Bible Commentaries
Romans 8

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

In this surpassing chapter the several streams of the preceding arguments meet and flow in one "river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb," until it seems to lose itself in the ocean of a blissful eternity.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. It is a question among interpreters whether this is an inference from the immediately preceding context (as most commentators hold), or (as Fraser, Tholuck, and Hodge) from the whole preceding argument. The truth expressed-that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus-is certainly no inference from the latter part, at least, of the preceding chapter, nor is it natural to suppose it drawn even from the first part of it. Beyond all doubt it is taken from the first branch of the argument (Romans 3:5), and is here regarded as an established truth which may now be assumed. At the same time, what is said in Romans 8:2 of "the law of sin and death" - the subject which had been so fully treated in the latter part of Romans 7:1-25 - shows that that same subject is still in the apostle's thoughts, and is what gave occasion to the inferential words, "Now therefore," or, 'In these circumstances, then.' And we regard the whole statement as amounting to this: 'Dire and deadly as is the struggle we have depicted between the law of the renewed mind and the law in the members, it is the struggle, after all, of those who cannot fail in it-of those who are in Christ Jesus, and as such have the very standing before God of Christ Himself. But this is no mere legal arrangement-it is a union in life; believers, through the indwelling of Christ's Spirit in them, having one life with Him, as truly as the head and the members of the same body have one life.

[Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.] The evidence against the genuineness of this bracketed clause is so strong, that on all the laws of textual evidence it must be held to be no part of the original text-in which case the probability is that it crept in from Romans 8:4, where it occurs precisely as here, and that it was introduced in order to make the transition from the statement of Romans 8:1 to that of the 2d and following verses more easy.

[The external evidence stands thus: The whole clause - mee (G3361) kata (G2596) sarka (G4561) peripatousin (G4043), alla (G235) kata (G2596) pneuma (G4151) - is missing in 'Aleph (') (though supplied by C, a corrector of about the seventh century) B C D*F G, some cursives, d* (the Latin of C), g (about the ninth century), the Egyptian and the Ethiopic versions, several Greek fathers, and Augustine of the Latin (in whose writings, however, the absence of such a clause is no sufficient proof of its nonrecognition). On the other hand, the whole clause is found only in D*** (a corrector of about the ninth or tenth century) E K L, most cursives, d*** (a corrector of the Latin of D, about the same date the Arabic and Slavonic versions (both late), Theodoret, Theophylact, CEcumenius. The first member of the clause - mee (G3361) kata (G2596) sarka (G4561) peripatousin (G4043) - A D**b (a corrector of D, about the 7th century), one cursive d** (corrector of Latin of D, also about the 7th century), f (Latin of Cod. Augiens., about the 9th century), the Vulgate ('qui non secundum carnem ambulant'), the Peshito Syriac, Gothic, and later versions, Chrysostom (more than once) and many Latin fathers. Such is the external evidence. Is there any internal evidence to outweigh this testimony against the clause? Since there is fair evidence for the first half of it, is that part of it by itself likely to be genuine? Surely not. We think it will be generally admitted either that the whole clause, or that no part of it, stood originally in the text. Which, then, is mostly likely? If genuine, how came it to pass that the whole clause fell out of so many of the most trustworthy authorities for the text, and that only one-half of it should be found in even a fair number of them? For this no good reason, we think, can be assigned. On the other hand, there seems a natural tendency to insert some such clause, to make the transition from the subject of the first verse to that of the second more easy than it is without it. Even internal evidence, then, so far as there is any, seems rather against than for the clause.]

Verse 2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free, [ eleutheroosen (G1659)] - 'freed me,' referring to the time of his conversion. Since the sense of this verse must rule that of the profound verse which follows it, and two very different senses of it have been contended for, it must be examined with some care. By "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," some of the older German divines (as Calovius), followed by Witsius, Bengel, Reiche, and in our own day by Haldane and Hodge, understand the Gospel. In accordance with this, they naturally take "the law of sin and death" to mean the law of God. Hodge's six reasons for this are briefly these:

(1) This verse is intended to explain why there is no condemnation to believers; now, if it means most critics hold) that the regenerating power of the Spirit frees believers from the power of their inward corruption, it will follow that our regeneration is the cause of our justification, which is totally opposed to the apostle's teaching. But if this verse is understood to express the believer's deliverance from the condemning law of God through the Gospel, it gives an adequate explanation of the statement of Romans 8:1.

(2) The deliverance here spoken of is represented as one already accomplished: this is true of the believer's deliverance from the law through the Gospel, but is not true of his deliverance from indwelling corruption, which is a gradual process. The former, therefore, must give the true sense, the latter not.

(3) The Gospel may justly be called "the law of the Spirit," as (in 2 Corinthians 3:8) "the ministration of the Spirit;" He being its author-while the law of God may be termed "the law of sin and death," as being productive of both, as the apostle himself says, Romans 7:5; Romans 7:13, etc

If this is correct, the subject of this and the immediately following verses will be seen to be not sanctification (as most critics suppose), but justification. These reasons, however, appear to us quite insufficient to justify so unnatural an interpretation.

(1) The most plausible argument is that Romans 8:2 is intended to explain why there is no condemnation to believers; but (so far as we understand it) the sense which Hodge gives to Romans 8:2 makes it no explanation, but a mere reiteration of the statement of Romans 8:1, only in another form. (2) The believer's deliverance from the dominion of indwelling sin through union to Christ (which, as we take it, is meant in Romans 8:2), is an accomplished fact, as much as his justification; and the gradual mortification of it in daily life, through the growing strength of the renewed principle, is quite consistent with this.

(3) To make "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," mean simply the Gospel, is to put (as it appears to us) a strained, not to say a shallow, sense on so rich an expression; while to suppose that the apostle calls the holy law of God "the law of sin and death," is something repulsive

To use the words of Fraser (who, without knowing it, almost echoed the words of Chrysostom against some who before him had taken the same view of this verse (the passage will be found in 'Philippi,' p. 280), 'It were not consistent with the reverence due to the law of God, nor with the truth, to call it "the law of sin and death." Yea, it could not be so called but in plain contradiction to the vindication the apostle had made of it (Romans 7:7), "Is the law sin? God forbid;" and Romans 8:13, "Was that which is good made death to me? God forbid."' No, it is the Holy Spirit who is here meant. And before we notice the import of the statement itself, it is important for the student of this Epistle to observe that only once before has THE HOLY SPIRIT been expressly named in this Epistle (in Romans 5:5), and that only now and here does His Personal Agency in believers begin to be treated. Little space, indeed, does the subject occupy. The formal treatment of it is limited to the first 26 verses of this chapter. But within this space some of the richest matter, dear to Christian experience, is compressed; and as almost every verse in this portion opens up some fresh view of the Spirit's work, the light which it throws upon this vital department of the work of redemption is out of all proportion to the space which it fills.

Let us now observe the import of this pregnant phrase, "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." He is called "the Spirit of life," as opening up in the souls of believers a fountain of spiritual life (see John 7:38-39); just as he is called "the Spirit of truth," as "guiding them into all truth" (John 16:13), and "the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2), as the Inspirer of these qualities. And He is called "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," because it is as members of Christ that He takes up His abode in believers, who in consequence of this have one life with their Head. And as the word "law" here has, beyond all reasonable doubt, the same meaning as in Romans 7:23 - namely, 'an inward principle of action, operating with the fixedness and regularity of a law,' it thus appears that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" here means, 'that new principle of action which the Spirit of Christ has opened up within us-the law of our new being.

This "sets us free," as soon as it takes possession of our inner man, "from the law of sin and death," - i:e., from the enslaving power of that corrupt principle which carries death in its bosom. The "strong man armed" is overpowered by the "Stronger than he;" the weaker principle is dethroned and expelled by the more powerful; the principle of spiritual life prevails against and brings into captivity the principle of spiritual death - "leading captivity captive." If this now be the apostle's meaning, the "For," with which the verse opens, does not assign the reason, but supplies the evidence of what goes before (as in Luke 7:47, and other places); in other words, the meaning is not, 'There is no condemnation to believers, because they have gotten the better of their inward corruption' (very different doctrine this certainly from the apostle's); but 'The triumph of believers over their inward corruption, through the power of Christ's Spirit in them, proves them to be in Christ Jesus, and as such absolved from condemnation.' This completely meets the only objection to our view of the verse which we think has any weight. But this is now to be explained more fully.

Verse 3

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

For what the law could not do ... 'Few texts (says Fraser truly) have been more teased with the criticisms of the learned, which do often tend rather to darken than to give light to it, or to the subject of it;' and Fritzsche refers to the exceeding difference that obtains among interpreters, both as to the structure of the verse and the explanation of its meaning. But this is hardly to be wondered at, considering the very unusual structure of the clause, and the equally unusual language of the entire statement. Let us examine it, clause by clause. What, then, was it that "the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh?" 'It could not justify the breakers of it,' say those who think that Justification is the subject of these verses, (as Hodge, etc.) But it cannot be said with propriety that the reason why the law could not justify the guilty was that it was "weak through the flesh," or by reason of our corruption. It is clearly, we think, the law's inability to free us from the dominion of sin that the apostle has in view; as has partly appeared already (see the note at Romans 8:2), and will more fully appear presently. The law could irritate our sinful nature into more virulent action, as we have seen in Romans 7:5; but it could not secure its own fulfillment. How that is accomplished comes now to be shown.

In that it was weak through the flesh - not 'because of the flesh' [ dia (G1223) teen (G3588) sarka (G4561)], as the English reader would suppose, but 'through the medium of the flesh' [ dia (G1223) tees (G3588) sarkos (G4561)]; i:e., having to address itself to us through a corrupt nature, too strong to be influenced by mere commands and threatenings.

God ... The sentence is somewhat imperfect in its structure, which occasions a certain obscurity. It has been proposed to fill it up thus: 'What the law could not do ... God [did by] sending,' etc. But it is as well to leave it without any supplement, understanding it to mean, that whereas the law was powerless to secure its own fulfillment-for the reason given-God took the method now to be described for attaining that end.

Sending ('having sent') his own Son, [ ton (G3588) heautou (G1438) huion (G5207)]. This and similar expressions most plainly imply (as Meyer properly notices) that Christ was Gods "OWN SON" before He was sent-that is, in His own proper Person, and independently of His mission and appearance in the flesh (see the notes at Romans 8:32; Galatians 4:4); and if so, He not only has the very nature of God, even as a son has his father's nature, but is essentially OF the Father, though in a sense too mysterious for any language of ours properly to define (see the note at Romans 1:4). But why is this special relationship put forward here? To enhance the greatness and define the nature of the relief provided as coming from beyond the precincts of sinful humanity altogether, yea, immediately from the Godhead itself.

In the likeness of sinful flesh, [ en (G1722) homoioomati (G3667) sarkos (G4561) hamartias (G266)] - literally, 'in the likeness of the flesh of sin.' a very remarkable and pregnant expression. 'It is not in the likeness of flesh'-for truly He "was made flesh" (John 11:14) - but 'in the likeness of the flesh of sin;' in other words, He was made in the reality of our flesh but only in the likeness of its sinful condition. (See the excellent observations of DeWette.) [Similitudo-says Tertullian, quoted by Meyer-ad titulum peccati pertinebit non ad substantioe mendacium; referring to the Docetic heresy of our Lord's having assumed only an apparent Humanity.] He took our nature, not as Adam received it from his Maker's hand, but as it is in us-compassed with infirmities-with nothing to distinguish Him as man from sinful men, except that He was without sin. Nor does this mean that Christ took every property of Humanity except sin; for sin is no property of Humanity at all, but only the disordered state of our own souls, as the fallen family of Adam-a disorder affecting and overspreading our whole nature, indeed, but still purely our own.

And for sin [ kai (G2532) peri (G4012) hamartias (G266)] - literally, 'and about sin.' Had this been a quite unusual expression, it might have meant simply, 'on the business of sin' (de peccato), as the Vulgate renders it [though not the Codex Amiatinus, which has propter peccatum]; and this at one time we took to be the thing intended. But since this very phrase is profusely employed in, the Septuagint to denote the Levitical 'offerings for sin' (nearly sixty times in the one book of Leviticus), and since in that sense it is twice used in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:6; Hebrews 10:8) - in a quotation from Psalms 40:1-17 [= chªTaa'aah (H2401)] - we cannot reasonably doubt that this (which is the marginal reading of our own version) was the sense intended by the apostle, and that it would be so understood by all his readers who were familiar with the Greek of the Old Testament. The meaning, then, in this view of it, is that God accomplished what the law could not, by the mission of His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh; yet not by His mere Incarnation, but by sending Him in the character of a sin offering (compare, for the language, 2 Corinthians 5:21 - "He hath made Him to be sin for us"). Still, the question returns, What was it that God did by the mission of His Son as a sin offering in our nature, "when the law could not do it." The apostle's answer is,

He condemned sin in the flesh - not in order to the pardon of it (as Calvin, Hodge, etc.) for justification, as we have seen, is not the thing here intended, but 'inflicted on it judicial vengeance in the flesh of Christ,' and so condemned it to lose its hold over men-at once to let go its iron grasp, and ultimately to be driven clean away from the domain of human nature in the redeemed. (So Beza, Fraser, Meyer, Tholuck, Alford, Philippi.) In this glorious sense our Lord says of His approaching death (John 12:31). "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this, world be cast out;" and again (John 16:11), "When He (the Spirit) shall come, He shall convince the world of ... judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" - i:e., condemned to let go his hold of men, who, through the Cross shall be emancipated into the liberty and power to be holy. (See Commentary on that verse.)

We may add to these expository remarks, that Luther-who seldom goes far wrong-has entirely missed the sense of the expression, "and for sin." Connecting it, not with the 'sending' of Christ, but with His 'condemning sin' when sent, he translates thus: He 'condemned sin in the flesh through sin,' which, if it be sense at all, yields only a bad sense. And Bengel, unlike himself, distorts the proper order of the words even more (thus: 'condemned sin' in Christ's flesh 'for sin' in ours).

Verse 4

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

That ('In order that') the righteousness of the law, [not dikaiosunee (G1343), but dikaiooma (G1345)] - 'the righteous demand of the law;' the practical obedience which it calls for (see the notes on this form of the word in Romans 5:16),

Might be fulfilled in us - or, as we should express it, be 'realized' in us. Calvin, Fritzsche, Hodge, and Philippi take this to mean, 'that the justifying righteousness of the law might be imputed to us; partly (in the case of some of them) because they take justification still to be the subject discoursed of; partly because they hold it untrue that the righteousness of the law is any otherwise fulfilled in us; and partly because they think that if our own personal obedience were meant, the second clause of the verse would be but a repetition of the first. But is it not unnatural to suppose that the apostle is still dwelling on justification, of which he had already treated so largely? And what is it that this verse conveys which had not been over and over again expressed, and, according to their own interpretation, once or twice said even in the preceding verses? Nor is it a wholesome thing, as we think, to be so very jealous of any expression that sounds like an assertion that Believers fulfill the requirements of the law? For, do they not do so? And is it not the express object of Romans 6:1-23, in the first part of it, to show that they do, and in the second to bid believers accordingly see that they do? That their obedience is not perfect is no more a truth than that it is a real and acceptable obedience through Christ. (As to the use of the passive voice here, "might be fulfilled" in us, it seems far-fetched to infer-as DeWette, Olshausen, and Alford do-that it is, used 'to show that the work is not our's, but God's by His grace.')

Who walk. This is the most ancient of all expressions to denote 'the bent of one's life,' whether in the direction of good or of evil (see Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 48:15; Psalms 1:1; Isaiah 2:5; Micah 4:5; Malachi 2:6; Luke 1:6; Ephesians 4:17; 1 John 1:6-7).

Not after (according to the dictates of) the flesh, but after the Spirit. In this and the following verses it is difficult to say whether by "the Spirit" as opposed to "the flesh," the apostle means the Holy Spirit, as the indwelling principle of the new life in believers, or the renewed mind itself, under the operation of that indwelling Spirit. Both are in active operation in every spiritual feeling and act. While the whole gracious frame and activity of the soul is due to the Holy Spirit as the indwelling Source of it - "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2) - the thing done is not done passively, mechanically, involuntarily in us, but is the spontaneous life and frame, emotions and actings, of the renewed mind. But from Romans 8:9, it would seem that what is more immediately intended by "the spirit" is our own mind, as renewed and actuated by the Holy Spirit. (See Philippi, pp. 288, 289.),

Verse 5

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

For they that are after ('according to') the flesh - under the dominating influence of the fleshly principle,

Do mind [ fronousin (G5426 )] the things of the flesh - i:e., give their engrossing attention to them: cf. Philippians 3:19, "who mind [ fronountes (G5426)] earthly things," and Matthew 16:23 (Gr.) Men must be under the predominating influence of one or other of these two principles, and, according as the one or the other has the mastery, will be the complexion of their life, the character of their actions. 'The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits (as Hodge says) is the only decisive test of character.'

Verse 6

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

For. This is scarcely to be taken as a mere particle of transition here, like 'But' or 'Now;' but neither is it intended to assign a reason for the statement of Romans 8:5. The mind of the apostle is running upon "the law of sin and death;" which occupied the closing portion of Romans 7:1-25, and of which mention is again made now in Romans 8:5; and intending to go a little deeper into it, he starts that subject afresh with this connecting particle.

To be carnally minded, [ to (G3588) froneema (G5427) tees (G3588) sarkos (G4561)] - 'the mind,' or (as margin), 'the minding of the flesh;' that is, the pursuit of fleshly ends,

Is death - not only ends in death (as Alford) but even now "is" death; that is, it carries death in its bosom, so that all such are "dead while they live" (1 Timothy 5:6; Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5) - as the best critics agree.

But to be spiritually minded - `the mind,' or (margin), 'the minding of the spirit;' that is, the pursuit of spiritual objects,

Is life and peace - not "life" only, in contrast with the "death" that is in the other pursuit, but "peace" also: it is the very element of the soul's deepest repose and true bliss.

Verse 7

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. The desire and pursuit of carnal ends is a state of enmity to God wholly incompatible with true life, and peace in the soul.

For it is not subject ('doth not submit itself') to the law of God, neither indeed can be - `neither indeed can it;' i:e., in such a state of mind there neither is nor can be the least subjection to the law of God. Many things may be done which the law requires, but nothing either is or can be done because God's law requires it, or purely to please God.

Verse 8

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

So then ('And so;') they that are in (and, therefore, under the government of) the flesh cannot please God - having no obediential principle, no capacity, no desire to please Him.

Verse 9

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be, [ eiper (G1512)] - not 'seeing that' (as Chrysostom and other Greek fathers, also Beza and Olshausen); for this is at least a very doubtful, if not inadmissible sense of the word (though it seems to occur in this sense in 2 Thessalonians 1:6), and Meyer, though defending this sense of the word, admits that it is unsuitable here.

That the Spirit of God dwell in you. This does not mean, 'if the disposition or mind of God dwell in you; but if the Holy Spirit dwell in you,' (see 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:16, etc.) It thus appears that to be "in the spirit" means here, not to be under the power of God's Spirit, but to be under the dominion of our own renewed mind; for the indwelling of God's Spirit is given as the evidence that we are "in the spirit."

Now ('But') if any man have not the Spirit of Christ. Again, this does not mean 'If any man have not the disposition or mind of Christ,' but 'If any man have not the Holy Spirit, here called "the Spirit of Christ," just as he is called "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (see the note at Romans 8:2). It is as "the Spirit of Christ" that the Holy Spirit takes possession of believers, introducing into them all the gracious dove-like dispositions which dwelt in Him (Matthew 3:16; John 3:34). Now if any man's heart be void, not of such dispositions, but of the blessed Author of them, "the Spirit of Christ,"

He is none of his - though intellectually convinced of the truth of Christianity, and even in a general sense influenced by its spirit. Sharp, solemn teaching this!

Verse 10

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

And if Christ be in you - by His indwelling Spirit, in virtue of which we have one life with Him. Who can fail to see, from this way of speaking of the Holy Spirit-called indiscriminately "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ," and "Christ" Himself (as an indwelling life in believers) - that it admits of but one consistent explanation, namely, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are Essentially One, yet Personally distinct, in the One adorable Godhead? Bengel, who, as usual, notices this, refers his readers to the following passages, containing similarly striking collocations of the Persons of the Godhead, and of their respective offices: Romans 5:5; Romans 5:8; Romans 14:17-18; Romans 15:16; Romans 15:30; Mark 12:36; John 15:26; Acts 2:33; 1 Corinthians 6:11;13,19; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 2:22; Hebrews 2:3-4; 1 Peter 1:2 (see also Commentary on Matthew 3:16-17, Remark 3 at the close of that section, p. 15).

The body [ to (G3588 ) men (G3303 ) sooma (G4983 ), 'the body indeed'] is dead because of ('by reason of') sin; but the Spirit is life because (or, 'by reason of') of righteousness. Since the apostle does not mean to say that the body is dead as a consequence of Christ's being in us, it would have been well if the word 'indeed' [ men (G3303)] had been retained in the translation, which would have left no doubt as to the sense, which amounts to this: 'If Christ be in you, the body, it is true, is dead because of sin; but,' etc. Expositors are not agreed as to the precise import of this verse; but the following verse seems to fix the sense to the mortality of the bodies of believers-q.d. 'If Christ be in you by His indwelling Spirit, though your "bodies" have to pass through the stage of "death," in consequence of the first Adam's "sin," your spirit is instinct with new and undying "life," brought in by the "righteousness" of the second Adam. (So the best interpreters, but most fully Hodge.)

Verse 11

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

But ('And') if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you - i:e., 'If He dwell in you as the Spirit of the Christ-raising One,' or 'in all the resurrection-power which He put forth in raising Jesus,'

He that raised up Christ from the dead. Observe here (what Bengel notes, and after him Meyer, Alford and Philippi) the significant change of name from JESUS, as the historical Individual whom God raised from the dead, to CHRIST, the same Individual, considered as the Lord and Head of all His members, or of redeemed Humanity. 'Jesus (says Bengel) points to Himself; Christ to us: the one, as His proper name, relates to His Person; the other, as an appellative, to His office.'

Shall also quicken your mortal bodies - rather, 'shall quicken even your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you [ dia (G1223) tou (G3588) enoikountos (G1774) autou (G846) pneumatos (G4151)]. Our version has here followed Beza's text (which Elzevir also does), deviating from the Received Text (of Stephens), which has 'by reason of His Spirit that dwelleth in you' [ dia (G1223) to (G3588) enoikoun (G1774) autou (G846) pneuma (G4151)]. The external evidence for both readings is good; but it certainly preponderates in favour of the latter reading-`by reason of;' and internal evidence is decidedly on the same side, since it would be much more natural for a copyist to write "by His Spirit," even though wrong, than the more unusual phrase, 'by reason of His Spirit,' though right [ dia (G1223) with the accusative is supported by B D E F G K L, and far the most of the cursives; by the old Latin and Vulgate, ('propter'), the Peshito and Thebaic versions; by Origen, Chrysostom (in this text and the comment on it), and of the Latin fathers, Irenaeus (in the Latin), Tertullian, Hilary, Augustine, and others - dia (G1223) with the genitive is in 'Aleph (') A C, about 15 cursives, the Philox.

Syriac, Memphitic, and both AEthiopic versions; with several Greek fathers. See an interesting dispute, as to which was the most ancient reading, in Athanas., quoted by Reiche and Tischendorf. Lachmann and Tischendorf both adopted Beza's reading (with gen.) in their earlier and smaller editions, and both in their later and larger have abandoned it for the acc. reading, adopted by Tregelles]. The sense may be thus conveyed: 'Your bodies indeed are not exempt from the death which sin brought in, but your spirits even now have in them an undying life; and if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, even these bodies of yours, though they yield to the last enemy and the dust of them return to the dust as it was, shall yet experience the same resurrection as that of their living Head, in virtue of the indwelling of the same Spirit in you that quickened Him.'

Verse 12

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh - q.d., 'Once we were sold under Sin (Romans 7:14); but now that we have been set free from that hard master, and become servants to Righteousness (Romans 6:22), we owe nothing to the flesh, we disown its unrighteous claims, and are deaf to its imperious demands.' Glorious sentiment!

Verse 13

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die - in the sense of Romans 6:21;

But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body (see the note at Romans 7:23 ), ye shall live - in the sense of Romans 6:22. [The two futures here are not the same: "Ye shall die" is mellete (G3195) apothneeskein (G599) - "Ye shall live," zeesesthe (G2198). Melloo (G3195), as distinguished from the simple future, denotes an action already begun, or at least in preparation, rather than wholly future: see the note at Matthew 2:13, p. 7. If that shade of meaning was intended, it would express the sad truth that a life of carnality is not only the sure prelude to endless death, but fuel for the final flame. But the converse is equally true of a life of spirituality, to express which, however, only a simple future is employed. And as the usage of melloo (G3195) is so various, perhaps nothing more was meant by the use of it in the first clause than to vary the futures.] As to the sentiment itself, the apostle is not satisfied with assuring them that they are under no obligations to the flesh, to hearken to its suggestions, without reminding them where it will end if they do; and he uses the word "mortify" (put to death) as a kind of play upon the word "die" just before-q.d., 'If ye do not kill sin, it will kill you.' But he tempers this by the bright alternative, that if they do, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, such a course will infallibly terminate in "life" everlasting. This leads the apostle into a new line of thought, opening into his final subject-the "glory" awaiting the justified believer.


(1) 'There can (says Hodge, with as much neatness as truth) be no safety, no holiness, no happiness, to those who are out of Christ-no safety, because all such are under the condemnation of the law (Romans 8:1); no holiness, because such only as are united to Christ have the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9); no happiness, because to be "carnally minded is death" (Romans 8:6).'

(2) The sanctification of believers, as it has its whole foundation in the atoning death, so it has its living spring in the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:2-4).

(3) No human refinement of the carnal mind will make it spiritual, or compensate for the absence of spirituality. "Flesh" and "spirit" are essentially and unchangeably opposed (not substantially, however-as some dream-but morally); nor can the carnal mind, as such, be brought into real subjection to the law of God. some dream-but morally); nor can the carnal mind, as such, be brought into real subjection to the law of God. Hence,

(4) The estrangement between God and the sinner is mutual. For as the, sinner's state of mind is "enmity against God," (Romans 8:7), so in this state he "cannot please God" (Romans 8:8).

(5) While the consciousness of spiritual life in our renewed souls is a glorious assurance of resurrection-life in the body also-in virtue of the same quickening Spirit whose inhabitation we already enjoy (Romans 8:11) - yet whatever professions of spiritual life men may make, it remains eternally true that "if we live after the flesh we shall die," and only "if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live" (compare with Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:7-8; Ephesians 5:6; Philippians 3:18-19; 1 John 3:7-8).

The Sonship of Believers (Romans 8:14-16)

Verse 14

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God - `these are sons of God.' The reader will observe the new light in which the Spirit is here held forth. In the preceding verses He was spoken of simply as a power or energy, in virtue of which believers mortify sin; now the apostle holds Him forth in His personal character, as a gracious, loving GUIDE, whose "leading" - enjoyed by all in whom is the Spirit of God's own dear Son-proves them also to be "sons of God."

Verse 15

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

For ye have not received - rather, 'For ye received not;' that is, when ye believed through grace.

The spirit of bondage. The meaning is, The spirit ye then received was not a spirit of bondage,

Again [gendering] to fear, [ palin (G3825) eis (G1519) fobon (G5401)] - as when ye were under the law which "worketh wrath" - q.d., 'That was your condition before ye believed-living in legal bondage, haunted with incessant forebodings under a sense of unpardoned sin-it was not to perpetuate that wretched state that ye received the Spirit.'

But ye have received ('ye received') the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, [ en (G1722) hoo (G3739) krazomen] - rather, 'wherein we cry.' The word "cry" is emphatic, expressing the spontaneousness, the strength, and the exuberance of the filial emotions. In Galatians 4:6 this cry is said to proceed from the Spirit in us, drawing forth the filial exclamation in our hearts-here it is said to proceed from our own hearts under the vitalizing energy of the Spirit, as the very element of the new life in believers (see the note at Romans 8:4; and cf. Matthew 10:19-20). But why does the apostle write both these synonymous words, Abba and Father! "Abba" is the Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic word for "Father;" and the Greek word for this is added, not surely to tell his readers that both mean the same thing, but for the same reason which drew both words from the lips of Christ Himself during His Agony in the Garden (Mark 14:36 - see Commentary on this, p. 332, second column). He doubtless loved to utter His Father's name in both the accustomed forms, beginning with His cherished mother-tongue, and adding that of the learned. So the Highlanders of Scotland, accustomed equally to Gaelic and English, might in their devotions pass naturally from the language of their childhood to that in which all their education had been received. In this view the use of both words here has a charming simplicity and warmth.

Verse 16

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

The Spirit itself, [ auto (G846) to (G3588) pneuma (G4151)] - it should be 'Himself.' It is unfortunate that our English version here and elsewhere follows the Greek construction, which requires the pronoun to be in the neuter gender, to agree with the noun which in that language is neuter. Even in the Greek original of John 16:13 - where it was of special importance to mark that what was meant by this neuter noun was a living Person-there, even in the Greek, the masculine pronoun, "HE," is used [ ekeinos (G1565) to (G3588) pneuma (G4151)]. This is our warrant for using the English 'He' and 'Himself' in every place where it is clear, as it is here (and even more so in Romans 8:26-27), that the Holy Spirit as a living Divine Person is meant.

Beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children - rather, 'that we are children' of God. The testimony of our own spirit is borne, in that cry of conscious sonship, "Abba, Father;" but it seems we are not therein alone, for the Holy Spirit within us-yea, even in that very cry which it is His to draw forth-sets His own distract seal to ours; and thus, "in the mouth of two witnesses" the thing is established.

It is interesting to observe that, whereas in Romans 8:14 the apostle called us "sons of God" [ huioi (G5207) Theou (G2316)], referring to our adoption, here the word changes to "children" [ tekna (G5043)], referring to our new birth. The one expresses the dignity to which we are admitted; the other the new life which we receive. The latter is more suitable here, because a son by adoption might not be heir of the property, whereas a son by birth certainly is; and this is what the apostle is now coming to.

The Inheritance of the Sons of God (Romans 8:17-25)

Verse 17

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

And if children, then heirs, [ kai (G2532) kleeronomoi (G2818)] - 'heirs also.'

Heirs of God - of our Father's kingdom (compare Galatians 4:7, "and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ"),

And joint-heirs [ sungkleeronomoi (G4789 )] with Christ - as "the First-born among many brethren" (Romans 8:29), and as "Heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2: compare Revelation 3:21, "To Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne;"

If so be that we suffer with him [ sumpaschomen (G4841 )], that we may be also glorified together, [ sundoxasthoomen (G4888)] - 'that we may be glorified with Him.' This necessity of conformity to Christ in suffering, in order to participation in His glory is taught alike by Christ Himself and by His apostles (John 12:24-26; Matthew 16:24-25; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Verse 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.

For I reckon, [ logizomai (G3049)] - as in Romans 3:28, expressive not of doubt (as Jowett), but of reflection-q.d., 'For when I speak of our present sufferings and our future glory, I consider that there is no comparison between them:'

That the sufferings of this present time, [ tou (G3588) nun (G3568) kairou (G2540)] - 'of the present season' or 'period;' this word being chosen, rather than the more indefinite 'time' [ chronou (G5550)], to remind the Christian reader of its definite and transitory character, in contrast with the eternity of the future glory;

Are not worthy to be compared with, [ ouk (G3756) axia (G514) pros (G4314) - of this construction, see examples in Wetstein.]

The glory which shall be revealed in us, [ eis (G1519) heemas (G2248)]. So Beza, after the Vulgate; but it should be 'unto,' 'toward,' or 'for us' (as Luther, Calvin, Bengel, and most good critics). For the glory here meant is not so much the glorified condition of believers themselves as that which shall break upon them in the celestial state. The spirit of the whole statement may be thus conveyed: 'True, we must suffer with Christ, if we would partake of His glory; but what of that? For if such sufferings are set over against the coming glory, they sink into insignificance.'

Verse 19

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

For ... 'The apostle (says Hodge), fired at the thought of the future glory of the saints. pours forth this splendid passage (to the end of Romans 8:22), in which he represents the whole creation groaning under its present degradation, and looking and longing for the revelation of this glory as the end and consummation of its existence.'

The earnest expectation of the creature (rather, 'the creation,') waiteth for ('is waiting for'). The words here uses are exceedingly strong. That one rightly rendered "earnest expectation" [ apokaradokia (G603)] - used elsewhere only, in Philippians 1:20 - denotes a 'continuous watching,' on 'pursuing as with outstretched head;' while the word too feebly rendered "waiteth" [ apekdechetai (G553)] denotes 'awaiting with eagerness' (see Romans 8:23; Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 9:28 - where the same word is used of the same events),

The manifestation (or 'revelation') of the sons of God - meaning 'the redemption' of their bodies from the grave (as expressed in Romans 8:23), which will reveal their sonship now hidden. (See the note at Luke 20:36, Commentary, p. 186; and at Revelation 21:7.)

Verse 20

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

For the creature ('the creation') was made subject to vanity, not willingly - i:e., through no natural principle of decay. The apostle, personifying creation, represents it as only submitting to the vanity with which it was smitten, on man's account, in obedience to that superior power which had mysteriously linked its destines with man's. And so he adds, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope;

Verse 21

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Because, [ dia (G1223) ton (G3588) hupotaxanta (G5293) ep' (G1909) elpidi (G1680), hoti (G3754)] - or, 'by reason of Him who subjected it in hope, That.' Since the words will bear either sense, interpreters are divided as to which shade of thought was intended. (The latter is preferred by Beza, Fritzsche, DeWette, Meyer, Tholuck, Philippi, Jowett, Webster and Wilkinson.) We prefer that of our own version (with the Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen, Alford): compare the same phrase ("in hope," put absolutely), Acts 2:26; and see it (in another form) in Romans 8:24. The creature itself also (rather, 'even the creation itself,') shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption - that is, from its bondage to the principle of decay,

Into the glorious liberty, [ eis (G1519) teen (G3588) eleutherian (G1657) tees (G3588) doxees (G1391)] - rather, 'into the liberty of the glory'

Of the children of God - meaning, into something of the same liberty which shall characterize the glorified state of the children of God themselves; in other words, the creation itself shall, in a glorious sense, be delivered into that same freedom from blight and debility, corruptibility and decay, in which the children of God, when raised up in glory, shall expatiate.

Verse 22

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Verse 23

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

And not only [they] but ourselves also, [ ou (G3756) monon (G3440) de (G1161), alla (G235) kai (G2532) autoi (G846)] - rather, 'And not only so, but even we ourselves;' that is, besides the inanimate creation,

Which have the first-fruits of the Spirit - meaning, not 'the Spirit's first-fruits,' but 'the Spirit as the first-fruits' of our full redemption (compare 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30 - where the meaning is not "by which ye are sealed," as if the Spirit were the Author of the sealing, but "with which" the Spirit being Himself the seal). The Spirit, given to believers as "the first-fruits" of what awaits them in glory, moulds the heart to a heavenly frame, and attempers it to its fixture element.

Even we ourselves - notwithstanding that we have the first-fruits of heaven already within us,

Groan within ourselves - both under that "body of sin and death" which we carry about with us, and under the manifold "vanity and vexation of spirit" that are written upon every object and every pursuit and every enjoyment under the sun;

Waiting for [ apekdechomenoi (G553), see the note at Romans 8:19 ] The adoption - meaning the revelation or manifestation of the adoption

[To wit,] the redemption of our body - from the grave; for (as Bengel notes) that is not called liberty by which we are delivered from the body, but by which the body itself is liberated from death.

Such seems to us the simplest and most natural interpretation of this noble passage. But it has been much controverted. No one passage, indeed, has given rise to more controversy, and whole treatises have been written to discuss and expound it. Though the interpretations put upon it have been many, they are all reducible to three: First, that "the whole creation" here means the whole created universe.' Such is the strange view of Olshausen, who views it, however, in a mystical sense, as the yearning of all creature-life after its destined perfection. But unless it be maintained that the whole created universe was "made subject to vanity" through the sin of man, which would be absurd, this interpretation must be rejected as a mere dream. Next, that "the creation" here means, 'the rational creation,' or 'mankind in general.' So Augustine, Locke, Stuart, Webster and Wilkinson. But how could it be said that mankind in general were 'unwillingly subjected to vanity,' since in this very Epistle the sin that brought this vanity upon them is represented as their own (Romans 5:12); and how could it be said that the rational creation, or mankind in general, were 'subjected to vanity, in hope of being delivered from the bondage of corruption into, the liberty of the glory of the children of God,' or, finally, that they are now "groaning and travailing in pain together, waiting for the adoption"! etc.

It remains, then, lastly, since "the creation" here cannot mean Christians-for in Romans 8:23 they and it are expressly distinguished from each other-that it must mean, 'that creation which forms part of one system with man, yet exclusive of man himself.' So (although with considerable diversity in minor particulars) the great majority of interpreters-as Irenaeus and Chrysostom of the fathers; Erasmus, Luther, Melancthon, Calvin and Beza, Melville and Ferme, Grotius, Estius, Bengel, Cocceius, Reiche, Fritzsche, Neander, Tholuck, Meyer, DeWette, Philippi, Alford, Hodge, Wordsworth. If for man's sake alone the earth was cursed, it cannot surprise us that it should share in his recovery. And, if so, to represent it as sympathizing with man's miseries, and as looking forward to his complete redemption us the period of its own emancipation from its present sin-blighted condition, is a beautiful thought, and in harmony with the general teaching of Scripture on the subject. (See 2 Peter 3:13.)

Verse 24

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

For we are saved by hope, [ tee (G3588) gar (G1063) elpidi (G1680) esootheemen (G4982)]. This sense of the words makes hope the instrument of salvation, which it can only be if we view hope as nothing else (to use the words of Alford) than faith in its prospective attitude. Still hope is not faith, but is that which begets it; and in the New Testament they are carefully distinguished. The true sense, as the great majority of good critics admit, is, 'For in hope we are saved;' that is, our salvation-in that sense of it which the preceding verses refer to-is in the present state rather in hope than in actual possession.

But hope that is seen is not hope - for the very meaning of hope is the expectation that some good now future will become present. For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? - since the latter ends when the other comes.

Verse 25

But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

But if we hope for that we see not, [then do] we with patience wait for it - i:e., then, patient waiting for it is our fitting attitude.

The Spirit's Intercession for the Saints (Romans 8:26-27)

Verse 26

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Likewise the Spirit also ... - q.d., 'I have already shown you the varied offices of the blessed Spirit toward believers-how He descends into their souls as the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, making them members of Christ, and one life with their glorious Head; how in the power of this new life they are freed from the law of sin and death, walking henceforth not after the flesh but after the Spirit, minding supremely the things of the Spirit, and through the Spirit mortifying the deeds of the body; how He dwells in them as the Guide of the sons of God, as the Spirit of adoption teaches them to cry, "Abba, Father," witnesses with their spirit that they are children of God, and is in them as the first-fruits of their full redemption: but this is not all, for - " Likewise also the Spirit"

Helpeth, [ hoosautoos (G5615 ) de (G1161 ) kai (G2532 ), rather,`But after the like manner doth the Spirit also help'] our infirmities. The true reading, beyond doubt, is in the singular number-`our infirmity.' The infirmity meant is not merely the one infirmity regarding prayer here specified, but the general weakness of the spiritual life-of which one example is here given,

For we know not what we should pray for as we ought. It is not the proper matter of prayer that believers are at so much loss about, for the fullest directions are given them on this head; but to ask for the right things "as they ought" is the difficulty. This arises partly from the dimness of our spiritual vision in the present veiled state, while we have to "walk by faith, not by sight" (1 Corinthians 13:9; 2 Corinthians 5:7), and the large admixture of the ideas and feelings which spring from the fleeting objects of sense that there is in the very best views and affections of our renewed nature; partly also from the necessary imperfection of all human language as a vehicle for expressing the subtle spiritual feelings of the heart. In these circumstances, how can it be but that much uncertainty should surround all our spiritual exercises, and that in our nearest approaches, and in the freest outpourings of our hearts to our Father in heaven, doubts should spring up within us whether our frame of mind in such exercis es is altogether befitting and well-pleasing to God? Nor do these anxieties subside, but rather deepen, with the depth and ripeness of our spiritual experience.

But the Spirit itself - rather, 'Himself.' See, on the personal sense of the pronoun in such places, the note at 5:16.

Maketh intercession [for us]. The bracketed words are omitted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles, on good authority; but of course they are implied, and hence, their tendency to get into the text.

With groanings which cannot be uttered [ alaleetois (G215)] - that is, which cannot be expressed in articulate language. What sublime and affecting ideas are these, for which we are indebted to this passage alone!-q.d., 'As we struggle to express in articulate language the desires of our hearts, and find that our deepest emotions are the most inexpressible, we "groan" under this felt inability. But not in vain are these groanings. For "the Spirit Himself" is in them, giving to the emotions which Himself has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though on our part they are the fruit of impotence to utter what we feel, they are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our behalf.'

Verse 27

And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

And - rather, 'But' (all inarticulate though these groanings be) he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he-that is, the Spirit. Here our translators have properly departed from the neuter sense of the word "Spirit," when meant of the Holy Spirit; rendering it "He." The pity is that they did not carry out the same principle in the preceding verse, and in Romans 8:16.

Maketh intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God. It had been as well, perhaps, that the words had been allowed to stand without any supplement - "according to God." But if a supplement was to be introduced, 'according to [the mind of] God' would have been better, as corresponding to "the mind of the Spirit" in the preceding clause. As the Searcher of hearts, He watches the surging emotions of them in prayer, and knows perfectly what the Spirit means by the groanings which He draws forth within us, because that blessed Intercessor pleads by them only for what God Himself designs to bestow. 'The assurance which we have (says Alford well) that God the Heart-Searcher interprets the inarticulate sighings of the Spirit in us is not, strictly speaking, His Omniscience, but the fact that the very Spirit who thus pleads does it in pursuance of the divine purposes, and in conformity with God's good pleasure.' Some render the words thus: 'knoweth the mind of the Spirit, that He maketh intercession,' etc. (So Calvin, Meyer, etc.) But though the Greek will admit of this, the other sense suits the apostle's strain of thought better, as well as brings out a better sense. It is accordingly that which most adopt.


(1) Are believers "led by the Spirit of God"? (Romans 8:14.) How careful, then, should they be not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God"! (Ephesians 4:30.) Compare Psalms 32:8-9, "I will ... guide thee with mine eye. Be not (then) as the horse, or as the mule," etc. (2) "The spirit of bondage" to which many Protestants are "all their lifetime subject," and the 'doubtsome faith' which the Popish Church systematically inculcates, are both rebuked here, being in direct and painful contrast to that "spirit of adoption," and that witness of the Spirit, along with our own spirit, to the fact of our sonship, which it is here said the children of God, as such, enjoy (Romans 8:15-16). Philippi, noticing this, refers to the great Protestant divines who noticed it also. And Olshausen only echoes the statements of the 'Westminster Confession,' John Owen, Halyburton, etc., when he says that 'On the foundation of this immediate testimony of the Holy Spirit, all the regenerate man's conviction finally rests. For the faith in the Scripture itself [in the supreme sense of the word "faith"] has its basis in this experience of the principle which it promises, and which flows into the believer while he is occupied with it.' The same profound writer notices also the important testimony borne by this verse against the pantheistic confusion of the divine and the human spirit.

(3) As suffering with Christ is the ordained preparation for participating in this glory, so the insignificance of the one, as compared with the other, cannot fail to lighten the sense of it, however bitter and protracted (Romans 8:17-18).

(4) It cannot but swell the heart of every intelligent Christian to think that if external nature has been mysteriously affected for evil by the fall of man, it only awaits his completed recovery, at the resurrection, to experience a corresponding emancipation from its blighted condition into undecaying life and unfading beauty (Romans 8:19-23).

(5) It is not when believers, through sinful 'quenching of the Spirit,' have the fewest and fain test glimpses of heaven that they sigh most fervently to be there; but, on the contrary, when, through the unobstructed working of the Spirit in their hearts, "the first-fruits" of the glory to be revealed are most largely and frequently tasted, then, and just for that reason, is it that they "groan within themselves" for full redemption (Romans 8:23). For thus they reason: If such be the drops, what will the ocean be? If thus "to see through a glass darkly" be so very sweet, what will it be to "see face to face"? If when "my Beloved stands behind our wall looking forth at the windows, showing Himself through the lattice" (Song of Solomon 2:9) - that thin, transparent veil which hides the unseen from mortal view-if, even thus, He is to me "Fairer than the children of men," what shall He be when He stands confessed before my undazzled vision the Only-begotten of the Father in my own nature, and I shall be like Him, seeing Him as He is?

(6) "The patience of hope" (1 Thessalonians 1:3) is the fitting attitude for those who with the joyful consciousness that they are already "saved" (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5), have yet the painful consciousness that they are saved but in part; or, that, "being justified by His grace, they are made (in the present state) heirs according to the hope (only) of eternal life" (Titus 3:7).

(7) As prayer is the breath of the spiritual life, and the believer's only effectual relief under the "infirmity" which attaches to his whole condition here below, how cheering is it to be assured that the blessed Spirit, cognizant of it all, comes in aid of it all; and in particular, that when believers-unable to articulate their case before God-can at times do nothing but lie "groaning" before the Lord, these inarticulate groanings are the Spirit's own vehicle for conveying into "the ears of the Lord of Saboath" their whole case; that they come up before the Hearer of prayer as the Spirit's own intercession in their behalf; and that they are recognized by Him that sitteth on the Throne as embodying only what, in His own 'mind,' He had determined before to bestow upon them! 8. What a view do those two Romans 8:1-39:(26,27) give of the relations subsisting between the Divine Persons in the economy of redemption and the harmony of their respective operations in the case of each of the redeemed!

In this incomparable section the apostle expatiates over the whole field of his preceding argument, his spirit swelling and soaring with his vast and lofty theme, and carrying his readers along with him, out of all the trials and tears and uncertainties of things present, into the region of cloudless and eternal day. To subdivide this section would be intolerable; for after the first verse or two the thoughts rush along like a cataract, and refuse to be arrested by any artificial breaks.

Verse 28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

And - rather, 'Moreover,' 'Now,' or some other such word, to mark, better than the ordinary copulative "And," what this verse clearly is-a transition to a new train of thought.

We know ... The order in the original, which is more striking, is this: 'We know'

That to them that love God, all things work together for good, to them who are the called according to his purpose - his eternal purpose. Two characteristics of believers are here given-one descriptive of their feeling toward God, the other of His feeling toward them; and each of these is selected with the evident view of suggesting the true explanation of the delightful assurance here conveyed, that all things are, and cannot but be, cooperating for good to such. Let us look at each of them, for it will be found that there is a glorious consistency between the eternal purposes of God and the free agency of men, though the link of connection is beyond human-probably even created-apprehension. First, 'To them that, love God all things are working together for good.' Because such souls, persuaded that He who gave His own Son for them cannot but mean them well in all His procedure, fall naturally and sweetly in with it; and thus learning to take in good part whatever He sends to them, however trying to flesh and blood, they render it impossible-so to speak-that it should do other than minister to their good.

But, again, "To them who are the called according to his purpose all things are" - in the same intelligible way - "working together for good." Because believing that there is such an eternal purpose, within the cloud of whose glory the humblest believer is enrapt, they see "His chariot paved with love" (Song of Solomon 3:10); and knowing that it is in pursuance of this purpose of love that they have been "called into the fellowship of His son Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:9), they naturally say within themselves, 'It cannot be that He "of Whom, and through Whom, and to Whom are all things," should suffer that purpose to be thwarted by anything really adverse to us, or that he should not make all things-dark as well as light, crooked as well as straight-to cooperate to the furtherance and final completion of His high design. Glorious assurance! And of this the apostle says, "We know" it. It was a household word with the household of faith: not that, as here exhibited, it had perhaps ever before struck one of his readers; but, as already observed, with the teaching they had already received and the Christian experience which was common to all who had tasted that the Lord was gracious, it had but to be put before them to be at once recognized as an undoubted and precious truth.

Verse 29

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

For - as touching this "calling according to His purpose,"

Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate - or 'fore-ordain.' In what sense are we to take the word "foreknow" here? 'Those who He foreknew would repent and believe,' say Pelagians of every age and every hue. But this is to thrust into the text what is contrary to the whole spirit, and even letter, of the apostle's teaching, as will appear from the following chapter; see also 2 Timothy 1:9. In Romans 11:2 and Psalms 1:6 God's "knowledge" of His people cannot be restricted to a mere foresight of future events, or acquaintance with what is passing here below. Does "whom He did foreknow," then, mean 'whom He fore-ordained?' That can hardly be, since both words are here used, and the thing meant by the one is spoken of as the cause of what is intended by the other. It is difficult, indeed, for our limited minds to distinguish them as states of the Divine Mind toward men, especially since in Acts 2:23, "the counsel" is put before "the foreknowledge of God," while in 1 Peter 1:2, "election" is said to be "according to the foreknowledge of God." But probably God's "foreknowledge" of His own people means His special, gracious complacency in them, while His "predestinating" or "fore-ordaining" them signifies His fixed purpose, flowing from this, to "save them and call them with an holy calling" (2 Timothy 1:9). 'According to Pauline doctrine (says Olshausen-and the testimony is remarkable from a Lutheran) there is a predestination of saints, in the proper sense of the words: that is, not that God knows beforehand that they will by their own decision be holy, but that he creates this very decision in them.'

[To be] conformed to the image of his Son, [ summorfous (G4832)] - or, 'be counterparts of His Son's image;' to be sons, that is, after the pattern or I model of His Sonship in our nature,

That he might be the first-born among many brethren - the First-born being the Son by nature; His "many brethren" sons by adoption: He, in the Humanity of the Only-begotten of the Father, bearing our sins on the accursed tree; they in that of mere men ready to perish by reason of sin, but redeemed by His blood from condemnation and wrath, and transformed into his likeness: He "the First-born from the dead;" they "that sleep in Jesus" to be in due time "brought with Him:" "The First-born," already "crowned with glory and honour;" His "many brethren," "when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as he is."

Verse 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.

Moreover - rather, 'And' or 'Now;' for the same train of thought is still in course of development,

Whom he did predestinate, them he also called - q.d., 'In "predestinating us to be conformed to the image of His Son," He settled all the successive steps of it; the "predestination" of them from everlasting being followed up by the "calling" of them in time. The word "called" (as Hodge and others truly observe) is never in the Epistles of the New Testament applied to those who have only the outward invitation of the Gospel (as in Matthew 20:16; Matthew 22:14). It always means 'internally, effectually, savingly called;' denoting the first great step in personal salvation, and answering to "conversion." Only, whereas the word conversion expresses the change of character which then takes place, this 'calling' expresses the divine authorship of the change, and the sovereign power by which we are summoned-Matthew-like, Zaccheus-like-out of our old, wretched, perishing condition, into a new, safe, blessed life.

And whom he (thus) called, them he also justified - brought into the definite state of reconciliation, acceptance, and righteous standing already so fully described;

And whom he justified, them he also glorified - brought to final glory (see Romans 8:17-18). Noble climax, and how rhythmically expressed! And all this is viewed as past; because, starting from the past decree of "predestination to be conformed to the image of God's Son," of which the other steps are but the successive unfoldings, all is beheld as one entire, eternally completed salvation.

Verse 31

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

What shall we then say to these things? As Bengel says, with his own unrivaled terseness, 'We can no further go, think, wish.' This whole passage, in fact-on to Romans 8:34, and even to the end of the chapter-strikes all thoughtful interpreters and readers as transcending almost everything in language; while Olshausen notices the 'profound and colossal' character of the thought.

If God [be] for us, who [can be] against us? - If God be resolved and engaged to bring us through, all our enemies must be His; and "Who would set the briers and thorns against Him in battle? He would go through them, He would burn them together" (Isaiah 27:4). What strong consolation is here! Nay, but the great pledge of all has already been given. For,

Verse 32

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?

He, [ hos (G3739) ge (G1065)] - rather, 'He, surely.' It is a pity to lose the emphatic particle of the original, when it can be expressed idiomatically (as it cannot always be) in our own language. [See Kuhner, section 317, 2, and Jelf, section 735, 6.] Bengel notices that full sweetness of exultation which this little particle here conveys.

That spared not his own Son, [ tou (G3588) idiou (G2398) huiou (G5207) ouk (G3756) efeisato (G5339)] - 'withheld not,' or 'kept not back His own (proper) Son.' Both of these most expressive phrases, as well as the entire thought, were suggested by Genesis 22:22 (as in the Septuagint), where Yahweh's touching commendation of Abraham's conduct is designed to furnish something like a glimpse into the spirit of His own act in surrendering His own son. "Take now (said the Lord to Abraham) thy son, thine only, whom thou lovest, and ... offer him for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:2); and only when Abraham had all but performed that loftiest act of self-sacrifice, did the Lord interpose, saying, "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou HAST NOT WITHHELD THY SON, THINE ONLY SON, from me." In the light of this incident, then, and of this language, our apostle can mean to convey nothing less than this, that in "not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up," or surrendering Him, God exercised, in His Paternal character, a mysterious act of Self-sacrifice, which, though involving none of the pain and none of the loss which are inseparable from the very idea of self-sacrifice on our part, was not less real, but, on the contrary, as far transcended any such acts of ours as His nature is above the creature's.

But this is inconceivable if Christ be not God's "own (or 'proper') Son," partaker of His very nature, as really as Isaac was of his father Abraham's. It was in that sense, undoubtedly, that the Jews charged our Lord with making Himself "equal with God" (John 5:18) - a charge which He in reply forthwith proceeded, not to disown, but to illustrate and confirm. Understand Christ's Sonship thus, and the language of Scripture regarding it is intelligible and harmonious; but take it to be an artificial relationship, ascribed to Him in virtue either of His miraculous birth or His resurrection from the dead, or the grandeur of His works, or all of these together, and the passages which speak of it neither explain of themselves nor harmonize with each other.

But delivered him up - not to death merely (as many take it), for that is too narrow an idea here, but 'surrendered Him,' in the most comprehensive sense: cf. John 3:16, "God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son."

For us all - i:e., for all believers alike; as nearly every good interpreter admits must be the meaning here.

How shall he not (how can we conceive that He should not), with him also (that is, along with Him), freely give us all things? - all other gifts being not only immeasurably less than this gift of gifts, but virtually included in it.

Verse 33

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

Who shall lay anything to the charge of, [ engkalesei (G1458)] - or, 'bring a charge against'

God's elect. Here, for the first time in this Epistle, believers are called the "elect" In what sense this is meant will appear in next chapter.

[It is] God that justifieth;

Verse 34

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died. A number of expositors (after Ambrose and Augustine) read this as a question: "God that justifieth?" (Will He bring a charge against His own elect?) "Who is he that condemneth? Christ that died?" (Will He condemn them?) So Erasmus, Locke, DeWette, Olshausen, Alford, Jowett, Webster and Wilkinson, Green; and so Lachmann prints his text. But besides that this 'creates (as Tholuck remarks) an unnatural accumulation of questions, it is (to use the not too strong language of Fritzsche) intolerable; for God is thus represented as the judge; but it is the part of a judge not to accuse, but either to acquit or condemn the accused?' We may add (with Meyer) that such an idea is against all Scripture analogy, and could never come into the apostle's mind-that after he had spoken of God's being so for us that none can be against us, and His giving such a Gift as secures every other, and giving such a Gift as secures every other, and having on the ground of this challenged any to criminate God's elect-he should turn round and ask, if "God that justified" would at the same time criminate them, or "Christ that died" for them would at the same time "condemn" them. Plainly, it is to creatures only that he throws down the challenge, asking which of them would dare to bring a charge against those whom God has justified-would condemn those for whom Christ died.

Yea, rather, that is risen again - to make good the purposes of His death, Here, as in some other cases, the apostle delightfully corrects himself (see the notes at Romans 1:12, and Galatians 4:9), not meaning that the resurrection of Christ was of more saving value than His death, but that "having put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" - which, however precious to us, was to Him of unmingled bitterness-it was incomparably more delightful to think that He was again alive, and living to see to the efficacy of His death in our behalf.

Who is even (rather, 'who is also') at the right hand of God. The right hand of the king was anciently the seat of honour (1 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 2:19; Psalms 45:9), and denoted participation in the royal power and glory (Matthew 20:21). The classical writings have familiarized us with the same idea. Accordingly, Christ's sitting at the right hand of God-predicted in Psalms 110:1, and historically referred to in Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; Acts 7:56; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 3:21 - signifies the glory of the exalted Son of man, and the power in the government of the world in which He participates. Hence, it is called "sitting on the right hand of Power" (Matthew 26:64), and "sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3).

Who also maketh intercession for us - using all His boundless interest with God in our behalf. 'His session (says Bengel) denotes His power to save us; His intercession, His will to do it.' But how are we to conceive of this intercession? Not as of one pleading 'on bended knees and with outstretched arms,' to use the expressive language of Calvin. But yet, neither is it merely a figurative intimation that the power of Christ's redemption is continually operative (as Fritzsche and Tholuck represent it); nor (with Chrysostom) merely to show the fervour and vehemence of His love for us. It cannot be taken to mean less than this, that the glorified Redeemer, conscious of His claims, expressly signifies His will that the efficacy of His death should be made good to the uttermost, and signifies it in some such royal style as we find Him employing in that wonderful Intercessory Prayer which he spoke as from within the veil (see John 17:11-12): "Father, I WILL, that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am" (see the note at John 17:24). But in what form this will is expressed is as undiscoverable as it is unimportant.

Verse 35

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? This does not mean 'our love to Christ;' as if one should say, Who shall hinder us from loving Christ?-but 'Christ's love to us,' as is clear from the closing words of the chapter, which refer to the same subject. Nor would the other sense harmonize with the scope of the chapter, which is to exhibit the ample ground that there is for the believer's confidence in Christ. 'It is no ground of confidence (as Hodge observes) to assert, or even to feel, that we will never forsake Christ; but it is the strongest ground of assurance to be convinced that his love will never change.'

Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? - q.d., 'None of these, nor all of them together, how terrible soever to the flesh, are tokens of God's wrath, or the least ground for doubt of His love.' And from whom could such a question come better than from one who had himself for Christ's sake endured so much? (See 2 Corinthians 11:21-33; 1 Corinthians 4:10-13). Calvin (says Tholuck) makes the noble reflection, that the apostle says not 'What,' but "Who" - just as if all creatures, and all afflictions, were so many gladiators taking arms against the Christians.

Verse 36

As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

As it is written (Psalms 44:22 ), for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. This is quoted as descriptive of what God's faithful people may expect from their enemies at any period when their hatred of righteousness is roused, and there is nothing to restrain it (see Galatians 4:29).

Verse 37

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, [ hupernikoomen (G5245 )] through him that loved us - not (as Hodge takes it) 'We are so far from being conquered by all these things, that they do us, on the contrary, much good;' for though this is true enough, the word means simply, 'We are preeminently conquerors ' (see the note at Romans 5:20). So far are they from 'separating us from Christ's love, that it is just "through Him that loved us" that we are victorious over them.'

Verse 38

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, [ oute (G3777) dunameis (G1411)]. This last clause ("nor powers") - if we are to be guided by external authorities alone-ought certainly to stand, not here, but at the close of the verse, which will then read thus: "nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers" [Thus read 'Aleph (') A B C D E F G, six cursives, four copies of the Old Latin, and the Vulgate (not the Clementine edition). So Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles; also most recent critics, while the received order is supported only by K L, most cursives, the Syriac, and some later versions, with (apparently) most of the Greek fathers.] But who can bring himself to believe that the apostle so wrote-that one of the harshest and baldest collocations of the conceivable enemies of believers was placed there by one who has here drawn up a catalogue otherwise perfect? How to account for this arrangement having found its way into so many manuscripts may be very difficult to say; but in the meantime we must hold the received order of the clauses as that of the apostle himself.

Nor things present, nor things to come - no condition of the present life, and none of the unknown possibilities of the life to come;

Verse 39

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature - rather, 'created thing,' any other thing in the whole created universe of God,

Shall be able to separate us. 'All the terms here (as Olshausen says) are to be taken in their most general sense, and need no closer definition. The indefinite expressions are meant to denote all that can be thought of, and are only a rhetorical paraphrase of the conception of allness.'

From the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus does this wonderful chapter, with which the argument of the Epistle properly closes, leave us who are "justified by faith," in the arms of everlasting Love, whence no hostile power or conceivable event can ever tear us. " Behold what manner of love is this!" And "what manner of persons ought we to be," who are thus "blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ!"


(1) How ennobling is the thought that the complicated movements of the divine government of the world are all arranged in express furtherance of the "good" of God's chosen! (Romans 8:28.)

(2) To whatever conformity to the Son of God in dignity and glory believers are or shall hereafter be raised, it will be the joy of every one of them-as it is most fitting - "that in all things He should have the pre-eminence" (Colossians 1:18), and be recognized as "the First-born among many brethren" (Romans 8:29).

(3) As there is a beautiful harmony and necessary connection between the several doctrines of grace, so (to use the words of Hodge) must there Be a like harmony in the character of the Christian. He cannot experience the joy and confidence flowing from his election without the humility which the consideration of its being gratuitous must produce; nor can he have the peace of one who is justified without the holiness of one who is called.

(4) However difficult it may be for finite minds to comprehend the emotions of the Divine Mind, let us never for a moment doubt that, in "not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up for us all," God made a real sacrifice of all that was dearest to His heart, and that in so doing He meant forever to assure His people that all other things which they need-inasmuch as they are nothing to this stupendous gift, and indeed but the necessary sequel of it-will in due time be forthcoming. In return for such a sacrifice on God's part, what can be considered too great on ours!

(5) If there could be any doubt as to the meaning of the all-important word "JUSTIFICATION," in this Epistle-whether, as the Church of Rome teaches, and many others affirm, it means 'infusing righteousness into the unholy, so as to make them righteous,' or, according to Protestant teaching, 'absolving, acquitting, or pronouncing righteous the guilty' - Romans 8:33 ought to set such doubt entirely at rest. For the apostle's question in this verse is, 'Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?'-in other words, 'Who shall pronounce' or 'hold them guilty?' seeing that "God justifies" them: showing, beyond all doubt, that to "justify" was intended to express precisely the opposite of 'holding guilty;' and consequently (as Calvin triumphantly argues) that it means 'to absolve from the charge of guilt.'

(6) After the same unanswerable mode of reasoning, we are entitled to argue, that if there could be any reasonable doubt in what light the death of Christ is to be regarded in this Epistle, Romans 8:34 ought to set that doubt entirely at rest. For there the apostle's question is, Who shall "condemn" God's elect, since "Christ died" for them: showing beyond all doubt (as Philippi justly argues) that it was the expiatory character of that death which the apostle had in view.

(7) What an affecting view of the love of Christ does it give us to learn that His greatest nearness to God and most powerful interest with Him-as being 'seated on His right hand'-is employed in behalf of His people here below!

(8) What everlasting consolation and good hope through grace arise from the fact, as variously as it is grandly expressed in this section, that all that can help us is on the side of those who are Christ's, and all that can hurt us is a conquered foe.

(9) Are we who "have tasted that the Lord is gracious" both "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation' (1 Peter 1:5), and embraced in the arms of Invincible Love? Then surely, while "building ourselves up on our most holy faith," and "praying in the Holy Spirit," only the more should we feel constrained to "keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 1:20-21).

In opening up so thoroughly the way of Salvation by Grace-alike for Jew and Gentile-through Faith alone in the Lord Jesus, the far-reaching mind of our apostle could not fail to perceive that he was raising questions of a profound and delicate nature, as to God's elect nation, which had rejected Christ, as to the promises made to them. and what was to become of them; also, whether all distinction of Jew and Gentile was now at an end, and if not, what might be its precise nature and future development. In preaching, or in less elaborate Epistle, a glance at the principles involved in these questions might be sufficient. But this great Epistle afforded just the appropriate occasion for handling them thoroughly and once for all; which, accordingly, he now proceeds to do in three chapters, as remarkable for profundity and reach as any of the preceding ones.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.