corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.10.20
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Romans 8

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

Chapter 17

THE JUSTIFIED: THEIR LIFE BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Romans 8:1-11

THE sequence of the eighth chapter of the Epistle on the seventh is a study always interesting and fruitful. No one can read the two chapters over without feeling the strong connection between them, a connection at once of contrast and of complement. Great indeed is the contrast between the paragraph Romans 7:7-25 and the eighth chapter. The stern analysis of the one, unrelieved save by the fragment of thanksgiving at its close, (and even this is followed at once by a restatement of the mysterious dualism,) is to the revelations and triumphs of the other as an almost starless night, stifling and electric, to the splendour of a midsummer morning with a yet more glorious morrow for its future. And there is complement as well as contrast. The day is related to the night, which has prepared us for it, as hunger prepares for food. Precisely what was absent from the former passage is supplied richly in the latter. There the Name of the Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the Life Giver," was unheard. Here the fact and power of the Holy Spirit are present everywhere, so present that there is no other portion of the whole Scripture, unless we except the Redeemer’s own Paschal Discourse, which presents us with so great a wealth of revelation on this all-precious theme. And here we find the secret that is to "stint the strife" which we have just witnessed, and which in our own souls we know so well. Here is the way "how to walk and to please God," [1 Thessalonians 4:1] in our justified life. Here is the way how, not to be as it were the victims of "the body," and the slaves of "the flesh," but to "do to death the body’s practices" in a continuous exercise of inward power, and to "walk after the Spirit." Here is the resource on which we may be forever joyfully paying "the debt" of such a walk; giving our redeeming Lord His due, the value of His purchase, even our willing, loving surrender, in the all-sufficient strength of "the Holy Ghost given unto us."

Noteworthy indeed is the manner of the introduction of this glorious truth. It appears not without preparation and intimation; we have heard already of the Holy Ghost in the Christian’s life, Romans 5:5; Romans 7:6. The heavenly water has been seen and heard in its flow; as in a limestone country the traveller may see and hear, through fissures in the fields, the buried but living floods. But here the truth of the Spirit, like those floods, finding at last their exit at some rough cliff’s base, pours itself into the light, and animates all the scene. In such an order and manner of treatment there is a spiritual and also a practical lesson. We are surely reminded, as to the experiences of the Christian life, that in a certain sense we possess the Holy Ghost, yea, in His fulness, from the first hour of our possession of Christ. We are reminded also that it is at least possible on the other hand that we may need so to realise and to use our covenant possession, after sad experiments in other directions, that life shall be thenceforth a new experience of liberty and holy joy. We are reminded meanwhile that such a "new departure," when it occurs, is new rather from our side than from the Lord’s. The water was running all the while below the rocks. Insight and faith, given by His grace, have not called it from above, but as it were from within, liberating what was there.

The practical lesson of this is important for the Christian teacher and pastor. On the one hand, let him make very much in his instructions, public and private, of the revelation of the Spirit. Let him leave no room. so far as he can do it, for doubt or oblivion in his friend’s minds about the absolute necessity of the fulness of the presence and power of the Holy One, if life is to be indeed Christian. Let him describe as boldly and fully as the Word describes it what life may be, must be, where that sacred fulness dwells; how assured, how happy within, how serviceable around, how pure, free, and strong, how heavenly, how practical, how humble. Let him urge any who have yet to learn it to learn all this in their own experience, claiming on their knees the mighty gift of God. On the other hand, let him be careful not to overdraw his theory, and to prescribe too rigidly the methods of experience. Not all believers fail in the first hours of their faith to realise, and to use, the fulness of what the Covenant gives them. And where that realisation comes later than our first sight of Christ, as with so many of us it does come, not always are the experience and action the same. To one it is a crisis of memorable consciousness, a private Pentecost. Another wakes up as from sleep to find the unsuspected treasure at his hand-hid from him till then by nothing thicker than shadows. And another is aware that somehow, he knows not how, he has come to use the Presence and Power as a while ago he did not; he has passed a frontier-but he knows not when.

In all these cases, meanwhile, the man had, in one great respect, possessed the great gift all along. In covenant, in Christ, it was his. As he stepped by penitent faith into the Lord, he trod on ground which, wonderful to say, was all his own. And beneath it ran, that moment, the River of the water of life. Only, he had to discover, to draw, and to apply.

Again, the relation we have just indicated between our possession of Christ and our possession of the Holy Ghost is a matter of the utmost moment, spiritual and practical, presented prominently in this passage. All along, as we read the passage, we find linked inextricably together the truths of the Spirit and of the Son. "The law of the Spirit of life" is bound up with "Christ Jesus." The Son of God was sent, to take our flesh, to die as our Sin Offering, that we might "walk according to the Spirit." "The Spirit of God" is "the Spirit of Christ." The presence of the Spirit of Christ is such that, where He dwells, "Christ is in you." Here we read at once a caution, and a truth of the richest positive blessing. We are warned to remember that there is no separable "Gospel of the Spirit." Not for a moment are we to advance, as it were, from the Lord Jesus Christ to a higher or deeper region, ruled by the Holy Ghost. All the reasons, methods, and issues of the work of the Holy Ghost are eternally and organically connected with the Son of God. We have Him at all because Christ died. We have life because He has joined us to Christ living. Our experimental proof of His fulness is that Christ to us is all. And we are to be on the guard against any exposition of His work and glory which shall for one moment leave out those facts. But not only are we to be on our guard; we are to rejoice in the thought that the mighty, the endless work of the Spirit is all done always upon that sacred Field, Christ Jesus. And every day we are to draw upon the indwelling Giver of Life to do for us His own, His characteristic work; to show us "our King in His beauty," and to "fill our springs of thought and will with Him."

To return to the connection of the two great chapters. We have seen how close and pregnant it is; the contrast and the complement. But it is also true, surely, that the eighth chapter is not merely and only the counterpart to the seventh. Rather the eighth, though the seventh applies to it a special motive, is also a review of the whole previous argument of the Epistle, or rather the crown on the whole previous structure. It begins with a deep reassertion of our Justification; a point unnoticed in Romans 7:7-25. It does this, using an inferential particle, "therefore," αρα -to which, surely, nothing in the just preceding verses is related. And then it unfolds not only the present acceptance and present liberty of the saints, but also their amazing future of glory, already indicated, especially in Romans 5:2. And its closing strains are full of the great first wonder, our Acceptance. "Them He justified"; "It is God that justifieth." So we forbear to take chap. 8 as simply the successor and counterpart of chap. 7. It is this, in some great respects. But it is more; it is the meeting point of all the great truths of grace which we have studied, their meeting point in the sea of holiness and glory.

As we approach the first paragraph of the chapter, we ask ourselves what is its message on the whole, its true envoi. It is our possession of the Holy Spirit of God, for purposes of holy loyalty and holy liberty. The foundation of that fact is once more indicated, in the brief assertion of our full Justification in Christ, and His propitiatory Sacrifice (Romans 8:3). Then from those words, "in Christ," he opens this ample revelation of our possession, in our union with Christ, of the Spirit who, having joined us to Him, now liberates us in Him, not from condemnation only, but from sin’s dominion. If we are indeed in Christ, the Spirit is in us, dwelling in us, and we are in the Spirit. And so, possessed and filled by the blessed Power, we indeed have power to walk and to obey. Nothing is mechanical, automatic; we are fully persons still; He who annexes and possesses our personality does not for a moment violate it. But then, He does possess it; and the Christian, so possessing and so possessed, is not only bound but enabled, in humble but practical reality, in a liberty otherwise unknown, to "fulfil the just demand of the Law," "to please God," in a life lived not to self but to Him.

Thus, as we shall see in detail as we proceed, the Apostle, while he still firmly keeps his hand, so to speak, on Justification, is occupied fully now with its issue, Holiness. And this issue he explains as not merely a matter of grateful feeling, the outcome of the loyalty supposed to be natural to the pardoned. He gives it as a matter of divine power, secured to them under the Covenant of their acceptance.

Shall we not enter on our expository study full of holy expectation, and with unspeakable desires awake, to receive all things which in that Covenant are ours? Shall we not remember, over every sentence, that in it Christ speaks by Paul, and speaks to us? For us also, as for our spiritual ancestors, all this is true. It shall be true in us also, as it was in them.

We shall be humbled as well as gladdened; and thus Our gladness will be sounder. We shall find that whatever be our "walk according to the Spirit," and our veritable dominion over sin, we shall still have "the practices of the body" with which to deal-of the body which still is "dead because of sin," "mortal," not yet "redeemed." We shall be practically reminded, even by the most joyous exhortations, that possession and personal condition are one thing in covenant, and another in realisation; that we must watch, pray, examine self, and deny it, if we would "be" what we "are." Yet all this is but the salutary accessory to the blessed main burthen of every line. We are accepted in the Lord. In the Lord we have the Eternal Spirit for our inward Possessor. Let us arise, and "walk humbly," but also in gladness, "with our God."

St. Paul speaks again, perhaps after a silence, and Tertius writes down for the first time the now immortal and beloved words. So no adverse sentence is there now, in view of this great fact of our redemption, for those in Christ Jesus. "In Christ Jesus"-mysterious union, blessed fact, wrought by the Spirit who linked us sinners to the Lord. For the law of the Spirit of the life which is in Christ Jesus freed me, the man of the conflict just described, from the law of sin and of death. The "law," the preceptive will, which legislates the covenant of blessing for all who are in Christ, has set him free. By a strange, pregnant paradox, so we take it, the Gospel-the message which carries with it acceptance, and also holiness, by faith-is here called a "law." For while it is free grace to us it is also immovable ordinance with God. The amnesty is His edict. It is by heavenly "statute" that sinners, believing, possess the Holy Spirit in possessing Christ. And here, with a sublime abruptness and directness, that great gift of the Covenant, the Spirit, for which the Covenant gift of Justification was given, is put forward as the Covenant’s characteristic and crown. It is for the moment as if this were all-that "in Christ Jesus" we, I, are under the fat which assures to us the fulness of the Spirit. And this "law," unlike the stern "letter" of Sinai, has actually "freed me." It has endowed me not only with place but with power, in which to live emancipated from a rival law, the law of sin and of death. And what is that rival "law"? We dare to say, it is the preceptive will of Sinai; "Do this, and thou shalt live." This is a hard saying; for in itself that very Law has been recently vindicated as holy, and just, and good, and spiritual. And only a few lines above in the Epistle we have heard of a "law of sin" which is "served by the flesh." And we should unhesitatingly explain this "law" to be identical with that but for the next verse here, a still nearer context, in which "the law" is unmistakably the divine moral Code, considered however as "impotent." Must not this and that be the same? And to call that sacred Code "the Law of sin and of death" is not to say that it is sinful and deathful. It need only mean, and we think it does mean, that it is sin’s occasion, and death’s warrant, by the unrelieved collision of its holiness with fallen man’s will. It must command; he, being what he is, must rebel. He rebels; it must condemn. Then comes his Lord to die for him, and to rise again; and the Spirit comes, to unite him to his Lord. And now, from the Law as provoking the helpless, guilty will, and as claiming the sinner’s penal death-behold the man is "freed." For-(the process is now explained at large) the impossible of the Law-what it could not do, for this was not its function, even to enable us sinners to keep its precept from the soul-God, when He sent His own Son in likeness of flesh and sin, Incarnate, in our identical nature, under all those conditions of earthly life which for us are sin’s vehicles and occasions, and as Sin Offering, expiatory and reconciling, sentenced sin in the flesh; not pardoned it, observe, but sentenced it. He ordered it to execution; He killed its claim and its power for all who are in Christ. And this, "in the flesh," making man’s earthly conditions the scene of sin’s defeat, for our everlasting encouragement in our "life in the flesh." And what was the aim and issue? That the righteous demand of the Law might be fulfilled in us, us who walk not flesh-wise, but Spirit-wise; that we, accepted in Christ, and using the Spirit’s power in the daily "walk" of circumstance and experience, might be liberated from the life of self-will, and meet the will of God with simplicity and joy.

Such, and nothing else or less, was the Law’s "righteous demand"; an obedience not only universal but also cordial. For its first requirement, "Thou shalt have no other God," meant, in the spiritual heart of it, the dethronement of self from its central place, and the session there of the Lord. But this could never be while there was a reckoning still unsettled between the man and God. Friction there must be while God’s Law remained not only violated but unsatisfied, unatoned. And so it necessarily remained, till the sole adequate Person, one with God, one with man, stepped into the gap; our Peace, our Righteousness, and also by the Holy Ghost our Life. At rest because of His sacrifice, at work by the power of His Spirit, we are now free to love, and divinely enabled to walk in love. Meanwhile the dream of an unsinning perfectness, such as could make a meritorious claim, is not so much negatived as precluded, put far out of the question. For the central truth of the new position is that THE LORD has fully dealt, for us, with the Law’s claim that man shall "deserve" acceptance. "Boasting" is inexorably "excluded," to the last, from this new kind of law fulfilling life. For the "fulfilment" which means legal satisfaction is forever taken out of our hands by Christ, and only that humble "fulfilment" is ours which means a restful, unanxious, reverent, unreserved loyalty in practice. To this now our "mind," our cast and gravitation of soul, is brought, in the life of acceptance, and in the power of the Spirit. For they who are flesh-wise, the unchanged children of the self-life, think, "mind," have moral affinity and converse with, the things of the flesh; but they who are Spirit-wise, think the things of the Spirit, His love, joy, peace, and all that holy "fruit." Their liberated and Spirit-bearing life now goes that way, in its true bias. For the mind, the moral affinity, of the flesh, of the self-life, is death; it involves the ruin of the soul, in condemnation, and in separation from God; but the mind of the Spirit, the affinity given to the believer by the indwelling Holy One, is life and peace; it implies union with Christ, our life and our acceptance; it. is the state of soul in which He is realised. Because-this absolute antagonism of the two "minds" is such "because"-the "mind" of the flesh is personal hostility towards God; for to God’s Law it is not subject. For indeed it cannot be subject to it; -those who are in flesh, surrendered to the life of self as their law, cannot please God, "cannot meet the wish" of Him whose loving but absolute claim is to be Lord of the whole man.

"They cannot": it is a moral impossibility. "The Law of God" is, "Thou shalt love Me with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself"; the mind of the flesh is, "I will love my self and its will first and most." Let this be disguised as it may, even from the man himself; it is always the same thing in its essence. It may mean a defiant choice of open evil. It may mean a subtle and almost evanescent preference of literature, or art, or work, or home, to God’s will as such. It is in either case "the mind of the flesh," a thing which cannot be refined and educated into holiness, but must be surrendered at discretion, as its eternal enemy.

But you (there is a glad emphasis on "you") are not in flesh, but in Spirit, surrendered to the indwelling Presence as your law and secret, on the assumption that (he suggests not weary misgivings but a true examination) God’s Spirit dwells in you; has His home in your hearts, humbly welcomed into a continuous residence. But if anyone has not Christ’s Spirit, (who is the Spirit as of the Father so of the Son, sent by the Son, to reveal and to impart Him,) that man is not His. He may bear his Lord’s name, he may be externally a Christian, he may enjoy the divine Sacraments of union; but he has not "the Thing." The Spirit, evidenced by His holy fruit, is no Indweller there; and the Spirit is our vital bond with Christ. But if Christ is, thus by the Spirit, in you, dwelling by faith in the hearts which the Spirit has, "strengthened" to receive Christ [Ephesians 3:16-17] - true, the body is dead, because of sin, the primeval sentence still holds its way "there"; the body is deathful still, it is the body of the Fall; but the Spirit is life, He is in that body, your secret of power and peace eternal, because of righteousness, because of the merit of your Lord, in which you are accepted, and which has won for you this wonderful Spirit-life.

Then even for the body there is assured a glorious future, organically one with this living present. Let us listen as he goes on: But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus, the slain Man, from the dead, dwells in you, He who raised from the dead Christ Jesus, the Man so revealed and glorified as the Anointed Saviour, shall also bring to life your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit, dwelling in you. That "frail temple," once so much defiled, and so defiling, is now precious to the Father because it is the habitation of the Spirit of His Son. Nor only so; that same Spirit, who, by uniting us to Christ, made actual our redemption, shall surely, in ways to us unknown, carry the process to its glorious crown, and be somehow the Efficient Cause of "the redemption of our body."

Wonderful is this deep characteristic of the Scripture; its Gospel for the body. In Christ, the body is seen to be something far different from the mere clog, or prison, or chrysalis, of the soul. It is its destined implement, may we not say its mighty wings in prospect, for the life of glory. As invaded by sin, it must needs pass through either death or, at the Lord’s Return, an equivalent transfiguration. But as created in God’s plan of Human Nature it is forever congenial to the soul, nay, it is necessary to the soul’s full action. And whatever be the mysterious mode (it is absolutely hidden from us as yet) of the event of Resurrection, this we know, if only from this Oracle, that the glory of the immortal body will have profound relations with the work of God in the sanctified soul. No mere material sequences will bring it about. It will be "because of the Spirit"; and "because of the Spirit dwelling in you," as your power for holiness in Christ.

So the Christian, reads the account of his present spiritual wealth, and of his coming completed life, "his perfect consummation and bliss in the eternal glory." Let him take it home, with most humble but quite decisive assurance, as he looks again, and believes again, on his redeeming Lord. For him, in his inexpressible need, God has gone about to provide "so great salvation." He has accepted his person in His Son who died for him. He has not only "forgiven him" through that great Sacrifice, but in it He has "condemned," sentenced to chains and death, "his sin," which is now a doomed thing, beneath his feet, in Christ. And he has given to him, as personal and perpetual Indweller, to be claimed, hailed, and used by humble faith, His own Eternal Spirit, the Spirit of His Son, the Blessed One who, dwelling infinitely in the Head, comes to dwell fully in the members, and make Head and members wonderfully one. Now then let him give himself up with joy, thanksgiving, and expectation, to the "fulfilling of the righteous demand of God’s Law," "walking Spirit-wise," with steps moving ever away from self and towards the will of God. Let him meet the world, the devil, and that mysterious "flesh," (all ever in potential presence,) with no less a Name than that of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Let him stand up not as a defeated and disappointed combatant, maimed, half-blinded, half-persuaded to succumb, but as one who treads upon "all the power of the enemy," in Christ, by the indwelling Spirit. And let him reverence his mortal body, even while he "keeps it in subjection," and while he willingly tires it, or gives it to suffer, for his Lord. For it is the temple of the Spirit. It is the casket of the hope of glory.


Verses 12-25

Chapter 18

HOLINESS BY THE SPIRIT, AND THE GLORIES THAT SHALL FOLLOW

Romans 8:12-25

Now the Apostle goes on to develop these noble premisses into conclusions. How true to himself, and to his Inspirer, is the line he follows! First come the most practical possible of reminders of duty; then, and in profound connection, the inmost experiences of the regenerate soul in both its joy and its sorrow, and the most radiant and far-reaching prospects of glory to come. We listen still, always remembering that this letter from Corinth to Rome is to reach us too, by way of the City. He who moved His servant to send it to Aquila and Herodion had us too in mind, and has now carried out His purpose. It is open in our hands for our faith, love, hope, life today.

St. Paul begins with Holiness viewed as Duty, as Debt. He has led us through our vast treasury of privilege and possession. What are we to do with it? Shall we treat it as a museum, in which we may occasionally observe the mysteries of New Nature, and with more or less learning discourse upon them? Shall we treat it as the unwatchful King of old treated his splendid stores, making them his personal boast, and so betraying them to the very power which one day was to make them all its spoil? No, we are to live upon our Lord’s magnificent bounty-to His glory, and in His will. We are rich; but it is for Him. We have His talents; and those talents, in respect of His grace, as distinct from His "gifts," are not one, nor five, nor ten, but ten thousand-for they are Jesus Christ. But we have them all "for Him." We are free from the law of sin and of death; but we are in perpetual and delightful debt to Him who has freed us. And our debt is-to walk with Him.

"So, brethren, we are debtors." Thus our new paragraph begins. For a moment he turns to say what we owe "no" debt to; even "the flesh," the self-life. But it is plain that his main purpose is positive, not negative. He implies in the whole rich context that we are debtors to the Spirit, to the Lord, "to walk Spirit-wise."

What a salutary thought it is! Too often in the Christian Church the great word Holiness has been practically banished to a supposed almost inaccessible background, to the steeps of a spiritual ambition, to a region where a few might with difficulty climb in the quest, men and women who had "leisure to be good," or Who perhaps had exceptional instincts for piety. God be thanked, He has at all times kept many consciences alive to the illusion of such a notion; and in our own day, more and more, His mercy brings it home to His children that "this is His will, even the sanctification"-not of some of them, but of all. Far and wide we are reviving to see, as the fathers of our faith saw before us, that whatever else holiness is, it is a sacred and binding "debt." It is not an ambition; it is a duty. We are bound, every one of us who names the name of Christ, to be holy, to be separate from evil, to walk by the Spirit.

Alas for the misery of indebtedness; when funds fall short! Whether the unhappy debtor examines his affairs, or guiltily ignores their condition, he is-if his conscience is not dead-a haunted man. But when an honourable indebtedness concurs with ample means, then one of the moral pleasures of life is the punctual scrutiny and discharge. "He hath it by him"; and it is his happiness, as it is assuredly his duty, not to "say to his neighbour, Go and come again, and tomorrow I will give". [Proverbs 3:28]

Christian brother, partaker of Christ, and of the Spirit, we also owe, to Him who owns. But it is an indebtedness of the happy type. Once we owed, and there was worse than nothing in the purse. Now we owe, and we have Christ in us, by the Holy Ghost, wherewithal to pay. The eternal Neighbour comes to us, with no frowning look, and shows us His holy demand; to live today a life of truth, of purity, of confession of His Name, of unselfish serviceableness, of glad forgiveness, of unbroken patience, of practical sympathy, of the love which seeks not her own. What shall we say? That it is a beautiful ideal, which we should like to realise, and may yet some day seriously attempt? That it is admirable, but impossible? Nay; "we are debtors." And He who claims has first immeasurably given. We have His Son for our acceptance and our life. His very Spirit is in us. Are not these good resources for a genuine solvency? "Say not, Go and come again; I will pay Thee-tomorrow. Thou hast it by Thee!"

Holiness is beauty. But it is first duty, practical and present, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So then, brethren, debtors are we-not to the flesh, with a view to living flesh-wise; but to the Spirit-who is now both our law and our power-with a view to living Spirit-wise. For if you are living flesh-wise, you are on the way to die. But if by the Spirit you are doing to death the practices, the stratagems, the machinations, of the body, you will live. Ah, the body is still there, and is still a seat and vehicle of temptation. "It is for the Lord, and the Lord is for it". [1 Corinthians 6:13] It is the temple of the Spirit. Our call is [1 Corinthians 6:20] to glorify God in it. But all this, from our point of view, passes from realisation into mere theory, woefully gainsaid by experience, when we let our acceptance in Christ, and our possession in Him of the Almighty Spirit, pass out of use into mere phrase. Say what some men will, we are never for an hour here below exempt from elements and conditions of evil residing not merely around us but within us. There is no stage of life when we can dispense with the power of the Holy Ghost as our victory and deliverance from "the machinations of the body." And the body is no separate and as it were minor personality. If the man’s body "machinates," it is the man who is the sinner.

But then, thanks be to God, this fact is not the real burthen of the words here. What St. Paul has to say is that the man who has the indwelling Spirit has with him, in him, a divine and all-effectual Counter Agent to the subtlest of his foes. Let him do what we saw him above [Romans 7:7-25] neglecting to do. Let him with conscious purpose, and firm recollection of his wonderful position and possession (so easily forgotten!) call up the eternal Power which is m-deed not himself, though in himself. Let him do this with "habitual" recollection and simplicity. And he shall be "more than conqueror" where he was so miserably defeated. His path shall be as of one who walks over foes who threatened, but who fell, and who die at his feet. It shall be less a struggle than a march, over a battlefield indeed, yet a field of victory so continuous that it shall be as peace.

"If by the Spirit you are doing them to death." Mark well the words. He says nothing here of things often thought to be of the essence of spiritual remedies; nothing of "will-worship, and humility, and unsparing treatment of the body"; [Colossians 2:23] nothing even of fast and prayer. Sacred and precious is self-discipline, the watchful care that act and habit are true to that "temperance" which is a vital ingredient in the Spirit’s "fruit." [Galatians 5:22-23] It is the Lord’s own voice [Matthew 26:41] which bids us always "watch and pray"; "praying in the Holy Ghost." [Jude 1:20] Yes, but these true exercises of the believing soul are after all only as the covering fence around that central secret-our use by faith of the presence and power of "the Holy Ghost given unto us." The Christian who neglects to watch and pray will most surely find that he knows not how to use this his great strength, for he will be losing realisation of his oneness with his Lord. But then the man who actually, and in the depth of his being, is "doing to death the practices of the body," is doing so, "immediately," not by discipline, nor by direct effort, but by the believing use of "the Spirit." Filled with Him, he treads upon the power of the enemy. And that fulness is according to surrendering faith.

For as many as are led by God’s Spirit, these are God’s sons; for you did not receive a spirit of slavery, to take you back again to fear; no, you received a Spirit of adoption to sonship, in which Spirit, surrendered to His holy power, we cry, with no bated, hesitating breath, "Abba, our Father." His argument runs thus; "If you would live indeed, you must do sin to death by the Spirit. And this means, in another aspect, that you must yield yourselves to be led along by the Spirit, with that leading which is sure to conduct you always away from self and into the will of God. You must welcome the Indweller to have His holy way with your springs of thought and will. So, and only so, will you truly answer the idea, the description, ’ sons of God’-that glorious term, never to be ‘satisfied’ by the relation of mere creaturehood, or by that of merely exterior sanctification, mere membership in a community of men, though it be the Visible Church itself. But if you so meet sin by the Spirit, if you are so led by the Spirit, you do show yourselves nothing less than God’s own sons. He has called you to nothing lower than sonship; to vital connection with a divine Father’s life, and to the eternal embraces of His love. For when He gave and you received the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of promise, who reveals Christ and joins you to Him, what did that Spirit do, in His heavenly operation? Did He lead you back to the old position, in which you shrunk from God, as from a Master who bound you against your will? No, He showed you that in the Only Son you are nothing less than sons, welcomed into the inmost home of eternal life and love. You found yourselves indescribably near the Father’s heart, because accepted, and new-created, in His Own Beloved. And so you learnt the happy, confident call of the child, ‘Father, O Father; Our Father, Abba."’

So it was, and so it is. The living member of Christ is nothing less than the dear child of God. He is other things besides; he is disciple, follower, bondservant. He never ceases to be bondservant, though here he is expressly told that he has received no "spirit of slavery." So far as "slavery" means service forced against the will, he has done with this, in Christ. But so far as it means service rendered by one who is his master’s absolute property, he has entered into its depths, forever. Yet all this is exterior as it were to that inmost fact, that he is-in a sense ultimate, and which alone really fulfils the word-the child, the son, of God. He is dearer than he can know to his Father. He is more welcome than he can ever realise to take his Father at His word, and lean upon His heart, and tell Him all.

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are God’s children, born children. The Holy One, on His part, makes the once cold, reluctant, apprehensive heart "know and believe the love of God." He "sheds abroad God’s love in it." He brings home to consciousness and insight the "sober certainty" of the promises of the Word; that Word through which, above all other means, He speaks. He shows to the man "the things of Christ," the Beloved, in whom he has the adoption and the regeneration; making him see, as souls see, what a paternal welcome there "must" be for those who are "in Him." And then, on the other part, the believer meets Spirit with spirit. He responds to the revealed paternal smile with not merely a subject’s loyalty but a son’s deep love; deep, reverent, tender, genuine, love. "Doubtless thou art His own child," says the Spirit. "Doubtless He is my Father," says our wondering, believing, seeing spirit in response.

But if children, then also heirs; God’s heirs, Christ’s co-heirs, possessors in prospect of our Father’s heaven (towards which the whole argument now gravitates), in union of interest and life with our Firstborn Brother, in whom lies our right. From one hand a gift, infinitely merciful and surprising, that unseen bliss will be from another the lawful portion of the lawful child, one with the Beloved of the Father. Such heirs we are, if indeed we share His sufferings, those deep but hallowed pains which will surely come to us as we live in and for Him in a fallen world, that we may also share His glory, for which that path of sorrow is, not indeed the meriting, but the capacitating, preparation.

Amidst the truths of life and love, of the Son, of the Spirit, of the Father, he thus throws in the truth of pain. Let us not forget it. In one form or another, it is for all "the children." Not all are martyrs, not all are exiles or captives, not all are called as a fact to meet open insults in a defiant world of paganism and unbelief. Many are still so called, as many were at first, and as many will be to the end; for "the world" is no more now than it ever was in love with God, and with His children as such. But even for those whose path is-not by themselves but the Lord-most protected-there must be "suffering," somehow, sooner, later, in this present life, if they are really living the life of the Spirit, the life of the child of God, "paying the debt" of daily holiness, even in its humblest and gentlest forms. We must observe, by the way, that it is to such sufferings, and not to sorrows in general, that the reference lies here. The Lord’s heart is open for all the griefs of His people, and He can use them all for their blessing and for His ends. But the "suffering with Him" must imply a pain due to our union. It must be involved in our being His members, used by the Head for His work. It must be the hurt of His "hand" or "foot" in subserving His sovereign thought. What will the bliss be of the corresponding sequel! "That we may share His glory"; not merely "be glorified," but share His glory; a splendour of life, joy, and power whose eternal law and soul will be, union with Him who died for us and rose again.

Now towards that prospect St. Paul’s whole thought sets, as the waters set towards the moon, and the mention of that glory, after suffering, draws him to a sight of the mighty "plurity" of the glory. For I reckon, "I calculate" - word of sublimest prose, more moving here than poetry, because it bids us to handle the hope of glory as a fact-that not worthy of mention are the sufferings of the present season; (he thinks of time not in its length but in its limit), in view of the glory about to be unveiled upon us, unveiled, and then heaped upon us, in its golden fulness. For-he is going to give us a deep reason for his "calculation"; wonderfully characteristic of the Gospel. It is that the final glory of the saints will be a crisis of mysterious blessing for the whole created Universe. In ways absolutely unknown, certainly as regards anything said in this passage, but none the less divinely fit and sure, the ultimate and eternal manifestation of Christ Mystical, the Perfect Head with His perfected members, will be the occasion, and in some sense too the cause, the mediating cause, of the emancipation of "Nature," in its heights and depths, from the cancer of decay, and its entrance on an endless aeon of indissoluble life and splendour. Doubtless that goal shall be reached through long processes and intense crises of strife and death. "Nature," like the saint, may need to pass to glory through a tomb. But the issue will indeed be glory, when He who is the Head at once of "Nature," of the heavenly nations, and of redeemed man, shall bid the vast periods of conflict and dissolution cease, in the hour of eternal purpose, and shall manifestly "be what He is" to the mighty total.

With such a prospect natural philosophy has nothing to do. Its own laws of observation and tabulation forbid it to make a single affirmation of what the Universe shall be, or shall not be, under new and unknown conditions. Revelation, with no arbitrary voice, but as the authorised while reserved messenger of the Maker, and standing by the open Grave of the Resurrection, announces that there are to be profoundly new conditions, and that they bear a relation inscrutable, but necessary to the coming glorification of Christ and His Church. And what we now see and feel as the imperfections and shocks and seeming failures of the Universe, so we learn from this voice, a voice so quiet yet so triumphant, are only as it were the throes of birth, in which "Nature," impersonal indeed but so to speak animated by the thinking of the intelligent orders who are a part of her universal being, preludes her wonderful future.

For the longing outlook of the creation is expecting-the unveiling of the sons of God. For to vanity, to evil, to failure and decay, the creation was subjected not willingly, but because of Him who made it subject; its Lord and Sustainer, who in His inscrutable but holy will bade physical evil correspond to the moral evil of His conscious fallen creatures, angels or men. So that there is a deeper connection than we can yet analyse between sin, the primal and central evil, and everything that is really wreck or pain. But this "subjection," under His fiat, was in hope, because the creation itself shall be liberated from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God, the freedom brought in for it by their eternal liberation from the last relics of the Fall. For we know by observation of natural evil, in the light of the promises, that the whole creation is uttering a common groan of burthen and yearning, and suffering a common birth pang, even till now, when the Gospel has heralded the coming glory. Nor only so, but even the actual possessors of the first fruits of the Spirit, possessors of that presence of the Holy One in them now, which is the sure pledge of His eternal fulness yet to come, even we ourselves, richly blest as we are in our wonderful Spirit-life, yet in ourselves are groaning, burthened still with mortal conditions pregnant of temptation, lying not around us only but deep within, expecting adoption, full instatement into the fruition of the sonship which already is ours, even the redemption of our body.

From the coming glories of the Universe he returns in the consciousness of an inspired but human heart, to the present discipline and burthen of the Christian. Let us observe the noble candour of the words; this "groan" interposed in the midst of such a song of the Spirit and of glory. He has no ambition to pose as the possessor of an impossible experience. He is more than conqueror; but he is conscious of his foes. The Holy Ghost is in him; he does the body’s practices victoriously to death by the Holy Ghost. But the body is there, as the seat and vehicle of manifold temptation. And though there is a joy in victory which can sometimes make even the presence of temptation seem "all joy," [James 1:2] he knows that something "far better" is yet to come. His longing is not merely for a personal victory, but for an eternally unhindered service. That will not fully be his till his whole being is actually, as well as in covenant, redeemed. That will not be till not the spirit only but the body is delivered from the last dark traces of the Fall, in the resurrection hour.

For it is as to our hope that we are saved. When the Lord laid hold of us we were indeed saved, but with a salvation which was only in part actual. Its total was not to be realised till the whole being was in actual salvation. Such salvation (see below, 13) was coincident in prospect with "the Hope," "that blessed Hope," the Lord’s Return and the Resurrection glory. So, to paraphrase this clause, "It was in the sense of the Hope that we are saved." But a hope in sight is not a hope; for, what a man sees, why does he hope for? Hope, in that case, has, in its nature, expired in possession. And our full "salvation" is a hope; it is bound up with a Promise not yet fulfilled; therefore, in its nature, it is still unseen, still unattained. But then, it is certain; it is infinitely valid; it is worth any waiting for. But if, for what we do not see, we do hope, looking on good grounds for the sunrise in the dark East, with patience we expect it. "With patience," literally "through patience." The "patience" is as it were the means, the secret, of the waiting; "patience," that noble word of the New Testament vocabulary, the saint’s active submission, submissive action, beneath the will of God. It is no nerveless, motionless prostration; it is the going on and upward, step by step, as the man "waits upon the Lord, and walks, and does not faint."


Verses 26-39

Chapter 19

THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER IN THE SAINTS: THEIR PRESENT AND ETERNAL WELFARE IN THE LOVE OF

Romans 8:26-39

IN the last paragraph the music of this glorious didactic prophecy passed, in some solemn phrases, into the minor mood. "If we share His sufferings"; "The sufferings of this present season"; "We groan within ourselves"; "In the sense of our hope we were saved." All is well. The deep harmony of the Christian’s full experience, if it is full downwards as well as upwards, demands sometimes such tones; and they are all music, for they all express a life in Christ, lived by the power of the Holy Ghost. But now the strain is to ascend again into its largest and most triumphant manner. We are now to hear how our salvation, though its ultimate issues are still things of hope, is itself a thing of eternity-from everlasting to everlasting. We are to be made sure that all things are working now, in concurrent action, for the believer’s good; and that his justification is sure; and that his glory is so certain that its future is, from his Lord’s point of sight, present; and that nothing, absolutely nothing, shall separate him from the eternal love.

But first comes one most deep and tender word, the last of its kind in the long argument, about the presence and power of the Holy Ghost. The Apostle has the "groan" of the Christian still in his ear, in his heart; in fact, it is his own. And he has just pointed himself and his fellow believers to the coming glory, as to a wonderful antidote; a prospect which is at once great in itself and unspeakably suggestive of the greatness given to the most suffering and tempted saint by his union with his Lord. As if to say to the pilgrim, in his moment of distress, "Remember, you are more to God than you can possibly know; He has made you such, in Christ, that universal Nature is concerned in the prospect of your glory." But now, as if nothing must suffice but what is directly divine, he bids him remember also the presence in him of the Eternal Spirit, as his mighty but tenderest indwelling Friend. Even as "that blessed Hope," so, "likewise also," this blessed present Person, is the weak one’s power. He takes the man in his bewilderment, when troubles from without press him, and fears from within make him groan, and he is in sore need, yet at a loss for the right cry. And He moves in the tired soul, and breathes himself into its thought, and His mysterious "groan" of divine yearning mingles with our groan of burthen, and the man’s longings go out above all things not towards rest but towards God and His will. So the Christian’s innermost and ruling desire is both fixed and animated by the blessed Indweller, and he seeks what the Lord will love to grant, even Himself and whatever shall please Him. The man prays aright, as to the essence of the prayer, because (what a divine miracle is put before us in the words!) the Holy Ghost, immanent in him, prays through him.

Thus we venture, in advance, to explain the sentences which now follow. It is true that St. Paul does not explicitly say that the Spirit makes intercession in us, as well as for us. But must it not be so? For where is He, from the point of view of Christian life, but in us?

Then, in the same way, the Spirit also-"as well as the hope"-helps, as with a clasping, supporting hand, our weakness, our shortness and bewilderment of insight, our feebleness of faith. For what we should pray for as we ought, we do not know; but the Spirit Itself interposes to intercede for us with groanings unutterable; but (whatever be the utterance or no utterance) the Searcher of our hearts knows what is the mind, the purport, of the Spirit; because Godwise, with divine insight and sympathy, the Spirit with the Father, He intercedes for saints.

Did He not so intercede for Paul, and in him, fourteen years before these words were written, when [2 Corinthians 12:7-10] the man thrice asked that "the thorn" might be removed, and the Master gave him a better blessing, the victorious overshadowing power? Did He not so intercede for Monica, and in her, when she sought with prayers and tears to keep her rebellious Augustine by her, and the Lord let him fly from her side-to Italy, to Ambrose, and so to conversion?

But the strain rises now, finally and fully, into the rest and triumph of faith. "We know not what we should pray for as we ought"; and the blessed Spirit meets this deep need in His own way. And this, with all else that we have in Christ, reminds us of a somewhat that "we know" indeed; namely, that all things, favourable or not in themselves, concur in blessing for the saints. And then he looks backward (or rather upward) into eternity, and sees the throne, and the King with His sovereign will, and the lines of perfect and infallible plan and provision which stretch from that Centre to infinity. These "saints," who are they? From one viewpoint, they are simply sinners who have seen themselves, and "fled for refuge to the" one possible "hope"; a "hope set before" every soul that cares to win it. From another viewpoint, that of "the eternal Mind and Order," they are those whom, for reasons infinitely wise and just, but wholly hidden in Himself, the Lord has chosen to be His own forever, so that His choice takes effect in their conversion, their acceptance, their spiritual transformation, and their glory.

There, as regards this great passage, the thought rests and ceases-in the glorification of the saints. What their Glorifier will do with them, and through them, thus glorified, is another matter. Assuredly He will make use of them in His eternal kingdom. The Church, made most blessed forever, is yet beatified, Ultimately, not for itself, but for its Head and for His Father. It is to be, in its final perfectness, "a habitation of God, in the Spirit." [Ephesians 2:22] Is He not so to possess it that the Universe shall see Him in it, in a manner and degree now unknown and unimaginable? Is not the endless "service" of the elect to be such that all orders of being shall through them behold and adore the glory of the Christ of God? Forever they will be what they here become, the bondservants of their Redeeming Lord, His Bride, His vehicle of power and blessing; "having of their own nothing, in Him all, and all for Him." No self-full exaltations await them in the place of light; or the whole history of sin would begin over again, in a new aeon. No celestial Pharisaism will be their spirit; a look downward upon less blessed regions of existence, as from a sanctuary of their own. Who can tell what ministries of boundless love will be the expression of their life of inexpressible and inexhaustible joy? Always, like Gabriel, "in the presence," will they not always also, like him, "be sent" [Luke 1:19] on the messages of their glorious Head, in whom at length, in the "divine event," "all things shall be gathered together"?

But this is not the thought of the passage now in our hands. Here, as we have said, the thought terminates in the final glorification of the saints of God, as the immediate goal of the process of their redemption.

But we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, even for those who, purpose-wise, are His called ones. "We know it," with the cognition of faith; that is to say, because He, absolutely trustworthy, guarantees it by His character, and by His word. Deep, nay, insoluble is the mystery, from every other point of view. The lovers of the Lord are indeed unable to explain, to themselves or others, how this concurrence of "all things" works out its infallible issues in them. And the observer from outside cannot understand their certainty that it is so. But the fact is there given and assured, not by speculation upon events, but by personal knowledge of an Eternal Person. "Love God, and thou shalt know."

They "love God," with a love perfectly unartificial, the genuine affection of human hearts, hearts not the less human because divinely new-created, regenerated from above. Their immediate consciousness is just this; we love Him. Not, we have read the book of life; we have had a glimpse of the eternal purpose in itself; we have heard our names recited in a roll of the chosen; but, we love Him. We have found in Him the eternal Love. In Him we have peace, purity, and that deep, final satisfaction, that view of "the King in His beauty," which is the summum bonum of the creature. It was our fault that we saw it no sooner, that we loved Him no sooner. It is the duty of every soul that He has made to reflect upon its need of Him, and upon the fact that it owes it to Him to love Him in His holy beauty of eternal Love. If we could not it was because we would not. If you cannot it is because, somehow and somewhere, you will not; will not put yourselves without reserve in the way of the sight. "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good"; oh, love the eternal Love. But those who thus simply and genuinely love God are also, on the other side, "purpose-wise, His called ones"; "called," in the sense which we have found above to be consistently traceable in the Epistles; not merely invited, but brought in; not evangelised only, but converted. In each case of the happy company, the man, the woman, came to Christ, came to love God with the freest possible coming of the will, the heart. Yet each, having come, had the Lord to thank for the coming. The human personality had traced its orbit of will and deed, as truly as when it willed to sin and to rebel. But lo, in ways past our finding out, its free track lay along a previous track of the purpose of the Eternal; its free "I will" was the precise and fore-ordered correspondence to His "Thou shalt." It was the act of man; it was the grace of God.

Can we get below such a statement, or above it? If we are right in our reading of the whole teaching of Scripture on the sovereignty of God, our thoughts upon it, practically, must sink down, and must rest, just here. The doctrine of the Choice of God, in its sacred mystery, refuses-so we humbly think-to be explained away so as to mean in effect little but the choice of man. But then the doctrine is "a lamp, not a sun." It is presented to us everywhere, and not least in this Epistle, as a truth not meant to explain everything, but to enforce this thing-that the man who as a fact loves the eternal Love has to thank not himself but that Love that his eyes, guiltily shut, were effectually opened. Not one link in the chain of actual Redemption is of our forging-or the, whole would indeed be fragile. It is "of Him" that we, in this great matter, will as we ought to will. I ought to have loved God always. It is of His mere mercy that I love Him now.

With this lesson of uttermost humiliation the truth of the heavenly Choice, and its effectual Call, brings us also that of an encouragement altogether divine. Such a "purpose" is no fluctuating thing, shifting with the currents of time. Such a call to such an embrace means a tenacity, as well as a welcome worthy of God. "Who shall separate us? Neither shall any pluck them out of MY Father’s hand." And this is the motive of the words in this wonderful context, where everything is made to bear on the safety of the children of God, in the midst of all imaginable dangers. For whom He knew beforehand, with a foreknowledge which, in this argument, can mean nothing short of foredecision-no mere foreknowledge of what they would do, but rather of what He would do for them-those he also set apart beforehand, for conformation, deep and genuine, a resemblance due to kindred being, to the image, the manifested Countenance of His Son, that He might be firstborn amongst many brethren, surrounded by the circling host of kindred faces, congenial beings, His Father’s children by their union with Himself. So, as ever in the Scriptures, mystery bears full on character. The man is saved that he may be holy. His "predestination" is not merely not to perish, but to be made like Christ, in a spiritual transformation, coming out in the moral features of the family of heaven. And all bears ultimately on the glory of Christ. The gathered saints are an organism, a family, before the Father; and their vital Centre is the Beloved Son, who sees in their true sonship the fruit of "the travail of His soul."

But those whom He thus set apart beforehand, He also called, effectually drew so as truly and freely to choose Christ; and those whom He thus called to Christ, He also justified in Christ, in that great way of propitiation and faith of which the Epistle has so largely spoken; but those whom He thus justified, He also glorified. "Glorified": it is a marvellous past tense. It reminds us that in this passage we are placed, as it were, upon the mountain of the Throne; our finite thought is allowed to speak for once (however little it understands it) the language of eternity, to utter the facts as the Eternal sees them. To Him, the pilgrim is already in the immortal country; the bondservant is already at his day’s end, receiving his Master’s "Well done, good and faithful." He to whom time is not as it is to us thus sees His purposes complete, always and forever. We see through His sight in hearing His word about it. So for us, in wonderful paradox, our glorification is presented, as truly as our call, in terms of accomplished fact.

Here, in a certain sense, the long golden chain of the doctrine of the Epistle ends-in the hand of the King who thus crowns the sinners whose redemption, faith, acceptance, and holiness, He had, in the Heaven of His own Being, fore-willed and fore-ordered, "before the world began," above all time. What remains of the chapter is the application of the doctrine. But what an application! The Apostle brings his converts out into the open field of trial, and bids them use his doctrine there. Are they thus dear to the Father in the Son? Is their every need thus met? Is their guilt cancelled in Christ’s mighty merit? Is their existence filled with Christ’s eternal Spirit? Is sin thus cast beneath their feet, and is such a heaven opened above their heads? "Then what have they to fear," before man, or before God? What power in the universe, of whatever order of being, can really hurt them? For what can separate them from their portion in their glorified Lord, and in His Father’s love in Him? Again we listen, with Tertius, as the voice goes on:

What therefore shall we say in view of these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own true Son, but for us all handed Him over to that awful expiatory, propitiatory, darkness and death, so that He was "pleased to bruise Him, to put Him to grief," [Isaiah 53:10] all for His own great glory, but, no whit the less, all for our pure blessing; how (wonderful "how"!) shall He not also with Him, because all is included and involved in Him who is the Father’s All, give us also freely all things ("the all things that are")? And do we want to be sure that He will not after all find a flaw in our claim, and cast us in His court? Who will lodge a charge against God’s chosen ones? Will God-who justifies them.? Who will condemn them if the charge is lodged? Will Christ-who died, nay, rather, who rose, who is on the right hand of God, who is actually interceding for us? (Observe this one mention in the whole Epistle of His Ascension, and His action for us above, as He is, by the fact of His Session on the Throne, our sure Channel of eternal blessing, unworthy that we are.) Do we need assurance, amidst "the sufferings of this present time," that through them always the invincible hands of Christ clasp us, with untired love? We "look upon the covenant" of our acceptance and life in Him who died for us, and who lives both for and in us, and we meet the fiercest buffet of these waves in peace. Who shall sunder us from the love of Christ? There rise before him, as he asks, like so many angry personalities, the outward woes of the pilgrimage. Tribulation? or Perplexity? or Persecution? or Famine? or Nakedness? or Peril? or Sword? As it stands written, in that deep song of anguish and faith [Psalms 44:1-26] in which the elder Church, one with us in deep continuity, tells her story of affliction, "For Thy sake we are done to death all the day long; we have been reckoned, estimated, as sheep of slaughter." Even so. But in these things, all of them, we more than conquer; not only do we tread upon our foes; we spoil them, we find them occasions of glorious gain, through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, life with its natural allurements or its bewildering toils, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, whatever Orders of being unfriendly to Christ and His saints the vast Unseen contains, nor present things, nor things to come, in all the boundless field of circumstance and contingency, nor height, nor depth, in the illimitable sphere of space, nor any other creature, no thing, no being, under the Uncreated One, shall be able to sunder us, "us" with an emphasis upon the word and thought, from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord-from the eternal embrace wherein the Father embosoms the Son, and, in the Son, all who are one with Him.

So once more the divine music rolls itself out into the blessed Name. We have heard the previous cadences as they came in their order; "Jesus our Lord, who was delivered because of our offences, and was raised again because of our justification"; [Romans 4:25] "That grace might reign, through Jesus Christ our Lord"; [Romans 5:21] "The gift of God is eternal life, in Jesus Christ our Lord"; [Romans 6:23] "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord". [Romans 7:25] Like the theme of a fugue it has sounded on, deep and high; still, always, "our Lord Jesus Christ," who is all things, and in all, and for all, to His happy believing members. And now all is gathered up into this. Our "Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption," [1 Corinthians 1:30] the golden burthens of the third chapter, and the sixth, and the eighth, are all, in their living ultimate essence, "Jesus Christ our Lord." He makes every truth, every doctrine of peace and holiness, every sure premiss and indissoluble inference, to be life as well as light. He is pardon, and sanctity, and heaven. Here, finally, the Eternal Love is seen not as it were diffused into infinity, but gathered up wholly and forever in Him. Therefore to be in Him is to be in It. It is to be within the clasp which surrounds the Beloved of the Father.

Some years ago we remember reading this passage, this close of the eighth chapter, under moving circumstances. On a cloudless January night, late arrived in Rome, we stood in the Coliseum, a party of friends from England. Orion, the giant with the sword, glimmered like a spectre, the spectre of persecution, above the huge precinct; for the full moon, high in the heavens, overpowered the stars. By its light we read from a little Testament these words, written so long ago to be read in that same City; written by the man whose dust now sleeps at Tre Fontane, where the executioner dismissed him to be with Christ; written to men and women some of whom at least, in all human likelihood, suffered in the same Amphitheatre, raised only twenty-two years after Paul wrote to the Romans, and soon made the scene of countless martyrdoms. "Do you want a relic?" said a Pope to some eager visitor. "Gather dust from the Coliseum; it is all the martyrs."

We recited the words of the Epistle, and gave thanks to Him who had there triumphed in His saints over life and death, over beasts, and men, and demons. Then we thought of the inmost factors in that great victory; Truth and Life. They "knew whom they had believed"-their Sacrifice, their Head, their King. He whom they had believed lived in them, and they in Him, by the Holy Ghost given to them. Then we thought of ourselves, in our circumstances so totally different on the surface, yet carrying the same needs in their depths. Are we, too, to overcome, in "the things present" of our modern world, and in face of "the things to come" yet upon the earth? Are we to be "more than conquerors," winning blessing out of all things, and really living "in our own generation" [Acts 13:36] as the bondmen of Christ and the sons of God? Then for us also the absolute necessities are-the same Truth, and the same Life. And they are ours, thanks be to the Name of our salvation. Time hath no more dominion over them, because death hath no more dominion over Him. For us, too, Jesus died. In us, too, by the Holy Ghost, He lives.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 8:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/romans-8.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology