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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

SECTION 23 — THE SPIRIT AND THE FLESH

CH. 8:1-11

Therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and of death. For, what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, by sending His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; in order that the decree of the Law may be fulfilled in us who walk not according to flesh but according to Spirit.

For they that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they according to Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death: but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. Because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God. For to the Law of God it does not submit: for neither can it. Moreover, they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit; if, as I assume, the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, that man is not His. But if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness. “But if the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised Christ Jesus from the dead will make alive also your mortal bodies because of His Spirit dwelling in you.

Romans 8:1. Inference from the summary just given of Romans 8:14-25.

Now: changed circumstances, involving a change of time: so Romans 6:22; Romans 7:6.

No condemnation: no adverse sentence of God, like that in Romans 3:9.

Those in Christ Jesus: they to whom the personality of Christ is the environment of life and action; a conception ever present to the thought of Paul: see under Romans 6:11; cp. Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17. In former days, although Paul’s mind paid allegiance to the Law of God, his hands and feet did the bidding of sin. From this he now draws the unexpected inference that they who are in Christ are no longer condemned by God for their sins. This general inference implies that the foregoing experience is, though doubtless in different degrees, common to all Christians.

Romans 8:2. Explanation and proof of Romans 8:1.

The Spirit: new and conspicuous feature of Romans 8. The close argument following implies that the Spirit of life here is the same as the Spirit of God and of Christ in Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11; Romans 8:14 : and this can be no other than the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:5. He is the Spirit of life: for all life springs from Him.

The law of the Spirit: the Holy Spirit, looked upon as prescribing conduct. This phrase is another mark of Paul’s legal mode of thought: cp. Romans 3:27, “a law of faith.”

The law of sin: the principle of evil looked upon as prescribing action: so Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25.

Sin and death are partners of one throne, and issue one law: to obey sin, is to walk in a path marked out by death.

Made-free: as in Romans 6:18; Romans 6:22. The Holy Spirit, by prescribing a new course of action, liberates us from the bondage involved in the former compulsory obedience to the dictates of evil leading to death. Just so a conqueror, by setting up his own laws in a conquered country, makes the former laws invalid. That the country obeys the new law, is a proof of conquest. The presence and guidance of the Spirit have made Paul free from the rule of sin. This is not change of bondage, but freedom from all bondage. For the law of the Spirit is the will of our Maker, and therefore the law of our being. To obey it, is the only true freedom.

In Christ Jesus: as in Romans 8:1, giving the point of the argument. If in Christ Paul has been made free from the dominion of sin, there is no condemnation to those in Christ. For their liberation proves that they are forgiven. Cp. Romans 3:24 : “redemption in Christ Jesus.”

Instead of made me free in the Alex. and Ephraim and Clermont MSS. and some early versions, the Sinai and Vatican MSS. and the Peshito Syriac version read made thee free. This latter reading is given by Tischendorf, in the text of Westcott, and in the margins of Lachmann and Tregelles, who however give the other reading in their texts, as does Westcott in his margin. It should have been noted by the Revisers. But the difference, merely one letter, is unimportant. Either reading may easily be explained as an error. Paul’s references to himself throughout Romans 7:7-25 might prompt a copyist to change thee into me. And the same letters at the end of the foregoing word [ ηλευθερωσε σε] would account easily for the opposite change. The difference in meaning is small. Paul supports the general statement in Romans 8:1 by personal experience; in the one case of himself, in the other of his reader, whom as in Romans 2:1 he singles out and appeals to as an individual. The former seems more natural, and this may perhaps outweigh the authority of our two best copies.

Notice here a definite experience of inward liberation. Paul remembers the time when, in spite of his better judgment, he did the bidding of sin: he now does the bidding of the Spirit of God, but is free only while following His guidance. He therefore infers that the guidance of the Spirit has made him free. His liberation came through Christ’s death; and he enjoys it to-day by resting on Christ. It is therefore God’s gift, and a proof of His forgiveness. Just so a prisoner, whose doors have been opened by the king’s command, has in his past imprisonment and present freedom a proof of pardon; whereas the freedom of a law-breaker who has never been arrested is no such proof. There are thousands to-day to whom every doubt about their present salvation is banished by a remembrance of their former bondage to sin and fruitless efforts to do right. Since Paul’s liberation took place in Christ, he has a right to infer that all who are in Christ have been set free and are therefore no longer condemned. Thus the Law, by making us conscious of our bondage, not only drives us to Christ, but furnishes, to those who believe, an abiding proof of God’s favour.

This verse is complete proof that Romans 7:14-25 does not describe Paul’s experience while writing. For no man can be at the same time made free from the law of sin and (Romans 7:23) taken captive to the law of sin.

Romans 8:3-4. Explanation of the foregoing liberation.

What the Law… through the flesh: comment on the statement following.

The Law: of Moses as always when not otherwise defined.

Weak: powerless to save; because, through our flesh being controlled by a hostile power, we were unable to obey it. Just so a rope is powerless to save a drowning man who has not strength to grasp it; whereas even such might be saved by the living arms of a strong man. If the flesh could do what the mind approves, the Law would be able, by revealing the badness of the rule of sin, to dethrone it, and thus save us. But the flesh cannot drive out its dread inhabitant. Consequently, the Law, which cannot breathe new strength into the flesh, but only knowledge into the mind, is too weak to save us. To save under such circumstances is the inability of the Law, i.e. something it cannot do.

His own Son: similar phrase in Romans 8:32 : see under Romans 1:3.

Flesh of sin: the material of our bodies, in which sin has set up its throne and which in this sense belongs to sin: so “body of sin” in Romans 6:6.

Likeness: as in Romans 1:23; Romans 5:14; Romans 6:5. The material of Christ’s body was like that of our bodies which are controlled by sin. This proves that the word sending refers to Christ’s birth.

God sent His own Son, though sinless, clothed in flesh like that in which sin dwells. This implies His existence before His birth as, even then, God’s own Son: cp. Philippians 2:7; 1 John 4:9.

For sin: purpose of the mission of the Son: cp. Galatians 1:4; 1 John 2:2. It had reference to sin. The same words are used in reference to sacrifices in Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:14; Hebrews 10:8; Hebrews 10:18; Hebrews 10:26 : but they are so general that we need not infer any such reference here.

Condemned sin: proclaimed its doom. Since sin has been represented as a ruler, its doom must be dethronement.

In the flesh: locality of this proclamation.

By sending His own Son in a body like that in which sin had set up its throne, and with special reference to sin, God proclaimed in the midst of the empire of sin that that empire will be overthrown. When we see the king’s son enter the revolted province without opposition, and know that he has come because of the revolt, we are sure that the king is both able and determined to put down the revolt. The presence of the king’s son proclaims the usurper’s coming dethronement.

Romans 8:4. Definite moral purpose of the coming of Christ.

The decree of the Law: its various prescriptions of conduct, looked at as one whole: cp. Romans 2:26; Romans 1:32.

Fulfilled: as in Romans 13:8; cp. Romans 2:27. Since the Law was designed to mould our conduct, its purpose is accomplished when it is obeyed.

Fulfilled in us: better than “that we may fulfil.” For every act of obedience is God’s work in us, and gift to us; and is an accomplishment of the divine purpose for which Christ became Man.

Who walk etc.: those in whom, and the condition on which, the Law will be fulfilled.

According to flesh: allowing the indolence or appetites of the body to mark out our path. To do this, is to obey sin which dwells in the flesh.

According to Spirit: following the guidance of the Spirit of God. This exposition is clearly implied in Romans 8:9, and in Romans 8:13-14. God sent His Son to dwell in human flesh in order that the Spirit of God, and no longer the flesh, may direct our steps; and that thus the purpose of the Law may be achieved in us. And, that its purpose is thus accomplished in us, is a proof that we have been set free from the rule of sin, and therefore are no longer condemned.

Paul’s exposition of the purpose and working of the Law is now complete: see Romans 3:19; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:13. To men guilty of actual sin, and held fast by sin, God gave a righteous law. Because it was the will of our Maker, it commended itself to our moral judgment, and evoked efforts after obedience. These efforts failed utterly: and their failure proved that we are powerless to accomplish our own moral purposes, that we are in the grasp of an evil and hostile power. This inevitable result of the gift of such a law to such persons must have been its purpose. We infer therefore that the Law was given in order to reveal our hopeless bondage. Again, believers now actually fulfil the Law which they once vainly tried to obey. This proves that they have been set free from their mighty adversary, and that a mightier has taken up His abode within them. For they have been set free, not from without, but from within. That their deliverer prompts and enables them to fulfil the Law, proves Him to be the Spirit of God. He is God’s gift to them; and His presence is therefore a proof of pardon. Thus in them is attained the life-giving purpose of the ancient Law. For, by revealing the uselessness of their own efforts, it has led them to Christ, and taught them the worth of His salvation: and, by revealing the presence and power of their foe, it also reveals the presence and greater power of the Spirit of God, and thus affords constant proof that their condemnation removed.

That the Holy Spirit, given to those who believe the words of Christ, prompts and enables them to obey the words of Moses and the prophets, is another harmony of the Old and New; and therefore confirms the divine origin of both. Moreover, that Christ came in order that the Law may be fulfilled in us in a life guided by the Spirit, attests the importance and eternal validity of the Law.

That the new life which Christ came to impart is wrought in us by the Spirit of God, is the FIFTH and last FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINE of this epistle. We find it in Romans 5:5 : it is developed in Romans 8:2-16; Romans 8:23; Romans 8:26-27; Romans 9:1; Romans 14:17; Romans 15:13; Romans 15:16; Romans 15:19. It is assumed again and again by Paul throughout his epistles: e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 3:8; Galatians 3:14; Galatians 4:6; Galatians 5:16-18; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; cp. 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 4:14. The same doctrine is taught in 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13; and is attributed to Christ in John 7:39; John 14:16; Matthew 10:20; Mark 13:11; Luke 11:13; Luke 12:12. We therefore cannot doubt that it was actually taught by Him. Notice also that the universal gift of the Spirit was foretold in Joel 2:28-29; that Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:27) announced that He will lead those in whom He dwells to obey the Law; and that Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33) foretold that God will write His Law in His people’s hearts.

Doctrine 5, Sanctification through the Spirit greatly helps us to exercise the faith required in Doctrine 4, Sanctification through Faith. When God bids us reckon ourselves dead to sin and henceforth living only for Him, we remember our moral weakness and say, How can these things be? But when we learn that henceforth the Spirit of God will dwell within us in order that by His power He may save us from all sin and by His holiness direct towards God our every purpose and effort, our doubt gives place to confident expectation and adoring gratitude. For we are sure that the Spirit is able to accomplish, even in us, God’s purpose of holiness.

Romans 8:5-8. Further exposition of the two courses just described, affording abundant reason for the divine purpose just stated.

They that are according to flesh: they whose moral nature is controlled by the needs and desires of the body.

The things of the flesh: objects which the body desires or turns from. These, they mind, i.e. make them objects of thought and effort: same word in Matthew 16:23; Philippians 3:19; Romans 11:20; Romans 12:3; Romans 12:16; Romans 14:6; Romans 15:5. They whose moral nature is determined by the flesh think about and pursue what the flesh (cp. Romans 6:12) desires. Conversely, they according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:6. Contrasted results of following the two paths now before us.

The flesh is personified as one whose mind, i.e. purpose and effort, is to kill. In the body of the unsaved, sin erects (Romans 6:12) its throne; and through its needs and desires, these arising from the flesh, the bodily constitution common to all men, rules the whole man. The inevitable result of this rule is death, i.e. (as in Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23) utter ruin of body and spirit. This inevitable result, Paul here represents as the purpose of the flesh. They whose thought is dominated by their bodily life are working out their own destruction. So Galatians 6:8 : “he that sows for his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption.”

Life: as in Romans 6:23.

Peace: as in Romans 1:7. Life and peace are objects at which the Spirit ever aims: for He is (Romans 8:2) the Spirit of Life. God sent His Son into the world in order that we might no longer follow a path leading inevitably to death, but pursue another path leading to life and peace. Similar contrast in Matthew 7:13-14 : “the way leading to destruction… to life.”

Romans 8:7. Reason why the mind of the flesh is death, viz. because it is essentially hostility towards God. This strong statement is at once explained.

The Law of God: as in Romans 7:22. This full title reminds us that the Law is supported by divine authority.

To this authority, the flesh does not submit: and this statement is explained and strengthened by another, for neither can it. The bodily constitution common to all men, and in great part to animals, desires objects without considering whether God permits them. Our appetites distinguish pleasant and unpleasant, but not right and wrong. They therefore often prompt us to break the Law: and to do so is to declare war against the King. Consequently the flesh is necessarily hostile to God: to let the body rule, is to do what God forbids. The reason of this is given in Romans 7:23. The flesh is, in the unsaved, ruled by sin. Consequently, to obey the flesh, is to obey its awful lord, sin; and is therefore essential hostility to God. But this animating principle of the flesh is left out of sight here, to remind us that they who, perhaps without thought of sin, follow the guidance of the body are working out the will of one whose only purpose is to fight against God. Such war must, as stated in Romans 8:6, end in death.

Romans 8:8. An additional statement completing the proof of Romans 8:6 a.

In flesh: as in Romans 7:5. To the unsaved, bodily life not only, as in Romans 8:4, marks out their path but is the moral element in which they are and move. They see and hear only through the eyes and ears of the body, and all they have and are depends on the body. They are therefore at its mercy; at the mercy of that which we have seen to be hostile to God. Such men cannot please God. They can neither obtain nor retain His favour This does not contradict the important statement in Romans 2:26-27 For occasional obedience cannot save from punishment for the sins of which (cp. Romans 3:9; Romans 3:23) all are guilty. Indeed, by raising their moral tone, it rather reveals how far even the best fall short of what God requires.

This verse asserts (cp. Ephesians 2:3) the universal moral helplessness of men. For, in order to please God, we need to be rescued from the dominion of our own bodies.

Romans 8:9-11. After describing in Romans 8:7-8 “the mind of the flesh,” Paul now turns round suddenly to describe the lot of those who follow the Spirit: but ye are not in flesh but in Spirit. Your moral environment is not flesh with its needs and desires, but Spirit, viz. the Spirit of God. If, as I assume: ειπερ: a condition which Paul takes for granted.

Dwells in you: a blessed contrast to Romans 7:17-18; Romans 7:20. If the Spirit of God makes His home in you, then are ye in the Spirit. For His presence in us reveals to us, and lifts us into, a new world.

But if anyone etc.: solemn statement of another possibility. It expounds what is involved in the particle rendered if, as I assume. Evidently the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Christ. This implies that the one Spirit is an essential relation to both the Father and the Son. It also implies that the Holy Spirit is the only medium of union with Christ. For Paul here asserts that they only are Christ’s in whom dwells the Spirit of Christ. And this implies that all the justified have the Holy Spirit; as was assumed in Romans 5:5. Yet we do not become Christ’s by receiving the Spirit, but (Romans 3:22) by faith. We are then (Galatians 3:26) sons of God; and, because of this, the Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4:6) is sent into our hearts.

Romans 8:10. Further description of the happy lot of those in whom the Spirit of God dwells, in contrast to the case just stated.

Christ in you: evidently equivalent to the “Spirit of God dwells in you” in Romans 8:9 : see Romans 8:11. For the Spirit of Christ and of God is the Bearer of the presence of Christ and God. Cp. Galatians 2:20, “Christ lives in me.”

The body dead: as being already doomed to the grave, and its actual death being only a question of time.

Because of sin: viz. of Adam: see Romans 5:12.

The spirit: the human spirit, as in Romans 1:9, the highest side of man’s nature, in contrast to the body in which it dwells. This contrast differs from that in Romans 8:4-6; Romans 8:9, where the “flesh” common to all men is set over against the one “Spirit” of God given to all who believe in Christ.

Life: stronger than “alive.”

Because of righteousness: received by faith: cp. Romans 5:21, “that grace may reign through righteousness for life eternal.” Because of Adam’s sin, the body of those in whom Christ dwells is dead, i.e. a prey of worms and corruption; but, because of the righteousness which is through Christ and through faith, the spirit which animates that mortal body possesses undying life.

Romans 8:11. Still further description of their happy lot. Even the body will be rescued.

Of Him that raised Jesus: a close parallel to Romans 4:24. Paul remembers that the Spirit who dwells in all who put faith in Christ is the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus, and therefore a bearer of His infinite power. Notice the emphatic repetition of this important point. That God raised Christ, is a pledge that He will raise us.

Make-alive: as in Romans 4:17.

Your mortal bodies: as in Romans 6:12, but with a different reference, there to the immoral influence of a side of our nature not yet rescued, here to the final rescue even of this lower side of us.

Between the readings by means of His Spirit and because of His Spirit, the oldest and best documents are almost equally divided, as are modern editors. The former is found in the Sinai, Alexandrian, and Ephraim MSS., and in four very ancient versions; and was read by Clement of Alexandria, by Hippolytus probably, and by many fathers: the latter is in the Vatican and Clermont MSS., and in the Latin and Peshito Syriac versions; and was read probably by Irenæus and Tertullian, and almost certainly by Origen. Athanasius gives us to understand that in his day the reading by means of His Spirit was found “in all the ancient copies,” but that it was nevertheless disputed.

In cases like this, where the best documents are equally divided, critics usually decide according as one or other reading seems most agreeable to the mind of Paul and at the same time most likely to be altered by a copyist. But here even these internal reasons afford no safe ground for decision. The former reading would teach that the Holy Spirit is the Agent of the resurrection of the body. This is not elsewhere taught in the New Testament; but is in harmony with the nature and work of the Spirit. The other reading teaches that, because the body of the dead was a dwelling-place of the Spirit of God and therefore sacred, God will raise it from the corruption of the grave: a thought in full harmony with the teaching of Paul.

This evenly-balanced evidence, external and internal, leaves the true reading quite uncertain. This uncertainty is reflected in the judgment of the Critical Editors. The reading by means of is given in Tischendorf’s latest edition and in the texts of Westcott and the Revisers: the reading because of, in that of Tregelles, in the 7th edition of Tischendorf, and in the margins of Westcott and the Revisers.

Romans 8:11 completes the triumph of those rescued from the dominion of sin. Even the bodies in which the Spirit dwelt are sacred, and will be (see Romans 8:23) redeemed from corruption. It is true that lips which have spoken His words will be silent in death, that hands which He moved to works of mercy will moulder into dust. They will die because our father sinned. But the triumph of death will be short. Even the mortal clay which has been the organ of the Spirit will live for ever. For the Hand which raised Christ will raise them.

This verse implies that the risen bodies of the saved will bear a definite relation to the bodies laid in the grave. But that they are by no means identical, is taught plainly in 1 Corinthians 15:43-44; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Philippians 3:21. This warns us not to infer, or to charge Paul with teaching, that our future and present bodies will consist of the same particles. And such collecting of dispersed atoms would be utterly meaningless. But Paul asserts clearly that the victory gained by death will, in the servants of Christ, be triumphantly reversed by the power which raised Christ from the grave and raised Him to heaven.

The new feature in Romans 8:1-11 is the Spirit of God. In Romans 7:14-25, the conflict was between the Law, approved by the mind, and sin dwelling in the body; and the result was disastrous defeat and hopeless captivity. But now the Spirit has taken the field; and, by setting up His own rule, has made Paul free from the rule of sin and the tyranny of his own body. His spirit is already made alive by contact with the Spirit of life: and the liberation of his dying body, already rescued from the control of sin, is only a question of time.

FLESH. The immoral influence attributed by Paul to the body gives to this word in his writings special significance.

Flesh is the soft solid material of living or once-living bodies. So “flesh and bones” in Luke 24:39; “flesh and blood” in Matthew 16:17; John 6:51-56; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 2:14. Since bones and blood are out of sight, the word flesh denotes frequently the entire material of the body. The flesh is the living matter common to all men: the body is the one organized portion of it belonging to each individual and consisting of mutually-essential members. Since all life is robed in flesh, to be alive on earth is to “live in the flesh:” Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:22; Philippians 1:24. The flesh is contrasted with the mind, the heart, and more frequently with the spirit: Romans 7:25; Romans 2:28; Romans 1:4; Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 5:5; Colossians 2:5. Since a similar bodily material, though in a different outward form, is possessed by animals, the word flesh is also applied to them: 1 Corinthians 15:39; Revelation 19:18; Isaiah 31:3.

Since human and animal life are never found except robed in corresponding flesh, this word denotes frequently, especially in O.T., the entire man and the entire race: so Psalms 56:4; Psalms 65:2; Psalms 78:39; Isaiah 31:3; Isaiah 40:5; Isaiah 49:26, etc.; Matthew 16:17; Luke 3:6; Acts 2:17; Romans 3:20; Romans 11:14; Galatians 1:16; 1 Peter 1:24. This use of the word is the more appropriate because the sensations and state of the spirit within are determined, and the power of the spirit is limited, by its material clothing. Where the body is, the man is: what the man does, he does through the body: whatever is done to the body, is done to the man. All that we see of the man, is flesh. We therefore speak of him as flesh.

Paul teaches frequently that the body exerts on the spirit an all-important and immoral influence. It has desires and actions: Romans 6:12; Romans 8:13. In it sin dwells and reigns; and to obey its desires is to submit to the rule of sin: Romans 6:12. In our body the emotions of sin were once at work; and there sin promulgates its law and fights against the mind: Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23. Hence the body of the unsaved is a body of sin; and from the tyranny of this body Paul cries to be set free: Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24. Through the death of Christ, our body of sin is practically dead: Romans 6:6.

This teaching prepares us for the moral significance of the flesh. The influence of the body arises from its needs and desires and dislikes, which ever prompt us to pursue the objects needful for the existence and comfort of the body and to avoid their opposites. Now these needs etc. are common, in different degrees, to all men, and to some extent to animals. We therefore cannot but think of them as inherent to flesh, as “desires of the flesh:” Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:24. And these desires, found wherever we find a similar material organization, give unity to the idea of flesh.

That Paul speaks, e.g. Romans 6:12; Romans 7:5; Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:16-19, of the body as a dwelling-place of sin and of the desires and works of the flesh as bad, implies that all men are by nature fallen. Through these desires, evil rules all except those whom God has rescued. We cannot distinguish the influence of the flesh from the influence exerted through the flesh by the principle of sin. Hence sin may be looked upon as the animating principle of the flesh. This one spirit of evil in the many bodies of the unsaved gives additional unity to the idea of flesh. And since the influence of the flesh is always in the same direction, we may look upon it as cherishing always the one purpose of death: Romans 8:6.

Many of the objects desired or disliked by the flesh can be obtained or avoided only by first obtaining other objects. Frequently all our mental and bodily powers are at work to get that which will preserve or indulge the body: e.g. intelligent efforts to make money, prompted by desire for bodily gratification. Probably all sin has a similar ultimate origin. Hence, in Galatians 5:19, “the works of the flesh” include every kind of sin. Since the body desires objects merely for its own preservation and gratification, the desires of the body are essentially selfish. Consequently, indulgence of them puts us in opposition to our fellows; and “jealousy and strife” are ( 1 Corinthians 3:1-4) constant results of a life according to flesh.

Those in Christ are, by the death of Christ, set free from the rule of the body. To them therefore, crucified with Christ, the body of sin has lost its power: Romans 6:6. They are no longer “in the flesh:” Romans 7:5; Romans 8:9. In other words, they stand now in a new relation to their own bodies. Formerly the body was the world in which they lived. Beyond the range of its vision they saw nothing: upon its life and welfare their happiness depended. But now the Spirit of God dwelling within them has made them citizens of a world independent of the body. They no longer see only through eyes of flesh, or lean upon an arm of flesh. Therefore, although physically (Galatians 2:20) they are still in the flesh, morally they are no longer so.

We have seen the contrast of flesh and spirit. But when the word flesh denotes the one living material common to all men and includes the one animating principle of evil, it requires a nobler contrast. This is found in the one Spirit of God, who dwells in the heart, enlightens the mind, and strengthens the spirit of all believers, who is the one soul of their many souls, and who stands in absolute antagonism to the flesh. So Romans 8:4-13; Galatians 5:16-25. Through the body sin seeks to enslave and corrupt our spirit. The Spirit of God rescues us from this slavery, becomes the soul of our soul, and, acting upon us through our spirit which He enlightens and strengthens, makes our body to be a living temple in which our freed spirit offers ceaseless sacrifice to God.

The immoral influence of the flesh underlies John 3:6; 1 John 2:16. Otherwise it is peculiar to Paul.

We therefore understand the flesh to be that material clothing of the spirit which is common to all men, in which alone the human spirit dwells on earth, which in the unsaved is under the control of sin, and which exerts or tends to exert upon the spirits of all men an influence always opposed to God. The moral use of the word flesh is not so much a new meaning as a result of a deeper view of the nature, position, and influence, of that which the word commonly denotes.


Verses 12-17

SECTION 24 — THE GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT IS A PROOF OF COMING GLORY

CH. 8:12-17

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors-not to the flesh, to live according to flesh. For if ye are living according to flesh, ye will die: but if by the Spirit ye are putting to death the actions of the body ye will live. For, so many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye did not receive a spirit of bondage, again for fear; but ye received a Spirit of adoption, in which we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears joint-witness with our spirit that we are children of God. But if children, also heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ; if, as I assume, we suffer together, in order that we may also be glorified together.

By a practical application in Romans 8:12 and a proof in Romans 8:13-17 of the statement in Romans 8:10-11, Paul will now complete his comparison of a life according to flesh with one according to Spirit. We are bound to the latter because it is a pledge of coming glory.

Romans 8:12. Practical inference from Romans 8:10-11. “If Christ’s presence in us be a proof that our spirit is alive, and if God will raise the bodies of those in whom His Spirit dwells, then are we bound etc.”

Debtors: as in Romans 1:14; Romans 13:7-8; Romans 15:27, and especially Galatians 5:3. Compare the words owe and ought.

Not to the flesh: opposite course, to which we are under no obligation whatever. The contrast adds force to the exhortation: cp. Romans 6:17.

To live according to flesh: to mind the things of the flesh, to walk according to flesh, to do the actions of the body, in Romans 8:5; Romans 8:4; Romans 8:13. This is the debt which the flesh claims but which we are not bound to pay.

Romans 8:13. Instead of saying what we are bound to do, Paul breaks off the sentence to give a reason why we must not live according to flesh. Similarly, in Romans 5:12; Romans 7:12. The reason given is a summary of Romans 8:6-8.

Ye will die: as in Romans 8:6; Romans 7:24; Romans 7:13; Romans 7:9; Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23.

But if by the Spirit etc.: the course we are bound to pursue. It takes the place of the contrast broken off in Romans 8:12.

By the Spirit: by the help of the Holy Spirit: so Galatians 5:5; Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:18; Galatians 5:25.

Actions: not separate acts, but courses of action: only in Romans 12:4; Colossians 3:9; Matthew 16:27; Luke 23:51; Acts 19:18. For a list, see Colossians 3:5-8.

Actions of the body: such as supply the need, or gratify the desires, of the body, or have this as their ultimate aim.

Body: rather than “flesh:” for the actions were performed by our individual body. They are different in different men.

Are-putting-to-death: a bold personification: a close parallel in Colossians 3:5. Experience proves that our past actions, especially often-repeated actions, are a living power in us to-day, urging us on in the path we trod yesterday. This present power of bygone thoughts, words, actions, we call habit. To destroy it, is to put to death the actions of the body. The present tense implies that the destruction is going on day by day; and therefore implies that the evil influence of their past conduct continues even in the justified. It is gradually destroyed, as it was gradually formed, by single acts. Every act of an opposite kind weakens, and so far tends to kill, the influence of our past life.

We have here Paul’s first reference to a gradual development of the new life: cp. Colossians 3:10. Hitherto he has spoken only of changes which have, or ought to have, already taken place. But the destruction of habits is gradual. Our body is already dead, in the sense that through the death of Christ its subjection to sin, and its rule over us, have ceased. But the actions of the body, i.e. the habits of our former life, still strive to regain for the body which begot them its lost dominion. The increasing weakness of these habits is a measure of spiritual growth.

Notice the double contrast. A life according to flesh is the way to death: to put to death the actions of the body is a pledge of life.

Ye-will-live: the eternal life awaiting the servants of Christ. So Romans 5:21; Romans 6:22-23; Romans 8:6; Romans 8:10-11.

Romans 8:14-17. Proof that they “will live.”

By-the-Spirit: expounding same word in Romans 8:13.

Led by the Spirit: their thoughts, words, actions, guided by Him. That He prompts and enables us to put to death the actions of the body, proves Him to be the Spirit of God. He leads us by opening our eyes to recognise sin and see its hurtfulness, and by giving us moral strength to conquer it; by revealing the will of God and its excellence, and by giving us power to do it.

Sons of God: further explained in Romans 8:15-17, and made the basis of an important argument.

Romans 8:15. Proof that they “are sons of God.”

Ye: assuming that the readers are among the persons just described.

Did not receive: as usual, the negative side first: cp. 2 Timothy 1:7.

A spirit of bondage: such as animates slaves. This does not imply that any spirit of bondage actually exists, but merely denies that we have received such. For the characterizing genitive, compare Romans 1:4; Romans 8:2; Romans 11:8; Galatians 6:1; Isaiah 11:2.

For fear: tendency of the spirit which animates slaves. If God gave us such, He would lead us back again to our former state.

But ye received: solemn repetition, stating the actual case.

Adoption: υιοθεσια: Greek equivalent for a Roman legal process by which one man took another’s son to be his own son. The adopted son took the name and rank of the adopting father, and with certain limitations stood in the same relation to him as a born son. So Aulus Gellius, bk. v. 19 : “Into another man’s family, and into the position of children, strangers are received.” This Roman legal term is found in N.T. only here and in Romans 8:23; Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5; used only by Paul, a Roman citizen. It is specially suitable to describe a change made in accordance with the principles of law.

Spirit of adoption: the Holy Spirit, given to those whom God adopts as sons. [The anarthrous term looks upon Him qualitatively as a Spirit of adoption.]

In whom: under whose influence, we cry. Cp. 1 Corinthians 12:3; Matthew 22:43.

Abba: Aramaic word for Father: so Galatians 4:6; Mark 14:36. Christ spoke frequently to God and of God as Father; and taught us to do the same. Hence the Aramaic word with which He approached God became sacred to His disciples, and passed into the lips even of those who spoke other languages. Similarly, Amen and Hallelujah, Hebrew words.

The word Father is a Greek equivalent for the Aramaic word: as if we said, “Amen, so be it.”

With this verse compare Galatians 4:6. By moving us to cry, the Spirit Himself cries in our hearts: for our cry expresses His thought. He moves us to cry by revealing, through the Gospel, the fatherly love of God: Romans 5:5. We recognise that love, and cry, My Father God. By prompting this cry, the Spirit makes Himself known as a Spirit of adoption. The change from ye received to we cry puts Paul Himself among the adopted sons.

Romans 8:16. Argument of Romans 8:15 in a compact form, showing how it proves the statement in Romans 8:14.

The Spirit itself: A.V. reproducing the Greek neuter, here used. The R.V. reads into Paul’s Greek a correct inference from Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:13; John 16:13; Matthew 28:19. So to render, is not translation, but exposition.

Bears-joint-witness-with: same word in Romans 2:15; Romans 9:1, (cp. Hebrews 2:4,) denoting a confirmation of what another witness has said.

Our spirit cried (Romans 8:15) Abba, Father: and, just as a similar cry from a child is a testimony-though possibly a mistaken one-that he is a son of the man whom he calls Father, so the cry to God of our spirit, the highest part of our being, bears-witness that we are children of God. That this cry was prompted by the Spirit of God, adds His infallible testimony to the testimony of our own spirit, and assures us that our confidence is no delusion. Thus the Spirit Himself confirms the testimony of our spirit. In the order of cause and effect, the witness of God’s Spirit precedes that of our own spirit; for He reveals to us the fatherly love of God, and thus moves us to call Him Father. But, in the order of our thought, our own cry comes first. We are first conscious of our own filial confidence, and then observe that it is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit.

The word witness is a favourite in Greek for whatever affords proof. Compare carefully John 5:36; John 10:25; Acts 14:3; Acts 14:17; Acts 15:8; Hebrews 2:4. It is specially used in reference to the Holy Spirit; and is very appropriate here because it is by a voice put into our lips that the Holy Spirit gives proof that we are sons of God.

Romans 8:17. Completion of Paul’s proof that (Romans 8:13) “if by the Spirit ye put to death the actions of the body, ye will live.”

If children, also heirs: inheriting their father’s wealth. This last word, Paul expounds in two directions, in reference to God and to Christ. That by adoption God makes us His sons, implies that we shall be enriched by His wealth, that we shall share the infinite inheritance which belongs to Christ as the Son of God. The words heirs and joint-heirs recall Romans 4:13-14. By adoption we are, not only sons and heirs of God, but brothers of Christ and joint-heirs of His glorious inheritance.

The proof of the assertion in Romans 8:13, “ye will live,” is now complete. In virtue of His relation to the Father, Christ will live for ever: cp. John 5:26; John 6:57. Therefore, if we are sharers of His inheritance, we too “shall live” for ever. And if so, as stated in Romans 8:12, our hope of eternal life binds us to follow the guidance of the Spirit. For to Him we owe our confidence that we are children of God. See a similar argument in Ephesians 4:30; also Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22.

If, as I assume, etc.: condition on which we are heirs together with Christ. All who suffer because they obey God suffer-together with Christ. For their sufferings, like His arise from the world’s hatred to God, and are endured willingly to advance the purposes for which Christ died. Cp. 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24; 2 Timothy 2:12; Mark 10:39. These words remind us, as does Romans 5:3, of the persecutions of the early Christians. But in some measure they are true of all servants of Christ: for His service always involves sacrifice.

In order that we may etc.: purpose for which God lays suffering upon us, and a hope which helps us cheerfully to endure it. We gladly accept the cross, that we may wear the crown: so Matthew 5:12; Acts 5:41.

Glorified: with the splendour, exciting admiration, with which God will crown His servants: so Romans 8:18; Romans 8:21; Romans 8:30; Romans 5:2; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Colossians 1:27, These words complete the picture of our partnership with Christ. [Notice the group of words beginning with συν-: Romans 6:4-6; Romans 6:8; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:22; Romans 8:26; Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:11-13; Colossians 3:1.] We are sharers of His crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection. We must share His sufferings; but we share His sonship, and shall share His heritage of glory.

The ARGUMENT of Romans 8:12-17, we will now rebuild from the premises assumed. Paul assumes that his readers are day by day trampling upon, and thus destroying, their former habits of sin; and that they confidently call God their Father. Their former bondage proves that this victory is from a Helper higher than themselves. That this Helper is within them, and gives victory over sin, proves Him to be the Spirit of God: cp. Matthew 12:24-29. Again, we look up to God as our Father, lean upon His strong arm, and in His protection find rest amid the uncertainties and storms of life. This was not always so. In days gone by, although we knew that God loved us, His love had no practical effect on our thoughts, emotions, or life: it now fills us (Romans 5:5) with exultant hope and joy. This contrast of past and present proves that God has put a new spirit within us. Moreover, we find by experience that power over sin and filial confidence in God go together. From this we infer that these have one source, i.e. that both are produced by the Spirit of God. And, if He prompts us to call God our Father, we cannot doubt that we are actually His children. If so, our expectation must be measured by the inheritance of the Firstborn Son, whose brethren we are. We therefore infer with certainty that we shall share Christ’s immortal life. And, if so, we have the strongest reason for surrendering ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whose presence in us is the source and confirmation of a hope so glorious.

Notice here an argument based upon inward religious experience, To others, such evidence, except so far as it is confirmed by outward conduct, is invalid. But to the man himself it is decisive. For it is matter of direct inward observation. That Paul appeals to it In argument, reveals his confidence that his own experience was shared by his readers. Notice also that his teaching is carefully guarded from perversion. He appeals, not to a mere assurance that we are children of God, but to an assurance accompanied by power over sin. Moreover, the voice of the Spirit within us is but an echo of teaching which we can trace by abundant documentary evidence to the lips of Christ. Thus the testimony of the Spirit is one which we can intelligently weigh and estimate, and for our acceptance of which we can give a reason.

That a life beyond the grave implies resurrection of the body, is assumed in 1 Corinthians 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:29-32; Luke 20:37 : see my Corinthians p. 287. Assuming this, the argument in Romans 8:12-17 proves the statement in Romans 8:10-11 that God will raise even the bodies of His servants. Paul thus completes the contrast of a life according to flesh and according to the Spirit.

In Romans 8:14; Romans 8:16, they who follow the guidance of the Spirit are called sons and children of God. As created by God in His own image, and therefore sharers of His nature, all men indiscriminately may be so called. But we notice that throughout the N.T. these terms are reserved for the righteous, whose sonship is spoken of as an acquired relation to God: so Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:5; John 1:12; 1 John 3:10; John 8:42; John 8:44. That not all men are sons of God, is implied in Paul’s use of the term adoption: for no Roman adopted his own son. The explanation is that by sin we lost our rights as sons, and can regain them only by the adopting mercy of God. A conspicuous and beautiful exception to the above reservation is found in Luke 15:11; Luke 15:24 : cp. also Acts 17:28-29. See my New Life in Christ pp. 57-60.

DIVISION III. may from this point be suitably reviewed. In Romans 6, we have the new life in reference to its aim and purpose, viz. God; in Romans 7, in reference to the Law, i.e. the principle that God will treat us according to our deserts; in Romans 8, in reference to its immediate source and motive power, viz. the Spirit of God. In Romans 6, the new life is deliverance from the rule of sin which tends to death, and subjection to the rule of God which tends to life: in Romans 8, it is deliverance from the rule of our own flesh which also tends to death, and submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who gives life of spirit and body. The difference results from the teaching of Romans 7. The Law reveals sin as an inward power compelling us, in spite of better desires, to serve sin; and thus proves that in order to live for God we must receive a Spirit stronger than our own spirit, to set us free from the inward rule of sin and to become by His own presence in us the source of a life of which God is the only aim. We are thus prepared to hear (Romans 8:3) that God sent Christ in order that the Holy Spirit may become the guiding principle of our life.

SPIRIT. The word thus rendered denotes breath in Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:15; Genesis 7:22; Job 27:3; Psalms 33:6; etc.; cp. 2 Thessalonians 2:8. It is also used, by a familiar association of thought, for wind: Isaiah 40:7; Psalms 18:15; Genesis 8:1; Numbers 11:31; Hosea 13:15. This explains John 3:8.

Since breath is an invariable mark of life, which began with our first breath and will end with our last, the word spirit often denotes the principle of life. So Revelation 13:15; Revelation 11:11; Luke 8:55; John 19:30; Acts 7:59; James 2:26; Ecclesiastes 12:7. Animals, since they breathe and live, have a spirit: Genesis 7:15; Genesis 7:22; Ecclesiastes 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:21. Since life is a condition of intelligence, power, and activity, the word spirit denotes the seat of knowledge, emotion, purpose, and the source of action: 1 Corinthians 2:11; Mark 2:8; Luke 1:47; Acts 17:16; Acts 19:21; Romans 1:9. The spirit is the unseen and immaterial animating principle which gives to the visible and material flesh animated by it life, intelligence, power, and activity.

We frequently read in O.T. of the Spirit of God, of Jehovah, and in N.T. of the Spirit of God and of Christ, the Holy Spirit. Except in a few places noted above, these terms denote the source of a divine influence acting on man from within, and giving him strength, skill, voice, and wisdom altogether beyond his own natural capacity: Judges 14:6; Judges 14:19; Judges 15:14; Judges 16:20; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 24:2; 1 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 11:2-3. Men thus became the arm, hand, and voice of God. Since this influence always tends to inspire loyalty to God, its source is called in Psalms 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11, the Spirit of Holiness; and in Romans 5:5; Romans 9:1; Romans 15:16; Romans 15:19, etc. the Holy Spirit. We find also in 1 Samuel 16:14-23; Judges 9:23, an evil spirit of God, i.e. one who works out in men God’s purpose of anger: cp. 1 Kings 22:21. Throughout the O.T. the Spirit of God is the source of an inward influence from God, a bearer of the presence, and of all the attributes, of God.

In Romans 5:5, the Holy Spirit reveals to men the love of God manifested in the death of Christ; and in Romans 8:15 puts into their lips a new voice. He gives them moral strength to conquer sin, and is their guide in life: Romans 8:13-14. He makes them to be in heart the people of God, and becomes to them the mainspring of a new life: Romans 2:29; Romans 7:6. He is thus a source of holiness, hope, and joy: Romans 15:16; Romans 15:13; Romans 14:17. He is called the Spirit of Christ, and is a bearer in us of the presence of Christ; and His presence in us is a pledge of immortal life: Romans 8:10-11.

In 1 Corinthians 2:11, the Spirit of God is compared to man’s own spirit. This analogy will help us to understand the term before us. Just as the spirit (Luke 8:55) given back to Jairus’ daughter restored to her lifeless form life, consciousness, activity, and development, so the Spirit of God breathed into those who put faith in Christ (Galatians 3:14) gives them a deathless life, makes them conscious of the eternal realities, imparts a new spiritual power and activity, and puts into their lips a new song of praise. And, just as our own spirit is altogether different from, and in essential dignity greater than, our body, yet united to it by an all-pervading and mysterious fellowship, so the Spirit of God is in essential dignity infinitely greater than our spirit, yet pervading it by a still more mysterious fellowship.

Notice the connection between the Spirit and the Gospel and Christ. In the historic Christ, God has made Himself manifest before our eyes. The Gospel is the divine light which bears to our mind the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the life which enables our mental eye to see the glorious object, moves our lips to praise, and our bodies to bow in worship. Thus the Spirit gives to us a life, intelligence, and power, which are not human but divine.

The Spirit always acts upon us from the inmost chamber of our being, i.e. with the full consent and approbation of whatever is noblest and best within us; in marked contrast to sin, which never secures our highest approbation, and thus betrays its foreign and inferior and hostile origin.

In Romans 8:27, we read that the Spirit intercedes on behalf of saints: see note. This suggests that the Spirit is a person distinct from God, with whom the Spirit intercedes. For without two distinct persons there can be no intercession. This is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Matthew 28:19; Revelation 1:4-5 and still more clearly in John 16:13-14. See my New Life in Christ pp. 306, 308. If we accept the clear and abundant teaching of the N.T. that the Son of God is a divine person distinct from the Father, the above passages and the whole tenor of O.T. and N.T. will compel us to believe that with the Father and the Son is a Third divine Person, the mysterious and blessed Spirit of God.

The word Spirit is used (e.g. Romans 8:26) to distinguish this divine Person from the Father and the Son, who are also (cp. John 4:24) essentially spirit, because, in virtue of His essential nature as compared with that of the Father and the Son, He comes into immediate contact with our spirit as the inward source of a higher life and as the moving principle of our thoughts, words, and acts. Moreover, the title holy, which belongs in the highest sense to the Father and the Son, is applied with special frequency to this Third divine Person; because conspicuously, in contrast to every other inward influence, God is the one aim of the influence He constantly exerts. Every moment He comes forth from the Father, in order that He may lead us back to Him: and only so far as we are moved by the Spirit is God the one aim of our purposes and efforts. Hence all human holiness is the mind of the Spirit realised in those to whom He is the soul of their soul and the life of their life.

God’s work in man preparatory to justification is not, in the Bible, attributed to the Holy Spirit. Yet we cannot doubt that He is the Agent by whom God leads men (Romans 2:4) to repentance and (John 6:44; John 6:65) to Christ. The explanation probably is that the word Spirit is reserved for this divine Person when acting as spirit, i.e. as a life-giving influence acting upon us from within. On those not justified He acts only from without. The Hand of God is upon them: but His life-giving Breath is not yet within them.

ASSURANCE OF JUSTIFICATION. Paul assumes that his readers know that they are justified. In Romans 5:2, he asserts that they have been brought into God’s favour and stand therein, and look forward with joy to future glory. In Romans 5:9-11, he bases an argument on the fact that they have been justified and reconciled and now exult in God. They have experienced a total change in life: Romans 6:17-23; Romans 7:5-6. They are, as led by the Spirit of God, sons of God: Romans 8:13. They have already been saved, and are looking forward to a glory compared with which present afflictions are of no account: Romans 8:24; Romans 8:18. Although many of them are Gentiles, by faith they have obtained righteousness, and have been grafted into the good olive tree: Romans 9:30; Romans 11:17-20. The Holy Spirit, given to them, has made them conscious of God’s love, and taught them to call Him Father: Romans 5:5; Romans 8:15.

The Galatian Christians were, amid many imperfections, sons and heirs of God through faith, the Spirit of the Son crying in their hearts “Father:” Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:6. The Ephesian Christians had the forgiveness of their trespasses, had been saved through faith and made alive, brought near to God and built into the rising walls of the living temple: Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:20. When they believed, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit, a pledge of blessings to come: Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30. In his many prayers Paul never asks that his readers’ sins may be forgiven, nor does he hold out to them a promise of forgiveness. He always assumes that they know that they are forgiven. Contrast the addresses recorded in Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18; Acts 2:38, where salvation is offered to the unsaved.

Similarly in 1 John 2:12 even the children of the family of God are forgiven. The readers are children of God, in a sense distinguishing them from others: 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:10. They know that they have passed out of death into life, that they are of God, and that they abide in Christ, because God has given them the Spirit: 1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:19; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13 : cp. 1 John 5:13. Similarly 1 Peter 1:3-8.

This teaching suggests that conscious forgiveness was an ordinary experience in the apostolic Churches: it certainly implies that it is a blessing designed by God for every member of the Church.

How was this assurance obtained? Since it is assumed in Romans 5:2-11, we must seek an answer in Paul’s foregoing teaching. Assurance is involved in the nature of justifying faith. For, as we saw in the note under Romans 4:25, this last is an assurance resting upon the promise and power and faithfulness of God that He receives into His favour, in spite of their past sins, all who put faith in Christ. For assurance is matter of immediate consciousness. Consequently, if God receives all who believe, we know that He receives us. Our assurance is derived from and rests upon the promise and character of God, a promise which we have traced by strict historic method to the lips of Him who claimed to be the Son of God and who in proof of this claim was raised from the dead. This firm ground of faith and hope is greatly strengthened by the manifestation, in the death of the Son of God, of the infinite love of God to man. This ground of confidence in God and of assurance of salvation is rational and capable of rational statement. Accordingly, in order to confirm our hope of glory, Paul proves in Romans 5:5-8, by correct human reasoning, from historic fact, how great is God’s love. In other words, the assurance of forgiveness assumed by Paul rests upon the love of God manifested in the death of Him who by resurrection from the dead made good His claim to be the Son of God, this love being apprehended by correct human reasoning. It rests on ground external to us, ground which our best judgment pronounces to be absolutely firm.

Again, Paul teaches in Romans 5:5 that our assurance of God’s love, although resting on well-attested historic fact, is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit; and in Romans 8:15 that the filial cry with which we give utterance to our assurance is the echo of His voice. Similarly, our consciousness of objects around us, while evoked in us by those objects, is conditioned by our life and intelligence. For the inanimate and the irrational are wholly or in great part unconscious of them. Just so, our assurance of future life is evoked in us by facts placed by history before our eyes and by words spoken in our ears, facts and words manifesting the eternal Nature and Purpose of God; and by the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand, and feel the force of the facts and the words. It has thus an historic and logical ground, and a spiritual source. Hence Paul is careful on the one hand to expound the meaning of the facts and the words, and on the other hand to pay homage to the Spirit who through the facts and the words gives us an assurance of future glory.

We can direct for a time our exclusive attention either to the historic and visible ground, or to the spiritual source, of our assurance. When we wish to prove how firm is the foundation on which our hope rests, we go to the cross and the empty grave and the promises. At other times, while resting in peace on this firm ground of hope, we acknowledge that whatever assurance we have of God’s present favour and of future blessedness is wrought in us by the indwelling Spirit. Thus in the Gospel by which God saves us and assures us of salvation we have that mysterious inter-penetration of spirit and form which is co-extensive with life. and especially with human life, as known to us. The spoken and written word is the outward form: the Holy Spirit is the inward and animating principle which pervades the word and gives to it life and power. For He is “the Spirit of the Truth:” John 14:17.

The process of assurance may be thus described. The Gospel proclaims that through the death of Christ God receives into His favour and family all who believe this good news. We have proof (see Diss. i.) that this proclamation is the voice of God. We therefore accept it as true; and venture to believe that God accepts into His favour all who believe it, and therefore ourselves. We thus come consciously into the number of those whose acquittal the Gospel proclaims. In the moment of our faith, God accepts us as righteous, adopts us as sons, and sends forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. The Spirit opens our mind to understand the meaning of the death of Christ, and thus makes known to us God’s love: and this revealed love assures us that the hope evoked by the promises will not deceive us. We now look up to God as our Father; and we find by happy experience that while we do so we have power to conquer our inveterate habits of sin. This victory we accept as further confirmation of the promise of life eternal.


Verses 18-27

SECTION 25 — OUR HOPE IS CONFIRMED BY THE PRESENT STATE OF NATURE AND OF OURSELVES

CH. 8:18-27

For I reckon that the sufferings of the present season are of no worth in view of the glory which will be revealed for us. For the expectation of the Creation waits for the revelation of the sons of God. For to vanity was the Creation made subject, not willingly, but because of Him who made it subject, in hope that also the Creation itself will be made free from the bondage of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole Creation groans together and is in travail together until now.

And not only they but also ourselves who have the firstfruit of the Spirit, we also groan, ourselves within ourselves waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body. For in hope were we saved. But a hope seen is not hope. For that which one sees, why does he hope for? But if; what we do not see we hope for, with perseverance we wait for it.

In the same way also the Spirit helps with our weakness. For what we are to pray for, according to what is needful, we know not. But the Spirit Itself intercedes for us with unspeakable groanings. But He that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, that according to the will of God He intercedes on behalf of saints.

Romans 8:18. In Romans 8:17, Paul introduced two new thoughts, “suffer-together” and “glorified-together.” These he now expounds, and thus supports the implied exhortation to suffer with Christ.

I reckon: a deliberate calculation, as in Romans 2:3.

The present season: as in Romans 3:26.

Revealed: see under Romans 1:17.

Glory revealed: so 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1; cp. Colossians 3:4. The splendour awaiting the sons of God is now hidden from the eyes of themselves and of those around. But Christ will soon appear in splendour; and with His own splendour, before men and angels, He will clothe His brethren. Thus He and they will “be glorified together.” In the light of that glory, present afflictions are of no worth.

For us: purpose of this revelation, viz. to cover us with splendour.

Romans 8:19. Further account of this glory.

Creation: same word as creature in Romans 8:39; Romans 1:25; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 4:13. It denotes both the act of creating and the whole or any part of that which is created: so Romans 1:20; Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:13 : cp. 2 Corinthians 5:17. In each case, the precise meaning is determined by the context. Here, the Creation is distinguished from the sons of God; and therefore does not include them. The words made subject to vanity and groan in Romans 8:20 exclude happy spirits of other worlds. The liberation foretold in Romans 8:21 excludes bad angels and those who finally reject the Gospel: for Paul teaches constantly, e.g.

Romans 2:12; Philippians 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 1:9, that their end is destruction. It therefore remains that the Creation here denotes the entire world around us, living and lifeless, man alone excepted; what we call Nature, this looked upon as a work of God. The same word is used in the same sense in Wisdom of Solomon 5:17; Wisdom of Solomon 16:24; Wisdom of Solomon 19:6. This interpretation has been adopted, with slight modifications, by a majority of writers of all ages.

Revelation: recalling the word revealed in Romans 8:18.

The sons of God: recalling Romans 8:14. They are now in disguise; and Christ is hidden from their sight. When He appears, their glory and therefore their true character and position will be made known to themselves, to men, and to angels. For that revelation of their glory, they wait with eager expectation: literally, waiting with outstretched head, as though listening for the footstep of the Revealer. This expectant attitude of Nature is here personified, as a witness to the glory awaiting the sons of God.

Romans 8:20-21. These verses justify the hope implied in Romans 8:19.

Vanity: producing no worthy result: cp. Romans 1:21.

Made-subject to vanity: condemned to useless toil. Nature brings forth thorns and thistles: and, although with these are mingled objects of use and beauty, on all is the doom of decay. So Romans 8:21 : the bondage of corruption. This fruitless effort was not Nature’s original destiny, but was a result of man’s sin: Genesis 3:17-18. It was thus in some sense forced upon Nature. And this Paul expresses, keeping up his personification, by saying that Nature submits to it not willingly. Because of Him who subjected: in obedience to the decree of Him who said (Genesis 3:18) “thorns and thistles etc.”

In hope that: a prospect of deliverance involved in this sad decree.

Bondage of corruption: by the necessary decay of its products, Nature is prevented from putting forth its powers, from manifesting its real grandeur, and from attaining its original destiny. All that Nature brings forth is doomed to die. And it is compelled to slay its own offspring. The lightning-flash destroys the stately oak: the winter’s cold kills the songsters of the summer: and animals devour other animals to maintain life. This universal destruction limits the achievements of Nature. Instead of sustained growth, its beauty and strength fade away. The powers of the material Creation are bound in fetters of decay. That this bondage was not Nature’s original destiny, but was laid upon it by God because of man’s sin, suggests to Paul a hope that Nature itself will be made free, that it will share the freedom awaiting the children of God. This liberation from everything which would hinder their full development belongs to the glory (see Romans 8:17-18) which will be revealed for them.

Romans 8:22. A well-known ground for Paul’s hope that Nature will be made free: for we know etc.

Groans-together and is-in-travail-together: one united cry of sorrow and one great anguish. Every voice in Nature which reminds us of its bondage to corruption, Paul conceives to be a cry of sorrow. The storm which wreaks destruction, and the roar of the hungry lion, tell that the original purpose of the Creator has been perverted, and that Nature is not what He designed it to be.

The whole Creation… until now: a cry universal and unceasing. Since Nature’s disorganization is a result of man’s sin, Paul infers that it will not last for ever, and that the confusion and destruction around, so inconsistent with the character and purpose of the Creator, will give way to order and liberty. In other words, he can account for the present anomalous state of Nature only by supposing it to be temporary, to be preparatory to something more consistent with its original destiny. He therefore speaks of Nature’s agony as travail, as pangs soon and suddenly to cease at the birth of a new earth and heaven. Cp. John 16:21.

Notice that Paul, when speaking of future glory, adopts the thoughts and words of the old prophets: cp. Psalms 98:8; Isaiah 55:12-13.

We have here another proof (cp. Romans 1:20) of Paul’s careful contemplation of the material world. For important coincidences, see Acts 14:17; Acts 17:24. The argument also involves the teaching in Romans 5:12-14 that death is a consequence of sin.

If the above exposition be correct, Romans 8:19-22 suggest very clearly that the earth beneath our feet, rescued from the curse of sin, will be our eternal home: cp. Acts 3:21; Revelation 21:1. This implies the permanence of matter. Just as the sin of man’s spirit brought a curse on his body, so it brought a curse also upon the greater dwelling-place of the entire race. And, just as the body will some day share the liberation which the spirit already enjoys, so will also the world around. Thus, in the teaching of Paul, are the fortunes of the material world indissolubly joined to those of its chief inhabitant, man.

The above teaching of Paul, it I have correctly understood it, lies open to objection even more serious than that referred to under Romans 5:12 : for it implies that even animals die because Adam sinned. This conflicts with assured results of Natural Science. But possibly this apparent discrepancy arises from a deeper truth beyond the ken of Natural Science, viz. that the entire visible universe was designed for man and his moral education, and is therefore subservient to his destiny. This would explain many marks of imperfection in the world around. And it could be apprehended in Paul’s day only in some such form as lies before us in these verses.

Romans 8:23. Another confirmatory fact. Not only does the whole Creation groan, waiting for liberation, but also ourselves groan, waiting for adoption and redemption.

Firstfruit: same word in Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4. In Deuteronomy 26:2; Deuteronomy 26:10; Numbers 18:12-13, etc., it denotes first-ripe fruit or grain, of which a part was to be given to God.

The Holy Spirit received by Paul and his readers was a firstfruit in a double sense, in reference to the greater number who will afterwards receive the same, as in the passages quoted above, and in reference to the greater blessings in the future of which the present gift of the Spirit is a pledge. The usage of the N.T. favours the former reference here. The truth embodied in the latter reference finds expression in “the earnest of the Spirit” in 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:14, and may possibly be in Paul’s thought here. The words before us remind the readers of their happy lot in being among the first to receive salvation.

We groan: a close parallel in 2 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 5:4, where again we have the Spirit as an “earnest” of better things. It recalls the groaning of Nature in Romans 8:22.

Ourselves within ourselves: conspicuously asserting the inwardness and the felt intensity of this groaning.

Waiting-for: as in Romans 8:19. Our groaning is a yearning for something to come, prompted not merely by present burden but by the contrast of present and future.

Adoption: the legal ceremony by which a child passed formally into the family of the adopting father. See under Romans 8:15. Virtually we are already sons of God, and already with filial confidence we call Him Father: but we wait for the time when we shall be formally and publicly brought into our Father’s house, clothed in the raiment of sons, and made to sit down beside the Firstborn Son.

Redemption: a setting free on payment of a price, as in Romans 3:24. But there the emphasis was on the price, viz. the blood (Romans 3:25) of Christ: here it is on the liberation, as in Luke 21:28; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30.

Of our body: its rescue from death and the grave. Not only Nature but even the bodies in which the Holy Spirit dwells, making them His temple, are held fast by fetters of decay. But they have been purchased by the death of Christ and therefore will be rescued from the grave. Since the body is an integral part of us, not till it is rescued will our redemption be complete. Therefore, under the burdens of the present life arising from the needs and weakness of the body, knowing that we can enter our full glory only by rescue of our body, our groaning assumes the form of a yearning for its rescue.

Romans 8:24-25. Explains the contrast between the present hardships and the future glory of the sons of God. Our position is one of hope, not possession.

We were saved: cp. Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:8 : already rescued from the punishment and the present power of our past sins. This salvation has been described in Romans 6:22. Until the conflict of life is over, and until the body is rescued from the grave, it is incomplete: and therefore in this sense salvation is in Romans 5:9-10; Romans 13:11 spoken of as still future. In 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15, it is spoken of as a process now going on. These are three modes of looking at the same deliverance.

In hope, or by hope: our rescue holds before us a prospect of better things to come. Cp. 1 Peter 1:3. Now the very nature of hope involves absence of things hoped for: a hope seen is not hope. This last statement is sufficiently proved by asking a question: that which a man sees, why does he hope for? The alternative reading given in R.V. and by Westcott (texts) does not affect the sense.

Seen… sees… we see: as in 2 Corinthians 4:18. After showing the incompatibility of hope and sight, Paul states, in Romans 8:25, the believer’s actual attitude.

Perseverance: as in Romans 2:7; Romans 5:4.

We-wait-for it: recalling Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23, and a dominant thought of Romans 8:18-25. A brave holding up and going forward in spite of hardship and enemies, in prospect of blessing to come, is the normal attitude of men whose position is one, not of possession, but of hope.

Romans 8:26. Another confirmation. In the same way as Nature groans for deliverance, and as we inwardly groan for adoption and redemption, also the Spirit groans in us and for us and so helps us in our weakness.

Helps-with: shares our toil and conflict: same word in Luke 10:40.

Our weakness: us who are weak, the abstract for the concrete, as in Romans 2:26-27. The rest of the verse states the special help which we need and the Spirit gives.

We do not know what we are to pray for so as to pray according as we must needs pray. We are conscious of need; and we groan. But such is the weakness (cp. Romans 6:19) of our spiritual insight that we do not know how to ask so that our prayers may correspond with our real need.

But the Spirit, who prompts us (Romans 8:15) to call God our Father, inspires yearnings which words cannot express, and thus helps us by directing our desires to proper objects. These inspired yearnings express the mind of the Holy Spirit, and therefore appeal to God for us. Thus He intercedes for us and in us by moving us to pray. And God will not refuse to satisfy yearnings which the Spirit Itself (as in Romans 8:16) by His own presence puts within us. Since these yearnings are too deep for words, they are described as unspeakable groanings.

Romans 8:27. That these groanings are unspeakable, does not lessen their efficacy. For they appeal to one who searches the hearts (Revelation 2:23; Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Samuel 16:7) and thus hears this silent intercession.

The mind of the Spirit: the aim of the yearnings prompted by the Spirit. Same words, referring to the general guidance of the Spirit, in Romans 8:6. The mind of the Spirit is that, according to the will of God, He intercedes on behalf of saints: in other words, God, who sees all that takes place in the hearts of men, recognises that our yearnings for final and complete deliverance are prompted by the Holy Spirit, in harmony with the will of God, and are therefore an intercession of the Spirit pleading for men whom God has claimed to be specially His own.

In Romans 5:5, the Holy Spirit given to believers reveals to them the love of God manifested in the death of Christ. In Romans 8:15-16, He prompts them to cry Abba, Father: and He now moves them to groan for complete deliverance from whatever fetters their full development. The inward cry in Romans 8:15, Paul accepts as a divine testimony that they are children of God: the unspeakable groanings in Romans 8:26, he accepts as an intercession with God on their behalf; an intercession which cannot be ineffectual, and which is therefore a pledge that these yearnings will be satisfied.

That the Spirit intercedes with God for the final rescue and glory of His servants, suggests that He is a person distinct from the Father. The strongly figurative colour of Romans 8:19-27 forbids us to accept this as in itself decisive proof that Paul held the distinct personality of the Spirit. But it is an important confirmation of other passages, e.g. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Matthew 28:19, where the name of the Spirit is placed beside those of the Father and the Son, and of still more definite teaching in John 16:13-14.

REVIEW of Romans 8:18-27. In Romans 5:2, Paul showed that justification through faith gives an exultant hope of glory. While showing this, he could not pass in silence over the hardships which were so conspicuous a part of the lot of the Christians of his day. He asserts that even these hardships indirectly confirm this glorious hope. In Romans 8:13-17, he shows that the Holy Spirit in their hearts, moving them to call God their Father, is Himself a proof that they are children of God and heirs of the glorious heritage of Christ. And again, present hardships, apparently so inconsistent with this blessed relation to Christ, demand consideration. This they receive in Romans 8:18-39.

Paul declares that present hardships are not worthy to be compared with the glory awaiting us. So great is this glory that it will transform even the material universe. An indication of this, Paul finds in the decay which reigns over all things around us, so inconsistent with the original destiny of a good creature of God, a doom inflicted on Nature because of man’s sin. This doom of decay, Paul represents as a groaning for deliverance and accepts as a pledge that deliverance will come. This groaning is shared by us who, as Paul expounded in Romans 8:4-17, have received the Holy Spirit as the animating principle of a new life. It is indeed prompted by the Spirit who makes us conscious of the contrast between our present condition and the glory awaiting us. And if so, these divinely-implanted yearnings plead with God, silently but effectively, for us. They are in harmony with the will of God; and are therefore a pledge of their own fulfilment.


Verses 28-39

SECTION 26 — IN ALL THINGS WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS

CH. 8:28-39

Moreover, we know that with those that love God all things work together for good, with those that are called according to purpose. Because, us whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He may be firstborn among many brethren. But, whom He foreordained, these He also called: and, whom He called, these He also justified: but, whom He justified, these He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God be on our side, who is against us? He that did not spare His own Son but on behalf of us all gave Him up, how shall He not also with him give us all things by His grace? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God that justifies: who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died but rather that was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes on our behalf. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall affliction, or helplessness, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? According as it is written, “On account of Thee we are put to death all the day: we have been reckoned as sheep for slaughter.” Nay, in all these things we more than conquer, through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things coming, nor powers, 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 Romans 8:12-17, the Holy Spirit, by enabling us to conquer sin and call God our Father, gave proof that we are children of God and heirs of the glory of Christ. In Romans 8:18-27, the hope thus inspired was confirmed by our present sufferings; inasmuch as they force us to yearn with a divinely taught yearning, which in some sense even Nature itself shares, for the consummation of our sonship. We shall now learn that these sufferings are working out our good, and are powerless to injure us.

Romans 8:28. Another important point in our favour. Not only does the Spirit help us by prompting our groanings, but all things help us.

All things work together: harmonious co-operation, under apparent discord. The Vat. and Alex. MSS. read God works all things. But the weight of evidence is against the insertion, the context suggests that things around are here regarded as active rather than passive, and the insertion is easily explained by failure to appreciate Paul’s personification of Nature.

For good: to do us good, as in Romans 13:4. Contrast Genesis 42:36 : “all these things are against me.”

Those that love God: the normal relation of sons to their father, and of intelligent creatures to God. It is therefore a condition and limitation of this helpful co-operation of Nature: cp. 1 Corinthians 8:3.

With them or for them: the dative governed by συν- or the dative of advantage. Probably the former. We work, and all things help us in our work.

Those that are called according to purpose: further description of those who love God. These unexpected words prove, as we shall see, that all things work together with us.

Called: persons who have received a summons; in this case, as we read in Romans 8:30, from God. Same word in Romans 1:1; Romans 1:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Matthew 22:14; Judges 1:1; Revelation 17:14. The Gospel is a divine call summoning men to the service of Christ: 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:8-22. The apostles had received a special call: Galatians 1:15; Matthew 4:21; Matthew 9:9. That the word called is (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:24) a distinctive title of believers, does not prove or even suggest that they have received a call not given to those who reject the Gospel. For the term is sufficiently accounted for by the infinite importance of the Gospel summons as the instrument of salvation. Paul never forgot that he was a called apostle, remembering the voice which arrested him on the way to Damascus. But doubtless Judas was called to the same office. Of any special call to repentance and faith given to some who hear the Gospel and not to all, and always effectual, we never read in the New Testament. In Matthew 22:3-14, we read of some who were called and yet finally rejected; and in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 of their destruction.

According to purpose: 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 3:11. The Gospel corresponds with, and makes known, a purpose of God touching those to whom it is preached. In this purpose lies its real worth. Just so, when a king resolves to honour a man, and carrying out his resolve calls him into his presence, the importance of the royal summons depends on the royal purpose. So the real significance of the Gospel is measured by the divine purpose which prompted it. This purpose is universal: 1 Timothy 2:4. Consequently, all who hear the Gospel are called according to purpose. That God has thought fit that His purpose shall be accomplished only in those who believe and persevere, does not make the purpose less real and important, or less than universal.

On the importance of these last words of Romans 8:28, see under Romans 8:30.

Romans 8:29-30. Facts explaining the purpose just mentioned, and proving the assertion that all things work together for good.

Foreknew: same word in Romans 11:2; Acts 2:23; Acts 26:5; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17; Wisdom of Solomon 6:13; Wisdom of Solomon 8:8; Wisdom of Solomon 18:6 : simply, to know beforehand. There is nothing here to suggest any other than this simple meaning. In the everlasting past, we, our circumstances, disposition, and conduct, stood before the mind of God.

Us: added merely to make a complete English sentence. The rendering (R.V.) whom He foreknew may suggest that God foreordained to the image of Christ all whom He foreknew. But Paul merely asserts that those whom God foreordained were then present to His thought. So 1 Peter 1:2. Nor does he say that God foreknew them in any sense other than that in which He foreknew all men. The reason for the insertion of these words will soon appear.

Foreordained or predestined: marked out beforehand, especially in one’s mind: found in N.T. only in Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11; Acts 4:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7. The simpler form ordained ( οριζω) is found in Romans 1:4; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; Acts 10:42; Acts 11:29; Acts 17:26; Acts 17:31; Hebrews 4:7; and means to mark off some object by drawing a boundary-line around it. A parent who, before his child is old enough for a trade, chooses one for him predestines the boy. He marks out beforehand a path in which he would have him go. This purpose, whether accomplished or not, is predestination.

To be conformed etc.: God’s purpose for the persons here referred to.

Image: as in Romans 1:23; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 10:1; Matthew 22:20; Revelation 13:14-15 : any mode in which an object presents itself to us, whether in essential relation to the object or a mere imitation of it. In the eternal past, before the eye of God stood His Son. That glorious image, His essential nature as contemplated by the Father, God resolved to make the pattern to which should be conformed those who in later days should put faith in Christ.

Conformed: sharing the same form, or mode of self-presentation. Same word in Philippians 3:21, cognate words in Philippians 3:10; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18. God’s eternal purpose was that His created sons should share, in created and finite form, the mode in which the eternal Son ever presents Himself to God: conformed to the image of His Son. The context suggests that Paul refers specially to the glory of Christ. But this involves moral likeness.

That He may be etc.: the ultimate aim of the purpose just mentioned.

Firstborn: Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5; Luke 2:7; Hebrews 11:28; Hebrews 12:23. God resolved to surround His eternal and only-begotten Son by many created sons whom He would not be ashamed to call brethren. These words suggest that the glorification of the sons of God will add glory to the eternal Son. And this is an additional assurance that this purpose will be accomplished.

Romans 8:30. Accomplishment of this purpose already begun.

He also called: by means of the Gospel: 2 Thessalonians 2:14.

He also justified: through faith, as in Romans 3:30; Romans 4:5.

He also glorified: as in Romans 8:17. So certain to Paul is the glory awaiting the sons of God that he speaks of it as already theirs. So Ephesians 2:6. While he ponders the eternal purpose of God, he forgets distinctions of time, and looks back upon it as actually accomplished. The tense reveals the fulness of his confidence. These words do not imply or suggest that the predestination, call, justification, and glorification are co-extensive. Paul thinks only of his readers, of God’s eternal purpose to make them sharers of the glory of Christ, and of the steps by which He is accomplishing this purpose. All else is irrelevant to the matter in hand, which is not to teach further about the way of salvation, but to give additional proof of the glory awaiting the sons of God.

We see now the importance of the words whom He foreknew. If the accomplishment of a man’s purpose depends on the action of another, he is uncertain about it. With us, contingency and certainty cannot go together: with God, they can. For God foreknew from eternity what every man will do. When the world was but a thought in the Creator’s mind, every man in all his circumstances and inward and outward conduct stood before His eye. He saw man in sin, and resolved to save (1 Peter 1:20) through the blood of Christ and through the Gospel all whom He foresaw putting faith in Christ and walking perseveringly in His steps. He also resolved to change them into the moral likeness of Christ and to make them sharers of His eternal glory.

We must carefully avoid the error of supposing that our foreseen faith moved God to predestine us to salvation. He was moved to save us simply by our foreseen misery and His own mercy: 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5. Having resolved to save, He was moved by His infinite wisdom and undeserved favour to select persevering faith as the condition of salvation. And, having chosen this condition, He now uses means to lead men to repentance and faith. So far from our faith being a ground, it is a result, of God’s predestination. But although salvation is altogether a result of God’s eternal purpose, and in no way whatever a result of anything we have done or can do, God nevertheless permits man to resist effectually the influences which lead to salvation. He thus makes the salvation of each individual dependent on his self-surrender to these divine influences. But since this self-surrender or rejection was foreseen, God knew from the beginning the exact result of the death of Christ.

On Paul’s doctrine of Predestination, see further in the note at end of Romans 9.

Such is God’s purpose. It is complete proof that He (Romans 8:31) is on our side. Now this purpose is earlier than the universe around us, earlier than the social and natural forces which sometimes press so heavily upon us, And even these social and natural forces sprang ultimately from Him who formed for us this eternal purpose of blessing and glory. They therefore cannot frustrate this purpose. Nay, more. God would not, without sufficient motive, permit suffering to fall on those whom from eternity He has resolved to bless. The only explanation of the hardships which now press so heavily on some servants of Christ is that they are the mysterious means by which God is working out His purpose of mercy for them. Thus the purpose which prompted the Gospel call assures us (see Romans 8:28) that all things are working together for our good.

Romans 8:31-39. A song of triumph, evoked by the statement in Romans 8:28 and the proof of it in Romans 8:29-30. In it culminates the exposition of the gospel given in Romans 3:21 to Romans 8:30.

Romans 8:31. What then shall we say? what inference shall we draw? as in Romans 3:5; Romans 4:1.

To these things: triumphant reference to Romans 8:29-30. An answer is implied in the next question. We shall infer that God is on our side, or acting on our behalf: and this will make needless the question who is against us? For all things and persons are under God’s control, and therefore cannot hinder the accomplishment of His eternal purpose: and this, we have just seen, is to make us sharers of the glory of Christ. The word who suggests that the hardships Paul has in view were in part caused by persons.

Romans 8:32. Another question, suggesting a proof, from the costliness of our salvation, how earnestly God is on our side.

He did not spare: so 2 Peter 2:4-5; 1 Corinthians 7:28 : did not shield from suffering.

His own Son: the point of the argument. Cp. Romans 5:10.

Gave Him up: to suffering and death: as in Romans 4:25.

On behalf of us all: supporting the words on our behalf in Romans 8:31. In the words us all, Paul thinks probably only of himself and his readers; although his words here are true in a wider sense. His question here assumes, and uses as a ground for confident hope, the important teaching in Romans 3:25; Romans 5:6-10.

How shall he not etc.? practical inference from the foregoing words, put into the form of a question. If He has done the one, it is impossible to doubt that He will do the other.

With Him: the gift of Christ to die for us, and all other gifts, here placed in closest connection.

Give-by-His-grace: cognate to the word in Romans 1:11; Romans 5:15-16; Romans 6:23.

All things: i.e. all things good for us. The undeserved favour of God, which for our sake has already given up to death His own Son, will not hold back from us any good thing. For, compared with that supreme gift, all else is nothing.

Romans 8:33-34. The gift of Christ recalls our sins which made needful His death. The doubt thus suggested, Paul meets by reminding his readers that they are God’s chosen (or elect) ones. So Romans 9:11; Romans 11:5, and note under Romans 9:11.

To bring a charge against such, is to dispute the justice of God’s choice. For it is God who justifies. The second question, Who is he that condemns? supports who shall bring a charge? just as God that justifies supports God’s chosen ones. To bring a charge against believers, is to condemn those whom God has justified and chosen to be His own. Thus God’s decree of justification silences all doubt, even that suggested by memory of our past sin.

Christ who died: recalling the argument in Romans 8:32.

But rather: throwing into conspicuous prominence the fact that the crucified was also raised. The words from the dead (R.V.) found in some good MSS. are doubtful and do not add to the sense.

Who is at the right hand of God: following the risen One to His present place of glory: so Colossians 3:1-4.

Intercedes (same word in Romans 8:26-27) on our behalf: same phrase and thought in Hebrews 7:25. Notice the stately gradation: died… was raised… at the right hand of God… intercedes for us. These great facts are abundant proof that (Romans 8:31) God is on our side and that therefore no one can injure us.

Romans 8:35-36. Two final and triumphant questions.

The love of Christ: His love to us: cp. Romans 8:37; Galatians 2:20.

Who? as in Romans 8:31.

Who shall separate? put us beyond reach of Christ and thus deprive us of the practical effect of His love. The various hardships of the present life are paraded as powerless captives.

Affliction, helplessness: as in Romans 2:9. At the word sword, Paul breaks off his question to quote Psalms 44:22, which reminds us that the death of God’s people by the sword is no new thing. The Psalm refers to men who, though faithful to God, suffered military disaster. Their enemies reckoned them as sheep ready for slaughter: and the work of death went on all the day. This destruction was a result of loyalty to God: on account of Thee. Although we do not know the facts referred to, we learn that there were men in that day who died because they served God, and were thus forerunners of the Christian martyrs. This is another harmony of the old and new.

Romans 8:37. We-more-than-conquer: for all things, including our enemies and hardships, are (Romans 8:28) working together with us for good.

Through Him that loved us: Christ: see Romans 8:35; 1 Corinthians 15:57 : cp. Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25. The victory is from God, through Christ, and through the death which reveals His love to us, Romans 8:38-39. A confident answer to the question in Romans 8:35.

Persuaded: deliberate conviction: same word in Romans 15:14; 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:12.

Death: put first, because, to the early Christians, ever imminent. Yet life also has its perils.

Principalities: those who among angels hold superior rank, as angel-princes or archangels: as in Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10, Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10, of good angels; and in 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15, of bad ones. Doubtless they were “the chief princes” of Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1. It is not easy to decide whether Paul refers to good or bad angels, or angels without thought of moral character. Galatians 1:8 makes even the first supposition possible. But since Paul uses the word for angels good or bad, leaving the context to determine which, he probably refers here simply to angelic power (cp. will be able) of whatever kind. Not even angels are strong enough to tear us from God.

Things present: be they what they may.

Things coming: the uncertain possibilities of the future.

Powers: kings, magistrates, etc.

Height: to which we look up with helpless fear.

Depth: the chasm which opens ready to engulf us: cp. Ephesians 3:18.

Able to separate us: stronger than will separate in Romans 8:35.

Love of God… in Christ Jesus: the love of God to man manifested in the historic human personality of Christ and apprehended by inward contact with our risen Lord. “Neither the hand of death nor the events of a prolonged life, nor angels of ordinary or extraordinary rank, neither the hardships of the present nor the uncertainties of the future, nor powers of any kind, neither exaltation or any exalted being nor deepest abasement, nor anything else which God has made, can put us beyond reach of that love of God which shone upon us in the person and from the cross of Christ and is with us now by vital union with Him.” And, since our enemies cannot separate us from Him, they are powerless to hurt us. We are more than conquerors. That they are permitted by our Father in heaven to approach us, is proof that they are working out for us those purposes of mercy and glory which He formed for us before the world was, and for which He made the world. Thus, to us who love God, underneath apparent discord is profound harmony, a harmony of blessing.

We have in Romans 8:31-39 the first prolonged outburst of Christian emotion. It is evoked by contemplation of the hardships and perils of the present life. As Paul surveys his enemies, numerous and various, passing before him in long procession but unable to injure, he realises the completeness of the victory which God has given. So in all ages the loudest songs of triumph have been sung in the face of the fiercest foes by men who, while the powers of darkness were doing their worst, found themselves more than conquerors. But we have here much more than emotion. Each verse is full of argument: for Paul’s exultation rests on solid objective grounds. He looks, not at himself, but at God and Christ; he remembers the purpose which God formed before the world was, and the price He paid to accomplish it; and from this infers that God is on his side and will withhold from him no good thing. The accusations of enemies and of conscience are silenced by the Gospel in which God proclaims our justification and by Paul’s assured conviction that to save us from punishment Christ died, and now intercedes. Thus the historic facts of Christ’s death and resurrection attest the love of Christ and of God. And from that love no foe, human or superhuman, can tear us.

The relation between this confidence of final victory and Paul’s solemn warning that unless his readers continue in faith they will fall and finally perish, will be discussed under Romans 11:24.

DIVISION III., and with it Paul’s exposition of the Gospel, are now complete. In DIV. I., he proved that all men are exposed to punishment. In DIV. II., he asserted justification through faith, and through the death of Christ; and proved that justification through faith, which overthrows all Jewish boasting, is in harmony with God’s recorded treatment of Abraham, and that justification through the death of Christ gives us a hope of glory based on God’s love, and is a counterpart, and the only conceivable explanation, of the entrance of death through Adam’s sin. DIV. III. is introduced by an objection that the teaching of DIV. II. leads to immorality. This objection, Paul meets, not by guarding or qualifying the doctrine of justification, but by putting beside it the doctrine that God wills us to live, by inward union with Christ, a life like His life of devotion to God. This new life, we obtain by reckoning it to be ours. Paul justifies the gift of it to men condemned by the Law, by showing that in Christ we are set free from the dominion of the Law; and justifies the Law which condemns us by asserting that our own best intelligence approves its judgment. He goes on to say that of this new life the Spirit of God is the guiding principle; and proves that the Spirit within us is a sure pledge of the glory awaiting us. This is not disproved by our afflictions: for our present state is one, not of possession, but of hope. And our hope is confirmed by the state of the natural world around us, and by our divinely-taught yearnings for the accomplishment of the promises. God is on our side: therefore the hardships of life cannot hurt us, but are working out our good.

DIVISIONS II. and III. are a logical development of five great doctrines, viz. (1) that God accepts as righteous all who believe the Gospel, stated in Romans 3:21-22; (2) by means of the death of the Son of God, in Romans 3:24-26; (3) that God designs us to be, by union with Christ, sharers of the life of Christ, a life devoted to God, in Romans 6:3-10; (4) that this life becomes ours by the reckoning of faith, in Romans 6:11; (5) through the inward presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, in Romans 8:2-16. As thus stated, Doct. 1 implies a personal God who pardons sin; Doct. 2 implies that in a unique sense Christ is the Son of God, and Doct. 3 implies His unreserved devotion to God; Doctrines 1 and 4 assert comprehensively salvation through faith; and Doct. 5 assumes an inward consciousness of the presence of the Spirit of God. In other words, we have here Justification through Faith, and through the Death of Christ, Sanctification in Christ, through Faith, and in the Holy Spirit. We have also found abundant proof that each of these doctrines, or doctrine equivalent, was actually taught by Christ. And evidently they were accepted by Paul, and asserted without proof but with perfect confidence, because he believed that they had been previously taught by Christ. If we accept these doctrines, the reasoning in DIVISIONS II. and III. will compel us to accept the teaching of the whole epistle.

Only one subject remains: the bearing of these doctrines on the Old Covenant, and on the condition and prospects of the Jews, its living representatives.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 8:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/romans-8.html. 1877-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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