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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Romans 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-39

CHAPTER 8

1. In Christ; no Condemnation but Deliverance. (Romans 8:1-4.)

2. Flesh and Spirit. (Romans 8:5-8.)

3. The Body and the Spirit. (Romans 8:9-11.)

4. Sons and Heirs of God. (Romans 8:12-17.)

5. The Time of Travail and Groaning; the Future Redemption. (Romans 8:18-25.)

6. The intercession of the Spirit. (Romans 8:26-27.)

7. The Saints Calling; the Challenge and the Assurance. (Romans 8:28-39.)

Romans 8:1-4.

We have reached the mountain-top of this great Epistle. What man is in the flesh and under the law has been fully demonstrated. “The flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). The law cannot give power to deliver, but only produces wretchedness, and, as we saw, deliverance must come from another. “Power belongeth unto God” (Psalms 62:11); the power of deliverance must come from God. And this was the triumphant note in the previous chapter. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And now we see the believer in Christ Jesus, free from all condemnation, free from the law of sin and death, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, a child of God, an heir of God and joint heir with the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the contrasted statement of the privileges, the capacities, the security, and the prospects of the Christians as having the Spirit, that is here presented as the divinely wrought counterpart of the preceding description of man “as carnal, sold under sin.” The proof and witness of human wretchedness is the Law. The title and measure of Christian blessedness is Christ. “As alive in Christ the believer is estimated, not according to the variable standard of his own emotions, but according to the eternal fixedness of Divine truth now realized and established in the person of Christ before God” (Pridham on Romans).

The first statement assures the believer in Christ that there is for him no more condemnation. In Christ Jesus, in identification with Him who died for our sins and is risen from the dead, in whom we have died and have life, in such a position condemnation is no longer possible, because nothing is left to be condemned. There can be no condemnation for those who are united to a risen Christ; as He is so are we. And this most blessed assurance is unconditional.

The words “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” as they appear in the Authorized version must be omitted here; they have been proven to be an interpolation. We find them at the close of the fourth verse, which is the proper place for them.

But what makes the believer in Christ Jesus free from the law of sin and death, which is in his members? The second verse answers this question. “For the law of the Spirit, of life in Christ Jesus, hath set me free from the law of sin and death.” The law of sin and death has lost its power by another law; the law of the Spirit is that of life in Christ Jesus. It means that the Spirit’s law is that we are, as believers, for everything, for all things, dependent on Christ. In Him are all our springs and resources. He is our life and His life is in us. We are one with Him. To appropriate this in faith, identifying ourselves with Christ as God has done it, giving Him the preeminence, glorifying Him--this gives power and deliverance. And the Spirit, the Spirit of holiness and power is also given to the believer; He dwells in Him. If the believer then walks according to the law of the Spirit, that is in Christ, we are made free from the law of sin and death. The righteousness of the law can in this way be fulfilled in us. But there is a condition. We must walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. What is the walk according to the Spirit? It is not self-occupation, nor even occupation with the Holy Spirit. Walking according to the Spirit is occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ. If the believer ever looks to Christ, depends on Him, draws all he needs from Him, if Christ is His all--then the believer walks according to the Spirit. Then there is power over the old nature and the righteousness, demanded by the law is being fulfilled. And we must not overlook the fact that God’s love is mentioned in this blessed unfolding of our deliverance in Christ. The law was weak, it could not get its righteous requirements fulfilled, on account of the flesh, the fallen nature of man. Then God came in. “God sending His own Son in likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.” It points us once more to the cross.

“He has sent His own Son in ‘the likeness of sinful flesh’ as the cross manifests Him, but there for sin, our sin, putting it completely away, while, at the same time condemning it, utterly. Sin in the flesh is condemned,--I myself, with all that is in me, my own thoughts, my will, my wisdom, my ways,--in the cross, I see the end of it all, but the end of it in the love which has come in fully for me and which now fulfills in me the righteous requirement of the law when it is no longer simply requirement, but the Spirit of God has filled my heart with the joy of Christ. ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ I am free to give myself up to drink in this love which God has shown me and which rests upon me in Christ, in all the fulness of God’s delight in Him. I have no cause now to ask: Must not God condemn the evil in me? He has condemned it, and I read the condemnation there where I find also Himself for me in a grace which knows no conditions, and which holds me fast, therefore, forever” (Numerical Bible.)

Notice that the opening verses of the eighth chapter refer us back to the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters. The believer is in Christ the last Adam and therefore beyond condemnation. (Chapter 5:12-21). Sin is not to have dominion over us (Chapter 6). Sin in the flesh has been condemned and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled by a walk according to the Spirit (Chapter 7). (To much included for 7.)

Romans 8:5-8

Next we find a contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. While the believer is no longer in the eyes of God in the flesh, the flesh, however, is still in him as long as he has this mortal body. There is therefore a conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. Humanity falls into two classes, those who are according to the flesh, the unsaved; and those who are according to the Spirit, believers in Christ. A believer is called to walk according to the Spirit, in the sphere into which he is brought through grace. He may walk according to the flesh, but that does not put him back into his former state, when unsaved, he was in the flesh. The mind of the flesh, the condition in which man is by nature, is described in a fourfold way:

1. It is death.

2. It is enmity against God.

3. The flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

4. They that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Such is the state of all who are not born again. But the believer is no longer in the flesh, but is in Christ and the mind of the Spirit is life and peace, which the believer possesses. The believer who walks carnally cannot please God, just as a man who is not born of the Spirit, cannot please God. The carnal walk of the believer results in a broken fellowship with God. But Christ is our Advocate with the Father and He restores while the indwelling Spirit leads to confession and self-judgment. The standing of a believer before God is always in Christ; God beholds us in Him and no longer in the flesh, the sphere of sin and death. The practical state of a believer is often varying. But our failures and shortcomings can never affect our standing before God in Christ. This is an important truth. Many true believers are in a miserable bondage, in doubts and fears, lacking assurance and the joy of salvation, because they do not know the fixed and unalterable standing a believer hath in Christ.

Romans 8:9-11

The believer’s standing is, therefore, emphasized. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so that the Spirit of God dwell in you; but if any one have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” The believer is no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit because the Spirit of God dwells in him. For the first time we have the blessed truth declared that the Spirit of God is in the believer. AS the Spirit of God, He marks the new standing before God; as the Spirit of Christ, He is evidencing the facet that the believer belongs to Christ, and that He produces in him Christ-likeness. Sometimes true believers ask the question, “How can I get the Holy Spirit?” Certain teachers say that a believer, after being saved, should seek the gift and sealing of the Spirit. To teach this is altogether unscriptural. The gift and sealing of the Spirit are at once bestowed upon all who are in Christ, and every true believer is in Christ. “In whom ye also trusted, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also believing, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). “He that hath sealed us with the Holy Spirit is God” (2 Corinthians 1:22). The sealing with the Spirit does not put a believer in Christ; but because we have trusted on Him we are sealed. This verse here in Romans is conclusive. The Spirit given to us marks off the believer as belonging to Christ. Acts 19:2 is frequently quoted to back up the erroneous teaching that the Spirit must be received in a definite experience after conversion. One little word is responsible for the error. The word “since” is mistranslated; it is “when.” “Have ye received the Spirit when ye believed?”

Occupation with the Spirit of God and His indwelling is nowhere demanded of the believer. He has come not to testify of Himself, but to glorify Christ. Therefore He testifies of the blessed fact that “Christ is in you.” The Spirit is life on account of righteousness. It means that the spirit of the believer is energized by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is the power of life in the believer. What about the body of the believer? It is dead on account of sin. The body has not yet the effects of redemption in it; it is not yet quickened. But the mortal body of the believer has the promise of redemption. The Holy Spirit dwells in that body and He is the earnest of our inheritance. “If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies on account of His Spirit who dwelleth in you.” This is the redemption for which we wait (see Romans 8:23). It will come when the Lord comes for His Saints. The believer is nowhere taught to look for the death of the mortal body he has, but for the Coming of the Lord, who “shall change our body of humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:21). “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Here we have a blessed answer to the question asked in the previous chapter. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” The answer is “the Lord Jesus Christ.” And while the believer waits for that promised, coming deliverance, deliverance from the presence of sin, He walks in the Spirit, freed from the power of sin.

Romans 8:12-17

Believers are therefore no longer debtors to the flesh, to live after the flesh. We owe the flesh nothing, for it has never done anything for us. If a person lives according to the flesh, if this is the sphere in which he moves, he is “about to die,” on the road to death. But if by the Spirit ye mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” “Death and life are here set in prospect before the soul as the results, respectively, of the path now chosen. As to the believer, he is characteristically one who is not in the flesh. This he is, not as the result of attainment, but by the grace of God. The appeal which the Apostle here makes is to the Christian conscience. Where there is life, there will be an answer to that appeal. The mortification of the deeds of the body is the result of the Spirit’s energy, the energy of that Spirit, who produces in him the fruits of life, when unhindered in the gracious operations of His love. Mortification of the deeds of the body is looked for only from believers who are indwelt by the Spirit. There is, therefore, nothing in Romans 8:13 that need chill in the least the confidence of the poor weak-spirited self-judging Christian. Those who are most given to self-judgment are they to whom the warning here expressed has the least application.” The mortification of the deeds of the body does not mean asceticism. It is that which is more fully mentioned in Colossians 3:5-7. (If men live according to the flesh, they are on the way to death. It does not say that they will die. God’s grace is always free to come in, but then if it comes in it takes one off the road to death; it does not speak in such a manner as if sin were of no consequence.--Numerical Bible.)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. This proves the believer to be in this blessed relationship. The life and walk in the Spirit is the outward evidence of sonship. And the Spirit we have received is not the Spirit of bondage, to fear and to doubt, but it is the gracious Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Abba is the Aramaic (the language spoken by Jews in Palestine ). Father is the word the Gentile uses. Both Jews and Gentiles believing receive the Spirit of Sonship. They both have access by one Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:18). “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). The marks and evidences of the sonship of the believer are more fully given in the first Epistle of John (1 John 1:5-7; 1 John 2:1-3; 1 John 2:9-10; 1 John 2:27-28; 1 John 3:1-6; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:1-4; 1 John 4:7-8; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 4:20-21; 1 John 5:1-4; 1 John 5:10-13).

Furthermore, the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. This witness is not a mere good feeling, which is subject to fluctuations, but the witness of the Spirit is in the Word of God. We know that we are the children of God, because the Word assures us that it is so; this is the witness of the Spirit. And our own spirit bears the same witness, for we know that we have passed from death unto life. “Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). We have the blessed consciousness of our relationship as children in our own spirit, the highest intelligence we possess in ourselves. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.... Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be, but we know, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-2). We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. And we suffer with Him--for the world knoweth us not as it knew Him not--and shall be glorified with Him, in the coming day of His glorious manifestation. Our fellowship with Him as God’s children is now in suffering, and afterward in glory.

Romans 8:18-25

The highest summit of the Epistle has been reached. In Christ; no condemnation; free from the law of sin and death; indwelt by the Spirit of God; led by the Spirit of God; children of God; heirs of God; joint heirs with Christ--this is the blessed and sublime culmination. And as it is when we stand on some mountain-peak, a great vision now bursts upon us. It concerns the future. A wonderful glory is in store for the children of God. The sons of God are going to be manifested (Romans 8:19). That Will be when Christ, the head of the new creation is manifested; then we shall also be manifested with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4). Then He will occupy the throne of His glory and “we shall reign with Him over the earth.” All creation groaneth and travaileth until now, anxiously looking forward to that coming day when the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For creation was put into the place of corruption and death through the fall of man. But it was subjected to this not without hope. The hope of a ruined creation is the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the Creator of all things and the Redeemer. Upon His blessed brow He bore the thorns, the emblem of the curse which rests upon creation. And when He comes, groaning creation will be delivered. Then “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 11:6-9). It is the glorious vision of the coming age, the dispensation of the fulness of times, when all things will be gathered together in Christ. The Prophets and the Psalms tell out more fully the story of a restored creation, through Him who paid for it by His own precious blood. And we, who have the first fruits of the Spirit also groan within ourselves, awaiting that blessed consummation, when we shall come into our full inheritance, the redemption of our body. Our salvation is in hope of this future redemption and glorification. We wait patiently for it.

Romans 8:26-27

Prayer is now mentioned. We need it in the midst of the groans, the sorrows and sufferings with which we are surrounded and which is our lot as long as we are in this mortal body. And prayer is our refuge, the expression of our dependence upon God and our utmost confidence in Him. But while we know how to pray, we often do not know “what we should pray for as we ought.” Then the Spirit Himself maketh intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered. “Prayer is most commonly the witness of our infirmities. The burdened heart may find itself too full for speech, too much perplexed, for the ordering of its thoughts. But there is an utterance of supplication that makes no sound. It is the Spirit, as the helper of our infirmities, who makes these desires known to the God. Groaning in sympathy with the tried and longing heart, He makes His intercession for the Saints according to the will of God.” Thus the mind of the Spirit in us is known of God-- and heard by Him. And then we must remember that besides this intercession of the Spirit there is the intercession of Christ at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34). The believer is therefore hedged about and made secure and if he walks in the Spirit, constant peace and joy will be His daily portion.

Romans 8:28-39

Therefore we know that to those who love God all things work together for good, to those who are called according to purpose. We can rest in God and commit all to Him. The purpose of God for His own, from eternity to eternity is blessedly revealed. “From God’s foreknowledge of us in the past eternity to the accomplished glory of the future, there is a perfectly linked chain of blessing, no link of which can ever be sundered. God’s purpose is that Christ His Son, should be a First-born among many brethren” (Numerical Bible). And the chain of blessing is--foreknown -- predestinated -- called -- justified and glorified. We do not enter into the controversies of the past concerning predestination, but repudiate that unscriptural conception that God has predestinated a part of the human race to be lost. This is incorrect in view of the statement of Scripture that God “will have all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). But all are not saved because they believe not. (Foreknowledge expresses the original operation of the Divine mind, considered with reference to the pure and unapproachable majesty of the blessed and only Potentate. Predestination respects rather the condition of that which is thus foreknown, objectively regarded as a vessel of His will.”--Pridham.) God knows all who would believe and these are predestinated, called, justified and Will be ultimately glorified. And His eternal purpose will not fail and all who are in Christ will be conformed to the image of His Son. This is the Hope of God’s calling (Ephesians 1:18).

And what a blessed, most precious and glorious ending of this great chapter and the entire doctrinal section of this great Epistle! What shall we say then to these things? Our answer must be worship and adoration of the God who hath loved us so in giving His only begotten Son, who reached down to our misery and shame and who hath lifted us so high. The great truths of the Gospel are once more reviewed. God is for us. Who can be against us? The proof of it is that He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him UP for us all. With Him He has given us freely all things. God is the justifier; therefore “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Christ died, Christ is risen, Christ is at the right hand of God making intercession for us-- who then is he that shall condemn? And nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. No condemnation and no separation. No more wrath but eternal glory! Such is the salvation of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Romans 8:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/romans-8.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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