Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This chapter is one of the most interesting and precious portions of the Sacred Scriptures. Some parts of it are attended with great difficulties; but its main scope and design is apparent to all. It is a continuation of the subject discussed in the previous chapter, and is intended mainly to show that the gospel could effect what the Law was incapable of doing. In that chapter the apostle had shown that the Law was incapable of producing sanctification or peace of mind. He had traced its influence on the mind in different conditions, and shown that equally before regeneration and afterward, it was incapable of producing peace and holiness. Such was man, such were his propensities, that the application of law only tended to excite, to irritate, to produce conflict. The conscience, indeed, testified to the Law that it was good; but still it had shown that it was not adapted to produce holiness of heart and peace, but agitation, conflict, and a state of excited sin. In opposition to this, he proceeds to show in this chapter the power of the gospel to produce what the Law could not. In doing this, he illustrates the subject by several considerations.
(1) the gospel does what the Law could not do in giving life, and delivering from condemnation, Rom 8:1-13.
(2) it produces a spirit of adoption, and all the blessings which result from the filial confidence with which we can address God as our Father, in opposition to the Law which produced only terror and alarm, Rom 8:14-17.
(3) it sustains the soul amidst its captivity to sin, and its trials, with the hope of a future deliverance - a complete and final redemption, of the body from all the evils of this life, Rom 8:18-25.
(4) it furnishes the aid of the Holy Spirit to sustain us in our trials and infirmities, Rom 8:26-27.
(5) it gives the assurance that all things shall work together for good, since all things are connected with the purpose of God, and all that can occur to a Christian comes in as a part of the plan of him who has resolved to save him, Rom 8:28-30.
(6) it ministers consolation from the fact that everything that can affect the happiness of man is on the side of the Christian, and will cooperate in his favor; as, e. g.,
(a) God, in giving his Son, and in justifying the believer, Rom 8:31-33.
(b) Christ, in dying, and rising, and interceding for Christians, Rom 8:34.
(c) The love of a Christian to the Saviour is in itself so strong, that nothing can separate him from it, Rom 8:35-39.
By all these considerations the superiority of the gospel to the Law is shown, and assurance is given to the believer of his final salvation. By this interesting and conclusive train of reasoning, the apostle is prepared for the triumphant language of exultation with which he closes this most precious portion of the Word of God.
There is, therefore, now - This is connected with the closing verses of Rom. 7. The apostle had there shown that the Law could not effect deliverance from sin, but that such deliverance was to be traced to the gospel alone; Rom 7:23-25. It is implied here that there was condemnation under the Law, and would be still, but for the intervention of the gospel.
No condemnation - This does not mean that sin in believers is not to be condemned as much as any where, for the contrary is everywhere taught in the Scriptures; but it means,
(1) That the gospel does not pronounce condemnation like the Law. Its function is to pardon; the function of the law is to condemn. The one never affords deliverance, but always condemns; the object of the other is to free from condemnation, and to set the soul at liberty.
(2) there is no final condemnation under the gospel. The function, design, and tendency of the gospel is to free from the condemning sentence of law. This is its first and its glorious announcement, that it frees lost and ruined people from a most fearful and terrible condemnation.
(The first verse of this chapter seems to be an inference from the whole preceding discussion. The apostle having established the doctrine of justification, and answered the objections commonly urged against it, now asserts his triumphant conclusion, "There is therefore, etc.; that is to say, it follows from all that has been said concerning the believer's justification by the righteousness of Christ, and his complete deliverance from the Law as a covenant, that to him there can be no condemnation. The design of Paul is not so much to assert the different functions of the Law and the gospel, as simply to state the fact in regard to the condition of a certain class, namely, those who are in Christ. To them there is no condemnation whatever; not only no final condemnation, but no condemnation now, from the moment of their union to Christ, and deliverance from the curse of the Law. The reason is this: that Christ hath endured the penalty, and obeyed the precept of the Law in their stead.
"Here," says Mr. Haldane on the passage, "it is often remarked that the apostle does not say, that there is in them (believers) neither matter of accusation, nor cause of condemnation; and yet this is all included in what he does say. And afterward, in express terms, he denies that they can be either accused or condemned, which they might be, were there any ground for either. All that was condemnable in them, which was sin, has been condemned in their Surety, as is shown in the third verse.")
Which are in Christ Jesus - Who are united to Christ. To be in him is an expression not seldom used in the New Testament, denoting close and intimate union. Phi 1:1; Phi 3:9; Co2 5:17; Rom 16:7-11. The union between Christ and his people is compared to that between the vine and its branches Joh 15:1-6, and hence, believers are said to be in him in a similar sense, as deriving their support from him, and as united in feeling, in purpose, and destiny. (See the supplementary note at Rom 8:10.) Who walk. Who conduct, or live. Note, Rom 4:12. Not after the flesh. Who do not live to gratify the corrupt desires and passions of the flesh; Note, Rom 7:18. This is a characteristic of a Christian. What it is to walk after the flesh may be seen in Gal 5:19-21. It follows that a man whose purpose of life is to gratify his corrupt desires, cannot be a Christian. Unless he lives not to gratify his flesh, he can have no evidence of piety. This is a test which is easily applied; and if every professor of religion were honest, there could be no danger of mistake, and there need be no doubts about his true character.
But after the Spirit - As the Holy Spirit would lead or prompt. What the Spirit produces may be seen in Gal 5:22-23. If a man has these fruits of the Spirit, he is a Christian; if not, he is a stranger to religion, whatever else he may possess. And this test also is easily applied.
For the law - The word "law" here means that "rule, command, or influence" which "the Spirit of life" produces. That exerts a control which is here called a law, for a law often means anything by which we are ruled or governed; see the notes at Rom 7:21, Rom 7:23. Of the Spirit. I see no reason to doubt here that this refers to the Holy Spirit. Evidently, at the close of Rom 8:1, the word has this reference. The phrase "the Spirit of life" then means the Holy Spirit producing or giving life; that is, giving peace, joy, activity, salvation; in opposition to the law spoken of in Rom. 7 that produced death and condemnation.
In Christ Jesus - Under the Christian religion; or sent by Christ to apply his work to people. Joh 16:7-14. The Spirit is sent by Christ; his influence is a part of the Christian scheme; and his power accomplishes what the Law could not do.
Hath made me free - That is, has delivered me from the predominating influence and control of sin. He cannot mean that he was perfect, for the whole tenor of his reasoning is opposed to that. But the design, the tendency, and the spirit of the gospel was to produce this freedom from what the Law could not deliver; and he was now brought under the general power of this scheme. In the former state he was under a most bitter and galling bondage; Rom 7:7-11. Now, he was brought under the influence of a scheme which contemplated freedom, and which produced it.
The law of sin and death - The controlling influence of sin, leading to death and condemnation; Rom 7:5-11.
For what the law could not do - The Law of God, the moral law. It could not free from sin and condemnation. This the apostle had fully shown in Rom. 7.
In that - Because.
It was weak - It was feeble and inefficacious. It could not accomplish it.
Through the flesh - In consequence of the strength of sin, and of the evil and corrupt desires of the unrenewed heart. The fault was not in the Law, which was good Rom 7:12, but it was owing to the strength of the natural passions and the sinfulness of the unrenewed heart; see Rom 7:7-11, where this influence is fully explained.
God, sending his own Son - That is, God did, or accomplished, that, by sending his Son, which the Law could not do. The word did, or accomplished, it is necessary to understand here, in order to complete the sense.In the likeness of sinful flesh - That is, he so far resembled sinful flesh that he partook of flesh, or the nature of man, but without any of its sinful propensities or desires. It was not human nature; not, as the Docetae taught, human nature in appearance only; but it was human nature Without any of its corruptions.
And for sin - Margin, "By a sacrifice for sin." The expression evidently means, by an Offering for sin, or that he was given as a Sacrifice on account of sin. His being given had respect to sin.Condemned sin in the flesh - The flesh is regarded as the source of sin; Note, Rom 7:18. The flesh being the seat and origin of transgression, the atoning sacrifice was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that thus he might meet sin, as it were, on its own ground, and destroy it. He may be said to have condemned sin in this manner,
(1) Because the fact that he was given for it, and died on its account, was a condemnation of it. If sin had been approved by God he would not have made an atonement to secure its destruction. The depth and intensity of the woes of Christ on its account show the degree of abhorrence with which it is regarded by God.
(2) the word "condemn" may be used in the sense of destroying, overcoming, or subduing; Pe2 2:6, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow." In this sense the sacrifice of Christ has no; only condemned sin as being evil, but has weakened its power and destroyed its influence, and will finally annihilate its existence in all who are saved by that death.
(By the sacrifice of Christ, God indeed showed his abhorrence of sin, and secured its final overthrow. It is not, however, of the sanctifying influence of this sacrifice, that the apostle seems here to speak, but of its justifying power. The sense, therefore, is that God passed a judicial sentence on sin, in the person of Christ, on account of which, that has been effected which the Law could not effect, (justification namely). Sin being condemned in the human nature of Christ, cannot be condemned and punished in the persons of those represented by him. They must be justified.
This view gives consistency to the whole passage, from the first verse to the fourth inclusive. The apostle clearly begins with the subject of justification, when, in the first verse, he affirms, that to them who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. If the question be put, Why is this? the second verse gives for answer, that believers are delivered from the Law as a covenant of works. (See the foregoing supplementary note). If the question again be put, Whence this deliverance? the third verse points to the sacrifice of Christ, which, the fourth verse assures us, was offered with the very design "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us." This clause, according to the principle of interpretation laid down above, does not relate to the believer's obedience to the righteous requirements of the Law. The apostle has in view a more immediate design of the sacrifice of Christ. The right or demand of the Law δικαίωμα dikaiōma was satisfaction to its injured honor. Its penalty must be borne, as well as its precept obeyed. The sacrifice of Christ answered every claim. And as believers are one with him, the righteousness of the Law has been "fulfilled in them."
The whole passage is thus consistently explained of justification.)
That the righteousness of the law - That we might be conformed to the Law, or be obedient to its requirements, and no longer under the influence of the flesh and its corrupt desires.
Might be fulfilled - That we might be obedient, or comply with its demands.
Who walk - Note, Rom 8:1.
For they that are after the flesh - They that are under the influence of the corrupt and sinful desires of the flesh; Gal 5:19-21. Those who are unrenewed.
Do mind the things of the flesh - They are supremely devoted to the gratification of their corrupt desires.
But they that are after the Spirit - Who are under its influence; who are led by the Spirit.
The things of the Spirit - Those things which the Spirit produces, or which he effects in the mind, Gal 5:21-23. This verse is for the purpose of illustration, and is designed to show that the tendency of religion is to produce as entire a devotedness to the service of God as people had before rendered to sin; that is, that they Would be fully engaged in that to which they had devoted themselves. As the Christian therefore, had devoted himself to the service of the Spirit, and had been brought under his influence, it was to be expected that he would make it his great and only object to cherish and cultivate the graces which that Spirit would produce.
For to be carnally minded - Margin, "The minding of the flesh." The sense is, that to follow the inclinations of the flesh, or the corrupt propensities of our nature, leads us to condemnation and death. The expression is one of great energy, and shows that it not only leads to death, or leads to misery, but that it is death itself; there is woe and condemnation in the very act and purpose of being supremely devoted to the corrupt passions, Its only tendency is condemnation and despair.
Is death - The penalty of transgression; condemnation and eternal ruin; Note, Rom 5:12.
But to be spiritually minded - Margin, "The minding of the Spirit." That is, making it the object of the mind, the end and aim of the actions, to cultivate the graces of the Spirit, and to submit to his influence. To be spiritually minded is to seek those feelings and views which the Holy Spirit produces, and to follow his leadings.
Is life - This is opposed to death in Rom 8:5. It tends to life, and is in fact real life. For to possess and cultivate the graces of the spirit, to be led where he would guide us, is the design of our existence, and is the only path of happiness.
And peace - Note, Rom. 6.
Because - This is given as a reason for what is said in Rom 8:6. In that verse the apostle had affirmed that to be carnally minded was death, but he had not stated why it was. He now explains it by saying that it is enmity against God, and thus involves a sinner in conflict with him, and exposes to his condemnation.
The carnal mind - This is the same expression as occurs in Rom 8:6 τὸ φρόνημα τὴς σαρκός to phronēma tēs sarkos. It does not mean the mind itself, the intellect, or the will; it does not suppose that the mind or soul is physically depraved, or opposed to God; but it means that the minding of the things of the flesh, giving to them supreme attention, is hostility against God; and involves the sinner in a controversy with him, and hence, leads to death and woe. This passage should not be alleged in proof that the soul is physically depraved, but merely that where there is a supreme regard to the flesh there is hostility to God. It does not directly prove the doctrine of universal depravity; but it proves only that where such attention exists to the corrupt desires of the soul, there is hostility to God. It is indeed implied that that supreme regard to the flesh exists everywhere by nature, but this is not expressly affirmed. For the object of the apostle here is not to teach the doctrine of depravity, but to show that where such depravity in fact exists, it involves the sinner in a fearful controversy with God.
Is enmity - Hostility; hatred. It means that such a regard to the flesh is in fact hostility to God, because it is opposed to his Law, and to his plan for purifying the soul; compare Jam 4:4; Jo1 2:15. The minding of the things of the flesh also leads to the hatred of God himself, because he is opposed to it, and has expressed his abhorrence of it.
Against God - Toward God; or in regard to him. It supposes hostility to him.
For it - The word "it" here refers to the minding of the things of the flesh. It does not mean that the soul itself is not subject to his Law, but that the minding of those things is hostile to his Law. The apostle does not express any opinion about the metaphysical ability of man, or discuss that question at all. The amount of his affirmation is simply, that the minding of the flesh, the supreme attention to its dictates and desires, is not and cannot be subject to the Law of God. They are wholly contradictory and irreconcilable, just as much as the love of falsehood is inconsistent with the laws of truth; as intemperance is inconsistent with the law of temperance; and as adultery is a violation of the seventh commandment. But whether the man himself might not obey the Law, whether he has, or has not, ability to do it, is a question which the apostle does not touch, and on which this passage should not be adduced. For whether the law of a particular sin is utterly irreconcilable with an opposite virtue, and whether the sinner is able to abandon that sin and pursue a different path, are very different inquiries.
Is not subject - It is not in subjection to the command of God. The minding of the flesh is opposed to that law, and thus shows that it is hostile to God.
Neither indeed can be - This is absolute and certain. It is impossible that it should be. There is the utmost inability in regard to it. The things are utterly irreconcilable. But the affirmation does not mean that the heart of the sinner might not be subject to God; or that his soul is so physically depraved that he cannot obey, or that he might not obey the law. On that, the apostle here expresses no opinion. That is not the subject of the discussion. It is simply that the supreme regard to the flesh, t the minding of that, is utterly irreconcilable with the Law of God. They are different things, and can never be made to harmonize; just as adultery cannot be chastity; falsehood cannot be truth; dishonesty cannot be honesty; hatred cannot be love. This passage, therefore, should not be adduced to prove the doctrine of man's inability to love God, for it does not refer to that, but it proves merely that a supreme regard to the things of the flesh is utterly inconsistent with the Law of God; can never be reconciled with it; and involves the sinner in hostility with his Creator.
(Calvinists have been loudly accused of "taking an unfair advantage of this language, for the support of their favorite doctrine of the utter impotency of the unregenerate man, in appreciating, much less conforming to the divine injunctions." It is alleged that φρονημα της σαρκος phronēma tēs sarkos refers to the disposition of the mind, and is properly translated, "the minding of the flesh." Therefore, it is this disposition or affection, and not the mind itself, that is enmity against God. But the meaning of the passage is not affected by this change in the translation. For the apostle affirms that this minding of the flesh is the uniform and prevailing disposition of unregenerate people. "They that are after the flesh," that is, unregenerate people," do mind the things of the flesh." This is their character without exception. Now, if the natural mind be uniformly under the influence of this depraved disposition, is it not enmity to God. Thus, in point of fact, there is no difference between the received and the amended translation. To affirm that the mind itself is not hostile to God, and that its disposition alone is so, is little better than metaphysical trifling, and deserves no more regard than the plea which any wicked man might easily establish, by declaring that his disposition only, and not himself, was hostile to the laws of religion and morals. On the whole, it is not easy to conceive how the apostle could more forcibly have affirmed the enmity of the natural mind against God. He first describes unrenewed people by their character or bent, and then asserts that this bent is the very essence of enmity against God - enmity in the abstract.
To anyone ignorant of the subtleties of theological controversy, the doctrine of moral inability would seem a plain consequence from this view of the natural mind. "It is," says Mr Scott, on the passage "morally unable to do anything but revolt against the divine Law, and refuse obedience to it." We are told, however, that the passage under consideration affirms only, that unregenerate people, while they continue in that state, cannot please God, or yield obedience to his Law, and leaves untouched the other question. concerning the power of the carnal mind to throw off the disposition of enmity, and return to subjection. But if it be not expressly affirmed by the apostle here, that the carnal mind has not this power, it would seem at least to be a plain enough inference from his doctrine. For if the disposition of the unregenerate man be enmity against God: whence is the motive to arise that shall make him dislike that disposition, and throw it aside, and assume a better in its stead? From within it cannot come, because, according to the supposition, there is enmity only; and love cannot arise out of hatred. If it come from without, from the aids and influences of the Spirit, the question is ceded, and the dispute at an end.
A very common way of casting discredit on the view which Calvinists entertain of the doctrine of man's inability, is to represent it as involving some natural or physical disqualification. Nothing can be more unfair. There is a wide difference between natural and moral inability. The one arises from "some defect or obstacle extrinsic to the will, either in the understanding, constitution of the body, or external objects:" the other from "the want of inclination, or the strength of a contrary inclination." Now the Scriptures no where assert, nor have rational Calvinists ever maintained, that there is any physical incapacity of this kind, apart from the corrupt bias and inclination of the will, on account of which, the natural man cannot be subject to the Law of God. But on the other hand, the Scriptures are full of evidence on the subject of moral inability. Even were we to abandon this passage, the general doctrine of revelation is, that unregenerate people are dead in trespasses and in sins; and the entire change that takes place in regeneration and sanctification, is uniformly ascribed not to the "man himself," but to the power of the Spirit of God. Not only is the change carried on and perfected, but begun by him.
So then - It follows; it leads to this conclusion.
They that are in the flesh - They who are unrenewed sinners; who are following supremely the desires of the flesh; Rom 7:18. Those are meant here who follow fleshly appetites and desires, and who are not led by the Spirit of God.
Cannot please God - That is, while they are thus in the flesh; while they thus pursue the desires of their corrupt nature, they cannot please God. But this affirms nothing respecting their ability to turn from this course, and to pursue a different mode of life. That is a different question. A child may be obstinate, proud, and disobedient; and while in this state, it may be affirmed of him that he cannot please his parent. But whether he might not cease to be obstinate, and become obedient, is a very different inquiry; and the two subjects should never be be confounded. It follows from this,
(1) That those who are unrenewed are totally depraved, since in this state they cannot please God.
(2) that none of their actions while in this state can be acceptable to him, since he is pleased only with those who are spiritually minded.
(3) that those who are in this state should turn from it without delay; as it is desirable that every man should please God.
(4) that if the sinner does not turn from his course, he will be ruined.
With his present character he can never please him; neither in health nor sickness; neither in life nor death; neither on earth nor in hell. He is engaged in hostility against God; and if he does not himself forsake it, it will be endless, and involve his soul in all the evils of a personal, and direct, and eternal warfare with the Lord Almighty.
But ye - You who are Christians. This is the opposite character to what he had been describing, and shows the power of the gospel.
Not in the flesh - Not under the full influence of corrupt desires and passions.
But in the Spirit - That is, you are spiritually minded; you are under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God - The Holy Spirit.
Dwell in you - The Holy Spirit is often represented as dwelling in the hearts of Christians (compare Co1 2:16; Co1 6:19; Co2 6:16; Eph 2:21-22; Gal 4:6); and the meaning is not that there is a personal or physical indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but that he influences, directs, and guides Christians, producing meekness, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, etc. Gal 5:22-23. The expression, to dwell in one, denotes intimacy of connection, and means that those things which are the fruits of the Spirit are produced in the heart. (See the supplementary note at Rom 8:10.)
Have not the Spirit of Christ - The word "Spirit" is used in a great variety of significations in the Scriptures. It most commonly in the New Testament refers to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. But the expression "the Spirit of Christ" is not, I believe, any where applied to him, except it may be Pe1 1:11. He is called often the Spirit of God Mat 3:16; Mat 12:28; Co1 2:11, Co1 2:14; Co1 3:16; Co1 6:11; Eph 4:30, but not the Spirit of the Father. The word "spirit" is often used to denote the temper, disposition; thus we say, a man of a generous spirit, or of a revengeful spirit, etc. It may possibly have this meaning here, and denotes that he who has not the temper or disposition of Christ is not his, or has no evidence of piety. But the connection seems to demand that it should be understood in a sense similar to the expression "the Spirit of God," and "the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus" Rom 8:11; and if so, it means the Spirit which Christ imparts, or sends to accomplish his work Joh 14:26, the Holy Spirit, sent to make us like Christ, and to sanctify our hearts. And in this sense it evidently denotes the Spirit which Christ would send to produce in us the views and feelings which he came to establish, and which shall assimilate us to himself. If this refers to the Holy Spirit, then we see the manner in which the apostle spoke of the Saviour. He regarded "the Spirit" as equally the Spirit of God and of Christ, as proceeding from both; and thus evidently believed that there is a union of nature between the Father and the Son. Such language could never be used except on the supposition that the Father and Son are one; that is, that Christ is divine.
Is none of his - Is not a Christian. This is a test of piety that is easily applied; and this settles the question. If a man is not influenced by the meek, pure, and holy spirit of the Lord Jesus, if he is not conformed to his image, if his life does not resemble that of the Saviour, he is a stranger to religion. No test could be more easily applied, and none is more decisive. It matters not what else he may have. He may be loud in his professions, amiable in his temper, bold in his zeal, or active in promoting the interests of his own party or denomination in the church; but if he has not the temper of the Saviour, and does not manifest his Spirit, it is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymdal. May all who read this, honestly examine themselves; and may they have what is the source of the purest felicity, the spirit and temper of the Lord Jesus.
And if Christ be in you - This is evidently a figurative expression, where the word "Christ" is used to denote his spirit, his principles; that is, he influences the man. Literally, he cannot be in a Christian; but the close connection between him and Christians, and the fact that they are entirely under his influence, is expressed by this strong figurative language. It is language which is not infrequently used; compare Gal 2:20; Col 1:27.
(The union between Christ and his people is sometimes explained of a merely relative in opposition to a real union. The union which subsists between a substitute, or surety, and the persons in whose room he has placed himself, is frequently offered in explanation of the Scripture language on the subject. In this view, Christ is regarded as legally one with his people, inasmuch, as what he has done or obtained, is held as done and obtained by them. Another relative union, employed to illustrate that which subsists between Christ and believers, is the union of a chief and his followers, which is simply a union of design, interest, sentiment, affection, destiny, etc. Now these representations are true so far as they go; and furnish much interesting and profitable illustration. They fall short, however, of the full sense of Scripture on the point. That there is a real or vital union between Christ and his people, appears from the language of the inspired writers in regard to it.
The special phraseology which they employ, cannot well be explained of any relative union At all events, it is as strong as they could have employed, on the supposition, that they had wished to convey the idea of the most intimate possible connection. Christ is said to be "in them," and they are represented as "in him." He "abides in them, and they in him." They "dwelt" in each other; Joh 14:20; Joh 15:4; Jo1 3:24; Jo1 4:12. Moreover, the Scripture illustrations of the subject furnish evidence to the same effect. The mystical union, as it has been called, is compared to the union of stones in a building, branches in a vine, members in a human body, and even to what subsists between the Father and the Son; Pe1 2:4; Eph 2:20, Eph 2:22; Joh 15:1-8; 1Co. 12:12-31; Joh 17:20-23. Now if all these are real unions, is not this union real also? If not, where is the propriety or justice of the comparisons? Instead of leading us to form accurate notions on the subject, they would seem calculated to mislead.
This real and vital union is formed by the one Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit pervading the Head and the members of the mystical body; Co1 6:17; Co1 12:13; Jo1 3:24; Jo1 4:13. It is true, indeed, that the essential presence of Christ's Spirit is everywhere, but he is present in Christ's members, in a special way, as the fountain of spiritual influence. This spiritual presence, which is the bond of union, is manifested immediately upon a man's reception of Christ by faith. From that hour he is one with Christ, because the same Spirit lives in both. Indeed this union is the foundation of all the relative unions which have been employed to illustrate the subject; without it, we could have no saving relation to Christ whatever. That it is mysterious cannot be denied. The apostle himself affirms as much, Eph 5:32; Col 1:27. Although we know the fact, we cannot explain the manner of it, but must not on this account reject it, any more than we would the doctrine of the Spirit's essential presence, because we do not understand it.)
The body is dead - This passage has been interpreted in very different ways. Some understand it to mean that the body is dead in respect to sin; that is, that sin has no more power to excite evil passions and desires; others, that the body must die on account of sin but that the spiritual part shall live, and even the body shall live also in the resurrection. Thus, Calvin, Beza, and Augustine. Doddridge understands it thus: Though the body is to die on account of the first sin that entered into the world, yet the spirit is life, and shall continue to live on forever, through that righteousness which the second Adam has introduced." To each of these interpretations there are serious objections, which it is not necessary to urge. I understand the passage in the following manner: The body refers to that of which the apostle had said so much in the previous chapters - the flesh, the man before conversion. It is subject to corrupt passions and desires, and may be said thus to be dead, as it has none of the elements of spiritual life. It is under the reign of sin and death. The word μέν men, indeed, or truly, has been omitted in our translation, and the omission has obscured the sense. The expression is an admission of the apostle, or a summary statement of what had before been shown. "It is to be admitted, indeed, or it is true, that the unrenewed nature, the man before conversion, under the influence of the flesh, is spiritually dead. Sin has its seat in the fleshly appetites; and the whole body may be admitted thus to be dead or corrupt."
Because of sin - Through sin δἰ ἁμαρτία di' hamartia; by means of sinful passions and appetites.
But the spirit - This stands opposed to the body; and it means that the soul, the immortal part, the renovated man, was alive, or was under the influence of living principles. It was imbued with the life which the gospel imparts and had become active in the service of God. The word "spirit" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but to the spirit of man, the immortal part, recovered, renewed, and imbued with life under the gospel.
Because of righteousness - Through righteousness διὰ δικαιοσύνην dia dikaiosunēn. This is commonly interpreted to mean, with reference to righteousness, or that it may become righteous. But I understand the expression to be used in the sense in which the word is so frequently used in this Epistle, as denoting God's plan of justification; see the note at Rom 1:17. "The spirit of man has been recovered and made alive through his plan of justification. It communicates life, and recovers man from his death in sin to life."
The "body" in this passage has generally been understood in the literal sense, which, doubtless, ought not to be rejected without some valid reason. There is nothing in the connection that demands the figurative sense. The apostle admits that, notwithstanding of the indwelling of the Spirit, the body must die. "It indeed (μεν men ) is dead because of sin." The believer is not delivered from temporal death. Yet there are two things which may well reconcile him to the idea of laying aside for a while the clay tabernacle. The "mortal body," though it now die, is not destined to remain forever under the dominion of death, but shall be raised again incorruptible and glorious, by the power of the same Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead. Meanwhile, "the spirit, or soul, is life, because of righteousness." In consequence of that immaculate righteousness, of which Paul had had said so much in the previous part of this Epistle, the souls of believers, even now, enjoy spiritual life, which shall issue in eternal life and glory.
Those who understand σῶμα sōma figuratively in the 10th verse, insist, indeed, that the resurrection in the 11th, is figurative also. But "the best commentators" says Bloomfield, "both ancient and modern, with reason prefer the literal view, especially on account of the phrase θνητα thnēta σῶματα sōmata which seems to confine it to this sense.")
But if the Spirit of him ... - The Holy Spirit, Rom 8:9.
He that raised up Christ ... - He that had power to restore him to life, has power to give life to you. He that did, in fact, restore him to life, will also restore you. The argument here seems to be founded, first, on the power of God; and, secondly, on the connection between Christ and his people; compare Joh 14:19, "Because I live, ye shall live also."
Shall also quicken - Shall make alive.
Your mortal bodies - That this does not refer to the resurrection of the dead seems to be apparent, because that is not attributed to the Holy Spirit. I understand it as referring to the body, subject to carnal desires and propensities; by nature under the reign of death, and therefore mortal; that is, subject to death. The sense is, that under the gospel, by the influence of the Spirit, the entire man will be made alive in the service of God. Even the corrupt, carnal, and mortal body, so long under the dominion of sin, shall be made alive and recovered to the service of God. This will be done by the Spirit that dwells in us, because that Spirit has restored life to our souls, abides with us with his purifying influence, and because the design and tendency of his indwelling is to purify the entire man, and restore all to God. Christians thus in their bodies and their spirits become sacred. For even their body, the seat of evil passions and desires, shall become alive in the service of God.
We are debtors - We owe it as a matter of solemn obligation. This obligation arises,
(1) From the fact that the Spirit dwells in us;
(2) Because the design of his indwelling is to purify us;
(3) Because we are thus recovered from the death of sin to the life of religion; and he who has imparted life, has a right to require that it be spent in his service.
To the flesh - To the corrupt propensities and passions. We are not bound to indulge them because the end of such indulgence is death and ruin; Rom 7:21-22. But we are bound to live to God, and to follow the leadings of his Spirit, for the end is life and peace; Rom 7:22-23. The reason for this is stated in the following verse.
For if you live ... - If you live to indulge your carnal propensities, you will sink to eternal death; Rom 7:23.
Through the Spirit - By the aid of the Spirit; by cherishing and cultivating his influences. What is here required can be accomplished only by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Do mortify - Do put to death; do destroy. Sin is mortified when its power is destroyed, and it ceases to be active.
The deeds of the body - The corrupt inclinations and passions; called deeds of the body, because they are supposed to have their origin in the fleshly appetites.
Ye shall live - You shall be happy and saved. Either your sins must die, or you must. If they are suffered to live, you will die. If they are put to death, you will be saved. No man can be saved in his sins. This closes the argument of the apostle for the superiority of the gospel to the Law in promoting the purity of man. By this train of reasoning, he has shown that the gospel has accomplished what the Law could not do - the sanctification of the soul, the destruction of the corrupt passions of our nature, and the recovery of man to God.
For as many - Whosoever; all who are thus led. This introduces a new topic, illustrating the benefits of the gospel, to wit, that it produces a spirit of adoption, Rom 8:14-17.
As are led - As submit to his influence and control. The Spirit is represented as influencing, suggesting, and controlling. One evidence of piety is, a willingness to yield to that influence, and submit to him. One decided evidence of the lack of piety is, where there is an unwillingness to submit to that influence, but where the Holy Spirit is grieved and resisted. All Christians submit to his influence; all sinners decidedly reject it and oppose it. The influence of the Spirit, if followed, would lead every man to heaven. But when neglected, rejected, or despised, man goes down to hell. The glory belongs to the conducting Spirit when man is saved; the fault is man's when he is lost. The apostle here does not agitate the question how it is that the people of God are led by the Spirit, or why they yield to it when others resist it. His design is simply to state the fact, that they who are thus led are the sons of God, or have evidence of piety.
Are the sons of God - Are adopted into his family, and are his children. This is a name of endearment, meaning that they sustain to him this relation; that they are his friends, disciples, and imitators; that they are parts of the great family of the redeemed, of whom he is the Father and Protector. It is often applied to Christians in the Bible; Job 1:6; Joh 1:12; Phi 2:15; Jo1 3:1-2; Mat 5:9, Mat 5:45; Luk 6:35. This is a test of piety which is easily applied.
(1) are we conscious that an influence from above has been drawing us away from the corrupting passions and vanities of this world? This is the work of the Spirit.
(2) are we conscious of a desire to yield to that influence, and to be conducted in the path of purity and life? This is an evidence that we are the sons of God.
(3) do we offer no resistance; do we follow cheerfully, and obey this pure influence, leading us to mortify pride, subdue passion, destroy lust, humble ambition, and annihilate the love of wealth and of the world? If so, we are his children. God will not lead us astray; and our peace and happiness consists only in yielding ourselves to this influence entirely, and in being willing to be conducted by this unseen hand "beside the still waters of salvation."
The spirit of bondage - The spirit that binds you; or the spirit of a slave, that produces only fear. The slave is under constant fear and alarm. But the spirit of religion is that of freedom and of confidence; the spirit of children, and not of slaves; compare the note at Joh 8:32-36.
Again to fear - That you should again be afraid, or be subjected to servile fear - This implies that in their former state under the Law, they were in a state of servitude, and that the tendency of it was merely to produce alarm. Every sinner is subject to such fear. He has everything of which to be alarmed. God is angry with him; his conscience will trouble him; and he has everything to apprehend in death and in eternity. But it is not so with the Christian; compare Ti2 1:7.
The spirit of adoption - The feeling of affection, love, and confidence which pertains to children; not the servile, trembling spirit of slaves, but the temper and affectionate regard of sons. Adoption is the taking and treating a stranger as one's own child. It is applied to Christians because God treats them as his children; he receives them into this relation, though they were by nature strangers and enemies. It implies,
(1) That we by nature had no claim on him;
(2) That therefore, the act is one of mere kindness - of pure, sovereign love;
(3) That we are now under his protection and care; and,
(4) That we are bound to manifest toward him the spirit of children, and yield to him obedience. See the note at Joh 1:12; compare Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5. It is for this that Christians are so often called the sons of God.
Whereby we cry - As children who need protection and help. This evinces the habitual spirit of a child of God; a disposition,
(1) To express toward him the feelings due to a father;
(2) To call upon him; to address him in the language of affection and endearing confidence;
(3) To seek his protection and aid.
Abba This word is Chaldee (אבא abba), and means "father." Why the apostle repeats the word in a different language, is not known. The Syriac reads it. "By which we call the Father our Father." It is probable that the repetition here denotes merely intensity, and is designed to denote the interest with which a Christian dwells on the name, in the spirit of an affectionate, tender child. It is not unusual to repeat such terms of affection; compare Mat 7:22; Psa 8:1. This is an evidence of piety that is easily applied. He that can in sincerity, and with ardent affection apply this term to God, addressing him with a filial spirit as his Father, has the spirit of a Christian. Every child of God has this spirit; and he that has it not is a stranger to piety.
The Spirit - The Holy Spirit. That the Holy Spirit here is intended, is evident,
(1) Because this is the natural meaning of the expression;
(2) Because it is of the Holy Spirit that the apostle is mainly treating here;
(3) Because it would be an unnatural and forced construction to say of the temper of adoption that it bore witness.
Beareth witness - Testifies, gives evidence.
With our spirit - To our minds. This pertains to the adoption; and it means that the Holy Spirit furnishes evidence to our minds that we are adopted into the family of God. This effect is not infrequently attributed to the Holy Spirit, Co2 1:22; Jo1 5:10-11; Co1 2:12. If it be asked how this is done, I answer, it is not by any revelation of new truth; it is not by inspiration; it is not always by assurance; it is not by a mere persuasion that we are elected to eternal life; but it is by producing in us the appropriate effects of his influence. It is his to renew the heart; to sanctify the soul; to produce "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," Gal 5:22-23. If a man has these, he has evidence of the witnessing of the Spirit with his spirit. If not, he has no such evidence. And the way, therefore, to ascertain whether we have this witnessing of the Spirit, is by an honest and prayerful inquiry whether these fruits of the Spirit actually exist in our minds. If they do, the evidence is clear. If not, all vain confidence of good estate; all visions, and raptures, and fancied revelations, will be mere delusions. It may be added, that the effect of these fruits of the Spirit an the mind is to produce a calm and heavenly frame; and in that frame, when attended with the appropriate fruits of the Spirit in a holy life, we may rejoice as an evidence of piety.
That we are the children of God - That we are adopted into his family.
And if children - If adopted into his family.
Then heirs - That is, he will treat us as sons. An heir is one who succeeds to an estate. The meaning here is, that if we sustain the relation of sons to God, that we shall be treated as such, and admitted to share his favors. An adopted son comes in for a part of the inheritance, Num. 27.
Heirs of God - This expression means that we shall be partakers of that inheritance which God confers on his people. That inheritance is his favor here, and eternal life hereafter. This is an honor infinitely higher than to be heir to the most princely earthly inheritance; or than to be the adopted son of the most magnificent earthly monarch.
And joint heirs with Christ - Christ is by eminence the "Son of God." As such, he is heir to the full honors and glory of heaven. Christians are united to him; they are his friends; and they are thus represented as destined to partake with him of his glory. They are the sons of God in a different sense from what he is; he by his nature and high relation, they by adoption; but still the idea of sonship exists in both; and hence, both will partake in the glories of the eternal inheritance; compare Phi 2:8-9; Heb 2:9-10. The connection between Christ and Christians is often referred to in the New Testament. The fact that they are united here is often alleged as a reason why they will be in glory, Joh 14:19, "Because I live, ye shall live also," Ti2 2:11-12; "For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him, Rev 3:21; "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne," etc., Joh 17:22-24.
If so be - If this condition exist; We shall not be treated as co-heirs with him, unless we here give evidence that we are united to him.
That we suffer with him - Greek, "If we suffer together, that we may also be glorified together." If we suffer in his cause; bear afflictions as he did; are persecuted and tried for the same thing; and thus show that we are united to him. It does not mean that we suffer to the same extent that he did, but we may imitate him in the kind of our sufferings, and in the spirit with which they are borne; and thus show that we are united to him.
That we may be also glorified together - If united in the same kind of sufferings, there is propriety in being united in destiny beyond the scenes of all suffering, the kingdom of blessedness and love.
For I reckon - I think; I judge. This verse commences a new division of the subject, which is continued to Rom 8:25. Its design is to show the power of the gospel in sustaining the soul in trials; a very important; and material part of the scheme. This had been partially noticed before Rom 5:3-5, but its full power to support the soul in the prospect of a glorious immortality had not been fully discussed. This topic seems here to have been suggested by what is said of adoption. The mind of the apostle instantly adverted to the effects or benefits of that adoption; and one of the most material of those benefits was the sustaining grace which the gospel imparted in the midst of afflictions. It should be borne in mind that the early Christians were comparatively few and feeble, and exposed to many trials, and that this topic would be often, therefore, introduced into the discussions about their privileges and condition.
The sufferings - The afflictions; the persecutions, sicknesses, etc. The expression evidently includes not only the special trials of Christians at that time, but all that believers are ever called to endure.
Of this present time - Probably the apostle had particular reference to the various calamities then endured. But the expression is equally applicable to afflictions of all times and in all places.
Are not worthy to be compared - Are nothing in comparison; the one is far more than an equivalent. in compensation for the other.
With the glory - The happiness; the honor in heaven.
Which shall be revealed in us - That shall be disclosed to us; or of which we shall be the partakers in heaven. The usual representation of heaven is that of glory, splendor, magnificence, or light; compare Rev 21:10, Rev 21:23-24; Rev 22:5. By this, therefore, Christians maybe sustained. Their sufferings may seem great; but they should remember that they are nothing in comparison with future glory. They are nothing in degree. For these are light compared with that "eternal weight of glory" which they shall "work out." Co2 4:17. They are nothing in duration. For these sufferings are but for a moment; but the glory shall be eternal. These will soon pass away; but that glory shall never become dim or diminished; it will increase and expand forever and ever.
In us - Unto us εἰς ἡμᾶς eis hēmas.
For the earnest expectation - ἀποκαραδοκία apokaradokia. This word occurs only here and in Phi 1:20, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope," etc. It properly denotes a state of earnest desire to see any object when the head is thrust forward; an intense anxiety; an ardent wish; and is thus well employed to denote the intense interest with which a Christian looks to his future inheritance.
Of the creature - τῆς κτίσεως tēs ktiseōs." Perhaps there is not a passage in the New Testament that has been deemed more difficult of interpretation than this Rom 8:19-23; and after all the labors bestowed on it by critics, still there is no explanation proposed which is perfectly satisfactory, or in which commentators concur. The object here will be to give what appears to the writer the true meaning, without attempting to controvert the opinions of critics. The main design of the passage is, to show the sustaining power of the gospel in the midst of trials, by the prospect of the future deliverance and inheritance of the sons of God. This scope of the passage is to guide us in the interpretation. The following are, I suppose, the leading points in the illustration.
(1) the word "creature" refers to the renewed nature of the Christian, or to the Christian as renewed.
(2) he is waiting for his future glory; that is, desirous of obtaining the full development of the honors that await him as the child of God; Rom 8:19.
(3) he is subjected to a state of trial and vanity, affording comparatively little comfort and much disquietude.
(4) this is not in accordance with the desire of his heart, "not willingly," but is the wise appointment of God; Rom 8:20.
(5) in this state there is the hope of deliverance into glorious liberty; Rom 8:21.
(6) this condition of things does not exist merely in regard to the Christian, but is the common condition of the world. It all groans, and is in trial, as much as the Christian. He therefore should not deem his condition as especially trying. It is the common lot of all things here; Rom 8:22, But,
(7) Christians only have the prospect of deliverance. To them is held out the hope of final rescue, and of an eternal inheritance beyond all these sufferings. They wait, therefore, for the full benefits of the adoption; the complete recovery even of the body from the effects of sin, and the toils and trials of this live; and thus they are sustained by hope, which is the argument which the apostle has in view; Rom 8:23-24. With this view of the general scope of the passage, we may examine the particular phrases.
(The opinion which is perhaps most generally adopted of this difficult passage, is what explains κτίσις ktisis of the whole irrational creation. According to this view, the apostle, having adverted to the glory that awaited the Christian, as a ground of joy and comfort under present sufferings, exalts our idea of it still higher by representing the external world as participating in, and waiting for it. "This interpretation is suitable to the design of the apostle. Paul's object is not to confirm the certainty of a future state, but to produce a strong impression of its glorious character. Nothing could be better adapted to this object, than the grand and beautiful figure of the whole creation waiting and longing for the glorious revelation of the Son of God, and the consummation of his kingdom." Hodge. In the original it is the same word that is rendered alternately "creature" and "creation."
And the meaning of the passage depends, in great measure, on the sense of this single word. Generally speaking, it signifies anything created. The particular kind of creation is determined by the context alone. Of course, whatever sense we may attach to it, must be continued throughout the whole passage, as we cannot suppose the apostle uses the same word in two different senses, in one place, without any intimation of the change. To what then does κτίσις ktisis refer? It is maintained by those who adopt the view noticed above, that it cannot refer to angels, either elect or fallen, since the former have never been subject to the bondage of corruption, and the latter are not waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God; that it cannot allude to wicked people, for neither do they anxiously look out for this manifestation; that it can no more refer to saints or renewed people, since these are expressly distinguished as a separate class in Rom 8:23; and that, therefore, it must be understood of the whole manimate and irrational creation.
It is further argued, that every part of the context may be explained consistently with this view. The passage is supposed to present a very bold and beautiful instance of the figure called prosopopoeia, by which things inanimate are invested with life and feeling, a figure which is indeed very common in Scripture, and which we need not be surprised to find in this place, amid so much that is grand and elevating; Joe 1:10, Joe 1:20; Jer 12:4; Isa 24:4, Isa 24:7. According to this interpretation of κτίσις ktisis then, the general sense of the apostle may be thus given. The whole irrational creation is interested in the future glory of the sons of God, and is anxiously waiting for it. For then the curse will be removed from the very ground, and the lower animals relieved from oppression and cruelty. The very creation, on account of the sin of man, has been subjected to the curse, and has become "vain" or useless in regard to the original design of it, having been made subservient to the evil purposes and passions of man.
This state of subjection to vanity is not willing, but by restraint. Violence is imposed, as it were, on external nature. But this shall not continue. There is hope in the heart of the subject world, that ὅτι hoti it shall be delivered from this bondage, and participate in the liberty of the children of God. This representation may seem strange and unusual, but "we know" certainly, adds the apostle, that it is so; that "the whole creation πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις pasa hē ktisis, groaneth and travaileth in pain throughout every part. Even we, who are saints of God, and have been favored with the earnests of future bliss, feel the general oppression, and groan within ourselves, while we wait for the period of deliverance, in which the very body shall be ransomed from the grave and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.)
Of the creature - The word here rendered "creature" κτίσις ktisis, occurs in the New Testament nineteen times, and is used in the following senses:
(1) Creation; the act of creating; Rom 1:20,
(2) The creature; what is created or formed; the universe; Mar 10:6; Mar 13:19; Pe2 3:4; Rom 1:25; Rom 8:39.
(3) the rational creation; man as a rational being; the world of mankind; Mar 16:15; Col 1:23; Pe1 2:13.
(4) perhaps the church, the new creation of God taken collectively; Col 1:15; Rev 3:14.
(5) the Christian, the new creation, regarded individually; the work of the Holy Spirit on the renewed heart; the new man.
After all the attention which I can give to this passage, I regard this to be the meaning here, for the following reasons, namely.
(1) because this alone seems to me to suit the connection, and to make sense in the argument. If the word refers, as has been supposed by different interpreters; either to angels, or to the bodies of people, or to the material creation, or to the rational creation - to people (mankind); it is difficult to see what connection either would have with the argument. The apostle is discoursing of the benefits of the gospel to Christians in time of trial; and the bearing of the argument requires us to understand this illustration of them, unless we are compelled not to understand it thus by the proper laws of interpreting words.
(2) the word "creature" is used in a similar sense by the same apostle. Thus, Co2 5:17, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" καινὴ κτίσις kainē ktisis. Gal 6:15, "for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."
(3) the verb create is thus used. Thus, Eph 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Eph 2:15, "having abolished in his flesh the enmity ...for to make in himself of twain one new man:" Greek, "That he might create κτίσῃ ktisē the two into one newman." Eph 4:24, "the new man, which is created in righteousness," etc.
(4) nothing was more natural than for the sacred writers thus to speak of a Christian as a new creation, a new creature. The great power of God involved in his conversion, and the strong resemblance between the creation and imparting spiritual life, led naturally to this use of the language.
(5) language similar to this occurs in the Old Testament, and it was natural to transfer it to the New. The Jewish people were represented as made or created by God for his service, and the phrase, therefore, might come to designate those who were thus formed by him to his service. Deu 32:6, "hath he not made thee, and established thee?" Isa 43:7, " ... Everyone that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." Isa 43:21, "this people have I formed for myself." From all which reasons, it seems to me that the expression here is used to denote Christians, renewed people. Its meaning, however, is varied in Rom 8:22.
Waiteth for - Expects; is not in a state of possession, but is looking for it with interest.
The manifestation of the sons of God - The full development of the benefits of the sons of God; the time when they shall be acknowledged, and received into the full privileges of sons. Here Christians have some evidence of their adoption. But they are in a world of sin; they are exposed to trials; they are subject to many calamities; and though they have evidence here that they are the sons of God, yet they wait for that period when they shall be fully delivered from all these trials, and be admitted to the enjoyment of all the privileges of the children of the Most High. The time when this shall take place will be at the day of Judgment, when they shall be fully acknowledged in the presence of an assembled universe as his children. All Christians are represented as in this posture of waiting for the full possession of their privileges as the children of God. Co1 1:7, "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Th2 3:5; Gal 5:5, "for we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." Th1 1:10.
For the creature - The renewed creature; the Christian mind. This is given as a reason for its aspiring to the full privileges of adoption, that the present state is not one of choice, or one which is preferred, but one to which it has been subjected for wise reasons by God.
Subject to vanity - The word "subject to" means placed in such a state; subjected to it by the appointment of another, as a soldier has his rank and place assigned him in an army. The word "vanity" here ματαιότης mataiotēs is descriptive of the present condition of the Christian, as frail and dying; as exposed to trials, temptations, and cares; as in the midst of conflicts, and of a world which may be emphatically pronounced vanity. More or less, the Christian is brought under this influence; his joys are marred; his peace is discomposed; his affections wander; his life is a life of vanity and vexation.
Not willingly - Not voluntarily. It is not a matter of choice. It is not what is congenial to his renewed nature. That would aspire to perfect holiness and peace. But this subjection is one that is contrary to it, and from which he desires to be delivered. This describes substantially the same condition as Rom 7:15-24.
But by reason - By him διά dia. It is the appointment of God, who has chosen to place his people in this condition; and who for wise purposes retains them in it.
Who hath subjected the same - Who has appointed his people to this condition. It is his wise arrangement. Here we may observe,
(1) That the instinctive feelings of Christians lead them to desire a purer and a happier world, Phi 1:23.
(2) that it is not what they desire, to be subjected to the toils of this life, and to the temptations and vanities of this world. They sigh for deliverance.
(3) their lot in life; their being subjected to this state of vanity, is the arrangement of God. Why it is, he has not seen fit to inform us fully. He might have taken his people at once to heaven as soon as they are converted. But though we know not all the reasons why they are continued here in this state of vanity, we can see some of them:
(a) Christians are subjected to this state to do good to their fellow sinners. They remain on earth for this purpose: and this should be their leading aim.
(b) By their remaining here the power of the gospel is shown in overcoming their sin; in meeting their temptations; in sustaining them in trial; and in thus furnishing living evidence to the world of the power and excellency of that gospel. This could not be attained if they were removed at once to heaven.
(c) It furnishes occasion for some interesting exhibitions of character - for hope, and faith, and love, and for increasing and progressive excellence.
(d) It is a proper training for heaven. It brings out the Christian character, and fits it for the skies. There may be inestimable advantages, all of which we may not see, in subjecting the Christian to a process of training in overcoming his sins, and in producing confidence in God, before he is admitted to his state of final rest.
(e) It is fit and proper that he should engage here in the service of Him who has redeemed him. He has been ransomed by the blood of Christ, and God has the highest claim on him in all the conflicts and toils, in all the labors and services to which he may be subjected in this life.
In hope - See the note at Rom 5:4. Hope has reference to the future; and in this state of the Christian, he sighs for deliverance, and expects it.
Because - This is the ground of his hope, and this sustains him now. It is the purpose of God that deliverance shall be granted, and this supports the Christian amidst the trials to which he is subjected here. The hope is, that this same renewed man shall be delivered from all the toils, and cares, and sins of this state.
The creature itself - The very soul that is renewed; the ransomed man without essential change. It will be the same being, though purified; the same man, possessed of the same body and soul, though freed from all the corruptions of humanity, and elevated above all the degradations of the present condition. The idea is everywhere presented, that the identical person shall be admitted to heaven without essential change, Co1 15:35-38, Co1 15:42-44. That this is the hope of all Christians, see Pe2 3:13.
From the bondage of corruption - This does not differ materially from "vanity," Rom 8:20. It implies that this state is not a willing state, or not a condition of choice, but is one of bondage or servitude (see Rom 7:15-24); and that it is a corrupt, imperfect, perishing condition. It is one that leads to sin, and temptation, and conflict and anxiety. It is a condition often which destroys the peace, mars the happiness, dims the hope, enfeebles the faith, and weakens the love of Christians, and this is called the bondage of corruption. It is also one in which temporal death has dominion, and in the bondage of which, believers as well as unbelievers shall be held. Yet from all this bondage the children of God shall be delivered.
The glorious liberty - Greek, The freedom of the glory of the children of God. This is,
(1) "Liberty." It is freedom from the bondage under which the Christian groans. It will be freedom from sin; from corruption; from evil desires; from calamity; from death. The highest "freedom "in the universe is that which is enjoyed in heaven, where the redeemed are under the sovereignty and government of their king, but where they do that, and that only, which they desire. All is slavery but the service of God; all is bondage but that law which accords with the supreme wish of the soul, and where commands accord with the perfect desires of the heart.
(2) this is glorious liberty. It is encompassed with majesty; attended with honor; crowned with splendor. The heavenly world is often described as a state of glory; Note, Rom 2:10.
Of the children of God - That the children of God shall enjoy.
For we know - The sentiment of this verse is designed as an illustration of what had just been said.
That the whole creation - Margin, "every creature." This expression has been commonly understood as meaning the same as "the creature" in Rom 8:20-21. But I understand it as having a different signification; and as being used in the natural and usual signification of the word "creature," or "creation." It refers, as I suppose, to the whole animate creation; to all living beings; to the state of all created things here, as in a condition of pain and disorder, and groaning and death. Everything which we see; every creature which lives, is thus subjected to a state of servitude, pain, vanity, and death. The reasons for supposing that this is the true interpretation, are,
(1) That the apostle expressly speaks of "the whole creation, of every creature, qualifying the phrase by the expression "we know," as if he was drawing an illustration from a well-understood, universal fact.
(2) this interpretation makes consistent sense, and makes the verse have a direct bearing on the argument. "It is just an argument from analogy."
He had Rom 8:20-21 said that the condition of a Christian was one of bondage and servitude. It was an imperfect, humiliating state; one attended with pain, sorrow, and death. This might be regarded as a melancholy description, and the question might arise, why was not the Christian at once delivered from this? The answer is in this verse. "It is just the condition of everything." It is the manifest principle on which God governs the world. The whole creation is in just this condition; and we are not to be surprised, therefore, if it is the condition of the believer. It is a part of the universal system of things; it accords with everything we see; and we are not to be surprised that the church exists on the same principle of administration; in a state of bondage, imperfection, sorrow, and sighing for deliverance.
Groaneth - Greek, Groans together. All is united in a condition of sorrow. The expression denotes mutual and universal grief. It is one wide and loud lamentation, in which a dying world unites; and in which it has united "until now."
And travaileth in pain together - This expression properly denotes the extreme pain of parturition. It also denotes any intense agony, or extreme suffering; and it means here that the condition of all things has been that of intense, united, and continued suffering; in other words, that we are in a world of misery and death. This has been united; all have partaken of it: it has been intense; all endure much: it has been unremitted; every age has experienced the repetition of the same thing.
Until now - Until the time when the apostle wrote. It is equally true of the time since he wrote. It has been the characteristic of every age. It is remarkable that the apostle does not here say of "the whole creation," that it had any hope of deliverance; an additional consideration that shows that the interpretation above suggested is correct, Rom 8:20-21, Rom 8:23. Of the sighing and suffering universe, he says nothing with respect to its future state. He does not say that the suffering brutal creation shall be compensated, or shall be restored or raised up. He simply adverts to the fact that it suffers, as an illustration that the condition of the Christian is not singular and special. The Scriptures say nothing of the future condition of the brutal creation.
And not only they - Not only the creation in general. "But ourselves also." Christians.
Which have the first-fruits of the Spirit - The word used ἀπαρχὴ aparchē denotes properly the first-fruits of the harvest, the portion that was first collected and consecrated to God as an offering of gratitude, Deu 26:2; Exo 23:19; Num 18:13. Hence, the word means what is first in order of time. Here it means, as I suppose, that the Christians of whom Paul was speaking had partaken of the first influences of the Spirit, or had been among the first partakers of his influences in converting sinners. The Spirit had been sent down to attend the preaching of the gospel, and they were among the first who had partaken of those influences. Some, however, have understood the word to mean a pledge, or earnest, or foretaste of joys to come. This idea has been attached to the word because the first-fruits of the harvest were a pledge of the harvest, an evidence that it was ripe, etc. But the word does not seem to be used in this sense in the New Testament. The only places where it occurs are the following; Rom 8:23; Rom 11:16; Rom 16:5; Co1 15:20, Co1 15:23; Co1 16:15; Jam 1:18; Rev 14:4.
Groan within ourselves - We sigh for deliverance. The expression denotes strong internal desire; the deep anguish of spirit when the heart is oppressed with anguish, and earnestly wishes for succor.
Waiting for the adoption - Waiting for the full blessings of the adoption. Christians are adopted when they are converted Rom 8:15, but they have not been yet admitted to the full privileges of their adoption into the family of God. Their adoption when they are converted is secret, and may at the time be unknown to the world. The fullness of the adoption, their complete admission to the privileges of the sons of God, shall be in the day of judgment, in the presence of the universe, and amidst the glories of the final consummation of all things. This adoption is not different from the first, but is the completion of the act of grace when a sinner is received into the family of God.
The redemption of the body - The complete recovery of the body from death and corruption. The particular and striking act of the adoption in the day of judgment will be the raising up of the body from the grave, and rendering it immortal and eternally blessed. The particular effects of the adoption in this world are on the soul. The completion of it on the last day will be seen particularly in the body; and thus the entire man shall be admitted into the favor of God, and restored from all his sins and all the evil consequences of the fall. The apostle here speaks the language of every Christian. The Christian has joys which the world does not know; but he has also sorrows; he sighs over his corruption; he is in the midst of calamity; he is going to the grave; and he looks forward to that complete deliverance, and to that elevated state, when, in the presence of an assembled universe, he shall be acknowledged as a child of God. This elevated privilege gives to Christianity its high value; and the hope of being acknowledged in the presence of the universe as the child of God - the hope of the poorest and the humblest believer - is of infinitely mere value than the prospect of the most princely inheritance, or of the brightest crown that a monarch ever wore.
For we are saved by hope - It cannot be said that hope is the instrument or condition of salvation. Most commentators have understood this as meaning that we have as yet attained salvation only in hope; that we have arrived only to a condition in which we hope for future glory; and that we are in an attitude of waiting for the future state of adoption. But perhaps the word "saved" may mean here simply, we are kept, preserved, sustained in our trials, by hope. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. This is the proper meaning of the word "save"; and it is often thus used in the New Testament; see Mat 8:25; Mat 16:25; Mar 3:4; Mar 8:35. The Syriac renders this, "For by hope we live." The Arabic, "We are preserved by hope." Hope thus sustains the soul in the midst of trims, and enables it to bear them without a complaint.
But hope that is seen - Hope is a complex emotion, made up of an earnest desire, and an expectation of obtaining an object. It has reference, therefore, to what is at present unseen. But when the object is seen, and is in our possession, it cannot be said to be an object of hope. The Word hope here means the object of hope, the thing hoped for.
What a man seeth - The word "seeth" is used here in the sense of possessing, or enjoying. What a man already possesses, he cannot be said to hope for.
Why - How. What a man actually possesses, how can he look forward to it with anticipation?
But if we hope ... - The effect here stated is one which exists everywhere. Where there is a strong desire for an object, and a corresponding expectation of obtaining it - which constitutes true hope - then we can wait for it with patience. Where there is a strong desire without a corresponding expectation of obtaining it, there is impatience. As the Christian has a strong desire of future glory, and as he has an expectation of obtaining it just in proportion to that desire, it follows that he may bear trials and persecutions patiently in the hope of his future deliverance. Compared with our future glory, our present sufferings are light, and but for a moment; Co2 4:17. In the hope of that blessed eternity which is before him, the Christian can endure the severest trial, and bear the intensest pain without a complaint.
Likewise the Spirit - This introduces a new source of consolation and support, what is derived from the Spirit. It is a continuation of the argument of the apostle, to show the sustaining power of the Christian religion. The "Spirit" here undoubtedly refers to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, and who strengthens us.
Helpeth - This word properly means, to sustain with us; to aid us in supporting. It is applied usually to those who unite in supporting or carrying a burden. The meaning may be thus expressed: "he greatly assists or aids us."
Our infirmities - Assists us in our infirmities, or aids us to bear them. The word "infirmities" refers to the weaknesses to which we are subject, and to our various trials in this life. The Spirit helps us in this,
(1) By giving us strength to bear them;
(2) By exciting us to make efforts to sustain them;
(3) By ministering to us consolations, and truths, and views of our Christian privileges, that enable us to endure our trials.
For we know not ... - This is a specification of the aid which the Holy Spirit, renders us. The reasons why Christians do not know what to pray for may be,
(1) That they do not know what would be really best for them.
(2) they do not know what God might be willing to grant them.
(3) they are to a great extent ignorant of the character of God, the reason of his dealings, the principles of his government, and their own real needs.
(4) they are often in real, deep perplexity. They are encompassed with trials, exposed to temptations, feeble by disease, and subject to calamities. In these circumstances, if left alone, they would neither be able to bear their trials, nor know what to ask at the hand of God.
But the Spirit itself - The Holy Spirit; Rom 8:9-11.
Maketh intercession - The word used here ὑπερεντυνγχάνει huperentungchanei, occurs no where else in the New Testament. The word ἐντυνγχάνω entungchanō, however, is used several times. It means properly to be present with anyone for the purpose of aiding, as an advocate does in a court of justice; hence, to intercede for anyone, or to aid or assist in any manner. In this place it simply means that the Holy Spirit greatly assists or aids us; not by praying for us, but in our prayers and infirmities.
With groanings - With sighs, or that deep feeling and intense anxiety which exists in the oppressed and burdened heart of the Christian.
Which cannot be uttered - Or rather, perhaps, which is not uttered; those emotions which are too deep for utterance, or for expression in articulate language. This does not mean that the Spirit produces these groanings; but that in these deep-felt emotions, when the soul is oppressed and overwhelmed, he lends us his assistance and sustains us. The phrase may be thus translated: "The Spirit greatly aids or supports us in those deep emotions, those intense feelings, those inward sighs which cannot be expressed in language, but which he enables us to bear, and which are understood by Him that searcheth the hearts."
And he that searcheth the hearts - God. To search the heart is one of his attributes which cannot be communicated to a creature; Jer 17:10.
Knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit - Knows the desires which the Holy Spirit excites and produces in the heart. He does not need that those deep emotions should be expressed in words; he does not need the eloquence of language to induce him to hear; but he sees the anxious feelings of the soul, and is ready to aid and to bless.
Maketh intercession for the saints - Aids and directs Christians.
According to the will of God - Greek, "According to God." It is according to his will in the following respects:
(1) The Spirit is given according to his will. It is his gracious purpose to grant his aid to all who truly love him.
(2) the desires which he excites in the heart of the Christian are those which are according to his will; they are such as God wishes to exist; the contrite, humble, and penitent pleading of sinners for mercy.
(3) he superintends and guards Christians in their prayers.
It is not meant that they are infallible, or that they never make an improper petition, or have an improper desire; but that he has a general superintendence over their minds, and that so far as they will yield themselves to his direction, they shall not be led into error That man is most safe who yields himself most entirely to the influence of the Holy Spirit. And the doctrine here stated is one that is full of consolation to the Christian. We are poor, and needy, and ignorant, and blind; we are the creatures of a day, and are crushed before the moth. But in the midst of our feebleness we may look to God for the aid of his Spirit, and rejoice in his presence, and in his power to sustain us in our sighings, and to guide us in our wanderings.
And we know - This verse introduces another source of consolation and support, drawn from the fact that all flyings are under the direction of an infinitely wise Being, who has purposed the salvation of the Christian, and who has so appointed all things that they shall contribute to it.
All things - All our afflictions and trials; all the persecutions and calamities to which we are exposed. Though they are numerous and long-continued yet they are among the means that are appointed for our welfare.
Work together for good - They shall cooperate; they shall mutually contribute to our good. They take off our affections from this world; they teach us the truth about our frail, transitory, and lying condition; they lead us to look to God for support, and to heaven for a final home; and they produce a subdued spirit. a humble temper, a patient, tender, and kind disposition. This has been the experience of all saints; and at the end of life they have been able to say it was good for them to be afflicted; Psa 119:67, Psa 119:71; Jer 31:18-19; Heb 12:11.
For good - For our real welfare; for the promotion of true piety, peace, and happiness in our hearts.
To them that love God - This is a characteristic of true piety. To them, afflictions are a blessing. To others, they often prove otherwise. On others they are sent as chastisements; and they produce complaining, instead of peace; rebellion, instead of submission; and anger, impatience, and hatred, instead of calmness, patience, and love. The Christian is made a better man by receiving afflictions as they should be received, and by desiring that they should accomplish the purpose for which they are sent; the sinner is made more hardened by resisting them, and refusing to submit to their obvious intention and design.
To them who are the called - Christians are often represented as called of God. The word κλητός klētos is sometimes used to denote an external invitation, offer, or calling; Mat 20:16; Mat 22:14. But excepting in these places, it is used in the New Testament to denote those who had accepted the call, and were true Christians; Rom 1:6-7; Co1 1:2, Co1 1:24; Rev 17:14. It is evidently used in this sense here - to denote those who were true Christians. The connection as well as the usual meaning of the word, requires us thus to understand it. Christians are said to be called because God has invited them to be saved, and has sent into their heart such an influence as to make the call effectual to their salvation. In this way their salvation is to be traced entirely to God.
According to his purpose - The word here rendered "purpose" πρόθεσις prothesis means properly a proposition, or a laying down anything in view of others; and is thus applied to the bread that was laid on the table of show-bread; Mat 12:4; Mar 2:26; Luk 6:4. Hence, it means, when applied to the mind, a plan or purpose of mind. It implies that God had a plan, purpose, or intention, in regard to all who became Christians. They are not saved by chance or hap-hazard. God does not convert people without design; and his designs are not new, but are eternal. What he does. he always meant to do. What it is right for him to do, it was right always to intend to do. What God always meant to do, is his purpose or plan. That he has such a purpose in regard to the salvation of his people, is often affirmed; Rom 9:11; Eph 1:11; Eph 3:11; Ti2 1:9; Jer 51:29. This purpose of saving his people is,
(1) One over which a creature can have no control; it is according to the counsel of his own will; Eph 1:11.
(2) it is without any merit on the part of the sinner - a purpose to save him by grace; Ti2 1:9.
(3) it is eternal; Eph 3:11.
(4) it is such as should excite lively gratitude in all who have been inclined by the grace of God to accept the offers of eternal life. They owe it to the mere mercy of God, and they should acknowledge him as the fountain and source of all their hopes of heaven.
For whom he did foreknow - The word used here προέγνω proegnō has been the subject of almost endless disputes in regard to its meaning in this place. The literal meaning of the word cannot be a matter of dispute. It denotes properly to "know beforehand;" to be acquainted with future events. But whether it means here simply to know that certain persons would become Christians; or to ordain, and constitute them to be Christians, and to be saved, has been a subject of almost endless discussion. Without entering at large into an investigation of the word, perhaps the following remarks may throw light on it.
(1) it does not here have reference to all the human family; for all are not, and have not, been conformed to the image of his Son. It has reference therefore only to those who would become Christians, and be saved.
(2) it implies "certain knowledge." It was certainly foreseen, in some way, that they would believe, and be saved. There is nothing, therefore, in regard to them that is contingent, or subject to doubt in the divine Mind, since it was certainly foreknown.
(3) the event which was thus foreknown must have been, for some cause, certain and fixed; since an uncertain event could not be possibly foreknown. To talk of a foreknowing a contingent event, that is, of foreknowing an event as certain which may or may not exist, is an absurdity.
(4) in what way such an event became certain is not determined by the use of this word. But it must have been somehow in connection with a divine appointment or arrangement, since in no other way can it be conceived to be certain. While the word used here, therefore, does not of necessity mean to decree, yet its use supposes that there was a purpose or plan; and the phrase is an explanation of what the apostle had just said, that it was "according to the purpose of God" that they were called. This passage does not affirm why, or how, or, "on what grounds" God foreknew that some of the human family would be saved. It simply affirms the fact; and the mode in which those who will believe were designated, must be determined from other sources. This passage simply teaches that he knew them; that his eye was fixed on them; that he regarded them as to be conformed to his Son; and that, thus knowing them, he designated them to eternal life. The Syriac renders it in accordance with this interpretation: "And from the beginning he knew them, and sealed them with the image of his Son," etc. As, however, none would believe but by the influences of his Spirit, it follows that they were not foreknown on account of any faith which they would themselves exercise, or any goodworks which they would themselves perform, but according to the purpose or plan of God himself.
He also did predestinate - See the meaning of the original of this word explained in the notes at Rom 1:4; see also the Act 4:28 note; and Co1 2:7 note. In these places the word evidently means to determine, purpose, or decree beforehand; and it must have this meaning here. No other idea could be consistent with the proper meaning of the word, or be intelligible. It is clear also that it does not refer to external privileges, but to real conversion and piety; since that to which they were predestinated was not the external privilege of the gospel, but conformity to his Son, and salvation; see Rom 8:30. No passage could possibly teach in stronger language that it was God's purpose to save those who will be saved. Eph 1:5, "having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself." Eph 1:11, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
To be conformed to the image of his Son - To resemble his Son; to be of like form with the image of his Son. We may learn here,
(1) That God does not determine to save people, whatever their character may be. The decree is not to save them in their sins, or whether they be sinful or holy. But it has primary respect to their char acter. It is that they "should be" holy; and, as a consequence of this, that they should be saved.
(2) the only evidence which we can have that we are the subjects of his gracious purpose is, that we are "in fact" conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ. For this was the design of the decree. This is the only satisfactory proof of piety; and by this alone can we determine that we are interested in his gracious plan of saving people.
That he might be the first-born - The first-born among the Hebrews had many special privileges. The idea here is,
(1) That Christ might be pre-eminent as the model and exemplar; that he might be clothed with special honors, and be so regarded in his church; and yet,
(2) That he might still sustain a fraternal relation to them; that he might be one in the same great family of God where all are sons; compare Heb 2:12-14.
Many brethren - Not a few. The purpose of God is that many of the human family shall be saved.
Moreover ... - In this verse, in order to show to Christians the true consolation to be derived from the fact that they are predestinated, the apostle states the connection between that predestination and their certain salvation. The one implied the other.
Whom he did predestinate - All whom he did predestinate.
Them he also called - Called by his Spirit to become Christians. He called, not merely by an external invitation, but in such a way as that they in fact were justified. This cannot refer simply to an external call of the gospel, since those who are here said to be called are said also to be justified and glorified. The meaning is, that there is a certain connection between the predestination and the call, which will be manifested in due time. The connection is so certain that the one infallibly secures the other.
He justified - See the note at Rom 3:24. Not that he justified them from eternity, for this was not true; and if it were, it would also follow that he glorified them from eternity, which would be an absurdity. It means that there is a regular sequence of events - the predestination precedes and secures the calling; and the calling precedes and secures the justification. The one is connected in the purpose of God with the other; and the one, in fact, does not take place without the other. The purpose was in eternity. The calling and justifying in time.
Them he also glorified - This refers probably to heaven. It means that there is a connection between justification and glory. The one does not exist without the other in its own proper time; as the calling does not subsist without the act of justification. This proves, therefore, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. There is a connection infallible and ever existing between the predestination and the final salvation. They who are subjects of the one are partakers of the other. That this is the sense is clear,
(1) Because it is the natural and obvious meaning of the passage.
(2) because this only would meet the design of the argument of the apostle. For how would it be a source of consolation to say to them that whom God foreknew he predestinated, and whom he predestinated he called, and whom he called he justified, and whom he justified "might fall away and be lost forever?"
What shall we then say ... - What fairly follows from the facts stated? or what conclusion shall we draw in regard to the power of the Christian religion to support us in our trials from the considerations which have been stated? What the influence is he proceeds to state.
If God be for us - Be on outside, or is our friend, as he has shown himself to be by adopting us Rom 8:15, by granting to us his Spirit Rom 8:16-17, Rom 8:26-27, and by his gracious purpose to save us, Rom 8:29-30).
Who can be against us? - Who can injure or destroy us? Sinners may be against us, and so may the great enemy of our souls, but their power to destroy us is taken away. God is more mighty than all our foes; and he can defend and save us; see Psa 118:6. "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear what man can do unto me." The proposition advanced in this verse, Paul proceeds to illustrate by various specifications, which continue to the end of the chapter.
He that spared not - Who did not retain, or keep from suffering and death.
His own Son - Who thus gave the highest proof of love that a father could give, and the highest demonstration of his willingness to do good to those for whom he gave him.
But delivered him up - Gave him into the hands of men, and to a cruel death; Note, Act 2:23.
For us all - For all Christians. The connection requires that this expression should be understood here with this limitation. The argument for the security of all Christians is here derived from the fact, that God had shown them equal love in giving his Son for them. It was not merely for the apostles; not only for the rich, and the great; but for the most humble and obscure of the flock of Christ. For them he endured as severe pangs, and expressed as much love, as for the rich and the great that shall be redeemed. The most humble and obscure believer may derive consolation from the fact that Christ died for him, and that God has expressed the highest love for him which we can conceive to be possible.
How shall he not - His giving his Son is a proof that he will give to us all things that we need. The argument is from the greater to the less. He that has given the greater gift will not withhold the less.
All things - All things that may be needful for our welfare. These things he will give freely; without money and without price. His first great gift, that of his Son, was a free gift; and all others that we may need will be given in a similar manner. It is not by money, nor by our merit, but it is by the mere mercy of God; so that from the beginning to the end of the work it is all of grace. We see here,
(1) The privilege of being a Christian. He has the friendship of God; has been favored with the highest proofs of divine love; and has assurance that he shall receive all that he needs.
(2) he has evidence that God will continue to be his friend. He that has given his Son to die for his people will not withdraw the lesser mercies that may be necessary to secure their salvation. The argument of the apostle here, therefore, is one that strongly shows that God will not forsake his children, but will keep them to eternal life.
Who shall lay anything to the charge - This expression is taken from courts of law, and means, who shall accuse, or condemn, or so charge with crime before the tribunal of God as to cause their condemnation?
God's elect - His chosen people. Those who have been chosen according to his eternal purpose; Note, Rom 8:28. As they are the chosen of God, they are dear to him; and as he purposed to save them, he will do it in such a way as that none can bring against them a charge that would condemn them.
It is God that justifieth - That is, who has pardoned them, and admitted them to his favor; and pronounced them just in his sight; Notes, Rom 1:17; Rom 3:24. It would be absurd to suppose that he would again condemn them. The fact that he has justified them is, therefore, a strong proof that they will be saved. This may be read with more force as a question, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Shall God who justifieth?" The Greek will bear either mode of rendering. The passage implies that there would be a high degree of absurdity in supposing that the same being would both justify and condemn the same individual. The Christian, therefore, is secure.
Who is he that condemneth? - Who shall pass sentence of condemnation, and consign to perdition? The function of passing sentence of condemnation on people shall pertain to Christ, the judge of quick and dead, and the apostle proceeds to say that it was certain that he would not condemn the elect of God. They were therefore secure.
It is Christ that died - Or as it may be rendered, "Shall Christ who has died, condemn them?" The argument here is, that as Christ died to save them, and not to destroy them, he will not condemn them. His death for them is a security that he will not condemn them. As he died to save them, and as they have actually embraced his salvation, there is the highest security that he will not condemn them. This is the first argument for their security from the death of Christ.
Yea rather, that is risen again - This is a second consideration for their security from his work. "He rose for their justification" (Note, Rom 4:25); and as this was the object which he had in view, it follows that he will not condemn them.
Who is even at the right hand of God - Invested with power, and dignity, and authority in heaven. This is a third consideration to show that Christ will not condemn us, and that Christians are secure. He is clothed with power; he is exalted to honor; he is placed at the head of all things. And this solemn enthronement and investiture with power over the universe, is with express reference to the salvation of his church and people; Mat 28:18-19; Joh 17:2; Eph 1:20-23. The Christian is, therefore, under the protection of Christ, and is secure from being condemned by him.
Who also maketh intercession for us - Note, Rom 8:26. Who pleads our cause; who aids and assists us; who presents our interests before the mercy-seat in the heavens. For this purpose he ascended to heaven; Heb 7:25. This is the fourth consideration which the apostle urges for the security of Christians drawn from the work of Christ. By all these, he argues their complete security from being subject to condemnation by him who shall pronounce the doom of all mankind, and therefore their complete safety in the day of judgment. Having the Judge of all for our friend, we are safe.
Who shall separate us - That is, finally or entirely separate us. This is a new argument of the apostle, showing his strong confidence in the safety of the Christian.
From the love of Christ - This expression is ambiguous; and may mean either our love to Christ or his love to us. I understand it in the former sense, and suppose it means, "Who shall cause us to cease to love the Saviour?" In other words, the love which Christians have for their Redeemer is so strong, that it will surmount and survive all opposition and all trials. The reason for so understanding the expression is, that it is not conceivable how afflictions, etc. should have any tendency to alienate Christ's love "from us;" but their supposed tendency to alienate "our love" from him might be very strong. They are endured in his cause. They are caused, in a good degree, by professed attachment to him. The persecutions and trials to which Christians are exposed on account of their professed attachment to him, might be supposed to make them weary of a service that involved so many trials. But no, says the apostle. Our love for him is so strong that we are willing to bear all; and nothing that these foes of our peace can do, can alienate us from him and from his cause. The argument, therefore, is drawn from the strong love of a Christian to his Saviour; and from the assurance that nothing would be able to separate him from that love.
On the other hand, it is alleged that "the object of the apostle is to assure us, not so immediately of our love to God, as of his love to us, by directing our attention to his predestinating, calling, justifying, and glorifying us, and not sparing his own Son, but delivering him up for us; that in addition to this it contributes more to our consolation, to have our minds fixed upon God's love to us, than upon our love to him, which is subject to so many failings and infirmities." Haldane.
Indeed the whole of this passage proceeds, in its triumphing strain, on the ground of what God and Christ have done "for us," and not on the ground of anything belonging to us. It is therefore improbable, that the apostle, in the midst of such a strain, should introduce the love of the creature to God, as a just reason for such unparalleled confidence. It is more natural to the Christian to triumph in the love of Christ to him, than in any return he can make. He can glory in the strength of the former, while he mourns over the weakness of the latter. As to the objection that afflictions can have no tendency to alienate Christ's love, these are the "very things" that alienate people from us. There are persons who are called "summer friends" because they desert us in the winter of adversity. But the love of Christ is greatly exalted by the fact, that none of all possible adverse circumstances, of which the apostle enumerates not a few, shall ever change his love.
Shall tribulation - θλίψις thlipsis. Note, Rom 2:9. The word properly refers to pressure from without; affliction arising from external causes. It means, however, not infrequently, trial of any kind.
Or distress - στενοχωρία stenochōria. This word properly means "narrowness of place;" and then, great anxiety and distress of mind, such as arises when a man does not know where to turn himself or what to do for relief. It refers, therefore, to distress or anxiety "of mind," such as the early Christians were often subject to from their trials and persecutions; Co2 7:5," Without were fightings, "within were fears;" see the note at Rom 2:9.
Or persecutions - Note, Mat 5:11. To these the early Christians were constantly exposed.
Or famine - To this they were also exposed as the natural result of being driven from home, and of being often compelled to wander amidst strangers, and in deserts and desolate places.
Or peril - Danger of any kind.
Or sword - The sword of persecution; the danger of their lives to which they were constantly exposed. As all these things happened to them in consequence of their professed attachment to Christ, it might be supposed that they would tend to alienate their minds from him. But the apostle was assured that they had not this power, but that their love to the Saviour was so strong as to overcome all, and to bind them unalterably to his cause in the midst of the deepest trials. The fact is, that the more painful the trials to which they are exposed on his account, the more strong and unwavering is their love to him, and their confidence in his ability to save.
As it is written - Psa 44:22. This passage the apostle quotes not as having originally reference to Christians, but as "aptly descriptive" of their condition. The condition of saints in the time of the psalmist was similar to that of Christians in the time of Paul. The same language would express both.
For thy sake - In thy cause; or on account of attachment to time.
We are killed - We are subject to, or exposed to death. We endure sufferings equivalent to dying; compare Co1 4:9, "God hath set forth us the apostles last, "as it were appointed to death."
All the day long - Continually; constantly. There is no intermission to our danger, and to our exposure to death.
We are accounted - We are reckoned; we are regarded, or dealt with. That is, our enemies judge that we ought to die, and deem us the appropriate subjects of slaughter, with as little concern or remorse as the lives of sheep are taken.
Nay - But. Notwithstanding our severe pressures and trials.
In all these things - In the very midst of them; while we are enduring them we are able to triumph; compare Co1 15:57.
We are more than conquerors - We gain the victory. That is, they have not power to subdue us; to alienate our love and confidence; to produce apostasy. We are the victors, not they. Our faith is not destroyed; our love is not diminished; our hope is not blasted. But it is not simple victory; it is not mere life, and continuance of what we had before; it is more than simple triumph; it augments our faith, increases our strength, expands our love to Christ. The word used here is a strong, emphatic expression, such as the apostle Paul often employs (compare Co2 4:17), and which is used with great force and appropriateness here.
Through him ... - Not by their own strength or power. It was by the might of the Saviour, and by his power pledged to them, and confirmed by the love evinced when he gave himself for them; compare Phi 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."
For I am persuaded - I have a strong and unwavering confidence. Latin Vulgate, "I am certain." The expression here implies unwavering certainty.
Neither death - Neither the fear of death, nor all the pains and tortures of the dying scene, even in the most painful trials of persecution; death in no form.
Nor life - Nor the hope of life; the love of life; the offer of life made to us by our persecutors, on condition of abjuring our Christian faith. The words evidently refer to times of persecution; and it was not uncommon for persecutors to offer life to Christians, on condition of their renouncing attachment to the Saviour, and offering sacrifice to idols. All that was demanded in the times of persecution under the Roman emperors was, that they should throw a few grains of incense on the altar of a pagan god, as expressive of homage to the idol. But even this they would not do. The hope of life on so very easy terms would not, could not alienate them from the love of Christ.
Nor angels - It seems to be apparent that "good angels" cannot be intended here. The apostle was saying that nothing would separate Christians from the love of Christ. Of course, it would be implied that the things which he specifies might be supposed to have some power or tendency to do it. But it is not conceivable that good angels, who are "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" Heb 1:14, should seek to alienate the minds of Christians from the Saviour, or that their influence should have any such tendency. It seems to be clear, therefore, that he refers to the designs and temptations of evil spirits. The word "angels" is applied to evil spirits in Mat 25:41; Co1 6:3.
Nor principalities - (ἀρχαὶ archai). This word usually refers to magistrates and civil rulers. But it is also applied to evil angels, as having dominion over people; Eph 6:12, "For we wrestle against ...principalities;" Col 2:15, "And having spoiled principalities:" Co1 15:24, "When he shall have put down all rule;" Greek, ἀρχήν archēn. Some have supposed that it refers here to magistrates and those in authority who persecuted Christians; but the connection of the word with angels seems to require us to understand it of evil spirits.
Nor powers - This word δυνάμεις dunameis is often applied to magistrates; but it is also applied to evil spirits that have dominion over men; Co1 15:24. The ancient Rabbis also give the name powers to evil angels. (Schleusner.) There can be no doubt that the Jews were accustomed to divide the angels of heaven into various ranks and orders, traces of which custom we find often in the Scriptures. And there is also reason to suppose that they made such a division with reference to evil angels, regarding Satan as their leader, and other evil spirits, divided into various ranks, as subordinate to him; see Mat 25:41; Eph 6:12; Col 2:15. To such a division there is probably reference here; and the meaning is, that no order of evil angels, however powerful, artful, or numerous, would be able to alienate the hearts of Christians from their Redeemer.
Nor things present - Calamities and persecutions to which we are now subject.
Nor things to come - Trials to which we may be yet exposed. It evinced strong confidence to say that no possible trials should be sufficient to destroy their love for Christ.
Nor height - This has been variously understood. Some have regarded it as referring to evil spirits in the air; others, to high and lofty speculation in doctrine; others, to heaven - to all that is in heaven. I regard it here as a synonymous with prosperity, honor, elevation in this life. The meaning is, that "no possible circumstances" in which Christians could be placed, though surrounded with wealth, honor, splendor, and though elevated to rank and function, could alienate them from the love of Christ. The tendency of these things to alienate the mind, to engross the affections, and to occupy the time, all know; but the apostle says that even these would not be sufficient to withdraw their strong love from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Nor depth - Nor the lowest circumstances of depression, poverty, contempt, and want; the very lowest rank of life.
Nor any other creature - Nor any other created thing; any other thing in the universe; anything that can occur. This expresses the most unwavering confidence that all who were Christians would certainly continue to love the Lord Jesus, and be saved.
Shall be able - Shall have power to do it. The love to Christ is stronger than any influence which they can exert on the mind.
The love of God - The love which we have to God.
Which is in Christ Jesus - Which is produced and secured by his work. Of which he is the bond, the connecting link. It was caused by his mediation; it is secured by his influence; it is in and through him, and him alone, that people love God. There is no true love of God which is not produced by the work of Christ. There is no man who truly loves the Father, who does not do it in, and by the Son.
Perhaps there is no chapter in the Bible on the whole so interesting and consoling to the Christian as this; and there certainly is not to be found any where a specimen of more elevated, animated, and lofty eloquence and argumentation. We may remark in view of it,
(1) That it is the highest honor that can be conferred on mortal man to be a Christian.
(2) our trials in this life are scarcely worth regarding in comparison with our future glory.
(3) calamities should be borne without a complaint; nay, without a sigh.
(4) the Christian has every possible security for his safety. The purposes of God, the work of Christ, the aid of the Holy Spirit, and the tendency of all events under the direction of his Father and Friend, conspire to secure his welfare and salvation.
(5) with what thankfulness, then, should we approach the God of mercy.
In the gospel, we have a blessed and cheering hope which nothing else can produce, and which nothing can destroy. Safe in the hands of God our Redeemer, we may commit our way to him, whether it lead through persecutions, or trials, or sickness, or a martyr's grave: and triumphantly we may wait until the day of our complete adoption, the entire redemption of soul and body, shall fully come.