6; experience of justification, Chapter 7; experience of sanctification, Chapter 8:1-16, gloriously attested by the witness of the Spirit; glorification, Chapter 8:17-28, realized at the end of this life and here participated in the prelibations of hope.
WONDERFUL AID OF THE SPIRIT
26. “And thus indeed the Spirit helpeth our weakness.” While in these fallen, dilapidated bodies, which we must occupy during our probation till relieved by glorification, we are so encumbered with infirmities of thought, speech, and action that we would be in a deplorable condition were it not for the timely aid of the Holy Spirit. “We know not what we should pray for, but the Spirit himself maketh intercessions with unutterable groanings.
27. “He who searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession toward God in behalf of the saints.” Here is a most wonderful and infinitely consolatory fact revealed. While the English language contains one hundred and fifty thousand words, the common people only use three or four hundred; great scholars, only seven to ten thousand. Not only are many saints straitened to common words and phases, but with most ample flow of language many of our petitions are too deep for utterance. The most of earthly language is too materialistic and symbolic to express the deep spiritual truths of this wonderful salvation, especially appertaining to glorification, which is super-experimental. When Paul was in heaven (2 Corinthians 12:0) he heard and saw things too glorious and spiritual for mortal utterance. This deficiency of language the Holy Spirit supplies with groanings which can not be uttered. Hence our most important and efficient prayers are given by the Holy Spirit, and are too deep and spiritual to be formulated in words. Elijah prayed with prayer (James 5:17), not as E. V., “prayed earnestly,” but prayed with the prayer the Holy Ghost gave him. Hence the miraculous effect of his prayers. “He that searcheth the heart,” i. e., Jesus, who answers our prayers, “knoweth the mind of the Spirit.” Now you see this wonderful problem; the Holy Spirit indicts our prayers, which are often too deep for utterance. But remember He is the Spirit of Jesus (Chapter 8:9 and Acts 5:0), i. e., the spiritual Christ on the earth (Matthew 28:20); while the glorified Jesus is interceding for us at God’s right hand, who actually understands perfectly all the petitions indicted by the Holy Ghost and groaned out by us, and answers faithfully, though too deeply for verbal utterance. Hence the most illiterate can shake heaven, earth and hell by their prayers. I have known people converted and sanctified in our meetings while praying in their native tongue, which was entirely unknown to the congregation. The Holy Spirit is the Author of a truly efficient prayer. He knows all languages, whether in words or groans. Consequently all true hearts under all circumstances can pray right up to God the petition indicted by the Holy Spirit, whether in words or groans, understood by our glorious Intercessor and presented directly to the Father.
28. “But we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the elect according to his purpose.” You see the climax, beginning with conviction, and running through justification, sanctification and glorification, finally culminates in election. This verse literally inundates God’s true people with floods of unutterable consolation, promoting them beyond all disappointment, and literally putting them out of reach of all evil, locating them in cloudless sunshine, even amid a world of storms. The simple solution of the whole matter hinges on the fundamental problem of this divine love, which is the nature of God, the only essential element in the plan of salvation experienced in the blessing of first love in conversion, and made perfect in sanctification, when all the antagonistic, malevolent affections are eliminated away. So long as this divine love is truly dominant in the heart, you are actually under the “shadow of the Almighty,” as safe on. earth as if in heaven, thus truly the “elect of God according to his purpose” that we should be conformed to the image of His Son, which is perfect love. Thus we are actually invulnerable by all the emissaries of Satan in earth and hell, the impregnable presence of God always intervening between us and every peril, making. everything indiscriminately incidental to us a blessing. This grand climactic truth is beautifully elucidated in the case of Balaam, Satan’s wicked, false prophet, whom Balak, the King of Moab, had hired with a princely fortune to come to his aid and curse Israel for him, as he feared to meet them on the battlefield, and believed that Balaam had such power with the gods that the people whom he anathematized were destined to fade from the face of the earth. If ever a man did his best to pronounce woes and curses on a people it was Balaam, when, the royal sacrifices having been sumptuously offered on the altars of Moab to the gods whom he believed to rule the universe, taking position on the pinnacle of Pisgah, and looking down upon the goodly tents of Jacob, spread out over the plains of Moab, standing on tiptoe and invoking the gods of the Orient, he opens his mouth with the avowed determination to pour the most withering and blighting anathemas on Israel. But, behold, blessings instead of curses pour out of his mouth. Balak rallies again and offers more sacrifices, thinking the matter will yet prove a success. Again Balaam, from the summit of Pisgah, opening wide his mouth, endeavors to curse Israel; but benedictions, richer and grander, only pour forth from his lips. Again they rally, offer sacrifices and try it again, thus repeating their diabolical orgies six times, not a single anathema ever escaping the lips of the prophet, but blessings, more and more copious, incessantly flowing from his eloquent lips. Finally, the royal patience utterly collapsing, the king, giving up in despair, flies into a rage and orders the prophet “be gone” like a dog. But he does not get rid of him so easily. Again he stands upon the summit of Pisgah, overlooking the goodly tents of Jacob, and, opening his mouth, blessings, more copious and eloquent than ever before, flow like rivers from his inspired lips. The spirit of prophecy mightily resting on him, he sweeps down the intervening ages, hails with triumphant gaudeamus the rising star of Bethlehem, and hears the seraphic song heralding upon earth the world’s Redeemer; on through the ages flash the splendors of his prophetic fire, reveling in the glorious millennial theocracy, girdling the world with the triumphs of the Second Advent. What lesson do we learn from this? Why, the clear and ostensible fact that it is utterly impossible for men or devils to inflict spiritual detriment on God’s true people, because he is always present with them, turning every curse into a blessing. Hence it makes no difference whether men bless or blame, God will make it a blessing to you if you truly love Him; hence the lonely pilgrim environed by millions of devils can shout and sing with utter and eternal impunity, there being no power in earth or hell competent to hurt him. You are truly immortal till your work is done. God can bless us through our enemies as well as our friends, Himself being the only source of blessing in all the universe.
ELECTION, PREDESTINATION AND REPROBATION
29. “Because whom he did foreknow, he did also predestine to be conformed to the image of his Son, to be the firstborn among many brethren.” You must remember that the conclusions here involved follow as a logical sequence from the preceding argumentation. What is the meaning of “firstborn”? It means the first one in the glorification of spirit, mind and body, constituting the trinity of humanity and representing the whole human race in the redemption, in contradistinction to Adam the First, who represented all in the Fall. Our Savior is not only very God, but perfect man, having a human soul, mind and body. Hence in His glorification which characterized His ascension into heaven He represents the perfect and final restitution of humanity. He is the first thus born into glory, not simply numerically, but pre-eminently, Enoch and Elijah having gone on before, confirmatory heralds, thus giving the world these ominous star gleams anticipatory of the glorious rising sun. Hence we see that this glorification of spirit, mind and body is the triumphant ultimatum of the redemptive scheme, thus verifying the original and eternal “purpose” of God to populate heaven with perfected and glorified human beings.
30. “But whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Why does not sanctification appear in this specification of graces? Neither regeneration nor sanctification are mentioned, but only the call of the gospel through the Spirit, followed by justification and glorification. Regeneration is implied in justification, and sanctification in glorification. Again, you must remember that in this chapter, e. g., Romans 8:1, as well as elsewhere, justification has the broad signification of complete deliverance from all the penal consequences of sin, both actual and original, in which sense it can only follow entire sanctification, expurgatory of inbred sin. You must remember that foreknowledge stands at the head of this entire catalogue, culminating in glorification. Hence we see the impertinency of recognizing here an unconditional election and absolute predestination, from the simple fact that knowledge of character precedes all these appointments. Now, you must remember that all knowledge with God, whether appertaining to the past or the future, is in the present tense. Omnipotence is certainly absolutely and unconditionally illimitable. Yet you must remember that knowledge does not determine anything, from the simple fact that it is not influence. Therefore we must not identify things which are utterly dissimilar. From the fact that human knowledge is limited and imperfect, it is difficult to illustrate this problem. All of our knowledge of the future does only proximate; e. g., an old pilot, who knows every track through the Atlantic Ocean and every submarine rock, stands on the wharf of this city (New York); seeing a ship sail, he knows by her bearings that she will be wrecked on those formidable and impassable rocks. Yet his knowledge of the fact does not cause the wreckage. You see your own son daily wallowing in debauchery and sensuality, and know to your sorrow that he is going to the dogs and the devil; yet your knowledge does not expedite him on his hellward-bound career. Hence you see in all this election and predestination there is not the slightest interference with the freedom of the will. Why? These pre-appointments simply follow as a logical sequence from the moral and spiritual character of the parties appointed, God, from the beginning, having a perfect knowledge of those characters. Yet it is a fact of universal recognition that we freely choose good or evil, and in this way determine our own characters. Now, is it possible for human destiny to turn out differently from the prediction? We have clear light on that question in 1 Samuel 23:1-13. During David’s memorable flight from Saul he takes his refuge in Keilah, the men all fawning on him with flattering attestations of conservatism, assuring him that they will be true and stand by him on the battlefield. David, very happily enjoying that gift of the Holy Spirit denominated “discernment of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10), suspecting their fidelity, goes aside and turns the problem over to God in prayer (Romans 8:11). “Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hands? Will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech thee tell thy servant And the Lord said, He will comedown” (Romans 8:12). “Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hands of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up” (Romans 8:13). “Then David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped out of Keilah. And he forbear to go forth.” Here we have a positive answer from God to David, “Saul will come down to Keilah and the men of Keilah will deliver thee up.” Now you see that neither of these predicted events transpired, because David immediately rallied his men and fled away from the traitors who were lying to him that they might purchase royal favor with his head, Saul being close on his track, and, hearing that he was gone, did not come to Keilah at all. Hence you see that even these pre-announced events are entirely changed by human action. David understood God’s method with man better than the cavilers of the present day, who apologize for their own obliquity by crying out, “What is to be will be, and I can not change my destiny.” When God told him that Saul would come to Keilah and the inhabitants of the city would betray him into his hands, David well understood that Saul would come and the Keilites would deliver him up if he stayed. Consequently, blowing his war bugle, he immediately rallies his men and skedaddles at double quick. The Bible is a commonsense book, adapted to the common, uneducated people, who are honest enough to receive its plain and candid truth and govern themselves accordingly.
31-34. In these verses Paul powerfully reasons the case, recognizing the fact that Christ redeemed His people by His own blood, and none has a right to gainsay.
33. “Who shall charge anything against the elect of God?” Eklektos, “the elect,” is from ek, “out,” and lego, “to choose.” In regeneration God chooses us out of the world. The word “elect” really conveys the idea of a second choosing, as lego means “to choose,” and ek, “from.” Hence the chosen from the chosen, corroborating the fact that Christ does not select a bride from the devil’s people, which would be true if the election was consummated in regeneration; but He chooses His bride from the people of God, superinducing this second election in entire sanctification, determinative of the bridehood.
35. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or difficulty, or persecution, or famine, or peril, or sword?” The answer is clearly in the negative, as two hundred millions of martyrs singing their death song in the fire have abundantly attested.
36. “As has been written that for thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” This is a simple allusion to their daily exposition to martyrdom. “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31); simply affirmatory of the constant peril which everywhere confronted them, with the daily liability of sealing their faith with their blood, which Paul actually did at Rome, whither he was writing this letter.
37. “But in all these we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38. “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor dynamites, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” All this is beautiful, true and eminently consolatory. Yet it is an undeniable fact that we are perfectly free and can turn away at will. While we may have no disposition to do so, yet we have the power, so long as we are on probation. Fortunately it is power which I feel in my case, and doubtless in many others, will never be exercised; yet it is there.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 8". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17