Click here to join the effort!
The Life in the Spirit.
Walking after the Spirit:
v. 1. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
v. 2. For the law of the spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
v. 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,
v. 4. that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
"Therefore," an inference especially from the last verse of the preceding chapter. For since the Christians with their flesh still serve the law of sin and, on account of the weakness of their corrupted flesh, sin daily and much, the conclusion might be drawn, also by themselves, that they are heaping God's wrath and condemnation upon themselves by their sins of weakness with which they are daily battling, that they, although in a state of justification through the merits of Christ, are in a state of condemnation and can never be certain of God's fatherly affection. But this feeling, which would tend also to take away the certainty of redemption, is not justified. "Although sin still rages in the flesh, yet it does not condemn, because the spirit is just and battles against it. " (Luther.) This Paul declares with great emphasis: Condemnation is in every sense out of the question; there is none, of any kind or degree; no sentence of condemnation can touch them. It is true, of course, that all sins of the Christians, also sins of weakness, are in themselves under the judgment of condemnation, that the believers must daily seek forgiveness for them in the wounds of Christ. These facts, however, have been fully discussed in connection with the justification of a poor sinner before God. But here St. Paul is treating of the great work of sanctification, which follows upon justification. There are Christians that are deeply concerned about the fact that their life and works, their conversation as believers, is still so far from perfection, that their performance of God's will remains so far behind their intention and desire. But here we are given the assurance that God, reconciled to all men in Christ Jesus, looks upon the justified sinners, upon the regenerated, believing Christians, as though they were altogether in the Spirit, as though they had no sinful flesh to hinder them anymore. To them that are in Christ Jesus, that are in Him vitally, by that wonderful union of which the Lord speaks John 15:1-7, that have their being in Him by justifying faith, to them that walk not, do not regulate their entire life according to the flesh, according to their sinful desires, but follow the commands of the Spirit, to these there is no sentence of condemnation.
For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death. The present, regenerated state of the Christians, in which we walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, is a proof of the fact that the Spirit has really delivered us from the law of sin and of death. The law of the Spirit of Life is the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as He determines our entire conduct and transmits to us the life which is in Christ, causing us to live in Christ and with Christ. And in doing this for us, the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and of death, of sin, which wanted to control and direct our life and deliver us into the power of death, to which we were subject by nature. Thus it is no longer sin, but the Spirit that is the controlling factor in the lives of the believers. Through the work of the Spirit we have died unto sin and become partakers of the resurrection of Christ. "Where the Spirit is not, there the Law is weakened and transgressed through the flesh, making it impossible for the Law to help a man but only unto sin and death. Therefore God sent His Son and laid upon Him our sin, and thus helped us to fulfill the Law through His Spirit. " (Luther.) So far as the weakness, the faintness of the Law is concerned, a condition of impotency which was due to its being weakened through the flesh, it should always be remembered that God, in sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and on account of sin, condemned the sin in the flesh. The Law of God is not in itself weak and impotent, but it is rendered so, its power and effect is suspended through the influence of the sinful flesh. Our depravity makes it impossible for the Law to save us, because it makes the fulfillment of the Law impossible. But when this was the situation, altogether hopeless, so far as man's salvation was concerned, the mercy of God stepped in. He sent His own Son, the Son that was equal with Him in essence and power, Possessor of the same deity. He sent Him in the likeness of the flesh of sin, like unto the sinners in humanity, a real man, and man's Substitute and Representative in bearing the sin of the whole world with all its consequences, for the sake of doing away with sin and its guilt forever. Christ was the expiation, the sacrifice, for sin And thus God condemned, spoke the sentence of condemnation upon, sin in the flesh; the sacrifice, the death, of Christ shows that God's justice condemned the sin which rules in the corrupt nature of man. Christ was made a curse, because He bore the curse which must strike sin. And thereby God has declared that sin no longer has the right to keep man in subjection and to force him to transgress the Law of God; He has delivered men from the jurisdiction of sin. And thus the precept, the rightful demand, of the Law may be satisfied, may be fulfilled in us, that is, in those persons that do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. By delivering us from the dominion of sin, Christ has made it possible for us to fulfill the Law of God, to deny and crucify the flesh and to live according to the Spirit. And the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the life in Christ, has loosed us from the bonds, from the dominion and jurisdiction of sin and of death, and now teaches us to walk, to lead our entire lives, in conformity with God's will.
The difference between the carnal mind and the spiritual mind:
v. 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.
v. 6. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace,
v. 7. because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither, indeed, can be.
v. 8. So, then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
v. 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.
v. 10. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.
v. 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.
In this section there is a further illustration and amplification of the contrast between flesh and Spirit and between those that are devoted to either. Those that are after the flesh, that have the moral nature and essence of the flesh, have their entire mind taken up with the things of the flesh; the interests of the flesh engage their entire attention. All their imagination, their lusts and desires are centered upon the gratification of sensual, worldly thoughts and ideas, Galatians 5:24. But those that have the nature of the Spirit, that are born anew out of the Spirit, have only one aim, namely, that of performing the works of the Spirit and bringing forth His fruits, Galatians 5:22. For the thinking of the flesh, the object and goal of the imagination of the natural, sinful heart, is death. The carnal joys and pleasures of man will finally result in death, in eternal death. But the thinking of the Spirit, the result of the Spirit's desiring, the object upon which the anxious longing of the Spirit is centered, as He lives in the mind of regenerated man, is life and peace. The spiritual life of a Christian, as manifested in all its thinking, is not the cause of the life in peace with God, of the realization of the reconciliation with God, but this life and peace is given by God to the spiritual life. This contrast between flesh and Spirit is emphasized from another side: Because the mind, the disposition, of the flesh is enmity toward God. The flesh finds the goal of its thinking to consist in eternal death because of its hostility to God, the Fountain of life. The people that follow the dictates of their flesh deliberately choose the works of the flesh, because they are evil, opposed to God and His holy will. To the Law of God the flesh will not yield obedience, the very idea of doing so being foreign to its nature. The contrast between the flesh, the sinful nature of man, and the pure and holy Law of God is so great that an agreement is out of the question: the chasm between them cannot be bridged. Those that are in the flesh, that bear in themselves the nature, the peculiarity of the flesh, cannot please God. The essence of the carnal mind is rebellion and hatred against God, and this disposition cannot be shown in any other way but by a deliberate expression of this tendency in acts which are displeasing to the Lord. The Christians are thoroughly distinct from people that exhibit such hostility toward God: You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; the Spirit of God that lives in the believers is their sphere of life and activity, in Him they live and move. And they cannot but be under the rule and guidance of the Spirit, if the Spirit indeed, truly, lives in them. The entire life and bearing of the Christians is in full accord with the demands of the true spiritual life, because that is the natural, the inevitable result and consequence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. It is necessary to stress this point; for if anyone have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. A person must be regenerated in truth, and not merely in appearance; he must actually have received the Spirit of Christ and have this Spirit dwelling in Him, otherwise Christ will not acknowledge him as one of His own. Note that the Spirit is here called the Spirit of Christ, that Christ is therefore placed on an equality with the Father as the One from whom the Spirit proceeds.
And now the apostle presents his conclusion: If, however, Christ is in you, if He is the impelling power of your lives, brought into your hearts by the work of His Spirit, John 14:16-18; John 14:23, then the body indeed, the instrument of sin, is dead, that is, subject to death on account of sin from the first moment of its existence; but the spirit, the human spirit regenerated and renewed, the new man, is life because of righteousness. The spirit, the soul of man, having received the perfect righteousness of Christ in justification, has the spiritual life which will secure for it immortal and blessed existence. By faith in Christ the Christians become partakers of eternal life So it is implied here also that the supreme blessing of eternity is based upon Christ only, in order that no one might have any reason for boasting. And we not only have the pledge of immortal life in and through Christ, so far as our soul is concerned, but we have the assurance also that our bodies will rise again: If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead live in you, then He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will quicken, will return to life your dead bodies through the Spirit that has His dwelling in you. The life which we have in our soul by faith will finally result in a complete triumph over death. Note how appropriate this description of God is in this connection Mark also that the three persons of the Godhead are here mentioned as taking part in the final resurrection of the dead, just as they all have been active in the conversion of man. The same God that raised up Jesus from the dead, thus proving that He is the Source, the almighty Fountain of life, will make alive, will give life to, our dead bodies; and this work He will perform through His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Son Christ is the Mediator of our salvation, having died and risen again for our sakes, having prepared for us the life of glorification. Our resurrection and glorification has its basis in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Thus the spiritual life of the Christians, the Spirit of God and of Christ that lives in the Christians, has for its goal eternal life, with the glorification of our bodies.
The Spirit of adoption in the Christians:
v. 12. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
v. 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.
v. 14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
v. 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.
v. 16. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God;
v. 17. and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and join theirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.
Having pictured the blessed state of the Christians, the apostle now presents an admonition to them in the form of a conclusion: So, then, brethren, debtors we are. All Christians are under a very strong obligation on account of benefits and blessings received. But not to the flesh, to live in accordance with the flesh, as natural man is apt to believe that he owes his flesh the gratification of its desires, that he is obliged to live in accordance with its demands. By this figure of speech the apostle brings out very strongly the implication which he has in mind: We are debtors to the Spirit. For, he argues, if you Christians live in accordance with the flesh, following its dictates and inclinations, then the inevitable consequence, that which is bound to come upon you, is death. The mere fact that a person has embraced the truth in Christ at some time of his life will by no means make him safe for all times. If Christians permit their flesh, their old evil nature, to regain the ascendancy, to govern their life and actions, then there is only one result possible, eternal death. But if the Christians will at all times by the Spirit, through the power of the Holy Ghost in them, put to death the practices, the deceitful doings of the body, as an instrument of evil, then they will live, be preserved for eternal life: holiness, happiness, and everlasting bliss.
This fact, the certainty of the gift of eternal life through the mercy of God, if we remain on the way of righteousness and destroy the deeds of the body, is now proved: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. Only those that have the Spirit of God are in truth members of Christ. And this Spirit moves, leads, urges the Christians on, all those under this constant and effectual influence of the Spirit being considered sons of God, being made sons of God, in fact, by the work of the Spirit. In and through Christ, whose redemption is imparted to them by the Spirit, they are brought into that intimate relation to God that He is their Father and they are His children by adoption, Galatians 3:26. And their state and relation of children is evidenced and proved by the fact that the Spirit is continually leading them in the way of righteousness. This relation to God is also a pleasant relation, one that invites and creates confidence: For not have you received the spirit of bondage again toward fear. Every man by nature leads a life of dread and fear, like that of a slave who fears the anger and punishment of his master. In a measure, the religion of the Old Testament was a religion which stimulated the spirit of bondage, according to which the Jews were always in dread and doubt as to their perfect keeping of the Law. But the Spirit which the believers have received is the Spirit of adoption, that of being made the children of God. The Holy Ghost brings about this relation of the believers toward God, He assures them with the confidence wrought by faith that God has adopted them as His children for the sake of Jesus, and in this confidence they cry out to Him: Abba, Father, the latter word being the translation of the Aramaic word which is in use to this day. It is an earnest cry, a vehement address, full of desire, trust, and faith. Thus the Spirit of God in us, in teaching us to trust in God with simple, childlike faith, gives us a certain, an indubitable witness, a definite proof and certainty, that we are the children of God. It is a conviction which is not found in our own spirit, which no man can have by his own reason and strength, which the Spirit of God alone can and does give. The very fact that this witnessing of the Spirit is entirely independent of our own feelings, of our state of mind at any given time, makes it so certain and reliable that we are dear children of our heavenly Father. But if children, then also heirs. If we are the children of God, then we are also sure of partaking of the inheritance of the saints in light; we are sure of the possession of the inheritance of Christ Himself, with whom we are joint-heirs by the fact of our adoption. As children of God we have a claim to the bliss of heaven, as God has prepared it for His only-begotten Son, for Him that was born out of the fullness of His divine essence. There is only one outward condition which is inevitable: If so be, if only we suffer with Him, in order that we may also be glorified with Him. Christians are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, they are bound to endure afflictions of many kinds for His name's sake. To attempt to evade these sufferings is equivalent to refusing to bear the cross of Christ, Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23. The bearing of the cross is not an absolute condition, but the inevitable lot of those that are awaiting the glory of eternal bliss, Galatians 4:7. And thus the beautiful, comforting doctrine of the adoption of the Christians as children of God, of their inheritance of eternal life, serves to admonish them to die unto the flesh and to live by the Spirit.
Comfort in the Manifold Afflictions of this Life.
The sighing of creation:
v. 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.
v. 19. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
v. 20. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope.
v. 21. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
v. 22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
In v. 18 the apostle briefly states the topic of the second part of this chapter: For I consider; he gives it as an expression of his strongest assurance, not as an uncertain opinion or the dubious result of conjecture. Not worthy are the sufferings of the present time, that pertain to this life only and come to an end with the close of this world-period, in comparison with the glory which is to be revealed to us. All the distress, all the afflictions, all the persecutions, all the sorrow that comes upon the Christians for the sake of Jesus, is a matter of but a moment's duration, as time is reckoned before God, and in addition is so outweighed by the glory which the saints are to inherit that it cannot properly come into consideration. "Behold how he turns his back to the world and fixes his face toward the future revelation, just as though he nowhere on earth saw misfortune or woe, on the contrary, nothing but joy. Truly, even if we are in bad straits, he says, what is our suffering in comparison with the ineffable joy and glory which shall be revealed in us? It is not worthy to be compared or to be called a suffering."
Having thus stated the leading thought of this entire section, Paul now emphasizes the greatness of the glory which shall be revealed in us by describing the coming deliverance of the creation in general, which, with all its blessings, is immeasurably greater than all the suffering of the present state could be. The earnest expectation, the watching with outstretched head, the eager, anxious longing of creation, of the sum total of organic and inorganic created matter, especially the brute creatures, awaits patiently, expectantly, the revelation of the children of God. In this world the sons of God usually do not appear to advantage in the eyes of the world, they are not manifested: it does not appear openly what a great and glorious thing it is to be a child of God, what wonderful blessings the Lord has provided for them that love Him. But the time will come when they shall be manifested, when the glory of heaven shall be revealed to them and be made their own in the sight of all men. And for that day the entire brute creation, all nature, is eagerly waiting. For now creation, this sum total of God's creatures about us, which we commonly call nature, is subjected to vanity, not willingly, but because of Him that subjected it, because God in His wisdom willed it. As the universe and all the visible objects about us came into existence out of the hand of God, it had the power of life in itself. But with the fall of man and the subsequent curse came the subjection of nature to the vanity, the unprofitableness, the uselessness of man's sinful desires and intentions. As Luther says, sun, moon, and stars, heaven and earth, the grain that we eat, the water or wine that we drink, oxen, cows, sheep, and everything that men use, is lamenting and crying over the fact of its subjection to vanity, to the service of sin in the hands of man. But God, in including creation in general in His curse upon sin, at the same time had a future change of this lamentable condition in mind, according to which the suffering creation may hope for a deliverance from this condition of unwilling subjection; for creation itself, all nature about us, will be set free from the bondage of corruption, the slavery that has resulted from the corruption due to sin, to the glorious liberty of the children of God, to the freedom from the vanity and corruption of sin and its consequences. The Day of Judgment will bring deliverance to the brute creation, to all organic and inorganic matter, from the tyranny of man that uses the creatures of God for purposes of vanity and sin. When heaven and earth shall pass away, when the earth and the works therein shall be burned up, 2 Peter 3:10, that will mean the end of unwilling slavery throughout the world. And as the believers will then look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, 2 Peter 3:13, so all the substances of the old earth, having thrown off the tyranny of sin, will enjoy that freedom for which the Lord created them in the beginning. In the mean time we know that the entire creation is groaning with us believers and feeling the most vehement pains to the present time. And in this way the entire creation is suffering and waiting, as Luther says; and for what? "For the glorious liberty of the children of God, when she will not only be set free from her service, that she will no more serve any scoundrel, but shall also be free, and much more beautiful than she is now, and serve only the children of God, no longer be captive under the devil, as she is now captive."
The sighing hope of the Christians and the Spirit's intercession:
v. 23. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
v. 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?
v. 25. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
v. 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.
v. 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.
But not only so, not only does the whole creation groan and long for deliverance, but also we ourselves that have the first-fruits of the Spirit: we also ourselves sigh within ourselves, longing for the adoption, the redemption of our body. We Christians, having received the Spirit of God from above, have the first-fruits of the future world, of the heavenly glory, in our hearts, as a definite guarantee of the full bliss which shall be ours in the future, Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22. And yet sighs arise from the depths of our soul, groans and cries for deliverance. We Christians are deeply affected, painfully touched, by the woes and miseries of the present world. And therefore our sighing incidentally represents and expresses our anxious, eager longing for the full revelation of our sonship. We are children of God even now, by faith, through the working of the Spirit. But we long to enter into the full possession and enjoyment of our inheritance above, into the redemption of our body, the complete deliverance from all the consequences of sin. All eyes and all hearts are directed toward that blessed hour when Christ will finally and completely deliver our mortal body from the bonds of vanity and of death, when He will change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, Php_3:21 .
The Christians are sure of the final participation in the deliverance of the body and of the full enjoyment of their sonship. But meanwhile the present time, the time in this world, is a time of waiting and hoping. We have the glories of heaven in expectation or prospect: salvation is a blessing which we have in hope, which we are sure of possessing in the future. For if the object of hope, the full enjoyment of our adoption, the perfect deliverance from sin and its consequences, were a matter of the present time and possession, then we could not speak of hope; for if one sees a thing before him, why should he yet hope? Hoping and seeing exclude each other. And so the apostle concludes regarding the peculiarity of hope, its essential feature: If we hope for that which we see not, then we wait through patience and endurance, we steadfastly and longingly wait for it. At the present time we Christians are placed under the obligation of patience, under the necessity of anxious expectation. Knowing the certainty of our future bliss, all the affliction of the present time and life cannot shake our hope. "Salvation, in its fullness, is not a present good, but a matter of hope, and, of course, future; and if future, it follows that we must wait for it in patient and joyful expectation. " (Hodge.)
Having shown that all creation longs for deliverance, and that the Christians are likewise groaning and sighing for the full revelation of their salvation and its glorious blessings, the apostle now states, for our further encouragement, that the Spirit likewise comes to the aid of our infirmity. Although we Christians have the knowledge which pertains to our salvation and are sure of the final revelation of the glory of God in us, yet we are always battling with our own weakness in faith and hope; we sometimes find it difficult to keep a firm hold on the promises of God concerning our sonship. And so the Spirit comes to the aid of our faltering, uncertain footsteps; His strength serves to uphold us in our infirmity. The divine assistance, therefore, is so necessary because we Christians have not the proper conception of the manner and importunity of prayer for the things that we are in need of; our prayers rarely measure up to the importance of the blessings for which we ask, they are not adequate to the object of our prayers. And therefore the Spirit comes to our assistance: He holds before our eyes that great blessing toward which all prayers of the Christians finally converge, the salvation of our souls. And not only that, but He Himself intercedes for us with sighings and groanings that cannot be clothed in the speech of man. The contrast between the present state of oppression and tribulation and the future state of glory is so great that we Christians cannot find the proper words of beseeching appeal, which would adequately express our longing for the final deliverance. But our great Comforter and Advocate, in His groanings for us, presents our cause to God; He speaks to God through the inarticulate groanings of the believers' hearts. When the cross of the Christians becomes heavy to bear, when they feel forsaken and alone, when they have no comforter among men that understands what troubles their hearts, then an inexpressible longing and sighing is pressed out of their soul for the redemption of their body. And then their tottering faith is renewed in strength, then a new joy and consolation takes possession of their hearts, and the believers may again look up to God in believing confidence. All such inarticulate sighs in the hearts of the Christians, although they are not and cannot be clothed in the words of human speech, are nevertheless fully intelligible to God. He that searches, investigates, the hearts is fully conscious of, perfectly acquainted with, the mind of the Spirit. The omniscient God knows what the Spirit has in mind in those groanings whose content cannot be expressed in the words of human language. For the Spirit intercedes for the saints, as the believers are fitly called on account of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ which they have experienced, in a manner which agrees fully with the will and with the glory of God. With holy, godly zeal, in full accordance with the immeasurable, divine content of our hope, with the fervor of divine love He intercedes before God in our behalf, to insure to us the glory which has been prepared for us in heaven. Thus the unspeakable greatness of the glory which shall be revealed in us, and for our possession of which the Holy Ghost adds His interceding pleading and groaning, is a source of permanent, glorious comfort to the Christians.
The assurance of God's eternal decree:
v. 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.
v. 29. For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren.
v. 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.
In his chain of arguments for the comfort and consolation of the Christians, Paul now adds another link: Further, we know. It is a matter of the certainty of faith that to them that love God, in whom their faith has brought forth this fruit of loving trust in God, all things, also the sufferings of this present time, work together, are of assistance, serve for good, for the best, and therefore also for the glory which Paul has in mind in the entire section. In accordance with the purpose of God everything, also affliction and suffering, must result in a good and salutary way for them that love God, or, as they are further described, that are called in accordance with a purpose, in whom the call of God unto salvation has been effective, who have really been brought to accept the blessings to which God invites all men in the Gospel. By the call of God they have been placed in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:9; they have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9. It was not a matter of their own doing, whose insufficiency might afterwards cause doubts to arise in their minds as concerning the certainty of their salvation, but it is the effectual call of the faithful God, 1 Corinthians 1:9. With regard to those that do not heed the invitation and call of God in the Gospel nothing is said in this passage. The present and future state of such people is not due to any decree of God. With regard to the unbelievers the Bible merely states that God extends the invitation and call of the Gospel to them also, that He has overlooked and omitted nothing in their behalf, but that they on their part willfully hindered the effect of the Word, consistently and deliberately resisted the Holy Ghost in His efforts at converting them, that they would not listen to His appeal, and therefore have only themselves to blame for their final perdition The fault of any man's damnation in no way lies in God, but altogether and alone in man. But in our passage the apostle discusses only those that have been regenerated by the call of God, and in the number of these he includes himself and his readers quite generally, without any invidious distinctions.
Of them that are thus called according to the purpose of God, the statement is now made: Whom, however, He did foreknow, them He also called. The calling of God is the result of His previous foreknowledge: He knew them beforehand as His own, it was an eternal foreknowledge coupled with effective love; He fixed His mind upon them in grace, He selected them in advance as such whom He would, in time, make His own. And in accordance with this foreknowledge the call of God was issued to them and was effective in them when they heard the Word of the Gospel. But before this took place, there was a second act on the part of God: For whom He foreknew He also foreordained, determined, decreed, to be conformed to the image of His Son, that they should, in appearance and acts, be like His Son, in order that He might be the First-born among many brethren. Because of and in His foreknowledge, because of His eternal selection by grace, God also foreordained, or predestinated, the selected ones to the divine sonship, with its fullness of heavenly glory, Christ being the first-born and the only-begotten Son and Heir of God, but all the many adopted children partaking of the same bliss in richest measure with Him. Thus the purpose and decree of God with reference to those in whom His call is effective, includes both foreknowledge and foreordination, and has for its object the presenting of heavenly glory in Christ.
And now the actual carrying out of this decree and purpose as it was made and formed in eternity is described: Whom He foreordained, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. The foreordination of God was put into execution in those whom He had selected for His own, in mercy. His gracious call, in their case, was effectual; it kindled faith in Jesus Christ and His redemption. And thus the call, or conversion, resulted in their justification, the righteousness of Christ being given to them, God declaring them to be righteous for the sake of Jesus Christ, whom they had received by faith. And thus the justification, in turn, brings on, and merges with, the glorification. The full revelation of the glory is still in the future, but its possession is secure even now, only its enjoyment being a matter of hope. Thus the decree of God and its execution are pictured by the apostle in their sequence according to the gracious band of God upon the believers. He has brought out in a splendid manner the certainty of the future redemption and glory as based upon the eternal counsel and decree of God.
The Election of Grace
The passage from 8:28-30 is one of the proof-texts of the doctrine of the election of grace, a truth plainly taught in Holy Scriptures. And here it should be noted, first of all, that the apostle treats of this doctrine only after he has given a full exposition of the fundamental articles of Christian doctrine, of sin and grace, of justification and sanctification. He addresses himself specifically to the regenerated, justified, sanctified children of God, directing their attention to the wonderful counsel of God to their sanctification. To make the doctrine of predestination the fundamental principle and source of all Christian doctrines is not in accordance with Scriptures. The doctrine of the election of grace is a fountain of rich comfort for believing Christians, for them that walk in the Spirit and longingly await the future glory, and it therefore can be understood and properly appreciated by these only. It should also be noted that the apostle speaks only of an election of grace, unto eternal life, and nowhere teaches an election to damnation. To conclude from the fact that certain people are foreordained by God unto eternal salvation that the others are destined to eternal damnation is to confuse Law and Gospel and to upset Christianity. The election of grace has for its object each and every person of the elect; it concerns the children of God only that are chosen and elected unto eternal life. For these persons are the children of God, those that love God, the Christians. In the epistles of the New Testament the expressions "called," "sanctified," "beloved," and "elect" are used altogether promiscuously. And in the Lutheran Confessions the titles "elect," "Christians," and "children of God" are used as synonyms. Whenever Scripture, therefore, speaks of the elect, of those whom God has foreknown and foreordained, we should think of believing Christians and be sure to include ourselves in the number of the elect. It is true, incidentally, that only those are truly elect, remain in faith unto the end, and are finally glorified. But Scripture consistently speaks of, and describes, the Christians as persons whose characteristic is faith, and who receive the end of faith, the salvation of their souls. Therefore Luther defines the holy Christian Church, or the communion of saints, as the sum total of those whom the Holy Ghost calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Now experience teaches that many who once were believers sooner or later lose their faith. And the Bible earnestly warns against backsliding and speaks of such as are believers for a time only. But all this does not belong to the doctrine of the election of grace; for this concerns only such people as believe and are saved. The eternal election, or predestination, since it concerns only certain persons, for that very reason differs from the counsel of redemption, from the express teaching of universal grace, which concerns all men. The eternal election of grace means that God has chosen each and every person of the elect, those that are now Christians and love God, and therefore us also, before the foundation of the world, unto Himself, for His own, and destined them for eternal glory; this decree being carried out in time, when God called these people and transmitted to them the full blessing of justification through the merits of Jesus. And this purpose of God will surely be carried out. Thus the election of God is the cause not only of our salvation, but also of our being called, converted, justified. Faith is the result of the election of God, and gives the believer the guarantee that he belongs to the elect and will finally obtain eternal glory. And therefore the doctrine of the election of grace, as it is taught in the passage above and in other passages, Ephesians 1:3 ff. ; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ff. ; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:1-2, is full of comfort for the Christians. If ever any doubt as to our salvation wants to rise in our hearts, then we should remember and cling to the knowledge that God from eternity has taken the matter of our salvation and all that pertains to it into His merciful and powerful hand. In the midst of all crosses and trials, when it would seem that God has abandoned us entirely, we should rest our faith upon His Word, which tells us that all the tribulations of this present time are but incidents along the way to heaven, and can in no way compare with the glory which shall be revealed in us on the day of our final redemption. If we thus adhere strictly to the argumentation of Scriptures and apply the comfort of Scriptures to our hearts, then our thoughts will not revert to others, then we shall not yield to the temptation of speculating about this doctrine in its so-called reasonable conclusions, and will thus be spared the dangers into which such speculations lead. If we thus hold fast the truth that the election of grace is not an absolute election, that it was not an arbitrary act of God's sovereign pleasure, but flows from the eternal counsel of love, that it is based alone upon His grace and mercy, and that its object is to keep us safe in His Word and faith unto our end, then all thoughts of doubt will be removed from our hearts, and our faith will be most firmly established.
The assurance of God's unchangeable love in Christ Jesus:
v. 31. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
v. 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?
v. 33. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
v. 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.
v. 35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
v. 36. As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
v. 37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
v. 38. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
v. 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.
In all the letters of Paul there are few passages that equal, and none that exceed, this paean of triumph, of victorious faith, in lofty and sustained power. Addressed to Christians as it is, it should never fail of rousing them to the greatest pitch of faith's enthusiasm and to the utmost confidence and trust in the mercy of God and their Savior Jesus Christ. "What shall we then say?" What inference shall we draw from the entire presentation? "The apostle has disparaged the suffering to be endured by those who would share Christ's glory in comparison with that glory, v. 18; he has interpreted it, vv. 19-27, as in a manner prophetic of the glory which shall follow; he has in these last verses asserted the presence through all the Christian's life of an eternal victorious purpose of love. " (Denney.) What conclusion must he now draw and with him every believer? If God for us, who against us? The first conclusion is that God is on our side; that God who has destined us for glory and is carrying out His decree in our case is on our side, and therefore no enemy can really harm us; all their attempts must come to naught. It is not a challenging cry, but one of assured victory, in the assurance that all the power of the enemy is rendered futile in advance.
The ground of this confidence and security is the love of God: He that did not spare even His very own Son, but gave Him as a sacrifice into death for us all, how is it possible that He would not with Him, out of free grace, give us all things? Paul here includes himself with all the believing, elect children of God. Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. But the purpose of His sacrifice is realized only in the believers; they only actually apply the love of God to themselves and become partakers of His redemption, the Son of God Himself being the greatest gift of grace and including all other blessings of God, especially the future salvation and glory. These blessings are inseparably connected with Christ, and he that receives the Redeemer thereby becomes partaker of the full wealth of God's treasures of mercy. Who will bring any accusation against the elect of God? It is God that justifieth. If anyone wants to summon the chosen of God, the believers spoken of in v. 28. before God's bar of justice, he will find himself sadly disappointed. For instead of proving his point as to their being under God's sentence of condemnation, he will find that God has declared them to be just. Who would speak the sentence of condemnation upon them? There are four conclusive reasons adduced why such a sentence is out of the question: the death of Christ, His resurrection, His exaltation, and His intercession. Christ died, but not for Himself, only as our Substitute, paying the price of all our guilt with His death; He arose from the dead, thus receiving the seal and assurance of God's acceptance of the sacrifice; He ascended to the right hand of God, He assumed the full use of His divine power and glory, also according to His human nature; and His constant work at the present time is His intercession for us, His acting as our Advocate with God, 1 John 2:1.
And now comes the very last step in the climax of the apostle's argument, "the very summit of the mount of confidence, whence he looks down upon his enemies as powerless, and forward and upward with full assurance of a final and abundant triumph. " Accusation has no effect, condemnation cannot harm us, and even every attempt at violence must fail from the very start. Who shall separate us, take us away, from the love of Christ? With Christ we are inseparably connected on account of His love toward us, by faith. Can anyone or anything sever the bond of our communion with Christ and take faith out of our hearts? The apostle names a few of the factors most likely to harm us in this respect, hostile powers and influences as they are employed by Satan and by the children of the world: Tribulation; distress, emergencies of all kinds; persecution on the part of our enemies; hunger, nakedness, peril, sword, in which persecution under certain circumstances will find its climax. Parenthetically Paul shows that the endurance of all such difficulties and afflictions is prophesied in Scriptures, by referring to Psalms 44:22, where the Church of the Old Testament laments that many of its members must suffer martyrdom for the sake of their firm stand on the side of God, that they are reckoned and treated as sheep for the slaughter. But all these things Paul brushes aside with an abruptness approaching impatience: Rather in all these things, in all these afflictions and difficulties, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Our enemies are not only not able to do us real harm, but they are actually conquered before they have had an opportunity for working evil. The Christian is assured of victory in advance, not in His own strength and power, but through his Redeemer Jesus Christ and His love. And so Paul closes in a burst of triumphant eloquence: For I have the full persuasion as have all true Christians with him that neither death, martyrdom, nor life, with its various vicissitudes and trials; neither angels nor principalities, the mighty spirits of every grade; neither things present, now incumbent upon us, nor things to come, no matter how threatening their aspect; nor powers, no matter of what kind; neither height nor depth, all hostile attacks, whether from above or from beneath, having their origin in forces inimical to God; nor any other creature, an all-comprehending specification, shall be able to separate us from, to sever our intimate communion with, the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Thus the song of faith reaches its climax in a victorious burst of melody, bringing out the certainty of the Christian, his confidence of faith in the love of God and of Christ. It is a subject which is well worthy of being celebrated in such a hymn of faith.
The apostle reminds the Christians that they are under obligations to follow the guidance of the Spirit that lives in them and gives them the guarantee of their adoption, also that the present time, a period of tribulations, is designed to set forth, by an all the more glorious contrast, the greatness and the certainty of the final redemption, of which no one can rob us.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Romans 8". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany