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FIRST PART. SUPPLEMENTARY. CHAPS. 6-8. SANCTIFICATION.
BY faith in the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ the believer has obtained a sentence of justification, in virtue of which he stands reconciled to God. Can anything more be needed for his salvation? It seems not. The didactic treatise, intended to expound salvation, seems thus to have reached its close. Why then a new part?
The attentive reader will not have forgotten that in the first part of chap. 5 the apostle directed our attention to a day of wrath, the day of the judgment to come, and that he dealt with the question by anticipation, whether the justification now acquired would hold good in that final and decisive hour. To settle this question, he brought in a means of salvation of which he had not yet spoken: participation in the life of Christ; and it was on this fact, announced beforehand ( Rom 5:9-10 ), that he based the assurance of the validity of our justification even in the day of supreme trial. When uttering those words, Paul marked out in advance the new domain on which he enters from this time forward, that of sanctification.
To treat this matter is not to pass beyond the limits traced in the outset by the general thesis expressed Romans 1:17: “The just shall live by faith.” For in the expression shall live, ζήσεται , there is comprehended not only the grace of righteousness, but also that of the new life, or of holiness. To live is not merely to regain peace with God through justification; it is to dwell in the light of His holiness, and to act in permanent communion with Him. In the cure of the soul, pardon is only the crisis of convalescence; the restoration of health is sanctification. Holiness is true life.
What is the exact relation between these two divine blessings which constitute salvation in its real nature: justification and holiness? To put this question is at the same time to inquire into the true relation between the following part, chaps. 6-8, and the portion of the Epistle already studied. The understanding of this central point is the key to the Epistle to the Romans, and even to the whole Gospel.
1. In the view of many, the relation between these two blessings of grace ought to be expressed by a but. “No doubt you are justified by faith; but beware, see that you break with the sin which has been forgiven you; apply yourselves to holiness; if not, you shall fall into condemnation again.” This somewhat prevalent conception of the relation between justification and sanctification seems to us to find instinctive expression in the words of Th. Schott: “Here we enter upon the domain of the preservation of salvation.” According to this view, salvation consists essentially of justification, and sanctification appears solely as the condition of not losing it.
2. Other expositors make what follows, in relation to what precedes, a therefore, if one may so speak: “You are justified freely; therefore, impelled by faith and gratitude, engage yourselves now to renounce evil, and do what is well-pleasing to God.” This mode of understanding the relation between justification and holiness is probably that followed by most of the readers of our Epistle at the present day.
3. According to others, Reuss and Sabatier for example, the connection sought would require to be expressed by a for, or in fact: If faith justifies you, as I have just shown, it is because in fact, by the mystical and personal union which it establishes between Christ and us, it alone has the power to sanctify us. The gift of pardon flows, on this view, from that of holiness and not the reverse; or, to speak the truth, these blessings of grace are confounded with one another. “Paul knows nothing,” says Sabatier expressly, “of the subtle distinction which has given rise to so many disputes between declaring righteous and making righteous, justum dicere and justum facere. ” So thought also Professor Beck of Tübingen. This is the opinion which was elevated by the Council of Trent to the rank of a dogma in the Catholic Church.
4. Finally, in these last days a bold thinker, M. Lüdemann, has explained the connection sought after a wholly new fashion. The appropriate form for expressing the connection is, according to him: or rather. This author will have it that the first four chapters of our Epistle expound a wholly juridical theory of justification, of purely Jewish origin, and not yet expressing the real view of the apostle. It is a simple accommodation by which he seeks to gain his Judeo-Christian readers. His true theory is of Hellenic origin; it is distinguished from the first by its truly moral character. It is the one which is expounded chaps. 5-8. Sin no longer appears as an offence to be effaced by an arbitrary pardon; it is an objective power which can only be broken by the personal union of the believer with Christ dead and risen. By the second theory, therefore, Paul rectifies and even retracts the first. The notion of justification is suppressed, as in the preceding view, at least from the standpoint of Paul himself; all that God has to do to save us is to sanctify us.
We do not think that any of these four solutions exactly reproduces the apostolic view; the two last even contradict it flatly.
1. Sanctification is more and better than a restrictive and purely negative condition of the maintenance of the state of justification once acquired. It is a new state into which it is needful to penetrate and advance, in order thus to gain the complete salvation. One may see, Romans 10:10, how the apostle distinguished precisely between the two notions of justification and salvation.
2. Neither is it altogether exact to represent sanctification as a consequence to be drawn from justification. The connection between the two facts is still more intimate. Holiness is not an obligation which the believer deduces from his faith; it is a fact implied in justification itself, or rather one which proceeds, as well as justification, from the object of justifying faith, that is, Christ dead and risen. The believer appropriates this Christ as his righteousness first, and then as his holiness ( 1Co 1:30 ). The bond of union which connects these two graces is not therefore logical or subjective; it is so profoundly impressed on the believer's heart only because it has an anterior reality in the very person of Christ, whose holiness, while serving to justify us, is at the same time the principle of our sanctification. Reuss justly observes in this relation, that from the apostle's point of view, we have not to say to the Christian: “Thou shalt sin no more;” but we must rather say: “The Christian sins no more.”
3. As to the third view, which finds in sanctification the efficient cause of pardon and justification, it is the antipodes of Paul's view. Why, if he had understood the relation between the two in this way, would he not have commenced his didactic treatise with the part relating to sanctification (vi.-viii.), instead of laying as its foundation the exposition of justification (i.-v.)? Besides, is not the then ( Rom 6:1 ): “What shall we say then? ” enough to show the contradiction between this view and the apostle's conception? He must have said: “ For (or in fact) what shall we say?” Finally, is it not evident that the whole deduction of chap. 6 assumes that of chap. 3, and not the reverse? If the opinion which the works of Reuss have contributed to accredit in the Church of France were well founded, we must acknowledge the justness of the charge which this writer brings against the apostle of “not having followed a rigorously logical course, a really systematic order.” But it is a hundred to one when a reader does not find the Apostle Paul logical, that he is not understanding his thought; and this is certainly the case with the critic whom we are combating. The apostle knew the human heart too well to think of founding faith in reconciliation on the moral labors of man. We need to be set free from ourselves, not to be thrown back on ourselves. If we had to rest the assurance of our justification, little or much, on our own sanctification, since this is always imperfect, our heart would never be wholly made free Godward, absolutely set at large and penetrated with that filial confidence which is itself the necessary condition of all true moral progress. The normal attitude Godward is therefore this: first rest in God through justification; thereafter, work with Him, in His fellowship, or sanctification. The opinion before us, by reversing this relation, puts, to use the common expression, the cart before the horse. It can only issue in replacing the church under the law, or in freeing it in a manner far from salutary, by setting before it a degraded standard of Christian holiness.
4. The fourth view, while equally at variance with the doctrine of the gospel, compromises, besides, the loyalty of the apostle's character. Who can persuade himself, when reading seriously the first part of the Epistle relating to justification by faith, that all he demonstrates there with so much pains, and even with so great an expenditure of biblical proofs (iii. and iv.), is a view which he does not adopt himself, and which he proposes afterward to set aside, to substitute in its room one wholly different? To what category morally are we to assign this process of substitution presented ( Rom 6:1 ) in the deceptive form of a conclusion ( then) and so ably disguised that the first who discovers it turns out to be a professor of the nineteenth century? Or perhaps the apostle himself did not suspect the difference between the two orders of thought, Jewish and Greek, to which he yielded his mind at one and the same time? The antagonism of the two theories perhaps so thoroughly escaped him that he could, without suspecting it, retract the one while establishing the other. Such a confusion of ideas cannot be attributed to the man who conceived and composed an “Epistle to the Romans.”
Sanctification, therefore, is neither a condition nor a corollary of justification: nor is it its cause, and still less its negation. The real connection between justification and Christian holiness, as conceived by St. Paul, appears to us to be this: justification by faith is the means, and sanctification the end. The more precisely we distinguish these two divine gifts, the better we apprehend the real bond which unites them. God is the only good; the creature, therefore, cannot do good except in Him. Consequently, to put man into a condition to sanctify himself, it is necessary to begin by reconciling him to God, and replacing him in Him. For this purpose, the wall which separates him from God, the divine condemnation which is due to him as a sinner, must be broken down. This obstacle once removed by justification, and reconciliation accomplished, the heart of man opens without reserve to the divine favor which is restored to him; and, on the other hand, the communication of it from above, interrupted by the state of condemnation, resumes its course. The Holy Spirit, whom God could not bestow on a being at war with Him, comes to seal on his heart the new relation established on justification, and to do the work of a real and free inward sanctification. Such was the end which God had in view from the first; for holiness is salvation in its very essence. Justification is to be regarded as the strait gate, through which we enter on the narrow way of sanctification, which leads to glory.
And now the profound connection between the two parts of the Epistle, and more especially between the two chaps. 5 and 6, becomes manifest. It may be expressed thus: Even as we are not justified each by himself, but all by one, by Jesus Christ our Lord (comp. Romans 5:11; Romans 5:17; Rom 5:21 ); so neither are we sanctified each in himself, but all in one, in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23, Rom 8:39 ).
The course of thought in the following part is this: In the first section the apostle unfolds the new principle of sanctification contained in the very object of justifying faith, Jesus Christ, and shows the consequences of this principle, both as to sin and as to law ( Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ).
In the second, he casts a glance backward, in order to compare the action of this new principle with the action of the old, the law ( Rom 7:7-25 ).
In the third, he points to the Holy Spirit as the divine agent who causes the new principle, or the life of Christ, to penetrate the life of the believer, and who by transforming him fits him to enjoy the future glory, and to realize at length his eternal destiny ( Rom 8:1-39 ).
In three words, then: holiness in Christ ( Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ), without law ( Rom 7:7-25 ), by the Holy Spirit ( Rom 8:1-39 ). The great contrast on which the thought of the apostle moves here is not, as in the previous part, that between wrath and justification; but the contrast between sin and holiness. For the matter in question is no longer to efface sin, as guilt, but to overcome it as a power or disease.
The apostle was necessarily led to this discussion by the development of his original theme. A new religious conception, which offers itself to man with the claim of conducting him to his high destiny, cannot dispense with the demonstration that it possesses the force necessary to secure his moral life. To explain this part, therefore, it is not necessary to assume a polemic or apologetic intention in relation to a so-called Jewish-Christianity reigning in the Church of Rome (Mangold), or to some Jewish-Christian influence which had begun to work there (Weizsäcker). If Paul here compares the moral effects of the gospel (chap. 6) with those of the law (vii.), it is because he is positively and necessarily under obligation to demonstrate the right of the former to replace the latter in the moral direction of mankind. It is with Judaism, as a preparatory revelation, that he has to do, not with Jewish-Christianity, as in the Epistle to the Galatians. Here his point of view is vastly wider. As he had discussed (chap. 3) the question of the value of the law in relation to justification, he could not but take up the same subject again in connection with the work of sanctification (vii.). Besides, the tone of chap. 6 is essentially didactic; the polemical tendency does not come out till chap. 7, to give place again in viii. to positive teaching, without the slightest trace of an apologetic or polemic intention.
It is equally plain how palpably erroneous is the view of those who would make the idea of Christian universalism the subject of the whole Epistle, and the principle of his plan and method. The contrast between universalism and particularism has not the slightest place in this part, which would thus be in this exposition wholly beside the subject.
How bold was the apostle's undertaking, to found the moral life of mankind on a purely spiritual basis, without the smallest atom of legal element! Even to this hour, after eighteen centuries, how many excellent spirits hesitate to welcome such an experiment! But Paul had had a convincing personal experience, on the one hand, of the powerlessness of the law to sanctify as well as to justify; and, on the other, of the entire sufficiency of the gospel to accomplish both tasks. This experience he expounds under the guidance of the Spirit, while generalizing it. Hence the personal turn which his exposition takes here in particular (comp. Rom 7:7 to Rom 8:2 ).
Vv. 1, 2. “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and of death. ”
The word now has here its temporal, and not its logical sense, as Philippi would have it (to be in keeping with the application which he makes of Rom 7:7-25 to the regenerate). By this word Paul contrasts the new state with the old, which had passed away.
The therefore is not merely connected, as Meyer thinks, with the preceding verse: “As I am no more in myself, but in Christ, there is no”...; for then but would have been required rather than therefore. This therefore takes up the thread, which had been for the moment broken, of the exposition of Christian sanctification; for the passage Rom 7:7-25 was, as we have seen, a retrospective glance at the moral effects of the law in fallen man, and consequently a sort of parenthesis. Now Paul resumes at the point where he had interrupted himself, that is, at Romans 7:6, and raises the superstructure, the foundation of which he had laid in the section Rom 6:1 to Romans 7:6. Hence the therefore: “Since ye are dead to sin and alive to God, and so subject to grace, and made free from the law, all condemnation has disappeared.” The expression: no condemnation, does not apply to any one form of condemnation, and, indeed, Paul takes into view first that which has been lifted off by the grace of justification, chaps. 1-5: the abolition of guilt; and next, that which is made to disappear by the destruction of sin itself (chaps. Rom 6:1 to Rom 7:6 ). After therefore the believer has found reconciliation with God, and thereby death to sin, he can really exclaim: “There is now no condemnation.” Only sin must not recover its dominion; otherwise condemnation would infallibly revive. For we have seen at the close of chap. 6 that sin entails death on the justified, in whom it regains the upper hand, as well as on the unjustified ( Rom 8:12-13 ). There is therefore only one way of preventing sin from causing us to perish, that is, that it perish itself. Grace does not save by patronizing sin, but by destroying it. And hence the apostle can draw from what has been proved in chap. 6 the conclusion: that there is no condemnation. It ought to be so after sin is pardoned as guilt and destroyed as a power, if always this power remains broken. The view of Paul extends even it would seem to a third condemnation, of which he has not yet spoken, that which has overtaken the body, death, the abolition of which he proceeds also to explain, Romans 8:11.
The words: them which are in Christ Jesus, form a contrast to the expression αὐτὸς ἐγώ , I, as I am in myself, Romans 7:25.
Our translations, following the received text, give us at the end of the verse this addition: who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. These words are, according to numerous authorities, and according to the context itself, an interpolation borrowed by anticipation from Romans 8:4: “A precautionary gloss against the freeness of salvation,” says M. Bonnet very happily. It was needful to proclaim deliverance before explaining it.
How has it been effected? This is what is expounded Romans 8:2-4.
Vv. 1-4 describe the restoration of holiness by the Holy Spirit; and Rom 8:5-11 show how from this destruction of sin there follows that of death. Thus are destroyed the two last enemies of salvation.
Seventeenth Passage (8:1-11). The Victory of the Holy Spirit over Sin and Death.
Third Section (8:1-39). The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Justified Believer.
At the close of the preceding section, the apostle had contrasted the oldness of letter, a term by which he denotes the state of the sincere Jew under the law, with the newness of Spirit, by which he understands the state of the regenerate Christian. He has just described from his own experience the former of these two states, in order to show how little reason the Christian has to regret the passing away of subjection to a principle of morality so external and inefficacious as the law. He now turns the page of his spiritual life, and describes the latter of these two states, the work of the Holy Spirit. This divine principle does not impose good from without; He inspires it; He causes it to penetrate into the very will, by radically transforming its direction. The consequences of this life of the Spirit are displayed from this time onward from stage to stage, till the perfect accomplishment of God's plan in behalf of redeemed humanity. Such is the subject developed in this admirable chapter, which has been called: “The chapter beginning with no condemnation, and ending with no separation! ” Spener is reported to have said that if holy Scripture was a ring, and the Epistle to the Romans its precious stone, chap. 8 would be the sparkling point of the jewel.
This chapter may be divided into four sections:
In the first, Romans 8:1-11, the Holy Spirit is represented as the principle of the moral and bodily resurrection of believers.
In the second, Romans 8:12-17, the new state into which the Holy Spirit has brought the believer, is represented as the state of adoption, which confers on him the dignity of an heir.
The third, Romans 8:18-30, contrasts with the misery still attaching to the present state of things the assured realization of glory, to which believers have been eternally destined.
Finally, in the fourth section, Romans 8:31-39, the hymn of the assurance of salvation crowns this exposition of sanctification, adoption, and glorification by the Spirit.
Before beginning the study of this incomparable chapter, we must again take account of its connection with chap. 6. In the latter, the apostle had showed how the object of justifying faith, Christ justified and risen, becomes to the believer, who appropriates it, a principle of death to sin and life to God. But there it was yet nothing more than a state of the will, contained implicitly in the act of faith. That this new will may have the power of realizing itself in the life, there is needed a force from above to communicate to the human will creative efficacy, and overturn the internal and external obstacles which oppose its realization. This force, as the apostle now unfolds, is the Holy Spirit, by whom Christ crucified and risen reproduces Himself in the believer ( Php 3:10 ).
Vv. 2. It is strange that Paul should speak of the law of the Spirit. Are these two expressions not contradictory? We shall not understand the phrase unless we bear in mind what has been said (Romans 3:27, Romans 7:21, etc.) of the general sense which the word law often takes in Paul's writings: a controlling power imposing itself on the will, or, as in the case before us, appropriating the very will. The complement τῆς ζωῆς , of life, may be understood as the genitive of cause: “The Spirit which proceeds from the life (that of Jesus Himself);” or as the gen. of effect: “The Spirit which produces life (in the believer).” But is it possible wholly to sever these two relations? If the Spirit produces spiritual life in the believer's heart, is it not because he is the breath of the living and glorified Christ? He takes of that which belongs to Jesus, John 16:15, and communicates it to us.
The clause: in Jesus Christ, is connected by several commentators with the verb hath made free: “The Spirit of life made us free as soon as we entered into communion with Jesus Christ.” But in this sense would not Paul rather have said in him, ἐν αὐτῷ , simply referring to the in Christ Jesus of the previous verse? It is therefore more natural to make the clause dependent on the immediately preceding phrase: the law of the Spirit of life. The only question is what article is to be understood, to serve as the link of this clause. Should it be ὁ , relating to νόμος , the law, or τοῦ , referring to πνεύματος , the Spirit, or finally τῆς , referring to ζωῆς , life? The first connection, that adopted by Calvin, seems to us the preferable one. The apostle has no special reason for recalling here that life or the Spirit are given in Jesus Christ, which is understood otherwise of itself. But it is important for him to remind us that, in opposition to the reign of the letter, which made us slaves, the reign of the Spirit of life, which sets us free, was inaugurated in Jesus Christ. The absence of the article ὁ before the clause ἐν Χ . ᾿Ι . arises from the fact that the latter is regarded as forming only one and the same idea with the phrase on which it depends.
Instead of the pronoun μέ , me, read by the T. R. with the majority of the Mss., there is found in the Sinaït. and the Vatic., as well as in two Greco-Latins, σέ , thee: “hath made thee free.” This reading must be very ancient, for it is found so early as in the Peshitto and Tertullian. It has been admitted by Tischendorf in his eighth edition. But it is nevertheless very improbable. Why the sudden appearance of the second person at the very close of this argument? This σέ has evidently arisen, as Meyer thinks, from the repetition of the last syllable of ἠλευθέρωσε . The μέ , me, is the continuation of the form of expression which the apostle had used throughout the whole of the second part of chap. 7. Indeed, the figure used by him in Romans 8:23-24, that of a prisoner calling for help, with the cry: “Who shall deliver me?” still continues and reaches its close in our verse, as is seen by the choice of the term ἠλευθέρωσε , hath made free. Our Rom 8:2 is the true answer to this cry of distress, Romans 8:23. It is the breath of life communicated in Jesus to the justified Christian which causes the chains of sin and death to fall from him.
We must beware of following several commentators in applying the phrase: the law of sin and of death, to the law of Moses. Paul has just called the latter the law of God, and has declared that he took pleasure in it after the inward man; this would not be the time to abuse it in this fashion. The true explanation follows from Romans 8:23, where he has spoken of the law which is in his members, and which renders him the captive of sin. The word law is therefore still used here in that general sense in which we have just seen it taken in the beginning of the verse. The apostle deliberately contrasts law with law, that is to say here: power with power.
The two combined terms, sin and death, form the antithesis to life; for the latter includes the notions of holiness and resurrection. Death is the state of separation from God in which sin involves us, but with the understanding that physical death is the transition to eternal death. The two words: sin and death, control the following development down to Romans 8:11. And first: deliverance from sin, Romans 8:3-4.
Vv. 3, 4. “ For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh God sending His own Son in the likeness of a flesh of sin, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness prescribed by the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. ”
The fact and agent of the deliverance had just been mentioned in Romans 8:2; Rom 8:3-4 describe its mode; Rom 8:3 its condition, Rom 8:4 its realization. The for of Rom 8:3 extends its force to the close of Romans 8:4.
Our translation shows to what construction we hold in explaining the words: what the law could not do. We make them, with Meyer, Philippi, and others, a nominative, in apposition to the divine act, to be enunciated immediately afterward: “God condemned sin, a thing which the law was powerless to accomplish.” This construction is to be preferred for its simplicity and clearness to all others: to that of Schott, who, by means of a harsh inversion, thus explains the words: “seeing that ( ἐν ῴ ) the impotence of the law was weak through the flesh;” that is to say, the weakness of the law was still further increased through the influence of the flesh the meaning is as forced as the construction; or to that of Hofmann, who understands the verb ἦν , was, and makes the whole a principal proposition; “The weakness of the law was (consisted) in that it was weak through the flesh.” But such an ellipsis is inadmissible, and the asyndeton between this and the following proposition is without explanation. It would be better to understand, with Luther (comp. the translations of Ostervald and Oltramare), the words ἐποίησε τοῦτο : “What the law could not do, God did by sending”...When Paul was about to write this verb, he is held to have substituted the mention of the act itself thus announced: “What was impossible...God condemned.” But does not that bring us back to Meyer's construction, which reaches the goal by a shorter course? Comp. Hebrews 8:1.
The powerlessness of the law to accomplish this work did not come from any intrinsic imperfection, but from the fact that it found resistance in man's sinful nature: διὰ τῆς σαρκός , by reason of the flesh. The law could certainly condemn sin in writing, by engraving its condemnation on stone; but not by displaying this condemnation in a real human life. And yet this was the necessary condition of the destruction of the sinful tendency in mankind, and in order to the restoration of holiness. The expression: the powerlessness or impossibility of the law, is easily understood, notwithstanding Hofmann's objection, in the sense of: “What it is impossible for the law to realize.” Meyer quotes the expression of Xenophon: τὸ δύνατον τῆς πόλεως , what the city can make or give.
The words ἐν ᾧ , in this that, evidently open up the explanation of this weakness. The depraved instinct which the law encounters in man, the flesh, prevents it from obtaining the cordial obedience which the law demands from him. The flesh here as so frequently, in the moral sense which rests on the physical: self-complacency. The participle πέμψας , sending, though an aorist, nevertheless expresses an act simultaneous with that of the finite verb condemned (see Meyer): “condemned by sending.” The term sending by itself would not necessarily imply the pre-existence of Christ; for it may apply to the appearance of a mere man charged with a divine mission; comp. John 1:6. But the notion of pre-existence necessarily follows from the relation of this verb to the expression: His own Son, especially if we take account of the clause: in the likeness of sinful flesh. It is evident that, in the view of one who speaks thus, the existence of this Son preceded His human existence (comp. the more emphatic term ἐξαπέστειλεν , Gal 4:4 ).
The expression: His own Son, literally, the Son of Himself, forbids us to give to the title Son, either the meaning of eminent man, or theocratic king, or even Messiah. It necessarily refers to this Son's personal relation to God, and indicates that Him whom God sends, He takes from His own bosom; comp. John 1:18. Paul marks the contrast between the nature of the envoy ( the true Son of God) and the manner of His appearing here below: in the likeness of sinful flesh.
This expression: sinful flesh (strictly flesh of sin), has been understood by many, especially most recently by Holsten, as implying the idea that sin is inherent in the flesh, that is to say, in the bodily nature. It would follow therefrom and this critic accepts the consequence that Jesus Himself, according to Paul, was not exempt from the natural sin inseparable from the substance of the body. Only Holsten adds that this objective sin never controlled the will of Jesus, nor led Him to a positive transgression ( παράβασις ): the pre-existing divine Spirit of Christ constantly kept the flesh in obedience. We have already seen, Romans 6:6, that if the body is to the soul a cause of its fall, it is only so because the will itself is no longer in its normal state. If by union with God it were inwardly upright and firm, it would control the body completely; but being itself since the fall controlled by selfishness, it seeks a means of satisfaction in the body, and the latter takes advantage therefrom to usurp a malignant dominion over it. Thus, and thus only, can Paul connect the notion of sin so closely with that of body or flesh. Otherwise he would be obliged to make God Himself, as the creator of the body, the author of sin. What proves in our very passage that he is not at all regarding sin as an attribute inseparable from the flesh, is the expression he uses in speaking of Jesus: in the likeness of a flesh of sin. Had he meant to express the idea ascribed to him by Holsten, why speak of likeness? Why not say simply: in a flesh of sin, that is to say, sinful like ours? While affirming similarity of substance between the flesh of Jesus and ours, the very thing the apostle wishes here is to set aside the idea of likeness in quality (in respect of sin). This is done clearly by the expression which he has chosen. It will be asked, might he not have said more briefly: in the likeness of flesh or of our flesh ( ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκός )? But by expressing himself thus, he would have favored the idea that the body of Jesus was a mere appearance. And this is the very consequence which Marcion has sought to draw from our passage. One cannot help admiring the nicety of the phrase formed by the apostle, and the pliability of the language which lent itself so readily to the analysis and expression of such delicate shades.
Wendt, while rightly criticising Holsten's opinion, escapes it only by another inadmissible explanation. He understands the word flesh in the sense in which it is taken in that frequent expression: all flesh, that is to say, every man, every creature. Paul means here, he thinks, that Jesus appeared on the earth in the likeness of the sinful creature. But should we then require to take the word flesh in the preceding proposition: “The law was weak through the flesh,” in the sense of creature? It seems to us that M. Sabatier is right in saying: “No doubt the word flesh sometimes denotes man taken in his entirety. But even then it never absolutely loses its original signification; the notion of the material organism always remains the fundamental notion.” We have no need of Wendt's expedient to account for the phrase of the apostle. Here is its meaning, as it seems to us: God, by sending His Son, meant to provide a human life in that same flesh under the influence of which we sin so habitually, such that it might complete this dangerous career without sin ( χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας , Heb 4:15 ); comp. 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He who knew no sin”...
What then was the reason why God sent His Son in this form? Jesus, Paul tells us in Philippians, might in virtue of His God-form, of His divine state in the presence of God, have appeared here below as the equal of God. The reason it was not so is explained by the words καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας , and for sin. If man had still been in his normal state, the appearance of the Son would also have had a normal character. But there was an extraordinary thing to be destroyed, sin. And hence the necessity for the coming of the Son in a flesh like our sinful flesh. As the expression: for sin, is sometimes taken in the O. T. (LXX. version) as a substantive, in the sense of sacrifice for sin (Psalms 40:6, e.g.,), and has passed thence into the N. T. ( Heb 10:6-18 ), some commentators have thought that Paul was here appropriating this Alexandrine form. But there are two reasons opposed to this idea: 1. This very special sense, which might present itself naturally to the mind of the readers of such a book as the Epistle to the Hebrews, filled throughout with allusions to the ceremonies of the Levitical worship, could hardly have been understood, without explanation, by the Christians of Rome, who were for the most part Gentiles. 2. The context does not require the idea of sacrifice, because the matter in question is not guilt to be expiated, but solely the evil tendency to be uprooted. Not that the notion of expiation should be wholly excluded from the contents of so general an expression as for sin. It is undoubtedly contained in it, but it is not here the leading idea. Paul means in a wide sense, that it is the fact of sin, and especially the intention to destroy it (by every means, expiation and sanctification), which have caused the coming of Christ here below, in this form, so unlike His glorious nature.
This coming is only the means of the means; the latter is the decisive act expressed by the words: He condemned sin. To condemn, is to declare evil, and devote to destruction; and we see no occasion to depart from this simple and usual meaning. Most commentators have thought it inapplicable, and have substituted for it the meaning of conquering, overwhelming, destroying, Chrys.: ἐνίκησεν ἁμαρτίαν ; Theod.: κατέλυσεν ; Beza: abolevit; Calvin: abrogavit regnum; Grot.: interfecit; Beng.: virtute privavit; so also Thol., Fritzs., De Wette, Mey., etc. But Paul has a word consecrated to this idea; it is the term καταργεῖν , to abolish, annul; comp. Rom 6:6 ; 1 Corinthians 15:24, etc. There is in the word κατακρῖνειν , to condemn, the notion of a judicial sentence which is not contained in the sense indicated by these authors. Other commentators have felt this, and have again found here the idea of expiation, developed in chap. 3: God condemned sin in Christ crucified, as its representative, on the cross (Rück., Olsh., Philip., Hofm., Gess); to this idea many add that of the destruction of sin, evidently demanded by the context; so Philippi: “ to destroy by expiating; ” Gess: “a destruction of the power of sin founded on a judicial sentence,” which is included in “Christ's expiatory death.” But that powerlessness of the law in consequence of the flesh, of which Paul was speaking, did not consist in not being able to condemn sin; for it did condemn and even punish it; but it was powerless to destroy it, to render man victorious over its power. Besides, would it not be surprising to find Paul, after developing the subject of expiation in its place in chap. 3, returning to it here, in very unlike terms! We are therefore led to a wholly different explanation. Paul has in view neither the destruction of sin by the Holy Spirit ( Rom 8:4 ), nor its condemnation on the cross; he is regarding Christ's holy life as a living condemnation of sin. The flesh in Him was like a door constantly open to the temptations both of pleasure and pain; and yet He constantly refused sin any entrance into His will and action. By this persevering and absolute exclusion He declared it evil and unworthy of existing in humanity. This is what the law, because of the flesh, which naturally sways every human will, could not realize in any man. This meaning, with an important shade of difference, was that to which Menken was led; it is that of Wendt; it was certainly the idea of Theophylact when he said: “He sanctified the flesh, and crowned it by condemning sin in the flesh which He had appropriated, and by showing that the flesh is not sinful in its nature” (see the passage in De Wette). Perhaps Irenaeus even had the same thought when he thus expressed himself: Condemnavit peccatum (in the inner chamber of His heart) et jam quasi condemnatum ejecit extra carnem.
It is evident that if this meaning corresponds exactly to the thought of the apostle, the question whether we should connect the following clause: ἐν τῇ σάρκι , in the flesh, with the substantive τὴν ἁμαρτίαν , sin (“sin which is in the flesh”), or with the verb κατέκρινε , condemned (“He condemned in the flesh”), is decided. Not only, indeed, in the former case would the article τήν be necessary after ἁμαρτίαν ; but still more this clause: in the flesh, would be superfluous, when connected with the word sin; now it becomes very significant if it refers to the verb. It might even be said that the whole pith of the thought centres in the clause thus understood. In fact, the law could undoubtedly overwhelm sin with its sentences, and, so to speak, on paper. But Christ accomplished what it could not do, by condemning sin in the flesh, in a real, living, human nature, in a humanity subject to those same conditions of bodily existence under which we all are. Hence the reason why He must appear here below in flesh. For it was in the very fortress where sin had established its seat, that it behooved to be attacked and conquered. We must beware of translating with several: “in His flesh,” as if there were the pronoun αὐτοῦ , of Him. In this case the pronoun could not be wanting; and the thought itself would be misrepresented. For the expression: in His flesh, would only denote the particular historical fact, whereas the latter: in the flesh, while reminding us of the particular fact, expresses the general notion which brings out its necessity. Like the hero spoken of in the fable, He required, if one may venture so to speak, Himself to descend into the infected place which He was commissioned to cleanse.
Thus from the perfectly holy life of Jesus there proceeds a conspicuous condemnation of sin; and it is this moral fact, the greatest of the miracles that distinguished this life, which the Holy Spirit goes on reproducing in the life of every believer, and propagating throughout the entire race. This will be the victory gained over the law of sin ( Rom 8:2 ). Thus we understand the connection between the condemned of Romans 8:3, and the no condemnation, Romans 8:1. In His life He condemned that sin, which by remaining master of ours, would have brought into it condemnation. The relation between Rom 8:3-4 becomes also very simple: The condemnation of sin in Christ's life is the means appointed by God to effect its destruction in ours.
Vv. 4. The relation we have just indicated between Rom 8:3-4 forbids us to give here to δικαίωμα , what the law lays down as just, the meaning of: sentence of absolution, which some, and Philippi most recently, have given to it. The matter in question here is not guilt to be removed; and to say that the law itself can henceforth declare as just, the term πληρωθῆναι , to be fulfilled, would not be very suitable. The matter in question, according to the context and the terms employed, is what the law demands of man. All the postulates contained in the righteousness demanded by the law (comp. the Sermon on the Mount, for example) are fulfilled in us, as soon as we walk, no more after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For, as we have seen, the law being spiritual, must coincide at all points in its statutes with the impulses of the Spirit. The participle περιπατοῦσιν , who walk, expresses the condition on which Paul can affirm of believers what he has just said (comp. the τοῖς πιστεύουσιν , Joh 1:12 ).
Commentators differ as to the meaning of the word πνεῦμα , spirit. Does it denote, as Lange thinks, the spiritual life in believers? But would this be a very sure standard, and does Rom 8:2 admit of this subjective sense? Most, therefore, understand by the expression: the Holy Spirit. This meaning does not seem to us open to question (comp. also Romans 8:9; Rom 8:11 ). Only from the use of the word spirit in the sequel ( Rom 8:5-8 ), it follows that the apostle is not speaking of the Holy Spirit, independently of His union with the human πνεῦμα , but of the former as dwelling in the latter, or of the latter as wholly directed by the former. And hence the reason why the one and the other idea becomes alternately the dominant one in the following passage.
But the most important word in this verse is the conjunction that. In this word is contained Paul's real notion of sanctification. How does the fulfilment of the law in believers follow from the fact expounded in Romans 8:3: the condemnation of sin wrought in the person of Christ? The strangest answer to this question is that of Holsten: “The power of the flesh in humanity was destroyed by the death-blow which slew the flesh of Christ on the cross.” But how could sin of nature, objective sin, in humanity, be destroyed by the fact of Christ's death? If sin is inherent in the flesh, the flesh which needs to be destroyed is not only Christ's, but that of the entire human race. As Wendt rightly observes, nothing but the death of all men could secure the desired result.
Gess thinks that the part played by Christ's death in sanctification was to render possible the gift of the Spirit, who alone has power to sanctify (comp. Gal 3:13-14 ). But Paul does not say in Romans 8:4: “that the Spirit might be given” (as he does Galatians 3:14: that we might receive the Spirit). He passes directly from the condemnation of sin in Christ ( Rom 8:3 ) to the fulfilment of the law in believers ( Rom 8:4 ). This mode of expression supposes another relation. And this relation is easy to comprehend if the right meaning of Rom 8:3 has been taken. The believer's holiness is nothing else than that which Jesus Himself realized during His earthly existence. “For their sakes I sanctify myself,” says Jesus, John 17:19, “that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” Here, as in other respects, the Spirit only takes what is His, to communicate it to us ( Joh 16:14 ). Our Lord's holy life on the earth is the type which the Holy Spirit is commissioned to reproduce in us, the treasure from which He draws the renewing of our life ( Col 3:10 ; 2Co 3:17-18 ). The holiness of all of us is only this unique holiness which the Spirit makes ours: He is our sanctification as well as our righteousness, the latter by His death (which faith makes our death), the former by His holy life (which the Spirit makes our life). Witness the two διά , through, by, of Romans 5:1-2; and the mysterious by His life, ἐν τῇ ζωῃ αὐτοῦ , of Romans 5:10. Such is the rich and profound sense of the that, Romans 5:4.
The expression ἐν ἡμῖν , in us, perfectly suits this meaning. It says first, that therein we are receptive; then it contains also the by us.
The term περιπατεῖν , to walk, is Paul's usual figure for moral conduct.
The subjective negation μή is used because Paul is speaking not of the fact in itself, but of the fact as being the assumed condition of the preceding affirmation.
Thus the first idea of this passage has been developed: emancipation from the law of sin. What the law condemns was condemned in Christ, that henceforth through His Spirit the law might be fully carried out in us. No doubt the power of sin is not annihilated within, but it cannot control the active part of our being and determine the περιπατεῖν ( the walk). There remains the second idea: deliverance from the last condemnation, that of death: death spiritual, Romans 8:5-10, and finally also from bodily death, Romans 8:11.
Vv. 5, 6. “ For they that are after the flesh aspire after the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit aspire after the things of the Spirit. For the aspiration of the flesh is death; but the aspiration of the Spirit is life and peace. ”
To understand the for which connects this verse with the preceding, we must begin with paraphrasing the first clause by adding: “For, while they that are after the flesh,”...then complete the second clause by adding to the words: “aspire after the things of the Spirit,” the following: “and consequently walk after the Spirit, with the view of obtaining those spiritual blessings.”
To be after the flesh, is to be inwardly governed by it, as the natural man always is. The part here referred to is the deepest source of the moral life, whence the will is constantly drawing its impulses and direction. Hence the consequence: τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς φρονοῦσιν : they are preoccupied with the things of the flesh, aspire after them. The word φρονεῖν is one of those terms which it is difficult to render in French, because it includes at once thinking and willing. Comp. the well-known Greek expressions ὑψηλοφρονεῖν , μεγαφρονεῖν , to aim high, to have a high self-regard. The φρονεῖν , the aspiration, of which our verse speaks, proceeds from the εἶναι , being, and produces the περιπατεῖν , the walking, of Romans 8:4, the moral necessity of which Paul wishes to demonstrate, whether it be on the side of the flesh or on that of the Spirit.
The I, ego, is distinct from both tendencies; but it yields itself without fail to the one or the other to the former, as the I of the natural man; to the latter, as the I of the regenerate man. As its state, so is its tendency; as its tendency, so is its conduct.
Vv. 6 explains ( γάρ , for) the moral necessity with which this motion constantly proceeds, from the inward moral state to aspiration, and from aspiration to action. There is on both sides, as it were, a fated end to be reached, which acts at a distance on the will by an attraction like that which is exercised by a precipice on the current of a river as it approaches it. No doubt one might take the words death and life as characterizing the two tendencies themselves. But the argument does not find so natural an explanation thus, as if we take the two words to express the inevitable goal to which man is inwardly impelled in both ways. This goal is death on the one hand, life on the other. The flesh tends to the former; for to gain the complete liberty after which it aspires, it needs a more and more complete separation from God; and this is death. The Spirit, on the contrary, thirsts for life in God, which is its element, and sacrifices everything to succeed in enjoying it perfectly. Neither of these two powers leaves a man at rest till it has brought him to its goal, whether to that state of death in which not a spark of life remains, or to that perfect life from which the last vestige of death has disappeared.
Death is here, as in Romans 8:2, separation from God, which by a course of daily development at length terminates through physical death in eternal perdition ( Rom 6:23 ). Life, in Scripture, denotes a fully satisfied existence, in which all the faculties find their full exercise and their true occupation. Man's spirit, become the abode and organ of the Divine Spirit, realizes this life with a growing perfection to eternal life. Peace is the inward feeling of tranquillity which accompanies such an existence; it shows itself particularly in the absence of all fear in regard to death and judgment ( Rom 8:1 ). There is no changing the nature of these two states and walks ( Rom 8:5 ), and no arresting the latter in its onward march ( Rom 8:6 ). The way of salvation is to pass from the first to the second, and not to relapse thereafter from the second to the first.
The two theses of Rom 8:6 are justified in the following verses, the former in Romans 8:7-8, the latter in Romans 8:9-11.
Vv. 7, 8. “ Because the aspiration of the flesh is enmity against God: for it doth not submit itself to the law of God, neither indeed can it. And they that are in the flesh cannot please God. ”
The flesh tends to death ( Rom 8:6 ); for it is in its essence hatred of God. The conjunction διότι , literally, because of the fact that, announces an explanation which indeed follows. The flesh, the life of the I for itself, must be hostile to God; for it feels that all it gives its idol it takes from God, and all it would bestow on God it would take away from its idol. Enmity to God is therefore only the reverse side of its attachment to itself, that is to say, it belongs to its essence. This enmity is proved by two facts, the one belonging to man as related to God (Romans 8:7 b), the other to God as related to man ( Rom 8:8 ). The first is the revolt of the flesh against the divine will; this feeling is mentioned first as a simple fact. The flesh wishes to satisfy itself: most frequently the law withstands it; hence inward revolt always, and often external revolt. And this fact need not surprise us. The flesh is what it is; it cannot change its nature, any more than God can change the nature of His law. Hence an inevitable and perpetual conflict, which can only come to an end with the dominion of the flesh over the will. Now this conflict is the way of death; comp. Galatians 6:8.
Vv. 8. On the other hand, God is no more the friend of the flesh than the flesh is of Him. The δέ has been understood in all sorts of ways, from Meyer, who understands it in the sense of now then, to Calvin and Flatt, who give it the sense of therefore (ergo)! It is a simple adversative: and on the other hand. The enmity is as it were natural. For the abstract principle, the flesh, Paul here substitutes the carnal individuals; he thus approaches the direct application to his readers which follows in Romans 8:9.
To be in the flesh is a still stronger expression than to be after the flesh, Romans 8:5. According to this latter, the flesh is the standard of moral existence; according to the former, it is its principle or source. Now, how could God take pleasure in beings who have as the principle of their life the pursuit of self? Is this not the principle opposed to His essence?
Thus, then, carnal beings, already involved in spiritual death, plunge themselves in it ever deeper and deeper; and consequently for them condemnation remains, and is all that remains; while spiritual men rise on the ladder of life to that perfect existence wherein the last trace of condemnation, physical death itself, will disappear ( Rom 8:9-11 ).
Vv. 9. “ But as for you, ye are not under the dominion of the flesh, but under that of the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwell in you. But if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. ”
In thus apostrophizing his readers directly, the apostle wishes to bring them to examine themselves, in order to know which of these two currents they are obeying; for we easily apprehend these truths with the understanding, but we are slow to apply them to ourselves personally. He begins with expressing a feeling of confidence in regard to their state; but he adds a restriction fitted to excite their vigilance: εἴπερ , if really. This word does not positively express a doubt, as εἴγε would do, if at least ( Col 1:23 ). Paul proceeds on their Christian profession to draw from it a sure consequence in the supposed case of their profession being serious. To them it belongs to verify the truth of the supposition. The expression: to dwell in you, denotes a permanent fact; it is not enough to have some seasons of impulse, some outbursts of enthusiasm, mingled with practical infidelities.
This first proposition of Rom 8:9 is the foundation of an argument which will be prolonged to the close of Romans 8:11. Before continuing it the apostle throws in by the way the serious warning contained in Romans 8:9 b, which raises the supposition contrary to that of the εἴπερ , if really, and shows also the consequence which would flow from it. It is remarkable that the Spirit of Christ is here used as the equivalent of the Spirit of God in the preceding proposition. The Spirit of Jesus is that of God Himself, which He has so perfectly appropriated here below as to make it His personal life, so that He can communicate it to His own. It is in this form that the Holy Spirit henceforth acts in the Church. Where this vital bond does not exist between a soul and Christ, it remains a stranger to Him and His salvation. After this observation, which every one is expected to apply to himself, the argument recommences, connecting itself with the favorable supposition enunciated Romans 8:9 a
Vv. 10. “ Now if Christ be in you, the body is indeed dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. ”
As the apostle had substituted the Spirit of Christ for the Spirit of God, he now substitutes for the Spirit of Christ His person: Now if Christ be in you. “Where the Spirit of Christ is,” says Hofmann, “there he is also Himself.” In fact, as the Spirit proceeds from Christ, His action tends to make Christ live in us. “I shall come again to you,” said Jesus ( Joh 14:17-18 ), when He was describing the work of the Spirit. This new expression brings out more forcibly than the preceding the solidarity between the person of Jesus and ours, and so prepares for Romans 8:11, in which the resurrection of Jesus is set forth as the pledge of ours.
This hope of sharing His resurrection rests on the fact that even now His life has penetrated the spiritual part of our being (Romans 8:10 b). No doubt this spiritual life will not prevent the body from dying; but it is the earnest of its participation in the resurrection of Christ. From chap. Romans 5:12; Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17, we know the apostle's view respecting the cause of death: “Through one man's offence many are dead.” The fact of universal death does not therefore arise from the sins of individuals, but from the original transgression. The meaning of these words: because of sin, is thus fixed; they refer to Adam's sin. It is sometimes asked why believers still die if Christ really died for them; and an argument is drawn hence against the doctrine of expiation. But it is forgotten that, death not being an individual punishment, there is no connection between this fact and the pardon of sins granted to believing individuals. Death, as a judgment on humanity, bearing on the species as such, remains till the general consummation of Christ's work; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:26.
The term dead here signifies: irrevocably smitten with death. The human body bears within itself from its formation the germ of death; it begins to die the instant it begins to live. Commentators who, like Chrys., Er., Grot., explain this term dead, as dead unto sin (in a good sense), evidently do not understand the course of thought in these verses, 9-11.
But if the believer's death cannot be prevented, there is a domain in him where life has already established its reign, the spirit in which Christ dwells. Hofmann insists strongly that the term spirit should here be applied to the Spirit of God. In that case the words: the spirit is life, must be understood in the sense: the spirit produces and sustains life in the soul. But this sense is unnatural, and the contrast between spirit and body leads us rather to apply the former term to the spiritual element in the believer. In the passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul distinguishes these three elements in man: body, soul, and spirit. By the third term he denotes the organ with which the soul of man, and of man alone of all animated beings, is endowed, whereby he perceives and appropriates the divine; by this spiritual faculty it is that the Spirit of God can penetrate into the soul, and by it rule the body. Hence arises the sanctification of the body ( Rom 6:11-13 ), not its deliverance from death. But Paul can already say, nevertheless, that in consequence of its union with the Spirit of God the spirit of the believer is life. This expression no doubt sounds somewhat strong; why not say simply: living? This peculiarity seems to have been observed very early; it is certainly the origin of the reading ζῇ , lives, instead of ζωή , life, in two Greco-Latin MSS.; but Paul's thought went further. The life of God does not become merely an attribute of the spirit in man through the Holy Spirit; it becomes his nature, so that it can pass from the spirit to his whole person, psychical and bodily ( Rom 8:11 ).
The last words: because of righteousness, cannot refer to the restoration of holiness in the believer; not that the word righteousness cannot have this meaning in Paul's writings (comp. Romans 6:13; Rom 6:19 ), but because it is impossible to say life exists because of holiness; for in reality the one is identical with the other. We must therefore take the word righteousness in the sense of justification, as in chaps. 1-5. To this meaning we are also led by the meaning of the clause which forms an antithesis to this in the first proposition: because of sin. As the body dies because of a sin which is not ours individually, so the spirit lives in consequence of a righteousness which is not ours.
But will this body, given over to death, be abandoned to it forever? No; the last trace of condemnation behoves to be effaced.
Vv. 11. “ Now, if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you. ”
The δέ , now, denotes the progress of the life which, after penetrating the spirit, takes hold even of the body. That body in which, as well as in Jesus, the Spirit of God has dwelt, will be judged worthy of the same honor as the body of Jesus Himself.
In the first proposition the apostle uses the name Jesus, because the reference is to His person merely; in the second he says Christ, or Christ Jesus, because the subject in question is the office He fills as Mediator between God and us. As Hofmann remarks, the personal resurrection of Jesus merely assures us that God can raise us; but His resurrection, regarded as that of the Christ, assures us that He will do so actually. Once again we see how carefully Paul weighs every term he uses. We have a new proof of the same in the use of the two expressions ἐγείρειν , to awake (applied to Jesus), and ζωοποιεῖν , to quicken (applied to believers). The death of Jesus was a sleep, unaccompanied with any dissolution of the body...; it was therefore enough to awake Him. In our case, the body, being given over to destruction, must be entirely reconstituted; this is well expressed by the word quicken.
The word καί , also, omitted by the Sinaït. and the Vatic., suits the context well: the spirit is already quickened; the body must be so also.
The apostle had said of the body in Romans 8:10, it is dead, νεκρόν . Why does he here substitute the term mortal, θνητόν ? It has been thought that he used this word, which has a wider meaning, to embrace those who shall be alive at the Lord's coming, and whose bodies shall be not raised, but transformed. Hofmann takes the term mortal, of Romans 8:10, as referring to the future state of the body, the state of death to which it is still only destined, and from which the resurrection will rescue it. The true explanation of the term seems to me simpler: In Romans 8:10, Paul means to speak of the fact (death); in Romans 8:11, of the quality (mortal). For the resurrection will not only change the fact of death into that of life, but it will transform the nature of the body, which from being mortal will become incorruptible ( 1Co 15:43-44 ).
The last words of this verse played a somewhat important part dogmatically in the first ages of the church. Those who maintained the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit were more inclined to read, as is done by some ancient Alex. Mjj., διὰ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος αὐτοῦ πνεύματος ..., “ by the Holy Spirit who dwelleth in you.”
In fact, by this mode of expression the apostle would ascribe the divine operation of raising from the dead ( Joh 5:21 ) to the Holy Spirit, which would imply His power of free causation as well as divinity. The opponents of this doctrine alleged the other reading, which is that of Stephens, and which differs here from the received reading: διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ πνεῦμα , “ because of the Spirit that dwelleth in you. ” This reading is found in authorities of the three families in the oldest versions, the Itala and the Peshito, and in some very ancient Fathers, such as Irenaeus and Origen. Such being the case, we can only ascribe it to Tischendorf's provoking predilection for the Sinaït., that he adopts the first reading in his eighth edition. Indeed, so far as external authorities are concerned, the decisive fact is the well-attested existence of a reading in the documents of the various countries of the church; now in this case we find the reading διὰ τὸ ..., because of, in Egypt (Vatic.), in the West (It. Fathers), in Syria (Peshito), and in the Byzantine Church (K L P, Mnn.), while the received reading is represented by little more than three Alexandrines and a Father of the same country (Clement). The meaning also decides in favor of the best supported reading. The διά with the accusative, because of, follows quite naturally the two similar διά of Romans 8:10: “because of sin, death; because of righteousness, the life of the Spirit;” and because of the life of the Spirit, the resurrection of the body. The entire course of thought is summed up in this thrice repeated because of. Besides, Paul is not concerned to explain here by what agent the resurrection is effected. What is of importance in the line of the ideas presented from Rom 8:5 onward, is to indicate the moral state in consequence of which the granting of resurrection will be possible. That to which God will have respect, is the dwelling of His own Spirit in the believer; the holy use which he shall have made of his body to glorify Him; the dignity to which the Spirit shall have raised the body by making it a temple of God ( 1Co 6:19 ). Such a body he will treat as He has treated that of His own Son. This is the glorious thought with which the apostle closes this passage and completes the development of the word: no condemnation.
This difference of reading is the only one in the whole Epistle to the Romans which is fitted to exercise any influence on Christian doctrine. And yet we do not think that the question whether the resurrection of the body takes place by the operation of the Holy Spirit, or because of His dwelling in us, has been very often discussed in our Dogmatics or treated in our Catechisms.
The apostle does not speak of the lot reserved for the bodies of unbelievers, or of unsanctified believers. The same is the case in the passage 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. But the word of Romans 8:13: “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die,” should suffice. That is not, especially after all that precedes, a word of salvation. Besides, what would be meant by the sharp contrast between the two propositions of Rom 8:5-6 ? We have to explain his silence by his aim, which was to expound the work of salvation to its completion. It is the same with 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
We believe, finally, that after that it is quite unnecessary to refute the opinion of those who, like De Wette, Philippi, Holsten, think the expression: to quicken the body, Romans 8:11, should be applied in whole or in part to the sanctification of the Christian's body; Paul does not mix up questions so; he spoke, in Romans 8:2, of two laws to be destroyed, that of sin and that of death. And he has rigorously followed the order which he traced for himself.
Vv. 12, 13. “ Thus then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live after the flesh; for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. ”
It is not enough to have received the Spirit; it is also necessary to walk according to Him. The thus then refers to the thought of the preceding passage: “Since the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death, do not replace yourselves under this curse.” The address: brethren, reappears every time the apostle wishes to bring home to his readers a practical and personal warning.
When saying: we are under obligation, literally debtors, Paul meant to continue in the words: to the Spirit, to live according to Him. As soon as the Spirit comes to dwell in our heart, we owe to Him, ourselves, and a life wholly conformed to His wishes. But the apostle breaks off his sentence to set aside the opposite supposition, one unfortunately which cannot be passed over in silence, and he makes haste to add: not to the flesh. “The natural man,” Hofmann observes, “imagines that he owes it to his flesh to satisfy it.” The care of his person, from the most earthly point of view, appears to him the first and most important of his obligations. Now it is this tendency which is combated by the Spirit as soon as He takes possession of us ( Gal 5:17 ). This is the debt which should neither be acknowledged nor paid. The apostle says why in the following verse.
Eighteenth Passage ( Rom 8:12-17 ). Freed from Sin and Death, The Christian becomes Son and Heir.
Victory over sin and death once decided by the reign of the Holy Spirit, condemnation is not only taken away, it is replaced by the benediction which is given to us in all its degrees: in the present, the filial state, adoption; in the future, the divine inheritance.
Vv. 13. In this way the regenerate man himself would go on to death. So the flesh will reward us for our fidelity in discharging our debt to it. Μέλλετε : “there is nothing for you but to die; such is the only future which awaits you.” Now was the time to resume the sentence which had been begun: “Ye are under obligation... to the Spirit. ” But the apostle supposes this idea to come out clearly enough from the expressed contrast: not to the flesh, and continues as if he had expressed it: “ But if through the Spirit,” etc. Whither does this principle, whose impelling power takes the place of the flesh, lead us? To death also; to the death of the flesh, and thereby to life: ye shall live. The rhythm of this verse is quite similar to that observed by Calvin in Romans 7:9-10; Romans 13 a, the life of the flesh is the death of Man 1:13 b, the death of the flesh is the life of man. Why does the apostle say: the works of the body, and not of the flesh? This difference already struck certain Greco-Latin copyists, who have sought to correct the text in this direction. But it is unnecessary. The complement: of the body, is not here the genitive of the instrument, but that of the author. The acts of which the body is the simple instrument are not its own. Paul would suppress those of which it is the independent author, and wherein, consequently, it withdraws from the dominion of the Spirit. These should come to an end, because in the Christian the Spirit should direct and penetrate all, even his eating and drinking, according to the example quoted by the apostle, 1 Corinthians 10:31. In all these acts of life the body should not guide, but be guided. Every act of sacrifice whereby the independence of the body is denied, and its submission to the spirit forcibly asserted, secures a growth of spiritual life in man. It is only as a void is cleared in the domain of the flesh, that the efficacy of the Spirit shows itself with new force. Thus is explained the ye shall live, which applies to every moment of the believer's existence on to the state of perfection.
This last word: ye shall live, becomes the theme of the following passage. For the two attributes son and heir of God, which are about to be developed, the one in Romans 8:14-16, the other in Romans 8:17, exhaust the notion of life.
Vv. 14, 15. “ For all they who are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received a spirit of bondage to fall back into fear; but ye have received a Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry: Abba, Father! ” ῞Οσοι , literally: “ as many as there are of them who are led...they are ”...The for refers to the promise: ye shall live. It is impossible for one who is a Son of God, the source of life, not to live. Now he who gives himself to be guided by the Spirit of God, is certainly a son of God. The thought expressed in this verse may be understood in two ways. Does Paul mean that living according to the Spirit is the proof that one possesses the rank of a child of God? In that case this would follow from the grace of justification; and the gift of the Spirit would be a subsequent gift coming to seal this glorious acquired position. In favor of this view there might be quoted Galatians 4:6: “ Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts.” But it must not be forgotten that Paul is not here speaking of the gift of the Spirit, but of the believer's surrender to His influences. The reference therefore is to a more advanced stage of the Christian life. The other possible meaning is this: “Ye have a right to the title of sons as soon as ye let yourselves be led by the Spirit.” And this meaning evidently suits the context better. Though one become a son by justification, he does not possess the filial state, he does not really enjoy adoption until he has become loyally submissive to the operation of the Spirit. The meaning is therefore this: “If ye let yourselves be led by the Spirit, ye are ipso facto sons of God. ”
Meyer gives the pronoun οὐτοι , they, an exclusive sense: “they only. ” But we are no longer at the warning; the apostle is now proving the: ye shall live ( for). The restrictive intention is therefore foreign to his thought, he is making a strong affirmation.
In the term ἄγονται , are led, there is something like a notion of holy violence; the Spirit drags the man where the flesh would fain not go. The verb may be taken in the passive: are driven, or in the middle: let themselves be driven.
The intentional repetition of the word God establishes a close connection between the two ideas: obeying the Spirit and being sons. A son obeys his father. The term υἱός , son, implies community of nature and all the privileges which flow from it; consequently, when God is the father, participation in life.
The apostle gives in what follows two proofs of the reality of this state of sonship: the one, partly subjective, the filial feeling toward God experienced by the believer, Romans 8:15; the other, objective, the testimony of the Divine Spirit proclaiming the divine fatherhood within his heart, Romans 8:16.
Vv. 15. The ancients were much perplexed to explain this expression: Ye have not received a spirit of bondage. It seemed to them to imply the idea, that a servile spirit had been given to the readers previously by God Himself. Hence the explanation of Chrysostom, who applied the spirit of bondage to the law. This meaning is inadmissible. It would be preferable to understand it of the mercenary and timid spirit which accompanied legal obedience. But could Paul possibly ascribe this to a divine communication? If we connect the adverb πάλιν , again, as we should do, not with the verb ἐλάβετε , ye received, but only with the regimen εἰς φόβον , to fear, there is nothing in the expression obliging us to hold that Paul has in view an anterior divine communication; for the meaning is this: “The Spirit which ye have received of God is not a servile spirit throwing you back into the fear in which ye formerly lived.” Comp. 2 Timothy 1:7. The character of heathen religions is in fact the sentiment of fear ( δεισιδαιμονία , Act 17:22 ). And was it not in some respects the same among the Jews, though with them the fear of Jehovah took a more elevated character than the fear of the gods among the Gentiles? The feeling with which the Spirit of God fills the believer's heart is not fear, suited to the condition of a slave, but the confidence and liberty which become a son.
The word spirit might here be regarded as denoting simply a subjective disposition; as in that word of the Lord in reference to Sennacherib ( Isa 37:7 ): “I will put such a spirit in him, that he will return, to his own land;” comp. 1 Corinthians 4:21: a spirit of meekness; Romans 11:8: a spirit of slumber. Here it would be the filial sentiment in relation to God. What might support this subjective meaning of the word spirit, is the strongly emphasized contrast between this verse and the following, where the objective meaning is evident: “The Spirit Himself beareth witness”...Nevertheless it is impossible, if we consider the connection between Rom 8:15 and the preceding verse, not to see in the Spirit of adoption, of which Paul here speaks, the Spirit of God Himself; comp. especially Galatians 4:6, a passage so like ours, and where there is no room for uncertainty. The difference between Romans 8:15-16, so far as the meaning of the word spirit is concerned, is not the difference between an inward disposition and the Spirit of God, but rather that which distinguishes two different modes of acting, followed by one and the same Holy Spirit. In the former case, the operation of the Spirit makes itself felt by means of a personal disposition which He produces in us; in the second case it is still more direct (see on Rom 8:16 ).
The Spirit of adoption is the Spirit of God, in so far as producing the spiritual state corresponding to sonship; He may even be called: the Spirit of the Son Himself, Galatians 4:6. He puts us relatively to God in the same position as Jesus, when He said: Father! The term υἱοθεσία , adoption, reminds us of the fact that Jesus alone is Son in essence ( υἱὸς μονογενής , only son). To become sons, we must be incorporated into Him by faith ( Eph 1:5 ).
The pronoun ἐν ᾠ , in whom, shows that it is under the inspiration of the filial sentiment produced in us by this Spirit that we thus pray, and the term cry expresses the profound emotion with which this cry of adoration goes forth from the believing heart.
Abba is the form which the Hebrew word ab, father, had taken in the Aramaic language, commonly spoken in Palestine in the time of Jesus. It was thus Jesus spoke to God when He called Him Father; comp. Mark 14:36. It has been thought Paul employed the form here, because he made use of it habitually in his own prayers, and that he added the Greek translation: ὁ πατήρ , father, in writing to the Romans and to the Galatians, because the Aramaic was unintelligible to them as former Gentiles. But the employment of the expression (which occurs in three writings of the N. T.) must rest on a more general usage. Like the terms Amen, Hosanna, Hallelujah, this word Abba had no doubt passed from the liturgical language of the primitive Judeo-Christian church into general ecclesiastical language. By adapting this sacred form of address, which had passed through the mouth of Jesus Himself, to the worship of Christians, not only was there a compliance with the command: “When ye pray, say: Our Abba ( our Father), who art in heaven,” but the feeling of the whole church seemed to blend with that of its High Priest, who had prayed, using the same term for Himself and His brethren. From regard to Greek-speaking Christians, and neophytes in particular, the custom was probably followed of adding the Greek translation: ὁ πατήρ , father, as is done by Mark. Augustine and Calvin suppose that it was meant, by using these two forms in juxtaposition, to express the union of Jewish and Gentile Christians in one spiritual body. This hypothesis has no great probability.
Vv. 16, 17. “ The Spirit itself beareth witness to our spirit, that we are children of God. Now if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him. ”
The asyndeton form (the absence of a connecting particle) between Rom 8:15-16 indicates here, as always, profound emotion; it announces the more forcible reaffirmation of the same fact, but presented in a new aspect. The expression αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα does not signify the same Spirit ( τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα ), but the Spirit Himself, as the immediate organ of God. All who are not strangers to the experience of divine things, know that there is a difference between a state formed in us by the Divine Spirit, and expressing itself in the form of prayer ( Rom 8:15 ), and the language in which God answers us directly by means of the Spirit. This difference comes out in the following passage, when the apostle expressly distinguishes the groaning of the Spirit Himself in those who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit ( Rom 8:26 ), from their own groaning ( Rom 8:23 ). We observe a similar difference in the life of Jesus Himself when it is He who says: my Father (Luke 2:49, et al.), or when it is God who says to Him: Thou art my Son ( Luk 3:12 ). So, in this case the apostle means that we are sons of God, not only because our heart cherishes a filial disposition toward God, and inspires us with the cry of love: my Father; but and this is still more sublime because from the heart of God Himself there comes down the answer by the voice of the Holy Spirit: my child. It is not only our arms which are stretched out to take hold of God who gives Himself to us in Christ, but His at the same time which embrace us and draw us to His bosom.
The σύν , with, in the verb συμμαρτυρεῖν , to bear witness with, should evidently preserve its natural meaning: “bears witness conjointly with our spirit,” the feeling of which was expressed in Romans 8:15. But the dative: τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν , to our spirit, is not to be regarded as the regimen of σύν , with (“bears witness with our spirit ”); it is our spirit which here receives the divine testimony. The term τέκνον , child, differs from υἱός , son, Romans 8:14, in this, that the latter expresses rather the personal dignity and independence, the official character of the representative of a family, while the second has a more inward sense, and indicates rather community of life. In the one what is expressed is the position of honor, in the other the relation of nature.
Vv. 17. The apostle has proved the fact of our being sons or children, first by the filial fecling produced in us by the Spirit, and then by the direct witness of the Spirit Himself. He can now conclude his argument; for even in expressing the most exalted sentiments, his exposition always assumes a logical form. He had said, Romans 8:13-14: “Ye shall live, for ye are sons;” then he demonstrated the reality of this title son; and he now infers from it the condition of heirship. Thus the reasoning is concluded; for to be an heir of God is identical with being a possessor of life.
No doubt God does not die, like those who leave an inheritance; it is from the heart of His glory that He enriches his sons by communicating it to them, that is, by imparting Himself to them. For, rightly taken, His heritage is Himself. The best He can give His children is to dwell in them. St. Paul expresses it when he describes the perfect state in the words ( 1Co 15:28 ): God all in all.
But he here adds an expression particularly fitted to impress us with the sublimity of such a state: coheirs with Christ. The loftiness of the title heir of God might easily be lost in vagueness, unless the apostle, with the view of making this abstract idea palpable, added a concrete fact. To be an heir with Christ is not to inherit in the second instance, to inherit from Him; it is to be put in the same rank as Himself; it is to share the divine possession with Him. To get a glimpse of what is meant by the title heirs of God, let us contemplate the relation between Christ and God, and we shall have an idea of what we are led to hope from our title sons of God; comp. Romans 8:29 --;Only to reach the possession of the inheritance, there is yet one condition to be satisfied: if we suffer with Him. Paul knows well that, ambitious as we are of glory, we are equally ready to recoil from the necessary suffering. Now it is precisely in suffering that the bond between Christ and us, in virtue of which we shall be able to become His co-heirs, is closely drawn. We only enter into possession of the common heritage of glory, by accepting our part in the common inheritance of suffering; εἴπερ : “ if really, as we are called to it, we have the courage to”...These last words are evidently the transition to the passage immediately following, in which are expounded, first the miserable state of the world in its present condition, but afterward the certainty of the glorious state which awaits us.
Vv. 18. “ For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. ”
The term λογίζομαι , I reckon, here signifies: “I judge after calculation made.” The expressions which follow imply, indeed, the idea of a calculation. The adjective ἄξιος , worthy, comes, as the old lexicographers say, from the verb ἄγω , to drive, to cause to move, and denotes strictly a thing which is heavy enough to produce motion in the scale of the balance. The preposition πρός is used here, as frequently, to denote proportion. Consequently, the apostle means that when he compares the miseries imposed on him by the present state of things with the glory awaiting him in the future, he does not find that the former can be of any weight whatever in the balance of his resolutions. Why does he use the first person singular, I reckon, instead of speaking in the name of all Christians? No doubt because he would have them verify his calculation themselves, each making it over again for himself. And he has good right to take the initiative in comparison with them, as evidently suffering more than all of them.
This present time denotes the actual conditions of our earthly life in contrast with those of the new world which succeeds it. These are, on the one hand, the miseries arising from bodily infirmities and the necessities of life; on the other, those caused by the enmity of man and the sins of believers themselves. Paul, who endured more than any other of these two kinds of sufferings, yet calls them, 2 Corinthians 4:17: the light affliction of the present moment, in opposition to the eternal weight of glory which he sees before him.
This glory is to be revealed; it is therefore already; and indeed it exists not only in the plan of God decreeing it to us, but also in the person of Christ glorified, with whose appearing it will be visibly displayed. The apostle adds εἰς ἡμᾶς , in and for us. He might have written ἐν ἡμῖν , in us; but this expression would have been insufficient. For the glory will not consist only in our own transformation, but also in the coming of the Lord Himself, and the transformation of the universe. Thus it will be displayed at once for us and in us; this is expressed by the εἰς ἡμᾶς . Being unable to render the two relations into French by a single preposition, we have preferred to express the second, which is the most comprehensive.
On the passage Romans 8:18-22.
In following the exposition of the work of salvation, the apostle touches a domain, that, namely, of nature, where he comes into contact with the labors of science. Is there harmony or variance between his teaching and the results of scientific study? There is a first point on which the harmony is complete. For a century past the study of our globe has proved that the present condition of the earth is only the result of a series of profound and gradual transformations; which leads us naturally to the conclusion that this state is not final, and should only be regarded as a temporary phase destined to pave the way for some other new transformation. So it is precisely that our earth appears to the view of the apostle enlightened by the Holy Spirit. But there is a second point on which the harmony does not seem so complete. The apostle traces the present state of suffering and death to a catastrophe which has intervened, first in the moral world, and which has reacted on external nature. Now modern science seems to prove that the present condition of the earth is a natural result of its whole previous development, and that the miseries belonging to it are rather remains of the primitive imperfection of matter than the effects of a fall which intervened at a given moment. Is death, for example, which reigns over mankind, anything else than the continuation of that to which the animal world was subject in the epochs anterior to man? This is a serious objection. Putting ourselves at the apostle's point of view, we may answer it in two ways. If we apply to man the expression ὁ ὑποτάξας , he who subjected (nature to vanity), it must be held that man placed in a privileged position, exempt from miseries in general and from death, with a body which life in God could raise above the law of dissolution, was called as the king of nature to free this magnificent domain from all the imperfections and miseries which it had inherited from previous ages. After developing all his faculties of knowledge and power in the favored place where he had been put for this purpose, man should have extended this prosperous condition to the whole earth, and changed it into a paradise. Natural history proves that a beneficial influence even on the animal world is not an impossibility. But in proportion as man failed in his civilizing mission to nature, if one may so speak, it fell back under that law of vanity from which it should have been freed by him, and which weighed on it only the more heavily in consequence of man's corruption. Thus the apostle's view may be justified on this explanation. But if the term ὁ ὑποτάξας , he who subjected, refers to Satan, there opens up to our mind a still vaster survey over the development of nature. Satan is called and Jesus Himself gives him the title the prince of this world. He who believes in the personal existence of Satan may therefore also hold that this earth belonged originally to his domain. Has it not been from the first steps of its development the theatre of the struggle between this revolted vassal and his divine liege-lord? The history of humanity is constantly showing us, both in great things and small, God taking the initiative and laying down some good, but that good hasting to alter its character by a progressive deviation, which leads slowly to the most enormous monstrosities. Might not primitive nature have been subject to a similar law, and the crisis of its development have resulted also from conflict between a beneficent force laying down a normal state, and that power of deviation which immediately takes hold of the divine product to guide it to the most abnormal result, till the salutary principle again interpose to establish a new point of departure superior to the former, and which the malignant spirit will corrupt anew? From this unceasing struggle proceeded the constant progress which terminated in man, and in the relatively perfect condition in which he originally appeared. But the power of deviation showed itself immediately anew on the very theatre of paradise, and in the domain of liberty produced sin, which involved all again under the law of death, which is not yet finally vanquished. It belongs to Christ, to the children of God, the seed of the woman, man victorious over the serpent, his temporary victor, to work out a deliverance which would have been the work of the race of mankind had it remained united to God. Perhaps this second point of view explains more fully the thought of the apostle expressed in this passage.
There is a third point on which science seems to us to harmonize readily with St. Paul's view; I mean the close solidarity which exists between man and the whole of nature. The physiologist is forced to see in the human body the intended goal and masterpiece of animal organization which appears as nothing else than a long effort to reach this consummation. As the breaking of the bud renders sterile the branch which bore it, so the fall of man involved that of the world. As Schelling said in one of his admirable lectures on the philosophy of revelation: “Nature, with its melancholy charm, resembles a bride who, at the very moment when she was fully attired for marriage, saw the bridegroom to whom she was to be united die on the very day fixed for the marriage. She still stands with her fresh crown and in her bridal dress, but her eyes are full of tears.” The soul of the poet-philosopher here meets that of the apostle. The ancient thinkers spoke much of a soul of the world. The idea was not a vain dream. The soul of the world is man. The whole Bible, and this important passage in particular, rest on this profound idea.
The groaning of nature, of which the apostle has just spoken, is the expression and proof of the abnormal state to which it is subjected, with all the beings belonging to it. But it is not the only sufferer from this state of imperfection. Other beings of a higher order, and which have already been restored to their normal state, also suffer from the same, and mingle their groaning with that of nature. This is the truth developed in Romans 8:23-25.
Nineteenth Passage ( Rom 8:18-30 ). Completion of the Plan of Salvation, notwithstanding the Miseries of our present Condition.
In speaking of the full victory gained by the Spirit of Christ over the last remains of condemnation, Paul seemed to assume that the work had already reached its goal, and that nothing remained but to pass into glory. But in the words: “If so be we suffer with Him,” he had already given it to be understood that there remained to the children of God a career of suffering to be gone through in communion with Christ, and that the era of glory would only open to them after this painful interval. These two thoughts: the present state of suffering, and the certain glory in which it is to issue, are the theme of the following passage. This piece, as it appears to me, is one of those, the tenor of which has been most misunderstood even in the latest commentaries. It has been regarded as a series of consolatory themes, presented by the apostle to suffering believers. They are the following three, according to Meyer: 1. The preponderance of future glory over present sufferings ( Rom 8:18-25 ); 2. the aid of the Holy Spirit ( Rom 8:26-27 ); 3. the working together of all things for the good of those who love God ( Rom 8:28-30 ). M. Reuss says on reaching Romans 8:28: After hope ( Rom 8:18-25 ) and the Spirit ( Rom 8:26-27 ), the apostle mentions yet a third fact which is of a nature to support us, namely, “that everything contributes to the good of them that love God.” A little further on he adds: “To this end Paul recapitulates the series of acts whereby God interposes in the salvation of the individual.” A third fact..., to this end! Such expressions hardly suit our apostle's style; and when one is obliged to have recourse to them, it simply proves that he has not grasped the course of his thoughts. The same is the case with the division recently offered by Holsten, who here finds the hope of the Christian founded: 1. on the state of creation; 2. on the groaning of believers; 3. on the groaning of the Spirit; 4. on the consciousness of believers that their very sufferings must turn to their good. How can one imagine that he has understood St. Paul, when he lacerates his thoughts in this fashion?
The following passage develops two ideas: the world's state of misery in its present condition, a state demonstrated by the groaning of the whole creation, by that of believers themselves, and finally by that of the Holy Spirit; then in contrast, the certainty, notwithstanding all, of the perfect accomplishment of the glorious plan eternally conceived by God for our glory. The transition from the first idea to the second is found in the οἴδαμεν δέ , but we know, of Romans 8:28, where the adversative particle δέ , but, expressly establishes the contrast between the second idea and the first.
And first of all, the general theme, Romans 8:18, enunciating the two ideas to be developed: 1. The sufferings of the present time (the συμπάσχειν , to suffer with, Rom 8:17 ), and 2. The glory yet to be revealed in us (the συνδοξασθῆναι , being glorified together with, Rom 8:17 ).
Vv. 19. “ For the earnest expectation of the creation longeth for the manifestation of the sons of God. ”
The for is usually made to refer to the idea of the glory yet to be revealed, Romans 8:18. And this view is supported either by the greatness of this glory (De W., Hofmann), or by its certainty (Meyer), or by its futurity (Philip.), or by the imminence of its manifestation (Reiche). But not one of these affirmations is really proved in what follows. What Paul demonstrates is simply the fact, that if we are already saved spiritually, we are far from being so also outwardly. In biblical language: As to the spirit, we are in the age to come; as to the body, in the present age. The for therefore refers to the sufferings of this present time. This strange discord forms the basis of our present condition; and this is what Rom 8:19 demonstrates by the waiting attitude which all nature betrays. Holsten, ever preoccupied with the alleged application of our Epistle to the Judeo-Christians of Rome, thus introduces the subject: “The Judeo-Christians ask: But, if all wrath is taken away, why so much suffering still?” We in turn ask: Is it only Judeo-Christians, is it not every Christian conscience which asks the question?
The Greek term which we have translated by the word expectation, is one of those admirable words which the Greek language easily forms. It is composed of three elements: κάρα , the head; δοκέω , δοκάω , δοκεύω , to wait for, espy; and ἀπό , from, from afar; so: “to wait with the head raised, and the eye fixed on that point of the horizon from which the expected object is to come.” What a plastic representation! An artist might make a statue of hope out of this Greek term. The verb ἀπεκδέχεται , which we have translated by longeth for, is not less remarkable; it is composed of the simple verb δέχομαι , to receive, and two prepositions: ἐκ , out of the hands of, and ἀπό , from, from after; so: “to receive something from the hands of one who extends it to you from afar.” This substantive and verb together vividly describe the attitude of the suffering creation, which in its entirety turns as it were an impatient look to the expected future.
What is to be understood here by the creation (Eng. version, the creature)? There is an astonishing variety of answers given to this question by commentators. The word ἡ κτίσις itself denotes either the creative act, or its result, the totality of created things. But very often it takes a more restricted meaning, which is indicated by the sense of the whole passage. Thus in this context we must begin with excluding believers from the creation. For in Rom 8:23 they are mentioned as forming a class by themselves. We must likewise cut off from it unbelieving men, whether Jews or Gentiles. For of two things one or other must happen: either they will be converted before the expected time, and in that case they will themselves be found among the children of God, and will not form part of the creation (end of the ver. and Rom 8:21 ). Or if they are not then converted, they will not participate (even indirectly) in the glorious condition of the children of God. Consequently, since there can be no question in this context either of good angels or devils, it only remains to us to restrict the application of the word the creation to all the unintelligent beings which we usually comprise in the expression nature (in opposition to mankind). Thus are excluded the explanation of St. Augustine, who understood by it unconverted men, and that of Locke and others, who applied it to unconverted Jews; that of Böhme, who applied it to the heathen; the Arminian explanation, which took the word the creation in the sense of the new creation, and applied this term to Christians only; that of Luther, who in some passages seems to have restricted it to inanimate nature; that of Zyro, who sees in this term a designation of the flesh in the regenerate, etc. The explanation we have given is that most generally adopted (Er., Calv., Grot., Thol., De Wette, Philip., Hofm., etc.). It is confirmed by the following parallels: Matthew 19:28, where Jesus speaks of the palingenesia, or universal renovation which is to take place; Acts 3:21, where Peter announces the restoration of all things; and Revelation 21:1, where this event is described as the substitution of a new heaven and a new earth for the present heaven and earth. The same perspective of a universal renovation in the last times is already opened up in the O. T. ( Isa 11:1 et seq., Isaiah 65:17; Psalms 102:26-27; Psa 104:34 ); it follows from the fact of the fall of man in which nature was involved. Solidarity in the matter of restoration is naturally associated with solidarity in the fall.
In this prophetico-poetical passage the destination of nature is represented as its own expectation. This figurative expression becomes a truth in proportion as the beings themselves suffer from the general disorder.
The hour of transformation is called the time of the manifestation of the sons of God. This expression is explained by Colossians 3:4: “When Christ, our life, shall be manifested, then ye also shall be manifested with Him in glory.” The appearing of the sons of God in their true sanctified nature, will break the bonds of the curse which still to this hour hold the creation in fetters; comp. Matthew 13:43; 1 John 3:2. And nature herself is impatient to see those new guests arrive, because she knows that to receive them she will don her fairest apparel.
In the following verses, Paul develops more fully that abnormal character of the present creation which he has just declared in Romans 8:19.
Vv. 20-22. “ For the creation was made subject to vanity, not voluntarily, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth together and as it were travaileth until now. ”
The vanity to which nature is now subject, is the state of frailty to which all earthly beings are subjected. “Everywhere,” says M. Reuss, “our eyes meet images of death and decay; the scourge of barrenness, the fury of the elements, the destructive instincts of beasts, the very laws which govern vegetation, everything gives nature a sombre hue”...This reign of death which prevails over all that is born cannot be the normal state of a world created by God. Nature suffers from a curse which it cannot have brought upon itself, as it is not morally free. It is not with its goodwill, says the apostle, that it appears in this condition, but because of him who hath subjected it to such a state.
Whom does he mean? According to most modern commentators: God. Was it not He who pronounced the sentence of doom: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake” ( Gen 3:17 )? Yet if this were the apostle's meaning, it would be strange that he should use the expression: by reason of ( διά with the accusative); for God is not the moral cause, but the efficient author of the curse on nature. Then if the expression: not with its goodwill, signifies: not by its own fault, it is natural to seek in the contrasted term a designation of the person on whom the moral responsibility for this catastrophe rests; and we cannot be surprised at the explanation given by Chrysostom, Schneckenburger, Tholuck, who apply the term ὁ ὑποτάξας . he who subjected, to the first man; comp. the expression, Genesis 3:17: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake. ” It cannot be denied, however, that there is something strangely mysterious in the apostle's language, which he might easily have avoided by saying: by reason of the man, or by reason of us; then does the term: he who subjected, apply well to man, who in this event, so far as nature is concerned, played a purely passive part? This consideration has led one critic, Hammond, to apply the term to Satan, the prince of this world (as Jesus calls him), who, either by his own fall or by that of man, dragged the creation into the miserable state here described. The only room for hesitation, as it appears to me, is between the two latter meanings.
The regimen: in hope, can only refer to the term: who hath subjected, if we apply it to God, which, as we have seen, is unnatural. It depends therefore on the principal verb: was made subject to vanity, and signifies that from the first, when this chastisement was inflicted, it was so only with a future restoration in view. This hope, precisely like the expectation, Romans 8:19, is attributed to nature herself; she possesses in the feeling of her unmerited suffering a sort of presentiment of her future deliverance.
Vv. 21. The conujnction ὅτι ( that, or because) may be made directly dependent on the words in hope: “in hope that. ” Rom 8:21 would then state wherein the hope itself consists. But we may also take it in the sense of because, and find in Rom 8:21 the reason of the hope: “I say: with hope, because ”...This indeed would be the only possible meaning if, with Tischendorf, we adopted the reading of the Sinaït. and the Greco-Latins: διότι , seeing that. In any case it is the natural sense; for why otherwise would the apostle repeat in extenso the subject of the sentence: αὐτὴ ἡ κτίσις , the creation itself? No writer will say: nature was made subject in the hope that Nature herself would be delivered.
The pronoun itself glances at a natural objection: one would not have expected such a fact in a being like Nature. The καί , also, even, refers to the same thought: the unintelligent creation no less than men.
In the expression: the bondage of corruption, the complement may signify: “the bondage which consists of corruption.” But this complement may also be taken as the genitive of the object, subjection to corruption, as a law. This second meaning is undoubtedly better; for the idea of enslavement is thus rendered more emphatic, in opposition to the idea of liberty in what follows.
The term φθορά , corruption, putrescence, is more forcible than the word vanity, and serves to define it more exactly.
Paul does not say that nature will participate in the glory, but only in the liberty of the glory of the children of God. Liberty is one of the elements of their glorious state, and it is the only one to which nature can lay claim. It expresses the unchecked development of the free expansion of all the powers of life, beauty, and perfection, wherewith this new nature will be endowed. There is nothing to show that the apostle has in view the return to life of the individual beings composing the present system of nature. In the domains inferior to man, the individual is merely the temporary manifestation of the species. We have therefore to think here only of a new nature in its totality, differing from the old system in its constitution and laws.
Vv. 22. The hope expressed in Rom 8:21 is justified in Romans 8:22. By the word we know, Paul appeals, not as Ewald supposes, to an old book that has been lost, but to a book always open to those who have eyes to read it, nature itself, the daily sight of which proclaims loudly enough all the apostle here says. Is there not a cry of universal suffering, a woful sigh perpetually ascending from the whole life of nature? Have not poets caught this vast groaning in every age? has not their voice become its organ? As Schelling said: On the loveliest spring day, while Nature is displaying all her charms, does not the heart, when drinking in admiration, imbibe a poison of gnawing melancholy? The preposition σύν , with, which enters into the composition of the two verbs, can only refer to the concurrence of all the beings of nature in this common groaning. But there is more than groaning in the case; there is effort, travail. This is forcibly expressed by the second verb συνωδίνει , literally, to travail in birth. It seems as if old Nature bore in her bosom the germ of a more perfect nature, and, as the poet says, “ sente bondir en elle un nouvel univers ” (feels in her womb the leaping of a new universe).
We should beware of giving to the expression until now the meaning assigned to it by De Wette and Meyer: from the first of time, or without interruption. This would be a superfluous observation. The context shows what Paul means: Until now, even after redemption is already accomplished. The renovating principle has transformed the domain of the Spirit; for it became penetrated therewith at Pentecost. But the domain of nature has remained till now outside of its action. Comp. the ἑως ἀρτι , 1 Corinthians 4:13. It is in this respect with the whole as with the individual; comp. Romans 8:10.
Vv. 23. “ And not only only so, but we also,which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, we ourselves also groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. ”
The connection between this passage and the preceding one is obvious at a glance; it is found in the idea of groaning. The groaning of believers themselves, men already animated with the breath of God, rises as it were on that of nature. Of the three or even four readings presented by the documents, we must first, whatever Volkmar may say to the contrary, set aside that of the Vatic., which rejects the ἡμεῖς , we, in the middle of the verse; this pronoun is indispensable to emphasize the contrast between believers and nature. And whence could it have come into all the other texts? We may also set aside the Greco-Latin reading (D F G). By putting the pronoun: we ourselves also, at the beginning of the sentence, after the words: not only but, it obliterates the forcible reaffirmation which these words contain when placed in the middle of the sentence: “ We also...we ourselves also ”...The two other readings differ only in this, that the Alexandrine ( א A C) places the ἡμεῖς , we, before καὶ αὐτοί , while the Byzs. place it between the two words: and we ourselves. The difference of meaning is almost imperceptible ( we ourselves also; also we ourselves). It is probable that the Alexs. have displaced the ἡμεῖς , we, to bring it next the participle ἔχοντες . This is the reason why we have translated according to the received reading.
Several commentators have thought that in saying first we, then adding we ourselves also, the apostle meant to speak of two different subjects, for example, Christians and apostles (Mel.), or Christians and Paul himself (Reiche). But in this case the article οἱ before the participle ἔχοντες would be indispensable; and what object could there be in such a distinction in the context?
The logical connection between the participle ἔχοντες , having, possessing, and the verb στενάζομεν , we groan, should be rendered by the conjunction though: “Though already possessing, we still groan ( ipsi nos habentes).”
The expression: the first-fruits of the Spirit, is so clear that it is difficult to understand how it should have given rise to dispute. How has it occurred to commentators like De Wette, Olshausen, Meyer, to apply it specially to the Spirit bestowed on the apostles and first believers, to distinguish it from the Spirit afterward bestowed on other believers? What importance can this difference have for the spiritual life, and where is a trace of such a distinction to be found in the N. T.? It would be preferable to regard the word first-fruits (with Chrys., Calv., Thol., Philip., Bonnet) as referring to the fact that Christians here below receive only a beginning, while there will be given to them above the entire fulness of the Spirit. In this sense the genitive would be the complement of the object: The first-fruits of that gift which is the Spirit. But the apostle is not here contrasting an imperfect with a more perfect spiritual state; he is contrasting an inward state already relatively perfect, with an outward state which has not yet participated in the spiritual renewal; this appears clearly from the last words: waiting for the redemption of our body. The genitive is therefore the complement of quality or apposition: “The first-fruits which consist of the Spirit Himself.” This meaning is proved, besides, by the attentive comparison of 2Co 1:22 and Ephesians 1:14. The apostle means: “We ourselves, who by the possession of the Spirit have already entered inwardly into the new world, still groan, because there is a part of our being, the outer man, which does not yet enjoy this privilege.”
Hofmann joins the regimen: within ourselves, to the participle ἔχοντες : we who have within ourselves. But is it not superfluous to say that the Holy Spirit is possessed inwardly? This regimen is very significant, on the contrary, if we connect it, as is grammatically natural, with the verb we groan: “We groan often inwardly, even when others do not suspect it, and when they hear us proclaiming salvation as a fact already accomplished.” The disharmony between the child of God and the child of the dust therefore still remains; and hence we wait for something.
This something St. Paul calls adoption, and he explains it by the apposition: the redemption of our body. No doubt our adoption is in point of right an acquired fact ( Gal 4:6 ). It is so in reality on its spiritual side, for we already possess the Spirit of our Father, as Paul has developed it, Romans 8:14-16. But the state of sons of God will not be fully realized in us until to the holiness of the Spirit there be added the glory and perfection of the body. It needs hardly be said that the expression: the redemption of our body, is not to be interpreted in the sense: that we are to be delivered from our body (Oltram.). For this idea, applied to the body itself, would be anti-biblical; faith waits for a new body; and if it applied to the body only as the body of our humiliation, as Paul says, Philippians 3:21, this specification would require to be added, or at least Paul would require to say τοῦ σώματος τούτου , of this present body. The complement of the body is therefore evidently the genitive, not of the object, but of the subject: it is the body itself which is to be delivered from the miseries of its present corruption. We see from 2Co 5:4 that Paul desired not to be unclothed, but to be clothed upon: that is, to receive his glorified body, by the power of which his mortal body was to be as it were swallowed up. It is by the transformation of the body only that we shall become completely sons of God. Comp. the affirmation, which is not identical, but analogous, made in reference to Christ Himself, Romans 1:3-4.
Vv. 24, 25. “ For we have been saved in hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why would he yet hope for? Now if we hope for that we see not, then do we with perseverance wait for it. ”
Ver. 24 uses one of the three constituent elements of the Christian life, namely hope ( 1Co 13:13 ), to demonstrate the reality of that state of groaning and expectation which has just been ascribed to believers. On the one hand, undoubtedly salvation is a thing finished; this is indicated by the aorist ἐσώθημεν , we have been saved. But, on the other hand, this salvation having as yet penetrated only to the spiritual part of our being, is not fully realized, and leaves room for awaiting a more complete realization. Hence the restrictive specification τῇ ἐλπίδι , in hope. This word, from its position at the beginning of the sentence, evidently has the emphasis. This dative is, as Bengel says, a dativus modi, signifying: “ in the way of hope. ” The meaning therefore is: “If we are saved, which is certain, this holds true only when we take account of the element of hope which continues always in our present state.” We must not, like Chrys., De Wette, Rück., identify hope with faith, and find here the idea of salvation by faith. The whole context shows that it is really of hope in the strict and special meaning of the word that Paul is speaking. Already in the apostolic age we find persons who, intoxicated with a feeling of false spiritualism, gave out that salvation concerned only man's higher nature, and who abandoned the body to everlasting destruction; so those Christians of Corinth who denied the resurrection of the body (1 Corinthians 15:0), and those heretics of Asia Minor who alleged that the resurrection was already past ( 2Ti 2:18 ), probably because they confounded it with moral regeneration. Were there such men at Rome? Paul must have had some reason for insisting, as he does here, on the outward and future consummation of the edifice of salvation. The meaning of the last two propositions of Rom 8:24 is clear: “Now, hope implies non-possession.” In the words: hope that is seen, the term hope is taken for the object hoped for, as is often the case, Col 1:5 for example. In the words following the term resumes its subjective meaning. The last proposition has been amended by the copyists in all sorts of ways. In our translation we have rendered the T. R. The Greco-Latin text, rejecting the καί , yet, signifies: “For what one sees, why would he hope for?” The Sinaït.: “What one sees, he also hopes for,” or “does he also hope for?” a reading which in the context has no meaning. The Vatic.: “What one sees, does he hope for?” This is the reading which Volkmar prefers; for in regard to the Vatic. he gives himself up to the same predilection with which he rightly charges Tischendorf in regard to the Sinaït. This reading is impossible. It would require when instead of what: “ When one sees, does he hope?”
The καί , yet, is by no means superfluous: yet, after sight has begun, along with sight, hope has no more place.
Vv. 25. This verse is not, as Meyer thinks, a deduction fitted to close the first reason of encouragement. In this case an οὖν , therefore, would have been necessary rather than δέ , now, or but. The meaning but (Osterv., Oltram.) well suits the contrast between the ideas of hoping ( Rom 8:25 ) and seeing ( Rom 8:24 ). Yet it seems to me that the meaning now is preferable. It is not a conclusion; it is a step in the argument intended to prove the painful state of waiting attaching even to believers. The emphasis is on the words δἰ ὑπομονῆς , with perseverance, and the general meaning is this: “Now, obliged as we yet are to hope without seeing, waiting necessarily takes the character of perseverance. ” To understand this thought, it is enough to recall the etymological meaning of the word ὑπομένειν : to hold out under a burden. We wait with perseverance amounts therefore to saying: “It is only by holding out under the burden of present sufferings that we can expect with certainty the hoped-for future.” The conclusion is this: We are not therefore yet in our normal condition; otherwise why endurance?
Vv. 26, 27. “ And likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity;for we know not what we should ask in order to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered. But He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the aspiration of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to God. ”
As the apostle had passed from the groaning of universal nature to that of the children of God, he now rises from the latter to that of the Holy Spirit Himself. This gradation is so evident that one is astonished it could have remained unobserved by so many commentators (see for example Meyer). But we must remark the significant difference between this second transition and the former. In passing from the groaning of nature to that of believers, he said: not only...but also. Now he simply says: and likewise also. There is no contrast indicated here; for the groaning of the Spirit is homogeneous with that of believers ( likewise), though distinct from it notwithstanding ( also), and though there is a gradation from the one to the other ( δέ , now, which we have rendered by and).
If, with the Byzs., we read the plural ταῖς ἀσθενείαις , our infirmities, the word would denote the moral infirmities of believers. But so general an idea is out of place in the context. We must therefore prefer the Alex. reading: τῇ ἀσθενεία , our infirmity. This expression refers to a special infirmity, the fainting condition with which the believer is sometimes overtaken under the weight of present suffering; it is the want which makes itself felt in his ὑπομονή , that constancy, the necessity of which had been affirmed in the previous verse. The reading of F G: our weakness in prayer, would refer to our ignorance as to what should be asked (the proposition following). But this so weakly supported reading is certainly a gloss. Infirmity in prayer enters into the weakness of which the apostle speaks, but does not constitute the whole of it. The verb συναντιλαμβάνεσθαι , to support, come to the help of, is one of those admirable words easily formed by the Greek language; λαμβάνεσθαι (the middle) to take a burden on oneself; σύν , with some one; ἀντί , in his place; so: to share a burden with one with the view of easing him; comp. Luke 10:40. This verb is usually followed by a personal regimen, which leads us to take the abstract substantive here: our weakness, for: us weak ones ( ἡμῖν ἀσθένεσιν ). The Spirit supports us in the hour when we are ready to faint. The end of the verse will explain wherein this aid consists.
Before describing it the apostle yet further examines the notion: our infirmity. The case in question belongs to those times in which our tribulation is such that in praying we cannot express to God what the blessing is which would allay the distress of our heart. We ourselves have no remedy to propose. The article τό defines the whole following proposition taken as a substantive: “The: what we should ask. ” This is what we know not ourselves. The words as we ought do not refer to the manner of prayer (this would require καθώς ), but to its object. Jesus Himself was once in the perplexity of which the apostle here speaks. “Now is my soul troubled,” says He, John 12:27, “and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” After this moment of trouble and hesitation, his mind became fixed, and His prayer takes form: “Father, glorify Thy name.” In our case the struggle usually lasts longer. Comp. a similar situation in the experience of Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
In these extreme situations help is suddenly presented to us, a divine agent who raises us as it were above ourselves, the Spirit. The verb ὑ/περεντυγχάνειν is again a term compounded of three words: τυγχάνειν , to find oneself, to meet with some one; ἐν , in a place agreed on; ὑπέρ , in one's favor; hence: to intercede in favor of. It would seem that the regimen ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν , for us, in the Byz. text, should be rejected according to the two other families.
How are we to conceive of this intercession of the Spirit? It does not take place in the heavenly sanctuary, like that of the glorified Christ ( Heb 7:25 ). It has for its theatre the believer's own heart. The very term groaning implies this, and Romans 8:27, by speaking of God who searches the hearts, confirms it.
The epithet ἀλάλητος , which we have translated unutterable, may be explained in three ways. 1. Beza and Grotius have given it the meaning of mute, that is to say, purely inward and spiritual. But what end would such a qualification serve here? 2. Others understand inexpressible; such is the meaning of our translation; that is to say, that the understanding cannot fully grasp its object, nor consequently express it in distinct terms. Only, 3, we should have preferred to translate, had the language permitted it, by the word unformulated or unexpressed. In every particular case, he who is the object of this assistance feels that no distinct words fully express to God the infinite good after which he sighs. The fact proves that the aspiration is not his own, but that it is produced in his heart by the Spirit of Him of whom John said, “that He is greater than our heart” ( 1Jn 3:20 ). We here find ourselves in a domain analogous to that of the γλώσσαις λαλεῖν , speaking in tongues, to which 1 Corinthians 14:0 refers; comp. Romans 8:14-15, where Paul says: “When I pray in a tongue, my spirit ( πνεῦμα ) prayeth indeed, but my understanding ( νοῦς ) is unfruitful.” The understanding cannot control, nor even follow the movement of the spirit, which, exalted by the Spirit of God, plunges into the depths of the divine. Thus, at the moment when the believer already feels the impulse of hope failing within him, a groan more elevated, holy, and intense than anything which can go forth even from his renewed heart is uttered within him, coming from God and going to God, like a pure breath, and relieves the poor downcast heart.
Vv. 27. The δέ , but, contrasts the knowledge of God, which thoroughly understands the object of this groaning, with the ignorance of the heart from which it proceeds. God is often called in the O. T. the καρδιογνώστης , the searcher of hearts. As to the blessing to which the aspiration of the Spirit goes forth in the believer's heart, he knows its nature, he discerns its sublime reality. Why? This is what is told us in the second part of the verse: Because this supreme object of the Spirit's aspiration is what God Himself has prepared for us. The groaning of the Spirit is κατὰ Θεόν , according to God. The preposition κατά , according to, denotes the standard; God does not require the man who prays to express to Him the things he needs, since the groaning of the Spirit is in conformity with the plan of God which is to be realized. If it is so, how should not God understand such a groan? For the Spirit fathoms the divine plans to the bottom, 1 Corinthians 2:10. It is obvious how far Meyer and Hofmann are mistaken in alleging that ὅτι should signify that and not because. They have not apprehended the bearing of the κατὰ Θεόν , according to God; Paul has a reason for making this word the opening one of the proposition. What is according to Him cannot remain unintelligible to Him. It is impossible to conceive a more superfluous thought than the one here substituted by the two commentators referred to: “God knows that the Spirit intercedes, and that He does so according to Him for the saints.” Did this knowing require to be affirmed? The last words, ὑπὲρ ἁγίων , literally, “ for saints,” are very weighty. These saints are beings in whom the Spirit already dwells. After what He has already done in them, is it not natural for Him to interest Himself in the completion of their salvation?
In the words: according to God and for saints, there is already enunciated a thought which is now to become that of the following passage, the thought of a divine plan conceived from all eternity in favor of the elect. It is to the accomplishment of this plan that the operation of the Spirit tends.
What a demonstration of the unutterable disorder which reigns throughout creation, and consequently of the state of imperfection in which it still is, notwithstanding the redemption which has been accomplished! Nature throughout all her bounds has a confused feeling of it, and from her bosom there rises a continual lament claiming a renovation from heaven. The redeemed themselves are not exempt from this groaning, and wait for their own renewal which shall be the signal of universal restoration; and finally, the Spirit, who is intimate with the plans of God for our glory ( 1Co 2:7 ), and who distinctly beholds the ideal of which we have but glimpses, pursues its realization with ardor. Thus is exhausted the first of the two leading ideas of this paasage, that of the συμπάσχειν , suffering with Christ. The apostle now passes to the second, that of the συνδοξᾳσθῆναι , being glorified with Him. The first was the condition ( εἴπερ , if so be, Rom 8:17 ); the second is the final aim.
Vv. 28. “ But we know that all things work together, for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to the design formed beforehand. ”
We have shown how mistaken those expositors are who take the δέ as a simple particle of transition: then, and say: third or fourth ground of encouragement. The δέ is adversative: but. With this universal groaning which he has just described, and the source of which is in the sufferings of the present time, the apostle contrasts the full certainty already possessed by believers of the glorious goal marked out beforehand by the plan of God. This result, which they await with assurance, is the luminous point on which their eye is already fixed, and the brilliance of which is reflected on the obscurities of the way which they have yet to traverse: “We groan no doubt; we know not how to pray..., but we know ”...The regimen: to them that love God, is placed at the beginning, as expressing the condition under which the prerogative about to be enunciated is realized in man. This characteristic of love to God is associated with the attribute of saints which he ascribed to believers, Romans 8:27, and more particularly with the cry: Abba, Father, the expression of their filial feeling, Romans 8:15. Those who belong to this class will never fail to be strengthened, and even to gain progress, by everything which can happen them; for in this normal path obstacles even become means of help. The end of the verse will explain why.
The term πάντα , all things, includes all that comes on us, especially everything painful in consequence of the miseries of the present time and of the sins of our neighbors. But it would be wrong to embrace under it what we may do ourselves in opposition to God's will, since that would contradict the idea: them that love God.
The σύν , with, in the verb συνεργεῖν , to work together with, has been variously explained. According to some, it means that all things work in concert (comp. the σύν , Rom 8:22 ); according to others, All things work in common with God under His direction. Others, finally: All things work in common with the believer who is their object, and who himself aspires after the good. This last sense, which is well developed by Philippi, is undoubtedly the most natural. The Alex. and the Vatic. have added ὁ Θεός , God, as the subject of the verb. In that case we must give to συνεργεῖν a causative sense: “God makes all things work together. ” But this meaning is foreign to the N. T., and probably to classic Greek; Passow does not quote a single example of it.
The regimen: εἱς ἀγαθόν , for good, has a more precise meaning in the apostle's language than that usually given to it. It means not only any good result whatever in which everything issues for the believer, but that constant progress to the final goal to which the plan of God leads us, and which constitutes our real destination. Everything is fitted to hasten our progress in this direction, when the heart has once been subjected to God. The last words of the verse give the reason. Those who have come to take God as the object of their life and activity, and to live for Him like Jesus Himself ( Rom 6:10 ), are exactly those in whose favor God has formed the universal plan. All therefore which happens according to this plan must turn out in their favor. Two reasons explain the co-operation of all things for the believer's good: a subjective reason he has entered into the true current ( loving God); and an objective reason all things are ordered in his favor in the plan of God; this is indicated by the second regimen.
The notion of the divine plan is expressed by the term πρόθεσις , the design fixed beforehand. Paul often uses this expression in a more or less extended sense; thus, 2 Timothy 1:9, he applies it specially to salvation by grace without works; Ephesians 1:11, this term is applied to the election of the people of Israel; Romans 3:24, the design of God has for its object Christ's expiatory sacrifice. The classic passages, as they may be called, where this term is taken in its most general signification, are found in the Epistle to the Ephesians: Eph 1:3-10 and Ephesians 3:11. We see here that the design of God is eternal ( before the ages), for it rests on Christ ( in Jesus Christ), and that is was conceived freely, solely on account of the divine love (the decree of His will, according to His good pleasure).
In this plan of salvation there were comprehended at the same time the individuals in whom it was to be realized; hence they are designated here as the called according to His purpose. The call is the invitation addiessed by God to man, when by the preaching of His gospel He offers him salvation in Christ. This call by the Word is always accompanied with an inward operation of the Spirit which tends to render the preaching effectual. Those theologians who hold absolute predestination have no deubt denied the generality of this internal operation of grace; they have alleged that it does not accompany the outward call except in the case of the elect. Some have even gone the length of distinguishing between a serious and consequently effectual calling, and a non-serious and consequently ineffectual calling. But it will be asked, What could God have in view with a non-serious call, that is to say, one which He did not Himself seek to render effectual? It has been answered, that its object was to render those to whom it was addressed inexcusable. But if God Himself refuses to give the grace necessary for its acceptance, how is he who refuses thereby rendered more inexcusable? It must then be held that when the apostle in his Epistle speaks of the divine call, he always embraces under the term the two notions of an outward call by the Word and an inward call by grace, and that the apostle's expression: the called according to His purpose, is not at all intended to distinguish two classes of called persons, those who are so according to His purpose, and those who are not. All are alike seriously called. Only it happens that some consent to yield to the call and others refuse. This distinction is indicated by Jesus in the saying: “Many are called, but few are chosen,” Matthew 20:16. The chosen in this passage are those who accept the call, and who are thereby rescued from the midst of this perishing world; the called are those who, not accepting the call, remain called and nothing more, and that to their condemnation. In the Epistles, the apostles, addressing Christians, do not require to make this distinction, since the individuals whom they address are assumed to have accepted the call, from the very fact that they have voluntarily entered the church. The case is like that of a man who should say to his guests when assembled in his house: “Use everything that is here, for you are my invited guests. ” It is obvious that by expressing himself thus, he would not be distinguishing invitation from acceptance, the latter being implied in the very fact of their presence; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24. What the apostle means to say then is this: There is something prior to the present sufferings of believers; that is the eternal purpose in virtue of which their calling took place. It is not possible therefore but that all things should turn to their good.
The relation between the two clauses: them that love God, and them that are the called according to His purpose, reminds us of John's words: “We love Him because He first loved us” ( 1Jn 4:19 ).
The participle τοῖς οὖσι , who are, strongly expresses the present reality of this condition described by the word called, in opposition to the ideal nature of the decree, previously to its realization in time.
The Greek Fathers, Pelagius and others, in their desire to escape from the idea of an absolute predestination, applied the act indicated by the word πρόθεσις , purpose, to man, and understood thereby his good will to believe, as in Acts 11:23. But in the context it is the divine side of salvation only which is meant to be emphasized, as it is the only side which is expounded in the two following verses. The ground of the calling could not really be the believer's disposition to accept it.
The idea of God's purpose is developed in the two verses, Romans 8:29-30. Rom 8:29 indicates its final aim; Rom 8:30 marks off, as it were, the path along which it reaches its realization.
On predestination as taught Romans 8:28-30.
Wherein consists the divine predestination undoubtedly taught by the apostle in this passage? Does it in his view exclude the free will of man, or, on the contrary, does it imply it? Two reasons seem to us to decide the question in favor of the second alternative: 1. The act of foreknowing, which the apostle makes the basis of predestination, proves that the latter is determined by some fact or other, the object of this knowledge. It matters little that the knowledge is eternal, while the fact, which is its object, comes to pass only in time. It follows all the same from this relation, that the fact must be considered as due in some way to a factor distinct from divine causation, which can be nothing else than human liberty. 2. The apostle avoids making the act of believing the object of the decree of predestination. In the act of predestination faith is already assumed, and its sole object is, according to the apostle's words, the final participation of believers in the glory of Christ. Not only then does Paul's view imply that in the act of believing full human liberty is not excluded, but it is even implied. For it alone explains the distinction which he clearly establishes between the two divine acts of foreknowledge and predestination, both as to their nature (the one, an act of the understanding; the other, of the will) and as to their object (in the one case, faith; in the other, glory).
Human liberty in the acceptance of salvation being therefore admitted, in what will predestination, as understood by St. Paul, consist? It contains, we think, the three following elements:
1. The decree ( προορισμός ) whereby God has determined to bring to the perfect likeness of His Son every one who shall believe. What more in keeping with His grace and wisdom than such a decree: “Thou dost adhere by faith to Him whom I give thee as thy Saviour; He will therefore belong to thee wholly, and I shall not leave thee till I have rendered thee perfectly like Him, the God-man”?
2. The prevision ( πρόγνωσις ), in consequence of the divine foreknowledge, of all the individuals who shall freely adhere to the divine invitation to participate in this salvation. What more necessary than this second element? Would not God's plan run the risk of coming to nought if He did not foresee both the perfect fidelity of the Elect One on whom its realization rests, and the faith of those who shall believe in Him? Without a Saviour and believers there would be no salvation. God's plan therefore assumes the assured foreknowledge of both.
3. The arrangement of all the laws and all the circumstances of history with a view to realizing the glorious plan conceived in favor of those foreknown. It is this arrangement which St. Paul describes in Romans 8:28, when he says that “ all things must work together for good to them who are the called according to the eternal purpose.” What more magnificent! Once believers, we may be tossed on the tempests of this present time; not only do we know that no wave can engulf us, but we are assured that every one of them has its place in the divine plan, and must hasten our course.
Thus we have three points: 1. The end indicated by the decree; 2. The personally known individuals who are to reach it; 3. The way by which they are to be led to it.
If any one does not find this predestination sufficient, he may make one to his taste; but, according to our conviction, it will not be that of the apostle.
Vv. 29. “ For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be a first-born among many brethren. ”
The for bears on the principal idea of Romans 8:28: All things must turn to the good of them that are called according to God's eternal plan. Why so? Because once individually foreknown, He has determined to bring them to the glorious consummation of perfect likeness to His Son. This is the end with a view to which He has ordered the plan of all things beforehand.
By the οῦς προέγνω , whom He did foreknow, Paul evidently expresses the condition of the προώρισεν , He predestinated. The decree of predestination ( προορισμός ) is founded on the act of foreknowledge ( πρόγνωσις ). What does St. Paul understand by this last word? Some have given to the word foreknow the meaning of elect, choose, destine, beforehand (Mel., Calv., Rück., De Wette, etc.). Not only is this meaning arbitrary, as being without example in the N. T., and as even in profane Greek the word γινώσκειν , to know, has the meaning of deciding only when it applies to a thing, as when we say: connaître d'une cause, to judge of a case, and never when applied to a person; [in this case γινώσκειν περί would be absolutely necessary, to decide regarding (the person)]; but what is still more decidedly opposed to this meaning is what follows: He also did predestinate; for in that case the two verbs would be identical in meaning, and could not be connected by the particle of gradation καί , also, especially in view of Romans 8:30, where the successive degrees of divine action are strictly distinguished and graduated. Others give to the word know a sense borrowed from the shade of meaning which it sometimes has in the biblical style, that of loving (Er., Grot., Hofm.); comp. Romans 11:2; Jeremiah 1:5; Amos 3:2; Hosea 13:5; Galatians 4:9, etc. The meaning according to this view is: “whom He loved and privileged beforehand.” With this class we may join those who, like Beza, give the word the meaning of approving. It is certain that with the idea of knowledge, Scripture readily joins that of approbation, intimate communion, and tender affection; for it is only through mutual love that intelligent beings really meet and know one another. Besides, no one can think of separating from the word foreknow here, any more than Romans 11:2, the notion of love. Only it is still less allowable to exclude from it the notion of knowledge, for this is the first and fundamental meaning; the other is only secondary. There is not a passage in the N. T. where the word know does not above all contain the notion of knowledge, properly so called. The same is the case with the word foreknow; comp. Acts 26:5; 2 Peter 3:17. In the passage Acts 2:23, foreknowledge is expressly distinguished from the fixed decree, and consequently can denote nothing but prescience; and as to Romans 11:2: “His people whom God foreknew,” the idea of knowledge is the leading one in the word foreknew; that of love is expressed in the pronoun His. The meaning then to which we are brought seems to me to be this: those on whom His eye fixed from all eternity with love; whom He eternally contemplated and discerned as His. In what respect did God thus foreknow them? Obviously it is not as being one day to exist. For the foreknowledge in that case would apply to all men, and the apostle would not say: “ whom He foreknew.” Neither is it as future saved and glorified ones that He foreknew them; for this is the object of the decree of predestination of which the apostle goes on to speak; and this object cannot at the same time be that of the foreknowledge. There is but one answer: foreknown as sure to fulfil the condition of salvation, viz. faith; so: foreknown as His by faith. Such is the meaning to which a host of commentators have been led, St. Augustine himself in early times, then the Lutheran expositors; Philippi explains: praecognovit praevisione fidei. Only Philippi, after frankly acknowledging this meaning, instantly adds, that the faith which God foresees He also creates; and so by this door a return is provided into the system of predestination which seemed to have been abandoned. But this view is not compatible with the true meaning of the word know, especially when this word is contrasted, as it is here, with the term predestinate. The act of knowing, exactly like that of seeing, supposes an object perceived by the person who knows or sees. It is not the act of seeing or knowing which creates this object; it is this object, on the contrary, which determines the act of knowing or seeing. And the same is the case with divine prevision or foreknowledge; for in the case of God who lives above time, foreseeing is seeing; knowing what shall be is knowing what to Him already is. And therefore it is the believer's faith which, as a future fact, but in His sight already existing, which determines His foreknowledge. This faith does not exist because God sees it; He sees it, on the contrary, because it will come into being at a given moment, in time. We thus get at the thought of the apostle: Whom God knew beforehand as certain to believe, whose faith He beheld eternally. He designated predestined ( προώρισεν ), as the objects of a grand decree, to wit, that He will not abandon them till He has brought them to the perfect likeness of His own Son.
It is clear from the οὕς and the τούτους , whom...them, that it was those individuals personally who were present to His thought when pronouncing the decree.
As the first verb contained an act of knowledge, the second denotes one of free will and authority. But will in God is neither arbitrary nor blind; it is based on a principle of light, on knowledge. In relation to the man whose faith God foresees, He decrees salvation and glory. Reuss is certainly mistaken, therefore, in saying of these two verbs that substantially they denote “one and the same act.” The object of the decree is not faith at all, as if God had said: As for thee, thou shalt believe; as for thee, thou shalt not believe. The object of predestination is glory: “I see thee believing..., I will therefore that thou be glorified like my Son.” Such is the meaning of the decree. The predestination of which Paul speaks is not a predestination to faith, but a predestination to glory, founded on the prevision of faith. Faith is in a sense the work of God; but it contains a factor, in virtue of which it reacts on God, as an object reacts on the mind which takes cognizance of it; this is the free adherence of man to the solicitation of God. Here is the element which distinguishes the act of foreknowledge from that of predestination, and because of which the former logically precedes the latter.
It is hardly necessary to refute the opinion of Meyer, who gives the verb foreknow the same object as the verb predestinate: “Whom He foreknew as conformed to the image of His Son, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Sou.” Has this any meaning? It would be more intelligible if the order were reversed: “Whom he predestinated to..., He also did foreknow as ”...
What the decree of predestination embraces is the realization of the image of the Son in all foreknown believers. The adj. σύμμορφοι , conformed, is directly connected with the verb He predestinated; the ellipsis of the verb to be, or to become, is obvious and common. Paul does not say: “conformed or like to His Son,” but: “to the image of His Son.” By using this form of expression, he undoubtedly means that Christ has realized in Himself a higher type of existence ( εἰκών , image), which we are to realize after Him. This is the existence of the God-man, as we behold it in Christ; such is the glorious vesture which God takes from the person of His Son, that therewith He may clothe believers. What, in point of fact, was the aim of God in the creation of man? He wished to have for Himself a family of sons; and therefore He determined in the first place to make His own Son our brother. Then in His person He raises our humanity to the divine state; and finally, He makes all believing men sharers in this glorious form of existence. Such are the contents of the decree. It is obvious that Christ Himself is its first object; and hence He is called the Elect, absolutely speaking, Isaiah 42:1; Luke 9:35 (most approved reading). His brethren are elect in Him, Ephesians 1:4-6. The Father's intention in acting thus is to glorify the Son by causing His beauty to be reflected in a family of living likenesses.
The term πρωτότοκος , first-born, no doubt denotes primarily a relation of time: Jesus preceded all the others in glory, not only because of His eternal existence, but also as a man by His resurrection and ascension; comp. Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18. But the decree of predestination carries us into an eternal sphere, where the idea of priority has no more place, and is transformed into that of superiority. It will be vain for us to take on His likeness; we shall never be equal to Him; for the likeness which we shall bear will be His. Thus what comes out as the end of the divine decree is the creation of a great family of men made partakers of the divine existence and action, in the midst of which the glorified Jesus shines as the prototype.
But how are we, we sinful men, to be brought to this sublime state? Such a work could not be accomplished as it were by the wave of a magician's wand. A complete moral transformation required to be wrought in us, paving the way for our glorification. And hence God, after fixing the end, and pronouncing the decree in eternity, set His hand to the work in time to realize it. He beheld them at their haven, all these foreknown ones, before launching them on the sea; and once launched, He acted; such is the meaning of Romans 8:30.
Vv. 30. “ Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. ”
Here are the successive acts whereby the eternal decree is executed in time. They stand, as it were, between the eternity in which this decree is pronounced, and the eternity in which it is finished. It is to be remarked that the apostle only points out in its accomplishment the acts pertaining to God: calling, justification, glorification, because he is only setting forth that side of the work of salvation which is contained in the decree of predestination, and which consequently depends solely on divine causation. If his intention had been to explain the order of salvation in all its elements divine and human, he would have put faith between calling and justification, and holiness between justification and glorification.
The δέ , then, moreover, at the beginning of the verse is progressive; it indicates the transition from the eternal decree to its realization in time. He who wishes the end must employ the means; the first mean which God puts in operation is His call, which, as we have seen, embraces the outward invitation by preaching, and the inward drawing by the Spirit of grace. Paul does not mean that God addresses this call only to those whom He has predestined to glory, but he affirms that none of those who are predestinated fail to be also called in their day and hour. Not one of those foreknown shall be forgotten. They form a totality, which, once introduced from eternity into time, is faithfully led by God from step to step to the goal fixed beforehand. God would be inconsequent if He acted otherwise.
The plural pronouns whom...them, imply knowledge of the individuals as such. All were present to the mind of God when he decreed the height to which He would raise them.
The call once accepted and it could not fail to be so, since we have to do here only with those whose faith God foreknew a second divine act followed: justification. The καί , also, indicates the continuity of the divine work, the different acts of which follow, and mutually involve one another. Each successive grace is as it were implied in the preceding. Grace upon grace, says John 1:16. On those who have been called and have become believers, there has been passed the sentence which declares man righteous, that is to say, put relatively to God in the position of one who has never done any evil nor omitted any good.
The third step, glorification, is no longer connected with the preceding by καί , also, but by δέ , moreover. This change indicates a shade of difference in the thought. The apostle feels that he is nearing the goal, foreseen and announced in Romans 8:29; and this δέ consequently signifies: and finally. The feeling expressed is that of one who, after a painful and perilous journey, at length reaches the end.
We might be tempted to include holiness here in glorification; for, as has been said, holiness is only the inward side of glory, which is its outward manifestation. But when we remember chaps. 6-8, it seems to us more natural to make holiness the transition from justification to glory, and to regard it as implicitly contained in the former. Once justified, the believer receives the Spirit, who sanctifies him in the measure of his docility, and so prepares him for glory.
There is nothing surprising in the fact that verbs in the past are used to denote the first two divine acts, those of calling and justification; for at the time Paul wrote, these two acts were already realized in a multitude of individuals who were in a manner the representatives of all the rest. But how can he employ the same past tense to denote the act of glorification which is yet to come? Many expositors, Thol., Mey., Philip., think that this past expresses the absolute certainty of the event to come. Others, like Reiche, refer this past to the eternal fulfilment of the decree in the divine understanding. Or again, it is taken as an aorist of anticipation, like that of which we have a striking example, John 15:6; John 15:8. Hodge seems to have sought to combine those different senses when he says: “Paul uses the past as speaking from God's point of view, who sees the end of things from their beginning.” But if it is true that the use of the two preceding aorists was founded on an already accomplished fact, should it not be the same with this? If believers are not yet glorified, their Head already is, and they are virtually so in Him. This is the completed historical fact which suffices to justify the use of the past. Does not Paul say, Ephesians 2:6: “We have been raised up together with Him, and made to sit together with Him in heavenly places”? When the head of a body wears a crown, the whole body wears the same with it.
Paul has thus reached the goal he had set from the beginning, in the last words of the preceding passage ( Rom 8:17 ): “that we may be glorified together with Him.” For he had proposed to himself ( Rom 8:1 ) to show the final abolition of all condemnation, even of that of death, by the law of the Spirit of life which is in Jesus Christ; and he has fulfilled this task. It only remains for him to celebrate in a hymn this unparalleled victory gained in our behalf.
It is obviously too narrow an interpretation of the passage to apply it merely, as Calvin does, to the victory over the sufferings of this present time ( Rom 8:18 ). We have here the consummation of that salvation in Christ, the foundation of which Paul had laid (chaps. 1-5) in the demonstration of the righteousness of faith, and the superstructure of which he had raised in the exposition of sanctification (chaps. 6-8). Hereafter it will only remain to follow this salvation, thus studied in its essence, as it is unfolded on the theatre of history.
Vv. 31 and 32 contain a question of an entirely general character; Rom 8:33-37 enumerate the different kinds of adversaries; Rom 8:38-39 are as it were the shout of victory on the battle-field now abandoned by the enemy.
Vv. 31, 32. “ What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ”
The question: What shall we then say? does not introduce an objection, as in other passages; it invites the readers to take account of the position made theirs by the divine acts which have been thus far expounded, and to seek language adequate to such benefits ( οὖν , then). It would be incorrect to give to the words πρὸς ταῦτα , to these things, the meaning of besides, as Bengel does; this would have required πρὸς τούτοις . Πρός here signifies in regard to: “What shall we say when we consider these things?” The apostle seeks to make himself and us thoroughly familiar with the nature of the new situation which is made ours. God has put Himself henceforth on our side...; for that reason alone all adversaries will be powerless. “Not that there are none,” says Calvin, “but with such a defender none of them is to be dreaded: Hic murus nobis est aheneus. ”
Vv. 32. This absolute assurance in God, Paul derives from the great act of mercy toward us which has been accomplished. The expression ὁς γε , literally, who at least, is undoubtedly used in Greek in the sense of who assuredly. It is allowable, however, to seek the more precise sense of this restrictive form, and we think it may be expressed by the paraphrase: “Who though he had done nothing else than that. ” There is a striking contrast between the expression: His own Son, and the verb spared not (so to say, did not treat delicately).
It is very clear here that the meaning of the word Son cannot be identified with that of Messiah
King. What would be meant by the expression: His own Messiah? The being in question is evidently one who is united to Him personally and who shares His nature, whom He brings, as it were, from His own bowels ( ἑκ τοῦ ἰδίου ). The apostle's expressions certainly reproduce those of the angel of the Lord to Abraham, after the sacrifice of Isaac: “Because thou hast not spared thy son, thine only son” ( Gen 22:12 ). Meyer denies this parallelism, but without sufficient reason. There was, as it were, a victory gained by God over Himself when He gave up His well-beloved to that career of pain and shame, just as there was a victory gained by Abraham over himself when with Isaac he climbed the mount of sacrifice. The inward sacrifice consummated, God gave Him up for us.
For us all, says Paul. These words might here embrace the totality of human beings. But the us ought undoubtedly to have the same meaning as that of Romans 8:31, unless, indeed, the word all, which is added here, be meant to indicate an extension to be given to the circle denoted by the preceding us. But is it not more natural to hold that this all contrasts the totality of believers with the one being whom God has given to be their Saviour? “One for all” ( 2Co 5:14 ).
As all were the object of this sacrifice, so all things were comprehended in this gift. The word τὰ πάντα , all things, with the article, denotes a definite totality. This means all the gifts of grace previously enumerated. If, with the Greco-Lats., we reject the article, it is all things, absolutely speaking; which in the application amounts to the same thing. There is a very marked shade of difference between the verb: freely give ( χαρίζεσθαι ), and the preceding verbs: not sparing, giving up. While the latter express something painful, the former denotes an act full of pleasure to the heart of him who does it. How, after carrying through the sacrifice, would He not do the pleasant part of a gracious giver? Thus it is that all possible gifts, however great or small they may be, whether for this life or the next, are virtually comprised in the gift of the Son, just as the gift of all Abraham's possessions and of his person even were implicitly contained in that of Isaac. To give all things is a small matter after the best has been given. This is precisely what was expressed beforehand by the γέ , at least, at the beginning of the verse, and what is confirmed by the καί , also, added to the verb shall give. This particle indeed is connected with the verb, and not with the regimen with Him (see Philippi, in opposition to Meyer). He being once given, God will also bestow on us, in the course of our life, all other blessings.
The three questions which follow are only various applications of the question in Romans 8:31: “Who can be against us?” The first two ( Rom 8:33-34 ) refer to attacks of a judicial nature; they contemplate enemies who contest the believer's right to pardon and salvation. The third ( Rom 8:35-37 ) refers to a violent attack in which the enemy has recourse to brute force, to break the bond between Christ and the believer. The whole passage vividly recalls the words of Isaiah 50:7-9: “I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me: who will contend with me? Let us stand together: who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me! Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?”
Twentieth Passage (8:31-39). Hymn of the Assurance of Salvation.
This passage is a conclusion. The then of Rom 8:31 indicates this. This conclusion is directly connected with the previous teaching on predestination ( Rom 8:28-30 ); but as this passage only sums up all that the apostle had expounded before: 1st, on justification by faith (chaps. 1-5), 2d, on sanctification by the Spirit of Christ (chaps. 6-8), it follows that it is the conclusion of the entire portion of the Epistle now completed. It is presented in the form of questions which are, as it were, a challenge thrown out to all the adversaries of that salvation, the certainty of which Paul would here proclaim. This form has in it something of the nature of a triumph; it gives us the idea of what was meant by him when he used the expression in the previous context: ἐν Θεῷ καυχασθαι , to glory in God.
Vv. 33. “ Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. ”
Paul is not ignorant how many accusers every believer has: conscience, the law, Satan, the accuser of the elect, the persons we have offended or scandalized by our faults: all so many voices rising against us. Did Paul himself, when writing these words, not think of the cries of pain uttered by the Christians whom he had cast into prison and scourged, and especially of the blood of Stephen, which, like that of Abel the righteous, called for vengeance against him? All these charges are only too real. But from the mouth of God there has gone forth a declaration which serves as a buckler to the believer, and against which those fiery darts are quenched, as soon as he takes shelter under the sentence: God hath declared him just. Here we clearly see the juridical meaning of the word justify as used by St. Paul. These words: It is God that justifieth, which paralyze every accusation uttered in His presence, are the summary of the whole first part of the Epistle (chaps. 1-5). The expression: the elect of God, literally, elect of God, has an argumentative value; it serves to demonstrate beforehand the powerlessness of the accusation. This expression recalls what has just been said ( Rom 8:28-30 ) of the eternal predestination of believers to salvation and glory; ἐκλεκτός , elect, from ἐκλέγεσθαι , to draw out of. Rescued by His own call from identification with a world plunged in evil, could God thrust them back into it?
From the time of St. Augustine several commentators (most lately Olshausen, De Wette, Reuss) have taken the last proposition of the verse in an interrogative sense: “Who will accuse? Would it be God? How could He do so, He who justifieth? ” The apostle would thus be using an argument ad absurdum. This meaning is ingenious, and seems at the first glance to be more forcible. But can the part of accuser be ascribed, even by supposition, to God? The function of God is more elevated. Besides, it is simpler, graver, and in reality more forcible to regard this proposition as a calm and decided affirmation. It is the rock against which every wave of accusation breaks; compare also the parallel Isaiah 50:0, which speaks decidedly in favor of the affirmative form (Philippi).
The accusers are reduced to silence...for the present; but will it also be so at the final moment when the tribunal will be set, in the day of the δικαιοκρισία , “of the just judgment of God,” when sentence will be given without “acceptance of persons” and “according to every man's work” (Romans 2:5-6; Rom 2:11 )? Will the absolution of believers then still hold good? Let it be remembered this was the question put at the close of the first part ( Rom 8:9-10 ), and resolved in the second (vi.-viii.). St. Paul raises it again in this summary, but in a tone of triumph, because on this point also he knows that victory is won.
Vv. 34. “ Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is also, at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. ”
The form τίς ὁ κατακρίνων , literally, who will be the condemning one? supposes only one judge possible, while the form of the previous question, Who will accuse? admitted a plurality of accusers. Why this difference? When accusing is the matter in question, all creatures may raise their voice. But as to judging? One only is appointed for that office, He who is called ( Act 10:42 ) by St. Peter “the judge of quick and dead;” comp. also Act 17:31 and Romans 14:10; so that the question put amounts to this: Will Christ, at the day of judgment, condemn us? The verb understood must be will be, not is; comp. Romans 8:33; Romans 8:35. The negative answer arises from the following enumeration of the acts done by Christ in our behalf. There would be a contradiction between this series of merciful interpositions and a final condemnation. It has excited surprise that when saying Christ died, Paul did not add for us. But he is not speaking here of the death of Christ from the viewpoint of expiation; in this respect it was already implied in the answer to the previous question, “It is God that justifieth.” The death of Christ is mentioned here from the same standpoint as in chap. 6, implying, for the man who appropriates it, death to sin. The article ὁ , literally, the ( one who died), reminds us that one only could condemn us, but that it is that very one who died that we might not be obliged to do it. The resurrection is likewise mentioned from the same point of view as in chap. 6, as the principle whereby a new life is communicated to believers, even the life of Christ Himself, of which, when once justified, we are made partakers ( Eph 2:5-6 ).
His sitting at the right hand of God naturally follows, first as the principle of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then as having put into the hands of Christ the government of the world and the direction of all the events of our life.
Finally, by His intercession we are assured of His precious interposition at such moments of spiritual weakness, as that in reference to which He declared to Peter: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” How, with such support, should the Christian not become the conqueror of the sin which still cleaves to him, and how should he not succeed in presenting himself before the judgment-seat in a state which will not dishonor his Lord? This is what the apostle had called ( Rom 8:10 ), “being saved by His life,” in contrast to “being reconciled by His death” (same verse).
After the example of Erasmus, Meyer divides the questions and answers contained in this passage quite differently. According to him, the words: Who will be the condemner? still form part of the answer to the question: Who will accuse? ( Rom 8:33 ), as if it were: “Since God justifieth, who then will condemn?” Then follows a second interrogation introduced by the affirmations: Christ died, etc., affirmations terminating in the conclusion expressed anew, Romans 8:35, in the interrogative form: Who will separate? that is to say: “who then will separate us?” But this grouping of questions and answers seems to me inadmissible, for the following reasons: 1. The question: Who will condemn? cannot be the reproduction (negatively) of the previous question: Who will accuse? For accusing and condemning are two entirely different functions; the one belongs to everybody, the other to one only. 2. Λ then would be indispensable in the two questions: who shall condemn ( Rom 8:34 )? and who shall separate ( Rom 8:35 )? intended, according to Meyer, to express the two conclusions. 3. The question: Who shall separate ( Rom 8:35 )? is so far from being intended to express the conclusion from what precedes, that it finds its answer in all that follows, and particularly in the words of Romans 8:39, which close the whole passage: Nothing shall separate us. 4. This same question: Who shall separate? is followed by a long enumeration of the sufferings calculated to separate the believer from his Saviour, which absolutely prevents us from taking this question as expressing a conclusion.
A more seducing proposition is that of the expositors who, after taking the words Θεὸς ὁ δικαιῶν interrogatively: God who justifieth? give the same turn to Romans 8:34: “Who is he that shall condemn? Will it be Christ, He who died, who”...? This form has something lively and piquant; and if it applied only to a single question, one might be tempted to hold by it. But the series of questions which would then succeed one another in the same interrogative, and almost ironical sense, does not seem to us to be compatible with the profound feeling of this whole passage.
The numerous variants ( Rom 8:34 ) which we have indicated in the note have no importance. The name Jesus, added to the title Christ, by several Mjj., is in thorough keeping with the context; for in what follows there are summed up the phases of His existence as a historical person. It is the same with the καί , also, in the second and third proposition. It may even be said that the καί of the third does not admit of any doubt.
The apostle has defied accusers; their voice is silenced by the sentence of justification which covers believers. He has asked if at the last day the judge will not condemn, and he has seen sin, the object of condemnation, disappear from the believer's life before the work of the crucified and glorified Christ. It remains to be known whether some hostile power will not succeed in violently breaking the bond which unites us to the Lord, and on which both our justification and sanctification rest. By this third question he reaches the subject treated in the last place, in this very chapter, from Romans 8:18: τὰ παθήματα , the sufferings of this present time; and thus it is that in the three questions of this passage the entire Epistle is really summed up. It is clearly seen how the logical form does not for an instant slip from the mind of Paul, even at the time when the most overflowing feeling charges his pen.
Vv. 35-37. “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. ”
The pronoun τίς , who, refers properly to persons; here it is applied to all the sufferings about to be enumerated, as if Paul saw in each of them an enemy bearing a grudge at the bond uniting him to Christ.
The love of Christ, from which nothing will separate him, is not the love which we have to Him; for we are not separated from our own personal feeling. It is therefore the love which He has to us; and this is confirmed by the close of Romans 8:37: “through Him that loved us.” We might, with Calv., Thol., Rück., understand; nothing will separate us from the feeling we have of the love of Jesus to us. But is not Paul rather representing this love itself as a force which takes hold of and possesses us? Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:14: “The love of Christ constraineth us (holds us pressed).” Paul is thinking of the profound action which this love exercises through the Holy Spirit at once on our heart and will. Such is the mysterious power from the operation of which nothing will be able to withdraw us. Θλίψις , tribulation: overwhelming external circumstances; στενοχωρια , anguish, literally, compression of heart, the inward effect produced by tribulation; διωγμός , legal persecution. To understand the words: famine, nakedness, peril, it is enough to refer to the sketch of St. Paul's life, given in 2Co 11:23 et seq. The sword: the symbol of capital punishment. When Paul writes this word, he designates, as Bengel observes, his own future mode of death.
Vv. 36. The apostle here quotes the sorrowful lament put by a psalmist in the mouth of the faithful under the old covenant, during a time of cruel oppression, Psalms 44:22. The quotation follows the LXX. All the day: every hour of the day (Meyer). Any hour is serviceable for dragging them to slaughter. For the love of thee: Jehovah in the O. T. corresponds to Christ in the New. We are accounted: it is long since sentence has been pronounced by hatred, and has hung over their head, though it is not yet executed.
Vv. 37. Paul expresses his certainty that none of these efforts will avail to tear the believer from the encircling arms of Christ's love. There is in this love a power which will overcome all the weaknesses of despondency, all the sinkings of doubt, all the fears of the flesh, all the horrors of execution. Paul does not say merely νικῶμεν , we are conquerors, but ὑπερνικῶμεν , we are more than conquerors; there is a surplus of force; we might surmount still worse trials if the Lord permitted them. And in what strength? The apostle, instead of saying: through the love of the Lord, expresses himself thus: through the Lord that loved us. It is His living person that acts in us. For it is He Himself in His love who sustains us. This love is not a simple thought of our mind; it is a force emanating from Him. The Greco-Latin reading: διὰ τὸν ἀγ ., on account of Him..., would make Jesus merely the moral cause of victory. This is evidently too weak.
It will perhaps be asked if a Christian has never been known to deny his faith in suffering and persecution. Yes, and it is not a mathematical certainty the apostle wishes to state here. It is a fact of the moral life which is in question, and in this life liberty has always its part to play, as it had from the first moment of faith. What Paul means is, that nothing will tear us from the arms of Christ against our will, and so long as we shall not refuse to abide in them ourselves; comp. John 10:28-30.
Vv. 38-39. “ For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ”
The challenge which the apostle had just thrown out to condemnation, and sin and suffering of every kind, he now extends to all the hostile powers of the universe which could threaten the bond of love whereby Christ, and God Himself, are united to the believer. The for expresses an argument a fortiori: “none of the enemies mentioned is to be feared, for not even throughout the whole universe is there a being to be dreaded.
Paul reverts to the form I, which he had dropped after Romans 8:18; the reason being that here, as well as in Romans 8:38, the matter in question is a personal conviction of a moral rather than a systematic nature. We must not forget the: “ if at least you persevere,” which Paul himself wrote, Colossians 1:23, nor examples such as that of Demas, 2 Timothy 4:10. It is by ὑπομονή ( Rom 8:25 ), perseverance in believing in the love of Christ to us, that this love exercises its irresistible power over us. The conviction here expressed by Paul does not apply to himself only, but to all believers ( us, Rom 8:39 ).
The adversaries who rise before his view seem to advance in pairs. The first pair is death and life. Death is put first, in connection no doubt with Romans 8:35-36. The inverse order which we find 1 Corinthians 3:22, is occasioned there by the difference of the context. Death: the apostle is thinking of martyrdom, the fear of which may lead to apostasy. With death and its agonies, he contrasts life with its distractions, its interests and seductions, which may lead to lukewarmness and unfaithfulness, as in the case of Demas.
The second pair: angels and principalities. Undoubtedly principalities, ἀρχαί , might be regarded as an order of angels superior to common angels archangels. But in the other pairs there is always found a contrast of character: it is therefore natural to apply these two terms to spirits of opposite kinds; the first to good angels (though this sense is not exclusively the meaning of ἄγγελοι , as Meyer alleges; comp. 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1Co 6:3 ); the second to malignant angels, as 1Co 15:24 and Ephesians 6:12 (Hofmann). It will be asked how good angels could labor to separate us from Christ; but this may only be a hypothesis like that of Galatians 1:8. And may not what is of itself good contribute to lead us astray, if our attachment or admiration stops short at the creature, instead of rising to God?
The Byzs. here read a third term almost synonymous: δυνάμεις , powers; and a Mj. (C) with some Mnn. even adds a fourth: ἐξουσίαι , dominations. This last term is evidently an interpolation to form a pair with the third. As to the latter, according to the Mjj. of the other two families, it has its place, if it is really authentic, after the following pair.
Third pair: things present and things to come. The first term embraces all earthly eventualities, death included; the second, all that await us in the future life. The word ἐνεστῶτα , which strictly signifies what is imminent, when contrasted with things to come, takes the meaning: all that is already present.
If the term powers is authentic, it must be taken as embracing in one idea the two terms of the following pair: height and depth. These are all the powers of the invisible world, whether those which exalt us to the third heaven ( height), but which in an instant, by reason of pride or even violently excited sensuality, may occasion the most frightful falls to the poor human heart; or those which plunge us into the most mysterious and unspeakable agonies ( depth), like that of Jesus at Gethsemane, when He exclaimed: “My soul is sorrowful even unto death;” comp. what He added soon after: “This is your hour and the power of darkness. ” It is scarcely necessary to refute the following interpretations which have been proposed: good fortune and bad; or honor and disgrace; the wisdom of heretics and vulgar prejudices (Mel.); the heights from which martyrs were precipitated, and the depths of the ocean where they were buried (Thomas Aquinas); or finally, the opposite dimensions of space (Meyer).
The last term, κτίσις ἕτερα , is usually translated by the expression: any other creature, and made a sort of et caetera. This meaning would certainly be rather poor after expressions of such ample comprehension as those which precede. But more than that, it hardly suits the word ἕτερα , which signifies different, and not merely other, as the word ἄλλη would do (for the distinction between these two adjectives, comp. 1Co 15:37-41 ). It seems, then, that the word κτίσις signifies here, not creature, as if the reference were to a particular being, to be put side by side with several others, but creation. Paul sees in thought this whole creation disappear, on the theatre of which there has been wrought the greatest wonder of divine love; and he asks whether, if a new creation arise, and more magnificent marvels are displayed before the eyes of man, the cross in those new ages will not run the risk of being eclipsed, and the love of God in Jesus Christ of being relegated to the oblivion of the past. And he boldly affirms that whatever new creations may succeed one another, the first place in the heart of believers will ever remain for the redeeming love of which they have been the object here below.
Paul here speaks of the love of Jesus as being the love of God Himself; for it is in the former that the latter is incarnated for us, and becomes the eternal anchor of which our faith lays hold for eternity; comp. Rom 5:15 and Luke 15:0, where the compassion of God is completely identified with the work of Jesus on the earth.
Nowhere has the feeling of St. Paul been displayed in such overflowing measure, and yet the thread of logical deduction is not broken for an instant. This passage sums up, as we have seen, all that Paul has hitherto expounded in this Epistle. He leaves us at the end of this chapter face to face with this divinely wrought salvation, which is complete, and assured, and founded on faith alone, to be apprehended, and ever apprehended anew by the same means. Then, after a moment of contemplation and rest, he takes us again by the hand to guide us to the theatre of history, and show us this divine work unfolding itself on a great scale in the human race.
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Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Romans 8". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
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