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Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Romans 8

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-39

"More Than Conquerors" in Christ (8:1-39)

The eighth chapter of Romans is easily one of the finest chap­ters in the whole Bible. In many ways it is the climax of this letter. It calls for meditation in a devotional mood rather than for cool analysis. You will have no serious difficulty with it. It is this and similar passages in Paul which show that for him theology was nothing dry, designed only for specialists.

Merely to start the reader’s thoughts, it may be pointed out that this chapter furnishes a wealth of ways of describing the Christian life. Among these are: a life of freedom from the law of sin and death (vs. 2); a "walk" according to (that is, in har­mony with) the Spirit (vs. 4); a mind centered in what pleases God ("things of the Spirit") (vs. 5); a life "in" the Spirit—with God, so to speak, the very atmosphere we breathe (vs. 9); being a home for the Spirit of God (vs. 9); being a home for Christ (vs. 10); being fully alive, in body and spirit (vss. 10-11); an execution of the old bad self (vs. 13); being sons of God—and his heirs, along with Christ (vs. 17); a life that shares Christ’s sufferings (vs. 18); a life of hope (vss. 24-25); a life of prayer (vss. 26-27); a life of assurance (vss. 28-30); a life of conquest over all trials and all enemies (vss. 31-39).

Right in the midst of the most eloquent flights comes the word "predestined" twice (vss. 29-30). This is another word which theologians have battled over; but you should note the company in which this word appears, and the mood which brings it out. It appears in a series beginning with the great affirmation, "We know that in everything God works for good with those Who love him" (vs. 28). The center of thought here is the amaz­ing and undeserved goodness of God. Then comes the se­ries: purpose—foreknowledge—predestination—calling—justifi­eation—glorification. Predestination here points to God’s plan by which his purpose is carried out. A God who wishes well is not enough. A God who wishes well but has no plan by which to make his wishes come true would be a very feeble God.

Predestination here appears as a reason for rejoicing and con­fidence, not for puzzlement and doubt. It is connected with good, not evil; indeed, nowhere in the New Testament is the word "predestine" used to express a purpose of, or toward, evil.

Predestination also points to God’s choosing us rather than our choosing him. Jesus often spoke of the life of glory as a feast, a banquet. Those who are present cannot say, "I invited myself," but rather, "I was invited."

If anyone worries about whether he is predestined or not—predestined to glory—it is a pretty sure sign that he is pre­destined. But coming back to Paul, it is unfair to him to take predestination away from the series where he puts it. Those who are predestined are called. Anyone who has ever felt the call of God—not "call" in the sense of a call to the ministry, say, but a call to faith, to the "life in Christ"—may be sure he is pre­destined; in other words, the call he has felt was not an accident. God intended it, he planned it so.

This eighth chapter is the great chapter on the Holy Spirit; in all of Paul’s writings there is none which says more concern­ing the Spirit than this does. The reader can begin making his own "doctrine of the Holy Spirit," if he likes, by putting together All that is said here about the Spirit. Note that Paul does not try to explain who and why the Spirit is, but concentrates on what the Spirit does. You can start with this obvious point: the Holy Spirit is never spoken of in the New Testament as a vague cloudy sort of It, but as a vital and personal Power.

In the Revised Standard Version the word "adoption" occurs only in Romans 8:23 and Galatians 4:5; the same Greek word is translated "sonship" or "to be his sons" in Romans 8:15; Romans 9:4; and Ephesians 1:5. It is now, as it was then, a legal word. Does it indicate that our sonship to God, and his Fatherhood, are no more than legal fictions? Does it suggest that our relation to God is something artificial, not natural? By no means. We have to think what this word would mean to Roman readers. Two points stand out. First, an adopted child is a chosen child. Paul’s use of the word shows that he is thinking of God’s choosing his chil­dren; they are his children by his deliberate will.

Second, in Roman usage an adopted child was by no means a second-class son, a son by legal fiction. Roman emperors would adopt young men or boys and appoint them their successors, to the exclusion of their flesh-and-blood sons. It was felt by the Romans that an adopted son might have more of the father’s spirit and might carry on his work better than a natural son.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Romans 8". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/romans-8.html.
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