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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Romans 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

ROMANS CHAPTER 8

Romans 8:1-4 Under the gospel we are free from condemnation, walking

after the Spirit.

Romans 8:5-8 The evil of being carnally minded, and the good of being

spiritually minded.

Romans 8:9-11 Christians have God’s Spirit to guide and assist them,

Romans 8:12,13 by which if they mortify the flesh, they shall live.

Romans 8:14-18 For they that are led by the Spirit are sons of God,

and heirs of glory,

Romans 8:19-22 whose manifestation the world hath long earnestly

looked for, hoping to be rescued thereby from the

bondage of corruption.

Romans 8:23 And even they who have the first fruits of the Spirit

do still long after it,

Romans 8:24,25 being hitherto saved by hope only,

Romans 8:26,27 the Spirit in the mean time aiding their infirmities

in prayer.

Romans 8:28-30 Nevertheless the final good of them that fear God is

all along pursued, being fore-ordained of God, and

brought about according to the course of his providence.

Romans 8:31-39 The ground and assurance of the Christian’s hope.

There is therefore now; seeing things are so as I have said, since believers do not allow themselves in sin, Romans 7:15, and are in part delivered from it, as Romans 8:25, therefore it follows as it is here.

No condemnation; or no one condemnation. He doth not say, there is no matter of condemnation, or nothing damnable in them that are in Christ, there is enough and enough of that; but he says, there is no actual condemnation to such: see John 3:18 5:24. There is a meiosis in the words, more is understood than is expressed; he means, that justification and eternal salvation is the portion of such. The positive is included in the negative; it is God’s condemnation only, from which such as are in Christ are exempted; they are nevertheless condemned and censured by men, and sometimes by their own consciences too.

To them which are in Christ Jesus; so we fill it up, but in the original it is only, to them in Christ Jesus. The phrase imports, that there is a mystical and spiritual union between Christ and believers. This is sometimes expressed by Christ’s being in them, Romans 8:10 2 Corinthians 13:5 Colossians 1:17; and here by their being in Christ: see 1 Corinthians 1:30 1 John 5:20. Christ is in believers by his Spirit, and believers are in Christ by faith.

Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit: this clause describes the persons who are united to Christ, or who are exempted from condemnation; they are such as walk not, & c. By flesh understand the corrupt nature that is in man: see Romans 7:18,25 Joh 3:6 Galatians 5:17: to walk after it, is to be led and guided by the motions of it. That is, it is not their principle and guide, there is another nature or principle in them, by which they are guided and acted; and what that is the next words tell you.

By the Spirit some understand the person of the Spirit; others, the grace of the Spirit, the new or divine nature (as it is called) which is implanted in the soul in the work of regeneration: this is called the Spirit, Matthew 26:41 John 3:6 Galatians 5:17. To walk after the Spirit, is to be led and guided by the counsels and motions thereof. It is to regulate and order the whole conversation according to the rule of the new creature, or according to the line and square of God’s word and Spirit. You have the same phrase, Galatians 5:16,25. To walk after the Spirit, is not only now and then to have some good motions, or to do some good actions, but it is to persevere and go forward therein; walking is a continued and progressive motion. The connexion of these two shows that negative holiness is not enough; we must not only abstain from evil, but do good.


Verse 2

The law of the Spirit of life; some understand hereby the doctrine of the gospel, which is called the law of the Spirit of life, because it is the ministry of the Spirit and of life. Others understand the efficacy and power of that grace and holiness, wherewith the living and quickening Spirit of God hath filled the human nature of Christ. Others rather understand a regenerating and working the new and heavenly life in the soul, with great power and efficacy.

In Christ Jesus; i.e. which was poured out upon him, and doth still reside in him after a very eminent manner: see Isaiah 11:2 Luke 4:1. Or, in Christ Jesus, is as much as by Christ Jesus, it is he that gives and conveys this Spirit, how, when and to whom he pleases.

Hath made me free from the law of sin: by sin here he aims chiefly at original sin; he doth not say, that those who are in Christ are simply and absolutely delivered from sin, but from the law of sin; i.e. the power, dominion, and tyranny thereof.

And death; i.e. from sin that is deadly, or of a deadly nature; as the Spirit of life is the living Spirit, so sin and death is no more, say some, than deadly sin. Others take death to be distinct from sin, and think he speaks of a double deliverance; and then by death they understand eternal or the second death: see Revelation 20:6. The sense of the whole is this: That the mighty power of the renewing and quickening Spirit did free the apostle, and does free all believers, from the command and rule of sin, so that it does not reign over them, as formerly it did; and being thus freed from the power of sin, they are also freed from the power of death and eternal condemnation. So it seems as a proof of the foregoing proposition, That there is no condemnation to them, &c.


Verse 3

In this verse is a further proof of the main proposition in Romans 8:1. There are two things in sin that may endanger us as to condemnation, the power and the guilt of it. As to the freeing us from the former, viz. the power of sin, of that he had spoken in the foregoing verse; as to taking away the guilt of sin, of that he speaks in this verse.

For what the law could not do: by the law here he means the moral law, the righteousness whereof is to be fulfilled in us, Romans 8:4. What is it the law cannot do? There are several answers; but this is principally meant, it cannot justify us before God. It can condemn us, but it cannot exempt us from condemnation: see Acts 13:38,39 Ga 3:21 Hebrews 7:18,19.

In that it was weak through the flesh: by flesh, as before, we must understand the corrupt nature; that is, every man since the fall. This is that which puts a weakness and inability upon the law. The impotency of the law is not from itself, but from the condition of the subject with whom it hath to do. The law is weak to us, because we are weak to it: the sun cannot give light to a blind eye, not from any impotency in itself, but merely from the incapacity of the subject it shines upon.

God sending his own Son: to justify and save fallen man, was impossible for the law to do; therefore God will find out another way, that shall do it effectually. What his own law cannot do, his own Son can; and therefore him he will send.

In the likeness of sinful flesh; i.e. such flesh as sin hath made now to be subject to many infirmities and weaknesses. Flesh in this clause carries quite another sense than it did in the first verse; and in the former part of this verse, than it doth in the following verse; there it is taken morally for the corrupt nature of man, here physically for the human nature of Christ. The word likeness is to be linked, not with flesh, but with sinful flesh; he had true and real flesh, but he had only the appearance and likeness of sinful flesh: see 2 Corinthians 5:21 Hebrews 4:15 7:26 1 Peter 1:19.

And for sin; either this clause is to be joined to what goes before, and then the sense is, that God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he might take away sin. Or else it is joined to what follows, and then there is an ellipsis in it; something is cut off, or left out, which must be understood. The margin of our common Bibles insert the word sacrifice: q.d. By a sacrifice for sin, or by a sin-offering, he condemned sin. &c. This ellipsis is usual in Scripture. Isaiah 53:10, When thou shalt make his soul sin; that is, (as our translation renders it), an offering for sin.

Ezekiel 45:19, The priest shall take of the blood of the sin; we read it, of the sin-offering. See the like in Hosea 4:8 2 Corinthians 5:21 Hebrews 10:6.

Condemned sin in the flesh; the Syriac reads it, in his flesh. The meaning is, that God severely punished sin, and inflicted the curse and penalty of it, that was due to us, in and upon the person of his own Son; God laid on him the iniquities of us all, and he bore them in his body upon a tree: see Galatians 3:13 1 Peter 2:24.


Verse 4

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us: here is another end of God’s sending his Son, as before; it was that he might perfectly fulfil the righteousness of the law in or for us, which for us ourselves to do in our own persons was utterly impossible; and yet upon which (as being imputed unto them, and accepted of God on our behalf) we shall be accounted just and righteous, as if we had done it ourselves. Christ’s being a sacrifice for sin was not sufficient to answer all the ends and demands of the law; there must be doing of what it commanded, as well as suffering of what it threatened: therefore Christ was sent for both, and both were accomplished by him; and what he did and suffered is accounted unto us as if we had done and suffered it. This is the imputed righteousness which was so often spoken of, Romans 4:1-25; and in reference to this he is said to be made righteousness for us, 1 Corinthians 1:30, and we are said to be made the righteousness of God in him, Romans 5:19 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit: this was the description before of those that had union with Christ, and exemption from condemnation; and it is again set down, as the description of those who partake of the righteousness of Christ in this way of imputation; and it is added here again, to stave off all others from laying claim to this grace. None but holy walkers can warrantably apply Christ’s fulfilling or satisfying the law to themselves: because Christ hath fulfilled the righteousness of the law for us, none may infer there is nothing for us to do, we may live as we list; for though Christ hath fulfilled the law in all respects, yet all those for whom he hath so done, or have benefit thereby, are, and must be, such as walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit: for the opening of which terms, see Romans 8:1.


Verse 5

For they that are after the flesh; i.e. that are carnal and unregenerate persons, in a mere natural state.

Do mind the things of the flesh; either such things as are absolutely evil, and are called, the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21; or else such things as are occasionally evil, as riches, honours, pleasures, &c. These are also called the things of the flesh, and are such as carnal persons mind; i.e. they savour, affect, and take delight in them.

But they that are after the Spirit; i.e. that are spiritual and regenerate, in whom the Spirit dwells.

The things of the Spirit; i.e. they mind spiritual and heavenly things, they relish them most of all; see Psalms 4:7 73:25.


Verse 6

In this verse we have an account of the different end of those that are carnal and spiritual, as in the former we had a description of their different carriage and disposition.

For to be carnally minded is death; i.e. to be of that temper before described, Romans 8:5; to mind and affect the things of the flesh, doth cause death, or will end in it: the second or eternal death is chiefly intended.

But to be spiritually minded; i.e. to mind and savour the things of the Spirit, to find a sweetness and excellency therein, so as that the bent and inclination of the mind shall be thereto.

Is life and peace; it is the way to eternal life hereafter, and to a sound peace here, Psalms 119:165 Proverbs 3:17 Galatians 6:16.


Verse 7

Neither can the carnal man look for any better issue,

because the carnal mind is enmity against God. He doth not say it is an enemy, but in the abstract, it is enmity, which heightens and intends the sense: an enemy may be reconciled, as Esau was to Jacob; but enmity cannot be reconciled; as black may be made white, but blackness cannot.

For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be: this is rendered as a reason of the foregoing assertion, and it is taken from the property of enmity. Those that are at enmity, cross each other’s wills, and will not submit to one another: and the carnal mind is rebellious in the highest degree against the will of God, unless it be changed and renewed; it is impossible it should be otherwise; there is in it a moral impotency to obedience: see John 8:43 1 Corinthians 2:14.


Verse 8

So then; this verse is a consectary, or it follows from that which went before.

They that are in the flesh; not they which are married, as a pope once expounded it; the next verse refels such an absurd conception; but they that are carnal and unregenerate; the same with those who, in Romans 8:5, are said to be after the flesh.

Cannot please God; neither they, nor any thing they do, is pleasing unto him; their best works are dead works, and silken sins (as one expresseth it): it must be understood with this limitation, so long as they continue in such a state: see Psalms 5:4,5 Heb 11:6.


Verse 9

Here he applies what he had laid down more generally to the believing Romans in particular.

Not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; i.e. not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, ( as in Romans 8:5), or not carnally, but spiritually minded.

If so be that; the conjunction here is causal, not conditional; it may be rendered, seeing that, or forasmuch as: see Romans 8:17,31 2 Thessalonians 1:6.

The Spirit of God dwell in you; the Spirit of God dwells in the regenerate, not only by the immensity of his presence, so he is every where and in all things; but by the presence and efficacy of his grace. The indwelling of the Spirit in believers denotes two things:

1. His ruling in them: where a man dwells as Lord, there he doth command and bear rule.

2. His abiding in them, and that for ever, John 14:16.

If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; if he has not the same Spirit which in the former part of the verse is called the Spirit of God: it is called the Spirit of Christ, because it proceeds from him, and is procured by him, John 14:26 John 16:7 Galatians 4:6. When he saith such a one is none of Christ’s, he means, that he doth not peculiarly belong to Christ, he hath no special interest in him, is no true member of him. As a merchant sets his seal upon his goods, so doth Christ his Spirit upon his followers, Ephesians 1:13.


Verse 10

If Christ be in you; before he said, the Spirit of God and Christ dwelt in them; here, Christ himself. Christ dwells in believers by his Spirit.

The body is dead because of sin: by body some understand the corrupt and unregenerate part in the godly, as if that were as good as dead in them. But others take the word in its proper signification, and think no more is meant thereby than that the bodies, even of believers, are mortal bodies; so they are called in the next verse: they are subject to death as the bodies of other men.

But the Spirit is life: some by Spirit here do understand the Spirit of God; and he is life, that is, he will quicken and raise up your bodies again to an immortal life.

Others by Spirit do understand the soul, yet not simply and absolutely considered, but as renewed by grace; that is life, or that doth live; it lives a life of grace here, and it shall live a life of glory hereafter.

Because of righteousness; by righteousness here understand, either imputed righteousness, which gives us a right and title to salvation; or inherent righteousness, which is a necessary condition required in every person that shall indeed be saved. The sum is: If you be Christians indeed, though your bodies die, ye; your souls shall live, and that for ever; and your dead bodies shall not finally perish, but shall certainly be raised again; so it follows in the next verse.


Verse 11

Him that raised up Jesus from the dead; a periphrasis of God the Father. The Son raised himself, John 2:19 10:18; and yet the Father is said here to raise him from the dead: see notes on Romans 1:4.

Quicken your mortal bodies; raise them from a state of mortality, and all the attendants, to a glorious immortal life.

By his Spirit that dwelleth in you: q.d. If you are sanctified by the Spirit, you shall be raised up by the Spirit also, as Christ was. The wicked also shall be raised at the last day. But the righteous shall be raised after a peculiar manner; they shall be raised, as by the almighty power of God, so by virtue of their union with Christ as his members, and by virtue of their relation to the Spirit as his temples. They only shall partake of a resurrection that is desirable and beneficial to them. Therefore it is called emphatically the resurrection of the just, Luke 14:14; and these two are joined together, as belonging one to the other; the children of God, and the children of the resurrection, Luke 20:36.


Verse 12

Therefore; this illative particle sends us to the things before delivered: q.d. Seeing we are not in the flesh, but have the Spirit of God dwelling in us; not only sanctifying and enlivening our souls for the present, but raising and quickening our bodies for the time to come;

therefore we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh; i.e. we are not debtors to sin, or the corrupt and sinful nature that is in us; we owe it no service, there is nothing due to it from believers, but blows, and the blue eye that the apostle gave it. The antithesis is omitted, but it is necessarily implied and understood; and that is, that we are debtors to the Spirit, to live and walk after it.


Verse 13

If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; viz. eternally, and never partake of the glorious resurrection before spoken of. The godly themselves need this caution; they must not think, that because they are elected and justified, &c., that therefore they may do and live as they list.

Through the Spirit; i.e. by the grace and assistance of the Spirit.

Mortify; i.e. kill and put to death. It is not enough to forbear the actings of sin, but we must kill and crucify it. Sin may be left upon many considerations, and yet not mortified.

Evil deeds are called

the deeds of the body, because the body is so instrumental in the doing thereof. There are some, that by body here do understand the corrupt nature, the same that before in many places he calls the flesh: this was called, Romans 8:6, the body of sin, and here it is called the body.

Ye shall live; viz. eternally. See a parallel place, Romans 6:22 Galatians 6:8: see Romans 8:6.


Verse 14

This proves the latter part of the foregoing verse: Such as by the Spirit do mortify sin, shall live, for

they are the sons of God; and that appears, because they

are led by the Spirit of God. He doth not say, as many as live by the Spirit, but, as are led by the Spirit; to show (says one) that the Spirit must be the guide and ruler of our life, as the pilot is of the ship, and as a rider is of his horse. The phrase is borrowed (says another) either from those who are guided and directed as a blind man in his way; or from those who, wanting strength of their own, are borne and carried of others: so we are both ways led by the Spirit, for we can neither see our way, unless the Spirit direct us; nor have we strength to walk in it, unless the Spirit assist and draw us along. The Spirit leads and draws us irresistibly and necessarily, and yet not violently or against our wills; though we were unwilling before, yet we are made willing afterwards; so willing, that we desire and pray to be led by the Spirit. See Psalms 25:5 143:10 Song of Solomon 1:4.


Verse 15

This verse proves the former, that we are led by the Spirit of God, and are his children, and that by an effect of the Spirit in them, which is to enable them to call God

Father. He doth not here speak of two distinct Spirits, but one and the same Spirit of God, in different persons and at different times, is both

the spirit of bondage and

the Spirit of adoption.

The spirit of bondage seems to respect either that state of servitude, which the people of God were under in the time of the ceremonial law; see Galatians 4:3,9; or it respects the publishing of the moral law upon Mount Sinai, which was with horror and fear. Compare Exodus 19:16, with Hebrews 12:18-21: see Galatians 4:24. Or else it respects that horror and slavish fear, which the Spirit of God doth work in men’s hearts and consciences, by the ministry of the law, when he opens the eyes of men to see they are in bondage and slavery to sin and Satan, and that they are subject and obnoxious to the wrath and vengeance of God; this is many times preparatory and introductory to their conversion; but when they are regenerated they are delivered from it: see Luke 1:74 Hebrews 2:15 1 John 4:18.

Objection. Many of God’s children are full of doubts and fears.

Answer. These are not always from the suggestions of God’s Spirit, but the misgivings of their own spirits. Some distinguish between the spirit of bondage and desertion; the children of God are delivered from the former, but exercised with the latter. The Spirit of God is called the Spirit of adoption, both because he works and effects it in us, and because he testifies and assures it to us. He might have said, the Spirit of liberty; the antithesis required it; but he said as much, when he called him the Spirit of adoption, for children are free.

Whereby we cry, Abba, Father; or, by whom we cry. Acceptable prayer is wrought in us by the Spirit, Romans 8:26.

Abba is a Hebrew or Syriac word, signifying Father; why then is the word Father added in the Greek? To signify, that God is the Father both of Jews and Gentiles, Romans 3:29 10:12; or to show the double paternity that is in God, he is the Father of all men by creation, of believers only by grace and regeneration: or, rather, to denote the importunity and earnestness which ought to be in prayer; and so it agrees with the former word, crying. Ingeminations carry an earnestness with them. There are two places more where these two words are repeated or used together, Mark 14:36 Galatians 4:6.


Verse 16

The Spirit of adoption doth not only excite us to call upon God as our Father, but it doth ascertain and assure us (as before) that we are his children. And this it doth not by an outward voice, as God the Father to Jesus Christ; nor by an angel, as to Daniel, and the virgin Mary; but by an inward and secret suggestion, whereby he raiseth our hearts to this persuasion, that God is our Father, and we are his children. This is not the testimony of the graces and operations of the Spirit, but of the Spirit itself. Conceive it thus; A man’s own spirit doth witness to him his adoption, he finds in himself, upon diligent search and examination, the manifest signs and tokens thereof. But this testimony of itself is weak, and Satan hath many ways and wiles to invalidate it; therefore, for more assurance, it is confirmed by another and greater testimony, and that is of the Spirit himself; he witnesses with our spirits, and seals it up unto us; he first works grace in our hearts, and then witnesseth to it. This testimony is not alike in all believers, nor in any one of them at all times; it is better felt than expressed. He witnesseth to our spirit (so some read) by a distinct and immediate testimony, and witnesses with our spirit (so the word properly signifies) by a conjunctive and concurrent testimony.


Verse 17

And if children, then heirs; there is a parallel text in Galatians 4:7. It is not so with the children of earthly princes: see 2 Chronicles 21:3.

Joint-heirs with Christ; or co-heirs with Christ; he is our elder Brother, and is not ashamed to call us brethren: the inheritance is his by nature, ours by grace.

If so be that we suffer with him; the cross of Christ is the condition of our heavenly inheritance. The pronoun him is not in the original, but fitly supplied in our translation. Suffering with him, is much the same with suffering for him: suffering believers do but pledge Christ in the cup that he began to them.

That we may be also glorified together; or, glorified with him, not with equal glory, but according to our proportion; he was glorified in this way, Luke 24:26, and so must we. Three things are implied in our being

glorified together:

1. Conformiry; we shall in some measure be like him in glory: see John 17:22 Philippians 3:21.

2. Concomitancy; we shall be present with him in glory, John 17:24 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

3. Conveyance; our glory will be from him; his glory will reflect on us, and we shall shine in his beams.


Verse 18

For I reckon; i.e. I make account, I certainly conclude: see Romans 3:28. The word is borrowed either from arithmeticians, who by casting their accounts do find the true and total sum; or from logicians, who by considering the premises do draw the conclusion.

Not worthy to be compared; the word properly signifieth that part of the balance which goeth down: q.d. If the sufferings of this life be weighed with the glory to come, they will be light in comparison. These words, to be compared, are supplied in our translation to make up the sense.

Revealed in us; it is revealed to us, and it shall be revealed in us. This text is a confutation of the popish doctrine of merit and human satisfaction.


Verse 19

The apostle Peter, speaking of the Epistles of our apostle, in 2 Peter 3:16, saith, that there are some things in them hard to be understood; and some think, by reflecting upon some particular passages in that chapter, he doth more especially respect this context; there is indeed a great deal of obscurity in it.

The creature: this word is four times used in this and the three following verses, only in Romans 8:22 it is rendered creation; that is the subject of which all that followeth is predicated. One main question therefore is this: Of what creature the apostle here speaks? Divers answers are or may be given; I will fix upon two only.

1. By the creature, or the creation, ,{and, Romans 8:22, the whole creation, or every creature} is meant all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, and especially the latter: see Mark 16:15; there Christ gives it in commission to preach the gospel to every creature; it is the same word. And in 1 Peter 2:13, they are commanded to submit themselves to every ordinance of man: in the original it is, to every human creature, the same word which is in the text before us: he means the Gentile or heathen magistrates in authority over them. In the Scripture the Gentiles are sometimes called the world, Romans 11:12,15, and sometimes the creature, or the creation.

2. By the creature is meant the whole world with all the creatures therein, or the whole frame and body of the creation.

The creature in this sense, by a prosopopoeia, is here spoken of as a rational person; it is usual with the Spirit of God, in Scripture, to fasten upon unreasonable creatures such expressions as are proper only to those that are reasonable: see Psalms 96:11,12 Heb 2:11 James 5:4. So here the creature (in this sense) is said to expect, wait, &c.

Waiteth; the expectation of the creature expecteth: a Hebrew pleonasm: it expecteth with the head lift up or stretched out, Philippians 1:20.

The manifestation of the sons of God; i.e. the time when the sons of God shall be manifested. The Arabic interpreter puts the word glory into the text, and reads the word thus, The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the glory of the sons of God; their glory for the present is hidden, but it shall be discovered and manifested, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The creature, in the sense of the word as above, waiteth for this, because then it shall be restored to its primitive liberty and lustre, at that time there will be a restitution of all things, Acts 3:21. But those who understand the creature in the first sense, do put a quite different interpretation upon this last clause; and that is, that the Gentile world are now earnestly expecting and waiting to see what the Jews will do, whether they will discover themselves to be the sons of God, or not, by their receiving or rejecting Christ.


Verse 20

If these words be understood of the world, and all the creatures therein contained, then they show the creature’s present condition; it is

subject to vanity, and that, either in regard of its insufficiency, it falling short of that for which it was first created and ordained; then a thing is said to be vain, when it doth not answer or reach its proper end: or in respect of its transitoriness and uncertainty, of which see 1 Corinthians 7:31 Hebrews 1:11,12 1 John 2:17. The next verse tells us it is subject to the bondage of corruption as well as vanity. Now this must needs be an unwilling subjection, therefore it is here said it is not subject willingly, i.e. of its own accord, or of its proper instinct and inclination. What the will is in those that are rational, the inclination is in those things that are natural; how comes it then into this condition? The next clause tells us, it is

by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope: i.e. God, for the sin of man, hath cursed the creature, and subjected it to vanity and corruption: see Genesis 3:17 4:12 Leviticus 26:19,20. And though he hath done this, yet there is ground to expect and hope that the creature shall return again to its former estate wherein it was created; that it shall be delivered and restored into a better condition, as in the next verse. Those that by the creature understand the Gentile world, give a different interpretation of these words; they say that the Gentiles are made subject to vanity, i.e. to idolatry, or a vain, superstitious worship, (idols are called vanities, Acts 14:15), or to a miserable, wretched estate; that (as Hesychius notes) is the import of the word vanity. And this not so much of their own accord, or by their own free choice, but by the power and malice of Satan, to whom they are justly given up of God; he rules in their hearts, carries them captive at his will, subjects them to all villany and misery. And it is reasonable to suppose of these poor heathens, that they are willing to be rescued (at least some, and a considerable number of them) from under this vanity and slavery, as it is said, Romans 8:22.

Question. But if he that thus subjects them be the devil, how is he said to do this in hope?

Answer. These words, in hope, belong to the end of the former verse; all the rest of this verse being read or included in a parenthesis: q.d. The creature attends the manifestations of the sons of God in hope: meanwhile it is subject to vanity, &c.


Verse 21

If this verse be understood of the heavens and the earth, and the things therein, the meaning is, that the creatures, in their kind, and according to their capacity, shall be partakers of that liberty and freedom, which in the children of God is accompanied with unspeakable glory; they shall not partake with the saints in glory, but of that liberty, which in the saints hath great glory attending it, and superadded to it. The creature, at the day of judgment, shall be restored (as before) to that condition of liberty which it had in its first creation; as, when it was made at first, it was free from all vanity, bondage, and corruption, so it shall be again at the time of the general resurrection: see Acts 3:19,21 2 Peter 3:13. Those that by the creature would understand the Gentile world, give the sense of this verse: That the very heathens also shall, by the gospel and grace of Christ, be rescued from those courses of sin and corruption, to which they have been long enslaved, into that glorious condition not only of free-men, redeemed by Christ out of their bondage to sin and Satan, but even of the sons of God, to have right to his favour, and that never fading inheritance.


Verse 22

If here again the heavens and the earth, with what is therein, be understood, then the apostle further enlargeth upon their present state and condition; before they waited and expected deliverance, now they groan and travail in pain. They also are metaphorical expressions; one is taken for a man who hath upon him a heavy burden, another from a woman that is near her delivery. And this they do

until now; i.e. from the fall of Adam to this present day. They that understand the words of the Gentile world, thus interpret them: We, the apostles and ministers of Jesus Christ, do find by experience, that the Gentiles are very forward to receive the gospel when they hear it, whilst the Jews generally reject it. The Gentile world is, as it were, in pangs of travail ever since Christ’s time till now, ready to bring forth sons and daughters to God.


Verse 23

The apostle had asserted and concluded, Romans 8:18, that there is a future glory to be revealed hereafter in the saints, such as infinitely transcends their sufferings now; and this he had confirmed from the earnest expectation of the creature, (the pronoun they is not in the original), and now he further confirms it from the expectation which is in believers themselves.

The first-fruits of the Spirit; hereby he means that righteousness, joy, and peace, which believers have in this life; these are the fruits of the Spirit, and called first-fruits in regard of their order; and in regard of their quantity, they are but a handful in comparison of the whole, little in regard of the fulness which they shall have in heaven; and in regard also of their signification, the grace and comforts of the Spirit of God in this life are pledges to us of that abundance and fulness of joy, which we shall partake of in the life to come, as the first-fruits of the Jews were an evidence to them of the ensuing crop.

Groan within ourselves; among ourselves, say some, but it is better read in our translation, within ourselves. It expresses the manner of the saints groaning under sin and affliction; it is inward, and from the heart.

Waiting for the adoption: now we are the sons of God; why then should we wait for what we have already?

Answer. We have the right, but not the full possession, of our inheritance: the apostle himself explains his meaning in the next words.

The redemption of our body; i.e. our perfect deliverance from sin and misery; this phrase is used in other places; see Luke 21:28 Ephesians 4:30.

But why of our body, and not of our souls? Because their souls would be in actual possession of the inheritance before that day, or because the miseries and troubles of this life are conveyed to the whole man by the body, so that the redemption of the body is in effect the redemption of the whole man.


Verse 24

Though we certianly believe there is such a redemption or salvation belonging to us, according to the promise of God, yet for the present we have no possession of it; all the salvation we have at present is in

hope, which, according to the nature of it, is of things not yet enjoyed, for vision or possession puts an end to hope; no man hopes for what he sees and enjoys.


Verse 25

q.d. If we indeed hope for redemption and salvation, which is out of sight, then it is meet that we do with patience digest and bear all our present evils and sufferings; true hope is accompanied always with a patient waiting for the things hoped for; therefore you read of the patience of hope, 1 Thessalonians 1:3: see Hebrews 6:12 10:36.


Verse 26

Likewise: this referreth us, either to the work of the Spirit, before noted, Romans 8:11; he quickeneth, and he likewise helpeth: or rather, to hope, in the foregoing verse; hope helpeth to patience, so also the Spirit.

Helpeth our infirmities; the word imports such help, as when another of greater strength steps in, and sustains the burden that lies too heavy upon our shoulders; or it is borrowed from nurses, that help their little children that are unable to go, upholding them by their hands or sleeves.

For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: one way whereby the Spirit helps us, is by teaching us to pray. Prayer doth greatly relieve us under the cross, and is a great refuge in trouble: but we knowing not how to pray

as we ought, either in regard, of matter or manner, herein therefore the Spirit aids or helps us, as it follows. But how is it said we know not what to pray for, when we have the Lord’s prayer, which contains a perfect rule and summary of all things meet to be prayed for? Though the Lord’s prayer he a rule in general, yet we may be to seek in particulars: God’s own children many times ask they know not what; see Job 6:8 Jonah 4:3 Mark 10:38 2 Corinthians 12:8.

But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us: there is a twofold intercession, one of Christ, of which we read, Romans 8:34; the other of the Spirit, of which this place speaks. How doth the Spirit make intercession for us?

Answer. By making intercession in us, or by helping us to pray. The Spirit is called, Zechariah 12:10, the Spirit of supplications. It is by him, Romans 8:15, that we cry, Abba, Father: he cries so in our hearts; Galatians 4:6, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. The Spirit of our Father speaketh in us, Matthew 10:20: he suggests to us what we should pray for; he helps us to suitable dispositions, and many times to suitable expressions in prayer: see Ephesians 6:18 Jude 1:20.

With groanings which cannot be uttered; with inward sighs and groans, which cannot be expressed by words. There may be prayer, where there is no speech or vocal expression. A man may cry, and that mightily to God, when he uttereth never a word: see Exodus 14:15 1 Samuel 1:13.


Verse 27

He that searcheth the hearts; this phrase is a periphrasis of God, and is spoken of him after the manner of men. God doth not properly search or inquire into any thing; but because amongst men knowledge comes by searching, therefore, by way of resemblance, this is attributed to God, though that which is intended by it is only this, that God knoweth the heart, Jeremiah 17:10 Acts 1:24.

Knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, both with the knowledge of apprehension and approbation.

Maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God: our prayers shall be sure to speed, if they are of this sort, 1 John 5:14,15. Praying according to the will of God, respects;

1. The matter of our prayers.

2. The manner of our praying.

3. The end thereof, James 4:3.


Verse 28

Another argument to comfort us under the cross, from the benefits of it;

We know that all things, &c. It is not matter of guess only and conjecture, but of certainty and assurance. How is this known?

1. By the testimony of God; the Scripture tells us as much, Psalms 128:1,2 Isa 3:10.

2. By our own experience; we are assured of it by the event and effects of all things, both upon ourselves and others.

All things, even sin itself; because from their falls, God’s children arise more humble and careful. Afflictions are chiefly intended; the worst and crossest providences, those things that are evil in themselves, they work for good to the children of God.

Work together; here is their operation, and their co-operation: First, they work together with God. What the apostle says of himself and others in the ministry, 2 Corinthians 6:1, that may be said of other things, especially of afflictions; they are workers together with God. Some read the words thus, God co-operates all to good. Again, they work together with us; we ourselves must concur, and be active herein; we must labour and endeavour to get good out of every providence. Once more, they work together amongst themselves, or one with another. Take this or that providence singly, or by itself, and you shall not see the good it doth; but take it in its conjunction and connexion with others, and then you may perceive it. One exemplifies it thus: As in matter of physic, if you take such and such simples alone, they may poison rather than cure; but then take them in their composition, as they are made up by the direction of a skilful physician, and so they prove an excellent medicine.

For good; sometimes for temporal good, Genesis 1:20; always for spiritual and eternal good, which is best of all. All occurrences of providence shall serve to bring them nearer to God here, and to heaven hereafter.

According to his purpose: these words are added to show the ground and reason of God’s calling us; which is nothing else but his own purpose and good pleasure; it is not according to our worthiness, but his purpose: see 2 Timothy 1:9.


Verse 29

Having let fall a word in the former verse concerning the purpose of God, he thinks good, in what follows, to pursue that subject, and a little to enlarge upon it.

Whom he did foreknow; i.e. with a knowledge of approbation; for otherwise, he foreknew all persons and things: or, whom he did foreknow for his own, John 10:14,27 Ro 11:2 2 Timothy 2:19. This foreknowledge of God is the ground of our election: see 1 Peter 1:2.

He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; whom he was pleased to approve of, and to pitch his free love and favour upon, he severed from the common lump and mass of mankind, and did appoint them

to be conformed to the image of his Son; i.e. to be conformed to him in holiness and sufferings here, and in glory hereafter: see 1 Corinthians 15:49 2 Corinthians 3:18 Ephesians 1:4-6 Philippians 3:20,21 1 John 3:2.

That he might be the first-born among many brethren; this is the limitation of the forementioned conformity; though there be a likeness in us unto Christ, yet there is not an equality; he still retaineth the dignity of the first-born, and hath a double, yea, a far greater portion; he is Head and Ruler of all the family in heaven and in earth, Psalms 45:7,8.


Verse 30

He hath already given them the beginning and pledge thereof in grace; and will in due time bring them to the possession of eternal life and glory. Some, under this term of glorification would have sanctification included; because, otherwise, they think there is a great defect in this chain of salvation, here set down by the apostle, of which sanctification is one special link; but this is rather to be couched and included in effectual calling, which is the third link, and already spoken of.


Verse 31

What shall we then say to these things? Some refer this question to what is said in the verses immediately preceding: others, to what he had said, Romans 8:28; and others go higher, and refer it to all that he said before. Some by these things understand afflictions and sufferings more especially; What shall we say to these, or what need we be disheartened by these? For if God, &c.

If God be for us; i.e. seeing God is for us; it is a note of certainty, not of ambiguity; see Romans 8:9. He takes it for granted, as that which cannot be denied; see Psalms 46:7,11 118:6,7.

Who can be against us? i.e. none can; none can be against us successfully, none can be against us safely; such will harm themselves more than us: see Psalms 56:1. Maximilian, the emperor, so admired this sentence, that he caused it to be written over the table where he used to dine and sup; that having it often in his eye, he might have it also in his mind.


Verse 32

He that spared not his own Son: this phrase either shows the bounty of God, that he did not withhold Christ; or the severity of God, that he did not favour, but afflict and punish him, Isaiah 53:4,5,11.

But delivered him up: see Acts 2:23. This doth not excuse Judas, no, nor Pilate and the Jews; though they executed God’s purpose, yet they acted their own malice and wickedness.

For us all; this plainly refers to such persons as he had before mentioned, such as God foreknew, predestinated, called, &c., which is not all men in general, but a set number of persons in particular: it is an expression both of latitude and restriction; of latitude, in the word all; of restriction, in the word us.

How shall he not with him also freely give us all things? q.d. Without question he will; it may be confidently inferred and concluded: He that hath given the greater, will not stick to give the less. Christ is more than all the world, or than all other gifts and blessings whatsoever.


Verse 33

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? Who can implead such, or put in any accusation against them? There is nothing to accuse them of, they are justified; and there is none to accuse them:

It is God that justifieth; the Supreme Judge hath absolved them. This seems to be taken out of Isaiah 50:8,9. They were Christ’s words there, and spoken of God’s justifying him; they are every believer’s words here, and intended of God’s justifying them. Here seems to be two reasons of their indemnity; one is implied, i.e. God’s electing them: the other expressed, i.e. God’s justifying and acquitting of them.


Verse 34

Who is he that condemneth? As none can accuse the elect of God, so much less can any condemn them, see Romans 8:1.

It is Christ that died; and it is he that is the Judge, and must condemn them, if they be condemned. His deatk frees them from condemnation; thereby he hath made a sufficient atonement and satisfaction for all their sins; and that which hath long ago satisfied in heaven for the sins of all the elect, may very well serve to satisfy the heart and conscience of a believing sinner here on earth. Such a one may thrown down the gauntlet, as the apostle doth, and challenge all the world. Let conscience, carnal reason, law, sin, hell, and devils, bring forth all they can, it will not be sufficient to condemnation; and that because of Christ’s death and satisfaction.

Yea rather, that is risen again: the resurrection of Christ hath a special influence upou our justification; and therefore the apostle puts a rather upon it, and that comparatively to the death of Christ: see Romans 4:25, and; See Poole on "Romans 4:25".

Who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us: faith finds matter of triumph, not only from Christ’s death and resurrection, but from his session at the right hand of God, and intercession for us.


Verse 35

Who shall separate us? He continues his triumph: he does not say what, but who; though he instanceth in things, and not in persons, yet it is expressed personally, because that these things do commonly do us hurt in the improvement of persons, whether of Satan or wicked men, who are instrumental thereunto.

From the love of Christ; understand it either actively, from our love of him; or passively, from his love of us. The latter seems to be chiefly intended;

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ, or from the sense and manifestation thereof?

Shall tribulation, &c. He makes an enumeration of particular evils, of seven in number; and he begins with the lesser, and rises to the greater; placing them in order, not casually, but by choice. The word tribulation signifies any thing that presseth or pincheth us.

Or distress? The word properly signifies straitness of place, and is transferred from the body to the mind, to point out the anguish or perplexity thereof.

Or persecution; the word properly signifies a driving from place to place; banishment is implied therein, if not chiefly intended: see Matthew 10:23.

Or peril; any danger or hazard of life, in any kind whatsoever: see 2 Corinthians 11:26.

Or sword; this is put figuratively for death itself, especially violent death.


Verse 36

He cites this testimony to prove that none of the forementioned evils, no, not death itself, can separate believers from the love of Christ: it is taken out of Psalms 44:22. The argument seems to be this: The saints of old have endured all manner of sufferings, and yet were not separated from the love of God; therefore such sufferings cannot separate them now.

For thy sake; not for our sins’ sake, but for Christ’s, or for righteousness’ sake, Matthew 5:10 10:18,39 1 Peter 3:14.

We are killed: how could they say this? Killing takes away all complaining, and makes the parties so dealt with incapable of saying how it is with them. This expression notes the danger and desperateness of their condition. It is usual in Scripture to set forth an eminent danger under the notion of death: see 1 Corinthians 15:31 2 Corinthians 1:10 4:11.

All the day long; i.e. continually, without ceasing: see Psalms 38:6,12 71:24 73:14 Proverbs 23:17 Romans 10:21.

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter; i.e. we are designed for destruction. Our enemies make account they can destroy us, as men do sheep, that they have by them in the slaughter-house. They reckon they have us at command, and can cut us off when they list. Or rather thus, they make no reckoning of our destruction; they make no more of killing us, than butchers do of killing sheep: our death is very cheap in their account, Psalms 44:11,12. Here let me insert a tragical story of the Christians of Calabria, that suffered persecution, A.D. 1560. They were all shut up in one house together, as in a sheepfold: an executioner comes in, and among them takes one, and blindfolds him with a muffler about his eyes, and so leadeth him forth to a larger place, where he commandeth him to kneel down; which being done, he cutteth his throat, and so leaveth him half dead; and taking his butcher’s knife and muffler, all of gore blood, he cometh again to the rest, and so leading them one after another, he despatcheth them, to the number of eighty-eight, no otherwise than a butcher doth his sheep. Fox’s Acts and Monuments.


Verse 37

Nay, in all these things; i.e. in tribulation, distress, & c. as before, Romans 8:35.

We are more than conquerors; or, we overcome. We conquer when we ourselves are conquered; we conquer by those which are wont to conquer others; we beat our enemies with their own weapons. The meaning seems to be this: The devil aims, in all the sufferings of God’s children, to draw them off from Christ, to make them murmur, despair, &c.; but in this he is defeated and disappointed, for God inspires his children with such a generous and noble spirit, that sufferings abate not their zeal and patience, but rather increase them. "We Christians laugh at your cruelty, and grow the more resolute," said one of Julian’s nobles to him.

Through him that loved us: a short description of Christ, together with a reason of a Christian’s success. The conquest he hath over sin, and over sufferings also, is not from himself, or his own strength, but from Christ, &c.: see Romans 7:24,25 1 Corinthians 15:57 2 Corinthians 2:14 2 Timothy 4:17.


Verse 38

For I am persuaded; or, I am fully assured, not by any special revelation, but by the same spirit of faith, which is common to all believers, 2 Corinthians 4:13.

Neither death, nor life; i.e. neither fear of death, nor hope of life.

Nor angels.

1. The evil angels; for the good angels would not attempt the separating us from the love of Christ.

2. There are some, that think the good angels to be also here intended; and they understand it by way of supposition: q.d.

If they should endeavour such a thing, they would never effect it: and thus they make the apostle here to argue, as he doth in another place, Galatians 1:8.

Nor principalities, nor powers; some would have the evil angels to be here intended, and the good angels in what went before; in Colossians 2:15, they are thus termed: but others, by principalities and powers, do rather understand persecuting princes and potentates.

Nor things present, nor things to come; i.e. the evils and pressures that are upon us now, or that shall be upon us hereafter. He makes no mention of the things past, for they are overcome already.


Verse 39

Nor height, nor depth; i.e. neither the height of honour and worldly advancement, nor the depth of disgrace and worldly abasement. Some take height and depth for a comprehensive expression, which the Scripture uses, when he takes in all, and leaves nothing out.

Nor any other creature; this is added to the rest, as an &c. at the end of a sentence; and to supply whatever our fancies might in this case, frame to themselves. Or the apostle here makes an end of his induction; and because it had been endless to reckon up all the creatures, he closeth in this manner: If there be any other creature.

Shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; which he bears to us, as members of Christ, and by faith united to him: see Romans 8:35, and the notes there.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 8:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/romans-8.html. 1685.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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