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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Romans 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

Verse 2

Romans 8:2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Law cancelling law

1. Few words are oftener on our lips than the word law. But we are in danger of using the word as though laws were impersonal forces, independently of a controlling mind.

2. But a law is not a force. It is only the invariable manner in which forces work. Better still, it is the unvarying method in which God is ever carrying out His infinite plans. How wise and good it is that God generally works in this way, so that we are able to calculate with unvarying certainty on natural processes.

3. And when He wills some definite end He does not abrogate the laws that stand in His way, but cancels their action by laws from higher spheres which counterwork them, e.g., The flight of birds is due to very different causes from a balloon’s. Balloons float because they are lighter, but birds are heavier. The law of the elasticity of the air sets the bird free from the law of gravitation that would drag it to the ground. In the autumn fields the children, in gathering mushrooms, unwittingly eat some poisonous fungus which threatens them with death. Some antidote is given, which, acting as “the law of life,” counterworks the poison, and sets the children “free from the law of death,” which had already commenced to work in their members. So the law of the spirit of life in spring sets the flowers free frown the law of death of winter. And “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” set Lazarus “free from the law of sin and death” which imprisoned him in the tomb. And, similarly, the law of life communicated through the Holy Spirit will set us “free from the law of sin and death” which reigns in our hearts.

I. There is in each one of us “the law of sin and death.”

1. This evil tendency is derived from our connection with the human family. Races and children alike are affected by the sins and virtues of their ancestors. In every man there is a bias towards evil, just as in the young tiger there is predisposition to feed on flesh, and in the duckling to swim.

2. That tendency survives conversion. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Its strivings may be suppressed; but it is still there, only waiting till His repressive influences are withdrawn to spring up in all its pristine vigour. Conversion is the insertion of a new principle of life, side by side with the old principle of death. Consecration is simply the act by which we put the culture of our spirit into the blessed hands of Jesus. There is nothing, therefore, in either of these acts to necessitate the crushing out of any principle of the old nature.

II. God does not mean us to be enslaved by sin. What a contrast between Romans 7:23-24, and the joyous outburst of this text! The one is the sigh of a captive, this the song of a freed bond slave.

1. Captivity: you have its symbol in the imprisoned lion, or royal eagle; you have it in the disease which holds the sufferer down in rheumatism or paralysis. But there are forms of spiritual captivity equally masterful. Selfishness, jealousy, envy, and ill will, sensual indulgence, the love of money.

2. But it is not God’s will that we should spend our days thus. We were born to be free; not, however, to do as we choose, but to obey the laws of our true being. When we free an eagle we never suppose that he will be able to dive for fish as a gull, or to feed on fruits as a hummingbird. But henceforth it will be able to obey the laws of its own glorious nature.

III. We become free by the operation of “the law of the Spirit of life.” “The law of sin and death” is cancelled by “the law of the Spirit of life.” Life is stronger than death; holiness than sin; the Spirit than man. The mode of the Holy Spirit’s work is thus--

1. He reveals to us that in the intention of God we are free. So long as you consider captivity your normal state and expect nothing better there is little hope of deliverance.

2. He makes us very sensitive to the presence of sin.

3. He works mightily against the power of evil.

4. He enables us to reckon ourselves “dead indeed unto sin” (chap. 6:11). This is the God-given way of overcoming the suggestions of sin. When sin approaches us we have to answer: “He whom thou seekest is dead, he cannot heed or respond.”

Conclusion:

1. “Walk in the Spirit”; “live in the Spirit”; yield to the Spirit. Do not be content to have merely His presence, without which you could not be a Christian, but seek His fulness. Let Him have His way with you. And in proportion as the law of the Spirit becomes stronger, that of the flesh will grow weaker, until “as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity,” you will now yield them to righteousness unto holiness.

2. And as you find the Spirit of life working within you you may be sure that you are in Jesus Christ, for He only is the element in whom the blessed Spirit can put forth His energy. He is “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The law of sin

I. The law of sin.

1. The word “law” taken properly is the edict of a person in authority, wherein he orders something to be done, backing his or their commands with promises of rewards, as also their prohibitions with threatenings of punishment. In this sense there is a law of sin. For--

2. The word “law” is taken improperly for anything that hath an impelling virtue in it. It hath the force of a law, and doth that which a true law uses to do. And, therefore, when sin is the principle which efficaciously excites a person to those things which are suitable to its own nature, there sin may be called a law.

II. Its mode of operation.

1. Sin exerts its powers in its vehement urging to what is evil. Sin in the habit is altogether for sin in the act; indwelling sin is wholly for dwelling in sin. Though there was no devil to tempt the graceless sinner, yet that law of sin which is in himself would be enough to make him sin. Corrupt nature is continually soliciting and exciting the unsanctified man to what is evil; it will not let him alone day or night unless he gratify it. What an instance was Ahab of this. Sin put him upon the coveting of Naboth’s vineyard, and this it did with such violence that he would eat no bread because he could not have his will (1 Kings 21:5; see Proverbs 4:16).

2. This law of sin shows itself in its opposing and hindering of what is good. It is a law which always runs counter to God’s law. Doth that call for such and such duties? Are there some convictions upon the sinner’s conscience about them? Doth he begin a little to incline to what is good? How doth sin now bestir itself to make head in the soul against these convictions and good inclinations!

III. Its miserable bondage. Such being under the law of sin, it follows that they are under bondage the very worst imaginable. We pity those who live under tyrants. But, alas! what is that if compared with this. The state of nature is quite another thing than what men imagine it to be; they think there is nothing but freedom in it, but God knows it is quite otherwise (2 Peter 2:19). To better convince you of the evil and misery of this bondage, and excite to the most vigorous endeavours to get out of it, note--

1. That bondage to sin is always accompanied with bondage of Satan. The devil’s reign depends upon the reign of sin; he rules in the children of disobedience, and takes men captives at his will. Shall a damned creature be thy sovereign--he who will be thy tormentor hereafter?

2. What sin is.

(a) Innumerable.

(b) Contrary. Lust clashes with lust (Titus 3:3).

(c) Rigorous. It must have full obedience or none at all (Ephesians 2:3).

(d) Never at an end.

(e) So imperious and cruel that its vassals must stick at nothing.

3. That it is a soul bondage. The bondage of Israel in Egypt was very evil, yet not comparable to this, because that was but corporal and external, but this is spiritual and internal. There may be a servile condition without and yet a free and generous soul within; but if the soul itself be under servitude then the whole man is in servitude.

4. That of all bondage this is the most unprofitable. As to ether bondage the master may be cruel enough, but then he makes some amends by giving good wages; but the sinner serves that master which pays him no wages at all--death excepted (Romans 6:21).

5. That the worst of this bondage is that they who lie under it are altogether insensible of it. Where it is external and civil bondage men groan under it, would fain be rid of it (Exodus 2:23). But the poor deluded sinner, like some distracted persons, plays with his chains.

6. That it is the most hurtful and most dangerous bondage: for it makes way for and most certainly ends in eternal death. Death puts an end to other bondage (Job 3:18-19); but the worst of spiritual bondage follows after death. You have in the text the law of sin and the law of death coupled together (see also Romans 6:16; Rom_6:21; Rom_6:23). (T. Jacomb, D. D.)

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ

1. Men of the world think that the gospel has to do only, or chiefly, with death, and that its atmosphere is generally repressive. But the fact is the reverse. The gospel gives life for death, joy for sorrow; a conquering power of soul to meet the disability of the flesh; an abounding sphere beyond this world.

2. Every life force is mysterious. We cannot explain the forces of nature. Nor can we explain the mystery of this unique transformation, but we may study its effects and ask ourselves if they are realised in us. Contemplate the change wrought--

I. In human activities. I will not select one whose life has been abandoned, but who is no stranger to religion, and who has led an outwardly correct life under the guidance of self-respect, and with regard to the good opinion of others. When renewed by the Spirit of God and freed from the law of sin and death he comes under the control of new influences. The love of Christ constrains, not prudence or sagacity. The charm of the Scriptures and of the sanctuary is something never known before. Resistance to sin is not, as before, a feeble, prudential avoidance, but a vehement hate. Love for holiness is ardent, and Christian work not a burden, but a joy.

II. On one’s mental convictions. I would not refer to the scoffer, but rather to one who regards himself orthodox. He accepts Christianity as the most rational interpretation of nature. He accepts also the historic Christ, and redemption as well. But when such a person is born again, and sees God as his own Father, and the Saviour as his own Redeemer; when he sees the atonement, not as a philosophic scheme, but as a transcendent fact, involving greater resources than those of creation, a patience and love that shrunk not from the Cross, then a flood of light bursts on epistle, gospel and apocalypse, and a glory in the future rises on his view which is unspeakable. This intellectual elevation comes not from a study of the catechism, from a course of eloquent sermons, or from mere reflection upon the Word of inspiration, but as the result of that transforming power called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

III. On the temper of his heart. The ordinary attitude of a thoughtful mind toward the realities of religion is one of wonder and admiration. Yet all this sentimentality is inert and inoperative. There is no personal affection for the Saviour. Sometimes the character of an acquaintance is dim and commonplace, until some critical exigency arises which gives beauty and worth to that character. Then a personal and passionate attachment is roused. So with the waking of the new life in the soul, Christ appears in new and alluring loveliness. He seems no more afar off, but near at hand, in closest fellowship day by day. With such a Saviour, daily duties are delights however humble. The temper of heart is changed toward Christ’s followers as well. The Christian loves his brethren for the Master’s sake. His love is not founded on social or intellectual considerations, but grows out of spiritual unity and kinship, because of likeness to Christ. This change of temper and taste is the result of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus alone.

IV. In the expectations of the future. All men, pagan as well as Christian, look forward to a future existence. Unconverted men hope to be Christians before they die, but their ideas of the future are dim. With the believer death is seen to be but a transitional step, the mere portal to the shrine. While the world’s law is death in life, the gospel’s law is life in death. So the gospel fronts the world. Which is the better? Conclusion: Learn--

1. That it is in this gospel that life asserts its freedom. All departments of thought and effort, religious and secular, are alike ennobled and quickened.

2. This is a life which tends to consummation and perfection. The snow-bound field lies bare beneath the fetters of frost. It seems dead and barren, but with the melting warmth of spring there comes a verdure in place of ice and snow. All things are changed. So when this spiritual life force is allowed to exert its renewing and transforming energy on the soul of man, life is perfected and crowned. (R. S. Storrs, D. D.)

The Christian liberty achieved; or, the law of the Spirit of life making free from the law of sin and death

The “therefore now” does not introduce an inference from the immediately preceding argument--which could not warrant it--but one grounded on the previously affirmed effectiveness of the gospel to accomplish that for believers which the law never could. The justifying ground of this discharge from condemnation was set forth in Romans 3:21-26. The principle upon which it proceeds was illustrated in Romans 5:12-21. The persons to whom it is extended, and the new life of which they become the participators was specified in Romans 6:1-11. The reason for the impotence of the law was stated in Romans 6:14, and this impotence had supplied the theme for illustration in Romans 7:6-25, and the power of the gospel which had been distinctly stated in Romans 7:6, with an eye to which the apostle had penned (Romans 7:25). Note--

I. The law of sin and death from the power of which believers obtain deliverance in Christ. It will be observed that the apostle does not speak of two laws, but of the one. Not that the two things are one, but that the one “law” pervades them both, and binds them together (Romans 5:12-21; Ezekiel 18:4; James 1:15; Ephesians 2:1-5; Eph_4:17-19). This one law renders it impossible that the sinner can of himself regain the possession of innocence and peace, and evermore impels him onwards and downwards in the fearful descending circle of transgression and punishment. Man in the very act of sinning dies; or, being already dead, plunges into a still deeper death (Hebrews 9:14).

II. The sphere within which liberation has been provided--“In Christ.”

1. In Christ the double necessity of man’s case has been provided for; the two-fold difficulty has been solved; the one by the death of the Son of God, the other by His life (Romans 4:25; cf. Rom_5:18; cf. Rom_5:21).

2. The actual liberation is conferred on men only as they become united to Christ. It is indeed true that there has come a dispensation of grace and renewed probation to all men; but the actual discharge from condemnation, and the liberty from the “law of sin and death,” do not come to any but to those who are found in Christ by faith (cf. Ephesians 1:1-23)
.

III. For all those who are in Christ the liberation is actually accomplished.

1. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ”: He was condemned on their account, and they were condemned in Him. He died for their sins, and they died in Him (Romans 6:7-8).

2. The liberation from sin is secured to believers in the active life; “for the law of the Spirit of life,” etc.

(a) That precious knowledge of the redemption in Christ which provides peace for the guilty conscience.

(b) That knowledge of the royal and perfect law of liberty which is a sure and sufficient guide for conscience in the practical life.

(c) That knowledge of God, as a God of love, as our God and Father in Christ, which imparts joyous courage and prevailing power to conscience. Conclusion:

1. Secure this glorious liberty.

2. Having secured this inestimable liberty see that you hold it fast. (W. Tyson.)

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ

I. The law of the Spirit signifies the power of the Holy Spirit, by which He unites the soul to Christ, in whose righteousness it therefore partakes, and is consequently justified. This law is the gospel, whereof the Holy Ghost is the Author, being the authoritative rule and the instrument by which He acts in the plan of salvation. It is the medium through which He promulgates the Divine testimony; by which also He convinces of sin and testifies of the almighty Saviour. The gospel may be properly denominated a law, because it bears the stamp of Divine authority, to which we are bound to “submit” (Romans 10:3). It requires the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; Rom_16:26); and when men refuse this submission, it is said that they have not “obeyed the gospel” (Romans 10:16). Although, therefore, the gospel is proclaimed as a grace, it is a grace accompanied with authority, which God commands to be received. Accordingly, it is expressly called a “law” (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2); and in Psalms 110:2, referring to the power exerted by its means, it is said, “The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion. Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies”--namely, by thine almighty power. The gospel, then, is the law of the Spirit by which He rules, and the rod of His strength, by which He effects our salvation, just as, in Romans 1:16, it is denominated “the power of God unto salvation.” The gospel is itself called “the Spirit,” as being administered by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:8).

II. The gospel is the law of the Spirit of life, the ministration of which “giveth life,” in opposition to the “letter” or old covenant that killeth (2 Corinthians 3:6; cf. John 6:63; Ezekiel 37:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45). Christ is the life itself, and the source of life to all creatures. But here the life is that which we receive through the gospel, as the law or power of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which the apostle calls “the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18).

III. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is set before us in two aspects. As God, the Spirit of life resides essentially in Him; but as Mediator, the Spirit of life has been given to Him to be communicated to all who are one with Him. On this account the Spirit was not given in His fulness (John 7:39) till Jesus Christ as Mediator had entered into heaven, when the Father, solemnly receiving His satisfaction, gave this testimony of His acceptance, in pouring out the abundance of the Spirit on His people (John 16:7; Ephesians 1:3). That the Spirit of life is in Jesus Christ, not only as God, but also as Mediator, is a ground of unspeakable consolation. It might be in Him as God, without being communicated to men; but as the Head of His people, it must be diffused through them as His members, who are thus complete in Him. Dost thou feel in thyself the sentence of death? Listen, then “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son.” “I am come that they might have life.” “Because I live ye shall live also.” This life, then, is in Jesus Christ, and is communicated to believers by the Holy Spirit, by whom they are united to Christ, and from whom it is derived to all who through the law of the Spirit of life are in Him. (R. Haldane.)

Law of the Spirit of life

The “law” in the text, whether that of “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” or that “of sin and death,” is a constraining influence--a moral force, an active power--an agency that acts mightily on the soul. And it is plain from the statements made regarding them, that these laws respectively are paramount at the time; they govern the whole being, either one or the other sits upon the inner throne of a man and governs him. It is a matter of life and death--of happiness or of misery, of freedom or of slavery, of everlasting weal or eternal woe.

I. The inquiry relates to the law of sin and death. This must be an influence or force which is evil, which is the parent of sin, driving us along in the path of transgression, and which is not only of the nature of spiritual death, but which also issues in eternal death.

1. In order that we may ascertain its nature, let some thought be given to the process by which it is first established in the human soul.

2. As a mighty force this law is seen in those ruling passions of mankind which discard the authority of God. What is supreme love of money but self-gratification at the expense of one’s allegiance to the Most High.

3. We further discover the might of this law of sin and death in the sins of man against his fellow man. When one overreaches another in trade, does he not gratify his desire for gain at the expense of another?

II. Some general characteristics of this law.

1. It is often subtle in its actings.

2. It is a law of death as well as of sin.

3. It is slavery. This law of sin and death befools and degrades, and it is an unmitigated despotism. Woe to the soul under its unrestrained power!

4. It has had control universally.

III. We have to ask concerning the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

1. It is a Divine implantation. “The Spirit of life” is undoubtedly “the Holy Spirit,” who is the Author of spiritual life in the soul. “When He cometh, He shall convince the world of sin.” Until He speaks inwardly, the mind seems unaware of the presence and power of the law of sin and death. It is also His gracious office to attract the soul to a vital union with Christ. Under the blessed light which He kindles around and within the heart, the redemption of Christ appears in its true aspect as most full, glorious, and adapted to save.

2. As the other is a law of Sin and death, this is one of obedience and life. Self-love now seeks its gratification in pleasing God and doing His will.

3. Observe throughout that it is in Christ Jesus. To those who receive Him, He gives the privilege to become the sons of God. The Cross of Christ slays the enmity of the heart.

IV. This law sets free from the other. If it be established as the governing principle the other cannot be. They are in their own nature opposites. Self-love is gratified in the one case, in opposition to the claims of God and the well-being of others; in the other, by obedience and devotion to the supreme law of our being, love to God and man. Conclusion:

1. The adaptation of the religion of Christ to man.

2. We discover where true freedom and true happiness are found.

3. What we all need, and what the world needs, is to be delivered from the law of sin and death by the working in us of this ennobling force. What a glorious object of pursuit! How well worth all self-sacrifice! (H. Wilkes, D. D.)

Believers are freed through the law of the Spirit of life

I. The deliverance obtained--

1. By nature we are all (chaps. 6, 7) in spiritual bondage. We are “sold under sin,” and so necessarily are under death (Romans 5:12). The law of sin and the law of death are one and the same principle disclosing itself in different manifestations and degrees. Poisonous fruit is sap worked up, legitimately developed.

2. This evil principle drives man from God.

3. From this evil principle believers are made free. Not from death, though its sting is taken away; nor even from sin perfectly. But over against death faith sees the resurrection placed, and over against sin the unblemished perfection of the redeemed.

II. The agency whereby this deliverance is accomplished. Law counteracting law.

1. The term “law” may mean--

2. The latter is the signification here.

III. The sphere within which this agency is so efficiently operative. Like laws of nature, it works within certain limits. Iron, not glass, will conduct electricity. Dews, droughts, hurricanes are conditioned by varied zones of atmospheric circumstances; so outside the region of “being in Christ Jesus” the law of the Spirit of life does not effect its hallowing results upon our souls. Within that radius, however, its might is sovereign. It frees believers. Conclusion: Note--

1. The urgent importance of ascertaining which of these laws is supreme in our soul. If not conscious of resistance to the law of sin, we are under its sway. We may even be troubled about the commission of certain sins, and give heed to certain duties, and yet be in utter servitude to it (Ezekiel 33:31).

2. The great need of asking the promised Spirit (Matthew 7:11 : Luke 10:13). Regeneration, sanctification only obtainable through His power.

3. The duty of consciously living in this freedom, not confusing liberty with license (Luke 1:74-75). Carefulness against presumption and despondency alike is indispensable (Ephesians 6:11-13).

4. The strong consolation of knowing that ultimate perfection can be calculated upon with all the certainty of a result of “law.” Given the reign of the law of the Spirit of life in a soul, then amid and in spite of all conflicts the beauty of the renewed life will be patent and increase (Psalms 138:8; Hebrews 12:23; Heb_13:21). (J. Gage, B. D.)

The law of the Spirit frees from the law of sin

Note--

1. The Spirit frees from the law of sin. In reference to this you may consider Him either essentially as He is God, or personally. As it is the Son’s proper act to free from the guilt, so it is the Spirit’s proper act to free from the power of sin, it belonging to the Son to do all without and to the Spirit to do all within. That which God once said in reference to the building of the temple--“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit”--is applicable here.

2. This is done by the Spirit of life. This refers either to the Spirit as He is a living Spirit, or refers to the time when the Spirit quickens and thus regenerates, or to the method of regeneration itself. The Spirit who renews, when He renews, by renewing, brings sin under.

3. It is the law of the Spirit by which this is done. Here is law against law, the power and efficacy of the Spirit against the power and efficacy of sin (Ephesians 3:20). The law of sin has a moral and a physical power; and so with the Spirit. He hath His moral power, as He doth persuade, command, etc.; and He hath His physical power, as He doth strongly, efficaciously incline and impel the sinner to such and such gracious acts; yea, as He doth effectually change his heart, make him a new creature, dispossess sin of its regency, and bring him under the government of Christ. And herein the law of the Spirit is above the law of sin. Set corrupt nature never so high, yet it is but a finite thing, and so hath but a finite power; but the Spirit is an infinite being, and puts forth an infinite power. For the better opening of the truth in hand, note--

I. The necessity, sufficiency, efficacy of the power of the Spirit in freeing men from the power of sin.

1. The necessity of the power of the Spirit. Omnipotency itself is requisite thereunto; that is the strong man which keeps the palace till Christ, through the Spirit (which is stronger than it), comes upon it and overcomes it. The power of nature can never conquer the power of sin, for nature’s greatest strength is on sin’s side. That the power of the Spirit is thus necessary if you consider that--

When there is a party within a kingdom ready to fall in with the foreign force that comes to depose the tyrant, he may with more facility be vanquished; but if all the people unanimously stick to him, then the conquest is the more difficult. Christ said, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me”; so the poor sinner may say, “The sin-subduing Spirit comes, but He finds nothing in me to close with Him.”

2. Its sufficiency. As Christ is able to save to the utmost from sin’s guilt, so the Spirit also is able to save to the utmost from sin’s power. God once said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Now, as that grace is sufficient to bear up under the heaviest afflictions, so this grace is sufficient to bring down the strongest corruptions. Who is sufficient for these things? Why He, and none but He, who hath infinite power.

3. Its efficacy.

II. In what ways the Holy Spirit doth exert his power.

1. He effectually works upon the understanding, that being the leading faculty.

2. He then proceeds to the will.

3. In acting on the affections, He disengages them from sin, and sets them directly against it, and so freeing the sinner from the love of sin.

Application:

1. Let such who desire this mercy betake themselves to the Spirit for it.

2. Let such who are made free from this law of sin own the Spirit of life as the author of their freedom, and ascribe the glory of it to Him.

3. Greatly to love and honour the Spirit.

4. As you have found the law of the Spirit in your first conversion, so you should live under the law of the Spirit in your whole conversation.

5. Set law against law--the law of the Spirit against the law of sin. (T. Jacomb, D. D.)

The believer’s freedom from the law of sin

I. The leading terms of the text.

1. By the “Spirit of life” we are here to understand the Holy Ghost. Men are spiritually dead; the animal and intellectual life remains; but the spiritual life--the life which connects man with, and qualifies him for the enjoyment of God--was extinguished by the fall, and can only be restored by the “Spirit of life.” And hence we are said to be “born again” of the Spirit. And as it is His office to restore spiritual life, so He maintains it. All “good” comes from Him and depends on Him.

2. He is called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” Because--

II. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. By this we are to understand the gospel, applied by the Spirit’s power to the hearts of men. The gospel is often called a law--“The perfect law of liberty”; “The isles shall wait for His law”; “The law of Messiah shall go forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.” What law ever went forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth but the gospel?

1. A law is an enactment or command issuing from supreme authority, fully published and made known, and enforced by sanctions of reward to the obedient, or of punishment against the disobedient. This constitutes, when it is published or made known, the rule of action, the standard of character, and the ground of decision and judgment; this is law in general. The gospel answers to this general definition in every particular.

2. But why is it called the Spirit’s law? Because it is the instrument by which the Spirit most efficiently operates upon the understanding, the will, the conscience, and the character of the man. By, and with it, he operates with the force and the authority of a law, overcoming and reducing and governing the mind. The power that accomplishes the great work of regeneration is the power of the Spirit; but the instrument He employs is the “Word of truth.”

III. The law of sin and of death.

1. By this some understand the moral law considered in its application to fallen man, as the covenant of works. This law, when given to man innocent and holy, in the possession of Divine and spiritual life, was well adapted to his case. But when man became a transgressor, then that which “was ordained unto life” began to operate unto death. It is the “law of sin” to all the unconverted, its very object being to “make sin appear exceeding sinful.” By the law is the knowledge of sin. Let a man apply it to his own character, and it will prove, to the conviction of his conscience, that he is a sinner; and, of course, wherever it proves sin it pronounces the sentence of death. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

2. But others understand (and the general scope of St. Paul’s argument is favourable to the opinion) the sinning principle in the nature of fallen man. Wherever this principle of unsubdued enmity to God and holiness exists in the heart, it will manifest itself in outward acts of sin. And these acts become habits, by repetition; and thus sin becomes master. There his law is “a law of death.” Wherever there is sin in the root, there is death in the fruit; “the end of these things is death.” “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

IV. The law of the Spirit of life makes us free from the law of sin and death.”

1. This is true of the law of sin and death, understood as the covenant of works, the broken moral law. It is in reference to this that the apostle seems to be speaking in ver.

1. Before they were “in Christ,” they were condemned by the law for having broken it. But no sooner did they put their souls, by penitence and faith, into the Saviour’s bands, than all the mass of transgressions and guilt which rested upon them was removed. And now “there is no condemnation,” they are “made free from” the condemnatory demands of the moral law, from the curse of the covenant of works.

2. But true believers are delivered from the sinning principle which contaminates our fallen nature. “Sin shall have no dominion over you.”

V. Practical inferences. The salvation of Christ is--

1. Of indispensable necessity. It is, in fact, “the one thing needful”; “our souls without it die.”

2. A present salvation. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free.”

3. That connected with satisfactory evidence of its existence. St. Paul does not speak as if he were at all doubtful; as if it were a business of mere conjecture or probability, of inference or anticipation. He had a consciousness of his freedom.

4. A personal affair. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free. (Jabez Bunting, D. D.)

Freedom from law achieved by law

We see this principle at work in the material world. A higher law comes into play and overrides ordinary law. Thus dynamic law subjugates mechanical force, as in the steam engine; chemical law, in turn, annihilates dynamic force; and intellectual power is superior to vital law, and moral to intellectual. The lower laws take effect upon the lower natures. The mechanical law of gravitation affects stones; but let a higher law of affinity come into operation, and those stones will be transformed into other combinations, such as gases, which will be above the laws of gravitation, and will form food for plants, etc. Mechanical law, however applied, cannot convert stones into bread. Chemical law can. If you mechanically pound ice or melt it, you can get nothing but water; but chemistry transforms it into power, and gas, and food. In the text the apostle is presenting to us in the kingdom of grace what is taking place in the kingdom of nature--law conquering law--e.g., a human body subject to chemical law ferments, putrefies, decays; but the vital law holds all these in check. It is only when the higher vital law is gone that the lower law reigns. (Percy Strutt.)

The two laws

I. What is meant by “law.”

1. Law is an authoritative code framed by a master for the regulation of his servants. But when we speak of the laws of nature, we denote the process by which events invariably follow each other. The law which accountable creatures are hound to obey is one thing; the law, in virtue of which creatures are always found to make the same exhibition in the same circumstances, is another.

2. It is not difficult, however, to perceive how the same term came to be applied to things so distinct. For law, in the first sense of it, is not applicable to a single command which may never be repeated. True, like all the others, it is obeyed, because of that general law by which the servant is bound to fulfil the will of his master; yet it does not attain the rank of such a denomination unless the thing enjoined be habitual. Thus the order that doors shall be shut, or that none shall be missing after a particular hour, or that Sabbath shall be observed, may be characterised as the laws of the family--not the random orders of the current day. Now this common circumstance of uniformity has extended the application of the term “law.” Should you drop a piece of heavy matter, nothing is more certain nor more constant than its descent--just as if constrained so to do by the authority of a universal enactment on the subject, and hence the law of gravitation. Or, if light be made to fall on a polished surface, nothing more mathematically sure than the path by which it will be given back again to the eye of the beholder, and hence in optics the law of reflection. Or if a substance float upon the water, nothing more invariably accurate than that the quantity of fluid displaced is equal in weight to that of the body which is supported; and all this from a law in hydrostatics. But the difference lies just here. The one kind of law is framed by a living master for the obedience of living subjects, and may be called juridical law. The other is framed by a living master also, for it is God who worketh all in all; but obedience is rendered by the force of those natural principles wherewith the things in question operate in that one way which is agreeable to their nature. This kind of law would by philosophers be called physical law.

II. In which of these two senses shall we understand “law” in the text. To determine this, we shall begin with the consideration of--

1. The law of sin and death. It is quite obvious that this is not a law enacted in the way of jurisprudence. It is neither more nor less than the sinful tendency of our constitution. It is called a law because, like the laws of gravitation or electricity, it has the property of a moving force, inasmuch as it incessantly aims after the establishment of its own mastery. Death comes as regularly and as surely in the train of our captivity to sin as the fruit of any tree, or the produce of any husbandry, does by the laws of the vegetable kingdom.

2. The law of the Spirit of life just expresses the tendency and the result of an operative principle in the mind that has force enough to arrest the operation of the law of sin and death. The affection of the old man meets with a new affection to combat and to overmatch it. If the originating principle of sin be shortly described as the love of the creature, the originating principle of the spiritual life might also be briefly described as the love of the Creator. These two appetites are in a state of unceasing hostility. The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.

III. The second of these laws.

1. Is called--

2. When does this visitation of the Spirit descend upon the soul? This is shown by the words “In Christ Jesus.” As surely as when you enter a garden of sweets one of your senses becomes awakened to the perfumes; as surely as when emerging from the darkness of a close apartment to the glories of an unclouded day another of your senses is awakened to the light and beauty, so surely when you enter within the fold of Christ’s mediatorship, and are united with Him, then there is an awakening of the inner man to the beauties of holiness. We refer to a law of nature, the impression of every scene, in which he is situated, on the senses of the observer; and it is also by the operation of such a law that, if in Christ, we become subject to a touch that raises us to spiritual life, and maketh us susceptible of all its joys and all its aspirations.

3. What have we to do that we may attain this condition. I know of no other instrument by which the disciple is grafted in Christ Jesus, even as the branches are in the vine, than faith. And “the Holy Ghost is given to those who believe.” “The promise of the Spirit is unto faith.” (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Delivered from the law of sin

Sin and death are partners of one throne and issue one law (cf. verses 14, 21)
. To obey the one is to obey the other. In former days Paul was compelled to do the bidding of sin. But the Holy Spirit has set him free by making His own will the rule of Paul’s life. 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 laws is a proof of conquest. Similarly, the presence and guidance of the Spirit have made Paul free front the rule of sin. This is not a 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. And to obey the law of our being is the only true freedom. “In Christ.” Paul’s deliverance took place objectively in the human body of Christ (
Romans 3:24); subjectively, by Paul’s spiritual union with the risen Saviour (Romans 6:11). (Prof. J. A. Beet.)

Free from the law of sin and death

I. The misery of all men by nature. And that it consists of a state of bondage and captivity, which is here in this Scripture called the law of sin and death. We shall speak of the law of sin. Sin, in those which are unregenerate, does exercise a tyrannical power and authority over them, therefore it hath the denomination of a law given unto it; not that it hath anything which is good or lawful or regular in it, for it is properly the transgression of a law. But it is called a law in regard of that rule which it bears in the hearts of all those that are entangled with it. This is the condition of sin, that it carries with it the nature of a law to the subjects of it. First, in the constant actings of it; sin is like a law so. Things which are acted by law they are acted with a great deal of constancy. The ordinances of heaven and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, they keep their course by a settled decree which is upon them. Even so is it also with those who are carried by this law of sin; it is that which is usual with them, they make a constant course and practice of it as their trade and life. Secondly, it hath the motion of a law in that men are carried to it powerfully and irresistibly without opposition. So is sin to an unregenerate person; it commands him and has power over him, it rules and reigns in him. This is first of all grounded upon that curse which was laid upon man for his first rebellion. But, secondly, sin gets a great deal of power by custom, which has the force of a second nature with it, and in that regard the notion of a law. The Ethiopian may as soon change his skin, and the leopard his spots, as they may cease to do evil that are accustomed to it. Now, for the further illustration of it, we may take notice of the misery of this bondage in these following aggravations. First, in the subject of this thraldom; and that is the soul itself--the immortal soul--that part of man which had the image of God in a special manner imprinted upon it. For this to be in slavery and servitude is a very sad business indeed. We know in the way of the world how bondage is usually aggravated from the quality and condition of the person that is brought into it. Secondly, consider it also in the persons which men are in thraldom to by it, and that is to Satan and his instruments. For a man to be in bondage to a stranger it is not very desirable, but to be in bondage to an enemy or adversary is very abominable. Thirdly, there is an aggravation also in it from the nature and quality and condition of the servitude itself, in all the circumstances of it. Of all servants we count them to be in the worse case that are sold. To this we may further add the insensibleness of this their condition which is usually attendant hereupon. We count them most desperately miserable who discern not the misery which they are in, as mad men that sing in their chains. And so much may be spoken of the first branch of a natural man’s captivity, as it is considerable in his thraldom to evil expressed here in the text by the law of sin. The second is as it is considerable in his obligation to punishment: and that is here also expressed by the law of death, which is added and joined to the other and goes along with it. There is a three-fold death which the Scripture makes mention of, and they are all of them the wages of sin. First, natural death, which consists in the separation of the soul from the body (chap. 5:12). Secondly, there is also a spiritual death, which consists in a deprivation of the image of God upon the soul, and the withdrawing of His favour from it. When a man is void of all grace and comfort too, he is then thus far in a state of death (Ephesians 2:1). Thirdly, there is eternal death also, which consists in the separation of soul and body from God forever in hell. Therefore let us accordingly look upon sin and death in this conjunction. Let us not separate or divide these things which God hath thus put together, but in all temptations to the one think of the other.

II. The second is the happy recovery and restoration of believers by grace in these words, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free.” First, here is the remedy itself which is mentioned, “The law of the Spirit of life which is,” etc. Where, first, of the meaning of the words. First, there are three terms here before us; there is life, and the Spirit of life, and the law of the Spirit. By life here we are to understand the grace of holiness and sanctification. By the word Spirit joined to life we are to understand either the original, because it is wrought by the Spirit, or the activity and intention of it. By the law of the Spirit we are to understand the power and efficacy of it. For law it is a word of command and hath prevalency with it. Now the point which is here observable of us is thus much, that in the human nature of Christ there is a law of the Spirit of life. There is a fulness and sufficiency of all grace and holiness in Christ considered as He was man. This the Scripture doth sufficiently intimate and confirm unto us in sundry places of it, as in Colossians 1:19, “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” This was requisite thus to be upon a two-fold ground and consideration especially--First, in regard of the personal union of His human nature with His Divine. Secondly, as this was requisite in regard of His personal union, so also in regard of His work of mediatorship. First, take it in the preparatory reference; and so the Spirit of life in Christ, it did fit Him and dispose Him and qualify Him for the work of the mediatorship. This we may conceive it to have done in these respects--First, in the sanctifying of the flesh of Christ in the womb of the Virgin. Secondly, it also dignified this nature and advanced it above all other creatures. Thirdly, this Spirit of life in Christ it did also fill His human nature with as much grace as it was capable of, and with all these perfections whereunto the nature of grace doth reach and extend itself. Again, further, it is also considerable in the exertions and transactions of it. Whatever Christ did as mediator, He was more particularly enabled hereunto from this Spirit of life. As first of all, it was this which quickened Him and encouraged Him in His entrance upon it. Secondly, it likewise sustained Him, and upheld Him in the very performance itself. Thirdly, in that moreover it at last revived Him and raised Him from the dead. Adam, he brought down our nature and subjected it to a great deal of disparagement by his transgression; but Christ by His purity and holiness hath set it up, and taken off that disparagement from it which was formerly upon it. Again, further, here is comfort as to the point of continuance of grace and perseverance in it. Forasmuch as that grace and holiness which we now partake of under the gospel, it is in good and safe hands. The grace which we had given us in Adam we lost, but that grace which we have now in the new covenant we have it upon better and surer terms, being such as is now rooted in Christ as the proper subject of it. This law of the Spirit of life it is in Christ Jesus. The second is the efficacy of this remedy upon St. Paul and all other believers, “Hath made me free from the law of sin and death”: where the remedy is as large as the disease, and the plaster as broad as the sore. Here is the law of the Spirit in opposition to the law of the flesh, and the law of life in opposition to the law of death in us. First, as to matter of justification. This holiness of Christ it frees us from the law of death and condemnation. But secondly, it holds good in point of sanctification likewise. The pure and holy nature of Christ is the spring and original of all holiness in us. “And of His fulness do we all receive, and grace for grace,” as the apostle tells us (John 1:12). The Spirit of God does not bestow grace upon us immediately, but he bestows it upon us through Christ. Let us learn from hence to bless God for Christ, and give Him the glory of His own holiness in us. (Thomas Horton.)

Spiritual emancipation

The word “law” may denote commandment, or the customary habit or state of any creature. In the one sense we talk of the laws of God, or the laws of kings; in the other sense we talk of the laws of nature, of matter, or of mind. It seems much better to understand the verse according to the second or subjective use of the word “law,” and then its reference is seen to be to the believer’s sanctification.

I. Man’s natural state of moral, thraldom.

1. There is a principle of depravity in every human heart (Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22). The whole work of Christ, as tasting death for every man, is based upon the assumption that all the world is guilty before God; for if not, there must be some for whom Christ has not died, inasmuch as they needed no atonement. Yet where are these to be found? This principle of evil may be described according to its various modes of manifestation. It is--

2. This principle operates with the regularity of a natural law, determining all our volitions and affections. Man sins with the same certainty that an apple, loosened from the tree, drops to the ground. It is natural for the sun to rise and set, for the moon to wax and wane, for the tides to ebb and flow, for the seasons to revolve, and for the generations of men to be born and die: to do otherwise, in any of these instances, would imply a miracle or a violence done to the uniformity of nature. So likewise it is natural and inevitable that men, unrenewed by grace, should sin.

3. This law of sin is likewise a law of death. God by express enactment has appointed death as the wages of sin. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” But in addition to that external decree, there is an internal tendency in sin to fructify in death (James 1:15), and to destroy the life of the soul.

II. The state of moral freedom achieved for us by the gospel.

1. There is a principle of life in them that believe. They live, by having their minds enlightened with the knowledge of God, by feeling the burden of their sins removed, and by being able to look up to God with filial confidence and trust, by having the conscience cleansed from dead works to serve the living God, by being inspired with new emotions, animated by new aims.

2. This life is imparted and sustained by the Holy Ghost. It is not self-generated, but it is given from above. He who receives it is born of the Spirit.

3. This principle of life operates with the regularity of a law. The Spirit takes up His residence in the breast of the converted man, and goes on working till every thought is brought into subjection to Christ, and the work of the believer’s sanctification is complete.

4. This Spirit of life is realised only by our being in Christ. (T. G. Horton.)


Verse 3-4

Romans 8:3-4

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.

The requirement of the law

I. The Divine purpose for man, whether in the old testament or the new, is the same. The reader who turns from the one to the other seems to have passed into a new world. The things, such as sacrifices, etc., that seemed of most importance in the one, seem of no importance at all in the other. But under seeming divergence, there is essential unity--a unity that comes to the surface in the text. Here we read of “the righteousness,” or better still, “the requirement of the law.” Now what was this? Not what it seemed to the great mass of the Jews. Had the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank Thee,” etc., been asked, he would have given a list of things to be done or avoided. But now and then a prophet caught a glimpse of this purpose. Now it is the Preacher, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter,” etc. Then it is Isaiah (Isaiah 58:6-7). Now it is Micah (Micah 6:8). Then it is David in the fifty-first Psalm, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,” etc. The end of the law was not to make formalists, but good men. And the purpose of God is the same under the Christian dispensation. What God desires is not certain forms, services, emotions, but the renewal of the whole nature, inner and outer.

II. Christ has come that God’s purpose might be completely attained. Attained as it never could have been in any other way--that it might be “fulfilled” in us. ‘The architect sees in vision a glorious building. As yet it is empty. The masons labour and it is filled full, completed, realised. The father has a dream for his son just starting in life. When the son lives that life and becomes the pride of his father, he fulfils it. What St. Paul means is that our Father has had a dream for us. And that that dream might be accomplished, that we might become good, “God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.” And in Christ He did all that was needed. He condemned sin just where it needs condemning, in the sinner’s heart. He made a full and complete atonement. He supplied the mightiest of all motives to a new life in the constraining love of Christ. And He promised the most effectual of all help in the gift of His Spirit. Have we, too, a dream? Do we want to be true children of God? Christ is the only Way. Trust, love, and follow Him, and you shall have “the righteousness of the law” fulfilled in you.

III. There is but one process by which this purpose can be attained. The sphere in which it is to be done is that of active, not of contemplative life. In business and home duties and cares we have to decide whether we will yield to the cravings of the flesh or the promptings of the Spirit. And it is as we walk in that Spirit, and take up our cross and deny ourselves, that we grow up into Christ, become like Him, and God’s plan--our perfection and happiness--is fulfilled in us. (J. Ogle.)

Law helpless

The “Laocoon” may serve as an artistic embodiment of Romans 7:14 to end. But the issues of the struggle differ. Laocoon is overcome; St. Paul conquers, in the grace of Christ. Self-effort for righteousness is a hopeless struggle. St. Paul found the “more excellent way.”

I. There is one thing man must somehow attain--it is “righteousness.”

1. Except for this pursuit of righteousness, it is not worth being a man at all. Without it how is man higher than the beast? No man really lives save as he pursues this. No man can ever be satisfied save as he attains this.

2. But what is righteousness? It is--

3. Taking these ideas of righteousness then, it appears that men wholly fail to attain it by self-effort. And self-effort ends in a despairing sense of the power of sin. Then arises the question--Can we attain righteousness by any helps we can secure? Try two.

II. The offer of help by the law. What is law? The plain statement of what is right, made to us with befitting sanctions. This cannot help us to righteousness. Because--

1. Of its nature. It can only disclose sin and condemn. “I had not known sin, but by the law.” It cannot give life.

2. Of the corruption of man. He is “weak through the flesh”; he “cannot do the thing that he would.” There is no hope of ever making flesh render perfect obedience. It is plain that “law is helpless.”

III. The offer of help by God. This help is in no sense intended to set law aside. It is the offer of power to obey. And the offer is made in Christ Jesus, who came into the world bringing a new force of Divine life. How, then, does God in Christ help? Not as law does, trying to shape conduct and force the flesh, but by quickening the spirit, renewing the will, moulding the inclination, inspiring the soul with love to God, and holy desires. And this succeeds. Thus urged and inspired, the spirit can master the flesh, and win the righteousness which the law requires. (R. Tuck.)

The law’s inability to justify and save

I. Of what law doth the apostle here speak? God’s own law, in its strict and proper acceptation, viz., that revelation which the great Lawgiver hath made of His will, therein binding the reasonable creature to duty. But what law of God? Either that primitive law which He imposed upon Adam (and in him upon all mankind), upon the keeping of which He promised life, upon the breaking of which He threatened death; or else, that law which He gave Israel from Sinai, namely, the decalogue or moral law, which was but a new draught of the law first made with Adam.

II. What is the thing in special which the law could not do?

1. You read (Romans 7:1) of exemption from condemnation. Now this the law could not do; the law can condemn millions, but it cannot save one.

2. You read (Romans 7:2) of being made flee from the law of sin and death. Herein, too, was the law impotent; it might lay some restraints upon, but never bring down the power of sin.

3. There is the blessed empire of the spirit over the flesh, as also the full and perfect obeying of the law’s commands; neither of these could the law effect.

4. Reformation of life the law could not do.

5. The text speaks of the condemning of sin; the law can condemn the sinner, but not (in a way of expiation) sin itself.

6. There is the reconciling of God and the sinner, the satisfying of infinite justice, the justifying of the guilty, the giving of a right and title to heaven. Now the law was under an impossibility of effecting any of these.

III. What is the weakness of the law here spoken of?

1. The word is used to set forth any debility, whether it be natural or preternatural, as being occasioned by some bodily disease. The apostle speaks of the weakness of the commandment (Hebrews 7:18), and weak and beggarly elements (Galatians 4:9). Here a higher law was in his eye, and yet he attributes weakness to it also; it could not do because it was weak, and it was weak because it could not do.

2. This weakness of the law is not partial, but total; it is not the having of a lesser strength, but the negation of all strength. A man that is weak may do something, though he cannot do it vigorously, exactly, and thoroughly; but now (as to justification and salvation) the law is so weak that it can do nothing.

IV. What the flesh is here by which the law is made thus weak? The corrupt, sinful, depraved nature that is in fallen man. Observe that the weakness of the law is not from the law itself, but from the condition of the subject with whom it hath to do. When man was in the state of innocency, the law (Samson like) was in its full strength, and could do whatever was proper to it; yea (as to itself), it is able yet to do the same; but the case with us is altered; we cannot now fulfil this law, nor come up to what it requires of us, and therefore it is weak. The strongest sword in a weak hand can do but little execution; the brightest sun cannot give light to a blind eye. The law strengthens sin, and sin weakens the law (1 Corinthians 15:56).

1. The special matter of the law’s weakness.

2. The grounds or demonstrations of the law’s impotency.

(a) He must have grace, sanctification, holiness, etc., but the law will not help him to these. It is holy itself, but it cannot make others holy; it can discover sin, but it cannot mortify sin. The law is a killing thing, but it is of the sinner, not of the sin; it hath by reason of the flesh a quite other effect; for it doth rather enliven, increase, and irritate sin, as water meeting with opposition grows the more fierce and violent; and the disease, the more it is checked by the medicine, the more it rages (Romans 7:8).

(b) The law calls for duty, but it gives no strength for the performance of it, Pharaoh-like, who exacted brick but allowed no straw.

(c) Great is the sinner’s need of faith; for without this no justification, no peace with God, no heaven. Now the law knows nothing of faith; nay, it is diametrically opposite to it (Galatians 3:12).

Application:

1. Here’s matter of deep humiliation to us. How should we lament that sinful nature by reason of which the law cannot do that for us which otherwise it would!

2. It is necessary that I should vindicate the honour of the law, and obviate mistakes and bad inferences.

(a) Weak. For though as to some things it be under a total impotency, yet as to other things it still retains its pristine power. It cannot take away sin, or make righteous, or give life, but as to the commanding of duty, the directing and regulating of the life, the threatening of punishment upon the violation of it, here it can do whatever it did before.

(b) Useless. For though the law be not of use as to justification, yet it is of use as a monitor to excite to duty, as a rule to direct, as a glass to discover sin, as a bridle to restrain sin, as an hatchet to break the hard heart, as a schoolmaster to whip you to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

3. Was the law thus unable to do for the sinner what was necessary to be done? then never look for righteousness and life from and by the law. It highly concerns every man in the world to make sure of righteousness and life; but these are only to be had in Christ in the way of believing, not in the law in the way of doing.

4. See here the admirable love of God, and be greatly affected with it. The law was weak; and now the merciful God finds out another way; He sent His own Son in the likeness, etc. (T. Jacomb, D. D.)

The impotence of the law

I. What is it that the law could not do? It could not fulfil in us its own righteousness. It could not cause us to exemplify that which itself had enacted. As to any efficiency upon us, it was a dead letter, and did as little for the morality of the world as if struck with impotency itself, and bereft of all the means or the right of vindication.

1. The apostle introduces a caution, that he might not appear to derogate from the law. The law was not weak in itself, but through the flesh. There is a native efficiency, in all its lessons and enforcements, which is admirably fitted to work out a righteousness on the character of those to whom it is addressed. It is no reflection on the penmanship of a beautiful writer that he can give no adequate specimen of his art, on the coarse or absorbent paper which will take on no fair impression. Nor is it any reflection on the power of an accomplished artist that he can raise no monument thereof from the stone which crumbles at every touch. And so it is because of the groundwork, and not of the law, that the attempt has failed.

2. And it is to be observed that the fulfilment of the righteousness of the law in us was a thing to be desired--not merely that the universe might become richer in virtue, but that the law might in us achieve the vindication of its honour. It could not do the first, through the weakness of the flesh. And as little can it do the second, excepting in those on whom it wreaks the vengeance of its insulted authority.

II. How the gospel adjusts this deficiency. There was something more than a Spirit necessary to work in us a righteousness--even a sacrifice to make atonement for our guilt.

1. The first step was to make ample reparation for the injuries sustained by the law, and so, by satisfying its rights, making a full vindication of its righteousness. That law which was written on tables of stone had to be appeased for its violated honour ere it was transferred into the fleshly tablets of our heart. The blood of remission had to be shed ere the water of regeneration could be poured forth; and so the Son of God came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and became a sin offering, and sustained the whole weight of sin’s condemnation, and, after ascending from the grave, had that Holy Ghost committed unto Him under whose power all who put their trust in Him are enabled to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Thus, historically, the atonement took place before the more abundant ministration of the Spirit.

2. And so also, personally, a belief in that atonement has the precedency to a sanctifying operation over the sinner’s heart. Not till we accept Jesus Christ as the Lord our righteousness shall we experience Him to be the Lord our strength.

Conclusion:

1. In order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, it is not enough that we walk as spiritual men. The more spiritual in fact that you are, the greater will your sensibility be to the remaining deficiencies of your heart and temper and conversation. So that to the last half hour even of a most triumphant course in sanctification, you must never lose sight of Him on whom has been laid the condemnation of all your offences, and count for your justification before God on nothing else than oil Jesus Christ and on Him crucified.

2. However zealously the righteousness of Christ must be contended for as the alone plea of a sinner’s acceptance, yet that the benefit thereof rests upon none save those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The law’s failure and fulfilment

The law of God is perfect. You cannot add anything to it, nor take anything from it, without spoiling it. There is nothing wrong but the law condemns it, and there is nothing right but the law approves it. The soul of it is contained in one word, “love”; but it comprehends every form of duty which springs out of our relationship to God or man.

I. What the law can and cannot do. It cannot save a lost soul. The law, as originally given to Adam, would have produced in him a perfect life. But we have fallen, and this has made the law weak for the accomplishment of God’s purpose of justification. The law of England protects honest men, and deters many from committing crime; but it is practically powerless in the case of some habitual criminals. The defect is not in the law, but in the person with whom it has to deal.

1. It sets before us a straight path. Up the mountain side I see the way to the summit. But I have fallen into an abyss, and cannot stir. Now that path, like the law, cannot help me to follow it. Still, it is useful to know the way.

2. It shows us our deflections and stains. It is like the looking glass, which cannot take away a single spot, but can only show where it is.

3. It upbraids us for our sin, but it cannot forgive.

4. It gives no inclination to do the right, but often creates the contrary inclination (chap. 7.). There are some things men would not think of doing if they were not forbidden.

5. It does not lend us any aid towards the fulfilment of its commands.

6. When we have broken the law it brings no remedy. Of mercy the law knows nothing. On one occasion some workmen were quarrying some rocks; and having made all ready for a blast--drilled the holes, filled them with gun cotton, and connected the fuzes--they warned everyone away from the place of danger. Then the fuzes were lighted, and the workmen withdrew; but, to their horror, they saw a little boy, attracted by the lights, running towards them. Those strong men shouted to the boy, “Go back! go back!” But of course the boy, having the same nature as the rest of us, only went the more quickly into the danger. Still the men cried, “Go back! go back!” They were like the law, powerless; not because their voices were weak, but because of the material with which they had to deal. But the mother of the boy heard the call, and seeing his fearful peril, dropped on one knee, opened her arms wide, and called, “Come to mother! come to mother!” The boy stopped, hesitated a moment, then ran to her embrace, and so escaped the danger. What all the shouts of the strong men could not do, the gentle voice of the mother accomplished. Their voices were like the law, which says, “Go back! go back!” Her voice was like the sweet sound of the gospel, “Come to Jesus! come to Jesus!” Note--

II. God’s glorious method.

1. He sends. He does not wait for us to come to Him.

2. He sends His Son. He had but one, His Only-begotten; but that He might “bring many sons unto glory,” He sent that one.

3. He sends Him in the flesh. “Verily He took not on Him the nature of angels.” There He is, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.

4. He sends Him in the likeness of sinful flesh. His flesh was like sinful flesh, but it was not sinful flesh.

5. He sends Him on account of sin.

6. He sends Him to be a sacrifice for sin. Our sin was laid on Him; and when God came to visit sin He found it laid on Christ, and He smote it there. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust.”

7. He thus condemns sin in the flesh. Christ’s death condemned sin. You may find strong words with which to censure sin, and no words can be too strong. But sin was never so condemned as when Jesus died. This blot must put out, not the candles and the moon and the stars, but the sun himself. This poison is so virulent that the immortal must die. Now is sin condemned as the vilest thing in the universe. It has forced the hand of Divine justice to smite down even Christ Himself instead of guilty men.

III. God’s glorious achievement.

1. In Christ the righteousness of the law is fulfilled, it is vindicated. I, guilty by God’s law, am condemned to punishment. But I am one with Christ. He stands for me. He takes the sin as though He had committed it, and suffers what I ought to have suffered; and so God’s law is vindicated. Thus the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in every believer, because his accepted Substitute and Surety has borne the punishment. “Then there is an end of the law,” says one. Stay, if a man disobeys, and is punished, he does not thereby escape from the duty of obedience. The law is always our creditor for a perfect obedience. Now, there could not have been such obedience rendered to the law even by sinless Adam as the Christ rendered to it. I take, today, the perfect obedience of my Lord, and appropriating it by faith, I call Him, “The Lord my righteousness.”

2. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the Christian by the grace of God. When we believe in Christ we not only receive pardon, but also renewal. I speak for all who love Christ. You do long to obey Him. Ay, and you do obey Him. You have laid aside the works of the flesh. You love God, and you love your neighbour. And though not perfectly, yet in a large measure, the law is fulfilled in you. I would try to live as if my salvation depended upon my works alone; and yet I do so knowing all the while that I am justified by faith, and not by the works of the law. Thus present obedience is actually rendered.

3. This righteousness is fulfilled through Christ. The obedience to the law is fulfilled in us out of gratitude to Christ.

4. This righteousness is fulfilled in the energy of the Spirit; “in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” God not only works for us, but He also works in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” The Spirit applies the work of Christ to the soul. Why should not everyone receive, by the Spirit, this new life at this moment? Then it will grow, for we “walk after the Spirit”; we do not stand still. As we obey the law of God, we shall receive more and more of His power; for it is written, that He is “given to them that obey Him.” He first teaches us to obey, and then, when we obey, He dwells with us in greater fulness; and then “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The impotency of the law through the flesh

The voice of Sinai was powerless to save, because our flesh was too weak to throw off the bondage of sin. Just so a rope is powerless to save the 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. (Prof. J. A. Beet.)

The weakness of the law

Now in this verse we have--first, a defect implied; and secondly, a defect supplied. The defect supplied in these, “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,” etc.

I. The defect implied--“What the law could not do, in that it was,” etc. First, to speak of the defect itself, “What the law could not do.” What could not the law do? Why it could not justify us, or free us from sin and condemnation. It could not make us perfectly holy and righteous in the sight of God. This is likewise held forth to us in divers other places besides (Acts 18:38-39; Galatians 3:21; Hebrews 7:18). Now this imperfection and insufficiency which is in it will further appear unto us in these regards: first, because the law does not offer to us any pardon or forgiveness of those things which are done against the law. The law it hath in it an accusing power, but it hath not in it an absolving power; it threatens the curse, but it does not tender the promise. It is the ministration of condemnation, but it is not the ministration of life. And accordingly we meet with divers expressions in Scripture to that effect (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:6, etc.). Secondly, the law, as it does not tender forgiveness, so neither does it give faith whereby to apprehend and lay hold upon forgiveness which is tendered. Now this the law doth not do, but only the gospel; the law does neither reveal faith to us nor work it in us. Thirdly, the law does not give us any power neither, whereby to keep the commandments of God, but leaves us in this point altogether feeble. Why, but if the law be not able to justify us, “wherefore, then, serveth the law?” as the apostle makes the expostulation (Galatians 3:19). To this we answer as the apostle there answers himself, that it serves in regard of transgressions, and so is useful to these following purposes: first, as a looking glass, wherein to see our own ugliness and deformity. When we reflect upon our own lives and ways and then compare them with the law of God, then we see how short they are, and how far from true perfection. Secondly, it serves as a schoolmaster to lead us and drive us to Christ; while it discovers to us our own imperfection it carries us to seek for protection in another, that is, in Him. As the stings of the fiery serpents drove the Israelites to look up to the brazen serpent, so the stings of the law they drive us to look up to Christ; and as the needle makes way for the thread, so does the law make way for the gospel. Thirdly, it serves as a rule of life and new obedience which we are to conform ourselves unto. The second is the occasion of this defect whence the law was thus unable, and that is here expressed to be “by the flesh.” It was a thing never yet done that anyone which was a mere man did fulfil the law. And this (to give you some account of it) may be thus demonstrated to us as coming thus to pass. First, from the inbred concupiscence which all men are infected withal: those which have in them a principle which does continually oppose and fight against the law, they are not able to fulfil the law. Now this have all men in this world, even the best that are; therefore they are not able to fulfil it. That this principle it is very much battered and mortified, and in a great measure subdued, but yet it is not wholly removed. The second may be taken from that actual sin which flows from original, as there is in us a corrupt nature which does indispose us to the keeping of the law, so there are also in us many daily transgressions which do plainly take us off from keeping of it. Thirdly, it may be also demonstrated from the weakness and imperfection of grace. Fourthly, it may be likewise shown from the nature of the law itself, and that is that it is spiritual. The law requires more than the outward action, also the inward affection; and not only some imperfect endeavour, but also the perfectest degree of obedience which can be performed. Lastly, it is from hence clear that none can here in this present life fulfil the law from that necessity which lies upon everyone to pray for the forgiveness of sins. Our inability which we have voluntarily brought upon ourselves does not hinder God from exacting that which is His own. The use of this point may be to humble us in the sight of our own insufficiency and misery which is upon us, especially when we shall consider that we have brought it upon ourselves. All evils are at any time so much the more tedious as we ourselves have any hand in procuring them and bringing them about.

II. The second is the defect supplied--“God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” etc. There are three main particulars here observable of us: first, the Author of our deliverance, and that is God. Secondly, the means of our deliverance, and that is Christ. Thirdly, the effect of our deliverance, and that is the condemnation of sin: “God sending forth His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin,” etc. We begin with the first, the Author or principal Efficient, and that is here signified to be God. And when we speak of this there are three things here further considerable. First, the goodness of God. And secondly, the wisdom of God. And thirdly, the power of God. All these in this dispensation. First, here was the exceeding goodness and mercy of God, that when He saw and observed into what a condition we had brought ourselves did not now leave us in this condition, but sought out, and found out a way for the delivery of us. This was the exceeding riches of mercy which is here to be taken notice of by us. And this it may be further amplified from divers considerations. First, from the state in which we stood to Himself, and that is of enmity and hatred (Romans 7:10). Secondly, from the stale in which He stood to us. It was God that was first wronged, and yet it was God that first began to think of the means of reconciliation. Thirdly, His independency upon us: He stood in no need of us, He could have done well enough without us. Fourthly, His preterition and passing by of other creatures who by their creation were more glorious than ourselves. What does all this serve for but to enlarge our hearts more in thankfulness to God who has done so graciously for us and with us? The second is the wisdom of God; God in His wisdom. And that especially in observing this order and method. First, He would suffer us to be miserable before He would make us absolutely and eternally happy. The law must first be “weak through the flesh” before God sends His Son. Thirdly, here was also His power. And whilst here in this text our salvation is reduced to God as the principal Author and Efficient of it, it is hereby made to be strong salvation, especially if we consider in what a case we were before He undertook it. Though the law were unable to save us, yet God for all that is not unable. Hence it is that the Scripture still represents our salvation to us under this notion. “I am the Lord thy God and thy Saviour” (Isaiah 43:3; Isa_43:12, etc.). “The mighty God,” etc. (Isaiah 9:6). If it were in any hands besides His we might jointly fear the miscarriage of it. The second particular branch considerable in the second general of the text is the means of deliverance, and that is here expressed to be the sending of Christ, in these words, “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin.” In which passage we have three things more considerable of us: first, the person sent, and that is the Son of God, God’s own Son. Secondly, the manner of sending Him, and that is “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Thirdly, the end for which, and that is “for sin.” We begin with the first of these, viz., the person sent, God’s “own Son.” And there are no less than three main articles of our Christian faith, all at once, which are here exhibited unto us. First, here is the Godhead and Divinity of Christ. Secondly, here is the manhood and incarnation of Christ. And thirdly, here is the union of the two natures of Christ in one person. The second is the manner of sending Him, “In the likeness of sinful flesh.” This we may take notice of to this purpose, namely, to show unto us how requisite it is for ourselves, in whatever business we undertake, especially of great consequence, to have our call and mission from God, that He sends us and appoints us thereunto. When He calls us, and designs us, and sets us apart, as He did Christ, we may expect help from Him. Secondly, in order to God’s acceptance and approbation. It will from hence be more pleasing to God what we do, and well taken by Him. Thirdly, in order likewise to success. There is likelihood of some good to follow upon that performance which is undertaken by designation from God. The third thing here considerable is the end, and that is expressed to be “for sin.” For sin, that is, to be an offering for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Now God had herein a regard to a double consideration: first, His own glory, as sin was opposite to that. And secondly, our good, as sin was opposite to this likewise. What does all this teach us? First, from hence to take notice of the grievous and fearful nature of sin. That which could not be helped but by the sending of the Son of God into the world, that was certainly no small grievance, nor to be reckoned so by us. Secondly, let us not set up that which Christ came to take away, lest we thereby make His coming of no effect unto us. The third and last is the effect or accomplishment of it: Christ’s obtaining of the end for which He came, and God’s obtaining of the end for which He sent Him, in these words--He condemned sin in the flesh. There are two things here considerable of us: first, that which Christ did. And secondly, the state or condition which He did it in. That which He did was the condemnation of sin. The state which He did it in was in the flesh, as it is here expressed unto us. In this dispensation of God, for the condemning of sin by Christ, there were divers things at once remarkable, and so considerable of us: first, God’s infinite justice, in that He would not let sin go unpunished. Secondly, God’s infinite mercy, in that He would punish sin in the surety, and not in the proper person himself that had offended. Thirdly, God’s infinite wisdom, in contriving of a way for the uniting and reconciling of these two attributes together, His justice and His mercy. Perfect justice satisfied, and perfect mercy enlarged. Fourthly, God’s infinite power, in that He could do that which none other could do besides. Let us take heed of speaking and pleading for sin which is thus condemned by God Himself; seeing He has passed sentence upon it, let us not open our mouths for it. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The weakness of the law and the power of the gospel

I. The weakness of the law. It could not--

1. Give peace to the conscience.

2. Renew the affections.

3. Sanctify the life. Corrupt flesh too rebellious and mighty to be controlled by it.

II. The power of the gospel.

1. The atonement of Christ gives peace to the conscience.

2. The grace of God renews the heart.

3. The Holy Spirit by His indwelling consecrates the life. (J. J. S. Bird, M. A.)

The believer’s deliverance

I. What God has done for us.

1. He has done what the law could not do. This moral law is the great code of holy requirement, enjoined by God upon all His intelligent creatures for the double purpose of forming their characters and regulating their lives. Now the law is found totally unable to accomplish this object by reason of our weakness and depravity. It is the flesh which is too weak to bear the pressure of the law, just as there are pebbles too friable to bear the friction of polishing, or just as there are mirrors too distorted and dingy to reflect any light.

2. “God has sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.”

3. This was “for sin.” If this be taken in the general sense of “on account of sin,” or “with reference to sin,” still we must think principally of His great atoning death. It was on the Cross that the Lamb of God took away the sin of the world (1 Peter 2:24).

4. God thus “condemned sin in the flesh,” i.e., Christ on the Cross condemned sin to lose its hold upon mankind, and despoiled it of its tyrannous control; or else condemned to destruction the sin which is in our flesh. Here we see how Jesus saves His people from their sins. This word “condemned” suggests a comparison with Romans 7:1. The condemnation which should have come upon us has come upon our sins instead. And thus, while we are forgiven, we are also delivered from the thraldom of sin, that henceforth we should serve it no more.

II. What God has wrought in us.

1. Nothing is more clear than that Christ intends His people to be actually holy (Titus 2:11; Tit_3:3-6). Here, then, we see the double glory of the gospel over the law. It can do what the law cannot do, in that it can confer on us a full and sufficient pardon, and also save us from the continued dominion of sin, and cause us to walk in newness of life. If a man hate God and his neighbour, it can make him love them; if he be a drunkard, it can make him sober; if an idolater, it can turn him from his idols; if a liar, it will make him truthful, etc.

2. Let us, then, see how it is that God works this mighty change within us.

The Christian plan

I. The occasion of its introduction. The inefficiency of the law.

1. What could not the law do? That which man as a sinner required for his salvation. It could neither regenerate nor justify. Man wanted both the nature for and the title to heaven, and the law could give neither.

2. Why the law could not do this?

II. The history of its development. “God sending His own Son,” etc. Observe--

1. The mission of Jesus. “God sent” Him to do what the law could not do--regenerate and justify. Sovereign love is the primal spring.

2. The incarnation of Jesus. “In the likeness of sinful flesh.” Only the likeness. His humanity was necessary as an example and as an atonement.

3. The sacrifice of Jesus. For a “sin offering,” etc.

III. The design of its operation. He did not come to abrogate, relax, or supersede law, but to fulfil it, that “its righteousness might be fulfilled” in the sinner. The Christian plan does this by presenting law--

1. In its most attractive forms. In the life of Jesus.

2. In connection with the greatest motives to obedience. In Christ you see God’s infinite respect for law as well as His love for sinners.

3. In connection with the greatest helper--the Holy Spirit. “It is expedient for you that I go away,” etc., (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The state of Christianity today

1. The text is a distinct statement that Judaism had come to the end of its influence. It had educated them to a point where, while men had need of more, it had nothing more to give.

2. We hear men speak of the Christian religion like Paul spoke of the Jewish. It is patronisingly said, It has done a good work; but men are so far educated by it now that it is no longer able to meet the want of our times; but from some source we are to expect a latter-day glory, which will be to Christianity what Christianity was to Judaism.

I. What are the evidences that Christianity is beginning to wane?

1. It is said that Churchism is wearing out.

2. It may be said that the thinking men, particularly in the direction of science, are less and less believers in revelation. And the statement has some truth in it. But in the history of the race we find that one element usually takes precedence of every other, and absorbs everything, cheating the other elements. In some ages it is the religious element; in others it is cold, hard thought; then this has given way to periods of enthusiastic and even superstitious devotion. Just now we are in a period of mere material investigations. But we shall certainly come to another period ere long. If now the spiritual elements are cheated, the time will soon come when these things will begin to balance themselves. So soon as that growth which seems to unsettle the old faith has adjusted itself, the religious wants of the soul reassert themselves, and ere long the old statements are overlaid with new religious developments, and with religious truth in new forms.

II. What are the evidences that Christianity is not on the wane?

1. Is faith giving place to indifference? On the contrary, probably never was there an age in which there was so deep a religious faith as now. What men call a want of faith is oftentimes only unwillingness to accept so little as hitherto has been included in the articles of faith. It is the reaching out of the soul in new aspirations. It is asking for more, not for less.

2. Is the devotional spirit decayed? It is changing and ought to change. As progress in intelligence raises men into a better conception of God, and their own place in creation, there will be a new mode of reverence, a new method of devotion. The element of love has greatly increased, so that there is now far more of the filial spirit. The devotional spirit, though far less ascetic than it was, is more prevalent; and in the community there is far more respect for religion than formerly.

3. Never was there such a spirit of propagation as now. Never were so much pains taken to rear men for teaching the faith. Never was there so large a demand for, and supply of its instruments, in the form of religious books and papers: and, above all, never was there such a spirit of building churches, and supplying them in waste and destitute places.

4. Is the family today less or more under the influence of a true spiritual Christianity than it formerly was? There never was a period when there were so many high-toned and pure Christian families as today.

5. Has the Christian religion shown any signs of failing as a reforming power in its application to the morals of the day? Is there less conscience, less hope, less desire to purify the individual and the community? Religion dying? What, then, mean the execrations of wicked men? The Church losing its power? Why, then, are men so complaining of its intrusion, telling us to stay at home and preach the gospel, and not to meddle with things that do not concern us? It is the light which streams from the gospel which wakes the owls and the bats.

6. Has the Christian spirit lost its power over government and public affairs? I think the conscience of our community never was so high as it is today. Everywhere is the gospel leavening public administrations, and raising up an intelligent Christian public sentiment which is itself as powerful upon governments as winds are upon the sails of ships. If these things be so, are we quite ready yet to assume the condition of mourning? On the contrary, of all periods of the world this would be the last that I should have chosen to lift up my hands in despair and say, Religion is dying out, and must yield to a new dispensation.

Conclusion:

1. We may expect some changes, but none other than to deepen religious life and faith in religious truth. There will be a better understanding of the human heart, and better modes of reaching it with religious truth. But no amount of change in these external instrumentalities will affect in the slightest degree the power of the religious element.

2. The instrumentalities of religion hereafter, we may believe, will be more various. Laws, and customs, and instruments, being filled with a religious spirit, will become means of grace to a degree that hitherto they have never done.

3. Many think that preaching is worn out: a great deal of preaching is worn out. Many think churches useless: a great many churches are useless. But would you judge the family in the same way? Would you say that fatherhood is worn out because there are a great many poor husbands and fathers?

4. There never was a time, young men, when you had so little occasion to be ashamed of Christ or of religion. If men all around you, with all manner of books and paper, are telling you glozing tales of the decadence of religion, say to them, “Let the dead bury their dead,” but follow thou Christ. It is a falsehood. The glory of religion never was so great. Its need was never more urgent. Its fruits were never more ample. Its ministers were never more inspired by God’s ministering angels than now. (H. Ward Beecher.)

God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin.--

God’s own Son

Emphatic to mark--

1. The greatness of His love.

2. The adequacy of the means for the salvation of men. (T. Robinson, D. D.)

Of Christ’s being the natural and eternal Son of God

1. Christ was God’s Son. Notice the several attestations of this great truth. That of John Baptist (John 1:34); of Nathaniel (John 1:49); Peter (Matthew 16:16); the Centurion (Matthew 27:54); the Eunuch (Acts 8:37); Martha (John 11:27); the devils themselves (Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11). Christ often asserted His Sonship; and the Father in a most solemn and open manner attested it (Matthew 3:17; Mat_17:5).

2. But Christ is here said to be God’s “own Son.” In the original it is “the Son of Himself,” or His “proper Son” (as verse 32). God is Christ’s proper Father (John 5:18). He is not barely a son, but a son in a peculiar manner.

Consider Him--

I. Comparatively. And so He is thus styled to distinguish Him from all other sons. For God hath sons--

1. By creation, as e.g., the angels (Job 1:6; Job_38:7), and Adam (Luke 3:38).

2. By the grace of regeneration and adoption (John 1:12-13; James 1:18; Galatians 4:3; Ephesians 1:5).

3. By nature; one that is a son of another rank and order. In this respect God hath but one, namely, Christ. Upon which account He sometimes appropriates the paternal relation in God unto Himself (Luke 10:22; John 14:2). And elsewhere He distinguishes betwixt God as being His Father and being the Father of believers (John 20:17).

II. Absolutely, and abstractedly from all other sons, so He is God’s own proper Son. The expression points to His being eternally begotten, and to His being begotten in the Divine essence. As to the latter, the Son was begotten in that essence rather than out of it. And some tell us that here we are not to consider Christ essentially as He is God, but personally as the Divine essence subsists in Him as the second person. In the first consideration as He was God He had the Divine essence in and of Himself, and so He could not be begotten to it, for He was God “from Himself.” In the second notion, as He was God personally considered, or as He was the second person and the Son, so He was of the Father and not of Himself; for though He was God of Himself, yet He was not Son of Himself (see John 7:29; Psalms 2:7; Proverbs 7:22-27; Micah 5:2; John 1:14; Joh_1:18; Joh_3:16; Joh_3:18; 1 John 4:9). There are three properties belonging to Christ in His Sonship which are incommunicable to any other.

1. He is a Son co-equal with His Father (John 5:18; Philippians 2:6).

2. He is a Son co-essential with the Father (John 10:30; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).

3. He is the co-eternal Son of God the Father (Revelation 1:8; Rev_2:8; Hebrews 1:5; Heb_1:8).

Application:

1. Is Christ thus God’s own Son? I infer then--

2. Was Christ God’s own Son? Let me from hence urge a few things upon you.

(a) In all your inquiries be sure you keep within the bounds of sobriety (1 Corinthians 4:6). Do not pry too far into those secrets which God hath locked up from you; content yourselves with what He hath revealed in His Word and stay there.

(b) Join study and prayer together. He studies this mystery best who studies it most upon His knees. This is not savingly to be known without special and supernatural illumination from Christ through the Spirit (Matthew 16:16-17; John 1:18; 1 John 5:28).

(a) The honour of worship (Hebrews 1:6).

(b) The honour of obedience (Matthew 17:5).

Christ’s mission

Before close handling this subject note--

1. This sending of Christ strongly implies His pre-existence. That which is not cannot be sent. And one would think the Scriptures are so clear in this that there should not be the least controversy about it. For they tell us that Christ was in Jacob’s time (Genesis 48:16); in Job’s time (Job 19:25); in the prophets’ time (1 Peter 1:11); in Abraham’s time, yea, long before it (John 8:56, etc.); in the Israelites’ time (1 Corinthians 10:9); Isaiah’s time (John 12:41). How fully and plainly is His pre-existence asserted in John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2; John 17:5; Philippians 2:6.

2. His personality, by which I mean He existed before He took flesh, not as a thing, quality, dispensation, or manifestation, but as a proper, personal subsistence. And He must be so, or else He could not be the subject of this sending. For He is sent to take the likeness of sinful flesh upon Him.

3. The distinction that is betwixt the Father and Christ. One sends and the other is sent. The Father and the Son are one in nature and essence, yet they are distinct persons. The apostle had spoken of the Spirit in the former verse; in this He speaks of the Father and of the Son, thus teaching the Trinity. I will endeavour now:--

I. To clear up the nature of the act.

1. Negatively. This sending of Christ was--

2. Affirmatively, this sending of Christ lies--

II. To answer an objection and remove a difficulty. That which hath been spoken seems to derogate from the greatness and glory of Christ’s person: for if God sent Him, then, argue some, He is inferior to the Father. But--

1. Sending doth not always imply inferiority or inequality; for persons who are equal upon mutual consent may send each the other. And thus it was between God the Father and Christ. When the master sends the servant, he goes because he must; but when the Father sends the Son He goes readily, because His will falls in with His Father’s will (John 10:36; cf. Joh_17:19; Romans 8:32, cf. Galatians 2:20).

2. We must distinguish of a two-fold inferiority, one in respect of nature, and one in respect of office, condition, or dispensation. As to the first, Christ neither was nor is in the least inferior to the Father. In respect of this He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. As to the second, Christ being considered as Mediator, it may be said of Him that He was inferior to the Father (Philippians 2:7-8; John 14:28).

III. To inquire into the grounds and reasons of Christ’s mission. In the general, some must be sent. Since neither the law, nor anything else, could operate to any purpose towards the advancing of God’s honour and the promoting of the sinner’s good, it was necessary that God Himself should interpose in some extraordinary way; which thereupon He accordingly did in the sending of Christ. But more particularly, suppose a necessity of sending, yet why did God pitch upon His Son? Might not some other person have been sent, or might not some other way have been found? I answer, No; Christ the Son must be the very person whom God will send. And Him He pitched upon because--

1. He was the person with whom the Father had covenanted about this very thing.

2. God saw that was the very best way which could be taken. He had great designs to carry on, as, e.g., to let the world see what an evil thing sin was, how impartial His justice was, what an ocean of love He had in His heart, and to lay a sure foundation for the righteousness and salvation of believers. Now there was no way for the accomplishing of these comparable to this of God’s sending His Son.

3. As this was the best and the fittest way, so He was the best and the fittest person to be employed. This appears from, and was grounded upon--

4. He was the only person that could be sent, for none but He could accomplish man’s redemption.

Practical improvement:

1. Was Christ sent? and did God thus send Him? What doth this great act of God call for from us?

(a) To be man.

(b) Into man. He that would hope for salvation by Christ must have the latter as well as the former sending.

2. It affords abundant matter of comfort to all sincere Christians. Did God send Christ?

(a) Against the weakness of the law. That which the law could not do, Christ did.

(b) Against the guilt of sin. Upon Christ’s sending presently you read of the condemning of sin. (T. Jacomb, D. D.)

Christ contemplated in His relation

I. To God.

1. He is God’s own Son.

2. Sent by God.

II. To the law.

1. He sustains.

2. Magnifies.

3. Fulfils it.

III. To man.

1. He visits him.

2. Assumes his nature.

3. Dies for him.

IV. To sin.

1. He atones for it.

2. Condemns it.

3. Destroys it. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Condemned sin in the flesh.

How God condemned sin

1. Ever since man has fallen, two things have been desirable. The one, that he should be forgiven; the other, that he should be led to hate the sin into which he has fallen, and love the holiness from which he has become alienated. It were impossible to make a man happy unless both be equally realised. If his sins were forgiven, and yet he loved sin, his prospects were dark, If he ceased to love sin, and yet were lying under the guilt of it, his conscience would be tortured with remorse. By what process can man be both justified and sanctified?

2. Human reason suggests that a law should be given to man which he should keep. This has been tried, and the law which was given was the best law that could be framed. If, therefore, that law should fail to make men what they should be, the fault will not be in the law, but in the man. As the text says, it was “weak through the flesh.” It could not do what God never intended it should do. The law cannot forgive sin, nor create a love of righteousness. It can execute the sentence, but it can do no more. Now, in the text we are told how God interposed to do by His grace what His law could not do.

I. What God did. He sent His Son.

II. What was the immediate result of this? God “condemned sin.”

1. The very fact that God was under necessity, if He would save men and yet not violate His justice, to send His Son, condemned sin.

2. The life of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth condemned sin. You can often condemn an evil best by putting side by side with it the palpable contrast. There was a condemnation of sin in Christ’s very look. The Pharisees and all sorts of men felt it. They could not fail to see through His life what crooked lives their own were.

3. God condemned sin by allowing it to condemn itself. Most men deny that their particular transgressions are at all heinous. But God seemed to say, “I will let sin do what it can; and men shall see henceforth what sin is from that sample.” And what did sin do? Sin murdered the perfect man, and thus convicted itself.

4. God condemned sin by suffering Christ to be put to death on account of sin. Its heinousness demanded no lesser expiation. “But why did not God exercise the sovereign prerogative of mercy, and at once forgive sin?” How, then, could God have condemned sin? “But if the righteous law be really so spiritual, and carnal man so weak, why not alter the law and adapt it to the exigency?” I reply again, because such a procedure would not condemn the sin. On the contrary, it would condemn the law.

III. How this does what the law could not do. There were two desirable things, you will remember, that I started with.

1. That the offender should be pardoned. You can clearly see how that is done. If Jesus did suffer in my stead, henceforth it becomes not only mercy that absolves me, but justice that seals my acquittal.

2. But how does this tend to make men pure and haters of sin? When the Holy Spirit comes with power into a man’s heart, and renews his nature, forthwith the impure are made chaste, the dishonest are made honest, and the ungodly are made to love God. And by the same means there comes into the heart an enmity against the sin which caused the suffering of Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sin condemned in the flesh

“The law” here means that law of constraint, acting from without as precept and motive, which came to a head, in the dispensation of Moses. It is singular that this law--called “the ministration of condemnation”--could not condemn sin in the flesh, or secure the fulfilment of its own righteousness. This unfitted it to become an instrument of salvation. It could give us no help to get free from that very evil to which it was itself most opposed.

I. The great requirement. Condemnation of sin in the flesh signifies--

1. That the condemnation should pass from a mere threatening to an actual punishment in human nature. Condemnation can exist as a threatening, and if so, sin may be condemned in the law; but when sin is condemned in the flesh, there must be the actual infliction of punishment.

2. Such a condemnation as shall issue in the accomplishment of the righteousness of the law. The great problem is how to condemn sin effectually, and yet save the sinner.

II. The insufficient provision. The law was unable to do this. It could not condemn sin in the flesh through the weakness of the flesh. If terror could frighten man out of sin, the law has terror. If the relation of duty could secure the performance of duty, the law reveals duty. If the exhibition of holiness could allure to the law of holiness, the law exhibits that picture. But the corruption of the flesh is too strong for the law to conquer.

III. The perfect accomplishment. The gospel condemns sin in the flesh.

1. By the incarnation of Jesus. Sin cannot be adequately condemned (i.e., punished)
as an abstraction, but only in human nature,
i.e., in the same nature in which it was committed, otherwise the threatening remains a dead letter.

2. By the sacrifice of Christ. “For sin” means “an offering for sin.” God laid on Christ the condemnation of the law. But how could Christ more effectively bear the punishment of the law than any other man?

The condemnation of sin in the flesh

How did God condemn sin in the flesh, i.e., in human nature generally?

1. By exhibiting in the person of His Incarnate Son the same flesh in substance but free from sin, He proved that sin was in the flesh only as an unnatural and usurping tyrant. Thus the manifestation of Christ in sinless humanity at once condemned sin in principle. For this sense of condemnation by contrast see Matthew 12:41-42; Hebrews 11:7. But--

2. God condemned sin practically and effectually by destroying its power and casting it out; and this is the sense especially required by the context. The law could condemn sin only in word, and could not make its condemnation effectual. Christ coming “for sin” not only made atonement for it by His death, but uniting man to Himself “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4) gave actual effect to the condemnation of sin by destroying its dominion in the flesh through the life-giving, sanctifying power of His Spirit. (Archdeacon Gifford.)

Christ’s holy life a living condemnation of sin

The flesh in Him was like a door constantly open to the temptations of pleasure and pain; and yet He constantly refused sin any entrance into His will and action. By this persevering and absolute exclusion He declared it evil and unworthy of existing in humanity. This was what the law, “because of the flesh,” which naturally sways the human will, could not realise in any man. The law could undoubtedly condemn sin on paper, but Christ condemned it in a real living human nature. Hence the reason why He must appear in flesh. For it was the very fortress where sin had established its seat that it behoved it to be attacked and conquered. Like the hero spoken of in the fable, He required Himself to descend into the infected place which He was commissioned to cleanse. Thus from the perfectly holy life of Jesus there proceeds a conspicuous condemnation of sin; and it is this moral fact, the greatest of the miracles that distinguished this life, which the Holy Ghost goes on reproducing in the life of every believer, and propagating throughout the entire race. This will be the victory gained over the law of sin (verse 2). Thus we understand the connection between the “condemned” of verse 3 and the “no condemnation” of verse 1. In His life He condemned that sin, while by remaining master of ours, would have brought it into condemnation. The condemnation of sin in Christ’s life is the means appointed by God to effect its destruction in ours. (Prof. Godet.)


Verse 4

Romans 8:4

That the righteousness of the law might he fulfilled in us.

Righteousness fulfilled

I. The design of God in thus, by Christ, condemning sin in the flesh. The penalty of the law is fulfilled in us when, as members of Christ’s body by spiritual union, we are freed from condemnation; but it is in sanctification that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled--i.e., when we have the law written in our heart, and obedience, flowing without constraint, is the inward instinct and law of life. Bear in mind that “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” In this respect the law and the gospel are one. But as two dispensations or modes of treatment they differ in toto. The action of the law is by precept and constraint--it seeks to guide from without--urging its minute details upon a reluctant heart. The gospel frees us from this bondage of verbal precepts and details, and by the manifestation of God’s love awakens love, thus beginning where the law left off, with love, which was the end of the commandment. There is nothing in the way of obedience that we cannot by love accomplish. Note--

1. That the gospel does not destroy the law. “Do we make void the law through faith?--nay, we establish the law.” We are free from the law only that we may be under the law to Christ.

2. That the salvation of the gospel is not only a salvation from wrath, but from sin.

3. That however imperfectly this salvation is realised by us it may be fully accomplished--a righteousness fulfilled.

II. The persons in whom this design is accomplished--“In us who walk,” etc.

1. Only in proportion as the spirit works within can we take full possession of our privilege as believers in Christ, as free from the bondage of the law. Hence it is that character becomes the test of our Christian state.

2. Character is determined by the prevailing principle (or law) which governs the life. Two such principles divide all mankind--the flesh and the spirit.

3. Christian experience is a practical realisation of the spiritual life. It is not thinking or feeling, but walking after the spirit. They who sit down in spiritual sloth are not walking after the spirit, and therefore we have no evidence of their acceptance with God. Examine yourselves. Is your life Christ-like, or worldly? (P. Strutt.)

The righteousness of the law fulfilled

In this verse the apostle lays down the end of God’s sending His Son in the flesh for the condemnation of sin, and that is, “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” There are two general parts which are here observable of us. First, the benefit itself which is conveyed by Christ, and that is, a fulfilling of the righteousness of the law in us. Secondly, the qualification of the persons who have particular interest in this benefit, and those are they “who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.”

I. We begin with the first, viz., the benefit itself. “That the righteousness of the law,” etc. Where first we are to explain the words, and then to come to the doctrine observable from them. That whatsoever the law could demand and require of us, the same is fully satisfied and fulfilled by Christ. He hath fulfilled the righteousness of the law in our behalf. For the opening of this present point unto us, we must know that the righteousness of the law may be taken two manner of ways. There is a double right which the law of God does challenge in us--a preceptive or commanding right, and a vindictive or avenging right. Now both these rights has Christ satisfied and discharged for us. First, He hath satisfied the right of obedience, in that He hath fulfilled the whole law of God in our stead. Secondly, He hath satisfied the right of punishment, in that He hath endured all the wrath which was due unto us for our transgression of this law. Thirdly, Christ’s satisfaction of the law, as concerning obedience unto it, is accounted as ours; insomuch as the righteousness of the law is said to be fulfilled in us. Fulfilled in us; how is that? Not in our persons, but in our Surety. In regard of the intention and purpose of God Himself, who does bestow Christ upon us to this end; Christ was given by God for righteousness, and for righteousness in this explication, namely, of full and perfect observation of the whole law. The use and improvement of this point to ourselves in a way of application comes to this--

1. As a word of singular comfort to all the true servants of God which groan under the burden of their own failings and omissions.

2. We may hence also take notice of the infinite wisdom and goodness of God which hath made such a happy repair of that righteousness which we lost in Adam; and that upon two considerations it is more full and complete.

II. Now the second is the qualification of the persons. “Who walk not,” etc. From hence observe, first in general, that all men indifferently have not a share in the comforts of the gospel. Therefore let none too rashly and over-hastily apply them to themselves. Secondly, in particular observe this, that justification and sanctification must go together; they only who walk after the spirit have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them, and have the law fulfilled in them. Secondly, because Christ came by water as well as by blood; there is His spirit as well as His merit. Thirdly, because God is exact and complete in His works in us; and so as He justifies, so also will He sanctify. It shows the vanity of those who hope to be saved by Christ, while they live in all manner of sin. Those that walk in the spirit, they have here an evidence of their justification from their sanctification. We see here that it is not enough to abstain from evil, but we must also do good. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The righteousness of the law accomplished in the believer

I. The exalted character of the law.

1. Emanating from a Being infinitely perfect, it follows--

2. In requiring this, the creature shall have no ground for impeaching the Divine goodness. As if fearful of perplexing the mind with a multitude of enactments, our Lord has presented one precept, the perfect keeping of which involves a virtual fulfilment of all (Matthew 22:37). What an unfolding of the wisdom of God is here! In securing to Himself the supreme love of His creatures, He wins a willing obedience to every precept of His law.

II. Is what sense is the righteousness of the law accomplished in the believer?

1. Not in our own persons. Where, then, would be the weakness of the law? The law has never yet received a complete fulfilment in any fallen creature. Where is the creature who can assert his plea of perfect love to God?

2. The Lord Jesus fulfilled the righteousness of the law in the behalf of His people. He only could do so who was Himself “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” The first step in this wondrous achievement was His being made under the law. Having made Himself amenable to the law, He then proceeds to its fulfilment. Trace the outline of His obedience. Is the grand moving spring of the law, love? Where was ever seen such love to God as our Surety displayed? And did not that affection constrain Him to a supreme consecration to His Father’s glory? In addition to supreme love, was there not the most perfect sanctity of life? Accompany Him to the baptismal waters, and hear Him exclaim, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then follow Him to Calvary, and behold His obedience unto death--was there ever such a law fulfiller as the Son of God?

III. In what way are we to reconcile the honouring of the law by Christ and the fulfilment of its righteousness in us? The difficulty is solved by a reference to the federal union of Christ and His Church. Standing to His people in the relation of a covenant Head, the law being fulfilled by Him in a legal sense, it was virtually a fulfilment of the law by us, His obedience being accepted in lieu of ours (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:19). Thus every humble sinner who, feeling the plague of his own heart, breaking away from his dependence upon a covenant of works, and reposing in simple faith beneath the righteousness of the Incarnate God, shall never come into condemnation.

IV. The rightful claimants of this privileged state are described as those who walk, etc. A Christian may be ensnared and stumble, but he walks not after the flesh. “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” An unrighteous man falls, but where he falls he lies. “He that is unrighteous is unrighteous still.” But those in whom the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in their Surety, and in whom a gospel righteousness, an evangelical obedience, is performed by themselves, “walk after the Spirit.” Conclusion:

1. Behold, what an open door does this subject set before the humble, convinced sinner. The law, now honoured as it never was--think you that the Lord will reject the application of a single sinner who humbly asks to be saved?

2. Saints of God, keep the eye of your faith immovably fixed upon Christ, your sole pattern. Our Lord did not keep that law that His people might be lawless. The “righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us” when we “walk after the Spirit,” in conformity to Christ’s example. (O. Winslow, D. D.)


Verse 5-6

Romans 8:5-6

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh.

Description of regenerate and unregenerate

The word “flesh” is here to be taken not in the natural sense, but in the moral; and the word “Spirit” is here to be taken for the Spirit of grace and regeneration. First, the universality of these two states and conditions of men; and secondly, the contrariety. First, to take notice of the universality of these two states and conditions, as they do divide and make up the whole world; for so they do. All men living are one of these two. Therefore let us everyone search and examine ourselves in this particular, and observe how the case is here with us; whether we are such as are after the flesh, or which are after the Spirit. As there is not a middle place betwixt heaven and hell, so there is not a middle state neither betwixt sin and grace. This it may be much discovered by us according to the principles that prevail in us; by what we most delight in and give ourselves to. The second is in reference to the contrariety, in that they are opposed here one to the other (Galatians 5:17). The contrariety of these two sorts of persons one to the other is considerable in sundry particulars; as, first, the contrariety of their principles which they are carried by, and that is, of flesh and of Spirit (Galatians 5:17). There is a different law and rule and principle, which does act and move the servants of God than does other persons. Secondly, the contrariety of their aims and projects and designs. Those who have different and contrary ends which they do set down and propound to themselves, they must needs be contrary to one another. Thirdly, the contrariety of their courses and actions and conversations. This is another thing which makes up this contrariety to us as observable in them. The consideration of this point is thus far useful to us. First, as it gives an account of that enmity which is in the one to the other (Galatians 5:22; John 15:19). Secondly, we see here also how unsuitable it is for those who are good to have intimate society and familiarity with those who are evil. Thirdly, we have from hence a discovery likewise of the excellency of the kingdom of Christ, and of the efficacy and power of the gospel, which makes such an admirable change and alteration as we may observe it to do. This is the nature of conversion, to deliver us from the power of darkness, and to translate us into the kingdom of Christ, as the apostle expresses it to us there in that place in Colossians 2:13. The second is the difference of properties as belonging to these persons, and that is, that the former do mind the things of the flesh, the latter the things of the Spirit. First, to speak of the former, which is the property of all carnal and unregenerate persons, such as are yet abiding and continuing in the state of nature, and here expressed to be after the flesh. This is that which is here declared of them, as proper to them, that they do mind the things of the flesh. When it is said here that carnal persons do mind carnal things, and they that are after the flesh the things of the flesh, this minding it may admit of a various explication to us. First, they mind them in a way of apprehension, that is; they understand them, and know what belongs unto them; they are well skilled and expert in them. This is one property of carnal and worldly persons, that they are best seen and knowing in such things as these are. Worldly men are best able to judge of worldly matters; as for the things of the Spirit, matters of grace and holiness, here they are plainly ignorant and unlearned. Everyone is still most capable and apprehensive of such kind of matters as he hath a proper genius for and inclination to; now this have carnal persons to worldly things. Secondly, in a way of affection. They mind them, that is, they favour them and relish them and take delight in them. Worldly persons, their hearts are set upon the world, and it is the most delightful thing to them of anything else. Thirdly, in a way of contemplation. They mind them, that is, they think upon them; such things as these are the chiefest study and meditation, and which their thoughts are most exercised about. Fourthly, in a way of activity and contrivance. They mind the things of the flesh, that is, they lay out chiefly for it. They bend their chiefest study and endeavour to promote such things as these are. They seek opportunities for the flesh, and they seek how to accomplish and to improve these opportunities. Now, the ground of all this is two fold. First, that inward principle which does act in them and prevail in them. This is a sure rule, that everything doth after its kind. Nature it is a most certain principle wherever it is. Secondly, there is Satan also who has a further stroke and influence hereupon. He is the spirit that works in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). He makes it his business to promote these things in them, by his suggestions and instigations and concurrences and assistances of them. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us. First, as a sad discovery to us of the state and condition of the generality of people in the world. Secondly, we may learn from hence the necessity of regeneration and the work of the new creature, in order to a holy life to be led by us, and the freeing of us from the power and dominion of sin in us, because so long as men are carnal they will be sure to do carnal things. The second is the property of those who are spiritual and regenerate, and that is, that such as these they do mind the things of the Spirit; that is, heaven and heavenly things, grace and holiness. First, spiritual persons, they have their minds enlightened to discern of spiritual things. The reason why most kinds of people do so little regard the things of the Spirit, is indeed because they do so little know the things of the Spirit, nor understand that excellency which is in them. That which men do not know, they do not desire. Secondly, as spiritual persons have an enlightening of their understanding to discern these things; so they have a touch also upon their hearts to suit with them, and to correspond unto them. Thirdly, they have, moreover, the Spirit of God Himself dwelling and abiding in them, who is a faithful monitor to them and exciter of them to that which is good. The use of this point to ourselves may he drawn forth into sundry particulars. First, as it calls us to search and examination of our estate in this respect, and to see how it is indeed with us. There is nothing more necessary for Christians, and those that profess religion, than to be able to make it out to themselves that they are such as are truly regenerate and after the Spirit. So again, as for the affection to these things; let us examine that. Men are then said to mind those things indeed when they savour them, and have some relish of them. Now, how is it to this? Alas! there are a great many people that do it not at all. The Word and the sacraments and prayer and the communion of saints, it may be they are present at them, and in a formal and customary manner partakers of them, but they relish no sweetness in them at all. And so likewise for contemplation. What are the things which we chiefly meditate and think upon in our greatest retirements, when we are solitary and alone by ourselves? Is it these things of the Spirit; yea, or no? “O how I love Thy law!” says David, “it is my meditation all the day” (Psalms 119:97). Again, for counsel and contrivance and design. How is it here? What is the business which we do most of all study, and endeavour and beat our brains about? Is it the great things of the world, how to improve ourselves and enlarge ourselves here; or is it to get grace into our hearts? (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The things of the flesh and the things of the Spirit

I. “The things of the flesh” are the bodily appetites, sympathies, and propensions. These are its great forces moving its members and organs. These are--

1. Good when subordinated to the interests of the soul. When they are controlled by a holy intelligence they are blessed handmaids to the Spirit.

2. Bad when they are allowed to hold empire over the soul. This they do in all unrenewed natures; the curse of humanity is when the body rules the intellect and conscience too. “What shall we eat; what shall we drink?” etc.

II. The things of the Spirit are its moral intuitions, rational dictates, intuitive longings, and varied powers of thought and sentiment. These are--

1. Good when they control the things of the flesh, when they hold the body in absolute subjection--use it as an instrument.

2. Bad when they are devoted to the things of the flesh. They are often thus devoted; souls are everywhere prostituted to animalism. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The opposition between the things of the flesh and the things of the Spirit

I. As human to Divine (Matthew 16:23).

II. As earthly to heavenly (Philippians 3:19; Colossians 3:2).

III. As sin to holiness (Galatians 5:19-23). (Archdeacon Gifford.)

Minding the things of the flesh

It is not necessary that you mind all the things of the flesh in order to constitute you carnal man. It is enough to fasten this character upon you, that you have given yourself over to the indulgence or the pursuit even so far as one of these things. A sinner may not be a debauchee, and neither the one nor the other may be an aspiring politician. But whatever the reigning passion may be, if it have the effect of attaching you to some one object that is in the world, and which with the world will terminate and perish--then still your mind is in subjection to an idol, and the death of the carnally minded is your inheritance and your doom. Be not deceived, then, ye men, who, engrossed with the cares, and observant of all the sobrieties of business, are not addicted to the influences of dissipation; nor ye, who, heedless of wealth’s accumulations, can mix an occasional generosity with the squanderings of intemperance and riot; nor ye, who, alike exempted from sordid avarice or debasing sensuality, have yet, in pursuit of an ascendency over the mind and the measures of your fellow men, made power the reigning felicity of your existence; nor yet even ye, who, without any settled aim after one or the other of these gratifications, fluctuate in giddy concern from one of the world’s frivolities to another. None of you mind all the things of the flesh; yet each of you mind one or the other of these things, and that to the entire practical exclusion of the things of the Spirit from the preference of your habitual regards. We do not charge you with a devotion of heart to all these things in the world which are opposite to the love of the Father, any more than we charge you with idolatrously falling in obeisance to all the divinities of a heathen polytheism. But still, if only one of these divinities be your God, there were enough to constitute you an idolater, and to convict you of a sacrilegious disavowal of the King who is eternal and immutable. And so, your one earthly appetite, though free from the tyranny of all the others; your habit of ungodliness, though it be the only one that breaks out into visible expression in the history of your life--of itself renders you a carnal man; of itself drives you from the spiritual territory; of itself proves that you are still one of the children of this world; and that you have not passed from death unto life. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The carnal and spiritual mind

I. The marks of the carnally minded.

1. They “mind the things of the flesh.” The “flesh” is the body, man’s animal nature, the seat of sensual appetite and passion. It is through the organs and the senses of the flesh that we engage in the activities of the world, and participate in its enjoyments or sorrows. “The things of the flesh,” therefore, are all the things of this present life, apart from any connection with that which is unseen and eternal. These are summed up in chap. 1, as “the creature,” which is worshipped and served rather than the Creator. They are spoken of by John as “all that is in the world” (1 John 2:15-16). This “all” is further defined as “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”--covetousness, sensuality, and ambition. To “mind” these things is to think a great deal about them, to set our affections upon them, and to satisfy our souls with their possession (Luke 12:16-20).

(a) Our secret meditations (Proverbs 23:7).

(b) The crises of our history. There are times which compel us to show whether we love God or the world most.

(c) The practical outgrowth of our principles and disposition. We are known by our fruits (1 John 3:7; 1Jn_3:10).

2. “To be carnally minded is death.”

3. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” True, there may be no full consciousness of this, but still it is there ready to be brought out when occasion arises. A man may hate his neighbour and yet not discover his resentment for years; but at length that neighbour may confront him in some such form as shall instantly bring it out.

4. “It is not subject to His law, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” And why? Because they are still unforgiven as to past offences; and because also, in all seeming goodness, there is the total lack of a true and acceptable purpose.

II. The marks of the spiritually minded.

1. They mind the things of the Spirit.

2. He who minds the things of the Spirit shows it by making constant efforts to acquire them. He takes pleasure in meditating upon them, in conversing about them, and in listening when others describe them. Then he must needs read about them in the Word of God, and must be frequently found in closest communion with God. “To be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

The carnal and spiritual mind

I. The text divides men into two classes and only two. The test of these two classes is the bent and inclination of their minds towards carnal or spiritual things. It is important to determine to which we belong. We cannot do so by any conventional test.

II. The test is carried into the inner man.

1. It is “minding” the things of the flesh or spirit that determines character; what a man is rather than what he does. God looks at the heart, and no outward act can deceive Him.

2. “Minding the things,” etc., includes the exercise of the affections.

III. Man really is what his nature is. The prevailing instincts of the heart determine the external habits of life. Character is determined from within, not from without. A man may live in a church all his life. This will not make him a saint. You may sow wheat and barley and flax in the same soil and under the same conditions, softened by the same shower, warmed by the same sun; but these influences only lead to the development of the different species according to their own intrinsic natures. Circumstances may repress the outward manifestation of character as a man may avoid worldly amusements from a sense of impropriety, etc.; but such abstinence does not prove him to be a spiritual man.

IV. The practical application of this principle. In regard to--

1. Prayer.

2. Reading the Bible.

3. Christ.

4. The world and the things of the world.

5. The unseen world. (P. Strutt.)

Carnal and spiritual mindedness

I. The antithesis of carnal and spiritual mindedness (verse 5).

1. The contrasted classes.

(a) We need not live in profligacy. Passions may be dormant, while not provoked. Dynamite is harmless till fired. The particles of clay may temporarily subside from muddy water till the liquid is agitated again: then fresh discolorations arise.

(b) Nor indulge in every form of evil. In the mountain range of a man’s iniquity certain peaks may start sheer above the general level of the chain.

(c) Nor flagrantly wicked in any one thing. If only the mind be steeped in frivolities, forgetful of anything but self-gratification, we are in the flesh.

(d) We may even experience longings after nobler soul attainments (Matthew 19:16-22). Just as there are manifold depths of complete submersion, at six or sixty fathoms, so there are souls not far from the kingdom of heaven (Mark 12:34), others as whited sepulchres (Matthew 23:27), others “of your father the devil” (John 8:44).

(a) Such are renewed in heart. The change they have experienced is deeper than reformation. They are not like irised minerals whose surface is made gleam with all rainbow colours while the centre is lustreless, opaque.

(b) They desire unreserved consecration to God’s service.

(c) Their portrait is drawn in the Beatitudes.

2. Their different conduct.

(a) We may know our spiritual position by observing what things we mind. A bar of steel, by what it “minds,” will show whether it is magnetised or not. Our conduct, like the hands of our watches, tells out the unseen movements within.

(b) The old nature cannot be sanctified, it must be crucified (Galatians 5:24).

II. The different results of such antithetic positions (verses 6-8).

1. The consequences are--

(a) Alienation from all godliness and spiritual movements, as physical death is separation from activities of bodily existence. The heart chords of the carnally minded never respond to the Spirit’s touch, as no plays of thought or feeling flit over the pallid face of a corpse though touched by the friendliest hand. Yet the spiritually dead are neither incapacitated for, nor insensible to, sensual pleasures (Philippians 3:9; 2 Peter 2:13).

(b) Not so much negation of spiritual comforts as positive hunger of unsatisfied desires, desolations consequent on indulged passions. Cain (Genesis 4:13), Esau (Genesis 27:34), Judas (Matthew 27:3), felt it to be so.

(c) Always takes hold on eternal perdition. The tap root of the sin tree strikes into the inmost recesses of human nature (Romans 6:23). Present soul death is prophetic of future.

(a) Life, the complete opposite of death (Ezekiel 37:1-7), including delight in God, power for good, conformity to Christ’s character, holy activity, and eternal felicity. At present this life is subject to many fluctuations, dishealths, languors; but as given of the Spirit and hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) it is deathless (Romans 5:17; John 14:19).

(b) Peace. This is not exemption from all disquietudes, but in spite of them; like a river flowing amid dark cliffs with its curves lit up, and its ripples glancing in the sunlight, the peace of the believer, luminous in the shining of God’s reconciled countenance, courses on, diffusing comforts, serenities, joys. In contrast with the wild tumult of fleshly lusts this peace signifies the harmony grace establishes between the sinner and his God, his fellow men, and the several parts of his own being. It counterworks the soul’s anxieties on the chief grounds whence they arise. It is a peace the world knows not of (Isaiah 59:8), and cannot take away (John 14:27). It is a distinct fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

2. Why the consequences are so.

(a) The primary cause of man’s indifference to gospel truth and ordinances. The dead are deaf. Scientists love to hear of inventions, social reformers of philanthropies, merchants of commerce, because they are alive to these things.

(b) Heaven would be no felicity for any unregenerate soul. Its sorest misery is in meeting with God in the glory of His holiness (Revelation 6:16).

(c) The believer’s peace will be proportionate to his minding the things of the Spirit. The growing stream floats more and larger burdens on its bosom.

(d) The unmitigated dogmatism of verse 8 should lead us to repentance. Better that a man should not be born than not please his God (Matthew 26:24).

(e) The measure of our pleasing God is the measure of our Christianity (Hebrews 11:5; John 8:29; 1 John 3:22). (James Gage, B. D.)

The carnal and the spiritual

I. The different states of mind described by the apostle.

1. To be “carnally-minded,” to “walk after the flesh,” to “live after the flesh,” to “mind the things of the flesh,” are plainly convertible terms, all meaning, not a proper care for the welfare of the body, but the practical exhibition of that evil principle of fallen man which in the following verse is said to be enmity against God--not to be subject to His law; nay, to be necessarily hostile to it. Carnal-mindedness, therefore, consists in the presiding love and pursuit of those sinful objects of time and sense which alienate the heart from God, subdue it to the powers of death, and deliver it into the snare of the enemy of mankind, to be led captive at his will.

2. But “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” Spiritual-mindedness is a principle decidedly opposed to that which I have described--to pass through things temporal as not to lose the things eternal--to walk by faith, not by sight--to slight and scorn the pleasures of sin, animated by that sanctified ambition which seeks, through undeserved mercy, the recompense of an eternal reward--this is spiritual-mindedness.

II. Such is the great contrast between the characters I have described; and vast as is the difference of these states of heart will also be that of the ends to which they infallibly lead.

1. To be carnally-minded is death. To live after the flesh is a present death--a moral incapacity for the pursuits and duties of a heavenly and immortal life; it is to be dead in trespasses and sins. One thus minded is an alien from the commonwealth of the true Israel, a stranger to the covenant of evangelical promise, having no Scriptural hope, and without God in the world. He may be a living treasury of knowledge, capable of many impressions from religious objects, capable of performing many external duties: he may have a form of godliness, a name to live; but holy and spiritual things, in their predominant importance, strike not his mind nor possess his heart.

2. But to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Carnal passions are subdued and mortified, and the Spirit is life, because of righteousness; it is capable of a spiritual existence.” The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made the spiritually-minded man free from the law of sin and death. Like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so he is enabled to walk in newness of life.” He is sensible of all the privileges and delights of a spiritual life. He is passed from the death of sin to the life of grace; and the death of the body shall be but the gate and entrance of endless being, both to body and to soul.

Conclusion:

1. Learn we then from this Scripture the necessity of an entire renewal of the heart. To be carnally-minded is present death; and as well might the lifeless corpse gift itself with the powers of being and motion, as unassisted man restore himself to spiritual existence, and live by the exertion of his own energies to God and goodness.

2. Learn, also, how ill they judge, and how idly they dream of happiness, who prefer living after the flesh to living after the spirit. (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)

The contrasted characters; or, the carnally and spiritually minded

We have here depicted--

I. Those to whom the Christian liberty has not come.

1. Their moral state and character. They are in the flesh. Hence they “mind the things of the flesh,” The flesh has bound down the mind to its sole service (Philippians 3:19; Colossians 3:2; Romans 13:14). Under the dominion of this law they walk (Ephesians 2:2), What, then, is this strangely fascinating power? The term ( σάρξ) properly denotes the fleshy part of living animal bodies. It is also sometimes used for the whole human person. And it is clearly used here and elsewhere for fallen and sinful human nature (John 3:6-7; Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:17-21). But why?

(a) Sin first found its access to the human will through the medium of bodily sense.

(b) By means of this it still maintains its dominion within the soul.

(c) Man suffers his spiritual faculties, by which the animal nature ought to be governed and transformed, to be delivered over in servitude to the flesh.

2. To be in this sinful condition “is death” (Romans 7:9; Luke 15:24; 1 John 5:12; John 5:40; Joh_6:53; Ephesians 2:1-5; Romans 6:1-23; Colossians 3:1-4; Romans 7:9-13; Rom_7:24). Man’s true life is not animal, but spiritual. If he attains not to this, or by transgression forfeits it, he does not really live. And so long as he is content with earthly good, he is perpetually sinking down into the “second death.”

3. This state, with its consequent course of life, is death because it is “enmity against God”--is directly subversive of His appointment and order. The true life of intelligent beings must consist in conformity to the Creator’s purpose and arrangements. The carnal mind being of necessity the very antithesis of God’s order, it is not, it never can be, subject to God’s law.

II. The characteristics of those to whom the Christian liberty has come.

1. Their whole course of life is determined and regulated by the Spirit. The new Spirit of life, imparted to them in Christ, has set them “free from the law of sin and death.” They are, indeed, still in the body, but the flesh is but a tabernacle and organ of the spirit. For they now live in the Spirit--“mind” the things of the Spirit, and “walk” according to the Spirit. Not, indeed, that they neglect the body, or despise all earthly good, but even while occupied with mundane things they learn to make them helpful to their true spiritual interests.

2. To be thus spiritually minded--

Conclusion: Observe--

1. That there is no hope of securing the salvation of any man while he continues contented with “the things of the flesh.” The first thing needful is to work in him a living conviction that his present course of life is vain, foolish, and wicked.

2. That the new life in the Spirit can be sustained only by continued attention to its interests. “They that are after the Spirit” do mind “the things of the Spirit,” and such “minding” is “life and peace.” (W. Tyson.)

The contrast between the carnally minded and the spiritually minded

I. External. Two classes of character evident.

1. The one busied about earthly things, and governed by their corrupt inclinations.

2. The other caring for heavenly things, and therefore denying themselves that they may please God.

II. Internal. This difference is essential; in the heart.

1. The one is spiritually dead.

2. The other is alive unto God, and enjoys His unspeakable peace. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The contrast between the unconverted and the regenerate

appears--

I. Is their character.

1. The one is sensual.

2. The other spiritual.

II. Is their experience.

1. The one experiences death and misery.

2. The other life and peace.

III. Is their relation to God.

1. The one is an enemy, and cannot please God.

2. The other a friend, and enjoys communion with God.

IV. Is their prospects.

1. The one must perish, for he is none of Christ’s.

2. The other shall live forever, for he shall be quickened from the grave. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Nature and spirit

Whatever these words may mean one thing is clear--the apostle does teach a radical difference between the physical and the spiritual natures of man. Some philosophers teach that there is no difference between matter and mind; that the operations which we call mental or spiritual, and those which we recognise as physical, are all produced by the same forces, This denial of the distinction between the physical and the spiritual realms, which makes thought only a chemical function, and conscience nothing but a hereditary affection of the nervous system, Paul does not justify. Which is nearer right? Let us hear what a philosopher (Mr. W.T. Harris, of Concord) says about--

I. The law of natural things. “The world of nature, to which man is enslaved by his bodily wants and necessities, is a world of selfishness and cruelty. The means of gratification for one body are obtained and used at the expense of another.” Is not that true?

1. Every natural thing grows at the expense of something else. The sand of the beach is worn from the rocks of the shore by the action of the waves. But what the beach gains the cliffs lose. The corn grows out of the earth, but only at the expense of the soil in which it grows, and of other plants, that stand stunted under its shadow. Just so the body of the animal lives and grows at the expense of other living things.

2. The law of natural growth is the law of all movement or manifestation of physical power. Every force that is expended is borrowed. If I drive one croquet ball against another, the force imparted to the second one is lost by the first one. The fire burns, but it is only as the wood gives up the heat that was latent in it. The oxygen of the air and the carbon of the wood unite to produce the flame; and whatever force is in the flame existed before the fire was kindled.

3. The great physical law which the philosophers call the law of the correlation of forces, or the conservation of energy, governs all these changes. Every steam engine is an example of the conversion of heat into motion; every hot axle is an instance of the conversion of motion into heat; every machine belt from which the spark flies to the knuckle shows heat converted into electricity; every building set on fire by lightning shows electricity converted into heat. What is lost by one form is gained by another.

II. The law of spiritual things. “The law of spirit is harmony, and not mere contention. All spiritual struggle must have reconciliation for its object. The equal shall look in the face of equal, and through mutual recognition each shall reinforce the other. Thus each is doubly strong; strong in himself and strong in his friend. Combination is the great principle of spirit, and its forms are numerous in the practical and in the theoretical world.” This statement will also be verified by your experience.

1. You and I sit down hungry to a scanty meal. There is barely enough for one. If my needs are satisfied you get nothing; if you are filled I must go hungry. But you and I sit down with eager minds to talk about some moral or spiritual truth. It is a truth known to me, but unknown to you, and in our conversation you gain from me this truth. Have I deprived myself of anything in imparting to you this truth? On the contrary, I have gained by giving.

2. Other spiritual gifts besides knowledge follow in their growth the same law.

3. We say sometimes in our prayers that God is not impoverished by giving nor enriched by withholding. That is true of Him because He is a Spirit, and because the law of His nature and of His action is a spiritual law. But man is a spirit also; and the saying is therefore true of man. By giving man is not impoverished--by giving spiritual gifts. A man’s temporal possessions may sometimes be diminished by bestowing them, but the man’s true self is enlarged by every bounty that it disposes.

III. Have we not verified the doctrine taught by the Concord philosopher? And in doing so have we not found the strongest reason for believing with Paul that there is a radical difference between the physical and the spiritual world. Do not the body and the spirit belong to different kingdoms? Is there not a higher nature in man which is not subject to the law of the conservation of energy, and of which physical science knows absolutely nothing? And is there not, therefore, reason for believing that the death of the body, which is under physical law, is not the death of the higher nature, which is not under physical law; that the spirit of man may continue to exist after the body has ceased to exist?

1. Man is not wholly mortal, but neither is he wholly immortal. He is flesh as well as spirit. In which of these realms does he chiefly live? Is his ruling love given to the things of the flesh or to the things of the Spirit? If the former is true of him, then the law of his nature is the law of the lower realm. The things on which his heart is chiefly set are things which he can only have by depriving his fellows. The very condition of his life is warfare, and the warfare into which his ruling choice enlists him is fierce and fatal; sooner or later the devourers themselves must be devoured. The minding of the flesh is death.

2. It is a sad and bitter life that any man leads who sets his chief affections on the possessions and goods of the material world. Because he is a spiritual being his ruling choice ought to take a higher range. The gains that are most precious to him are those that fall to him while he is enriching others.

3. It is quite possible for man to carry this spiritual force down into the lower realm, there to subjugate the devourers. It is possible to substitute the principle of communion and combination for the principle of competition in the getting and the using of material things. That, indeed, is the very law of progress in civilisation. And the thousand wars of old will never cease, and the thousand years of peace will never come, till men stop putting their trust in the methods of competition and begin to build the fabric of their industrial and social life on the principle of cooperation--till they walk no longer after the flesh, but after the Spirit. That day will not be hastened by disputing or fighting or legislating, any more than the growing of the grass will be hastened by firing cannon over your lawn, or marching troops across it, or making speeches to it. But you and I, in our time, can have something of the light and glory of it in our homes and in our lives if we will only treasure the truth we have found today. (W. Gladden.)

Spiritual affinity

He that delights in God doth not much delight in anything else. The world appears in an eclipse. The astronomer saith, if it were possible for a man to be lifted up as high as the moon, the earth would seem to him as a little point. If we could be lifted to heaven in our affections, all earthly delights would seem as nothing. When the woman of Samaria had met with Christ, down goes the pitcher; she leaves that behind. He who delights in God, as having tasted the sweetness in Him, doth not much mind the pitcher--he leaves the world behind.


Verse 6

Romans 8:6

For to be carnally minded is death.

The carnal and the spiritual mind

I. The carnal mind.

1. The disposition.

2. The consequence. To be carnally minded is--

(a) It is the forerunner of eternal death. For such a disposition could never find a home in heaven.

(b) A sign of present spiritual death--a deadness to spiritual things,

II. The spiritual mind.

1. How it is produced. “If so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” No man is spiritually minded by nature. Respecting this Holy Spirit, note--

2. Its characteristics.

3. The privilege of which this mind is the seal--Christ’s Spirit. A man may have much that bears the semblance of piety--a head stored with knowledge, a mouth full of argument, a life full of work. “But if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” As a matter, then, of fact, every man may test his condition and state by this proof. (P. Strutt.)

Carnal and spiritual mindedness and their effects

I. The death here spoken of is something more than penal death.

1. It is not future, but present, and arises from the obtuseness or the extinction of certain feelings and faculties which, if awake to their corresponding objects, would uphold a life of thoughts and sensations and regards, altogether different from the life of unregenerate men. Just figure an affectionate father to have all the domestic feelings paralysed. Then would you say of him that he had become dead to the joys and the interests of home. And the death of the carnally minded is a death to all that is spiritual--a hopeless apathy in all that regards our love to God and righteousness.

2. And such a death is not merely a thing of negation, but of positive wretchedness. For with the want of all that is spiritual about him, there is still a remainder of feeling which makes him sensible of his want, and a remorse and a terror about invisible things, even amid the busy appliance of this world’s opiates. And there are other miseries which spring up from the pride that is met with incessant mortification--from the selfishness that comes into collision with selfishness--from the moral agonies which essentially adhere to malice and hatred, and from the shame that is annexed to the pursuits of licentiousness. All these give to the sinner his foretaste of hell on this side of death.

II. From what we have said of the death of those who are carnally, you will be at no loss to understand what is meant by the life of those who are spiritually minded. We read of those who are alienated from the life of God, and to this it is that they find readmittance. The blood of Christ hath consecrated for them a way of access; and the fruit of that access is delight in God--the charm of confidence, of a new moral gladness in the contemplation of God’s character, an assimilation of their own character to His, and so a taste for charity and truth and holiness; and a joy, both in the cultivation of all these virtues and in the possession of a heart at growing unison with the mind and will of God. These are the ingredients of a present life, which is the token and the foretaste of life everlasting.

III. The peace of those who are spiritually minded. There are two great causes of disturbance to which the heart is exposed.

1. A brooding anxiety lest we shall be bereft or disappointed of some object on which our desires are set. The man who is spiritually minded rises above this, for there is an object paramount to all which engrosses the care of a worldly man; and so what to others are overwhelming mortifications, to him are but the passing annoyances of a journey. To him there is an open vista through which he may descry a harbour and a home, on the other side of the stormy passage that leads to it; and this he finds enough to bear him up under all that vexes and dispirits other men.

2. There is nought in the character of the spiritually minded that exempts them from the hostility of other men; but there is the sense of a present God in the feeling of whose love there is a sunshine which the world knoweth not; and there is the prospect of a future heaven in whose sheltering bosom it is known that the turbulence of this weary pilgrimage will soon be over; and there is even a charity that mellows our present sensation of painfulness, and makes the revolt that is awakened by the coarse and vulgar exhibition of human asperity to be somewhat more tolerable. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

To be spiritually minded is life and peace.--

Spiritual mindedness

I. Its nature. Note--

1. The objects which a spiritually minded man regards. There is a spiritual as well as a material, an intellectual, and a moral world--a world the existence and contents of which are not ascertained by the exercise of the senses, nor by the mere exercise of intellectual energy; “for eye hath not seen,” etc. They are, however, graciously revealed to us by the Spirit in the Scriptures; they comprehend the existence, character, and government of God; the responsibility, guilt, and depravity of man; the person, character, and mediatorial work of the Redeemer; the instructions and influences of the Holy Spirit; the graces which adorn the Christian character; and the glory to which the believer is graciously destined.

2. The manner in which a spiritually-minded man regards these objects. He has a spiritual discernment, in the exercise of which he regards spiritual things in a totally different way than he did before. The things themselves remain the same, but he is changed. He regards them now--

3. The general principles by which a spiritually-minded man’s regard to these objects is regulated.

II. The life and peace with which spiritual mindedness is connected.

1. To be spiritually minded is life. This life is--

2. To be spiritually minded is peace. This peace arises from--

III. The means by which spiritual mindedness may be produced and promoted.

1. Carefully avoid everything which is opposed to spirituality of mind.

2. Contemplate the Word of God in the exercise of faith.

3. Pray without ceasing. (J. Alexander.)

Spiritual mindedness

I. Wherein this state of mind consists. In--

1. Renewal of the mind by the Spirit (John 3:6-7).

2. Abstraction of the mind from the world.

3. Exercise of the mind on spiritual objects.

II. With what this state of mind is identified. “To be spiritually minded,” according to “the wise men after the flesh,” is to be mad; according to the votaries of sensual pleasure, is to be melancholy; according to the Word of God, “life and peace.” Spirituality of mind is--

1. The evidence of spiritual life. It is not natural to nor acquired by man. No cause is adequate to the production of it but the Holy Ghost. He, therefore, who is “spiritually minded” has the witness of the Spirit that he is “born of God.” In the feelings of life experienced, and the functions of life performed, there is the evidence of life.

2. The element of a happy life. “To be spiritually minded is life and peace.” It yields pure and permanent enjoyment when all other sources fail, and in every variety and change of circumstance, and is productive of perfect felicity in heaven.

3. The earnest of eternal life--both as a pledge that it shall be given, and as a part already given (Romans 8:29-30; John 4:14).

III. How this state of mind may be originated and promoted. By--

1. Dependence on the Spirit of God.

2. Attendance on the means of grace. The Spirit ordinarily works by means, the chief of which are the study of the Scriptures, private devotion, and public worship.

3. Seclusion from the world. Not that lawful occupation is incompatible, but there is in the world much that has tendency to sensualise the mind; and the further we remove from the sphere of its attraction, the better for the cultivation of this grace.

4. Christian converse. When Christ talked with two of His disciples by the way, their hearts burned within them.

5. Meditation on death and the world to come.

The subject may be viewed and improved--

1. As a test of character.

2. As an excitement to joy. (G. Corney.)

The spiritual mind

I. What it is. The mind which the Holy Spirit infuses into the regenerate, and which desires and pursues after spiritual things. In its more advanced and perfect form, it is the enthronement of the Divine will over the human; the voluntary subjection of the whole man to a Divine influence, whereby Christ is formed in us.

II. Whence have we it?

1. Its efficient cause is the Holy Spirit. To awaken conscience from its sleep, to turn the will from its waywardness, to eradicate the seeds of evil, and to fill the heart with love for whatever is holy, is the province of the Holy Spirit, and of Him only: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” etc.

2. The instrumental means is “the Word of God,” which by the Spirit, is made “effectual in them that believe.” “Sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,” go together. The Spirit uses the truth to obtain influential access to man’s soul, in all its parts--to the understanding, that it may be opened; to the judgment, that it may be convinced; to the will, that it may be subdued; to the conscience, that it may be restored to its rightful supremacy; to the affections, that they may be set on God and heaven.

III. In what forms does it manifest itself?

1. In the quickened condition of the religious sensibilities; the transformation of “the heart of stone into the heart of flesh.” “To be carnally-minded is death.” While a man is in this state, he is dead to all the objects and interests of the spiritual world. Of “the beauty of holiness” he has no knowledge. The favour of God has no part in his aspirations, and the eternal and unseen never occasion a serious thought. Hence, awakened sensibility is the first sign of an inner life. We feel spiritually. There is a keen sensitiveness to the presence of evil. The favour of God is life to us. True, it may be “life” without “peace.” But life it is, and must be. Spiritual emotions, be they painful or be they joyous, can come only from a spiritual mind. A tear is as good a sign of life as a smile. But remember that this awakened sensibility is a thing of degrees. The mind of the Spirit belongs as truly to “the babe in Christ” as to “the perfect man”; to the awakened sinner, in his first convictions, as to the triumphant saint just entering on his rest. There must be life in us, while we are manifesting any of the functions of life.

2. In the increasing prevalence of religious thoughts and affections. “They that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit.” The thoughts make the man, and the thoughts are the man. He is “carnal,” if he gives the first and largest place in his heart to the things of the world; he is “spiritual,” if he gives that preeminence to the exercises of faith.

3. In the centering of its best affections in a personal Saviour, as the medium through which the soul orders all its intercourse with the heavenly world.

IV. Its fruits and experiences. “Life and peace.” There is the life and peace of--

1. The resting and settled heart. The life of carnal-minded men is one of miserable unrest, which comes of their doing violence to a law of their being. They have taken up with something below that which their souls were made and fitted for. But the spiritual man in the midst of a conflicting, shifting, uncertain, and unstable world, rests in the Lord.

2. The resigned and submissive will, walking confidently after Divine guidance. In the embarrassments of moral choice, in the oppositions of conflicting duties, we look to have the mind of the Spirit.

3. Spiritual liberty. There is a service which may be laborious, exact, and costly, but it is the service of a bondsman--of one who is labouring to obey, before he has been fully brought to believe. But the spiritual mind changes constraint into cheerfulness, and duty into happiness, and the restless activity of a self-devised and legal worship into the calm repose of a commanded and accepted sacrifice.

4. Devotion. For, having the Spirit, we have in ourselves an agency for helping our infirmities. He moulds us into the praying form, suggests to us praying thoughts, forms in us the praying habit.

V. The best means of attaining it.

1. Prayer for the influences of that Spirit through whom this great gift comes to us. The most eminent effusions of the Spirit were not only afforded to prayer, but appear to have taken place at the very time these sacred exercises were being performed (Ezekiel 36:37; Acts 2:1).

2. The cultivation of such tempers as are most congruous with His revealed character, and calculated to invite His gracious presence in our souls. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” A Spirit of “love,” He is grieved at the indulgence of envious and malignant passions. A Spirit of “supplication,” He is grieved when we grow remiss in the exercises of devotion. He cannot, as a Spirit of “holiness,” remain in a heart to be the companion of unforsaken sin. And as we retest not grieve the Author of the spiritual mind, so we must be careful not to “quench” His sacred influences. The gifts of the Spirit are not bestowed upon us to lie idle. Their fruitfulness depends upon their being kept in constant exercise.

3. All those tendencies which the apostle includes under the name of the “carnal mind,” must be brought into subjection. The flesh and the Spirit cannot reign together. Hence we are required to “mortify the deeds of the body.” And this we do by denying them indulgence.

4. The observance of stated seasons of religious retirement.

5. Making subservient thereto things which are not spiritual--pressing into a sanctified service every turn in the lot of life. “It is a great art,” as Bishop Hall says, “to learn the heavenly use of earthly things.” As the raging fire turns everything which is cast into it into its own nature; or as the flower makes common use of the rain and the snow drift, the sunbeam, and the dew, to minister to the nourishment and support of its own vitality; so, by the power of a Divine affinity, does the spiritual mind assimilate all things to itself.

6. The study of those practical models of Christian character which are given to us in the Holy Scripture.

7. Above all looking to Christ, the great Exemplar, as in all things, so in this. (D. Moore, M. A.)

The spiritual mind

We often hear it said of one or another individual, “He is a very spiritual person,” or “He is very unspiritual.” What is meant by these expressions? In the first place, the passage informs us that “to be spiritually-minded” is opposed to being “carnally-minded.” The sensual thought, the eyes that rove after, the imagination that shapes, the soul that hankers for, forbidden pleasures, are anti-spiritual. Again, while the spiritual is opposed to the carnal mind, we learn from other passages of Scripture it is more than what we commonly signify by morality. A man may be honest in his worldly affairs, blameless in every earthly relation, without being truly spiritual; for, besides the earthly and human relations in which we stand, we sustain relations heavenly and Divine. A supreme, uncreated excellence must sanctify and draw us on to another citizenship than that we hold amid these clay-built abodes, before the spiritual mind, with its “life and peace,” can be unfolded within us. Once more, “to be spiritually-minded,” while standing in opposition to what is “carnal,” and completing what is “moral,” is also the significance of what is “formal.” The outward observances and institutions of our religion have no sense but to express and awaken the exercises of our spiritual nature. According as we go through these punctual rites of prayer and praise, communion and consecration, with a worldly or a spiritual mind, they will be a mechanical and unmeaning mockery to us, or the very reflections of the gates of heaven. But the spiritual mind, while opposed to what is carnal, completing what is moral, has of course a position and intrinsic quality of its own, which we must go beyond all terms of negation and comparison to set forth. To be spiritually-minded, then, is to have a sense, a conviction, and inward knowledge of the reality, solidity, and permanent security of spiritual things. It is to believe and see that there is something more in God’s universe than outwardly appears; something more than this richly compounded order of material elements, with all its beauty; something beyond the sharply defined glittering objects that crowd the landscape. It is to understand that day and night, seed time and harvest, summer and winter, are not the only facts possibly subject to the notice of the undying soul. It is to be aware that even the broad streets and mighty pathways which the astronomer descries, laid out from globe to globe, do not embrace the whole or highest survey of God’s creation. But beyond, within, or above all, there verily is a scene, a society of lofty, intelligent existence, where are brighter displays of God’s nearness and love. The spiritual mind not only sees, as in cold vision, the inner or upper world gloriously triumphing in its stability over the passing kingdom of earth and sense, but enters into relation with it, feels surrounded by it, bows to it, and realises an inspection from the living firmament of its power. Mortal creature, spirit of Almighty inspiration, clothed in flesh! believest thou only in what comes to thee through these five windows of the senses, so advantageously placed to let in the notices of material things; or wilt thou credit that thy Maker also fashioned thy heart to yield for the entrance of Himself and retinue of attending spirits? Breather of earthly air, yet partaker of a heavenly privilege; birth of yesterday, yet heir of immortality; mystery to thyself, definite figure, illimitable being! thy feet do not more surely gravitate to the earth than thy inward nature holds of a loftier sphere. Awake to thy spiritual relations; live up to their solemn dignity. (C. A. Barrel.)

True piety peacefully pleasant

To be thus minded is life and peace; or the life of true piety is a life of peaceful pleasure.

1. A life of holiness is calculated to fill the mind with the richest enjoyment, and raise it to its highest state of improvement. The objects of contemplation that lie before the believing mind are dignified and worthy its occupancy.

2. A life of piety furnishes the heart with those affections which give it the highest pleasure, and best promote its improvement. There is no small object in God’s kingdom. If He is not the immediate object of the affections of His people, still they have a noble object. If they love His law, His gospel, His government, His Church, or even the humblest individual in His household, there is no one of these affections of which angels would be ashamed.

3. Piety cultivates a better conscience than can be found in the carnally-minded. Other things being equal, he is far the happiest man who has the purest conscience, who most promptly applies for its decision, and most cheerfully obeys its dictates. Still, in every good man, conscience is more or less honoured and cultivated, while in the opposite character it is hated and neglected as Heaven’s unwelcome sentinel.

4. A life of piety promotes happiness. To be spiritually-minded is life and peace. This is a point that will generally be conceded. It is said, however, that there are some whom religion has made unhappy. They are cut off from the pleasures of sense, while their hopes of glory and their enjoyment of God are too inoperative to render them happy. That in many cases this appears to be true there is no doubt; but there can be as little doubt that the failure is chargeable, not to religion, but to its absence.

5. There is opened before the believer a vast resource of comfort. He has joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, whom having not seen we love, and in whom though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. He has fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. He enjoys the ministry of angels. He is conscious of penitence, and has ordinarily a hope of forgiveness. He is permitted through rich grace to cast an eye forward toward heaven as his everlasting home.

6. The covenant that binds him to his Lord is an everlasting covenant, well ordered in all things and sure. Hence, while he is assured that to live is Christ, he is equally confident that to die would be gain. What he shall be it does not yet appear. (D. A. Clark.)

Death and life

1. Two of the sublimest words in the language, expressing two of the sublimest facts of our experience; but What is life? What is death? The answers take us far out of our depth. Life presents itself to us in a series of activities, governed by purpose; and, in the case of conscious life, it exhibits the delightful forms of intelligence and feeling. Life, then, as we generally see it, is bright, beautiful, and attractive. But of the inner springs which regulate these activities, of the essential nature of life we are ignorant. So with death. The aspect in which it presents itself to us is dark and repellent. We know it as the cessation of the cheerful activities of life, the dissolution and decay of the fair material form. It appears to us, therefore, as a great enemy.

2. But the way we look at both death and life is partial and illusive. This verse gives us the views of one occupying a point of view different to the one we are accustomed to take.

I. Death consider as the minding of the flesh.

1. That death is the cessation of activities which befalls the living body, is a natural, but cannot even we see it is a partial way of viewing it? For what we deplore when our friends die is not chiefly the disappearance and decay of their bodies, but the withdrawal of that mind and heart from our society of which the body was but the instrument.

2. The answer which these words give to the question, What is death? speak of what it means to the conscious soul. A soul which finds its aims and expends its energies in catering for the needs and pleasures of its bodily instrument, is virtually dead. And why? First, if the aims of the soul be confined to its perishing tenement, it follows that the soul’s occupation and pleasures will be gone when the body dies. And, besides, there is the ignoble procedure of making it the chief employment of the higher powers of our nature to cater for the lower. Now, the Scriptures are very far from countenancing neglect of the body; they exalt it as the instrument of Christian service, the temple of God. And a body in cheerful health is no small aid to the attainment of health of soul. What is called death of the soul here, is not such minding of the body as promotes its efficiency for worthy work, but such minding of it as makes the soul the slave of the body, its chief object to minister to its indulgences and pleasures.

3. That, I need not say, is a very different thing from death as we understand it. Is there any reason why things so different should be called by the same name? What is the death of the body? When the constant changes which go forward in the body nourish and preserve its life, it lives; but when they cease to do that, then it dies. But, observe, a dead body does not cease to be the subject of changes; on the contrary, they go forward; they consist of the repulsive changes of lingering decay and corruption. Now does not that justify the parallel of the apostle? The death of the soul is not its ceasing to think, to feel, to will, but its thinking, feeling, willing in base unworthy ways, as unlike its proper ways of acting as the odious processes of bodily corruption are unlike the fair processes of life.

II. Life considered as the minding of the spirit. The soul’s occupying itself mainly with aims and efforts belonging to its higher nature. It recognises its duties to others and to God, and its endeavours are made to discharge these though at cost of self-denial to the body. To follow Christ is its life task. To be approved of Christ its reward; to see Christ, and to resemble Him, its eternal happiness. These are the things it “minds,” and the body is the servant which aids it in doing so. The ideal, indeed, is not reached here, but the ceaseless and earnest effort after the ideal is the conflict of the Christian life. He who engages in it minds the things of the Spirit. And in proportion as it is attained, and the soul, rising superior to the claims of the flesh, feasts its powers on the things unseen and eternal, and labours at its task here with reference to them, and to Him who dwells there, in that proportion the soul lives; occupies itself in a way which trains it for immortality, and prepares it to see God. (T. M. Herbert, M. A.)

To be carnally minded is death

First, the subject, the carnal mind. This we may see made good in the several branches of it. As, first of all, take it in the mind and understanding, which is the higher part of the soul, that which should rule all the rest. This is corrupted, and so tending to death (thus Romans 1:22, and Ephesians 4:8). And we may see it in these several distempers, as--First, there is ignorance of the things of God and which concern our own eternal salvation (Jeremiah 4:22; 1 Corinthians 15:54). Secondly, as there is ignorance in the mind, so there is also a curiosity and an affectation of the knowledge of such things as belong not to us. Again, darkness of apprehension when we are taught, as the disciples, slow of heart (Luke 24:2; Luk_24:5; Mark 16:14). Thus we see the carnality of our reason and higher part. This may serve to humble us, and lay us low in our own thoughts. That which is best of us, it is by nature tainted in us. This shows us what ill judges of the things of God and the matters of religion such persons are as are merely carnal, and have no more but the light of reason in them, which is so much dimmed and obscured by sin, is as if blind men were to judge of colours, which is very improper and impertinent. Secondly, as there is corruption in the understanding, so likewise in the will and affections. “The flesh lusts against the Spirit” (Galatians 5:17). And (Romans 8:24) the affections and lusts they are both joined together, as who should say lustful affections. This first of all teaches us how impotent and unable anyone is by nature to his own conversion, while we are depraved in every part of us. Secondly, we see here also God’s goodness in His powerful and victorious grace, in that He suffers corruption to break out no further sometimes than it does, if not by wholly removing it, yet at least by restraining it. Now further, secondly, here is considerable of us the predicate, what is declared concerning it as to the evil and mischievousness of it, and that is, that it hath the name of death fastened upon it. The Spirit of God makes choice of such an expression as might most of all terrify us, and move all such persons as are yet remaining in their natural condition to labour to come out of it. First, it is in sort and in a certain sense temporal or natural death. This is not always presently, or actually, or in effect, as experience does many times show. First, it is so originally, and as the first occasion of this death. Secondly, it is death also demeritoriously. It is that which does deserve death. Thirdly, this carnal mind is oftentimes also temporal death actually and in the consequence of it. There is many a man who by his sin and wickedness does hasten and procure his own end. “Be not over much wicked; why should’st thou die before thy time?” says the preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:17. Secondly, it is death also spiritually, which is somewhat further here intended. It is enmity against God, as it follows in the next verse to the text, and it is a deprivation of the life of God which should be in us. Thirdly, it is also death eternal. And this is that which is principally intended here in this place, as the worst and greatest of all. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). There are divers persons who have great need to this purpose to be awakened out of this dead condition. First, all worldlings, who savour of nothing but of the earth and of the things of the earth. Secondly, here may likewise be warned and admonished occasionally from this present truth, all such persons as content themselves in a mere abstaining from grosser sins and the outward acts of the flesh. Thirdly, hereby also are admonished all vain glorious and Pharisaical persons, who have nothing in them but a form of godliness. To set home this further upon us, let us take in these considerations with us. First, that this carnal mind perverts the greatest human excellences and perfections which are considerable in any; the wits, and parts, and understandings, and such things as these. A man that has these without grace, he is but a dead man for all that. Secondly, this carnal mind corrupts even the best duties; it makes those performances which being considered in their own nature are good, yet coming from such a person that performs them to be turned to sin unto him, because the principle from which he performs them is not right in him (Proverbs 21:27). This carnal mind envenoms the greatest comforts, and takes away the profitable use of all the creatures that are for us. Hence it is that it is expressed indefinitely, “to be carnally-minded is death”; namely, whatever condition a man be in, in regard of the world, whether rich, or noble, or powerful, or whatever we can think of. The second is the end of the spiritual, which is expressed in two terms to us, in life and in peace. Each of these is such as is consequent to spiritual-mindedness in those who are the subjects of it. First, spiritual-mindedness is life. That is one thing which is attributed to it as a privilege attending upon it. Secondly, for spiritual life. This spiritual-mindedness is life in sundry regards. First, originally, as proceeding and springing from this life. Those that are spiritually-minded, they are so from the Spirit of life which is in Christ Himself, and communicated to them who are members of Him. Secondly, objectively. Spiritual-mindedness is spiritual life so also. Forasmuch as the matter of it, it is conversant about things of that nature, as grace, and conversion, and regeneration, and such things as these. Thirdly, operatively. Spiritual-mindedness is spiritual life likewise so. Forasmuch as it does very much tend to the preserving, and strengthening, and nourishing, and increasing of this spiritual life in us. The third and last notion of life which is here signified, and that indeed which is mainly intended, is that it is life eternal. The second is peace, which may be taken either in the generical notion or in the specifical. If we take it generically and comprehensively, so it does imply in it all kind of happiness at large, it being usual with the Hebrews to express all kinds of good whatsoever under this name, so as when they wished to any persons peace, they did under that expression pray for their absolute welfare and success. If we take it specifically and restrictively, so it does point out that blessing which is properly and peculiarly so-called, and that in all the several kinds and distributions of it. And thus, indeed, do I rather take it here in this place, the blessing of peace, as it is called, and which God hath promised to bestow on His people (Psalms 29:11; Psa_119:165; Proverbs 3:17; Romans 2:10; Galatians 6:16), etc. And peace, as I said, in the full extent. First, with God Himself (Romans 5:1), etc. Secondly, with man’s own self. Peace of conscience, tranquility of spirit, quietness of mind. Grace it is of a calming and composing nature, it puts all things into a state of quietness. Thirdly, with others (Proverbs 16:7). The ground of all this is, first, the gift and legacy of Christ. Secondly, the nature of grace itself, and the manner of the working of it; for it composes the passions of the mind, and scatters the distempers of it; and from thence occasions peace unto it. This may serve to show us the great difference betwixt the children of God and other men; betwixt those that are spiritually-minded and those that are carnal. As for this latter, they have no share in peace as belonging unto them (Isaiah 57:20-21). (Thomas Horton, D. D.)


Verse 7-8

Romans 8:7-8

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God.

The carnal mind

I. Its attitude towards God.

1. Enmity.

2. Insubordination--transgressing the law of God.

3. Utter incompatibility with His nature.

II. God’s attitude towards it.

1. He can only regard it with displeasure.

2. This is evident from His Word, procedure, and threatenings. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The enmity of the carnal mind

I. Its object. God who is--

1. The kindest of beings; from His--

2. The most lovable.

3. The greatest. He is infinite in wisdom, power, etc.

II. Its subject.

1. The mind--the noblest part of man, because--

2. The carnal mind--carnal because of its--

III. Its evidences.

1. Aversion from communion with God.

2. Wilful disobedience to His known commands.

3. Opposition to Him.

4. Hatred to His followers.

Conclusion: This teaches us--

1. That all mankind are naturally degenerate.

2. That an entire change of mind is necessary to salvation.

3. That this change should be our serious concern. (Biblical Treasury.)

The enmity of the carnal mind

I. In what sense are we to understand this enmity to God?

1. We are not to suppose that the unregenerate man is at enmity with God according to the character which he usually forms of Him, He commonly thinks of God only as a great, wise, and good Being; and he feels no sentiment of opposition to the attributes of wisdom, greatness, or goodness. But His supreme authority as the governor of the world, His infinite purity and holiness as hating, and His justice as avenging, sin are kept out of sight; a being is framed in their imagination very much resembling themselves.

2. This enmity is not to be considered as personal, but rather as a dislike of the government which God exercises, and of the laws which restrain us from any course we are desirous to pursue, or require from us what we feel no disposition to perform; and enmity against them may be properly said to be enmity against God, for it resists His authority. Hence the carnal mind “is not subject to the law of God.”

3. Again, we are not to understand that the carnal mind is totally destitute of everything that is good. It is sufficient to say that there is in all a natural tendency to approve and do things which it has pleased God to condemn and forbid, and a natural dislike of many duties which He has thought fit to enjoin.

II. What proofs of this do we experience in ourselves or see in others? Do we, upon the careful review of our lives, perceive that the love of God has been our first and ruling principle, that our chief desire has been to glorify His name, and to fulfil His commands? And do we find the same disposition in others? Are the sins committed in the world committed through ignorance? Does the sinner repent of them and forsake them as soon as he hears they are contrary to the Divine will? Do our children discover a bias, even from their early infancy, to what is right? Alas! I need not proceed in an inquiry which begins already to assume the air of sarcasm. Let us, however, press the matter home upon our own consciences. Do not we find it a labour to do what is right? Does not even self-interest lose its efficacy? And when our fears of misery, or our desires of happiness, induce us to attempt God’s service, how numerous, how powerful are the difficulties which arise to deter us! Conclusion: Let us learn--

1. Humiliation. To be at enmity with God is indeed a deplorable state of mind, for it is enmity with perfect truth, justice, goodness, purity.

2. The unspeakable value of an atonement. Great as our vileness may be, there is a way in which we may have access to God, and in which He will receive us graciously.

3. The necessity of Christian vigilance, of self-denial, and earnest supplication for the influence of the Holy Spirit. (J. Venn, M. A.)

The enmity of the carnal mind

This enmity involves--

I. A feeling on the part of him who is its owner of hostility against God.

1. This necessarily comes out of the very definition of the carnal mind. If the law of God be a law of supreme love toward Himself, how is it possible for that mind to be in subjection to such a law whose affections are wholly set on the things of the world? It not only is not subject to this law, but it cannot be so--else it were no longer carnal.

2. But this is not only logically true, it is also true physically and experimentally. There is no power in the mind by which it can change itself. It can, e.g., constrain the man in whom it resides to eat a sour apple rather than a sweet. But it cannot constrain him to like a sour apple rather than a sweet; and it has just as little power over the affections toward God as it has over the taste. There are a thousand religious-looking things which can be done; but, without such a renewal of the Spirit as the Spirit itself cannot achieve, these things cannot be delighted in. We can compel our feet to the house of God, but we cannot compel our feelings to a sacred pleasure in its exercises. We can bid our hands away from depredation, but we cannot bid away covetousness.

3. And when I charge you with enmity against God you may be ready to answer, that really we are not at all aware of it. On which we have to observe, that your greatest enemy will excite no malevolent feeling so long as you do not think of him. When one is in a deep and dreamless slumber his very resentments are hushed into oblivion. And so of you who are not awake unto God--are you no judges of the recoil that would come upon your spirits did He but stand before you in all His truth, justice, jealousy, and holiness. The manifestation of God as He actually is would call forth of its hiding place the unappeasable enmity of nature against Him.

II. If we cannot please God we necessarily displease him; nor need we to marvel why all they who are in the flesh are the objects of His dissatisfaction. We may do a thousand things that, in the exterior of them, bear a visible conformity to God’s will, and yet cannot be pleasing to Him. They may be done from the dread of His power, or to appease the restlessness of an alarmed conscience, or under the influence of a religion that derives all its power from education or custom, and yet not be done with the concurrence of the heart. And however multiplied the offerings may be which we laid on the altar of such a reluctant obedience, they will not and cannot be pleasing to God. Would my father amongst you be satisfied with such a style of compliance and submission from your own children? So the frown of an offended Lawgiver resteth on everyone who lives in habitual violation of His first and greatest commandment. That enmity which now perhaps is a secret to himself will become manifest on the great occasion when the secrets of all hearts shall be laid open, and the justice of God will then be vindicated in dealing with him as an enemy. Conclusion: It is only by taking a deep view of the disease that you can be led adequately to estimate the remedy. There is a way of transition from the carnal to the spiritual; from the enmity to the love of God, and that is through Christ. The trumpet giveth not an uncertain sound, for it declares the remission of sin through the blood of Jesus, and repentance through the Spirit which is of His giving; and your faith in the one will infallibly bring down upon you all the aids and influences of the other. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The enmity of the carnal mind against God

An enemy may be reconciled, a carnal man may become spiritual; but “enmity,” in the abstract, cannot be reconciled, and therefore the carnal mind must be crucified and destroyed. Consider--

I. The obligations which rational creatures are under to love God.

1. He possesses every perfection, and in Him every perfection is infinite.

2. He stands to us in the important relations of Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor.

3. He has so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son for its salvation.

4. His requirements are reasonable. Can He require anything less than the supreme love of Himself? Is He not worthy of our unlimited confidence?

II. The manner in which the enmity of the carnal mind against God discovers itself. In--

1. Disobedience of the commands of God.

2. Neglect of communion with God.

3. Dislike to the image of God, as reflected upon His people.

4. Aversion to the method of salvation which God has revealed in the gospel.

5. Delight in the society of persons who are alienated from God.

III. The lessons which the subject is calculated to afford us. We see--

1. How deplorable is the state of man compared with what he was when he came out of the Divine hands.

2. That those persons are much mistaken who, whilst they are severe in condemning all offences which affect society, think little of the evil of such sins as are committed principally against God.

3. The necessity of regeneration. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

The enmity of the carnal mind against God

I. The mind of man is carnal. By the “mind” we are to understand all the powers of the soul, and the affections. It is called carnal, because its desires and delights are fleshly (John 3:6).

1. The understanding of man, however rational, is carnal (Colossians 2:18).

2. The will is also carnal. “It is not subject to the law of God.” It rejects those things which are truly good and excellent, while it chooses those things which are bad and hurtful (John 5:40).

3. The affections, such as hope, desire, and love, are also carnal (Romans 8:5). “What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” These are the inquiries of carnal persons; not, “What shall I do to be saved?” not, How shall I please and glorify God?

II. Man, being carnal, is in a state of enmity against God. This is the very essence of sin; the transferring that love, which is due to God, to His creatures, and to sin. It is turning our backs upon Him, as if He whom angels adore were not worthy of our notice. The carnal man--

1. Takes no pleasure in the perfections of God. That glorious attribute, holiness, is peculiarly obnoxious to him.

2. Greatly dislikes the spiritual worship of God. That which constitutes the joy of angels and the redeemed, is a burden: and therefore wholly omitted, or very carelessly performed.

3. Is in opposition to the law of God. The law is holy, and just, and good; it requires only that we should love Him supremely, and our neighbour disinterestedly. God certainly has a right to require this; and it is our most reasonable service; but the carnal mind refuses submission. Nor is the enmity of the carnal mind against the gospel less than that against the law. The proud Pharisee disdains to submit to the righteousness of Christ; the carnal worldling, intent upon his land, his oxen, etc., begs to be excused; the vain philosopher, puffed up with his mental acquirements, cavils at all its humbling doctrines.

4. Contemns or hates God’s people. (G. Burder.)

The enmity of the carnal mind against God

I. Its manifestations. Enmity against God.

1. In His truth. This is shown (Psalms 50:17; Hosea 7:12)--

2. In the duties God doth enjoin.

(a) In respect of time. As men reserve the dregs of their life, their old age, to offer up their souls to God; so they reserve the dregs of the day, their sleepy times, for the offering their service to God.

(b) In respect of frame. We think any frame will serve God’s turn. In worldly business you may often observe a liveliness in man; but change the scene into a motion towards God, and how suddenly does this vigour shrink.

II. Its causes and remedies.

1. Dissimilitude between God and a natural man. As likeness in nature and inclinations is a cause of love, so dissimilitude and unsuitableness is a cause of hatred. God is infinitely holy, man corrupt. Darkness and light, heaven and hell, are directly contrary, so is Christ and Belial. The remedy, then, will be to get a renewed nature, the image of God new formed in the soul.

2. Guilt. Men fly from God out of shame; they consider the debts they owe God are great, and naturally debtors fly from their creditors. Terror is essential to guilt, and hatred to a perpetual terror. The remedy, then, is to labour for justification by the blood of Christ, which is only able to remove that guilt which engenders our hatred.

3. God’s crossing the desires and interests of the flesh. All hatred arises from an opinion of destructiveness in the object hated. And a sinner being possessed that his darling sin is inconsistent with the holiness of God’s law, hates God for being of a nature so contrary to that which he loves. The Jews expecting an earthly grandeur by the Messiah was the cause that they were the more desperate enemies to Christ. The remedy, then, is to have a high esteem of the holiness and wisdom of the law of God, and the advantages He aims at for our good in the enjoining of it (1 John 5:3).

4. Love of sin. The more we love that which hath an essential enmity against God, the more we must hate that which is most contrary to it. Light must be odious when darkness is lovely. The remedy, then, is to endeavour for as great a hatred of sin as thou hast of God; to look upon sin as the greatest evil in itself, the greatest disadvantage to thy happiness.

5. Injury we do to God. Whereas the person injured might rather hate, yet the person injuring hath often the greatest disaffection. Joseph’s mistress first wronged him, and then hated him. Saul first injured David, and then persecuted him. The remedy, then, is to endeavour a conformity to God’s holy will; to think with thyself every morning, What shall I do this day to please God?

6. Slavish fear of God. Men are apt to fear a just recompense for an injury done to another; and fear is the mother of hatred. A fear of God as an inexorable judge that we have highly wronged will nourish an enmity against Him. Then, be much in communion with God; strangeness is the mother of fear; we dread men sometimes, because we know not their disposition. Consider much the loveliness and amiableness of His nature, His ardent desire that thou wouldst be His friend more than His enemy.

7. Pride. Men lift up the pride of reason against the truth of God, and the pride of heart against the will of God. Then endeavour after humility.

8. Love of the world (1 John 2:15; James 4:4). Despise the world, and the devil hath scarce any bait and argument left to move thee to an enmity against God.

III. The improvement.

1. The information to be derived from the subject.

(a) In that it is as bad, and in some respects worse, than atheism. An atheist does not so much affront God as a man who walks as if there were no God. The atheist barely denies God’s being, the other mocks Him (Jeremiah 32:38).

(b) In that it is of the same nature with the devil’s enmity. Natural men have a diabolical nature (John 8:44; Matthew 16:33), and every natural man is a friend to the devil. There are but two sovereigns in the world, one rightful, and the other usurping. If we are enemies to the right sovereign, we must be friends to the usurper (2 Corinthians 4:4).

2. Exhortation.

(a) Possess your hearts with great admirations of the grace of God towards you, in wounding this enmity in your hearts and changing your state (Romans 5:10-11).

(b) Inflame your love to God by all the considerations you can possibly muster up. Outdo thy former disaffection by a greater ardency of love.

(c) Watch against the daily exertings and exercises of this enmity.

3. Motives.

(a) God hath been good to us. He is love, and we are out of love with love itself (1 John 4:8).

(b) God hath been importunate in entreaties of us.

(a) Is the most lovely object.

(b) Is the chiefest good, and the fountain of all goodness.

(c) Cannot possibly do us wrong.

(d) Cannot be hurt by us. It is a folly among men to show their enmity where they cannot hurt.

(e) But though thou canst not hurt God, yet thou dost mightily wrong thyself. Thy shot will fall before it reach Him, but His arrows will both reach thy heart and stick in it.

(a) Thou canst not possibly escape vengeance.

(b) Thou dost even force God to destroy thee. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

Man’s natural enmity to God

I. Man hates the character of God as a lawgiver.

II. Man hates the sovereignty of God. God is the Supreme Being; all things being made by Him and for Him. His right to accomplish His own desires. But what if the plans of a sovereign God require the abandonment of our most beloved objects? Must we then cordially submit? Yes, you must either love, or hate a sovereign God.

III. The carnal mind hates the mercy of God. Here we seem to be in even more glaring inconsistency with consciousness than in any former assertion. If the mercy of God consisted in the mere direct gratification of the wants of men, our position were then false. This vague notion is wonderfully prevalent in the world, but is infinitely removed from the sublime and holy attribute called mercy in the Scriptures. It was mercy that bowed the listening ear to Abel’s prayer; it was grace that inclined him to make the acceptable offering. What was the effect of that display of grace to fallen man? It kindled the passions of hell in the bosom of Cain, and the hatred, which could find no vent toward the God of mercy, fell in murderous stroke upon an innocent brother. At last the Son of God came, the Messenger of mercy. From the cradle to the tomb, He drew forth the rage and malice of men. The relations of life are such, that the religious principles of one person may very greatly interfere with the schemes of profit or pleasure formed by another; and these religious principles are the fruits of God’s mercy. But the carnal mind, thwarted and checked, feels a hatred of those principles, and thus of the mercy which caused them. That renovated power of conscience is from the blessed Spirit. But how is it treated? We have reason to fear that the greater part who hear the gospel, dread and detest those very feelings and conditions of the mind. God has no other mercy than a holy mercy; no other merciful treatment of thee than to make thee holy. If this please thee not, it is because thou hast the carnal mind which hates God. Remarks:

1. The supreme love of the creature is a dreadful evil.

2. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (E. N. Kirk, A. M.)

The carnal mind enmity against God

The apostle does not say it is opposed to God merely, but it is positive enmity. It is not black, but blackness; it is not rebellious, it is rebellion; it is evil in the concrete, sin in the essence. It is unnecessary, therefore, to explain that it is “enmity against God.” It does not charge manhood with an aversion merely to the dominion, laws, or doctrines of Jehovah; but it strikes a deeper and a surer blow.

I. The truthfulness of this great statement. It needs no proof since it is written in God’s Word. But did I need witnesses, I would conjure up--

1. The nations of antiquity, and tell you of the awful deeds of mankind.

2. The delusions of the heathen. I would drag their gods before you; I would let you witness their horrid obscenities, the diabolical rites which are to them most sacred things. Then after you have heard what the natural religion of man is, I would ask what must his irreligion be?

3. The best of men who have been always the readiest to confess their depravity.

4. Your conscience. Didst thou never hear the heart say, “I wish there were no God”? Have not all men at times wished that our religion were not true? Now suppose a man wished another dead, would not that show that he hated him? Or has not thine heart ever desired, since there is a God, that He were a little less holy. Has it never said, “Would to God these sins were not forbidden”?

II. The universality of this evil.

1. As to all persons. There is in the carnal mind of an infant, enmity against God; it is not developed, but it lieth there. Young lions when tamed and domesticated still have the wild nature, and were liberty given them, would prey as fiercely as others. So with the child. And if this applies to children, equally does it include every class of men.

2. At all times. “Oh,” say some, “it may be true that we are at times opposed to God, but surely we are not always so.” Yes, but mark, the wolf may sleep, but it is a wolf still; the sea is the house of storms, even when it is glassy as a lake; and the heart, when we perceive not its ebullitions, is still the same dread volcano.

3. The whole of the mind is enmity against God. Look at--

III. The great enormity of this guilt.

1. What is God to us? He stands to us in the relationship of a Creator; and from that fact He claims to be our King. He is our Legislator, our Lawmaker; and then, to make our crime still worse and worse, He is the ruler of providence; for it is He who keeps us from day to day; and I ask, is it not high treason against the Emperor of heaven that we should be at enmity with God?

2. But the crime may be seen to be worse when we think of what God is. God is the God of love. Do you hate God because He loves you?

IV. The doctrines to be deduced from this. Is the carnal mind at enmity against God?

1. Then salvation cannot be by merit, it must be by grace.

2. Then an entire change of our nature is necessary.

3. This change must be worked by a power beyond our own. An enemy may possibly make himself a friend; but enmity cannot. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The natural enmity of the mind against God

It is no contradiction to the statement of the text, and no proof of love to God--

I. That we do many things that are agreeable to his law with the willing consent of the mind. Propose the question, Would not I do this good thing, or abstain from this evil thing, though God had no will in the matter? If you would, then put not down what is altogether due to other principles to the principle of love to God or a desire of pleasing Him. You may have a very large share of estimable principles: but an enlightened discerner of the heart may look unto you and say, “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.” For when He puts in for that share of your heart which you give to wealth, or pleasure, or reputation, then is not God a weariness? How would you like the visit of a man whose presence broke up some arrangement that you had set your heart upon? or marred the enjoyment of some favourite scheme that you were going to put into execution? Now, is not God just such a visitor? Yes; and to admit Him, with all His high claims and spiritual requirements into your mind, would be to disturb you in the enjoyment of objects which are better loved and more sought after than He. It is because your heart is occupied with idols that God is shut out of it. There is nothing monstrous in all this to the men of our world; but how must the pure eye of an angel be moved at such a spectacle of worthlessness! That the bosom of a thing formed should feel cold or indifferent to Him who formed it--that not a thought or an image should be so unwelcome to man as that of his Maker--that the creature should thus turn round on its Creator--there is a perversity here, which time may palliate for a season, but which must at length be brought out to its adequate condemnation.

II. That a God divested of all which can make him repulsive to sinners should be idolised at times by many a sentimentalist. It would form no deduction from our enmity against the true God that we give an occasional hour to the worship of a graven image; and it is just of as little significancy to the argument that we feel an occasional glow of affection or of reverence towards a fictitious being of our own imagination. If there be truth in the Bible, it is there where God has made an authentic exhibition of His nature; and if God in Christ be an offence to you--if you have no relish for spiritual communion with such a God--then be assured that, amid the painted insignificancy of all your other accomplishments, your heart is not right with God.

III. That we do many things with the direct object of doing that which is pleasing to God. Why, I may both hate and fear the man whom I may find it very convenient to please. I may comply by action; but I may abominate the necessity which constrains me. A sovereign may overrule the humours of a rebellious province by the presence of his resistless military; but you would not say that there was any loyalty in this forced subordination.

IV. That we do what God wills because he wills it. The terror of His power may constrain you to many acts of obedience. Thieves, and swearers, and Sabbath breakers may, under the fear of the coming vengeance, give up their respective enormities, and yet their minds be altogether carnal. There may be the obedience of the hand, while there is the gall of bitterness in the heart at the necessity which constrains it. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The carnal mind is enmity against God

This must needs be so, because man hath fallen from God through his first transgression in Adam, and so broken that sweet peace and league which was betwixt God and him. Now, till this be repaired and made up again in Christ, there must needs be enmity following thereupon. “Their iniquities have separated betwixt them and their God.” For this purpose we must know thus much: First, that as friendship does properly consist in willing and nilling the same things, so enmity does properly consist in willing and nilling the contrary. But then, again, secondly, carnal men are said to hate God, according to that notion and apprehension which they have of Him, and that is, indeed, very opposite and contrary to themselves. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, which is the doctrine or proposition itself in these words: “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” The second is the proof or confirmation of this doctrine in these words: “For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” These words may be considered of us two manner of ways: either, first of all, simply and absolutely, as they lie in themselves; or, secondly, respectively and argumentatively, in their inference and textual connection. First, here is the simple pravity and disparagement of the carnal mind. It is not subject to the law of God. Corrupt nature it is a rebel against God’s law, as it is enmity against God Himself (Genesis 6:5; Psalms 53:1; Psalms 53:23; Psalms 58:3-5). This is so, and will appear to be so, upon these considerations: First, from the prevalency of another law in such persons in whom this carnal mind is. Secondly, another ground of this point may be taken from the spirituality of the law of God. Thirdly, there is likewise, moreover, observable such a perverseness in man’s heart by nature, as that the law of God it rather makes him worse than makes him better. This point which we are now upon, first, serves to give us an account of so much transgression of the law as there is; namely, from hence, that men’s carnal-mindedness does still remain in them. Secondly, we learn from hence also how to come to be conformable to God’s law, and to be obedient to the commands of it; and that is, by denying and contradicting our carnal reason. Thirdly, this gives us also an account of that wickedness which is sometimes observable even in persons of great parts, and wits, and natural accomplishments; namely, because they are as yet but carnal. One thing more before I pass this branch; and that is the phrase which is here used for subjection. The word in the Greek signifies such a kind of subjection as is after an orderly manner, as of soldiers in battle to their commander, which, being here denied to the wisdom of the flesh, does intimate thus much to us: that carnality it is an irregular business, and such as is much out of order; from whence it comes not to be so obedient as it should be to the law of God. Where there is nothing but confusion, there cannot be expected subjection, but every evil work. The second is the additional amplification, as it is not, so it cannot be neither. A carnal-minded person, he cannot be subject to the law of God. This is grounded upon those following considerations. First, the blindness which by nature is in man’s mind. He that cannot see, cannot practise, because he wants light to direct him. Secondly, the will, that is likewise out of frame; that has a particular perverseness upon it, and is obstinate against that which is good. Thirdly, the affections. They are out of order too in all the kinds of them--love and hatred, and fears and grief, and anger and joy, etc., all out of course. To all these we may add some further considerations besides, as, first of all, custom in sinning. This makes the impotency of doing good to be so much the more, and the impossibility to be so much the greater. Secondly, it cannot likewise from the just judgment of God Himself towards it, while He gives up some persons above the rest to a reprobate mind and to a hard heart, whereby sin is made in some manner and in some sense necessary to them. But if they cannot, why, then, there is no hurt done. This seems to make for their excuse. To this we answer, That this does not excuse, for all that, because it is such an impotency and inability as man hath voluntarily brought upon himself. Now further, secondly, we may take them respectively and argumentatively in the force of their connection; for it is not subject. The Apostle Paul does from hence prove that the carnal mind is an enemy to God, because it keeps not God’s law. From whence we may observe thus much: That disobedience to God is a conviction of enmity against Him. The ground whereof is this: because the law of God is that which is most near and dear unto Him. His will is Himself, and His sovereignty is that which He most stands upon of anything else. Secondly, let us hereby also judge and estimate, and take account of ourselves, and see how far we are God’s friends, which is not so much by pretences as by obedience. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The enmity of the human heart against God

I. Some common grounds of mistake on tins subject.

1. Men may be unconscious of their opposition, and hence infer that it has no existence. Many circumstances may conduce to this unconsciousness.

2. The homage of respect paid by many to religion and its institutions may be alleged as an evidence that they are not enemies to their Maker. But the force of education, the power of conscience, the beneficial influence of Christian institutions, the love of human estimation, the energy of servile fear, are sufficient to account for all the religion of unregenerate men.

3. Nor is the glow of imaginary love to the Divine Being, sometimes felt by unconverted men, any proof that they are not His enemies. They may form erroneous conceptions of His character, contemplating Him as devoid of all those attributes which are terrible to the unholy. The most sordid and malignant beings may conceive of a God to whom their hearts would feel no repugnance.

4. The social sympathies and the decencies of life are regarded by many as proofs of some innate sparks of love to God. The mistake here arises from confounding mere instincts and the refinements of enlightened self-love with real benevolence, and from overlooking that system of restraints which Divine Providence is pleased to employ as essential to a dispensation of mercy. A sufficient evidence of the radical deficiency of these social virtues is that they often exist in conjunction with manifest indifference or open opposition to any practical acknowledgment of God. Many a polite and even humane man would blush more deeply to be found on his knees in prayer than to be seen at the gaming table or the race ground.

II. More direct proofs in its support. The native enmity of the human heart against God maybe inferred from--

1. Its entire selfishness. The popular philosophy maintains that ultimate regard to self is the grand law of our being, and ridicules the notion of disinterested goodness. If it be so, love to God is impossible. For against the Divine requisitions, selfishness arises, exasperated and alarmed. It can love nothing which does not secure the gratifications it covets. In the same proportion as it sees its plans thwarted, itself condemned and exposed to hell, its enmity is roused against God.

2. The erroneous and preposterous views which have been commonly entertained by mankind respecting God’s character and government.

3. The general conduct of mankind to God.

4. Experience. Every real Christian is ready to charge himself with rebellion. And is this universal consent of such as are most deeply imbued with spiritual Christianity, and have noticed most faithfully the interior actings of their depravity, to be accounted nothing?

5. The Scriptures have settled the question. Deny the native enmity of the heart to God, and its leading doctrines become wholly unintelligible. What will you make of regeneration? Does not reconciliation import a previous state of variance between the parties?

Conclusion: This humiliating subject teaches us--

1. The importance of those restraints which a wise and benevolent Providence is pleased to employ in the government of mankind. Conceive of all restraints withdrawn from a world like this, full of the enemies of God. No tongue can describe, no fancy can paint, the complicated scenes of guilt and misery which would ensue.

2. The mysterious love of God to our apostate world. (J. Woodbridge, D. D.)

Man’s enmity against God

I. In general.

1. It is to be understood of nature and not of actions only. Every action of a natural man is an enemy’s action, but not an action of enmity. And as waters relish of the mineral vein they run through, so the actions of a wicked man are tinctured with the enmity they spring from. Godly men may do an enemy’s action, but they are not in a state of enmity. They may fall into sin as a man into a ditch, but they lie not in it. But a natural man is in a state of universal contrariety.

2. This enmity is habitually seated in the mind (Ephesians 2:3; James 3:15). The mind thus infected is like those eminent persons that spread the contagion of their vices to all their attendants. The other faculties, like common soldiers, fight for the prey and booty; but the mind, the sovereign, fights for the superiority, and orders all the motions of the lower rout. There is--

(a) Natural, which we call antipathy. Sin being the greatest evil, is naturally most opposite to God, who is the greatest good. So that God can never be reconciled to sin, or sin to God.

(b) Acquired, which is grounded upon diversity of interests. The interest of a sinner as such consists in gratifying the importunities of his lusts; and the interest of God lies in vindicating the righteousness of His commands. This is either direct (John 15:24) or implicit. Men love not the things that God loves, and therefore may be said to hate Him.

II. In particular--

1. Negatively. We hate not God--

2. Positively. We hate God--

Man’s enmity against God as a Sovereign is seen in

I. The breach of God’s laws. If obedience be a sign of love, disobedience is an argument of hatred (John 15:14). Then in the breach of it all those attributes are despised. This enmity appears in--

1. Unwillingness to know the law of God. Men hate the light, which would both discover their spots and direct their course (Zechariah 7:11; Romans 3:10; Isaiah 28:12; Isa_30:10; Isa_03:11). And when any motion of the Spirit thrusts itself in to enlighten them, they “exalt themselves against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and resist the Holy Ghost. Men are more fond of the knowledge of anything than of God’s will.

2. Unwillingness to be determined by any law of God. When men cannot escape the convincing knowledge of the law, they set up their carnal resolutions against it (Jeremiah 44:15; Malachi 3:13; Psalms 78:10). Men naturally affect an unbounded liberty, and would not be hedged in by any law (Jeremiah 2:24). Hence man is said to make void the law of God (Psalms 119:126; Matthew 15:6).

3. The violence man offers to those laws which God doth most strictly enjoin, and which He doth most delight in the performance of. The more spiritual the law, the more averse the heart (Romans 7:8; Rom_7:14). Men will grant God the lip and the ear, but deny Him that which He most calls for, viz., the heart.

4. Hatred to conscience, when it puts a man in mind of God’s law. This is evidenced by our stifling it when it dictates any practical conclusions from the law. Now, since men hate their own consciences it is clear that they hate God Himself, because conscience is God’s officer in them.

5. Setting up another law in him in opposition to the law of God (Romans 7:23). This men do when they plead for sins as venial, and below God to notice.

6. In being at greater pains and charge to break God’s law than is necessary to keep it. How will men rack their heads to study mischief, wear out their time and strength in contrivances to satisfy some base lust, which leaves behind it but a momentary pleasure, attended at length with inconceivable horror, and cast off that yoke which is easy and that burden which is light, in the keeping whereof there is great reward.

7. In doing that which is just and righteous upon any other consideration rather than of obedience to God’s will, i.e., when men will obey Him only so far as may comport with their own ends.

8. In being more observant of the laws of men. The fear of man is a more powerful curb to retain men in their duty than the fear of God. What a contempt of God is this; it is to tell God I will break the Sabbath, swear, revile, revel, were it not for the curb of national laws, for all Thy precepts to the contrary.

9. In man’s unwillingness to have God’s laws observed by any. Man would not have God have a loyal subject in the world. What is the reason else of the persecution of those who would be the strictest observers of God’s injunctions?

10. In the pleasure we take to see His laws broken by others (Romans 1:32).

II. In setting up other sovereigns in the stead of God. If we did dethrone God to set up an angel, or some virtuous man, it would be a lighter affront; but to place the basest and filthiest thing in His throne is intolerable.

1. Idols.

2. Self. This is properly the old Adam, the true offspring of the first corrupted man. This is the greatest anti-christ, the great anti-god in us, which sits in the heart, the temple of God, and would be adored as God; would be the chiefest as the highest end (2 Timothy 3:2). Sin and self are all one; what is called a living in sin in one place (Romans 6:2) to self in another (2 Corinthians 5:15).

3. The world. When we place this in our heart, God’s proper seat and chair, we deprive God of His propriety, and do Him the greatest wrong (Colossians 3:5). The poor Indians made a very natural and rational consequence, that gold was the Spaniards’ god, because they hunted so greedily after it.

4. Sensual pleasures (2 Timothy 3:4). A glutton’s belly is said to be his god, because his projects and affections are devoted to the satisfaction of that, and he lays in not for the service of God.

5. Satan. Every sin is an election of the devil to be our lord. As the Spirit dwells in a godly man to guide him, so doth the devil in a natural man, to direct him to evil (Ephesians 2:2-3). What a monstrous baseness is this, to advance an impure spirit in the place of infinite purity; to effect that destroyer above our preserver and benefactor.

III. In usurping God’s prerogative and exacting those observances which belong to God.

1. In challenging titles and acts of worship due only to God.

2. In lording over the consciences and reasons of others. Whence else springs the restless desire in some men, to model all consciences according to their own wills and their anger.

3. In prescribing rules of worship which ought only to be appointed by God.

4. In subjecting the truth of God to the trial of reason.

5. In judging future events, as if we had been of God’s privy council when He first undertook any great action in the world.

6. In censuring others’ state (Luke 12:14). (S. Charnock, B. D.)

Man’s enmity against the attributes of God

Against--

I. The holiness of God.

1. In sinning under a pretence of religion. Many resolve upon some ways of wickedness, and then rake the Scripture to find out at least excuses for, if not a justification of their crimes. Many that have wrung estates from the tears of widows and heart blood of orphans, think to wipe off all their oppression by some charitable legacies at their death. It is abominable when men sin for God’s glory.

2. In charging sin upon God.

3. In prescribing rules of worship, which ought only to be appointed by God (Genesis 3:12; Gen_4:9; 2 Samuel 11:35). If we find a way to lay our sins at God’s door, we think then to escape His justice. But it is a foolish consideration; for if we can fancy an unholy God, we have no reason to think Him a righteous God.

3. In hating the image of God’s holiness in others. He that hates the picture of a prince hates the prince also. He that hates the stream hates the fountain; he that hates the beams hates the sun.

4. In having debasing notions of the holy nature of God. God made man according to His own image, and we make God according to ours. It is a question which idolatry is the greatest, to worship an image of wood or stone, or to entertain monstrous imaginations of God. It provokes a man when we liken him to a dog or a toad.

5. In our unworthy and perfunctory addresses to God. God is so holy, that were our services as refined and pure as those of the angels, yet we could not serve Him suitably to His holy nature (Joshua 24:19); therefore we deny this holiness when we come before Him without due preparation.

6. In defacing the image of God in our own souls (Ephesians 4:24).

II. The wisdom of God.

1. In slighting the laws of God. Since God hath no defect in His understanding, His will must be the best and wisest; therefore they that make alteration in His precepts practically charge Him with folly.

2. In defacing the wise workmanship of God. The soul, the image of God, is ruined and broken by sin. If a man had a curious clock which had cost him many years’ pain and the strength of his skill to frame, for a man to break it would argue a contempt of the workman’s skill.

3. Censuring His ways (Isaiah 45:9; Job 40:2). A reproof argues a superiority in authority, knowledge, or goodness.

4. Prescribing rules and methods to God (Jonah 4:1; Luke 2:48).

III. The sufficiency of God.

1. In secret thoughts of meriting by any religious act. As though God could be indebted to us, and obliged by us. In our prosperity we are apt to have secret thoughts that our enjoyments were the debts God owed us, rather than gifts freely bestowed upon us. Hence it is that men are more unwilling to part with their righteousness than with their sins, and are apt to challenge salvation as a due, rather than beg it as an act of grace.

2. Trying all ways of helping ourselves before we come to God. Having hopes to find that in creatures which is only to be found in an all-sufficient God.

3. In our apostasies from God. When, after fair pretences and devout applications, we grow cold and thrust Him from us, it implies that God hath not that fulness in Him which we expected.

4. In joining something with God to make up our happiness. Though men are willing to have the enjoyment of God, yet they are not content with Him alone, but would have something else to eke Him out; as though God had not in Himself a sufficient blessedness for His creatures, without the additions of anything else. The young man in the gospel went away sorrowful because he could not enjoy God and the world both together (Matthew 19:21-22). If we would light up candles in a clear day, what do we imply but that the sun has not light enough in itself to make it day l

IV. The omniscience of God.

1. When we commit sin upon the ground of secrecy.

2. When men give liberty to inward sins. God “trieth the heart, and searcheth the reins.” Manasseh is blamed for setting up strange altars in the house of God; much more may we for setting up strange imaginations in the heart, which should belong to God. Hypocrisy is a plain denial of His omnisciency. Are we not more slight in the performance of private devotions before God than we are in our attendances in public in the sight of men.

3. When men give way to diversions in a duty. It wrongs the majesty of God’s presence that when He speaks to us we will not give Him so much respect as to regard Him; and when we speak to Him we do not regard ourselves. What a vain thing is it to be speaking to a scullion when the king is in presence t Every careless diversion to a vain object is a denial of God’s presence in the place.

V. The mercy of God.

1. In the severe and jealous thoughts men have of God. Men are apt to charge God with tyranny, whereby they strip Him of the riches of His glorious mercy. The worship of many men is founded upon this conceit, whereby they are frighted into some actions of adoration, not sweetly drawn. We hate what we fear.

2. Slighting His mercy and robbing Him of the end of it. The wilful breaking of the prince’s laws, upon the observance whereof great rewards are promised, is not only a despising his sovereignty, but a slighting his goodness. Often this enmity rises higher; and whereas men should fear him, they rather presume to sin (Romans 2:4; Ecclesiastes 8:11).

VI. The justice of God.

1. In not fearing it, but running under the lash of it.

2. In sinning under the strokes of justice. Men will roar under the stroke, but not submit to the striker.

3. In hoping easily to evade it (Psalms 50:21; Psalms 10:11). (S. Charnock, B. D.)

Hatred to God manifested

“After all, I do not hate God. No, sir; you will not make me believe that. I am a sinner, I know, and do many wicked things; but, after all, I have a good heart--I don’t hate God.” Such was the language of a prosperous worldling. He was sincere, but sadly deceived. A few months afterwards that God who had given him so many good things crossed his path in an unexpected manner. A fearful freshet swept down the valley and threatened destruction to this man’s large flour mill. A crowd was watching it, in momentary expectation of seeing it fall; while the owner, standing in the midst of them, was cursing God to His face, and pouring out the most horrid oaths. He no longer doubted that he hated God. But nothing in that hour of trial came out of his mouth which was not previously in his heart.

A traitor suspected and convicted

I. To discover this enmity. The carnally-minded man is enmity against God--

1. As a servant.

2. As a subject.

II. Deplore this enmity.

1. What an injustice it is!

2. What an infamy it is!

3. What an injury is this to yourself!

III. Seek deliverance prom it.

1. It can never be done but by the Holy Ghost.

2. It can only be done by deliverance from the great guilt of not having loved God. Nothing but the love of Jesus can soften your heart and do away with its enmity. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 8

Romans 8:8

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Pleasing God

Men’s happiness is to please them upon whom they depend, and upon whose favour their wellbeing hangs. It is the servant’s happiness to please his master, the courtier’s to please his prince. Now certainly all creatures depend upon the Creator, “for in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Then of all things it concerns us most how to please Him, and if we do so we shall assuredly be happy, and it will not matter whom else we displease (Psalms 31:19; Psa_36:7). But, on the other hand, how incomparable is the misery of them who cannot please God, even though they did both please themselves and all others for the present! Now, if you ask who they are that are such, the words speak it: “They that are in the flesh,” not they in whom there is flesh, for there are remnants of that in the most spiritual man in this life. The ground of this is chiefly two fold.

I. Because they are not in Jesus Christ in whom his soul is well pleased (Matthew 3:17; Mat_17:5). Whoever are not in Jesus Christ certainly cannot please God, do what they can, because God hath made Christ the centre, in which He would have the good pleasure of sinners meeting with His good pleasure; and therefore “without faith it is impossible to please God,” not so much for the excellency of the act itself as for the well-pleasing object of it, Christ. God’s love is well pleased with the excellency of His person, and His justice with the sufficiency and worthiness of His ransom, and without this compass there is neither satisfaction to the one nor to the other. Therefore, if you would please God, be pleased with Christ, and you cannot do Him a greater pleasure than believe in Him (John 5:23).

II. Such as are in the flesh cannot frame their spirits, affections, and ways to God’s good pleasure, for their very mind is enmity to God, and cannot be subject to His law (Jeremiah 2:34).

1. It is not the business you have undertaken to please God, but to please yourselves, or to please men. The very beginning of pleasing God is when a soul falls in displeasure at itself and abhorrence of himself (Isaiah 66:2; Psalms 51:17). God never begins to be pleasant to a soul till it begins to fall out of love with itself. Therefore you may conclude this of yourselves, that with many of you God is not well pleased, though you have all Church privileges (1 Corinthians 10:2-5), not only because these works of the flesh that are directly opposite to His own known will, such as fornication, murmuring, etc., abound among you, but even those of you that may be free from gross opposition to His holy will, your nature hath the seed of all that enmity, and you act enmity in a more covered way. Certainly, though now you please yourselves, yet the clay shall come that you shall be contrary to yourselves, and all to you (1 Thessalonians 2:15), and there are some earnests of it in this life. Many wicked persons are set contrary to themselves, and all to them; they are like Esau, their hand against all, and all hands against them; yea, their own consciences continually vexing them; this is a fruit of that enmity between man and God, and if you find it now, you shall find it hereafter.

2. But as for you that are in Jesus Christ, who, being displeased with yourselves, have fled into the well-beloved, in whom the Father is well pleased, to escape God’s displeasure, I say unto such, your persons God is well pleased with in Christ, and this shall make way and place for acceptance to your weak and imperfect performances. But I would charge that upon you, that as you by believing are well pleased with Christ, so you would henceforth study to walk worthy of your Lord into all well pleasing (Colossians 1:10). If you love Him, you cannot but fashion yourselves so as He may be pleased. (Hugh Binning.)

Pleasing God

I. The impossibility of a carnal mind pleasing God. This springs from the necessity of the case.

1. As dwelling in a nature, every faculty of which is in hostility to His government and being, it is impossible that it can please Him.

2. There being no personal acceptance of those who are in the flesh, whatever they do cannot be accepted of God. First the person, and then the gift, is God’s order (cf. Queen Esther’s interview with Ahasuerus and Jacob’s meeting with Esau)
. How can you do that which is well pleasing to a holy God while your person is to Him an object of just abhorrence?

3. The absence of faith in the unregenerate must render all the religious doings of the sinner displeasing. “For without faith it is impossible to please Him.” How can he please God whose whole existence is a direct denial of God? “He that believeth not hath made God a liar!” Your unbelief is a practical denial of His existence. And, in your non-subjection to His law, you exclude Him from the government of His own world.

4. And what is the entire absence of love to God but another confirmation of the same truth? the great constraining motive of the sacrifice with which God is pleased is love, and “love is the fulfilling of the law.”

II. The character of those with whom God is pleased. They are--

1. A spiritual people, and God, who is a Spirit, must delight in that which harmonises with His own nature.

2. They are an accepted people, and therefore their persons are pleasing to Him. The delight of the Father in Christ reveals the secret of His delight in us. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

3. But it is a universal pleasing of God which the Scriptures prescribe and enforce (Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 John 3:22).

4. But what are some of the footprints of this walk?

They that are in the flesh cannot please God

The designation of the persons that is in these words--“They that are in the flesh.” The discovery of their condition in these cannot please God. We begin with the first. The designation of the persons, those that are in the flesh. Now to be in the flesh, according to the language of Scripture, is taken two manner of ways, either in a good or in an indifferent sense, or a bad and unwarrantable sense. First, to be so in a good or in an indifferent sense, and so to be in the flesh is no more than to partake of human nature. Thus, “The life which I now live in the flesh” (Galatians 2:20). But, secondly, there is also being in the flesh in a bad and corrupt sense, by taking flesh metonymically for sin, as it is oftentimes taken in Scripture. The second is the predicate, in the discovery of the condition belonging to such persons, and that is, that they cannot please God, viz., whilst they so remain and continue. This may be taken by us two ways, either as denoting the state or the life, the condition or the conversation. First, take it in the first sense, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God”--that is, such persons as are yet remaining in a state of nature and unregeneracy; these are loathsome and displeasing to God. Now it remains that we should show what is here declared of such persons, that they cannot please God. First, take it for their persons. They are unpleasing to Him in reference to them (Psalms 54:5; Psa_7:11; Habakkuk 1:13). There is no leprous or contagious person that is more displeasing in the eyes of man than a carnal and unregenerate person is displeasing to the eyes of God. The ground of this unpleasingness may be thus far accounted to us: first, because they are out of Christ, who is the primarily Beloved (Ephesians 1:6; Matthew 3:17). In Him as the termination of His well pleasing, and in Him also as the conveyance; in Him for Himself, and in all others for His sake. All men are so far well pleasing to God as they are in Christ. Now carnal persons are not incorporated into Christ, therefore they cannot be well pleasing to God in such a condition. They are in themselves and in their own nature unlovely. Secondly, unregenerate persons cannot please God, because they want faith. Thirdly, they are altogether unlike God, and so cannot be pleasing to Him in that respect likewise. We know that liking is founded in likeness, and complacency in correspondency. Fourthly, we need go no further for the proof of this point than the text itself, if we look upon it in the coherence of it, and how these carnal persons are therein described as are after the flesh, as do mind the things of the flesh, are in a state of death, in a state of enmity, in a state of impotency, and inability of subjection to the law of God. How is it then possible that such as these should be pleasing to God? The second is in reference to their actions. They cannot please Him so neither. The actions of carnal men are unpleasing to God considered in themselves, because they proceed not from a right principle in them, nor are directed to a right end by them. Sweetness of nature, and ingenuity, and moral accomplishments are very commendable in themselves, and do make men acceptable in their converse one with another, but yet they are not sufficient alone to make men acceptable in the eyes of God. Men are sensible sometimes of their actual sins, and have cause so to be--of their murders, and adulteries, and drunkenness, and thefts, and such courses as these, which now and then do a little astonish them and work some kind of horror in them. But what may they then think of the sin of their nature, which is the occasion of all these to them? For a man to be of a sickly constitution is more than to have a particular distemper or fit of sickness upon him. For this purpose, and to aggravate this so much the more unto us, consider these things further. First, that this corrupt nature, where it remains unchanged in any person, it does expose him to all kind of sin, considered at large, of what nature or kind soever. There is no sin which a man is secure of who is still remaining in his unregenerate condition, but he is not only capable of it, but inclinable to it. Secondly, where men are yet in the flesh and unchanged in their nature, they are exposed to the return of sin again, after some temporary forbearance of it and abstinence from it. There is nothing which is a principle of mortification but only sanctifying and saving grace. Thirdly, this state of nature does make men to commit sin with more delight and eagerness of prosecution. Those that are in their natural condition, they are in a sad and miserable condition. And they are so especially upon this account which is here expressed in the text, because they cannot please God, which carries a great deal more in it than we are presently sensible of, or do easily apprehend. They do not or cannot please God; their case is very terrible and dangerous. Thus it is, and will appear to be so according to sundry explications. First, as it is an obstruction to prayer and the receiving of that. “We know that God hears not sinners,” said the blind man in the gospel (John 9:31), and “he that regards iniquity in his heart, the Lord will not hear his prayer” (Psalms 66:18). Secondly, it deprives men of blessings and the comfortable influences of God’s providence. God will curse his very blessings and turn his comforts into the greatest crosses unto him; as we see it was with the Israelites, when God was offended and displeased with them: He gave them quails and manna in wrath. Thirdly, it exposes to temptations and the assaults of the spiritual enemy. “Whoso pleaseth God shall be kept from many snares,” But he that does not so, he shall be given up to them. Lastly, it excludes from heaven and eternal happiness and salvation at last. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

Men in the flesh cannot please God

The phrase notes a man drowned in corruption. We say of a man overcome of anger: he is in heat; of a drunkard: he is in beer or wine. So Simon Magus is said to be in the gall of bitterness. They cannot please God. Nor their persons, nor their thoughts, words, or actions, till they be renewed. Snow can never be made hot while it is snow. Fire will dissolve it into water; then it may be made hot. So the carnal man in that estate cannot please God, but change him into a sanctified estate, and then he can. A man may be prudent, learned, liberal, do many beautiful things in nature, and yet not please God. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Velvet is good matter to make a garment, yet it may be so marred in the cutting that it shall never obtain the name of a good garment. Pieces of timber are good matter for a house, but they must be artificially framed. An unregenerate man gives alms, and in giving sins: not because he gives, but because he gives not in the manner he should. (Elnathan Parr, B. A.)

Men in their natural state cannot please God

To please God is of infinite importance. Since He is omniscient and omnipresent, we cannot escape His observation: since He is Almighty, He has our life, and all things belonging to us, continually at His disposal, can make us happy or miserable in a thousand different ways. He is, therefore, the most dreadful enemy or the most beneficial friend we can have. Of what infinite consequence, then, to be in His favour.

I. What is meant by being “in the flesh.” This expression is often used to signify being in the body (Philippians 1:22; Php_1:24; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 4:1-2; 1Pe_4:6; 1 John 4:2-3); but this is not its meaning here, for many in the body have pleased God. Nor is the living merely in sensuality and the sins of the flesh referred to (Galatians 5:16-21), though undoubtedly such cannot please God. But what is intended is the being in our natural state (Genesis 6:3 compared with 8:21; Ephesians 2:3). This implies--

1. The being unpardoned, or in a state of condemnation in consequence of not being “in Christ” (Romans 7:4-6; Rom_8:1).

2. Unregenerated (John 3:6).

3. Under the power of our animal and corrupt nature, the “law in our members” leading us captive to sir?

4. “Carnally minded”; minding the body rather than the soul; visible and temporal things rather than invisible and eternal; preferring nature to grace, and the creature to the Creator; being governed by carnal maxims; actuated by carnal views; influenced by carnal desires; engaged in carnal pursuits.

II. In what sense such “cannot please God,” and how this appears to be a fact.

1. While thus in the flesh, such persons are not in God’s favour.

2. Hence it follows that their services are not accepted of God, and that their ways do not please Him. Not being justified, they have not love to God (Romans 5:5), and without love no service is, or can be, pleasing to God.

3. But perhaps it will be objected--

III. The sure mark whereby we may know whether we are in this state (Romans 8:9).

1. By receiving the Spirit we pass from a carnal to a spiritual state (John 3:6).

2. By the Spirit dwelling in us we continue in that state (text; Galatians 5:16-25). Hereby we know that we are in the Spirit (1 John 3:24).

3. But we must receive and keep this Spirit as a Spirit of--

Man’s well-being: its condition and obstruction

I. The condition of man’s well-being. To “please God,” which implies--

1. That God is a pleasable Being. The Eternal is neither callous nor morose.

2. It is possible for man to please Him. It is wonderful that any creature, however high, should be able to please a Being so infinitely happy in Himself; but it is more wonderful that insignificant, fallen man should have this power.

3. How can man please God? Not by singing eulogistic hymns, or offering complimentary prayers, or observing ceremonial ordinances. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?” How then?

4. In the pleasing of Him is man’s well-being.

II. The obstruction to man’s well-being. Being “in the flesh.” What is meant by this? Not merely existing in the flesh: thus we all exist; but having the flesh for our master instead of our menial. The man who thus dwells in the flesh gets--

1. Fleshly views of the universe. All above, around, beneath him is materialism. His eyes are too gross to discern the spiritual significance of things; his ear too heavy to catch the spiritual melodies of the world.

2. Truth. “He judges after the flesh.” If he has a theology, it is a sensuous thing.

3. Greatness. He has no idea of greatness apart from splendid costumes, magnificent dwellings, and brilliant equipages.

4. Happiness. He associates happiness with whatever pleases the tastes, charms the senses, satisfies the appetites, and gratifies the lusts.

5. God. He makes God such an one as himself, and gives Him human thoughts and passions. Now the soul in such a state has lost the desire and the power to please God. But the gospel comes to enfranchise the soul from the flesh and to restore to it its absolute sovereignty over the body. This deliverance is a new birth. “He that is born of the flesh is flesh,” etc. (D. Thomas, D. D.)


Verse 9

Romans 8:9

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.

We are not in the flesh, but alas: the flesh is still in us

“A boat has been sailing on the salt ocean, it has come through many a storm, and, half full of briny water, it is now sailing on the fresh water of the river. It is no longer in the salt water, but the salt water is in it. The Christian has got off the Adam-sea forever. He is in the Christ-sea forever. Adam is still in him, which he is to mortify and throw out, but he is not in Adam.” First, take it simply in itself, “ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit”; where we have signified to us the state and condition of the children of God and the opinion which St. Paul has of them; and that is, not to be “carnal, but spiritual.” That is, they are not wholly swayed by their own corruption, but by the Spirit of God in them. This is so far considerable of us as it teaches how to judge both of ourselves and other men. First, for ourselves. It is a point which may be very well improved by the children of God under temptation, when as Satan, joining with their own misgiving hearts, would go about to persuade them that they have no grace at all in them, because they have it in them mingled with some corruption. They should not hearken or give heed to such suggestions as these are. Again, secondly. This also teaches us how we should look upon other men who are the saints and servants of God, in the midst of those weaknesses and infirmities which they are sometimes compassed withal. There are many malicious persons in the world who, if at any time they do by chance espy anything which is amiss in God’s children, they can commonly see nothing else. If they see some flesh in them, they can see nothing of the spirit; and they are apt both to account of them and to call them according to that which is worst in them. Now secondly. We may also look upon it reflexively, as coming from the apostle. He gives this testimony of these believing Romans to whom he wrote for their particular, that they were spiritual. And here two things more. First, his knowledge of their state and condition in grace for the thing itself. While he sees it, he does intimate that he knows it, and discerns it, and takes notice of it, to be so indeed with them, that they were such as were in the state of grace. Now here it may be demanded, How he came to do so? To this we answer: Divers manner of ways. First, by the judgment of charity. Secondly, by a special spirit of discerning which was vouchsafed unto him. Thirdly, the apostle speaks not here to the Romans at large, but only to the believers amongst them: “To all that be at Rome, beloved of God and saints,” as it is Romans 1:7. Now farther, secondly, he signifies this his knowledge and apprehension of them. Why does he so? For two reasons; First, I say, hereby to testify the good opinion which himself had of them. He had in the verse before declared the sad estate of carnal persons. Now, lest they should think that he had mentioned this in reference to them, he now adds this unto it by way of exception. Secondly. For their further encouragement and progress in goodness. It is a good incentive to any to be better when they are commended for what already they are. The second is the proof or argument for the confirmation of it, in these, “If so be the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” First, take it absolutely in itself: “The Spirit of God dwells in you.” This is spoken not only of the Romans, as belonging to them alone, but as common to all believers, who have likewise a share in it. When it is said both here and in other places, “That the Spirit of God dwells in the children of God” there are three things which are implied in this expression. First, I say, here is implied presence. He dwells in them--that is, He is in them. There is a special and peculiar presence which the Spirit of God doth take up in the children of God. Secondly, when it is said that the Spirit of God dwells in us; hereby is signified not only His presence, but His activity and operation. And this does express itself in sundry performances of His towards us. First, of instructing and teaching us. Secondly, as the Spirit of God dwells in us to teach us what is to be done, so to provoke and stir us up to the doing of it upon all occasions. Thirdly, He dwells in us also to restrain, and mortify, and subdue sin in us. Fourthly, He dwells in us so as to improve and to set home upon us all the ordinances and means of grace. Fifthly, in a way of comfort and special consolation, while he evidences to us our state and condition in grace, and gives us hope of future salvation, which is that which He likewise does for us. Sixthly and lastly, He dwells in us so as to repair us, and to reform us there where we are amiss, and have any decays of grace and goodness in us. The Spirit of God is a good landlord and inhabitant in that soul in which He dwells, who will not suffer it to run to ruin. The consideration of this point, thus explained, may be thus far useful to us--First, as it teaches us accordingly to suffer Him to dwell largely in us, we should give up ourselves to Him, as rooms and lodgings to Him. Secondly, it should teach us to give all respect that may be to Him. Take heed of grieving Him, of resisting Him, of vexing Him, of despising Him, and the like. Thirdly, we should from hence give all respect to the saints and servants of God, upon this consideration amongst the rest. Is it so indeed that the Spirit of God dwells in His children? Then let us take heed of wronging or injuring any such persons as these are, either by word or deed. And that is the second thing implied here in dwelling, to wit, activity and operation. The third and last is abode and continuance. Dwelling it is an act of daily and constant residence. And this is further observable in the Spirit of God in reference to His children. He is in them, not only as in an inn, but as in a mansion house; nor as a lodger only, but as an inhabitant who is resolved not to remove from them (John 14:16). This is so upon these grounds. First, the unchangeableness of His nature. Secondly, the love of God towards His children. Thirdly, the power of God. This is conducing hereunto likewise. There is none who is able to dispossess Him or turn Him out. Now further, secondly, we may look upon it argumentatively, and in connection with the words immediately preceding, “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; because the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” So that the Spirit’s inhabitation, it is an argument and proof of regeneration. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.

The Spirit of God

There used in old times to be a controversy respecting the divinity of the Spirit of God. But this has died out. It is, in fact, a question almost without meaning. We might as well deny the humanity of man, or the divinity of God. But more. As the spirit of man is the inmost essence of man, so the Spirit of God is the inmost essence of God--the holy of holies in the Divine nature. There are only two definitions of the Divine essence in the New Testament, and both agree with this--“God is a Spirit,” “God is love.”

I. Many difficulties are removed by dealing with this spiritual aspect of the Divine nature. As when, for instance, we ask, “What is man?” The answer is--not his body, but his spirit, his inward affections; as further, when we ask what it is that distinguishes man from the brute? we still answer--his inward affections. So also, when we ask, what God is? whilst we know there is much which we cannot answer, yet when we think of Him as a Spirit, it is then that we can best understand Him. No man hath seen God at any time, but there is a true likeness of God in Christ, because Christ is one with God, through the Spirit of goodness and wisdom. And with that same Spirit bearing witness with our spirits, we also may be, in our humble measure, one both with the Father add with the Son.

II. This places in their proper light all those words and phrases which are used to describe the Divine nature. In proportion as they describe the Divine Being under the form of goodness, truth, and wisdom, as the breath which is the animating life of our souls and of religion, in that proportion they describe Him as He is. In proportion as they describe Him under the form of impressions taken from nature or man, in that proportion they are but parables and figures. Rock, fortress, shield, champion, shepherd, husband, king, and the great name of Father, these are all admirable words, so far as they express the spiritual relations of the Almighty towards us, but they would mislead if they were taken in gross, literal sense. And so, much more it is true of the anthropomorphic expressions, such as fear, jealousy, anger; or the metaphysical expressions, each of which taken separately would lead us away from the spiritual, which is the essential nature of God.

III. This same aspect of the Divine nature tells us how it is that God wills that the world should be brought to him, not by compulsion, but by the willing assent of the spirit of man finding its communion with the Spirit of God. The world must be converted to Christ by the internal evidence of the spirit of Christianity.

IV. It is this which makes the difference between the various offences against Divine things. Whatever mistakes a man may make concerning the outward form in which the Divine truth is manifested shall be forgiven, even though he blaspheme the Son of Man Himself. For every earthly manifestation must be liable to misunderstanding, and therefore blasphemy against the Son of Man is not against the holy and loving Jesus, but against some false conceptions we have formed of Him in our own minds. For such blasphemies the Son of Man has assured. He has Himself asked the Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But if there be anyone who hates goodness because it is goodness, who closes his heart against purity and holiness, because they are pure and holy, such an one has blasphemed not the mere outward form, but the essence of God Himself. For this sin against the Holy Ghost there is no forgiveness.

V. It is the eternal spirit of goodness and truth which must write his commands on our hearts. The letter killeth, it is the Spirit that gives life. Signs and ordinances of religion derive all their force from the directness with which they are addressed by the Spirit of God to our intelligence, conscience, and affections.

VI. Thus the Spirit is the life, the liberty, and the energy of the whole humankind, of each successive age and each individual soul. VII. It is this element which forms the connecting thread of those articles at the close of the apostles’ creed.

1. The “holy universal Church.” The old heathen religions did not tend to raise the thoughts of men to holiness, and therefore they were not holy. The old Jewish religions was confined to a single nation, and therefore it was not truly spiritual. The Christian Church is intended to make men good, and therefore it is holy and the work of a holy God. It is universal, and therefore is the work of a universal Spirit.

2. “The communion of saints.” The fellowship and friendship which good men of the most diverse opinions and characters have or ought to have for one another, is the most powerful means whereby the Spirit of God works, and gives the most decisive proof of the existence of a Holy Spirit.

3. “The forgiveness of sins” is realised by the witness of the Spirit.

4. “The resurrection of the body” is directly attributed to this same Spirit (verse 11).

5. “The life everlasting “is the undying vitality of those affections and graces which are part of the essence of the Holy Spirit of God. These have their immortality from the same source as the eternal existence of God Himself. (Dean Stanley.)

The indwelling Spirit

God the Son has graciously vouchsafed to reveal the Father to His creatures from without; God the Holy Ghost, by inward communications. The condescension of the blessed Spirit is as incomprehensible as that of the Son. He has ever been the secret Presence of God within the creation: a source of life amid the chaos, bringing out into form and order what was at first shapeless and void, and the voice of truth in the hearts of all rational beings, tuning them into harmony with the intimations of God’s law, which were externally made to them. The Holy Spirit has from the beginning pleaded with man (Genesis 6:3). Again, when God took to Him a peculiar people, the Holy Spirit was pleased to be especially present with them (Nehemiah 9:20; Isaiah 63:10). Further, He manifested Himself as the source of various gifts, intellectual and extraordinary, in the prophets and others (Exodus 31:3-4; Numbers 11:17-25). These were great mercies; yet are as nothing compared with that surpassing grace with which we Christians are honoured; that great privilege of receiving into our hearts, not the mere gifts of the Spirit, but His very presence, Himself by a real not a figurative indwelling. When our Lord entered upon His ministry, He acted as though He were a mere man, needing grace, and received the consecration of the Holy Spirit for our sakes. He became the Christ, or Anointed, that the Spirit might be seen to come from God, and to pass from Him to us. And therefore the heavenly gift is called the Spirit of Christ, that we might clearly understand that He comes to us from and instead of Christ (Galatians 4:6; John 20:22; Joh_16:7). Accordingly this “Holy Spirit of promise” is called “the seal and earnest of an Unseen Saviour.” He has some, not merely in the way of gifts, or of influences, or of operations, as He came to the prophets, for then Christ’s going away would be a loss, and not a gain, and the Spirit’s presence would be a mere pledge, not an earnest; but He comes to us as Christ came, by a real and personal visitation (Romans 8:9; Rom_8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Romans 5:5; Rom_8:16). Here let us observe, before proceeding, what indirect evidence is afforded us in these texts of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Who can be personally present at once with every Christian but God Himself? This consideration suggests both the dignity of our Sanctifier and the infinite preciousness of His Office towards us. To proceed: The Holy Ghost dwells in body and soul, as in a temple. Evil spirits indeed have power to possess sinners, but His indwelling is far more perfect; for He is all-knowing and omnipresent, He is able to search into all our thoughts, and penetrate into every motive of the heart. Therefore He pervades us as light pervades a building, or as a sweet perfume the folds of some honourable robe; so that, in Scripture language, we are said to be in Him, and He in us. It is plain that such an inhabitation brings the Christian into a state altogether new and marvellous, far above the possession of mere gifts, exalts him inconceivably in the scale of beings, and gives him a place and an office which he had not before (2 Peter 1:4; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 4:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:21). This wonderful change from darkness to light, through the entrance of the Spirit into the soul, is called regeneration, or the new birth. By His coming all guilt and pollution are burned away as by fire, the devil is driven forth, sin, original and actual, is forgiven, and the whole man is consecrated to God. And this is the reason why He is called “the earnest” of that Saviour who died for us, and will one day give us the fulness of His own presence in heaven. Hence, too, He is our “seal unto the day of redemption”; for as the potter moulds the clay, so He impresses the Divine image on us members of the household of God.

II. Next, I must speak briefly concerning the manner in which the gift of grace manifests itself in the regenerate soul.

1. The heavenly gift of the Spirit fixes the eyes of our mind upon the Divine Author of our salvation. By nature we are blind and carnal; but the Holy Ghost reveals to us the God of mercies, and bids us recognise and adore Him as our Father with a true heart. He impresses on us our Heavenly Father’s image, which we lost when Adam fell, and disposes us to seek His presence by the very instinct of our new nature. He restores for us that broken bond which, proceeding from above, connects together into one blessed family all that is anywhere holy and eternal, and separates it off from the rebel world which comes to nought. Being then the sons of God, and one with Him, our souls mount up and cry to Him continually (verse 15). Nor are we left to utter these cries in any vague uncertain way of our own; but Christ left His sacred prayer to be the voice of the Spirit.

2. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost raises the soul, not only to the thought of God, but of Christ also (1 John 1:3; John 14:23). The Spirit came especially to “glorify” Christ; and vouchsafes to be a shining light within the Church and the Christian, reflecting the Saviour. First, He inspired the evangelists to record the life of Christ; next, He unfolded their meaning in the Epistles. He had made history to be doctrine; He continued His sacred comment in the formation of the Church, superintending and overruling its human instruments, and bringing out our Saviour’s words and works, and the apostles’ illustrations of them, into acts of obedience and permanent ordinances, by the ministry of saints and martyrs. Lastly, He completes His gracious work by conveying this system of truth, thus varied and expanded, to the heart of each individual Christian in whom He dwells. Thus He vouchsafes to edify the whole man in faith and holiness (2 Corinthians 10:5). St. John adds, after speaking of “our fellowship with the Father and His Son”: “These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” What is fulness of joy but peace? Joy is tumultuous only when it is not full; where He is, “there is liberty” from the tyranny of sin, from the dread of an offended Creator. Doubt, gloom, impatience have been expelled; joy in the gospel has taken their place, the hope of heaven and the harmony of a pure heart, the triumph of self-mastery, sober thoughts, and a contented mind. How can charity towards all men fail to follow? (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

The indwelling of the Spirit

I. The fact. The law of progress obtains in all the dispensations. The old was grandly material, appealing to our sensuous nature, and preparatory, adapted to the childhood of the race. The coming of Christ introduced a better state of things, and substituted realities for symbols. But although He performed mighty works and “spake as man never spake,” yet a more glorious dispensation was to succeed (John 1:50; Joh_14:12), which is to ultimate in the reign of grace on earth, in heaven itself, and in the finished glory of the saints. But does the Spirit in this His peculiar dispensation dwell in man? Read John 14:16-17; the text; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14; 1 John 4:4.

II. Its nature and extent.

1. Is it a real dwelling, or are those Scriptures to be understood in a figurative sense? We believe in the omnipresence of the Spirit (Psalms 139:7). But omnipresence is an attribute; the indwelling of which we speak is that of a person, a voluntary presence--a presence that may be withdrawn--that is circumscribed and conditioned--that has no affinity with sin, and consequently is never realised in an unbelieving heart. It is a presence that may be grieved, offended, and driven away, and is therefore not an attribute, but a person.

2. Neither is this presence to be regarded simply as a Divine influence. Person is the being who acts; influence is the effect of the action, and the question is, Is it the influence or the person of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the heart of believers? Practically, it is both; for wherever the Spirit in His personal presence is, there will His influence be felt. He does not stand or send His messages; but He enters within, instructing us by His wisdom, making us happy in the consciousness of His fellowship and protection.

III. Its moral and spiritual effects.

1. A more accurate and discriminating understanding of the Scriptures. The more practical portions of God’s Word are level to the capacity of children. Still there are “some things hard to be understood,” things into which even the angels desire to look--the deep things of God. To the unbelieving the Scriptures are a sealed book. It is not learning nor genius that breaks the seal; its Divine Author is its true interpreter, even the Spirit of truth that dwells within us (1 Corinthians 2:11). Could you entertain in your family the most scholarly man of the age, have familiar access to his mind and heart, thus becoming more and more initiated into hit style and spirit, such acquaintance would give a quickened impulse to your mind, a keener relish for his writings, and a key to their true exposition. The believer is supposed to entertain One of boundless intelligence, who is continually unfolding the sublimest truths, and arousing his mental energies by new and startling discoveries of the great Christian verities; and it is impossible for him to be under such tuition without greatly enlarged mental capacities for knowing and interpreting the Scriptures, whose author is the Holy Spirit.

2. A greater unity among Christians. Strife and division were among the earliest developed evils in the apostolic Church (1 Corinthians 3:4). This was a most undesirable state of things, marring the beauty and symmetry of Christianity. But Christ anticipated this evil (John 17:21). Unity among Christians is a desirable thing in itself, and nothing so wins the world to a believing reception of the gospel, and nothing so effectually works scepticism as strifes and divisions. And if Christ’s prayer is to be answered, there will be a drawing together of Christian hearts--One Lord, one faith, and one Spirit. To hasten a result so devoutly to be wished, we may employ outward and visible means; we may hold “union conventions”; but a real heart union, finding its expression in visible fellowship, in cooperative labours, will be realised, just as the Holy Spirit finds indwelling in believers and in the Church.

3. Purity of life. The Spirit is holy, and will not dwell in a heart that harbours even the thought of sin. But when He does enter He brings every thought, power, and passion into cordial obedience to Christ. His presence is a continual corrective and restraint, an abiding stimulus to a right life. Were you entertaining a highly honoured guest, everything in the domestic arrangement would be ordered to suit his taste. Sinning in a believer is something more than transgression; it is sacrilege.

4. A more attractive Christian life. Persons intimately associated become assimilated; and if the Holy Spirit should assume form or expression, it would be the most attractive conceivable. He is sometimes represented in the form of a dove, because of His grace and beauty. A palace enriched with all works of art, surrounded by all natural beauties, may well symbolise the regenerated human heart where the Spirit dwells, making the life not sad but songful.

5. A more effective Christian life. (S. B. Burchard, D. D.)

The indwelling of the Spirit

That which gives being to a Christian is the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him. He is to a Christian what the soul is to a man. Consider what a thing the body is without the soul, how defiled and deformed a piece of dust it is. Truly the soul of man by nature is in no better case till this Spirit enter; it hath no light in it, no life in it (Ephesians 4:18). The eye of the mind is put out, and if it be darkness, how great is that darkness! And from this woeful defect flows the alienation of the whole soul from the life of God, that primitive light being eclipsed, the soul is separated from the influence of heaven. Man was once the dwelling place of princely and Divine graces, the Lord Himself was there; and then how comely and beautiful was the soul! But now it is like the desolate cities, in which the beasts of the desert lay, and their houses are full of doleful creatures, where owls dwell, and satyrs dance, where wild beasts cry, and dragons in the pleasant places (Isaiah 13:21-22; Jeremiah 50:39). The Bethel is become a Beth-aven, the house of God become a house of vanity; by the continual repair of vain thoughts, the house of prayer is turned into a den of thieves and robbers. Now, judge if there be not need of a better guest than these. Now, when the Spirit of Christ enters into this vile, ruinous cottage, He creates a new light within, which makes a man behold the light shining in the gospel; and behold all things are new, himself new, the world new, and God new. And as the Spirit enlightens, so He enlivens; He kindles a holy fire in his affections to consume his corruption. This Spirit makes a Christian soul move willingly toward God; it is an active principle that cannot rest till it rests in its place of eternal rest and delight in God. And then the Spirit reforms this house by casting out all these wild beasts that lodged in it, the savage and unruly affections that domineered in man. There are idols in the heart, and these must be cleansed out. And all this the Spirit will not do alone, but honours you with the fellowship of this work; and therefore you must lay your account, that the reformation of this house, for so glorious a guest, will be laborious. How infinitely is that compensed! When He shall take up house fully in you, it will satisfy you to the full. In the meantime, as He takes the rule and command of your house, so for the present He provides for it, and oh, how sweet and satisfying is it! (Romans 14:17). What a noble train doth the Spirit bring along with Him to furnish this house! Many rich and costly ornaments hang over it and adorn it, to make it like the king’s wife, all glorious within; such as the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4); the clothing of humility, simple in show, but rich in substance (1 Peter 5:5). And being lodged within, what sweet fruits is the Spirit daily bringing forth to feed and delight the soul withal! (Galatians 5:22-23). And He is a Spirit of consolation, and therefore of all the most worthy to be received into our hearts, for He is a bosom comforter (John 14:16). (Hugh Binning.)

The indwelling of the Spirit

As Jerusalem was the glory of the world, because of the temple of God, so are the regenerate of all mere most glorious, because they are the temples of the Holy Ghost. In matters of the world, an unregenerate man may be before us; but in this he cannot. He may have gold in his purse, but we have God in our hearts, the right owner of them, which is the top of our happiness. Tenants make havoc and suffer all things to fall to ruin, but owners are always repairing; when the devil held our hearts all was out of frame; ignorance ruled in our mind, rebellion in the will, disorder in the affections; but the coming of the Holy Spirit enlightens, leads into all truth, certifies of the favour of God, fashioneth to every good work, and enricheth with all spiritual grace, all those in whom He dwelleth. Even as fire makes iron fiery, so the Spirit makes us spiritual. This is that Spirit which is the Comforter, which cheereth and sustaineth the desolate and despairing conscience, and feedeth it with heavenly manna. Surely the conscience of a regenerate man is a very paradise in which God’s good Spirit dwelleth not for a short time, but forever. (Elnathan Parr, B. A.)

Actualness of the indwelling of God

How often and how simply it is said, “The Holy Ghost dwelleth in you” (verse 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1Co_6:9). This is the normal Christian state.

1. The Holy Spirit lifts us out of and above ourselves; the very flesh is not like the flesh of those who are its slaves. Physically it is the same, but it is more spiritual, less clamorous in its appetites; as iron, glowing with the fire wherewith it is penetrated, has other qualities, and is flexible as it was not before. In the case where long-lived sensualism has done its work, you see in the bloated countenance that the flesh has changed for the worse. Where the spiritual life has long transformed the soul, you see, as in some pictures of great saints, the flesh spiritualised.

2. We speak of having talents, attainments, possessions, as things which, more or less, men dispose of as they will. St. Paul speaks of another possession. God the Holy Ghost so puts Himself at the command of His creatures that we may have Him for our own, or, alas! alienate, grieve Him away, quench His light. Nay, so does He will to put Himself at the disposal of God’s redeemed that His holy inspirations await their invitations. His Divine thoughts inform their human thoughts, so that they can hardly or not at all tell what are their thoughts what His; only they know that all which is good is His; they are but the harp whose strings vibrate as His breath passes over them, and yield what harmony He wills.

3. He acts from within. They are not merely the motions of grace, as they fell on Saul, or now, too, touch every heathen heart which will respond to His touch. It is not only a voice like that to Socrates, withholding him from what God in His providence willed him not to do. It does not merely strengthen man’s natural generous feelings, such as made Scipio a greater conqueror when he gave back to her betrothed the captive virgin of intense beauty than when his earthly glories were crowned at the field of Zama; for, by the unknown grace of God, he had conquered himself. Nor is it only like that overpowering grace to which the long-resisting soul at length yields and ends its weary rebellions, and casting itself at its Father’s feet, is again enfolded in His arms; “the dead is again alive, the lost is found.” The office which God the Holy Ghost vouchsafes to take towards Christians is indwelling.

4. To communicate Himself is the being of God. Inseparable is the Trinity. Where one person is there is the whole. For the Son dwells in the Father and the Father in the Son, and the Holy Ghost reposes and habitates in the Father and the Son. And so our Lord expresses the loving communication of the Father and the Son to those who do His commandments and love Him (John 14:23). Yet in some special way it is God the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in us. His presence within us is the pledge of our resurrection to life eternal (verse 11), and is our bond of union with Christ. If He dwelleth in us our prayers are not our prayers only, but His prayers in us. God, informing our thoughts, suggesting our longings, pleads with God (verse 15; 1 John 4:16).

5. What the soul is to the body that God is to the soul. The life of the body is, the soul, the life of the soul is God. We know not where the soul is, but through it we live, we think, we love. So through God indwelling the soul we have our spiritual, eternal life begun in us; we think all the good thoughts we have. Our good is not chiefly or primarily ours, but His who, dwelling in us, worketh in us to will and to do, and rejoiceth in His works in us.

6. What an existence, awful for the very greatness of the love of God! What a tingling closeness of God! (Colossians 1:27). Holy is this church, because consecrated to God, because where His own are gathered in His name there is He. Holy to us is any picture of our Redeemer, because it images to us, as man can conceive, His countenance of tender love. But all these are material things; you are the living image of God; you are the living temples of God. As then you would not defile this temple, as you would not tread and trample under foot a likeness of your Redeemer, reverence yourselves. Bring not defiling thoughts into your souls; it is to bring them into the very presence of God. Utter not polluting words with the tongue, wherewith God the Holy Ghost enableth you to call God your Father, Jesus your Lord. And, what follows from this, defile not those living temples wherein He dwells. When Satan tempts you, remember what a greatness God has given you, to have in the hostelry of your souls God as your guest, to abide there, if you will, forever. Give yourselves anew this day to Him who gave Himself to you. He alone knows what an intolerable loss it is to lose Him, our God, forever! (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.--

A fatal deficiency

Note--

I. The remarkable title here given to the Holy Spirit--“the Spirit of Christ.” He is so called because--

1. He especially rested upon Christ. The manhood of Christ was begotten of the Spirit of God. When our Lord was baptized the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and then was “led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” Then He returned into Galilee in the power of the Spirit. When He began to preach His first words were, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me.” His ministry stood in the power of the Spirit. All through His life the Spirit of God rested upon Him in fulness of power, for God “giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.”

2. He is given to us by Christ. “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Jesus spake of giving to men living water, and this spake He of the Spirit. After His resurrection Ha breathed on His disciples, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” and having procured Him by His ascension poured Him out at Pentecost.

3. Christ lived peculiarly in the Spirit. “Spirit” in the text is in opposition to the “flesh.” Never did the flesh rule Christ. Nay, He even forgot to eat bread, finding meat to eat which even His disciples knew not of. Never was He moved by any sensuous passion, or by a motive of fleshly tendency. Some have high ambitions, but not He. The flesh that lusteth for vengeance had no rule in Him, but the Spirit of holiness and love. The objects He aimed at were all spiritual.

4. He quickens the entire mystical body of Christ. All the members of that body are distinguished by this--that they are spiritual men, and seek after spiritual things. The true Church being in herself a spiritual body, acts in a spiritual manner, and strives after spiritual objects. True religion consists not in outward forms, peculiar garbs, or modes of speech, or anything that is ritualistic and external. “The kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

II. The necessity of possessing the Spirit of Christ.

1. This is needful in every case. “If any man.” It may be urged that some have an especially amiable disposition. True, but the fairest flowers, as surely as the foulest weeds, are none of Christ’s if they are not of the Spirit’s own planting. This one lack is fatal to the noblest character, and Christ disowns utterly every man who has not His Spirit in him. This must be said concerning the ministers and officers of churches.

2. This is put in opposition to everything less than itself. For instance, there are some who glory in the name of Christians, as if the name were some great thing. It is not wearing the name of Christ, but having the Spirit of Christ, which will prove us to be accepted.

3. But the text is expressly in opposition to “the flesh.” We are either in the flesh or in the Spirit. He who is in the flesh--

III. The evidences of having the Spirit. If you have the Spirit--

1. He has led you to Christ.

2. You will honour Christ, for the Spirit delights to glorify Christ by taking of the things of Christ and showing them to us.

3. He will make you like Christ, who lived for God, who was in constant communion with the Father, was always spiritual, always true, and always ready to do good to all.

4. He will show Himself by His open actions in the heart, making us hate everything that is evil, making brave for God and truth, and joyful and hopeful in God.

IV. The sad consequences of not having the Spirit. He is none of Christ’s. Ah, if I am none of His whose am I? The devil’s. And where are you if you are not Christ’s? On the way to judgment and eternal condemnation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Having the Spirit of Christ

The antecedent is in these words, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ.” The consequent in these, “He is none of His.” We begin with the first general, viz., the antecedent, “If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ,” where there are divers points observable. And first of all, for the Spirit of Christ, to speak to that, what we are to understand by this. The second is in reference to Christ as He is Mediator, God and man. The Holy Ghost is called the Spirit of Christ in this respect also, and that for two reasons more. First, He is called the Spirit of Christ, as He is in a special manner bestowed upon Him and received by Him (John 3:34; Luke 4:1; John 1:14; Colossians 1:19). Second, He is called the Spirit of Christ not only as bestowed upon Him, but as bestowed by Him. And of His fulness we do all receive grace for grace. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us, as it may teach us a special ground for the honouring and extolling of Christ. A second term which we may take notice of in this first part of the text is the having of the Spirit of Christ, which is here implied to be such as Christians are indeed capable of. Now this it relates especially to the work of grace and holiness in their hearts. This having of the Spirit of Christ is considerable in two particulars. Firstly, take it as to matter of conversion, and the working of grace in them at first. Those who are true believers, they have the Spirit of Christ in them thus, as they are changed in the spirit of their minds. Every man by nature has an evil spirit in him. This Spirit of Christ has gracious and holy desires and inclinations which do belong unto it; a spiritual favour and a spiritual delight, and an affecting of spiritual things above all other things besides. Where this Spirit of Christ comes it brings every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ. Secondly, take it as to matter of communion. A third thing which we may here observe from this present passage before us is the word of uncertainty or ambiguity, “If any man hath not,” etc., as implying that there are some that have not, and that even also of those sometimes who pretend to have. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, viz., the antecedent, “If any man have not,” etc. The second is the consequent, in these words, “He is none of His”--none of His; that is, belongs not to Him, has no interest in Him, is no member of Him. This is the state and condition of all those who want the Spirit of Christ. But it may be illustrated to us from sundry considerations, as first, because they have nothing whereby to knit them and unite them to Christ. Whosoever they be that are Christ’s they must be knit and united to Him, and made one with Him. By His Spirit Christ dwells in our hearts and makes us also to dwell in Him, which accordingly those persons that want do not belong unto Him, nor are any of His. Secondly, those which have not the Spirit of Christ they are none of Christ’s, because they have not faith whereby to apprehend and lay hold upon Him. Thirdly, those who have not the Spirit of Christ they are none of His, because they have not a principle of spiritual life in them whereby to bring forth fruits unto Him. Fourthly, those who have not the Spirit of Christ they are none of His, because they are altogether unlike Him and different from Him, yea, indeed contrary to Him. While it is said here that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His, this is to be taken by us as exclusive of anything else which might be conceived to make up this defect. We will instance some few particulars which do sometimes deceive many people in this regard. First, strength of parts, or common and ordinary illumination in spiritual and Divine truths. Secondly, sweetness of nature and temper and constitution; it is not this which will suffice neither. Thirdly, common morality and civil righteousness. It is not this which will serve neither without the Spirit of Christ. Fourthly, the outward badge of religion, and the privileges of the visible Church. It is not this neither which does entitle to Christ without His Spirit. Lastly, it is not Christian alliance, or relation to those who have grace and godliness and goodness in them. The consideration of this point may be drawn forth into this following improvement. To this purpose we may take notice of a three-fold spirit in men, which is exclusive of this Spirit of Christ in them, and so separating of them from Him. First, their own spirit. Secondly, the spirit of the world. Thirdly, the spirit of Satan. This exclusion of relation to Christ, and of interest in Him as His members, is very grievous and prejudicial. And that in the consideration of three particulars especially. First, in point of grace; and secondly, in point of comfort; and thirdly, in point of salvation. Whether have we His Spirit or no? Those who have Christ’s Spirit do very much relish and favour the truths of Christ. Again, how stand we affected to sin and evil ways, either in ourselves or others? The Spirit of Christ wherever it is is a mortifying Spirit (Galatians 5:24). And so for others, who are the children of God, and are members of Christ, how stand we affected to them likewise? And finally, for our lives and conversations and outward man, this Spirit of Christ, where it is, it will have an influence upon this also. If we live in the Spirit we shall also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). This Spirit will actuate and regulate us in every performance. Thirdly and lastly, in a way of excitement. Here is that which may stir us all up to labour for this Spirit of Christ, as being that whereupon depends all our interest in Him and benefit by Him. First, take it more largely, and which seems here principally to be intended in the text, and as we have handled it all this while, that Spirit of Christ which does animate all His members, and does express itself in them. We should be persuaded from hence to endeavour after it, and to labour for it, that we may be able to find it in ourselves. But secondly, take it more emphatically. The Spirit of Christ for that Spirit of His, which did more eminently, and in a special manner, put forth itself in His own person, while He lived here upon earth as a pattern and example to us. We may consider it in sundry particulars. First, it was a Spirit of meekness and humility and lowliness of mind. Secondly, a Spirit of patience in the wrongs and injuries which He endured. Thirdly, a Spirit of pity and compassion and tenderness of heart, especially to the souls of men, and in reference to their eternal salvation. Fourthly, a Spirit of love and condescension, and sweetness of carriage towards all that He conversed withal. And yet fifthly also, a Spirit of zeal. Last of all, a Spirit of fruitfulness and communicativeness and edification. He went about doing good. The sum of all comes to this, that we endeavour for our particulars to have the like in some degree and measure infused into us; and that so much the rather that we may be assured of His owning of us another day. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

The Spirit of Christ

To have the Spirit of Christ is to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, who directs and sanctifies the believer in Jesus by the Word of God.

I. The Spirit of Christ towards God. This Spirit--

1. Begets and forms a Christlike character. “We are created in Christ unto good works.” The Spirit changes the bias of a man. Christianity is Christ in you.

2. Gives a Christlike devotion. This is not a prayerful age. But holy lives ever have been much in communion with God. If Jesus needed prayer, much more do we.

3. Leads to Christlike obedience. Christ’s life motto was, “I come to do Thy will, O God.” Obedience to God is the Spirit of Christ, and this obedience Jesus made the test of discipleship. This Spirit puts Christ before creeds, the truth before traditions, principle before policy, faith before feelings. It puts piety into practice, devotion into duty, love into labour, grace into giving, and power into prayer.

II. The Spirit of Christ toward man. Christ’s Spirit--

1. Was full of sympathy with man. Sympathy means to suffer with another. As a substitute Jesus suffered with man in his sins; He “Himself bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” And if any man have the Spirit of Christ he will have something of that vicarious sympathy for man’s redemption. Men of God have felt at times this soul burden; the Church of God has seasons of agonising for the salvation of sinners.

2. Labours to save men. Labour is the expression of Christ’s sympathy for man. The Spirit of Christ is not exclusive, but aggressive. Our devotion to Christ is ever measured by our sacrifice and toil to save men. Christ suffered to provide redemption, and the Christian must suffer to apply it. Thus it is “the Church fills up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ.” (J. P. Thoms.)

Every Christian possesses the Spirit of Christ

I. What is implied in being Christ’s.

1. There is a sense in which all men are His, by right of--

2. But Christ’s true followers belong to Him, as--

II. What is meant by the Spirit of Christ. Not, as some think, merely the mind of Christ, but the Spirit of God, is here intended (see context).

1. This is called the Spirit of Christ because--

2. As the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father, emphatically (Acts 1:4), so also of the Son (Luke 24:49; John 14:1-31; Joh_15:1-27; Joh_16:1-33.). He actually confers it (John 4:10; Joh_7:38; Acts 2:38-39).

III. How it appears that we must have this Spirit in order to be Christ’s. We cannot be Christ’s unless we--

1. Know Him (John 10:14; Joh_10:27), but we cannot know Him without the Spirit of Christ (Matthew 11:27; Galatians 1:16; John 16:14).

2. Love Him (1 Corinthians 16:22), but we cannot love Him without that Spirit, the fruit of which is love (Galatians 5:22; Romans 5:5).

3. Obey Him (2 Corinthians 5:15; Romans 14:7; John 15:14; Joh_14:21; Hebrews 5:9), but we cannot obey Him without the inspiration and aid of His Spirit (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 3:5).

4. Have an interest in Him, and are able to say, “My beloved is mine and I am His,” but this interest in Him we cannot have without His Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).

5. Are united with Him, members with their head; but this we cannot have without His Spirit.

6. We have His mind in us; but this we cannot have without His Spirit; meekness, long-suffering, goodness, etc., being fruits of the Spirit.

7. Are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:21-24), and it is impossible we should be so without His Spirit (Titus 3:5). (Joseph Benson.)

Having the Spirit a test of being Christ’s

Ignatius, the martyr, used to call himself Theophorus, or the God bearer, “because,” said he, “I bear about with me the Holy Ghost.” And truly every Christian is a God bearer. That man is no Christian who is not the subject of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit--he may talk well, he may understand theology--he will be the child of nature finely dressed, but not the living child. He may be a man of so profound an intellect, so gigantic a soul, so comprehensive a mind, and so lofty an imagination, that he may dive into all the secrets of nature, may know the path which the eagle’s eye hath not seen, and enter into depths where the ken of mortals reacheth not, but he shall not be a Christian with all his knowledge; he shall not be a son of God with all his researches, unless he understands what it is to have the Holy Ghost dwelling in him and abiding in him, yea, and that forever. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A comely disposition

Nothing is more desirable than a pleasant disposition. Without it we cannot be happy ourselves nor make others happy. When we have lost our temper we wake up to new appreciation of proper equipoise of nature. But a man says, “I can’t help it.” You can help it by having His disposition. The Spirit of Christ was a Spirit of--

I. Gentleness. True, He scathed the hypocrite; but for the most part His words and demeanour were inoffensive. This is remarkable when we bear in mind His omnipotence. Little children, who always avoid a rough man, rushed into His presence. Invalids, who shuddered at any other touch, asked Him to put His hand on their wounds. His footstep would not have woke up the faintest slumber. The calmness of His look shamed boisterous Gennesaret into placidity. How little of that gentleness we have! My sister’s arm was put out of joint and the neighbours came and pulled till her anguish was great, but to no purpose. When the surgeon came with one touch it was all right. So we go down to our Christian work with so rough a hand that we miserably fail. The dew of one summer night does more good than ten whirlwinds.

II. Self-sacrifice. Suppose by one course of conduct you could win a palace, while by another you might advantage men at the cost of your life, which would you choose? Christ chose the latter. How little of that spirit we have! Two children went out on a cold day; the boy with hardly any garments at all, and the girl in a coat that she had outgrown, and she said, “Johnny, come under my coat.” He said, “It is too short.” “Oh,” she said, “it will stretch.” But the coat would not stretch enough, so she took it off, and put it upon the boy. That was self-sacrifice. When the plague was raging in Marseilles, the College of Surgeons decided that there must be a post-mortem examination, in order that they might know how to meet and arrest that awful disease. And there was silence till Dr. Guion rose and said, “I know it is certain death; but somebody must do it. In the name of God and humanity I will.” He accomplished the dissection and died in twelve hours. That was self-sacrifice that the world understands.

III. Humility. The Lord of heaven and earth in the garb of a rustic. He who poured all the waters of the earth out of His hand begging a drink. Walking in common sandals, seated with publicans and sinners. How little you and I have of a spirit like that! We gather a few more dollars than other people, or get a little higher social position, and how we strut and want people to know their places!

IV. Prayer. You cannot think of Jesus without thinking of prayer. Prayer for little children: “I thank Thee, O Father,” etc. Prayer for His friends: “Father, I will that they be with Me where I am.” Prayer for His enemies: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Prayer for all nations: “Thy kingdom come.” How soon our knees get tired! We want more prayer in the house, in the social circle, in the Church, in the legislative hall, among the young, among the old. The moment when the Diet of Nuremberg were signing the edict that gave deliverance to Protestants, Luther was praying in his private room about it. Without any communication between the two Luther rose from his knees, rushed out into the street, and cried, “We have got the victory! The Protestants are free! “ That was prayer getting the answer straight from the throne.

V. Work. Christ was always busy. Hewing in the carpenter’s shop. Helping the lame man to walk. Curing the child’s fits. From the day on which they found Him “about His Father’s business,” to the time when He said, “I have finished the work,” etc., it was work all the way. We want the work easy if we are to perform it, the religious service short if we are to survive it. Oh for more of that better spirit which determines a man to get to heaven and to take everybody with him. Busy in the private circle, in the Sabbath school, in Church, busy everywhere for God and Christ, and heaven. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

A practical appeal

Note--

I. The necessity of having the Spirit of God dwelling in us. (Verses 9-11.)

1. The Spirit here spoken of is the Holy Ghost. But He is variously described as “the Spirit of God,” “the Spirit of Christ,” and “the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead.” Beside all which, it is intimated that for the Spirit to dwell in us, is the same thing as for “Christ” to be in us. This mode of speaking is quite accordant with Paul’s common habit (Ephesians 3:16-19). To be “strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man,” and for “Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith,” and for us to be “filled with all the fulness of God,” are descriptions of one and the same experience. So also Ephesians 2:18; Eph_2:22. Compare our Lord’s discourses (John 14:10-11; John 14:15-21; John 15:26; John 16:7-15). These strange and involved expressions imply how distinct the personality, and how intimate the unity, between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and how completely all conspire in every part of the redeeming plan. The Holy Ghost, then, may be called the Spirit of God, inasmuch as He cometh forth from God. He is also the Spirit of Christ, inasmuch as He represents Christ, and is sent by Him to do the Saviour’s work. Further, to have the Spirit is to have Christ, because it is only through the Spirit that Jesus can take up His residence within. It follows, accordingly, that to have the Spirit of Christ in us, means something more than merely to have a disposition resembling Christ’s. It means that we have God Himself to dwell within our breasts. Let us not shrink from the full avowal of this momentous truth (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1Co_6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Isaiah 57:15).

2. This possessing God’s Spirit is essential to our salvation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ,” he may have many virtues and much seeming religion, but he is none of Christ’s. The reason of this is evident; for without the Spirit no man can truly repent. Believe in Christ. Love God and keep His commandments.

II. How we may know if we have the Spirit (see verse 13).

1. What are “the deeds of the body?” (Colossians 3:5-10; Ephesians 4:22-32; Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3).

2. What is meant by mortifying them? To mortify the flesh is to wage war against it, and to cross it instead of indulging it. This is the constant battle of the believer’s life; and in its full extent it is not the battle of life to any but a Christian.

III. The happiness of such. “They shall live.” And further, “if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” Though the conflict be hard and painful, it is not in vain or without an adequate reward (Galatians 6:8). This “life,” which belongs to spiritual-mindedness, is a life of joy, which begins on earth, and then is consummated in heaven.

IV. “Therefore we are debtors not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.”

1. We owe it no allegiance, and need no longer be in subjection to its imperious bidding. We are emancipated from its tyranny by the power of the Son of God, who is able to make us “free indeed.”

2. On the other hand, you are debtors to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit. You owe your own soul much, both to make up for past neglects and injuries, and to bring it up to that high standard of excellence, in which alone it can find its perfection. And remember that the Spirit of God dwells within you, and if you surrender yourself to Him He will work in you” all the good pleasure of His goodness” (Ephesians 1:17-20; Colossians 1:9-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 1Th_5:28). (T. G. Horton.)

Christ’s moral temper

I. Is identical with that of the great God. “The Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ” are identical. “I and My Father are one.” Christ’s temper was--

1. Essentially benevolent. “He came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” His severest reproofs were but the bass notes in the harmonies of His loving nature. The blows He struck at the stoner were but to break his chains and set him free.

2. Forgivingly benevolent. Examples are numerous: the woman in Simon’s house; the paralytic; His prayer for His enemies.

3. Earnestly benevolent. His benevolence was a burning passion. “Come unto Me all ye that labour,” etc., “O Jerusalem,” etc. Now all this is identical with the moral temper. Do you want to know how God feels towards you as a sinner? The biography of Christ will answer.

II. Is communicable to man. For--

1. Man is preeminently adapted to receive it. He is not formed to receive evil; it is repugnant to his conscience. The soul is made to live in love as its vital atmosphere.

2. Man is preeminently in want of this. It is the only Spirit that can expel the demon passions of evil that reign within, that can light up his soul with truth and blessedness.

3. Man has preeminent helps to this. The Scripture, the life of Christ, the ministry, etc.

III. Determines the condition of man. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

1. None of His loyal subjects. All who have this disposition delight in His law. All others are miserable vassals. They serve Him, but against their will.

2. None of His docile disciples. Love is essential to Christian knowledge. Without it men may be speculators, cavillers, dogmatists, but not teachable disciples.

3. None of His loving friends. The want of this is enmity to Christ.

4. None of His co-heirs. From this subject we learn that Christianity is--


Verse 10

Romans 8:10

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

The indwelling of Christ

I. For the present the indwelling of Christ in believers, by His Spirit, removes the power of death from the sphere of their spiritual nature only.

1. From that nature, however, it is removed. For “if Christ be in you,…the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (1 John 5:12). But on account of what “righteousness”? Surely not our own, for apart from Christ we have none. Under law, indeed, being alive, we should have continued to live, if we had maintained a perfect righteousness (Romans 10:5). But under the gospel, being found dead, we must first be made to live, in order to become holy. This “righteousness,” therefore, is that “righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22; Rom_5:17-18). That one thing which of necessity precedes our life in Christ is justification in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:1-13; Rom_4:22-25), which is hence called a “justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

2. The new life, however, does not as yet extend beyond the spirit. “The body is dead because of sin,” and for the furtherance of the great mediatorial purpose. The postponement of the completed “adoption, to wit, the redemption of their body” (Romans 8:23), is made, not on account of any sin yet remaining in believers (Romans 8:1), but on account of the sin of the world, in so far as the deferring of their redemption from death promotes the world’s salvation. And how needful and wise that it should be so! How obviously inconsistent with a state of probation it would have been for believers to be exempted from death! If only these at the end of their probation were translated to heaven, how completely would the free exercise of the human will, in respect to matters of religion and the free development of human character, be fettered or overborne! Not to insist upon the anguish which would come into every stricken household if death were known to be the precursor of hell; nor to think how dark and dreary this world would become if there were in it no cemeteries in which were to be found the treasured remains of those who sweetly sleep in Jesus, awaiting the call to a deathless life. Let anyone try to imagine what possible advantage there could accrue from such an arrangement. Therefore Christians must continue to die, that they may “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ … for His body’s sake, which is the Church” (Colossians 1:24).

II. The removal of the dominion of death from the bodies of believers is but delayed till the Saviour’s second coming (Cf. Hebrews 9:28; John 6:39-40; Romans 8:19-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:42-54)
. Of this believers have a double earnest.

1. The objective fact that God raised the body of Jesus. So strongly did the apostle feel upon this point as to maintain that the whole fabric of Christianity stands or falls with it (1 Corinthians 15:12-23).

2. The subjective fact of the indwelling of the resurrective Spirit. “If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus … dwell in you.”

1. Abjure the flesh and its debasing service. You are in no sense such debtors to the flesh as to be required to live according to its desires. Either you must slay the sinful flesh, or it will slay you (Romans 8:18).

2. Remember that the Spirit of Christ is yours. Say not that you are unequal to the work (Philippians 4:13).

3. When called to endure suffering and death, shrink not as though they were tokens of God’s displeasure, but rather be comforted that herein you are called to share the sufferings of your Lord, and to further His redeeming work (Philippians 3:10-11).

4. And bear in mind that the state of suffering on account of sin is but for a time (Romans 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:11-12). (W. Tyson.)

Christ in believers, notwithstanding death, is a sure pledge and earnest of eternal life

I. The supposition. “If Christ be in you” (2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:27).

1. Christ is in us--

(a) Life (Galatians 2:20).

(b) Likeness or renovation of our natures (Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

(c) Strength by the continued influence of His grace to overcome temptation (1 John 4:4; Philippians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Hebrews 13:21).

2. None are Christians but those who have Christ in them.

II. The concession. “The body is dead because of sin.” Because--

1. The sentence is passed (Genesis 2:17; Hebrews 9:27). As we say of a condemned man, he is a dead man.

2. Sin is the cause of death.

(a) To finish transgression and make an end of sin.

(b) To free us from the natural infirmities which render us incapable of that happy life in heaven which is intended for us.

III. The assertion or correction, “The Spirit is life because of righteousness.” In which observe--

1. That believers have a life, notwithstanding death (John 11:25). Though the union between body and soul be dissolved, yet not their union with God.

2. This life is to be understood of body and soul (Romans 8:11).

3. The grounds are--

Conclusion: To enforce the great things of Christianity.

1. To live holily.

2. To die comfortably. Christianity affordeth the proper comfort against death, as it is a natural and penal evil (Hebrews 9:27). Heathens could only teach them to submit to it out of necessity, or as a debt to nature, or an end of the present miseries; but for us the sting of it is gone (1 Corinthians 15:56) and the property is altered (1 Corinthians 3:22). (T. Manton, D. D.)

True life

I. Its efficient cause--Christ in you.

II. Its development.

1. The body dies, through sin, preparatory to life.

2. The spirit lives, through righteousness, as the earnest of a better life. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Christ our life

He dwells in us.

I. As the source of life.

1. By faith.

2. In the power of His Word and Spirit.

3. Producing a new birth unto righteousness.

II. As the Spirit of life.

1. Quickening.

2. Sanctifying.

3. Invigorating the soul.

4. By righteousness.

III. As the earnest of life.

1. The body is mortal through sin.

2. Shall be raised again in glory.

3. By the same Spirit that now dwelleth in us.

4. By whom also Christ was raised from the dead. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

Body and spirit

A gifted poet (Rev. W. Calvert) has feigned a most instructive allegory, to illustrate the connection and history of the body and soul, with respect to the Christian believer. He calls the soul Psyche, and the body Sarx, which are the proper terms in the Greek. These two start forth together on the pilgrimage of life. At the outset of their journey both are equally small, infantile, and feeble. Ere long, however, it is seen that Sarx grows faster than his more delicate companion, and begins to exercise an ascendency over her. Alas! if she were abandoned to his tyranny, she would in time be reduced to the most abject slavery, and finally sink with her despotic lord into the abyss of eternal woe. But the discordant pilgrims are met by a radiant stranger, Christ the Lord. To Him Psyche lends a charmed ear, as He tells her of her heavenly parentage and immortal destiny, and bids her take up arms against her coarse and cruel master, nor rest till she has brought him down to his proper position as her slave. It is only by subjecting him that she can either secure her own freedom or fit him for being her equal and honoured companion hereafter. Fired by the Lord’s exhortations, and assisted by His prowess, Psyche asserts her liberty, assumes superiority, and attempts the subjugation of the flesh. When symptoms of this change appear, Sarx, like an insolent giant, is first disdainful, then indignant, and finally takes up cudgels against his fair companion. This opposition calls forth all her strength, and, aided by her Saviour, she at length obtains the victory, binds the strong man with cords and fetters, and compels him to follow her footsteps, obedient to her pleasure. Many a treacherous effort doth he make, if Psyche remits her watchfulness and care, to regain his forfeited dominion; but, by the grace of Christ, she maintains her headship, waxing stronger and stronger as the pilgrimage advances, until at its close she seems endowed with the might of an angel, while her vanquished companion has sunk into the imbecility of an infant. Thus, though the “outward man perish,” “the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). A little longer, the day of trial closes, and their pilgrimage comes to an end. Sarx, exhausted, sinks on the cold strand and dies; while Psyche, released and happy, passes on, to cross the silver stream and enter the flowery land beyond. Yet is not her former companion forgotten. The Lord hath marked the spot where he fell, and will return again, at the last day, to bid him rise from the dust, and rejoin the glorified Psyche in the skies. (T. G. Horton.)

The body dead because of sin

The work of the Spirit in us does not pour the elixir of immortality into the material frame, however much it may strengthen and prepare the imperishable spirit for its immortal well-being. After Christ hath made a temple of our body, there remaineth a virus in the fabric that sooner or later will work its dissolution. Were the body, by some preternatural operation, to be wholly delivered of its corrupt ingredient, we do not understand why death should interpose between our earthly and heavenly state ever. And accordingly, on nature’s dissolution, they who remain alive must, to become incorruptible, at least be changed. And the reason why those in whom Christ dwells have still a death to undergo, is that sin still adheres to them--and the wearing down of the body by disease, and the mouldering of it into dust, and then its re-ascent from the grave--would appear to be the steps of a refining process, whereby the now vile body is changed into a glorious one--the soul’s suitable equipment for the delights and the services of eternity. For death, in the case of Christians, cannot surely be because of the judicial sentence on transgression; for those who believe in Christ are delivered from this (Romans 8:1). It cannot be that by any death of ours we eke out, as it were, the satisfaction which hath been already rendered for sin. A believer’s death, then, must be to root out the existence of sin. It is not inflicted upon him as the last discharge of the wrath of God, but is sent as a release from the plague which adheres, it would seem, as long as the body adheres to us. Now this fact that the body is still subjected to death because of sin is the strongest experimental argument for heaven being a place to which sin can find no entry. It is not in the way of penalty that the Christian has to die--for the whole of that penalty has already been sustained. It is not exacted from him as the payment of a debt--for Christ our surety hath paid a full and a satisfying ransom. It is not to help out the justification which is already complete in Him, nor to remove a flaw from that title deed which we have received perfect from His hand. It stands connected, in short, with the sanctification of the believer. The justice of God would have recoiled from the acceptance of a sinner, and so an expiation had to be made; and the holiness of that place where God dwelleth would have recoiled from the approaches of one whose character was still tainted with sin, even though its guilt had been expiated; and so it is, that there must be a sanctification as well as an atonement. For the one, Christ had to suffer and to die; for the other, man has also to die, and so to fill up that Which is behind of the sufferings of Christ. And it is indeed a most emphatic demonstration of heaven’s sacredness, that, to protect its courts from violation, not even the most pure and sainted Christian upon earth, can, in his present earthly garb, find admittance therein. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The doom and destiny of the body

I. The mortal doom of the flesh. “The body is dead because of sin.”

1. The fact is that Christians die even as others. If Christians were not to die, as other men, what else could be done with them?

2. The reason is assigned--“because of sin.”

II. Its eventual resuscitation and recovery (verse 11). The doctrine of the resurrection is peculiar to the Bible. The peculiarity to be observed is that here our resurrection is ascribed to the operation of the Holy Ghost, and also to the Father. Jesus Himself claims to be “the resurrection and the life.” All that is done by any one of the adorable Trinity may, in some sense, be said to be done by the others as well; for Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one. But still there is a reason why the resurrection is here ascribed to the Spirit. The Holy Ghost is the giver of life to the soul of the believer; and the same Spirit, who is the author of our holiness, is also to be the resuscitator of our lower nature. Hence, we learn the connection there is between present holiness and future glory. As sin is the defilement of the flesh, and occasions its consignment to decay and corruption, so holiness sanctifies the flesh, and tends to its conservation and incorruption. The body may be temporarily dissolved, but it is not to be lastingly destroyed. Therefore the surest pledge you can have of a joyful resurrection is the conscious possession of the Spirit of holiness now. Conclusion:

1. If the body be dead because of sin, let us keep it in subjection.

2. Yet, if this body is to rise again by virtue of the Spirit dwelling in it, let us not despise it.

3. Let us have patience under bodily affliction and submission in death.

4. Let us, while seeking to live as long as we can, be also willing, at God’s behest, to die and lay this body down. (T. G. Horton.)

The Christian aspect of death

I. Its present limit.

1. It is associated with a moral cause as its explanation. The death of the body, apart from the gospel, could be accounted for only by causes such as a physician could furnish. Its great lesson would, however, thus be lost. To the heathen death was a gloomy necessity, and its only lesson was that men should seize the joys of the passing hour. The gospel associates death with sin, and its removal with the removal of sin. It is intended as a witness for God that sin is an evil thing.

2. Death in the case of believers is limited to the body. There are three classes of death. Spiritual death, which has ceased to exist in the believer. “To be spiritually minded is life.” Eternal death, which has been abolished by Christ. “He that believeth on Me shall never die.” Bodily death, from which believers are not exempt; but it is limited to the lowest part of our nature. The body is indeed dead, but the spirit is life.

3. Death in this limited dominion is associated with the believer’s welfare. Why does Paul say, “because of sin”? Is it that there is some remainder of condemnation for sin which is still to be executed on the believer himself? If so, how can it be said, “There is now no condemnation”? If it be in wrath, why does the apostle say, “All things are yours, whether life or death”? “The body is dead because of sin,” in mercy. It shall work good. It shall be a process of refinement, a furnace for gold. Let the captive of sin be redeemed, and the hand of death shall take off his prison dress, and he shall be clothed upon with his house which is from heaven.

4. Death, thus confined to a narrowed dominion, and even then made subservient to our good, is altogether subservient to the higher power which occupies the centre of our being. Death has been forced out of the metropolis of his empire, and now “the spirit is life because of righteousness.”

The blessed experience and hope of a true Christian

I. What is the religion of a true Christian?

1. It does not chiefly consist--

2. But in being “in Christ,” and having “Christ in him.” These two phrases are not quite synonymous, yet they imply each other, and cannot be separated (John 14:20).

(a) Having an interest in Him, as a woman in her husband (Romans 7:4).

(b) Union with Him, as a branch with the tree in which it grows.

(c) Or a member with the head of the body to which it belongs.

(a) As our wisdom, enlightening us in the knowledge of God and ourselves, so as to produce repentance; and of Christ, so as to beget confidence (chap. 15:12; Ephesians 1:12-13) and love.

(b) As our righteousness, producing justification, peace with God, and a hope of immortality.

(c) As our sanctification, delivering us from the power, and, at length, from the whole influence of sin, consecrating us to God, and conforming us to His image.

(d) As our redemption, that having redeemed our whole persons by price, He may rescue all by power.

II. This religion, at present, produces no material change in the body, which still remains “dead because of sin.”

1. The body is under sentence to die (Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 9:27).

2. All this is because of sin; the sin of our first parents (Romans 5:12), being seminally one with them, or through the derivation of our nature from them, just as Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec in Abraham (Hebrews 7:9-10); besides which we have committed actual sins, the wages of which are death (Romans 6:23).

3. Here we have the true reason why “the world knoweth us not” as being the children of God. They only judge by appearance, and hence they conclude that all that is said of Christians as having the Spirit of God, and being new creatures, is mere enthusiasm. For they have no idea of any spiritual change.

III. This religion produces a blessed change in the inner man. “The Spirit is life because of righteousness,” in which clause the opposition to the former is three fold: spirit is opposed to body, life to death, and righteousness to sin.

1. Man consists of a soul as well as a body, which soul will live when the body dies.

2. This spiritual part is by nature involved in moral death (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13), under wrath (Ephesians 4:18), and “carnally minded” (Romans 8:6). But by “Christ in it” it is made alive from this death (Romans 6:13). Christians live by Him, through His influence; to Him, in fulfilling His will; like Him, a wise, holy, useful, happy life.

3. This spiritual life they have “because of,” or through, “righteousness” (John 20:31; Joh_6:53; Joh_6:57; Joh_11:25-26; Galatians 2:20). Through justifying righteousness they have the favour of God, through sanctifying righteousness they have the image of God; through practical righteousness, or obedience, they walk with God, and obtain more and more of a spiritual mind. Through the same righteousness they have eternal life. Through their justification they are entitled to it; through their sanctification they are tilted for it; through practical obedience they are in the way to it; and through faith (Hebrews 11:1) they have an earnest of it (John 6:47). Happiness is indeed the result of the whole. Justification, and the favour of God, bring peace, hope, and joy; sanctification brings deliverance from restless and distressing lusts and passions; practical righteousness brings the approbation of God, and the testimony of a good conscience.

IV. This religion will hereafter produce, or be rewarded with, a most important change, even of the outward man. For “if the Spirit of Him that raised,” etc. Not only is immortality implied, but this mortal body also shall be quickened. The bodies of all, indeed, will rise from their graves (John 5:28-29), but the righteous only to what is worthy the name of life. For this we have Christ’s promise (John 6:39-44; Joh_6:54), of which we have pledges in His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-20) and His Spirit’s indwelling. The mortal body shall be quickened.

1. That we may be judged in the body for “the deeds done in the body.”

2. That the children of the great King, and the brethren and sisters of the Son of God, may not be found naked, but clothed with an external glory, exactly answering to, and perfectly descriptive of, their internal graces and virtues.

3. That we may be conformable to the Lord Jesus, in body as well as soul, and so fit to dwell with Him (1 Corinthians 15:47-49).

4. In honour of the Holy Spirit, whose temples our bodies now are.

5. That our triumph over Satan may be perfectly complete, no part of us being lost.

6. And with respect to all, that we may rise higher from the ruins of the fall than the state we had been in before (1 Corinthians 15:36-38; 1Co_15:42-44). (J. Benson.)

Believers not subject to spiritual death

For the first, to wit, the evil itself, that is here expressed to be mortality or bodily death, the body is dead. Dead--that is, subject to death. This is the state of the body, and even in the servants of God themselves, in whom Christ Himself dwells by His Spirit, are subject to death as well as others. The bodies of Christians are frail and mortal as well as the bodies of any other men. This is grounded partly upon the general sentence which is passed upon all men (Hebrews 9:27). And partly also upon those frail principles whereof the godly themselves do consist in their natural condition. It is no wonder for dust to return to dust. First, to teach us to be frequently in the thoughts and meditations hereof, we should look upon our bodies as mortal and corruptible, even the best that are here in this world. That they have this treasure in earthen vessels. Secondly, we should hence be persuaded against all inordinate care of the body, pampering of it, and glorying in the excellencies and accomplishments of it; for, alas! it will quickly be dissolved and lie in the dust. Thirdly, let us not from hence be offended at the troubles of the children of God here in this life, that they are in deaths oft. While their bodies are subject to death, it is no marvel that their lives are also subject to affliction. Though Christ be in you, yet the body which you carry about you is dead. And that is the first particular here considerable, which is the evil itself. The second is the occasion of this evil, or the ground whereupon it proceeds, and that is guilt. The body is dead because of sin (Romans 5:12). It is sin which exposes all men, both good and bad, to the stroke of death. First, take it remotely, because of sin; that is, of the first sin and transgression that was in the world. Secondly, because of sin; that is, because of actual sin, and sin considered more immediately and proximately. There is a double influence which sin may be said to have upon death as causal of it. First, it hath sometimes, and in some cases and persons, a physical and productive influence upon it, as immediately and directly effecting it, and bringing it about. There are abundance of persons in the world whose very sins are their death by their luxury, and wantonness, and intemperance--“the body is dead because of sin.” But secondly, it is always so in a moral, and considered demeritoriously. So that wherever there is death there is sin antecedent to it. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us, as it may serve, first, to convince us of the grievous nature of sin, and to humble us under the guilt and sense of it, as being that which brings so much evil and mischief with it, as consequent upon it. And if we are not sensible of it as it is an offence and dishonour to God, yet let us at least be sensible of it as it is a grievance and annoyance to ourselves, and occasions the greatest evil to us of anything else. And so let us learn to justify God in His dealings with us, and to condemn ourselves as the causes of our own suffering. The second is the qualification, “But the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Wherein, as in the former, we have two particulars more. First, the benefit itself; and secondly, the ground of this benefit. First, for the benefit itself, “The Spirit is life.” This, it is life, or lives (as some translations carry it), namely, the life of grace here, and the life of glory hereafter. This is the meaning of the words. And the point which we learn from them is this--that God’s children, although they be mortal, in regard of their bodies, yet they are in a state of immortality in regard of their souls: “The Spirit is life.” While we say that God’s children do live in regard of their souls, this is not to be taken exclusively, but rather emphatically; not exclusively, as denying the immortality of the souls of other men, but emphatically, as fastening a special immortality upon these. But now when it is said here in the text that the souls of God’s children live, we are to take it in a two-fold explication. First, for the life of grace. They live such a life as this even when their bodies are in a manner dead, that is, subject or near unto it. “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). There may be a lively and vigorous soul in a withered and decayed body. Then when the flesh is ready to perish, yet the spirit may flourish (2 Corinthians 4:17). This is so upon this account--first, because they are lives of a several nature and kind. Now thus it is with the flesh and the spirit, with the body and the soul, the life of nature and the life of grace. These are lives of a different kind, and so they do not mutually depend one upon the other. These things which are hurtful to the one, they do not prejudice the other. Secondly, there is this also in it, that the good of one is sometimes so much the more advanced and promoted by the prejudice of the other. Those who are always well and in health, they do for the most part little consider of their latter end, neither are they so careful to provide for a better world; whereas those who are sick, they are often put upon such thoughts as these are. Those tenants who have often warning given them to depart out of their house, they are careful to provide themselves a dwelling somewhere else. The consideration of this point may be thus far useful to us. First, as it may serve for an encouragement to the children of God in the midst of all those bodily infirmities which they are subject to here in this life. What though their bodies decay, yet their souls and spirits may live; and this is that which is chiefly to be looked after by them. There are a good many people in the world whose care is all taken up about their outward man. Secondly, here is that also which calls us to search and self-inquiry. And whether does sickness and weakness and diseases and distempers of body make us better or no in our spirits and inward man? The second is the life of glory. The Spirit is life--that is, it lives such a life as this. This is grounded not only upon the nature of the soul itself, which cannot die, but more especially upon the decree and purpose and promise of God Himself, who hath appointed us to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ, as the apostle elsewhere speaks. The use of this point is very comfortable against the inordinate fear of death. And so as for death in any other way whatsoever, here is that which does serve very much to mollify and mitigate it to them, and the thoughts of it either as to their own particular persons or to their Christian friends dying in the Lord. That though it be a privation of one life, yet it is a promotion of another; and though it separates the soul from the body, and other friends here below in the world, yet it joins it so much the closer to Christ, and makes them partakers of a better estate and condition in a better place. If Christ be in them, though the body be dead, yet the Spirit is life. And that is the first particular which is here observable and considerable of us in this second general, to wit, the benefit itself. The second is the ground of this benefit, and that is expressed in these words, “Because of righteousness.” We are to understand two things, either first of all the righteousness of Christ imputed, which gives us a right and title to salvation; or else, secondly, inherent righteousness, as a condition required in that subject which shall indeed be saved: in either sense it is because of righteousness. This shows us, first, what great cause we have, all that may be, to labour to get into Christ, and to endeavour to become members of His body, that so, partaking of His righteousness, we may consequently partake of His salvation and of eternal life itself. Secondly, seeing our souls came to live by virtue of the righteousness of Christ, meriting and procuring at the hands of God this life for us, this, then, shows us how for we are indeed beholden to Christ, and what cause we have to be thankful to Him, even as much as to one who has redeemed us from death itself and hath bestowed life upon us. And so now, according to this interpretation of the words, we have here in this present verse set forth unto us the admirable effects of the being of Christ in believers, and that in two points especially. First, in point of mortification, there is a killing of sin in them; the body is dead because of sin. Secondly, in point of vivification, grace is alive and active in them. The Spirit is life because of righteousness. The ground hereof is taken, first, from the nature of all life in general, which is to be operative and active. Secondly, from the end of spiritual life in particular, which is especially to serve God. (Thomas Horton, D. D.)

Delivered from sin rather than from its natural consequences

Some of the hardest burdens which men bear are the consequences of their past weaknesses and sins. There is a certain deep and lasting satisfaction in making expiation for one’s offences, and in recognising in one’s own soul the evidences of a genuine sorrow; but when the sin, instead of retreating into the background, walks with us day by day in its effects and results, there are times when the bravest spirit grows faint and discouraged in such companionship. One feels in such moments as if the sin ought to be blotted out in its material effects as truly as in its spiritual results. But this cannot be. No such promise is anywhere to be found in the revelation of God’s purpose to men. We are delivered from our sins, and that is matter for deep and eternal rejoicing; but we are not and cannot be delivered wholly from the consequences o! our sins. Those offences have become operative causes in the universal order of things, and we must stand by and see results flow from them, no matter how agonising the spectacle may be. But this experience, though often intensely painful, ought not to be crushing; it is from our sins and not from their effects that we care most to be delivered. That deliverance is for eternity; the effects are for time only. But there is in the immutability of the law which preserves the evil that men do in life a sublime and awful vindication of the steadfastness and eternal justice of Him who forgiveth our iniquities--who has, in fact, borne them. Once forgiven for Christ’s sake, these iniquities are washed clean from the soul; but there is constant need that he who has gone through this ordeal shall see clearly the awful crime of offending against the laws of life, and that he shall be accompanied perpetually by the witnesses to this great truth. When the consequences of former weaknesses and sins, accompanying us year after year, become to us, not avenging Furies, but angels of Divine justice, this companionship will not dismay us, but will serve as a new inspiration. One may make, even of the consequences of his sins, sources of strength rather than of weakness. He who accepts these things as the inevitable results of his own action, and recognises in them the working of an immutable and righteous law, will be kept humble by them, will be restrained from other departures from rectitude, and will draw from their companionship a deeper and deeper sense of that misery from which he has escaped, and of the permanent joy and peace into which he has entered.


Verse 11

Romans 8:11

But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus … dwell in you.

The indwelling Spirit

The indwelling of God the Holy Spirit is the common mark of all believers in Christ. It is the shepherd’s mark of the flock of the Lord Jesus, distinguishing them from the rest of the world. It is the goldsmith’s stamp on the genuine sons of God, which separates them from the dross and mass of false professors. It is the king’s own seal on those who are his peculiar people, proving them to be his own property. It is the earnest which the Redeemer gives to His believing disciples, while they are in the body, as a pledge of the full redemption yet to come on the resurrection morning. This is the case of all believers. (Bp. Ryle.)

The indwelling Spirit the Raiser of the dead

I. The inhabitation of the Spirit. Dwelling may relate either to a man in his house (1 John 3:24) or of God in His temple (1 Corinthians 6:16). The Spirit buildeth us up for so holy a use, and then dwelleth in us as our Sanctifier, Guide, and Comforter.

1. He sanctifieth and reneweth us (Titus 3:5; John 3:6).

2. He guideth and healeth us in the ways of holiness (Romans 15:14; Galatians 5:25).

3. He comforts us with the sense of God’s fatherly love and our eternal inheritance (Romans 8:16; 2 Corinthians 2:22).

II. Why this inhabitation is the ground of a blessed resurrection.

1. To preserve the order of the personal operations.

2. Because the Holy Spirit is the bond of union between us and Christ. We are united to Him, because we have the same Spirit which Christ had; and therefore He will work like effects in you and Him. If the Head rise, the members will follow after.

3. Because the Spirit of sanctification worketh in us that grace which giveth us a right and title to this glorious estate (Luke 20:35-36; Galatians 6:8).

4. Because the Spirit abides in us as an earnest (Ephesians 1:14).

5. Because of His respect to His old dwelling-place (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

6. Because the great work of the Spirit is to retrench our bodily pleasures, and to bring us to resolve by all means to save the soul, whatever becometh of the body in this world, and to use the body for the service of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:13; 1Co_6:20; Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16; Gal_5:24; Romans 13:14). (T. Manton, D.D.)

The completing work of the Holy Spirit

The acceptance of Christ does not prevent the death of the body. The destruction of the body by death is complete; but is it destroyed for ever?

1. Infidelity affirms that when you are dead that is the end of you.

2. Science teaches that the substance of the body can never be annihilated.

3. The Bible declares that the body shall be raised up at the last day.

I. The agent. The same power that raised up Jesus.

II. Its order,

1. Regeneration.

2. Sanctification.

3. Resurrection.

III. A complete salvation Christ brings to us.

1. It justifies us before the law.

2. It includes the redemption of the body.

3. It provides for the reunion of body and soul.

4. It establishes personal identity for ever.

5. It makes certain the reunion and recognition of friends throughout eternity.

IV. Present practical bearings.

1. We should now seek after the only possible antidote to spiritual death, with all its glorious provisions for time and eternity. If the Spirit of Christ dwell in us, we have nothing to fear from sin and death.

2. The Spirit comes only to those who welcome His coming and cherish His indwelling. (L. O. Thompson.)

The resurrection of the body

Our attention is not directed to the awakening produced by the trump of the archangel, but to the quickening produced by the Spirit of God. We have to consider here the completion of our freedom from the law of sin and death. Observe--

I. That by the resurrection the last link of the chain of corruption will be finally broken. The work of salvation is an ordered scheme, every step of which is arranged by infinite wisdom. God first uncloses the fingers of sin on the spirit, and at last frees the body from its fatal grasp. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” What if the order had been reversed? Why, then the spirit would have been placed beyond that discipline through which its purification is now being carried on. A body fit only for heavenly service would not be fit for earthly pain, sorrow, and death.

II. That this emancipation is to be effected by the Holy Spirit. It is Spirit operating, not on spirit--as in conversion--but on the body. It is the same Spirit, and it follows that it is even part of the same work. The work is effected by the Spirit dwelling in us. There is in the believer a Divine seed, which is destined to break forth from amidst the corruption of the grave into beauteous life.

III. That the resurrection of believers is associated with that of Christ. The relation is that of cause and effect, type and fulfilment, pledge and redemption. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (P. Strutt.)

The resurrection maintained

First, to speak of Christ’s resurrection. If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead. This is a circumlocution whereby we have described unto us God the Father, under this notion of raising up of Christ. For the first, the Person here signified or implied, that is God the Father. Indeed, the whole Trinity of Persons had a share in this performance. But yet it is here ascribed to the Father, as that Person who is usually expressed to be the Fountain of the Godhead, as from whom all the actions of the Deity do originally flow and proceed. The second thing, which is here chiefly considerable, is the action attributed to this Person, and that is, the raising up of Jesus from the dead. Jesus Christ, He is thus risen. This is a main article of our Christian faith. The ground of this dispensation is first of all taken from the nature and condition of Christ Himself, who was such an One as death could not long keep in bondage to itself (Acts 2:24). Secondly, He is therefore risen to manifest the completeness of that redemption which He had wrought for us, and to declare us absolved and acquitted in the sight and presence of God (Romans 4:25). The use of this doctrine in hand is especially to oppose it to the scandal and reproach of the Cross. The second is the Spirit’s inhabitation in those who are the members of Christ. If or forasmuch as this Spirit dwelleth in you. Thus it makes much for the honour and dignity of the servant of God, that He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain should vouchsafe to take up His residence in such narrow rooms as our hearts. And, further, it also minds us of our duty: so to carry and behave ourselves as fit temples of the Holy Ghost to reside in, and to be continually offering up of sacrifices of praises unto Him. The second, which is principally considerable of us, is the inference in these, “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” First, to look upon this passage in its simple and absolute consideration, “He that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead will also quicken and raise up us, who are,” etc. And here, again, two things more: first, the state or condition itself which is here propounded. And that is the resurrection of the saints and true believers. “He shall quicken your mortal bodies.” Secondly, the conveyance of this state or condition unto them, or the grace of conferring it upon them by or because of His Spirit, which dwelleth in you. First, to speak of the former--viz., the state or condition itself which is here propounded, and that is the resurrection of the saints. “He shall quicken your mortal bodies”; that is, He shall raise you from death to life. It is that which hath been set forth unto us and shadowed under sundry resemblances--of Aaron’s dry rod budding forth and flourishing; of the prophet slain by the lion, but not devoured; of Enoch’s translation; of Elijah’s rapture; of Elisha’s sepulchre reviving a dead man that was cast into it. And it is very suitable and agreeable to reason rightly qualified, though it does not depend upon it. First, to reason that it may be so in regard of the possibility. It is no way opposite or repugnant to this. Let us consider what our bodies were made of and fetched out of at first, and then it will be no difficulty at all. He that thoroughly believes the creation need never to doubt of the resurrection. Could God make the body out of the dust? and cannot He then restore it from the dust? Secondly, it is also in the equity of it, as that which should be; that so there may be an execution of the just judgment of God upon either part of man which hath done either good or evil. Thirdly, it is so also in the necessity of it, as that which must be; and here are divers and sundry things considerable of us as very much making for it. First, from the covenant of grace, “I will be thy God,” etc. Now to be our God is to be the God of our whole persons; not only of our souls, but of our bodies too (Matthew 22:32). Secondly, from the work of redemption, which extends to the destroying of death as the last enemy, and to get the conquest and victory over that. Thirdly, from the resurrection of Christ Himself: He is risen in His body, therefore we also shall rise in ours. Fourthly, from the work of the Spirit. The Spirit of God, which is in us, He does certify and assure us hereof--namely, by these gracious effects of His wrought in our souls; while He raises us from the death of sin, He will also raise us from the death of the grave. He that hath done the one, He is ready also to do the other for us. Hence is the Spirit of God called the earnest and pledge hereof unto us (2 Corinthians 5:5). This doctrine of the resurrection is more particularly considerable of us in the expression which is here in the text fastened upon it; whilst it is said that “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies.” And here, again, two things more. First, to speak of the cause of it. He that raised up Christ from the dead; where the resurrection of Christians seems to be made an effect, and consequent of the resurrection of Christ. And so indeed it is, and that according to a threefold influence--first, of merit; secondly, of actual efficacy; and, thirdly, of example. The ground and reason of all is this: because Christ is the Root and Head of all believers, as Adam was of all mankind. And so much may be spoken of the first particular which is here considerable of us, and that is the cause of our resurrection: in these words, “He that raised up Christ from the dead.” The second is the carriage of it in these: “shall quicken your mortal bodies.” He shall quicken our mortal bodies by making them absolutely immortal. And so now I have done with the first branch in this second general--to wit, the state or condition itself which is here propounded; and that is the resurrection of the saints and true believers, in these words: “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies.” The second is the conveyance of this state and condition unto them, or the ground of conferring it upon them, in these words: “By,” or “because, of His Spirit that,” etc., I read it both ways, either “by” or “because,” according to the different translation in the text and in the margin, and each of them different, according to different copies in the original. We may, if we please, take it either way. First, take it in the textual translation: “By His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Where we see how the dwelling of God’s Spirit in the children of God is the means and cause and conveyance of resurrection to such as are His children. They rise, but they rise by the virtue of the Spirit of God that dwells in them; and that because they rise in reference to their relation to Christ, as we showed before. But, secondly, we may, if we please, take it also in the marginal translation, which is for, or because, of the Spirit that dwelleth in you, as denoting not only the cause from which, but also the reason for which, this resurrection is conferred upon them. First, I say here is that which is implied: that the Spirit of God dwells in the children of God. The second is that which is inferred: that because and in regard of the Spirit of God dwelling in them, therefore their bodies should be raised and restored again to life. This follows from hence, because the Holy Ghost will not quit His own interest, nor lose anything of that which belongs unto Him, which He should do if the bodies of the saints lay still in their graves, or were wholly annihilated and brought to nothing. The second is conditional, or connective with the words which went before in the beginning of the verse: “If the Spirit of Him that raised up,” etc., where resurrection to eternal life is made dependent upon the inhabitation of the Holy Ghost in such persons as shall so rise, The consideration of this point may be useful to us, to a twofold purpose. First, as matter of comfort to the saints and servants of God. Secondly, here is matter of terror to all wicked and reprobate persons in regard of the different dispensation of it from that of the children of God. First, as to the manner of it. Whereof the one shall be with rejoicing, the other with horror. Secondly, in regard of the end of it. The godly, they rise that they may receive their crown and garland. But the wicked, they rise that they may receive their punishment and torment. Thirdly and lastly, in regard of the cause and proceeding of it. The godly, they rise by virtue of their union with Christ as His members, and by virtue of their relation to the Holy Ghost as His temples; but the wicked, they rise by virtue of God’s curse upon them and designment to everlasting destruction. The godly, they rise by the power of Christ as a Mediator; the wicked, they rise by the power of Christ as a Judge. (Thomas Horton, D.D.)


Verse 12

Romans 8:12

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh.

The Christian--a debtor

I. How are we to understand this. We are debtors--

1. To all times.

2. To all classes. There are some that always get well paid for what they do, whose claims, therefore, need no advocacy. I will only mention one class--the poor. Charity to them is a debt, and God requires us to remember the poor. The rich are indebted to them, for while the one hoard wealth the other make it. But in the case of the believing poor, their claim upon us is far more binding. When I think how the poor toil day after day and receive barely enough to keep their souls within their bodies, and how frequently they serve their Church, unhonoured and unrewarded, I cannot but say that we are their debtors in very large degree. We little know how many a blessing the poor man’s prayer brings down upon us.

3. To our covenant God; that is the point which swallows up all. I owe nothing to the past, future, rich, poor, compared with what I owe to my God. We are all born God’s creatures, and as such we are debtors to obey Him. When we have broken His commandments we are debtors to His justice, and owe him a vast amount of punishment which we are not able to pay. But in the case of the Christian, Christ has paid the debt. I am a debtor to God’s love, to God’s power, to God’s forgiving mercy, and are we not His sons, and is there not a debt the son owes to the Father which a lifetime of obedience can never remove? Remember again, we are Christ’s brethren, and there is a debt in brotherhood.

II. What ought we to draw from this doctrine.

1. A lesson of humility. If we be debtors we never ought to be proud.

2. How zealous we should be for our Master! Though we cannot pay all, we can at least acknowledge the debt, and, if we cannot pay Him the principal, yet to give Him some little interest upon the talent which He has lent to us, and those stupendous mercies which He has granted to us. If we all believed this, how much easier it would be to get our Churches into good order! I go to one brother and say, “There is such and such an office in the Sabbath school; will you take it?” “Well, sir, I really work so hard all the week that I cannot.” There, you see, that man does not know that he is a debtor. I take him a bill to-morrow morning, and he says, “Do you come begging?” I say, “No; I have brought a bill.” “Oh, yes,” he says, “I see; there is the cash.” Now that is the way to act. Conclusion: Be just before you are generous, and especially before you are generous to yourselves. Take care that you pay your debts before you spend money upon your pleasures. If it is robbing man to spend the money in pleasure wherewith we ought to pay our debts, it is robbing God if we employ our time, our talents, or our money, in anything but His service, until we feel we have done our share in that service. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

We are not debtors to the flesh

The word “flesh” may be taken in its physical consideration. There is a debt which every man in a sense does owe unto it. We may be said to be debtors to the flesh, that is, to our bodies, in sundry regards: as to feed them, clothe, and to nourish them. No man ever yet hated his own flesh (Ephesians 5:29). And there are some kind of people in the world which are scandalously debtors to it: as, for example, your misers and muck-worms, which pinch and straighten themselves even where God has enlarged them; live poor, that they may die rich. And so likewise not only your covetous, but your superstitious persons, which needlessly, and out of a conceit of merit, macerate their flesh, and put a piece of religion in abstaining from such kind of meats, which God had created to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth, as it is in 1 Timothy 4:3. The denial of the flesh, in this sense, is the withholding of a debt from it which is due unto it. Indeed, as to the pampering and inordinate setting out of our bodies, so we are not debtors unto them. A Christian owes his flesh no such special or extraordinary service as this is. And the reasons hereof is taken from the nature and conditions of the body, considered in itself, which, as it is styled in the verse before, is corruptible and mortal. And then, besides, the great impediments which it does cause and contract to the soul, from the inordinate serving of it, whereby it is made so much the more unfit for the duties and exercises of religion, taken in its physical consideration, so far forth as it does denote the body, or outward man. The second is by taking it in the moral. The flesh, that is sin and corruption: and so it seems principally to be understood here in this place. Christians, they are by no means debtors to the fulfilling of their lusts. First, we are not debtors to the flesh, nor have any cause to do service to that, because we have received no answerable benefit from it. A debt it is upon consideration, and does usually and for the most part imply some benefit received. We never got a farthing by sin, any of us, in all our lives. All that we get by sin is nothing but shame and loss. Therefore it is not we that are debtors to it, but it is it, indeed, rather that is a debtor to us, in all those fair promises which it hath some time made unto us, whilst it has performed none. Secondly, as we are not debtors by receipt, so neither are we debtors by promise. That is another way sometimes of coming into debt. Though a man have nothing which he hath received from another, yet if he hath promised him, and bound himself to him, he becomes a debtor to him notwithstanding. There is no man that is a true believer, and that has given up his name to Christ, who has made any promise to sin for the gratifying of it in any particular. Thirdly, there are too many of us who are, as I may say, aforehand with the flesh, in the days of vanity and un-conversion, therefore not debtors to it. If ever they owed anything to it, they have paid it over and over again, and more than enough (1 Peter 4:3). Fourthly, we are not debtors to the flesh, because the flesh and we are at absolute enmity and opposition one to another. We have killed and crucified the flesh, as many of us as belong to Christ, therefore we are no longer debtors to it. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24). Now, therefore, we are not to conceive as if we owed anything to it. Why, thus it is now with us in regard of the flesh. It concerns us all we can to spoil it, and to divest it of that which it has, therefore we are not to think that we should owe anything to it. Fifthly, we are absolutely freed and discharged from the exactions of it. It has no part or share in us, nor anything at all to do with us, therefore we are not debtors to it (Romans 6:23). Those who are regenerate and born again they are made free from sin, and so nothing engaged to the services of it. Sixthly and lastly, we are not debtors to the flesh, because the flesh is not a warrantable creditor for any to be indebted unto. Where there is nothing due, there is no man can be said to be a debtor. Now for the flesh, it is a cheater, and an usurper, and an oppressor. The consideration of this point serves to this purpose: First, to discover to us the sad and miserable condition of all such persons as are out of Christ. There is no man so deeply engaged as that man who is in thraldom to his lusts; and he has all the properties of a sad debtor upon him. First, he is a servant to it; this is the property of a debtor; the borrower is a servant to the lender, as Solomon speaks. He that committeth sin is the servant of sin, so says our Saviour. Why, thus now is every carnal and unregenerate person to his lusts; he is a slave and servant to them, and they lead him whither they please. He that is a debtor to one lust, he shall be a slave to many more with it, which will engage him occasionally from it. Thus he who is a debtor to ambition and pride and vain glory in the world, he is a debtor occasionally to flattery and falsehood and sinful correspondences, for the promoting of such ends to himself. He that is a debtor to covetousness, he is a debtor consequently to cozenage and fraud and oppression, and such causes as these for the satisfying of that humour in him. And he that is a debtor to wantonness and lasciviousness and drunkenness and intemperance, and the like, he is a debtor also to other sins which have an affinity and agreement thereunto. Thus lust is not a single debt, but involves many others besides together with itself, which is a special misery considerable in it. Secondly, another misery in a debtor is that he labours all for another many times and not for himself. He is not only a servant but a drudge. Those that are addicted and given up to such affections as these are, they can have time and leisure for little else but the following of them, whereas in the meantime their inward man it lies waste, and those means which God has appointed for the advancing thereof are neglected accordingly. Thirdly, another inconvenience of debtors is restraint and want of freedom. Lastly, he that is a debtor to sin, he is the worst kind of debtor of all, because the more that he pays to it the more he still comes in debt to a greater Creditor, and runs in arrears with Him, who will be sure at last to call him to a most strict account about it. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, which is the negative in that which is expressed, “We are not debtors to the flesh, to live after the flesh.” The second is the affirmative, as that which is implied. But we are debtors to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit. First, for the Creditor: the Spirit. Every Christian is a debtor that is bound and engaged to do this. And first of all, as it denotes the third person in the Trinity, which was spoken of in the verse immediately preceding. Every Christian is a debtor to the Holy Spirit, and that in these respects. First, as the beginner and worker of all grace in him. Secondly, we are engaged to the Spirit, not only as the first beginner, but also as the further increaser of those graces in us which are begun. Thirdly, as our Comforter in afflictions: we are debtors to the Spirit thus. Lastly, as the continual suggester of good thoughts unto us, and restrainer of us from evil. But, secondly, we may take it as denoting the regenerate part in us, in reference to a spiritual life. And thus in this sense are we debtors to the Spirit also. First, we are debtors to the spirit, that is, to the spiritual part in us, in regard of what we have not paid already. There is no man, whoever he be, but he is behind hand, as I may say, to the spirit in this respect. He has not bestowed that time, and pains and endeavour upon his heart, and soul, and spirit as he should, and as it hath become him to do. Secondly, we are debtors to the spirit, in regard of what we ought and are bound to pay unto it, It is a debt which lies upon us to lead a godly and holy life: and that in sundry respects. Thirdly, we are debtors to the Spirit, from the great benefit which does accrue and come to us herefrom, and which we have already had experience of. Let us consider how far we have discharged this debt which we are so much engaged in. Let us cast up our reckonings and see what we have expended answerable to what we have received. Set creditor on one hand and set debtor on the other, as we use to do in other matters. We are debtors to the Spirit, and He will not be put off with such payments as belong rather to the flesh. Were it not a strange thing for a debtor to mistake his true creditor--to run and carry that to one man which belonged rather to another? Why thus it is with many people in regard of their debts for their souls. They are debtors to the Spirit, of their health, of their strength, of their time, of their parts, of their estates, and of all they have. And they offer the payment hereof all to the flesh, What an incongruous thing is this? Therefore I say still, let us be careful to discharge our proper duty in that particular. And to set this so much the more upon us, let us consider these things with ourselves. First, the power of the Creditor. And if we neglect or refuse to pay Him, He knows how to help Himself. No securing or saving themselves from Him who is able to meet with them. Secondly, the strictness of the Creditor. That is another thing considerable likewise. He is one that is exact in His demands, which should make us in our returns to be so likewise. Thirdly, let us further consider to this purpose the great advantage of paying, and the special benefit which comes to us by it, while being debtors to the Spirit we are careful to be payers too. We have a threefold accommodation from it. First, a further entrusting and committing of more unto us. Such debtors as are not careful to pay, there is nobody will trust them with any more. Secondly, further enablement. The more we are careful to pay the more we shall be able to pay. Every new performance is a preparation and disposition to another. To him that thus hath shall be given. Thirdly, peace of conscience and satisfaction and tranquility of mind. Debts they are commonly troublesome, and do much disquiet the minds of those who are entangled with them. (Thomas Horton, D.D.)

A debtor to the flesh

At the time this Epistle was written, and among the people to whom it was addressed, the creditor exercised over the debtor a power which the humanity of modern times has abolished. The unfortunate man who was insolvent was at the mercy of his creditor, and might be treated as he chose. It has long been a question whether, according to the Roman law, the creditors had not the right of cutting the man’s body in pieces in proportion to the amount of their claims; and there can be no doubt that the debtor’s person as well as his property, his family as well as himself, were liable to be apprehended and disposed of; just as we read in the parable, where the king is found ordering that the servant who owed him ten thousand talents should be sold, with his family and all that he had, that payment might be made. In this sense, therefore, the debtor of the flesh would have been a man over whom the flesh had established an absolute power; whose mind as well as body were devoted to its service, and bound to do its will--who, if he laboured, was to labour that he might make “provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof”; who, if he rested, was to rest that he might indulge it in all its inclinations more freely; who, if he thought, was to be thinking about things to be had in the body, or, if he spoke, was to be speaking of them, and was to show a distaste for thought and conversation of a higher, purer character. There are many who are debtors to the flesh; who acknowledge the obligations, and show no inclination to be released from it. Listen to the voice of the world. Hear how the young are told that they ought to enjoy themselves while they are able, and that no one can condemn them if they do so. Hear how those who are more advanced are told that in dress, furniture, table, amusements, they ought to do what ethers do, and that they ought not to give offence by adopting a more Christian course of life than that which their neighbours lead. And when this language of the world comes to be translated into the words of the text, is it not equivalent with saying, “We are debtors to the flesh, to make provision for its indulgence; we are debtors to the flesh for everything we enjoy or desire; and therefore we are bound to do all we can, in order to fulfil its purposes and gratify its wishes”? “Therefore,” as the apostle continues, “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” If you have persuaded yourselves that you must owe to the flesh the happiness you wish for, and if, acting under this impression, that you are “debtors to the flesh,” you determine to “live after the flesh,” death will soon come and put an end to all these dreams you have been cherishing; but long before death comes to chill your mirth, long before those rosebuds are withered with which you have been crowning yourselves, a deadness of heart shall come over you, a deadness to all spiritual things, which shall be the pledge and token of eternal death. (H. Raikes, M.A.)

Debtors to the flesh

I. The obligation due to the body. We are in the flesh, and the flesh has claims which rest upon Divine appointment.

1. Observe the form in which the apostle puts the matter. We may be debtors to the flesh, but not to live after it. The duty we owe it is not that of servants to a master, but of a master to his servants. We are debtors in respect to food, medicine, raiment, shelter, temperance and cleanliness. And to those who belong to us after the flesh we are debtors for earthly things; and he that careth not for them is worse than an infidel.

2. Let us go further. Our bodies are the Divine workmanship, and their faculties are of God’s malting and giving. Why? Not that they should run away with us or rule us, but that they should be subject to us.

II. The limit of the obligation. “Not to live after the flesh.” Men live after the flesh--

1. When the flesh is made the chief object of care, and this we are not obliged to do by any Divine law.

2. When we allow carnal indulgence to interfere with Christian duty.

3. When we decline bodily suffering in the cause and at the call of God.

4. When we are guided by a carnal policy in the conduct of life.

III. The difficulty of the obligation. We shall find the flesh so tyrannical that to keep within the actual limit of obligation is no easy matter. To mortify the deeds of the body thus becomes an important duty. This mortification is evangelical in motive, spiritual in nature, gradual in consummation.

IV. This mortification is at once the test of spirituality of mind and the fruit of the effectual work of the Spirit of God. Salvation is not only a work for us, but in us.

1. The Great Helper. We are not left to ourselves.

2. But a helper implies our own activity.

3. This proclaims the energy and reality of the spiritual life. (Percy Strutt.)

Believers not debtors to the flesh

I. Not from relationship. The flesh is no part of our original nature.

II. Not from gratitude. Its effects upon us have been only evil.

III. Not from duty. It is opposed to God, who commands us to crucify it.

IV. Not from interest. Only misery and death aver to be reaped from it (Galatians 6:8). We are debtors to the body, which is God’s creature (Acts 27:34; Ephesians 5:29), but not debtors to the flesh, which is Satan’s production (Matthew 13:38; 1 John 3:8). We are debtors to the body to satisfy its wants, but not to the flesh to gratify its lusts (Romans 13:14). (T. Robinson, D.D.)

The Christian a debtor not to the flesh, but to the Spirit

You take a wild briar from the hedge, and plant it in your garden; upon that briar you graft the choicest rose, and the result is--what? not two distinct identities, the briar flourishing as a briar, and the rose as a rose, nor the briar being completely absorbed into the rose, but two distinct natures forming one individuality, of which one represents the original individuality of the briar, while the other the imparted nature of the rose. This original individuality is only to be allowed to express itself through the imparted nature. All self-assertion on the part of the original briar stock, as distinct from the new nature engrafted upon it, is to be rigorously repressed. Neglect this process of repression, and the briar may make shoots below the graft; and as these shoots develop themselves the rose nature begins to lose ground, and suffers in foliage and flower, until, if the process be only allowed to go far enough, the rose is extinguished, the old briar is supreme. Yet observe: the briar itself is not repressed; it is allowed to develop itself in accordance with the laws of its own nature, but only through the rose. None of its personal rights or functions are to be interfered with; it is not to be robbed of the enjoyment of full vital vigour; but all this is to go to the production of a flower worthy of your garden, instead of the scanty and quickly-fading bloom of the hedge-rose. What is it that produces the standard rose? Not the rose without the briar; not the briar without the rose, but the rose and the briar united in one. In that standard rose, Christian, behold a picture of thyself if Christ is formed in thee! Thy individuality is not to be repressed; no healthy function of thy nature is to be laid aside. Yet is it necessary that you should be prepared to mortify the deeds of the body, or the old nature may assert itself apart from all reference to the new. “Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth.” Do you ask how? I reply that the same Spirit which has already introduced the new nature, and united Himself, provides the pruning-knife. “We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” We are debtors, not to the old briar-stock apart from the rose, for what did that ever bear that was worth gathering? what fruit had we but those things whereof we are now ashamed? the end of those things was death. But we are debtors, not only to that God whose sovereign love has made us what we are; not only to that Saviour who has redeemed us from the slavery of sin; not only to that Spirit who has condescended to make our body His temple; but we owe it to our new selves--that self into which the new Adam has been grafted, and wherein the new Adam claims to have His way; we owe it to that sense of harmony which pervades the once distracted elements of our nature; to that calm which has taken the place of our former disquietude; to that joy which has already furnished us with a foretaste of heaven; that we should be true to the instincts of our new life, and to the laws of our renovated nature! To forget this solemn debt is to turn our backs on all that makes life profitable, is to give ourselves over to spiritual bankruptcy; to recognise it and pay it with loyal and grateful devotion, is to secure boundless resources of infinite wealth. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die”; and he who dies is stripped of all: “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”; and he who thus lives, lives in the enjoyment of all. (W. Hay Aitken, M.A.)

The believers’ obligation

I. The solemn obligation of the children of God. We are debtors; but the flesh is not our creditor. Do we owe anything to sin, the parent of all woe? To Satan--who plotted our temptation and accomplished our downfall? To the world--ensnaring, deceitful, and ruinous? No; to these, the allies of the flesh, we owe nothing but hatred and opposition. And yet the saints of God are “debtors.”

1. To the Father, for His electing love, His unspeakable gift, His spiritual blessings in Christ.

2. To the Son. He was the active agent in our redemption. He left no path untrodden, no portion of the curse unborne, no sin unatoned, no part of the law uncancelled, nothing for us in the matter of our salvation to do, but simply believe and be saved.

3. To the Holy Spirit, for leading us to Christ; for dwelling in our hearts; for His healing, sanctifying, comforting, and restoring grace; for His influence which no ingratitude has quenched; for His patience which no backsliding has exhausted; for His love which no sin has annihilated. We owe Him the intellect He has renewed, the heart He has sanctified, the body He inhabits, every breath of life He has inspired, and every pulse of love He has awakened.

II. The duty to which that obligation binds them. Holiness, or the mortification of sin, the opposite of “living after the flesh,” a subject strangely misunderstood to mean a mere maceration or mortification of the body, the mere excision of outward sins, or the destruction of sin altogether. True mortification is--

1. An annulling of the covenant with sin: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,” no union, “but rather reprove them.” “What have I to do any more with idols? “The resources of sin must be cut off: “Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Whatever tends to, and terminates in, the sinful gratification of the flesh, is to be relinquished.

2. A crucifixion: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh.” Death by the cross is certain, yet lingering.

III. The twofold agency by which the work is accomplished.

1. “If ye.” The believer is not a cipher in this work. His usefulness, his happiness, his hope of heaven, are all included in it. The work of the Spirit is not, and never was designed to be, a substitute for the personal work of the believer. “Work out your own salvation.” Let us, then, be cautious of merging human responsibility in Divine influence; of exalting the one at the expense of the other; of cloaking the spirit of slothfulness beneath an apparently jealous regard for the honour of the Holy Ghost. Is no self-effort to be made to dethrone an unlawful habit, to resist a powerful temptation, to dissolve the spell that binds us to a dangerous enchantment, to unwind the chain that makes us the slave of a wrong inclination? Oh, surely, God deals not with us as we deal with a piece of mechanism--but as reasonable, moral, and accountable beings. “I drew you with the hands of a man.”

2. And it infinitely transcends the mightiest puttings forth of creative power. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify.”

1. This He does by making us more sensible of the existence of indwelling sin, by deepening our aspirations after holiness, by shedding abroad the love of God in the heart. But above all, by leading us to the Cross, and showing us that, as Christ died for sin, so we must die to sin, and by the self-same instrument too.

2. The Spirit effects it, but through the instrumentality of the Atonement. There must be a personal contact with Jesus. This only is it that draws forth His grace. (A. Winslow, D.D.)


Verses 12-25

Verse 13

Romans 8:13

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Sin and death, or grace and life

I. If sin live in us, we shall die.

1. To live “after the flesh” is to obey the orders of our corrupt nature; to gratify its sinful desires without regard to or in contradiction of the will of God. And this will appear if we consider--

2. Now, mark the consequence of living after the flesh; “ye shall die I” (Romans 8:6; 1 Timothy 5:6; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 6:2). What else could be reasonably expected? There are but two eternal states, and every man is training up for one of these. The carnal man is unfit for heaven; for all the joys and employments of the blessed are spiritual.

II. If sin die in us, we shall live.

1. To mortify sin is to put it to death, as the magistrates put a felon to death by due course of justice; he is suspected, apprehended, tried, and executed. Crucifixion is the manner of killing it which God has appointed (Galatians 5:24). This is--

2. By what means may we effectually mortify sin? “Through the Spirit.” We must first have the Spirit, that we may experience His sanctifying power. The Spirit helps us to mortify sin--

3. This promised help of the Spirit does not exclude the use of means on our part. The Spirit so works in us, as also to work by us. The duty is ours; the grace is His.

4. Thus doing, we “shall live.” There is no condemnation to persons of this character. This is an evidence that they have “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). They live indeed, for Christ liveth in them. They live to God; and in this, their gradual sanctification, consists their meetness for heaven, where sin shall be all done away. But, oh sinner, what will be the end of thy present pursuits? (Romans 6:21). (G. Burder.)

Grace the only source of goodness

I. Without God, endless conflict.

1. “The body” or “the flesh” (Romans 7:25; Galatians 5:17) or “the earthly members” (Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:23).

(a) Our animal appetites (Galatians 5:19, “fornication,” etc.).

(b) Our selfish passions (Galatians 5:20, “hatred,” etc.).

(c) Our mental perversities (Galatians 5:20, “idolatry,” etc.)--

all those false notions which are called (Ephesians 2:3) the working of the understanding that judges according to sense, as distinguished from the pure reason (Romans 1:21).

2. “The spirit,” “the mind,” “the inward man” (Romans 7:22-23) is the source of our--

3. These workings of “the Spirit” are in endless conflict with the workings of the flesh (Galatians 5:17; Romans 8:7-25), but with no sufficient power to overcome them (Romans 7:18-19; Matthew 26:41); so that the result is only self-contradiction, self-condemnation, misery, and death (Romans 7:24).

II. With God, final victory (Romans 8:2-4). “The deeds of the body,” or “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19), mean the products of our lower nature, whether of thought, or feeling, or act. To “mortify,” “crucify” (Galatians 5:24), “deaden” them (Colossians 3:5), is to reduce them to impotence. Observe the antithesis: If ye put to death your animal nature, you yourself, who are spirit, shall live. And this death of sin is to be effected by the life of God in the soul.

1. Raise us above sin. God’s Spirit in us raises us into the region of spirit. And in this atmosphere sin cannot reach us (1 John 5:18). The thought of sin is most alien when the thought of God is most vivid. In fellowship with holy men, how hateful sin appears! How much more, therefore, when in fellowship with the Holy One? Aaron down in the plain was soon seduced from God’s commandments. Moses in the mount grasped them firmly with both hands. Whence the importance of prayer (Matthew 17:21).

2. Hearten us against sin (Romans 8:15). Knowing that we are on God’s side, we know also that God is on our side (Genesis 6:24; Numbers 19:9; 2 Kings 6:16; Isaiah 41:10). And so the animation of Moses fills us: “Fear not I Stand still, and see the salvation God can work” (Exodus 14:13-14). Jesus, full of the spirit of Sonship, put back easily all the suggestions of the tempter.

3. Make us triumphant over sin. The things impossible to man by himself are possible to him with God (1 John 4:4; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:13). (Preb. Griffith.)

Mortification a Christian duty

In the text itself there are two general parts considerable. First, a conditional threatening or dreadful commination upon supposition of miscarriage: “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” When it is said of such persons that they shall die, we must take it in the full latitude and extent of death, that is--First, as to temporal death, or natural, which consists in the mere separation of soul and body. This it holds good, according to a twofold account. First, in the course of God’s justice, who hath so ordained it and appointed it (Romans 1:32). Secondly, from a connection of the cause with the effect. Sin, and especially a living and conversing in the ways of it, brings death. Secondly, spiritual death, which consists in deprivation of grace, and holiness, and peace, and spiritual comfort. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” Thirdly, there is another death, and that is death eternal. The separation of soul and body from God for ever in hell. And this is also consequent upon living after the flesh. The second is the conditional promise or comfortable intimation upon supposition of repentance and new obedience in these: “But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh,” etc. Wherein again we have four particulars. First, to speak of the duty itself, which is mortification. “If ye,” etc. This is a duty which lies upon every Christian, to exercise and inure himself to mortification, that is, to the killing and crucifying of sin in him. For the better opening of this present point unto us, there are two things especially which are here to be declared by us. First, wherein this mortifying of sin, whereof we now speak, does mainly and principally consist. And this we may take according to these following explications. First, it does imply an active and spontaneous opposition of sin of our own accord. Secondly, it does imply difficulty and trouble in the performance of it. Dying, it is usually with some pain: as being that which nature does struggle with and strive against, especially violent death and that which follows upon killing. This, it is painful, especially. Created nature does not more abhor natural death, the death of the body, than corrupted nature does abhor this mystical death. The killing of sin. Oh, it is that which a carnal person cannot endure to hear or think of. This arises from that strength and settlement which sin hath in the heart. As we see it is again in nature, that those who have the strongest constitutions, they have commonly the painfullest deaths. Even so is it likewise in grace: those who have the strongest corruption, they have the hardest mortification. Thirdly, this mortification, it does imply a weakening of the power and vigour of sin in us. That look as a body which is dead, it is thereby made unserviceable and unfit for the actions of life. So a man also, that is spiritually mortified, sin is in him made unactive and unfit for the former services and performances which proceeded from it. Fourthly, it implies universality, that is, a resisting of all kind of sin, without exception. Killing, it is a destroying of life in every part. There must not be only a restraining of some sins, but a fighting against all. Where any one reigns there is no true mortification. Fifthly and lastly, it implies continuance and the often renewing of this act time after time. The second is the grounds or reasons which do make for the performance of it, which may be reduced to these heads. First, the nature of sin and the thing itself, which is to be mortified, and that is our mortal and deadly enemy. “If a man find his enemy,” says Saul, “will he let him go well away?” Enmity, it invites destruction as well as threatens it. Secondly, there is reason for it also from that power which is wrought in a Christian by Christ’s Spirit tending thereto, and the special virtue which is contained in the death and sufferings of Christ to this purpose. Because ye are dead and risen with Christ, therefore “mortify your earthly members,” etc. Thirdly, it is requisite also from that obedience which we owe to God in the whole course of our lives. No man can be alive to God, that is, perform lively service to Him, but he that is first dead to sin, that is, that hath sin and corruption first crucified and mortified in him. Fourthly, as an evidence of our justification and the forgiveness of our sins unto us. No man can be so comfortably assured that his sin is pardoned that does not find his sin mortified. Wherever sin remains in the power of it, it remains also in the guilt of it. To quicken and provoke us so much the more hereunto, let us take in these considerations with us. First, the command of God, who has laid this duty upon us. Secondly, our own interest and the great good which we reap from it, both in point of grace and comfort, and at last of salvation itself, as it follows afterwards in the text, where it is said, “Ye shall live.” Thirdly, the evil of the contrary, and the great disparagement which lies upon sin unmortified. Sin it is an odious business in many respects, and hath sundry inconveniences with it. First, there is no true pleasure or contentment in it. Secondly, sin is also insatiable, and the more that men give way unto it the more it prevails still upon them. Thirdly, sin is deceitful and dangerous. It makes us slaves to Satan; it makes us enemies to God; it crucifies Christ; it fights against the soul. Now for the right performance of this duty, and that we may do it so as we should do, it is requisite for us to take notice of these three following rules, or directions, which conduce hereto. First, there must be a steadfast purpose of opposing and resisting of sin with might and main. Secondly, there must be a diligent heed for the avoiding of all occasions of sin and all inducements which lead thereunto. Thirdly, there must be a conscionable use of all such means as serve to the subduing of sin in us. What are they? First, a sober and moderate use of the creatures in those things which in their own nature are lawful and warrantable. Secondly, prayer and fasting; that is another help likewise. Thirdly, and principally, an act of faith in the death and sufferings of Christ. The second is the object of this duty, or the matter which it is conversant about. And that is here expressed to be the deeds of the body. What is the meaning of this? that is, indeed, the sins and miscarriages of the whole man. We are not here to take it in the limited sense only, but in the extended. This work of mortification, it begins first of all in the inward man, and so ends in the outward; only the outward is here mentioned and named. And it is said the deeds of the body expressly, because the body it is that wherein sin does especially show and discover itself; whereas the mind is not so easily discerned in the corruptions of it. So 2 Corinthians 5:10. The things which are done in the body, though comprehending the soul likewise, the actions of the whole person; and Colossians 3:9, the old man with his deeds. The third particular is the principle whence this duty doth proceed in us, or the means whereby we perform it. And that is here expressed to be the Spirit. “If ye by the Spirit,” etc. By the Spirit we are here to understand the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit which is called so emphatically. Mortification of sin is the proper work of this Spirit in us, and is effected in no other way. The same Spirit that is active in quickening of us and in infusing of grace into us; the same Spirit is also active in mortifying of us and in killing of sin in us. This must needs be so upon these following considerations. First, from the strength and power of sin, and that rooting which it hath in the soul. None can overcome the strong man, but some one that is stronger than he indeed is. Secondly, from the proper means of the killing of sin in us, which, as we showed before, is the application of Christ’s death unto us. Now, this is done only by the Spirit which is active in us to this purpose. Thirdly, from the covenant of grace which God hath made with all believers, which is to bestow His Spirit upon them to this purpose, as Ezekiel 36:27. The fourth, and last, is the benefit or reward consequent upon it. That is in these words, “Ye shall live.” It holds good in all the notions and specifications of life whatsoever. First, of natural life, “Length of days is in her right hand “ (Proverbs 3:16). Secondly, of spiritual life, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith,” etc. Thirdly, of eternal life (Romans 6:22), “Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” And Galatians 6:8, “He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.” (Thomas Horton, D.D.)

Mortification

I. The act--“Mortify.”

1. Sin is active in the soul of an unregenerate man. Justification supposeth guilt, sanctification filth, mortification life, preceding those acts.

2. Nothing but the death of sin must content a renewed soul. No indulgence to be shown to it; not the loss of a member, but the loss of its life. As nothing but the death of Christ mould satisfy the justice of God, so nothing but the death of sin must satisfy the justice of the soul.

3. “Do mortify.” The time present. As sin must have no pardon, so it must have no reprieve. Dangerous enemies must be handled with a quick severity.

4. “Do mortify.” It notes a continued act. It must be a quick and an uninterrupted severity,

II. The object--“The deeds of the body.”

1. Mortification must be universal; not one deed, but deeds, little and great. Though the main battle be routed, yet the wings of an army may get the victory.

2. The body signifies corrupt nature, deeds are the products of it; all the sparks issue from the furnace within.

3. The greatest object of our revenge is within us. Our enemy has got possession of our souls, which makes the work more difficult. An enemy may better be kept out than cast out when he has got possession.

III. The agents--“ye,” “the Spirit.”

1. Man must be an agent in this work. We have brought this rebel into our souls, and God would have us make as it were some recompence by endeavouring to cast it out.

2. Through the Spirit.

IV. The promise--“Ye shall live.”

1. Heaven is a place for conquerors only (Revelation 3:21). He that will be sin’s friend, cannot be God’s favourite. There must be a combat before a victory, and a victory before a triumph.

2. The more perfect our mortification, the clearer our assurance of glory. The more sin dies, the more the soul lives.

3. Mortification is a sure sign of saving grace. It is a sign of the Spirit’s indwelling and powerful acting, a sign of an approach to heaven. (S. Charnock, B.D.)

The mortification of sin

I. What mortification is.

1. A breaking of the league naturally held with sin (Ephesians 5:11; Hosea 14:8).

2. A declaration of open hostility. When leagues between princes are broken war ensues. This hostility begins in cutting off all the supplies of sin (Romans 13:14, etc.).

3. A powerful resistance, by using all the weapons of the Christian armoury (Ephesians 6:13-14, etc.).

4. A killing of sin.

II. How we may judge of our mortification.

1. Negatively.

(a) An exchange. It may be a divorce from a sin odious to the world, and an embracing another that hath more specious pretences.

(b) A cessation from some outward gross acts only, not from a want of will to sin. There may be pride, ambition, covetousness, uncleanness, when they are not externally acted; which is more dangerous, as infectious diseases are when they are hindered by cold from a kindly eruption, and strike inward to the heart, and so prove mortal.

(c) A cessation merely because of the alteration of the constitution. Lust reigns in young men, but its empire decays in an old withered body; some plants which grow in hot countries will die in colder climates. Ambition decays in age when strength is wasted, but sprouts up in a young man. A present sickness may make an epicure nauseate the dainties which he would before rake even in the sea to procure.

(d) A cessation may be forced by some forethoughts of death, some pang of conscience, or some judgment of God; which as a pain in one part of the body may take away a man’s appetite, but when removed, his appetite returns.

(e) A cessation from want of opportunity.

(a) Mortification is always from an inward principle, restraints from an outward. A restraint is merely a pull back, by a stronger power, but mortification is from a strength given, a new mettle put into the soul (Ephesians 3:16).

(b) Mortification proceeds from an anger with, and a hatred of, sin, whereas restraints are from a fear of the consequents of sin; as a man may love the wine, which is as yet too hot for his lips.

(c) Mortification is a voluntary, rational work of the soul; restraints are not so.

2. Positively. The signs are--

III. The reasons why there can be no expectation of eternal life without mortification. An unmortified frame is--

1. Unsuitable to a state of glory (Colossians 1:12). Conformity to Christ is to fit us for heaven, He descended to the grave before He ascended; so our sins must die before our souls can mount. It is very unsuitable for sin’s drudges to have a saint’s portion. Every vessel must be emptied of its foul water before it can receive that which is clean. No man pours rich wine into old casks.

2. Such as God cannot delight in. To delight in such would be to have no delight in his own nature. To keep sin alive is to defend it against the will of God, and to challenge the combat with our Maker.

3. Against the whole design of the gospel. Rather than sin should not die, Christ would die Himself; it is therefore a high disesteem of Christ to preserve the life of sin, and if we defend what He died to conquer, how can we expect to enjoy what He died to purchase? For what the grace of the gospel doth more especially teach, read Titus 2:4; Psalms 5:4. It is an inseparable character of them that are Christ’s, that “they have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

Conclusion: Let us labour to mortify sin. If we will not be the death of sin, sin will be the death of our souls.

1. Implore the help of the Spirit.

2. Listen to His convictions.

3. Plead the death of Christ, the end of which was to triumph over sin.

4. Often think of Divine precepts.

5. Be jealous of our own hearts. Venture not to breathe in corrupt air, for fear of infection.

6. Bless God for whatsoever mortifying grace we have received. (S. Charnock, B.D.)

Life in mortification of the flesh

I. What it is to mortify. This word occurs but twice in the whole Scriptures--in the text, and in Colossians 3:5.

1. “To mortify” is now commonly used in a far less extreme sense than its original signification. Thus we speak of mortified pride, which has been simply disappointed of its passing object; whereas to mortify is to be in a process of death, though joined to something living--as a diseased limb may be mortified, while the other parts of the body are healthy; and it is only by the process of the healthy part of the body casting off from itself the mortified flesh, that the whole system can escape dissolution. In this sense we are to understand the mortification of the carnal and ungodly desires, which the power of Divine grace, the vital energy of the new creature, will enable it to cast from itself, and thereby save the soul alive, which the process of moral putrefaction had otherwise corrupted and slain. Hence the striking force of the injunctions--“Crucify the flesh”; “put away the old man”; “cast out the bondwoman”; “cut off the offending right hand,” or “pluck out the right eye.”

2. Then to mortify sin is not to deal equivocally with it, to fight against its practices and leave untouched the principle, as Saul slew the Amalekites, but spared Agag. To mortify sin is not merely to smite and oppose it, but to put it to death--to have “no confidence in the flesh”--to “yield no member to uncleanness”--to “deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts”--to “avoid the very appearance of evil”--to “let it not be so much as named among you as becometh saints.” It means, that “if sinners entice, we are to consent not”; but in every sense to “be not overcome with evil,” but to “resist the devil, and he will flee from us,” clinging hard and fast by “the God of peace, who shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly.”

II. What is to be mortified? “The deeds of the body”--that is, not one deed, but all, whether of the inward or of the outward man. This may be illustrated by the injunction--“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out”; not that Jesus would have us literally maim the body which He created perfect. But as He had just been speaking of the adultery of the eye, as distinguished from, yet identified in guilt with the actual sin, and there called it “the adultery of the heart,” His meaning is, that we should begin the cure of sin at the seat of the disease, the corrupt heart--that we should destroy the fruits of sin by plucking up the lust at its roots. What so delicate, so useful, or so expressive a feature as the right eye! But if rather than sin, and imperil the whole body, the right eye is to be plucked out, then we learn that the tenderest affections and the most necessary comforts that would impair the beauty of holiness are all to be sacrificed. Again, “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.” The right hand is the emblem of dignity--Joseph sits at the right hand of Pharaoh; of power “Thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things”; of friendship--“To me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship”; of covenants--“Though Coniah were the signet on My right hand”; of industry and business--“Let my right hand forget her cunning.”If, then, the “right hand” that casts a stumbling-block in our way is to be “cut off,” then is the place of secular dignity to be resigned, if we find it lifting up our hearts above humility. And the post of power must be renounced if we discover that it has led us to forget our weakness apart from God. And the bond of friendship, if it has led us to soften down the points of distinction between the worldling and the believer, must be broken. And the covenant with ungodliness must be dissolved. Even industry in business may be in our way, and if so we must consent to mortification here. Better cut off the hand than lose the head; rather maim the body than mar the soul. If religion be worth anything, it is worth everything; therefore sacrifice anything but Christ.

III. By whom the deeds of the body are to be mortified? There are two agents--the one active, the Holy Spirit; the other passive, the believer himself. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify.” We can do nothing without Him; He will do nothing without us.

IV. The animating result of the successful conflict with the flesh. “Ye shall live” a life of grace and holiness, of estrangement from the world and communion with God; of happiness, usefulness, and comfort on earth, and of glory and blessedness in heaven. (J. B. Owen, M.A.)

Higher or lower: which shall win

1. We shall all agree, who have tried to do right and avoid wrong, that there goes on in us a strange struggle. We wish to do a right thing, and at the very same time long to do a wrong one, as if we were a better and a worse man struggling for the mastery. One may conquer, or the other. We may be like the drunkard who cannot help draining off his liquor, though he knows that it is going to kill him; or we may be like the man who conquers his love for drink, and puts the liquor away, because he knows that he ought not to take it. We know too well, many of us, how painful this inward struggle is. We all understand too well how Paul was ready at times to cry. “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” We can understand too the parable of Plato, who says, that the soul of man is like a chariot, guided by a man’s will, but drawn by two horses--the one horse white, beautiful and noble, well-broken and winged, always trying to rise and fly upward with the chariot toward heaven; but the other black, evil, and unmanageable, always trying to rush downward, and drag the chariot and the driver into hell.

2. In the text St. Paul explains this struggle. First, there is a flesh in us--that is, an animal nature. We come into the world as animals do-eat, drink, sleep as they do--have the same passions as they have--and our carnal bodies die exactly as they die. But are we nothing more? God forbid. We know that to be a man we must be something more than a mere brute--for when we call any one a brute, what do we mean? That he has given himself up to his animal nature till the man in him is dead, and only the brute remains. Our giving way to the same selfish, shameless passions, which we see in the lower animals, is letting the “brute” in us conquer. The shameless and profligate person--the man who beats his wife--or ill-treats his children--or in any wise tyrannises over those who are weaker than himself, gives way to the “brute” within him. He who grudges, envies, tries to aggrandise himself at his neighbour’s expense--he too gives way to the “brute” within him, and puts on the likeness of the dog which snatches and snarls over his bone. He who spends his life in cunning plots and mean tricks, gives way to the “brute” in him, just as much as the fox or ferret. And those, let me say, who, without giving way to those grosset vices, let their minds be swallowed up with vanity, always longing to be seen and looked at, and wondering what folks will say of them, they too give way to the flesh, and lower themselves to the likeness of animals. As vain as a peacock, says the old proverb. And what shall we say of them who like the swine live only for eating and drinking and enjoyment? Or what of those who like the butterflies spend all their time in frivolous amusement? Do not all these in some way or other live after the flesh? And do they not fulfil St. Paul’s words, “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die”?

3. But some one will say--“Of course we shall all die--good and bad alike.” Then why does our Lord say, “He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”? And why does St. Paul say, “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live”? Let us look at the text again. “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.” If you give way to those animal passions you shall die; not merely your bodies--they will die in any case--the animals do--for animals they are, and as animals die they must. But over and above that, you yourselves shall die--your character, your manhood or your womanhood, your immortal soul will die. There is a second death to which that first death of the body is a mere trivial and harmless accident, and that may begin in this life, and if it be not stopped and cured in time, may go on for ever.

4. This is the dark side of the matter. But there is also a bright side. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” If you will be true to your better selves, if you will listen to and obey the Spirit of God, when He puts into your hearts good desires, and makes you long to be just and true, pure and sober, kind and useful. If you will cast away and trample under foot animal passions, low vices, you shall live. You shall live, your very soul and self for ever--all that is merciful, kind, pure, noble, useful--in one word, all in you that is like Christ, like God, that is spirit and not flesh, shall live for ever. So it must be, for “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Those who let the Spirit of God lead them upward instead of letting their own animal nature drag them downward, are the sons of God. And how can a son of God perish? How can he perish, who like Christ is full of the fruits of the Spirit?--of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance? The world did not give them to him, and the world cannot take them from him. They were not bestowed on him at his bodily birth--neither shall they be taken from him at his bodily death.

5. Choose, especially you who are young and entering into life. Remember the parable of the old heathen. Choose in time whether the better horse shall win or the worse. And let no one tell you, “We shall do a great many wrong things before we die. Every one does that; but we hope we shall be able to make our peace with God before we die.” That kind of religion has done more harm than most kinds of irreligion. It tells you to take your chance of beginning at the end. Common sense tells you that the only way to get to the end is by beginning at the beginning, which is now. Do not talk about making your peace with God some day--like a naughty child playing truant till the last moment, and hoping that the schoolmaster may forget to punish it. (Charles Kingsley, M.A.)


Verse 14

Romans 8:14

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

The leading of the Spirit

We are led not as brute beasts, but as reasonable creatures; not as though we do nothing, but lest we should do no good thing. Neither are we led against our will, but in the leading made willing to be led; so willing, that when God hath once breathed His grace unto us, we cannot resist, but earnestly desire to be led. And yet is not the nature of the will Overthrown. But as orators by their eloquence do rule in the mind of their auditors, so God much more effectually draws us to desire Christ, and affect the gospel. If a covetous man were offered to take what he would of a heap of gold, no man doubts but he would gladly embrace such occasion, though simply and absolutely it were in his power to refuse it. So our Heavenly Father doth so commodiously show us the riches of His grace, so lovingly doth He invite us to receive it, and so aptly doth He exhort us, that He doth persuade us, without any impairing of our wills; so a beast with provender, children with nuts, and every one is led or drawn by his pleasure. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The leading of the Spirit

I. It leads the willing.

1. “Led.” Not drawn by rope, not hauled, but led.

2. Yea, more--gladly led. It is not the leading of the sulky horse behind the dray, pulling and being pulled, but of one following along with dangling halter. It is not the picture of him who says, “my name is down on the church-book--that is enough,” but of him who says, “Here am I, Lord; send me.” This is the test of our discipleship--if we go gladly.

II. Leadership of the Spirit is possible. There are those who doubt this. They say, “How can God influence us this way or that?” Well, look at the things that do influence us. Sometimes we are all down with the blues. It is not that we are weaker than usual, but some influence from the outside world is moving upon us. The market has gone wrong, politicians are sending the country to ruin, etc. At other times other influences come to us. The silent trees swaying gently in the wind, or the smooth surface of some quiet lake soothes us; and if the things of nature can so affect us, cannot the Creator? Then surrender to Him. Open your heart, and He will come in and reign.

III. God will lead His children. The other night you heard a faint knock at the door, and when it was opened there stood a timid little beggar girl with a pinched, wan face, and as you looked down at her she said something about bread. By and by the door burst open and in came a great big boy. He bounded across the room, jumped upon your knee, flung his arm around your neck and, plunging his hand into your pocket, helped himself. So we who are led by the Spirit do not go to God as beggars, but as His own sons, whom He receiveth as a father receiveth his children. Conclusion:

1. Led by the Spirit! So let us live, work, believe, enjoy and triumph by the Spirit.

2. He comes into our hearts as the old warriors used to go into a city. When they had broken through the wall they marched straight for the citadel. Merchants, when they entered, went about, this way and that, through the streets. But the conqueror went first to the citadel, and, when he had taken that, he sent one platoon down this street to clear out the enemy there, and another down that street to drive out that body, until all were driven out; then he had the city in his grasp, and he ruled over it. So when the Spirit comes into our hearts it goes straight to the conscience and lays hold on that, then it sends a truth down this way to drive out this passion, and another that way to subdue that jealousy, and another that other way to quell that rebellion. Then, when all is driven out, He makes His abode in that heart, and becomes its counsellor, guide and ruler for ever. (C. H. Fowler, D.D.)

The leading of the Holy Spirit

I. The nature of the act.

1. Distinctions premised.

2. The special acts included in the Spirit’s leading.

(a) His special guidance (Isaiah 30:21; Isa_48:17; Isa_58:11; Isa_61:8; Psalms 25:5; Psalms 37:23; Psalms 83:24; Psalms 143:10). What the cloud was to the Israelites, what the guide is to the traveller who knows not his way, that the Spirit of God is to believers.

(b) His powerful inclination. He leads not only by a naked guidance or directive light (Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 5:10), but also by the efficacious inclining of the heart, the bowing and bending of the will, the overpowering of the affections, to close with and follow His guidance in the doing of what is good, and in the shunning of what is evil (Psalms 119:35-36).

(c) His co-operation and corroboration. When one leads another both have their proper action and motion, and both unite and concur therein (Isaiah 26:12; Philippians 2:12-13). So His leading resembles the mother’s or nurse’s leading the child. They take it by the hand, hold it up, join their strength with its weakness; and so they enable it to go (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 3:16).

(d) His Agency. Where He governs, there He leads. It is like a general leading an army: they are subject to his will, steered by him in their motions, as the ship is by the pilot, or the chariot by him that drives it.

3. Four things opened about the Spirit’s leading.

(a) With power and efficacy. The person led shall certainly follow Him (Ezekiel 26:27; Jeremiah 31:18).

(b) With all sweetness and gentleness. The will is determined, but so as that not the least violence is done to it, to the infringing of its liberty (Psalms 110:3; Hosea 2:14).

(a) In regard of the subject or person led. It extends to the whole man; first to the soul, understanding, will, and affections, and then to the body, yea, to the whole conversation.

(b) In regard of the object or matter that the Spirit leads unto. The whole duty of a Christian; to all that he is to know, believe, and do.

(c) In regard of the degree and measure of it. All have the thing in the necessary and substantial part of it, yet some have more and some less.

II. Some practical inquiries about it.

1. What inducements are there to excite men to attain and live under this leading?

(a) With great exactness and wisdom (Isaiah 11:2; Psalms 32:8).

(b) With infinite truth and faithfulness (Proverbs 4:11; Genesis 24:27; Gen_24:48; Psalms 107:7).

(c) Safely, in reference both to the way and to the end (Psalms 78:53).

(a) Inward peace and comfort.

(b) A readiness to all duties of holiness.

(c) Sonship to God.

(d) The glory and blessedness of heaven (Psalms 73:24).

2. How may this leading of the Spirit be attained?

3. What duties are incumbent upon those who are led by the Spirit?

(a) More exactly (Numbers 9:18; Num_9:21).

(b) More fully (Numbers 16:24).

(c) More uniformly and constantly.

(d) More readily and freely.

(e) So as to make further progress in the way.

(f) With stronger resolution and purpose of heart.

4. May such who are led by the Spirit fetch comfort from it? Undoubtedly--

Leadings of the Holy Spirit

(Isaiah 42:16, and text):--Both Isaiah and St. Paul affirm the reality of a very intimate and tender connection between good men and God. There is a leading and a being led--with a privilege mysteriously grand, growing out of that relation. So far the two writers agree. What is it, then, that distinguishes them?

I. Isaiah represents that more advanced culture, in the elder Church, where the original meaning of the revelation at Sinai had begun to come out into a clearness approaching that of the gospel-day. More confiding impressions of the unseen Father were certainly stealing into the soul Hence comes the promise of Divine guidance, personal and gentle.

1. There is no one that has not found out by rough experience that there are crooked things in his life which need to be made straight, and dark places which need to be made light. This common need of heavenly leading puts us into one company with those Hebrews, and makes us prize the promise that was so comforting to them.

2. This instinct which desires and follows leadership is nearly universal, and religion employs it to train our best attachments and confidences up to heaven. With all his self-reliance and self-will man likes to trust and follow a leader. It appears among bands of youth, in exploring parties in political combinations and social reforms, and especially in the military spirit.

3. The next step shows us this guiding love of the Heavenly Father as independent of anything that we think, or do, or feel. It leads us in paths that we had not known. It deals with us as a mother handles her child just beginning to know only her face or her voice (see Isaiah 45:5). We were too infantile in the childhood of our spiritual life to know God when He took us up. Who of us cannot recall some trying time when the utter dismay came over him of not knowing what way to take--the sun gone down, human helpers away or feeble, human advisers indifferent or undecided? But God was there before us, and when we waited on Him we found He was waiting for us; and then, very often, the one path which, of all those that opened, was the least inviting was the one into which He led our unwilling feet.

4. God goes invisibly before His child, like the good shepherd of the Eastern pastures, to reassure the alarmed and doubting, to take the briers and stones and to scare the beasts out of the way, to straighten what is crooked, to hold a lamp over the dark passages among the rocks, to lead those that have faith enough to be willing to be led in paths that they have not known.

II. From this promise we pass over to that given us by St Paul.

1. We see at once that there is an advance into another plane of religious thought. Instead of Jehovah we are told of “the Spirit.” Then, instead of being taught of a mere outward change wrought by this leading, there is a transformation of our whole interior nature and condition. They who were before merely creatures and servants, or children only as by creation, become children in a new and profounder way. Nothing is taken away that Isaiah had said, only much is added.

2. What is signified by being “led by the Spirit”? In the Greek there are two terms for “leading.” The one signifies a violent and rather irregular act of propelling a body--a driving or pushing on as by winds or waves. This St. Peter uses when he speaks of the moving of the minds of the Old Testament saints by the mind of God. The other, employed in the text, refers to an even, constant, unbroken force, acting not less powerfully because it acts gently and steadily; the leading of a Spirit who abides, always at His gracious work on the heart, in His chamber within it, and does not come and go. You can illustrate this by any mother walking with a little child or shepherd with sheep. The hireling, who only follows after, and, when the charge wanders or falls into danger, hurries up and catches hold irregularly, pushing the body here and there over a hollow or through a thicket, does not lead as that blessed Comforter leads. “He shall abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth,” etc.

3. What, then, is the peculiar privilege of those who are so led? “They are the sons of God.” How can it be? There is one only-begotten Son of God, becoming also the Son of man, born of Mary, our humanity being for ever taken up into His Divinity and glorified by it. It is only by our spiritual union with Him, that we, in a secondary sense, yet a most vital and precious one, are made also “sons of God.” Hence the expressions “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ” and “Holy Spirit” are often used as equivalent. Christ gives the Comforter. When He is received into the heart a new nature is born; a Son of God, in the image of Christ. Here “the Spirit” is not a mere influence exerted on character as by a foreign benefactor; it is an inwrought and essential principle of the believer’s life. He is a new creature, a son. And as there are two New Testament terms in the original, to signify two kinds of leading, so there are two to signify children. One has reference to mere natural descent or begetting, irrespective of any tender, filial feeling, The other, used when sons of God in Christ are intended, includes an affectionate and sacred dependence, or lovingness of the child’s and the parent’s heart. The tree may take an influence from the sun, and that foreign influence tends to make the tree tall, vigorous, green, and fruitful. But the tree is not the child of the sun.

4. With this comes a special characteristic of our service to Christ. It is not a service of compulsion or restraint, rendered “grudgingly or of necessity.” It is labour in a free and joyous spirit, such as befits the thankful receivers of an unspeakable gift in its true character. Wise employers always select workmen that love their work. This distinction between sonship and servantship runs through all that pertains to a Christian’s obedience. (Bp. Huntington.)

Led by the Spirit

I. What is it to be led by the Spirit?

1. Our answer must depend on our idea of the nature of the Spirit of God and His relations to us. Men speak of the Spirit as a mere influence, an effect of the outgoing of Divine energy. But, according to the New Testament, the Spirit of God is God, regarded especially as within us and in communion with our spirits. His presence is not discerned by mystic signs: we do not see it in a burning bush or in cloven tongues of fire, we do not hear it in a mighty rushing wind, or in a still small voice; but as we do not sea the air above us, nor even hear it in the calm of summer, yet we perceive its existence by the gentle stirring of the trees, the strong flight of birds, the slow sailing of great clouds; so the unseen and silent Spirit reveals His presence by the life He brings, the influence He exerts.

2. The leadership of the Spirit must be regarded as the influence which is thus exerted over the souls of men, and freely yielded to by them. All who choose to follow are led. It depends upon our will and action (verse 13). It implies following the Spirit--

II. The privileges of Divine sonship to which the leadership of the Spirit introduces us. By nature we are all God’s children, and cannot cease to be so. Yet we may be practically orphans when we wander far from our Father and live in rebellion against Him. To be reconciled to God is practically to be made sons again in a fuller sense than that in which unfallen man was a son in the ignorance and tutelage of childhood. St. Paul regards this as an adoption (verse 15), St. John as a second birth (John 1:12). The effects of this are many and great.

1. Liberty in deliverance--

2. Security from fear, either--

3. Restoration of the love of God in our hearts. We now cry, “Abba, Father.” This restoration is the source of our deepest joy.

4. Heirship of glory (verse 17). The son is not simply saved, he is honoured. The returned prodigal is not treated as a hired servant, but as a privileged child (Luke 15:22-23). (W. F. Adeney, M.A.)

The guidance of the Spirit

Man is a traveller to the eternal world. Left to self-guidance he possesses vast and uncontrollable powers of self-destruction. What is he without a guide in the wilderness, a pilot on the ocean? Some recognise no other spirit, and are guided by no other spirit, than the spirit of the world--i.e., by the “god of this world.”

I. The qualifications of the Spirit for this guidance.

1. He knows the path to heaven--all its intricacies and dangers: the sunken rock, the treacherous quicksand, the concealed pit, the subtle snare, the windings, and intricacy, and straitness of the way. It is utterly impossible, then, that He should mislead.

2. He knows His own work in the soul All its light and shade, its depressions and revivings, its assaults and victories, are vivid to His eye. Dwelling in that heart He knows where wisely to supply a cheek, or gently to administer a rebuke, or tenderly to whisper a promise, or sympathetically, to soothe a sorrow, or effectually to aid an incipient resolve, or strengthen a wavering purpose, or confirm a fluctuating hope.

II. What is it to be led by the Spirit?

1. It assumes--

2. It involves leading as--

The leading of the Spirit an evidence of Divine sonship

I. The work of the Spirit. He--

1. Leads and instructs in the way of salvation (John 16:7-10). He is infinitely wise, powerful, good, etc., and therefore His guidance will be perfect.

2. To a perception of our lost and ruined condition. The methods are various--meditation, personal affliction, the prayers of Christians, some sermon, etc.

3. To contrition. Sin now appears in all its hateful qualities and effects; as that which has offended God, which condemns, curses, and defiles the soul. The Spirit leads to “godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto salvation,” etc.

4. To a discovery of Christ as the Saviour (John 16:13-14). He removes “the veil on the heart,” dispels prejudice, and affords that inward and Divine light by which alone Christ is perceived for saving purposes (Galatians 1:16).

5. To the exercise of saving faith in Christ.

6. So He renovates the mind, deadens the soul to sin, and disposes it to holy obedience and love (Titus 3:4-5).

II. The privilege of God’s people: “They are the sons of God.” Consider--

1. The names by which they are distinguished--“sons and children of God,” a “chosen generation,” a “royal priesthood,” “kings and priests unto God.”

2. Their liberty. They were under the dominion of sin, the tyranny of Satan, the curse of the law, and consequently the sting of death.

3. “All things are theirs.”

4. Christ is engaged to protect and defend them.

5. They have free and certain access to God as their Father (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12).

6. They enjoy a title to an everlasting inheritance (Galatians 3:29 : Romans 8:17; 1 John 3:1-2).

III. The people of God cherish and enjoy the influence of the Spirit, and thereby evidence that they are the sons of God. By the Spirit sinners not merely become children of God, but followers.

1. They are sensible of their ignorance and weakness, and recognise the enlightening and strengthening energy of the Spirit.

2. They are careful not to “quench “ or “grieve” the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).

3. They pray for that influence.

4. In the discharge of all their duties they seek His aid.

5. They have the inward witness of the Spirit (verse 16), and the “fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). (J. J. S. Bird, B.A.)

The leading of the Spirit the secret token of the sons of God

I. Whither does the Spirit of God lead the sons of God?

1. To repentance.

2. He leads them, while they think little of themselves, to think much of Jesus. If the Holy Ghost has never made Christ precious to you, you know nothing about Him.

3. When the Spirit has glorified Jesus He leads us to know other truths. He leads the sons of God into all truth. On the other hand, truth is like a closed chamber to the unregenerate man.

4. The children of God are led not only into knowledge, but into love. The Spirit causes every true-born son of God to burn with love to the rest of the family. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” And not only so, but He leads us into intense love for the souls of sinners. If any man shall say, “It is no business of mine whether men are lost or saved,” the Spirit of God never led him into such inhumanity.

5. The Spirit leads the sons of God into holiness. If you are proud, covetous, lustful after worldly gain, false in your statements, and unjust in your actions, the Holy Ghost never led you there. If I find a child of God mixing with the ungodly, using their speech, and doing their actions, I am persuaded the Holy Ghost never led him there. But if I see a man devout before God, and full of integrity before men, I know that the Spirit of God is his leader. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.”

6. Into vital godliness--the mystic essence of spiritual life. For instance, the Holy Ghost leads the saints to prayer, which is the vital breath of their souls.

7. Into usefulness, some in one path, and some in another, while a few are conducted into very eminent service. II you are doing nothing for Jesus the Spirit of God has never led you into this idleness.

II. How does the Spirit lead the sons of God?

1. We cannot explain His mode of operation, but probably it is somewhat in the same way in which our spirits operate upon other men’s spirits. We act upon matter by machinery, but upon mind by argument, by instruction, and so we endeavour to fashion men as we desire.

2. Note that the Spirit “leads.” The text does not say, “As many as are driven by the Spirit of God.” No, the devil is a driver. Whenever you see a man fanatical and wild, whatever spirit is in him it is not the Spirit of Christ.

III. When does the Spirit lead the sons of God?

1. He would always lead them, but, alas, there are times when they will not be led. They are wilful and headstrong, and start aside.

2. The healthy condition of a child of God is to be always led by the Spirit of God. Not on Sundays only, nor alone at periods set apart for prayer, but during every minute of every hour of every day. We ought to be led by the Spirit in little things as well as in great. If only one action apart from the Spirit were suffered to run to its full results, it would ruin us. A pilot who only occasionally directs the ship is very little better than none. Child of God, the Spirit must lead you in everything.

3. “Well, but,” say you, “will He?” Yes. When you are in difficulties, consult the Holy Spirit in the Word. If no light comes from thence kneel down and pray. Cast yourself upon the Divine guidance, and you shall make no mistake. The Lord will never let a vessel be dashed upon the rocks whose tiller has been given into His hands. Conclusion: Use the text--

1. As a test. Am I a child of God? If so, I am led by the Spirit.

2. As a consolation. If you are a child of God you will be led by the Spirit.

3. As an assurance. If you are led by the Spirit of God then you are most certainly a son of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The sons of God led by the Spirit of God

The Spirit is everywhere present. He controls all the operations of nature. He operates on the minds of men, endowing and controlling them. He specially operates on the children of God--

1. In renewing them.

2. In imbuing them continually with a new life.

3. In determining their inward and outward life.

I. What is meant by being led by the Spirit? It is not by blind suggestions or impulses. It is not by a miraculous or abnormal operation, directing what text the eye shall fall upon. The Spirit is the determining principle of the life, and His leading--

1. Is consistent with our rational nature, liberty, and responsibility.

2. Mingles with our consciousness, and determines it, but cannot be distinguished from it.

3. Is not always irresistible. Hence men are said to resist, grieve, quench the Holy Spirit.

II. The result of it.

1. The knowledge of the truth--not by inspiration or revelation, but illumination.

2. The love of truth, or the conformity of our hearts to the standard of God’s will.

3. The conformity of our outward life to the will of God.

III. Why are those who are led by the Spirit the sons of God.

1. What is meant by the sons of God? Those who--

2. Why are such led by the Spirit? Because

IV. The necessary conditions on our part in order to this guidance.

1. We must renounce our own guidance and that of others, whether of the world, Church, or individuals.

2. We must submit to, and have full faith in, the guidance of the Spirit. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

The sons of God led by the Spirit of God

I. A privilege--to be the sons of God. The glory of children is their fathers (Proverbs 17:6); but the privilege is not only of honour but of profit (verse 17). All God’s children are heirs, as all are partakers of the Divine nature. They have--

1. A spiritual right to all the creatures--“All things are yours.”

2. An interest in God Himself, and in His promises, mercies, etc.

3. Right to guardianship of angels (Psalms 91:11; Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14). What a safeguard against the powers of darkness!

4. A claim to eternal glory (Colossians 1:12; Matthew 25:34). In comparison with this how poor the thoughts of men! “How may I get a good bargain, enjoy myself, be revenged on my enemy?” rather than, “How shall I become a child of God?”

II. The qualification. “So many as are led,” etc. It is not enough to be the sons of God, unless we know ourselves to be so.

1. How shall we know ourselves to be the sons of God? There are many signs besides the one here mentioned, as--

(a) As for his actions, he dares not do anything wilfully that would displease Him (Malachi 1:6).

(b) As for his sufferings, he receives them submissively as corrections.

2. What it is to be led by the Spirit of God. In leading there must be a hand to guide and a foot to follow; good motions on God’s part, and motions to good on ours. Every man is led by some spirit; one by a spirit of error (1 Timothy 4:1), another by the spirit of giddiness (Isaiah 19:14), another by the spirit of bondage, another by the spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12), and all, besides, by the unclean spirit. Let us see, then, how a man may know that he is led by the Spirit of God. He leads--

III. The connection of this qualification with the privilege. How far does the leading of God’s Spirit evince our sonship. If we would have a comfortable assurance we must be led by the Spirit in--

1. Judgment (John 16:13), i.e., into all saving and necessary truths; so as to free us from gross ignorance and error.

2. Disposition. If the Spirit have wrought our hearts to be right with God in all our affections we may be assured that we are His sons.

3. Practice (Ezekiel 36:27). (Bp. Hall.)

The sons of God led by the Spirit of God

I. What is meant by being led by the Spirit? It is as if a blind man had asked the way to a certain city, and one had not only told him of it, but taken him by the hand to lead him therein. Or it is as if a little child in the dark had not only asked direction from his father, but had seized that father’s hand, so to trust implicitly to his guidance (see also Psalms 23:2-4; Psa_143:10). This leading by the Spirit is--

1. A practical thing. If the Spirit leads us it is to govern and control our Words and actions (Titus 2:10-15; Isaiah 48:17-18; Galatians 5:16-25; 1 John 3:1-10).

2. A work of inward influence and sweet secret suasion of all our moral being. True, there is a law, but it is a law of liberty--a commandment which love delights to obey, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty,” not licentiousness; that liberty which consists not of freedom from moral obligation, but of disposition to comply with such obligation (Psalms 119:32).

3. Thorough and perfect, steadily and continuously maintained. Do not confound with it transient emotions, occasional convictions, fitful resolutions, and short-lived periods of a reformation of life.

4. “According to the Scriptures,” and is maintained through the habit and exercise of prayer. Here is nothing mystical, fanciful, fanatical. All is sober and rational, as it is sacred and solemn.

II. The high privilege of those who are led by the Spirit of God. They are the sons of God (2 Corinthians 6:18). God is our Father--

1. Nominally. He calls us His children, and we may call Him our Father. A formal act and covenant of adoption is entered into, whereby our Maker assumes in our favour a parental position and name, and we are permitted to believe in His paternal relation to us, to talk about it, and to act upon it (John 1:12-13; Galatians 4:4-5; 1 John 3:1).

2. Really God does more than call us children. He makes us so. We are His by regeneration as well as adoption, by a new birth as well as by a new title. Just as children resemble their parents in physical form and feature, and so prove themselves partakers of their nature, so do the sons of God resemble Him in moral lineaments, in spirit and disposition, and thus prove themselves partakers of His nature.

3. Effectively. Our Father treats us as His sons. He feels a parent’s sympathy for us, and He fulfils all a parent’s duty. He provides for us, defends us, extricates us out of our difficulties, instructs us, corrects us, makes us privy to His plans, and will eventually take us home to Himself, that we may dwell for ever in our Father’s house.

Conclusion:

1. If led by God’s Spirit, rejoice in the thought of your Divine sonship.

2. As God’s children let us evermore seek to be led by His Spirit. (T. G. Horton.)

First, to take notice of the property itself here mentioned which is to be led by the Spirit of God, where we may observe that there is such a thing indeed in the world as this is, which some persons are partakers of. There is a twofold leading by the Spirit; the one is common and ordinary, the other is special and peculiar. Now this is considerable with a double reference, either first of all to our first conversion; or, secondly, to our following conversation. There is the leading and guiding of the Spirit, which is requisite and necessary for Christians in each of these conditions. First, to look upon it in order to our first and primitive conversion. The children of God they are led on by His spirit in this. And there are three things which do make up this unto us. First, information, or discovery of such and such truths in the proposition. Secondly, illumination, or enabling of the mind to conceive and apprehend those truths which are thus discovered. Thirdly, inclination, or bowing of the will and affections to close and comply with such truths and motions which are apprehended. The Spirit of God does all these three in the work of conversion. The second is the communication of this property to a diversity and plurality of persons--“As many as are led.” From whence we may observe this much, that this being led and acted and guided by the Spirit of God, it is not only the property of one or two particular persons, who are singular and alone by themselves, but it is the condition of a whole society and generation of men. There are many of them that are thus led (John 1:12; Acts 9:42; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:15). There is a variety and diversity of such persons as are thus guided and carried. First, in a succession of times, in one age after another. There have been always men guided by God’s Spirit, and still are, and always will be. There were so in the times of the prophets, and there were so in the times of the apostles, and there are so still in ours, and will be further to the end of the world. And secondly, for one and the same time. There are many that go the same way and are in the like manner inclined. That as some thrive in wickedness, so others should thrive in goodness; and as Satan enlarges his kingdom, so the Lord also should increase His. This may therefore take off the slander which is cast upon religion as a private and singular business, as the invention only of some few persons, which they take up to themselves. No, it is no such matter; there are multitudes and varieties of them. The third is the consent or correspondency of this conduct in this variety, where many and different persons are intimated to be guided by one and the selfsame Spirit. Grace is one and the same for substance in all sorts of Christians, and they are led by the same Spirit of God, which is the worker and preserver of it in them there where it is wrought. “We having the same Spirit of faith, according as it is written” (2 Corinthians 4:13). “By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, and have been made all to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This appears to be so in regard of the same effects, which it works in several persons. Where we find the same operations we may conclude there are the same principles. Again, they are not neither after one and the same manner. Grace, though it be in all one for substance, yet it is not in all one for modification, for the ordering and disposing of it. And lastly, it should very much persuade and prevail with Christians to mutual love and charity to one another, forasmuch as they are all led by the same common Spirit. The second is the predicate, or consequent, in the privilege belonging to these persons. It may further be cleared to us upon these considerations. First, such as are led by the Spirit they are undoubtedly the children of God, because they have the seed of God remaining in them, as the apostle John declares it of them (1 John 3:9). Secondly, those that are led by the Spirit, they are made conformable and like unto God, and have His image stamped upon them. Thirdly, they are members of Christ. Whosoever belong to Christ, who is the natural Son of God, they are consequently themselves the adopted sons of God. And this are they which are led by His Spirit. Now for a further clearing of this point still unto us, we may moreover take notice of it in a twofold illustration; the one as holding indefinitely, and the other as holding exclusively. Indefinitely, if they be led by God’s Spirit, they are His children, let them be who they will be. Exclusively, if they be not led by His Spirit, whatever they be else they are none of His children. First, take it indefinitely. If they are such as are led by God’s Spirit they are His children, let them be who they will. And that again in a twofold explication. First, in the indefiniteness of nations; and secondly, in the indefiniteness of conditions. This word, as many, it carries each of these latitudes in it. This teaches us likewise to own religion wheresoever we find it, let the persons in other respects be what they will be. The second is as it may be taken, exclusively. If they be not led by His Spirit, whatever they be else, they are none of His children. This proposition here before us is to be understood convertibly and by way of reciprocation. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God. And again, as many as are God’s children, they are such as are led by God’s Spirit. Whosoever are none of the former they are none of the latter. There’s nothing less than the conduct of God’s Spirit which will entitle one to a state of adoption. And here again two more. First, who are led by a different spirit, and they are excluded as defective. Secondly, as are led by an opposite spirit, and they are excluded as destructive. Now this being led of the Spirit of God may be very much judged of by us from these observations. First, by our delight in the Word of God, and our conformity and agreeableness to that. Secondly, by the goodness of the ways themselves in which we converse, we find these two joined together (Ezekiel 36:27-28). Thirdly, by our cheerfulness and activity in the ways of God. And then lastly, as a concomitant, and that which is annexed hereunto. If we be led by the Spirit we shall be tender of grieving the Spirit, and doing anything which may be offensive to Him. There is no wise man who would offend his guide whom he depends upon for safety and direction. (Thomas Horton, D.D.)

The nature and tokens of the Spirit’s operation

I. What it is to be led by the Spirit; or what it is that the Holy Spirit does for the furthering our salvation. Our Lord, taking His leave of His disciples, consigned them, as it were, over to the care and guidance of the Holy Ghost (John 16:13), who would guide them into all truth, and abide with them and the Church for ever (John 14:16; Acts 1:5-8). This, however, is not to be so understood, as if the Holy Ghost were now our sole conducter, exclusive of the other two Divine Persons (John 14:23; Matthew 28:20). Such guidance (which often goes under the name of grace) is ascribed to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it is the common work of all. And yet the Holy Ghost is emphatically styled “the Spirit of Grace,” as being more immediately concerned in the work of grace. He gives--

1. Illuminating or enlightening grace, inasmuch as He instils good thoughts and salutary instructions; opening the understanding to receive them (Psalms 19:13; Acts 16:14).

2. Sanctifying grace, when He rectifies the heart, inclines the will, and meliorates the affections (Philippians 3:13). This is distinguished into preventing, assisting, perfecting; being considered, first, as laying the early seeds of that spiritual life; next, as contributing to its growth; and lastly, as adding the finishing hand to it.

3. The grace of true devotion, attended with deep compunction of heart (verse 26).

II. In what manner does He operate and effectuate what He does.

1. Ordinarily in a gentle, moral, insinuating way, and not by mechanical, irresistible impulses, such as would take away human liberty, or reduce men to intelligent clockwork, or reasoning machines. For upon that supposition every good work, word, or thought, would be so entirely God’s, that no part of it would be ours. The operations of God’s Holy Spirit, then, only prepare us for godliness, or incite us and enable us thereto; the rest must come from ourselves. Accordingly, men are capable of resisting, grieving, and even quenching the Holy Spirit.

2. To be a little more particular, the Holy Spirit works upon the mind by proper applications to the reason and conscience, the hopes and fears; suggesting what is right and good, and laying before men, in a strong light, the happiness to be obtained by obedience, and the misery consequent upon disobedience. And one very considerable article of Divine wisdom and goodness lies in the providential ordering affairs so as to serve the purposes of grace; not exempting good men altogether from temptations, but so restraining, limiting, and governing the temptations, that they shall not press harder, or continue longer, than may best answer the design of God’s permitting them.

III. By what marks we may discern when the Holy Spirit operates upon us, and when we are led by Him.

1. These appear chiefly either in checks of conscience dissuading us from evil, or in godly motions, inciting us to what is right and good. For though what passes within us of that kind is not distinguishable by the manner of it from the natural workings of our own minds, yet revelation, in conjunction with our enlightened reason, assures us that every good thought, counsel, and desire, cometh from above.

2. But before we draw such conclusion with respect to any particular thought, special care should be taken that we proceed upon sure grounds; otherwise we may be apt to ascribe the rovings of fancy, or mere dreams of our own, to the Holy Spirit of God. Some very good men have been observed to make it a rule in cases of perplexity to lean to that side wherein they find most ease to their own minds. But sometimes it happens that a person may be under the influence of unperceived prejudices, or passions, which warp him to a side. And therefore there is no safe and certain rule to go by in such cases, but a strict examination into the nature and quality of the action. And if, upon reflection, we find that what we are inwardly dissuaded from is really evil, or what we are inwardly prompted to is really good, then may we safely and justly ascribe such motions to the Holy Spirit of God. As to our judging of our whole conduct, and whether, or how far we are conducted by the Holy Spirit, we have a safe rule to go by--God’s commandments (1 John 3:24; Galatians 5:22-25).

IV. The use and improvement to be made of the whole.

1. To be ever mindful of the world of spirits whereunto we belong; and particularly of that blessed Spirit who presides over us, and whose temple we are, while we behave as becomes us.

2. To pray that the Spirit of God may alway dwell with us, and to take care to avoid all such practices as may offend the Holy Spirit.

3. Since the benefit of all depends upon our own willing compliance and hearty endeavours, let us make it our constant resolution to attend the motions, and to obey the suggestions of God’s Holy Spirit, and so to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (D. Waterland, D.D.)

Sons of God

By nature we are children of God, but we do not occupy the place of children. The prodigal was still the child of his father, but he was away from his father.

I. The nature of this sonship.

1. A renovated heart.

2. Leading by the Spirit of God.

(a) By understanding the Bible.

(b) By comprehending the meaning of Divine providences.

3. Peculiar love. Say what we will about universal charity, we love our children with a special love.

4. Heirship with Christ; sharers of His glory.

II. Its duties.

1. Reverence.

2. Trust.

3. Obedience.

4. Maintenance of the family honour.

5. Resignation. A true son will let God have His way.

III. How are we to become sons of god. By our natural birth? By hearing His Word? By admission into His Church? No; John gives us the answer (John 1:12). Conclusion:

1. To all those who come home the door is open.

2. God takes great delight in being loved.

3. We come to God through prayer, then find provision, then protection. (T. L. Cuyler, D.D.)

The sons of God

I. The description. We might almost have called it a picture. We are all travellers, and every step of our journey is under the guidance of influences which never cease to operate upon our character. Some are guided by the spirit of the world, some by the spirit of self-dependence, some by the spirit of superstition; but the children of God are led by the Spirit of God.

1. Why does the Spirit lead them? Because

2. Where does the Spirit lead them? Not in the paths where the garments will be defiled; not into the scenes of worldly dissipation and amusement, but often through many obstacles--

3. How does He guide them? By an inward impulse and by an outward ministry, and by these conjointly.

II. The privilege. “The sons of God.” This privilege--

1. Commences with adoption. Adoption is the taking and treating a stranger as one’s own child. It is a mere act of grace.

2. Is effectuated by regeneration. For it is in nature as well as in name that believers become the children of God.

3. Is sustained by Divine nourishment. There is milk for babes, and meat for strong men.

4. Is confirmed by Divine instruction. The world is converted into a vast school for the benefit of the Church, as the wilderness was when God brought His people out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 4:36; Deu_32:10).

5. Is manifested by Divine resemblance.

6. Is witnessed by the Divine Spirit.

7. It is the pledge of the highest glory. (P. Strutt.)

Sons of God

I. The condition on which we are “sons of God.”

1. Not mere creatureship. The stars, the birds, the flowers, are God’s creatures.

2. Not mere resemblance. Even fallen men are made in the image of God, and have a potential likeness to Him.

3. But filial disposition. Men are the special creation of God; may have a special resemblance to Him; may have affection, not fear; may cry “Abba, Father.”

II. The evidence that we are “sons of God.” There is--

1. The witness of God’s Spirit.

2. The testimony of the spirit of man.

III. The results of our being “sons of god.”

1. We are heirs of God.

2. We are joint-heirs with Christ. (U. R. Thomas.)

The sons of God

I. Their spirit is--

1. Obedient.

2. Confident.

3. Loving.

II. Their assurance is--

1. Divine.

2. Unquestionable.

III. Their prospects.

1. Glorious.

2. Certain. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The condition and privilege of a son of God

I. His present condition. He is “led by the Spirit of God.”

1. There are two things which may render it necessary for a person to be led, defect of vision or circumstances of peril. A blind man is under the necessity of being led, in order that he may be preserved from the dangers into which he would be otherwise betrayed.

2. Or a man may be exposed to such perils that it is necessary that he should put himself under the guidance of some one who may enable him to detect and overcome the danger. Both these, in a moral point of view, coalesce in the case of every one by nature.

(a) We are treading, as it were, upon the margin of eternity, and in an instant we might be summoned to stand before the bar of judgment.

(b) We are surrounded with a host of spiritual beings, who are continually operating against our safety.

(c) The world around us is continually placing temptation in our way.

(d) We have a traitor within. Now, if all this be the case we need a leader such as the Spirit of God.

2. How is it that the Spirit of God leads?

3. How is it to be known whether a person is led of the Spirit? The marks are--

II. His privilege.

1. As relating to the present life.

2. And as for his privileges in eternity, “Eye hath not seen” etc., (Bp. R. Bickersteth.)

The happiness of the sons of God

1. They are led by His Spirit.

2. They bear the name of children (verses 14, 16).

3. They speak the language of children (verse 15).

4. They render the obedience of children.

5. They feel the confidence of children.

6. They participate in the inheritance of children. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The character and privileges of true Christians

I. Their character. They are “led by the Spirit of God.” This implies--

1. An active and progressive, not a passive and stationary life.

2. Something altogether different from abandonment to natural impulses.

3. A contrast with the leading of the spirit of the world, which conducts so many astray.

4. Guidance by means of the revealed Word of God, yet due to a Divine and supernatural influence.

5. Issues in progress in the way of holiness and obedience which leads to life eternal.

II. Their privileges. They are regarded and treated by God as His sons. This involves--

1. Their regeneration and adoption by Divine grace.

2. Participation in the Divine character and likeness.

3. Favour and fellowship.

4. Heirship. They are joint heirs with Christ, and the time shall come when they shall enter upon a heavenly and immortal inheritance. (Clerical World.)

Four important questions

1. How may I became a child of God?

2. How can I know that I am a child of God?

3. How must I prove that I am a child of God?

4. What advantage have I as a child of God? (J. Lyth, D.D.)


Verse 15

Romans 8:15

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage … but … the Spirit of adoption.

The spirit of bondage and of adoption

I. The spirit of bondage. Much of the bondage of our fallen nature is not the work of the Spirit of God at all. Bondage under sin, the flesh, worldly customs, the fear of man--this is the work of the devil.

1. But there is a sense of bondage which is of the Spirit of God. The bondage of--

2. The result of this spirit of bondage in the soul is fear. There are five sorts of fears, and it is well to distinguish between them.

3. This bondage, which causes fear, breaks us off from self-righteousness, and puts an end to certain sins. Many a man, because he is afraid of the consequences, leaves off this and that which would have ruined him; and, so far, the fear is useful to him; and, in after life, will keep him nearer to his Lord.

4. In due time we outgrow this bondage, and never receive it again. Because we are made to be the children of God; and God forbid that God’s children should tremble like slaves.

II. The Spirit of adoption.

1. The apostle said, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage.” If he had kept strictly to language he would have added, “But ye have received the Spirit of liberty.” That is the opposite of bondage. But our apostle is not to be hampered by the rigid rules of composition. He has inserted a far greater word--“Ye have received the Spirit of adoption.” If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

2. The apostle said, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” Should he not have added “but ye have received the Spirit of liberty by which ye have confidence”? He says a great deal more, “Whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” This is the highest form of confidence.

3. The Spirit of adoption is a spirit of gratitude. Oh, that ever the Lord should put me among the children!

4. A spirit of child-likeness. It is pretty, though sometimes sad, to see how children imitate their parents.

III. The Spirit of prayer. Whenever the Spirit of adoption enters into a man it sets him praying. And this praying is--

1. Earnest, for it takes the form of “crying.”

2. Natural. For a child to say, “Father,” is according to the fitness of things.

3. Appealing. True prayer pleads the fatherhood of God.

4. Familiar. Slaves were never allowed to call their masters “abba.” That was a word for freeborn children only: no man can speak with God as God’s children may. Distance is the slave’s place; only the child may draw near.

5. Delightful. “Abba, Father”--it is as much as to say--“My heart knows that thou art my Father.”

IV. The Spirit of witness. In the mouth of two witnesses this shall be established.

1. The man’s own spirit. God’s own Word declares,”To as many as received Christ to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”; now, I have received Christ, and I do believe on His name: therefore I have the right to be one of the sons of God. That is the witness of my spirit: I believe, and therefore I am a child.

2. The witness of the Holy Spirit, which works--

(a) Great love to God. None love God but those that are born of Him.

(b) Veneration for God. We fear before Him with a childlike reverence.

(c) A holy confidence. By His grace we feel in days of trouble that we can rest in God.

(d) Sanctification.

(e) Besides which, there is a voice unheard of the outward ear, which drops in silence on the spirit of man, and lets him know that he has, indeed, passed from death unto life. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Spirit of bondage and adoption

I. What is meant by “the Spirit of bondage”?

1. A distressing apprehension of danger, arising from the conviction of sin, which is one of the first effects of the law upon the conscience.

2. A sense of our lost and undone condition. A sense of sin is generally attended with a sight of wrath, and a conviction of the worth of the soul; and where the one is deeply felt, the other is greatly feared. Hence the anxious inquiries of the Philippian jailor, and of the multitudes under Peter’s sermon.

3. Apprehensions respecting present judgments. Unpardoned guilt fills the mind with continual terrors (Job 15:20-24).

4. An habitual fear of death.

5. The expectation of future punishment.

6. The conviction of utter inability to extricate himself out of his present situation.

II. Inquire in what respects believers are delivered from this, so as not to be again in fear. Though believers are not wholly exempt from a spirit of bondage--

1. They seldom feel it in the same degree, nor do they feel it for long.

2. It does not arise from the same source as before, and therefore is not of the same nature. The terror which a sinner feels is from God, but that which a believer often experiences is the work of Satan, taking advantage of a constitutional melancholy, or of some adverse dispensation.

3. They are relieved and sustained by the hopes and promises of the gospel.

4. This servile spirit--

III. What is that “Spirit of adoption” which believers have received.

1. The Spirit of adoption is distinct from adoption itself, and is not essential to its existence.

2. Of those who enjoy the Spirit of adoption, some have more of it, and others less.

3. The same saints do not at all times enjoy the same measure of this Spirit, but differ as much from themselves as they do from one another.

4. Wherever this Spirit is received, it must be considered as the fruit of sovereign grace.

5. It more especially consists in the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. The Spirit is not only a witness to Christ without us, but to Christ within us; and therefore when our conscience bears us witness in the Holy Ghost, it is to be acquiesced in as a faithful and unerring report; for if conscience itself be as good as a thousand witnesses, how much more when its decisions are made under the influences of the Spirit of God.

6. The Holy Spirit in becoming a Spirit of adoption, imparts to the adopted a temper suited to that relation.

IV. The blessed effect arising from our having received the Spirit of adoption: Hereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” Prayer is the very breath of a child of God; the first effort of Divine grace in the heart. The cry of “Abba, Father,” now proceeds from the fulness of his heart, and this includes in it the following particulars--

1. Familiarity and holy boldness at a throne of grace.

2. A comfortable persuasion of the love of God towards us.

3. Reverence and honour (Malachi 1:6).

4. Trust and confidence in God, as our Father and our Friend,

5. Great earnestness and importunity (2 Kings 2:12). (B. Beddome, M.A.)

The Spirit of bondage and the Spirit of adoption

I. What is “the Spirit of bondage”?

1. There are many of you who love money, pleasure, vanity, sin. And yet there are times when you tear yourselves away to say your prayers--to come to church; to read a chapter in the Bible; but whilst engaged in these exercises you long for them to be over. But why do them at all? “Because it is our duty. We know these things must be attended to; if we neglect them we shall go to hell.” Then, I need not describe to you “the spirit of bondage”--you feel it.

2. But perhaps “the spirit of bondage” is still more strikingly displayed in those who are just awakened to a sense of their sins. And what does the poor trembling sinner do to mend his case? Labours with all his might to make himself acceptable to God; multiplies his prayers and duties; resolves to mortify his sins. And yet, alas! he goes about feeling that he has undertaken a work which is far beyond his strength. And why has the Lord so ordered it? Evidently to teach the humbling lesson of man’s utter inability to save or sanctify himself (see Galatians 3:23-24).

II. What is the “Spirit of adoption”?

1. Adoption is an act whereby one person takes another into his family, calls him his son, and treats him as such. Thus Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and Esther was the adopted daughter of Mordecai. Adoption, then, in a spiritual sense, is that act of grace whereby God chooses into the dear relation of His children every true believer in His Son. The very term implies that they were by nature not His children. No; they were strangers and enemies when He took them in.

2. But a man who adopts a stranger for his child cannot bestow on him a spirit suitable to that relationship. He may give him a son’s portion, but he cannot give him a son’s feelings. Now this is what the Lord does. He gives them “the Spirit of adoption.” He puts into them, by His grace, a fitness for their glorious relationship. They not only are the Lord’s children, but they feel as such (verse 16). Their former terrors drop away, for they view God now as their reconciled Father in Christ, and the uneasiness they felt at their inability to satisfy His law is now changed into a delightful confidence in the satisfaction which His Son hath wrought for them. And in consequence of all His love to them they love Him. They are followers--imitators--of God as dear children. “His commandments are not grievous to them,” for they have now both the power and the will to follow them.

3. “Father” is the first word the infant lisps; and how continually it is running to its parent with that word upon its tongue. In beautiful allusion to this the child of God is represented as crying to his heavenly Parent, “Abba! Father!” (A. Roberts, M.A.)

The Spirit of adoption

I. The gift which God confers on His children. “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption.”

1. The Spirit of God seals the children of adoption. This serves to mark the particular property God has in believers; to distinguish them from others of the human family; and to preserve them for the end of their election and faith, even the salvation of their souls.

2. The Holy Spirit is to believers the witness of their adoption (verses 16). It is reasonable that professors of religion should be anxious to ascertain their own state in God’s sight.

3. The Holy Spirit communicates to believers the comfort arising from their adoption into God’s family, i.e. He discovers to believers the path of light; qualifies them for their present rank; and supports them during their pilgrimage.

II. The Christian enjoys true liberty. Christian liberty is equally opposed to slavery and licentiousness. It is opposed to restraint and violence, but not to subordination and cheerful obedience.

1. They who are adopted into God’s family are delivered from the dominion of sin. They now walk at liberty. They feel that they are free to serve God without the fear of wrath. They delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man.

2. Christians are delivered from the power of Satan.

3. Christian liberty implies deliverance from undue human influence (Psalms 119:45; Proverbs 29:25). Independence of mind, and courage in Christian behaviour, are desirable objects. He who attains to them, puts his trust in God, and does not fear what man can do unto him. In matters of right and wrong, the Christian claims to himself, and allows to others, the right of private judgment; but he neither claims to himself, nor guarantees to another, the liberty of contravening in a single instance, the commandment of his God.

III. Consider the expressions which we abe enabled by the Spirit of adoption to utter--“Whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The repetition, Father, Father, also evidences the earnestness with which a Christian, feeling his deliverance from bondage, recognises his present delightful relation to God as an adopted son.

1. The believer approves of his relation to God in Jesus Christ. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

2. The religious man is soothed in all his afflictions when he contemplates the compassion of his Father who is in heaven.

3. God’s children consider Him as their instructor (Psalms 71:17; Isaiah 54:13).

4. God’s children submit to such chastisement as He thinks proper to administer (Proverbs 3:11).

5. The children of adoption place themselves under the protection of their heavenly Father (Psalms 31:5; Psa_31:15).

6. By the Spirit of adoption, we are enabled to approach with boldness the throne of grace, in prayer to God (Ephesians 2:18). (A. McLeod, D.D.)

The Spirit of bondage and the Spirit of adoption

I. The state of the natural man.

1. It is a state of sleep: the voice of God to him is, “Awake, thou that sleepest.”

2. For this reason he is in some sense at rest: because blind he is secure, he cannot tremble at the danger he does not know. He has no dread of God, because he thinks Him merciful, and that he can at any time repent.

3. From the same ignorance there may arise joy either in congratulating himself on his own wisdom and goodness, or in indulgence of pleasure of various kinds, and so long as he doeth well unto himself men will doubtless speak good of him.

4. It is not surprising if thus dosed with the opiates of flattery and sin, one should imagine among his other waking dreams that he walks in great liberty, being free from all vulgar errors, prejudices, enthusiasm, etc. But all this time he is the servant of sin. He commits it every day. Yet he is not troubled. He contents himself with “Man is frail; every man has his infirmity.”

II. The state of a man under the law.

1. By some awful providence, or by His Word applied by His Spirit God touches the heart of the slumbering stoner, who awakes into a consciousness of danger--perhaps in a moment, perhaps by degrees.

2. The inward spiritual meaning of the law now begins to glare upon him, and he sees himself stripped of all the fig leaves he had sewn together--of all his pretences to religion or excuses for sin. He now, too, feels that the wages of sin is death.

3. Here ends his pleasing dream, his delusive rest, his vain security, etc. The fumes of these opiates being dispelled, he feels the anguish of a wounded spirit--he fears, indeed--God’s wrath, death, etc., almost to the verge of despair.

4. Now truly he desires to break loose from sin and begins to struggle with it. But though he strive with all his might, sin is mightier than he. The more he strives the more he feels his chains. He toils on, sinning and repenting, repenting and sinning, until he cries, “O wretched man that I am,” etc. This whole state of bondage is described in chap. 7.

III. The state of a man under grace.

1. His cry is heard and heavenly healing light breaks in on his soul--the light of the glorious love of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Overpowered by the sight he cries out, “My Lord and my God,” for he sees all his iniquities laid on Christ and borne away; God in Christ reconciling him unto Himself.

2. Here end the guilt and power of sin. He can now say, “I am crucified with Christ,” etc. Here ends the bondage unto fear. He cannot fear the wrath of God, for it is turned away; the devil, because his power is ended; hell, for he is an heir of the kingdom; death, for that is now but the vestibule of heaven.

3. And “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty,” liberty not only from guilt and fear, but sin. Henceforth he does not serve sin; being made free from sin he is become the servant of righteousness.

4. Having peace with God, and rejoicing in hope, he has the Spirit of adoption who sheds abroad the love of God and man in the heart, and works in him to will and do of His good pleasure. Conclusion: The natural man neither fears nor loves God; one under the law fears: one under grace loves. The first has no light, the second painful light, the third joyous light, He that sleeps in death has a false peace; he that is awakened no peace; he that believes true peace. The heathen baptized or unbaptized has a fancied freedom, the Jew or legalist a grievous bondage, the Christian the glorious liberty of the children of God. An unawakened child of the devil sins willingly; one that is awakened sins unwillingly; a child of God “sinneth not” The natural man neither conquers nor fights; the man under the law fights but cannot conquer; the man under grace is “more than conqueror.” (John Wesley, M.A.)

The Spirit of adoption

1. In what sense are we to understand the word “spirit”? Our own spirit, inasmuch as it refers to that filial disposition which prompts us to cry, Abba, Father; yet also God’s Spirit, because it is only by His power and inspiration that this temper of mind is produced or sustained (chap. 5:5).

2. To what does “again” refer? No doubt to the former dispensation, Judaism (see the argument in Galatians 4:1-31, especially verses 4-7 and 22-31, and again, Hebrews 12:18-24).

3. This Spirit of adoption is a spirit of--

I. Reverential admiration and love. Who so good or wise in the eyes of a son as his beloved parent? Yet our filial partiality may be grossly mistaken. Not thus is it with our regard for God. If His children, we learn to discern in Him every excellence, and each in its highest perfection and purest form.

II. Gratitude and praise. The son acknowledges his obligation to his father, is ever grateful to him, and learns to speak of him with becoming expressions of thankfulness and filial pride. So it is with us and God.

III. Dependence and trust. While we acknowledge His kindness in the past, we depend on Him at the present moment, and we commit to Him all our care for the future. How little anxiety for the morrow has the confiding child.

IV. Meek submission and cheerful obedience. A father’s will is law to a good son; and all that a father reposes or inflicts is submitted to without murmuring, from a persuasion of his wisdom and right to correct us when we do wrong, combined with a firm conviction that he seeks only our welfare and good. How much rather should we be in subjection to the Father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:5-10).

V. Communion and fellowship. It cries, “Abba, Father.” It is natural for a son to seek his father’s society, and to tell him all his wishes, all his wants. So do the sons of God come to Him in supplication and prayer (Matthew 6:6.) Further, a good son is interested in his father’s pursuits, knowing that he himself will be enriched by his father’s successes and advanced by his father’s promotion. So do we know, as God’s children, that He conducts all the affairs of His empire for our honour and welfare, and we constantly pray, “Father, Thy kingdom come,” etc.

VI. Confidence and hope. A child who incidentally does wrong can come to his father in penitence and sorrow, assured of readily obtaining acceptance and forgiveness. So likewise we can come to God when we have sinned against Him, believing that He will quickly restore us to His favour, and not vindictively cast us off for ever. Therefore, we shall at length be brought home to our Father’s house above. A wealthy parent may send his child away for a season, and place him under tutors and governors, but it is to receive him back eventually with increased honour and joy. Thus will Jehovah act with regard to us. (T. G. Horton.)

Without fear

See yonder little bird. It floats fearlessly in the spray that arises out of the thunders of Niagara. It cleanses its plumage in that ever-ascending and radiant mist. It flies through the rainbow which spans that awful presence. It is not afraid. The colours of its wings are kindred to the tints in that rainbow. It sings its gayest songs as it darts back and forth in front of that terrible glory. It has no controversy with Niagara. It gains its living along its banks. It builds its nest and rears its nestlings in the tree that overhangs the cataract. The believer in revelation has ended his controversy with God, and is, like that flying, floating, singing bird, without fear.

The Spirit of adoption

The question has been raised whether this means the Holy Ghost, or a consciousness of being a child of God. It is both, and we cannot distinguish between the two. But we must not confound “adoption” and the “Spirit of adoption,” though they are never very far apart.

1. “Adoption” is that act whereby we are received into the family of God. And the way in which this is brought about is thus: Christ is the one Son of God. Into the Son, God elects and engrafts members. As soon as the union takes place, God sees the soul in the relationship in which He sees Christ. He gives it a partnership in the same privileges.

2. But this “adoption,” if it stood alone, would be no blessing. A rich man, well educated, “adopts” a poor illiterate child. The child moves in the social circle of his adopted father, and shares his wealth. Now, if his benefactor be a wise man, he will endeavour to give him a filial spirit, and the qualifications which are necessary for his elevation. But if not, the “adoption” will only issue in disappointment and unhappiness to all parties. 3 We cannot, therefore, sufficiently thank God that wherever He gives “adoption,” He follows by “the Spirit of adoption.” But, as in nature, as soon as ever a branch is grafted into a tree the sap begins to flow into that branch; and however dissimilar the graft to the parent stock, the passing of the graft into that stock gradually makes them one:--so in Christ, the “Spirit of adoption” following the “adoption,” seals the union by making the affinity close, happy, and eternal!

4. Of all words that which comprises most of wisdom, tenderness, and love, is “Father.” What a repose lies in that, “My Father.” And as soon as the Spirit begins to work in a sinner’s heart, the very first thing He plants there is, “I will arise and go to my Father,” etc. And if only we could take in the simple conception that God is a “Father,” well-nigh the whole work of our religion would be done. Thousands acknowledge it is true; but few think of how much has passed in the deepest councils and sublimest operations of God, that we might use that paternal function. All heaven had to come down to earth that we might stand to God again in that lost relationship. The blood of Christ only could purchase it; and no man could ever frame his heart to conceive, or his lips to utter it, but by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5. Now let me examine what a “Spirit of adoption” is. It is not a spirit of doubt and anxiety, in which I say, “Does God really love me? Am I forgiven? How shall I overcome all my difficulties?” That is not what a little child ever feels, if he has got an affectionate father. The “Spirit of adoption” is all hope. Hence, prayer becomes a very bold thing where there is the “Spirit of adoption.” A child does not ask a father as a stranger asks him. He goes as one who has a right. If he finds his father’s door for a moment closed, see how he knocks. He does not want wages; but he receives rewards. All creation is his Father’s house, and he can say, “Everything in it is mine, on to death itself.” The “Spirit of adoption” longs to go home. For, if the love of an unseen Father has been so sweet, what will it be to look in His face? (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

The Spirit of adoption

We are not merely criminals unwhipped of justice, but since Christ has met the demands of the law for us we are entirely acquitted; and then there is implanted in us, by the Holy Spirit, the sweet, glad consciousness of sonship.

I. Therefore the cowering fearfulness of sin is supplanted by a loving filialness. Very beautiful is that word, “Abba” just here. It is a little up-thrusting of the Apostle’s mother tongue. Though we be adepts in any other language, the speech we use to express overflowing feeling is always that which we learned at our mother’s knee. And there is such a swell and throb of filialness in the apostle’s heart toward the heavenly Father, that even though he must immediately translate it, there is no word to tell his consciousness of his close, free sonship but the word that used to be prattle on his lips when he was a child. So swept away is the bad fear which comes from sin, so dear and deep is his sense of a holy familiarity with God, that the only word that can in the least even shadow it forth is the nursery word back there in Tarsus, Abba.

1. How easy prayer is to a God, who thus reinstating us in sonship, will allow from us such address.

2. How “in everything” (Philippians 4:6) may we make request of Him.

II. There is such a thing as an assurance of this sonship. “The Spirit itself beareth witness.”

III. Being thus adopted into sonship we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Then--

1. I have title to illimitable Divine possession.

2. I may dismiss fear that I shall fail to enter upon my unimaginable wealth.

IV. Such adoption does not preclude the necessity of discipline, It compels it rather. For so great a destiny and glory I must be prepared. But there is this infinite solace under chastisement--it is not punitive; it is educative. Its intention is to fit me for the splendid destiny God intends for me. It is thus quite possible to be glad and thankful for my pain. (Wayland Hoyt, D.D.)

Adoption

The spiritual connection of the true disciple with God is repeatedly represented to us in Paul’s Epistles under the figure of sonship. The idea of simple sonship, indeed, is brought prominently forward by St. John; as 1 John 3:1; 1Jn_4:6; 1Jn_5:9-10, etc. But whereas St. John always represents this idea in its simplest form, St. Paul, and St. Paul only, describes this sonship more artificially as adoptive. This illustration is not taken from any Jewish custom; the law of Moses contains no provision for such a practice. Adoption was essentially a Roman usage, and was closely connected with the Roman ideas of family. The son was declared to be the absolute property of his father from his birth to his father’s decease. In order to being adopted out of his own family into that of another man it was necessary that he should undergo a fictitious sale. But if a son had been thus sold by his father and had again recovered his liberty, he fell again under the paternal dominion, and it was not till he had been thus sold, emancipatus, three times, that he became finally free from this paramount authority. Accordingly, the adopter required that the fiction of sale should be three times repeated, before the son could be received into his new family, and fall under the dominion of his new father. When, however, these formalities had been complied with, the adopted son became incorporated into the family of his adopter, identified, as it were, with his person, made one with him; so that on the adopter’s decease he became not so much his representative as his second self, the perpetuator of his legal personality. He assumed, moreover, on adoption, the burdens or privileges incident to the performance of the rights of his new family. He relinquished his former rites, and attached himself to those of his new parent. All this appears to have been in the apostle’s mind when he addressed the Roman disciples in this passage. The Spirit of God, he says, bears witness with our spirit, or confers upon us an inward persuasion, that we are now by adoption the children of God Himself, whereas we were before the children of some other father--namely, the world or the Evil One. But henceforth we are relieved from the bondage of corruption, from the state of legal subjection to this evil parent, and admitted to the glorious liberty of the happy children of a good and gracious father, even God. And how was this escape from bondage to be effected? God paid a price for it. As the Roman adopter paid, or made as though he paid down a certain weight of copper, so God gave His Son as a precious sacrifice, as a ransom to the world, or the Evil One, from whom He redeemed His adopted children. Henceforth we became the elect, the chosen of God. The same illustration is indicated in Galatians 4:3 : “When we were children we were in bondage under the elements of the world,” addicted to the rites of our original family; “but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son,” etc. But now, after ye have known God … how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements,” such as the sacra of your original family, “whereunto ye desire to be again in bondage” (Ephesians 1:5). (Dean Merivale.)

Adoption, sacred and secular

Betwixt civil and sacred adoption there is a two-fold agreement and disagreement. They agree in this, that both flow from the pleasure and good will of the adoptant; and in this, that both confer a right to privileges which we have not by nature; but in this they differ: one is an act imitating nature, the other transcends nature: the one was found out for the comfort of them that had no children, the other for the comfort of them that had no Father. Divine adoption is in Scripture either taken properly for that act or sentence of God by which we are made sons, or for the privileges with which the adopted are invested. We lost our inheritance by the fall of Adam: we receive it by the death of Christ, which restores it again to us by a new and better title. (J. Flavel.)

A childlike spirit towards God

I. The contrast between the temper of a child of God and the temper of an unregenerate person.

1. Naturally fallen creatures have a “spirit of bondage”--the temper of a slave towards God.

2. Now, if we turn to this Book for the explanation of that universal feeling, we find that it is truly reasonable. The account which St. Paul gives of it in chap. 7 is applicable to all the world. It is obvious that, in proportion as this is comprehended, men must “fear.” A man may sometimes contrive, either by forgetfulness of God, or by forming to himself false notions respecting God, to escape from the influence of fear, but then his mind is sunk into a state of torpor and death-like slumber. When once the light is let in on the understanding, and the man sees anything of the attributes of God and what they demand, and finds that he has violated all, and that his own nature is opposed to that Holy God, he “dies.” In the language of the apostle, it is the law which “shuts us up,” allows us no hope,

3. But when a man finds the gospel, that spirit is changed. Then all the sources of dread are gone. How can he dread God any more? Do you think that the poor prodigal, when, all ragged and worn as he was, he came back to his father’s house, and felt his father’s arms around him, and his father’s kiss upon his pale and withered cheek--think you that he dreaded that father then?

4. And now the whole of the sinner’s future course is characterised by love; he is no longer a slave, but he is become a child. This is seen doubtless, and seen very mainly, in the character of the Christian’s obedience, which is now wholly changed. The child of God has the law written on his heart--loves every one of its requisitions, because he loves the wise and just Parent that enacted them--and would obey them all. His obedience is now unfettered, unrestricted, unreserved, cheerful, grateful, and generous.

5. The filial spirit prevails in the whole of the experience of every one of the children of God. If he receives any temporal blessings, he receives them from the hand of his Father; if he looks at the promises of the gospel, they come to him as the promise of his heavenly Father; if he receives any of the painful events of life, it is a wise and gracious Father who has sent them, and it is his inclination and his pleasure to submit. So, likewise, this same filial spirit pervades all the exercises of religion; if others pray because conscience compels them to pray, the child of God rejoices that he may come to “his Father, who seeth in secret.” If he looks forward to death, when no other being can go with him and sustain his faltering spirit, he feels his Father can; and when he looks to glory, it is with the same feelings; he is going to the house of his Father.

II. The origin of this Spirit. It is characterised in our text as a gift; it is not spoken of as an attainment. “Ye have received.” It is a gift received from God; therefore His favour and His blessing must have preceded it. If, then, we are told that the sinner must first love God, must first serve God, and then he may hope for the favour of God--this is just a sentence of despair to any man who knows himself. How can he love God? The source of that “Spirit of adoption” is in adoption itself, and the source of that adoption is the sovereign, unmerited, bounty and mercy of God.

1. Its meritorious cause is the Cross of Christ. There is no ether reason why a sinner deserves to be a child of God but this, that Jesus Christ has deserved it. “When the fulness of the time was come,” etc.

2. The instrumental cause is faith. “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

3. The Agent is the Spirit of God. He only it is who implants faith, and He it is who alone communicates “the Spirit of adoption.”

4. The means is that view of the love of God which none but an adopted child can have. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (Baptist Noel, M.A.)

The temper of gospel obedience

Consider this--

I. By way of contrast, as it is opposed to any form of obedience performed in a slavish and unready mind.

1. With the severe discipline of the law. On this point the apostle is the best exponent of his own views in that allegory of Agar and Sarah (Galatians 4:22-26). To the same purport there is another illustration of the two dispensations, addressed to the same Church (Galatians 4:3-7). These distinct tendencies of the two dispensations are discoverable in almost every circumstance. Contrast--

2. With the service of the man who is trying to work out a righteousness for himself. This fault first discovered itself in the newly-converted Jews, who could but feel a rude shock to their ancient sympathies when they were required to pass from the pride-fostering works of the ancient ritual to the simple faith and self-abasing truths of the gospel. And many now feel the stirrings of an alarmed conscience, and are urged on by an unresting anxiety to feel that their souls are safe, and yet God is not satisfied with them, neither are they satisfied with themselves. Now what is the secret of such painful experience happening to men who are taking more pains to be miserable than it would cost them to be happy? They will be servants, and not sons; they will be labouring to obey, and not trying to believe. If, then, you are in earnest about your souls’ salvation, take Heaven’s simple answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. Then the works will follow. But all attempts to get peace before or without this will be mere labour in vain. This one thing done, the whole character of our obedience becomes changed. It is not the spirit of bondage again to fear; it is the filial obedience of those who, having received the Spirit of adoption, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father.

II. By way of comparison. Four marks of Roman civil adoption you will find exactly paralleled in the spiritual adoption. Did the child among the Romans share in the privileges of the natural children? It is affirmed of the believer that “if children then heirs, heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ.” Did the Roman bestow his own name on the child he adopted? “Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name.” Did the civil law exact from the adopted all honour and reverence to the parent? “If I be a Father, where is Mine honour?” “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,” etc. Did the new father engage to treat the stranger with parental care and kindness? “I will receive you and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” From this view of the condition of the believer we may infer three characteristics of evangelical service.

1. Reverence.

2. Cheerfulness. No labour in the Lord can be in vain; no commandment of God can be grievous.

3. Confidence. (D. Moore, M.A.)

Whereby we cry, Abba, Father.--

Abba, Father

I. The fact. “We cry, Abba, Father.”

1. In one aspect this seems little. It is only a cry, a name named, and that a child’s lisp of the first two sounds of the alphabet. True, but I am not anxious to get from you more than what all Christians confess. “We” cry, Abba, Father. Visions and revelations are exceptional, but we all cry, “Abba, Father.”

2. This is not a small thing. It means carrying the clear proof of our being God’s children. True, we are infants, but no infant would ever cry “Abba” unless it were a child. Here are weakness and strength, but the one is linked to the other by a bond that cannot be broken. And what a distance between us in our helplessness and God in His glory, but “Father” reaches all the way. Only a cry! God hears nothing else. Observe the refrain of Psalms 107:1-43. Mark the reason why universal power is given to the Mediator (Psalms 72:11-12).

3. This cry is the product of the Holy Spirit (see also Galatians 4:6). This is the Divine side of the matter, of which we have both the human and Divine sides in John 1:12-13).

II. The consequences.

1. You have the witness of the Spirit. The cry and the groaning (verse 26) are His work; the natural man knows nothing of them.

2. You are heirs of God (verse 19; Matthew 13:43).

3. You are joint heirs with Christ.

III. But what of the present? “If we suffer with Him.” Suffer we must; but--

1. These pangs are hopeful; they are of birth, not death, and prove a heaven-sent longing after home and God.

2. The Saviour is with us in them. His Spirit causes them. Christ sympathises and succours (Hebrews 2:17-18). (A. M. Symington, D.D.)

The Abba, Father

The expression is used once by Christ, twice by Paul. Why should the Saviour in Gethsemane employ two languages, and Paul when speaking of the free Spirit which animates believers? Is it conformity to the custom of giving to persons a variety of names? Or is the one name an interpretation of the other? Augustine and Calvin think that it is to show that both Jews and Greeks each in their own respective language would call on God as a Father. Dr. Morison says that “the dual form is delightfully fitted to suggest that in His great work Christ personated in His single self not Jews only, but Gentiles.” And not only fitted, but designed. And so Paul may have caught the spirit and aim of the Master’s words. And thus we have a speaking testimony to the fusion of Jew and Greek which prepared the way for the preaching of the gospel to the heathen. The idea of Father clasps not only the languages, but the people. What other word so fitted as a basis for all the nations to meet on and be made one! Grandly prophetic of the time, to bring about which the Saviour died and the apostle laboured, is “Abba, Father.” The term illustrates how the idea of Fatherhood--

I. Evokes the deepest filial feeling. In the only instances in which we have the words there is everything to justify this. It is the child-cry coming not from the surface, but from the depths. How much larger and more tender the word than master, magistrate king, etc.

II. Begets the most childlike familiarity. Only in the home circle can such feelings play. It is the child, not the subject or servant, that cries “Abba, Father.” Refinement of feeling and manner is always beautiful in a child, but it is not natural that it should express itself in courtly language. The charm of the family is in the freedom which love imparts. The parental heart, shining like a warm sun in the centre of the home, draws young affection to it as the flowers turn to the heat and light.

III. Stirs the intensest earnestness. So it did in Christ and Paul. There are moments in Christian experience when the language of familiarity rises into the language of anguish. Though in the Divine family, men are still on earth--not the most congenial place, and even Jesus seems to have had quite enough of it when He said, “And now I come to Thee,” The definition suggests emphasis or urgency. As a child’s whisper will sometimes wake the family, even the gentlest ruffle on the heart will not pass the heavenly Father’s notice. How much more shall a cry of anguish reach Him and bring Him to our relief. (R. Mitchell.)


Verse 16

Romans 8:16

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit.

The witness of the Spirit with our spirits

I. The respective offices of the two witnesses.

1. “The Spirit itself beareth witness.”

2. The witness of our own spirits. Why this? Certain it is that the Holy Spirit speaks with a voice by which the faithful soul cannot be deceived, yet there may be impressions not from Him, and which we may mistake for His sacred testimony. Against such delusion you must be carefully guarded. Nor are the means by which it may be detected difficult. Where the Spirit of God dwells He dwells as the author of regeneration. Of this change our own spirits must be conscious. If we love God and our neighbour, if we are spiritually minded, as having the fruits of the Spirit, then have we the witness of our own spirits to the fact that we have received the Spirit of God.

II. The errors connected with this doctrine into which men have sometimes fallen.

1. That there can be no certainty of our being now in a state of salvation. Well, if this blessing be not attainable, the state of good men under the New Testament dispensation is far inferior to the state of good men under the Old. “Enoch before his translation had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Now, what was there peculiar in the case of Enoch? See the filial confidence that Abraham had in God from the time that his faith was counted to him for righteousness. When David prays, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation,” did he not recollect that joy in the salvation of God which he had previously experienced? We may say, also, that this notion is contrary to all the words of Christ and His apostles. When our Lord says, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest,” can such words be reconciled with the idea of our being in a state of uncertainty? Remember that that uncertainty implies this, “I am uncertain whether God be my friend or my enemy.” Now, if this be the only state into which religion brings us, with what truth can Christ be said to have given rest to the soul?

2. That there is a great danger of fanaticism in this, and that, therefore, it will be much more safe to proceed in the way of argument and inference. But upon this theory what are we to do with the text? There are certain fruits of the Spirit, it is said, by the existence of which in ourselves we are to infer that we are the children of God. What are these fruits? If you examine them you will find that several are such as must necessarily imply a previous persuasion of our being in the favour of God, communicated by God Himself (Galatians 5:22-23). Love to God directly implies the knowledge of His love to us. So, too, as to peace. Can we have this before we know whether we are at peace with God? The fruits of the Spirit flow from the witness of the Spirit.

3. That this is the privilege only of some eminent Christians. But there is no authority for this in the Word of God. This blessing is as common a blessing as pardon; it is put on the same ground, and is offered in the same general manner.

4. That this is an assurance of final salvation. I find no authority for this in the book of God. We are called to live in the comfortable assurance of the Divine favour, and to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; but this conveys to us no certain assurance of final salvation.

Conclusion:

1. This doctrine may well lead those of you to consider your own condition who feel that you are under the Divine displeasure, that you are living carelessly, and neglecting the great salvation.

2. The subject applies itself to those whose conscience is burdened by the sense of guilt and sin. When once you get the faith that waits and pleads and prays it will not be long before God will hear your earnest prayer, and say unto you, “I am thy salvation.”

3. Let those who have received the Spirit of adoption recollect both their privileges and their duties. Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called, and of the blessings you profess to enjoy. (R. Watson.)

The witness of the Spirit

In the text itself there are two general parts considerable. First, the witnesses mentioned. Secondly, the thing itself, which they bear witness unto. The witnesses mentioned they are two. First, our own spirit. We begin with the former of these parts, viz., the witnesses themselves here mentioned, which are here expressed to be of two sorts. Our own spirit, and the Spirit of God with it. Each of these do bear witness to the truth of adoption in those who are true believers. First, our own spirit; that is, the spirit of the children of God considered by itself. This is one witness to them of their condition in grace, and of their relation to God as their Father. Our own spirit is not to be taken in a corrupt sense for our carnal spirit. This is sometimes too much our own, and so denominated, but such as is no competent judge or witness of such a business as this we now speak of. Nor, secondly, is it to be taken in a common sense, for our mere natural spirit, our soul in its physical consideration, for there is a witness (as we acknowledge) even in that of civil and natural actions. But it is to be taken in a more refined and spiritual sense. Our spirit, so far forth as sanctified and renewed by grace, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, and having His image stamped upon it, making up the regenerate part in us. This is our spirit in the sense of this scripture. Look, as this is the difference betwixt a man and other creatures, that he is able to reflect upon his actions, which another cannot; so this is the difference betwixt a Christian and other men, that he can reflect upon his own grace, which others are not able to do. The spirit of a regenerate person is a witness to him of his adoption. This is suitable and agreeable to other places of Scripture besides (2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 John 3:21). “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself” (1 John 5:10). “My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,” etc. (Romans 9:1). For the better opening of this point unto us we must know that a man’s own spirit does witness to him his adoption, or state in grace, according to a threefold reflection. First, upon his primitive conversion, and the manner and carriage of that. Secondly, upon his habitual disposition, and the frame and temper of that. Thirdly, upon his general conversation, and the ordering and regulating of that. By reflecting upon each of these, in the right and due observation of them, does a man’s own private spirit and conscience witness to him that he is a child of God. The second is the Spirit of God, and more expressly the Spirit of adoption, which we find to be mentioned in the close of the preceding verse of this chapter. The Spirit itself, or the self-same Spirit. This bears witness of our adoption and state in grace. And it may be conceived to do so two manner of ways. We begin in order with the first of these testimonies, which is that which is distinct and immediate, wherein the Spirit of God does without the intercurrence or mediation of any discourse on our part, or argument on His, signify His love and goodwill to such persons as are partakers of it. This is the testimony which we are now to speak of. First, to speak of the nature of it; what or what manner of thing it is. Now for this it is nothing else but a gracious hint or intimation given to the soul by God, assuring our hearts and consciences of His favour and love towards us, and of our atonement and reconciliation with Him through the blood of His Son. “Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee,” “I am thy salvation,” “thou art Mine,” and the like. It is not a violent ecstasy or rapture of soul beyond itself, as illuminatists and enthusiasts, and such kind of people as those are, are sometimes deluded withal, but a sober and judicious and composed frame of spirit, which lies not at all in the fancy, as the subject of it, but in the heart. To speak distinctly of it we may look upon it under a threefold property, or qualification. First, this manner of testimony of the Spirit is secret and inexpressible, a hidden mystery, and such as is easier felt than described; as a man that tastes honey sweet cannot make another to conceive the sweetness of it, therefore it is called the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17). It is called unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8; 2 Corinthians 12:4). Secondly, it is certain and infallible. This it is like the witness of a prince, which puts all presently out of controversy. Thirdly, this witness of the Spirit, it is moreover inconstant and various, Rara hora brevis mora (Bernard.)
. And is not always or at all times alike vouchsafed to those that receive it, and are partakers of it. Now the second thing here considerable of us is the discovery of it, whereby it may be known. This inquiry is very necessary for us in regard of the manifold mistakes and deceits which are in this particular. First, from the
antecedents. In Ephesians 1:13 it is said, “After that ye believed, ye were sealed.” Sealing comes after believing, that so it may not be a seal to a blank. The Spirit’s witness of our salvation is consequent to His work of our conversion. And there are two reasons for it. First, because this witness of the Spirit is an act of special favour, therefore it is such as belongs only to those who are friends, and in a state of actual reconcilement unto Him. Secondly, because the judgment, and so also the witness of God, is according to truth. Never is a Spirit of consolation where it is not first a spirit of renovation. Secondly, we may take notice of it in its concomitants, and those things which do usually attend it. At first a reverend esteem of the ordinances. And then it is also accompanied with humility and meekness of spirit, and a holy care and fear of offending. And again, there is a holy boldness and confidence at the throne of grace which does accompany this testimony of the Spirit. “Seeing we have such hope, we use great freedom of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12). Thirdly, for its consequences and effects. They are also various. Joy in the Holy Ghost; contempt of the world; comfortable thoughts even of death itself. From these and the like discoveries may we discern the testimony of the Spirit to be such as it is. But moreover, to make all clear, we must further know this much, that the Spirit of God bears witness to itself in its witnessing to us. As it is infallible in regard of the matter of its testimony, so it is convincing in regard of the evidence and manner of its proceeding. And it shows itself to be far different from all delusions and mistakes whatsoever. And it is a sufficient witness to itself, though there were no other besides; as the sun which discovers other things is also seen by the same light itself whereby it discovers them. The second is the conjunctive, or concurrent testimony. As the Spirit witnesses to us, so it witnesseth with us. And with us, not only by the way of concomitancy, but by way of assistance. His testimony has an influence upon ours; that is, He helps us to witness to ourselves. We are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything to this purpose of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5). This is different from the former testimony of the Spirit of God in two regards. First, that in that He has no concurrence with us, neither are we, by way of activity, but merely passively any parties at all in it, but in this we are. Secondly, that in that He proceeds by way of simple assertion, but in this by way of argument and reason, clearing both the premises of the practical syllogism to us, and enabling us to infer the conclusion. Here we need His concurrence with us to help us out of those difficulties which are upon us. And this is that which through His grace and goodness we do receive from Him, as is here signified, while it is said that He bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God. The second is the matter of this witness, or the thing itself witnessed unto. And that we have in those words, that we are the children of God. That there is such a thing as an assurance of our state in grace, and so of future salvation, here in this life. This it may be cleared upon these arguments which make for it, as first, from the description of faith itself in the highest notion and degree of it, which the Scripture does set forth to us, under terms of certainty and assurance, calling it the full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22); the full assurance of hope (Hebrews 6:11). Speaking of Abraham, it is said that he was fully persuaded (Romans 4:21). Secondly, from the exhortations which are given to Christians to this purpose. For trial and self-examination. “Examine yourselves, prove yourselves, know ye not your own selves,” etc. (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 6:11). Lastly, this may be confirmed unto us from the manifest absurdity and inconvenience which does follow from the contrary doctrine. (Thomas Horton, D.D.)

The witness of the Spirit

I. The high privilege of God’s people. There is a sense in which all are His children, for “we are all His offspring.” But all are not related to God as His children in the sense of the text. Certain Jews pretended that they were “the children of God.” Jesus said unto them, “If God were your Father, ye would love Me”; but they loved Him not. Consequently He spoke still more plainly to them, “Ye are of your father the devil,” etc. The same applies exactly to men in the present day. But let us observe what this high privilege denotes.

1. Distinguished honour. The Lord puts His name upon them. If this be our privilege we need envy none. The name of the ungodly, whatever rank they hold, shall be “blotted out.”

2. Peculiar affection. There is no feeling so congenial to the heart of a father as affection for his children,

3. Constant care.

4. The most liberal kindness, “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts,” etc.

II. The way by which this privilege is ascertained and enjoyed. Two witnesses come forward--

1. The testimony of conscience--“our spirit.” Have you, or have you not, a persuasion in your own breast that you are a child of God? “If our heart condemn us,” that is, if the verdict of conscience be clearly against us, “God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. But if our heart condemn us not,” if its verdict be impartially in our favour, “then have we confidence towards God.”

2. But, secondly, here is the testimony of the Spirit of God, and this is more particularly to be regarded; but when both agree then the case is beyond all reasonable doubt. Many a man, sinfully partial to himself, hath the witness of his own spirit that he is a Christian, while the Spirit of God witnesses no such thing. Let us, therefore, consider this witness.

This is given in two ways.

1. In the Scriptures. The Word of God describes the children of God, the mind compares itself with this, and so far as an agreement really exists an inference friendly to ourselves is fairly drawn.

2. But there is the Spirit’s witness by supernatural influence, or direct impressions on the mind. If Satan, that evil spirit “which now worketh in the children of disobedience,” has a pernicious and destructive influence, much more the Holy Spirit of God for saving purposes. The Spirit’s witness may be distinguished--

(a) True repentance.

(b) Unfeigned faith.

(c) Sincere devotedness to God.

(a) Deep humility.

(b) Holy jealousy of self.

(c) Close walking with God.

(d) Holiness. (T. Kidd.)

The witness of the Spirit

I. The testimony. There must be a fact before there can be evidence. To be a child of God is a privilege marked--

1. By its greatness. It is a great privilege that commences in adoption, that is effectuated by regeneration, sustained by Divine nourishment, confirmed by Divine instruction, manifested by Divine resemblance, and witnessed by the Divine Spirit. Now, God has said, “If any man provide not for those of his own household, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” We conclude that God, in proclaiming His own Fatherhood, will not be wanting towards the members of His own family.

2. By its distinguishing privilege. To be the children of God by adoption and grace is not a common privilege.

3. By its operative power. “He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” The child of God longs to be like God.

4. By its evangelical influence. “Ye have received not the spirit of bondage.”

II. The witnesses. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word he established” (John 8:18).

1. Our own spirit. Not that it has always done so, nor that our actual safety is always in proportion to the assurance of safety. We may be safer than our fears will permit us to think. But there are times when our own spirit delivers no faint or hesitating testimony. “Should I thus love God if He were not more to me than He is to others? Should I thus run to Him in my sorrows, feel this delight in prayer, love His house, His day, His Word, His ministers--choose His people?”

2. But our hearts are deceitful. We need a second witness to confirm the testimony of our own. The Spirit is a fellow-witness. How does the Spirit bear witness?

III. To whom do these witnesses testify?

1. To ourselves for comfort. We are hard to satisfy. He thoroughly pleads our cause and argues it to us.

2. To the Church for communion.

3. To the world for usefulness. (P. Strutt.)

The witness of the Spirit

The sin of the world is a false confidence--that a man is a Christian when he is not. The fault of the Church is a false diffidence--whether a man be a Christian when he is. The two are perhaps more akin than they look. Their opposites, at all events--the true confidence, which is faith in Christ; and the true diffidence, which is distrust of self--are identical. But there often is the combination of a real confidence and a false diffidence. Now this text is one that has often tortured the mind of Christians. Instead of looking to other sources to ascertain whether they are Christians or not, and then thinking thus, That text asserts that all Christians have this witness, therefore certainly I have it in some shape or other; they say, I do not feel anything that corresponds with my idea of the witness of God’s Spirit, and therefore I doubt whether I am a Christian at all. Note--

I. Our cry “father” is the witness that we are sons. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit.” It is not that my spirit bears witness that I am a child of God, and that the Spirit of God comes in with a separate evidence to say Amen; but that there is one testimony which has a conjoint origin; from the Spirit of God as true source, and from my own soul as recipient and co-operant in that testimony.

1. So far, then, as the form of the evidence goes, you are not to look for it in anything parted off from your own experience, but you are to try and find out whether there be a “still small voice,” no whirlwind, etc., but the voice of God taking the voice and tones of your own heart and saying to you, Thou art My child, inasmuch as through Me there rises, tremblingly but truly, in thine own soul the cry, Abba, Father.

2. Then with regard to the substance of it, “The Spirit itself,” by means of our cry, Abba, Father, “beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” The substance of the conviction is not primarily directed to our relation or feelings to God, but to God’s feelings and relation to us. The two things seem to be the same, but they are not. Instead of being left painfully to search amongst the dust and rubbish of our own hearts, we are taught to sweep away all that crumbled, rotten surface, and to go down to the living rock that lies beneath it. There is all the difference in the world between searching for evidence of my sonship and seeking to get the conviction of God’s fatherhood. The one is an endless, profitless, self-tormenting task; the other is the light and glorious liberty of the children of God.

II. That cry is not simply ours, but it is the voice of God’s Spirit.

1. Our own convictions are ours because they are God’s. Our own spirits possess them, but our own spirits did not originate them. This passage with Galatians 4:6 puts this truth very forcibly. In the one text the cry is regarded as the voice of the believing heart; and in the other the same cry is regarded as the voice of God’s Spirit. And these two things are both true; the one would want its foundation if it were not for the other; the cry of the Spirit is nothing for me unless it be appropriated by me. And the whole doctrine of my text is built on this one thought--without the Spirit of God in your heart you never can recognise God as your Father. There is no ascent of the human desires above their source.

2. But if this principle be true it does not apply only to this one single attitude of the believing soul, it comprehends the whole of a Christian’s life. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit” in every perception of God’s Word, in every revelation of His counsel, in every aspiration after Him, in every holy resolution, in every thrill and throb of love and desire. Each of these is mine, inasmuch as in my heart it is experienced” and transacted; but it is God’s, and therefore only has it come to be mine! And if it be objected that this opens a wide door to delusion, here is an outward guarantee. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God.” The test of the inward conviction is the outward life, and they that have the witness of the Spirit within them have the light of their life lit by the Spirit of God, whereby they may read the handwriting on the heart, and be sure that it is God’s and not their own!

III. This Divine witness in our spirits is subject to the ordinary influences which affect our spirits.

1. The notion often prevails that this Divine witness must needs be perfect, never flickering, never darkening. The passage before us gives us the opposite notion. The Divine Spirit, when it enters into the narrow room of the human spirit, condescends to submit itself to the ordinary laws and conditions which befall our own human nature. Christ came into the world Divine, but the humanity He wore modified the manifestation of the Divinity that dwelt in it. And not otherwise is the operation of God’s Holy Spirit when it comes to dwell in a human heart. There, too, working through man, it “is found in fashion as a man.” The witness of the Spirit, if it were yonder in heaven, would shine like a perpetual star; here in the heart on earth it burns like a flame, not always bright, wanting to be trimmed, and needing to be guarded from rude blasts. Else what does an apostle mean when he says, “Quench not the Spirit,” “Grieve not the Spirit”?

2. And the practical conclusion that comes from all this is just the simple advice, Do not wonder if that evidence vary in its clearness and force. Do not think that it cannot be genuine because it is changeful. There are heavenly lights too that wax and wane; they are lights, they are in the heavens though they change. You have no reason to be discouraged because you find that the witness of the Spirit changes. Watch it, and guard it, lest it do. Live in the contemplation of the person and the fact that it calls forth, that it may not, You will never “brighten your evidences” by polishing at them. To polish the mirror ever so assiduously does not secure the image of the sun on its surface. The only way to do that is to carry the poor bit of glass out into the sunshine. It will shine then, never fear. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

The witness of the Spirit

It is the high and distinguishing privilege of true Christians that they are the children of God; but there is a wide difference between possessing a privilege and knowing that we possess it. A man may have in law a clear title to an estate without feeling sure in his own mind that he has such a title. He may possess a real interest in some very beneficial concern, and yet may be ignorant of his claim, or perhaps have considerable doubts as to the justice of his pretensions. The text discloses the way by which the true Christian may attain to a strong and lively hope of his adoption--namely, through the testimony of the Spirit. What, then, is this witness of the Spirit?

I. It is a privilege which the Spirit of God freely bestows; which He confers or withholds as He sees fit. Some may wait many years before they are favoured with it, and may afterwards lose it. Nor is the Spirit less free as to the degree of the testimony. To one He bears a weaker, to another a stronger witness.

II. It is a secret inward operation of the Holy Ghost “with our spirit.” Consequently it can be known only to the person to whom it is given. By his fruits others know him.

III. It perfectly agrees with the written Word of God; for the Spirit cannot contradict Himself--e.g., should a person pretend to have it whose life exhibited none of those marks with which Scripture distinguishes the children of God, it would be plain that he was mistaken in his pretensions. For could the Spirit witness to him a falsehood?

IV. It has nothing to do with sudden and violent impulses, new revelations, sensible impressions, etc. Let us not deny or overlook the real operations of the Spirit of God; but let us not blaspheme Him, nor bring them into contempt, by ascribing to His agency effects which are proofs of nothing but of error, weakness, or imposture.

V. Wherever the Spirit bears witness to the adoption of sons, there he has been first received as the Spirit of adoption (verse 15). (E. Cooper.)

The witness of the Spirit

Christ taught the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and St. Paul taught the complemental doctrine of a direct personal witness of the same Spirit to the soul that had become renewed. The act of regeneration is succeeded by the act of confirmation; which is the Divine method in nature. Not only did God create the heavens and the earth, but He followed each act of creation with the assurance that it was “very good.” It is quite true that the works of nature are continually vindicating their own goodness, and it is not less true that spiritual sonship is its own witness in the presence of all men; yet the soul which has passed through the agonies of penitence and reconstruction needs just that word of tender assurance and comfort which is expressed in the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit.

I. This witness brings with it comfort. In all the great experiences of life we need a voice other than our own to complete the degree of satisfaction which begins in our own consciousness. In common affairs we may be strong enough without external encouragement; but when life is sharpened into a crisis we need something more than is possible to our unaided powers. There are times when we need to hear our own convictions pronounced by the voice of another. Let that second witness be greater than ourselves, and his testimony will bring with it proportionate comfort; let him be the wisest of men, and still the consolation is increased: let that witness be not a man, but God Himself, and at once we are filled with peace and joy unspeakable.

II. Still, the very Divineness of this comfort clothes the witness with the severity of inexorable discipline. Sonship has responsibilities as well as enjoyments. “Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” Will any man make the temple of the Lord a temple of idols? We are to walk in the Spirit; to mind the things of the Spirit; and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. Otherwise there can be no comfort! If there is sweetness in the mouth, it is the taste of stolen honey. The comfort is not a spiritual luxury. The apostolic doctrine is that the promises of God should move the heart towards more and more purity (2 Corinthians 7:1). God’s purpose as to character is growth. Let the sacred germ lie dormant in the heart, and the witness of the Spirit will decline in vividness and emphasis, and the germ itself will perish (Hebrews 6:4-6). Once interrupt the communion of the soul with the Father, and the soul may never be able to resume the fellowship: then (the apostle would say) “Pray without ceasing,” if you would enjoy the permanent witness of the Spirit. Thus the argument arising out of Divine comfort in the human soul points stead-lastly towards discipline (verses 5, 13).

III. Yet with all the comfort is there not an aspiration hardly distinguishable from discontent, and with all the discipline is there not a hope which makes it easy? The explanation is found in the fact that the present enjoyment of the Spirit is but an earnest of the coming fulness (verse 23). The Church by mistaking the “earnest” for the “fulness,” runs the risk of stating incomplete truths as final revelations. The “earnest” of the Spirit constitutes a lien upon the future service of the receiver; if the service be unperformed, the “earnest” will be withdrawn; whereas, if the service be lovingly rendered with the whole might of the heart, the measure of the gift will be filled up even to the sanctification of the “whole body, soul, and spirit.” What is delaying the outpouring of the fulness of the Spirit? There is, indeed, a still sterner inquiry, Is not the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church less distinct to-day than in the apostolic age? Can modern piety enrich its history with such a passage as Acts 2:1-4; Act_4:31? Is the Church baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire? Is it honourable to suggest that such manifestations were confined to the early Church? It was after those manifestations that the Apostle Paul described the measure of the Spirit already given as an “earnest,” and if only an earnest where is the fulness which there is not room enough to receive? We may be said to receive more and more of the sun as noontide approaches, and to receive a “double portion” of the spirit of every author whose writings we study with admiring affection. Now, why has not a Church eighteen hundred years old a fuller realisation of the witness of the Holy Ghost than had the Church of the first century? Has the Church accomplished all the purpose of God, and passed for ever the zenith of her light and beauty? How, then, are men to know that they enjoy the witness of the Spirit? Partly by the anxiety with which they put the question, and partly, too, by the occasional comforts which suffuse the soul with inexplicable gladness, but mainly by the daily sacrifice of loving service, and by enrapturing expectation. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The witness of the Spirit

How much there is in this chapter as to the work of the Holy Spirit. He helps against sin (verse 2). He leads and guides (verse 14), He aids in prayer (verse 26). And (text) gives believers a happy sense of their acceptance. Not, indeed, by voice from heaven, nor by angelic messenger (Daniel 9:23), rather by revealing the Saviour’s love and glory (John 15:26), and by bringing peace-giving words to remembrance (John 14:26-27). Let us now consider the great happiness of possessing this witness.

I. It comforts in trial. How comforting to remember that these are a Father’s dealings! (Hebrews 12:7; John 18:11).

II. It encourages to prayer. Let it fill the mind, and then we know we are welcome. What a difference does this make!

III. It restrains in temptation. If we have a happy consciousness of our adoption, we shall fear to offend. We shall fear to bring a cloud over our joy.

IV. It stirs up to active service. Joy makes one active.

V. It supports in the prospect of death. Under such circumstances the valley becomes illuminated. Death is then going to a Father--going to a proper home. (J. Lancaster, M.A.)

The witness of the Spirit

I. The witnesses. The text suggests that we are entering upon a calm judicial process, in which the verdict can be obtained only by the testimony of two witnesses of tried competency and proved faithfulness.

1. The importance of having the Holy Spirit as the chief witness will appear from the nature of the facts to be witnessed to--namely, that we are the children of God, etc. For on the authority of no mere man could I receive this testimony. Wise he might be, and holy; but the subject is beyond his province. Neither could I take the testimony of an angel. Note the requirements essential to the competency of our witness. The counsels of God’s will, the goings forth of His love and peace, must be naked and open to the witness with whom we have to do. He must know when the act of grace went forth, when the wandering spirit turned, and when the heart surrendered. These are things which must be known to the Holy Spirit, because of Him and through Him are all these effects wrought. Are the eyes opened? It is His to enlighten. Is the conscience awakened? It is His to reprove. Does the will yield? It is His to subdue. Is the heart at peace? It is His to seal.

2. The second witness is the spirit of the man himself--the responsive testimony of our own hearts echoing the silent utterances of the Holy Ghost, and giving us confidence toward God. This view of course supposes the witness of our own spirits to be of a derived and reflected kind. It is a witness to a witness--the interpreter of that testimony which is borne by the Spirit of God. Of themselves our own spirits can testify nothing.

II. In what language does the Spirit speak, and in what signs does the heart make answer? The joint witness is to be looked for in the inward peace arising from the discovery of certain tendencies and dispositions answerable to the state of sonship. And it is properly called a joint witness, because the same Spirit who forms these tendencies in us, also manifests their existence to us. We can only know that we are children when the Spirit reveals the existence of those moral dispositions which prompt us to act and feel as children, and these we find only in the written Word. But this still makes the Spirit of God the chief witness, because until He shines upon the Word it is a sealed book to us. But when He opens our understanding we find that the entrance of God’s Word giveth light. And it is just the agreement between these two--the Scripture calling and the heart answering; the Spirit insisting on certain feelings, and our own spirits testifying that we have such feelings--that constitutes our double witness. “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to My Word, it is because there is no life in them.” But to what purpose does our text come in at the close of several of the most distinguishing marks of true grace which Scripture contains, if it be not to set the heart upon the inquiry whether, by the Secret illumination of the Spirit, these marks be discoverable in ourselves? Now it is manifest that if these marks be found in us we have the witness of the Word to our adoption; and what is the witness of the Word but the witness of the Spirit, who both indited the Word and gave us understanding to comprehend the truth? Conclusion: The text describes a real blessing, It is no visionary good. Do not let any difficulties connected either with its manifestation or its source affect your possession of it as a great spiritual reality. It is a witness, and a witness to a great fact. The heart’s peace, the soul’s comfort, life’s prospects, death’s fears, all hinge and turn upon the clearness of this twofold testimony. It brings with it heaven’s credentials; it is stamped with heaven’s seal; it leaves behind it heaven’s peace; it is the witness of the Spirit of God. (D. Moore, M.A.)

The witness of the Spirit

I. The general attainableness of the Spirit. The sense of adoption, so far from being heaven’s far-off prize held out to the highest saints, is a near, present good which babes in Christ may grasp, which is offered to the prodigal first returning from his wanderings and to the publican first humbled for his sins. This fact will appear in the exhortations to this assurance (Hebrews 6:11; Heb_10:22; 2 Peter 1:10). To these add the passages holding out to the believer the promise of peace (Isaiah 26:3; Isa_32:17; Romans 5:1). Such a peace, it is manifest, could never be ours while doubt and misgiving hung over the great business and design of our existence. Peace in duty, in suffering, in our spiritual approaches, in the contemplation of the great future, not only is set forth in Scripture as attainable, but is commonly made to give forth an utterance as plain as a testimony addressed to the ear.

II. Must it be attained? Let us ask, What is necessary to salvation? Faith, of course. But faith in what? In something done for us, or in something done in us? In the sufficiency of Christ’s work, or in the sufficiency of our conscious interest in that work? The faith which justifies is an act of trust, exerted objectively upon the mediation of Christ, and justification is the instantaneous effect ensuing upon this act. But it may be long before we are made conscious of our new condition, or its resulting peace, e.g., a ship is labouring, and ill-piloted, on a dangerous coast. A spectator knows that if she once make a certain point, her danger is over. She does make this point, and is safe; but the crew do not know she is safe, and therefore they continue to be afraid where no fear is. Her deliverance takes place before the comfort of deliverance. And just so it will often be in our spiritual deliverance. It is not that a man has not faith, but he has not the comfort of faith. Faith, justification, peace, is the declared order of the Divine procedure. Between faith and justification there is no appreciable interval; but between justification and peace there may be a long and trying interval. And, further, to make our salvation depend upon any form of inward testimony, is to make the trust of the believer turn in part upon something within, rather than turning absolutely upon the finished work of Christ. And the difference to our spiritual safety, whether we exercise faith in Christ immediately, or mediately on some inward feeling which unites us to Christ, is as great as would be the difference to a drowning man whether he laid hold on a rock, or merely on a loose weed which was growing to the rock. We may have the faith of reliance when we cannot get the faith of assurance; and when through the weakness of the flesh we cannot lay hold on the witness that is within us, we may yet be saved by laying firm hold on the hope that is set before us.

III. How is it to be attained?

1. This witness is an impression of inward peace, the fruit of a certain comparison which the mind has been enabled by the Spirit to make between the statements of revelation and its own moral experience. But this done, the chief practical directions for gaining an inward assurance are that we cultivate a believing contemplation of gospel truth, and institute a frequent and close examination into the state of our own hearts.

2. And then there must be much of self-examination followed up by the repairing of all conscious deficiencies, and the renouncing of all discovered faults. (D. Moore, M.A.)

The witness of the Spirit

I. To whom is this witness given?

1. True religion is not a set of creeds, defined and believed just as a man may believe in the North Pole or the law of gravitation. The sphere of religion is not in the man’s head, but in the heart. Nor is it a matter of forms of worship--singing hymns or saying prayers or hearing sermons. These things may be gone through, and all the time the real man may be unmoved and asleep. It is precisely here that a great many people make a mistake. They are not satisfied with their religious life. That which they have is unreal, outside. So they either set to work to examine their creed, or else they change it. Or else they think the form of worship is at fault. And at last they are ready to give up all in despair.

2. The only religion that can satisfy is the work of the Spirit of God in our spirits. By all means see that your creed stands square with the Word of God, and seek the forms of worship that help you to get nearest to God. But be sure of this, that creeds however true, and forms of worship however solemn and impressive, can never give you the religious life. We must be born of the Spirit. The manner of this new creation may differ in a thousand ways. With some it may be gentle and gradual as the dawn of day; with others it may be as a day when the noise of battle rolled.

3. Although this life is begotten of the Spirit of God, yet is He to be willingly received and submitted to (verse 14). Now to such there is given the witness of the Spirit.

II. What this witness is.

1. There is much significance in the emphatic assurance with which St. Paul speaks. He bids us take it for granted that if we are the children of God this witness of the Spirit is ours. Children do not know what the estate is worth, but they do know that it is theirs, and whatever there is in it belongs to them. Think of a child saying, “I am going to see what I am heir to,” and spending all its time in prying into everything with a microscope to make sure that it is there. Since the realm of the religious life is in the spirit, do not let us be always analysing and defining and perplexing ourselves about all sorts of mysteries. There are some people who always begin to tell me their symptoms, and ask me what I think of them and what they ought to do. Well, forget that you have any constitution. Give up the luxury of a liver. Work hard at some outdoor work so that you have not time to think about yourself; and then when you get very hungry, eat; and when you have got very tired, sleep. There are spiritual dyspeptics, too, who are always talking about their symptoms, and who think they have not got any religion at all unless they are finding something to worry themselves and other people about. Come, let us be bold to say, “Well, whatever the witness of the Spirit is, if Jesus Christ is mine, this too is mine.” And yet, on the other hand, let us honour the Giver of the estate by seeking to make the most of it; finding out how rich and blest we are. Now there are some who think of the witness of the Spirit as a kind of revelation from heaven, or a thrill of rapture--something which lifts us up above other people and singles us out as the favourites of God. If anything could make a man a Pharisee it is surely that. It is the very root of that Pharisaism which the Lord denounced. The witness of the Spirit is not to our spirits that we are the children. It is with our spirits that God is our Father. He is to take of the things of Christ and manifest them unto us. There is in Jesus Christ a sight of our sin that humbles and shames us, yet there is a sight of love that overwhelms us. The Spirit puts us in possession of that love as our own; and in loving tenderness the Father bends over us so pitiful, so careful for us that all the heart cries, “Abba, Father.” A blessed consciousness is thus wrought within us, which has no room for pride, but only for self-forgetfulness, wonder, gratitude, and glad obedience.

III. This witness is no less Divine because it moves on the ordinary and natural lines of spiritual influence. There are men and women who help to create within us a new experience. Their influence is at once distinct yet indistinguishable. We cannot mark exactly the influence, how it came and how it wrought. Now it is in this quiet and natural way for the most part that the witness of the Spirit is given. The idea is of a blending of spiritual influence. The Gulf Stream may be taken as a parable of this. For some eight months of the year our seas ought to be frozen over so that no ship could approach our shores. Our islands should be a rough rude tract of country where only the hardiest forms of life could survive--a land of forest where wild furry beasts should roam, and where the deep snows should make agriculture almost impossible. What mystery is this which delivers us? Away in the distant southern world, in the fierce heat of the tropics starts the Gulf Stream. It gathers the warmth of the sun and sends it for thousands of miles across the seas to lave our shores. And thus the arctic winter is driven from us; and our ports are open all the year round; over us stretch the kindlier skies; about us blow the gentler winds; our fields are covered with grass, the valleys are thick with corn, But where is this Gulf Stream which does such wonders? Can you see it? No, we cannot see it, but it is there. The parable is a many-sided illustration of the truth. Of nature, of ourselves, we do dwell in a land of winter--frozen and well-nigh dead; without the energy to put forth any life of God. But lo, we know not how, but by the Holy Spirit of God there is breathed about us and within us the love of God, softening, transforming, bringing to us a new heaven and a new earth. And now do grow and flourish blessed things which before we knew not. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” etc. (Mark Guy Pearse.)

The witness of the Spirit

I. There are many terms which describe our nature and condition when we are not the children of God. “The children of the world,” “children of the night,” “children of iniquity,” “children of the devil,” “children of wrath.”

II. Contrasted with all this there is the text “children of God,” they whose nature is derived from the parentage of heaven, whose character is formed by that nature, whose actions and prospects spring from that nature.

1. And this state is clearly set before us not as a thing that comes by nature, or by accident, or unawares. It is not that we are all the creatures of God; the pebbles are that. Nor is it that we are merely objects of the Divine benevolence; God is good to the worst man living. Nor merely that we are the offspring of God--those whose origin was from Him and who will always bear in them some characteristics of that origin, such as immortality, conscience, etc. The fallen angels have all that. “I know,” said the Lord in speaking of the Jews, “that ye are the seed of Abraham,” but then in the same breath He denied it. They were the offspring of Abraham, but they ceased to be his children, or they would have shown forth his nature. But God was “able of those stones to raise up children unto Abraham”; God was able to take those fallen Jews and restore them to the place that they had lost in the family of faith. And so with any unconverted man, any teacher who is teaching a pardon and a peace that he has never experienced; God is able out of the very stones to raise up children to God.

2. And this was the glory of our Saviour’s mission among men that to them that received Him He gave power to become the sons of God: and to be constituted the children of God always implies the double idea of adoption and regeneration, the restoration of the soul to the favour of God, the restoration of the name to its place in the family roll.

III. This grace, how shall we tell it, or who can tell it?

1. “Eye hath not seen,” etc. Then should they remain unknown? It is very certain that the eye cannot see when God forgives the soul. You may hearken as you will, but you will never hear it. And as to the heart imagining it, it passes in another world. Am I to say, then, if I cannot see it or hear it, etc., I cannot believe it? The apostle meets you at once. He says, “The things of a man knoweth no man, save the spirit of man that is in him.” A son was wandering disinherited in America. The father says to an uncle, “Will you be my executor?” “Yes, on condition that you restore the name of your eldest son.” “He is dead,” says the father. “He is not dead,” says the uncle. “Put in his name and I will be your executor.” The father puts in his name, and actually the boy is restored to his rights and titles of inheritance. He knows nothing about it. That mind of his father’s is as much an invisible world to him as is God’s to us. The only question is, Had his father any power of putting what was in his mind into the mind of his boy? No; because he did not know where his boy was, and the boy never got his inheritance, for the father again altered his will, thinking the boy was dead, and dead he was not. There is the simple ease supposed in 1 Corinthians 2:11. Just as the spirit of the father knew the acts of the father, although the Son did not, so doth the Spirit of God know the acts of God. But then the difference was this, that man’s spirit did not search all things; it could not tell where his son was. But the Spirit searcheth all things, not only the deep things of God, but the deep things of your heart and your ways. “Eye hath not seen,” etc., but God doth reveal them unto us by His Spirit.

2. A witness is simply one who has witnessed a transaction, and who bears witness of that transaction to another who did not witness it. How doth the Spirit bear witness? I do not know, any more than I know how the father held up his hand to write the name of his son. I do not know how that is done. I know that you and I can do it. I do not know how it was that one day when in my house they were anxiously inquiring whether a certain ship from America was nearing the shore, a telegram came, and we knew the ship was there a couple of hours before the telegram came from the ship itself. Those that were on the ship had no means of communicating it; but the people on shore had seen, and they could send the news of what they had seen right into the minds of people here in London, and produced within those minds all the change and all the impression that was wanted to be produced by that piece of intelligence. So it is the mission and office of the Holy Ghost, as the revealer of Christ and of the Father, to uncover the pardoning countenance of God, and to make that countenance shine upon His forgiven child. Conclusion: If you need the Holy Spirit to bear witness with you that you are the children of God, the world needs a witness, and that witness you can give only in your actions, in your conduct. The world will not believe your word, and it ought not to believe your word if that word is not supported by your conduct and your character. But if your conduct and character bear upon them the Divine stamp, then your word will not be an empty sound. When you have made that impression upon the hearts of men, you have gone far towards testifying that there is such a thing as being a child of God. To the Church you can testify your sonship in Christ by the one proof of your love to the brethren. No other proof will avail. And if the Spirit is really bearing witness with your spirit that you are the child of God you will love Him, and loving Him you will take delight in pleasing Him; and you will love all that are begotten of Him; you will love His cause, His kingdom, His glory, and the witness of the Spirit filling your soul with light from above will illuminate your whole conduct, and that conduct shall be that of a child of the light. (W. Arthur, M.A.)

The witness of the Spirit

I. The thing testified To--that we are the children of God. There is the same difference between τέκνον, and ὑιὸς as there is between child and son; the former applies to either sex, and is more tender, We are born of God, i.e., we are produced by Him. This does not refer to us as creatures, nor as rational creatures, but as regenerated; so that we are partakers of the Divine nature.

1. It expresses the relation in which we stand to God as the objects of His love and as loving Him. This filial spirit on our part includes--

2. It indicates the privileges arising from this relation. We are heirs of God, partakers of all the blessings which He has provided for His children.

II. The nature of the testimony. It is not involved in our filial feelings, but is--

1. Direct or immediate. The Spirit assures us just as He produces the assurance of the truth.

2. Mysterious, but not more so than the operations of the Spirit, nor indeed than the action of mind on matter or of one created spirit on other created spirits.

3. Self-evidencing, i.e., it reveals itself as the testimony of God. Just as the voice of God in the heavens, in conscience, in the law, in the gospel, reveals itself in His Word; so when the Spirit speaks to the soul it is known to be the Spirit.

4. Infallible, and produces assurance. This is not inconsistent with doubt and anxiety, because--

5. Sanctifying. That is its nature. It produces that effect, just as fire burns, or light dispels darkness. It is never given where it is not true. And where it is true, where the soul is regenerated, then to banish doubt and fear and anxiety is to infuse new life and vigour. It is to give peace and call out graces. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

The witness of the Spirit

How many, not understanding what they spoke, have wrested this scripture to their great loss! How many have mistaken the voice of their own imagination for this witness, and presumed that they were the children of God while they were doing the works of the devil! These are the enthusiasts. Who, then, can be surprised if many reasonable men seeing the dreadful effects of this delusion should regard this witness as exclusively an extraordinary gift of the apostolic age? But we may steer a middle course, and keep a safe distance from enthusiasm without denying the privilege of God’s children.

I. The witness of the Spirit with our spirit.

1. The witness of our spirit.

(a) “As many as are led by the Spirit of God” into all holy tempers and actions, “they are the sons of God.”

(b) I am thus “led by the Spirit of God”; he will easily conclude “therefore I am a son of God,” Agreeable to this are all those plain declarations of St, John in his First Epistle (1 John 2:3; 1Jn_2:5; 1Jn_2:29; 1Jn_3:14; 1Jn_3:19; 1Jn_4:13; 1Jn_3:24).

2. The testimony of God’s Spirit is an inward impression on the soul whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses with my spirit that I am a child of God; “that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given Himself for me; and that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.”

II. How this joint testimony may be distinguished from--

1. The presumption of the natural mind. The Scriptures abound with marks whereby we may distinguish the one from the other; and whoever carefully attends to them will not put darkness for light.

2. The delusions of the devil. By the same fruits. That proud spirit cannot humble thee before God, or melt thy heart into filial love, or enable thee to put on meekness, etc. As surely, then, as holiness is of God and sin of the devil, so surely the witness thou hast in thyself is not of Satan but of God. (John Wesley, M.A.)

The witness of the Spirit

There are here--

I. Two persons.

1. The Spirit.

(a) The essential name of God is given Him (Isaiah 6:9; cf. Acts 28:25).

(b) The Divine attributes--eternity (Genesis 1:2); omnipresence (Psalms 139:7); omniscience (1 Corinthians 2:10).

(c) The works of God--creation (Job 33:4); miracles (Isaiah 63:14); the calling and sending of the prophets (Isaiah 48:16) and of Christ Himself (Luke 4:18); prophecy (Acts 1:16); illumination (John 16:14); justification (1 Corinthians 6:11); conviction of sin (John 16:8); comfort (Acts 9:31); resurrection (Romans 8:11); the earnest and seal of our evidence (Ephesians 1:13); spiritual refreshment (John 4:14); zeal (Matthew 3:11); prayer (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 8:26); gladness (Hebrews 1:9); spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4). He is God, because the essential name of God is His; therefore let us call upon His name, because the attributes of God are His; therefore let us attribute to Him all might, majesty, dominion, etc., because the works of God are His; therefore let us co-operate with Him: then shall we be of the same spirit with Him.

2. Our spirit. The word is applied either to the soul itself, or to its superior faculties in the regenerate. In Hebrews 4:12 the soul is that which animates the body, and enables the senses to see and hear; the spirit is that which enables the soul to see God and hear His gospel (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:25)
. The soul is the seat of affections, the spirit is rectified reason or the conscience (
Romans 9:1).

II. Their office--to testify.

1. The testification of the Holy Ghost Himself. A witness ever testifies of some matter of fact. The Spirit here witnesses that we are the children of God. Now, if a witness prove that I am a tenant to such land or lord of it, I do not become so by this witness, but his testimony proves I was so before. I have, therefore, a former right to be the child of God--i.e., the election of God in Christ Jesus. The Holy Ghost produces the decree of this election. And upon such evidence shall I give sentence against myself? I should not doubt the testimony of an angel, and when God testifies to me it is a rebellious sin to doubt. But though there be a former evidence for my being a child of God, a decree in heaven, yet it is not enough that there is such a record; it must be produced; and by that, though it do not become my election then, it makes my election appear.

2. But even that Spirit will not be heard alone. He will fulfil His own law “in the mouth of two witnesses.” Sometimes our spirit bears testimony without the Spirit. The natural conscience has much to say about sin, and God and our relation to Him (Acts 17:28). And the Holy Spirit testifies when ours does not. How often He presents to us the power of God in the mouth of the preacher, and we bear witness to one another of the preacher’s wit and eloquence, and no more! How often He bears witness that such an action is odious to God, and our spirit bears witness that it is acceptable to men! How often He bears witness for God’s judgments, and our spirit deposes for mercy by presumption, or He testifies for mercy and ours for judgment in desperation! But when the Spirit and our spirit agree; when He speaks comfortably to my soul and my soul hath apprehended comfort; when He deposes for the decree of my election, and I depose for the seals and marks of that decree, these two witnesses--

3. Induce a third witness--the world itself to testify what is the testimony of the text.

III. The testimony--“that we are the children of God.”

1. The Holy Ghost could not express more danger to a man than when He calls him “the child of this world” (Luke 16:18); nor a worse disposition than when He calls him “the child of diffidence and distrust in God” (Ephesians 5:6); nor a worse pursuer of that ill disposition than when He calls him “the child of the devil” (Acts 13:10); nor a worse possessing of the devil than when He calls him “the child of perdition” (John 17:1-26.); nor a worse execution of all this than when He calls him “a child of hell” (Matthew 23:15).

2. So it is also a high exaltation when the Spirit draws our pedigree from any good thing, as when He calls us “the children of light” (John 12:36); “the children of the bridechamber” (Matthew 9:15); but the highest of all is “the children of God.” This is an universal primogeniture, and makes every true believer heir of the joys, the glory, the eternity of heaven. (J. Donne, D.D.)

The witness of the Spirit

Sometimes the soul, because it hath somewhat remaining in it of the principle that it had in its old condition, is put to question whether it be a child of God or not; and thereupon, as in a thing of greatest importance, puts in its claim, with all the evidence it hath to make good its title. The Spirit comes and bears witness in this case. It is an allusion to judicial proceedings in point of titles. The judge being set, the person concerned lays his claim, produces his evidences and pleads them, his adversaries endeavouring all that in them lies to disannul his plea. In the midst of the trial a person of known and proved integrity comes into the court, and gives testimony fully and directly on behalf of the claimer, which stops the mouth of all his adversaries, and fills the man with joy and satisfaction. So is it in this case. The soul, by the power of its own conscience, is brought before the law of God; there a man puts in his plea that he is a child of God, and for this end produceth all his evidences, everything whereby faith gives him an interest in God. Satan, in the meantime, opposeth with all his might; many flaws are found in the evidences; the truth of them all is questioned, and the soul hangs in suspense as to the issue. In the midst of the contest the Comforter comes, and overpowers the heart with a comfortable persuasion, and bears down all objections, that his plea is good, and that he is a child of God. When our spirits are pleading their right and title, He comes in and bears witness on our side, at the same time enabling us to put forth acts of filial obedience, crying, “Abba Father.” (J. Owen, D.D.)

The witness of the Spirit abiding

Believers have a double testimony, one without, and one within; and this witness within us will go with us, which way soever we go: it will accompany us through all straits and difficulties. The external testimony may be taken from us, our Bibles, our teachers, our friends; or they may imprison us where we cannot enjoy them: but they cannot take from us the Spirit of Christ. This witness within is a permanent, settled, habituate, standing witness. (Ambrose.)

The witness of the Spirit instantaneous

The witness of the Spirit, from its nature as a witness, must be instantaneous. A witness deposes to a particular fact; and there must be a particular instant of time when his testimony is given. The mathematician slowly, by the use of single cyphers and symbols, works out his problems in order to find a result concerning which he is altogether in doubt; the chemist slowly and cautiously conducts experiments to find out the nature of substances concerning which he is totally ignorant; but a witness enters a court to depose to a fact of which he has already a full knowledge, and whose testimony the court is now waiting to hear. He who believes in Jesus Christ is in a scriptural condition to receive the witness of the Spirit that he is a child of God; and the case neither requires nor admits that the witness should be gradually imparted. When a parent has forgiven his child he does not gradually reveal that fact to him, but gives immediate proof in his countenance and actions, if not in words, that he again loves him. (S. Hulme.)

The two witnesses

I. The witness of the Spirit of God.

1. Direct.

2. Divine.

3. Manner unknown.

4. Distinct from and anterior to the witness of our own spirit.

5. Attested by Scripture.

6. Confirmed by reason.

7. If no such witness, no assurance, all induction.

II. The witness of our own spirit.

1. Inward consciousness.

2. Holy tempers.

3. Obedience.

4. Peace and confidence.

5. Flowing from repentance and faith. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The two witnesses

The witness of the Holy Ghost is the work of faith, the witness of our spirits the sense of faith wrought. This is better felt by experience than expressed by words, known altogether and only to them which have it. For me to speak of this to them which have it not, were as if I should speak a strange language. The witness is that “we are the children of God.” Not that we shall be, or may be, but are. And what though my very name be not written in the Scripture, thou Thomas, thou John? It is not convenient. What a huge volume should the Bible be if every saint’s name were there written! It is not necessary, because all particulars are included in their generals; as he that saith, “All my children are here,” means every one in particular, though he name them not; so God, that saith all believers shall be saved, means every one as though they were named. And yet the Scripture doth speak in particular (Romans 10:9). When the law saith, Thou shall not kill, steal, etc., every one is to take it as spoken to himself, as if he were named. Why should not such particulars in the gospel be also so taken? True, say the Papists, if you believe you shall be saved; but where does the Scripture say that you do believe? Ridiculous! The act of faith is not set down in the Scriptures, but the object. The faith which I believe is in the Bible. The faith whereby I believe is in my heart, and is not believed (for that were absurd), but known by feeling. We do not believe that we believe, but we feel it (2 Timothy 1:12). If man should witness, or an angel, there might be doubt; but when there is such a witness as is the Spirit we ought not to doubt. If a man of a weak brain were on the top of some high tower, and should look down, it would make him wonderfully afraid; but when he considers the battlements that keep him from falling his fear abates. So fares it with the regenerate when we look on our sins, and so down and down to hell. Alas! whose heart quails not? But when we consider the brazen wall of the love, truth, and promise of God in Christ, we may be assured without fear. Look upon thy defects, but forget not the truth and power of God. Pretend not the testimony of the Holy Ghost without thine own spirit: nor contrarily, for they go together. Faith, repentance, etc., are the testimony of God’s Spirit; if from these thy spirit witnesseth, then it is current. But if thou beest a drunkard, a Sabbath-breaker, unclean, etc., and sayest the Spirit witnesseth thy salvation, it is not God’s Spirit, but a lying spirit, for such works are of the devil. God’s Spirit indeed witnesseth; but the witness is that they which do such things shall be damned. (Elnathan Parr, B.D.)

The Spirit testifying to the believer’s adoption

Having affirmed the Divine relationship of the believer, the apostle now proceeds to adduce the Divine evidence of a truth so great.

I. It is not strange that the fact of his adoption should meet with much misgiving in the Christian’s mind. The very stupendousness of the relationship staggers our belief. To be fully assured of our Divine adoption demands other than the testimony either of our own feelings or the opinion of men. Our feelings may mislead, the opinion of others may deceive. There exists a strong combination of evil tending to shake the Christian’s confidence in the belief of his sonship.

1. Satan is ever on the watch to insinuate the doubt. He tried the experiment with our Lord (Matthew 4:6).

2. The world, too, presumes to call it in question (1 John

3. I). Ignorant of the Divine original, how can it recognise the Divine lineaments in the faint and imperfect copy?

3. But the strongest doubts are those gendered in the believer’s own mind. There crowd upon it thoughts of his own sinfulness, and unworthiness of so distinguished a blessing. And when to this are added the varied dispensations of his heavenly Father, often wearing a rough garb, it is no marvel that, staggered by a discipline so severe, the fact of God’s love should sometimes be a matter of painful doubt.

II. But God has graciously and amply provided for this part of Christian experience in the withess of the Spirit.

1. The perfect competence of the Spirit is assumed. Who can reasonably question it?

2. As to the truth thus witnessed, we are not to suppose that the testimony is intended to make the fact itself more sure; nor for the benefit of our fellowcreatures, still less for the satisfaction of God Himself, but for the assurance and comfort of our own hearts.

3. But the question arises, What is the mode of His testimony? Not by visions and voices; not by heats and fancies; nor by any direct inspiration, or new revelation of truth. By--

The believer’s testimony

The value of any testimony is determined by the character of the person who gives it. To be spoken of for our knowledge by a fool is of idle account; whilst a word from the wise, how good is it! To be spoken of for our valour by a coward is a vain matter; whilst the commendation of the hero is of great moment. Now in this way the greatest and best of all testimonies are those to the soul of the believer by the Spirit of God.

I. The author of the believer’s testimony--the Spirit! The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit.

1. Secretly in the sense which He conveys of our personal interest in the great scheme of Christ’s atonement, by the gift of faith.

2. Openly before the eyes of the world, that the world may take knowledge of His work.

II. The substance of the testimony--“that we are the children of God.” In what way does this testimony discover itself? There will be a filial--

1. Love to God’s person through Christ.

2. A trust and dependence upon His supplies.

3. Lowliness.

4. Fear.

5. Confidence in His wisdom.

6. Resignation to His will.

7. Obedience.

8. Likeness.

9. Delight in His presence.

III. The deduction from this testimony--“if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”

1. Not one in a family, but all heirs--not heirs who may lose their inheritance by premature death, or be defrauded of it, or have it wasted away by the delays and chicaneries of law, but an heirdom where the possession is certain as universal, and full as certain.

2. The heir of God! To the heir of a king what glorious expectancies are there!--of a throne, a crown, a treasury, a nation! But how poor are these to the objects before the heir of God! The heir of God!--of all things temporal, spiritual, and eternal, of all which God can devise and bestow for our good.

IV. The condition of those who receive the testimony. It is a suffering condition--“if so be that we suffer with Him.” The disciple is not above his Lord, nor the servant his master.

V. The exaltation of those who are affected by the testimony--“that we may also be glorified together.” (T. J. Judkin.)

The evidence of Christian sonship

I. Its nature.

1. Paul draws a distinction between God’s Spirit and our spirit; it is not our spiritual life that bears this testimony, but the Spirit of God. There are those who conceive that a feeling suddenly rises in the Christian, which is a conviction of his election, and that this is the witness of the Holy Spirit. Hence men have waited for it with anxiety. Of course a sudden emotion may come, but to rely on any emotion is to rely upon our own spirit bearing witness with itself. Man is not saved by feeling that he is saved. Nor has he the witness of sonship by feeling that he is a son of God; but by the Spirit of God apprehending and quickening his soul.

2. The apostle is speaking of continued evidence. If men imagine that certain ecstatic spiritual emotions are proofs of the witness of sonship, the witness is fitful and transient; for the inner life is as full of changes as an April day, and if a man founds his assurance on this, he will to-day believe in his sonship, and to-morrow utterly doubt it. Paul, in the former part of this chapter, has spoken of being freed from condemnation; of being spiritually minded; of being led by the Spirit; all these are continued facts of Christian life, therefore the witness of the Spirit is equally continued.

3. The ground on which Paul bases the evidence of sonship is that of a Divine Spirit, greater than the emotions of our souls, consciously acting upon us. But how do we know this? When we feel conscious not so much of possessing a life, as of a life possessing us.

4. The manner in which this evidence rises in the soul. Observe how the text is woven into the chapter. Paul speaks of the action of God’s Spirit as--

II. Its necessity.

1. To enable us to enter into perfect communion with God. Till we can feel His power possessing us--till we can see His smile behind every sorrow, we shall fear Him.

2. To realise our spiritual inheritance. You know the feeling of sadness which comes when gazing at night into immensity--the thought that this short life will soon be over, and we shall be swept away and forgotten. Then how grandly comes the witness to our sonship, saying, “Thou cast down? Look up into immensity, it is all thine, fear not, thou art a child of the Infinite.”

3. In order to comprehend the glory of suffering. Mark the connection in Paul’s words between the sufferings of this life and the glory to be revealed hereafter, as if he had said, “As the suffering is great, so also shall be the glory.” None but the man who has the “witness of the Spirit” is able to look through the sorrow to the blessedness hereafter.

III. Its attainment. In order to acquire this witness, carry into action every spiritual power you possess--translate every emotion into life. Remember you have to “work together with God.” Take care that you “grieve not the Holy Spirit.” Feel that every point gained in spiritual life is a point to be maintained. Take care that when you are brought nearer to God by suffering, you do not allow yourself to fall back; if you do, the light of the Spirit will fade. “If then ye live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit.” (E. L. Hull, B.A.)

The sons of God

I. A special privilege. “We are the children of God.”

1. This is an act of pure grace. No man has any right to be a son of God. If we are born into His family it is a miracle of mercy.

2. This is a great dignity. The archangels are the most favoured of God’s servants, but not His children. Speak of pedigrees, thou, poor Christian, hast more than heraldry could ever give thee, or all the pomp of ancestry could ever bestow.

II. A special proof--“The Spirit itself beareth witness,” etc. Notice that there are two witnesses. It is as if a poor man were called into court to prove his right to some piece of land which was disputed. He standeth up and beareth his own faithful testimony; but some great one of the land confirms his witness.

1. Our spirit bears witness--

2. The Holy Ghost graciously condescendeth to say “Amen” to the testimony of our conscience. And whereas our experience sometimes leads our spirit to conclude that we are born of God, there are times when the eternal Spirit descends and fills our heart, and then we have the two witnesses bearing witness with each other that we are the children of God. Perhaps you ask me how is this.

III. A noble dignity.

1. “Heirs of God” with Christ.

2. “Joint heirs with Christ.” That is, whatever Christ possesses, as Heir of all things, belongs to us. He gives us His raiment, and His righteousness becomes our beauty. He gave to us His Person; we eat His flesh and drink His blood. He gives us His inmost heart, His crown, His throne. “All things are yours,” etc. We must never quarrel with this Divine arrangement. “Oh,” say you, “we never shall.” Stay; for when all that is Christ’s belongs to you, do ye forget that Christ once had a cross, and that belongs to you? “If so be that we suffer with Him that we also may be glorified together.”

IV. The special conduct naturally expected from the children of God. In the golden age of Rome, if a man were tempted to dishonesty, he would stand upright, look the tempter in the face, and say to him, “I am a Roman.” It ought to be a ten times more than sufficient answer to every temptation for a man to be able to say, “I am a son of God; shall such a man as I yield to sin?” I have been astonished, in looking through old Roman history, at the wonderful prodigies of integrity and valour which were produced by patriotism or love of fame. And it is a shameful thing that ever idolatry should be able to breed better men than some who profess Christianity. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Varieties of Christian character

This witness of the Spirit varies--

I. In the same individual.

1. “There have been moments,” says some weary soul, “when I have had that witness--in some time of great spiritual struggle, when through my very weakness there came a strength which made me conquer even myself, and also in moments of great spiritual exaltation; but there has come a reaction after the victory, a depression after the joy, and the evidence which seemed so strong has worn gradually away. If that had been the witness of God’s strong unchanging Spirit, surely it could not have been so?”

2. Yes, it could be, and is so; for God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit. It is just as, in natural things, the sun in heaven bears witness with our human sight to the existence of physical objects; and its shining is constant and unchanging, but the evidence of it varies with the conditions of our vision. It cannot but be so when there is so intimate a connection between our body and spirit, and the one acts on, and is reacted on, by the other. We know how a depressed or nervous physical condition will tinge our feelings, will make us take a widely different view of things from that which we had taken before. Who is there who has not experienced the difference of a bright spring morning and a dull November day? Our spiritual nature has its noontide, when we work in the light and rejoice in the brightness of God’s love; and it will have its night, when we can only see the light, as it were, coming from some passionless moon, or from the cold steel stars in some far-off heaven.

3. Those moments of dulness and of coldness in our religious life are times of peril. There is a danger of despair, and the remedy is a more perfect trust in God. There is danger of turning to spiritual stimulants. Never try by physical means, or so-called religious exercises, to galvanise yourself into feeling what you know you do not feel. The true remedy is to strengthen and improve generally your spiritual nature, instead of nervously looking for artificial tests of its vitality. More earnest communing with God; more thoughts of Him and His great love, and less of ourselves and of our feelings; more study of the deep meaning of His Word; more seeking to do His will; more use of the means of grace will be helps to us in such moments. The keen appetite and the clear vision will return with the increasing health of the spiritual man in us, and again and again those glad moments will be ours, when we feel the Spirit bearing “witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God.”

II. In different individuals.

1. The witness of the Spirit must vary, as do our individual natures. The boat in the harbour is none less safe because it has not come across the storm-swept sea, but only down some inland river with no grand convulsions, but still with strange, commonplace, yet fascinating dangers of its own. It is a perilous and a very wrong thing to set up some one, sole, exclusive, monotonous standard of spiritual evidence and of spiritual life. There is no rigid rule of uniformity in God’s treatment of souls.

2. The risen Lord came under great variety of circumstances, and with every differing kind of evidence of His presence, to each and all of His disciples. First, He came to the loving hearts of women, whose words seemed only “idle tales” to the apostles themselves; and then with logical demonstration to the cold reasoning intellect of St. Thomas; now to individual disciples walking on the common highway, and who only saw Him when He broke and blessed the bread, and it revealed to them why their hearts had so burned within them on the way; and then to the assembled Church with words of benediction and of peace. And thus still He and His Holy Spirit’s witness come--now to some tender soul who cannot reason, but can only love, with simply an angel’s message, which not only the world, but the Church, may for a moment think but an “idle tale”; and again to some consummate, lordly intellect, which is at last convinced by touching the nail-print and the riven side. Now He comes to solitary individuals on the dusty highway of life, who know not whence sprang every earnest pulsation of their burning hearts, till some day, perhaps in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, they see at last that it must have been He that was with them; and, again, He is present to the assembled Church when in some hour of danger it has shut the door, and then found that He is with them in the midst.

3. Do not think that you are not near to Christ, that He does not love you, because you have not had some one else’s experience, because you are not like some saint whose biography you admire. There has been a terrible tendency to magnify, in every age, some one sole idea of Christian usefulness and beauty. At one time it has been solely the ascetic, and again solely the active life. At one time it has been the purely contemplative, and again the exclusively intellectual. This has done much to rob many a sweet life of its hopefulness; to create in others an almost unconscious hypocrisy. Surely the Master’s life is a protest against it: “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus”--all utterly different and unlike natures. We are too ready to unduly exalt Mary at the expense of her sister and her brother. Many a Lazarus and many a Martha are full of sorrow and even despair because they are not like Mary. (T. T. Shore, M.A.)

Christian assurance

is--

I. The basis of the Christian life. Inasmuch as--

1. By it we have the first testimony of our filial relation to God.

2. It notifies to us all the benefits of the New Testament.

3. By it all that is involved in Christianity is made living and real to us.

II. The sustaining power of the Christian life.

1. As the inward spiritual testimony is our encouragement against defection.

2. As it is an effective solace in the hour of trial.

3. As it is the communion of that Spirit who is the strength of righteousness.

4. As it renders us non-susceptible in the hour of temptation.

III. The pledge of the future blessedness of the Christian life.

1. The fact of such a relation subsisting between God and the soul gives the highest warrant of eternal life. “If children, then heirs,” etc.

2. The character of this assurance as the work of the Divine Spirit is a testimony to its possible perpetuity.

3. In this assurance is involved the idea of a pledge--“the earnest of the Spirit” (verse 11).

Learn:

1. To cherish this assurance, especially by cultivating an obedient sensibility to the Holy Spirit’s suggestions.

2. To guard against anything that would grieve or quench the Holy Spirit. (Homiletic Quarterly.)


Verse 17

Romans 8:17

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.

Sonship: certainty and uncertainty about

It is not easy to imagine a more cautious, lawyer-like record than that of Lord Eldon’s, “I was born, I believe, on the 4th of June, 1751.” We may suppose that this hesitating statement refers to the date, and not to the fact of his birth. Many, however, are just as uncertain about their spiritual birth. It is a grand thing to be able to say, “We have passed from death unto life,” even though we may not be able to post a date to it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sons and heirs

God Himself is His greatest gift. The loftiest blessing which we can receive is that we should be heirs, possessors of God. The text tells us--

I. No inheritance without sonship,

1. The lower creatures are shut out from the gifts which belong to the higher forms of life, because these cannot find entrance into their nature. Man has higher gifts because he has higher capacities. In man there are more windows and doors knocked out. He can think, and feel, and desire, and will, and resolve; and so he stands on a higher level.

2. And so Spiritual blessings require a spiritual capacity for the reception of them; you cannot have the inheritance unless you are sons. Salvation is not chiefly a deliverance from outward consequences, but a renewal of the nature that makes these consequences certain.

3. But the inheritance is also future, and the same principle applies there. There is no heaven without sonship; because all its blessings are spiritual. It is not the golden harps, etc. that makes the heaven of heaven; but the possession of God. To dwell in His love, and to be filled with His light, and to walk for ever in the glory of His sunlit face, to do His will, and to bear His character stamped upon our foreheads--that is the glory and the perfectness to which we are aspiring. Do not then rest in the symbols that show us, darkly and far-off, what that future glory is.

4. Well then, if all that be true, what a flood of light does it cast upon the text! For who can possess God but they who love Him? who can love but they who know His love? How can there be fellowship betwixt Him and any one except the man who is a son because he hath received of the Divine nature, and in whom that Divine nature is growing up into a Divine likeness?

II. No sonship without a spiritual birth.

1. The Apostle John, in that most wonderful preface to his Gospel, teaches that sonship is not a relation into which we are born by natural birth, that we become sons after we are men, and that we become sons by a Divine act, the communication of a spiritual life, whereby we are born of God. The same apostle, in his Epistles, contrasts the sons of God who are known for such because they do righteousness, and the world which knew not Christ, and says, “In this the children of God are manifested and the children of the devil”--echoing thus Christ’s words, “If God were your Father, ye would love Me: ye are of your father, the devil.”

2. Nothing in all this contradicts the belief that all men are the children of God inasmuch as they are shaped by His Divine hand, and He has breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, But, notwithstanding, it still remains true that there are men created by God, loved and cared for by Him, for whom Christ died, who might be, but are not, sons of God.

3. Fatherhood! what does that word itself teach us? It involves that the Father and the child shall have kindred life, and that between the Father’s heart and the child’s heart there shall pass answering love, flashing backwards and forwards, like the lightning that touches the earth and rises from it again. A simple appeal to your own consciousness will decide if that be the condition of all men. No sonship except by spiritual birth; and if not such sonship, then the spirit of bondage. You are sons because born again, or slaves and “enemies by wicked works.”

III. No spiritual birth without Christ. If for sonship there must be a birth, the very symbol shows that such a process does not lie within our own power. The centre point of the gospel is this regeneration. If we understand that the gospel simply comes to make men live better, to work out a moral reformation--why, there is no need for a gospel at all. If the change were a simple change of habit and action on the part of men, we could do without a Christ. But if redemption be the giving of life from God, and the change of position in reference to God’s love and God’s law, neither of these two changes can a man effect for himself. No new birth without Christ; no escape from the old standing-place, “enemies to God by wicked works,” by anything that we can do. But Christ has effected an actual change in the aspect of the Divine government to us; and He has carried in the golden urn of His humanity a new spirit and a new life which He has set down in the midst of the race; and the urn was broken on the Cross of Calvary, and the water flowed out, and whithersoever that water comes there is life, and whithersoever it comes not there is death!

IV. No Christ without faith. Unless we are wedded to Jesus Christ by the simple act of trust in His mercy and His power, Christ is nothing to us. We may talk about Christ for ever. He may be to us much that is very precious; but the question of questions, on which everything else depends, is, Am I trusting to Him as my Divine Redeemer? am I resting in Him as the Son of God? Ceremonies, notions, beliefs, formal participation in worship is nothing. Christ is everything to him that trusts Him. Christ is nothing but a judge and a condemnation to him that trusts Him not. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Heirs of God

We begin in order with the privilege itself, which belongs to God’s children by virtue of their adoption: “And if children, then heirs.” That all God’s children are heirs. Whosoever do partake of the relation, they do partake of the inheritance. This is suitable and agreeable to some other places of Scripture (Galatians 3:28-29; Gal_4:7; Titus 3:7). Now there is a various account which may be given hereof unto us, which we may take in these following particulars. First, their Father’s affection and special love which He bears unto them. Affection has a very great influence oftentimes upon an inheritance. There is affection and there is the constancy and immutability of it. Secondly, as there is their Father’s affection, so there is likewise their Father’s promise; as we know how Bathsheba urged it to David in the case of Solomon, against Adonijah (1 Kings 1:17). Thirdly, their very relation and condition wherein they are it gives them right and title hereto. Fourthly, the largeness and vastness of the estate, that is another advancement hereunto. All God’s children are heirs, because there is means enough for them all. But here it may be seasonably demanded, What is it that God’s children do inherit, and are heirs unto? First, for the things of this life. They are heirs of them, and have a special right and title to them. “All things are yours,” says the apostle, and amongst the rest he reckons the world (1 Corinthians 3:21-22). It is true that these things are not their portion. But yet they are oftentimes their possession. God’s children they have an interest and a propriety even in temporal blessings; and such as none other else have besides themselves, for they have a sanctified right in them. No good thing will God withhold from them that walk uprightly. Secondly, they are heirs more especially of the things of a better; and they are reducible to two heads, as the Scripture itself reduces them. Grace and glory (Psalms 84:11)--the one considered as the means, and the other considered as the end. God’s children they are heirs of them both. First, for grace and holiness. This is not a small kind of portion which God’s children have an interest in. “Heirs of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). All the graces of the Spirit, they belong to the children of God, and they are heirs, as it were, of them. Secondly, which is here principally to be understood: they are heirs of glory, and so frequently denominated. “Heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14); “heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5); “heirs of eternal life” (Titus 3:7; Colossians 1:12). This we have assured unto us by the firstfruits of the Spirit within us. We may see what we are likely to have hereafter by what already we partake of here, in the beginnings of heaven to us. In what proportion this inheritance of the saints is dispensed and distributed unto them. Because it is said here that they all have a share in this business. That though all God’s children are heirs of eternal happiness and glory, yet they are not all of them in the same degree partakers of it. As a father may give portions to all his children, but one may have a greater portion than the rest. It is said of Elkanah, in his carriage to Hannah, that he gave her a worthy portion, or, as some read it, a double portion. And Benjamin’s lot from Joseph it was five times as much as of the rest of his brethren. Thus is it likewise in God’s dispensations. He gives a portion to all His children, but He gives not the same portion to them all. Though the same for kind and specification, yet not the same for degrees and intention. All the saints shall come to heaven, but some may go further in than the rest. Therefore this should stir us all up to an endeavour after the greatest measure that may be. And now for the life and application of the whole doctrine itself to our selves. We may draw it forth in a threefold improvement especially. First: Here is that which may satisfy God’s children which are in a mean and low condition here in the world, as it is possible for them to be, and as sometimes they are. Though they may be destitute of many things here, yet they are heirs of heaven. Secondly, it further teaches God’s children to live answerably to this noble condition, and the inheritance which they are appointed unto. First, in a holy magnanimity and nobleness of spirit. Secondly, in making good their titles, and clearing their evidences for heaven. Those who are great heirs they are careful to make good their inheritances, and to prove their right and interest in them, Thirdly, in more cheerful service and obedience to God’s commands. We should henceforth serve Him not as bare hirelings, but as those who are sons and heirs. Fourthly, take heed of losing it and parting with it upon any terms whatsoever. Take heed of Esau, that parted with his birthright. Lastly, seeing God’s children are heirs, and are heirs of glory, we see then from hence the vanity of those persons who would make salvation to be a matter of merit. The second is the explication or amplification of this privilege to them, and that consists of two branches. The first is taken from the person that they are heirs of: “heirs of God.” And the second is taken from the person that they are heirs with: “joint heirs with Christ.” We begin with the first of these branches, viz., the person that they are: “Heirs of God.” This is added here by the Apostle Paul both by way of explication and of enlargement. When we hear that God’s children are heirs we might be ready, it may be, presently to dream of some earthly inheritance. They are heirs of God, as the giver of the inheritance; and they are heirs of God, as the inheritance itself which is given unto them. First, they are so relative. Heirs of God, as related to Him for such a purpose as this is. It is He that does entitle them to all the things. They are heirs of God, they have a worthy and an honourable inheritance. There is some credit in being heir unto Him. Secondly, in point of profit, heirs of God. Heirs of God; therefore not only honourable, but rich. They must needs be great heirs, because He is great Himself and has great revenues (1 Corinthians 10:26). Thirdly, in point of conveniency and accommodation. There is a great matter in point of inheritance. The manner of ordering and disposing of it to the best advantage of him that shall heir it, and as to the circumstances wherewith he does enjoy it. Secondly, heirs of God. They are such as do inherit God Himself. He that is their Father is also their portion. And He which gives them the inheritance is the inheritance itself which He gives them. Sometimes the Lord is pleased to account His people to be His inheritance. “The Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:9). And sometimes again He is pleased to declare Himself to be theirs (Psalms 73:25-26; Lamentations 3:24; Psalms 16:5; Genesis 16:1-16; Gen_17:1). Now for the opening of this point unto us, that we may know what this business is of inheriting God Himself. The meaning of it is this--to have full interest in all His attributes. His wisdom is theirs, to direct them. His power is theirs, to preserve them. His goodness is theirs, to relieve them. His justice is theirs, to avenge them. His faithfulness is theirs, to support them. Every good is so much the more excellent, and the rather to be prized by us, as it is anything more large and comprehensive, and is containing of other things in it. Why thus it is now to be an heir of God. We have in Him everything else. All the beams of comfort in the creature they are derived from this Sun. And so again, in the want of other things, he may very much comfort himself in this. Alas, what are the stars to the sun? And what are the streams to the fountain? The second is taken from the person whom they are heirs with--“Joint heirs with Christ.” Believers, they do partake of the same inheritance with the Son of God Himself. First, here is this implied, that Christ Himself is an heir, and an heir of God. Thus Hebrews 1:2 He is called “the heir of all things.” Again, besides, as He is an heir by nature, so He is also an heir by donation. Therefore He is said in the place before alleged to be appointed heir. The Father hath given all things to Christ (Matthew 11:27). Thus is Christ an heir by gift. Therefore we see what great cause we have to please Him, and to endeavour to be in favour with Him. We see how it is amongst men. How careful they are to give contentment to an heir if it be but of some ordinary inheritance. The second is that which is expressed, that as Christ Himself is an heir, so God’s children are heirs also with Him (Galatians 4:7; Matthew 19:28). This must needs be so. First, in regard of that union which is knit betwixt Christ and His Church. God’s children, they are members of Christ, therefore they must be heirs with Him (1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:22). Secondly, this is grounded in His promise which He hath made to us. Thirdly, His prayer for us (John 17:20-24). Fourthly, His office towards us as He is the Mediator of the Church. Therefore all things which come to us they must come to us through His hands. Now the life of all to ourselves comes to this. First, we see here how nearly it concerns us to find ourselves to be ingrafted into Christ and to become members of Him. Secondly, we may from hence see the certainty and infallibility of a Christian’s salvation. We are joint-heirs with Christ. Therefore He being glorified, we shall be glorified also. Thirdly, we should hence learn to love Christ, and to give Him the glory of all. Considering that all we have it is from Him, and by Him. If we are elected, we are elected in Christ. If we are justified, we are justified for Christ. If we are sanctified we are sanctified through Christ. If we are glorified we are glorified with Christ. Christ is all in all unto us. (Thomas Horton, D.D.)

Heirs of God

I. The privileges of God’s children.

1. Heirs of God.

2. Joint heirs with Christ.

3. Glorified together.

II. The connection between the privilege and the relation.

1. None but children.

2. All children participate.

III. The condition of final glory.

1. If so be we suffer.

2. With Christ.

3. For Him.

4. Like Him. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Heirs of God

I. The ground of heirship.

1. It does not follow from ordinary creation. It is not “if creatures, then heirs.”

2. Neither is it found in natural descent. It is not “if children of Abraham then heirs” (Romans 9:7-13).

3. Nor can it come by meritorious service. It is not “if servants, then heirs” (Galatians 4:30).

4. Nor by ceremonial observances. It is not “if circumcised or baptized, then heirs” (Romans 4:9-12).

5. Our being born again of God by His Spirit is the one ground of heirship. Let us inquire--

II. The universality of the heirship. “Children, then heirs.”

1. The principle of priority as to time cannot enter into this question. The elder and the younger in the Divine family are equally heirs.

2. The love of God is the same to them all.

3. They are all blessed under the same promise (Hebrews 6:17).

4. They are all equally related to that great First-born Son through whom their heirship comes to them. He is the first-born among many brethren.

5. The inheritance is large enough for them all. They are not all prophets, preachers, apostles, or even well-instructed and eminent saints; they are not all rich and influential; they are not all strong and useful; but they are all heirs. Let us, then, all live as such, and rejoice in our portion.

III. The inheritance which is the subject of heirship. “Heirs of God.”

1. Our inheritance is Divinely great. We are--Heirs of--

2. Whereas we are said to be “heirs of God,” it must mean that we are heirs of--

IV. The partnership of the claimants to heirship. “And joint heirs with Christ.”

1. This is the test of our heirship. We are not heirs except with Christ, through Christ, and in Christ.

2. This sweetens it all. Fellowship with Jesus is our best portion.

3. This shows the greatness of the inheritance. Worthy of Jesus. Such an inheritance as the Father gives to the well-beloved.

4. This ensures it to us; for Jesus will not lose it, and His title-deed and ours are one and indivisible.

5. This reveals and endears His love. That He should become a partner with us in all things is love unbounded.

6. This joint heirship binds us faster to Jesus, since we are nothing, and have nothing apart from Him.

Conclusion--

1. Let us joyfully accept the present suffering with Christ, for it is part of the heritage.

2. Let us believe in the ultimate glorification and anticipate it with joy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Heirs of God

I. Then the Christian is going to a rich home and a glorious future. Therefore, he ought not to be too much elated or depressed by the pleasures or privations of the journey. An eye to the rest and glory at the end should keep him from getting weary of the way.

II. Then the Christian should not debase himself by an undue attachment to the things of time. How unreasonable to see an “heir of God” so swallowed up in the world that he has neither taste nor time to pray, or make suitable efforts to get ready for His Heavenly inheritance.

III. Then no man should speak of having made sacrifices in becoming a Christian.

IV. Then an heir of God should be made “meet for his inheritance.” Without a meetness for it, the inheritance would be a burden rather than a blessing.

V. Then, in securing this meetness, the Christian may confidently expect Divine aid. (T. Kelly)
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Heirs of God

I. The privilege of God’s children.

1. As the law of nature and the institutions of society authorise children to expect the possession of property which once belonged to their parents, so God has pledged Himself that He will act the part of a Father.

2. Looked at with the eye of sense, the inheritance of God’s children on this world is not much to be envied; but, in reality, whatever be their outward lot, they are all the while richer than the richest, and greater than the greatest.

3. They may be said to be heirs of God even at present, inasmuch as they are entitled, by virtue of His covenant, to as much of what God is, and has, as shall be requisite for their welfare.

4. Of the future inheritance we have various accounts. It is--

5. Further particulars are included in the phrase, “joint-heirs with Christ,” and “glorified together,” viz:--

II. The connection between this privilege and our relation to God as His children. “If children, then heirs.” This, of course, implies--

1. That none but children will be recognised as heirs, or be allowed to inherit.

2. That all children are heirs. In the arrangements of human society, and it often happens that the estates descend exclusively to the male children, or to the eldest. But this is not the rule which God will adept. “If children”--it matters not whether sons or daughters--“then heirs.” Nor will this inheritance lose any value from being distributed among so many. Every man in heaven will feel himself much the happier, because he will know there are so many millions of ransomed spirits who share the same bliss.

III. The way in which we are to walk so as to secure the actual bestowment of this privilege. First of all, to become children, we must apply to God in the way of penitence and faith that our sentence of alienation may be reversed. But if children, we are not to conclude that there is no further need of watchfulness or prayer. We are to remember the other clause:--“If so be,” etc. Not that the sufferings of the saints are--like those of Christ--meritorious. Yet they may be fitly termed “suffering with Christ”--

1. Because a large portion of the suffering of good people comes upon them in consequence of their devotedness to the truth, and cause, and service of Christ. If we would forsake Christ we should then escape much of--

2. If it be endured in the temper and spirit of Christ, who said, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” The servant is not above his lord. Ought the private soldier to complain of privations or perils to which his general submits? It is not hard or unreasonable that we suffer with Christ before we are glorified, because the subsequent glory will far more than compensate the previous suffering (verse 18). Conclusion: We learn from this subject the extreme desirableness and importance of being found among the regenerated people of God. Many of you have realised these privileges. Then--

1. Be thankful.

2. Be submissive to your worldly lot.

3. Be consistent, be heavenly minded.

4. Remember what God requires of you in order to your being glorified--that you should suffer with Him. (J. Bunting, D.D.)

The heirs of God

I. The supposition. “If children, then heirs.”

1. Unquestionably, in a general sense, God is the Father of all mankind. But the New Testament continually speaks of a higher form of paternity and childhood. This men may or may not sustain. If all men, without exception, were the children of God there would be no “if” about it, just as any hypothetical expression is unknown in heaven; or if all men were so placed that it was impossible for them ever to sustain any relation to God, but the general one of creatures, then, also, there would be no room for question, just as there is none in respect to the brutes that perish, or to the devils and the damned in hell. The possibility of using conditional language, in relation to men, involves the idea that while they may be, in the language of Scripture, “children of the wicked one,” they may also be sons of God in the highest and most emphatic acceptation. In relation to this subject, we may employ the language, “Howbeit, that is not first that is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual.” In neither case, however, does it necessarily follow that the spiritual must succeed the natural. Men may live and never be changed in the spirit of their minds; and they may die, and not rise after the likeness of the Lord’s glorious body. But if any man is a child of God, then the Scripture teaches that this is his second state, not his first; that he has undergone, or been the subject of, a process by which he has passed from the one to the other.

2. This process is described as being “born of the Spirit,” “created anew,” “quickened,” “raised from the dead,” etc., and we cannot suppose that this is accomplished by the mechanical agency of any outward rite. It is represented as connected with repentance and faith in Christ.

3. In addition to an actual spiritual birth, we have the frequent use of the word “adoption,” to illustrate the process by which man passes from his first to his second condition. This word is used in allusion to the reception into a family of a slave or a stranger. In like manner men, who, contemplated as sinners, are strangers, foreigners, and in bondage to the devil, are taken out of this state of distance and degradation, and, by an act of God’s grace adopted into His family and constituted His sons.

4. And however humbling it may be to think of the necessity in which we stand of adoption and renewal, yet that nature is not to be disparaged, respecting which such things are possible. A brute animal could not be adopted and made a child by man; nor if it were could it be made the subject of human sympathies and affections. And so, unless man, in spite of all his corruption, had within him a nature distinguished by moral and religious capacity, it would be impossible for him to be either adopted by or born of God; and that nature of which this can be said, however ruined now, must have been originally great and God-like.

II. The distinguished privilege.

1. An heir is one who, by legal or natural right, possesses a title to an inheritance. A stranger may be constituted such, in virtue of the will and deed of another; a child may be such from natural relationship. Both these ideas are employed in Scripture to illustrate the subject. Men, considered as guilty, need pardon or justification, which is a legal as well as merciful act on the part of God, by which the relation of men to law is altered. It is in connection with this act that adoption is more especially to be regarded, and the heirship of the adopted as flowing from that act. Thus Paul speaks in the Epistle to Titus--“being justified, we are made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life.” As possessing a corrupt nature men need to be regenerated, in virtue of which they become God’s children, not merely by a legal or declaratory act, but by the positive sanctification of their nature, and then heirship results by way of natural consequence. “Thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir.”

2. “Heirs of God.” It would seem to be impossible to have too high ideas of what may be anticipated by those who are the children and heirs of a Divine Parent; of Him who created and who possesses all things; whose paternal affection is measureless, and who even speaks of Himself as the portion of His people.

3. “Joint heirs with Christ.” There is something in this expression more than the idea of filial relationship to God. That to which the Christian is heir is not merely the inheritance of a son, but of such a son as Christ is represented to be: “the only begotten and well-beloved of the Father, in whom He is ever well pleased.” The Church is His body, and whatever glory invests the head, the members participate.

Conclusion: From all this we learn--

1. The love and power of God.

2. The ultimate security of the Church.

3. Obligations and motives to obedience.

4. Encouragement to all anxious and earnest men, who are seriously inquiring for and seeking after God. (T. Binney)
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The believer’s heirship

This little word “if” intimates to us that all men are not children of God. No doubt there is a sense in which His intelligent creatures generally may be regarded as His offspring. But the title “sons of God” is confined exclusively to those who have been re-created in His image.

I. How, then, may we know whether we be the children of God or not?

1. By the consciousness we have that we have complied with those conditions of repentance and faith, on the fulfilment of which the privilege is suspended.

2. By believing the testimony of the Word, which declares that all those who thus repent and believe are acknowledged to be the children of God.

3. By considering the fruits of grace in our lives, and then comparing these with the characteristics of sonship which are delineated in the Word of God.

4. By the fact that we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

5. By the direct witnessing of the Spirit itself, with and to our spirits, that we are the children of God.

II. “ if children, then heirs.” The children of the wealthy and noble are the heirs of nobility and wealth. Now, it is not strange that God’s children should also be heirs; for who is so rich and noble as their Heavenly Father?

1. They come into possession of their inheritance, not on the death of their Father (for He can never die), but when they reach their majority. This occurs at different periods of spiritual life, and under varying circumstances of purification and trial; for some are no sooner born of God than they are ready for translation, while others have, like the Captain of their salvation, to “be made perfect through suffering.”

2. That inheritance is--

III. “joint heirs with Christ.”

1. Our heavenly happiness is to be of the same nature as His. If His consists of transcendent holiness, and dignity, authority, and power, then ours will comprehend the same elements of felicity.

2. Our happiness will be realised in the same state, or place, or sphere as His. Where He is, we shall be also.

3. Our inheritance has been purchased, or procured by the same means as His. By His sufferings, for after these came the glory; and all those sufferings were endured for us. Jesus has conquered for us our inheritance by the conquest of His own.

In conclusion:

1. Be humble. The heirs of earthly kingdoms are apt to be elated with pride in proportion to the magnitude of their prospective possessions. But with the sons of God, the clearer their views of future glory, the more astounded are they with the greatness of the gift of God; and this proportionally makes them feel their own unworthiness.

2. Be hearty. How much owest thou to thy Lord? How, then, shouldst thou love, praise, own, obey, and serve Him!

3. Be holy. Thou art an heir of glory. How, then, shouldest thou prepare for it? (T. G. Horton.)

The Christian’s heirship

I was in a provincial town some time ago, when I was told of a nobleman who for many years worked as a porter in the railway station, because he did not know his true position in the world, till one day a gentleman entered the station, and after saluting him said, “Sir, may I ask your name?” “John--,” was the answer. “I have come to tell you that you are the Earl of--, and entitled to a large estate,” replied the visitor. Do you think that man stood about the station touching his cap for tips any longer? Not he. He took possession of his inheritance at once. That is just what we Christians should do.

The joint heirs and their Divine portion

Let us--

I. Consider the terms of the will.

1. Our right to the Divine heritage stands or falls with Christ’s right to the same.

(a) If there be any flaw in the will, then it is no more valid for Christ than it is for us.

(b) Perhaps there may be a suit in law made against the will. But then it is Christ’s interest that is at stake as well as mine. If Satan bring an accusation against us, that accusation is made against Christ, for we are one with Him. You must enter your suit against the Head if you would attack the members.

(c) Yet suppose, after the will has been proved, it shall be found that nothing is left to distribute, or a debt against the estate? Why, if we get nothing, Christ gets nothing; if there should be no heaven for us, there is no heaven for Christ.

(d) And then suppose that, though there be something left, yet it be a mere trifle; that heaven should be but inferior joy, such as might be found even in this world. Then saints with little glory means Christ with little.

(a) There is no flaw in God’s will with regard to Christ, and He has said, “ I will that they whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am.”

(b) No suit in law can stand against Christ. He has satisfied God’s law. Who shall accuse the Redeemer? Nor can any creature accuse His saints, nor infringe upon our title so long as His title stands.

(c) And there is no fear that the Son of God, the infinitely rich, will have a trifling portion. And “all things are yours, for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

2. If we are joint heirs with Christ, we legally have no inheritance apart from Him. The signature of the one will not avail to alienate the estate, nor can he sell it by his own right, nor have it all at his own separate disposal. You have no right to heaven in yourself; your right lieth in Christ. The promises are yea and amen, but only in Christ Jesus, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance.

3. Christ, as co-heir, has so identified Himself with us, that His rights are not to be viewed apart from ours. Before we leave this point, note what an honour is conferred upon us. To have anything to do with a great man is thought to be a distinguished privilege; but what honour is conferred on the believer to be joint heir with the King of kings I Lift up thine head; think no man’s princeship worth thy coveting; thou art greater than the greatest, for thou art joint heir with Christ.

II. View the estates.

1. The inheritance of suffering.

2. Now let us march joyfully to the other part of the inheritance. As in matters of wills everything should be proven and sworn to, let us have the evidence of God, that cannot lie.

III. Administer the effects.

1. There is one part of the property which we may enjoy at once. Take your cross up and bear it with joy. Resignation takes the weight out of the cross, but a proud spirit that will not bow to God’s will changes a wooden cross into an iron one. Say, “I count it to