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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 8

 

 

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Verses 1-10

No condemnation in Christ

Romans 8:1-10

There are two things that every believer wants above all else.

1. He wants deliverance from the guilt and curse of sin–to live in Christ.

2. He wants deliverance from the power and practice of sin–to walk in the Spirit.

A saving interest in Christ and our living union with Christ do both.

Romans 8:1. The apostle does not say that we are not condemnable; for there is still sin within us, and all sin is condemnable. But sin cannot bring us into condemnation, for we are in Christ (Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:33-34). Christ has borne the penalty, judgment, and condemnation for all our sins–past, present, and future (Colossians 1:20-22).

‘Who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.’ This is not the reason why we are not condemned but is a description of those who are in Christ. The flesh is not our master nor our guide. Christ is our Lord and the Holy Spirit is our guide.

Romans 8:2. The gospel of Christ (or the covenant of grace in Christ) has forever freed all believers from the law of sin and death (or the covenant of works) (Romans 3:19; Galatians 3:10), for every requirement is met in Christ (Romans 6:7; Romans 6:18).

Romans 8:3. The weakness and inability to save does not arise from any defect in God's law, for the law is perfect and holy. The defect and weakness is in our flesh. The law cannot save because we are unable to keep the law (Romans 7:18; Romans 3:10-12). But Christ can justify the ungodly and make righteous the chief of sinners; for as our representative, God sent him here in the likeness of sinful flesh; and he not only obeyed the perfect law but was condemned and punished for our offenses (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

Romans 8:4. ‘The righteousness of the law fulfilled or fully met in us.’ This is the reason why Christ came to earth–that by his active and passive obedience all believers might be justified, sanctified, made holy, and accepted in him. In Christ we have honored the law and satisfied justice; we are perfect before God (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:9-10).

Again the phrase appears, ‘who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.’ The next ten verses reveal the meaning of this phrase.

Romans 8:5. Unregenerate, unsaved people do mind (are concerned, anxious, and taken up with) the things of this world and of the flesh (Matthew 6:24-33). Health, happiness, and honor for the flesh is their main concern. Not so for those who are in Christ! They are concerned and their thoughts occupied with their relationship with Christ, a growth in grace, a right relationship with others, and attaining unto the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:8-11).

Romans 8:6. This carnal flesh-mindedness is a state of spiritual death. The man who is swallowed up in the kingdom of the world is dead; and all that he has, seeks, and attains is already judged and condemned (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). The regenerated believer, who sets his affection on things above, is part of a living kingdom. God lives; his kingdom lives; his possessions live; his people live. They not only live but they live in a blessed state of peace and joy (Luke 12:15; 1 Timothy 6:6-11).

Romans 8:7. Flesh-mindedness hates God and reasons against God. Carnal men do not hate their idols (their gods), but they hate the Living God (James 4:4). The carnal mind will not be subject or submissive to the will of God, the way of God, the providence of God, nor the gospel of God (Jeremiah 13:23; Jeremiah 17:9). Augustine said, ‘How can snow be made warm? Only by making it cease to be snow. The natural mind cannot be mended or modified, only destroyed’ (Isaiah 55:7-8).

Romans 8:8. Outside of Christ there is nothing that we can be, think, say, or do that is pleasing to God. The elect are accepted and are well-pleasing in his sight because we are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-6; Hebrews 11:6).

Romans 8:9. ‘Ye are not in the flesh.’ This does not mean that we are not human (that we have no passions, appetites, and desires, or that our old nature is eradicated); but it means that we have a new nature and are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, who is the dominant influence in our lives. To be in the Spirit is to be ruled over, influenced, and controlled by the Spirit. They that are justified in Christ are also sanctified in Christ and have the Spirit of Christ. If a man does not have the life and Spirit of Christ, he is not one of his own.

Romans 8:10. This body of flesh and all that pertains to it is subject to death because of sin; but our spirits which are vitally united to Christ have no stain, no sin, and they enjoy eternal life because of his righteousness.


Verses 11-17

Holy and happy sons of God

Romans 8:11-17

Romans 8:11. This natural body is a dying body subject to afflictions, diseases, infirmities, and eventually death, because of sin. But if the Spirit of God dwells in us (by grace through faith), death is not the end; for he that raised Christ from the dead shall also, in his appointed time, raise our bodies from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:12-22; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44). This body shall not always be in corruption and ruin, but shall be raised in the image of Christ (1 John 3:1-3).

Romans 8:12. ‘Therefore’ looks back to Romans 8:5-6; Romans 8:9. Since our primary interest is not the flesh, materialism, and things of this world, but the kingdom of God and his righteousness–since to be fleshly-minded is a sign of absence of the Spirit of Christ–since our flesh and all pertaining thereunto shall die and we shall be raised in his likeness, we are not obligated to live for the flesh and this world but to live unto Christ who redeemed us. Men who are freed from condemnation and death are not freed from obedience; but to whom much is forgiven, he will love much. We are motivated to holiness by our love for Christ and his love for us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Romans 8:13. Such persons who live after the flesh are already dead; eternal death awaits! A person who has received the grace of God in truth cannot live after the flesh, for he does not love sin and the world; he loves Christ and holiness. Because of the Spirit of God who lives in him, the believer's outward conduct and course of life consists of denying the flesh and walking after the Spirit (Romans 8:1). Believers live in Christ now and shall live with Christ forever.

Romans 8:14. This is the evidence of a union with Christ. We are regenerated by the Holy Spirit; we are baptized into Christ by the Spirit; we are taught by the Holy Spirit; we pray, worship, praise, sing, and live led by the Spirit of God (John 3:6; 1 Corinthians 12:13; John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Galatians 5:16-18).

Romans 8:15. ‘The spirit of bondage and fear’ is an attitude or frame of mind. It is the frame of mind of a slave toward his master or a prisoner toward his captor. ‘The spirit of adoption’ is the frame of mind in which an affectionate, grateful child regards his father. He loves, respects, trusts, and believes his father, which produces a peace of mind and the feeling of belonging. We are now the sons of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-2). There are several explanations for the use of the word ‘Abba.’ Some say it is a Syriac word. The word ‘father’ is a Greek word, so he is Father of Jew and Greek. Some say it is to express the vehemence of the affection. Some say it signifies ‘my father.’ Some say it is a word only free men can use (according to Jewish tradition).

Romans 8:16. The Holy Spirit (by his presence and through the word of God) bears witness that we are the sons of God. We are always ready to doubt this blessing for two reasons.

1. The greatness of the blessing and

2. Our sinfulness and unworthiness to receive it.

The Holy Spirit bears this witness to our spirits, not to our natural eyes and ears, but to our hearts (for it is internal), to our souls (where faith receives it), and to our understanding (that we may have assurance (1 John 5:20).

Romans 8:17. Children of the same father, whether natural or adopted, are heirs! By nature we are the children of wrath, but by his will and grace we are children of God (James 1:18). Being the sons of God, we are the heirs of his grace, his blessings, his kingdom, and all things (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). Joint-heirs with Christ means that it is through him and with him that we are heirs of God and his glory (Ephesians 1:3-7).

‘We suffer with him’ conveys two ideas.

1. Christ and his people are one; and when he suffered, bled, and died, we were in him. Therefore, when Christ died, we died to the curse, condemnation, and charges of sin and the law. Therefore, we are raised with him, are seated in him, and are partakers with him in the blessings of that sacrifice.

2. Because of our oneness with him, there will be suffering for us to bear here for his sake and the sake of his gospel (John 15:18-20). This identification with Christ will result in eternal glory for all of God's sons (Ephesians 2:6-7; Philippians 3:20-21).


Verses 18-27

Full satisfaction in Christ

Romans 8:18-27

Romans 8:17 says, ‘If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.’ Three ideas are conveyed here.

1. Christ and his people are one; therefore, when he suffered and died, we were in him and we partook of the efficacy and blessings of his sacrifice.

2. Because of this oneness with him, there will be sufferings for us to bear, for his sake and the gospel's.

3. Being still frail flesh and subject to all of the infirmities, afflictions, and diseases of the body, and eventually death, we shall have to suffer trials on this earth.

Romans 8:18. No trial or suffering is easy. If trials were without pain and discomfort, they would not accomplish the purpose for which they are sent (James 1:2-4). But when we look at all of earth's sorrows, sufferings, and trials in the light of his eternal glory, when we shall be like him, enjoy his presence, and partake in his perfect kingdom, we look on these present inconveniences as nothing. They are not worthy to be compared to that glory (1 John 3:1-3).

Romans 8:19-22. The word ‘creature’ in these verses is best read ‘creation,’ as in Romans 8:22. There will be a new earth, but the revelation of that new earth awaits the resurrection of God's people. The earth on which we live has become subject to decay, disease, and death because of Adam's sin. This state shall not continue, for the creation shall be delivered from this bondage as we shall be delivered from our corrupt bodies (2 Peter 3:13). The earth, materially, is the same as before the fall; after the restoration it will be perfect. (Read these verses from the Amplified version.)

Romans 8:23. Not only does the whole creation groan and travail under the weight of sin, but we also are burdened with the old nature and long for the joys of full redemption (Romans 7:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

‘The first-fruits of the Spirit’ means that the believer, under the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, already enjoys a taste of what heaven and life eternal shall be. Heaven will be complete fulfillment and perfection of what we enjoy in part (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).

Romans 8:24. Actually, while we are justified, sanctified, and secure in our Redeemer, we are not yet saved to the full extent of that blessed word. Full satisfaction is that for which we long, look, and hope (Psalms 17:15). That blessed hope of being like Christ is not simply a wish or a desire, but a desire based on God's promise and the full expectation of its completion in Christ. A desire already experienced or seen is not hope. When we are in full possession of heaven, hope becomes reality and faith gives way to sight.

Romans 8:25. But when our hope of forgiveness, salvation, and full redemption is in Christ and his blessed promises (though we do not yet see nor possess the fulfillment of all his promises), we patiently wait for them; for his promises are as sure as his word (Titus 1:1-2; Hebrews 11:13).

Romans 8:26. The word ‘likewise’ seems to say ‘not only does hope of future glory (in and through his word) lead us to patiently wait for deliverance and resurrection, but the Holy Spirit also bears us up in our weakness.’ We don't know what prayer to offer, what things to ask, or what is the will of God; but the Holy Spirit prays in us and for us with groaning too deep to utter. He enables us to pray according to the will of God (John 14:16-18; John 16:13-14).

Romans 8:27. ‘He that searcheth the heart’ is God. No man knows the heart of another, nor does any man fully know his own heart (Luke 16:15). The Lord knows our motives, our thoughts, and our intentions (John 21:17). He knows the mind or the purpose and providence of the Spirit of God, and he makes intercession for the believers according to and in perfect harmony with the will of God for them.


Verses 28-31

The Lord's purpose – our assurance

Romans 8:28-31

Romans 8:28. ‘And we know.’ This is not a matter of opinion or uncertainty, but we know this as surely as we know that we are redeemed by the blood of Christ.

‘That all things.’ God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all good angels, rulers, and ministers, all evil beings such as Satan, all good events such as peace, prosperity, health, and happiness, and all bad events such as war, famine, sorrow, sickness, and death.

‘Work together.’ All of these things not only are present and operate in us and toward us, but they all cooperate under God's direction and control to fulfill his purpose for us. (Illustration: Joseph's route to the throne in Egypt–Genesis 45:3-8).

‘For good.’ Eternal good is meant here, not necessarily present comfort, ease, and joy. Our ultimate goal is to be with Christ and to be like Christ, and this is what ‘all things’ are working together to accomplish (Psalms 17:15; Ephesians 1:10-12).

‘To them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose.’ This promise of eternal good and well-being is not a blanket promise to all men but only to those who have received Christ, who love Christ, and who have been effectually called by his grace to saving faith. There is no mercy or grace outside of Christ (Colossians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 1:30).

Romans 8:29. The word ‘foreknew’ has been translated by some to mean that God foresaw who would believe; but the word (as in 1 Peter 1:2) is fore-ordained, fore-appointed by God from all eternity (Acts 13:48; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 1:3-4). There is a sense in which God knows all men. He knows all about them (their birth, life, death, and destiny); but in eternal love and grace, he knows only his sheep (John 10:14-16; Matthew 7:23).

God has predestinated or predetermined in his eternal purpose that all whom he saves shall one day be just like his Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 John 3:1-3), that he (Christ) might be the firstborn among many brethren. Under the law the firstborn was the Lord's choice (Exodus 13:2), had authority over all the sons, and acted as the Lord's priest. Christ is the firstborn of the Father with regard to all creatures. Christ is the firstborn of all God's sons (they are chosen in him). Christ is the firstborn from the dead to die no more. His is the chief glory, for all are to be in him and like him.

Romans 8:30. ‘He called.’ Men by nature do not love God and will not come to Christ, but rather love darkness, evil, and sin (John 3:19; John 5:40; John 6:44). If men are to come to Christ in repentance and faith, they must be effectually called, convicted, and made willing to believe (Psalms 110:3; Galatians 1:15; 2 Timothy 1:9-10).

‘He justified.’ That is, God forgives their sin, blots out their iniquity, and makes them perfectly holy and righteous in his sight by the obedience and sacrifice of Christ (Romans 5:19; Romans 3:19-22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 1:21-23).

‘He glorified.’ Eternal glory is meant. This is what the apostle has been speaking of in these verses–eternal good, eternal inheritance, and eternal glory. Our union with Christ gives us the right and title to all things (John 1:12; Romans 8:16-18; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23). Actually, in the purpose and view of God, we are already glorified in our Head and Representative–Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Isaiah 46:9-11).

Romans 8:31. This question reaches back to all that has been said in the preceding verse. What shall we say in addition to these things? Nothing can be added! What shall we say against these things? Nothing! What shall be inferred from these things? ‘If God be for us in eternal love, in eternal grace, in divine calling, in substitution, and in justification–if God has already accepted and glorified us in Christ and is determined to glorify us personally with Christ, who can be against us?’ Not the law; it is honored! Not divine justice; it is satisfied! Not Satan; he is judged and cast out!


Verses 32-39

Conclusions from covenant mercies

Romans 8:32-39

Romans 8:32. God has declared in his word that he will show mercy, that he will redeem and glorify a people and that heaven will be populated with a holy people like his beloved Son (Exodus 33:18-19; John 6:37-39; Romans 8:29-30). Here is the greatest evidence that his promise will be fulfilled. ‘He spared not his own Son.’ He did not withhold Christ from all that he must be, endure, suffer and accomplish in order to take up our hopeless case and redeem us (Isaiah 53:1-6). He gave Christ to be our surety, representative, sacrifice and sin-offering (John 3:16; Galatians 5:4-5). If God so loved that he gave Christ, and Christ so loved that he came into this world and bore all our sin and shame, shall the Father not give us freely all that Christ purchased for us? Did Christ come in vain? Did he suffer thus in vain? No! Perish the thought! (John 10:27-30).

Romans 8:33. God's elect are the people spoken of in Romans 8:28-30.

1. Are these people not chargeable? Yes, they are! They are charged with Adam's transgressions, with their own sins and lack of righteousness, with a multitude of sins before and after conversion.

2. Does anyone charge them? Yes! They charge and condemn themselves (Psalms 51:3-4). Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). But these charges avail nothing! They are all answered in Christ. In him our sins are pardoned, we have a perfect righteousness and justice is totally satisfied (Romans 5:1; Romans 8:1; Jude 1:24). He has justified us by death and decree!

Romans 8:33-34. Paul states and argues on two foundations the full redemption and security of every believer.

1. It is God who announced and accomplished it. ‘It is God that justifieth.’

2. It is Christ that fulfilled every requirement and purchased our redemption by his death. ‘It is Christ that died’ (1 Peter 1:18-20). The death he died was the death of the cross. The persons for whom he died were God's elect.

‘Yea rather, he is risen again.’ His resurrection is rather as great a security from condemnation as his death. His resurrection testifies of the accomplishments of his death and his acceptance. Had he not risen, we would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17-22).

‘Who is even at the right hand of God.’ He entered into heaven to prepare it for us and to take possession of it in our name. He sat down, having finished the work he came to do! (Hebrews 10:11-13.) We are seated with him in the heavenlies.

‘Who also maketh intercession for us.’ By the appearance of his person, by the presentation of his sacrifice, by offering up the prayers and praise of his people, by applying to us the benefits of his death (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:19-22).

Romans 8:35. Paul continues this series of questions. ‘What shall we say to these things? Who can lay anything to our charge? Who is he that condemneth?’ Now he asks who can take us out of the hand of God or separate us from his love. No one! Not tribulation (trials, afflictions and burdens), not distress (of body or soul), not persecution (from the world or false brethren), not famine (want of food and drink), not nakedness, peril or sword (which has not been the lot of many believers). Christ's love for us is eternal, infinite and unchangeable. Nothing that this world affords can change that love (Romans 11:29; Malachi 3:6).

Romans 8:36. This quotation is from Psalms 44:22, and the meaning is that for the sake of God, true worship and the gospel of redemption, the people of God have been persecuted, despised and put to death, reckoned by the world as nothing but sheep to be slaughtered (John 16:1-2).

Romans 8:37. In all these trials and difficulties we are not overcome nor defeated, but actually made better by them (James 1:2-4).

Romans 8:38-39. Paul says that he is fully persuaded that nothing in the whole universe (no matter what, good or bad), which is or shall be, can separate us from God's love which is in Christ Jesus. Notwithstanding indwelling sin, the various afflictions, weaknesses, trials or enemies within and without, we have reason to rejoice and look upon ourselves as eternally secure in the Redeemer's love.

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 8:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/romans-8.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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