Deliverance Simply by God's Truth
We come now, in the first four verses here, to the deliverance itself. Is this to be by means of experience? A mere glance at the verses will show us it is decidedly not so. Experience does not, and cannot produce liberty. Liberty, on the other hand, when known, is in itself an experience. But the means of finding liberty experimentally, rests altogether upon the testimony of God. What can be more striking than that here we have but a few pointed, absolute statements of fact? What does the wretched man of Romans 7:1-25 need but a solid basis to rest upon? - and to build upon? How can he find stability in the shifting uncertainty of experience? Thank God, His pure, plain truth is an unshakable foundation. This is what we have here. It is not what "I" have done, what "I" am, or what "I" feel, but it is what stands immovable as the work and word of God. The proud word "I" has no more place, as previously (in Romans 7:1-25) it occupied the whole field.
As has often been pointed out by translators, the latter part of verse 1 has been wrongly inserted - the best Greek manuscripts do not include the words, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Apparently some early copyist considered that the words closing verse 4 would be well placed at the end of verse 1 - certainly a most disrespectful way of handling the Word of God, to say the least.
The verse then is blessedly clear and decisive - "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Is this not a silencing answer to sin in the flesh, and to the law also, with its ministry of condemnation? What has sin, law and condemnation to do with those who are "in Christ Jesus?" Law applied to the flesh means condemnation, as the experience of Romans 7:1-25 confirms: but there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Then of course law can have no application to those who are in Christ Jesus, for "in Christ" is a clear contrast to being "in Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:22). The present dispensation has brought a change of headship. Christ has come, and the headship of Adam must give way to Him in the case of every soul who trusts Him. The change is absolute and conclusive: the old system of things is completely displaced.
Nor is there merely an official change of headship - important as this is - but the new dispensation of God involves a distinctly characteristic work in souls - a work not accomplished in other ages. The Spirit of God has come to remain in the saints of God today. It is not merely the truth of new birth (which is of course applicable to all ages) but of the personal presence of the Spirit of God, who at Pentecost came to take up His dwelling in the church of God collectively, and in the body of each believer individually. (Compare Acts 2:1-47 and Galatians 4:1-6). So that in verse 2 we have "the law of the Spirit" introduced. This connects with "life in Christ Jesus." The law of God given through Moses (as we have seen in Romans 7:13), only connected me with death. The governing principle of the Spirit of God operating within the believer, writing upon the fleshy tables of the heart, delivers me fully from that governing principle of carnal commandments inscribed in tables of stone (2 Corinthians 3:1-18).
Let us carefully notice the absolute finality of this verse. It is no attainment of experience or of spirituality that made Paul feel free from the law of sin and death. Nor did he merely feel free: such was not the question. Feelings must not be trusted here: we must have established facts, not feelings. And such we have here - "The law of the Spirit, of life in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Blessed, unchangeable truth - applicable to every saint of God, though indeed not realized by all. But be this as it may, it stands in all its noble grandeur, always the same, ready to be appropriated by the faith of all who take it as it stands.
"Hath made me free": this is rest indeed. It is nothing to be grasped at nor sought with the strivings of human labor, experience, or feelings: freedom is accomplished through Christ Jesus - the Spirit of God also attesting it in the soul.
This was "what the law could not do." Why? It was weak through the flesh. The flesh - sinful flesh - could only draw the displeasure of law and bondage to its judgment. The law itself had no strength to redeem souls from its bondage. It could leave a man free who had never sinned, but it could not liberate one who had sinned.
So God has done what the law could not. But it required an expense unspeakably beyond human thought. He must send His own Son, and send Him "in the likeness of sinful flesh." What a sacrifice on the part of the Father; what humiliation for the Son! "Found in fashion as a man" (Philippians 2:8), the One in whom "is no sin" (1 John 3:5), "who knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21), "who did no sin" (1 Peter 2:22), "humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Blessed beyond expression to think that He in whom there could be no sinful flesh has yet been sent "in the likeness of sinful flesh," for the sake of meeting sin and condemning sin in the flesh. This has been done at the Cross. God is the source of it, His Son the fulfiller of that glorious work.
Let us remark again, it is "sin," not "sins," that is in question here. "Sins forgiven" and "sin in the flesh condemned" are two truths very different in character. The former are the deeds, the latter the nature by which deeds of sin are produced. The nature has been condemned in the cross of Christ. It has before proven itself incorrigible, incapable of any change, fully opposed to God. Nothing could do for it but crucifixion: it could not be forgiven, could not be improved, and must come under condemnation. But it is not for me, thank God, to accomplish its condemnation. God has already condemned it in the cross: it has no more place: it is banished and put out of His sight forevermore. Does this seem hard to accept as true? Does it express neither the feelings nor experience of the soul? This may well be, but it is a matter of truth, not of feeling and experience. Just as the knowledge of forgiveness of sins is based, not upon feelings or experience, but upon the plainly declared Word of God - "I write unto you, children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake," (1 John 2:12) - so the Word of God also declares unmistakably that "God sending His own Son - condemned sin in the flesh." This is final and conclusive: there can be no question left about it. Blessed secret of strength and rest to the soul!
So that the righteousness required of the law might be fulfilled without the law. Thus the law itself is displaced as a standard for righteousness, but the righteous requirement of the law is confirmed and fulfilled in those who being under grace, "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Law applied itself to the flesh, requiring righteousness: but it could not produce righteousness: indeed there was no such thing in the flesh to be brought out. Grace leaves the flesh aside - indeed condemns sin in the flesh - but provides the power for righteousness - not law, but the gift of the Spirit of God to dwell within the believer. Hence it is the believer's blessed privilege to forget himself - turn entirely from the flesh, and walk according to the Spirit. His object thus becomes Christ alone, no more himself and his own conduct. for the Spirit of God sets Christ Jesus pre-eminently before the soul, and all else in comparison becomes vanity. Would we think of imposing a law to do right upon the Spirit of God? It would be utmost folly: to do wrong we know is an impossibility for Him. Can law then be imposed upon those who have the Spirit of God, to demand righteousness from them? Certainly not. They are free - free to be the wholehearted, willing servants of Christ. This is truly deliverance, bondage gone, and the soul at liberty in the presence of God. May His boundless mercy make this a living reality in countless souls.
These first four verses then give us deliverance, which we see involves an absolute change, first in position - second in God's inward operation, and third in the standard for righteousness.
THE WORK OF THE INDWELLING SPIRIT
Now the operation of the Spirit of God in the individual saint, as in the Church of God, is a matter of utmost importance in the present day. His presence is as real as was the presence of the Lord Jesus for His few years walking the earth in flesh. This chapter has been a special joy for countless saints, and rightly so, but its significance is even then but little laid hold of as the distinct manifestation of the work of the Spirit of God personally present on earth to accomplish the will of God. The secret of the blessedness of the chapter lies simply in this, that it is the Spirit's work, with man fully put in the shade.
But it is well known that the latter part of the chapter is that which engages the delight of the greater number of souls, whose attention is little drawn to the earlier part. Can their delight then be as full as God intended it? Or are they not rather satisfied with a certain measure of comfort and joy, while not really entering into the fullness that God's wisdom has provided? Can He have made a mistake in what He has put first? No, the first part is of vital necessity, too often ignored.
If we are to understand the Spirit's work, we must thoroughly understand this, that there can be no mixture of flesh with it. And lest in this we make a mistake or are deceived by the fair appearances of the flesh, which ever seeks to stimulate the Spirit, there is a blessed safeguard for the soul in the ministry of the first part of the chapter, and the rubbish of man's work and self-importance is cleared away for the distinct display of the work of the Spirit. It is wisdom to consider this well.
Verse 5 gives us concisely the two opposite governing principles operating in souls. There are only two: they have no real similarity, no point of agreement in any single particular, and between them there is no possibility of making peace. Those who are according to flesh are of course unbelievers: those according to the Spirit, believers. The mind of the one is set on fleshly things, the mind of the other on the things of the Spirit. The principle is a simple one, that the object upon which the mind is set, will govern conduct - though there are inward workings which set the mind one way or the other.
"For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit life and peace" (JND). Verses 6, 7 and 8 give us the essential opposition in these two things - the end of the former being death, the end of the latter life and peace. The flesh, with all its objects is brought only to death: it has no better anticipation: its eye sees no further, because it cannot. The mind of the Spirit, which has Christ for its object, of course, is life and peace. Christ is risen from the dead, in a sphere of perfect rest and peace, and this being the assured portion of him who has the mind of the Spirit, death has become merely an incidental thing: the end is life and peace, and the present takes its character from the end.
"The mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." What more strong pronouncement can we think of than this? Insubjection to God is enmity against Him, and the mind of flesh cannot be subject to Him: it has a fixed character of rebellion. Solemn, dreadful truth to contemplate! We must remember that such is the natural mind of man, according to which even a believer may foolishly act, when not making use of the mind of the Spirit which is his rightful heritage.
But verse 8 speaks not simply of the "mind," but of "they that are in the flesh." These are unsaved persons, of course, who have not the Spirit, as is confirmed by verse 9. Note also Romans 7:5. Whatever else they may be able for, whatever their fine qualities and admirable virtues before men, "they - cannot please God." This is the unequivocal conclusion, impossible of compromise. Let no one be deceived: the most exemplary, attractive, honorable, sincere model of man in the flesh "cannot please God." Please men he may, and perhaps preeminently himself, but nothing can please God in reference to men save the work of His Spirit within them. Only Divine workmanship can accomplish Divine pleasure. This is a solemnly important lesson for man.
But we go on to the definitely stated condition of all Christians - "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." Here is the full excluding of all who do not have the Spirit of Christ. They are not Christ's. Doubtless the expression "the Spirit of Christ" is intended to convey the thought of what is characteristic to saints of God: they manifest (in whatever degree) the same Spirit that Christ manifested in the world. But this would be impossible if they did not have the same Spirit personally. "The Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ," "the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead" is of course the same Spirit, but connected with different truths. In the first case it is the fact of God dwelling by His Spirit in the believer; in the second the characteristic manifestation of the Spirit as exemplified in Christ; in the third the future hope of glorification by the power of the Spirit.
Let us here remark, however, that it is not the work of the Spirit that has been set before the soul in order to the finding of peace. In the previous chapters it is rather the work of Christ which is the object of the soul's faith and the foundation of his peace. We must not look for peace on the basis of the Spirit's work in us: that would be merely a subtle form of self-occupation. The Spirit, though it is true His work is
subjective, always would occupy the soul with what is objective - that is, outside of the believer - while yet it is necessary to know whose power it is that worketh in us. The truest evidence of the Spirit's work in us is our occupation with all that God has done and revealed in and by the Lord Jesus Christ.
"And if Christ be in you" (as He dwells by the Spirit in every believer) "the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Here it is plain that "Christ in you" does not mean sin eradicated. For although He is within, yet there is no change in the body: it is still dead because of sin. The flesh remains in its corrupt state until the resurrection at the coming of the Lord. The sin-tainted condition of the body must await its eradication until "the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body" (v. 23).
"But the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. It is not to the body I must look for the manifestation of life or righteousness: it is as yet connected rather with sin and death. But the Spirit of God dwells within me, on the only righteous basis - the death of Christ. Life is connected with Him. Righteousness has been first secured by God as regards me: there is liberty for the Spirit, who is life. The truth in this verse is most important to consider. Even now, the Spirit of God, who is life, dwells within our "dead bodies." It is a vivid portraying of the contrast between our two natures.
But verse 11 goes on to the future redemption of the body. The same Spirit who dwelt in Christ, who was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, because He also dwells in us, is the pledge that we shall have our mortal bodies quickened. It is a settled and secure prospect, for which faith can wait quietly and rejoicingly. No need hence to be discouraged because of the presence of sin in our mortal bodies: we must only expect it until that blessed day. But it is nevertheless our privilege to live above it, by the power of the Spirit who dwells in us - and this the next three verses make plain.
"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors" - this is evident, for everything bears witness that we are dependent creatures - the cross of Christ of course above all else. But if debtors, it is certainly "not to the flesh, to live after the flesh." The flesh has been nothing but a thief, ravaging and destroying. Do we owe it more than the awful toll it has taken? Ah no! our debt is to One who has redeemed us from the wasting oppressor. Shall we then be spending our substance on this sinful flesh as though we were still servants to it? Let us hear Romans 13:14 - "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." If I feed the flesh it is sure to be strong: if I do not feed it, it will soon become inactive.
"For if ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die, but if, by the Spirit, ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (JND). Death is the eventual result of living according to flesh: it could not be otherwise: nothing that is not for God and of God can abide for eternity. But the Spirit within the believer has power to "put to death the deeds of the body," and the believer, making use of this power, proves the reality of life that is eternal.
This true living - being led by the Spirit of God - connects with sonship (v. 14). It is characteristic of every saint of God, of course. If there is no leading of the Spirit, all is mere flesh. Hence, whatever the measure of subjection and obedience to the Spirit's leading, every true believer is led by the Spirit. Otherwise there could be no fruit whatever. The flesh may be driven by law or by circumstances to do certain things that appear good, but it is vanity. To be led of the Spirit involves voluntary, loving subjection to the Lord Jesus - and what true believer can utterly refuse this? Certainly not one! There can be no one today called a son of God who has not the Spirit of God. Galatians 4:1-7 deals clearly with the subject of sonship, as being a dispensational blessing of the present day of grace, in contrast to former bondage under the law before the death of Christ. For the believer, redemption puts him into the position of a son, having received the adoption (v. 5), then the sending forth of the Spirit (v. 6) puts the seal upon this. Everyone who is a son, God endows with His Spirit; hence a claim of sonship without the Spirit cannot be allowed. The leading of the Spirit is an indispensable part of Christianity.
Verse 15 however again carefully guards against this producing doubts in the souls of saints, and fear as to whether they will ultimately be accepted of God. They had not received a spirit of bondage to simply put them in fear again, as they had been when under law. It is not as though Christianity says the same things as law, only a little more hopefully: this would be mere mixture of principles, and confusion. What is the spirit in which Christianity is to be received? Surely in the same spirit as it is given - "from faith to faith"; as is said in Romans 1:1-32. God gives freely on the principle of faith, and we are to receive on the same principle, with a spirit of confidence and thankfulness. This is what He loves. Bondage and exaction are far from His mind: let them be far from ours. We have received not a spirit that makes us mere slaves, but "the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba Father." This is the assured dignity and liberty of sons. It leaves no room for doubts and fears, or for an obedience that is merely servile, looking for Heaven as a reward of serving God; for Heaven is the perfectly sure portion of the believer: in serving God, he is to do so without any doubts as to this. Such is the liberty and peace of the Spirit of adoption. He gives conscious nearness to God as a Father.
So also in verse 16 He bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. To understand this well we must remember that all saints from Adam downward have been children of God, though until the cross of Christ they did not have the position of sons of God. The Greek words in v. 14 and v. 16 are distinctly different - the latter implying birth, the former referring to the dignity of position as adopted. But while, as we have said, even Old Testament saints were children (not sons) of God, yet they had not the same confirming witness of this that we have today. There was not the same proof of it enjoyed in their souls: they were yet infants (Galatians 4:1), truly born again of God, but little conscious of the blessedness of their relationship. But the gift of the Spirit is a witness to us - within us - bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. This is a witness that Old Testament saints did not have. We today enjoy the relationship of children in the same measure in which we pay attention to the witness of the Spirit. The Spirit of course draws our affections out to Christ and gives us to delight in the things of God - the more so the more fully we allow Him His place. The fact also that we are sons of God by adoption, in virtue of redemption, is in itself proof that we are "children of God." Adoption and new birth are distinct truths, of course, teaching most precious lines of thought, but there is no adoption without new birth, and since the cross of Christ every new-born soul has also received the adoption. New birth speaks of filial relationship: adoption speaks of positional dignity.
"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Blessed truth indeed, applicable to every saint from Adam down to the coming of Christ - for every child is an heir, though he be in infancy and not realizing his title to the inheritance. Indeed, how many of the saints of God before the first advent of Christ had any understanding that they would reign with Christ in glory? But such is the plain revelation of Christianity. (Compare 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:9-10).
But meanwhile it is the time of suffering - waiting, enduring in patience. Such is our character of identification with Him today: it is the test of faith to be united to a rejected Lord. Soon we shall be united with Him in glorification. Blessed answer to the little time of suffering!
From verse 18 to 25 the present suffering in connection with the old creation, together with the anticipation of deliverance from it, comes before us. The sufferings are not to be compared with the glory to be revealed in the saints. The one is brief and transitory: the other eternal; the glory far more than compensating for even the thorniest path of suffering on earth. It is no mere theory, but the careful, deliberate reckoning of a man who suffered for Christ's sake perhaps above any other. Blessed example of the power of Christ resting upon a soul!
But the scene of the saints' sufferings has itself a more blessed prospect awaiting it. Creation has an earnest expectation in waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. It must wait for its liberty until the sons of God (who now indeed enjoy the liberty of grace), are manifested in the liberty of glory.
It is man who is of course responsible for the blight of sin upon creation - thus man, to have glory, must first be the subject of grace. But the creation did not of its own accord - "not willingly" - "become subject to vanity": it was not a moral question, as with man, but because of man's sin all creation has suffered; it is "by reason of" man, "who has subjected it."
Hence it is not grace that the creation needs, but the redemption of power. So there is waiting "in hope that the creation (creature) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." Then the creation, which was forced into corruption by man's sin, will be identified with the glory of the children of God. "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." All of creation joins in the mournful dirge: every part has been affected.
"And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." "The firstfruits of the Spirit" gives us a foretaste in anticipation of that bright day of glory; but despite the unutterable blessedness of this, we are still in the body connected with a sin-tainted creation. So that our rejoicing is mingled with groans. Thus God gives His renewed saints to feel the sorrows of the old creation, and to yearn with more earnest desire for the glory to be revealed. We see here there is an added meaning given to adoption, when comparing v. 15 and Galatians 4:1-7. In one sense we have received the adoption (Galatians 4:5-7), becoming sons of God by faith. In this case we wait for the adoption, the redemption of the body - that is, our bodies being delivered from this sphere of sin and corruption, and conformed to the image of Christ, we shall be publicly manifested as sons of God. By faith we have the adoption now; by manifestation we shall have it in glory.
Indeed, in verses 23 and 24 the truths of adoption, redemption, and salvation are all given a future application; yet each one is elsewhere spoken of as a present possession of every believer. Compare also Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:8-9. This can imply no doubt as to the future, rather instead the absolute assurance that the blessings we have now by faith, we shall have then by manifestation.
"For we are saved in hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." Hope is an essential part of Christian character - "an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast" (Hebrews 6:19), not a matter of indefinite uncertainty: if it were so, we should not wait with patience, but with doubts and fears. Faith gives the certainty that hope shall be fulfilled - when, we know not, but faith also makes us content to wait patiently. This is true "patience of hope."
But our condition in the world is also one in which intelligence is by no means perfect - intelligence as to the bearing of all evil and trouble, so as to be able to know what is necessary to meet these. Such infirmities however are the very occasion for the operation of the Spirit of God. Our ignorance of how to pray as we ought shows us surely our need of the Spirit's work, and would give us the more to submit ourselves to Him.
The groans connected with the old creation we often find ourselves unable to translate into words, while our inmost souls may be profoundly affected. It is but another means by which God teaches us dependence. Much may be pent up in the soul which can find no outlet in words, so that even in the presence of God only groans are brought forth. But if indeed intelligence is lacking, the need is fully met by the indwelling Spirit of God. His personal presence gives quietness and rest of soul - for if we cannot trust our own intelligence, we can fully trust Him. Thus we are assured that our God, who searcheth the hearts, knowing perfectly what is the mind of the Spirit, is rightly intreated, for the Spirit makes intercession, not according to our selfish desires or natural thoughts, but according to the will of God. Blessed comfort indeed!
TRIUMPHING IN THE LOVE OF CHRIST
But from verse 28 to the end we have things before us that are not uncertain to our intelligence: it is definitely assured knowledge that is characteristic of Christianity - the proper language of every saved soul.
"But we do know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to purpose" (JND). Is this the wholehearted expression of our souls? Every Christian certainly agrees with the truth here, but how many Christians enjoy it as a real, practical power over the soul, and therefore rest fully in the unceasingly operative love of God toward us? This is a different matter, of course; but the Word is given us to this end, that it may have vital effect upon our lives.
It is to be noticed here that "those who are called according to purpose" are only "those who love God": it is not the same call as in Matthew 22:14 - the call of grace to all, which is refused by many. Here it is rather the call of divine purpose, that cannot be refused - nay, which "the called" would not think of refusing. There is marvelous blessing and comfort in these following truths concerning the perfectly sovereign work of God in grace - that is, for those who have trusted in Christ. The order is of course worthy of God Himself, and all is calmly deliberate, for it has been settled before ever the earth was.
First is His foreknowledge. It is unthinkable that it could be otherwise with God. Before His creating word was spoken, He well knew "the end from the beginning." Indeed, it is utterly impossible to find rest in any but such a God, and when my soul is saved I may look back and rejoice that God foreknew me as one whom He would save by the gospel of grace.
Next is predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son. It is not, let us mark well, merely predestination to be saved, but for future glory as conformed to the image of Christ, who is Himself "the image of God." Doubtless the moral side of the truth is the prominent one here - that is, that the purity, holiness, and every other blessed virtue of our Lord, will have its bright reflection in His saints. Marvelous purpose indeed, and worthy of such a God! Elsewhere, of course, we learn that even physically our bodies shall be fashioned like unto His body of glory (Philippians 3:21). How blessedly complete the gracious purpose of our God. To our own hearts today could anything compare with being like Him who has saved us both from our sins and from the power of sin? To contemplate such a Person is to long to be like Him.
His title here - "the Firstborn among many brethren" - is plainly one of priority in Person, not in point of time of birth. Colossians 1:15-16 confirms such a principle as to the "firstborn." Christ is "the firstborn of every creature." Why? "For by Him were all things created." Psalms 89:27 bears clear testimony also. Speaking of David as typifying Christ, God declares, "I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." It is an official dignity far above any mere question of time. In Old Testament times the firstborn according to nature was accorded the priority over his brethren, but this rigid custom was yet oftentimes reversed by God, who gave the birthright to a younger. So now, God would make clear that Adam has been fully dispossessed of all the rights of the firstborn, and these are now eternally held by the Lord Jesus. Yet we may thank God that in grace He (Christ) has "many" whom He is not ashamed to call brethren (Hebrews 2:11).
The calling (v. 30) comes in due time. And to us who are saved, can we not say it has been by a voice of irresistible power and grace? - awakening us out of the mass of corruption and ruin of this world - to hear "the voice of the Son of God," - and live. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14 speak of this call, by which the Thessalonian saints were turned to God from their idols - so strong a call as to separate them from their own countrymen at the price of bitterest persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:14). And Paul perhaps above all others knew the wondrous power of that call, which brought him, "a blasphemer, persecutor, and injurious," to fall trembling and astonished at the feet of Jesus (Acts 9:1-43; Galatians 1:13-16).
"And whom He called, them He also justified." Little need be said here for the justification of him that believeth in Jesus as this has been already fully discussed in earlier chapters of Romans. But justification must come in here, for He has called us from under a burden of sins and from a state of sin. Now the claims of righteousness are shown to be fully met.
And glorification is immediately introduced, with no other intervening operation. This is truly worthy of a sovereign Creator and divine workman. The end is as it were secured from the beginning - so fully so that He can speak of the glorifying of believers as an already accomplished work. Does it not remind us of the words of the Lord Jesus in His prayer to the Father - "And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one: and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me" John 17:22-23. There is the perfect dignity of a divine speaker here, who looks upon the whole course of time as lying fully open to His gaze, and the future glory as a present settled thing. We become sharers in the glory God has given Him - not in the glory He had with the Father before the world was; but the glory He has acquired by His humiliation and suffering as Man in the world, and is invested with today at the right hand of God. It is the glory of moral beauty and perfection, of devoted obedience to the will of God; - obedience even unto death, and the spoils He has gained by His blessed sacrifice. In all of this His saints will blessedly share - the fruit of His own wondrous work. What holy joy and sweetness is the calm certainty of all this!
And now, it is time for conclusion to be drawn, beginning with verse 31. Nor is it merely a statement of conclusions; but rather the Spirit of God seeking to draw out from every Christian heart definite, conclusive answers, the heart committing itself fully to the firm conviction of the truth. Yet it is assuredly the proper language of the elect unitedly. It is "what shall we then say to these things?" While, when coming to verse 38, the word is,"I am persuaded." There is personal settled persuasion and joy, but such as must also go out toward every other saint, including them in the perfection of the blessing of God.
There are then a number of challenging questions. Indeed, from verses 31 to 35, every statement may be rightly interpreted as a question. In the Greek, the expressions "It is God that justifieth" and "It is Christ that died," may be regarded either as assertions or questions - thus "Shall God, that justifieth?" and "Shall Christ, that died?" etc. The same form of speech is used in v. 35 - "Shall tribulation, or distress"? etc., where the use demands a question. The words "it is" and "shall" have no equivalent in the Greek. But it is the Spirit of God asking us what we shall say to these things. Let every Christian respond with an unequivocal, wholehearted confession of confidence in the faithfulness of God.
"If God be for us, who can be against us?" It will be seen in verses 31 to 33 that God is preeminently before us, the Source of the gospel, as we have seen before. It is not merely Christ interceding for us, as is a blessed truth, of course (v. 34) but God for us. Verse 32 presents Him thus as giving up the dearest object of His heart, to the dread suffering of the cross, not sparing Him from the unmitigated judgment against our sins, the horror of being made a curse for us. Wondrous sacrifice on the part of God Himself! And if so, can He withhold any real blessing from His own? Shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Notice, it is "with Him also," - never apart from Him, for nothing will ever prove a true blessing if not in connection with Christ. But have we then any just cause for complaint? - whatever be our circumstances? Let the Christian heart answer. What are "things" to God in comparison with His own Son? The lesser blessings He will certainly give, if He has given the greatest.
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Shall God, that justifieth?" These three verses give us three steps - first, God for us; secondly, God blessing us; and thirdly, God justifying us - or clearing from every charge. For who has a right to lay anything to our charge? God surely alone has such a right. But shall He do this - He who has on the contrary justified us?
"Who is He that condemneth? Shall Christ, that died? - yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." As to condemnation, John 5:22 tells us "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son," then v. 27 - "And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man." Christ then has authority to condemn. Shall He do so? - that is, in reference to the elect? Why, He died for us, He is risen for us, He is at God's right hand making intercession for us! Certainly He will condemn the impenitent eventually, but shall He do so to those who trust in Him?
Or, on the other hand, when He has shown such a positive, infinite love for us, "who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Is it a possibility? What of all those things that try the faith and test the heart - things which may to the natural eye seem to contradict the constant, unfailing care of God for souls? "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Are they not rather but special occasions of casting us more upon that love?
So the questions end with v. 35, but there is the written word quoted to confirm the soul as to the last one - "As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." It is for Christ's sake that these afflictions are allowed to come to the believer - that they may the more deeply prove the reality of His love and the power of that love, which, when known in the soul, is far more than a match for the most terrible ordeals that may be known. We know this to have been proven practically in the cases of martyrs unnumbered.
When considered to be for Christ's sake, the greatest affliction will beget the deepest joy. Suffering for wrong doing is certainly a different thing; but in any "need be" trial, coming in a path of subject obedience, there may be the calm, sweet assurance that it is but a trial of faith. The devil seeks, it is true, to separate us from the love of Christ - hence the afflictions calculated by him to this end are actually for Christ's sake. Let us but see this, and we shall have the more patient rejoicing through it all.
Indeed "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." This is proper Christian character: victory is a fully assured thing. Christ has loved us: how then could it be otherwise? "More than conquerors" is a blessed word: it is not merely triumphing over opposition: it is the soul lifted far above it all into God's own presence of infinite and eternal bliss - "through Him that loved us."
Is it any wonder then that Paul does not hesitate to record the deep persuasion of his soul concerning the blessed, sure portion of the beloved people of God? "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Death is mentioned first - that which is man's greatest fear and dread. But its sting is gone for the believer (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). But what of life with all its vicissitudes, trials and adversity? It is but a brief transitory thing, a little thing compared to His greatness. Or all those things positionally above us - angels, principalities, powers? God is greater than they: and He is for us. And things - whether present barriers that appear insurmountable, or future possibilities, or that which is higher than our understanding, or low mysterious depths of evil that chill men's souls? Again, the ringing answer is simply "God for us." None of these, "nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Here indeed we have the swelling song of victory on the shores of the Red Sea, (Exodus 15:1-27), "Sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously." Fitting and wondrous conclusion to the consideration of God's deliverance, first from the guilt of sins, then from the power of sin. Thus ends the discussion of God's sovereign counsel in grace and blessing, commended to all men everywhere, and applicable to "all them that believe."
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Romans 8". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter